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


Sanction: 21, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 21, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 21, No Sanction: 0
Post 20

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 5:05pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Fahy,

You need to be explicit about what is relevant to PARC and what is not.

Is the purpose of the book merely to rebut charges made by Nathaniel and Barbara Branden concerning Ayn Rand's character and actions?

Or is the purpose of PARC to refute all criticisms of Rand's character and actions regardless of who brought them, and what evidence is being adduced?

Language like "the only real evidence for the Brandens' claims" suggests that you are equating all criticisms of Rand's character and actions with "the Brandens' claims."

If Leonard Peikoff has chosen not to reveal the existence of certain documents to Mr. Valliant, in order to protect Ayn Rand's privacy, the evidence withheld could pertain to the Brandens' criticisms, or to criticisms brought by others, or to both.

Robert Campbell


Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 7, No Sanction: 0
Post 21

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 5:17pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Campbell,

Neither.

He was perfectly explicit.

Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 14, No Sanction: 0
Post 22

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 5:27pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
It is clear now to any fair and reasonable observer what mental gymnastics the defenders of the Brandens are willing to undertake. Those who bend backwards to find no bad motives in the Brandens' accounts will twist themselves into epistemic pretzels to find bad faith in any of their critics.

What a spectacle!

Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 13, No Sanction: 0
Post 23

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:02pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
James,

I humbly disagree with your evaluation.

Nobody is saying that there were no bad intentions whatsoever in some of Brandens' acts. What they are saying is that there were plenty of good intentions which you do not acknowledge - and that this impairs your claim of objectivity.

This gets compounded by the endorsement of lying and secrecy by ARI.

I would remind you that Ayn Rand has a public reputation. She has one because she sought it. If the holders of documents that could clear up biographical doubts withhold those documents, then public speculation is the only result.

What I find comical is the intellectual pretzels that are being made to say that this does not matter - that the public speculation should stop and truth does not really depend on evidence - and sort of, you know, blank it all out.

Michael


Sanction: 19, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 19, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 19, No Sanction: 0
Post 24

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:27pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Valliant,

OK, you've stated your view of "privacy lies."

as far as I am concerned such lies could only be proper, in any event, when there is a "privacy" to protect. Ayn Rand is dead. The lies Bidinotto projects cannot be justified in my view.
Now, what is Peikoff's view?

Does he agree that a dead person has no privacy that others must lie to protect?

Needless to say, Peikoff's view of the matter may not be the same as yours.  And he is the one who controls access to the documents.

Many other literary executors have acted as though dead writers still have privacy that needs protecting.

Robert Campbell


Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Post 25

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:28pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Michael,

There must first be a reason for these "doubts." There is no reason to believe that the "doubts" raised by the Brandens have any credence to begin with. To demand that ARI provide evidence for the phoney doubts raised by the Brandens is to apply no standard of evidence to the Brandens while demanding an unreasonable standard of evidence from ARI.

And what lie(s) are you referring to from ARI? I still don't know what that is supposed to refer to.


Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 26

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:45pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Casey,

Pretzel.

//;-)

Michael


Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 12, No Sanction: 0
Post 27

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:48pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
MSK,

I not only endorse ARI, but the alleged "lying and secrecy" for which you find them culpable?

I know that you cannot prove the first part of your assertion, since it's false, and I have yet to see you try to convince me of the second part, despite your breathtaking moral certitude.

Look, ARI's "reputation" exists almost exclusively within a limited universe which is very much divided on the topic -- this much I know. Please show me your evidence which makes this harsh damnation so morally obvious, and I will happily join in your red-hot anger (whew!) and intolerance.



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 28

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:49pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
James,

Pretzel.

//;-)

Michael


Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 29

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:51pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Campbell,

I don't know and, based on my own observations, it is not relevant. But you may invent whatever arbitrary fantasies you wish, if they satisfy your current and obviously pressing need right now.

Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 3, No Sanction: 0
Post 30

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 6:54pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
MSK,

Bidinotto and Campbell only need mustard.

Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Post 31

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 7:04pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Jeff, Lindsay, and others who think "privacy lies" are OK,

What ever happened to the good old-fashioned declaration, "That's none of your business"?

Besides, when a person has a policy of telling lies to protect privacy, he or she can't exactly announce what issues the lies will be told about, or who the lies will be told to.  Such announcements would defeat the purpose of telling the lies.

I wonder, too, how the teller of privacy lies makes a clear distinction between a snooper--an invader of privacy--and an enemy.

I find Peikoff's endorsement of privacy lies disturbing, in part, because he appears to see the world as densely populated with his enemies.

Robert Campbell


Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 22, No Sanction: 0
Post 32

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 7:14pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Valliant,

If you don't want to be seen as an emissary of the Ayn Rand Institute (and I believe you when you say you don't), it would be wise not to employ rhetoric that is reminiscent of Peikoff at his worst:

you may invent whatever arbitrary fantasies you wish, if they satisfy your current and obviously pressing need right now
... and, I dare say, of Rand at her worst.

Robert Campbell

PS. I hope this is not your way of addressing the actual topic of this thread (see post #0 at the top).


Sanction: 20, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 20, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 20, No Sanction: 0
Post 33

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 7:20pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Robert,

"What ever happened to the good old-fashioned declaration, "That's none of your business"?"

That's preferable, but not always practical.  We would have to discuss cases to make much progress.  Even before getting to that stage, (which we should go to quickly, lest the discussion bog down in useless, 'unreal', abstractions) let's be clear about what we're arguing about.

Is it your contention that under no circumstances, apart possibly from threats to my physical safety or my property, that I've no right to keep people out of my private life with anything more than "That's none of your business?"

And when that doesn't deter them I should just roll over and say "Oh, well, they're not enemies after all and I don't wish to appear paranoid or unbenevolent."?

I'll get down to cases a little later when I have more time to respond.

Cordially,
Jeff




Sanction: 9, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 9, No Sanction: 0
Post 34

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 7:37pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Mr. Campbell,

Perhaps it is. In this instance, there is evidence and argument. Logical argument. You may fault the argument, but it is not an instance of Rand's complaint. I'm honestly not sure that you ever acknowledge the difference, or if this is merely a means of pretending that an argument doesn't exist.

To suppose that material has been suppressed by Peikoff is an arbitrary assertion, unless you have evidence that this has actually happened. The heavy reliance on such speculation is revealing as to one's goals. Does that clear it up?

Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 4, No Sanction: 0
Post 35

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 7:39pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
What a pissing contest.  The enemies of Objectivism have nothing on us.

Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 36

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 8:08pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Robert,

"I find Peikoff's endorsement of privacy lies disturbing, in part, because he appears to see the world as densely populated with his enemies."

He would be daft not to see that. And coming from you... ;)



Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 15, No Sanction: 0
Post 37

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 8:38pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Robert C,

 Some Cases:


Some cases where I look like the good guy.

  1. I live in a small town and some woman I said 'Hello' to casually at Wal-Mart decides she likes me more than I like her. She asks me where I'm going. I tell her, politely, "That's none of your business", or "I prefer not to say." But in either case she elects to follow me to the coffee house where I intend to enjoy a cup of Earl Grey tea in peace and quiet. I endure it once. I can get a restraining order, maybe. (She's not crazy and not a physical threat.) The next time, I tell her I'm headed to the topless bar and she chooses to not follow me. I head to the coffee house and enjoy my tea in peace and quiet.

     

  1. The phone company has a known policy of selling my phone number to telemarketers even though I pay extra to have it unlisted. A telemarketer calls asking for "Jeff Perren". I can sue the phone company, maybe, or I can sue the telemarketing company after I request they put me on their Do Not Call list and they call again two weeks later. Or I can lie and say, "No, you have the wrong number. Jeff Perren doesn't live here." They stop calling.


 

Now for some cases where I don't look so good.

