Dagny and James still at it.
‘ “I’m not interested in helping anybody. I want to make money.” [Dagny, of course.]
“That’s an impractical attitude. Selfish greed for profit is a thing of the past. It has been generally conceded that the interests of society as a whole must always be placed first in any business undertaking which–” ‘
I keep thinking to myself that I should wait until Rand speaks for herself via John Galt, rather than filtering it in reflection via pieces of refuse like James, but there’s no way I can wait.
What frustrates me about this scene is that while James is a weasel, in a sense, he’s right. The needs of society as a whole do need to come first, although defining what is good for society is always a tricky proposition. The correct answer is, though, that the power of people pursuing their own interest (that is, the free market) can, within certain parameters, be the best thing for society as a whole; intent does not have to matter. Ideally, ways of pursuing profit that are actively detrimental to people (say, for example, by ultimately supporting evil — selling guns to dictators who use them on their citizenry) would be impossible, so that every profitable transaction was a morally acceptable one. The difficulty comes in making those calls (and in particular in deciding who has the power to make those calls).
I do have to shake my head in admiration for James’ use of the passive voice in his weasel words (“it has been generally conceded”).
More James: “Things are never absolute like that. Nothing is absolute.”
Unfortunately, again, I have to agree with James (at least some of the way), and here we strike at the heart of how my views have diverged with Rand’s over time. The core of Objectivism is not just that there’s a fundamental reality (which I have no problem with), but that it can be perceived directly and unequivocally by people. This will surely be an ongoing sore spot, but I’ve seen too much evidence of the many ways in which humanity’s (and my) immediate perceptions and thoughts can be fooled. All sorts of phenomena, from persistence of vision to confirmation bias, means that anyone who never questions could be making a serious mistake. Eventually, evidence piles up in favor of some specific models of the world at the expense of others, but I view belief in these models as having degrees of certainty that approach 1, but never quite reach it. Isaac Newton’s model of physics was elegant and perfectly fit all known data for centuries — until, eventually, unexplained observations piled up, and we finally accepted Einstein’s model, of which Newton’s model was a subset at “normal” speeds and masses, because it was better at explaining the total sum of data and allowing predictions.
This picture is not animated; the motion is a function of how people’s eyes (and brain) work.