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Author Topic: atlas shrugged vs grapes of wrath
bootjes
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Is it ok to talk about books other than Card's?

In that case I am wondering what people think of these two books. As Card's books have a lot of moral iseues in them maybe her I finbd readers that like to discuss the moral isssues in these two books.

I love both of them and are a bit confudes by both of them. I think these books tell true but opposite stories.

Atlas shrugged (Ayn Rand) is about the glory of individualism (and capitalism), and Grapes of wrath (Steinbeck of course)is not so much about collectivism but show the flaws of capitalism and makes a point about caring for each other.

Both stories are well told and gripping to the extent that you tend to agree with the writers. so now I find myself agreeing with two totally different social opinions.

Is ther anyone who knows these books (or one of them?

How do you feel about them?

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Itsame
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*waits patiently for Lisa*
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Samprimary
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I think that between the two authors, this is about Steinbeck's best work and he did a much much better job of veiling the book's philosophical mandates within the story, while Rand just baldly lectures using fictionally convenient paragons and strawmen and it's not really her best written book at all. So, I find Grapes of Wrath to be a much better read.

Grapes of Wrath is a pretty solid example of Bill and Tedism, so a lot of its social message has easy appeal: "be excellent to each other" is hard to find controversial.

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TL
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Ironically, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is not a very good example of Grapes of Wrathism.
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the_Somalian
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It's funny but the literati look down on John Steinbeck as well.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21264

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TL
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I'm struggling to understand, Somalian, how you can interpret anything in the article linked as "looking down" on John Steinbeck. It basically states that he wrote some very very good stuff, as well as some very bad stuff.

Are we to believe that Steinbeck only ever wrote masterpieces? All authors have their good stuff and bad stuff; I have yet to discover the writer who only ever wrote solid gold.

Your interpretation of that article as being a "looking down" and your invocation of this imaginary boogey-man called "the literati" suggests to me a swallowing of the kool-aid.

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steven
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Extremes of any economic philosophy are bound to cause a mess.
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Lisa
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quote:
Originally posted by JonHecht:
*waits patiently for Lisa*

Not a chance. The only thing I'll say is that when I was a high school sophomore, we were assigned Grapes of Wrath. I remember that the first chapter was about a field, and the first page of that chapter was about the air over a field. And then there was a turtle.

I couldn't even get through the Cliffs Notes. They should market that book as a sleep aid.

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Kwea
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LOL
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prolixshore
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If you add in the part where a guy wants to shoot someone from the bank but finds out that since nobody is in charge, there is nobody to kill, then what Lisa said is exactly what I remember about the Grapes of Wrath.

--ApostleRadio

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scifibum
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If only you could tell high school kids about the thing with the breast popping out, but not give away where it appears in the book, at least half of the class would manage to skim the GoW book without falling asleep.

Oh wait, I forgot they have the Internet now. Wouldn't work.

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Lisa
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I didn't get that far. The bank or the breast.
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The Pixiest
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I read it. It was a blur. I remember next to nothing about it.

I do remember being very irritated about how people, basically from my part of the country, saying "Fambly." I have never before, never at the time, nor ever since heard anyone, from anywhere in the world use the word "Fambly."

I wonder if the gentleman actually ever met someone from Oklahoma.

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MightyCow
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I live in California, and my wife's relatives from Oklahoma came and lived in her apartment for a while, so that she had to move out. A while later, they realized living in CA wasn't so great, and moved back.

I feel like that pretty well sums up the book, but without as much being boring as hell.

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Itsame
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I think I remember something about evil lawyers or businessmen. I dunno.
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ketchupqueen
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I hate the writing of both Rand and Steinbeck. (Though of what I've read of each of theirs, these two books in particular are not the worst.)

So, um, yeah.

Oh, and my family were Okies (meaning, Oklahomans from the Ozarks who moved to CA.) And they did talk a bit like that (the ones of that generation.)

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bootjes
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But the part of no one being in charge of the bank ,and similar chapters, illustrate the excesses of capitalism.
Just like Rand explains the excesses of socialism. So is there a middle? And if there is by what standard can you judge it?

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bootjes
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quote:
Originally posted by steven:
Extremes of any economic philosophy are bound to cause a mess.

yes, but wouldn't it be nice to have the best of both worlds?
An then how do you know what the best is?

