Thursday, April 30, 2009

Exalted Egoism

From Ayn Rand's first philosophic journal:

An example from my own experience, which, at the present time, affects me most, is the fact that few men have the ability or the desire to judge literary work by its essential worth. To most men, that work becomes valuable only after it has been recognized as such by someone else. They themselves do not have any standards of their own (and they do not feel the lack). The same is true of any other field of mental activity: scientific, philosophical, etc. This is the great unselfishness of today. As a matter of fact, unselfishness is merely selflessness. The true, highest selfishness, the exalted egoism, is the right to have one's own theoretical values and then to apply them to practical reality. Without that self there are no values. Here again—ethics based on self, not on society, the mass, the collective, or any other form of selflessness.

The Journals of Ayn Rand, David Harriman (editor), p. 71

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Ayn Rand in Playboy

Ayn Rand in Playboy:

PLAYBOY: As a novelist, do you regard philosophy as the primary purpose of your writing?
RAND: No. My primary purpose is the projection of an ideal man, of man "as he might be and ought to be." Philosophy is the necessary means to that end.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Night of January 16th

Ayn Rand on The Night of January 16th:

This means that its events are not to be taken literally; they dramatize certain fundamental psychological characteristics, deliberately isolated and emphasized in order to convey a single abstraction: the characters' attitude toward life. The events serve to feature the motives of the characters' actions, regardless of the particular forms of the actions—i.e., the motives, not their specific concretization. The events feature the confrontation of two extremes, two opposite ways of facing existence' passionate self-assertiveness, self-confidence, ambition, audacity, independence—versus conventionality, servility, envy, hatred, power-lust.

I do not think, nor did I think when I wrote this play, that a swindler is a heroic character or that a respectable banker is a villain. But for the purpose of dramatizing the conflict of independence versus conformity, a criminal—a social outcast—can be an eloquent symbol. This, incidentally, is the reason of the profound appeal of the "noble crook" in fiction. He is the symbol of the rebel as such, regardless of the kind of society he rebels against, the symbol—for most people—of their vague, undefined, unrealized groping toward a concept, or a shadowy image, of man's self-esteem.

That a career of crime is not, in fact, the way to implement one's self-esteem, is irrelevant in sense-of-life terms. A sense of life is concerned mainly with consciousness, not with existence—or rather: with the way a man's consciousness faces existence. It is concerned with a basic frame of mind, not with rules of conduct.

If this play's sense of life were to be verbalized, it would say, in effect: 'Your life, your achievement, your happiness, your person are of paramount importance. Live up to your highest vision of yourself no matter what circumstances you might encounter. An exalted view of self-esteem is a man's most admirable quality: How one is to live up to this vision—how this frame of mind is to be implemented in action and in reality—is a question that a sense of life cannot answer: that is the task of philosophy.

The Journals of Ayn Rand, David Harriman (editor), p.22

I always felt this way about The Godfather. Many of the characters seemed heroic because of their ambition and independence. But of course, they were not heroic. And Michael Corleone certainly was not a man of self-esteem.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Religion And Sex

Ayn Rand on religion and sex:

The theoreticians of religion know that it is impossible to prohibit thought. They do not expect the ban on sexual thoughts to be obeyed. Their purpose is not to abolish such thoughts, but to induce guilt—and thus to undercut man's self-esteem.

The following small incident captures the essence of the religious censors' mentality. In the 1930s, the "self-censorship" office of the movie industry (known as the Hays Office or, later, the Johnson Office) went on one of its periodic crusades against sex in the movies. That office was run predominantly by a religious organization, the Purity League. The two foremost sex symbols of the period were Greta Garbo and Mae West, who embodied two diametrically opposite attitudes: Garbo projected an exquisitely spiritual, exalted, man-worshiping sexuality—Mae West offered an "earthy," eye-winking, hip-swinging, humorously vulgar image that verged on the obscene, projecting the silent invitation: "Come, one and all." A representative of the censorship office was quoted as saying: "We don't mind Mae West—she makes sex ludicrous. What we oppose is Greta Garbo—she makes it glamorous."

Use your own judgment on the question of whose goal is "to deprave or corrupt."

"Thought Control", The Ayn Rand Letter, p.251

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

John Galt

Exalted quote from Ayn Rand. This is John Galt speaking...

