Meeting Nathaniel Branden

William E. Perry's picture
Submitted by William E. Perry on Wed, 2006-04-12 16:03

The first time I met Nathaniel Branden was at the 1998 Summer Seminar of what was then called the Institute for Objectivist Studies. IOS later became The Objectivist Center. George H. Smith took me to an area of the common room in which Branden was talking to a few people. He introduced me to him.

I had recently read Judgment Day. At that point his revised version was about to be released as My Years with Ayn Rand. I asked Branden why he had to revise the book. He told me that he had made mistakes as to details, and that others had corrected him. He felt the need to make those corrections. I found out later that many of the corrections had come from Barbara Branden.

I thought that this was really odd. If he was going to write about what occurred with Ayn Rand in a long intellectual, and romantic relationship he should have taken great care to get things right. If his memory was that faulty he should not have written the book.

The next year Bryan Register wrote an article about the changes in Liberty magazine entitled “A Kinder, Gentler ‘Judgment Day.’” (I haven’t found an internet link to the article, but you can order back issues through their website.) Register compared the two books side by side. He found about 400 changes in what was originally a 436-page book.

I highly recommend reading this article. I will summarize a few of the major changes of emphasis.

Branden softened some of the commentary about people in Rand’s inner circle. (He did refer to Allan Blumenthal as a “eunuch” in both versions. Blumenthal left IOS when they began to have Branden as a speaker.)

Branden also took out some extremely negative stories about Leonard Peikoff including one in which Rand became angry at Peikoff because of what she termed an inability to retain context. This story makes it look as though Rand considered Peikoff to be an idiot. That story has been removed. Does this mean that Branden determined later that it was false?

He did add some new material attacking Peikoff. He took a shot at Peikoff for publishing personal notes in Rand’s diaries. Register’s comment on this is priceless, “Here irony seems lost on Branden, who condemns Peikoff for publishing Rand’s notes, but who himself wrote and account of having sex with her.” (P. 32 Liberty August 1999.)

A significant number of changes soften the portrayal of Barbara Branden. They include removal of the charge that Barbara Branden had affairs during their marriage. Does this mean that he now knows that the charge is false? He even got the color of Barbara’s eyes wrong and corrected that. In addition Barbara is given much more credit for intellectual accomplishments in the second book, including credit for inventing psycho-epistemology.

According to Register the least changed portrayal in the book is that of Ayn Rand. There are substantial changes as to Nathaniel Branden himself. The most telling one for me was his disavowal of the term “social metaphysician.” Branden claims to have invented the idea of social metaphysics, but disavows it in the second book. In the first place Branden invented the term, not the concept. Although Branden wrote about it extensively it is derived from The Fountainhead. In fact social metaphysics is a major theme of The Fountainhead. That is why Rand’s working title was “Second Hand Lives.” Disavowal of the concept of social metaphysics is disavowal of the individualism in Objectivism. Branden seems to only disavow the term. But his great care in attempting to preserve his legacy makes me think that he cares more about how people perceive him than about the truth.


( categories: )

Correction: Authors of emails not known

J. Heaps-Nelson's picture

To be complete, as Ellen Stuttle has asked, Irfan did not specify who the author(Drunk of the abusive emails I alluded to on a previous post on this were. An impression that N. Branden was confirmed as the author could have been inferred form the previous post, but is not correct.

Jim

'masks', Disorders...and gossip

Rowlf's picture

Adam:

~~ I must admit that I do remember that back in the '70's the subject of "Masks of Personality" was a fashion in popular-psychology mags. In effect, the subject was about the 'masks' one wears for varied audiences or persons in specific situations, whether casual or even intimate; the concern with 'masks' re apparent 'intimacy' is what raises the subject. This seems something akin to what Piekoff refers to as how to address an audience ('identify' "who" you're talking to, 1st) when delivering a lecture/writing, but with the goal of how one's personality appears to them (authoritarian, righteous, explanatory, sympathetic, etc.)

~~ Anyhoo, it ('personality masks') seemed to have died out as a topic (though maybe Oprah sometimes covers it), but, in effect, this IS what you're talking about, correct? And, therefore, it has little relevence to anything worth calling 'diagnosis' (DID nwst), right? Indeed, it seems what a salesman of any item/subject works with in terms of 'practical psychology', methinks (we know that 1st off, they sell themselves-as-trustworthy before they get to the item/subject). Yet, though, they do this with less of their actual personality at stake since they're pretty well consciously 'compartmentalizing' for goals that are much less than their self-esteem appearance.

