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The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism

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The root power of the Jesus story for spawning a major religion was not that he gave a poetic and touching sermon and himself perfectly lived the ideal proposed therein. Nor is the root of the personal idolization of him by millions through the centuries the mere assertion that he was the Son of God and fulfillment of an old prophecy and suffered crucifixion. No. The essential power was the power to perform miracles such as raising the dead, which dovetails with claims to divinity or closeness to divinity, especially when reinforced with the construct that he himself was raised from the dead.

Similarly it goes with the explicitly fictional character of John Galt, set in a fictional world futuristically projected from the real world in the 1950’s, having behind that decade the social horrors and technological advancements of that century. The hero John Galt in his moral character is man as ideal in the new morality to be proclaimed by him in his radio speech, in which he also frames true metaphysics and mind-world relations and mind-body relations to which the new morality is attuned. He is devised as ideal man speaking to an audience largely different from that ideal and largely holding to different ideals, though especially to people with some of “the courage and the loyalty to life of a bird or a flower reaching for the sun.” It is not those parts of the Galt story that makes his person electric for the reader. No. His extraordinary facility with mathematical physics and his revolutionary technological invention resting upon that new physics is the spark for high, high adoration of the character.

Yes, we can any one of us be the ideal in moral character exemplified in John Galt. That does not mean we will be stopping the motor of the world or making revolutionary scientific advances. We’ll turn over his (Rand’s) philosophical ideas for ourselves and set our own ideals happily informed by his. Within we, I include Nathaniel Branden and anyone reading him or having had anything to do with him.

Dennis Hardin’s review of The Vision of Ayn Rand in JARS (Dec. 2020) is titled “The Man Who Would be Galt”. That man was Nathaniel Branden. As readers of this thread know, the book is primarily a transcript of Branden’s well-known lecture series The Basic Principles of Objectivism. Hardin recounts, with some interesting detail, the setting of the lecture series with Nathaniel Branden standing on the intellectual and moral dais with Rand during the years of his association with her.

Appalling as it strikes this reader, Hardin reports that Branden was seen by his audience, and to a great extent by Rand, as a real-world personification of the fictional character John Galt. So all one need do is be morally perfect (say with a health-notion of perfection, not the inane crystal-notion of perfection), be bright and socially self-confident, be entrepreneurial, and be innovative in ideas about psychology: then one passes for the glory of a John Galt? Ha. 

The first time I saw Nathaniel Branden speak was in a room at or near O’Hare airport in the 70’s  (maybe ’73-’75). I had been delighted to see issue of his book The Psychology of Self-Esteem. It had been clear from Rand’s parting public shot at him—her brief on their split “To Whom It May Concern”—she aimed to destroy him. I had been pleased to see he had survived that split and ugly personal attack and had produced this book. Therein I recognized the various essays on psychological topics he had authored in Objectivist publications during the 1960’s. Plus he had lately, in the book, wrapped it all together in a neat package under the heading Biocentric Psychology. As it should be.

That occasion at which I saw him speak in the 70’s was before maybe 25 people nestled around a long table. He was tall, had a nice suit and haircut, and wore fine loafers. He had some moving good things to convey on psychology and the human condition as I vaguely recall. But the main thing was a high skill at manipulation of feelings in this group setting on matters personal and important to most anyone. I had no feeling of being in the company of a John Galt. No. That was to occur in other rooms in other gatherings in my life. In rooms of physicists listening to Roger Penrose, for example, on technical matters of mathematical physics, come over to Chicago for the centennial celebration of Einstein’s birth (1879). Brothers and sisters, that’s the deal. Nearness to divinity in humans is closest in those sorts. Were there a God, its Sons, its high Suns, would be the Newton, the Einstein, . . . . not a philosopher, a theologian, an artist, or a psychologist. Truth.

I hope to convey further some of Dennis Hardin's review of The Vision of Ayn Rand in a subsequent post.

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On 11/14/2012 at 9:59 PM, intellectualammo said:

If he didnt want to be involved with her romantically, then why was he?

 

What was your point, with such an outburst?

To a marriage family therapist, it was what happens in a relationship that does not work. When someone falls out of love, things get messy. It's not like Rearden being unphased by Dagny and Galt. People react with deep emotions in real life. The idea that it makes the Brandens evil at the core is unreasonable. We have all had relationships where at the beginning we think it is one thing and as time goes on, reality sets in.

