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

Nathaniel Branden

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

At the risk of prolonging the thread ....  I can see why one would say that NB made a "big issue" out of it. He wrote a book. I'm not saying -- here -- that he was wrong to "make a big issue out of it". On the other hand, when you say that Ayn Rand made a big issue out of it, to what are you referring? Are you referring to the fact that she added a couple of lines to her books to say that despite the NB essays, which she retained in the anthologies, NB was no longer connected to her? Did Ayn Rand do anything else (anything that is publically verifiable) that could be considered as "making a big issue" out of it?

Ayn Rand used several pages of The Objectivist to blast and criticize Branden.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ayn Rand used several pages of The Objectivist to blast and criticize Branden.

As did Peikoff to Kelley. But I think those criticisms were more intellectual and less personal, am I wrong?

Edited by studentofobjectivism

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ayn Rand used several pages of The Objectivist to blast and criticize Branden.

I am 2/3rds of the way through Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, in the part concerning Ayn Rand's personal notes regarding her attempts to help Nathaniel Branden in the months leading up to her dissociation with him. [Edit-addition: Rand's letter regarding her dissociation with Branden told the necessary facts at the necessary level of detail for the readers of the Objectivist. It was Brandens' letter in response to that that said too much, in that he could not maintain a romantic relation with Rand because of the age difference, which is only one of the many lies he has told.]

I have also read the so-called tell-all biographies by the Brandens, and I feel all the more dirtier for it, and all the more fooled because so many things had to be pointed out to me. Peikoff was right to dismiss them both as outright lies.

Please, for your sake, you need to realize that Branden is blowing smoke. He never fully integrated Objectivism, and had deceived Ayn Rand over the course of 4 years. Do you think he's telling the truth now?

Do you think his criticisms of Objectivism are on the spot? Do you think the philosophy is responsible for the actions of people who do not correctly integrate it to the level of consistent habit, and instead earn the pejorative name 'Randroid'?

If you end up living by Branden's 'corrected' form of Objectivism, you are going to go down a road of pain, my friend. Bad ideas have bad consequences, and those bad ideas are those that have no bearing at all in reality.

Edited by DArcMatter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My personal opinion is that The Passion of Ayn Rand is much less accurate than Judgement Day Judgement day rings true in a lot of ways.

In the book Branden takes responsibility for the mistakes he made and for his role in the breakup. Barbara portrays herself as the perfect person. I believe the breakup was caused purely and wholly by the fact that he ended the relationship with Rand and then she learned he was carrying on an affair with one of his students. She felt rejected and betrayed. I do not believe that he was guilty of any financial misdealings. It just doesnt add up when you know the facts.

Ayn Rand was a great great human being. But, she was not a god and not perfect. She deserves some criticism for what happened between them. However, her philosophy and her work stand on their own. I do not throw out her teachings simply because she made some wrong choices in her life and fell in love with a man who could not return her love. Judgement Day is a fascinating look at the early days of Objectivism. Its a must read for those who are interested in Rand's life. The Passion of Ayn Rand is just a self serving and biased account that omits entirely too much.

Also, they knew each other for 20 years, not 4 years.

Edited by OismForever

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As did Peikoff to Kelley. But I think those criticisms were more intellectual and less personal, am I wrong?

It was definately personal. If it is permissable I will post the article here. Is that allowed?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It was definately personal. If it is permissable I will post the article here. Is that allowed?
While I would recommend the article to anyone interested in this debate, it would not be appropriate to post Ayn Rand's entire article here if it is still under copyright. Limited "fair use" quotation is fine.

BTW, I did not know that article existed. So, thanks for pointing it out. For others, the reference is "The Objectivist, May 1968".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dr. Branden said "I would not want to live forever, I think that at some point I deserve a rest and want to die".

Do many other people feel this way? I just can't understand that at all.

Many old or sickly people feel this way. For example, see:

http://www.finalexit.org

Some possible reasons might be:

1. If death seems inevitable and near, embracing it may give one an illusory sense of power. <<I am choosing to die. Therefore, I am not being taken against my will. I am choosing the time and the method. So they are not being forced upon me by the grim reaper.>>

2. One may realize that one no longer has the ability to do anything creative or anything which will bring one joy. So one may decide that the best thing one can do to promote one's values is to relieve others of the burden of taking care of oneself.

