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Post 100

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 2:02pmSanction this postReply
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Brant,

The Brandens have been used as sources rather uncritically. Before objective biography of Ayn Rand can take place, an assessment of the Brandens' purportedly important, first-hand reports, an evaluation of the Brandens' biases and credibility, one focusing on those areas where they most suspect, was first necessary, in my view. This process would have distorted an objective biography of Rand. But an overall assessment of the Bradens' biographical works -- the most influential, by far -- was required -- and long overdue. The goal was not to destroy the Brandens, but to show just how profound the previously unidentified problems with their accounts really are.

The accusations of alcoholism are indicative of these problems, Brant.

Happy Thanksgiving!


(Edited by James S. Valliant
on 11/24, 2:05pm)




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Post 101

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 2:13pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,

You are repeating too much and this is getting tiresome.

The reason I mentioned that quote that inflamed your heated passion was for the sake of clarity. Instead of dishonest (but that is a doubt that is growing in me about you), let's just say that it was extremely sloppy writing on your part.


Joe Maurone,

Could you please furnish some quote or something where either of the Brandens said that Ayn Rand was mentally ill or insane, as you claimed?

I want to understand that better. And if they did not, that particular charge should not be left dangling within the context of the present hostility towards them.

Michael




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Post 102

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 2:28pmSanction this postReply
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Why don't we just enjoy the turkey and dressing and gravy and pie now. We'll leave my extremely sloppy writing for another day.




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Post 103

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 3:28pmSanction this postReply
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John,

I didn't mean to overlook the question you asked, about whether Rand could have been jealous of a woman she insisted was inferior.  I have not been a prolific contributor to this thread, because my body is more heavily invested in putting bones back together than in anything else I might be doing, and I tire very easily.

In your post #62, you said:

I'm glad that someone took up my question re Barbara and 'jealousy.' Unfortunately, the answer seems to bolster Rand's analysis of Patrecia's (-'type') place of 'lesser', which one is never 'jealous' about. Jealousy is envy that someone else has more of something desired by another-whom-one-desires...not less. (Unless it's argued that Rand 'rationalized' what she was supposedly analyzing, such as 'lesser mind' instead of the presumedly more relevent 'more youth' --- but no one's actually 'argued' that she was rationalizing here.)
Well...

Patrecia looked a lot more like Dagny Taggart or Dominique Francon than AR ever did.

Patrecia was taking NB away from AR (and Rand acted as though Patrecia was a romantic rival for several months, while she overtly accepted NB's BS to the effect that she was just a friend).

Rand admitted not knowing Patrecia very well, yet heaped putdowns on her.  (The nicest thing she called her in the entries was "the girl next door."  In Rand-speak, that is a mild form of damnation.)

Rand had a longstanding loathing for smart, productive men who fall for "chorus girls," who, she assumed, were all brainless women of low character.

Rand insisted that NB would be acting on an "evil premise" if he became sexually involved with Patrecia.

Yes, I'd say that some rationalizing was involved... as is so often the case when people are jealous.

Robert Campbell




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Post 104

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 2:36pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: p. 349 of JD. That's the only one I know about.

--Brant




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Post 105

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 3:31pmSanction this postReply
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Happy Thankgiving, everyone!

Robert Campbell




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Post 106

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 4:19pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Brant.

 

I think those two paragraphs from Judgment Day bear posting here. 

