Has Objectivism failed you? Have you been abused by an Objectivist? Are you a serious intellectual looking to know more about this philosophy? Are you by any chance an Objectivist capable of critically analyzing your own philosophy? You’re at the right place!
A Note Before Reading this Book
Objectivists routinely accuse me of “misrepresenting” Ayn Rand. They tell me this, as they are always sure to make me aware, after reading only a few sentences of anything I’ve written. (They’ve spotted some undeniable error or evil in my thinking right away.) They also accuse me of twisting Rand’s views without offering anything specific as to how I do this.
Let me make a real simple request. If you are going to challenge my challenge, I insist you read it. There are too many assumptions, bad definitions, prejudices, and ideologically self-defending tactics that Ayn Rand gives her following for me to deconstruct her philosophy in anything less than, say, 10-20 pages of writing. And, really, I can explain the challenge in 10-20 pages, but to explain why it matters, I need a whole book. But to even understand the issue at hand, I would need you to read a bare minimum of the first section of this book (“The Challenge”). If you can’t commit to reading even this, please leave now.
And if you insist on remaining in this ideological fog, where you won’t read the argument yet still wantonly judge it, know that you join a cast of rather difficult characters, who have been a thorn in the side of human progress throughout all of history: the people who were certain the sun revolved around the earth but wouldn’t look through a telescope; who have strong opinions on microorganisms but won’t look in a microscope, and who had dismissive and denigrating attitudes on the unconscious, without ever having analyzed dreams. You will find plenty of companionship out there to validate you and even have a swashbuckling good time with. But you are not yet fit to read this challenge.
Come back when you are.
Quick Links for this Page
- The Challenge at a Glance
- Meta-Challenge: Objectivists! Refute me with *Reason*
- About Me
- Ayn Rand’s Faulty View of Human Nature
- What is Moral Bias?
- Objectivism’s Moral Bias
- What’s in this challenge for you?
- Check Your Premises
The Challenge at a Glance
when a person’s “should” prevents them from seeing the “is”
My challenge is to the Objectivist view on human nature itself. We are not born, as is Rand’s explicit stance, tabula rasa—with a “blank slate.” Both our emotional and cognitive mechanism—both of which Rand explicitly writes are born without content—come with a lot of prewired—and damn important—stuff. Attempting to overwrite our emotional mechanism with a new programming is an incredibly serious thing that leads to emotional repression and abuse. Declaring that our cognitive mind is (totally) blank shuts down further inquiry into the enormous topics of life, human nature, and consciousness itself. Rand presents her belief in huma nature as tabula rasa as plain, simple fact—the basis of reason itself—and, in doing this, she shuts down an enormous amount of superior, competing thought.
Ayn Rand had an incredibly pessimistic, distrustful view of human nature. She greatly over exaggerated what some call the anarchist instinct. Your natural emotions, according to Rand, could lead you all wrong. They might be manipulative, irrational, and/or sadistic, which could then lead to mayhem and dictatorship. (This is her explicit position as outlined in “The Objectivist Ethics.”) You, as such, need her Objectivist ethics. You not only don’t listen to your natural emotions; in Objectivism, you tell your emotions what to do. You must go in and “program”—Rand’s word—your emotional mechanism. You tell your emotions how to behave: what life events will make you happy, sad, fearful, etc. Yes, this is emotional repression in every way possible. And this view, in which natural emotions are seen as potentially destructive and the thus need for a civilizing ethics, remains a view in high alignment with Original Sin.
My yet deeper challenge to Objectivists is to check your definition of reason. This is where Objectivists gets stuck—the place where they cannot be penetrated, where the disease prevents the cure—as they believe Objectivism simply means “reason.” But Rand’s definition of reason was not merely “study to come to understand the world.” Rand’s actual, explicit, bastardized definition of reason was that the cognitive mind should be in control at all times. The “mind” should dominate the “heart.” Rand offered much more than a defense of “reason,” as reason is commonly understood. She offered an entire psychology. She dives into how happiness, emotions, and the subconscious operate—and she identifies her views as reason itself. By accepting Rand’s “Objectivism” as truth itself and her inflated definition of reason as reason itself, you run the risk of accepting all that she said about important psychological matters as objective, unquestioned truth.
Rand sells her system as promoting rational self-interest and freedom. That’s the sales pitch. And directly warns, “It’s Objectivism or communism.” (See “Faith and Force”, p. 75) It’s her philosophy or tyranny, abuse, and unhappiness. But, in practice, Objectivism is anything but what it promises. If there is rational happiness, then there is irrational happiness. All sorts of things are considered irrational in Objectivism, as I will prove in this book. This includes getting “mindless kicks” out of driving hotrod cars, leisurely vacations, even liking certain colors or music. Like any overbearing ideological system, Objectivism proposes to offer what true happiness is. This view, declaring what is “rational” or how one should “appropriately” react emotionally to life events, leads to the cult-like behavior Objectivists have historically been known for. And, no, these ideas do not engender freedom—of which Rand explicitly admonished is merely contextual.
Worst of all, Rand goes on, unforgivably, to set her abysmal, pessimistic view of human nature in stone by codifying it into an ethics. This creates moral bias—the main accusation in this book. When a person has decided that an idea is tied to morality, it is nearly impossible to sway them from it. Other views aren’t just bad; they are immoral. They are a threat to survival itself. No good thought can ever penetrate the system.
Bad ideas + Moral righteousness = ?
Atlas Shrugged is a decent book. There is wisdom and inspiration in it. But this does not mean that the author, a fiction writer, should be deciding matters of human nature and designing an ethics meant to be with people for all waking hours of the day, for all decisions they make, as Rand explicitly intended. Rand plays psychologist, and she is lousy at it.
The challenge is to the Objectivist ethics: the all-encompassing “rational” ethics Rand puts on a person. It is unnecessary and even damaging. The wild human—our inner selves—is already designed well. It doesn’t need “programmed,” “driven,” or otherwise leashed. We but need to understand it and nurture it. It’s time to give it its natural birthright: a moral defense.
The Meta-Challenge to the Challenge
Objectivists get to about this point (or sooner) and stop reading. They think I am wrong that Rand says we are born without good emotional instincts or [whatever else]. Or, Rand was right about emotions, so there is nothing more to see or ponder here. They just laugh me off. They typically point to Rand’s fiction (her fiction) as proof against my accusations. So, Objectivists, before you leave, here is my challenge to you: refute me with exact quotations from Ayn Rand. In other words: refute me with reason.
Objectivists always tell me I don’t understand Rand. They tell me to go re-read Rand or Peikoff. I am constantly sent back to Objectivist Reeducation Camp. They don’t acknowledge my points; they just override me with Objectivist Talking Points. I am, for instance, lectured that “subconscious integration produces emotions” (a direct quote to me), as if it’s obvious fact. I am told that “any rational person” would see that emotions do play a role in life but “cannot produce conclusions,” (which is not what Rand meant by “emotions are not tools of cognition.”) Rand, they say, never said to NOT listen to your emotions.
Ok. Contained in this book are an enormous number of exact quotes from Rand that prove my points. I cannot provide a full proof of any of this in 30 seconds, which is all Objectivists usually give me. But I will be your malleable student once again. Take me back to what Rand said. Prove/identify any or all of the following:
Objectivist Homework Assignments
- Show where Rand said one should indeed listen to their natural (prewired, unprogrammed) emotions in any way at any point.
- Outline Rand’s view on emotions. What does she mean that we “program” our emotional mechanism? How do we do that?
- Prove this quote from Rand as objectively true, “If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy.” (Emphasis mine.)
- Prove any of Rand’s views on emotions as true to how authentic human nature works. You could perhaps investigate any of the following: that emotions are entirely derivative of one’s values; that the subconscious will drive you if you don’t drive it; or that a person’s subconscious is a “merciless recorder” of all the good and vile deeds you have done.
- Bonus points if you dive into alternative views. Perhaps that happiness is primary (naturally given) not secondary (achieved). Compare Rand’s views not to other philosophers but to other psychologists. Compare Rand’s views on emotions perhaps to those of Carl Jung, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Christopher Ryan, Dr. Haim Ginott, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Brené Brown, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Elaine Aron, or Lundy Bancroft. How are the views the same? How are they different?
- Most of all prove that we are born tabula rasa. This one isn’t optional.
I’m not looking for your ideas or thoughts. This is a challenge to Objectivism, the formal system. I am looking for exact quotes, in reference to the Homework Assignments given above, from Ayn Rand.
If you’ve otherwise dismissed me already, after three pages, and you will not investigate Rand (or human nature) any further, I insist you don’t leave critical comments about my work, anywhere. And, if you do, well. Time permitting, I take comments that lack any intellectual discipline whatsoever and expose them. My consistent experience with Objectivist is that they:
- Directly tell me they stopped reading or watching [at a certain point], usually after about one minute’s worth of reading or watching. I’m just that stupid and use words that wrong.
- Directly tell me they will never read anything I write, ever. (This would “sanction” my work.)
- Call me a “clown dumbo” (an exact quote) or the like
- Similarly call me “sweetheart” or “honey”
- Say “Pbbbbffffflllt!”
- Keep me on the hot seat by continuing to ask me questions (They absolutely hate when I won’t play this game.)
- Tell me they WERE interested in my ideas, but [something I said of which they won’t say] utterly proved how unworthy of reading I am
- Immediately downvote my videos and leave negative reviews
- Tell me to “do something better” with my time
- Tell me to again re-read Rand, without pointing to anything specific
- Re-hash Objectivist Talking Points
- Accuse me of twisting Rand’s views, without telling me how
- Tell me Rand’s ~fiction~ proves she had a light, benevolent, unsuspicious view of man
- Tell me not what Rand said but what a “rational person” would necessarily think.
Again, I take these responses and expose them. What else can I do? Reason has failed, so I just aim to expose.
“My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?”
― Galileo Galilei, Frammenti e lettere
History answered his question: he should have cried.
I find this overall tactic is extremely powerful: give your ideological enemy, who won’t listen to a word you are saying, a microphone and ask them to pontificate. I did this with an Objectivist and got this gem,
Natural emotions don’t even exist! They are just an abstract Kantian thing. They are unknowable by observation. Wow. Just wow. How do you argue against this? How? Something that clearly exists—natural emotions—to them, don’t even exist.
This really is the issue. Objectivists won’t even acknowledge that natural emotions are even part of an objective reality. And you can’t convince them that they are, because to accept this, you have to feel this, and they have decided this is an illegitimate form of receiving information. I feel like a dog who can hear sounds that humans can’t, and the human is telling me I am irrational. Objectivists often belittle me that Rand’s views on emotions were objectively true. They then tell me anything I say in response is an “emotional reaction.” I say natural emotions exist—and are important. They say I am by definition irrational and then subsequently use narcissistic and gaslighting tactics to tell me I am “emotional,” “triggered,” “irrational,” or a “mystic.” Do you see the inherent problem in trying to communicate?
And it’s a little bit more than a problem in communication. Labeling your opponent as “mentally unstable” is a powerful tactic that those in positions of power use. Call someone “unscientific” in the 20th century and you’ve almost instantly buried them. There are movements to get Carl Jung labeled as mentally ill. It’s an unfortunately effective way to keep new students from pursuing different thought. Calling someone a “witch,” or, as Objectivists do, a “mystic,” is the same tactic. I aim to expose this power tactic for what it is. And Rand cashes in on it big time by claiming “rationality” for herself, thereby deeming all others as irrational, i.e., crazy.
But the wisdom of tabula rasa is crumbling big time. I think this may be why there is such a frenzied power grab starting in, oh, 2020 or so. People were healing. Healed people cannot be controlled. And it very much is rooted in understanding our true nature as a species. This idea of tabula rasa (which is typically known less pretentiously as “blank slate theory”) is being systematically challenged across all fields related to the human sciences. It is, in my opinion, the issue of our time.
So, Objectivists, one final thing. While you can get your kicks abusing and belittling random people on social media, you will have a very hard time taking these arrogant ideas elsewhere, especially if you want to have a career in any field related to neuroscience, psychology, etc. Few respectable people will tolerate such an arrogant argument as, “Natural emotions sound like… an imaginative entity unknowable by observation.” This person of whom followed himself up with, “But I’ll reconsider if you can prove they exist.” A formidable intellectual class is forming—which is and has always been society’s best defense against tyranny. I intend to recruit more of them.
Dr. Deborah MacNamara writes in Rest, Play, Grow, a more modern book about parenting:
Neuroscientists agree that the human brain has preset, hardwired emotions at birth. This view of emotion exists in stark contrast to the blank slate theory, according to which human behaviour is learned and innate and emotional drivers do not exist. Emotions have a purpose and work to do; they are meant to pack a punch and to move us in a way that aids survival and growth. (ch. 6)
Maybe it’s time to check your premises.
Send your friends frustrated with Objectivists to ExObjectivist.com
Who am I? I’m Amber. I was an Objectivist for about 10 years. People in older and quasi-famous Objectivist circles know me and have described me as “one of the smartest people around.” I realized Objectivism was failing me in about my late 20s and started to look for other and better answers. I wrote the book Towards Liberalism: A Challenge to Objectivist Ethics, which I am re-writing as The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity, after I had had it with the narcissistic abuse, gaslighting and manipulation that people in Objectivist circles routinely dish out.
I am now most known for my child development work. I am “The Observant Mom.” I document the age-related “stages” children go through. It is times when children act up at fairly predictable age-related times, but on the other side of this behavior is a burst of new mental ability. Their brain was going through an “upgrade.” You can see my work at www.theobservantmom.com. My work is quite popular and is used by tens of thousands each month. I now easily have hundreds of notes from parents all over the world about how much my work helps them. As a homeschool mom who studies child development, I am about as close to the authentic human as one can get.
My child development work made me doubt Rand big time. I’ve been told my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to Three Year Olds gives one of the best refutations to blank slate theory out there. I outline the sections I challenge Rand in this book here: Ayn Rand Challenged in Misbehavior is Growth. And, yes. This issue matters profoundly.
If I have influenced you positively, I like hearing about it. My email is email@example.com. Follow me on Instagram: theexobjectivist.
The Moral Bias of Objectivism
I offer the introduction to The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity here. I still CANNOT cover ALL ground of how much this issue matters here, in the mere Introduction. But you will get a flavor for the main issues from this.
My main message: the wild human is already designed well. We do not have to muck with it. People’s moral bias–an attachment to a moral ideal as obviously true–is in the way.
Introduction: The Challenge
Ayn Rand’s Faulty View of Human Nature
Ayn Rand had an abysmal, pessimistic view of human nature itself, and then unforgivably sets this abysmal, pessimistic view of human nature in stone by developing an elaborate moral and political philosophy around it.
Ayn Rand is most known for her two entrancing, still popular fictional novels: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. These novels are most known for their inspiring heroic figures, who obtain enormous success in the areas of business, science, architecture, and more. After writing her fictional novels, Rand went on to develop her philosophy, “Objectivism.” (You know: truth.) Her philosophy proposes that it stands on the base of reason, gives you the moral right to pursue your rationally selfish goals, and protects individual rights through the political system of capitalism. I will outline the philosophy in detail in this book.
