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IanMartins
07-31-2008, 02:59 PM
I decided to make this thread in the interest of promoting the philosophy of Objectivism. Many of you may have heard about this philosophy, but suffer from misconceptions about it. Others may never have heard about it at all, most likely due to a profound lack of interest in philosophy. This is what I'd like to address.


“The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power” The above quote is taken from the book "Philosophy: Who Needs It?", and is highly accurate. If you do not study and understand philosophy, you are a helpless victim to the philosophies of others. You passively accumulate bits and pieces of philosophy from the society and culture that you are exposed to, and end up living by a subjective, irrational and contradictory semi-philosophy, which in turn will influence your life for the worse. This is the major cause behind the many types of collective mentalities, such as those of environmentalists, evangelicals and "paulbots" alike. Due to the fact that so few people are capable of independent thought, a small handful of intellectuals (more often than not on the goverment's payroll) are able to set the tone of large cultural movements -- and sadly, most of the current cultural movements are directed towards destroying man's confidence in his own self-reliance and ability to reason. I think we're close to seeing the climax of this trend today.

I'll give a very brief introduction to Objectivism, and go more in depth if you show interest in it.

Objectivism is the philosophy of reason. Unlike other philosophies, which dictate that you need to take certain things on faith and/or appeals to subjective feelings, the ethics of Objectivism are epistemologically and scientifically proven as absolutes (and among these absolutes are man's right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness). Objectivists are first and foremost advocates of reason, and by extension of that, advocates of rational self-interest and free market capitalism; the American way of life. Due to the large degree of individual freedom, America (the only country founded on philosophy) is the morally superior country in the world today -- because of this fact, Objectivists advocate a foreign policy of self-interest (http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-spring/just-war-theory.asp). I very strongly recommend that article, which primarily deals with the war on terror (of which Objectivists are ardent supporters -- although they greatly differ on the way that the war is currently being waged).

Objectivism is currently advanced by the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org), which is dedicated to spearhead a cultural renaissance that will reverse the anti-reason, anti-individualism, anti-freedom, anti-capitalist trends in today's culture. Ayn Rand herself, as you may know, is the American philosopher who lived in New York from 1926-1982. Her best selling book, Atlas Shrugged (http://www.atlasshrugged.com/), is regarded as the second most influential book of the 20th century, and has recieved wide acclaim -- primarily from Republicans (as well as Libertarians, though they are perverting everything that Objectivism stands for).

I'll end this opening post by providing you with a few interesting resources, in the event you'd like to learn more about this philosophy. If you already consider yourself a critic of Objectivism per se, you will benefit regardless -- in the best case scenario by clearing up your misconceptions, or in the "worst" case scenario by improving your ability to defend the basic principles of liberty, as well as free market capitalism, of which I believe you're all in favor of here.

- The Ayn Rand Lexicon (http://www.aynrandlexicon.com/), where you'll find information on the Objectivist stance on all major issues, grouped from A-Z.

- The Ayn Rand Institute's media channel on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=AynRandInstitute), where you'll find lectures and panel discussions on foreign policy, capitalism, and more.

If you're interested in gaining a deeper knowledge about Objectivism, I strongly recommend that you sign up at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/). Its free, with no strings attached, and you won't recieve any mail from them unless you specify so. What you will get however, is free access to over 200 hours of lectures. The following, which may be found under "ARI Lecture Series" on the member's page, may be of particular interest to you:


The Rise and Fall of Property Rights in America
The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools (VERY POWERFUL -- EVERYONE SHOULD SEE THIS)
The Virtue of Selfishness: Why Achieving Your Happiness Is Your Highest Moral Purpose
The Road to 9/11: How America's Selfless Policies Unleashed the Jihadists
Totalitarian Islam's Threat to the West
America's Foreign Policy: Self-Interest vs. Self-Sacrifice
The Morality of War

You'll also find some public lectures on ARI's front page (http://www.aynrand.org/). For starters, I'd recommend the short commentary on Independence Day, to give you a sense of what the philosophy is about.

Thanks for taking the time to read this -- I hope you found it informal. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.


“A country without a political philosophy is like a ship drifting at random in mid-ocean at the mercy of any chance wind, wave or current. A ship whose passengers huddle in their cabins and cry "don't rock the boat!" for fear of discovering that the captain’s brig is empty."

FlaGator
07-31-2008, 03:58 PM
How does objectivism deal with scientific concepts of events or objects that by their very nature can not be observed or measured? Also does objectivism compensate for issues concerning the potential inaccuracy of the 5 senses or is it assumed that the senses and the external data that they gather in for intellect and reason to process are always correct? As you can imagine I don't accept objectivism as a worth wild philosophy for my life because it excludes too many avenues of discovery. It puts to many limits on lines of though and inquiry and when taking to its fullest potential it seems to be a child of nihilism something akin to atheistic existentialism. I may have misconceptions or a misunderstanding of the philosophy because I haven't delved deeply in to it but much of what I read I couldn't agree with.

Molon Labe
07-31-2008, 04:51 PM
How does objectivism deal with scientific concepts of events or objects that by their very nature can not be observed or measured? Also does objectivism compensate for issues concerning the potential inaccuracy of the 5 senses or is it assumed that the senses and the external data that they gather in for intellect and reason to process are always correct? As you can imagine I don't accept objectivism as a worth wild philosophy for my life because it excludes too many avenues of discovery. It puts to many limits on lines of though and inquiry and when taking to its fullest potential it seems to be a child of nihilism something akin to atheistic existentialism. I may have misconceptions or a misunderstanding of the philosophy because I haven't delved deeply in to it but much of what I read I couldn't agree with.

Objectivism is in direct conflict with religion. Specifically being Christian...so don't bother too much with it beyond a curiosity since you're a man of faith.

I will say this...
Ayn Rand is a great voice for conservative principles of individualism and free markets....I picked up a copy of "The fountainhead" several months ago for a couple of bucks at a used book store. I have read through about a 1/10...... So far it is quite compelling...but that's where my praiser for her ends.

On a similar note.
I have not even attempted the feat of "Atlas Shrugged"..It's almost as long as the Bible..and I have never finished that book.......but maybe someday.

Gingersnap
07-31-2008, 04:59 PM
I've read Rand and I'm familiar with her philosophy (as are several others on CU). I think there is a lot to admire in Objectivism when it is placed against against the mish-mash of ideas that are currently labeled as Liberal or Progressive. Her ideas about self-reliance, capitalism, and the rejection of appeals to emotion are pretty compelling.

If I was an atheist, I'd probably also be an Objectivist. :)

FlaGator
07-31-2008, 06:29 PM
Objectivism is in direct conflict with religion. Specifically being Christian...so don't bother too much with it beyond a curiosity since you're a man of faith.

I will say this...
Ayn Rand is a great voice for conservative principles of individualism and free markets....I picked up a copy of "The fountainhead" several months ago for a couple of bucks at a used book store. I have read through about a 1/10...... So far it is quite compelling...but that's where my praiser for her ends.

On a similar note.
I have not even attempted the feat of "Atlas Shrugged"..It's almost as long as the Bible..and I have never finished that book.......but maybe someday.

I understand. I'm a bit of a student of different philosophies and I know enough about objectivism to know that it isn't my cup of tea. I like a lot of the ideas but I can't say that I care for the hopelessness of life aspect that most of the atheistic philosophies project. I still like hearing people make a case for their beliefs. Ian is a sharp guy and from the few exchanges that he and I have had I respect his opinion and point of view. Right now I am reading all of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' and Paul Davies' 'The Mind of God'. Their metaphysical views are pretty far apart but each has their virtues and vices.
In fact it was a comment from Ian a month or so ago that got me interested in reading a complete translation of Kant's book.

Anyways my mine difference with Ayn Rand, other than the atheism, is her concept of rational self-reliance for establishing a moral code. If one things this through to its rational conclusion then anarchy would ensue. It seems to put more faith in the natural virtue of human nature that history has demonstrated.

Molon Labe
08-01-2008, 04:07 PM
I decided to make this thread in the interest of promoting the philosophy of Objectivism. Many of you may have heard about this philosophy, but suffer from misconceptions about it. Others may never have heard about it at all, most likely due to a profound lack of interest in philosophy. This is what I'd like to address.
Thanks for taking the time to read this -- I hope you found it informal. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have.