"You, who dare to regard us as the moral inferiors of any mystic who claims supernatural visions—you, who scramble like vultures for plundered pennies, yet honor a fortune-teller above a fortune-maker—you, who scorn a businessman as ignoble, but esteem any posturing artist as exalted—the root of your standards is that mystic miasma which comes from primordial swamps, that cult of death, which pronounces a businessman immoral by reason of the fact that he keeps you alive. You, who claim that you long to rise above the crude concerns of the body, above the drudgery of serving mere physical needs—who is enslaved by physical needs: the Hindu who labors from sunrise to sunset at the shafts of a hand-plow for a bowl of rice, or the American who is driving a tractor? Who is the conqueror of physical reality: the man who sleeps on a bed of nails or the man who sleeps on an inner-spring mattress? Which is the monument to the triumph of the human spirit over matter: the germ-eaten hovels on the shorelines of the Ganges or the Atlantic skyline of New York?

"Unless you learn the answers to these questions—and learn to stand at reverent attention when you face the achievements of man's mind—you will not stay much longer on this earth, which we love and will not permit you to damn. You will not sneak by with the rest of your lifespan. I have foreshortened the usual course of history and have let you discover the nature of the payment you had hoped to switch to the shoulders of others. It is the last of your own living power that will now be drained to provide the unearned for the worshippers and carriers of Death. Do not pretend that a malevolent reality defeated you—you were defeated by your own evasions. Do not pretend that you will perish for a noble ideal—you will perish as fodder for the haters of man.

"But to those of you who still retain a remnant of the dignity and will to love one's life, I am offering the chance to make a choice. Choose whether you wish to perish for a morality you have never believed or practiced. Pause on the brink of self-destruction and examine your values and your life. You had known how to take an inventory of your wealth. Now take an inventory of your mind."
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, p. 967-8

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Peikoff On Rand

Leonard Peikoff on Ayn Rand:

Ayn Rand's real intellectual interest was emphatically not politics. Of course, she was a champion of capitalism and freedom. But unlike today's libertarians and conservatives, she was a thinker; she was not content to preach liberty or private property as though they were self-evident axioms. She wanted to know what they depend on and how they can be proved, all the way back to metaphysics and epistemology. This is why she admired Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas even more than she did Thomas Jefferson, and why, to the amazement of today's businessmen, she hated Kant and Hegel much more than income taxes. It is also why, starting with an interest in political questions, she was led eventually to formulate an overall system of thought, expressing a complete philosophy of life.

Ayn Rand's mind had an exalted quality, one shared by only a handful of kindred spirits across the ages. Hers was a mind with the profundity of a true philosopher; a mind that greeted the deepest issues of man's life with solemn reverence and ruthless logic; a mind that derived its greatest joy and its personal fulfillment from the rational study of fundamentals. In our age of mediocrity and anti-philosophy, this fact doomed her to a certain loneliness. It made her a unique personality, unable to find her equal, just as her product, the philosophy of reason that she called Objectivism, is unique and unequaled.

If you want to know what Ayn Rand was like as a person, I can now answer simply: you already know it, because she was just what she had to be given the nature of her intellectual processes. Ayn Rand the person was an expression and corollary of Ayn Rand the mind.

"My Thirty Years With Ayn Rand", The Voice of Reason, p. 346-7

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Ayn Rand on greatness:

Greatness is achieved by the productive effort of a man's mind in the pursuit of clearly defined, rational goals. But a delusion of grandeur can be served only by the switching, undefinable chimera of a public monument—which is presented as a munificent gift to the victims whose forced labor or extorted money had paid for it—which is dedicated to the service of all and none, owned by all and none, gaped at by all and enjoyed by none.
"The Monument Builders", The Virtue of Selfishness, p.89

Nat Taggart Statue From Atlas Shrugged

Exalted quote by Ayn Rand from Atlas Shrugged:

Dagny regretted at times that Nat Taggart was her ancestor. What she felt for him did not belong in the category of unchosen family affections. She did not want her feeling to be the thing one was supposed to owe an uncle or a grandfather. She was incapable of love for any object not of her own choice and she resented anyone's demand for it. But had it been possible to choose an ancestor, she would have chosen Nat Taggart, in voluntary homage and with all of her gratitude.

Nat Taggart's statue was copied from an artist's sketch of him, the only record ever made of his appearance. He had lived far into old age, but one could never think of him except as he was on that sketch—as a young man. In her childhood, his statue had been Dagny's first concept of the exalted. When she was sent to church or to school, and heard people using that word, she thought that she knew what they meant: she thought of the statue.

The statue was of a young man with a tall, gaunt body and an angular face. He held his head as if he faced a challenge and found joy in his capacity to meet it. All that Dagny wanted of life was contained in the desire to hold her head as he did.

