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Maximum Intellectual Potential and Eddie Willers

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Randrew
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In Andrew Bernstein's excellent essay "The Role of the Common Man in Atlas Shrugged" from the Cliff's Notes to AS, he makes the following questionable statement:

"The achievements of Rearden, Dagny, Galt, and the other thinkers dramatize the claim that reason is the primary cause of progress. But intellectual ability isn't within a man's volitional control. The ability of his brain is something that a man is born with, but he chooses whether he uses it. Eddie's consistent choice to accept the responsibility of thinking is the hallmark of a virtuous man....[etc.]" (122, emphasis added.)

Now, it is my understanding that ability, in the sense of valuable skills, is something that one develops and earns. I think what Dr. Bernstein is referring to here is something along the lines of IQ or any other kind of "natural ability" that one inherits genetically. Although such natural endowments (or lack thereof) are a fact of life (e.g. click here for information about the so-called IGF2R "smart gene"), I have to wonder: how does one discover one's maximum potential for intellectual ability? More importantly: is it even possible to know when such a potential has been reached?

It has always been my paradigm that, in order to "become smarter" (i.e. become well-versed in a difficult abstract science or academic endeavor), one need only apply enough discipline and creativity, i.e. study harder and study smarter (by employing methods appropriate to the subject of study.) Some people seem to learn some things faster than others, but whether you attribute this to genetics or to superior study habits and methods seems to me open to debate.

This may be another reason why some shy away from Objectivism: they identify their "natural" intellectual ability more with Eddie's than with the heroes', and, although they recognize the importance of a rock-solid foundation in primacy of existence, their position as a person without the potential for greatness makes them feel a sense of disappointment in the knowledge that they can never measure up.

That last thought brings up another important question: does Eddie have the same capacity for happiness (joy) as the heroes? I looked in OPAR, but could find no evidence supporting the idea that one's capacity for happiness is proportional to one's natural intellectual potential (or even a hint at this idea), although I may have missed something. I recall that Americonorman brought up this very question in this thread (his claim being the Aristotelian idea that a philosopher has the greatest potential for happiness), and I believe it was discussed briefly for a few replies. Anyone else have any thoughts on the matter?

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Thanks, Randrew, for reminding me that that question is something I have to elaborate on. As you may have noticed, I've been, and am in, a poetical creative cycle, and it is hard to get out of. My recent Aphorism has been the closest in weeks that I have come to be "professionally" philosophical.

Maybe I will think about the elaboration this week.

Americo.

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Randrew:

--Linked to the post you linked to, I did write a poem on happiness during that period in the "Poems You like section".

I'll say this: the PHILOSOPHER is born, i.e., natural ability. For example, Dr. Ridpath, never admitted to me that he is a philosopher. And yet he is one of the most happiest men I "know". I could just imagine the intensity of Peikoff's happiness ... or someone who is investigating the deepest topics of Rand's later years. It is bliss to succeed, period ... but it is greater bliss to succeed in the most difficult.

In the intro. to Peikoff's first induction lectures, he states that induction in philosophy is more difficult and easier than physics. There is a difference in the method of investigation. But philosophy, once success is won, is a sufficient condition of happiness; certainly since philosophy is a biological need and operational factor of man's living life.

Americo.

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This may be another reason why some shy away from Objectivism: they identify their "natural" intellectual ability more with Eddie's than with the heroes', and, although they recognize the importance of a rock-solid foundation in primacy of existence, their position as a person without the potential for greatness makes them feel a sense of disappointment in the knowledge that they can never measure up.

I brought this up previously here and am still not fully satisfied with the responses so far. I haven't cleared it all in my head, and am wondering about the implications. I think what I am looking for is a break down of some sort that explains this seeming heirarchy in a way that I can understand it. It's kind of confusing though so I haven't been able to make myself clear in this regard.

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Dominique: I am aware that the "Eddie Willers situation" has been discussed at length in several threads on this forum. The reason I haven't read into them too deeply is that I think Dr. Bernstein's aforementioned essay made Eddie's role and what he symbolized abundantly clear. I cannot reprint the whole of the essay here, as that would be copyright infringement, but I will give the concise answer: the purpose of Ayn Rand's leaving Eddie's fate open-ended was to show that the well-being of "the common man" depends on the freedom of trade and production of great industrialists, regardless of how "disproportionately" wealthy they may end up. In any case, if you still have confusion over Eddie, I highly recommend that you purchase the Cliff's Notes to AS and read Berstein's many essays within.

Now, back to the topics of this thread.

