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Nathaniel Branden 1930-2014

Posted by khalling 2 years, 11 months ago to News
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"After the publication of Rand's magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, Branden created the Nathanial Branden Institute and presented lectures on Rand's philosophy, Objectivism. Branden systematized Rand's philosophy, something she had not done, and presented lectures on the ideas, published as The Vision of Ayn Rand."

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  • Posted by Herb7734 2 years, 11 months ago
    I met Branden through his friend and later associate, Lee Shulman. I attended several of his lectures, courses on Objectivism, and one of what he called his "Intensives." My impression of him when I first met him was tainted by hero-worship, so it wasn't very objective. Over the years, as I met him on various occasions I found him to be...imperious. I often was prone to think, when he was in the room, "cut me a break." However, after the break-up with A.R. he seemed to mellow out a good deal and was far more pleasant to be with. Pretty much as portrayed by the article. I am very sad to hear of his passing. Since we are of the same era, I always have and always will have identified him with the building and dissemination of Objectivism.
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  • Posted by  $  jlc 2 years, 11 months ago
    Though I live in LA, I never met Nathanial Branden. However. In the early 1980's my life blew up real good. (Some trifling matter of the man I loved getting into an auto accident, being in a coma for a week, getting out against all odds...then going insane and thinking he was the new Messiah...) I ended up quitting my job, loading my possessions into a VW bug and driving blindly 'away'. I wound up in Springfield, Missouri. There, I got a part time job and read psychology books in the rest of my time. Branden's workbook, "If You Could Hear What I Cannot Say" was the book I most credit with putting my mind, emotions, and life back together.

    A toast to you, Nathanial Branden. Thank you.

    Jan
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  • Posted by  $  Starwagen 2 years, 11 months ago
    I only had a chance to meet Nathaniel Branden twice, once before the split with Rand and once after. Both conversations short but interesting. We all owe him gratitude for the several lecture series that he was so important in creating. He did a great job of preserving and disseminating Rands philosophy accurately. RIP
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  • Posted by PURB 2 years, 11 months ago
    I met Dr. Branden only once, in 1997, on the occasion of the 40 Anniversary celebration of Atlas. Like the full-time collector I am, I nabbed him as he was returning to his seat after a trip to the men's room, asking him to sign a number of books, articles, LP's that I'd hunted down and brought with me. His abundantly glowing smile reminded me of Francisco. He even expressed surprise upon seeing a few items (e.g., the LP, "Nathaniel Branden Discusses Teenagers Questions on Sex") which he'd not seen in decades. He was curious about my collection, asked a number of pointed questions, and invited me to contact him.

    I remember thinking, "That is an Ayn Rand hero." Thanks Dr. B. You'll not be forgotten by many, many people you helped and touched.

    Michael
    PEN ULTIMATE RARE BOOKS

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  • Posted by term2 2 years, 11 months ago
    I first met Nathaniel Branden when I was at Stanford as a graduate student. Being a big fan of Objectivism while I was an undergraduate at MIT, I invited him to speak there, and it was his first speaking engagement since his breakup with Ayn Rand. I was a little surprised he accepted the invitation, since he didnt know me at al;, but I am happy he did. I think he got some things off his chest in public and a LOT of people attended his presentation. I was very impressed, and later on I moved to LA and attended some of his group therapy sessions, and nearly went to work for him. Anyway, I have to say that I have been very influenced by Objectivism throughout my life, in a very positive way. I have to thank him.
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  • Posted by flanap 2 years, 11 months ago
    Is it my misunderstanding leading to my sense that Dr. Branden doesn't have much a following here in the Gulch?
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    • Posted by 2 years, 11 months ago
      this a very large group. Many have never heard of National Branden. Many others appreciate his contributions to Objectivism. But, since Rand denounced Branden and they had irreconcilable differences, the legal and intellectual heir to her estate, Leonard Peikoff forbids any discussion of Branden or his significance to Objectivism. The Atlas Society, headed by David Kelly does. Kelly wanted Objectivism to stand on its own, as a logical system-he coined the phrase "open Objectivism." Ayn Rand Institute run by Yaron Brook, vehemently disagree with such a concept. The philosophy closed with the death of its creator. there are many articles on this, try this one:http://www.atlassociety.org/ayn_rand_institute_vs_atlas_society
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      • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
        Leonard Peikoff does not and cannot "forbid discussion". He wants nothing to do with Branden and does not himself normally talk about it. His reasons are based on Branden's actions and change in character, not because Ayn Rand denounced him, without regard for the reasons for it.

        ARI does not disagree that Ayn Rand's philosophy stands on its own. The word "Objectivism" refers to Ayn Rand's philosophy as she formulated it. It is "closed" to those want to appropriate the term to mean something else. The philosophy did not close with the death of its creator; her own formulations of it and its applications necessarily did.

