Marcus

Objectivism is either wrong or unclear about social status

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According to Objectivism, romantic valuation is unaffected by social status.

This flies in the face of countless scientific studies (one good overview here) done on the subject, which show humans (particularly women) do take socio-economic factors into account, and at every stage of the courtship process (from dating to sex to marriage).

This effect is most visible on "celebrity" blogs and gossip sites observing who dates who. Notice the higher the status of the man, the more beautiful (and more numerous) his sexual and romantic partners tend to be.

Nevermind the other health and social benefits indirectly related social status not related to romance, that people of high status enjoy in human societies. Objectivism ignores this altoghether as well.

Ayn Rand herself seems to contradict herself at various times, at one point saying romance is a "response to (character) values" and at another point saying women desire to "look up to" a man (which could be an indirect reference to social status). In any case, it is unclear what she actually means by her words.

In her novels, the most accomplished, socially desirable men (Wynand, Galt, Rearden etc) are often the sole romantic focus of the female protogonists. Lesser men (i.e. less money and status), such as Eddie Willers, are not even a consideration. This is one of the most intriguing features of her fiction.

So my question is, is Objectivism simply wrong or just unclear about the nature of social status and romantic connection?

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Marcus,

Wrong or unclear?

The way I look at it is neither.

I think there is some deep insight in Rand's view of romance (social status, too), but like with several things in her writing, there is a problem of scope.

If you think her view applies to the whole enchilada in human nature, you will conclude she is wrong. If you apply it to a specific context or range of experience, it is not only true, but quite insightful. Cool, even.

This is how I have come to peace inside myself with questions such as you have.

Michael

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Welcome to OL Marcus.

Not sure I've done that.

How did you discover Ayn's works?

Are you a student, worker, business person?

A...

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As reason is implied in everything Rand proposed, I think it would be more accurate to say that rational romantic valuation is unaffected by social status. I doubt the mating habits of the Kardashians is what she had in mind.

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Ayn Rand solved some tough philosophical problems, but could not perceive or address everything we might care about. Moreover, remember that Atlas Shrugged was written in response to a plea (from Isabel Paterson?) that Rand "owed it" to her readers to write the "business novel" that was rumored in Fortune and other media. In other words, if Ayn Rand in 1950 had any inkling that millions would turn to her novels for bibliomancy, she might have taken up farming. Just sayin'...



Ayn Rand did not question everything. Her hero Howard Roark said he wears a necktie like everyone else. She lived through the radical feminism of the Russian Revolution, which, in fact, gave her hope to be able to major in engineering in the first place, through she majored in history. So, we was not ignorant of the issues. But I agree that her view of "romantic love" was largely traditional, even as her heroines pursued multiple affairs. None married (seriously), and none had children.



I believe that the proper context here is that people of approximately similar backgrounds will be most compatible. Persons of high potential and high achievement will be most likely to meet and mate. Dagny's distance from Eddie Willers was not so much from "status" as from potential. However, I do accept that status was, indeed, a factor. Dominique found Roark alluring at first in large part for his lack of status. But chicks like rogues. That speaks against the tenacity of status.



It seems that, largely, alpha males attract alpha females; but ultimately, the females seek outsiders. I believe that tracking inherited genetics shows this. It is claimed for all social species from humans to sheep to salmon. Alpha males do not father as many offspring as do outsiders.



(And welcome Marcus.)

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Ayn Rand solved some tough philosophical problems, but could not perceive or address everything we might care about. Moreover, remember that Atlas Shrugged was written in response to a plea (from Isabel Paterson?) that Rand "owed it" to her readers to write the "business novel" that was rumored in Fortune and other media. In other words, if Ayn Rand in 1950 had any inkling that millions would turn to her novels for bibliomancy, she might have taken up farming. Just sayin'...

Rand's plans for Atlas Shrugged soon far outstripped the initial suggestion, and I think that by 1950 she anticipated people turning to that book as propounding a new ethics.

Specifically regarding her views on romantic relationships: Francisco's speech about sex is among the speeches included in For the New Intellectual, and Nathaniel Branden developed a whole course on the Objectivist theory of romance. She took her theory with great seriousness.

Ellen

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It seems that, largely, alpha males attract alpha females; but ultimately, the females seek outsiders. I believe that tracking inherited genetics shows this. It is claimed for all social species from humans to sheep to salmon. Alpha males do not father as many offspring as do outsiders.
I cannot remember what person I listened to about this tendancy to bring captives into the tribe in order to make it genetically stronger and that this is an "instinct."
I had some major problems with her speechifying on that topic.

