This is a continuation of the Preface to The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity. See the Introduction and the beginning of the Preface at the main page of Ex Objectivist.
Before You Go, Some Homework
Objectivists usually get to about this point (or sooner) and stop reading. They explicitly tell me as much. They think I am wrong about how Rand intended tabula rasa be used. (Hint: Objectivists don’t know how Rand intended tabula rasa be used.) Or, Rand was right about emotions, so there is nothing more to see here. They often point to Rand’s fiction (her fiction) as proof against my accusations. They never give me a chance to give exact quotes, etc., which I more than provide within this book. They just laugh me off, immediately, on repeat about my “lack of facts,” and usually with a lace of insults to boot. They are also sure to put me in my place as “irrational” and essentially a woman with “some opinions.” (Of which are again just “facts” and are not in any way emotional abuse). The issues I bring up, they tell me, are mere “primitive instincts”—and totally unworthy of study or thought (which is major moral bias in action).
So, Objectivists, before you leave, here is my challenge to you: refute me with exact quotations from Rand. In other words, refute me with reason.
Here are some specific issues that you can investigate, in order to clarify the exact Objectivist position, followed by some recommended (non-fiction) books, in which Rand herself discusses the issues.
Investigating the Objectivist view of the inner world
- Outline, in detail and with quotes, Rand’s views on emotions. What does she mean that we “program” our emotional mechanism? How do we do that? How would you directly advise someone else to do this? How would you raise a child with these basic premises? Do you have success with this approach?
- Prove this quote from Rand, about one of the most important topics to humans, which is happiness, 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). This quote can be found in “The Objectivist Ethics.”
- 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 one has done.
- Bonus points if you dive into alternative views. Perhaps that happiness is primary (naturally given) not secondary (achieved). Objectivists love to compare their philosophy to other philosophies. No, treat it as what it is: a psychology. Compare Rand’s views not to other philosophers but to other psychologists. Compare Rand’s views on the inner world to perhaps those of Carl Jung, Eckhart Tolle, Dr. Christopher Ryan, Dr. Haim Ginott, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, 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: with no innate content in our mind and with no reliable emotional instincts that might have some wisdom. Outline how Rand intends this idea of man as tabula rasa to be used. This one isn’t optional.
If looking for places to start, most of Rand’s views on emotions can be found in Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, in The Virtue of Selfishness, and, surprisingly, she writes most prolifically on emotions in The Romantic Manifesto, her book on art. I will also be picking apart quotes of hers at length in this book.
I’m not looking for your thoughts on these topics. This is a formal challenge to Objectivism itself. I am looking for exact quotes from Ayn Rand—whose work people will find, read, and whose basic premises many will adopt consciously or unconsciously. Do you think that these topics—about the inner world, emotions, and tabula rasa—don’t matter? Ok, well, they mattered to Rand. They matter profoundly to human living. I will be discussing them in detail in this book.
And, Objectivists. If you’ve otherwise already dismissed me, after a mere preface to a book, and you will not investigate Rand (or human nature) any further, I insist you do not 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 Objectivists is that they:
Examples of Objectivist’s reason and judgment
- Directly tell me they stopped reading what I have written at a certain point, usually after about one minute’s worth of reading. 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!”
- 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 they “think it’s funny” that I “attack Objectivism”
- Tell me to “do something better” with my time
- Keep me on the hot seat by continuing to ask me questions (they absolutely hate when I won’t play this game.)
- Accuse me of twisting Rand’s views, without outlining how
- Send me back to the ORC: Objectivist Re-Education Camp. I am constantly told to read and re-read Rand, “2, 8, probably 15 times!”
- Re-hash Objectivist Talking Points, with nary an understanding of anything I’ve written
- 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.
- Tell me, after this onslaught of Randsplaining and insults, that my response makes me seem shrill or “triggered”
Again, I take these comments and expose them. What else can I do? Reason has failed, so I just aim to expose.
These responses from Objectivists, as just outlined, are moral bias in action. Their goal, from the start, is to defend their system. They see it as a debate, a war, or a game to win, which is a mindset Ayn Rand absolutely gives them. (See her speech at West Point in which she advises to see investigating other philosophies as like investigating the enemy.) They are weighted to defend their system, not use reason itself to find any kind of truth. This tool they have, which they think is “reason” and enlightens them, blinds them. Hence, all the bullying, insulting, aggressive tactics, which is 99% of my experience with them. (I get this same treatment from the religious and from flat earthers as well, by the way.)
Objectivists don’t even strive to understand their own philosophy (which is my challenge in this chapter). They have but a militant position against reading anything any critic has written and an inclination to bury, attack, and win. In my opinion, the root of the problem, why they accuse me of “misrepresenting” Rand, and why they cannot be penetrated, is that they have fallen for the false sell of Objectivism.
