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Aristotle, Rand and «enlightened self-interest»

1. Introduction

The concept of enlightened collaboration is central to this page. The similar concept of «enlightened self-interest» is something that has occupied me for a while. In the following I will contrast the concept shortly with some other world-views/ethics, and then I will go into how we can go about putting this theory into life.

2. Enlightened self-interest and other world-views/ethics:

Enlightened self-interest is different from altruism in all its forms, whether it be what Nietzsche calls protestant slave morality or socialist neo-marxist political correctness to name two important examples.
Enlightened self-interest is also different from Machiavellianism as this page points out. Enlightened self-interest is more noble, and while it aims for mastery, excellence and «the good life» as per the ancient Greco-roman cultures, it does not sink into Machiavellian pettyness. I find this article to be a good primer on the difference between these ethics: «A QUESTION OF CHARACTER: The Objectivist Versus The Machiavellian»
In short: enlightened self-interest is about win-win. It is not about sacrificing oneself to others (protestant slave morality) or to sacrifice others to oneself (Machiavellianism, Fascism).

3. How to make enlightened self-interest one’s way of life

If we are raised in a traditional or conservative home, we might've been raised to be meek and obedient altruists. Or perhaps we rebelled and went our own way. We were appreciated for obedience rather than for spontaneity, independence and being loved in an enlightened self-interested way. So what is needed is new reference experiences where we see that people value us for who we are in ourselves - who we are when we pursue our enlightened self-interest! This will make us strong, and we can stop feeling that our only worth is our will to submission. In short, we need to learn selfish love.
Ayn Rand describes this kind of love, which she has based in part on Aristotle's view of friendship:
"One gains a profoundly personal, selfish joy from the mere existence of the person one loves. It is one’s own personal, selfish happiness that one seeks, earns and derives from love.
A “selfless,” “disinterested” love is a contradiction in terms: it means that one is indifferent to that which one values.
Concern for the welfare of those one loves is a rational part of one’s selfish interests. If a man who is passionately in love with his wife spends a fortune to cure her of a dangerous illness, it would be absurd to claim that he does it as a “sacrifice” for her sake, not his own, and that it makes no difference to him, personally and selfishly, whether she lives or dies."
Michael Hurd describes how to do this:
Erroneous core beliefs which inhibit psychological intimacy and closeness:
1. The idea that "I must perform" in a social interaction rather than simply discuss what's of interest to myself and see if the other party has the same interests/values.
2. The idea that "I must be seen as good and worthwhile" rather than "I want to find a good match" either friendship-wise or romance-wise.
3. The idea that "I am somehow psychologically defective because of my shyness/inhibitions" rather than recognizing that nearly everybody feels these vulnerabilities, at some time and to some degree.
4. The idea that friendship should happen easily and all at once, and that if it doesn't it is "a personal reflection on myself and the fact that I'm never going to find what I want." In reality, you can go months or even years without success in finding a good match, and then "hit the jackpot" and find 2 potentially life-long friends at one time; in other words, the value of friendship/love does not usually happen in nice, evenly spaced out segments -- not for anyone.
For more, I can recommend Nathaniel Branden's great book "Honoring the self". Especially chapter 12: Rational selfishness. [Both Aristotle and Branden are more prosocial than Rand, and I recommend supplementing her work with them].
Lucio Buffalmano, Matthew Whitewood and 2 other users have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew WhitewoodselffriendSerena Irina

Some further quotes. See especially the last quote.

Unselfishness was equated with virtue; selfishness—honoring the needs and wants of the self—was made a synonym of evil. With such systems, the individual has always been a victim, twisted against him or her self and commanded to be “unselfish” in sacrificial service to some allegedly higher value called God or pharaoh or emperor or king or society or the state or the race of the proletariat—or the cosmos.

It is a strange paradox of our history that this doctrine—which tells us that we are to regard ourselves, in effect, as sacrificial animals—has been generally accepted as a doctrine representing benevolence and love for humankind


By elevating the issue of helping others into the central and primary issue of ethics, altruism has destroyed the concept of any authentic benevolence or good will among men. It has indoctrinated men with the idea that to value another human being is an act of selflessness, thus implying that a man can have no personal interest in others—that to value another means to sacrifice oneself—that any love, respect or admiration a man may feel for others is not and cannot be a source of his own enjoyment, but is a threat to his existence, a sacrificial blank check signed over to his loved ones.


To selfishly exploit others is unethical egoism, and this is of course wrong. But altruism doesn't hinder unethical egoism. Just the opposite; altruism furthers unethical egoism. To sacrifice oneself and to sacrifice others are two sides of the same coin. You give unethical egoists more power if you are willing to sacrifice your own interests. Only ethical egoism can hinder unethical egoism. To not be exploited by ruthless people you have to be an egoist. You have to defend your own interests.

See also:

Lucio Buffalmano, Matthew Whitewood and Serena Irina have reacted to this post.
Lucio BuffalmanoMatthew WhitewoodSerena Irina

Awesome take, @Peter !

It took Matthew to wake me up to this great thread, and quoted you on this "enlightened individualism" article.

Edit: Moved it to mindsets, as this is can be an important mindset switch for many.

Matthew Whitewood, selffriend and Serena Irina have reacted to this post.
Matthew WhitewoodselffriendSerena Irina
Have you read the forum guidelines for effective communication already?
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