Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
fanofayn

Nathaniel Branden

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Does anybody know what became of Nathaniel Branden after Rand denounced him? What happened there? I can't find any information on it, not enough to understand it anyway. I'm interested in why they fell out, and what became of him. It's something I have a problem with: people who see the truth, understand it, and then walk away. I don't see how they can. I thought if I could understand his story, Nathaniel Brandon, the ultimate back-turner, then all these others would be a cinch.

Anyone have a clue?

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, I don't really have the motive to look too deeply into this and check the facts (so keep in mind that I could very well be mistaken), but I believe that Branden is pretty much an outcast from Objectivism--from what I gather, neither the Kelley "Objectivists" nor the ARI Objectivists (nor even his ex-wife from the period that they knew Ayn Rand) are too fond of him. By some reports, although I can't verify this myself as I've not bothered to read his book Judgment Day (or My Years With Ayn Rand or whatever its current incarnation is titled), he himself admits that the falling out was a result of his own dishonesty. As far as I know, he still does work in the field of psychology, where I believe he has had some success (it's not uncommon to see his book The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem on psychiatrists' bookshelves).

Anyway, pretty much all that seems to be available on the subject is conflicting reports from various parties involved (and some who weren't) so it pretty much comes down to who do you want to believe? Or does it even matter? I really don't know what happened, and I really don't care that much. I'm interested in Ayn Rand primarily as an artist and a philosopher. Personal problems she may have had to deal with in her life are basically inaccessible to my knowledge, since I wasn't there, but that's fine because they're irrelevant in the context of how it relates to my life, not to mention the context of all of her literary and philosophical achievements.

As far as his motive for turning his back, my guess would be that he either never really grasped the philosophy (though this is incredibly unlikely--by all accounts he is quite an intelligent person, and it's hard to imagine him not understanding it even given the chance to work so closely with Ayn Rand for so long, and then being able to fake it without actually understanding) or that he is now practicing evasion. The extent of the evasion, I can't say. He claims to still believe in the philosophy, I believe, but some of his actions seem pretty questionable if that's true. Sorry I can't be more precise.

So...this was probably too long of an answer, considering that it didn't even really answer your question. Maybe someone else knows more about this than I do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Practical applications of philosophy interest me as much as the philosophy itself. It is through this that I made some of my most important cognitive connections. So, since I apply philosophy to every aspect of my life, even my personal life (especially my personal life), I am interested in the methods of application used by the originator of this philosophy. That is why I ask. What makes you say you aren't interested in Rand and Branden's relationship? Do you disagree with my reasons for feeling the opposite way about it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There was a Showtime movie made about this called The Passions of Ayn Rand. I do not know how accurate the movie is, who it was endorsed by, etc. In the movie, it shows how Rand and Branden met, and how both felt strongly attracted to each other, especially because of their respective intellects. According to the movie, while Rand loved O'Connor for his sense of life and beauty, he didn't quite have the same intellect as her. So, with the consent of both Barbara Branden (Nathaniel Branden's wife at the time) and Frank O'Connor, Rand and Branden engaged in an affair. Eventually though, Branden (according to the movie) violated Ayn's trust and philosophy by beginning to sleep with one of his patients. Essentially, he allowed his emotions to make a decision for him, and violated the trust and philosophy of Rand. When Rand eventually found out about this, she cut off all contact with him and no longer associated herself with him, the Nathaniel Branden Institute, etc. That is how the story was presented in this movie. I am not entirely sure how accurate the movie was.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Practical applications of philosophy interest me as much as the philosophy itself.  It is through this that I made some of my most important cognitive connections.  So, since I apply philosophy to every aspect of my life, even my personal life (especially my personal life), I am interested in the methods of application used by the originator of this philosophy.  That is why I ask.  What makes you say you aren't interested in Rand and Branden's relationship?  Do you disagree with my reasons for feeling the opposite way about it?

Of course I think that practical implementation of philosophy is important. Ideas unexpressed in action are pointless. However, my concern with studying a philosophy is to implement it in my life. I'm not as concerned with how other people, even the origininator of the philosophy, do so. Should I be?

