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:glare::lol: I suppose physical have something to do with it. If you want to achieve some goal such as winning a war, you have to have some physical ability. The other example is for defensive means when someone is in a dangerous jobs. Cops sometimes face dangers and they need to be fit. To be smart, you definetely need some physical ability, but some can manage without it. If you have physical ability, you are able to accept more overwhealming facts and ideas, and to learn and intercept more. Suggestions: dictionaries are not that reliable to define wisdom. Some wisdom is totally optional and opinion like. We have street smarts, wise in battle, smart in logic, creativily smart in spatiale, and right part of your brain and etc.

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I´d say almost regardless of what you want in life, physical exercise will help. Just by being healthy your mind works better, and if you regularly push body and mind to the limit - with high-intensity "balls-to-the-walls"-training - that will really get you somewhere. Look at the determination and willpower in the eyes of any sucessfull pro-athlete(same thing also shows in many sucessfull businessmen).

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Don't Ayn Rands fiction works provide some insight into this?

Look at the physical appearance of characters like Galt, Roark, Dagny, Francisco, Rearden. Then look at Toohey, James Taggart, etc.

It would seem that part of being an ideal human is having an ideal body. This would seem to impose an obligation on those who strive towards the ideal to take all possible steps towards achieving that ideal, whether it be diet, exercise, stomach-stapling surgery, hair-transplants, face-lifts, tanning beds, whatever.

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Don't Ayn Rands fiction works provide some insight into this?
It sure does. I agree with observations.

Ancient Greece and Rome serve as good examples. Think of the statues of that time depicting thinkers who weren't flimsy like James Taggart.

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Don't Ayn Rands fiction works provide some insight into this?

Look at the physical appearance of characters like Galt, Roark, Dagny, Francisco, Rearden. Then look at Toohey, James Taggart, etc.

It would seem that part of being an ideal human is having an ideal body. This would seem to impose an obligation on those who strive towards the ideal to take all possible steps towards achieving that ideal, whether it be diet, exercise, stomach-stapling surgery, hair-transplants, face-lifts, tanning beds, whatever.

What is an ideal body?

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Well, based on Rand's novels, for men it is tall, thin, supple yet strong, with usually an angular face.

That was her "taste". I dont think that would be ideal for a short man.

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That was her "taste". I dont think that would be ideal for a short man.

That is like saying that intelligence would not be ideal for a dumb man. Ayn Rand obviously intended to use physical characteristics to denote moral characteristics as well in her books. Thus the physical appearance of her heroes has meaning beyond her personal taste.

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I wouldn't go too far with the physical appearance of Ayn Rand's characters as far as their significance to her ideal man. If she says anything in Atlas Shrugged, it's that the ideal man is ideal by choice. The physical appearence of the characters, I believe, are inserted for literary effect. The descriptions of Galt and Rearden as tall and strong versus the villains like Boyle as short and pudgy suggest to the reader, more immediately and concretely, the qualities of the characters. Imagine if Galt was described as pudgy and awkward with eyes that seemed cloudy and distant -- how many more pages would it have taken to convince the reader that this is, in fact, the ideal man despite his sloppy appearance.

Remember that Ayn Rand viewed art as selective -- she was adamantly opposed to painting a beautiful woman and adding a blemish, just because most women have some blemishes. She did not deny there are beautiful women with blemishes, but held that an artist shouldn't focus on blemishes when portraying beauty. Likewise, she would not deny that you can be supremely moral while short with a round face -- she held that artists shouldn't focus on such things when portraying their ideal man in novels.

If I could guess Ayn Rand's view of fitness, it would fall under the distinction of the metaphysical versus the man-made: to the extent one's appearance is metaphsically given and therefore unchosen, it is unrelated to virtue. To the extent one's appearance is the result of his actions, it is subject to judgment according to his chosen values.

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Ayn Rand obviously intended to use physical characteristics to denote moral characteristics as well in her books. Thus the physical appearance of her heroes has meaning beyond her personal taste.

Vladimir - what evidence can you provide that this was the case? Are you suggesting that Ayn Rand would have regarded a person born looking like Cyrano De Bergerac as somehow being unable to achieve the moral stature of a John Galt? I don't think you can find evidence to cite that as it goes against everything her philosophy stands for.

What is obvious is that Ayn Rand had very definite view about what constitutes the aesthetic ideal with regard to physical appearance. And since she was the writer of story books, it makes sense to have her heroes look like heroes. Think of what it would do to the story if John Galt had a somewhat dorky looking appearance or if Dagny had a face like Cindy Sheehan's. The last thing Ayn Rand would ever have done, however, is assign moral status to an accident of birth over which a person has zero control. I am afraid that you are reading into the story something that really isn't there. Keep in mind that Ayn Rand herself did not have the physcial appearance of her heroines. Somehow I rather doubt that Ayn Rand thought less of herself morally or as being less of a real life heroine because of it.

