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Other writers on Eudaimonia, Ethical Egoism?

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BlueWind
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Hi all ,

If I understand things correctly Rand's work is generally considered (among outsiders) in the "ethical egoism" or "eudaimonia" tradition. Unfortunetly I am aware of only a few others who follow in this tradition. I would like to read more perspectives on the whole subject, but have not found much. I'm not looking for writers who poo-poo selfishness here, I'm looking for more Aristotle and Nietzsche. I've already read A's Ethics and a few of N's works.

I'm hoping some philosophers out there may be able to help me out in finding more decent writers who expouse philosophies like Rand's.

Thanks in advance.

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I would have to agree with Thoyd Loki that it's a short list. You might also seek the writings of more political/economic writers like (I'm just throwing names out there) John Locke, Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, Samuel Pufendorf, Auberon Herbert, any of the Founding Fathers, Isabel Paterson and Henry Hazlitt since, if they do not directly confront the propriety of egoism, egoism is at least implicit in or illustrated by their writings. I know I'm forgetting some good ones...

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I would have to agree with Thoyd Loki that it's a short list. You might also seek the writings of more political/economic writers like (I'm just throwing names out there) John Locke, Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, Samuel Pufendorf, Auberon Herbert, any of the Founding Fathers, Isabel Paterson and Henry Hazlitt since, if they do not directly confront the propriety of egoism, egoism is at least implicit in or illustrated by their writings. I know I'm forgetting some good ones...

I don't know much about those authors, but I do know that Adam Smith is explicitly altruistic.

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I don't know much about those authors, but I do know that Adam Smith is explicitly altruistic.

Thanks, I wasn't aware of that as I'm obviously not well acquainted with them either. I may be wrong on the others so please take my suggestions as light suggestions.

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I would have to agree with Thoyd Loki that it's a short list. You might also seek the writings of more political/economic writers like (I'm just throwing names out there) John Locke, Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, Samuel Pufendorf, Auberon Herbert, any of the Founding Fathers, Isabel Paterson and Henry Hazlitt since, if they do not directly confront the propriety of egoism, egoism is at least implicit in or illustrated by their writings. I know I'm forgetting some good ones...

If you're willing to dig into secondary literature, you might consider Douglas Rasmussen & Douglas Den Uyl's Liberty and Nature. It's been described as post-Randian Aristotelianism.

Max Stirner (author of The Ego And Its Own) was an advocate of what I guess you could call "predatory egoism". It doesn't bear much resemblance to what Rand was talking about, but then again neither does Nietzsche once you get past the superficial.

Overall, though, it's pretty thin pickings. Egoism has not been a popular viewpoint in the history of ethics.

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Bowzer has got a point there. I didn't even consider outside of the field of philosophy. But, John Locke was a gross oversite, definitely include him. But in strict philosophy, I believe you are now filled up.

But there are some pickings outside of the field of philosophy. Ludwig vonMises is good though it is economics.

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How about in fiction?

Ed Cline and Terry Goodkind, for instance, are consciously Objectivist. I haven't yet read Goodkind, but the Sparrowhawk series by Cline seems consistent with Objectivism.

I'd have to think some more about other authors. Who else is known for presenting egoist characters (at least egoist in essence, if not at the same explicit level of development in the meaning of the concept as in Ayn Rand's novels)?

If one wants a view of the noble soul, Hugo is terrific.

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There are so many authors I need to discover still. Kinship in politics you will find several. Kinship in Ethics there are none, Aristotle is the closest, so far that I have found. Unfortunately, the history of man is plagued by a categorical altruism. If she had brothers she would have named them in For The New Intellectual. (Granted she may never have gotten a chance to read brothers that I don’t know existed). In epistemology you will find Ayn Rand in parts scattered throughout the thinkers of history, some more than others. Hugo, in terms of his psycho-epistemological sense of life, I would class as her husband.

It is interesting though that Peikoff, in world literature, names Sophocles’ Antigone as the closest character—outside of Rand literature—to the person he knew as Ayn Rand.

That’s all I can add.

Americo.

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But there are some pickings outside of the field of philosophy. Ludwig vonMises is good though it is economics.

I have done some "secondary" reading as well, like F.A. Hayek. I've also picked up the first novel in the "sword of truth" series; I believe there is supposed to be objectivist influences in those books.

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I don't know much about those authors, but I do know that Adam Smith is explicitly altruistic.

I did not think that Smith was altruistic. He said:

"I have never known much good done by those who have affected to trade for the public good."

and

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest."

What did he say to confess altruism?

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I read it. I think she was taking on too much for her first novel. And as the choice of theme and selection, I think she should have spent time on other projects defining her own style that would differentiate her from her biggest influence before tackling this. I think she should have taken this on at her master level.

