Rebirth of Reason


Response to Regi Firehammer's Response to Chris Sciabarra's "In Praise of Hijacking"
by Barbara Branden

Regi, I hardly know where to start to specify my disagreements with you. To go into detail about all of them is impossible here, but I'll indicate a few.

You state that Objectivism is "a specific contribution made by a single individual who gave her contribution the name Objectivism." Not quite. One problem you must deal with is that Ayn Rand disagreed with you. During the life of NBI, courses were written and presented by Nathaniel, with Rand's explicit sanction, on such subjects as "Objectivist Psychology." I wrote and delivered lectures on what I considered calling "Objectivist Psycho-Epistemology." Rand specifically stated that Nathaniel's work on psychology, published in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist, was fully consistent with Objectivism. She often said, privately and publicly, that he understood much more about psychology than she did, that she was learning it from him. (So much for his "psychobabble.") Clearly, Rand did not believe that only she could contribute to Objectivism. Of course this does not mean that the fundamentals of Objectivism can be changed; however, it does mean that extended applications and implications and additional theories by other people are possible.

You wrote: "Is Objectivism open to analysis, interpretation, and change? Of course it is, as a contribution to philosophy, because philosophy is open-ended. It is a mistake to call such interpretations or changes Objectivism, however. If just anything related to Ayn Rand's philosophy, with this taken out, and this added in, and this other aspect changed, are all called Objectivism, the word Objectivism ceases to identify anything."

Of course the term Objectivism must refer to very specific philosophical principles. I don't believe that anyone ever has denied that, which is why we all speak of the absolutism of reason, the existence of an objective reality, the morality of self-interest, etc., as being the fundamental principles of Objectivism. But what if we find a mistake in a collateral theory that Rand taught? What if her concept of the abnormality of homosexuality were scientifically demonstrated to be invalid? Surely this, or another such mistake, would not mean that we'd have to jettison the whole of Objectivism. Rand held certain personal convictions that were not logically derivable from her first principles.

You wrote that: "Her statement, 'homosexuality' is a manifestation of psychological "flaws, corruptions, errors, [and] unfortunate premises," is hardly the way one expresses one's personal taste; it is the way one expresses an objective evaluation." Yes, it is the way one should only express an objective evaluation. However, It is a fact that Rand had no basis on which to make such a statement. She had never read anything about homosexuality, she had no familiarity whatever with the scientific findings about it, she had never questioned a homosexual acquaintance about it, she had only a feeling of repugnance (probably instilled by her rather traditional Russian background) toward the phenomenon. At the risk of shocking and outraging whatever true believers there may be among you, even Ayn Rand could make a mistake, and could sometimes allow her emotions to lead her to conclusions that her reason had not sanctioned.

Further, she agreed with Nathaniel's concept of repression -- which he essentially formulated in The Objectivist in preparation for his book "The Psychology of Self Esteem"; she discussed it often with Nathaniel, with me, and with other friends. I have papers she wrote to clarify certain terminology in her own mind, and these papers contain psychological diagnoses of people she knew as "repressed." She also agreed that the subconscious serves as an integrating mechanism, and referred to it as such in her own writing (See the term "Subconscious" in "The Ayn Rand Lexicon") -- despite it being "one more of the whacky ideas foisted on the field of psychology by the Freuds, Sigmund and Anna."

You wrote: "'Repression is ... a subconscious mental process' - that is the reason I would never quote Nathaniel Branden. The only mental processes I am concerned with are conscious ones and those under our control. The only repression I talk about is the intentional repression of those desires we objectively determine are contrary to our self interest. If a repression, or anything else, is going on outside or under (sub) our consciousness, it is outside the province of our volitional control."

Regi, I think you do not understand the meaning of the subconscious or of "a subconscious mental process." It refers, in effect, to the integrating functions of the mind. The subconscious contains an endless number of integrations and other material which at any given moment are not present in the conscious mind, but which under certain circumstances are available when and as needed. For example, when you were writing your article, not every word you would use was present in your consciousness, nor even every argument; the words and ideas you required, and the connections among the ideas, were fed from your subconscious as as you thought and worked.

You wrote: "Those defending homosexuality emphasize the integration of mind and body and, 'repudiate any reason/passion dichotomy.' But they seem to think whatever passions one has are automatically integrated with their mind, without thought or analysis. How? As Ayn Rand would say, 'blank-out.'"

Regi, how did you discover that you were heterosexual? Was it not because you began to feel certain physical desires, and a sexual attraction to particular girls?? Was it not your emotions that told you that you were heterosexual? You did not sit and figure out that "normalcy" requires it, that it was " appropriate to the body and its organs, determined by the requirements of their nature, that is, their identity." You were guided in your choices by your emotions. And is this not precisely what happens with homosexuals? They do not decide that they will deliberately defy reason by sexually desiring only members of their own sex; they do not decide that they want to be abnormal and therefore they will choose a sexual path that is inapproopriate to the body and its organs. They functioned precisely as you did. Just as you did not choose to be heterosexual, they did not choose to be homosexual. Just as you discovered that you were heterosexual, so they discovered that they were homosexual. Are they supposed to spend the rest of their lives apologizing for it and repressing it? Discovering that you had the desires of a heterosexual, you then proceeded to act in accordance with what you experienced as your sexual nature, just as a homosexual acts in accordance with what he expreriences as his sexual nature.

You wrote: "Sex just happens to be the means of reproduction with which human beings are endowed, just as eating is the means of nourishment with which humans beings are endowed." Yes, and if God had intended man to fly, he would have given him wings.

Thaaaaats all for now folks!

Sanctions: 29Sanctions: 29Sanctions: 29 Sanction this ArticleEditMark as your favorite article

Discuss this Article (41 messages)