Patrecia has always spoken of Ayn with great affection and regard, but one day I asked for her impressions when she saw Ayn at my lecture, and she answered, with some hesitance, "I was disappointed. I didn't like those slashes of bitterness in her face. And her eyes -- to tell you the truth, now please don't become upset, I felt I was seeing madness there. Enormous anger. Something out of my childhood. Of course, later I came to see her as a wonderful person, but still --" I took a long breath, to control myself and to give me time to think. Part of me felt indignation against Patrecia -- how could she say this of the author of Atlas Shrugged -- while another part felt admiration for her courage, for the unfrightened way she looked at me as she spoke, even though she knew how her words would impact me. I heard Ayn's voice roaring in my brain: if you are who you say you are, you will now walk away from Patrecia and never look back. I looked into the steady blue eyes watching me across the lunch table, as if she could track my thoughts, her face lifted in acceptance of whatever I might now choose to say, and I knew that no power on earth could make me abandon this woman. "Patrecia," I said, "please don't ever say this to me again. I understand that you're only describing what you felt in that first moment, but it's not something I wish to hear about Ayn Rand." She nodded gravely, without apology, and answered, "I understand." The terror at the root of my response was the not-to-be-admitted knowledge that I had seen in Ayn's eyes precisely what Patrecia had seen. To think of Ayn as mad in any respect whatsoever was to plunge m universe into chaos. If there were a streak of irrationality running through Ayn, what did this mean about my entire life? What did this mean about me?

 

And yet, at some level I, too, was aware of something wrong in Ayn, an explosive rage that did not fit my more exalted view of her. I wanted to get Ayn out of my question-and-answer periods, for example, because I was appalled by how she sometimes abused our students. Since Ayn did not enjoy these sessions, it was simple enough to thank her or her past help and to say that NBI was sufficiently well established that her participation on a weekly basis was not necessary. "Thank God," Barbara muttered as Ayn began to come less and less frequently.

 

From what I gather in this context, he was discussing an irrational streak evidenced by her "explosive rage" that was perceivable in her eyes to him (and Patrecia). I would be more inclined to view this use of "madness" or "mad" in a more popular sense (meaning something more akin to emotional to the level of irrationality) than the clinical sense of diagnosed mental illness. He also limited the surges to a specific context of types of instances ("enormous anger" from Patrecia and "to think of Ayn as mad in any respect" from him) instead of making it a broad psychological "insane personality" judgment.

Still, his own impressions and description of his emotions probably could have been better worded to avoid confusion.
 
I don't have My Years With Ayn Rand yet, so I don't know if he changed this passage or not. If he did, then he recognized the possibility for confusion. (I remember reading that he wrote JD in anger, so this is something that typically would have escaped on revision.) If he left it in, well, he left it in, so let people think what they will...

Michael









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Post 107

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 4:44pmSanction this postReply
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Casey wrote "We'll leave my extremely sloppy writing for another day." But I was still laughing about this *astounding* sentence from Michael's post #87.

"On the blog of the ARI woman's who doesn't like me, Ms. Hsieh, for instance, she listed her Amazon hit statistics for the year."

This is not a jab at you, Michael, I think you write jes fine. But this one jewel had me flummoxed. I read it about 8 times before I figured it out. I'm glad I didn't have to diagram anything like that in English class.

MM! Turkey!



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Post 108

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 4:58pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

Are you avoiding what Nathaniel Branden told Ayn Rand about Patrecia as though it is unimportant in determining the nature of Ayn Rand's judgment of her? Just curious about what you think about that, one way or the other, since you seem to have skipped over that issue.




Post 109

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 5:00pmSanction this postReply
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Dayaamm, Ashley!

Thanks. (I'm laughing right now, btw.)

Here's how that happened. I first wrote:

On the ARI woman's blog who doesn't like me, Ms. Hsieh, for instance...

Then I figured that a blog really couldn't like me or dislike me. So I made a change:

On the blog of the ARI woman's who doesn't like me, Ms. Hsieh, for instance...

In the heat of passion, an apostrophe and "s" made a quick getaway...

BUT IT HAD TO HAPPEN THERE. DAYAAMM!!!!!

After I beaned that woman for using "it's" instead of "its" in her criticism of me, too!

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL...

You're beautiful, Ashley. You keep us honest. Happy Thanksgiving.

(btw - I changed Post 87, with special thanks to you.)

