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Psychological Visibility

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Just speculating here, but I think Phil read the evil book and is having difficulty resisting the seductive pull of the dark side.

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We have been taking your inquiries seriously, but I think you are just playing with us.

But, to give you the "benefit of the doubt" (and bending over backwards), perhaps you are just trying to stoke our interests and get us to re-examine our beliefs. Maybe this is your version of applying the "Socratic method?"

Or are you just,... jerkin' us around?

Yours in sincere inquiry,

Jerry

You realize, I trust, that you have just provided Phil with another opportunity to pontificate about his educational mission on OL. <_<

Frankly, I would rather be jerked around than be victimized by Phil's notion of the Socratic method. Indeed, in this case there is no substantial difference between the two possibilities.

Ghs

It appears that Phil creates his own opportunities. And we (including me) have continued to respond to him as if his questions (at least, in this thread) are sincere. I don't need to reiterate what I just wrote in my last post (Well,...I don't need to, but I think I will, anyway!). :P:rolleyes:

Perhaps I am just demonstrating the "duh!" factor, here. He has been around in "the movement" too long to not know the answers to the questions that he is asking us.

Personally, I am going to try not to respond to baiting questions on topics to which I feel it is likely that he already knows the answer. :unsure::blush:

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It would have been better if Phil had referenced actual page numbers in Galt's speech regarding self esteem. However going over it quickly it is apparent that a big chunk of it at least dwelt with it implicitly. What has to be remembered is NB and AR were in almost constant intellectual interaction for four years before she even started to write it, which took another two years, and he did write a book, The Psychology of Self Esteem, most of which was from material that had been previously published in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist and was considered by Rand to be fully congruent with the philosophy even post-break. According to the intellectual terms and conditions set down by her, there would be nothing wrong with citing Branden's articles published prior to 1968.

After over 40 years of intellectual tribalism--it's actually over 50--Objectivism has yet to climb out of the crib. It started with Galt's Speech, continued with polemical non-fiction and an inappropriate lecture educational model, and crashed into the wall set up and maintained by the Pope of Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff. When people are excluded from sanction and association regarding a philosophy, they are actually excluded from a tribe or religion. Banishment. To be inside means for many areas of endeavor to leave your brain turned off and make the appropriate noises which indicate you are still properly on board.

--Brant

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Subject: I'm done with you slandering morons

Jerry, ND, GHS, you are a bunch of insulting assholes!! [posts 47-52, immediately above] who don't have any clue about how to have a civil discussion!!

Since you choose not to respond to my detailed post -- and instead attack my honesty and sincerity, I will give one summary post that even you guys ought to be able to understand. And then I'm done with you *disgusting, ad hominem-dripping idiots*:

1. If you are writing a book about a school of ethics derived from a major thinker, you refer primarily to that major thinker [Rand developed the concept of self-esteem and it's connection to the objectivist ethics]. If the only book published which summarizes her philosophy is by Leonard Peikoff, then he is your primary second reference. Especially if he also summarizes other points about self-esteem.

2. *Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics is not a book on psychology*. And self-esteem is only one subordinate issue here. Giving three different thinkers on the Objectivist view of this would be excessive. I don't know for sure if you take Peikoff over Branden as number two solely on the grounds that he summarizes the Objectivist viewpoint throughout. Unless Nathaniel Branden i) originated the concept of self-esteem, ii) or has key points RELEVANT TO THE DISCUSSION OF THE VIRTUE OF PRIDE (her subject in that chapter) which are vital to that discussion - you don't necessarily include him in this book.

3. ELLEN KENNER'S CASE IS DIFFERENT (as is the case of 'air-brushing'...so I'm not sure why moron #1 dragged that in): If you are writing on 'the visibility principle' for osits which he developed fully in the oist context, you do have to mention him if you are mentioning anyone.

4. The fact that NB wrote at greater length on SE than is convered in P's Objectivism is not relevant.

.

.

.

Subject of book -> subject of chapter --> thinker whose ideas you are discussing --> only book on the whole system --> other thinkers, maybe, if the topic has other aspects and deserves further detail in the chapter.

Got it straight now?

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

Finally:

You guys are too busy looking for somebody to slime, to assume that everyone on 'the orthodox side' in every case is either evil or dishonest or a coward that you won't even consider that she might have done this for what she considers good reasons. Like typical moralizing Randroids, anyone who disagrees with you is dishonest...and now you've extended that to me!!!

So I will respond with the level of intellectuality an attack on my character deserves: UP YOURS!

Edited by Philip Coates

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[....]

A passage from My Years with Ayn Rand:

I telephoned Allan Blumenthal (in August/September of 1968) and told him, “Here is what is coming next. I want to go on record as saying this now—before it begins. Ayn will soon be saying, and then the rest of you will be saying, that I never originated anything, never contributed anything, that every idea of mine is really Ayn’s.”

Allan answered, “Don’t be paranoiac, Nathan. That’s ridiculous. No one has ever denied that you’re a clever fellow.”

I was not yet impervious to shock. I said, “A what? A ‘clever fellow’? Is that what the party line—meaning Ayn—now says I am. I’m too late for a prediction, then. The process of rewriting history has already begun.”

[....]

My Years with Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden (p. 354)

[....]

A minor point: Allan Blumenthal characteristically used "clever" as a term of high praise.

Early in my acquaintance with him, I became irritated at hearing him describe Beethoven as "clever." CLEVER!, I thought. Genius such as Beethoven's "clever"?

But then I heard him describe Mozart as "clever." Allan revered Mozart as Musical Divinity.

I don't think he was meaning any put-down or demotion in the "clever fellow" (a description I heard him sometimes use for Nathaniel).

Ellen

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Subject: I'm done with you slandering morons

Jerry, ND, GHS, you are a bunch of insulting assholes!! [posts 47-52, immediately above] who don't have any clue about how to have a civil discussion!!