3. One may mistakenly think that by dying one is escaping from the suffering caused by disease and the loneliness of the old who have lost all their friends and relatives. <<When I die, I will go to heaven and be cured of all my illnesses. There I will see all my friends and relatives again, restored to youth and health.>>

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Miss Rand was honest.  Branden is a manipulative liar and a parasite that has exploited Miss Rand's popularity for decades. 

Nathaniel is many things. He was Rand's best friend and frequent lover for the most intellectually fertile and personally dynamic fifteen years of her life. He was her hero, and Galt, and the love of her life. Any criticism of Nathaniel reflects directly and overwhelmingly on Ayn. It's as obvious as "A is A."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nathaniel is many things. He was Rand's best friend and frequent lover for the most intellectually fertile and personally dynamic fifteen years of her life. He was her hero, and Galt, and the love of her life. Any criticism of Nathaniel reflects directly and overwhelmingly on Ayn. It's as obvious as "A is A."

There are two problems with this statement.

In the first place, what Branden is now and what he was at the beginning of his association with Miss Rand are not necessarily the same. Under no conditions do his actions after the breakup reflect anything on Miss Rand.

Second, Miss Rand was completely fooled by Branden. A liar's success does not reflect on his victim if the victim was doing everything in their power to discover the truth, and after reading Valliant's book, it is clear Miss Rand was doing just that. Lillian Reardon cleverly used Hank's sense of justice to disarm him for years; the fact that she turned out to be an utter scoundrel does not reflect "directly and overwhelmingly" on Hank, does it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the first place, what Branden is now and what he was at the beginning of his association with Miss Rand are not necessarily the same.  Under no conditions do his actions after the breakup reflect anything on Miss Rand.

People don't change much in life--especially after age 30 or so. (A handful of very deluded people think they do--but just ask their friends.) So Nathaniel's actions reflect highly (and mostly to her credit) on Rand right now.

Second, Miss Rand was completely fooled by Branden.  A liar's success does not reflect on his victim if the victim was doing everything in their power to discover the truth, and after reading Valliant's book, it is clear Miss Rand was doing just that.  Lillian Reardon cleverly used Hank's sense of justice to disarm him for years; the fact that she turned out to be an utter scoundrel does not reflect "directly and overwhelmingly" on Hank, does it?

That was fiction--and completely unrealistic. No such marriages take place in real life. It was "poetic license."

As for Ayn being "completely fooled"--just how foolish do you think she was, AisA? Even if she was fooled, she probably wanted to be fooled.

And Valliant is not a credible source. It's way too little, way too late. If the two Brandens were so evil and false in their books then Peikoff and others should have set the record straight long ago. That these high-ranking Objectivists don't put forth an alternative biography prior to their deaths is a stunning loss to all of mankind--and totally inexcusable.

Even if they lie and excuse and rationalize and evade to infinity--so what? At least we have an alternative narative. Maybe these ARI guys will issue forth the usual uncritical, unintelligent, fawning hagiography, but at least we can compare their lies to Nathaniel's and Barbara's. As Isaac Asimov once observed: History is replete with people telling "self-serving lies."

We all desparately need to compare and contrast the various versions of Ayn's life from the main principals involved. I prefer not to defer solely to the authority of ARI, nor to take it all on faith.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And Valliant is not a credible source. It's way too little, way too late. If the two Brandens were so evil and false in their books then Peikoff and others should have set the record straight long ago. That these high-ranking Objectivists don't put forth an alternative biography prior to their deaths is a stunning loss to all of mankind--and totally inexcusable.

Ariana, it could be that Peikoff et all. didn't know enough about that part of her life to write an alternate biography. It seems sort of petty to care who did what, seeing as how one of the parties involved is dead. To expend your time pondering what actually happened between two consenting adults more than thirty years ago holds as much interest (at least to me) as reading cheap tabloids.

We all desparately need to compare and contrast the various versions of Ayn's life from the main principals involved. I prefer not to defer solely to the authority of ARI, nor to take it all on faith.

I completely agree with you on this point.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
People don't change much in life--especially after age 30 or so. (A handful of very  deluded people think they do--but just ask their friends.) So Nathaniel's actions reflect highly (and mostly to her credit) on Rand right now.

This statement confuses me. Which of Branden's actions reflect highly on Rand? By highly do you mean favorably or strongly?

That was fiction--and completely unrealistic. No such marriages take place in real life. It was "poetic license."
Setting aside for a moment the fact that history is replete with women manipulating men (and vice versa), your comment is not an answer. Would the fact that Lillian turned out to be scoundrel reflect negatively on Rearden's character? If so, please explain how one individual's moral status becomes a function of another individual's actions.