There are two ways, And they are ,again, opposites:

One is by seeing with your heart (or faith)
The other is using you brain.

Paul mcCartney wrote in a song: "We don't need anybody else to tell us what is real. inside each one of us is love. and we know how it feels."
I like this kind of "truth finding".

But i am also tempted by the öbjectivism way of only listen to reason. I like a good argument, and philosophy.

And want the best of both of these worlds as well.

That is why I like dialogue stille better than argument.

A judge once said to two people fighting with eachother: "You are both right". Then some bystander said: They can't be both right at the same time! You are here to judge!. And the judge said: "and you are right too"

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steven
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"Not a chance. The only thing I'll say is that when I was a high school sophomore, we were assigned Grapes of Wrath. I remember that the first chapter was about a field, and the first page of that chapter was about the air over a field. And then there was a turtle.

I couldn't even get through the Cliffs Notes. They should market that book as a sleep aid."


I had a very similar reaction to Atlas Shrugged. I had read the Fountainhead first, and I felt it was very similar to The Fountainhead, except without the enjoyable aspects.

Seriously, I can't imagine actually reading every word of Atlas Shrugged. I didn't even make it more than 2/3 of the way through.

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Scott R
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I really enjoyed Grapes of Wrath.

I'm surprised there are so many people who thought it was boring.

I haven't read any Ayn Rand.

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Jhai
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I never read Grapes of Wrath, but I really enjoyed Steinbeck's Cannery Row. I think he does the short story/novella better than novels.

I couldn't make it through more than 50 pages of The Fountainhead, and I've never even tried picking up Atlas Shrugged. While I'm somewhat sympathetic to Rand's philosophy, I just couldn't stand the flat characters and, well, the bad writing. People & society, in my experience, just aren't as Rand depicts them. On the other hand, while I doubt Steinbeck and I would see eye to eye on a number of social issues, I feel like his depiction of people is a bit more realistic.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
People & society, in my experience, just aren't as Rand depicts them.
If you go in looking for it to be accurately representing reality, I think you are going to going to be disappointed by The Fountainhead. But if you view it as a purified look at a study of how people approach power, influence, quality, and a host of other things, I think it does a very good job. It's a sort of morality play and on that level succeeds quite well, I think.

---

I've been meaning to get to Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck has always been very hit or miss for me. In my experience, when he's good (In Dubious Battle), he's very good, but when he's bad (The Red Pony), he's awful.

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TomDavidson
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I loved Grapes of Wrath. It's a brilliantly-written book.
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bootjes
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quote:
Originally posted by Jhai:
, but I really enjoyed Steinbeck's Cannery Row.

I liked cannery row too, and its follower sweet thursday.
I loved the people in those books. Altough some of them are bumps, living on other peoples money. I can't help but like them. That is totaly against Rands philosophy (that in a certain amount I agree with. The part I dont agree with is obviously the rejection af the sort of people you find in cannery Row.

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Irami Osei-Frimpong
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He is my favorite novelist. That's not to say that every novel succeeds, and I'm not struck by nature as much as he is. I can do without the landscape descriptions. But the architecture of his stories continues to impress me. They are made to gestalt into one complete thing, the endings of "Of Mice and Men," "In Dubious Battle," "East of Eden," and "Grapes of Wrath," "Winter of Our Discontent," even "Cannery Row," and "Sweet Thursday," add a level of profoundity and heft to the work. It's as if, in that moment, one realizes the stakes and the vulnerability and beauty and terror of political action. The stakes have been there all the time, but throughout the book, one gets lulled into the day to day mundane aspects of life or the struggle to live. I feel wiser at the end of those novels. Not necessarily smarter, but wiser, and that's a dear thing.

I have a sweet spot for "The Wayward Bus," but nobody else seems like it. And "To a God Unknown" is written with so much love and care, it's hard to leave off any lists. It reminds me of OSC's Hart's Hope.

[ June 09, 2008, 04:17 PM: Message edited by: Irami Osei-Frimpong ]

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BlackBlade
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I very much enjoyed Grapes of Wrath. I suppose it's little surprise to me now, but I had always assumed that white on white racism never occurred in American history.

The story was easy to follow, and I cared about those Okies. The Great Gatspy would probably be the book I did not enjoy in the way others are describing The Grapes of Wrath

I've never read books by Ayn Rand, but reading some of her essays has so far placed us on opposing teams.

