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Ayn Rand? Jealous?
Those who look to Ayn Rand as the ultimate exemplar of Objectivist virtue will take any indication that she was jealous of another woman as significantly detracting from her status as a moral paragon.
Those who have not succeeded in separating Rand’s ideas from Rand the person will interpret such indications as threats to the Objectivist ethics, if not to the entire system.
From a genuinely objective standpoint, Rand’s philosophy can be appreciated or criticized without any need to drag in the details of her personal life. Indeed, those who insist that Rand had to be morally perfect, or she couldn’t have written Atlas Shrugged, are obstructing the objective assessment of her ideas. They are standing just as squarely in the way as those who maintain that Rand had an affair with a younger man that ended badly, so she had to be nutty and immoral and couldn’t have had any ideas worth assessing.
The problem, for all of us who would much prefer to be discussing Rand’s ideas, is that many of Rand’s professed admirers are continuing to make an issue of her personal life.
James Valliant has claimed, I believe sincerely, that his goal is to clear the way for an objective appreciation of Rand’s ideas. But it hasn’t worked out that way. While his efforts have yet to make a dent among convinced anti-Randians, they have pumped up new fervor among Rand-worshippers.
In the present context, then, there is no way around addressing certain specifics of Ayn Rand’s life and character. If the job is not done, fairly and objectively, the Rand-worshippers will declare victory (as some are already doing) and will press on all the more vigorously with their false alternative: uncritical pro-Randianism or uncritical anti-Randianism.
A major subgoal of Mr. Valliant’s book, The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, is to refute Nathaniel and Barbara Branden’s allegations that Ayn Rand was jealous of Nathaniel Branden’s secret lover, Patrecia Scott. Mr. Valliant goes to great lengths to discredit most of NB and BB’s recollections of conversations with AR as fabricated or distorted. But he also provides genuine—though less than complete—new evidence, in the form of AR’s journal entries about NB.
If you want to know whether Ayn Rand was jealous, read the entries. They begin on page 237 of The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics, and end on page 378.
Skip Mr.Valliant’s comments along the way about what she was thinking and feeling. Don’t linger over his effusive praise of her psychological acumen. After you’ve assimilated what Rand wrote, you’ll be in a position to go back and judge what Mr. Valliant says she wrote.
Reading my article is no more of a substitute for reading what Rand wrote than reading Mr. Valliant’s comments and conclusions would be. My sole aim here is to point out passages in Rand’s own journal entries that appear to undermine Mr. Valliant’s case.
I’ll go in chronological order, from November 1967 through July 1968.
Of the possibility of breaking with Nathaniel Branden (which at the time she said would mean an end to their personal relationship, but not their business relationship), Rand wrote:
I would be able to accept it only by means of dropping my entire estimate or view of him. My estimate would then be: here is a man who for some reason unknown to me, was unable to live up to his own greatness and mine, and ran from it (particularly mine); he preferred me not to exist; he killed me before my time, as far as he was concerned. So I would have to forget him—as one more, and last, and worst, instance of being penalized for my virtues. This hurts dreadfully. (November 27, 1967, p. 244)In other words, the end of their intimate relationship would require her to devalue NB sharply, as one "unable to live up to his greatness and mine."
Such gross devaluation of a former lover is close kin to jealousy, but not the same. The answer to the jealousy question must come from Rand’s references to the woman she had lost NB to.
If Rand had any suspicion in 1967 that Patrecia Scott was her rival, she did not voice it in the earliest entries. But on January 3, 1968 she made a cryptic entry about a conversation with NB that included "1. That the cause was not [Patrecia Scott]" (p. 247).
During January 1968, AR and NB’s conversations apparently included hypothetical references to a possible simultaneous affair between NB and a "Miss X." (Of course there already was a Miss X, well before any of these trial balloons went up, and NB was still not admitting her existence.)
This means in effect: he knows that "Miss X" would be unacceptable to me and not to him; if she appears and he takes her, he does not have to drop me, I will have to drop him… He will be free to regard it as my choice and accept it as a decision or event out of his control. (January 25, 1968, p. 251)Oh no, AR isn’t jealous. She’s perfectly willing to accept a "Miss X" in NB’s life.
