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Emotion Question from an Outsider

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I am not an objectivist, but I came to this site to better understand my brother who has embraced this philosophy. Even worse, I have never read Ayn Rand (I grew up around Flint, MI where reading is frowned upon), so while I expect few replies and/or vicious insults, I will hope for honest responses to these innocent questions. I am trying to understand, not argue or debate with anyone. So here they are-

Do you find life satisfying and if so what is the source of this satisfaction? Do you allow yourself to experience emotions as they come or do you inhibit them for the sake of reason and rationality? Do you value and seek joy? Can you only value it when it is self-relevant or can you feel happiness / sadness / gratitude for others without feeling like you have departed from this philosophical position?

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right? (if this has been discussed, just refer me to the post)

Plain English answers are appreciated. I promise to leave the rest of your board alone. Thanks.

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Do you find life satisfying and if so what is the source of this satisfaction?
Immensely, and for a ton of reasons. Top values: my studies in philosophy (I plan to be a professor, so this isn't just a hobby), spending time with my wonderful girlfriend, enjoying good literature/art/music, finding ways to improve myself & my life every day. And then there are all the little daily joys which I won't bother to list. Life is good.

Do you allow yourself to experience emotions as they come or do you inhibit them for the sake of reason and rationality?

Absolutely I experience emotions! Life would be meaningless and dull without them.

Do you value and seek joy?
See above.

Can you only value it when it is self-relevant or can you feel happiness / sadness / gratitude for others without feeling like you have departed from this philosophical position?

Why would there be a conflict? I value some other people: my girlfriend, my friends, my mother. If something great happens to them, it makes me happy. If something bad happens to them, I get upset/angry. It's precisely because of their value-relationship to me that I'm able to have such reactions. If somebody I don't know breaks their arm, I'll feel a little bit of sympathy just because I generally like humans and don't like to see bad things happen to them. If Osama Bin Laden breaks his arm, I'll give a standing ovation.

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right?

No, but remarkably close to it.

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Hi karkar. I think it's admirable that you're trying to understand your brother in this way.

I find life very satisfying, for many reasons. The number one reason is that I pursue values in my life for myself alone. I am not worried about pleasing a higher power or society, nor do I feel the need to credit any one else with my own successes. That means that I do what makes me happy, and I don't feel guilty for doing so. Doing so requires a great deal of personal responsibility, too. If I'm not happy, I don't blame someone else, but I also know that I can work to improve my situation.

I definitely experience emotions, to the fullest! But I don't let them rule my decisions, and if I'm feeling badly for some reason, I try to figure out what the reason is so that I can improve my mental state.

I certainly value joy in those who I care for, like my family and friends. In addition, I empathize with their sadness. This does not in any way contradict this philosophical position; I want all the people that I value to be as well-off as they can be.

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right?

What Matt said. :blink:

Also, if you really want to understand your brother more fully, I would suggest that you try to read a little something by Ayn Rand. Her novelette Anthem is very accessible and a useful introduction to the basics. It's only about 120 very short pages, and can be read in 1 to 2 days--it's even worth the time just for entertainment, it's just that good.

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Hey,

you seem to be curious about emotions

according to Ayn Rand, emotions are "a sort of sum total of ones thoughts" (From one of Ayn Rand's books "the fountainhead" if you ever got curious about Rand and wanted to pick up a book, "Anthem" is pretty short)

what this means is that

1st something happens to you (such as seeing something, or hearing words etc)

2nd you think about what happens to you

3rd you form emotions in response to what you think.

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karkar,

Not everyone has a full and complete understanding of Objectivism before they "embrace" the philosophy. They may mistakenly adopt the notion that it's proper to repress or deny their emotions since they're "irrational", or they may try to "become" a Howard Roark or Dagny Taggert (two of Rand's heroes in her novels) as an ideal path to happiness. You have recognized a change in your brother that you perhaps don't believe is a positive one, so it is possible his transition into Objectivism is not without some pitfalls. For a better perspective of how the philosophy can influence people I recommend reading Nathaniel Branden's essay "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand" at the following link: benefits/hazards

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Do you find life satisfying and if so what is the source of this satisfaction?
Incredibly satisfying---in fact, when I'm feeling like life is futile and there are too many struggles to overcome, I turn back to Rand for a sense of purpose. The source is that her work reminds me that there is always some piece of freedom to fight for and it's worth it. It reminds me of my self-worth and that other reasonable people have worth too. Life is benevolent---do you realize how few people will tell you that?

Do you allow yourself to experience emotions as they come or do you inhibit them for the sake of reason and rationality?

You don't have to inhibit emotion for the sake of reason---once you embrace reason, it becomes the cause for particular emotions. When you can deal with that, emotions no longer conflict with reason.

