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A recent interview with Dr Nathaniel Branden

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Guys, guys, is there any solid reason that Nathaniel Branden is continually viewed as though he were the Second Coming of Immanuel K. himself?

Whatever the personal and intimate facts behind his break with Rand, remember that he was the one who was ousted from O'ism.

In all that I've seen of his interviews and books, he has never been anything but respectful of her, and laudatory of Objectivism. And here is a man who could have turned viciously on the philosophy and the philosopher, but not one of the true enemies of O'ism has ever been able to use him as their ally in their attacks. He has had the opportunity for forty years to trash Rand to make himself look better and has refused to do so .

Ask yourselves a. How much does he know about O'ism? Well. he was in on its early formation, and understands it as only a handful do. Despite a few intellectual differences with Ayn Rand,(on emotions, psychology) he has said repeatedly that the fundamentals are absolutely true. (Coming from a man of such brilliance, you can take that to the bank.)

b. How much have any of you actually read of his? there are around 20 books I think, and I don't believe anyone has the right to pass judgement on him until you have read a good number of them. (If you are all so well integrated with O'ism that you don't need to learn more, then I am in awe and envy of you.)

c. His latest publication 'The Vision of Ayn Rand - The basic Principles on Objectivism', might, for all we know, be his last (he is 80), and to me it's like he is going 'back to his roots', and making it clear where his lifelong loyalty and principles have always lain: maybe, the crowning achievement in the life of a man of integrity, who will (imo) be considered, one day, a hero of Objectivism.

Read him as though you had never heard of him before, and see what you think.

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Guys, guys, is there any solid reason that Nathaniel Branden is continually viewed as though he were the Second Coming of Immanuel K. himself?

Whatever the personal and intimate facts behind his break with Rand, remember that he was the one who was ousted from O'ism.

In all that I've seen of his interviews and books, he has never been anything but respectful of her, and laudatory of Objectivism.

No, that's not true. He has been very condescending toward Ayn Rand, her philosophy and Objectivists generally. And he has promoted things like mysticism.

The break with Objectivism was due to his transgressions.

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How about the little article he wrote when his nosy wife (Devers, I believe it was) kept poking around at Rand, and when Rand was naturally suspicious (who wouldn't be?) he proceeded to paint the Wicked Witch portrait?

And, for crying out loud, Diana Hsieh's own experiences with the man and his behavior in the mailing list?

Man of integrity my tootsie.

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Have I read the Benefits and Hazards essay? yes, several times, but only since a year ago. Unfortunately; I think I would have benefited more if I'd come across it back in 1984 at publication.

To expound briefly,- after discovering Ayn Rand in the early 70's I felt - as hundreds of thousands have - like a man dying of thirst and not even knowing it, until he falls into a huge lake.

To cut a long story shorter, along with a fast- changing view of myself, others, and existence, I also found myself desperately wanting to live up to the standards she set as proper for Man's life, and also started becoming rigid, emotionless, and fast to moralize about people.

But I knew, deeply, that this was not the objective Rand had in mind for budding O'ists; she did possess a benevolent world-view, and I believe til now, a deep compassion for the individual and his struggles.

For 20-odd years I dealt with this my own way, and slowly learned how to start enjoying life, how to accept myself, without compromising the principles of Objectivism. It wasn't easy. I'll leave it by just stating that N.B.'s 'Benefits and Hazards' rang a huge bell in me when I finally read it.

Branden, whose literature I also came to very late, fills in the huge gap, I believe, between the 'IS' that we are left with as a result of our genetics, upbringing, and general psychological state, and the 'OUGHT', that is the morally rational world of Objectivism we wish to incorporate in our lives.

His work in Self -Esteem, living consciously, loving consciously, I see as an essential supplement to O'ism.

For young O'ists, today, to not realize their fortune in having Rand and Branden (and Piekoff, and Kelley) -- all this wealth of brilliant thought at their fingertips - to take one side against another, seems to me self-defeating and irrational.

So yes, the B and H essay, is required reading for all O'ists - and I challenge anyone to read it without feeling a tiny jab of recognition.

A couple of points:

Branden began concentrating increasingly in later years on the field of consciousness; with some wonderful success, I think. That this work took him to the very limits of reality, is no more than what a rigorous thinker should do. Understand that he was seeking to understand human consciousness within these boundaries, not delving into supernaturalism.

When he said (in an interview a few years ago) " I am not a mystic ", I for one totally believe him.

As a 'critic of Objectivism' -albeit, one who called himself a neo- Objectivist just weeks ago - well, isn't it preferable to hear criticism from someone who KNOWS the philosophy, an (ex)insider, rather than from all those prejudiced ignoramuses that O'ism is targeted by? Or is this why he has been labelled so unjustly as a 'traitor'?

