CLOSE
YouTube / Blank on Blank
YouTube / Blank on Blank

Ayn Rand on Love and Happiness

YouTube / Blank on Blank
YouTube / Blank on Blank

Author Ayn Rand is famous for her philosophy of Objectivism, the germ of which was on display in her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In 1959 (two years after Atlas Shrugged came out), Mike Wallace sat down with Rand to discuss her philosophy. Now, the good folks at Blank on Blank have put together an animated look at one segment of that interview—when Wallace got into Rand's views on altruistic love. Have a look (and check out the transcript below if you have trouble with her accent):

Fun fact: Ayn Rand appeared on Donahue late in her life. If you're a fan, or just curious, those appearances are amazing.

Also, see this Blank on Blank page for more information about this video.

Transcript

Mike Wallace: Who are you, Ayn Rand? You have an accent, which is?

Ayn Rand: Russian.

Mike Wallace: Russian. You were born in Russia?

Ayn Rand: Yes.

Mike Wallace: Came here?

Ayn Rand: Oh, about 30 years ago.

Mike Wallace: And whence did this philosophy of yours come?

Ayn Rand: Out of my own mind, with the sole acknowledgement of a debt to Aristotle, who is the only philosopher that ever influenced me. I devised the rest of my philosophy myself.

Mike Wallace: You are married?

Ayn Rand: Yes.

Mike Wallace: Your husband, is he an industrialist?

Ayn Rand: No. He's an artist. His name is Frank O'Conner.

Mike Wallace: Does he live from his painting?

Ayn Rand: He's just beginning to study painting. He was a designer before.

Mike Wallace: Is he supported in his efforts by the state?

Ayn Rand: Most certainly not.

Mike Wallace: He's supported by you for the time being?

Ayn Rand: No, by his own work, actually, in the past. [CROSSTALK] By me if necessary, but that isn't quite necessary.

Mike Wallace: There is no contradiction here, in that you help him?

Ayn Rand: No, because you see I am in love with him selfishly. It is to my own interest to help him if he ever needed it. I would not call that a sacrifice, because I take selfish pleasure in it.

[BREAK]

Ayn Rand: I say that man is entitled to his own happiness. And that he must achieve it himself. But that he cannot demand that others give up their lives to make him happy. And nor should he wish to sacrifice himself for the happiness of others. I hold that man should have self-esteem.

Mike Wallace: And cannot man have self-esteem if he loves his fellow man? Christ, every important moral leader in man's history, has taught us that we should love one another. Why then is this kind of love in your mind immoral?

Ayn Rand: It is immoral if it is a love placed above oneself. It is more than immoral, it's impossible. Because when you are asked to love everybody indiscriminately. That is to love people without any standard. To love them regardless of whether they have any value or virtue, you are asked to love nobody.

Mike Wallace: But in a sense, in your book you talk about love as if it were a business deal of some kind. Isn't the essence of love, that it is above self-interest?

Ayn Rand: Well, What would it mean to have a love above self-interest? It would mean, for instance, that a husband would tell his wife, if he were moral according to the conventional morality, that I am marrying you just for your own sake, I have no personal interest in it, but I'm so unselfish, that I am marrying you only for your own good.

Mike Wallace: Should husbands and wives tally up...

Ayn Rand: Would any woman like that? I agree with you that it should be treated like a business deal. But every business deal has to have its own terms and its own kind of currency. And in love the currency is virtue. You love people, not for what you do for them, or what they do for you. You love them for their values, their virtues. You don't love causes. You don't love everybody indiscriminately. You love only those who deserve it. Man has free will. If a man wants love he should correct his flaws, and he may deserve it. But he cannot expect the unearned.

Mike Wallace: There are very few us then in this world, by your standards, who are worthy of love.

Ayn Rand: Unfortunately.... yes... very few. But it is open to everybody, to make themselves worthy of it and that is all that my morality offers them. [CROSSTALK] A way to make themselves worthy of love, although that's not the primary motive.

Mike Wallace: Isn’t it possible that we are all basically lonely people and we are all basically our brothers’ keepers?

