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Post 20

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 3:45pmSanction this postReply
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Often overlooked, and with awful consequences, the philosophy we call Objectivism was born of Ayn Rand’s aesthetic expression. Ayn Rand was a creative artist, and anything else she may have been is merely derivative of this central fact of her being.  In this respect she is uniquely different from a Kant, Hegel, or Nietzsche; for these men were “philosophers” by trade. Rand however, was an artist by trade - and philosopher by corollary. Of course one doesn’t need to be an artist to properly understand Objectivism, but there is what I call, for lack of a better phrase, an “aesthetic sensibility” that the philosophy requires in order to truly embrace it.

 

Objectivism is a fine art; like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Van Gogh’s Starry Night – its appeal is to what’s highest within us – to the person that we should be. And this is the primary reason why I do not believe that Objectivism is exportable as a philosophy of mass appeal (at least not in its non-bastardized form). For in order to make Objectivism into something acceptable to the vox- populi, it would have to be made crass, brought low, abstracted and compromised. Unfortunately for Rand’s legacy, there seems to be some people who have made it their ambition to achieve just that.

 

When it is all said and done, Objectivism is a philosophy that can only be applied/lived by a very small minority of people. And be not mistaken, “living it” is not synonymous with “espousing it”. As such, not only do I believe that it is not possible to fully grasp Rand’s philosophy without having read the novels, but moreover; I believe that the type of relationship that a person holds with those novels - is one of the best methods by which to judge that persons ‘Sense of Objectivism’.

 

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 2/11, 4:33pm)




Post 21

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 4:39pmSanction this postReply
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George, obviously I agree very much with what you say about the "sense of Objectivism," and the difference between "living it" and "espousing it."

I might disagree with you about the prospects for popularizing it through compelling art. If you think about it, virtually any philosophy is practiced consistently only by a small minority of its nominal advocates. That doesn't mean, however, that those philosophies have minimal impact on the lives of the majority who practice it less rigorously.

Objectivism may never be fully practiced by millions; however, it can influence millions in a positive way. In my mind, one vehicle for that influence is inspiring art in the Randian tradition. We've had precious little of that to date, but Rand's work hasn't been around all that long, historically speaking. Over time, I believe that art based on Randian values -- as well as psychological counseling, "life coaching," teaching, etc. -- will positively impact the lives of millions.



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Post 22

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 8:54pmSanction this postReply
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George says, "Objectivism is a fine art; like Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, or Van Gogh’s Starry Night – its appeal is to what’s highest within us – to the person that we should be. And this is the primary reason why I do not believe that Objectivism is exportable as a philosophy of mass appeal (at least not in its non-bastardized form)."

I disagree. Objectivism is exportable as philosophy of mass appeal. I think it is the most exportable of all philosophies we have ever seen. Precisely because its appeal is to what’s highest within us. Atlas Shrugged IS an attempt to export the philosophy into a culture that is hostile on every major tenet - mystical, altruistic, and collectivist. And it is wildly successful so far - unless you are expecting the acorn to become the oak overnight.

Children show us our natural inclination to reach for our potential. That yearning to live up to what is right is part of human nature. That is what most of society – top to bottom - would be like as adults if something didn’t get in the way. The right question is, “what are all of the things that get in the way – that keep us from following that path?” Because, this is the one and only philosophy that fits human nature.

Obviously, it is the deeply entrenched effects of all the aspects of a culture built out of mysticism, altruism, and collectivism that begins to stunt each child's moral and spiritual growth. Only a few will keep seeking sunlight in the swamp of today's culture or even recognize it later in life. And they pay a price.

There is a long lag time between the initial publication of a philosophy and its integration into a culture – especially when that culture was constructed from the roots on up of the opposite philosophy.

Because of technology, we live in a new age - never before has a philosophy been presented to the masses first and then began to, slowly, filter up into the universities and then out to the intellectuals. Until the philosophy completes that journey it can't become a substantial part of the culture. It has to be passed to the next generation - from professors, teachers, and intellectuals - in substantial numbers. That generation, and succeeding generations will rebuild all the rest of culture - making changes to law and modifying the political structures. They will create the new art, parent for the best within, teach individualism not conformity, set the new rules for social interactions, and live by new standards.

