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Ayn Rand And The End Of Love

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On another thread the subject of Rand's depiction of sex came up in reference to the so-called 'rape scene' near the beginning of The Fountainhead.

Michael made an interesting comment that I think Ayn Rand herself would have agreed with regarding that controversial passage.

"In Rand's story, Roark was not a sexist pig and Dominique was not a defenseless woman being terrorized as a sex object and nothing more. They were both individuals for whom the rules of others did not apply. They made their own realities and they did not bow to society. They were the same kind of people. From that lens, the rape scene was their highest tribute to each other."

I'm sure in Rand's view that depiction was meant as a "tribute." But Rand had a very peculiar view of love and sex. What was meant to be a tribute was a depiction of crude, adolescent sex, without any finesse or tenderness, just animal passion. It was an example of the dominate view of the current age that confuses sex with love.

A couple of years ago I published an article, "Ayn Rand, Beauty, Love, and Tenderness," in which I described what was wrong with Rand's view of love and sex.

In both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, her hero's love making was always rough, and that roughness was always "excused" as an expression of strength, passion, and "a right to what was being enjoyed." But that excuse neglects the very nature of romantic love.

Ayn Rand did not understand tenderness, gentleness, grace, and adoration. Not only are these expressions of romantic love, they are particularly masculine in nature. One cannot contemplate the most valuable object this world holds for them, the most precious and important thing in one's life without a profound sense and desire to preserve, adore, and protect that one whose very existence has become, for him, the very meaning of life.

This is the very important point Ayn Rand missed—while the male is the stronger of the two sexes, and that strength ought to be manifest in how that love is expressed—the greatest manifestation of strength and power in the world is when that strength is used with the greatest control. Roughness is not an expression of strength, only crudity. The most delicate and precise movements require enormous strength. The greatest illustration is the grace of the ballet dancer; tenderness and gentleness require the greatest combination of strengths, physical, emotional, and intellectual.

She misunderstood the kind of triumphant strength, the Herculean effort required to express one's love with controlled passion, with the loving attention and excruciatingly delicate power of a sculptor, required to achieve the most sublime beauty of ecstasy. Any strong man can treat a woman roughly. Only a hero of enormous strength of character can express his greatest passion with that enormous self-control that turns every touch into a caress and every movement into an expression of an all-consuming love. Ayn Rand's heroes exhibited enormous strength in other areas of their lives, but in her depiction of their "love making" they are presented more as out-of-control adolescents than heroic lovers.

The roughness Ayn Rand describes in her love scenes is actually a depiction of crudeness and weakness on the part of her romantic heroes, who are both unimaginative and shallow in their love making. If they were truly strong and truly loved the one they, "possessed," that passion would have been expressed with the greatest finesse they were capable of and with the utmost tenderness.

Love And Values

In her prose descriptions of romantic love, Rand expressed some very important insights, but also expressed some things which are very ambiguous.

"Romantic love, in the full sense of the term, is an emotion possible only to the man (or woman) of unbreached self-esteem: it is his response to his own highest values in the person of another—an integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire. Such a man (or woman) is incapable of experiencing a sexual desire divorced from spiritual values." [The Voice of Reason, "Of Living Death."]

I agree that romantic love is that love one has for another that is the embodiment of one's own highest values. Her mention of sexual desire and "spiritual" values is a bit odd, however.

"Love is a response to values. It is with a person's sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person's character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness." [The Romantic Manifesto, "Philosophy and Sense of Life."]

The most ambiguous of her statements about sex, I think, is contained in her Playboy interview:

"Sex is one of the most important aspects of man's life and, therefore, must never be approached lightly or casually. A sexual relationship is proper only on the ground of the highest values one can find in a human being. Sex must not be anything other than a response to values. And that is why I consider promiscuity immoral.

"....

"[Sex should] involve ... a very serious relationship. Whether that relationship should or should not become a marriage is a question which depends on the circumstances and the context of the two persons' lives. I consider marriage a very important institution, but it is important when and if two people have found the person with whom they wish to spend the rest of their lives—a question of which no man or woman can be automatically certain. When one is certain that one's choice is final, then marriage is, of course, a desirable state. But this does not mean that any relationship based on less than total certainty is improper. I think the question of an affair or a marriage depends on the knowledge and the position of the two persons involved and should be left up to them. Either is moral, provided only that both parties take the relationship seriously and that it is based on values." [Playboy Interview, Playboy, March 1964.]

Rand considers, "promiscuity immoral," but it's not promiscuity so long as both parties take the relationship, "seriously," and it is, "based on values." Well maybe they take the relationship seriously based on their values tonight, but will they still love each other in the morning? Only in Rand's peculiar view of love could Dagny Taggert's bed hopping from Francisco d'Anconia to Hank Reardon to John Galt be considered anything other than promiscuity.

Rand was wrong. There is only one relationship between a man and woman in which sex is appropriate, the relationship between two totally committed in romantic love for their lifetime. That kind of love does not require a ceremony (marriage or any other) because nothing in this world can separate two people who have found and chosen each other as their greatest reward and purpose in life. They are, as well, the only individuals for whom sex can be completely satisfying and fulfilling, because sex is, for them, an affirmation and fulfillment of their love.

Of course the question of whether to engage in a sexual relationship is entirely up to the individuals involved. Since most such relationships today are not in the context of romantic love, they are always harmful to those in such relationships and are usually disastrous, no matter how much the popular world of literature and entertainment glorifies them. Nevertheless, it is nobody else's business what any individuals choose do with their own lives, sexually or any other way.

I want to emphasize that because I do not like how Rand has been criticized for how she lived her own life. I think her views about love and sex were wrong, but how she lived her own life is nobody else's business.

Rand, Sex, and Sado-masochism

In preparing for writing the infamous sex scene between Roak and Dominique in The Fountainhead, Rand wrote:

"Like most women, and to a greater degree than most, she [Dominique] is a masochist and she wishes for the happiness of suffering at Roark's hands. Sexually, Roark has a great deal of the sadist, and he finds pleasure in breaking her will and her defiance." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "7 - Notes While Writing, Theme of Second-Hand Lives."]

Rand despised subjectivism and in her explicit philosophical view of sex she could write:

"The men who think that wealth comes from material resources and has no intellectual root or meaning, are the men who think—for the same reason—that sex is a physical capacity which functions independently of one's mind, choice or code of values. They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you ... Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions." [For the New Intellectual, "The Meaning of Sex."]