Inspector:

I don't see any reason to assume that Mr. Bernstein was not talking about genetic potential

The phrase Bernstein uses is "intellectual ability." An example to illustrate my point: the more college courses you take (and work hard at) in a particular subject, the more intellectual ability you will have with respect to that subject. (Let's consider a subject such as engineering, where the "ability" you develop will be more or less directly proportional to your ability to accomplish a given task efficiently and superbly.)

This kind of "ability" is something that one earns. This is not to say that genetic factors cannot enhance this, only that the amount of it one possesses is "within one's volitional control."

That said, I am assuming that Dr. Bernstein is referring to genetic factors, as that is the only context in which his statement is defensible. I just wish that he had been specific about what he meant.

Perhaps my central question is more of a comment (with an invitation for discussion): although genetic factors influencing intelligence may very well exist, either dwelling on them or viewing them prematurely as roadblocks in one's personal development is flirting with determinism, and thus a bad idea.

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Dominique: I am aware that the "Eddie Willers situation" has been discussed at length in several threads on this forum.  The reason I haven't read into them too deeply is that I think Dr. Bernstein's aforementioned essay made Eddie's role and what he symbolized abundantly clear.  I cannot reprint the whole of the essay here, as that would be copyright infringement, but I will give the concise answer: the purpose of Ayn Rand's leaving Eddie's fate open-ended was to show that the well-being of "the common man" depends on the freedom of trade and production of great industrialists, regardless of how "disproportionately" wealthy they may end up.  In any case, if you still have confusion over Eddie, I highly recommend that you purchase the Cliff's Notes to AS and read Berstein's many essays within.

Now, back to the topics of this thread.

Inspector:

The phrase Bernstein uses is "intellectual ability."  An example to illustrate my point: the more college courses you take (and work hard at) in a particular subject, the more intellectual ability you will have with respect to that subject.  (Let's consider a subject such as engineering, where the "ability" you develop will be more or less directly proportional to your ability to accomplish a given task efficiently and superbly.)

This kind of "ability" is something that one earns.  This is not to say that genetic factors cannot enhance this, only that the amount of it one possesses is "within one's volitional control."

That said, I am assuming that Dr. Bernstein is referring to genetic factors, as that is the only context in which his statement is defensible.  I just wish that he had been specific about what he meant.

Perhaps my central question is more of a comment (with an invitation for discussion): although genetic factors influencing intelligence may very well exist, either dwelling on them or viewing them prematurely as roadblocks in one's personal development is flirting with determinism, and thus a bad idea.

The thread that Dominique pointed out did if fact deal with the questions you are asking if not the particular essay you pointed out. An essay that I don't think many people on this forum will have read either since I'm relatively sure most actually read AS and not simply its Cliff Notes.

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The thread that Dominique pointed out did if fact deal with the questions you are asking if not the particular essay you pointed out. An essay that I don't think many people on this forum will have read either since I'm relatively sure most actually read AS and not simply its Cliff Notes.

Thanks, I thought it was relevent too, I certainly didn't mean to pull this off topic.

Perhaps my central question is more of a comment (with an invitation for discussion): although genetic factors influencing intelligence may very well exist, either dwelling on them or viewing them prematurely as roadblocks in one's personal development is flirting with determinism, and thus a bad idea.

This is exactly what I was saying in the other thread. It also reminds me of Ayn Rand's writings on the ability to write fiction vs non-fiction. On one hand in The Art of Fiction she says she believes writing is a skill one can aquire and is not as such a *innate talent* (I am paraphrasing but it comes in the first few pages of each novel) and then in The Art of Non-fiction she says she thinks however that fiction may be *more* of a gift then is Non-fiction which she says anyone can learn. I might be inclined to agree with her distinction that the two require different passions, but that either genre can be developed in proportion to the passion which drives the writer. Since I don't have quotes at the moment I'll come back later and try to be more specific.

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Rational_One:

The thread that Dominique pointed out did if fact deal with the questions you are asking if not the particular essay you pointed out.
Ok, I'll look into it more deeply, as previously I only skimmed them.

An essay that I don't think many people on this forum will have read either since I'm relatively sure most actually read AS and not simply its Cliff Notes.

Hmm, are you trying to imply that I've read *only* the Cliff's Notes? :D No, no, no, I have read AS at least 2.5 times by now. Your statement reflects what I thought when I first considered the Cliff Notes: "What good could they possibly do *me*? After all, I've read AS several times thoroughly." Do not fall into this psychological trap: if you have questions about the Eddie situation, I really think Bernstein's essay in here can help you clear them up (and the rest of his essays are great, besides.)

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