Greybird

Nathaniel Branden defamed by Penn & Teller

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> vain and self-important

How can the above brief form of personal criticism violate anything, unless you believe in censorship or that we are only here to praise people?

Would criticizing Peikoff as vain and self-important be a violation or not a valid subject for debate?

I have had several encounters with NB in which I found him rude and overbearing. Am I to be prohibited from mentioning that or giving details?

What if I had such encounters with Peikoff or Kelley ...or Lindsay Perigo?

What if someone were to quote a passage from Heller or another biography which made a similar point? Would that get it in under the wire?

Edited by Philip Coates

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I'm surprised Penn and Teller would go after Branden's work in psychology. I have differences with Nathaniel, but this is not one of them. They should read Six Pillars of Self Esteem, Psychology of Romantic Love or The Art of Living Consciously. These books are terrific. I think the Psychology of Self Esteem is his most problematic book. The sweeping psychological diagnosis of anxiety simply hasn't stood the test of time.

Jim

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> vain and self-important

How can the above brief form of personal criticism violate anything, unless you believe in censorship or that we are only here to praise people?

Would criticizing Peikoff as vain and self-important be a violation or not a valid subject for debate?

I have had several encounters with NB in which I found him rude and overbearing. Am I to be prohibited from mentioning that or giving details?

What if I had such encounters with Peikoff or Kelley ...or Lindsay Perigo?

What if someone were to quote a passage from Heller or another biography which made a similar point? Would that get it in under the wire?

18 violates posting guidelines. Why don't you read them too? But I've said enough; it's up to Michael or not; they are his guidelines.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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How would Objectivists determine how much they should or should not rely on external feedback?

Imagine, for example, a young Objectivist pup who takes an interest in architecture after reading The Fountainhead. He spends a couple of years in architect school and develops the attitude that he's a real-life Howard Roark. A giant.

Jonathan,

I can't speak for Objectivists, since I haven't been one for a good while now.

But here's my view:

The young Objectivist pup ought to check his premises.

Pronto.

He's not a god-hero, and since he isn't, I doubt he can successfully practice halfway Stoicism (no limits on joy, but the pain just goes down to a certain point).

The other folks' comments and critiques on his work may be helpful, hurtful, on point, or off, but his life is already pointed the wrong way if he thinks he's Howard Roark.

More broadly, the assumption that reliance on internal sources of self-esteem is perfectly negatively correlated with reliance on external sources hasn't held up when attempts have been made to test it empirically.

Robert Campbell

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[...] your pairing of "nihilist" with "libertarian" is itself an unjustified slur and an explicit equivocation.

[...] Since when did pairing words make them co-extensive? Some libertarians most definitely are nihilists [...]

Pairing an adjective and a noun in this manner makes them into a unit. Penn and Teller are most definitely libertarians. You contend (inaccurately) that they are nihilists. The former viewpoint has nothing logically to do with the latter ... that is, outside the fever-swamps of Peter Schwartz's brain.

As for anything factual, in my direct experience, "libertarian nihilists" are a null set, which makes it difficult to have any "archetype" of them. They're barely conceivable, but extremely unlikely among any who take ideas and acting upon them seriously. Out of thousands, I've never met, nor heard of, nor read the words of one.

I can't tell if you agree with Schwartz's vicious ravings about libertarians — and I really haven't yet seen any such people at this site. Nonetheless, you cite no evidence for that pairing, and I have seen none. It's wholly irrelevant to Penn and Teller's mistakes, and serves no valid discussion point. It remains a passing slur, with its only being useful in an emotional core-dump.

The clearest evidence of libertarianism’s nihilist wing would be Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, in which he praises pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, blackmailers, libelors, corrupt cops, et. al., as heroes. Peter Schwartz correctly pointed to the book as evidence of libertarianism’s nihilist faction. Nathaniel Branden, incidentally, also condemned the book. Block denied he was being nihilistic, of course. No doubt Penn and Teller would do the same, in the same way that your post amounts to a verbal tap dance around the fact that you incorrectly and unjustly accused me of a slur and an equivocation.

Since you make the ridiculous claim that there is no such thing as a libertarian nihilist (I have attended libertarian events where I heard people openly declare their personal antagonism to values, as such), and since you refuse to acknowledge your own unwarranted accusations, I will not participate further in this exchange. I have better things to do with my time.

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Brant, you simply blew off all my questions.

They were good reasonable questions.

Go back and reread them.

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"If x is to be believed" is, in this as in most cases, simply an idiomatic way of acknowledging a source.

FWIW when I read the phrase I thought of Valliant’s line about a photo in one of the Bio’s showing AR at a wedding. His line was “if the photographs in Branden's memoir are to be believed...”