"I believe that our mind controls everything—yes, even our sex emotions. Perhaps the sex emotions more than anything else. Although that's the opposite of what most people believe. Everything we do and are proceeds from our mind. Our mind can be made to control everything. The trouble is only that most of us don't want our minds to control us—because it is not an easy job." [The Letter of Ayn Rand, "Return To Hollywood (1944)". To Gerald Loab, August 5, 1944.]

"... sex is the one field that unites the needs of mind and body, with the mind determining the desire and the body providing the means of expressing it. But the sex act itself is only that—an expression. The essence is mental, or spiritual." [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952."]

But her view of the sexual relationship between men and women as sado-masochistic is pure subjecitivism. She never provides an objective reason why a woman's sexual desire should be mixed with a desire for suffering, or an objective reason for a man's sexual desire to be mixed with a desire to break a women's will. It is contrary to the very nature of love.

A woman's desire, springing from her love for a man, certainly will include a desire to be fully possessed by the man for his own pleasure because it affirms her own sense of being worthy of that desire. A man's desire for the woman he loves will certainly include the desire to possess her for his own pleasure which he can only fully realize in pleasing her. The very idea of suffering or the coercive control of another would make the whole experience of sex impossible to a moral individual. Both are the antithesis of love.

Giving Others What They Want

The masochistic desire to, "suffer," is a psychological aberration as is the sadistic "desire to hurt or physically control" another. The excuse that Rand makes is that Roak was only giving Dominique what she wanted.

That excuse is used for almost every kind of evil act. Providing another with what harms them cannot be excused on the basis that it's what they wanted. I have no idea what pathology makes some people want to be hurt, but their desire does not justify someone taking advantage of their twisted desire to satisfy their own desire.

Only moral individuals are capable or worthy of romantic love. A moral individual does not cheat, threaten others, rape, or "take advantage," of anyone's weaknesses or foibles, (he won't be a drug dealer, a pornographer, a pimp, a prostitute, a professional gambler, or a panderer to any other human irrational desire or obsession.)

He will not take advantage of anyone for his own gratification. He will not use women (and she will not use men) for his own pleasure and attempt to justify it on the grounds that it was, "consensual." What an evil lie one must tell oneself to use another person as though it was OK because that person agreed to being used, or perhaps even enjoyed it. The sadist is not justified in harming another just because the other is a masochist. Every child molester, producer of pornographic, salacious, and degrading form of entertainment, every con artist and every drug dealer uses the excuse, "I'm only giving them what they want."

The fact that most peoples' desires are not determined by objective values but driven by subjective feelings and irrational beliefs does not justify taking advantage of those irrational desires. If you need an explanation of the morally corrupt society of the age it is the dominant belief that so long as no one is being forced to do something, anything anyone desires to do, or do with others, is good. It used to be called, "free love," but is in fact the end of love.

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I remember Barbara Branden saying she "liked' a Nazi in the bedroom.

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37 minutes ago, Peter said:

I remember Barbara Branden saying she "liked' a Nazi in the bedroom.

That's enlightening.

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Randy, it occurs to me often that readers and scholars of Rand's novels can be a little over-derivative from them. Taken further, this might justify one becoming a modern-day pirate; blowing up a project one designed, because it wasn't done right; shooting someone who blocks your path; like-minded intellectuals absconding to a new Galt's Gulch. Etc. And - that Rand okayed or even prescribed such. Bear with me, I'm not trivializing your main, er, thrust. The "sex scene". I took it as a bit of dominance fantasy with Rand letting her hair down and loosening her imagination, adding some spice. What she described in her notes (in the context of writing the novel) as a somewhat-sadist and a somewhat-masochist naturally responding to each other, is for me only part of that fictional fantasy, in notes in which the writer has to justify it for herself, to set the scene and not stray outside characterization (too much). First, in the novel, one might project, from their superb characters and integrity that the two heroes could and would go on to a full, gentler, future relationship not based on that initial dominance. Second, outside the novel, I can't begin to think Rand would support such a "subjective" - as you rightly say - relationship, of body over the mind, and spiritual values - nor of constant force, even if mutually consented.  All you quoted of hers, and as we know of her writing elsewhere, that would be a major contradiction. What's best is I think your closing words and analysis of sex and romantic love as it can be and should be, which are excellent, incisive and true. (And everything that many an individualist and Objectivist would agree with, and- I believe- accurate to what Rand meant). I also perceive there is a general moral slump of the young today and attitudes to love and sex (self-less, value-diminished, surface-obsessed and sensation-full) that parents of my generation who bemoaned the changing moral/sexual standards of the 60's and 70's couldn't dream of. (Since I'm now reminding myself of my father...You youngsters today, my boy...) :) 

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2 hours ago, anthony said:

... a modern-day pirate; blowing up a project one designed, because it wasn't done right; shooting someone who blocks your path; like-minded intellectuals absconding to a new Galt's Gulch. Etc. And - that Rand okayed or even prescribed such. Bear with me, I'm not trivializing your main, er, thrust. The "sex scene". I took it as a bit of dominance fantasy with Rand letting her hair down and loosening her imagination, adding some spice...

For the record, I sailed with pirates, blew up projects, carried a gun, and endeavored to articulate a legal system for the Gulch. WRT sex, some of us apparently have difficulty grasping what's plain as day throughout Miss Rand's entire body of work. Hot water seeks its own level, as I've tried to make clear in my own fiction.

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12 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

For the record, I sailed with pirates, blew up projects, carried a gun, and endeavored to articulate a legal system for the Gulch. WRT sex, some of us apparently have difficulty grasping what's plain as day throughout Miss Rand's entire body of work. Hot water seeks its own level, as I've tried to make clear in my own fiction.

I can't speak for you, or where, when or whether any of those acts might become necessary to someone in his/her purpose and life. I was speaking about the actions and words which characters in a novel carry out, being at all directly prescriptive. The hero's actions and words, you will know, are not as significant as what they display of his character; actions, apart from their other good uses in the story, prompt a reader to ask himself : what kind of man with what kind of qualities could do this (resolute, courageous, honest. ..) thing? Rand's answer is in the 'volitional consciousness' of romantic realism, with a novel's individuals who apply their rationality and conviction, principles and character to meeting and rising above difficulties and achieve chosen ends - in short, one's conscious virtues and goals have efficacy. And is what the reader deduces, takes away and remembers. 