Since you choose not to respond to my detailed post -- and instead attack my honesty and sincerity, I will give one summary post that even you guys ought to be able to understand. And then I'm done with you *disgusting, ad hominem-dripping idiots*:

Christmas came early this year!

1. If you are writing a book about a school of ethics derived from a major thinker, you refer primarily to that major thinker [Rand developed the concept of self-esteem and it's connection to the objectivist ethics]. If the only book published which summarizes her philosophy is by Leonard Peikoff, then he is your primary second reference. Especially if he also summarizes other points about self-esteem.

Never have I seen someone pull something out of his ass and present it to the public with such confidence.

2. *Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics is not a book on psychology*. And self-esteem is only one subordinate issue here. Giving three different thinkers on the Objectivist view of this would be excessive....

You're absolutely right, Phil. To cite more than two sources would definitely be excessive, especially if the third source happens to be the most thorough presentation of self-esteem ever written from an Objectivist perspective. You definitely wouldn't want to mention that source in a section on the Objectivist view of self-esteem. After all, the citation might take up an entire sentence!

At least it's good to know that Tara Smith wasn't being evasive; rather, she was merely observing one of Phil's rules that he made up after the fact.

I'm sure I speak for academic writers everywhere when I express my profound gratitude to Phil for his "No More Than Two Sources Rule." This rule is doubtless based on Phil's extensive experience in the field. :lol:

Ghs

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And I thought Phil said he'd never crack, waver or back down!

My biggest beef with Phil is he doesn't use the quote function. Of course, I have 666 other beefs that aren't as big. Seriously, though, it keeps me from reading most of his stuff. When others quote him I assume they're quoting his worst stuff since they want to tear him into little-eitty-bitty pieces, so I'm probably missing his best stuff almost entire.

--Brant

"I'll be baaack!"

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Jerry, ND, GHS, you are a bunch of insulting assholes!!

...

So I will respond with the level of intellectuality an attack on my character deserves: UP YOURS!

I think I finally get the joke!

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Subject: Facts First, Gossip or Accusation Second

she's fully endorsed by ARI, as is her book. That means that the odds that the book contains a positive reference to Nathaniel Branden are small

How do you know this? Just because some -past- writers/lecturers sold by the Ayn Rand Bookstore have not even mentioned Branden?

Have -all- of those intellectuals done this?

Have you actually researched this?

The first thing you would need to do research is a pretty clear list of the principles that Peikoff, Binswanger, Schwartz, and decades later Ellen Kenner et al acknowledge as major contributions to which credit is *due morally and in terms of simple honesty* and which Branden or somebody they detest clearly originated, not Rand. I certainly -hope- it's not true that they will ban anyone who does and so no one has. But I don't know whether or not it's true. It's just that you can't simply claim this, urban legend style.

Phil, this is such nonsense that I can't believe you really mean it.

You want a major contribution for which credit is owed but not given? See Tara Smith on self-esteem, and her crediting Leonard Peikoff with much of Nathaniel's early work on self-esteem.

Barbara

What strikes me as particularly odd here is that Phil comes across as if he is totally unaware of the history of whitewashing Branden by Peikoff & Co. Well, I just happened to come across this excellent article by Chris Sciabarra on Objectivism and Academe:

Aside from the politics that surrounds Objectivism from without, another form of politics or partisanship comes primarily from within Objectivism. Ambrose Bierce once defined politics not as “the art of the possible,” but as “a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” Some of Rand’s more orthodox followers give substance to Bierce’s insight. What I mean by partisanship here is not simply the taking of a strong position in the intellectual give-and-take. It is support of a position based not on the correctness of the ideas, but on the source of those ideas - the group, the faction, or the party from which the ideas emanate. Partisanship is the opposite of objectivity.

Since the lexicons, the marginalia, the letters, journals, and lectures come ultimately from the Rand Estate, one would hope that they would be presented free of partisanship, with a willingness to open the facts of reality to scholarly discussion and evaluation. Sadly, this has not been the case. Let me say at the outset that we will find lots of value in these books; but unfortunately, there are distortions that can be found in the texts, which cast an unnecessary shadow on their authenticity. This is not a good thing for Rand studies or Objectivist studies, since scholars working within these areas require reliability in the sources they consult. I’ve written about this subject at some length; [follow the Sciabarra link to see the additional links]

Ultimately, the problem with the release of edited material from the Estate is that when we don’t have the original source with which to compare the material, we are left at the mercy of editors who sometimes do not recognize the importance of that which they have edited. (A less generous interpretation of such editing is that the editors DO know the importance of what they are editing, but this makes their actions even more tragic.)

In some instances, even the original sources have been altered. The Art of Fiction, for example, is based on Rand’s lectures on fiction-writing, but the lectures that are selling at Second Renaissance Books have been edited down from 48 to 23 hours, as Russ LaValle has pointed out. Unfortunately, even the audio lectures themselves have been edited. And some of those edits are curious, to say the least. For instance, in attendance at Rand’s 1958 course were Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden. Anytime either of these individuals speaks, a narrator interrupts the tape to tell us that “at this point in the lecture, a [nameless] student asked Miss Rand the following question . . .” Such air-brushing of reality is never completely successful, because those of us who know Barbara’s or Nathaniel’s cough or laugh can detect them in the background.

The Ayn Rand Institute is in the process of establishing an archival library, wherein the original lectures will be available. The work of the institute, in terms of the preservation of original documents and lectures, has been exemplary. But we can only hope that someday the archives will be open to bona fide independent scholars who do not have to pass a litmus test in order to conduct research, and who will be able to view materials without the distorting influence of editorial intervention.

The interesting thing about partisanship is that it often depends less on direct criticism of competing ideas (since that would entail actually entering into a respectful dialogue with one’s opponents), and more on an absence of competing ideas. It is a perverse Hegelianism: it is the absence that speaks louder than the presence. Ultimately, the orthodoxy is creating a kind of ideology - and I use this word in a pejorative sense, in this context. As John Davenport once wrote: “The hallmark of ideology is always to rule out alternatives before they can be critically considered.”

