Peikoff on Barbara Branden's book


Robert Campbell

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Hey, Dragonfly, are we ever going to agree on anything? :huh:

Edited by Philip Coates
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Self-control.

I can't help masturbating in public.

Jim - Valiant - Made - Me - Do - It.

Oh Jesus, think of the kittens! Genocidal maniac!

All this seems to me to boil down to absolutely nothing other than "The people on this list are not discussing what I, Phil, think they ought to be discussing! Why doesn't everyone just do things my way? (Sound of foot petulantly stamping.)"

Well, Phil’s ascended his high-horse again, time to put him on time out.

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Leonard Peikoff

1987 Ford Hall Forum

http://www.facetsofaynrand.com/additional/thirty_years_with_ar.html

Next question, at 31:04 in Part 2.

Q, shouted from the audience “about her husband’s alcoholism.” [some discussion on and off mike, plus a dropout …]

A. Can I comment on that? Just in a word—I have to ask his ghost to forgive me.

Umm, he was certainly not an alcoholic—uh, I gather that that’s a charge that’s been raised against him. I saw that man regularly day and night. In my entire life, I saw him have too much to drink once. And the manifestation of it was that he overtipped the waiter, which Ayn Rand asked him in some length why he did… I defy an alcoholic to survive 20 minutes in her apartment!

I believe, if you want some idea of objectivity in biography, the source of that was … story, so far as I can pin it down, was a cleaning woman who found empty liquor bottles in his studio after he died. He used those bottles to mix paints in.

Now you judge for yourself. Well, I’m, I’m insulting you and myself to refute these things, because it’s too disgusting to comment on—but I couldn’t let it go once people heard it.

Answer ends at 32:38.

I think that both the saddest and funniest thing about this is that Peikoff says that rows of empty liquor bottles were in Frank's apartment for the purpose of mixing paints, but also wants people to believe that if Frank had abused alcohol, why, then he would have noticed it because he was around the man day and night. It makes you wonder what other obvious evidence he overlooked or brushed aside while observing Frank day and night, doesn't it? If Peikoff had regularly found Frank passed out face down in a pile of rubbish, would he have interpreted it as Frank having problems with back pain and needing to find unconventional ways of propping up his body at unusual angles to get some sleep? If people had reported seeing Frank urinating on the sidewalk at 3 in the morning, would Peikoff have confirmed their reports but explained that his theory was that Frank didn't like to disturb Ayn by stinking up the apartment with his urine's unusual smell on the nights that they had asparagus? Might slurred speech be brushed off as evidence of chronic dental problems, and stumbling be interpreted as Frank constantly practicing his pratfalls just in case he decided to get back into acting?

J

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Leonard Peikoff

1987 Ford Hall Forum

http://www.facetsofaynrand.com/additional/thirty_years_with_ar.html

Next question, at 31:04 in Part 2.

Q, shouted from the audience “about her husband’s alcoholism.” [some discussion on and off mike, plus a dropout …]

A. Can I comment on that? Just in a word—I have to ask his ghost to forgive me.

Umm, he was certainly not an alcoholic—uh, I gather that that’s a charge that’s been raised against him. I saw that man regularly day and night. In my entire life, I saw him have too much to drink once. And the manifestation of it was that he overtipped the waiter, which Ayn Rand asked him in some length why he did… I defy an alcoholic to survive 20 minutes in her apartment!

I believe, if you want some idea of objectivity in biography, the source of that was … story, so far as I can pin it down, was a cleaning woman who found empty liquor bottles in his studio after he died. He used those bottles to mix paints in.

Now you judge for yourself. Well, I’m, I’m insulting you and myself to refute these things, because it’s too disgusting to comment on—but I couldn’t let it go once people heard it.

Answer ends at 32:38.