What I was getting at with my statement is that I don't know enough about the situation to make a rational judgment about it. And if I did--what difference would it make either way? If I discovered that Rand's affair and subsequent falling out with Branden had been a mistake on her part, that she had been unable to apply her own philosophy in her own life, would that say anything about the application of the philosophy to my own life? Not really, beyond having the example of a specific mistake that I could then avoid--but I should be able to avoid it anyway simply by the correct application of the principles of the philosophy. If, on the other hand, I learned for certain that the entire episode was Branden's fault and Rand was an innocent party (which seems to be the case based on what little evidence I have), would that help me in my own knowledge (and implementation) of the philosophy? Again, not really. I would then be able to say that the originator of the philosophy was a perfect example of its application to reality, and that would be all fine and good, but I can say that now anyway to the best of my knowledge since I don't have any reason to think she was at all hypocritical. But again, my main concern in learning the philosophy is not about how other people live by it. That doesn't mean that I hold it as a floating abstraction and don't apply it in my own life. It just means that it is primarily in my own life that I'm interested in applying it.

Also, I mentioned something in my previous post about personal problems she had being somewhat irrelevant in "the context of all of her literary and philosophical achievements." If what you're really interested in is the methods of application of the philosophy by its originator, then I would think you'd want to look at the essentials of her life, such as the great literary achievements of her career. I think that's a huge example of the (wildly successful) application of her philosophy to her own life, next to which something like her affair with Branden seems insignificant to me (particularly since career is a primary value, while relationships are only a secondary value).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
[M]y concern with studying a philosophy is to implement it in my life. I'm not as concerned with how other people, even the origininator of the philosophy, do so. Should I be?

No, not "should." Could. I agree with your entire post. I think you are to be commended for being (apparently) a completely independent intellectual unit. I admire your ability to see the concretes in the abstractions. And yes, I do find pleanty of "proof" of this philosophy solely in Rand's literary career. Christ, she basically lived Roark's career (rejection by 12 publishing houses, ridiculous amounts of sabotage attempts by newspaper columnests and public opinion shapers, etc.). This is where the "proof" stops, however. I have always lived this philosophy, yet only found the words for it through my understanding of Objectivism. I recieved my first moral sanction from it (not that I ever needed one; I found I liked having it). I always knew my own value independent from others' opinions of me. HOWEVER, when it comes to personal relationships, I haven't ever met an equal, and the few times I thought I had, when I was proven wrong it was very painful. It is in this regaurd that I was unable to fully understand the practical application of the philosophy, and it was in this regaurd that I was interested in having a model, someone/thing to look to for a better grasp on these concretes in my life. I wasn't used to having this desire, and I don't think I am wrong to look to the only person I can say I completely respect (Rand) for that model. If others don't need such an example, I admire them. I don't need it; I want it. I admire myself for such a desire. Do you think I shouldn't?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...[W]hen it comes to personal relationships, I haven't ever met an equal, and the few times I thought I had, when I was proven wrong it was very painful.  It is in this regaurd that I was unable to fully understand the practical application of the philosophy, and it was in this regaurd that I was interested in having a model, someone/thing to look to for a better grasp on these concretes in my life.  I wasn't used to having this desire, and I don't think I am wrong to look to the only person I can say I completely respect (Rand) for that model.  If others don't need such an example, I admire them.  I don't need it; I want it.  I admire myself for such a desire.  Do you think I shouldn't?

No, I think that such a desire is healthy and normal. What it sounds like you're looking for in such a model is emotional fuel, which is, of course, what proper art provides (like the great heroes Rand gave us through her fiction). Of course, it's also nice to see that in factual reality, not just an artistic recreation of reality as things ought to be. When you feel that for some real person, that's what I would call love (in the highest sense of the word). I think that we can properly feel (and I do) that type of admiration for Ayn Rand based on the essentials of her life, which we do know about.

I know what you mean about never having met an equal in personal relationships. I've been stuck in Utah for most of my life so far, and it's not exactly the best environment for meeting independent, rational individuals. As they say, it's lonely at the top. I think that's where your desire arises from. It's a major issue for the character of Dagny in Atlas Shrugged, particularly in her search for romantic love. Yes, it can be very painful when you meet someone whom you think is good, and they let you down. But you shouldn't focus on the negative. The pain only goes so far, and as trite as it sounds, you will get over it in time. You have to realize that other people, even people you love, have their own free will and are completely independent from you--and can therefore make bad decisions and let you down. Does that mean you shouldn't trust anyone? Of course not. It just means that you should not blame yourself when people you care about disappoint you. Just live your life focusing on your own independent primary values (such as your career) and good relationships will naturally follow. And when good relationships go bad, you just learn from it and keep on going.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest DonGalt

You guys sure to spread a lot of crapola as if it were fact.