Rand’s Objectivism is proudly hierarchal. Her politics are based on her view on morality. Her view on morality is based on her metaphysics. Her metaphysics dictates that there is an unalterable nature of man qua man. She develops a vision of what the ideal man ought to be, based on the “objective” nature in which humans survive. Certain behaviors are held up as morally superior to others.
The problem? Rand’s view of man is based on a faulty view of human nature itself: tabula rasa.
Rand writes in “The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness:
Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” (30)
This is the main quote I challenge, and which I will pick apart mercilessly.
The mind is not born blank
I used to write that there are two things in this quote that Rand says are “tabula rasa”: a person’s cognitive mechanism and emotional mechanism. And it was the second thing—your emotional mechanism being “blank”—that I took especial issue with. (Though she mentions it first, emphasizing its importance.)
However, as I continue to research further and further, it’s clear that our cognitive mechanism is not born “blank” either. Jungian psychology decimates this idea. My own child development work continues to add to Jung’s research and theories. Living beings are born with images in their mind.
At a minimum, as a child, you were born with the idea of “breast.” And you otherwise saw the world as totally smudged, such as if you were to squint your eyes now. Babies have a “rooting reflex,” which is far more than just a “reflex,” as if it’s just a matter of hitting someone’s knee and the knee kicks back. A baby seeks out a breast. It feels right. Upon birth, there is this natural instinct to seek this particular thing out. Without this preprogrammed disposition, the baby would die.
This is Jungian psychology. Animals are weighted to go seek out particular things that feel right and be repelled by things that don’t. I made this picture of it.
Jung developed his theories after dealing with many psychiatric patients. But if you prefer “real science,” the kind where they abuse mice, a study in 2013, published by Nature Neuroscience, offers food for thought. Scientists shocked mice every time they went near a certain smell. What they found is that the offspring of these mice also wouldn’t go near that smell. For more, look up “epigenetics.”
You could say that this is a small issue or that it really doesn’t matter that much when it comes to human life beyond a few “mere” rooting reflexes. It is not small, and it does matter. My own child developmental research caused me to develop the idea that human consciousness itself forms due to an image projection capability in the mind. The most observable, familiar example that I can give for this is a child’s imaginary friends, which they often develop around age 4-1/2, which is also when, I am guessing, you started to remember the daily events in your life, i.e., is when persistent consciousness set in. It’s an image that their mind conjures up and projects from the inside out. This is the brain’s image projection capability. It’s almost as if the brain needs a few images—stuff—to get the process of developing consciousness started.
My work documents the age-related “stages” children go through. It is times when children “act up” but on the other side is an astonishing burst of new mental ability. I take elaborate, detailed notes of children and document their natural developmental path. I compare stories between children, as well as photos, to see what persists among them; what seems to matter and what doesn’t. I have tens of thousands of followers of my work. I have hundreds, probably thousands, of notes at this point of how much my work helps parents.
I do a nearly week-by-week study of child development before I publish any of my books. I plot the development often down to the day. In doing this, I started to notice a pattern. Children seemed to routinely go “up” into fantasy play and then come back “down” to reality. In doing this, they refine new skills, upgrade their core personality, and have a sharper understanding of reality. And each of these “hills” follows a predictable cycle. There were sub-stages to each hill. But each hill was kicked off with a child who developed highly wild, imaginative, overly optimistic thinking. It seems as if Mother Nature “gifts” children with this thinking (these images), which then spurs their development. In this wildly optimistic thinking, they think things like they can shrink, they can jump over rivers, that they can move entire houses at will, etc. I argue this acts as an impetus to go try these things. It thus engages them with reality. And, in doing this, they get enormous experience, spurring their mental development.
So, routinely, over and over, children are given a gift. At age-related times, some kind of “programming” seems to be released in the brain. I can’t be sure, but I think the programming is released during sleep. Dreams themselves are another example of the brain’s image projection capability.
The human mind is highly weighted to want to see certain things. These images, which are put through the mind’s image projector, make you want to seek out something. Jung argued there are “archetypes.” There is a mother archetype. You are weighted to want a mother. If you don’t have one, you will go seek one out. As a girl, I can tell you I was always scanning sidewalks for cracks. I look back on that and I see a living being whose consciousness was weighted to forage for plants. (And it was a maddening, frustrating thing that I wished I could stop but couldn’t. Maybe had I been allowed to actually forage, my relentless counting of sidewalk cracks would have stopped.)
If you were dying of thirst in the desert, your mind would conjure up a mirage—images of bodies of water. The brain wants to see what it wants to see. This process can go well or horribly. If it went well, you developed object constancy, and you have the impression, in general, that the world around you is stable. If not, you might think the world is a scary place that simply swirls around you. “Lying,” which to the disordered person isn’t even a comprehensible idea, is your normal. Towards the end of developing consciousness, if humans are well loved and comfortable, it tends to go well. If they are in utter despair, abused and/or neglected, similar to if they are dying in the dessert, it goes horribly. People in extreme despair, such as when dying in the desert, can’t even see reality objectively. And this has huge implications, big and small.
But at any rate, it utterly disproves this sentiment:
Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. (emphasis mine)
I do not think the cognitive mind determines the content of the cognitive mind. There is “stuff” in the brain that is there, outside of our will.
In declaring such things as if obvious fact, Ayn Rand shuts down an enormous amount of curiosity about life, human nature, and consciousness itself.
Programming the emotional mechanism
However, that silly formation of consciousness thing aside, it is a person’s emotional mechanism being “tabula rasa” that this book will focus on. Let me quote Rand again but this time let’s focus on the emotional mechanism:
Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are “tabula rasa.” It is man’s cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both.
A person’s cognitive faculty determines the content of both. The stuff in it: the stuff in your emotional mechanism. She goes on:
Man’s emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.
This is what I take issue. According to Rand, you can program—her word—your emotions. You can make them behave as you want. You can control what life events will end up making you happy, sad, infuriated, etc. She’s not saying you can control your response to your natural emotions. You control what initial emotion itself arises. She writes:
Man has no choice to feel that something is good for him or evil, but what he will consider good or evil, what will give him joy or pain, what he will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on his standard of value. (31, emphasis original)
Rand says you will, no matter what, indeed, feel something. But what you feel—her word—is up to you. You can control, say, if you’ll be ecstatic from seeing a great heroic achievement or if you’ll be ecstatic over, say, as a totally random example, a slave owner whipping his slaves. (P.S. It’s not a random example: see We the Living.) You can control what will give you “joy or pain,” what you will “love or hate,” and “desire or fear.” I’m directly quoting her here.
A profound distrust of natural emotions
You must program your emotions, according to Rand, because they could otherwise be all wrong. Here is Rand admonishing “hedonism” and why we cannot rely on our own natural emotions,
If “desire” is the ethical standard, then one man’s desire to produce and another man’s desire to rob him have equal ethical validity; one man’s desire to be free and another man’s desire to enslave him have equal ethical validity… (33)
In short, if you turn inwards to learn what makes you happy, this is hedonism. This may lead to robbery and enslavement. To avoid this hedonism-to-slavery pipeline, we need Rand’s ethical system, which doesn’t just dictate to not enslave one another, but admonishes us towards “rational” behavior and happiness. We must program our emotional core such that we respond “appropriately” (rationally) to life events.
How it works: set yourself to value the right things. Then, when such things happen, you react in an emotionally appropriate way. Rand:
Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values. If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life. (31)
If you set yourself to like productive achievement—then you’ll like it! Problem solved.
Wait. What was the problem again?
In Objectivism, we need not simply have a few rules that say things like “don’t rob people” or “don’t murder people.” We need to tinker with the emotional programming of people, to avoid such disastrous fates. Further, we need to make sure people don’t do things that aren’t “rational.” So many things could be disastrous and would not aid in your rational, objective survival—such as “getting mindless kicks” out of driving “hotrod” cars. In Objectivism, all sorts of things that might bring one happiness are considered irrational. This includes family picnics, certain music, certain paint colors, and more.
Objectivists never believe me about this. Here. I’ll prove it to you. The following is found in The Romantic Manifesto, Rand’s book on art, which, surprisingly, is the book in which she is most prolific about emotions. A “sense of life,” as according to Rand, is a set of things that all evoke a similar emotional reaction in a person. To explain it, Rand offers the following two sets of things that a person might emotionally react to, in which the common emotional reaction to each defines their sense of life:
…  a new neighborhood, a discovery, adventure, struggle, triumph—or:  the folks next door, a memorized recitation, a family picnic, a known routine, comfort. On a more adult level:  a heroic man, the skyline of New York a sunlit landscape, pure colors, ecstatic music—or:  a humble man, an old village, a foggy landscape, muddy colors, folk music. (27, numbering mine)
The first set of items are basically what Rand approves of. The second set, not so much. In more words than this, Rand describes a person who “lacks self esteem” as finding, in the second set of items, “relief from fear, reassurance, [and] undemanding safety of passivity.” This includes, indeed, family picnics and muddy colors.
Muddy colors, by the way, are just colors that have some gray added to them. It is an interior design term meaning “grayed,” and it is also sometimes called a “dirty” color. I learned this from reading books by color expert Maria Killam. Here is a Brookside Moss from Benjamin Moore, slightly “muddier” than a Split Pea.
I’m trying to get you to see how regressive and controlling this philosophy is.
Between Rand and Nathaniel Branden, all sorts of things are considered irrational, including driving race cars, hanging out with friends whom you “feel free to be yourself” (as they have no standards), and quiet ladies parties. You must, according to them, seek a “demanding pleasure” and one intimately tied to cognitive functioning and productive achievement. Boom. True happiness. And these views are peddled as the views in alignment with reason, objectivity, and truth.
Control your whims before they control you
The explicit Objectivist view on emotions is that, in the same way you learn to walk, which becomes automatic and performed at the call of the mind, so you can—nay, you must—make your emotions behave as you want. Anything else can result in sadistic things like enslavement or irrational things like family picnics. Your only choice, according to Rand, a fiction writer, is whether you take control of this process or let it happen haphazardly. She writes,
The enormously powerful integrating mechanism of man’s consciousness is there at birth; his only choice is to drive it or be driven by it. (Philosophy and a Sense of Life, 27)
This is the relationship between the subconscious and the conscious, according to Rand. Either drive the subconscious or it drives you. It’s extremely Freudian: a person’s unconscious is a dark, abysmal place that you best not go. She accuses those who don’t take the reins over this process, in which they control their inner functions, as having a “soul like a shapeless piece of clay” (26). Ouch.
The best metaphor I can give for the Objectivist view on emotions is that emotions are seen as like a wild horse that will indeed buck around no matter what. They are seen as wild and unreliable—possibly dangerous. Thus, you have to go in and discipline them—all of them, the totality of who you are. It is perhaps best summed up by what an Objectivist wrote to me once,
Rand doesn’t argue that people are born emotionless …
Yes, I know that.
… but that emotions don’t exist outside of (prior to) values and that therefore you can change your emotions by changing your values.
Yes, that’s what I challenge. I do not think you can “change your emotions by changing your values.”
(Notice also that this Objectivist said that emotions outside of values don’t even exist.)
Programming our unreliable emotional core
Yes, Rand wants you to go in and control your emotions. She doesn’t just advise that you be aware of your emotions. She doesn’t just advise that you don’t use emotions to learn Calculus. She wants you to go in and program the very emotion itself. You control your inner world: what gives you “joy or pain, desire or fear, love or hate”: what emotional response you have to life events.
This isn’t just an offbeat Objectivist view on a topic here or there, either. This is what Objectivism is. The Objectivist ethics, if you read Rand’s essay with this title, is entirely dedicated to the premise that your “whims” are unreliable and potentially destructive. You, as such, must bring discipline to your inner world via the Objectivist ethics. The Objectivist ethics, which Rand proudly says her politics is based on and offers her view of the ideal man, is an all-encompassing “rational” morality that Rand explicitly says should be with you for every choice you make for all waking hours of the day.
In Rand’s system, a person’s inner world, their emotions, their very core, is a blank canvas—wet clay—waiting be programmed and controlled. And this view, that one’s inner world is otherwise potentially all screwed up and thus must be controlled, remains one in high alignment with the idea of Original Sin. It is this that I challenge.
“Reason” as to mean “the mind dominates emotions”
I find I really can’t get any further with Objectivists unless we check some of our premises. No matter what I do or say, Objectivists typically won’t accept my challenge. Even after reading (the first version of) this book, I get told I “raise some interesting points,” but not enough to challenge Rand. They say the issues I bring up about emotions can be happily folded into the philosophy, as it already gives the simple basic foundational paradigm from which all other good things flow. I get told my argument is some unimportant nuanced thing. Or something.
You see, at its core, Objectivists believe they have just a basic foundational philosophy from which all good things can spring. Objectivists believe that Objectivism means “reason.” They think it means “think on your own,” and so therefore any and all life conclusions are based on the reasoning mind and can change with new information or context. Therefore, if someone comes along and says something like “relationships are the key to human happiness,” they think it’s just a new reasoned conclusion that one can simply adopt into their life. It cannot. It directly conflicts with Objectivism’s very specific views on happiness—which, by the way, as I argue, Rand unforgivably codifies into an ethical system.
I find the issue is that two different definitions of “reason” are being used, constantly being conflated. If we can needle out what these two definitions are, we might get somewhere. Here they are.
Definition of Reason 1: Study to draw conclusions
The first definition of reason is what everyone think it is and is meant: you study to come to a conclusion. It’s a way to understand the world. If you’ve taken all data available to you and figured out Mars orbits the sun in an elliptical pattern, you’ve done this. If you sat down to study child development, comparing stories at age-related times, you’ve done this. If you’ve got a map out to plan a trip, you’ve done this. Study, coming to a conclusion about some aspect of the world around us, totally loyal to all available facts before you. As Objectivists always admonish, “A is A!”
Definition of Reason 2: The cognitive mind is in control for all decision making
The second definition of reason is that the cognitive mind should be in control at all times. It is a way to be. It’s what Rand directly intends. She writes:
The virtue of Rationality means the recognition and acceptance of reason as one’s only source of knowledge; one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide to action. It means one’s total commitment to a state of full, conscious awareness, to the maintenance of a full mental focus in all issues, in all choices, in all of one’s waking hours. (28, emphasis mine)
With this definition, you use your thinking—not any gut feel—to make all decisions in life. “Reason” is “one’s only guide to action.” You don’t just use reason to plan a trip or build a lunar lander. You also use it when deciding if you want to break up with someone or quit your job. You do a rational analysis for all—Rand’s word—choices that you make. You use it during all waking hours—Rand’s description. Relying on gut feels, intuition, or instincts is blasted by Rand and her followers as “mysticism.” In Objectivism, your heart’s desires (your inner core) are trumped by your mind’s desires (your ego), always.