        The Thomas polemic sounds desperate and paranoid: "What it is it they value more than the truth", etc. etc. There are many individuals who belong to or who have belonged to both organizations. ARI, however, is a scholarly organization dedicated specifically to Ayn Rand's philosophy and does not want affiliations or implied endorsements with those who re-write and misrepresent it, which it doesn't encourage and otherwise doesn't waste time arguing about every time it comes up, preferring to pursue its own organizational goals. Ayn Rand did the same. She took her ideas and their impact very seriously. (Ironically, it seems that it was Branden himself most responsible for the huffy, pompous attitude at NBI before it disbanded).

        That there are those who wrap themselves in momentous crusades on behalf of Truth, Objectivity, and the defense of Philosophy Itself over personal infighting, different beliefs, and organizational political and operational disagreements seems to be more a symptom of any social movement and its politics in just about any realm. Be thankful that Ayn Rand's ideas are popular enough to make that possible, and maintain your own knowledge and objectivity in determining what is right.
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        • Posted by 2 years, 11 months ago
          and he does forbid discussion on scholarly individuals in Objectivism. see McCaskey board shut out and ARI scholars refusing to acknowledge his contributions or discuss his work AFTER Peikoff's proclamation. It's a little creepy
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          • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
            That episode of his tantrum demanding that McCaskey leave the Board for asking scholarly questions about his book with Dave Harriman was significantly less than his finest moment, and John McCaskey should not have caved in and resigned out of deference to 'keeping the peace'. Peikoff is not on the ARI board and had no authority to tell them or him what to do. He has no power to forbid discussion and there are many examples of people speaking out over his controversial statements.

            Dave Harriman has subsequently been meeting with Dave Kelly and given talks at the Atlas Society. ARI still publicizes his lectures and book.
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        • Posted by 2 years, 11 months ago
          evw your ability to persuade goes down when you ad hominem. Is ARI just a history group or are they actually furthering the philosophy? I was just kicked out of a FB group filled with ARI members. They actually posted that since Peikoff is the "heir" I needed to defer. The fact that a serious scholar,in Kelley, is never mentioned, discussed or his work looked at seriously by scholars at ARI is not Objective. Any logical system is not closed. Go look up the definition of Newtonian Physics. You're free to disagree, of course. but no one brings up the heir to Newton as the last word on his physics.
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          • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
            ARI is both dedicated to Ayn Rand's philosophy and trying to further it in books, articles and interviews, directly and indirectly such as Allan Gotthelf's work, and the Harriman book on philosophy of science, which they sponsored, characterizing it as an application of Objectivism (not without controversy). They also engage in a lot of commentary on current events and which even ARI members don't always agree with in its content, but they don't mischaracterize it as Ayn Rand and they don't seek to re-write Ayn Rand in different language pandering to the masses to make it more 'palatable'. The growth of philosophical knowledge following Ayn Rand's creation has not been "closed" and could not be, but it could be thwarted by misrepresenting her philosophy and mixing it with its opposite as it is trying to take hold in the culture.

            What serious scholarship of David Kelly should be mentioned? It's no surprise that he has been distanced following his philosophical "toleration" episode, which went far beyond treating people civilly in an academic setting instead of the embarrassing caricature of spinning away as if with a "cape waving behind them". (We used to call them "cape wavers".)

            I don't know anything about the FB group you were on, what they wanted you to defer on, why you lost your membership, or who the particular people are you are referring to. There has always been the false alternative of those make snide taunting comments about Ayn Rand versus sycophantic followers maintaining a kind of "deference" that crosses the intellectual line -- and likewise for many other figures throughout time. I stay away from both, but don't assume people I don't know are either. Whatever the people on your ex-FB group are and whatever the details of your experience, it sounds like the result of your not being there anymore is mutually beneficial. So you continue on with those more amenable to you -- which is what you should do -- at no personal loss. Such is the nature of social movements and their factions. Just keep doing what you think is best.
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            • Posted by 2 years, 11 months ago
              one of the most important works of Kelley's is his analysis of Hayek vs Rand. If you have not yet read that paper, I suggest it. I have listened to Harriman talk. some very tough and important issues were avoided and the whole McCaskey debate is important and affects the scholarship to some degree.
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              • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
                His early The Evidence of the Senses was very interesting, but I haven't seen the Hayek paper. Is it posted at the AS website? (If you don't happen to know now I can hunt it down myself.)

