Månadsarkiv: februari 2013

Rob Roy och hedersbegreppet

”Heder” är ett begrepp som har använts flitigt på olika sätt, ofta i sammanhang som egentligen inte är hedervärda, där personer med dålig självkänsla måste återupprätta något som omgivningen, samhället eller familjen förväntar sig, eller som personen tror att omgivningen förväntar sig, med risk för destruktiva följder för alla inblandade. Kirsti Minsaas visar i en bra artikelThe Atlasphere om filmen Rob Roy från 1995 hur ett sunt hedersbegrepp kan åskådliggöras. Utdrag:

In its portrayal of a distinctly moral hero, Rob Roy conforms to Ayn Rand’s Romantic credo that the highest purpose of a fictional work is to project a moral ideal, or, as she liked to phrase it, to hold up an image of “man as he might be and ought to be.” But whereas Rand, in her own fiction, aimed to present a universal moral ideal — personified in heroes who possess virtues she regarded as essential to human flourishing at any time or in any place — Rob Roy gives us a hero whose virtues are intimately bound up with the time and place in which he lives.(…)

It is worth noting that the representation of honor in Rob Roy reflects codes of conduct widely current during the 18th century. The standard view was that honor is a quality of moral nobleness and integrity, residing in a person’s character. In Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary of the English Language (1755), for example, honor is defined as “nobility of soul, magnanimity, and a scorn of meanness.” This dates back to Aristotle, who similarly linked honor to the virtue of magnanimity.

For Aristotle, however, honor was primarily an attitude of esteem or admiration bestowed, by others, on a man of great worthiness. This notion of honor also gained currency during the 18th century. But, under the influence of a decadent aristocracy, it often lost its moral import and decayed into a claim to worthiness derived from nobility of class rather than nobility of soul, something a person of high rank saw as his rightful due by virtue of his superior social position, regardless of moral merit.

In the figure of Rob Roy, we see an honor that fully accords with the conception of honor as a moral quality. Interestingly, it also accords with Ayn Rand’s statement in her West Point address in 1974 that “Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.”

For Rob, honor is above all a matter of self-respect, grounded in his own sense of moral worth, independent of class or how he is judged by other people. This is reflected in his words to his sons that “All men that have honor are kings, but not all kings have honor…. Honor is what no man can give you and none can take away. Honor is a man’s gift to himself.” His words also indicate that he sees honor as an essentially selfish virtue, marked by a person’s unswerving loyalty to his own principles of right conduct.

Rob Roy förklarar för sina barn vad heder är.

Intervju från 1997 med Kirsti Minsaas i Full Context, en tidskrift som först publicerades 1988 för The Objectivist Club of Michigan av Karen Reedstrom (senare gift Minto) för att sedan bli internationellt spridd. Den lades tyvärr ner 2000, men jag har läst den med behållning, i synnerhet för de många intressanta intervjuerna den innehöll. Utdrag från intervjun:

”Q: You are writing a doctoral thesis about Shakespeare. How do Shakespeare and Rand compare?

Minsaas: Well, for me they are both examples of creative genius, having the power to amaze me with the incredible mental power that must have gone into their work.

Q: Are there any important similarities and differences?

Minsaas: The strange thing is that, different as they may seem to be, they are yet very similar in that they deal with the same fundamental issues regarding human existence, particularly on the moral level. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that they are both deeply steeped in ancient philosophical traditions. I am not here thinking only of Aristotle, although he certainly is important in both cases, but also of schools such as Stoicism and Epicureanism and even Platonism. What we find in the literary works of both Shakespeare and Ayn Rand are fictional explorations of the questions that concerned these ancient philosophical traditions, like: how should one live? what is the good life? what is the role of evil in man’s life? why do men fall into tragedy? what is the nature of happiness? But their way of doing this was of course very different. Generally, apart from the fact that Shakespeare wrote dramas and Rand novels, I would say that Shakespeare was a much more openly inquiring writer than Ayn Rand, less dogmatic, closer to Aristotle in fact, less concerned with teaching a doctrine and more concerned with inspiring and provoking the reader to think for himself.

Q: A lot of Objectivists think tragedy in art is automatically bundled with a malevolent sense of life. But I look at a play such as Romeo and Juliet and do not see a tragic sense of life but the author’s warning to future parents of warring families whose children may fall in love. Do you think that tragedy can have the purpose of making people grieve about third party characters and shock them into rethinking their own actions in life? That some tragedy is an effort to inspire the audience through the emotion of grief to become better people?

Minsaas: Yes, I believe these are things that tragedy, good tragedy, may do. But more important, perhaps, from an Objectivist perspective, is the fact that a tragedy, to achieve these effects, indirectly must be strongly value affirmative. It is because we sympathize with the young lovers in Romeo and Juliet, because we identify with their youthful and passionate romance, that we get mad at the parents and the feuding families. In this, the story is in fact very much like We the Living.(…)

Q: In what way can an appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare add to one’s understanding of esthetics? Of ethics?

Minsaas: The supreme value of Shakespeare, I think, lies in his mastery of translating philosophical ideas into drama, of turning different ethical codes into the stuff of dramatic conflict, experienced by thinking, feeling, living human beings. But to fully appreciate this, one has to have some knowledge of both ancient and Renaissance philosophy. Leonard Peikoff has complained about Shakespeare that his characters are not motivated by ideas but by passions, springing up from nowhere. But this is not true at all. Generally, his characters are embodiments of some ethical code or value system. Brutus, for example, in Julius Caesar, is a Stoic, who is destroyed by a rather rigid moral idealism incapable of dealing with the complexities of political reality. And Hamlet was probably meant to represent the code of the courtier that played such an important role in the Renaissance conception of the ideal man and that was popularized through Castiglione’s famous book. The Book of the Courtier. What Shakespeare does with him, however, is that he places him in a situation where he comes under pressures that put his code seriously to the test and force him to readjust it to the demands of reality. Thus, Shakespeare’s tragedies dramatize in different ways what it means to live an ethical ideal in actual reality, put up against the demands of sometimes complex and shifting social pressures. This, I think, should be of great interest to Objectivists – at least to Objectivists interested in living the philosophy rather than just preaching it to other people.(…)

Q: What do you think of the novels of the early 19th century women writers such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, and why do you think the revival in movies of these books is taking place?

Minsaas: I enjoy both, particularly Austen. I am not too sure about the movie revival, but it might have to do with the fact that many people (both audiences and people in the industry) are tired of the mindlessness and the value vacuum of many contemporary movies and simply go back to great literature for more substance.”

Läs även hela intervjun!

Rikard III och godtycklig makt

Vad man tror är Rikard III:s kvarlevor har hittats under en parkeringsplats. Diskussionen om huruvida Rikard var en bättre kung än vad som skildras i Shakespeares pjäs kan vi lämna därhän. Jag vill passa på att rekommendera de två utmärkta filmatiseringarna av pjäsen, som är intressanta för gestaltningen av tyrannens godtyckliga makt, även om det inte skulle vara en helt historiskt korrekt bild av den verklige Rikard.

Laurence Oliviers klassiska version från 1955.

Ian McKellen i versionen från 1995 där handlingen genialiskt har förlagts till 1930-talet.

Vidare rekommenderas Timothy Sandefurs essä Love and Solipsism: Law and Arbitrary Rule in Classical Drama, som behandlar Orestien, Rikard III & Antigone.

När tyrannen förstör andra förstör han även sig själv. Han blir offer för det godtyckliga styre han utsätter sina undersåtar för.