Holiday Reprise - Symposium 1: A Woman for All Seasons

James S. Valliant's picture
Submitted by James S. Valliant on Mon, 2010-01-18 22:08

Since her death in 1982, Ayn Rand’s ideas have enjoyed nothing short of a Renaissance. Serious analyses of her philosophical insights and system of thought have now appeared in numerous academic journals, a growing list of important books, and conferences of university professors.

Then, of course, there are the double-take-worthy sales figures for Rand’s own books. Half a century after its original publication, a quarter century after its author’s death, Atlas Shrugged is selling faster than ever—and is being invoked by a new generation of activists.

However, as Jennifer Burns accurately notes in her new biography of Rand, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right, the life of this unique figure has not enjoyed similar attention. Apart from Jeff Britting’s short work, Ayn Rand, previous biographies were written by those who had fallen out with Rand, and are subject to distortion through the biases one must expect from such witnesses. The need for a more accurate picture of Rand, an individual considerably more interesting than either a goddess or a monster, is urgently needed. As Burns observes:

"Work in Rand's personal papers has enabled me to sift through the many biased and contradictory accounts of her life and create a more balanced picture of Rand as a thinker and human being." (GOM, “Introduction,” p. 4)

Since this was the conclusion of my own analysis of these biographies and Rand’s papers, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, I am obviously in gratified agreement with Burns on this point: previous biographies were indeed, “biased and contradictory.”

Rand's "critics," Burns also writes, "were often unfairly harsh and personal in their attacks." (GOM, “Introduction,” p. 5)

Again, Burns has stated an important truth that is often missed: Rand, especially during her lifetime, was the victim of ad hominem arguments—often hysterical ones—which have helped to shroud her life in mythology.

Burns’s research should also be appreciated for bringing to light a number of previously unpublished details of Ayn Rand’s life. For example, Rand’s crush on actor Hans Gudegast, in her seventies, reveals that she never stopped longing and looking for the sight, at least, of her Ideal Man. (I had previously heard the story of her effort to acquire a clean-shaven photograph of the actor only from Leonard Peikoff, Rand’s heir.) More than this, Burns can display a sensitivity to Rand’s personal context that is sorely missing from previous efforts.

Goddess of the MarketGoddess of the MarketMost importantly, however, Goddess provides—for the first time in detail—an account of Rand’s relationship to what has been called the “right wing intellectual movement of the 20th Century.” Before The National Review, before Human Events, a small group of writers was emerging after World War II that was critical of the New Deal and which urged a strong opposition to Soviet Communism. Ayn Rand was one of these writers, and she personally knew many of the rest. To a largely unacknowledged degree, Rand exerted significant, if limited influence on this nascent movement, both in Hollywood and on journalists and other writers such as John Chamberlain.

By the 1930s, free market liberalism was scarcely to be found among American writers and, for a time, could only be seen in the self-imposed exile of Albert J. Nock or the against-the-grain iconoclasm of H. L. Mencken. Communism and socialism were then the standard text among intellectuals, if not the American public. In the 1940s, with the work of three women, Rand, Isabel Paterson and Rose Wilder Lane, the American concept of liberty was to find passionate new champions. Future Nobel Prize-winning F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom would shortly follow. And from this point forward, although still a diverse minority, a new era for intellectuals on the right had commenced.

By the 1960s, William F. Buckley had mostly succeeded in equating the American Right with religious conservatism, however, and, as Burns observes, one of his principal tools for doing this was through his magazine The National Review’s infamous smearing of Rand and Atlas Shrugged. Still, the 1964 Barry Goldwater Presidential campaign bore traces of Rand’s influence, an influence privately acknowledged by Senator Goldwater himself.

In that decade as beatniks devolved into hippies a new kind of “capitalist” emerged, one uncomfortable in Buckley’s Religion-and-Tradition straightjacket, claiming Rand as their foremost ideological inspiration. A small but influential group of these, led by economist Murray Rothbard, advocated a new kind of anarchism or “anarcho-capitalism.” Before long, many of these new activists would also become uncomfortable with Rand’s secular ethics. These would soon form a new sect and a new Party: contemporary libertarians.

By the 1970s, students of Ayn Rand had even begun migrating to Washington and played an instrumental though previously a largely uncredited role in ending the Draft, to which Rand was vehemently opposed. One of Rand’s students would become a principal advisor to President Ronald Reagan; another went on to become a long-serving Federal Reserve Chairman.

Through all of this history that is meticulously unearthed in Goddess of the Market, Rand’s influence went unheralded in most circles, although her public differences with conservatives and libertarians were quite well known. For this reason, the history of her positive influence has never been told in much detail—from any political perspective. Burns takes on the challenge and has produced a comprehensive treatment of how Rand’s life intersected and affected these people and events, and how Rand steered an independent course through it all. And a dry intellectual account it is not, thanks to Burns’s engaging prose, occasional humor—and her fascinating subject.

The book is deeply flawed in two important respects, however, the first being a common problem with those attempting to write about Ayn Rand: a failure to understand or appreciate Rand’s thought. The second major weakness of the book, also sadly common, stems from the author’s willingness to uncritically accept primary accounts that are themselves deeply flawed. Even so, Burns’s biography is superior to previous efforts, and Burns’s recognition of “bias and contradiction” in previous biographies raises the standard of Rand scholarship higher in several important ways.

Unlike Barbara Branden’s impressionistic portrait in The Passion of Ayn Rand, Burns does not paint a humorless, joyless Rand, or one alienated from the physical world itself. Much of the psychological speculation about Rand from the Brandens is simply and properly disregarded and makes no appearance in Burns’s text. Rand’s self-praise is quoted along with Rand’s unusual modesty. No mention whatever of the post-Atlas surprise party, made infamous by the Brandens, is to be found. Burns never doubts the importance of Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor, to the author’s work and happiness, or that he actually saved The Fountainhead, and she gives us a more sympathetic treatment of O’Connor himself than had either of the Brandens. Burns discusses Rand’s use of Benzedrine, but she fails to associate it with any alleged “paranoia.” The prescribed amphetamine may have helped power her inhuman bursts of energy—as well as her “crashes” afterwards—although even this is somewhat speculative. From the available evidence, however, minus the obvious ax grinding of the Brandens, this much makes coherent sense at least. And there are other interesting omissions of Branden-sourced speculations, as well.

One of the noteworthy improvements over previous biographies is Burns’s account of Rand’s break with her business partner and one-time lover, Nathaniel Branden, in 1968. Explaining why Rand would never forgive Mr. Branden, Burns states:

"More than the fury of a woman scorned, it was the fury of a woman betrayed. For nearly five years, Nathan had lied to Rand about his feelings for her and his relationship with Patrecia. Their hours of intense conversation and counseling, so painful and taxing to Rand, had been a pretense and a ruse to distract her from his deceptions. In the meantime, NBI had grown from a small lecture series to a national institution. Nathan had become famous and wealthy speaking in Rand's name." (GOM, pp. 241-242)

Burns appreciates the layers of complexity within Branden’s dishonesty to Rand, and she acknowledges the most exploitative aspect of Branden’s fraud. Since the publication of my own analysis, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics (PARC), many defenders of the Brandens have been unwilling to admit this with equal clarity, despite the evidence.

Some critics of PARC have gone through especially Byzantine contortions in order to evade another simple observation made by Burns regarding Branden's 1968 public statement about the break:

"Sent out in tandem with Barbara's statement, his letter suggested that it was Rand alone who had acted inappropriately." (GOM, p. 243)

Thus, they blamed Rand for everything while simultaneously hiding Rand’s real motive in the break. In short: they misled their readers.

Again, scholar Chris Sciabarra, along with other critics of PARC, have refused to admit this dishonesty with the directness Burns has now offered, understanding the implication that Burns herself does not reach and may not have seen: if Nathan and Barbara lied not just to Rand but to their readers and continue to stand by those statements to this day, then their credibility on the subject of Rand is profoundly undermined. Under these circumstances, trusting them as sources about Rand, whether they are criticizing, remembering or even praising her, is impossible unless their accounts are corroborated by reliable sources.

In that “Open Letter” about the break, published on both of the Brandens’ personal websites to this day, Branden had denied Rand’s accusation that their relationship had become either therapeutically or (in any way) professionally exploitative. Burns recognizes the opposite to have been the case, acknowledging that the Rand-Branden relationship had indeed become "therapeutic,” despite Branden's 1968 denials. Burns also quotes from the rather unctuous letter to Rand that Patrecia, then Branden’s lover, wrote to her while participating in deceiving her. Burns also reports that the supposedly jealousy-crazed Rand suggested to him that an affair with someone else might be good for Branden during the course of their own relationship. She also notes that Rand had suggested a "partial" break to preserve their business relationship prior to learning the scope of Branden’s deceptions—and that Rand had soured on any continued romance with Branden many months before their break came. All of this confirms what PARC first revealed about Branden’s elaborately fraudulent accounts.

Burns notes PARC’s "vigorous" argument against Frank O’Connor's alleged alcoholism. (GOM, p. 322, note 54) Interestingly, Burns cautions that “[f]irm diagnoses of the dead are always tenuous,” but concludes that it is "not unreasonable" to believe that his drinking was "at the very least unhealthy." However, she also acknowledges that this conclusion hinges on the credibility of witnesses (who, it must be added, are very few indeed.) Curiously, while no new witnesses are offered, Burns makes it seem as if Frank's ability to paint vanished over night, which it did not.

In her “Essay on Sources” at the end, she writes, "Though it often goes overboard in its attacks on the Brandens, James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics subjects both books to intense scrutiny and offers an alternative account of Rand's break with Nathaniel Branden." (GOM, p. 296) Yet, in Burns’s own account of the Brandens’ conduct, a negative evaluation is amply proven, if not directly leveled.

Far more important is that a new era in the scholarship of Rand’s life and work has begun with the opening of her papers to independent scholars. These papers have been available to scholars for some time, and as more volumes utilizing the material are released, all of it will be available for use in published work. However, Goddess represents the first use of this material by a non-Objectivist scholar. Indeed, the praise Burns gives Jeff Britting and the Ayn Rand Archive for their openness to a non-Objectivist, even an Objectivism-critical, scholar stands in sharp contradiction to many assertions by critics of the Ayn Rand Institute, such as Professor Robert Campbell of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, who routinely accuses that organization of harboring the most nefarious motives. On page 287, Burns writes that Britting was "unfailingly professional, endlessly informative, and always willing to go the extra mile."

While she severely criticizes David Harriman and Michael Berliner for their editing of the Rand material in The Journals of Ayn Rand and Letters of Ayn Rand, PARC, which had made clear even the smallest omission or addition from Rand’s original text, pointedly avoids this. It is obvious that as historical documents the usefulness of these other volumes is limited, as Burns is right to point out. However, there are other purposes these works serve for the student of Rand’s philosophy seeking a deeper understanding of Objectivism and the rest of the author’s mature thought. Burns does not seem to appreciate the value of this. (It could be added that, in comparison to the efficiency with which the papers of Albert Einstein and Walt Disney—both of whom died years earlier than Rand—have been made available to scholars, the Ayn Rand Archive has been moving at light speed.)

Significantly, and despite the concept’s dismissal in some quarters, Burns recognizes a valid and on-going Objectivist "oral tradition” making known the many unpublished philosophical insights of Rand, especially through the work of Dr. Leonard Peikoff. While it is not clear that the Archive material serves as her evidence for this, there is copious evidence there to demonstrate it. For example, Peikoff’s development of “rationalism” and “empiricism” as psycho-epistemological syndromes in his 1983 course Understanding Objectivism is thoroughly rooted in Rand’s own thought, as her diagnosis of Mr. Branden published in PARC confirms.

However, as previously mentioned, Burns’s most important errors lie in her poor understanding of Rand as a philosopher. She does caution that her focus is political, but failing to understand Rand’s system of thought leads her into some very bad misstatements.

Strikingly, she has no appreciation for Rand's psychological insights, or even the dimmest awareness of the cognitive theory of emotions Rand was exploring as early as her private philosophical musings in 1934. For Burns, Rand was simply hostile to emotion, and her refusal to use emotions as a means of cognition is proof. For Burns, emotions are autonomous (GOM, p. 225) or what Rand would have called “irreducible primaries.” For Burns, “scorn” for emotions is shown when Rand describes a character who “does not suffer, because he does not believe in suffering” (GOM, p. 62) Rand’s conviction that emotions have a cognitive component is entirely unexplored and undefined by Burns—and as a result Rand’s closely-related and intensely passionate celebration of emotion is missed and unmentioned, along with its philosophical significance.

This might not have been a vital omission in a political biography, except that, for Burns, the great contradiction, paradox and even tragedy of Rand’s life was the unresolved tension between her emotions and her mind, between her romantic art and her quest to live by logic, between her deep passions and her sharp thinking. (GOM, p. 6 and 159)

Following the Brandens’ lead, Burns maintains that Rand and Branden were “trapped” by what she thinks are Objectivist “theories of love” (GOM, p.224), but, then, she does not broach the actual details of these alleged theories. Since that would have required, among other things, a consideration of the previously mentioned Understanding Objectivism, and the full scope of Rand’s nuanced views, it would have taken her far away from politics and beyond her intended scope. Under such circumstances, then, it would have been best to avoid a topic the author was not prepared to consider fully and fairly.

From Burns’s account, the reader does not know that Rand had an original and systematic answer to the alleged dichotomies between reason and emotion, mind and body, fact and value, theory and practice, abstract thought and actual survival. Rand’s detailed reasoning on these fundamental matters goes unmentioned. Though this last is the very theme of Atlas Shrugged, though such insights power The Fountainhead, though these ideas are implicitly present in a hundred ways in We the Living, though their outline was present in the first pages of Rand’s first philosophical notes—and although these matters directly bear upon Burns’s own theme—she ignores these aspects of Rand’s thought, to the detriment of some of her central conclusions.

An analysis of Rand’s more abstract ideas, whether Burns agrees with them or not, is necessary before one can draw many of the other broad conclusions about those ideas or Rand’s philosophical originality that Burns permits herself. Indeed, it might have been a corrective had she engaged in such an analysis.

This philosophy-vacuum results in Burns’s failure to identify even Rand’s principal motivation as a philosopher, although it is one Rand explicitly spells out in her first philosophical journals, which Burns quotes extensively.

For Burns, Objectivism employs deductive logic exclusively, and that it is only “syllogistically derived.” (GOM, p. 237) It is no excuse that others have shared Burns’s error here, including apparently Isabel Paterson (GOM, p.127), for Rand’s writing was clear and consistent about this. If that was not enough to convince, then surely the growing secondary literature on Objectivism would have set her straight on this score, such as Peikoff’s masterful, Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Thus, with little appreciation of the role and function of deduction itself, she necessarily misses the bulk of Rand’s argumentation, as so many before her have missed it. Yet, the first lines from those earliest philosophical notes show Rand seeking to “gather the facts” which would “illuminate” her dualism-busting hypotheses, and, further down, her stated desire to study subjects like physics and psychology as adjuncts to her understanding of politics of all things. (Journals, p. 66 and p. 72) Rand’s unique brand of empiricism is not recognized. Therefore, the expansive and open-ended dimensions of Rand’s thought are missed by Burns altogether. Again, this might not have been a serious problem if Burns did not also claim that Rand had a “narrow idea of how reason should be used.” (GOM, p. 234)

While it is true that the lectures on Objectivism which Branden, and later Peikoff, gave under Rand’s supervision did not employ Socratic debate or dialogue, they were not ipso facto mind-closing recitals of catechism, either. They were designed to help students get straight what Rand was actually saying—a prerequisite to any criticism and something that her critics kept (and keep) getting wrong. This lack of “university” methodology was not an opposition to such methods, either. As Burns recognizes, these lectures filled an important gap left by contemporary higher education in the humanities. While this approach also contributed to the unfortunate aspects of Branden’s school, a simple understanding of Rand’s ideas for what they are is often still badly missing, ironically, a tradition that Burns’s own misunderstandings unfortunately continues.