Michael


(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 11/24, 5:02pm)




Post 110

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 5:41pmSanction this postReply
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Michael:
"Joe Maurone,

Could you please furnish some quote or something where either of the Brandens said that Ayn Rand was mentally ill or insane, as you claimed?

I want to understand that better. And if they did not, that particular charge should not be left dangling within the context of the present hostility towards them."

Um, dude...it's Thanksgiving. It's a holiday? Can I spend time with my family and get away from this bull for a bit?

Thank you. :)



Post 111

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply
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Snowed where I am. "I'm dreaming of a white...turkey."

Merry Thanksgiving all.

J:D




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Post 112

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 9:25pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, in answer to your call for examples, besides the singular comments, I'd submit that both Branden bio's are a claim to something wrong with Ayn Rand's psychology. But you address the issue in this post, which suggest you already know this, any any example I give has already been answered in your post:

You quote N.Branden: "And yet, at some level I, too, was aware of something wrong in Ayn, an explosive rage that did not fit my more exalted view of her. "

You then write: "From what I gather in this context, he was discussing an irrational streak evidenced by her "explosive rage" that was perceivable in her eyes to him (and Patrecia). I would be more inclined to view this use of "madness" or "mad" in a more popular sense (meaning something more akin to emotional to the level of irrationality) than the clinical sense of diagnosed mental illness. He also limited the surges to a specific context of types of instances ("enormous anger" from Patrecia and "to think of Ayn as mad in any respect" from him) instead of making it a broad psychological "insane personality" judgment."

Regarding your take on how the Brandens used terms of psychology in regards to Rand: Read your Szasz and you will see why I consider your distinction an error. I agree with him that the use of words like mad, crazy, insane are not to be used lightly, they are means of social control to deal with ""undesirable behavior."

"Clinicial sense of diagnosed mental illness?"

Consider this from Nathaniel Branden:
"Interestingly enough, it was Barbara who challenged me to look at Ayn realistically on this subject. One day, not long after the break, when I was trying to defend some aspect of Ayn's behavior because of how hurt she was, Barbara said, "Nathan, be a psychologist. Look at Ayn as if she were a client in your office. She's been in love with two men, and the first was passive and totally subordinate to her, and the second was a man, no matter what his strengths, twenty-five years her junior. What are the implications of that? Ayn needs to be in control. And look at how she behaves when she can't be." I was stopped dead in my tracks — because I saw that Barbara was right."

And this: "For example, in the two-year period following the publication of Atlas Shrugged, I visited her on an average of two or three evenings a week for the express purpose of trying to help her with a problem that was so distressing to her that she was unable to write or to project her future goals: the problem of her disgust with and revulsion at the intellectual state of our culture. Many other examples, of a more personal nature, could readily be cited."

"I stressed the fact that I believed Miss Rand's accusations were the result of great emotional stress, and that she would not stand by them when she was more calm.
There are certain extraordinary and shocking psychological aspects of this conflict with Miss Rand, about which I want to comment briefly. I refer to the quality of what can only be called religious mania which characterizes the behavior of many of Miss Rand's supporters. "


So, yes, Ayn did a lot of projecting, on Frank and on me, to justify and make sense of her feelings for each of us. There's probably a little projecting in all relationships, but Ayn took projection into the stratosphere. She over-praised me many times. That was really harmful — and seductive. So long as I was "her" man, everything I did was "genius." Very intoxicating to a young man.

What is Branden? A psychologist. What is the mind? We are not talking neurological diagnosis, we are talking mental diagnosis, which are issues of philosophy. They ARE diagnosing Rand by claims that "MRS. LOGIC" was in fact behaving irrationally. It is Branden the psychologist who, after hearing Rand gush in adulthood over her childhood hero Cyrus, diagnosed Rand as a victim of arrested development. Branden the psychiatrist who said: "If Ayn could have faced her emotions honestly, if she could have let herself examine her fears, hurts, angers, and jealousies — above all, if she could have admitted fully how wounded she was — she would have been a far greater human being and would have left a far greater personal legacy. " Or this: "It was hard for Ayn to fully see anyone's needs but her own. This is often true of highly creative people with an over-riding sense of mission. We get something very close to narcissism." Or this: "people with a less grandiose view of themselves probably have a better chance of succeeding in such a project with some reasonable degree of sanity and balance. Ayn and I — who were operating totally out of reality — had no chance whatsoever." (At least he includes himself here.)