Tonight, she looked at the statue when she walked across the concourse. It was a moment's rest; it was as if a burden she could not name were lightened and as if a faint current of air were touching her forehead.
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, p. 63

Monday, April 13, 2009

"Exalted" Definition

Do you have any additional relevant definitions?

Exalted from Merriam-Webster:

Main Entry: ex·alt
Pronunciation: \ig-ˈzȯlt\
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin exaltare, from ex- + altus high — more at old
Date: 15th century
transitive verb
1: to raise in rank, power, or character
2: to elevate by praise or in estimation : glorify
3obsolete : elate
4: to raise high : elevate
5: to enhance the activity of : intensify
intransitive verb
: to induce exaltation
— ex·alt·ed·ly adverb
— ex·alt·er noun


Main Entry: glo·ri·fy
Pronunciation: \ˈglȯr-ə-ˌfī\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): glo·ri·fied; glo·ri·fy·ing
Etymology: Middle English glorifien, from Anglo-French glorifier, from Late Latin glorificare, from gloria
Date: 14th century
1 a: to make glorious by bestowing honor, praise, or admiration b: to elevate to celestial glory
2: to light up brilliantly
3 a: to represent as glorious : extol a song glorifying romantic love
4: to give glory to (as in worship)
— glo·ri·fi·ca·tion \ˌglȯr-ə-fə-ˈkā-shən\ noun
— glo·ri·fi·er \ˈglȯr-ə-ˌfī(-ə)r\ noun

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Introduction To "Exalted Moments"

Philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand was the originator of the philosophy known as "Objectivism". Of her famous novel "Atlas Shrugged", she wrote:

You ask me about the meaning of the dialogue on page 702 of Atlas Shrugged:

"'We never had to take any of it seriously, did we?" she whispered. "'No, we never had to.'"

Let me begin by saying that this is perhaps the most important point in the whole book, because it is the condensed emotional summation, the keynote or leitmotif, of the view of life presented in Atlas Shrugged.

What Dagny expresses here is the conviction that joy, exaltation, beauty, greatness, heroism, all the supreme, uplifting values of man's existence on earth, are the meaning of life—not the pain or ugliness he may encounter—that one must live for the sake of such exalted moments as one may be able to achieve or experience, not for the sake of suffering—that happiness matters, but suffering does not—that no matter how much pain one may have to endure, it is never to be taken seriously, that is: never to be taken as the essence and meaning of life—that the essence of life is the achievement of joy, not the escape from pain. The issue she refers to is the basic philosophical issue which John Galt later names explicitly in his speech: that the most fundamental division among men is between those who are pro-man, pro-mind, pro-life—and those who are anti-man, anti-mind, anti-life.

It is the difference between those who think that man's life is important and that happiness is possible—and those who think that man's life, by its very nature, is a hopeless, senseless tragedy and that man is a depraved creature doomed to despair and defeat. It is the difference between those whose basic motive is the desire to achieve values, to experience joy—and those whose basic motive is the desire to escape from pain, to experience a momentary relief from their chronic anxiety and guilt.

It is a matter of one's fundamental, overall attitude toward life—not of any one specific event. So you see that your interpretation was too specific and too narrow; besides, the Looters' World had never meant anything to Dagny and she had realized its "sham and hypocrisy" long before. What she felt, in that particular moment, was the confirmation of her conviction that an ideal man and an ideal form of existence are possible.

The Letters of Ayn Rand, Michael Berliner (editor), p. 583-4

The purpose of this blog is to examine "exalted moments" and to answer questions such as:

How does one define an exalted moment?

How does one achieve an exalted moment?

What kind of thinking is required for an exalted moment?

What kind of action is required for an exalted moment?

What is the relationship between goal-directed actions (goal setting) and exalted moments?

What values and virtues are necessary to achieve an exalted moment? Do certain values and virtues have primacy over others?

What does one feel emotionally when one is experiencing an exalted moment? Is the feeling of an exalted moment the same or different than happiness? Is an exalted moment momentary? Is happiness a longer duration emotion?

Why are exalted moments psychologically important (necessary) for human life?

What is the proper social environment for exalted moments? How does one share exalted moments with others?

What is the relationship between esthetics and exalted moments? How is an exalted moment portrayed in art? Who are artists who correctly portray exalted moments?

At what age can one start experiencing exalted moments? How does one explain them to children?

How do exalted moments related to romantic partners and friends?

What are the great exalted moments of history?

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