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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 7:34pmSanction this postReply
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Greetings again,

I've been slowly but steadily reading "The Fountainhead." So far, a bit slow. Rand seems to be building her characters methodically. I like the way she juxtaposes the characters of Keating and Roark. She makes Keating the "go along to get along" conventional person. Roark is the non-conventional person who lives by his principles and his own sense of rightness in an uncompromising way.

Granted I know nothing of Ms. Rand's philosophy at this point. But if I understand correctly, Objectivism posits a noble self-centeredness. I may not understand all that entails, but the impression I get is that "to thine own self, be true" is the jist of the idea.

If this is all correct, I have a hard time understanding why Roark, in chapter 13 of "Fountainhead" continually tries to talk people out of their own desires, architectually speaking. People come to him and want certain styles because they want it (tudor, ante-bellum, etc.). It's in their own self-interest, so to speak. The man who wanted the ante-bellum house was especially rational in his reasoning. Why can't their vision of "self-centeredness" be OK? Why must everyone conform to Roark's self-centered vision of what is architectually correct?

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but as I understand it, Ms. Rand is trying to teach something of her philosophical insights via the medium of fiction. And, Roark is her ideal of what someone living by this philosophy would look and live like. If so, am I to understand that an Objectivist lives by a "my way or the highway" mentality? If so, it would make for a pretty lonely existence and fairly frustrating, always have to be correct.

Just thinking out loud ....

BKB




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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply
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If this is all correct, I have a hard time understanding why Roark, in chapter 13 of "Fountainhead" continually tries to talk people out of their own desires, architectually speaking.... Why must everyone conform to Roark's self-centered vision of what is architectually correct?


They mustn'tóbut those are the terms on which Roark chooses to work, If they want houses in a particular style which is not Roark's, that is their rightóbut the burden is on them to find an architect willing to work in that style.



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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
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Dear Nature,

Fair enough, I suppose. To work only on one's own terms is one's right.

I suppose I was thinking more broadly as to what Rand is t rying to communicate with Roark's example. What is the ideal toward which Roark is striving? Is it to be "true to self" and not compromise in order to merely "go along to get along" If so, I find this admirable.

But one must be careful with this, in my opinion. If not watched carefully, one could become arrogant and inflated with self-importance. One could become a first-class "jerk" (ha), always insisting his or her way is "the way" others should view the world. And anyone not seeing it as you do, is not thinking as clearly as they should.

BKB




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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 10:17pmSanction this postReply
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My interpretation of this is somewhat different.  These people coming to Roark wanting certain types of houses wanted these styles in order to impress others. This is particularly true of the man who wanted the ante-bellum house.  In fact I see him as the least rational because he wanted this house only as a "look at me" to people who (I believe) were by that time dead.  Roark's work is about designing houses to fit the specific area they will be in (fitting in with the surrounding area both aesthetically and structurally) and also designing a house specifically for the inhabitants.  Roark's principle was "self-centered" in that he refused to compromise it.  But he was trying to show these people that they would be happier in houses designed specifically for their own individual needs.  He was trying to get them to stop seeing themselves through other people's eyes.  Notice that the people who did hire Roark and lived in their houses were very happy with them.

BKB says:  "People come to him and want certain styles because they want it (tudor, ante-bellum, etc.). It's in their own self-interest, so to speak." 

Yes, the people do want certain styles because they want them.  But merely wanting something does not make it in your own self-interest. 

(Edited by Tenya McCampbell on 12/13, 10:22pm)




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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 10:23pmSanction this postReply
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Roark was trying to build the right house, and build it right. Roark was saying the house has to be built on its own terms, that you can't simply tack on some feature because of feelings, that the building has to have its own integrity.



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Monday, December 13, 2004 - 11:48pmSanction this postReply
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I use The Fountainhead to explain why people write open-source software. You can do it the Keating-Microsoft way: you tell me what you want and I will build it the way you tell me. My mind (what mind?) doesn't matter. Or you can build it the Roark (Jobs, Torvalds) way: I will build the best software to the standard of my own excellence; you may use it if you wish.

There is a passage where Heller tells Roark of how he loves living in a house with features that he, Heller, would never have thought to ask for - and keeps on discovering, and being surprised by how much they improve his enjoyment of his house. Whenever I start using some new piece of open-source software, most recently Firefox, I discover such things, and experience the joy of using something built with the builder's whole mind. It takes an idiot to ask another man to give up his own mind - and to design according to the idiot's mind instead of his own. When I use another man's work, it is because I value the passion and excellence that went into it, just as my own passion and excellence go into my work. And I am rewarded accordingly.



