Libertarian History/Philosophy

Nathaniel Branden's Original Objectivism Lectures, Now in Print

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In what could be the greatest contribution to print libertarian movement history since, ahem, my book Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement, Laissez-Faire Books now has issued a fine hardback and paperback edition of the text of the original course of 20 lectures on Objectivism given by Nathaniel Branden at the classes of the Nathaniel Branden Institute, the organization launched in 1958 that was the first to promote and systematize the philosophy inherent in Ayn Rand's novels.

It's called The Vision of Ayn Rand: The Basic Principles of Objectivism, by Nathaniel Branden. It is highly recommended for all fans of, or just interested in, Rand or modern libertarianism. With this book, a staggeringly important chunk of Objectivist and libertarian history is now preserved for both now and ages to come. Long available only in obscure and hard to find audio recordings, these are the words with which Nathaniel Branden–with Ayn Rand's support and approval–shaped and conveyed the structure of Objectivist thought on everything from reason to religion, from politics to sex, from economics to aesthetics. These lectures helped lay the foundations for the modern libertarian movement, and can still educate and shape individual minds today with the thrilling rigor of their ideas.

For more, see the Laissez-Faire web site. [Link now fixed]

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  1. This is good news. However, your link does not go to Laissez Fair Books.

    The correct link is http://www.lfb.org/

  2. Brian Doherty,

    Weren’t people who went to these lectures expected to just engage in rote memorization?

    1. Seward,

      No. The object was to learn about Rand’s ideas and their implications. There was usually a lively discussion following the taped lectures. I know, I was there at the taped lectures in Austin in the 1960s.

      1. That is not what I have read. I have read that over time these became far less open to discussion and the cult aspects of Rand’s movement raised its ugly head more and more.

        1. Perhaps you should examine the motives of those who wrote what you read..

        2. You did not read very closely.

          The taped lectures, i.e. those not at NBI in New York, had a significantly more tolerant atmosphere.

          For this reason, Nathaniel was not persona non grata in all Objectivist circles, particularly California, after he was purged.

      2. Dang you’re old! What was Austin like back then?

      3. Hey I too attended the taped Branden lectures in Austin in the 60s. Don’t remember exactly the year – probably 65-66. I left UT in 67. We were probably in the same group.

  3. “these are the words with which Nathaniel Branden–with Ayn Rand’s support and approval–shaped and conveyed the structure of Objectivist thought on everything from reason to religion, from politics to sex, from economics to aesthetics.”

    Of course, Ayn changed her mind when she discovered that Nate was screwing another broad, but that, as they say, is another story.

    1. Lest anyone be confused by this, Rand’s disavowal of Branden after their affair came a cropper was prospective, not retrospective, and those writings of his contained in her books stayed in her books; these lectures did not happen to have been printed in her lifetime, but there is no reason to believe that these words in this book did not remain what they were: a Rand approved systematization of Objectivism. But it is certainly important that every time Rand’s name gets mentioned that “she had a bad breakup with her protege” gets mentioned; I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind.

      1. It was course more than just a “bad breakup.” I realize that people like to deny the role that the personal lives of thinkers have on their thought (and vice versa), but it is a pretty good lens (though not the only one) by which to understand that thought. In fact, I would argue that it isn’t the affair itself that is all that interesting – what is interesting is that it grew directly out of Rand’s views on emotions, ethics, etc.

        1. I get the distinct impression you have read more Rand biographies than actual Rand.

          1. Actually, I’d say I am slightly more charitable towards her as a result of them. That libertarians have to constantly defend themselves as a result of her writings (particularly her shrill Nietzschean attitudes) – well, it is rather lame.

        2. Of course, Rand happens to be the only thinker that people really hold to this kind of standard. Somehow Rousseau always gets quoted without a mention that he put his kids in an orphanage. Heidegger basically gets a pass for siding with the Nazis. And don’t get me started on Nietzsche.

          But yeah, compared to these minor offenses, an ill-conceived romantic relationship which came to a bad ending indeed deserves mention at every possible opportunity!

          1. Actually, Heidegger’s full fledged support, etc. of the Nazis has always been something that has been controversial amongst philosophers; which is why some have gone out of their way to defend it. I thought of mentioning Heidegger’s Nazi connection, but then I thought I would just Godwin the conversation.

          2. And Rousseau’s many odd behavioral activities are also discussed quite a bit; you cannot avoid them if you are reading his autobiography.

            1. Yes, but when does any philosophy prof ever go, “you know, this whole noble savage thing is probably bullshit, I mean, look at how he treated his kids.” ?

              1. I’ve heard that sentiment dozens of times, both spoken and in print.

                1. Recently I heard a scholar criticize Rousseau for being a romantic concerning rural living; until very recently rural living meant poverty.

      2. it is certainly important that every time Rand’s name gets mentioned that “she had a bad breakup with her protege” gets mentioned; I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind

        It’s vitally important in order to maintain libertarianism’s status as the pimply-faced, adolescent nephew of objectivism.

        1. You’ve got that backwards.

  4. You’ve heard of a “can of worms”?

    This is a barrel of snakes.

  5. This habit of libertarians to implicitly claim Rand as one of their own who helped lay the foundation for the libertarian movement is starting to piss me off. I come from the tolerant wing of the Objectivist movement (The Atlas Society), but I draw a line. And that line forbids blurring demarcation between Objectivism and its inferior called Libertarianism.

