A quote (from AB) and comments re AR's journals
Posted 15 February 2006 - 02:49 PM
I interrupt my retirement from listlife to recount a remark which Allan Blumenthal made about Ayn Rand. I've read the journal entries in PARC -- just the entries themselves, skipping Valliant's interspersed "exegeses." As I anticipated would be the case, I'm finding the memory-lane trip engendered by my reading her words painful. Among many associated memories, I kept thinking over and over again as I read the long entry for July 4, 1968, of a particular comment of Allan's. (The quote starts with an "and," since it occurred in the midst of a series of reflections.) "And there are some subjects about which she knows nothing," he said, "like music and painting. But if you try to explain to her, she'll tell you you're wrong. And then she'll call the next day to ask if you've thought about what she said, and if you say 'no,' then it will be long discussions of your psychoepistemology. Conversations with her were not a pleasure."
Of course he was highlighting the negative when he told me this. He'd by then split with Rand (several months previously) and was looking back on his relationship with her. He'd found value as well as displeasure in conversations with her, else he wouldn't have remained her associate as long as he did. But I felt as I talked with him that day that what he was saying confirmed my own disinclination to avoid getting "too close" to Rand's near orbit. And reading the journal entries thoroughly confirms a sentiment I expressed in one of my SOLOhq posts to the effect that I shuddered at the thought of "psychological counseling" with Rand. She constructs an entire edifice of "explanation" in those July 4 notes to herself, an edifice which I'd describe as being more in the nature of philosophic invention than of psychological "detection." (Granted, she makes a few perceptive points, but the total explanatory edifice she builds is artifical.)
"But she's being denied major facts," the response might be made. Yes, she is. And, yes, as she says several times she suspects, there is something conscious operative in Nathaniel's problems. He's lying to her; he's actually having an affair with Patrecia, and has been having an affair with Patrecia for several years. But I submit that had Ayn been astute at detecting psychological signs, she'd have had enough evidence from her "stomach feelings" within the first few months of Nathaniel's and Patrecia's affair to discern what was going on. He's clearly been talking about Patrecia to Ayn often; there's even been some form of "Patrecia break" between Nathaniel and Ayn (the details of which aren't specified). And she's had opportunity to observe Patrecia and Nathaniel together -- hence to pick up the "vibrations" between them. Geez, I picked up the "vibrations" -- the body language -- between Ayn and Nathaniel on a public -- a very public -- occasion (the only time I saw the two of them together) years before the Split. (The occasion was her MacCormack Place speech in fall of '63; I was sitting in the front row a couple seats to the right of the podium facing the podium. And I was watching specifically for the body language, since I already had suspicions of a romantic involvement between the two of them.) How much more opportunity did Ayn have for observing Patrecia and Nathaniel together? Why didn't she see? (Reading her journal entries, I kept feeling the desire to reach back through time and to say to her, "Where are your eyes, woman?! Open those large eyes of yours and look!") I feel that, supposing I had never heard of Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden before reading the journal entries, supposing I was reading them as my first knowledge of the persons involved, I would suspect just from details she reports that what Nathaniel was consciously hiding from her was an affair-in-progress with the young woman in the scene. Ayn comes across to me as...so naive.
It's odd. I used to think of her (affectionately) in the years between spring '63 (which is when I learned of, subscribed to, and acquired all the then-back issues of [i]The Objectivist Newsletter[/]) and fall '68 (which is when I moved to New York City) as "my naive genius." I always did think of her -- and I mean from my first reading of [i]Atlas[/] (June, 1961) -- as lacking in psychological insight. My feeling is that her journal entries analyzing the circumstances with Nathaniel scream out that lack. I feel so sorry across the distance of time for all of the persons involved.
Posted 15 February 2006 - 07:46 PM
I wish with all my heart that her journal entries in the Valliant book had never been published. I shudder at the thought of what an objective (probably not Objectivist) psychologist who approached them cold would make of them. They are both tragic and twisted; they show Rand at her best and her worst -- her best in her desperate determination to understand, her worst in what they reveal about her own psychology, her profound repression, and her manner of dealing with and attempting to understand people And it is the worst that is predominant in these entries. If Leonard truly wanted to protect her, he would never have made them available to Valliant. But I suppose his hatred of Nathaniel and me was stronger than any protectiveness for Ayn that he might feel.Or, perhaps, he truly does not understand what these entries reveal.
