Recommended Posts

TTT,

Welcome.

You are in the right place since there are many takes on Rand around here.

You are probably going to have many premises challenged.

The focus of this place is not to preach Rand, but to encourage people to work through their own ideas according to their best individual thinking. The common ground is that people generally started with Rand, then they go in their own directions (some more toward her ideas, some off in the sunset. :) ) This means each person is responsible for his or her own soul. I, for one, do not like the intellectual mold system where you pour your deepest desires and thinking into a single mold, and have little use for cookie-cutter souls.

So have fun.

:) 

Michael

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 year later...

I agree with Kelly.  The biggest mistake Rand made was to put her philosophy in a box and seal it with the label, "Objectivism".  If it were me and someone asked, "What do you call your philosophy?"  I would answer, 'my philosophy.'  I have always thought the philosophy has to be learned and integrated into the life of the individual for the individual by the individual.  Everyone learns at a different pace.  And for everyone, certain aspects of the thinking will ring truer and stronger for them than others, depending on the personality and character and circumstances.  For example, my favorite character in the book, "Atlas Shrugged" is Ragnar Danneskjold.  It stands to reason, since I am a big, aggressive guy, martial artist/scientist, and a huge fan of Samuel Adams and Patrick Henry (who refused to sign the Constitution since he "smelled a rat".  He was right.  There were lots of rats--and the rats attracted more rats--until we have what we now have--a whole bunch of rats).  Actual powerful kinetic force must be weilded to secure Liberty whether or not we like it.  So Ragnar is da man.  So the philosophy works as a system, yes, but not everything applies all at once and some are better at some things than others, to be sure.

"The great object is that every man be armed" and "everyone who is able may have a gun."  Patrick Henry

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined."  Patrick Henry

Link to post
Share on other sites

Unabashed,

I grew up in Virginia and you tickled my interest in Patrick Henry. I had to learn about him in school, but who pays attention in school? I had girls to worry about and important shit.

🙂 

As to the approach I use here on OL, I often say that Objectivism is a starting point. People often come here because of a common interest in Objectivism, Ayn Rand, the Brandens, etc. (Barbara was my friend--not super-close, I met her too late in life for that, but close.) For whatever reason, they became attracted to the ideas or stories.

This is different than most of the online places that deal with Objectivism--they treat it as an end point, as something better than you and something for you to learn and mold yourself to. People can learn more about Objectivism on OL (some are even curious and there are some wickedly intelligent well-versed people around here), but their attraction to OL is not to form themselves into good little Randroids. It's to find other people who know about this stuff and interact with them.

Where they go from there is their business. I am no curator of other people's minds and have no hunger for such power. I am not good guru material. (I'm probably too much damaged goods for that, anyway. 🙂 )

I trust the good character of people more than I see at other places. I believe if a person is well-intentioned and uses his best thinking according to how he understands himself (or herself and all that gender stuff), he will come to a good place when working through ideas, even if they don't align with my own. 

That's why there are people of several different persuasions here.

That doesn't mean people get to troll and misrepresent ideas--especially Rand's ideas--just so they can bash them and mock everyone. I like disagreement, even with Rand. But I (and others around here) will correct someone if I see they are presenting what she said wrong or attributing things to her that are contrary to what she held. This isn't enforcement, though, unless trolling kicks in to an impossible point. It's discussion.

Now for the sensitive point. I am a huge Trump supporter. I don't mind others bashing Trump, but I will respond when someone does. I believe I have the same right to post what I think as others do. 🙂 Oddly enough, several people I regard highly stopped coming to OL because of that. Note, I did not ban them or prohibit them from posting against Trump. They tried to intimidate me into hating him and finally left on their own because they couldn't stand it that I would not change to suit them. (Even odder for me, many of those who proclaim they are the leaders of Objectivism are Trump haters with severe cases of TDS. Go figure...) 

Since I believe actions speak louder than words, I don't bicker about this. I let each person come to his or her own conclusion. In fact, I often say that there is no party line at OL. Each person is responsible for his own mind. Also, if a person comes to OL, that is good for OL. If a person lurks and only reads OL, that is good for OL. If a person posts on OL, that is good for OL. If a person leaves OL, that is good for OL.