Lastly, maybe it's an age thing - an issue that I have never brought up before on a forum, because I have always held that a mind has no age - but one does start realizing in later life that even the most evolved, rational, and moral individuals, are still human beings : which makes one appreciate them ever more intensely. That they commited a few errors in their lives should not degrade them in anyone's esteem.

Branden says at the end of the Freedomainradio interview (on the subject of redeeming your past mistakes) "But what do you want to do about it [your life] now?"

Now I've had my say on this admittedly sensitive topic, I'll shut up now, and take a back seat from here on. <_< Thanks.

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I completely agree with you, whyNOT.

When I read Ayn Rand's novels and nonfiction, I became quick to moralize about people, quick to repress my own emotions and sexuality as evil, and was far too rigid about my own life and my goals. I've since reversed a great deal of this damage, but it's not the fault of objectivism per-se. It's that, as Branden says, irrespective of Rand's explicit philosophy, she expresses certain ideas in her novels that are contrary to her philosophy. Or, at the very least, it is easy to take away the wrong impression from her novels. E.g. that you are a worthless failure if you're not a John Galt. Rationality has nothing to do with being 'perfect' or never having made a single mistake in your entire life. No, an *irrational* person would think they're incapable of making a mistake or that they have never made a mistake, even though they in fact have. A *rational* person makes a mistake and doesn't deny it; he learns from it. Just as Rearden and Dagny both did. (Ayn Rand made mistakes with her philosophy and some pretty huge mistakes in her own life, just as *everyone* does). Yep, Rand had a benevolent world view, and that's something young o'ists seem to gloss over...they think Rand is 'up there' judging everything they do (this is, unconsciously, how I felt), and so they fear making even the tiniest mistake in their lives or not living up to some ridiculous standard of total rationality every second of their existence. You know, even totally rational people (assuming such a person exists), will make mistakes. It's called context of knowledge. Yet another principle of o'ism that seems to be overlooked far too often. If you think like this, you'll end up tearing your self-esteem to shreds. You'll never appreciate a single achievement in your entire life, and probably, eventually not be able to achieve anything because you're so worried you'll make a mistake. If, instead, you simply allow your passion and motivation to carry you as far as it can, you'll find happiness each step of the way. You'll be able to stop and smell the roses, as it were.

I'm not rejecting objectivism and if you think I am, or that Nathaniel Branden is, then you haven't read a single word I or he has written.

I felt a huge amount of recognition reading that essay, and had I read it 4 years ago I would have been much better off psychologically and in my interpersonal relationships. But I managed to correct my mistaken ideas on my own and feel much better for it. I don't denigrate myself anymore for making mistakes, big and small, or for not being the absolute most talented pianist/linguist/writer ever (those are my interests just so you know I'm not making stuff up). I know it's not a matter of how brilliant or talented you are at something that creates self-esteem or that makes you virtuous. It's whether you go about them rationally or not, and destroying your self-esteem for not living up to the (fictional) ideal of John Galt leads to less creativity and talent, if anything. I used to have nervous breakdowns, in fact.

Edited by Krattle
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I'd have to re-familiarize myself with this whole issue, but my assessment was not that he was making honest evaluations, but that he was slandering and misrepresenting people, especially Ayn Rand. He was also guilty of dishonesty. Diana Hsieh had a recent experience with him which showed he hadn't changed. It's probably still on her website.

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I don't know how *you* can judge that he misrepresented Rand, as he was pretty intimate with her, while you were not. I think there are only a handful of people in the world capable of judging whether what he has said about Rand is "misrepresentation" or otherwise.

Guilty of dishonesty??? I'm not even sure what you mean by this. People lie sometimes, you know, even rational people. And you haven't said in what context or why Branden was dishonest.

May I point out that *this* is the level of argument presented on this forum against Nathaniel Branden: "Indeed. Branden is a turncoat second-hander mystic." Until you actually enumerate all the reasons he is deserving of such slander, I'm not listening to your childish name-calling. People have said he "misrepresented Rand." OK, show me exactly what he said that was wrong. Otherwise you're just making wild accusations without any evidence.

Edited by Krattle
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I don't know how *you* can judge that he misrepresented Rand, as he was pretty intimate with her, while you were not. I think there are only a handful of people in the world capable of judging whether what he has said about Rand is "misrepresentation" or otherwise.
For what it's worth, Dr. Peikoff had some things to say about this in his latest podcast, during his answer to the latest Rand biographies.