Nathaniel Branden writes that this was one of his biggest regrets when promoting Objectivism: the dismissal of what emotions might be trying to tell us. He writes,
No one pointed out that feelings or emotions might sometimes reflect a more accurate assessment of reality than conscious beliefs. In other words, nobody asserted that the subconscious mind might be right while the conscious mind was mistaken. (My Years with Ayn Rand, ch. 9)
If you really insist on it, we can call this Objectivist view “rationality” instead of “reason,” as Rand describes it above. I would argue against this too, as it suggests any other way to be is “irrational,” and that’s not the case. (And core to my argument against Rand: she claims “rationality” for herself, thus demoting others as “irrational,” i.e., crazy.)
But this was Rand’s idea of reason and the role it plays in life. It relates not just to our mind and its understanding of the world but our mind and how we run our inner world. Branden writes in My Years with Ayn Rand that the issue of “the mind versus the heart” was the most important issue to Rand. It was tied in her mind to “the supreme importance of reason in human life.” He writes that when he met her for the very first time,
She wanted to know what I thought about “the mind versus the heart,” thinking versus feeling, and did I agree that feelings by themselves were not a reliable guide to action? Of course I agreed.
This issue was so important, she almost wrote another book about it. From Branden,
For some years, Ayn had contemplated writing a book about “the mind versus the heart,” her thesis being the superiority of the mind and the evil of placing the heart above it. She decided against writing the book because she felt she had covered the issue adequately in Atlas Shrugged. The intensity of her concern with this issue, which surfaced in countless discussions, became a profound if unacknowledged message to distrust emotions.
Branden describes eloquently about what Rand’s idea was and that it was tied in her mind to reason itself,
When Ayn began discussing the idea that all emotions are the product of a person’s conscious or subconscious premises and that emotions reflect conscious or subconscious value judgments, I saw that this was a principle of enormous importance to her. It was tied in her mind to the supreme importance of reason in human life. “Emotions are not tools of cognition,” she said. She would say this often, always with great intensity.
This was Rand’s very definition of “reason.” It was not just “study.” It was not just that “A is A.” It was not “understand the world through your senses and logic.” It is a philosophy that proposes to tell you to use “rationality” in all waking hours of the day. Your mind must be in the command and control center—not any silly emotions—making all decisions in life. This is what Objectivism is.
This is not “reason.” Frankly, I find this view of reason™ appeals far more to people who had caregivers in their youth who were emotionally out of control (likely Cluster B personalities: Narcissistic or Borderline Personality Disorder) than any person of genuine reason. Children from such dysfunctional homes (who might not even know they were dysfunctional) often grow up to utterly despise emotions themselves—because their caregivers used emotions in such highly manipulative ways. But deciding the cognitive mind must be in control at all times (as if it’s going to clean up all of these potential problems) is not what reason is. People of genuine reason are often highly absent-minded in everyday life. “Driving” the inner mechanism, “programming” your emotions, using your “mind” in all waking hours of the day—this is not reason. It is something else entirely. After explaining it more thoroughly in this book, I will give it a name.
Logic that goes round and round
Rand does a bait and switch. She sells you on the idea of “reason” by pointing to skyscrapers and trains. And then she switches “reason” to be “something you do for all choices you make, all waking hours of the day.” You go from supporting industry and technology to supporting an entire system of psychology, of which has much more debate than you think, in a blink of an eye. Her explanations are so fast and quick you probably didn’t notice.
Now I want you to go back and consider how Rand even developed her ethics. This is how she opens her case for her Objectivist ethics:
Is ethics the province of whims: of personal emotions, social edicts and mystic revelations—or is it the province of reason?
Right away, reason and emotions are split. Rand immediately puts emotions on the back burner in her proof for her ethics. She lumps “personal emotions” themselves in with “social edicts” and “mystic revelations.” She doesn’t even call them “emotions” but demotes them as “whims.”
She then develops her proof for the Objectivist ethics. It entirely rests on the premise of tabula rasa. Tabula rasa again is not just that a person is born without conceptual knowledge. According to Rand, again a fiction writer, a person is born without reliable emotional instincts. She argues that since man “has no” reliable instincts, unlike animals, he thus needs a code of ethics to guide his life.
So, did you get that? Studying ethics itself must be done with “reason,” which by definition, according to Rand, means, “study, independent of one’s feelings.” And her conclusion is that man must use reason to live, which to her means, “think and make decisions, independent of feelings.” Do you see how the very tool she uses to dissect the issue, “reason,” is also the conclusion? Do you see how some kind of bias might be at work?
Objectivists always think the proof for Rand’s ethics goes like this:
- Man is a creature of reason.
- He should use reason to survive and build things.
In actuality, the proof goes like this:
- Man is a creature of reason.
- He has no reliable natural emotional or instinctual programming.
- He thus must use reason to make all decisions in every waking moment of his life.
Step 2 above is an outright false scientific conclusion (and, as such, so is Step 3). It is the premise of tabula rasa. It is what I am trying to get you to doubt as you move in and out of Rand’s proof for her Objectivist ethics.
Rat Park Study: Hyper vigilance or a carefree existence
The issue here is the role of the mind. Should the cognitive mind dominate or can we trust our emotions? The implications are enormous. The best way I can explain it, as simply as I can without going into detail of how it affects education, medicine, health, relationships, politics, and more (the topics in this book) is with the Rat Park Study.
The issue here is the role of the mind. Should the cognitive mind dominate or can we trust our emotions? The implications are enormous. The best way I can explain it is with the Rat Park Study.
Previous to the study using “Rat Park,” studies done on laboratory rats were conducted in which rats were given the choice of water or water that was laced with some kind of drug similar to cocaine. These studies, using caged rats, showed that the rats would pick the cocaine-laced water over plain water to the point of dehydration and death. Their inner whims were totally unreliable.
But when one psychologist, Dr. Bruce Alexander, attempted this same experiment in the 1970s but put the rats in “Rat Park,” the results were different. Instead of being caged, the rats were allowed to roam, play, socialize, and have sex. These rats, on average and over time, tended to choose the plain water (Sederer). They didn’t need the cocaine.
This could not explain my challenge to Objectivism (or modern science) better. If properly cared for, humans can be trusted. Using nothing but their own internal compass as a guide, they pick water (so to speak). If denied love, comfort, and relationships, indeed their inner “whims” become unreliable. They pick cocaine.
“Rat Park” but for humans, an abundant, happy world, in which inner and outer world are in conscious, present, joyful harmony, is what I am fighting for. With it, humans tend to well. Without it, not so much. And our modern world can be described as caged rats behaving as caged rats—which ends up further justifying the need for cages.
Psychologists and even philosophers, for decades, have cited the original rat experiments, done on the caged rats, as a reason for the rational mind to dominate the “lower” parts of the brain: the mammalian (responsible for emotions) and lizard (responsible for fight/flight) brains. Rand similarly starts her Objectivist ethics by declaring that the inner world is chaotic and in need of discipline—from the cognitive mind. She has elaborate thoughts on how to discipline emotions, including happiness, to do what we tell them to, describing them as otherwise potentially out of control and destructive. I’ll describe in this book how she intends a person to do this—how one should “program” their emotional mechanism.
My argument is this is unnecessary and even counterproductive. These parts of the mind, the inner world, do not need dominated. If traumatized, people sometimes need a strong thought paradigm to program and restrain their inner world, such as the caged rats would. But if properly cared for, which is a gentle and loving pursuit, those “inner whims” can be trusted. Your natural, more intuitive choices—with happiness as the standard—will be right. This inner world is in fact a guiding light, especially when parenting and educating children: it’s the exact place where we can thrive as humans. We need to move away from highly “rational” rugged individualism and towards proper caregiving of each other, on a personal level. And don’t confuse my argument as one for socialism or altruism. I am proposing proper caregiving.
When Dr. Alexander did this study in the late 1970s, it was rejected by major scientific magazines. It’s no wonder why: it challenged every basic premise science at the time had. It challenged the idea of a disciplining morality itself. It challenged behaviorism. It challenged our very view of human nature itself—and who the real oppressors were. (Read: religion). It highlighted what they didn’t have a phrase for, but I now provide: it highlighted their moral bias. I write this book, targeting people’s ethics, entirely to shake up these stale moral paradigms that block such scientific progress.
Moral bias: when alternative thoughts become evil
Rand’s basic argument is that emotions themselves are inherently unreliable. As such, we not only don’t listen to what emotions are trying to tell us, we dominate them. We tell them what to do and how to function for us, as otherwise life can go to total anarchy. The cognitive mind must be in control. As she “proves” that man’s basic means of survival is reason and thus he must use “reason,” she then codifies all actions in one’s life into her all-encompassing rational morality. From Rand,
Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil. (25)
In doing this, in deciding what “basic” thing (her word) is most important to human nature, Rand throws away the overwhelming amount of what makes us humans actually human. No, we are not born “blank,”—we have all sorts of stuff inside us. In next sections, I will discuss how thoroughly important all that emotional, instinctual, fluffy nonsensical stuff inside of us is. It’s where 95% of human living actually lives. Putting it all in the trash heap throws away literally millions of year’s worth of evolution, entire fields of psychology, and sound approaches to parenting, education, relationships, dating, sex, and more. True enlightenment, true reason, is in putting the due diligence—the actual scientific diligence, not Rand’s Armchair General analysis from the desks where she wrote her fiction books—into understanding our own nature as a species.
I will attempt to show alternative views far superior to Rand’s in this book, in order to show what enormous ramifications these fundamentally different views of human nature itself have. Do we trust human nature or not? Can our emotions do the work they are meant to do? These are the questions to ask. Not “why do humans need a code of ethics?” The answer to that question: they don’t. Not in the way Rand intends, as a positive compass to guide one in all of life, for all choices, in all waking hours (an impossible feat and a self-limiting approach).
If Objectivist politics rest on Objectivist morality, Objectivist morality rests entirely on the idea of man’s emotional mechanism as being potentially out of control and in need of programming. Rand writes that “Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival” (24, emphasis original). But this is only true if you accept her premise of tabula rasa. If this foundational premise is off, so is the rest of Objectivism. And it is.
Programming emotions is abuse
This is heavy stuff. Whether or not we can go in and program our emotions—our inner core—is huge. The implications are enormous. It affects inter-personal relationships, parenting, education, our state of happiness, psychology, therapy, and more. Absolutely critical to my own personal healing (Objectivism utterly failed me) was finding better ideas on what kind of relationship to have with my inner core—my very emotions, my very subconscious, how happiness itself operates!
Far superior ideas on emotions exist. I pit Rand’s view that we dominate our emotions with one that our emotions, developed over millions of years of evolution, are here to tell us something. We cannot and should not override our natural emotional programming. It is an incredibly serious thing to try to override any life organism’s natural emotional and instinctual programming.
Programming (manipulating) emotions is, as I will argue, fertile ground for abuse. People usually dismiss this accusation of mine: that Objectivism leads to inter-personal abuse. Well, it starts here with Rand’s views on emotions. Objectivists can readily see that treating physical objects outside of the law of identity results in abuse. If you treated sulfuric acid as if it were water and drank it, you would be harmed. Similarly, when you treat emotions outside of the law of identity (without respect for their identity) so it also results in abuse—and how.
Emotional manifestations are based on similar patterns, and are recognizably the same all over the earth. We understand them even in animals, and the animals themselves understand each other in this respect, even if they belong to different species. Naturally, if you identify the psyche with consciousness, you can easily succumb to the erroneous idea that the psyche is a tabula rasa, completely empty at birth, and that it later contains only what it has learnt by individual experience.—Carl Jung, The Undiscovered Self
Rand accuses “subjectivists” and others as treating the outer world as if it’s like clay to mold, when it isn’t—every object has identity. In “The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made” she writes:
Observe that the philosophical system based on the axiom of the primacy of existence (i.e., on recognizing the absolutism of reality) led to the recognition of man’s identity and rights. But the philosophical systems based on the primacy of consciousness (i.e., on the seemingly megalomaniacal notion that nature is whatever man wants it to be) lead to the view that man possesses no identity, that he is infinitely flexible, malleable, usable, and disposable. Ask yourself why. (28)
But she does exactly this with the inner world. Your inner soul, your thoughts and feelings, according to Rand, are programmable—pliable, malleable, like wet clay. Who gets to do that molding? As I will argue in this book, this is how abuse work: it is through people’s moral paradigms. Abusers claim the moral upper hand and work through a victim’s own sense of shame. Tabula rasa—blank slate theory—is a necessary premise for all moralists, which means, all abusers. This is what I am putting up a fight against. Your soul need not be open to moral programming. We’ve been plied for abuse through the power of morality long enough. It’s time to say: no more. Our emotions deserve far more respect than this.
Rand was no psychologist—but she was a moralist
Although Rand advocates using reason and objectivity to come to conclusions, she personally studied no humans in a disciplined way to make these enormous, sweeping conclusions. Rand plays psychologist, and she is lousy at it. She sets the poorest example of reason possible. Can we at least see this—that she had no disciplined study? Certainly not one in which she successfully treated people.
I will be outlining 10 Objectivist Blindspots in this book. That Rand thought she knew all she needs to know about human nature itself, when she didn’t, is Objectivist Blindspot #1.
Far worse, however, is that Rand then codifies her weak understanding of human nature into a moral code. And she entirely intends this all-encompassing rational morality to guide a person for every choice in all waking hours of one’s life. This is bad enough—moralities come with a lot of toxic stuff, including shame, anxiety, excessive judgment, and abuse.
But, in addition, in codifying her weak understanding of human nature into an all-encompassing morality, Rand shuts down an enormous amount of scientific inquiry. Whether it’s condemning “Progressive” education, certain types of music, or alternative views on happiness itself, Rand shuts down an enormous amount of curiosity—about topics utterly vital to human health and thriving.
And, no, despite being advocates of “reason,” no amount of new evidence can update Objectivist thinking. It’s been made abundantly clear that “Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand.” Leonard Peikoff’s first book after Rand’s death was of this title, entirely for this reason: what was said has been said. Outside thought is unwelcomed and will not alter the official philosophy of Objectivism. An Objectivist might update their thinking on matters relating to the outer world. But when it comes to the inner world, their views are set in stone. If someone were to say, “emotions play a role in making life decisions,” they would be shut down to this. (I find they outright mock it.) Here is Branden describing a conversation with Rand about then recent research on depression:
When I tried to tell her of some new research that suggested that certain kinds of depression had a biological basis, she answered angrily, “I can tell you what causes depression. I can tell you about rational depression, and I can tell you about irrational depression. The second is mostly self-pity, and in neither case does biology enter into it.” I asked her how she could make a scientific statement with such certainty, given that she had never studied the field. She shrugged bitterly and snapped, “Because I know how to think.”
She knows how to think. (Objectivists do similar to me. They start arguing with me about Jungian psychology, emotions, etc., with scant inquiry into the fields.) So, no, new evidence cannot and does not update Objectivist thinking. Not when it comes to anything related to the inner world or which threatens Rand’s idea of an all-encompassing rational morality. (Or which threatens any moralist’s anything.)
This is especially dangerous, because it’s in alternative views, especially on education, that many of the problems that come up in Objectivism can be resolved. Rand’s intense moralizing creates intense unease, shame, and anxiety, as I will show in this book. Different ideas on emotions, education, and psychology can resolve these issues. But as Rand has condemned these other ideas as irrational and immoral, they cannot penetrate the Objectivist mind. The disease prevents the cure.