I've had conversations (via email) with Barbara Brandon. Nathanial did not walk away from Objectivism, he is not scorned by the Objectivist center. He is a member of TOC and Barbara and he keep in touch. Course this was a few years ago, but that was the state of affairs then.

Anyway, he is another example of an Objectivist that Ayn Rand denounced for arbitrary reasons-- she was jealous!

Rand was a brilliant thinker, but she was also immature. IT should be a warning to you that she created a cult of personality. Dont' fall into the same trap.

I see you guys denouncing people you know NOTHING ABOUT. That is not rational. That is not objective.

Rand was human. She was not perfect. I do not denounce her for her errors. Her denouncement of Nathanial Brandon, along with Rothbard, et al, is a sign of her insecurity.

But since objectivism has the cult of personality around these super-hero characters, many of you cannot admit that she was imperfect.

Get over it. Her personal failures, and even her bad arguments, do not detract from the good work she did.

And you'd be better off thinking and understanding other individuals-- even members of The Objectivist Center-- than isolating yourself and parroting what Peikoff says. (Maybe that's not what you're doing, but its what you seem to be doing.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From what I've read, Branden admitted (in the 1960s) that he did something wrong and then Rand told him to get out and he did. According to Branden's own book, it was he who created the cult of personality, which is why after NBI dissolved she didn't want any "objectivist" institutions.

DonGalt says:

I see you guys denouncing people you know NOTHING ABOUT. That is not rational. That is not objective.

What are you talking about? Basically, everyone has said, "I don't know much about it," no one denounced him. In addition, that story you told about Rothbard is not true. I read that a) he admitted to making it up, as he admitted that his paper The Sociology of the Ayn Rand Cult was fictional, and B) his departure had something to do with Barbara Branden accusing him of plagiarism. Rand was friends with Isabel Paterson for a long time. Paterson was religious and Rand referred to her as a mystic. So why would Rand be friends with a mystic, yet kick out Rothbard for being married to a religious woman?

Who here has said that Rand was perfect in every way? Who anywhere has said that? Rand became angered when people said they worship her, and Peikoff has said on many occasions that Rand was imperfect.

Show me where anyone has parroted what Peikoff said. Lastly, why would I want to bother seeing what people from TOC have to say about Objectivism when I think that they are horribly wrong in their understanding of it? Either grow up or get out, you are nothing but annoying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Random_Troll
Rand was human. She was not perfect.

Wow. So now to be "human" is to be "imperfect?" What is this? Who ARE you? The "human" part of Rand was her brilliance, her creativity, her bravery. Any mistakes people make are the INhuman parts of them; the UNnatural parts/actions. That is why they are called MISTAKES. If it was natural and human to be evil, then you would be right. However, fortunately for ME (being human myself and not to keen on the idea of original sin), to be evil is UNnatural. Check your disgusting premises.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest RadCap

"...she was also immature."

"I see you guys denouncing people you know NOTHING ABOUT."

Strangely, this is my reaction every time I read one of your posts. Project much? ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Spinoza

First off I don't see a lot of denounceing of Branden here so I don't know what Don is talking about.

Second I must admit I am a big fan of Branden so that may color my statements.

I think its commendable that you are looking at examples of how others have practiced the philosophy and may have run into problems. I wished I would have read Branden's book earlier and seen that perspective before I ran into exactly the same troubles he did. (and no I did not sleep around on anybody..sshheesh)

I whole heartedly recommend the book "My Years with Ayn Rand" It's an excellent book and a good read.

The gist I get from reading it was there were mistakes made by both Brandon and Rand. Although if you are to believe the book. Brandon went on to live a fairly balanced and healthy life and Rand continuously closed herself off to the world and enventually was a very bitter woman with few close friends. (not the fate I would have hoped for)

So were did Ayn go wrong. Brandon doesn't claim there is anything inherently wrong with her philosophy. (Quit the opposite he still even to this day is an ardent practicer of the philosophy.) He believes that there are holes and parts missing to the philosophy that need to be elaborated upon. Particularly the psychological underpinnings of objectivism.

Here is a link to more specifics about what Brandon says about the 'holes' in objectivism.

http://www.nathanielbranden.net/ayn/ayn03.html

regards,

Spin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nathaniel Branden's book is awful. I thought so when I originally read it, and I was more sympathetic to his style of thought at that time. He goes back and forth between admitting that he was a bastard and blaming Rand for it: the impression one gets from his book is that he believes in free will, except when Rand is involved, where she had a magical power to override it and rid him of responsibility for any immoral actions he committed.

