The Silence of Ayn Rand’s Critics

Casey's picture
Submitted by Casey on Sat, 2005-12-03 07:17

EXCLUSIVE to SOLO and The Free Radical. (Subscribe to the print edition and receive a whole lot more.)

"It is clear to me that Ayn Rand was a woman of remarkable integrity, who largely embodied the virtues she espoused. But it is also clear that she had certain other traits often found in great minds who have waged a lonely battle for their ideas: a tendency to surround herself with acolytes from whom she demanded declarations of agreement and loyalty; a growing sense of bitter isolation from the world; a quickness to anger at criticism; a tendency to judge people harshly and in haste. These faults did not outweigh her virtues; I consider them of minor significance in themselves. But they were real, and I thought [Barbara] Branden's book, whatever its other shortcomings, gave a reasonably fair and perceptive account of them.

"All of this is arguable, of course. But it should have been argued, and it wasn't. When the book appeared, I was shocked by the refusal of many prominent Objectivists to discuss the issues it raised, and their tendency to condemn anyone who did."

--David Kelley, PhD, Truth and Toleration (1990, I.O.S.), p. 75

Fifteen years have passed since David Kelley wrote this fateful passage about Barbara Branden’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand, in an infamous paper that would, after Ayn Rand’s official intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff responded with his paper “Fact and Value,” open a rancorous schism in Objectivist scholarship. Kelley and the Ayn Rand Institute would part ways over this divisive issue and its philosophical implications, with Kelley going on to create The Objectivist Center. The TOC side argued that the biographical portrait of Ayn Rand written by Barbara Branden (eventually extending to the memoir about Rand written by Nathaniel Branden) should be regarded as an objective source of information, while the other side rejected the Brandens’ testimony outright as arbitrary assertions made without regard for the truth.

Many regarded one side as open-minded while the other side resembled close-minded intellectual monks “whitewashing” their goddess, Ayn Rand. No explanation was forthcoming from ARI, and no consideration of the topic would be granted, seemingly vindicating ARI opponents and frustrating ARI supporters, as well.

It was not until this year that we find ourselves at a new crossroads in the debate. Barbara and Nathaniel Branden’s books have now, at last, been given a critical analysis, and one that has been sanctioned by the heretofore silent “other side” of the schism as Leonard Peikoff and the Ayn Rand estate have released the journals of Ayn Rand that deal with her last months with the Brandens to author James Valliant as supplementary evidence for his book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics: The Case Against the Brandens.

In Valliant’s book, and in Rand’s own journal entries written during the time the Brandens only retrospectively describe in their books, there is, to paraphrase David Kelley, significant new evidence that should be argued.

And yet, ironically, there has been much resistance to arguing or even addressing this new evidence and critical analysis, even though much of it is from a primary source (the one whose reputation was damaged by the above-referenced books) and was written contemporaneously with the events described many years after the fact in the Brandens’ enormously influential biographical books published after Rand’s death.

The side of the schism that insisted on granting validity to all sources of information has, so far, largely ignored Rand’s own side of the story. David Kelley has not said a word. His organization, The Objectivist Center, has been silent and at least one of its representatives, Robert Bidinotto, stated on the SOLOHQ website on February 8 of this year (well before the book was available):

"It is dismaying that a pack of parasites has found a way to produce paychecks and royalties by rummaging through and selling off the contents of Ayn Rand's attic and wastepaper baskets."

This comment shows a somewhat slavish resemblance to Nathaniel Branden’s comment in his book, My Years With Ayn Rand (p. 364), that Leonard Peikoff had, by publishing journal entries of Ayn Rand, made a “display of imaginativeness that few people would have anticipated” in “converting the Rand legacy into personal cash.” Apparently, Nathaniel Branden’s comments are so authoritative as to make Rand’s literally worthy of the dust-bin. This, while calling PARC a slavish whitewash of Rand’s reputation, just to complete the circle of irony.

(The Ayn Rand estate and Leonard Peikoff declined any royalty or remuneration for James Valliant’s use of Rand’s journals in his book.)

Reason Magazine, whose subtitle, “Free Minds and Free Markets” was cribbed from John Galt’s line in Atlas Shrugged that a “free market is the corollary of a free mind,” has ignored Rand’s posthumous answer to the Brandens after publishing a Rand Centennial issue smoked in the flavor of the Brandens’ rendition of the author and philosopher. Cathy Young, who penned a particularly Brandenian memorial for the magazine, was unresponsive to my own recent inquiry as to whether she had seen The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics since writing her article.

To their credit, libertarian scholars Wendy McElroy and Chris Sciabarra have treated the evidence as significant, though Sciabarra was largely (18,000 words) dismissive in his review, prompting Barbara Branden to remark on the SOLO website, “Chris didn't hack Valliant to death with an axe, he elegantly pierced him in the heart with a stiletto,” a statement with which Chris Sciabarra was sufficiently comfortable to offer his silence. Apparently, scholarly equanimity, even from a scholar such as Sciabarra who prides himself on his ecumenical tolerance of all viewpoints, is subservient to personal loyalties even when one excoriates that attribute among those loyal to Rand.

Such is the state of truth and toleration.

The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, and the journal entries of Rand published for the first time in PARC, reveal a dramatically different picture of both the Brandens and Rand. It is possible that the silence of Ayn Rand’s critics, those who have relied on the Brandens for so much of their picture of Rand, is a function of inertia—they are still coasting on the fumes of the Branden narratives and have not realized that, like Wiley Coyote, the ground has disappeared from beneath them and they are now pedaling air.

Among its revelations, PARC proves absolutely that Rand was not the irrationally jealous “woman scorned” the Brandens depicted when she broke with the Brandens. Rand was not holding the Brandens’ business relationship hostage to a sexual relationship with Nathaniel Branden. The reverse is true. The Brandens were using the possibility of a sexual relationship between Nathaniel Branden and Rand to insure a business relationship with Rand, as Ayn Rand’s own contemporaneous journal entries conclusively prove. In the notes it is clear that Rand is frustrated by years of being led on by a manipulating bastard to whom she shows more fidelity to truth and toleration than any of Rand’s critics are now willing to show to her. Most ironically of all, Rand herself is the ultimate skeptic as to the Brandens’ bad intentions. She is the one who has to be shown the monstrous truth of a years-long romantic deception before she finally, agonizingly, reaches a personal and professional breaking point.

PARC also proves that the mosaic of an egotistical, authoritarian, and neurotic Rand, the clichéd portrait so many are a priori willing to believe of any artist, is made of fragments with no reliable factual grounding. The whole negative picture of Rand engineered by these details the Brandens provide goes up in smoke upon examination of the evidence for each of the individual claims. Often their conclusions and pronouncements about Rand’s character and its defects are directly contradicted by their own observations buried in other parts of their narratives. The case against the Brandens presented in PARC calls for nothing less than as open and public a reappraisal of Rand the person as that which followed the publication of the Brandens’ books themselves.

The historical implications of Rand’s notes and the revealed dishonesty on the part of the Brandens are huge. Because of this, I believe the significance of PARC is taking a while to sink in before the process of separating what is now an unfortunate legend from what can honestly be said about Ayn Rand can begin.

But a major reappraisal of the Brandens’ works, and of Rand’s character, is now clearly in order. And while others have been notably silent, the first act of that reappraisal has taken place dramatically on SOLO over the months before and after PARC’s publication.

A community of Objectivist-oriented scholars, contributors, and members, SOLOHQ.COM, founded by Lindsay Perigo, is not controlled in the way the content of magazines and journals and other mainstream media are controlled, so it is significant that where the public has had the chance to pay attention, it did. Over a thousand posts on numerous threads vigorously debated PARC. This subject, in fact, set a record on SOLO for the most posts on any single thread in the site’s history—and that was just one of the SOLO threads that have focused on the book. So much for “boring,” and “It’s time to move on.”

During the course of this public debate, several historic events transpired on SOLO both before and after the book’s publication. Since this popular site for those interested in Objectivism featured Barbara Branden herself as a magisterial celebrity presence at the time when the book was published, its community was naturally hostile to the nature of Valliant’s book, and many of its most vocal members chorused a condemnation of its whole thesis well before the book had premiered, including Mr. Bidinotto, who is now affiliated with TOC. But a remarkable thing happened right in front of those who participated in the many threads on the subject and those who observed from a discreet distance: Barbara Branden self-immolated.

The first ominous sign appeared when she tried to answer evidence in PARC that she had gotten wrong the story of how Rand chose her nomme de plume. In their books, Barbara and Nathaniel cited differing stories supporting their claim that Rand got her name from a typewriter. Valliant's book documents how this explanation of her name is impossible, since she chose the name before any typewriter existed with the name "Rand," Remington or otherwise, and since she had revealed in interviews before and after meeting the Brandens that the name was an
abbreviation of her Russian name (which it is). In her book, Barbara claimed she heard it from Rand’s first cousin, Fern. For his part, Nathaniel later claimed that he heard it from Rand herself. On SOLO, we were treated to Barbara suddenly recollecting, after her memory was refreshed by Nathaniel, that she had, indeed, heard this from Rand herself and not just from Rand’s first cousin. Those who had relied on the veracity of her book and its sourcing were dealt the first blow to its credibility. James Valliant so much as predicted that Nathaniel Branden would engage in yet more rewriting of history on page 381 of PARC. (That he would engage in rewriting Barbara’s history was unanticipated.)

