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Eiuol

What are the similarities between Rand and Nietzsche?

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Recently, I've studied a lot about Nietzsche (I'll refer to him as N - it's a pain to type it a lot). I think he is not given enough deserved attention in relation to Objectivism due to misunderstanding him, or taking Rand's infrequent/rare statements criticizing N as accurate as her criticism of Kant. I want to fix misunderstandings. I've read things Steven Hicks wrote, and watched his "Nietzsche and the Nazis"  documentary, so I am aware of existing literature by at least one supporter of Rand, but Hicks doesn't get it all right. Even more, here is a short talk Rand gave on N:



Rand attacked a straw-Nietzsche, misunderstanding anything N said or meant. Rather than an exhaustive analysis, I'm going to mention the similarities briefly. I'm hoping to get comments on any point to discuss it further. A lot of elaboration is possible, and I don't want to write a book here. By the way, I'm primarily considering N starting at "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" - his earlier works aren't as "final", similar to how I only consider "The Fountainhead" and onward for Rand's philosophy.

I organized by general topics. Where I say false charge, I mean charges against N in the video I linked. Where I say BGE, I'm referring to "Beyond Good and Evil" numbered parts. I also uploaded images of the pages here. They're all in numerical order.

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Metaphysics/Epistemology
Reason -
False charge: N is not a supporter of reason
To be specific, N doesn't support or disregard reason. Rand claims that N said reason is not valid - in Birth of Tragedy as Apollo vs. Dionysius. I haven't read that book, but he does think he went too far into subjectivism later on in his life. N apparently finds reason to be prone to rationalization. He doesn't praise reason as Rand does, to be sure, but he doesn't speak against it as a whole.

Objective reality -
False charge: Man's will gets at reality; N didn't believe in objective reality.
N did NOT believe reality is only a will. The "will to power" is a creative sense of life that is active and forward-looking. Man doesn't create his reality, but he certainly determines for himself whether something is true. Plenty of times N speaks against extreme skepticism, or those who try to deny the truth for their own vanity or evasions. Reality is what it is, regardless of what one wishes. Nor is N platonic. We do see reality, not an "imperfect" reality.

Against intrinsicism -
I doubt I need to say much. N uses the term objectivity, but he's talking about classic notions of objectivity, which is "disinterested" knowledge and taking yourself out of the picture. Thus, it's no surprise he bashes Kant and Descartes.
BGE 59, 108, 207

Words stand for concepts -
Although N talks about concepts having a purpose for communication and understanding, he's pretty clear that words stand for concepts. Elsewhere, in "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense", N says a concept is formed when it is given a word.
BGE 268

Perception -
Knowledge and your thinking originates in perception. More is in "Truth and Lies"
BGE 134

Certainty/Skepticism -
Certainty as a feeling matters - skepticism in an absolute sense disgusts N. N doesn't talk about certainty in epistemological terms, but he hates the uncertainty where a person doesn't say Yes or even No to a question. The sense of skeptical he supports seems to be stand against faith or accepting ideas without evaluation.

Free will -
N denies that there is an "Ego" that controls the body and its thoughts. There is nothing "above" and "beyond" the body, the mind isn't "higher". He rejects libertarian free will, and rejects that an individual can be "absolutely" free. That is, there are some constraints that you can't just pretend aren't there - or in Rand's terms, the mind has an identity.

Ethics
The good -
False charge: The good is the willing for power, asserting one's will on others to survive.
Total misunderstanding of "will to power". It isn't power in the sense of power over people, but the sense of power over life. This is in contrast with people who are spineless and only drift in their life. The good is admirable, heroic even. It's confidence and dislike of selflessness.
BGE 260

Superiority -
False charge: We are born to be masters or slaves; some of us belong to an inferior class of beings, by birth.
Master/slave morality is an account of morality's history! Sure, N likes the masters more than slaves, but it doesn't mean he supports a "master" in totality. In this passage, the two are being described, and N even says there is a mix of the two in more mixed cultures. Now, he does say some people are born inferior, but he doesn't mean we're all either masters or slaves. How you're raised matters to N, so he does see a genetic factor in how virtuous we can be - some will always be better (see Rand on Edie Wilers and Dagny). Rand puts less weight on biology with regard to the degree of our virtue.
BGE 260

Standard of Value
False charge: Commitment for "No reason".
I honestly don't get this criticism. N often will talk about life as a driving goal for all that is admirable.