In her entry from January 31, 1968, Rand advanced a theory of "psychological altruism" as the ruination, first of NB’s love for Barbara Branden, then of his love for AR herself.
The new pleasure (or new woman) has to be inferior to his values—because (1) if it (she) were not, the same "altruistic" pattern would set in; he can feel free to "be himself" and enjoy it only so long as it (or she) is regarded by him as "unimportant" or dispensable; (2) if the new were not inferior, it could not be isolated from his hierarchy of values and he could not attempt to enjoy it out of context; he would have to face the problem of integrating it with his former great value and attempt to explain to himself his giving up the former value. (p. 276)AR admits the possibility that BB was the wrong woman for NB (p. 276). She does not concede that she herself might have been (p. 277).
Meanwhile, any woman who takes AR’s place will have to be "inferior to his values." No jealousy in any of this, of course.
The case of [Patrecia]. … (The obvious inferiority of the woman to himself permitted him the freedom of selfishness, the conviction that his terms and standards were right and should be given supremacy—so long as the mind classified the relationship as mere friendship…) (p. 278)
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)AR still accepts NB’s lies about Patrecia being just a friend. She is convinced, in any case, that as an inferior being, Patrecia wouldn’t deserve NB’s love.
In the case of [Patrecia], the [psycho-epistemological] pattern is much worse: I like (or, possibly, love) her, therefore, she is ideal—and if my mind doesn’t agree, to hell with my mind—it (the mind) misled me once before, now I have the right to feel, without thinking. (p. 280)Rand tacked on a note concerning Patrecia’s character. It begins with a declaration that "I do not … understand her at all" (p. 282). But Rand proceeds to such firm opinions as "I do not think that she is honest" and "I think that she is shallow, superficial, and presumptuous, the presumptuousness consisting of her ‘idealism,’ which is unearned and unsupported conceptually or intellectually" (both p. 283).
Here Mr. Valliant can’t avoid recognizing how Rand’s negative judgments, all admittedly based on "stomach feeling," will come across to most readers. "Rand’s critics," he says, "will read only jealousy here." (p. 283)
So, Rand couldn’t have suspected that Patrecia was hiding something (i.e., her affair with NB) and been jealous of her?
And, if you interpret the foregoing statements as evidence that Rand was jealous of another woman, you must be one of "Rand’s critics." In Valliant-speak, that means you must hate her ideas and be direly in need of dirt on her personal life with which to discredit her.
No doubt I will be told that I am obtuse, or brimming with bad premises. But I am under the impression that Rand taught us not to make "package deals," and to reject those that others might try to sell us.
On February 14, 1968, Rand brought up the possibility that NB wanted a sexual relationship with PS and an "intellectual-spiritual" one with AR. "As far as I am concerned I will not be a Cyrano to a brainless Christian" (p. 291). No jealousy there.
In her treatise-length entry, from July 4, 1968, Rand now insisted on NB’s inferiority to her.
I want to stress this: I was and am too much for him. This is my full conviction… perhaps, I would not have been too much for the man he had the potentiality of becoming: a real Objectivist hero and creative genius. But I am too much for the role-playing of that hero, which he chose to become, instead. (pp. 323-324)Ruled out of consideration is any respect in which she might not have been enough for him.
One thing that precluded Objectivist hero status for NB was
his friendship with [Patrecia]—which had contradicted everything I knew about him in the past, particularly his passion for intelligence and intellectuality. What was worse, he began to claim that Patrecia reminded him of me or had some of my characteristics or some part of my sense of life… I tried to get acquainted with her myself—and observed nothing of the above, but only a fairly pretentious emptiness and fear. (p. 326)To make matters even worse:
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)Patrecia didn’t even count as an individual, so far as Rand was concerned: "his subconscious had decided that he must get rid of [Barbara Branden], then of me–in favor of [Patrecia]. (Strangely enough, I did not feel sure that it was necessarily [Patrecia] as a person, but I felt sure it was [Patrecia] as a symbol of a certain category of women…)" (p. 331).
