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I know Branden is a bit of a bete noir in these circles so I am aware that I am treading on mighty thin ice here ! :-)

Nathaniel Branden wrote in "The Benefits and Hazards of Ayn Rand's Philosophy" that Objectivism encourages (sometimes severe) psychological repression. He shows the example of Ayn Rand heroes who appear to be aloof, disconnected, coldly unperturbed individuals (the prime example being Howard Roark) who do not exhibit any normal human emotions that would accompany loss of lovers, loss of jobs/status etc. His thesis (expounded here: http://nathanielbranden.com/ayn/ayn03.html#repression ) is that many folks, especially young folks are led to believe that they should repress any feelings and that the philosophy of Objectivism teaches this damaging lesson.

My question: is Branden wrong? Why?

asked Jan 20 '12 at 16:03

Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image


edited Jan 21 '12 at 08:32

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Objectivism does not tell one to suppress or repress emotions. Rather, it tells one to investigate the premises that causes the emotion to arise to determine if they are true or not. Once false premises are swept away, what's left behind will be valid and one can and should react to that.

With that said, I can see many reasons why people who do not understand Objectivism would hold the viewpoint that Objectivists are aloof, disconnected, etc. Certainly, it is highly probable that Objectivists end up with less "friends" and family as they go down that path but that's only because they have a better understanding of their own value hierarchy. As a result, they become more selective in terms of who they spend their valuable time with.

Objectivists also exercise moral judgement, which if not done skillfully, can cause others to project negative feelings toward the Objectivist.

Personally, I'd say that Branden was really butt hurt by Rand's moral judgement on him...but that's his problem, not hers and definitely not a problem of Objectivists or Objectivism.

answered Jan 20 '12 at 16:27

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Jan 20 '12 at 16:33

what about the incredibly stoic resistance to pain and suffering that is evinced by the heroes in the books? I actually found it hilarious when John Galt offers to help the brutes who are torturing him to fix their torture apparatus ! While this sure makes a point, would any real human being act in this manner? I think one of Branden's points is that the young tend to emulate worshipfully what they think are heroes and heroic acts and that Ayn Rand heroes tend to be cast in a certain "Mr. Spock" mode.

(Jan 20 '12 at 17:54) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I found Ayn Rand's use of rhetoric to be quite good as she was able to cause in me a rise of different emotions ranging from anger to glee.

That scene was designed to illustrate the incompetence of the brute's inability to fix even their basic torture machine. One can also take this perspective: The brute's goal was to torture Galt, not kill him. If their machine is broken, they may resort to using cruder devices such as knives and hammers. If you were in his shoe, would you want them to use electricity or knives and hammers? Just a thought. :)

(Jan 20 '12 at 18:26) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

Agreed. All you have to do is examine both her own life and those of her characters. She wrote to elicit emotional responses from her readers; she only insisted that they think first.

(Jan 21 '12 at 07:23) John Pryce ♦ John%20Pryce's gravatar image

Regarding the torture scene from Atlas, the thought that occurred to me when I read it was what better way to communicate to your torturer that further torture won't work than to offer to fix the device.

(Jan 21 '12 at 08:37) Rick ♦ Rick's gravatar image

@humbug YIKES! I never even thought of the saws, knives etc. :-) But the point is made. My point was more about young readers who may blindly and worshipfully desire to emulate a Howard Roark archetype (detached, lonely, unperturbed, isolated... ).

(Jan 22 '12 at 00:23) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

What does it mean to be "detached" or "lonely"? Are they "pretending" to not have any emotion? Are they suppressing their emotion? Or is the appearance of "detachment" and "loneliness" interpretations by friends and family that they no longer care to spend a lot of time around with?

(Jan 22 '12 at 00:44) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 20 '12 at 16:03

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Last updated: Jan 22 '12 at 00:44