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Post 60

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 2:28pmSanction this postReply
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What makes anyone think that Valliant's book has any association with ARI apart from the journal entries being provided to the author?



Post 61

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 2:48pmSanction this postReply
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Robert: “an "open marriage" arrangement that was clearly very distressing and painful to the two abandoned spouses.”

In the work of Valliant’s that I read, he made the case that the affair gave Frank a hard-on!

“But that damage is only compounded when -- in a desperate effort to rehabilitate Rand's public image -- her partisans now attempt to rationalize conduct that is simply unjustifiable on its face.”

Well done, Robert. Thanks.

Jon



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Post 62

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 3:38pmSanction this postReply
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“But that damage is only compounded when -- in a desperate effort to rehabilitate Rand's public image -- her partisans now attempt to rationalize conduct that is simply unjustifiable on its face.”

Well done, Robert. Thanks.

 
Well done? I wasn't aware that sexual relations between consenting adults can be simply unjustifiable on their face. This is nonsense on stilts.

To Christians, of course, open marriages, menage a trois, homosexuality, etc. are all unjustifiable "on their face." This kind of intrincism I find inexplicable, mystic, and silly. You guys should get out more.

Rand was pretty explicit about the futility of jealousy in regards to the relationship two other people have. It is impossible for someone to possess the relationship two other people have with each other, therefore jealousy is premised on mysticism --  that it is possible to possess something which by definition involves two unique individuals. To simply resent or envy that relationship is not an act of love toward either of those other individuals. To demand they sacrifice their feelings for the sake of "love" is also fairly ridiculous conventional thinking -- not Randian, that's for sure.

I suggest everyone hold their horses and read the book to find out the relevant details about the relationship these individuals had regardless of what others might deem justifiable or unjustifiable on its face.






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Post 63

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 4:07pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

"Rand had John Galt say, "Nobody stays here by faking reality in any matter whatever." If some would add "reality faking" to Objectivism's list of acceptable virtues, merely in order to defend Rand's reputation, then they have lost any remaining credibility as defenders of her philosophy."

If Ayn Rand felt an intense romantic attraction for NB and knew it was reciprocated, but also knew given the reality of their age difference that this mutual feeling was likely to be fleeting, and was satisfied with her long term relationship with her husband Frank, but did nothing about her sexual feelings for NB: wouldn't that be faking reality?



Post 64

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 5:01pmSanction this postReply
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"Sciabarra's blog is better than yours."

Blog? What Blog? It's not a blog!
He insists on it! A is not A

notablog.net




Post 65

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 8:16pmSanction this postReply
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Casey: “It is impossible for someone to possess the relationship two other people have with each other, therefore jealousy is premised on mysticism -- that it is possible to possess something which by definition involves two unique individuals. To simply resent or envy that relationship is not an act of love toward either of those other individuals.”

Mike: “If Ayn Rand felt an intense romantic attraction for NB and knew it was reciprocated, but also knew given the reality of their age difference that this mutual feeling was likely to be fleeting, and was satisfied with her long term relationship with her husband Frank, but did nothing about her sexual feelings for NB: wouldn't that be faking reality?”

Would it follow that NB was only maintaining his contact with reality by taking on his third love? Was Ayn a “mystic” for her jealousy about a relationship involving those “two unique individuals?”

Jon



Post 66

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 9:00pmSanction this postReply
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Would it follow that NB was only maintaining his contact with reality by taking on his third love? Was Ayn a “mystic” for her jealousy about a relationship involving those “two unique individuals?”


Well, NB could be said to have been “faking reality” in that case by keeping his “other” significant other secret. Which arguably makes that affair morally different than the Rand-Branden affair, in which everyone involved at least knew the truth of what was happening at the outset.



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Post 67

Thursday, February 10, 2005 - 10:29pmSanction this postReply
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Branden was faking Rand's reality. Anyone who "cheats" on someone is placing that person in a fake reality. He knows it's fake, but the other person doesn't. That's why it's contemptible, especially if one claims to value that person. And to carry on that kind of fakery for four years, well...

