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Friday, December 15 - 4:49pmSanction this postReply
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No-one is entirely self-sufficient. Everyone needs friends and lovers. Everyone needs food, water, and oxygen. So I don't really know what Demos or Plato is saying here. 



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Saturday, December 16 - 5:27amSanction this postReply
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Hi Kyrel, thank you for the comment.

 

Against that image of a certain sort of self, which Plato regards as perfect, you point out that no one is entirely self-sufficient, in that they have psychological needs for some others and physical needs for life. I quite agree.

 

That book by Demos was issued in 1939. Rand was working on The Fountainhead from ’36 to ’43. What struck me about the quotation from Demos was how like it was to Rand’s characterization of Roark. He is conceived as with no psychological dependence on any others in any primary way. Certainly, he does not depend on others for his definition. He has definiteness, and it does not require estimations from others. Peter Keating is the exact opposite; he has no self of his own, at least not one he cultivated and made into the structuring principle of his life. Roark is portrayed as not comparing himself to others for sense of his own goodness or ability. (Nozick would question that last, pointing out that one needs to compare one’s performance to that of others to know how well one is doing.) The degree of Roark’s psychological independence from others and his fidelity to his definite self in the conduct of his life was held up by Rand as an ideal to be emulated and as crucial cause of all great things human’s ever accomplished.

 

What Demos was describing in the quote was one of the features of the ideal being that is The Good. That being is father-god to all the lesser gods and bequeaths what divinity there is in them and what divinity there is in us. The absolute self-sufficiency feature is one of the perfections of the perfect being that is God, in the view of Plato (and in the view of many on through the centuries). Plato conceived of God as devoid of matter, and as being an intelligent and living being, these features being perfections of being. Likewise for Aristotle and really for both the Old and New Testaments. That God should be a living thing and yet an absolutely self-sufficient thing is an inconsistency, I’d say. To house perfection in any part of existence not living (or not in some relation to life and living intelligence)—with all the vulnerabilities and finitude, as well as the selfhood and relations to other life, that real life possesses—is a mistake. A colossal and disastrous mistake for which Rand had much good correction by the time of Atlas Shrugged



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Saturday, December 16 - 10:16amSanction this postReply
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Hi Stephen,

 

The problem with the initial quote in this thread, was that it lacked a context - hence, "self-sufficient so as to not need food, water or air to breath?" Those all come to mind.  Branden addressed the issue of psychological needs in "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" - and in a way that separated legitimate needs, like oxygen, from 'neediness' that we saw in Peter Keating. 

 

Roark used his own mind, and trusted it to judge what was good, what was bad, what exists and what doesn't.  And, it wasn't that he wasn't aware of the 'neediness' of others, but that he had no internal conflict where he was torn by some desire to be liked, and adhereing to his own beliefs.  He accepted himself.

 

Stephen, the points you make in the next paragraph go all mystical, for me anyway, when you discuss "... the ideal being that is The Good. That being is father-god to all the lesser gods and bequeaths what divinity there is in them and what divinity there is in us. The absolute self-sufficiency feature is one of the perfections of the perfect being that is God, in the view of Plato (and in the view of many on through the centuries). Plato conceived of God as devoid of matter, and as being an intelligent and living being, these features being perfections of being."

 

That's why I don't follow you when you say, "To house perfection in any part of existence not living (or not in some relation to life and living intelligence)—with all the vulnerabilities and finitude, as well as the selfhood and relations to other life, that real life possesses—is a mistake. A colossal and disastrous mistake for which Rand had much good correction by the time of Atlas Shrugged."

 

I'm left not knowing what is the terrible mistake you allege for Rand, and what are the corrections she applied.  In my mind, the usual problem with people's grasp of 'perfection' is a dropped context: Perfect by what standard?  Perfect within which context?  Perfect to satisfy what purpose?

 

If, as a therapist, I heard a client yearn for total independence, defined by him as needing no contact or interaction with anyone, I might look for a fear of 'not being enough' that probably arose out of some childhood comparison where the client internalized a sense that he wasn't enough.  And that sounds like a variation of defining perfection as some "father-god" that is beyond any need implied by being alive, and devoid even of matter.  That seems to be a intellectual path for the creation of a standard whose only purpose is to make all else fail.
 



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Saturday, December 16 - 11:41amSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Stephen.  I take the quote prima facie. You post a lot poerty; and this was acceptable as a poetic truth.  At work, we have an internal social media site. The moderator asked for favorite quotes and got lots of nice responses. I offered, "Those who say a thing cannot be done should get out of the way of those who are doing it."  But that was just a replyt to someone else's of a similar intention. I really hesitated to post as a stand-alone some all-encompassing quote from Ayn Rand. On the one hand, so very many can be found that it is hard to choose the best. And on the other hand, as with this, any aphorism can be torn to shred by the easiest criticism.

 

Raphael Demos's biography in Wikipedia is interesting. He won't win points here for his work with Plato, Bertrand Russell, or Martin Luther King, Jr., but after completing a baccalauureate, he did travel to the US steerage and work at common jobs to earn his tuition for his doctorate. You have to admire his pluck. 

  



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Saturday, December 16 - 7:33pmSanction this postReply
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Yes, expect that Plato guy to go way mystical. Likewise the whole chain insofar as they held any notion of metaphysical perfection, always on their way to a purported absolute metaphysical perfection (God by whatever name). Perfection and all other norms presuppose the concept of life, materially based life---that was Rand's contribution. Demos was writing a book presenting what was Plato's philosophy. It's a pretty good book, and it at least points to the passages in Plato from which Demos makes his claims about Plato's views. This is one of the two good bits of secondary literature on Plato's notion of metaphysical perfection I located. I had the later guys on this pretty well in hand: Aristotle, Plotinus, Augustine, Avicenna, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Wolff, and Baumgarten. I just needed to get together Plato, which I have finally done, to have a decent veiw of the trajectory of this wrong-headed idea. It comes to a couple of paragraphs and an endnote in my book in progress. I'd like to write a paper on it, and some further connections with Rand/Nietzsche concerning it for one or the other of the scholarly journals for the quasi-Objectivist subculture, but I doubt there will be time for that.

 

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(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 12/17, 8:37am)



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Sunday, December 17 - 11:43pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen -- Thanks for those explanations of what Demos and Plato meant by self-sufficiency! This concept and goal seems to be a high ideal for Ayn Rand and current Objectivists. But this may be a bit of a mistake. Humans seem to be naturally and ineluctably social creatures, with psychological and spiritual needs of cooperation and competition with other people -- or even friendship and enemyship with them. The ultimate goal in life, in my view, isn't self-sufficiency but gaining the highest quantity and quality of happiness possible. This is achieved, I would say, thru living a life of highest possible meaning, purpose, creativity, productivity, and reason. Also thru maximizing your potential and achieving as much greatness as possible. In turn, I think you accomplish this thru attempting to master, in order: reality, yourself, other humans, and lesser life forms. But it seems impossible and undesirable to be completely independent from, and self-sufficient of, other humans. 

 

(Edited by Kyrel Zantonavitch on 12/17, 11:47pm)



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