Ed Hudgins

Barbara at Summer Seminar 2011

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Just want to let everyone know that Barbara Branden spoke at The Atlas Society Summer Seminar/Free Minds conference in July 2011 and did a great job. If anyone tells you that being over 80 is old, don't believe it. Barbara was as sharp as ever discussing some of the pitfalls in thinking made by Objectivists as well everyone else.

Thanks Barbara for a great talk and for your great charm and intelligence over the years! Anyone who was there might want to provide comments.

BBranden-talk1.jpg

Barbara Branden speaks as Jim Peron looking on.

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Best wishes to Barbara. Her PAR is on my top shelf of favorite all-time great stories/reads.

Will her talk be on Youtube?

Thanks Ed, for the post.

Edited by Las Vegas

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In the late 1960s, I scheduled a trip to New York so that I could see Barbara give her Efficient Thinking lecture as part of the NBI Basic Principles course. Well, as luck would have it, Barbara was ill that night and could not give her talk. (Some dude named Nathaniel Branden stood in for her.)

I was very disappointed. My one big chance to see the woman of my dreams give her famous lecture, and she was a no-show. (No offense, Nathaniel.) Little did I know that, over 40 years later, I would get another chance.

Her cutting edge talk on Efficient Thinking was fabulous. And it was a sheer pleasure to observe the sharpness of her mind in the question period. Definitely one of the highlights of the conference.

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Psycho-epistemology and Principles of Efficient Thinking Today

I haven't been posting, but need to on this: I'm surprised that this thread started nearly a week ago, after people have recovered from the Free Minds/TAS Conference, yet no one has posted even a couple sentences efficiently summarizing and giving some detail about the *contents* of Barbara's very important talk.

If I had been there, I would certainly have been right up front taking notes - typing feverishly on my laptop so I wouldn't start to forget details a week later - on whichever of the following there was time to discuss in forty-five minutes:

Why efficient thinking rather than clear thinking, complete thinking, or error-free thinking? How is psychoepistemology at the center of this? What are the most frequent mistakes? What is the order of addressing issues or sequence . . . or the top components of thinking well?

What are some striking examples (positive or negative) taken from what's going on around us today?

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I haven't been posting, but need to on this: I'm surprised that this thread started nearly a week ago, after people have recovered from the Free Minds/TAS Conference, yet no one has posted even a couple sentences efficiently summarizing and giving some detail about the *contents* of Barbara's very important talk.

Really, where does that "need" come from?

Why are you surprised?

Yep, that's what is needed, some content analysis.

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Phil – You should have been there! It was a good seminar.

Among other things, Barbara discussed thinking errors. For example, when someone asks a question to which one does not know the answer, many people—Objectivists in particular—will come up with some preliminary response and then just stick by it at all costs rather than saying, "I don't know." Not being able to answer on the spot does not mean one is betraying reason.

Barbara also talked about writing. She said that it is important to let your subconscious work, especially in creative writing. She believes that Rand did that in the early parts of Atlas Shrugged, letting her subconscious flow, and editing later. She thinks that finishing Atlas was difficult for Rand because Rand was editing as she wrote rather than letting her ideas flow out. Barbara said that letting the subconscious work is found among scientists as well as fiction writers and artists. You have to believe in yourself and accept yourself if you are being creative.

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Psycho-epistemology and Principles of Efficient Thinking Today

I haven't been posting, but need to on this: I'm surprised that this thread started nearly a week ago, after people have recovered from the Free Minds/TAS Conference, yet no one has posted even a couple sentences efficiently summarizing and giving some detail about the *contents* of Barbara's very important talk.

If I had been there, I would certainly have been right up front taking notes - typing feverishly on my laptop so I wouldn't start to forget details a week later - on whichever of the following there was time to discuss in forty-five minutes:

Why efficient thinking rather than clear thinking, complete thinking, or error-free thinking? How is psychoepistemology at the center of this? What are the most frequent mistakes? What is the order of addressing issues or sequence . . . or the top components of thinking well?

What are some striking examples (positive or negative) taken from what's going on around us today?

Nice post. I would have taken some notes on index cards. My typing skills suck.

--Brant

edit: I once saw Ayn Rand use index cards for note taking 40 years ago at one of Holzer's legal lectures. She did this sparingly.

Edited by Brant Gaede

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Here are a few of my notes. Some of this is similar to Ed’s comments.

Barbara drew a valuable analogy between thinking and driving. She characterized “front seat driving’ (as opposed to back seat driving) as a process of purposeful question-asking, and said it was important to look for road markers (with respect to your original goal or purpose) to be sure you’re going in the right direction. She characterized Ayn Rand’s basic problem-solving approach as reductio ad claritatum (a rephrase of 'reductio ad absurdum'): step-by-step conceptualization using a guided process of question-asking to move forward.

She quoted an anecdote from someone else (I don’t recall who it was): “If you have 60 minutes to solve a problem and your life depends on it, spend 55 minutes figuring out what questions to ask.” She said that might be a slight exaggeration, but not much.

She said many Objectivists tend to rush to judgment when asked a question, grasping for any answer that will do, and cautioned against that. Judging anything and everything all the time simply is not possible, at least not objectively. When you don’t know, it’s okay to admit it and reserve judgment until you can reflect on it.

She also advocated taking the ‘Devil’s Advocate’ approach when you feel your position is unassailable.

In regard to writing, the process is one of creativity, and a whole different set of rules apply. It is very different from linear problem-solving. You must trust your subconscious, as if every word you write is pure gold. Ayn Rand taught her to be wary of her subconscious. Barbara felt that Rand did not write her last novel (To Lorne Dieterling?) because she had become too much of a doubter in regard to her own subconscious.

She said she was planning a book based on her efficient thinking lectures, and credited Roger Bissell with giving her the title: Think As If Your Life Depends On It—because it does.

She had a great deal more to say, but these are some of the highlights.

Please note: Needless to say, this is my interpretation of Barbara’s remarks.

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