“An emotion that clashes with your reason is only the carcass of that stale thinking which you forbade your mind to revise.” How on earth did Rand know this? Without providing even a jot of evidence, it becomes impossible for a rational person to judge this assertion.
Let us conduct a little thought experiment to see if we can figure out how Rand came to this extraordinary judgment. Let us begin by inquiring as to where Rand could have ever come by such knowledge. I can think of only three possible ways:
- Very sophisticated cognitive science experiments
- Through introspection
- By reading other people's minds
Right from the start we can dismiss the third possibility. No Objectivist, no matter how besotten with Rand, would ever claim she had ESP powers. Could she have conducted cognitive science experiments? Very unlikely. In any case, there is no evidence that she ever did conduct such experiments. (If she did so, such experiments need to be released so that other cognitive scientists can determine if they can reduplicate Rand's findings.) So this leaves us with only one possibility: Rand discovered it through introspection.
From the start, this is deeply problematic. Since consciousness is only "the tip of the iceberg," it would appear unlikely that Rand could have introspected her way to the discovery that clashes between "reason" and "emotion" are caused by "stale" thinking which the mind was forbidden to revise. But let us, in the interest of our thought experiment, waive this objection. After all, Rand was (as her apologists never cease reminding us) such an amazing person that perhaps it is possible that she made this stupendous discover about "stale" thinking through introspection. What we want to know is: How did this introspection work? What did Rand in fact introspect?
There seems only one possible way Rand could have introspected her insight about the relation between "reason," emotion, and "stale thinking." Rand herself must have had an experience involving stale thinking leading to reason-emotion clashes. At some point, Rand must have introspected herself involved in a bout of "stale thinking" (whatever that might be); she must have further introspected her mind engaged in the process of forbidding any revision of this "stale" cogitation; and, finally, she must have introspected the resulting clash between "reason" and emotion. Moreover, since Rand could not have made her grand conclusion from one experience alone (since it might have been a coincidence that "stale thinking" led to the reason-emotion clash in the first instance), we must assume that Rand introspected multiple experiences of this process. That was rather brave of her, don't you think?
Now there is just one other problem we have to address. Since, on the assumptions of our thought experiment, Rand's knowledge is based solely on her own private experiences as perceived via introspection, we cannot be sure that her claim applies to other people. Human beings are notoriously different; and one cannot assume a priori that what is true of one individual is true of every individual. Therefore, the most we can acknowledge in regards to Rand's assertion about stale thinking is that it might have been true about Rand: perhaps her "stale thinking," when once her mind refused to revise it, led to clashes between her reason and her emotion. Whether "stale thinking" leads to such reason-emotion clashes in other people remains an open question.
To be sure, if we allow science to be the guide to this issue, rather than merely suppositions about what Rand might have discovered via introspection, we reach a very different conclusion. According to cognitive science, it is a misnomer to talk about a clash between "reason" and emotion. Since "reason" must always operate with the assistance of emotion (i.e., Damasio's Somatic Marker Hypothesis), it is pointless to gripe about a clash between "reason" and emotion. A clash between "reason" and emotion is really a clash between two emotions, one of which is in league with "reason." Spinoza may have been right all along when he claimed: "An emotion can only be controlled or destroyed by another emotion contrary thereto, and with more power for controlling emotion."