Do you value and seek joy?
Yes--depending on how you define joy. It's not a non-descript joy or a joy that is cause-less. Joy is that which extends man's life. Joy is finding others who wish to extend their own lives by being men. Joy is finding out that there is value in being man :pimp:

Can you only value it when it is self-relevant or can you feel happiness / sadness / gratitude for others without feeling like you have departed from this philosophical position?

Depends---If you're asking, can I feel joy when I feel like I'm contradicting being man qua man? No--not if it's something I've thought about. Can I feel happiness/ sadness/gratitude for others who bring me value to trade for my value? yes.

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right?

I have not yet found anything that I disagree with, but I have not yet read every syllable that she wrote yet, or analyzed every aspect of her life. I have done things in my own life of which I am not particularly proud, so I expect that she did and said things which aren't perfectly reasonable. That's implementation---which is important, but her philosophy is more meaningful to me.

So how did your brother find Objectivism? And how has he presented it to you? (I'm curious :D )

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Life is satisfying and it is because Rand provided a reality based system integrated in a manner which allowed the moral to be achievable.(rather than either insigificant or impossible) Value and virtue are clearly defined and hence become realizable and, well practical.

Do you allow yourself to experience emotions as they come or do you inhibit them for the sake of reason and rationality?
Objectivism rejects this reason/emotion dichotomy and I did as well even before I was into the philosophy heavily. Both sides of the dichotomy miss the point on this, one thinks of emotions as anti-rational, while the other views emotions as a method of cognition. Objectivism regards emotions not as a plague on the mind nor as a mind in itself, but an expression of an individual's values and sense of life.

Do you value and seek joy?

Not as an end in itself, but I do value it as a sense of being rewarded for something. I do not *seek* joy itself consciously, but it is certainly not something I am devoid of.

Can you only value it when it is self-relevant or can you feel happiness / sadness / gratitude for others without feeling like you have departed from this philosophical position?
See the Objectivist virtue known as justice, that is, rationality in the evaluation of man. Very simply, there are no qualms associated with admiring others or sympathizing/supporting one who has been wronged.

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right?

Not in the sense which you have formulated the question, which smacks of dogmatism. That is not the case and is counter to what Objectivism is at its core. It is a rejection of subjectivism and intrinsic theories and, as a positive, is a consistent upholding of reason as the sole source of knowledge.(rather than whim, faith, and fallacies like appeals to authority)

Having read primarly the fiction and non-fiction book publications of hers rather than her magazine works and other heresay, I can honestly say she 100% right. Not because of who she is but what and how she says/writes it.

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Apprentice - wherever you may roam, nearly everyone will tell you that man qua man is decidedly not plain English.

That's true Feldblum--sorry :dough: I probably shouldn't try to answer such questions quite so late in the day to begin with. My synapses aren't firing too well by that time of night.

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Thanks all. You’re very helpful and kind. I do know what man qua man means, so its ok :dough:

I think my brother is at the point where he wholeheartedly embraces something he doesn’t completely understand. He is the first child to go away to a ‘real college’ and this is his third year. There were always changes before that like anyone would expect from a 20 year old kid, but when he was home over his last break he was so different than even a few months ago. Change is ok, but he treated everyone like crap and that has never been his nature. He’s the baby and the sweetheart of the family. Now he appears to be a pompous asshole who acts like we are all crazy because we care about people and want to enjoy a moment for its own sake, without overanalyzing it and taking all the joy out in the process. He definitely equated emotion with irrationality and had very low tolerance for emotional displays and reactions. I have asked him to explain objectivism to me and he has called it ‘a life based on reason, not irrationality’, but that’s as far as it got. I know he has read some of her work but not sure how much and I think he gets a lot of the ideas from one class and a group of friends he met in that class (I don’t think it was an objectivism class, but a more general philosophy one). He said I need to read it, which I am sure would help, but I work and go to school so I don’t have a lot of spare time for reading outside of my own classes. I figured I would have to read a lot to get a good answer to this question, but could find out online relatively quickly by just asking people.

So here’s where I am: I think his Ayn Rand worship underlies his behavior, but that it is because of his inaccurate understanding of the philosophy and true believers do not have to be assholes or emotionless cogs (sigh of relief). However, believers do think their emotions should not guide their decision making, which is less disconcerting but still a little puzzling to me (even if I try to make a reason-based decision, I will always bias the list of pros and cons based on how I feel the decision should be made). I appreciate the reading recommendations and will definitely try that novella. I’ll check back for further enlightenment :ph34r: Thanks again.

