To many people, egoism is the most natural of human feelings. As soon as we’re born, what do we do but cry out loud for someone to come to us and meet our needs? And Ayn Rand, the moral philosopher calling for all out egoism or selfishness, does have a point that each person needs to value her/his own life first and foremost otherwise that person won’t live very long.
And yet how can people live together harmoniously without altruism or genuine concern for others? John Locke’s social contact theory about the origin of social and political cooperation presupposes that the benefits of cooperation and the common good are so important that we have to turn away from living only for ourselves. We create a social contract where we agree that the common good is more important than each person trying always to get their own way. But there’s a problem with this idea of a social contract if people are all basically egoists. The eText discusses the problem in chapter four under the section titled “The Prisoner’s Dilemma” but the eText doesn’t present the dilemma very well or even very logically. So here is a short video that presents the Prisoner’s Dilemma quite clearly: LINK.
Let’s discuss these ideas:
 Discuss the prisoner’s dilemma with a family member, friend, or coworker. Do you and the person you discuss the dilemma with agree or disagree with what the prisoner’s dilemma is supposedly proving about human beings being more distrustful of others and egoistic or not? What does this story as a mental experiment show about how we can get people to cooperate for each other’s good, as the social contract theory suggests? Do you think that egoism or altruism is more natural and why?
 What are the moral values of Ayn Rand (video interview with Mike Wallace – see LINK)? Do you think the moral values of Ayn Rand threaten the moral values that make a country like the U.S. a place to live in peace, freedom and prosperity? Why or why not?