The bad news is that it is going to take longer than we would like. The good news is that it IS happening, visibly so. There will come a tipping point and it start a rush and we have front row seats to one of histories major turning points.




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Post 23

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 9:10pmSanction this postReply
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I'd first like to thank my responders here. I respect them, all of them. They've all individually shown me, in some way or other, that they are respectable folk (3 stand-up guys, and 1 stand-up gal).

I also think that at least most of my responders have a high opinion of myself. So I hope that the point about "getting defensive" or "taking it personal" is understood to be a relatively minor issue regarding my upcoming answers (though I fully expect strangers to view my answers as simple self-defense). Now, some of what follows is open for debate, but one thing is sure: I do lay out my position well (and well laid-out positions are the best kind for criticism, good and bad).

Of special note, I have trouble reading fiction (any fiction). I've had this trouble for several years. I can't explain it. Earlier in this thread, I chalked it up to "wiring." Specifically, in the beginning of The Fountainhead, I remember having "trouble" with Rand's profuse description of Roark's physique. And I do understand that her detail about how 'chiseled' his physique was, was to integrate this with how 'chiseled' his philosophy was (I understand artistic stylization).

Sometimes I can seem like a troll online, taking apart a point until it seems like there is nothing left, nothing left over which to argue. I think most clearly taking points in isolation -- which is a blessing and sometimes a curse. I might seem to do that here, and apologize in advance.

One of the things that this discussion reminds me of is when folks say that Objectivism is for 'idealistic' teen-agers, and that when they grow up into 'realistic' adults, it's perfectly natural and normal for them to drop Objectivism as if it were a glorified pipe dream. To these detractors I'd say what it is that I've said to Robert; that I'm a living exception to this presumed rule (having only discovered Rand after I had already spent 3 decades on this planet).

One of the issues I have with folks who argue that there's only one path to understanding Rand -- whether you're likening it to a Holy Grail, or merely a "Rosetta Stone of translation" -- and that path is to read at least one of 2 special books; is that it reminds me too much of what a mystic might say to a disinterested unbeliever.

One such mystic might say something like: "You couldn't possibly understand my religion until you've read my Holy Book(s) -- and even then, you might still not understand it; unless your heart was open to it at the time." This all seems to me to be a little too close to the setting of a bar for making it into the 'in crowd.'

Now, likening Rand's fiction to a holy work -- supposedly "inspired" by a Higher Power -- is an awfully bad analogy. Rand's works, fiction or non-, were most definitely NOT inspired by ANYTHING supernatural, and no 'straight thinker' would attempt to argue against that proposition. But, in championing this bottle-neck approach to understanding Rand, a "flavor" of mysticism is still there. But Objectivism is different than religion, and this is a key point in my line of reasoning.

To be fair, the point has been made that one couldn't fully appreciate Objectivism without a prior -- some might say, conditional -- appreciation of Rand's written fiction, particularly a prior appreciation of The Fountainhead and/or of Atlas Shrugged. In each of these novels, Rand concretizes a moral ideal -- and the personal perception of those specific concretizations has been held to be a prerequisite for truly "getting it."

The unspoken (but implied) premise is that you couldn't 'get it' any other way. Another way to say this is that in order to "truly" understand Objectivism, you would have had to have been exposed to the particulars of the lives of either Howard Roark or John Galt. Not being exposed to these particulars -- and exactly how these heroes had responded to them in their lives -- one is left otherwise blind (or very poorly guided; and by a very, very dim light).

This is a premise with which I have trouble. I have only been exposed to key expressions from these Randian heroes, and it is assumed that it is impossible for me to understand Objectivism without understanding the entire context behind their expressions. There is something wrong with this assumption.

What's wrong with this assumption then, this assumption that you couldn't 'get it' any other way -- any other way than through a detailed exposure to the precise particulars of the lives of 2 heroes as penned by Rand? In a word: Subjectivism. If one adopted a subjective stance on Objectivism, then it would immediately follow that one need read all of Rand -- and particularly, her fiction -- before one could ever stake claim to 'getting it.' In fact, if subjectivism were adopted, one would need to be able to claim that it was as if they could see through Rand's own eyes -- before claiming to truly "get" Objectivism. But as I alluded to before, Objectivism is something more than some person's personal perceptions.

