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tnunamak

What is the O'ist view on kindness?

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I'm about 3/4 of the way through Fountainhead, my introdution to Objectivism, which I'm learning a great deal about, but one thing I'm not too clear on is Rand's opinion about kindness.

There is one point in the book where Roark says, "I'm not kind." Although I kind of understand, I still have to ask the question, "why not"?

The other day at work, a guy I work with, who is very talkative, was making jokes, smalltalk, and the usual conversation that you can expect from most people. I thought to myself, "Rand's ideal man, Howard Roark, would have had this man, at the very least, disliking him by now. Why?"

I have come to agree with Fountainhead's portrayal of society, but I can't help but respond in a friendly manner to the people I come into contact with on a daily basis. My question is, from the Objectivist's point of view, is there something wrong with being kind? Is it just an insignificant element of Roark's character? Is it neither good nor bad to be kind? I think you follow.

Maybe I should just stop and let you guys take it from here.

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Welcome to the forum.

Rather than attempting a straight answer, I like to ask you a counter question, if you don't mind.

You've quoted what Roark says about kindness. How about what he does? Are there instances in the book where one sees Roark being unkind? Are there instance -- say in his relationship with Cameron or to some other character -- where you see him being kind?

Considering such instances, the context in which the "I'm not kind" comment is made, and the overall stylized form of the book, how would you define "kindness"?

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Yes, welcome tnunamak (interesting name).

SoftwareNerd has pointed you in the right direction: context is king. Ayn Rand also writes some very interesting things about "humanizing" a character in The Romantic Manifesto.

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I see what you mean. I don't know if I would say that he's consistently kind, but I suppose it's safe to say that he is rarely (if at all) unkind.

Maybe unkind isn't the word I'm looking for... why is Roak so unsocial?

But already I see the answer, from dictionary.com's definition of unsocial: Having or showing a lack of desire for the company of others.

Do most Objectivists tend to socially isolate themselves from the bulk of society... or even better, do they share The Fountainhead's proclaimation that society is disgusting in the sense that men seek mediocrity?

EDIT: Just missed your post JMeganSnow, thanks for the Romantic Manifesto reference, I'll probably look into that after I finish The Fountainhead and, of course, Atlas Shrugged.

Edited by tnunamak

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tnunamak--Objectivists do what is rationally best for their own lives. That means they are kind to people when it benefits them (as for me, I am almost always kind) and are sociable when it benefits them (again, almost always, to some degree).

I found The Fountainhead to be problematic in trying to understand some aspects of Objectivism--you're brought up an excellent example of how it can be confusing to a beginner. There is currently an ongoing discussion about this here.

P.S. Roark seems unsocial in relation to most people because, presumably, he only seek s the company of others whose friendship can bring some value to his life. He's not unsocial towards Dominique, for example. And in a book absolutely populated with "bad people," you wouldn't expect him to be friendly, therefore, with most people.

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softwareNerd

Peter Keating of course, at least out of the main characters.

valjean

Aha. So the discrepancy lies in the difference between what is "rationally best for their own lives" and seeking unnecessary, irrational, approval from others. Or something to that extent.

So Peter Keating is polite and kind because he is convinced that it will make him happy, but Howard Roark is not polite or kind (in some cases) because he knows it will not make him happy.

So, say, if a guest were to come for dinner to the house of an Objectivist's family, and the Objectivist didn't care for the guest or anything he could offer from his presence, he/she would not bother to be friendly or polite, assuming there would be no negative consequences (such as reprimand from members of the family).

It seems pretty simple now... I guess I'm still getting used to the idea of not doing what society expects you to do (although I suppose I have been for about a year or so now). It is rather refreshing though :D.

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Why would the Objectivist family invite someone to dinner that they didn't care for?  That's like saying I would invite Osama Bin Laden to dinner.

:)

Note the difference between "Objectivist's family" and "Objectivist family."

The other day, as an example, my family had some guests from my mother's church that I didn't care for.

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It could even happen with an Objectivist family. We're not talking about a bin Laden type, but someone you just "don't care for". The typical context in which you would invite someone you do not care for is when they come as a "package deal" with others. E.g. a parent of your son's pal, when you invite the pal for something, the husband (or child, or parent) of someone in a context where you are inviting the rest of their family over, or a team-mate you don't care for, when you're inviting the whole team over.

When you invite someone to your house you should treat them politely. That's just the minimum. If you are the person doing the inviting, etiquette would demand that you are friendly to them while they are your guests. You don't have to go particularly out of your way to talk to (say) the one team mate you do not care for, but any obvious isolation would be rude.

