Nathaniel Branden on "My Years With Ayn Rand"

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Submitted by Anonymous Guest on Mon, 2009-12-07 10:37

Nathaniel Branden on "My Years With Ayn Rand"

An interview


Thanks, Greg, it's nice to

Ted Keer's picture

Thanks, Greg, it's nice to see someone notices.

TK Humour

gregster's picture

"I didn't call Sandi a pomowanker," I appreciate it dry too.

Yes I do think of the word redemption in collective terms

Sandi's picture

Because of manifestation. If one is not seen to redeem then how is redemption applied, assigned or attributed?

Perceived redemption is seen as the desired conformity.

Roark could have redeemed his degree in architect school had he conformed and yes maybe he would have benefited by obtaining his ticket, but Roark was too self centred for redemption, because he is the highest value.

"How does one "buy back" from the self to the self." That seems like an oxymoron to me, however there are many people out there who do it all the time. And have a whole lot of fun whilst they pat each other on the back for doing so. Charity balls and art auctions are classic examples. Just google the words climb Mt Everest & charity" and the results speak for themselves. Wynand's redemption was not much different except he financed the trip to Everest, wrote all the reports in latin, sent them to off Tonga and waited with baited breath for the peer review.

I think the word redemption can never be defined within objectivism because an objectivist redeems himself to nobody except himself.

I'm not exactly sure what you

Ted Keer's picture

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by your first sentence, Sandi.

But as to the second, you are insisting on using the word in a restricted Christian sense, which I deny, such as Christ redemed our sins by his death on the cross. I hold that only the offender himself can morally make up for his actions, although, perhaps someone else may pay for our monetary damages in a court case.

The word redeem comes from Latin red- emere "to buy back."

I do think a person can both buy back his own pride in his own eyes (which you seem to think is self centered? Is that a bad thing?) and possiby in the eyes of another person, depending on the guiltful act and what he does to correct it.

Your description of the Banner, Sandi, is odd, as if it were some sort of physically tainted object. Yes, prior "trashy" issues of the Banner had been embarrassing to Wynand. But the issues where he defended Raork weren't tainted by the past issues, as if evil past stories had left a residue of pure liquid evil on the printing presses. Or do you think that the newer issues that were fighting for Roark were also still running spreads on unwed mothers at the same time? I didn't get that impression.

I never said

Sandi's picture

that one can not redeem themselves in ones own eyes, quite the contrary as only a self-centred person would answer to ones self.

Redemption is sacrifice and in my view of objectivism, sacrifice is only a virtue if it satisfies the self as opposed to redemption of the self, sacrificed to the satisifcation of others ("I throw myself at the mercy of the court") or ("I am at god's mercy")

If Wynand held himself as his own highest value, he wouldn't have submitted his own work through his trashy newspaper. He sought redemption through the same trash he created. Where is the benefit (self esteem) in that?

Yes, my "should I say this"

Ted Keer's picture

Yes, my "should I say this" alarm went off. But a stronger word than "incorrect" was called for. I didn't call Sandi a pomowanker, I called the assertion absurd.

Worthy

Stephen Boydstun's picture

Ted is correct, Sandi. In Galt’s Speech, Rand said a good deal about guilt, especially unearned guilt, which is to be spurned. In “The Objectivist Ethics” (OE) she discussed earned guilt. I quoted the relevant sentence in the post “Making New” yesterday. The virtue Pride means “earning the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection.” One achieves that partly by not accepting codes of irrational, impossible virtues. Beyond that, one achieves moral perfection, and earns the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value, by “never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected . . . .” (27)

If you have not done so, you might like to read that essay in the book The Virtue of Selfishness (VoS). Another essay of Rand’s also bears on your remarks in this thread. That is her essay “Selfishness without a Self,” which is in Philosophy: Who Needs It. In this essay, she argues against the idea “my action was right simply because I was the one who did it.” This essay complements the earlier one by N. Branden titled “Counterfeit Individualism” that she included in VoS, and it fits her view from AS/OE: Self-esteem and moral perfection are achievements, and they can sometimes still be achieved after having done something morally wrong and, so, having earned a specific guilt.

The fact that Rand maintained something does not mean it is the correct view. Your view is partly contrary to Rand, but that does not mean your view is wrong. I happen to agree with Rand on this and on many other things. I’m glad you are interested in this good ethical question and in Rand’s ethics. They are worthy of our attention.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ted, terms like “absurd” or “ridiculous” in place of “incorrect” shut people down. Anyway, that is the way it works for all people I have personally known. (But then, there is selection to that.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Last night I finally played the video clip above. If I understand Bill Sipes’ post entirely right, it includes the observation that Branden’s representation of Rand’s view of guilt and redemption (and morally perfect people) is incorrect. Quite so.