Michael, the Brandens know just how deep to bite the hand that feeds them; both bio's claim this or that about Rand, then go on to deny the claims. For example, they bring up issues of Rand's paranoid behavior or cultism, then spend time debunking the claim that Rand was paranoid because of amphetamine use (even as Barbara quotes the doctor as saying of the possiblity "maybe they did, maybe they didn't"), or denying that Objectivism was a cult because it didn't meet the standard criteria. Their arguments amount to: " Rand was a genius, but she was mental. But she was a hero. But she did a lot of harm. But she was warm and tender. But she was cold and callous."




(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/24, 9:56pm)




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Post 113

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 9:30pmSanction this postReply
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I don't have the Branden books or Valliant's book to reference tonight, but for now:
From James Valliant's posts on NOTABLOG:

"Very well, maybe all that the book does is to show that Rand was not literally insane, as previously suggested.

"Branden short swipes and jabs—as well as the longer negative articles and reviews by others about Rand’s work that were published in National Review—were small potatoes indeed compared to his recent “historical” novel, Getting It Right. For the first time we get a whole book, and one that is deeply inspired by the Brandens’ legend. (Anyone else see another film there?) More importantly, a whole new dimension has been added to the assault—the attack against Rand based on her “private life” and psychology.
The impact of the Brandens has simply been incomparable to that of previous critics. Thus, into a loud and well-publicized conversation, already long begun by others, my book is obviously only a single new voice.

"...the “psychotherapy” Branden claims to have given Rand during what Rand herself called her post-ATLAS SHRUGGED “crisis” period as an established fact. He takes their accounts of Rand’s emotions and emotional outburst at the time of the break at face value. These are matters that would seem difficult to so corroborate and plausibility is admittedly insufficient corroboration. As they say, plausibility is often the costume of lies.

"Sciabarra himself refers to a “Branden-inspired” play depicting Rand as “an insane woman.”



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Post 114

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 9:38pmSanction this postReply
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From Barbara's book, where she speculates as to whether or not an unbalanced Rand was needed to complete her mission:

"And yet, when one looks at the life of Ayn Rand, one must wonder if the dogmatic absolutism of her certainty, the blinding conviction of her own rectitude and her special place in the world, the callousness of her intolerance for opinions that were not hers, the unwavering assurance that she was alone to know the truth and that others must seek it from her -- the eyes that looked neither to the left nor to the right, but only at the path ahead -- the savage innocence of her personality -- was not the fuel required for the height of achievement she attained. Just as when one looks at history's great achievers one so often encounters the desperate loneliness and alienation which is perhaps the emotional price paid by men and women who see farther than their brothers, so one encounters these qualities in Ayn Rand. And one must wonder if they are not precisely the qualities that make possible the courage and uncompromising dedication of those who forge new paths through the unknown, enduring and persevering,shouting defiance at tne enormity of the opposition which follows them at each step of their lonely journey,and adding new glories to our world. "

(Again, this is the kind of speculation, if true, that leads me to wonder if Rand exhibited Asperger traits. If Barbara is not the slime portrayed, and is accurate about Rand, that leads me to wonder if Rand exhibited something like Aspergers. If Barbara is wrong, and really is smearing Rand, then my speculation is worthless, based on the Branden's bio's alone. Notice that it's not ME attributing these things to Rand, it's Barbara. I'm only matching the description to a name.)




