We do not want you and Ayn Rand would not have wanted you

Amanda blogged asking whether her Harvard Law non-secular student group should be called the Humanists (more-inclusive ) or Atheists (less-inclusive). The question reminded me of the whole TOC/ARI split, one of the many reasons I find Objectivism so unappealing. It's a movement supposedly about freedom, independence, and liberty that had a major philosophical split over whether it's OK to talk to and respect people who disagree with you. ARI is the original, "pure", non-inclusive version, while TOC dared to disagree with Ayn Rand's anointed heir Leonard Peikoff.

At least, that's what I'd always heard, but I figured I should check the facts. This comments thread on Diana Hsieh's blog seemed pretty confirmatory. To quote a comment that Hsieh responded to by threatening to censor the poster (always the sign of a solidly defended position - not!), Informus:

Let me quote an entire paragraph from "Fact and Value," [By Leonard Peikoff] not a fragment of a sentence like the above:

"Now I wish to make a request to any unadmitted anti-Objectivists reading this piece, a request that I make as Ayn Rand's intellectual and legal heir. If you reject the concept of "objectivity" and the necessity of moral judgment, if you sunder fact and value, mind and body, concepts and percepts, if you agree with the Branden or Kelley viewpoint or anything resembling it, please drop out of our movement: drop Ayn Rand, leave Objectivism alone. We do not want you and Ayn Rand would not have wanted you, just as you, in fact, do not want us or her. As a matter of dignity and honor, tell yourself and the world the exact truth: that you agree with certain ideas of Ayn Rand, but reject Objectivism."

Enough said.

Indeed. One of the most important criticisms of Objectivism, as made by Nathaniel Branden, is that by glorifying rationality it encourages emotional repression and denial. Now, I glorify rationality in the sense that I think we should try to be rational whenever we can, because rationality (high-level thinking) is superior to emotionality (pre-wired instincts often incompatible with modern life) at leading to good decisions. Or, as I sometimes say, "I hate emotions - they make me mad". But wishing not to be emotional does not make it so, and the truly rational thing to do is to understand and admit one's emotionalness. If your gun shoots to the left, you should aim to the right, not point it straight because you wish it shot that way.

Getting back to Objectivism, here we have a philosophical movement whose major schism between its leaders occured because one of them (Branden) stopped sleeping with the other (Rand). The offender was cast out and demonized - for purely philosophical reasons, of course. A new Intellectual Heir was appointed (Peikoff), who, unlike Branden (an original thinker and a person capable of achieving emotional maturity), was very much a follower, a rigid adherent to the Holy Texts of Oism. Naturally his personality, the official thinker of the movement for decades, has shaped it and its positions.

In other words, it sure looks to me like the entire movement has been shaped by Ayn Rand's denial of her emotional reaction to Branden's jilt. Which is a perfect example of the problem with the attempted-Vulcan approach. No matter how hard you try to deny the importance of emotions, they don't go away. They are an objective fact, and they still influence you, whether or not you admit it.

And don't even get me started on the inconsistency between "No individual -- and no group -- has the moral right to initiate the use of force against others, and force is permissible only in retaliation and only against those who have initiated its use" and the existence of a government, even a minarchic one...

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