Objectivist Emotional IQ

Kevin Haggerty

Recommended Posts

Objectivist Emotional IQ

Now, most people here know that I am no expert on Objectivism, but as an interested student of Objectivism I have to say that the party line on emotional reality leaves much to be desired. Here's some typical analysis of emotional reality from SOLOHQ:

Emotions are caused by one's thoughts. They are both triggered by one's thoughts and programmed by one's thoughts. The triggering is straightforward to show. Hearing the words "rape", "murder", "death", or "genocide", etc., one experiences an emotion.
I read a statement like this that is so patently wrong and I'm tempted to simply walk away and never come back. I wanna get ahold of this guy and ask him if he really believes this guff, I mean really! Is this how he lives? Having emotional reactions to mere words? But this kind of thing is typical of what I've read.

How 'bout, no? I just read those words and I had no emotional response to them. Oh my goodness, I just typed them into my computer and...still nothing. They're just words, utterly without context. As you may have noticed, I'm having a much stronger reaction to this Oist's beliefs about emotions than those four words. Is this how Objectivists think? Clearly the Oist who wrote that thinks like that (or at least thinks he thinks like that, or wants us to believe he thinks like that--seriously, it's hard for me to believe that someone who values critical thinking would come to such conclusions). And he goes on:

Hearing the same words in an unknown language, the words would be meaningless. One wouldn't be able to make the mental connection between the sounds and the meaning of the words. The emotions that one normally feels with respect to these words would not be present. Only understanding can trigger an emotion.
Words cannot express my astonishment at these assertions. ;) I mean, a lot of Oists are notorious lovers of opera, and this one's telling me that unless I know italian, Puccinni will be totally lost on me? I don't know a lick of italian, but when I hear Povarotti sing Nessun Dorma I'm moved to tears every single time. What am I thinking that brings these tears? His version of that aria is amazing because the emotion always takes me by surprise. I'm listening to this beautiful melody and his amazing instrument and then suddenly his voice goes up an octave and I'm crying. The more I think about it, the more absurd my emotion seems; the more I think about it, reason would suggest, the less I should feel, but I know that if I put it in the CD player I'll cry.

Okay, so that example didn't work for me, so I read the next one:

A further example is that of a gunman. If someone burst into a room with a gun, the people present would probably feel fear. However, if one didn't know what a gun was, you wouldn't make the connection, and wouldn't experience the fear. The emotion is only triggered when understanding of the situation is present.
This one just sounds mental. :-k I'm sorry, but he's talking about PTSD. I hear the word "rape" and I'm supposed to have an emotional reaction just 'cuz? Well, maybe if I'd just been raped. The mere sight of a man with a gun fills me with fear? Unless I've recently been the victim of a hold-up, I am not going to be reacting to the mere sight of a gunman. I am going to react to the way the guy entered the room, the look on his face, the sound of his voice. I may not even see the gun before I sense what the guy intends. What good is fear if I have to think some thought before I duck for cover?

Look, I'm not a big expert on philosophy, a lot of the finer points leave me cold (the free will/determinism debate for instance, bores me senseless), but emotional reality is something I've put a lot of thought and research into. I like to think I know something about how emotions function and I can only imagine arguments like this working on people who've never given emotional causation a second thought.

Frankly, I don't get the impression that the typical Objectivist is really all that interested in exploring his emotions. Rand places them in a distinctly deemphasized position in her thoughts. I find that what gets deemphasized in Oism, often ends up ignored, or taken totally for granted and unexamined. That's okay, I got no problem with people focusing their energies on what they're most interested in, but I don't appreciate what amounts to a mere lack of affinity for a thing (exploring one's emotions) being globalized into a final objective judgement on the thing (naval gazing and subjectivism).

One of the things that accounts for this lack of affinity may be cultural. Culturally, we tend to attach emotion to a "source" in the outside world. We say so-and-so "made me mad," or that movie "made me cry." This is psychologically dangerous territory and can lead to many very harmful distortions. This kind of thinking often reduces us to victims of our emotions and enslaves us to the actions and intentions of others.

I've learned that an important tool of healing is to refrain from attaching my emotions to other people. No one "out there" is to blame for my feelings. It's really changed my sense of life, and freed me from a lot self-destructive ideation.

