Mike11

Structural flaw in The Fountainhead

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Daniel,

(ahem)

You leave out context. Rand was not writing about retarded children as an essay on retarded children. She was writing about how the world of second-handers and collectivists prefer retarded children over productive achievement and a "command to rise" (to use her term) to full human potential. This made her really ticked off. It also rankles me. Genius producers need to be acknowledged and thanked by the rest of us—those who benefit—not ignored or spit on. Do you disagree?

In that context, highlighting the preference exhibited of the mentally impaired over genius, it makes a lot of literary sense to emphasize the negative aspects of retarded children and their caretakers. If Rand were writing an essay on what to do with retarded children per se, I am absolutely certain she would not portray them as she did in The Fountainhead, but in a poignant manner instead. But then, if you consider such context, there would be very little to bash, wouldn't there? The context would be what to do in a clinic normally used for medical and pedagogical reasons, not one adapted from a temple to the human spirit that is supposed to represent the best man can achieve on earth—with the adaptation heralded as a improvement.

I don't mind some criticisms of Rand, but when they are right. You are very good at identifying some of that. In this case, though, you are sorely off the mark.

Michael

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Mike11,

Rand has been reported as being in great need to control her own mind. In The Passion of Ayn Rand, there is a story where she imagined that the IV equipment in a hospital stay was a tree and she fell out harshly with the Blumenthals because they insisted she was imagining things due to the medication and trauma. She also fought against her husband Frank's encroaching dementia by trying to get him to use epistemology in long exercises that irritated him. She appears to have been very uncomfortable with the idea of a universe without a rational mind in it, especially a lack of a rational mind where one should have been.

But even with her husband's incapacitating dementia, there is no record of her belittling him because of it or holding him in contempt. On the contrary, her story is an inspiring one of total devotion to the bitter end. I speak of love—a very pure unconditional love.

(That's not an Objectivist way to put it, but I think people know what I am talking about.)

Michael

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Mike11,

Rand has been reported as being in great need to control her own mind. In The Passion of Ayn Rand, there is a story where she imagined that the IV equipment in a hospital stay was a tree and she fell out harshly with the Blumenthals because they insisted she was imagining things due to the medication and trauma. She also fought against her husband Frank's encroaching dementia by trying to get him to use epistemology in long exercises that irritated him. She appears to have been very uncomfortable with the idea of a universe without a rational mind in it, especially a lack of a rational mind where one should have been.

But even with her husband's incapacitating dementia, there is no record of her belittling him because of it or holding him in contempt. On the contrary, her story is an inspiring one of total devotion to the bitter end. I speak of love—a very pure unconditional love.

(That's not an Objectivist way to put it, but I think people know what I am talking about.)

Michael

Eh....... He was a value she wanted to maintain, mentally disadvantaged kids on the other hand....

Then again, I'm basically here for anti-ARI lulz and you're the Rand scholar so I'm going to assume you're right and that she wouldn't be inhumane, however much that seems to counter her imagery in her books. I didn't know her so I guess that's somewhere I can't visit.

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Eh....... He was a value she wanted to maintain, mentally disadvantaged kids on the other hand....

Mike11,

That's a premise you should check. (Yegads! I'm starting to speak like a Randroid... :) )

If Rand's sole value was the mind over everything else and she was so inhuman about it, why wouldn't she discard her husband after he lost his mind? What was the value involved? Nostalgia? That was not her way. Duty? You already know. Love?

Well there you have it. Love to her was bigger than rational thought. She even loved cats.

I don't recall any stories where Rand showed aversion to retarded strangers. She seemed to have treated them just like she would any stranger.

Me a Rand scholar? Dayaamm! That's the first time I have ever been accused of that. :)

I suppose I am a scholar of sorts. I did (and do) study her works and other Objectivist literature a lot. I am still learning, though. And I am questioning much. And I come to my own conclusions.

Michael

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You leave out context. Rand was not writing about retarded children as an essay on retarded children. She was writing about how the world of second-handers and collectivists prefer retarded children over productive achievement and a "command to rise" (to use her term) to full human potential....In that context, highlighting the preference exhibited of the mentally impaired over genius, it makes a lot of literary sense to emphasize the negative aspects of retarded children and their caretakers.

So your position is that it's ok for Rand to be openly contemptuous of retarded children, their caregivers, and their achievements in this particular context. Got it.

If Rand were writing an essay on what to do with retarded children per se, I am absolutely certain she would not portray them as she did in The Fountainhead, but in a poignant manner instead. But then, if you consider such context, there would be very little to bash, wouldn't there? The context would be what to do in a clinic normally used for medical and pedagogical reasons, not one adapted from a temple to the human spirit that is supposed to represent the best man can achieve on earth—with the adaptation heralded as a improvement.

