Thursday, March 15, 2012

Around the Randroid Belt

THIS THREAD HAS BEEN MOVED TO A NEW BLOG:


BE THERE, OR BE SQUARE!


38 comments:

seymourblogger said...

Your image is superlative. And the text is very funny. Reminds me of Baudrillard saying that "good" is not the opposite of "evil". And then he goes on in his writing to define evil about the way Toohey does, and Rand through Toohey. Good has nothing to do with it.

If you hot link to objectivist living this blog may be open to hacking our home computers more easily.

I don't want a repeat of that from objectivist living!

Xray said...

Darren,

Are you an ex-Objectivist?

seymourblogger said...

Different isn't it nerrad when you comment from your own turf. Not a question.

PJ Cornell said...

It is overwhelmingly tempting, when presented with a compelling and consistent worldview, to embrace that worldview to the point that one no longer bothers thinking for one's self.

Objectivists.

PJ Cornell said...

Of course, "good" is the opposite of "bad."

"Evil" is the opposite of "true;" synonymous with "false."

seymourblogger said...

Evil is the absence of value, of any discrimination or perception of excellence or beauty, when all is circulating meaninglessly. Rand's Toohey lecture/talk where all is reduced to mediocrity, when no one even knows the difference anymore. Hannah Arendt: Evil is banal. Then we have Jean Baudrillard's The Intelligence of Evil,The Transparence of Evil, the necessity of it to value and discriminate. Toni Morrison's Sula takes up the issue of evil with her character of Sula. If you want me to say more just say so.

"Evil" is the opposite of "true;" synonymous with "false." Here evil and true are juxtaposed as opposites. The assumption is the Discourse of the Dialectic. We are no longer in the Dialectic. In simulated reality there is no true, no false, only credibility.

darren said...

It's not only overwhelmingly tempting. For an Objectivist, it's required.

jacobawyatt said...

It shouldn't have to be that way, but it certainly tends to be.

By the way, you were not in my welcome letter because I had no previous contact with you. I've started a website with a blog:

thegoism.net/the_third_watch

Consider yourself invited.

PJ Cornell said...

"Then we have Jean Baudrillard's The Intelligence of Evil,The Transparence of Evil, the necessity of it to value and discriminate."

But this is a contradiction. If evil is the absence of value, then how is it that evil needs to be able to value and discriminate?

seymourblogger said...

PJ just read Toohey's speech to Keating I believe. It's all there.

how is it that evil needs to be able to value and discriminate?

Evil doesn't NEED to do anything. As Rand might say, "Evil exists," but as Hannah Arendt would say, "Evil is banal." And Toohey certainly makes evil banal in his person and his achievements.

seymourblogger said...

I did go to your site already. Thank you. I think youb might be interested in Simon Critchley's interview for his new book Faith of the Faithless so like the people in the Randroid Belt, so here is the link: http://stirtoaction.com/?p=1174

They are running scared now. I can smell the rear sweat. They are right to feel that way. But since they can't smell their own anxiety nor each other's it doesn't exist. Right?

PJ Cornell said...

So you're saying that evil is such precisely because it chooses the banal over the exceptional?

PJ Cornell said...

Now there's a smart man. I particularly like his point that relgion and philosophy are not mutually exclusive. Rand called religion "pre-philosophy" (a sentiment lost on modern Randroids). Personally, I see relgion as a full-fledged philosophy in its own right; if we accept that "philosophy" means "total world view," the religion certainly foots that bill. That having been said, I think it is entirely possible to form a valid world-view which is wholly God exclusive; but not "religion" exclusive (by Simon's broad definition of the term). But of course he wouldn't disagree with that, as he sees hiself as being a religious non-Theist.

That having been said, I am seeing some fallacies in his thinking. E.g., "Marxism vs. Modern Capitalism" which is both a false choice and a false dichotomy. Modern "Capitalism" intersects with Marxism quite a bit, and those are certainly not our only two choices (I hope). Framing belief in terms of "demand" is particularly troubling, as well. Demand by whom, exactly? And on what basis?

seymourblogger said...

yes.

Richard said...

Is Objectivism a ... compelling and consistent worldview ... eh? Know what I mean? Know what I mean? Nudge nudge. Nudge nudge. Know what I mean? Say no more ... know what I mean?

PJ Cornell said...

My definition of evil is not inconsistent with that. Here's why:

Why is the exceptional exceptional? Because it has a robust interaction with reality.

