Let's suppose a person has done something that he or she knows to be wrong, immoral, unjust, or unreasonable: instead of acknowledging the wrong, instead of simply regretting the action and then seeking, compassionately, to understand why the action was taken and asking where was I coming from? and what need was I trying in my own twisted way to satisfy? — instead of asking such questions, the person is encouraged to brand the behavior as evil and is given no useful advice on where to go from there. You don't teach people to be moral by teaching them self-contempt as a virtue.
. . .Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, [Rand] says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt. You do not make people better by telling them they are despicable. It just doesn't work. It doesn't work when religion tries it and it doesn't work when objectivism tries it.
The great, glaring gap in just about all ethical systems of which I have knowledge, even when many of the particular values and virtues they advocate may be laudable, is the absence of a technology to assist people in getting there, an effective means for acquiring these values and virtues, a realistic path people can follow. That is the great missing step in most religions and philosophies. And this is where psychology comes in: One of the tasks of psychology is to provide a technology for facilitating the process of becoming a rational, moral human being.
You can tell people that it's a virtue to be rational, productive, or just, but, if they have not already arrived at that stage of awareness and development on their own, objectivism does not tell them how to get there. It does tell you you're rotten if you fail to get there.
Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand
And then there is Peikoff. . .
Question: What does it it mean to forgive, and how does one get there?
I looked up “forgiving” in the dictionary and here is what it says: to grant free pardon for an offense. In other words, someone did something wrong, and you take the attitude that well, it's in the past, I have no negative feelings. As far as I am concerned, morally it didn't happen. I certainly think that for lesser things, this is possible. As long as it doesn't imply something evil in the person and it's not something major. For example, someone told me a secret and I inadvertently told the wrong person. The person was annoyed but they let it go. They decided it wasn't deliberate. It wasn’t a major thing and the person didn't think I was evil. So I asked the person if they would forgive me and they said yes.
But if we are talking about a big event and especially something that involves evil, then to forgive is to give a license to evil. The idea of forgiving your enemy is possible only if you want to sacrifice your values. If you think life is worth throwing away, which is what the Christians did when they started preaching that. One of the worst evils of Christianity is this idea of forgive your enemy. To turn the other cheek is a license to corruption. It makes a virtue of sanctioning evil. You can't have a more corrupt morality than that. That's what I think about the Sermon on the Mount. It amounts to: don't judge evil and don't protest what it does to the good. You can't beat that for moral corruption. The Bible has more things in it that are more corrupt than just about anything else. Or as corrupt for sure as anywhere else.
Some might argue that it is wrong to deal with other people as if one is a psychologist, and therefore Peikoff’s position is correct. It is not your place to teach people how to be moral. There is some validity to that position, at least in the context of people you don’t care about. But look again at the question that was posed: What does it it mean to forgive, and how does one get there? The questioner obviously wants to know if there is a way for a person to earn forgiveness. Branden says yes—if you care about the person, you try to understand where they were coming from, and then help them to see that what they did was immoral, because very often they do not see it.
You do not have to be a psychologist to show someone you care about why what they did was wrong, and then give them a chance to earn redemption by correcting their behavior.
Peikoff’s answer to the question “how does one do it?” is that you don’t. He clearly implies that, when it comes to evil, there is no such thing as forgiveness or redemption. To forgive is to sanction and encourage corruption. Banish the person to social Siberia. Period. End of story.
Then Peikoff wonders why more people don’t flock to the Objectivist cause, and blames “tolerationists” like Branden for subverting the concept of objective moral judgment.
Could there be a more vivid way of illustrating the stark contrast between "open" and "closed" Objectivism?