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Barbara Branden has passed away 12/11/2013 RIP

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JamesShrugged
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I think Rand would have been horrified by the cheap remark by Binswanger. It's one thing to give a critical evaluation of the life of a person who has just passed away, but quite another thing to be a jerk saying that he's glad that that person is dead, at least when it doesn't concern some mass murderer or a similar criminal. Someone like Lindsay Perigo, who hasn't been Barbara's friend for many years (to put it mildly) at least gave a decent reaction on his site.

 

I agree. One could even surmise that Ayn Rand's break with Barbara was more business than personal--unlike Nathaniel's. She doesn't really talk much about her in TWIMC. From a distance you could imagine that based on her relationship with Nathaniel (which at that point was probably limited to their last names) it just wasn't tenable to keep Barbara around in the mix based on guilt-by-association and the perception of the whole thing.

 

Harry's job, however, was (and apparently is still, some 40 year later) to hate Barbara Branden as he'd hate a violent criminal. If ever there was an event that gives you insight into Harry psycho-epistemology, this is it...

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I do not share Dr. Binswanger's reaction (honestly, I'm not sure I can phrase how I feel about Ms. Branden's passing. I'm not sure I understand it myself). However, I would not be so quick to believe whatever Nathaniel Branden had to say about Dr. Binswanger, or really, about anything else. The man did, after all, lie to and about Ayn Rand for many years.

HB shows just what a vile creep he is here. Without Ayn Rand he'd be a retired tax accountant in a suburb somewhere.

And just where, pray tell, would either Branden be without Ayn Rand? Except Ayn Rand never permanently broke ties with and revoked her sanction of Dr. Binswanger.

Meanwhile, Barabara Branden's movie is on HBO several times a month and is virtually the only exposure to Ayn Rand there is in the popular culture right now. Live with that, Harry...

The only issue is, there are serious and legitimate concerns with regard to the accuracy of that film. If the only exposure to Ayn Rand in popular culture paints a false and needlessly negative picture of her, then there is a problem and Objectivists need to face it head on.

I want to tread carefully because I don't think that Barbara Branden was an absolutely horrible person and I realize that there are people on this site who knew her and who are saddened by her passing. But there is another side to the story here, and that is that there is significant question about the honesty of Ms. Branden's account of Ayn Rand's life (and her former husband's). Certainly they owe their success to, in no small part, their biography of (in the case of Ms. Branden) and memoir about (in the case of Mr. Branden) a woman (and not just any woman, but Ayn Rand) who morally condemned both of them in very strong terms. There has to be at least some question as to whether their accounts were retaliation or attempts to save face. And there are people who have presented very strong arguments that this could be the case. Which is why I don't think Dr. Binswanger's reaction should be dismissed as completely irrational right out of hand.

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Is it not possible to judge each person in this cast of characters by their own lights, that is, as end in herself/himself?

Must this judgment always be made in relation to Ayn Rand?

Has nobody experienced love and reverence - or, hell: falling out of love, deceit, guilt, and loss?

Geez, folks - come on.

Each of them is/was a rational human being living a full, self-directed life (with all inevitable errors) -- not a perfect robot frozen in one time and place.

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And just where, pray tell, would either Branden be without Ayn Rand? Except Ayn Rand never permanently broke ties with and revoked her sanction of Dr. Binswanger.

 

No idea, but certainly both Brandens came a lot closer to showing us that they were their own persons and perhaps would have risen to prominence without her help.

 

 

The only issue is, there are serious and legitimate concerns with regard to the accuracy of that film. If the only exposure to Ayn Rand in popular culture paints a false and needlessly negative picture of her, then there is a problem and Objectivists need to face it head on.

 

Call me crazy, but I didn't find Barbara's account of Ayn Rand particularly "negative". I didn't come away thinking any less of Ayn Rand (insofar as I took BB at her word) and to me Ayn Rand the philosopher and author has nothing whatsoever to do with Ayn Rand the person, the latter being an interesting story about history and nothing more.

