Reprised—Betraying the self. Betraying a heroine.

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Wed, 2006-02-01 07:35

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? - Mark 8:36

What makes someone give up their soul? In the decade after the publication of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand was at the very top of her game and she began preparing another, final, novel, To Lorne Dieterling, in which she hoped to dramatise the answer to that very question. Unfortunately for all of the fans of Rand’s earlier novels, a real life drama got in the way.

The novel’s basic theme, she wrote in her first notes on the new-book-to-be, is “the story of a woman who is totally motivated by love for values—and how one maintains such a state when alone in an enemy world.” The task she set herself was to show “what it means to ‘live for one’s own sake’—shown not on a social-political scale, but in men’s personal lives… [to] show the manner in which men betray their values, and show the results… The issue, ‘to think or not to think,’ takes actual form, existentially and psychologically as the issue: ‘To value or conform.’” In 1964, she clarified the theme in her notes as: “Loyalty to values, as a sense of life.” [Italics are all Rand’s own.]

It was a book that millions of her fans were never to read. It was never completed. Her notes for it run through discussions of the various kinds of value-betrayers she identified—the ”above-zero” types including the idealist-aspirer—the ‘Byronic’ idealist—the ‘glamorizer’; and also the below-zero types: the cynic—the Babbitt, or human ballast—the ‘Uncle Ed’ type of power-luster, who in actuality wants nothing at all—the presumptuous mediocrity who wants the unearned.

The notes end in 1966. Ironically, by then, she had some real life dramas to sort out that parallel the theme and her notes, and the characters that she was mapping out for her novel: a real-life betrayal of values on such a scale that she would spend the next two years trying to unravel it. The unravelling of that betrayal can be read in Ayn Rand’s own Journals, a poor substitute for the book they now have to replace.

The Journals form Part II of a book by author James Valliant—a San Diego prosecuting attorney—that examines the monstrous duplicity of her biographers, Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, across almost the entire eighteen years of their time as associates of Rand. It is impossible both to admire Ayn Rand and to read this book unmoved. Valliant the attorney is out to convict, but Valliant the author makes abundantly plain—well beyond reasonable doubt—that Nathaniel Branden exploited Rand sexually and romantically, and that both Brandens exploited her professionally and emotionally, and did so consciously and fraudulently. To this day the Brandens continue with the deception, only now with us as dupes.

To put their story in a nutshell, in order to advance themselves by association with Rand they pretended to be what they were not, and in the end they both got burned by it. All else is obfuscation.

The scale of their duplicity is vast: it stretches almost from the time they first met Rand to the time of her death, and extends even after that with biographies and memoirs published after her passing that, as Valliant shows conclusively, are mired in contradiction and embroidered with tissues of self-serving lies. Rand was and still is a meal-ticket for both Branden, B., and Branden, N.; they have both done their best to consume her for their ends, and to dishonestly denigrate the philosophy and the woman they once claimed to represent.

It now seems clear that neither ever fully understood or accepted the philosophy of Objectivism. To first build and then save their own reputations they took to lying about themselves, then to lying about Rand to save themselves, and at all times distorting Objectivism. Writing in her biography The Passion of Ayn Rand, Barbara Branden says that Rand used psychology like “an Inquisitor might use the rack”; Nathaniel Branden’s memoirs suggest that Rand was literally insane on the subject of himself; both Brandens suggested that after their falling-out with her in 1968, Rand was moved only by a desire to see Nathaniel Branden dead. All these and similar claims are shown by Valliant to be utterly self-serving fabrications.

It was not ‘Rand the Inquisitor’ that was torturing these two; it was their own inability to maintain their lies in the face of reality—of trying to be the people they claimed to Rand to be in order to worm their way into Rand’s esteem. In Branden N.’s much quoted and widely-circulated ‘Benefits & Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand’ (an MP3 download of which still features on his website’s front page for the price of just $9.95) he complains how Objectivism encourages both ‘repression’ and ‘moralizing’; yet as Valliant and Rand’s Journals show all too clearly it was neither Objectivism nor Rand that caused the Brandens’ own confessed repressions—indeed Rand had for at least two years been encouraging Branden N. to de-repress his manufactured emotions—it was their own attempts to fake reality. As Valliant says:

Objectivism was never a description of reality for Branden [N.], it was a ‘theory’ disconnected from acting—except the act that he was putting on for Rand. Objectivism was entirely disconnected from everything else in Branden’s life… The Branden’s blame Objectivism and Rand for ‘making’ them [repress and] lie so much… [but] Branden is here confusing what ‘Objectivism demands’ in the abstract with what he had been claiming about himself to Rand in particular. Whether Branden was ever a ‘traitor to his values’ depends, of course, on the nature of his actual values.

Branden N.’s whole life with Rand was an act. In attempting to fake reality as he did, the ‘repression’ and ‘moralizing’ he claims to the inexorable hazards of Objectivism can in fact be seen—not as hazards of Objectivism—but as the hazards of trying to live a lie. Branden B’s nervous breakdown, dramatised in the shabby film of her Rand biography as due to Rand’s intransigence, can be seen instead as all Barbara’s own work. And Branden N.’s own repression, his emotional autism, and the claimed dogmatism he still claims to bedevil Objectivism were not in fact endemic to Rand’s philosophy at all, but were personal prisons of his own making. 

What was not allowing the Brandens to eat their cake and have it too was neither Objectivism’s rigidity nor Rand’s “intellectual authoritarianism," as they have both claimed since, but reality. They repressed their “true selves” not in order to “live up to the alleged ideals of Objectivism” but so they could misrepresent themselves to Rand as something they weren’t in order to claim a value they hadn’t earned. Claiming otherwise as they have done since is to hear the whining of small children at the denial and exposure of their unrealistic whims.

Branden B. whines for example that Rand’s authoritarianism required her “to tear out of myself my passionate response to Thomas Wolfe’s novels”—to “repress her true artistic tastes”—yet as Valliant shows, many of Rand’s associates including Alan Greenspan, Alan Blumenthal, Leonard Peikoff and Mary Ann Sures all had artistic tastes at odds with Rand’s, yet rather than repressing them they were simply honest with Rand and with themselves. (Note too that in answer to a recent question of my own, Branden B. conceded “[Rand] thoroughly detested the music of Wagner. But for reasons I can only speculate about, she never objected to my love for it”). So much for Rand’s much-discussed ‘artistic fascism’—it’s clear what Rand was after in her associates was not dishonest agreement, but honest analysis.

Meanwhile, Branden N. whines in chorus with his ex-wife’s bleatings that Rand “was enormously opposed to any consideration of the possible validity of telepathy, ESP, or other psi phenomenon”—fields of charlatanism Branden has since begun to plough all-too enthusiastically (see for example his work with and endorsements of mystic philosopher-psychologist Ken Wilber—“paradigmatic” Branden called him). Rather than argue for these misbegotten notions at the time, like a coward and a flake he repressed his desire to do so; instead of blaming himself for dishonesty and cowardice he blamed Rand for her “rigidity” and “dogmatism.” He concludes his carefully worded self-justification in ‘Benefits and Hazards’ with the comment:

Would I be giving this presentation if Ayn Rand were still alive? Although I can’t answer with certainty, I am inclined to say: No, I wouldn’t… In view of the disgraceful lies that she spread about me at the time of our break, in view of her efforts to destroy me, to ruin my reputation and career—which is a story I do not care to get into here—I would not have wanted to do anything that would benefit her directly while she was still alive.

Cowardly, dishonest—and vindictive too it seems, even fourteen years after Rand found him out as a phony. The fact is that neither his presentation nor his ex-wife’s book nor his own memoirs could have been published while Rand was alive, since there is barely any information in either that can be trusted and that could not have been the subject of a libel trial if she were. As deputy district attorney Valliant demonstrates, the “disgraceful lies” are not Rand’s but are all the Brandens’ own work. Of the Brandens, one is left to ponder their silence since the airing of these charges, and what Mary McCarthy said of Lillian Hellman’s account of her life (quoted by Valliant in his book): “Every word she writes is a lie, including and and the.”

Rand has gone, but fortunately her Journals and prosecutor Valliant live on to speak for her and to finally expose the Brandens’ calumnies and the many, many contradictions in their memoirs, and most importantly to resurrect the real Rand from under the dirt heaped upon her by her ‘biographers.’ In particular, after reading Rand’s own words written at the time and Valliant’s case for the prosecution, there is no doubt of the utter worthlessness of any of the Brandens’ claims to truth, or even any of their descriptions of Rand herself.

As Rand’s Journals now show incontrovertibly, at the time of abandoning her novel on value-betrayers, Rand was up to her eyes with the real thing: offering psychotherapy to a man—her chosen legal and intellectual heir—who had over the years play-acted the role of an Objectivist hero in order to ingratiate himself with Rand, and to literally gain his chance at the big time—at fame, fortune and professional advancement through the sexual and romantic exploitation of a famous and widely-respected woman. That man was Nathaniel Branden. No wonder he hoped the Journals would never see the light of day; they expose him as a con-man and a fraud.

Rand’s account of Branden’s psychotherapy (requested by him, he said at the time, to help solve his sexual impotence and ‘emotional autism,’ but in reality simply to delay his inevitable day of reckoning) offers the same view as does lifting up a rock and watching the cockroaches scuttle around: under the glare of her penetrating analysis he has no hole left in which to crawl, and eventually, painfully, his fraud is exposed, and his worlds—professional, romantic, emotional—collapse around his feet. 

He is left exposed in the wreckage as a thirty-eight-year-old fraud prepared to do anything to try and keep alive his con trick, including ‘confessing’ that if not for his sexual impotence on which Rand had wasted more than two years attempting to cure, his “ideal” would be to have sex with the sixty-one-year-old Rand “up to six times a year.” This at the time as he had been bedding for four years a ‘chorus girl’ he had specifically denied to Rand being involved with, an affair which he had conspired with Barbara Branden to conceal. His eighteen years of deception would end in the sordid, shabby collapse that it deserved.