Several examples of this occur in Gotthelf’s book, On Ayn Rand, a fairly straightforward primer. He claims in that book that he wishes to deal only with primary sources, and will discuss secondary sources at another time. Still, he dismisses Barbara Branden’s biography of Rand for its “gratuitous psychologizing,” its “embittered” tone, and its “factual errors,” but he never actually provides the title for Branden’s book. He dismisses the theses that Rand that Rand was ever influenced by a dialectical orientation or that her methodology or even her interpretations of Nietzsche were influenced by her Russian teachers.

Gotthelf is criticizing implicitly those who might hold such positions; but one can find no reference to Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical or its author, wherein such claims are examined quite extensively. Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is used as a primary source (Peikoff’s post-publication condemnation of Gotthelf’s book notwithstanding), but one will not find any reference to work by those who are persona non grata with the orthodoxy, including Machan, Den Uyl, Rasmussen, and Gladstein. There is no mention of David Kelley’s Evidence of the Senses or of Nathaniel Branden’s Psychology of Self-esteem (even though this latter work is filled with “approved” writings that Branden authored while he was associated with Rand). Gotthelf only states that Branden and Rand were friends, and that those wanting more information about the end of their relationship should consult Rand’s version of the story as published in the May 1968 issue of THE OBJECTIVIST.

This same bibliographic myopia is on display even in Bernstein’s Cliffsnotes. At the end of each of the monographs, there is a “Cliffsnotes Resource Center.” In every other monograph published by Cliffsnotes, one will find a nice diversity of sources cited for the particular author and work under consideration. In Bernstein’s monographs, here are the books listed under “Critical Works About Rand”: Letters of Ayn Rand (edited by M. Berliner), The Ayn Rand Lexicon (edited by H. Binswanger), Journals of Ayn Rand (edited by D. Harriman),The Ayn Rand Reader (edited by G. Hull), Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand - by L. Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels - by L. Peikoff. None of these books is a critical work on Rand. Rand’s major works of fiction and nonfiction are listed thereafter, as are some Internet addresses (ARI, for example), and some films and audio recordings (the Paxton documentary, Ayn Rand: a Sense of Life, plus Rand’s Fountainhead, Love Letters, and You Came Along). The only non-orthodox source listed is “The Passion of Ayn Rand” - not Branden’s biography, but the Showtime “film based on Ayn Rand’s life.” I was actually quite shocked to find this listed in the bibliography, but not surprised by the omission of information that would have identified the film as based on the Branden book.

Sometimes, the orthodoxy promotes those Objectivist scholars whose works even it criticizes as “burdened at times by an overly ‘academic’ style” - as Second Renaissance Books characterizes Tara Smith’s Viable Values: A Study of The Root And Reward of Morality. As Objectivist scholarship goes, I think Smith’s book is worthy of our attention - whether or not we agree with her approach to Rand’s ethics - and I enjoyed the recent symposium on Viable Values at the December 2000 Ayn Rand Society meeting of the American Philosophical Association. Having met Smith, I am impressed especially by her willingness to engage with non-Objectivist academics in such a forum.

Still, I was disappointed that Smith’s book does not engage academics who have long published on the subject of Objectivist ethics. Considering that she presents a case for eudaimonia based on Rand’s ethical egoism, and that her arguments for human flourishing share much with positions offered in the early 1980s by theorists such as Den Uyl and Rasmussen (in Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand, and later, in 1991, in their Liberty And Nature), it would have been good to see her situate her own work within this growing literature, to compare and contrast her approach with those who have come before her. I should note that Lester Hunt contributed to this literature in a paper for the 1996 meetings of the Ayn Rand Society, for which Tara Smith served as a commentator. Smith refers to her comment, in Viable Values, but nowhere mentions the paper by Hunt on which she commented. Neo-Aristotelian eudaimonism is happily on the rise in many quarters (even on the left, in the work of Marxist Roy Bhaskar); to not notice its champions among writers influenced by Rand is especially regrettable.

What makes this even more interesting is that there is an on-line discussion of this article, and that one of the participants is...Phil Coates.

caro: "From Phil Coates: You mentioin that Rand is now beginning to be taken seriously because of the recent books in reputable venues..."

What is wrong with this picture?

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Subject: The History of Self-Esteem

There are two claims involved in condemning TS for not crediting Nathaniel Branden on self-esteem in her book: 1. Branden originated the concept or is most responsible for it. 2. Her mention of people who wrote about self-esteem should give credit to those who did the most work or the most original work in this field.

Here is what I found today when I did some research:

A. Objectivists did not originate the concept of self-esteem and were not the first to make major contributions: "Given its long and varied history, the term has had no less than three major types of definition, each of which has generated its own tradition." [wikipedia]

In particular, Abraham Maslow in the 1940's and 50's anticipates the Objectivist sense in some respects. He also breaks it down into several important components.

B. There is a specifically Objectivist sense of "self-esteem". And it is Ayn Rand who originated that and first discussed it in detail, not Nathaniel Branden. It is discussed in Galt's Speech (publ. 1957), and the concept is used throughout. As well as in other essays.

C. Branden is credited in wikipedia with a unique definition of "self-esteem". But each of the three parts (insofar as they differ from Maslow, and other predecessors) comes from Rand. All three are identified in Galt's Speech, for example.

Phil, I wrote some of what is on the Wikipedia Self-Esteem article, but only because the article was so lacking when I first saw it. Much of the article had been written by a fan of the view that self-esteem is a bad thing and on "research" which "showed" high self-esteem to be the cause of criminal behavior. Dr. Branden wasn't mentioned. It was a mess. I ran into some opposition in attempting to improve the article, and could see that I would never be able to create a decent article and so, after making a few corrections, I moved on. If you look at the talk pagefor the article you will see some of my comments (search for "Steve Wolfer" or "Steve"), and you can see the article before my changes here.

