I appreciate your response and hope we can maintain that tone, because I think I am moving from questioning to disagreeing.
First I'd like to say, I hope I didn't imply that I think that egoism necessarily=materialism. I get that you can calculate your self interest to think long term and consider non-tangible things like aesthetic appreciation and love and the like.
For one thing, isn't considering the "pride" in saving the child in your scenario misguided? Earlier you (I think it was you; it may have been another poster) said w/regard to religion that we need to free ourselves from irrational superstition. Well wouldn't your pride in a true act of altruism be based merely on altruistic philosophies that had taken hold in our culture due to irrational supersitition (at least in the Objectivist mind)?
Oh, I am sorry if I misunderstood; it is just that that is a common misunderstanding and this sounds a little like it. As regards pride
, it isn't just an exercise in vanity. A fundamental requirement for all human beings is knowing that you are someone worth living. We have a basic requirement for self-esteem. Or, to phrase it another way, you can have no value higher than your self. That is why there are so many rich, self-hating types who find that money cannot buy them happiness when they've gotten it foully, while there are those of modest means, who are honest, who live much better. I'd refer you to the following speech:http://www.dailypaul.com/133313/francis ... s-shrugged
(yes it's from a the Ronpaul site, but it was the first copy I could find).
As I said, life is a value for me, and justice is also a value. Now in that situation, my presumption is that the kid is innocent, doesn't deserve this and it is therefore a value for me to save that life. And again, the whole genius of Ayn Rand is to show that justice is essential to living life. It's a fundamental requirement.
Western culture has been taught by religion that "There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friend," and the state has taught us that "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori."
Well, take a look at that last one. People were shovelled into machine gun fire by the thousand because of it. That's altruism for you. To the first, once again, me choosing to die rather than let someone I love perish is a selfish act. I don't care to go on living with that sort of knowledge in my mind, knowing that I've failed to defend the most precious thing in my life. And I do not see what is irrational about having someone of such worth in my life.
When people think that morality is a matter of some floating 'duty' or supernatural obligation, they find it easy to cheat on it. You know the thing, "I'm honest for the most part, just this once..." But Objectivists know that these virtues are essential to living a good, happy life, and that to default on them is to lose the most important thing you can have. If you do not develop these qualities in your character, even if you survive, which is doubtful, you will live a lousy life.
"Courage and confidence are practical necessities . . . courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to truth, and confidence is the practical form of being true to one’s own consciousness."
There's also another point that does not get enough attention, which is the emphasis on 100% rationality. Never letting sight of reality. People think that unreason is limited to stuff like crackpot theories about who killed JFK etc, but it isn't so. I do not know if you have read Nabokov, but you should. One of the things you learn from his work is that true monsters are the way they are because they systematically deny the reality of other people.
I can see the argument that altruism is wrong if it by altruism you mean the belief that doing something to your detriment is always morally required if it will result in a benefit to others, even if that benefit is less than or equal to the detriment to you.
That is the very definition of altruism. Altruism is the idea that an action is good if it is not done for your benefit, if it is the not-good for you.
If you're willing to allow harm to come to yourself for the benefit of others, who are egoists to tell you that it's wrong? If I'm the only one who's harmed, I've made the world a better place, and only hurt someone who consented to that harm.
Define "harm" here, and what 'making the world a better place' is. I've given my points about internationalism and solidarity, and why that is in my interest. On the other hand, if someone says to me that they have a right to my life, that it should serve their interests above, beyond and against mine, then that is wickedness. It is the claim that my life is their property. I would not help such a person, not a penny of my productive effort, nor a second of my time.
Remember, sacrifice is not giving up a lesser value for a greater, but giving up a greater for a lesser value. If I were to, say, lose an arm and save the life of someone I loved - fair trade.