The other inherent problem in trying to communicate in any capacity with Objectivists is that they won’t accept natural emotions as a fact of reality. Literally, the Objectivist position is that natural emotions don’t exist—only emotions derived from your subconscious or conscious premises exist. And it’s fully expected that these derived, processed emotions be under control. Rand explicitly says your emotions can and should be directly controlled,
“… an emotion that you cannot explain or control is only the carcass of that stale thinking, which you forbade your mind to revise.”
As noted, my typical experience with any Objectivist (as well as libertarians, conservatives, and all dogmatic religious people) is that they berate me over and over about how I “don’t have any facts.” They don’t give me any facts about the facts I don’t have. They don’t give me any chance to provide any facts. It’s just a constant beratement that I “don’t have facts.” You see, I’m talking about emotions here. You would have to accept that natural emotions exist, are important, and are worthy of study to understand any of what I am saying. Natural emotions are “facts.” They exist. Highly “rational” types typically just can’t see them, because their receptors for this area of life are obviously muted (or, as in the case of Objectivism, don’t even believe that natural emotions exist). In the absence of a respect for natural emotions, my argument, as I will outline, is that a person becomes very abusive. And here within lies the rub. I’m trying to tell you natural emotions exist, are worthy of respect, and how you are treating someone, say by relentlessly calling them “triggered,” is abusive. Objectivists and other “rational” types don’t see the emotion at all or its importance, because of their rather limited perceptions (or their inhibiting moral paradigms, which, well, makes them have limited perceptions). As such, they keep berating me (and others) as “emotional,” “triggered, “irrational,” and “without any facts.” You think I’m irrational. I think you’re a bully. And the harder you tell me I’m irrational; the more I think you’re a bully.
Again, if you think natural emotions exist don’t even exist, if you are completely unopen to considering that they do, or otherwise consider them unimportant, I am again asking you to leave. No, really. I’m asking you to leave. I just fundamentally don’t think I can get through to you. Good luck negotiating women, marriage, and children. Come back when you’ve finally hit rock bottom.
What I have never seen any Objectivist do is what I am challenging them to do: actually defend your system and its enormous, sweeping conclusions, which cover literally all areas of life. Objectivists often sniff that I don’t focus on any of the good Objectivism does. They always point to Rand’s take down of communism or religion as the good it can do. No, I’m not looking at what Objectivism isn’t. I’m looking at what Objectivism is. I’m asking you to do the same. I’m asking you to look at Objectivism as it sells itself: as a philosophy for living life. How does it hold up, in daily life, and in all the other areas of life that it inserts itself?
So, finally, Objectivists, if I am just that dumb, before you go, if you are even still with me, here are some resources totally outside of me that either directly or indirectly challenge Objectivism. If you are like I was, someone who knew Objectivism was failing them but didn’t know where to turn, these can also help shake up Objectivist thinking, for the better.
Resources that directly or indirectly challenge Objectivism
- The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult by Murray Rothbard. Read from a prominent libertarian who watched the Objectivist movement go down live.
- My Years with Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden. Nathaniel Branden coined the very term “Objectivism” and made the movement what it was. In this book, he details his professional and romantic relationship with Rand, as well as how he spread Objectivism. He says his biggest regret (as far as preaching Objectivism) was telling people that their natural (subconscious) emotions had no validity. He describes the history of Objectivism: what happened when Objectivist principles were applied to real, live people. This book is a must for any new person considering walking the Objectivist path.
- Therapist by Ellen Plasil. This book, unfortunately, is out of print. But even looking through the reviews will give you a flavor of what happened. A prominent Objectivist psychotherapist used his position of power to deny his patients their own intuition, in order to sexually exploit them. This is verbatim my main accusation against Objectivism: it denies a person’s natural intuition in favor of what is “rational.” This is a power tactic used by abusers to exploit people. Have you ever wondered why Objectivist psychotherapy isn’t a thing? Well, it used to be—it used to be a huge thing. Such a social embarrassment as having it be known that one of your top guys is actually just a sexually exploitive creep tends to tank business. Jungian psychology, however, is still very much alive:
- The Undiscovered Self by Carl Jung. Picking up a book by Carl Jung is a must. We are not born tabula rasa. We are born with archetypes—primitive images developed over millions of years that carry huge emotional weight—in our mind.
- Anything by Jungian Analysts. Rand belittles people that they are mere “students” of Objectivism. Jung, on the other hand, empowered people to go do their own work. I am constantly advocating for the wild feminine. A great book for that topic is Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, a Jungian analyst. Another great book by a Jungian analysist is The Highly Sensitive Person by Dr. Elaine Aron. These books helped me, as a woman with a highly sensitive personality. I encourage you to find a Jungian analyst who has taken an interest in your natural personality.
- Shrugging Off Ayn Rand by Michael Prescott. I could not agree more that Rand disassociates a person from the more intuitive part of their mind.
- Civilized to Death by Dr. Christopher Ryan. Ryan explicitly discusses the faulty thinking of tabula rasa and how “civilizing” ethical paradigms have taken over science and are crushing our true needs as humans.