As much as I hated the movie, I wasn't convinced that Barbara Branden's book was particularly bad until I read James Vallient's (sp?) article, "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics." I would link to it, but it has apparently been taken offline. If you do a google search by title and click on one of the cached pages, there's an email address where you can apparently ask for a copy of it. (Or maybe buy one, I don't know.) I wish I had printed it.

Some of Branden's stuff is interesting reading, mostly for the case studies. But as for theoretical work, I don't think he's done anything of significance since his break with Rand.

Last note: without taking a position on what the real deal is with Rand's personal life -- an issue I don't care about all that much -- I will say that "Facets of Ayn Rand" is a charming and inspiring book, well worth picking up. I laughed out loud a bunch of times... anyone who thinks Rand was humorless (how could you, after Francisco???) should definitely read the part where Peikoff accidentally eats a box of fudge intended for her. Actually, I'll just write it here. It's that good.

"There's an amusing story connected with fudge, and it's an example of her sense of humor. Leonard was fond of the fudge, too. One year, I sent him two pounds, each pound in a separate box -- one with her name, one with his. I expected him to deliver a box to her. Well, apparently, he didn't see the labels. And when he called to thank us, he thanked us for both the pounds. But by the time he called, most of the fudge had been eated by Leonard and some friends. So, I phoned her to report the mishap and to say that I would send her another box. She said something like "Do you mean to tell me that he ate both boxes?" She sounded surprised and somewhat indignant. I said, jokingly, "Ayn, it's not as if he had just challenged the validity of the Law of Identity!" There was a pause, and then she answered, "Well, it's not that bad. But it's close."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If anybody thinks Branden has changed:

See Don Watkins blog at http://angermanagement.mu.nu

and Diana Hsieh's blog at www.dianahsieh.com/blog

They tell the story better then I would. I'll only add a story of Branden from the late 80's. A women name Virginia Hamel wrote a review of Barbara's book and was writing a review of Nathaniel's book.

"It was the address that startled me. I had received an angry, denouncing letter from this address a year or so ago which was so virulent I had tossed it into my "far out loonie" bin. The severity of the hate etched the address in my memory. When I checked my mailing list, there it was. However, it was not under the name Nathaniel Branden but Norman Holland, 1427 Laurel Way, Bererly Hills, CA 90210, who had sent a letter in November 1988 requesting a copy of my article reviewing Barbara Branden's biography of Ayn Rand. A little while later, the letter with its angry tirade arrived."

Edited by softwareNerd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"(2) Talk to people who attended NBI lectures. Ask them to tell you about the behavior of NB, BB, and AR during Q&As, etc."

To anyone on this forum who have attended NBI lectures, what were their behaviors?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wasn't that the book called "In Defense of Ayn Rand"? It was a 5x8" book with a stapled binding. That was the first thing I think I read after C:TUI and AS.

They tell the story better then I would. I'll only add a story of Branden from the late 80's. A women name Virginia Hamel wrote a review of Barbara's book and was writing a review of Nathaniel's book.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On the internet I read an excerpt of a chapter that he left out of his Memoirs. After Devers had found her way outside of Rand's door and had a pleasant conversation with Miss Rand, Miss Rand apparently spoke with her over the phone. One of these conversations where Rand was "hostile" was recorded. He wrote a chapter on it and then decided to exclude it from the book.

I have no way of proving that this happened, let alone what the nature of their relationship was. I don't think I will ever meet Peikoff, et. al.

And then there was an interview shortly after OPAR's publication in which he describes it as too stilted. If that is stilted then I am a parapylegic (?). (I say this with no humility what so ever. It's a good thing that Peikoff is writing a book on Induction.

Those are my main beefs with Branden.

However, is books still serve as a guide. I was told that he was a mystic in his later writings. I would like to see this for myself.

(By the way, what do I KNOW about Rand except from her writings?)

Americo.

Am

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Actually, I recommend that anyone who is interested in evaluating Branden's moral character read the excerpt. In a sense, it's even more damning than his recent antics on Diana's blog.

