Sunday, February 04, 2024

Objectivist Roundup, February 2024

1.  There is a new Kindle book, The Rational Edge: Ayn Rand on Nature and Essence by one Andy Randell.  It's a brief overview of Objectivism with some objections and possible responses.  Unless you are completely new to Objectivism or have Kindle Unlimited, I can't recommend it.

2.  Ben Bayer of the Ayn Rand Institute interviewed Harry Binswanger on his years with Ayn Rand.  It's somewhat defensive (for example Rand was not a difficult editor) but it does contain interesting anecdotes and observations.   A few of Binswanger's observations:
 i.  Rand was always intense, even when reheating the Borscht her cook made.

 ii.  Binswanger concedes that Rand occasionally got unnecessarily angry at interlocutors because she would judge their motives and premises prematurely.

  iii.  Rand didn't see all the implications of some of her ideas until the 1970s.  That was a new one to me.

  iv.  Rand was a great psychologist, including better than many "respected historical psychologists."  James Valliant made a similar claim recently.

   v.  Binswanger still hates the Brandens ("villains").  Fair enough from his perspective, but he actually claims Rand's excommunication letter in 1968 (To Whom It May Concern) was measured and even Olympian.  It's hard to imagine calling Nathaniel a thief without evidence as being measured.  As Nathaniel said in his memoirs, Rand's attack was so "over the top" that people wondered if he was an alcoholic or a child molester.

   vi.  Maybe not a major point, but Binswanger misrepresents Barbara's Branden's biography (The Passion of Ayn Rand) on Rand's final meeting and phone call with Rand.  As Binswanger says, Rand and Barbara met in Rand's New York apartment in 1981.  According to Barbara, after the meeting, she sent Rand a letter stating that she was writing Rand's biography.  When Rand didn't respond, Barbara called her.  Rand refused to talk.  Barbara says she was certain that this was due to Rand's disapproval of the prospective biography.  Binswanger doesn't mention the letter and says Barbara first mentioned the idea of the biography in the phone call and asked for Rand's assistance.  He says  Barbara claims that this final conversation was of a "I'm sorry that things didn't work out" variety.  This was manifestly not what Branden wrote.  (The existence of the post-meeting letter mentioning a biography is confirmed by Cynthia Peikoff in 100 Voices).  Perhaps Binswanger should have re-read the relevant page in Branden's biography before accusing her of lying.