- Anything that challenges Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Cognitive Behavior Therapy works by working on a person’s thinking (the “cognitive” part) and their behavior (the “behavior” part) This is Objectivism almost verbatim. In fact, if you wanted to see what good and bad there is to Objectivism (and there is some good), one could study the good and bad of CBT. However, this psychology has its problems. It tends to deny authentic feelings and unconscious motive, as Dr. Aron describes in The Highly Sensitive Person. This is also my accusation leveled at Objectivism: it denies authentic feelings and unconscious motive. Look also for therapies that counter CBT and push for more visceral and somatic healing, deep in the body. Speaking of which:
- The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. I believe the control Rand tries to take over the inner world is to try to handle trauma. This book offers much better ideas on how to do that.
- The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. There are likely Objectivists who have analyzed Tolle and dismissed him, because they are always sensitive to finding anything that isn’t Objectivism and discarding it as garbage. I don’t agree with everything Tolle says. But to lose that anxiety that Rand gives you, with her haunting warnings that one must succeed or else, Tolle’s advice about the joy in the present moment is powerful. I’ve actually known deeply entrenched—and I mean deeply entrenched—Objectivists who were benefited by Tolle (after having hit total rock bottom).
- Psychology books. Any book by any successful psychologist will almost by definition will have far better ideas on emotions than Rand, a fiction writer. Again, I don’t agree with everything she says, but Dr. Shefali Tsabary is a great place to start if looking for better ideas on how to handle emotions.
Ultimately, this idea of a blank state is an older idea that used to be widely accepted, uncritically. It is the base of all moral paradigms: that you can and ought to change a person’s emotional mechanism with the “right values.” Today, anyone educated about neuroscience will challenge this basic premise: that we even can, let alone should, change a person’s core emotional mechanism. I consider this to be the issue of our time.
Dr. Deborah MacNamara writes in Rest, Play, Grow, a 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.
Jump to >> The Structure of The Moral Bias of Objectivism
Amber is an air-headed hippy who makes no sense. The book will be The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity
I just read Greg Nyquist’s _Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature_. Similar to some of the things you say here. I feel he’s about 70% right — and if he’s 20% right then Objectivism is a total flop. I had had his book for a decade, but left it on my bookshelf after thumbing through it initially and seeing his sarcastic tone, and that he was wrong in his criticism of her theory of concepts (which I think is mostly correct and one of her best philosophical ideas). But reading it last week, I saw that Nyquist makes a lot of good points, driving trucks through all sorts of holes in Rand’s philosophy. More valuably, he has some good overall takeaways such as: Rand’s approach to philosophy is to depend on *verbalisms*, presenting these as if they are solid logical constructions which they are not. At some point one has to realize that Rand is less a genius-of-the-ages than a damn good writer: one of those people so good at sophistry that you can be forgiven (especially if you’re 19) to feel she’s always right about everything, when actually her lines of reasoning are riddled with half-truths. Another Nyquist theme: that Rand was, as she nearly admits, writing a philosophy that she thought would be found in the soul of her ideal … romantic partner. She wanted there to be a Roark or Galt out there, somewhere, who would read Atlas and think “The woman who wrote this is SO rational and brilliant and productive, I must find her and tear her clothes off!” Okay I’m going a little further than Nyquist, but if we are going to psychologize about Rand, as she so often did about others, doesn’t it ring true that Atlas is essentially the most sophisticated man-trap ever invented by a woman? “Leo, come to me!” A man-trap tragically destined to fail, because Roark and Galt are ratiocinating robots, not men.
It’s so neat to see the same book again but in a different light. This happened to me, where I rejected certain thinkers and then came back to them. I also agree that Rand’s work on epistemology is worthwhile. It helped me personally. Yeah, Nathaniel Branden says she wrote Atlas Shrugged as “her fantasy” with a “harem” of men pining after her. It is one giant man trap, LOL!!! I might put that very line in my book, LOL!!! This is especially since I feel she toyed with me, as a woman, making me feel less attractive than I was, when she derides certain women as inherently dumb or bimbo-like because of their physical attributes, attributes of which I had.
I only read NB’s biography a few months ago. Barbara’s is on my Xmas list, so I expect to read that soon, haha. What NB might not have realized is that his reporting about Rand’s actions are the nails in the coffin of *reasonably* taking her philosophy, which he remained a fan of, as the Big Truth. It becomes obvious from his book that what she emphasized or not in her “system” had a tremendous amount to do with her own self-perception: of her strengths (such as being the smartest person in the room, capable of winning any argument) and her, um, missing attributes and experiences (femininity, sex appeal, nurturing motherhood…). It will be interesting to read your take on her relationship with womanhood and femininity.
I’m writing my own post-Objectivism essay, and may publish it as a digital book but only in order to make it more permanent than a blog post. I have no desire to spend more than a few months and perhaps a few dozen pages on such a project … I want to get on with my life. But it is important, as an informed warning to others, that people like you and me who spent many years with Objectivism and tried to make it work personally, tell our tale. We have a deep perspective on how the ideas actually played out in ourselves and others, as observed over years/decades.
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