In the context of staying with parents, ordinarily you would have an obligation to be polite to their guests and reasonably friendly if the occassion demands it.

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Oh, LOL.  Even then, you have to measure what you get out of being antagonistic towards people versus what you get from some small measure of politness.

This really goes to the heart of the question when dealing with an unknown person: why not be polite? There would be minimal effort with the possibility of a big reward. (future friendship, business dealings, family issues, etc)

Don't mistake Peter Keating's actions for kindness. His relations with others is not one of mutual respect but of butcher and lamb. He may want the company of others but not for the proper role of admiration or celebration of one's values, Keating desires the company of others in an attempt to inflate his own self-worth.

Welcome to the forums tnunamak. (I like the name but don't know what it means :))

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I'm about 3/4 of the way through Fountainhead, my introdution to Objectivism, which I'm learning a great deal about...

tnunamak, if all you've read of Objectivism is 3/4 of the fountainhead, than I have to say I'm impressed. You picked up rather quickly on the points given in this thread; much more quickly then I would expect for a beginner. Kudos!

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Don't mistake Peter Keating's actions for kindness.  His relations with others is not one of mutual respect but of butcher and lamb.  He may want the company of others but not for the proper role of admiration or celebration of one's values, Keating desires the company of others in an attempt to inflate his own self-worth.

Not quite; Peter Keating is a soft, weak, spongy sort of parasite, the kind that hopes to drain your blood by being either appealing or too inoffensive to bother removing. He desires not inflation of self-worth but the simulation thereof.

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Oh, LOL.  Even then, you have to measure what you get out of being antagonistic towards people versus what you get from some small measure of politness.

Bland, indifferent politeness costs you nothing unless you give it to someone that truly deserves immediate and uncompromising animosity. Effectively going on the offensive against someone takes some serious effort!

Roark is "polite" even to Ellsworth Toohey, after all, and his indifference is more potent a weapon than any amount of shouting and denunciation could be.

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The way I interept what I have read in Objectivist material so far (note that I have onlhy just started the Fountainhead) is that one should be kind to those whom demonstrate themselves worthy of your respect- and if it is in your rational self-interest.

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And until proven guilty, all men are considered innocent, worthy of a basic level of respect.

Yes, until proven guility man A should be considered innocent. I do show them what you might call 'a level of respect', I consider it something akin to tolerance, but call it whichever you want.

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Tolerance is willful suspension of judgement against someone's bad qualities and is bad. Felipe means that you should grant people the acknowledgement that they are a potential benefit to you until you learn otherwise, that's all.

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It's not that Roark is unsocial per se... it is merely that he doesn't hold the social interactions of others as his reason for living.

Recall the construction of the Stoddard temple, Ayn Rand quite explicitly shows Roark enjoying the company of others: Dominique, Mike, etc.

His work is his reason for living; the company of others is secondary. It's a rare man who enjoys his work, who wakes up every morning excited to go to work, a man who sits in his office waiting for his phone to ring. Therefor social interaction, while not undesirable, is not preferable to Roark's standard of living.

Keating on the other hand, hated his work. We see a wretched human being towards the end of the book, grasping for attention. He hates his work, thus seeks escape from it through social interaction. He needs social validation in order to justify to himself the necessity of continuing.

I do not know if you have reached that part of the Fountainhead yet, so I will not divulge any incriminating information. But if you have reached the part that explains what Keating does when he leaves for his country home, let me know ;)

Fountainhead was actually the last book of Objectivism I read, and interestingly enough, my favorite. Having finished it, I swore to myself that I would one day have a job that I love, and live like Roark does, excited to face the day. To put it in literary terms, I was the young teen who, having walked through the housing projects, asked Roark who built it... and then knew how he wanted to live his life.

Edited by the tortured one

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I'm a very good hostess, and I have quite a few "friends" who are not objectivists. Infact, my roomates are not, and my roomate last year that i'm still "friends" with is very irrational in some areas of thought, and very brilliant in others, but I enjoy her company. She makes a great example because she has so many O'ist qualities, she is very hard working, shes honest, shes very smart, and she never goes out of her way to do anything that she doesn't enjoy, on the other hand she is a treehugging hippie...but she's mostly good. If i can obtain pleasure from someone's company and they do not offend me, and we don't discuss philosophy, then everything is good. I know their irrational, but that doesn't mean they are terrible "friends." Note that I say "friends" with quotes, they are in my social group, but I wouldn't consider them friends in the same context as my O'ist friends, which consist of my boyfriend, my x, and my best friend Amber. When it comes to my "friends", I know them, I hang out with them, I see movies with them, we eat together....but I don't discuss anything important with them....I just try to take away as much "value" as i can from knowing them. I'm a very social animal, I always have been, and I can't imagine being shut off from the rest of the world because of the fact that they are mostly rediculous....mind you, I'm not friends with any religious people...as long as their athiests, I can generally tolerate them and find value in my time with them.