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steven
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"I have a sweet spot for "The Wayward Bus,""

Indeed. I felt he could have a made a longer novel out of it, done more with the main characters. I also did really love To a God Unknown, it really caught me where I was when I read it, around age 18 or 19.


"In my experience, when he's good (In Dubious Battle), he's very good, but when he's bad (The Red Pony), he's awful."

Yeah, The Red Pony and Tortilla Flats just didn't really do it for me. I'm surprised you liked In Dubious Battle, most people don't, although I really found it gripping and intense and enjoyable.

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Glenn Arnold
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I might as well post this here. This is an essay I wrote on the fountainhead for a literature class.

Altruism and Honesty: The Fallacy
of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead


My own definition of altruism is: The act of giving to or doing for others, with no expectation of reward, simply because it is the “right” thing to do. In Ayn Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, Rand utilizes a rather different definition. To her, altruism is the opposite of individualism, or the idea that the public interest outweighs the needs of the individual. In either case, it is the motivation, not the act, that determines whether the act is altruistic or not. Rand characterizes altruism as invalid, that altruism is destructive rather than useful, or even necessary. However, her primary argument against altruism falls flat; her altruistic characters are not altruistic at all, whether by her own definition or by mine.

The ultimate altruistic act is one which cannot be traced to its origin. In biblical terms, either “doing good works in secret,” to avoid the temptation to seek reward, or “casting bread upon the water,” where the connection between the recipients of the good work is so remote from its source that the result (well fed fish) is too indirect to offer an expectation of reward.

An altruistic act need not, by my definition, be directed at the public in general. It may be directed at an individual. Lucius Heyer expects no reward for leaving his fortune to Peter Keating, because he expects to be dead by the time Peter finds out about it. Henry Cameron’s mentorship of Howard Roark is likewise a gift without expectation of reward. Both of these acts are altruistically motivated. This is especially true since Cameron has lost any sense of hope. His reaction at seeing Roark’s work is one of surprise; he did not believe he would live to see it.

Howard Roark is also altruistic, since he expects no reward for designing buildings for Peter Keating. In fact, he attempts to eliminate any connection between himself and each building’s design. Rand would have us believe that since his “gifts” actually destroy Keating in the end, that she has proved her point, that altruism is actually destructive. But Rand has missed the point that she herself so carefully made: Roark’s gift is not to Keating, but to the people who will use the buildings. His ultimate achievements, the Enright House, Cortland homes, and Monadnock Valley, are gifts of efficiency and comfort that benefit the public. Despite Rand’s best intentions, even her selfish, individualistic hero is altruistic by her own standards.

Rand attempts to turn selfishness upside down, by claiming that Howard Roark is selfish, and making up preposterous examples of his selfish desire. If Rand is to convince us of her argument, she must make Roark believable. Howard Roark is interesting, and this carries the story along, at least so the reader continues to read, but having written a story that carries the reader along is not the same as convincing the reader or winning her argument. Roark is an unbelievably inconsistent character. On the one hand he is able to stand the withering assault against his principles of architecture, able to disregard the possibility that he will never be able to construct the buildings that mean so much so him, able to deprive himself of the only woman he loves, able to live with poverty and hard labor, yet he is vicious enough to execute the bombing of a building and the risk of loss of life, only because the construction of one of his beloved buildings was misappropriated by a committee. Rand has given us too many examples of how Roark can accept the judgment of society and move on with his life. And Rand herself describes Roark as an ideal; not a realistic person. Unless Rand can convince the reader that such a man could actually exist, she cannot expect to convince us that a man who can deprive himself of so much, and offer so much to society, could act so cruelly.

Rand’s major argument against altruism is that any so-called altruistic act is motivated by a selfish desire, or ulterior motive. But motivation and expectation are closely linked. The expectation of reward is inherent in any selfish desire. Ellsworth Toohey’s speech to Peter Keating gives away his motivation: he actively seeks power by manipulating the public. He is not acting on behalf of the public. Rather, he is manipulating the public for his own selfish use. Therefore, he is not actually being altruistic, he is just acting. His niece, Catharine, is taken in by his act, and destroyed by her belief that her uncle’s altruism is genuine. Roark, on the other hand, is driven by the philosophy that the form of his architecture must follow its function. Roark’s architecture is altruistic, in that his only motivation is that his buildings be “right.”

