This is the first chapter in the book I am working on, The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity. If you have thoughts, I’d like to hear them: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ayn Rand’s Faulty View of Human Nature
Ayn Rand has a faulty view of human nature itself, and then unforgivably builds an elaborate morality and political philosophy around it.
Ayn Rand’s Objectivism is proudly hierarchal in nature. Rand’s 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? Her 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)
There are two things in this quote that Rand says are “tabula rasa”: a person’s cognitive mechanism and emotional mechanism. It’s the second thing I take especial issue with. I do child development work and it does seem like some children are born with natural, intuitive skills, such as counting at extremely early ages, such that a person’s “cognitive mechanism” is not entirely “tabula rasa.” (John Locke first proposed this idea of tabula rasa: that the mind is born “blank.” There is ample criticism of his original assertion. Our minds are born with lots of “stuff,” not blank.)
However, that aside, it is a person’s emotional mechanism being “tabula rasa” that I take especial issue with. Expanding the quote above, Rand elaborates on what this means:
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.
I’ll pause here to note: determines the content of both. The stuff in each. 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 tell your emotions how you want them to behave. You can control the content of your emotional mechanism: what life events will make you happy or which ones will infuriate you. You can control if you’ll be ecstatic from, say, seeing a great heroic achievement or if you’ll be ecstatic over, say, a slave owner whipping his slaves. 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 what will give you “joy or pain,” what you will “love or hate,” and “desire or fear.” I’m directly quoting her here.
To get very specific, the Objectivist view on emotions is that 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. Your only choice, according to Rand, is whether you take control of this process or let it happen haphazardly.
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. She calls those who don’t take the reins to control this process as having a “soul like a shapeless piece of clay” (26).
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. 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.”
Yes, Rand wants to go in and control your emotions. She doesn’t just advocate that you be aware of your emotions. She doesn’t just say that you don’t use your emotions to learn Calculus. She wants you to go in and program the very emotion itself. You can control what gives you “joy or pain, desire or fear, love or hate”: what emotional response you have to reality.
In Rand’s system, a person’s inner world, their emotions, their very core, is a blank canvas, to be programmed and controlled.
The “Mind” Dominating the “Heart” is Core to Objectivism
This issue is no peripheral thing. It is core to Objectivism.
Nathaniel Branden writes in My Years with Ayn Rand that the issue of “the mind versus the heart” was the most important issue to Rand. He writes that when he first met her,
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:
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.
I wish she would have written this book. It would have made utterly clear what Objectivism really is about.
Branden describes eloquently about what this idea is,
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 is core to Objectivism. It is no small thing. It is tied to Rand’s very idea of reason itself. Her idea of reason is not just that “A is A.” It’s intricately woven with her idea of how the mind and emotions interact.
And yet most Objectivists probably cannot outline for you the Objectivist view of emotions. They treat this issue—of how the mind and emotions interact—as if it’s some small, negligible thing. But this issue—of the mind “versus” the heart—is core to Objectivism. It is the main thing I challenge. As I will show, Rand’s all-encompassing rational morality, core to her philosophy, is entirely built around this premise: that our natural emotions are inherently unreliable and must be programmed by the cognitive mind.
Our Relationship with Our Inner Core Matters Profoundly
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 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 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, instinctual programming.
Programming 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 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.
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 a firm identity. Well, she does the same thing with the inner world. She wants you to mold that which shouldn’t be molded. She explicitly writes that, as previously quoted, if you don’t take the reins over shaping your subconscious, driving it before it drives you, you will have a “soul like a shapeless piece of clay” (The Romantic Manifesto, 26). Rand wants to mold that which shouldn’t be molded, and my argument is it results in harm.
Rand was no Psychologist
Although Rand advocates using reason and objectivity, she studied no humans in a disciplined way to make these enormous, sweeping conclusions. Rand plays psychologist, and she was lousy at it. Can we at least see this—that she had no disciplined study? Certainly not one in which she successfully treated people for issues related to their inner world.
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.