What about an objective view of Objectivism? If one were to adopt an objective view of Objectivism -- a view that held the nature of man as shared and remarkable stable -- then one could draw from one's other life experiences; because these other general experiences, not just of man, but of moral ideals, would be available to even those who hadn't read about the particular moral dilemmas and development of one of those 2 Randian heroes. This is how Objectivism is different from religion, it stakes claim to objective -- rather than particular -- truth.

Now, the immediate counter-point is that, in order to understand what Rand meant, one need read all that she wrote (and in particular, that which she 'created'). But this view takes 'creation' to supercede 'discovery' and -- in doing so -- again, at least tacitly, champions subjectivity. For what would all of Rand's works be worth, if they couldn't be generalized objectively? A discovery is necessarily objective. A creation is necessarily subjective. I claim that Rand's philosophy was more of a discovery than it was a creation -- and that, again, is what it is that makes it different from (superior to) religion.

Now sure, creations can be 'selective' recreations of that which is objectively true -- as they are in Rand's novels, where what's given literary weight is what's good in the world, and the petty is properly treated with disdain. But, I argue, Rand's 'selectivity' here (about that which is good in the world) can be reproduced by other thinking beings, other objective thinkers. To argue against this is to view Rand as the new Messiah, rather than as a great artist or perhaps the world's greatest philosopher.

In sum then, I argue that a benevolent view of the universe -- and a heroic view of man and yourself -- is entirely possible without reading Rand's fiction (because of the objective nature of these things). The argument that is left open to opponents then becomes one that resembles the following:

"Well, you can gain a benevolent view of the universe, a heroic view of man, a heroic view of yourself, an unflinching and total acceptance of reason and reality, a radiant sense of life, an objective hierarchy of value, an inspirationally productive purpose, a cherished and earned self-esteem, a prime motivation by love (instead of fear), you can live your life by the unwavering power of your mind, all without reading Rand -- but you still wouldn't 'get' Objectivism" (you'd have to read Rand's particular creations in order to truly "get it").

;-)

Ed

p.s. This postscript is mostly for me to vent, and there are definitely no hard feelings meant. Perhaps readers will understand my reactions better after reading this.

When I was a Christian, I had a special disdain for the Christians who, merely because they knew the Bible better, or went to Church more often, thought themselves superior -- in spite of living more 'sinful' lives.

As an Objectivist, I harbor a similar twinge for Objectivists who seem quick to point out 'the path' for me -- because of their more-presumed-than-displayed "superior understanding" of the matter.

In fairness, I do get the point about the immediate (artistic) perception of a moral ideal, and how the best available artwork for this purpose would be Rand's fictional novels.
(Edited by Ed Thompson
on 2/11, 9:19pm)




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Post 24

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 9:32pmSanction this postReply
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Ed,

You are living proof that one can fully grasp Objectivism' - down to the smallest nuance without reading the fiction.

:-)

Nothing more needs to be said.





Post 25

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 10:06pmSanction this postReply
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I'd also like to add that reading Aristotle's works after having read a substantial portion of Objectivist literature, is something I found highly satisfying. I'd liken the experience to taking a visit to the land of one's own roots, viewing the ancient ruins wherein one's ancestors dwelled; where it all began. Aristotle then seems like a sagacious grandfather, mentoring you with such wisdom and perspicacity.

Chalk up Aristotle as a must-read, as well.




Post 26

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 10:16pmSanction this postReply
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Ed:

I know of another very intelligent and successful fellow who has practiced Objectivist philosophy for most of his life, and like you, he has no use for Rand's fiction - or fiction in general. He once said that the only part of Atlas Shrugged that he found enjoyable was Galt's speech! I mention this just to let you know that you are not alone.

Regards,
--
Jeff



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Post 27

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 11:39pmSanction this postReply
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Against my better judgment, and almost assured to cause me to regret it, I will take a few moments to respond to Wolfer’s post.

 

Wolfer respons to my assertion that Atlas Shrugged is fine art, with:  I disagree.

 

Tell me, when you read it, did it really taste just like a McDonald"s Big Mac?

 

Wolfer: I think it is the most exportable of all philosophies we have ever seen.

 

Oh really? More than, say, Christianity? Buddhism? Existentialism? Marxism (and all it’s watered down variants)?

