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Objectivist Sexuality: Amber Pawlik's book

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I was wondering if anyone has heard about or read Amber Pawlik's book, Objectivist Sexuality. I'm seriously thinking of buying it. This is the site:

http://www.amberpawlik.com/ObjectivistSexuality.html

You can find some of that book on the site, I haven't read all of this, just a little:

The Foundation of Objectivist Sexuality:

http://www.amberpawlik.com/ObjectivistSexuality-1.html

Here is another, The Roots of Gender:

http://www.amberpawlik.com/Gender.html

Here is another chapter on the site that deals with the assault masculinity:

http://www.amberpawlik.com/Masculinity.html

Edited by intellectualammo

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I read the excerpts from Pawlik’s website, and she appears to be writing from an ortho Objectivist perspective, which means she feels the need to ignore the excellent work done by Nathaniel Branden in this area.  Writing a book on ‘Objectivist sexuality’ while ignoring Branden’s book, The Psychology of Romantic Love, is just silly.  It’s like theorizing about the nature of sense perception while ignoring Kelley’s brilliant work, The Evidence of the Senses.

 

One obvious mistake Pawlik makes is to define masculinity in terms of “strength, efficacy, competence and ability.”  Those are not distinctively masculine traits.  They are admirable human virtues that apply to both men and women.  Both femininity and masculinity should be strictly defined within a sexual context.  Pawlik correctly defines femininity in terms of embracing and enjoying the feminine role in sex. 

 

Similarly, masculinity should be properly viewed in terms of a man’s enjoyment of the male function in sex—i.e., self-assertiveness in the role of the sexual partner who, by nature’s design, necessarily assumes a strong measure of control in bed. If the man isn’t interested, sex doesn’t happen, so what the man wants to do tends to take precedence. Pawlik’s emphasis on the man’s biological role as the partner who inseminates the woman gives far too much weight to the procreative aspects of sex.  I think that amounts to definition by nonessentials.

 

Pawlik, again writing from an ortho Objectivist perspective, adopts Ayn Rand’s viewpoint in saying that a truly feminine woman should be a “hero-worshipper.”  I’m sure I don’t need to explain that a great many Objectivist women reject that premise.  It is Rand's personal perspective and one that I have always found rather appealing, but it is anything but ‘scientific.’

 

In addition, I did not see any mention of the crucially important Visibility Principle anywhere in the outline for her book. This is the foundation for Branden’s theory on the nature of romantic love.  It was also endorsed by Rand while they were co-editors of The Objectivist.  Pawlik does have a chapter on the importance of shared values to enduring relationships (“Values, Not Views, Create Love”), so it’s possible that she does discuss that issue somewhere in her book.  If she doesn’t, it is a glaring omission.

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I don't like the term ortho Objectivism.

I have wanted to read Brandens book on romantic love. The visibility principle was addressed in The Selfish Path to Romance by Kenner and Locke. I just bought Pawlik's book, did a quick search, it's not included. It may be outside the scope of the book. I will read this work of hers, but it's going to be a little while before I do. She does seems to hold Rands view on femininity and masculinity, but expands a bit, and only disagrees with the comment Rand made on a woman President to a certain extent, saying the woman could still look up to her husband. I'll talk more about the work whenever I get to it.

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From the first paragraphs of "The Roots of Gender" linked above:

 

Being male or female is the biological sex of a person. It is their physical, bodily nature. Being masculine or feminine is the gender of a person. It is an act of choice—the way a person behaves. The current cultural mantra is that these two, gender and sex, are unrelated to each other. Men, they say, can be feminine, masculine, or both; and women can be feminine, masculine, or both. This is the subjectivist definition of gender, i.e., that it is up to either sex’s arbitrary choice.

 

By definition, the subjectivist view on gender is illogical. If any so-called feminine trait can rationally exist in a man, it is, by definition, not a feminine trait. The same is true in reverse: if any so-called masculine trait can rationally exist in a woman, it is, by definition, not a masculine trait. This is not to say that if a woman so chooses to adopt a trait, it is by definition feminine or vice versa, but if that trait can appropriately and rationally exist in her, it is not a masculine trait.

