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Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands created a beautifully organized website called importanceofphilosophy, and on one page they list benevolence as a virtue.


My understanding is that this is not a virtue of orthodox Objectivism, and the website says that the content of the website is primarily based on Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

They appear to combine some Orthodox Objectivism, with some open Objectivism in the school of David Kelley.

Do you agree that benevolence is a virtue, consistent with Objectivism, or do you think it's wrong for them to add benevolence to Objectivism's list of virtues?

asked Jul 21 '14 at 14:44

KineticPhilosophy's gravatar image


edited Jul 21 '14 at 16:03

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

As for whether Objectivism does or does not advocate benevolence, it's more implicit than explicit in Objectivism. Objectivism identifies seven major virtues for sustaining and strengthening man's life qua man, but benevolence isn't one of them. Yet Objectivism provides considerable favorable discussion of the universe as benevolent (or not). Here is a sampling from the topic of "Benevolent Universe Premise" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon:

The "benevolent universe" does not mean that the universe feels kindly to man or that it is out to help him achieve his goals. No, the universe is neutral; it simply is; it is indifferent to you. You must care about and adapt to it, not the other way around. But reality is "benevolent" in the sense that if you do adapt to it -- i.e., if you do think, value, and act rationally, then you can (and barring accidents you will) achieve your values. You will, because those values are based on reality.

A "benevolent person," then, is one who feels kindly to man and/or seeks to help him achieve his goals. It means a generalized "good will" toward others whom one has no reason (evidence) to feel otherwise. That, in turn, is actually an aspect of justice, which is one of Objectivism's major virtues.

Objectivism also applies the term "benevolent" to societies. Ayn Rand's Introduction in VOS observes:

If it is true that what I mean by "selfishness" is not what is meant conventionally, then this is one of the worst indictments of altruism: it means that altruism permits no concept of a self-respecting, self-supporting man—a man who supports his life by his own effort and neither sacrifices himself nor others. It means that altruism permits no view of men except as sacrificial animals and profiteers-on-sacrifice, as victims and parasites—that it permits no concept of a benevolent co-existence among men—that it permits no concept of justice.

Chapter 1 (TOE) in VOS also observes:

It is only on the basis of rational selfishness—on the basis of justice—that men can be fit to live together in a free, peaceful, prosperous, benevolent, rational society.

What Objectivism does not do is rip benevolence out of all rational context and hold it up to man as a cardinal virtue by itself.

There are other "secondary" virtues, too, that Objectivism conceptualizes as aspects of the main virtues. The Lexicon lists "Courage and Confidence," for example, as aspects of integrity.

(The question also mentions "orthodox" Objectivism versus "open" Objectivism, but Objectivism is actually a very unorthodox phiolosophy -- radically new -- which is precisely why some observers want it to be "open" to watering down with elements such as gentlemanly "toleration" toward highly destructive ideas.)

answered Jul 22 '14 at 01:26

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Jul 21 '14 at 14:44

Seen: 1,597 times

Last updated: Jul 22 '14 at 01:26