Quick Roundup 235

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Accessibility and Criticism

In a very thought-provoking post, Ergo considers the question of why so many non-academics feel qualified to comment on Ayn Rand.

It is my belief that Rand is an easy target of smears and insults by psuedo-intellectuals because she brought philosophy out of the ivory towers and made it accessible to the understanding of common folk. Even though she had to deal with some of the most complex and widest abstractions to lay the case out for her philosophy, she managed to do it in terms and concepts that would be in the grasp of most intelligent lay readers -- the exception to this being her formation of the epistemological theory of concepts, an area of philosophy for which she had to maintain the highest level of technical rigor and precision.


Notice how you seldom hear criticisms of Wittgenstein, Hegel, Levinas, or Kierkegaard from common bloggers, readers, friends, etc. It's because these philosophers did not write for the lay person; most of the philosophy they wrote was for their academic peers, and they engaged other philosophers in a dialog that would be termed esoteric and irrelevant for most common men. Philosophy was an academician's engagement -- a puzzlement -- and philosophers confined philosophies to the misty hallways of their universities. [bold added]
Ergo is here focused on Rand's accomplishment of helping ordinary people become interested in philosophy, but the fact that so much of the commentary is negative reminds us that she also challenged nearly all past formal philosophy and therefore the ideas (implicit and explicit) held by the vast majority of people out there in her audience.

This is somewhat ironic, as -- thanks again to her -- many of her readers understand that these seemingly "esoteric and irrelevant" past conversations have ultimately affected history through transmission via intellectuals into the mainstream culture.

Jennifer Snow on Happy Endings and on Bourne

Reader Adrian Hester pointed me to a very good comment by Jennifer Snow over at Objectivism Online from a thread about the trilogy, His Dark Materials, whose first book is being adapted into a movie (The Golden Compass) to be released in December. She blacks out her comment due to spoilers, and I'll follow suit here, even though I think the following excerpt on happy endings is generic enough:
I'm in favor of happy endings, myself, but I don't consider it an unhappy ending if everything doesn't just magically work out for the best and everyone doesn't get exactly what they want. In life you do have to make difficult calls like this, and I'd hate to be surrounded only by art that never illustrated this fact. The entire trilogy was about growing up, learning to make decisions, dealing with the consequences of your actions. A different ending would have radically changed the meaning of the novels. [one minor edit]
And over at her blog, she makes a comment on The Bourne Ultimatum that reminds me of why, when my wife puts action films into the DVD player, I often end up watching them through closed eyelids and following every detail with the full resources of my unconscious mind:
I think the primary reason this movie is not memorable is that it doesn't really dig into the character's motivations. Ayn Rand (in The Art of Fiction), mentioned that this was characteristic of Naturalist art works: that they only go as far as surface motivations without really digging into the underlying premises that drive people. In other words, that they only go "one onion skin" deep. There are myriad opportunities in The Bourne Ultimatum for people to say something really profound about the premises behind government coverups and murder, but it winds up amounting to things like:

Jason Bourne regrets killing people. He's sad.
Nicki Parsons likes Jason.
The CIA deputy director Noah Vosen is a bad man.
Pamela Landy is a nice lady.

So, the big dialogue scenes are lackluster and you find yourself saying, "yeah, whatever. Let's have an action sequence!" The trouble is, what's the point of having an action sequence without motivation? [bold added]
Yup. If you've seen one pointless [chase sequence/explosion/brawl], you've seen 'em all -- although you needn't necessarily need Naturalism to render an action sequence pointless. Any weak plot or poor job of characterization will do the trick for me.

New Director for Atlas

Anything the proposed movie adaptation of Atlas Shrugged (co-starring Angelina Jolie) does to promote Objectivism beyond moving more copies of the book will be gravy, which explains my rather flippant attitude regarding the fact that it is more likely than ever in the past to get made.

For what it's worth, the project has a new director: Vadim Perelman.

Spam with "Quechup"

Martin Lindeskog, before I had even gotten back to deciding whether to accept an earlier invitation of his to join a (legitimate) social networking site, mysteriously sent me another.

At least twice.

Or so it seemed.
[T]o my contacts in my Gmail address book: Quechup has automatically sent out invitations from my address book. I am sorry if I have caused you any form of inconvenience. I will contact everyone who replied to "my" email invitation and registrated at Quechup. It will take some time...]
He cites another writer who also saw all of his email contacts "invited" without his permission.

Hold the Quechup, please!

New Blog

I have just added a brand new blog, WoPSR.net, by an author known only as Qwertz, to my blogroll. Nicely-designed and well-written, even its "about" and "policies" pages were fun to read.

There's really just one substantive post so far, but it's worth a look: "If anything encapsulates the current state of modern art better than Patsy's humorous quip, it is this film. My Kid Could Paint That is a documentary about a 4-year-old whose paintings have sold for thousands of dollars."

I'm looking forward to more from Qwertz.

-- CAV

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