We’re now in a position to answer the question posed at the start: What does it benefit a man to gain the whole world, but to give up his soul? As Nathaniel Branden’s duplicity shows us about such an attempt, the answer is: nothing at all. In fact, both the world and his soul are denied to such a man. 

In trying to live out the fraud that his life had become, Branden set reality against himself—and that is a game that just cannot be won; reality is the ultimate avenger. In betraying his self and the values in which he claimed to believe he set in motion an inexorable chain of events in which, one by one, he lost and betrayed the business he had built up, the women he claimed to love, and the values and the philosophy he claimed to uphold. At that point he tucked his dick between his legs and scurried off to California with the ‘chorus girl’ he couldn’t give up, the mailing lists from Rand’s magazine with which he began his client list, and the manuscript of his first book that Rand’s ideas had helped him write. Left behind was the business he had built up on the back of Rand’s reputation, the ex-wife who had lied and pimped for him, and the ‘honorable self’ that he had for so long masqueraded as being.

His years of deception had lost him both his soul and the world he had once hoped to win. If man is a being a self-made soul as Rand has convincingly argued, then Branden, N. can be seen to have defaulted on the job.

Years later after he rebuilt his career he was to write another book called ‘Honoring the Self.’ The irony is palpable, and a poor substitute for the last novel Rand was never to complete. In its place now we have James Valliant’s book The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. It is exactly as merciless as those critics deserve, and just as well-argued as it needs to be. I was persuaded reluctantly to read it; I am now very happy I did. One emerges from reading it with the firm conviction that Rand never needs to be apologised for again—and that one should never have been put in the position of being required to.

The Brandens' biographies of Rand, said Valliant in one interview, have "distracted from Ayn Rand's message. It would be a shame," he said, "if one of the most important writers of the twentieth century went down with the portrayal by these two." Her achievements and her memory deserve so much more.


( categories: )

A Valliant Effort.

Prima Donna's picture

I find it interesting that James has been vilified for his misrepresentation or hyperbole, when the facts are in plain view, whether through the blatant contradictions of the Brandens themselves, or in Rand’s own words. One could read PARC without James’ commentary at all, and still come to the same conclusions.

There are those who have used whatever tactics possible -- including the use of innuendo about the publisher of the book (the funniest attempted diversion yet) -- to discredit PARC and what it reveals about the character of all parties involved.

James, I watched how you handled yourself through all of this, and thought to myself: Here is a man whose name is quite fitting. You have used the pen as your sword, to rightly return to Rand the reputation she never should have lost to begin with. Your keen sense of justice is one I can very much appreciate.

Part of the anger I feel right now is directed toward myself for not catching the contradictions that were plainly in front of my face –- I should have read The Passion of Ayn Rand more carefully, for they are right there on the written page. (I never thought much of MYWAR to begin with, as it reeked of retaliation.)

But the most poignant part of all was in Rand’s words themselves -- to see the years of mental and emotional effort wasted, and to see the patience and benevolence with which she methodically analyzed each detail…I think how much better her time could have been spent. I wanted to shout through the pages to her “You’re right! Stop giving them the benefit of the doubt!” That her analysis was so spot-on is a testament to the power of her mind -– one I would much rather have seen put to more productive use.

Many have said that the biography must be separated from the philosophy, and I do not disagree. But for me, at the age of 22, reading Rand’s words lifted me to such a level of exaltation that it was a crushing blow to discover that perhaps she did not, in fact, “mean it.” I wonder how many young people have been through the same, and have given up on her ideas altogether. In the end, I decided that the ideas were valid enough on their own, and put her personal “contradictions” aside.

For those who say that her personal story is unimportant, I wonder how often they have had to listen to the spew coming from someone’s mouth upon discussing her ideas, based solely upon the “reputation” she has been given as a result of books like PAR and MYWAR. I don't even want to talk about the movie. The ideas themselves are difficult enough for most people to understand, but with the added bonus of them coming from a “crazy, neurotic” woman, they are easily dismissed. Those same people read of her ideas about love and equally dismissed them, given that she was married to a “cuckolded alcoholic.” Perhaps some of the greatest injustice here has been done to Frank himself. My disgust is palpable.

Thank you, James, for defending the heroic, and for providing a sword of truth to cut through the threads of innuendo used by false admirers.

Jennifer

-- Aut viam inveniam aut faciam

Riddle Me This, Batman

Holly Valliant's picture

It's the whole combo that's so revealing:

1. Kelley complains when "prominent Objectivists" won't debate Ms. Branden's book;
2. TOC's official policy is to silence debate on the issue now;
3. Branden and Bidinotto would suppress all the evidence contained in Rand's notes;
4. When released, their associates complain about every real or imagined out of place gnat's eyelash in the editing;
5. Ms. Branden's book was a "heroic act of bravery";
6. Rand's own words on the same topic must never see the light of day, and the motives of those who would release this evidence must be automatically questioned.

Only One Motive Here

James S. Valliant's picture

Nathaniel Branden, in his memoir, bizarrely calls the publication of any of Rand's journals an effort by Peikoff to convert Rand's legacy "into personal cash" -- although that's what his own memoirs do, and quite literally what Ms. Branden did in auctioning off her own Rand's manuscripts and memorabilia a while back, and although Peikoff is not making a dime from my book (i.e., he doesn't have a clue as to Peikoff's policies here), etc. Bidnotto's assertions about PARC prior to its release seem cribbed from Branden.

PARC shows what Branden feared. This fear is manifest towards the end of Branden's memoir, where he wonders, "God knows what" Rand will write about him in her private journals, i.e., he did not know their contents, but then "assures" us that any "consideration" of the "truth" will not be involved, i.e., it will all be a pack of lies.

This desire to suppress Rand's notes, despite all of the amazing things we are learning from them -- things of great philosophical importance -- seems to stem from this Brandenian fear. Brandens and friends of the Brandens seem to be the primary source.

Admirers of Rand are typically eager for new material. The estate seems eager to release it. But whether it's "embarrassing" or not, it should all be released in as "raw" a form as possible and as soon as possible. Rand has passed on and she gave all of this to her estate with the inescapable expectation that it would be used when needed.

The effect of these notes on the credibility of Brandens' accounts is apparent -- new information compromising Rand's privacy is not.

Shayne,

Casey's picture

Here's a tip: saying 'getting weird here' is less offensive than saying 'you people are weird.' Neither is all that edifying, but one is more civil and would not be seen as an insult and would be seen as an appraisal of an idea as opposed to an appraisal of people.

Thanks

sjw's picture

Holly: No, it's not nice to call someone's behavior "weird" and "bizarre". So in that sense I'm not being civil. But really, that was the last stage in my trying to comprehend your behaviour. I tried a few times without being "uncivil" (not that my statements were THAT over the top), and it just got more strange. Partly, I figure if I declare: "Hey guys, getting weird here"--maybe you'll come around and explain. Probably not, but maybe.

Next time I see my friend, I'll have to mention the "nakedly pro-Branden" bit. I'm sure they'll get a kick out of it. Hey, maybe they'll even come to see things more my way when it comes to ARI. If so, then, thanks in advance, you've been a great help.

Own "Agenda"?

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

You wear your own many issues on your sleeve, so no further comment is necessary, but even you cannot imagine that many of your recent posts have been "civil."

The cause of our doubts is obvious, not weird, of course. Few at ARI would ever take such a nakedly pro-Branden position as you suggest. Nothing in Rand's journals compromises her own privacy or is in any way an embarrassment to her. The Brandens' tabloid treatment of Rand had been the culprit there. No, these notes are the devastating refutation of so much of the Brandens' smear-job that the position you claim for an "ARI" type is hard to imagine.

The publication of this sort of material, of course, is quite common when it comes to other authors, and there is material of psychological and philosophical substance from Rand's pen here, too. Also, those at ARI who are skeptical of the book have expressed only one common theme: the Brandens don't deserve the attention or PR. So, this is something both new and improbable -- that is coming from anyone who admires Ayn Rand.

The truth was never Rand's enemy.

It's easy to see why your friend would want to keep such an opinion to himself if he hangs out with many who actually admire Rand.

Weirder and Weirderer

sjw's picture

Casey, I'm not claiming that this reaction is proof of anything except that even some people who like ARI don't at first glance like the idea of all of us going through Ayn Rand's private diary. No they'e not read PARC and maybe they'd change their mind, they didn't seem to think so but I can't speak for what they'll do if/when they read it.

Shayne, you stated "Indeed,

Casey's picture

Shayne, you stated "Indeed, I was having a discussion with a friend about PARC a few weeks ago who is a fairly loyal and regular ARI conference attendee, and they were quite disturbed by the idea of publishing Ayn Rand's diaries like this."

Like what? When challenged it turns out this person hasn't read the Brandens' books or PARC. That person has no idea how they were used and yet feels "quite disturbed by the idea of publishing Ayn Rand's diaries like this."

This is a prime example of why anecdotal evidence from anonymous sources is worth bupkiss. Once any context is known about the person and the reasons behind his statements, their value usually evaporates. In PARC, James tracked down the context of quite a few of these anecdotal references and found them to be, once placed in their context, worthless as observations and certainly of no value to the argument they were cited to support in the first place. This person's completely ignorant comment can not be reasonably cited to support the idea ("Indeed") that Rand would not have wanted her diaries published. And since the person has no knowledge of or interest in the subject, who cares what this person thinks about it? It certainly isn't proof of Rand's state of mind in any event! Surely, it's not "weird" to see this obvious fact? Or do you think that "normal" people SHOULD be interested? Interested enough to contact this person even? Hmmm... That seems pretty weird to me.