Rand attempts a bit of sleight of hand when she shows us that for all Catharine’s efforts at charity, she ends up unhappy. But the reader can easily see the fallacy. The reason for Catharine’s unhappiness is all too obvious: she has been jilted by the man she truly loves. Rand expects us to believe that for Catharine, if altruism should be it’s own reward, then somehow her acts of kindness should shield her against the emotional damage dealt her by two selfish bastards. Rand’s mistake is in making Catharine too realistic. A superhuman character like Howard Roark may not care if his love marries someone else, but a realistic character like Catharine Halsey is destroyed by it.

Rand seems to characterize the “public” as a collective of nameless and faceless people. She forgets that the “public” are composed of individuals, each with their own characteristics, and each filling their own role in society. Going along with the crowd is as much a characteristic of an individual as is a tendency to defy all accepted conventions. Howard Roark is just one of the general population, just as Catharine Halsey is an individual.

I recognize that “expectation of reward” is a slippery definition. Rand is correct, of course, in asserting that no one does anything without motivation, and that therefore, we must expect something in return for our most altruistic efforts. The “bread cast on the water,” after all, is supposed to “return ten thousand fold.”

But why do people perform altruistic acts? Often, the motivation for altruistic efforts comes from a belief in the supernatural. We are told by religious leaders not to look for our reward here on earth, but in the afterlife, for our “eternal reward.” Rand, of course, rejects any belief in the supernatural, and only offers sinister motivations for her characters’ “altruistic acts.” But Rand does not dispute the existence of right and wrong. My definition of altruism allows for one motivation: one performs an altruistic act because we think it is the right thing to do. From a religious perspective, “rightness” is defined by God, and is absolute. From an atheistic perspective, “rightness” is a human construct, based in natural law. One thing may be right in one situation, but wrong in another. “Rightness” is not absolute. In any case, rightness implies a benefit to nature as a whole. Our reward is that the whole is improved, and we benefit from that improvement. Here then, is where my definition coincides with Rand’s: the public interest is the collective needs of its individuals. And therefore, the public is served when the needs of individuals are served, provided they are not, on balance, served at the expense of the whole.

It is universally understood that honesty is a virtue. It seems that in Ayn Rand’s jaded view, any altruistic act is inherently dishonest. But to launch an argument against dishonesty would hardly be innovative. Instead, Rand attempts to redefine altruism to be synonymous with dishonesty, and argues in favor of the opposite of altruism: selfishness, rather than arguing in favor of honesty. She does not so much create characters as defines them. Ellsworth Toohey is the evil altruist. Howard Roark is the selfish hero. Then she writes a book showing Toohey as serving his own desires and Roark as serving the needs of the public, but each one claiming to be the opposite of what they are. Rand, like any successful propagandist, utilizes fallacious associations to create an illusion of philosophy, but her arguments are not logical. Undoubtedly she would like us to identify her with her hero, Howard Roark, but her dishonesty is more like Ellsworth Toohey’s.

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bootjes
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Thans Glenn,
nice piece of work.

I think Rand was so upset by people misusing altruism that she indeed endend up by misusing it in her own way.

Because Rand is right about that: altruism is often misused by people who use it to controll things by using moral binds. I think Rand has a point by showing this.

She forgets that there is actually altruism that does not create binds (is that what you refer to as true altruism?)

Because of your story I come closer to what it is that I like about Rand and Atlas Shrugged (havn't read Fountainhead yet), that is: Having no false moral ties. Al lot of our moral ties (if not most) are false.

Now what do I mean by false? False moral ties are binding people making them captive of something "greater".

Then there have to be genuine or good moral ties. Now what are these?

The closest I come up with an answer is the following story (when I made it, I had no idea that it would mean so much to me, anmd said so much about my life)


There was a time when the God of all animals gave all the animals special gifts. (Like the rabbits tell of El-ahrairah). Each species could choose what he/she wanted.

The camel chose long eyelashes as a shelter for the sandstorms, long legs for walking long distances, and big feet so not to sink in the sand too deep, and as a last request: never thirsty again.
God granted alle these.

Not very long after this the camel was back.
God was not surpirised, bit still aksed the camel "what is the matter?"

The Camel said he was thrilled about everything, but ...

"But what?", asked God who knew what was coming.

