Ellen Stuttle

Michelle Marder Kamhi's "Who Says That's Art?"

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Simple, Michael. You took four words "...always getting "perfect" results..." and put your own spin on it:

"This is not what Rand meant by moral perfection". This is not related, at all.

You either didn't read what I wrote about - the reader who loses interest in a too-perfect character, which is self- obvious, and why romantic realism isn't sentimentalism - or misrepresented it for a nitpick.

Whatever - and whether - Rand "meant by moral perfection", it would have been directed at 'man', qua man, I am pretty sure. But I haven't seen any quotation yet directly of hers, with those words. I gather from your link, that it could come more from Peikoff and Smith, than her precise phrase. How did ascribing the phrase to Rand arise?

Moral excellence is a better rendition, imo..

 

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4 hours ago, anthony said:

How did ascribing the phrase to Rand arise?

Tony,

It's easy.

I have the CDROM and can look for the phrase "moral perfection." I also have digital copies of everything written by Rand that I have been able to obtain and can search those. The phrase occurs quite a few times.

:)

If I find a few hours of my life I want to piss away, I will look some of them up and give you quotes. But jeez...

To do that just to say that Rand wrote what she wrote to a person who constantly says she didn't mean it when confronted with her words?

I don't mind disagreeing with her. For example, I don't agree with her concept of moral perfection when applied to a whole person. But saying her meanings are different than she used them regardless of the reason is misidentifying her concepts. Claiming that her portrayal of the ideal man could have been a morally imperfect man seems stupid to me. It's like someone telling me that 2 + 2 = 5 and getting testy when I say it equals 4. 

It strikes me the same as saying Rand never claimed that she presented the ideal woman in art. I don't recall ever reading those exact words from her. I've only read her refer to "ideal man." Does that mean she did not consider Dagny to be an ideal woman?

Of course she did.

Doing research and making long posts to prove that kind of point seems kinda petty to me. I don't have much enthusiasm for it.

Michael

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4 hours ago, anthony said:

You either didn't read what I wrote about - the reader who loses interest in a too-perfect character, which is self- obvious, and why romantic realism isn't sentimentalism - or misrepresented it for a nitpick.

Tony,

I know you wrote this. I have no idea why, though. Besides, the first point is not correct.

There is a type of hero character that is called a steadfast character in fiction. This is one who does not change like James Bond, John Galt, Derring-Do Heroes of all sorts, etc.

Some of them are "too perfect" in terms of morality. (Rand actually fell out with Mickey Spillane for a while because he made Mike Hammer "less perfect" moral-wise and go on a bender. She told him he destroyed Mike Hammer. She was talking about Mike Hammer's morality.)

Also, readers do not lose interest in heroes when they are "too perfect." Not all, at least. Maybe they do in poorly written works, but in well written works, readers seem to eat up "too perfect" heroes and clamor for more.

The trick most often used is to surround them with less than perfect characters. This is taught in fiction-writing. (See the Dramatica school of writing for instance.) 

As an aside, another use of a steadfast character is to prompt dramatic action. Lajos Egri discusses this quite a bit and calls it a "pivotal character," but he is mostly concerned with stubborn characters who are flawed instead of heroes, so that falls a bit outside this point.

As to the second point, who on earth ever claimed that Romantic Realism was sentimentalism? Why are you making that point since nobody ever claimed that (at least I haven't seen it) and nobody I know thinks that?

Michael

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4 hours ago, anthony said:

Simple, Michael. You took four words "...always getting "perfect" results..." and put your own spin on it:

"This is not what Rand meant by moral perfection". This is not related, at all.

Tony,

What on earth are you talking about? What spin?

Results are outcomes. Are they not in your world?

Rand did not mean perfect outcomes by moral perfection. How on earth is saying that not related to what we were discussing (Rand's meaning of moral perfection)?