And in fact, I doubt that he is truly motivated by concern for Ayn. I have long believed that he has a love-hate relationship with her memory, as he had with the reality of her when she was alive. I say this for many reasons, but the major reason is the following: If one sells one's soul to someone, one can never forgive that person. We can neither forgive nor fully love someone whom we feel has forced us to wipe our self out of existence in her name. Of all the people around Ayn, Leonard was always the most dependent; he scarcely dared to think a thought unless he knew that she would approve of it -- and it's not an accident that it took him twelve years to write The Ominous Parallels. Apart from Ayn's constant demands for substantial changes, she would have been sitting in his mind as he tried to write, a silent editor of every word he put on paper, paralyzing him.
I remember once that he came to me with a problem, as he often did, knowing that I would not report our discussion -- (which I never did, until now, when all my concern for him has vanished with the viciousness of the attacks on me which he has sanctioned and probably promoted.) He was very upset that evening, and he said: "When I watch television, or see a play, or read a book, or listen to music, I feel nothing at all; I have no emotional reaction, I'm dead inside, because I don't know what I should feel." This is the kind of thing I meant when I said that Ayn lived inside his mind.
And his praise of her went too far. Granted, we all bought into the "Ayn Rand is beyond reproach" theory -- although one or two of us had signficant doubts of this at times -- but Leonard bought it wholly, no matter what her demands or her furies. In his mind, she was perfect; and if ever he didn't understand the form her perfection sometimes took, the fault had to be his. This kind of adulation, like his intellectual and emotional subordination, represented a danger to his positive feelings for her.
Again, I remenber a day when it was reported to me that he had said: "If Barbara told me to take out her garbage, I would feel it was an honor." I shivered when I heard this, and I thought: Don't turn your back on this man.
I will add something that may shock you. I believe Leonard is aware of his ambivalence; it is a secret he keeps from everyone else, but not from himself. And it drives him, in some kind of pathetic attempt at atonement, to greater and greater orthodoxy.Such are the real reasons for his hatred of Nathaniel and me: he knows that we know too much about him; he knows that we know him.
Posted 15 February 2006 - 11:11 PM
I wish with all my heart that [Ayn's] journal entries in the Valliant book had never been published. I shudder at the thought of what an objective (probably not Objectivist) psychologist who approached them cold would make of them. [....] If Leonard truly wanted to protect her, he would never have made them available to Valliant. But I suppose his hatred of Nathaniel and me was stronger than any protectiveness for Ayn that he might feel.Or, perhaps, he truly does not understand what these entries reveal.
That's what I think, too, Barbara. The journal entries, in sum, don't show her in a flattering light, and I think that ironically, long-range, if protecting her reputation was the issue, the publication of the entries will backfire by having a stronger effect in the reverse direction. As to whether or not Leonard understands what they reveal...I'd say only partly if at all. Remember that incident he recounts in his "My Years with Ayn Rand" memoir about the Academy Awards and the streaker? He reports this ooing and ahing over her perceptiveness. I read it cringing at the egregious demonstration of what she calls "psychologizing" (a term she defined in a rather different way than the traditional meaning). Possibly he's equally oblivious in regard to the journal entries.
I believe Leonard is aware of his ambivalence; it is a secret he keeps from everyone else, but not from himself.
I haven't seen Leonard in years, not since the late '70s (and I'm not sure if he'd even still remember who I am, though I expect he'd remember Larry), but it used to seem to me both that he experienced ambivalence and that he knew he did. There were little facial expressions when he'd speak of her, shadings in voice tone, things of that type -- nothing properly "documentable."
Posted 16 February 2006 - 01:39 AM
I don't remember it. Would you tell me what it was?
Posted 16 February 2006 - 05:06 AM
Ellen: "Remember that incident he recounts in his "My Years with Ayn Rand" memoir about the Academy Awards and the streaker?"
I don't remember it. Would you tell me what it was?
I'm a bit leery of copying this passage, since I don't want to be up on copyright-infringement charges. If I receive any complaints, I'll promptly delete the quote. But to get the full flavor of it, one needs the complete passage.
