First, as I argue, at Check your Tools, Rand doesn’t just push “reason” to be a “tool to study reality.” She pushes it to be a “way to be in all waking hours for all decisions.”
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 emotion or gut feeling—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 marry or break up with someone. You do a rational analysis for all—Rand’s word—choices that you make. You use it all waking hours—Rand’s description. Relying on gut feels, intuition, or instincts is blasted by Rand and her followers as “mysticism.” Your heart’s desires (your inner core) are trumped by your mind’s desires (your ego) in Objectivism, always.
I got asked “what’s wrong with this?” I said it denies emotions role in everyday life: your gut feel is often (usually) right. Nathaniel Branden writes promoting excessive rationality was a regret of his during his years with Rand:
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)
Someone told me it was cool to think this. That I just “valued emotions” over “rationality” and we’re all just different.
That’s not true and not how you can chalk it up. Rand pushes it “rationality” to be what moral person does. A better sort of man lives as she describes. All else are “irrational,” and now “immoral.”
It is not just misguided but outright wrong and dangerous to put “rationality” into a moral code. If you’ve identified “rational” men as moral—by which Rand means men who “use reason” for “all choices”—you’ve labeled other men and women—who see value in trusting one’s authentic emotions—as “irrational” and “immoral.” There is no agreeing to disagree with Rand—or anyone who has put their values explicitly into a moral system. She has drawn the line. She has said this way of being and this sort of person is morally superior. Anyone else is immoral, irrational, lesser. And this is the ground on which abuse is formed: supposedly more rational people have the right to judge and denigrate other immoral, irrational, possibly destructive others. Abuse is in a Person’s Moral Paradigm.
Just as bad or worse, it shuts down intellectual curiosity into any other way to be or any insight into human nature. An enormous amount is lost by damning authentic emotions the way Rand does, demanding they put in submission to “reason.” Trauma therapists, Jungian analysts, and many educational experts could give Rand an earful—if they cared to—and most, up to now, apparently don’t care to (this is not a compliment to Rand). I hope to help fill this gap, such that those who are wiser and better can better understand Rand’s Objectivism, such that they can weigh in in order to utterly destroy this abysmal, abusive, toxic, intellectually uncurious philosophy.
A Case for Liberalism
Morality itself, a labeling of good and evil, is potent. When you describe someone as evil, you’ve put a hell of a label on them. Evil people are to be shunned, rejected, discarded, fought. If there is evil in you, it creates shame. Morality is potent. It is so incredibly potent. We are all but playing with fire here. Rand herself says morality is the most powerful intellectual force on earth. It should be handled with an incredible amount of care. Morality is too potent to use except in the most careful of cases.
I will be arguing that as few actions as possible should be labeled as “immoral”—and that this is a distinctly liberal position. Morality itself causes the potential to pass around blame, shame, and pain. And it creates for what I accuse Rand: Moral Bias. It clouds our lens as we study reality, human nature itself, and engage with others.
Rand says her morality is necessary because of an “unalterable condition of man’s existence.” But she’s wrong about this. What she says is unalterable—tabula rasa—is a false conclusion about man’s nature.
I, again, accuse Ayn Rand’s Objectivism of Moral Bias. She performs no serious study of human nature itself. She then unforgivably goes on to codify this weak understanding into an entire moral-political system—a powerful thing to have for oneself, indeed.
Amber was an Objectivist for 10 years and is tired of their narcissistic shit. Send your friends dealing with their toxic behavior to ExObjectivist.com.