Discussion of The Fountainhead

We choose one philosophical book per month to read. Then we discuss it as a group.

Nominate books to be philosophy book of the month.


UPCOMING BOOK

June 2017: The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus


Discussion of The Fountainhead

Post Number:#1  Postby Scott » November 27th, 2009, 1:50 pm

Please use this thread to discuss The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

This is a fiction book, so remember not to read this thread until you have read the book because this thread will contain spoilers.

What do you think of The Fountainhead? Do you like it? Do you recommend it?

I love the way the book portrays individualism and creativity against traditionalism and conformity. I think she sums this up right in the first part of the book when explaining the downfall of Henry Cameron. She writes, "Men hate passion, any great passion." I believe she is making the case that traditionalism and conformity seek to crush passion-inspired individuality and creativity. What do you think?

I think The Fountainhead provides an excellent criticism of commonplace business practices and culture as well as unoriginal commercialism in general. Like the individualist radical who refuses to eat at McDonald's or listen to commercialized radio instead buying from independent grocers and listens to indie music, Ayn Rand would go against the grain and prefer to hire Roark as her architect rather than hire a more mainstream architect following the mainstream guidelines of mainstream business.

Finally, I like this quote of Peter Keating realizing he isn't happy:

Peter Keating sitting by the fire realizing he isn’t happy:

Ayn Rand wrote:He thought of how convincingly he could describe this scene to friends and make them envy the fullness of his contentment. Why couldn't he convince himself? He had everything he'd ever wanted. He had wanted superiority--and for the last year he had been the undisputed leader of his profession. He had wanted fame--and he had five thick albums of clippings. He had wanted wealth--and he had enough to insure luxury for the rest of his life. He had everything anyone ever wanted. How many people struggled and suffered to achieve what he had achieved? How many dreamed and bled and died for this, without reaching it? "Peter Keating is the luckiest fellow on earth." How often had he heard that?


To me, that quote illustrates that even Rand knew that the ways people traditionally and commonly get rich and famous is not what she was supporting, is not what is in the utilitarian benefit of society and is not what will make themselves happy.
Last edited by Scott on December 3rd, 2009, 3:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Discussion of The Fountainhead



Become a member for less ads

Already a member? Login
 

Post Number:#2  Postby Serieuse » November 29th, 2009, 7:38 am

Hi Scott and all, I'm new to this forum. Has nobody else replied to the discussion on The Fountainhead? I'm not a philosophy expert but I have read The Fountainhead and I really liked it. I even cried in some parts (like when Roark gave his speech in the courtroom), Rand is such a powerful storyteller.

One thing I would like to discuss with people is whether or not The Fountainhead can be read as a critique of the way capitalism operates today. I ask because Ayn Rand is overwhelmingly regarded as a completely "right wing" philosopher in favour of capitalism, individualism, and unrestrained self-interest. (I have not read her philosophical works though.) I'm just wondering whether it's possible to resolve the apparent contradiction between my love of The Fountainhead and the fact that I DON'T agree with the theory that the greatest social good comes out of everyone only caring about their own self interests.

What I like most about The Fountainhead is the way Roark lives strictly by his own principles and refuses to compromise his aesthetic judgement. In your view, is this kind of heroic individualism "pro capitalist" or "anti capitalist" in this day and age? I have read in some other books that individualism can be given either a right- or left-wing spin. Each political orientation claims to champion individual freedom (and asserts that the other side represses individuality.) What's your view? Are there many lefty people who like The Fountainhead like me? Or am I somehow reading it wrong? (Sorry if I'm rambling on a bit!)
Serieuse
 
Posts: 3 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: November 25th, 2009, 9:41 am

Post Number:#3  Postby Scott » November 29th, 2009, 1:30 pm

Thanks for your reply and very intriguing comments, Serieuse!

