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The elitist myth & why it's damning to Objectivism.

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Dominique
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Dominique, Galt had no duty to take Eddie in, just because he's a likable character. Gulch is not a place for all the likable characters to go to; that's not its point.

Oh and by the way, someone earlier said that Galt's purpose was to destroy the collectivist society, and that's flat out false. As he said himself, that was not his goal, what he wanted to do was to save the producers from injustice by giving them another place to exist, where they could do so without being abused. Galt was not driven by negatives, only positives.

So back the issue at hand, I like the motor metaphor. Dagny was a motor spark, abused by the world in proportion to her ability, and Eddie was just a nameless gear, easily replaceable and generally irrelevant (though likable and endearing). Men like him were to be found very often even during the timeframe of the book, courageous men struggling to go on. If Galt invited them all in, the Gulch could not serve as a hiding place anymore. He was forced to leave them out, which was a hard decision undoubtedly, but a necessary one.

As AR said, Eddie had to be left behind, in order to show to the reader what happens to an average good man in a bad world. He is still abused like the best of them, but there's too many of him to save, so there's no choice but to leave him to suffer the consequences of the choices he (unwittingly) and the rest (wittingly) made. Because, remember, he was part of the problem.

But this is precisely my problem. This attitude right here. It borders on rational, but it reeks of subjectivism and eugenics. (Though I worry to criticize a moderator who I admittedly have less experience than)

I want more clarity here. Why is this idea ok? Why is " If Galt invited them all in, the Gulch could not serve as a hiding place anymore. " a rational argument for this discussion? How does this explain the appropriate heirarchy of values.

The issue I'm combatting here is: Try as you might, you'll never be good enough? Or, Try as you might, that makes you good enough.

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I was the one who stated Willers was not one of the "best of the best", and he was not.

He was essentially rational and therefore mostly moral. But he had contradictions. About TT and Dagny. He didn't always think in concretes and precisely enough.

To enlarge the scope of my comments, many people are rational and essentially moral but they to have contradictions. The people who think more rationally and have less contradictions are *objectively* better people. This should be acknowledged. Doing so is not being "elitist", but instead accepting reality.

Any person with a properly functioning brain can *choose*  to live by a rational philosophy and resolve their contradictions. If they do this then they to become part of your "elite".  And this should be honored because they objectively have become a better person.

There are "cogs in the machine" out there who like Willers are essentially rational and good people, but they can choose to become an elite any time they want if they explicitly apply the correct philosophy. Your IQ (whatever it happens to be) does not define you, but instead your application of your reason and your conformity to reality does,

What I saying is good men like Willers should be honored for their good traits, but if they choose not to be the best and fully use their rationality they are not yet part of the "best of the best". But at any time they can choose to be. And the correct "attitude" should be if and when that happens it should then be honored for the virtue that it is.

Ok, in this manner I understand. If it's up to their choice. I understand Eddie making bad decisions, and Cheryl. I agree with that. One of the most redeeming things about Ayn Rand's philosophy is that anyone can be good, but the "burden of proof" so to speak, is on them. The ball is in their court. That's what I love about it, and why I do not want to see anyone deface it with some sort of deterministic elitism. (CF I don't have the ability to spell-check-you vill give me a break for a sec yes?)

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Another angle of why Galt would have not taken Eddie, even if Eddie met all the other qualifications, was because he was Galt's personal spy on Dagny.  If you recall all the passages where Galt and Eddie talk in the cafeteria, it flows as if you were listening to one side of a phone conversation.  It doesn't show what Galt is asking Eddie, but it shows Eddie's responses.  Most of the responses directly pertain to Dagny or to key TT operations.  There is one part where Eddie tells Galt that Ben Nealy is the best contractor in the country and they couldn't complete the John Galt Line without him, a few days later he disappears.
I don't think this meshes (sp?)
If they produce at their fullest capacity (no matter what that capacity is) they will derive self-esteem and live a happy life.

I think this does, and is exactly what I'm going for. But how does a not mesh suddenly mesh? What are the steps?

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Dominique,

I think you are under the impression that Galt's approval means you are good, but his indifference means you are not good enough. This is similar to the view frequently held by some beginning students of Objectivism who believe that the title "Objectivist" is a title of nobility, and denial of that title (to them or others, such as literary or historical figures) denotes inadequacy in some sense.

Do you see what I'm saying? Perhaps you could flesh out how the view I expressed reeked of subjectivism and eugenics. Galt didn't 'kill off' everyone outside of the Valley, he left them to reap what they themselves sowed, which meant leaving them to kill themselves and the best among them (Eddie).

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Oh and by the way, someone earlier said that Galt's purpose was to destroy the collectivist society, and that's flat out false. As he said himself, that was not his goal, what he wanted to do was to save the producers from injustice by giving them another place to exist, where they could do so without being abused. Galt was not driven by negatives, only positives.