Objectivism creates moral bias
I accuse Rand’s Objectivism of moral bias. Moral bias is when a moral ideal (a code outlining ideal human behavior) seems so obvious, so amazing, so glittering, so virtuous, that it renders one blind. It shuts down curiosity into the value of other ideas or ways of being. When a person sees other ideas as inherently evil, one will not recognize their value.
Moral bias also renders a person blind to the damage they cause in pursuing their ideal. We see this with other systems like communism, in which people notoriously could not see the damage of communist regimes in pursuing their ideal society. We also see it in religion, in which for centuries they have behaved atrociously, but people still pass it off as “organized religion not scripture,” with scripture remaining literally holy. But it’s seen in Objectivism, too, as I will outline extensively in this book.
when a moral ideal (a code outlining ideal human behavior) seems so glittering, so virtuous, so desirable that one cannot see the value lost by shutting down other theories and ways of being and cannot see the damage they are causing in pursuing it
Moral bias is built into human nature
I am quite different from most other thinkers. I do not think the problem in humanity is “psychosis.” Nor do I think the problem is in “feelings.” Instead I argue that moral bias is a dangerous trait built right into the human psyche. It’s that thing inside a person’s mind that, when something small of theirs is threatened, says “raze them.” It’s a very war-like instinct. It’s horrifying, actually. I call it the “hair trigger away from war and dictatorship” trait of the human mind. It is latent, mostly, but easily triggered by fear. Given the right cause, fear, and hero, all humans will succumb to it—including me. (And I have.)
My argument is that moral bias is there, latent, in the human psyche. It was there in primitive man, and it’s here now in modern man. It’s just totally out of control now. This trait works well in the wild. In the wild, one has to quickly focus and overcome all odds. But we are no longer tempered by the wild and the many happy obstacles it provides. We, instead, have free reign. This trait of ours never has anything to push back on it. This trait is simply totally out of control now, as modern history can easily show. Tribal cultures may have had their violent episodes, but they never had a Hitler or Mao. To be sure, my arguments is that they were capable of this. My argument is they were just limited in their technology, infrastructure, and too preoccupied by living to do this.
Moral bias, I argue, is a trait in the human psyche that works well if we live in the wild but turns highly maladaptive in civilization. If we identify this trait in ourselves, maybe we can manage it—and no longer be exposed to brutal war and sudden dictatorship. (And be warned: suddenly is the only way dictatorship occurs.) This otherwise dangerous trait needs tempered, not enflamed. And moral paradigms, such as Objectivism, greatly enflame it.
Defending the wild in us
We basically have it all wrong. Many have long warned about natural sin or danger in humans. We’ve long blamed emotions, selfishness, or disobedience. Emotions themselves, however, are not the problem. We don’t need to squash our feelings. The trait isn’t rooted in feelings. It’s close to, possibly inside, the rational mind. People tend to be very explicit about their moral values and their justifications for whatever punishment, war, or totalitarianism they want to dish out. It’s not unconscious. They are very aware of what they are doing. Abuse is in a person’s moral paradigm. They think what they are doing is good. A parent who spanks their child thinks they are inflicting positive behavioral modification. Every dictator thought they were fighting for a better utopia. Objectivists explicitly write it’s ok to bomb innocent civilians, if it means winning a war. (See Craig Biddle’s “Defeat Terrorism in Five Easy Steps.”) Domestic abusers feel they are rightfully punishing a woman who was “running her mouth.” Sean Connery gave this exact justification for why he would hit a woman.
We don’t need to reprogram people’s emotions. We need to challenge their moral values: their Gods, their flags, their Utopian visions, their justifications, their rationale. (This is no easy feat, by the way.) And by getting it wrong, by blaming feelings instead of moral paradigms, we continue to add fuel to the fire. We are in a despondent cycle. These moral paradigms are designed to contain sin. But they ARE sin itself.
All moralists need blank slate theory. They need to believe that they can control the emotional core of a person—the stuff deep inside us. It is a tyrant’s best ally. It allows a total onslaught against a person’s personhood: their thoughts, feelings, hopes, fears, what they should be grateful for, who they should regard as a hero, etc.
This blank slate theory, so heavily adopted in (commonplace) science now, is de facto taking us back to a time similar to when Original Sin dominated. It distrusts, guts, and disrespects so much that makes us thrive as humans. I will explain this extensively in this book. I cannot explain it in a mere few paragraphs or how much it affects literally all areas related to human life. I need time to explain it—and a mind open to understanding it. I am all but begging you to understand this issue. The better ideas simply must win. We quite simply otherwise go extinct. (And if you want further proof outside of me, please read the outstanding Civilized to Death by Christopher Ryan.)
Tabula rasa—the idea that we have no reliable instinctual programming, such that we can and should program a person’s emotional mechanism—was, at best, simply the predominant view at the time that Rand wrote. It is being challenged in virtually all areas of science related to human nature (as the good ideas are allowed to surface, anyway, under the weight of power structures). We have emotional drivers in us meant to pack a punch and aid in our survival—and it’s far more than just running away in fear from snakes. We are not born tabula rasa. Currently maladaptive warlike instincts aside, we are born ready to thrive.
Rand’s system is very hierarchical. Her morality is based on her metaphysics. Her politics are based on her morality. The many, many judgments she makes are deeply rooted in her view of the ideal man. And her view of human nature itself is wrong. Challenge tabula rasa, and Objectivism comes tumbling down like the house of cards that it is.
What is Moral Bias?
Moral bias is when a moral ideal shines so bright in one’s mind that it clouds their objectivity.
I developed this idea after noticing it when doing my child development work. I study the age-related “stages” children go through. It is those notorious times when children “act up” at age-related times, but on the other side of this behavior is an astonishing growth in mental ability. The child’s brain was going through an “upgrade.” As such, I take a particular interest in the “misbehavior” of children (the wild). My book series is Misbehavior is Growth. My popular website, with free summaries of the milestones I document, is www.theobservantmom.com.
What I noticed is that people’s perceptions of morality interfered with objectively understanding children. Not just regular parents, but social scientists as well. For instance, a study might find that children who stay up late also showed higher rates of “misbehavior.” The ubiquitous conclusion from such a study is to get children to bed early so they don’t “misbehave.” But my child development work shows that these things naturally correlate. During any of these “stages,” where children tend to act up by becoming whinier, more aggressive, etc., they also very often stay up late at night. The child will want to get back out of bed, be with you, and, at any rate, just plain won’t fall asleep. Too much is going on in their mind. And, yes, it will correlate with times of “misbehavior,” such that a study would find it. But there is nothing you can do about it. No amount of trying to put them to bed earlier prevents it; it is natural development. The moral ideal clouding objectivity in this case is the ideal of a “calm child”: a mythical rainbow unicorn that doesn’t exist.
When we study the planets, we study them as is. We never ascribe their wild behavior to immorality. But when we study humans, our ideas of morality (what we think “should” be) get in the way, big time. This is moral bias. For centuries, moralists have hurled at us that what “is” does not determine the “ought.” I hurl back at them: you are so focused on the “ought” that you cannot see what is. Or, as in the case of Rand, you have a very poor idea of the is, then erroneously develop an ought. (And, actually, hers was an “ought” too: the “ought” to prevent anarchy and lawlessness.) The amount of good that can happen by shedding moral bias is enormous.
when a person’s ought prevents them from seeing the is
As I started to think of many, many issues, I realized how much moral bias clouds objectivity. It alone can explain so much. I realized it follows a typical cycle. In short, a moral ideal shines so brightly in one’s mind that they are on an unwavering mission to enact it. Sounds heroic—but it is regardless of if they are enacting any positive change or otherwise doing damage. It invariably starts from a position of weakness, in which a person feels shame, is not succeeding, is full of fear, is distrustful, or chaos has ensued. It is always an attempt to bring order to real or perceived disorder.
Let me use a simple example to explain moral bias. Let’s say someone has decided that running two miles every day will lead to weight loss. So, they go to do this. They diligently run two miles every day. But little happens. Unable to update their thinking, they think the problem must be that they just aren’t committed enough. Perhaps they need to run more miles every day. Perhaps something else is going on, such as they are eating too much. In truth, as they see no results, they will likely stop running every day. They’ll run every other day. Then only twice per week… then never. This is what naturally happens when one doesn’t get results. But, if plagued by too much moral bias, they’ll just beat themselves up over it. “I failed.” “I couldn’t keep it up.” Nothing will alarm them that this is actually not the path to weight loss—and it is not. Read any book on intermittent fasting to find out why.
The Traits of Moral Bias
Using this example, here is a breakdown of the traits of moral bias, how it operates, and how you know you are dealing with it.
How to achieve success and happiness is predefined
The moral ideal in this example of running two miles every day is “athletic body, free of excess weight.” To achieve it, one has decided you must run regularly. How to achieve the ideal is, with but some minimal amount of wiggle room, otherwise set in stone.
You can also consider this the “the moral ideal is holy” trait of moral bias. In some systems, they regard it as literally holy.
Shame or fear initiates the system
Shame is when you feel unworthy or less than somehow. In this example, you feel shame because you are overweight. These moral ideals are pursued stemming from a place of weakness, not strength. Fear is probably the more usual initiator of moral bias: fear of a violent threat, an illness, or even fear of big government. And fear initiates the person’s running program as well: fear they might not get a date, and so on. One is combatting illness, threats, or sin. Through x, y, and z, you will become [strong, beautiful, free, good, great].
The fear that kicks off the system is often made-up, minimal, or the byproduct of another system of moral bias. At any rate, the proposed system was never going to solve the initial problem.
Failure to achieve the ideal is your fault
If, when you don’t reach the ideal (as you won’t), it’s not the system’s fault. It’s always your fault. The moral ideal and how to get there are obvious. Run and you lose weight. If you can’t do this, you are lazy.
Damage in pursuing the ideal is ignored
In this example of running regularly, if you experience damage in pursuing your ideal, such as you twist your ankle, you might rest for a bit. But nothing about this solution to weight loss makes people think that maybe asking an overweight person to run two miles every day is a bad idea. Such injuries are seen as things that strike out of the blue.
The damage in this example is relatively benign, but when it applies to political-moral ideals, the damage that is ignored becomes much more horrific.
Fake heroes are born
There is no actual success or heroism in the moral system. But if someone puts up a good show that they are attempting to pursue the ideal (usually a very showy, often tragic and martyred performance), they artificially get to be held up in a community’s good graces.
When people have running success, they often virtue signal about it. They might put bumper stickers on their car that say perhaps “13.1,” which signifies that they ran that number of miles in a race. I once saw a car utterly plastered with such stickers, and it was double parked, preventing me from having a spot. All that running success, and yet they remain a jerk. (I can’t tell you how much I love those bumper stickers that say “0.0.”)
In other moral-political systems, you get to claim moral status for often simple acts, such as wearing holy robes. If you do achieve any seeming illustrious end goal, such as running a marathon, staying celibate, or achieving career success, it is often flaunted in front of others.
If the threat that the hero is fighting is one that frightens some set of people enough, that hero gains impunity. They are, after all, warding off a blazing forest fire—give them some grace. Not everything they do is going to be perfect, you know.
Soon, they learn they can completely cash in on this. Their actions become totally above reproach. If what they are doing is perceived as being vital enough to survival, others are to bow to them and walk on eggshells around them. People might be ordered to have hero worship for them, such as by being ordered to have gratitude or attend parades.
In that all this hero-worship comes with so many perks, the hero often gives up before attaining their goal. (The problem was often made up, anyway.) Why continue all that hard work when, at some point on your martyred path, you have already been given wealth and women?
Here are some examples of this. The only thing that changes in these examples are the perceived threat, the moral ideal, and the hero who cashes in on it. Yes, all of these things have historically had people who cashed in on their hero status. Sexual abuse is usually their favorite perk.
- NRA: the threat of gun control
- Libertarians: the threat of big government
- Trump: the threat of immigrants
- Clinton: the threat of Republicans
- Clergy: the ever-present threat of the devil
And, of course, people will not define this behavior, in which the hero acts unethically, as wrong or a product of the system. They’ll chalk it up to “human nature.”
The authentically talented are discarded
The byproduct (or perhaps the entire purpose) of a self-righteous moral system is that the authentically talented get cast to the side. People are so blinded by the goal of the moral system that it’s all they can see. Scientists persecuted by the church is the best example of this.
Alternative ideas are seen as inherently evil
As the moral ideal and its path are so obvious to the person, alternative ideas aren’t even considered. In this example, perhaps getting the deep rest that fasting provides, so opposite of the seeming heroic effort that running requires, would seem wildly nonsensical—even laughable.
In other systems with moral bias, other ideas and the people who hold them are seen as wildly irresponsible, hedonistic, immoral, treasonous, etc. Their alternative ideas can never penetrate the system because they are deemed immoral right from the start. People with these alternative ideas are also often falsely accused of the very transgressions that people within the system are guilty of.
Authentic feedback cannot penetrate the moral ideal itself
The path to success is defined. You reference the code/rules/an expert, not your own authentic feedback. As the runner gets no results, they can’t see that this isn’t working. They just beat themselves up. The moral ideal itself is holy—unquestionable.
Feedback is either actively dismissed or it is inverted. For instance, some might say that the damage being caused for any given solution “just means it’s working.” “No pain, no gain,” they rationalize. It’s often built right into the system that you can’t challenge it, e.g., “Who are you to judge?” The system’s victims are desensitized. They do not trust their own eyes, ears, feelings, or direct experience.
The further away the result is from the system, the better for moral bias. If results are typically seen many years later, this is a breeding ground for moral bias. Take for instance when religion says your choices won’t affect you negatively until after you are dead. Convenient. Systems heavy in moral bias are always asking for more time: two more weeks, five more years, “we’re working on the problem,” etc.
A great indicator of moral bias is when someone who rightfully complains about the system is pointed towards the rules that define the system and then asked, “Can’t you read?” Can’t you read—the system is the system. Stop complaining.
Conclusions are drawn based on a poor understanding of the topic
When developing the moral ideal (the heroic solution to a pressing problem), not nearly enough study ever goes into understanding the inner workings of what one is trying to fix. No genuine study showed that running is a good solution to this problem. Based on common sense it just seems like it would work. Or perhaps some pen and paper exercises, such as calories allegedly burned versus calories consumed, showed it will work. (This latter is rationalistic science and a tyranny in and of itself.)
In systems of moral bias, snarkiness and bravado abound. People are very confident that theirs is the obvious solution and only disobedience, laziness, or malignant intent are the reasons for failure. Trite bromides are thrown around, which apparently hypnotize people. “What does GOD want?” “Just follow the rules and you’ll be fine.” “Pick up THE book.” “Defeat Terrorism in 5 Easy Steps.”
One thinks they can control what they can’t
Typically, an overly ambitious view of what one can control is at work. Nothing about the system works without this belief that you can directly control/change/fix something, of which they really can’t. (The only thing you can successfully do with pure sheer will is destroy things.) In this case, just run and the fat melts off, as if you can all but nearly poke and chisel it off.
