Roger Bissell

Barbara's lectures on the Principles of Efficient Thinking

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IMO, these lectures should be transcribed and sold as a book!! Perhaps updated, expanded, or whatever -- but definitely offered in written form. They're part of our Objectivist heritage!

I know, they're available (still, I hope, aren't they?) from Laissez-Faire Books as tapes or CDs. If they're not, then maybe we could approach The Objectivist Center (who sell Nathaniel's Basic Principles lectures on CD), perhaps as a combined recorded/printed version.

Thoughts on this?

In the meantime, here is the copy from the brochure Academic Associates sent out in the early 1970s. Enjoy! REB

=======================================================

The ability to reason is man's most important faculty--the attribute which lifts him above all other species. Yet, the science of using his rational faculty effectively has been almost entirely neglected.

Most people fail to realize that thinking is not an automatic process, known to everyone "instinctively." It is, indeed, an acquired skill and--like every human skill--it involves certain principles which have to be identified and learned.

Principles of Efficient Thinking was developed by Barbara Branden to help meet this need. Her course deals with thinking in both its theoretical and practical aspects. The theoretical aspect covers in detail the principles that make possible the most efficient use of one's mind; the practical aspect covers specific techniques by which one avoids thinking errors and maximizes the productiveness of one's mental effort.

As part of the curriculum of Nathaniel Branden Institute, the course was attended by tens of thousands of students in cities throughout the United States and Canada. With the closing of NBI (of which Barbara Branden was Administrative Director), and with Miss Branden now devoting her full time to writing a novel, these lectures have not been availab.e

Academic Associates, an educational service corporation, was fortunate in being able to arrange for the release of these lectures in permanent form. The entire course has been recorded on twenty long-play records; each lecture is complete on two records in a beautiful, deluxe album.

With the exception of lecture nine, which is a guest lecture by Nathaniel Branden, the course is given by Barbara Branden. Many of the lectures have been re-recorded, to improve sound quality, to slightly revise, to update references and to make the contents readily understandable to those with no previous philosophical raining.

The course is substantially the same as that offered by NBI, which proved to be one of the Institute's most popular courses.

1. Introduction to Thinking. Why a science of thinking is necessary--Consequences of faulty thinking methods--The relation between efficient thinking and intelligence--the philosophical presuppositions of efficient thinking.

2. Focusing and Problem-Solving. Levels of mental focus--The state of full mental clarity--The motives and the consequences of the failure to focus mentally--The role of purpose, specificity and question-asking in problem-solving.

3. The Automatic Functions of the Mind. The nature of the subconscious--The proper use of the subconscious--Subconscious integrations and the emotions--Creative thinking and the subconscious--The psychology of "inspiration."

4. The Conceptual Level of Consciousness (Part 1). Concepts as the "microfilm" of the mind--The destroyers of intelligence--Thinking in principles--Thinking in essentials--"Concrete-bound thinking"--"Counterfeit" thinking.

5. The Conceptual Level of Consciousness (Part 2). The "socialized consciousness" and the destruction of language--The importance of knowing the source and validation of one's concepts--The role of integration in thinking--Evasion as the sabotaging of consciousness--Context-holding.

6. Emotions as Tools of Cognition. The manner in which wishes and fears can distort the thinking processes--"Emotional-perceptual" thinking; its nature, causes, mechanism and consequences.

7. Language and Definitions. Language as the tool of thought--The substitution of images and emotions for language--Non-verbal and sub-verbal "thought"--Basic principles of definitions.

8. Common Aberrations in Thinking. The fallacy of equating an abstraction with a concrete--The danger of false axioms--Failures of discrimination in thinking--Intellectual "package-dealing"--"Thinking in a square"--Psycho-epistemological "Platonism."

9. The Fallacy of the "Stolen Concept" (Guest lecture by Nathaniel Branden). The meaning of the "stolen concept"--Common examples of the fallacy: "All property is theft"; "I think, therefore I am"; "Who created the universe?"; "The rights of the public supercede individual rights"; "The acceptance of reason is an act of faith."