This was me, and I stand corrected. I (as I suspected Dominique of doing as well) was confusing a side effect with his actual goal.

Edited, for this addtion:

This doesn't really change the position I have taken in this thread though. What was really significant to my point was that Galt's purpose was NOT primarily to create some kind of "aristocracy," and that he never took any specific action which denied Willers' admittance into Galt's Gulch.

Edited by dondigitalia
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However, in order to do that he had to first clear way by destroying the collectivist society that stood in the way.

This is absolutely right, and this is more along the lines of what I was thinking; although I did confuse this (a side effect or a means to his end, depending on the angle you take) with his actual end goal.

I will state a disagreement with FC on one point. His primary goal was NOT to "save the producers from injustice." Rather, it was to lay the foundation for a society in which he could exist. To do this, he had to "clear the way by destroying the..." To do that, he had to deprive the world of its men of ability.

As has been poined out, the creation of Galt's Gulch was intially created as Midas Mulligan's own personal haven, which later turned into a sort of "resort" where the men of ability could live qua men of ability, not in the role of mindless automatons they had taken as the price paid for their battle.

If his goal was to "save the producers from injustice," it wouldn't necessarily indicate altruism. This would depend on the context of all of Galt's values and whether justice in regard to these particular men was of some value to him, or if no value of his was really served.

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Your example is a contradiction. He chose to contradict the reality of his love for Dagny. He was contradicting reality itself there by never acting on his love.  The worst that could have happened is she could have shot him down. His contradictions in regards to TT were similar to Dagny's that if kept working hard he could help "make" the railroad work under all the regulations. And he was contradicting reality when he refused to see that couldn't work. That he evaded thinking about these things and/or acting on them is a major contradiction to reality not simply conflict.

And what would the term conflict mean if not conflict with reality, i.e., contradictions to reality.

I will add to this:

Eddie Willers valued his work at Taggart Transcontinental. He also valued the kind of world (a free, rational society) which the looters were working to destroy. Since the looters were obtaining a portion of their support from Taggart Transcontinental, his work at Taggart Transcontinental was contributing to the destruction of another of his values. Dagny did the same thing until toward the end of the novel.

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Your example is a contradiction. He chose to contradict the reality of his love for Dagny. He was contradicting reality itself there by never acting on his love.  The worst that could have happened is she could have shot him down.

Eddie would consider an overt expression of his love a breach of Dagny’s trust , her trust that he focus solely on the task of assisting her in running TT. Since he knew that he was not her equal, he knew that there would never be anything between them beyond what already existed. Is restraint in expressing one's love always a contradiction, regardless of the circumstances?

His contradictions in regards to TT were similar to Dagny's that if kept working hard he could help "make" the railroad work under all the regulations. And he was contradicting reality when he refused to see that couldn't work.
Was it a refusal to see (i.e. evasion) or an inability to see?

Eddie clearly opposed the regulations and fought them. Yes, he failed to see that by continuing to work he was actually assisting his destroyers. Of all the brilliant minds in the story, only Galt identified this fact on his own. In view of that, how can we consider Eddie guilty of evasion rather than misguided dedication?

That he evaded thinking about these things and/or acting on them is a major contradiction to reality not simply conflict.
Why would you say that he evaded thinking about these issues? Eddie spoke at length about these issues to the "worker" in the TT cafeteria. He discussed them repeatedly with Dagny. If anything, he seems obsessed with these issues; they were, after all, destroying his greatest love, the railroad.

An example of evasion was James Taggert's refusal to face facts. In contrast, one of Eddie's characteristics was a willingness to face facts. The problem was that he did not always know what to do about them.

And what would the term conflict mean if not conflict with reality, i.e., contradictions to reality.
In Eddie's case, it means a clash between values.

There is a distinction between a conflict and a contradiction. A conflict is a clash between two (or more) incompatible goals, all of which may be possible but not simultaneously. A contradiction is statement, proposition or belief that A is also non-A.

One can reconcile a conflict in one's values. Francisco, for instance, accepted that he could not have Dagny except as a very special friend. To maintain a contradiction, on the other hand, requires an active process of evasion aimed at preventing reconciliation. Which of these two behaviors would you say is typical of Eddie?

If, at his last meeting with Dagny, Eddie had urged her not to join the strike, I would regard that as evasion and contradictory behavior.

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Thanks AisA I stand corrected. I only read AS once and that was about 2 years ago. So a few of the things you stated about the story had slipped my memory. I think I'll try and read it again soon to refresh my memory on some of these things. I've mostly always concentrated on reading the non-fiction Objectivist literature. I did just read Anthem though, its a very powerful and emotional story for being so short. I read it in like two hours. It's almost like a mini-AS. I'm a guy that doesn't show a lot of emotion but many parts of the story had me in tears. But most of Ayn Rand's writing does that to me. I guess it's because I see myself and my thinking and how I want the world to be so much in her writing it always brings out such strong emotions in me. Anyways, sorry I got so far off topic.