 

Perhaps the application of some of the premises of Objectivist philosophy, even if only in part, may result in a culture that has tremendous capacity to flourish even when compromised to some degree; and since the American culture born in 1776 was founded on many of those premises, this explains a great deal. Surely selling some variant of subjectivism is far easier and more popular - and far more "exportable" from the point of view of - mass appeal. Hell, as we speak there's even a subjecti-Objectivists fad that has become popular as of late. Now if this is what you meant by the "mass appeal - exportable" version of Objectivism, then I may in fact be wrong.
 

Wolfer: Atlas Shrugged IS an attempt to export the philosophy into a culture that is hostile on every major tenet - mystical, altruistic, and collectivist. And it is wildly successful so far -

 

Nonsense.

 

Atlas Shrugged was no attempt at any such thing; what it was, and remains - is a work of art in homage to the independent human mind and soul: a written sculpture forever concretizing an ideal. Let's be clear on at least one point, Ayn Rand wrote a piece of literature, not an infomercial selling the latest "slice and dice" salad maker.  And as to the "... and it is wildly successful thus far" yes, and this is precisely because it was introduced into a culture that in general, is not, as you claim, “hostile on every major tenet - altruistic, and collectivist.” Quite the contrary, Atlas Shrugged has been hugely successful in the United States because it appealed to many of those virtues that were already present in the culture, but no one had as yet, so beautifully and clearly captured the essence of.  

 

Wolfer: Because, this is the one and only philosophy that fits human nature.

 

Oh really? Or did you mean to say, “the philosophy that best fits human nature” - otherwise, what you have said is ridiculous in the face of over 3000 years of human achievement.  

 

And then Wolfer ends by asking precisely the wrong question, he asks, “The right question is, “what are all of the things that get in the way – that keep us from following that path?”

 

And Howard Roark responded to Toohey, the human embodiment of  "... all of the things that get in the way – that keep us from following that path?” - he said to him,  “ But I don’t think of you.”

 

Later,

 

George

(Edited by George W. Cordero on 2/12, 8:06am)




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Post 28

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 1:22amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Cordero,

When I said, “I disagree” I was disagreeing with your statement that Objectivism is not exportable as a philosophy of mass appeal. I have always believed Atlas Shrugged to be fine art.

Yes, I still think Objectivism is the most exportable of all philosophies we have ever seen. I start with the premise that it would be irrational to expect the earliest man to formulate a perfect philosophy at his first attempt. I would expect a progression that would over time grow better.

If one holds that man is a rational animal and that Objectivism is the best philosophy, then it is reasonable to predict it will be the predominate philosophy in time.

If philosophies as badly flawed as we can see Christianity and Marxism are in comparison to Objectivism, how could we not imagine it will be more successful in time. Unless we hold a very negative view of man – that man will never recognize that value. But that wouldn’t be rational.

We have no argument on the fact that Atlas Shrugged sold in great numbers and that it did so because of the way it spoke to what is good in many, many people.

But if you don’t believe that altruism, mysticism and collectivism are major tenets of today’s culture then I don’t know how you explain what is going on around us or why they went on strike in Atlas Shrugged or what are the major tenets ( they aren’t Objectivist).

Ayn Rand was clear that she is was a novelist first, but then she went on to say that she was a philosopher as well. It is a tribute to her genius that she integrated her philosophy so tightly that the novel was all of one piece and the extraordinary work of art it is. But if you don’t believe it launched the philosophy of Objectivism… Well, I just wouldn’t know what to say.

When I said the one and only philosophy that fits human nature I meant what I said, as I said it. If you think that there is another philosophy that ‘fits’ human nature tell me what it is. Clearly I meant ‘fit’ as in ‘fits properly’

You keep putting words in my mouth in my mouth in a way that is most unfair. Never in my life have I compared Atlas Shrugged to a slice and dice salad maker. Is there something I did to you personally? Have I behaved less than civilly? And then you appear to finish by comparing yourself to Howard Roark and me to Tooey – did I read that correctly?





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Post 29

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
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Relax, Steve, try to never forget that this is just an online forum.

Don't worry about anything I said, or what any of it meant, - I was just killing some time.

Mr. Cordero




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Post 30

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 6:24amSanction this postReply
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I have a major beef with the elitist attitude. I would not mind it so much if it were mere conceit. That's only a quirk to me, and a minor one at that. I have encountered it constantly in producing pop artists.