I think that both the saddest and funniest thing about this is that Peikoff says that rows of empty liquor bottles were in Frank's apartment for the purpose of mixing paints, but also wants people to believe that if Frank had abused alcohol, why, then he would have noticed it because he was around the man day and night. It makes you wonder what other obvious evidence he overlooked or brushed aside while observing Frank day and night, doesn't it? If Peikoff had regularly found Frank passed out face down in a pile of rubbish, would he have interpreted it as Frank having problems with back pain and needing to find unconventional ways of propping up his body at unusual angles to get some sleep? If people had reported seeing Frank urinating on the sidewalk at 3 in the morning, would Peikoff have confirmed their reports but explained that his theory was that Frank didn't like to disturb Ayn by stinking up the apartment with his urine's unusual smell on the nights that they had asparagus? Might slurred speech be brushed off as evidence of chronic dental problems, and stumbling be interpreted as Frank constantly practicing his pratfalls just in case he decided to get back into acting?

J

I am shocked, Jonathan, SHOCKED! (To see you utterly disregarding Phil's precisely written instructions for what you should and shouldn't discuss on this site. The New York Times will never take you seriously, I fear.

JR

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> All this seems to me to boil down to absolutely nothing other than "The people on this list are not discussing what I, Phil, think they ought to be discussing! Why doesn't everyone just do things my way? (Sound of foot petulantly stamping.)" [Jeff R]

You could use that kind of language against anyone who disagrees with a course of action:

Chamberlain: "Mr. Hitler will stop with Poland. We need to take no action now."

Churchill: "That is a bad course of action, we need to make it clear that he should not cross that line. We need to pursue my recommendations of x,y, and z."

Riggenbach: "Mr. Churchill's statements boil down to simple foot-stamping petulance because everyone in the British government isn't doing things his way."

Get the irrational smear? The logical fallacy of attacking the person and questioning his motives rather than focusing on the validity or invalidity of the points raised?

(PS, Does anyone know the name of this fallacy - very common even among Oists and libertarians?)

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> All this seems to me to boil down to absolutely nothing other than "The people on this list are not discussing what I, Phil, think they ought to be discussing! Why doesn't everyone just do things my way? (Sound of foot petulantly stamping.)" [Jeff R]

You could use that kind of language against anyone who disagrees with a course of action:

Chamberlain: "Mr. Hitler will stop with Poland. We need to take no action now."

Churchill: "That is a bad course of action, we need to make it clear that he should not cross that line. We need to pursue my recommendations of x,y, and z."

Riggenbach: "Mr. Churchill's statements boil down to simple foot-stamping petulance because everyone in the British government isn't doing things his way."

Get the irrational smear? The logical fallacy of attacking the person and questioning his motives rather than focusing on the validity or invalidity of the points raised?

(PS, Does anyone know the name of this fallacy - very common even among Oists and libertarians?)

But it's no fun discussing the invalidity of your points. You're much more fun.

--Brant

"Listen to the demons, how they yell! they're cutting off Leopold's hands in hell!" (not apropos to my post)

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Brant, part of the fallacy is that as with most kinds of bullying when you're caught at it, you say "aw, I was just havin' some fun".

The motivation, sometimes not fully conscious - as with Lindsay Perigo when he spent months trying out different comic names for me when I was defending Chris Sciabarra - is that you can't quite answer someone's arguments fully, but you need to subvert, make people laugh at him or find a way to discredit him. Focus the topic on him, rather than on his ideas which might be having an impact.

Edited by Philip Coates
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> All this seems to me to boil down to absolutely nothing other than "The people on this list are not discussing what I, Phil, think they ought to be discussing! Why doesn't everyone just do things my way? (Sound of foot petulantly stamping.)" [Jeff R]

You could use that kind of language against anyone who disagrees with a course of action:

Chamberlain: "Mr. Hitler will stop with Poland. We need to take no action now."

Churchill: "That is a bad course of action, we need to make it clear that he should not cross that line. We need to pursue my recommendations of x,y, and z."

Riggenbach: "Mr. Churchill's statements boil down to simple foot-stamping petulance because everyone in the British government isn't doing things his way."

Get the irrational smear? The logical fallacy of attacking the person and questioning his motives rather than focusing on the validity or invalidity of the points raised?

(PS, Does anyone know the name of this fallacy - very common even among Oists and libertarians?)

