The concept of psychological visibility is not original to Objectivism - it is present in many earlier discussions of romantic love by psychologists although it may be called by a different term. However, the central role that it plays in the Objectvist psychology of sex, and its philosophical meaning, has not been emphasized to the same degree, by other psycholgists prior to Rand and Branden.
I first heard Branden discussing this topic in his "Objectivist Psychology" course in 1966. There was an article about it in The Objectivist around the same time. He originally called it "The Muttnik Principle," because he discovered it while playing with his dog, Muttnik. It is "the experience of self-awareness that results from perceiving your self as an objective existent via interaction with the consciousness of other living entities." I have a considerable background in psychology, and do not recall ever reading earlier discussions of such a principle by other psychologists. There were similar ideas in the history of psychology, such as Aristotle's statement that a friend was, in essence, another self. But, to my knowledge, no prior theorist identified the underlying principle involved; i.e., that while we normally experience ourselves as pure conscious process, other minds can provide us with a unique kind of psychological mirror.
I would be interested to know where you saw this in earlier discussions of romantic love.
I have no doubt that Ellen Kenner gives Branden zero credit for the discovery of this principle. Once again, the True Believers wrap themselves in a cloak of moral purity while flagrantly rewriting history in the grand Stalinist tradition. To me, this demonstrates a level of hypocrisy and corruption that is beneath contempt.
A discussion of the concept of psychological visibility was presented in the lecture on "The psychology of sex," in the NBI lecture series, Basic Principles of Objectivism
in the 1960s (and can now be found in print, in Branden's The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism
, Chapter 16, see especially, p. 416), although that term is not used, probably because the material in the lecture was written before 1966. A similar discussion of the concept, without using that term, is in his article, "The Psychology of Pleasure," published first in The Objectivist Newsletter
and included as a chapter in Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness
The discussion of "the Muttnick Principle," which he later more elegantly termed "psychological visibility," is presented in some detail in his The Psychology of Self-Esteem
(1970), which is a reworking of material presented in The Objectivist Newsletter
and the NBI course on Objectivist Psychology, also from the 1960s.
I do not have an NBI brochure describing the contents of Branden's course on The Psychology of Romantic Love, which was presented sometime after 1965(a reference to its first date of presentation could probably be found in the "Objectivist Calendar" notices that appeared in the back of The Objectivist
). However, I do have the Academic Associates brochure describing the contents of their album set, "Nathaniel Branden Lectures on the Psychology of Romantic Love,"
(1970) which it describes as a revised and expanded version of the earlier NBI course. As far as I can tell, the titles and subject material of the AA
course remain identical to its NBI predescessor. Two of these lectures specifically discuss psychological visibility: In Lecture 9, "The Goals of a Romantic Relationship," a subtitle is "Communicating psychological visibility:" and Lecture 10 is entitled, "The Failure to Project Psychological Visibility." It is discussed again in Branden's book, The Psychology of Romantic Love
(1980), which contains some of the same material as the recorded AA
course, but in a considerably reorganized manner. (IMO, the recorded course, which is still available as a CD set, is superior).
Trying to avoid an unfortunate habit of some Objectivists of attempting to critically review and condemn a book or other material that they have not yet read (!)
, I suppose that I should clarify that I have not heard Dr. Kenner's lecture and that therefore I cannot say with certainty that she does not give credit to Nathaniel Branden for the formulation of the concept of psychological visibility. So, I will merely say that, historically
, neither Nathaniel Branden nor Barbara Branden have been given credit for their contributions to Objectivism by ARIan presenters, or in publications that are authorized by ARI. So,...if
Dr. Kenner has shown the professional integrity/intestinal fortitude to give due credit to Nathaniel Branden, it would signal a major change in ARI policy. This would certainly be a positive development and would raise the stature of ARI in the academic community, and everywhere else, for that matter. But, that's not likely at this point.
Edited by Jerry Biggers, 09 June 2010 - 11:14 AM.