Following this, however, was a scene that may as well have been predicted by James Valliant, and which could only be instantly translatable into live theater by the Internet. Barbara Branden became hostile to the host of SOLO, Lindsay Perigo, who had been dismissive of the idea of even reading the Valliant book up until this point. After Barbara Branden defended a man Perigo knew as a supporter of publications advocating child pornography, he roundly condemned her for this action. Barbara Branden, in turn, condemned Perigo’s tendency for fiery moral condemnation as abusive. And then she signed on to a vacuous accusation advanced by one of her friendly agents that Perigo was, in fact, an alcoholic.

It was a repeat of the loose accusations she had made against Ayn Rand and Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor, acted out in real-time while the debate about these subjects was taking place with a global audience. In the annals of intellectual history, I daresay this was a first: something which Barbara Branden’s defenders denied was possible was re-enacted by Barbara Branden herself in plain view of everyone on the World Wide Web.

On a subsequent thread, in which yet another article, this one in Commentary magazine, relied on the Brandens’ portrait to smear Ayn Rand as a neurotic hypocrite, Barbara got an associate of hers to post her further “evidence” that Frank was an alcoholic—a now-deceased witness whom she neglected to mention in her book and who vaguely witnessed something that was not conclusive in any event. It was also during this record-breaking thread that SOLO’s founder, Lindsay Perigo, was finally persuaded to read The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics for himself.

And intellectual history shifted.

The former defender and friend of Barbara Branden, and honorary scold of ARI, began to change his mind as Barbara, through a sympathetic go-between, chided him for joining the ARI side with Star Wars-like melodrama. Perigo published his review, anyway, in which he apologized for dismissing the book and taking the word of those who had said it was “boring” and focused on “minutiae.” He pointed out that even Barbara’s recent summary of the break on SOLO was grossly misleading. He confessed that the book had changed his opinion about the Brandens’ representation of Ayn Rand, though it was still hard for him to fully incorporate those conclusions with his feelings about Barbara Branden.

Even the noted and estimable libertarian scholar Chris Sciabarra weighed in on SOLO, and in his own somewhat narrow (if long) review of PARC on his own website found no reason to doubt Mr. Valliant’s scholarly integrity in editing Rand’s notes, while minimizing the import of the new evidence that they contain. Later, however, he would concede on SOLO that the book had, indeed, “changed the landscape” of Rand scholarship.

As claims by critics that PARC is a “whitewash” have been dispatched by the contents of PARC itself, which clearly does not attempt to canonize Rand but merely to analyze the credibility of the Brandens’ claims about her, this accusation reveals the ironic fact that the Brandens have been canonized by default, literally, as sources whose word on Rand should be taken uncritically. All that PARC proves is that you must not take any source uncritically, and, after careful analysis, that applies doubly to the Brandens, whose deceits, of implication and omission, include many that can only be considered deliberate. No one could ever guess from either of the Brandens’ books that Nathaniel was serving up a fresh dish of psychological lies to Rand for the many therapy sessions he requested of her to discuss his sexual paralysis (which paralysis did not prevent him from carrying on his secret four-year affair with a young actress student). The elaborate and sophisticated smokescreens Branden spun in these prolonged sessions were supported by Barbara Branden for two years, as well, with all the conversation that must have involved. That must sink in. In addition, the Brandens both held out false hope to Rand that they were still working on their marriage, as the notes also confirm.

(In this regard, the most alarming of the historic moments that occurred on SOLO was Barbara Branden’s essay, posted before her falling out with Perigo, about how she and Nathaniel had lied about this very issue to her dying mother, reporting that Rand herself gave her blessing to this kind of white lie. Using Rand to indirectly justify their deception of Rand herself in such a pre-emptive reminiscence is surely a new low, even for the Brandens, no matter how justified they were in lying to Barbara’s mother.)

The elaborate nature of the Brandens’ deception of Rand was omitted from both of their books. These are not small issues, and omissions such as these now documented in PARC cast the Brandens’ entire accounts into fatal doubt.

Innocent reliance on the Brandens is one thing, but understanding the scope of their ongoing deceptions about Rand and not acknowledging forthrightly that that revelation requires a reappraisal of her character and personal legacy is too much like the airbrushing that libertarians and other rival factions have accused the Ayn Rand Institute of engaging in. (Laissez Faire Books still will not sell The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, though it contains Ayn Rand’s own words that were written contemporaneous to the events the Brandens wrote about years after the fact in books that they readily offer to the public.)

Whatever errors the intellectual conservator of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, may have made, he has honorably come to the defense of his benefactor, whereas other professional beneficiaries have been content to let an injustice to her go unmentioned or have even obscured that injustice through their mention of it. In light of the new evidence and the old evidence that has finally been given a critical analysis in PARC, even a passive stance toward Rand’s moral reputation is a particularly low species of ingratitude from many of those whose silence has been so conspicuous.

What is pernicious about the last two post-Brandenian decades is that they have provided a smokescreen for larceny, a larceny that could be avoided by the simple honorable mention of the person who developed such revolutionary ideas. The simple act of not besmirching her unfairly or disposing of her person to retain her ideas would have sufficed. The Brandens have provided those who wish not to seem like a “cult follower” of Rand with a way to jokingly distance themselves from her. They have also, more disturbingly, forced many who don’t care about fitting in at cocktail parties to distance Rand from her ideas.

Whatever else one thinks about him, Alan Greenspan to this day is said to have stopped on a dime at Washington parties whenever he has heard Rand besmirched and told the offender directly that Rand was one of the most honorable people he has ever known, and that he won't abide insults of her person in his presence. In Washington, as the Federal Reserve Chairman, that takes courage. But he had the benefit of firsthand knowledge to give him what some might consider an uncharacteristic fire in this regard. (At his swearing-in at the White House as the president’s chief economic advisor, he is said to have stated that Rand was his second mother—his first, his biological mother, of his body; his second, Rand, of his spirit. And at his request, both of Greenspan’s “mothers” were present at the ceremony.)

If Objectivism comes up in mixed company, the conversation very soon turns to how Rand was a loon. Wasn’t she? My God! The admirer or follower or scholar of Objectivism quickly nods his head and agrees, of course, she was a loon, granted. But now let's look at some of her ideas, he repairs, because even a broken clock is right twice a day. This seems like a way to sneak the ideas back into play after Rand has been personally smeared. And, in fairness, because of the Brandens, it seemed like the only way to get her ideas back in play during the last 20 years.

But that has now changed. Visitors to SOLO had the chance to witness the change occurring before their eyes as Barbara Branden demonstrated the very tactics that call her account of Rand into doubt and the subsequent retraction of support for her depiction of Rand by her former public sponsor.

After seeing the numerous paltry defenses offered by Barbara Branden’s defenders at SOLO it is quite clear that the substantial and fatal contradictions in the Brandens’ psychological profile of Rand, and her husband, Frank O’Connor, are historically untenable. The Brandens, through their agents, have had ample opportunity to give their best defense, and it has been non-existent, unverifiable, and even more damning as to their standards of evidence. Now they are demanding more evidence for their claims from ARI in order to make their initial case credible!

On the other hand, the reliable evidence, from so many varied sources, has always clashed with the Brandens’ unique claims that she was cold, quick to dismiss friends, living a life of lies, helpless in the face of practical reality, insensitive to personal context, ungracious to benefactors, and humorless, to name a few of their condemnations. The testimony of virtually everyone else who knew her suggests that Ayn Rand was warm, loyal, honest, practical, sensitive, gracious and grateful to a fault, witty and appreciative of humor, and practiced remarkable integrity and devotion to those she loved. Even the Brandens’ own individual recollections contradict their broad negative pronouncements. The evidence from her journals in PARC confirms the observations of the non-Branden sources in spades.

While David Kelley concludes from Barbara Branden’s book that Rand had “a tendency to surround herself with acolytes from whom she demanded declarations of agreement and loyalty; a growing sense of bitter isolation from the world; a quickness to anger at criticism; a tendency to judge people harshly and in haste,” it is curious to note that Leonard Peikoff, the person who required the most convincing of all if we are to trust the Brandens, was chosen to be her intellectual heir rather than the sycophantic Brandens, who claimed to agree with Rand on virtually everything throughout their relationship no matter how false that agreement was.

In terms of moral character and integrity, Rand stood head and shoulders above other celebrated intellectuals, who are not run down personally in conversations about their ideas, whether they be Picasso, Hemingway, Bertrand Russell, or even Karl Marx. It is no doubt antipathy for Rand’s ideas that has led many of her critics to latch on to the Brandens’ portraits with such avid interest, but it is also a fact that Rand claimed to live by her principles. The mendacity of the Brandens has therefore done more than harm Rand the person—it attacks the most basic claim of her philosophy by suggesting that Objectivism is no more practicable than any other clever subjectivist philosophy. Therefore, the revelation that the Brandens lied about such things reveals a malice not just toward Rand but toward Objectivism itself.

PARC reveals that there was never any basis to concede the biographical high ground to the Brandens out of a fear of “whitewashing” Rand. The negative image of Rand conjured by the Brandens was never more than a vicious and elaborate ad hominem justification for their own astonishing mistreatment of her, and is contradicted not only by more reliable witnesses but even by their own narratives, and now, especially, by Rand’s own notes. It is time to defend Rand now, not the Brandens—they have had their two decades of influence, as unjustified as they were.

People like Frank Lloyd Wright or Alan Greenspan or Leonard Peikoff are not mindless drones. The reason intellects such as theirs were attracted to Rand’s ideas is that her ideas expressed what they knew to be true, and that was the only reason for their stated allegiance to those ideas. None of them had any problem crediting her with the great service she had done them by expressing those ideas so completely.

Will coming to the defense of Rand, as a person, make her admirers sound like cult worshippers? It was always a fallacious charge to begin with. It denies something so fundamental as to concede the whole battle to the opponents of Objectivism without a real shot ever being fired. To fear that defending her ideas or person will be called cult-worship is to belie a fear that it is not the truth of her ideas that can merit defense, but only her oracular status—that the only reason to defend her ideas or person must be a religious devotion to someone's arbitrary intellectual primacy (one's own or someone else's), divorced from objective truth.

This is giving everything away to the philosophical opposite of Objectivism; it is an utterly irrational concession to subjectivism without regard to any objective evidence in the name of avoiding being “cultish.” (Irony on top of irony.) This kind of automatic belief, that there must be a negative side to Rand’s ledger that is being suppressed and for which the Brandens should be considered valid sources, and that all argument from the contrary is dishonest, is the very mental prerequisite of a new cult—that of the Brandens! It is the perfect platform from which to advance the notion that they must be right and that all opponents must be deluded. Moreover, it implies a positive belief that there is no objective truth available to be discovered by any genius at all, for, if objectivity is possible, Rand is possible, and a Rand who lived by her principles is possible. To think otherwise prima facie is to reject Objectivism fundamentally.

Furthermore, to refrain from defending Rand's person from unjustified calumny concedes that there is no truth about a person that is objective, either—while throwing out objective standards of evidence in the bargain.

Far from suggesting the impracticality of her philosophy, Rand’s life is a spectacular proof of that philosophy’s efficacy. Ayn Rand deserves objectivity in the consideration of her legacy. As has been proved in The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, she did not get it from the Brandens or from those who accepted the Brandens’ testimony uncritically. It is still a question whether she will get it from many of her beneficiaries who are so silent now. But in the long run, the truth revealed in PARC, and the enormity of the Brandens’ deceit, will slowly sink in.

And the history that transpired on SOLO will be remembered as the first turning point on that long road.

The Free Radical


sjw's picture

Since I agreed with Robert that the designation "intellectual heir" is nonsense, I think I should also say that I disagree--strongly--with him about the accusation that Peikoff and others are "parasites" because they published her private journals and such.

That is just flat out ridiculous. Ayn Rand was not stupid. If she didn't want these things published, she would have destroyed them. If she wanted them used only in a restricted way, she would have made it clear before her death. It's not as if she didn't have time to clear these things up.

If her death had been accidental, I could understand the speculation about her wishes, but given that it wasn't, it's not warranted, not by a long shot. Just as we can assume that she didn't want to make Peikoff her intellectual heir because she didn't say so publicly, likewise it's safe to assume that she meant to give Peikoff her full permission to publish her private journals if he saw fit.

Frankly, I don't know why Robert doesn't revel in Valliant's book, since it goes against the decades-long trend ARI has set in dealing with its opponents with silence instead of arguments. That in my opinion is one of the best things about it. If TOC really is ultimately going to have nothing to say about it, well all I can say is that this will be the pinnacle of irony.

TOC, etc.

Neil Parille's picture


What if the TOC was the same as it is now, but officialy denounced the Brandens. Would it then have Peikoff's approval?

Has Peikoff had anything positive to say about Objectivists not associated with the ARI?

It Is Philosophical, Of Course

Holly Valliant's picture

The philosophical issue of "tolerance" and what an "open" system actually consists of, as others have said already, is best seen in concrete examples. If TOC "tolerates" Mr. Branden to the extent that it does, doesn't this define for us what this abstract issue of "tolerance" means in practice?

Why the distraction then?

James S. Valliant's picture


TOC has not taken an official position on my book, but they do have an official position on the Brandens -- one of complete tolerance -- "officially" worthy of invites and praise and publication -- as Dr. Kelley's published comments in 1990 had foreshadowed. If there is a contrary view, it has been suppressed and is undetectable except by rumor. Blumenthal's departure underscores this fact.

Then, in your view, why are those associated with TOC, past and present, not addressing Mr. Fahy's point?

Intellectual Heir

Neil Parille's picture


You state: "I think the designation by Rand is according to her wishes."

Again, what is your proof? Nothing that has been written here has persuaded me that Rand said something like "I designate L. Peikoff as my intellectual heir."

maybe in our world; but not this one

kathy v's picture

my dear friend casey, it makes me bubble with pride to know my brother has stopped one of these monsters from going unchecked; but I would have to disagree with seldom. it seems to me more often than not the best of people are demonized after death. and then celabrated, acclaimed and awarded for doing so. no matter, the liers know in their hearts who they are. and they have to go to bed with themselves. lots of love,kathy

Adam,I disagree. You feel

Casey's picture


I disagree. You feel that TOC would have come about even without Barbara Branden's book, but PAR is a very special test case. Seldom has a specimen so flawed, duplicitous and dishonest come about in the first place -- a book written by a spurned enemy of its subject that is published, celebrated and made into an Emmy-award-winning movie! --and is embraced by some Randian scholars as a source of truth even though the body of that source is demonstrably dishonest. Remember, Blumenthal QUIT TOC because Nathaniel Branden was given sanction to speak on TOC's behalf!

In this context, questioning Peikoff's designation now seems to be a last ditch effort to explain and justify TOC's charter sans the Brandens' books.

Intellectual heir

sjw's picture

It only makes sense that Branden supporters would grasp at any criticism, whether valid or not. But it doesn't follow that since a Branden supporter made a big deal out of some criticism, that therefore it's invalid or that anyone who brings it up is trying to insinuate tyrannical lunacy etc. (Which is part of why the topic doesn't belong here--it doesn't really have anything to do with Valliant's book or with Branden supporters).

If Rand had truly thought it important to vouch for Peikoff in this form, I think she would have done more than privately tell him he could use the term "intellectual heir." I think she would have publicly written that it was important, that she would have clearly defined the meaning and limits of the term as well as the implications of granting it or not granting it so that other men would clearly grasp her intent.

Since she didn't, I take it that she didn't think the term was that important, and if she called Peikoff that, it must have been in a private context, as in a kind of compliment (and there are all sorts of special, private meanings of terms given like that, e.g. "The Collective").

In any case, I think that reading meaning into the term we can never know how she meant to be used is a big mistake.

And for different reasons, I don't think the term can ever make any sense except as a private compliment. I don't think one should ever designate an "intellectual" heir, as a matter of principle. Even if she could have vouched for his grasp of her philosophy at that time, vouching for such is extremely limited: First, it's not as if she's also vouching for his ability to extend/apply the philosophy to areas she didn't discuss with him; second, as Ayn Rand herself pointed out, people have free will, and the man you know today may not have the same virtues as that man 20 years from now, making it logically impossible to grant a permanent "intellectual heir" status to anyone.

That said, I don't think Peikoff is being "tyrannical" in his adoption of the term, I think he's simply made a mistake. It should go without saying: People can be and often are wrong without also being evil. So accusing Peikoff of a mistake is not also accusing him of being evil.



Adam Buker's picture

I'm not sure if I follow what you're saying. How would anything said in the article or in this discussion cause TOC to question it's entire reason for being. Granted those that support Barbara and/or Nathaniel Branden while detesting your book need to present a reasoned defense that stands up to it, it does not follow that this controversy has made it so that TOC is questioning why it exists. TOC was not founded as a direct result of the Rand/Branden split. It was founded over philosophical disputes between Dr. Kelly and Dr. Peikoff on the issues of toleration vs. sanction, truth, fact and value, and evil vs. honest error. The fact that the initial catalyst in that dispute was Barbara's book is irrelevant. Had her book not existed, the dispute would still be there. Another issue would have been the initial catalyst. Such as it is, I cannot recall seeing if TOC has an offical position on the Rand/Branden split. I know that there were and are people that are involved with TOC that either do not care about the issue or have sided against the Brandens (i.e. Allen Blumenthal)

I will state that those that disagree with your book need to present thier own reasoned stance, but I have not seen the organization that is TOC take an official position in regard to your book. I doubt that they are going to either, as any judgement for or against your book will cause a controversy of sorts that would alienate portions of their contributing base both financially and academically. Although both Barbara and Nathaniel have spoken at TOC events, to the best of my knowledge, neither is officialy part of TOC any more than I am. (I don't support any faction of the Objectivist movement. I just speak for myself.)

You shouldn't ask TOC to respond to your criticisms of the Brandens. You should ask the Brandens themselves.

As for the intellectual heir business, I don't see how that would have to do with TOC's reason for existence either. I personally don't care what Dr. Peikoff calls himself, and I don't care whether or not it has validity. I think it's a silly designation regardless. For that matter he could call himself The Grand High Poobah of Upper Butt-Crack.


James S. Valliant's picture

Responding to the challenge of this article with a discussion about Peikoff's use of the term "intellectual heir" suggests that the article has caused TOC to question its entire reason for being.