I can't disagree that many environmentalists are subject to collectivist mentality. Lately very many under the guise of "conservative" speak in collectivist overtones.....but I find it interesting you lumped "evangelicals" and "Paulbot's" into the "collectivists mentality" category above. Although a Christian myself, I may disagree with Ayn Rand's philosophies only in as much as I find it difficult in it's godlessness; however, that has not tainted my view that her philosophy has it's merits with regards to independent thought and liberty. Which Christians are capable of by the way. As I pointed out in an earlier thread, I am very interested in her literary works. I also found it interesting that Dr. Paul is one of her strongest advocates and highly recommended her works. These two points would seem incongruent with your assumptions above wouldn't it?


I understand. I'm a bit of a student of different philosophies and I know enough about objectivism to know that it isn't my cup of tea. I like a lot of the ideas but I can't say that I care for the hopelessness of life aspect that most of the atheistic philosophies project. I still like hearing people make a case for their beliefs. Ian is a sharp guy and from the few exchanges that he and I have had I respect his opinion and point of view. Right now I am reading all of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' and Paul Davies' 'The Mind of God'. Their metaphysical views are pretty far apart but each has their virtues and vices.
In fact it was a comment from Ian a month or so ago that got me interested in reading a complete translation of Kant's book.

Anyways my mine difference with Ayn Rand, other than the atheism, is her concept of rational self-reliance for establishing a moral code. If one things this through to its rational conclusion then anarchy would ensue. It seems to put more faith in the natural virtue of human nature that history has demonstrated.


I have not read enough Kant to make an honest assessment. I just have heard basic concepts like his 1st formulation and such. I have my doubts about it though knowing that Hegel was influenced by Kant. I know more about Hegelian philosophy and it's influences on things such as historical Marxism and today's Neoconservatism and most other Statist apologist beliefs. After being compelled by he likes of F. Fukuyama as a young man in undergrad, and then watching this philosophy transform this country's foreign policy into it's current dilemma....I have a strong aversion to Hegelian, Marxist, Strausssian rubbish.
I am open to reading Kant's works but I prefer political philosophies like J.S. Mill's On Liberty..which is more in line with my thinking. I also, for the first time in my life, am reading C.S. Lewis "Mere Christianity". I completely agree with you in that natural man is no saint.

IanMartins
08-01-2008, 04:27 PM
FlaGator,

Let me give you a brief introduction to the fundamentals of Objectivism first.

The basic metaphysical issue that lies at the root of Objectivist is the primacy of existence. This is the axiom that existence exists, i.e. that the universe exists independent of the consciousness of any individual. That things are what they are, and possess a specific nature, an identity.

The epistemological corollary which other philosophies (and all religions) are based upon is called the primacy of consciousness -- the notion that the universe has no independent existence, but is the product of a consciousness (human, divine or both) -- that existence is subjective, and that it may be manipulated by feelings, prayers, etc. Although few people today believe that the singing and chanting of mystic incantations will bring rain, most people still regard as valid an argument such as "if there is no God, who created the universe?"

To grasp the fact that existence exists, means to grasp the fact that nature, i.e. the universe as a whole, cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence. Whether its basic constituent elements are atoms, or subatomic particles, or some yet undiscovered forms of energy, it is not ruled by a subjective consciousness or by will or by chance, but by the Law of Identity. All the combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe -- from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life -- are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved. Existence is outside the power of any volition.


How does objectivism deal with scientific concepts of events or objects that by their very nature can not be observed or measured?

Objects for which evidence must be inferred are distinct from objects for which there is no evidence. In the latter case, no knowledge is possible until new means of gathering evidence is found. Until direct or inferred evidence is found, the proper epistemological position regarding claims of knowledge about such objects is to reject each claim as arbitrary. If something can be considered an event however, it already has been identified in some way. That identification may not be fully satisfactory, but an interest in requesting further information about an event is not to be treated as an intellectual ransom note. e.g. "Explain this fully (without reasonable benchmarks) or else... you're discredited, making a baseless assertion, etc." Likewise, only that which can be sensed is to be taken seriously. If an actual event can't be identified without contradiction to already existing knowledge, then that event is arbitrary and to be held at bay until further related information is discovered.


Also does objectivism compensate for issues concerning the potential inaccuracy of the 5 senses or is it assumed that the senses and the external data that they gather in for intellect and reason to process are always correct?

The senses are valid and do not "make mistakes". As fallible beings however, our interpretations and integration of the information gathered by the senses can be mistaken due to a lack of focused attention, difficulty in identifying differences in similar sensational effects, interference in brain chemistry, etc.


As you can imagine I don't accept objectivism as a worth wild philosophy for my life because it excludes too many avenues of discovery. It puts to many limits on lines of though and inquiry and when taking to its fullest potential it seems to be a child of nihilism something akin to atheistic existentialism.

Can you give me any concrete examples of the avenues of discovery that you believe Objectivism denies you, based on what I have written about it in my former replies?

I fail to see how you can relate Objectivism to nihilism, unless it's due to a faulty chain of associations such as "atheism = socialism = nihilism". I would like to point out that socialist atheists and Objectivist atheists are nothing alike. Socialists simply substitute blind faith in a god to blind faith in the collective, or in "mother nature", whereas Objectivists consider atheism more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist -- they define it as having a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, recognizing reason as man's sole means of knowledge, and seeking to understand all things as part of existence. It denies any supernatural dimension presented as a contradiction of existence. This applies not only to gods, but also to every variant of the supernatural ever advocated or to be advocated. In other words, Objectivists accept reality -- exclusively.

In reality, Objectivism is quite the contrary to nihilism. It's essence is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. The Objectivist sense of life is in essence the American sense of life. To truly understand what I mean, I urge you to read either "the Fountainhead" or "Atlas Shrugged". The heroes in these novels, such as the architect Howard Roark and the industrialist Henry Rearden, convey this fact better than I am able to explain.

A misconception that I believe you may hold (based on your relation between Objectivism and nihilism) is that Objectivism is a philosophy without moral virtues. You may believe that virtues are only possible through the existence of a god. This is not so. Objectivist ethics are moral absolutes, which are made self-evident through the study of Objectivist metaphysics. If you wish an introduction to this, you may study these entries (http://wiki.objectivismonline.net/wiki/Main_Page) in the Objectivist Wikipedia. Rationality is the cardinal virtue, leading to all others. These include Honesty (the refusal to fake reality), Integrity (consistency in the application of reason), Productivity (working to create one's values), Independence (refusing to leave one's thinking to others), Pride (the pursuit of moral perfection), and Justice (applying reason to the actions of other men, and based on this, giving them what they "deserve"). These are, of course, very basic definitions. Here's a .pdf containing more detailed descriptions (http://objectisoft.com/ianmartins/objectivistEthics.pdf). The Objectivist Wikipedia is, of course, also a very good source to learn more about Objectivist ethics.


I may have misconceptions or a misunderstanding of the philosophy because I haven't delved deeply in to it but much of what I read I couldn't agree with.

The fact that you admit that you may have misconceptions about it and that you're willing to learn more, proves that you're a man of some integrity. I find it enjoyable and intellectually stimulating to promote the philosophy of Objectivism -- I'd be pleased to address any further questions you might have. :)

IanMartins
08-01-2008, 05:11 PM
Objectivism is in direct conflict with religion. Specifically being Christian...so don't bother too much with it beyond a curiosity since you're a man of faith.

The fact that you believe strongly in one thing, does not thereby mean that you need to close your mind to all other things. A moral man will always keep an active mind, welcome challenges and seek the truth in all matters. He does not close off his mind in fear that what he has already accepted as truth will be threatened in some way (this would be a conscious evasion of reality).


I will say this...
Ayn Rand is a great voice for conservative principles of individualism and free markets....I picked up a copy of "The fountainhead" several months ago for a couple of bucks at a used book store. I have read through about a 1/10...... So far it is quite compelling...but that's where my praiser for her ends.

An important distinction to make is that while the Conservative principles bear resemblance to some of the Objectivist principles, the ideologies behind them are entirely different. Conservatism is largely based on faith, while Objectivism is exclusively based on reason. Because of this, the Conservative's moral defense of Capitalism is irrational, and undermines the cause of liberty. Their Christian moral code of altruism is incompatible to Capitalism; they are philosophical opposites and cannot co-exist in the some man, nor in the same society for long. Without a rational moral defense, Capitalism is doomed to perish. Ayn Rand expands on this in the following video, entitled "a message to the GOP candidates (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTf6NK0wsiA)" (filmed in 1961, prior to Barry Goldwater winning the GOP nomination).

I strongly urge you to finish reading the Fountainhead. Howard Roark is the epitome of the American hero, and his confrontations with the many bureucratic, parasitic collectivists who attempt to manipulate him are strongly inspiring -- they'll provide you with numerous highly satisfying "feel good moments". As a sidenote, the Fountainhead deals with the evils of collectivist and altruism -- mysticism is largely untouched. For those of you who are interested; here's the trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swOxKu80JpU) for the movie adaptation of the novel.


