A quote (from AB) and comments re AR's journals

Ellen Stuttle

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Whatever the label on the typewriter in question, I doubt that Rand brought it with her. She'd just started learning English, so she probably wasn't at the point where she would have had use for an English typewriter or been able to afford one. If it were cyrillic, she wouldn't have anticipated much use for it in the US. Finally, I doubt that one from this era would have been practical to carry in her luggage. They didn't have laptops in those days.


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They didn't have laptops in those days.

But neither did they have transatlantic planes. Transporting a typewriter in one's luggage would have been less of a problem on a boat than on a plane. But I, too, have wondered if she had a typewriter in Russia, and if she'd have brought it with her, even if she did have one. (I hadn't before thought of the point about her beginning status in learning English when she came to America.)



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But all this speculation seems to be based on the phrase: "She had an old typewriter that she had come with". Couldn't she just have bought a typewriter when she arrived in America? She stayed at least a week in New York before she went to her relatives, so it's not necessary to suppose she brought the typewriter from Russia.

The problem remains of course that the Remington-Rand typewriter was made only after Rand had left her relatives, so the question is: how did Fern get that story? Now we shouldn't forget that she was 8 years old at the time, so it's very well possible that she might have misremembered the story (there is overwhelming evidence that such false memories can easily be implanted in the brain). Perhaps someone (Rand?) told her that story at a later occasion, and she misconstrued it unconsciously and made it into the story as she told it.

Perhaps something like this happened: Rand had already in mind to use the name Rand for other reasons mentioned elsewhere, but when she bought later a Remington-Rand typewriter, she was struck by the name Rand on the machine, found it appropriate that she had the same name as the name on the instrument she used to write and fantasized that that was the reason to choose that name, and that might be a good story to tell the young Fern (supposing that they met after that time). Perhaps she really started to believe it herself, memory can sometimes be very unreliable!

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Just for the record (since it could be confused by readers), Rand was not 8 at the time, her cousin Fern was. Rand would have been around 20 or 21. She went to Hollywood in August 1926 (the first written record of her using the name Rand apparently is a studio pass for DeMille Studio in 1926). She lived with her cousin Fern in Chicago before that.

Nathaniel Branden wrote about this in Judgment Day (p. 73). The time would be around 1950-1951 and the following statement by Rand happened during visits with him and Barbara to the residence of Ayn and Frank. (Leonard Peikoff had been visiting for the summer, but the narrative implies that he went back to school by this time).

As the months passed and our friendship with Ayn and Frank progressed, we learned more details of their past - where they had been born, their relationship with their families, and a little about their early struggles.

Ayn was born on February 2, 1905, in the city of St. Petersburg (subsequently called Petrograd and eventually Leningrad), which is the setting of We the Living. "Ayn Rand was not my original name," she told us. "My first name was Alice. I adopted the name Ayn from a Finnish writer and I adopted the name Rand soon after coming to America - from my Remington-Rand typewriter! I never tell anyone my original family name because if I still have relatives living in Russia, they'd be endangered." Many years would pass before I would learn that her original name had been Alice Rosenbaum.

To qualify, in the "Author's Note" (p. ix) NB wrote:

In instances where I reproduce conversations that took place many years ago, I am not suggesting that all of the words reported are verbatim, but I am confident they are faithful to the essence of what was said and to the spirit and mood of the occasion.

As Barbara stated that she heard the same story, either they both heard it or they were trying out an early version of that stuff she said she put in the water of certain Objectivists later to turn them into flaming moralizers. I speculate that others probably heard the story too over the years (and that there might have been a time when Rand stopped telling it), but given the anti-Branden agenda and all the bruhaha now out in public, I don't expect any person related to ARI coming forth if they did.


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Having just rejoined SOLO Passion after an extended period of not reading it, I was struck by Peter Cresswell's review of James Valliant's book (http://www.solopassion.com/node/342). Here's what I had to say (http://www.solopassion.com/node/342#comment-5223). I expect it may stir up a hornet or two.

Robert Campbell


The Likely Impact of Mr. Valliant's Book

Peter Cresswell’s essay of February 1 helps to clarify what James Valliant’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, is truly accomplishing.

Mr. Valliant will never succeed in convincing the wider world that Ayn Rand was a moral paragon before whom they should get on their knees. To the extent that non-Randians accept Mr. Valliant’s equation of respect for Ayn Rand’s ideas with worship of her person, they are unlikely to respond with either.