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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 7:09amSanction this postReply
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Adam I agree. There is real joy in discovering the product of reason. For example, using Linux is "harder" at first than Windows, but for me, finding features, function, and stability in that OS is rewarding and productive. To be given *more* than I wanted, is often when I am shown the possible in a product whether house or software.

John

(Edited by John Newnham on 12/14, 7:10am)




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 5:26amSanction this postReply
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Good points, Tenya

 Yes, the people do want certain styles because they want them.  But merely wanting something does not make it in your own self-interest. 
I guess the question becomes, "Who decides, then?" Do we need a benevolent minder to tell us what is in our own self-interest? Who would that be in an ideal Objectivist world?

BKB




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 5:30amSanction this postReply
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Adam,

These are good points. One thing I noted was that Roark doesn't use force or fraud on his clients. There is a total lack of any form of coercion or manipulation. I admire this very much.

And I agree about utilizing the skills and passion of talented people. When I want something done, I go to the people of passion and talent and trust their judgment on the matter. Adam Clark would call it the "division of labor" I think (ha). When we all are doing what we passionate about and gifted/trained in, the whole world is richer for it.

BKB




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 6:20amSanction this postReply
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BKB said: "But one must be careful with this, in my opinion. If not watched carefully, one could become arrogant and inflated with self-importance. One could become a first-class "jerk" (ha), always insisting his or her way is "the way" others should view the world. And anyone not seeing it as you do, is not thinking as clearly as they should."

In the Fountainhead Ms. Rand tried to portray Roark as doing his own thing on his own terms. Unfortunately Roark did like to meddle and try to change people to his way of thinking (Wynand and Keating). It wasn't his job and he should have just walked away (of course what kind of story would be left if that happened?). A lot of O'ists tend to preach the gospel instead of just laying out the logical argument and then walking away. Let people take it or leave it.

She does better with Galt in Atlas Shrugged. In all his appearances he is a man full of life seeing the joy and wonder of it. In other words he was living his life and not preaching the rules.

The speech near the end of Atlas Shrugged is where his character changes (in my view). Throughout the entire novel he was his own person. For those he thought were ready to hear what he had to say he would just lay it out in front of them. During the speech it was as you said *my way or the highway*.

So there are both kinds of O'ists out there. If you see truth in the philosophy but not the way it is preached, then own Objectivism through your understanding. Practice what you have understood to be the right parts and disregard the rest. Do not be a second-hander and spew rules and ultimatums. Life is about understanding not regurgitation.

Regards,

Jeremy



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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 2:03pmSanction this postReply
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Jeremy,

Thanks for the warning on the different types of O'ist (like the abbreviation). In my experience as a Christian (yep, one of those!) I have seen this as well - i.e., rather than merely living the lifestyle of Christ before others and sharing with others when asked, too many Christians try and moralize and manipulate others. A big turn off if you ask me!

As I haven't gotten further than the 15th Chapter of "The Fountainhead" I don't know what Roark does to the other characters along the way. And, of course, I've not gotten the "Atlas Shrugged" yet but intend to. So ... don't give too much of the plot away, OK? (ha)

Thanks for the comments . . .

BKB




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 5:41pmSanction this postReply
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If this is all correct, I have a hard time understanding why Roark, in chapter 13 of "Fountainhead" continually tries to talk people out of their own desires, architectually speaking. ... Why must everyone conform to Roark's self-centered vision of what is architectually correct?


Roark wants to build homes that are worth living in.  Adam Reed mentioned Freeware: code done right.  Creating the best you can deliver is the best thing you can do for yourself.
 
That said, I have chosen to stay out of the Quarry.  As a technical writer, my client will ask me what I need to do the job.  They want a 100+ page book and also online documentation.  I specify desktop publishing and website authoring packages, and they have no budget for that, they say.  They ask if I can do it all in Microsoft Word.  I tell them that they will pay me more in billable hours.  They say that they have the budget for labor, but not for software.  So, I do what they want.  That's what they pay me for.
 
I stopped quitting jobs over aesthetic issues about 20 years ago.  For one thing, as a freelancer, I also write magazine articles, and that gives me the freedom to pick the assignment and so on.  One day, about 20 years ago, I came home from work in a dark mood.  I had to re-do good work and replace it with bad.  "What's wrong?" my wife asked.  I told her what happened.  "Look in the dictionary," I said.  I turned to the definition for hack: a writer who works for pay without regard for personal or professional standards.  "I'm a hack," I said.  She replied, "That's okay, dear, most writers have to quit their jobs to become hacks."  It was never a problem after that.
 
The Fountainhead is like a Greek statue. The work of art is an expression of an ideal.    It is important to realize that your view of yourself is independent of whether your entire hand is 1.618 times longer than your middle finger.  You don't have to be built like a Greek god to have a rational mind.  The work in stone expresses the essence of that rational mind. 
 