  1. I'm ashamed of my grade point average in college. A casual acquaintance asks what my GPA was. I politely defer from volunteering the information. This prompts the person to become curious. I went to a college run by collectivists who believe a private life is a petty bourgeois contrivance. They agree to provide my GPA to anyone who asks. (I made a foolish choice of college, you say? Maybe, so I alter the scenario: the college administration used to be run by privacy respecting men, but they've died over time and the policy has changed since I went there. Unrealistic? Not good enough? Ok, let's alter the scenario again. I live in a country very much unlike the U.S. in terms of respect for individual privacy. Are moral principles only designed for those lucky enough to live in the West?) I can get a court order to seal the records, or I can lie about where I went to college.


     

  2. I'm a teenage boy, shy about my body. The girls in the hall find this charming and decide they will take a peek while I shower. Knowing this, I can fink on them to the teachers, where even if I don't get beat up by their boyfriends, I'll be shunned as a wuss. Or, I can lie to them about when my P.E. Class is, or I can lie to the teacher about having a disease in order to get excused from showering. [Actually, if it were me I'd invite them in with me, but I'm not really that teenage boy, so let's stick to the topic and move the jokes elsewhere.]



 

Of course, in any of these cases, and I could invent dozens more -- it's what I do for a living -- none of these people whose questions or interest is inappropriate are evil. None are dangerous. Sometimes I have legal recourse, but that's very expensive and sometimes will cause more damage to me than I could ever hope to be compensated for.


And, an even stronger of course, one has to be careful not to slip into pragmatism. There is one's character to consider, and the tendency to lie can become attractive and corrosive.


And, this should not even have to be said, I am not defending Leonard Piekoff's decisions or ARI's policies. That is completely beside the point. I am defending an extremely important principle. We live in the real world where bad things can happen which we do not deserve because some people are less good than we would wish. This does not make them evil, dangerous, or my 'enemy'. It does mean, I don't owe them the full, unvarnished truth when they have absolutely no business asking the question in the first place. I don't always have, as a real alternative, recourse to what would work with better people. I can't always say, "I appreciate your desire to know, but I prefer not to provide you with that information."

Also, how much effort, thinking, inconvenience am I supposed to exert and endure to put people off the scent who had no valid purpose in poking their nose into my private affairs in the first place?

And, for what? To defend some abstract, acontextual moral principle that in reality as we actually live it, not in some future utopia leads to my exposing my life to persons I haven't chosen to share it with?


Respectfully, I think not.

Of course, it's not healthy to believe that the world is populated predominantly with people who are eager to know every intimate detail of my life. (In my case, I could actually use a little more publicity, but leave that aside.)


And it's certainly unhealthy to believe that most people in the U.S., or other semi-civilized countries, are my enemy. But there's a broad spectrum between that and "my life is an open book." My books are open books. My life is not.

 

Cordially,

Jeff




Sanction: 55, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 55, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 55, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 55, No Sanction: 0
Post 38

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 8:45pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Given the subsequent distortions about what I said in post #6, let me plod a bit, to try to set the record straight on what I believe -- and what I don't.

For the most controversial claims made in their books, the Brandens cited personal letters, diaries, and conversations with certain sources whose identities they have kept private. As I pointed out in my previous post, "Barbara and Nathaniel Branden relied upon their own memories, upon letters and journals which none of us have seen, and upon sources which they sometimes did not name."

I do not regard that observation as one from which the Brandens should take comfort. In fact, it is perfectly fair for readers to find their public claims on such matters unconvincing, in the absence of their publication of further supporting evidence. Moreover, there is no requirement for the Brandens' critics to try to "prove a negative" -- to refute a claim for which the Brandens may have supplied insufficient evidence in the first place. They bear the burden of proof -- not their critics.

But the overarching claim against the Brandens, made by Mr. Valliant and his champions, is more ambitious than this -- in fact, too ambitious. It is not merely the fair point that the Brandens too often fail to document controversial contentions. It is that, because of Mr. Valliant's privileged access to the archives of Ayn Rand's private journals and correspondence, certain of the Brandens' claims can be firmly refuted.

Now, it may well be true that specific claims by the Brandens can be refuted where they contradict either known facts, or each other, or themselves -- or where factual material exists in the archives to directly refute them.