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=617&view=findpost&p=5700

Peter’s clarified what he meant (or what he didn't mean), so may as well leave it be.

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"If x is to be believed" is, in this as in most cases, simply an idiomatic way of acknowledging a source.

FWIW when I read the phrase I thought of Valliant's line about a photo in one of the Bio's showing AR at a wedding. His line was "if the photographs in Branden's memoir are to be believed..."

http://www.objectivi...findpost&p=5700

Peter's clarified what he meant (or what he didn't mean), so may as well leave it be.

That's funny, given that the cover of PARC is itself a photoshopped fraud meant to make Branden look bad.

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Brant, you simply blew off all my questions.

They were good reasonable questions.

Go back and reread them.

The questions aren't for me. I don't own this place. Those questions are for MSK.

--Brant

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> The questions aren't for me. I don't own this place.

But you're the one who claimed a violation of the rules.

So my questions are indeed for you, since you're the one arguing that.

Edited by Philip Coates

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> The questions aren't for me. I don't own this place.

But you're the one who claimed a violation of the rules.

So my questions are indeed for you, since you're the one arguing that.

I stated a fact. I'm not arguing the point. Your elaborations qua questions are irrelevant. Read the guidelines. Have you ever?

--Brant

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I have nothing but the greatest respect for NB. I would even dare to state that he helped co-create advanced Objectivist philosophy to some degree. I find it odd that Penn and Teller would go after Branden, esp. since he is more appreciated and associated within the TAS camp like P & T are. Weird.

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There seems to be an unstated assumption by some here that Penn & Teller are (or should be) Objectivist. I don't believe they have ever indicated such. They are number one, entertainers - comedians - magicians. Part of their whole shtick is to be funny, outrageous, and controversial. The more, the better. They do this, of course, to get people talking to others about how outrageous or funny P & T were, and to thereby enlarge their audience base. That's their business. And they are extremely good at it.

Now as to their personal political and philosophical opinions, they also happen to be libertarians and additionally have aligned themselves with the humanist/skeptical movement, a la James Randi, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins. While the humanist/atheist/skeptical movement may share some things in common with Objectivists (opposition to mysticism, the irrational, the dogmatic and religious, or as P & T more elegantly call it, "bullshit."), they most definately are not in agreement with many other essential principles of Objectivism (in particular, they oppose Rand's derivation of a code of ethics from the facts of reality). They are much closer, philosophically, to Hume than they are to Rand.

Many of us were amused by Penn Jillette's recent take on Atlas Shrugged as a movie project. Probably some of the Peikovian/ARI types were not so amused, due to Penn's signature irreverance. Personally, I found Penn highly amusing, but I would not call it an endorsement of Objectivism. Based on many of his previous programs, including that one on Atlas Shrugged, why would we expect him to treat Branden or his concept of self-esteem with respect? It is not even clear that Penn or his staff have even read much of Branden, since what they presented is a caricature used to support their send-up of the whole California "self-esteem" movement. That was the whole point of the piece, Branden was just convenient to use as a prop along the way. Whether or not they correctly descrbed Branden's views (or even cared about being accurate) is obviously not important to them. Parenthetically, their apparent attempt to use Branden's fountain as an example of excess and garishness is ironic, when compared to Penn's own house that he has just constructed outside of Las Vegas. It (and of he) were recently featured in a segment of a program on one of cable TV's "home improvement" channels (I think it was HGTV). Penn was extremely proud of the design of his house, using unusual shapes (for example, a "silo") and loud colors and garishness to the extreme. And he was right to be proud of it, since it definately expressed his personality and his desire to be as outlandish and controversial as possible, and to use his house to advance his career. Good move.

Now, back to negative comments that have been made here about Nathaniel Branden. Rather than disputing or argue each point, many of which refer to personal encounters rather than to his theories, I will simply comment on my own experience that I have had over the past 43 years with Dr. Branden. Take it for what it is worth.

I first corresponded with Nathaniel Branden in 1967 about the interest I had seen among college age students who were members of YAF (Young Americans for Freedom) in the writings of Ayn Rand. Considering that YAF was founded at a meeting on the estate of William F. Buckley, Jr., Branden certainly could have not replied or could have responded with a dismissive anger. Instead, he took the time to state the background of their differences with Buckley and did so without engaging in invective.

On several occasions in 1967 and early 1968, I attended some of the NBI lecture courses both in Washington, D.C. and in New York City at NBI. On several of these, both Branden and Rand were present and answered questions from the audience. Only one time did I see an expression of anger expressed toward a questioner and that was a response from Rand herself after being asked by a girl what she thought of William F. Buckley's mayoral campaign in New York (talk about "Vesuvius" erupting!).