On the topic of ethics, Burns is equally misguided. By using “altruism” in Auguste Comte’s sense, according to Burns, Rand “seemed to be attacking kindness itself“ (GOM, p.193) and was claiming the “natural human sympathy for the downtrodden [to be] unacceptable.” (GOM, p.173)

Rand had an answer to this, of course, in her explanation for using the term “selfish”—even though it usually means something very different from Rand’s intention—in her “Introduction” to The Virtue of Selfishness (and throughout that volume). It is the essence of such terms that has to be reclaimed, according to Rand, or the truth will be left unnamed, undefined and undefended. True self-regard is the opposite of the savagery meant by the only definition we are otherwise permitted. True self-sacrifice is the opposite of genuine goodwill, despite the usual meaning given to “altruism.” Bearing so closely on Burns’s point, Rand’s own argument should at least have been mentioned.

At times, Burns’s misunderstandings of Rand’s ethics are, sadly, inexcusable. She writes that, according to Rand, “[i[t is immoral to ask anything from others,” (GOM, p.167) and that Rand was simply “untroubled by the idea of economic wants going unsatisfied.” (GOM, p.220) For Burns, Rand is the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

At other times, her assertions are simply free-floating assumptions, like this one: “After all, by renouncing charity as a moral obligation [Rand] had voluntarily opted out of any traditional expectations of politeness or courtesy.” (GOM, p.173) Rand’s careful arguments—and the benevolent implications on page after page of her art—not to mention Rand’s practice of and repeated calls for good manners, are entirely ignored.

Given her misunderstanding of the fundamentals of Rand’s philosophy, it is not surprising that Burns’s account of Rand’s political thought is also sometimes inexcusably erroneous. It is in the interplay between ethics and politics that Rand’s social thought is so strikingly original. For Rand, unlike so many defenders of capitalism, there is no “Invisible Hand” magically coordinating human interests, and there is no “paradox” to private selfishness resulting in common welfare. Rand’s case for selfishness is both a forthright defense of the absolute right of an individual to pursue his own happiness—the profit motive itself—and a defense of capitalism as the most productive and prosperous system precisely because it alone is consistent with a morality of reason and individual rights.

Ayn Rand would readily say that White House Communications Director Anita Dunn got it right in June of last year in her speech to those students: Chairman Mao and Mother Theresa are connected under the skin. Dunn is only the most recent example of clarity on the relationship between Christian altruism and socialism. Rand herself would have coupled the two, and for the same reason. Burns may resist drawing this relationship herself, but understanding it is essential to understanding Rand’s case—the most direct defense of the profit motive ever made. Its radical insights are perforce rendered invisible to Burns.

Other errors are cringe-worthy. On Francisco d’Anconia’s famous money speech in Atlas Shrugged, we are told that he misquoted the Bible. (GOM, p.170) Since Rand does not quote the Bible there in the first place, the “misquoting” is all Burns’s. In fact, the speech addresses both of the commonly used forms of the “money is the root of all evil” or “the love of money is the root of all evil” adage. The second is true to St. Paul and it, too, is explicitly addressed by d’Anconia. Burns is just factually wrong on this criticism of the speech.

Burns writes that, for Rand, “competition [is] the meaning of life” and that her work ”appeared” to support “Darwinian capitalist competition.” (GOM, p.175) This is extraordinary, for Atlas Shrugged actually illustrates how it is the “weak” or less talented who are the ones most benefited by capitalism—and why they fared so poorly in previous ages.

Also according to Burns, the State is always a “destroyer” for Rand (GOM, p. 3), even though a judge made the cut into Galt’s Gulch, the novel’s “utopia of greed,” and from there proceeds to articulate the positive role of objective law. Rand’s praise for America’s Founding Fathers—and the tradition of West Point—among many other examples, also contradicts this notion.

Far worse, Burns alleges:

"Her vision of society was atomistic, not organic. Rand’s ideal society was made up of traders, offering value for value, whose relationships spanned only the length of any given transaction." (GOM, p. 209)

Quite the reverse is true: for Rand, relationships of significance span the entire length of a human lifetime—along with the plans, the values and the ambitions of all of her heroes. (“Once granted,” we are told in one memorable case, her hero Howard Roark never “withdrew” his love.) This long-range perspective was one of Rand’s consistent attributes, both as a novelist and as a moralist.

In Burns’s text, some terms are intentionally left vague, such as “conservative,” to little effect, while her use of terms such as "elitism," are so vague that they become truly meaningless. If it is “elitism” to believe that it takes a Michelangelo to paint a Sistine Chapel, then, yes, Rand was a lifelong and forthright “elitist.” (GOM, p. 93) The term connotes something else, of course, something dark, and it is the exact parameters of that something else which are vital to any fair account of Rand’s ideas. “Elitism,” in the sense that Burns seems to use it, could to refer to the act of valuing anyone who achieves more than anyone else—something everyone does all the time, whether by choosing a favorite artist, chef, hairdresser or grocery store.

However, the most repulsive of Burns’s open implications is her description of Rand’s heroes or heroines as being of “Aryan” features. (GOM, p. 147 and 227) Apart from being false—Dagny Taggart’s dark hair, the Latin Francisco d’Anconia, and the somewhat Irishy look (like Rand’s husband) of the red-haired Howard Roark, all spring to mind—Burns’s word-choice conjures something Nazi in Rand’s soul, an inexcusably gratuitous allusion. Burns text suggests that Rand’s early thought was little more than Nietzscheanism, leaving the implications of such a term still more ominously undefined. Burns will report the slanders of reviewers like Whittaker Chambers (“To the gas chambers—go!”), and even be critical of them. But this is one instance where she commits the same injustice, if in a subtler form.

Burns had complete access to Rand’s private journals, and has likely seen Rand’s opposition to Nazi censorship in her writing as early as 1935. (The Journals of Ayn Rand, p. 79)

Which brings us to what is by far the single most important error of Goddess: its treatment of Rand’s intellectual development. And, once more, the error directly flows from Burns’s shallow understanding of Rand’s philosophy.

Burns, perhaps too used to the template of right wing intellectual trajectory, mistakenly sees sharp elbows in the evolution of Rand's thought. For example, she says that her “contact with Paterson and others had helped [Rand] move beyond the narrow Nietzscheanism that defined her early work.” (GOM, p. 132) This is a doubly ironic error for such a brilliant scholar of 20th Century conservative thought to make, for the story of conservative intellectuals of the last century is nothing if not the story of sharp elbows in thinking—especially in comparison to the stalwart and straight line of Rand’s own intellectual career.

As the late Professor John Diggins suggested in his important work, Up From Communism, one needs only to look at the list of contributing editors to The National Review magazine in its first decade or two of operation with one thing in mind: who among them was not a former communist or socialist? John Chamberlain, James Burnham, John Dos Passos, Max Eastman and the notorious Whittaker Chambers whom Buckley assigned to review Atlas Shrugged for that magazine, were just some of the ex-Reds and ex-Pinks populating the American Right in those days. (Almost alone, Rand’s friend Henry Hazlitt must be excluded from that list.)

Some, like Eastman, never found religion like Chambers did, and had difficulties in their relationship with Buckley as a result. Many went from hardcore Marxist to hardcore Conservative, although a Chamberlain or two moved from a milder Leftism to a semi-principled if also mild libertarianism.

Later, many Social Democrats who took grief for their anti-Stalinism as they remained on the Left began to find a comfortable home on the Right, including Irving Kristol, Sidney Hook, and a raft of neo-conservative opponents of communism, as has been well-documented. But for former Leftists, there would be precious few conservative intellectuals in the last century.

Now, these individuals had some serious “elbows” in the development of their thinking. Any comparison to them is entirely unfair to Rand. Whittaker Chambers swung all the way from atheist and Soviet spy to Christian with a reverence for tradition. Eastman remained an atheist, but he went from being an editor of The Masses to being an editor of Reader’s Digest, famous for its anti-communism. Many of these intellectual converts lost close friends, like Dos Passos. The stories of “conversion” in the wake of Stalin’s horrors, at least among honest intellectuals, are too numerous to list here.

To measure the radical dimensions of Rand’s thought, it is important to observe that, for Rand, a conversion such as Chambers’s—from committed Communist to pious Christian—is actually a relatively superficial one, since he remained both a mystic and altruist throughout.

One has to squint very hard to find any similar change in the values of Ayn Rand during her lifetime. Burns will speak of Rand’s “deepening interest in philosophy” in the 1960s (GOM, p. 227), when all that can be found is a new interest in writing about it. Burns will write about the “dawning importance” of reason to Rand in the 1940s (GOM, p. 84), her “turn to Aristotle” at this time (GOM, p.112), and allege that “Aristotelian rationality” had “captured her interest after she completed The Fountainhead.” (GOM, p. 147, emphasis added), when the evidence of her methodological commitment to Aristotle and to logic can be found in her first notes on philosophy written when she was still in her twenties.

Burns is right to observe that these early notes show Rand tentatively asking herself questions, and sometimes show her making a speculation later dropped from her mature thought. However, these journals are noteworthy for their dramatic foreshadowing of nearly the entire outline for the philosophy Rand would come to call “Objectivism.”

Burns implies that Isabel Paterson was the source of Rand’s desire for logical system-building, even though she quotes from those same sections of Rand’s early notes in which Rand explicitly calls for such a logical “system” of ethics, and which were written long before she knew of Paterson’s work. Paterson is even seemingly credited with Rand’s use of the formula “A is A” (GOM, p.112), although it can be found in the earliest version of We the Living, when Kira states in an ominously Aristotelian preview of Rand’s mature thought that “Numbers are numbers. Steel is steel.” This is why, as an engineer, Kira notes, she would not be forced to “lie” in the new Soviet world, unlike other professionals, directly tying her meaning to Aristotelian metaphysics.

Burns thinks of Rand as little more than a Nietzschean until her contact with Paterson and other conservatives. Along with Paterson’s biographer, Professor Stephen Cox, she exaggerates the importance of Isabel Paterson as an influence on Rand’s thought. None of Rand’s ideas seem to have changed at all during her relationship with Paterson, indeed, it was their agreement on so much about politics that drew them together, but the language Rand used is no longer mostly Nietzschean. This stems from a new confidence in her new language and in her own originality, and this last, indeed, may be associated with her relationship with Paterson.

However, in reality, Rand’s commitment to logical and systematic methodology, and to Aristotle, are not only seen to be important in her first philosophical musings, and as early as her twenties, they can be seen to trump Nietzsche’s influence altogether at that early age. At 29, Rand has rejected Nietzsche’s “genealogy” or “history” of ethics, in favor of logical system-building, has argued for a cognition-based kind of free will, and has rejected the idea that human beings are the determined slaves of their own passions and subjective perspectives. (The Journals of Ayn Rand, pp. 66-74) Burns herself quotes many of these highly anti-Nietzschean passages from Rand’s earliest notes.

Burns acknowledges that Rand had differences with Nietzsche, but, from the forest-perspective, as opposed to the tree-perspective, she opines, Rand’s entire career may be seen as one huge “Nietzschean Phase.” Unless she would be willing to lump all egoists into that same category—from Aristotle to Hobbes to Spinoza to Rand—this is egregious mental sloppiness. Differences as profound as the differences that separate Spinoza from Nietzsche also separate Rand from Nietzsche. It is as absurd as saying that Friedrich Nietzsche was going through one giant “Hobbesian Phase.”

And it is particularly unfair to Ayn Rand. Rand sensibly regarded metaphysical and epistemological questions to be far more fundamental issues that will inevitably condition and shape our thinking on all the others, and, therefore, she held them to be far more important than ethical or political questions. By Rand’s standard of importance, these were the most vital subjects, and it is with regard to just these matters that Rand’s radical differences with Nietzsche are to be found, even in her earliest notes.

While he was no fan of socialism (or German nationalism or anti-Semitism), Nietzsche not only explicitly opposed observational “generalization” and logical system-building in ethics, he never seems to have observed anything he liked in democratic America, either. If it is difficult to give Nietzsche’s ideas a political definition beyond his admiration for ancient tyrants and Renaissance thugs, it would be utterly impossible to classify Nietzsche as a political liberal in the classical sense.

On the other hand, Rand seems to have always been the political liberal Nietzsche never was. As Burns notes herself, Rand’s first political affinities were influenced by her father, who was an admirer of Victorian British liberalism, and her early admiration for Alexander Kerensky, precisely because she saw him as the most liberal choice available to Russia. In her very first notes on philosophy in 1934, Rand mentions “liberal democracy,” as if that is the standard from which she will work to distinguish her own thought, writing of “the fault of liberal democracy,” (Journals, p.74) as if it is that which needed the tweaking. Rand cast her first vote for a U.S. President for Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, believing from his opposition to Prohibition and from his campaign rhetoric that he was the candidate for liberty. Having betrayed that expectation, FDR lost her support quickly. In January of 1937, Rand wrote, in private correspondence:

"I am glad to know that there still are people and a mode of thinking that can be opposed to Communism in a true, sensible democratic spirit. I have met so many people who declared bluntly that anyone criticizing Soviet Russia is automatically a fascist and a capitalistic exploiter. And it was gratifying to read a voice in refutation of that preposterous nonsense." (Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 40)

Later, Rand actively campaigned for Wendell Wilkie, a chapter of her history first explored in detail in Burns’s book. It was through this activism that Rand came to know several prominent conservatives. All the while, Rand was never tempted into even the slightest flirtation with socialism, fascism, religion or nearly any other fashionable idea of the day.

Compared to most other thinkers, compared even to the most consistent of them, Rand was a rock of intellectual changelessness and consistency in a tumultuous sea. From her ideas about religion, to her taste in literature, to her love for America, it’s actually hard to find any sharp “elbows” in Rand’s thought of any kind beyond the stylistic adjustment to differing venues for her thought.

Of course, at first Rand’s terminology was overwhelmingly that of Nietzsche, but it did not and could not fit even her first musings on philosophy, nor her ambitions in the field. The process of Rand’s development was largely the process of finding the right words to express her original intention and the language to fit her unique vision with precise clarity. Thus, in her first novel, We the Living, in the main character Kira’s commitment to honesty and her passionate cry to be “left alone”—in Rand’s first notes calling for a “system of ethics” built on “logic”—and in her first political sympathies, one hears the same anti-Nietzschean philosopher of ethical principles and individual rights that we find in Atlas Shrugged.

Is it even possible to imagine a theory of natural rights emanating from a true Nietzschean?

