Question: If the pursuit of happiness is one of our goals, what if a person enjoys being altruistic?
It's an interesting one. My first reaction is to say, 'If being altruistic makes you happy, then you're doing it wrong!'
Here we're using the term 'altruism' in its philosophical sense; other-ism, altru-ism. It's a moral theory that says the other is the standard of value, not the self; and whether it makes you happy or not, benefits you or not, is entirely irrelevant to the morality of the action. Only the benefit to the other is important, and strong versions of altruism say you should be selfless in the literal sense. The self is of less importance. You should be self-sacrificing, and sacrifice doesn't mean just paying investment costs hoping for a larger return. It means suffering pain, giving-up, losing in the long run.
And so altruism then, as a philosophical theory means that it has to be done as a matter of duty and against yourself-interest, and that is precisely what Objectivism is opposed to.
Stephen R. C. Hicks, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Rockford University, Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, and Senior Scholar at The Atlas Society.
He is author of The Art of Reasoning: Readings for Logical Analysis (W. W. Norton & Co., 1998), Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Scholargy, 2004), Nietzsche and the Nazis (Ockham’s Razor, 2010), Entrepreneurial Living (CEEF, 2016), Liberalism Pro and Con (Connor Court, 2020), Art: Modern, Postmodern, and Beyond (with Michael Newberry, 2021) and Eight Philosophies of Education (2022). He has published in Business Ethics Quarterly, Review of Metaphysics, and The Wall Street Journal. His writings have been translated into 20 languages.
He has been Visiting Professor of Business Ethics at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Visiting Fellow at the Social Philosophy & Policy Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, Visiting Professor at the University of Kasimir the Great, Poland, Visiting Fellow at Harris Manchester College of Oxford University, England, and Visiting Professor at Jagiellonian University, Poland.
His B.A. and M.A. degrees are from the University of Guelph, Canada. His Ph.D. in Philosophy is from Indiana University, Bloomington, USA.
In 2010, he won his university’s Excellence in Teaching Award.
Instagram Takeover Questions:
Every week we solicit questions from our 100K followers on Instagram (a social media platform popular with young people. Once a month we feature Stephen Hicks' answers to select questions, transcripts below:
Also several articles, selected for likely interest to Objectivist audiences: