Objectivism and Ayn Rand

I’ve been reading Ayn Rand’s writings and I agree with some parts of Objectivism- but its bases are scientifically wrong. We have no free will- we can’t consciously choose anything, and we can’t know our own motivations for sure- let alone someone else’s (see the link). So yes, there may ultimately be a rational and irrational side to every coin, but we don’t choose to act rationally, we either do or don’t. So one can be better or worse than another, but not of one’s conscious choice. So can someone be praised or blamed then? It’s like praising someone for being beautiful. Nothing is exempted from causation – no human will outisde a human brain- which obviously is what it is because of genetics and environment, and personality and character come from the brain. So if I have a high IQ but am lazy, well why is it that the IQ is out of my hands but the laziness isn’t? It IS.

All reason/rationality is – is a form of action that is conducive to achieving one’s goials. Is it rational to eat a cake if you want to lose weight? No- so it is “bad”- but if you desperately need to gain weight, it is “good.” We can say it is bad to eat a cake if you’re on a diet, but not that YOU are bad, b/c you have no conscious control over whether you do or don’t.

I’m attracted to her (Ayn Rand’s) thoughts that no one should apologize for being smarter or having more ability, that some things and qualities ARE better than others, but how can someone realistically be proud of being an intellectual thinker, if that was her or his destiny? I guess what does it matter? All that matters is that you are content about it- whatever you tell yourself about it. Being resentful b/c you’re “better” and everyone envies you or is intimidated by you doesn’t get you “justice.” Justice being- the treatment you think you deserve. But the world is not “fair,” it just “is.” In reality, what does it matter WHAT the motivation is behind not being “accepted” by the crowd. As if it even exists. “Motives” are just what we tell ourselves – our ostensible “reasons.” The bottom line is – being rejected for whatever reason, but it’s just a matter of chemistry- not choice. People who are alike are drawn together- birds of a feather. Most people are average, so the “crowd” is the average, and if you’re not average, you don’t fit in. That’s the bottom line. Mediocrity and laziness shouldn’t be praised, though, and since conditioning works, we all operate as though we have free will- people should strive to learn and do their best, and perhaps their programming will change.

I admire Ayn Rand immensely. She just didn’t have the advantage of modern cognitive neuroscience which proves her theory of free will wrong. But still, for all intents and purposes, we must act as though we have free will, it is a necessary fiction, so she’s correct, in some sense. But to deny genetics and environment IS irrational. It’s the reason you are who you are, and of course, some people think they are better than most but it’s not a “real” achievement of theirs on a metaphysical level, b/c everything that’s brought them to where they are was not their “choice.” In that sense, theologians like John Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards, among others, were right, way before their time, way before science proved them right.

At the same time, what “choice” do we have other than to blame or praise the “actor”? After all, we can’t isolate all the “causes,” and the fact remains, the PERSON who does this or that (no matter the ultimate reason) remains the actor, and thus, the “agent” who can be evaluated as better or worse than other agents, regardless of the reasons why.

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3 responses

  1. If you’re interested I’d recommend reading some Daniel Dennett, Patricia and Paul Churchland, Steven Pinker and others that are on http://cogprints.org/. Also, check out the experiments of Benjamin Libet. It’s pretty well-established in the neuroscience world that consciousness lags about 1/2 second or more behind the actual “decision” the brain makes.

  2. Rory. Don’t tease the inmates.

  3. I don’t know – is this true? are the scientist’s findings true? I mean, I read them on the site there, but I don’t know if they are true. Truth implies that I made some sort of… conscious choice… between a falsehood and a truthful statement. There has to be an alternative, between something I think being right or wrong, otherwise everything I think is automatically both right and wrong – I mean how would I judge what my brain thinks without someway of judging for myself.I mean, I can tell this text is black, the background behind it is white. I get all that automatically. But is anything I say true? I dunno. Hmm, well, it’s breakfast time. I’m going to sit in the kitchen. I hope my brain decides that it is beneficial to eat something.

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