Ayn Rand’s Rational Egoist Man Versus Nietzsche’s Design of Superman


Nietzsche rebelled against the 2500-year-old Western metaphysical tradition with the concept of superman. Nietzsche’s superman rebels against the tradition in the question to construct his values and prioritize himself while determining these values. In response to this, Ayn Rand introduces the concept of “rational egoism” by developing the concept of an “egoistic man” who creates his values ​​and lives for himself, which he borrowed from Max Stirner. According to Rand, being selfish and egoistic is what is rational. Therefore, the effort to be rational necessarily leads to egoism. A rational person should act only for his interests and should put his selfish interests above social interests. For Rand, acting in the name of selfish interests is not just rational; it is also moral. Rand systematized the concept of superman with rational and ethical concerns and revealed its political aspects. Therefore, Rand’s “rational egoist” person is a more acceptable human design instead of Nietzsche’s concept of superman.

Keywords: Superman, Egoism, Rationalism, Selfishness, Libertarianism, Anarchism.


Nietzsche, üstinsan konseptiyle 2500 yıllık Batı metafizik geleneğine başkaldırdı. Nietzsche’nin üstinsanı, kendi değerlerini bizzat kendisi inşa ederek ve kendisini önceleyerek söz konusu geleneğe karşı çıkmıştır. Buna cevaben Ayn Rand, Max Stirner’den ödünç aldığı, kendi değerlerini yaratan ve kendisi için yaşayan “egoist insan” kavramını geliştirerek “rasyonel egoizm” kavramını ortaya koymaktadır. Rand’a göre, bencil ve egoist olmak rasyonel olan şeydir. Bu nedenle, rasyonel olma çabası zorunlu olarak egoizme yol açar. Akıl sahibi bir insan, sadece kendi çıkarları için hareket etmeli ve bencil çıkarlarını toplumsal çıkarların üzerinde tutmalıdır. Rand için bencil çıkarlar adına hareket etmek sadece rasyonel değildir; aynı zamanda ahlakidir. Rand, süpermen kavramını rasyonel ve etik kaygılarla sistemleştirmiş ve politik yönlerini ortaya koymuştur. Bu nedenle, Rand’ın “rasyonel egoist” kişiliği, Nietzsche’nin süpermen kavramı yerine daha kabul edilebilir bir insan tasarımıdır.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Üstinsan, egoizm, rasyonalizm, bencillik, liberteryanizm, anarşizm.


Human is a creature that strives to understand and make sense of the world he lives in. Ethics is one of the most decisive issues of the said effort to make sense of it. People categorize their “human” actions on two basic concepts as good and bad. Although these concepts have been used in different periods of history and different societies, these concepts have existed in almost every society. The scope of the concepts of good and bad is not only about ethics, since every political action is also an ethical action, the concepts of good and bad are at the center of political thought. The answer to the question of “What is good, but also what needs to be done? And how should it be done?” is the answer to your questions. Questioning nature and how politics will inevitably cause the concept of political human to come to the fore. How and in what ways does a person make politics and how should he do politics? The main point that questions such as these will lead us to is: Human is Superman. The concept of superman has been used by different thinkers throughout history in different names and different ways. Nietzsche, one of the most well-known of these thinkers and using the concept in question, but the concept of superman is against Western metaphysics and its moral understanding (Christian ethics). Superman rejects the 2500-year-old metaphysical tradition of the West and therefore Christian morality must build their values.

Alongside Nietzsche’s concept of the superman, there is Max Stirner’s individualistic and egoistic man. According to Stirner, individuals have the right to act in their interests without being influenced by any collective structure. From this, Stirner established individualist anarchism. In the second part of the article, after examining Stirner’s understanding of individualism, Ayn Rand’s views on this subject will be analyzed. Ayn Rand, on the other hand, developed Stirner’s individualism further and reached the concept of a “rational egoistic person”. According to Rand, it is morally right and good for a person to act for his interests, that is, to be selfish. The main point where Ayn Rand’s individualism differs from its antecedents: Rand’s definition of individualism as morally correct and at the same time rational. So Rand’s arguments are not just practical, but to encompass the moral domain. Ayn Rand’s arguments on individualism are more inclusive than their predecessors. Therefore, the human design put forward should be preferred to Nietzsche. In the last part of this article, why the “rational egoistic superman” developed by Ayn Rand, based on Stirner, should be preferred to Nietzsche’s superman will be examined in detail.