Nor will non-Randians be much impressed by Mr. Valliant’s efforts to tie every last sin, real or alleged, of Rand and her movement onto the backs of "the Brandens."

As some observers have already pointed out, what Mr. Valliant has actually produced is the latest test of loyalty for orthodox Objectivists. What Peikoff’s "Fact and value" was during the 1990s, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics will be for the next decade, maybe longer. Until some further way is found to ensure that there are "fewer, but better" Objectivists...

Mr. Valliant’s true relationship with the Ayn Rand Institute and its principals has been much debated (so far, the only decision of theirs that he has dared to criticize has been their refusal to sell George Reisman’s magnum opus). Not subject to debate is the fact that his book has convinced some Randians to align with ARI. Indeed, it will continue to be a recruiting tool for some time to come. But only among existing Randians who have been insecure in their convictions so long as they doubted that Ayn Rand was morally perfect. Some other Randians have come away from the book with a more negative view of Nathaniel Branden than they previously held. But any response short of outright Rand-worship will prove disappointing to the ARI crowd.

I am far less worried than I was a few months ago that Mr. Valliant’s book will make large numbers of converts for ARI. I now think that it will achieve the desired effect only with those who already identify themselves as Objectivists and already harbor worshipful tendencies. (I’m reminded of those Lubavitcher missionaries I used to encounter on the streets of New York City, whose first question was always, "Are you Jewish?" As soon as I told them I wasn’t, I was spared the rest of the pitch.)

I think two features of Peter Cresswell’s review deserve special notice.

One is his effort to out-Valliant Mr. Valliant, by accusing "the Brandens" of preventing Rand from completing To Lorne Dieterling. Isn’t it just possible that Ms. Rand was written out, fiction-wise, after completing Atlas Shrugged? Next I expect to hear that Rand wasn’t really depressed from 1958 to 1960. After all, "the Brandens" have said that she was. And neither Howard Roark nor Dagny Taggart would get depressed.

The second is his (and Mr. Valliant’s) casual acceptance of Rand’s role of psychological counselor to various of her followers, including her estranged lover:

Rand’s account of Branden’s psychotherapy (requested by him, he said at the time, to help solve his sexual impotence and ‘emotional autism,’ but in reality simply to delay his inevitable day of reckoning) offers the same view as does lifting up a rock and watching the cockroaches scuttle around: under the glare of her penetrating analysis he has no hole left in which to crawl, and eventually, painfully, his fraud is exposed, and his worlds—professional, romantic, emotional—collapse around his feet.

It is highly doubtful that any psychologist will be converted to ARIanism or Rand-worship by reading The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. Clinicians and counselors are taught that amateurs should not be doing psychological counseling, and professionals should not be offering therapy to friends, lovers, or disciples. What’s more, while psychologically informed readers will empathize with Rand’s pain at being betrayed, those who read her journal entries are not going to be bowled over by her ad hoc philosophicopsychological diagnoses of Nathaniel Branden—the "big shot premise," "the Kantian goddess premise," and all of the rest. Mr. Valliant would have done much better by Ayn Rand had he excused these purported diagnoses as the judgments of a woman who was in over her head and being fed a steady diet of bullshit. Instead, he missed no opportunity to praise her psychological acumen.

So although PARC has galvanized many of the Rand-worshippers, it will not raise Rand’s reputation in the eyes of the wider public. Over time, Mr. Valliant’s book may actually lower it.

As long as the Rand-worshippers continue to stand in the way of objective assessments of Ayn Rand’s ideas, I will continue to recommend PARC to those who are curious about these matters.

Robert Campbell

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I've now read the first 59 pages of PARC.  I see that I'm going to end up having to write something lengthy attempting to disentangle Valliant's legitimate complaints against features of the way in which the Brandens told their tales from the issue of the truth in what they told.  For instance, on pp. 58 and 59, Valliant points to the lack of documentation for the Brandens' accounts of the "group-therapy"/"trials" occurrences.  

Are you reading PARC & PAR & MYAR side by side? After Rand, I think I'm gonna do the side by side comparison, with critical thinking turned on full blast. I'm going to pick, dissect, critique, tear apart, put together, line by line if I have to. It will be a pleasure to do this! :) Then read Peikoff, then Kelley, and do the same to each. Then Sciabarra. I think by the time I'm 90 I'll have figured the whole thing out.