If results are not outcomes to you, then please tell me what you mean. I'm left with your words to get your meaning since my crystal ball went on the blink. :) 

Michael

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19 hours ago, anthony said:

 

"...my purpose is *not* the philosophical enlightenment of my readers..."

Authenticity in romanticism - why it is Romantic "Realism". Roark made a mistake and is still, unparadoxically, his author's "projection of [her] ideal man". If he were always "perfect", always getting "perfect" results, a reader would find it hard to relate to him, and lose interest - he'd consider that mere sentimentalism, out of touch with tough reality as he knows it to be. Many readers need a character with guts, not scared to stick up for his/her convictions and values, at the risk of making errors of judgment and knowledge.

Mistakes and errors? Heh.

Oopsie, I blew up a building. Oh, well. Forgive me?

 

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17 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

Toohey knew.

:)

Michael

 

EDIT: An added thought. The rigged system did not put Toohey on trial even though he orchestrated the whole thing as an intentional fraud on his side from the beginning.

Yeah, Toohey was a douchebag.

And Roark pretended not to think of him. And then he punished other people. And committed fraud.

Dont get me wrong. It's a fabulous novel. It's just that it has some holes. It doesn't say what Rand intended it to say. And it's not consistent with Rand's later philosophy, despite her claim that she always held the same beliefs.

J

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59 minutes ago, Jonathan said:

Yeah, Toohey was a douchebag.

And Roark pretended not to think of him. And then he punished other people. And committed fraud.

Dont get me wrong. It's a fabulous novel. It's just that it has some holes. It doesn't say what Rand intended it to say. And it's not consistent with Rand's later philosophy, despite her claim that she always held the same beliefs.

Jonathan,

I don't know...

Lying to the bad guys? Didn't Dagny turn Galt in to the bad guys as a big fat lie?

Punish other people? Instead of blowing up a building, didn't Ragnar Daneskjold sink ships, not just one but many? And how about that little detail of Dagny shooting a guard dead in cold blood?... :) 

Commit fraud? Didn't Hank Rearden commit massive fraud to get his divorce from Lillian? And how about all those government bribes?

I can come up with many, many examples...

I agree with your criticism about her claim that she always held the same beliefs, but I don't see it in the examples you cite since AS is full of similar. I see it more in her early adoption of Nietzsche and later discarding of him, her early belief that Christianity was individualistic (each person saved his or her own soul) and later belief that it was not (the altruism thing), and so on.

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

I don't know...

Lying to the bad guys?

What made them "bad guys"?

In Roark's case, what made them "bad guys" was the fact that they didn't like his work and wouldn't hire him. He was too independent for their tastes. They wanted someone who would be more traditional in his architectural designs. Such a mindset is unappealing to me, but it's not a crime. Someone's holding that point of view doesn't make them a "bad guy," and it certainly doesn't justify force, or property destruction.

 

1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Punish other people? Instead of blowing up a building, didn't Ragnar Daneskjold sink ships, not just one but many? And how about that little detail of Dagny shooting a guard dead in cold blood?... :) 

Yes, but the difference is that Ragnar was opposed to government projects, and wanted nothing to do with them, where Roark was excited about working on the government project. Ragnar was retaliating with force against the initiation of force. Roark's dynamiting was the initiation force.

What would a truly Objectisist Roark have done instead? I think the answer is that he would take up the challenge, design the project for himself, show it to private investors, and convince them to fund it privately.

But, aesthetically speaking, that probably wouldn't be very exciting, at least not as exciting as blowing up a building and then having an opportunity for a emotionally powerful speech in a courtroom scene. 

 

1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Commit fraud? Didn't Hank Rearden commit massive fraud to get his divorce from Lillian? And how about all those government bribes?

I can come up with many, many examples...

Yes, there are many things in Rand's art that are not consistent with Objectivism. That fact blows a few holes in Rand's theories about art and aesthetics.

 

1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I see it more in her early adoption of Nietzsche and later discarding of him...

