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Friday, October 19, 2012

• • • Ayn Rand on Human Nature 
Eric Michael Johnson, Scientific American - The Primate Diaries Altruism  |Atheism  |Atlas Shrugged  |Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal  |For the New Intellectual  |Philosophy: Who Needs It  |The Virtue of Selfishness  |Capitalism  |Egoism  |Individual Rights  |Image  | Also published at Discover Magazine’s The Crux as Yes, Ayn, There Is a Social Instinct.Ever since Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand has been gaining prominence among American conservatives as the leading voice for the political philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism, or the idea that private business should be unconstrained and that government’s only concern should be protecting individual property rights. As I wrote this week in Slate with my piece “Ayn Rand vs. the Pygmies,” the Russian-born author believed that rational selfishness was the ultimate expression of human nature. [....] As I demonstrated in my Slate piece, Ayn Rand was wrong about altruism. But how she arrived at this conclusion is revealing both because it shows her thought process and offers a warning to those who would construct their own political philosophy on the back of an assumed human nature. Ironically, given her strong opposition to monarchy and state communism, Rand based her interpretation of human nature on the same premises as these previous systems while adding a crude evolutionary argument in order to connect them.