2. Nietzsche’s Superman

Nietzsche’s well-known and very popular expression “God is dead” has been handled by popular culture as a discourse pointing to Atheism, but what he is trying to mean here is not just Atheism, but the collapse of 2500 years old Western metaphysics (Büyük, 2013). In Plato’s world of ideas approach, the real and complete ones are the ideas themselves, so the things we perceive in the world with our five sense organs are only the incomplete reflections of the ideas (Russel, 2016). This idea of ​​Plato has been one of the most influential things in human history. The most basic thing that this idea puts forward is an “other perfect realm of existence” and the world of ideas approach in question shows a great similarity with the ontology and metaphysics of the three major religions, especially Christianity. More precisely, this similarity is that the Plantonian approach constitutes the basic founding ideas of Christianity. Just as in the world of ideas, everything is complete. Likewise, in Christianity, there is an after life design where everything is complete and comes to an end. It is precisely this point of view and Christian morality that Nietzsche means when he says “God is dead”. The world has been ruled by the moral pressures of this world design for more than two thousand years. After this long reign of the heavens, great changes took place in the 19th century. In the 19th century, Enlightenment ideas deeply affected humanity. Enlightenment, which started from the Renaissance and reached its highest level with Kant, put the last nail in the coffin of the skies in the 19th century. Humanity no longer surrenders the power to use its mind to others, he had to dare to use his reason (Kant, 1784). Along with the Enlightenment, the development of modernity and capitalism, and the increasing dominance of the scientific point of view on people, the power of Christianity and Christian morality on societies decreased sharply. People began to explain life in the light of positive science, not through religious concepts. The most important point here is that people do not live their lives with just logic and rationality. As humans, we need spiritual values ​​in life. Whether we like it or not, religion is a very important resource in meeting spiritual needs. The loss of power of religion means the disappearance of social values ​​created by religion over time. This is exactly where Nietzsche’s phrase “God is dead” comes into its own. Apollo defeated Dionysus and declared his victory. The Christian morality, which has ruled humanity for thousands of years, has now suffered great destruction. Humanity has found itself in nihilism. Humankind, who could not reach the “things” that were supposed to be in the heavens, remained alone with himself on earth. Nietzsche came up with the concept of superman, while it was not known what humanity would replace “God” with. Nietzsche saw the overman as a way out of nihilism. For Nietzsche, nihilism is almost a disease that needs to be overcome. For a better understanding of nihilism, it is necessary to examine the stages passed on the way to reach Nietzsche’s superman.

3. Stages of Nietzsche’s Human Design

For Nietzsche, the worst phase a human can be in is the phase of the herd. Herd people are moral and have value judgments (Kuçuradi, 2016). At this point, the main reason why the morality of the herd people is bad is that the herd people accept the moral values ​​that existed before them. Herd people submit to accepted moral judgments for some of the benefits they get. There are two reasons why this type of person is submissive: The first is comfort. Because of the feeling of comfort and security brought by being accepted by society, the herd people accept the moral judgments in question in order not to leave the comfort zone. The second reason is that these people are very afraid of being ostracized by society. They are too clumsy, weak, and cowardly people to exist on their own. Because the herd is a human, after all, they have desires, but since the moral principles they accept, they suppress their desires like crazy, so the main struggle of the herd is with themselves (Kuçuradi, 2016). We can say that herd people are hypocrites. These people trade their ability to be individuals for moral judgments that are supposed to come from the heavens because of their cowardice and conformism.

For Nietzsche, the second stage is the free man. A free man is an “immoral man”. Because giving up accepted moral values, namely Christian morality, is a prerequisite for freedom for Nietzsche. A free person achieves the ability to determine his own life by getting rid of old moral judgments, but the free person here is not the positivist person of modernism (Kuçuradi, 2016). After leaving the moral realm, the free man enters the realm of nihilism. For man, with the onset of the nihilistic period, man has to make decisions about himself and his life. A free person in nihilism can also commit suicide, as Nietzsche recommends, they can form their values ​​and move on to become a superhuman (Kuçuradi, 2016). The freeman must dare to establish his values ​​to be cured of the “disease” of nihilism. At this stage, humanity must create its values ​​directly with its minds. For Nietzsche, only people who form their values ​​can be liberated and attain the superhuman form. If the free man tries to free himself from the clutches of nihilism and establish his values, he becomes the superman, the next and final stage of Nietzsche’s conception of man.

