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Question about Nathaniel Branden

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CptnChan
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You're mistaken. I am not giving Rand any special consideration. I am not defending a viewpoint. I'm asking questions because I don't know. This is how my reasoning goes for any person: understanding my context before I make a judgment (and even then, my objective here isn't primarily in order to make a judgment).

But you were defending a viewpoint. You've been taking the position that the explanation that you imagined for Rand's and Branden's behavior is no less plausible than the explanation that I offered. I've read the relevant material, where you have not. Do you understand how my having read the material and your not having read it is relevant to your claim that our explanations are equally plausible?

Basically, I'm asking about biographical details, because I'm curious. I'm not trying to build a moral case for or against Rand, but on my own time, I'll make a judgment.

Just a reminder, but I'm not asking you or anyone else to make a moral judgement for or against Rand. That's not the point. The point is to question whether any aspects of her theories of sex and romantic love may need to be clarified or reconsidered based on the judgments that she made about Branden and Patrecia but not about her own husband or herself.

Sorry, I don't. Can you be more specific what the double standard is you are identifying?

Here are a couple of quotes from Rand's journal, as published in PARC:

He began to glamorize the character of [Patrecia], in order to convince himself that she represented his values (at least, in part). He minimizes the extent, nature, and seriousness of her flaws—and exaggerates the extent and meaning of her (potential) virtues. His proof of her virtues does not consist primarily (basically), of observed facts, but of an undefined "sense of life" feeling or "hunch." (He should compare this to the way in which he established the virtues of [Ayn]. The [psycho-epistemological] difference is shocking.) (p. 279)

He said that only three persons meant anything to him, in the whole world: I, [barbara Branden] and [Patrecia]. This was an equation like: "Philosopher, novelist and notary public (or advertising model)." (p. 328)

Do you understand that the complaints that Rand had about Patrecia, and about Branden's attraction to her, should also apply to Rand's husband Frank, and to Rand's attraction to him? Do you understand that those who knew Frank, including Peikoff, have said that Frank was not intellectually gifted, and that the reason that Rand had an affair with Branden was because she needed more than Frank could offer intellectually? Do you realize that all of the explanations from Rand and her friends and associates that exist about her attraction to Frank are based on nothing but her 'sense of life' feelings about him, and that his claimed virtues did not consist of objectively observed facts? Do you realize that Frank was no more accomplished, and was perhaps less accomplished, than the average "notary public" or "advertising model"? Do you know that Patrecia, despite having a shortened life, went on to accomplish more in the field of acting than Frank had? Do you now see how there are double standards and self-deceptions in Rand's views and judgments?

Also, I would suggest that you read Ayn Rand's publicly published piece, "To Whom It May Concern," and take up her request to her readers that they investigate the truth or falsehood of her accusations against the Brandens. I'd also suggest that, in reading Rand's accusations, that you notice what's missing, as Diana Hsieh did back when she wrote (and then later erased) at her blog:

But Rand was obligated to tell the truth about the reason for her break with Branden, which she did not. If she wished to keep the affair private, as would have been reasonable, she could have cited irreconcilable personal differences and even the Brandens' dishonesty. Instead, she fabricated all sorts of false justifications in "To Whom It May Concern" -- and failed to mention the real reason for the break.

In Basic Principles of Objectivism, Nathaniel Branden argues that honesty requires that we take responsibility for the reasonable inferences of others. Misleading technical truths are not honest. Even if every word that Rand wrote about the Branden's in "To Whom It May Concern" were true, the letter would still fail that test miserably.

J

Edited by Jonathan13
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Have you read both Ayn Rand's statement about her break with Dr. Branden, and his statement? The most interesting difference between the two is that, quite out of character on the part of Ayn Rand, she expects us to take on faith, that Dr. Branden wrote her a letter that was "irrational and impossible"- as she does not identify what, within that letter, was "irrational". In Dr. Branden's statement, he explains every assertion.