This comes from a speech by Leonard Peikoff, "My Thirty Years with Ayn Rand: An Intellectual Memoir," delivered at the Ford Hall Forum on April 26, 1987. It was reprinted in Vol. 8, No. 3, June 1987, of The Objectivist Forum and copyrighted 1987 by TOF Publications, Inc.
In the deepest epistemological sense, Ayn Rand was, as we may put it, the opposite of an egalitarian. She did not regard every aspect of a whole as equal in importance to every other. Some aspects, she held, are critical to a proper understanding; others merely clutter up the cognitive landscape and distract lesser minds from the truth. So the task of the thinker is to distinguish the two, i.e., to analyze and process the data confronting him, not to amass mounds of information without any attempt at mental digestion. She herself accordingly always functioned like an intellectual detective, a philosophical Hercule Poirot, reading, watching, listening for the fact, the statement, the perspective that would illuminate a whole, tortuous complexity--the one that would reveal the essence and thereby suddenly make that complexity simple and intelligible. The result was often dramatic. When you were with her, you always felt poised on the brink of some startling new cognitive adventure and discovery.
[So far so good, but now comes the example.]
Here is an example of what I mean. About a dozen years ago, Ayn Rand and I were watching the Academy Awards on television; it was the evening when a streaker flashed by during the ceremonies. Most people probably dismissed the incident with some remark like: "He's just a kid" or "It's a high-spirited prank" or "He wants to get on TV." But not Ayn Rand. Why, her mind, wanted to know, does this "kid" act in this particular fashion? What is the difference between his "prank" and that of college students on a lark who swallow goldfish or stuff themselves into telephone booths? How does his desire to appear on TV differ from that of a typical game-show contestant? In other words, Ayn Rand swept aside from the outset the superficial aspects of the incident and the standard irrelevant comments in order to reach the essence, which has to pertain to this specific action in this distinctive setting.
"Here," she said to me in effect, "is a nationally acclaimed occasion replete with celebrities, jeweled ballgowns, coveted prizes, and breathless cameras, an occasion offered to the country as the height of excitement, elegance, glamor--and what this creature wants to do is drop his pants in the middle of it all and thrust his bare buttocks into everybody's face. What then is his motive? Not high spirits or TV coverage, but destruction--the satisfaction of sneering at and undercutting that which the rest of the country looks up to and admires." In essence, she concluded, the incident was an example of nihilism, which is the desire not to have or enjoy values, but to nullify and eradicate them.
Nor did she stop there. The purpose of using concepts, as I have suggested--and the precondition of reaching principles--is the integration of observed facts; in other words, the bringing together in one's mind of data from many different examples or fields, such as the steel and the coal industries, for instance. Any Rand was expert at this process. For her, grasping the essence of an event was merely the beginning of processing it cognitively. The next step was to identify that essence in other, seemingly very different areas, and thereby discover a common denominator uniting them all.
Having grasped the streaker's nihilism, therefore, she was eager to point out to me some very different examples of the same attitude. Modern literature, she observed, is distinguished by its creators' passion not to offer something new and positive, but to wipe out: to eliminate plots, heroes, motivation, even grammar and syntax; in other words, their brazen desire to destroy their own field along with the great writers of the past by stripping away from literature every one of its cardinal attributes. Just as Progressive education is the desire for education stripped of lessons, reading, facts, teaching, and learning. Just as avant-garde physics is the gleeful cry that there is no order in nature, no law, no predictability, no causality. That streaker, in short, was the very opposite of an isolated phenomenon. He was a microcosm of the principle ruling modern culture, a fleeting representative of that corrupt motivation which Ayn Rand has described so eloquently as "hatred of the good for being the good." And what accounts for such widespread hatred? she asked at the end. Her answer brings us back to the philosophy we referred to earlier, the one that attacks reason and reality wholesale and thus makes all values impossible: the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.
Listening to Any Rand that evening, I felt that I was beginning to understand what it means really to understand an event. I went home and proceeded to write the chapter in my book The Ominous Parallels about Weimar culture, which develops at length Ayn Rand analysis of the modern intellectual trend. The point here, however, is not her analysis, but the method that underlies it: observation of facts; the identification of the essential; the integration of data from many disparate fields; then the culminating overview, the grasp of principle.