In any case, I'm reading ITOE. Consciousness, perception, emotion, volition, and concpet formation could be fleshed out A LOT MORE, and I do not fault Rand for that. I don't deny nor belittle the axioms; I test them first, and flesh them out in my own mind with science, research, logic, and what I know of the brain. If I can REWORD an axiom, like I do with "Consciousness is identification", I'll do that. I agree that just chanting the axioms is not going to fly; it does make me wonder if the person actually thought about them and *why* they were there, *what* an axiom is and what they're used for. Ehh, I'm preaching to the choir. Over and out. :D

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Rand’s account of Branden’s psychotherapy (requested by him, he said at the time, to help solve his sexual impotence and ‘emotional autism,’ but in reality simply to delay his inevitable day of reckoning) offers the same view as does lifting up a rock and watching the cockroaches scuttle around: under the glare of her penetrating analysis he has no hole left in which to crawl, and eventually, painfully, his fraud is exposed, and his worlds—professional, romantic, emotional—collapse around his feet.

Before of how words are used. Look at the sentence structure, the choice of word, and where that word is put. Beware of the TONE of a sentence, and think about why the author used that tone. Is he/she acting benevolently, or is there an unlerdying phenomena behind it? Is the author trying to prove a conclusion and using RHETORIC and certain premises to prove a *certain* conclusion? Could a different analogy be used instead that was *fair* and *balanced*? Is the author appealing to emotion, intellect, or both? Why?

Then, what *kind* of book is this? What is it's purpose? How are people portrayed, with what words, sentence structure, and emotion? What is the tone? Could you rewrite what this author wrote in a DIFFERENT style-- such as that of a research paper (plain observation, data, conclusion), or a newsreel, or a commercial? Which one of these styles is more conducive to the author's tone, and WHY? Does the book sound like a researched piece, an autobiography, or a sound bite?

Lastly, what are the reactions to this book? Who gives it a thumbs up/down? What is their reasoning behind it? What words do these critiques use? How do these people behave, write their reviews, and view the authors? What does this tell me? How do the authors behave *back*?

One warning that repeats, over and over in my head: Watch out for RHETORIC! Don't get drawn in by language unless you *let* yourself!

I'll be asking these types of questions when reading all books and articles. What questions are you guys asking when you read books?

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To anyone who gets to this point in this thread...back up, and reread what Jenna just said. (and yes, logically this would lead you to do this ad infinitum--well so be it.) Well said Jenna!!

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What questions are you guys asking when you read books?

Oh, btw, reading this one question I guess it could sound like I doubt anyone asks anything about any books-- I don't mean this question *that* way.

I really, literally, seriously am curious about how others critical think their way through books. I'd honestly like to know if I can ask more questions; knowing that the folks here are astute and intelligent.

And this wasn't a rip at Valliant, either. This post applies to everything I read-- what would go through my mind as I plough thru any books in/around/of/by Oism and Oists.

Thanks Jody! If you have any pointers that I can add to this list, or if anyone can-- I'd like to know! :)

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As I read a book, I check all the facts the writer claims are true against my own knowledge. There may be some that I have no knowledge of, but generally there are enough that, if I do that, I can develop an assessment of the writer's judgment.

When I do not have independent knowledge of his description of the facts, I may look up those facts elsewhere or I may just file them away to be checked against future reading.

I also study the author's use of logic carefully. Many writers are clearly very irrational and unable to use logic correctly.

I also look for evaluative assessments. For instance, the writer might say that Jones does not know what he is talking about because Jones thinks people should exercise self-responsibility or some such argument. This argument means nothing to me if it reveals a wrong viewpoint.

I examine the author's assumptions and their plausibility or certainty. I look to see if he has made it clear that he has made an assumption.

I am also very wary of the argument from authority in many forms. If he says that Smith, the foremost authority on anthropology, says that all societies exhibit an abhorrence for incest, then I am not impressed, unless I know the work of Smith directly. Of course, I may know his work and find it frequently dubious.

I also check his conclusions against my lifetime of conclusions. If his disagree with mine, but still seem plausibly to be backed up by the evidence he has marshalled, I have to closely re-check how I had come to my earlier conclusions and I will want to recheck his facts and his logical arguments.