Furthermore, he also spoke about it in a speech he gave in the mid '80s, about Ayn Rand's life, which I just happened to recently listen to.

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I don't know how *you* can judge that he misrepresented Rand, as he was pretty intimate with her, while you were not. I think there are only a handful of people in the world capable of judging whether what he has said about Rand is "misrepresentation" or otherwise.

Here is one quote from The Benefits and Hazards of Objectivism:

http://www.nathanielbranden.com/catalog/ar...nd_hazards.html

"If you read her books, or her essays in The Objectivist, or if you listen to her lectures, you will notice with what frequency and ease she branded any viewpoint she did not share as not merely mistaken but “irrational” or “mystical.” In other words, anything that challenged her particular model of reality was not merely wrong but “irrational” and “mystical”—to say nothing, of course, of its being “evil,” another word she loved to use with extraordinary frequency."

I've read Ayn Rand's works and have listened to talks by her, in no case did I find her evaluating positions as wrong because "she did not share them". She evaluated them wrong, because she showed them to be wrong with a level of clarity that is rare, and when she accused someone of being irrational or a mystic, it was because if followed logically.

He then says:

"With regard to science, this led to an odd kind of scientific conservatism, a suspicion of novelty, an indifference—this is only a slight exaggeration—to anything more recent than the work of Sir Isaac Newton. I remember being astonished to hear her say one day, “After all, the theory of evolution is only a hypothesis.” I asked her, “You mean you seriously doubt that more complex life forms—including humans—evolved from less complex life forms?” She shrugged and responded, “I’m really not prepared to say,” or words to that effect. 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."

This is psychologizing. He is assuming she would not take a rational position on the matter. This is especially galling when you realize her epistemology is so powerfully real world oriented and very much in harmony with science.

Then right on the next paragraph he says:

"Like many other people, she was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon. The evidence that was accumulating to suggest that there was something here at least worthy of serious scientific study did not interest her; she did not feel any obligation to look into the subject; she was convinced it was all a fraud. It did not fit her model of reality."

ESP has no evidence to support it. None! So what is he talking about? Ayn Rand is the most evidence oriented person I know of, btw. She provided the philosophical foundation for science, after science was attacked by Hume and Kant.

Anyway, I'm finding these sort of statements by Branden in that one article.

Edited by Thales
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I have been a member of this Forum for only a few months, but a trend is very clear. Do you notice that we are sitting ducks for everyone who wants to take a swing at Ayn Rand and Objectivism. In recent months we have seen a guy who is nearly as pure a Kantian as I have seen since grad school carry on for days and days. I expect he thought that he was playing with us. And of course, those hangers-on, sort of camp followers who sort of want to be Objectivists, but actually don’t want to use reason and think pop up all the time, sometimes waiting for months before revealing themselves. I am talking about the libertarians, anarchists, Kellyites, and Brandon lovers (either one). It is interesting that this latter group feel so strongly that they need to attach themselves to Objectivism and Ayn Rand. Notice how they attack her or her ideas whenever they get the chance, and then yell at the top of their voice that they really are Objectivists. One way to tell that they are who they are is that they blame AR for their problems, mistakes, or psychological problems. It isn’t wrong to have problems, make mistakes, or have psychological problems. They aren’t AR’s fault, never. Anyway, I’m not interested in carrying on a conversation, or shouting match about this. I just thought that it was interesting that it happens. It will keep happening. There is no way to stop it. The annoyance is like taxes. If you get mad every year or every time you think about it you just waste time and energy. Ignore it as best as you can. Now some idiot will say that I am not fair or am closed minded or some such drivel. They choose to ignore or not find out that I went through all of those debates when the events happened, i.e., when Brandon’s betrayal was revealed, the birth of libertarianism, Kelly’s stupidity (fortunately, I wasn’t here for the release of Kant’s spores or Dewey’s blabbering). There is no need for me to revisit it.

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Then right on the next paragraph he says:

"Like many other people, she was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon. The evidence that was accumulating to suggest that there was something here at least worthy of serious scientific study did not interest her; she did not feel any obligation to look into the subject; she was convinced it was all a fraud. It did not fit her model of reality."

It's funny how he supports evolution and ESP/telepathy. How exactly would ESP/telepathy evolve, and why is it not obviously apparent, like our other senses? If it truly did evolve, it would be providing us with readily available information to integrate, no? The notion is fundamentally contradictory - a sense of which we are not aware.

He's basically opposing her for not considering the arbitrary - that is one of the defining characteristics of her philosophy.

