Altruism And Egotism Portrayed In Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

1968 words - 8 pages

In the world today, altruism is associated with the “common good” of man while egotism is associated with evil and non-consideration of the fellow man. In contrast to the world’s view, Ayn Rand provides and proves a new definition for egotism through her book, The Fountainhead. She defines egotism in the context of ethics. She states: “Man-every man-is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.” Howard Roark, the protagonist in the book is a selfish and egoistical man whose actions reflect his own conviction. On the other hand is Elsworth M. Toohey, a humanitarian, whose goal is to see others suffer so that in providing help, he might be seen as virtuous (680). These men serve as foils for each other. The idea behind Howard Roark is illustrated by Ayn Rand in her philosophy called “Objectivism” and the idea behind Ellsworth Toohey is the “second-hand.” The book wields together the concepts of selfishness, selflessness, and heroism.
Objectivism is the “concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.”(The Essentials of Objectivism) On the contrary, “second-hand” is the term used by Ayn Rand to describe people who have no self, no ego, and basically live for others. In other words, “second-handers” are altruists (605-606). The second-hander is a person who cannot accept a man who stands alone- the second hander is a critic. The definition for egotism is buttressed by Howard Roark while her definition for altruism is supported by Ellsworth M. Toohey.
Selfishness, according to Objectivism is ideal. The ego is strengthened as the only source of survival by this theory; and the man who strengthens this theory is Howard Roark. Selfishness is not defined as the lack of care for others rather; it is defined as letting others decide for themselves. A selfish man is defined as a man who holds his “truth above all things and against all men” (678). Being selfish is the only way to stand alone as a means of breeding success and strength. Heroism is closely associated with egoism because heroism entails independence likewise egoism.
A hero an undeterred individual who comes out triumphantly despite obstacles faced (699). In a time when conventionality was the name of the game in architecture, no one dared to come up with a new from of art. With the common flow of ideas in one particular direction, Howard Roark rowed against the tide. He came up with a modernistic view of architecture, risking the label of criminal rather than of “a great man,” which he truly deserved (25). He rated the Parthenon as rotten even though all have said the Parthenon was a great masterpiece. He voiced and...

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