The error here is really no different than that of those Objectivist newbies one sometimes runs across who thinks that the ideal career for a true Objectivist hero is to be a physicist or philosopher or architect because those were the careers selected by Ayn Rand's representations of the ideal man - i.e. to focus on the superficial concretes needed to provide characterization in a story book rather than abstracting the wider abstract principles that the story dramatizes and illustrates.

Edited by Dismuke

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Vladimir - what evidence can you provide that this was the case? Are you suggesting that Ayn Rand would have regarded a person born looking like Cyrano De Bergerac as somehow being unable to achieve the moral stature of a John Galt? I don't think you can find evidence to cite that as it goes against everything her philosophy stands for.

I am not saying that Ayn Rand thought a perfect physique was a requirement to being a moral man. I am simply saying that Ayn Rand thought a perfect physique was a requirement to being an ideal man. I don't think Rand would have considered an ugly yet moral man to be ideal, same with a handsome yet evil man.

What is obvious is that Ayn Rand had very definite view about what constitutes the aesthetic ideal with regard to physical appearance.

And it is the fact that she thought such an ideal existed that is most important. People may disagree over the precise nature of the ideal, but most seem to think an ideal of some sort exists. (See the gender representation thread)

If there is an ideal of physical perfection, and physical perfection is part of being an ideal person, then it becomes the duty of all who wish to strive towards being an ideal person to try to work towards their ideal of physical perfection just as they would their ideal of moral perfection.

This is in fact, the crucial abstraction from Rand's writing, rather than the actual characteristics of her heroes or heroines. A person seeking to improve himself to an ideal of humanity doesn't (and shouldn't) have to make himself look like Howard Roark or be an architect. but they do have to work towards meeting their personal standard of physical perfection, as well as their personal standard of moral perfection, even if in their case in means being a blonde-haired doctor, rather than a red-headed architect.

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I am not saying that Ayn Rand thought a perfect physique was a requirement to being a moral man. I am simply saying that Ayn Rand thought a perfect physique was a requirement to being an ideal man.

Ideal? In what context? Ideal for a story book - sure. But it is NOT a requirement for being an ideal man in the context of one's moral behavor. Ayn Rand did not put forth some sort of dogma that there exists some sort of Platonic "ideal man" - which seems to be what you are suggesting that she did. It is necessary to put what she wrote in context.

If there is an ideal of physical perfection, and physical perfection is part of being an ideal person, then it becomes the duty of all who wish to strive towards being an ideal person to try to work towards their ideal of physical perfection just as they would their ideal of moral perfection.
Well, actually, Objectivism totally rejects the notion that there exists a "duty" to do anything. Reread Rand's essay "Causality vs. Duty" in Philosophy Who Needs It for an elaboration on that.

And you are confusing an aesthetic ideal with a moral ideal by virtue of suggesting that the former somehow imposes a moral obligation (i.e. a "duty") on people's behavior and actions. The ONLY way it follows that an aesthetic ideal is something which people have a moral obligation to strive towards is if one regards that aesthetic ideal as some sort of dogma (i.e. an out-of-context absolute) - which Ayn Rand most certainly did not.

Also, I don't recall any of Ayn Rand's characters striving or making any effort at all towards achieving any sort of "ideal" of physical perfection or of regarding it as being important. Indeed, all of her characters struck me as being more or less indifferent about their appearance - especially Howard Roark who went around rather shabbily dressed at times and had to actually be nagged by a friend into buying a nice suit. I don't recall her ever writing or making any comments about at all about physical appearance as something one should give a great deal of thought to. From all the evidence I have seen at least within her published writings is that the only focus she gave to the subject was from a purely literary standpoint.

This is in fact, the crucial abstraction from Rand's writing, rather than the actual characteristics of her heroes or heroines. A person seeking to improve himself to an ideal of humanity doesn't (and shouldn't) have to make himself look like Howard Roark or be an architect. but they do have to work towards meeting their personal standard of physical perfection, as well as their personal standard of moral perfection, even if in their case in means being a blonde-haired doctor, rather than a red-headed architect.

The only character related comments I recall Ayn Rand making about people's physical appearances were negative remarks about hippies who deliberately made themselves look ugly as an expression of their nihilism. She did admire physical beauty, especially when people had a personality to match - see her remarks on Marilyn Monroe.

But the notion that Ayn Rand suggested that a person must work towards meeting even their own personal standard of physical perfection - well, that is simply bizarre. An intellectually honest woman who is short, dumpy with bad skin and an overall frumpy looking appearance knows very well that she will never look anywhere near to what she would rationally consider to be the standard of feminine physical perfection. To attempt to do so would fly in the face of metaphysical reality. And it would be very self-destructive for such a woman to base her self-esteem on being able to do so.

