Seeking The Original NBI Basic Principles of Objectivism Lectures


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I was reading a post by Diana Hsieh where she states that she recently was able to obtain tape recordings of the original Basic Principles of Objectivism Lectures which were offered at NBI. Because part of the mission of The Culture of Reason Center is to collect and archive historical Objectivist materials, a copy of these lectures would be of interest. If anyone has recordings of the original NBI lectures and is willing to part with them, please contact me at: cultureofreasoncenter@gmail.com

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I followed your link to Mrs. Hsieh's site and, (after wading through her usual litany of tiresome pleas, attempting to again justify her mental acrobatics in the gymnasium of objectivist schismatics), found her brief reference to finding an "original" set of the NBI Basic Principles of Objectivism tapes. Interestingly, she exhibited a bit of unexpected candor in admiiting that her supposition that Nathaniel Branden had surrepititiously altered his discussion of the issue of "lying," from the NBI to the post-break recorded version from Academic Associates, was in error, that both versions were identical.,and that it was Peikoff who had rewritten Rand's "canonical" position on that issue (uh-oh! now she's in trouble with Leonard, again!)..

But your question related to whether anyone still had access to tapes of the original NBI courses (and would be willing to make them available to others). After the break, NBI Business Representatives around the world were asked to return any of these tapes that they may still have had to NBI, with the assurance that they would most likely be re-issued later in another format. Three of the NBI courses were shortly reissued on LP records from Academic Associates, the remaining courses that NBI offered have remained unavailable (with the possible exceptions of a taped course by Allen Blumenthat and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, on the "esthetics of classical music," which appeared to be similar or identical to their NBI course, offered for a while by Audio Forum, and occasionally also listed in published catalogues from Laissez Faire Books; and Nathaniel Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem book, which contains practically all of the material from NBI original course, "Basic Principles of Objectivist Psychology," with, of course, some qualifications added, post-break).

If such tapes exist, outside of any copies that may still be retained by Nathaniel Branden or Barbara Branden, I have never heard of anyone publicly admit to holding them. To have done so (and, to have made them commercially available without permission) would have been a copyright violation which most likely would have resulted in legal action being taken by the Brandens to prevent their distribution.

When I was involved (along with Robert Campbell and Roger Bissell - who did the bulk of the work) in the transcription of Basic Principles for release in printed book format, Nathaniel stated (and included in his "Acknowledgements" in the book version) that there were no "hard copies" still in existence from the original course, and that the recorded album set from Academic Associates was the only available version. Contrary to some opinions, In listening to the AA albums, and comparing to lectures that I attended at NBI in Washington, D.C. and New York, it is my opinion that not all of those lectures were re-recorded by Branden for the album sets. Some appear to either be from the original NBI tapes, or were re-recorded in a different environment from those that clearly were recorded exclusively for the albums (e.g., "Romanticism and Naturalism in the Novels of Ayn Rand").

Back to Mrs. Hsieh's assertion that she has a copy of the original tapes, you might wish to inquire of her whether she would allow you acess to her "find," and whether her un-named source has copies of any of the other NBI taped courses. But to admit to that, or to make those recordings again available to the public, would likely involve Mrs. Hsieh, and her unnamed benefactor, in very unpleasant legal challenges.

Too bad, though. For somewhere, some soon-to-be-former NBI Business Representative, upon receiving the request to return the tapes, may have held onto them or copied them before returning the originals. If so, some attempt to make them legally available, should be made, for historical posterity if no other. Too much intellectually valuable material to remain lost forever.

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. . .


Back to Mrs. Hsieh's assertion that she has a copy of the original tapes, you might wish to inquire of her whether she would allow you acess to her "find," and whether her un-named source has copies of any of the other NBI taped courses. But to admit to that, or to make those recordings again available to the public, would likely involve Mrs. Hsieh, and her unnamed benefactor, in very unpleasant legal challenges.

. . .

“Unpleasant legal challenges” at this time? Why? If the published transcript of the lectures in the book The Vision of Ayn Rand is fully faithful to the lectures, what interest might one have for making a legal challenge?

As you know, I have been relying on you fellows' testimony (JB, RB, RC) of the accuracy of the transcripts in the book. If its fidelity to the '60's lectures is doubtful, I need to stop citing it in that chronology.*

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If such tapes exist, outside of any copies that may still be retained by Nathaniel Branden or Barbara Branden, I have never heard of anyone publicly admit to holding them. To have done so (and, to have made them commercially available without permission) would have been a copyright violation which most likely would have resulted in legal action being taken by the Brandens to prevent their distribution.

I'm not sure how Dr. Hsieh obtained these tapes, but I will theorize a few possibilities.

1. Some NBI Business Representatives made copies.

2. Some NBI Business Representatives did not return the originals.

3. The Estate of Ayn Rand has given some original copies away to close friends.

​It sounds like someone who had the original tapes, decided to either give or sell them to Dr. Hsieh. Selling or giving away an original is not a violation of copyright, that I am aware of.

Currently, The Atlas Society holds the copyright to the AA version of The Basic Principles Lectures, and I am an authorized distributor (in MP3 format). My interest in obtaining a set of the original NBI lectures is: 1. Preservation. 2. Scholarly examination. 3. To work toward the possibility of making them legally available to the public.

Additionally, if anyone has any NBI materials they are willing to part with, those materials may be of interest to me. Again, I am seeking such materials for preservation, study, and possible public resurrection if and when legally permissible.

