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Post 120

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 9:36amSanction this postReply
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Jonathan,

You need to read PARC and see what Rand thought of Frank O'Connor and what his actual contributions were to her life and work before assuming so much about him. He was much more, in fact and in Rand's eyes, than what Branden himself said about Patrecia to Rand.




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Post 121

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 9:48amSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I'm not going to defend ALL of the assertions in the Branden books, but I'm simply not going to dismiss their contributions as without value either. (There are oodles of statements in PARC where this is done with outright accusations of dishonesty.)

I don't like all-or-nothing judgments on issues where all-or-nothing judgments do not belong.

Saying that Rand displayed a controlling aspect to her personality or repressed emotions is not the same as saying that she was psychotic. Yet the claim that the Brandens stated that she was mentally ill or insane sure implies that they said she was psychotic - especially when they did not even use those words.

Mental health? There's a big difference between an ingrown toenail and cancer. Saying that one has an ingrown toenail is not the same as saying that he has terminal cancer. The same principle applies to mental health.

Also, sanitizing ALL of ones observations in a memoir to statements like "Rand was irritable at times" to give lip service to being objective, but with the subtext being that the fault always was on the person near her who made her that way, is nowhere near a serious attempt at giving your own honest impressions. The major complaint against the Brandens to me seems to be that they did not do this. They spoke their minds and called he shots as they saw them and lived them.

I just want to make that clear.

Michael





Post 122

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 11:30amSanction this postReply
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Regarding a "specific" instance of the Branden's diagnosing Rand as insane, Valliant refers to N. Branden's books for this. While ackowleding that Branden doesn't commit to a full blown diagnosis, he does point to Branden's acceptance of the diagnosis from Patrecia that Rand was insane. I don't have JUDGEMENT DAY to provide the exact quotes, so this is from PARC:

(195)

"Branden quotes with sympathy the assertion of his...mistress, Patrecia, that Rand was literally insane on the subject of himself, if not many other aspects, as well. Branden tells us that, for some years, Patrecia had repeatedly spoken of Rand's 'madness.' Branden says that he was not 'ready to hear this' about Rand-but also implies that he agreed with this assessment."

(283-284)
"Morever, it is Branden's claim that Patrecia has been telling him for some time that she literally thought Rand to be insane...Branden 'was agreeing with Patrecia about Rand's 'insanity, ' and assuring her that he was trying to get out of the situation."

Chris Sciabarra has provided me with this quote from JD: "(on p. 372): "If Ayn was 'insane' [NOTICE N.B. PLACES THAT IN QUOTES], I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving her contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings..." etc., etc., etc.."


(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/25, 11:34am)

(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/25, 11:47am)




Post 123

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 12:23pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

The part I believe Valliant refers to I quoted on this thread in Post 106.

Those quote marks around the word "insane," and the speculative manner he was describing it as a prelude for describing his own feeling of responsibility, lead me to believe his meaning was something like "emotionally unbalanced," and only then within a limited context.

How would that quote sound like, instead of this?

If Ayn is "insane," I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving her contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings...

How about this?

If Ayn now needs to be committed to an asylum for insanity, I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving her contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings...

Are these two statements the same thing in your view?

(I made the exaggeration in the second because I wanted to keep the original text and the difference between the clinical and popular meanings only comes out like that. In another context, it would have been simpler.)

This is small point, I know. But as I said earlier, within the present context of hostility toward the Brandens, precision is the least that can be asked for. (That should be the case anyway in any context...  //;-)

Michael




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Post 124

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 12:46pmSanction this postReply
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Once again, I found myself asking The Big Questions about it all... What good is any of this, what does it mean, why is it here, what is the purpose, why do people care so much, why does this stale thing fascinate them, even in the era of high-profile interpersonal tabloid drama-sludge... and, the Biggest of all Big Questions- will it ever stop, or at least reduce to a trickle?

I am convinced that that answer is "no". Never, never, never. Never.

I could see something like this happening: A hundred years from now, it's finally reduced to a historical footnote- a short treatment talking about the controversy within the movement, blah blah. The movement has managed, in it's magnificence, to spread to a kick-ass 1% of the population, which is almost 1% more than where it was when I was alive, mainly because the first generation of followers finally collapsed in a fit of interpersonal convulsion, death came to them.

