Altruism and Egotism Portrayed in Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead

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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 ...

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...p for his lack of physical appearance by indulging in humanitarian activities and only an independent man like Roark could figure that out. Unarguably, these two men were foils of each other; it is only also true that they had some things in common.

Conclusively, Howard Roark’s independence was the source of his strength. Ellsworth M. Toohey indulged in humanitarian activities only to make up for his insecurity in his physical appearance and his selfish desire to be seen as virtuous for doing ‘good.’ In this book, Ayn Rand brought up some topics too confusing to discuss. She wielded selfishness into altruism and egotism into heroism. Ellsworth was considered a hero in some quarters but the true hero was Roark. Although Roark was an egoist, he was sensible enough to keep it under control; by not seeking power or fame. In the long run, the “I” won against the “we.”
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