Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rand & Human Nature 8

Jealousy. Although Rand did not have much to say about jealousy, apparently it was not an emotion well regarded by the founder of Objectivism. As Rand scholar Robert Campbell put it:

The Objectivist ethics does not look favorably on jealousy. The judgments that a jealous person makes of a rival are far from being models of epistemic objectivity, and jealous feelings are regarded as a sure sign of low self-esteem. In Ayn Rand’s fiction—most memorably, in Part II, Chapter IX of Atlas Shrugged—jealousy openly expressed is not just a badge of weakness but a near-guarantee of loss or rejection.

In the context of Rand's theory of emotions, jealousy must be regarded as a product of value premises, rather than an innate predisposition triggered by specific circumstances. Did Rand present any evidence that jealousy was an acquired rather than an innate predisposition? No, of course not. Does such evidence that exists on the question tend to support Rand's view? No, it does not.

Jealousy is very commonly observed, widespread emotion. It exists in all cultures and affects nearly everyone (though some people may be more prone to it than others). Experiments show that it can easily be triggered, even people who don't regard themselves as the "jealous type."

David Desteno and Piercarlo Valdesolo decided to test how easily jealousy can be triggered in individuals:

We orchestrated a complex social reaction that stimulated ... how jealousy naturally occurs in the real world: a relationship starts, it's threatened by a rival, and then it actually dissolves due to the rival.... Basically, the unknowing participant was being set up for the ultimate brush-off. Why would we put people through this? Because, harsh as it might sound, it is the most valid method of studying how jealousy works in everyday social interactions. [Out of Character, 85]

The initial experiment worked as follows. Carlo Valdesolo pretended to a be a participant in a psychological experiment which involved answering trivial questions. He pairs up with a female participant and immediately begins flirting with her. A little later, another female enters the room, allegedly to take part in the experiment. Carlo begins flirting with the new female "rival," until he suggests to her, "Why don't we pair up," leaving the other female participant, the true subject of the experiment, to stew in her own juices.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Rand & Human Nature 7

Love. Rand's most sophisticated theory of love appears in The Romantic Manifesto:

Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. It is one’s own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one’s own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony.
Many errors and tragic disillusionments are possible in this process of emotional recognition, since a sense of life, by itself, is not a reliable cognitive guide. And if there are degrees of evil, then one of the most evil consequences of mysticism—in terms of human suffering—is the belief that love is a matter of “the heart,” not the mind, that love is an emotion independent of reason, that love is blind and impervious to the power of philosophy. Love is the expression of philosophy—of a subconscious philosophical sum—and, perhaps, no other aspect of human existence needs the conscious power of philosophy quite so desperately. When that power is called upon to verify and support an emotional appraisal, when love is a conscious integration of reason and emotion, of mind and values, then—and only then—it is the greatest reward of man’s life.

Monday, September 05, 2011

American Psycho.

T-1000 level Randroid Ed Cline has always been a creepy guy, but now he seems to be having psychotic episodes. In honour of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 he composes a genocidal revenge daydream, complete with a remarkable - not to mention salivating - equation of justice with cruelty. Here's a sample:
...But what ended what might have been continued rioting and dissension in Europe and elsewhere for years by immigrant Muslims was President Bush’s most courageous act. On October 6th, without warning, one Stealth bomber took off from the Enterprise in the Mediterranean, and another from Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. The first dropped a two-kiloton bomb on Mecca. The second dropped a two-kiloton bomb on Mohammad’s burial place in Medina. The Kaaba in Mecca and the Green Dome in Medina were rendered gaseous. Tens of thousands of pilgrims perished in the blasts.

More stunned than Westerners by the operation were Muslims. Their holy shrines were erased from existence in milliseconds. The expected wrath of Allah did not materialize. He had forsaken his chosen people. The sun did not rise in the West. The stars did not begin to vanish. The Five Pillars of Islam were rendered redundant, proven meaningless. The absence of supernatural retaliation and vengeful global punishment resulted in mass disorientation among Muslims, a species of trauma still being studied by top psychologists in major universities. Suicide rates among Muslims skyrocketed –suicides that did not include bombs detonated in public, but which were private affairs of family heads killing their own families before themselves.

Countless other Muslims simply ceased adhering to the faith. Once-faithful Muslims proclaimed their apostasy, preaching tearfully and angrily to sympathetic crowds about what a fraud Islam was. Women discarded their burqas and veils, and even burned them in the streets in demonstrations of freedom. Prayer rugs were turned into welcome mats or converted into scratching posts for cats. Mosques in Western nations were eventually abandoned by the dozens....