Friday, December 10, 2004

Nathaniel Branden Interview 

I was fascinated by this discussion with him (16 pages in length). I learned something about psychology and self-esteem and discovered that there are those, including an ex-lover, who continue to misinterpret Ayn Rand's philosophy. For example:

NB: One of the mistakes that Rand makes all over the place is that after she condemns a belief or an action, she goes on to tell you the psychology of the person who did it, as if she knows. I focus my judgment on the action and not on the person. My primary interest is: do I admire or dislike this behavior. And there judgment is important for me. People often attribute all kinds of things to another person, without ever knowing where that person's coming from. Most of the time, I regard the judgment of people as a waste of time. I regard the judgment of behavior as imperative.

Now, there are some people who are so clearly evil (e.g., Saddam Hussein) that we can't imagine anything mitigating their horror. But even there, I've come to feel the following: if there is a mad animal running around, eating people, I may have to shoot him. I don't think: "oh, you rotten bad dog, you." There's nothing you can do except shoot him.

But the Saddams are only a small minority. Take the Middle East suicide bombers-especially the very young people. God knows, if I had the opportunity, I'd kill them without any hesitation. But I also know, as a psychologist, that they were raised in a culture in a world I can't even conceive of. They were propagandized about the glory of martyrdom since the age of five. Whereas Leonard Peikoff might be hell-bent on calling every one of them evil, I wouldn't. They may or may not be. All I know is: in action, one kills them, rather than getting killed by them. Lots of times, we don't know the ultimate truth about a person. And here's the point: we don't need to know.

Sorry, Mr. Branden, but you are missing the fundamental importance of Ayn Rand's contribution to the field of morality. People, as David Kelly has pointed out, are not rational in every aspect of their life. But as you learn more and more about a particular individual you will find that he or she will act in a consistent manner. It is necessary for our happiness, or in the example above our very survival, to make a judgment about the fundamental character of the people we choose to associate ourselves with in this world.

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