Exceptional technology is exceptional because of its ability to manipulate reality.

Exceptional art is exceptional because it leads the observer into a deeper understanding of truth (reality).

Exceptional people are people who are best able to deal with reality.

What makes something exceptional is a robust relationship with reality. What makes something banal is that it is either irrelevant to reality, or it fails to explore it in a compelling way.

True-honest-real: exceptional

False-dishonest-irrelevant: banal/evil

PJ Cornell said...

Objectivists frequently fail to be compelling; most Objectivists are people who were JUST smart enough to SORT OF grasp Rand's work -- most (although not all) of them are mediocre thinkers. The Objectivist philosophy, on the other hand, is incredibly compelling; and mostly consistent. There are two major inconsistencies with Objectivism:

1. It is values based; yet denies the most plausible explanation for the emergence of human value.

2. They're explanation of free will does not seem to be consistent with metaphysical monism; it seems to imply an existential dichotomy between physical reality and human will.

But other than that, yes, Objectivism is a very compelling and consistent philosophy.

seymourblogger said...

You are too young to remember Hitler. But I do remember hearing hm rave on the radio when I was say 4 years old. He sounded like the lunatic he was. He wrote Mein Kampf and said what he was going to do. It was so poorly written and raving no one believed him. Anyone who could write like that couldn't possibly be taken seriously. The world was giggling at him.

Hitler was banal.

seymourblogger said...

Objectivism is a footnote to Rand's fiction. It is part of her fiction. Objectivism as a philosophy is a "floating sign" masking its opposite,fiction posing as philosophy.

Reading through Lacan of course.

darren said...

>>>> @PJ Cornell: Objectivists are people who were JUST smart enough to SORT OF grasp Rand's work -- most (although not all) of them are mediocre thinkers.

If taken as serious philosophy (which I do not believe it is), Objectivism attracts mediocre thinkers, and, moreover, keeps them mediocre; first-rate thinkers drop it when they attempt to take it as serious philosophy and they discover how silly much of it is, especially its metaphysical base and epistemology.

PJ Cornell said...

Hitler also made it his business to sell the German people on falsehoods. Even kept professional liars on payroll. Was it Himler he refered to as the "master of lies and half-truths?"

PJ Cornell said...

Janet:

That's the thing, though. Rand saw art and philosophy as being, on some level, inseperable, and her two major novels were clearly of a philosophical bent, so that's kind of a false distinction. It's kind of like saying that "The Pilgrim's Progress" was not a work of theology -- just a allegorical story.

Darren:

There is an element of truth to what you are saying, but it's not the whole truth. People embrace Rand, because Rand was able to show that logic and selfishness are moral ideals that -- CUT (aren't you proud of me, Janet) -- through the bull$#!t that is foisted on them by society. It's compelling because it decimates the weeds with Occam's Razor. But once they accept it, it is extremely tempting to simply take her ideas as one monolithic axiom and never think for themselves again.

She was not frequently wrong, and that, ironically, is part of the problem.

darren said...

@ PJ Cornell: "People embrace Rand, because Rand was able to show that logic and selfishness are moral ideals that CUT through the bull$#!t that is foisted on them by society."

That's only when they first enter high school. Adults, conversely, rarely embrace Objectivism even if they enjoy her fiction work. And adults with 1st-rate minds — e.g., Mises and Hayek — wanted little or nothing to do with the philosophy. (They both read Atlas Shrugged, by the way, and both enjoyed it. Hayek, apparently simply flipped past all the philosophical bits . . .)

@ PJ Cornell: "She was not frequently wrong..."

I beg to differ. Her metaphysics is naive reductionist materialism a la H.G. Wells "Outline of History" (circa 1920), despite claims of rejecting reductionism. Her epistemology is a hodge-podge and, frankly, an embarrassment (I intend to post copiously on it at some point). She was wrong about sexuality and generally wrong about art. Objectivism is also seriously anti-science. Sure, Objectivists like the fruits of science, i.e., technology. But they loathe the fact that scientific investigation is not conducted according to the way they think it ought to be investigated. That may account for why so few scientists count themselves as Objectivists.

Richard said...

The Objectivist philosophy, on the other hand, is incredibly compelling; and mostly consistent.

I'm a second-rate thinker and I think Objectivism is bat-shit crazy. Compelling? To whom? Not to Winefield, Stuttle, Wiig, Gaede, Perren, Scherk, Campbell, Otani, or Parille. Randroidoid, not Randroid. Compelling? It's an empirical question. How many Objectivists are there?