Ayn Rand: Nobody has ever given a reason why men should be their brothers' keepers, and you see the examples around you, of men perishing by the attempt to be their brothers' keepers.

Mike Wallace: You have no faith in anything.

Ayn Rand: Faith.... No.

Mike Wallace: Only in your mind.

Ayn Rand: That is not faith. That is a conviction. Yes..... I have no faith at all. I only hold convictions.

Mike Wallace: As we said at the outset, "If Ayn Rand's ideas were ever to take hold, they would revolutionize the world." And to those who would reject her philosophy, Miss Rand hurls this challenge. "For the past 2000 years the world has been dominated by other philosophies. Look around you, consider the results.” We thank Ayn Rand for adding her portrait to our gallery. One of the people other people are interested in. Mike Wallace... Good Bye.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Image: Otto Herschan, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss
arrow
Lists
15 Facts about Ralph Waldo Emerson
Image: Otto Herschan, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss
Image: Otto Herschan, Getty Images. Background: iStock. Composite: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss

Born in Boston in 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a writer, lecturer, poet, and Transcendentalist thinker. Dubbed the "Sage of Concord," Emerson discussed his views on individualism and the divine in essays such as "Self-Reliance" and "Nature," and he emerged as one of the preeminent voices of his generation, both in his lifetime and in the annals of history.

1. HE LOST HIS FATHER AT AN EARLY AGE.

Emerson's father, Reverend William Emerson, was a prominent Boston resident who worked as a Unitarian minister. But he didn't focus solely on matters of God and religion. William Emerson also organized meetings of intellectuals, bringing together open-minded people from a variety of backgrounds to discuss philosophy, science, and books. Unfortunately, Emerson's father died of either stomach cancer or tuberculosis in 1811, when Emerson was just 7 years old. Emerson's mother, Ruth, and his aunts raised him and his five remaining siblings (a brother and sister had previously died young).

2. HE WAS HARVARD'S CLASS POET.

After studying at the Boston Latin School (which is now the oldest school in the U.S.), Emerson began college at 14, a common occurrence at the time. At Harvard College, he learned Latin, Greek, geometry, physics, history, and philosophy. In 1821, after four years of studying there, Emerson agreed to write and deliver a poem for Harvard's Class Day (then called Valedictorian Day), a pre-graduation event. Was he the best poet in the class? Not exactly. The faculty asked a few other students to be Class Poet, but they turned down the post, so Emerson got the gig.

3. HE RAN A SCHOOL FOR GIRLS.

After graduating from Harvard, Emerson went home to teach young women. His older brother, William, ran a school for girls in their mother's Boston home, and Emerson helped him teach students. Later, when William left to study in Germany, Emerson ran the school himself. He reportedly disliked teaching, though, so he moved on to plan B: grad school.

4. THEN HE SWITCHED GEARS AND BECAME A MINISTER.

In 1825, Emerson enrolled at Harvard Divinity School. He decided to become a minister, following in his father's (and grandfather's) footsteps. Despite struggling with vision problems and failing to graduate from his program, Emerson became licensed to preach in 1826. He then worked at a Unitarian church in Boston.

5. HE WAS FRIENDS WITH NAPOLEON BONAPARTE'S NEPHEW.

In late 1826, Emerson wasn't feeling well. He suffered from tuberculosis, joint pain, and vision problems, so he followed medical advice and went south for a warmer climate near the ocean. After spending time in Charleston, South Carolina, Emerson headed to St. Augustine, Florida, where he preached and wrote poetry. He also met and befriended Prince Achille Murat, the nephew of the former French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who had renounced his European titles (though his father had already been overthrown) and immigrated to the United States. Murat was also a writer, and the two young men reportedly discussed religion, politics, and philosophy.

6. HIS YOUNG WIFE DIED OF TUBERCULOSIS.

When Emerson was 26, he married 18-year-old Ellen Louisa Tucker. The newlyweds lived happily in Boston, but Tucker was suffering from tuberculosis. Emerson's mother helped take care of her son's ailing wife, but in 1831, less than two years after getting married, Ellen passed away. Emerson dealt with his grief by writing in his journals ("Will the eye that was closed on Tuesday ever beam again in the fullness of love on me? Shall I ever be able to connect the face of outward nature, the mists of the morn, the star of eve, the flowers and all poetry with the heart and life of an enchanting friend? No. There is one birth and baptism and one first love and the affections cannot keep their youth any more than men."), traveling, and visiting her grave. The next year, after an extended period of soul-searching, he decided to leave the ministry to become a secular thinker.