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One of the most redeeming things about Ayn Rand's philosophy is that anyone can be good, but the "burden of proof" so to speak, is on them.

I think you nailed it right there, Dom! This is the tersest possible response to the "elitism" accusation, yet it simply says it all. :)

In exchange for your good deed, all your misspellings to date are hereby forgiven. :P;)

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I think you are under the impression that Galt's approval means you are good, but his indifference means you are not good enough. This is similar to the view frequently held by some beginning students of Objectivism who believe that the title "Objectivist" is a title of nobility, and denial of that title (to them or others, such as literary or historical figures) denotes inadequacy in some sense.
You're probably right about this. I am very new to this whole philosophy and way of thinking, having only picked up Ayn Rand for the very first time in November.

Do you see what I'm saying? Perhaps you could flesh out how the view I expressed reeked of subjectivism and eugenics. Galt didn't 'kill off' everyone outside of the Valley, he left them to reap what they themselves sowed, which meant leaving them to kill themselves and the best among them (Eddie).

I think I just need to think on it a bit more. I seem to be jumping a step. I'll come back to this if I think of more questions or need more clarification after giving it some time.

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I think you nailed it right there, Dom! This is the tersest possible response to the "elitism" accusation, yet it simply says it all. :)

In exchange for your good deed, all your misspellings to date are hereby forgiven.  :P;)

Ok thank you :D

That's what confuses me, is I get the basics of the message, but all the application and the seemingly smallest details are throwing me all of track. Hey, I guess that's what I'm here for right?

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  • 3 weeks later...
Have you guys seen this article??

Thanks for the link. I agree that it's different from the usual attacks because the author doesn't show open hostility towards the entirety of Objectivism but rather tries to appear "balanced" and charitable. Instead of opening a mortar round, he is playing the con man. But he gives himself away at the very end:

What she did not see -- this author who proclaimed in Anthem that "the sacred word" is ego -- is what the poet T.S. Eliot saw: "What is hell? Hell is oneself."

A quote like that could only come from a person who has made his own life a Hell on Earth, and who is desperate to hide from others the fact that there is an alternative.

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Thanks for the link. I agree that it's different from the usual attacks because the author doesn't show open hostility towards the entirety of Objectivism but rather tries to appear "balanced" and charitable. Instead of opening a mortar round, he is playing the con man. But he gives himself away at the very end:

A quote like that could only come from a person who has made his own life a Hell on Earth, and who is desperate to hide from others the fact that there is an alternative.

Very true.

I suppose it's fitting he based most of his opinion on the Brandens because he seems to share a similar *hidden escape clause* approach.

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Your example is a contradiction. He chose to contradict the reality of his love for Dagny. He was contradicting reality itself there by never acting on his love.  The worst that could have happened is she could have shot him down. His contradictions in regards to TT were similar to Dagny's that if kept working hard he could help "make" the railroad work under all the regulations. And he was contradicting reality when he refused to see that couldn't work. That he evaded thinking about these things and/or acting on them is a major contradiction to reality not simply conflict.

And what would the term conflict mean if not conflict with reality, i.e., contradictions to reality.

Disregard....Asia Already took care of it..

Edited by Styles2112
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He chose to contradict the reality of his love for Dagny. He was contradicting reality itself there by never acting on his love.

Am I correct in recalling that you are not an Objectivist, or do I have you confused with one of the many other non-Objectivists in this forum? If my memory is correct, then what do you believe, based on your own philosophy, whatever that may be, would be an appropriate action for Eddie to take to act on his love of Dagny Taggart, a woman of vastly superior accomplishment?

And what would the term conflict mean if not conflict with reality, i.e., contradictions to reality.

It would be possibly (1) psychological conflict, or, more likely, (2) the cognitive conflict that comes to all of us facing difficult issues -- until, eventually (given enough information, enough intelligence, and the right methods) we resolve the conflict.

To say that Eddie Willers faced and then evaded a contradiction is to indict him morally. If that is your position, please provide evidence from Atlas Shrugged itself and, ideally, from Ayn Rand's own comments, such as in her journals, for your belief that he is a dishonest (that is, evasive) man.

P. S. -- You could add a great deal to this discussion by defining "contradiction." What facts of reality would give rise to that concept as you are using it in the context of your philosophy?

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Am I correct in recalling that you are not an Objectivist, or do I have you confused with one of the many other non-Objectivists in this forum? If my memory is correct, then what do you believe, based on your own philosophy, whatever that may be, would be an appropriate action for Eddie to take to act on his love of Dagny Taggart, a woman of vastly superior accomplishment?

