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#21 Roger Bissell

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Posted 29 August 2006 - 02:55 PM

Reason and Analysis by Brand Blanshard
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


Both reason as a source of knowledge and rationality as a practical ideal are today under attack. Indeed there has been no period in the past two thousand years when they have undergone a bombardment so varied, so competent, so massive and sustained as in the last half-century.


This statement is made by Brand Blanshard in the opening pages of Reason and Analysis. There is only one word in the statement that I would challenge: the word “competent.” And I offer, in support of my disagreement, Professor Blanshard’s own brilliant critique: when one has finished reading his analysis of the irrationalist movement in contemporary philosophy, “competent” is a word that scarcely seems applicable to those whose doctrines he so lucidly and devastatingly exposes.

His critique is directed specifically at “logical positivism and the linguistic philosophies that have succeeded it.” (For a critical analysis of pragmatist epistemology, see his The Nature of Thought, Vol. 1, Macmillan, 1939.) He traces the development of positivism and linguistic analysis from their roots in Hume, sets forth their main contentions, and then proceeds to subject their arguments and conclusions to a scrutiny that is dispassionate, courteous, meticulous—and deadly.

As he observes, “the task of the expositor is a baffling one. He has no sooner, with some effort, mastered a particular position and matured his estimate of it than he is told that this position was abandoned some years or some weeks ago, and that he is therefore flogging dead horses.” The movement “has been kaleidoscopic in the quickness of its changes, which have followed each other at such a pace that the writing and printing of books could not keep up with it and it has had to register its changes in a bewildering profusion of notes and articles.”

These difficulties notwithstanding, one of the most impressive features of Reason and Analysis is the clarity of its exposition; Professor Blanshard exhibits a remarkable ability to impart intelligibility to positions not conspicuous for that attribute.

His historical account is superb. He discusses: the early positivism of Mach, with Mach’s assertion that all scientific laws must merely describe relationships among our percepts, with the implicit dismissal of conceptual explanation as mythology or “metaphysics”—the conventionalism of Poincaré, with its announcement that the laws and definitions of mathematics say nothing about the real world, but merely express “conventions” adopted on the grounds of “convenience”—Russell’s Principia Mathematica and the theory of logical atomism, with the banishment of necessity from logic and the assertion that no fact of reality necessarily entails any other—the verifiability theory of meaning of the Vienna Circle, which seeks to divorce “meaning” from consciousness or concepts, and which has, at various stages, dismissed as “meaningless” statements about the self, the minds of other men, the past, the future, electrons, moral values, and the nature of reality—the declaration of the logical positivists that no proposition known to be necessarily true refers to the facts of reality and no proposition that refers to the facts of reality can be known with certainty to be true—the linguistic analysis of Wittgenstein, with its pronouncement that the task of philosophy is not to solve philosophical problems, but to “dissolve” them, by “teasing out” the confusions in philosopher’ use of language. And thus Professor Blanshard traces the main steps of modern philosophy’s descent into a nightmare blend of neo-mysticism and unutterable triviality.

One of the most interesting chapters in his book is devoted to the verifiability theory of meaning. This is the much-touted doctrine that promised to bring an unprecedented precision and clarity to philosophical discourse. Unfortunately, the theory itself—as Professor Blanshard shows—is a masterpiece of unclarity and ambiguity. Cast in its most general form, it asserts that the meaning of any factual statement is the observations that would verify it. But what exactly does this mean? That, as it turns out, is the problem. There is not one “verifiability theory of meaning,” but many—as attempt after attempt has been made, and reformulation after reformulation has been offered, in the vain effort to endow the theory with consistency, intelligibility, applicability, value or meaning. Professor Blanshard leads the reader through the main stages of these attempts, quietly dissecting and unmasking version after version, with the patience of a saint and the skill of a surgeon.

In For the New Intellectual, Ayn Rand observes that the dominant trend of modern philosophy has been a concerted attack on man’s conceptual faculty. While Professor Blanshard does not draw this conclusion explicitly, his analysis provides ample evidence in support of Miss Rand’s statement. From his presentation, one can see in what manner the central thrust of the verifiability doctrine, in all its stages, is in the direction of by-passing the conceptual form of cognition and reducing man’s consciousness to the animal level of sensory perception.

