Psychological Flaws, Corruptions, Errors, and Wrong Premises
[This article reprises a 2010 article with the same title. It should be read in conjunction with the article, Ayn Rand's Ethics because they both deal with Objectivist ethics.]
Unfortunately, almost all that goes by the name Objectivism today embraces, in some form or another, both hedonism and subjectivism which contradict all of Objectivist ethics.
An example of the hedonism and subjectivism being promoted by almost all so-called Objectivists today, is that particular form of subjective hedonism I characterized in the title of this piece, a paraphrase of Ayn Rand's own view of homosexuality:
"[Homosexuality] is a manifestation of psychological 'flaws, corruptions, errors, [and] unfortunate premises' that are both 'immoral' and 'disgusting.'" ["The Moratorium on Brains," Ford Hall Forum Lecture, Boston, 1971]
Every major so-called Objectivist site generally supports the normalization of homosexuality as benevolent and moral, and as far as I know there is not a single on-line site or blog that denies this view.
The following all call themselves "Objectivist" something-or-other, and most disagree that the other sites are truly Objectivist, whatever that is intended to mean. They certainly do not understand Rand's philosophy.
First, a couple of forums:
"Human homosexuality is neither moral or immoral. It simply is. It's a form of human behavior. What people do when they face it (in themselves and in others) is moral or immoral." [This is from the founder of the sight.]
Rebirth of Reason—"Finding Happiness in Lesbos" [You do not need to read this. Why would you?]
From the, "OjectivismOnline Forum," is this: "A person who is homosexual, just as with heterosexuals, presumably cannot choose whether or not upon seeing "suitable stimuli" they experience physical attraction. Thus, the attraction is not a choice, and thus, it cannot be considered an aspect of morality.
And some "Objectivist" Writers:
Ari Armstrong, "I suspect that homosexuality usually results from a confluence of genetics, environmental factors, and conscious choice. Yet, regardless of which of these three factors is most at play in any given case, I hold that homosexuality can be a healthy, moral path that leads to quality romance."
There is Damien Moskovitz of The Atlas Society who writes: "While sexual orientations may not be chosen, in many cases, what behaviors people exhibit in response to their orientations are chosen, and such behaviors can be evaluated morally. A person who by nature, rather than by choice, is more attracted to members of the same sex than the opposite sex still has the choice to recognize and act in accordance with this fact or to repress or act against it. If a person wishes to achieve happiness and promote his life, then he must, in a realm as morally important as sex, act in accordance with his nature." [Err..., he's trying to say it would be morally wrong for someone with "homosexual desires" to not practice homosexuality. Really!]
Finally, we have Edwin Locke, senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) who wrote: "Objectivism holds that sexual orientation is not, properly, a moral issue.... Every adult has the right to seek romantic, including sexual, satisfaction with an adult partner of their choice, assuming mutual consent, and it is really no one else's business (including the government's) but their own."
Before I discuss what is so very wrong with the views of these so-called Objectivists let me say, I am in total agreement with Ayn Rand's view of homosexuality—it is an immoral practice, but so long as it is only adults who are freely engaging in those practices, what they do is nobody else's business and there must be no laws or actions by anyone else that limit what individual's choose to do privately among themselves.
The issue of morality has nothing to do with politics—the purpose of moral values is to provide individuals with the principles by which they make the choices in thought and action to achieve their own success and happiness in this world. [See the last section, "About Morality."]
Why Objectivism Holds that Homosexuality Is Immoral
According to ARI's Edwin Locke, "Objectivism holds that sexual orientation is not, properly, a moral issue." I have no idea what Edwin Locke thinks, "sexual orientation," means, but Objectivism certainly holds that sexual practices are a moral issue. Are not rape, pedophilia, promiscuity, and any sexual practices that are self-harmful or produce long-term problems moral issues? Locke is probably trying to imply what another writer I quoted wrote, "a person who is homosexual, just as with heterosexuals, presumably cannot choose whether or not upon seeing "suitable stimuli" they experience physical attraction. Thus, the attraction is not a choice, and thus, it cannot be considered an aspect of morality."
You will notice that all these "arguments" are always presented in terms that are both unusual and obscure—what is an "orientation?" and what is a "physical attraction?"
The words are used to hide the true meaning, which everyone actually understands but intentionally obfuscates, because it would be that much harder to put over if stated clearly and explicitly. What these words really mean and are attempts to cover up are, "feelings," and, "desires." [If that isn't what they mean, someone needs to explain what in the world they do mean.]