In a number of other important instances Burns is quite unfair to Rand. In contrast to Burns’s assertion, Rand never “denigrated” the “profession of philosophy” (GOM, p. 185)—just the opposite—in the process of denigrating its current practitioners. One of her sources for this, Professor John Hospers, in fact, has related how Rand gave him a new appreciation for the critical importance of his own chosen field.

Burns’s conclusion that Alan Greenspan was of material assistance to Rand on the economics articulated in Atlas Shrugged is highly dubious—Rand had written more than two-thirds of the novel before she moved back to New York, where she met Greenspan—who, as Fed Chairman, seems not to have understood those economics, even after Rand’s death.

Rand’s attack on modern philosophy is not only implicit in the substance of her ideas, but also long predated her relationship with Leonard Peikoff, despite Burns’s contention (GOM, p.186). Paterson and Nietzsche must share at least some of the credit for this enmity, ironically enough.

How Burns can also claim that after their relationship had soured Paterson was no longer an “important thinker” to Rand (GOM, p. 132)—when Rand’s majestic public recommendation of her book actually put it back into print for many years¬—is also a mystery. (I suspect that I am not alone in having to credit Rand with “turning me on” to Paterson’s work in the first place.)

Readers of the first edition of Rand’s short work, Anthem, written in 1937, and prior to any relationship with Paterson, will note the fundamentality and stress, for example, Rand placed on reason and free will, and can even observe the subtle relationship between reason and volition that she would develop later in Atlas Shrugged. Even at this level of technicality, Rand’s ideas were unchanged, just enormously expanded with new insights, arguments and applications in her magnum opus.

Anthem’s passionate cry against totalitarianism is that of Atlas Shrugged. Dictatorship squelches reason, an attribute of the individual, when it erases the word “I,” and civilization itself recedes into pre-technological barbarism. Discovering the Self comes with the rediscovery of the light bulb, according to this work by Rand, in a line of reasoning that led straight to Galt’s Motor—and one that is indistinguishable from her later, far more elaborate political theory. And this work is one that also preceded in time her relationship with most of the American conservatives she would come to know.

Also remarkable is the consistency of thought between Roark’s courtroom speech in The Fountainhead and Galt’s radio speech in Atlas, the latter merely expanding the scope of its consideration.

One might confidently conclude that Rand had a darker sense of life in her twenties, if the same hand, which had written “The Little Street," had not also penned O. Henry-inspired stories like “Good Copy” and “Escort” during roughly the same time period.

Burns will describe the “newfound appreciation for the average American” that is expressed in The Fountainhead (GOM, p. 82)—despite also acknowledging how, even in Russia, she “idealized America” (GOM, p. 63). Burns then later claims that in Atlas Shrugged Rand had “returned” to her earlier bitterness and disillusionment about “the mob.” Burns gleans this from Rand’s description of how the passengers aboard the doomed train speeding toward disaster in Atlas Shrugged had been complicit in the cultural and political degeneration that led to the disaster. Too conveniently, this is not the occasion for Burns to mention Rand’s account of how philosophy has vital, life-and-death consequences, whether one evades them or not, but for a discussion of Rand’s alleged return to “bitterness.”

However, the workers who cheer the first running of the John Galt Line, and the popular reaction to Hank Rearden’s defense at his show trial, among many other examples, serve precisely the same function in Atlas Shrugged that Roark’s jury verdict (and his friendship with Mike the construction worker) had in The Fountainhead, and these descriptions spring from the same appreciation for ordinary Americans and what Rand called “the American sense of life.” It was an affection that she continued to express until her last public appearance just months before her death in 1982.

Certainly, Rand went through periods of depression, but the light, benevolent spirit she had found in reading O. Henry in her twenties, the same spirit that loved her “tiddly-wink music” from the start, never really died in Rand and continued to resurface until the end.

Even the most sophisticated expressions of Objectivism, such as Peikoff’s Understanding Objectivism, are simply the drawn out implications of Rand’s original musings about the relationship between “thinking” and “living” that we find in the very first lines of those earliest philosophical notes.

In the 1960s, Rand was of course more eager than Buckley to draw the differences between her ideas and those of conservatives, just as by the 1970s Rand was equally eager to draw the differences between herself and Libertarians, but the substance of her opinions does not appear to have changed from period to period—just her emphasis, according to the contemporary context.

Burns observes that Rand’s earliest political manifesto does not proclaim her later criticisms of altruism and mysticism, but this is hardly surprising as it was designed to be a statement to which a broader range of intellectuals could also assent. Rand knew her ideas to be controversial. Again, Rand may not yet have had the confidence to publicly assert the more fundamental ideas that she had already been exploring in her private journals for some time, but even this early effort is still remarkably consistent with those ideas.

And, certainly, Rand’s purposes changed from writing project to writing project. A political manifesto is not an ethical treatise, and a novel is neither. Thus, one can see shifting emphases, but in Rand’s intellectual career it is hard to find any kind of conversion or fundamental epiphany that is otherwise a cliché among thinkers on the Intellectual Right. Instead, we can now see that very few writers have ever been so unchanged by the passage of time—from top to bottom—as was Rand. This should be one of the obvious take-away points from any fair biography of this unique American thinker.

An understanding of Rand’s development as a thinker is an important topic, for, as Objectivism itself implies, she was not born an Objectivist. Rand was moved to write about the ideas and events of her time, and it is absurd to believe that she was unaffected by those events and the wider culture. But Rand remained loyal all her life to certain fundamental ideas and values that endured to the end, retaining an almost childlike lack of guile about the profound questions she had posed to herself as a youth. This innocent courage and honesty, more than any other aspects of personality, help to explain her consistency—and why Rand’s thinking was so challenging, so revolutionary.

Perhaps it “goes without saying” that Rand’s philosophy was the product of independent thought, but, in providing only psychological explanations for Rand’s intellectual development—and in unjustifiably reducing her ideas to a hybrid of those of Nietzsche and Paterson—it is almost as if Burns, an intellectual historian, does not recognize an independent causal role for the human intellect.

Ayn Rand’s growing importance is marked by the publication of Burns’s serious treatment—in itself a step forward in Rand scholarship. In the face of academic headwinds of hostility, Burns’s massive undertaking must have taken equally massive courage, something also to be celebrated, and her sometimes brilliant use of previously unpublished material from the Archive makes this book necessary reading for the serious scholar. Unfortunately, however, a true rendering of Ayn Rand’s life and ideas, indeed, her very spirit, still awaits its muse.


( categories: )

Statement

RL0919's picture

A statement on record where? Are you meaning the Archives? According to Neil -- but he inadvertently deleted the email from Gotthelf -- Gotthelf told him something about the Archives having a statement from someone who remembered, after reading Passion, having heard this story from Ayn. Is that the statement to which you refer?

In the Archives is what I was told, although of course I have not seen this material myself. I know nothing of the earlier email you describe, so I couldn't say whether this is the same statement, although it seems likely since I doubt the Archives are overflowing with them!

--
Richard Lawrence
Visit the Objectivism Reference Center

RL: A comment about NB, and a question

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"HEC thinks that [the Finnish *writer* detail] may come from Nathaniel Branden. So the "writer" part has to go into the category of witness testimony, rather than a written statement from Rand. And given his track record of looseness with the truth, NB isn't an ideal witness, although I know of no specific motivation for him to dissemble in this particular matter. (Opinions about NB are mine, not HEC's.)"

There need be no specific motivation for NB to dissemble for him to get a report wrong. He's generally sloppy with exactitude. I've so many times known him to get details all messed up in correspondence, and in posts on his former discussion list.

A couple examples from his memoirs about issues which have been much discussed here:

In the story he tells about hearing about the typewriter-name-origin from Ayn, he has her chattily volunteering the information, including that she got the name "soon after" she came to America. Now even IF she told them (NB and BB) this story, is it believable that she would have placed the time frame in that of the supposed Fern story reported by Barbara (a time frame before typewriters with the "Rand" nameplate were made)? Surely this detail would have been something he imported, even assuming that Ayn told some such story.

Similarly, he writes (pg. 330 MYWAR) that Frank's studio, after Frank's death, "was discovered to be filled with empty liquor bottles [...]." This report doesn't come from Passion, where Barbara says nothing about a find of bottles after Frank died -- or even, with any exactitude, from Leonard Peikoff's speaking in a FHF 1987 answer of some bottles found by a housekeeper in Frank's studio, or from Barbara's subsequently, with some variation and increment of details, telling that tale instead of the "rows each week" version. I don't think Nathaniel was deliberately magnifying the story, but instead that he just doesn't attend to precision.

Hmmm...addendum. I wanted to provide the page number for this reference in Judgment Day, too -- pg. 373. The wording is the same in the two versions, but the part "when his studio was discovered to be filled with empty liquor bottles" is given as a *quote* from Elayne in the earlier version. He and/or BB must at least have noticed something fishy about the quote marks.

 

The question. You write:

"Another email correspondent (not HEC above) believes there is a statement on record from another witness to this tale [of Ayn telling the typewriter-name-origin story]."

A statement on record where? Are you meaning the Archives? According to Neil -- but he inadvertently deleted the email from Gotthelf -- Gotthelf told him something about the Archives having a statement from someone who remembered, after reading Passion, having heard this story from Ayn. Is that the statement to which you refer?

I have a copy of an email from a Collective member who said, yes, about having heard it from Ayn, but as far as I know, Barbara never subsequently got verification, and permission to quote, from this source.

Ellen

PS: "Such a tiny matter, but it does illustrate the intricate difficulties of historical research!"

Sort of like, Who was Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved"?, a question which will probably never be definitively settled but does keep the music historians entertained.

Quotes, letters, and tellings of tales

RL0919's picture

Regarding the quote, I wouldn't rely too heavily on the implications of exact wording in this type of source. If Rand said, "The first name is ..." instead of "My first name is ...", then the implication would not exist.

My helpful email correspondent (HEC) notes that while Rand did say in a letter that the name was Finnish, she did not say in that letter that it was from a Finnish writer. That detail comes secondhand. HEC thinks that it may come from Nathaniel Branden. So the "writer" part has to go into the category of witness testimony, rather than a written statement from Rand. And given his track record of looseness with the truth, NB isn't an ideal witness, although I know of no specific motivation for him to dissemble in this particular matter. (Opinions about NB are mine, not HEC's.)

I'm with Ellen in wondering what the "four tellings" are. Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden both say they heard it from her, but assuming that is true, this could easily have been a single telling to both of them together. Another email correspondent (not HEC above) believes there is a statement on record from another witness to this tale, but without information about circumstances, any number of witnesses could have heard the story in a single telling. So we must separate "number of persons claiming to have heard the story" from "number of times Rand is claimed to have told the story".

Such a tiny matter, but it does illustrate the intricate difficulties of historical research!

--
Richard Lawrence
Visit the Objectivism Reference Center

"at least four tellings" - Neil

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"The typewriter story is the best attested since there were at least four tellings of it by her."

Where do you get that? We don't have proof that there were *any* tellings of it by her. What are you counting as the "four" tellings?

Ellen

Comments

Neil Parille's picture

Richard,

I agree with most of what you say, however with respect to her first name she is quoted as saying:

___

My first name is Ayna, but I liquidated the 'A,' and Rand is an abbreviation of my Russian surname.

___

This implies that "Ayna" is her real first name, as opposed to "Rand" which is not her real last name. Of course no one knows if she was quoted correctly.

Since "Rand" is not an abbreviation or Americanization of her last name, it sounds like a story she made up to have a handy response or deflect questions. That's why it's important to know what, if anything, she told Peikoff and others. The ARI said the abbrevation story was not certain, which implies there isn't much in the archives by way of interviews with others. If Barbara didn't ask her that in her 60's interview then maybe it's unlikely that anyone else did.

I think Rand used the typewriter story, abbreviation story and americanization story at different times. The typewriter story is the best attested since there were at least four tellings of it by her.

Perhaps someone gave Kobler the 36 article and he misquoted it slightly?

-Neil Parille

Assorted comments

RL0919's picture

First, I want to say that I have no favored dog in the hunt for the origins of Rand's pen name. The evidence regarding her last name in particular is messy and provides no definitive answers. So, here are a few "nonpartisan" comments about things related to the name issue:

  • I had noted that the 1961 Saturday Evening Post article does not indicate where the author (John Kobler) got his information about her name, or if he even talked to Rand. That is true of what is in the article itself, but an email correspondent pointed me to Letters of Ayn Rand (pp. 586-589), which confirms Kobler did interview Rand. However, the letter says she found numerous errors in a draft of the article, which Kobler did not seem to want to change. So I would say the fact that he interviewed her tilts the odds more towards him having gotten this info from her, but only slightly given her lengthy complaints about the article being inaccurate.
  • Mistakes by journalists are commonplace, including the botching of direct quotes. In the era before portable recording devices were common, they would take handwritten notes even for lengthy interviews, and notes can become garbled in many different ways. So all news articles should be taken with a grain of salt, even when the subject isn't writing letters to complain about them.
  • Per Rand's letter, Kobler also interviewed Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. The ultimate irony would be if Kobler got the abbreviation story not from Rand directly, but indirectly from Barbara Branden. This would mean that Branden already had information contradicting the typewriter story when she wrote The Passion of Ayn Rand, which is what set off this farrago of name theories. I have no evidence that this is the case, and it is naughty of me to add to the rampant speculation in this area, but I thought James would appreciate a bit of red meat.
  • Regarding "Americanization" and "abbreviation", there is no guidebook that designates a particular way for immigrants to change their names. Clearly 'Rand' is not an abbreviation of 'Rosenbaum' in the classic sense, but if she did somehow derive it from the letters of her Russian name, it would hardly be a huge stretch for her to call it an "abbreviation" in a comment to a journalist. I doubt the interviewer was expecting a lengthy discourse explaining Rand's name-choosing process in minute detail.
  • If Rand did believe it was best to obscure the true origins of her name, nothing obligated her to stick with one story. So it is possible that Rand called it an abbreviation, and Americanization, and told the typewriter story, and that all of these origin stories are entirely false.
  • Regarding Rand's first name, the evidence is much more one-sided. She said in writing (so no one could have misheard or misquoted this) that the name 'Ayn' was invented by her based on removing the final 'a' from the name of a Finnish writer. Notwithstanding Heller's odd description of the same story told three slightly different ways as three stories, she seems to have been consistent about this. The only alternative theory with any evidence to speak of is the idea that it comes from a nickname, 'Ayin', used by her parents. According to Heller, a letter from Rand's mother and a report from a fan who asked Rand about it both confirm that they did sometimes call her this. But no one claims that Rand ever said anything to indicate this as the origin of her pen name.
  • Nothing says that her pen name, first or last, has to have a singular origin. For example, Rand may have gotten 'Ayn' from the Finnish writer, but also have been pleased at its similarity to her old nickname.

--
Richard Lawrence
Visit the Objectivism Reference Center

What's the big deal?

Brant Gaede's picture

If Ayn wanted a last name for a writing career and wanted to keep the first initial of her name, how hard would it have been for her to have found "Rand" out of the popular parlance?

--Brant

It's Time To Flounce

Neil Parille's picture

Folks,

We've seen the logical conclusion to Valliantism and his cultish devotion to Ayn Rand and (even worse) Leonard Peikoff.

Jim believes that Nathaniel Branden admits that the 67 loan constituted financial exploitation even though he does no such thing.