Edited by brian0918
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May I point out that *this* is the level of argument presented on this forum against Nathaniel Branden: "Indeed. Branden is a turncoat second-hander mystic." Until you actually enumerate all the reasons he is deserving of such slander, I'm not listening to your childish name-calling. People have said he "misrepresented Rand." OK, show me exactly what he said that was wrong. Otherwise you're just making wild accusations without any evidence.

The poster you have quoted claims to be literally 15 years old, of course its childish. Respond to the substantive adult criticisms of Branden.

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"Like many other people, she was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon. The evidence that was accumulating to suggest that there was something here at least worthy of serious scientific study did not interest her; she did not feel any obligation to look into the subject; she was convinced it was all a fraud. It did not fit her model of reality."

This is the reason for my reply suggesting he should be in Sedona, plugging electrodes into psychics. Notice how he never, for example, speaks out against James Randi, who has been an active disruptor of all things mystical and ESP. Yet I don't see Mr. Branden going after him too.

Let's land a coup de grace, if you may: Please explain Nathaniel Branden's behavior in http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2004/08/unn...y-evidence.html in a way that any objectivist could actually respect him?

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This may be a bit off topic , but I have a question.

To cut a long story shorter, along with a fast- changing view of myself, others, and existence, I also found myself desperately wanting to live up to the standards she set as proper for Man's life, and also started becoming rigid, emotionless, and fast to moralize about people.

When I read Ayn Rand's novels and nonfiction, I became quick to moralize about people, quick to repress my own emotions and sexuality as evil, and was far too rigid about my own life and my goals.

This word I've bolded from those two posts, I've seen it used by people who associate themselves with Objectivism a number a times before, but I've never heard of it in any of Rand's works before nor have I seen it used by people who have nothing to do with Objectivism. Could somebody tell me what in the world this word means exactly anyway, please?

About the actual topic, I don't see why the subject of this guy in particular is such a hot issue. Can't his psychological work be rationally evaluated for any good things and value in it (be it the whole thing or just some bits and pieces) or lack thereof without such strong concern for his position in regard to Rand and Objectivism the same way we may evaluate the work of a nutritionist for example? Even a communist, Rand hating nutritionist may still have some good work in their field, after all, and likewise just having a positive view of Rand doesn't mean that nutritionist would make flawless work necessarily, so isn't the question of his position on Rand a waste of time red herring when the subject is "Hey, here's a work on psychology. Think it's got any merit and use to it?"

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This word I've bolded from those two posts, I've seen it used by people who associate themselves with Objectivism a number a times before, but I've never heard of it in any of Rand's works before nor have I seen it used by people who have nothing to do with Objectivism. Could somebody tell me what in the world this word means exactly anyway, please?
Yes, I'd be happy to. It means "to pass moral judgment". However, it is important to not actually use that expression, since it was explicitly called for by Rand.
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This word I've bolded from those two posts, I've seen it used by people who associate themselves with Objectivism a number a times before, but I've never heard of it in any of Rand's works before nor have I seen it used by people who have nothing to do with Objectivism. Could somebody tell me what in the world this word means exactly anyway, please?

David Odden is right, but there is also an additional layer of connotation going on.

To moralize is intended to be a word formation related to moral as rationalize is to rational. It means to make and pronounce moral judgments based on no, or inadequate, evidence. I think it helps to be good at rationalizing before attempting moralizing, but there is no standard of correctness so it is not a necessity.

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To moralize is intended to be a word formation related to moral as rationalize is to rational.

I thought it looked like that based on the word structure, but rationalization is a process of creating false strings of explanations after the fact while evading other information in order to try to justify a prior conclusion and hide actual motives and reasons for a position. What would be the hidden motive for somebody who wants to be a rational egoist to go around making unsupported assumptions and pronouncing unjustified moral judgments based upon such? How would anybody think they were helping themselves and being more in line with Objectivism by refusing to admit when they don't have enough information yet to pass a moral judgment? It's not like there's some kind of brownie point system instituted among self-proclaimed Objectivists where you earn credits for every judgment you bring in (or if there is, nobody has informed me about it. ;o; What a shame that would be, since I think by now I should have racked up enough of the suckers to earn a nice little prize like a special title or maybe a cupcake mailed to me on my birthday.) Or if this was just about people trying to create rationalizations for existing moral judgments they want to keep even though they can't justify them, how is what they would be doing different from just regular old rationalization? Why would a new word be justified for rationalization specifically about moral judgments?

(Thank you both for responding to my question.)

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Regarding "moralize", I think what is meant, in the contexts highlighted above, is to step beyond the bounds of reason in evaluating other people. Passing moral judgment of others is important to life, but it can be done haphazardly. Haphazard moral judgment is in itself immoral, or, at the very least, wrong.

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