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Dennis Hardin

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    Dennis Hardin
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  • Experience with Objectivism
    An Objectivist since reading the PLAYBOY interview with Ayn Rand in 1964
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    psychotherapist

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  1. I was deeply saddened to hear of the recent death of libertarian author and lecturer George H. Smith. The world is definitely worse off for his absence. From a personal standpoint, his passing has left a painful stain on some of my fondest memories from my early years in California, because he was an important part of those years. The best way I can think of to deal with my sadness is to recount some of my memories of George—positive and negative--in writing. I first met George at a taping for one of Nathaniel Branden’s monthly “Seminar” recordings around 1970. The informal question-and-answer session was held at Branden’s hilltop home in Bel Air near Los Angeles. I had only recently moved to California after graduating from The University of Tennessee in Knoxville. I had been a devoted follower of both Ayn Rand and Branden for many years, and decided to move to L.A. in large part to derive what guidance I could from Branden, who had opened a psychotherapy practice in Beverly Hills following their celebrated parting of the ways. At the time I had no friends—Objectivist or otherwise—in California, and George impressed me as not only highly intelligent but also a kindred spirit. Nash Publishing had recently published an anthology of essays titled The University Under Seige, offering the perspective of myself and several other students who had been witness to the campus unrest of the late 1960s. George had only recently signed a contract with Nash to write Atheism—The Case Against God, his now classic and brilliant defense of the atheist position, and he asked me a few questions about my experience as a published author. We became friends, and I often visited him and his wife at the time—the lovely Diane Hunter—over the next few years. I also attended several events at The Forum for Philosophical Studies, a lecture organization he founded in Hollywood. At that point, George impressed me as having an excellent grasp of the Objectivist philosophy, and I had the sense that I could learn from our discussions. I remember seeing him present his essay on “Objectivism as a Religion” to a group of avid listeners in a home near Santa Monica, and I became convinced that his view of the break between Rand and Branden was on the mark. I went on to attend a series of lectures--“The Fundamentals of Reasoning”—which he gave at his Hollywood apartment, and to this day I am aware of the enormous benefit I derived from what he had to say. One seemingly minor example of a lesson I learned from George was the importance of a single principle—persistence. Even today, I often invoke that concept when working through some challenging problem. And it was George who planted the idea if my head that few things were as important to long-term success. When I think of the vital importance of persistence, I think of George. Once the lectures were over, George often invited me (and others) to stay and spend some time socializing and watching TV. As I recall, by this time he had separated from Diane Hunter and was living with Wendy McElroy. We often watched a couple of highly irreverent television comedies—“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” and “Fernwood Tonight.” In the years that followed I occasionally attended parties at George’s home. To repeat, George was very much an important part of my experience of California in the 1970s, and those memories mean a great deal to me. Through him I eventually met such well-known libertarian icons as the late Roy Childs and Jeff Riggenbach. I never agreed with George’s staunch position in favor of anarcho-capitalism, and I think this may have prevented our relationship from developing into a closer friendship. He did not seem to enjoy extended discussions with people who did not see the world as he did. But we were friends, nonetheless. The last time I remember seeing George in Los Angeles was in 1989, at a gathering to celebrate the release of Branden’s autobiography, Judgment Day. At that same occasion, I informed George that I had, along with a colleague, started my own educational organization, The Forum for the New Intellectual. He seemed mildly curious, but never attended during the several years it was in existence. George and I fell out of touch for roughly two decades, until we happened to cross paths again on an Objectivist website. In the meantime, I had pursued a career in psychology, and George had won considerable prominence as a libertarian writer, teacher and scholar. Following our rendezvous in the cyber world, we began comparing notes and had several cordial exchanges, often of a very friendly nature. Although I was delighted to have renewed our acquaintance, I was also shocked and disappointed by a number of things George said. It was clear that he no longer considered himself an Objectivist, even to the point of being disdainful of those such as myself who strongly advocated for Ayn Rand’s ideas. Incredibly, he even went so far as to distance himself from many of his own pro-Objectivist arguments in his book, Atheism: The Case Against God. He no longer considered it important that libertarians have a rational philosophical foundation for their beliefs. Then inevitably the topic of anarcho-capitalism raised its obstinate head. I made my opposition to that (IMO) destructive, rationalistic viewpoint very clear, and he was decidedly unhappy that I would undermine a position that had been the centerpiece of his intellectual career. At some point, a rancorous online debate ensued. It went on for days and it did not end well. George decided to engage in what I considered to be a personal attack on my integrity, and that was the end of it. George displayed a bitterness toward me that cut very deeply. My background in psychology helped me to see where his anger was coming from, but that did little to attenuate my pain and disillusion. That was 2012. We never had any sort of verbal interaction again. And now—ten years later--I have learned of George’s tragic passing, and all the wonderful memories from the 1970s have come back in an avalanche—all the warmth, all the laughter, all the joy, all the hopes for the future, all the dreams of a better world. No matter our differences, George and I shared many of those hopes and dreams, and he helped me learn how to live and work for that world and that future. Farewell, old friend. No matter how virulent and outraged and vicious the waves—the loud, turbulent water that has long since passed under the bridge separating us--I will miss you. Dennis Hardin
  2. Pencil sketch of Ayn Rand from Sunday afternoon, June 11, 1967, as she watched Nathaniel Branden lecture on romantic love at the Sheraton-Atlantic Hotel in New York City. As you can see, I did the sketch while taking notes. I was sitting two rows behind her. This was roughly a year prior to their break. The hotel is no longer there. It used to be adjacent to the Empire State Building.