Keating puts nothing of himself in his work: he always takes the easy way out and as soon as he can, he assigns work to others in the office so that he can socialize.  It is not just "division of labor."  Keating has no "self" to put in his work.
 
When I take on an assignment I always put 100% of myself into it.  I always give my best effort... even if the client wants a Victorian eclectic user manual and neo-colonial online help to go with it.   

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 12/14, 5:43pm)

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 12/14, 5:47pm)




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 6:45pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Just got to the part where Roark goes to work in the quarry after turning down a job over a minor change ... so I got the reference (ha).

So, if I hear what you're saying, it's acceptable to appropriate some aspects of Objectivism into one's life while feeling free to reject other aspects? If so, that's comforting to me.

Perhaps there is even room for Theistic Objectivism? Or is that pushing Ms. Rand's envelope too far?

BKB




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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 7:37pmSanction this postReply
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Oh yes, way to far -    :-)



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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 7:40pmSanction this postReply
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BTW, BKB, you will be coming up on a passage that may be hard for you interpret. I think everyone who has read the book probably knows what I am talking about, so when you get there, ask away if you need to.



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Tuesday, December 14, 2004 - 8:00pmSanction this postReply
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it's acceptable to appropriate some aspects of Objectivism into one's life while feeling free to reject other aspects?
Of course! It is your life and you have your own brain. Frankly, that's exactly what I've been doing, although I haven't found too many things in Objectivism to reject outright. But that's probably because I still have only very limited knowledge about it. As I very slowly get to learn more, I start to find that certain Objectivism doctrines may not completely agree with my own system. 
Perhaps there is even room for Theistic Objectivism?
Now, that's not possible. But why do you have to give yourself labels? 




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Wednesday, December 15, 2004 - 5:37amSanction this postReply
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Ryan,

LOL ... thought it would be pushing the envelope!

I'll be looking for a difficult to understand passage and will feel free to ask this group questions. Again, I appreciate the "tone" of this group.

BKB




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Wednesday, December 15, 2004 - 5:47amSanction this postReply
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Hong,

I too have a limited knowledge of Objectivism and Rand's works. I'm just in the exporatory stage.

As to labels - I mentioned in my introductory post that I was a committed Christian. I have been studying libertarian thought for about four years but did not come to libertarianism via Rand. After four years, and having read articles - both pro & con - on Rand and Objectivism, I thought it high time to read her for myself.

I have found nothing, thus far, in libertarian thought inconsistent with my faith. However, I understand Objectivism (a sub-category of libertarian thought?) to be atheistic in principle. This is why I asked my question regarding approaching Objectivism in an "a la carte" fashion. There appears to be much I can agree with  - especially Objectivism's principled opposition to Post-modernism! I also appreciate the reasoned emphasis on morality, and knowing what you believe and why (epistemology).

For now, I am just reading Rand's work with an open mind. I like good literature and like to "think." I do not foresee becoming a "believer" in atheism (truly, a form of faith), but am drawn to some things I'm reading. So, to incorporate some of Objectivism's ideas into my life (sans atheism) is an attractive possibility.

So, I wasn't labeling myself superflously. I was thinking out loud as to how a Christian might appropriate some of Rand's ideas. Glad to know others pick and choose as well.

BKB




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Wednesday, December 15, 2004 - 6:08amSanction this postReply
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So, if I hear what you're saying, it's acceptable to appropriate some aspects of Objectivism into one's life while feeling free to reject other aspects? If so, that's comforting to me.

Well, that gets complicated. 
 
One of the key features of The Fountainhead is its portrayal of integrated and unintegrated people.  Howard Roark says that most people think that "integrity" is not putting your hand in your neighbor's pocket. 
 
Being introduced to new experiences and new ideas allows you to make them part of who you are.  For that to happen, there must be some principle of integration. 
 
You might hang out with a group of "cool" people who make you feel "comfortable" when you all go to a certain coffeehouse. The principle is acceptance, which is external to you -- without them, there would be no acceptance.  If you discover a theory of metaphysics that explains the physical world, or an epistemology that explains how you think, and you make that part of your life because you want the best for yourself, then self-interest is the principle.
 
You cannot be prevented from taking this bit from one philosopher and that bit from another source and so on.  The question then becomes one of identifying the principle that governs your choices.
 
 
 
 
 




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Wednesday, December 15, 2004 - 7:19amSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Very well-put and thought-provoking. I agree that we need to have an "integrating principle" in life. I believe I do.

But when one has such a principle, and then reads/experiences other thinkers whose writings/statements buttress and/or expand this integrating principle, then it is appropriate to incorporate these writers/thinkers into one's philosophy. Is it not?

BKB




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