~~ My real conundrum here is how you figure that you've identified something in NB that Rand was not privy to being able to. A certain Ellen Moore oft argued this in the old ATL w-a-y before PARC was an ink smudge in Valliant's eye (boy, the fur would fly if SHE showed up here.) Anyhoo, Rand rarely saw NB speaking when you saw him speaking?

~~ Believe it or not, this is not an 'attacking' challenge (gah, I'm starting to hate that popular-as-of-late word, 'attack'); just really curious. I mean, are you really talking about something worth calling an actual 'disorder' (subconscious goals motivating the 'masks') or merely possibly...a conscious 'mask-placing' personality style?

LLAP

J:D/Rowlf

P.S: I must add, in the interests of 'full disclosure', that I've gotten a bit sick-and-tired of reading the apparently never-ending growth of 'gossip' about Rand, all primarily based on an obvious now-silent starter of such. That silence is what's given me the biggest probs re 'benefit  of the doubt' I've been struggling to hold. To wit: I have little prob with the idea of promoting gossip about gossipers (I think of Rand's little story about blackmailing blackmailers.) --- Addendum: not all gossip is 'false' of course...anymore than all of it is true.

Sub-personalities

eg's picture

I never embraced sub-personalities because I couldn't relete to the idea through introspection.

--Brant

DID

AdamReed's picture

Brant,

Of course there are contexts (a prison, a patriarchal family, a totalitarian state, a society regressed to tribalism) in which playing with sub-personalities can be useful, or even necessary for survival.

In more benevolent contexts, especially in America, one has bettter alternatives, such as integrating the changes one wants into the personality one has. In such contexts, playing with sub-personalities implies dishonesty with oneself about who one is.

"DID" is the psychiatrists' way of recogninizing that to play with sub-personalities is usually dysfunctional, while observing the profession's taboo on overt moral judgement.

Existential

AdamReed's picture

Philip,

In contrast to "idealized" - the sub-personality that one thinks one ought to be - "existential" means "as one is, without trying to be otherwise." NB's existential sub-personality was acting impulsively, in the 1960s phrase, "letting it all hang out," in contrast to the idealized sub-personality, which was rational and focused.

One example of acting in his existential personality I observed, was NB's humiliating attack on the inadequate grammar of a question posed to him by someone who was obviously a very recent immigrant still learning English. Another question, about homosexuality, was answered in an actor's pantomime of mannerisms that in the 1950s were typically ascribed to homosexuals.

This was very different from Nathaniel Branden in his idealized sub-personality, who was invariably rational, relevant and direct - just like Ayn Rand.

Adam

eg's picture

Nathaniel has embraced the idea of having and using (owning) sub-personalties, especially having been exposed to Devers' interest in the subject. I wouldn't call it DID.

--Brant

Existential Personality?

PhilipC's picture

> NB's switching between an idealized personality...and a more existential personality

Adam, I can sort of figure out what an "idealized personality" must be...sort of being on your best behavior. But what is an "existential personality"? Can you concretize this switch with a couple examples, so this is not left as floating abstractions?

Same thing?

AdamReed's picture

Brant,

No, she did not do "the same thing." It takes more than a one-time change of mood to make a "sub-personality." I saw both AR and NB on many occasions over several years, and the personality switch was something specific to NB. Each of NB's sub-personalities behaved differently in different moods - and Ayn Rand (with one integrated personality) changed her behavior with mood also, like any other human. What Ellen brought up about Nathaniel Branden was definitely there. Unlike Ellen, I don't think that Ayn Rand "failed to notice" NB's personality switching, because she never saw his "existential" sub-personality: when Ayn Rand was there, NB stayed solidly in the "idealized" one. The other came out when she wasn't.

DID

eg's picture

Ayn Rand did the same thing when she was on the Johnny Carson show in 1967. So, Ayn Rand is DID too?

--Brant

Syndrome

AdamReed's picture

Yes, Ellen, I thought that when you wrote "syndrome" you meant syndrome. Regardless of labels, as an NBI student I did notice NB's switching between an idealized personality, when Ayn was there, and a more existential personality when she wasn't. The DID label may be semantically objectionable, but what it refers to does correspond to my observations too.

Different Paradigm, Adam

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Adam, no, I wasn't talking about DID, or any sort of DSM-type categorization. I don't speak that language, a language of "diseases" -- or "disorders," the term often used instead of "diseases" today. I think of psychology as psychological and don't accept the disease model on which the DSM nomenclature is based. I'm basically Szaszian in viewing psychological difficulties as "problems in living." I was describing a behavioral/motivational pattern -- as I said "a way of coping and striving that a person gets into." I.e., something a person does, not something a person has. I suppose the term "syndrome" misled, but I didn't mean that in a DSM sense.

Ellen

___

Diagnosis

eg's picture

Illness is diagnosed. To put someone into a mental "diagnostic category" is to diagnose "mental illness," which is to smear the diagnosee, just like calling Linz an alcoholic smears him. These are inferior people not because of who or what they actually are, but because some authority figure stuck a shitty label on them. Nuance and proportion are all well and good, but not here on such a subject. I, like many others, can SPECULATE about NB's psychology, but I keep it to myself to the same extent I allow myself to wonder about it because I don't know, really.

--Brant

PS: Okay. I apologize for the original comment some posts back. I wouldn't have done it in the first place except you pushed one of my big buttons. I shouldn't have done it.

--BG

DSM categories

AdamReed's picture

Brant,

I am no fan of forcible psychiatry and other quackeries. But if psychosis is the quacks' equivalent of a felony, and neurosis is like a misdemeanor, then identity disorders are at the level of a parking ticket. They interfere with living a good life, but even the quacks don't recomment "therapy" (unless "the patient wants to change.") So please try to keep a sense of proportion.

Diagnostic category

eg's picture

Adam, because you segued into the relm of "mental illness." 85 years ago the psychiatrists of the day got ahold of my epileptic aunt and gave her a total hysterectomy. She spent most of the rest of her ruined life in the Ohio State mental hospital. 30 years ago the bastards got their hands on my sister and ruined her into an early grave. I could tell another like story about another relative.

So, Nathaniel Branden is mentally ill?

--Brant

PS: I'm not too happy with Ellen, either, but you went farther and uncorked the bottle. I don't drink that stuff.

Switching between "Ideal" and actual identities

AdamReed's picture

Brant,

I was adressing Ellen, who posited a new syndrome. Ellen's "new syndrome" explained NB's behavior as due to switching between parallel "ideal" and actual identities or sub-personalities. But that is not a "new syndrome," it's just an instantiation of the already well-established diagnostic category of DID. It was Ellen, not I, who pointed out that NB's behavior could be explained in this way. Why are you directing your rage at me?

Kenny

eg's picture

I seldom insult anyone. If I do my reasons have nothing to do with a rational argument. If Adam wants to pin the tail on the Nathaniel Branden donkey with a psychological diagnosis, he's going to find out what I think of that crap. I didn't tell Linz to take a long walk off a short bridge when he called Barbara Branden a "low life bitch," maybe I should have--did anyone?--but that was clean compared to what Adam did. He's too old, knowledgeable and intelligent to be excused.

Ironically, BB can use this as an example of "Objectivist Rage," I suppose.

--Brant

Adam I was thinking

John M Newnham's picture

Adam I was thinking narcissistic PD. But why go the distance with DSM, when "prick", will do?

Insults

Kenny's picture

Brant, insults like FU have no place in rational argument.

When does a Love-Triangle consist of only one corner?

Rowlf's picture

Adam:

~~ "Dissociative Identity Disorder"? I know you've discussed this elsewhere, but...

~~ Uh-h-h...I hope no one's going to bring up Sybil or The 3 Faces of Eve next...I hope, I hope, I hope.

LLAP
J:D

DID

eg's picture

F U, Adam.

--Brant

Dissociative Identity Disorder

AdamReed's picture

Ellen,

Why invent a new "syndrome" when all of Nathaniel Branden's behavior is adeqately explained by an already well-established diagnostic category, Dissociative Identity Disorder?

The Frustration is Shared

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Thanks, Ellen Smiling. Part of the root of my frustration on this is that Nathaniel has written terrific books. I've gotten tremendous value out of Psychology of Romantic Love and The Six Pillars of Self Esteem.
I also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the IOS/TOC organization for rekindling my interest in Objectivism in 1994 and putting on several seminars that I've benefitted greatly from.

Sometimes I think people are out of their gourd and I don't understand why they do certain things. I don't expect people to be perfect, but the way some people act in the Objectivist movement from Peikoff, Schwartz and Binswanger to the Brandens is very strange to say the least.

Jim

Nonsense

Jason Quintana's picture

"As to the "cultism thing," though, I don't agree that it isn't still active. I think there have been signs of it on this list and others, not specifically in terms of who comes from which organization, but instead in terms of the "us against them" attitude -- e.g., the emphasis on "enemies" of Objectivism, which is an inappropriate way of speaking of critics of a philosophy."

In many cases it is a very legitimate response to people who are in fact enemies of Objectivism. People who use various dishonest tactics to discredit Objectivist philosophy and people who try to twist the public's understanding of Objectivism into something that no longer resembles Ayn Rand's philosophy are enemies of Objectivism.

- Jason

"Living Up"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I indicated that I think the idea of "social metaphysics" as presented in the early Objectivist writings doesn't describe an actual psychological syndrome. Thus I think I should say for the record that there is a recognizable syndrome which both Allan Blumenthal and I -- independently -- coined a term for as a result of numerous observations of Objectivists (though of course it applies more widely) and which I think well fits those speculations I consider sound in Ayn Rand's journal entries about Nathaniel. Allan called the syndrome "living for self-esteem"; I called it simply "living up."

"Living up" consists of striving to be one's idealized image of oneself -- in Nathaniel's case striving to be the idealized "John Galt" Objectivist hero figure whom both he and Ayn Rand believed would fill the role of having the desired emotional/sexual reactions to her.

If Rand had had the idea of "living up" to work with instead of that of "social metaphysician," I think her attempts to comprehend what was going on with Nathaniel would have been easier (and I could hope very much quicker). Instead of speculating about "repression" of "social metaphysics or some other evil premise" (what a massive repression would have been needed! -- I think even a Freudian wouldn't have gone that far in ascribing near-magical powers to "repression"), she might instead have asked herself what I kept feeling screamed out to be asked: What might the conscious component she suspected from the first entries onward be? Might that conscious component consist of outright lying? Lying about what? Might Nathaniel have been coming up with an elaborate story to disguise the nature of his relationship with Patrecia?

And notice that she described "social metaphysics" as an "evil premise." That right there indicates a bad flaw in the notion as they thought of it, the inappropriate mixing of philosophy and psychology. A psychological syndrome isn't an "evil premise"; it's a way of coping and striving that a person gets into.

(The quote is from pp. 348-49 of PARC; it's from the concluding paragraphs of her long July 4, 1968, entry.)

Ellen

PS: I'm likely not to have time for further posting here or anywhere until Tuesday.

___

The Frustration Is Shared

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Jim,

Actually, in my own fashion, and from a different background on the whole scene, and different age perspective, I share your frustration. I had hoped Nathaniel might buckle down and do some really serious work on aspects of psychology about which I think he might have something interesting to say. But in recent years, I've given up hope on that.

As to the "cultism thing," though, I don't agree that it isn't still active. I think there have been signs of it on this list and others, not specifically in terms of who comes from which organization, but instead in terms of the "us against them" attitude -- e.g., the emphasis on "enemies" of Objectivism, which is an inappropriate way of speaking of critics of a philosophy. And I still see the mixing up of the psychological and the moral. Now, I grant that NB was a big culprit in starting the problems. Indeed, originally, upon picking up what I considered disturbing signs from as far distant from O'ism Central as Illinois, I thought of Nathaniel as the prime mover. But I later came to think that the seeds of at least the inappropriate moralizing are sufficiently planted in Rand's own writings as to keep sprouting onto this day, when there's no longer the NBI atmosphere to nourish them. (I made a relevant comment in an OL post which I tried to link here, but speaking of frustration, I couldn't get a link to work; the post is from 4/12/06 in the "Rants" forum.)

Regarding your comment, "the sheer volume of annoying things about the Brandens is amazing," I concur; indeed, my feeling when the whole PARC thing started was, oh, no, not all this again! (It's the fourth time the circumstances surrounding the affair and the split have been an endless topic: the original time, then the years from PAR's publication through the break between David Kelley and Leonard Peikoff -- all the Brandens/Rand stuff got included in discussions of the DK/LP issues -- next when David invited Nathaniel to speak at IOS in 1996, and now again.) I expect there will still be debates about the personality issues as long as Objectivism is of vibrant concern to a number of people, but I hope the current emphasis on those issues will soon wane.

Nonetheless, since the topic of "Social Metaphysics" has come up, and since I've entered an objection to that term as describing a legitimate psychological syndrome, I'm going to post something indicating what I think would have been the correct syndrome for Rand to have thought in terms of in attempting to understand Nathaniel's behavior.

Ellen

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I wonder

Kenny's picture

How much Nathaniel Branden has made from "treating" former "cult members"? He has said that he has helped a considerable number in his articles. Perhaps he has a financial interest in perpetuating the "cultism thing".

Frustration

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ellen,

Yes, I am frustrated. Nathaniel Branden's anomalous perception asides were in his interview last year. Irfan Khawaja has related that the same type of thing happened to him at a cyberseminar in 1997. When Irfan tried to get Nathaniel to own up to his anomalous perception remarks, a stream of abusive e-mail came his way.