Jim apparently thinks that if my name were "Jose Rivera" I could change it to "John Reed" and say it was an abbreviation and an "Americanization."

And Lindsay Perigo -- who pretends that he's the last honest man on Galt's green earth -- says nothing as if this were the greatest defense of Ayn Rand he's ever seen.

It's time to flounce.

-Neil Parille

Was Ayn Rand Valliantquoated?

Neil Parille's picture

If Rand was quoted/paraphrased correctly in the 2 articles we appear to have 3 mistakes:

1. Her first name was not "Ayna";

2. "Rand" is not an abbreviation of "Rosenbaum"; and

3. "Rand" is not an Americanization of "Rosenbaum."

Notice that I'm not saying Rand is lying. Maybe she spoke carelessly, maybe she was misquoted, maybe she was Valliantquoated.

But notice that Jim refuses to give theBrandens and Fern Brown (whose interview he didn't read) any benefit of the doubt, but he will give Rand every benefit of the doubt.

-Neil Parille

Ellen

James S. Valliant's picture

I am also now less inclined to believe Branden's denials about his name being an anagram for "ben Rand" or "son of Rand." Like the Finnish version of Rand's first name, it has meaning, and a similar animated graphic can be made for this, too. We have nothing like the clarity of evidence that is emerging on Rand's name, but NB's word is not enough anymore. After his break with Rand, he had a strong interest in denying this story.

Games People Play

Neil Parille's picture

Jim:

I asked these questions --

___

4. Did you read Fern Brown's interview with the Archives prior to publishing PARC?

5. Did you read any Archival interviews prior to PARC? If so, whose?

___

--because I had an off-line discussion with someone about this. I believe you have answered "no" to both of these questions before.

-Neil

No More Games

James S. Valliant's picture

Rand is in Roman letters. That's enough. Your other questions are either irrelevant or have been answered already.

Adaptations

James S. Valliant's picture

That's my point, Neil, an "Americanization" may not be an "abbreviation." That's why the two reports are likely to be independent of each other.

However, if Rand did adapt her new name from the original name, then both statements CAN be true. Both point to her original name as the source. (Just as the "same initials" report does.) If she shortened it, then it IS an abbreviated version of the older name. If she also changed it from Cyrillic into English then it IS an Americanized version, as well.

The fact that she came up with the name in Russia shows nothing, she was already taking English lessons in anticipation of going to America.

The quote from Burns is evidence I am using, Neil, and it is perfectly consistent with what I am saying. She did eliminate the last letter, as we have already seen, and she may easily have thought that a "Y" was needed to transliterate an "I" in Finnish.

Leonid's perspective is irrelevant, since we are not looking for a good or standardized Americanization or abbreviation, but whether Rand actually happened to have shortened or Americanized it this way or not.

If it can be seen as such, then there is no reason to doubt the press reports (sheesh!) or Rand.

Jim

Neil Parille's picture

Jim:

1. But you showed a draft of the first part of PARC to Leonard Peikoff. So it was an issue by then. Why didn't you ask him what, if anything, he heard from Rand?

2. Sometimes you have to defer to experts. The experts (speakers of Russian) apparently don't believe that her name is an abbreviation of her Russian name. Even the ARI says it is not certain. How in the world is "Rand" and "Americanization" of "Rosenbaum"?

3. How do you deal with Rand's statement, "My first name is Ayna, but I liquidated the 'A,' . . . "?

4. Did you read Fern Brown's interview with the Archives prior to publishing PARC?

5. Did you read any Archival interviews prior to PARC? If so, whose?

-Neil Parille

Ellen

James S. Valliant's picture

No, I never asked him if he ever went out of his way to ask her about her name. This controversy did not exist in Rand's lifetime -- maybe because there were published press accounts with which Rand was satisfied -- so I doubt it.

But you seem to be missing my point, Ellen. We don't know for sure if Rand was misquoted in either article or both or whether both reporters simply made this up. Of course. And we also do not know whether any of the witnesses involved made up or misquoted Rand in their reports, either.

So, we must consider the probabilities here. As scholars of ancient texts know, if two news reports use different language to describe the same thing, the later report is less likely to be dependent upon the earlier one. In this case, one reporter is not likely to call something an "Americanization" if it had been referred to previously as an "abbreviation," if the earlier article had been his only source. The one does necessarily not imply the other. The reporter is not likely to have risked his credibility on an issue so minor and factual when Rand could have easily corrected him. Moreover, as published reports in Rand's life time, she had an opportunity to correct them both. She did not.

Until we have evidence to the contrary, the press reports must be treated as two reports coming from Rand. To assume otherwise is unjustified. This makes these news reports far more valuable -- far more solid -- than any of witness reports from memory after Rand's life, such as the "Finnish" adaption report.

The only press accounts we possesses have Rand saying that she adapted her new name from her old name -- not from a typewriter, not from a place name, not from currency. Thus, if her name CAN be seen as some kind adaptation of the original, then, absent other evidence, we have the truth.

Since Rand did preserve her original initials (apparently intentionally), we have further corroboration that it was in relation to the old name that Rand developed the new name.

An "abbreviation" in this context, for Zeus's sake, does not mean a good abbreviation, but simply a shorter version. An "Americanization" in this context does not mean a standard or previously used Americanization like "Miller," but an adaptation Rand liked. Neil's logic is simply laughable.

But, in any case, the two articles must be treated as two independent reports sourced in Rand unless we have positive reason to think otherwise.

Neil

Leonid's picture

"The last three letters clearly look like the Roman letters ‘ayn.’ Richard Ralston then noticed that by covering those letters—and dropping out the second and fourth letters—what remains bears a strong resemblance to the Roman letters ‘Rand.’"
This is completely wrong. In "РОЗЕНБАУМ" last tree letters look like "aym", not "ayn". If you cover these letters and drop out the second and fourth letters you will get "РЗНБ" which doesn't have any resemblance to "RAND" and phonetically unpronounceable in Russian. I suggest to go back to South African hypothesis. No matter how fantastic it is, nevertheless it's more plausible than that of J. Burns. Or, for example, why not to suggest that Ayn Rand adopted her first name from " Ainu" (アイヌ, in Russian АИНУ) which means humans. The Ainu are an indigenous ethnic group of Japan and Russia. Some people believe that their origin is in the 10 lost tribes of Israel. Ayn Rand could relate. BTW in Russian transliteration " AYN" becomes "ЭЙН" pronounced "EIN" which in Hebrew means negation. Maybe that how Ayn Rand wanted to express her rejection of 2000 years old Judeo-Christian tradition.

Revenge of the Killer Ant

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

Perhaps if you had more of an "ant like" perspective you wouldn't have made so many mistakes in PARC.

-Neil

Saturday Evening Post and New York Post

Neil Parille's picture

Richard describes it:

__

The 1961 article was "The Curious Cult of Ayn Rand" by John Kobler, in The Saturday Evening Post (November 11, 1961). It describes 'Rand' as "an Americanization of her maiden name".

__

How is this consistent with the idea that it's an abbreviation of her Russian name? To Americanize a name is, for example, to turn "Mueller" into "Miller."

In any event, didn't she choose or experiment with "Rand" in Russia, as Jennifer Burns says on page 19? The ARI agrees: http://www.aynrand.org/site/Pa...

In addition, Burns quotes the 1936 (New York Post) article: "My first name is Ayna, but I liquidated the 'A,' and Rand is an abbreviation of my Russian surname." (p. 301.)*

Leonid, who speaks and reads Russian, says there is "no way" to abbreviate "Rosenbaum" to "Rand." And nothing there about a Finish origin.

So we have a couple stories (possibly) from Rand that don't appear true, which doesn't mean she is lying.

-Neil Parille

*For some reason the ARI does not mention the part about "Ayna" from the 1936 story.

With all due respect, Jim,

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"It is the claim that the SEP article did not acquire this information directly or indirectly from Rand which has the laboring oar here, Ellen. Both because of the nature of the information and because it uses language different from the older report. There was just no reason to invent this, and this would have been unlikely with a living Rand able to refute them if it was not true, in any case."

I think that you're laboring the oar well beyond what's needed to row the boat!

Notice, Richard Lawrence didn't claim that the SEP article didn't *indirectly* -- a word you've added to your earlier claim -- acquire the information from Rand. All he's pointing out is that you don't know that the author of the article acquired it *directly* from Rand, via interviewing her. I.e., statements such as you've made claiming that Rand told the press twice, you don't know are accurate. (Btw, agreed, it's also not certain that she was quoted correctly by the earlier, the 1936, interview.)

"So, unless we have some *positive* reason to doubt this, we have a second report many years later which also suggests that it is an adaption of her original name, and one that provided new but equally consistent information."

I'm not doubting that it was an adaption of her original name. Obviously, as you've said multiple times, the story Fern told of her getting the name from a Remington-Rand typewriter while staying with her Chicago relatives soon after she came to America is false. It can't be true. We know this.

The only way the story could go back to something Rand said is if she told the Brandens, and maybe others, at a later time, as a deflection from questions about her name, that she got the name from a typewriter. I now doubt that she ever told anyone this. But even if she did, I don't doubt that it isn't the true story.

A question re your conversations with Leonard Peikoff: Did you ever ask him if he ever asked Rand where she got the name? Or alternately, if she ever volunteered the information?

Ellen

Neil "Does "Rand" sound or

Leonid's picture

Neil "Does "Rand" sound or look like an abbreviation of "Rosenbaum"? I don't speak or read Russian, but it doesn't seem like it to me. Heller had a Russian research team and they apparently don't believe it."
I do speak and read Russian and I can assure you that there is no way in Russian to abbreviate "Rosenbaum" to "Rand". Rand is also a name of South African currency which in Ayn Rand's times also existed in the form of gold coins. Maybe this kind of money somehow inspired Alice Rosenbaum to adopt the name "Rand"?

With all due respect to RL,

James S. Valliant's picture

With all due respect to RL, this can be said of ~ any ~ of the evidence we have been considering. For example, the news report from the 1930s could have misquoted Rand. Or, it could be that one of the "Finnish" witnesses heard this from a third party, or misheard things when Rand said, "Yiddish" or something.

The fact that the two reports are differently worded indicates that the later one report was not reliant on the earlier report. This is also the kind of information which could only have come from Rand herself, directly or indirectly. While the SEP article was a hit piece, this was not a significant element of the "hit" but a simple assertion. One that one not challenged by Rand or anyone else.

This does not ensure its accuracy, of course, and for that we must look to all of the other evidence. What I am arguing, Ellen, is that the assertion in the SEP is much more likely to be true than bogus precisely because it is consistent with Rand's earlier statement, but different enough from it not to appear dependent on that earlier report. It is also consistent with the visual evidence.

Some other theory about the name's origins must remain speculation absent corroborating evidence of this kind.

All of these reports (save the Brandens') logically integrate, and therefore form a set of mutually verifying information. For example, if the SEP article had provided another totally different version, say, had quoted Rand as saying that she had been inspired by an American place name, or that it was pet name of her father's for her, or some hero from history who had the name "Rand," this would have posed a logical problem, undermining our confidence about all the other assertions. If she had told SEP that she had said that it came from her typewriter, we would have verification that the impossible lie came from Rand herself.

But, here, we have a set of mutually reinforcing evidence. That Rand had referred to her last name as being an adaptation of her original name -- even just once -- then, visual evidence, though not conclusive on its own, makes this sufficiently corroborated, and, thus, we have reason to believe both the theory and the report.

It is the claim that the SEP article did not acquire this information directly or indirectly from Rand which has the laboring oar here, Ellen. Both because of the nature of the information and because it uses language different from the older report. There was just no reason to invent this, and this would have been unlikely with a living Rand able to refute them if it was not true, in any case.

So, unless we have some positive reason to doubt this, we have a second report many years later which also suggests that it is an adaption of her original name, and one that provided new but equally consistent information.

The "ant" perspective gets its name not from the importance of the issue it considers, but how it considers any issue. It is the inability to hold one item of evidence in mind while considering the rest. It is the inability to integrate the evidence onto a whole. If someone says, the visual evidence is unconvincing, I would agree, for example, but then point the fact that Rand actually said that her name was adapted from the original name, rather than from some other source.

There is no reason to think that Rand told anyone the typewriter story apart from the word of of NB and BB. Given the press reports, there is no reason to think that Rand ever said anything different. Rand's silence on the topic unless asked is no reason to think that she told anyone differently, either.

Since Hayes did not use the Archive himself, to the best of my knowledge, his temporary opinion about what is there must be regarded as speculation, as well. Could he have made the same error Neil did in considering Gotthelf's source's? It's no evidence of anything but his opinion, in any case.

I do not think that the whole evidence has ever been considered this way before, but it must be.

There once was a man from..

gregster's picture

"Incidentally, David Hayes once said on his web site that the ARI interviewed someone who claimed to have heard the story from Rand. That was removed." That's hearsay then, and from you, you could probably add heresy. Eye Most likely he corrected himself and took it down due to a poor source, like those of which you trust. You don't seem to get it. I feel quite secure in whatever truth comes to light on these, or any, matters. But I don't make things up - I don't need to make things up.

Revenge of the Killer Ants

Neil Parille's picture

Gregster,

I have seen it and am not impressed. Even the ARI says they aren't positive.

Incidentally, David Hayes once said on his web site that the ARI interviewed someone who claimed to have heard the story from Rand. That was removed.

-Neil Parille

Ant Parille

gregster's picture

"Does "Rand" sound or look like an abbreviation of "Rosenbaum"? I don't speak or read Russian, but it doesn't seem like it to me. Heller had a Russian research team and they apparently don't believe it." Again, and this link has been put on SOLO maybe six times and you dishonestly ignore it: http://arname.dhwritings.com/i...
Heller would need more than a Russian team and your support to give her book credence. It's desperation to cite And The World She Made.

Credulity

Neil Parille's picture

Ellen,

1. You write:

__

if Ayn told Nathaniel and Barbara the typewriter-name-origin story in 1950, this was the last that it would have been mentioned. Seems that it would have been repeated by Nathaniel and Barbara at least to others of the Collective members, and even have eventually become commonly known in O'ist circles. Yet the first I ever heard of it -- or Larry, or an O'ist friend of ours who was with us that day ever heard of it -- was at Barbara's Libertarian nominating convention breakfast talk in '83.
__

But if Rand freely told the abbreviation story once or twice the newspapers, then why didn't she tell that to people? Where are the collective members who say Rand told them it was an abbreviation? I don't dispute that she told the newspaper that in '36, but her general silence on this is consistent with her telling the Brandens around 50 that it was from the RR typewriter and in such a way she didn't want it repeated. After all, it doesn't appear that Barbara asked Rand what her name was or where it came from when she interviewed her.

2. If I recall correctly, Peikoff said in his 86 Q&A that he didn't know if the typewriter story was true. He didn't say, "Rand told me it was an abbreviation of her last name." The ARI doesn't claim that Rand told the abbreviation story to anyone else (see below).

3. Does "Rand" sound or look like an abbreviation of "Rosenbaum"? I don't speak or read Russian, but it doesn't seem like it to me. Heller had a Russian research team and they apparently don't believe it.

4. Rand told Nathaniel, Barbara and one other person I know of the typewriter story. Fern is probably an indirect, having heard it from Rand.