I think all Ayn Rand would say on the subject is that, on the basis of the virtue of pride, such a woman would seek to make her physical appearance as attractive as possible within the context the appearance that nature handed her as well as things such as what her budget allows and her particular circumstances. Obviously the woman would properly need to spend more effort and set a higher goal if she were going out for a date than if she was at home alone doing housework. If the woman is content with her life, I seriously doubt that Ayn Rand would have suggested that she take time away from a busy career she loves passionately to spend hours and hours exercising so she can lose additional weight that does not pose a health risk just for purely cosmetic reasons. And, while I am sure Ayn Rand would have had no problem with a woman resorting to plastic surgery to improve her appearance, I seriously doubt that she would have ever suggested that frumpy women should undergo such surgery in order to "improve one's self to an ideal of humanity."

Nor did Ayn Rand ever suggest that a person should do anything to become an "ideal of humanity." She dramatized her vision of what constitutes an "ideal of humanity" to show the level of achievement and moral perfection that is possible and open for individual men and women to achieve. But she never suggested that people set out with the goal to become such an "ideal." She merely said that they should live their lives for their own sake and pursue their own happiness - and she provided dramatized, fictional examples of people who did just that. Ayn Rand herself sure as heck did not set out with the goal of becoming an "ideal of humanity." She merely wanted to write great literature and selfishly set out to do so. Nor did Howard Roark - he just wanted to build really cool buildings and selfishly set out to do so.

Edited by Dismuke

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I doubt Vlady meant someone should attempt impossible physical transformations, and I believe he means being fit moreso than appearing fit (that's just from skimming, though.)

At any rate, it'd be equally irrational to settle for slob-dom simply because one can't be a beach model, or to buoy her self-esteem with the fact that she (supposedly) can't help her lowly status.

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Ideal? In what context? Ideal for a story book - sure. But it is NOT a requirement for being an ideal man in the context of one's moral behavor. Ayn Rand did not put forth some sort of dogma that there exists some sort of Platonic "ideal man" - which seems to be what you are suggesting that she did. It is necessary to put what she wrote in context.

Not a Platonic "form-like" ideal, but her personal ideal man.

And you are confusing an aesthetic ideal with a moral ideal by virtue of suggesting that the former somehow imposes a moral obligation (i.e. a "duty") on people's behavior and actions. The ONLY way it follows that an aesthetic ideal is something which people have a moral obligation to strive towards is if one regards that aesthetic ideal as some sort of dogma (i.e. an out-of-context absolute) - which Ayn Rand most certainly did not.

As I said above, I am not talking about a dogma. I am merely talking about the acceptance of some sort of personal ideal. This is essentially saying that physical appearance is important. If it were not important, why would Rand make such an obvious effort to use it in creating her characters?

Also, I don't recall any of Ayn Rand's characters striving or making any effort at all towards achieving any sort of "ideal" of physical perfection or of regarding it as being important. Indeed, all of her characters struck me as being more or less indifferent about their appearance - especially Howard Roark who went around rather shabbily dressed at times and had to actually be nagged by a friend into buying a nice suit. I don't recall her ever writing or making any comments about at all about physical appearance as something one should give a great deal of thought to.

Her characters didn't need to work towards achieving an ideal of physical perfection because they were created already having achieved that state. Here I am not talking about dressing well but simply the physical body.

From all the evidence I have seen at least within her published writings is that the only focus she gave to the subject was from a purely literary standpoint.

But the notion that Ayn Rand suggested that a person must work towards meeting even their own personal standard of physical perfection - well, that is simply bizarre. An intellectually honest woman who is short, dumpy with bad skin and an overall frumpy looking appearance knows very well that she will never look anywhere near to what she would rationally consider to be the standard of feminine physical perfection. To attempt to do so would fly in the face of metaphysical reality. And it would be very self-destructive for such a woman to base her self-esteem on being able to do so.

Which is why I think Rand's use of physical characteristics to exemplify the morality of her characters is so dangerous. People will think that if they can't look like Galt, they will never be as good as Galt, for instance. While Rand would certainly emphasize that the moral nature of a person is most important, her association of moral characteristics with physical ones tends to dillute and confuse that emphasis.

For example, look at the physical changes in Peter Keating vs. those in Roark in the Fountainhead. Rand was obviously using their physical appearance to illustrate their moral and psychological state. Similarly, Rand uses physical motion and ability to illustrate the supreme skill of her heroes.

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I would say it would be one that has, as Mike Mentzer often said, maximized genetic potential. When you have actualized your potential, that would be IMO the ideal.