Despite common claims to the contrary, I do not think Rand can accurately be described as right-wing. Firstly, she was an outspoken atheist, supported abortion rights, and was a civil libertarian. Some would argue she was still economically right-wing, but being half right-wing and half left-wing doesn't make one either. Moreover, I do not think her philosophy that so often promoted love and condemned conventional business practices is economically right-wing. I think so called 'economic conservatives' would come to the defense of big business and the wealthy if some Rand-like person was criticizing the vast majority of these people as strongly, sharply and well as Rand. Serieuse, in that way, I think The Fountainhead can be read as a critique of the way capitalism operates today, which opposes the economic right-wing's support of contemporary capitalism and business culture. Lest we forget that her heroes are the rare principled people fighting against the vast majority of wealthy shareholders, wealthy top executives, wealthy business owners and the culture and society they represent.

Also, I do not think Rand's support of self-interest is a condemnation of genuine kindness and love. I explained this in a less Rand-specific way in my article, Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness? The impression I get from reading her books is that she is mocking and showing the destructiveness of confused or weak people who dishonestly pretend to be so-called "selfless" but who really have ulterior motives. At root, I think the hero's of her novels are more sincerely nice, helpful and giving than the others even though they do not care if others see them as mean, crazy and selfish. In contrast, the 'bad guys' of her books who are in the majority are the weasels who pretend to be so nice and so 'selfless' to get ahead or to get power over the one's who are strong, intelligent and honest enough to neither need nor want to be so dishonest.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Fountainhead.

Post Number:#4  Postby WanderingMind » December 1st, 2009, 10:40 am

I think Rand is against anything that suppresses individualism. Be it big business, government, or your next door neighbor.

Keep in mind that she espoused the principle of "rational self interest" as opposed to merely unrestricted greed.

I think that key word, rational, really makes the difference here. Rational self interest should tend to lead us away from business decisions that might adversely affect our co-workers or our employees - since we have to deal not only with them, but with our own conscience as well (if we are to be intellectually honest, that is).

As for kindness: you cannot be truly kind to someone unless you have met your own needs prior to helping that person. Parents talk about "tough love" when dealing with kids. I believe this ties in to that. "You may not like this, but it's the best thing for you." Is that not true kindness?

Merely applying a band-aid when iodine is required I do not consider kindness. It's just a way for you yourself to avoid an unpleasant situation.
WanderingMind
 
Posts: 4 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: April 11th, 2008, 10:12 pm

Post Number:#5  Postby Malsy » December 3rd, 2009, 10:55 pm

Peter Keating was not unhappy because he attained his status the traditional way. He was unhappy because he attained it without earning it through his own ability. He earned his status through knowing the right people, shaking hands with the right people, making the rounds of the cocktail parties, and being all-around popular. He knew he was a second-rate architect who too often went to Roark for advice on difficult projects.
Malsy
 
Posts: 3 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: December 3rd, 2009, 10:48 pm

Post Number:#6  Postby Scott » December 4th, 2009, 9:14 pm

Isn't "knowing the right people, shaking hands with the right people, making the rounds of the cocktail parties, and being all-around popular" the traditional way to attain status? Isn't that one of Rand's main points--that Roark is a nontraditional, unique, radical individual?
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Post Number:#7  Postby Malsy » December 4th, 2009, 10:34 pm

Scott wrote:Isn't "knowing the right people, shaking hands with the right people, making the rounds of the cocktail parties, and being all-around popular" the traditional way to attain status? Isn't that one of Rand's main points--that Roark is a nontraditional, unique, radical individual?


Maybe, it depends on the type of society he´s in. I just don´t remember Rand explicitly saying anything about Keating being a traditionalist in the way he attained his status, but more specifically, he was described as a status-seeking popularity hound. Is that the traditional method? Rand didn´t say. Her novel was focused on aesthetics, in this case, breaking with architectural tradition by applying the adage "form follows function" versus, I suppose, "form follows tradition."
Malsy
 
Posts: 3 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: December 3rd, 2009, 10:48 pm

Post Number:#8  Postby Scott » December 5th, 2009, 12:11 am

Yes, Malsy, you are right that it depends the type of society in which he is. And I may be reading between the lines too much. Nonetheless, I got the impression that more people in The Fountainhead were like Keating than Roark and that Roark was nontraditional not just in his architectural style but also his business and social style. I believe that this is also how contemporary society is and how most societies throughout history have been--that most wealth and power is "unearned," i.e. not gotten Roark-style, which in the case of Keating means getting it by knowing the right people, shaking hands with the right people, making the rounds of the cocktail parties, and being all-around popular.
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Post Number:#9  Postby Malsy » December 5th, 2009, 1:16 am

Scott wrote:Yes, Malsy, you are right that it depends the type of society in which he is. And I may be reading between the lines too much. Nonetheless, I got the impression that more people in The Fountainhead were like Keating than Roark and that Roark was nontraditional not just in his architectural style but also his business and social style. I believe that this is also how contemporary society is and how most societies throughout history have been--that most wealth and power is "unearned," i.e. not gotten Roark-style, which in the case of Keating means getting it by knowing the right people, shaking hands with the right people, making the rounds of the cocktail parties, and being all-around popular.


You have apparently enjoyed my wording there to quote it so often. Anyway, I don't know that there were many characters who were like either Keating or Roark in that book.

At best, I would say that being like Keating is traditional with parasites, while being like Roark is traditional with producers. And it should have been clear enough in the book that society's problem with Roark was not his rejection of tradition, but rather, envy-hatred of his struggle and successes. And that there is an element in society (far more common in Rand's motherland Russia, as well as parts of Europe) which despises any personal quality that leads to success, particularly in its lack of equality with everybody else, and then attempts to level it down to the lowest common denominator. If anything, sticking with tradition is only one motive, but a powerful one, for enforcing this kind of leveling which panders to social envy-hatred.
Malsy
 
Posts: 3 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: December 3rd, 2009, 10:48 pm

Post Number:#10  Postby Scott » December 13th, 2009, 8:26 pm

Indeed, traditionalism is just one way the second-handers or parasites fight first-handers like Roark and gain power over others, and it's just one motive. In the case of Roark, members of the general public chose second-handers like Guy Francon, Keating, etc. and rejected Roark because Roark refused to subject himself to architectural traditionalism and commonplace architectural practices such as giving a building a Classical or Renaissance theme.

In addition to traditionalism, second-handers also believed in and/or preached was showing off to each other, equality and the value of public opinion. Examples of this in modern society could be the false belief that McDonald's has good food or that Britney Spears produces good music because they are popular. That's certainly not just traditionalism; I agree.

Anyway, when I wrote that Roark was nontraditional not just in his architectural style but also his business and social style, I think I was simply trying to say that Rand's story showed what I also believe to be true which is that there are far more second-handers in the world than first-handers. Or in other words, there are far more parasites than producers. Both in the book and in the real world, much more wealth and power is held in the parasitic hands of often wealthy second-handers like Keating, Guy Francon, Toohey, Wynand and all the other architects in the book besides Roark and Cameron than in the hands of first-handers such as Roark, Cameron, Mike and Mallory. Traditionally, people make money by being second-handers such as Wynand or Keating rather than being one of the very few who choose to struggle--often in or near poverty--as a first-hander like Roark or Mallory.

***

In chapter 11 of part 4, there's a part that I especially from Roark's speech to Wynand in which I think Rand via Roark gives examples of various types of second-handers:

Ayn Rand via her character Roark wrote:And isn't that the root of every despicable action? Not selfishness, but precisely the absence of self. Look at them. The man who cheats and lies, but preserves a respectable front. He knows himself to be dishonest, but others think he's honest and he derives his self-respect from that, second-hand. Than man who takes credit for an achievement which is not his own. He knows himself to mediocre, but he's great in they eyes of others. The frustrated wretch who professes love for the inferior and clings to those less endowed, in order to establish his own superiority by comparison. The man whose sole aim is to make money. Now I don't see anything evil in a desire to make money. But money is only a means to some end. If a man wants it for a personal purpose--to invest in his industry, to create, to study, to travel, to enjoy luxury--he's completely moral. But the men who place money first go much beyond that. Personal luxury is a limited endeavor. What they want is ostentation: to show, to stun, to entertain, to impress others. They're second-handers. Look at our so-called cultural endeavors. A lecturer who spouts some borrowed rehash of nothing at all that means nothing at all to him--and the people who listen and don't give a damn, but sit there in order to tell their friends that they have attended a lecture by a famous name. All second-handers.


I especially like that passage because I think it shows what Rand disliked about what would may commonly be called selfishness.

I also thinks it stands in contrast to the true kindness of being a individualistic first-hander, which entails the absence of false pity, the absence of manipulative or deceitful charity, and the absence of pretending to follow an impossible creed of selflessness. The irony that Rand chooses to refer to the root of true kindness as selfishness, a traditionally negative term, is not lost on me. This "true kindness" is shown in the following examples:

The character Peter Keating says to Roark, "You're the most egotistical and kindest man I know."

Ayn Rand wrote:He looked at Roark and saw the calmest, kindest face - a face without a hint of pity. It did not look like the countenance of men who watch the agony of another with a secret pleasure, uplifted by the sight of a beggar who needs their compassion; it did not bear the cast of the hungry soul that feeds upon another's humiliation. Roark's face seemed tired, drawn at the temples, as if he had just taken a beating. But his eyes were serene and they looked at Mallory quietly, a hard, clean glance of understanding - and respect.


Let's also remember that Roark gives Mallory money to do work on his own. Also, Roark agrees to secretly build the affordable housing for the poor for no monetary gain or popularity for himself. In both instances Roark goes out of his way to explain that he is not being selfless but rather is being--in Rand's unique usage of the word--selfish. This 'true kindness' is in contrast to the false kindness, false sympathy, deceitfulness, ostentation and parasitism of the second-handers who either mistakenly or deceitfully claim to be "selfless," which is impossible.

I think Rand's ideas expand greatly on what I briefly addressed in my article, Is Selfishness Compatible with Kindness? Of course, Rand goes into it in much more depth. I think she does a great job in this novel of showing that unkindness is generally committed by unkind second-handers who want to seem kind or in the name of selflessness, an inherently false idea that thus manifests as false kindness, false sympathy, etc. Of course, Rand's long book explains those ideas better than a few sentences written by me or some other reviewer.

***

I would like to read comments on what I have written, but even more I would like to read everyone's comments on the book itself. If you have read the book and haven't posted yet, please do! :D
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Post Number:#11  Postby Keith Russell » January 29th, 2010, 8:24 pm

Rand was a fiscal conservative, and a vocal proponent of lassez-faire capitalism, but she was also a social liberal (as has been mentioned) a supporter of abortion rights, free speech (Rand was not anti-porn), an atheist, etc.

Most of Rand's polemical rhetoric (which was the bulk of her writing after completing Atlas Shrugged) was directed against the "conservatives" of her day, who--she felt--were advocates of capitalism on religious/moral grounds, which she felt was the worst way to defned capitalism.

She was once offered a million dollars (which was "real money" back then) to help promote her ideas, if she would drop atheism from her philosophy.

She refused...
User avatar
Keith Russell
 
Posts: 896 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 6th, 2010, 10:50 pm

Post Number:#12  Postby whitetrshsoldier » February 10th, 2010, 6:42 pm

Keith Russell wrote:Rand was a fiscal conservative, and a vocal proponent of lassez-faire capitalism, but she was also a social liberal (as has been mentioned) a supporter of abortion rights, free speech (Rand was not anti-porn), an atheist, etc.

Most of Rand's polemical rhetoric (which was the bulk of her writing after completing Atlas Shrugged) was directed against the "conservatives" of her day, who--she felt--were advocates of capitalism on religious/moral grounds, which she felt was the worst way to defned capitalism.

She was once offered a million dollars (which was "real money" back then) to help promote her ideas, if she would drop atheism from her philosophy.

She refused...



Just a clarification ...

Saying that being pro-abortion is socially liberal is a misinterpretation of terminology.

"Liberal" = the liberal application of government [i.e. regulation]. Rand would not agree with this in any sense, at any time, unless it was to defend individual liberty.