Some of these techniques are hard to apply to a book such as PARC, where I have limited knowledge of the historical events and people and where so many authors may be lacking in detachment. But, many of these techniques could be applied to PARC. For instance, Valliant makes a great many assumptions and every time the assumption is that which favors Ayn Rand as a virtuous and innocent woman and all fault resides in someone else. There is a systematic bias operating here. He states something as a fact for one argument, but states something different for another. If I grant his facts for the sake of argument, he proceeds in many cases to make a fallacious argument. Or in other cases, he proves a point, but then greatly exaggerates its significance. He often presents his arguments in a manner that mixes up the order of events. He very frequently states an interpretation of an event or a statement, though other interpretations suggest themselves to me and I find that these competing interpretations require evaluation, which he does not give them.

Valliant's book could easily be used as a companion book to David Kelley's textbook on logic. The student would be asked to identify the many errors in logic and the many suppositions of fact on each page as an exercise. The student would be very busy. Then, they could also be asked to evaluate the book as a form of populist rhetoric.

So, have a field day with this book. Peikoff's Fact and Value is more subtle, but you should be able to identify his fallacious arguments also.

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I expect it [his comments on Peter Cresswell's February 1 SOLOPass essay] may stir up a hornet or two.

It's done that alright.

In one of his posts Linz wrote: "James V can speak for himself, but it's worth remembering that the PARC project has been met with hostility by a significant section of the ARI."

Does anyone know what "section" he's speaking of (specific names as to who might be amongst that "section"), and the reasons they give for "hostility"?

Robert wrote in a reply to Valliant:

"You definitely did take a risk vis-a-vis the Ayn Rand Institute.

"But once Leonard Peikoff saw what you had put up on the Web (the precursor to Part I of your book), he knew pretty much what you would say once you got access to Rand's unpublished journal entries."

You mean that Valliant would do as much spinning on the Journal entries -- so as to present her analyses as exhibiting Rand's psychological insight -- as he did on the Brandens (so as to present them as mercenarily vicious)?

Robert continues:

"You could slay the serpents in the Garden for him and the other folks at ARI.  And if the project backfired, he always had the option of denouncing and disowning your book.  Plausible deniability and all that.

"Anyhow, he got what he wanted.  And I expect he is thoroughly relieved that he didn't have to write about Rand's journal entries himself.  After all, she hid The Affair from him until the day she died."

I think you're probably right in your assessment of where Leonard was coming from in giving Valliant permission to publish the Rand material.

Something I've wondered about every now and then is how he reacted when he learned of the affair. I bet that that was a terrible jolt for him.



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I agree with Ellen that Leonard Peikoff was never set free. His conduct as leader of the Ayn Rand Institute certainly doesn't make it appear that he was.

My impression is that learning of The Affair and then seeing it publically revealed in Barbara Branden's book had the opposite effect--Peikoff became more rigid, sclerotic, and authoritarian than he had been in the late 1970s. I don't think he's ever recovered.


I don't know whether Peikoff expected Valliant to praise Rand's acumen when she made those diagnoses of "big shot premise" and so on. (I don't have any idea whether Peikoff thought they were worth much.) But I do think that Peikoff knew he could count on Jim Valliant to portray Rand in the best possible light and Nathaniel and Barbara Branden (and let's not forget Patrecia Scott) in the worst. I suspect Peikoff also liked the fact that Valliant never knew Rand himself and, being the child of a very different time and place, wouldn't have a clue about AR's sexual psychology.

Robert Campbell

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I don't know who amongst the senior leadership of ARI had doubts about Valliant's project. I'm not privy to that kind of stuff.

I've assumed for the sake of argument that Valliant, who is more plugged in at ARI than he likes to admit, is being truthful about it.

In fact, I would have expected some of the ARIans to have doubts about his project, if they had any notion of the long-term impact on Rand's reputation that could ensue from releasing her private journal entries.


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I don't know who amongst the senior leadership of ARI had doubts about Valliant's project. [....]In fact, I would have expected some of the ARIans to have doubts about his project, if they had any notion of the long-term impact on Rand's reputation that could ensue from releasing her private journal entries.

Darn, I was hoping you might have names. I'm curious because of an intriguing (to me) bit of gossip I'm in possession of, to the effect that Leonard and Harry had some sort of disagreement which resulted in their not being on speaking terms. I wonder if the wisdom of letting Valliant publish the Journal entries might be the disagreement. But...would Harry be sharp enough to anticipate the sort of result which I, like you, expect those entries to have long-range?

(Forgive the morbid interest: I knew both of them, and always disliked Harry, whom we used to call "The Storm Trooper of Objectivism." Just wondering why he and Leonard might have had a point of departure.)