I use the term "overview" deliberately, because I always felt as though everyone else had their faces pressed up close to an event and were staring at it myopically, while she was standing on a mountaintop, sweeping the world with a single glance, and thus able to identify the most startling connections, not only between streaking and literature, but also, as you must know, between sex and economics, art and business, William F. Buckley and Edward Kennedy; in short, between the kinds of things that other people automatically pigeonhole into separate compartments. Her universe, as a result, was a single, unified whole, with all its parts interrelated and intelligible; it was not the scattered fragments and fiefdoms that are all most people know. To change the image: she was like a ballet dancer of the intellect, leaping from fact to fact and field to field, not by the strength of her legs, but by the power of logic, a power that most men do not seem fully to have discovered yet.
So... It's easy to be sucked in by this passage, since by the time he's done with it, he's describing a way of thinking which was a major aspect of her brilliance. But her conclusions about the streaker's psychology are utterly unwarranted: he's a nihilist whose strings are being pulled by Immanuel Kant? Oh, really? Just how could she know that? I'd say that by far the most probable explanations are the ones she brushes aside. And recall, this occurred at the height of the streaking craze; there'd been streakers' fests in Central Park; someone had streaked across the stage at the National Book Awards (whoever was the master of ceremonies brought down the house by nonchalantly remarking, "Oh, I didn't know Alfred Knopff was attending"), etc. Streaking was the fad of the "hour," the then-equivalent of cramming into phonebooths (or managing to hoist a car onto a rooftop, a current fad). Probably this kid was just a kid on a highjinks, a bit bolder than most. In any case, to have had a legitimate basis for a confident ascription of motives, she'd have needed to have known some details (considerably more extensive details than the fact of his streaking) about that specific person.
Posted 16 February 2006 - 06:58 AM
Just to be sure, I checked up on "fair use." Your excerpt is a bit long, but I believe that it satisfies the requirements of fair use as commented by the Copyright Office's own overview of fair use, sections 107 through 118 of the copyright act (title 17, U.S. Code). Specifically, of the four "factors to be considered in determining whether or not a particular use is fair" as given in Section 107, your quote easily falls within three of them:
1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
3. amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
Also, there is the following statement from the Copyright Office's overview:
There is no specific number of words, lines, or notes that may safely be taken without permission.
Your quote is only a small portion of a much longer article and is illustrative of a single idea under discussion. This discussion is non-commercial and hardly will affect the sales of VOR, the DVD or any other support where the article appears.
btw - I wouldn't think of moving your initial post now.
Posted 16 February 2006 - 04:53 PM
I was a student of Objectivism in NYC before, during and after the break in 1968. I saw Ayn Rand in action in many Q & A situations at the Ford Hall Forum, NBI, and the Bronx Community College (1970). Robert Hessen's memory of such is precisely correct, including the question about Maxfield Parish. It was never a situation of AR occasionally getting angry; anger and the fear of her anger was the leitmotif of these sessions. It was interesting to me that Hessen cited an incident going all the way back to February 1960.
(Note from Administrator: Brant Gaede asked to be removed from the member list before the forum was transferred to a new program, thus his member name was lost.)
Posted 16 February 2006 - 05:19 PM
Sorry about the inconvenience on the other thread. I had to lock it in order to keep it from being used for arguing. It is a thread for people who knew Rand to record their memories.
I will keep your post here and also repeat it in that thread. If you would like to post it under your name instead of under my name mentioning that it is from you, (and I would VASTLY prefer it to be only you), please send me an email (email@example.com) and we will mark a time when I will unlock the thread for you. Then I will delete the post I made.
I am trying to think of some way around this problem...
I will delete the present post after I hear from you, or after a day or so has passed.
Thank you very much for sharing that memory. If you would like to share others, I (and probably scholars and other interested people) would be delighted to read them.
Edit - Brant, in light of your gracious answer below, I will no longer delete this post so that people can see what you were responding to.
Posted 16 February 2006 - 09:01 PM
--- START re-post
Subject: [Atlantis-II] AR's Aura (was: Necessarily Wrong)
> *sigh* I am again glad that I didn't meet Rand, though I am very curious
> about her and wonder what she would have been like in person. I would love
> to have observed her in action. That is: watched her body-language and
> physical mannerisms while listening to her speak. I am a relatively good
> reader of people and am very curious what I would have found. Anyone want
> to comment?