On a similar note.
I have not even attempted the feat of "Atlas Shrugged"..It's almost as long as the Bible..and I have never finished that book.......but maybe someday.

Yes, it certainly is Bible-sized. Trust me though -- that's where the similarities end (although this book, too, deals mainly with collectivism and altruism -- criticism of mysticism is only implied). If you're not too fond of reading, you might consider purchasing it as an audio book (http://www.audible.com/adbl/site/products/ProductDetail.jsp?productID=BK_BLAK_002079&BV_SessionID=@@@@1560977185.1216568641@@@@&BV_EngineID=cccladeejijiggfcefecekjdffidfig.0), so that you can listen to it while working, exercising, etc. The narrator is remarkable.

P.S. I'll respond to the remaining posts tomorrow.

Molon Labe
08-02-2008, 09:48 AM
I strongly urge you to finish reading the Fountainhead. Howard Roark is the epitome of the American hero, and his confrontations with the many bureucratic, parasitic collectivists who attempt to manipulate him are strongly inspiring -- they'll provide you with numerous highly satisfying "feel good moments". As a sidenote, the Fountainhead deals with the evils of collectivist and altruism -- mysticism is largely untouched. For those of you who are interested; here's the trailer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swOxKu80JpU) for the movie adaptation of the novel.

I plan on it. It seemed overwhelming at first, but the first chapter, where Roark basically tells his architect school dean that the education he received is overated, is pretty compelling.

Elspeth
08-02-2008, 11:12 AM
I have read The Fountainhead several times over the years as well as Atlas Shrugged and other philosophical works of Rand. I have found some things I strongly agree with and others I do not.

Rand is ultimately modernist in a postmodern world as am I. I do not buy "multiple realities" and believe there is an objective truth. (This has made it difficult for me in the humanities.)

I have major issues with her concept of integrity, especially as it relates to the world of people we live in. If we look at Howard Roark, for example, we are looking at a man who is a great architect but has zero political skills. He cannot and will not persuade others that his work is amazing: he is totally dependent on others to do it for him, and one can't always count on an Austin Heller or Ken Howard to be there when you need them. This complete inability to deal with people causes him great suffering and his work to be overlooked while the superior political skills of others result in much lesser work being successful. Rand paints a stark picture: the integrity of your work and the ability to sell it cannot exist in the same individual. This ultimately leaves a person without "claws" and dependent upon others to survive, which, of course, is contrary to what Rand really is going for. In Atlas Shrugged, all of her industrialists are capable of surviving alone in primitive conditions. Dagny, for example, is able to take a rundown house and fix it up, building pathways to the door, etc. But the political skills it takes for the company to survive are in the hands of the antagonist, Dagny's brother James.

One can argue at length that it is wrong for people who can survive on their own to have to kiss up to government (as in Atlas Shrugged), but it is much harder to argue that artists like Howard Roark should suffer failure because they lack basic people skills. Even in primitive societies, politics between people is well developed: humans are political animals. Rand's heroes, for all their indispensability in a dispensable world, always end up with the short end of the stick because they cannot navigate the world of people. And this makes them, ultimately, the most vulnerable and dependent characters.

Edited to add:

It is most ironic that Rand's characters are proponents of free market capitalism, since the engine that runs free market capitalism is persuasion (or advertising). You can create the most amazing invention but if you don't advertise or try to persuade others why your invention is a "must-have," you don't sell anything.

Political skills, including persuasion, are the underpinnings of capitalism. People who do not develop these abilities, no matter how brilliant they are, do suffer. In the end, brilliant creative people sans political skills end up needing the most help from outside sources including state and federal governments. Universities are full of "avant garde" artists, for example, who have all the integrity in the world but no one understands what the hell they are doing, and these artists feel insulted (or like they are "pandering" ) if you ask them to explain. It is only because of government grants that these artists can continue to work since free market capitalism would have crushed them long ago.

In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark could not handle the academic bullshit--he couldn't just draw some pretty thing to get by some stupid professors in the art department--and he ended up without a degree. So by today's standards, he wouldn't even be able to teach high school, no less have an academic position with the funding he would need. His freemarket success was entirely due to the luck of running into people like Austin Heller (and other "middlemen"), but alone, he would never survive in the free market world. I don't know where Howard Roark would end up today, but my guess is some kind of survivalist camp in the mountains. Sort of like Ted Kazinsky.

IanMartins
08-02-2008, 03:11 PM
I've read Rand and I'm familiar with her philosophy (as are several others on CU). I think there is a lot to admire in Objectivism when it is placed against against the mish-mash of ideas that are currently labeled as Liberal or Progressive. Her ideas about self-reliance, capitalism, and the rejection of appeals to emotion are pretty compelling.

If I was an atheist, I'd probably also be an Objectivist. :)

Yes, if there is one thing that Conservatives and Objectivists do have in common, its a profound respect for the moral principle of self-reliance. Speaking of what they have in common, I'd like to bring up something that I mentioned in my opening post -- namely C. Bradley Thompson's lecture, entitled "The Separation of School and State: The Case for Abolishing America's Government Schools". This deeply disturbing (yet inspiring) lecture presents the most convincing arguments I've heard for abolishing government schools. After listening through the first ten minutes, you'll be horrified at the current situation. After the first twenty minutes, you'll have been provided with all the evidence you need to convince people of the monstrosity of government schooling, which is deeply immoral on more levels than you might think. The long-term consequences of such a system are horrific. You do need to register to gain access to all the videos, though as I said, I assure you that its free, with no strings attached. After three years as a member, I have yet to recieve a single piece of advertisement from them. In any case, if you wish to do so, you can sign up at the Ayn Rand Institute (http://www.aynrand.org/), then simply access the registered user page, and click the link to the "ARI Lecture Series" on the right-hand side of the following screen.


I understand. I'm a bit of a student of different philosophies and I know enough about objectivism to know that it isn't my cup of tea.

Philosophy is the science that studies the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence -- studying it means seeking the inviolate truth of existence. Do you believe that there are several truths of existence, and that you should merely select one that suits you the best, like when selecting a career? I think its unwise to dismiss an entire philosophy after sniffing at it and proclaiming that its not your subjective "cup of tea". Its important for a philosopher to always have an active mind, and to be willing to analyze new ideas even though they may be in contradiction to what he already believes to be true.

I do not believe that you have studied the epistemology and metaphysics of Objectivism -- most likely you have considered the principles of Objectivism (which are but the logical end results of the epistemology and metaphysics), then dismissed them because they go against the Christian morality of self-sacrifice that you have already accepted as truth (on faith).


I like a lot of the ideas but I can't say that I care for the hopelessness of life aspect that most of the atheistic philosophies project.

I touched on this is a previous post, but I'll expand a bit on it here.

Religion is an early form of philosophy -- the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values. It was created by man before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. As philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points however. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and on a very malevolent base: on the ground of faith.

The good, say the mystics of spirit, is God, a being whose only definition is that he is beyond man's power to conceive -- a definition that invalidates man's consciousness and nullifies his concepts of existence. Man's mind, say the mystics of spirit, must be subordinated to the will of God. Man's standard of value, say the mystics of spirit, is the pleasure of God, whose standards are beyond man's power of comprehension and must be accepted on faith. The logical conclusion of this is that the purpose of man's life is to become an abject zombie who serves a purpose he does not know, for reasons he is not to question.

I won't go into the evils doctrines of original sin and altruism (that you are sinful simply for being alive, and that sacrificing everything you love, seek, own or desire -- even your own life -- to the benefit of any and every stranger, is a moral principle) here, as I didn't intend for this thread to be a religious debate.

Let me close by saying that I find it unfathomable that you believe that being an Atheist is to "live a life of hopelessness" -- especially as opposed to being a Christian. As an Atheist I am my own highest value, and my own happiness is the moral purpose of my life. Its quite liberating, and I enjoy every single bit of it to its fullest extent. I find the notion of living a life in religious servitude extremely stifiling.


Right now I am reading all of Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' and Paul Davies' 'The Mind of God'. Their metaphysical views are pretty far apart but each has their virtues and vices.
In fact it was a comment from Ian a month or so ago that got me interested in reading a complete translation of Kant's book.

Ah, Kant, whose philosophy is the complete opposite of Objectivism. The first and foremost enemy of reason. The man whose entire system of philosophy collapses if man is stranded alone on a desert island, as every single part of it depends intrinsically on "the collective". We might discuss Kant in more depth, though I'd prefer to keep this thread on topic, on the discussion of Objectivism.