Full disclosure here, and I will refrain from further posts on this subject: it was my website on which the nucleus of this book first appeared. And I was an editor on the book. Suffice it to say for now that all of the matters addressed in this message board so far are addressed in the book. The author is unaffiliated in any way with ARI. Far from it. (And neither am I, that's for sure.) The journals were made available to the author as a result of the publication online of the original essay.

Now I should recuse myself from this discussion. But this book is a goldmine, and no one should assume anything about it until reading it. It will be available just around the corner now...




Post 68

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 12:02amSanction this postReply
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I had been wondering about my obligations to my mistresses. I had entertained the thought (along with my wife) that they lived in a state of nature. Apparently I was wrong. Thanks to Casey, I now realize that I owe all of them—including the one that’s been depressed for years and who I therefore haven’t even *been* mistressing—notification, in perpetuity, of any future mistresses.



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Post 69

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 6:35amSanction this postReply
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Let's review a few previous posts, which taken together, may now prove illuminating.

I had written (Post #59):

...what was the nature of that relationship? It was an affair between a brilliant older woman and a young, immature acolyte twenty-five years her junior, occurring while both were married to other people -- an "open marriage" arrangement that was clearly very distressing and painful to the two abandoned spouses, who were intellectually and emotionally manipulated into accepting it, but whose pain and injury apparently didn't matter decisively to the two participants....

...the affair was a case of two people wanting to have their marriages, and eat them, too. It was a case of their publicly faking reality, pretending to be devoutly married to others, but obtaining their true romantic fulfillment furtively with each other -- and damn the emotional consequences to their spouses. It involved living a hurtful lie...


Now this, from Casey:

Post #67:
Full disclosure here, and I will refrain from further posts on this subject: it was my website on which the nucleus of this book first appeared. And I was an editor on the book.


And this:

Post #62:
Rand was pretty explicit about the futility of jealousy in regards to the relationship two other people have. It is impossible for someone to possess the relationship two other people have with each other, therefore jealousy is premised on mysticism -- that it is possible to possess something which by definition involves two unique individuals. To simply resent or envy that relationship is not an act of love toward either of those other individuals. To demand they sacrifice their feelings for the sake of "love" is also fairly ridiculous conventional thinking -- not Randian, that's for sure.


Finally, this:
To Christians, of course, open marriages, menage a trois, homosexuality, etc. are all unjustifiable "on their face." This kind of intrincism I find inexplicable, mystic, and silly. You guys should get out more.



So there you have it, folks. Chew on the implications. Here you have someone directly involved in the forthcoming book's editing, and fully knowledgeable of its contents, voicing the emerging Party Line about the affair -- in exactly the form I feared. To rationalize Rand's behavior, he stretches the Objectivist ethics to condone not just such things as "open marriages [and] menage a trois," but worse: he excuses even callous indifference toward the pain such behavior may cause a spouse, on the grounds that the pain is irrational. The cuckolded spouse's marital expectation of sexual exclusivity is motivated by "envy" and a "jealousy...premised on mysticism," that entails an irrational "demand [that unfaithful spouses] sacrifice their feelings for the sake of 'love'..." The expectation of marital fidelity, proclaims this adherent to the new Party Line, represents "fairly ridiculous conventional thinking." Those of you who still think that way "should get out more."

Ah yes. How very...European.

And how very liberal: blame the victim.

Without strain, one can even imagine a sadist taking up this line of "reasoning" to justify wife abuse: "After all, my wife didn't leave when I first slapped her around, so why shouldn't I continue to hurt her for my own selfish pleasure? Why should I sacrifice that pleasure for the sake of 'love'? By her acquiescence to such treatment, I received the sanction of the victim."

Hence sadism becomes consistent with Objectivism.


Recall that I warned...