Mostly consistent? Objectivism is mostly consistently wrong. If you think otherwise, think again. Janet has suggested that to take Objectivism seriously is to make a Rylean category mistake. Objectivism is a footnote to Rand's fiction. It's not actually meant to be taken seriously as philosophy! Rand a closet postmodernist? It's an absurd idea. I find it compelling.

Xray said...

Darren wrote on Mar 17:

[quote]"A questioner admits to reading Atlas Shrugged; then admits that, though enjoying the novel, he finds the characters "flat". He does not say "boring" or "uninteresting"; he says "flat."
<...>
If it never surprises, it is flat. Now ask yourself: does James Taggart ever surprise? What about Lillian Rearden? Wesley Mouch? Orrin Boyle? John Galt? I think not. I think all of these characters — and many more in Atlas Shrugged — are truly flat characters; something Rand fully intended, in order to set in high relief the roundness of Dagny and Hank Rearden." [end quote]

Did the questioner find all the AS characters "flat"?
If yes, your arguing with Forster here would not apply.
Sometimes people also use the term "cardboard" when speaking of Rand's fictional characters (not making the Forsterian distinction between "cardboard/flat" and "round"); maybe this is what led Hsieh to think of the term "flat" as an insult.

[quote]"If it never surprises, it is flat. Now ask yourself: does James Taggart ever surprise? What about Lillian Rearden? Wesley Mouch? Orrin Boyle? John Galt? I think not. I think all of these characters — and many more in Atlas Shrugged — are truly flat characters; something Rand fully intended, in order to set in high relief the roundness of Dagny and Hank Rearden." [end quote Darren]

I disagree about Galt being designed as a flat character by Rand.
Think about it: John Galt was to her the culmination of everything man could be in terms of achievement, heroism and attractiveness; no way does this mesh with a her intentionally designing him as 'flat'.
That Galt, despite all efforts by his creator, does come across as somewhat 'battery-operated' (an apt expression used by an OL poster) is more an indication that Rand did not succeed in 'bringing him to life' like e. g. Rearden. But imo this lies in the unrealism of the figure, and is not the result of the author's concscious attempt to create a convenient 'flat' character.

Also, Galt does surprise. I found him pretty unpredictable.

seymourblogger said...

Well x-ray if you found him unpredictable that's not surprising.

Don't bother answering me on objectivist living as I am banned and accused of 2 sock puppet accounts, the reason for banning. Have no idea where the Michael got that. I can't read there either unless I do so from a foreign computer, but I got what I wanted from there, so no point. I brain drained it. Now for the kill inside the Randroid Belt. Come see, come see everybody, it's a great show inside. Git your tickies now!

darren said...

>>>@Xray: "Did the questioner find all the AS characters "flat"?
If yes, your arguing with Forster here would not apply."

Why?

>>>@Xray: "Sometimes people also use the term "cardboard" when speaking of Rand's fictional characters (not making the Forsterian distinction between "cardboard/flat" and "round"); maybe this is what led Hsieh to think of the term "flat" as an insult."

That's probably it. (You're very gifted at psychologizing.)

My own reading of the situation is that Hsieh regards any statement about the characters of AS as an insult that is not an encomium as to how masterfully they are drawn: "flat", "cardboard", it makes no difference. Anything less than "brilliant" points to (i) an intellectual failing on the reader's part; or (ii) if not an intellectual failing, then most certainly a moral one. In Hsieh's video of this Q&A, she loves pointing out how people read Rand "dishonestly"; they "don't like Rand" ergo, they purposely misrepresent literary constructions such as characterization in order to diminish her. To borrow some cult-jargon from the inconsequential randroids at SOLO: such critics, according to Hsieh, are nothing but "Rand diminishers."

>>>@Xray: I disagree about Galt being designed as a flat character by Rand.

You're an evil, dishonest, Forster-diminisher.

>>>@Xray: Think about it: John Galt was to her the culmination of everything man could be in terms of achievement, heroism and attractiveness;

So? That has nothing to do with how an author chooses to construct a character. You're seriously confused. You mistakenly believe that "flatness" is a technique reserved for minor characters. Untrue. "Flatness" is simply a technique. I'll remind you, too, that Galt is not the protagonist of the novel, irrespective of whether his traits were the sort that, in real life, Rand felt to be the culmination of everything a man could be in terms of achievement, heroism and attractiveness. That Rand might not have been able to separate reality from fiction doesn't mean that a reader should follow her example.