Regarding the moral issue: our guiding moral principle is rational self interest. Was it in Ayn Rand's rational self-interest to have an affair with Dr. Branden, and in the manner she did? If she was deeply happy in her marriage, and say, wanted to have meaningful and rich sex, while, perhaps her husband was in some way disconnected from her in that respect- and she told him she was satisfying a personal need, and he ultimate said "okay" then that cannot be deemed immoral.

Edited by Sean O'Connor
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Just to clarify, so there is no confusion about this: Nathaniel Branden has always acknowledged that his conduct with respect to deceiving Ayn Rand was morally wrong:

Thanks for the transcripts, Dennis. Yours, and others above, have been highly balanced readings of the people and events involved, I think. Simply, to me, both Rand and Branden became my heroes, and not so strangely have grown in my esteem the more human I've seen them to be.

Basically, I also don't give a rat's ass. Like others here, they are my heroes because of the peaks of

accomplishment they both reached - together and separately - NOT because of their individual, 100%, moral perfection.

One thing, in the relatively short time since I even learned of the affair and its consequences, it always seemed to me that Branden carried the can (so to speak) for his wrongdoing, while blaming Rand for her part would have been the easiest thing to do - in his self-defence against his detractors. He didn't, mostly. That speaks plenty, in my book. (Especially when his career, his whole future was at stake.) His silence, due to his ongoing respect of her, and his integrity, was taken as one-sided guilt, in certain quarters, I believe.

That a generation or two of Objectivists has pitted one against the other is a crying shame. Partial 'mutual exclusivism', it appears:

to elevate Rand (for god's sake, as if she needs it!) means to degrade Branden. (or vice-versa.)

"We" need to grow up a little, get past this, and we will.

Edited by whYNOT
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Have you read both Ayn Rand's statement about her break with Dr. Branden, and his statement? The most interesting difference between the two is that, quite out of character on the part of Ayn Rand, she expects us to take on faith, that Dr. Branden wrote her a letter that was "irrational and impossible"- as she does not identify what, within that letter, was "irrational". In Dr. Branden's statement, he explains every assertion.

Indeed. And not only did Rand expect her readers to take it on faith, but the signatories to the group-statement at the end of Rand's "To Whom It May Concern," including Peikoff, not only took Rand's comments on faith, but publicly condemned and repudiated the Brandens on Rand's say-so alone, and without evidence (they were unaware that there had been an affair between Rand and Branden while doing so).

Regarding the moral issue: our guiding moral principle is rational self interest. Was it in Ayn Rand's rational self-interest to have an affair with Dr. Branden, and in the manner she did? If she was deeply happy in her marriage, and say, wanted to have meaningful and rich sex, while, perhaps her husband was in some way disconnected from her in that respect- and she told him she was satisfying a personal need, and he ultimate said "okay" then that cannot be deemed immoral.

For 14 years? If her husband was "in some way disconnected" from her and to the point that she needed to go outside the marriage to satisfy what he wasn't providing for that much time, I don't think that it's so much an issue of morality, but perhaps of metaphysics and/or epistemology -- an affair that lasts 14 years suggests to me that the glaring reality of a failed marriage is not being recognized and addressed.

J

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Thanks for the transcripts, Dennis. Yours, and others above, have been highly balanced readings of the people and events involved, I think. Simply, to me, both Rand and Branden became my heroes, and not so strangely have grown in my esteem the more human I've seen them to be.

Thanks, Tony. I agree with what you say.

One thing I frankly have never understood is why Rand would be totally exonerated because she obtained verbal approval of the affair from Barbara and Frank. Really? That makes whatever she did after that hunky dory? Suppose the rumors are true (and I obviously don’t know one way or the other) that the affair drove Frank to become an alcoholic. Was it then okay for Rand to continue the affair because he had given her the go-ahead? I have a real problem with that. Rand told PLAYBOY that she would step in front of a gun pointed at her husband. Then why would she not care about the pain he may have been enduring?