Later in 1970, I had a much longer direct experience in interacting with Branden when I arranged for him to present a lecture at Northern Illinois University. After his lecture to an overflow crowd of students, he ansered questions directly from the audience. At a reception after the event, I had occasion to watch how he interacted when essentially deluged with questions from throngs of students and other admirers, for hours. During all these encounters, he was polite and showed respect towards his questioners even when they asked naive or otherwise inappropriate questions. There was no indications of the arrogance and inconsiderateness that some others say that they have experienced.

I have since had occasion to observe his interactions at several Atlas Society summer seminars and also two other Atlas Society celebrations of Ayn Rand's achievements held in Washington, D.C. On these occasions, I was present when he answered questions from the audience after his presentations and also his responses to comments at receptions and in small groups after his formal presentations, off the podium. Despite what I would consider to be some deliberately provocative and even unfriendly questions, he did not display any of the anger, arrogance, or discourtesy that some say they have witnessed.

Additionally, I would like to add here that even if such negative or unpleasant behavior on the part of Dr. Branden has been witnessed (and I emphasize again, that I have not personally seen evidence of this), that has nothing to do with the worth of his writings and theoretical contributions to psychology and to Objectivism. (And, conversely, my recollections that could be interpreted to mean, "Branden's really a swell guy!" also have little relevance to the value of his intellectual contributions!). To claim such is an egregious application of the ad hominem fallacy: inappropriately questioning the character of an individual and then attempting to use that to demean his intellectual contributions.

Haven't we had enough of this with the gossipy nature of a recent bio of Rand (followed by a deluge of ad hominem attacks in the MSM)? Should we go out and throw Atlas Shrugged, et al, in the trash can because she wasn't always the nicest to other people?

Edited by Jerry Biggers

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Since Barbara Ehrenreich was mentioned in this thread (due to Penn & Teller including an interview in their program attacking the California Self-Esteem movement), a few observations on her may be in order.

Ehrenreich has been a prolific author of articles and books over the past several decades, advocating for various causes dear to the hearts of leftist intellectuals. Her political views are well-known and she certainly makes no secret of them. She has long been a member of, and lends her name to promote, a group that currently calls itself, the "Democratic Socialists of America," (which combined what was left of the original Socialist Party of America, along with some allied groups).

View her interviews on YouTube and you will see her exhibiting the usual tired condescending sarcasm, dismissing anyone to the right of her and Barack. Unfortunately, she is usually interviewed by MSM types who already agree with her (a notable exception is a confrontation by John Stossel over her claims made in her book, Nickled and Dimed: Getting By in America).

Anyway, the reason Ehrenreich was included in the P&T show about the Self-Esteem movement was because of her recent book, Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive-Thinking Has Undermined America. Reading her book was enlightening for me in a number of ways (but don't buy it, get it from your public library). The book claims to be an attack on "positive thinking," but she is merely using that as a cover to get to her real target, the free market as the cause of the recent financial crash and resulting recession/depression. What is quite obvious is that she is so eager to present THE MESSAGE (evil, stupid, unsophisticated capitalists caused this mess) that she gives short shrift to the history of the various positive thinkers in America. Either she relied on poor researchers for this history (in which case, she is irresponsible) or she did it herself (which shows her to be a poor scholar). As a result, she misrepresents some of the positive thinkers and totally omits others (e.g., Elbert Hubbard, probably the most widely read social critic, author, and advocate of positive thinking at the turn of the 19th century until his untimely death as a passenger on the Lusitania. Unfortunately for Ms. Ehrenreich, he was not a crazed religionist, but was instead an outspoken atheist and opponent of religious dogmas) either because their views do not support her MESSAGE or because she was too eager to get the book in print and just did not care if there were Grand Canyon-size gaps in the history she recounts or her thesis. And it's not because she was exploring new ground in discussing Positive Thinking in America - there are many books that have covered all aspects of this rather diverse movement. But apparently consulting these works was just too much effort for Ehrenreich.

Ehrenreich is usually held up by the MSM and leftist intellectualoids as a role model for what a proper liberal social critic should be. Apparently being a responsible and thorough scholar is not a requirement for that career.

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Jerry,

Thank you for the update on Barbara Ehrenreich's newest book.

One idea or another about positive thinking has been part of American culture for a long time. If Ehrenreich can't be bothered learning the history, she ought to leave the topic to someone else.

Robert Campbell

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There seems to be an unstated assumption by some here that Penn & Teller are (or should be) Objectivist. I don't believe they have ever indicated such. They are number one, entertainers - comedians - magicians. Part of their whole shtick is to be funny, outrageous, and controversial. The more, the better. They do this, of course, to get people talking to others about how outrageous or funny P & T were, and to thereby enlarge their audience base. That's their business. And they are extremely good at it.