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http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=12266entry165714

Three of the NBI courses were shortly reissued [after the break] on LP records from Academic Associates, the remaining courses that NBI offered have remained unavailable (with the possible exceptions of a taped course by Allen Blumenthat and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, on the "esthetics of classical music," which appeared to be similar or identical to their NBI course, offered for a while by Audio Forum, and occasionally also listed in published catalogues from Laissez Faire Books; and Nathaniel Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem book, which contains practically all of the material from NBI original course, "Basic Principles of Objectivist Psychology," with, of course, some qualifications added, post-break).

The Blumenthal music course wasn't an NBI course. The original course was given live in New York City by Allan Blumenthal in the fall of 1974. Subsequently -- I don't know when -- it was retaped, and judging from things Roger Bissell said about it, revised, with both Allan and Joan talking.

Some excerpts about the music course from one of the several exchanges between me and Roger Bissell pertaining to musical issues:

[....] From your [Roger's] repeated (several times) "Allan and Joan," it's clear that the course was revised. Joan didn't do any of the talking in the original, though she'd helped him with historical info about other art forms in the various periods.
Ellen, I figured that the course was retaped, since there was absolutely no crowd noise in the lectures. Now, it's obvious that it was revised as well, since Joan did extensive talking in the lectures, probably more than Allan. [....]

That whole thread (40 posts) is a fun one by my tastes.

It includes the story about the "mystery composer" challenge in the original, 1974, course -- post #16.

Ellen

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. . .


Back to Mrs. Hsieh's assertion that she has a copy of the original tapes, you might wish to inquire of her whether she would allow you acess to her "find," and whether her un-named source has copies of any of the other NBI taped courses. But to admit to that, or to make those recordings again available to the public, would likely involve Mrs. Hsieh, and her unnamed benefactor, in very unpleasant legal challenges.

. . .

“Unpleasant legal challenges” at this time? Why? If the published transcript of the lectures in the book The Vision of Ayn Rand is fully faithful to the lectures, what interest might one have for making a legal challenge?

As you know, I have been relying on you fellows' testimony (JB, RB, RC) of the accuracy of the transcripts in the book. If its fidelity to the '60's lectures is doubtful, I need to stop citing it in that chronology.*

"Unpleasant legal challenges" is just speculation on my part, based on the continued lack of public availabilty of some of the NBI courses. Of course, the original lecturers may not have approved publication of their course for a variety of reasons (i.e., they no longer agree with the contents; or it needs further improvements; or ownership of the courses may have been in dispute at the dissolution of NBI, etc). Your guess is as good as mine.

I am somewhat puzzled by your reference to the accuracy of the transcripts used to create the book from the recorded lectures, and their fidelity to the "original" course. Regarding the first, I have seen no reason to doubt the accuracy of the book to the recorded lectures. As a member of the transcribing team, I can vouch for the attention to maintaining accuracy and fidelity. But perhaps no one is really questioning that aspect of the project.

Questions have been raised about whether the book/recorded AA lectures are the same in all respects to the NBI originals. Nathaniel Branden has commented that the course occasionally had guest lecturers who presented original material, and that accordingly differences in the course content (on those lectures) did occur.

So, when the question is asked," Does the book accurately correspond to the original lectures?" The answer is : to which version? Given which year? With which guest lecturers? With those caveats, we can safely say that the book is an accurate transcript, except for the occasional guest lectures.

Now, regarding Mrs. Hsieh's statements that she has obtained one of the original sets of NBI tapes, she stated that what she heard from the tapes did not differ from the recorded AAA lectures. Mrs. Hsieh, in the past, has gone out of her way to condemn the Brandens and to disavow her previous association with them. I think it is safe to say that if she had found discrepencies of any consequence, she would not have been reticent to let us know..

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http://www.objectivi...66

Three of the NBI courses were shortly reissued [after the break] on LP records from Academic Associates, the remaining courses that NBI offered have remained unavailable (with the possible exceptions of a taped course by Allen Blumenthat and Joan Mitchell Blumenthal, on the "esthetics of classical music," which appeared to be similar or identical to their NBI course, offered for a while by Audio Forum, and occasionally also listed in published catalogues from Laissez Faire Books; and Nathaniel Branden's The Psychology of Self-Esteem book, which contains practically all of the material from NBI original course, "Basic Principles of Objectivist Psychology," with, of course, some qualifications added, post-break).

The Blumenthal music course wasn't an NBI course. The original course was given live in New York City by Allan Blumenthal in the fall of 1974. Subsequently -- I don't know when -- it was retaped, and judging from things Roger Bissell said about it, revised, with both Allan and Joan talking.

Some excerpts about the music course from one of the several exchanges between me and Roger Bissell pertaining to musical issues:

[....] From your [Roger's] repeated (several times) "Allan and Joan," it's clear that the course was revised. Joan didn't do any of the talking in the original, though she'd helped him with historical info about other art forms in the various periods.
Ellen, I figured that the course was retaped, since there was absolutely no crowd noise in the lectures. Now, it's obvious that it was revised as well, since Joan did extensive talking in the lectures, probably more than Allan. [....]

That whole thread (40 posts) is a fun one by my tastes.

It includes the story about the "mystery composer" challenge in the original, 1974, course -- post #16.

Ellen

Ellen,

Thanks for adding your comments here on the Blumenthal Music course. I was under the assumption that NBI had offered some course by Allan on that subject, but my memory is hazy on the details. If there was an NBI course, I may be able to find it insome NBI course brochures or in the Objectivist/Ob. Newsletter.

The date that you mention, 1974, for the first offering of the music course, obviously puts it outside of NBI. .