I might be the only person on this list who *can* comment in any
detail, since I think I'm the only person here who was around her
on more than an occasional occasion. I was never at a social
event where she was present, and I only a few times had any direct
conversation with her (I didn't attempt to initiate conversations
with her, since I could predict what would have happened: it
wouldn't have gone well); but I did attend three lecture courses
at which she was present -- one of them Allan's music course
where I deliberately always sat in the row in front of where
she was sitting so I could eavesdrop on her comments to Edith
Packer (Edith always sat next to her at those lectures).
I also attended the Ford Hall Forum lecture for five or six
To this day when I remember Ayn as person -- her physical person --
I still feel a palpable sense of her aura. The phrase which
immediately comes to my mind attempting to describe that aura
is "a presence of power." But this can be misunderstood unless
it's taken in a particular sense of the word "power." There
was no quality of aggressiveness, of an attempt to "obtrude"
herself, to exert command. The "power" I mean was a quality
of certainty of mind. Maybe a sense of it will come through
as I proceed.
I assume that you've seen pictures of her, that you know that
she was short -- not a lot taller than I am (I'm 5'2") --
and that she was "squarely," almost stockily, built. Another
word which comes to mind is "stalwart." When she would stand
at the podium she would stand straight, four-square, maybe
with one or both hands resting on the podium while she
read her speech or answered questions. She didn't move or
gesture much while speaking, though there was a particular
gesture she'd make as a sort of emphasis, a "there it is,
that is the thatness of it" statement, a punctuation mark
of finality. This gesture was a sweep of her lower arm and
hand, palm down, on a sharp line from her body outward.
She used that arm/hand sweep several times during the first
lecture of hers I attended. That was before I moved to
New York; it was at McCormack Place in Chicago. Between
then and the next time I saw her, the split had happened
and Nathaniel's and Barbara's replies to her statement
had been published. In his reply he refers at one point
to "a characteristic gesture." I've never asked him, but
I'd bet that the gesture he was thinking of was the one
She would read a speech in level tones, the words neither
hurried nor dragged, but paced so that each could be
distinguished. She showed no signs of nervousness -- or
even of any awareness of the audience as audience. She
did none of the things one is taught that good public
speakers do -- and which in fact most of the people whom
I've considered good public speakers have done -- such
as trying to make eye contact, trying to develop a "rapport,"
a "relationship" with the audience. Instead it was as if she
was entirely unconcerned about the audience's reaction.
Except when she would make one of her "jokes." When she
would use one of those wry twists she could do on an image
(an example is "The Chickens' Homecoming," the title of
one of her essays), she would pause slightly as if awaiting
a laugh, then look mischievously pleased for a moment when
the laugh materialized.
Despite -- or maybe even partly because of -- her typical
apparent unconcern for gauging audience reaction, her
effect on an audience was riveting. It was as if her mind was
a lens gathering and focalizing thought, and the audience
would respond with a concentration answering hers. Of course,
most of her lectures which I attended were at the Ford Hall
Forum, where the audience was almost entirely composed of
"students of." But the effect was the same at the McCormack
Place lecture, where she was talking to a general audience
numbering in the hundreds. There was soon a "you could
hear a pin drop" intensity of attending to what she said.
And judging from Nathaniel's and Barbara's reports, she
achieved this same response wherever and to whomever
she was lecturing.
Come the question period, though, her channeled calm would
usually evaporate at least once and her wrath would emerge
like a sudden unscheduled intrusion from the percussion section
(using a musical analogy, since it's Doug I'm answering).
Regulars at Ford Hall got so that they could tell when it was
coming. Someone would pose a question by which she felt insulted
or otherwise irritated, and she would let loose with anger.
And then immediately calm down again and proceed, with clarity
and no sign of lingering emotional upset, to answering the
I was often fascinated by the sudden contrast. My favorite
example needs some background to describe. The moderator at the
Forum was Judge Lurie, an interesting person in his own right.