And then, some motherfucker won't be able to control himself, and, he'll  find another motherfucker on the opposite side of the argument, and it will be off to the races, again.

This here was a civilized article, it was. But The Thing itself, it is a pulverized puree of horsemeat, rich in cereal filler.

rde




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Post 125

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 12:50pmSanction this postReply
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Michael wrote: "How would that quote sound like, instead of this?

If Ayn is "insane," I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving her contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings...

How about this?

If Ayn now needs to be committed to an asylum for insanity, I told myself, I have contributed to it. By giving her contradictory signals. By not letting her know the limits of my feelings...

Are these two statements the same thing in your view? "

Yes, they are, Michael. They only differ in the prescription. It wasn't necessary for Branden to suggest incarceration (of course, since Rand did not initiate force and was capable of taking care of herself, why would he even suggest it?). But the effect is still the same: to call into question Rand's mental state to make his case look better. It's a means of discrediting Rand. The same purpose that Szasz claimed asylums were built for: to deal with undesirables. (Yes, he admits that if it's true, he contributed. But he also claims that he couldn't just walk away because Rand was so powerful.)

Michael, at this point, we are going to spin in circles. We have differing interpretations over the same examples.We've identified our disagreement as being an argument over the Branden's intentions in using words suggesting mental illness. (Indeed, the fact that they seem to ride the fence on this issue is sheer genius, by playing this game, they've left it open the possibility of a "civil war" based on this alone. Divide and conquer...) To go any further would require a whole other thread on the nature of mental illness and the validity of the Szasian argument of mental illness as metaphor and the danger of using those terms even as slang.
So this is my "closing statement" on the matter here. I agree with Valliant, who sums it up with this: "Branden does not committ himself to many clear opinions about Rand-positive of negative-but he does adeptly insinuate several which are quite dubious...As a professional psychologist who knew Rand in both personal and professional contexts, Mr. Branden cannot say that Rand was clinically paranoid, but he does claim that in 'her grandiosity and suspiciousness [Rand's] behavior bordered AT TIMES on paranoia..."

"Given the ample evidence which Branden supplies that REFUTES these same theories, he elects to merely suggest the worst without committing himself."

(And for the record, before I hear claims of sycophant: before I read PARC, I was taking shots at the author on NOTABLOG, calling him "Prince Valliant", but still sympathising with his argument regarding the Branden's portrayal of Rand as mentally ill.)



(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/25, 12:51pm)

(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/25, 12:59pm)




Post 126

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 12:52pmSanction this postReply
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Rich, it's never going to go away as long as the Branden's accounts of Rand's personality cast doubts on the validity of the psychology. N.Branden himself claims that the holes in the philosophy are due to Rand's psychology, and that he can point to the holes.



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Post 127

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 1:04pmSanction this postReply
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Jonathan wonders in post 118:

"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?"

Rand was the *source* of "Branden's confused view that an Objectivist hero of his brilliance shouldn't fall in love with an 'inferior' woman." Vide, for her views on sexual psychology, her delineation of her theory of the nature of sexual dynamics in Atlas Shrugged.

As to the description "jealousy" in regard to AR's reaction to the thought of Nathaniel's having a relationship with Patrecia: although I understand why this term is being used, and what it is in Rand's journal entries (quoted by Robert Campbell) which supports a "jealousy" interpretation, I think that "jealousy" is the wrong term for her reaction. I think that a deep sense of *insult* is what she'd have felt -- insult that the same person who had been attracted to her, AR, could also be attracted to someone so much less by Rand's standards. This would have seemed to her a kind of slap in the face to her own greatness. I think what she'd have felt was demeaned, rather than "jealous."

As to Ayn's evaluation of Frank: She continued to claim to her death that Frank *was* a person of heroic stature. Thus the implied comparison doesn't work, since she wouldn't herself have seen the comparison.

Ellen Stuttle


(Edited by Lysandra
on 11/25, 1:29pm)




Post 128

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 1:21pmSanction this postReply
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Rich,

I reluctantly sanction your post #124 because you've captured my feelings so well in your description of "The Thing" and my feelings of resignation towards these "discussions". You certainly have a way with words.



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Post 129

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 1:32pmSanction this postReply
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Rich,

In response to your #124:

I don't believe that the personal stuff will go away so long as an appreciable number of Randians fail to differentiate between Objectivism the idea and Ayn Rand the person.