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The live lectures might have changed from one session to the next, but I suspect that the taped versions came from early in the life of NBI and didn't change over the ensuing decade. Barbara Branden's guest lecture on efficient thinking mentions the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debates as being from the recently-concluded election.

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I was under the assumption that NBI had offered some course by Allan on [music], but my memory is hazy on the details. If there was an NBI course, I may be able to find it insome NBI course brochures or in the Objectivist/Ob. Newsletter.

Might you be thinking of NBI announcing some recitals by Allan? I think there was at least one recital Allan gave in NBI days which was announced in the Objectivist/Ob. Newsletter.

There was definitely at least one recital he gave which was announced in the Objectivist after NBI -- the recital at which I met him. I went expecting to hear someone who thought that being an Objectivist made him a musician. I heard an accomplished musician, and one the tenderness and honesty of whose playing I liked very much.

Ellen

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[...] I suspect that the taped versions came from early in the life of NBI and didn't change over the ensuing decade. [....]

A post of mine from an earlier thread. I haven't gotten further in reading Vision, so don't know if there are other places where later material is incorporated.

Regarding when the lectures transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand were recorded, it looks to me as if the book includes sections from unrevised early presentations combined with sections which were revised later.

For instance, the definition of "reason" given on pg. 1 is the original, Galt's Speech version ("the faculty that perceives, identifies, and integrates the material provided by man's senses"), whereas Chapter 2 references (pg. 40) and draws on "Miss Rand's monograph entitled Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," a work published in installments in 1966-67.

Ellen

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Jerry, concerning #6:

I didn’t say anything about “original” lectures. I only need to know that the lectures you and others transcribed into the book The Vision of Ayn Rand were all from Branden’s The Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures exactly as they were in some version or other prior to the break with Rand. It does not matter for my purposes when the recordings you and others transcribed were recorded, only whether they contain alterations of content after the split. I’m starting to get the impression now that none of the transcribers are in a position to know the answer. What representation was made to you on my issue concerning the tapes you were given to transcribe? Nothing one way or the other?

I should mention that the issue on which I'm seeking assurance in no way bears on how far the ideas in The Vision of Ayn Rand are true and valuable. It bears, however, on whether Rand definitely agreed with all the formulations in book, on whether the book is entirely a representation of her philosophy she had approved. If the book is from lectures unaltered after the split, as I have been led to believe, then I can continue say these transcriptions can be taken for Rand's positions up to the time of the split.

Stephen

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS (#12)

Brant, he finished the index, and I have been making good use of it. Just ask Roger to email you a copy.

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Jerry, concerning #6:

I didn’t say anything about “original” lectures. I only need to know that the lectures you and others transcribed into the book The Vision of Ayn Rand were all from Branden’s The Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures exactly as they were in some version or other prior to the break with Rand. It does not matter for my purposes when the recordings you and others transcribed were recorded, only whether they contain alterations of content after the split. I’m starting to get the impression now that none of the transcribers are in a position to know the answer. What representation was made to you on my issue concerning the tapes you were given to transcribe? Nothing one way or the other?

Stephen

That might be addressed lecture by lecture with the expectation that at least some, probably most, can be verified as original.

And, btw, what happened to the corrected index that Roger was working on?

--Brant

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Stephen,

The person who can give the most authorititative answer to your questions on these issues is Roger Bissell, who conceived and coordinated the transcription project (see the "Acknowledgements" on page xv, by Nathaniel Branden, The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, [2009, Cobden Press]). Roger also had extensive discussions with Nathaniel and also Barbara, on this project, transcribed 15 of the 20 lectures (with help from Robert Campbell on lectures 5 and 10), and edited the completed transcripts to assure their consistency with the recorded lectures, which were from the LP album set (or, the identical cassette tapes set) published by Academic Associates in , I believe, 1969.

You ask if the transcripts "contain alterations of content after the split." My answer is that it is unlikely that there were any alterations, but there were substitutions. Lectures 17 and 18, "Romanticism, Naturalism and the Novels of Ayn Rand," substituted for those given by guest lecturers (such as Mary Ann Rukavina, on the Esthetics of the Visual Arts) where permission to include was not given. You will find that Lectures 17 and 18 are derived from an earlier source, also endorsed by Ayn Rand, a chapter in Who Is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden in 1962.

One other differance between the book and the original NBI tapes (if indeed, they actually still exist somewhere) is that the original lectures included some recorded questions from the audience and answers from Ayn Rand (if my memory serves me correctly). Obviously, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to get permission from Ayn Rand, post-split, to include her after-lecture Q&A in the Academic Associates LP record/tape cassette albums.

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And, btw, what happened to the corrected index that Roger was working on?

He emailed it to me, try sending him a PM.

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Stephen,

Another question regarding your inquiries - I am unclear as to what exactly you are trying to establish. Hopefully, the search for the legendary lost NBI tapes will not become the Objectivist version of Indiana Jones and the Search for the Lost Grail (although your pic does have some resemblance to Harrison Ford).

Seriously, though, this whole issue of what is, and is not, considered in the Objectivist canon is rather bizarre. In my opinion, Peikoff dug his own (metaphorical) grave by declaring that Objectivism is a closed system and that anything written after Rand's death could not be considered as "real" Objectivism. Consider the tortuous attempts by Peikoff to both annoint and at the same time, disavow, his OPAR as both in/out of the canon. This position has resulted in all sorts of ridiculous contortions (see, for example, his remarkable Preface to the recent edited print version of his Understanding Objectivism lecture course,). Then we have his tantrum about McCloskey's rather mild criticism of Harrimann's The Logical Leap, declaring, in effect, that that book is de facto, also part of the Objectivist canon, and demanding McCloskey's banishment from The Anthem Foundation.

