This Knol is under construction. It was begun Sep 2009.
Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved
Note: I have been very naughty. I started this back in Sep, worked it up, left it aside, left it tagged as "Under Construction" and never got back to it. So... I still don't quite feel like it's finished, it seems to ramble just a bit, maybe someone can suggest how I should wrap it up.
What Did Ayn Rand Espouse?Howard Roark is a man who wants to build great buildings, his way. When he is confronted with the great edifices of architectural tradition, he disregards them. He believes that a building should match it's function, not be based on previous forms. He also believes that if people like his work, they will hire him, regardless of the feeling that his work is considered startling and unique. Further he believes that his work is his own. Anyone who tries to tell him to modify his own work, he disregards, even going so far as to decline commissions, if they mean he must work in a group, bow to mediation, or alter his plans based on the opinions of others.
Although the movie takes a few liberties with the plot, you can reacquaint yourself with the general character and views of Ayn's fictional character Howard Roark by watching his portrayal by Gary Cooper in the classic film:
"The Fountainhead" (1949) romance drama, directed by King Vidor
based on a novel by Ayn Rand
starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12
In Howard Roark, there is no compromise with the world of the mob, he stands alone. His artistic vision belongs to him alone and not to the world, except that they pay him his own required price.
Those he disregards, are those who try to pull him into the typical system of compromise, banality, mediocrity, and emptiness. Ayn's theory is that only those artists who create their art alone, without adjusting their vision to criticism, can create truly beautiful, interesting, grand works. Any work which is the result of the merger of multiple minds and opinions, can only be trivial, banal, common, and worthless.
Howard's friend Peter tells him, "Why stand alone? Give in, be one of us." Read this way, it sounds almost chilling, doesn't it? The board of directors of a company who wants to commission him to build a building says, "Why go to extremes? There is always a middle course. Your work is too original, too unique. Why take chances when you can stay in the middle?"
To this his response is, "If you want my work, you must take it as it is, or not at all." (Who except Gary Cooper could deliver a line like that and give you goosebumps?) Toohey, the protagonist speaks this line, "Artistic value is achieved collectively, by each man subordinating himself to the standards of the majority." After he has, through his effort, toyed with Howard Roark, he recommends, to his boss, the newspaper editor Gale Wynand, another architect, Peter Keating and about him says, "The greatness in Peter Keating's personality, lies in the fact that there is no personality stamped upon his buildings."
The newspaper editor now goes to the apartment of another of his architectural critics, Dominique Francon (Patricia Neal). She happens as well, to be engaged to Peter Keating, who is a partner in her father's architectural business. She repeats, but perhaps with more vehemence, the theory, "I wanted to destroy it [a statue], rather than let it be part of a world where beauty and genius and greatness have no chance. The world of the mob..." When Keating is offered the commission he states, "Want it? I'd sell my soul for it." Wynand declares that in order to get the commission, Peter must break his engagement to Miss Francon. Peter thinks its a joke, but Dominique knows its a test. A test to see if Peter has the integrity to stand up to such a remarkable requirement. He doesn't stand-up -- he breaks off his engagement.
Late in the movie, Peter Keating has seen his star fall as Howard's is rising. Howard however, has been given all his commissions by individuals impressed by his masterful work, none of his commissions were from committees, boards, or organizations. Peter is desperate for more work, and turns to Howard to help him in a design for low-cost housing. Keating asks Roark what sort of payment he would want, "Think of the people in the slums. You would perform a noble deed. Would you do it just for their sake?" To this Roark responds, "No. The man who works for others without payment, is a slave. I do not believe that slavery is noble. Not in any form, nor for any purpose whatsoever."
This Knol is under construction.
What Does All This Mean Professor Johnson?Ayn's theory is that artists must create their own work, independently of any actual or perceived criticisms and especially independently of the control of any others. Anyone who agrees to the control of their work, is selling their soul, to make a profit. Why would others want to control the work of artists? Ayn felt it was because the mob does not want greatness, they want mediocrity, they want all people to have the same worth. That anyone who aspires to greatness must be pulled down to the level of the mob. So the control of others, pulls down a great work, by introducing characteristics common to previous work, in order to "level" it to the sameness of other work, making it palatable to the mob.
Conversely she felt that any work of art, must be the product of a single mind, otherwise it is corrupted by the influence of the mob and is merely mediocre. The mob believes that only the standards of the mob should be applied to any work, that the collective mind must control the creation of the work. Not only that, but that the mob felt it had the right to control the artists themselves. To make them, bend to its will. Those artists who do bend, become popular with the mob, but individuals who can see greatness in truly original and unique work, will always seek out those artists who create from their own sole vision.
The mob would like to make each person attend to its needs, and thereford creates a philosophy that such "altruistic" action is noble. Ayn rejects this value system, declaring that such work, without pay, is slavery and there is no form of slavery which is noble.
This Knol is under construction.
Is Jimmy Wales an objectivist?In an article published in "The Atlantic" ("The Hive", by Marshall Poe, Sep 2006), Marshall states that Jimmy's : "particular passion was objectivism, the philosophical system developed by Ayn Rand. In 1989, he initiated the Ayn Rand Philosophy Discussion List and served as moderator..." However on Jimmy's own Wikipedia biography, it states that this electronic mailing list was founded in 1992.
At any rate, it should be clear, that Jimmy calls himself an "objectivist" and espouses, or did at least at one time espouse this Randian theory.
|(I may develop the below into another essay on Wikipedia and the Culture of Force) |
As an aside there is an interesting section in that "The Atlantic" article: "Wales was an advocate of what is generically termed “openness” online. An “open” online community is one with few restrictions on membership or posting—everyone is welcome, and anyone can say anything as long as it’s generally on point and doesn’t include gratuitous ad hominem attacks. Openness fit not only Wales’s idea of objectivism, with its emphasis on reason and rejection of force, but also his mild personality. He doesn’t like to fight. He would rather suffer fools in silence, waiting for them to talk themselves out, than confront them. This patience would serve Wales well in the years to come."
Kelly Martin in a posting at Wikipediareview, quoting Nietzche: "But thus do I counsel you, my friends: distrust all in whom the impulse to punish is powerful!"
This Knol is under construction.
Can an objectivist use slave labor?The masses who actually developed the majority of Wikipedia content were unpaid. Wikipedia has been referred to several times as a work of altruism, which is to say, a work created out of beneficence, out of the good will of it's editors, without renumeration. This work is created, and then given away to the public at no cost. Whether or not you personally feel that that is a noble act of selflessness, Rand did not share a high view of this sort of action. Rand speaking through her creation Howard Roark states, "The man who works for others without payment, is a slave. I do not believe that slavery is noble. Not in any form, nor for any purpose whatsoever."
Let us suppose that Jimmy Wales is as he claims, an objectivist. So he himself, in co-founding Wikipedia, would be a great artist creating a work solely true to his vision -- without outside control or influence. Is it permissible, while holding true to Randian philosophy to use volunteers and call on them for an "altruistic effort"? Or if it is not permissible than how does one get people to work on a project without pay? Or does one -- that is, do you not use volunteers? Or are they not really volunteering? Or are they actually getting paid in some currency other than money?
In other words, the question here is, did the actual method of development of the Wikipedia content agree with Ayn Rand's philosophy or did it violate it? On this note, see also this interesting post by Kelly Martin. There Kelly states that it is "...perfectly acceptable to encourage others to engage in altruism as long as you benefit in some way thereby."
But combining these ideas what do we get? It's acceptable to encourage others to engage in a form of slavery that is ignoble, provided you benefit. Is Wikipedia a project than, that debases all of its participants except its founder?
This Knol is under construction.