Saturday, September 03, 2011

Ayn Rand's Playboy Interview: Charity, Compassion, and Sacrifice

By Diana Hsieh

As part of Modern Paleo's Saturday blogging on Objectivism, here's another tidbit from Ayn Rand's 1964 Playboy interview. These few questions concern charity, compassion, and sacrifice:

PLAYBOY: Do you consider wealthy businessmen like the Fords and the Rockefellers immoral because they use their wealth to support charity?

RAND: No. That is their privilege, if they want to. My views on charity are very simple. I do not consider it a major virtue and, above all, I do not consider it a moral duty. There is nothing wrong in helping other people, if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them. I regard charity as a marginal issue. What I am fighting is the idea that charity is a moral duty and a primary virtue.

PLAYBOY: What is the place of compassion in your philosophical system?

RAND: I regard compassion as proper only toward those who are innocent victims, but not toward those who are morally guilty. If one feels compassion for the victims of a concentration camp, one cannot feel it for the torturers. If one does feel compassion for the torturers, it is an act of moral treason toward the victims.

PLAYBOY: Would it be against the principles of Objectivism for anyone to sacrifice himself by stepping in front of a bullet to protect another person?

RAND: No. It depends on the circumstances. I would step in the way of a bullet if it were aimed at my husband. It is not self-sacrifice to die protecting that which you value: If the value is great enough, you do not care to exist without it. This applies to any alleged sacrifice for those one loves.

PLAYBOY: Would you be willing to die for your cause, and should your followers be willing to die for it? And for the truly nonsacrificial Objectivist, is any cause worth dying for?

RAND: The answer to this is made plain in my book. In Atlas Shrugged I explain that a man has to live for, and when necessary, fight for, his values -- because the whole process of living consists of the achievement of values. Man does not survive automatically. He must live like a rational being and accept nothing less. He cannot survive as a brute. Even the simplest value, such as food, has to be created by man, has to be planted, has to be produced. The same is true of his more interesting, more important achievements. All values have to be gained and kept by man, and, if they are threatened, he has to be willing to fight and die, if necessary, for his right to live like a rational being. You ask me, would I be willing to die for Objectivism? I would. But what is more important, I am willing to live for it -- which is much more difficult.

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