The work of Nathaniel Branden

Paul Marks wrote:

As I understand it (correct me if I am mistaken) the most important thing for an Objectivist is their work. So I hope that this gentleman achieved things of value in his work, and was able to work up to the conclusion of his life.

Nathaniel Branden, I believe, did keep working at least up until very recently.

The Objectivist Living site has links to various items of interest and a piece by Ed Hudgins (currently of The Atlas Society).

There was a BookNotes interview of Dr. Branden done by Brian Lamb in 1989, occasioned by the publishing of his memoir Judgment Day, very interesting. A little over an hour, IIRC. This was the first of two books he wrote about his breakup with Ayn Rand, when he was still pretty angry. Later he wrote another, The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, which consists primarily of his “Basic Principles of Objectivism” series that were issued by NBI as an audio-taped course for students of Objectivism. I was a member of a club of students of Objectivism around 1970; we rented the tapes and heard the lectures ourselves. I had some problems with it then, and still do.

However, the book contains more than just transcripts of the audio series. There is a review of it by Ted Keer (who may not understand the meaning of the word “apologia,” SNARK), including its table of contents, which is worth reading, I think, if one is interested in the course or in the Brandens and Miss Rand as the major dramatis personae of the original Objectivist movement.

Nathaniel Branden’s C-Span interview can be seen at C-Span or here:

As an aside, his first wife, Barbara Branden, wrote a biography of Miss Rand which I think is well worth reading, sympathetic to its subject, and honest, despite a few speculations and minor apparent errors: The Passion of Ayn Rand. I never met Mrs. Branden, except through her writings and appearances on UT, but she seems to me to have been a thoroughly nice person. (Her book invoked howls and excoriations from ARI’s True Believers, as it was not an unrelieved paean to She.) She died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. She was 84.

Interestingly enough, von Mises Institute published a piece by Barbara Branden on “Atlas Shrugged at 50,” which originally appeared in its Journal of Libertarian Studies, You can hear it read by Floy Lilley (~ 18 min.) at

or read it, or download the mp3 recording.

Finally (at least for now!), here is a UT of Dr. Branden speaking at Cato on “Self-Esteem and Libertarianism.”

There is a great deal more by both Brandens on UT.

The best interview of Ayn Rand that I have ever seen was conducted by Tom Snyder. She was happy, gay, in a thoroughly rare mood that day. A joy to see.

 

I may as well admit that unlike many, I’m not much of a fan of The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem nor of The Disowned Self. If anybody cares. And Dr. B. himself came to believe that in his early years he was not always entirely 100% correct. This went some way to rehabilitating him in my sight.

And yet again, people’s ideas and perceptions and responses and evaluations do change at least to some extent as we go along. Perhaps if I read those books today I would respond differently. At the time I felt I was being beaten with a blunt object composed largely of complete misunderstandings of the realities–although I wanted to be 100% enthralled with them. Well, the good Doctor WAS authoritarian and no mistake. This fact has been noted by others as well as yours truly.

Nevertheless, I am very glad that I was fortunate enough to share the temporal span of Miss Rand, both Brandens, and the birth and subsequent life (through the present, that is) of her novels and of Objectivism.

 

I like what Simon wrote — particularly the part about N.B.’s becoming a nicer person.

My own opinion began its upward revision when I first read “The Hazards and Benefits of Objectivism.”. I did actually meet the man, in January or February of 1978, when I took one of his “Intensive” “seminars.” It left me infuriated and in a tizzy and lowered my opinion of myself by several percentage points and of him, several thousand. In his defense: I think it was not too long after his second wife, Patrecia, was drowned. (But his next wife, Devers, was there as his assistant.)

As for The Affair, I’ve often thought that happened because A.R. confused herself with a character in an Ayn Rand novel. (As well, no doubt, as being attracted to Nathaniel … and perhaps missing, at the time, a sense of romance in her marriage, and just generally the stuff that most of us go through.) This happens to writers, I believe. It is said that Dorothy L Sayers was in love with Lord Peter, which I find quite believable. And one female novelist, fortunately well-loved by and happy with her family, one evening sat down to dinner with the husband & kiddies while hard at work on her latest, and started complaining up one side and down the other how she “had to do everything” and “nobody appreciates me” and…. She said her family looked at her awestruck. Finally one of her daughters — a teenager I think — said, “But Mom, you’re not talking about YOURSELF, are you.” She said she was startled to realize what she’d been saying, and that the girl was absolutely right.

Just to round things out, I think people might find George H. Smith’s 1990 piece on Nathaniel Branden interesting. It’s entitled ” Nathaniel Branden’s Judgment Day: Reviewing the Reviewers,” and in it Mr. Smith praises N.B. highly. He also hands Murray Rothbard a couple good ones right in the chops, literarily speaking of course. (Mr. Smith is another who seems not to suffer gladly those who annoy him.)