PS: Ciro, I agree with what Robert reports as to Leonard's apparent loosening up toward the late '70s, and then, upon his learning of the affair and upon Barbara's book being published -- I'm not sure which happened first -- reverting to being even more "up-tight," for short.


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Maybe we should start a seperate thread trying to teach objectivists the proper care and feeding of pathos. Throw in some discussion about ethos while we're at it.

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Ellen, I have two comments about possible causes of a possible rift between LP and HB.

1. more amusing -- Bill Dwyer told me that while LP was comfortable with the idea of Objectivists (even himself) going to a nude beach, HB found the idea immoral.

2. more serious -- Bill also told me that HB said that if immoralities or imperfections were found about Ayn Rand, that they should not be made public, because they would discredit her and the philosophy. If he had seen the journal entries included in PARC, he may have had a strong reaction against the idea of making them public.

#2 may relate to #1, if HB is more "shame-based" (about the "private" sexual aspects of oneself being revealed publicly) in his psychology than LP. This is sheer speculation on my part.


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What questions are you guys asking when you read books?

In addition to the sorts of critical-reading factors you and Charles described, I also read from the perspective of a connoisseur of the literary uses of language (i.e., I notice the degree of skill at the art of writing) and from the perspective of professional background at editing and copyediting (i.e., I notice formal features of organization and presentation and, by ingrained habit, the details of grammar, spelling and punctuation). The extent to which I dwell on any of these features, and the respective amount of attention I distribute amongst them, depends on my purpose and context in reading. For instance, if I'm reading the work of a literary master, I'll be trying to observe and relish all the fine details of verbal skill. If I'm reading with my professional hat on, I'll be alert not to miss any errors. If I'm reading a book or article for personal pleasure and/or information, I'll read with greater care than I typically would when reading posts on elists.

She also asked me:

Are you reading PARC & PAR & MYAR side by side?

I read PAR in toto when it was published; in subsequent years, when looking up one detail or another, I've read particular passages; if I combine readings of separate passages, I've probably read the whole book at least twice, some parts more, even several times more, than that. Judgment Day, I likewise read in toto when it was published. I read it again in 1996, at which time I was considering writing to Nathaniel (I did write to him, and we corresponded). I then read it comparing it line by line to My Years with Ayn Rand and making notations on all the changes. Some people make rather a big deal of the changes. I don't understand the large significance these people apparently see in the differences between the first and second versions. My Years with Ayn Rand is, as Bryan Register described it, a "kinder, gentler Judgment Day." But I don't see any case that can be made for duplicity in what Nathaniel altered. Certain factual errors are corrected; fuller attention is paid to other people's contexts. Various unkind (but in a number of cases I thought very accurate) comments about Inner Circle folk are left out. The overall tone has mellowed. But why any of this is considered evidence of a persistent campaign of lying, I don't know.

PARC I've been reading, slowly. The slowness is due to three factors: one, general constraints on my reading time (standard life feature these days); two, the memory-lane excursions the material has sent me on (since I knew most of the people, and I was there for some of the events described, there's much in the book which awakens memories); three, irritation at the thick use of case-slanting techniques.

I've read PARC thus far in the following order: I started with AR's journal entries, skipping Valliant's interspersed remarks (except those included in brackets within the entries). Then I began at the beginning. I read through Part One, III, then skipped to V, then read IV, then VI, which I finished early last week. I now plan to read Valliant's commentary in Part Two.

I said in one of my first posts on the book (one that Jenna quoted) that I expected to be writing a lengthy analysis. I no longer expect to be doing that; there's too much to critique and question -- I think a book more than twice the length of the book itself would be needed fully to do the job. Meanwhile, more time has gone already than I'd expected I'd spend on this book, and I'd like to resume the intellectual explorations I was engaged in before I opened PARC.

There are some additional comments I want to make before I turn to other subjects. I hope I'll get those written this week, around doing expense itemizations for our tax forms. Next week I have a series of meetings. But then I hope I can pretty much put PARC behind me and return to issues of consciousness, volition, and evolution. (And a note to Dragonfly: sorry for the delay; I am planning to get back to you and try again to clarify the issue on which we aren't understanding each other. And to others: I also hope I'll have time to write more on the subject of "psychologizing," and on Kevin's reflections regarding the nature of psychological health.)


