Saturday, December 08, 2007

Objet d'Art of the Week: Howard Roark's Speech From "The Fountainhead"

In which the ARCHNblog takes a regular look at the products of Rand's aesthetic theories.


Jay said...

He wasn't the best actor to give it, but the speech itself was incredibly moving. My favorite line:

"The creator's goal is the conquest of nature. The parasite's goal is the conquest of man."

Read a book like "Founders at Work" (in-depth profiles of actual startup founders) and compare those people with Hilary Clinton or any modern politician. The speech rings as true today as ever. said...

I never saw the movie. I cannot wait to see Atlas Shrugged with Angelina Jolie in it. I really love AS. I live in it. I read it 3 1/2 times. It's so deep and unique. Sometimes I go back and always learn something new. I love the audio tape by Leonard Peikoff about Objectvism. There is so much more to it, than capitalism and self interest, but a way of looking at reality, the universe and blanking out vs thinking.

Jay said...

Btw, Greg, I know it's off topic but I don't know where else to post it.

I just bought "How the Mind Works" by Pinker and ITOE by Rand (which I had not read in its entirety before) so I can read them side by side. Is that a good Pinker book to be reading or should I begin with something else?

Daniel Barnes said...

Hey Jay,

HTMW is brill. Perfect place to start. I could think of nothing better than reading that and the ITOE side by side. NOT because everything Pinker writes is true and everything Rand writes is false; but to observe the two different attitudes in action. One book is derived from masses of detailed evidence and complex arguments, summarising the work of many other people as well as Pinker; the other is a series of entirely speculative yet very confidently expressed assertions sourced from just one person that rely on exactly nil evidence to support them and about the same amount of argument.

Leaving aside which is right or wrong (or even in agreement) for a moment, you might consider which method you are more likely to get to the truth by.

Jay said...

Thanks for the reply, Dan. I just got the feeling when I was at Borders today that I should be reading those two books together. If Pinker has things to say that contradict ITOE, I want to read about it.

I'm also curious if any of Pinker's findings lend credence to Objectivist epistemology. It should be a fun couple of books to read whatever the case may be.

Jay said...

As further observations on this post, how I wish today's business leaders embraced this type of thinking. Imagine the progress that could result from Google or Microsoft or GE taking these kinds of positions. Imagine a spirited, moral condemnation of anti-trust or Sarbanes-Oxley. Some would say it would make no difference, but I disagree. Furthermore I think it would inspire other business leaders to follow their instincts and reject the decades of anti-business dogma they have begrudgingly tolerated in their lives.

On the 50th anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, businessmen should make a point of rereading the novel. But this time, in addition to being inspired to greatness by its heroes, they should pay special attention to the book's radical moral philosophy—a philosophy that has the potential to truly change how they look at their lives and enable them to fight successfully for their freedom.
SRC: Alex Epstein, ARI

Michael Prescott said...

Although there's undoubtedly an anti-business mentality in much of the news media and the entertainment business, I don't see it affecting the actual lives of business execs that much. If anything, the "greed is good" philosophy of some CEOs has led to gross overindulgences - multimillion-dollar soirees at shareholders' expense, Enron-style corruption, golden parachutes for failed executives, etc. Meanwhile these same corporations are cutting workers' benefits, replacing full-time employees with temps, outsourcing jobs to India and Vietnam, closing factories and branch offices, playing games with pension funds, and so on.

A friend of mine reported a conversation he had a few years ago with a CEO.

Friend: You know, Agatha Smythe in Accounting is retiring after fifty years with the firm. I wonder if we could throw a little money her way, you know, just a small token of our appreciation. Fifty bucks or something.

CEO: Did she get her last paycheck?

Friend: Yes.

CEO: Then f--k her.

Real capitalists are a far cry from the idealized figures of Ayn Rand's fiction. I find that many Objectivists have no personal experience in the business world and envision it through the rose-colored goggles of Rand's fantasies.

In the real world, the last thing CEOs need is an excuse to be even more money-grubbing than they already are.

(Sorry if this sounds like a John Edwards campaign ad. I'm actually a political conservative, but only because I have an even lower opinion of politicians and lawyers than I have of CEOs.)

Jay said...

Well I'm only 21 but I've started and sold a startup company with a friend of mine and am actively building another. I guess that doesn't count for "in the trenches" experience at the corporate level but I'd say that I'm trying to be more like Hank Rearden than Enron and Co. I certainly think it's possible - and desirable - to be rationally selfish in the business world.

Daniel Barnes said...

>Well I'm only 21 but I've started and sold a startup company with a friend of mine and am actively building another..

Good for you. Take it you're in IT?