Simple solutions would have worked
In this example of weight loss, a healthy weight should be far easier to attain than it is in modern times. We didn’t have such an obesity problem until the past few decades. And, before this, people weren’t running marathons to stay slim. Some other factor is at work. Fasting, in the absence of other health problems, is indeed quite simple. It was also the norm before about 1970 when “5 small meals a day” advice went into place.
Moral bias results in an over-response to a small problem. Some problem—be it low wages, drug use, obesity, whatever—cannot be tolerated in the least. They are here to utterly obliterate it. They have no ability to patiently work through problems in any sensible way.
Some people cash in on it
Want to lose weight? I have a SPECIAL gym with some extra-special whiz bang thing that will fulfill your hopes and dreams. We all know that last special whiz bang things didn’t quite work. This one is different. It’s black, not blue.
It’s easy to cash in on moral bias: actual results don’t matter anyway.
There is a bottomless pit in demands for resources
When you see any person or country get closer and closer to their moral ideal, and yet things keep getting worse and worse, you are dealing with moral bias. As the problem is obviously not their moral ideal and its obvious path for success, it must be a lack of resources. You just don’t have enough time to do all the running you need, including all the warmup you need, etc.
When operating under moral bias, there is an endless call for resources: more money, more effort, more discipline, more understanding, more enforcement, etc. Their heroic motto is of course, “Don’t quit!” Even when they have a disproportionate amount of power, they still feel victimized and disadvantaged—like they’ll never actually win their battle, as they are fighting against overly powerful, dangerous “others.”
Tight regulations are deployed
A system steeped in moral bias is entirely based on weakness. There is a problem, without a good solution, and simply adding energy into the system might fix it.
To see to it that some success is seen, tight regulations are put in place. The system is hyper monitored. These regulations are not put in place to see how and why something works. They are put in place to catch people when “bad.”
And, in truth, the regulations aren’t even meant to catch anyone when actually bad. They are meant to deflect blame. They are meant to put the heat on someone else, as someone is acting nefariously or doesn’t know what they are doing. Rules or laws that the public naively think are meant to catch perpetrators will always protect the powerful.
If you see such tight regulations, in the workplace or government, you can probably trace it back to the beginning of moral bias. Some person screwed up somewhere, feels shame, doesn’t understand how to fix the problem, is trying to get away with something bad, and/or wants to look good; and now they are excessively relying on pointless rules and regulations.
This is one of the easiest parts of moral bias to challenge. The monitors themselves tend to be unpopular. Big Brother is watching you!
It creates other systems of moral bias
In their carnage, this system creates genuine victims, who genuinely have something to be scared of. If government gets too big, out of fear of a threat (poverty, drugs, virus, etc.), other people will respond–as they have been victimized in this war-like rampage. In this case, it is possible some will respond with intelligence and genuine intent. But not always. Others cash in on another hero opportunity–and another opportunity to steer society back to their favored moral system (typically religion: “we’ve abandoned Jesus! that’s why everything is bad!”). And now they are the heroes fighting big government. It is highly predictable that at least one or more counter force enters a cycle of moral bias. The heroes in the subsequent cycle still claim martyred status, still denigrate others (“socialist!” “stupid young’ns!”). They become above reproach. They have doubly the reason to believe the nature of man is bad, lazy, sinful, and power hungry.
Moral bias systems can also compound each other. Let’s say someone starts a “war on poverty.” This is system of moral bias #1. Now another person is worried that cheaters can take advantage of the money being handed out. Again, fear initiates systems of moral bias. So, they institute a policy that all asking for money must be checked for drug use, need, etc. This is system of moral bias #2. Now the original program has extra regulations added to it, making it that much more expensive. Moral bias, again, results in a bottomless pit in its demand for resources. Each system is kicked off based off of fear or an utter intolerance of handling the smallest of problems. Big government basically is big moral bias.
They cannot see their own behavior
Probably the biggest disconnect with moral bias is the lack of results versus the purported system. With running, the most overweight person will lecture others to get up and start running more. The system itself needs defended, no matter what. They can never see their own behavior as it relates to their very system.
Whatever their moral system, when it is challenged, the person defies all their principles. A person who advocates politeness becomes impolite; a person who advocates grace becomes ungracious, and so on. Challenge Christianity and watch how mean they get. Challenge Objectivism and watch how belittling they get. They cannot uphold their own principles. Christians cannot maintain their love. Objectivists cannot maintain their reason. This is moral bias in action—probably the most maddening trait.
Their moral paradigm shines so brightly in their mind that it itself needs defended—not any of their actual principles. They do unnecessary mental gymnastics. Christians don’t just support love. Love is BY DEFINITION Jesus and so any attack on Jesus is an attack on love. Objectivists don’t just support reason. Reason itself is tied to OBJECTIVISM. That’s a powerful thing to do in someone’s mind. Love = Jesus. Reason = Objectivism. People are trauma bonded to their moral ideologies. They attack anyone who challenges them. You just attacked their mother, grandmother, AND brother who’s in jail.
If there is one trait that I would fix to fix moral bias, it’s probably this one. It’s the paradox of moral bias. They use their morality to control their thoughts and behavior to be good. And yet any attack on the moral system causes them to not be good whatsoever. They think they can control thoughts, behaviors, and life, but they cannot escape the moral paradigm itself. They can judge—but not how they judge. They can see—but not see that the very apparatus they see with is by nature limited in what they can see.
The more it fails, the stronger it gets
All of the problems created just serve to get more resources, ever feeding the system (until it’s eventual enormous collapse, anyway). As the problems are created, it’s taken as yet more proof that the original shame-based or fear-based problem really does exist. The system enters its never-ending despondent cycle in which people are broken/scared, to then be saved. This can also be called the “self-fulfilling prophecy” trait of moral bias.
People rip each other to shreds over the fallout
Nothing works and there is an obviously terrible problem (now problems) lingering. It doesn’t go down well. Family members might mock you, “It ain’t the dryer that made your pants not fit; it’s the refrigerator!” There is an utter stench of fear, paranoia, shame, anxiety, hysteria, and abuse in the air—followed then by sickeningly sweet pity, fake empathy, and threatening demands for compassion. Everyone huddles over their despair in the problems created—finally, we as humans have united! Well, I mean, except those immoral swine keeping you in this state. Everyone stands on that precarious ledge, full of tortured, martyred, self-righteous emotions, fighting that one step they are away from death.
Depending on the level of hysteria, a system heavy in moral bias is the most effective way to destroy families, communities, organizations, and nations. Even if they survive—it ain’t living.
Tell me: what systems can you name that are steeped in moral bias?
Moral Bias: The Process
Here is the basic process of moral bias.
Moral bias starts with a made-up or highly minimal problem. It always starts with the question, “BUT WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?” What are you going to do if some awful, evil thing were to happen? What is going to happen if your family member succumbs to drug addiction and puts you in the poor house? What if a tornado strikes? What if you are caught unprepared for a deadly illness? You know all your choices every day matter, right? Have you put extensive thought into all of them?
A tried-and-true plan is put together. It is tied to morality itself, because failure means death. The end goal of the moral ideal is to be obtained at nearly any cost. Authentic feedback is directly shut down or inverted: feedback that shows the system is not working might be taken as proof that it actually is working. For instance, when a medical solution causes harm, someone declares the pain “just means it’s working.” Continued failure is always ascribed to lack of discipline or resources. The system needs more.
The practical result is that nothing gets solved or fixed. In fact, many problems are then created. In truth, problems were made up that weren’t there—the whole thing is predicated on lies and/or false premises. Moral crusaders with excessive moral bias are like arsonists who start fires, play firefighter, then look at you while struggling with their hose, with sweat dripping down their face, admonishing, “So what’s your solution? Are you just going to stand there lazily? Don’t you know how complicated and hard life is?” The rest of the population, utterly terrified by the blazing fire, is unlikely to hear you out.
Society quickly gets divided into two groups. There are the heroes and the recalcitrant. The heroes get special privileges (of which are usually not much to be jealous of, as, all around, life is not very pleasant for anyone at all). People are admonished to be grateful for said heroes. You are commanded to thank them, pray for them, attend parades for them, etc. In truth, even they aren’t taken care of well. I saw a person post once, “Does it seem like your station doesn’t care about your mental health? That’s because they don’t.” It was about firefighters. That punched me in the gut. Even our “heroes” do not get any actual tender, loving care. It’s all one big show. The only people who cash in on any of it are political leaders and maybe some celebrities. In combination, we can call this group “the elite.” Well, perhaps people who sell “fire insurance” can cash in, as well. (Likely the role exorcists and the like played in past societies.)
The whole thing will crash and burn. It’s entirely predicated upon the idea that people are too weak to solve X problem and they need extra heroics to combat it. So, there is an assumption of weakness—and no one partaking knows how to actually build health, fight off the threat, or make anything “great.” In their mind, it is a weak, ineffective person versus a wildly violent, mostly unstoppable threat.
As their solutions continue to not work, and they cause yet more damage, that they actually are weak and ineffective becomes a reality. Instead of getting stronger themselves, they seek safety from a perceived threat. They bunker down. They build shelters and hide in them. They want to build walls to keep out threats. This panicked “GET YOUR FILTHY, DANGEROUS WAYS OFF OF MY PERFECTLY CLEAN, HOLY, HUMBLE, RIGHTEOUS SELF” reaction is probably the last stage of moral bias.
No clear thinking is possible after this. The system needs to totally die before anything can be rebuilt. On a related note, please see the excellent, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit.
A disruption in the feedback loop
I think what moral bias comes down to is some trigger in the natural world should be seen as a clue to update or change, but it’s seen, instead, as a problem to vanquish. If the “Check Engine” light is on in your car, instead of checking the engine, you seek to get rid of the warning. What should have been healthy, authentic, if momentarily unpleasant, feedback is seen as a problem to utterly annihilate. The natural feedback loop, which puts us in harmony with our natural environment, is utterly disrupted.
The best example I can give is a big one: child sacrifice in the ancient world. Child sacrifice was in response to natural threats, such as a huge hurricane coming. The hurricane should have been seen as a clue: get out of there. Go mainland. Instead, they resorted to horrific, nonsensical methods to try to vanquish the threat entirely—in this case, killing children. That this system never actually solves the problem is clear. This is probably the best, and perhaps the very first example in recorded human history, to explain how moral bias works. Moral bias is again when a moral ideal is so valuable in one’s mind that they can’t see the damage they are causing in pursuing it. It seems to have formed due to the formation of civilization itself, in which humans decided to stay in one place and live instead of being migratory. Instead of listening to nature, they want to dominate it. They have to—they’re stuck. The ultimate moral ideal that drives moral bias is thus “the ideal of staying in one place to live.”
This idea truly explains a lot, especially when you think of it in light of being a malignantly broken feedback loop. You can imagine moral bias as someone who has set their vehicle’s cruise control to 100 mph and is on a mission to get to any given place. Nothing will ever cause them to slow down. They hit animals on the way, fly through school zones, etc. They totally disregard the damage they are doing or any feedback that says they should slow down. But, imagine instead of getting to any random place, the driver is a father going to save his child in a car wreck. This is how people on their crusades always see it. In truth, they initially justify the behavior as a father getting his child. In time, it continues simply because they like driving 100 mph. But the original justification allows it and continues to serve as the then excuse.
This is why whether or not a cause is “legitimate” or not matters so much. When you see any given system dividing people’s goals and activities into “essential” or “non-essential” or “necessary” versus “for pleasure only” or indeed “rational” versus “irrational,” you are dealing with moral bias. What they are basically saying is, “My goal is so noble that all gloves are off.” And this is the only paradigm they understand—so “for pleasure only” pursuits are seen as wildly nonsensical and irresponsible. Their missions—unsavory yet necessary in their mind—can and will result in utter horror. It’s the cost of doing business to them. It’s how life is: it’s naturally brutal. I’ve never seen a system with moral bias that didn’t have a sentiment that life is rough (a “purposeful struggle”), that it’s a “dog-eat-dog” world, and/or that “no one cares about your feelings.” These systems tend to swing wildly from pure ruthlessness to martyred calls for pity. Thus, for example, in some systems, their demands for “grace” when attempting to follow the “law”—the two of which can never reconcile. Or, to maintain consistency, as in Objectivism, they throw grace out the window. “Nobody’s perfect” they sometimes moan—because, in their system, no one can even come close to anything that looks authentically ethical. (Unless they’ve decided “perfect” can include ruthlessness.) Their systems result in horror. It gets especially bad when the crusader decides everyone must join in—which they routinely do, such as signing up a nation’s youth for the draft.
The errant feedback loop has a malignant benefit to it—the secret sauce to why the whole damned thing can work (until it doesn’t, anyway). In the drive for the moral mission, any person who might challenge the system is easily damaged or killed. In the example of child sacrifice, in truth, the king-Gods probably didn’t want to admit what the looming hurricane implied: setting up civilization there was a bad idea. In the obviously terrible solution to it, child sacrifice (the only tools these crusaders actually have at their disposal are destruction), those who might put up an effective fight against it—young healthy children—have now been killed. It has also sent a clear message to the others: stop complaining. The psychopathic, with a bit of luck and while still living on borrowed time, continue to live. The sensitive, outspoken, strong, and healthy do not. The whole thing works as long as you have no conscience whatsoever.
Well, until it doesn’t. The whole thing tends to go up in flames, eventually.
In short, give someone a moral mission and they turn into the most immoral person on the planet. The idea of morality itself is the cause of humanity’s worst immoralities.
This is indeed the power of morality. This is why playing around with morality is playing with fire. I will argue in this book that morality can only successfully prohibit certain unideal actions. Morality cannot inspire (fruitful) positive action.
A psychological trait that has turned maladpative
I propose something biological must be at play here. When the mind is filled with fear, the fear is the only thing that a person can see. They shut down all other data streams to their mind. They definitely shut down empathy. They go into do or die mode. This is what moral bias is: it’s fear mode.
This trait of the human psyche is likely very beneficial when living in nature and tornadoes, fires, etc., can erupt. In civilization, I propose, it becomes highly maladaptive. We have little ability to act to resolve natural threats—so the trait spins haywire anyway.
But, as if this part of the brain must still be fed, we are easily and routinely sent into crisis mode by our leaders. We still want our horror movies, etc. And it’s not healthy. When the smallest threat comes around, as if it snaps us out of our humdrum existence, far too many enjoy the endless possibilities of what could happen. An overreaction based on panic ensues. I call moral bias the “hair trigger away from dictatorship” feature in the human psyche. And I argue it’s built into the human condition. With the right fear, the right cause, and the right hero, everyone will partake. Everyone, including me.
a trait of the human psyche that becomes maladaptive when humans settle in one place, causing one person or up to an entire population to become stupid and soulless as they pursue what they perceive as their morally justified mission for survival
Living your whole life based on an all-encompassing morality, I argue, in and of itself, is not healthy. Perhaps if we can wrestle away do-or-die moral paradigms, we will help resolve this now maladaptive trait.