10. Psychological Causes of Inefficient Thinking. The surrender of the will to efficacy--Failure of self-esteem--The "malevolent universe" premise--Social metaphysics--Emotional repression--The source and conditions of intellectual certainty.

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Roger,

Thank you for putting this up. Of all the major works on Objectivism, I believe that this is the one that is the most mysterious for most people. Unless you were there, little is known about when and how these lectures were given. Were they ever offered on tape like Nathaniel's lectures were? How and when were they recorded?

I personally have wondered about all this for over 30 years. Now I own the CD's from Laissez Faire Books, but if you had not posted this table of contents, I would have had to guess what was on them. They are merely numbered from 1 to 14 (and there are 14 CD's for 10 lectures).

I have already searched the internet and gleaned something similar, but your organization is far superior.

This also deserves to be a book. I think it would sell well. In addition to the information, it is an important historical document that has yet to be offered in an easily accessible manner.

Michael

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Michael, I agree with you, and I'm sad that these lectures have been in existence for over FORTY years and have yet to make it into printed form. I will definitely be asking Barbara about this when Becky and I have dinner with her and James and Sergio (friends of Barbara's) this Saturday night.

My own hunch is that Barbara is working on something for publication in this area, possibly even an updated and expanded version of the lectures -- or, more likely, a book on the subject, updating and expanding on the ideas. If so, then she is unlikely to want to publish the earlier version. But that remains to be seen.

Isn't it curious and unfortunate that, of all the useful lectures in this area (including logic), NONE of them have made it out of the audio realm? David Kelley's logic book may seem to be an exception -- but it did not start out as a lecture series! Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism sounds like a series that would have been especially valuable to have in book form (though Becky and I haven't listened to our set yet). Binswanger's wife, Jean Moroney (sp?), has a set of lectures that sound similar to Barbara's, though I don't think they are even currently being marketed.

Thinking well is what Objectivism is all about! It is our methodology for using our tool of survival -- and yet, we don't have a single handbook for it! (Again, Kelley's logic book is the closest think we have, but it's narrower and more traditionally focused than the efficient or effective thinking approach.)

So, I have hopes to be able to persuade Barbara to put these lectures out in book form -- or at least to find out something encouraging as to what she may be planning along these lines.

REB

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Roger,

Thanks for putting this up. At some point I will have to acquire these lectures. Nathaniel and Barbara did so much work that is now obscure or not known to many people. Objectivists of any stripe should be clamoring to save these valuable resources and get them in a more widely accesible form.

Jim

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Roger:"My own hunch is that Barbara is working on something for publication in this area, possibly even an updated and expanded version of the lectures -- or, more likely, a book on the subject, updating and expanding on the ideas."

Roger, your hunch is correct.

Barbara

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Michael:"Unless you were there, little is known about when and how these lectures were given. Were they ever offered on tape like Nathaniel's lectures were? How and when were they recorded?"

Yes, they were offered live in New York and on tape to NBI students across the country. They were originally recorded in 1959 or 1960 -- I'm not certain which -- then rerecorded several years later with some updates.

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> your hunch is correct.

Great news! Barbara, you're not going to take 12 years like Leonard does on his books, are you?

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Phil: "Barbara, you're not going to take 12 years like Leonard does on his books, are you?"

I'm not. I promise. What makes it easier is that I don't have to be perfect and lay down the rules for all time to come.

Barbara

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Barbara, this is great news! I'd love to see this out as a book. If you ever need any help with this, let me know. I'd be happy to help out with some of the production work like scanning, typing and formatting in order to help this project along.

I think that it is very important that the lectures that both you and Nathaniel gave are preserved in written form. The written word has survived the test of time. Audio formats simply change too much and become obsolete. Is an MP3 conversion in the works? I'd love to load your lectures on Inky's ipod.