5. Let's remember that the ARI says the abreviation story is "far from certain."

http://www.aynrand.org/site/Pa...

-Neil Parille

Her motive

Don E. Klein's picture

James S. Valliant wrote Wed, 2010-04-14 20:15: And, seriously, this has a bearing on the credibility of Ms. B. and Mr. B..
...
What value was Barbara Branden trying to gain by making up the typewriter story? Was she trying to build credibility?

What about Anne Heller’s suggestion that Ayn was a Russian Jewish endearment for a child with prominent eyes? Does it contradict the Finnish story, or merely compliment it?

One correction, Jim, re the 1961 report

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"Oh, no, Ellen, the *The Saturday Evening Post*'s description of 'Rand' as 'an Americanization of her maiden name' contradicts the typewriter story at least as much as 'abbreviation' and it's still further evidence that Rand was just sticking to the truth.

[....]

"The visual evidence might be considered mere coincidence standing alone, but for Rand to twice refer to a relationship between the new and original names, and as both an abbreviation and an Americanization of her name, the probabilities become somewhat staggering."

 

You missed the point Richard Lawrence was making (#86429), which I'll repeat with underlining:

"The 1961 article was 'The Curious Cult of Ayn Rand' by John Kobler, in *The Saturday Evening Post* (November 11, 1961). It describes 'Rand' as 'an Americanization of her maiden name'. It does not quote Rand on this point, and it is not clear from the article whether Kobler spoke with Rand at all. In any case, it could be that Kobler got this information by reading the 1936 article or from a third party, rather than from Rand directly. So I would encourage everyone to be cautious about arguments that rely on the belief that Rand gave this information to the press multiple times, because it may be that the interview for the 1936 article is the only case where she did. Absent more details about what sources Kobler used, that point is uncertain."

 

You don't know that it was Rand who was the direct source of what's reported in the 1961 piece. Thus you don't know that *she* "twice refer[red] to a relationship between the new and original names" in talking to interviewers, only that there are two such references.

I have no quibbles with what you said in the rest of the post quoted, and at this point, no, I don't believe that Rand told the tale, despite the apparent confirmation I have from a copy of an email. Maybe the person who responded was misunderstanding what Barbara was asking.

(I realize that the detail of that email can't be part of your piecing things together, but since it is part of mine, I have to account for it in my explanation of events.)

Ellen

Sorry

James S. Valliant's picture

If RL can dig up tapes of Ms. B. talking about this in 1983, for example, we will have more evidence to consider.

And, seriously, this has a bearing on the credibility of Ms. B. and Mr. B.. Not perhaps, on the same scale that the 1968 "insuperable barrier" the Brandens deceived their readers with, of course, to take another example I've used here, but Ellen reminds us that Ms. B. said this not only in her book, but on other occasions, even in selling her book back in '83. If she was deceptive about this, it turns out to have a bigger impact on credibility than earlier imagined.

One more thing, that her first name means "the only one" and that her last is an adaption of her original last name are part of this mystery, and one Rand must have enjoyed herself. Why spoil this with so flat and final an answer as the typewriter business?

I really also do think that the future will be fascinated to know about her name's origins, Linz, and this whole tale, especially in light of the truly amusing nature of it

Does this mean ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... we are finally done with the friggin' typewriter story? Eye

Rand's Clues

James S. Valliant's picture

In fact, this all comes together to make a wonderful story with Rand's smile written across the whole of it.

Rand was always clear that she had changed her name, but also that she wasn't going to tell us what her original name had been (in order to protect her family).

She is reported to have said a variety of things about her names, both the first and the last. But, with the documentation she knew we would have one day, each of these statements proves to be a genuine clue to the truth: Finnish name, Finnish writer's name, her own invention, an abbreviation of her original last name, an Americanization of her original last name, the original initials, all of it.

As it turns out, "Ayn" is her own adaptation of a Finnish name used by at least one writer, and "Rand" is her adaption of her maiden name into the new alphabet and made shorter, preserving her original initials.

Her statements were all genuine clues to the truth, and in this respect the typewriter story stands out and alone. Rand is no longer playing the same gentle game with us of giving actual clues to the truth. If true, she would have violated that decades-long policy in order to tell us something that was not a clue to the truth at all, something simply false.

Thus, it would have been "out of character" for her to have reported this, as well.

Summary

James S. Valliant's picture

Oh, no, Ellen, the The Saturday Evening Post's description of "Rand" as "an Americanization of her maiden name" contradicts the typewriter story at least as much as "abbreviation" and it's still further evidence that Rand was just sticking to the truth.

It, too, is accurate, it seems, so there's just no reason to think that Rand would have ever lied about this.

And Branden would have inevitably noticed that it did not mention a typewriter, but her original last name, as the source, just as I have been arguing.

We have reached the point where the theory that Rand adapted her last name from the cursive version of her Cyrillic maiden name must be regarded as demonstrated. The visual evidence might be considered mere coincidence standing alone, but for Rand to twice refer to a relationship between the new and original names, and as both an abbreviation and an Americanization of her name, the probabilities become somewhat staggering.

"Rand" was both adapted from an original alphabet (an "Americanized" form) and in a shortened form (an "abbreviation" of it.)

In fact, she did say the same thing in both press reports in the most important respect, namely, that "Rand" was an adaptation of her original last name. In this respect, she was indeed, telling one thing to the press and another to the Brandens -- that is, if they are telling us the truth. And the only deception or inaccuracy would be what she allegedly told them, for both of these press reports, we can now see, point to the same truth about her name's origin, a single truth at odds with the typewriter claim.

Indeed, the exact line is the capper here to our total understanding: just as Rand adapted a Finnish name to create "Ayn," so she adapted the Cyrillic version of her last name to create "Rand," and thus also keep her original initials "A.R."

Simple and consistent.

Visual evidence and evidence from Finnish names suggests that this is exactly what she did.

Everything Heller says about what Rand told witnesses -- and both press accounts -- are perfectly consistent with this.

Apart from the claims of NB and BB about hearing her say otherwise, on that one occasion -- Rand never said differently, either, for even Fern Brown never claims to have ever heard this from Rand.

No, we are asked to believe that Rand told the Brandens the very same impossible thing that Fern Brown claims to have seen with her own eyes, that she adapted her last name from the name of a typewriter that did not then exist.

We must believe that Brown had a very serious memory glitch, remembering something that had really only been told to her, a glitch that placed her in the privileged position of being an eyewitness to this "event" in the life of her famous cousin.

We must believe that Rand positively lied about this, even though none of our non-Branden-sourced evidence would suggest that she ever did.

We must believe that Rand changed her policy of telling the truth about her name, but only temporarily.

We must believe that this amusing story was just never discussed again, much less enough to become a widely-told story in Objectivist circles during Rand's lifetime. No, we are asked to believe that Rand talked about it with them only the once, it seems, and that NB never asked Rand about the clear contradiction Rand offered him in the SEP article he surely read with care.

Do you believe it?

Credulity

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Jim (#86399):

"But it looks like you are beginning to see some of it: yes, they would have laughed about this story, don't you think, on at least ONE future occasion? It was amusing. Or, almost certainly, during their taped discussions of Rand's life, right? This was a gem not to miss recording for posterity and one that kept her true name perfectly safe and sound. There was no reason not to talk about it, indeed, over and over, again and again. "Go on, Ayn, tell Leonard (or Joe or Sally) that story about how you got your name." How 'bout just once even?"

I think you have a good point about its stretching the bounds of credulity to suppose, if Ayn told Nathaniel and Barbara the typewriter-name-origin story in 1950, this was the last that it would have been mentioned. Seems that it would have been repeated by Nathaniel and Barbara at least to others of the Collective members, and even have eventually become commonly known in O'ist circles. Yet the first I ever heard of it -- or Larry, or an O'ist friend of ours who was with us that day ever heard of it -- was at Barbara's Libertarian nominating convention breakfast talk in '83.

 

On the other hand, I think it's well to heed Richard Lawrence's advice (#86429):

"to be cautious about arguments that rely on the belief that Rand gave this information [about her last name being an abbreviation of her Russian last name] to the press multiple times, because it may be that the interview for the 1936 article is the only case where she did."

Thanks, Richard, for the material you provided.

A further question: Have you by chance in your researches come across any report of the specifics of what Barbara was asked after her 1983 Libertarian nominating convention breakfast talk in reponse to which she told the typewriter-name-origin story? And/or any more detailed report than I can remember of what she said in telling the story?

See, if she said then that she found this out from Fern Brown (or just from "a relative") during her researches for the book, this would contradict her and NB's having heard it in 1950 from Ayn.

Ellen

And...

James S. Valliant's picture

While we are considering the evidence here, let's add one more clue Rand gave. Peikoff reports that Rand told him (and others) jokingly that "criminals and writers should keep their original initials." Rand of course did: A.R. Once again, everything she told people about her name -- everything that can be verified, that is -- stuck to the truth, right down the line.

Thank You!!

James S. Valliant's picture

RL, you are forever a source of valuable information. (My Latin-based linguistic biases are hard to shake.) Thank you, sir, once more, for your knowledge and keen eye.

So, unless one is trying really hard to present Rand as dishonest about this, the evidence more than sufficiently confirms all of Rand's statements about "Ayn." Whether she was referring to that particular writer or not, a name so similar to Rand's first name as "Aino" IS a Finnish name, one used by at least one Finnish writer, and, yet, one she modified, thus, inventing the name "Ayn."

Rand's obvious desire to tell only the truth is actually a noteworthy feature of this history.

News accounts

RL0919's picture

Ellen said to James:

You didn't answer if you have copies of the 2 press accounts you've referenced. I'd like to know the specifics of what they say on the name issue if you do have them and could find them and copy the relevant segments easily.

The 1936 article was in (reportedly) in the New York Evening Post and is quoted here. The story apparently quoted Rand herself saying, "Rand is an abbreviation of my Russian surname."

The 1961 article was "The Curious Cult of Ayn Rand" by John Kobler, in The Saturday Evening Post (November 11, 1961). It describes 'Rand' as "an Americanization of her maiden name". It does not quote Rand on this point, and it is not clear from the article whether Kobler spoke with Rand at all. In any case, it could be that Kobler got this information by reading the 1936 article or from a third party, rather than from Rand directly. So I would encourage everyone to be cautious about arguments that rely on the belief that Rand gave this information to the press multiple times, because it may be that the interview for the 1936 article is the only case where she did. Absent more details about what sources Kobler used, that point is uncertain.

--
Richard Lawrence
Visit the Objectivism Reference Center

Aino

RL0919's picture

Just to clarify, in Finnish the name 'Aino' is feminine, not a "male form" of 'Aina', which is an unrelated name. In Russian, however, a feminine name would commonly end with 'a' but not 'o' (or to be technical, the Cyrillic equivalents of these letters). So it is possible that 'Aino' was transformed into 'Aina' when transferring it from Finnish to Russian, perhaps by someone who thought, as you did, that these were masculine/feminine forms of one name. Rand also could have seen the name 'Aina' in its original form, although I believe 'Aino' is the more common name of the two.

The main reason to think the original name Rand saw was 'Aino' (or a transformation thereof) is that she said it came from a Finnish writer, and Aino Kallas was a well-known Finnish writer during Rand's childhood, who also happened to have lived for a time in Rand's hometown of Saint Petersburg. So the there is a temptation to draw a connection, but really it is speculative.

--
Richard Lawrence
Visit the Objectivism Reference Center

Yep

James S. Valliant's picture

As we have covered before, part of Gotthelf's error was to imply that he had verified this in any way from the Archives, Neil. The Archives never told him this. Gotthelf says in the book you cite that he relied on the Archivist himself for much of his material. In the footnote where he opines that she she "probably" got it from her typewriter, he does not mention material at the Archive. When I asked the Archivist about this, explicitly, Gotthelf's book had already been published, and I was told by the Archivist, explicitly, that there was no evidence there to indicate Rand was the source of the typewriter story.

Burns cites no evidence of this being a part of "family history" or "legend" beyond Fern's account, but this does qualify it as such. But saying that "it is unclear if the youthful Rand was experimenting with tales of origin, or if the distortions of memory played a role (think of a game of telephone, stretched across generations)," she is admitting that her claim of it originating with Rand is in fact baseless, supported by no direct evidence whatever. "Well established" is your own warped view of her statement, and Burns's "long established" is sheer and baseless nonsense.

Why don't you ask her? I am confident that Burns's only basis for thinking Rand to be the source of this is her uncritical reliance on the Brandens, despite the fact that she includes this as being among the things about Ms. Branden's work definitely "falsified" by material at the Archive.

More Distractions

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

Yes, Gotthelf made a mistake. But he verified this with the Archives. Why would the Archives tell him there is evidence for the RR story if there was none?

Are you saying that the Archives contain no information whatsoever of someone else claiming to have heard the story from Rand or second-hand?

Burns says the story originates with Rand and it is well established in family lore. When did Burns "well nigh admit[] to confusion"?

-Neil

Distractions

James S. Valliant's picture

1. We have already discussed Gotthelf's admitted error here. He made a mistake.

2. Rand repeatedly told the press that "Ayn Rand" was not her original name. She likely told the Brandens this early on, as well, whether she added the typewriter business or not. In any case, she was perfectly honest about and comfortable with people knowing that "Ayn Rand" was not her original name.

Yes, she did not want them to know what that name was, and there was a perfectly sound and reasonable cause for that -- the physical safety of her family. She had much stronger reasons than, say, Mark Twain or O. Henry for a name change. Thousands and thousands of writers and their families were persecuted and even executed under the Soviet regime.

3. So, no, she absolutely did not tell the press what her real name was, again, for perfectly sound reasons.

4. Rand's report that it was an abbreviation does appear to have been correct. That is, "Rand" was a shortened version of the cursive form of her original last name spelled in Cyrillic, moving the order of only one letter, as seen here: http://arname.dhwritings.com/i... . An abbreviation is any shortened version of a name or word, and there are no strict rules for abbreviating something. Indeed, some terms have more than one abbreviation. And this certainly is an adaptation of the original name that is shorter.

Issues 2-4 have absolutely nothing to do with whether or not she was the source of the typewriter story and indeed, must be seen as an effort on your part to cloud this issue. I refuse to believe that you suffer from ADD.

5. Heller says: ""When asked in the 1930s and the 1940s about her name change, she offered different explanations: sometimes saying that 'Ayn' is a Finnish female name or that she borrowed it from a Finnish writer, and at least once claimed to have made it up herself." I guess we can count this as "three," but three perfectly consistent ones.

"Aina," and the male form "Aino," are listed as Finnish names, meaning, significantly for Rand, "the only one," as you can read here: http://babynamesworld.parentsc.... But it did require some modification on Rand's part when adapting it into American English, so, she changed the "I" to "Y", as so commonly happens, and cut off the "a" or "o" to note gender.

There is no reason from the press accounts (or Heller's witnesses) to think that Rand ever lied about her name at all.

Burns well nigh admits to confusion.

Indeed, the only relevance to any of this is to show that the typewriter story would stand out as the ONLY deception Rand ever seems to have told about her name -- and thus provides independent reason to doubt that she ever told it in violation of her normal policy of telling the truth.