It would be possibly (1) psychological conflict, or, more likely, (2) the cognitive conflict that comes to all of us facing difficult issues -- until, eventually (given enough information, enough intelligence, and the right methods) we resolve the conflict.

To say that Eddie Willers faced and then evaded a contradiction is to indict him morally. If that is your position, please provide evidence from Atlas Shrugged itself and, ideally, from Ayn Rand's own comments, such as in her journals, for your belief that he is a dishonest (that is, evasive) man.

P. S. -- You could add a great deal to this discussion by defining "contradiction." What facts of reality would give rise to that concept as you are using it in the context of your philosophy?

No. I am very much an Objectivist. This post was from over a month ago and someone(I forget who, I'd have to go back and reread everything) pointed out some errors I made and I have already agreed.

I will say this though, my original point was this, that if Eddy loved Dagny he should have spoken to her about it at some point. To simply say well she's out of my league so screw it, is what I see as the contradiction. By contradiction in this case I mean that he is not choosing to attain a value(Dagny) that is of immense value to him. Like I said earlier, the worst that could happen is that she would shoot him down. But at least he would have tried.

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RationalOne, two points:

1) Atlas Shrugged is a fiction novel, which means the author creates facts and puts them in certain order in order to portray a theme. In a proper fiction story, all facts serve this ultimate task of helping to portray the theme, and it's one of the tell-tale signs of a bad writing when there are things that happen in the story which make no sense, or have no relevance to the story itself.

For Ayn Rand, to have Eddie ask Dagny out would be a complete waste of her time, and the reader's time, because everyone knows that it's not going to work out. So, instead, she had him keep his appreciation for her inside; what he had for her wasn't even love in the true romantic sense, but a kind of humble worship. But it was a worship of a proper kind, because it was worship of heroism and highest achievement.

1) You are assuming that Atlas Shrugged is an exhaustive guide to your own life: everything that the characters in the book did, you should do; everything that they didn't do is somehow a sign that you shouldn't do it either.

So if Eddie kept his affection for Dagny hidden, you are assuming that it is a direct indication to you that you must do something similar, in similar circumstances.

Do you see a problem with this approach?

Edited by Free Capitalist
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Have you guys seen this article?? I just got it in the Google Alerts. Same old bullshit? I think it seems worse because it's almost favoring, but too much emphasis is placed on what the Branden's said.

That article was reprinted in its entirety in the Louisville Courier-Journal Sunday, along with quotes from journalist Mike Wallace and Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher on Ayn Rand.

The ironic part is that, just a few days earlier, the same newspaper had published an op-ed by Harry Binswanger on the Ten Commandments.

Edited by redfarmer
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dominque,

Unfortunately, I think the discussion about elitism has been obscured, rather than illustrated, by the issue of Eddie's non-invitation to the valley.

If this is still an issue in your mind, I'd suggest stepping back and making the question a little more abstract. Are you asking:

- Is Eddie just as moral as Dagny?

- Is Eddie just as competent as Dagny?

- Is Eddie just as "indispensible" as Dagny?

- Something else?

Your posts seem to indicate you think Dagny and Eddie as equally important parts of "the motor". Is this true?

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Dominque,

Unfortunately, I think the discussion about elitism has been obscured, rather than illustrated, by the issue of Eddie's non-invitation to the valley.

If this is still an issue in your mind, I'd suggest stepping back and making the question a little more abstract. Are you asking:

- Is Eddie just as moral as Dagny?

- Is Eddie just as competent as Dagny?

- Is Eddie just as "indispensible" as Dagny?

- Something else?

Your posts seem to indicate you think Dagny and Eddie as equally important parts of "the motor". Is this true?

Actually, what I was saying is that I understand it that Eddie refused the Gulch but *could've gone and would've been welcome* if he so chose. What I objected to and thought led to the idea of *elitism* and a lot of anti-Objectivist criticism was the idea that Eddie *was not invited and could not have been invited because the Gulch was only a place for the best of the best*

I understand that Dagny and Galt might be more naturally gifted and so might be better suited to say *mayor of the Gulch* while Eddie might have been *janitor of the Gulch* or what have you, but I felt/feel that there was a dividing line between whom was admitted and who was not and I thought/think that the criteria for drawing that line is moral *goodness* and ambition rather than natural talent or supremecy.

It matters to me because it seems to symbolize a huge difference in focus and ideology.

I think it is I who have obscured it though rather than illuminated but perhaps this will clarify. If not please ask more and I will think on it and see if I can't be even clearer.

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When you say "naturally gifted," are you suggesting that you believe some people are *born* with inate talents or abilities, while others are destined to mediocrity? Ayn Rand never advocated that, and to me.. if any premises are likely to lead to elitism, it would be those. But Ayn Rand went to great lenghts to show that great men are self made, and arive at greatness through their choices and actions.

Edited by Bold Standard
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