It is just as well that to balance out the obvious contempt for the helpless evident in this actual passage of Rand's, you've got an entirely imaginary essay in which she writes "poignantly" about them.

I don't mind some criticisms of Rand, but when they are right.

No, I know you don't, and that's good. We disagree over whether this one is right, however.

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So your position is that it's ok for Rand to be openly contemptuous of retarded children, their caregivers, and their achievements in this particular context. Got it.

Daniel,

You do, of course, understand that this particular context is a comparison against the best when the best is rejected, thus her contempt does not apply to an evaluation for normal circumstances.

I always thought this was obvious. I guess not...

Michael

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Objectivists will often hear a question such as: "What will be done about the poor or the handicapped in a free society?"

The altruist-collectivist premise, implicit in that question, is that men are "their brothers' keepers" and that the misfortune of some is a mortgage on others. The questioner is ignoring or evading the basic premises of Objectivist ethics and is attempting to switch the discussion onto his own collectivist base. Observe that he does not ask: "Should anything be done?" but: "What will be done?"—as if the collectivist premise had been tacitly accepted and all that remains is a discussion of the means to implement it.

Once, when Barbara Branden was asked by a student: "What will happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?"—she answered: "If you want to help them, you will not be stopped."

=======

I think that says a lot about Rand's attitude. She did not see any special obligation which all have to take care of the handicapped.

Bill

I don't know about you but I feel very uncomfortable walking down the street and stepping around homeless people on the sidewalk and I feel something needs to be done about it. I don't know how someone could be called 'human' and not feel the same.

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I think the message is so clear that it can only escape to Objectivists: retarded children are Untermenschen which only deserve our contempt and revulsion (and are therefore the ultimate insult and degradation of the Stoddard Temple), the same contempt we feel in Rand's description of the jury in the Hickman case: "Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives. How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?" (where that "boy" was a vicious murderer that inspired Rand). Or the contempt for a guard who cannot decide and therefore can be shot without compunction. So much hate, so often denied.

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I think the message is so clear that it can only escape to Objectivists: retarded children are Untermenschen which only deserve our contempt and revulsion (and are therefore the ultimate insult and degradation of the Stoddard Temple), the same contempt we feel in Rand's description of the jury in the Hickman case: "Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives. How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?" (where that "boy" was a vicious murderer that inspired Rand). Or the contempt for a guard who cannot decide and therefore can be shot without compunction. So much hate, so often denied.

Let's say this is correct for the sake of argument: does this mean we're objectively supposed to feel eqivalent contempt for Ayn Rand? Continuously ripping Ayn Rand out of the various contexts she occupied in her life to take potshots at her seems more than a little over the top, even gratuitous. She spent one year furiously working full time to complete the bulk of her manuscript for The Fountainhead. She didn't have time to continuously chew her cud over what she was writing.

-Brant

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It would have been much better if Ayn Rand would have added another hero to the story, a scientist of some sort, who could have cured those retarded children and give them sanity.

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Let's say this is correct for the sake of argument: does this mean we're objectively supposed to feel eqivalent contempt for Ayn Rand?

Who says that we should feel equivalent contempt for Ayn Rand? Some people can be critical without immediately feeling contempt.

Continuously ripping Ayn Rand out of the various contexts she occupied in her life to take potshots at her seems more than a little over the top, even gratuitous. She spent one year furiously working full time to complete the bulk of her manuscript for The Fountainhead. She didn't have time to continuously chew her cud over what she was writing.

Oh, come on, should we only praise her and shout "hallelujah praise the Lady"? Are only hagiographies allowed without any critical remarks? We've heard so many exaggerated claims about her that some critical notes are in order, even if they give the adulatory randroids a fit. And what about her gratuitous potshots at Kant, supposedly the most evil man in the world? Did she ever read his books? Judge and be prepared to be judged. In a glass house...

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Let's say this is correct for the sake of argument: does this mean we're objectively supposed to feel eqivalent contempt for Ayn Rand?

If someone - especially someone you admire - does something contemptible, you have to be honest about it.

Continuously ripping Ayn Rand out of the various contexts she occupied in her life to take potshots at her seems more than a little over the top, even gratuitous.

