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Virtues or Vices? Kindness, Generosity, Charity

Tara Smith

Presented at: OCON 2004

Date: Jul 10, 2004

A thorough understanding of the Objectivist ethics requires digesting not only the major virtues that Ayn Rand identified, but the implications of rational egoism for other types of action traditionally praised as virtuous. This lecture will consider three such conventional virtues: kindness, generosity and charity.

Given that Ayn Rand did not claim to provide an exhaustive catalog of the moral virtues, it is natural to wonder about the status of purported virtues that seem to have a rational basis. Are kindness, generosity or charity lesser, subordinate virtues? Are they incompatible with egoism? If generosity consists in giving a person more than he deserves, for instance, does it violate the virtue of justice? If it is appropriate to be kind or generous or charitable, what should govern a person's exercise of these traits?

Addressing these questions will prod us to confront remnants of altruism that may continue to infect our attitudes and to more fully integrate our understanding of Objectivism with our understanding of the culturally dominant morality.

This lecture is based on work in progress, a chapter of a book Dr. Smith is writing on Ayn Rand's view of how to be a rational egoist.


Parts: 1

Handout: none