Nathaniel Branden’s attraction to Patrecia "represented an attraction based on mutual flaws—not mutual values" (p. 344). Patrecia could never truly admire him, because she had lacked "rational values" to base any admiration on: "[Patrecia] gave him blind adulation (not admiration, but he could easily glamorize the first into the second)" (p. 345).
AR appealed to the best in NB, and Patrecia appealed to his worst: "Symbolically, this was a battle between my universe and [Patrecia’s]. Existentially and objectively, the choice to keep [Patrecia’s] and reject [mine] speaks for itself. And for the state of his self-esteem" (p. 346).
If he still intends to save his rational self, the battle is now or never… Existentially, he must not have any romantic or friendship relationship with [Patrecia]—because he cannot cure an evil premise while continuing to act on it. ([Patrecia] herself may not be wholly evil—but the motive of his interest in her, is. Actually, she is the "girl next door.") (p. 348)I don’t have room to reproduce the opening pages of Rand’s entry of July 8, 1968 (pp. 350-353). Just keep the context in mind when Rand denounces NB as "a man who professes a passion for a ‘stylized universe,’ and then rejects all of it because he feels a sexual urge for the bodies of chorus girls!" (p. 351), or thunders that he wants "to bring a whore into the church, put her up on the altar and proclaim that she is a goddess!" (p. 352). She has already identified herself and Patrecia (or, at least, the Patrecia type) as the contenders for NB’s soul.
"I do not believe that he fell in love with [Patrecia]—because love, on any level, is a response to values…" (p. 361). "[H]e kept insisting that he sees some wonderful qualities in her… which were not seen, not even sensed, by anyone else (most emphatically not by me)…. Her particular flaws coincided with his…" (p. 362).
And what did he get, in exchange for his mind and soul? … Nothing but empty chatter with [Patrecia] at their lunches… with himself (a mind like his!) keeping silent and listening to the theatrical prattling of a girl who bores much lesser minds within half-an-hour… Well, what else was there to do with a girl of that kind? (pp. 362-363)Rand has devoted some pages now to insisting that her rival had nothing to offer NB. To which Mr. Valliant has no response, except to assure us that "Female jealousy, in the traditional sense, was alien to Rand…" (p. 367). He even moves quickly past Rand’s report (from an entry of July 12) that she has forbidden NB to socialize with Patrecia any more (p. 369).
The entries conclude with the verdict that Nathaniel Branden has abandoned his highest values (i.e., Ayn Rand) so he can "fit in" with other, purely ordinary people (like Patrecia), who represent no positive value at all. "I was his only bridge to reality" (p.377); rejecting Ayn Rand meant "the surrender of Galt to the folks next door" (pp. 377-378).
Perhaps Mr. Valliant is not used to seeing jealousy expressed in terms so high-flown. Only once, for instance, does Rand refer to Patrecia’s appearance (on p. 362, when she attributes to NB the sentiment, "She is tall, blonde, and makes me feel free"). But I found the overall message of the entries to be absolutely clear—Patrecia is so far beneath NB (and, of course, AR) as to have no positive qualities worth reporting. Does Mr. Valliant believe this to be the objective truth? Does he even feel a need for independent information about Patrecia—or is Ayn Rand’s say-so enough for him?
Mr. Valliant goes further. Not only was Ayn Rand free of jealousy, but she was angry at Nathaniel Branden and Patrecia Scott only because they lied to her. "Rand’s anger in July and August of 1968 was the result of nothing but Branden’s repeated dishonesty—not the fact that their romance was over" (p. 378).
With the publication of Rand’s journal entries from 1967 and 1968, we are all in a position to evaluate the Rand-worshippers’ assertion that Ayn Rand was never jealous.
So I strongly encourage everyone who wants to see Rand’s ideas treated fairly and objectively to read The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics. Not because Mr. Valliant’s assessment of Rand can be counted on to be fair and objective, but because Rand’s journal entries need to be consulted by anyone who wishes to make his or her own fair and objective assessment. The issues that the book raises will remain important so long as anyone continues to equate respectful treatment for her ideas with uncritical adulation of her person.
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