7. HE GAVE MORE THAN 1500 LECTURES, WHICH MADE HIM RICH.

portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson
A 1846 portrait of Emerson, from friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's personal collection.
midnightdreary, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1833, Emerson turned his love of writing into a career as a frequent lecturer. He traveled around New England reading his essays and speaking to audiences about his views on nature, the role of religion, and his travels. In 1838, Emerson gave one of his most famous talks, a commencement speech to graduating students of the Harvard Divinity School. His "Divinity School Address" was radical and controversial at the time, since he expressed his Transcendentalist views of individual power over religious doctrine. He also argued that Jesus Christ was not God, a heretical idea at the time. In cities such as Boston, he paid his own money to rent a hall and advertise his speaking event. Emerson packaged some of his lectures into a series, speaking on a certain theme for several events. Ticket sales were high, and the "Sage of Concord" was able to support his family and buy land thanks to his lectures.

8. HE CRITICIZED JANE AUSTEN'S WRITING.

Although many readers love Jane Austen's novels, Emerson was not a fan. In his notebooks (published posthumously), he criticized her characters' single-minded focus on marriage in Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. He also called Austen's writing vulgar in tone and sterile in creativity. "I am at a loss to understand why people hold Miss Austen's novels at so high a rate," he wrote. "Never was life so pinched and so narrow … Suicide is more respectable."

9. HE NAMED HIS DAUGHTER AFTER HIS FIRST WIFE.

In 1835, Emerson married Lydia Jackson (nickname: Lidian), an abolitionist and animal rights activist. The couple had four children—Waldo, Ellen, Edith, and Edward—and they named their first daughter Ellen Tucker to honor Emerson's first wife. Besides naming his daughter after her, Emerson also kept his first wife's rocking chair to remind himself of his love for her.

10. HE GREATLY INFLUENCED HENRY DAVID THOREAU.

Illustrated portrait of Ralph Waldo Emerson
iStock

No biography of writer and thinker Henry David Thoreau would be complete without mentioning Emerson's impact on the "Civil Disobedience" essayist. Emerson gave Thoreau housing and money, encouraged him to keep a journal, and let him have land to build a cabin on Walden Pond. The two friends often discussed Transcendentalism, and Thoreau thought of Emerson's wife Lidian as a sister. Although they had some intellectual disagreements, Emerson gave the eulogy at Thoreau's 1862 funeral.

11. LOUISA MAY ALCOTT HAD A CRUSH ON HIM.

Emerson was friends and neighbors with Amos Bronson Alcott, the father of the Little Women author. Louisa May Alcott grew up surrounded by Emerson, Thoreau, and other Transcendentalist thinkers, and their works greatly influenced her. Emerson lent her books from his library and taught her about the joys of nature. She apparently wrote about her crushes on the much-older Emerson and Thoreau in one of her earliest works, a novel called Moods, and she was known to leave wildflowers near the front door of Emerson's house.

12. MEETING ABRAHAM LINCOLN CHANGED HIS MIND ABOUT THE PRESIDENT.

Emerson wrote and lectured about the evils of slavery, and he frequently criticized President Lincoln for not doing enough to end it. In 1862, Emerson gave an anti-slavery lecture in Washington, D.C., and was invited to the White House to meet Lincoln. After the meeting, Emerson praised Lincoln's charisma and storytelling ability ("When he has made his remark, he looks up at you with a great satisfaction, and shows all his white teeth, and laughs"), saying that the president "impressed me more favorably than I had hoped." Emerson also called Lincoln a sincere, well-meaning man with a boyish cheerfulness and clarity in speech.