But being an Objectivist while the break up and post breakup happened was a painful experience. It was unexplainable for many years and people had to take sides. Those emotional scars have not healed in many.

The other thing is that if you had met Branden, he would not be a one dimensional character to read about. He was cold in some ways but he was struggling like all of us to figure life out.

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

To a marriage family therapist, it was what happens in a relationship that does not work. When someone falls out of love, things get messy. It's not like Rearden being unphased by Dagny and Galt. People react with deep emotions in real life. The idea that it makes the Brandens evil at the core is unreasonable. We have all had relationships where at the beginning we think it is one thing and as time goes on, reality sets in.

But being an Objectivist while the break up and post breakup happened was a painful experience. It was unexplainable for many years and people had to take sides. Those emotional scars have not healed in many.

The other thing is that if you had met Branden, he would not be a one dimensional character to read about. He was cold in some ways but he was struggling like all of us to figure life out.

All quite right. The higher the value placed in the other person, and they in you, the deeper will be the emotions and hurt at their betrayal. Nathaniel well knew that and hesitated to come clean, I gather. How do you tell the woman or man you admire more than anyone, and still cherish, and know their love of you, that you've been unfaithful? When these two had relations which began as mentor and student and rose almost to intellectual equals, they went well past the normal experience of close intimacy. I guess the mistake was in the rationalist presumption that the intellect can initiate the physical. But one starts at the senses, and in there is the person to person attraction and desire which rarely can be returned to later by power of intellectual will (particularly, the male...).

Some mature, human understanding would have lessened that "painful experience" by Objectivists, and that wholly unnecessary and uncalled for taking of -intellectual- sides. How possibly was Nathaniel's high rationality in essays and lectures previously recognized and extolled by his readers and students, to them suddenly made nought by his act of sexual infidelity and temporary deceit? Intrinsicism enters too. I prefer to believe that at the time I'd have balked at Rand's command of his dismissal, but that's said presently after much maturity.

(If I have facts wrong or made wrong assumptions, I add that I've not read any of the bio books by the Brandens, nor other writers, only a few online excerpts by their critics and scholars here).

Edited by whYNOT
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I've decided to not remark further on Dennis Hardin's review of Vision. I appreciate all his effort that must have gone into this review. I highly recommend the review, if one can access it, if one is interested in the history of the Rand/Branden highway of Objectivist thought and the Objectivist movement. Hardin is a clinical psychologist, and I appreciate learning his vantage on all that and his sharing his own arc in it from the time of the Rand-Branden split, when the young Hardin (age 16) was inspired by the philosophy and by Nathaniel Branden at the podium to today.

I did myself purchase* The Vision of Ayn Rand, and I make regular use of it.*

Edited by Boydstun
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/23/2020 at 1:59 AM, Easy Truth said:

When someone falls out of love, things get messy.

It's more unfortunate that Rand wasn't a very moral person when it came to relationships. In many ways, Rand repeatedly failed her own ethical standards. The vision of Ayn Rand, setback for decades by Ayn Rand. With books like this, at least being easily accessible - whatever damage she caused, whether or not the responses were rational - things start to be put together again.

I finally started reading this book, it's pretty good. So far it's more review to me than anything. It's a good example though of the value in something that Branden did that deserves more attention. In fact, there is mention in the book that Rand didn't think presenting her philosophy to the country at large would be worth the time. She didn't think anyone would listen. It was thanks to Branden and his lectures that helped her see that people actually were interested.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is the relevant quote from the book, which in turn is quoted from Rand in tape-recorded interviews.

"When he first started it I wasn’t opposed to it, but I can’t say that I expected too much. I was watching it, in effect, with enormous concern and sympathy for him, because I thought there was a very good chance of it failing…Since the culture in general seemed totally indifferent to our ideas and to ideas as a whole, I didn’t see how one could make a lecture organization grow…But with the passage of time…I began to see how even the least promising of Nathan’s students…were not the same as they were before they started on the course, that Nathan had a tremendous influence on them, that they were infinitely better people and more rational, even if they certainly were not Objectivists yet…

"What I saw is that ideas take, in a manner which I did not know…The whole enormous response to Nathan gave me a preview of what can be done with a culture. And seeing Nathan start on a shoestring, with the whole intellectual atmosphere against him, standing totally alone and establishing an institution – that was an enormously crucial, concrete example of what can be done. "

[Barbara Branden’s tape-recorded biographical interviews with Ayn Rand, 1961]

Edited by Eiuol
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