Ellen

James S. Valliant's picture

Sorry, I read these particular articles at a local university library and my notes contain nothing in quotes except the word "abbreviation."

And, by "such reports" I meant "such reports as this one," and intended no plural. (However, the second report gives us even less reason to suppose that Rand ever said something different about this.)

I completely agree with you: a single deception does not show the falsehood of any other assertion made by the deceiver. Of course. Nor does it necessarily end one's ability to regard the person credible under different circumstances or in every particular. But it does effect their overall credibility, and this has a direct bearing on any other question where we may have to rely upon that credibility. It has consequences beyond the single deception in question.

Take the direct lie in the "insuperable barrier" line ending his 1968 statement. The age difference did not make an affair impossible for him, in fact, such an affair had happened. No, it was Rand's current age that mattered or was any "barrier." This overt deception reveals that he was willing to lie, not just to Rand as he had for some time, but also to the public about his own conduct in order to preserve his (and only his) reputation to the detriment of Rand's.

This kind of deception would not, in my mind, have a direct bearing on whether I would trust a report he made about some topic other than Rand. I would still consider him capable of deception, but I would not automatically disbelieve any particular assertion he made -- I would just keep an open mind to the possibility of deception. However, on the topic of Ayn Rand, our doubts have to be be so severe that we must question any assertion which is both self-serving and uncorroborated that he makes about a person whom he has already lied about to his reading public. Indeed, it would be irresponsible to treat any such assertions uncritically, to say, in effect, "I see no reason to doubt him." If we have other evidence, and the weight of it supports what he said, then, fine, but, otherwise, it would be irresponsible just to trust him about Rand.

But it looks like you are beginning to see some of it: yes, they would have laughed about this story, don't you think, on at least ONE future occasion? It was amusing. Or, almost certainly, during their taped discussions of Rand's life, right? This was a gem not to miss recording for posterity and one that kept her true name perfectly safe and sound. There was no reason not to talk about it, indeed, over and over, again and again. "Go on, Ayn, tell Leonard (or Joe or Sally) that story about how you got your name." How 'bout just once even?

And there's just no reason to think that telling Nathan this story could have helped her in any way after telling the original story to the press.

Ms. Branden's claim that Rand's family did not know her new name was baseless, as well. They, in fact, did know it, and no witness such as Ms. Brown could have told her differently without knowing the content of all of Rand's correspondence with her family, even the stuff in Russian, which happens to prove otherwise.

No, Ms. Branden was committed to a certain portrait of Rand here, one which has impaired Neil's judgment (as I will get to in the next post), and facts and evidence were not big considerations for her in painting it.

Typewriter Story

Neil Parille's picture

It looks like this discussion will never end, but:

1. In On Ayn Rand (2000), Gotthelf says that Rand "probably" got her name from Remington Rand typewriter that she first spotted in Russia (p. 19). Fern Brown places the name adoption in the US. Unless Gotthelf was confused about what the Archives told him or the Archives were confused about the source/s, there must be an additional source. (Or perhaps Brown gave a different version to the Archives.)

2. Barbara says she didn't find out Rand's name until after her death. Doesn't that suggest that Rand was uncomfortable about people knowing what it was?

3. Rand didn't tell the newspapers (so far as we know) what her real name was.

4. Rand's report to the newspaper that it was an abbreviation of her Russian name doesn't appear to be correct.

5. Heller says that Rand gave at least three different versions of where "Ayn" came from (p. 55).

6. Burns says:

_____

That said, there were several aspects of Barbara Branden’s memoir which material in the archive definitely falsifies: the most famous of these is the typewriter story. Material from the archive indicates this legend is long established in family history and originated with Rand herself, though it is unclear if the youthful Rand was experimenting with tales of origin, or if the distortions of memory played a role (think of a game of telephone, stretched across generations).
_____

-Neil Parille

Jim

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"This kind of conscious deception requires us to question everything that they say, Ellen. Indeed, ANY conscious deception on their part in these published accounts should have that effect, whether it concerns a modest issue, such as the name story, or a deception of the public as important as NB's 1968 'insuperable barrier.'"

I agree that ANY conscious deception is cause to question the reliability of a witness, but it isn't enough on the basis of which to *presume* that whatever the witness says is false. Each claim still has to be examined on its own merit. Same with a witness with a reputation for reliability for that matter.

I.e., supposing you could demonstrate that NB was definitely lying in the typewriter tale, this wouldn't of itself demonstrate that he was lying about some other detail you find suspicious. You'd still have to examine each detail in turn.

The part of the typewriter story as NB tells it which now has me seriously wondering if he did make up the whole report of hearing it from Rand is the wording I hadn't remembered and the significance of which I only noticed upon typing the passage: "I adopted the name Rand soon after coming to America..."

Even allowing for his telling the tale as a to-my-ear unskilled attempt at evoking natural dialogue, I don't believe Rand would have said something similar to that detail. She would have known she didn't have a Remington-Rand "soon after coming to America." The detail does sound cribbed from Fern's story.

 

"Ellen, I still see no reason for Rand to have invented a new or different 'cover' story just to keep the Brandens at bay on the issue. You say that this new story would have been a better protection than the more accurate 'abbreviation' account already given to the press. This is certainly true, but the Brandens were not the ones who needed such an 'improved' account -- as Neil accurately observes, they were not likely to have been aware of the earlier account. On the other hand, if the Soviets ever became interested in Rand, such press accounts would have been obtainable, making the first account already a bell that could not be un-rung. So, why must the new and temporary version *just for them* be any stronger? And what real difference could it have made in any case? See?"

Nope, re the "See?"

True, if the Soviets became interested in Rand, they could find the press account -- singular, as far as I know, not plural, as you wrote. Remember, we're talking about 1950 here. The only press account you've mentioned as prior to that was from 1936.

But never mind a press account or accounts, the Soviets presumably would have had on record her attempts to get her family to America. If they became interested in Rand and/or her Russian family, they had ways of finding out. Rand's deflecting the Brandens might not have made any real difference at all.

But maybe Rand might have been, in that time frame, ultra-cautious. She hardly knew the Brandens (technically, not "the Brandens" by that point, not even married). She couldn't have known if they'd talk about their friendship with her to friends of theirs, maybe fellow students, maybe professors. UCLA. Maybe she didn't want any attention directed toward her from persons there. She clearly didn't want them to know her actual Russian name. Barbara only found it out after Rand's death. My hypothesis is only that she just got rid of the whole line of questioning by brushing it aside with the curt explanation of her last name as coming from her typewriter.

Other questions are occurring to me, though. Suppose she did that, wouldn't they have laughed and remarked about it and said further about it than seems indicated?

Another point, something the details of which I've tried to remember but can't:

The first time I heard the story of Rand's getting the last name from her typewriter was when Barbara gave a breakfast talk at the Libertarian nominating convention in New York City in 1983. Larry and I went just to hear that talk.

In the question period -- I recall this part clearly -- Barbara said that Rand got the name from her Remington-Rand typewriter. Audience delighted laughter. Barbara then said, "Don't laugh. First she considered 'Remington.'"

I remember finding the thought of Rand's considering "Remington" implausible, not the right "ring" to it, but otherwise didn't question the story or take any special note of it.

Today I wish I could remember if Barbara gave any other details, such as where she heard the story -- from Rand or from Fern Brown? Also, what was the wording of the question? Did someone ask, simply, Where did Rand get her name? Or was the question along the lines: What interesting facts have you discovered in your research?

A tape recording of that talk and Q&A, if there is one, would be helpful as indicating what Barbara was saying about the story in '83.

 

You didn't answer if you have copies of the 2 press accounts you've referenced. I'd like to know the specifics of what they say on the name issue if you do have them and could find them and copy the relevant segments easily.

Ellen

Saturday Evening Post, 1961

James S. Valliant's picture

Parille: "TheBrandens probably weren't aware of the first newspaper account and who knows about the second."

No, Neil, not only is it implausible on its face that NB would not have been aware of (every word of) a report about Rand in The Saturday Evening Post in 1961, NB reports that he read all such media stories. (Isn't it interesting how often you use "TheBrandens" as a convenience in your own descriptions?) Your capacity to entertain such plain implausibilities reveals the degree of warping in your judgment.

If NB did not ask Rand about any different story that he now claims to have been told, this is noteworthy.

If Rand was not asked about this story in those taped interviews that NB and BB conducted, this is also noteworthy. Rand had already told both the public and (by their accounts) the Brandens that "Ayn Rand" was not her Russian name, and the story would have revealed nothing about her background to the peril of her family.

Ms. Brown's report must be dismissed out of hand as impossible in all of its detail. All of it. Her account makes her reports on this matter almost entirely valueless. Her surprise is unsurprising whether she was just very, very badly mistaken or less than honest.

In the process of telling this story, Brown placed herself in a privileged position with regard to "inside knowledge" about her famous relative. Whether, as Ellen has suggested, Rand told this to someone else in the family who then told it to Fern, or whether she (somehow) heard from Rand, Fern's alleged memory glitch has falsely recast her in a central role as a witness to the event itself. So, her report is not only impossible, part of its impossibility is self-serving.

This is reason to doubt even its honesty, Ellen, just as the very scope of her capacity to invent (consciously or subconsciously) must cause us to question her honesty.

In addition, Ellen, I recall conversations prior to the release of Branden's book in which this story was already being questioned, and, even if NB wasn't aware of this, the whole of Ms. Branden's credibility had already been publicly challenged by Rand's friends, and assisting in any aspect of this kind would have been to NB's interest, as defending the reports of the ally who had left Rand by defending him in 1968, the ally who had signed onto his misleading public account in 1968 (and who, to this day, defends what they both actually know was a dishonest account, just as he does.)

This kind of conscious deception requires us to question everything that they say, Ellen. Indeed, ANY conscious deception on their part in these published accounts should have that effect, whether it concerns a modest issue, such as the name story, or a deception of the public as important as NB's 1968 "insuperable barrier."

Ellen, I still see no reason for Rand to have invented a new or different "cover" story just to keep the Brandens at bay on the issue. You say that this new story would have been a better protection than the more accurate "abbreviation" account already given to the press. This is certainly true, but the Brandens were not the ones who needed such an "improved" account -- as Neil accurately observes, they were not likely to have been aware of the earlier account. On the other hand, if the Soviets ever became interested in Rand, such press accounts would have been obtainable, making the first account already a bell that could not be un-rung. So, why must the new and temporary version just for them be any stronger? And what real difference could it have made in any case? See?

Ellen

Neil Parille's picture

Thanks for the correction. So this would put Rand's statement roughly in the middle of the 2 newspaper accounts time wise, during the Stalin era and when Rand perhaps didn't have the "comfort level" with theBrandens that she would later have.

-NP

Yes, they have, Neil

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"Also, theBrandens have not said when Rand told them the RR story."

See the parallel passages I copied from the two versions of the memoir:

when they were getting to know Rand in their early acquaintance.

Ellen

Typewriter to JV - II

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Replying to #86359:

"In any case, Ellen, what damn good could, would or did her telling the typewriter story make with respect to protecting her family? The "abbreviation" cat was already out of the bag in a published media report, and the typewriter story got no play in public prior to Rand's death and she made no effort to have it get public attention, if indeed she had been its source."

Was she publicly interviewed in-between the two times when she gave the abbreviation story to the press? The 1936 interview I doubt would have been remembered by newspaper people to be commented on by the 1950s, if there were any newspaper stories about Rand from that time. As I said in the previous post, my thought is that the persons from whose inquisitiveness Rand was being protective were the Brandens themselves, not the public, who weren't asking her the question then.

"In addition, Rand was never certain that contact with her family would not become re-established at some point -- and perhaps make the real truth known privately to her family. So, it makes little sense that Rand would have told her family this nonsense, in any case. Unless, of course, she told them this was a cover story -- and in that case, Fern would likely have recalled it as such. She did not. Or, is this still another odd memory glitch on Fern's part?"

My thought about Rand telling the Chicago family is that she told the adults that she was replying with the dismissive statement that she got the name from her typewriter in case anyone asked her, just so they knew -- not that she was trying to deflect *them*. I.e., that, yes, she told the Chicago adult relatives that it was a cover story. And, yes, that Fern didn't get the cover-story part of it. Such memory glitches do occur.

"So, we are left with Rand allegedly making up a new lie just for the private consumption of those she knew well -- and members of her own family -- one that contradicted her repeated descriptions in published news reports both before and after telling this to NB and BB, that is, if Rand was its source."

Right about the private consumption of "the kids" (NB, BB, maybe some others of the early Collective), but not the adults of the Chicago family.

"So, you insist, Fern's impossible if vivid memory of seeing the Eureka moment -- not being told this by anyone -- must be a serious memory glitch. You would require that Rand have a temporary "cover story" just for Stalin's regime, but one that came to nothing as a cover story in that period, in any case. This just makes no sense."

But it did serve as a cover story in the period when she met the Brandens -- if my thought of how it happened is right. It deflected the Brandens, the persons I've all along seen it as intended to deflect.

I see no way definitively to establish that Rand was the source of the tale unless there's evidence to this effect in the Archives. And you might be right that NB's report of hearing it from Rand is false. If so, that would leave just Fern having a mistaken memory. (I think the charge of lying against Fern is unwarranted. Reportedly, she was very surprised to learn that the memory couldn't have been accurate.)

Ellen

Typewriter to JV - I

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Replying to #86354:

"Ellen, the theory that Rand was the source of the impossible typewriter story, one must believe that Rand somehow felt it necessary to change her "abbreviation" description already given to the press, and published -- but only temporarily, since she "returned" to this description by 1961. You propose Stalin motivated the temporary change in her approach. This is unconvincing. In 1961, the absence of Stalin is not likely to have made much difference -- not to Rand.'

Why not? There was a lessening of severity by 1961 from the depth of the Stalin era, wasn't there? I think the history of the Soviet regime in between 1936 and 1961 could have made a large difference to the progression of Rand's degree of fear for the safety of her relatives in Russia. Recall she was told by US government personnel awhile after We the Living was published that continuing to write to her family in Russia could endanger them, and she had to give up her attempts to bring them to America.

A related point -- I don't off-hand recall the answer to this: When did AR find out that her parents and sisters (she thought it was both sisters, only later learning that Nora had survived) died in the Siege of Leningrad?

I've never seen either of the newspaper accounts you cite. If you have them, could you quote the relevant parts?

"In any case, if you are right, then Rand seemed unconcerned that she was telling one thing to the press and another to her friends. And neither NB or BB seem to have inquired of Rand about the difference. NB was reading every scrap of Rand news and would have certainly been aware of what Rand had said."

Here's how I've imagined the circumstances in which Rand told the story to the Brandens when they were just getting to know her, which was in 1950. She hardly knew them yet, and they were inquisitive to find out everything they could about her. They asked, along with a slew of other eager questions, where did she get her name? So she replied -- not wanting them to go exploring trying to find out what her Russian name was (recall, according to both of them, they never knew her actual last name until Barbara's research following Rand's death): From my typewriter. This would have amused and deflected them.

She wasn't *meanwhile* -- in that same time frame -- telling the last-name-abbreviation answer to the press, was she? That was later -- again, in 1961 -- by your report.

I see no reason to think that either of the Brandens would have known about the 1936 interview. They were 6 and 7 respectively then -- and they make no mention of having heard of We the Living when it was published.