Thats part of it. The other part is lowering your bodyfat levels so you achieve a high definition appearance. You already knew this Inspector, but just forgot to mention it.

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As I said above, I am not talking about a dogma. I am merely talking about the acceptance of some sort of personal ideal. This is essentially saying that physical appearance is important.

I don't have a problem with agreeing that it is important - though rather than "personal ideal" I would instead say that a person should have certain goals with regard to their personal appearance. But exactly what those goals should be is something highly contextual for any given person based upon their individual circumstances and values. And the physical appearance of John Galt, Howard Roark or Dagny Taggart in Ayn Rand's novels is of absolutely zero significance in determining what those goals should be - as I am sure that Ayn Rand herself would have emphatically agreed.

If it were not important, why would Rand make such an obvious effort to use it in creating her characters?
Well, in order for her characters to be concrete enough for the novel to be realistic she had to give her characters some sort of physical appearance. She is certainly not the only writer to make her heroes attractive and her villains ugly. Had she done otherwise, don't you think that people would be trying to read some sort of significance into that?

Her characters didn't need to work towards achieving an ideal of physical perfection because they were created already having achieved that state. Here I am not talking about dressing well but simply the physical body.

As is the case with lots of fictional heroes.

Which is why I think Rand's use of physical characteristics to exemplify the morality of her characters is so dangerous.
But she did NOT use the physical characteristics to exemplify the morality of her characters - as I keep pointing out. You keep asserting that she does. Where are you getting this from? Exactly where in any of her novels does she do this? Doesn't the fact that her doing such a thing would totally and completely contradict her entire theory of morality give you a moment of pause that maybe, just maybe, she did not intend what you keep asserting?

People will think that if they can't look like Galt, they will never be as good as Galt, for instance.

Only if they read Atlas Shrugged with the same sort of mindset that a Fundamentalist Christian reads the Bible with. And, of course, there are people who do read it that way - for example, the notorious example that Dr. Peikoff talks about of the man who dyed his hair orange so that he could be more like Howard Roark. When people do that, the fault is not with Ayn Rand but rather the person's pre-existing, mistaken premises that they bring with them when they approach her works.

While Rand would certainly emphasize that the moral nature of a person is most important, her association of moral characteristics with physical ones tends to dillute and confuse that emphasis.
Again, she makes no such association - please demonstrate where she does.

For example, look at the physical changes in Peter Keating vs. those in Roark in the Fountainhead. Rand was obviously using their physical appearance to illustrate their moral and psychological state.

Well, if next time I see you I observe that you had gained 30 pounds, had not shaved or groomed yourself, had on slovenly clothes and generally allowed yourself to go to pot - of course I would strongly suspect some sort of change in your moral and psychological state - and I am sure that Ayn Rand would have as well had she known you.

Yes, the sort of care one takes of one's body is a reflection of one's moral state and of one's self-esteem. But if Howard Roark had been born as a physically identical twin of Peter Keating or, to name a big fat disgusting slob, Michael Moore, it would have zero implications on Raork's moral stature - as Ayn Rand would have completely agreed.

Similarly, Rand uses physical motion and ability to illustrate the supreme skill of her heroes.

Which is a perfectly proper and valid way to dramatize such supreme skill. But, here too, Ayn Rand does NOT in any way equate their "supreme skill" with moral superiority.

It is interesting to note that Ayn Rand regarded Eddie Willers - who did NOT possess the sort of "supreme skill" as the heroes in Galt's Gulch - as being the moral equal of John Galt, Francisco, Dagny and Rearden. According to Ayn Rand, the characters Eddie Willers and Cheryl Taggart, who represent men and women of merely average intelligence and ability, were just as morally perfect as John Galt. The difference between them and Galt was not moral - it was the fact that John Galt was a man of superlative ability and intellect, a genius on the level of a sort of modern-day cross between an Einstein and an Edison.

Ayn Rand held that even people who have less than average abilities and talents can achieve moral perfection - that the essential issue is not how much intelligence one is born with is but rather what one does with and makes of whatever amount of intelligence he is born with. The entire point of the story in Atlas Shrugged is how much the Eddie Willers, the Cheryl Taggarts and the vast majority of honest, moral and decent people of the world owe a very small handful of extremely productive and intellectual giants who make the standard of living and technological advancement of all of us possible. Think about it for a moment: Ayn Rand did not regard the enormous intellectual and productive abilities of such individuals as a basis of them being morally superior to those who lacked such ability - do you really think she would hold that their mere physical appearance would somehow grant them such moral superiority?

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Well, in order for her characters to be concrete enough for the novel to be realistic she had to give her characters some sort of physical appearance. She is certainly not the only writer to make her heroes attractive and her villains ugly. Had she done otherwise, don't you think that people would be trying to read some sort of significance into that?

