About
Content
Store
Forum

Rebirth of Reason
War
People
Archives
Objectivism

Post to this threadMark all messages in this thread as readMark all messages in this thread as unreadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Forward one pageLast Page


Post 120

Monday, July 18, 2005 - 9:10pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"And if I were one who had repeatedly hurt people or been callous about their feelings over time, I would at least acknowledge and make some sort of statement of apology or explanation at some point...Has he [Dr. Branden]? " [me, post #66]

Dr. Branden, after I posted the above, sent me a note suggesting that I come up and introduce myself (since he didn't recall the incidents I mentioned in my post) and say hello next time we are at the same event and mentioning that life affords opportunities for second chances.

I certainly agree and thought that this nice, cordial gesture goes some distance toward starting to alter my impression.

Phil Coates



Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 6, No Sanction: 0
Post 121

Monday, July 18, 2005 - 9:15pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Time for me to make some amends, folks. On July 7, I wrote:

"That's not at all how I interpret the "Hellen" episode, nor NB's purpose behind it. I don't think it's obvious, or even true, that the only plausible alternatives are that NB was mentally ill or engaging in a "malevolent practical joke." It was not that long ago that both Diana Hsieh and her one-time colleague Carolyn Ray each (at different times) were moderators of NB's discussion lists, as well as guests in his home (on more than one occasion). Things seemed quite cordial (but who knows, right?) for at least several years. Then, within the past two years, Diana did an abrupt 180 and began to scourge both the Brandens -- coincidentally (or not) during the same period that she divorced herself from The Objectivist Center and began drawing much closer to the Ayn Rand Institute. (And we all know how ARI feels about the Brandens!) Whether this was an "admission requirement" for entering the inner world of ARI scholarship and assistance, or instead merely Diana's own coincidental timing for arriving at a firm judgment about the Branden's -- well, I leave that to the reader. I really don't know, though I have my suspicions."

I appreciate the reader who brought to my attention that my suspicion of an "admission requirement" by ARI (of condemning the Brandens) would best have been handled by asking Diana directly, rather than speculating or insinuating, as I did in the above paragraph. My apologies to Diana and to everyone else who understandably found my comments inappropriate.

I also wrote:

"All of that is background, as I understand it. And my understanding of what then occurred on Diana's blog was that NB wanted a chance to confront Diana about her
harsh break from him and Barbara. After she told him that he was not welcome on her blog, NB apparently re-entered the blog under the guise of (or with the help of someone named) "Hellen" and tried to re-open the issue. To me, this is neither a sign of "mental illness" nor a "practical joke" (malevolent, or otherwise). Using a pseudonym (if that is really what NB did) is really pretty tame stuff. (It's not all that different from Devers finagling her way into Rand's apartment in the late 1980s in order to try to get her to reconcile with NB). It appears to have been motivated in this case by the desire to clear the air, to get Diana to re-engage with the issue, and to try to reach an understanding about what went so wrong that Diana had to do such a precipitous, harsh U-turn in regard to the Brandens. Diana has a habit/policy of very abruptly cutting off discussion of issues she doesn't want to continue, even if there is no element of rancor involved, and freezing out the Brandens is only one of the more frustrating examples of this. (Another is her intolerance over any discussion of the free will/determinism issue.) In any case, I think that Adam is indulging himself in a false alternative that fits his biases and is thus not remaining open to a more plausible explanation for the "Hellen" episode."

I want to make it clear that I am not saying that Diana (or any blog-manager) is under an obligation to allow any and all discussion. Some discussions are flawed by bad arguments, insults, and outright errors. Some discussions are just umpteenth, high-volume, low-insight rehashings of polarized issues. Certainly, it is reasonable to cut these short. However, I would think that a non-rancorous discussion of a topic of considerable interest to the most active participants on a blog-list would be one of the last things that a blog-manager would want to curtail -- and that was my impression of the free will/determinism discussion and its fate on Diana's blog-list. Still, I realize that Diana and others simply have no patience for this "perennial favorite," and they are completely within their rights to pull the plug on it, when it pops up on their blog-list.

I also want to make it clear that there is a sharp distinction to be made between terminating the above kinds of discussions and banning posts by people like the Brandens, whom Diana considers to be seriously immoral. There is irritation, and then there is moral outrage, true enough. Further, while I do not share her evaluation of them (to put it mildly), and while I think there would be considerable value to be gained by a two-way discussion of the facts and principles involved in their past behavior and her condemnation of it, again, Diana is certainly under no obligation to provide a forum for the Brandens.

So, I apologize for the indirectness in dealing with my suspicions about ARI, and I apologize for any suggestion that Diana is defaulting on some kind of obligation regarding her blog-list, whether in regard to serious moral issues or relatively tame topics.

Best to all,
REB




Post 122

Tuesday, July 19, 2005 - 3:53amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Phil,

I'm glad Dr. Branden has done this. At the most recent TOC Summer Seminar he was wonderfully open and available to everyone. He sat down and chatted for an hour and a half with a group of us. I think the endless speculation on his every move and every sentence he's written would be an impossible standard for anyone to bear up under.

Jim




Sanction: 8, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 8, No Sanction: 0
Post 123

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - 3:25pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
In keeping with the topic of this thread, I thought I'd mention that I have just published on my own blog a comprehensive review of James Valliant's book:

Reason, Passion, and History

Readers may post comments here at Notablog.

Cheers,
Chris




Sanction: 9, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 9, No Sanction: 0
Post 124

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - 1:28pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
For another, in-depth review of The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics, see

http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/valliant.htm

Robert Campbell



Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 125

Wednesday, July 20, 2005 - 3:56pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Sorry, I see that my recommendation for Chris Sciabarra's review and his own announcement crossed in cyberspace.

A tip to anyone who hasn't read PARC and is planning to:  Start with Part II.  That way you are getting Rand's own journal entries and you can form your own judgment of what they mean, despite the excessive commentary and point-making by Valliant.

If I'd read Part I first (where Valliant devotes close to 200 pages looking for nits to pick with Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, so he can make them out to be the most unreliable sources on the planet), it would have been difficult for me to assimilate much of anything from Part II.

Robert Campbell




Post 126

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 12:11amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

A quote from Chris Sciabarra, on his blog:

 

I just want to caution commentators here to do their very best to raise the tone on this discussion from Square One. This is a subject, as I say in my essay, that seems to degenerate immediately into a slimefest. And it's easy to see why.

I think very important substantive and methodological issues are raised by Valliant's book, which is why I devoted so much space to it. And, yes, I'm fair... to a fault.

 

As much as I admire the brilliance of Chris’ analysis, I am going to have to agree with his self-assessment.  In this case, the “fairness” is a fault.  Or, more precisely, the absence of moral evaluation is a fault.

 

There is no inherent conflict between moral evaluation and objectivity.  And there is no claim to superior wisdom in treating an author who engages in vicious, scurrilous attacks on admirable people as if he deserved benevolence.   To review this book –to grasp the naked evil of its despicable twisting of the truth to serve a transparent and loathsome agenda--without condemning it in the clearest possible terms, is a travesty of justice.

 

 




Post 127

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 12:41amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
"In this case, the “fairness” is a fault. Or, more precisely, the absence of moral evaluation is a fault."

Do not mistake Chris's kindness for weakness, moral or otherwise.



Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Post 128

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 1:11amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
I have nothing but the highest regard for Chris Sciabarra's calm, insightful review of Valliant's book. His review is like an X-ray of Valliant's thought process, and the result was not pretty.

There have been some rather incendiary reviews and comments attacking Valliant's book, and I can't say that I disagree with them. However, it is much more satisfying to ponder his (or anyone's) book, and much easier to arrive at a balanced, nuanced assessment, when using (or guided by) Chris's approach. One's confidence level in one's conclusions is much higher when ideology and personal biases are set aside and a careful look is taken at the methodology of the author.

To those who might object to Chris's being too civil or fair or non-inflammatory in his review, I will just say that I think that his dispassionate look at the facts in this case is more than damning enough!

Best to all,
Roger Bissell




Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 129

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 5:04amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit


Dennis, I sent Nathaniel your post about the revelations in the new book: "The Passion of the Da Vinci Critics," of his affair with Mary Magdalene (Jesus' wife) and their parenting of a child. He responded: "I had hoped to keep it a secret." You really should not have revealed this on a public forum. He had hoped that that the Pope would not tell.