Anyways my mine difference with Ayn Rand, other than the atheism, is her concept of rational self-reliance for establishing a moral code. If one things this through to its rational conclusion then anarchy would ensue. It seems to put more faith in the natural virtue of human nature that history has demonstrated.

If that is your conclusion, you should check your premises -- it is certainly not the rational one. I'd be interested in hearing how you reached it. In any case, the only moral political system as far as Objectivists are concerned, is the Constitutional Republic (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y43a6BsNQb4), of which only role is to protect all individuals from the initiation of force from others. In order to defend individual rights, government's role must be limited to a strong military, police and justice system with a supreme court whose judges must be held to account by the people for any action which would not provide the protection of individuals as described in the constitution.

You might want to read through what Ayn Rand has said about the Libertarian Party (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_campus_libertarians) (and the anarchists therein). Its not only interesting -- its quite entertaining. ;)

The English philosopher Lord Bolingbroke said: "History is philosophy teaching by example". On this, I am in full agreement with him on -- and frankly, its the strongest argument in favor of Objectivism. The epistemology and metaphysics of Objectivism establishes the true "axis of evil", namely that of collectivism, altruism and mysticism, and history reaffirms this as true, for all to witness. In any case, your argument is somewhat self-contradictory: It is when you put too much faith in the natural virtue of human nature that you trust and allow humans to rule other humans. Objectivism does not make this error.

IanMartins
08-02-2008, 07:14 PM
I have major issues with her concept of integrity, especially as it relates to the world of people we live in. If we look at Howard Roark, for example, we are looking at a man who is a great architect but has zero political skills. He cannot and will not persuade others that his work is amazing: he is totally dependent on others to do it for him, and one can't always count on an Austin Heller or Ken Howard to be there when you need them. This complete inability to deal with people causes him great suffering and his work to be overlooked while the superior political skills of others result in much lesser work being successful. Rand paints a stark picture: the integrity of your work and the ability to sell it cannot exist in the same individual. This ultimately leaves a person without "claws" and dependent upon others to survive, which, of course, is contrary to what Rand really is going for.

It seems as though you believe that all Objectivists are identical, but this is far from the truth. Everyone have their own "sense of life", as one might call it. All individuals are beings of self-made soul, and possess their own unique traits and talents. Therefore, using Howard Roark as a stereotype for all Objectivists is very unreasonable. Look at Francisco D'Anconia from Atlas Shrugged, for example -- he clearly had an fundamentally different personality and sense of life than that of Howard Roark. Francisco was a highly social, amiable and outgoing sort of person, yet you don't seem to take him into account at all. I also don't think its fair to say that Howard Roark had a "complete inability to deal with people" -- I'd rather say that he refused to deal with a certain kind of people. He was a highly principled kind of character, and would not make compromises with those who sought to impose their will on him or his work. When among other men of integrity, he was certainly sociable, interactive and willing to strike a bargain. His struggle to "make it" as an architect isn't very different from that of people trying to make it as artists, actors and such today -- they do their work in an individualistic style and hope to get noticed so that they'll get their big breakthrough. Until that happens, they support themselves by doing more menial work such as waitressing (Roark worked at a stone quarry). If for example painters compromise and paint what everybody else are painting they might get a bit more instant gratification as the public is open to it, but it will hurt them gravely in the long run, and remove the possibility of a giant breakthrough as they lack an individual style. The same was true for Roark. Calling him "dependent upon others to survive" is only true in the sense that any businessman needs someone to do business with. I'd also like to point out that Peter Keating was the example of how "superior political skills of others result in much lesser work being successful". He was the pragmatic, appeasing kind of architect who made what the collective wanted, and played the political game every step of his career.


In Atlas Shrugged, all of her industrialists are capable of surviving alone in primitive conditions. Dagny, for example, is able to take a rundown house and fix it up, building pathways to the door, etc. But the political skills it takes for the company to survive are in the hands of the antagonist, Dagny's brother James.

This is something that Dagny recognizes as a big mistake towards the end of the book -- not unlike Henry Rearden, she didn't start out as the perfect Objectivist character, but developed. She allows Jim to handle "the boys in Washington" partly because she has a strong distaste for "the society of pull", and leaves it to Jim because she falsely assumes that he will act in his own self-interest and defend Taggart Transcontinental from legislations that will harm their business. There is also the factor that he is the President of the company, and has the authority (and the desire) to handle such matters.


One can argue at length that it is wrong for people who can survive on their own to have to kiss up to government (as in Atlas Shrugged), but it is much harder to argue that artists like Howard Roark should suffer failure because they lack basic people skills. Even in primitive societies, politics between people is well developed: humans are political animals. Rand's heroes, for all their indispensability in a dispensable world, always end up with the short end of the stick because they cannot navigate the world of people. And this makes them, ultimately, the most vulnerable and dependent characters.

Did Howard Roark suffer failure? He had a hard time in the beginning of his career, but thanks to his integrity and self-reliance, he eventually achieved tremendous success. This is something that all great innovators and entrepreneurs go through. It is also what separates idealists from pragmatists, and the reason why I'm an activist in the Objectivist movement, rather than a Conservative.


It is most ironic that Rand's characters are proponents of free market capitalism, since the engine that runs free market capitalism is persuasion (or advertising). You can create the most amazing invention but if you don't advertise or try to persuade others why your invention is a "must-have," you don't sell anything.

Again, you are focusing on the early stages on Howard Roarks career. He had no money to spend on advertising. As you've read Atlas Shrugged however, this should ring a bell: "Rearden Ore", "Rearden Steel", "Rearden Life", etc. There were several paragraphs where Henry Rearden admired his own marketing, and imagined all the future products that would be advertised for in his name. The same goes for Francisco D'Anconia. As for "persuasion", the novel is literally crawling with business transactions/negotiations between the various characters. If you fail to think of any, its certainly time for you to reread the book. All the marketing for Rearden Steel, in particular, should be very obvious throughout the last chapters of Part 1. :)

[CONTINUES IN THE NEXT POST DUE TO LENGTH]

IanMartins
08-02-2008, 07:14 PM
Political skills, including persuasion, are the underpinnings of capitalism. People who do not develop these abilities, no matter how brilliant they are, do suffer. In the end, brilliant creative people sans political skills end up needing the most help from outside sources including state and federal governments. Universities are full of "avant garde" artists, for example, who have all the integrity in the world but no one understands what the hell they are doing, and these artists feel insulted (or like they are "pandering" ) if you ask them to explain. It is only because of government grants that these artists can continue to work since free market capitalism would have crushed them long ago.

Political skills may be the underpinnings of the form of mixed capitalism that conservatives advocate -- it certainly is not in the laissez-faire capitalism that Objectivists advocate. With an unregulated economy where you do not need to answer to the government, politics is left to the politicians, and business is left to the businessmen (though they may hire public relations agents if they deem it necessary). Business transactions, bargaining, marketing, and rational persuation, are certainly necessary elements of any successful businessman's career, including that of Objectivists.

There's no denying that in the current situation, where the United States has a mixed economy with heavy government intervention in business, its near impossible to manage a business while upholding the Objectivist principles. You are forced to involve yourself in politics, and to "sacrifice for the greater good", whatever that is. This is the grave injustice that the Ayn Rand Institute is trying to remedy -- there are many lectures on it available at the registrered member page.

There are actually many businessmen who consider themselves Objectivists -- the philosophy is more widespread than most people think. The most publicly known one is John A. Allison, the CEO of BB&T, a financial holdings company listed on the New York Stock Exchange with more than $100 billion in managed assets. He's donated millions to the Ayn Rand Institute, who are first and foremost working towards putting Objectivist litterature on high school and university curriculum, while also offering four-year-long undergrauate and graduate programs on Objectivism. You may also have seen some of the more prominent Objectivists on Fox Business and NBC, where they appear regularly. Here's a recent update on the current state of affairs (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yMpbisdfSo) regarding Objectivism.

If an artist fails to make any art that can sell, he either needs to improve his style, or find another career. It does not give him the right to live as a parasite on the taxpayers money. He can get a menial job, and work on his art on his spare time. As long as artists live on government handouts, it gives the government the power to dictate what is considered art.


In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark could not handle the academic bullshit--he couldn't just draw some pretty thing to get by some stupid professors in the art department--and he ended up without a degree. So by today's standards, he wouldn't even be able to teach high school, no less have an academic position with the funding he would need. His freemarket success was entirely due to the luck of running into people like Austin Heller (and other "middlemen"), but alone, he would never survive in the free market world. I don't know where Howard Roark would end up today, but my guess is some kind of survivalist camp in the mountains. Sort of like Ted Kazinsky.