I mention this to point out that Wikipedia is NOT a sound source for research on self-esteem.

-------------

If anyone wants to understand Dr. Branden's contribution to psychology look up "self-esteem" in the index of those books published before Dr. Branden's time - do this in compendiums where you'd expect to find important topics in the field discussed. It was NOT considered a subject of great importance.

I was a fan of Dr. Branden's before I became a psychologist, but I wasn't star-struck and when I attended grad school I specifically set aside what I'd learned from him - telling myself that I needed to view all of the history, and all of the current understandings, of my new field with fresh eyes... and, that if I wanted, I could then go back and see if Dr. Branden's work had any real weight or importance.

If anyone wants to really understand his contributions, just reread the Psychology of Self-Esteem. To this day there is no equal in presenting a philosophy of psychology. And he established self-esteem as the primary force in motivational psychology. You can go back and find this or that Greek philosopher who refers to self-esteem, but that isn't the same. Before Dr. Branden it had just been mentioned in passing - as a fairly minor component. He wrote in the Psychology of Self-Esteem, "When I began practicing psychotherapy in the 1950's I became convinced that low self-esteem was a common denominator in most, if not all, of the varieties of personal distress I encountered in my practice." That by itself is a revolution in the field - something crucial and central to psychology that had never been said before. When he wrote The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem his descriptions of the mechanisms that generate (or diminish) self-esteem in ways that should make any therapist weep with joy.

Just as an example, I have an older edition of Kaplan and Saddock (5th Ed - 1989. Even back then it was three large volumes of small type on over 2,000 pages) and there are only three mentions of self-esteem. The first is one sentence in the article on Maslow where self-esteem and the esteem of others are given equal rank. The second is a short mention in an article on personality theory: "Self-esteem or self-respect, in turn, can be defined as a sense of power in dealing with others." That's it for the second mention. The third is a long paragraph on self-esteem, inside of a section labeled "Other disorders," which is under "Psychological and Physiological Factors" which in turn is under "Levels of Consciousness." And one sentence in the paragraph equates high levels of self-esteem with Narcisism. This is a typical mention for self-esteem in the past, unfortunately, the alternative is the more recent "discovery" of self-esteem's importance by people who do major studies and some how don't mention Dr. Branden.

There has been a strong tendency in grad schools to view cognitive psychology as the ONLY theory - and all the rest is either ancient history or pop psychology. I like the drive towards emprical verification where possible but the 'movement' has the structure and spirit of a holy crusade, and so much of the research and so many of the conclusions drawn from them is pure dreck. There are strong parallels with the way Objectivism is treated by the main-stream academic philosophy crowd.

I've been an Objectivist since the late 60's and I would find it hard to put into words the depth of the admiration I have for Ayn Rand, but to say that she discussed self-esteem in detail would not be accurate. I suspect that she helped Dr. Branden, but her grasp of psychology is not strong enough to have carried him to the heights he attained.

I like many of the people at ARI and I like the Brandens - so, shoot me, :-) In a world filled with so many idiots, mystics, thugs and just plain mean-spirited people I can't get very worked up about many of the squabbles inside of the Objectivist camp. Those who pretend that Dr. Branden made no substantial contributions, when they know better, or should, do themselves harm. That's sad, but it's more their problem than mine.

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If anyone wants to really understand his contributions, just reread the Psychology of Self-Esteem. To this day there is no equal in presenting a philosophy of psychology.

I agree 100 percent. That is a truly brilliant book.

Excellent post.

Ghs

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Steve, that was a really thoughtful and detailed post.

Very thorough, elaborating things in depth, and focused on the ideas, not questioning your opponents' integrity. You've provided me with a lot to think about and some ideas for reading and rereading.

Edited by Philip Coates

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> But in the absence of evidence, I will have to say that Rand "anticipated" the concept of psychological visibility through descriptions of interactions between her fictional characters in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, and that Branden named the concept and described it more detail, as well as emphasizing its importance in human relationships, especially romantic love. [Jerry]

Even if Rand anticipated it in that fictional way or if some previous psychologist were to have vaguely mentioned 'mirroring' or the equivalent, when someone like Branden fleshes it out and elaborates on it to such a great degree, someone who does a whole piece or talk on it would, morally and factually, be required to mention all this, to "apportion" credit to the extent that they have knowledge of those multiple sources.

Especially if he were the one to fully identify and name the concept. But if another thinker was ahead of him by a decade or a century, and one is fully cognizant of it, one would need to mention that thinker.

It's always a good idea in discussing almost any meaty intellectual topic to trace and report its history, how it developed.

Oist writers and speakers need to learn that from other writers and thinkers. They sometimes act as if nothing had gone before them.

,,,,,,

By the way, I just bought the Kenner series.

Glad to see that you have bought the series. I trust that we can count on you for an answer to my original question on this thread pretty soon. Good for you.

Thank you Steve Wolfer. What you wrote about Branden's work was very gratifying to me - enough to make me cry, too.

Edited by Mary Lee Harsha

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This thread was started in June, 2010, by Mary Lee Harsha. It was inspired by a recorded lecture series on the “Visibility Principle” by Ellen Kenner. Harsha asked whether Kenner had acknowledged any debt to the ortho-Objectivist incarnation of Mephistopheles, Nathaniel Branden, for the origination and development of this psychological principle.

Based on Kenner’s affiliation with orthodox Objectivism, several people, myself included, were highly skeptical about that. No one had heard Kenner's lecture course, so Harsha's question went unanswered. At the time, Kenner’s book, The Selfish Path to Romance: How to Love With Passion and Reason, (which she was co-authoring with Edwin Locke) had not yet been published.

Well, the book was published in February, 2011, and it includes the following footnote in the chapter titled, “The Visibility Principle.”