 

She is awful certain of "appropriate" and "rational" gender traits in men and women. Comparing a more masculine lesbian to a more feminine gay man pretty much throws the wrench in her subjective/objective rational/irrational gender behavior theory -- what I would instead call "describing plain old personality traits."

 

As far as I know, there is nothing but general observation and anecdotal evidence which doesn't come close to a comprehensive theory on the style in which people behave. Obviously there are some general things we can observe about sexuality and gender among men and women, but to start throwing about "irrational" and "the choice is theirs"... no. When did I choose my sense of humor? Sexual preferences? Way in which I walk? Interest in music? Etc. Why do Objectivists pronounce moral judgements against these things, with basically nothing to back it up?

 

Needless to say, I wouldn't buy her book.

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Dennis, I don't think she made a mistake with how she defined masculinity:

Men, who do not carry the “burden” of childbearing, are designed for one purpose: mastering reality. Men’s bodies are taller, bigger, and more muscular than a woman’s. They have less body fat, a higher center of gravity, and broader shoulders. Their entire design has one central purpose: efficacy.

Women’s bodies, on the other hand, are not designed solely for efficacy. A woman’s body is smaller, shorter, and less muscular than a man’s. It has a layer of body fat to protect her and a lower center of gravity. She has supple breasts, wide hips, and monthly periods. The central design of a woman’s body is not efficacy: it is child bearing.

What she did was how I started with in the Objectivism and Homosexuality thread:

Man is Man

A woman is a woman

A man is a man

While both are human beings (as in Man), they are different biologically. One is a man(male), one is woman(female).

Then she goes to: A woman is a child bearer, man is not, as he is the sex capable of fertilizing her . Then builds upon that to masculinity and femininity and hero worship. So it goes from the biological basis to the conceptual. I think she is able to keep what she said tied to reality and not having it floating like rationalism. Now, she has a chapter on homosexuality that I am dying to read, and may just have to take a peek at it.

Edited by intellectualammo

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Then she goes to: A woman is a child bearer, man is not, as he is the sex capable of fertilizing her . Then builds upon that to masculinity and femininity and hero worship. So it goes from the biological basis to the conceptual. I think she is able to keep what she said tied to reality and not having it floating like rationalism. Now, she has a chapter on homosexuality that I am dying to read, and may just have to take a peek at it.

 

Picking one concrete difference between men and women and extrapolating one's entire theory of masculinity and femininity from that is not a good example of keeping one's ideas tied to reality.  This requires taking all facts into account, periodically checking and rechecking one's conclusions against these facts again and again.  Without that, floating rationalism is exactly what it is.

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Dennis, I don't think she made a mistake with how she defined masculinity:What she did was how I started with in the Objectivism and Homosexuality thread:

Man is Man

A woman is a woman

A man is a man

While both are human beings (as in Man), they are different biologically. One is a man(male), one is woman(female).

Then she goes to: A woman is a child bearer, man is not, as he is the sex capable of fertilizing her . Then builds upon that to masculinity and femininity and hero worship. So it goes from the biological basis to the conceptual. I think she is able to keep what she said tied to reality and not having it floating like rationalism. Now, she has a chapter on homosexuality that I am dying to read, and may just have to take a peek at it.

 

We seem to have a difference of opinion with respect to the meanings of the terms masculinity and femininity.  One dictionary defines masculinity as “a set of qualities, characteristics or roles generally considered typical of, or appropriate to, a man.”  Femininity would obviously be defined in terms of qualities, characteristics or roles generally considered typical of, or appropriate to, a woman. 

 

The problem is that, for those terms to have any validity at all, the defining qualities would need to be distinctive for a particular gender, and a quality like efficacy is obviously not distinctive for man since it is appropriate for both sexes.  All human beings need to be efficacious.  All human beings need to have self-confidence.  All human beings need to have a capacity for self-assertiveness and aggressiveness, when necessary.