Objectivism’s Moral Bias
Objectivism is by far not the only system that has moral bias in it. But, it is a great system to unpackage in order to explain the idea. Objectivism is as “drive your stake in the ground and fight until you get what you want” as you get. Objectivism is basically moral bias defined. Rand is so explicit about her system, such that we can examine not just the effects of moral bias but the explicit justifications. Consider the very end of John Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, in which Rand outlines the main aspects of what became her philosophy of Objectivism. Read the following analytically.
Such is the future you are capable of winning. It requires a struggle; so does any human value. All life is purposeful struggle, and your only choice is the choice of a goal. Do you wish to continue the battle of your present or do you wish to fight for my world? Do you wish to continue a struggle that consists of clinging to precarious ledges in a sliding descent to the abyss, a struggle where the hardships you endure are irreversible and the victories you win bring you closer to destruction? Or do you wish to undertake a struggle that consists of rising from ledge to ledge in a steady ascent to the top, a struggle where the hardships are investments in your future, and the victories bring you irreversibly closer to the world of your moral ideal, and should you die without reaching full sunlight, you will die on a level touched by its rays? Such is the choice before you. Let your mind and your love of existence decide. (978)
If you read this again, you might find a similar speech can be made by any dictator. Replace, “should you die without reaching full sunlight,” with “should you die on the battlefield….”
Here is a breakdown of the traits of moral bias as outlined previously and how it applies to Objectivism.
Shame or fear originates the system
In Objectivism, natural emotions are distrusted. Emotions, Rand warns, can be destructive, leading you to hedonism or sadism. This is the foundational premise of the Objectivist ethics. Fear initiates the system.
How to achieve success is pre-defined
In Objectivism, “rational” thinking and production are the tried-and-true path to seamlessly congruent success and happiness.
Conclusions are drawn based on a poor understanding of the topic
Rand has a weak understanding of human nature. We are not born tabula rasa—with no reliable emotional or instinctual programming. This was Objectivist Blindspot #1: Objectivists think they know all they need to know about human nature, when they don’t.
It is also Objectivist Blindspot #8: they give no real consideration to quality parenting and how integral it is to human success. I said quality parenting, not the Objectivist idea of parenting.
One thinks they can control what they can’t
Rand says your emotions can and should be “programmed.” I argue they cannot be—not without serious damage done to one’s inner life. This is Objectivist Blindspot #3: a belief that they can directly control emotions, when they can’t. It leaves them unprepared when raging emotions take over.
Authentic feedback cannot penetrate the system
In Objectivism, natural emotions are shut down as a reliable guide to action. Thus, if you are sad or in despair, these emotions cannot do the work they are meant to do. They cannot alert you that Objectivism is failing you. This is Objectivist Blindspot #5: Authentic emotions cannot jolt the Objectivist out of Objectivism.
Alternative ideas are seen as inherently evil
From “Progressive” education to certain types of music, certain practices are seen as outright evil in Objectivism. This is Objectivist Blindspot #6: Rand shuts down alternative ideas that can heal as immoral.
Failure is your fault
In Objectivism, failure comes down to “your choices,” with no recognition of bigger factors at play. This is Objectivist Blindspot #7. Let’s just call this one “shame.”
Damage in pursuing the ideal is ignored
Objectivism has no built-in upholding of empathy for others. Many Objectivists, for instance, have no issue with killing innocents in war.
There is a bottomless pit in demands for resources
When Objectivism is failing people, Objectivists declare they don’t understand Objectivism or “aren’t integrated.”
Simple solutions would have worked
Emotional intelligence tools are far simpler and more effective than Rand’s all-encompassing rational morality, as to solve the original problem that emotions can be destructive.
The authentically talented are discarded
Many ideas are shut down in Objectivism so those advancing those ideas are discarded. Objectivists have dripping disdain for John Dewey, for instance. They consider themselves entirely above the entire field of psychology, as well.
Objectivism also gives scant attention to women. They are given a second class status in Objectivism—made worse because they won’t even acknowledge that they do this. That there is something that makes women valuable and indeed authentically heroic is not even acknowledged. They discard the talented in the most effective way possible: pretending the talent doesn’t even exist. This is Objectivist Blindspot #9: it denies the identity, talent, and needs of half the human race.
People rip each other to shreds over the fallout.
Being in Objectivist circles is no fun place. They wantonly tell others “but I don’t think of you,” which is a famous line as found in The Fountainhead. “Excommunications” have dotted Objectivism’s entire history. You all but wait for Objectivists to blow the puff of smoke in your face. This is Objectivist Blindspot #2: its members are caustic and abusive but will not attribute this negative behavior to Objectivism itself.
Shedding moral bias: demoralize to humanize
How to end moral bias?
Personally, I think the antidote to moral bias is life experience. As you let life penetrate you and experience its authentic feedback, you update your thinking and ways.
The problem is that moral bias prevents life experience from penetrating a person. It stands like a 3-headed dog, filtering all life events through its moral paradigm. All systems of moral bias have a filter. “What would Jesus do?” “What does a rational analysis say?” It’s in this filter, of all of your life experiences and daily choices, that the damage from moral bias is done.
It is also, unfortunately, not enough to simply show better, alternative ideas. Alternative ideas that are healthy can break up moral bias in some people’s thinking. The problem is some of these alternative systems are shut down as immoral, even criminalized. So, their truth never sees the light of day. Further, even when it does, those who are too stuck with their moral bias see other’s success as a random fluke.
As such, to tear down moral bias, I propose we must stand up to the false moral ideal itself. We must tear down people’s Gods. We must burn their flags. We must punch their hubris in the eye. Few are willing to do this. But it is what is necessary.
Being that person to shoot down false moral ideals is not for the timid or weak-minded. You have to be just a bit of a ball buster to do it. You have to tell people that their heroes are anything but; their behavior is unethical; they themselves—seemingly innocent members of society—are abusive.
I am that person that can do this. When I do, people often accuse me of dehumanizing the members of a particular ideology, such as Christianity or Objectivism. I am not dehumanizing you. I am demoralizing you. Literally, I am trying to take away your moral paradigm. I argue your moral paradigms lead to moral bias, and all of the fear, shame, despondent cycles, brokenness, and abuse that moral paradigms bring when you purport to solve problems that you will never actually solve. I discuss specific tactics to take down powerful moral structures in the last section of this book.
I know you aren’t used to someone being like this, but I assure you I intend no harm to anyone as a person—just their biases, false premises, abusive ways, and pipe dreams. It is in fact entirely my goal to humanize people.
Truly: shed moral bias and watch the world totally transform.
What Benefit Does This Challenge Have for You?
What benefit does this challenge to Rand—a dismantling of a philosophy—have for the reader? A new, better way of living and a new path to freedom.
I know it might sound insane, in our culture with its mantra of “positivity,” (which is moral bias at work), but removing toxic influences in your life might be the very best thing you do for life success.
Better ideas on life and joy
When I challenge Objectivism, people tend to say, “Well we can’t just throw reason away! We can’t just succumb to nihilism and socialism!” Rand, and others, put this fear in you. They present their ideologies as nothing but amazingness—as reason and science itself—and pit it against other ways which are, according to them, hedonistic, destructive, mindless, lazy, and sadistic. Rand gives you this very thinking when she says, (Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World, 75),
These are not your only two options. (Presenting issues as if there are only two options is always a warning sign that you are dealing with moral bias.) You do not have to choose between Objectivism and people who want to rope you into their stupid ideas via coercion. You are constantly being fed fear, fear, fear. In this case: fear of communism.
Better ways of living do exist. I lived Objectivist principles for 10 years. As an Objectivist (or a “student” of Objectivism, as Rand insisted her followers be called), while no one doubted my work ethic and I absorbed conceptual knowledge like no one’s business, I can’t say I was really happy. I combatted others, giving my no-nonsense explanations of what I thought to be true. Yeah, I easily updated and changed my mind when presented factual evidence. But I was missing quite a lot. Even though my natural skill set would have lent to it, I didn’t treat others as well as they should have been treated. I turned down ideas—such as that happiness is regardless of life circumstance—at face value. I remember lying in bed in my late twenties one night, distraught. I knew Objectivism was failing me, but I had no idea where to turn.
When I started to get help for specific issues I had, most of them medical, I started to improve in ways I never even thought I could. This is me in my late 20s, as a software engineer, still living as an Objectivist and then me in my late 30s, having found better ideas.
I think the most important difference is that I no longer think happiness is an “achievement.” I think joy is the default. It’s the normal. Joy, health, strength, and beauty are the default. They are the springboard in life, not the end goal. We are gifted with abundance, not scarcity, at birth, which we then go do things with. I play to my strengths; I do not try to purge weakness.
This is opposite of what Rand says. Rand’s explicit position, as I will outline in this book, is that happiness is secondary (derivative). In Objectivism, it’s success first, happiness second. She writes, as if it is obvious fact, that happiness is an “achievement of one’s values” and you cannot “reverse cause and effect.” Instead, I live by a philosophy that it is happiness is primary: it’s happiness first, success second. As I go about life anymore, I know joy is what should be. Health and happiness are all but my birthright. They are not a carrot on a stick dangling in front of me. If something takes me from my joy, it’s temporary. I can snap back to it quickly. It is enormously powerful in promoting good mental (and, thus, physical) health.
This barometer also guides and teaches me. I know what interests to pursue and what to avoid largely based on my own internal cues. Literally all of life—as some theorize starting with the first single-cell organisms that survived an electric storm on earth for hundreds of millions of years—is built around this paradigm, which is one of sensitivity. I’ll explain more in this book.
But let me ask you this: why would someone not think joy is the default?
Know how Objectivism has historically worked out
If you are an Objectivist reading this, you might want to seriously re-consider adopting Objectivism. These views were adopted and tried. Objectivists still espousing Rand’s views on emotions should read Nathaniel Branden’s book, My Years with Ayn Rand. He explicitly talks about Rand’s views on emotions and how they affected him and thousands in the Objectivist movement who adopted them. See what an abysmal failure they were.
Branden said his deepest regret in spreading Objectivism back in the day—and Branden is who made it what it was—was telling people their emotions have no validity in making life choices. He writes when he started out,
I was on fire with the notion that ideas were able to explain emotions and behavior—and with the possibility of changing emotions and behavior by changing the ideas that gave rise to them.
He writes about what he preached,
What we said, in effect, was, “Be rational twenty-four hours a day and in every issue; there’s no excuse not to be. The root of all evil is evasion. Value your own moral perfection above all things.”
What people listening would never have heard,
What they would not have learned from us was the importance of listening to their own inner signals, those messages from the organism that are not encoded in conceptual language.
And, ultimately, what it did to people,
… there was a rigidity, a fear of falling into error, and, for the others, a fear of incurring Ayn’s or my displeasure and critical judgment. “In the Collective,” Harry Kalberman remarked to me many years later, “there was always that dread of moral condemnation from on high. I don’t know if you ever really understood how bad our anxiety was.” There was terrible violence done to everyone’s emotional life—the repression or suppression of any feeling that clashed with what an ideal Objectivist was supposed to experience, be it a sexual impulse, an artistic preference, a longing for greater spontaneity, hurt or anger with me for my sometimes abrupt and impatient manner, or hurt at Ayn’s coldness when she found some action to disparage.
If you are an Objectivist, seriously consider reading My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden. See how historically Objectivism played out and what it did to real, live people when applied. See who your adopted mentor really was and the meaning behind some of what she wrote (spoiler: it was sadistic).
The main theme that Branden writes about is the same one I write in this book, of “the mind versus the heart.” But Branden still eschewed “all forms of irrationality.” So, he still adopted this view of stamping out “irrationality” and keeping the fundamentals of Objectivism. I, on the other hand, think emotional repression is built right into Objectivism’s all-encompassing rational morality. I will quote Rand extensively to prove this and offer competing, better ideas.
Be on guard against predators
I wasn’t sure who I should address this book to. Who is my target reader? When I watched a semi-famous lawyer strip down a very genuine-hearted man, an entrepreneur trying to offer a competing service to counter big tech and their well-known penchant for shutting down dissenting views, I knew who my target audience was. The lawyer put the man on the defensive, making him answer all sorts of questions about where he stood on weighty moral issues. The man, intimidated, was sure to agree he was on board with certain agendas. It was so clear this man had no idea what he was going up against (and if you knew, you’d know: they are pathetic—easily beatable).
In his notes, Christopher Columbus described the people he found in the West Indies as the best people on earth: gentle, always laughing, and physically attractive. They were generous and easily did as asked. Columbus then wrote they would be easily conquered and enslaved. The Europeans all but decimated them as a people.
I’ve watched countless successful women be taken for a ride when a person decided to be her “agent” or whatever and strips her of all of her wealth, through exorbitant fees or even conservatorship.
I’ve made up my mind: we need to guard the innocent against predators, on a moral level.
Know you are morally entitled to respect
So, I’ll be blunt: I think Objectivism is a total mind game.
Rand claims “rationality” for herself (as well as morality), meanwhile cutting a person off from their very inner core, which gives authentic emotional feedback to a person. No authentic feedback outside of Objectivism can reach a person who has bought Objectivism hook, line, and sinker. Rand moves a person’s thinking from the natural state of things, which is that life is your teacher, to the Objectivist way of thinking, which is that Rand’s all-encompassing moral code is your teacher. It’s a mind game. Deem anything at all “rational” or “moral”—as something appropriate to the Objectivist ideal—and you are now beholden to those edicts. And this is complete and utter abuse. It’s a total power play.
People abuse and are abused through their adopted ethical system. This is the only way abuse is even kept alive. I’ll write about this in the last section of this book: abusers are not traumatized little children. I mean, they might be. But this isn’t what drives their abuse. When abusers abuse, they are in-charge adults who feel profoundly morally justified. They see themselves as inflicting a moral ideal, such as the adult spanking a child in the name of “discipline.” This is what people who work with the abusive say—that abusers feel profoundly justified—and it’s completely in line with my thesis of moral bias.
And the only way to abuse a person is through their own sense of guilt. An abuser yanks people around by the yoke of their own sense of shame. If you feel bad about yourself—you feel ugly, lazy, stupid, unaccomplished, impolite, etc.—you can be controlled. Morality itself is what drives this. That humans can naturally feel guilty and want to be in the good graces of other humans has been weaponized.
I can write about it, because I lived it. Abuse abounds in Objectivist circles. In the 1960s, a time of cult-like behavior? No. In 2021. You see it outright. If I post my challenge to Objectivism in an Objectivist forum, I get all but hysterically screamed at. I get told I am a “Kantian hack.” Or gifs are posted with someone looking dumb like, “Why? Who cares?” (which are clearly meant to belittle me.) I’ve been called a “sad bitch.” I’ve been asked if I am mad over an Objectivist male dumping me. (This has never happened—quite the opposite, actually.) I routinely get called “angry.” It’s very overt. If you don’t believe me—or don’t see any of this behavior as abuse, which is my routine experience—that’s fine. I will outline other more famous, documented cases of Objectivist abuse in this book.