He was diminutive in size, slim, agile; rather elfishly twinkling --
and sharply quick-witted. Judge Lurie would always repeat so
the whole audience could hear it whatever question had been
asked. Well...one time this guy started asked her something
to the effect (I don't remember the exact words), Why had she
allowed so bad a screenplay of her book *The Fountainhead*
to be shot? (I have no idea if this guy knew that she herself
had had a big hand in the screenplay, or if the question was
asked in ignorance of its being insulting to her.) She started
to rip into him. But Judge Lurie held up a hand and said in
his inimitable speech cadences: "*Miss* Rand, *Miss* Rand
[the reprise at a lower decibel level], wait until I repeat
the question." She sort of ducked as if a little embarrssed and
smiled at him with a shy girlish look. "Oh, I'm sorry, Judge,"
she said. So he repeated the question. And THEN she let the
guy have it. After which she proceeded to give the next
question a penetratingly thoughtful answer as if none of the
above had just occurred.
Returning to my comment above that her aura of power wasn't
an issue of her "obtruding" herself or appearing to try to
exert command: It was something to do with her being intent
and not displaying the sort of social nuances which most
people display. For instance, when she would walk into the
lecture room at one of the New York lectures, she wouldn't
be looking around for people she knew, pausing, smiling
at people. She would just walk into the room headed for her
chair. And if someone would stop her trying to make light
conversation, she would just make some acknowledging response
to the person's presence but continue on her way. Also when
she would talk to people -- for instance in the autograph
line -- it would be as if she had no awareness of her effect
on them; instead as if she was solely occupied, with those
enormous eyes of hers searching the person, only on assessing
the level of intelligence with which she was confronted.
There's more I could say, but I'm hoping that this note might
by seen by [X] before he leaves for the TOC seminar, which
starts today. If you do see this before leaving, [X],
and if you get a chance at the seminar, ask David Kelley and
Marsha Enright the question about Ayn's body language.
David might not have much of a description to offer, since
he would probably have been mainly noticing the details of
what he talked to her *about* instead of her manner of
talking. But Marsha could tell you interesting stories
regarding her cat conversations with Ayn. Marsha had this
way, unlike anyone else I ever observed, of getting into
non-philosophic "chit-chat" (for short) exchanges with
Ayn during the breaks at lectures. (I used to try to lurk
near the edges where I could hear, I was so intrigued by
the difference from her usual patterns in the way Ayn
would react to Marsha.)
Signing off of this one now. I'm in a rush myself preparing
to leave for the evening.
--- END re-post
Posted 16 February 2006 - 09:35 PM
I know we have had our differences and I have said an unkind thing or two, but I don't recall you ever doing the same to me. I will state that I think you have tremendous literary talent. If you ever write a novel it will be a best seller.
I came here to make some factual statements for the historical record.
Ellen, your memories of that era are outstanding and have always made my observations look like those from a piker. I well remember the judge interupting Ayn Rand and her reaction.
There are important things I am still thinking through. I am happy to read some interesting posts by Barbara Branden.
(Note from Administrator: Brant Gaede asked to be removed from the member list before the forum was transferred to a new program, thus his member name was lost.)
Posted 17 February 2006 - 12:17 AM
Sorry I didn't say anything sooner. I was a bit overwhelmed. That was one amazing post. History seen through those eyeglasses suddenly comes into focus and things make sense. It is absolutely reassuring that attitudes like hatred from intelligent people do have underlying causes that can be identified. We do live in a rational universe. Thank you deeply. How much more is there? I can't help but wonder...
I included your last post in the other thread. I didn't include your first post since the main focus deals with your account of a statement by Allan Blumenthal and your reaction to reading Rand's journal entries (an analysis of Rand), instead of a memory per se, which is the purpose of that thread. But it was extremely perceptive and a pleasure to read.
Thank you very much for the compliment. I never felt you were ever motivated by malice, which is why I never crossed swords with you. If you have any other first-hand memories of Rand, it would be marvelous to hear them. If not, many thanks once again for what you shared.
Posted 20 February 2006 - 01:58 PM
I don't have the negative view of Leonard's character that you do. I do believe he has blind spots, particularly in his grasp of psychology and some of them were the same as Ayn Rand's and many (maybe even most Objectivists) - too harsh and too quick on the trigger condemnation of people, coupled with a presumption that one can psychoanalze from a distance or from a partial sample and reduce the result to only one possible explantion.
