Monday, May 25, 2015

Why Are There So Many "True Believers" in Objectivism?

A friend recently emailed me the above question. Though I have not read the book, The True Believer, here is what I know:

From the Objectivist Epistemology perspective I would define a True Believer as someone who
1. Fully accepts all abstractions as long as they were made by Ayn Rand
2. Is fanatically uninterested in questioning those abstractions

Assumptions I would make--
-True believers have not taken the time to fully examine or understand Rand. Much easier/less time consuming to read Atlas Shrugged and say, "YES" and then move on to other things. 
-Since the true believer hasn't fully studied or understood, he is very threatened by people who have. Perhaps he does not have the time to go back and question. Perhaps he wants to move on with his life.

For example:
1. Since I am unwilling to be an expert in nutrition myself, I HAVE to follow someone else
2. I studied nutrition for 5 years before concluding that Weston A Price was the expert whose rules I would follow.
3. That was A LOT of work. I have NO desire to go back to studying nutrition in order to find a better expert to follow
4. So when it comes to Weston A Price, I follow. End of story. There would have to be A REALLY GOOD REASON for me to even consider changing my abstract rule that Weston's advice = the right advice. Moreover, following Weston's advice has benefitted my life in very real ways, therefore my abstract rule about him being the right expert to follow has been strengthened over time rather than weakened.
5. So I am not a "true believer" because I am not pathological BUT, I am in the sense that I 1. Fully accept all abstractions as long as they are made by Weston A Price and 2. Am Extremely uninterested in changing those abstractions

Many Objectivist True Believers are likely similar to me. Not necessarily pathological but just extremely uninterested. They want to be studying new things, growing and changing, not questioning old abstractions, not going back. 

I imagine pathology is caused by people who did not put 5 years into studying Rand. So to continue in my example: I try to understand nutrition, but I find the information too contradictory and bewildering. I intuit that Weston A Price is the answer and I stick to that. There is now a pathology--there is NO WAY I can question my abstract rule that he is right because it was made based on intuition. To question requires me to understand and... I wasn't able to do that. I don't want to admit that to you or myself so I shut down entirely when the question of changing my abstraction comes up.

Now, the second part of your question: why are there so many OBJECTIVIST true believers?

Because Objectivists, and all freedom lovers, have shown in scientific studies to be more analytical than most other people. Changing abstract rules is super hard and takes a long time and almost always requires re-perceiving. Analytical people who prefer to think abstractly are generally terrible at coming into their perceptual brains, terrible at re-perceiving, and often against it because if they only ever read Ayn Rand's fiction, her characters do not model this. She never got to write much about her epistemology or how it connects to psychological health, so in order to discover the necessity of re-perceiving, the True Believers must read Nathaniel Branden.

But, you may be thinking, to buy into Objectivism one does not have to perceive anything so much as logically induce. This is accurate, but recall that in order to be pathological about something I *bet* (have not read the book yet) they did not logically induce Rand's abstractions themselves but rather felt them (perceived) from her fictional books. This is one of the purposes of fiction--the reader gets to perceive abstract ideas rather than induce them. Fiction largely bypasses our rational brain and feeds abstract rules straight to our subconscious. I would love for a study to be done on how many of Rand's True Believers have read and understood her nonfiction. Because to understand something is *usually* to be able to question it.

Moreover, our brains abstract. That is What They Do. In order to not fully turn into an Us-and-Them Thinker, one must constantly come into perceptual reality (for this I recommend studying NVC). This will be the subject of my next book (maybe)--the Limits of Freedom. It's neurological i.e. for a free society to work it will HAVE to have freedom oriented nurture because it is in our nature, the nature of our brains, to make our lives easier by creating abstractions. Abstractions always come with judgement. This is why I say Rand speaks of freedom in words of war. She writes of freedom abstractly. With judgement. But when humans are interacting they must be PRESENT. They must be in their perceptual brains. The second you are not in your perceptual brain you are abstracting the other person--which means attempting to control them. 

On a last note, I tend to feel Very Passionately about my politics because I feel so oppressed by our society. Oppressed, passionate people are easy to mistake as true believers because anything that sounds like statism to me I don't just rationally disagree with, I passionately, angrily abhor. I applaud all freedom lovers who can stay present while discussing freedom with statists. It would be like being black and offering respect to a white supremacist while he tries to convince you being black is bad. Or being a woman and listening respectfully to a misogynist. I marvel at the people who can do this.

Also, despite freedom lovers being more analytical in general than statism lovers, there are just as many statist True Believers (or more even) than Objectivist True Believers. I would assume they fall into the same trap for the same reasons, but there is even more available information and more support by the culture. To be a Liberal True Believer you don't even need to have read anything. You just need to go to public school and watch a little TV.

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