A Comment on Russian Radical


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Alright, obviously I haven't made good on my departure, and I don't suppose I'll manage to retire for awhile to much-needed hibernation as long as this Sciabarra thing is raging. I'm really pissed -- really pissed -- at the attempt to defame possibly the best mind (next to Rand's own) which has come out of the (broadly defined) Objectivist world.

In one of MSK's posts about "Dialectical Dishonesty" -- I'm sorry, I forget which one -- Michael says something to the effect that the anger against Russian Radical was because of the demonstration of Rand's growing from intellectual roots. That feature of Chris's thesis -- her having an intellectual past in currents of thought she experienced during her early years -- was indeed a major source of the initial outcry against Chris, probably even more than the dialectical stuff as such (though the talk of "dialectics" was important too).

It might be hard to believe today -- and much of the change in belief has come from Chris's often-vilified efforts -- the extent to which people then, when they first heard of Chris's thesis, held the "premise" that Rand, just as the Rand mythology told it, had sprung like Minerva from the head of Zeus, with her philosophy already formed in nucleus and having next-to-zero predecessing origins. (This was a "premise" -- I've come to hate the word because of the way it's used in O'ist-ese -- which I had long thought was absurd; thus I was among the people who applauded what Chris was doing from the time of his first presentation, I forget which year, at an IOS seminar. Which is how Chris and I first started corresponding.)

To the extent Rand herself acknowledged any origins, she especially denied any Russian origins, given her extreme negativity toward Russian culture in general. But here was Chris, establishing Russian sources. He received flak from the beginning, even from the "open" school of thought.

(A side comment, though Chris doesn't go into this much in his work, since he's more focused on philosophic and societal-systems issues: even in her novels I think there's a clear Russian influence, the philosophic novel having been a Russian tradition.)

Ironically, as things ended up, Chris was the one who dug up evidence which supported Rand's recollection of taking a course with Lossky. So in the end the ARI folks began, too, to listen to this out-of-the-square thinker in the Objectivist world's midst. They've ended up wanting access to what he learns from his Russian contacts -- while all the while keeping him at a long arm's length. They, too, have come to believe in "Russian origins," while still decrying the scholarship, and the integrity, of the pathbreaker whose research findings they'd like be informed of.

Ellen

PS: ERRATA. I wrote, above, "like Minerva from the head of Zeus." This should have been Athena, which I know perfectly well. Can't quite believe I did that. (Since the sentence has been quoted in other posts, I left the error.)

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Ellen: "It might be hard to believe today -- and much of the change in belief has come from Chris's often-vilified efforts -- the extent to which people then, when they first heard of Chris's thesis, held the "premise" that Rand, just as the Rand mythology told it, had sprung like Minerva from the head of Zeus, with her philosophy already formed in nucleus and having next-to-zero predecessing origins."

Quite true. And this particular "Rand mythology" came directly from Rand herself. It was she who first insisted to her admirers that she had since childhood held the ideas presented in Atlas (although in simpler form) and that she was challenging apparently the entirety of two thousand years of philosophy.

You wrote: ". . . even in her novels I think there's a clear Russian influence, the philosophic novel having been a Russian tradition."

A prime example of this is Dostoyevsky, one of the writers she most admired, whom she had read as a girl. And there are other examples in Russian and other Eastern European history.

Barbara

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Everyone has roots, a frame of reference. Was Rand proprietary? Probably. But it points to the question of whether or not anything is really proprietary. Everything comes from somewhere. And as it has been said- great composers don't borrow, they steal.

As to her saying she "always" held the beliefs, well... it is a nature/nurture thing. "Always" was not an issue of her consciousness suddenly flashing on- she integrated into that stance, and likely did so early.

If we want to talk about going against reality, it would be that to deny any of AR's Russian background. Chris, in his book, was doing gap-fill, painting in the rest of the background. His research was impeccable.

