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When I say "cry", I mean to show emotion, stress, pain. Dagny never cried in Atlas Shrugged, if I remember correctly. I like to write stories, and I especially like the ones that really stir the audience's emotions when the hero shows pain when he suffers some sort of tragedy, so long as that tragedy is overcome by the end. I believe this is a good device to make the audience despise the villain or antagonist even more. A great villain can be defined by either what he stands for or by how hated he is, and when you require an emotional response from the audience when you see someone suffer due to another person's actions, you know something great is being made. My own villain's goal, for example, is to seek freedom in the sense that he wants to evade the consequences of his actions. Free will really means to be able to think and use your mind. He doesn't understand that, and the physical realm is not good enough for him. His physical limitations frustrate him. He believes in the soul/body dichotomy, and, in the story, he's figured out how to separate them. He wants to separate the soul from the body--a radical extreme in philosophical skepticism. Being an older man, he's experienced the loss of a loved one, and he's determined to get them back. What he does throughout the story was done with full intention, and he blanks out and ignores the consequences of his actions. The consequences imposed on one of the other characters is both tragic and quite depressing. In the end, he fails because nobody will serve him.


I find it quite strange that this question should come back to the top of the page again. I asked it when I had a very scant understanding of Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism. I've read the novel for the second time recently, and I can finally articulate what's truly been bothering me about what Ayn Rand wanted to say. Let me just be clear, I agree with Ayn Rand, but there were questions she did not answer. If an individual is to work for what he desires, that's fine. A person with a lot of intelligence would find it much easier to acquire wealth, etc. However, what about the person who isn't as strong and intelligent as, say, the valedictorian in school, the millionaire who made a fortune in the stock market, the genius who cures cancer, or the contractor who designs skyscrapers? Certainly that person has goals, ambitions, and dreams. What if he doesn't have the capacity to acquire what he most desires with honor? What would be the point of going on if day in and day out a person experiences the same disappointments, knowing he can't have what he wants because he's not smart enough to hold a job which would pay his dream house, as one example?

I don't think I'm a smart person. I get terrible grades in math and science.

asked Oct 25 '12 at 02:35

Collin1's gravatar image

Collin1
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edited Feb 05 '14 at 12:01


Objectivists are humans, so of course they routinely feel emotion like anyone would (barring some medical problem). You can see that reflected throughout Rand's stories because she's writing about humans. Exactly how someone reacts-to or acts-on his emotions is another matter.

What Objectivism urges (naturally) is being objective about the proper relationship between cognition and emotion: these are both essential in a healthy human life, and it is crucial to not make the mistake of trying to substitute one for the other, denying either it's critical role. Err one direction and you'll suffer the effects of repression; err the other direction and you'll suffer the effects of emotionalism.

answered Oct 25 '12 at 12:10

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
1002425618

What is emotionalism? I can't find an adequate definition online.

(Oct 25 '12 at 14:13) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

From Merriam-Webster.com:

Definition of EMOTIONALISM 1: a tendency to regard things emotionally 2: undue indulgence in or display of emotion First Known Use of EMOTIONALISM 1865
Seems adequate to me. What might be missing or unclear? (It isn't a moral evaluation of whether emotionalism is good or bad, of course, nor whether crying by a fictional hero would clash with his heroism.)
(Oct 25 '12 at 16:12) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

To add to Ideas' point, I would describe it as the policy of letting your emotions be in control of your life/actions rather than reason. Emotionalism means that if it feels bad/good then it simply is bad/good. But that's an abortive attempt to displace cognition: feelings are automatized responses (not volitional) and therefore by definition they can't be objective -- they may or may not be right, and the arbiter of whether they are is, of course, your thinking (volitional) mind. Emotionalism replaces thinking with an unquestioned, unexplored, out-of-context, nonobjective reaction.

(Oct 25 '12 at 17:15) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg you nailed this. Bravo! I love this quote: " Err one direction and you'll suffer the effects of repression; err the other direction and you'll suffer the effects of emotionalism." It's a constant balance.

(Feb 03 '14 at 12:16) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

It might be asked how, exactly, one can strike a "constant balance" between repression and emotionalism (or between cognition and emotion). Ayn Rand's answer is given in the excerpt that JK Gregg quoted in his Answer:

A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand.

In other words, one must remember, first of all, that merely experiencing an emotion does not mean that one must regard it as an identification of a truth, nor that one must act on it. What is true or false, and what concrete action one should perform (if any), can be determined only by one's rational mind. If one has any doubts about what one's emotions are expressing about one's own past patterns of thinking and acting, one should introspectively review one's doubts as soon as any immediate urgencies have subsided and one once again has more opportunity for serious introspection. One should also never suppress the doubts (except very temporarily in the face of a genuinely urgent need for immediate action). Emotions usually can be powerful and immensely time-saving reminders to man of his own past patterns of thinking and acting -- if one has developed them over time by consistently rational thinking and decision-making. (Refer also to the topic of "Introspection" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

(Feb 04 '14 at 00:44) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Emotion is no sin in Objectivist ethics, but rather "automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious."