>>>@Xray: That Galt, despite all efforts by his creator, does come across as somewhat 'battery-operated' (an apt expression used by an OL poster) is more an indication that Rand did not succeed in 'bringing him to life' like e. g. Rearden.

There's no difference among the terms "flat", "cardboad", and "battery-operated". They mean the same thing. Diana Hsieh would agree.

The character of John Galt is the literary equivalent of a 10-finger, C-major chord on the piano, with the sustain-pedal depressed. The loudness with which the performer strikes it might provide an element of "surprise", but there's scarcely anything surprising about the intervals comprising the chord itself. Still, it performs a very useful function: it's a good place on which to end the composition.

Reread John Milton's "Paradise Lost" and compare the brilliant way in which he renders the character of Satan with the flatness of the character of God. Yet, for Milton, God represented the culmination of everything a supreme being could be in terms of knowledge, power, and morality. Whether Milton intentionally chose to make God flat, or was simply technically at a loss as to how to make Him round, is irrelevant.

seymourblogger said...

For darren and x-ray;

Stephenie Meyer drew Edward Cullen, the hero, the heart throb vampire in Twilight as flat. Rand drew Roark as flat pretty much.

http://moviesandfilm.blogspot.com/2012/03/edward-cullen-as-flat-character.html

Thanks for the clarification darren. The Rob Pattinson fangirls keep getting their panties all squnched over critics calling Edward and Pattinson one-dimensional. Pattinson and Cooper played them as they were written. No surprises. Flat.

x-ray:And Edward Cullen and Rob Pattinson are the main characters and they are flat.

PJ Cornell said...

I think you're either not giving her a fair shake, or you're overestimating the state of our culture.

I will definitely read your critique of her epistemology -- I happen to think it's quite good (although, I'll concede, short of perfect).

Wrong about sexuality? Narrow, maybe, but wrong? I disagree.

Art -- her definition of it is too narrow, however, her thoughts on art are useful in evaluating artisticness.

Xray said...

Darren wrote on Mar 21, 2012 04:44 AM
[quoting Xray]: >>>@Xray: I disagree about Galt being designed as a flat character by Rand.

Reply Darren:

"You're an evil, dishonest, Forster-diminisher." (end quote)

Keen imitation of a 'Hsieh-like' reply. Good one! :-)


Darren wrote on Mar 21, 2012 04:44 AM
[quoting Xray]:>>>@Xray: "Did the questioner find all the AS characters "flat"?
If yes, your arguing with Forster here would not apply." (end quote)

Reply Darren:

"Why?" (end quote)

Because of the following:

[quoting what you wrote about the topic]:

"According to Forster, a "flat" character is a kind of token: his or her psychology and values do not grow, change, evolve, or come to any kind of crisis during the course of the narrative because characters — like plot points — have functions within the story; it is simply not the function of a flat character to steal attention away from the main character(s) — the protagonist(s) and the antagonist(s) — by growing, changing, evolving, or reaching any sort of "crisis" within the story in which they must exercise his or her will, and come to a decision — or initiate an action — that would be surprising, i.e., a new pattern of behavior inconsistent with their previous pattern. "Flat" characters remain who they were throughout the entire course of the story, because they are there simply to provide a particular kind of obstacle (or point of affinity) for the main characters. " (end quote)

So if the questioner who read Atlas Shrugged happened to find ALL its characters 'flat', there would be no 'main characters' left in the novel that would stand out in bold relief:
But acording to Forster, the function of "flat" characters is to be seen in a specific relation to the main characters.

Therefore if all characters of a novel are perceived as flat, the Forsterian system does not fit.

PJ Cornell said...

Darren: You keep using music metaphores (apt ones, at that). Are you a musician?

darren said...

@Xray: "So if the questioner who read Atlas Shrugged happened to find ALL its characters 'flat', there would be no 'main characters' left in the novel that would stand out in bold relief:
But acording to Forster, the function of "flat" characters is to be seen in a specific relation to the main characters. "

A protagonist is usually "round," in Forster's terminology, because he or she travels through an arc; a psychological change, usually caused by having to make an important decision. This is almost always true of character-driven stories. Such characters don't become "round" by virtue of standing out in "bold relief", as you mistakenly think, from their surrounding "flat" characters.