And, of course ARI did their sniffy-thing. They had to run it through the filters, and put the right spin on it. Make no mistake, ARI is an organization, and can be studied from an organizational behavior standpoint.

I think the last thing ARI would want would be to have a well-taught OB person breaking down what they're all about.

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I always thought a real-life John Galt-- the man without fear, nor pain, nor guilt-- would have had a little more to say about developmental psychology. Causality in one's view of human nature does not work well without an understanding of personal evolution.

Paul

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Paul,

Of course the requirement to keep John Galt a mysterious figure rather mitigates against our coming to know him well. It is too bad that Ayn Rand's greatest hero was so little developed as a character and a personality.

Perhaps Atlas Shrugged, the greatest story ever told, always needed a sequel. Our merry band of heroes returns to the world and they rebuild it as it ought to be. How do they do this? They start industries from stratch, they train new workers, they set up schools to provide a proper education, they re-establish strictly limited governments, they fight off the dregs of the old guard, and they deal with the occasional natural calamity. They do all these things working together as rational men committed to the Trader Principle. And, of course, our excessively large number of bachelor men find rational and spirited romantic partners.

A good writer sure would sell a lot of books with this story. Of course, the ARI crowd would claim the writer was taking advantage of Ayn Rand's work. In fact, however, we always take advantage of the great minds who come before us. The author's response should probably be that you are welcome to set yourself the same task and build a different story. In fact, one might see this become a broad novel genre like the mystery novel or the romance novel, as many such stories are written. This would be a bit like science fiction, but starting with technology not too different than that of the current world.

I never liked reading about James Taggart, Orren Boyle, and Cuffy Meigs anyway. I wanted to spend all of my time with John, Dagny, Francisco, Ellis, Hank, and Ken anyway.

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Ellen,

My post is here. Here is the pertinent quote from it.

Sciabarra’s big bad dastardly conclusion that gets these people all bent out of shape is that Rand’s thinking was influenced by her teachers.

Ha!

(Well… there is another little issue. If you accept that Rand used the Aristotelian dialectical method in her thinking, which basically means looking at the big picture in popular lingo, then the ARI side HAS TO use it. If Rand used it, they are under strict obligation to use it. And if they use it, they HAVE TO include the Brandens, David Kelley, etc., in Objectivism. That’s quite inconvenient, so it is easier for them to deny the method altogether and shoot for character assassination.)

btw - You made a statement in the opening post that could be misconstrued by those more bent on arguing with ill will.

Michael says something to the effect that the anger against Russian Radical was because of the demonstration of Rand's growing from intellectual roots.

The obvious qualification is "... from intellectual roots other than the ones Rand acknowledged." A strong part of the Minerva (Athena) myth with Rand is that her only philosophical debts are Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas (for rediscovering Aristotle), the Founding Fathers, and a minor tad or two from a few others. Nietzsche is starting to become grudgingly accepted for Rand's early years in this myth.

But a teacher? A Russian teacher? And dialectical method? And Rand didn't even acknowledge that method? Yikes!

How's a woman ever to become morally perfect?

Michael

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Michael:" A strong part of the Minerva (Athena) myth with Rand is that her only philosophical debts are Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas (for rediscovering Aristotle), the Founding Fathers, and a minor tad or two from a few others."

And, of course -- although this seems to have slipped the minds of the people at Solo, Noodlefood, and ARI -- Rand often acknowledged her great debt to Nathaniel Branden for his work in psychology. She wrote many papers, (some of which are in my possession) discussing and chewing a number of his psyhological concepts. She said many times that he was a psychological genius, and, particularly, that "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" was a work of genius.

Barbara

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I'm posting this neither for nor against CS's thesis (off the top of my head I think I would be against its major elements, but here is a case where I would prefer to read the book first!):

Nathaniel Branden was asked on one of his Academic Associates Seminar recordings whether he had been influenced by any other thinker than Ayn Rand to any important extent. His reply was something like (this is not verbatim, but I think it is close): "No, no thinker that I can name, no figure or figures I can think of that had any sort of major or significant impact."