 

Steve Jobs was a notorious asshole who would ruthlessly--and unfairly--trash people at will. He was not pleasant and he was not nice. He wasn't a very good father. Etc. Yet this has nothing at all to do with his rightful, storied place in the history of human endeavor. Maybe Hitler was the life of the party and told great jokes and was honest and open in his personal life--he'd still be Hitler.

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CE,

 

I have appreciated your reflections in this thread, though I have an objection or two. I think Harry Binswanger is his own person. Also, I’d be careful not to let achievement of prominence become indicator of a worth of a life superior in comparison to other productive and happy lives that do not entail celebrity. Binswanger earned a PhD in philosophy from Columbia, as I recall. He might have chosen to be an academic philosopher, teaching and writing academic papers in philosophy not linked to Rand’s. Like a few thousand other very bright people working and making a life that way, lack of notoriety would not indicate lack of great worth.

 

One more thought, not an objection. In some situations, honesty is an occasion that shows a person being his or her own. I recall Barbara Branden once writing on these posting sites that the deception she and Nathan had committed against Rand, concerning the circumstance that he had fallen in love with a young woman and would never be resuming intimacy with Ayn, was for the sake of keeping their attractive lives in the NBI setting going and that this deception was wrong. That admission was a decent thing.

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To be fair, Binswanger's comment wasn't that it was "good news" that BB died; only that it "wasn't exactly sad news."  Maybe he didn't mean it sarcastically?  Maybe he meant it quite literally?  Perhaps it was his subtle way of saying that she wasn't a good person that one should be "officially sad" about dying, but neither was she completely undeserving of any degree of sadness?

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Perhaps (for myself) there is a measure of pre-empting what the reactions will be when the surviving - and by some, apparently loathed - Top Guns of Objectivism die?

Not looking forward to that at all.

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Perhaps (for myself) there is a measure of pre-empting what the reactions will be when the surviving - and by some, apparently loathed - Top Guns of Objectivism die?

Not looking forward to that at all.

Given human mortality, at some point, we'll need a sub-forum where we can gather all the threads on the various people being praised and cursed.

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Is it not possible to judge each person in this cast of characters by their own lights, that is, as end in herself/himself?

Must this judgment always be made in relation to Ayn Rand?

It is absolutely possible. However, when a major part of a person's life is their relationship with, break with, and subsequent biography of Ayn Rand, these must be considered when judging that person. As Mr. Boydstun pointed out, Barbara Branden was complicit with and a partner in Nathaniel Branden's long-term deception of Ayn Rand—while she was pretending to be Miss Rand's ally against Mr. Branden (see "To Whom It May Concern," and this part of the claim is not denied in "In Answer to Ayn Rand").

Then, there is question as to how honest her Rand biography was. In his book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, James S. Valliant indicates instances of what he considers to be dishonesty in Ms. Branden's biography. Obviously this is too lengthy to go over entirely here, and the book is out of print, but you can read several of the chapters online (and they are legally posted by Mr. Valliant himself), followed by his responses to his numerous and passionate critics. In my judgement, Mr. Valliant responds honestly to the criticism. I have yet to see a criticism damning Mr. Valliant's book or his honesty.

Links to chapters of PARC:

Chapter 1: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4420

Chapter 2: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4512

Chapter 3: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4787

Chapter 4: http://www.solopassion.com/node/4130

No idea, but certainly both Brandens came a lot closer to showing us that they were their own persons and perhaps would have risen to prominence without her help.

I think Nathaniel Branden can get some credit for his work in psychology, but then again, how many of his psychological theories can be credited to Objectivism and to his work with Ayn Rand? It's hard to say, and it certainly wouldn't make him immoral if he does owe her a significant intellectual debt, but I'm wondering why one would damn Dr. Binswanger for similarly owing Miss Rand a significant intellectual debt (he is coming out very soon with a book called How We Know which seems to elaborate fairly significantly on the Objectivist epistemology much like Branden elaborated significantly on Miss Rand's views on psychology.

