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Michael Stuart Kelly

Social metaphysics

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This is just a quick note primarily to say "thanks" for the expressions of regret at my departure; also to say that I'm glad some of you have found my historic reports valuable.

In regard to those, I'll add one comment which might be of interest. I've been feeling deeply distressed at witnessing what's going on in the Objectivist world -- again. Although it's not as if I've ever even considered myself "an Objectivist," of course the sort of "stuff" which is occurring -- again -- is intimately connected to why I haven't wanted to adopt the "Objectivist" identification.

And so I'm asking myself -- again -- a type of questions I thought about a lot during the '70s: Why does this happen? Why does a philosophy which purports to be a "concerto of deliverance" to rationality and joyous life instead produce endless bickering over each other's moral status? What is wrong with this picture?

I hope that, maybe, given some time free from the feeling that I have to try to engage in the physically painful attempt to keep up with elist discussions, I might glimmer a few deeper insights than I have thus far. Any glimmerings I discern which seem to me interesting, you folks will be the first to hear.

Best wishes,

Ellen

___

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LW,

I tend to see Rand the way you describe. It is the unconscious Plato in Rand: she created an elaborate fiction to represent reality and viewed reality through the lens of this fiction. When she stopped reality testing and developing her inner fiction, it stopped evolving. That's when she began to attack those who didn't fit with greater vigour.

Paul

You know, one of my closer personal friends just visited me and THIS IS WHAT HE SAID. Other things he said... like "When you don't have peer-review, it's over."

and "To just narrow down discourse like that (on forums like 4AynRandFans), you have no dialogue! What do you talk about then?"

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Jenna highlighted one of the elements I have noticed in Rand’s psychological dynamics. Try extending that thought to the psychological dynamics of the “randroid” phase most of us have gone through and some have become stuck in.

Ayn Rand entered her adult life with an intuitive view of existence that was the basis of her early writing. Her writing allowed her to bring this intuitive view into her conscious awareness so she could affect it intentionally and develop it much further. She shaped an incredible model of reality, especially of human nature, by identifying, manipulating, and developing this intuitive view in her imagination. This, I would suggest, is the role Rand’s published fictions, culminating in the view presented in Atlas Shrugged, played in her personal development. Her published fictions are an expanded, consciously evolved, view of existence that has its roots in her early intuitions about the world.

Rand’s nonfiction work also contained parts that were further identifications, developments, and expansions of her intuitive vision of the world. However, when she stopped writing her fictions she, for the most part, stopped applying her creativity to developing her intuitive perspective of existence. She moved from identifying, developing and presenting her model of existence in her fictions to evaluating and cataloguing her world in her nonfiction work. This is a major shift in the orientation of her consciousness. Her previously evolving intuitive vision of existence became the basis of, what was becoming more and more, a fixed lens through which she judged the world.

Now what happens when a teenager, or young adult, with a relatively undeveloped intuitive view of existence begins exploring Ayn Rand’s work? I remember what happened in my thought processes. I had recently began reading about Aristotle’s philosophy, had an interest in the areas of physics and psychology, and thought I wanted to explore my thoughts in these areas. I believed each of these areas held the promise of unexplored territories and new connections. I had a very strong intuitive view of the world (seemingly different from other views I had encountered). I wanted to explore these territories and make these new connections myself. I was cocky and believed there was nothing my mind couldn’t understand. I thought I would complete what Aristotle started. Then I read Atlas Shrugged.

Atlas Shrugged is truly the pinnacle performance of a great artist. I was stunned. I was in awe. I was overwhelmed by what I saw as the completion of what I wanted to do. When you read a work of fiction you don’t just analyse and evaluate arguments. In the moment of experiencing the meaning of the words you live vicariously through the characters. The realm of the fictional events come to life in your imagination; they come to life in the same place your intuitive view of existence resides. In the moment of experiencing the fictional realm, it takes the place of your intuitive view of existence. You are able to carry this effect with you for awhile, experiencing the world through the lens of this fictional realm along with its understandings, its meanings, and its values. For me, experiencing the world through the lens of Atlas Shrugged brought incredible clarity.

