I recently read Branden's paper on The Benefits & Hazards of objectivism. Do you agree with what he's listed as the "hazards" of Objectivism? Was Ayn Rand only a pseudo-philosopher as suggested by Scott Ryan & also by Branden? Did Ayn Rand have little understanding of Psychology?
If anyone's read any more critics of the phil., are those worth reading?
Anyone reading the "Benefits and Hazards" paper should be cautioned to keep the wider context of it in mind (and to learn the context, if not already known). The opening section of the paper states: "Following an explosive parting of the ways with Ayn Rand in 1968, I have been asked many times about the nature of our differences." It wasn't just "differences" in the ordinary intellectual sense.
The paper expresses the context even more forcefully at the very end, in the section titled, "Closing," referring to "disgraceful lies that she spread about me at the time of our break ... her efforts to destroy me, to ruin my reputation and career...."
Ayn Rand's own explanation of the break was published in The Objectivist, May 1968 (published in September 1968), in an article titled, "To Whom It May Concern." That article concludes:
Consistency is one of the cardinal requirements of Objectivism, both philosophically and psychologically. It is a dangerous philosophy to play with or to accept half-way: it will stifle the mind that attempts to do so. In this respect, Objectivism, like reality, is its own avenger.
Is Objectivism hazardous? Ayn Rand thought so -- depending on how one approaches it.
In the years since 1968, we have gradually learned more about exactly what transpired between Ayn Rand and Mr. Branden, both from him and Mrs. Branden and from other sources, such as The Ayn Rand Institute. The most damaging book (for the Brandens) that I know of, responding to the Brandens' public statements, books and even a movie, is The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics: The Case against the Brandens, by James S. Valliant (2005).
In light of the wider context, we can look back on the 1982 "Benefits and Hazards" speech and observe more clearly what Mr. Branden was trying to do, and how he was trying to do it -- and then judge what merit, if any, his observations may have.
answered Jan 21 '12 at 03:13
Ideas for Life ♦
There is a philosophical debate and dilemma in the field of neurology--can we ever possess enough intelligence to understand the very mind that is doing the investigation? Sometimes I wonder if objective analysis and discussion about Objectivism, by its critics, is equally daunting.
Branden certainly came to write this essay based on a number of facts, which are important to know. And it came from a particular personal and historical context, which is also very important to know. Any reader who strives to make an objective assessment of his points should consider these facts or claims, integrate them to the best of his/her ability, and draw their best conclusions. When the topic is such an emotional-charged one, where you know your self-identity is so intertwined with the subject, it takes a lot of integrity and honesty to be objective. It's also important to be familiar with the various types of bogus arguments and defense mechanisms that are likely to be used, like ad hominem attacks, non sequiters, red herrings, etc.
I happen to think Branden makes many valid points in the essay. Rand's position about a female President is on target (unless someone can at last provide a persuasive defense here). I think an honest assessment of the facts of biology (genetics, evolution, neurology, psychology) shows that a person's philosophy may not be as singularly powerful and explanatory for peoples' thoughts and behavior as Rand claimed. Biology is part of our nature, after all, and we are more than walking conceptual-level brains.
But what is important to keep in mind is that Objectivism provides all the tools and guidance we need to look at reality, learn the facts, make rational judgments, and act accordingly. If perpection, logic and reason are virtues, then it is still a virtue to apply them to critiques of the philosophy itself. Like everything else, it's up to you to use your own mind to decide how much they are worth investigating, and what conclusions to draw from them. If there are aspects of Objectivism that don't seem consistent or complete to you, then critiques on those aspects may help you.
answered Jan 22 '12 at 13:23