One of the clearest instances of the subjectivism of positivist epistemology is its assertion that the laws of logic and mathematics are merely “conventions”—arbitrary rules of discourse, of the use of terms—that indicate nothing about the facts of reality. “The principles of logic and mathematics,” A. J. Ayer informs us, “are true universally simply because we never allow them to be anything else.” (I cannot refrain from observing that if a man were to make such a statement using the first person singular pronoun, his problem would surely be regarded as psychiatric; it is curious to note what men permit themselves when hiding behind the plural pronoun.)

Professor Blanshard analyzes the conventionalist or linguistic theory of logic and mathematics in exhaustive detail, exposing the almost endless series of contradictions which it engenders.

To deny the law [of contradiction] means to say that it is false rather than true, that its being false excludes its being true. But this is the very thing that is supposedly denied. One cannot deny the law of contradiction without presupposing its validity in the act of denying it. We accept the law and must accept it, because “nature has said it.” If we hold that a thing cannot at once have a property and not have it, it is because we see that it cannot. The law of contradiction is at once the statement of a logical requirement and the statement of an ontological truth.


In reversing the actual order of things, and declaring that our view of reality reflects our use of language, rather than vice versa, the positivists, Professor Blanshard observes, “are telling us in effect that the only reason why the Rocky Mountains do not appear in the Great Lakes is that the map forbids them to.”

One of the dominant themes in twentieth-century philosophy is a profound hostility to metaphysics, to any comprehensive view of reality or any inquiry concerning the nature of things. Philosophers are conducting an impassioned crusade for myopia as the highest intellectual virtue—for the progressive shrinking of man’s vision and the progressive divorcement of thought from reality. This trend has reached its apogee in that curious movement known as linguistic analysis.

The animus toward any sort of general principles extends to the linguistic analysts’ view of their own activity. Nothing is more futile than the attempt to extract from a linguistic analyst an intelligible statement of what linguistic analysis is. To quote Professor Blanshard: the attempt to define this movement “is complicated…by the notorious reluctance of these philosophers to talk about what they are doing in general terms; if they are asked what philosophy means for them, they are apt to say, ‘it is the sort of thing I am doing now,’ and return to their work.”

It is safe to say, however, that one of the chief contentions of the linguistic school is that earlier philosophers had misconceived the task of philosophy: they had falsely imagined that their task was to discover basic truths about existence, about man and the universe about how man should conduct his life. The actual mission of philosophy, linguistic analysts tell us, is to explicate the usage of words, to identify the sort of “work” words to in “ordinary language,” and, by analyzing deviations from this usage, to cure those “mental cramps” which the uninitiated think of as philosophical problems. The concept of philosophical problems as “mental cramps” is Wittgenstein’s: what he proposes to offer, in place of philosophical answers, is linguistic therapy.

(In reading the various doctrines and versions of linguistic analysis, one is irresistibly reminded of a statement made by Hugh Akston in Atlas Shrugged: “People would not employ a plumber who’d attempt to prove his professional excellence by asserting that there’s no such thing as plumbing—but, apparently, the same standards of caution are not considered necessary in regard to philosophy.”)

Professor Blanshard writes: “The discussion of words in philosophy is prefatory and preparatory only. How expressions are used is not a philosophical problem. How they ought to be used is a philosophical problem, but not primarily one about words at all, but about the character and relations of the objects talked about.”

In bringing to light the underlying irrationalism of the analytic movement, Professor Blanshard may be said to have administered some admirable philosophical “therapy” of his own, but not of the linguistic variety; his treatment is an unqualified success: the patient died—but philosophy survived.

It is necessary to mention that many of Professor Blanshard’s own philosophical premises are deeply at variance with those of Objectivism. He is a representative of the Absolute Idealist school of thought, and there is much in his book with which an Objectivist cannot agree: for instance, his views concerning the nature of universals and the relation of thought to reality.

One may take issue with any of Professor Blanshard’s own philosophical views, however, and still appreciate the enormous value of his book. No honest man can read it through to the end and retain any serious regard for the philosophical schools at which his critique is directed. Since these schools are currently dominant, it is scarcely to be expected that the book will receive the justice it deserves from the philosophical profession. The real beneficiaries of the book, and its most significant readers, will be the younger generation, the college students who are to be the writers, the teachers, the intellectuals of tomorrow. Struggling in the dense jungle of today’s epistemological nihilism, they will find in Reason and Analysis a powerful weapon to help them cut their way through to a clearer view of the proper nature of philosophy.

