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Spinoza and Rand

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I haven't read it yet. It is only 5 pages when shrunk and white space galore removed.

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  • 5 weeks later...

In Spinoza’s egoistic ethics, Pride is regarded in a negative way. He takes as Pride: “Joy born of the fact that a man thinks more highly of himself than is just.” So Rand’s virtue Pride (an earned esteem from shaping soul in image of moral ideal Man) might coincide with a just self-regard, that is, with an objectively warranted self-regard, thinking of her idea from Spinoza’s perspective. Self-regard, however, I suggest, should be set in a developmental history of individuals from our first getting I am I to adulthood.*

Pride does not have an opposite in Spinoza’s organization of human being. Humility is not opposite of Pride, but of Self-Esteem. “Humility is a sadness born of the fact that a man considers his own lack of power, or weakness.” “Self-esteem is a joy born of the fact that a man considers himself and his own power of acting.”

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What would the term be for Rand to indicate what Spinoza is saying there? What kind of behaviors from a person would indicate that they think more highly of themselves than is just?

A long time ago, I found a phrase that Rand used in Atlas Shrugged to talk about those who make others there inferior. I got the phrase from some page in Atlas Shrugged when Dagny was talking to Stadler about Galt's motor. The relevant quote goes like this: "They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors". I can't remember what page this is exactly, but I want to say it's in the first part somewhere. I bring this up because it conveys thinking highly of oneself, and accurately seeing that one is doing well in comparison to someone else. But it's managed by tearing down others so that one sees themselves as wonderful and admirable by default rather than effort and real success at living life. After all, self-esteem is the awareness and acknowledgment that one can succeed at life and is worthy for life. 

Take the meaning of that what you will. But I thought that would be interesting to mention. 

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

"They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors"

About 1/2 way into Part 2, Chapter 1, The Man Who Belonged On Earth

It is from a paragraph on an elaboration by Dr. Stadler to Miss Taggert on "the hallmark of a second-rater".

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Eiuoi, good questions for us. Thanks.

On the second one, the character Peter Keating would seem a locus of behaviors that, from a Randian angle, show a person thinking more highly of themselves than is just. He has some highs of feeling he is great in the work of his profession, though he is a fake and self-deluded.

Concerning the first one:

I think it is interesting how names of traits long regarded as moral failings can come to name something purely virtuous. Sometimes it happens by a change in usage of in the community. The term ambition seems that way. We’d likely take it as a compliment to say that someone is ambitious. Yet Spinoza 3+ centuries back was saying ambition (ambitio) is “striving to do something (and also to omit doing something) solely to please men, . . . especially when we strive so eagerly to please the people that we do or omit certain things to our own injury, or another’s."

As between Spinoza and Rand, the name Pride (superbia) changes not by change in common usage, but by Rand wanting to use the term in a restricted way that she states in a new definition, overlapping the old, but not coinciding with it. When I was in high school, I attended a church summer camp, and there a guest speaker who was a highway patrolman addressed us in an outdoor amphitheater. He was a quickdraw artist and he used that skill—drawing and firing the gun—in the course of trying to sear into our brains the speed and deadliness of auto collisions. Somewhere in that presentation, he said one should have pride. This was not a foreign idea to me, this positive sense of pride. I asked, however, isn’t pride wrong? For that idea was in my head as well. He didn’t know what to say on that and said we’d have to consult the clergy.

Looking up Pride in the Catholic Encyclopedia or the Lutheran one, only the negative sense is noted. From the latter source (called Christian Cyclopedia), the entry for Pride says:

“Inordinate self-esteem; considered one of the 7 deadly sins; represented in the Bible as a vice (Pr 16:1821:429:231 Ptr 5:51 Jn 2:16); may manifest itself (1) with respect to God, as spiritual arrogance and self-assertion or self-righteousness (Mt 23:5–12Lk 18:11–12Rv 3:17), (2) with respect to other people, as haughtiness, feeling of superiority, boasting, vainglory (Jb 12:2Ps 101:5Pr 14:21Jer 9:23). God will punish the proud (Dt 8:11–20Pr 8:13Jn 5:44Ja 4:6).”

However, turning to my American Heritage Dictionary, I see that that negative sense of Pride comes in only as the fourth definition. The first three definitions are positive. So it was not off the planet for Rand to delineate a positive sense of Pride as one of the main virtues in her ethical theory.

In Rand’s paragraphs on Pride in Atlas Shrugged and in “The Objectivist Ethics,” there is an implicit acknowledgement that people can have a false pride; she writes of her virtue Pride that it must be earned by finding and holding to the values that make one’s life worth sustaining, and this includes a continual perfection of one’s character. However, I don’t see address here of false pride (unearned, undeserved pride).

Nathaniel Branden wrote against subjectivist conceptions of individualism and against the notions: “It’s right because I feel it” or It’s true because I believe it” in his essay “Counterfeit Individualism” (1962). Those possibilities and their censure would readily apply to standards for Pride in Rand’s sense. Readily applicable also would be Branden’s dicta on objective standards for Randian selfishness in his essay “Isn’t Everyone Selfish?” (1962). Readily applicable also would be Rand’s dicta against not only subjectivism, but amoralism in her essay “Selfishness without a Self” (1974).

Tara Smith treats Pride in chapter 9 of her Rand’s Normative Ethics (2006). It is an excellent discussion. It includes comparison with Aristotle’s positive conception of Pride. Very nice discussion in this chapter of moral perfection. But to our concern just now:

“The proud person must be frank in evaluating his own moral performance. Kidding himself with flattering falsehood will not help him to be truly virtuous or to reap virtue’s rewards. Such a tack erects a competing aim—preservation of a pleasing self-image—that undercuts what is actually needed for a positive self-image, namely: honest self-assessment. Only that provides the foundation that can support self-esteem, long range.” (233)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Edited by Boydstun
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11 hours ago, Boydstun said:

On the second one, the character Peter Keating would seem a locus of behaviors that, from a Randian angle, show a person thinking more highly of themselves than is just.

I've always thought of Keating as someone that is superficially successful but exudes little confidence or makes minimal claims about their superiority. And he lacks the emotional intensity of the person that feels reality itself is under attack when you question that they may have made a mistake about anything. I'm trying to describe a person who is unable to handle an implication that they've done something wrong and shift all moral blame to other people.

Now, it might seem like I'm describing a very specific person. But I would bet that more people are like this in reality than you might realize. It happens in many cultures that I know of. I've heard of it in a number of American families. I have a narcissist in my family, and I can recognize the pattern in an instant. What I'm getting at is not just the recognition that unearned pride is a bad thing, but the observations in reality that demonstrates what happens when you have unearned pride. 

Thanks for the part about looking up the meaning of pride. I find it really interesting how the "pride is evil" sort of definition is only the fourth definition when you look at the American Heritage Dictionary.

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