Call me crazy, but I didn't find Barbara's account of Ayn Rand particularly "negative". I didn't come away thinking any less of Ayn Rand (insofar as I took BB at her word) and to me Ayn Rand the philosopher and author has nothing whatsoever to do with Ayn Rand the person, the latter being an interesting story about history and nothing more.

Steve Jobs was a notorious asshole who would ruthlessly--and unfairly--trash people at will. He was not pleasant and he was not nice. He wasn't a very good father. Etc. Yet this has nothing at all to do with his rightful, storied place in the history of human endeavor. Maybe Hitler was the life of the party and told great jokes and was honest and open in his personal life--he'd still be Hitler.

Except Steve Jobs did not create a "philosophy for living on Earth" and Steve Jobs did not say this:

"My personal life is a postscript to my novels. It consists of the sentence: ‘And I mean it.’ I have always lived by the philosophy I present in my books—and it has worked for me, as it works for my characters."

This, of course, does not mean that Objectivism stands or falls based on Ayn Rand's personal life, but especially given this statement, any major personal flaws exhibited by Miss Rand provide significant ammunition for her enemies. This is why we should examine any such claims and criticize them if they are mistaken or dishonest, as Mr. Valliant did.

(Also note that I was not aware of this characterization of Jobs and that my silence on that particular point should not be taken as agreement, merely as a statement that it is not relevant to the issue at hand).

Again, I'm not sure exactly what I think of Barbara Branden. I am certainly not happy that she died, but I wouldn't say I'm too sad, either. My general impression is that she was very much a person of mixed morality, but I do not know this for sure. I do want to maintain a level of respect, though, towards people who do value her.

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Jobs has as many supporters as he does haters, and they use the same character traits for both arguments. One says "asshole" and the other says "inspiring motivator." Similar sentiments follow Rand.

 

I read the LA Times biography, which, for some reason, included a detail of the sexual intercourse between Rand and Nathaniel Branden. If, as was mentioned in this thread, Barbara Branden continued to advocate for Rand's ideas long after this bizarre drama between her, her husband, and Rand, then she can't be criticized too terribly. Rand was pretty much asking for personal drama with this relationship setup.

 

Considering Barbara Branden's life, I suppose all of these interpersonal details are bound to be drug out of the past. Considering Rand's formidable intellectual output and personality, details of her life naturally garner interest. That said, I wouldn't mind never hearing about any of this ancient drama again.

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I completely agree that the conversations about Rand's personal life get tiring, but I think they are important for the reason cited above (Rand's "and I mean it;" an explanation of their importance, by the way, which I credit to James Valliant).

Notice, by the way, that the LA Times obituary claims that the affair was a deliberate violation of Objectivist principles ("She swore the men and Branden to secrecy, never minding that one of the central tenets of objectivism [sic] was honesty.").

This is why we, as Objectivists, have to study Rand's personal life as well as her philosophy. Our opponents will attempt to smear Rand with their impression of what the affair was, and most people simply won't differentiate between Rand and Objectivism. Now, after the publication of The Passion of Ayn Rand, defenders of Objectivism need to be armed with the details of the affair and the Objectivist principles that apply. In this case, one should reply that Rand did not violate any principles of Objectivism because not revealing personal information does not constitute dishonesty (no one other than Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's respective spouses had a claim to a right to be told about the affair).

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This is why we, as Objectivists, have to study Rand's personal life as well as her philosophy. Our opponents will attempt to smear Rand with their impression of what the affair was, and most people simply won't differentiate between Rand and Objectivism. Now, after the publication of The Passion of Ayn Rand, defenders of Objectivism need to be armed with the details of the affair and the Objectivist principles that apply. In this case, one should reply that Rand did not violate any principles of Objectivism because not revealing personal information does not constitute dishonesty (no one other than Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's respective spouses had a claim to a right to be told about the affair).