[This review first appeared in the February 1963 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, August 29, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#22 Roger Bissell

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 05:49 PM

Planning for Freedom by Ludwig von Mises
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


The economic essays of Ludwig von Mises are always a pleasure to read. They combine elegant simplicity with patient and devastating logical rigor. A collection of hi essays and addresses, in a new, enlarged edition, has recently been published by the Libertarian Press. It is entitled Planning for Freedom. We recommend it enthusiastically to our readers.

The essays cover a wide range of subjects: Nazism or fascism as a variety of socialism; minimum wage rates as a cause of mass unemployment; Keynesianism as a resurrection of the theories of nineteenth-century “money cranks”; the fallacy of the belief that labor unions can raise the general standard of living; the nature of profit and loss; the dominance of collectivist teachings in our universities—to mention only a few.

In one of the most interesting essays of the book, “Profit and Loss,” Mises writes:

It is not the capital employed that creates profits and losses. Capital does not “beget profit” as Marx thought. The capital goods as such are dead things that in themselves do not accomplish anything. If they are utilized according to a good idea, profit results. If they are utilized according to a mistaken idea, no profit, or losses, result. It is the entrepreneurial decision that creates either profit or loss. It is mental acts, the mind of the entrepreneur, from which profits ultimately originate. Profit is a product of the mind, of success in anticipating the future sate of the market. It is a spiritual and intellectual phenomenon.


Elsewhere in the same essay, Mises writes:

The average wage earner thinks that nothing else is needed to keep the social apparatus of production running and to improve and to increase output than the comparatively simple routine work assigned to him. He does not realize that the mere toil and trouble of the routinist is not sufficient. Sedulousness and skill are spent in vain if they are not directed…by the entrepreneur’s foresight and are not aided by the capital accumulated by capitalists. The American worker is badly mistaken when he believes that his high standard of living is due to his own excellence. He is neither more industrious nor more skillful than the workers of Western Europe. He owes his superior income to the fact that his country clung to “rugged individualism” much longer than Europe. It was his luck that the United States turned to an anti-capitalistic policy as much as forty or fifty years later than Germany. His wages are higher than those of the workers of the rest of the world because the capital equipment per head of the employee is highest in America and because the American entrepreneur was not so much restricted by crippling regimentation as his colleagues in other areas. The comparatively greater prosperity of the United States is an outcome of the fact that the New Deal did not come in 1900 or 1910, but only in 1933.


Advocates of government intervention in the economy take great pains to evade acknowledging the dictatorial nature of their proposals. But Mises never permits this issue to be forgotten. In an essay entitled “Laissez Faire or Dictatorship,” he writes:

Professor Harold Laski, the former chairman of the British Labor Party, determined the objective of planned direction of investment as “the use of the investor’s savings will be in housing rather than in cinemas.” It does not matter whether or not one agrees with the professor’s personal view that better houses are more important than moving pictures. The fact is that consumers, by spending part of their money for admission to the movies, have made another choice. If the masses of Great Britain, the same people whose votes swept the Labor Party into power, were to stop patronizing the moving pictures and to spend more for comfortable homes and apartments, profit-seeking business would be forced to invest more in building homes and apartment houses, and less in the production of swanky pictures. What Professor Laski aimed at is to defy the wishes of the consumers and to substitute his own will for theirs. He wanted to do away with the democracy of the market and to establish the absolute rule of a production czar. He might pretend that he is right from a “higher” point of view, and that as a superman he is called upon to impose his own set of values on the masses of inferior men. But then he should have been frank enough to say so plainly.


In “Economic Teaching at the Universities,” originally published in 1952, Mises recounts an incident that is strikingly timely today:

A few years ago a House of Representatives Subcommittee on Publicity and Propaganda in the Executive Departments, under the chairmanship of Representative Forest A. Harness, investigated Federal propaganda operations. On one occasion the Committee had as a witness a government-employed doctor. When asked if his public speeches throughout the country presented both sides of the discussion touching compulsory national health insurance, this witness answered: “I don’t know what you mean by both sides.”