For Nietzsche, superman is someone who tries to create his values ​​with his mind and who has to face all kinds of difficulties in this way. Superman should grasp the things that he sees concretely in the world in their concrete form and should stay connected to the earth by rejecting the arguments of the afterlife (Kuçuradi, 2016). Furthermore, he should be aware of it and not do anything holy, even if he is already capable of becoming supernatural by rejecting some sacred things. For that, everything needs to be questioned and criticized. At the same time, he must agree to walk this path alone, as his superiority is to establish his values ​​on his own. For Nietzsche, not all people are equal. There are significant qualitative differences between humans, and concepts such as compassion, kindness, equality, and humility are elements of herd morality that he strongly opposes, so Superman must strongly oppose the values ​​of herd morality described above. For Nietzsche, people should not have certain kinds of values ​​just because they are human beings. According to him, some people are very valuable in terms of their qualities. Some are no different from the animals lying in the barn. The reason why Nietzsche viewed the above concepts negatively as herd ethics is because for him the concepts of equality, humility, etc. are anything but the moral equivalent of lower herd level effort. 

3. Stirner’s Egoism

Stirner is probably the most overlooked thinker in history. His ideas influenced the entire postmodern world of thought, especially Nietzsche and Ayn Rand, who are among the most important representatives of Libertarianism. It is even possible to call itself the first postmodern. Although Stirner did not receive the great fame or even the attention his work deserved during his lifetime, his work indirectly formed the basis of many important thinkers and major currents of thought. The concept at the core of Stirner’s views is egoism. Egoism is a view that places the individual at the center of morality and other vital elements. For an egoist in a philosophical sense, the most important thing is himself again. Since Descartes, the subject has become the center of philosophy. Egoism takes this situation further and places individuality and the individual himself at the center of life. The individual can only be interpreted and discussed through himself. Therefore, the individual understanding of egoism is opposed to identity politics (Yancı, 2020). An individual has the right to define himself. According to Stirner, no identity put on an individual is not sufficient to define it, and it limits the individual.

For Stirner, there are some “spooks” such as society, state, and religion that constrain the individual and create various destructions in his individuality (Stirner, 2013). The ghost here is abstract. Since Stirner rejects all social structures and moral views, the concept of spook points to the elements of pressure on the individual. Therefore, individuals cannot be excused without the disappearance of these organs of pressure. He rejected all of Stirner’s moral theories (Yancı, 2020). His approach to this issue is quite radical and aggressive. For Striner, an individual may even kill another human being for his benefit. The only thing in him that makes an action suitable for doing: An individual’s willingness to do that action and being able to do it. It is an inviolable right of an individual to get what he/she wants if he/she can afford it.

4. Ayn Rand and the Rational Egoist Man

Although there were major conflicts between Ayn Rand and Stirner, it would be a huge mistake to say that Rand was unaffected by Stirner’s egoism. As we mentioned, Stirner rejects all moral theories and supports the egoistic concept of man. In contrast, Ayn Rand tries to place her human design on an ethical and moral foundation. So Ayn ​​Rand’s Rational Egoist Human is a human design with moral values ​​and principles. This is an important point that separates Ayn Rand from Stirner. The most fundamental distinction of Rand’s philosophy is the distinction between the concept of need and the concept of right. According to him, just because a person needs something does not mean that he deserves it. The act of entitlement has qualities in itself. From Rand’s point of view, throughout history, people have reduced labor and the concept of labor rights to the physical to claim what they do not deserve. The fact that the concept of labor is limited to only physical actions has led factory workers to claim more material and moral benefits over a car built with their muscle strength, but what makes the factory exist is the investor intelligence of the factory boss (Rand, 2017). As we can easily understand from here, for Ayn Rand, labor is not only about muscle power, but also an important factor in the production of creative intelligence. In fact, for her, the mind and creative intelligence are in a much more important position than physical labor. It is not just economic practices that the mind occupies such an important place in Rand’s world of thought. Mental labor occupies an important place not only in economic matters, but also in ethical and moral fields. From Ayn Rand’s perspective, it is morally good and right for an individual to act in his/her own self-interest. As a result of the reduction of what people achieve through their mental labor to physical labor, mediocre people claim to have what real productive intelligence has, so morally this act is the footsteps of extortion. The usurpation in question has continued throughout history in different ways but for the same reason. Humanity, on the other hand, has forgotten who the real architects of the civilization they live in are. For Ayn Rand, what is rational is moral, so he builds morality on rational foundations (Rand, 2017). Giving or not giving something that belongs to a person, to others should be completely voluntary, but the moral system that has been going on for thousands of years is sacrificing the real producers to society. An individual is naturally the owner of what he produces. Claiming the opposite inevitably leads to exploitation. Workers cannot produce anything without the inventor who invented the car produced in the factory and the investor who made the inventor realize his project (Rand, 2017). For Ayn Rand, the rational point of view tells us this. Another step of Rand’s rational egoistic perspective is nature. Humans tend to act for their interests by nature. Humans lived in communities to survive in nature, but this does not indicate collectivism. Because, again, people are socialized to maximize their self-interest. According to Rand, if we as humans have been socialized to survive and progress, then the rights of productive intelligence should not be usurped by society. Because the architects of socialization and the real engines of progress are productive intelligences. Acting according to Rand’s famous rational egoism, the superman acts for his/her interests, but is vehemently opposed to the usurpation of another’s rights. Rand’s ideal person neither sacrifices himself for someone nor allows anyone else to make sacrifices for him (Rand, 2007). Because for Rand, a well-deserved thing can only change hands through trade and mutual consent. The Rational Egoist Man leads his life with full rationality and logic. He/She should work hard, be selfish, not altruistic, and should also respect the rights of others.

