I wish that he did not use the word instinct in this paper. Human beings do not have any instincts – at least none have been proven to date. We are social animals. I’ve written a few times about feral children. Since they are not exposed to spoken language or sign language early in life they never develop beyond very rudimentary language skills when taught later in life. Another human has to stimulate that part of the brain. Though these children do seem to develop some skills by observing either humans from a distance or from animals. That would suggest that what we become is a combination of nature and nurture. One thing is certain, we are not born a blank slate as both Ayn Rand and various strains of totalitarianism have assumed, Yes, Ayn, There Is a Social Instinct
Rand’s view that social instincts only exist among “inferior men” should not be dismissed as something she unthinkingly jotted down in a private journal. In two of her subsequent books—For the New Intellectual and Philosophy: Who Needs It?, where it even serves as a chapter heading—Rand quips that scientists may find the “missing link” between humans and animals in those people who fail to utilize their rational selfishness to its full potential. How then does Rand explain the persistence of altruistic morality if human nature is ultimately selfish? By invoking the tabula rasa as an integral feature of human nature in which individuals can advance from inferior to superior upwards along the chain of life.
“Man is born tabula rasa,” Rand wrote in her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, “all his knowledge is based on and derived from the evidence of his senses. To reach the distinctively human level of cognition, man must conceptualize his perceptual data” (by which she means using logical deductions). This was her solution to the problem of prosocial behavior and altruism among hunter-gatherer societies.
The concept of tabula rasa in the hands of the Ayn Rands and Thomas Hobbes goes just a bit too far. If all humanity were born a blank slate than why this tendency for a few million years to form pair bonds and tribes. If it would have been a better method for survival than Homo sapiens and other primates would not have tended to form groups. The biological translated into the group as social tool, a mode of living that helped increase the chances of survival. There is a back handed way of working objectivism into that evolutionary pathway. That if the choice to live in groups where their is group cooperation pays off in terms of a more consistent supply of food or protection from predators you could say that was done out of selfishness. That individuals tended to act to protect and secure food for those who were not family. On’s survival depended on individual initiative and cooperation with the group. I’m not sure why this relatively subtle dependency, interplay between individuals and benefits of that some individuals had they others did not is so threatening to libertarians and conservatives. Some primitive humans may have been better hunters, while others were better at picking out non-poisonous herbs for healing, others producing healthier children, and still others at figuring out the best times of the year to migrate to better camp grounds. Since we live in the age of specialization – where everyone needs to get the knowledge or expertise of someone else eventually, this very basic concept should not to hard to understand.
However, Rand may have had more personal reasons for her philosophy that can help explain her tortured logic. As she was first developing her political philosophy she mused in her journal about how she arrived at her conclusion that selfishness was a natural moral virtue.
“It may be considered strange, and denying my own supremacy of reason, that I start with a set of ideas, then want to study in order to support them, and not vice versa, i.e., not study and derive my ideas from that. But these ideas, to a great extent, are the result of a subconscious instinct, which is a form of unrealized reason. All instincts are reason, essentially, or reason is instincts made conscious. The “unreasonable” instincts are diseased ones.” – Journals of Ayn Rand, May 15, 1934.
This can indeed be considered strange. Looking deep within yourself and concluding that your feelings are natural instincts that apply for the entire species isn’t exactly what you would call objective. It is, in fact, the exact opposite of how science operates.
Some ultimate appeal to forms of mysticism is something also shared by libertarians and conservatives. They may try to appeal to strict logic, but always proceeds towards unjustified beliefs. A jaw dropping recent example, Republican extremists, in their own words
There’s also Rep. Jon Hubbard of Jonesboro, famously unhinged, who’s put some of his choicest thoughts on paper in a book available on Amazon, “Letters to the Editor: Confessions of a Frustrated Conservative.” I’d heard a lot about this book and was talking to Lindsey Millar this morning about ordering a copy. But Michael Cook at Talk Business has already written about some choice excerpts. I confess that publicizing thoughts such as these might only serve to encourage the Republican voter base. But the truth will set someone free. Excerpts selected by Cook and others:
Slavery was good for black people:
“… the institution of slavery that the black race has long believed to be an abomination upon its people may actually have been a blessing in disguise. The blacks who could endure those conditions and circumstances would someday be rewarded with citizenship in the greatest nation ever established upon the face of the Earth.” (Pages 183-89)
If you think slavery was bad, you should have seen Africa:
African Americans must “understand that even while in the throes of slavery, their lives as Americans are likely much better than they ever would have enjoyed living in sub-Saharan Africa.”
“Knowing what we know today about life on the African continent, would an existence spent in slavery have been any crueler than a life spent in sub-Saharan Africa?” (Pages 93 and 189)
Black people are ignorant:
“Wouldn’t life for blacks in America today be more enjoyable and successful if they would only learn to appreciate the value of a good education?” (Page 184)
Integration was bad for white people
“… one of the stated purposes of school integration was to bring black students up to a level close to that of white students. But, to the great disappointment of everyone, the results of this theory worked exactly in reverse of its intended purpose, and instead of black students rising to the educational levels previously attained by white students, the white students dropped to the level of black students. To make matters worse the lack of discipline and ambition of black students soon became shared by their white classmates, and our educational system has been in a steady decline ever since.” (Page 27)
Using Rep. Jon Hubbard’s logic, should he ever be convicted of a crime and sent to jail he’ll have nothing but positive things to say about the free shelter, clothing and food and how he wished his sentence would have been life.
Look, it’s time to stop being polite and start asking, “What the fuck do you think you are trying to pull here?”
It is time to ask, “Why the fuck are men and women who are inexcusably incompetent continually being elected into statehouses, governorships and THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS? And how the fuck is it that this asshole serves on THE SCIENCE COMMITTEE of The House of Representatives?!
Women are not faking rape and they don’t have magical powers to deactivate rape sperm. We are not pregnant before we are pregnant, we can’t have an abortion if we are not pregnant, and I think we can all agree, women shouldn’t be forced to carry stillborn babies.
Abortions don’t cause mental instability and the HPV vaccine doesn’t make girls mentally retarded. No woman’s boss should be able to demand information from her to decide if her reason for wanting birth control is moral enough to grant permission.
OH Yeah, and Planned Parenthood isn’t turning Girl Scouts into Commulezzies
And Double OH YEAH-
No state should ever have the right to shove a probe in a woman’s vagina against her will because the government has elected shitwits who think women are such irrational idiots that the government knows best about what is right for them, their bodies and their futures.
So why am I scribbling all these ridonculous implausible scenarios?
Because these are either actual laws, proposed laws, or reasons used by politicians who have been elected to public office.
The video mentioned in that post from Liz is at Lady Parts Justice.
Homer’s The Life Line is among my favorite paintings. I did not realize, consciously anyway, that it was filled with so much sexual tension, In there hidden meaning in Winslow Homer’s Lifeline?
Fiona Apple Hits Back at Gossip Websites: “Please Stop Hurting My Feelings”
“Don’t call me frail. I’ll beat the hell out of you.” There is criticism in the literary tradition and than there are the savage attacks of the mindless and talentless against those they envy.
Mitt Romney’s Favorite Coal Company ‘Coerces’ Workers To Make GOP Donations: ‘If You Don’t Contribute, Your Job’s At Stake’. The plantation mentality is alive and well.