The book will be The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity. I have the summary of the book as well as the Introduction, describing my 10-year involvement with Objectivism, at the main page of this site.
This is the next part of the Preface to the book.
Quick links for this page
What is… Objectivism?
Let me start by describing a few essentials of Objectivism. I do this especially for anyone unfamiliar with Objectivism: What is… Objectivism?
Rand indeed put together a formal philosophy called “Objectivism,” but what she is most known for are her fictional novels. Rand’s two most famous novels are The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. I am going to describe them now, and I give away the endings. If you want to stop here and read these books, by all means. You will see the mesmerizing appeal of Rand and be fully immersed in what I am about to discuss. If not, don’t worry: I cover the philosophy of Objectivism itself—the actual nuts and bolts of it—thoroughly in this book.
The book that usually first draws people to Rand is The Fountainhead. It is about talented architect Howard Roark, who is expelled from college for being so non-traditional in his approach to architecture. He goes on to find a mentor, to build the way he knows is best, to overcome all obstacles in his way, and eventually wins over customers with his new style.
Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s magnum opus, is about the top producers of the world going on strike. In this fictional story, the producers are, to name a few, Dagny Taggart, who runs her railroad business competently behind the scenes despite incompetent leadership; Henry Rearden, the head of a steel manufacturing company who makes a new metal that is lighter and stronger than steel; Francisco D’anconia, a playboy by day and honest industrialist by night, who blows up his copper mines when they are about to be nationalized; and of course, John Galt, the mysterious man who was building an engine that could run on electricity from the air but quit after his factory turned, essentially, communist. The phrase “Who is John Galt?” is used frequently in Atlas Shrugged by common people to mean, “No answers are possible.” Rand responds by creating the character of John Galt, outlining exactly who he is. Galt is the ultimate hero who explains the ways of the evil in the world to these other producers. He convinces them, one by one, to go on strike with him.
These two books are best sellers and have a place on bookshelves to this day. Rand went on to write several non-fiction essays and books, outlining her thusly created philosophy on life, indeed, Objectivism. When asked by a book salesman if she could describe her philosophy while standing on one foot, Rand famously responded with the following (Ayn Rand Lexicon):
Metaphysics: Objective Reality
Rand splits her philosophy up into five branches: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. The base of her philosophy is metaphysics and epistemology. Metaphysics is the study of what is. Epistemology is the study of how we know it. Rand’s metaphysics are that “reality is real.” When describing this, she typically adds about her metaphysics that reality is real and “independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.” Her epistemology is that “man” (she references both men and women as man) is capable of understanding reality through reason.
Rand’s moral system is rational self-interest. This rests on her metaphysics, as she argues, because man has a specific identity and must be treated in a specific way. Reality is real; man is man; A is A. The way man survives, Rand argues, based on the objective nature of man is, is through thinking and production. As such, her ethical framework is tailored to this. Rational self-interest, as an ethical system, is the belief that people have a right to pursue their own happiness, specifically as pursued towards rational goals.
Rand’s politics, based on the premise of rational self-interest in which the proper pursuit of a human is rational goals, is laissez-fare capitalism. People have a right to the property they own without regulation*, taxation, or any other form of coercion. Force is only used in self-defense. (*Unless the Objectivist himself sees wisdom in the regulation. Rand is explicit that freedom in contextual and other factors, in the name of survival, warrant government control.)
In esthetics, Rand favors Romanticism, defined by her as man capable of volition (achieving his values).
Rand put forth her philosophy in several non-fiction books, including The Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It. The latter book was compiled posthumously and examines philosophical fundamentals, such as what reality is and its relationship to human consciousness. The Virtue of Selfishness outlines Rand’s Objectivist ethics of rational self-interest. As my challenge is primarily about Objectivism’s treatment of the inner world and her ethical system, these non-fiction books are what I will focus on most. I also discuss articles from The Anti-Industrial Revolution: A Return to the Primitive and The Romantic Manifesto. Surprisingly, Rand is most prolific on the topic of emotions in her book on art, The Romantic Manifesto. Yes, I’ve read all of these books, several times over.
So, that’s the broad overview of Objectivism—the literal sales pitch. Rand’s Objectivism proudly promises reason, individualism, and freedom.
And what could ever be wrong with that?
Checking our Intellectual Tools
Before I get into dissecting this philosophy, it’s important to check some of the very tools we use to analyze with. Indeed, this is the very problem. I find I can’t make any headway with people wholly bought into any ideology, because they are too busy arguing with me about methods. They have decided that their methods are inherently scientific, rational, “Godly,” the “right path,” or that they are more educated and rational, whereas my methods, they accuse, are inherently mystical, irrational, not scientific, not Godly, or against whatever other paradigm they have adopted to find “truth.” As such, I am instantly dismissed. I can’t explain my position, because the very tool they are using to analyze the world—the binoculars they have put on in front of their eyes—won’t allow it. They are much more insistent on making sure these methods are pure than coming to any actual truth or any effective solution. And even “science” is vulnerable to this.
Let me give an example of the crazy that this is. I was told once that a stance I had that a particular system was good was just “opinion” and not “fact.” The system I was defending? Jungian psychology itself. Jungian psychology is a system with many cogent books written about it, many patients benefited (including myself), and many future analysts inspired. The person had a doctorate in psychology and could inform me, forcefully, that what I said was “pure opinion” and “not science.” Adding even more to the crazy, the topic at hand was that this person and another person were trying to weigh in on Myers-Briggs personality types—and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator was inspired from Jungian psychology! So, I was utterly berated and belittled about my mere “opinion” and my lack of scholarly credentials, over a system whose very fruits they were using.
This is my constant experience with just about any person who has no actual (authentically successful) experience in business or medicine but firmly believes they are “scientific.” It’s just a total wall when you talk to them. They instantly start talking to you about methods, credentials, or belittling who you as a person (as “irrational,” “emotional,” etc.): it’s just constant word salad. They won’t analyze any of the content provided.
I find that one of the usual tactics of such people is to go on auto repeat about how they have “facts.” They don’t have any facts about these facts that they have. They don’t have any facts about the facts they accuse you of not having. They just constantly describe themselves as logical, rational, scientific, and with “facts.”
We’ve seen this very thing notoriously play out on worldwide scales. The Soviets had their newspaper called “Pravda,” which meant “Truth.” In fact, it famously spread propaganda. Social media in 2020 (and after) became famous for their “fact” checkers, of which, when they went to court, had to put their tail in between their legs and admit that they were just opinions that they were facts. This tactic, of declaring what is a valid “fact” or not or who owns “science,” is a power tactic. They are trying to claim the power of a judge in court and decide what evidence is admissible and what is not. And by doing this—my entire argument—they leave out large swaths of important feedback.
Objectivists will utterly insist that they let valid feedback in—it’s built right into the system. Yes, you let cognitive feedback in. But you don’t allow emotional feedback in. Your system has major blindspots. So, if an Objectivist were to design an airplane, yes, they’ll try out their designs until one actually takes flight. But if life is ravaging them, if they have no emotional joy, if their health is in the dirt, their wife has left them, and their children have committed suicide, they can’t update. They will just blame themselves and their henceforth lack of quality effort. They’ll just swallow all that shame—or willfully force these bad things out of their mind. They won’t be able to see that the entire paradigm is off.
Another example of narrow-sighted “feedback” that I can give is western science and how it practically plays out. Western science loves its clinical trials. They take a group of people—and oh how they love to believe the bigger the number the better—and test out a particular drug in an isolated lab setting. All “evidence” about the effectiveness of the drug comes back to these trials. When they go to apply this drug to actual patients, do they monitor how it works on the biggest, best trial there can be: the wide, open market? Has a doctor ever called you to find out how well a drug they prescribed to you is working? When you do call a doctor with adverse effects, do they take you seriously, take in the feedback, and update their recommendations? My experience is they do not. They tell me to take it up with another doctor or that the problem is a person’s age or some other condition. The problem is never their potions and medicines, of which they firmly believe have already been vetted. Oh, yes, they’ll take in some feedback: from their controlled trials. But they won’t take in (in any appreciable way) the wild feedback—the kind that happens when you actually take a product and put it on the market.
This is exactly what happens with Objectivism. They believe so strongly that they already have a system that can update properly that they miss major swaths of vital feedback. They can take in some of life’s feedback, but not enough to reject Objectivism itself. This is the essential problem. And the problem is created because Objectivism has, at its outset, demoted natural emotions as invalid. If faithfully loyal to Rand’s ideas (and most Objectivists are, even if unconsciously), Objectivists don’t even think that natural, primary emotions exist: all emotions are derivative of one’s values. Natural emotions—the kind that grip you and shake you and should be telling you something—do not, and almost never can, give feedback to the still entrenched Objectivist. In Objectivism—as I will prove in this book, if you will let me—the cognitive mind should tell emotions exactly what to do for you. As such, authentic emotions can never steer the Objectivist off his current consciously chosen path, including getting off the path of Objectivism itself. This is my entire argument.
“Science” as a power tactic
When Rand claims “rationality,” “science” and “logic,” it is nothing but a power tactic. The word “Objectivism” itself means “Truth!” Rand declares how “rational” her system is. She describes her ethics as being “scientifically” developed. The science behind the scientifically developed ethics? Scant. The facts that Objectivists have about the facts that others are missing? Nowhere. It’s just a gorilla beating its chest about how “rational” and “scientific” they are. Get it out of your head that you already own science itself—I won’t tolerate it. If this is how you are, with a stance of posturing over me still, telling me I am “pure emotion,” and “without facts,” without any facts about the facts I don’t have and without reading the actual argument, I am again asking you to leave. I need time to lay out my case, before you instantly dismiss me.
And I’ll say it: if you fall for something just because it declares itself to be “science,” “logic,” “facts,” or “rational,” you are weak-minded. Guarding against this very power tactic is one of the things I aim to do. We should, as a collective moral ideal, utterly laugh at this tactic, once and for all.