 

If we define the terms with respect to traditional roles, the terms cease to be complimentary.  You might as well say the person is a conventional man or woman.

 

I don’t see how reproductive biology can lead us to psychological traits that are sexually distinctive.  The only way I know how to make sense out of the terms is to define them from the perspective of man-woman relationships.  In my view, the terms are not even applicable outside that context.  This carries the unfortunate implication that the terms do not apply to someone who is gay.  I do not know how to avoid that implication.  However, if we keep in mind that the terms only have meaning in a strictly delimited context, I think we can avoid any negative or pejorative implications. 

 

Otherwise, I think we would just have to say that the terms have more than one meaning.  We could use the terms masculine and feminine to simply designate a self-confident member of either sex, although, once again, the terms would lose any distinctive meaning.  Or perhaps we could simply use the terms to refer to someone who enjoys and embraces his/her manhood or womanhood.

 

Here is how Nathaniel Branden described masculinity and femininity in The Psychology of Self-Esteem:

 

The difference in the male and female sex roles proceeds from differences in man’s and woman’s respective anatomy and physiology.  Physically, man is the bigger and stronger of the two sexes; his system produces and uses more energy; and he tends (for physiological reasons) to be more physically active.  Sexually, his is the more active and dominant role; he has the greater measure of control over his own pleasure and that of his partner; it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated (with everything this entails, physically and psychologically).  While a healthy aggressiveness and self-assertiveness is proper and desirable for both sexes, man experiences the essence of his masculinity in the act of romantic dominance; woman experiences the essence of her femininity in the act of romantic surrender.

 

I very much like what Branden says here, but I am not sure he would stand by those words today.  In his later book, The Psychology of Romantic Love, he had a very different take on this topic.  He said simply that masculinity and femininity amounted to the expression of a man or woman’s belief that the creation of the opposite sex was the “best idea nature ever had.”  He also spoke of the “biological forces deep within our organism that speak to us in a wordless language we have barely begun to decipher.” 

 

In other words, from Branden’s educated viewpoint, the science of psychology had not yet advanced to the stage where a clear understanding of these terms was possible.

 

In this case, I much prefer the old Branden.

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And ...

Rationalism is Rationalism.

QED

Over the weekend I finished reading Understanding Objectivism and I understand rationalism better than I ever did before. How the is sex differentiation rationalism? Do you think that a man and a woman are bogus concepts or something? How are they floating? They are based upon observation. Edited by intellectualammo

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How the is sex differentiation rationalism? Do you think that a man and a woman are bogus concepts or something? How are they floating? They are based upon observation.

"Sex discrimination"? Where did that come from? Do male homosexuals claim to be female? The distinction of male and female is a question for biology. From biology, we know that it is a question of chromosomes (XX versus XY). Also, male and female do not exhaust the universe of possibilities. There are also hermaphrodites.

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A lot of the confusion about sex and sex roles and relationships, and other topics, it seems to me, sprout from a misunderstanding of the answer to the is-ought problem. I think, but I'm not sure yet, that even Rand herself later may have held a confused and incorrect view on how the is-ought question is properly answered, even though I find that what is written in TOE is clear enough and perfectly correct.

A lot of objectivists seem to hold that an "is" directly constitutes an "ought." It is for that reason that some objectivists will say, "A man is physiologically this way with a penis that penetrates, sex happens physiologically this way with the man doing the penetrating, and therefore a moral principle "ought" to be this way, with the man taking charge and being the initiator." Or the argument may speak about a man's physical strength compared with a woman's, and moral conclusions are drawn from that. This seems to be in error according to the argument laid out by Rand in TOE, and the is-ought problem is still being committed.

She did not solve the is-ought problem by saying something like this: "Reality is objective and real, our nature as man is objective and real. Therefore, whatever our natures are, are what they are supposed to be morally speaking, and thus what nature is, is what ought to be."