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.” Outside thought is unwelcomed and will not alter it. An Objectivist might update their thinking on matters relating to the outer world. But when it comes to the inner world, the views are set in stone. For instance, if a person were to say, “Emotions play an important role in life and can aid our decisions,” Objectivists 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. So, no. New evidence cannot and does not update Objectivist thinking when it comes to anything related to the inner world or threatens Rand’s idea of an all-encompassing rational morality.
And 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 of moral bias. Moral bias is when a moral ideal (a code or standard of behaviors outlining ideal human behavior) seems so obvious, so amazing, so glittering, so virtuous, and one has decided they have all the tools they need to understand reality already, that it shuts down curiosity into the value of other ideas or ways of being.
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 or standard of behaviors outlining ideal human behavior) seems so glittering, so virtuous, so desirable that one cannot see the damage they are causing in pursuing it nor can see the value lost by shutting down other theories and ways of being.
Tabula rasa—which give rise to the idea that we have no reliable emotional programming at birth and thus need an all-encompassing, externally imposed moral code—at best, was the predominant view at the time that Ayn Rand wrote. It is being systematically challenged in virtually all areas of science related to human nature. 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. I will quote and 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.
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.
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.
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.
What Benefit Does this Challenge Have for You?
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,” 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, “It’s Objectivism or communism” (Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World, 75).
These are not your only two options. You do not have to choose between Objectivism and people who want to rope you into their stupid ideas via coercion. Far better ways exist.
Objectivism does not just mean “reason,” as in “study.” It’s an entire way to live. It has its very own morality. Rand has elaborate thoughts on how you should think, feel, and act, as I will describe in detail in this book.
I lived these 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, of which people seemed to be shocked by. (These principles aren’t the way most of the rest of the world operates—they aren’t.) 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 distraught in my bed late at night in my late 20s once. 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 don’t think happiness is an achievement anymore. 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.
This is opposite of what Rand says. Rand’s explicit position, as I will outline in this book, is that happiness is secondary: it’s success first, happiness second. She writes 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. A surprisingly insightful ad for Michelob ULTRA called “Happy,” aired during the 2021 Superbowl, describes this well. They ask, “Are you happy because you win, or do you win because you’re happy?” (You should check it out. In less than one minute, it destroys Objectivism.)
As I go about life anymore, I know joy is what should be. If something takes me from it, it’s temporary, and I can snap back to joy quickly. It’s enormously powerful in promoting good mental health.
This barometer also guides and teaches me. I know what interests to pursue and who 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?
How did Objectivism Historically Play Out?
If you are an Objectivist reading this, you might want to seriously re-consider adopting Objectivism.
Branden said his deepest regret in spreading Objectivism back in the day—and Branden is who made it what it was—is 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. 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.
Know You are Morally Entitled to Respect
We live in a world that is highly manipulative and abusive. Major cultural influences attempt to yank people around by the yoke of their own sense of shame. If you feel bad about yourself—you feel ugly, lazy, stupid, unaccomplished, etc.—you can be controlled. Morality itself is what drives this. That humans can naturally feel guilty/bad has been weaponized. 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 sense of morality to stand on guard against people trying to use morality against you.
Rand’s morality is no different than our toxic culture or predominant toxic ideologies. 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. The pattern is the same: they want to live up to an ideal, of which they feel is largely unattainable.
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’s perhaps the best thing I can offer you in this journey called life. If you understand the principles 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.
This book can offer you an ability to navigate your way through any abusive situation. I can write about it, because I lived it. Abuse abounds in Objectivist circles. During the 1960s, a known time of cult like behavior? No. In 2021. They just keep camouflaging and updating, putting their best foot forward all while demanding you be on your best behavior, meanwhile pressuring you into what they want to pressure you into.
Our world is much more manipulative and abusive than I think most realize or are willing to admit. You might get pressured to act a certain way, think a certain thing, or buy a certain product. And the sell from seemingly friendly, dazzling, or heroic people trying to help you might seem damn persuasive.