That's more or less the policy landscape here. Sometimes I have to enforce the rules when someone goes totally off the rails (I call myself a traffic cop in those cases). And I decided early to go with my inclinations as a human being, not as a convert to Objectivism and punisher of the wayward. That means I give my friends and collaborators a lot of leeway and flexibility I do not grant to strangers until I get to know them better. I don't care what the book says. I have found that most humans of goodwill are this way and I am quite comfortable in my own skin.

From what I have seen of your posts, I believe you are pretty near to this, also.

Anywho, here's to a second warm welcome to OL.

Michael

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 4 months later...
13 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

I'd be curious to hear what are your criticisms of Objectivism, if you'd be willing to share your thoughts.

Off hand, I remember some of the discussed “flaws in objectivism” as being: authoritarian-ism, not being strong enough for woman’s equality, yet so pro-abortion it was considered moral for a woman to kill a recently birthed, premature baby. Objectivism is criticized for being ‘cultish.” It is criticized for ostracizing the Brandons and David Kelly.  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here, in an opposite direction are some old letters about what is more obscure, but right with objectivism. They are edited and closed up, for brevity. Peter    

From: "William Dwyer" To: <atlantis Subject: ATL: Objectivism's values and virtues Date: Sun, 29 Jun 2003 16:11:18 -0700. Very little if any mention is ever made on this list of Objectivism’s values and virtues, so I thought they might be worth a brief discussion for those who are not especially familiar with them.  There are three cardinal values and seven cardinal virtues in the Objectivist ethics. The values are: reason (as one's only means of knowledge), purpose (as the choice to pursue happiness), and self-esteem, (as the belief that one is able to achieve happiness and worthy of achieving it). The virtues are understood as the principled _means_ of gaining and keeping these values.  As Rand puts it, "'Value' is that which one acts to gain and keep, 'virtue' is the action by which one gains and keeps it."  [FNI, 147' pb 121]  "Virtue," she says, "is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own reward... [Rather] _Life_ is the reward of virtue -- and happiness is the goal and the reward of life."  [FNI, 156, pb 128]

For Rand, virtues involve a relationship between existence and consciousness and therefore entail the recognition of certain facts. Accordingly, Objectivism's virtues are: 1) Rationality, which is the recognition that existence exists and that nothing can take precedence over the act of perceiving it; 2) Independence, which is the recognition that you must think independently and not subordinate your judgment to that of others; 3) Integrity, which is the recognition that you must remain true to your convictions; 4) Honesty, which is the recognition that the real is (and the) unreal can have no value and, moreover, that respect for truth is not a social duty but a selfish virtue. 5) Justice, which is the recognition that you must judge other people as conscientiously as you judge inanimate objects, condemning their vices and praising their virtues; 6) Productiveness, which is the recognition that productive work is the process by which your consciousness controls your existence, and that you must choose a line of work that is commensurate with your abilities; and 7) Pride, which is the recognition that you are your own highest value, that a virtuous character has to be earned, and that the result of earning it is self-esteem.

The difference between pride and self-esteem may not always be clear and is admittedly a subtle one, but for Objectivism, pride consists of recognizing the importance of a good character and what it takes to earn it.  When someone says, "Take pride in your job," he is saying, consider it important enough to do well.  By the same token, when someone says, "Take pride in yourself or in your character," he is saying, consider a good character important enough to be worth acquiring.  Self-esteem, on the other hand, is the _consequence_ of earning a good character; it is the experience of efficacy and self-worth that comes from having earned it.

Of course, these virtues offer a very general guide for living one's life; they don't give a detailed blue-print, but they do provide an indispensable foundation for "gaining and keeping" Objectivism's cardinal values of reason, of purpose (defined as one's own happiness) and of self-esteem (defined as a sense of personal efficacy and self-worth). It should be noted that Rand gives a more elaborate definition of these virtues in _For the New Intellectual_, starting on page 157; pb, p. 128). -- Bill

Link to post
Share on other sites

And from the brilliant Roger Bissell.

From: PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Objectivism's values and virtues Date: Tue, 1 Jul 2003 18:55:38 EDT . . . . So, what are those questions, and how do they relate to the cardinal values of Objectivism? Refer to the first full paragraph of p. 19 in VOS:

1. "Is the universe intelligible to man, or unintelligible and unknowable?" Objectivism's answer is: The world is intelligible, and my mind is competent to gain knowledge of the world. Plus, life/survival is my standard of value. Plus, I need to gain knowledge in order to survive. Plus, being rational is my means to gaining knowledge. So, because I want to survive, I should value reason (i.e., exercise rationality in order to achieve reason and thus survive).