The difference is that Rand had the explicit purpose of creating a fictional representation of man as he "ought" to be, the essence of romantic fiction. I think it is clear from the novels what Rand thought man ought to look like. And while there are certainly some incidental features (like Roark's red hair) others are surprisingly consistant across different characters and novels.

But she did NOT use the physical characteristics to exemplify the morality of her characters - as I keep pointing out. You keep asserting that she does. Where are you getting this from?

As I said, look at the physical descriptions of the different characters across the different novels. The male heroes are virtual clones, so are most of the heroines. The antagonists are more differentiated, but in a way which makes it clear that Rand was obviously using their physical appearance to denote something negative about their character or morality. I could easily provide citations but I am away from home with no access to my books.

Ayn Rand held that even people who have less than average abilities and talents can achieve moral perfection

Again, this is not the issue. I agree that Rand believed that physical appearance, strength, intellect, or ability did not prevent a person from being perfectly moral. However, morality is only one aspect of being an ideal man, a man as he "ought" to be. For example, one might think that Steven Hawking has a perfectly developed intellect, morality, and other mental faculties. However, would you really say that a Steven Hawking is man as he "ought" to be? Is complete paralysis and life in a wheelchair the physical state proper to man?

Physical perfection and moral perfection are two separate and distinct elements to being a man. The ideal man should have both, although since physical perfection is largely unchosen being ugly or beautiful says nothing about a person's moral standing.

Still, I believe that Rand's choice of clearly using physical characteristics to help define her fictional characters shows that she felt that physical appearance and ability is an important attribute of being a man as he "ought" to be.

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The difference is that Rand had the explicit purpose of creating a fictional representation of man as he "ought" to be, the essence of romantic fiction. I think it is clear from the novels what Rand thought man ought to look like. And while there are certainly some incidental features (like Roark's red hair) others are surprisingly consistent across different characters and novels.

I don't have a problem with any of the above at all - so long as you don't take it a step further and suggest that Ayn Rand felt that her artistic and aesthetic ideal of what specific body type man "ought to look like" has any bearing at all whatsoever on the life of a person who was born with a body that does not and can never come even close to that artistic ideal. It does not have any bearing. In your postings you have made several statements suggesting that Ayn Rand was somehow unable to differentiate between the make believe world of a story book and real life.

The example someone gave earlier was very much on the mark:

"Remember that Ayn Rand viewed art as selective -- she was adamantly opposed to painting a beautiful woman and adding a blemish, just because most women have some blemishes. She did not deny there are beautiful women with blemishes, but held that an artist shouldn't focus on blemishes when portraying beauty. Likewise, she would not deny that you can be supremely moral while short with a round face -- she held that artists shouldn't focus on such things when portraying their ideal man in novels."

As I said, look at the physical descriptions of the different characters across the different novels. The male heroes are virtual clones, so are most of the heroines. The antagonists are more differentiated, but in a way which makes it clear that Rand was obviously using their physical appearance to denote something negative about their character or morality. I could easily provide citations but I am away from home with no access to my books.
That is true - and there is no need to provide citations of this. But this is hardly unique to Ayn Rand. Watch some old silent movies - especially the adventure movies. The heroes look look like heroes, the villains look like villains and the bufoons look like bufoons. Ask yourself why this was the case. Why could not Ayn Rand have had similar motives as the producers of those movies? Why do you assert that she implied that people ought to have hair transplants and stomach staples as a result of her using artistic and literary proactices that have been used by countless artists for centuries?

Again, this is not the issue. I agree that Rand believed that physical appearance, strength, intellect, or ability did not prevent a person from being perfectly moral.

But unfortunately, you suggested the exact opposite when you wrote:

"It would seem that part of being an ideal human is having an ideal body. This would seem to impose an obligation on those who strive towards the ideal to take all possible steps towards achieving that ideal, whether it be diet, exercise, stomach-stapling surgery, hair-transplants, face-lifts, tanning beds, whatever."

I defy you to provide a single citation where Ayn Rand ever suggested that a real life person ought to strive towards making himself look like an artistic ideal. She might have agreed that IF a person wished to be an actor or a model cast in certain types of roles THEN it would be important to work towards a body type consistent with a widely recognized aesthetic representation of those roles. But there is absolutely nothing at all in any of her writings to even remotely suggest that she thought her readers were under any sort of obligation to strive to look like her heroes. If that is what you think she is saying - well, I am afraid that is the result of certain premises you are bringing with you when you read the novels and NOT the result of anything the lady has ever said.

However, morality is only one aspect of being an ideal man, a man as he "ought" to be. For example, one might think that Steven Hawking has a perfectly developed intellect, morality, and other mental faculties. However, would you really say that a Steven Hawking is man as he "ought" to be? Is complete paralysis and life in a wheelchair the physical state proper to man?
It is proper if a given man has had a tragic accident beyond which medical technology can fix.