No, that's absurd, he didn't

Ted Keer's picture

No, that's absurd, he didn't care about his readers, he saw them as tools and did not try to redeem himself to them. He tried to redeem himself in his own eyes and maybe to Roark and Dominique, and maybe by means of the banner, but certainly not to his readers.

You can say perfectly well that there is no redemption of the Christian sort in Objectivism. But I would simply argue that someone dying for your sins couldn't possibly redeem you.

Redemption in Objectivism simply means regaining your pride.

The Wet Nurse did that.

Wynand

Sandi's picture

tried to redeem himself to his readers and they threw it back at him.

You can't redeem yourself in

Ted Keer's picture

You can't redeem yourself in your own eyes? What was Wynand trying to do?

There is no redemption within Objectivism

Sandi's picture

There is no redemption in Objectivism and in atheism for that matter, because there is nothing higher than the self.

Redemption is an atonement for guilt and guilt has no part in objectivism. Rand stated that there are 3 supreme values; reason purpose and self esteem.

Tomorrow

Stephen Boydstun's picture

Tomorrow /
Also Tomorrow

“It is not fools I seek to address.” –AR

Great point Lindsay!

Bill Sipes's picture

"He's right about there being no reason/passion dichotomy, but he gets it the wrong way round. "Feel deeply to think clearly," he says. Actually, it's the reverse."

I don't know why this isn't the main discussion on this thread. I can understand Brandon's mechanism for trying to pry redemption away from Objectivism. For people only reading Rand's fiction, her heroes need no redemption! That is the fun part! They all make me want to chain smoke some harmless cigarettes while I have rough sex and contemplate my next great productive effort. But Brandon can use this with the less informed to make this redemption thing another brick in the wall that hides the truth as it applies to him. The whole video seems to be Brandon trying to get the viewer to "Feel deeply" long before they "Think clearly".

Making New

Stephen Boydstun's picture

Ayn Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged:

“Redeem your mind from the hockshops of authority” (1058). The double meaning of redemption in this statement is clearly intended.

The redemption spoken of in this paragraph of the speech is general, covering both errors of knowledge and moral failings. It is hard for me to imagine how, but maybe in relying on the authority of others where one should be relying on one’s own mind, one could be making only an error of knowledge. Mostly, however, the redemption Rand was writing of here was a moral redemption. She continues:

“Accept the fact that you are not omniscient, but playing a zombie will not give you omniscience. . . . In place of your dream of an omniscient automaton, accept the fact that any knowledge man acquires is acquired by his own will and effort, and that that is his distinction in the universe, that is his nature, his morality, his glory” (1058).

Notice the word playing. This is talk of fakery and self-deception, definitely having an element of moral error, not purely an error of knowledge. Notice that Rand is telling one in this condition how to correct oneself. She is giving him a new vision by which he might morally redeem himself. It is very like a doctor giving a direction on how to get well.

On the next page, Rand has her paragraph beginning “Learn to distinguish the difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality.” In the cases of Rearden and Tony, there is for each of them errors of knowledge about what is morally correct. But it is not clear if their errors about what is morally correct were purely errors of knowledge. I think it unlikely these guys holding incorrect moral views were 100 percent free of evasion. Yet both are redeemed.

It has seemed to me that the author of Atlas relied a good deal on common conceptions of how the psychology of redemption works. The self-liberation offered the reader by this book was also self-redemption.

In this work, Rand condemns moralities telling people that moral perfection is not achievable by them on earth. She portrays self-esteem and moral perfection as operating conditions that don’t come without effort at self-correction, but that are attainable if defects of operating knowledge and morality are corrected.

As readers here likely know, Rand elaborates each of the big seven virtues of her ethics somewhat differently in “The Objectivist Ethics” than in “Galt’s Speech.” The renovated part of her paragraph for the virtue Pride includes this:

“The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: ‘moral ambitiousness’. It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one’s own highest value by achieving one’s own moral perfection—which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected . . . .” (27)

This is a picture in which moral perfection is attainable even after moral failures. It is like a new engine being developed; the fact that prototypes were defective does not mean the one finally proven serviceable and commercially competitive is not what it is. Engines and people have a past, but people also have memories, make lives for themselves, and have identities and feelings tied across years. It strikes me how far Rand was in step with usual thinking about how guilt and redemption works in people. (I mean it has been striking to me because so much discussion in these forums has seemed oblivious to the ways in which Rand’s conceptions in this area are usual.) At least for some amount of past moral error, in her picture, redemption and moral perfection remained live options.