  3. The point of course is that the movie should motivate people to buy the book. This movie will have the opposite effect. Very few people are going to read Atlas Shrugged because of this movie. If they do, then the poor quality of the movie will not matter. But some people—not a lot, but some-- may never read it because of this awful movie. As to being concerned with the film’s badness: I know it isn’t cool to make moral evaluations and explain why you make them. Atlas Shrugged is a supreme value of mine. I’m just not very cool when it comes to my values.
  4. I’ve often thought that Ayn Rand was wrong to condemn libertarianism for corrupting her philosophy. With all their faults, I have often defended libertarians, and obviously many of them are good, admirable people. After seeing AS3, though—which might be described as a libertarian perversion of Atlas Shrugged—I would have to say Rand was justified in her fears and misgivings. Part Three was the most important part of the trilogy because it was supposed to explain everything that happened in the first two segments. Instead, it obfuscates the story and totally sidesteps the real philosophical issues involved. It relegates the collapse of Rearden steel to the cinematic equivalent of a sound bite. And Galt’s vacuous, disjointed speech explains nothing. It is not only the implied mixture of Objectivism and religion (with Glenn Beck, et. al., giving their stamp of approval to a philosophically banal Galt’s Speech). It is the generally pathetic quality of the film itself from just about every angle—writing, casting, directing, acting, et. al. Consider this comment from The Village Voice: “Rand's parable is meant to showcase just how much our world needs the best of us, but this adaptation only does so accidentally — by revealing what movies would be like if none of the best of us worked on them.” Critics love to portray Ayn Rand as a philosophical nitwit. Now they have a movie from her alleged followers they can offer in evidence. The film makes Objectivists look not only elitist but pretentious and foolish. Not to mention singularly unheroic and intellectually confused. Egoism, like the evil of force, is not an axiom. When civilization collapses due to the wihdrawal of the “men of the mind,” the typical movie goer could understandably blame Galt and his incoherent defense of selfishness, not government coercion. Sadly, many potential readers will never buy the novel after seeing or reading reviews of this film. It is so laughably bad they may dismiss Objectivism as some bizarre ideology like scientology. (Remember “Battlefield Earth”?) They will never know what they missed. Atlas Shrugged Part 3 may well go down as libertarianism’s worst crime against Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Anarchism was bad enough, but the anarchists have never received much attention. Fortunately, few people have heard of the naïve, rationalist “theory” of anarcho-capitalism. But now libertarians have produced a “major motion picture” which may further serve to marginalize Ayn Rand and Objectivism as a lunatic fringe.
  5. According to The New York Post, the budget for AS3 was almost entirely raised through Kickstarter. It was around $447K, compared to 20 million for Part 1 and 10 million for Part 2. So perhaps Glenn Beck, Ron Paul and Sean Hannity bought their own cameos. And silence on the topic of religion. What the heck? Why bicker over some technical philosophical issue?
  6. It was a total disaster. The low point for me was the Glenn Beck cameo. Evidently the producers think Objectivism is perfectly compatible with Christianity. OMG I can't help but wonder what the producer of The Godfather--Al Ruddy--might have done with Rand's novel if she had not stood in his way. I guess now any hope for a film adaptation that truly honors the book is lost. This movie should be an embarrassment for everyone in any way responsible. What a travesty!
  7. I was present at Branden's lecture and heard him make this comment. I recall thinking that Binswanger was liikely the main person he was referencing, but since he didn't name names, that is obviously speculation on my part.