Thanks, Shayne

Casey's picture

I think the designation by Rand is according to her wishes (rather than some insane power-grab by Peikoff, as seems to be suggested) and I think that the importance of the designation is that to Rand's knowledge Peikoff was the only one she could vouch for in terms of trusting him to get right what she was saying. In that sense, the designation is important -- it gives us an insight into her trust in Peikoff from a character perspective (that he would not abuse such a designation is implicit since no one has any good reason to assume that she meant anything Pope-like at all) and provides us with her appraisal of his understanding of her ideas. There would have been a real downside to her not making such a designation, I believe, and I don't believe she would have done so unless she felt it was merited. But I agree, it's a tempest in a teapot insofar as it has been converted into a needlessly melodramatic pronouncement with all sorts of smuggled in insinuations that have no basis, a silly distraction for those wishing to dodge other issues, and a flogging point for Rand's critics who would interpret her designation of a favorite color as some kind of tyrannical lunacy if given half the chance (see the Brandens).

Intellectual Heir

sjw's picture

First let me say that I think your book is great! I love the defense of Ayn Rand you and Casey are putting on--bold, clearly reasoned, and out in the open--as it should be.

I agree with Linz that this intellectual heir business is off topic here. I don't see what it has to do with Casey's article. Perhaps someone should start a new thread for it.

However, I agree with Robert that it's really a nonsense designation. How can any man speak for another, especially after death? The only permission I'd give *anyone* to speak for me would be in a very delimited sense, and while I was alive so I could confirm what he said.

It may be possible that Ayn Rand did indeed give Leonard Peikoff "intellectual heir" status in some verbal form (evidently there is zero written proof). But if so, the wise thing to do would be for Peikoff to reject it. Indeed, he has done this to a significant extent (e.g., in the forward of OPAR he disclaims that he is speaking for Ayn Rand), but it would be best if he'd just drop the designation entirely. There is no logical value in the term, and attempting to cash in on any "marketing value" the term could conceivably lend is wired up to backfire--precisely because that's all the term is useful for--marketing. It's not an argument except from authority. What Ayn Rand said is what she said. Excepting accurate memory recall of what she said to him, she can't speak to us through Peikoff, no matter how happy she was with him.


James S. Valliant's picture

So, let me get this straight: if I have defended the use of the term in Peikoff's case, why should it be a problem -- for me -- that Peikoff himself uses the term?

Since you're back with us, Mr. Bidinotto, I wonder if you could respond to my earlier post.

Yet again, This Time in the London Review of Books

Casey's picture

As a case in point to illustrate how the Brandens' biographies continue to be a source of ad hominem and misrepresentation of Rand, I offer this latest calumny, a review of the Jeff Briting Book. It offers the usual crude ignorance of Rand and her ideas that are par for the course in any mainstream publication, and it is laced with the same venomous misinterpretations, all of which make one wonder about the quality of any book reviews that appear in the publication. And, as well, the entire history of Rand is tainted by the Brandens' self-serving accounts, though it is clear that the author has researched the new debate raised by PARC at least a little, since a few new post-PARC qualifications appear here and there, though the Branden party line remains unscathed. From the London Review of Books, an author named Jenny Turner writes the following: "Many years later, writing (with some irony) in his memoirs, Nathaniel Branden characterised the credo of the NBI thus: ‘Ayn Rand is the greatest human being who has ever lived. Atlas Shrugged is the greatest human achievement in the history of the world. Ayn Rand, by virtue of her philosophical genius, is the supreme arbiter of any issue pertaining to what is rational, moral or appropriate to man’s life on earth.’ And, because Branden was designated her ‘intellectual heir’, he was to be accorded ‘only marginally less reverence than Ayn Rand herself’. But when he finally confessed in 1968 that he was in love with a young NBI student called Patrecia and no longer wanted to sleep with his mentor, he was immediately anathematised, his books banned, his contributions to audiotapes dubbed over."

Interestingly, you can see some of the Branden canards about voice dubbing here, as well; though the legal issues are complex, it is used as a mud-pie to throw at Objectivism anyway. The rest of the article is, believe it or not, even more ridiculous than this. But just to footnote the Brandens' dishonesties that contributed to this article via their respective books would require three times the amount of space than the actual book review takes up. It would be infuriating if it wasn't such a self-parody by now, and if PARC did not exist to thoroughly refute the sources for this garbage once and for all.

Here is the link:

New name for Regi

Adam Buker's picture

I think we should call him Regibald Icyhummer, being that there's no possible way he can be getting any...

For Barbara Branden et al.

eg's picture

Dear Barbara,

Your email to me of 12-2 was deleted by me without reading it or the subject line. If you have sent any more I simply have no way of knowing that.

You or anyone else may always write me, however, at

Brant Gaede
POB 64247
Tucson, AZ 85728

I will reply to whatever you have to say and keep your correspondence private. I'll proably be starting a blog within the next six months and I may then ask you for permission to publish therein some or any of your correspondence, in whole or part. I am aware that you may think I have made a basic mistake in regard to you and/or Frank O'Connor or something else--and/or that I have not been fair to you.

(I've become aware of how all these electronic messages are simply going to disappear over time. A great deal has already been lost. I'm starting to make paper copies of letters and documents.)

I want it understood that you and PAR have not changed and I am thankful you wrote it; I've changed. (I don't have much to do with Nathaniel any more, for instance. He lays down with mystics but is not a mystic. Whatever his motives I can't relate to that. It's not a contradiction if you're an anthropologist or seeking the mystics's knowledge or insights, but that stuff is not validated by mysticism, but through reason. I also think he has in his career understated the necessary role of rectitude and reason in creating and maintaining self-esteem. As for his latest psychotherapy work, it may be valuable and true but I'm completely out of the loop on that.) It is now necessary because of PARC to more critically examine the life of Ayn Rand--that means PAR too; it's too important to our understanding of her to ignore.


"belly-laughing so much I

Andrew Bissell's picture

"belly-laughing so much I fear for my life"

... You're not the only one!

I think one of these days we should make up a "Sense of Lust Objectivists" logo, maybe with a butt in place of one of the "O"s. Put it up on the frontpage & watch the Phunny Pharm Phascists go kerplooey.


bidinotto's picture

Good show, Neil. I had forgotten that Peikoff himself called himself "Ayn Rand's intellectual and legal heir" in "Fact and Value." Your closing question is the question of the hour. Who the hell ever made HIM the Objectivist Pope? Not Ayn Rand.

The lame defenses of that presumptuous claim by his defenders, here and elsewhere, do not remotely approach evidence of any such designation. So ask yourself what they possibly could be trying to accomplish in perpetuating that canard -- and its "pay value" to them.


Heir, etc.

Neil Parille's picture

I just noticed this on the other site from Peikoff's Fact and Value --

"Now I wish to make a request to any unadmitted anti-Objectivists reading this piece, a request that I make as Ayn Rand's intellectual and legal heir. If you reject the concept of 'objectivity' and the necessity of moral judgment, if you sunder fact and value, mind and body, concepts and percepts, if you agree with the Branden or Kelley viewpoint or anything resembling it—please drop out of our movement: drop Ayn Rand, leave Objectivism alone."

Now, did Rand designate Peikoff to speak ex cathedra on who is and isn't an Objectivist?

Intellectual Heir

Neil Parille's picture

Not to belabour [sic] the point, but the fact that:

"Rand's endorsements of Peikoff's work excluded others'--e.g., his was the 'first' book by an Objectivist philosopher other than herself, and his course was the 'only' complete presentation of her philosophy."

does not turn Peikoff into Rand's "intellectual heir." And, Ominous Parallels was the first book that I can think of by a professed Objectivist philosopher. None of this means that "Peikoff and Peikoff alone" was designated as the one to carry on Rand's work.

All of this may be a minor point, but your book practically starts on the minor point of whether Branden was right on where Rand's name came from.

"...hedonists at the Sense

Robert's picture

"...hedonists at the Sense Of Lust Obscurantists"

This amount of anti-sex vitriol makes me wonder if Regi's Phirehammer has ever been banged... Is he studying to be a monk?


eg's picture

This thread is as good as any and better than most to let it be known that I will be posting very little here or anywhere else from now on. I am going back to making money and starting a long term writing project.

This is not a negative reflection on Linz's new site and I wish him and others here well. And I still will post from time to time, but I'm out of the defending Barbara Branden business, such as it was.
(Barbara, if you send me any messages I won't even know you sent them; a third party will delete them. Because of the esteem I still hold you and did hold for you it would be extremely painful for me to read such, no matter what you say or how you say it.)


Hell's Bells!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I just checked out the Phunny Pharm to see if they'd reacted to the new SOLO, loving SOLO as much as they do. Have they what?! Regi's gone & lost his rag entirely. In the midst of a lengthy rant about wicked Mr. Fahy's new article here is this:

Fact is, you can't hang around with skunks without beginning to smell like one. I'm glad they don't have anything more to do with this site. The air is a lot fresher around here. So let them drool praise for P's so called "courage," [he just decided to jump on the bandwagon before it ran him over] and wallow with that bunch of subjectivist hedonists at the Sense Of Lust Obscurantists, down in Faghaven NZ, all laughing and thumbing their noses at ARI, who provided the only real evidence for the book.

I wonder how ARI likes the fact the individual they entrusted with the material they had carefully guarded all those years, is now sucking up to those who most hate ARI, who have nothing but contempt, derision, and scorn for them. If I were ARI, I would immediately release the pertinent Ayn Rand journals themselves, in a nice binding, reasonably priced. I don't know about anyone else, but I don't need the poorly written, repetitious, interpretations of some lawyer, who has no idea what Objectivism is about, to explain Ayn Rand for me.

Faghaven?! Wow! At a certain point in the SOLO/FreeRad debates about homosexuality, I concluded that Regi was a homofobe, dressing up his bigotry in tortuous pesudo-Objectivist rationalisations. There it is from the horse's mouth.

Poorly written, repetitious interpretations of some lawyer who has no idea what Objectivism is about? Hahahaha!

All this because Phirehammer isn't credited with being the "first" to "expose" the Brandens?! I already dealt with this in my Daily Linz, Phor the Record.

Anyway, James, you "some lawyer" you - you're excommunicated. Can't have people who have no idea what Objectivism is about round here!! Besides, if I don't excommunicate you, ARI will.

Linz (belly-laughing so much I fear for my life).


James S. Valliant's picture


Justice to Rand was my primary goal -- i.e., putting a stop to the uncritical acceptance of demonstrably unreliable sources. I also sought to provide help to young readers of Ayn Rand who must confront the inevitable and endless stream of Branden-inspired ad hominems.

I wrote it because it was clear to me that no one else was going to.

Believe it or not, it was the Brandens' books that convinced me of their flaws.

I started out as a Libertarian eager to learn from Mr. Branden and many others. It was I who first arranged for him to give "Benefits and Hazards" as a speech, and introduced him there, over 20 years ago.

I can't help your sense of smell, but don't you get the real odor of vendetta from the Brandens? After all, I have no personal beef with either of the Brandens, while they surely do against Rand.


James S. Valliant's picture


So, if my goal was to fight the irrationality of that "premise," then it must therefore be my own "working premise"? Say what?!

Mr. Valliant people would

Ciro D Agostino's picture

Mr. Valliant people like to know more about you, but you seem
to be stocked on the Brandens.

Some change their mind for a reason, some others find a reason to change their mind. I want to change my mind about you! I don't think you are doing justice to Rand with your new book.
Your book smells of vendetta!
That book should have been written by LP, not you!
Maybe he tought that he had too much of a bad name to be believed by anyone?
why you wrote it?

Working premise

Merlin Jetton's picture

I have not read PARC, but what was your motive in writing it? What was often the gist of Casey's remarks on SOLO? At least for the latter, it was that critics of Ayn Rand make ad hominen attacks on her personal life in order to discredit her philosophy. So whether or not you tightly link her personal stature and the validity of her philosophy in your own appraisal of her, it seems clear that both of you believe that others make this link and such linkage is detrimental to a wider acceptance of her philosophy. So I find your rejection of this "working premise" incredible.

Cause of TOC creation

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I will concede that Barbara's book may have been the initial catalyst for the break between Peikoff and Kelley. However, many people have broken with Rand and/or Peikoff without forming a new Objectivist organization. In the years prior to 1996 when Nathaniel Branden first appeared at then-IOS, there was even more of an anti-Branden contingent at IOS including the Blumenthals, Jim Lennox and others.

In 1996, David Kelley made a tough call to invite Nathaniel to speak at IOS. I was skeptical about that decision precisely because I detested Judgment Day and had serious reservations about Benefits and Hazards. However, I was pleasantly surprised that his talk did not focus primarily on Ayn Rand, but his own work on self-esteem. I do have a rule however that whenever Nathaniel Branden speaks about Ayn Rand I don't attend.

However, I support Kelley's decision to invite Nathaniel, because in many of his books besides Judgment Day, he has many important things to say. TOC is to say the least not a monolithic organization, but I think it embodies the attitude expressed by Ayn Rand that one must always see for oneself.



Lindsay Perigo's picture

Brant, I've known you to change your stance from one day to the next, so don't know whether you'll still be saying what you've said here tomorrow. That's not an insult, just an observation as to what has occurred in the past. But this post of yours is courageous in the extreme, and I hope you don't resile from it. People need to know that the "anti-anger" BB gets splutteringly angry when it suits, and she has incredible blind spots. Her closest allies will tell you that when they're being honest. This is not to insult her either - I wish to hell she could face up to the fact that no more than Ayn Rand is she flawless, and gets some things wrong. The fact that she won't is her problem, though, Brant, not yours. Brant, you've shown yourself to be a giant here. You've struck a blow for justice. Do not feel alone.

James,I just want to point

Casey's picture

To James Heaps-Nelson,

I just want to point out something we just found out in Mr. Bidinotto's recent post. As Mr. Bidinotto says, his own disaffection from ARI was the direct result of their reaction to Ms. Branden's book and David Kelley's break with Peikoff was the direct result of Kelley's refusal to dissociate himself from a publication that carried an edorsement of Ms. Branden's book.

Now I'm sure that the origins of TOC were a more complex matter. But Mr. Bidinotto has reminded us all that the specific and proximate cause of the very creation of TOC itself was a dispute over Ms. Branden's book.

Thank You

James S. Valliant's picture

It is perhaps unfair to respond since you have stated that that was your last word on the topic. But, for one thing, I did want to thank you for the apology.

However, I must also add that you are grossly mistaken in saying that my "working premise" is "that Rand's personal stature and the validity of her philosophy are so tightly tied that they rise or fall together." Where did you get that idea? Certainly not from my book, nor from a careful reading of Mr. Fahy's article.

Also, you fail to mention that Rand's endorsements of Peikoff's work excluded others'--e.g., his was the "first" book by an Objectivist philosopher other than herself, and his course was the "only" complete presentation of her philosophy. Just left that out? I don't know what kind of exalted status you think others ascribe to him from this, but the level of Rand's trust in him is clear.

And, it was not your own break with anyone that I ever referred to. That was never at issue.

Thus, the facts that I suggest that you had not confronted were those in the article -- Kelley's call for a debate on the issues raised in Ms. Branden's book -- and my own. If, as the editor of the voice of TOC, you reject Dr. Kelley's original position, this is the kind of ideological tension that such an intellectually tolerant organization can expect, no doubt. But will this tension be reflected in the pages of your publication? Or will you disallow these alleged disagreements from being even discussed?

Will there be only allowed Mr. Bidinotto's vision of what's important?

Mr. Bidinotto,Yes, thanks

Casey's picture

Mr. Bidinotto,

Yes, thanks for reminding me. The "fateful passage" was from Kelley's later remarks that focused on the event in hindsight -- which actually strengthens my (minor and passing) point in the article.

The rest of Mr. Bidinotto's post is a bunch of radio static obscuring (and simultaneously clarifying) the essential truth of my article: he won't read the book, he will remain silent on its contents, while continuing to trumpet the contents of the Brandens' books. Ipso Facto. Q.E.D. Ad nauseum.

Ashley: Class Act

Jeff Perren's picture

Though my comment did not really have you foremost in mind, and because of your posts here and on RoR, I want to do more than write you privately. I want to publicly say that you remain in my mind what I have long thought: a thoroughly class act.


No way

Casey's picture

Not alone.

Kudos, Brant. I've borne the brunt of a lot of flack in this battle, too, and only because it shines a light that some people don't want to see, but others certainly do. At least, that is the faith (I hope not mystical) that has kept me going, and honesty like yours and Linz's is worth all the slings and arrows.

Something about Henry V and St. Crispin's Day comes to mind when integrity gets so bloody and costly.

On intellectual parasitism

bidinotto's picture

Let me begin by apologizing for the tome length of this post, but it is meant to be my final summary statement on the issues here, so I beg your indulgence.

    Mr. Valliant, let us not plod. No one has ever denied that Peikoff was designated by Ayn Rand to inherit her estate, including her papers and possessions. But the title for that status is "heir." Just "heir." So why the insistence upon "intellectual heir," "designated intellectual heir," or "official intellectual heir"?

    Ayn Rand employed the term "intellectual heir" to one person only, most notably in her original afterword to Atlas Shrugged. After first paying tribute to her husband, Frank O'Connor, she added soaring words of praise about the other man to whom she had originally dedicated the novel, concluding: "He is my intellectual heir. His name is Nathaniel Branden."

   In that context, the meaning of "intellectual heir" to Ayn Rand was crystal clear. She meant someone whom she had entrusted, not to dispose of her property, but to be her public spokesman, intellectual representative, and philosophical successor. Nathaniel Branden, she was saying to the world, can be relied upon to speak for me and my ideas.

   No doubt because of the ugly outcome of that experience, she never again gave that "blank check" to anyone. She certainly never said or wrote anything bestowing that exalted status upon Leonard Peikoff. Her endorsements of him were far more circumscribed and delimited. She wrote the Introduction to Peikoff's The Ominous Parallels -- an effusive endorsement...but of the book. The farthest she went in her designation of Peikoff in that article was to affirm his status as "an Objectivist philosopher." Which is a far cry from anything like what Jesus said of Peter: "Upon this rock I shall build my church." She also endorsed Peikoff's course, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," as a systematic, accurate presentation of her philosophy.

   But nowhere, repeat, nowhere did she designate Peikoff to be her "intellectual heir" -- not in the sweeping Brandenian sense of him being her philosophical successor, intellectual representative on earth, public spokesman, ideological alter ego, or anything of the sort. By then, she knew better.

   To repeat my opening question: Why the insistence by some on referring to Peikoff as Rand's "intellectual heir," "designated intellectual heir," or "official intellectual heir"? We all know what game is being played here. It is to inflate his status as the mere heir to her estate to being something much, much more. It is to suggest that he inherited not just the proprietary title to Rand's property, but the title to being the authoritative voice of her ideas.