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Here are just a few random ideas about Ayn Rand and sex. I'm not big anymore on trying to debunk her or defend her or imagine what she would have believed or who is worthy of love and all that. Rand was what she was and the human species is what it is.

 

1. So let's start with the human species, shall we? I'm almost tempted to quip about how awful it must have been to be a human being all those thousands of centuries going back to prehistory without the Objectivist form of Romantic love as a reward and worthiness payoff. :) How on earth did humans get horny unless they were being barnyard animals and whim worshipers? :) 

Well... I guess I did quip. :) 

When I look at human history and the population growth, humans have done all right in the reproduction category. I once read that the human species is one of the most successful species on earth both in terms of survival and reproduction (the two evolutionary imperatives). 

And when I look at art and literature, human beings have done all right in the accompanying love category, too. There are oodles of love stories with crazy-level intensity to go along with the sex.

I don't agree with Rand that this underlying reproductive chemistry and love are the result of volitional choice of values. Maybe there is some of that in the mix, but I doubt it is universal. In my current modular view of the mind (based on the brain evolving in different stages to confront different situations, including wildly differing threats and opportunities at different stages and places), when certain "mental lenses" are predominant, I can see volitional choice of values influencing love. When other parts of the mind are prevalent and providing the predominant lens, this becomes irrelevant and love--even intense love--still happens.

Madison Avenue knows this more than anybody. They sell everything with sex and romance. :) 

 

2. The rough sex. This is one area I believe Rand was 100% true to her underlying subconscious nature. She couldn't have known what we know today through neuroscience, but she introspected and expressed what she saw in her own inner life. Jung would say she accepted her shadow, but there is a more technical explanation now.

There are actual neurons in the hippocampus that control snapping. This is a state where you totally lose restraint and act with violence or strong single-minded intensity. And, yes, during such a state, you govern your acts with reason, meaning instead of becoming a blithering idiot, you become deadly competent. You plan and execute your plans, even complicated ones.

People snap for a variety of reasons and the mains ones have corresponding neurons in the hippocampus. Neuroscientists have studied this in rat brains by inserting optic fibers through their skulls that end in respective neurons in the hippocampus. (The rats end up looking like they have whiskers coming out of the top of their heads and that's just plain gross, but there it is. :) )

A laser signal sent through an optic fiber triggers the respective neuron and experimenters have managed to get rats to instantly go nuts (vicious nuts), instantly shut down, instantly mate, etc., by pushing different buttons.

This topic is too dense to go into here but there is an excellent book I read (and intend to reread several times) I can point to for those interested: Why We Snap: Understanding the Rage Circuit in Your Brain by Douglas Fields.

It so happens that the neuron for mating is RIGHT NEXT TO the neuron for violent attack. It is physically next to it. That means if any signals get crossed during synapses chains, physical proximity makes it easy for violence to turn into sex and vice-versa. Notice that rape and war always go together.

I believe Rand saw this in herself, did not know why it was there, but understood that she could not bear false witness and simply registered her impulses in her fiction. I imagine her thinking that if these images excited her, they would excite the reader. (She did learn a lot of her craft in Hollywood, after all. :) )

 

3. Transcendence. I think people make a huge mistake with Rand when they analyze things like her views on sex or art without taking into account the state of spiritual transcendence she constantly alludes to. For Rand, this state was when she could turn off her volitional brain and just feel. Her writing is full of these states. Think about Dagny listening to music or in the train during the John Galt Line's first run. Or Roark so deep in concentration over a drawing his mind starts running on autopilot. Rand's love scenes are full of this state, too, except there is generally some biting, scratching and blood to go along with it. :) 

Rand knew that exercising the volitional mind required a lot of effort (another fact borne out in spades by neuroscience--this activity consumes quantities of calories like nothing else the human body does), but, based on her writings and biographies, she had huge control issues. Her faculty of reason was a control freak. :) So her reward and rest were letting go. That means letting go of controlling her own thinking and getting into an emotional/spiritual  state of flow. She even considered art as a form of spiritual fuel where she could just feel and rest her cognition , but know she was safe. In her writing, she often elevated this state to an almost religious state of transcendence.

Giving into sex was a state of transcendence for her--mutual transcendence between partners. And the only way that would be safe and focused was if a highly verbalized notion of love (romantic love) went along with it. This urge to verbalize in order to justify letting go (and achieve a state of transcendence) reached a climax in Rand's writing with Dagny's affair with Hank Rearden. After their first night together, they both lectured each other aggressively in what one screenwriter (Randall Wallace who was doing the screenplay for AS at the time) called "huge, long waterfalls of words." :) See here.

 

That's enough for now. I have other thoughts on this topic, but later, maybe in a book...

I will say this, though. My respect for Ayn Rand as an artist, which was already high, increased a lot when I thought through these things. Even though she had a limited-to-a-fault (and at times overly-rationalized) view of sex and romantic love, she still remained true to what she saw inside herself. She did not bear false witness. And she expressed it when it counted.

Michael

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I imagine her thinking that if these images excited her, they would excite the reader.

An act of projection.  If she felt it, then everyone else must feel it, too.

Quote

...she still remained true to what she saw inside herself. She did not bear false witness.

In regards to her fictional works, a valid position.  In regards to non-fictional works, it's still projection.  No one can make universal their own personal desires.

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I don’t remember if BB gave any ‘insider” explanation for saying, “She liked a Nazi in the bedroom,” but I don’t think it had anything to do with antisemitism or politics. Another women on OL said she knew exactly what she meant. You could probably still find the letters.

Michael wrote: There are actual neurons in the hippocampus that control snapping. This is a state where you totally lose restraint and act with violence or strong single-minded intensity. And, yes, during such a state, you govern your acts with reason, meaning instead of becoming a blithering idiot, you become deadly competent. You plan and execute your plans, even complicated ones. end quote

Exactly, Obiwan. Single. Late teens or early twenties . . . wow . . . Oh Babe, you look so nice in that dress. Although in Rand’s case I think her characters were mainly in their thirties.    

Manly man, Peter

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19 hours ago, anthony said:

I also perceive there is a general moral slump of the young today and attitudes to love and sex

A bit of understatement, I think, Anthony. Children are having sex from twelve and up and probably would earlier if they could. But it's a mistake to think it has anything to do with love. For the most part, sex has replaced love and today's children will never have chance to know what true romantic love is. Second-graders are punished for hugging or kissing, but are taught there is nothing wrong with sex, anytime, any way, with anyone, "as long as it's consensual."