No-one has "ripped" this passage out of context. The function of the symbolism is quite clear, and controlled by the author. I will recap: Rand has her hero, Howard Roark, build a Temple of The Human Spirit. This is a symbol of everything she wants us, the readers, to admire. To personify this, she even uses a statue of her heroine, Dominique Francon. OK? She then has her villain, Ellsworth Toohey, deliberately desecrate this Temple. What does Rand decide is a the worst degradation that the worst villian might visit upon of such a Temple? Answer: to become a home for intellectually handicapped children, run by altruists who are unpleasant enough to care for them and try to treat them like human beings. To personify this she uses an "it" called Jackie. This is Rand's "radical" reply to the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of caring for the weak. There's no context-ripping going on here, it's fully integrated. If you find it distasteful check your premises.

She spent one year furiously working full time to complete the bulk of her manuscript for The Fountainhead. She didn't have time to continuously chew her cud over what she was writing.

The fate of the Stoddard Temple is one of the central set-pieces of the book, Brant. It's not a peripheral scene. Are you saying she didn't really know what she was writing?

Edited by Daniel Barnes

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Let's say this is correct for the sake of argument: does this mean we're objectively supposed to feel eqivalent contempt for Ayn Rand?

If someone - especially someone you admire - does something contemptible, you have to be honest about it.

Continuously ripping Ayn Rand out of the various contexts she occupied in her life to take potshots at her seems more than a little over the top, even gratuitous.

No-one has "ripped" this passage out of context. The function of the symbolism is quite clear, and controlled by the author. I will recap: Rand has her hero, Howard Roark, build a Temple of The Human Spirit. This is a symbol of everything she wants us, the readers, to admire. To personify this, she even uses a statue of her heroine, Dominique Francon. OK? She then has her villain, Ellsworth Toohey, deliberately desecrate this Temple. What does Rand decide is a the worst degradation that the worst villian might visit upon of such a Temple? Answer: to become a home for intellectually handicapped children, run by altruists who are unpleasant enough to care for them and try to treat them like human beings. To personify this she uses an "it" called Jackie. This is Rand's "radical" reply to the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of caring for the weak. There's no context-ripping going on here, it's fully integrated. If you find it distasteful check your premises.

She spent one year furiously working full time to complete the bulk of her manuscript for The Fountainhead. She didn't have time to continuously chew her cud over what she was writing.

The fate of the Stoddard Temple is one of the central set-pieces of the book, Brant. It's not a peripheral scene. Are you saying she didn't really know what she was writing?

Of course she knew what she was writing. I do question that she always knew what she was writing about. I don't think she really knew anything about retarded children, some of whom can be incredibly innocent and loving.

--Brant

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Let's say this is correct for the sake of argument: does this mean we're objectively supposed to feel eqivalent contempt for Ayn Rand?

If someone - especially someone you admire - does something contemptible, you have to be honest about it.

Continuously ripping Ayn Rand out of the various contexts she occupied in her life to take potshots at her seems more than a little over the top, even gratuitous.

No-one has "ripped" this passage out of context. The function of the symbolism is quite clear, and controlled by the author. I will recap: Rand has her hero, Howard Roark, build a Temple of The Human Spirit. This is a symbol of everything she wants us, the readers, to admire. To personify this, she even uses a statue of her heroine, Dominique Francon. OK? She then has her villain, Ellsworth Toohey, deliberately desecrate this Temple. What does Rand decide is a the worst degradation that the worst villian might visit upon of such a Temple? Answer: to become a home for intellectually handicapped children, run by altruists who are unpleasant enough to care for them and try to treat them like human beings. To personify this she uses an "it" called Jackie. This is Rand's "radical" reply to the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of caring for the weak. There's no context-ripping going on here, it's fully integrated. If you find it distasteful check your premises.

She spent one year furiously working full time to complete the bulk of her manuscript for The Fountainhead. She didn't have time to continuously chew her cud over what she was writing.

The fate of the Stoddard Temple is one of the central set-pieces of the book, Brant. It's not a peripheral scene. Are you saying she didn't really know what she was writing?

Rand knew what she was writing.

The point of the passage: Roark gave them a tribute to the human spirit, to, in the words spoken by Hopton Stoddard, after being prepped by Toohey:

"The great aspiration of the human spirit toward the highest, the noblest, the best. The human spirit as the creator and the conqueror of the ideal. The great life-giving force of the universe. The heroic human spirit."

That was rejected. For what? What is the symbol of the ideal of those who reject what Roark provides? "The Hopton Stoddard Home for Subnormal Children."

It is not CONTEMPT for the children at all. But horror at the notion that this home would be what is accepted (presumably - see Toohey - as the highest thing), after what Roark offered and built was rejected.