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Post 115

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 9:42pmSanction this postReply
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Barbara and Nathaniel on Rand's paranoia and amphetamine usage (This can be used as a defense of the Branden's as NOT labeling Rand mentally ill, it can also be said to be a case of wanting it both ways. Personally, I see the speculation of the drug's effect on Rand by others as an attempt to make sense of the accounts that claim Rand was paranoid and such to begin with.) Notice N. Branden's uncertainly.

Barbara: "I did not attach significance to the fact that, since her late twenties, she had been taking amphetamines daily for weight control, on the advice of a physician. I do not think the discovery had yet been made that a protracted use of amphetamines can precipitate paranoid reactions.

Dexamyl consists of two chemicals: an amphetamine and a barbiturate. It was not until the sixties that researchers investigated the effects of large doses of these chemicals. They found that extremely high doses were harmful, sometimes even resulting in paranoid symptoms; but to this day, there is only the most fragmentary and contradictory scientific evidence to suggest that low doses such as Ayn took could be harmful. As one pharmacological specialist has said: "Perhaps they hurt her, and perhaps they didn't."

In the early seventies, when for the first time she became seriously ill, her doctor took her medical history, and, quite innocently, she told him about the Dexamyl. Disapproving, he ordered her to cease taking them at once. She never took another.

I include this discussion only because I have learned that a number of people, aware that she took this medication, have drawn ominous conclusions about Ayn's mental health; there is no scientific basis for their conclusions. "

Nathaniel: "Branden: She was taking a relatively small quantity of a drug called Dexedrine which in those days doctors were prescribing very freely for people who wanted to control their appetite. Today of course Dexedrine has a bad name and it's no longer recommended. But it was recommended to her, I think, when she was only twenty-eight years of age, and she had been taking two pills a day, I believe almost as long as she lived. I don't think she took heavy doses.

There's been some research that suggests that if you take Dexedrine year after year it may possibly introduce certain paranoid trends. I don't know if this is true or not. I know that there's been discussion about it in the pharmacological literature. I don't know what the more recent research is. "


(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/24, 9:45pm)




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Post 116

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 9:58pmSanction this postReply
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My apologies for the amount of posts, everyone. But it was asked for. The existence of speculations on Ayn Rand's mental health by the Brandens can't be denied.



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Post 117

Thursday, November 24, 2005 - 10:56pmSanction this postReply
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Dayaamm Joe!

That was some Thanksgiving with the family!

But thank you. I see that you are uncomfortable with the psychological speculations of both of the Brandens about Ayn Rand, but I have yet to see you present a clear statement of mental illness from them.

Therapy for stress or observations of emotional repression or the need for control are not akin to diagnosing a person as clinically insane. You seem to be more uncomfortable with a possible stigma that might have resulted from their observations than with an actual accusation of insanity.

My take is that both Brandens were seeking the motives for Rand's behavior to the best of their abilities and knowledge.

I find the idea of a purposeful smear job both ridiculous and only possible within the cult-like mentality that Objectivist organizations like ARI have spawned and actively cultivated.

The best way to cover your own omissions, for example, is to accuse others of omission. OK, the therapy sought by Nathaniel and the shaggy dog story he told during it were omitted. I don't think that it was purposely omitted to denigrate Rand's image. It was just more dirty laundry that they decided not to air. Possibly it was because it was embarrassing. Possibly it was because of one of many things other than the motives put forth on Valliant's list of derogatory speculations.

(Whoever said that his speculations are all there is to reality, anyway? One thing that needs to be done is to go through his lists of derogatory speculations and provide other "possibilities" and "perhaps" and "it seems" and "it could be," etc. At least on the main issues.)

But how much has ARI omitted over the years? They are now erasing Brandens' voices on historical recordings and selling them, for goodness sake. Does one omission justify all these others? One thing is certain. ARI'S omissions have been on purpose and they have had the specific aim of rewriting history. I don't believe that this has been consistently done because of something like embarrassment. I see that they have specifically and maliciously targeted individuals over the years.