There are a few private Objectivist kindergartens and high schools in the United States -- I listened to some of the teachers speak at this years Objectivist Summer Conference. Going to such places of learning are of course only possible if your parents are partial to Objectivism though. As to how Howard Roark would have fared without a high school diploma today (assuming has was equally principled and philosophically aware in his teens), I would envision him as a successful self-made entrepreneur. Again though, Howard Roark is not the standard by which all Objectivists should be compared to. Even John Galt himself worked at a regular factory until well into his thirties.

Elspeth
08-03-2008, 11:41 AM
Thanks for the long, detailed answer. I am going to answer a little bit at a time because I want to think about your arguments.

One thing strikes me here:


If an artist fails to make any art that can sell, he either needs to improve his style, or find another career.

I take you back to Howard Roark here. His art was definitely not selling. He managed to build Heller's home (sheer luck) and a gas station on his own. Heller tried to "sell him" but Roark's own inner integrity did not permit him to take many of the jobs that Heller sent his way.

If your statement stands, then Roark should have "improved" (changed) his style so that it was marketable. And who was marketable? Guy Francon. And not just because of all the networking Francon did (through parties and such) but because the wealthy Americans who had money for buildings wanted a particular, European look. (Roark called this style "picture post cards" when he was talking to Peter Keating, when Keating was trying to decide whether to take the scholarship to Europe.)

So, should Roark, who was not selling (with a handful of exceptions) have pandered to the public taste in order to sell?

This is the situation that many artists find themselves in. As you put it about Roark:


If for example painters compromise and paint what everybody else are painting they might get a bit more instant gratification as the public is open to it, but it will hurt them gravely in the long run, and remove the possibility of a giant breakthrough as they lack an individual style. The same was true for Roark.

So, I assume that your answer is that Roark was right not to pander. But suppose Roark had never run into Austin Heller? Suppose (after the Stoddard Temple) that he had never gotten the chance to build Monadnock or the Cord building? Should he have spent the rest of his life working in a quarry? Or have Mike get him more construction jobs?

Very often, an artist with true vision does not sell. Even assuming a pure, capitalist environment (which is an ideal, considering that humans (like their monkey cousins) are political creatures), what is to say that an artist would sell a single work? That a Howard Roark would get to build an actual house or store or vacation lodge?

And if the artist improves his/her style to be able to sell, wouldn't that be compromising one's integrity? In Rand's world, that would be.


It does not give him the right to live as a parasite on the taxpayers money. He can get a menial job, and work on his art on his spare time. As long as artists live on government handouts, it gives the government the power to dictate what is considered art.

I agree with your first and last sentence here: the artist does not have any instrinsic right to live on taxpayer's money and government money equals government interference in the arts. However, I don't know about your second sentence. I have known many artists and musicians who have taken menial jobs (or relatively menial, like teaching in the public school system) so that they can pursue their art or music in their off hours. I have to tell you that this is exhausting. Menial work takes the energy out of you, and, very often, your spirit. In addition, in order to make ends meet, many friends of mine have had to work very long hours and have precious little time for their art. These folks may not be starving in a garrett, but they are not free to do the art they want to do either. I can understand why they go back to school, get MFAs or MA's and try to get government funding.

The artists/ musicians I know who are actually making a living are "pandering"--like Steven Mallory--painting at street fairs or doing church gigs (instead of doing classical or new contemporary music). The only place they can really do the work they want to do and get paid for it is in the university system, and even there, they are restricted by whatever academic style is in vogue. (Ask me someday about Darmstadt and why no one writes a melody like Puccini or Tsaichovsky anymore.)

This is not to say that having a day job and doing your art is impossible. There is always the case of Charles Ives who is in the pantheon of contemporary American composition. His day job was selling insurance, and he single handedly invented the mass market life insurance industry. But Ives did not become known for his music in his lifetime, and he couldn't make a living on it. He had to work church gigs to do any music in public. And, mysteriously, he stopped being able to compose at all after 1927. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Edward_Ives

Who knows what might have happened to him if he could have just done his art? American music might have been all the richer for it.

IanMartins
08-03-2008, 01:46 PM
If an artist fails to make any art that can sell, he either needs to improve his style, or find another career.

I take you back to Howard Roark here. His art was definitely not selling. He managed to build Heller's home (sheer luck) and a gas station on his own. Heller tried to "sell him" but Roark's own inner integrity did not permit him to take many of the jobs that Heller sent his way.

If your statement stands, then Roark should have "improved" (changed) his style so that it was marketable. And who was marketable? Guy Francon. And not just because of all the networking Francon did (through parties and such) but because the wealthy Americans who had money for buildings wanted a particular, European look. (Roark called this style "picture post cards" when he was talking to Peter Keating, when Keating was trying to decide whether to take the scholarship to Europe.)

So, should Roark, who was not selling (with a handful of exceptions) have pandered to the public taste in order to sell?

First of all, remember that Roark's work was selling, though not under Roark's name. Peter Keating, the pragmatic sell-out, often came to Roark for help. Roark single-handedly designed the building that became Keating's greatest success -- the only thing Keating did was add some ornaments to the outside of the building in order to please the masses. The sentence that you quoted me on doesn't apply to Roark, as a lack of talent wasn't what prevented him from selling his work. He didn't choose the easy path like Keating did, but kept his integrity intact and succeeded, not unlike many entrepreneurs today.

I'd like to point out that Howard Roark is considered more like an abstract ideal of what a 100% rational Objectivist should be like -- I sincerely doubt that many have been able to live up to his standard. Comparing Objectivists to Roark, would arguably be similar to comparing Christians to Jesus. ;)

Also, to hear a story about a modern day Howard Roark, listen to this small lecture (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywuse55qU2A) by Tony Robbins. You might be surprised to learn that its about Sylvester Stallone. Very inspiring!



This is the situation that many artists find themselves in. As you put it about Roark:
If for example painters compromise and paint what everybody else are painting they might get a bit more instant gratification as the public is open to it, but it will hurt them gravely in the long run, and remove the possibility of a giant breakthrough as they lack an individual style. The same was true for Roark.

So, I assume that your answer is that Roark was right not to pander. But suppose Roark had never run into Austin Heller? Suppose (after the Stoddard Temple) that he had never gotten the chance to build Monadnock or the Cord building? Should he have spent the rest of his life working in a quarry? Or have Mike get him more construction jobs?

Very often, an artist with true vision does not sell. Even assuming a pure, capitalist environment (which is an ideal, considering that humans (like their monkey cousins) are political creatures), what is to say that an artist would sell a single work? That a Howard Roark would get to build an actual house or store or vacation lodge?

Opportunities always present themselves. If Roark hadn't run into Austin Heller, he would likely have needed to work in the quarry for a while longer, while waiting for other potential customers to admire his work and get in touch. This is standard procedure for most entrepreneurs and other people who are willing to take great risks in order to strike it big, or in order to be able to work with what they have great passion for. Whether an artist with true vision is able to sell or not is his own responsibility -- he alone bears all the risks.


And if the artist improves his/her style to be able to sell, wouldn't that be compromising one's integrity? In Rand's world, that would be.

Improving ones style in order to be able to sell is what every great craftsman in the history of the world has been doing. A great artist isn't born with his abilities, and he should always seek greater excellence. Making a compromise by changing ones own style for the worse in order to appease someone else however, would be recognized as deeply immoral to an Objectivist.



It does not give him the right to live as a parasite on the taxpayers money. He can get a menial job, and work on his art on his spare time. As long as artists live on government handouts, it gives the government the power to dictate what is considered art.

I agree with your first and last sentence here: the artist does not have any instrinsic right to live on taxpayer's money and government money equals government interference in the arts. However, I don't know about your second sentence. I have known many artists and musicians who have taken menial jobs (or relatively menial, like teaching in the public school system) so that they can pursue their art or music in their off hours. I have to tell you that this is exhausting. Menial work takes the energy out of you, and, very often, your spirit. In addition, in order to make ends meet, many friends of mine have had to work very long hours and have precious little time for their art. These folks may not be starving in a garrett, but they are not free to do the art they want to do either. I can understand why they go back to school, get MFAs or MA's and try to get government funding.

Yes, it's probably very easy to fall for the temptation of seeking government grants -- I still maintain that its immoral to have such a system in place at all however. If you have a passion for your art, you're able to work on it throughout most of the 8-10 hours of the day that you aren't working to support yourself, or sleeping. If you fail to find the energy for your so-called passion, you're probably not so passionate about it after all. Success isn't handed to you on a silver platter -- it takes hard work, sacrifice and an iron will.