The relationships, erstwhile friendships, and antagonisms among libertarians is wondrous to behold.

12 Comments

  1. Well Lord Peter is what a woman would like a man to be – intelligent, but not a show off, kind and brave, and with a sense of humour (and a hint of mischief). As for we men – well we know we do not measure up.

    As for “self esteem” – well I lack if (I have basically none) I suspect I would get a lot more done (and avoid some of the vices I am prone to) if I had more self esteem. However one can have too much of it – the show off, bore, who thinks he (and it normally is a “he”) can do anything and knows everything, is a pain in the …..

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    1. Somebody interviewed N.B. long after he had moved away from the Objectivist movement per se and asked him whether he himself had problems with self-esteem. He replied, “Everybody has problems with self-esteem.”

      Unfortunately I have no idea where I read this or even whether I read it or saw it in a UT video.

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    2. Heh…Paul, the overweening gent of whom you disapprove is an example of what Objectivists call “pseudo-self-esteem” — it is explained as an attempt to evade one’s inadequacies by pretending they don’t exist, and by substituting one’s ability to cream other slobs for whatever reason for one’s sense of having the ability to cope successfully with whatever.

      And what do you mean “it normally is a ‘he,'” you low-down rotten male chauvinist you? I’ll have you know I can think of any number of female pains-in-the-eyebrow as you describe, such as (for just one) Dolores Umbrage. So there!

      The ideal of self-esteem as N. Branden worked it out involves the recognition that one is fallible, in common with the rest of our species, and is focussed on living a life that illustrates his respect for self and others. True self-esteem in the Objectivist sense is the attitude that “one is capable of living and worthy of living,” thoroughly integrated into one’s worldview and one’s sense of self. The idea is among other things that a person’s self-valuation does not depend on the approval or disapproval of others; what others think of him is THEIR problem, whereas it is his own independent judgment of his capacity to cope, and its validation in terms of his practical track record, that is the source of his self-esteem. All this while still respecting other people until they show themselves unworthy of it by their own disrespectful actions.

      Miss R. herself said in one of her articles (I believe it was) that she dislikes the Christian Golden Rule because it puts positive duties on people, but that she was in favor of the “negative” version of Hillel, “Do not unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”

      In Objectivist theory, this is one of the working principles of genuine self-esteem. Which is one of the things that Miss R.’s (and Objectivism’s) detractors simply do not get.

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      1. I will give an example of true Objectivist self-esteem, from an Objectivist fellow-traveller online. This gentleman had a fairly seamy life as a younger adult, did drugs, mixed in a low-life crowd, so forth. And was by his own statement seriously messed up.

        The time came when there was somebody he truly, dearly, desperately wanted dead — whether from fear or anger or both, I do not know — and fortune presented him with means (firepower) and opportunity. He said he came that close to doing the deed … but that at the momentous instant, he walked away. It dawned on him that he did not want to live the rest of his life knowing that he had done that deed.

        He said that was the moment when he began to turn his life around.

        That was genuine self-esteem. My recognition that there is a depth of depravity into which I do not wish to fall, and into which I can and will keep myself from falling.

        . . .

        There is another explanation here though, or perhaps not so much an explanation but a fact that might feed into this man’s sense of self-esteem. Whichever.

        SPOILER: In his wonderful SF novel The Puppet Masters (original version), Mr. Heinlein’s hero “Sam” has the opportunity to kill the only captured live specimen of the aliens who aim to take over the human species. He desperately wants to do it, having first-hand knowledge of the horrible thing that happens to one who comes under the sway of such a “master.” Finally his boss, who has tried hard to talk him out of it because said specimen is necessary for research into its weaknesses, hands him a gun and says, “Very well, Sam. If you really need to do it in order to be whole again — then do it.”

        And Sam lifts the gun, points it … and puts it down. “But why?” “Because when it came to it, I didn’t need to do it. It was enough knowing that I could.”

        Perhaps that also applied to Mr. X’s failure to take out the trash. I wouldn’t know. But it’s an interesting thought.

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    1. Well…two things.

      First, Yaron Brook laughs. Why, I’ve seen him do it myself! E.g. during Mr. Snowdon’s presentation at this very same LH Cost-of-Living event. And as he’s the President and Executive Director of ARI, anointed by Lenny Himself, we may take it as read that he’s an Objectivist. *g*

      Also, I don’t recall 1984 as being a laugh a minute. And I don’t think Darkness at Noon was, either.

      But seriously, the video of Miss Rand’s Tom Snyder interview above may not include vocal laughter, but the laugh and the joy are certainly there in her dancing eyes. :>)))

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  2. Thank you all, the reason I ask is that Rand always struck me as having the same obsessive mentality as the Communists she fled, whether they had a common root in Russian culture, a co-incidence or whether she learnt it from them and was unable to shake it off, it struck me that the obsession was so totalitarian in nature that it spoilt her message.

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