But far worse than this was when I in Objectivist circles. I was thus their “friend.” If any of them decided some particular behavior was immoral, irrational, or harmful, as an Objectivist, I was forced to internalize it. Say someone went on a crusade against sarcasm. From then on, I was no longer allowed to make a sarcastic comment. Although sarcasm plays a clear role in standing up to power structures, it was seen as boorish, and I was to stop doing that. Pieces of me kept withering away. This is what happens when you’ve decided a person’s natural, wild emotional programming may be all wrong and one must be “rational.”
I think if you were to ask most Objectivists if they would feel in submission to Rand’s judgment, somewhere deep down the answer is yes, especially if they are younger. If she were alive, they would want to be in Ayn Rand’s good graces. And yet deep down most know they probably wouldn’t be.
And this unconscious fear is for good reason. The following, from a Newsweek article, describes how Rand treated an avid fan in attendance at one of her speeches:
“Her books,” said one member of the congregation, “are so good that most people should not be allowed to read them. I used to want to lock up nine-tenths of the world in a cage, and after reading her books, I want to lock them all up.” Later on, this same chap – a self-employed “investment counselor” of 22 – got a lash of his idol’s logic full in the face. Submitting a question from the floor – a privilege open to paying students only – the budding Baruch revealed himself as a mere visitor. Miss Rand – a lady whose glare would wilt a cactus – bawled him out from the platform as a “cheap fraud.” (Hanscom, 1961)
This is what I can offer you. It is perhaps the best thing I can offer you in this journey called life. If you understand the principles that I put forward in this book, you can walk away from such a narcissistic attack unscathed—from Rand or anyone else. You don’t have to put up with this. All of your choices, feelings, and thoughts, in every waking moment, do not need to be open to moral criticism.
I want to guard your heart against any of this. If someone is pressuring you to be a different way than you naturally are, I want you to show you that you can trust your gut about it. If something seems amiss, I want to show: it probably is. Abusers work in the shadows. They don’t quite look totally evil. But there is always something a bit… off. They seem to be your “friend”—they’ve certainly complimented and validated you enough times. But you find yourself arguing with them a lot—over how you are allowed to be. They take advantage of your natural desire to be friendly, to show empathy, and be good. It’s time to look abusers right in the eye and say: no more.
The people in life who are the most resilient and the most courageous (in modern times) are the ones who can navigate and withstand shame. There is no way a person truly stands on their own if they can be whipped around by their own sense of morality. Paradoxically, by understanding the principles I put forward in this book, you can stack morality to again be on your side. You can use your own innate sense of morality to stand on guard against people trying to use morality against you.
Shed moral bias so good ideas might finally win
I can’t begin to tell you how exasperated I am about how many good ideas there are in the world—and yet they get no airtime. In our modern world, they are quickly buried as inherently “unscientific.” Why is this happening?
I propose it is because of people’s entrenched moral paradigms. And this is because morality has been weaponized. Good ideas are routinely held back, because abusers aren’t interested in you having better ideas. Selling their nefarious behavior as some kind of ethical ideal is how they keep their bad ideas (and behavior) in place.
Here is an example of how it affects literally everyone and probably even you. To this day, as I write this, it is common for employers to give employees some type of retirement account and for those accounts to be “actively managed.” This means someone—a “professional”—is hand selecting—wait for it—“better” stocks. Said person or company actively managing the accounts then conveniently makes x% off of everyone’s account. (And, by the way, it is “Christian financial advisers” who are the absolute worst at selling this ideal of having your accounts “managed by a pro.”)
Meanwhile, far superior advice is to just put your money in an index fund—a collection of stocks—without any management or fees and these in fact perform better. This is from Zac Bissonnette in his book Debt-Free U about Burton Malkiel’s book, A Random Walk Down Wall Street:
In it Malkiel showed—with overwhelming statistical backing—that actively managed mutual funds underperform passively managed index funds over the long term. Professional money managers can only beat the market by taking excessive risk—which will come back to bite them in the long run—or by getting lucky, and those streaks always come to an end eventually too.
This is what kills me. This book was written in 1973. 1973! And yet I can tell you assuredly that, around the year 2005, I was handed literature at a job stating that my retirement account through my company was superior because it was “actively managed.” It was already proven that actively managed accounts are bunk—proven decades earlier. Why can’t this better thinking dominate? That’s the question that disturbs me.
I’ve watched all sorts of marvelous ideas be discovered and used in health, education, and finance. And yet the overwhelming majority won’t adopt the better ideas. Not only wont they adopt them they continue to suffer the consequences of their inferior ways of doing things. They then get on, say, a talk show and blabber on about how they don’t know how to solve x problem. We are commanded to show empathy for this person—anything else makes you cold and callous. But X problem already has many fantastic solutions. Why are we in emotionally-droning lala land going on and on about it? Why is true education being withheld from us?
The fact is it’s in people’s interest to bamboozle you about an “actively managed” account, as some enlightened ideal, along with many, many other bad ideas. Unless YOU are armed with knowledge—and a morality to see through the bullshit—they continue.
Saying “no” to services you don’t need
The idea of an “actively managed” account is similar to my challenge to Rand, in which Rand tries to give you what can be considered an “actively managed” life. Rand warns you that your life is full of choices. Are they good ones? Every single decision in your life could go for or against your life. You should put thought into them, right? Makes so much sense. Conveniently, Rand is right there with many, many—many—thoughts on how all of that should go.
Every Cluster B personality in my life has wanted to insert themselves into my decisions. A Borderline will peddle themselves as being your “therapist,” helper, healer, whatever. A Narcissist wants to be your “pimp,” agent, or “Daddy.” One promises emotional comfort; the other success. Either way, they want to be right there, making decisions on your behalf—as you are stupid, crazy, and/or hopeless otherwise, which they directly or indirectly tell you. I’m telling you: beware. Beware, intuitively, of this person wanting to insert themselves between you and your choices.
Objectivists like to brag, as Leonard Peikoff did that Ayn Rand was “the greatest salesman that philosophy ever had.” A salesman. Not a healer. Not a sage. A salesman. Indeed, when you read through the sales pitch of Objectivism, it’s very infomercial-like. Have you thought about your food choices lately? They could kill you, you know. I have these tried-and-true principles for food success. The principles I am about to educate you on will blow your mind, as some of them are indeed true and give you information that has otherwise been withheld from you. But here is my 10% special secret: high quality vitamins that only I provide. We have a system here. Not everyone rises through the ranks. You’ll be a student before you can be a teacher. Now that you are thinking about “your” values—good. Let me now rearrange all of them.
A salesman. Here’s my slow clap.
And while, sure, people should put some amount of thought into their choices, too much can be quite counterproductive, as I will show. There is 1) Letting your life go three sheets to the wind, 2) Putting some amount of planning in, and then 3) Trying to control everything to the nth degree, with is what Rand has you doing, resulting, eventually, in utter anxiety.
Rand knows nothing of mental health. She is woeful at it. Objectivism is all behavioral control and no emotional intelligence. It wreaks havoc internally and on intra-personal relationships. I will discuss the fallout of Objectivism in this book, and I will give some better tools for emotional intelligence.
Shed your moral bias for peace
Identifying moral bias helped me personally. Moral bias operates on fear. All moral bias relies on made-up “what if” situations. Something bad did or did not happen, and now the mind, individually or collectively, is making up similar or worse situations.
I will admit to my own moral bias after 9/11. I was appalled by Muslim terrorists. I had it in my mind that they could possibly even invade the United States. I was appalled by Muslim terrorists attacking artists who spoke out against Islam. I had an unusually high fear of Muslim terrorism. While I still argue that Islam, like all religion, is rooted in moral bias and thus dangerous, I realize now that my fear of me being personally being targeted for Muslim violence was way overblown. Yes, the problem exists, but the likelihood I personally would ever be a victim was quite low.
Humanity, surprisingly, tends to outweigh terrible moral systems. Latent moral bias has to be enflamed for it to become a problem.
Shedding moral bias makes you far more likely to see your fellow humans as the humans they are.
Adequate protection against psychic epidemics
That said. Humans are, unknowingly, still sitting ducks to the horrors that other humans can inflict on them. We assume, with every generation, that the Maos and Hitlers are behind us. They are not. But it’s like a bug that bites you. I’ve never been bit by a bug I could see. It was always the ones I that I didn’t see.
War and dictatorship tend to come out of nowhere, to be inflicted on a people. We don’t understand the actual root of this danger. I propose our very solutions to stop what we see as a danger is actually the danger. I argue this in Section 3: The Fallout of Moralities. Our attempts to contain perceived sinful things result in the worse horrors possible. Moral systems themselves are the worst dangers to humanity: they result in psychic epidemics.
It’s true I’m not providing you with a “positive” in this book. I’m not teaching you how to run a business, what product to buy, or how to seal a deal. I’m proposing a “negative”: how to NOT get bamboozled. How to stay a bit on guard. To do your own research. To trust your own intuition. To clear your mind of moral bias so you are open to truly healthful ideas. To say “no” to toxic people. But I promise you: what I am saying may be the best thing you learn in your entire life. This is from Carl Jung in The Undiscovered Self:
Indeed, it is becoming ever more obvious that it is not famine, not earthquakes, not microbes, not cancer but man himself who is man’s greatest danger to man, for the simple reason that there is no adequate protection against psychic epidemics, which are infinitely more devastating than the worst of natural catastrophes.
My goal is to give you “adequate protection against psychic epidemics.”
For the most part, as a culture, we know nothing about how abuse operates. We think it comes in the middle of the night, from men dressed in Gestapo uniforms. This is not how it works. Abusers usually don’t announce themselves. They don’t say, “Hey! I’m here to abuse you. My intentions are totally nefarious.” No, they camouflage themselves. Have you ever answered a call from a telephone scammer? I have—sometimes I mess with them. Try it some time. It’s a great lesson on abuse. They blend right in. They act caring and compassionate, and even a bit messy and imperfect, so they come across as normal. If it weren’t so obvious that they were a scammer, you might be caught off guard. Many abusers are strikingly attractive and charismatic. They’ve probably made you laugh once or twice. They appear ideal.
I propose that abuse will never actually fully go away. The fact is all of life is a constant oscillating force, tending towards homeostatic equilibrium: harmony between inner and outer world. The process of life itself is a constant changing of organisms. The process of life (sexual reproduction) says, “How about this organism?” If it’s ideally suited, it continues—and how. Life never quite gets it perfect. One thing is slightly too tall, too short, too whatever. Something too tall, through evolution, becomes shorter, to just become too short, to get taller.
And this principle also applies in human relationships. The fact is predatory behavior plays a role in life. A vulture is as predatory as it gets—but it plays the role (metaphorically as well) of removing the dead. The fact is everyone has some psychopathic traits—including you. It’s a matter of degree. If we were all the docile sheep-like individuals, so valued today, we would never shake up any system. Predators find a way of showing up in such systems, which are corrupt and drowning in too much “let’s not hurt anyone’s feelings.” If egalitarian principles dominate, this can be healthy. One bends, one shakes—until you get a happy just right. But the more moral bias dominates, the more this malignantly goes into effect: the more there will be only two types of people: predator and prey, psychopaths and empaths, armed and disarmed, immoral and moral. The gulf between these two groups gets ever widening, until it reaches horrific levels—and, indeed, the whole thing collapses, perhaps on a truly irreparable level.
The issue is that the truly moral have been disarmed. Predators attack with wanton abandon, to be met with absolutely nothing that fights back. That defensive response is considered the “low road,” “negative” or is even criminalized in polite society. Humans who do not live in industrialized societies do not behave like this. In foraging society, they have processes in place to preserve egalitarian relationships. They are much sassier, much bolder. It has a playful—not a violent—tone. They explicitly say they do this to keep one person from getting too much power. The process of equilibrium is allowed to have feedback and thus work quickly, like it should.
The problem thus is not that there are predators—there always will be. The problem is that potential victims are utterly disarmed. What I am trying to do entirely is to arm victims again. Not just physically armed, but morally as well. They need to be morally permitted to have the wit, intuition, and freedom to push back on those violating their boundaries and autonomy. In fact, I feel that not only do you have the right to do this—but the obligation. If you’ve sold out to “always being positive” and “taking the high road,” you have sold out on the rest of your brothers and sisters in humanity. You’ve let a few people do the dirty work, while you remain, clean, virtuous, up on your high horse. You are utterly repulsive. Peace will always require we be armed—with wit most of all.
We need to educate people about abuser’s typical tactics: gaslighting, triangulation, insults, and more. We need to give people the tools, insight, wisdom, and even the morality to navigate what can be a highly abusive, manipulative world. And understanding Objectivism is a great place to start understanding abuse itself. Philosophies that want to control how you think, especially what is moral, are usually a mind game. And abuse is a mind game.
Finally standing up to cultural narcissistic abuse
I accuse Rand’s Objectivism of being narcissistic to the core. No, it’s not in the sales pitch that it is narcissistic. It’s not in the stuff about freedom and individuality. It’s in the bowels of Objectivism that it’s dirty work is done.
People almost always look at me cross-eyed when I say this. Well. I mean. We have this system that claims all things rational and moral for itself, accuses others of being hedonistic and destructive, encourages its members to judge others in the name of healing the world of its irrationality, and has a hell of a charismatic sales pitch in Rand’s fiction books. How could any of this be narcissistic? At all. Ever.
All abusive systems are the same. They claim all things good, virtuous, rational, benevolent, reliable, dependable, and friendly for themselves. They then malign their victims as irrational, crazy, destructive, hedonistic, etc. They put pressure on you to behave a certain way—polite and well-behaved of course. They want you to have some different, better moral paradigm that you filter all your thoughts through before acting. (“What would Jesus do?”) I love the example of Lady Tremaine from Cinderella to explain this. She admonishes the wicked stepsisters, “Remember, girls. Above all, self-control.” (If you don’t see why this is controlling, imagine not you commanding yourself to have self-control, but someone else commanding you.) All abusive paradigms manipulate your emotions, attempting to vanquish all “negative” ones like anger—which are the very kind of emotions that cause people to have boundaries and demand respect. Put your hair in curls, sit or stand up straight, put a smile on that face, and be happy and/or heroic, damn it! In short, they all work to actively create moral bias in their victims.
Narcissistic paradigms also always have a great sales pitch to get you hooked: a promise of brotherhood, a rational society, or an afterlife, typically relying on art, such as fictional stories or music, to do it. They take advantage of the fact that humans learn far better through fictional means than through factual accounts. They always sell you an ideal, which is always future-based. You might not have the reward here and now. But, you know, these things take time. This type of abuse operates the same, across all ideologies, even if the particulars change. Understand one system and you understand them all.
Well, that is—if we are finally willing to admit that the ideology itself—the system—is flawed. To this day, I am still told that, whether it’s religion or Objectivism, the problem is not the system but that it is “flawed humans” trying to enact an otherwise holy, great, and/or rationally amazing idea. It’s stunning to watch Objectivists use the same excuses as religion has for centuries—when they explicitly say thinking drives an individual and philosophies drive nations. And, by the way, thinking the moral system itself is above reproach and most definitely not responsible for the behavior of its adherents, is exactly what moral bias is.