The Brandens should also give the cultism thing a rest. I don't see it in either ARI or TOC today. Why should it matter to me whether it existed earlier? The whole thing is just some weird fixation they have. It's like seeing those WWII soldiers poke their head out of the jungle 20 years after the war and realize the world has changed.

I'm sure I'll get over my frustration soon, but the sheer volume of annoying things about the Brandens is amazing.

Jim

Re: Bryan Register's Liberty Article

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"What bothers me is that they still think Objectivists have to go to anti-cult cathechism and take ESP seriously."

Huh? The ESP bit cracked me up. You seriously think you're expected to take ESP seriously? (I'm not sure what you mean by "anti-cult cathechism.")

The rest I leave aside as a statement of frustration on your part. Besides, I don't know why the Brandens choose the particular topics they choose to talk about. They don't consult me in making their choices. And I'm unlikely to be attending any of the Summer Seminars, for reasons to which the Brandens are irrelevant; too much else to do.

Anyway...

Ellen

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Bryan Register's Liberty Article

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ellen,

I'm about as sympathetic a person as you will get for the Brandens. I want to believe them. They do not have facts on their side. The argument that everyone is out to get them won't wash. What concerns me is not that something bad was said about Ayn Rand. She died when I was 11 years old, I could care less about that.

What bothers me is that they still think Objectivists have to go to anti-cult cathechism and take ESP seriously. It's like since they had a bad experience with Objectivism, psychology is more important than philosophy and being nice is more important than the truth.

Many of us weren't around when the Brandens were involved in Objectivism. I don't like Leonard Peikoff, but I'm beginning to tire of ARI conspiracy theories. Why do they want to keep talking about Rand and trashing Objectivism in the process. I'm going to this year's TOC Seminar but I'm seriously thinking about taking another 5 year vacation from the whole thing. When I come back, I can rest assured that there will be more controversies over less substance.

Jim

Bryan Register's Liberty Article

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Jim wrote:

"My question to you is: what part of Judgment Day should we believe based on the changes that were made?"

Jim, I have trouble getting a grip on that question as asked. To begin with, I don't think there's a "should" here, or a "we." I'm not in a position to tell others how they ought to assess Nathaniel, or anyone else, only to give my assessments and reasons therefor.

The book, as you observe, does not purport to be a documented biography. It is experiences Nathaniel lived, as he experienced and as he recalls them. It is his viewpoint. Obviously, there are numerous factual details: He met AR in X year, when he was Y old; NBI was formed in Z year, etc. If there's a factual detail which can be verified by external sources, then I think doubting it because Nathaniel said it would be silly. On the other hand, if he gets such a detail wrong in the first book and corrects it in the second, I think accusations of his being a liar in the first case because of having made such a mistake are silly. (Why would he deliberately have made mistakes about factual details which can be checked?) I'll assume you're speaking instead of such details as the exact number of affairs Barbara had, his descriptions of various people, etc. I see no problem in thinking that when he wrote the first book, he had an exaggerated view of how many affairs Barbara had had, but that he believed this view at the time -- or in thinking that with the passage of the years he came to feel that he'd still been overly angry when he wrote the first book and he wanted to soften the portrait he painted of certain people. (Do you think that if you were to write now an account of your emotions about your life, and then to revise the account ten years later, you would make no changes?)

"[J H-N] No interviews were conducted in the course of writing this book and Nathaniel asserts that the only assurance we have about the accuracy of the account is the internal consistency of the narrative."

I don't think he asserts that that's the "only" assurance, as regards everything he says. (I haven't time to look it up right now.) As I recall what he was talking about was the plausibility, the characterological accuracy of his presentations -- whether his portraits seem correct, not whether he has every detail right. I think that's pretty much what you have to go on in any such account, especially in regard to scenes where there weren't (or no longer are) other witnesses -- accounts of what the narrator felt, and what happened in exchanges with someone now dead. Does what he says make sense to you or doesn't it? The backdrop estimate you have to make is whether or not you believe the narrator is attempting to tell the truth -- i.e., a judgment of the narrator's character -- and of how reliable you believe the narrator's memory to be. But even if you have a narrator who you think is trying his or her best to present the truth, and whose memory you estimate as a good one, you still, with the kind of first-person recollection Nathaniel was writing, have to go by how well what's being said adds up in your view. I think that Nathaniel was aware of this and that the options you list do not exhaust the possibilities.

You give as options:

"[J H-N] Now, either Nathaniel did not expect us to take his account of specific events in Judgment Day seriously, his recollection is extremely poor or he was lying to us."

The "extremely poor" I think isn't documented. The kind of details he corrected aren't ones which change the whole tenor of anything. It's not like, oops, there was a whole other person in this story whom I left out. Or, oops, I met Rand in 1960, not 1950. You make it sound as if there were enormous changes. But there weren't. Nor is the only other alternative to his having been lying to you that he didn't expect you to take "his account of specific events [...] seriously." He didn't expect you to take them as if there was a camera filming them, as if it happened very exactly as he said. And he told you he didn't expect that, that he was not claiming he was recounting exact dialogue. What I'd say he was expecting (or at least hoping) was that you (meaning whoever the reader is) would take seriously that what he writes was his honest attempt to recall those years and make vivid what they were like for him.

You write:

"[J H-N] If Branden was just emoting on paper or filling in gaps, he should have said so."

In a sense, that is what he said. He was telling, to repeat, the story of how he perceived those years. As to your being given "confidence in what he says about Ayn Rand," I think that's each reader's judgment call (unfortunate pun on the book's title; I'm too tired to try to think of something more felicitous). I place a fair amount of confidence in what he says. But then I was around Ayn Rand enough times to come to conclusions of my own, and I knew and heard from people close to her. I have more reasons than you have to think that there's significant accuracy in what he wrote. From your standpoint, I don't see any sound reason for dismissing Nathaniel as a liar if you feel that you wouldn't have assessed Rand the way he did. Surely you've had an experience where you and someone else assess a third person quite differently.

Ellen

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Re: Social Metaphysics

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I'll start with the concluding comment in Bill's reply. He wrote:

"I consider the 'second hand lives' theme, and by extension the concept of social metaphysics to be far more that 'something that worked as the basis of a novel.' Quite bluntly I find that comment to be shocking coming from someone with Ellen Stuttle's long experience in the Objectivist movement. The the conflict between the second-handers vs. Roark is central to the novel and to Rand's theme of individualism vs. altruism."

Bill, I agree that "the conflict between the second-handers vs. Roark is central to the novel and to Rand's theme of individualism vs. altruism," but where I'm disagreeing is that I don't consider the "concept of social metaphysics" -- at least as Branden originally presented it (he's gone through some stages with it) -- a legitimate extension. (Technically, I don't even consider it a concept, since I consider it an invented diagnosis.) You write that you "don't use it in the DSM [...] sense" and don't "go around calling people social metaphysicians as was done in the NBI days." I'm glad to hear that. But it was used in the New York circles I became familiar with as a diagnostic category; I think that's how Nathaniel was using it in the original articles; and I think that this is a good example of the incorrect extension of a philosophical abstraction into the realm of pyschological theory. I think that it's a good example of the whole way psychology was addressed in the formative articles (those in the Newsletter and The Objectivist) -- a way which I consider most unfortunate since, with its mixing of philosophizing and psychology, it produced people quick to find "evil" in themselves and (often even more quickly) in others and not well equipped to understand themselves and others.

You write that you personally find the idea "critical to living in today's world" and that you use it for "test[ing] [yourself] to try to avoid an overconcern about what others think about me" and for observing and assessing others. Also that you've lectured on "this concept." It sounds as if you may be using it in a way which is your own practical development rather than what NB wrote in his articles. I'd be interested to hear more about the details (though I realize you likely haven't time for discoursing on the subject, since you're planning to take a year's break from list exchanges starting in May). What I have to go on is what I've observed of the uses made of the notion. I haven't noticed anything of help to Objectivists coming of it; instead I've noticed a lot which I've considered detrimental.

Re Ayn Rand's "attempts to figure out her relationship with Nathaniel Branden," I believe you've read PARC. She gives considerable thought in the entries to the hypothesis of NB's being a repressed social metaphysician, and pondering what type.

Ellen

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Ciro D'Agostino

Ciro D Agostino's picture

Ciro D'Agostino

Social Metaphysics

William E. Perry's picture

I have always considered the concept of social metaphysics to be an important extension of Rand's work in _The Fountainhead_. Although Branden did consider it to be a syndrome in the psychological sense, and wrote about it in that way, his articles are useful for examining your own conduct and the conduct of others.

I spent too much of my life jousting with psychiatrists and psychologists about the meaning of diagnostic criteria in the context of murder-insanity trials. Ellen is right that we should not add to what she calls the "vague mush . . . in the official diagnostic nomenclature." I see this concept as much more valuable than that. And I don't use it in the DSMIV,V,VI or whatever number they are up to now, sense. I see it as critical to living in today's world. Now that doesn't mean that I go around calling people social metaphysicians as was done in the NBI days. Rather I test myself to try to avoid an overconcern about what others think about me. And I observe others and make choices about who I listen to and spend time with based on similar evaluations. I think that this concept is so important that I have lectured on it to local groups in both Arizona and New York. I do think that Nathaniel Branden added some value to Rand's ideas in his articles, and I used those articles in my talks.