Bizarre

sjw's picture

Don't know what else to say Holly other than that your expectations here are surprisingly bizarre. I have respect for a person's right to privacy and am even willing to go ask that person if you can chat with them and you go Frank Burns on me?

I don't know, I'm starting to think that you people are just really, really weird.

No Thanks

Holly Valliant's picture

No, Shayne, keep the name if it has to be whispered. The fact that neither you nor he are willing to "publicize" the name says all I need to know.

Geez

sjw's picture

You're damn petty Holly. Not sure why it's so critical for you to know a name (as if it's a wild and crazy accusation I'm making or if the name would even help you), but I'll leave it up to them to publicize their name if they want to.

How about this. Next time you're in my neighborhood, let me know and we can all go out to dinner and you can verify these oh so crucial facts. I guess you're gonna have to get the ARI conference receipts too so you can verify those? Or maybe a PARC loyalty oath so you can verify that this person is indeed an ARI fan?

Seriously though, if you're really that hot and bothered about it, email me privately and I can put you in contact with this person if they're up to talking to you. Just make sure to specify why you're so interested.

Incidentally and ironically, I was the one defending Valliant and PARC with this ARI fan--their off-the-cuff reaction was that they thought it quite unseemly what had been done with Rand's private diaries. I had to underscore the fact that Peikoff had given permission--and why would he do that if it was against Ayn Rand's wishes? Ultimately, they begrudgingly accepted that maybe this subject was valid, but they personally weren't interested and couldn't comprehend why anyone would be (I don't think they've read either Branden "biography").

Not Buying It

Holly Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Sorry, I'm not buying it.

Who is this alleged "fairly loyal and regular ARI conference attendee"? Until we get a name, I'm not believing this.

In fact, any unnamed source, any rumor, any whispered hearsay with some unidentified source should be treated as an arbitrary assertion.

It's not that the person doesn't exist, but unless we are permitted to evaluate the facts and the source for ourselves, there is no reason to believe anyone who isn't willing to come forward. If they're not willing to put a name to it, why should I be forced to consider it? Sometimes, of course, it is just an urban legend, spread with a motive.

But use of these mysterious sources seems to happen a lot when these subjects come up.

Nothing personal Shayne, and three cheers for your friend if he exits, but this reliance on the unnamed source is one of the great evils PARC should have taught us to avoid.

Why should I even care what "someone" else thinks anyway, even if we did have the name? But the name is a bare minimum requirement for consideration.

Mutual feelings

sjw's picture

Casey,

Bidinotto's point, while expressed in an inappropriately inflammatory and hostile manner, isn't without merit. It is at least plausible that Ayn Rand would not have wanted her private diaries made so public. Indeed, I was having a discussion with a friend about PARC a few weeks ago who is a fairly loyal and regular ARI conference attendee, and they were quite disturbed by the idea of publishing Ayn Rand's diaries like this.

I would indeed prefer it if both sides of the debate would soldier on until all points were addressed, but I can't pat Valliant on the back any more than I can pat Bidinotto on the back. And I can't blame either for having better things to do than argue at Solo.

And history repeats itself

sjw's picture

When I first met Linz, I was the "ARI Randroid" because I defending Leonard Peikoff and ARI for the good things they produce (and I stand by my defense). Now, after he's finally come around to a way of looking at it not too far from my own, I've never heard him retract that nonsense designation of me. And that's fine, I didn't really expect him to.

But now it seems I'm the "Bidinotto Proxy" just because I express sympathy for why he left the field of debate. It is true that, *after* I expressed my sympathy, I did talk to Bidinotto offline and he filled me in on some facts (undisputed by anyone here) that I was unaware of. But I speak for myself not Robert, just as way back when, I spoke for myself not ARI.

Seems that Linz easily slips into ad hominems against opponents of the form: "You only think that because you're a thoughtless robot."

Now since it appears that many people in this forum cannot handle the logical evaluation that would follow from such an identification (they'd call me "touchy" if I made it) I'll just keep that part to myself.

Sometimes, the feeling is mutual

Casey's picture

"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." - Robert Bidinotto (before PARC was published)

Sometimes, the feeling is mutual, Shayne. But that didn't stop Valliant from addressing the issue with Bidinotto.

Thanks for the clarification

sjw's picture

Jim: OK that makes sense. It's true enough that Bidinotto did give the glowing review, did participate in the PARC debate and offer up some harsh criticisms of Valliant & PARC, and didn't in my estimate stick with it long enough to make a clear, solid case. However, sometimes we don't stick it out because our estimate of the other party drops below a certain threshold--and in retrospect and not to imply agreement with all of his arguments, I can't blame him for bowing out.

Linz,

Casey's picture

I think Jim H-N gives some encouragement that there will be TOC attendees who are not on the Branden side of this. There may be some hope that TOC will disentangle themselves from the Brandens. But that remains to be seen... or heard.

Crucial fact

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Shayne,

I think Linz is speaking about Bob Bidinotto only in that he gave Barbara Branden's biography a glowing review when it came out in 1986 and discussed it when he was not working for TOC. TOC as an organization has never sanctioned either Branden biography and no TOC principal has discussed it formally or informally in my presence when being in the employ of IOS/TOC and that dates back to 1994. Linz can correct me if this is not what he meant.

Jim

Crucial fact

sjw's picture

Linz: I don't know who this proxy is you're referring to, but my understanding was that TOC didn't in fact sanction either Branden biography, ever. E.g., allegedly they weren't available from their bookstore.

Obviously, the slack I'm cutting them would evaporate if in fact they had entertained this delving into Ayn Rand's private life before PARC, but then after PARC they didn't. Obviously that's hypocritical and proof of a Branden agenda. Since it's such a crucial element, crucial to your condeming them, I'd think that you'd offer some evidence here. So where is it? Has it already been offered in a different thread and I missed it?

Thanks

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

I get around to reading just about everything concerning issues I think are important.

I take Kelley's John Stuart Mill quote from Truth and Toleration seriously:

"...being cognisant of all that can, at least obviously be said against him, and having taken up his opinion against all gainsayers--knowing that he has sought objections and difficulties instead of avoiding them , and has shut out no light which can be shown on the subject from any quarter--he has a right to think his judgment better than that of any person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process."

Jim

Thanks

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Thank you -- both for saying that you liked PARC, and even more for reading it.

Worrying things

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Linz,

I'll have to see what else they put on the program before I decide about that. If they have Nathaniel give another one of those stupid interviews, I may agree with you. Last year they put on the best Seminar I've been to(except perhaps for 1995 when David Kelley gave his Benevolence talk on which Unrugged Individualism was based) and by all lights Nathaniel was a weak link in the program.

I do think it is ridiculous to have Barbara give a talk about Rage. I mean who needs to hear about anger management at an Objectivist Conference that's supposed to be about the philosophy and the ideas and I don't really think she's an expert on that topic anyway. I do know that they have rejected at least one proposal I would have much favored over Barbara's talk.

You should do what you think is right of course and it would send a message to TOC about the Brandens if you didn't attend. I, of course, would love to hear you speak Smiling. Trust me, you won't be in pariah status if you show up Smiling.

Jim

Here's the worrying part ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I myself would have insisted until right now that TOC is NOT "only about the Brandens." I have vigorously resisted the view that The Objectivist Centre is "The Branden Centre." But then, in the wake of PARC—which, in the absence of any response other than that of cornered rats from the Brandens and their sycophants, shows the Brandens' bios to be unconscionable—TOC invites BOTH of them to speak—and maintains a resolute, militant silence about PARC and its reasons for inviting them notwithstanding the disgusting light in which it shows them. One of its luminaries, Bidinotto, communicates here via a proxy to put forward the view that "biography" was a legitimate subject of conversation and debate while it suited the Brandens' agenda but ceased to be legitimate when it didn't—i.e. when the Brandens' agenda got challenged. It invites ME to speak also, knowing that I have been smeared by one Branden but having nothing to say to me about the fact that it expects me nonetheless to expose myself to pariah status with scores of Branden brown-nosers running around.

Having Linz AND the Brandens all there together would no doubt be great for "bums on seats"—which, as we all know, TOC desperately needs. But if that's all it's about—and TOC's silence tells me that it is—then I serve notice that I ain't gonna be used in that way. The ball is in TOC's court to say SOMETHING!! Ed Hudgins, show some LEADERSHIP!!

Way more important than that remains the demonstrated, deceitful diminution by the Brandens of the person to whom TOC luminaries owe their jobs and to whom all of western civilisation owes a debt of gratitude—Ayn Rand herself. This is the main issue that TOC is currently evading, and this evasion has gone on for so long now that I hereby accuse TOC of proceeding in bad faith.

Linz

How's that

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

You're a pretty fair dancer yourself, but you only know one tune. For you TOC is only about the Brandens. You've tap-danced around everything else. However, I'm in the odd position of hoping you succeed, at least in those areas where you've provided solid argument. I've read and liked your book. If you succeed in knocking off the Brandens, I certainly won't cry any tears.

Jim

How's That?

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

I honestly don't have a clue as to your meaning. They can dance like Twyla Tharp...

This isn't a perfect analogy, but lots of folks in the U.S. belong to the AARP. This organization is harmful, certainly, but not all of its members appreciate this as I do. I judge the members case-by-case.

I'm afraid that that's life.

Thanks

James S. Valliant's picture

Lance,

Thank you, and, yes, I am starting to turn my attention elsewhere.

It's curious how you can start out an investigation in one frame of mind and end up surprising yourself with the confident outcome. I started expecting "open" debate here, and denunciation there, and, then, after being stunned by actual events, and saying this out loud, end up being accused of a sinister agenda from the outset.

