Most men do not accept or practice either side of altruism's viciously false dichotomy, but its result is a total intellectual chaos on the issue of proper human relationships and on such questions as the nature, purpose, or extent of the help one may give to others. Today, a great many well-meaning, reasonable men do not know how to identify or conceptualize the moral principles that motivate their love, affection or good will, and can find no guidance in the field of ethics, which is dominated by the stale platitudes of altruism.Comment:The classic Randian bamboozling continues. Having argued, bizarrely, in the previous paras that altruism is simultaneously the cause of both complete self-sacrifice to others and sociopathic disregard of others, Rand then tells us that despite the "vicious" nature of this false dichotomy, most men do not actually accept either side of it. Well now, if that was the case one would think that harmless might be a better description than "vicious" - but we are not allowed to pause to notice such details as the outraged flood sweeps us on down to the sea of "total intellectual chaos" typical of human relationships over the unfortunate millennia prior to Rand's arrival. Things are in such a state that even well-meaning and reasonable people, minus Objectivism, simply are not able to "identify or conceptualize" the rational principles behind their emotions such as love, affection, or good will, and thus don't even know what "proper human relationships" are.
On the question of why man is not a sacrificial animal and why help to others is not his moral duty, I refer you to Atlas Shrugged. This present discussion is concerned with the principles by which one identifies and evaluates the instances involving a man's nonsacrificial help to others.Comment: Two or three generic Randian tics are nicely evident over the past couple of paras. The first is the "false dichotomy". She manages to find one of these just about everywhere she looks for them, which I fear only engenders confidence in her when it should engender the opposite (one day it might be worth adding all of them up). The second is that no-one had Clue No.1 about anything - not even human relationships! - until she showed up. The third is the inevitable referral to the works of her favourite philosopher, herself. With these now out of the way we move to the fourth and most dominant Randian rhetorical move, and that is verbalism : the manipulation of the meanings of words.
"Sacrifice" is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.Comment: Here, wittingly or not - English was not her native language, and Rand had consistently misunderstood other English words before - Rand performs a verbal switcheroo, and replaces the usual meaning of "sacrifice"- the surrender of a lesser value for a greater value - for its opposite meaning. This complete switcheroo (discussed a little more in our ever-popular "Understanding Objectivist Jargon" series) passes unremarked, and of course immediately begins confounding the argument.
Thus, altruism gauges a man's virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces, or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as more virtuous, less "selfish," than help to those one loves). The rational principle of conduct is the exact opposite: always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values, and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.Comment: Obviously if you switch the meanings of words to their opposite, then start arguing against them, you are going to descend into nonsense. To start with, it's not necessarily the case that helping strangers is considered more virtuous than helping loved ones; for example the expression "charity begins at home." Further, people would normally consider a sacrifice virtuous when someone gives up something important to them - say their high paying job - for something more important to them - say to care for their children, or study a particular passion, or to help people if they so desire. In none of these cases are they "surrendering, renouncing, or betraying their values". Thus Rand's proposed "rational principle of conduct" is merely what people do already.