"Well, I miss the thirst. I miss it when I come to an oasis and see the clear water. Oh, i do drink, just for old times sake, but without thirst it isn't the same."

"Well, God said. I give your thirst back. And there is something else you will have from me. I'll give you two humps. Then you will be able to go a long while without water. But you will always find the need to seek out an oasis. And you will enjoy clenching your thirst."


Now when I think of it . . .

this is not about moral binds but about emotional and social binds. There must be a connection though . . . . .

[ June 10, 2008, 06:12 AM: Message edited by: bootjes ]

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rubble
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Glenn,

I like the logic of your interpretation of the Fountainhead. I have read it twice -- and though I consider myself a logical person, I hadn't viewed the "altruism perspective" that way before.

BTW, I'm currently reading a book about the psychology of decision making. The author cites rigorous studies that show that individuals are more likely to accomplish a task if they believe they are giving the labor as a gift, or are receiving a gift for it, rather than being paid for the labor. Interesting twist on your thesis?

(edit for spelling)

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Samprimary
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quote:
Rand attempts to redefine

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the_Somalian
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quote:
Originally posted by TL:
I'm struggling to understand, Somalian, how you can interpret anything in the article linked as "looking down" on John Steinbeck. It basically states that he wrote some very very good stuff, as well as some very bad stuff.

Are we to believe that Steinbeck only ever wrote masterpieces? All authors have their good stuff and bad stuff; I have yet to discover the writer who only ever wrote solid gold.

Your interpretation of that article as being a "looking down" and your invocation of this imaginary boogey-man called "the literati" suggests to me a swallowing of the kool-aid.

The essay struck me as being overly critical of him--the author even takes issue with Steinbeck's best novels, mentioning how "East of Eden" contains "trashy" elements, and so on. The point seems to be more along the lines of "did Steinbeck write anything good?" rather than "he didn't only write good stuff." The author seems to grudgingly concede the former point.
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bootjes
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Wow samprimary,

what a read! (sigh)(one link, so many words!)

What I liked is the part about the fudge words. This I think is the heart of the flaw in objectivism. I couldn't put my finger on it. Thanks!

Rand still makes some good points but I have said that already.

(likes to point out again that being Dutch can lead to very oldfashioned and very wrong use of the english language, not including typeing miskates. These are due to dyslectic fingers combined with impatiance)
(No not trying to get a "its not that bad for a foreignor" , just excusing for the weird language: thanks for reading nonetheless)

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Because Rand is right about that: altruism is often misused by people who use it to controll things by using moral binds. I think Rand has a point by showing this.
She has a point, and I think most people will agree that using the appearance of altruism to achieve selfish desires is hypocritical. But altruism itself cannot be "misused," because if you misuse it, it's not altruism.

Samprimary: I didn't get though the detailed comments, but I was glad to see just a thorough trashing of Rand's so-called logic. I particularly appreciated the part that compares her work to mathematically rigorous proof.

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Glenn Arnold
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I think I need to read Grapes of Wrath. I've only seen the movie, which was pretty good, but I'm starting to get a taste of what was left out.

(The pun was literally not intentional, and I almost edited it back out when I noticed it, but decided not to.)

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bootjes
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
I think most people will agree that using the appearance of altruism to achieve selfish desires is hypocritical. But altruism itself cannot be "misused," because if you misuse it, it's not altruism.

True!

The most dangerous (and most common) are people who fool themselves and really think they are doing good by forcing other people to behave in certain ways. I think society is making this mistake a lot. We restrict our children in schools more than we should.

I teach teach and train social skills for young poeple who are punished for breaking a law. I make it a point not to judge them (judge already did that) but to teach them to consider their actions carefully. And help them with the skills necessary to do this. (This kind of training is only for people who want to stop their behaviour but find this hard to do)

I now have a teenage kid that wants the freedom to find out what she can an can't do. She doesnt want to be trained. She says: I can find out myself by undergoing the consequences of my behaviour. Then I pointed out that I was one of those consequences.
Now I am in the process of asking her what kind of rules she thinks are necessary (I told her about Rands philosophy, and she liked it. She agrees to a certain amount of regulation though) To let her think about these things is IMO the best training I can give her. She is a smart kid, so no use for me to tell her what she can and can't do. This is the way I respect her freedom and still do society a favour by letting her think about other people as well. The result of this thinking is still her choise.

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