All of this makes Objectivism a laughing-stock , particularly in academia, which is precisely the arena where Rand wanted her philosophical system to be seriously considered.

And if we continue along this path, will we soon see, in addition to the ARI "authorized version," an Objectivist "Lost Books of the Bible," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banned_from_the_Bible for the Brandens' and for NBI lecture series? And will that be followed by a "pseudepigrapha" http://en.wikipedia....i/Pseudepigraph -.and will it contain Peikoff's post-Randian pronouncements, and maybe even Kelley's?

Note, from the links above, that Christians are still arguing about these books, thousands of years later!

Now there's something to look forward to!

This may sound absurd, but that is, in effect, the track Objectivism is going down.

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I should mention that the issue on which I'm seeking assurance in no way bears on how far the ideas in The Vision of Ayn Rand are true and valuable. It bears, however, on whether Rand definitely agreed with all the formulations in book, on whether the book is entirely a representation of her philosophy she had approved. If the book is from lectures unaltered after the split, as I have been led to believe, then I can continue say these transcriptions can be taken for Rand's positions up to the time of the split.

We have it from both "To Whom It May Concern" and from Nathaniel Branden's reply to TWIMC that Rand wanted some of the material in the course revised. As far as I'm aware, no details have been provided as to specifically what she wanted revised. I think you can reasonably assume that, whatever she wanted altered, her reservations weren't strong enough to occasion her putting a hold on the course pending completed revision.

Ellen

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I should mention that the issue on which I'm seeking assurance in no way bears on how far the ideas in The Vision of Ayn Rand are true and valuable. It bears, however, on whether Rand definitely agreed with all the formulations in book, on whether the book is entirely a representation of her philosophy she had approved. If the book is from lectures unaltered after the split, as I have been led to believe, then I can continue say these transcriptions can be taken for Rand's positions up to the time of the split.

We have it from both "To Whom It May Concern" and from Nathaniel Branden's reply to TWIMC that Rand wanted some of the material in the course revised. As far as I'm aware, no details have been provided as to specifically what she wanted revised. I think you can reasonably assume that, whatever she wanted altered, her reservations weren't strong enough to occasion her putting a hold on the course pending completed revision.

Ellen

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Randall, Stephen, Ellen, Reidy, Ninth, Brant, et al:

Concerning the existence of original copies of the NBI Basic Principles tapes, something just occured to me,....

In the "Acknowledgements" section of the Vision book, Nathaniel stated, "One of the obstacles to publishing these lectures has always been that the text did not exist in written form." I assume he is here referring to the entire set of lectures.

If there was no written copy of these lectures, then what was the source that was used for the Academic Associates audio albums created in 1969? If not from a printed copy, than a set of the original NBI tapes must have been used at that time, either directly (that is, what purchasers of the AA records were hearing were the original NBI tapes [excepting lectures 17 & 18]), or the tapes were listened to and then re-recorded into the mike, in segments, a very laborious process.

Or, am I missing something? It appears that Academic Associates was using a copy of the original NBI tapes,...or...?.

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Jerry,

My issue was not from any concern with what is canonical, only with usefulness of the book for tracking changes in Rand's thought from the time of the split to the 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism. Small potatoes, really.

Stephen

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I should mention that the issue on which I'm seeking assurance in no way bears on how far the ideas in The Vision of Ayn Rand are true and valuable. It bears, however, on whether Rand definitely agreed with all the formulations in book, on whether the book is entirely a representation of her philosophy she had approved. If the book is from lectures unaltered after the split, as I have been led to believe, then I can continue say these transcriptions can be taken for Rand's positions up to the time of the split.

We have it from both "To Whom It May Concern" and from Nathaniel Branden's reply to TWIMC that Rand wanted some of the material in the course revised. As far as I'm aware, no details have been provided as to specifically what she wanted revised. I think you can reasonably assume that, whatever she wanted altered, her reservations weren't strong enough to occasion her putting a hold on the course pending completed revision.

Ellen

A whole course revision is what I remember. Did Nathaniel just talk off the top of his head until they were recorded to be shipped around the country? All I know is he was capable of that. His brain power was prodigious, but his whole life went off the tracks when he read The Fountainhead almost continually for years and then met Rand continuing with the next novel as it was being written.

--Brant

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If there was no written copy of these lectures, then what was the source that was used for the Academic Associates audio albums created in 1969? If not from a printed copy, than a set of the original NBI tapes must have been used at that time, either directly (that is, what purchasers of the AA records were hearing were the original NBI tapes [excepting lectures 17 & 18]), or the tapes were listened to and then re-recorded into the mike, in segments, a very laborious process.

Laissez Faire Books used to market a videotape of Branden giving a lecture on self-esteem, it ran about 40 minutes, he was on a stage decorated with ferns, and the talk included his case about phone therapy with the woman with the Texas accent. It was from the eighties. He didn’t use notes, there’s no podium, he’s just holding a mike and walking back and forth interacting with the audience. I saw him give the same talk in the late nineties, and I mean it was virtually word for word, with just little additions here and there, oh and he did the Texas accent much better. This time he did have notes, and I caught a glance and it was just a single page with a few words on it going straight down the page, so he was almost certainly working from an outline and making it up on the spot. The NBI lectures have that same extemporaneous quality, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they were done the same way, at least by the late sixties when he’d already delivered them so many times.

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Here's a thought: the NBI originals were taped in front of a live audience; any that Branden may have redone for AA presumably were not. This could be an indicator as to what's from which version.