If the Objectivist ethics is now to be recast in order to rationalize excruciatingly bad judgment, the public "faking of reality" about one's highest romantic values, and a pattern of callous, emotionally destructive behavior toward one's own spouse -- then the reputation of Objectivism could be irreparably damaged. Millions will say: If that kind of conduct is an example of "rationality," if that squares with Objectivism -- then give me some form of religious mysticism!


Thank you, Casey, for providing footnotes for my argument.

Folks, if you think Casey's rationalizations represent the extreme of these coming distortions of Objectivism, you ain't seen nothing yet. Mark these words: the logic of the rationalization process will necessitate that Rand's idolators become more and more ambitious in their excuse-making. By the end of that process, you will find it impossible to draw any distinction between their distorted version of the Objectivist ethics, and narcissistic Nietszcheanism.



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Post 70

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 8:29amSanction this postReply
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I see my name has been brought up here in a few instances.  Michael N. is looking forward to my review of the book.  Then, George and Robert got into a discussion of the relative merits of my "blog" and Robert's, until Joe set the record straight.  Since my "blog" is "Not a Blog," it is possible to like both Robert's and mine and not be caught in a contradiction.  :)

As for this thread, let me add my two cents.

Since "full disclosure" is important, I should state up-front that Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden have been dear friends and colleagues of mine for over a dozen years; it was I who facilitated their appearance together in print for the first time since 1962 in the 1999 book Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand.  And I have very much valued, and value, their friendship and support.

I have only perused the uncorrected page proofs for James Valliant's book and hope to get the corrected final copy in the near future.  I have not had the time to read this book in its entirety. 

 
As for the predictable responses to this book, my hunch is this:  Those who are convinced of the Brandens' "evil" will see this book as the kind of "ammunition" that is needed to forge the case.  And, just from a perusal of the book, I think it can be safely stated that Valliant, who has a law degree, spends an incredible amount of time comparing and contrasting various stories, finding inconsistencies, and mounting a "case against the Brandens."  But those who have already heard the Brandens' "side" of the story -- it was the Brandens after all who admitted their own negative roles in the Affair -- will not be persuaded by Valliant's case.

For me, all this is somewhat beside the point.  The most interesting part of the book is, in fact, the publication of Ayn Rand's personal journals reflecting on this episode in her life.

I am of two minds on this. 

As an intellectual historian, one who is interested as well in the lives of historical figures, I can say with no hesitation that the publication of these journals is of interest.  Not because they prove or disprove any particular "case" but because they are Rand's reflections on an episode that had serious reverberating consequences for the Objectivist movement.  From an historical perspective, and strictly from that perspective, I think it offers a fascinating "first-hand" account of what she was going through and how she chose to grapple with a devastating emotional situation.

Rand once claimed that We the Living was the closest to an autobiography that she would ever write.  And yet, through the reading of her personal letters, journals, and private thoughts, we are piecing together an "autobiography" of sorts that is valuable, even if we must all continue to make a distinction between the life of the philosopher and the meaning of the philosophy.

Still, I recall an article written by literary critic Carlin Romano for The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In his essay, "
The Unexamined Life May Be Your Own," Romano reviews two books:  The Philosophical I:  Personal Reflections on Life in Philosophy and Singing in the Fire:  Stories of Women in Philosophy, both of which bring together memoirs from philosophers of various stripes.  In the essay, Romano states:  "Autobiography matters.  What would philosophy be like if we read the autobiography of a philosopher before we read the work?  It would be better.  We would be better."  Not because we are inherently voyeuristic.  But because there is something to be said about understanding the personal context of the thinker.

Rand may never have written that autobiography; she may have been bored with the idea, and she may not have been "willing to transcribe a 'real life' story," as she stated in the Foreword to We the Living.  But all of these posthumously published personal notes amount to a kind of autobiographical tale, one that I, strictly from the perspective of history, find fascinating.

I should reply, however, to a few things that Michelle C. writes
here:


After reading Branden's negative, vengeful account, I have a valid interest in reading the account of the other side. Even if the published collection of Rand's letters and journal entries is incomplete, it is not forged.   If people look down at Objectivism because of the conduct of the originator of the philosophy, it is because all they have is Branden's negative account.


Whatever one can say about the "negative" details of Rand's personal life, I don't believe that people "look down on Objectivism because of the conduct of the originator of the philosophy."  It might provide some critics with ad hominem ammunition, but hatred of Ayn Rand has been around long before any knowledge of the Affair.  And that hatred is primarily ideological not personal.  The fact that there are still people alive who were personally involved with Rand and who still have a personal stake in the stories being told is certainly of interest; but I don't believe that this is the prime reason for Rand's "negative" press.

Also, with regard to the previously published collections of Rand's letters and journal entries being "incomplete," but "not forged," I do think there have been problems with the integrity of some of those published materials, as I explain
here.  I have no reason to doubt the integrity of Valliant's presentation of Rand's private journal entries in this book, but I also have no way of checking the accuracy of the presentation since I have never seen Rand's original notes.

All of this said, I think we should keep something in mind:  The discussions of the Affair have been mostly from the personal perspectives of the participants.  Each person comes to that experience with a different context; the Valliant book simply provides us with an insight into Rand's perspective.  As I said back in 1999 in my
review of the documentary, "Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life":


I also wonder about the appropriateness of having [Leonard] Peikoff talk about this painful affair in Rand's private life, which he was not privy to.  While Paxton claims that his film does not "psychoanalyze" its subject, Peikoff injects his own brand of psychoanalysis into the discussions, since he has to present the audience with a semi-plausible explanation.  Rand is said to have considered Branden a "genius," a great "innovator" in psychology, and Peikoff admits Branden was indeed quite intelligent.  But he says that "one thing or another precipitated the break," venturing further that Branden committed "personal and professional deceptions."  Peikoff speculates, moreover, that Frank O'Connor probably experienced little jealousy, accepting the affair because he knew his wife was special, and that she needed more than he could offer her.  For me, this whole explanation was vacuous; we are given such a humane portrait of this gentle, sensitive man, and we can't help but think about the pain he must have felt over his wife's adultery.  Since the Estate has access to Rand's private journals, and since these will be published ... it might have been better to simply read from the relevant 1968 entries.  It would have provided the audience with a deeper insight into this bizarre episode. ...

Well.  As the saying goes:  I asked for it. :)  I'll leave it to readers to decide whether or not this perspective or that perspective is persuasive, but I think we should all keep in mind that this was an intensely personal affair that affected the lives of individuals, each of whom, as Robert put it, showed "an abundance of poor judgment ... certainly enough to go around."  People have been reading the Branden books and analyzing them for years; I suspect that even clinical psychologists will have a field day with Rand's own personal diaries at this point, and I'm not sure this will do anything to quiet that debate or the focus on Rand's personal life.

And here is where I must confess something about the second of my "two minds"---a  confession of a certain personal discomfort:  Reading Rand's personal journal entries makes me feel a bit uneasy.  As valuable as they are to me from an historical perspective, I suspect there might be an earthquake in Valhalla caused by the spinning of Ayn Rand's body.  As Valliant himself admits, Rand would never have wanted this material made public. 

But it's certainly the kind of thing that gives me pause.  In another week, I'm going to be 45 years old.  Except for when I was 12 and 13---when I was unable to keep a diary due to a life-threatening illness---I have been keeping journals since I was 11 years old.  They are intensely personal.  I often state at the beginning of each journal:  "Those who read this without permission, deserve it."

Anytime I read the published private journals of anybody, I am led to contemplate leaving directions to my own Estate to burn my diaries upon my death.  They were written for me and for nobody else; I have worked through many-a-problem and "let it all hang out" in ways that only an introspective, private encounter with myself would allow. 

Hence:  my "two minds" on this subject.  Either way, I can say, as an author, that it is always worth reading a book before evaluating it.  So, by all means, if you're curious about the Valliant book, read it for yourselves.