Planning for Freedom is chiefly concerned with exposing the disastrous effects of government intervention in economics. As an introduction to the issues involved in capitalism versus the “mixed economy,” it is an ideal companion piece to Mises’ Planned Chaos and Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson.

[This review first appeared in the Sepember 1962 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, September 5, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#23 Roger Bissell

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 06:04 PM

Human Action by Ludwig von Mises
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


Through a long and distinguished career, Professor Ludwig von Mises has been a powerful advocate of laissez-faire capitalism. He has written many lucid and scholarly books dealing with the operation of a free market economy, and with the attacks leveled against it by supporters of collectivism. Among the most important of these books are: The Theory of Money and Credit (1912), a treatise on the nature, origin and functions of banking, credit and interest, and on the problems of inflation and deflation; Socialism (1922), a devastating refutation of every known version of socialist or collectivist economic theory; and Omnipotent Government (1944), an analysis of the historical and intellectual origins of the Nazi state, demonstrating the relationship between government regulation of the economy and aggressive nationalism.

In 1949, Professor Mises published Human Action—a definitive presentation of his economic theories. The book has had five printings, and recently has been re-issued in a new, revised edition. In scope and importance, it is clearly the climax of his previous works.

In Human Action, Professor Mises offers a systematic and comprehensive analysis of the nature of production and trade. He shows why a free economy is necessarily the most productive and efficient; why coercive interference with men’s free choices in the market invariably leads to a lowering of the standard of living; why slavery is incompatible with an industrial civilization.

Among the many issues he discusses are: economic calculation in a market economy; the determinants of prices, wages and production policies; the gold standard; interest rates and credit expansion; the causes of depression; the impossibility of rational economic calculation in a socialist system (this demonstration is one of his most important achievements); the contradictions and destructiveness of interventionism; common misconceptions concerning the history and nature of capitalism; the economics of war; confiscatory taxation.

One of the great merits of the book is its encyclopedic character; it deals with virtually every major problem in economic theory. It contains many historical illustrations and references that provide further illumination—such as, for instance, a discussion of the “welfare state” policies of the disintegrating Roman Empire, and the manner in which these policies made the Empire vulnerable to the barbarian invaders (an analogy that is far from academic in our present political context).

Today, government officials and economics of the statist persuasion clearly believe that there are no economic laws, no immutable principles regarding production and trade—and that, given sufficient power they may impose any regulations or controls they wish and still retain a high level of material prosperity. Thus, they believe that they can pass legislation which results in forcing wages above their market level, and yet escape the consequence of unemployment; they believe that they can dictate the pricing and production policies of industrialists, and yet suffer no consequent diminution of goods and services; they believe that they can indulge in unlimited deficit spending, and yet avoid inflation; they believe that they can manipulate the money supply, expanding credit at whim, and yet escape a depression; they believe that they can create an atmosphere of chronic uncertainty, and yet have men continue to invest and produce, happily and confidently. When their plans fail, when economic disaster occurs, they do not question their policies, they denounce the “selfish greed” of businessmen for thwarting the noble plans that would have worked if everyone had wanted them to work. It is the barbaric absurdity of these belief—the dream which sees economic laws as a myth and the social planner’s whim as omnipotent—that Professor Mises brilliantly exposes. He delineates the principles that necessarily operate in an exchange economy, establishing the conditions on which successful material production necessarily depends. To put the matter another way: he brings the law of causality into the context of man’s productive activity.

In justice to Professor Mises’ position and our own, it must be mentioned that there are many sections of Human Action with which Objectivists cannot agree. These sections pertain, not to the sphere of economics as such, but to the philosophical framework in which his economic theories are presented. We must take the gravest exception, for example, to the general doctrine of praxeology; to the assertion that all value-judgments are outside the province of reason; that a scientific ethics is impossible; to the disavowal of the concept of inalienable rights; and to many of the psychological views expressed.

Notwithstanding these reservations, the book is of the first rank of importance, eminently deserving of careful study. It is a major economic classic. As a reference work, it belongs in the library of every advocate of capitalism.