The point about the 1961 press mention is a good one, though. You're right that surely NB at least (and probably Barbara too) would have been aware of that.

Also...here I am arguing your case...I noticed something in re-reading the passage from JD and MYWAR. Or, something in addition to something I'd noticed before. I'd been aware since I first read it -- in '89 -- that it didn't sound like a report of natural dialogue. NB lacks the knack of writing conversation as part of his narrative. A number of places things he puts in as dialogue I find artificial-sounding. (BB, on the other hand, can do it well.) I didn't think Rand would have simply volunteered the information, as his account describes, but instead, as I described above, have answered in response to a direct question, thus shunting the inquiry aside.

What I noticed yesterday while copying the passage was his quoting Rand as saying "soon after I came to America." That doesn't seem to me plausible for Rand to have said -- even if she did tell the story to deflect their questions. Instead, it does sound like a touch NB got from the Fern story in Barbara's book.

"Also, had Brown obtained this from other relatives, not Rand herself (as seems very unlikely), if it had become a family story, as you suggest, then there would have been other witnesses. More significantly, there is no a shred of documentary evidence of this Archive -- no letter, no mention, nothing."

I agree that if Brown obtained the story (that Rand was deflecting questions by telling people she took the name from her typewriter) from other relatives, it seems there should be some kind of mention in the Archives, since there should have been other family members who knew about it. Burns indicates that there is material implying that the story goes back in "family legend." You say there's nothing in the Archives indicating this. I haven't been in the Archives and have only reports to go on either way.

"The fact that BB knew NB was claiming she knew about it, too, only suggests that they were already circling the wagons, as I have said, in a chain reaction of attempts to bolster their mutual credibility."

"Already circling the wagons" -- when? They couldn't have been circling wagons reinforcing each other contra-PARC in '89 or even '99. My point there is that BB didn't learn *from you* about NB's including her in the scene when Rand supposedly told them the story. Barbara obviously read JD when it was published, if not even before -- she commented about it extensively in an interview not long after its publication. And she assisted NB in revising the memoir. Indeed, the little wording and punctuation refinements made to the passage in MYWAR I suspect were due to Barbara's assistance. He's not sensitive to such stylistic niceties the way she is.

"I am fairly bursting at the seams to discuss that other biography. Believe me, the time will come. In any case, the Collective member to whom you refer may simply be assisting in the effort to bolster Ms. B.'s cred, too, so we will need names, and specifics, such as WHEN Rand allegedly said this."

I don't think so about the "effort to bolster Ms. B's cred," but I can't say the details, so the extra report is of no weight from your standpoint. It does, however, leave me with a lingering belief that Rand was the origin of the tale.

"Moreover, the identity of her family, while protected to some degree in Who is Ayn Rand? was not a concern in those taped interviews from the early 1960s. Any Soviet official who listened to those would have had little difficulty identified her family through their homes, movements and professions. Also, Rand had already told the press that her name was not the one she was born with -- that was already public knowledge. So, why didn't they ask her about the amusing typewriter story in those interviews, that is, IF Rand had actually said this to them? It would not have required disclosing her original name -- indeed, it would have been less revealing than Rand's own "abbreviation" explanation."

Repeating, the early 1960s weren't 1950, the time frame when it seems very plausible to me that AR would have had big worries about not saying anything which might link her name to her family name.

"Since Rand's American name does appear to be contained within her original, Russian name, it seems that Rand was making an effort not to lie about this. There is no reason to believe that Rand would have been less candid than this to anyone else. The idea that she would less candid with those closest to her makes still less sense."

Repeating my thought from above that it would have been precisely a couple youngsters keen to find out everything they could about her whose questions Rand might have wanted to deflect in 1950.

"At least Neil admits that this invention would reveal totally shattered credibility on the part of the Brandens. (As for the rest, Neil's sloppy, to be sure, but his asserted "inferences" about what Leonard, Gotthelf and Diana think about PARC are simply dishonest. With the current record, he knows better.)"

I don't see that "this invention," if it is invention "would reveal totally shattered credibility" on the Brandens' part. It wouldn't help their credibility, but *total* shattering of credibility takes quite a bit of doing. Eye

Ellen

Repeated Descriptions?

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

You write:

___

one that contradicted her repeated descriptions in published news reports both before and after telling this to NB and BB, that is, if Rand was its source

___

Do we have more than 2 interviews separated by 25 years?

Also, theBrandens have not said when Rand told them the RR story.

TheBrandens probably weren't aware of the first newspaper account and who knows about the second.

In any event, Jennifer Burns and Anne Heller disagree with you. Burns says there is evidence in the Archives.

-Neil Parille

Don

Neil Parille's picture

Anne Heller and Jennifer Burns disagree with Jim on the typewriter story and on any number of other things.

Prof. Burns says archival research indicates that the typewriter story goes back to Rand.

Anne Heller interviewed Fern Brown an apparently doesn't consider her a liar.

That's good enough for me, since both authors are careful (certainly more than Jim). In addition, Jim didn't read Fern Brown's interview with the Archves nor did he interview her.

The other points are circumstancial, but interesting.

-Neil Parille

Your 5 points

Don E. Klein's picture

Neil Parille wrote Sun, 2010-04-11 10:43. I never said Peikoff withdrew his support for Valliant's book.
...
Wasn’t Point 5 presented to help the rest of us draw our own conclusions about what ARI and others now think of James Valliant’s work? Meaning a negative conclusion? Point 5 doesn’t fit, if you accept my (I think reasonable) explanation of Peikoff’s actions. You still have 4 points standing, and granted number 1 remains a pretty strong one. I don’t see why people would have to keep mentioning Valliant in reviews of other books (points 2 and 3), and for point 4, that just doesn’t seem important.

Ellen

James S. Valliant's picture

In any case, Ellen, what damn good could, would or did her telling the typewriter story make with respect to protecting her family? The "abbreviation" cat was already out of the bag in a published media report, and the typewriter story got no play in public prior to Rand's death and she made no effort to have it get public attention, if indeed she had been its source.

In addition, Rand was never certain that contact with her family would not become re-established at some point -- and perhaps make the real truth known privately to her family. So, it makes little sense that Rand would have told her family this nonsense, in any case. Unless, of course, she told them this was a cover story -- and in that case, Fern would likely have recalled it as such. She did not. Or, is this still another odd memory glitch on Fern's part?

So, we are left with Rand allegedly making up a new lie just for the private consumption of those she knew well -- and members of her own family -- one that contradicted her repeated descriptions in published news reports both before and after telling this to NB and BB, that is, if Rand was its source.

So, you insist, Fern's impossible if vivid memory of seeing the Eureka moment -- not being told this by anyone -- must be a serious memory glitch. You would require that Rand have a temporary "cover story" just for Stalin's regime, but one that came to nothing as a cover story in that period, in any case. This just makes no sense.

Pretty Much

James S. Valliant's picture

Well, you do seem to be feverishly invested in defending Branden, so the connection is of your making, not mine.

You "don't know" what Leonard and Diana think about PARC only if ignore Leonard's and Diana's public statements you know about for which no retraction has been made.

See, Neil, that's not sloppy scholarship, it's dishonest.

Neil and Nathaniel, Birds of a Feather

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

You write:

__

Neil's sloppy, to be sure, but his asserted "inferences" about what Leonard, Gotthelf and Diana think about PARC are simply dishonest. With the current record, he knows better.)

__

I don't know what Leonard or Diana Hsieh think about your book. I don't believe Gotthelf is on record giving an opinion, nor has Harry Binswanger or George Reisman.

I do think that the failure to mention PARC by ARIans does say something about how your book is viewed in the ARI community. As I mentioned, I have had some email exchanges with ARIans.

-Neil Parille

A Liar By Any Other Name

James S. Valliant's picture

Ellen, the theory that Rand was the source of the impossible typewriter story, one must believe that Rand somehow felt it necessary to change her "abbreviation" description already given to the press, and published -- but only temporarily, since she "returned" to this description by 1961. You propose Stalin motivated the temporary change in her approach. This is unconvincing. In 1961, the absence of Stalin is not likely to have made much difference -- not to Rand.

In any case, if you are right, then Rand seemed unconcerned that she was telling one thing to the press and another to her friends. And neither NB or BB seem to have inquired of Rand about the difference. NB was reading every scrap of Rand news and would have certainly been aware of what Rand had said.

Also, had Brown obtained this from other relatives, not Rand herself (as seems very unlikely), if it had become a family story, as you suggest, then there would have been other witnesses. More significantly, there is no a shred of documentary evidence of this Archive -- no letter, no mention, nothing.

The fact that BB knew NB was claiming she knew about it, too, only suggests that they were already circling the wagons, as I have said, in a chain reaction of attempts to bolster their mutual credibility.

I am fairly bursting at the seams to discuss that other biography. Believe me, the time will come. In any case, the Collective member to whom you refer may simply be assisting in the effort to bolster Ms. B.'s cred, too, so we will need names, and specifics, such as WHEN Rand allegedly said this.

Moreover, the identity of her family, while protected to some degree in Who is Ayn Rand? was not a concern in those taped interviews from the early 1960s. Any Soviet official who listened to those would have had little difficulty identified her family through their homes, movements and professions. Also, Rand had already told the press that her name was not the one she was born with -- that was already public knowledge. So, why didn't they ask her about the amusing typewriter story in those interviews, that is, IF Rand had actually said this to them? It would not have required disclosing her original name -- indeed, it would have been less revealing than Rand's own "abbreviation" explanation.

Since Rand's American name does appear to be contained within her original, Russian name, it seems that Rand was making an effort not to lie about this. There is no reason to believe that Rand would have been less candid than this to anyone else. The idea that she would less candid with those closest to her makes still less sense.

At least Neil admits that this invention would reveal totally shattered credibility on the part of the Brandens. (As for the rest, Neil's sloppy, to be sure, but his asserted "inferences" about what Leonard, Gotthelf and Diana think about PARC are simply dishonest. With the current record, he knows better.)

Still misleading, Neil.

Ellen Stuttle's picture

You ignore that there are plausible reasons (his errors of factual assumption) why Leonard Peikoff might have taken down the statement which have nothing to do with your and others' questioning him -- also that he's on record as making some negative remarks about list debating.

My belief, which I stated at the time and still hold (though I don't know if it's right), is that he misspoke anyway with the "any forum" remark and merely meant any forum on Wikipedia. I find the idea that he meant a willingness to answer questions for posting on SOLO or your blog -- or wherever others might have asked him to respond -- extremely implausible.

Ellen

Peikoff

Neil Parille's picture

Don,

I never said Peikoff withdrew his support for Valliant's book.

I believe that even those who may support PARC in its broad outline know that PARC is a sloppy book that can't be defended in its details.

-Neil Parille

Peikoff doesn't blog

Don E. Klein's picture

Neil Parille wrote on Sun, 2010-04-11 09:04.: I and others invited LP to our respective forums to defend PARC. I sent him certain questions about claims made in PARC and asked permission to quote them on SOLO and my blog. He never responded to me or others.
...
Peikoff’s never been a blogger, and once he realized that he’d set himself up for potentially endless public questioning, where he wouldn’t get to choose the questions, he reconsidered his statement. That’s not the same as withdrawing support for James Valliant’s writings. Note the above is just a hypothesis, but it does comfortably account for known facts.

Durban House

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

If you didn't write it, who did?

If Penguin published a book by you, you'd start posting Amazon reviews under Penguin's name?

Who were the liberal publishers and editors at Durban House?

-Neil Parille

Misleading

Neil Parille's picture

Ellen,

I and others invited LP to our respective forums to defend PARC. I sent him certain questions about claims made in PARC and asked permission to quote them on SOLO and my blog. He never responded to me or others.

There are of course a variety of reasons why ARIans such as Mayhew and one-time supporters of PARC do not mention it when discussing Burns and Heller. Ed Cline and Diana Hsieh may still be supporters.

I think the most reasonable explanation is that after a fair amount of sustained criticism of PARC by me and others PARC is not seen as a particularly credible critique of the Brandens. I have in fact heard from a couple ARI supporters (none that I mentioned) who agree with much of my paper (The Passion of James Valliant's Criticism), though not of course my conclusions about the Brandens.

-Neil Parille

Peikoff's email to Wales

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Neil: "5. Leonard Peikoff said last year on his website that he would defend PARC on "any forum." When I and others asked him questios he refused to answer. He removed his statement thereafter."

Neil, I bet that you as well as I can think of good reasons other than any change of opinion of PARC why Peikoff would have removed the statement. He made mistaken assumptions on three points (at least; I'm going on memory) in writing the email to Wales:

-- what "reliable" means in Wikipediaese;

-- that Barbara had any role in what was happening at Wikipedia;

-- that Jimmy Wales gets involved (he doesn't) in such issues as the dispute.

Also, not answering something isn't equivalent to refusing to answer something. Did Leonard Peikoff ever make such a reply to questioners as "I refuse to answer"?

The other points you list likewise provide insufficient basis for drawing conclusions, but they don't seem to me worth addressing since they don't imply something so outright misleading as your point about Peikoff.

Ellen

8/24/09 Podcast

Don E. Klein's picture

Neil Parille wrote Sat, 2010-04-10 11:37. 5. Leonard Peikoff said last year on his website that he would defend PARC on "any forum." When I and others asked him questios he refused to answer. He removed his statement thereafter.
...

In Peikoff's 8/24/09 podcast he states: "I thoroughly approve of the intellectual battle waged by Jim Valliant and Diana Hsieh, I admire the work of both, to the extent that I know."

I don’t know when the statement you’re referencing in point 5 went up, and presumably came down, but this podcast is still readily available so it would seem to represent Peikoff’s latest cogitations.

"a psychopathic signifier," Greg?!

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"Inserting 'rand' into one's pretend-surname is a psychopathic signifier."

Where do you get that diagnosis?

And anyway, I believe them that they got the name by looking through the "B"s in the New York phone book, and that they never, either of them, noticed the anagram until someone else pointed it out years later.

"Why was 'Blumenthal' uncomfortable?"

Too soft-sounding, not an AR hero sort of name.

Ellen

PARC's Influence

Neil Parille's picture

While Jim claims that my failure to see the light on PARC's supposed demolition of the Branden accounts borders on the dishonest, I'm not the only one who is less than impressed, or so it seems:

1. Anne Heller and Jennifer Burns disagree with PARC's claim that the Branden accounts are monuments of dishonesty. They also disagree on many of PARC's specific claims such as Frank's drinking, etc.

2. Harry Binswanger and Robert Mayhew have reviewed the Burns book and neither mentioned PARC.

3. Diana Hsieh and Ed Cline have commented on the new bios and neither mentioned PARC. Curious since they sang PARC's praises a while back.

4. The Ayn Rand Archives listed books and other material that utilized the Archives. Although Burns and Heller were mentioned, PARC was omitted from the list.

5. Leonard Peikoff said last year on his website that he would defend PARC on "any forum." When I and others asked him questios he refused to answer. He removed his statement thereafter.

Draw your own conclusions about what the ARI associated community and independent scholars think about PARC.

-Neil Parille

Not so, Ant Parille

gregster's picture

"If Jim is correct that theBrandens are lying on this then their credibility is pretty much shot."