:D/

Kat

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Barbara, I'm glad that one of my "wild stabs" was correct. I knew you were working on something, and given the various pieces you've posted on SOLO in the recent past, as well as your "Rage" talk, it seemed logical that you were going to do an "Efficient Thinking and Beyond" kind of book. Whatever the specifics, I'll be one of your first customers and avid readers and enthusiastic reviewers! Anything I can do to help, please let me know!! (Like pre-reading, hint-hint. :-)

REB

P.S. -- I hope you're going to be at the Barraga's tonight to discuss "romantic love and sex" with the L.A. Objectivist Network. I couldn't believe that one woman last month who, when we were all introducing ourselves and mentioning our favorite sport, said hers was S-E-X. Ha! You said "crossword puzzles," and that's what I should have said.

For the best part of 15 years, I have done at least two of the daily newspaper puzzles each day (or raced through a stack of them after coming home from vacation). They are wonderful mental exercise! I just recently stopped doing them (at least for a while), because I have been so pressed with other activities and projects. Something tells me, though, that I should really keep doing them -- and get my butt out on the street for 30-45 minutes of walking each day, too. (It is so hard to motivate myself to exercise. Too often, I allow myself to be more of a disembodied intellect, the one surest path to being sedentary for me. <sigh>)

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> the L.A. Objectivist Network. ..one woman last month who, when we were all introducing ourselves and mentioning our favorite sport, said hers was S-E-X.

Roger, I've been postponing a trip to L.A. for some time now, but I suppose there might be some reasons why I might come down and visit the L. A. Objectivist Network. Provided you introduce me to that woman rather than talking to me about the nineteen forms of objectivity.

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Phil, I'm sorry, man, but first of all, it's 57 varieties of objectivity, and "that woman" is the one I got the idea from. Her name is Heinz, I believe....:-)

REB

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Roger, you mean just in the last few days it has expanded to 57?

I guess I need to ketchup.

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This is probably more apropos of Ciro's bailiwick, however...

Phil, I'm glad you mustard up enough energy to reply.

Lettuce hope that this thread will conclude soon. I

don't relish the pickle it will put me in if I have to

keep working my buns off like this. My tomato will

disown me, for one thing!

REB

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Roger, your last post was merely a word salad. I do have to ham it to you, though, you're a real hot dog. The fecundity of your food puns surely burgers the mind. I don't know if I can meat the challenge, even though some of your allusions are very cheesy. Or hardly of 25 carrot quality. And I'm not chicken, but I'm afraid to contiinue lest it egg you on and scramble any more rational posts or turn this thread into spam.

Keep milking this line of humor and I'm not cowed to say that I'll have a beef with you. And that's no bull.

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Barbara Branden has said that she sees the life and world of Ayn Rand as a great story, and indeed 'The Passion of Ayn Rand' has attributes of a fine novel. For example a strong thematic focus IMHO on comparative mental processes. Especially on many of AR's that we would love to emulate, and a few we wouldn't.

From this standpoint, 'The Passion of Ayn Rand' could, in a sense, be regarded as a sequel to 'Principles of Efficient Thinking'. Those of us who are excited about BB's forthcoming book could pick up some hints of its content by reading or rereading the bio.

In the first Lecture she states:

It is important for you to realize that I won't be giving you the last word on an established, completed science. Psycho-epistemology is a relatively new science. Some of the fundamentals have been defined, but a great deal of work remains to be done. It is your job as well as mine to do everything possible to extend this new science, to find new questions, new answers, and new psycho-epistemological areas to explore.

The modern human brain has been around for over 100,000 years, and we are still learning how to use it!

Chuck

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I just went to Barbara's website and found a link with more information on her efficient thinking lectures. For one thing, they are available on audio CDs from Laissez Faire Books for the very reasonable price of $89.50 (plus shipping of $3.50), so I ordered a set for Becky and myself to listen to. How shocking and sad to realize that 40 years has gone by, and we are just now getting to these lectures. (But I have many, many of Leonard Peikoff's lectures to buy and listen to, as well. I just finished my first listening to Understanding Objectivism, which was marvelous. And I'm just 1/3 done listening to the Blumenthals' lectures on music.)

REB

===============================================

Thinking is not an automatic process known to everyone "instinctively." Thinking is an acquired skill and — like every human skill — it involves certain principles which have to be identified and learned.