As for Ayn being "completely fooled"--just how foolish do you think she was, AisA? Even if she was fooled, she probably wanted to be fooled.
Your premise seems to be that any successful fraud is partially the fault of the defrauded party. Why do you think this?

And if Miss Rand wanted to be fooled, why did she struggle so hard to discover the truth?

Have you read Valliant's book? It contains many of Miss Rand's private journal entries. Please read them and then tell me you still think she wanted to be fooled.

And Valliant is not a credible source. It's way too little, way too late.
Too little? Valliant's book is 433 pages with 492 footnotes. How much is enough? Why is truth a function of volume?

Too late? For what?

Why is credibility solely a function of timing?

If James Valliant did not have access to all the materials he needed for this project, or if he was simply busy doing something else, why does that necessarily disqualify his work? Why would Miss Rand's and Branden's own words be relevant and credible, say, 20 years ago, but not credible today?

If the two Brandens were so evil and false in their books then Peikoff and others should have set the record straight long ago.
Peikoff is a philosopher, not a biographer.

That these high-ranking Objectivists don't put forth an alternative biography prior to their deaths is a stunning loss to all of mankind--and totally inexcusable.
As Rand's heir, it was Peikoff who decided to make Miss Rand's private journals available to Valliant. Her words are the best possible refutation of Branden's lies, many of which, incidentally, he has already admitted.

Even if they lie and excuse and rationalize and evade to infinity--so what? At least we have an alternative narative. Maybe these ARI guys will issue forth the usual uncritical, unintelligent, fawning hagiography, but at least we can compare their lies to Nathaniel's and Barbara's. As Isaac Asimov once observed: History is replete with people telling "self-serving lies."
If this were true, if all we can expect from biographers are lies, then why would you urge Peikoff to put forth a "narrative"?

If all such narratives are so full of lies and evasions, why is the failure of "high-ranking Objectivists" to "put forth an alternative biography prior to their deaths" "a stunning loss to all of mankind"? How does mankind benefit from lies and evasions?

We all desparately need to compare and contrast the various versions of Ayn's life from the main principals involved. I prefer not to defer solely to the authority of ARI, nor to take it all on faith.
You need not take anything on faith. Valliant thoroughly documents his accusations; you can look at all of the source material your self.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Any criticism of Nathaniel reflects directly and overwhelmingly on Ayn. It's as obvious as "A is A."

That tone is way too harsh on Ayn Rand.

It would be reasonable to suspect that Ayn Rand's association with Branden may illustrates some of her personal failings.[Though I have to stress that those were very very minor and do not even begin to compare with Branden's deception.] She was passionately committed to her work and singleminded in her determination to achieve her goals. The book "The Ayn Rand Journal" has a quotation of some of her introspective notes regarding her commitment to her work. In it Ayn Rand basically tells herself that from now on she will be completely committed to her work and forget her personal needs. She actually uses the words "You don't exist ! You are just a writing machine !".(Refereing to herself.)

It is very difficult to find fault with Ain Rand for having made that commitment. Would she have been able to achieve what she achieved if she hadn't done so ? I think that would be extremely unlikely. Yet her neglect of herself and her personal needs probably did have side effects, but I would not want to speculate on what those might be. But it does seem likely that if she had taken care of herself properly, she would not have made the tragic mistake of trying to seek fulfillment through Nathaniel Branden. It also seems likely that Branden made use of her personal shortcomings to manipulate her.

Yet I do not find fault with her for anything. Perhaps it was inevitable in the sense that it would have been impossible for her to discover Objectivism without being committed to the point of neglecting her personal needs.

Ayn Rand may not have been perfect, but she was a great human being in every sense. By all credible accounts, she was exceptionally benevolent at a personal level.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
People don't change much in life--especially after age 30 or so. (A handful of very  deluded people think they do--but just ask their friends.) So Nathaniel's actions reflect highly (and mostly to her credit) on Rand right now.

I can't imagine what sort of mental process would lead anyone to this conclusion. We judge someone based on how he acts given the knowledge available to him. When Rand thought Branden was a moral hero, she treated him exactly the way one should treat a moral hero. When she discovered he was the exact opposite, she treated him the way one should treat such a character.