    By analogy, if I, as a writer on subjects some would categorize as "philosophical," willed to my daughter the mere possession and disposition of my papers, would she thereby become my "philosophical heir"? Or simply my "heir"? And if my daughter were to suddenly to inflate that status, proclaiming herself to be my "philosophical heir," or "intellectual heir," what would observers be entitled to think of her motives?

    The "pay value" in this for Peikoff's associates and followers is that they can proclaim their own status as "true Objectivists" by their proximity to the "designated" authority figure. In fact,

    I am as outraged over Peikoff's and ARI's illicit appropriation of Rand's great name as I am of the anarchist Ludwig von Mises Institute's illicit appropriation of that great economist's name. In both cases the aim is to cash in on the reputation of giants, and to vicariously inflate one's personal stature in the process. Just as there is "guilt by association," these are examples of "self-glorification by association" -- a form of psychological parasitism.

    I challenge this "intellectual heir" nonsense because I challenge parasitism in principle. For the record: My own break with Peikoff, Schwartz & Co. came by my own initiation, in 1986, four years before there was any TOC. It came at the time of the publication of Barbara Branden's book, because those with whom I was associating -- including Schwartz -- were substituting fulmination and insults against the book for reasoned arguments. That, after years of furious denials that there was anything at all to the rumors of an affair between Rand and Branden...and bitter denunciations of anyone who would give such rumors any credence.

    No, Mr. Valliant, they did not take your approach, which at least comes to grips with the book's specific content: they simply raged, called names -- and publicly repudiated those who saw any merit at all in it. When I saw individuals being so unjustly and viciously denounced, I decided that I had had it with these pretenders to the title "Objectivists" and "intellectual heirs." I severed my connection with The Intellectual Activist, then edited by Schwartz, and subsequently made my disenchantment bluntly clear in a letter to him and his ARI associates.

   So no, Mr. Valliant -- "institutional competition" had nothing to do with my break with these jokers, or my subsequent disgust. My antipathy toward them for degrading Rand's magnificent philosophy of rational individualism is quite independent in its origins, and of long standing.

    Let me also set the record straight about some history concerning the Kelley-Peikoff break. I know it first-hand, since my positive 1986 review of Barbara Branden's book in a now-defunct newsletter, On Principle, was the initial impetus for that break. It so happens that David Kelley was listed on the advisory board of that publication when my review ran. He had nothing to do with it. In fact, in conversation with him, he made it clear to me that he did NOT share my enthusiasm for the book. Did you get that? Let me repeat: David Kelley NEVER endorsed Barbara's book; he always had a very mixed opinion of it, and many criticisms. (Also, to this day, TOC has NEVER carried either of the Branden's books in its book service.)

   But that was not enough for Leonard Peikoff. When my review appeared, and Kelley's nominal affiliation with the newsletter came to Peikoff's attention, he challenged Kelley to sever his affiliation. Now, one thing you should know about David Kelley:  he doesn't take philosophical marching orders from anybody -- not even the self-proclaimed "intellectual heir to Ayn Rand." He refused; and from that point on his relationship with Peikoff & Co. began to deteriorate.

   They were just looking for excuses to purge him when he spoke before a libertarian group in NYC telling them why they needed Objectivism as a foundation for their politics. Even though Peikoff himself had appeared before THAT SAME GROUP to sign autographs for The Ominous Parallels -- at the very time when that group was selling books by the Brandens, Rothbard, and a host of other "enemies of Objectivism" -- that was sufficient for Peikoff & Schwartz to purge Kelley from their ranks.

   In other words, Kelley's Original Sin was not that he endorsed Branden's Rand bio -- which he never has -- but that he was insufficiently critical of it. The rest, as they say, is history. And it is also sufficient explanation as to why he later felt compelled to establish an Objectivist group that took seriously both words in the term "rational individualism."

   While I am setting records straight, and since you claim to place high stock in factual accuracy:

  1. I am not "director of TOC." Never have been. I am editor of The New Individualist magazine. I was employed by TOC from 1996 for four years, left, then returned this past summer to take over the reins of the magazine.

  2. The passage Mr. Fahy cites at the head of his article is from a monograph published by David Kelley in 1990, as he acknowledges. Mr. Fahy declares that after this "fateful passage" appeared,  "Ayn Rand’s official intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff responded with his paper 'Fact and Value'..." Which would have been a neat trick, even for "Rand's official intellectual heir," since "Fact and Value" appeared in May 1989, a year before the Kelley passage.

  3. Mr. Fahy, in referring to my disparaging quotation about the "parasites" who have exploited Rand's private papers, describes me as "one of [TOC's] representatives, who stated on the SOLOHQ website on Feb. 8 of this year..." This lock-step mindset, so common at ARI, causes some, such as you and Mr. Fahy, to assume that anything said by an employee of an organization necessarily is as the official "representative" of that group -- and can thus be used to repudiate the organization. That is true only of organizations which, like ARI and the old NBI, demand a conformity that makes mockery of "rational individualism." But in this instance, the smear attempt is simply stupid since, again for the record, on February 8 of 2005 I was employed not at TOC, but at the Capital Research Center. What I write about anything cannot be laid at the doorstep of a non-employer.

  4. My alleged "silence" about the controversy caused by your book, Mr. Valliant, has been anything but -- as my many, many posts on SOLOHQ can easily demonstrate to anyone with your proven dedication to research. Rather, as I made clear again and again, its contents simply don't interest me. The Brandens's accounts of her intimate life hold no interest for me, and neither does yours. The whole point of Mr. Fahy's post here is that such disinterest constitutes "evasion." Baloney. Years ago I finally had a gutful of all the arguments about Ayn Rand's person and private life. At some point, the poking and picking at the details, rumors, and gossip surrounding the intimate relationships of a dead woman became unseemly, even morbid.

   Contrary to your belief and Mr. Fahy's, it is perfectly possible for one to retain enormous admiration for Ayn Rand as a person, or to have a mixed assessment, or to think poorly of her -- yet to judge her ideas on their own merits, without having the slightest interest in further probing her intimacies. Or in reading your book about them. Your working premise -- that Rand's personal stature and the validity of her philosophy are so tightly tied that they rise or fall together -- is one that I completely, emphatically reject. In fact, it is that false premise that has caused so many whom I have known over the years to cling ferociously to a goddess image of Rand -- an image not of a towering human being of extraordinary talent, character, integrity, and brilliance, but of an absolutely flawless person, as the omega of human evolution.

   Whether she was or wasn't is not my concern. My interest in Ayn Rand is in her intellectual, not personal, legacy.  Which, incidentally, is another reason for my being at TOC, not ARI: their respective names say it all.

   Finally, on a personal note, let me clarify one thing, in the interests of justice. In my February remark about "parasites" feasting and profiting from Rand's private papers, I was unfair to you, because I painted with too broad a brush. My disgust with Peikoff's handling of Rand's private papers, and his and ARI's ongoing exploitation of her name and reputation, have left me quite soured on that whole pack. The choice to give you access to her very personal journals was his, and your motives in publishing them seem, in retrospect, to have been well-meaning -- though I still believe terribly misguided, and ultimately irrelevant to the spread of her philosophy. About that we shall continue to disagree. But let me exclude you from the ranks of those whom I deem Rand's parasites, and publicly apologize for implying that you wallow among them. We may continue to fight, but I shall try much harder to fight fair.

   Sincerely, Robert Bidinotto

Thanks, Ashley

Casey's picture

Ashley, I stand corrected about the timing, and respect you for your general standards and retraction.

Diana is honorable, and what she rejects, perhaps too monochromatically, is that which was, in fact, wrong with SOLOHQ. And there was enough of it to be a real issue. I certainly wondered if I was expending energies fruitlessly there on occasion, and whether criticisms and reservations such as Diana's were justified and I should just stop.

I believe that this time there is a new vision.

You Are Not Alone

James S. Valliant's picture


I know that you think that my book was too harsh on Ms. Branden, but, sir, I must thank you for your remarkable honesty and insight. And, I feel honored by your compliments.


eg's picture

If Ayn Rand once, and she did, designate Nathaniel Branden as her intellectual heir then it makes sense that Leonard Peikoff would end up with such an appellation. It makes little difference whether Rand actually annoited him or not; it is merely consistent with her previous standards. I don't agree, however, with the idea of an "intellectual heir." I don't think there should be such except that a succeeding generation recognizes someone's stature. If Robert B. can't deal with PARC then he shouldn't pretend he is. Because of the specific documentation of its thesis one is obligated to examine same then comment or generalize out of that context. I reread PAR then PARC and found that to review PARC would mean eviscerating PAR on the basis of scholarship. I couldn't do this because of my esteem for its author, but she thinks much less of me now than before regardless. Now she'll think less. PAR is based on AR interviews by Barbara Branden in 1961, her memories, and other, frequently unspecified sources. As such it is a way-station biography to be superceeded by better documented ones. PARC illustrates the standard of documentation that will henceforth be insisted upon. Because of PARC's own bile and biases James Valliant will never be able to go to Barbara (or Nathaniel) Branden and ask for sources on important points in PAR (or JD) about AR and determine thereby if they have any legitimacy. It probably makes no difference, regardless. Barbara Branden in an email to me makes it absolutely clear that she stands almost 100% behind PAR and, especially, that Frank O'Connor was an alcoholic. It took her nearly three months to thus reply to my analysis on SOLOHQ that that had not been established in the historical record. It was not important to her at the time as she considered me, I guess, to still be her ally, in the sense that Robert B. is, but when I endorsed PARC as a contribution to understanding Rand she got angry at me. I think PAR is extremely valuable and that it was written in good faith. I think it cannot be defended with vitriol. I also think Ayn Rand had some unattractive aspects of her personality, but not her character, generally. I think PARC is also extremely valuable and it illustrates how the generations that never knew AR first-hand will demand a standard of scholarship that is basically impeccable if not in all its particular derivative attributes. That Barbara Branden refuses to even consider that she might be wrong about Frank O'Connor's alcoholism, someone totally incapable of defending himself, in the context of his old age dementia tells me that I want nothing further to do with her. I know you are reading this, Barbara. Please do not communicate with me in the future. The only reason I am writing this post at all is out of a sense of justice to Frank O'Connor. I have never felt so alone in this world. --Brant

The C word

Ashley's picture

Hi Casey:

This is tangential, but I really want to clarify something. I said this:
"I'm glad I am such a civil person. Would hate to use the c word on such a nice site."
1.) On the SOLOHQ site just before it closed down, and 2.) Directly in response to Linz posting about Diana H's comments on her blog, so there's no way that should be attributed to "Joe's site."