I have found that simply saying "I'm angry" in an argument, without leaping to obvious conclusions about "why" frees me to interact with the emotion directly as information rather than a moral imperative. I often find that the other person is able to interact with the feeling more objectively as well, volunteering their own insights like, "Well, I can understand why you might be angry right now, because..."

Importantly, the anger, once named, will often spontaneously shift into another more "difficult" emotion like grief. Therapy has taught me that we often leap to blaming others for our feelings to avoid the much healthier, but more painful, process of grieving. So, as a culture, we tend not to explore feelings when an obvious scapegoat presents itself. In this way moral judgment of others can make an authentic encounter with one's self more and more difficult and ultimately impossible.


(Edit: Thanks, Michael, for moving this.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm going to use this quote to death, before I can roll it out as the beginning of the article that I damn well better finish for Mr. Kelly (if that's his reeeel name, hmmmmm? :-$

"Philosophy is largely a clash of temperaments."- William James

What is the mean (statistical mean) temperament of Objectivists?

Or, better put, what is the one dysfunction that sticks out and dilutes the many virtues?

How about "repression"?

"Spit it out, man!", you say... alright, then.

Evolution exists on all levels of reality. Successful evolution transcends, but includes and embraces its origin. It differentiates, it does not dissociate. Dissociation=pathology (use cancer cells for example)

Objectivism is based on reason/rationality, an evolved-into state.

Objectivism rejects all things irrational, including the pre-rational state from whence it came. (Dissociation)

Pathological results: repressive behavior.

End of chalk-talk.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

Kevin, you had some very good points about emotions. When members of our little collective here, including myself, are being attacked over on other sites, it does make me angry and want to go tell them off. But that would be taking the bait. I have to make a conscious effort to put it into perspective. I will acknowledge my feelings, but they will not consume me. The anger is mixed with sadness, pity, and contempt, but our antagonists are not important people so I don't dwell on it. I put very little value on those I do not respect. They will not be remembered for their achievements, only their nastiness and cruelty.

I have also come to the realization that I no longer have the will to read articles and books that literally make me want to puke. I did it today anyway and my stomach turned. Why does this go on? To sell a book based solely on malice?!? Enough is enough already. I want the smear campaign to stop but why should I engage with a fringe group who generates audience with malice, smut, and snarkiness. That is a horrible way to be. I won't sanction it. I think I'll stay home for awhile where I am loved.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Kat, your position about the bashing on other lists is very life-affirming and reflective of good mental health and self-esteem. You're keeping your eye on the ball, despite no small attempts at provocation by those whose stock in trade is negativity. Let them wallow in it, while we bask in the sunshine. :-)

Now, can you help me a bit? I clicked on this thread, wondering, "Hey, when did I write that piece," only to find it was not by me, but by Kevin. Can you go into the innards of this website and tweak the post so that it reflects the true author? Thanks!


Link to comment
Share on other sites


How this happened is that Kevin made a long post to a thread you wrote in the Objectivist Living Room. He asked me to transfer it to here. When I did, your name went with it. The only way I know of to fix it is for Kevin to start a new thread here, copy his post on this thread and repost it there. Then we can scoot the following posts over too.

Personally I would love to see this happen.

I will try to see what I can do in the administration panel.

btw - On all the acrimony going on all of a sudden elsewhere, this is nothing more than an attempt by a floundering website to generate audience. It should pass soon (like a stinky fart*), since the subject itself is a bit dead.

We've got works to write anyway...


* Oops... sorry folks, old loudmouth habits die hard... I'm working on it...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just came across these posts after dealing with some fury(I've been following the other site). Kat, you handled it gracefully. You even inspired me to bite my tongue and handle it gracefully.

How about we just shake the world here at Objectivist Living, and leave the second-handers to their own demise.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jody, you are so right.

I just went over to..."the other place"...and found the thread in question. Jeez, what a depressing waste of brainpower. But it's not the first Libertarian or Objectivist discussion group that I've seen degenerate into such a negative swamp of smearing and character bashing.

I have some good news! Which I am going to post in the Living Room...


Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a pathetic spectacle, especially for people who pretend to be paragons of rational thinking. It looks more like a lynch mob, shouting and hissing, their spittle dripping from my screen. Or a bunch of religious fanatics who have discovered Satan Himself. And then there is a certain female born-again randroid who becomes ecstatic at such a sorry spectacle. A wonderful way to promote Objectivism as a rational philosophy!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a pathetic spectacle, especially for people who pretend to be paragons of rational thinking. [....]