Barbara Branden's course on this subject, available on audiocassette, deals with the art of thinking in both its theoretical and practical aspects. The theoretical aspect covers in detail the principles that make possible the most efficient use of one's mind; the practical aspect covers specific techniques by which one avoids thinking errors and maximizes the productiveness of one's mental effort.

The course contains ten lectures, and includes a discussion of such issues as the following:

Why a science of thinking is necessary — the relation between efficient thinking and intelligence — the philosophical base of efficient thinking — the nature of intellectual focusing — the various levels of focusing — the problem of concentration — the nature of the subconscious — the subconscious as a "Univac" — the proper use of the subconscious — the psychology of "inspiration" — the effect of repression on thinking

The nature of the conceptual level of consciousness — the nature of intelligence — the destroyers of intelligence — thinking in essentials — the destructiveness of treating emotions as tools of cognition — the manner in which wishes and fears can distort the thinking process — "emotional-perceptual" thinking.

The importance of knowing the source and validation of one's concepts — the role of integration in thinking — forms of the failure of integration — evasion as the sabotaging of consciousness — common aberrations in thinking and consequent mental habits — the inability to think in principles — the misuse of abstractions — the "socialized consciousness" and the destruction of language — failures of discrimination in thinking — the error of intellectual "package-dealing" — the danger of false axioms.

Psychological causes of inefficient thinking: the surrender of the will to efficacy; failure of self-esteem; the "malevolent universe" premise; "social metaphysics" — the source and conditions of intellectual certainty.

Feel free to read Joan Kennedy Taylor's review of this lecture course. You can purchase the course online from Laissez Faire Books.

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I forgot to mention -- Laissez Faire Books finally sent me the Efficient Thinking lectures of Barbara's, and I have been listening to them during my drives to and from work at Disneyland and other gigs. I'm just about finished with lecture 2, and I decided to sneak a listen to the lecture in which she talks about the Fallacy of the Frozen Abstraction. Since I already have a number of files of discussion on this fallacy and intend to write a book on it some day, I thought it would be fun to zoom ahead and see how Barbara dealt with the fallacy. She did a really good job on it, though I see some connections to psychological and "movement" issues that I want to discuss with her in person. Maybe this will contribute in some small way to the revision/book she is working on. (See also Rand's essay "Collectivized Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness for the original definition of this fallacy. Also see my essay from 1973, which is linked from this web page:

http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmm.html)

It's really good stuff, but I can see why Barbara wants to revise and update it. So much has happened since circa 1970 (when the version being sold now was taped), and the more timely examples she could insert would be valuable for concretizing her points for the new generations that have come along.

I am planning to transcribe the lectures for my own study purposes. (I am a visual-kinesthetic person, and it's really hard for me to grapple with audio lectures and scribbled notes.) In addition, I'm going to get, listen to, and transcribe the similar courses by Peikoff and Binswanger. Being a relative outsider to the ARI-Peikoff clan, and only recently able to afford to buy some of the recorded lectures, I have been "out of the loop" for way too long, and I'm glad to be able to start catching up, which I hope to do in time to benefit for a while before dementia sets in. :-/

REB

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Michael: "I kinda like the way you say the word "process" on the CD. It comes out PrOHcess instead of prAHcess. That was cute. Do you still do that?"

I said it aloud twice to be sure. Yes, I still do that. Doesn't everyone?

And thanks. I haven't been called cute for a while.

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Roger, thank you for your enthusiasm about my lecture course and for your offer to help -- which I shall take you up on.

And thanks to all of you who have expressed interest. As any writer well knows, the knowledge that there are potential readers out there is inspiring. . . and very comforting.

Roger, how was the discussion of romance and sex you attended? I was sorry I wasn't able to go.

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I say prOHcess, and prOHcessEEs. But then again, I'm not one to listen to regarding the proper pronunciation of words!

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Wow, the nutritious pun exchange between Roger and Phil stuffed a calorie overload into my laugh mechanism. Should you have some concern for whether others of us can sustain such over-fueled fits of laughter?

Now someone is going to call me an altruist again!

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