Statesboro, GA, USA
Interesting theory, Stephanos. It can be either that or a clue that it is true but no one outside of a novel is capable of doing it.
What I mean is that everyone intuitively has a complaint of the true selfishness (not self-interest) of others whenever it shows itself and causes pain. And, conversely, I've never met anyone who would say (outside of the pedantry of talking about egoistic philosophy) that it is impossible to perform a "self-forgetting" act of kindness. And I'm not sure why thinking otherwise should be considered a "capability".
A school janitor had, over the span of 40+ years, donated one million dollars to charity and it made front page news. The janitor had decided all those years ago that donating a million to charity was to be his life-long goal. He worked overtime, took on extra jobs and did whatever he could to raise money until he finally achieved that goal. The newspapers and public applauded him for his sacrifices all those years to make his dream possible. Ayn Rand would say they were not sacrifices at all but done for one selfish reason - his pursuit of a personal goal.
That's not a true insight, but rather plays on the truism that personal goals are always our desire. The problem is that Ayn Rand didn't go far enough. She needed to ask the question as to why benevolence was his goal in the first place. Is she so certain that it couldn't actually be for the benefit of others? She could have argued the truism that doing good makes one feel good, and therefore that he did it out of a "selfish" desire for personal pleasure. But why should doing good bring its own particular kind of pleasure? And why is it qualitatively different from the kind of pleasure a successful theif gets from his booty?
The problem with egoism is that it offers no real foundation for moral action, other than a form of hedonism. But if it were that simple, no one would do bad. It would be pleasant to do good, and vexing to do evil.
Another problem is that it lacks a way to make distinctions. The traditional way of viewing motives, is to recognize that it is quite possible that the man did his charitable deed for the fame and praise of others ... or he could have very well done it out of a real desire to help others. And there can be mixed motives, of course. But with the egoist there is only one motive ... and it's either a sucess or a failure. But there's nothing in egoism (that I can see) to dissuade the man who thinks he's happy with a less than virtuous way of obtaining personal pleasure.
By denying that selfishness exists, a gap has been created in the philosophy which doesn't match what we see, believe and practice in life ... Namely that humanity has mixed motives (the knowledge of good and evil) not variations on one. Why else should we feel it proper to chide some actions, and praise others?
Selfishness needs not be detrimental at all and seldom is, as long as the rights of others are not violated.
Then it's not selfishness as defined. You (along with egoistic philosophy) are redefining the word. I've already made the distinction between healthy self interest, and selfishness. A distinction which is virtually impossible in egoism. (unless you'd like to try and explain the distinction to me between the actions of a philantropist and a swindler). To show you what I mean ... what if one feels certain that it would be to his gain, to violate the rights of someone else, or at least that it derives him more pleasure than anything else? Your very correct mention of rights, is something that egoism can't support. The idea of someone's rights must to be carried with egoism like Procrustes' severed head. It simply won't lay comfortably in the bed of egoistic philosophy.
The janitor did not consider the things he did not do as sacrifices - he considered them opportunities to do things to reach the goal.
A "sacrifice" is a matter of fact, regardless of what someone considers it to be. The fact that someone doesn't call it a sacrifice, doesn't mean that it wasn't. It could mean simply that they are humble, or self-forgetting enough not to make too much fuss about their own loss. It doesn't mean that sacrifice isn't a reality ... only that those who are best at it aren't always hungry for recognition. And about that goal ... we still need to go further and ask about the motive behind the goal.
He was a man who had a dream, fashioned his life to achieve that dream - and did it. We should all be so successful in life. That is the difference between her view of selfishness and yours.
I don't disagree at all with that statement. We should all do that. The difference between her view of selfishness and mine, is that her philosophy can only praise. She has no basis for telling others that they should live likewise. If goals are defined by self, then all goals must fit the description of "selfish".
She felt the same about self-sacrifice....it's all in the definition.
Exactly, my point is that she seems to be redefining things, quite arbitrarily.
"Of course language is not an infallible guide, but it contains, with all its defects, a good deal of stored insight and experience. If you begin by flouting it, it has a way of avenging itself later on. We had better not follow Humpty Dumpty in making words mean whatever we please" (C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves)
If a mother gives her own life to save the life of her child, it is not sacrifice. She values the life of her child above her own. If she were to sacrifice her life for a complete stranger's, then that would be sacrifice.
What does it matter if the recipient of one's gift is an offspring, or a stranger? It has no affect, either way, on the value (or cost) of the gift. Therefore removing and reapplying the word "sacrifice" in this way is completely arbitrary. I see no basis for it.
If it is love that leads a woman to give of herself for her children, then preaching "sacrifice" beyond one's own family is simply an admonition to expand one's circle of love. We're not very good at it. But what happens to strangers that you love? They cease to be strangers.
These are reasons why she had so many supporters and so many enemies......all in the definitions.
How about I just say that "enemy" means "a person who know better than you." It's all in the definitions.
Seriously though, I'm not her enemy. But I can understand the frustration caused by someone arbitarily redefining words, with no recognition of the insight which gave birth to them in the first place.
Fortunately millions of people accepted and made her the most sought-after speaker, and one of the most influential people, of our generation.
I'm not saying at all, that she never had any insight, or said anything valuable. The value of "loving oneself" and not making decisions which cause oneself needless grief, is certainly needed advice.