The burden of proof is on
me anyone who wants to know the truth
Further checking our intellectual tools, another thing Objectivists tell me, usually in regard to my proposition that we are not born tabula rasa, is that the burden of proof is on me. No, it’s not. What I am about to discuss is an issue that is profoundly important to human life. The burden of proof is not on me. The burden of proof is on anyone who wants to know the truth. I will do my best to lay out the issue and show why it matters profoundly. But this is not a war. If you have no curiosity about it, in order to come to a quality truth, how can you claim objectivity itself for yourself? Where is your proof that we are born tabula rasa—truly an enormous statement, made by a mere philosopher. Not knowing the truth doesn’t make you ignorant. Not wanting to know the truth does.
Getting around moral bias to explain moral bias
What I am describing here is far deeper than just Objectivism. It’s an issue of the role of reason and emotions in human life. It can rather tidily be described as an issue of the masculine (forward action) and feminine (natural substance). In Eastern philosophy it is described as yin (the feminine) and yang (the masculine). We are seriously out of whack, as an entire human race, with way too much masculine (yang—reason as directed action) and not enough feminine (yin—nourishing substance): a situation that eventually eats itself alive. People usually describe the problem as “hubris” or “ego.” I am going to be offering the idea that the problem is moral bias, and the problem is in our moral systems.
Moral bias is when a moral ideal resonates so deeply in a person and its virtuous ideals shine so bright in one’s mind that they cannot see the damage they are doing or the value in competing systems of thoughts. Moral bias is like cognitive bias but far more stubborn and destructive. I’ll be focusing on Objectivism, which more than has a moral system built into the philosophy, but many other systems are plagued by moral bias, to include religion, many political systems, and various sciences that people now take as religion. Moral bias, I am going to argue, is a natural part of the human psyche that is easily enflamed by fear and, while this may have served us well in the wild, has now turned maladaptive in civilization. Moral bias explains virtually all of history’s worst atrocities, to include indeed those committed by communist regimes, religion, and more. No historical atrocity was fought in the name of pure evil. They all had their virtuous ideals that people, rather notoriously, couldn’t break. Rather infuriatingly, life feedback did not and could not penetrate them to change their course. To break this, which is moral bias, we must first understand moral bias—something I’ll explain in detail in this book. But second, we must let life feedback in. And emotions are life’s ultimate feedback. As Rand says natural emotions must be programmed and controlled by the rational mind (which she then unforgivably codified into her ethical system), she shuts down this natural, wild, life feedback. This is essentially the central issue.
But, how do I penetrate this? Rand takes over the entire way a person perceives the world. This makes it nearly impossible to penetrate an entrenched Objectivist. Rand has detailed thoughts on how to come to truth, how to run your emotions, and how to make daily decisions. These all alter the very way a person perceives the world. And, in Objectivism, other people and ideas are quickly demoted as irrational, immoral, lazy, or parasitical. And yet it is often these other immoral, irrational ideas that could help the Objectivist the most. And, so, this is the task I’ve been given: how do I get around moral bias to explain moral bias?
I’ll say this upfront: I can’t do it in a mere few sentences. It is typical of moral paradigms to present themselves as having all the answers. Oh, the answers that they have are always to the questions that they raise. But they are very confident about their “truth.” The first thing is getting it out of your head that any of this can confidently be explained in three sentences. My routine experience with Objectivists is that they want a polished, glib answer, right away. And, even if I were to give one, it gives them the fodder they need to mock and humiliate me. They weren’t here to find any kind of truth.
So, Objectivists, here’s what I am doing to do. I will give a summary of my challenges in the next pages. It’s succinct, like you demand. I hope the overview of my challenge sparks your attention. I will then give places in Rand’s work where you can look up her explicit view on emotions. Nothing would delight me more than for you to go spend some more time with your own philosophy. I’ll give you some areas to explore and some homework assignments, as to find a more refined answer as to what the Objectivist view on emotions is. I will also give you books to read, outside of me, that directly or indirectly challenge Objectivism. These books can also help break up Objectivist thinking if you are here to escape this paradigm, like I was.
I am otherwise going to have to ask you to just read the argument I present, without any typical hot-headed desire to argue with me and bury me—a mindset Rand gives you. I can more than show you why this matters in everyday life. No, I am not asking you to agree with every single thing I write. What I am asking you to do it is not be so morally clouded that you can’t read what I write accurately, in particular my well-quoted deconstruction of Objectivism itself.
I otherwise cannot—cannot—explain this challenge in anything less than several chapters of writing. In fact, to explain it, it might even take a whole book.
Jump to >> Succinct summaries of the challenge
Amber was an Objectivist for 10 years until she had it with the narcissistic abuse, gaslighting, and manipulation that is routinely dished out in Objectivist circles. She now exposes this narcissistic ideology parading around as freedom and happiness for what it is. The book will be The Moral Bias of Objectivism: How Moral Ideals Cloud Objectivity. Contact Amber at firstname.lastname@example.org.