I see her as not having quite discarded Nietzsche as much as she claimed, neither during the writing of the Fountainhead, nor during Atlas Shrugged. She never quite rid herself of old Friedrich. (She might have succeeded better had she given up on hating Kant, and actually studied and understood him).

J

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1 hour ago, Jonathan said:

What made them "bad guys"?

In Roark's case, what made them "bad guys" was the fact that they didn't like his work and wouldn't hire him. He was too independent for their tastes. They wanted someone who would be more traditional in his architectural designs.

Jonathan,

Man do we get different messages from The Fountainhead.

To me, this is a book about the spiritual component of the prime mover of humanity, "the ego is the fountainhead of human progress" kind of thing. I don't see the focus of the book as a discussion of differing tastes in architectural design or getting miffed--or getting even--for not being hired.

The bad guys are the bad guys because they injure and/or kill the independent productive spirit in any and all manner they can and they demand this spirit as a sacrifice to them. The bad guys want to rule over people of independent productive spirit, not as trade, but as sheer ugly master-slave power.

There is a character in practically all of Rand's fiction that is never talked about as a character, but it's there. This character is society, whether government or the culture. And this character is almost always the villain in Rand's works. So, to me, seeing Roark's actions from a legalistic point of view as if we were talking about today's context misses the point.

It would be like an individual villain in a story beating the crap out of the hero a few times, then the hero comes across the villain later where the villain can still harm him and the hero refuses to call him out for a fight or whop him real hard because said hero doesn't believe in initiation of force.

The Fountainhead, to me, is fundamentally a novel about a fight, not a novel about trade and best business practices.

This is not a novel about how an individual can fit into society. It's a novel about how an individual can stand up to a master-slave society and force it to change where he is no longer the slave.

I agree with you about fraud and force and all that, but in this context, a master-slave context, those are moral actions. In normal society, they are immoral.

In other words, is it fraud for a slave to deceive his master? Is it initiation of force for a slave to destroy his master's property, especially if the slave built it? In other words, once slavery is accepted as the moral standard, individual rights are out the window, except for the master. That's a double standard. Added to that, Roark was not the master in the book.

Roark refused to obey his master. He refused to even acknowledge his master as his master. And if it took blowing up a building to make that clear, he blew up a building. That was Rand's point to me.

2 hours ago, Jonathan said:

What would a truly Objectisist Roark have done instead? I think the answer is that he would take up the challenge, design the project for himself, show it to private investors, and convince them to fund it privately.

Slaves can't do that. Only masters can. Or free individuals in a free society. Saying a society is free and having freedom in society are two very different things. It's pretty clear, at least to me, what the options are in a villain society. 

Michael

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2 hours ago, Jonathan said:

... Roark was excited about working on the government project.

Jonathan,

That's one hell of a frame.

I seriously doubt Rand meant that Roark was excited to be working for the government.

Thank God Oliver Stone never got to do a second version of The Fountainhead because that is exactly what he intended to change Roark into (designing public parks and other government projects as his main occupation).

:)

Michael

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21 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

Man do we get different messages from The Fountainhead.

To me, this is a book about the spiritual component of the prime mover of humanity...

No, I get that, too.

Recently you wrote a really nice post about the aesthetic trance. In The Fountainhead, Rand achieved that with me, and she succeeded in suspending my disbelief. My comments on the technical holes and deviations are post-trance analyses.

J

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Rand's three novels are so different they should be considered separately save one to another. John Galt had no place in the world of Howard Roark.

When Rand wrote Galt's speech she essentially created Objectivism and it personally trapped her therein just as writing the novel itself trapped her in its world.

This created the Rand trance which ensnared many people, some for the better some for the worse. All the betters transcended it through personal and intellectual growth.

You have to forgive her for it; who regrets Atlas Shrugged? Not me, not a bit of it. 

--Brant

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7 hours ago, Jonathan said:

My comments on the technical holes and deviations are post-trance analyses.