Dragonfly said...

I think that such ethical behavior may work in relatively small companies, but if you are really big it's very unlikely, you just don't get there by being honest and fair. As someone once said (perhaps in a novel by Henning Mankell): someone that rich can't be an honest man. I agree with Michael that Rand's view of big business was not very realistic.

Jay said...

Good for you. Take it you're in IT?

Yessir. First company was anti-spyware, current one is a new take on online learning/tutorials.

Jay said...


I think there is some truth to that. John T. Reed (a favorite author of mine) believes that no one in an organization can be more honest than his boss. If he is, he will someday need to speak up about some injustice which will result in him losing his job. That's hard logic to argue against.

That's why I'm all about working for myself or, like you said, a small, ethical group of people.

Jay said...


New post idea for you.

Clip from a Peikoff radio show about a neurobiology study proving that thinking leads to brain growth, lending empirical support to thinking as a virtue. Thought you might like to crawl over that.

Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks Jay, great idea. I'll have a listen and report back.


Jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jay said...


Sorry for the huge # of comments on this thread, but I have met your challenge! Dr. Peikoff answered one of my questions in his Q&A. Here is the comment I cross-posted on the original thread.



Peikoff answered one of my questions in his 04DEC07 question and answer session! Here was my original e-mail to him:

Dr. Peikoff,

I was arguing with a friend of mine (a former Objectivist) about the need for laws to be objective. He claims objective laws are impossible, citing how society has "arbitrarily" set 18 as the adult age. In his view, we have decided collectively that a person is an adult at 18 instead of 16 or 17, therefore all laws are subjective. I replied that the nature and need for the law is completely objective: the need to divide adults from children in a legal context is objective, and the exact age is the work of law, not philosophy. He of course dismissed that reasoning. What are your thoughts?

If you listen to Peikoff's latest MP3 Q&A, this is the last question he answers. He explicitly kept the wording "how society has "arbitrarily" set 18 as the adult age." and noted that a friend of mine, not me, asked the question. Does this mean I get a free dead trees copy of ARCHN? Because giving a free copy to a broke college student at Christmastime is an awfully benevolent thing to do! ;)

gregnyquist said...

Michael: "Meanwhile these same corporations are cutting workers' benefits, replacing full-time employees with temps, outsourcing jobs to India and Vietnam, closing factories and branch offices, playing games with pension funds, and so on."

Yes, this is all true, and what is worse, the system of corporate capitalism we have, mixed with globalism, contains within it institutional incentives that make all of this nearly inevitable. In the first place, the corporate system tends to separate ownership from management. Even worse, it distributes ownership among a large class of people that are only interested in short term gains and speculative profits. Distributed ownership means reduced sense of responsibility among owners, since most are not able to seriously affect how the company is run. (Michel's Iron Law of Oligarchy works among stockholders in a company as surely as it does among the electorate of a democracy.) This makes it much easier for CEOs and their lackeys to take advantage of the company's stockholders. Since there no one person or family that has long-run interest in the company, short-term considerations dominate, to the detriment of economic rationality. This is all happening under a system of globalism that has rigidly adopted principles of free trade that would have horrified earlier classical economists, who only supported free trade in consumption goods and would have been appalled at the notion of free trade in production goods.

Robert Campbell said...


IMHO, Steven Pinker's best popular book is The Language Instinct. In How the Mind Works, he bit off a good deal more than he could chew (and has subsequently had to retreat from some of the positions he took there). All the same, Pinker is an excellent writer and there is much to be learned from any of his books.

Robert Campbell

Mark Plus said...

In the real business world, you make money by having to hire and supervise often stupid or dishonest people to sell stuff to other often stupid or dishonest people. Rand hinted that she knew that by showing all the human defectives Gail Wynand in The Fountainhead and Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged had to do business with. Dagny couldn't even fill one of her trains with the people who met her and Galt's philosophical standards.

gregnyquist said...

Jay: "Btw, Greg, ... I just bought How the Mind Works by Pinker and ITOE by Rand (which I had not read in its entirety before) so I can read them side by side. Is that a good Pinker book to be reading or should I begin with something else?"

Yeah, might as well do the Pinker. The real strength of How the Mind Works is as an introduction to evolutionary psychology. As a work of naturalistic epistemology (i.e., cognitive science) it is not as good, though it still has much to recommend it (my major disagreement with Pinker is his computational theory of the mind). One of the problems with cogsci is that there are not a lot of good popularizations for the lay reader. The best for a long time was Morton Hunt's The Universe Within, but that work is now 25 years old. Pinker has become big in cognitive science and related fields larger because he's a good writer whose work is accessible to the intelligent non-specialist.