Couching "No" in such lengthy terms seemed to me to mean that he was reluctant to admit the fact. And, really, I believe it was true that he had no other big intellectual influences on his work. (I tend to believe it was true of Ayn Rand also, but as I say I want to read CS's book before coming out on the issue.)

The Academic Associates recordings were issued in the 1970s. I have one other very interesting quote from them that might be appropriate for the Sticky threads. It concerns the last lines of "In Answer to Ayn Rand," and provides a final answer, if any were needed, to PARC's silly animadversions on the passage.

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I referred to a post of MSK's the location of which I couldn't remember. Michael provides a link (here) and the pertinent quote.

Sciabarra’s big bad dastardly conclusion that gets these people all bent out of shape is that Rand’s thinking was influenced by her teachers.

Michael adds that I "made a statement in the opening post that could be misconstrued by those more bent on arguing with ill will," viz.:

"Michael says something to the effect that the anger against Russian Radical was because of the demonstration of Rand's growing from intellectual roots."

Michael corrects:

The obvious qualification is "... from intellectual roots other than the ones Rand acknowledged." A strong part of the Minerva (Athena) myth with Rand is that her only philosophical debts are Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas (for rediscovering Aristotle), the Founding Fathers, and a minor tad or two from a few others. Nietzsche is starting to become grudgingly accepted for Rand's early years in this myth.

Granted, the wording I used is likely to be picked on by those "bent on arguing with ill will." And the wording isn't ideal in any case. But the emphasis is somewhat different from Rand's acknowledged "debts" to specific philosophers. The image I was trying to present is that of an organic growth -- that she actually "grew" within an intellectual "soil" (climate of thought), a "soil" (climate of thought) which was Russian.

I can't believe I wrote "Minerva" instead of "Athena," where was my mind? I'll footnote the error in the original post, but won't correct it now, since it's been quoted.

Ellen

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Barbara brings up "uncomfortable" truth:

And, of course -- although this seems to have slipped the minds of the people at Solo, Noodlefood, and ARI -- Rand often acknowledged her great debt to Nathaniel Branden for his work in psychology. She wrote many papers, (some of which are in my possession) discussing and chewing a number of his psyhological concepts. She said many times that he was a psychological genius, and, particularly, that "The Psychology of Self-Esteem" was a work of genius.

Yes, yes, yes! There is no disputing that this was the case, so far as I've ever seen. And of course, Barbara knows for sure.

It is pretty easy to figure out exactly how this FACT would be either ignored or twisted by some. I suppose NB hypnotized her, right? Was she clouded by love? But, if that is said, then it is a chink in the armor that by association tumbles certain strategies that are used to tear up people.

I mean, was she wrong about this? Nathaniel's acheivements and recognition speak otherwise, big time.

I've seen a few feeble online attempts to 100% discredit Nathaniel all the way down to his chosen profession, but as I recall they were of no substance.

As I understand it, for the longest time AR regarded psychology as a pseudoscience, at best. Clearly, as Nathaniel worked and studied and shared his experience with her, her view began to change- knowledge does that to a person.

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Ellen:

I can't believe I wrote "Minerva" instead of "Athena," where was my mind? I'll footnote the error in the original post, but won't correct it now, since it's been quoted.

Nothing wrong with Minerva, she's just the Roman version of Athena. It would only be more consistent to let her in that case spring from the head of Jupiter.

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Nothing wrong with Minerva, she's just the Roman version of Athena. It would only be more consistent to let her in that case spring from the head of Jupiter.

Yes, I know that Minerva is the Roman version of Athena. ;-) That's the point, mixing up the Greeks and the Romans. A most peculiar error for me to make, given that I have extensive background in those mythologies.

