:: Tuesday, August 05, 2003 ::
Anger: My new attempt at Buddhist-Objectivist Synthesis
[Ed--I have been, for a few days, attempting to write an essay about Buddhism and Objectivism. I couldn't come at it from an overview, sort of work from basics up point of view. Really, it was not a basics up, but a simply a theoretical point of view. I have abandoned this. Now I am going to go at this from a practical point of view. Recently I found a wonderful objectivist blog. It is Aurthur Silber's. I love it. But recently he has noticed a lot of anger within himself. Today he has written a little bit about it and why he believes that anger is a good Objectivist emotion. I would like to discuss anger as I see it, with babby Buddhist eyes and how I can comment on the Buddhist--Objectivist synthesis I have in mind using the topic of anger. I would like to say that Silber's is one of the best web logs. Furthermore, nothing in this web log is meant to suggest that repression of anger is a good thing.]
Has anyone ever noticed that objectivists are angry? One only has to look at Ayn Rand or Leonard Piekoff to see this. However, much more moderate lights have experienced anger. Anger is one thing that I believe that objectivism has a difficult time dealing with. In his weblog, Silber defends anger from an objectivist point of view. In it he basically says that there is an interrelationship between having values that one loves and being angry to see these values being destroyed by others. While this is a very plausable argument, I would begin by suggesting that there are other logical reactions to seeing one's treasured values being destroyed. One could logically be sad or mournfull. Or perhaps one could feel defeated or destroyed. Finally, one could feel motivated and empowered--with an increased energy and vigor on promoting those values or doing whatever is best to do so. Furthermore, I would suggest that a truely objectivist theory of emotions would promote responses fullfilling the following criteria:
(1) Consistency with the "benevolent universe premise"
(2) The least disruption to one's ability to continue in the persuit of one's values
In my opinion one of the larger points of Objectivism is the benevolent universe premise. Objectivism doesn't see life as a tragedy. Instead it is much more optamistic. Life is a success story. In my opinion, Objectivism holds that you should keep strong the belief that life is good and will work out. An angry response seems to be based on pesimistic or frustrated views. While anger should not be repressed and is certainly not immoral, it does indicate some opposition to the idea that life will turn out to be all well in the end. As an objectivish person, I believe that anger is opposed to the ideas of optamism and the benevolent universe.
Secondly, we want to promote one's ability to continue in persuit of one's own values. Anger does not do this. Anger clouds one's ability to reason clearly and makes it more difficult to successfully promote one's values. Furthermore, when one acts out of anger those around you will be less likely to respond well to your actions. As a Buddhist would put it, anger is unskilfull. It is a poor way of dealing with the world.
Anger and other "afflictive emotions" hold back one's ability to persue their values. The Objectivist ethics don't really deal much with emotions. There is no reference to anger, greed, envy, etc... . However, these emotions often lead to unskillful actions which frustrate happiness and effectiveness in pursuing one's goals and values. In my opinion, a more Buddhistic oriented theory of emotions will lead Objectivists to a happier, more fulfilling life, as well as one in which they use more skillful means in pursuing thier values.
This is of course not to say that afflictive emotions should be supressed. According to Buddhism there is also a "skillful" way to manage one's anger, to experience it without necessarily acting on it, and to deal with it.
I'm not really sure if this piece solved my goal of establishing some sort of sense in which a Buddhist-Objectivist synthesis would work. I only hope that I can slowly grope towards this.
:: Mike 1:36 AM [+] ::