I had always thought I would have to pioneer my own path to understanding the world because there is no way the world could be as it is if anyone already understood it. I had never before come across a point of view that greatly resonated with my intuitive vision of existence. But in Rand’s work, I thought I had found, not only a resonance, but the completion of the view that I was just beginning to glimpse. I remember a sense of disappointment thinking, “All that is left for me to do is to learn what she has to teach me.” And I set out to absorb her perspective as completely as I could.

I came to absorb the perspective contained in Rand’s books so thoroughly that it was easy to carry it with me all the time. My own emerging perspective was all but crushed under the weight of Rand’s vision. I was evaluating the world through the lens Rand had carved and was becoming a very clear thinking but cold, heartless bastard with those who did not see the world as I did; I was becoming a “randroid.”

In this “randroid” phase of my life my own intuitive view of existence had become displaced by the vision Rand presented. This is where the “religious” or “cult” flavour of objectivism comes from. Even though I adopted her vision by my own volition for rational reasons based on my best judgement, what I experienced was nothing different to religious indoctrination. The essence of religious indoctrination is to displace one’s own intuitive perspective with another’s vision of existence. Since this adopted intuitive vision is not one’s own creation, it is ultimately disconnected from one’s own personal experience. Since it is ultimately disconnected from one’s own personal experience, it must be static: its roots cannot be evaluated and it cannot evolve. It is also experienced as a view from authority. Since it is a view from authority, anyone who questions this view, or contradicts this view, is taking a stand against the moral standard, is taking a stand of evil and must be banished from the tribal circle. With no access to the roots of one’s intuitive perspective and coming from a position of unquestionable authority, the world is now processed by a fixed lens used to evaluate and catalogue information based on the adopted principles of true or false, right or wrong, good or evil.

How does the “randroid” phase come to an end? For some, it doesn’t. For me, my displaced intuitive perspective started to fight back. A voice inside became louder and louder, saying my actions towards other people I cared about were wrong. My own deep vision of the world began to draw attention to things that didn’t fit into my adopted perspective. Finally, I had a choice to make: hold onto the vision Rand presented with all the security and strength it offered; or hold onto my own personally evolving intuitive perspective with all its doubts, all its unknowns, and all its potential. I chose doubts and potential over security and strength. I chose my authentic self over a pseudo-self.

Paul Mawdsley

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Paul, I am overwhelmingly impressed by your analysis. It is brilliant, and it certainly describes my experience with Rand's fiction.

You exactly explained the "randroid" phase of my own life when you wrote: "In this “randroid” phase of my life my own intuitive view of existence had become displaced by the vision Rand presented. This is where the “religious” or “cult” flavour of objectivism comes from. Even though I adopted her vision by my own volition for rational reasons based on my best judgement, what I experienced was nothing different to religious indoctrination. The essence of religious indoctrination is to displace one’s own intuitive perspective with another’s vision of existence. Since this adopted intuitive vision is not one’s own creation, it is ultimately disconnected from one’s own personal experience. Since it is ultimately disconnected from one’s own personal experience, it must be static: its roots cannot be evaluated and it cannot evolve."

And you exactly explained how this phase came to an end when you wrote: "How does the “randroid” phase come to an end? For some, it doesn’t. For me, my displaced intuitive perspective started to fight back. A voice inside became louder and louder, saying my actions towards other people I cared about were wrong. My own deep vision of the world began to draw attention to things that didn’t fit into my adopted perspective. Finally, I had a choice to make: hold onto the vision Rand presented with all the security and strength it offered; or hold onto my own personally evolving intuitive perspective with all its doubts, all its unknowns, and all its potential. I chose doubts and potential over security and strength. I chose my authentic self over a pseudo-self."

I shall be doing a great deal of thinking about what you've said in the next days and weeks. And I intend referring a number of friends to your analysis. We all will benefit from it. Many, many thanks.

Barbara

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I chose my authentic self over a pseudo-self.

Exactly! I can relate to this struggle with Rand's vision (I had my own), and fortunately my authentic self won as well.

Have you ever read the book Personal Destinies: A Philosophy of Ethical Individualism, by David Norton? He argues brilliantly for personal authenticity in the rational life, and I think that every Objectivist who is interested in the question of "why choose my authentic self over programming myself with Objectivism?" should read this book (at least the first chapter).

I regard personal authenticity as one of the basic virtues.

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Let me second that recommendation.