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Jerry,

My issue was not from any concern with what is canonical, only with usefulness of the book [The Vision of Ayn Rand] for tracking changes in Rand's thought from the time of the split to the 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism. Small potatoes, really.

Stephen

I'm suspecting that Robert Campbell is right in his idea about Rand's increasingly -- and starting some years before the split -- "farm[ing] portions of her epistemology out to Leonard Peikoff." (The statement comes from a post excerpted below -- link to the original, full post.)

It looks to me like this farming started circa 1965-1966, the time when Peikoff gave a course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge," first in the fall of 1965 at the University of Denver, then in the fall of 1966 in New York City.

In my opinion, the end result was disastrous, with Peikoff's abandonment of truth-as-correspondence-to-reality in his lectures on "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" and in The Logical Leap (parts of which come from that series).

Here's some earlier material.

[i'd first said, incorrectly, that "Peikoff didn't give any course on 'Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge' in the late 1960s." Hence the Edits.]

EDIT:

Looking further, I found a post by Roger Bissell which contradicts what I said about Peikoff's not teaching a course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge" in the late 1960s. Roger says he did; I'll check for announcements in The Objectivist:

link

Peikoff first discussed "contextual certainty" in his course "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge," which was delivered initially in the Fall of 1965 at the University of Denver, then in over 25 cities via tape transcription, under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, from 1966 to 1968. He also discussed "the arbitrary" in these lectures. Actually, both ideas were discussed in lecture #8, on knowledge.

I did not hear these lectures, but I came into possession of two different sets of notes, and I compiled a side-by-side display of the two sets in one file, for study and as a check on the dependability of the notes.

[....]

EDIT TWO: Ok, there was such a course. Here's an announcement in the August 1966 The Objectivist:

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 8, August 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

On Friday, October 7, Dr. Leonard Peikoff will deliver the opening lecture of a ten-lecture course being given for the first time in New York City: "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge." (This course was offered at the University of Denver in the fall of 1965.) Time: 7:30 P.M. Place: Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel, 34th St. and Broadway. Visitor's admission: $3.50. For further details, contact NATHANIEL BRANDEN INSTITUTE, 120 East 34th St., New York, N.Y. 10016.

AND....ta-ta.

I found an official answer to a question on which there have been varying reports: 

When did Leonard Peikoff return to New York City from Denver?

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 5, May 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

Dr. Leonard Peikoff will leave the University of Denver in June; in September, he will assume the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, New York.

There's also this announcement:

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 5, May 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

On Thursday, June 30, NBI will begin a ten-lecture course on "Contemporary Philosophy," to be given by Dr. Leonard Peikoff in New York City. Time: 7:30 P.M. Place: Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel, 34th St. and Broadway. Visitor's admission: $3.50, payable at the door.

Ellen

The next post was #115 from the "New Developments re Harriman Induction book" thread and was repeated as #12 on the "David Harriman's Book" thread.

[....]

During her lifetime, Rand farmed portions of her epistemology out to Leonard Peikoff.

I am reasonably sure that he is responsible for:

— Much of what she said about Kant (she didn't read Kant, Peikoff did)

— The critique of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy

— The doctrine of contextual certainty

— The doctrine of the arbitrary assertion (actually originated by Nathaniel Branden, but in a much more modest form than Peikoff's rendition)

[....]

I think we all wish for verbatim quotes on the issue of contextual certainty from Peikoff's 1965 (at Denver) / 1966 (first given in NYC) course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge."

In one of the comments about Norsen's Amazon review of The Logical Leap a poster named "R. Schwarz" provides a few snippets from Peikoff's 1976 course "The Philosophy of Objectivism." Rand was in attendance at that course.

link

"True" and "false" are assessments within the field of human cognition: they designate a relationship [of] correspondence or contradiction between an idea and reality. . . . The false is established as false by reference to a body of evidence and within a context, and is pronounced false because it contradicts the evidence.

Leonard Peikoff, "The Philosophy of Objectivism"

lecture series (1976), Lecture 6

"Certain" represents an assessment of the evidence for a conclusion; it is usually contrasted with two other broad types of assessment: "possible" and "probable." . . .

Idea X is "certain" if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative . . . .

You cannot challenge a claim to certainty by means of an arbitrary declaration of a counter-possibility, . . . you cannot manufacture possibilities without evidence . . . .

All the main attacks on certainty depend on evading its contextual character . . . .

The alternative is not to feign omniscience, erecting every discovery into an out-of-context absolute, or to embrace skepticism and claim that knowledge is impossible. Both these policies accept omniscience as the standard: the dogmatists pretend to have it, the skeptics bemoan their lack of it. The rational policy is to discard the very notion of omniscience. Knowledge is contextual-it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually.

Leonard Peikoff, "The Philosophy of Objectivism"

lecture series (1976), Lecture 6

As Leonard Peikoff assumed primary responsibility for any further elaborations of Objectivist epistemology, she signed on various of his peeves and crotchets (such as the supposed philosophical corruption of all physics post 1900).

My impression back in '69-'70 was that the signing on was going in the other direction, although maybe it was mutual reinforcement. I'd like to know what Peikoff might have been saying in his 1965 course at the University of Denver, if he commented in that course, on the supposed philosophical corruption of post-1900 physics.

[The post continues with background about Larry's conversations with Leonard Peikoff at Brooklyn Poly re physics, and material about Larry's interaction with Rand on the subject of physics' "corruption" at the Workshop.]

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Jerry,

My issue was not from any concern with what is canonical, only with usefulness of the book [The Vision of Ayn Rand] for tracking changes in Rand's thought from the time of the split to the 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism. Small potatoes, really.