(You could replace "morally speaking" with "metaphysically speaking" and the sentence would be true, but then again you're not making the connection from an is to an ought.)

That is close in some regard, but it is off on some important points.

Instead, I think she solved the is-ought problem this way:

You cannot get an "ought" from an "is." When you see a statement of fact, all it is is a statement of fact. No matter how hard you stare at it, there is no "ought" to be found. However, you do get an "ought" from an "if." Conditional statements are needed to have an "ought." For example, "if" you want to eat that apple in that tree, you "ought" to pick it off the tree. Now, carry that idea over to life itself. "If" you want to sustain life, you "ought" to do the things that sustain life, and you "ought not" do the things that fail to sustain life or endanger life.

But it is at this next point where I think Rand shines and solves the problem. While you need a conditional statement in order to have an "ought," the condition of life is already established by default for a conscious living being. You are alive; you didn't choose to be. And being a living, conscious being, you have the nature of man qua man. You feel pain as you approach the loss of life; you feel joy in a healthy life and the acts of sustaining life. So, because you are a living, conscious being, and as long as you choose to continue to live, then there are objective "oughts" related to your life established by the facts of reality and the "if" of existence so long as you continue to exist. And being a rational being with free choice (unlike plants that are not conscious and have no rationality, or animals that are conscious but live instinctively without much rational decision-making), you ought to use your rationality in your survival, because that is how man survives.

That's the answer.

But notice what the answer does not say. It does not say that any "is" of reality equals a direct "ought" of morality. It is the "is" of existence, together with the "if" of continuing to live, that creates the "oughts" that are necessary conditions for rational sustained life. But that is something different than saying that because men are bigger, or have sex a certain way, or that because the penis and sperm was designed for insemination in the vagina and egg, that there are "oughts" about those things. The facts of reality relate to morality only insofar as we understand and accept the relationship of realities have with self-interested rational life. So, the fact that the sky is gray may mean that you "ought" to protect yourself from the cold rain in order continue to survive, but the sky's grayness or blueness itself doesn't mean the sky "ought" to be gray or blue morally.

In the same way, the fact that a man is bigger than a woman, or that the penis goes into the vagina, does not mean that a man should be the ultimate leader in a relationship, or that anal sex is wrong, or that homosexual sex is wrong, if those actions have nothing to do with an individual's rational sustaining of life.

The is-ought problem still exists, and necessarily so. The ethic that exists objectively doesn't come from any and every "is" of the world, it comes from the "is" of life and the rational choices that sustain and enhance life.

Edited by secondhander

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Secondhander: Rand: The fact that a living entity is, determines what it ought to do. So much for the issue of the relation between “is” and “ought.”

Since you are Man and you want to live, you ought to live in accordance with Man's nature.

I think it is also applicable to sex. If you are a man, you ought to live life as a man; if you are a woman, you ought to live life as a woman.

Pawlik:

Femininity—the “ought” of what a woman should do—is based on the nature of a woman, i.e., what a woman is. The same is true for masculinity. Let us now do something very unpopular: define the “is” of men and women.

The nature of the woman, the reason for her existence as a woman differentiated from a man, is that she is the sex capable of child bearing. The nature of the man, his differentiation from a woman, is that he is the sex capable of fertilizing the woman.

This is not to say or even to suggest that all sexual interaction must be done with the intent to procreate. This is not to refer to the process of child making in any manner whatsoever. This is to suggest the definition of what makes a person a woman as opposed to a man. That difference, at its most fundamental level, is the woman is the child bearer and the man is not.

Men, who do not carry the “burden” of childbearing, are designed for one purpose: mastering reality. Men’s bodies are taller, bigger, and more muscular than a woman’s. They have less body fat, a higher center of gravity, and broader shoulders. Their entire design has one central purpose: efficacy.

Women’s bodies, on the other hand, are not designed solely for efficacy. A woman’s body is smaller, shorter, and less muscular than a man’s. It has a layer of body fat to protect her and a lower center of gravity. She has supple breasts, wide hips, and monthly periods. The central design of a woman’s body is not efficacy: it is child bearing.