2. "Can man find happiness on earth, or is he doomed to frustration and despair? Does man have the power of ~choice~, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, the power to direct the course of his life -- or is he the helpless plaything of forces beyond his control, which determine his fate?" Objectivism's answer is: Man can find happiness and choose and achieve values and direct the course of his life. Plus: life/survival is my standard of value. Plus: I need to be happy and choose and achieve my values and direct the course of my life. Plus, being purposeful is my means to becoming happy and to choosing and achieving my values and to directing the course of my life. So, because I want to survive, I should value purpose (i.e., exercise productiveness in order to achieve purpose and thus to survive).

3. "Is man, by nature, to be valued as good, or to be despised as evil?" Objectivism's answer is: Man by nature is to be valued as good. Plus, life/survival is my standard of value. Plus, I need to feel that I am good and worthy in order to be motivated to survive. Plus, esteeming myself is my means to feeling that I am good and worthy. So, because I want to survive, I should value self-esteem (i.e., exercise pride aka moral ambitiousness in order to achieve self-esteem and thus to survive).

Note that it is possible for a person to adopt all three, or just any two, or any one, or ~none~ of the cardinal values (and their corresponding virtues) in their explicit philosophy (if they have one). However, it is a fact that, in order to survive, they must either smuggle them in to their actions at least to ~some~ extent and/or exist parasitically off of those people who do accept them. It might be interesting to evaluate the various other ethical philosophies in such terms, but the important point here is the general form of one's ethics being a derivation of one's general view of the relationship between man and existence.

[Historical note: I presented this insight during a question-answer session at the 2001 Objectivist Center Advanced Seminar in Johnstown PA, which was moderated by Will Thomas. The following month, on 7/29/01, I presented a short paper "The Metaphysical Source of the Cardinal Values of Objectivism" in a discussion at Nathaniel Branden's apartment. Some time later, Will Thomas present similar thoughts in a short piece in TOC's ~Navigator~, so this somewhat obscure view of Rand's is finally receiving proper attention.]

> What about David Kelley's argument that Benevolence is an 8th, distinguishable objectivist virtue (as presented in his “Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence”)? Or is Benevolence merely an application of the virtue of Justice, as is claimed by some objectivists, like the ARIans?

I think that Benevolence is a corollary of Justice. It is an aspect of "giving each man his due." This means judging them and treating them accordingly. As Rand points out in "The Ethics of Emergencies", "a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proved guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential. After that he judges them according to the moral character they have actualized....If he finds them to be virtuous, he grants them personal, individual value and appreciation, in proportion to their virtues. It is on the ground of that generalized good will and respect for the value of human life that one helps strangers in an emergency -- AND ONLY IN AN EMERGENCY." (VOS, p. 47) For people one knows and values personally, however, one helps them because and to the extent that doing so is a "practical implementation of friendship, affection and love," i.e., one incorporates "the welfare (the ~rational~ welfare) of the person involved into one's own hierarchy of values, then act[s] accordingly." (VOS, p. 46) This are applications of the virtue of benevolence, which clearly seems to be a corollary of the virtue of justice.

 > What about (moral) Courage, having the strength of will to do the right deed? Should that be another distinctive virtue, or should courage remain implicit and embedded in each of the main seven?

Although Rand did not speak explicitly of courage in "The Objectivist Ethics," she did in "Galt's Speech" in ~Atlas Shrugged~. There, in a paragraph expounding on the virtue of integrity, she said that "courage and confidence are practical necessities, that courage is the practical form of being true to existence, of being true to one's own consciousness." (AS, 937) She also, in that paragraph, made a comparison between integrity and honesty: "Integrity is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake your consciousness, just as honesty is the recognition of the fact that you cannot fake existence..." (AS, 936-7) For that reason, (moral) courage is a essential moral/emotional attribute of both integrity and honesty. Consistent integrity and honesty require moral courage. In this respect, courage is a subsidiary virtue to integrity and honesty.

 > The objectivist ethics is not yet being widely accepted and practiced, even though Rand's books continue to be bestsellers. Is that still because of lack of knowledge, or because of cowardice, or because of evil intent, or because of political disincentives, or what?

It is easier and less risky to buy and read than it is to put into practice what one learns and accepts from what one has read. The latter takes ~work~ and has ~consequences~, each of which can be unpleasant. Also, people can misinterpret Rand's ethics and thus misapply it. And many people read and ~reject~ Rand's ethics. So, I'd say it's a combination of all of the above.