To repeat, I am only speculating here. I could be way off base. Perhaps the affair did not cause Frank much in the way of personal anguish. Anne Heller (Ayn Rand and the World She Made) told me she believed Frank was hurt more by Rand’s refusal to let the affair die than the affair itself. Maybe so. I just know from personal experience how excruciatingly painful infidelity can be.

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As brilliant as Rand was so many things, this is one of the issues where I think she was a woman of her time, and where she didn't consistently apply her philosophy in the realm of relationships. Rand argued that men should be free from the evil of altruistic obligations, and instead seek their rational self-interest. That's the only way that true love can take place. And yet, when Branden's own desires changed, and he found romantic and sexual interest in another, Rand wanted to hold him to some kind of obligation, instead of allowing him the freedom to pursue his own interests, whatever they may be.

Instead of accepting that his interest may be in someone other than her, Rand (somewhat egoistically) argued that Patrecia had lesser qualities than her, and that it was irrational for Branden to be attracted Patrecia over her. Part of the problem for Rand, it seems to me, is that she didn't seem to allow any kind of seeming subjectivity of emotions and desires at all. (I would argue perhaps that our attraction to people isn't actually subjective, but is actually rooted in evolutionary psychological reasons that Rand didn't understand at the time, but I digress.)

So, I love Rand's ideas, but not Rand herself as some sort of perfect icon. She had faults. And she wasn't consistent with her own philosophy when it came to this issue with Branden. To hold someone to some kind of relationship contract or obligation is no better than telling someone they have an obligation to their "fellow man" because of altruism. No. You must allow people to pursue their own self-interest. And, contrary to Rand's thought, sometimes the reasons for a person's desires aren't clearly defined by a comparison of character traits between people. Sometimes, when it comes to recreational sex, pure pleasure is itself rational. And when it comes to deeper relationships of close friendships or romantic love, there is actually no rational reason for exclusivity. Rand and Branden both seemed to be operating under the assumption of exclusivity. That he could only be interested in a sexual friendship/relationship with Rand or Patrecia, but not both, even though curiously Rand didn't have that problem regarding her husband, not Branden with his wife. It boggles me then why they couldn't accept that one or both of them could also find an additional person interesting, attractive, appealing.

Jealousy is not a rational emotion.

Edited by secondhander
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Simply, to me, both Rand and Branden became my heroes, and not so strangely have grown in my esteem the more human I've seen them to be.

I've been reading a book on Hebrew, and learned that there is no Hebrew word for hero. It's because it was fully understood that everyone was flawed. Flawed people like Rand and Branden can still be worthy of our respect and admiration since we are also flawed.

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I've been reading a book on Hebrew, and learned that there is no Hebrew word for hero. It's because it was fully understood that everyone was flawed. Flawed people like Rand and Branden can still be worthy of our respect and admiration since we are also flawed.

Everyone is "flawed"? Do you perchance have an "unflawed" specimen by which to establish a comparison?
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No.

Just ideals which are always the ever receding horizon... but nontheless are worthy of our continual journey in their direction.

Bill Britt used to declare from on stage: "Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal, not the attainment, but the pursuit." With an ideal which is always [over] the ever[-]receding horizon," happiness could only be a persistant state of being for those in pursuit of unobtainable ideals. Edited by dream_weaver
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Ha! The comforting knowledge that we are sinners all!

That knowledge is only comforting to relativists who compare themselves to others. But to those who look objectively at themselves first, and acknowledge the reality that they fall short of an ideal... that knowledge is a useful motivation to do better.

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Bill Britt used to declare from on stage: "Happiness is the pursuit of a worthwhile goal, not the attainment, but the pursuit." With an ideal which is always [over] the ever[-]receding horizon, happiness could only be a persistant state of being for those in pursuit of unobtainable ideals.

Never heard of him and searched on Wiki. Are you referring to the Ponzi multi level marketer Bill Britt? I got the horizon idea from the Declaration of Independence "the pursuit of happiness". As well as something else I read (forgot where) about ideals being like stars you can't touch, but by which you can reliably navigate your ship.

