Nathaniel Branden

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Nathaniel Branden (9 April 19303 December 2014) was a psychotherapist and writer most famous for his works on the psychology of self-esteem. Once an associate of novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, Branden had a prominent role in promoting Rand's philosophy, Objectivism.


  • One of the mistakes that Rand makes 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.
  • Rand always says, “Never pass up an opportunity to pass moral judgment.” Well I say: “Look for an opportunity to do something more useful instead.” Nobody was led to virtue by being told he was a scoundrel.
    • Interview by Alec Mouhibian in The Free Radical (November 2004)

"Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice" (1963)

An influential essay signed "March 1963". First published in The Objectivist Newsletter, Vol. II, No. 3 (March 1963). Reprinted in Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness (1964 book), as chapter 2. Reprinted in Branden, The Psychology of Self-Esteem (1969 book).
  • Man's need of self-esteem entails the need for a sense of control over reality – but no control is possible in a universe which, by one's own concession, contains the supernatural, the miraculous and the causeless, a universe in which one is at the mercy of ghosts and demons, in which one must deal, not with the unknown, but with the unknowable; no control is possible if man proposes, but a ghost disposes; no control is possible if the universe is a haunted house.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem (1994)

  • It would be hard to name a more certain sign of poor self-esteem than the need to perceive some other group as inferior.
  • Pride is the emotional reward of achievement. It is not a vice to be overcome but a virtue to be attained.
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