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  1. Tolerationism verboten! Ah, gee. I can’t help it. The following letters are just to cool to keep to myself. Who coined the term ‘randroid?” I don’t know. In one of the following someone admits that they “dated” Leonard Peikoff. Peter Some old letters. Barbara Branden wrote: The question has often been raised on Atlantis: What is wrong with Objectivism that it attracts so many true believers -- people with a psychological need to accept every word Ayn Rand said on any issue as gospel, and who wield Objectivism like a club over the heads of those who do not. end quote Objectivism transcends True Believers. As with Science, Objectivism is demonstrably and repeatedly true. The only faith we require is good faith. (And this is precisely why we should retain the traditional view that knowledge is justified *and* true belief. Justification is relative, whereas truth is absolute. Ghs) Without faith a philosophy needs truth at its core, and to discover truth we need inquiring and open minds, which is why we argue so much. Gradually a consensus is reached in areas of contention, because one answer is usually best, with the current exception of human psychology. Psychology is the most complex issue Objectivism addresses, yet even human psychology should eventually yield to Contextual Certainty. (Note the advances in “Profiling” criminals and targeted advertising.) The study of Consciousness is in its infancy but it is growing :O) Live long and prosper, Peter Taylor From: "M. Shane DeVault" To: atlantis, BBfromM Subject: A personal story... (was: Re: ATL: Re: Barbara's "Humanoids") Date: Sat, 11 Aug 2001 10:17:38 -0500 When I was 16, my high school English teacher handed me a flier about an essay contest. The prize was $1000 for an essay about some woman named "Ayn Rand" I'd never heard of (and mispronounced Ann Rand). But hey, it was a short book (“Anthem”), and a thousand bucks is a thousand bucks. So I went home and started to think about if I'd do it or not. At this point in the story, I must digress. My younger brother had been diagnosed with Leukemia a year or so before this, forcing my mother to virtually move to Memphis TN and St. Jude's Hospital. (Send them money! Great group. A cancer cure will probably come from there. But anyway....) This left me, at 16, living alone in the big house. Enter Woody, my next door neighbor. Older man and his wife, had raised two kids, typical White Urban Professional family. Woody and his wife had practically adopted me over the last two years. I asked Woody if he knew anything about a writer called "Ann Rand". "You mean INE Rand?" I said "I dunno...maybe." He asked me why I'd ask and I passed him the flier from school. He could barely contain his excitement, running down the hall to the study and grabbing a little green book off the shelf. "Here. Read this," he said. It was “Anthem”. I went home at about 9:00PM and sat down to start reading. An hour later, I got up, having finished the book, and then went back to Woody's house, woke him up, and said "I want more." The next day, I finished “We The Living”. Interestingly enough, though, Woody didn't exactly encourage my pursuit of Ayn Rand--more discouraged it than anything, precisely because of the reasons Barbara states. He noticed in me the typical teenager desire to "belong" to a group and "fit in" somewhere, coupled with a fairly dangerous desire to be outside of the norm. Objectivism might not be the best thing to introduce to me at that time, and he constantly reminded me (and even still does today) that that one was "all you kid. I had nothing to do with it." Barbara is right. The power of Objectivism is an intoxicating and dangerous thing, something that can cause serious "blind followship" (my word) rather than genuine 'discipleship'. (I use this term not because of the religious connotations but because of it's meaning: A disciple is a student--a lifelong student--who learns with the expectation of eventually becoming a teacher/master. In other words: those who study Objectivism long enough will begin to teach it. If not in word, in deed.) Too many times in discussions, I've heard "Well Rand said..." (this is true even here) and that is the end of the discussion. While in a limited conversation about her writings or beliefs specifically this would be an adequate response, in a deeper philosophical discussion it does not answer the necessary "Why" questions. E g. Party A: "Is the death penalty a moral/ethical/just/good thing?" Party B: "No." Party A: "Why?" Party B: "Rand says...