I disagree that I have any need to "study Rand's personal life"; if I had no knowledge of who Rand was as a person, or any biographical details, her arguments would remain just as they are. And I certainly don't feel compelled to argue the details of a love affair that took place before I was born by people I've never met.

A is A regardless of whether or not Rand acted properly in how she conducted her romantic business, and the same holds true for her arguments on selfishness, and etc. If your reply is that I would be ill-equipped to provide the Official Answer when pressed on issues of some affair, I guess I would ask you as to why I'd allow myself to get drawn into such a conversation in the first place.

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I can't help but think it wasn't sarcasm but good ol' Objectivist ass covering on his part. "Let's see, is 'I rejoice at her passing' too strong? What if LP has a change of heart and I come down on the wrong side of the doublethink? Doubleplusgood I say one thing and another at the same time. 'Not exactly sad news' could be great news or terrible news. Congrads Self, I can keep a pay cheque"

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I completely agree that the conversations about Rand's personal life get tiring, but I think they are important for the reason cited above (Rand's "and I mean it;" an explanation of their importance, by the way, which I credit to James Valliant).

Notice, by the way, that the LA Times obituary claims that the affair was a deliberate violation of Objectivist principles ("She swore the men and Branden to secrecy, never minding that one of the central tenets of objectivism [sic] was honesty.").

This is why we, as Objectivists, have to study Rand's personal life as well as her philosophy. Our opponents will attempt to smear Rand with their impression of what the affair was, and most people simply won't differentiate between Rand and Objectivism. Now, after the publication of The Passion of Ayn Rand, defenders of Objectivism need to be armed with the details of the affair and the Objectivist principles that apply. In this case, one should reply that Rand did not violate any principles of Objectivism because not revealing personal information does not constitute dishonesty (no one other than Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's respective spouses had a claim to a right to be told about the affair).

 

I don't see how because Rand says "and I mean it", that means that she will automatically follow the principles of Objectivism and, therefore, we have to defend her every action and come up with reasons why she didn't violate any principles.

 

I think dismissing people as committing a logical fallacy when they smear her in place of an argument against Objectivist principles is enough. By debating with them, you are accepting the premise that this is a valid argument against Objectivism (unless you get them to accept that it is a logical fallacy, first). 

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Notice, by the way, that the LA Times obituary claims that the affair was a deliberate violation of Objectivist principles ("She swore the men and Branden to secrecy, never minding that one of the central tenets of objectivism [sic] was honesty.").

 

Insofar as Ayn Rand introduced Frank to anybody else in the outside world as, "my husband" while she was carrying on with Nathaniel, she was being dishonest. So too was Nathaniel. Both of the Brandens admitted later that the affair (between Nathaniel and Ayn Rand) was completely dishonest and wrong. Ayn Rand admitted no such thing, and LP and others continue to whitewash her actions to this day. It's really weird, and it's wrong. You should no more emulate this behavior or Ayn Rand's than you should take up chain smoking.

 

Again, none of this has anything at all to do with Ayn Rand the philosopher, or her philosophy, but Ayn Rand the historical figure was just another person with various imperfections. All in all a great person, but a person nonetheless.

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I read through this article, curious as to what horrible falsehoods might have been put forth by the Brandens. I stopped reading when I read this:

 

"Ms. Branden also tells us: “Ayn never told her family in Russia her new name... they never knew she had become ‘Ayn Rand.’” (PAR, pp. 71-72.) Ms. Branden may be trying to insinuate that Rand was being neurotically secretive, perhaps even turning her back on her family. This is the sort of vague impression we will see the Brandens persistently attempt to create. Ms. Branden certainly claims that this was an important reason why Rand lost contact with her family shortly before World War II—they did not know her name.

 

However, this is demonstrably false. Anyone who has seen the biographical documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, has seen the letter from Rand's proud Russian family with the hand-drawn name “Ayn Rand” on a big marquee in neon lights. Given Ms. Branden's fictionalizing on this issue, could the rest of her name-story be false?"

 

What crap. He reads through her book and ascribes Evil Motives to each and every paragraph, conveniently leaving out that there might have been a dozen other explanations of her getting the history wrong, as historians often do. Mind you, I'm fine with correcting history, but fabricating motives for such errors is a different thing entirely.

 

Jim's article here is titled, "The Smearing of Ayn Rand". It should rather be titled, "The Smearing of the Brandens". It's gotta be about 500,000 words long, too. Probably at least 5-6 bong loads. What was his point?

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"A long and wicked life followed by five minutes of perfect grace gets you into Heaven.

An equally long life of decent living and good works followed by one outburst of taking

the name of the Lord in vain - then have a heart attack at that moment and be damned

for Eternity.

Is that the system?"

[Robert Heinlein]

 

Mystical intrinsicism - That's "the system" , as we know.

 

Intrinsicism caused the 'Split' and still continues dogging mainstream Objectivism.

 

(Strongly recommended to any who haven't read it, David Kelley's 'Truth and Toleration: The Contested Legacy Of Ayn Rand.')

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I can't help but think it wasn't sarcasm but good ol' Objectivist ass covering on his part. "Let's see, is 'I rejoice at her passing' too strong? What if LP has a change of heart and I come down on the wrong side of the doublethink? Doubleplusgood I say one thing and another at the same time. 'Not exactly sad news' could be great news or terrible news. Congrads Self, I can keep a pay cheque"

 

I think that's probably about right.

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Barbara Branden was a great biographer of Ayn Rand, as a philosopher and as a human being. She was the first to reveal Ayn Rand's story and her ideas to the millions of the readers. The movie based on her book " Passion of Ayn Rand" is still running on different TV channels, so more and more people discover Ayn Rand. No biographer could escape a personal view on the person whose life he or she describes, and Barbara Branden wasn't an exclusion. Her view was of course biased especially because Ayn Rand had relations with her husband. And view of which woman wouldn't? Nevertheless, there is no bitterness in her account, not a hint of revenge. She had a great respect for Ayn Rand and, unlike many others from the Ayn Rand " inner circle" remained an Objectivist to her last day. May she rest in peace. May her memory be blessed by all those who respect Ayn Rand and her ideas, regardless of their affiliations. 

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CrowEpistemologist

"Ms. Branden also tells us: “Ayn never told her family in Russia her new name... they never knew she had become ‘Ayn Rand.’” (PAR, pp. 71-72.) Ms. Branden may be trying to insinuate that Rand was being neurotically secretive, perhaps even turning her back on her family."

Only a person who is utterly ignorant about anything of communist Russia could interpret this as being neurotically secretive. I don't remember that Ms Branden gave such an account. She wasn't that stupid or ignorant.

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CE, at Amazon I was able to search on the word wrong in Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand, and that brought me to page 340 relevant to your remark (#42) that Ms. Branden held the affair between Ayn and Nathan to be morally wrong. On that page and the next, we are told of something going terribly wrong for Nathan in his own psychological well-being (stemming from his relationship with a young woman being kept secret from Rand, with whom he was feigning continued romantic standing), but I see no coincidence with your own moral appraisal of the affair between Rand and Branden and its privacy.

 

I agree with Sam (#38) that there was nothing wrong with the couple falling in love and having a romantic relationship in which their spouses were informed of it, but all others not. I’ve known of such cases of open marriage, particularly when the husband has entered a non-performance stage, and I don’t think it is wrong across the board. Then too, the intimacies of personal identity should remain private where the parties so choose; nothing wrong with lying to maintain that privacy if necessary. The Objectivist virtue of honesty has a derivation, a certain rationale that must not be neglected, which neglect would be a regress to the religious/Kantian view of ethics.

 

Also, in the same vein, it is not necessarily morally wrong for Kody Brown* to have multiple de facto wives even though he is married to only one. And it is not necessarily morally wrong for a woman to have a romantic relationship with a man much younger than herself, as the case of Tina Turner and Erwin Bach so wonderfully illustrates.