[This review first appeared in the Sepember 1963 issue of The Objectivist Newsletter and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, September 5, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#24 Roger Bissell

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Posted 05 September 2006 - 06:10 PM

Omnipotent Government, Bureaucracy, Theory and History by Ludwig von Mises
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


Professor Ludwig von Mises is our most distinguished living economist. As a leading exponent of the Austrian School of Economics, he has been a scholarly and passionate champion of freedom and free enterprise for more than half a century. Unfortunately, three of his most important books—Omnipotent Government, Bureaucracy and Theory and History—have been out of print for some time. Now, thanks to Arlington House Publishers, they are again available.

In Omnipotent Government, Professor von Mises provides an explanation of the international conflicts that caused both world wars, and of the ideological issues behind those conflicts. He shows very clearly and persuasively the relationship between governmental intervention into the economy and the consequent growth of belligerent nationalism. He also shows the relationship between free trade and free enterprise, on the one hand, and world peace, on the other.

He supports his analysis with a review of the events that gave rise to Nazism and prevented Germany and the rest of the world from stopping it. But although the analysis of the rise of Nazi Germany is fascinating in its own right, its importance to modern readers lies in the wider principles involved that are dramatically relevant to the world crisis today.

Bureaucracy is a brilliantly informative analysis of the radical difference between bureaucratic management and management for profit. “There are two methods for the conduct of human affairs within the frame of human society,” writes Professor von Mises. “One is bureaucratic management, the other is profit management.” Professor von Mises’ point is not a condemnation of bureaucracy as such; on the contrary, in the management of a government pursuing its proper functions it is useful and necessary. It becomes a disaster only when it is the method employed in areas where private enterprise ought to be free to function. That is, it becomes a disaster when government attempts to manage the economy in whole or in part. The reader will find this little book immensely interesting and enlightening; it belongs in the library of any supporter of Capitalism.

Theory and History is a more philosophical work than the two preceding ones; and, I regret to say, contains a good deal of material with which I cannot agree—for example, Professor von Mises’ subjectivist theory of values. The book is concerned with theoretical interpretations of history, and contains a magnificent critique of dialectical materialism (to me, the most valuable chapter in the book); it also contains excellent critical commentaries on positivism, behaviorism and historicism. Indeed, I believe the chief value of this work lies in its critical sections, which constitute a major portion of the book. Theory and History undeniably deserves the attention of every serious student of free enterprise.

Speaking personally, I have never found economics a particularly exciting subject. But Professor von Mises’ books were among the very first that I read, when I initially became interested in problems of political economy—and to this day I find myself returning to them, again and again, for the pleasure and instruction [inspiration?] of observing a brilliant mind bring clarity and sanity to a field in which clarity and sanity tend to be so conspicuously absent.

[This review first appeared in the June 1970 issue (#4) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, September 5, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#25 Roger Bissell

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 09:45 AM

Explorations in Hypnosis by Dave Elman
An excerpt from the Foreword by Nathaniel Branden


I first encountered the work of Dave Elman nearly ten years ago when a psychiatric colleague invited me to listen to a set of Elman’s recorded lectures on hypnosis. At that time, Dave Elman was conducting classes in hypnosis for physicians and dentists, as he had been doing for some years, and the recordings were taken directly from his classes.

I had been vaguely interested in hypnosis for a long time, but had never really pursued it; this was my formal introduction to the subject. I could not have asked for a better teacher.

In the years that followed, I listened to and observed many distinguished experts in clinical hypnosis; I heard many lectures and saw many demonstrations. I learned about many techniques more sophisticated than those presented in Elman’s course. But it was Elman who taught me the fundamentals, it was Elman who gave me a feeling for the subject—and it is still Elman who, in my judgment, offers the best introduction to the field.

Dave Elman died several years ago, but Explorations in Hypnosis is the summary of his work. Based on the course he taught to thousands of physicians and dentists, it is an immensely valuable contribution to the literature of the subject—especially for the beginning student…

It has taken many years for hypnosis to gain scientific “respectability.” In many circles it has not gained that “respectability” yet. It has had to fight an uphill battle against fierce and bitter opposition. In the minds of the uninformed, hypnosis is still associated with mysticism and charlatanism. It is only within the last two or three decades that the American Medical Association and the British Medical Association have given it formal recognition and sanction as a valuable therapeutic instrument.