Personal Destinies is a wonderful book. Tibor Machan has championed it (which is how I found out about it, years ago), but it's largely neglected today, even by philosophers who are sympathetic to eudaimonism.

Norton also had a distinctive style that is rewarding to read.

Don't hesitate to check it out.

Robert Campbell

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Thanks Paul, I really enjoyed your piece and I also have another book to add to my list thanks to Eudaimonist.

There are no magical cures folks, but there is a lot of satisfaction in the journey if I wish to put some effort forth.

L W

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I also want to compliment Paul on his valuable insights that he expresses so well. Thanks Paul. It is a pleasure to have you here at OL.

Since I discovered Objectivism when I was pushing 40, I guess I didn't have an intense Randroid phase to grow out of. I was just happy to see that others saw things as I did. Ayn Rand/Objectivism and Nathaniel Branden's work have helped me immensely in understanding myself and others and I believe that they are better studied together. Their ideas and works reinforce each other. I am the same person that I always was, only better. I simply do not understand these people who go from one extreme to another (e.g., Bible thumper or commie turning Randroid, then eventually finding something else) By not having experienced such a transformation, I don't think I missed much. I still trust my own judgment and intuition. I'm still me, only with a bigger bullshit detector.

:)

Kat

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Here is the Amazon link for Personal Destinies. It looks like a good book.

I also want to chime in and offer my belated best wishes to Ellen, who I cherish and admire as a good friend and inspiration. Take care of yourself and stop by occasionally and say hi. I wish you the best of health and happiness.

Kat

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Barbara,

Philosophically I have been very accustomed to being a loner. I have been used to sharing my ideas with noone or, in more recent years, with only my wife. I am beginning to explore what it’s like to be part of a philosophical community. There are certainly advantages on many levels.

Expressing my thoughts in a community is still quite new to me. Experiencing positive (or negative) attention for my ideas is also quite new. I am glad you, and others, have found some value in my ideas. It shows me that the value of my thoughts is not only in my head; sometimes others might think so as well.

I read your response to my post this morning. Your words energized me. I carried your perspective of what I said around with me all day. It was an enjoyable self-image to experience. It gave me a spiritual charge.

Thank-you,

Paul

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Paul: "It shows me that the value of my thoughts is not only in my head."

I'm going to try to put the thoughts in your post "The Power of Rand's Intuition," into a number of other highly intelligent heads.

And I thank you for your gracious response to me.

Barbara

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Ellen, take care and be happy. :) I wish you the best.

I've never really had a "hardcore orthodox Oist" phase. What happened with me here is that one free-spirited individualist met a cacophony. It took me 3 months to balance all of it out and to pick out what I wanted, and what I didn't.

But, uh, I did have another orthodox type phase so I'm basing my current experience on a very hard lesson learned.

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Not for the first time, I read the first page of posts on a thread and failed to notice that many pages followed. So, the comments below refer back to posts by Ellen and Barbara on page 1. I came to this thread to follow up on a reference Paul made to it on an Article thread on Rational Men Must Be Tolerant of Others.

Returning to the very interesting discussion between Ellen and Barbara about why Ayn Rand struggled so long with trying to understand Nathaniel Branden's actions, I may have a perspective on that from the standpoint of being a bit naive, a bit determinedly benevolent, and a bit lacking in some of the complete breadth of human emotions. Of course, I did not know Ayn Rand, so I am eager to hear any responses to these ideas that Barbara and Ellen may make.

Actually, I think much of the naive nature of Ayn Rand may the result of a determindedly benevolent outlook and a lack of some of the meaner emotions that other people often have. In some respects, Ayn Rand may have been naive simply by virtue of the intense and all-consuming nature of her work, in which she spent many hours alone. Few people do this. Most people have jobs and after-work lives which they spend constantly interacting with other people. So, it is natural to suspose that a certain level of naivety might result from this.

By Barbara Branden's account and others, Ayn Rand appears to have had a rather determindedly benevolent attitude toward others, at least when her philosophy itself was not under attack. She was nice to and generous with most of the people she encountered in her daily routines of life. On occasion, one might picture her as a bit abrupt as she hurried to finish something and get back to her writing, but she really did think the universe was benevolent and that one really should be able to live with others in a benevolent and mutually rewarding way. She loved Capitalism because it enables people to live harmoniously and without conflict. Now, once she felt sure and secure in the knowledge that Nathaniel Branden was her intellectual and emotional soulmate, such a person would have a strong natural resistance to believing that such a man would have values which were substantially less than hers. That would simply not be the benevolent perspective.