The artists/ musicians I know who are actually making a living are "pandering"--like Steven Mallory--painting at street fairs or doing church gigs (instead of doing classical or new contemporary music). The only place they can really do the work they want to do and get paid for it is in the university system, and even there, they are restricted by whatever academic style is in vogue. (Ask me someday about Darmstadt and why no one writes a melody like Puccini or Tsaichovsky anymore.)

I agree that the present day situation of big government and a mixed economy makes it near impossible to succeed as an Objectivist puritan such as Howard Roark. As I pointed out above though, he's more like an abstract personification of the highest ideals of Objectivism. Objectivist characters in Atlas Shrugged, for example, did manage to work "in the system" until it got too absurd. Just as you don't need to be Jesus in order to be a Christian, you don't need to be Howard Roark in order to be an Objectivist -- they serve as moral ideals.

And yes, I'm still waiting for someone to rival Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. :)

nacho
08-03-2008, 02:33 PM
I am my own highest value, and my own happiness is the moral purpose of my life.

...If that is your conclusion, you should check your premises -- it is certainly not the rational one...

Bleh. This is pretty much the sum of my experiences with Objectivists: high-handed lectures about what is and is not rational (which, invariably, sound like that rush of certainty you get from college freshmen who have just discovered, in their 100 level textbooks, the secrets to life) and a grandiose exaltation of themselves. Thoroughly unappealing.

IanMartins
08-03-2008, 03:06 PM
Bleh. This is pretty much the sum of my experiences with Objectivists: high-handed lectures about what is and is not rational (which, invariably, sound like that rush of certainty you get from college freshmen who have just discovered, in their 100 level textbooks, the secrets to life) and a grandiose exaltation of themselves. Thoroughly unappealing.

When discussing a philosophy based exclusively on reason, it follows that you must use rational arguments -- there's no avoiding this. Perhaps you have more tolerance for high-handed reverends who preach about what is and isn't "what Jesus would do", and newborn Christians who have found "the secrets to life" in the Bible? The reason why Objectivists tend to be highly confident and self-assertive in the promotion of their philosophy is because they essentially are promoting reality. Nothing is taken on faith, and everything can be studied and understood all the way down to the metaphysical and epistemological level. Realizing this can often cause younger students to behave with "grandiose exaltation of themselves" as you put it -- something which of course is unfortunate, but a common denominator for most young students who are strongly convinced that they are right about something. It should not be confused with taking a reasonable amount of pride in oneself however, something which is both moral and healthy to do.

nacho
08-03-2008, 04:24 PM
newborn Christians who have found "the secrets to life" in the Bible?

That isn't a particularly rational thing to say, Rand-y. Ought to be more careful about letting human emotion spill onto the old keyboard.

AmPat
08-03-2008, 08:46 PM
Objectivism is in direct conflict with religion. Specifically being Christian...so don't bother too much with it beyond a curiosity since you're a man of faith.
True, but there is wiggleroom in the " Life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness" angle. I'm a man of Faith and I like many of Rand's ideas.



I will say this...
Ayn Rand is a great voice for conservative principles of individualism and free markets....I picked up a copy of "The fountainhead" several months ago for a couple of bucks at a used book store. I have read through about a 1/10...... So far it is quite compelling...but that's where my praiser for her ends.

On a similar note.
I have not even attempted the feat of "Atlas Shrugged"..It's almost as long as the Bible..and I have never finished that book.......but maybe someday.
I've actually read both. Some of the speeches are rather long-winded but if you stick with it, you will be glad. If all Liberals would read Atlas Shrugged they would at least understand why conservatives abhor their philosophy.

I recommend the book to people often with the disclaimer that it is dated. I am a history buff so the dated part I like. If it helps I tell them to visualize the various industries as present industries ie. Steel as Auto manufacturing and Railroads as Airline or any other transportation.:)

Elspeth
08-03-2008, 08:55 PM
First of all, remember that Roark's work was selling, though not under Roark's name. Peter Keating, the pragmatic sell-out, often came to Roark for help. Roark single-handedly designed the building that became Keating's greatest success -- the only thing Keating did was add some ornaments to the outside of the building in order to please the masses.

You're actually making my argument for me here: Roark's pure, unadulterated work was, in fact, NOT selling. It was because of the compromises added by Peter Keating that the work could sell at all. This might be described as "pandering" and goes to the heart of my argument: How pure can integrity be (or should it be), and how does the person who wants to maintain inner integrity make a living in a capitalist economy without some compromises or persuasive skills?



The sentence that you quoted me on doesn't apply to Roark, as a lack of talent wasn't what prevented him from selling his work. He didn't choose the easy path like Keating did, but kept his integrity intact and succeeded, not unlike many entrepreneurs today.

In your opinion, Roark was talented, but in the opinions of the public he was just plain scary, untried, and, to many, untalented. What is to prevent someone from saying to him, "Get out of the business, you just don't have it" ?


I'd like to point out that Howard Roark is considered more like an abstract ideal of what a 100% rational Objectivist should be like -- I sincerely doubt that many have been able to live up to his standard. Comparing Objectivists to Roark, would arguably be similar to comparing Christians to Jesus. ;)

Exactly. But as the ideal, he stands for Rand's major principles: one is not to sacrifice one's inner integrity and the other is not to allow "second handers" to profit in society. Roark is completely unwilling to sacrifice his inner integrity but, in a desire to fix Keating's bad designs and see his own ideas in concrete, Roark does allow the second hander to profit. In the process, he destroys Keating (along with Toohey). Wouldn't it have been far better for Roark to learn to sell his ideas, to compromise a little and put his own name on it? I don't know the answer to that one, but I am assuming that for Rand, this kind of compromise is untenable. And, once again, this leaves Roark, and those who follow his way, completely helpless in the hands of society.



Opportunities always present themselves.

This is a statement of faith, not a statement of fact.

For many, the right opportunity never comes. If no one like Heller had ever come along, then Roark would never have built a thing under his own name. (He'd have always been designing for free for Peter Keating.)

A great part of success depends on how you handle the not-right opportunity or how you create your own opportunities. The "not-right" opportunity may give you some of what you want, like the committee that just wanted a little cosmetic change from Roark, but were willing to give him everything else he wanted. The opportunity is not perfect, it's not the right opportunity according to Rand's standards (as is evidenced by Roark throwing it away) but is AN opportunity. The world very rarely gives you exactly what you want right away. Very often, you have to compromise at first. This is what Rand's characters (and her philosophy) are unwilling to do.

There is a good reason for Rand to distrust compromise. The problem with compromise (especially as an artist) is that you can get caught in it. An actor, for example, can get type cast. Take the case of Ed O'Neill from "Married With Children". He played Al Bundy for so long that when he tried to do serious acting in a pair of late 90's movies, it was hard for audiences to take him seriously, and the movies are not remembered. This kind of "Type casting" can happen to artists and architects as well, and compromise can make it difficult for the public to accept the artist's real style when it emerges. Ed O'Neill started in serious work; should he have not taken "Married with Children" even though he didn't particularly like the brand of humor and didn't think it would last through seven episodes?

Here again, I don't know the answer, but if Ed O'Neill had waited for his Austin Heller in the industry, his opportunity might have never come. Most actors I have met will take whatever roll they can get, even if they are opposed to it, because it is an opportunity. Idealists, Like Ali Sheedy, (from The Breakfast Club) will never find the kinds of roles they are looking for and end up unable to work at all.

The other thing one needs to learn is how to "create" opportunities. This might mean a little self advertisement, use of rhetorical persuasion, exactly the kind of networking that Guy Francon did and taught Peter Keating to do. In fact, Francon explained to Peter that the real work of the firm was, in fact, all the parties and not the actual designing (which he left to Stengel and, later, to Keating himself.) Francon had a point: it is the parties and the networking where the personal contacts are made. If someone knows you (or knows that you are vouched for) and likes you, you are much more likely to get their business.

Just think of what would happened to John Galt if, instead of going on strike, he had gotten himself out there and talking to some venture captialists? If he hadn't known them, perhaps he could have used friends and personal contacts. And, if no financers were willing to take him on, perhaps he could have gone to work at a univerisity and, yes, applied for a government grant? These are all opportunities that he could have created for himself.



If Roark hadn't run into Austin Heller, he would likely have needed to work in the quarry for a while longer, while waiting for other potential customers to admire his work and get in touch. This is standard procedure for most entrepreneurs and other people who are willing to take great risks in order to strike it big, or in order to be able to work with what they have great passion for.

