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"The Passion of Ayn Rand"

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A third person's perspective of her personal life, on the other hand, isn't of tremendous interest to me, if it cannot be considered trustworthy.

You asked for a third person's perspective on whether or not a third person's perspective of Rand is trustworthy. I am recommending that you form a first person's perspective on the third person's perspective of Rand.

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You asked for a third person's perspective on whether or not a third person's perspective of Rand is trustworthy. I am recommending that you form a first person's perspective on the third person's perspective of Rand.

When you say " a third person" you are referring to a specific person. You cannot then designate a fourth person "third person" as well. When you do, the possibility of this fourth person being trustworthy escapes you, since you have no way of differentiating between the two people.

In this case Barbara Branden is the third person, and it is perfectly fine for someone to ask a fourth, fifth or even sixth person whether she is trustworthy. If we say she's not, as we have, it is perfectly fine for him to trust us, but not Branden: we have proven ourselves trustworthy, she has not.

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I haven't read "The Passion of Ayn Rand" yet, nor seen the movie, but I frequent a forum that Barbara Branden also frequents, and she always speaks of Rand with very high regard, attacks people who criticize Rand, and is a strong proponent of Objectivism. I'm not sure if her views have changed or she's mellowed out, but from my very cursory and superficial understanding of this drama, it seems she was attacking any cult of personality that might have evolved around Rand more than she was attacking Rand or Objectivism.

Indeed, "Objectivist Living" is so virulently anti-Rand and anti-Objectivist that even Barbara Branden seems like a moderate voice of reason at times. Yet the fact is that Barbara's biography trashes Ayn Rand. Along with Nathaniel Branden's memoir, it is the primary source of the all-too-common lie that Ayn Rand was an authoritarian dogmatist who demanded slavish obedience from her supposed followers. That portrayal of Ayn Rand begins in the very first chapters of her biography, in the account of Ayn Rand's life in Russia. I recommend that you read it; it was certainly eye-opening for me.

Moreover, consider the kind of passage from her biography that Barbara Branden herself cites as proof that she is not attempting to denigrate Ayn Rand:

"And yet, when one looks at the life of Ayn Rand, one must wonder if the dogmatic absolutism of her certainty, the blinding conviction of her own rectitude and her special place in the world, the callousness of her intolerance for opinions that were not hers, the unwavering assurance that she was alone to know the truth and that others must seek it from her -- the eyes that looked neither to the left nor to the right, but only at the path ahead -- the savage innocence of her personality -- was not the fuel required for the height of achievement she attained. Just as when one looks at history's great achievers one so often encounters the desperate loneliness and alienation which is perhaps the emotional price paid by men and women who see farther than their brothers, so one encounters these qualities in Ayn Rand. And one must wonder if they are not precisely the qualities that make possible the courage and uncompromising dedication of those who forge new paths through the unknown, enduring and persevering,shouting defiance at [the] enormity of the opposition which follows them at each step of their lonely journey,and adding new glories to our world."

From an Objectivist perspective, that's damnation of Ayn Rand -- on multiple counts. Moreover, it condemns moral and epistemic certainty as a sin, yet claims that such sin was required for Ayn Rand's success. (Platonism, anyone?) Plus, the charges against Ayn Rand are largely fabrication -- as you can learn for yourself by listening to Rand answer questions in the Q&A periods after lectures.

Remember, that's what Barbara Branden considers being a sympathetic biographer of Ayn Rand. It's deplorable -- and anyone who values Ayn Rand and her achievements ought to shun Barbara Branden like the plague.

Edited by dianahsieh
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Perhaps you should read the book, it might give you a better understanding concerning objections to the Brandens people on this forum have, as well as reviewing interviews and articles that Barbara Branden has released in the past.

EDIT: Or follow Diana's links. She has had a history -you might say- with the Brandens and knows the other center and its prevalent attitude from a firsthand perspective.