PS: Jenna, I'd already written what I was going to post before I signed on to post it -- often I use that technique; less eye strain. I notice that you've meanwhile started a thread specifically about critical reading; but since my reply includes issues pertaining to PARC, I answered here.


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Bill also told me that HB said that if immoralities or imperfections were found about Ayn Rand, that they should not be made public, because they would discredit her and the philosophy.

You know, come to think of it...I too remember Harry's saying things like that.

If he had seen the journal entries included in PARC, he may have had a strong reaction against the idea of making them public.

Plus, he really disliked Nathaniel, so that the thought of AR being in love with Nathaniel wouldn't have sat well with Harry, even if Harry didn't have what you styled "shame-based" (or might be styled "prudish") attitudes re sex. Your speculation might be on target. It's an interesting speculation, whether right or wrong. And it's proper psychology, not what AR called "psychologizing." ;-)



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Harry was a chief exponent, post-split, of this line of argument re the rights/wrongs, the lack of evidence in her statement, etc:

"She wrote Atlas Shrugged; what else do you need to know?"

As to Harry and the enemy mentality (must protect Objectivism against its "enemies"), I repeat a recent incident which I recounted on another thread (the HB on Immigration thread). I advised Roger:

Just don't let on to him that you're on friendly terms with the Brandens if you want to remain on such with him.  I assume he'd consider a friendship with either of the Brandens even worse than one with David Kelley. And there's recent evidence of how he'd view the latter, provided by a brief exchange between Larry (my husband) and Harry following the ARS session in December.  

Arnold Baise, who was watching this incident, told Larry afterward that Larry should write down what happened while both Arnold and Larry exactly remembered. The story is short:  

Larry (walking up to Harry after the meeting and holding out his hand): "Hi, Harry."  

Harry (not holding out his hand): "Aren't you my enemy?"  

Larry: "Am I? Do you have so many enemies you can't keep track?"  

Harry: "Aren't you a friend of David Kelley's?"  

Larry: "Yes."  

Harry: "Then you're my enemy."  

Larry: Laughter.  

Harry: "I'm serious."  

Larry (said in sacrastic tones while walking away): "That's nice, Harry."



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As I indicated the other day, though I'm not going to have time to do a lengthy analysis of PARC, there still are a few comments I want to make before setting the book aside and getting back to the subjects I was pursuing before I began to read it.

One detail concerns Valliant's depiction of Branden's depiction of Leonard Peikoff's proneness to being swayed by the perspectives of philosophers he was studying in graduate school.

Here is Valliant telling the tale:

--- Start Excerpt

[pp. 175-176]

Nathaniel Branden delights in describing Leonard Peikoff as having an "embarrassing" problem during the course of his studies at New York University. (With the famous Sidney Hook as his advisor, Peikoff earned his Ph.D. in philosophy in 1964.)

"If, for example, [Peikoff] was studying the philosophy of John Dewey he could very easily fall into Dewey's perspective without noticing it, accept the premises of Dewey that he in fact knew to be mistaken, and then proceed to panic." Rand would spend a good deal of time helping him with successive waves of confusion. This happened, it seems, with almost every philosopher Peikoff encountered, from Plato to Wittgenstein. Branden says that he was "mystified" by Peikoff's conduct and even wondered why Rand tolerated it.

One might ask whether Peikoff originally "knew" those other ideas to have been "mistaken," as Branden is claiming for him, since he had so easily lost them, but for Branden, it seems, belief needs no more than a first impression. Extensive study and a detailed comparison of Objectivism to previous philosophies, Branden seems to wonder--how could these disturb anyone's "convictions?" [punctuation error in original]

Branden explains that Rand would become angry and impatient with Peikoff, and that he once even came near to what Branden calls "excommunication." However, Peikoff always eventually found Rand's arguments more sound even though he was determined, no matter what the effort involved, to understand them thoroughly before declaring his level of certainty to be what it was not.


Peikoff told the truth about what was going on in his head to Rand, to his teachers, to his chosen counselors. Peikoff gave every new philosophy he studied a fair hearing. He could still be persuaded, he was still open to new perspectives. Peikoff had to be convinced of each and every thing--every inch of the way and in competition with all other ideas--before fully adopting it.

But--Presto!--Branden's magic works its sleight of hand and Peikoff is suddenly cast as "the Randroid," the cult-leader, the intolerant "yes-man" of Objectivism, not Branden himself--in perfect form, again projecting his own identity onto his opponent.