Barbara



Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 130

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 5:07amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Roger, I fully agree with you about Chris' review.

Barbara



Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Post 131

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 5:14amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Dennis, you state:  "There is no inherent conflict between moral evaluation and objectivity.  And there is no claim to superior wisdom in treating an author who engages in vicious, scurrilous attacks on admirable people as if he deserved benevolence.   To review this book---to grasp the naked evil of its despicable twisting of the truth to serve a transparent and loathsome agenda---without condemning it in the clearest possible terms, is a travesty of justice."

You seem to be saying that my lack of condemnation is as "evil" as the very book you believe I should have condemned "in the clearest possible terms."

If you're looking for any inherent conflict between moral evaluation and objectivity in my work, you won't find it.  I evaluate everything on a variety of levels:  morally, epistemically, logically, and so forth.  What you won't find, however, is a review that adopts the very "scorched-earth" style for which I criticize Valliant in my essay.  What you won't find is a review where the style of my language will be focused on to the exclusion of the substance of my points.  There are too many incendiary condemnations at work in cyberspace, which end up generating far more heat than light. 

I simply wished to provide an alternative.




Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 132

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 6:10amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Chris,

I am halfway through your review and I just wanted to stop in to say it is magnificent. Your posture of exposing the facts and letting them speak for themselves is more damning than any possible highly charged stance. I will comment more after I finish later tonight.

I also am preparing a review of Valliant's book (if I can finish it - severe time constraints - and it is soooooooo boring!!!), where I intend to state once again my wish that Valliant and Durban House be sued for libel based on US law.

You own review has helped mine (LOLOL - stop cringing!).

Michael




Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 133

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 8:28amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Chris did a first-class job. It was more than a review of a particular book. It was a review about what happened apropos the "Break" based on just about every public source available. The outstanding scholarship of the review is in sharp contrast to the adversarial lawyer's brief. Because of its competence, Chris's work on this has become the linchpin reference for what really went down then. A most important historical reference.

--Brant




Sanction: 8, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 8, No Sanction: 0
Post 134

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 9:15amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Besides, to expose an evil - clearly, precisely, objectively - IS to render moral evaluation...



Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 135

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 1:31pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Here is Michael Smith's example of a 'misrepresentation" by Nathaniel Branden:

 

“Rand made overpoweringly clear to us was that the ultimate test and proof of one’s idealism were one’s loyalty to (Rand’s) work and to her personally.” (PARC, pg 55)

This quote is an excellent example of how PARC depends heavily on a lack of  focus by the reader to make its alleged points, and how those same readers are using PARC as a substitute for serious thought.  PARC implies that this quote from Branden amounts to the claim that Rand demanded total agreement from her associates and friends.  Read the full context of the quote in My Years with Ayn Rand (p. 311).  Branden is talking about a general attitude of personal devotion demanded by Ayn Rand. This has nothing to do with toleration of specific disagreements. 

 

PARC’s author blurs the two issues as though they were one.  Rand’s numerous interchanges with dissenters (e.g., John Hospers) can then be shown to create the appearance of inconsistency and contradiction in the Brandens’ accounts.

 
Are you now denying that Branden portrays Rand as intolerant?  From "The Hazards and Benefits of Objectivism" by Nathaniel Branden:
 

It would have been wonderful, given how much many of us respected and admired Ayn Rand, if she had encouraged us to develop a more open-minded attitude and to be less attached to a model of reality that might be in need of revision. But that was not her way. Quite the contrary. Other people’s model of reality might be in need of revision. Never hers. Not in any fundamental sense. Reason, she was convinced, had established that for all time. In encouraging among her followers the belief that she enjoyed a monopoly on reason and the rational, she created for herself a very special kind of power, the power to fling anyone who disagreed with her about anything into the abyss of “the irrational”—and that was a place we were all naturally eager to avoid.


So, "this has nothing to do with the toleration of specific disagreements"?  





Post 136

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 2:12pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
To all, but especially Michael Smith for the future.

