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ernie

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I've been talking back and forth with one of my professors about my philosophy and how it's been influenced by Ayn Rand's novels. We started talking about the criteria we use to decide who we want to interact with or form relationships with. I stated that I do not desire the underserved and that I only consider friendship valid when each party values the other for the best within them - the strongest part of their character. She replied that although one intitially values others for the best within them, these relationships cannot be sustained without relaxing this standard at some point. Ayn Rand's characters never yield. They always hold themselves to the highest standard. Is it reasonable to expect this from people in the real world?

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I would say yes, it is reasonable. That is not to say that everybody you prefer to interact with must always be perfect in every way. But they should set high standards for themselves and always be striving to meet those standards.

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Not really. You have to understand that Ayn Rand showed the ideal man in her heros. Novels don't cover every part of the human psyche, and it would take away from the story if you had these contradictory attitudes within the story. I think what you would have to remember is that a hero in a book is an exageration of reality.

That's not to say that it isn't possible for someone to have the drive or intelligence or the success that her characters had, but humans aren't omniscient which is how Ayn Rand portrayes John Galt, Dagny Taggart, Francisco, etc. So to hold yourself and eveyone else up to those standards would be a mistake and damaging to yourself. How would life be if you shunned everyone that wasn't a John Galt?

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Alex,

You say that man's psyche is contradictory. Perhaps you would care to *name* some of the parts of man's NATURE which are contradictory.

You say that heroes are an "exageration" of reality - indicating that individuals like those depicted could not exist. Please indicate what aspects of the characters in Atlas Shrugged, for instance, are not things which could or do exist in reality (especially since you claim that it is possible for people to have the drive, intelligence and/or success of the characters AR created).

You say that the characters in AS are "omniscient". I don't remember any characters having the ability to know all that there is to know. And in JUST the previous sentence, you claimed it is possible for people to actually possess the intelligence of her characters - a seeming contradiction to this claim.

Because of these questionable premises, your conclusion that it is "damaging" to hold one's self to the standards held by these characters is, AT BEST, suspect.

Finally, in your last sentence, you asked what life would be like if you had to shun everyone who was not a John Galt. This is simply a false alternative. You shun the Mouches and the James Taggarts. You would not shun the Wet Nurse (after his conversion) nor would you shun the Eddie Willers (or Cheryl Taggarts) of the world.

I *really* suggest you check your premises. As they stand they seem quite off the mark.

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She portrayed the *IDEAL MAN*, not the COMMON MAN. But the ideal wasn't envisioned for the sole purpose of imagining it or contemplating it. It was envisioned for the puprose of realizing it. Ayn Rand portrayed the ideal man that everyone ought to strive to be and the ideal life that everyone ought to try to have.

And no Alex, no characters in her novel are not omniscient. Why do you think Dagny and Hank Rearden held out until then end?

Is it reasonable to expect relaxed standards? I would say no. Ayn Rand said so herself, "in the field of morality, nothing less than perfection will do". People will undoubtedly make errors of knowledge. Perfect standards--or near perfect standards--are only proper to morality. Even then, errors in knowledge (and ignorance) can lead to inadvertent breaches of morality. We must be careful to differentiate between the two. There are those who refuse to think, to understand, and there are those who seek the truth but have not yet discovered it--or are prevented from discovering it. The former I condemn, but the latter always have my sympathy.

Now, if the "standard" you refer to is the valuing the best in one's friends, what do you mean that it should be relaxed at some point? That one should not value the best in one's friends at some point?

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I did not say mans psyche is contradictory. My point was that it would be a contradiction for the writer if he was trying to make an ideal rational man and then had that character make a completely irrational choice or action. Which can happen in real life but it would tarnish the character of a hero in a novel.

Her heroes are certainly an exaggeration from reality because they are always rational. This is not possible in reality, humans are not perfect, and they are not always rational.

I cannot pick anyone aspect of in Atlas Shrugged that cannot exist because it is possible to be rational and logical. What cannot exist is a perfect score of rationality in life, or going through life making one error of judgment.

Your right that was a contradiction, omniscience was a wrong word, although I would say Francisco and John Galt were not that far away. I did say that people have the ability to achieve the success that these characters gain, and it is evident in reality that it is possible i.e. Bill Gates, Ted Turner etc.

I said that holding one's self to the standards held by these characters would be dangerous, because of the guilt someone would feel by never being perfect, which is what Ayn Rand’s heroes embody.

The last sentance was thrown in and doesn't belong in this conversation.

I am not saying that reading heroes such as Ayn Rands is bad, just the opposite; their wonderfully inspirational. Only that a problem comes when you hold yourself and everyone else up to level of perfection, because of the guilt when you don't reach perfection. It would be fallacious to think that if you don't strive to be perfect then you can never achieve greatness.

Did I miss anything?

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No, people are not always rational. People make mistakes all the time. They can come to a mistaken, irrational conclusion. But the important thing is that they not be *deliberately* irrational; i.e., they do not blank-out, refuse to think.

Perfection is unbreached morality--i.e., total dedication to reason. That's all it is. It's not infallability--that's the standard by which irrational philosophies determine "perfection".

"That which is outside the province of choice is outside the province of morality." --Ayn Rand

If by choice people cannot reach perfection, they are not immoral and guilty. But then how is it impossible to be totally dedicated to reason?

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I never said that it was impossible to be totally dedicated to reason. Only that it is impossible to demand perfection and then be disapointed when you're unable to reach it.

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I think we are talking past each other.

Perfection = unbreached morality (ie dedication TO reason)

You say that it is impossible to demand unbreached morality (perfection) and then be disappointed when you breach that morality. In other words, you are saying it is impossible to be disappointed when you CHOOSE to act against reason.

On what basis is that an impossiblity?

I believe your sentence structure is leading to confusion. Perhaps you could rephrase the idea you are trying to communicate more clearly.

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I wasn't thinking of perfection in terms of 'unbreached morality' which is probably the only sufficient definition. If that is the definition then I agree that it would be possible to reach perfection.

I said that it is impossible to demand perfection and then be disapointed when you're unable to reach it.

My point is that Ayn Rand's heroes are not just perfection as you've stated, but infallible. I should have expressed myself more explicitly to start with, so please excuse me for that. That is what I see as the impossibility in Ayn Rand's heroes, and the guilt one could feel for never being able to reach it.

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My point is that Ayn Rand's heroes are not just perfection as you've stated, but    infallible.  I should have expressed myself more explicitly to start with, so please excuse me for that.  That is what I see as the impossibility in Ayn Rand's heroes, and the guilt one could feel for never being able to reach it.

Infallible? In what way, exactly? They’re certainly not omniscient, nor is their reason infallible. Can you give an example of what you mean?

Speaking of the guilt aspect, it’s a common question/objection I hear. “Don’t you sometimes want to cheat on your ideals?” or “I like Objectivism, but it’s just too hard to be perfectly rational.” It’s funny to hear people claim that being an egoist is impossible when self-denial and self-sacrifice is supposed to be the “noble” and truly hard behavior– the more difficult, the better. I think that the real objection of such arguments is not to rationality or egoism per se, but to acting on principle. Pragmatism is so deeply ingrained in most people that the notion of consistently acting on any principle simultaneously arouses admiration and skepticism.

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My point is that Ayn Rand's heroes are not just perfection as you've stated, but    infallible.  I should have expressed myself more explicitly to start with, so please excuse me for that.  That is what I see as the impossibility in Ayn Rand's heroes, and the guilt one could feel for never being able to reach it.

I'm confused by this too. Reread the first few pages of The Fountainhead, where Roark tells the dean that he made a mistake and should have quit the Stanton Institute long before being thrown out. Also, Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon take a long time to realize that it it pointless to try to keep working outside Galt's Gulch. Rand's characters do mistakes and are not infallible. The only exception might be John Galt, who has always seemed a little two-dimensional to me.

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I now understand your problem. You are trying to say one thing, but actually saying another.

"I said that it is impossible to demand perfection and then be disapointed when you're unable to reach it."

means:

It is impossible to demand perfection

and then

impossible to be disappointed when you're unable to reach it.

However, you indicate you are talking about guilt in not being able to reach perfection. Which means your sentence SHOULD read:

"It is impossible to demand perfection and then NOT be disappointed when you're unable to reach it."

which means:

It is impossible to demand perfection

and then

impossible NOT to be disappointed when you're unable to reach it.

Of course, your point here has been refuted - once by me (which you acknowledge) and once by each GC:

1) You admit, with the definition we provide of perfection (which you admit is the only valid definition), that perfection IS achievable. So it is NOT impossible to demand perfection. And if one DOES *choose* to reject reason in any instance, one SHOULD feel guilty.

2) Even going by your erroneous definition of perfection (infallibility/omniscience), the characters are still NOT perfect. They proceeded from faulty premises, and made mistakes in judgements. If this were not true - if they were infallible/omniscient - there would have beeen NO plot to Atlas Shrugged whatsoever!

All in all, I would say each and every one of your premises on this subject has been disproven. Hopefully you have now reconsidered your position - your beliefs - because of that.

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