Standard procedure varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. If the entrepreneur has money and contacts like Bill Gates, who had the funds to buy DOS from Xerox (a operating system that was created with taxpayer money!), and whose mom was on the board of IBM, there is no need to "work in quarry" or the equivalent.

For entrepreneurs without these kinds of advantages, opportunities have to be created either by the entrepreneurs themselves or by close friends and contacts. These contacts have to come from somewhere, which means that entrepreneurs have to find access to people and that requires politicking and persuasion--by someone.


Whether an artist with true vision is able to sell or not is his own responsibility -- he alone bears all the risks.

Actually, Rand does not believe this. Most of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are railing against society for not being able to recognize a Roark or Galt in their midst. It is very much like the story of Jesus (which you mention) where a stupid, immoral, misguided world cannot see the very hand of God in front of them and, for complex reasons, have to destroy that hand of God that shines light on their shortcomings. Roark is described in these terms. Dominique writes an article in which she blames Roark for building a structure on which the unworthy will hang their laundry and live their little, unworthy lives. For a non-socialist, Rand spends a lot of time blaming society.

The real problem is a little more complex: humans are political creatures, often stupid and misguided, and they need to be persuaded. Ken Howard is probably the most pragmatic character in The Fountainhead when it comes to getting ideas moving. He works committees, twisting arms and gaining support until he reaches his objective. All this takes persuasion. And this is ALL politics.

It is this very human trait of politicking that created the "humanist" education of the Renaissance royal courts. Petrarch, the great poet, began the push for teaching rhetoric, the practical art of decision-making and persuasion, as opposed to the Church's more philosophical (and unworldly) education plan. This humanist tradition created the climate for the birth of science and its practical applications, but it also was geared toward those who would lead. Persuasion is the key to every kind of achievement.

One cannot count on society to be the way one likes it. One can only deal with "what is" and decide how far one is willing to go to persuade or compromise. It is the "how far" that needs to be guided by morals and ethics, and the Objectivist ethic leaves no room for persuasion or compromise.



Improving ones style in order to be able to sell is what every great craftsman in the history of the world has been doing. A great artist isn't born with his abilities, and he should always seek greater excellence. Making a compromise by changing ones own style for the worse in order to appease someone else however, would be recognized as deeply immoral to an Objectivist.

This is circular argument ultimately. An artist who isn't selling needs to improve his style so he can sell. If his style then sells, you can consider the style "improved." But how do we know it isn't a compromise? There isn't a way for the market to decide what changes are improvements and what changes are actually compromises, since both may sell equally well. You are asking the market to be the arbiter of style "improvement" when the market only reflects the public's buying habits, which can be based on either "improvement" or "compromise" (pandering.) For "improvement" you need an arbiter other than the market.

Elspeth
08-03-2008, 08:55 PM
Yes, it's probably very easy to fall for the temptation of seeking government grants -- I still maintain that its immoral to have such a system in place at all however. If you have a passion for your art, you're able to work on it throughout most of the 8-10 hours of the day that you aren't working to support yourself, or sleeping. If you fail to find the energy for your so-called passion, you're probably not so passionate about it after all. Success isn't handed to you on a silver platter -- it takes hard work, sacrifice and an iron will.

Have you ever worked a manual job 8-10 hours every day and then come home to do your passion? I have friends who have and I, myself, have worked FT at something I did well so that I could support myself doing something I loved. Let me tell you that it tires you out, iron will or not. Work always takes something out of you and leaves less for your passion--and for sleep--which contrary to popular opinion is essential for both health and creativity. In the end, you end up burning the candle at both ends, especially if you spend years this way. If you end up without energy, it's not because you're not passionate about your work, but because your body is spent. You also have very little time for friends and family. Rand's characters really have neither; relationships are not really close and children are not part of her heroes lives.



I agree that the present day situation of big government and a mixed economy makes it near impossible to succeed as an Objectivist puritan such as Howard Roark. As I pointed out above though, he's more like an abstract personification of the highest ideals of Objectivism. Objectivist characters in Atlas Shrugged, for example, did manage to work "in the system" until it got too absurd. Just as you don't need to be Jesus in order to be a Christian, you don't need to be Howard Roark in order to be an Objectivist -- they serve as moral ideals.

So compromise is a necessity then. Can an objectivist use public funds (in a grant) and still be an objectivist?


And yes, I'm still waiting for someone to rival Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. :)

It probably won't happen. Google IRCAM someday and listen to some of the stuff they are putting out.

:)

IanMartins
08-06-2008, 03:11 PM
You're actually making my argument for me here: Roark's pure, unadulterated work was, in fact, NOT selling. It was because of the compromises added by Peter Keating that the work could sell at all. This might be described as "pandering" and goes to the heart of my argument: How pure can integrity be (or should it be), and how does the person who wants to maintain inner integrity make a living in a capitalist economy without some compromises or persuasive skills?

If you're a right-wing conservative, consider this analogy of what you're saying:

Fred Thompson's pure, unadulterated conservative views were, in fact, NOT selling. It was because of the compromises added by John McCain that the politics could sell at all.

As you might guess, my opinion is this: no compromise. Not in politics, nor in business. If you do compromise on your principles -- if you do sacrifice the good for the evil -- you end up with moderate, pragmatic, conformative collectivist people who don't really stand for anything but the vague "greater good". You end up with McCains and Obamas.

People like Peter Keating would, much like the welfare state, be destroyed by their own impotense if not for the men of integrity -- such as Howard Roark.


In your opinion, Roark was talented, but in the opinions of the public he was just plain scary, untried, and, to many, untalented. What is to prevent someone from saying to him, "Get out of the business, you just don't have it" ?

This makes me question whether you've really read the book. If there is one thing that's repeated throughout the entire storyline, its public figures writing bad reviews about Roark saying "get out of the business, you just don't have it!", and numerous demonstrations on how Roark does not concern himself about the public opinion.


Exactly. But as the ideal, he stands for Rand's major principles: one is not to sacrifice one's inner integrity and the other is not to allow "second handers" to profit in society. Roark is completely unwilling to sacrifice his inner integrity but, in a desire to fix Keating's bad designs and see his own ideas in concrete, Roark does allow the second hander to profit. In the process, he destroys Keating (along with Toohey). Wouldn't it have been far better for Roark to learn to sell his ideas, to compromise a little and put his own name on it? I don't know the answer to that one, but I am assuming that for Rand, this kind of compromise is untenable. And, once again, this leaves Roark, and those who follow his way, completely helpless in the hands of society.

First of all, it was demonstrated how Roark was anything but helpless in the hands of society. Second, if he "learned to compromise" by not making the kind of buildings that he wanted to make, he'd had to lower his own intelligence and ruin both pride and self-esteem -- these are the consequences of failing to live up to the principles that you know to be right. Again, the Fountainhead demonstrated exactly why one should not compriomise -- this was the main message of the book, and if you've actually read it, I cannot possibly provide you with a better explanation.


This is a statement of faith, not a statement of fact.

For many, the right opportunity never comes. If no one like Heller had ever come along, then Roark would never have built a thing under his own name. (He'd have always been designing for free for Peter Keating.)

I stand by what I said: opportunities always present themselves -- assuming you work to make them happen. A bum laying on the street will never amount to anything. An industrious, ambitious man of principle however? Certainly. If the first person who came to see Roark (Heller) had not come, another would have. Making the kind of argument you're making, is like saying to an entrepreneur: "if the first person you presented your idea to hadn't decided to invest in you, you never would have owned a penny to your name!" When you have great talent and willpower, you'll always have business.



A great part of success depends on how you handle the not-right opportunity or how you create your own opportunities. The "not-right" opportunity may give you some of what you want, like the committee that just wanted a little cosmetic change from Roark, but were willing to give him everything else he wanted. The opportunity is not perfect, it's not the right opportunity according to Rand's standards (as is evidenced by Roark throwing it away) but is AN opportunity. The world very rarely gives you exactly what you want right away. Very often, you have to compromise at first. This is what Rand's characters (and her philosophy) are unwilling to do.

Roark's prime motive wasn't to make money -- his motive was to build a certain kind of buildings -- his buildings, with his designs. To betray this would be to betray himself. He had the intellect, the pride and the self-esteem to know that he would not need to compromise in order to build his own buildings, and that any compromise would remove all personal value and satisfaction from the work.