Feelings and Desires
I have written two separate articles on
"Desires" which go into the psychology of both subjects to a greater depth than Rand's own work addresses, but here I am only concerned with the Objectivist view presented in Rand's own words.
So, according to Ayn Rand, where do our desires come from?
"His [man's] first desires are given to him by nature; they are the ones that he needs directly for his body, such as food, warmth, etc. Only these desires are provided by nature and they teach him the concept of desire. Everything else from then on proceeds from his mind, from the standards and conclusions accepted by his mind and it goes to satisfy his mind—for example, his first toys. (Perhaps sex is the one field that unites the needs of mind and body, with the mind determining the desire and the body providing the means of expressing it. But the sex act itself is only that—an expression. The essence is mental, or spiritual.)" [The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952."]
Rand correctly uses the term "emotions" to cover all "feelings," both those which are responses to the content of consciousness like joy or anxiety, as well as the desires and passions, as they are felt, such as affection and sexual desire. All emotions and desires must be developed—none are given—none are provided by evolution, genetics, pre-natal experiences, or environmental influences.
"Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are "tabula rasa." It is man's cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both." [The Virtue of Selfishness, "The Objectivist Ethics."]
According Rand's Objectivism, all our desires and feelings, including our sexual desires, are all developed by how we use our minds, by the principles and values we hold and in terms or our understanding of the nature of the world and our own natures. [And note Rand calls "sexual desire," the "sex emotions."]
"I believe that our mind controls everything—yes, even our sex emotions. Perhaps the sex emotions more than anything else. Although that's the opposite of what most people believe. Everything we do and are proceeds from our mind. Our mind can be made to control everything. The trouble is only that most of us don't want our minds to control us—because it is not an easy job.
"So they drift and let chance and other people and their own subconscious decide for them. I believe firmly that everything in a man's life is subject to his mind's control—and that his greatest tragedies are from the fact that he willfully suspends that control." [The Letter of Ayn Rand, "Return To Hollywood (1944)". To Gerald Loab, August 5, 1944.]
This idea, expressed in an earlier quote, "just as with heterosexuals, presumably cannot choose whether or not upon seeing "suitable stimuli" they experience physical attraction," which I must assume by, "seeing 'suitable stimuli,'" means seeing someone of the opposite sex, implying the "attraction" (sexual desire) just happens is absurd. Human beings are not born knowing what their opposite sex is, or even what that means, or even what sex is. It all has to be learned. This idea that our sexual desires are automatic, like an animals, that somehow our bodies are responsible for our desires, and not our minds was addressed by Rand too.
"They think that your body creates a desire and makes a choice for you.... Love is blind, they say; sex is impervious to reason and mocks the power of all philosophers. But, in fact, a man's sexual choice is the result and the sum of his fundamental convictions. Tell me what a man finds sexually attractive and I will tell you his entire philosophy of life." [Atlas Shrugged, Part Two--"Chapter IV, The Sanction Of The Victim."]
It is not a man's body, but his mind that determines what he will find sexually attractive, and because most minds consist of a hodge-podge of eclectic non-concepts (like "sexual attraction" and "inborn orientation,") their sex lives are equally disastrous.
"Observe the ugly mess which most men make of their sex lives—and observe the mess of contradictions which they hold as their moral philosophy. One proceeds from the other." [Atlas Shrugged, Part Two--Chapter IV, "The Sanction Of The Victim."]
It is exactly this view of sex that virtually all self-styled Objectivists are promoting today, and all those who succumb to this perversion of the truth will be the sufferers, and what they will suffer is all the consequences that result from surrendering one's rational control of their life to their irrational desires and passions—depriving themselves of the real joy and pleasure their sexual capacity is capable of providing.
Of all people, it is those who regard themselves as Objectivists and proponents of the philosophy of Ayn Rand who would deprive men of the very moral basis for sex. In reference to the religious view that sex is evil, Rand wrote:
"The twisted element of truth here is that sex has to have a high spiritual base and source, and that without this it is an evil perversion."
[The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952."]
It is not religion, but an objective system of ethical principles that is the moral basis of sex.
"The cheap little schools of "free love" attempt to glorify sex on a silly sort of materialistic basis—simply glorifying physical joy, considering themselves 'vital as animals.' They are unable to discover a moral, spiritual premise to justify sex—so they try to enjoy it without any morality, and, of course, it doesn't work, it doesn't bring them any sort of spiritual happiness, and not even much satisfaction."