Conclusion: Why is Ayn Rand’s Human Design More Acceptable Than Nietzsche’s?

Human designs cannot ultimately be built as a result of the desire for an ideal world. The most basic purpose in all of the human designs in question arises from the desire of people to live in a better world. The question of what and who the “Ideal Man” is is the question at the root of these designs. Next to a better and even ideal life, there is a much more important factor. It is also on moral and ethical grounds. As humans, we do not take every action that will practically benefit us because we have moral principles. Any argument that is not based on ethics is largely incomplete because without justifying how and why we should or should do an action, we will inevitably be at a loss to be concerned with the practical utility of that action. This is where Ayn Rand’s most fundamental difference from Nietzsche and Stirner emerges. He begins by criticizing a metaphysical theory that has been going on for more than two thousand years and has deeply affected human history. The Free Man in the second phase of Nietzsche’s human design must establish his own values ​​in order to become a Superman. He says that this can be done by his own mind, by evaluating what he sees as he sees it, and tells us the characteristics of superman. The biggest problem here is the lack of a moral justification. This argument, which Nietzsche offers as an alternative to Christian morality, is fundamentally critical. Although he has made very strong criticisms of Christian morality, he has difficulty supporting his own arguments. An argument cannot be built on just one criticism. The overman had built his own moral values. Nietzsche is against concepts such as tolerance, humility, compassion, and equality because of the great qualitative differences he sees among people. What will be the moral status of the values ​​established by an overman who is hostile to such basic concepts? Why does this human design reveal a person “better” and “superior” than the Christian morality it criticizes? Isn’t there a risk of making a mistake in the process of building one’s own values, such as becoming Hitler? Nietzsche, one of the most important thinkers who ever lived, falls short of moral justification in human design and puts us in a pool of uncertainties. Likewise, Stiner has a similar situation. Although Stirner tries to strongly ground his egoism, it is unacceptable that he accepts the killing of even a human being for self-interest. Stirner pursues a problematic egoism because for egoism to exist, people need some means by which they can build their individuality. In an anarchist structure like Stirner, the majority of people will inevitably be enslaved because they will not have the tools in question. In other words, although the world Stirner built aims at pure egoism, on the contrary, it will create a collectivist world of servitude. Ayn Rand offers us a much more acceptable human design and world. In his world, people have the opportunity to obtain the necessary tools to realize themselves, as the social order continues, as well as taking care of their personal interests. By placing the concept of egoism from Rand Stirner and the concept of superman from Nietzsche on a moral basis, he wins both in the practical and moral arena. Although Stirner had a profound influence on Ayn Rand, Rand managed to take the arguments he received much further. It is very dangerous to present a human and world design based on ambiguous and destructive values. We can see the clearest example of this in the 20th century. The most understandable examples of this are Marxism, which emerged after the industrial revolution and smeared the East with blood with its vague and baseless collectivist arguments, and fascism, which smeared the West with blood with its strict stance. Any argument that is not sufficiently grounded is doomed to collapse, and with it, its supporters will also collapse.

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Nietzsche, F, W. (2017). Böyle söyledi zerdüşt. Mustafa Tüzel (Çev). İstanbul: İş Bankası Kültür yayınları, Hasan Ali Yücel Klasikler Dizisi.

Rand, A. (2007). Atlas silkindi. Belkıs Dişbudak Çorakçı (Çev.) İstanbul: Plato Yayıncılık.

Rand, A. (2010). Bencilliğin erdemi. Nejat Kandemir (Çev.) İstanbul: Plato Yayıncılık.

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Yancı, B. (2020). Egoizm ve egoist. Retrieved from https://yazhocam.com/kultur-sanat/egoizm-ve-egoist/ Date of Access: 12.9.2021.

Yurt, E., Yıldız, E. (2019). Nietzsche’de yaşamın olumlanması üzerine. Marife Dini Araştırmalar Dergisi 19(1), 209-224.

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