Even this debate has been a very eye-opening experience.

Who knows

sjw's picture

I've about given up trying to figure out what Valliant really intends to say, but what he wrote implies that we're all comparable to criminals, or at best aiders and abetters of criminals, who according to a twisted legal philosophy completely contradictory to F&V and, thankfully, the US justice system, would deserve jail regardless of intent (metaphorically speaking of course--obviously he didn't literally mean we should go to jail).

Who knows what the metaphor for jail would compare to exactly. Maybe it's just a version of hell where we all try to figure out what he actually means.

"James Valliant has a

Lanza Morio's picture

"James Valliant has a practical problem with his argument that keeps cropping up over and over again. He seeks to impose a strict moral choreography on those Objectivists for whom, as a group, he has no fundamental respect."

Jim, I see it as the opposite. James has great respect for Objectivist-types and is trying to show some of them the error of their ways. Like the guy in Plato's Cave who broke free of the chains and tries to explain to the others that what they are watching is shadows.

James V, no apology necessary. You just misread. No worries. And James, as I said awhile ago, your book is out there now. The word of mouth has taken hold and so now it's up to those who might be interested to read it. I mean, promote all you like. But it looks to me like you can relax a little on a job well done.

Moral Choreography

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James Valliant has a practical problem with his argument that keeps cropping up over and over again. He seeks to impose a strict moral choreography on those Objectivists for whom, as a group, he has no fundamental respect. TOC has stated its reasons for not accepting the verdict of moral shortcoming pronounced in Fact and Value. David Kelley has nailed his 99 theses to the wall with Truth and Toleration.

Paraphrasing an old American patriot: If this be treason to Objectivism, make the most of it.

Jim

Right

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

It's fine and I'll admit to getting hot under the collar occasionally. I remember the last time I was really pissed at TOC, it was actually at one of the better conferences they put on (1999). I had a great time, but they invited a quack ether theorist to talk about Einstein's special theory of relativity. I was so pissed, I asked a few questions and walked out during the middle of the lecture. Well I was determined not to let that spoil my conference, but I didn't end up going back for another 5 years.

I was pretty much out of Objectivism for that time (mostly because I had an Intel startup to do and getting married) until I took a job with IBM in Poughkeepsie. I walked into the TOC office with about two weeks' growth on my face and Will Thomas hardly recognized me Smiling. Also, Diana's blog piqued my interest to see what was going on. Anyway, the last two TOC conferences I've been to have been terrific, so I'll act on my own judgment. I'll admit that the Brandens issue doesn't bother me as much as it does you, but then I didn't write a book about them Smiling.

Jim

Right

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

I am not judging you at all, as I'd hoped I had already said. I did not say that you (or anyone else) were "evil," dishonest, or acting in bad faith in any way. I want to continue our engagement, so please don't just "go your way," not on my account. Also, I have no trouble "going out my door," as the doors in question here are very specialized doors indeed. And, of course, I am in no way associated with ARI. The last conferences of this type I attended were put on by Reisman's Jefferson School.

Right

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

So what you're telling me is that when I go to a TOC conference (and this year I go for free because I won the lottery), don't go to either of the Brandens' lectures, have someone like Marsha Enright who attends the lectures and has the context to know what happened tell me and everyone within earshot what was wrong with the lecture I didn't attend, I am still sanctioning the Brandens. Bullshit.

If I thought or acted that way, I couldn't walk out the door everyday and deal with anybody. From 1985 until 1990, the official Objectivist movement published nothing longer than about 40 pages precisely because of the attitude you're talking about. I guess now ARI does allow some leeway because they actually have to get something done, they just want to make sure it's done under the thumb of Leonard, Peter, and Harry.

Listen, you go your way and I'll go mine and we'll both stand or fall on our own independent judgment.

Jim

Right

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Thank you for reminding me of something I had wanted to add: it doesn't matter if the Brandens only talk about the weather at a TOC conference, anymore than it would matter if Jayson Blair "pretty-pleased" promised to keep a promise to tell the truth in future New York Times articles. As I say, it is also Objectivism that the Brandens have implicitly -- and explicitly -- distorted in their books on Rand, and as PARC shows. Any promotion of their work -- about Objectivism -- or in the name of Objectivism -- is causing harm to Objectivism.

Holly

sjw's picture

?!

Leaving that aside, I guess you think it's a strange leap to conclude that by "radioactive toxin" etc., James didn't intend to imply evil? If so, that's bizarre, twice over. Bizarre not to expect people to think he meant "evil", and bizarre to think that some person or group of people could justly be characterized as radioactive toxins that should be shunned but not call them evil. Isn't that a perfect example of divorcing fact from value?

Unhidden Agenda?

sjw's picture

Paraphrasing, I say:

"You need to name the philosophical principles involved in concluding that TOC should not associate with the Brandens, because mere association with immoral people is not wrong in and of itself (Peikoff's garage mechanic example)."

James hears:

"You need to name the philosophical principles involved in concluding that TOC is evil."

Note the switch in goals: I say in order to achieve your goal of criticizing TOC for permitting the Brandens to speak, you need certain principles. He switches it from that to the goal of declaring TOC to be "radioactive, carcinogenic toxin"--pretty much pure evil.

Is there another purpose to PARC than just to set the biographical record straight? Or is there another explanation for his bizarre switch in goals?

Damp Tissue Thin

Holly Valliant's picture

Jesus, not again! Nothing in the "Right" post even seems to be a claim about YOU, Shayne! Talk about thin-skinned! And where did you dig up the "evil" stuff? And wasn't THAT the whole point? Carcinogens don't intend harm, either.

Right

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

People recognize defense counsel whines, but they also recognize prosecutorial bluster when they see it. James we could in justice say the same thing about you aiding and abetting injustice at ARI.

However, let's stick to your main contention:

"They foster some of the most vile distortions of Rand and her thought out there."

If you're talking about the Branden biographies or the "Benefits and Hazards", they don't foster it.

So what specific distortions are you complaining about? Let us know, so we can have the debate about whether they are right or wrong.

Jim

TOC as radioactive toxin

sjw's picture

James: I think you can be fairly certain that if I or Jim thought that TOC was, morally speaking, a "radioactive toxin", that we'd stay quite clear of it.

Actually, I personally am quite clear of it, having never been to a TOC event, read few of their articles, and never bought any of their services. But I think it's safe to say that Jim & Linz would not hang out with them if they were so dripping with evil that they deserved what you're dishing out. And, given my state of ignorance about their day to day activities, I need at least a little more substance before I can see them as this toxin.

And no, you definitely don't need a philosophy of organizations in order to make a case that they are dripping with evil, that's just another of your misinterpretations of what I've said, tacking your own bogus implications onto *my* thoughts. If they are evil then they are, and I'll distance myself from them just as you do.

Right

James S. Valliant's picture

Lance,

I wanted to apologize to you, as much as to Shayne, for the prior confusion.

You are right. TOC does, at the very least, promote, aid and advance the work of both Brandens -- in the name of "Objectivism" -- and each of them has manufactured a twisted image of both Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

By itself, this is reason enough to avoid TOC like the Plague.

The issue does not necessarily turn on our ability to discern the moral status of any one of the players, their intellectual honesty, etc. (although, of course, such dishonesty, once identified, would also constitute good reason to steer clear of them), but on the actual harm the organization is causing to truth and justice.

As a prosecutor, I am familiar with the defense attorney whines involving the tough background of the accused, the various psychological illnesses and defects of the criminal, and all of the other mitigators of malice. But, one clear bottom-line remains brutally clear -- the harm to the victim -- regardless of motive -- and the danger to others that the defendant's behavior has caused -- and protecting the victim, and others, from similar violence must remain the paramount value of the criminal justice system. Sure, if he's got a problem, he needs treatment -- but, on his dime, and IN PRISON, where no more violence can harm others. In short, I don't really care who should've known better or who was a nut hearing voices so much as I care about the outcomes in reality.

The same is true for TOC. It's leaders may all be merely confused and ignorant waifs (hardly imaginable, of course) about what their doing.

And, TOC may have many other great lecturers, may publish a bunch of super op-eds or articles (of course, however, I do agree with Shayne about the lousy quality of their op-eds), and their motives may be as pure as the driven snow, BUT SO WHAT? They foster some of the most vile distortions of Rand and her thought out there. No more needs to be said. Just some poison will cause me to forego even a gourmet feast.

Ayn Rand was deliciously "intolerant," and Rand had profound philosophical justifications for her "anger." Any attempt to temper this is to alter Objectivism itself.

I do not need an organizational philosophy of my own, a well-developed opinion of anyone's moral status, or a hyper-sensitive view of moral "sanction" to know that TOC helps to spread poison.

All of the other circumstances, like the bizarre ban on biography, the super-nit-pickiness about the editing of Rand's unpublished work (even if some of the points are valid here), the lock-step views of Bidinotto and Branden on even releasing Rand's journals, etc., however revealing and notewrothy, are all just frosting on the cake.

Now, of course, I still haven't addressed the issue of my own continued engagement with those, like Linz, who still attend TOC events and so forth. This I take on a case-by-case basis, since I think that I need to know the person's context in order to make a moral evaluation on this point. However, no such knowledge is required for me to know that TOC as it exists today is a radioactive, carcinogenic toxin in relation to the truth about Objectivism and Ayn Rand.

Won't bite if you won't

sjw's picture

Casey: I won't start obnoxious insults if you won't, but I would ask that you at least try not to ascribe your thoughts to me; few things are quite so frustrating as to have to post correction after correction for no good reason other than that the other person is being careless (occasional is fine, but not one after another):

- The "put up or shut up" comment is really quite beyond the pale, given that the last time you said such a thing to me I had just offered up to you an early form of a draft book. Other people may not have understood why I got so bent from your comment, but that was in good measure why.