    1. I’d love to know what the “intolerant wing” is doing.

      1. Right now, they are busy backtracking your ISP.

      2. They burn you at the stake instead of flaming you on the blog.

    2. I draw a line too. Neoclassicism sucks.

  6. And that line forbids blurring demarcation between Objectivism and its inferior called Libertarianism.

    Actually, Rand was heavily influenced by and involved in the conservative-libertarian movement long before she formulated the Objectivist philosophy. Libertarianism not only existed before Objectivism, but it played as much (if not more) a part in shaping Objectivism as Objectivism did in shaping modern libertarianism. I would think that Objectivism would not exist without libertarianism, and libertarianism would not be as popular or as intellectually evolved as it is today without Objectivism. So calling libertarianism the “inferior” of Objectivism is a little simplistic, isn’t it?

    1. An objectivist being simplistic? Never!

      1. your completely unexplained barbs thrown at Objectivism are tiring and childish.

    2. Rand was really a systematizer when creating systems was a rather polarizing thing (not surprising in light of all the nightmares that systematizing had created during the 20th century); she was not an original thinker in the sense of generating novel ideas. Indeed, she cribbed a lot of her ideas from the research and thinking of friends she later fell away from due to ideological, etc. differences.

      1. No, she was definitely very original and had many novel theories about capitalist philosophy. But she didn’t exist in a philosophical/political bubble either.

  7. You’ve heard of a “can of worms”?

    This is a barrel of snakes.

    Because…?

    I know that speaking esoterically is some kind of point of pride with you, but a lot of us try to be understood, rather than deliberately try to obscure what we mean.

    1. Maybe he’s a big Metalocalypse fan?

  8. “Thrilling rigor”? Please tell us you’re joking.

    1. How can you comment with any semblance of intelligence if you weren’t at the lectures or if you haven’t examined the materials?

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    freeviewdocumentaries com

  10. “In 2009, the largest 14 insurers had profits of roughly $9 billion; that approached 0.4 percent of total health spending of $2.472 trillion.”

  11. I attended NBI in DC, Dallas, Pittsburgh and Philly. Discussions of the lectures were held informally after but not at the lectures when I attended.

  12. It was during a Q&A following a lecture on Objectivism that when asked if people depicted in Rand’s fiction could exist in the real world, Rand pointed to herself, Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, and her husband Frank O’Conner as examples of such perfected, rational creatures.

    If an affair happened, Rand is guilty of lieing about it and her reasons for excommunicating Branden. This implies shame and I cannot imagine Galt or Roark doing anything they would be ashamed of. This is proof that, unlike her creations, Rand is not perfect. Since nothing that is perfect can come from something that is not perfect, Objectivism, like all man-made philosophies is not perfect.

    It is this very claim the Objectivism is without flaw that turned me toward the broader and less dogmatic philosophy if Libertarianism.

    1. Libertarianism is not a philosophy.

      Something perfect can come from unperfect creatures. A perfect jumpshot…a perfect, I dunno, legal brief, a perfect drawing…

      1. Actually, at the very least it is a political philosophy.

      2. John Hosper’s book “Libertarianism” does a very good job of explaining Libertarianism as a political philosophy in it’s various forms. Too bad it’s out of print.

      3. PS: Given that the hoop is twice as large as the basketball, there is no need for perfection when making a jumpshot.

    2. I’m really interested in picking up this book, despite my utter contempt for Nathaniel Branden.

      But I would like to comment quickly on “Cap’n Nostar”‘s claims.

      Perfection, in Objectivism, is unbreached rationality, of doing the best morally that one can.

      Rand never discussed the affair–she kept it private. Which was her right, of course: honesty doesn’t mean telling one’s whole life story to everyone one meets or to complete strangers. And she didn’t lie about Branden–if you had read her journal entries in “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics” (2005) and Branden’s own accounts of why he stayed with Rand in the 50s and 60s, you’d figure out that he really did financially and intellectually exploit her, as she claimed in “To Whom it May Concern.” For some proof, read Barbara’s “Liberty” interview, Jan. 1990, pp. 49-76, and discover why Nathaniel waited to tell Rand the truth about the “age difference issue” between them until *after* she wrote the introduction to his “The Psychology of Self-Esteem.” Keeping a relationship going in order to get some fame for one’s book?

      I used to think the Affair was some seedy part of Rand’s life, but reading her journal entries changed my perspective. *She* was the one who didn’t want to have the affair; *she* was the who wanted to end it for years but Nathaniel kept coming up with lies to keep it going (ex. his “therapy sessions” with Rand). It was Rand that (eventually) figured out that both of the Brandens had been lying to her for years, with Nathaniel coming out of it as a womanizer (manipulating three women, including his ex-wife and his mentor) and as anti-Objectivist. (She later claimed he was the worst man she’d ever met, and I agree.)

      That Rand gets blaimed for all this is due to the Brandens’s own self-serving lies concocted in both of their biographies. As far as I’m concerned, Rand lived up to her philosophy very well.

      But I doubt “Cap’n Nostar” was ever an Objectivist, or if he was, he didn’t study it for very long. “Since nothing that is perfect can come from something that is not perfect, Objectivism, like all man-made philosophies is not perfect.” What sort of logical argument is this? It reeks of the kind of rationalistic pseudo-reasoning that Objectivism serves as an antidote for, if one takes the time to study it.

      And if Objectivism has flaws, feel free to present them. Though it’s amazing to me that one would seek “flawlessness” in Libertarianism, full of views and individuals who must disagree with each other on all sorts of points and issues, the legitimacy of government being a pretty big one.

  13. James W. and Eugene Scott – you guys mention listening to NBI tapes in Austin in the ’60s. Did you know Reggie Smyth?

    JR

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