There is a good reason for Rand to distrust compromise. The problem with compromise (especially as an artist) is that you can get caught in it. An actor, for example, can get type cast. Take the case of Ed O'Neill from "Married With Children". He played Al Bundy for so long that when he tried to do serious acting in a pair of late 90's movies, it was hard for audiences to take him seriously, and the movies are not remembered. This kind of "Type casting" can happen to artists and architects as well, and compromise can make it difficult for the public to accept the artist's real style when it emerges. Ed O'Neill started in serious work; should he have not taken "Married with Children" even though he didn't particularly like the brand of humor and didn't think it would last through seven episodes?

I don't know much about Ed O'Neill (though I remember that seeing him in "Se7en" was pretty weird thanks to his role on Married With Children). Based on what you've told me I'll say this: remaining in the role of Al Bundy for so many years was a conscious decision on his part, and he has earned the consequences of that, for better of for worse. If he compromised for momentary gain by doing the kind of work that he didn't really like, he has only himself and his lack of principles to blame for his failed career.


Here again, I don't know the answer, but if Ed O'Neill had waited for his Austin Heller in the industry, his opportunity might have never come. Most actors I have met will take whatever roll they can get, even if they are opposed to it, because it is an opportunity. Idealists, Like Ali Sheedy, (from The Breakfast Club) will never find the kinds of roles they are looking for and end up unable to work at all.

So your message is this: "if you take a risk you may never succeed, so you'd better play it safe and don't try too much"? So much for the brilliant achievers of the world. So much for the heroes.


The other thing one needs to learn is how to "create" opportunities. This might mean a little self advertisement, use of rhetorical persuasion, exactly the kind of networking that Guy Francon did and taught Peter Keating to do. In fact, Francon explained to Peter that the real work of the firm was, in fact, all the parties and not the actual designing (which he left to Stengel and, later, to Keating himself.) Francon had a point: it is the parties and the networking where the personal contacts are made. If someone knows you (or knows that you are vouched for) and likes you, you are much more likely to get their business.

That may be how second-handers are vouched for -- by the "words of mouth" from people who don't really know your work but do it as personal favor (to the detriment of everyone), by bribes, by lobbying, etc. First-handers are vouched for by value of the stocks in their companies, by their achievements, and by their innovative products and services. Actions speak louder than words, as the catchphrase goes. Opportunities are created by your own personal excellence, which is reflected in your work. Massive advertisement of your work is an important factor -- the more billboards, the better. Roark could not afford this in the Fountainhead, which took place while he was trying to "make it". Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Ellis Wyatt and other Objectivist characters from Atlas Shrugged certainly could, and did.

IanMartins
08-06-2008, 03:39 PM
Just think of what would happened to John Galt if, instead of going on strike, he had gotten himself out there and talking to some venture captialists? If he hadn't known them, perhaps he could have used friends and personal contacts. And, if no financers were willing to take him on, perhaps he could have gone to work at a univerisity and, yes, applied for a government grant? These are all opportunities that he could have created for himself.

You haven't read Atlas Shrugged -- if you do, you'll realize the absurdity of that argument. :)


Standard procedure varies from entrepreneur to entrepreneur. If the entrepreneur has money and contacts like Bill Gates, who had the funds to buy DOS from Xerox (a operating system that was created with taxpayer money!), and whose mom was on the board of IBM, there is no need to "work in quarry" or the equivalent.

For entrepreneurs without these kinds of advantages, opportunities have to be created either by the entrepreneurs themselves or by close friends and contacts. These contacts have to come from somewhere, which means that entrepreneurs have to find access to people and that requires politicking and persuasion--by someone.

Objectivist entrepreneurs create opportunities for themselves. Marketing one's work is one way to do it, and usually the most effective. Roark's work was all the marketing he needed -- it made customers seek him out.


Actually, Rand does not believe this. Most of Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are railing against society for not being able to recognize a Roark or Galt in their midst. It is very much like the story of Jesus (which you mention) where a stupid, immoral, misguided world cannot see the very hand of God in front of them and, for complex reasons, have to destroy that hand of God that shines light on their shortcomings. Roark is described in these terms. Dominique writes an article in which she blames Roark for building a structure on which the unworthy will hang their laundry and live their little, unworthy lives. For a non-socialist, Rand spends a lot of time blaming society.

1. Atlas Shrugged is not about public opinion, though collectivism is certainly a vital part of it. The true theme of the book is the role of the mind in man's existence and the morality of rational self-interest -- the right of the individual to exist for his own sake.

2. Ayn Rand "believed in" (i.e. recognized) self-reliance. I don't see any arguments to contest this in your post, and I sincerely doubt they exist.

3. Individualists blame the collectivists of faith and force who vote away their individual freedom, yes. They are the ones responsible for the injustice. You are not a socialist for recognizing this.


The real problem is a little more complex: humans are political creatures, often stupid and misguided, and they need to be persuaded. Ken Howard is probably the most pragmatic character in The Fountainhead when it comes to getting ideas moving. He works committees, twisting arms and gaining support until he reaches his objective. All this takes persuasion. And this is ALL politics.

Some people are political creatures, others are creative creatures. "The creator's concern is the conquest of nature. The parasite's concern is the conquest of men", as Roark points out.

In a socialist/fascist community, people need to be "persuaded". In a capitalist society, people are free to learn from their own mistakes -- i.e. they are taught self-reliance through their own individual experiences.


Persuasion is the key to every kind of achievement.

There are many forms of persuasion. Objectivists are not adverse to using most of them. "The Society of Pull", which you learn the meaning of if you read Atlas Shrugged, demonstrates the form of persuasion that is not acceptable for a moral person.


One cannot count on society to be the way one likes it. One can only deal with "what is" and decide how far one is willing to go to persuade or compromise. It is the "how far" that needs to be guided by morals and ethics, and the Objectivist ethic leaves no room for persuasion or compromise.

Man survives, not by adjusting himself to his physical environment in the manner of an animal, but by transforming his environment through productive work. He is dedicated to reshaping the earth in the image of his own values. Objectivism leaves little room for the sort of persuasion that you have in mind ("social pull"), and certainly has no room for compromise, which means to sacrifice ones own principles. They understand the long-term repercussions of doing this.


This is circular argument ultimately. An artist who isn't selling needs to improve his style so he can sell. If his style then sells, you can consider the style "improved." But how do we know it isn't a compromise? There isn't a way for the market to decide what changes are improvements and what changes are actually compromises, since both may sell equally well. You are asking the market to be the arbiter of style "improvement" when the market only reflects the public's buying habits, which can be based on either "improvement" or "compromise" (pandering.) For "improvement" you need an arbiter other than the market.

If you learn that 4 + 4 = 8, you don't compromise on your skills when you also learn that 4 * 4 = 16. This is what I was talking about. Improving your skills in order to sell better is entirely different from changing your skills in other to sell better. You know that something is a compromise when it goes against your own principles -- what others think is of no concern to you. The only "arbiter" is your own judgement and objective law.


Have you ever worked a manual job 8-10 hours every day and then come home to do your passion? I have friends who have and I, myself, have worked FT at something I did well so that I could support myself doing something I loved. Let me tell you that it tires you out, iron will or not. Work always takes something out of you and leaves less for your passion--and for sleep--which contrary to popular opinion is essential for both health and creativity. In the end, you end up burning the candle at both ends, especially if you spend years this way. If you end up without energy, it's not because you're not passionate about your work, but because your body is spent. You also have very little time for friends and family. Rand's characters really have neither; relationships are not really close and children are not part of her heroes lives.

I don't know your artist friends, and can only speak from personal experience. Yes -- you'll have very little time for your family if your work is your passion, and you devote yourself entirely to it. That's the price of great achievement. You can't have your cake and eat it too. For such individuals, the people they do business with often end up as their closest friends, as they share many personal values (non-material ones).


So compromise is a necessity then. Can an objectivist use public funds (in a grant) and still be an objectivist?

Objectivists live in the world as it could be, and should be, as far as they are able to in the current system. Doubtlessly, many do things that may be considered "civil disobedience" in order to live up to their moral principles. Many of the Objectivists at the Ayn Rand Institute are entrepreneurs/businessmen -- in order to be this today you are forced by the government to make certain compromises. The difference is that they spend all their energy trying to change the system in order to to make a better world for themselves.

By "Objectivist" I primarily think of the first-hander characters in Ayn Rand's novels, of the staff at the Institute, and of the students who have completed the four-year-long graduate program. I consider myself a "student of Objectivism", and the same would doubtlessly go for the person in your example.

P.S. I won't respond in such great length any longer -- it takes too much time, and I doubt there's much more to say about these particular issues on my part. If you respond, please do so briefly with very concrete issues. Thanks. :)