- I never made endorsement of his book conditional on what you claim, and would never expect him to do my bidding in the manner you seem to imply.

- You seem to be making an implication that I'm not as willing to answer his questions as he is in answering mine, and I for the life of me don't know where you get that from, I've been bending over backwards trying to answer him. What I'm not willing to do is have a pointless debate--but I will have a debate about why I'm not having the debate (i.e., I will elaborate as to why I think it's pointless for him to continue pointing at TOC and the Brandens without having this principled argument I call for). So it's quite unreasonable to accuse me of not answering questions, if that's what you're doing.

Shayne,

Casey's picture

I don't like this sort of thing. I prefer to deal with factual issues and ideas rather than personal insult. I may certainly be more hot-headed than my friend James (well, I am, in fact), but I also don't like to see the worst possible motive assigned to him even after he goes the extra mile to be polite and responsive. I especially don't like to see an endorsement of his book made contingent on his remaining polite and responding to questions unrelated to his book even when he is treated that way.

However, let's bury the hatchet. I'll admit to coming to a snap decision about you that was premature. Things made a recent turn for the better, and I hope to see that continue. I hope, however, as always, to see a two-way street in communication. There's no reason to hog the ball in a debate or a conversation. He asks questions, you ask questions, and let's assume they are asked in good faith and try to answer them in good faith. I think his behavior if not mine warrants that kind of respect. I'll wipe the slate of my preconceptions, too. OK?

Where did she make that claim?

Jon Letendre's picture

On Tue, 2006-02-07 23:44, Casey wrote:

“(as though the only person who should not state what Objectivism is and is not is the very individual Rand wanted to be in such a role since she claimed he is the only person who completely understands her philosophy)”

“He” being Leonard Peikoff.

Casey appears to draw the above conclusion from this quote of Rand’s:

----
"Until or unless I write a comprehensive treatise on my philosophy, Dr. Peikoff's course is the only authorized presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism, i.e., the only one that I know of my own knowledge to be fully accurate."
----

Note that she does not often write this way, “of my own knowledge”, that’s quite a qualifier. She leaves open the possibility that other courses, also “fully accurate,” might exist. Note also that she is careful to endorse the course and not its author. And even then, stating only that it is authorized and fully accurate.

Casey concludes from this that Rand wanted him to be in the role of stating what “Objectivism is and is not” because “she claimed he is the only person who completely understands her philosophy.”

Astonishing. Even for Casey.

Of course, she may well have made this claim Casey asserts somewhere else that I am not aware of. Can anyone help me find where she made this claim?

Thin skin, or miscommunication?

sjw's picture

James: For the record, I didn't mean to imply that you get indignant and walk out as a matter of course, that that's your character. The fact that you get indignant is already in evidence below with my criticism of Diana. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just shows loyalty to a freind. However, last time it got us into heated conversation which blew up, and given that context I figured this one would blow up that much more quickly.

Implied meaning

sjw's picture

James: I did not see your error, so the apology appeared to me to have another purpose than to apologize, one interpretation would be that you were apologizing to Lance to have such a conversation as you were having with me.

In spite of the company you keep, you are usually gentleman. I think if I knew you better I would probably have not thought it possible that it could be an insult and just asked what you were apologizing for, which in retrospect would have been a better response but, except for touchy people like Casey, I don't think it was a horrible one.

Adios

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

You are prescient, even if you have also misidentified my motives. I'd already demonstrated my capacity to ignore your thing with Casey, I think. You must learn to recognize an insult when you blurt one out.

Over and Out.

Whoa, there!!

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Whoa, there!! I was sincere in my apology, whether you believe it or not. Lance's post is really what inspired me to bring that up. What insult did I imply anyway? I honestly cannot understand you.

I do not run a lecture organization. I do not need to come up with a whole doctrine or policy about it, even in order to crticize such an organization's behavior, and even if that's what I was doing, which I still don't see...

"Neutral"

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

I have been going to TOC seminars since before Branden was there. I have never worried about "sanctioning" lectures I do not attend and in many cases I do not worry about sanctioning those I do attend, because if I have a disagreement, I bring it up in the question period.

I don't feel I know Branden very well since I've only talked to him once in a group setting.

But that is neither here nor there. If I feel like I will learn something, I go to a lecture. If I don't feel I will learn something from a lecture, I don't go. If I had some kind of ongoing relationship, such as being his webmaster, I would worry about issues of sanction. Since I don't, I don't.

I feel like I know and like David Kelley, Will Thomas, Bob Bidinotto, and Bill Perry. However, I go to TOC because I largely agree with Truth and Toleration and I like scholarly investigation of Objectivism. I feel confident that I understand Objectivism well enough to incorporate what I think is of value and is valid in conference lectures and to discard the rest.

Incidentally, I consider myself an engineer first, then a husband, then an Objectivist. I am an Objectivist because Objectivism is true and works in my life. If someone else gets the wrong idea because they went to a lecture at a conference that I also happened to attend and didn't examine the facts and the evidence, that's their problem, not mine.

Jim

Who's thin-skinned?

sjw's picture

Casey, for "gawd's" sake, all I did was ask him to clarify. I did not launch into my own set of insults like you just did. James' style would have simply been to clarify, and then I'd say, "Oh, thanks--I missed that", and that'd be that. And I never accused him of dropping a line of questioning, I was just trying to politely remind him that there was another line of questioning here that I was interested in--talk about being thin-skinned, you're an arch example of it.

But I don't like dealing with you either so how about you just crawl back into your little hole and let James do the heavy lifting? (See, now THERE'S an insult). Your puny little mind, with its puny little insults (and your last one is oh so typical--foaming at the mouth about which you know nothing) are not needed.

Alas, you've provoked me to attack, and James will probably now get indignant with me for saying bad things about one of his friends, and that will be that. Oh well. I just wish he'd have put a leash on you.

Not thin-skinned?

Casey's picture

James did not insult you, Shayne. He thought that Lance's post was posted by you and responded accordingly, with an apology for gawd's sake. This is why I won't deal with you, but you provided too perfect an example of this shoot-from-the-hip approach to let go.

He apologized for mixing up the two posts and you immediately start dishing out insults about "dropping lines of questioning," etc., etc.

For the record you did NOT say he MUST DO anything. Your sentence could be read any number of ways.

As for your unseen work on this or any other issue, put up or shut up. You have a tendency to refer to facts not in evidence and try to score debate points with them.

I AM

eg's picture

They are all equally valid to the extent they have (valid) "whys" to go with their "whats." If they don't they are, ipso facto, dogmatic. And anyone can be wrong, of course. But the primary referent is always reality.

--Brant

So are we back at insults then?

sjw's picture

James: What exactly did you mean by your apology to Lance and I? Because it looks to me like you're trying to sneak in an underhanded insult.

Anyways, I'll proceed in answering your questions, and please don't drop the other line of questions I've posted for you.

Perhaps you didn't come to a conclusion but somewhere you got the idea that I might think TOC would be officially opposed to your book and I see nowhere that you could have got this idea except out of thin air. Note your last word, "right?"--as if you're expecting me to agree--on what basis were you expecting me to agree?

Frankly I don't know how hard it is to get to speak at a TOC conference, so I can't speak to the "precious and coveted" point. But definitely, there must be value judgments of some kind going on.

And here you are debating without doing what I said you must do: provide a philosophy that organizations should be run by. Let's see your alternative PRINCIPLES instead of merely pointing at this concrete instance--the Brandens--over and over again and complaining about it. You are reacting to this issue in exactly the same unprincipled manner as you accuse others for reacting to how Frank must have perceived the affair.

In any case, I am definintely not interested in anything else you have to say about how bad TOC is for inviting the Brandens until you do this prerequisite work. Particularly since I myself have done this work to some extent, at least far enough that I could provide you with the sketch of a candidate principled argument. If I can sketch your argument for you, then surely, I can expect you to do it for yourself.

"Neutral"?

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

I am terribly sorry. I hadn't realized that the redoubtable Lance had joined us. Indeed, my apologies to you both.

In any event, I hadn't come to any "conclusions," whatever, yet, had I? I was asking about your thoughts on these things, given the line of thought developing here. I wasn't accusing anyone of anything because of their association with TOC. Again, just asking.

But, since it's come up, Lance makes a great point. Aren't those speaking spots precious and coveted? Are you saying, Shayne, that there are NO value judgments being made about the invitees and/or the relative worth of their work and/or the promotional impact of the invite? But, if they do, to what extent?

And, the attendees themselves, they give NO type of sanction with their checks and interest? Again, if so, to what extent?

The actual, "official" TOC position on my book, of course, and you are right, is one of "official" silence. The justification is, of course, bogus.

The Brandens misrepresent Rand's philosophy both explicitly and implicitly. They present a warped view of both her ideas and her person -- and her ideas through their portrait of her person. The exclusion of biography from their curriculum is simply bizarre. Only a portion of the book deals with "an affair," and, besides, and I weary of repeating it, the book is NOT about Rand's "private life" -- it is about the very public and published books of the Brandens.

So disconnected from what PARC really is, the accusation itself suggests something about its origins, doesn't it?

The overheated fear of Rand's notes Branden exhibits -- its eerie echoe in Bidinotto -- the exaggerated criticisms of the publication of Rand's journals -- along with the invitation of both Brandens to this year's conference -- this very "take" on PARC which informs their "official" position -- doesn't it add up to anything?

Not Then...

sjw's picture

James: I don't see where you came to the conclusion that TOC would then be officially opposed to your book. In fact that's part of the point: their policy is specifically to NOT have an official position on your book, as it deals with Ayn Rand's private life. As has been mentioned, they started this policy with Barbara Branden's book, which they didn't promote either. (Her book is mentioned by Kelly in T&T, but as a historical reference not as a plug).