 > Is there a direct proportionate relationship between consistent practice of objectivist ethics and achieving financial wealth, a la Hill's "Think and Grow Rich"? How significant a factor is the predatory government and its beneficiaries upon an objectivist's creation of wealth? Or, should one's rational intelligence be capable of overcoming any predation, a la Ragnar Danneskjold?

 >From my own perspective, all you need is one or two significant screw-ups in your personal life to set you back years, if not decades, in achieving financial wealth. By the time you crawl out from underneath the emotional and financial rubble, you're older and have less energy and fewer years left in which to make your pile. But suppose you ~don't~ make any bad mistakes, and still don't end up rich. The reason is that there are no guarantees in life. Wealth is not an inexorable consequence of Rationality.

 > While there are some objectivists who are wealthy from being successful in one business or another, are there any objectivists who are wealthy *qua* objectivists, except for Rand herself? (and maybe Peikoff, via inheritance, and perhaps Branden, too). Considering that objectivism is a philosophy that should radically benefit all human beings, there are very few professionals who have even made a successful living from teaching or selling objectivism -- just a handful at TOC and at ARI.  Why?

It's a market problem. You have to identify customers and present them with a superior product. Not everyone will succeed in that marketplace, whether as an artist (Rand's novels are the only financially significant esthetic product of the Objectivist movement, to date) or as a teacher/author of Objectivist philosophy.

Having said all that, I must say that my life has been ~enriched~ by Objectivism, both in my personal relationships (I wouldn't have the wonderful wife and two of my absolute best friends, if it weren't for Objectivism) and in my career and hobbies (especially writing in the areas of philosophy and psychology). While I would not turn up my nose at an ethically acquired mound of moolah, I am much more concerned with the spiritual riches that come from the satisfaction of a personal and productive life well lived, and O'ism has helped me to do that. I hope these comments are helpful to you and others on the list, Monart. Thanks for posing such an intriguing set of questions! Best 2 all, REBRoger E. Bissell, musician-writer

PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis Subject: ATL: In-Your-Face Radicalism -- Boon or Hindrance to Objectivism? Date: Sun, 22 Sep 2002 04:15:56 EDT. A cardinal feature of Ayn Rand's philosophy of life -- and, not coincidentally, one of the key aspects of dialectics, and the major consequence of the "revolt against formal dualism" -- is the commitment to radicalism. This commitment is very simply the refusal to bifurcate human life into two hermetically sealed domains of theoretical, abstract, ivory-tower knowledge and practical, concrete, real-world action. Chris M. Sciabarra concludes his path-breaking work, Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical, with an examination of how Rand proposes to change things for the better, i.e., to implement "her vision of the ideal individual and the ideal society." (p. 352) . . . .

Link to post
Share on other sites

Just a few more? No one is required to read or respond, but these letters discuss what it meant to be SUCH a true believer you were a Randoid! Ayn Rand was a Zionist? Oh and Sandra went on a date with Leonard. Peter.

Written but NOT SENT from me to Barbara Branden back in 2001. 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. 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 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 follow-ship" (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.

Eg.

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

"To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion."  --Ayn Rand

"He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself." Thomas Paine

----- 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@aol.com, atlantis 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 metaphysican 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 like 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.

Let's not shrink from racism or even pedophilia. Let's sharpen our arguments so we can persuade others what is wrong with racism and pedophilia. Another 3rd rail topic.  The only individual brave enough to defend children's sexuality is Anne Rice. She remembers herself as being sexual as a child. We've had a teacher go to jail for having sex with a young teenager. Crazy? A 15 year old black boy was almost imprisoned for getting his 14 year old girlfriend pregnant in a case of statutory rape. As it turned out, he was gainfully employed in a job that led somewhere. That's a crazy law that has to be changed.

There was a similar case in France years ago. When a journalist went to interview the 25 year old teacher, he found a waif. When he went to see the teenager, he found a young man mature beyond his years. Yet, the subject doesn't get discussed rationally and people's lives are ruined.

Shunning persuades no one -- and makes me wonder if the one who shuns and disdains COULD put up a persuasive argument for the opposite side. Sandra

From: "George H. Smith" Reply-To: 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: 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 Reply-To: "George H. Smith" To: "*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

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now