Is being in a wheelchair how man ought to be? Of course not - for a number of reasons. But the fact that being in a wheelchair does not make a man resemble a storybook hero is not among those reasons. And of course, there is no reason why a man in a wheelchair could not be every bit as heroic and have as brilliant a mind as John Galt. But there is a reason why Ayn Rand chose not to potray John Galt as being in a wheelchair or has having certain physical characteristics which made him ugly - it would be a huge distraction from the story by bringing in an element that has no place in it: tragedy. The fact that a man is in a wheelchair or that a really great guy is physically unnattractive to women is tragic - clearly the first more so than the second. Adding that to the storyline of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead would be irrelevant and very distracting.

Physical perfection and moral perfection are two separate and distinct elements to being a man. The ideal man should have both....

Only in a storybook, a movie, a play, a painting or a sculpture.

Why on earth should a man in real life strive to have both? To assert that he should is to introduce a moral aspect into what is a purely aesthetic element.

You made a very appropriate comment to me recently about how you don't think paintings should be photographic and that you had problems with certain ones which presented people in just that manner. Let's say that a painter that you admired put out a really great painting that portrayed an ideal man of genious, courage and integrity - and that in this particular painting the man happens to be a soldier.

Because the painting is not photographic, nobody in real life is going to ever look exactly like the man in the painting. Clearly you wouldn't, therefore, say that somehow constitutes a flaw with the painting.

Would you say that, by virute of the fact that man is presented as an ideal, the painter intended for everyone who agrees with that ideal to go out and do whatever they can to make themselves look as much as possible like the man in the painting - including diets, stomach staples, hair transplants and such? That would be absurd. Do you think that the artist is suggesting that to be ideal one must become a solider even if he has zero interest in miltary matters?

The whole purpose of such a painting is to provide you with a distilled mental image of the traits which the painter intended for the man in the painting to embody. If, at some point in your life, you find yourself in a situation where you feel afraid, overwhelmed, hopeless and totally demoralized, perhaps you will remember the image of the soldier in the painting and it will inspire you and help you find the perspective and resolve to confront and deal with whatever situation has brought you down to such a low point. THAT is why man needs art. Now, ask yourself how effective that painting would be if the artist instead used as his model a real life soldier of enourmous heroism and courage but who just so happened to have an extremely dorky looking face.

Remember Kira's Viking in We The Living. He served a similar purpose for Kira when she needed inspiration and courage. That does not mean, however, that Kira would have felt that people really ought to make themselves look as much as possbile like Vikings or that she even necessarily approved of the sort of behavior that Vikings typically engaged in.

The same is true for Howard Roark. Let's say at some point in your future career, you find yourself confronted in a difficult situation with a choice: sell out your principles and the things in life you really value in order to win the approval of certain people you really do not care much for and thereby obtain some really tempting short term financial gain and career advancement - or remain loyal to your principles and values and suffer certain negative short term consequences as a result. Perhaps in that situation, you will think of Howard Roark and ask yourself what he might do when confronted with such a decision - and perhaps doing so will help you better understand the issues involved and put the temptations into proper perspective. Now, imagine if Ayn Rand had given Howard Roark the physical characteristics of Gomer Pyle. Don't you think that would have made it all that much more difficult for Ayn Rand to have presented in stark terms the essential characteristics of Roark's intergrity and character? Wouldn't both she and the reader have to go through a lot of effort just to get past the fact that he looked like Gomer Pyle?

The above example, by the way, is something that for me, in my own private, personal context, did get in the way of my being able to initially enjoy The Fountainhead. When I read The Fountainhead, my first thought was "great - this book is set in the 1920s, my favorite era." However, if you read the opening scenes, the description of Roark is more appropriate to a 1960s hippie type than the sort of person one might expect to see in the 1920s. Obviously, since the book was written in the 1930s, Rand did not intend for Roark to look like a 1960s hippie. Rather, she intended for him to be someone who was non-conventional - and, by 1920s standards of dress, which I really like, he most definitely was. Let's just say that there were several concrete details about Roark which, based on the unique context I brought with me to the book, were not at all things which I associated with heroism. It took a few chapters for me to be able to finally look past those superficialities and to focus on what Ayn Rand intended to be his essential characteristics. For me those superficialities were very distracting in terms of me initially grasping the point of the character and the book. Clearly a novelist cannot take into consideration the unique context of every single individual reader. All he can do is target his writing to an assumed context shared by the widest number of people in the book's intended audience. And that is why heroes and villains in books, movies and art in general tend to share certain physical characteristics.