I hesitate to go on, because I know it will only sound like backpedaling, but I have seen a couple of references to "opponents being called the c word" and I would like to at least provide some context. In several other threads on the old site I said that I hated name-calling, and preferred conversation to remain civil. My comment was meant to illustrate how ugly I thought it to dance on the ashes of something I value - that it was almost enough to make "even me" start calling names. It was certainly juvenile, you are right about that. It was a lame, unfunny thing to say. But it should not reflect on Joe or his site.

Fear and Loathing?

James S. Valliant's picture


Whatever you may think of him, Rand was praising L.P.'s brains way back on those autobiographical taped interviews she did with the Brandens in the early '60s. That's just for openers.

Heirs & Grace

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Sensible thing with this this heir business is to acknowledge that to all intents & purposes Peikoff WAS her intellectual heir in the sense of being the one most clearly anointed to carry the torch, but nowhere did Rand say such a thing explicitly or formalise it. The matter IS a diversion from the content of Casey's article. It's a straw to clutch at.


heirs and airs

Robert Malcom's picture

Peikoff was the legal heir only because he was the last one left, and she didn't kick him out else there'd be NO one left... but a legal heir is hardly a call for intellectual heir - that's just giving airs, especially since the approval of 'The Ominous Parallels' came after she had essentially rewritten it to her own approval, thus intellectually considering him as rather third-rate...

Neil,Back up a bit here and

Casey's picture


Back up a bit here and consider.

Since Rand concluded at the end of her life that Peikoff was the only person she judged as understanding her philosophy completely, is it really so much of a stretch that she would formalize this as strongly as possible in her will? Is it really SO incredible as to warrant this kind of hand-waving? Or is this just another display of hand-waving distraction from the real meat of my article?

Please understand that this kind of diversionary focus makes me feel rather like the dog-owner who points at a juicy bone and only gets his dog to look at his finger.

However, I'm so used to this from Mr. Bidonotto by now that I'm beginning to appreciate Diana Hsieh's reservations of engaging with him. His questions have been answered to the best standard that could be rationally expected of those he asked. The questions to him he has answered with nothing but scorn and ridicule. You be the judge, and let's make this a better forum, folks. Please!

Intellectual Heir

Neil Parille's picture


Even if everything you say about Rand's view of Peikoff is true (and I have no reason to doubt it), the term "intellectual heir" seems a stretch.

I had always assumed that based on what the ARI said ("Dr. Leonard Peikoff is Ayn Rand's legal and intellectual heir") that the contention is that Rand formally named him as such. I imagine that's what most people would think.

What Does This Have To Do The Point?

James S. Valliant's picture

Why should they? Rand's various endorsements of his work in philosophy -- to the exclusion of anyone else's -- in conjunction with the nature of her will, makes this a rather silly debate over nomenclature.

Neil,Thanks for the decent

Casey's picture


Thanks for the decent way this question was posed by you. I hope it hails a significant contrast in the way discourse is conducted here (and I think it does), as opposed to the now other site Joe presides over, where opponents have been called the C and B word right out of the blocks (a not-very-auspicious beginning), along with other juvenile ad hominem spazzes.

My answer, as best as I can provide from my knowledge and consultation with James as to what he can confirm, is above.

Can't Address The Question, Can You?

James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Bidinotto,

Your ugly penchant for empty insults has not abated, I see. You called me a parasite without knowing me or having seen my book. That was dishonest. Now, you continue this display of hysterical and dishonest evasion right here.

I provided much more than a "crumb" of evidence that Peikoff was designated by Rand as the person to own and control her papers -- and, thus, she gave him permission, as Sciabarra and all honest observers have conceded, to publish her material. The publication of this new evidence, something that adds to our knowledge, has your panties all in a bunch for some reason.

Your own institutional competition with ARI can explain your failure to acknowledge simple, if (for you) inconvenient, fact, but what vague nonsense are you driving at with this undefined concept of "intellectual heir"? Rand gave him her papers with no strings attached.

News flash: she's dead and this adds to our knowledge.

Now, returning to the article, you seem incapable of answering the point raised here: David Kelley said that Rand's personal life -- the issues raised by Ms. Branden's book -- should have been argued and was not. This was the concrete basis of much of his criticism of "prominent Objectivists" in 1990.

As director of TOC, could you address this issue?

Intellectual Heir

Neil Parille's picture

Casey implies that the designation of Peikoff as Rand's "intellectual heir" was in Rand's will.

Jim Valliant implies that Peikoff's decision to call himself Rand's "intellectual heir" is based on Rand's decision to entrust Peikoff with her papers and literary rights, etc. In other words, she never said "you are my intellectual heir" in so many words (if I'm reading Jim correctly).

Has the ARI given any explanation on why they claim that Peikoff is Rand's intellectual heir?

As for the intellectual heir

Casey's picture

As for the intellectual heir designation, Rand awarded Peikoff with the most rights allowable in her will regarding her assets and intellectual property rights. She announced that The Ominous Parallels was the only Objectivist book not written by her, and endorsed his lecture course on her philosophy without reservation. She stated in a speech shortly before her death that Peikoff was the only person to fully understand her philosophy. Technically, according to the will, Peikoff is her intellectual heir, in that he has the rights to all of her intellectual property.

Fahy: "You still have not

bidinotto's picture

    Fahy: "You still have not provided evidence for your assertion that Rand's designation of Peikoff as her intellectual heir is equivalent to..."

    Now stop right there, and marvel.

    Incredible, isn't it? It is precisely "Rand's designation of Peikoff as her intellectual heir" that I challenged, requesting of Mr. Fahy ANY evidence -- even offering myself up for public humiliation if I'm proved wrong that she did NOT so designate him. And yet this guy blithely goes on his merry way, continuing to assert that for which he has yet to offer one tiny crumb of evidence, apparently hoping that nobody will notice. Now I see that elsewhere in this thread Mr. Valliant has chimed in to the same effect as Mr. Fahy.

    In reference now to the "hypocrisy" I mentioned earlier: A central thesis propounded by Mr. Valliant and his comical sidekick, Mr. Fahy, is that many of the central claims made by the Brandens in their books were no better than arbitrary assertions, unsupported by a shred of demonstrable outside evidence. It was the central claim offered by Peter Schwartz in his own published diatribe against Barbara Branden's book. And yet observe how these gentlemen claim an exemption from the same epistemological-ethical standards that they so zealously apply against the Brandens.

    This is not a petty issue. Indeed, if the matter of Peikoff being Ayn Rand's "designated" or "official intellectual heir" were small potatoes, Mr. Fahy wouldn't have stressed it at the beginning of his article, or repeated it thereafter; nor would ARI post it on their Web site FAQ. That claim is there precisely to lend to their claims and efforts the imprimatur and prestige of Ayn Rand's name and approval. And they know it. They know that much of the commercial market for their efforts consists of people whom they have hoodwinked into believing that Ayn Rand would have smiled upon such activities -- including the scavenging and publication of her private papers and manuscripts, material that she NEVER intended for publication. They thrive parasitically on the name, reputation, prestige, and products of a dead genius who can no longer protest or object -- even though her last published policy statements about such activities give us every reason to believe that she would have been outraged at such exploitation.

    And observe that whenever challenged to demonstrate where and when Ayn Rand ever changed her mind about that policy, and made exceptions -- either for Leonard Peikoff, or for the organization that posthumously appropriated her name -- they try to invert the burden of proof. No, no! they say: it is not up to THEM to demonstrate their claims; it is up to those questioning their claims to "prove a negative" -- to refute the claims for which they cannot produce a shred of evidence.

    Their final hypocrisy is that while exploiting Ayn Rand's name and legacy shamelessly, and at every turn -- and profiting handsomely in the process -- they rage indignantly against any of those outside their closed little circle who would so much as call themselves "Objectivists," accusing THEM of being "parasites" and "exploiters of Ayn Rand." And in this vein, Mr. Fahy now rages indignantly against my Feb. 8 statement on SOLO, where I said of such people:

     It is dismaying that a pack of parasites has found a way to produce paychecks and royalties by rummaging through and selling off the contents of Ayn Rand's attic and wastepaper baskets.