Dennis, I also very much like the N.B.quote:

The difference in the male and female sex roles proceeds from differences in man’s and woman’s respective anatomy and physiology. Physically, man is the bigger and stronger of the two sexes; his system produces and uses more energy; and he tends (for physiological reasons) to be more physically active. Sexually, his is the more active and dominant role; he has the greater measure of control over his own pleasure and that of his partner; it is he who penetrates and the woman who is penetrated (with everything this entails, physically and psychologically). While a healthy aggressiveness and self-assertiveness is proper and desirable for both sexes, man experiences the essence of his masculinity in the act of romantic dominance; woman experiences the essence of her femininity in the act of romantic surrender.

SoftwareNerd: I have trouble trying to make out your response to me. Would you agree that there is a difference between a man and a woman? That a man is a man, and not a woman? That a leaf is a leaf, and not a stone? Edited by intellectualammo

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SoftwareNerd: I have trouble trying to make out your response to me. Would you agree that there is a difference between a man and a woman? That a man is a man, and not a woman? That a leaf is a leaf, and not a stone?

Yes, of course it is legitmate to form a concept like man to refer to those we refer to as men. The same for women. There are so many facts about these two groups of entities that are unique within the referents that it would hurt to think of them all simply as "humans". Of course, this does not apply to all contexts. There may be other contexts where it is more useful to classify humans as "caucasian" vs. "negroid" vs. "mongloid" ... for instance, when one is thinking about the probability that they have certain types of disease... and where the "man"/"woman" distinction is meaningless.

As you know from UO and IToE, these concepts are classifications we create. They are not arbitrary, but nor do they simply exist in the world... as a part of metaphysics, so to speak. Rather, we form them based on our needs and motivations. Most important of all, the way we classify referents is not going to tell us anything about those referents -- a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, if one is dispassionate about it.

Edited by softwareNerd

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JASKN,

 

May I ask you sir, if you regard yourself an Objectivist? I'm interested only because I like to know, when possible, what an individual's views are based on.

 

I ask because you asked, "When did I choose my sense of humor? Sexual preferences? Way in which I walk? Interest in music? Etc." as though you did not know the source of such things, or have any intention of discovering them. If that is the case it would seem to be in direct contradiction to Rand's views. Of course if you do not regard yourself an Objectivist, it wouldn't matter at all.

 

Thank you!

Edited by Regi F.

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you asked, "When did I choose my sense of humor? Sexual preferences? Way in which I walk? Interest in music? Etc." as though you did not know the source of such things, or have any intention of discovering them. If that is the case it would seem to be in direct contradiction to Rand's views.

Is there a particular quote or passage of Rand's that you think contradicts what I've written?

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Both femininity and masculinity should be strictly defined within a sexual context.  Pawlik correctly defines femininity in terms of embracing and enjoying the feminine role in sex. 

 

Similarly, masculinity should be properly viewed in terms of a man’s enjoyment of the male function in sex—i.e., self-assertiveness in the role of the sexual partner who, by nature’s design, necessarily assumes a strong measure of control in bed. If the man isn’t interested, sex doesn’t happen, so what the man wants to do tends to take precedence.

 

 

Thanks for your contributions to this thread, Dennis. Much in them, exactly right, I would say. However, concerning the part of your post (#2) which I have quoted above, I'd like to qualify with the following. Although femininity and masculinity can be defined within a sexual context, it does not follow that sex roles in gay relationships (I can speak only of males) need be conceived as masculine or feminine roles when thinking about the one who is top and the one who is bottom. Clearly some gays think of it that way, but this is interpretational option, which they work into turn-on. I’m not knocking that, only saying it’s optional. Now it is true—as revealed not only with regard to turn-on from control v. being controlled, but in distinct character of afterglow of one penetrated v. one who penetrated—that there are somewhat distinct characters of psychological experience of the partners in gay sex, at least in some of its forms. That difference in afterglow is only the result of the difference in the physiological difference of the two experiences (I’ve experienced both – sorry to touch on the intimacies of personal identity, but I need to in order to ground my point), and this difference has nothing to do with any wider interpretation or self-conception in terms of masculinity or feminity (or of a god and his angel or . . .) concerning what has transpired.