Still, I believe that Rand's choice of clearly using physical characteristics to help define her fictional characters shows that she felt that physical appearance and ability is an important attribute of being a man as he "ought" to be.

In art, yes. In real life, physical characteristics and innate abilities (i.e. some people have a higher IQ than others, some people are built better for athletic activities than others, some people have voices which make them effective speakers or wonderful singers, etc) are accidents of birth and are utterly irrelevant to a person's moral stature.

An artistic embodiment of "man as he ought to be" does not imply that this man or that man should seek to become that specific artistic embodiment.

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Thats part of it. The other part is lowering your bodyfat levels so you achieve a high definition appearance. You already knew this Inspector, but just forgot to mention it.

Yes, assuming that the context is a society in which food is plentiful. If you lived in the Alaskan wilderness, I could see having a few extra pounds as ideal! :P

Vladimir:

You can't look to a floating abstraction for what you ought to be. You can only be the best you you can be.

Edited by Inspector

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I would say it would be one that has, as Mike Mentzer often said, maximized genetic potential. When you have actualized your potential, that would be IMO the ideal.

Genetic potential for what? Building muscle? Symetry? Maximized cardiovascular conditioning? Since Mike was a bodybuilder I assume he was looking at it from a bodybuilding point of view. In that context I think I agree with him. However, I think the ideal in this case should be looked at in the context of an individuals life.

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Endurance, BB aspects, speed, etc, I think a lot of things could be considered maximizing genetic potential.

But I don't think it could be considered ideal to be, say, a 600 pound person who can't get out of bed and daily risks a triple bypass.

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Physical perfection and moral perfection are two separate and distinct elements to being a man. The ideal man should have both, although since physical perfection is largely unchosen being ugly or beautiful says nothing about a person's moral standing.

Still, I believe that Rand's choice of clearly using physical characteristics to help define her fictional characters shows that she felt that physical appearance and ability is an important attribute of being a man as he "ought" to be.

I have had a chance to give a bit more thought to this and I think I now have a better understanding of where our disagreement lies.

I completely agree with the above quote as written. Where I think you and I have a disconnect is on the issue of the nature of human perfection (i.e. the "ideal") and how the application of it in the context of a creating a literary projection differs from the application of it with regard to any given real life human being.

I agree with you that one can come up with a projection of the ideal physique (though I am quite sure Ayn Rand would have readily admitted that there is quite a bit of room for personal taste in coming up with such a projection).

I also agree with you that one can project an ideal man of ability by presenting characters such as the ideal architect, the ideal businessman, the ideal scientist, etc.

I agree with you that Ayn Rand did indeed do both when she came up with the characterizations of the heroes in her novels.

Our disagreement is over the implications Ayn Rand thought these ideals ought to have in the life of individual men and women. You have suggested that Ayn Rand held that individual men and women should strive to become those ideals as much as possible - even to the point of hair transplants, stomach staples and such. I disagree strongly.

Imagine a hypothetical fellow - let's call him Fernald - who is morally perfect but, unfortunately, is not the brightest bulb in the marquee. Fernald has a lower than average IQ and suffers from a mild learning disability. When he was in high school he had to struggle mightily and put forth a great deal of effort just to achieve the sort of grades you or I could have easily made had we slacked off and did just enough to get by. Because of this, the only sort of work he is capable of doing is physical/procedural in nature and not mental. For a living he works in a factory as an assembly worker, albeit a very conscientious and highly productive assembly worker with an outstanding work ethic. To make things even worse for poor Fernald, he stands just under 5 foot tall, has a naturally heavy physique, became bald in his early 20s and has an extremely homely face - though he does dress as attractively as his salary allows and works out and eats right so he does not become obese. When it comes to living his life, however, Fernald is 100% intellectually honest and morally virtuous in every respect.

You and I would both agree that Fernald's physique is anything but ideal.

You and I would both agree that Fernald's intellectual potential is anything but ideal.

The basic point I have been attempting to make in this discussion is this: Fernald's less than ideal physique and less than ideal intellectual potential do NOT, therefore, make Fernald less than ideal. Given who he is and the mind and body he was born with, Fernald is an example of an ideal man - an ideal man born with less than average ability and looks in the same way that Eddie Willers was an example of an ideal man born with merely average ability.

Now, it is absolutely true that Fernald would not at all be an appropriate example of a literary projection of an ideal man in that the characters of John Galt, Howard Roark and Hank Rearden would have been a total flop had they been based on Fernald. But it does not follow, therefore, that just because Fernald does not resemble an Ayn Rand hero that she would have somehow regarded him as being less than an ideal human being. It does not follow because Ayn Rand would have been well aware that Fernald is not a literary projection but rather an individual, real life human being. She fully recognized that the context that is appropriate for evaluating a literary projection is very different from the context that is appropriate for evaluating a real life individual human being.