Randy

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17 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Hot water seeks its own level

Wolf, would you explain the meaning  of that for the metaphorically deprived?

Randy

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These are a bit off topic. I searched “Nazi” in my files.

Peter

From: BBfromM Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000 20:17:40 -0400 Subject: Re: ATL: The Queen Speaks
To: atlantis

It is difficult for me to convey the amount of scorn and revulsion I feel for those who--like Ellen Moore, but there are others -- insist on deifying Ayn Rand. They clutch at her even as she lies in her grave, demanding that she satisfy their unmet needs, their desperate longing for a god to worship. And they do not take the trouble to understand her. She deserves so much better of them. She earned the right to be understood, to be seen as the woman she was, for good and for bad.

Ellen Moore writes such garbage as: "She was rational, objective, benevolent, humorous, stimulating, life affirming, joyous, brilliant, kind, generous to friends and fans, charismatic, serious, challenging, and light-hearted at the same time. . . " And " she lived a gloriously passionate and fulfilled life."

How dare you do her memory the disservice of distorting it, just as Peikoff reaches into her work to distort it? Yes, Ayn Rand could at rare times be many of the things you mention, but those times came to decrease over the years, to be replaced in many respects by their opposites, as the continuing tragedies, often self-made, of her personal life mounted--her rejection by the father she loved, by the first man she loved as a girl, the lack of fulfillment in so much of her life with her husband, the catastrophe of her relationship with Nathaniel, her failed reunion with her sister, then Frank O'Connor's increasing mental and physical ill-health, culminating in his death, her own increasing ill-health, her disappointment with the world around her. "A gloriously passionate and fulfilled life?" How dare her idolaters ignore the pain and torment of so much of her life, how dare they speak of love and admiration while refusing to know who she was!

I do her the honor of loving and admiring the woman she really was. I do her the honor of understanding her. I do her the honor of being heartbroken over the suffering she endured.

What do you think it was like for her, Ellen Moore and others who commit the same crime against Ayn Rand, to be constantly clutched at by "admirers" like you, with your incessant demands that she meet your irrational needs, that she achieve some sort of "perfection"? Is what she was not enough for you? Was it not enough that she was a seminal genius? Must she also have led an ecstatically happy life?

But I know that her "adorers" are determined to uphold the myth they have created about Ayn Rand, never the reality. They would turn from her in horror if they faced the fact that just as her virtues were larger than life, so were her flaws.

Who really is her friend: I, who love the person she was--or those who (sic - are) doggedly refuse to accept and to honor the reality of the person she was?
Barbara

 

BarbaraFrom: BBfromM@aol.com To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: ATL: The Objectivist Ethics

Date: Tue, 4 Apr 2000 17:22:42 EDT

 

I had said that I would respond to each of the posts disagreeing with my position on ethics. That clearly has become impossible. It has also become unnecessary, since so many of you who agree with my position have advanced arguments for it that I would have made. So I shall here present the essence of my position, and leave it at that. If any of you think I've failed to respond to questions or objections in your posts, that is not my intention; but these last weeks are all the time I have to give to the issue.

 

The defenders of Consequentialism (which I see as a species of Utilitarianism applied to individuals) do appear to grant that human rights supersede considerations of short or long-range benefits to individuals. But why is that?  It's because the concept of rights derives from the nature of man. And so does the Objectivist moral code.  Morality, according to Objectivism, derives from the fact that we survive to the extent that we exercise reason. The monsters of this earth are not evil because they misperceive their self-interest, but because they are anti-life, anti-reason, anti-man.

 

(It's relevant to add, in response to I forget whom, that the word "evil" is one I almost never use, except for axe-murderers and their equivalents.  I always intensely disliked the fact that the word was thrown at people so recklessly and unfairly in the early days of Objectivism, and sometimes in the not-so-early days.)

 

Morality is not a function of what I think is good for me or you think is good for you. The Consequentialist argument approaches the issue of morality in midair, not at its root; its root, as Ayn Rand made so clear, is the nature of human life and survival.  The Consequentialist argument contains the same internal contradiction as Utilitarianism: after one says that one should choose the greatest good for the greatest number,  how does one establish what IS  the greatest  good  for the greatest number? Similarly with Consequentialism: after one says that morality requires that one follow one's self-interest, the question becomes: What IS to one's self-interest? Ayn Rand pointed out that when we say "This is good for me" or "This is bad for me," we must be prepared to answer the question "BY WHAT STANDARD?" And the standard is the life of the kind of being we are. This formulation is Ayn Rand's enormous contribution not just  to the content of a moral system but to the entire approach to morality.  It bypasses and goes far deeper than either Consequentialism or deontologicalism. How do we decide what  is good or bad for us except with reference to our survival as man? I have said before that Nazis, Communists, bank robbers and chiFrom: will@willwilkinson.net

 

Reply-To: Will Wilkinson To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: RE: ATL: The Objectivist Ethics

Date: 04 Apr 2000 19:03:41 -0500

 

I was pleased to see Barbara write something with actual philosophical content. I like arguments because one can respond to arguments with arguments, while one can respond to rhetorically charged moral indignation only with exasperation, dismay or yet more indignation. I think I am beginning to see some grounds for rapprochement, Barbara's mischaracterization of consequentialism notwithstanding. I still think a lot of the problem is that we are still talking past each other. Nevertheless, there are many genuine errors that need tending to....

 

 > The defenders of Consequentialism (which I see as a species of Utilitarianism applied to individuals) do appear to grant that human rights supersede considerations of short or long-range benefits to individuals. But why is that?  It's because the concept of rights derives from the nature of man. And so does the Objectivist moral code.  Morality, according to Objectivism, derives from the fact that we survive to the extent that we exercise reason. The monsters of this earth are not evil because they misperceive their self-interest, but because they are anti-life, anti-reason, anti-man.

 

Barbara has the genus species relations mixed up. Utilitarianism is a species of consequentialism applied to collectives. Egoism is a species of consequentialism applied to individuals. An ethical theory is consequentialist if it says that the rightness of an action resides in its bringing about certain consequences. Utilitarianism and egoism offer different answers to the question, Consequences for whom?