                What Harriman talk did you hear and what important issues were avoided? The McCaskey issue is very important for several reasons, both for the way it was mishandled and the kinds of historical points he raised. I found Harriman's book to be very good, but not in all the ways he thought of it himself.
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                • Posted by 2 years, 11 months ago
                  I should add because of the talk (about the book) we watched, we did not then read the book. However, now that I am looking at other talks I will delve in...
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      • Posted by Robbie53024 2 years, 11 months ago
        Branden had a very important influence by organizing and systematizing the philosophy of AR. He should have a place of distinction for that work. The fact that as a former lover of AR who had a very heartbreaking dissolution of the relationship should not negate those accomplishments, even if AR herself attempted to do so.
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    • Posted by  $  allosaur 2 years, 11 months ago
      This is the first I ever heard of him, but I was also in the dark about Ayn Rand even when I had Netflix send me the first Atlas Shrugged DVD, I was attracted to the flick by reviews I read.
      I thought Ayn was pronounced Ann until I watched a special feature that came with The Fountainhead DVD just last month.
      I recall someone criticizing me here as the least of the gulchers or something along those lines. Well, so what? I'm a newbie to the whole Ayn Rand thing.
      And I define myself, thank you very much.
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      • Posted by  $  IndianaGary 2 years, 11 months ago
        As well you should. I had no idea that you were so new to Objectivism. Welcome again to the Gulch. As were many at the time, I was more confused than anything else when Rand and Branden split; it took me years to understand the issues involved. Many took sides and he was virtually excommunicated by the Leonard Peikoff branch hence his persona non grata status with ARI. I believe that both Rand and Branden mellowed considerably as they aged but far too much emotional damage had been done to ever mend the rift.

        Dr. Branden was largely responsible for the spread of Objectivism in the early days (Rand was not interested in nonfiction yet. She only became interested after Branden showed that there was a market for her ideas.) For that reason alone, I recommend "The Vision of Ayn Rand", the recently published print edition of the NBI lectures, to anyone wanting an in-depth exposition of early Objectivism training. It is as clear and effective today as it was when only available on audiotape. Branden included an additional lecture on the "Benefits and Hazards" of the early Objectivist movement and essentially admitted partial culpability for the intransigence of early Objectivists. His criticism was for the behavior of himself, Rand and several others and not for the content of the philosophy. While Rand and Branden are now gone, Objectivism lives!
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        • Posted by MikeRael101 2 years, 11 months ago
          Actually, the Vision of Ayn Rand, while it has some wonderful parts as those about atheism, also has unfair sarcasm. The section about epistemology is not clear. Go over it with a fine tooth comb and ask yourself *why* Branden propounded his various propositions there. Sometimes you'll find valid answers and sometimes leave a bit puzzled and wanting, perhaps, to delve deeper into the philosophy. It has been a long while since I heard the original lectures or the CD version and I just browsed through the book. I think Branden's book really needs a serious critique for the inquiring reader.
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          • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
            It was an early attempt at summarizing that was overwhelmingly replaced by the lectures beginning around the 1970s, and the later Peikoff comprehensive book stemming from them -- Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, 1991. The Branden "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course is mostly of historical interest. (The original lectures were issued on vinyl records.) The epistemology in particular was properly dealt with in Ayn Rand's own book, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and the Workshops in NYC around 1970.
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        • Posted by Robbie53024 2 years, 11 months ago
          Typical example of emotion overwhelming rationality. Hmmm, even the venerable AR could be swayed by emotion.
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          • Posted by  $  IndianaGary 2 years, 11 months ago
            Rand was human, as was Branden. Even the most rational among us can allow emotions to get the better of us at times. The important point is what we do about it.
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            • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
              Ayn Rand's break with Branden was based on what he did and had changed himself and his character into prior to the break, not her emotions. The emotional reactions followed, and there is nothing wrong with that. Emotions are automatic responses to values.

              It was originally confusing in the period after the break for several reasons, especially for students just starting out and who didn't know what had happened, and I don't think that the people close to Ayn Rand properly took that into account. As time went on, there was at least less confusion over what happened, if not why, as Branden's ideas and writing changed dramatically -- right down to embracing New Age mysticism and personal sarcasm and dishonest attacks against Ayn Rand, which was staggering for those who had expected better. He had clearly messed himself up and was grasping at all kinds of nonsense along with his personal attacks on Ayn Rand. As for what happened around the time of the break and the misrepresentations of Ayn Rand regarding it, see James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics: The Case against the Brandens, 2005, based on Ayn Rand's private journals.
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              • Posted by  $  IndianaGary 2 years, 11 months ago
                With the exception of Valliant's book, which I found not entirely credible, I have never seen anything in print that describes "what he did/changed in himself, etc." Nor anything that described his character adversely other than ad hominim attacks that lacked corroboration. Most of the negative things I saw came from the Peikoff wing at that time. I do know that he experimented with hypnotism which Rand and her close followers did not approve of. None of his writings document "embracing New Age mysticism" although some of his lectures, made prior to the split, did contain some curious sarcasm. After leaving New York and setting up his psychology practice in California, I don't believe that his subsequent writing (much, but not all of which, I've read) contained anything that I would describe as "mysticism." I do think that the original "Judgement Day" book was somewhat self-serving and the subsequent revised edition tempered this to an extent. He did note his second thoughts about the movement that he had fostered and to a great extent created. The "excommunications" by Rand of many of her closest supporters around the time of and shortly after the rift tend to confirm this evaluation. To my knowledge Branden always held the philosophy of Objectivism in high regard.
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  • Posted by mbpost 2 years, 11 months ago
    I read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead in 1964, at age 12, and proclaimed myself an Objectivist "as much as I am any one thing". As comprehensive as Objectivism was, I knew the core principles advocated individualism even then.