Virtue -
N doesn't believe in morality per se, but he believes in virtue. Reason isn't a virtue to N, but honesty, pride, and individuality are in some form. Productivity too, but mostly in the sense what a virtuous person does is create things. N takes after Aristotle in describing how a virtuous person acts.
BGE 63, 77, 81, 107, 261 (extremely similar to what Aristotle said about vanity)
BGE 212 is the better description of what a great/virtuous person does.
BGE 206 describes a non-virtuous person.

Politics
Conflicts of interest -
False charge: N said there are constant conflicts of interest.
This is true, but it's false that this is at all against "there are no conflicts of interest among rational men". N just said it happened a lot, nothing deeper.

 

Ruling others -
False charge:
N never said that ruling over others is what the will to power is. It is power towards reality, creation is power. He isn't nice about those lower in rank (NOT a class ranking), but he doesn't say power over others is a good goal.
BGE 203, 263

Against multiculturalism -
Like it or not, some cultures are better than others. The Romans and Greeks were better than N's contemporary Europe.

Other
Masculinity/Femininity -
N distinguishes between the two in a similar way. He sees them as psychologically different, and that men are more dominant. It's deeper than that, though. I don't think he finds that women are inferior, but  he does think poorly of women who try to deny their femininity.

Philosophical predecessors -
N is opposed to Plato, Kant, Spinoza, Pascal, Schopenhauer, British Empiricists (e.g. Hume).

Comments on some differences
Philosophical style -
N speaks in metaphor a lot, not really philosophical precision. Then again, Rand doesn't write like mainstream philosopherrs of her day either. N also sometimes changes his mind by the end of a work (Aristotle did it too). Rand usually only wrote on a topic once she was sure and already planned out what she'd write.
BGE 277 is how N would come up with new ideas while writing.

Rights -
I can't say N believes in rights, it's not so clear to me. He seems to only deny rights that make us equal in ways besides legal equality.
BGE 203, 212

Aristocracy -
N doesn't advocate any particular form of government, but he seems to think well of aristocracy, as long as it is led by great people. Maybe this is closer to thinking well of the Roman government and emperors-for-life.

Edited by Eiuol

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While I admit that I've not read much of Nietzsche, I tend to lump him into the horror that is 19th Century German philosophy that was directly responsible for Nazism and Russian and Chinese Marxism.  Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Engels, Hegel, et. al. seem to me to be children in the same classroom, but each trying to be "different" to attract the attention of the Teacher (the emerging German nationalism).

 

It's hard to imagine, from our current perspective, just how different mid 1800's Germany was from the America of Mark Twin, Charles Sanders Pierce and William James.

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While I admit that I've not read much of Nietzsche, I tend to lump him into the horror that is 19th Century German philosophy that was directly responsible for Nazism and Russian and Chinese Marxism.  Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Engels, Hegel, et. al. seem to me to be children in the same classroom, but each trying to be "different" to attract the attention of the Teacher (the emerging German nationalism).

Nietzsche isn't like those philosophers at all except perhaps a slight regard for Hegel. He hated German nationalism (he was stateless - he didn't have citizenship anywhere). You couldn't lump him with them at all. He's more like the kid kicked out of class for ignoring the teacher.

Edited by Eiuol

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I am glad that you posted this.  I've been reading recently on Infinite Set Theory, Transfinite Numbers and Foundationalism in mathematics (all inventions of German Idealism) and it has left a sour taste in my mouth.  Maybe I should explore N in greater detail.

 

What is his stance on how information is acquired?  Is it sensory based?  Is it only "objective" if agreed upon by Society?  Or does Will over come any inherent limits of senses?

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As far as I understand - and I'm new to Nietzsche at a level deeper than passing interest - I don't think he talks much about how information is acquired. In the "Perception" part above, and based on what I've read in snippets elsewhere, he thinks the senses are required for evidence of the truth. Unlike Rand, Nietzsche doesn't fix objectivity. He only says what's wrong with it, mainly, that god and society are not any better answers. Some say he's a non-cognitivist, that is, the truth exists, but it's not possible to find the right answer. I say he's more of a cognitivist, where the truth is knowable, except he didn't provide a theory of how.

 

Will to power I'm still trying to understand, but a strong will here would be a desire for power over life for creative ends. It includes your consciousness and subconsciousness (he calls subconsciousness unconsciousness). He'd probably say those with a strong will are better able to accept the truth rather than rationalize it. 

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In 2008 the Ayn Rand Society of the APA had a session on this with presentations by Christine Swanton (who is not an Objectivist) and Darryl Wright (who is).  You might, by contacting them, be able to get copies of the papers.

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Great find, Reidy! That one looks to be about virtue primarily, but I'll definitely ask about a copy I can read.

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I have read a little bit of Nietzche's work, and I've found his to be rather amoral. He rejected free will entirely, and believed as a result that someone who was truly wise would recognize that there was no distinction between good and bad, and that everyone's actions were just the predetermined result of their nature -- thus, someone like Hitler would not really be responsible for the atrocities he committed, and it is foolish to condemn him or to see creators of value as superior to Nazi oppressors. He also had a contemptuous attitude toward morality, and my understanding is that he did, in fact, want to see the "masters" trample on the slaves as punishment for the slaves' choice to believe in a moral code, and as a reward for the masters' ruthless pursuit of (What Nietzche would consider) their own self-interest. He also regarded all morality as socially prescribed, and nothing more than the will of the strong imposed on the weak, and did not recognize any possibility of an objective morality based on the value of human life.

 

 

Master/slave morality is an account of morality's history! Sure, N likes the masters more than slaves, but it doesn't mean he supports a "master" in totality.

 

I believe that Nietzche preferred masters because he saw them as strong due to their willingness to coerce the slaves into obedience.

 

I haven't found much of value in Nietzche's works. I suppose he deserves some credit for his recognition that altruism was wrong. But his response, like Rand's, should have been to construct a new moral code based on self-interest which recognized the right to life of all human beings. What he created instead was a blank check to trample on human life, in order to satisfy one's own whims at the expense of others.

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One would think that a thread opened by a moderator of an Oist forum making the claim that the originator of such philosophy has attacked strawmen and missrepresented other philosophers would want to provide some evidence of such things besides simply making assertions.

This thread is arbitrary until quotes are provided in support of Louie's charges against Ms. Rand....

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One would think that a thread opened by a moderator of an Oist forum making the claim that the originator of such philosophy has attacked strawmen and missrepresented other philosophers would want to provide some evidence of such things besides simply making assertions.

This thread is arbitrary until quotes are provided in support of Louie's charges against Ms. Rand....

 

You do know that second post is filled with references, right?  BGE stands for Beyond Good and Evil, followed by specific page numbers...

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You do know that second post is filled with references, right?  BGE stands for Beyond Good and Evil, followed by specific page numbers...

Point taken. I read the OP and then scanned the rest of the thread for quotes and didn't see any. I missed the reference acronyms. I retract my statement.

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I have read a little bit of Nietzche's work, and I've found his to be rather amoral.

 

Technically speaking N is amoral but it doesn't mean he also rejects that there is a way to judge "better" and "worse". He does reject that morality is useful to achieving greatness, but mainly what he rejects is that there is an Absolute morality. So what N does is throw out  intrinsic morality and not using morality to explain his view about life. Read all of BGE 260 that I posted in the images. He explains in the second paragraph in my scan BGE 260d that good and evil is traditionally used for slave morality, i.e. altruistic and self-denying morality. As a result, his aim is to tell people that the terms "good and evil" should be thrown away, because the tradition is so destructive. Instead of morality, he admires nobility of ancient Greece, value-creation, and passion. Yes, ideally, N would create a moral code, but what he admires is not far from what Rand says is moral and admirable. Either way, he doesn't say there is no distinction between good and bad. See my scan BGE 260a.

N did NOT speak of trampling others as admirable, all he did say is that the masters are better than slaves insofar that slaves aren't pro-life. BGE 260 doesn't even discuss trampling. Other passages can be seen that way, but he still doesn't talk about trampling on what he thinks are "weak" people. At worst, he just didn't care what happened to them. Now, as I said, I think he supports aristocracy, but more the sort in ancient Rome that had a nobility but didn't attempt to abuse others. No, N didn't say it is bad, but he does describe in various passages where the masters don't care to abuse anyone in the first place. I added all the images so you can decide if I understand N.

See my scan named BGE 212c for the sort of people that N believes are even better than these masters. Some of it is what he sees good in "master" morality. I don't agree with it all, but he explicitly says "the master of his virtues" is part of the greatest sort of man. The rest of the book is a lot of thinking/questioning of morality.

I'll get to the free will part of your post tomorrow.

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Eioul,

 

If you have access to the Modern Philosophy: Kant to the Present, Lecture 5 starting at 30:45, Peikoff devotes almost 48 minutes in a much more charitable view than Rand's in the interview shared in your OP.

 

Knowing that Rand deals with broad ideas, she is speaking of Nietzsche as a general overview of his overall philosophy. Peikoff examines examples of his writings as you have used in outlining the issues you've identified. In one passage from the lecture, LP makes the statement: In general, all you can say is the irrational element dominates progressively as Nietzsche grows older. Another statement, paraphrased, likens Nietzsche's writings to the Bible, as he is supposed to be all things to all men. In LP's summary he says: Nietzsche shares a kinship with Objectivism only in isolated, unsystematic passages.

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Lester Hunt, a philosopher anthologized in the book mentioned in #9, once said that N. is important to a biographical or developmental understanding of Rand but useless for understanding the positions she arrived at.

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response to Eamon, part 2

 

It is true that some passages written by N look as though he flatly denies free will. In a passage in Daybreak, he compares saying "I lay down here, but I will to lay here" to saying "The wheel is rolling, but I will it to roll". That is, he says there is no real difference. At the time, he may have really thought that. At the least, he's saying that merely claiming you did X isn't necessarily evidence of choice or that any"one" did that. Daybreak was written before Zarathustra, so I think he changed his mind. In BGE, he denies that there is an "Ego". There is no "little man" inside anyone's head that is separate from the body. N also says no one is "Absolutely" free because the mind isn't in its own special realm or substance, or even Platonic form. To say we are free to do literally make choices in ANY manner we choose is a causa sui - we'd ask forever the first cause of choice, like asking who made God. Remember though that will to him is not just a question of volition - it's also your subconscious. Some things are still your choice, but not direct choice.

N is clear that he sees us all beginning with a given degree of will to power, the power of value creation, ability to master one's virtue, etc. A good example is Edie Willers versus Dagny. Rand would say that although Willers wasn't as skilled Dagny, he can still be just as virtuous. N would say that Willers cannot be just as virtuous because there is an upper limit of his virtue due to biology and culture. Dagny has a higher limit, or no limit at all maybe. I don't totally agree with N, but it's no where near saying we have no ability to determine our outcome in life. There is a degree of control, not predetermined.

As for wanting masters to trample slaves... There's no evidence I'm aware of that he thought that's what he thought was best. The "best" to him was the ubermensch who doesn't care so much about others that they want to trample anyone. He didn't describe the ubermensch that way.

Edited by Eiuol

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He does reject that morality is useful to achieving greatness, but mainly what he rejects is that there is an Absolute morality.