Usually the worst of a menu of possible explanations, as in the streaker being assumed to be a nihilist.
Perhaps we don't agree, but I wouldn't conclude someone does not have genuine feelings or values because he at one time in his life complained he felt nothing about movies, books, etc. I wouldn't take him at his word or take it as a lifelong self-assessment. I'd look to see if that were the case at a time when he was less "down" perhaps. I also don't think any human being can literally feel "nothing" in areas that broad. Other possible explanations? Melodramatic overstatement of someone in therapy? Romantic problems in a relationship? Unearned guilt or over-negativity?
During the ten years when I saw him reasonably regularly (as a student at brookly poly, in his home, etc.), I in fact found him to be *very* emotional, very in touch with his feelings...and that's reflected in many of his passionate lectures and insights on literature, art, etc.
Is it possible for someone to be repressed and overcompensate in regard to passion? Yes. But I think you have to be very well-trained in psychology or a very close and good observer to know that this is what is going on.
So, my bottom line conclusion about Leonard is that he sometimes has drawn very foolish or out of touch conclusions (like he did about Kelley, about libertarians in general, about the streaker). But they fall within the general category of not understanding people in a very specific way: *trying to deduce who they are "downward" by reference to pure philosophical archetypes as opposed to empirically and "upward" by a complex inductive analysis of lots of instances*.
And he got that from Rand, who I also think was honest. Even though the effects have been hurtful and destructive to you and other people (and myself) who didn't deserve it.
If I were to summarize in one phrase the problem or problem area I find with many ARI people, with Rand, with Peikoff: OUT-OF-TOUCH with the real world in certain areas, especially those which anyway involve dealing with the more complex areas of the humanities: i) judging individual people as opposed to trends or broad patterns, ii) lack of a detailed cultural and historical understanding (as evinced in the "nuke tehran today" dropping of context about the fact that the Iranian people are on our side and against their rulers).
And ii) springs from i).
Misunderstanding countries and movements springs from misunderstading individuals who are the units from which the broader groups are formed.
I realize the part of this where I'm talking about individual people (LP and AR) disagrees with your views. But we can agree to disagree on some judgements of people inside Objectivism.
Posted 20 February 2006 - 02:43 PM
You just wrote:
... I wouldn't conclude someone does not have genuine feelings or values because he at one time in his life complained he felt nothing about movies, books, etc.
I, as one who never met Peikoff and probably never will, did not get the impression from Barbara's post that she came to the conclusion you stated about lack of genuine feelings. (I'm reporting my own impression here, not trying to contradict your post or play any kind of logic game.)
My take is that she was highlighting an inner conflict that she perceived in Peikoff from making a poor choice that wreaked havoc in specific areas, and the example she used was an instance to illustrate that, not illustrate a lifelong state of lack of genuine emotion.
On a related area, I just read a wonderfully wise post on NB's forum by a guy named Paul. He made the following highly insightful observation:
Somewhere Branden says that if you are blind to elements of your inner world you will be blind to corresponding elements of the outer world as well. Sight works in both directions or it works in neither.
The coin dropped in my head. Plingggg. I look at the unfolding of the entire bitter fragmented Objectivist movement and think, "Observe the blind spots of what has been loudly condemned outwardly, and you will have a strong clue to the inner psychological blind spots of those doing the condemning."
That works the other way, too. I also think, "Observe the inner psychological blind spots of an orthodox-type Objectivist, and you will know where he will make dumb and/or unfairly harsh outward judgments."
So, yes, I agree that blindness is more of a cause for the bickering than evil, yet I do see spiteful malice being a reason at times. Not all the time, but it is definitely there.
I am going to see if Paul will allow me to put the whole thing up over here.
Posted 20 February 2006 - 04:05 PM
Phil, I agree with your statement that "I wouldn't conclude someone does not have genuine feelings or values because he at one time in his life complained he felt nothing about movies, books, etc. I wouldn't take him at his word or take it as a lifelong self-assessment. I'd look to see if that were the case at a time when he was less "down" perhaps. I also don't think any human being can literally feel "nothing" in areas that broad. " I hadn't meant my discussion of Peikoff as a final statement on his state of mind, but only to illustrate the extent of his dependence on Rand.
