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skyscraper

I have found that many Oists to be excessively negative

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Hello,

this is my first post on this forum, although I have been lurking for a while.

This is an interesting topic about happiness and Objectivism, because on the whole I have found that many Oists to be excessively negative. It is this excessive negativity that caused me to cancel my subscription to The Intellectual Activist. I don't know if this is due to the disillusionment many find with the world because most of the world is in conflict with Rand and her philosophy, but has anyone else noticed this? Can anyone address this?

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I have found that many Oists to be excessively negative ... I don't know if this is due to the disillusionment many find with the world because most of the world is in conflict with Rand and her philosophy, but has anyone else noticed this? Can anyone address this?

I haven't noticed this. Objectivists are generally the happiest people I know.

If by "negative" you mean we point out irrational and evil people, then you should understand that that's only a part of identifying your enemy when you're fighting a cultural war.

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I haven't noticed this. Objectivists are generally the happiest people I know.

If by "negative" you mean we point out irrational and evil people, then you should understand that that's only a part of identifying your enemy when you're fighting a cultural war.

Yes, that's it. This attitude of "identifying enemies" and "fighting a war" is what is excessively negative. How can you be fighting a war and still be happy?

I thought Oism was not about doing battle but about living your own life in a rational way. Fighting this "cultural war" as you call it implies that others who live irrationally can somehow stop you from doing this and must therefore be fought and stopped. We know that irrational people cannot stop rational people, they only act toward their own destruction.

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Yes, that's it. This attitude of "identifying enemies" and "fighting a war" is what is excessively negative. How can you be fighting a war and still be happy?

In between battles I have lots of sex with my girlfriend.

I thought Oism was not about doing battle but about living your own life in a rational way.

It is rational to defend yourself against your attackers.

Fighting this "cultural war" as you call it implies that others who live irrationally can somehow stop you from doing this and must therefore be fought and stopped. We know that irrational people cannot stop rational people, they only act toward their own destruction.

That's not true. Have you heard of a concept called "force?" Force is what irrational people use to stop and destroy rational people.

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Fighting this "cultural war" as you call it implies that others who live irrationally can somehow stop you from doing this and must therefore be fought and stopped. We know that irrational people cannot stop rational people, they only act toward their own destruction.

No. It implies that our own lives can be enriched and improved by having more rational people around us to trade with -- and to accomplish that, we have to show them rather explicitly how they are being irrational.

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There's nothing wrong with being angry at the state of the world, as long as that does not ordinarily dominate your life. It's the same for most "negative" emotions: sadness, worry, loneliness and so on. Similarly, it is not second-handed to be happy when someone understands and acknowledges one's virtues, as long as you are not doing things for approval.

Mary Ann Sures, in the book "Facets of Ayn Rand" says of Miss Rand: "When she died, someone made the following comment: now anger has gone out of the world. And I thought, it's true, and it's the world's loss, and mine."

On the other hand, I think it was Dr. Peikoff who said how, after an evening where the conversation had been dominated by negatives (e.g. the bad state of the world), Ayn Rand would often not want to close on that note. Instead, she would want to change the topic to something of value: to end the evening on a positive note. [if someone could provide a reference to this comment, I'd appreciate it.]

It is not surprising that students of Objectivism are angry at the state of the world and at the things they have been taught all their lives. Also, it is not surprising for some to wonder: can I practice a philosophy that is so radically different, without being in constant battle with people around me?

From what I've seen, for serious Objectivists the negatives only "go down so far". They realize that it is their life that is primary, and they must figure out how to make the most of it.

In a 1997 Objectivist conference, there was a panel discussion about the economy. A question about the practicality of Objectivism was put to John Allison. As a CEO of a company with a market cap of over $ 20 billion, he is an imminently practical man. Here is what he said:

"I sense that a lot of Objectivists view their belief in Objectivism almost as a burden."

He then comments that one might be able to make such a case if one were choosing to be an evangelist for Objectivism or if one were entering academia, though he believes it is exaggerated in those contexts too. Then, he said this:

"I think in business it is a huge advantage... when you make logical decisions...you have a huge competitive advantage." (Emphasis in original)

[source: "The State of the Economy: A Panel Discussion" - Allison, Brook & Salsman]

In summary: feel the occasional negative; then, get over it... and put the huge competitive advantages to work.

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Skyscraper wrote: "...This attitude of "identifying enemies" and "fighting a war" is what is excessively negative."

By what standard is this "negativity" excessive? Is there some level at which we should resist, say, Islamic mass murderers, but another level beyond which is "excessive"?

Also, The Intellectual Activist is a magazine explicitly dedicated primarily to political issues, which, given the present state of our government, will largely focus on criticism. Did you subscribe to The Intellectual Activist with the impression that it was dedicated to psychology and self-affirmation?

Skyscraper continues: "How can you be fighting a war and still be happy?"

I would answer: the same way anybody can face and overcome obstacles and remain happy. Life is not the Garden of Eden; there are obstacles to be overcome. To expect that surmounting obstacles is a barrier to happiness, is to employ a metaphysical premise that is the polar opposite of Objectivism. It is no wonder that, with this premise, you see Objectivism as "excessively negative". Objectivsm is not escapism.