Based on Ayn Rand’s private papers, there is evidence that she and Nathaniel Branden did additional work on the concept of visibility; see James S. Valiant, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics (Dallas, TX: Durban House, 2005, p. 219). It is impossible to determine with certainty exactly which of them added to Aristotle’s original idea, especially because they spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours in discussions with each other. Ayn Rand used the term “mirror” in Atlas Shrugged, a term that Aristotle also used (see his quote above). Aristotle and Rand did not use the term “psychological visibility,” so Branden’s contribution may have been making explicit what was implicit in Aristotle and Rand (ibid., Valiant, p. 354).

The Selfish Path to Romance , p. 11

Here is the referenced quote from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics:

”And so, as when we wish to see our own face, we do so by looking in the mirror, in the same way when we wish to know ourselves we can obtain that knowledge by looking at the one we love.” (p. 6)

This is obviously a drastic minimization of Branden’s contribution. During the years they were associated, Rand never questioned the originality of Branden's lectures and essays on this topic. But I suppose we should acknowledge, grudgingly, that Kenner and Locke are at least making some modest effort at historical accuracy.

Bless their duplicitous little hearts.

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Atlas, but Fountainhead also:

5/15/06*

The chief exposition of this fond view of Rand's is an essay in Rand's journal The Objectivist. It was written by Nathaniel Branden, and it is reprinted as the third of the essays assembled in Friendship: A Philosophical Reader, Neera Badhwar, editor.

The dawn of the self-mirror view of romantic love is Rand's exquisite rendition of Dagny Taggart and John Galt together that night of nights in the railway tunnel, . . . (956-57).

4/24/10*

That last statement is not entirely right. There are red-lit clouds ahead of the dawn. The idea that romantic love entails self-mirroring is presaged in The Fountainhead. (Page citations are from the 1943 first edition; all emphases are mine.)

The steel frame of Howard Roark’s house for Austen Heller has been erected. On site the workers notice that Roark’s hands “reach out and run slowly down the beams and joints.” Workers say “‘That guy’s in love with the thing. He can’t keep his hands off’.” Absorbed in work at the site, Roark’s “own person vanished,” but “there were moments when something rose within him, not a thought nor a feeling, but a wave of some physical violence, and then he wanted to stop, to lean back, to feel the reality of his person heightened by the frame of steel that rose dimly about the bright, outstanding existence of his body at its center” (138).

Proceed from the literary foreplay at the Heller house to Dominique’s visits to Roark’s room and bed. “In his room, there was no necessity to . . . erase herself out of being. Here she was free to resist, to see her resistance welcomed by an adversary too strong to fear a contest, strong enough to need it; she found a will granting her the recognition of her own entity . . . . / . . . . It was an act of tension, as the great things on earth are things in tension. It was tense as electricity, the force fed on resistance . . .” (301).

On their last time, before they are separated for years, Roark says “‘I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. . . . I’ve given you . . . my ego and my naked need. This is the only way you can wish to be loved. This is the only way I can want you to love me’” (400; see also Wynand and Dominique, 539).

Roark and Dominique are definite entities, definite selves, exposed to each other. Their tensed sexual occasions heighten awareness of their selves, awareness of each to own-self and to other-self. (Cf. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness 1943, 505–14 in the translation by Hazel Barnes.)

In her marriage to Keating, Dominique is a non-entity. (No tension, strength, resistance, or ecstasy in bed.) Keating is a non-entity in most of his existence. Most all of his desires and candidate desires and most all of his opinions receive their value to him by their potential for impressing others. Dominique is a mirror to him, and she makes herself not more than a mirror (452–55). She says to Keating: “‘You wanted a mirror. People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they’re reflecting too. You know, like the senseless infinity you get from two mirrors facing each other across a narrow passage. . . . Reflections of reflections . . . . No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose’”(455).

6/10/10*

—Wynand and Dominique

“She sat at her dressing-table. He came in and stood leaning against the wall beside her. He looked at her hands, at her naked shoulders, but she felt as if he did not see her; he was looking at something greater than the beauty of her body, greater than his love for her; he was looking at himself—and this, she knew, was the one incomparable tribute (GW IX 537–38).

—Roark the morning after first time with Dominique

“In some unstated way, last night had been what building was to him; in some quality of reaction within him, in what it gave to his consciousness of existence” (ET II 231–32).

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

1/17/12*

I thought it might be useful to add here for reference the passage from Aristotle that portrays mirroring of one’s virtue in best friendships.

If happiness lies in living and being active, and the good man’s activity is virtuous and pleasant in itself, as we have said at the outset, and if a thing’s being one’s own is one of he attributes that make it pleasant, and if we can contemplate our neighbors better than ourselves and their actions better than our own, and if the actions of virtuous men who are their friends are pleasant to good men* (since these have both the attributes that are naturally pleasant)—if this be so, the blessed man will need friends of this sort, since he chooses to contemplate worthy actions and actions that are his own, and the actions of a good man who is his friend have both these qualities. (Nicomachean Ethics 1169b29-1170a3, translation of Ross/Urmson)

*Concerning the good man, Rand writes of “the joy he receives from the virtues of another” (AS 1034).

How near ancient philosophers came to the Rand-Branden concept of mirroring in romantic love will have to wait.

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

“Life delights in life.” –Blake*

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

The view in Rand ’43 that if one presents as a nonentity to a nonentity, the romantic relationship is flat, as blank mirror opposing blank mirror, and the view in that same novel that entity presenting to entity are as mirrors heightening awareness of self-existence are views about psychological egoism. They are not results open to choice, given their inputs. Dominique can chose to present as a nonentity to Peter, and she, Peter, Gail, and Roark all had some choice in whether to have developed into being an entity in the relevant sense. It is clear from the novel which choices are better and best, but the mirror mechanisms are not open to choice.