 

The last sentence does not seem to make sense relative to the prior sentence. Isn't saying that we survive to the extent that we exercise reason just a way of saying that one misperceives one's interest if one fails to exercise reason? Put another way, why _not_ be anti-life, anti-reason, and anti-man? Well, because that wouldn't be in your interests. You've got to give some _reason_ to be pro-life, pro-reason and pro-man. And the only authoritative reason is that doing so will make you better off.

 

<snip>  > Morality is not a function of what I think is good for me or you think is good for you. The Consequentialist argument approaches the issue of morality in midair, not at its root; its root, as Ayn Rand made so clear, is the nature of human life and survival.  The consequentialist argument contains the same internal contradiction as Utilitarianism: after one says that one should choose the greatest good for the greatest number,  how does one establish what IS  the greatest  good  for the greatest number? Similarly with Consequentialism: after one says that morality requires that one follow one's self-interest, the question becomes: What IS to one's self-interest?

 

Nobody has said that one's good consists is what one thinks one's good consists in. But, of course, one must _act_ on one's best _judgment_ of what one's good is. And one can make mistakes of judgment. One cannot act on the _fact_ that something is good for one. One acts on the _judgment_ that something is good for one. Again, I understand that it makes many Objectivists uncomfortable that people can act rationally and end up doing things that have bad consequences for themselves and others. Rationality does not _guarantee_ true belief, nor does it guarantee that the actual consequences of one's actions line up with the expected consequences of one's actions.

 

And Barbara hasn't pointed out any contradiction at all (internal or otherwise) utilitarianism or egoism. Of course, if one says that morality requires that one maximize the good, one will need a way to identify the good.  But how is pointing this out a problem for _any_ consequentialist theory, individualist or collectivist?

 

 > Ayn Rand pointed out that when we say "This is good for me" or "This is bad for me," we must be prepared to answer the question "BY WHAT STANDARD?" And the standard is the life of the kind of being we are. This formulation is Ayn Rand's enormous contribution not just  to the content of a moral system but to the entire approach to morality.  It bypasses and goes far deeper than either Consequentialism or deontologicalism. How do we decide what is good or bad for us except with reference to our survival as man?

 

We all agree that we need a standard for determining the good. But I cannot understand how saying that human life is the standard somehow "bypasses and goes far deeper than either consequentialism or deontologicalism." All you have said is that the right way to get the consequences we want is by measuring our prospective actions against a certain standard.

Agreed!

 

So, the fact that the standard of value is human life has no special bearing on the question of whether the Objectivist ethics is consequentialist or not. The issue is whether the moral purpose of one's actions is to bring about certain consequences or not. And of course, the moral purpose of action is to bring about the consequence that the agent has a happy life.

 

 > I have said before that Nazis, Communists, bank robbers and child-molesters all believe they are serving their self-interest and, in the immediate sense, some of them are correct. What we have to ask is: "By what standard should they determine what is or is not to their self-interest?  And "By what standard should we estimate their actions?"  Our questions must be answered in terms of reason and man's survival. Consequentialism cannot answer these questions.

 

It is no objection to libertarianism, as such, that it does not ascribe to rights to individuals (for there are non-rights-based utilitarian libertarian theories). But specific libertarian theories do ascribe rights to individuals. Similarly, Consequentialism, as such, does not offer a standard for evaluating actions. But that is not an argument against consequentialism. Specific consequentialist theories, such as the Objectivist ethics, do provide a standard. So while it is true to say that consequentialism, per se, does not offer a standard of evaluation, it is false to say that consequentialist theories are unable to offer a standard of evaluation.

 

 > We are not in the position of having to say, as many on this list in effect have said, that the most life-destroying, man-destroying, irrational acts cannot be damned so long as the destroyers believe they acted in the name of their self-interest. Such an idea is a total rejection of the Objectivist ethics.

 

Really, who has "in effect" said this? _I_ have said, truly, that people can make errors of judgment that lead to destructive consequences without having failed in rationality. And I have left it open whether any particular act flows from honest error. There are certain things that I cannot imagine one could do without some sort of lapse of reason. But, in general, I am not arrogant enough to make judgments from my armchair about the actions of people whose contexts I know nothing about.  But this issue of how we should judge others seems to me not quite to the point of the question of whether the Objectivist ethics is consequentialist or not.

 

Aside: I get the sense that some people feel that it is somehow a slight to Objectivism or Rand to show that some part of Objectivism fits within a conventional scheme of classification. There seems to be a sense that the taxonomies of professional philosophy are somehow tainted, and that by placing parts of Objectivism within the taxonomy Objectivism is thereby tainted, disparaged or reduced to Just Another Theory. Objectivism is supposed to gloriously transcend all previous categories and revolutionize everything. Well that's just silly. Objectivism is novel in some ways and not novel in others. Nothing is hurt by using terms that Rand never used to talk about Objectivism. Indeed, much is to be gained in terms of integration.

 

-- Willl d-molesters all believe they are serving their self-interest and, in the immediate sense, some of them are correct. What we have to ask is: "By what standard should they determine what is or is not to their self-interest?  And "By what standard should we estimate their actions?"  Our questions must be answered in terms of reason and man's survival. Consequentialism cannot answer these questions.

 

We are not in the position of having to say, as many on this list in effect have said, that the most life-destroying, man-destroying, irrational acts cannot be damned so long as the destroyers believe they acted in the name of their self-interest. Such an idea is a total rejection of the Objectivist ethics.

Barbara

 

From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: <atlantis@wetheliving.com>

Subject: ATL: Re: "Prudent" Predators Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 16:28:29 -0500

 

I think the following should be taken into account when discussing ethical egoism and the problem of the prudent predator.

 

There are many situations in which general principles, precisely because they are so general, cannot command or forbid specific options in concrete situations. Anyone who demands that rules should decide what we do in every situation fails to understand the role of the moral agent in decision making.

 

We have been told that ethical egoism cannot forbid prudent predation in some situations. This assumes that such predation should be regarded by the rational egoist as furthering his self-interest. But why should it? Because petty theft might yield a net monetary profit? But where is it written that money should trump all other egoistic values?

 

Such examples may be useful to the opponents of ethical egoism, but they are typically loaded with presuppositions that these opponents rarely try to justify. They assume, for one thing, that the egoist must take a strictly instrumentalist view moral principles, regarding them as nothing more than a means to some undefined end called "self-interest." But, as J.S. Mill and others have argued, the role of moral principles is by no means this simple. Even if we  assume that moral principles are initially adopted for instrumental reasons, they soon become part of our psychological makeup and thereafter play a major role in how we see ourselves, i.e., our character, or sense of "who we are." As Mill pointed out, a moral principle that was initially seen as a means to an end is often transformed into part of the end itself, as it becomes an integral part of our character and therefore essential to our happiness.

 

Why would an egoist who has accepted the principle of individual rights even be on the lookout for petty exceptions that might enable him occasionally to violate rights as a prudent predator? And if such situations did present themselves, why would the rational egoist even give them serious consideration? To make a few easy bucks? If this has never been a dominant concern of the egoist before, why should it become one now?

 

The many examples of prudent predation that appear in anti-egoistic literature seem to assume that the egoist is frothing at the mouth to get as much as he can, however he can, from other people, but that he has imposed certain  restraints upon himself (e.g, rights) for prudential reasons. And thus, when the rationale for these restraints seems no longer to apply, the egoist should have no problem with adjusting his moral principles to meet the exigencies of a particular case.

 

Yet, as every serious libertarian knows, to accept the principle of individual rights has a profound effect on how one views oneself and one's relationship to other people. This principle becomes an indispensable part of one's moral character and thereby becomes inseparable from one's view of happiness and the good life. I therefore doubt whether most ethical egoists (of the sort we are discussing here) would even regard opportunities for prudent predation as serious options in the first place. To suppose otherwise is rather like asking why a person who loves cats would not exploit the opportunity to torture a cat when he thought he could get away with it, if this action might bring him pleasure.

 

The answer to the latter question, of course, is that a lover of cats would be repulsed by the very idea of torturing cats and so would never seriously consider this option in the first place. The same reasoning, I submit, applies to the rights-egoist and prudent predation. Such an egoist, with the notion of rights so deeply imbedded in his character, would find no pleasure in the thought of violating the rights of others. (I don't wish to deny the possibility of emergency cases, wherein an egoist might consider violating rights as a means to save his own life. But this is nothing like the cases of prudent predation that have been discussed so far.)

 

Anyone who demands that a moral theory provide specific commands and prohibitions for every conceivable situation fails to understand the role of general principles in everyday life. It is the moral agent, not his principles, that makes concrete decisions -- and this agent, in considering what will promote a good life, should be concerned with far more than looking for potential loopholes in those selfsame principles.

George H. Smith

 

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: ATL: Re: Egoism meaning

Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 01:39:16 -0500

Gayle Dean wrote:

> ...When I talk about egoism, I mean Rand's egoism, i.e., a "narrow, maximized, consequentialist, non-moralized interest, rational egoism."

 

OK, pause there. IF I understand the qualifying adjectives -- which is a big "if," except in the case of "rational" -- the only one of these adjectives which I'd say certainly applies to Rand's egoism is "rational."  "Consequentialist," maybe. (I'm beginning to think after some further study of what "consequentialist" means, that it might be accurate as a description of Rand's ethics, but I reserve final judgment.

I'm still not 100% convinced that "consequentialist" and "deontologic" cover the whole field.)  But "narrow, maximized, non-moralized interest" -- if I've understood correctly from Rob Bass's posts what these mean:  no, I don't agree that they describe Rand's egoism; indeed, I'd say that they contradict the adjective "rational."

 

Gayle continues: In the debate between Bill and Rob, Bill argued for a narrow, consequentialist egoism, IMO.  And Rob "always" argued against narrow egoism -- because as you know -- that's the only kind of egoism he believes exists.

 

Rob, if you're reading this, please affirm or disconfirm the above description of your views.  I'd be pleased to know for sure if that *is* what you think.

 

 > So, I [Gayle] don't think there was any confusion in that debate.

 

Interesting to hear that *someone* thinks there wasn't any confusion in it.  I found it so impossibly confused, I couldn't make heads or tails of what either Bill or Rob was trying to say.

> Rob argues that broad egoism (the kind that derives from the "every man is an end in himself" principle -- and what he calls a moralized interest theory egoism) is not really egoism at all and that broad egoism was not Rand's egoism.

 >

 > I [Gayle] agree with him on both those points.

 

Well, I [Ellen] remain astonished that anyone could interpret Rand as not having *meant* that "every man is an end in himself." It's impossible to interpret her as not having said it, since she did say it, emphatically.  So what's being argued is that even though she said it, she didn't mean it. On what basis is this argued?

 

And what principle is being argued for instead?  That every other human is a means to my purposes?  (But then by reverse reasoning, I would be a means to every other human's purposes, and we're back with sacrificial relationships between humans.)

 

 > But basically Rob holds an opposing view to mine.  The only thing Rob and I might agree on is that there is a  contradiction between egoism and Rand's right's formulation.

 > And even then, we disagree -- because Rob believes that *IF egoism and rights are incompatible* (as he argues) THEN we should give up egoism. I, on the other hand (if I'm forced to choose between them) -- would choose to give up rights.

 

And I would say that there's no contradiction between rational egoism and rights, indeed that rational egoism and rights both derive, in an indivisible flow, from the same source, which is the role of the mind in human life, that it makes no sense to speak of rational egoism *without* rights.

 

At least it seems we're progressing in trying to figure out where each of us stands.

 

EllenFrom: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: ATL: A Last Word for the Moment on Rights

Date: Sat, 10 Jun 2000 03:27:51 -0500

Trying to analyze my emotional reactions to the prudent predator scenes we've been discussing, I've realized that part of what bothers me here is that sneaking into movie theaters, etc., seems so ignoble.  If there's one thing the early Objectivist movement did have, despite its numerous and acknowledged flaws, it had an emphasis on trying to lead a heroic life, a life of high character. Thus it seems to me so antithetic to the *spirit* of everything Ayn Rand stood for to think of her work being interpreted as sanctioning a lifestyle of "prudent" predating.  I find this esthetically offensive.

 

I probably won't make any friends on this list by saying that, but it's something I had to get off my chest.

And now I'm going to have to drop out of the rights discussion again for the next month or thereabouts: other demands on my time are looming.

Ellen

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5 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I don't agree with Rand that this underlying reproductive chemistry and love are the result of volitional choice of values. Maybe there is some of that in the mix, but I doubt it is universal.

You are right, Michael, it is certainly not universal and in fact is very uncommon. In most areas of most people's lives their behavior is not determined objectively, not based on values, and not rationally chosen, which is why most people's lives, including their sex lives, are such disasters.