It’s hard to reach people who are in the situation, because, at first, a person doesn’t even realize they are in the situation. But if there is any little voice in you telling you something is wrong, I want to validate it. If you are self-censuring yourself for others, I want to show you that something must be amiss. I want to guard your heart from the manipulation, control, and abuse that many in your life might try to subject you to. It is time for humanity to evolve: to look at this abuse right in the eye and say, “not anymore.”
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).
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.
Here is an example of how it affects literally everyone. 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 is hand selecting “better” stocks. Said person or company actively managing the accounts then conveniently then makes x% off of everyone’s account. 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 2005 I was handed literature at my first big “professional” 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 and then get on, say, a talk show and blabber on about how they don’t know how to solve x problem. X problem already has many fantastic solutions. Why are we in emotionally-droning lala land going on and on about it?
The fact is it’s in people’s interest to bamboozle you about an “actively managed” account, along with many, many other bad ideas. Unless YOU are armed with knowledge, they continue.
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 her readers 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, doesn’t it? Conveniently, Rand is right there with many, many—many—thoughts on how all of that should go. I’m telling you: beware. Beware, intuitively, of this person wanting to insert themselves between you and your choices.
Adequate Protection Against Psychic Epidemics
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.
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 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. We need to educate people about their typical tactics. We need to give them 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.
Understanding 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. 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 wrong, 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! 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. 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 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 is above reproach and most definitely not responsible for the behavior of its adherents, is exactly what moral bias is.
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 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?
- How can the environment be effectively sustained? Does it even matter?
- Do private citizens have the right to use firearms for self-defense?
The implications of the answers to these questions is profound. 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 them or to 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.” In this, 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—with the caveat that knowledge into these areas change over time. I offer them 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, right, wrong or 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 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 it to the government to carry out. I have quotes, I promise. Like any tyrannical system (which always promises freedom, peace, etc.), Rand disarms citizens. She validated your concern about big government. She did not actually give you the means to protect yourself. She also left all sorts of convenient holes where tyranny can come in (Rand insisted that freedom was not primary and was contextual). Your emotions were validated: that’s it. 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 “metaphysical” wealth (naturally occurring), such as land, water, air, etc. And yet, suspiciously, her characters do clamor over such wealth, including copper mines and Galt’s gulch. They, the more rational ones 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 seems to offer 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.
And, finally, for any cultural warriors, I also offer some ideas of how to turn this ship around such that we have an overall culture that values an abuse-free world. 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. After this, there is one more sub-section: Check Intellectual Your Tools. Objectivists think they own reason–but their very definition of reason is suspect.
These are the subsequent sections in the book:
Section 1: What is Objectivism?
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. I describe how Rand has you programming your emotions by changing your values, which is couched mostly inside 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.
Section 2: A Disciplined Look at Human Nature and Emotions (versus Rand’s)
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.
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 inter personal abuse. Rand directly tells her followers to pass moral judgment on the “irrational.”
Section 4: Objectivism is Predatory, Narcissistic, and Abusive
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. She insults the “irrational” and ties rationality, as such, to those who have a higher moral right to even live.
Section 5: How Better Ideas on Emotions would Play Out
With better, more benevolent ideas on emotions, 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.
Section 6: An Abuse-Free World is Worth Fighting For
Abuse counselors tell us that abuse is in how people 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.
Ball’s in Your Court, Objectivists
Objectivists will get to this point here (or sooner) and leave my page. They’ll go off and say I am “rambling” and will not refute me because “that would sanction” my argument. Ok. Sure, be a bunch of gaslighting jerks–that doesn’t at all prove what I am saying.
But before you go, one thing. Define the Objectivist position on emotions. For yourself. Prove, for yourself, blank slate theory. Defend it–for yourself. You might want to understand Rand’s view on emotions before adopting her system of morality to guide you in how you think, feel, and act in every waking moment–Rand’s explicit intent.
In the meantime, I’ll be waiting for Objectivists to come up with a cogent argument defending blank slate theory, other than statements that it just is or to “sweep away” anyone else who says otherwise (how Rand argues it–in Galt’s speech). I won’t hold my breath.
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.