Research into the possibilities of hypnosis has been growing at an accelerating pace ever since World War II, and exciting new developments in the field are breaking year by year. There are many who believe—and I am one of them—that the possibilities inherent in hypnosis have barely been glimpsed; that its potential uses as an instrument of therapy (or an aid to therapy) in such field as psychology, psychiatry, general medicine, dentistry, surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, anesthesiology and pediatrics have only begun to be explored and appreciated—and that we are standing on the edge of an immensely promising frontier.
For those who wish to approach this frontier—either as professionals who desire to advance into the new territory or as laymen who are interested in this field of scientific progress—I enthusiastically recommend Dave Elman as a guide. Explorations in Hypnosis is the place to begin.

[This passage first appeared in the October 1970 issue (#5) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the author's permission on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#26 Roger Bissell

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 09:49 AM

The Complete Guide to Hypnosis by Leslie M. LeCron
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


As hypnosis continues to gain in scientific “respectability,” and its effectiveness as a therapeutic instrument becomes more widely known, there is greater and greater interest in the subject on the part of the general public. Clinical psychologist Leslie LeCron, who has written many well-known technical books on hypnotism, now offers a general introduction to the field for the non-professional.

Beginning with a general characterization of the nature of hypnosis, and the history of its development during the past hundred years, he proceeds to explore the many possible uses of this still poorly understood phenomenon, n such fields as medicine, dentistry, education and psychotherapy.

Although the book is primarily concerned with the uses of hypnosis there is a valuable discussion on the technique of hypnotic induction—with special emphasis on the technique of self-hypnosis—which many readers will find of interest and value.

The title is misleading in that the book is not “a complete guide,” but rather, as I have indicated, an introduction to the field; and not all of the author’s claims for hypnosis can be taken at face value. Nonetheless, the book makes fascinating and informative reading. It is an excellent supplement to Elman’s Explorations in Hypnosis, previously recommended. I think that many Book News subscribers will enjoy it.

[This review first appeared in the Fall 1971 issue (#7) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#27 Roger Bissell

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Posted 12 September 2006 - 09:53 AM

Hypnosis: Is It for You? by Lewis R. Wolberg, M.D.
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


The title of this book is a bit deceptive; it might make one expect another “popular” book on hypnosis, of no special depth or significance. In fact, however, the book offers a superb review of the history of hypnosis and hypnotic phenomena, a summary of various leading theories concerning the nature of hypnosis, an excellent discussion of hypnotic technique, and a panoramic overview of the many possible applications of hypnosis, with particular emphasis on uses of hypnosis in the treatment of emotional disorders.

Written by one of the most distinguished authorities in the field, this book is at once a first-rate introduction to the field of hypnosis for those who have had no previous acquaintance with it, and a remarkably penetrating exploration of the various aspects of hypnosis that no practicing psychotherapist can afford to ignore.

I have often felt regret that so many psychologists and psychiatrists choose to remain ignorant of the immense potential value of hypnosis to their work, and entertain many of the same misconceptions concerning hypnosis that are generally found among fearful laymen who continue to associate hypnosis with the mystical and the occult. Fortunately, with every year that passes more work is being done in this field, more papers and books are being written, and more people are learning to appreciate the potential of hypnosis as a therapeutic instrument.

What I especially enjoyed about Dr. Wolberg’s book, aside from the fact that it is extremely well written, very lucid, very precise, is the fact that the book is filled with interesting and illuminating observations about human motivation, neurotic processes, personality development, and so forth. It is truly a book on psychology. In this respect, it is superior to other books that attempt to treat hypnosis in a narrower, more mechanical and therefore less illuminating way.

For anyone who has heard about hypnosis, is skeptical but curious, this is the book to read. For the professional, it is mandatory. For anyone who is interested in psychology, it is a delight.

[This review first appeared in the 1972 Mid-Season Bulletin (between issues #8 and 9) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living with the reviewer's permission on Tuesday, September 12, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#28 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 08:58 PM

The World of the Formerly Married by Morton M. Hunt
Reviewed by Nathaniel Branden

Approximately 25% of all marriages in the United States today end in divorce; another 25% end in separation. Very little of value has been written on the subject of the psychological pressures and problems associated with the break-up of a marriage, the nature of the world the formerly married inhabit, the struggle that takes place in their efforts to repair the emotional damage that almost invariably follows divorce or separation (even when divorce or separation is eminently desirable for a couple).