Sometimes, Michael, you have real insights into things. "Rand knew that exercising the volitional mind required a lot of effort (another fact borne out in spades by neuroscience--this activity consumes quantities of calories like nothing else the human body does) ...." This is what Rand referred to:

"I believe that our mind controls everything—yes, even our sex emotions. Perhaps the sex emotions more than anything else. Although that's the opposite of what most people believe. Everything we do and are proceeds from our mind. Our mind can be made to control everything. The trouble is only that most of us don't want our minds to control us—because it is not an easy job." [The Letter of Ayn Rand, "Return To Hollywood (1944)". To Gerald Loab, August 5, 1944.]

Thinking is hard, especially when what one is thinking about is associated with strong emotions and desires, and especially when one's feelings or desires seem in conflict with what knows is right. It is easier to just do what requires no hard thinking or ruthless decisions, no discomfort, and requires no special effort. It's much easier to "surrender" to one's feelings, to blame firing neurons or chemicals in the brain then to make hard choices. But of course, blaming one's physiology for their behavior is also a choice and is never really the easy way out, long term.

As far as Rand's motives or psychology is concerned, I certainly have no knowledge about that. I only know what she cared to say about such things herself, which is all I can address. But I do not agree that, "letting go," is a reward for maintaining one's rational objectivity. The reward is the accomplishment of that self-control that makes one know they are in complete control of every aspect of their life, and that it is right. That is the ultimate reward that only the ruthlessly rational can know as a kind of supreme transcendent ecstasy that makes every pleasure, physical and psychological, supreme.

On a not-so-serious note, you wrote: "Rand's love scenes are full of this state, too, except there is generally some biting, scratching and blood to go along with it." Have you ever seen cats mate?

Randy

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2 hours ago, dldelancey said:

An act of projection.  If she felt it, then everyone else must feel it, too.

. . .

In regards to her fictional works, a valid position.  In regards to non-fictional works, it's still projection.  No one can make universal their own personal desires.

Deanna,

Something has been nagging me about this approach. Finally it broke through.

Let me ask you this. Do you think Ayn Rand was a superficial thinker?

I'm not asking this to "defend her honor" or any of that kind of stuff. I'm asking because saying she projected her sexual fantasies onto all of mankind makes her sound like a teenager.

:)

So let me think about this idea and go a little deeper. When I look at what I do when I write fiction (I have some things cooking :) ), I project my own desires and emotions outward as if they were universal. When you get right down to it, ALL good-to-great fiction writers project their desires and emotions outward as if they were universal. Why? Because that's all they've got. That's all I've got. Writers worthy of the name do not use focus groups, statistics about human nature and so forth. Irrespective of any studying they do or templates they may use, ultimately they look inward, then do what they can to tell a story for the world with what they see.

As the saying goes (one often attributed to Hemingway without much proof): There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

In writing books, you often get the following advice: Write what you know. This is poor advice if they are talking about the exterior world. But it is great advice when dealing with strong emotions. As another saying goes (often attributed to Maya Angelou without much proof)--and I paraphrase: People may not remember what you said, but they always remember the way you made them feel. I find this is true with personal memories and lived experiences, not just what others say. So it's easy for me to write about what I know if that is what I mean. 

Rand used introspection a lot for her thinking--including her notion of using an algebra-like shell for concept formation. She started with introspection, then she worked on the ideas.

I imagine she did the same kind of thing with strong emotions. In fact, I have no doubt that's the way she did it, although I have no proof. (She even talked about getting the "squirms" when her writing did not go well.)

So I don't believe it was a simple act of projecting--like when a person bangs his thumb with a hammer and screams, "You goddam stupid hammer!" :) I think her introspections were a first look for a larger probe simply because she knew herself better than she knew anything else. Her own experience was a great place to start.

As to Rand's nonfiction, I don't believe she projected her views about sex on mankind at all. Not if projecting is in the teenager sense. I do believe her hunger for making a "fully integrated" philosophical system led her to force certain concepts into straight-jackets that did not allow them to be what they really are--or at least hold the meanings that are used by the rest of mankind. They would not fit otherwise. I find this a much more compelling motive when I start channeling Rand. :) In my understanding,  her theory of sex and love belong to this category.

Your comment was an interesting one, though. It made me think, so thank you...

Michael

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2 hours ago, regi said:

A bit of understatement, I think, Anthony. Children are having sex from twelve and up and probably would earlier if they could. But it's a mistake to think it has anything to do with love. For the most part, sex has replaced love and today's children will never have chance to know what true romantic love is. Second-graders are punished for hugging or kissing, but are taught there is nothing wrong with sex, anytime, any way, with anyone, "as long as it's consensual."

Randy

I don't know what 2nd-graders you're hanging out with, but as the mother of a 13-year-old, I hang out with tweens and teens all the time.  None of what you've said here holds true.  It's probably true in some instances, but it's a grim blanket to lay over the whole of "today's children."

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MSK,

I was using the term projection in a psychological sense minus the denial in the person doing the projecting.

From Rand's writing, I can conclude that she liked to be dominated in the bedroom.  Also from her writing, I can conclude that she assumed this was the default state for women, in general.  "Like most women, and to a greater degree than most, she [Dominique] is a masochist and she wishes for the happiness of suffering at Roark's hands."  This is a non-fiction statement made by Rand.  "Like most women..."  That's projection.  That's attributing a personal desire onto another.

Otherwise, you basically agreed with me, but you used more words.  It's all good.  You have great words.

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13 hours ago, Peter said:

I remember Barbara Branden saying she "liked' a Nazi in the bedroom.

?

Howard Roark was a Nazi in the bedroom?

--Brant

John Galt? WTF?

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6 hours ago, dldelancey said:

An act of projection.  If she felt it, then everyone else must feel it, too.

Exactly. And also, if she didn't feel it, then no one else must feel it, either.

 

6 hours ago, dldelancey said:

In regards to her fictional works, a valid position.  In regards to non-fictional works, it's still projection.  No one can make universal their own personal desires.

Her projections of her tastes definitely tainted her philosophy of aesthetics. Other people who experienced through art anything that she didn't were judged to be morally or psychologically deficient, or to be pretending in order to impress artworld elites. It was not possible, in her mind, that moral and psychologically healthy people could experience what she did not via the art forms which she hated. Her personal aesthetic limits were the universal limits of the human race.