Stephen

I'm suspecting that Robert Campbell is right in his idea about Rand's increasingly -- and starting some years before the split -- "farm[ing] portions of her epistemology out to Leonard Peikoff." (The statement comes from a post excerpted below -- link to the original, full post.)

It looks to me like this farming started circa 1965-1966, the time when Peikoff gave a course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge," first in the fall of 1965 at the University of Denver, then in the fall of 1966 in New York City.

In my opinion, the end result was disastrous, with Peikoff's abandonment of truth-as-correspondence-to-reality in his lectures on "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" and in The Logical Leap (parts of which come from that series).

Here's some earlier material.

[i'd first said, incorrectly, that "Peikoff didn't give any course on 'Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge' in the late 1960s." Hence the Edits.]

EDIT:

Looking further, I found a post by Roger Bissell which contradicts what I said about Peikoff's not teaching a course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge" in the late 1960s. Roger says he did; I'll check for announcements in The Objectivist:

link

Peikoff first discussed "contextual certainty" in his course "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge," which was delivered initially in the Fall of 1965 at the University of Denver, then in over 25 cities via tape transcription, under the auspices of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, from 1966 to 1968. He also discussed "the arbitrary" in these lectures. Actually, both ideas were discussed in lecture #8, on knowledge.

I did not hear these lectures, but I came into possession of two different sets of notes, and I compiled a side-by-side display of the two sets in one file, for study and as a check on the dependability of the notes.

[....]

EDIT TWO: Ok, there was such a course. Here's an announcement in the August 1966 The Objectivist:

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 8, August 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

On Friday, October 7, Dr. Leonard Peikoff will deliver the opening lecture of a ten-lecture course being given for the first time in New York City: "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge." (This course was offered at the University of Denver in the fall of 1965.) Time: 7:30 P.M. Place: Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel, 34th St. and Broadway. Visitor's admission: $3.50. For further details, contact NATHANIEL BRANDEN INSTITUTE, 120 East 34th St., New York, N.Y. 10016.

AND....ta-ta.

I found an official answer to a question on which there have been varying reports:

When did Leonard Peikoff return to New York City from Denver?

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 5, May 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

Dr. Leonard Peikoff will leave the University of Denver in June; in September, he will assume the position of Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, in Brooklyn, New York.

There's also this announcement:

The Objectivist

Volume 5, Number 5, May 1966

Objectivist Calendar

pg. 16

On Thursday, June 30, NBI will begin a ten-lecture course on "Contemporary Philosophy," to be given by Dr. Leonard Peikoff in New York City. Time: 7:30 P.M. Place: Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel, 34th St. and Broadway. Visitor's admission: $3.50, payable at the door.

Ellen

The next post was #115 from the "New Developments re Harriman Induction book" thread and was repeated as #12 on the "David Harriman's Book" thread.

[....]

During her lifetime, Rand farmed portions of her epistemology out to Leonard Peikoff.

I am reasonably sure that he is responsible for:

— Much of what she said about Kant (she didn't read Kant, Peikoff did)

— The critique of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy

— The doctrine of contextual certainty

— The doctrine of the arbitrary assertion (actually originated by Nathaniel Branden, but in a much more modest form than Peikoff's rendition)

[....]

I think we all wish for verbatim quotes on the issue of contextual certainty from Peikoff's 1965 (at Denver) / 1966 (first given in NYC) course on "Objectivism's Theory of Knowledge."

In one of the comments about Norsen's Amazon review of The Logical Leap a poster named "R. Schwarz" provides a few snippets from Peikoff's 1976 course "The Philosophy of Objectivism." Rand was in attendance at that course.

link

"True" and "false" are assessments within the field of human cognition: they designate a relationship [of] correspondence or contradiction between an idea and reality. . . . The false is established as false by reference to a body of evidence and within a context, and is pronounced false because it contradicts the evidence.

Leonard Peikoff, "The Philosophy of Objectivism"

lecture series (1976), Lecture 6

"Certain" represents an assessment of the evidence for a conclusion; it is usually contrasted with two other broad types of assessment: "possible" and "probable." . . .

Idea X is "certain" if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative . . . .

You cannot challenge a claim to certainty by means of an arbitrary declaration of a counter-possibility, . . . you cannot manufacture possibilities without evidence . . . .

All the main attacks on certainty depend on evading its contextual character . . . .

The alternative is not to feign omniscience, erecting every discovery into an out-of-context absolute, or to embrace skepticism and claim that knowledge is impossible. Both these policies accept omniscience as the standard: the dogmatists pretend to have it, the skeptics bemoan their lack of it. The rational policy is to discard the very notion of omniscience. Knowledge is contextual-it is knowledge, it is valid, contextually.

Leonard Peikoff, "The Philosophy of Objectivism"

lecture series (1976), Lecture 6

As Leonard Peikoff assumed primary responsibility for any further elaborations of Objectivist epistemology, she signed on various of his peeves and crotchets (such as the supposed philosophical corruption of all physics post 1900).

My impression back in '69-'70 was that the signing on was going in the other direction, although maybe it was mutual reinforcement. I'd like to know what Peikoff might have been saying in his 1965 course at the University of Denver, if he commented in that course, on the supposed philosophical corruption of post-1900 physics.

[The post continues with background about Larry's conversations with Leonard Peikoff at Brooklyn Poly re physics, and material about Larry's interaction with Rand on the subject of physics' "corruption" at the Workshop.]