Edited by Boydstun

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Is there a particular quote or passage of Rand's that you think contradicts what I've written?

Yes, several. But perhaps you'd be willing to answer my question first. Do you consider yourself an Objectivist? Perhaps you are like me, a long time student and admirer of Rand, but certainly not an Objectivist. I'll gather up the quotes, since you are interessted, but only so you'll see what I mean.

 

You very well may not agree with my assessment of the quotes meaning, but at least you'll understand why I think you contradicted Rand's view.

Edited by Regi F.

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Do you consider yourself an Objectivist?

I've never seen that question lead to useful dialog on a forum; but, the point is ...

 

Though you phrase your posts as a question, it is a claim as well.

You are claiming that Rand's view is contrary to the view that a person does not "...choose [their] sense of humor? Sexual preferences? Way in which [they] walk? Interest in music? Etc."

 

Do you have some quotes or references from Rand -- or a synopsis of her position -- to substantiate your claim?

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But perhaps you'd be willing to answer my question first. Do you consider yourself an Objectivist? [...]I'll gather up the quotes, since you are interessted, but only so you'll see what I mean.

One of these things is relevant to this topic.

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JASKN, softwareNerd,
 

 

The following are the quotes I promised. I have numbered them. I included the numbers so I might comment to the quotes if requested. I'm not interested in a debate..
    
(1) The Objectivist—September 1970
1. The Objectivist Ethics

But while the standard of value operating the physical pleasure-pain mechanism of man's body is automatic and innate, determined by the nature of his body—the standard of value operating his emotional mechanism, is not. Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are "tabula rasa." It is man's cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. Man's emotional mechanism is like an electronic computer, which his mind has to program—and the programming consists of the values his mind chooses.
 
But since the work of man's mind is not automatic, his values, like all his premises, are the product either of his thinking or of his evasions: man chooses his values by a conscious process of thought—or accepts them by default, by subconscious associations, on faith, on someone's authority, by some form of social osmosis or blind imitation. Emotions are produced by man's premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.

Man has no choice about his capacity to feel that something is good for him or evil, but what he will consider good or evil, what will give him joy or pain, what he will love or hate, desire or fear, depends on his standard of value. If he chooses irrational values, he switches his emotional mechanism from the role of his guardian to the role of his destroyer. The irrational is the impossible; it is that which contradicts the facts of reality; facts cannot be altered by a wish, but they can destroy the wisher. If a man desires and pursues contradictions—if he wants to have his cake and eat it, too-he disintegrates his consciousness; he turns his inner life into a civil war of blind forces engaged in dark, incoherent, pointless, meaningless conflicts (which, incidentally, is the inner state of most people today).

(2) The Journals of Ayn Rand
"13 - Notes While Writing: 1947-1952"

Another interesting point to be noted here: man is given his entity as clay to be shaped, he is given his body, his tool (the mind) and the mechanism of consciousness (emotions, subconscious, memory) through which his mind will work. But the rest depends on him. His spirit, that is, his own essential character, must be created by him. (In this sense, it is almost as if he were born as an abstraction, with the essence and rules of that abstraction (man) to serve as his guide and standard--—but he must make himself concrete by his own effort, he must create himself.)

(3) Atlas Shrugged
Part Three / Chapter VII
"This Is John Galt Speaking"

Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man's values, it has to be earned—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character—that your character, your actions, your desires, your emotions are the products of the premises held by your mind—that as man must produce the physical values he needs to sustain his life, so he must acquire the values of character that make his life worth sustaining—that as man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul—that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man, who has no automatic values, has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational being he is born able to create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, ...