Additionally, in pure action-adventure plot-driven stories, in which the narrative drive essentially ends when a specific goal — such as "capturing the enemy's flag", to cite an old game boys used play at summer camp — has been achieved, it's quite common that all of the characters — even the main ones such as the protagonist and the antagonist — are "flat." THEY (the main characters) don't surprise us in any way, though the plot twists and turns might do so.

So while I would disagree with a reader who found all of AS's characters to be "flat" (clearly Rearden and Dagny go through great changes by the end of the novel), such an interpretation wouldn't invalidate Forster's useful categories. Forster is not saying that round characters become so by virtue of being surrounded by other characters that are flat, thus causing them to stand out in "bold relief." Forster never wrote that, and neither did I in my summary of his book.

Xray said...

@Darren: „So while I would disagree with a reader who found all of AS's characters to be "flat" (clearly Rearden and Dagny go through great changes by the end of the novel), such an interpretation wouldn't invalidate Forster's useful categories. Forster is not saying that round characters become so by virtue of being surrounded by other characters that are flat, thus causing them to stand out in "bold relief." Forster never wrote that, and neither did I in my summary of his book.“ (end quote )

Forster speaks of a "proper mixture" of characters, which implies that he certainly did not conceive of a novel as having only flat characters.
Now if a critic complains (as did the questioner on Hsieh's blog) that ALL characters in AS are „flat“, Forster's 'proper mixture' criterion would not be met.
Imo Forster would have seen Dagny and Hank as round characters, but the questioner clearly did not.
From this one can infer that he did not apply any 'Forsterian system', but that his message was a different one altogether: that the autor failed to create characters that are full of life enough to be convincing; and that instead all he got as a reader was flat, cardboard-like types.

So the issue is not questioning the validty of the Forsterian system; the Forsterian system is merely irrelevant in the context of the questioner's crticism.

darren said...

>>>>Xray wrote: "Forster speaks of a "proper mixture" of characters, which implies that he certainly did not conceive of a novel as having only flat characters."

I have Forster's book, "Aspects of the Novel," in front of me, and I'm looking right now at chapter 4 on characterization, titled "People." Would you mind checking the copy you no doubt have before you and telling me where I can find his statement that there is, or must be, or should be, a "proper mixture" of characters? I don't see it.

As mentioned in the excerpt I provided above, Forster claims that Russian novels, for example, seem to have all round characters, and that some easily-recognizable flat ones would be "a decided help." Note, please, that if it is possible for a novel to have nothing but round characters, it follows that it is also possible for a novel to have nothing but flat characters. As I shall repeat as many times as necessary, the terms "flat" and "round" are absolute, not relative: they have reference to criteria relating to how the author rendered the character. It's perfectly possible, therefore, for a novel to have nothing but one or the other.

seymourblogger said...

Hang around. I'm tieing DeLillo's Cosmopolis around her neck too.

seymourblogger said...

I googled "proper mixture" of characters and that quote is the third entry down and was not italicized and did not have quotes around it so it seems it came from a secondary source with the same level of discernment as X-ray.

But Oh, at the top, the first entry was McSweeney's interview of David Foster Wallace and hundreds of personal memories of him that I began to read instead of reading the entry that would prove X-ray wrong.

What a marvelous accidental find!Thank you x-ray, thank you so much. And I am not being sarcastic. I love DFW with a passion and I have been meaning to tell darren that he is "wicked funny" for quite awhile.

Xray said...

@Darren Mar 25, 2012 07:18 PM: "I have Forster's book, "Aspects of the Novel," in front of me, and I'm looking right now at chapter 4 on characterization, titled "People." Would you mind checking the copy you no doubt have before you and telling me where I can find his statement that there is, or must be, or should be, a "proper mixture" of characters? I don't see it." (end quote)

My source is a site where the passage of Forster's book is quoted:
http://books.google.de/books?id=vdemIf6mGCYC&pg=PA49&lpg=PA49&dq=proper+mixture+of+characters++forster&source=bl&ots=-Kr1kca13l&sig=DuFjK_yBc0ATUZzDR1IwvkQJ6qQ&hl=de&sa=X&ei=iYlvT-bmL8PUtAaAyYmLAg&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=proper%20mixture%20of%20characters%20%20forster&f=false

"the 'proper mixture of [flat and round] characters is crucial"(8o)

(80 is the page number I assume)

PJ Cornell said...

"Plato was a bore."

--Friedrich Nietzsche

Lol.