Morton Hunt is an exceptionally talented journalist who specializes in psychological and sociological subjects. In The World of the Formerly Married, he has written a much needed book and has thrown valuable illumination on a painful subject that has largely been confined to darkness.

In his “Prefatory Note,” Hunt writes, “This is a description of the special world of the separated and divorced in America, an eyewitness report on the mores, problems, and experiences of people who inhabit a half-secret subculture outside the realm of conventional marriage and family life. It is neither an analysis of the causes of divorce nor a guide to divorce law, but a picture of how separated and divorced people live.”

As a marriage counselor, I have found this book of considerable value. It is written with the sensitivity, color and perceptiveness of a novel. Hunt provides the reader with a graphic picture of what it feels like to stand at the terminal point of a disintegrated marriage, to face the world as a single person after having been married perhaps ten or twenty years. In helping separated or divorced couples to understand more clearly the nature of the special problems to which they may be subject, Hunt provides them with the means of better coping with such problems. His presentation is so sympathetic, so enlightening, so psychologically astute, that I believe the book will be read with interest and appreciation by a much wider audience than those who happen to suffer from the predicaments and difficulties about which he writes.

[This review first appeared in the Fall 1969 issue (#2) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living, with the author's permission, on Sunday, October 1, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#29 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 09:03 PM

The Action Approach by George Weinberg
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden



Occasionally (not often) one encounters a book on psychology which, while it does not present any radically new theory or system, is remarkably instructive and valuable by the sheer power of its “common sense.” Dr. Weinberg’s The Action Approach is such a book.

Dr. Weinberg is firmly of the conviction that people can change—and that the key to change lies in modifying their volitionally controlled actions.

“There’s no sense in blaming yourself,” he writes, “for the fact that you can’t enjoy sex, or that you’re lacking in confidence. If you blame yourself for anything, it must be for actions, since you can control them.” Dr. Weinberg is very adept at showing “how the seemingly small choices a person makes today determine the way he is going to feel about himself and the world tomorrow.”

Early in life, a person may form certain mistaken conclusions; as a consequence he begins to experience certain neurotic emotions; under the influence of those emotions, he begins to take certain harmful or self-destructive actions. Those actions subsequently have a “feed-back” effect, confirming and deepening his mistaken conclusions and intensifying his neurotic emotions. As an adult, he is seldom able to correct his condition merely by recognizing the error in some of his early conclusions—because by now he has established an emotional and behavioral habit-pattern that invades and affects many areas of his life. How is he, then, to reverse the process and move in the direction of psychological liberation? By working at modifying his actions, Dr. Weinberg answers—so that the “feed-back” from those actions begins to work for him in a positive rather than a negative way. It is thus that a healthy re-orientation of his view of himself and of the world is achieved.

This is, of course, not all there to the process of psychotherapy or basic psychological change—but it is a central and indispensable element. It deserves much more attention than many psychotherapists grant it.

Addressed to the general reader as well as to the psychological profession, this book should be of wide interest and value. It can be read with profit by everyone interested in personal development.

[This review first appeared in the Fall 1969 issue (#2) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living, with the author's permission, on Sunday, October 1, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#30 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 09:10 PM

Man and Aggression by M. F. Ashley Montagu
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


The religious doctrine of Original Sin has presented itself in many guises apart from the official Christian doctrine. One such guise is the Freudian theory of an inherited “Id.” Another is the concept of man’s “aggressive drive”—a twentieth century form of Augustinianism advanced by the eminent ethologist Konrad Lorenz (On Aggression), and popularized by such writers as Robert Ardrey (African Genesis, The Territorial Imperative). This view of man as a “natural killer” has gained a wide degree of publicity and public acceptance.

In Man and Aggression, edited by anthropologist Ashley Montagu, fourteen scientists in the fields of biology, anthropology, ethology, etc., undertake a devastating critique of the attempt to explain destructive aggressiveness in human beings by reference to instincts. In his Introduction, Professor Montagu quotes an Old English proverb, “Let him make use of instincts, who cannot make use of reason.” Montagu’s point is that explanation via instincts represents the easy way out for theorists who do not care to inquire into the actual causes of behavior, or—in the case of human destructive aggressiveness—do not care to recognize that such a trait is acquired, is learned, and hence can be unlearned.