My brother-in-law Alan Olson started teaching anthropology at the University of Denver in 1964 after leaving the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff where he had been the curator of Anthropology at the Museum of Northern Arizona for the five years since getting his PhD in 1959. He drank himself to death and died in 1978. That's his only tie-in with Peikoff. The U. of Denver was simply a philosophical backwater, not one so much for for anthropology. Peikoff had no other place to go since Sidney Hook refused to sanction his teaching aspirations which Robert Campbell has described as academic death. I no longer think Peikoff was "banished" by Ayn Rand. I think he went where he could go. Subsequently he taught in the English dept. at Brooklyn Poly just across the famous bridge and it seems he was there pre and post break 1968. I know this for a fact and actually went to that school one day and found his office, probably in 1969 or 70.

--Brant

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Thanks for the links, Ellen, concerning Larry’s encounters.

You mentioned in #23, and previously, that you see Peikoff abandoning the correspondence theory of truth in his reflections on induction. In Altas Rand had written: “An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge” (1016). She wrote valid there, not true. Perhaps she meant by valid something larger than but including truth. Perhaps she meant something the same size as truth, but with a different emphasis. If the latter, would you say such a conception of truth was not exactly a correspondence theory of truth?

Rand continued: “To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.” She had already written “A contradiction cannot exist,” which we may take to mean there are no contradictions in existence, that they do not obtain in reality. That fits with a correspondence view of truth, but maybe with others as well.

In the next paragraph, Rand wrote: “Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.” This sounds something like correspondence, but surely the drapery and the lack of saying the simple window is significant. Rand seems to have fashioned herself a determined variation on the correspondence theory of truth.

A recognition is an identification, and it looks highly likely that Rand took truth to be an identification as of ’57. She fills in that point expressly when she addresses truth again in ’66–’67. The following is her statement, which Merlin Jetton examined in Part 3 of his “Theories of Truth” (1993, 96–99).

Truth is the product of the recognition (i.e., identification) of the facts of reality. Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts. He retains concepts in his mind by means of definitions. He organizes concepts into propositions—and the truth or falsehood of his propositions rests, not only on their relation to the facts he asserts, but also on the truth or falsehood of the definitions of the concepts he uses to assert them, which rests on the truth or falsehood of his designations of essential characteristics. (ITOE 48)

Merlin points out that concepts and universals have a couple of correspondence characters in Rand’s view of them. Moreover, in Rand’s view,

Valid definitions reflect logical, hierarchical interdependencies among our concepts. Definitions must identify essentials in order to be true. Definitions, in Rand’s view, can be true in reality, true in a correspondence way. What is an essential characteristic, though it depends upon the context of one’s knowledge, is an issue of fact. (TT 97)

He argues that Rand’s epistemological views and her metaphysical views “purport some version of the correspondence theory of truth.” He notes that both Kelley (1986, 28) and Peikoff (1991, 165) classified Rand’s conception of truth as “in essence” the traditional correspondence conception. Merlin goes on to argue, however, that Rand’s emphasis on non-contradictory integration, as well as her metaphysics, gives her conception some of the character of the coherence theory of truth. He quotes a passage from Peikoff 1991, 123, (which is straight Rand Atlas and ITOE) and remarks “the similarity to coherentists like Bradley and Blanshard is clear” (98).

Brand Blanshard’s book Reason and Analysis appeared in 1962. It was reviewed favorably by Nathaniel Branden the following year. Branden understood of course that Blanshard was some sort of absolute idealist, but the book offered access to contemporary positivist and analytic philosophy (including the A-S distinction), and it offered criticisms of them, which Objectivists might join.

Rand had read John Hosper’s book An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis in 1960–61. Rand’s firm anchor of truth in correspondence and the primacy of existence comes through in her marginalia on truth, on propositions, on definitions and tautology, and on logical possibility (Mayhew 1995, 68–70, 75–80).

In Robert Mayhew’s collection of Rand’s marginalia, the sad plight of the humanities graduate (Rand) trying to understand modern physics, conveyed from a knowledgeable person writing for a general educated audience, is on display. Leaving out substantial mathematical exposition, such authors turn to metaphor, which really leaves the reader with zero (Mayhew 1995, 47–58). (Thank goodness, today, for the semi-popular expositions by Roger Penrose.) What Rand published, however, is what we should hold her to.

In his essay on truth theory, Merlin quotes text from Peikoff 1991, 165–66, and argues that it contains both correspondence and coherence elements. He continues:

Peikoff also says, “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth” (ibid., 171). This is another appeal to coherence (and a bar to skepticism of the deceitful-genie sort). At times it seems Peikoff is more of a coherentist than was Rand herself. The last quotation, for instance, seems in effect to say that coherence establishes truth, a far stronger claim than that coherence is a sign, or criterion of truth. Perhaps by “establish” Peikoff means only verify or confirm, rather than constitute. (TT 99)

Rand’s coherence trait of truth, I say, is stronger than a necessary condition for truth. Fact is interconnected and multilayered in Rand's picture. Fact caught in mind will be truth, and truths will not be isolated in their facts nor in their relations to other truths. Truth at a conceptual level of cognition is necessarily an integration, and if it were entirely free of any misidentifications in all its network, it would necessarily be true. That is, in this limit of cognitive performance, the cognitive conditions are sufficient for truth. That is Rand's picture. I say Peikoff's establish should stand between verify or confirm, on the one hand, and constitute, on the other; therewith he was not saying something beyond Rand’s picture of ’57 and ’66–’67.