[The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952."]
Perhaps in Edwin Locke's version of Objectivism sex is not a moral issue, but in Ayn Rand's version of Objectivism it is a profoundly moral issue, and outside of the moral principles a sound and rational sexuality is based on, sex will be a source of profound unhappiness and trouble and not the reinforcing pleasure and joy it ought to be.
Psychological Flaws, Corruptions, Errors, and Wrong Premises
Those who reject Rand's view of sex, particularly her view of homosexuality attempt to dismiss her views as some kind of personal aversion rather than a reasoned objective opinion. That dismissal has been put over because most people do not understand the objective basis for Rand's view, though she expressed it specifically.
It is obvious she regarded the view that human desires have any other source other than the mind as a "psychological flaw." To view sex as merely an animal desire produced by the body, and the gratification of that desire without moral significance is a, "corruption." To believe sexual desire just exists without reason or purpose, is a profound, "error." The premise that any human desires are preprogrammed or inborn is a, "wrong premise."
I've only provided what Rand herself believed is the Objectivist view of sex and sexual desire. Those who call themselves Objectivists do not have to agree with Rand, of course, but there is something immoral about promoting oneself and what one teaches as Rand's Objectivism while contradicting the very foundations of her philosophy of ethics.
The issue is not homosexuality, which is just one example of the many different mistaken choices people make about how to live their lives. Promoting homosexuality as normal and moral is also not the issue, though it is immoral and flies in the face of everything Rand's Objectivism teaches.
The issue is for individuals who have been mislead by the obfuscation of objective principles that no one needs to be the slave of their feelings, driven by desires they neither know the cause of or reason for; no one needs to be robbed of the choice to determine what their life will be, both long-term and short-term, determined by their own objective choice.
That is the real issue. It is a matter of individual choice and liberty. An individual's life is either under the control of their own mind and rational choice or they are the slave of their subjective desires. Whether one thinks, as one quoted writer does; "I suspect that homosexuality usually results from a confluence of genetics, environmental factors, and conscious choice;" anyone who bases their choices on what they only "suspect" might be the cause of the desires and feeling, has surrendered their rational will to irrational desires. It does not matter whether the issue is sex, or any other aspect of one's life, to the extent they act on desires they do not know the source or cause of, their life will be out of control, and the consequences disastrous.
"A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand. In appraising a situation, he knows why he reacts as he does and whether he is right. ... If a man takes his emotions as the cause and his mind as their passive effect, if he is guided by his emotions and uses his mind only to rationalize or justify them somehow—then he is acting immorally, he is condemning himself to misery, failure, defeat, and he will achieve nothing but destruction—his own and that of others." ["Playboy's interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, page 6.]
"Sexual attraction," and "sexual orientation," are nothing but "desires whose source, nature and meaning one does not know. One whose life is guided by such desires, rather than reason, Rand describes as a mindless robot:
"Emotions are not tools of cognition; to be guided by whims—by desires whose source, nature and meaning one does not know—is to turn oneself into a blind robot, operated by unknowable demons (by one's stale evasions), a robot knocking its stagnant brains out against the walls of reality which it refuses to see." [The Virtue of Selfishness, "1. The Objectivist Ethics"]
Objectivism is a philosophy of individual liberty, but those who call themselves Objectivists today are propagators of a philosophy of enslavement, not of men enslaved by other men, but of individuals enslaved by their own irrational desires and mindless passions.
Moral values, which philosophically are the priciples of ethics, are not social principles.
The purpose of ethics in philosophy is to discover and identify the fundamental principles of right and wrong in thought and action. The objective of those principles is the success and happiness of the individual as a human being, as Ayn Rand wrote:
"The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." [For the New Intellectual, "Galt's Speech from Atlas Shrugged," page 123]
How others live their lives, practically or morally, is no one elses business. Those who use morality, or any other standards of value, to judge others, condemn others, repudiate them or as an excuse to interfere in their lives in any way is itself a grave immorality.
So long as an individual does not forceably interfere in anyone else's life, how they choose to live their life is their own private business, so long as they choose to keep it private.
This does not mean that anyone is required to approve of the behavior of anyone who publicly displays or practices that which is contrary to one's own values. One may choose to be a drunkard in the privacy of one's home, or even in places where it is socially tolerated, such as bars and back alleys. That is no one else's business. No private business or individual is required to tolerate such behavior on their own property, however, and no one is required to approve or excuse such behavior under any circumstance.