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The Fountainhead

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“The concept Plato is forging with his city-soul analogy is ‘justice’ (proper ruling). The concept Rand is forging with her building-soul analogy is ‘integrity’. One broad thesis of THE FOUNTAINHEAD is that there is a type of egoistic individualism that is good and just; altruistic collectivism is evil and unjust. The argument focuses not so much on what is just as on what is good. Such are independence, reliance on reason (one’s own), honesty, creative achievement, love of one’s work, and courage (HR II 559–60, XVIII 739–40). A concept of justice will make human life and happiness impossible if the concept ignores the uniqueness of individuals and the unity and self-sufficiency required by the preceding virtues (HR II 559–60, XVIII 740). Integrity is the overarching virtue pronouncing this unity and self-sufficiency (PK XIII 166, HR VIII 625-28, XVIII 742).

. . .

“Howard Roark is integrity in the flesh. And though each of Roark’s buildings is unique—as each human being is unique (GW V 495)—they all display the concept and virtue of integrity.

“It is not only architects and artists who can have integrity embodied in their work (ET X 333). It is not only a creative genius such as Roark who can love their work and find a sense of purpose and fulfillment in it (PK VII 93, HR XVIII 740). Everyone who worked that year of their life on what was the Monadnock construction project felt as if ‘they were an army and a crusade’ (HR I 548). The advance of their great joint work gave them each a sense of having lived through twelve months of spring. Their memory of it had ‘the feeling which is the meaning of spring, . . . the great sense of beginning, of triumphant progression, of certainty in an achievement that nothing will stop’ (ibid.).

“Theirs was a brotherhood, sainted and noble (cf. ET X 332; ET XI 351). Theirs, ‘a new earth, their own’ (HR I 548). Theirs, protection, by a method of thought in the mind of the architect who walked among them (ibid.).”



“Roark’s words to the board reach no individual hearing. They strike no note of independent response from any of the twelve members. ‘He was addressing everyone. He was addressing no one’ (PK XIII 172). In the wider public, however, Roark knows that there are individuals who will respond to his approach to modern architecture. ‘You must only be patient. Because on your side you have reason, . . . and against you, you have just a vague, fat, blind inertia’ (ibid.).”



“Roark seldom laughs (ET IV 253). He laughs as the face of an associate reveals a dawning comprehension of something in Roark’s motives (PK XV 202). He laughs over the prospect, when he has to close his architectural practice, that his enemies will gloat over him being reduced to tradesman work (PK XV 207). He laughs soundlessly at turns in his first bedding of Dominique (ET II 225, 230). He laughs soundlessly upon learning, from Joel Sutton, that Dominique is the one who has persuaded Sutton to decline Roark as his architect and that Dominique told Sutton to tell Roark she was the one (ET VII 288). He laughs softly when Keating finally comprehends that to be able to say ‘I built Cortlandt” is a gift possible only from oneself and is worth more than any money, fame, and honor that one might receive from others on account of the accomplishment. That soft laughter “was the happiest sound Keating had ever heard’ (HR VIII 630).”



“Dominique is thoroughly revolted by the smallness, the smuttiness, of what most of humanity selects for their enjoyment. When it comes to humanity’s suffering, well, ‘as a matter of fact, one can feel some respect for people when they suffer. They have a certain dignity’ (PK XII 49). One development from Dominique’s self-punishing marriage to Peter Keating is his painful realization of the void he is, of the nothingness of his self apart from his reflection of others (GW II 449–55). She says softly and honestly to him in this suffering over his hollow marriage and life, ‘I never wanted to take revenge on you, Peter. . . . / I don’t want you to suffer—I can’t feel anything else—but I feel that much’ (GW II 456–57).

“Peter later squarely faces the fact that virtually all the merit of his buildings has come about by his parasitism on Roark and past creators like Roark. He confesses this sincerely, with dignity, to Roark. Rand’s ideal Howard Roark tells Peter that no forgiveness from him is needed since he has not been hurt in any important way by Peter’s betrayals. Roark has no drive to punish Keating (HR VIII 623). If the terms ‘egotist’ and ‘kindness’ do not sit well together, then one needs to rethink these concepts, for Roark is man most egoistic and most kind (HR VIII 631).”



“While Roark is building the home for Gail and Dominique, he is a frequent guest at their penthouse. Dominique learns to say Yes to the reality that is Roark in the real world, Roark as best friend of her husband, the three of them perfectly real in the city she dreads beyond the windows, as real as the three of them at the isolated, completed home (HR V 597; IX 636). She waits.

“Long ago she had walked through Roark’s Enright House under construction. ‘The girders and the conduits and the sweeping reaches of space were his and could not have been anyone else’s in the world; his, as his face, as his soul, . . . in every line of steel, a man’s self, hers for this moment, hers by the grace of seeing it and understanding’ (ET VIII 306).

“Years later Roark had said to her and Gail. ‘What you feel in the presence of a thing you admire is just one word—Yes. The affirmation, the acceptance, the sign of admittance. . . . The ability to say Yes or No is the essence of all ownership’ (HR IV 582).

“She waits. Roark enters her home and enlists her aid in his plan to dynamite Cortlandt, in the name of all creators and all real integrity. She is ready to fight.

“She is alone, driving the roadster along the East River to the site. ‘She laughed and thought: No, this is not New York, this is a private picture pasted to the window of my car, all of it, here on one small pane, under my hand, I own it, its mine now—she ran one hand across the buildings from the Battery to Queensborough Bridge—Roark, it’s mine and I’m giving it to you’ (HR XII 668).”



When I was eighteen, this book saved my life.

The photo is of Manhattan in the late 1930's.

Rand would continue to develop her ethical egoism into a full system over the years following what she had gotten in this novel. By the time I was thirty-five, near the time of her death, I’d come to reject that finished system, strictly speaking. That is, I thought she was mistaken in her picture that all the virtues in her ethics had been authentically based only in self-interest. That’s the fate of ethical egoisms with virtues anywhere near right, I gather. Hers I’d say is the best (and really the most important) egoistic theory developed in the history of philosophy. Mostly it is right. Perhaps someday I'll be able to write, here in this thread, more about our differences and commonalities in this area.

Edited by Boydstun
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  • 3 months later...

I noticed that the Random Quotes generator of Objectivism Online has displayed the following statement and attributes it to Ayn Rand:

“The question isn't who is going to let me; it's who is going to stop me.”

That is not what Rand wrote. I know that that sentence is attributed to Rand all over the internet. Nevertheless, that is not what she wrote.

What she wrote was:

The Dean: “Do you mean to tell me that you’re thinking seriously of building that way, when and if you are an architect?”

Roark: “Yes.”

Dean: “My dear fellow, who will let you?”

Roark: “That’s not the point. The point is, who will stop me?”

(1943, 17)

Quotation is not a paraphrase or an approximation. True quotation is exact. No wiggling.

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  • 1 month later...
On 4/15/2021 at 10:35 PM, dream_weaver said:

Corrected, albeit you may have to forgive the lack of italics. The quote database interface does not appear to provide for them.

Thanks! I've seen it pop up now, and it looks great!

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