What is virtue?
Virtue, according to Ayn Rand, is the action (both mental and physical) necessary to sustain one’s life and achieve happiness; i.e., one’s method of obtaining and using the values (both material and non-material) that one needs to sustain one’s existence and flourish.
What is the fundamental virtue?
The fundamental virtue is rationality — holding reason as one’s only means of knowledge and one’s only guide to action.
What are the other virtues?
All other virtues (productiveness, integrity, independence, justice, honesty, pride, etc.) are applications/corollaries of the principle of rationality to various contexts.
- Productiveness is the application of reason to one’s physical means of survival. To be productive is to apply reason to create/produce the physical values one needs for one’s survival. i.e., cooking a meal, building a boat, or stitching a cut.
- Integrity means to act according to your rational conclusions, in word and deed. It means not following the herd, and standing up for what you believe in.
- Independence is to use one’s own mind to grasp reality, as opposed to blindly following others. We see this with a businessman who takes a rational “risk” on a new product given his vision. Think Steve Jobs and the iPhone.
- Justice is the principle of evaluating others rationally and acting accordingly. Examples of injustice include refusing to hire someone because of their race, or the converse, hiring someone because of their skin color. Justice demands that we hire people based on merit – their success in performing a given job.
- Honesty is the principle of not faking reality; of not pretending things are other than they are. It means being willing to change one’s mind when the facts show otherwise.
- Pride (the crown of virtues) is the reward (self-esteem) for virtue — of a life well-lived.
For further discussion on virtue I recommend:
- The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand
- Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff
- Viable Values: A Study of Life as the Root and Reward of Morality by Tara Smith
- Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics: The Virtuous Egoist by Tara Smith