Post 71

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 8:52amSanction this postReply
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Chris Sciabarra, who has seen uncorrected galleys of this book, writes:

As Valliant [the author] himself admits, Rand would never have wanted this material made public.


This leaped out at me.

Those of you who profess to love Ayn Rand, let that fact simmer for a moment in your brains.

Okay...had enough time?

Now...let the rationalizing begin.

(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 2/11, 9:10am)




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Post 72

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 9:29amSanction this postReply
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Chris says: Whatever one can say about the "negative" details of Rand's personal life, I don't believe that people "look down on Objectivism because of the conduct of the originator of the philosophy."  It might provide some critics with ad hominem ammunition, but hatred of Ayn Rand has been around long before any knowledge of the Affair.  And that hatred is primarily ideological not personal. 

Perfect.
 
George




Post 73

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 10:30amSanction this postReply
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Personally I question how much value will be gleaned from this material, even from a strictly historical perspective.

The "Early Ayn Rand" stuff (which I imagine she would also not have wanted published) is valuable in exploring Rand's intellectual development, but I've read Rand's public statements on the break, and find myself persuaded by the Brandens' responses. I've heard the "orthodox" line regarding the Brandens a hundred times over, and my own very limited contact with Barbara via this site is enough for me to know that it's bollocks. So I have to wonder, what's to be gained from reading Rand at her worst ebb, especially when it is so obviously an effort at dissing the Brandens?

MH




Post 74

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 10:33amSanction this postReply
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Chris,

You said:

"Anytime I read the published private journals of anybody, I am led to contemplate leaving directions to my own Estate to burn my diaries upon my death. They were written for me and for nobody else;.."

Especially this part:

"... I have worked through many-a-problem and "let it all hang out" in ways that only an introspective, private encounter with myself would allow."

Isn't this what would make them especially valuable for someone who studies your work? And if you decide not to have them destroyed before you die, isn't this an implicit understanding on your part that they will be read and studied by someone? I suppose you could leave in your will that they not be read for 100 years after you die, this would ensure that nothing in them would be damaging to anyone that was still alive when you wrote them. Do you know if Ayn Rand made any stipulations at all like this about her private journals?



Post 75

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 10:44amSanction this postReply
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Chris!

Its interesting that you can't bring yourself to burn your journals yourself!? But I do wonder what the hell you are going to do with all your private correspondence?!

Michael




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Post 76

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 8:21amSanction this postReply
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Wow.

Talk about a footnote.

Mr. Bidinoto, you know NOTHING of me. I am not an acolyte, an affiliate, a follower, an associate, or even somebody who is interested in what the party line of the Ayn Rand Institute may happen to be (I don't know what it is apart from the fact that discussing the Brandens is frowned on), or any of the political squabbles that produce such hysterical prejudice as you have exhibited here. I don't care about any party line, including yours.

I publish the essay of friend of mine (who has been a friend of mine since elementary school, by the way) on my website (an essay which would probably get me in trouble with ARI, if I cared) and help him edit his book and now I am magically ONE OF THEM.

Really, it's hilarious.

You're "cuckolding" take does not even comport with Nathaniel Branden's own view of Frank O'Connor's feelings (Jon, for your information, it was Nathaniel Branden who claimed that Frank dug it, too). And as for Barbara's reaction, well, you haven't done as much research on that as the author of this book has. It's a laughable claim, and all-too-convenient considering its effect on you.

All I can say is, read the book. And give the pre-emptive ad hominem a rest (for four more weeks, at least).

What I'm sorry about here is that a truly wonderful book, and by that I mean a positive book, about Ayn Rand is being so viciously maligned because it provides a context, Ayn Rand's own context for God's sake, on the very area that has caused her to be dismissed because of a one-sided (and posthumous) telling of one tiny facet of her very big life.

