Succinct Summaries of the Challenge to Objectivism

This is a continuation of the Preface to The Moral Bias of Objectivism. This is the challenge in bullets and then the challenge at a glance.

The Challenge in Bullets

  • We are not born tabula rasa.
  • Rand’s definition of “reason” is overreaching and means “the mind dominates the heart,” not simply that “A is A.”
  • Objectivism acts as a psychology, not a philosophy, but gets no critical review as a psychology, nor was developed by someone with experience dealing with people’s delicate inner world.
  • Objectivism starts off with the premise that natural emotions are inherently untrustworthy and can lead to destruction and mayhem. As such, you need an ethics. We are then sold on the Objectivist ethics.
  • Rand intends her Objectivist ethics to be with you for all waking hours of the day for all decisions you make.
  • This ethics causes turmoil.
  • Objectivism denies that a person’s natural intuition, gut feels, or instincts play any role in life. This is roundly rejected as mysticism.
  • By codifying her views into an ethics, Rand sets them in stone. It becomes very hard to sway people from their beliefs when they believe those ideas are tied to morality itself.
  • This creates moral bias, a phenomenon in which one cannot evaluate something objectively, because they are too morally attached to it—the main accusation in this book.
  • Rand has many ideas of what should and should not make one happy. Family picnics, driving hotrod cars, and more are considered to be irrational forms of happiness.
  • Rand’s characters, however, take sadistic pleasure in watching slave owners whip slaves, as well as have the “slow smile” of an executioner.
  • Objectivism has been historically dotted by “excommunications” and abuse. See especially Therapist by Ellen Plasil. An Objectivist psychotherapist used his position to sexually abuse Objectivist patients.
  • Objectivist members are notoriously caustic, judgmental, and abusive. However, they absolutely will not attribute this behavior to Objectivism itself, a system with an entire moral (behavioral) paradigm dictating how to feel, behave, and explicitly advises to judge others.
  • Rand explicitly did not support gun ownership for the purpose of self-defense. She also explicitly admonishes that freedom is contextual. It is, as such, rather dubious to think she was here to promote authentic freedom or individual rights.
  • There is the sales pitch of Objectivism. And then there is actual Objectivism. I am here to show you actual Objectivism.

The Challenge at a Glance

moral bias
when a person’s “should’ prevents them from seeing the “is”

While Rand’s fictional books mesmerize people, my challenge is to the Objectivist view of human nature itself. We are not born, as is Rand’s explicit stance, “tabula rasa,” an idea of which is more commonly referred to as “blank slate theory.” Both our emotional and cognitive mechanism, both of which Rand, a fiction writer, confidently writes are born “blank,” 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 psychology, human nature, and consciousness itself. Rand presents her view that human nature is tabula rasa as plain, simple fact—the source of reason itself—and, in doing this, she shuts down an enormous amount of superior, competing thought.

Ayn Rand had an incredibly pessimistic view of human nature. She greatly exaggerated what some call the anarchist instinct. Your natural emotions, according to Rand, might be manipulative, irrational, and/or sadistic, which could then lead to mayhem, destruction, or dictatorship. (This is her explicit position as outlined in “The Objectivist Ethics,” which can be found in The Virtue of Selfishness.) You as such need (Rand’s word) an ethics. In Objectivism, you not only don’t listen to your natural emotions, you boss your emotions around. You must go in and “program”—Rand’s word—your emotional mechanism. You tell your emotions how to behave: what type of life events will end up making you happy, sad, full of pride, etc. Anything less than the cognitive mind taking tight rein over the inner world might otherwise lead to total anarchy. Yes, this is emotional repression in every way possible. And this view, in which natural emotions are seen as inherently untrustworthy and the thus need for a civilizing ethics, remains a view very similar to that of Original Sin, an idea of which Rand explicitly purports to reject.

My yet deeper challenge to Objectivism is to Rand’s very definition of reason. Objectivists always believe that Objectivism simply means “reason,” as in “study to understand the world.” They think they have a simple paradigm to understand the world, of which happily updates as new information presents itself. But while this is the sales pitch, merely “understanding the world” wasn’t entirely what Rand meant. Instead, her definition was, essentially, that “the mind should dominate the heart.” She says the mind should be in control for all decisions one makes, that natural (subconscious, unprogrammed) emotions do not play a significant role in life, and, in fact, that emotions should be controlled by the mind to do what we want them to do. Rand didn’t just present a philosophy. She presented an entire psychology. Objectivists think she gave them a mere tool to understand the world. She actually gave you a conclusion. And it is this, the inversion of tool and conclusion, that is the rock and hard place that makes explaining the folly of Objectivism to the entrenched Objectivist nearly impossible.

Rand sells her philosophy as promoting rational self-interest and freedom. That’s the sales pitch. And she directly warns, “It’s Objectivism or communism.” (She says exactly this in “Faith and Force” in Philosophy: Who Needs It, p. 75.) It’s Rand’s philosophy or tyranny, abuse, and unhappiness, of which loyal followers tend to absolutely believe. But, in practice, Objectivism is anything but happiness or freedom. You see, if there is rational happiness, then there is irrational happiness. As I will prove in this book, all sorts of things are considered to be irrational in Objectivism. This includes getting “mindless kicks” out of driving “hotrod” (race) cars, leisurely vacations, even liking certain colors or music. Like all overbearing moral systems, Objectivism proposes to tell you 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, however, is that 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 doesn’t mean that the author, a fiction writer, should be deciding matters on human nature or designing an ethics meant to be with a person for all waking hours of the day, for all decisions they make, as Rand explicitly intended. Rand played psychologist, and she was lousy at it.

The challenge is to the Objectivist ethics: the all-encompassing “rational” ethics that Rand puts on a person. It is unnecessary and destructive. The wild human—our inner selves—is already designed well. It doesn’t need to be “programmed,” “driven,” or otherwise leashed in any way. It’s time to give it its natural birthright: a moral defense.

Jump to >> Some Homework for Objectivists

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  1. I read your site as if walking in the halls of each point or thought. I have much to compare and distinguish, yet must tell you I realized some of the same problems. “…every hour and issue…” revealed Rand’s style in terms that also betrayed her all or null explanations. You have drawn up an interesting set of principles which deserve attention. And a few relevant solutions! Excellent form and voice. Prost.

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