I have no idea how the concept affected Ayn Rand's attempts to figure out her relationship with Nathaniel Branden, and don't care to speculate.

I stand by my comment at the end of my blog entry. I recognize that Branden said he was only rejecting the label. I think that he was rejecting far more than that. I consider the "second hand lives" theme, and by extension the concept of social metaphysics to be far more that "something that worked as the basis of a novel." Quite bluntly I find that comment to be shocking coming from someone with Ellen Stuttle's long experience in the Objectivist movement. The the conflict between the second-handers vs. Roark is central to the novel and to Rand's theme of individualism vs. altruism.

Bill

Ellen is correct in that

William E. Perry's picture

Ellen is correct. Bryan Register never accuses Branden of dishonesty in the article. Nor did I say that he made that accusation. I drew my own conclusions, and would expect that anyone seriously considering the issue can draw his own as well. The harshest thing that Register said was the part I quoted.

Bill

Bryan Register's Liberty Article

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ellen,

No, Bryan did not accuse Nathaniel of dishonesty based on the changes. My question to you is: what part of Judgment Day should we believe based on the changes that were made? No interviews were conducted in the course of writing this book and Nathaniel asserts that the only assurance we have about the accuracy of the account is the internal consistency of the narrative. Now, either Nathaniel did not expect us to take his account of specific events in Judgment Day seriously, his recollection is extremely poor or he was lying to us.

None of these options gives us much confidence in what he says about Ayn Rand. Bryan Register states that he did not think Branden expected his account to be taken as "gospel", so he believed that Branden did not expect us to take his book seriously as a historical account. If Branden was just emoting on paper or filling in gaps, he should have said so.

Jim

Ellen is correct. The name

William E. Perry's picture

Ellen is correct. The name is Bryan. I have corrected it. I will respond to her other comments a little later.

Bill

Ciro, does real job =can't read

Glenn I Heppard's picture

Ciro, you have a real job? That much better then having a fake job. But its about time, you layabout.

Now how does have to do with you not being able to read?

Brian (Bryan?) Register's Article

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Bill Perry wrote: "if you truly think that Nathaniel Branden is an honest person you should read Brian Register's article": (1) Is the spelling "Brian" or "Bryan"? I thought it was "Bryan." (2) I haven't read that since it appeared and don't off-hand know where my copy of it is. A question to those who have the article immediately available: Does he accuse Nathaniel of dishonesty because of the revisions? I don't recall his making such an accusation. Nor do I understand why revising would necessarily be considered a sign of dishonesty. (I think you need more of a case than, gee, he made a number of changes between the two versions; the most you could accuse him of just on the basis of changes is having been careless in fact-checking some details the first time round and having changed his mind either about the truth of or the advisability of saying others. All the changes -- I compared the two versions line-by-line -- qualify as what's called in the trade "line editing"; the story in the second version is, precisely, "kinder, gentler"; the basic story isn't altered.) Furthermore, there was an interview of Nathaniel by Bryan [sp?] (I think also in Liberty) in which Nathaniel at the end outright asked Bryan if Bryan's attitude toward him (NB) was negative and Bryan said, as I recall, that, no, he'd always been rather an admirer of Nathaniel's.

Ellen

___

Social Metaphysics

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Bill Perry wrote: "Disavowal of the concept of social metaphysics is disavowal of the individualism in Objectivism."

How so? I have never thought that "social metaphysics" was a proper diagnostic concept. Although the theme of "second-hand lives" worked as the basis of a novel, I think that attempting to turn that theme into a diagnostic category was a bad mistake. Indeed, back in the years spring '63 (when I learned of and subscibed to The Objectivist Newletter) and September '68 (when I moved to NYCity), the notion of "social metaphysics" was among several reasons why I thought that Nathaniel was selling AR a bill of goods about the subject of psychology. I thought that he should know better, since he was in the field of psychology, though she hadn't enough background to know better than to think there was a legitimate psychological syndrome being described. Attempt to delineate a syndrome, to give an etiological theory, and diagnostic criteria by which the syndrome can be identified, and see what you get: vague mush, I'd venture to predict. (Granted, increasingly with the DSM, vague mush is what one finds in the official diagnostic nomenclature; but this isn't a good reason to add to the mush.) I also think that AR was badly hampered in her attempts to figure out what was going on with Nathaniel by having the notion of "social metaphysics" in her mind. She keeps looking under a rock where there isn't anything (i.e., thinking in terms of an invalid diagnostic category) instead of looking at the boulder which is in plain sight.

