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Continuing somewhat on my earlier theme in another thread, I made one interesting connection. Charisma and (the virtue) visibility often spring from and re-inforce one another. Referencing wikipedia it seems like it does'nt have much to offer in the way of formal, valid definition of charisma other than a mystical one (or a vague secular one offered by a long dead sociologist). The implication is that people are not exactly sure and can't pinpoint exactly what charisma actually is. A fuller discussion and description of visibility specifically, is available here. After thinking about it, I've come up with a "provisional" definition that fits my observations reasonably: "The ability to confer a feeling of happiness upon others by their presence or speech". By this definition, when we think about the most charming individuals in our society, immediately the some of the most socially visible individuals come to the front of our minds, i.e. politicians, actors, fortune 500 ceo's, famous writers etc. But the (interesting) question is, did their visibility come first or their charm? Do they "become" more charming as a result of being more visible (i.e. by "perception")? I may bring up more/ongoing questions as they come. Thoughts?
(Disclaimer: I am a student of Objectivism, not a critic, and these are simply my observations and opinions) The classic "dichotomy" between the popular, charismatic social climber and the lone, goal-driven, productive genius is the central theme of the Fountainhead, arguably one of Ayn Rands most fascinating works. Yet, it doesn't need to be a dichotomy. In fact, it's a false dichotomy. The issue need not be an "either or" proposition. There is no fundamental reason, from a rational standpoint, why Objectivism shouldn't endorse and support the cultivation of social skills and charm.This aspect of the human experience has been largely and needlessly neglected within Objectivism - and I believe, the key iusses within it, are still unidentified. The selfish, survival benefits are obvious, as are the psychological benefits of a successful, healthy social orientation and friendly disposition. "Social disposition" does not mean the disposition of a beggar or exploiter. As with all human values and relations, the issue here is trade. But social values are a trade that does not involve money. If Objectivism represents the cultivation of the best within humanity, it stands to reason that Objectivists should be the primary exemplars within our (Western) society, yet this is not what I observe. If asked to "point out" an Objectivist on the street randomly, most people wouldn't be able to distinguish a practicing "Objectivist" from a "regular person". Worse, most people could probably pick out Mormons, Muslims or even evangelical Christians out of a crowd pretty easily. Hell, I could probably pick out practicing Epicureans or Hedonists sooner than I could followers of Objectivist philosophy. The result is a serious lack of public acknowledgement and a failure to properly present and communicate Objectivist ideas in theory AND in practice. The result is a society that takes hardcore, fundamentalist religions more seriously than secular, rational philosophies. By showing others "by example" (i.e. living ones life in the highest possible way), gaining visibility and successfully relating to others, outside of proselytization of your personal beliefs you are effectively showing people the superiority of your philosophy in action. Objectivism is effectively defaulting on its own accord in the public sphere. There was, however, a time when Objectivists were often the most prominent, visible and accomplished (in their respective fields) in our society. Members of Ayn Rands inner circle such as Alan Greenspan or Nathaniel Branden come to mind, besides Rand herself. Alan Greenspan served as chairman of the Federal Reserve for many years one of the highest offices in the land. Her books were selling by the hundreds of thousands every year, and she was getting regular radio and TV interviews. Rand herself was described as "charming" even a "cult leader" at one point. Where are our comtemporary examples of charming, personable, Objectivist leaders in their fields? Why does the average Objectivist come off as dull, moralistic and dry as opposed to charming, persuasive and interesting? Does it really *need* to be this way? I don't think it does.