(4) The Letters of Ayn Rand
Return To Hollywood (1944)
To Gerald Loeb
August 5, 1944

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 come from the fact that he willfully suspends that control.

(5) The Journals of Ayn Rand, "13-Notes While Writing: 1947-1952"

Man exists for his own happiness, and the definition of happiness proper to a human being is: a man's happiness must be based on his moral values. It must be the highest expression of his moral values possible to him.

This is the difference between my morality and hedonism. The standard is not: "that is good which gives me pleasure, just because it gives me pleasure"...-but "that is good which is the expression of my moral values, and that gives me pleasure." Since the proper moral code is based on man's nature and his survival, and since joy is the expression of his survival, this form of happiness can have no contradiction in it, it is both "short range" and "long range" (as all of man's life has to be), and it leads to the furtherance of his life, not to his destruction.

(6) The Virtue of Selfishness, "1. The Objectivist Ethics"

"But the relationship of cause to effect cannot be reversed. It is only by accepting "man's life" as one's primary and by pursuing the rational values it requires that one can achieve happiness—not by taking "happiness" as some undefined, irreducible primary and then attempting to live by its guidance. If you achieve that which is the good by a rational standard of value, it will necessarily make you happy; but that which makes you happy, by some undefined emotional standard, is not necessarily the good. To take "whatever makes one happy" as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one's emotional whims. 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."

(7) "Playboy's interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, page 6.

"An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man's value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man's reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. 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. He has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind. This relationship cannot be reversed, however. 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."

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Ok... So, when did you choose your sense of humor?

It depends on what you are asking. If you are asking about the ability to appreciate humor, like the ability to appreciate beauty or the ability to reason, it is a natural inborn attribute. One doesn't choose that, of course. But like all other attributes, you are not born knowing how to use it.

What one will find funny depends on all they have chosen to learn, how well they have developed their ability to reason making them capable to discerning irony, understanding subtle ideas, recognizing humorous situations, but mostly how they view of reality in light of their values . Someone with shallow values and little knowledge will find the crude and crass funny, and will be incapable of appreciating the great humor of the satirists, like Twain, Shaw, Swift and Voltaire, for example.

The correct question is not, "When did you or I choose our sense of humor? Sexual preferences? Way in which we walk? Interest in music? Etc."  but what mental processes did we exercise, or evade, that resulted in what we find funny, what we sexually prefer and what music we love. Even how we walk required us to develop it. Within the scope of our physical abilities we could choose to learn to walk with poise and elegance, or stumble like careless ignorant bums. Every aspect of a human being's persona, from their character to their desires, is developed by the individual, either intentionally and by means of their best reason and effort or by default and evasion.

That is what I believe Ayn Rand clearly meant and forcefully explained. You and I don't have to agree with it, but if we are honest, I think we have to agree that is what Rand clearly said and meant.

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If I were to decide to change my sense of humor, how would I do that?

I have no idea why you, or anyone, would want to change their sense of humor. What one finds funny or humorous is determined by what their values are, what they regard as important, their ability to discern irony and contradiction, and their ability to appreciate subtleties, (which all depend on one's ability to reason), all of which depend on the depth and scope of one's knowledge.

The ignorant and shallow minded will find humor in the squalid and crass, but will never be able to appreciate the more intellectually demanding humor of the satirists like Swift, Shaw, Voltaire, or even Twain, for example. Our sense of humor does change as we mature and gain knowledge and learn to think and reason better, which is why what children find hilarious only a bores us as adults.

As Ayn Rand said, "Man has no choice about his capacity to feel that something is good for him or evil," (or funny), "but what he will consider good or evil, what will give him joy or pain, what he will love or hate, desire or fear," (or make him laugh), "depends on his standard of value," and his knowledge and ability to think, I might add.

If you know your values and beliefs have been determined by your best objective reason, not allowing feeling, sentiment, or desires to determine them and know your sense of humor derives from a fully integrated set of values and purpose, why would  you change it?

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