Jonathan,

I've done a lot of study in creative writing and screenwriting. Some of your analyses remind me of the technical reason always given by the instructor (or even the director) when a plot hole in a famous film comes up: Because without it, there wouldn't be a movie.

:) 

Michael

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6 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

My favorite work of hers is Anthem.

That house they repaired to might have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater,  a picture of which appeared on the cover of Time magazine. I toured it in 1973.

--Brant

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4 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

I've done a lot of study in creative writing and screenwriting. Some of your analyses remind me of the technical reason always given by the instructor (or even the director) when a plot hole in a famous film comes up: Because without it, there wouldn't be a movie.

:) 

Michael

There wouldn't be a novel without Roark fixing up Keating's work, Dominique being flat-assed stupid, and blowing up the housing project. Etc 

--Brant

and that was just an overture to AS

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17 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

I've done a lot of study in creative writing and screenwriting. Some of your analyses remind me of the technical reason always given by the instructor (or even the director) when a plot hole in a famous film comes up: Because without it, there wouldn't be a movie.

:) 

Michael

 

13 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

There wouldn't be a novel without Roark fixing up Keating's work, Dominique being flat-assed stupid, and blowing up the housing project. Etc 

--Brant

and that was just an overture to AS

My criticisms here really aren't about the novel, but about the Objectivist Esthetics, and some of Rand's other bluff and bluster. C'mon, you boys know me. I like to apply a person's method of judging others to them and their own work.

J

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On 8/5/2019 at 9:32 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

It's easy.

I have the CDROM and can look for the phrase "moral perfection." I also have digital copies of everything written by Rand that I have been able to obtain and can search those. The phrase occurs quite a few times.

:)

If I find a few hours of my life I want to piss away, I will look some of them up and give you quotes. But jeez...

To do that just to say that Rand wrote what she wrote to a person who constantly says she didn't mean it when confronted with her words?

I don't mind disagreeing with her. For example, I don't agree with her concept of moral perfection when applied to a whole person. But saying her meanings are different than she used them regardless of the reason is misidentifying her concepts. Claiming that her portrayal of the ideal man could have been a morally imperfect man seems stupid to me. It's like someone telling me that 2 + 2 = 5 and getting testy when I say it equals 4. 

It strikes me the same as saying Rand never claimed that she presented the ideal woman in art. I don't recall ever reading those exact words from her. I've only read her refer to "ideal man." Does that mean she did not consider Dagny to be an ideal woman?

Of course she did.

Doing research and making long posts to prove that kind of point seems kinda petty to me. I don't have much enthusiasm for it.

Michael

Michael, as i see the distinction between art and life is that in the first context, one, an artist, and Rand, is creatively/morally entitled to use the terms "moral perfection" and "my ideal man", and portray such in her main character--and for many readers to admire him on those terms. Now, we know that with "my ideal man" she certainly was applying the noble ideal to her literature heroes. All that remains to be seen is if "moral perfection" was meant: a. in real life context, for we living men - or b. - also to her characters. I must say I have not read her state the former. You have not been clear about what context she used it in.  Striving for moral perfection in real life has to be contextual: doing the best one knows how, to the limits of one's knowledge and moral character - in any given situation, all the while not knowing with certainty whether some unknown, unpredictable element will wreck the outcome. Expecting constant perfection from oneself is going to be disillusioning many times. One might be tired and unfocused, for example, or let emotions briefly take over. To always expect in practice this high ideal from oneself (or others) will gravitate one to rationalism. I can think of a few times Rand publicly let her moral "perfection" slip. That doesn't at all bother me as it does some (except for her uncandid dismissal of Nathaniel Branden, who admittedly also made a few moral errors). However, if I were asked my opinion if Rand led a "morally-excellent" life and career, measured by her large output, her moral courage and philosophical consistency (and as much as I can tell about her private life) I'd reply with nothing short of awed admiration. Thinking of NB again, I have the same response for his character, life and work. I will not assess either by the intrinsicist standard of "perfection".

