Posts Tagged nathaniel branden

Ayn Rand and her philosophy – a different perspective

Ayn Rand came into my life – through her writings – about five years ago. I’ve read two of her most influential books – Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged more than once, and each time I’ve been left gasping at the tremendous concepts that she has brought almost single-handedly into this world. I’ve also started reading her essays on The Virtue of Selfishness. Somewhere along the line though, my love for her ideas started becoming less blind, as I began to recognise, through my own experiences and reflections, as well as articles like this, that her philosophy was not flawless; that there were certain realities that Objectivism did not, and still does not, explain satisfactorily.

Imagine my surprise a couple of years ago when I came to know that there was a guy called Nathaniel Branden; that he was a close personal and intellectual associate of Rand; that he was a clinical psychologist; that after many years of association with her, he broke up with her; and it came to be disclosed that they were having an affair all the while!

Branden, the young man who idolised Rand from a very young age, had a fall-out with her that was as painful as his association was rewarding. One of the consequences of their split was that Branden started looking at Rand and her work in a less forgiving, and more critical, light. More importantly, he began to understand, given his background in psychology, how some aspects of Rand’s philosophy could do more harm than good. Briefly, these are the things that he objected to:

  • Encouraging repression (“A clash between mind and emotions is a clash between two assessments, one of which is conscious, the other might not be. It is not invariably the case that the conscious assessment is superior to the subconscious one; that needs to be checked out.”)
  • Encouraging moralizing (“I don’t know of anyone other than the Church fathers in the Dark Ages who used the word “evil” quite so often as Ayn Rand.”)
  • Conflating sacrifice and benevolence (“I am referring to the principle of benevolence, mutual helpfulness and mutual aid between human beings. I believe it is a virtue to support life. I believe it is a virtue to assist those who are struggling for life. I believe it is a virtue to seek to alleviate suffering. None of this entails the notion of self-sacrifice.”)
  • Overemphasizing the role of philosophical premises (“Among the many unfortunate consequences of believing that we are the product only of our premises and that our premises are chiefly the product of the thinking we have done or failed to do is a powerful inclination, on the one hand, to regard as immoral anyone who arrives at conclusions different from our own, and, on the other hand, an inclination to believe that people who voice the same beliefs as we do are people with whom we naturally have a lot in common.”)

The complete article offers a detailed insight from a man who’s still an Objectivist at heart, though an enlightened one, and without many of the shortcomings that Rand had, but never admitted. An interesting read for anyone, I think.

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Nathaniel Branden interview – snippet

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Nathaniel Branden, long-time associate of Ayn Rand, the original Objectivist.

Personal Reflections

Q: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in life?

Branden: I’d like to say, first of all, I hate being confined to the single most important thing. Can I mention two?

Q: Okay, what are the two most important things you’ve learned?

Branden: Let yourself know and fully experience how important love is and honor that importance in your actions. Don’t ever be careless with love. Be aware of the preciousness of each moment of your existence. Be aware that none of us is immortal — the clock is always ticking and none of us knows how long any of us has got. The time to let that other person experience how loved and valued he or she is by us, is right now. It’s one thing to love — and quite another to have the wisdom and courage to live that love fully, unreservedly, and to the hilt. Fully to surrender to love can be terrifying, but it’s the price life asks of us in exchange for the possibility of ecstasy.

Q: And your second message to the world?

Branden: Don’t deny or disown what you see or experience merely because you can’t explain it, justify it, or fit it into some familiar frame-of-reference. Allow a large space in your psyche to accommodate ambiguity and uncertainty. Don’t invent explanations prematurely just so you can tell yourself you have the universe all tied up in one neat package. Keep your eyes open, keep observing, and be confident that sooner or later the truth will appear to you, providing, of course, you live long enough. And if you don’t, well, hasn’t it been an interesting adventure anyway?

Complete interview

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