I haven't read "The Passion of Ayn Rand" yet, nor seen the movie, but I frequent a forum that Barbara Branden also frequents, and she always speaks of Rand with very high regard, attacks people who criticize Rand, and is a strong proponent of Objectivism. I'm not sure if her views have changed or she's mellowed out, but from my very cursory and superficial understanding of this drama, it seems she was attacking any cult of personality that might have evolved around Rand more than she was attacking Rand or Objectivism.
Edited by kainscalia
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Indeed, "Objectivist Living" is so virulently anti-Rand and anti-Objectivist that even Barbara Branden seems like a moderate voice of reason at times. Yet the fact is that Barbara's biography trashes Ayn Rand. Along with Nathaniel Branden's memoir, it is the primary source of the all-too-common lie that Ayn Rand was an authoritarian dogmatist who demanded slavish obedience from her supposed followers. That portrayal of Ayn Rand begins in the very first chapters of her biography, in the account of Ayn Rand's life in Russia. I recommend that you read it; it was certainly eye-opening for me.

Thanks for your comments Diana. Obviously my assessment that her writings were more of an attack on the 'cult' following she perceived and less direct character assassination was incorrect. But I am aware of the general picture it paints of Rand, and the consequences of that, I've just never found it worthwhile enough to spend the time to read, assuming that her character attacks were accurate (which I do not) I would not consider them at all relevant to the validity of the philosophy as a tool for living a good life anyway. I'm interested only in learning as much about the philosophy as possible and integrating it as much as possible into my life. What a former adherent of the philosophy thought of the personal attributes of the originator is really irrelevant to me so that's why I never took the time to read it. As far as I understand, this split and debacle made no constructive criticisms of the philosophy whatsoever, unless it was trying to suggest that Rand's character flaws were a direct result of and only possible consequence of that integrated philosophy - is that the case?

In a more general question, do you, or other posters, think that as part of developing as full of an understanding of the philosophy of Objectivism as possible and learning how to integrate into your life that one should be familiar with this book and the writings of the Branden's? I can see value in being familiar with them in order to dissuade unreasonable criticisms of Rand or incorrect prejudices that developed from these books, which might limit the number of people who get interested in the philosophy, but not much value in understanding and integrating it personally.

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As far as I understand, this split and debacle made no constructive criticisms of the philosophy whatsoever, unless it was trying to suggest that Rand's character flaws were a direct result of and only possible consequence of that integrated philosophy - is that the case?

The Brandens do offer criticisms of the philosophy as part of their criticisms of Ayn Rand, but none of them are good. Most aren't even honest. The only substantive criticisms can be found in Nathaniel Branden's article "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand." (That's available on his web site for free, last I checked.) I've not written anything on that, but I did write three essays on some of his other criticisms of Objectivism:

Brothers, You Asked For It!

Nathaniel Branden Versus Objectivism

Nathaniel Branden's Campaign Against Objective Moral Judgment

In a more general question, do you, or other posters, think that as part of developing as full of an understanding of the philosophy of Objectivism as possible and learning how to integrate into your life that one should be familiar with this book and the writings of the Branden's? I can see value in being familiar with them in order to dissuade unreasonable criticisms of Rand or incorrect prejudices that developed from these books, which might limit the number of people who get interested in the philosophy, but not much value in understanding and integrating it personally.

I think that much value can be found in Nathaniel and Barbara Branden's writings done under Ayn Rand. Those can be found in the bound volumes of The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. (Much great material can be found in those volumes that is not reproduced in any of the anthologies.) Also, much of NB's writings were the basis of his first book The Psychology of Self-Esteem, which I also recommend. I don't recommend anything of else for positive, useful-for-your-life substance. He hasn't had any noteworthy new ideas in the decades since that first book, so most of what he writes is just rehash of rehash. And plenty of bad ideas -- like altruism and mysticism -- have crept in over the years.

However, it is important to know -- based a first-hand assessment -- that both Nathaniel and Barbara Branden ought to be persona non grata to Objectivists. And for that, you need to know that they do unjustly attack Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

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You asked for a third person's perspective on whether or not a third person's perspective of Rand is trustworthy. I am recommending that you form a first person's perspective on the third person's perspective of Rand.

Unnecessary. It is not that important to me. I expressed that badly, earlier. I have not sought out any information about her personal life, trustworthy or otherwise. I do not care about the controversy about *her*.

I have, however, sought out a great deal of her philosophical writings in addition to her "big 3" fictional works.

The philosophy interests me. The personal life of Ms. Rand does not.

I'm sorry that was previously unclear.

Edited by Greebo
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  • 2 weeks later...

Oh, I just read Leonard Peikoff's "My Thirty Years With Ayn Rand" in Voice of Reason which is specifically aimed at portraying who she was and targets the Brandens' accounts. Thought I'd pass that along.

Edited by Sir Andrew
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