Ayn Rand : biography
In ethics, Rand argued for rational egoism (rational self-interest), as the guiding moral principle. She said the individual should "exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself". She referred to egoism as "the virtue of selfishness" in her book of that title, in which she presented her solution to the is-ought problem by describing a meta-ethical theory that based morality in the needs of "man’s survival qua man".; ; She condemned ethical altruism as incompatible with the requirements of human life and happiness, and held that the initiation of force was evil and irrational, writing in Atlas Shrugged that "Force and mind are opposites".;
Rand’s political philosophy emphasized individual rights (including property rights), and she considered laissez-faire capitalism the only moral social system because in her view it was the only system based on the protection of those rights.; She opposed statism, which she understood to include theocracy, absolute monarchy, Nazism, fascism, communism, democratic socialism, and dictatorship. Rand believed that rights should be enforced by a constitutionally limited government. Although her political views are often classified as conservative or libertarian, she preferred the term "radical for capitalism". She worked with conservatives on political projects, but disagreed with them over issues such as religion and ethics.; ; ; She denounced libertarianism, which she associated with anarchism.; She rejected anarchism as a naïve theory based in subjectivism that could only lead to collectivism in practice.; ;
Rand’s esthetics defined art as a "selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s metaphysical value-judgments". According to Rand, art allows philosophical concepts to be presented in a concrete form that can be easily grasped, thereby fulfilling a need of human consciousness. As a writer, the art form Rand focused on most closely was literature, where she considered Romanticism to be the approach that most accurately reflected the existence of human free will. She described her own approach to literature as "romantic realism".;
Rand acknowledged Aristotle as her greatest influence and remarked that in the history of philosophy she could only recommend "three A’s"—Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand. Indeed her debt to Aristotle was so great that in a 1959 interview with Mike Wallace, when asked where her philosophy came from, she responded: "Out of my own mind, with the sole acknowledgement of a debt to Aristotle who is the only philosopher who ever influenced me. I devised the rest of my philosophy myself."http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=zEruXzQZhNI However, she also found early inspiration in Friedrich Nietzsche,; ; and scholars have found indications of his influence in early notes from Rand’s journals,; ; in passages from the first edition of We the Living (which Rand later revised),; ; Loiret-Prunet, Valerie. "Ayn Rand and Feminist Synthesis: Rereading We the Living". In and in her overall writing style.; Sheaffer, Robert. "Rereading Rand on Gender in the Light of Paglia". In . However, by the time she wrote The Fountainhead, Rand had turned against Nietzsche’s ideas,; ; and the extent of his influence on her even during her early years is disputed.; ; Mayhew, Robert. "We the Living ’36 and ’59". In . Among the philosophers Rand held in particular disdain was Immanuel Kant, whom she referred to as a "monster", although philosophers George Walsh and Fred Seddon have argued that she misinterpreted Kant and exaggerated their differences.
Rand said her most important contributions to philosophy were her "theory of concepts, [her] ethics, and [her] discovery in politics that evil—the violation of rights—consists of the initiation of force". She believed epistemology was a foundational branch of philosophy and considered the advocacy of reason to be the single most significant aspect of her philosophy, stating, "I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows."