Friday, February 19, 2010

Do you see a connection?

Hello everyone,

I was thinking about the last sentence in Middlemarch here;

for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

and this sentence in Atlas Shrugged: "I swear by my life and my love it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine."

these sentences capture the essence of the two themes we see in our class, in my opinion?

Do you agree?


  1. Hey Ryan -- I am glad you posted this question to the blog and I hope you will get some feedback on it. I for one would be interested to hear what folks had to say. I might as well get that ball rolling by posting here what I already replied to you in e-mail after you mailed me an earlier version of this very comment. Here goes:

    Of course that beautiful passage from Middlemarch is one of the most (deservedly) famous sentences in all of English literature!

    For me, our class is mostly about those who fall for (or resist falling for) the metaphor of "spontaneous order" as a way to deny the reality of society and history, and also often as a way to defend the unearned privileges of incumbent elites among whom they are member or with whom they identify.

    What your two juxtaposed quotes suggest, I think, is that the class is more about those who fall for (or resist falling for) the metaphor of the "independent possessive individual" as a way to deny the reality of human precariousness and interdependence, and also often as a way to defend the unearned prerogatives of "sovereign" and "authorial" conceptions of agency.

    I think that yours is an interesting and valid perspective.

    In my little blogthology of anti-libertopian aphorisms I write:

    XXIII. In a world in which we are all of us beholden to accomplishments and problems we are heir to but unequal to, as well as implicated in the facilitative and frustrating efforts of the diversity of peers with whom we share the world, it is delusive in the extreme to imagine oneself the singular author of one's fortunes, whether good or ill. And so, only in a world in which the precarious are first insulated from the catastrophic consequences of ill-fortune in which we all play our parts can we then celebrate or even tolerate the spectacle in which the successful indulge in the copious consequences of good fortune in which we all, too, have played our parts.

    That is an argument that bespeaks the influence of Middlemarch on me, as it happens, and does indeed explain at least part of what I find so deeply disrespectful about the whole Randian viewpoint.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Hi Ryan,
    Thanks for posting this set of quotes. I've never read Middlemarch, but I really enjoyed that beautiful quote. I would definitely agree with you that these quotes express a dimension of this class. When I read this juxtaposition of quotes, I thought of the fable of the Troglodytes in Montesquieu's "Persian Letters." Through the mouthpiece of Uzbek the Persian, Montesquieu tells the myth of the Troglodytes, who were a small tribe in Arabia that were so “brutal and ferocious that there was no principle of equity or justice among them”
    (23). Essentially these Troglodytes lived in an Hobbesian state of war, where each of them were motivated by self-interest. Montequieu explains that while these ferocious, self interested Troglodytes “perished by their wickedness and became victims of their own injustice,” there were two families that escaped the ruins because they were virtuous and understood one important principle: “individual interest is always bound to the common interest, that to
    try to separate them was to invite ruin, that virtue is not something
    costly to achieve nor painful to exercise and that justice for others
    is a blessing for others” (26). While the self-interested Troglodytes ended up killing themselves, the two virtuous Trogloydte families who understood the importance of being invested in the common welfare of their people were able to live and flourish. Anyway, your quotes reminded me of this fable and I thought I would share it on the blog.... as it also highlights how man is inextricably intertwined with his fellow men.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.