They have been dishonest many times. Their cred is, as you suggest, shot. But in your case, of the monkey and typewriter, it is one of their more minor transgressions. Nobody's perfect. Inserting "rand" into one's pretend-surname is a psychopathic signifier. Why was "Blumenthal" uncomfortable? Did it sound like a cheap cigarette?

Minor Matter?

Neil Parille's picture

Ellen,

Jim may say it's a "minor matter" and certainly where Rand got her name is minor, but accusing people of making the most petty things up is quite major. If Jim is correct that theBrandens are lying on this then their credibility is pretty much shot.

As you may recall, David Hayes said on his webpage that there was a person interviewed by the Archives who also claimed to have heard the story from Rand. This was deleted soon after I noted it on SOLO.

I don't know why Jim thinks that Prof. Burns has got it so wrong or why he thinks Anne Heller is mistaken in her evaluation of Fern's credibility. Prof. Gotthelf has obviously changed his position on this, but he hasn't stated publicly that the Archives didn't have a reason for confirming the typewriter story.

At the very least Jim should have read Fern's interview with the Archives before accusing her of lying.

-Neil Parille

Ellen

James S. Valliant's picture

Thank you for that. I've reviewed the material again myself, and, yes, it is a claim of knowledge on Ms. B.'s part by Branden, as PARC had itself suggested (since Ms. B. must be the other person in his "us.") And PARC also described this as a "minor issue."

Your email leaves me unmoved, however, absent the details.

I have a bunch of things to say, Ellen, but I am quite beat, so please excuse me for some-needed rest until tomorrow.

NB's typewriter report

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Here's the passage where Nathaniel tells the typewriter-name story. It does indicate that Ayn was telling this to both him and Barbara.

pg. 73 Judgment Day

[underscore added]

As the months passed and our friendship with Ayn and Frank progressed, we learned more details of their past--where they had been born, their relationship with their families, and a little about their early struggles.

Ayn was born on February 2, 1905, in the city of St. Petersburg (subsequently called Petrograd and eventually Leningrad), which is the setting of We the Living. "Ayn Rand was not my original name," she told us. "My first name was Alice. I adopted the name Ayn from a Finnish writer and I adopted the name Rand soon after coming to America--from my Remington-Rand typewriter! I never tell anyone my original family name because if I still have relatives living in Russia, they'd be endangered." Many years would pass before I would learn that her original name had been Alice Rosenbaum.

The passage is somewhat altered in stylistic and punctuation details in MYWAR. The information is added that it was from Barbara that NB learned Rand's original name. (Also that Leningrad's name was reverted to Saint Petersburg.)

pg. 61 My Years with Ayn Rand

[underscore added]

As the months passed and as our friendship with Ayn and Frank deepened, we learned more details of their past--where they had been born, what their relationship with their families was like, and a little about how they had struggled in earlier days.

Ayn was born on February 2, 1905, in the city of Saint Petersburg (subsequently known as Petrograd and then Leningrad before once again becoming Saint Petersburg), which is the setting of We the Living. "Ayn Rand was not my original name," she told us. "My first name was Alice. I adopted the name Ayn from a Finnish writer, and I adopted the name Rand soon after coming to America--from my Remington-Rand typewriter! I never tell anyone my original family name, because if I still have relatives living in Russia, they'd be endangered." Many years would pass before I would learn (from Barbara) that her original name had been Alice Rosenbaum.

Neil

James S. Valliant's picture

I'd really like to say "me" and take all the credit, of course, and it's clearly a PARC-inspired sentiment. I just cannot recall writing that and there are reasons why I doubt that it could have been me. But PARC had begun appearing on the web in March of 2002 and my relationship with Durban also began about then, too.

The friggin' typewriter

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Jim (#86164):

"NB makes no claim as to BB's knowledge in this respect [hearing the story from Rand] at all."

I think he says, Ayn told us, where the "us" clearly means him and Barbara. I'll try to find it later.

Also, I have a copy of an email from one of the Collective members affirming hearing the story from Ayn. I don't know why this confirmation isn't mentioned in Heller's book, if Barbara forgot to tell Heller, if the Collective member later said something to the effect of not being sure on further thought, or what.

As to Rand's telling an interviewer in 1936 and then again in 1961 that the name was an abbreviation of her Russian last name, this doesn't counter the possibility that in between, during the Stalin era, she told the typewriter story to prevent any connecting of her with her family. She could have told Fern's mother or one of the other Chicago relatives that she was telling that tale, and Fern heard about it from the intermediary source and then retrojected it as something she witnessed when Ayn was typing in the family living room when Ayn first came to America.

I really don't understand, Jim, your problem with the idea that Ayn originated the story. There's no discredit to Ayn if she did. This isn't to say that she did, but so what if she did?

Ellen

Jim

Neil Parille's picture

Do you know who wrote that Durban House review of Truth and Toleration?

-Neil Parille

WTF?

James S. Valliant's picture

WTF?

Publishing PARC already indicates a willingness to publish an Objectivist, don't ya think?

And the publisher at Durban House was a raging liberal with whom I have argued myself, Neil, and he wouldn't mind the description. It is from him that gleaned their position.

Oh, Dear

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil, it is your own record that is so questionable. Do you have any idea when Cynthia's report was made to the Archive, when it acquired this material, or does that even matter to you prior to slinging still more empty accusations around? The second I received more information on that issue, of course, I modified my own position. Don't you suppose that someone at the Archive might have pointed this out to me had they known of it when I was there? Don't you suppose that since I did alter my position, that I would have had a different view had I known of it? And then you quote Burns as stating pretty clearly that she knows of no material there to positively answer the question -- only the idea that there "may" be -- and as if this contradicts me(!)

And let's not forget

Neil Parille's picture

. . . your claim that Durban House was "liberal" when it in fact published a critical review of D. Kelly's Truth and Toleration on Amazon from an orthodox Objectivist perspective.

***

20 of 53 people found the following review helpful:
Wide Open Mind, July 21, 2002
By Durban House Publishing (Dallas, TX) - See all my reviews

This review is from: The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand (Paperback)
Kelley endorses a concept of "tolerance" that includes the "toleration" of the comprehensive dishonesty of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. A "Big-L" Libertarian is almost by definition one who uncritically embraces the Brandens or Rothbard in their dishonest slams on Ayn Rand, just as Kelley has now embraced the Brandens.

Politically, the valid concept is "rights." Morally, the concept of "tolerance" is meaningless. Debating, discussing or working with someone depends on having an honest colleague or rival to do it with, whatever you agree or disagree about. Nothing positive can come from cooperating with the dishonest. "Tolerating" the dishonest, in any non-political sense, means endorsing it -- voluntarily giving it the very credibility it does not deserve. Would Kelley debate flat-earth advocates or those who deny the Holocaust, if he found in a particular case, he wasn't totally sure whether the advocate was evading or not...?

Dear Me

James S. Valliant's picture

You knew that I would not talk Heller, sir, if not why, and no one will miss your shift here. I intend to give full satisfaction on the topic of Heller's book at some point, but cannot say more.

And, Neil, when your responses become empty personal attacks, I know that your mental Starbucks is runnin' outta steam and froth, but if you doubt my credibility, why engage me at all?

I know you to be dishonest, as your tactics demonstrate over and over again, and as I have repeatedly told you, but my SOLO discussions have produced a regular stream of open minded readers who have modified their own opinions to the benefit of both Ayn Rand and the truth.

For that, let me just say "thank you."

Jim and the Archives

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

You don't have a good record on this. You said there was no evidence in the Archives to confirm that there was an 81 meeting between Barbara and AR. Yet the Archives told me that Cynthia Peikoff confirmed it. It has since been revealed the Harry Binswanger confirmed it as well in his Oral History interview.

You also said:
___

I indicated in PARC that I had no access to any such financial records, as you have just observed, and since I did have access to the Archive, you should've been able to conclude that no such records are there. Not only did I not see them there, I explicitly asked Mr. Britting if there were, in fact, records of this kind preserved and he said no.
____

However, Jennifer Burns said:

___

Neil: There is scattered material on NBI finances in the archive, and some legal files there may also shed light on this matter, but I believe most legal material is currently off-limits to researchers.

http://jenniferburns.org/blog/...
___

We also have a rather different representation about the material in the Archives re: the name issue (what the archivists allegedly told you vs. what JB says she saw (and what Gotthelf says the Archives told him)).

-Neil

No, I haven't

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

I haven't heard any reason from you why you can't discuss Anne Heller's biography.

Based on your track record and your shenanigans on Wikipedia, there is every reason to doubt your credibility.

-Neil

Yes, You Do

James S. Valliant's picture

I have told you that I cannot discuss it -- repeatedly -- Neil. As I have already indicated to you, I am honor-bound.

And, again, I have made explicit inquiry with the Archive about the name issue. There never was any such evidence as you claim. (On the typewriter-source theory, and as you must know, Gotthelf himself used the term "probably," suggesting that the Archive could NOT corroborate this, and I also happen to know that his position has since changed even on this.)

Gotthelf does say the following, however, "[Ms. Branden's biography] has numerous factual errors and engages throughout in gratuitous psychologizing which seems to reflect its author's continued embitterment." (OAR, p. 29) He knew both Brandens and Rand personally.

On Ayn Rand (2000)

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

As you know full well, Gotthelf says he checked all the biographical portions of his book with the Archives. (See pp. 2, 17, 27.) I see no reason to doubt what he says.

I don't know that you can't discuss Anne Heller's book. Not too long ago you implied ARWSM was going to support PARC.

Also, you've given me no good reason as to why Burns is also wrong on this.

-Neil Parille

No, They Did Not

James S. Valliant's picture

No, the Archive told Gotthelf no such thing, and they have never had such "evidence."

As you know -- and seem to be relying on -- I cannot discuss Heller's book at this time.

Jim

Neil Parille's picture

Burns and Heller disagree with you. The Archives told Gotthelf in 2000 or before that there was evidence for the typewriter story.

-Neil

Neil

James S. Valliant's picture

When someone makes a report from personal memory and later evidence shows that the report was impossible, we have a prima facie case for deception right there. It is the claim of psychological aberration which bears the burden of proof at that point, Neil.

By showing that Rand consistently told the press something else, before and after, we add good reason to believe that Rand never said otherwise. And did not save up an elaborate lie just for those closest to her and for no apparent reason. (Did she think that NB or Fern would dime her out the Soviets?!)

Etc. etc.

This is all just basic common sense, Neil.

All that this requires, Neil, is the capacity to hold more than one fact in mind at a time. Something you seem unable or unwilling to do.

Makes Sense

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

Rand may have had reasons to give conflicting stories. Perhaps after 1936 she became more concerned about her family in Russia. Then 25 years later she forgot what she had said. Plenty of possibilities without accusing people of lying.

Brown could not have witnessed what she recalled. She could have had (and I believe did have) a retrojected memory, or whatever psychologists call it.

In any event, Anne Heller and Jennifer Burns disagree with you on this. I think they are both careful. Heller interviewed Fern Brown in 2004 and Brown repeated the story. I don't get the impression from Heller's account that she considers Brown to be dishonest (see pp. 55 & 437).

Why do you think Brown is lying? Have you read her interview yet? Did you make an effort to interview her?

-Neil Parille

Obviously

James S. Valliant's picture

Why assume that to be their motive? And you might at least mention that I've answered this question before (and what that response was) rather than pretend otherwise. The possession of inside knowledge puts these people in a privileged position with regard to Rand biography, a subject on which they have intensely personal motives. And I bet you know enough psychology to see other possible reasons, as well, Neil.

But this one also just got out of hand. Fern lied -- she could not have witnessed what she claimed to have witnessed with her own eyes. Period. BB believed the lie and put her cred on the line in doing so. NB picked up on the lie and claimed that Rand told him what Fern impossibly claims to have witnessed, as no one could have known something like this about Rand without him, Nathan Branden, knowing it, too. Then, in order to defend NB when the new evidence comes to light, BB claims for the first time that Rand told her, too, even if she never mentioned this in her biography.

This was a collapsing chain-reaction of efforts at mutual support.

Make Any Sense?

James S. Valliant's picture

Yes, Neil, Rand and Brown met once more after 1926, for an evening of dinner and the ballet. No doubt they had much to discuss besides names after thirteen years, and, more importantly, they were not alone that night. O'Connor, who knew both Rand's original name and Rand's original typewriter, was also present. So, unless Rand and O'Connor had some coordinated plan to deceive their twenty-year-old cousin Fern -- in 1939(!) -- there was simply no chance for Rand to have invented this story or to have discussed it with Brown at that time.

And what a successful deception on Rand's part you suggest! Brown would later transform this story into her own vivid childhood memory of actually witnessing Rand sitting in front of the machine which could not then have existed at the Eureka moment itself, while entirely forgetting the single conversation she had had with Rand after 1926.

Really?

Also: three years previous to that meeting, in 1936, a published press report quoted Rand explaining her name's origins quite differently. So, Rand would have contradicted existing press reports just for the benefit of her young cousin, Fern, who somehow did not spread the misinformation as intended until decades later. Why tell Brown such a bogus cover story if not to have her spread it around?

And, after inventing the typewriter name story for Brown's sole benefit, Rand would only tell this lie again to the Brandens, trusted friends at the time.

Really?

And, after telling only Fern and the Brandens this lie, and very privately, Rand once more contradicted this lie publicly, repeating exactly what she told the press in 1936 again in 1961, this time for The Saturday Evening Post, once more contradicting what she is alleged to have told the Brandens and Brown privately.

So, was Rand repeatedly giving one consistent account to the press -- and a false and contradictory account to her cousin and closest friends at the time?

Really?

Sex, Lies, and Typewriters

Neil Parille's picture

Rand had to get her name somewhere or somehow. There's nothing about the RR story that makes theBrandens or Fern Brown look particularly good or Rand particularly bad (assuming that's their motive).

Why the lies?

-Neil Parille

That old adage

gregster's picture

give a monkey enough time with a typewriter and he might come up with something.

Fern Brown

Neil Parille's picture

Jim writes:

___

Research indicates that Brown never had the opportunity to discuss this with Rand after the introduction of the R-R typewriter.
___

Remington Rand typewriters were manufactured as least as early as 1933.

http://mytypewriter.com/reming...

According to Anne Heller, Fern Brown visited AR in June 1939, after not having seen her for several years. (p. 125.)

-Neil Parille

Sorry, It Just Ain't

James S. Valliant's picture

What "contention," that NB himself had heard this at some earlier point, or what? NB makes no claim as to BB's knowledge in this respect at all.

Huh?

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

You write:
__

The absence of evidence is all that there can ever be about the non-existent, Neil.
__

Well, as Ellen noted, NB said in JD that he and Barbara heard the RR story from Rand. Since Barbara helped NB revised JD and the same claim is in MYWAR I think that's fairly strong evidence that Barbara agreed with the contention long before 2005/6.

-Neil Parille

Huh?

James S. Valliant's picture

The absence of evidence is all that there can ever be about the non-existent, Neil.

Since Rand had no chance to talk to Brown about her name after the invention of the RR typewriter (and she reports no such discussion with Rand in any case, and why should she ever discuss something she claims to have seen with her own eyes?), then Brown must be the source of this, Neil, unless Rand somehow invented precisely the same impossible story that Brown did, all on her own. What are the chances of that?

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