Now, this is not nearly enough to explain her slow acceptance of the nature of Nathaniel's lost love for her. To find that, I think we have to examine the emotions she had been inclined to experience and those that she did not.

Like me, Ayn Rand had an underdeveloped tendency to experience jealousy and envy. I agree with Ellen that insulted rather than jealous describes her reaction to Patrecia, but it is still instructive to examine her ability to feel jealousy. Barbara mentions a number of times that Ayn Rand enjoyed seeing beautiful women, even though she did not think herself beautiful. She does not seem to have had a hunger for a great many beautiful possessions. Most important, when she and Nathaniel began their affair, she told Frank and Barbara about it and seems to have expected that they, being good and worthy people, would of course not experience significant jealousy. Finally, she seems to have had no jealousy about Barbara remaining Nathaniel's wife and their remaining lovers. The important lesson here seems to be that she did not have the low emotion of jealousy, therefore she supposed that the good people around her also did not have this emotion. It appears that this assumption on her part seemed largely to be confirmed by Barbara and Frank.

Honesty is the issue that needs to be examined as immediately important to Ayn Rand's effort to understand Nathaniel Branden's actions. Honesty itself is a virtue, but its constant practice builds up an emotional preference for honesty. We practice it and we feel good. Again, Ayn Rand was a very honest person. She has been criticized by some for not telling the world about her affair with Nathaniel, but her obligation really was met by telling Frank and Barbara. It was not the business of the rest of the world, though when asked about it explicitly, she should not have denied it. For Ayn Rand, honesty was an intense intellectual commitment. Just as she assumed that the good people in her life would not be jealous, because she was not, she was largely unable to assume that Nathaniel, the hero she had loved, could be dishonest. She eventually came to grips with this but agonizingly slowly. Finally, as Barbara noted, the paper he wrote eased her over the final bit of hill that kept her from realizing this.

As Barbara noted, Ayn Rand had a super-developed self-esteem. This self-esteem also made it hard for her to imagine being thrown over in favor of Patrecia. It perhaps also conditioned her to assume that if she had loved Nathaniel then he must have been a great hero. Her self-esteem biased her in this direction. If he was a hero, then it was not conceivable that he would deceive her and it was not conceivable that he would prefer a sexual relationship with Patrecia.

So, in a sense, the strongly developed emotional components associated with self-esteem and honesty both acted to prevent Ayn Rand from understanding what Nathaniel was doing. It seems clear that Ayn Rand had some difficulty in putting herself into the perspective of someone who experienced jealousy. Similarly, she had difficulty doing this for someone whose self-esteem and honesty were not as great as her own.

Ayn Rand's highly developed self-esteem may have blinded her to the need for her to have told Nathaniel that their affair was over long before this agonizing wind-down. It should have been her saviour and allowed her to do the right thing without suffering too much personal damage. She should have told Nathaniel that she loved him and because she loved him, she was only going to be his friend and collaborator henceforth. Their sexual relationship was over. In not doing this, she let a man she loved down. She contributed to boxing Nathaniel into an impossible situation, given that he loved her even as his sexual attraction diminished.

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Charles,

I've read your analysis twice, and I find it very perceptive about the quality in AR I describe as "naive." (I wonder if Barbara will agree; my expectation is, yes, at least in the main.)

But there is the "other" factor, too, the factor I've described as "absolutism," as the best word I've been able to find for it, though I'm not really satisfied with that. As I understand her, she both had the quite real "benevolence" you describe AND she had an intertwined characteristic of moral ferocity, of implacable judgment. Think, e.g., how often she used such descriptions as "implacable" for her hero characters. Or, e.g., (quoting from memory), "His was the face of an executioner -- or a saint." (Was it Ragnar she described like that?)

Think, too, of her ascription of motives to those she considered bad persons: "the hatred of the good for being the good," e.g., is mild. She could get more extreme -- and at length. So, although, yes, she was very benevolent, she could also be thoroughly unrealistic in delineating what she imagined to be the state of mind of large numbers of people, and thoroughly harsh in condemnation of that supposed state of mind. And if someone disappointed her, she could then be quick to see the worst.