In my experience, most Objectivists strike me as very happy people. I don't think this is an abberation -- I don't hang out with some odd subcateogry of Objectivists. When I attended the Objectivist Conference in Wintergreen last year, for example, the entire atmosphere seemed very benevolent, very relaxed. Smiles were the norm.

The Objectivists I know are very benevolent people. Funny people. Passionate people. The funniest person I know is an Objectivist. I'd trust my Objectivist friends with my life (if I had to, which I don't, thank you).

I am not making these points to be combative with the contrary observations here. I just don't understand them. Not at all.

I remember quite clearly finishing reading "The Virtue of Selfishness" 19 years ago. I was elated. I felt a lightness. A surge of joy that accompanied my new knowledge. I cannot remotely relate to those who say their impression upon reading Rand was one of anxiety or negativity.

A request: could those posters who have expressed their experiences of negativity please expand a little more, with some details? What specific passages made you feel hopeless or anxious?

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Yes, that's it. This attitude of "identifying enemies" and "fighting a war" is what is excessively negative. How can you be fighting a war and still be happy?

I thought Oism was not about doing battle but about living your own life in a rational way.

Objectivism doesn't, in itself, guarantee one's happiness.

It is up to each individual to pursue his/her own happiness as he/she thinks is fit.

Fighting this "cultural war" as you call it implies that others who live irrationally can somehow stop you from doing this and must therefore be fought and stopped. We know that irrational people cannot stop rational people, they only act toward their own destruction.

Such challenges exist in reality. They do not, in themselves, mean that they cause one to be unhappy.

In my opinion, ideological battles can be "fought" and won without the firing of one shot, without the use of force. As long as each one of us realizes that we each have volition, at least in the free world, then we can choose NOT to follow those who attempt to persuade us with irrationalities.

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I think it is important to distinguish between being negative and being realistic. It is a fact that many aspect of today's world are in need of improvement. I don't think Objectivists are negative people, rather, I think you are mistaking as combativeness or negativity an intense desire to improve the world.

For example, on tax day, should one smile happily as he writes 30% of his income as a check to the government, which in turn doles it out to whatever pressure groups can get the most votes? No, I think that one should properly be quite angry at this situation and wish to change it for the better. This is not pessimism, but a desire to improve one's life. And doing "battle" is not some psychological fixation, but a requirement that the situation dictates.

Suppose you decide, "I'm not going to 'war', I will just turn the other cheek and try to be as happy as I can." Do you think this strategy really result in happiness long term, or is it a pragmatic approach that will lead to more misery down the road?

Objectivism, with its stress on the long term confronting reality, stresses that the second result will occur. But Objectivists, unlike others who simply grin and bear it, have a distinct advantage: we know we can change things for the better, and this sense of efficacy leads to incomparable levels of happiness compared to others.

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Skyscraper said: "I didn't say Objectivism is excessively negative, I said Objectivists were."

True enough. My mistake.

That said, if you are really finding many of them excessively negative, you might just want to shop around a bit -- all the Objectivists that I know are benevolent and optimistic.

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Fighting this "cultural war" as you call it implies that others who live irrationally can somehow stop you from doing this and must therefore be fought and stopped. We know that irrational people cannot stop rational people, they only act toward their own destruction.

That is why Rand created Galt's Gulch in Atlas Shrugged - they weren't able to deal with the world.

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Hello,

this is my first post on this forum, although I have been lurking for a while.

This is an interesting topic about happiness and Objectivism, because on the whole I have found that many Oists to be excessively negative. It is this excessive negativity that caused me to cancel my subscription to The Intellectual Activist. I don't know if this is due to the disillusionment many find with the world because most of the world is in conflict with Rand and her philosophy, but has anyone else noticed this? Can anyone address this?

Actually I've noticed that a lot of people that are unhappy are drawn to Objectivism because they think it will make them happy, or they hope it will help them become happier. Sometimes it does. Do you have some philosophy that will make people even happier? Then tell us about it! (It better not involve hitting yourself in the head with a big rubber ball like in 'I Heart Huckabees').

...Ditto on the 'sex with the girlfriend' thing that MasterSwig said.

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Actually I've noticed that a lot of people that are unhappy are drawn to Objectivism because they think it will make them happy, or they hope it will help them become happier.  Sometimes it does.

I can relate to this. My first really personal experience that drove home the principles of Objectivism was in realizing that, in order to be happy, I would have to do some really unpleasant stuff, re-evaluate my values, my methods of thinking, my structure of concepts, and all the stupid crap I'd done in my life. It was no fun! I was miserable! Every time I make a mistake and have to re-evaluate, that's no fun either!

However, I'm much happier now than I was before! Objectivism didn't make me happy . . . it told me how to make myself happy. And even though recognizing one's faults is really, really unpleasant, knowing that you can fix them is really, really wonderful.

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Skyscraper, it would be very interesting, if only for narrative value, to hear your specific story. What exactly happened? What arguments did they use? What were you defending? Was there a scene? Did you get revenge? Did hilarity ensue? And so on...

Otherwise, it's not clear what you are talking about.

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