Thursday, May 14, 2009

What Is Important?

Leonard Peikoff on what is important:

No concrete within an art work, such as the type of ending given to a story, can be judged outside the full context of the work. The point is that, within the context, every concrete, simply by virtue of being included, acquires significance.

As a teenager, I told Miss Rand once that it was difficult to live up to the exalted quality of her novels. "If John Galt were out on a date," I said, "he would open a bottle of champagne with the ease of flourishing a cape, and the mood would be highly romantic. But when I do it, the cork sticks, I fumble with the bottle, and the mood is sabotaged. Why can't life be more like art?"

Miss Rand answered that the cork could very well stick for a real-life Galt, too. But if it did, he would brush the distraction aside; he would not let it affect his mood or evening. "In life," she said, "one ignores the unimportant; in art, one omits it."

Most men do not know in explicit terms what they regard as important. They are unfamiliar with philosophy and hold few ideas on the subject; yet they are able to create and/or respond to art. This is possible because all men, whatever their conscious mental content, hold metaphysical value-judgments in a special form, which Ayn Rand calls a sense of life. A "sense of life" is "a pre-conceptual equivalent of metaphysics, an emotional, subconsciously integrated appraisal of man and of existence." Such a subconscious appraisal is involved in art of any kind or school.

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, p. 425-6

1 comment:

  1. As a contrast, it is instructive to read Sinclair Lewis's "Babbitt" to see how the author selects minor details (like the stuck cork) and elevates the to importance merely by focus. A Sinclair reader is left with the message: "This -- this trivial problem -- is life".