When we claim that a comment posted on a site such as this is an example of a "logical fallacy," we make an assumption - namely that the comment in question was offered as an argument, in reply to some earlier argument presented by someone else. In this case, as should be evident to anyone bothering to read at all carefully, that assumption would be utterly groundless. I had no argument to reply to - just Phil's usual pile of assertions about what various unnamed individuals think about other unnamed individuals when those other unnamed individuals do something or other that Phil doesn't like. Since I had no argument to reply to, I made no argument in reply. I merely made a comment.

Does anyone know the name of this logical fallacy? We could call it the Fallacy of Assuming Every Comment Posted on a Discussion Site Is Meant as an Argument, I guess, though that's rather long and unwieldy. Whatever we call it, we certainly have to acknowledge that it's very common around here. Some people here apparently think, for example, that if you comment that another poster (say, Xray, to choose an example at random) is an idiot, you are guilty of the Ad Hominem Fallacy (as though you had argued that because Xray is an idiot, none of her arguments are correct or valid).

JR

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It looks like Peikoff was/is not only in total denial about Frank O'Connor's problems; he is even reluctant to admit that A. Rand had an affair with N. Branden.

The reason is that LP wants to keep up an untainted image of Objectivism's goodess at all costs.

To put it cynically, a goddess married to "an alcoholic" disturbs the picture, so LP tries to fake reality to maintain his preferred image of AR for himself and 'for the public'. But the public can't be deceived in that case. There's just too much evidence piled up.

And Peikoff wants to preserve his own image as well. I assume that being the intellectual "heir" of the guru (LP: "However, I am the heir of Ayn Rand"), whose faking of reality (by keeping her affair secret for example) is exposed - where it it becomes evident to what extent she lived against the postulate of her created heroes (never to fake reality) - also goes against Peikoff's own self-interest.

Edited by Xray
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When we claim that a comment posted on a site such as this is an example of a "logical fallacy," we make an assumption - namely that the comment in question was offered as an argument, in reply to some earlier argument presented by someone else. In this case, as should be evident to anyone bothering to read at all carefully, that assumption would be utterly groundless. I had no argument to reply to - just Phil's usual pile of assertions about what various unnamed individuals think about other unnamed individuals when those other unnamed individuals do something or other that Phil doesn't like. Since I had no argument to reply to, I made no argument in reply. I merely made a comment.

A comment which was clearly a personal attack against Phil C. (see your post # 30)

JR: Some people here apparently think, for example, that if you comment that another poster (say, Xray, to choose an example at random) is an idiot, you are guilty of the Ad Hominem Fallacy (as though you had argued that because Xray is an idiot, none of her arguments are correct or valid).

Another personal attack by you, barely disguised.

Edited by Xray
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When we claim that a comment posted on a site such as this is an example of a "logical fallacy," we make an assumption - namely that the comment in question was offered as an argument, in reply to some earlier argument presented by someone else. In this case, as should be evident to anyone bothering to read at all carefully, that assumption would be utterly groundless. I had no argument to reply to - just Phil's usual pile of assertions about what various unnamed individuals think about other unnamed individuals when those other unnamed individuals do something or other that Phil doesn't like. Since I had no argument to reply to, I made no argument in reply. I merely made a comment.

A comment which was clearly a personal attack against Phil C. (see your post # 30)

JR: Some people here apparently think, for example, that if you comment that another poster (say, Xray, to choose an example at random) is an idiot, you are guilty of the Ad Hominem Fallacy (as though you had argued that because Xray is an idiot, none of her arguments are correct or valid).

Another personal attack by you, barely disguised.

There are no comments, only arguments.

And there is no criticism; there are only "attacks."

JR

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> Another personal attack by you, barely disguised. [Xray]

He does this all the time. It's unfortunate, since he is intelligent and would otherwise be worth talking to like some of my other current onlist intellectual adversaries - you, DF, Jeffrey S.

But his participation too often is to take personal potshots (at motives, at character). To try, it seems, to embarrass personally, to bully, to humiliate.