    Once again: I shall happily retract that statement and apologize publicly to all whom I referred to as "parasites," if they do the very simple thing of providing evidence for the claim that Ayn Rand annointed or "designated" Leonard Peikoff her "official intellectual heir" -- or if, before her death, she reversed her stated policy against the appropriation of her name by ideological organizations such as the Ayn Rand Institute.

    Until and unless they are willing to do this, then -- precisely because of my enormous esteem for Ayn Rand's memory, and for what she has meant to me -- that quotation stands as my summary view of those who continue to exploit her after her death.

    Robert Bidinotto


James S. Valliant's picture

The reasons that L.P. gave for breaking with Kelley are one thing. The reasons Kelley gave for his disenchantment with ARI are another and obviously had nothing to do with the Reismans. What "toleration" actually consists of -- what it really means to be an "open" or a "closed" system -- is best seen from concrete examples.

Kelley thinks one should be morally "tolerant" of the Brandens.

TOC does, too.

Peikoff disclaims any papal infallibility or pope-like status, so, he presumably means only what Rand suggested. Ayn Rand trusted Peikoff alone with all of her papers and literary rights. Her endorsements of his first book and his 1976 lecture course speak for themselves.

Bidinotto's obvious resentment of these facts nowithstanding, Rand herself chose L.P., and L.P. alone, to carry on her legacy -- but this does not make him or anyone else a guru.

The question of TOC hypocrisy remains unanswered.


Casey's picture

You still have not provided evidence for your assertion that Rand's designation of Peikoff as her intellectual heir is equivalent to your hypothetical assertion to be Master of the Universe. Because you have no evidence for such an assertion, I doubt you. (How dare I.)

I suspect this situation still BOTHERS the Brandens immensely, since they were this close to getting that designation themselves (which you don't seem to doubt or equate with Master of the Universe status) -- if only they could have run out the clock before their charade imploded. It is not hard for me to believe that Peikoff restored in Rand a measure of hope that the Brandens had damaged when she made her earlier statement fresh off their con game.

Which brings us back, after yet another diversion, to the point of my article, The Silence of Ayn Rand's Critics.

The status of "authoritative" pronouncements

bidinotto's picture

   So now the unsupported assertions made by ARI (and those in its orbit) are to be equated with the demonstrable conclusions offered by scientists!

    Mr. Fahy: the basic epistemological difference between reputable scientists and your ilk is that when asked to supply evidence to support their claims, reputable scientists are willing and able to deliver the goods. We can rely on scientists because they offer reasons to support their claims. They don't meet questioners with the equivalents of: "How DARE you doubt what I say?"

    The ARI claim that Leonard Peikoff was designated by Ayn Rand as her "official intellectual heir" has about the same epistemological merit as would my claim that I am Master of the Universe.

    Or...come to think of it...probably less.

    --Robert Bidinotto


Casey's picture

Mr. Bidinotto, I do not assert anything, I am merely reporting the designation as it is claimed because I have no reason to doubt it in the first place. Do you? I am told that the sun is 93 million miles from the Earth and I have no reason to doubt it since those in the know agree on this point, so if I say so am I ASSERTING it? Do I need to provide evidence as though it was my claim? The number of years you have been making this absurd request for documentation from people who report this widely accepted designation does not enhance the seriousness of your question, I'm afraid, but only compounds the silliness of it.

Now, a realistic question would be this: Is there any reason to doubt that the designation "intellectual heir" is valid? If so, do you personally have any evidence? (That's the first step.) It would be quite surprising to me if Rand's will did not assign rights to all of Rand's intellectual property, such rights including control of their dissemination, etc., to Peikoff, since making such a claim would be actionable and ridiculous on its face if such terms were not present. I need evidence from you that your standing request has some basis in reality before I would believe such an outlandish claim about Peikoff in the first place. I think you're confusing your imagination (and bias) with evidence that needs to be refuted.


bidinotto's picture

     Let's see. Someone makes an assertion and repeats it FOR YEARS. Then, when finally asked to provide EVIDENCE to support the assertion, the requestor is met with the indignant reply that "it is a silly request that you cannot expect anyone to comply with." In fact, in an interesting perversion of logic, the person who is asking for the evidence is declared to bear "the onus of proof" -- to refute a claim for which evidence has never been provided in the first place.

     Hmmm...does any of this sound...familiar?

     Can you spell "hypocrisy," boys and girls?

     Folks, don't you sometimes feel that when witnessing behavior within the ARI circle you are watching "The Planet of the Apes"?

     --Robert Bidinotto

A bizarre request

Casey's picture

Mr. Bidinotto, you have "had no takers" because it is a silly request that you cannot expect anyone to comply with. I don't have copies of Ayn Rand's will, and you're smart enough to understand that basic and obvious fact of reality. Furthermore, since I have no access to the legal documents involved, I cannot be "lying" about them. I rely on ARI's description and have no REASON to doubt it. Perhaps you do? The onus of proof is on you to come up with some basis, other than statements made thirteen years before Rand's death, before anyone goes scrambling for evidence to refute your claim. If you have some basis on which to stake your claim, perhaps you can sue Dr. Peikoff and put YOUR money where your mouth is, as the saying goes, rather than making arbitrary assertions and asking others to disprove them.

That "intellectual heir"

bidinotto's picture

There are so many things I would like to say in response to this unbroken string of canards, but I am on editorial deadline. I have time for just one:

    Since Mr. Valliant, and through him, Mr. Fahy, have been granted privileged access to Ayn Rand's private papers, they are now presumably in a position to confirm or refute, once and for all, the claim that Mr. Fahy repeats above: namely, his reference to "Ayn Rand's official intellectual heir Leonard Peikoff."

    Now we all know that Dr. Peikoff was the heir to Miss Rand's property. But of course the "official" title of "intellectual heir" suggests something much more, doesn't it? It suggests that he was designated by her as her philosophical successor, the Official Spokesman for Objectivism in the future. I seem to recall...ah yes, here it is, "A Statement of Policy," The Objectivist, June 1968...that having been so badly burned by the only official "intellectual heir" whom she ever publicly named -- Nathaniel Branden -- Miss Rand said that, as a result, "I shall not establish or endorse any type of school or organization purporting to represent or be a spokesman for Objectivism." Her then-attorney's addendum to that article added this: "...Miss Rand hereby withdraws the permission to use her name in connection with any group or organization of any kind." Though this withdrawal of permission specified groups, it seems reasonable to assume that the policy would apply to any individual claiming to be "a spokesman for Objectivism," as well.

    Leaving aside the moral implications for the "Ayn Rand Institute," safely organized after her death, we are still left with this "Leonard Peikoff, intellectual heir" business. Mr. Fahy repeatedly claims above that this an "official" designation -- such claim also reiterated in the FAQ on ARI's site, too ("Dr. Leonard Peikoff is Ayn Rand's legal and intellectual heir and the foremost authority on her philosophy"), though, interestingly enough, not on Leonard Peikoff's own Web site.

    Since it is the very first claim Mr. Fahy makes, in his very first sentence -- and since The Truth means ever so much to Mr. Fahy (as we all know from his constant reiterations of The Truth's importance to him) -- I would now invite him publicly to support that claim. Peikoff's status being so "official" and all, I am sure Mr. Fahy will have no trouble proving it.

    So where, exactly, did Ayn Rand, either publicly or privately, ever give Leonard Peikoff the "official" title of "intellectual heir"?

    FYI, I have had a standing challenge online for years demanding that those making this claim back it up. I have had no takers. I conclude that those making that claim are spreading a lie.

    Mr. Fahy -- or anyone else who cares to rise to the challenge -- is now in the enviable position of publicly proving me wrong. If he does, I will be happy to retract my contention that those circulating this claim are liars, and publicly apologize to them.

    Surely this is an opportunity that the "official intellectual heir's" followers will be eager to seize upon in order to set the record straight and put Bidinotto, that "enemy of Objectivism," in his place.

    Let's now see if it happens, folks.

    --Robert Bidinotto


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


There is a significant fraction of TOC members who are anti-Branden. Also, I've been to 7 TOC conferences. Nathaniel Branden has been at 3 of those and Barbara Branden has been at one. As far as the proximate cause, I thought it was the Peter Schwartz essays and David Kelley giving a talk at the Laissez-Faire Supper club.

I listened to that tape by the way, before having any inkling there was a problem between Leonard Peikoff and David Kelley (I had missed the May 1989 Fact and Value issue of The Intellectual Activist because that was the same spring I was going off to college). It is a tape of David Kelley arguing for standard Objectivist positions.


James, That is clearly a

Casey's picture


That is clearly a matter of opinion. I refer you to what precipitated the essays by Kelley and Peikoff, which was arguably THE breaking point.

Silence of Ayn Rand's Critics

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Anyone who's been to a TOC Summer Seminar knows that the controversy over Barbara Branden's book is only a minor part of the differences between ARI and TOC. I went to two seminars before Nathaniel Branden started showing up regularly. At the time (1994 and 1995), ARI was busy breaking with George Reisman and generally trying to arouse from the torpor of mismanagement under Mike Berliner. In contrast to that, David Kelley was writing Unrugged Individualism (I attended the 1995 Benevolence talk on which the book was based), David Ross was giving lectures on the objective basis of mathematics, and Kirsti Minsaas was giving terrific lectures on Ayn Rand as an artist.

TOC has had its troubles in recent years, but what I like about TOC is the focus on new work in psychology,economics, philosophy of science and epistemology. Not everybody likes this focus, but to say that TOC and the founding of TOC is primarily about the Brandens is nonsense.


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