Thanks for the verse, Ellen.

Or

Ted Keer's picture

Or Tedious?

Ah!

Brant Gaede's picture

But it was so much easier for me to let you, Ellen, update us. Besides, I wasn't sure. You might have been a Brantian!

--Brant

Brant

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Have you and I been on several of the same lists for nigh onto ten years?

I'm an Ellenian. I have a lot of agreement with Objectivism but enough disagreement not to want to use the label. Admirer of AR's achievements. Fellow-traveler.

You've heard (read) this many times before.

Ellen

Not an Objectivist Ellen?

Ted Keer's picture

Not an Objectivist Ellen? Hopefully not an Objectionist either.

As for four feathers, aren't there several remakes? It's apparently taken down from HULU but you can find the most recent version here at TVShack.

Okay-o

Brant Gaede's picture

What are you then, Ellen?

--Brant

I'm not an Objectivist, Ted.

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Innocent

And please notice, I said I couldn't tell if you were contra-ing.

Ellen

Ellen

Brant Gaede's picture

"The Three Feathers" was made over 70 years ago. A young 19th C. Brit accused of cowardice is given a feather by each of three friends by way of washing their hands of him. He follows them as a civilian into Arabia rescuing each in turn and returning each feather. He redeemed himself by his incredible heroics.

--Brant

CORRECTION!!!: The movie is "The Four Feathers."

only wrong about anything once every ten years: bronze this post!

Post Hoc, Contra Hoc?

Ted Keer's picture

No, Ellen. As usual, my comments stand on their own. Why does everything have to be an objection? I object to this Objectionism among Objectivists.

More on redemption

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Sharon: "So now there is a problem with a man seeing the error of his ways and modifying his conduct for the better. This is what redemption means to me."

Nothing at all wrong with doing that. Doing that is much to be recommended. "Redemption," as I understand it, means wiping out, rendering null, the reality of the former error of one's ways, not merely mending one's ways.

Same basic answer to Ted, that is, Ted, if you were objecting to my comment. I can't tell from what you wrote.

Ellen

Marcus

sharon's picture

"The redemption question.

Its obvious why Rand didn't go down that path.

It would have opened Objectivism up to the collectivists."

Um, yeah.

So now there is a problem with a man seeing the error of his ways and modifying his conduct for the better. This is what redemption means to me.

Yes, Marcus, whatever the merits of ‘redemption’ let’s forget it—for we can’t slip it into official Objectivist doctrine because, being an official ideology, it is a ‘closed system.’

Ellen

sharon's picture

So then, “redemption” has no secular meaning? Too bad for this line of thinking, for it was once thought that morality itself was the province of the religious or supernatural. Time to move ahead.

You can attempt, depending on

Ted Keer's picture

You can attempt, depending on the crime, to redeem yourself in your own eyes. Isn't romantic literature full of such notions? How about Wynand, even if the plot required that he fail? Redemption is a case specific thing you have to figure out for yourself, not some mystical dogma or sacrament from on high. There is certainly no ritualistic remedy.

And what the hell is the opposite of a doctrine of redemption? A doctrine of suicide in the face of irredeemable sin? Is shame a supernatural state, once attained, from which there is no escape? Oh, please. Only Orthodox believers in "irrevocable repudiation" believe in that, and only as a form of ritualistic magic.

No one is stopping Branden from writing a short essay on the subject if he feels it important.

Redemption

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Funny you should post a thought on that idea, Brant. Parallel processing.

I was just thinking as I was going about various activities that the idea of "redemption" doesn't make sense in Objectivism anyway. Objectivism is a secular philosophy. There's no heaven (or elsewhere) to go to after death. There's no supernatural being keeping a score-card, the final tally on which might affect one's chances in the ever-after.

I don't know the movie -- "The Three Feathers" -- you refer to.

Ellen

Redemption

Brant Gaede's picture

My idea of "redemption" is the redemption in the movie "The Three Feathers"--something requiring an heroic effort apropos a gross wrong. And not every wrong would be amendable to it. Forgiveness is something else. I don't think Objectivism needs redemption as part of the philosophy unless it is a controlling, moralizing philosophy, in which case it should be changed thus itself redeemed.

--Brant

Speak for yourself, Nathaniel.