And no, Kelly's association with TOC tells us nothing about his position on the Brandens. In fact, as Jim has mentioned, many TOCers do not like the Brandens.

TOC inviting the Brandens

sjw's picture

James: I think TOC's philosophy is that inviting someone to speak is not equivalent to morally sanctioning them, that TOC's main duty is to judge the content they are going to present not the presenters themselves, and that anyone who would make the inference "TOC invites them they must be a good person" is naive and needs to learn to be intellectually independent and make his own evaluations based on the whole person not merely some of his work (as TOC only takes into account their work), and that the term "associate" is an extremely broad relationship and includes your wife, your friends, and your garage mechanic; the term doesn't imply in itself that you are condoning the person you are associated with.

I think Kelly's view is consistent with this philosophy. And I think if you want to debate with the philosophy, you need a principled alternative--i.e., a statement of your own organizational philosophy--as I mentioned before.

Which Are You?

James S. Valliant's picture

Brant,

Then, they're all equally valid? Which are you? Does it even matter?

Struggle

sjw's picture

James,

Boy, I'm having a real struggle here trying to get a meeting of the minds. And by that I don't mean agreement, just a simple mutual understanding of our respective positions.

I'm not asking for your overall evaluation of Kelly, particularly if that involves a lot of inductive integration on a wide variety of things. I'm just wondering whether you think it's dishonest on its face that he would introduce a new concept (like "toleration") into Objectivism, in effect, proposing a revision or extension. You seemed to imply that this kind of thing would be OK as long as he made it "crystal clear" that it was his own novelty, but I'm not sure.

It's a separate issue whether or not Kelly's particular concept is in fact fitting of Objectivism. I know you don't think it is. But suppose you hadn't looked carefully at it yet, all you knew was that it was new and unanticipated by Ayn Rand. Would you know Kelly was dishonest without looking at the reasoning, i.e., merely by looking for whether he a) proposed it as revision (ergo he's dishonest), or b) didn't make it crystal clear (ergo he's dishonest).

Then...

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Then, in your view, they are ~ officially ~ opposed to my book, PARC, right?

Does Kelley's association with TOC, by implication, tell us anything about his own position on the Brandens?

"My inquiry was simple: what

Lanza Morio's picture

"My inquiry was simple: what philosophy actually governs TOC's decision to repeatedly associate with the Brandens? How DO they decide that? Do they even seem to care about the ethical aspects of this decision -- or the evidence?"

TOC endorses the Brandens. They wouldn't invite them otherwise. I don't see their inviting the Brandens to speak at their conference as act of "toleration" at all. They like what the Brandens have to say or else they are using them to sell tickets. Or both.

TOC's Governing Ideas

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Since our truce, have I done any "unprincipled, intrinsicist-style haranguing of TOC"?

My inquiry was simple: what philosophy actually governs TOC's decision to repeatedly associate with the Brandens? How DO they decide that? Do they even seem to care about the ethical aspects of this decision -- or the evidence?

Is Kelley's view consistent with TOC's behavior?

Okay

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Kelley's ethical standing is not of much interest to me, but you asked. I think that he could only have known that his approach was alien to Rand's in a fundamental way. I cannot guess the contents of his soul, but he surely knows how ruthlessly "intolerant" Rand was herself, and, for him, this wasn't smoke suggesting a possibily deeper fire of meaning, but a problem to solve, a hell of a problem for "outreach." One gets the sense that an emphasis on certain other of Rand's concepts was needed by Kelley to soften the great philosopher's style and her lack of "diplomacy" with other intellectuals, at the very least -- to mildly correct her using her own ideas... This always strikes me as disingenuous, as the desire to have Rand and eat her, too.

What Is Objectivism

eg's picture

There are many Objectivisms: Orthodox Objectivism, Neo-Objectivsim, Objectivism according to Ayn Rand, etc. But what is Objectivism, really? Reality and reason. That's all. If you have a position you need a rational constuct to support it. Otherwise it's just a position. Ayn Rand once declined an invitation to say what her philosphy was because she wouldn't be permitted to say why it was what it was.

--Brant

Kelly aside

sjw's picture

James: Every volitional human action should be based on sound ethical thinking. So I agree with you in principle of course.

The question is: by what principle and to what extent should an organization engage in judging the private lives and character of people who participate in its various activities? And, how does this vary given different organizational purposes? And finally, how does this apply to ARI, TOC, and the Brandens?

I think it's possible that a principled argument could be made for not permitting the Brandens (I have a sketch of one in mind in fact). But you haven't made it, nor has ARI. Further, I gather you would have cut TOC slack in regards to the Brandens before your book came out. An additional question here is: how much time should an organization get to process new ethical information before acting on it? And does the ethical rationale need to be made public or not (i.e., would it be proper for the organization to quietly not invite the Brandens again)?

Perhaps there are even more questions. There are a lot of issues on the table here and I just don't accept this unprincipled, intrinsicist-style haranguing of TOC that has been going on. If you've got a case--make it. If not, stop with the syllogisms: "The Brandens are Evil. TOC Invites the Brandens. Therefore TOC is Evil."

Back to "Wow"

sjw's picture

James: I still think I need to find out more about your position.

In your last comment you said Kelly wasn't necessarily dishonest for having his own thoughts about what is Objectivism and stating them. But I take it that you think he was dishonest for importing a new concept and not making the novelty crystal clear?

For the record, I think it was crystal clear--but I'm trying to get to your thoughts on the matter.

Then...

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Then, let's leave Kelley himself, for the moment, to one side.

Should the ethics of inviting the Brandens to an "Objectivist Center" conference matter to TOC? Should "intellectual toleration" extend that far? Should ethical considerations play into such "toleration"? At least, should the potential ethical issues just be considered there?

Or, should such considerations be suppressed, ignored, denied, overlooked?

Is this an example, in practice, of Kelley's doctrine of "intelletual toleration"?

What philosophy does TOC employ in ignoring such things?

I agree

sjw's picture

James:

"However, if Kelley suggests that a respect for "independence" implies a suspension of my own independent moral judgment about another's intellectual errors, then his own "independence" -- from Objectivism -- is what's made clear."

I agree--but I don't think he said that.

Not That Kind

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

No offense taken, of course, and thank you. Yes, I do think that my participation here squares perfectly with F & V. And I'd really love to hear about your friend's reaction when you can show him this thread and, herein and hereby, my formal self-designation as an "Objectivist."

Yes, one the real concepts that is involved here is "independence." Not all of the conclusions of PARC are immediately obvious, so how can I expect others to immediately accept them all? It took me years to arrive at them, after all.

However, if Kelley suggests that a respect for "independence" implies a suspension of my own independent moral judgment about another's intellectual errors, then his own "independence" -- from Objectivism -- is what's made clear. Peikoff is not infringing on Kelley's "independence," either, from what I can observe.

But you practice "tolerance"

sjw's picture

James: Do you think that your participation here at Solo is consistent with Fact & Value? I don't mean this as insulting, but your character and behavior are more fitting of David Kelly's vision of "tolerance" than ARI's vision as exemplified by Peikoff's response to David Kelly. Indeed, one ARI loyalist rationalized his association with you to me by saying that you're excused because you don't call yourself "Objectivist" (which you later said wasn't true--so I wonder if he's going to condemn you now).

I don't think you call it "tolerance" of course, and fundamentally, it's intellectual independence. But--that is precisely what Kelly thought he was basing his idea of tolerance on, the idea that we should respect the intellectual independence of others. And you do that in spades even if you aren't perfect (neither am I of course).

So I do not understand you.

Wow

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

No, I do not think Kelley is necessarily dishonest simply for thinking that his ideas are "compatible" with Objectivism, just possibly profoundly mistaken about Rand's ideas. This becomes a ever more strained explanation, however, the more things "that Ayn Rand would never have done" he adds up, of course, like Muslim or Branden "outreach." (Not that the two can be compared.)

Next, I do think that when attempting to import a new concept into another philosopher's system of thought that the novelty be made crystal clear. In other words, he must say clearly that this is NOT "Objectivism."

Wow

sjw's picture

James: Well I just never considered that you would have thought THAT. I guess I should have slowed down quite a lot here. Now while your subject ("Right") is unambiguous, I do find your explanation confused--but an affirmation is an affirmation and I'm not going to argue with it, at least not now.

Let me ask a different question. It's been argued that Kelly is "dishonest" because he's said that, for example, "tolerance" (in the sense he means) is compatible with Objectivism. I know that you think Kelly is wrong in his philosophy of tolerance, and maybe you think he's dishonest for even coming to the idea.

But leaving that aside: some have said that it would have been honest if he'd not claimed it were compatible with Objectivism, if he'd made up a name for his own philosophy instead, but it's utter fraud for Kelly to assert that his idea of tolerance is compatible with Objectivism, because it's "rewriting Objectivism". I.e., Kelly's sin is that he has not been "careful" (in your sense) in distinguishing his ideas from those of Objectivism. Do you agree with that?

Right

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Yes, I think that the first is not necessarily a counter-example to the second, at all. Most definitely. It really depends on what Rand said, doesn't it? And this is especially true in the context of knowing all of many the occasions when Peikoff has been explicitly careful to make the distinction. Peikoff's "application" is well-reasoned from the "philosophy." The two are quite tightly meshed -- to the extent that I, concedely, find your request to separate the two difficult.

Getting to the point...

sjw's picture

James: As I already said, I agree with the philosophy of F&V (but that is NOT what F&V is primarily about)--"Now I do think the core philosophical ideas in F&V are uncontroveribly Objectivist ideas: fact and value indeed should not be sundered."