My beef is that elitists always desperately NEED an enemy to focus on. They NEED to scapegoat somebody. They live as a function of others. They sing high praise (but very quick praise) of man's glory and about how Objectivism is a select club of high-end achievers, but they spend a HUGE amount of time and energy trying to explain how screwed up other people are and attacking them.

Don't waste too much time looking for high-end achievements, either. This is rarely present in elitists, although there are a few exceptions. Other people, not achievements, fit the bill perfectly to show their self-proclaimed superiority.

I personally don't need a screwed up person to point to and attack in order to achieve any of my goals. By what standard has this become a requirement for joining an elite club of Objectivists?

If some people want it like that, let them have it. I want nothing to do with it. I prefer to take to heart that Objectivism is a philosophy for living on earth. Achieving my goals is hard enough without constantly comparing myself to others.

Michael



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Post 31

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 8:27amSanction this postReply
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George to Steve ...

Relax, Steve, try to never forget that this is just an online forum.

Don't worry about anything I said, or what any of it meant, - I was just killing some time.

Mr. Cordero
How politely condescending of you, George (or should I say, Mr. Cordero?). You said you might regret your response to Steve. I hope that's true. And I hope that you don't continue treating a criticism of others as merely "just killing some time." Though that's a nice "out" for coffee table talk -- if that's all that you think this is ...

Ed




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Post 32

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 8:49amSanction this postReply
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Don't worry about anything I said, or what any of it meant, - I was just killing some time. (George Cordero)
Mr. Cordero,

Sir, I do not know you at all, but have you gone back and actually looked at your post#27?  If that post is just "killing some time"....

Dayaaaam!

(More specifically, what the hell do you say when you're really fired up, and addressing an honest-to-goodness troll?)
 
Scared of you, man.

(Remind me not to ever get on your bad side.)

Erica
 
 
 
 




Post 33

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 9:19amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

I hope I can convince you to try out Fountainhead again.  It is not like most books - Rand gives you more to think about in a few pages than most authors do in entire Novels.  It is just as enjoyable to read it slowly. 

As a second recommendation, get both Fountainhead and Atlas on audio and listen to them - the abridged versions are very good, but then go back and read the books, and you may have an easier time of it.




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Post 34

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 9:27amSanction this postReply
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Robert Bidinotto, along the lines of the subject at hand, the importance and central place of Ayn Rand’s novels – as opposed to her other writing; I would even go this far:

 

If a Wizard with a magic wand approached me and said, every single word of Ayn Rand’s non-fiction – every essay, notebook entry, correspondence - and all else – if you wish I will erase it all, forevermore, and replace it instead with another novel by her … the novel she planned to write in her later life but shelved and never got around to …  

 

In less than a blink of an eye … I would say – “do it”  

 

George




Post 35

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 9:30amSanction this postReply
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Erica,

You said:

"Scared of you, man.
(Remind me not to ever get on your bad side.)"


Heh.

I wonder how he makes love...

(btw - I fully agree with him about another Rand novel.)

Michael



Post 36

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 9:43amSanction this postReply
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Eeew, yuck!




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Post 37

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 10:20amSanction this postReply
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Ed, you are an amazing fellow. But Erica, you should withhold sex until he agrees to read an AR novel. Hope it's not too long though--I don't know how long I can hold out.

For the record, if I had to choose between obliterating all Rand's fiction or her nonfiction, I would elect to keep the fiction.




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Post 38

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 11:06amSanction this postReply
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Erica, you should withhold sex until he agrees to read an AR novel. (Rodney Rawlings)
Rodney,

In all seriousness,

Of all of the pressuring, bullying, cajoling, reasoning, and begging techiques that I (and others) have tried previously to get Ed to read Rand's fiction...

Your suggestion may actually turn out to be the only effective one. (Why didn't I think of it??) :-)

I'm thinking about it. Really. (Ed...you've been warned.)

Erica

P.S. To everyone else who has tried to help me convince Ed...I thank you for your support.
But I'll take it from here....

(Edited by Erica Schulz on 2/13, 11:22am)




Post 39

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 - 11:20amSanction this postReply
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:-O

Rodney!!!

[... searching amazon.com for "rand" + "fiction" ...]

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/13, 11:29am)




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