Moral theory is constrained by psychological theory including doctrines of psychological egoism. Ought implies can (and can refrain). The psychological egoism of the visibility principle helps secure the platform for ethical egoism. In ’57 Rand wrote that a rational desire to help someone in need is rightly animated only “by your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and struggle” (AS 1060). That pleasure in such an occasion of value is good is presumed, but it is the selfishness of the pleasure that seals the moral goodness of the assistance. To give assistance without doing so for the selfish pleasure it gives one is either not open to choice or is a moral failing. It would seem to be a choice in Rand ’57, somewhat along the lines of the choice in ’43 to never place ones’ prime motive in another person, rather, to place it always in oneself.

In ’62 Branden wrote “The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel towards other human beings is profoundly egoistic; they feel, in effect: ‘Other men are of value because they are of the same species as myself’. In revering other entities, they are revering their own life. This is the psychological base of any emotion of sympathy and any feeling of ‘species solidarity’” (Objectivist Newsletter V1N7). Valuing one’s own life and person, as well as achieving self-esteem, are volitional. The way the factor of psychological egoism comes to support ethical egoism here is by the claim of fact that any actual sympathy with one’s fellows is based on valuing ones’ own life, else is not felt. “Based on” is a retreat from Rand ’57 insofar as it could allow for residence merely in one’s subconsious mind, that is, without ever having recognized the basis explicitly. Additions to the scope of psychological egoism have repercussions for distinctively ethical egoism. If one can act from valuing one's own life without knowing it, one can plausibly act from the pleasure one takes in the value occasion of another without knowing that that pleasure is the spring of one's choice to assist. Choosing to help someone without doing so deliberately for the rational selfish pleasure it gives one is no longer a moral failing—consonant with the ’62 view, but not with the ’57 view—provided one does not choose to do it for self-sacrificing reasons.

There is continuity between the ’62 picture and the ’57 picture when one considers in the latter, not assisting others, but rationality and its position in morality and happiness. Rand has people able to be living rationally to a substantial degree and attaining therewith authentic self-esteem and happiness without knowing they have those things by (only by) rationality.

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Choosing to help someone without doing so deliberately for the rational selfish pleasure it give one is no longer a moral failing—consonant with the ’62 view, but not with the ’57 view—provided one does not choose to do it for self-sacrificing reasons

I don't see a difference, though, between the two. How else do we identify other conscious lifeforms than by relating what they are to what we are? If we didn't make that connection, we'd be psychopaths assimilating other people to inanimate objects. Putting ourselves in other people's shoes is part of identification, as we only know consciousness on a private level.

The selfish pleasure derived from helping a stranger (the value of his person and struggle) comes from empathy (or possibly just the thrill of solving a problem). I don't think pity is a bad thing, and I don't think Rand really did either, even though she used it with negative connotations. Indiscriminate pity, which conflicts with justice, that's a different story.

Empathy can be selfish if you hold others to the same standards as you do yourself. And where else does the concept of justice come from if not from empathy?

Edit: However, if Rand believed that we never ought to feel sorry for ourselves, then perhaps she did see pity as entirely irrational or even evil. Roark felt bad for Wynand near the end of TF, but that was most probably a fault Rand felt forgivable, though I don't think Galt ever demonstrated anything of that sort.

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. . .

Moral theory is constrained by psychological theory including doctrines of psychological egoism. Ought implies can (and can refrain). The psychological egoism of the visibility principle helps secure the platform for ethical egoism. In ’57 Rand wrote that a rational desire to help someone in need is rightly animated only “by your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and struggle” (AS 1060). That pleasure in such an occasion of value is good is presumed, but it is the selfishness of the pleasure that seals the moral goodness of the assistance. To give assistance without doing so for the selfish pleasure it gives one is either not open to choice or is a moral failing. It would seem to be a choice in Rand ’57, somewhat along the lines of the choice in ’43 to never place ones’ prime motive in another person, rather, to place it always in oneself.

In ’62 Branden wrote “The respect and good will that men of self-esteem feel towards other human beings is profoundly egoistic; they feel, in effect: ‘Other men are of value because they are of the same species as myself’. In revering other entities, they are revering their own life. This is the psychological base of any emotion of sympathy and any feeling of ‘species solidarity’” (Objectivist Newsletter V1N7). Valuing one’s own life and person, as well as achieving self-esteem, are volitional. The way the factor of psychological egoism comes to support ethical egoism here is by the claim of fact that any actual sympathy with one’s fellows is based on valuing ones’ own life, else is not felt. “Based on” is a retreat from Rand ’57 insofar as it could allow for residence merely in one’s subconsious mind, that is, without ever having recognized the basis explicitly. Additions to the scope of psychological egoism have repercussions for distinctively ethical egoism. If one can act from valuing one's own life without knowing it, one can plausibly act from the pleasure one takes in the value occasion of another without knowing that that pleasure is the spring of one's choice to assist. Choosing to help someone without doing so deliberately for the rational selfish pleasure it gives one is no longer a moral failing—consonant with the ’62 view, but not with the ’57 view—provided one does not choose to do it for self-sacrificing reasons.

. . .

There are a couple of imperfections in the preceding. Here is the ’57 text more fully: “Do you ask if it’s ever proper to help another man? . . . . Yes—if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle” (1059–60).

1. “Based on” is used here too, as in the ’62 text.

2. The claim in ’57 is that rightness of helping another has as two of its necessary conditions having a desire to help and the desire being based on the pleasure one takes in the occasion of another’s struggle. Might the “based on” here allow for the possibility that assistance can be proper even if one is unaware that one’s desire is based on one’s own selfish pleasure? Certainly not. To be proper, according to this paragraph in Atlas, one has to know one is acting from this particular desire and not from a desire merely to respond to need or to a desire to fulfill a false duty.