Ellen Stuttle's picture

NB as quoted by Sandi:

"...everybody in this planet has done things they wish they'd done differently and those things that they would be ashamed of now or a little embarrassed by now. So what? Welcome to the human race. The real thing that separates, in my books, the good guys and the not so hot guys is; 'what do you want to do about it now?'"

I haven't, unless all he means -- and I don't think this is all he means -- when he speaks of "things [one wishes one had] done differently" is examples on the order of thinking after the event of a perfect reply or of a better way to word something one wrote and wishing that one had thought of the improved version at the time. Or similar "I'd have done it this way instead of that if I'd thought of the alternate way at the time" sorts of retrospective imagined improvements on what one did.

When someone claims that everyone has done things which he or she "would be ashamed of now or a little embarrassed by now," I think, and sometimes say, well, I gather that you have done such things.

Re "redemption" in Objectivism: the person stops doing the wrong behavior if it's an ongoing behavior pattern and makes the best amends the person can for prior misbehavior. (Of course there can be types of behaviors the consequences of which no amount of amends can ameliorate -- such as murdering someone.) One can't wash away as if it hadn't been whatever one did.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.
-- Omar Khayyam, quatrain from The Rubaiyat,
FitzGerald translation

Ellen

Funny...

Marcus's picture

"There was no redemption because his soul was gone, he sold it for money."

Taken out of context that could be pure Marxism! Big smile

The redemption question.

Its obvious why Rand didn't go down that path.

It would have opened Objectivism up to the collectivists.

They would have said very loudly, "You see, we are all flawed. You're agreeing with the rest of us."

Sandi

sharon's picture

"...everybody in this planet has done things they wish they'd done differently and those things that they would be ashamed of now or a little embarrassed by now. So what? Welcome to the human race. The real thing that seperates, in my books, the good guys and the not so hot guys is; "what do you want to do about it now?"

I don’t think Branden’s statement is a question of understanding Rand or not, but rather identifying a basic truism. His statement sounds reasonable to be.

One can understand ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... why redemption would be a big issue for Nathan.

He's right about there being no reason/passion dichotomy, but he gets it the wrong way round. "Feel deeply to think clearly," he says. Actually, it's the reverse.

Delectable old charlatan, though, isn't he?

I shook my head tonight when listening to the news—something to the effect that Tiger Woods should sign in to a clinic for "sex addiction" as Michael Douglas apparently once did. Is there no bottom to the pit of bullshit that The Therapy Culture has engendered? The Age of Crap on Stilts.

OMG - He doesn't get it, He never understood Rand

Sandi's picture

I am more than happy to admit that I know SFA about this man other than he had an affair with Rand. Whether this is true or not, I have not the faintest idea. That said, in my opinion he is clueless to Objectivism and he has not got the capacity to understand Rand.

Branden "Every code of ethics has to include something about redemption. Has to include something about people making bad choices, even immoral choices. Pulling their life together correcting whatever they did wrong as best they can and getting on with their life.......there is no treatment of the motion of failure to success in the moral sphere. In errors of knowledge, we can always correct errors of knowledge, but errors of morality. For example, somebody would say Rand doesn't have any kind of truck for people who make mistakes. Another person would say "well thats not true look at Hank Reardon, he made mistakes." I said yeah, but they were not moral errors. They were errors of knowledge and he was willing to pay the full price of those errors. But we're not talking about errors of knowledge, we're talking about errors of morality. That would have been such a great thing to put into that novel (Atlas Shrugged). If you had a bad guy who was almost as bad in some ways as the good guys and then you show redemption. Now you're talking about something, because everybody in this planet has done things they wish they'd done differently and those things that they would be ashamed of now or a little embarrassed by now. So what? Welcome to the human race. The real thing that seperates, in my books, the good guys and the not so hot guys is; "what do you want to do about it now?"

Branden never understood Rand. But this person does.

"The Fountainhead is a book of many themes. It covers economics, politics, society, religion, and all else that would define a philosophy. But, most of all it is about the artist. It is about how the artist works, and produces his art. It shows how the artist lives through his art. It shows what the artist is. Just producing art does not make someone an artist; it is the fact that they are drawn towards their work that makes them so. Keating never had the art in his life. He gave it up for fame and glory, and when he needed art to carry on through his life, he didn’t have it. He sought redemption from Roark, the man who was an artist. Yet, he was too late. There was no redemption because his soul was gone, he sold it for money. When a person’s crime is against themselves, there is no redemption.

Colton Caramihalis

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