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To repeat, I am only speculating here. I could be way off base. Perhaps the affair did not cause Frank much in the way of personal anguish. Anne Heller (Ayn Rand and the World She Made) told me she believed Frank was hurt more by Rand’s refusal to let the affair die than the affair itself. Maybe so. I just know from personal experience how excruciatingly painful infidelity can be.

The words "affair" or "infidelity" don't apply though, I see no reason they should apply. Those imply lack of consent, but there was consent. As you said though, that doesn't mean everything was hunky dory.

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If he had an unflawed specimen, then he would know that his thesis that "everyone is flawed" was incorrect, right?

Well, this entire, interesting thread leads to 'Saint or Sinner', and the false dichotomy - and mystical intrinsicist premise - it contains.

I view the moral perfection/relativist thing from another angle, in that man is not flawed/imperfect - but as a non-omniscient

his actions can and most certainly will often be. It is a fine distinction admittedly, but our nature is "self-generating and self-directing", and as we forge through life, every twist and turn requires self-direction. At times we commit mistakes of insufficient knowledge, and at others, serious errors in conflict with our rationality and principles.

But every instance can be self-corrected and redirected almost immediately, or over a longer period of thoughtful examination. Therefore, at any given point a single act may be far less than perfect, but the sum of his actions - the over-all, clear-sighted, direction he commits to - brings him as close to perfection as can ever be realistically attained.

We are what we do, yes, and we are what we aim for, also.

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The words "affair" or "infidelity" don't apply though, I see no reason they should apply.

Dictionary.com says that an affair is "a sexual relationship between two people who are not married to each other ."

It says that infidelity is "marital disloyalty; adultery."

I think that both terms apply.

An affair and an infidelity don't cease to be what they are simply because one has received "consent" from one's spouse. There has been a long history of wealthy men receiving "consent" to have an affair from their wives who are dependent on their husbands for their existence and their place in society, and therefore their "consent" alone is not enough to make their husbands' actions moral or even fair. As I've said earlier, we have to remember that the spouses have made public and legal declarations. They have made vows and promises that they cannot unlilaterally and privately alter, especially after one of them has taken a supportive role and has become dependent on the other economically or in other ways.

J

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  • 2 months later...

Imagine that you've been having a romantic relationship with a very accomplished woman for years, and in your psychological counseling sessions with her (in which she is helping you with your psychological health and your romantic problems with her) you're cautiously trying to broach the subject that you've been dating a very attractive younger woman and that you don't feel the same as you used to for the older woman, and the hints that you've been dropping have had the effect of enraging the older woman. She says that the younger woman is beneath someone of your intelligence and accomplishments, and that it is not objective or rational of you to value her so highly. And it is an insult to her (the older woman) that you would want someone who is obviously so much less accomplished than what she is. She's judging you to be psychologically unfit and perhaps morally corrupt based on nothing but the fact that you are attracted to someone other than her.

Subconsciously, you're a bit confused because the man that the older woman is married to is less accomplished than the young woman that you're dating and who is the target of her harsh judgments, yet he is somehow worthy of being married to the older woman, and of being publicly praised by her as her ideal man while your relationship with her is something that she wants to keep secret as if it's embarrassing, despite the fact that you are significantly more intelligent and accomplished than he is.

Any attempt that you make at clearing up these matters with your counselor/romantic partner is met with resentment and rage.

What should you do? What action can you take which will not result in your being condemned?

The only reason that I asked to be informed is that a few of my posts have been deleted lately without notification or explanation, and despite the fact that they didn't contain anything that was against the rules or guidelines here.

J

I'm new here not that it matters. I am NOT new to online discussion forums. My experience has been that once your posts become unsavory for whoever may feel that way...the next step is that you are banned from the community. Ironically the deletion of previous posts and one's natural resentment and their subsequent posts about that treatment is the impetus for mods to ban you. Complaining within the community is like attempting to be a voice of democracy in N. Korea. It simply tightens the noose a little more each time. <- this might be my last post. lol. The only defense is to establish a read-only policy and non-registered user persona and behavior. Posting is suicide - potentially. Fodder for banishment. Think it over.

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