Btw, speaking of Graeco-Roman mythologies: "Artemis" is the Greek version of "Diana." I have quipped in various private conversations with close friends that we're headed for the next O'ist female deity; first we had Athena, now we'll have Artemis.

Ellen

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Ellen wrote:

The image I was trying to present is that of an organic growth -- that she actually "grew" within an intellectual "soil" (climate of thought), a "soil" (climate of thought) which was Russian.

I know, I see causality everywhere. This subject is no different. Ellen is suggesting a different means of causation at work from the one assumed by Rand and Branden. Rand and Branden assumed local linear causation; a billiard ball approach. Ellen is suggesting non-local, non-linear causation; a field approach. Both are right. A complete picture requires the integration of both.

Paul

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Our Objectivist Artemis has a problem. The Greek goddess was fond of bow and arrow and her arrows flew straight and true. Our Objectivist Artemis is armed only with a boomerang. She launched it dozens of times at David Kelley and it always missed him. In the end, it struck her, over and over.

This Objectivist Artemis is not very goddess-like. The Objectivist God is the best in man and woman. In addition to many Objectivists who better realize the best man and woman are capable of, I know many non-Objectivists with higher levels of achievement and better character than this posturing Artemis. In particular, the men she has recently expended so much effort to bring down are clearly more god-like than she is.

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Yes, and Diana is quite likely not to achieve the god-like level of character and achievement, if she continues her addictive other-directed negative behavior. Not all that long ago, she was -- like a compulsive eater hovering over a big bowl of peanuts, thinking "just one more..." -- promising us and herself that she would soon turn her thoughts and efforts toward positive, productive activities befitting someone aspiring to be one of the New Intellectuals. Instead, she has become mired in the swamps of negativity with the other New Ineffectuals.

By the way, I invented a character derived from Diana's name, and I used this character for a brief while in February on Rebirth of Reason. I called her Artemis Kerridge, and here is the explanation I gave for her name:

...for those who are curious, here is how I created my persona's name. Artemis, of course, is the Greek equivalent of the Roman goddess Diana. "Kerridge" is a phonetic respelling of "carriage," and one type of carriage is a shay, which phonetically respelled is...(do I really need to say it?).

Some were highly amused, others were highly offended, some to this day refuse to acknowledge my presence online and the worth of my ideas, and I nearly lost one of my best friends over it, but most people seem to have moved on. I still think the Artemis persona I invented is hysterically funny, and I intend to use her along with others I have concocted in a novel I hope to write some day about the Objectivist movement.

REB

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Breaking silence for just a moment to weigh in on this great mystery....sorry to disappoint Michael N., and Ed Thompson please take heart, for I am not Evelyn Z. Pickering. Nor am I Deena Shsiester, for that matter. My own invented (but not hidden behind) names to satirize LP and DS (for those who don't keep up with our doings over on the much-maligned Objectivist Living website) are Dizzy Vertigo and Dyin' O'Shame, the neo-Attilla and neo-Witch Doctor (Taliban variety) of the ARIan Race, respectively.

My last -- and also last -- pseudonym employed on RoR or anywhere else is "Artemis Kerridge" (Artemis = Diana and Kerridge = Carriage, of which a shay = Hsieh is one kind). I almost lost one of my best friends with that little masquerade, so I won't be doing anything of the kind again soon. (Although I think my own behavior was relatively benign, I have learned my lesson, and I really don't want to end up alone and lonely, like Dizzy and Dyin' surely will as a result of their own anti-social behaviors.)

So, back to the speculation...

REB

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Exactly right, Dragonfly. "Weasel" is the word, all right.

Consider the lameness of making time to write a behemoth post attacking the personal character of a former friend and mentor, and then immediately begging off from a rigorous discussion of the attack, on the grounds of being too busy!

Hit and run slander. That is the height of irresponsibility, if you ask me. And that's assuming the head of the Objectivist Taliban is being honest about being too busy. (Remember: when you assume, you make an ass out of Uma Thurman.)

REB

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