Post #135 quotes somebody w/o giving the name or other reference.
The quote is from Dennis Hardin, post #18, made July 5.




Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 137

Thursday, July 21, 2005 - 4:13pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Thank you, Chris for a wonderful well-researched and informative review of the book.  I think it is so important that this Randroid practice of blaming the Brandens is finally put to bed.  As I have said before Barbara and Nathaniel have made wonderful and important contributions not only to objectivism but psychology/self-help as well.  Thank you for pointing out their accomplishments.  *bonk*

The venom this guy spews at the Brandens is truly pathetic. Rather than defending the honor of Ayn Rand, he insults everyone's intelligence with his distorted view of reality.  How stupid does he think people are.  The fact that Peikoff let him do it makes me wonder what the motivation was for this, especially since reading Barbara's book and finding out that Peikoff is her cousin.  Could there have been some type of guru/power play going on between him and Nathaniel Branden?  I just cannot for the life of me figure out what inspired all of this. 

Here is a piece of the review with page numbers about the soul of a rapist thing.  Libel if I ever saw it.
What concerns me even more, however, is that Valliant is utterly unwilling to give any credit at all to the Brandens for the contributions they made to the Objectivist canon. All Valliant (2005) sees is that Nathaniel Branden developed an archetypal theory of “social metaphysics,” and that Branden himself embodied the “'Power-seeking' social metaphysician” (349), who used nonviolent "manipulation, trickery, and deceit” (350) in an attempt to gain “power and position.” He asserts that Branden’s “psychology shows a striking similarity to the psychology of a rapist,” one who used “sex as his chosen instrument of coercion and terror” (382). Branden, who “had written on the relationship between force and fraud as means of manipulation,” committed a moral crime against Rand, Valliant argues, and what “his crime lacked in violence, it made up for in prolonged psychological torment and deception” (383). Through deception, Branden “enjoyed and prolonged this kind of domination for years. ... Branden was not only able to exploit Rand—intellectually, psychologically, emotionally, professionally and financially—he could do so with an erection. ... While his behavior was not, technically, rape, Branden’s was nothing less than the soul of a rapist” and his memoir constitutes “the concealment of an act of spiritual rape” (383-84).

 

(Edited by katdaddy on 7/21, 11:33pm)




Post 138

Friday, July 22, 2005 - 12:37amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Barbara,

The Pope was only acting out of his principled loyalty to the facts of reality.  After all, Jesus is no longer here to defend himself, and the Pope didn't want his tarnished reputation to curtail the influence of his teachings.

Seriously, I am delighted Nathaniel found it amusing.  You truly made my day.

Dennis 




Post 139

Friday, July 22, 2005 - 1:44amSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit

Chris,

 

You said:

 

You seem to be saying that my lack of condemnation is as "evil" as the very book you believe I should have condemned "in the clearest possible terms."

 

Not at all.  If my post implied that, I am guilty of a genuine lack of clarity, for which I apologize. 

 

On the other hand, I was disappointed, and I felt the need to say so.  I believe that Ayn Rand was correct when she said:

 

“Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man’s character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything, that the good consists of never distinguishing good from evil.”

 

[From “How Does One Lead a Rational Life in an Irrational Society?”]

 

I understand that many Objectivists ( I realize you do not refer to yourself in this way) want to distance themselves from the incessant, unwarranted moral rantings of the Peikoff brigade, and I made mention of that in my review.   But I do not understand those who extend this to a policy of generalized moral neutrality toward just about anything and everything.

 

I honestly do not know if this is true of you, but it is certainly true of many. And the comment on your blog seemed to imply that you felt impartiality was some sort of virtue.  In my opinion, your review granted this piece of garbage a level of respect it does not deserve.  What it deserves is explicit moral contempt in no uncertain terms, and it disturbed me that I did not see that in your otherwise brilliant essay.

 

It is because you are, unquestionably, an intellectual giant, that I expected more.  But this does not change the fact that you are, in fact, a giant—and, no doubt, a person of high moral integrity as well.  The pygmy who wrote this book (I honestly cannot bring myself to mention his name) could not reach high enough to tie your shoelaces.




Post to this threadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Forward one pageLast Page
User ID Password reminder or create a free account.