I hadn't fully realized this about JR until this year when I became the target of them - and of course, my resentment and hostility toward him has built steadily since.

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There are no comments, only arguments.

You are now trying to dump the fallacies you attributed to other posters (who in your opinion can't distinguish a comment from an argument) into my backyard, aren't you?

I'm afraid you will have to get rid of your stuff elsewhere. :D

JR: And there is no criticism; there are only "attacks."

You are trying wriggle out. For implying that a poster is an "idiot" IS is a personal attack. You know it and I know it and everyone else reading here knows it too. :rolleyes:

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He created this tar baby - and, as you know, you can't cover-up a tar baby!

And don't pour inflammable substances on your computer monitor, it'll just cause a fire!

... the Valliant/Casey chorus (Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC? Have you read PARC?)...
I can't help masturbating in public.

Jim - Valiant - Made - Me - Do - It.

Oh Jesus, think of the kittens!
The New York Times will never take you seriously, I fear.
Maybe JR is just trying to penetrate the concrete?

Hmmmm...

:)

Michael

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It looks like Peikoff was/is not only in total denial about Frank O'Connor's problems; he is even reluctant to admit that A. Rand had an affair with N. Branden.

The reason is that LP wants to keep up an untainted image of Objectivism's goodess at all costs.

To put it cynically, a goddess married to "an alcoholic" disturbs the picture, so LP tries to fake reality to maintain his preferred image of AR for himself and 'for the public'. But the public can't be deceived in that case. There's just too much evidence piled up.

And Peikoff wants to preserve his own image as well. I assume that being the intellectual "heir" of the guru (LP: "However, I am the heir of Ayn Rand"), whose faking of reality (by keeping her affair secret for example) is exposed - where it it becomes evident to what extent she lived against the postulate of her created heroes (never to fake reality) - also goes against Peikoff's own self-interest.

What you refer to was done by many of the inner circle. It was done about Nathaniel and Barbara Branden before the split. The day after the debate between Albert Ellis and Branden the Sures described Branden as brilliant. Later the debate became one of the worst thing Branden had ever done. I am certain that people ignored evidence of Frank's drinking. I can remember at the time of the split denial of any suggestion that Branden & Rand had been lovers. At least one writer who attended NBI as said that it common speculation among students. Edited by Chris Grieb
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  • 4 weeks later...

Courtesy of a mole on the Harry Binswanger List, here is what Dr. Binswanger said about Anne Heller's book:

I haven't read the Anne Heller biography and will not do so. But I've been informed by those who have that I am cited as a source for a few items, and that checking what I actually said or wrote showed that they did not, in fact, support what Heller says they do. Apparently, no significant issues are involved, but it gives you a good indication that the biography is not to be trusted.

Additionally, I'm told that somewhere in the book I am listed as the editor of The Ayn Rand Letter!

So, I want to give notice that one cannot assume I actually said or gave basis for anything attributed to me in the Heller biography. I should add that Heller never sought to interview me, which itself raises questions, given my close association with Ayn Rand during the last two years of her life.

The original Peikovian strategy lives on.

Robert Campbell

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This "strategy" has three components: (1) I'm too good and high and mighty to read it; (2) an inverse kind of argumentum ad hominem (the book's author isn't worth the time of day); (3) an appeal to authority (my own).

--Brant

the Peikoff Continuum (the inertia generated by the power and brains of Ayn Rand) is the number one reason Objectivism hasn't gone anywhere save sub-rosa until recently in nearly two generations

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Courtesy of a mole on the Harry Binswanger List, here is what Dr. Binswanger said about Anne Heller's book:

I haven't read the Anne Heller biography and will not do so. But I've been informed by those who have that I am cited as a source for a few items, and that checking what I actually said or wrote showed that they did not, in fact, support what Heller says they do. Apparently, no significant issues are involved, but it gives you a good indication that the biography is not to be trusted.

Additionally, I'm told that somewhere in the book I am listed as the editor of The Ayn Rand Letter!