I was only alerted this evening -- by reading Dragonfly's post here -- to the Cresswell-occasioned thread on SOLOP. Just when I'd thought that the whole thing had died down!

Sorry to be so in absentia on this list for the last few weeks. Between my own health problems and the far worse problems of my husband's sister (the situation isn't at all good with her: cancer, chemo, iffy prognosis...), I've had almost no time for elists, and such time as I've had has been spent on RoR.

Just blipping in with a bit of morale support re the mud-slinging fest on SOLOP. I've thus far only read 2 of the 4 pages of responses to Creswell's item. I gather that Jody is on his way out the door at the place I've gotten to. It's like... deja-vu all over again-again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Ellen, you know we miss you a lot around here when you are not posting. You are one of my favorite people I've met online. I hope you are feeling better and give my best wishes to your husband and his sister. They are selling daffodils at work for the American Cancer Society and I think I'll get some now. Check in when you can.

(((((big hug)))))


Link to comment
Share on other sites


I hope all the best for you and your sister-in-law. Cancer is a difficult and draining experience for all parties involved. Your posts here are definitely missed.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's a pathetic spectacle, especially for people who pretend to be paragons of rational thinking. It looks more like a lynch mob, shouting and hissing, their spittle dripping from my screen. Or a bunch of religious fanatics who have discovered Satan Himself. And then there is a certain female born-again randroid who becomes ecstatic at such a sorry spectacle. A wonderful way to promote Objectivism as a rational philosophy!

Yes. As a wise old man recently speculated: "Perhaps Objectivism has found its Hillary Clinton." :-#

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I thought this bit from Linz on the SOLOP PARC thread was interesting:

"What also incensed me yesterday was the suggestion that because debate on this matter flourishes, the rest of SOLO is stagnating."

He's right. SOLOP isn't stagnating ~because~ of the PARC debate, it's stagnating ~in spite of~ the temporary, minor attention that the PARC debate has brought to SOLOP.

Ciro wrote a post on the same thread which came very close to nailing it:

"Holly, pleaseeee, I though that this forum was created with the intent to change the world, and not to have you and your associates standing on pride rock shouting at the world how bad the Brandens are. I thought that Linz wanted to go solo, in the real meaning of the word, but, it seems that he lacks the courage to do so; he needs someone to accompany him all the time. Bravo Linz, keep letting this people use you, at the end, they get want they want--leave you, and you remain the usual nasty bad guy as always been. But, as always, before they do that, you are so smart to have new parasites ready for the feeding hiding behind you! Do you lack the courage to shrug???"

I think Ciro is only slightly off in that he has misidentified the particulars of the host/parasite relationship. He should have written that Linz and his acolytes (like Cresswell) were smart enough to have new ~hosts~ ready for the feeding. Linz has destroyed a hell of a lot of friendships recently, and without all of his ex-friends' names to drop and their respected reputations to borrow from, I think he and his little gang have resorted to leeching off whatever they can get. Without shoving themselves into Valliant's tiny, fading spotlight, SOLO Passion would be SOLO Embarrassingly Inactive & Irrelevant.

Anyway, I've never liked Linz, but, for what it's worth, I can't say that I've enjoyed watching him self-destruct. It's been rather sad watching him continue to crap all over himself, his accomplishments and, worst of all, his friends. I feel for those of you whom he's crapped on.


Btw, am I the only one here who has been surprised at Tibor Machan's anosmia? God, I hope he's finally been cured of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks very much, Kat and Jody, for your good wishes. I realized after I posted my remark that I'd done something Larry has asked me not to do. Mea culpa. He doesn't like my saying anything on elists about his sister's being ill. A kind of superstition about remarks in print maybe affecting the outcome, I guess. (OK, OK, not "rational"; nevertheless.) But since this is a small, intimate group, I suppose the indiscretion isn't as bad.

My own health problem is one the only prognosis for which is "worsening with age." It's a long-term aftermath result of my having had a mild (non-crippling) case of childhood polio. What happens is that muscle twitches are set off on the left side of my body, including the left side of the eyes' orbital muscles. Not life-threatening, but irritating, and it can become painful, and there's some danger of tearing a retina if I'm not careful. The problem is worsened by light, especially certain frequencies of light, and can make working at a computer soon turn into an ordeal. Hence I try (though sometimes I fail) strictly to budget the amount of time I spend reading elists.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now