The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

My Photo
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Ayn Rand was Wrong

Ayn Rand believed that the well-being of the individual is the ultimate end in itself. Objectivism is a philosophy based entirely on reason. What I’ve learned about human psychology lately has shown me that Ayn Rand was wrong...

It is just plain stupid to think that we can conduct ourselves in life and society predominantly through reason. The human brain consists of the “new brain” cerebral cortex and the “old brain” limbic system and brain stem (the so-called “reptilian” brain). The old brain is at least as influential as the new brain, so any philosophy of life must incorporate the old brain behaviours that dominate our lives.

I’ve also learned that the human psyche is not entirely “selfish.” So for Ayn Rand to base a philosophy of life on “enlightened self-interest” is to deny the parts of ourselves that are not selfish. A philosophy of life MUST consider all aspects of human psychology and bring them into balance. Objectivism fails in this regard.

Harville Hendrix said it best:

In order to feel fully alive and to recapture our joyfulness, we have to reintegrate the unconscious, instinctual, associational old brain with our clever new brain. But we cannot think our way to aliveness. We cannot recapture joyfulness through our cerebral cortex, smart as it is; the old brain is not altered by the cognitive process. It is altered only by concrete experience. We must restore the split-off and denied parts of ourselves that we lost in childhood, and heal the numbness and pain and perceived threats to survival that dampen our feeling of aliveness and filter out our awareness of our connection to others and to the cosmos. The most effective way I know of to accomplish that is through our love relationships.

People disappointed in love don’t want to hear that they need a relationship to heal. They want to feel that they can be autonomous, and restore their spiritual wholeness on their own, if their caretakers, or their mates, aren’t up to the task. But this is a delusion. While there is much you can accomplish on your own, especially with regard to modifying your character defenses, you can’t go the whole way to healing without a partner.

The idea that we need the help of others for our fulfillment is unpopular because it challenges the primacy of the individual. The sovereignty of the individual is, rightly, a cornerstone of democracy. The tension between the individual and the collective, the individual and the dyad, the family and society, produces the chemistry of the evolutionary process, in terms of growth as well as in the development of new social and political systems.

It’s too bad that people like Ayn Rand and her Objectivist followers never studied nor understood human psychology. I’ve long underestimated this area of academia – I used to sneer at it, showing little respect – but today I am engrossed by it. The study of psychology informs me so that I may look at the world more realistically. Ayn Rand’s followers live in an intellectual fantasy world.