Unfortunately (and incredibly), certain advocates of capitalism believe themselves to have found in the Lorenz-Ardrey doctrine a sanction and support for their own views concerning the importance of private property. And, predictably, some of the critics of the Lorenz-Ardrey position are evidently of an anti-capitalist persuasion. But the political issue is totally irrelevant to this issue and should never have been raised by “conservatives” in the first place. Their fascination with the Lorenz-Ardrey position is, if anything, an embarrassment to rational defenders of capitalism.

What is important about Man and Aggression is that is provides valuable clarification concerning the untenability of recourse to instinct as a device of psychological explanation—and, in addition, by exposing the gaping loopholes, non sequiturs and ignoring of contradictory evidence, in the Lorenz-Ardrey position, the book effectively refutes this latest version of Original Sin.

[This review first appeared in the Holiday 1969 issue (#3) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living, with the author's permission, on Sunday, October 1, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#31 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 09:16 PM

The Great Psychologists: from Aristotle to Freud by Robert I. Watson
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


I cannot remember reading a history of psychology with as much pleasure as I derived from The Great Psychologists. Its author has chosen to tell the story of the development of psychological thought—from Thales, Plato and Aristotle to Watson, Wertheimer and Freud—in terms of the leading figures who have decisively affected men’s thinking about man. This biographical approach gives to the development of psychological thought an intellectual drama which it seldom captured in the standard histories.

Especially interesting to this reviewer was the treatment of the psychological theories of Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas—which are treated with greater clarity and in more detail than one usually encounters. The books’ broad coverage gives the reader a panoramic view of the historical development of psychology, told in terms of broad essentials. The Great Psychologists, with its wide range of interesting information about the major historical figures who shaped psychological thought, is a book that can be enjoyed and read profitably not only by students of the psychological sciences but by untrained laymen who wish to understand where the science of psychology stands today and how it evolved to that point.

[This review first appeared in the Holiday 1969 issue (#3) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living, with the author's permission, on Sunday, October 1, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#32 Roger Bissell

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Posted 01 October 2006 - 09:17 PM

Man vs. the Welfare State by Henry Hazlitt
reviewed by Nathaniel Branden


The first book I read in the field of economics, twenty years ago, was Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson. It is still the best introduction to the subject. Now, Mr. Hazlitt has written a new book which is, in effect, a sequel to that earlier work: Man vs. the Welfare State. It is a worthy successor.

Henry Hazlitt is surely one of the clearest writers on the subject of economics; he has an admirable ability to make the most complex issues readily understandable, to achieve simplicity without simplification. No special knowledge of economics is needed for Man vs. the Welfare State. It can be read with profit by everyone.

“In America today,” writes Hazlitt, “most of the older generation—and many of the young—stand appalled at the nihilism of the self-style Now Generation and its demand for unattainable reforms, or merely for the sheer destruction of whatever is established.” Hazlitt sees that nihilism as a reaction against the failure of “liberal” politicians and intellectuals to deliver the instant Utopia they have been promising for decades. The purpose of his latest book is to demonstrate why the statist policies of these “liberals” inevitably lead to socially and economically harmful results.

Here are the titles of some of the chapters in the book, which indicate the kind of issues to which Hazlitt addresses himself: Salvation Through Government Spending—“We Owe It To Ourselves”—Consequences of Dollar Debasement—The High Cost of Wage Hikes—Price Controls—Who Protects the Consumer?—Famines Are Government-Made—Runaway Relief and Social Insecurity – Fallacies of the Negative Income Tax—Soaking the Corporations—Can We Guarantee Jobs?—Government planning vs. Economic Growth—The Case for the Gold Standard—The Fallacy of Foreign Aid—The Task Confronting Libertarians.

The contents of this book should be mastered by every person concerned with the present struggle between freedom and statism. The book provides indispensable intellectual ammunition for those engaged in that struggle, on the side of individualism, individual rights and political freedom.

[This review first appeared in the June 1970 issue (#4) of Academic Associates' Book News and was posted to Objectivist Living, with the author's permission, on Sunday, October 1, 2006. Comments and questions are welcome.]
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.




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