 

What does he mean by absolute morality? Is it the belief that morality is some external force which holds command over human life? Or the view that there is a consistent morality which humans should follow, and which the good have a right to enforce?

 

 

He explains in the second paragraph in my scan BGE 260d that good and evil is traditionally used for slave morality, i.e. altruistic and self-denying morality.

 

Where is the scan posted? I can't find it.

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(Sorry for the multiple posts -- I accidentally posted the first post before I finished typing it.)

 

 

He explains in the second paragraph in my scan BGE 260d that good and evil is traditionally used for slave morality, i.e. altruistic and self-denying morality. As a result, his aim is to tell people that the terms "good and evil" should be thrown away, because the tradition is so destructive. Instead of morality, he admires nobility of ancient Greece, value-creation, and passion. Yes, ideally, N would create a moral code, but what he admires is not far from what Rand says is moral and admirable.

 

I would agree that this would go hand-in-hand with Objectivism, if that's what he believed.

 

 

N did NOT speak of trampling others as admirable, all he did say is that the masters are better than slaves insofar that slaves aren't pro-life. BGE 260 doesn't even discuss trampling. Other passages can be seen that way, but he still doesn't talk about trampling on what he thinks are "weak" people. At worst, he just didn't care what happened to them.

 

This still seems like a pretty callous view.

 

 

See my scan named BGE 212c for the sort of people that N believes are even better than these masters. Some of it is what he sees good in "master" morality. I don't agree with it all, but he explicitly says "the master of his virtues" is part of the greatest sort of man.

 

Then he would agree with Ayn Rand, but I still don't think Objectivism would imply that people who prey on the weak are morally superior to the weak themselves. The proper view would be that the strong and virtuous are the best morally, the weak, if they are fundamentally moral, are second in moral standing by virtue of their potential for greatness, and those who would prey on anyone are morally reprehensible.

 

 

N also says no one is "Absolutely" free because the mind isn't in its own special realm or substance, or even Platonic form. To say we are free to do literally make choices in ANY manner we choose is a causa sui - we'd ask forever the first cause of choice, like asking who made God. Remember though that will to him is not just a question of volition - it's also your subconscious. Some things are still your choice, but not direct choice.

 

Then would Nietzche say that one's choices can be determined by one's inherent virtues, verus one's weaknesses? This would be an acceptable position, although I might not fully agree with it.

 

 

Rand would say that although Willers wasn't as skilled Dagny, he can still be just as virtuous. N would say that Willers cannot be just as virtuous because there is an upper limit of his virtue due to biology and culture.

 

And I think this is a big problem with choosing strength as the only standard of virtue -- this would imply that the average person is personally inferior to someone who's a major industrialist, simply because they haven't reached the same level. This frankly sounds a lot like the types of straw men leftists invent to attack capitalism, and does genuinely seem to imply a degree of social Darwinism/

 

So I guess one could say Nietzche's philosophy was a mix of good and bad. I think it is also a precurson to a lot of the totalitarian ideologies which have existed throughout history. I believe that Hitler's social Darwinism was openly based on Nietzche's beliefs, and a lot of what Nietzche believed certainly lends itself to that. His downplaying of free will and relegation of morality to the collective will of society has elements of Marxism. And there's also a lot of overlap with the moral relativism and the deterministic attitude toward human nature in modern leftist academic arguments.

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What does he mean by absolute morality? Is it the belief that morality is some external force which holds command over human life? Or the view that there is a consistent morality which humans should follow, and which the good have a right to enforce?

He didn't accept that it's possible to generalize a moral code based on human nature, even though he did speak highly about life and value creation. I don't think he used the qualifier "absolute", but he does talk about the intrinsic treatment of morality. Subjective morality wasn't a solution, his attitude is more like rejecting the concept is the best option. N was for the "re-valuation of all values", so it is my belief that Rand's use of the term morality is fine for N's philosophy since she basically questioned morality then re-defined it.

