Monday, January 31, 2011

Roarkian Soul

Roarkian soul: do you have it?

On the automatized and surface level, this is a matter of sense-of-life. Either you have a concept of and reverence for the greatness of soul possible to human beings, or you're tragically stunted, perhaps a victim of overwhelming cynicism. "Love for man at his highest potential" seems to be a rare phenomenon. How many people ever have a sense of that feeling in their lives? How many have a sense of radiant benevolence and a real commitment to making the most of their potentials? How many can connect, at that basic sense-of-life level, with the saying that "A noble soul has reverence for itself"? How many, on the other hand, see examples of human achievement and are struck immediately, in sense-of-life terms, with envy, resentment, bitterness, etc.?

How many are committed to a life of learning and growth and integrity, as opposed to a satisfying ignorance, or stagnation, or compromise? How many have the courage to stand up for a vision of their own which exalts actual or potential human greatness? How many can think in terms of principles, or an integrated view of existence? How many exalt an intellectually-disciplined commitment to reason as one's basic guide to belief and action?

How is it that a reader of The Fountainhead would come away with either a "getting it" and therefore positive attitude, a (necessarily ill-defined) negative attitude, or a not-getting-it attitude? Does one have any sort of vision of the human ideal - one that doesn't require some well-worn supernatural mythology? Does one understand that perfection - in the realistic, Aristotelian sense of the term - is possible to human beings?

Does one believe that strength resides in courage, integrity and rationality, or that it resides in numbers?

Apply this question to the behavior of the present-day "philosophical community," which - most unphilosophically - plays a version of the "strength in numbers" game. Now, here's a good question for anyone of any intellectual worth to entertain: shouldn't a big-time philosopher these days be able to take a careful look at the ideas of Ayn Rand and then assess its merits vis a vis leading ideas in the analytic-philosophy field? If Aristotle were around today, what would he do? Would he neglect having a disciplined look at a controversial and influential figure, especially one who espouses ideas remarkably congenial to his? No, he would not: Aristotle's policy wasn't to ignore, but to integrate.

Take Aristotle's approach with respect to the materialists and idealists of his day, for instance: he had to account for either side's appeal while showing both to be mistaken. Yes, to properly credit Sciabarra here, he engaged in a "dialectic" with the prevailing opposed ideas to show how the illicit dualism or lack of integration involved with the prevailing opposition will generate views which present only a partial perspective on the truth, whereas Aristotle's hylomorphism provides a completed (perfected!) perspective.

Clearly there are no "big-name professional philosophers" these days presently up to the task of engaging the intellectual playing field the way Aristotle was. Not while they ignore rather than integrate what it is that accounts for the appeal of allegedly "outsider," "fringe" figures like Ayn Rand. (Comparing Rand to, say, Scientology simply wouldn't cut it. Scientology is a supernaturalistic religion which is accorded the appropriate epistemic status of such by "the philosophical community.") That certainly rules out the possibility of any of them being the "ultimate philosopher" if there is one. Meanwhile, here's what I think must be the case: anyone who could be called the "ultimate philosopher" in our time would have to have Roarkian soul.

My job as philosopher is to emulate the likes of Aristotle and Roark as best I can, see.

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