From the Playboy interview:

An emotion is an automatic response, an automatic effect of man’s value premises. An effect, not a cause. There is no necessary clash, no dichotomy between man’s reason and his emotions—provided he observes their proper relationship. A rational man knows—or makes it a point to discover—the source of his emotions, the basic premises from which they come; if his premises are wrong, he corrects them. He never acts on emotions for which he cannot account, the meaning of which he does not understand.

Some emotions can be irrational if they are premised on faulty values or inconsistent with reality. It's up to us, through introspection, to explore, define, and validate our emotions.

answered Oct 25 '12 at 10:37

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦
427545

A new update to the original question asks (bold emphasis added):

...what about the person who isn't as strong and intelligent as, say, the valedictorian in school, the millionaire who made a fortune in the stock market, the genius who cures cancer, or the contractor who designs skyscrapers? Certainly that person has goals, ambitions, and dreams. What if he doesn't have the capacity to acquire what he most desires with honor? What would be the point of going on if day in and day out a person experiences the same disappointments, knowing he can't have what he wants because he's not smart enough to hold a job which would pay his dream house, as one example?

Objectivism can offer the following guidance to a person of lesser ability as described above:

  • Everyone needs to decide for himself how he wants to live his own life (or let others tell him what to do and perhaps help him to do it, whose instructions he will dutifully follow).

  • If he believes others somehow must help him to live, whether they want to or not, and he advocates political policies designed to force others to help, they will be morally entitled to resist such attacks and to defend themselves. The individuals of lesser ability who supported such policies will end up worse off than they could have been if they had not supported the malicious efforts to shackle the top producers.

  • If an individual of lesser ability doesn't have the talent and/or motivation to become a top producer, he can still be a lesser producer. He can still be self-supporting and generally very decent morally. If he is serious about living his own life to the best of his ability, he will adjust his sights to whatever is attainable by him, as far as he can judge it. If he nevertheless strives for too much and fails to achieve it, he deserves to suffer such loss as the price he must pay for his refusal to be realistic about himself and his opportunities.

If one cannot be a top producer, for whatever reason, what reason does one have to continue living at all? Objectivism would say that he still has the capacity to go on living on a level that is commensurate with his own ability and effort, and it can be a highly fulfilling and rewarding life for anyone who sets realistic goals and works consistently over time to achieve them. Does he want to live or not? If life is what he seeks, he can still seek it -- and probably achieve it.

There is a scene in Atlas Shrugged that encapsulates the issue in economic terms. Dagny is being given a tour of the Valley by Galt, and she meets Andrew Stockton. He explains how he "ruined" a competitor in the Valley, and how the "ruined" competitor is better off because of it, making more money working for Stockton than he made without him, and doing more of the kind of work he loves. Dagny asks:

Then somebody could put you out of business, too?

[Stockton:] Sure. Any time. I know one man who could and probably will, when he gets here. But boy! -- I'd work for him as a cinder sweeper. He'd blast through this valley like a rocket. He'd triple everybody's production.

[Dagny:] Who's that?

[Stockton:] Hank Rearden.

(p. 724hc, slightly less than half way through Chapter I in Part III. Refer also to the topic of "Pyramid of Ability" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.)

The updated question concludes:

I don't think I'm a smart person. I get terrible grades in math and science.

The questioner has often demonstrated in his postings, and continues to demonstrate, that he is quite intelligent in certain areas, if not math and science. He has said that he is prevented from pursuing the kind of career he wants because he can't yet afford it and can't think of a practical plan to be able to afford it. He lives at home while attending college, with considerable financial assistance from his parents, who are ordering him to pursue a school curriculum that he hates; but he can't defy them without risking being kicked out of their house, and can't afford to live on his own. (He is welcome to correct or update any of this if it's no longer accurate.) As I've said before, he needs a plan (aka an "exit strategy"). If he can't think of a plan, then I guess he'll have to keep doing whatever his parents tell him to do, if he wants to eat.

Objectivism can guide anyone, at any level, who wants to live (on whatever level of ability and opportunity). Objectivism isn't only for the top producers, although they certainly merit full recognition for who they are and what they do, especially the great benefits that everyone else receives from their productive achievements ("pyramid of ability"). If one can't be a top producer oneself, one can still be perfectly happy to work for a producer who needs competent, supportive workers. The fact that the top producers deserve the top moral appraisal does not in any way preclude lesser producers from deserving a full moral sanction of their own, as well, commensurate with what they have earned by their own ability and initiative. Again, it comes down to the question: how strongly does one want to live? And: what is the most appropriate way for man to live?

answered Feb 05 '14 at 22:29

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

You're right on a lot of things. There's actually been some good news for me in the past few months. My brother's friend has been working for a company called EMC Corporation and was sent out to Utah to work over there. I'm also good friends with him, and he said when I get my degree, if I'm willing to move, he can get me a well-paying job under him, and I can work my way up. I really want to do it, and I'll be graduating really soon.

(Feb 06 '14 at 10:29) Collin1 Collin1's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 25 '12 at 02:35

Seen: 1,128 times

Last updated: Feb 06 '14 at 10:29