Luther, please do pester your friends at Audible; it’s a great idea.
Robert, Rand said often – I don’t recall offhand if she wrote about it – that it would be a mistake to place one’s concept of the “perfect” outside of what which a human being can attain. That is, if some goal is by his nature or the nature of reality beyond man’s reach, there is no standard by which one can say he ought to reach that goal. In essence then, she would argue – convincingly – that one cannot reasonably say that moral perfection is impossible to man. If it’s impossible, it’s not perfection.
I agree with your essential point. I, too, have never seen moral perfection in anyone – nor have I discovered it by introspection – assuming that we are considering perfection to be the totally consistent practice of what Objectivism defines as virtues. I don’t know if the problem is with people, or with Objectivism. You said something very profound when you said:
“Unavoidable contextual factors -- physical hunger and fatigue, overwhelming emotional traumas, value conflicts whose sources are murky and whose solutions are anything but self-evident, the virtual impossibility of determining at any given moment THE best use of one's mind and time (from among countless plausible options), limitations of knowledge, limitations in understanding the implications of one's knowledge, difficulties in maintaining "a sense of proportion" about the relative significance of various facts and judgments that are competing for one's attention, innate limitations of intelligence and consequent limitations of one's ability to reason clearly and consistently, limitations on the time one has to think about certain issues -- these and many, many other factors make "perfect" objectivity well-nigh impossible to define, let alone practice.”
Your entire statement in this post -- #20 -- is of the greatest importance and value.
That is why I am slow to throw moral stones at people, including Ayn Rand. I don’t know to what extent the endless perceived traumas of her life had clouded her judgment about personal matters, and led her, in middle age, to do things she probably would not have done in earlier years. But when I say I don’t know, I truly mean that. I do not know, one way or the other. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m inclined to think she should and could and probably did know better; the other days, I suspect not.
Rodney, you wrote: “I think, then, that outside a philosophic discussion on the nature of the good, the word “immoral” should be reserved for clear, highly destructive cases of extensive evasion of thought.” I emphatically agree.
Brant! I’m so glad to see you here – instead of slumming as you’ve done of late. Solo is a much better place for you, and I hope you’re here to stay.
Adam, with regard to your post #26, I am, with all good will, at a loss about what to say to you. Not that I don’t know why I think you’re mistaken in your assumption that Rand had no responsibility for the disastrous result of her affair with Nathaniel and that he bears the total responsibility – but that I can’t imagine, if my book did not reach you, what words of mine possibly could.
I am shocked, however, at your idea that Rand tailored her advice on sexual matters, in Atlas Shrugged, to what you call the “primitive” knowledge of her readers. Surely the proponent of “the virtue of selfishness” did not tailor her ideas to anyone for any reason in any context.
Fred, thank you for telling me of your response to Passion. Your words mean a great deal to me. I’m almost jealous of your trips to Ouray; I’ve never been there. One day, perhaps.
Glenn, you are correct that neither I, nor, as I understand him, Robert, were arguing that we are all inescapably bound to be immoral at times. Rather, for me, the question is one of understanding what is and is not morally possible.
Tom, I can only suggest that you see my post to Adam.
Michael, I am more than delighted by your statement of what you learned from Passion. I saw so many people – and what a contradiction this is! – being terrorized out of reaching for the careers they wanted by having mistake after mistake after mistake pointed out to them in moral terms by their Objectivist mentors. by being told their judgment in those areas was faulty, their standards irrational, their goals questionable -- that it finally sickened me and I could endure no more. I could not wish for more than that a teacher understand that fear and self-doubt teach nothing.
Derek, thank you so much – and especially for saying that Passion “makes its subject come sizzlingly to life.” That’s a joy to be told.
Robert, what you say in a later post -- #40 – about Ayn’s callous treatment of Frank, is undeniably true. Her actions were terribly hurtful to him, as I know from many conversations with him. (Adam, you are not required to believe me.) Two of her actions tend to swing me in the direction of concluding she was immoral: her treatment of Frank, and the fact that after calling Nathaniel’s book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem, “a work of genius,” she tried to stop its publication.
Cameron, thank you. Yes, writing Passion was a massive task, and a wonderful one. But I never experienced it as requiring courage. I simply loved doing it, and it hardly occurred to me during my work on it that there was an outside world and that it might throw stones at me. Nothing would have seemed less important.
Andre, my thanks for the enthusiasm of your compliments. What you suggest that Ayn and Nathaniel should have done, unfortunately is not at all what they could have done. And I felt at the time that it probably was as well that the Objectivist movement was badly disrupted. The insanity of the events that followed: Rand’s incredible denunciation of Nathaniel and of me, the endless taking of sides that broke apart friends and families, the rage and vitriol that spewed out, the “enemies list” put together by Hank Holzer, the loyalty oaths required as payment for attendance at Peikoff’s lectures, etc, and etc, all attested to the fact that the movement had become fatally flawed.
To be continued. . . .