Aaron Smith on Selfishness and Benevolence

Ayn Rand is known as a champion of the virtue of selfishness. Most believe, however, that selfishness is incompatible with benevolence, kindness and goodwill towards others. What is the relationship between benevolence and the selfishness that Ayn Rand advocates? That is the question ARI instructor Aaron Smith will explore in a series of talks he will be giving across the country.

“Benevolence and goodwill are pretty uncontroversial values,” says Aaron. “They’re things we want in our lives, and they’re generally things we applaud. Ayn Rand observed, however, that they are typically regarded as expressions of altruism and selflessness, and thus people tend to assume that if everyone were consistently pursuing his own self-interest, the world would be devoid of such attitudes — and what a bleak world that would be. Rand has the exact opposite view. Not only does Rand think that there’s nothing benevolent about altruism, she also rejects the notion that selfishness entails a lack of concern for others. Genuine benevolence and goodwill have nothing at all to do with altruism and selflessness, and everything to do with pursuing a value-oriented, rationally selfish life.”

Aaron Smith is an instructor for ARI’s Objectivist Academic Center and Summer Internship program. He also develops educational content for ARI’s e-learning programs and lectures for the Institute. He received his PhD in philosophy from Johns Hopkins University and has taught introductory and advanced courses in ethics, epistemology and the history of philosophy. Prior to joining ARI in 2013, Aaron was a visiting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where his research focused on Aristotle’s theory of knowledge.

When will Aaron be speaking in a city near you?

  • Chicago — April 7. Refreshments begin at 6:30 PM. Talk begins at 7:00 PM at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 East North Water Street, Chicago, IL 60611.
  • New York City — April 8. Refreshments begin at 7:00 PM. Talk begins at 7:30 PM. CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10016.
  • Irvine — April 15. Refreshments begin at 7:00 PM. Talk begins at 7:30 PM at ARI headquarters, 2121 Alton Parkway, Suite 250, Irvine, CA, 92606.
  • San Francisco — April 16. Refreshments begin at 7:00 PM. Talk begins at 7:30 PM at The Bently Reserve, 400 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA, 94111.


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