Now as to their personal political and philosophical opinions, they also happen to be libertarians and additionally have aligned themselves with the humanist/skeptical movement, a la James Randi, Michael Shermer, Richard Dawkins. While the humanist/atheist/skeptical movement may share some things in common with Objectivists (opposition to mysticism, the irrational, the dogmatic and religious, or as P & T more elegantly call it, "bullshit."), they most definately are not in agreement with many other essential principles of Objectivism (in particular, they oppose Rand's derivation of a code of ethics from the facts of reality). They are much closer, philosophically, to Hume than they are to Rand.

Yes, and this is why I'd much rather listen to or deal with a good Marxist or Jesuit than standardless creeps like these. Being almost like an Objectivist, just without a reasoned moral code, is not just like being almost an Objectivist. It is the contradiction at the base thereof.

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The clearest evidence of libertarianism’s nihilist wing would be Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, in which he praises pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, blackmailers, libelors, corrupt cops, et. al., as heroes.

But IS that really nihilism? Doesn't the philosophical position of nihilism mean that NOTHING is considered as of value to the nihilist?

One gets the impression that you erroneously label as 'nihilist' those choices that go against yours (and most people's) code of ethics.

Edited by Xray

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The clearest evidence of libertarianism’s nihilist wing would be Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, in which he praises pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers, blackmailers, libelors, corrupt cops, et. al., as heroes.

But IS that really nihilism? Doesn't the philosophical position of nihilism mean that NOTHING is considered as of value to the nihilist?

One gets the impression that you erroneously label as 'nihilist' those choices that go against yours (and most people's) code of ethics.

My compliments, Xray. I know I don't offer them to you very often. But when you're right, you're right.

JR

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If NB were being interviewed today, he'd sound a lot better. He was grossly taken advantage of two or three different ways. P and T and the producers of this crap should have done some decent research first. Self-esteem is a substantial thing. It's not what you end up with by passing out gold stars and heaping on undeserved or unearned praise.

--Brant

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If he were prudent he'd get rid of those ugly tchotchkes on either side of him.

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There is so much misunderstanding about self-esteem and what adds to it and what subtracts from it. It's the integrated sum of emotional-intellectual self-evaluation. It has a lot to do with real accomplishments and making right, rational choices and enjoying positive results. Positive results aren't guaranteed, of course. And it's not so much positive thinking as avoiding unproductive negative thinking.

What can a teacher of very young children do to foster self-esteem in them? (I am speaking hypothetically for I am not knowledgeable enough about actually working with such children, but any teacher who does can more properly evaluate my comments.) I'm assuming a workable class size of 20 and one teacher for one year. You treat each child as an individual capable of accomplishment. They understand that that is your expectation of them and you give private praise when they do that. The praise is in the form of an acknowledgement that you know and see them and what they did. "I knew you could do this and you did it." You never stand in front of the class and praise the class except with a low key generalization and you never praise anybody to the class. If you do that you will switch from the individual to the collective and suddenly some will feel inferior or "not enough" or jealous. Remember that a class feels nothing. This is pump-priming; creating students who are self-motivated.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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There is so much misunderstanding about self-esteem and what adds to it and what subtracts from it. It's the integrated sum of emotional-intellectual self-evaluation. It has a lot to do with real accomplishments and making right, rational choices and enjoying positive results. Positive results aren't guaranteed, of course. And it's not so much positive thinking as avoiding unproductive negative thinking.

What can a teacher of very young children do to foster self-esteem in them? (I am speaking hypothetically for I am not knowledgeable enough about actually working with such children, but any teacher who does can more properly evaluate my comments.) I'm assuming a workable class size of 20 and one teacher for one year. You treat each child as an individual capable of accomplishment. They understand that that is your expectation of them and you give private praise when they do that. The praise is in the form of an acknowledgement that you know and see them and what they did. "I knew you could do this and you did it." You never stand in front of the class and praise the class except with a low key generalization and you never praise anybody to the class. If you do that you will switch from the individual to the collective and suddenly some will feel inferior or "not enough." Remember that a class feels nothing. This is pump-priming; creating students who are self-motivated.

--Brant

Very sensible techniques for teachers of any age group. As you know I have never taught children, but adults learning a new language after only a short time in a totally new culture, really need self-esteem. I don't stand up in front of them except when writing on the board (I don't stand up much anyway, if sitting or lying down is possible), I usually sit in the middle and move from student to student or group to group. They often praise each other, and help each other. In fact each class is sort of a, well, collective...my version, anyway.

I'll be interested to see Xray's comments on this.

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