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Rand, the Greeks, and the ideal (kalos) man

(Image from "Kalos Kagathos: A Fine Soul in a Fine Body.")

Pursuant to my previous posting, I'll keep this brief to draw mainly one (highly important but all too neglected) connection: between Rand's conception of the ideal man and the ancient Greek concept of kalos kagathos.

In her 1963 article, "The Goal of My Writing," Rand wrote:  "The motive and purpose of my writing is the projection of an ideal man. The portrayal of a moral ideal, as my ultimate literary goal, as an end in itself--to which any didactic, intellectual or philosophical values contained in a novel are only the means."

Compare with this portion of the wikipedia article on kalos kagathos linked above:
The word was a term used in Greek when discussing the concept of aristocracy.[4] It became a fixed phrase by which the Athenian aristocracy referred to itself; in the ethical philosophers, the first of whom were Athenian gentlemen, the term came to mean the ideal or perfect man.

Compare also with this entry:
Kalon : the neuter of the Greek adjective kalos, beautiful, fine, also admirable, noble; accompanied by the definite article (to kalon ), for example, the beautiful (or beauty). In Greek culture, what is kalon is typically the object of erôs, passionate or romantic love, and in (male-dominated) literature (and art), the term is predominantly applied to males around the age of puberty. Plato appropriates the kalon (along with the good and the just) as a key object for human striving and understanding in general, discovering in it, along with the good, one of the properties of the universe and of existence; erôs itself, in Plato, is transformed from a species of love into love or desire tout court, for whatever is truly desirableand good (for the human agent). See especially his Symposium, Phaedrus (Hippias Major, possibly not by Plato, represents an unsuccessful attempt to define the kalon ). The truly beautiful, or fine, is identical with the truly good, and also with the truly pleasant, as it is for Aristotle (Eudemian Ethics I.1, 1214a18). The Aristotelian good man acts "for the sake of the fine (to kalon )" (Nicomachean Ethics IV.2, 1122b67), an idea which is sometimes used as a basis for attributing to Aristotle a quasi-Kantian view of the ideal agent as acting morally, evenif occasion arisesaltruistically, as opposed to acting out of a concern for his or her own good or pleasure. Against this, we need to take account of Aristotle's treatment of his good person as a self-lover, someone who seeks a disproportionate share of the fine for himself or herself (NE IX.8, 1169a35b1), though he or she may willingly concede his or her share to a friend (NE IX.8, 1169a3234). This is consistent with Aristotle's wanting to treat the fine (or the admirable) as itself partthe most important partof the human good; and indeed, he ultimately seems to recognize only two objects of desire, the good and the pleasant (NE VIII.2, 1155b1821; cf. e.g. EE VII.2, 1235b1823). In this context the pleasant will include only those pleasures that are not fine and good. For this move we may compare Plato's Gorgias (474C475D), where Socrates actually reduces fine to good, pleasant, or both. Later Greek philosophy trades on, while sometimes modifying, this complex of ideas, which also forms the basis for the analysis of beauty in literature or in the visual arts.

And what is Rand's ideal of moral beauty or perfection, as it were?  Here's a major clue:
Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.
(Note that very early on in my book, I identify the ideal of an (Aristotelian) end of history with a cultural norm of unbreached rationality, i.e., something well above the viral/toxic/low-effort dreck of social media as we now know it.  Getting kids on philosophy as early as possible/apprioriate would help with that problem; getting them on philosophy most expressive of the ideal of kalos would speed up the process.)

Given a fundamental agreement here between Rand and Aristotle on the human exercise of the intellectual capacity as virtuous/excellent/kalos human activity, and given the seriousness with which Aristotle is widely taken as a philosopher, it stands to reason that Rand's conception of the human good merits wider attention from philosophers.  It also follows that the culmination of 'Randian' study in the art of thinking in a course by that very name (1992) by Peikoff merits close attention from scholars in this area.  Excuses (among Rand-commentators especially) for avoiding such materials have to be rather pathetically weak (very non-kalos) at this point.

(The Aristotle-Nietzsche connection here also seems under-researched.  Also, any connection between the concepts of intellectual perfection and dialectical completeness should be duly-thoroughly researched.)


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