<insert apropos Rand quote here>." Then the discussion ends. That should never ever, ever be the end of the argument since it does not answer the WHY it is morally/ethically unjust or not a good thing. It simply says that Rand said it wasn't. While that might be good enough for some, I still want to know how she arrived at her conclusions because I might disagree with her or (God forbid!) she might be wrong! Anyway...that's my two cents--which puts me at about $.98. (Only another two cents and I got a buck!) M. Shane DeVault ----- Original Message ----- From: <BBfromM To: <atlantis Sent: Saturday, August 11, 2001 6:21 AM Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Barbara's "Humanoids" Ellen Moore wrote: Your persistent description of "true believers" among students of Objectivism is a disservice to all. I object to your characterization, and I speak from experience. The only "true believers" are mystics of "mind and muscle", and these are the antithesis of objectivity. . . . I have associated with hundreds of students interested in Objectivism in Canada and US since early in 1964. I have never yet met anyone serious about Objectivism who fits your characterization. > I wish I could agree with you. But I have met too many true believers, especially among young Objectivists -- including a young person who attended Peikoff's taped lectures in Winnipeg under your auspices -- to be able to do so. But as I said, I believe that attitude on the way out, although it certainly is taught by Peikoff (not in so many words, of course, but by implication). Nor do I think it a hanging offense; it is to some extent understandable -- so long as it is not permanent -- in young people who are overwhelmed by their first encounter with Objectivism. It is especially unfortunate because such people give an impression of Objectivism to those who are not familiar with it, that is totally unwarranted. Barbara From: SANDRAMEND To: AKathleen76 at wetheliving Subject: Re: ATL: 1959: *Nathan and Barbara are...most likely to be irrational in an e... Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 11:26:06 EDT In a message dated 10/14/01 6:16:58 AM, AKathleen76@aol.com writes: << Perhaps I'm missing something but why do you think it's relevant to bring this to the list? It proves nothing. >> Nathaniel Branden did me more harm than any individual I've ever met. In those days, in order to attend the lectures at Ayn's Saturday nights, and Greenspan's lectures, and Leonard's and Barbara's and Nathan's, all generously offered free by the way, we HAD to see Nathaniel as a psychologist, all of us, even, Frank O'Connor. Nathan weighed in on the Israel debate with disdain for the debate so far on this list. And much as I like Barbara on the one issue of Israel she reverts to accusations that someone is *evading* or *understands nothing about Objectivism* I've seen a lot of that kind of thing on another list and somewhat on this list. It was Barbara who told me about this list. She suggested I read the archives and lurk for a while. I read her posts because I didn't know anyone else and knew she had a good epistemology. She asserted in one post that Ayn Rand had been a Zionist but gave no evidence or proof. On October 5, I sent her a post asking when Ayn had become a Zionist and expressing my growing doubts about Israel. The post was never answered. As I reluctantly got into the debate on Israel, she finally responded that she hadn't had a chance to read past posts but did ask me questions about how I found time to post so much. Where, in other words, was I getting my money. I replied: You first. She then told me and I was amazed at the similarities and told her my situation. Barbara's hot button issue is Israel. My hot button issue is Nathaniel. After I saw Barbara again in the mid-1970's and was amazed at how much she'd mellowed, I called Nathaniel. Brrrrrrrr! I had to call an Objectivist psychologist friend, the only session we ever had, and she helped me get past it. She had been in groups with Nathaniel. That was the '70's. In the mid 80's, I advertised in The Intelligencer that I was starting a book discussion group and the first book we would discuss would be THE FOUNTAINHEAD. One of the people who called had also attended seminars with Nathaniel and he had the same impression as my friend. Nathaniel would go after people in the seminars and almost try to break them. These were the impressions of only two people, but it bore out my experience with Nathaniel. There was a passive-aggressive wimp of a girl whose appointment with Nathaniel preceded mine and he would yell his head off at her. Nathaniel never yelled at me, yet I developed a stutter. I'd never stuttered in my life. I had had some difficult years after I ran away from home. I had survived