Context is very crucial here - as it is with everything. To apply principles, philosophical or otherwise, without regards to context is an example of dogmatism - something that Ayn Rand and Objectivism staunchly rejects.

Now, in order to understand why the standard of perfection which is appropriate to a literary projection may not be applicable to any given human being, it is important to keep in mind that Ayn Rand completely rejected any notion of perfection or form of idealism which involved the metaphysically impossible. Her view on this is a very unique position in today's intellectual climate where the vast majority of people have either unquestioningly accepted the religious view which equates perfection with omniscience and Plato Land or the relativist view which dismisses the notion of perfection altogether as either arbitrary convention or dogma.

Why is it totally inappropriate to blindly apply the standards of physical and intellectual perfection embodied by Ayn Rand's fictional heroes to the life of every single real life man and woman? The answer is because, in real life, people are born with a very wide range of physical and intellectual potentialities. Some people are born with god-like beauty, others are born downright ugly. Some are born highly intelligent, others are intellectually deficient. Exactly where along that continuum a given person is born is an accident of birth and totally beyond a person's control.

Going back to Fernald - for him to look like or to have the intellectual abilities of John Galt is a metaphysical impossibility. So why on earth should Fernald evaluate himself by a standard of perfection that is completely inapplicable for his own unique context - a context very different than Galt's - and utterly impossible for him to achieve? Of what practical use would such a standard of perfection be to Fernald in going about his daily life - other than, of course, to inflict guilt? To apply a standard of perfection which is appropriate in the context of creating a literary projection of an ideal man to Fernald without regard to his own unique context is an example of dogmatism - as is the application of any idea or principle to a given situation without regard for context.

So what is the basis of an appropriate standard of perfection when dealing with individual real life men and women? It is that which is in the realm of what is possible for an individual person to achieve. An alleged ideal which is impossible places philosophical ideas outside the realm of reality and is absolutely useless as a guide for men and women to live their lives by.

Because physique and intellectual potential are merely accidents of birth and beyond one's control, the one thing that is within the realm of the possible for every real life man and woman is the creation of their character. Moral perfection is something which any human being - dumb or smart, handsome or homely - can and should strive for. Physical and intellectual perfection is not something that is open to the vast majority of human beings - and thus is not an appropriate standard by which to judge a given individual's perfection.

The only standard that any individual person should be judged by with regard to appearance and intellect is what he makes of the specific potentiality he was born with. Does he look as attractive as he can according to what circumstances warrant and within the limitations of his means and the physique he was born with? Does he develop he intellect as much as possible with regard to those aspects of life which are useful and of interest to him? To the degree that the answer is yes and that he has a flawless character, then it can properly be said that such a person has achieved perfection - perfection as defined by the context of that which is open to that particular individual.

Now, given the above, you might be asking why it was, therefore, appropriate for Ayn Rand to develop the characters of John Galt and Howard Roark and her other heroes the way that she did. Since physical beauty and intellectual genius is not open to all men, why is it fully appropriate, and even mandatory, for her literary projection of an ideal man to possess such beauty and intellect?

The answer is simple: John Galt and Howard Roark are not real life individuals; they are fictional, literary projections of what is possible not to any given man or woman but rather of what is possible to the human race.

That which is possible to the human race as a whole is an appropriate standard by which to project an ideal - in fiction and only in fiction. That which is possible to Man is not necessarily possible to any given man or woman. That is why it is very dangerous for Objectivist newbies to get the notion into their heads that, if one somehow falls short of being another John Galt or Dagny Taggart, then, according to Ayn Rand, he is somehow falling short as a human being. Unfortunately, it is not at all uncommon for newbies to buy into this notion and the result is they sometimes become robotic "Randroids" until they either learn better, or live miserable lives, or end up abandoning Objectivism in disgust without ever having understood it in the first place.

The only point that Ayn Rand was making when she projected the ideal man was to show the highest example of what is possible to the human race. But there are a great many things within the realm of that which is possible to the human race as a whole that are not at all possible to you or I as individuals.

Any time one passes a judgment regarding perfection, one must first ask: perfect - by what standard and towards what end? In other words, perfection is contextual. Ayn Rand's ideas and her message are NOT intended as a "rules book" to which one is supposed to try to conform. What she offered was abstract ideas and principles which (to the degree one understands and regards them as being valid) one should apply, as appropriate and using one's own rational, independent judgment as the final authority, to the highly unique context of one's own individual life and circumstances. To attempt to impose impose on all people certain principles and standards of perfection (even if those principles and standards happen to be valid) without regard to context and individual circumstances is to adopt a mystical and dogmatic approach - and that is the exact opposite of how Ayn Rand intended for her ideas and ideals to be interpreted.

Edited by Dismuke

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