Brain Pickings

Ayn Rand on Love as a Business Deal: The 1959 Interview

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Why state and economics should remain separate and what the true currency of love is.

In the history of modern rational thought, there’s hardly a creed more definitive than Objectivism, the philosophy movement created by Russian-American novelist and thinker Ayn Rand. Among the central tenets of Objectivism is the idea that we can gain objective knowledge through the processes of logic and that the pursuit of our own happiness, framed as rational self-interest, is the sole purpose of existence. While such moral code may seem overly cynical, especially in the age of the Charter for Compassion, it seems to be the silent underwriting of much of today’s modus operandi.

Today, we look at a three-part interview Rand gave in 1959, as part of Mike Wallace’s Gallery of Colorful People series on CBS. More than half a century later, Rand’s code of morality and her bold challenge to altruism theory is equally controversial and no less fascinating to study. Judgement of its moral righteousness aside, Objectivism is still one of the most important cultural conversations to engage, if only for the passionate consideration of all sides of the argument that it ignites.

What makes this particular interview noteworthy is that Wallace plays, with complete composure, the perfect devil’s advocate, eliciting a series of almost emotional retorts from the living epitome of emotionless rationalism. Watch, waver, and draw your own conclusions.

When you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately, that is to love people without any standard, to love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.” ~ Ayn Rand

Love should be treated like a business deal, but every business deal has its own terms and its own currency. And in love, the currency is virtue. You love people not for what you do for them or what they do for you. You love them for the values, the virtues, which they have achieved in their own character.” ~ Ayn Rand

For a deeper look at Rand’s philosophy and moral code, we highly recommend her iconic Atlas Shrugged, one of the most important written works of the 20th century. And we should also point out that you certainly don’t have to agree with Rand’s views in order to appreciate their cultural significance.

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