a mother who also had tried her mightiest to break me so she could remake me more to her liking. She had failed. Nathaniel came closest. Those years were exhilarating and terrifying. I also bought the complete works of Aristotle and read them to get a sense of a stable, orderly, rational sense of the universe, unlike the terrifying, taut world of Objectivism in which everyone was afraid of being deemed *irrational* *out of focus* or an *evader. I went on a date with Leonard ONCE. Towards the end, he asked me what I would do if offered the job of dictator of the US. I had not read any part of ATLAS SHRUGGED. He had. I immediately thought of what laws I would change. For starters, abolish the 16th amendment which would get rid of the IRS. Wrong answer. The right answer was to refuse. Who knew? But there was worse to come. I had during the course of the evening asked him about something that was troubling me. A brassy, social metaphysician I worked with had become Nathaniel's patient and was paying for private tutorials with Leonard. She was a middle-aged woman, self-deluded about her attractiveness to men. She smugly had told me that in one session with Leonard, he'd had to adjust his trousers. Her implication was that it was because he was sexually aroused by her. I was horrified that Leonard would find her attractive. But I did a reality check. I asked. I get to the Brandens a few days later and Barbara stiffly calls me into Nathaniel's office. She was in a white rage. Her eyes had become tiny, and her cheeks swelled like a chipmunk and she was ready to take my head off. How dare I ask such a question of a man like Leonard??? I didn't accuse Leonard of anything. All I did was ask a question. All I did was a reality check. That was the world of Objectivism. That was the world I had to leave even though it was exciting and exhilarating. In a message dated 10/14/01 5:42:27 AM, AKathleen76@aol.com writes: << I had that same question as I've been disturbed with the interpretation of "tolerance" that has seemed to pervade Objectivist circles influenced by David Kelley (who I do not have a basic argument with on that point). What I've found is that it has been interpreted to mean that one speaks with anybody, regardless of indications of rationality, about anything (including the merits of pedophilia, for example), and all standards are lost...I'm sure this is not what Kelley meant and I've found it disturbing to come across. >> I have not yet read David Kelley, but I think there is a powerful connection between his urging *tolerance* if that is what he in fact does, and the fact that he has written a highly lauded book on the Art of Reasoning. As I said in a private email, it's not for the sake of David or Greg that I debate their views. It's for my own, to strengthen my own arguments, to be able to persuade others of the wrongness of those views. I talked to a longtime friend after 9/11 who opposes the war. And I wasn't able to persuade him he was wrong. I was mortified. Sending people to Coventry (shunning them) won't persuade people that they're wrong. It didn't work with Galileo. Yes, he recanted. But then he murmured to himself, *but I still believe the earth circles the sun.* You can shut down debate on certain subjects. And to my horror I've discovered that it's done not only in the black ghetto where you win an argument by shouting longer and louder, the argumentum ad baculum, but to our universities where free speech is not given to both sides of issues. David Horowitz went through horrific experiences you associate with the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany on his lecture tour at universities discussing his book HATING WHITEY. I was reviled, and circled and threatened for holding unpopular views about films. I knew I would love GOOD WILL HUNTING, and DirecTV offers all day pay per view. I watched the film at 8am and watched it all day till 8pm. Especially the therapy sessions with Robin Williams which did me more good than all my visits to therapists put together. For one thing, Williams gave feedback, which makes him different than too many therapists. And many people told Williams how much good he'd done them. I then went online to a film newsgroup and said in the subject heading: GOOD WILL HUNTING is a terrific movie.!!!!! What a storm!!! How dare I? The thread went up to 60 posts. I said I had not liked DOCTOR STRANGELOVE. More of a storm. Who do you think you are not to like the great Kubrick. Luckily, I had Pauline Kael's very perceptive review of the type of people who liked Strangelove. But, what a brouhaha. In today's intellectual climate, you are not allowed to disagree with political correctness. You are not allowed to observe that there's a lot of reverse racism out there. You are not allowed to love a movie unless Roger Ebert has given it his imprimatur. Roger Ebert, screenwriter for a sequel to VALLEY OF THE DOLLS, who spent a whole year dissing another film I liked: DEAD POET'S SOCIETY . . . . Sandra From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: 1959: *Nathan and Barbara are...most likely to be irrational in an e... Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 11:39:48 -0500 Sandra wrote: "My hot button issue is Nathaniel. After I saw Barbara again in the mid-1970's and was amazed at how much she'd mellowed, I called Nathaniel. Brrrrrrrr! I had to call an Objectivist psychologist friend, the only session we ever had, and she helped me get past it. "She had been in groups with Nathaniel. That was the '70's. In the mid 80's, I advertised in The Intelligencer that I was starting a book discussion group and the first book we would discuss would be THE FOUNTAINHEAD. One of the people who called had also attended seminars with Nathaniel and he had the same impression as my friend. Nathaniel would go after people in the seminars and almost try to break them. These were the impressions of only two people, but it bore out my experience with Nathaniel. There was a passive-aggressive wimp of a girl whose appointment with Nathaniel preceded mine and he would yell his head off at her. Nathaniel never yelled at me, yet I developed a stutter. I'd never stuttered in my life." From 1971-4, I attended Nathaniel's group sessions on a regular basis, and I must say that your friend has given a very distorted account of what went on there. She may have had her own issues with Nathaniel, which is not unusual in that kind of relationship, but it is manifestly unfair to blame Nathaniel for everything. And to say that Nathaniel tried to "break" people in his therapy sessions is simply absurd. As for your remarks about Nathaniel from the NBI days, I didn't know him then -- but I do know that he would often express sincere and spontaneous regret for some of his actions during that time. Indeed, in a therapy group I once heard him say that he had "harmed" some people with his earlier approach to therapy, which is a remarkable statement for any professional to make. I think it's time to move on and forget about what happened 35 years ago. People change, and the environment of the early "inner circle," with the extraordinarily charismatic figure of Ayn Rand at its head, generated a lot of peculiar behavior among teachers and students alike. But it also did a lot of good. If, as you claim, "Nathaniel Branden did me more harm than any individual I've ever met," then you must have lived a very sheltered life. And the kind of "harm" you refer to is impossible unless the "victim" willingly participates in the undesirable relationship in question. If we must assign blame in such circumstances, then it should be applied evenly to both sides. Indeed, more often than not, we are the architects of our own problems; and if those problems had not manifested themselves in one situation, they would have arisen somewhere else. Perhaps you expected Nathaniel to be something more than a human being, complete with the foibles and flaws that we all have. This was a common expectation among early students of Objectivism, who sometimes had trouble distinguishing real people from the characters in *Atlas Shrugged.* Ghs From: SANDRAMEND To: smikro, atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: 1959: *Nathan and Barbara are...most likely to be irrational in an e... Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 14:29:43 EDT In a message dated 10/14/01 9:40:44 AM, smikro@earthlink.net writes: George:<< If, as you claim, "Nathaniel Branden did me more harm than any individual I've ever met," then you must have lived a very sheltered life. And the kind of "harm" you refer to is impossible unless the "victim" willingly participates in the undesirable relationship in question.>> Sandra: My choice was to forego lectures with Ayn on writing, Nathaniel on psychology and the psychology of sex (listeners to the original Psychology of Sex tapes told me it sounded like a dialogue. i was the other part of that dialogue) Leonard on History of Philosophy and Logic, Barbara on Psycho-epistemology, Alan Greenspan on Economics and Mary Ann Rukavina on aesthetics if I chose not to see Nathaniel as a psychologist. George: If we must assign blame in such circumstances, then it should be applied evenly to both sides. Indeed, more often than not, we are the architects of our own problems; and if those problems had not manifested themselves in one situation, they would have arisen somewhere else. Perhaps you expected Nathaniel to be something more than a human being, complete with the foibles and flaws that we all have. This was a common expectation among early students of Objectivism, who sometimes had trouble distinguishing real people from the characters in *Atlas Shrugged.