Branden had quite a lot of empirical evidence on his self-esteem theories from his practice when he wrote his two memoirs, in addition to having written quite a lot on it, and in addition to his relationship with Rand. Barbara also had the conclusions of 18 years of intimacy with Rand, a part of that time as Rand's confidant, and the knowledge gained from being close to a great psychologist for many years.

You can agree or disagree with their observations, just as you can agree or disagree with the self-esteem school of psychology. But those observations were based on a solid basis of theoretical and practical knowledge - and years of intimate living with Rand. This was not mere guesswork or, as Valliant claims, blatant dishonesty.

Even the amphetamine thing made it clear that if there had been any effect on Rand's personality at all (which both Brandens seem to clearly doubt), it would have affected some trait or other, not effected a full blown 24/7 personality transformation.

What is wrong with a genius having internal contrasts anyway? I have been close to several artistic geniuses and they are all full of internal contrasts. That seems to come with the territory of being highly focused and talented.

My conclusion is that the Brandens discussed Rand's motivations as they understood them and speculated on what could have been improved or what was deficient from a psychological angle based on the self-esteem school of psychology.

But they did not pronounce her as mentally ill.

The portrait they both give of her is as a genius - and a tremendous benefactor of humanity - with her own internal problems and personality quirks.

Like all geniuses.

Michael





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Post 118

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 4:02amSanction this postReply
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I found these quotes from Robert's article interesting:

He began to glamorize the character of [Patrecia], in order to convince himself that she represented his values (at least, in part). He minimizes the extent, nature, and seriousness of her flaws—and exaggerates the extent and meaning of her (potential) virtues. His proof of her virtues does not consist primarily (basically), of observed facts, but of an undefined "sense of life" feeling or "hunch." (He should compare this to the way in which he established the virtues of [Ayn]. The [psycho-epistemological] difference is shocking.) (p. 279)

He said that only three persons meant anything to him, in the whole world: I, [Barbara Branden] and [Patrecia]. This was an equation like: "Philosopher, novelist and notary public (or advertising model)." (p. 328)


The first is interesting because the same could be said of Rand's glamorization of Frank O'Connor. Similarly, the second is interesting because such personal comparisons and implied standards clearly contradict ~Rand's~ choices -- choices which reveal that the value she found in a romantic partner didn't necessarily have anything to do with the greatness of his intellect, the number and scope of his professional accomplishments, or even the level of ambition with which he pursued his dreams. Since Rand married, and remained married to, Frank O'Connor (I don't think that a largely-unemployed ex-actor/cuckolded house-husband/paint dabbler of average intelligence outranks a notary public/advertising model/"girl next door" of average intelligence), I'd have thought that she would've been eager to discover which of Frank's virtues Patrecia may have shared, rather than reviling her for her lack of accomplishments, intellect or professional stature. If Rand was not primarily driven by jealousy, wouldn't her reasons for opposing Patrecia as a romantic partner of Branden's ~not~ also apply to Frank and his similar unworthiness of being ~her~ life-long romantic partner? Wouldn't a non-jealous Rand have ~scolded~ Branden for believing that Patrecia and, by implication, Frank, were unworthy simply because they weren't driven, accomplished giants or heroically confident geniuses, instead of taking the opportunity to ~agree~ with Branden's confused view that an Objectivist hero of his brilliance shouldn't fall in love with an "inferior" woman?

J




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Post 119

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 7:11amSanction this postReply
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Michael, whether or not the Branden's claimed Rand was full-on psychotic is besides the point. What is clinically insane, anyway? Neurological or philosophical? Homosexuality was considered a mental illness back then, as well. Branden's claiming that Rand was developmentally arrested is enough to mark her character.

" My conclusion is that the Brandens discussed Rand's motivations as they understood them and speculated on what could have been improved or what was deficient from a psychological angle based on the self-esteem school of psychology."

The same way that Barbara diagnosed Frank and Linz as alchoholics based on weak evidence? If Barbara is not simply smearing, she's working within the dangerous framework of psychology as social control.




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