--- End Excerpt

In addition to other questionable features of Valliant's rendition, there's a problem of its being discrepant from what Peikoff himself says about those years. In one of his taped courses -- I think in "The Art of Reasoning" -- Peikoff talks about his tendencies to be swayed, and about what he ultimately did. (I don't have any of Peikoff's taped courses; but our friend Lee Pierson sometimes brings one or another set at Thanksgiving, and as part of the "Thanksgiving Seminar" we'll listen to a lecture or two. Possibly someone else here could identify exactly which course and which lecture is the relevant one.)

Leonard says that it can sometimes happen that a person knows that such and such is the right way of understanding an issue, but the person might be perplexed by questions the person can't answer. He describes this as having happened to him when he was graduate school, his not being able to resolve various doubts vis-a-vis Rand's views. He says that the technique he ultimately employed was that of suppressing (enunciated with emphasis in the lecture) the questions, that of not continuing to pursue them. Deliberately suppress the questions, he recommends to others who might have a similar problem, set them aside, don't pursue them, until one has firmly in mind the correct approach which one knows to be true. He elaborates at some length on this counsel, which my friend Lee described as "TERRIBLE advice." Quite so, I think.

I also think that the described method was Leonard's salvation, as he saw it, since remaining in AR's good graces was of tremendous importance to him and he feared what would happen if he kept on not being able to set aside his doubts.



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  • 3 years later...
Although the issue of AR's anger isn't what I was talking about in my comments regarding her journal entries, it's a subject which keeps coming up. So I might as well re-post here a June 2003 post of mine from the Atlantis_II list in which I told my favorite story of an AR explosion. I've made four minor editorial changes: rearranging the order of the phrases in one sentence, adding a couple commas for clarity in another, and correcting a couple misspellings. I've also deleted a paragraph (originally third paragraph from the end) which referred to comments another poster had made. And I've substituted "[X]" for the name of the poster to whom I was responding. The rest is a verbatim copy of the original post.

--- START re-post

Date: 6/28/03

Subject: [Atlantis-II] AR's Aura (was: Necessarily Wrong)

[X] wrote:

> *sigh* I am again glad that I didn't meet Rand, though I am very curious

> about her and wonder what she would have been like in person. I would love

> to have observed her in action. That is: watched her body-language and

> physical mannerisms while listening to her speak. I am a relatively good

> reader of people and am very curious what I would have found. Anyone want

> to comment?

I might be the only person on this list who *can* comment in any

detail, since I think I'm the only person here who was around her

on more than an occasional occasion. I was never at a social

event where she was present, and I only a few times had any direct

conversation with her (I didn't attempt to initiate conversations

with her, since I could predict what would have happened: it

wouldn't have gone well); but I did attend three lecture courses

at which she was present -- one of them Allan's music course

where I deliberately always sat in the row in front of where

she was sitting so I could eavesdrop on her comments to Edith

Packer (Edith always sat next to her at those lectures).

I also attended the Ford Hall Forum lecture for five or six

years running.

To this day when I remember Ayn as person -- her physical person --

I still feel a palpable sense of her aura. The phrase which

immediately comes to my mind attempting to describe that aura

is "a presence of power." But this can be misunderstood unless

it's taken in a particular sense of the word "power." There

was no quality of aggressiveness, of an attempt to "obtrude"

herself, to exert command. The "power" I mean was a quality

of certainty of mind. Maybe a sense of it will come through

as I proceed.

I assume that you've seen pictures of her, that you know that

she was short -- not a lot taller than I am (I'm 5'2") --

and that she was "squarely," almost stockily, built. Another

word which comes to mind is "stalwart." When she would stand

at the podium she would stand straight, four-square, maybe

with one or both hands resting on the podium while she

read her speech or answered questions. She didn't move or

gesture much while speaking, though there was a particular

gesture she'd make as a sort of emphasis, a "there it is,

that is the thatness of it" statement, a punctuation mark

of finality. This gesture was a sweep of her lower arm and

hand, palm down, on a sharp line from her body outward.

She used that arm/hand sweep several times during the first

lecture of hers I attended. That was before I moved to

New York; it was at McCormack Place in Chicago. Between

then and the next time I saw her, the split had happened

and Nathaniel's and Barbara's replies to her statement

had been published. In his reply he refers at one point

to "a characteristic gesture." I've never asked him, but

I'd bet that the gesture he was thinking of was the one

I'm describing.

