The Objectivist View on Emotions: Setting Happiness to Serve You

As I write on the main page of this site, Ayn Rand has you dominating and programming your emotions. Your only choice, according to her, is taking the reins over this process or letting it happen haphazardly. Your values, again according to Rand, determine your very emotions: how you respond to life events: with joy, anger, fear, etc. If…

If a man values productive work, his happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his life.

Productivity, according to Rand, aids in your rational, objective survival as a human. If your happiness is tied to your productive success, you will try to be productive. Now happiness and success are flawlessly integrated. Happiness. Is. The Measure. Of Your Success. Set correctly, your happiness is now a lightning quick barometer that you are on the right path in life. Because you set your emotions to react this way.

She continues to elaborate. Her Objectivism promotes “rational” self-interest. Most think this means to do what you want as long as you don’t hurt anyone. This is not what is meant. It means you pick specific goals as aid in rational human living. Since we are on a mission for rational things as in alignment with the way we objectively live, there are irrational things. What are they? Well, family picnics for one.

In Objectivism, a “sense of life” is an “emotional classification” of life events. It is specific things that all evoke a similar emotional reaction in a person. Some people have a certain emotional reaction to seeing firefighters, cats saved from trees, etc. Others have another emotional reaction to hip hop music, connecting with others, etc. Summed up they make a person’s “sense of life.” In Philosophy and a Sense of Life, she gives two such competing lists of things that can evoke a similar emotional reaction in a person. They are…

… 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)

She goes on to explain the moral stature of how people respond emotionally to these two competing lists of things. It is based on a person’s “view of himself”:

For a man of self-esteem, the emotion uniting the things in the first part of these examples is admiration, exaltation a sense of challenge; the emotion uniting the things in the second part is disgust or boredom. (27)

She goes on:

For a man who lacks self-esteem, the emotion uniting the things in the first part of these examples is fear, guilt, resentment; the emotion uniting the things in the second part is relief from fear, reassurance, the undemanding safety of passivity. (27)

As can be extracted from her quotes: if you like family picnics, you lack self-esteem. Also if you like “muddy” colors, which is a term used by interior designers and are just colors that have some gray added to them. Here is a room painted with a Brookside Moss from Benjamin Moore, which is a muddy color:

I find relief from fear in this paint color.

People tell me I take things too literally. Ok. You know we’re talking about Ayn Rand here, right? She says to take words seriously and literally. And she does not let up on what kind of joys can be judged. Her proof for her view on emotions rests on the premise that, of course, we cannot let a person find pleasure in murder. That would be wrong. We need to bring emotional discipline to these potential murderous people. BTW, here is an analysis how Rand glorified a child murderer in her youth.

But she goes way beyond just finding pleasure in violent crime. Here she is on hotrod drivers:

But if a man values destruction, like a sadist—or self-torture, like a masochist—or life beyond the grave, like a mystic—or mindless “kicks,” like the driver of a hotrod car—his alleged happiness is the measure of his success in the service of his own destruction. (31)

Hotrod drivers have the wrong standard of value.

Nathaniel Branden continues to pile on on this view of happiness. In “The Psychology of Pleasure,” which appears in The Virtue of Selfishness, he admonishes all sorts of types of pleasure. He admonishes men who want to hang around with friends who “have no standards whatever and with whom, therefore, he feels free to be himself” (74). For recreation, he approves of parties—but only as a reward for achievement (or engaging in interesting conversation and the like). He admonishes any other form of party as likely acting like a “noisy fool” (75). He concludes his article by deriding quiet forms of pleasure, to include ladies’ parties, “coffee klatches,” and “vegetative kinds of vacation” as people who seek the boring. He concludes that one should seek a “demanding pleasure.”

So, I mean, yeah. Objectivism is super liberal about what kind of pleasures you are permitted to like. Unless you like family picnics, lovely grayed-down colors, driving race cars, having friends you can feel free around, coffee get-togethers, or leisurely vacations.

Do you see where I am going with this?

Amber lived as an Objectivist for 10 years until she got tired of their narcissistic shit. She has many irrational pleasures. Her book The Moral Bias of Objectivism will outline clearly the Objectivist view on emotions and happiness.

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