But this is not true of those claims by the Brandens about which the archives do not contain any comments by Ayn Rand at all. The absence in the archives of comments by Ayn Rand relevant to the contentious issues concerning Frank O'Connor, for example, has been cited as refuting the Brandens' claims: There could not have been alcoholism or sexual problems or whatever, because there's no evidence of it in the archives of Rand's writings. But that doesn't follow. Just as the Brandens' absence of documentation fails to establish the merits of their claims, the absence of letters or journal entries by Ayn Rand about such issues fails to establish that such problems did not exist. The absence of comments by Rand could mean that there were no such problems; or it could mean that if such problems did exist, Ayn Rand chose not to commit her thoughts about them to paper.

On the other hand, it could also mean that the archives examined by Mr. Valliant are incomplete, perhaps by design. And that is the narrower issue I raised in post #6. Since the completeness of those archives depended entirely upon Dr. Peikoff, and since he has stated that it is "necessary and proper" to lie in order to protect personal privacy, that alone is sufficient grounds to call into doubt reliance upon those archives to refute the Brandens about issues on which no comments from Ayn Rand appear.

To address the point raised by Jeff Perren: It is not necessary for me either to endorse or to repudiate Dr. Peikoff's stated policy, or to advance my own, in order for readers to face the plain fact that the source of the private, personal archives of Ayn Rand believes in a policy of lying to protect personal privacy. I have not argued the legitimacy of his policy -- only its consequences for the archives as a final, definitive source on these contested matters.

After all, we are not dealing here with anything like a formal legal proceeding, in which the "trail of evidence" is carefully documented from the crime scene to the courtroom, and those called to testify swear under penalty of perjury that they are telling the whole truth. Quite the contrary: a "witness" to the trail of evidence has not only refused to take the oath, but declared outright his right to lie about that evidence. And that poses problems for those relying too heavily upon evidence supplied by that witness. Regarding its definitiveness, I have raised a simple question that only a partisan could regard as unfair: Shouldn't we consider the source?

Once again, asking this question does NOT establish the credibility of the Brandens' own accounts of the events, nor did I intend to. Only they can do that; to date, they have not supplied convincing documentation for some claims; and personally -- for the reasons I made clear in my previous post -- whether they do or don't, can or can't, I could care less. To the extent that Mr. Valliant casts legitimate doubt upon the adequacy of their accounts -- or to the extent that he catches them in contradictions to demonstrable facts, or to each other's accounts -- so be it. That's fine by me, because the value I find in Ayn Rand is not affected one whit by any of this.

Let me clarify two things in passing.

Mr. Valliant quotes me as saying, "It is dismaying that a pack of parasites has found a way to produce paychecks and royalties by rummaging through and selling off the contents of Ayn Rand's attic and wastepaper baskets." Since the appearance of The Early Ayn Rand, I have been appalled by the publication and sale of private material which Ayn Rand would NEVER have wished to appear in print. Whatever the excuses, publishing this material shows a profound lack of respect for someone its publishers proclaim to hold in reverence. (And for what it's worth, one of the first persons who ever expressed to me her anger and utter disgust at this exploitation of Ayn Rand was Barbara Branden.)

Second, I realize that Lindsay Perigo wishes to jump on his anti-TOC hobby horse at every opportunity. In this case (post #19), he continues an obnoxious habit of attributing to TOC any view I happen to express, or attributing to me any view expressed by anyone associated with TOC.

Let's get this straight, shall we? I speak and write only for myself. I did not consult anyone else, inside or outside of TOC, before writing these thoughts. They are MINE, not those of some collective labeled "TOC." I do not ask anyone's permission to write what I write, or say what I say. I never have. I never will. Nor does anyone at TOC ever ask me for permission before saying their own piece. The same independence applies to The New Individualist, which I edit: opinions in signed articles are those of the authors...period. That policy, after all, is inherent in the name of the magazine. The same policy of independence also applies to TOC forums, such as its Summer Seminar. At these open forums, we often invite people who represent a range of viewpoints, some of which challenge Objectivism. That's not because we endorse everything that is said, and not because we are skeptics or relativists. It's because we believe we benefit from intellectual challenges, and (unlike some organizations) we respect the intelligence of our audiences enough to believe them capable of sorting truth from errors. We have even had enough confidence in our participants to expose them to the Brandens and to Lindsay Perigo. After all, "that which does not kill you makes you stronger."