The only criticism one could possibly level at Rand is that she had reason to doubt Branden's true character but did not pursue or evaded that evidence. But in light of the publication of Rand's private journals, such a criticism is baseless and contrary to all known fact.

Given the above, to negatively judge Rand for her failure to determine Branden's true character earlier than she did is completely irrational and unjust. One does not watch a man commit murder and then blame his victim for failing to run faster.

And you are right -- people don't often change much later in life, which is exactly why it is absurd and inexcusible for people to "forgive" Branden his sins: years spent engaging in massive deception. (This, in addition to the continuing evidence of his dishonesty.)

As for Ayn being "completely fooled"--just how foolish do you think she was, AisA? Even if she was fooled, she probably wanted to be fooled.

What evidence do have that indicates she "probably wanted to be fooled"?

And Valliant is not a credible source. It's way too little, way too late. If the two Brandens were so evil and false in their books then Peikoff and others should have set the record straight long ago. That these high-ranking Objectivists don't put forth an alternative biography prior to their deaths is a stunning loss to all of mankind--and totally inexcusable.

What's inexusible is your complete inversion of justice and complete disregard for reason.

Whether Valliant is credible or uncredible is a moot point since Valliant is not a source. In his book, he (1) analyzes evidence available to anyone who can read and (2) reproduces Ayn Rand's personal journals. All he offers are facts and arguments. The facts can be checked by anyone who cares to. The arguments can be evaluted by ayone who cares to. In no case is the reader asked to rely on Valliant's testimony.

The fact that the Brandens' books were so evil and false is precisely the reason why no honest person had any obligation to answer them. One need not refute the arbitrary. Certainly not Peikoff, who has spent his life doing something much more important: teaching and spreading Objectivism. I don't know what philosophy you think mandates that people write biographies of their friends, but it sure as hell isn't Objectivism.

Even if they lie and excuse and rationalize and evade to infinity--so what? At least we have an alternative narative. Maybe these ARI guys will issue forth the usual uncritical, unintelligent, fawning hagiography, but at least we can compare their lies to Nathaniel's and Barbara's. As Isaac Asimov once observed: History is replete with people telling "self-serving lies."

This is completely inappropriate. You are criticizing people for what you claim they might do in the future, and are finding them more blameworthy than two people who have actually written books repleate with provable lies and arbitrary insults. And what evidence do you present? Nothing, except that axiom with which you start: that the picture of Ayn Rand painted by the Brandens is true. Fantastic.

We all desparately need to compare and contrast the various versions of Ayn's life from the main principals involved. I prefer not to defer solely to the authority of ARI, nor to take it all on faith.

That's right. Instead you defer solely to the Brandens...and taking them on faith is precisely what you've done.

Edited for clarity.

Edited by DPW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of what I wanted to say about Branden's article was already said by AisA.

While Branden has a point in saying that people need to learn how to be rational, this is nothing new. It isn't simple to know how to make sense of things, how to approach problems in order to solve them. He tells a lot of falsehoods hoping to show that Ayn Rand rejected that.

Also, notice how he calls benevolence, mutual helpfulness and mutual aid principles, and supporting life, assisting and alleviating suffering virtues. I found that to be very irresponsible of him, as it is clear what virtues are and why. Principles on the other hand should be practical (as in possible to apply in practice), and mutual helpfulness or mutual aid are not.

I find this sentence very dubious:

I do not mean to imply that she wanted to substitute for the theory of evolution the religious belief that we are all God’s creation; but there was definitely something about the concept of evolution that made her uncomfortable.
What am I as the reader supposed to conclude from that?

On the subject of repression, I can tell many things, however, I will just quote a few sentences he wrote, to show that it's all nonsense:

Consider these facts: The hero has just been expelled from school, he is the victim of injustice, he is misunderstood by virtually everyone, and he himself tends to find other people puzzling and incomprehensible. He is alone; he has no friends. There is no one with whom he can share his inner life or values. So far, with the possible exception of being expelled from school, this could be a fairly accurate description of the state of the overwhelming majority of adolescents. There is one big difference: Howard Roark gives no indication of being bothered by any of it.

Forgetting for a moment that "the overwhelming majority of adolescents" didn't develop the level of reasonable thinking even close to that of Howard Roark, my qusetion to his last sentence is, why should he?

Yes, he has been expelled from school, but as he says later, he should have left sooner, because there was nothing new he could have learned. The mere fact that he was expelled changes nothing in his life, as he is competent enough - even without the diploma - to design his own buildings.