What was "bold" about F&V were the huge leaps Peikoff was making in his analysis of QOS and David Kelly and people whose viewpoint bears any resemblance to Kelly's...

I take it that you think that Peikoff declaring that "Ayn Rand wouldn't have wanted you" is not a counter-example of "[Peikoff] is very careful to distinguish his thought from Rand's"? That there was no need to put a qualifier in F&V because it was all (not just the philosophy but the specific application) so obviously what Ayn Rand would have wanted to say were she alive?

Amen

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Agreed and amen!

F & V "Bold"?

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

I think that the concept of "tolerance" as Kelley defines -- and especially how he applies -- it is inconsistent with Rand's expressed views, i.e., that it is not merely alien, but hostile to her views. I believe that this emerges from an objective reading of Rand's work. Without Rand here to clarify, of course, this is my own view, my "interpretation," but, as I say, I think it's an "objective" one. I do not see Peikoff doing anything like this, equally subject to such "interpretation."

I'm still curious as to what you thought "boldly" independent of Rand in F & V? Something as bold as the concept of intellectual tolerance was in Kelley's case.

What came as something of a revelation to me at the time was exactly what you mentioned: that every fact is necessarily value-laden. Of course, that IS all over Rand's work, but it took that long for that idea to fully sink for me.

After much reflection, I see F & V now as a relatively straightforward application of standard Objectivism.

I am sometimes slow, but I eventually catch on...

Depends

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James,

I agree with your point about the conferences and speaking invitations. It's perfectly reasonable for each organization to use strict criteria for those. But if a reasonable guy like Allan Gotthelf could put together an expanded scholarly forum where the works acteually get discussed and a balance of perspectives are reprsented, it would be a godsend.

Jim

Depends

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

I think that it should be a case-by-case thing. I do not think that critics of ARI, or associates of the Brandens, etc., should expect invitations to speak at ARI conferences or vice versa. In fact, speaking invitations at such places are so precious that any such organization should cull the list to those whose work best meets whatever criteria they use, and this can include adherence or closeness to Rand's own views. And I'm all for alternative lecture organizations with differing criteria and areas of focus. But, more to your point, the IDEAS generated in ANY "camp" should be discussed, when appropriate. Absolutely.

Hmmmm.

sjw's picture

James: I'm dismayed at the miscommunication here. Everything you're saying only tangentially relates to the point I thought we were talking about. Maybe you're missing part of the context here, namely that David Kelly is criticized as dishonest for "rewriting Objectivism" merely because he gives us his own thoughts on what Objectivism means without adding a bunch of qualifiers.

Originally, you had said "[Peikoff] is very careful to distinguish his thought from Rand's." And I picked an example: F&V, a very bold statement about what Objectivism means and how it applies that did not come from Rand, and instead of Peikoff making sure to be careful to distinguish his new thoughts from Rand, he instead invokes "intellectual heir"--which appears in fact to be an intention to do the opposite of being "careful".

Now I do think the core philosophical ideas in F&V are uncontroveribly Objectivist ideas: fact and value indeed should not be sundered. But Peikoff's application to the particulars involved in regards to Kelly is distinctively Peikoff's, from the beginning up to the end where he declares "Ayn Rand would not have wanted you"--which is indeed an extreme example of putting words in Rand's mouth. (By the way, it is impossible to judge F&V for what it is without first reading, carefully and without malevolent bias, "A Question of Sanction").

And again, I don't criticize Peikoff for making those statements as such, it's clear to all adults that Peikoff means: "I conclude that Ayn Rand would not have wanted you." My point is: don't harp on Kelly for doing the same kind of thing.

Damn, James!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I was hoping folk had forgotten the time you admitted you had the keys to the ARI and I admitted I WAS the ARI.

I hope we can still go on meeting like this.

Lenny says he hopes so too.

Cross-fertilization of Ideas

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James V,

Most of us realize that the TOC/ARI gulf is too wide to bridge and it's increasingly clear that it's a fight to the death. However, isn't it possible to discuss the ideas generated in both camps at least some part of the time. I mean it should be possible for someone over in ARI to discuss a philosophical work generated by TOC or independent scholars somewhere outside the 3 hour a year Ayn Rand Society meetings in an objective, balanced way without giving sanction.

I say this with the hope that while this fight-to-the-death is happenening, I would hope some cross-fertilization could occur that would advance the general state of Objectivist scholarship.

Jim

Damn ARI Lackey

James S. Valliant's picture

Linz, Linz, Linz, why the pretense? Why don't you just admit that we both are really running the show at ARI, like the guy behind the curtains in The Wizard of OZ, and be done it?

Everyone knows of our frequent meetings at ARIHQ by now!

P.S. My "arguments" are merely explanations for why the arguments attacking ARI don't yet convince me yet, Linz! The onus of proof hasn't shifted for me -- that's all.

Plodding Clarification Requested

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

I know you've probably said it twice before already, but, for the sake of clarity, which aspect of F & V did you have in mind? Much of it is Objectivism 101, you will concede, although, I admit that I was at first somewhat stunned by it in some ways myself. However, I did find his argument compelling. I must, therefore, ask you, however redundantly, to be specific here.

I will say this: Rand believed that consciousness was volitional. The primary ethical question, for her, was "to think or not to think" because the fundamental choice was the effort of mental focus. Assenting to the truth is an act of will -- and evasion, the basic evil. Thus, the range of ethical judgment must extend to intellectual opinions. True, Rand, like Peikoff, cautioned against using differences of opinion as the sole basis for forming judgments. It's a matter of your context of knowledge. But some views are so dishonest in light of what is today common knowledge, and many things are so well known to the educated in certain fields, that moral judgment on this basis is often warranted and necessary. And, of course, in certain contexts, Rand herself sometimes judged others on the basis of their ideas.

Whether Rand would have judged someone on the basis of his having spoken at a Libertarian supper club is, of course, debatable, but, I suspect, that she would factored this into the entire context of information available about the person involved, perhaps his other views on values and ethical judgment, the context informing his decisions...

However, I am relatively confident that any attempted "outreach" to conservative political groups with a religious bent, or Libertarian groups of any kind, or to Muslim religious groups, or Christian ones, or sending speaking invitations to the Brandens, would all have met with Rand's disfavor, her "intolerance," whatever she would have called it.

Rand's own care in endorsements, e.g., her withdrawn sanction of the Brandens, and her "first book by an Objectivist philosopher" other than her self statement regarding 'Ominous Parallels,' make it pretty clear that she was on the "closed system" side of things, again, whatever terminology she might have used herself about the matter. She, too, was pretty insistent that others who use her ideas but want to change any of them should put their own label on such stuff, rather than calling it "Objectivism."

I believe Objectivism can be accurately paraphrased and practiced, i.e., applied to new situations, and still be meaningfully called "Objectivism." While any paraphrase of Rand's ideas involves some interpretive work, I would need more to call something one's unique "interpretation" of it.

So, let me ask again, which ideas in F & V did you have in mind?

On the claim that Peikoff is doing in F & V the sort of "rewriting" of Objectivism Kelley is accused of doing, I would also add that Peikoff's more extensive intellectual relationship with Rand does make him a greater authority on what Rand would of thought about something. Moreover, when he says that the contents in OPAR having no parallel in Rand's published corpus are not his own innovations, but came from personal discussions with Rand, there is no reason to doubt him, and good reason to believe him, since nearly all of it has its roots in his course on Objectivism, the course Rand endorsed.

I have heard some accuse Peikoff of having attempted to ''soften' Obejctivism shortly after Rand' death in his course "Understanding Objectivism, " but then I read the Rand journals now available in PARC -- and realized that it was ALL Rand.

Do you have any reason to doubt him if he says that his source for some point is Rand herself -- rather than taking credit for it himself?

James ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Good to see you & Shayne talking again.

You'll get no argument from me on most of your response to me, except to say that you seem to have misunderstood me on one matter. I'm not asking you to "denounce" ARI. I'm saying it endangers your credibility when you defend actions on their part that are questionable at best & unconscionable at worst. If, as you say, you don't have sufficient information on these matters, then say nothing rather than post tenuous defences. You must know that I am scarcely a knee-jerk ARI-basher, & am no doubt persona non grata with certain luminaries at TOC. And I've made plain my view of Bidinotto's behaviour, so typical of those in that camp wanting to shut down the debate. My fervent wish re ARI is that they would take the approach I said Peikoff should have taken in response to your "cult" question (which matter I note you didn't comment on)—admit that they've behaved badly sometimes but say (& mean) that they're putting such intrinsicist behaviour behind them. You know, I suspect you've no idea how cosmically thunderous the cheer would be if they did that. We all know they do great work—it's a tragedy to see it subverted by the bad stuff.

Thanks

sjw's picture

Thanks for your example James.

I would need some time to dig up all the things I thought you should have responded to, but you could start by responding to the one I pointed out twice already, where you claimed Peikoff was careful to distinguish his thoughts from Rand's, and I pointed out in F&V where I thought he wasn't (in fact all of F&V is an example of him not being "careful" in your sense).

And again, my point was not to say that Peikoff did anything wrong by speaking for himself on what Objectivism should mean, but to point out that he engages in the same kind of thing that Kelly's being criticized for, except that Peikoff is a bit worse since he invokes "intellectual heir" in the act of speaking for Objectivism (which to me implies that he thinks we should take his word for what Rand meant).

Shayne,Then let's talk,

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Then let's talk, please! I'll waive any demands for an apology, if you do -- water under the bridge.

Tell me once more now, without any insults, what I should be responding to, and I will do my best to give direct responses, also attempting to avoid the personal. Show some patience if I don't get it at first, and I will do the same.

I think we've lost Casey, but we are two distinct people.