Returning to the subject at hand: let's take a step back, I hope in the direction of common sense.

Four individuals were engaged in a complex, intimate romantic interaction, which they succeeded in keeping utterly secret from the rest of the world for years. Some of them finally began to write and speak publicly about it, many years after the fact, when we all know that memories fade and one's subconscious tends to editorialize about the past.

Now, common sense (that is, anyone's personal life experiences in relationships that ended unhappily, coupled with a dash of logic) should tell outsiders like us that anyone's claims about such secrets, in the absent of sufficient supporting documentation, ought to be taken with a large grain of salt. Furthermore -- given the passions involved in this particular tumultuous episode, and the ideological divisions left in its wake -- whenever documentation is supplied by any of the participants or their partisans, it also should be greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism. We should be asking: Is it accurate? Is it complete? Is there more to the story than each side recalls, or has revealed (and almost always, the answer to this last is an emphatic "YES")?

When Barbara Branden's biography of Ayn Rand first appeared, I was enthusiastic about it. It filled in a great deal of missing material about Ayn Rand's life. Knowing the details of her life and struggle elevated my already exalted opinion of the woman. And yes, the book also was the first public revelation of the existence of The Affair -- but that helped make intelligible for me a lot of the previously inexplicable aspects of that period. I did not think Barbara's account spared, let alone exonerated, either herself or her former husband; quite the opposite, in fact. (As for Nathaniel Branden's Judgment Day, I had a much lower opinion of it -- as I told him to his face upon the occasion of our first meeting.)

But for the reasons I expressed in post #6, I have no further desire to try to untangle the entrails of this episode. This is not evidence of disinterest in the truth; it is my conclusion that the full truth here is probably impossible to find -- and in any case, IRRELEVANT to my appreciation of Ayn Rand as a philosopher and artist.

Those who would attack Ayn Rand's ideas and achievements, based on dubious and disputed accounts of her private life, I simply dismiss as purveyors of empty ad hominems. I invite others to copy this economical and logically sufficient approach to dealing with such critics, rather than engage them in endless and pointless debates over Who did What to Whom. For this approach has the incomparable value of returning the public debate to where it should be: on Ayn Rand's philosophical and aesthetic legacy. And all the proclaimed intentions of "setting the record straight" about Ayn Rand's private life have only continued drawing public attention to a side show: her private life.

I normally don't like to quote myself, but in conclusion, I don't think I can improve upon what I said at the end of post #6:

As in most cases concerning the intimate lives of individuals, this is likely a case in which we will never know all of the relevant information -- or, even if we have it, be certain that we do.

Nor is it necessary that we do. And why should we care that we do? Implicit in the approach of the zealous champions of Ayn Rand the person is the belief that, somehow, any perceived personal flaw will undermine the successful spread of her ideas through our culture. That is nonsense, and a tacit surrender to the perpetrators of ad hominems.

The merits of Ayn Rand's philosophical and literary achievements can be gauged objectively and quite independently of whatever was going on in her tumultuous personal life. We can know with certainty one thing: that whatever the full truth about Ayn Rand, the individual and the woman, she had sufficient character to achieve what she achieved as Ayn Rand, philosopher and novelist.

To me, the magnitude of her public achievements is a sufficient measure of the magnitude of her private character -- at least, in all of those ways that should matter to any of us.



Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Sanction: 5, No Sanction: 0
Post 39

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - 9:18pmSanction this postReply
Bookmark
Link
Edit
Thank you for your post, Robert. Very impressive. Very adult.

--Brant


Post to this threadBack one pagePage 0Page 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Forward one pageLast Page


User ID Password or create a free account.