He is the victim of injustice, Branden says, but is he really? Think about it. In a free society, every school and every college chooses whom to teach and whom not to teach. Why should it be unjust that he was expelled? Because he was a great architect? It's the school's loss, really.

He is misunderstood. So what, I ask? Should he be miserable because nobody understands that a building should be the image of it's architect's soul?

Branden says that Roark finds others puzzling and incomprehensible. Really, why should he be concerned about their motives?

He is alone and has no friends. The most that can be said about that is that it's sad that there are no people of value to such a great man.

The questions Branden raises are all trivial and have no connection to Howard's goal in life, or his happiness. Now, irrational adolescents such as Branden correctly notices make "the overwhelming majority" might be bothered by this to the extent which is irreparably self-destructive. But Howard is an ideal man, not an average adolescent.

Another thing Branden does not understand is the difference between moral depravity - or "evil" - and an honest mistake. He shows this in the part he entitled "Encouraging moralizing," but I can't find the exact sentence where this becomes obvious. Anyway, he says something to the effect of that telling a person what he's done is immoral or irrational is bad because that will induce the feeling of guilt and whatnot, and that this wrongdoing will most likely then be repeated. On the contrary, however, if this wrongdoing was due to real moral depravity, the wrongdoer will most likely be angry at you or whatever their whim tells them, while if this wrongdoing was the result of an honest error, the result will be an apology and the confirmation of your judgement. Most likely, the response will be "you're right, I did do wrong, I'm sorry, I won't do it again" or something to that effect. Once again, it shows why it is virtuous to be just.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

All these replies are daunting. :( I'm just going to try to answer the main points:

Absent alternative biographies from the ARI crew, the two Branden books stand as the definitive works on The Life Of Rand. History will conclude thus. The silence of Peikoff, Schwartz, Binswanger and others who knew Rand is deafening and intolerable. Silence here is assent. History will look very poorly on their "It's all lies," and "We're not biographers," statements.

This despite the fact that Nathaniel and Barbara both absurdly paint themselves as saints. Talk about payback time! :nuke: These two only err when they think they made a mistake and fail to appreciate their own infinite greatness. We do indeed need to hear the other side of the story. Valliant's book is rather helpful--but not nearly enough. The silence of Peikoff et al.--and the implication that we should take their painfully brief counter-claims as gospel--is shameful.

At a minimum these guys need to read the two bios and then list their twenty or so strongest disputes. How hard can this be? Let someone at least interview these busy busy people to reveal at least a summary of what they say is false and evil in the 2 lengthy bios on record. I remind everybody--Nathaniel and Barbara spent YEARS of their valuable lives on recording this stuff. Does anyone really think it's all a calculated insult and fraud?

Let Peikoff and crew also have the humanity and integrity to also explain what is true and insightful and helpful in the work of the Brandens. Otherwise, no one will believe them, and maybe no one should.

The ultimate truth here is that Rand was an utter GIANT but somewhat flawed as well. Nathaniel was a semi-giant (and still is). Given his youth and looks, he was a worthy lover. Barbara, in turn, was a bit of a mediocrity. Still--Barbara broke the ice and opened up the gates to a lot of truth. She probably inspired and forced Nathaniel to vastly improve his Rand bio. This includes the quality of his self-serving lies.

The current ARI stance on biography is deeply anti-social, and an insult and affront to all. They ask us to defer to their magnificent authority and take it all on faith. But no one will.

For me the issue is very simple: No more excuses! At the very least, Peikoff and others should give us 10 or 20 hours of oral history on The Life Of Rand. Hit the tape recorders, guys! :lol:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The current ARI stance on biography is deeply anti-social, and an insult and affront to all. They ask us to defer to their magnificent authority and take it all on faith.

[bold added for emphasis.]

What is your evidence for either of these charges?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What is your evidence for either of these charges?

Why bother asking? She has so clearly demonstrated her contempt for justice and rationality that to pretend this is an honest intellectual dispute is to help her perpetrate a fraud.

Edited by DPW

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why bother asking?  She has so clearly demonstrated her contempt for justice and rationality that to pretend this is an honest intellectual dispute is to help her perpetrate a fraud.

From the Forum Rules, Intellectual Guidelines, Prohibited Behavior:

"If you disagree with another poster, attack the argument, not the poster. If you think that a poster is behaving in an irrational or immoral manner, contact the moderators."

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.

×