 

Here's the scan to the page:

http://imgur.com/a/hwlhz#16

 

The first post links to them.

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This still seems like a pretty callous view.

Yes, but why should anyone care about altruists? He is pretty callous, yes, but it's not so bad as deliberately abusing others.

 

The proper view would be that the strong and virtuous are the best morally, the weak, if they are fundamentally moral, are second in moral standing by virtue of their potential for greatness, and those who would prey on anyone are morally reprehensible.

Nietzsche didn't say the masters were better than slaves because they preyed on the weak. I don't know of passages where he says preying on the weak is bad, nor of any passage where he says it is good. There is a passage where he says the stronger people will dominate with the right system in place and in effect the weaker people exist for the sake of the strong. He didn't say that we ought to manipulate the weak to achieve our ends, but hey, at least they're good for something. That's not the same thing as saying enslavement is worthwhile or good. If anything, N advocates too much solitude and isolation in his writing.

 

Then would Nietzche say that one's choices can be determined by one's inherent virtues, verus one's weaknesses?

I wouldn't say "determined by", just that some people are born with a weaker will than others. Sort of like how self-esteem is important for moral action, but lower self-esteem makes it harder to be moral. For N, there is a degree of cultural determinism, though - depending on your biology and culture, your will to power can only be so strong.

 

this would imply that the average person is personally inferior to someone who's a major industrialist, simply because they haven't reached the same level.

That is a fair interpretation. I'd just add that he wouldn't say only economic strength. It's more like an elitism where only a select group of people have enough strength of will to be as good as Dagny. But even these elites can end up weak, like James Taggart. He had the right biology and environment, but ended up weak in comparison to Dagny. Or take daVinci - N admired him, and no doubt thought he was "overflowing" in greatness. The question we should answer is, why are only some people geniuses of creation, while others aren't? Rand puts a lot more weight on personal responsibility than N, for instance.

 

 I believe that Hitler's social Darwinism was openly based on Nietzche's beliefs, and a lot of what Nietzche believed certainly lends itself to that.

Not really. Some Nazi leaders who knew better deliberately quoted N out of context. N's sister published two of his unfinished works, "Antichrist" and "Will To Power", without his permission after he died. She even cut out passages that didn't fit the Nazi narrative. His sister had no business doing this - he stopped talking to her because she married an anti-Semite and moved to South America. N was subject to a lot of distortion by people who had ulterior motives. So, "based on" N's beliefs is closer to "cherry picking passages that can be distorted as Nazi propaganda".

No doubt, N is a moral relativist - note that relativism doesn't say all moral codes are equal, it only means more than one code is valid.

 

I don't see how he downplayed free will.

Edited by Eiuol

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Some additional information: the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies devoted its Spring 2009 issue to this topic.

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... but Hicks doesn't get it all right. 

Since he has a blog, he might respond to questions.

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Eiuol,

 

I applaud your effort to grasp Nietzsche, especially in D, GS, Z, BGE, and GM. I am delighted to report that the number of reads of my series Nietzsche v. Rand has now passed 14,000. I want to direct you to the Appendix (scroll down) to this essay in that series. This Appendix traces the transition in Nietzsche from “feeling of power” to “will to power” and elaborates just what was his mature conception “will to power.” Nietzsche’s conception of life in terms of will to power includes domination of organism by organism in all the forms of life. He foisted his favored conceptions of human social relations onto the nature of all life (defining life differently than Rand would do seventy years later for mainstay of an objective morality [and differently than had Guyau 1885, also for purport of an objective morality]), then pointed to that supposed way of all organisms as rationale for his often nasty views of human nature, particularly focused on social relationships.

 

Never forget Nietzsche’s BGE 265, which is antithetical to Rand’s ideal in Anthem (1937) and to her mature ideal of Atlas Shrugged.

“At the risk of annoying innocent ears I will propose this: egoism belongs to the essence of the noble soul. I mean that firm belief that other beings will, by nature, have to be subordinate to a being “like us” and will have to sacrifice themselves.”

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