 

The posts #39 and #41 are absolutely right. I pause on CE’s particular point in part for it’s false view of human sexuality, love, and honesty, in part for its apparently false representation of Barbara Branden’s view of ethics.

 

I have no doubt that Ayn Rand had some moral failings somewhere in life by her own standards. Her falling in love with Nathaniel Branden was not likely one of them, nor would self-denial or divorce of her husband likely to have been choices morally better by her lights. I have no use for the concept human perfection, morally or in other ways, that is of the dead, crystalline sort. Human perfection is like health, if sensible at all. 

Edited by Boydstun
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I agree with Sam (#38) that there was nothing wrong with the couple falling in love and having a romantic relationship in which their spouses were informed of it, but all others not.

Can I address this one observation? Because it seems to me that much in this conversation turns on it.

I'll agree in the abstract that there is not necessarily anything wrong in withholding such personal details from others -- nothing necessarily "dishonest" about that. But I also believe that there is nothing necessarily right, or honest about it, either. Allow me to explain what I mean.

What is it about having a "spouse" that (seemingly) requires one to share the details of a second romantic relationship? Is it characteristic to a spousal relationship, and no other? Is it some level of intimacy? Only sexual? If Branden and Rand were not married, did that mean that he was not under a similar obligation to share with Rand any details of his other sexual or romantic activities? Does that amount to his "privacy"? Or does he cross some "dishonesty" threshold, despite not being married to her?

In my life, I find that my "requirements" with respect to honesty depend on the specific relationships that I have, and further on the specific circumstances involved in every situation. I have platonic (and mostly same-sex) friendships that are deeper to me than many previous romantic relationships have been, and are quite "intimate." There are personal details in my life that I share with these friends such that I would hold myself to be dishonest, if I were to keep them secret. Privacy is not a blanket allowance to keep all and sundry information to myself, I don't believe. In that I am truthful to others when I call them friend, I am beholden to deal with them as such, and that does require me to share certain personal details, even when those details are at times embarrassing or otherwise difficult to share, etc.

Nor are there predefined "security clearance" levels, where I determine who should morally be privy to what information about my life, depending on whether I term them "friend," "close friend," "lover," or etc. The actual requirements of honesty, I find, are more subtle than this, and require great care and attention on a case-by-case basis, and I cannot tell you that I have chosen right in every instance across my life.

How then, when it comes to a matter like Rand's, could I possibly look back and evaluate whether -- for instance -- Leonard Peikoff was close enough to her to warrant information about her affair with Branden? It seems a near impossible task, if not impossible, and I cannot possibly imagine that "the juice would be worth the squeeze." So no, frankly I don't know whether Rand did right or wrong by Peikoff, say, and I don't know how I *should* know such a thing, absent gaining a level of intimate knowledge for myself about these people and their lives that 1) might not be available via the historical record, and 2) I would find ridiculous to pursue for these purposes.

So while I will agree with you that there is nothing necessarily wrong in having a romantic relationship where one's spouses are informed, but all others are kept in the dark, I also don't believe that we can say that such an arrangement, in itself, carries some sort of a priori morality with it, or necessarily saves a person from being dishonest to others in the name of privacy.

Even for those deeply interested (for whatever personal reasons they might have), I do not believe that there is a hope in the world for a person to scour the details of an affair such as this, and assess every actor's precise morality, deed for deed. Not with justice.

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I disagree that I have any need to "study Rand's personal life"; if I had no knowledge of who Rand was as a person, or any biographical details, her arguments would remain just as they are. And I certainly don't feel compelled to argue the details of a love affair that took place before I was born by people I've never met.

A is A regardless of whether or not Rand acted properly in how she conducted her romantic business, and the same holds true for her arguments on selfishness, and etc. If your reply is that I would be ill-equipped to provide the Official Answer when pressed on issues of some affair, I guess I would ask you as to why I'd allow myself to get drawn into such a conversation in the first place.