"Conservative" = the conservative application of government, in most people's understanding, meaning only FOR the defense of it's population's liberty.

I hate how the two terms are confused all of the time. It doesn't matter if it's economic or social, the term applies equally either way. I'm a CONSERVATIVE, meaning I want the government OUT OF PRIVATE LIVES! That doesn't make me a bible-thumping, bedroom-watching, homophobe!

-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~

Having said that, I thought reading Atlas Shrugged first spoiled my opinion of the book Sad

I especially wasn't fond of the rape-type scenarios ...
"I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings! I'm obviously just insecure with the ineptitudes of my logic and rational faculties. Forgive me - I'm a "lost soul", blinded by my "ignorant belief" that there's such a thing as reality and truth in the world"
User avatar
whitetrshsoldier
Contributor
 
Posts: 1774 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: March 11th, 2009, 1:19 pm
Location: San Diego, CA
Favorite Philosopher: Frederic Bastiat

Post Number:#13  Postby AutonomyPartisan » March 18th, 2010, 6:50 pm

The Fountainhead is Ayn Rand's valiant, thematic expression of her Objectivism philosophy. Protagonist, Howard Roark never succumbs to the external forces of peer-pressure, greed, or fame. For Roark, attaining these enticing recognitions meant sacrificing his most important possession, his individual identity. Howard Roark was an architect; he designed masterpieces. Stripping Roark of his freedom to design his way, would simply transform him into yet another mindless puppet controlled by the hand of society. Howard Roark valued his individuality far more than materialistic possession or fame. The Fountainhead serves as one of the most beautiful depictions of individualism, which was a primary theme in many of Rand's works.

-never conform-
AutonomyPartisan
 
Posts: 8 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: March 18th, 2010, 3:56 pm

Post Number:#14  Postby Scott » March 21st, 2010, 1:39 am

whitetrshsoldier wrote:I especially wasn't fond of the rape-type scenarios ...

I also found that to be weird and disturbing. I thought maybe I had misunderstood what was being narrated in the part where the rape occurs, the time when they first have sex, but then later she refers to it as rape. :shock:
Online Philosophy Club - Please tell me how to improve this website!

Check it out: Abortion - Not as diametrically divisive as often thought?
User avatar
Scott
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4197 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: January 20th, 2007, 6:24 pm
Favorite Philosopher: Diogenes the Cynic

Re: Discussion of The Fountainhead

Post Number:#15  Postby Susu_Ahmed » May 7th, 2014, 8:33 am

I don't have a single doubt in my mind that Roark, with all his selfishness, is one of the kindest people imaginable. I believe that true kindness can only come from a genuinely individual person because to be an individual, you must have self-respect and you must know the worth of a still extant self. By building his buildings the way that he built them Roark issued a command to all of humanity to rise. Instead of condescendingly telling others to be better, he showed them true greatness. With his buildings, with the Stoddard Temple in particular, he showed them a soul. He didn't accept them as they were, bottomless pits that didn't truly exist, he loved them and demanded the return of their self-respect. There were those who complied, and those who didn't. The true kindness, however, was in having the bravery to ask it of them.

I'd raise my glass to Roark, but I think it would be better served going to Ayn Rand. The Fountainhead asks of it's readers the same thing that Roark asked of his clients: a soul.
User avatar
Susu_Ahmed
New Trial Member
 
Posts: 1 (View: All / In topic)

Joined: May 7th, 2014, 8:04 am

Next

Return to Philosophy Book of the Month Club

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests

Philosophy Trophies

Most Active Members
by posts made in lasts 30 days

Avatar Member Name Recent Posts
Greta 162
Fooloso4 116
Renee 107
Ormond 97
Felix 90

Last updated January 6, 2017, 6:28 pm EST

Most Active Book of the Month Participants
by book of the month posts

Avatar Member Name BOTM Posts
Scott 147
Spectrum 23
Belinda 23
whitetrshsoldier 20
Josefina1110 19
Last updated January 6, 2017, 6:28 pm EST