    Branden was instrumental in the development and dissemination of Rand's ideas and deserves recognition. And he later attempted--in my opinion--to bring the principles of Objectivism into the psychology and mental health field, filling a void in the Objectivist canon. It was a valuable, if not comprehensive, attempt.

    Years ago, I attended one of his lectures in New York City. I found him somewhat guarded or maybe just preoccupied. But Objectivism is much more than a cult of personality, so his personality (and that of Rand's) is but an interesting footnote to the brilliance of Rand's invention.

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    • Posted by ewv 2 years, 11 months ago
      Branden's first comprehensive book The Psychology of Self Esteem, was based on articles he had previously published in The Objectivist. The character of his writing changed dramatically after that.
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  • Posted by wiggys 2 years, 11 months ago
    i am currently reading The book Objectivist Newsletters many of which were written by Brandon. I now know more of his background and books he has written which I intend to buy.
    thank you for the article.
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  • Posted by Itheliving 2 years, 11 months ago
    Got to see him and hear a lecture by him in 9/67. Very dismayed during the public rift with AR in less than 2 years. His co dedication in Atlas was removed in subsequent editions
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  • Posted by  $  Marty_Swinney 2 years, 11 months ago
    When I first heard those lectures (on vinyl!), Basic Principles of Objectivism, back in 1972 I thought them so important that I painstakingly transcribed each of them with my hunt-and-peck typewriting (non)skills. My "booklet," right behind me in one of my many bookcases, measures about 2-inches thick. For a number of years (c. 1973-2009) until the publication of The Vision of Ayn Rand, I may have had the only "hard copy" of those lectures.

    When Branden became a US citizen in 1975, I was privileged to attend a reception for the newest US citizen, hosted by the fledgling Libertarian Party of Los Angeles County, at which Dr. Branden also registered to vote as a Libertarian. The date was December 5, 1975, as inscribed by Branden on the flyleaf of his book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. I also became a founding member of my local LP region that same year.

    I still have my boxed set of those vinyl records.

    I am not at all ashamed of saying that those lectures, back in 1972, literally saved my life.

    Doctor Branden, I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. Thank you immensely for having existed.
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  • Posted by HollyFritch 2 years, 11 months ago
    In the history of civilization Ayn Rand & Nathaniel Branden made significant advances in our understanding of mankind. For the portion of the populace that can think logically, we recognize tha both were brilliant lights. Personally both have been extremely influential in my life and I will always be grateful for their ideas. The passing of Nathaniel is a sad day for humanity. The photo of Nathaniel at a medical society meeting in Kansas City in the late 90's which hangs in my medical office will continue to keep his spirit alive for the rest of my life.
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  • Posted by Ray_Cathode 2 years, 11 months ago
    I was in group with Branden 1979~1981, and attended a few of his intensives - I met my wife at one of them - Nathaniel claimed to be the 'matchmaker' - which I suppose he was. I owe a large debt to Mr. Branden for my issues that he helped me deal with in group. If I may, a little story related to me by a friend - if memory serves and the story is true:

    At the funeral of Nathaniel's second wife, Patrecia, Branden had chosen not to speak, but changed his mind. He was in tears, leaned against the coffin, I'm sure in terrible anguish, he spoke about the "ecstatic possibilities of life..." - surely the act of a heroic soul. My condolences to all who appreciated him.
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  • Posted by  $  ObjectiveAnalyst 2 years, 11 months ago
    I have read so many of his essays. One of particular note was "Common Fallacies About Capitalism" Chapter 5. in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. His contributions are many and of consequence. The history of his relationship with Ayn is tragic, but that in no way diminishes the value he created for us. In the end value left behind is the greatest achievement one could achieve.

    "If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do things worth writing." - Benjamin Franklin
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  • Posted by radical 2 years, 11 months ago
    He helped many people turn their lives around. I have the full set of his writings in Ayn Rand's periodicals in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I also read several of his books. He told people to honor themselves, a concept sorely missing in the minds of many. He has left his indelible mark.
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