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4 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

ALL good-to-great fiction writers project their desires and emotions outward as if they were universal. Why? Because that's all they've got. That's all I've got. Writers worthy of the name do not use focus groups, statistics about human nature and so forth. Irrespective of any studying they do or templates they may use, ultimately they look inward, then do what they can to tell a story for the world with what they see.

Oops. Maybe I'm neither good nor great. My characters blunder steadfastly, make mistakes. Minor characters take a dim view of heroism, think it too risky. None of it has much to do with me, the novelist. The whole point of writing fiction is to depict someone head and shoulders better than I am, lifestyles of the rich and famous, at a minimum. Others do dark and stormy nights, historical tales, horror, and science fantasy (like Galt's generator). If there's a universal in The Fountainhead, I never saw it. No man like Roark in the universe as I understand it.

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7 hours ago, regi said:

Wolf, would you explain the meaning  of that for the metaphorically deprived? ("Hot water seeks its own level")

Randy

Sure. Consent matters and competence matters. In Rand's canon, Jim Taggart and innocent Cheryl were an obscenity, doomed to fail quickly and badly. Dagny surrendered irresistibly to Francisco as a teenager because he was wonderful. Hank was her spiritual equal, Galt the ideal man she hoped that she would someday meet and test. A far simpler story in The Fountainhead, of course. Dominique was indifferent to men until Roark humiliated her (sent someone else to set the marble) and conquered her, made her fear what it would cost if he was defeated by history epitomized in the person of sexually odd Toohey, a "lifelong bachelor."

Sure enough, Toohey's ilk ultimately won (in the real world). The MeToo assault on alpha males is underway big time, no sex for Dominique now.

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1 hour ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

My characters blunder steadfastly, make mistakes.

Wolf,

And you've never blundered steadfastly and made mistakes?

God knows I have...

:)

Anyway, I was talking about emotions, not worldview, although I believe my observation works for worldview, too. I hold we experience life in waves, not in a straight line. So there are times we feel insecure and times we feel heroic, times we feel pain and times we feel ecstasy, times we feel sad and times we feel excited, times we feel fear and times we feel courageous, and so on. Generally we feel most of these emotions to differing degrees in the same day.

In my view of writing, I look inside myself when I need such emotions and start there when portraying characters. I hold Rand did, too. I suspect you do, too, at least sometimes. :) 

1 hour ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

If there's a universal in The Fountainhead, I never saw it. No man like Roark in the universe as I understand it.

Roark projects a compartmentalization and serenity I have felt, and even anger (like when he threw the baby sculpture of Steve Mallory against the wall). He's projected a bossiness I have felt in telling others to shut up. :) There is a range of emotions I share with Roark, even an emotional detachment I share with him when he projects it.

But I agree with you about Roark being different--if you are looking at human beings who do or did exist, even imaginary ones. In Rand's view, she wanted to project the perfect man, an ideal man (as man "could and should be"). She even wrote an essay about this in The Romantic Manifesto, which I am sure you have read.

But if I say what she did in my own words and without her jargon, it sounds something like this: Rand's fundamental idea of characterization in fiction for a hero is to build a morally perfect model of a human being so the readers can mold themselves to it. (She often refers to this as setting a standard.) It is not to shed light on the human condition and share imaginary experiences with readers--not on a fundamental level. Rand actually does this in her fiction, but it is secondary for her when compared against portraying a morally perfect human being (and a distant second at that).

So the universal with Roark is that he qua model can serve any and all for future moral living, but only that. This is probably why he comes off as so cold to many people.

Michael

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1 hour ago, dldelancey said:

I don't know what 2nd-graders you're hanging out with, but as the mother of a 13-year-old, I hang out with tweens and teens all the time.  None of what you've said here holds true.  It's probably true in some instances, but it's a grim blanket to lay over the whole of "today's children."

The 2nd-grade reference was to the contradiction and hypocrisy of schools that begin sex education in pre-school, but suspend or punish children for any show of physical affection, like kissing or hugging.

Where do you live?

I know it's grim. I don't like it. Generalities are never true of everyone. But I didn't make it up.

A little research on the percentage of girls in early teens sending nude selfies and a little CDC research on STD statistics for teens etc. will no doubt paint the same picture. I believe your teens are just what you say. You must be an excellent (and exceptional) mother. If they go to public school, and they feel comfortable with you, ask them about what others girls are doing.

[Try these if you like: "Statistics," and "Sexual Risk Behaviors: HIV, STD, & Teen Pregnancy Prevention," and "Middle school youth are engaging in sexual intercourse as early as age 12."]

One father (of two boys) told me what they were facing in a high income "prestigious" neighborhood school: "Seventy five percent of the girls send nude selfies on Snapchat. Maybe twenty five percent are virgins. All of them are willing to sexually please a boy they meet at a party, or hook up with on social media, orally or with their hands because they do not believe it is sex. The girls are worse than the boys, vying to outdo each other sexually."

Another father wrote, "I could not believe the sexual aggressiveness of high school girls towards my sons and the sons of my friends. We had our work cut out for us, because one wrong move and a promising young man's college career would be sidelined by child support payments and a nagging babymama if things went wrong. I personally called the fathers of a couple of the aggressive girls who had been offering themselves, and was met with total passivity and unconcern."

I do not judge what young people are doing. It is what they are being taught and are exposed to all the time, everywhere, in school, entertainment, and what passes for literature. Only the strongest and most independent young people can escape the influence of "all sex all the time" that pervades American culture.

If you can do this, ask your daughter and teen friends if they know what the lyrics to Ariana Grande's "Side to Side" mean. They're not at all subtle. I won't even mention rap. If your girls aren't listening to it, good, but most girls their age are. (I'll send you a description of the lyrics if you want.)

I'm glad your experience with your daughter and her friends is not what I know is happening all over this country. For example:

This story is from "conservative" New Hampshire. "Unwelcome exposure: Website's 'wins' are nude selfies of NH girls." Where did all those pictures of nude teens come from? They took them to send to their boyfriends.

There are always decent young people and I'm delighted yours are, but to believe most are today is sadly unrealistic.

Randy

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9 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

 If there's a universal in The Fountainhead, I never saw it. No man like Roark in the universe as I understand it.

 

That lends to what I was saying about the error of over-derivation. "Roark" is a concept, not to mold oneself to, nor 'perfect', but to abstract his qualities for one's own good. His independent mind displaying the 'universal' of a volitional consciousness. Isolate the Roark-virtues, there are men like him, and women.

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