So all of that was also part of the situation with Nathaniel. It's like he had two categories he could be in. Either he really was the great soul she'd become convinced he was (and her image of what "a great soul" such as she'd thought him to be would do, especially in this case in the relationship with her, was itself unrealistic). OR he had to have betrayed his greatness -- as she describes him as having done in "To Whom It May Concern." Middle ground doesn't seem to have been an option she could accept in his case.

(Though she does talk in the journal entires of having a "formal" relationship if he turned out to be less than the great man she'd thought him, she also expresses strong doubt as to whether this would be possible. And I doubt that it would have been. For one thing, suppose she concluded he was less than a great soul, by her standards, would she still have felt comfortable having him teach her philosophy? Would her disappointment in him have led to her concluding that he wasn't competent as the head of NBI? More generally, would she have been able to "live in peace" with the disappointment? Judging, for instance, from what Allan Blumenthal told me about her never being able to let it drop concerning his, and Joan's, esthetic differences with her, would she have been able to let drop something of the magnitude of Nathaniel's not being her image of him?)

Ellen

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Charles and Ellen, I want to comment in some detail about both of your last posts, much of which i agree with, but I simply don't have the time right now. But I do want to point something out to you, Charles. You wrote: "Ayn Rand was a very honest person. She has been criticized by some for not telling the world about her affair with Nathaniel, but her obligation really was met by telling Frank and Barbara. It was not the business of the rest of the world, though when asked about it explicitly, she should not have denied it. For Ayn Rand, honesty was an intense intellectual commitment."

When Rand wrote her denunciation of Nathaniel and me, she was not being honest. She wrote as if she was explaining her break with Nathaniel, but she was not; it could not be explained without reference to their affair. She did not owe it to the world to reveal it before she wrote that article, (although a case could be made that she was deceiving her close friends about the nature of her relationship with both Frank and Nathaniel) but, once she told the world she had broken with Nathaniel and said that she was stating her reasons, she was obligated to tell the whole truth. She herself explains why she had this obligation( See Ayn Rand Answers, page 129):

A questioner asked: "If you are discussing an issue with somebody, is it proper not to volunteer the whole truth?"

Rand's response: "That is a very vicious form of lying. There are many situations in which you don't have to answer. . . . What I regard as vicious is when you agree to discuss an issue with someone, but you do not tell the whole truth. That's more misleading than simply lying, which is bad enough. It's especially evil to claim honesty when you are deceiving somebody. This is why the oath you're asked to take in court is so wise: You're supposed to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

Barbara

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Barbara,

As it happens, I read that passage from Ayn Rand Answers yesterday, after seeing part of it quoted in Tara Smith's book Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics.

The usual defense of "To Whom It May Concern" claims that Rand wasn't obliged to tell the whole truth in it. According to her own professed standards, she was.

Robert Campbell

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Just a note of clarification: I wasn't meaning to imply, in not specifically addressing the "honesty" characteristic in regard to "To Whom It May Concern," that I think Rand displayed honesty in that statement. I've never thought she did. As I've discussed in some previous posts in the Branden Forum (will fill in links when I have time to search), it seemed to me crystal clear from my first reading that she was not telling "the whole truth," since she doesn't give the evidence which would be needed to support her charges.

Taking the defense, however, I feel that I can understand why she'd have written such a thing in the heat of rage (I've often thought it was amazing that New York City didn't explode from the irruption of how angry she'd have been when she found out the extent to which NB had been lying to her). I feel that I can understand why she wrote it -- though her then proceeding to publish it, instead of tearing it up, or putting it in a drawer, and substituting just a short factual statement of her disassociation with Nathaniel, and Barbara, I think was unwise to the point of megalomaniacal. Also I think that she herself made the affair the whole world's business in going ahead and publishing what she'd written. But where I think a greater dishonesty than that involved in publishing the document itself came in was in her then not explaining with a subsequent admission, i.e., her not following up by acknowledging that she shouldn't have levied such extreme charges without the supporting evidence and that she'd left out a major part of the story.

All this, though, still doesn't change my opinion that "very honest" is an accurate description of her prevailing psychology. I think of the details pertaining to "To Whom It May Concern" as aberrant from her characteristic functioning.

