We. Control. Emotions.
Something I find most interesting is that Rand only talks about emotions prolifically when she talks about art. I re-read almost all of Rand’s non-fiction again to write Towards Liberalism. The only places I found she discussed emotions were in in Galt’s speech in Atlas Shrugged, “The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness, and, what I find of note, especially in The Romantic Manifesto. Rand speaks most prolifically about emotions when she talks about art, not any other subject. Because in art you control everything. She has no robust, quality thoughts on emotions when it comes to actual life.
This is my challenge to Rand. She says we control our emotions. I say you cannot. I say you can choose your response to the emotions you have. But I do not think you can choose what emotions you have. And this is huge. It determines whether you feel comfortable in your own skin or not.
Emotions are prewired and based on your unique personality type. Thrill-seeking personalities find genuine enjoyment in driving race cars. Introverted thinkers may like coffee get-togethers. Space cadets like myself like “vegetative kinds of vacation.” All of this plays a role in human life. And Rand essentially says “to hell with it.” And admonishes these people’s natural way of being as immoral.
Objectivists–supreme rationalists: do you see how this might be a problem? Why people might have an issue with Ayn Rand?
Murray Rothbard writes about the Ayn Rand cult back in the day. People were constantly under fear that their natural pleasures would come under Rand’s judgment.
Personal enjoyment, indeed, was also frowned upon in the movement and denounced as hedonistic “whim-worship.” In particular, nothing could be enjoyed for its own sake – every activity had to serve some indirect, “rational” function. Thus, food was not to be savored, but only eaten joylessly as a necessary means of one’s survival; sex was not to be enjoyed for its own sake, but only to be engaged in grimly as a reflection and reaffirmation of one’s “highest values”; painting or movies only to be enjoyed if one could find “rational values” in doing so. All of these values were not simply to be discovered quietly by each person – the heresy of “subjectivism” – but had to be proven to the rest of the cult.
Do you see how this is directly related to Objectivism and Rand’s position on possibly “irrational” emotions?
Amber is a woman whose pleasures are not up for anyone else’s judgment. She has been told that her hair has made it hard to take her seriously. See her book-in-the-making The Moral Bias of Objectivism.