  8. At a lecture many years ago, Nathaniel Branden spoke about a few "Objectivist intellectuals" (the kind often referred to as pencil-necked geeks) for whom Ayn Rand expressed profound contempt. She had conveyed her true feelings about these individuals in confidence, and Branden indicated they never knew of her disdain. He didn't name names, but if you've ever seen Binswanger in person, there's little doubt about whom she was referring to.
  9. Harry Binswanger makes me feel embarrassed to call myself an Objectivist.
  10. I met Barbara in 1989 and had numerous lengthy discussions with her. I regarded her as a good friend. She was always an inspiration to me, beginning with her years at NBI in New York. I believe her numerous contributions to the Objectivist philosophy will eventually be given the importance she deserved. She will be missed.
  11. You're welcome, Tony. BTW, in his article, Biddle talks about Bryan Caplan, a libertarian pacifist. Caplan used to attend an intellectual srudy group for Objectivists which I ran back in the late 1980s in Los Angeles. He was a briliant youngster and we had numerous late hour discussions at coffee shops. Where oh where did I go wrong????
  12. Here is Biddle’s most recent comment on Objectivists associating with libertarians: “None of this is to say that radical capitalists and libertarians should never engage or work together. It can be perfectly principled for radical capitalists to engage with libertarians, so long as in doing so we do not blur the distinctions between the respective ideologies. If the goal of the engagement is morally legitimate—say, to educate libertarians as to the need of philosophy in defense of liberty, or to encourage people to ask their representatives to support the repeal of a rights-violating law, or the like—and if radical capitalists do not make any concessions to the effect that philosophy is unnecessary in defense of liberty, engaging with libertarians can be profoundly good. (I have twice spoken at Students For Liberty events, where I’ve discussed the need for a moral and philosophic defense of liberty, and I’ll continue speaking to libertarians who are willing to consider such ideas.)” From “Libertarianism vs. Radical Capitalism” in the latest issue of TOS. The prior quotation from Yaron Brook strongly suggests that he agrees with Biddle. Contrast this with Peter Schwartz in “On Sanctioning the Sanctioners,” published in 1989: “Justice demands moral judgment. It demands that one objectively evaluate Libertarianism, and act in accordance with that evaluation. It demands that one identify Libertarianism as the antithesis of—and therefore as a clear threat to—not merely genuine liberty, but all rational values. And it demands that Libertarianism, like all such threats, be boycotted and condemned... "Thus, the “benefits” of speaking to Libertarian groups are as nonexistent as the “benefits” of exhibiting books at an Iranian fair. The Libertarian movement is not some innocuous debating club… Does this restrict the options open to Objectivist speakers? Certainly…” Of course, Peikoff endorsed Schwartz’s view in his own paper, “Fact and Value,” and proceeded to officially “expel” David Kelley from the Objectivist Movement for the heinous crime of speaking to a libertarian group. Biddle’s new article makes clear that libertarianism continues to embrace all of the bizarre, irrationalist nonsense condemned by Schwartz in 1989. To say that “official Objectivism” (so to speak) has not reversed its’ position on speaking to libertarian groups is clearly a misrepresentation of the truth and a rewriting of Objectivist history.
  13. That may be true. But Objectivists, in my opinion, are not being consistent with rational egoism if they join the TV commentators and sing the praises of the eager bystanders. Their admiration seems based on their utter disregard of potential danger. It is not heroic to recklessly disregard potential threats to your own life. True courage does not involve recklessness.
  14. According to this article, following a terrorist bombing, emergency crews are actually trained to wait to see if there is a secondary explosion before rushing in to help. I did not know that. The Urge to Help Is Overwhelming This much is obvious: You are not going to be able to help if you are also dead. Beyond that, I would compare "rushing to help" in such situations to running into a burning building to help total strangers. I consider risking your own life for the lives of strangers in this sort of reckless manner to be immoral. I would wait a few minutes to see if there was a secondary explosion. Then I would do all I could to help.
  15. Another aspect of the Boston bombings, which perhaps should be addressed in the Ethics section, is the extensive praise being given to those who ran to help the victims of the first explosion, despite the well-known terrorist tactic of detonating a second bomb aimed at killing first responders. Announcers on Fox News, and probably other networks as well, have spoken of those people running directly into harm’s way as deserving of tremendous admiration for their bravery. One announcer spoke of such heroes as reflecting the greatness of Americans and our unique, instinctive courage in the face of danger. I disagree. As much as I would want to help in any way I could, I would be very cautious about rushing toward the victims until I thought it was fairly safe to do so. I’m curious what other Objectivists have to say on that.
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