So, I want to give notice that one cannot assume I actually said or gave basis for anything attributed to me in the Heller biography. I should add that Heller never sought to interview me, which itself raises questions, given my close association with Ayn Rand during the last two years of her life.

The original Peikovian strategy lives on.

Robert Campbell

It's at least one step above the Peikovian strategy, since Mr. Binswanger at least gives some detailed statements of fact which can be verified to validate his conclusion; and by implication he admits the book to have content which can be verified, and is therefore epistemologically meaningful, if only in a negative sense. Peikov merely asserted that the Branden book was false, and then went on to state that it was epistemologically meaningless.

Jeffrey S.

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Mr. Binswanger at least gives some detailed statements of fact which can be verified to validate his conclusion; and by implication he admits the book to have content which can be verified, and is therefore epistemologically meaningful, if only in a negative sense. Peikoff merely asserted that the Branden book was false, and then went on to state that it was epistemologically meaningless.

Jeffrey,

You're right that Harry Binswanger is attributing to Anne Heller's book some statements of fact that can be evaluated as true or false. That's a step beyond Leonard Peikoff's reaction to The Passion of Ayn Rand.

But he continues in the grand old tradition of not, well, soiling himself through contact with such a book.

And the matters about which he complains in Ayn Rand and the World She Made all appear to be trivial errors or slights, yet he is quite comfortable concluding that the entire book is to be dismissed on their account.

Robert Campbell

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Christopher,

The tape of the debate between Albert Ellis and Nathaniel Branden has never been released.

In his book Is Objectivism a Religion?, Dr. Ellis complained that NBI tried to withhold the tape from him.

The official story from the NBI side was that Dr. Branden wiped the floor with Dr. Ellis, but I suspect there was some awareness of embarrassing material on the tape, such as Ayn Rand's reported outburst.

Robert Campbell

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It turns out that Harry Binswanger let his cerebral hygiene lapse, just long enough to read Jennifer Burns' book.

But he obviously views it as a lapse, and encourages his disciples over at HBL not to pollute their minds with Goddess of the Market.

Courtesy of our mole, here is Dr. Binswanger's review:

From: Harry Binswanger <<mailto:hblist@hblist.com>hblist@hblist.com>

Date: Sun, Nov 29, 2009 at 9:37 PM

Subject: HBL The Jennifer Burns book on AR

To:

From Harry Binswanger

I said I wouldn't read either of the new biographies of Ayn Rand,

but after recently hearing Jennifer Burns speak at Columbia

University, I was positively impressed and decided to give it a try.

That was a big mistake.

The book has the same overall view of Ayn Rand as that promoted

by the Brandens' book. While praising, from time to time, the

power of AR's mind, the overall portrait (or ugly caricature) of AR

that this book promotes is that she was a sad, neurotic, unpleasant

creature who devoted increasingly more of her energies to deceiving

herself.

The Burns book is supposed to be on AR's relationship to the right

wing, and to focus on facts not evaluations, but Burn's evaluations

of Ayn Rand's character and psychology are given over and over

again, especially in the book's second half. And the evaluations are

negative by about 5 to 1.

Here are some examples:

- "This book seeks to excavate a hidden Rand, one far more

complex and contradictory than her public persona suggests. . . . For

all her fealty to reason, Rand was a woman subject to powerful,

even overwhelming emotions. . . . [her novels] express both her deep-

seated need for control and her genuine belief in individualism and

independence. (p. 5)

- The clash between her romantic and rational sides makes this not a

tale of triumph, but a tragedy of sorts. (p. 6)

- "Her contemptuous attitudes still color the novel [The

Fountainhead]. (p. 87)

- "Rand tried to resist the implications of this conclusion and return

to the egalitarianism[!] of The Fountainhead. . . . Still, the drift of her

thought was tending back to the elitism of the early libertarians."

(p. 113)

- "Her changed estimate of [isabel] Paterson changed Rand's own

understanding of herself [which Ayn Rand couldn't see, but Jennifer

Burns can!]. If Paterson had not been so brilliant after all, then

Rand had done most of her thinking alone. Erasing Paterson's

contributions made Rand into the completely autonomous heroine of

her own personal narrative." (p. 132)

- "Rand was like a . . . libertarian Svengali seducing the young." (p.