That's a crying shame, and I think anyone who respects her for what she meant to them, and she did mean a lot to me when I read her as a teenager and continues to make more sense to me as an adult, should be naturally curious about her side of the story. Unfortunately, she has to come out of the vault like Harry Seldon in the Foundation Trilogy to finally give that side of the story. I, for one, am glad it happened. Anyone who can actually spit on that event is just impenetrable to me. I don't even want to understand them. Yuck!




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Post 77

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 2:06pmSanction this postReply
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Mike E. raises these questions about my diary-keeping and my thoughts about having the material burned when I'm gone:

Isn't this what would make them especially valuable for someone who studies your work? And if you decide not to have them destroyed before you die, isn't this an implicit understanding on your part that they will be read and studied by someone? I suppose you could leave in your will that they not be read for 100 years after you die, this would ensure that nothing in them would be damaging to anyone that was still alive when you wrote them. Do you know if Ayn Rand made any stipulations at all like this about her private journals?

Michael N. writes:

Its interesting that you can't bring yourself to burn your journals yourself!? But I do wonder what the hell you are going to do with all your private correspondence?!


Well, I haven't burned the journals because they have a continuing utility for me; there are plenty of times I'll check back on this or that point or this or that event for this or that reason.  Sometimes, it's interesting to see what I was thinking in prior years and how I may have worked through a similar problem; it's great to see growth, and humbling to see that some of the same issues persist.  One thing that it has done for me is that it has made honesty, especially self-honesty, a number one priority in my life.

As for Rand:  I don't know anything about any stipulations in Rand's will.

I can tell you that currently I've made arrangements to have my journals, private papers, and library transferred to a reputable institution after my death, with the stipulation that none of it be opened for a number of years.  But if I don't decide to have the journals burned, I will probably increase the number of years that they are under lock and key. My concern is less about my "reputation" (how much worse can it be when the founder of SOLO calls you "Her Royal Whoreness" and "Dr. Diabolical Dialectical" among a few other choice epithets?), and more about people who are mentioned in my journals.

And yes, I do suppose they might have utility for others in some distant time as a curiosity, or perhaps as a travel-guide to one man's adventures in self-discovery.




Post 78

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 2:24pmSanction this postReply
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Casey, whatever your affiliation (or non-) with ARI, the perspectives you voiced on the affair (and which I quoted) must have been drawn from your reading and editing of the manuscript. How could you endorse the book so enthusiastically if it presented conclusions vastly different from your own?

Even now, what you said is completely consistent with what I've picked up informally as the "official" take on the affair. But you're absolutely right about one thing: there's no need for us to speculate further. In a few weeks, that "official" viewpoint will be in full public view. Let's see then if your excuse-making for Rand's behavior represents just one man's opinion -- or if it in fact summarizes the arguments put forth in the book to excuse this ugly episode.

You don't know me, so you couldn't know how relieved I'd be to be proved wrong. But sadly, after decades of experience, I've never yet seen that crowd fail to exceed my lowest expectations.



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Post 79

Friday, February 11, 2005 - 2:35pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,

I do recall, and thanks for the reminder, that it was NB who claimed that he and Ayn had an exchange that amounted to, ‘our spouses are almost as excited about this as we are!’ My statement stands, however, that Valliant made a long argument in support of such nonsense in his essay.

Such was a major problem with his essay, we’ll see if it survives into the book: Anything NB or BB say that supports his thesis, he quotes, expounds upon, accepts as obviously true. Anything they have said that goes against his thesis, he uses the part that helps him and reminds the reader that the rest is uncorroborated outside of the Brandens, so we have to dismiss it.

When people act like Ayn and NB did act, they concoct rationalizations that keep them safe from the pain of the knowledge of the pain they are causing. Thus, “I think Frank digs it, don’t you? Oh yeah, big time. Barbara, too.” It’s up to sensible people to recognize such as self-defensive rationalization. The rest, including you and Valliant, are free to go right ahead and believe such nonsense, as it does help your thesis.

Jon




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