An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess. An “instinct” is an unerring and automatic form of knowledge. A desire is not an instinct. A desire to live does not give you the knowledge required for living. And even man’s desire to live is not automatic . . . Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it. Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform. Man has the power to act as his own destroyer—and that is the way he has acted through most of his history.

I understand that she was making a certain type of distinction, however, it did not cut it for me.

This quote makes more sense:

Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically

A...

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Rand said that people shouldn't judge on grounds of social standing and that, if they've cultivated a good character, this won't affect their sexual attractions. The finding that they do raises no problems for her.

Her statement that a woman ought to look up to her man is not enough to tell us in what respects she ought to look up to him. Her novels indicate that social standing is not one of them. Kira's lover is, since the communist takeover, of very low status because of his ancestry. Dominique is a wealthy heiress and socialite. Her great love is a low-pay, low-skill laborer in a business that she owns outright. Dagny's first two loves are socially her peers, not her superiors, and her final love is, once more, a low-level employee.

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Commoners!!!!

OMG - security to the collective - STAT

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Rand said that people shouldn't judge on grounds of social standing and that, if they've cultivated a good character, this won't affect their sexual attractions. The finding that they do raises no problems for her.

Her statement that a woman ought to look up to her man is not enough to tell us in what respects she ought to look up to him. Her novels indicate that social standing is not one of them. Kira's lover is, since the communist takeover, of very low status because of his ancestry. Dominique is a wealthy heiress and socialite. Her great love is a low-pay, low-skill laborer in a business that she owns outright. Dagny's first two loves are socially her peers, not her superiors, and her final love is, once more, a low-level employee.

But notice men of lower "social standing" never become romantically involved with her female protoganists . Howard Roark, for example, you could argue that he is not really of low standing, as he is actually looked at as important and respected atleast implicitly for his work and the religious intensity of his dedication. Entire industries talk about him (Wynands newspaper). I believe Rands point was that "prime movers" like Roark ultimately become a social focal point. Despite his seemingly low social status, Roark is a powerful man and capable of antagonizing the whole of society. Women probably ultimately, find power the most sexually attractive (this goes back to our evolutionary history).

Perhaps "social status" is a second-hand way of determining character? Perhaps social status is one of the secondary consequences of good, honest productive work?

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Rand said that people shouldn't judge on grounds of social standing and that, if they've cultivated a good character, this won't affect their sexual attractions. The finding that they do raises no problems for her.

Her statement that a woman ought to look up to her man is not enough to tell us in what respects she ought to look up to him. Her novels indicate that social standing is not one of them. Kira's lover is, since the communist takeover, of very low status because of his ancestry. Dominique is a wealthy heiress and socialite. Her great love is a low-pay, low-skill laborer in a business that she owns outright. Dagny's first two loves are socially her peers, not her superiors, and her final love is, once more, a low-level employee.

But notice men of lower "social standing" never become romantically involved with her female protoganists . Howard Roark, for example, you could argue that he is not really of low standing, as he is actually looked at as important and respected atleast implicitly for his work and the religious intensity of his dedication. Entire industries talk about him (Wynands newspaper). I believe Rands point was that "prime movers" like Roark ultimately become a social focal point. Despite his seemingly low social status, Roark is a powerful man and capable of antagonizing the whole of society. Women probably ultimately, find power the most sexually attractive (this goes back to our evolutionary history).

Perhaps "social status" is a second-hand way of determining character? Perhaps social status is one of the secondary consequences of good, honest productive work?

Reidy nailed it by noting that there is a difference between what people should do and what they actually do. The fact that women tend to date men of high "social status" in practice is not a problem for Rand's philosophy.

You are correct that "social status" could be a second-hand way of determining character or finding men that engage in honest productive work. However, it is unlikely to be a good way of finding men of good character if the society is not rationally organized.

Rand's characters tend to be mavericks because in her books they live in a deeply irrational society. So, she makes heroes out of men (and women) that go against the grain. Of course, there is a price to be paid for going against the grain in terms of "social status" or respect from the society at large. In the Fountainhead, Roark is actually quite successful, designing and managing the building of major buildings, something that most architects never achieve. However, it is unlikely to get him invited to any high society parties because he isn't well liked by the celebrities. Galt has, of course, completely removed himself from respectable society and therefore has no social status to speak of, at least outside of Galt's Gulch. But, again, he is a rebel, a maverick moving against the grain of society for a reason and his intelligence, honesty and strength appeal to Dagny, who is a maverick in her own right. And, of course, ultimately he wins in the novel as society crumbles around him. So, in some sense he is the invincible winner.