I don't see how because Rand says "and I mean it", that means that she will automatically follow the principles of Objectivism and, therefore, we have to defend her every action and come up with reasons why she didn't violate any principles.

I think dismissing people as committing a logical fallacy when they smear her in place of an argument against Objectivist principles is enough. By debating with them, you are accepting the premise that this is a valid argument against Objectivism (unless you get them to accept that it is a logical fallacy, first).

Here is my point: If you are in a conversation where someone brings put the affair, of course it is a valid argument to say that Ayn Rand's personal life is irrelevant to her philosophy and that anyone who brings it up is committing ad hominem. However, a lot of people in today's world simply won't understand what you mean by that and perceive what happened as you refusing to respond to a valid criticism. Many people will also claim "if Ayn Rand didn't live by her own philosophy, why should we believe anything she says?" Now, you can say that we don't need these people, and you might be right, but like it or not, they exist and will continue to spread falsehoods about Ayn Rand. I say that for every one that we can correct, there is one less person out there smearing Objectivism through Rand.

I'm not asking anyone to have a memorized "Official Answer" or anything. I am not what tolerationists call an "ARI cultist" (though even if I was, that would be an argument ad hominem). And given that the official answer of the ARI regarding the affair amounts to "No comment," I am certainly not advocating the ARI position. In any case, what I am asking of Objectivists is to a) be knowledgeable about the basic details of the affair, so that they can correct any outright falsehoods their opponents commit, and to b ) know what their own reply is, based on Objectivist principles. Whether that be that Rand was in error or whether it is a defense of her decision based on the Objectivist ethics. It simply doesn't look good when Objectivists get blindsided by the affair and ignore it without making a studied response. My perspective is, however much you want to ignore it, it is not going away. This applies also to any of the other common smears ("Took Medicare!" "Idealized a killer!"). Look up Ayn Rand on the internet, find a recent news article about her, and look in the comments to see how many of them mention either Hickman, Medicare or the affair versus how many respond coherently to some Objectivist idea or another. These are the facts as they are, and I would prefer Objectivists be able to say "No, that's not entirely accurate and here's why, now, would you like to talk about ideas instead of engaging in smears?" That's my perspective on it as someone who has spent a rather significant amount of time in the "trenches."

With regard to "and I mean it":

Of course this does not mean that Ayn Rand was automatically always moral. However, this statement does mean that her personal life can either give a major boost to or detract significantly from arguments in favor of her philosophy. This doesn't mean that we should cover up Miss Rand's personal failings, but it does mean that we should take care to be absolutely sure that they are failings before we even come close to accepting the premise that they are.

Insofar as Ayn Rand introduced Frank to anybody else in the outside world as, "my husband" while she was carrying on with Nathaniel, she was being dishonest. So too was Nathaniel. Both of the Brandens admitted later that the affair (between Nathaniel and Ayn Rand) was completely dishonest and wrong. Ayn Rand admitted no such thing, and LP and others continue to whitewash her actions to this day. It's really weird, and it's wrong. You should no more emulate this behavior or Ayn Rand's than you should take up chain smoking.

Again, none of this has anything at all to do with Ayn Rand the philosopher, or her philosophy, but Ayn Rand the historical figure was just another person with various imperfections. All in all a great person, but a person nonetheless.

The former is not necessarily true. Ayn Rand was still legally married to Frank O'Connor and did not violate the contract of their marriage since she "renegotiated" that contract by obtaining his consent for the affair to occur. The people around them did not have a right to know that Ayn Rand was sleeping with Nathaniel Branden, and the idea that they did is preposterous. If she was going around telling other people that Frank was the only man she had ever loved, that would be dishonest, but there is no evidence that she did this. Again, since Ayn Rand remained married to Frank O'Connor during the affair, he still absolutely was "my husband."