I believe that Rand used "kindness" as a metaphor for "going out of your way to be nice to evil people." This isn't christianity, there is no reason to love our enemies:). I Just wanted to bring up my experience because right after I first read Rand...I alienated so many people because they weren't oists and I just didn't want them in my life...turns out I get along with people who arn't oists...i have to keep some of my views to myself, but as long as I'm getting pleasure out of our time together, it isn't immoral on my part. Keep an open mind when you meet people, they may be useful in the scheme of your life...and also keep in mind that Roark was designed as "The Perfect Man", and as such, he isn't effected by emotions the same way I am, and maybe you are:).

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I think Rand may have actually come up a little short in emphasizing the importance of general benevolence. If the purpose of your life is the achievement of happiness, generating positive energy with those around you should be a virtue. If you put out negativity, you will find that it comes back to you and is detrimental to a happy existence. I think Rand would agree; however I think she might underestimate the importance of this. Nau ashley, why do you find it necessary to put scare quotes around friends who are not Objectivists. My best friend is not intellectual at all--he's smart, but unfortunately is not particularly interested in ideas. However, I get plenty of value out of our friendship and think it would be flat out dirty to mock him by calling him a "friend."

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Youngman, don't take this the wrong way, but there is a lot wrong with your last post.

I think Rand may have actually come up a little short in emphasizing the importance of general benevolence.  If the purpose of your life is the achievement of happiness, generating positive energy with those around you should be a virtue.

Miss Rand did emphasized benevolence precisely as much as she meant to. The generation of "positive energy" is not only a nonexistent hippie-inspired bit of contentless anti-concept, but also a flagrent bit of second-handedness.

The primary concern of the independant man is HIMSELF, not OTHERS. His concern vis a vis positivity should be purely focused on his OWN happiness. If other people should happen to pick up on it or react to him in one way or another, this is a happy coincidence, but it NOT of any sort of concern to an independant man.

(And incidentally, put down the flower pipe. If you have a rational point to make about benevolence, make it without references to "positive energy" and you won't set off a five-alarm hippie alert like you just did.)

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And until proven guilty, all men are considered innocent, worthy of a basic level of respect.

I agree with this, but I worry that its support may often be based in social custom or tradition. This almost negates the support it deserves from the position of rational ethics. Benevolence is virtuous because it facilitates trade. A person is better off starting a new relationship with mutual respect and kindness, since doing so takes little effort and puts him in a more optimal position for situations that he may face in the future.

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Youngman, don't take this the wrong way, but there is a lot wrong with your last post.

Miss Rand did emphasized benevolence precisely as much as she meant to. The generation of "positive energy" is not only a nonexistent hippie-inspired bit of contentless anti-concept, but also a flagrent bit of second-handedness.

I'm sure she emphasized it as much as she meant to, my stance is that that wasn't enough. Positive energy is just a phrase I used to describe the attitude of those around you if you act benevolently as opposed to how it will be if you act like a dick. I certaintly am not implying any type of mystical force or anything like that, lol.

The primary concern of the independant man is HIMSELF, not OTHERS. His concern vis a vis positivity should be purely focused on his OWN happiness. If other people should happen to pick up on it or react to him in one way or another, this is a happy coincidence, but it NOT of any sort of concern to an independant man.
I agree. However, as long as this independent man lives in a society where there are other people, it is in his own self-interest to be in a positive atmosphere, and therefore he ought to be concerned with it. This does not mean that he should go against his judgment or interact with people whom he thinks are scum, but it means that it is rational for him to treat people in general well. He is not dependent on them for happiness, but they do exist and every is implies an ought. He ought to deal with the reality of people in the best way possible to achieve his own happiness.

(And incidentally, put down the flower pipe. If you have a rational point to make about benevolence, make it without references to "positive energy" and you won't set off a five-alarm hippie alert like you just did.)

Hahaha. Good line bro.

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