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Do you find life satisfying and if so what is the source of this satisfaction? Do you allow yourself to experience emotions as they come or do you inhibit them for the sake of reason and rationality? Do you value and seek joy?
My life is more satisfying than I can put into words. Objectivist practices lead to such an intense feeling of pride that it brings tears to my eyes every time I really think about it. It's the most fulfilling emotion I've ever experienced: Love for MYSELF. And by this I mean a true love. Ayn Rand describes the peace of mind induced by Objectivism as a "life without fear or pain or guilt." Imagine that kind of mental/emotional freedom. It's astounding.

Do I value and seek joy? More than anything else in the world. It was when I began to truly seek my own joy that I adopted this set of beliefs. Incidentally, I came about these beliefs of my own accord, 2 or 3 years before I had ever even heard of Rand.

Can you only value it when it is self-relevant or can you feel happiness / sadness / gratitude for others without feeling like you have departed from this philosophical position?

I do have emotions in regard to others, but there's a catch. I have never experienced an emotion in regard to another who is of no value to me. I feel immense happiness for the fortunes of those whom I value, and an equal sadness for their misfortunes. Buit, quite frankly, I have no happiness/sadness/pity for those who I do not value. In this manner, emotions induced by the (mis)fortunes of others falls right in line with Objectivism.

If a person is of value to me, his/her happiness is also of value.

Secondly, is Ayn Rand always right? (if this has been discussed, just refer me to the post)

I have yet to find a person who is ALWAYS right. Each of us can operate only within the realm of his/her own experience, and it is impossible for one person to experience ALL reality. Rand must be allowed some margin of error in regard to her own perspective. There are a couple of points on which I disagree with her reasoning, but that's a whole different thread.

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karkar:

"I do know what man qua man means, so its ok"

No problem. I was just pointing out that, though you know exactly what bueno means, and even if you use it in every sentence you write, it's still not English. I'm picky like that - must be my Rational emotional problems :nerd: .

"true believers do not have to be assholes or emotionless cogs"

You just might have meant to say, "true understanders," meaning people who have read enough of Ayn Rand's ideas of how to live and how to have fun doing it. Do your brother a favor and buy him as a gift Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness. It's okay: buying your brother a gift is entirely selfish, and the reason why that's perfectly logical is already in the first essay, if you want to take a peak.

dondigitalia:

"I have yet to find a person who is ALWAYS right. Each of us can operate only within the realm of his/her own experience, and it is impossible for one person to experience ALL reality."

Meaning, of course Ayn Rand didn't know everything: she's not God. But her convictions, to my knowledge, were correct - in the context of her knowledge, because all knowledge is contextual, not absolute (did I just assert an absolute?). Ayn Rand and anyone who has an inkling of what human cognition is would agree.

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Meaning, of course Ayn Rand didn't know everything: she's not God.  But her convictions, to my knowledge, were correct - in the context of her knowledge, because all knowledge is contextual, not absolute (did I just assert an absolute?).  Ayn Rand and anyone who has an inkling of what human cognition is would agree.

That's exactly what I meant. Thanks for clarifying (I need help w/that a lot).

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I will definitely send him here, but I think I will wait until the post about him being an asshole becomes a little more dated. He knows I think he's being an asshole, but he would not appreciate me broadcasting the label to people he wants to consider his peers. Don't expect a user named karkar's_asshole_brother to pop up, but when someone obviously misguided comes on, I will count on you all to straighten him out. But play nice, I think he ultimately means well.

I am surprised how addictive the board is, there are a lot of interesting topics that you talk about here. I don't normally use chat boards so I guess I was unaware of the substance they can have. My friends would rather talk about their haircuts than these issues, so its refreshing.

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It is unfortunate that he has taken, more or less, a shortcut in the understanding of Objectivism. More than likely the bulk of his reading has been in fiction rather than the explicit and clear cut non-fiction. I think the source of his shortcut was perhaps due to a great need of his to have something or someone to look up to and that he has finally found that in the fictional charactors of Ayn Rand. I think it all just overloaded his mind.(like finally seeing through the fog, a blind person being able to see for the first time)

The good news is this is more than likely just a phase he will go through. In the meantime, I would suggest you ask about what books he read. If they are in fact, fiction, pick up a copy and read for yourself to try to understand him better. Better yet, pick up a copy of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and CHALLENGE him on the fundamental facts of Objectivism.(like asking him to define reason, emotion) :rolleyes:

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Karkar's brother:

I promise that we will not take Karkar's word for it... if you want us to believe you are an asshole, you are going to have to prove it to us yourself.

In fact, it seems to me that you are not an asshole, but merely someone who has made an easy mistake to make, and one which is entirly correctable.

There Karkar, now you can send him here.

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