Her picture is significantly incorrect in my view because as one’s (scientific) knowledge grows one’s knowledge of what was one’s previous context of knowledge also grows. One continues to learn what were the ways in which one's previous generalizations were over-generalizations (and in what ways they were inexplicit, indefinite, or vague). There was no reason to suppose that the Galilean rule for addition of velocities was only a close approximation to the low-velocity portion of a different rule for addition of velocities more generally, no reason until the electrodynamic results in the nineteenth century. There was no reason to post a specific caveat before then, along the lines of "for all velocities we've experienced so far." It remains that in present truth there is past truth and so forth to the future. We cannot know entirely which elements of scientific truth today will stand in a hundred more years of advance nor how those elements will have been transformed and connected with new concepts. Our repeatable experiments will still be repeatable (notwithstanding the unfounded imaginings of the Hume set), whatever new understanding we bring to them.*

[*Added later, notice of this related idea: “No matter what the study of optics discovers, it will never affect the distinction between red and green. The same applies to all observed facts, including the fact of life” (Peikoff 1991, 192).]

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS – Previously:


. . .


In Atlas Rand wrote: “All thinking is a process of identification and integration. . . . All through this process, the work of his mind consists of answers to a single question : What is it? His means to establish the truth of his answers is logic . . . . Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. . . . No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge” (1016).

Suppose one’s knowledge were based on perceptual observation and correct reasoning upon them, including correct use of mathematics in application to them. Then it would seem fair to say, based on Rand’s passage in Atlas, that “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth” (OPAR 171). Perfect conceptual identifications, even though not all the identity of their referents are known, if perfect in all presently known connections with observations and with all other perfect conceptual identifications, are sufficient to establish the conceptual identification’s truth. With that I can agree, Ellen. (A good study might be to contrast and compare the Objectivist view with the very local sufficiency condition of Descartes: When we have clearly and distinctly understood a proposition, we can infallibly assign a truth value to it.)

Leaving aside the three categories of knowledge set aside in #37, I would say there is in addition much in our knowledge that is virtually perfect knowledge, because it has been so thoroughly tested for contradiction in its many connections, and because these durable propositions have been given ever more exact delimitation with the advance of science. “All animals are mortal” or “I must breathe to live” are examples.



Even for a given context of knowledge, our integration and checking for contradictions is an incomplete work in progress. Meanwhile, we are adding new information, more context for knowledge, and beginning its integration and checking for contradiction. For all conceptual identifications in a condition of significantly incomplete integration and checking, correct logical processing (so far with go-ahead) is insufficient to establish truth. At first blush, this is no problem for the Rand-Peikoff view, for that just means that the knowledge is not to be rightly taken as certain knowledge.



It has seemed to me for some decades, however, that the history of science as we come to Galileo and Descartes showed that sometimes one’s experience leads one to an extremely well justified proposition in which it would have been very hard to realize that one was overstepping the evidence and that the proposition should not have been taken as certain knowledge, only as likely knowledge. Such would be the old, mistaken propositions that every moving body requires a mover and that heavier bodies fall faster. This is a danger zone (this-worldly and rational) for the precept “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth.”



In the contexts of ancient or medieval knowledge, one could have checked the idea that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones by doing Galileo’s thought experiment. Their integrations and checking for contradictions of the idea was not complete, not perfect, even within their own contexts of knowledge. Granted these cases are unusual, nevertheless, this danger zone is there. The earlier men could have made the reasoning check made by Galileo: In imagination drop two identical bricks, of identical weight, from the same height. You know they must reach the ground at the same time. Now consider the two bricks joined, making a combined brick weighing twice as much as the two individuals. Drop that joined brick from the same height as before. The time of fall cannot be different than when the halves were individuals falling side by side. Therefore, bodies of different weights fall at the same rate. (And observations in contradiction with that result must have specific causes of their nonconformity, which need to be found.) The earlier men’s checking was incomplete without this creative check, and one would have had no inkling of that until the wise guy came along.

. . .

. . .

Ellen, I do not find Peikoff’s statement “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth” in my notes on the ’76 lecture series . . . . Given Rand’s view of truth, logic and objectivity . . . , concepts, definitions, and the relation she takes to hold between the latter two, Peikoff’s statement is implied in Rand’s express philosophy (in parts she chose to publish). It is part of Rand’s philosophy in the way that Pasche’s theorem is part of Euclid’s geometry (I mean no pretension of comparability in importance by this analogy). . . .

The big question for me, as you would expect, is whether Peikoff’s statement I quoted is true and whether it answers correctly and uniquely correctly the skeptical argument (which I stated in #37) Peikoff thinks it answers. By my own view expressed at the bottom of #37, you can see how I would take issue with Rand’s philosophy on the issue neatly captured in Peikoff’s statement. The “an idea” and the “the idea” will usually have evolved in the way I described with the advance of knowledge. That all animals are mortal was a truth with the Greeks as with us, but what we mean by animal and mortal have been considerably revised and improved over what it meant to them. I noticed that Peikoff’s idea (a very popular idea and always attributed to him, not Rand) of the spiral hierarchy of knowledge—each time we revisit a subject with intervening advance of our individual knowledge, we see the subject in new ways—was in his ’76 lectures. It did not make it into OPAR. The view I expressed at the bottom of #37 fits well with the spiral-hierarchy view of knowledge.

I’ve read only the first thirty or so pages of Logical Leap; only put toe in pool here and there in the remainder. I definitely plan to return to it and hope to write a comprehensive review of it. That could be a few years away. Ten years passed between George Walsh’s paper on Kant and Rand and my treatment of his topic.* Meanwhile, I’ve collected my scattered bits on Logical Leap here.


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