Misrepresentation

sjw's picture

James: The misrepresentation wasn't factual but implied. "The details never came." True enough. The implication was that I was not willing to provide them and/or that the reason they didn't come was me. As a matter of fact, they never came from me because you never responded to my last email as I expected. I expect this was just a miscommunication about how we each expected to proceed and not your fault.

Sideways

sjw's picture

Holly: My evaluation of James has not been turned upside down. However, I take it very seriously when a debate opponent refuses to face crucial points. For me it takes only a single instance and my appraisal of them will drop dramatically--there is a vast difference between total honesty and integrity and making exceptions here and there. James' actions here tells me that he makes exceptions. Which doesn't make him a horrible person, but it sorely disappointed me because I had regarded him as the rare type of man who makes no exceptions when it comes to the truth.

Misrepresentation

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

What was misrepresented exactly? Was there some challenge to me that I missed in your last email? Some evidence I overlooked?

The whole truth

sjw's picture

I was originally impressed with Valliant because, in defiance of ARI precedent, he forthrightly proceeded in analyzing the issue, evidently interested only in truth and ignoring potential enemies on both sides. The fact that he did that hasn't changed, and I still regard it as a heroic act on his part. I still applaud him for this new precedent he has set--and I look forward to the changes at ARI that this will likely cause. Indeed, as I told Robert privately, I could not grasp why he did not see this as a good thing, and I still see it as a good thing overall, even with the bias. That appraisal will change to regret for what could have been however if he consistently pursues TOC in the baseless manner he has been. He is totally undermining what is truly important in what he did--the independent mind in pursuit of the truth, regardless of who it might offend. And I regard James's responses and "arguments" in *this* thread to be deplorable.

I don't regard it as dishonest in this instance, but James is misrepresenting our private exchange. The truth is that we exchanged some emails, both giving our backgrounds, and the last one to send an email was me. I told him I was willing to discuss whatever was of interest to him. I never heard back from him. I guess he expected me to just keep writing up random details and sending them to him? I think he misunderstands my conversational style--I often will make what might appear to some to be a bold assertion, and wait to hear what parts of it they don't buy and why before presenting the details relevant to their particular response. I don't presume that they will find it bold or controversial and therefore construct a pre-emptory argument--they might agree already for all I know. Which is definitely not a good method for writing articles, but I don't see what's wrong with it for dialogs and debates.

Reasoning Quality, Indeed

Holly Valliant's picture

"Reasoning quality," that's a good one! Some people don't agree with you about ARI, so your whole assessment of a book turns upside down? "Despite my previous endorsement, other facts since discovered about author X cause me now to denounce his whole work and its author"?! Sounds like "ARI" logic to me...

ARI and Me

James S. Valliant's picture

Linz,

During our brief email correspondence, and despite our differences, I liked what had seemed a healthy skepticism and active-minded approach in Shayne. I even once told Casey that he was being too hard on him.

And I would have been happy to engage him at length on the topics he's raised. But sustained abuse is something I will not tolerate.

As to ARI, I must repeat that I have not investigated most of the allegations made against them and, therefore, that I am giving shakey, provisional opinions based on the nature of allegations themselves. But, to the extent that I have looked into the criticisms of ARI, I have begun to notice a similar pattern to one which emerged in researching PARC.

Let me remind you of my own context. At age 18, I first registered to vote in California as a Libertarian. My role in inviting Branden to speak at my college in the early 80's, my interview with him, and my studies with Rothbard, I have explained previously. I even worked as a sales clerk on the weekends at Laissez-Faire Book's old shop in Greenwich Village. I reckon I've heard every rumor, every criticism, every tall tale ever spread about Ayn Rand. Roy Childs, for example, was always willing to spread the anti-Rand gossip of the day.

Whatever anyone said about the Brandens' books, I could not be prevented from the careful study of those books and publishing my results.

As my recent efforts have shown, I agreed with David Kelley's one-time position that Ms. Branden's books needed critical discussion and review. One of the reasons to rip on ARI in the old days, at least, was their unwillingness to abide any discussion of these things. I determined to start one anyway, and even though I had came to dread ARI. Didn't we ALL know how repressive they were?

I have been surprised by two things. The welcoming of my efforts by some I never expected to even read my book -- e.g. Leonard Peikoff -- and the desire by some to end all debate in the same fashion they once accused ARI of doing in the wake of Ms. Branden's book.

David Kelley does not need to like my book, or agree with my book, or review my book. But, surely, he must be "shocked" by the silence on the anti-ARI side of things this time, just as he once was by ARI. No?

Bit by bit, of course, I came to see that these legends about Rand -- whether the Brandens were the origin, or Rothbard, or Russell Kirk -- were just hostile and maliciously motivated mythology. As Chris Sciabarra reminds us, the motive in most cases is ideological, but, in others, it involves more personal biases and interests.

In the course of the ongoing debate about ARI, into which I have been involuntarily dragged, I have noted that the allegations either have been exaggerated beyond their actual merit or are totally baseless. They also usually involve sloppy generalizations, tarring an entire community of individuals who I happen to know disagree about a great many things.

So, take your own example of the guy who got the "tap on the shoulder" for even posting at SOLO. Since folks at ARI have known about my own posting habits for about year, and I have yet to get such a "tap," how I am to treat this evidence? (I was told the same about my engagement with Sciabarra.) I have no reason to doubt you at all, but I also have good reason to suspect that there's more context here, still unknown to me.

Based on this unnamed hearsay, am I to ignore the open and benevolent way their Archive has treated me -- and suddenly denounce ARI as a whole?

Look, TOC has published a Branden reprint in which a footnote crediting Peikoff was "suppressed." Bidinotto has echoed Branden's call for the complete suppression of all the precious Rand notes, the suppression of a whole class of evidence. The dubbed tapes are part of an educational product whose actual value is entirely preserved -- and in a context of legitimate legal worries -- and in a context where a bunch of folks, gee whiz, still possessing the originals (as with the original editions of the reprinted essays) can tell us exactly who said what! Peikoff being "Rand's intellectual heir" is just as much a matter of judgment and opinion as saying he is the "foremost authority on Rand's philosophy," and certainly one with several strong bases in fact.

The Reismans appear to have been at the losing side of an ARI power-struggle that I do not adequately understand, but no one is required to denounce them in such ignorance to my knowledge. If someone stops mentioning their books on a website or book service, without explanation, it is curious, but hardly sufficient reason to denounce that person as the peer of the Spanish Inquisition.

People can use personal, ethical assessments in determining who they endorse and whose books they sell. And such decisions can be made on the basis of purely personal information one cannot necessarily expect others to accept.

If ARI distinguishes itself from important scholars whose work, though greatly concerned with Rand's, stands at variance with it in certain respects, I understand that, too. They need to distinguish themselves from precisely such writers as these. Do they have an obligation to support, endorse or encourage or even to cooperate with scholars simply because they have an interest in Rand's work??

My own editing decisions may have been somewhat different that those of Harriman or Mayhew or Berliner, but each of us has approached his task with the needs of the project at hand and our own editorial and scholarly values. For this very reason, the attack on "ARI," at least in this regard, has revealed itself to me quite clearly now as the product of a knee-jerk, thoughtless bias.

We are hardly watching the "creation of a Rand myth" by those associated with ARI. Certainly nothing akin to the actual, wholesale distortion and mythologizing of Rand the Brandens have tried to pull off -- even as they discourage the release of any and all evidence which may contradict them on this.

How easy it has been in many social contexts to chuckle at Mises calling Rand "a little Jewish girl" in course of a heated debate, as Russell Kirk was claimed. Of course, that never happened, either. Why should I believe more unnamed accusers out of any context any more than the Brandens'?

I've never had a dog in this fight, that is, until others claimed that my own credibility hinged on every error ever made by anyone at ARI --and, yes, we are all human beings, but I begin to see the same methods, motives and forces at work in defaming Rand and her ideas are at work in the attack on ARI.

Hardly surprising, right?

I ask Shayne to tell me the specifics about his -- obviously intense -- gripe against ARI. I tell him we can do this privately by email. I tell Shayne many reasons why he might find me a willing audience, I express genuine interest. The details never came. I tell Casey to cut him more slack.

See my obvious agenda, now?

But the wild, exaggerated and often bizarre assault on ARI needs to be documented a whole lot better before I join any crusade against it.

Back to your friend who got that tap on the shoulder, did he post something about this? Can he share exactly what was said and the greater context of his posts? Like I say, Linz, I have no dog in this fight, and I am willing to listen, and I have no reason to doubt you or your friend. But am I supposed to denounce ARI on the basis of your report? Really?

The heat doesn't match the light in these discussions, either -- and that's a fact.

Reasoning quality

sjw's picture

Don't get me started Linz! It'd be nice if there was some reasoning on the Valliant side of things. Then there'd be something I could speak to. I've been diligent at taking up their various outbursts, as far as I know I've addressed every single pseudo-argument of theirs that wasn't a direct attack on me personally. Valliant on the other hand has diligently dodged about every important point I've raised--indeed, I even tried helping him out once by reminding him of a key point he'd raised then dropped immediately and without comment after I offered an argument. He is positively evasive. And I'm not going to waste my time saying anything about Casey who's far worse.

I apologized to Robert because I had agreed with the notion that he owed us explanations for the very reasons you give--but what I hadn't acutely realized until now was the nature of the people he was having to put up with. No one should have to debate with people who characteristically toss insults while at the same time dodging important points (and I think insults are fine if they come with logic too). Since I have not gone back and looked over Robert's old posts I'm making a small assumption here, but it's based on knowing that Robert usually is diligent and persistent in presenting his case (though I probably disagree with him about half the time), and I've since learned that Valliant and crew's method is to dodge. They are opponents quite unworthy of him, or of me.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.