Darrell

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As a whole, flout both social conservatism and social liberalism (though at times, oddly conservative) , mix together some parts of each (but many times, too radical and rebellious for both) - and one gets a glimpse of AR's ideal society. I admit it's been a while since reading the novels, but that's my take.

And for sure there exists no social hierarchy, status and class outside of the individual's character and abilities.

"Social pecking order"?

Bah!!

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As a whole, flout both social conservatism and social liberalism (though at times, oddly conservative) , mix together some parts of each (but many times, too radical and rebellious for both) - and one gets a glimpse of AR's ideal society. I admit it's been a while since reading the novels, but that's my take.

And for sure there exists no social hierarchy, status and class outside of the individual's character and abilities.

"Social pecking order"?

Bah!!

But "class" is inevitably what occurs in a capitalist society. People differ by achievements, drive, intelligence etc. The result is a ranking of individuals (this is wired into the human brain, all primates including humans have social hierarchies whether Objectivism will fully admit this or not).

This "ranking" system in my take is not a bad thing per se. It is how we reward the high achievers among us. In a way it is a form of justice. I don't think Rand had a problem with this. I think she did'nt like the baseless, second-handed "status" that is often given to undeserving, corrupt or incompetent individuals.

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It seems that, largely, alpha males attract alpha females; but ultimately, the females seek outsiders. I believe that tracking inherited genetics shows this. It is claimed for all social species from humans to sheep to salmon. Alpha males do not father as many offspring as do outsiders.
I cannot remember what person I listened to about this tendancy to bring captives into the tribe in order to make it genetically stronger and that this is an "instinct."
I had some major problems with her speechifying on that topic.

The Comanche frequently kidnapped children from other tribes and white settlers. The captives were treated as equal to those of Comanche blood and sometimes became chiefs. There is no evidence, however, that this behavior was instinctual; rather it was probably in response to the decline in the Comanche population due to disease of European origin.

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It seems that, largely, alpha males attract alpha females; but ultimately, the females seek outsiders. I believe that tracking inherited genetics shows this. It is claimed for all social species from humans to sheep to salmon. Alpha males do not father as many offspring as do outsiders.
I cannot remember what person I listened to about this tendancy to bring captives into the tribe in order to make it genetically stronger and that this is an "instinct."
I had some major problems with her speechifying on that topic.

The Comanche frequently kidnapped children from other tribes and white settlers. The captives were treated as equal to those of Comanche blood and sometimes became chiefs. There is no evidence, however, that this behavior was instinctual; rather it was probably in response to the decline in the Comanche population due to disease of European origin.

FF:

And you have sources for the above"?

This "behavior" is/was quite "instinctual" thoughout most, if not all groups of humans, according to some of John Batchelor's guests. A "sense" that sperm competition was a major plus.

A different "invisible hand," however, it does reinforce that competition always improves humans.

Can we define instinctual so we do not waste each other's time semanticly sliding past each other.

A...

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As a whole, flout both social conservatism and social liberalism (though at times, oddly conservative) , mix together some parts of each (but many times, too radical and rebellious for both) - and one gets a glimpse of AR's ideal society. I admit it's been a while since reading the novels, but that's my take.

And for sure there exists no social hierarchy, status and class outside of the individual's character and abilities.

"Social pecking order"?

Bah!!

But "class" is inevitably what occurs in a capitalist society. People differ by achievements, drive, intelligence etc. The result is a ranking of individuals (this is wired into the human brain, all primates including humans have social hierarchies whether Objectivism will fully admit this or not).

This "ranking" system in my take is not a bad thing per se. It is how we reward the high achievers among us. In a way it is a form of justice. I don't think Rand had a problem with this. I think she did'nt like the baseless, second-handed "status" that is often given to undeserving, corrupt or incompetent individuals.

Tough one to deal with, but worth giving it a shot - it is a broad and absorbing subject you brought up.

My sense is that you are viewing an O'ist capitalist society as much the same old, same old conservative thing, but with a bit of Objectivism icing the cake. It is hardly the way I see it. Backing up a bit, remember Rand saying

"I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism, but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason."?