She would read a speech in level tones, the words neither

hurried nor dragged, but paced so that each could be

distinguished. She showed no signs of nervousness -- or

even of any awareness of the audience as audience. She

did none of the things one is taught that good public

speakers do -- and which in fact most of the people whom

I've considered good public speakers have done -- such

as trying to make eye contact, trying to develop a "rapport,"

a "relationship" with the audience. Instead it was as if she

was entirely unconcerned about the audience's reaction.

Except when she would make one of her "jokes." When she

would use one of those wry twists she could do on an image

(an example is "The Chickens' Homecoming," the title of

one of her essays), she would pause slightly as if awaiting

a laugh, then look mischievously pleased for a moment when

the laugh materialized.

Despite -- or maybe even partly because of -- her typical

apparent unconcern for gauging audience reaction, her

effect on an audience was riveting. It was as if her mind was

a lens gathering and focalizing thought, and the audience

would respond with a concentration answering hers. Of course,

most of her lectures which I attended were at the Ford Hall

Forum, where the audience was almost entirely composed of

"students of." But the effect was the same at the McCormack

Place lecture, where she was talking to a general audience

numbering in the hundreds. There was soon a "you could

hear a pin drop" intensity of attending to what she said.

And judging from Nathaniel's and Barbara's reports, she

achieved this same response wherever and to whomever

she was lecturing.

Come the question period, though, her channeled calm would

usually evaporate at least once and her wrath would emerge

like a sudden unscheduled intrusion from the percussion section

(using a musical analogy, since it's Doug I'm answering).

Regulars at Ford Hall got so that they could tell when it was

coming. Someone would pose a question by which she felt insulted

or otherwise irritated, and she would let loose with anger.

And then immediately calm down again and proceed, with clarity

and no sign of lingering emotional upset, to answering the

next question.

I was often fascinated by the sudden contrast. My favorite

example needs some background to describe. The moderator at the

Forum was Judge Lurie, an interesting person in his own right.

He was diminutive in size, slim, agile; rather elfishly twinkling --

and sharply quick-witted. Judge Lurie would always repeat so

the whole audience could hear it whatever question had been

asked. Well...one time this guy started asked her something

to the effect (I don't remember the exact words), Why had she

allowed so bad a screenplay of her book *The Fountainhead*

to be shot? (I have no idea if this guy knew that she herself

had had a big hand in the screenplay, or if the question was

asked in ignorance of its being insulting to her.) She started

to rip into him. But Judge Lurie held up a hand and said in

his inimitable speech cadences: "*Miss* Rand, *Miss* Rand

[the reprise at a lower decibel level], wait until I repeat

the question." She sort of ducked as if a little embarrssed and

smiled at him with a shy girlish look. "Oh, I'm sorry, Judge,"

she said. So he repeated the question. And THEN she let the

guy have it. After which she proceeded to give the next

question a penetratingly thoughtful answer as if none of the

above had just occurred.

Returning to my comment above that her aura of power wasn't

an issue of her "obtruding" herself or appearing to try to

exert command: It was something to do with her being intent

and not displaying the sort of social nuances which most

people display. For instance, when she would walk into the

lecture room at one of the New York lectures, she wouldn't

be looking around for people she knew, pausing, smiling

at people. She would just walk into the room headed for her

chair. And if someone would stop her trying to make light

conversation, she would just make some acknowledging response

to the person's presence but continue on her way. Also when

she would talk to people -- for instance in the autograph

line -- it would be as if she had no awareness of her effect

on them; instead as if she was solely occupied, with those

enormous eyes of hers searching the person, only on assessing

the level of intelligence with which she was confronted.


There's more I could say, but I'm hoping that this note might

by seen by [X] before he leaves for the TOC seminar, which

starts today. If you do see this before leaving, [X],

and if you get a chance at the seminar, ask David Kelley and

Marsha Enright the question about Ayn's body language.

David might not have much of a description to offer, since

he would probably have been mainly noticing the details of

what he talked to her *about* instead of her manner of

talking. But Marsha could tell you interesting stories

regarding her cat conversations with Ayn. Marsha had this

way, unlike anyone else I ever observed, of getting into

non-philosophic "chit-chat" (for short) exchanges with

Ayn during the breaks at lectures. (I used to try to lurk

near the edges where I could hear, I was so intrigued by

the difference from her usual patterns in the way Ayn

would react to Marsha.)

Signing off of this one now. I'm in a rush myself preparing

to leave for the evening.

Ellen S.

--- END re-post



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