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Embracing Ayn Rand’s Ethics: Key Lessons from Tara Smith’s Egoism Without Permission


In our latest interview, I had the privilege of speaking with Professor Tara Smith about her new book, Egoism Without Permission: The Moral Psychology of Ayn Rand’s Ethics. This discussion brought to light several profound lessons on Ayn Rand’s unique approach to desire and self-sanction. Here, I’ll share the key takeaways from our conversation, offering insights into how Ayn Rand’s philosophy can transform your understanding of ethics and personal growth.

The Core of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy

At the heart of Ayn Rand’s philosophy is the concept of rational self-interest, or egoism. Unlike traditional ethical theories that often prioritize altruism, Rand’s Objectivism asserts that acting in one’s self-interest is not only natural but essential for living a fulfilling life. Professor Smith emphasizes that true egoism is about understanding and pursuing what genuinely benefits you, without needing external permission or validation.

Sanction from Within: Embracing Self-Sanction

One of the critical lessons from Professor Smith’s book is the idea of self-sanction. Rand’s philosophy encourages individuals to look within themselves for validation and moral guidance. This concept, known as sanction from within, is about recognizing that you don’t need external approval to live a moral life. Your values and decisions should be self-chosen and rooted in your rational understanding of what benefits your life.

The Role of Desire in Objectivism

Ayn Rand’s approach to desire is another pivotal aspect of her philosophy. Contrary to the belief that desires are irrational and should be suppressed, Rand argues that desires are an integral part of human nature. According to Professor Smith, understanding and harnessing your desires can lead to a more authentic and fulfilling life. Desires should be examined through the lens of rational self-interest to determine if they align with your long-term goals and values.

Practical Applications: Living by Ayn Rand’s Ethics

Applying Ayn Rand’s ethics in everyday life involves a deep commitment to rational self-interest. Professor Smith’s insights highlight the importance of being honest with yourself about your desires and motivations. This honesty allows you to make decisions that genuinely benefit your life, rather than conforming to societal expectations or external pressures.

Evaluate Your Desires: Regularly assess whether your desires align with your long-term goals and values.

Seek Internal Validation: Cultivate a mindset where your self-worth comes from within, rather than relying on external approval.

Pursue Rational Self-Interest: Make choices that reflect a rational evaluation of what will enhance your life.


The lessons from Professor Tara Smith’s Egoism Without Permission provide a comprehensive understanding of Ayn Rand’s ethics. By embracing self-sanction and understanding the role of desire, individuals can lead more fulfilling and rational lives. Ayn Rand’s philosophy offers a powerful framework for personal growth and ethical living.

Relevant Links and Quotes

Related Links:

Key Quotes:

• “Egoism tells us not just how to pursue our interest, but it says, you’ve got to be an egoist all the way down.”

• “Desires are not the nemesis in a rational, egoistic code; they are the reason why we strive for anything at all.”

• “Your values and decisions should be self-chosen and rooted in your rational understanding of what benefits your life.”


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