A deep dive into Objectivism
The abuse I accuse Objectivism is, again not in the sales pitch. To truly explain it, I have to explain all of the nitty gritty details of Objectivism. I will do that in this book. I will unpackage many of Rand’s quotes, pointing out some nuance that is easy to overlook and giving insight to how some of her advice practically plays out. If anything, as an Objectivist, after reading this book, at least you will better understand Rand’s views on emotions and the inner life.
And I insist you don’t dismiss my argument until you can recite, fully and accurately, Rand’s views on emotions, happiness, and the subconscious. I am going to be discussing Objectivist thoughts on the following:
10 Questions for Objectivists
- Are the emotions you feel metaphysical (cannot be changed) or man-made (can be altered)?
- Is happiness a result of your achievements (secondary) or a mostly unalterable well inside you (primary)?
- What is reason’s role in life: to understand reality or an all-encompassing guide for every waking hour of one’s life?
- What role do emotions play in learning from life experience?
- What role do punitive measures have in private relationships?
- What is the purpose of education: to transform a child into the rational ideal or put a child in touch with their authentic strength?
- How are women differentiated from men and what is their unique identity, value, and needs?
- On a scale of 1-10, how important is child rearing to human survival? On a scale of 1-10, how much emphasis is it given in formal Objectivist ethics?
- Who owns land: who got to it first, who fights for it, or based on some other moral paradigm?
- Do private citizens have the right to use firearms for self-defense?
The implications of the answers to these questions are enormous. How you manage your emotions is huge. Do you tell your emotions what to do? Or do you let them in to personally edify you as you experience life?
How we handle children’s emotions is also huge. Are we here to mold children, including their emotions? Or do we listen to their feedback, of which is communicated to us primarily through emotions? My most challenging chapter in this book is “Children Are Born with a Spark Plug.” Children are designed to thrive and to learn—they are more than just “epistemologically curious.” It is in wild, aggressive, demanding, “misbehaving” behavior that most of their growth takes place. In this chapter, I outline Rand’s authoritarian, traditional views on parenting and education, and how much better educational ideas exist. (I receive the most virulent abuse from Objectivists when I question their ideas on education.) It is amazing how little attention narcissistic paradigms give to child raising, or give terrible advice, and how much they can’t understand why their philosophies end up failing when applied to real, live people.
How women—and sex—are treated is also huge. Rand gives scant attention to women and described women as most feminine when chained. Nope—unleash me and watch what I can do. And sex of ALL issues is one where we should follow our internal rhythms!
I outline better views on emotions, sex, and happiness, as well. I especially show the importance of having a happy, stable, inner core—inner peace—something suspiciously missing—even mocked—in Rand’s system. I show these to show viable alternatives. And to hammer my main point home: Ayn Rand did not develop any of her conclusions about human nature through any disciplined study. I offer alternative views which, granted, may be right or wrong and possibly prone to changing over time, are based on actual, real, live people.
I discuss also the fallout of Objectivism. Bringing a moral code to every single decision in one’s life brings a certain unnecessary electricity to all decisions. It is a breeding ground for shame, unease, and anxiety. I’ll discuss this elaborately. It also creates the strong propensity to judge others—of which Rand explicitly advises her followers to do.
And Objectivism is predatory in nature. Rand, as I will show, had psychopathic tendencies. (Her predatory stare, as quoted earlier, which could “wilt a cactus,” is a telltale sign of psychopathy.) Her fictional characters were highly narcissistic. And her philosophy itself follows along identically with how a narcissist thinks, as following along with the work of Sam Vaknin, who most agree, right or wrong on other issues, is remarkable at describing narcissism accurately.
And if you think Rand would allow you to enact your own self-defense—think again. I studied her thoroughly to see her view. Her view is that you do have a right to self-defense, but you must delegate that right to the government. So, you have the right to self-defense. But you must wait for the government to do it. I have quotes, I promise. Like any tyrannical system (which always promises freedom, peace, etc.), Rand disarms citizens.
Rand validated your concern about big government. She did not actually give you the means to protect yourself. Rand also left all sorts of convenient holes where tyranny can come in Rand insisted that freedom was not primary but was contextual. If there is a threat, in the name of survival, government control is warranted. Rand left open that little crack that lets tyranny in, the one little crack that is how tyranny has always been let in: Authorized Emergency Powers.
Your emotions were validated. That’s it. You were patted on your head and sent on your way. Like the cigarette smoke filling up rooms from her chain-smoking lead characters, you were sold a bunch of smoke. You were not actually given self-defense or freedom. In Objectivism, which I accuse of being predatory, both your natural intuition—your “whims”—and your physical being are disarmed. I discuss this in “Lay Down Your Whims and Weapons.”
I also discuss how Rand had no moral underpinning for how to treat “metaphysical” wealth (naturally occurring), such as land, water, air, etc. These are far more important to human living than anything man-made. Governing abundant wealth is far more important than you realize. The root of dictatorship, throughout all of recorded history was not “bad ideas.” It is land monopoly. Rand barely discusses the fact of or importance of freely given wealth–as if it doesn’t exist. (She directly says “everything” man has to live “must be produced.”) And yet, suspiciously, her characters do clamor over such wealth, including copper mines and Galt’s gulch. They, the more rational of people, should have rights to them—duh.
If you’ve never heard of Objectivism before reading this book—don’t worry. You’ll have a thorough understanding after reading it.
Finally, I offer a new moral paradigm. Not one that stands on guard against the lazy and the hedonistic, or the atheistic and treasonous. But rather one that stands on guard against those who are actually abusive to humanity: who are emotionally, verbally, or physically abusive. Why do we need a code of ethics–as Rand asks us? Lots of answers to this are possible. Maybe because raising children is the most important thing to the human race and yet offers absolutely no financial reward and thus needs morally upheld?
But another answer to “why we need morality” could be because some people are abusive, narcissistic, sociopath predators who abuse others and we must be on guard against them. In this book, I outline their typical tactics: gaslighting, triangulations, insults, belittling, etc. Even if society doesn’t adopt this moral paradigm, it will help you as you will be able to fling off any narcissistic attack aimed your way. To set your boundaries and guard your heart, there is nothing like feeling, on a moral level, that you do not deserve abuse.
What I am describing as an alternative to Objectivism used to be the norm in human relationships (see, again, Civilized to Death). Humans used to live as foragers, living off the plenty of the land, with egalitarian relationships, liberal sex, and respect for children’s autonomy. Unfortunately, some time in the last 10,000 years, a very aggressive, successful human predator was born: the morally abusive. To truly survive and thrive, I propose, we have to develop a counter morality: one that sticks up to this abuse and aggression.
Humanity’s consciousness has to evolve one level higher. When it does, it’s game over for tyrants. When we see not just the man selling snake oil as evil, but the entire Medical Cartel’s drugs as snake oil, we will see the higher evil we face. When we see the man who conned us out of a few dollars the same as the government who steals trillions from us, we will see the higher evil we face. When we see not just harm to a family member as worthy of fighting, but harm to entire groups of citizens, we will see the higher evil we face. When we see the big picture, we will see that it’s about the same as the evil we know on a smaller level. We will be prepared to fight it.
As such, finally, for any cultural warriors, I offer some ideas of how to turn this ship around such that we have an overall culture that values an abuse-free world. I think humanity has been desperately trying to provide such solutions, such as the myth of Robin Hood, Ghandi, the Civil Rights movement, and any other who has put extensive thought into how to take down power structures. If we all figured out that we are fighting the same enemy, it’s game over for tyrants (the sweet little lambs that they are). I have my own thoughts on how to tackle abuse: ones that can be applied to your surrounding circle of influence. You personally can undoubtedly enact change. The bad news? It’s not for the faint of heart. The good news? It’s worth it.
I quite think that this is a path to freedom. A defense of the natural, wild human. One whose authentic emotions can likely be trusted. A paradigm that recognizes things can be crazy, mistakes happen, and growth takes time, but free humans can usually solve their own problems.
The Moral Bias of Objectivism
This was the Introduction to The Moral Bias of Objectivism. These are the subsequent sections in the book:
Section 1: What is Objectivism?
I let Objectivism shine here. I describe fully what it is. I describe the typical sales pitch of Objectivism then I get into the nitty gritty details. The Objectivist ethics is predicated upon the idea that personal emotions are inherently untrustworthy. This is the unchecked, false premise on which Objectivism is built. I describe how Rand intends to have you “program” your emotions. This is mostly explained by her idea of a “sense of life.” I discuss her idea on happiness: you program yourself to value good things, like productive achievement. I have a 5-Part Video Series discussing the Objectivist view on emotions as well. If there is rational happiness, as Rand advocates, then there is irrational happiness. Which of YOUR pleasures is “irrational”? Family picnics? Driving a race car? These are considered irrational in Objectivism.
I then deconstruct Rand’s false ideal of “man the rational producer,” which was built on entirely faulty premises.
Section 2: A Disciplined Look at Human Nature
Rand says we program our inner emotional mechanism. I say our authentic, unprogrammed emotions serve a purpose in life. I discuss how emotions act as a catalyst, driving you to act, and also act as a way to personally edify you. I discuss primary versus secondary emotions. Primary emotions, like guilt and fear, are temporary and drive positive action. Secondary emotions, like shame and anxiety, do no good. Pain as authentically occurring should personally edify us. No person is better ready for authentic change than a person whose had enough. Rand has you fighting every type of pain–the good kind and the bad kind–and it results in a stuck, unhappy state.
In short, if our inner world were respected–seen as the healthy functioning thing it is and not something programmable–we could not be bullied and bossed around by people’s “rational moralities.”
Section 3: The Fallout of Rand’s All-Encompassing Rational Morality
I then discuss the fallout of Objectivism. Codifying every action in one’s life into a rational morality has consequences. It results in unease, shame, and anxiety, especially when you are not living up to the Objectivist ideal. It also results in interpersonal abuse. Rand directly tells her followers to pass moral judgment on the “irrational.”
What you have is a philosophy that pathologizes negative emotions, pats itself on the back for being happy and rational, and honestly believes you can control your (and thus other’s) emotions. Emotional abuse and social engineering abounds in Objectivism. Those who have “achieved” the Objectivist ideal–happiness resulting from rational achievement–flaunt it as a way to denigrate others. Rand had narcissistic if not psychopathic tendencies. Her characters are highly narcissistic and often psychopathic.
And she does not let you be armed. Like any tyrant, she wants you defenseless. See Lay Down Your Whims and Weapons.
Section 4: Designing a world around the wild
With better, more benevolent ideas on human nature and respecting our authentic selves, it would have a deep impact on many areas. In education alone, we would lean into children’s emotions instead of seeing them as something to mold. I call for these things:
- Communities better designed around the needs of children
- The liberalization of sex
- A respect for the abundance of land
- Medical practices that again follow the principle of “do no harm”
- Non-coercion in politics when it comes to private behavior
- A respect for men and women equally, including in leadership positions
Section 5: An Abuse-Free World is Worth Fighting For
Abuse counselors tell us that abuse is in how abusers THINK. They justify their abuse on a moral level. Let’s tie immorality to abuse itself. The cultural impact would be profound.
You can see the rest of the table of contents for The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Our Objectivity here.
Penetrating the Impenetrable: The Entrenched Objectivist Mind
When I give my challenge to Rand, my consistent experience with Objectivists is they have already deemed me wrong. They have literally got to this sentence you are reading right now (or much sooner, if they read any of it) and decided I am wrong. I can try to anticipate and defend against their attacks, but I find it’s generally pointless. I am starting to collect their immediate accusations and put them into blog posts. Here they are:
- The Burden of Proof is on
The Person Making a ClaimAnyone Who Wants to Know the Truth
- Arguing Over the Definition of Words is the Sign of an Ideologue
- Rand Shuts Down Intellectual Curiosity by Describing Opposing Views as Possible Enemy Territory
- “It’s Objectivism or communism”–Ayn Rand
- In Objectivism, Reason isn’t just a Tool. It’s a Way to Be.
- Check Your Tools. Your “Reason” is Anything But
- When Reason is Tied to Morality, it Becomes Moralizing
- Defining the “Rational” as “Moral” is Fertile Ground for Abuse
- Weak Arguments from Objectivists Defending Tabula Rasa
- I Never Said Rand Said We Are Emotionless
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Does Not Prove Objectivism
- One Question for Objectivists: Does Rand Say We *Control* Our Emotions? Or Not? Yes. Or No.
- Ayn Rand is Guilty of Moral Bias
- Narcissists and Psychopaths Only Hear ‘Bla, Bla, Bla’ When Others Talk About Emotions
- Documented Cases of Objectivist Abuse
- Accusations of “Mysticism” are Hauntingly Similar to Accusations of “Witchcraft”
- Yes, I Get to Judge You as Abusive. No, I’m Not a Hypocrite
- My Goal Isn’t to Sell You. It’s to Stop You.
I’m not here to play nice or “sell” my thoughts to Objectivists. They’ve utterly proven to be intellectually uncurious, abusive, ever-ready to bury me and smear any challenger, and yet hellbent on saving the world from its “irrationality.” Objectivists Can Dish It but Can’t Take It.
Ultimately, I quite simply can’t get Objectivists to *discuss the issue of tabula rasa itself*. They spin, evade, tell me it doesn’t matter, or attack me. See Common Arguments from Objectivists About Tabula Rasa (spoiler: they’re weak). It’s as if they have no solid argument.
More on Objectivism
Here are some more articles and resources outlining more on The Objectivist View on Emotions
- The Objectivist View on Emotions: Setting Happiness to Serve You
- 5 One-Minute Videos Explaining The Objectivist View on Emotions
- What Happens When You Judge Emotions as Rational or Irrational?
- The Fallout of Objectivist Morality
- Objectivists on Education
- If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy. Right.
- 10 Objectivist Blind Spots
Moving Beyond Objectivism
Here are some resources to move beyond Objectivism.
I have written a blog with other books that, I think, have superior thought on human nature as compared to Objectivism or which challenge Objectivism. Other Resources Challenging Objectivism.
I also discuss how blank slate theory has a molding, controlling, toxic effect in parenting and education in my book Misbehavior is Growth: An Observant Parent’s Guide to Three Year Olds. Yes, Peikoff and Rand make an appearance.
I am most passionate about fighting for a world that is free of abuse. I see it as a moral battle. Abusers are immoral. I am also morally entitled to be treated with respect
- Abusers Can’t Abuse People Familiar with Abuse
- Getting Good at Fighting Abuse
- Abuse Lives Because it is Morally Sanctioned
Towards the end of knowing if I have explained the Objectivist view on emotions, I now have a questionnaire asking people about The Objectivist View on Emotions. There are but a few questions. If you want to unload on me about how much of a mystic I am, here is your chance. If you want to tell me about your experiences with Objectivists, I’d also love to hear from you. Have I explained myself well? Did I inspire a spark of curiosity in any way? Where, if you think I am, am I wrong?
Amber lived as an Objectivist for 10 years until she realized it was failing her. She now writes about this narcissistic ideology selling itself as freedom as a warning to others. See The Moral Bias of Objectivism. We are not born with an emotional blank slate. And this has profound implication.