Since Rand herself encouraged this failure to differentiate, and new generations are now being trained in it, I can only hope that AR's break with NB will be reduced to footnote status in 100 years.

Tibor,

In response to your #23:

I think the personal stuff matters so long as there is an Ayn Rand Institute, or any other influential group that promotes the worship of Ayn Rand and obstructs objective examination of her ideas.

Robert Campbell




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Post 130

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 2:12pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Fahy,
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.
Far from avoiding anything, I responded to Mr. Valliant on this issue in my #59, quite a ways upstream from here.

Frankly, I don't know why you think NB's input was so crucial.  In her entries, AR puts forward many of her own judgments about Patrecia Scott.  And PARC discloses that AR had "counseled" PS in 1967.

I also don't know whether you think NB's input made AR's judgments about PS more accurate or less accurate.  (In his book, Mr. Valliant never questions their accuracy.)

In this connection, I recommend Ellen Stuttle's response to Jonathan in #127:
Rand was the *source* of "Branden's confused view that an Objectivist hero of his brilliance shouldn't fall in love with an 'inferior' woman." Vide, for her views on sexual psychology, her delineation of her theory of the nature of sexual dynamics in Atlas Shrugged.

In PARC, Mr. Valliant never takes Rand's sexual psychology seriously.  I believe that this prevents him from understanding either AR's attitudes in 1967-68, or NB's.

Robert Campbell




Post 131

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 2:45pmSanction this postReply
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N.Branden himself claims that the holes in the philosophy are due to Rand's psychology, and that he can point to the holes.
 
I don't recall seeing that anywhere, but it's been awhile. Where'd he say that, Judgment Day?

It wouldn't suprise me if he were right. I am coming to believe that there are things relating to consciousness that limit Objectivism as a system. Or at least not provide enough for those that stay purely within it.






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Post 132

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 3:15pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Not for one minute do I think you are a sycophant. We have an honest disagreement. Nothing more.

For the record, the reason I am spending so much effort on this is because I have another area I wish to discuss with intelligent people and explore (master and disciple relationships), but I don't have any interest at all so long as the noise level continues as high as it is.

I don't think the Brandens, Peikoff, Valliant or anyone at all for that matter, are so important that they can stand in the way of truth. Attributing the Brandens with that is a mistake. That's my position.

Thank goodness Rand's books were published by top quality professional publishers and not presses belonging only to Objectivist organizations. That (including the quality of her books) has been the Number One reason her ideas have continued to spread so far.

Michael


btw - I just saw Casey's Post 120 about Rand's opinion of Frank O'Connor. I know this is going to sound strange coming from me, but I agree with him. (Not for any particular reason. Simply because I agree in this case.)

Ayn Rand loved Frank very much her whole life long, from what I can gather. Comparing him to Patrecia is comparing two different worlds based on very superficial similarities and especially drops the context of their lives during the writing of Rand's books when she was a struggling nobody on the market. Standing by Rand's work and supporting her because he believed in her during that time of life was heroic.


(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 11/25, 3:27pm)




Post 133

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 3:37pmSanction this postReply
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Rich, In a REASON interview, I believe...
(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 11/25, 3:38pm)




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Post 134

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 9:21pmSanction this postReply
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This is for Joe, Ashley, and others who mentioned Asperger's on this thread.

Human personality differences exist on a continuum. The various "syndromes," "disorders" etc are defined by a direction away from either a normal (optimally functional) or "normal" (average) personality - the two concepts of "normal" are seldom clear enough in the minds of psychologists to make explicit the difference between the two perspectives. Direction - not distance. But for a diagnosis, the distance from normal in that direction needs to be so great that mental or social functioning is significantly impaired.

Thus, it may very well be that Lawrence Summers, Albert Einstein, and Ayn Rand diverged from the average person in the direction of Asperger's, or that Nathaniel Branden diverges from the normal in the direction of Dissociative Identity Disorder. But people of very high intelligence can compensate very effectively for whatever disadvantages in social relations might be caused by their divergences. Therefore people of very high intelligence seldom "qualify for a diagnosis" of Asperger's, or of any other divergence that might be grounds for a "diagnosis" in someone who cannot compensate for the divergence as well as they can.