It remains then that the psychology note of ’62 introduces the plausibility that one could desire to render assistance based on a subconscious desire for the correct pleasure. That would not be entirely at odds with the ’57 picture. What would be inconsistent would be to say that whenever one desires to help another it is because one has at least a subconscious desire for the correct pleasure, the pleasure one takes in the other person and his struggle. If such were the case, then rendering aid would always be right provided only that one desired to do so. That is psychological egoism swamping ethics, including ethical egoism.

So in the resulting picture, combining ’57 and ’62, we have that in desiring to help another, one is valuing another person and their struggle because one is, at least subconsciously, valuing one’s own life and struggles. Though the desire to help another necessarily has that underpinning over which one has no choice, one does not automatically desire to help for the sake of the pleasure that one will have from helping. This is a delicate combination, but one that seems without internal contradiction. I continue to think that some of the picture is untrue.

. . .

I should pause over the necessity of intended self-benefit for correct values. Not all of one’s potential selves are worth benefitting. Among those who are, Rand maintains that only potential selves whose every value is intended to benefit themselves hold entirely correct values. “Concern with his own interests is the essence of a moral existence, and . . . man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions. / The actor must always be the beneficiary of his action” (VS ix–x; also OE 46–47).

One is a beneficiary in ways other than by one’s resulting positive feelings, because one is a self that is not only feelings. Man’s self is “‘that entity that is his consciousness. To think, to feel, to judge, to act are functions of the ego’” (HR XVIII 737). It is the self—one’s soul—that has thoughts, meaning, will, values, desires, and feeling (GW II 454).

Roark loves the buildings he designs not only because of the positive responses they elicit in him. Dagny loves diesel-electric locomotives and the minds that create them not only because of the positive responses they elicit in her. It is not plausible that when she finds that man at the end of the rails, the one for whom she has longed since her youth, she will love him only because of the positive responses he evokes in her.

There is, however, a thread of subjectivity in Rand’s conception of value and love and normative selfishness that is puckering up the fabric. In my judgment, that thread is unnecessary and should be removed. Speaking metaphorically, the solemnity of looking at the sky does not come only from the uplift of one’s head (HR V 598). In extreme desire for another person, the other does not recede in importance compared to the desire (GW IX 539). A rational desire to help someone in need is animated not only by “your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and struggle” (AS 1060, emphasis added). Rather, it is enough for rational egoism that, by design, no actions be contrary self-benefit (of a self worth benefitting). The requirement that all actions should intend primarily self-benefit should be dropped. In this way, one can love persons simply for the particular ends-in-themselves that they are.

The man who dynamited Cortlandt rises, takes the oath, and stands before the court audience. “Roark stood before each of them as each man stands in the innocence of his own mind. But Roark stood like that before a hostile crowd—and they knew suddenly that no hatred was possible to him. For the flash of an instant, they grasped the manner of his consciousness. Each asked himself: do I need anyone’s approval?—does it matter?—am I tied? And for that instant, each man was free—free enough to feel benevolence for every other man in the room” (HR XVIII 736).

Rand takes benevolence to be people’s natural state when they are not constrained by law or morality to take basic direction from others rather than from themselves and to benefit others rather than themselves. David Kelley has added to Rand’s ethics by reckoning the ways in which benevolence is in one’s self-interest and arguing that the virtue of productivity has a cohort virtue in benevolence towards others (1996). In Kelley’s view, although benevolence is not an obligation by way of respecting the rights of others, it is an obligation to oneself. I think only some occasions of right benevolence are morally required; other occasions are morally permitted, but not required, not an obligation. Be that as it may, my dissent registered to Rand’s account of rational egoism applies to Kelley’s as well. Both of them correctly recognize that genuine benevolent responsiveness is not educed primarily by motives of self-sacrifice. Both are wrong in not recognizing that the genuine, innocent response of benevolence is also not educed primarily by motives of self-benefit.

. . .

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Might the “based on” here allow for the possibility that assistance can be proper even if one is unaware that one’s desire is based on one’s own selfish pleasure? Certainly not. To be proper, according to this paragraph in Atlas, one has to know one is acting from this particular desire and not from a desire merely to respond to need or to a desire to fulfill a false duty.

Isn't it possible to familiarize oneself with selfish desires, so that we recognize the feeling instantly? Rand sort of pushed people to always be "on" when it came to selfishness, saying that every single choice we make is either for us or against us (no neutral). And sitting to contemplate whether or not you want to help someone may miss you the opportunity, and you may end up with guilt.

I think I'm with Rand, just because she incorporates this issue into the rest of the package more fittingly, where Branden's ideas seem more accessible, but don't do much to help people find that state of always being "on".

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I don't know that I use benevolence in a different way to many Objectivists - or from

Rand, or Kelley - as Stephen explains them. I translate the word literally, as "well-wishing." IOW, a general, non-specific, default state applied to a world of other people.

And why not? there are plenty of reasons this is good for oneself, leading the way a peace of mind from not bearing a general animus to other, unknown lives. Instead, taking

pleasure in men's survival everywhere.

As people emerge closer to oneself, then other factors arrive, which can likely eventuate

in doing something for each person, or maybe not - depending on specifics. Self-interested, or other-benefiting, why not?

It's probably why I prefer "good will" to be clearer. Most O'ists seem to mean by benevolence the ACTION of doing good, instead of the state of mind.

Like the song goes: "you can't have one without the other" , I think.

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Addendum to #69

. . .

I would now add a caution to my criticism of David’s analysis of benevolence. In an earlier essay The Best within Us, David had written:

Virtue consists in the rules of conduct, the traits of character, that are required for living successfully. To make virtue one's highest end is to focus inward, forgetting that the purpose of virtue is to help us to live in the world. . . Such people tend to become crabbed and cautious, more concerned with avoiding moral errors than with getting anything done. This is not to say that virtue is merely an instrument. Because we are beings of self-made soul, because our character is itself a crucial achievement, virtue ought to be a source of satisfaction in its own right—and a matter of concern in any action we take. But it nevertheless must take second place to achievement as a global value.