Simplistically, take the autonomous individual: add reason, + free will + rational egoism + productiveness + integrity + self-esteem + energy -- and rightfully he (or she)'should' create wealth for himself in the normal course of events. Not with 100% certainty, but at least (+individual rights, of course) he would be left alone to do so, to fail for himself, and to succeed for himself. That's the epitome of 'justice' that you mention, justice in reality.

So to Society, do you believe the "ranking" of individuals would be as clear-cut as to who holds the most chips in the game?

The biggest yacht, the most number of homes around the world, the Hollywood starlet wives, the largest personal wealth - and the greatest - perceived- personal power? While I don't write off the enjoyment of luxuries as prosaic showboating (though they are known to carry with them often, a degree of second-handed impressing of other people) - I think there would be appreciation of the many more intangible qualities ...by the other individuals who count, those with rational discernment.

I think one has to break with what is known, and what has been, to imagine this society.

At this time, just about anywhere, the world either worships the ultra wealthy, or despises them; on the one hand there exists pseudo-elitism, and on the other, pseudo-egalitarianism. Both start the same ways, and come down to much the same thing ultimately, I think. ("...treat those two imposters just the same".).

Rather than trying to find some half way place of compromise between them - in envisaging a fully-free, capitalist Objectivist society - we need another reference point well outside of them. Personally, I imagine far more social mixing and intermingling of individuals from many backgrounds and of a variety of levels of ability and wealth (but that's me;)) with little remaining of the bs elitism and pretend equality.

About the remark you made, It's not as if Objectivism isn't mindful of "hard-wiring" and such - but more like: So- what am I going to do with it..?

If a man's mind is his only dependable survival instrument, and his virtue and character are self-made, assessing him (or "ranking" him) by the identical instinct that is owned by every single man, is redundant. While not ruling out the simple social pleasures people enjoy with each other, to willingly fall back on status in the most primitively animal manner, is clearly anti-mind and anti-individualist.

"All primates including humans have social hierarchies whether Objectivism will admit this or not." Hm.

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About the remark you made, It's not as if Objectivism isn't mindful of "hard-wiring" and such - but more like: So- what am I going to do with it..?

If a man's mind is his only dependable survival instrument, and his virtue and character are self-made, assessing him (or "ranking" him) by the identical instinct that is owned by every single man, is redundant. While not ruling out the simple social pleasures people enjoy with each other, to willingly fall back on status in the most primitively animal manner, is clearly anti-mind and anti-individualist.

"All primates including humans have social hierarchies whether Objectivism will admit this or not." Hm.

Social existence consists of more than the "simple social pleasures" we derive from others, but our very cognitive functioning. When we are away from others it is impaired. Numerous isolation experiments have been conducted and people have reported hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and other psychological problems.

Humans have evolved to survive in groups. We have entire areas of the brain devoted to social functions. We we are alone for extended periods of time (I mean really alone and isolated from civilization), we basically will go crazy. Aristotle once declared that men who are way from society are either "beasts or gods".

Solitary confinement, for example, is said to be worse than death.

http://reason.com/blog/2013/03/15/solitary-confinement-a-fate-worse-than-d

The fact remains our survival and mental health is hugely impacted by living in a society (or not). As much as Objectivism fantasizes about the "desert island" scenario, being as it is theoretically possible for humans to live alone, it's not recommended and you will likely go to an early grave. It would also represent a great psychological struggle to live on such terms and you would be dealing with feelings of a loss of purpose, passage of time issues, sexual and emotional companionship issues, extreme loneliness etc.

Rand said (in one of her moments of clarity and admission) herself man is somewhere between a "lone wolf" and a social animal, settling on the "contractual animal". Not fully either extreme. She is basically correct. We are both social and solitary animals. Probably leaning more towards social, given the difficulty with which it is to survive and function mentally in complete isolation.

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This may be all very well, but what's it to do with my proposal of a society - which, if anything, goes well beyond the conventional liberalism/conservativism, to a sort of radical 'super society'? Which would inevitably have higher standards, without the bogus or contrived BS. We'd have a vibrant and dynamic society well worth living in, I fancy.

Take all the human elements you have indicated, and without the rational strata of principles, truth, and originality (for starters) that society will devolve into the lowest common denominator of muscle -and then the nice human aspects will be fast destroyed.

You're arguing an opponent who isn't there, Marcus: I haven't (here) pitted the individual against society.

The concept of individualism versus collectivism - always!

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