This means that there will be systematic differences between those who function passably well but diverge from normal in the direction of Asperger's; those who compensate well enough to achieve world-class excellence - perhaps even discovering ways to use their divergence in the service of their genius, as Einstein and Rand may have done; and those who lack enough in the way of other abilities to compensate effectively, and get diagnosed with Asperger's (or some other divergence) in childhood. The sample of the kids you see, Ashley, is skewed toward the latter. Add the fact that Asperger's is the least-disabling condition in the autistic spectrum, and therefore the diagnosis is often given when there isn't enough data for any specific diagnosis as a kind of "diagnosis of hope."

So, Ashley, the manifestations you see in children with a diagnosis of Asperger's, are bound to be very different from what you would see in those adults who diverge from the average in the same direction - and happen to be able to find ways to use that divergence in the service of genius.

Full disclosure: in early childhood, I was suspected of having an unidentified neurological disorder. I remember being taken around to several diagnosticians, who eventually told my parents that whatever I had, I was already learning to compensate for it well enough that I would never "qualify" for a diagnosis. And so it has been.




Post 135

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 9:41pmSanction this postReply
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Adam, thank you, that was a very balanced explanation.



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Post 136

Friday, November 25, 2005 - 9:47pmSanction this postReply
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Adam,

I agree with Joe. Bonk.

Joe,

Adam's approach is along the lines of what I was getting at. Degrees. Not all-or-nothing.

When I read the Branden books, I didn't get an impression of an insane woman. I got more of an impression of a genius with quirks.

Michael




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Post 137

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 3:35amSanction this postReply
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Ellen: “I think that a deep sense of *insult* is what she'd have felt -- insult that the same person who had been attracted to her, AR, could also be attracted to someone so much less by Rand's standards…”

But this doesn’t explain why Rand was suspicious of Patrecia, and yet comfortable with Barbara, who had often confessed deep feelings of inadequacy and self-esteem. Despite these confessions, Rand was happy to see Nathaniel and Barbara married.

I think this points to a quite different dynamic – as long as Barbara remained Branden’s romantic partner, Rand could hold out hope of a resumption of their sexual relationship.

Barbara was a known quantity – she had acquiesced in sharing her husband romantically, and had done so for a number of years without overt complaint or ultimatum. Barbara was one of “us”-- biddable and controllable.

Patrecia was a different matter entirely. She was an unknown quantity. There was no guarantee she would roll over and share Branden in the way Barbara had done. In that case, if Branden were to embark on an affair with Patrecia, there was every chance Rand would lose him.

If jealousy denotes, among other things, possessiveness, suspicion and rivalry, then Rand at least displayed signs of jealousy, and with good reason. After all, she had lost Branden to Patrecia. She just didn't know it yet.

Brendan




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Post 138

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 9:46amSanction this postReply
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When I read the Branden books, I didn't get an impression of an insane woman. I got more of an impression of a genius with quirks.
 
Exactly. There was nothing in there that made my bullshit detector go off. As a matter of fact, it greatly enhanced my appreciation of AR. It's very easy to pick up on it when someone is trying to paint another a certain way for their own end. It's virtually impossible to miss that kind of move, I don't care how good the person is. It just isn't there.

But, it didn't matter what either of the Brandens wrote in their books, or how they wrote them- there would be some version of the same situation going on. If I hadn't read MYWAR, (ever notice how that anagrams out...geez), I would never have re-embraced her work, and if that makes me irrational or just stupid, so effing be it.

rde
Pragmatist when he feels like it.

(Edited by Rich Engle on 11/26, 9:47am)




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Post 139

Saturday, November 26, 2005 - 10:09amSanction this postReply
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A remarkable feature of Mr. Valliant's book has yet to elicit any notice on this thread.

Mr. Valliant apparently regards Ayn Rand's role as therapist or counselor--not just with Nathaniel Branden, but also with others among her followers and associates--as perfectly normal and natural.

Three questions:

(1) Should a lover offer therapy or counseling to a troubled (or estranged) lover?

(2) Should a master offer therapy or counseling to a disciple?

(3) Should a person with spotty knowledge of psychology and no hands-on training in counseling offer such services to anybody?

If you know a counselor or a clinician, ask him or her these questions.  I think you will find the answers interesting.

Robert Campbell




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