And of course "ideal man" is an abstraction for woman too.

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56 minutes ago, anthony said:

Now, we know that with "my ideal man" she certainly was applying the noble ideal to her literature heroes. All that remains to be seen is if "moral perfection" was meant: a. in real life context, for we living men - or b. - also to her characters. I must say I have not read her state the former.

Tony,

You can glean that message here. It's from the "About the Author" page of Atlas Shrugged.

Quote

"My personal life," says Ayn Rand, "is a postscript to my novels; it consists of the sentence: 'And I mean it.' I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters. The concretes differ, the abstractions are the same.

Fiction and life--different concretes, identical abstractions.

She sounds like she means it.

:)

I even bet one of the identical abstractions is "context."

:) 

56 minutes ago, anthony said:

... if I were asked my opinion if Rand led a "morally-excellent" life and career, measured by her large output, her moral courage and philosophical consistency (and as much as I can tell about her private life) I'd reply with nothing short of awed admiration. Thinking of NB again, I have the same response for his character, life and work. I will not assess either by the intrinsicist standard of "perfection".

We fully agree here.

I go a little further. I don't like the concept of moral perfection applied to whole human beings. Rand did. I don't. "Moral excellence," however, is a fine concept for whole human beings in my book.

Michael

 

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4 hours ago, Jonathan said:

C'mon, you boys know me. I like to apply a person's method of judging others to them and their own work.

Jonathan,

If you ever change that, I will fall out with you.

:)

I can't think of Jonathan being Jonathan unless he is hanging someone with their own rope.

:)

Michael

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On 8/6/2019 at 7:52 PM, Brant Gaede said:

That house they repaired to might have been inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater,  a picture of which appeared on the cover of Time magazine. I toured it in 1973.

--Brant

Interesting.

Do I recall correctly that she held Anthem to be a poem? I can't recall where or when, but something like, "Well, Anthem is of course, a poem." I'm not into literature and have no opinion one way or another.

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9 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jonathan,

If you ever change that, I will fall out with you.

:)

I can't think of Jonathan being Jonathan unless he is hanging someone with their own rope.

:)

Michael

He’s ruthless. I love the guy.

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7 hours ago, Jon Letendre said:

Interesting.

Do I recall correctly that she held Anthem to be a poem? I can't recall where or when, but something like, "Well, Anthem is of course, a poem." I'm not into literature and have no opinion one way or another.

Not a poem as such, but I forget the exact nomenclature.

--Brant

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20 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Tony,

You can glean that message here. It's from the "About the Author" page of Atlas Shrugged.

Fiction and life--different concretes, identical abstractions.

She sounds like she means it.

:)

I even bet one of the identical abstractions is "context."

:) 

We fully agree here.

I go a little further. I don't like the concept of moral perfection applied to whole human beings. Rand did. I don't. "Moral excellence," however, is a fine concept for whole human beings in my book.

Michael

 

Okay, Therefore, she precisely applied her philosophy to her art, not prescribing it ~explicitly~ to anyone else - philosophy was not her purpose in fiction, she has advised. Second, I presume the phrase "moral perfection" for we mankind does not appear in her words (apart from, I gather, in Peikoff's, with his rationalist bent).

A good tenet of writing fiction is to write from one's own life-experience. Which is a fine, basic fund of material. That - alone - does give rise to many drab, ordinary, uninspiring, Naturalist plots and characters in novels and film scripts. (Which are predominant).

One can take for granted, obversely,  that Rand wrote from her huge conceptual/moral fund of abstract thought - and - experience. She essentially saw and depicted the "ought" in man, not only the "is".

Rand saw no division between her abstractions in fiction and philosophy - taken from *her* life. She herself, her metaphysical view, and her ideal man, were, in short, the inspiration for her art.  

I.E. "My personal life is a postscript to my novels... And I mean it!".

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