152)

- "By excising emotions, asserting that men were only 'bundles of

premises,' and then outlining the correct rational premises that each

should hold, Rand made individuals interchangeable." (p. 153)

- "She was no longer working with terms or concepts that were

accessible to outsiders, but instead lived in an Objectivist echo

chamber." (p. 160)

- "Atlas Shrugged had a decidedly misanthropic cast. . . . Once again

Rand let loose all the bile that accumulated in her over the years."

(p. 172)

- "her arguments were like a parody of social Darwinism . . . she was

so quick to divide humanity into world-shaking creators and

helpless idiots unable to fend for themselves. (p. 173)

- "Despite her emphasis on reason and independent judgment, Rand

had a very narrow idea of how this reason should be used. She

conceived her ideal student as an empty vessel who used his or her

rationality only to verify the validity of Objectivism. At the same

time, she excoriated those who did so as weaklings and cowards."

(p. 234)

Here are two passages that explain what underlies her antagonism to

AR:

1. "The presence of Rand, a charismatic personality, was enough to

tip Objectivism into quasi-religious territory, but Objectivism was

also easy to abuse because of its very totalizing structure. There

were elements deep within the philosophy that encouraged its

dogmatic and coercive tendencies. Although Rand celebrated

independence, the content of her thought became subsumed by its

structure, which demanded consistency and excluded any

contradictory data from experience or emotion." (p. 237)

2. "Though later in her life Rand insisted that her ideas were not

subject to interpretation [what does that even mean?], this

imperative clashed with her earliest beliefs. As she wrote in 1935,

'The worst of all crimes is the acceptance of the opinions of

others.'" (p. 285)

The latter passage, if one can even decipher it, sets up a false

alternative: agreement vs. independence. Surely Burns, who spent 8

years on this work and has read *everything*, knows about how

AR demonstrated the subjectivism of this view in "Who's the Final

Authority in Ethics"?

Burns has a very bad case of empiricism. Coming from the

pragmatist-empiricist-emotionalist axis, Burns sees dogmatism and

unrealism in Objectivism's demand for consistency, absolutes,

rationality, moral judgment, and not taking emotions as means of

cognition. Throughout the book she implies that man does have

instincts, that consistency is not to be sought, and that emotions are

primaries that cannot be rationally understood or changed.

Interestingly, Burns is indifferent to the question of whether

religion is right or wrong, plausible or ridiculous. Possibly she is

religious and is pulling her punches. She also seems favorably

inclined to anarchism, judging by how much attention and

sympathetic treatment she gives it. And, as noted by others, she is a

social determinist, who sees a person's ideology as the product of

either environment or the "influence" of those one happens to read.

All these wrong premises lead her to distort her presentation.

Leaving aside the few demonstrably false things in the book, the

book is riddled with a combination of the erroneous and the

arbitrary. Everything post-Atlas is based on the reports of AR's

enemies; Burns takes as unquestionable truths all but the most

obviously self-serving of these claims by enemies. She doesn't

appear to me to have even tried to be "balanced" in using the

reports of friends and enemies--the enemies' views take over the

narrative.

I was stunned that in a political book on AR and the Right, there

was no mention of "Conservatism: An Obituary"--surely a central

text for such a topic and one that even some one opposed to

Objectivism would make extensive use of. Also stunning, and

outrageous, was Burns' inexplicable omission of any mention of

OPAR (though it's listed in the bibliography).

I wouldn't have read this book had I known how bad it is. I advise

you to stay away from it, for the reason I gave in an earlier post: it

is almost impossible to keep all the false and slanted "facts" out of

your subconscious "file folders." Not only would reading it, quite

unjustly, tend to diminish your admiration for Ayn Rand, you are

very likely, years later, to treat as fact that which is false or

arbitrary.

P.S. As bad as the Burns book is, it is, I am told, considerably

better than the other new biography of AR, by Anne Heller--which I

definitely won't read.

Robert Campbell

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