I would have loved to have written that theme but much bigger, much darker, in more depth, and a fat 1200 pages.

I might be unfair here, I really envied her that theme!

Someone mentioned Edward Cline. Has anybody noticed what a superlative style he has, and how it improves every book?

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I did not think that Smith was altruistic. He said:

"I have never known much good done by those who have affected to trade for the public good."

and

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest."

What did he say to confess altruism?

I can't give quotes that prove his altruism off the top of my head, but it's not uncommon for free market economists (or today's conservatives) to advocate self-interest in economics and altruism in morality simultaneously. Sure it's a contradiction, but that doesn't stop them. Most of them evade even noticing it. It's called compartmentalization.

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I've also picked up the first novel in the "sword of truth" series; I believe there is supposed to be objectivist influences in those books.

There's definitely Objectivist influence, but it isn't that apparent in the early books. Pro-freedom political themes start to show up in the third book, Blood of the Fold. The sixth (I think) book, Faith of the Fallen, reads like Goodkind started channeling Rand herself. This is entertaining to read from a pastiche point of view, but is somewhat jarring in the context of a fantasy world.

Goodkind himself is apparently a pretty hard-core Objectivist. He was quoted as one of the charter members of the Atlantis Legacy, for example, which means he's left some kind of bequest to ARI in his will.

Andrew Bernstein finally published his novel Heart of a Pagan through the Paper Tiger. You may want to check that out, although I found it somewhat preachy.

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Just to add to the fiction list (which is off-topic, but worthwhile)... I've heard that James Hogan, the science fiction writer, is at least familiar with & friendly towards Objectivism. But you'd never know it from his books. Still, he's a good writer, worth picking up. I had read almost all his books before someone mentioned this to me.

Probably the best Objectivist novelist other than Rand was Kay Nolte Smith. A couple of her books are pretty derivative of Rand stylistically, but she grew out of that fairly quickly. Her best book is "A Tale of The Wind." They're out of print, but used copies are not that hard to find online.

Incidentally, I tend to think that the best Objectivist writers are the ones who you wouldn't know are Objectivists from reading their books. That's not set in stone -- Goodkind, for example, is fantastic, and he can be quite explicit at times -- but as a rule, that's what I've found. I'm sure Rand is a hard influence to write past, but a writer can't attempt to channel another writer without producing, at best, mediocrity. Unfortunately, I think fiction is *not* a field in which one should stand on the shoulders of giants.

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Just to add to the fiction list (which is off-topic, but worthwhile)... I've heard that James Hogan, the science fiction writer, is at least familiar with & friendly towards Objectivism.  But you'd never know it from his books.  Still, he's a good writer, worth picking up.  I had read almost all his books before someone mentioned this to me.

Sadly, Hogan seems to have been caught by the brain-eater. His earlier works often upheld the virtues of commen-sense rationality against things like mysticism and junk science, but in his later works he's started taking a number of crackpot theories altogether too seriously.

Since we're on fiction that might be of interest to Objectivists, I'm going to pitch John C. Wright's The Golden Age and its sequels. Wright himself may not be an Objectivist (it's hard to tell), but he's philosophically erudite and upholds pro-reason and pro-freedom values explicitly in his work. In fact, he's one of the few writers I've seen explicitly make the connection between freedom, volition, egoism, rationality and the objectivity of reality. He also understands the flip side; one of the basic axioms of the villains in the novel is the explicit claim that reality is subjective and irrational, and that this leads directly to the necessity for self-sacrifice and the rejection of freedom and happiness.

Better, his style is elegant and entirely his own, and his work has (in my opinion) serious literary depth. It rewards repeated reading, and makes you think.

Here's a couple of interviews with him that are worth reading:

http://www.sfsite.com/05a/jcw127.htm

http://www.sff.net/people/john-c-wright/interview.html

And another piece I just stumbled across in which the author responds to a negative and politically-slanted review of his book:

http://fantasticadaily.com/misc.php?fID=36

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Wright looks very interesting. After reading L. Neil Smith's ham-handed hackery, I'm afraid I have a bit of an aversion to politically-oriented science fiction, but it'll pass. Wright has great taste in science fiction, and he's quite articulate in his interviews, so I'll definitely give him a read.

From one of the interviews:

"I am planning on filching from Zelazny in an upcoming novel entitled Orphans of Chaos, which portrays the Twelve Gods of Mount Olympus as involved in similar intrigues as his Nine Princes of Mount Kolvir in Amber. Since he filched from Jacobean playwrights, I hope he would not have minded."