Even putting aside how much of it must be literary license (as in any reconstructed dialogue) -- and even putting aside that it's a second-hand reconstruction -- think about how implausible the whole thing is. First, the obvious point: look at how Rand is portrayed psychologically. If this were true, Rand would somehow have lowered herself from being the heroine who stood up against *everyone* in developing and espousing her own revolutionary philosophy... and became a neurotic mess? Second, look at how she is portrayed morally. The genius who insisted that her distinguishing trait was not her intelligence but her honesty, whose commitment to grasping reality was sufficient to develop the entire Objectivist philosophy -- she becomes a habitual liar? And last, look at how she is portrayed *intellectually*. I hadn't noticed this the first time I read it, a while back, but she's really portrayed as an idiot here. Not only is she perpetually confused, but in this story, she can't even keep her lies straight over the course of a two hour conversation.

Does that sound like Rand? Or does it sound more like someone's defense mechanism?

Now, this isn't to say that none of it happened. But given the implausibility of NB's story, on top of his general lack of credibility, the only proper way to view this excerpt is as totally arbitrary. Because there's no way to separate what might be true from what might not, the entire account is rendered useless as a historical document.

Incidentally, that chapter *did* turn up in the re-release of Branden's book. One interesting change is that he says the recording of the phone call, which in the online version was never played for anyone, has also been destroyed. This I find *most* implausible. Why wouldn't they play it for anyone? He can't claim it's out of some sort of respect for her privacy. If it were, he would never have printed the chapter. This is the old "oops, the evidence disappeared, but believe me, it was there at one point" trick. (Reminds me of the thread on the Mormans.)

Anyway, enough on that. The moral of the story: Branden is, as Diana Hsieh put it, a dishonest prick. There's no reason to even give anything he says about Rand the status of "maybe". It has no cognitive value at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

August 10th, 2004 is the date for both Don and Diana's posts(for future readers)

Good news: James Valliant's "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics" will be published in February 2005.

From Press release:

"... a work that challeges the biased assumptions of Rand's critics previously held as truth. For the first time, Rand's never-before-seen diary entries are used along with the only in-depth analysis of the biographies written by [the Brandens]- to reveal that they are riddled with errors and misconceptions, thus giving a long absent voice to Rand's defenders."

http://www.emediawire.com/releases/2004/8/emw151733.htm

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here is a description of a new interview that Branden has given to SoloHQ:

http://solohq.com/Spirit/Announcements/4.shtml

Dianna Hesiah has recently exposed his deceit on her weblog and now I read his response to "Orthodox Objectivists" which is "they can go f*ck themselves!" The intellectuality of this man is remarkable. (Sarcasm)

I can hardly wait for the interview. ( More sarcasm)

"Issue 64 of 'The Free Radical' will be sizzling off the presses in a few days. Veteran neo-Objectivist Nathaniel Branden is the star of this issue, interviewed by rookie Objectivist Alec Mouhibian. Dr. Branden thoughtfully & elegantly ranges over such questions as the meaning of life(!), Ronald Reagan, the war in Iraq, Israel, his difference with Ayn Rand over the role of government, the weakness of her case for individual rights, the benefits of having even a flawed world-view as opposed to no world-view, the place of moral judgment, why orthodox Objectivists are humorless, homosexuality, love & the trader principle, & other topics. "Philosophical principles," Dr. Branden admonishes, "are no substitute for thinking, yet many Objectivists act as if they were." Of adherents to one particular piece of orthodox silliness, Dr. Branden is moved to say, "My official response is that they can go f*ck themselves!""

"Thoughtfully and elegantly" in sentence two. "Go f*ck themselves" in the closing sentence. Yeah, Solo has a chance of positively influencing the culture. ;)

Thank goodness for the Ayn Rand Institute.

Edited by Capitalism Forever

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow, what a tremendous event I missed, Diana Hsieh rejecting TOC and heaping just abuse upon the Brandens. It was great, especially her post about Nathaniel Branden, a 70 year old man, playing juvenile pranks and toying with her like an adolescent. Maybe I'll visit her blog regularly now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I was just looking at their tagline: "'The Free Radical - Politics, Economics & Life As If Freedom Mattered'!!"

As if freedom mattered? When I read this, I thought it was their idea of a rather crude joke. That it was actually serious was quite a shock to me. I had no idea just how appallingly irrational these so-called "Objectivists" are.

Has anyone read the interview in this publication? Is it as uncritical and sympathetic as I am suspecting but would no longer find at all surprising?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I was just looking at their tagline: "'The Free Radical - Politics, Economics & Life As If Freedom Mattered'!!"

As if freedom mattered? When I read this, I thought it was their idea of a rather crude joke. That it was actually serious was quite a shock to me. I had no idea just how appallingly irrational these so-called "Objectivists" are.

You sure their not just being sarcastic?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×