Also, I disagree with the implication that to be a person is to make moral errors. Errors of knowledge are all but inevitable, but I think it is entirely possible to live without ever intentionally acting dishonestly and thereby making an error of morality.

Finally, I do want to register that Ayn Rand said that "we right to try in the first place" regarding the affair (this is apparently in one of the journals in The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics; unfortunately I do not have a copy of the book so I can't give you a page number, but James Valliant quotes it at about 42:35 of this interview). So she did not simply refuse to "admit" that the affair was wrong, but proclaimed that it was right, at least in theory (discounting Mr. Branden's deception of her). And I'm inclined to agree with her.

I read through this article, curious as to what horrible falsehoods might have been put forth by the Brandens. I stopped reading when I read this:

"Ms. Branden also tells us: “Ayn never told her family in Russia her new name... they never knew she had become ‘Ayn Rand.’” (PAR, pp. 71-72.) Ms. Branden may be trying to insinuate that Rand was being neurotically secretive, perhaps even turning her back on her family. This is the sort of vague impression we will see the Brandens persistently attempt to create. Ms. Branden certainly claims that this was an important reason why Rand lost contact with her family shortly before World War II—they did not know her name.

However, this is demonstrably false. Anyone who has seen the biographical documentary, Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, has seen the letter from Rand's proud Russian family with the hand-drawn name “Ayn Rand” on a big marquee in neon lights. Given Ms. Branden's fictionalizing on this issue, could the rest of her name-story be false?"

What crap. He reads through her book and ascribes Evil Motives to each and every paragraph, conveniently leaving out that there might have been a dozen other explanations of her getting the history wrong, as historians often do. Mind you, I'm fine with correcting history, but fabricating motives for such errors is a different thing entirely.

Jim's article here is titled, "The Smearing of Ayn Rand". It should rather be titled, "The Smearing of the Brandens". It's gotta be about 500,000 words long, too. Probably at least 5-6 bong loads. What was his point?

I do wish that Mr. Valliant had withheld his judgement to the end. He had already reached his judgement of the Brandens' honesty by the time he wrote PARC and therefore injected that judgement into his speculation about possible motives for their untrue statements about Ayn Rand. The style of the book, therefore, reads like a prosecutor's argument (Mr. Valliant is a prosecuting attorney).

However, notice that Mr. Valliant does not claim that Ms. Branden WAS implying that Rand was neurotic, only that she "may have been trying to" imply that. This simply does not amount to the fabrication of a motive, only speculation of a possible motive. It may be an abrasive style choice, one that makes PARC less accessible to those who sympathize at least in part with the Brandens, but it does not constitute a fallacy. Besides, you suggest no other possible motive for claiming that Rand never told her Russian family her new name when this was blatantly not the case. I'm sure there are other possible motives, but Mr. Valliant was not wrong to suggest this (especially considering the sum of the other observations he makes in the book) as a possible one.

I want also to note that you implied something negative (you do not specify precisely what aside from making a drug reference that I, as a non-user, did not fully comprehend) regarding the length of PARC. I do want to emphasize that this is not an "article," as you called it, but a book. These are four chapters of Mr. Valliant's book, The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. Unfortunately, this book is currently out of print, but fortunately, Mr. Valliant made parts of it available online, which is why I posted links instead.

And I want to add that, while I certainly won't make any demands that you read all of PARC, I recommend you at least read some more of it. That one instance, the false claim about Rand's family never knowing her new name, is just the tip of the iceberg of fallacies in PAR that Mr. Valliant demonstrates in PARC. Perhaps his suggestion of a motive and hint of moral judgement will seem less improbable the more you read, even if you don't agree with his implied conclusions in those areas.

And what was Mr. Valliant's point? As Mr. Valliant himself describes in the introduction I linked ("The Smearing of Ayn Rand"), he was fascinated with Ayn Rand, was recommended the Brandens' books, and found them to be highly dishonest. His book is intended to demonstrate this to anyone who obtains from their books what he sees as a false view of Ayn Rand.

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