If he's going to do this, he had damned well better be good. Zelazny's Amber series is one of my favorites in SF, and I don't want to see it abused. (I was pleasantly surprised by John Gregory Betancourt, whose sequels to Zelazny's series were competent enough to be worth reading.)

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There's definitely Objectivist influence, but it isn't that apparent in the early books.  Pro-freedom political themes start to show up in the third book, Blood of the Fold.  The sixth (I think) book, Faith of the Fallen, reads like Goodkind started channeling Rand herself.  This is entertaining to read from a pastiche point of view, but is somewhat jarring in the context of a fantasy world.

I've just started the series myself, have only read the first novel, and think that the Objectivist influence is already bloody obvious (though not entirely consistent) from the start, particularly in the political themes. For instance, remember the scene in which Queen Milena's court brings in the "fool," ridiculing him as selfish for not wanting to work for the public good.

Also, from what my brother (who introduced me to Goodkind's work, but is not an Ayn Rand fan) has told me, I think that Faith of the Fallen is the fifth book, and yes, the one in which he does become much more explicitly Objectivist (that one is my brother's favorite, oddly enough). Someone correct me if I'm wrong, as I haven't gotten that far myself yet.

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I've just started the series myself, have only read the first novel, and think that the Objectivist influence is already bloody obvious (though not entirely consistent) from the start, particularly in the political themes.  For instance, remember the scene in which Queen Milena's court brings in the "fool," ridiculing him as selfish for not wanting to work for the public good.

I didn't really notice specifically Objectivist themes until later in the series. The earlier books have some pro-liberty rhetoric in them, but there are a lot of libertarian writers who do as much.

Then again, I could just be obtuse. I didn't notice that C. S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia was a Christian allegory until a decade after I read them for the first time.

Also, from what my brother (who introduced me to Goodkind's work, but is not an Ayn Rand fan) has told me, I think that Faith of the Fallen is the fifth book, and yes, the one in which he does become much more explicitly Objectivist (that one is my brother's favorite, oddly enough).  Someone correct me if I'm wrong, as I haven't gotten that far myself yet.

Wizard's First Rule, Stone of Tears, Blood of the Fold, Temple of the Winds, Soul of the Fire, Faith of the Fallen, The Pillars of Creation, The Naked Empire. I haven't read the last two.

By the fifth book the Objectivist themes are very explicit, systematic and distinctive. A large part of the plot is essentially a concretization of the Objectivist principle of the harmony of interests of rational men. (And that part is, in my opinion, by far the best part of the book.)

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Wright looks very interesting.  After reading L. Neil Smith's ham-handed hackery, I'm afraid I have a bit of an aversion to politically-oriented science fiction, but it'll pass.  Wright has great taste in science fiction, and he's quite articulate in his interviews, so I'll definitely give him a read.

Glad to hear it. I hope you enjoy it.

I wouldn't say that The Golden Age and its sequels are really politically-oriented. As Wright says in one of his interviews, the story is really about an iconoclast and his desire to pursue his goals in the face of almost universal opposition from the remainder of the society in which he lives. That society is very free and amazingly wealthy, but the dramatic focus isn't on politics at all, certainly not in any way that would apply directly to current times.

If he's going to do this, he had damned well better be good.  Zelazny's Amber series is one of my favorites in SF, and I don't want to see it abused.  (I was pleasantly surprised by John Gregory Betancourt, whose sequels to Zelazny's series were competent enough to be worth reading.)

I think he's good enough. Although that book isn't likely to be written for a while. Wright has a new "modern fantasy" novel coming out next month (or it might be out already) called The Last Guardians of Everness. There's supposed to be a sequel to that before he's moving on to anything else.

Also, knowing Wright, the connections between his proposed "Chaos" novel and Zelazny are going to be thematic and not direct. IOW Wright's book is likely to be about as similar to Amber as Amber was to the earlier sources that Zelazny used for inspiration.

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I did not think that Smith was altruistic. He said:

"I have never known much good done by those who have affected to trade for the public good."

and

"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest."

What did he say to confess altruism?

Read his "Theory of Moral Sentiments."

http://socserv2.socsci.mcmaster.ca/~econ/u...mith/moral.html

He considered morality to be the outgrowth of a natural faculty of emotional sympathy--i.e., the kind of thing autistic children lack.

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If we're throwing in fiction for the rational egoist, I would be remiss not to mention Robert A Heinlein. He gets a bit nutty at times, though.

I wasn't sure if he really fit into that category too well... I guess he does but some of his stuff is just so out there. Ever read "Time enough for Love" where the main character has sex with just about everybody, including his mother and daughter? :pimp:

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