Ellen

___

Reply to Ciro

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Ciro,

I can confirm that Bill Perry has been consistent in his reservations about Nathaniel Branden. His words to me when he recommended Bryan Register's article were to the effect that Nathaniel Branden could not be believed when talking about Ayn Rand.

Jim

Reply to Ciro

William E. Perry's picture

Ciro asks why I didn't say something in the room, and waited eight years to say something. I didn't say something in the room because I didn't know the extent of the problem until I read Register's article.

Ciro, you are making a false assumption. I have told people about this regularly and repeatedly since 1999. Jim Heaps-Nelson has previously posted here about my telling him about the article and its influence on him. You may believe me or not as you wish. But if you truly think that Nathaniel Branden is an honest person you should read Brian Register's article. Here is the link to Liberty's website: http://www.libertyunbound.com/

I am not sure if it is one of the back issues that they sell, but perhaps they'd make a copy for you for a nominal fee.

(Edited out grammatical error.)

Bill

In addition Barbara is given

Ciro D Agostino's picture

In addition Barbara is given much more credit for intellectual accomplishments in the second book, including credit for inventing psycho-epistemology.

Well, much better than Binswanger's description in his psycho-epistemology-1 where he stated that one of AR's friends, BB of course, had psycho-epistemology problems. You talk about dishonesty!

Ciro D'Agostino

Ciro D'Agostino

 I have a real job!!! and I

Ciro D Agostino's picture

 I have a real job!!! and I make money honestly, Glenn hepPARd. About you, still living with your parents?

Ciro D'Agostino

Beautiful, Jim,

Casey's picture

That is a beautiful statement, Jim, and I concur. But there is no need to hide away Ayn Rand. She was a magnificent person who lived life as anyone should ever hope to, striving for its highest potential and happiness and achieving it in so many ways against such incredible odds. Her life and person was spectacular. It only bears a stain because of the Brandens' lies. It need not, at all. It would be an amazing inspiration, in fact, were it not for them. I hope I see a time where people celebrate Rand without feeling the need to retract her personal life from the argument. Seldom has ANYONE's life been so fucking unbelievably fantastic and such a demonstration of heroism made real as Ayn Rand's life. (Read PARC if you don't believe it, folks!)

Ciro's the first time I met...

Glenn I Heppard's picture

William Perry wrote, "I had recently read Judgement Day. At that point his revised version was about to be released as My Years With Ayn Rand." Later, "The next year Brian Register wrote an article about the changes in Liberty magazine entitled..."

Ciro: D'OH!

Meeting Nathaniel Branden

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

I second Bill Perry's recommendation about reading Bryan Register's article. In Branden's forward to Judgment Day mentions that the internal consistency of the narrative is the what people could rely on to judge the veracity of his account. True enough and it is breathtakingly lacking.

In my journey on this and having read most of Nathaniel Branden's other works including Six Pillars, Psychology of Romantic Love, Taking Responsibility and the Art of Living Consciously, Branden takes the place of his vision of Rand as a genius with great flaws. Judgment Day, like Passion of Ayn Rand before it, is the muddy shoeprint on the face of Howard Roark in the Fountainhead.

Consider the reaction of Roark to this in the story of The Fountainhead. He was unaffected. His glory stood in the majesty of his buildings and his unbowed rectitude. He looked at Wynand with a sad, wistful longing for the greatness that could have been.

The way to honor Rand is not in the details and minutiae of her life, but to match her heroic vision with our own. The men of unborrowed vision look out at the world anew, trusting only their own sight and their own rational conviction.

Jim

Yes, it did Ciro. It was

JoeM's picture

Yes, it did Ciro. It was hijacked by the Brandens.

Joe, because Objectivism

Ciro D Agostino's picture

Joe, because Objectivism went in wrong hands after AR died!

Ciro D'Agostino

You're too fast Joe.....

ethan_dawe's picture

You're too fast Joe..... Smiling

How long did the Branden's

ethan_dawe's picture

How long did the Brandens' take to write their books...after Rand was dead, Ciro?

Ciro

JoeM's picture

Why don't you ask Barbara and Nathaniel why they waited til Rand died to release THEIR books? Lack of courage maybe? Why would anyone want to hear THEM now?

 The first time I met

Ciro D Agostino's picture

 The first time I met Nathaniel Branden was at the 1998 Summer Seminar

This is where I have problem believing people, why then a person waits 8 years before saying anything about this? Business, lack of courage, what is it? Mr. Perry should have said something right there in that same room, but instead he waited 8 years, who wants to hear him now? Ciro D'Agostino

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