Ellen

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I would go so far as to say that honesty is almost a defining characteristic of Ayn Rand, and one of her most inspiring aspects.

But that doesn't preclude the self-induced unrealism that is part and parcel of any artist's lifelong dedication to his vision. Why unrealism? Because all thinkers and all artists sooner or later reach the limit of their global capacity to learn and achieve. So they wilfully (albeit subconsciously) ignore the signs that all is not well and take the implied attitude that if they simply follow their inclinations it will have to turn out right.

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I would go so far as to say that honesty is almost a defining characteristic of Ayn Rand, and one of her most inspiring aspects.

I wonder if that is really true, or that it is the image that she projected. I have my doubts. For example, in the afterword to AS she wrote "no one helped me", which seems to me not very honest, to put it mildly. Further the story of how she chose her name seems to be a story she made up. Not really important of course, but if you see how some people use that story to "prove" that someone who merely passes that story is a liar... it seems to me an example of applying double standards.

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Ellen: "All this, though, still doesn't change my opinion that "very honest" is an accurate description of her prevailing psychology."

Rodney: "I would go so far as to say that honesty is almost a defining characteristic of Ayn Rand, and one of her most inspiring aspects."

I once would have agreed with you both, without any doubts, despite "To Whom It May Concern." But I now have doubts. There was, indeed, a kind of straightforwardness, a kind of rectitude, about Rand that one could not avoid seeing and admiring. But:

In her lengthy discussion of her relationship with Isabel Paterson -- which I have on tape because I asked about Paterson when I interviewed Rand for WHO IS AYN RAND? -- there is not a word about how much she learned from Paterson, not a word about their early student-mentor relationship, not a word about the enormous admiration, the respect, and the love for Paterson she had expressed -- but a great many words about what she saw as Paterson's serious and unforgivable flaws. At the time of these interviews, what Rand told me was the total of the information I had about the friendship between the two women -- and I was astounded when, years later, Muriel Hall, Paterson's friend and executor, showed me Paterson's copy of THE FOUNTAINHEAD, inscribed by Ayn (quoting Roark to Wynand): "You have been the one encounter in my life that can never be repeated."

I wrote in THE PASSION OF AYN RAND, "Ayn's manner of discussing Pat was illustrative of a growing trend in her psychology -- a trend that consisted of 'rewriting' the history of a relationship if that relationship ended, of retroactively demoting a former friend in stature and importance so that her past view would appear to conform to her present view. With Pat, and with other former friends, she would cease to see as significant, even as worthy of mention, aspects of their mind and character that once had aroused her enthuiastic approval. . . . If she now viewed Isabel Paterson, or another former friend, as an individual she could not deeply care for -- then she had never deeply cared. If she saw her as immoral and spiritually corrupt -- then that had always, at bottom, been her estimate."

I know how most people view relationships that have gone bad, friends who may have hurt them. Often, in retrospect, they somewhat exaggerate the flaws they were aware of, somewhat play down the meaning such people once had for them. And I understand the psychology involved. But I have never seen in anyone but Rand the almost total negation of any value, any worth, and especially of any emotional meaning the former friends once possessed.

Am I saying that Rand was fundamentally a dishonest person? Absolutely not. I am saying something I once told a friend while I was writing PASSION: "What yet will drive me crazy about this book is that almost every time I say something complimentary about Ayn -- I must point out that the opposite was often true; and every time I say something negative about Ayn -- I must point out that the opposite was often true."

Barbara

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Barbara wrote:

I once told a friend while I was writing PASSION: "What yet will drive me crazy about this book is that almost every time I say something complimentary about Ayn -- I must point out that the opposite was often true; and every time I say something negative about Ayn -- I must point out that the opposite was often true."

Both Ayn Rand's knee-jerk detractors and her knee-jerk loyalists fail to realize that objectivity requires that one take note of all the relevant facts, not just the ones that bolster one's biases. I'm talking here not of some kind of artificial, arbitrary "Golden Mean," but of true, fact-respecting balance. And, Barbara, you are to be forgiven if you suspect that, because you are outraging unbalanced people at each end of the spectrum, you must be doing something right!

REB

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Points taken, Barbara. I remember those passages in your book, and also the fact that her relatives in Chicago did indeed help her crucially despite her statement that no one did. Those facts are truly "noodlefood" (food for thought) on this topic. (Pardon the reference--I sling words as others sling hash.)