You wrote: "Is it possible for someone to be repressed and overcompensate in regard to passion?" Yes, indeed. And no one represses all his reactions and emotions; repression is always partial -- and apparently hits us most severely in the areas where one is most afraid, for whatever reasons, of one's emotions.
Posted 21 February 2006 - 01:07 AM
Yes. And it's an example provided by Leonard Peikoff himself during a public speech. Hard to dismiss that one as having its source in the Brandens' accounts of Rand. ;-)
Ellen, your post about Ayn and the streaker exactly illustrates my point about the problem that her journals about Nathaniel contain: the nature of her psychologizing.
Other news... Casey Fahy has posted an article today on SOLOPassion -- a condemnatory article, surprise, surprise. Here's a paragraph which highlights something I'm puzzled about in the case Valliant and he (and others) believe has been presented.
The fact that the Brandens were motivated to keep feeding Rand their slavish agreement by something other than Rand's supposedly oppressive personality is obvious from the dividends they sought and received from her. Rand wielded no stick that they could not walk away from, but she offered a carrot they did not wish to give up. It was Rand who pulled the carrot away, and it was then that they condemned her. If it was the stick they feared, they should have thanked her.
I continue to be amazed that neither Valliant nor Fahy seems to see the impossible contradiction in the motivational picture they present. If it wasn't the case that Rand would split with Nathaniel if he told her flat out that he didn't want any resumption of the affair with her and that he was having an affair with Patrecia, then what motive would he have had for lying? If she'd have been as acceptant as Valliant and Fahy say she would have been, the lying was pointless. So what do they see as the motive? Lying for the sake of lying?
(To me, btw, it seems perfectly clear from Rand's Journal entries that NB was right in suspecting that she'd split with him if she thought he was having an affair with Patrecia. I've always wondered if indeed she would have. I think that now I know.)
Posted 21 February 2006 - 01:29 AM
Lying for the sake of lying?
Unbelievably, yup. That and much more in that vein.
However, I don't want to discuss their appraisals too much (except in reviews with locked threads), as that might put the notion in someone's head over there that I will tolerate someone coming here on OL and bashing the character of the Brandens (or yours, for that matter).
(Of course, you may say anything you want and that is more than fine by me. I am merely advising of the possible results.)
Posted 21 February 2006 - 03:50 PM
Does Rand ever comment, in those sections of her private journals which Valliant selected for publication, why it was important to her to keep The Affair a secret? (Btw, am I remembering correctly that even Rand's closest intellectual associate and legal heir hadn't been informed of the truth by Rand, and that he had to wait to discover it in her private journals after her death?)
Does PARC reveal whether or not Rand confessed to having second-hander fear of what others would think about the affair? In her journal entries, does she ponder why she felt it was necessary to hide her blazing romantic passion for one lover yet it was admirable to publicly boast about her romantic passion for the other?
Does she contemplate the meaning of marriage and what she had agreed to socially when she married Frank? In American culture, matrimony is universally known to be a declaration of a couple's acceptance of an exclusive romantic union. In PARC, does Rand recognize that in getting married, she and Frank sought ~public sanction~, that their contract was not just with each other, but involved acquiring a specific type of ~public status granted by society~? In PARC, does Rand confess to her willingness to ~lie~ to society by excluding it from the renegotiation of her marital status, and to ~fake~ that public status by actively maintaining the illusion of an exclusive husband/wife relationship?
If Rand contemplates these issues in her journal entries which were included in PARC, I might be interested in reading the book.
Posted 21 February 2006 - 04:21 PM
The answer is "No" to everything you asked (unless I missed something - but I don't think I did).
New reviews of this book are coming later that should provide a balanced view of Rand's journal entries (the partial, edited ones that were published) and deal with sifting the wheat from the chaff in the other author's analyses, including first part of the book.
If you ever get interested, there is an excellent review online by Chris Sciabarra and even a few others.
Posted 21 February 2006 - 05:18 PM
Your questions are all answered in PARC, and you may direct further questions to me at the SOLOPassion website.
Please remove my name and delete my membership at this website. It was my mistake to have signed up.
(Note from Administrator: James Valliant asked to be removed from the member list before the forum was transferred to a new program, thus his member name was lost.)
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