13. HE PRAISED WALT WHITMAN WHEN FEW OTHERS WOULD, BUT FELT BURNED WHEN WHITMAN PUBLISHED HIS PRIVATE LETTERS.

letter from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Walt Whitman
Emerson's letter to Walt Whitman, dated 21 July, 1855: "I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of 'Leaves of Grass.' I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."
U.S. Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After reading one of Emerson's poems, Walt Whitman felt inspired. In 1855, he self-published Leaves of Grass and sent a copy to Emerson. The controversial collection of poems by the unknown poet got horrible reviews—it was routinely called obscene and profane, and one critic called it "a mass of stupid filth." Sales were dismal. But Emerson read the book and wrote a laudatory letter to Whitman, calling the work a "wonderful gift" and "the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed."

Thanks to Emerson's encouragement, Whitman published a second edition of Leaves of Grass. However, Whitman printed Emerson's words on the book's spine and in a newspaper article. Emerson was reportedly surprised and annoyed that his private letter was made public without his permission, and he remained silent on his thoughts regarding Whitman from then on.

14. HE SUFFERED FROM MEMORY PROBLEMS LATE IN LIFE.

In the early 1870s, Emerson began forgetting things. Given his symptoms, most historians think Emerson suffered from Alzheimer's, aphasia, or dementia. Although he had difficulty recalling certain words, he continued to lecture until a few years before his death. Despite forgetting his own name and the names of his friends, Emerson reportedly kept a positive attitude towards his declining mental faculties (much as his first wife did while she was dying of tuberculosis).

15. HE HELPED DESIGN THE CEMETERY HE'S BURIED IN.

Ralph Waldo Emerson's grave
midnightdreary, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

When Emerson died of pneumonia in 1882, he was buried on "Author's Ridge" in Concord's Sleepy Hollow Cemetery (not the same Sleepy Hollow as in the famed Washington Irving story)—a cemetery that was designed with Emerson's Transcendentalist, nature-loving aesthetics in mind. In 1855, as a member of the Concord Cemetery Committee, Emerson gave the dedication at the opening of the cemetery, calling it a "garden of the living" that would be a peaceful place for both visitors and permanent residents. "Author's Ridge" became a burial ground for many of the most famous American authors who called Concord home—Louisa May Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and, of course, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
"The Good Place," NBC
arrow
language
Speaking in a Foreign Language Can Impact Your Moral Judgment
"The Good Place," NBC
"The Good Place," NBC

Ethical integrity means practicing consistent values from one situation to the next—at least, that's what you might strive for if you're someone who prides yourself on having a strong moral compass. But a new study suggests that being consistent with our morals is even more complicated than you may think it is. As Quartz reports, personal morality can be influenced by something as seemingly arbitrary as the language you're using.

Researchers from the University of Chicago published their findings in the journal Cognition. They set out to see if the imagery our brains produce changes depending on whether we're communicating in our native language or a foreign one, and whether or not these changes influence the moral decisions we make. They began by discussing sensory experiences with 350 native English speakers. They found that the pictures in the subjects' heads weren't as vivid when hearing scenes described in Spanish as they were when conversing in English.

Next, researchers met with 300 native Mandarin speakers to see how accurate their mental imagery was when speaking in a foreign language, in this case English. Volunteers were given a series of words (“pen,” “carrot,” and “mushroom,” for example) and asked which one didn't belong based on categories like shape or substance. To ace the test, subjects needed to pull up accurate pictures of the items in their minds. They were more likely to do so when speaking in Mandarin and more likely to make a mistake when using a secondary tongue.

So how does morality fit into this? Previous studies have shown that we're less likely to make utilitarian decisions (decisions that maximize life and happiness, even if others must die or suffer first) when speaking in our first language. The researchers thought this might be related to how language affects mental imagery.

For their final test, they asked 700 native German speakers who also spoke English to work out the moral problem of killing one person to save five lives. Subjects who visualized the sacrifice most vividly, mostly those speaking in German, were less likely to say they would kill someone to save five others. But when they spoke in English, and therefore couldn't see the scene as clearly, they were more likely to go the utilitarian route.

Morality is already a notoriously sticky subject, and these new findings don't make things any clearer. Just remember if you ever come across the trolley problem in real life, the language you're using could mean life or death.

[h/t Quartz]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios