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FlashFour

"heroes"

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Just wondering what some of your thoughts were on the following:

I think most (if not all) of the people here detest the image of the hero as a self-sacrificing public servant. So what do you feel is there to be said for the person who works for himself, but primarily for something other than material gain?

For instance, the example that got me thinking about this was a play I saw in which a lawyer who only took challanging cases that could really make an impact and fight for what was right compared himself to his colleague who was making tons of money but would only take on open and closed cases.

I think there's something to be said for those who can make themselves happy in a more...important kind of way. For instance someone who has fought for the rights that he enjoys rather than someone who has worked to become wealthy.

What do you all think?

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What do you all think?

I think you may be thinking in terms of false alternatives. Who says that the person who got rich at their job didn't also accomplish "important" life changing things? Are the open and shut cases lacking in importance or significance? Don't they need to be fought by someone as well? The amount of material gain versus the importance of the accomplishment is not necessarily at odds with each other.

I'm not sure why, but this reminds me somewhat of the corny motivational story about the janitor who works for NASA. When asked what his job was he replied, "I help put men on the moon." The world "needs" janitors, and the world "needs" lawyers who are willing to take open and shut cases.

I think the significant thing is that each type of lawyer you mention pursues the values important to them, succeeds at them without self-sacrifice, and gains from their cases the value they seek.

VES

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That's an interesting issue, but a complete enough answer requires some elaboration.

At certain points in life for most people, we have to take jobs that bring in money to pay the bills, where the money is the main reason for having that job. (Summer or part-time jobs in college, for instance.)

But that situation is not what a productive career is about. Ideally, the chosen career path is in sync with one's driving passions and deepest values. An example of this is Roark. For him, fame or fortune is secondary (or even less). In contrast, Keating's interest in actual design work is minimal; his primary concern is fame and fortune. If you want to know Ayn Rand's opinion of which is proper for a human being, look to The Fountainhead.

The other consideration is that one's career must be productive. That means more than just holding a job and doing it well. The actual work must produce something that enhances one's own life. There's a danger in today's mixed economy (and mixed premises) to choose a career that instead of promoting life-promoting values, actually promotes things that ultimately are detrimental to one's life. For instance, these can take the form of anti-freedom (such as providing assistance to a sworn enemy of the USA, or working for the IRS) or immoral activities (such as promoting multiculturalism or environmentalism).

To answer your question, then, I don't think the primary focus of one's career should be material gain.

Let me add, for the sake of accuracy, that material gain is a noble pursuit. Wealth provides one with a wide range of material goods (housing, health care, sports cars, vacations, etc.) that clearly enhance one's life. Scientists make life-saving discoveries, but it is the businessman who brings that discovery and related technology to the masses. It is this enormous life-promoting value for which businessmen deserve enormous financial compensation.

For businessmen, stock traders, salesmen, etc., the accumulation of wealth is a yardstick for judging one's success (for instance, am I making more money this year than last?). They may seem to be focused exclusively on material gain, but I'd argue that what matters for the very successful businessman is the activity of doing business. Men like Michael Milken and J. Paul Getty have said that after a certain point, making an additional million or two doesn't really matter; it is the job itself -- the love of the doing -- that drives them.

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The important thing to realise is that whenever someone does something in his life, he should do it because he expects to profit out of it. Monetary profit is only ONE type of profit. There is obviously nothing wrong with wanting to make money. Just like there is nothing wrong with not being particularly concerned about making money. Remember, Howard Roark did not care too much about money. But Dagny Taggart did. As did Hank Rearden. And they are all heroes.

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To my earlier post, let me add:

I think there's something to be said for those who can make themselves happy in a more...important kind of way.

"more important" -- to whom? for what purpose?

I ask because the reason why you consider some motive more important than the pursuit of money could be a mistaken premise. Remember when discussing values, there is always a context: there can be no values without some living entity doing the valuing. That is what creates the possiblity of objectivity in values.

So implicit in your question is some sort of premise that says something is more important than money. As you think about this issue, ask yourself what it is that is more important, and why.

Some common ideas of things that are more important motives than money are: sacrificing one's interests for the sake of others (altruism); serving God; serving the government; promoting the greatest good (utilitarianism); destruction for its own sake (nihilism); etc. Of course, the subjectivists could say that no motive is any better than another.

It's not enough to leave one's understanding of the range of motivations to just money or "other". Pursuing money as a primary has its own problems, but it is certainly better than a number of alternatives society pushes on us daily. Even if you see that money should not be an end in itself, the question is still open as to what one's primary motive should be. It is important to know consciously what that proper motive should be.

Thanks for bringing up a very philosophical topic.

P.S. to Dagny: you're welcome.

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Flashfour,

A couple of people have shared thoughts in response to your post. It would be nice to see what your thoughts are on these responses and if they have changed the way you evaluate your premise(s) with respect to this topic.

VES

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FlashFour,

I think there exists a point that needs to be further examined.

Material gain, as an end, should never be the focus of a healthy person. Taking money as the example-if your focus is on only the end of having the most, then it does not matter by what means you achieve it.

The great thing about money is the acquisition of money-or the ability to work, to produce, etc. While material wealth may not be relative, spiritual wealth can only be achieved by the person who knows how to make money. It is only after one makes money in the truest sense, that one can better appreciate the product.

The focus of the healthy man is the acquisition of money. It is only after one engages in the act of productive achievement that one can truly enjoy and appreciate the product.

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A couple of people have shared thoughts in response to your post.  It would be nice to see what your thoughts are on these responses and if they have changed the way you evaluate your premise(s) with respect to this topic.

I must say that I am inclined to admire the lawyer who takes on a challange. Personally, I value what I earn and I do as I please with it, but I think much more worthwhile is the actual challange of the work done and the greater benefits I reap (such as the janitor someone mentioned who helps put men on the moon). I think theres something deeper when you are working harder and earning more than just material things. I feel like I am being more respectful to myself when I am testing my own capabilities.

I think there is an underlying issue here, which is, as some people hinted, that Objectivism isn't just about money. Obviously it is very important, especially in practical applications, but like Concerto of Atlantis said, "Monetary profit is only ONE type of profit". I almost feel like there is too much of an emphasis on the selfish aquisition of money. This is understandable, as this aspect of Objectivism is the one that is usually under attack. However, as a general trend, the other ideas involved here are overshadowed by this and Objectivists tend to be seen simply as misers.

I when I heard Objectivist ideas denounced elsewhere, I investigated, and I think many people who oppose Objectivism would not if they could see that (correct me if I am wrong) it is more about the value of personal achievement than making money.

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I almost feel like there is too much of an emphasis on the selfish aquisition of money. This is understandable, as this aspect of Objectivism is the one that is usually under attack. However, as a general trend, the other ideas involved here are overshadowed by this and Objectivists tend to be seen simply as misers.

I when I heard Objectivist ideas denounced elsewhere, I investigated, and I think many people who oppose Objectivism would not if they could see that (correct me if I am wrong) it is more about the value of personal achievement than making money.

Anyone who reads The Fountainhead and doesn't acknowledge that is either dishonest or unconscious.

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I would like to answer with a few quotes

“To thine own self be true”

“Pay according to work”

“Value for value”

An investment banker and a trained nurse are very different if it comes to material gain. They also have different values and hierarchies of values. The nurse will value human contact with the patients, the fact that she made a difference to someone’s life in a difficult time or maybe having an unlimited supply of babies to cuddle if she works in the maternity ward. The investment banker will value other things. None is better than the other. Both merit payment for their work and according to their abilities, quantity and quality of work. Both trade value for value, the nurse trading her nursing skills and people skills for her wages and the values mentioned above. The investment banker trades his skills for the thrill of making money and the material benefits that come with that money. Both are traders and morally equal.

Things go bad if any of the three principles above are not applied. People living by another set of values then their own, like being what their parents want or what society expects. People not getting fair wages or fair prices for their products. People not trading value for value. Those are the people who think life owes them a living, for example, artists living of government funding and producing works of art nobody would ever want in his home.

On a sidetrack: sometimes we hear of geniuses who disappeared or whose talent totally dried up, like the chess player Bobby Fisher. Could there be an objectivist explanation to this?

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