Bill

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It is not CONTEMPT for the children at all. But horror at the notion that this home would be what is accepted (presumably - see Toohey - as the highest thing), after what Roark offered and built was rejected.

Right. So using intellectually handicapped children - and, don't forget, their altruistic caregivers - as the lowest thing you can think of, to deliberately contrast with the highest thing, isn't, in fact, showing contempt for them.

And here was I, thinking that words like "contempt" had meanings.... ;)

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It is not CONTEMPT for the children at all. But horror at the notion that this home would be what is accepted (presumably - see Toohey - as the highest thing), after what Roark offered and built was rejected.

Right. So using intellectually handicapped children - and, don't forget, their altruistic caregivers - as the lowest thing you can think of, to deliberately contrast with the highest thing, isn't, in fact, showing contempt for them.

And here was I, thinking that words like "contempt" had meanings.... ;)

Words do have meaning. That's why I don't use them to speak of the attitude toward the children.

Bill

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It is not CONTEMPT for the children at all. But horror at the notion that this home would be what is accepted (presumably - see Toohey - as the highest thing), after what Roark offered and built was rejected.

Right. So using intellectually handicapped children - and, don't forget, their altruistic caregivers - as the lowest thing you can think of, to deliberately contrast with the highest thing, isn't, in fact, showing contempt for them.

And here was I, thinking that words like "contempt" had meanings.... ;)

This discussion leads me to recall something from a brochure for the Branden lectures on Basic Principles of Objectivism:

"Philosophy has been reduced to a linguistic game divorced from any application to practical reality."

I'm hoping we can do better here on OL. Words do have meaning - and implications for behavior.

Bill

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This discussion leads me to recall something from a brochure for the Branden lectures on Basic Principles of Objectivism:

"Philosophy has been reduced to a linguistic game divorced from any application to practical reality."

Yes, and Objectivism is one of the leading word-game philosophies, as I have illustrated regularly.

I'm hoping we can do better here on OL. Words do have meaning - and implications for behavior.

Exactly my point. Somehow you seem to consider that calling someone the lowest of the low is not showing contempt for them. This is just playing with words, sir.

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This discussion leads me to recall something from a brochure for the Branden lectures on Basic Principles of Objectivism:

"Philosophy has been reduced to a linguistic game divorced from any application to practical reality."

Yes, and Objectivism is one of the leading word-game philosophies, as I have illustrated regularly.

I'm hoping we can do better here on OL. Words do have meaning - and implications for behavior.

Exactly my point. Somehow you seem to consider that calling someone the lowest of the low is not showing contempt for them. This is just playing with words, sir.

I have missed where someone was called "the lowest of the low." I may be forgetful, but I've just scanned through this whole thread and failed to find it. Can you point it out, please?

Bill

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Bill,

You have it exactly right. The contempt is for the choice, not the retarded children.

So using intellectually handicapped children - and, don't forget, their altruistic caregivers - as the lowest thing you can think of, to deliberately contrast with the highest thing, isn't, in fact, showing contempt for them.

Daniel,

This is putting words in Rand's mouth and missing her point altogether. The children are not "the lowest thing you can think of to Rand in the passage (or to me as a reader), but the lowest creative human intellect.

The intellect of retarded children was chosen by Toohey (and swallowed by his followers) over the intellect of a creator/producer like Roark as the good. The intellect to Rand is where the spirit comes from.

Michael

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This discussion leads me to recall something from a brochure for the Branden lectures on Basic Principles of Objectivism:

"Philosophy has been reduced to a linguistic game divorced from any application to practical reality."

Yes, and Objectivism is one of the leading word-game philosophies, as I have illustrated regularly.

I'm hoping we can do better here on OL. Words do have meaning - and implications for behavior.

Exactly my point. Somehow you seem to consider that calling someone the lowest of the low is not showing contempt for them. This is just playing with words, sir.

I have missed where someone was called "the lowest of the low." I may be forgetful, but I've just scanned through this whole thread and failed to find it. Can you point it out, please?

Bill

I don't think you found "the lowest of the low" in The Fountainhead. I did a global search of the text of The Fountainhead. The word "lowest" occurs three times - none of them directly related to the Stoddart affair.

Bill

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I don't think you found "the lowest of the low" in The Fountainhead. I did a global search of the text of The Fountainhead. The word "lowest" occurs three times - none of them directly related to the Stoddart affair.

I didn't quote it, in case you didn't notice.

The Stoddard Temple is a symbol of the highest tribute Rand can pay to the human spirit. She then defiles it by putting inside it what she considers to be the lowest form of the human spirit, mocking both their creative efforts and the altruistic efforts of their caregivers.

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