To me it is the same issue as calling someone evil. One who, say, tells a lie is doing something that is, in principle, anti-life--which is the essence of evil--but that doesn't make the person anti-life and thus evil. Much more evidence is needed for such an accusation.

One might of course call the effects of the lie evil. But this takes the perspective of those who suffer from the wrong. I am sure that the victim of an alligator attack perceives the animal as the very embodiment of evil--even though the alligator is totally innocent in that sense.

The upshot seems to be that while AR was not fundamentally dishonest, her laser focus on her principles (such as never demanding help as a right, and always taking full responsibility for her career), led her to ignore and (eventually, especially in romantic matters touching on her concept of the ideal man) evade facts that did not easily fit in to her view of herself as a clear example of those truths.

Thus, she gradually became dishonest in many contexts--for example, in ignoring the signals that her view of romance cannot be translated so literally into reality.

(By the way, I think you and NB have been labelled "fundamentally dishonest" just so the accusers will not have to confront and integrate into their view of AR any fact that they cannot otherwise dismiss.)

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Barbara,

I signed back on hoping that you might have said anything further on this "honesty" business. It's one of those which are hard to pinpoint, just what one is speaking of in using this description of her. The "honesty" I mean is a lack of any guile, a directness, an apparent lack of knowledge even of how to dissemble.

As regards her changed opinions of persons she'd known, I heard of instances myself where she'd exhibit no signs of being aware that she'd ever held a different opinion than the new one. I sort of alluded to this in my first reply to Charles above when I wrote: "And if someone disappointed her, she could then be quick to see the worst."

But is this actually "dishonesty," or is it that, her opinion having changed, she'd lost the earlier context? I think she was someone who did not dwell in memories. She did a lot of reminiscing while you were interviewing her, but I don't think she engaged in an activity which I do engage in as a technique, that of tracing back through memory sequences -- as a friend of mine who does the same thing once described this, "trying to keep the thread of the spool straight." Ayn's not making a practice of pursuing memory seems related to her not being introspective, as you described in PAR, her non-soul-searching. She seemed like she was so focused on what she was doing now, on her thoughts, on issues -- and she herself claimed not to be interested in "journalistic" details about people's lives (including her own).

The changed evaluation of a person wiping out the previous evaluation would fit this pattern. (And of course it's known that memories can change over time, that memory left alone, without reviewing it, does change. This is one reason why I work at trying to keep the memory traces straight, and have developed various memory methods -- but then other memories, ones I'm not working on, will slide.)

I've seen examples close to home of memory changes that I find weird projections of the present backward. (It does seem "weird" when it's someone else doing it.) A common example which has occurred with Larry is his feeling sure that I saw some movie or other with him which in fact he saw in the years before I even met him. Or another example: I have this screwdriver set which is like a "Chinese box" nesting -- an outer screwdriver, about six inches long in the shaft, 3/4" thick, nested within which is a smaller one, etc., down to a tiny one for repairing eyeglasses and such fine-detail jobs. He loves this set, and his memory will slip and he'll think that it's HIS, that he acquired it years ago. But in fact Larry never acquired that screwdriver set at all; my father did, years and years ago; it's a set which my father had in his workroom at our house in Peoria and which Father gave me as a gift.

But I don't think there's any dishonesty in these false rememberings. And it seems to me that Ayn's losing earlier contexts re people sounds like a comparable type. What one would have to establish to be sure if the changes were honest or not is whether she knew she was rewriting history.

Ellen

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But is this actually "dishonesty," or is it that, her opinion having changed, she'd lost the earlier context? I think she was someone who did not dwell in memories.

Ellen

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In SOME ways I am a person who very much "dwells in memories", but not in memories of having formerly not understood something, or of mistakes I've overcome. Hardly a day goes by when vivid memories of things about the house I lived in at age 3 do not appear to me unexpectedly, along with something about how I felt on some occasion at that time, but I don't remember my former phone numbers or the fact that I had a cold four months ago, etc. If Ayn Rand's understanding of who Nathaniel Branden was in 1960 got altered in 1968, and she then remembered him in 1960 according to her new understanding, I can to a somewhat substantial extent identify with that. -- Mike Hardy

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