* Sandra: No, actually it was the reverse. I was never a *hero-worshipper where he was concerned. I thought his persona weird: a combination of Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer and a much more interesting Austrian psychiatrist, complete with accent. It was the bounce between the two that first baffled and then amused me. Of course, since you were SUPPOSED to find such a great hero terribly sexy, Nathaniel thought less of me for not being attracted to him. Reread his Psychology of Self- Esteem and you'll get why. Nathaniel in Ayn had a *my heir, the genius* relationship. His mother had a *my son, the genius* attitude. Years later, I saw Nathaniel on TV say something and wait for applause which didn't come. I gave up reading his books when my friend, a psychology major, ordinarily very non-judgmental, picked up a book of Nathaniel's and went through it naming psychologist after psychologist (I remember only the name Piaget coming up) whose ideas he'd reframed for Objectivists. I never saw the great leap forward psychologically in changing the term *secondhander* to *social objectivist* Obviously, on the subject of Nathaniel Branden, I have very negative views, and, other than an angry defense from a very good friend and former wife of his, have seen little reason to change my mind. Subject closed. Unless reopened by others. However, I think that given what Nathaniel Branden did to spread Objectivism, I think it was spiteful of Ayn Rand not to leave him a large chunk of her fortune in her will. She owed him. Big time. Sandra From: "George H. Smith" <smikro To: "*Atlantis" <atlantis Subject: Re: LOGIC: The Straw Man Fallacy (Was: Re: ATL: Re: Shooting and Looting: It's what warriors do. Date: Wed, 14 Nov 2001 22:39:31 -0600 Sandra wrote: "What I learned from Barbara's principles of efficient thinking was not to deal in floating abstractions -- a lesson not always learned by members of this group -- and to *think outside the square* which panics the orthodox in this group because sometimes they can't find what Ayn Rand thought on an issue and that seems to make them feel anxious. Once they find something in the Ayn Rand literature they can connect my principle to, they relax and then attack me for daring to disagree with Rand. It does get boring." Who has attacked you for "daring to disagree with Rand"? I think you are being unfair to the vast majority of Atlantis list members, who do not adhere to the Eastern Orthodox Church of Objectivism, but to the Western Reformed branch of heretics. I, for one, have never even called myself an "Objectivist," primarily because I think my anarchism puts me too fundamentally at odds with Rand's perspective. Moreover, my disagreements with certain features of Rand's philosophy, such as the criticism of her contextual theory of knowledge that appeared in my last book (*Why Atheism?*), are a matter of public record. Over the years I have subscribed to a number of philosophy e-groups, and I regard Atlantis as the best by far. There have been very detailed, thoughtful, and sometimes heated debates over philosophical issues like free will, rights, and egoism. A number of the more prominent posters, such as Bill Dwyer, are "soft determinists" who have no trouble expressing serious disagreements with Rand. Such cases are the rule rather than the exception. Atlantis is not a haven for Randroids, as you seem to think. Believe me, no one around here (with a few possible exceptions) cares in the least whether you disagree with Rand. What unites Atlanteans is not an orthodox credo, but the conviction that Ayn Rand was a serious thinker whose ideas are worthy of serious consideration. Even Kirez Korgan, the founder and owner of Atlantis, has recently said that he does not regard himself as an "Objectivist," however sympathetic he is to many of Rand's ideas. In fairness, I think you should give your critics the benefit of the doubt and not assume that their disagreements with you have anything intrinsically to do with your disagreements with Rand. It is not a matter of thinking "outside the square." Around here we construct our own squares. Meanwhile, our high regard for Ayn Rand, whether we agree with her or not, gives us a common basis for discussion -- a shared community of ideas, so to speak, that serves as a foundation for dialogue and debate. Ghs