Having the creation of value—achievement—within one’s immediate view in a benevolent act does not render the act inauthentic in the way that having moral rationale of altruism or moral rationale of egoism would by their immediacy and primacy in one’s view of the occasion. So David’s position is not necessarily so wide of the mark as I had thought in the excerpt above.

I noticed this past summer another, younger Objectivist (ARI) scholar,* in an excellent course on egoism and altruism, portrayed Rand’s account of the proper benevolent occasion as “more proximately motivated by concern for others,” with self-interest as one’s ultimate concern. Naturally, all of what Rand published bearing on the subject needs to be closely considered; one’s elisions to, one’s shift of emphases in, or one’s streamlining of Rand’s express views to improve them needs to be set forth explicitly in an exposition or analysis of her position. That is to say, each point appearing at odds with one’s representation of her view needs to be addressed, where one is aiming for comprehending her view, rather than simply formulating the truth.

Also

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Think too much about "benevolence" and you'll think it to death. --Brant want to live that way?

Yes, fair comment. "Dog with a bone!" as my wife used to accuse me.

In defence, I must say that once tested and digested, I generally put my bone away.

(plenty more to dig up).

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Between Aristotle and Rand, notice a kind of self-mirroring in Herder (1744–1803):

. . .

Thought, reason, and human language are the natural gifts essential to human beings. “The human being has no single work, . . . but he has free space to practice in many things and hence to improve himself constantly. Each thought is not an immediate work of nature, but precisely because of this, it can become his own work” (82). If for humans instinct must disappear, “then precisely thereby the human being receives ‘more clarity’. Since he does not fall blindly on one point and remain laying there blindly, he becomes free-standing, can seek for himself a sphere for self-mirroring, can mirror himself within himself. No longer an infallible machine in the hands of nature, he becomes his own end and goal of refinement” (82).
. . .

Previously:

Atlas, but Fountainhead also:

5/15/06*

The chief exposition of this fond view of Rand's is an essay in Rand's journal The Objectivist. It was written by Nathaniel Branden, and it is reprinted as the third of the essays assembled in Friendship: A Philosophical Reader, Neera Badhwar, editor.

The dawn of the self-mirror view of romantic love is Rand's exquisite rendition of Dagny Taggart and John Galt together that night of nights in the railway tunnel, . . . (956-57).

4/24/10*

That last statement is not entirely right. There are red-lit clouds ahead of the dawn. The idea that romantic love entails self-mirroring is presaged in The Fountainhead. (Page citations are from the 1943 first edition; all emphases are mine.)

The steel frame of Howard Roark’s house for Austen Heller has been erected. On site the workers notice that Roark’s hands “reach out and run slowly down the beams and joints.” Workers say “‘That guy’s in love with the thing. He can’t keep his hands off’.” Absorbed in work at the site, Roark’s “own person vanished,” but “there were moments when something rose within him, not a thought nor a feeling, but a wave of some physical violence, and then he wanted to stop, to lean back, to feel the reality of his person heightened by the frame of steel that rose dimly about the bright, outstanding existence of his body at its center” (138).

Proceed from the literary foreplay at the Heller house to Dominique’s visits to Roark’s room and bed. “In his room, there was no necessity to . . . erase herself out of being. Here she was free to resist, to see her resistance welcomed by an adversary too strong to fear a contest, strong enough to need it; she found a will granting her the recognition of her own entity . . . . / . . . . It was an act of tension, as the great things on earth are things in tension. It was tense as electricity, the force fed on resistance . . .” (301).

On their last time, before they are separated for years, Roark says “‘I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. . . . I’ve given you . . . my ego and my naked need. This is the only way you can wish to be loved. This is the only way I can want you to love me’” (400; see also Wynand and Dominique, 539).

Roark and Dominique are definite entities, definite selves, exposed to each other. Their tensed sexual occasions heighten awareness of their selves, awareness of each to own-self and to other-self. (Cf. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness 1943, 505–14 in the translation by Hazel Barnes.)

In her marriage to Keating, Dominique is a non-entity. (No tension, strength, resistance, or ecstasy in bed.) Keating is a non-entity in most of his existence. Most all of his desires and candidate desires and most all of his opinions receive their value to him by their potential for impressing others. Dominique is a mirror to him, and she makes herself not more than a mirror (452–55). She says to Keating: “‘You wanted a mirror. People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they’re reflecting too. You know, like the senseless infinity you get from two mirrors facing each other across a narrow passage. . . . Reflections of reflections . . . . No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose’”(455).

6/10/10*

—Wynand and Dominique

“She sat at her dressing-table. He came in and stood leaning against the wall beside her. He looked at her hands, at her naked shoulders, but she felt as if he did not see her; he was looking at something greater than the beauty of her body, greater than his love for her; he was looking at himself—and this, she knew, was the one incomparable tribute (GW IX 537–38).

—Roark the morning after first time with Dominique

“In some unstated way, last night had been what building was to him; in some quality of reaction within him, in what it gave to his consciousness of existence” (ET II 231–32).

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

1/17/12*

I thought it might be useful to add here for reference the passage from Aristotle that portrays mirroring of one’s virtue in best friendships.

If happiness lies in living and being active, and the good man’s activity is virtuous and pleasant in itself, as we have said at the outset, and if a thing’s being one’s own is one of he attributes that make it pleasant, and if we can contemplate our neighbors better than ourselves and their actions better than our own, and if the actions of virtuous men who are their friends are pleasant to good men* (since these have both the attributes that are naturally pleasant)—if this be so, the blessed man will need friends of this sort, since he chooses to contemplate worthy actions and actions that are his own, and the actions of a good man who is his friend have both these qualities. (Nicomachean Ethics 1169b29-1170a3, translation of Ross/Urmson)

*Concerning the good man, Rand writes of “the joy he receives from the virtues of another” (AS 1034).

How near ancient philosophers came to the Rand-Branden concept of mirroring in romantic love will have to wait.

. . .

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