Comments from NoodleFood


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Comment #1

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 12:47:43 mst
Name: Jordan Zimmerman
URL: http://www.jordanzimmerman.com

"If I were him, I'd rather shut down the organization than publish" - I don't see it. I've read "The Human Spirit of Christmas" several times and it doesn't generate any reaction in me - let alone anything like the reaction it generates in you.

" know that many of the good and honest people who still support TOC in some fashion largely agree with my criticisms of TOC's cultural activism"

I don't know that that is true. My sampling of posts after your Personal Statement suggests that most TOC supporters think that you've made some correct points but that your overall reaction and decision to break is something that they don't understand. Certainly there are things to criticize about TOC (as there are of almost every organization I can think of). But, that doesn't mean that TOC supporters agree with your very public break with TOC.



Comment #2

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 13:08:59 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/

Jordan,

I didn't imply -- nor would I say -- that "TOC supporters agree with [my] very public break with TOC." That would be silly. If they agreed with me, then they wouldn't continue to support TOC either. But I've heard from many smart, knowledgeable, and serious people (mostly in the course of private e-mail conversations) who do largely agree with my criticisms of TOC's cultural activism work.

As for "The Human Spirit of Christmas," let me quote my fuller comments from an early draft of my longer commentary:

***

Ed Hudgins' recent op-ed "The Human Spirit of Christmas" could have been written by any modern Christian or secular humanist. He begins by stating that "Christmas commemorates the birth of a child whom many see as manifesting the highest aspirations of the human spirit"--yet never disputes the altruistic and ascetic ideal represented by Jesus. He again concedes to religion in noting that "the growth in [human] capacities" are regarded by some as "divine sparks." He concludes with "and most of all, if our hearts and minds are filled and open, we will reflect upon the spirit within us that can make peace on earth and peace in our souls truly possible." A person unfamiliar with Objectivism reading this op-ed would never guess that Objectivism is an atheistic philosophy, let alone one which wholly rejects the Christian ideals of faith and self-sacrifice.

When I inquired with Ed about this piece and another which seemed to invoke God by claiming that "only a higher moral law makes manmade law legitimate," he replied (in part) that: "The holiday piece was an intentional piece of rhetoric meant to address non-Objectivists not with philosophical concepts that they won't understand and would bore them to death but with a picture that points them to our principles... Part of the fun of this piece was to state truths that we Objectivists recognize but in a way and a language that non-Objectivists can appreciate. I never contradict an Objectivist tenent [sic] and I do focus the reader on the actual phenomena which, if they reflect on them, would lead them not to a mystical truth but to a real truth about human nature!"

While I appreciate Ed's friendly reply, this method of vaguely appealing to (and never repudiating) religious ideas in order to sidle into Objectivist principles is not just misleading and condescending, but wholly contrary to the Objectivist rejection of appeasement. Should we next expect an explanation of the benevolent universe premise in terms of the idea that "Jesus loves me"? Sadly, that wouldn't surprise me at this point.

***

I hope that clarifies.



Comment #3

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 13:53:34 mst
Name: David Ostroske

I'd comment on what you have written so far, but I think that I should read your criticism of David Kelley's argument for intellectual tolerance first. The points that you make in this and your previous post on this topic seem to rest on your rejection of that argument. Can I assume that you'll be making this criticism more explicit in the near future?



Comment #4

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 22:56:50 mst
Name: Don Watkins
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Diana - I agree with everything you've so far had to say on this topic. Even if one believes that ARI has a "religious streak" (I do not), that does not alter the fact that what TOC is pushing is NOT Objectivism. And you are right - their philosophical errors are the cause of their inability to succeed in their "cultural mission."

Just remember, you didn't abandon them - you've merely realized that they abandoned Objectivism.

Keep up the good work - you've always been one of the sharpest minds in the O'ist movement.

-DPW



Comment #5

Monday, March 29, 2004 at 23:54:13 mst
Name: Johnathan Reale

While TOC's cultural activism appears to be fruitless, I still think their founding values are more likely to yield further truths than will a hair trigger for moral denunciation. Objectivists who believe in the worth of tolerance do not consider "being nice" as a higher value than truth, but consider an individual's moral status and his/her factual correctness on a given issue to be, in fact, more loosely coupled than objectivists traditionally have, and they act consonantly with that fact.

I expect that the lack of comments on the prior post stem from three factors: 1) the relative similarity to points already raised in your open letter, 2) agreement with your assessment on the anemia of TOC's cultural commentary, and 3) lack of confidence that response was likely to result in any significant gain for either side (pro- vs. anti-TOC, that is), given the tone of this and recent related posts. It is only now that silence might be considered acquiesence in the face of a challenge that I felt compelled to post, not in hopes of changing your mind given 3) above, but to simply represent non-anti-TOC individuals (I can't bring myself to say pro-TOC given their problems) as beliving honestly in the truth of their convictions. And I believe that TOC's pursuit of a cultural strategy, while wrongheaded, is the product of an honest attempt to advance objectivism in the long-term.



Comment #6

Tuesday, March 30, 2004 at 2:10:48 mst
Name: Ian Hamet
URL: http://blog.ianhamet.com/

Diana,

I did comment briefly on your initial post about your departure, here:

<http://blog.ianhamet.com/archive/2004/02/20040227b.html>

But I had nothing of substance to say about your most recent post. I agree with everything you said, and you said it better than I could. I will link it on my blog in the next day or two.



Comment #7

Tuesday, March 30, 2004 at 2:22:43 mst
Name: JT Trende

Diana,

I agree with your analysis totally. While I think most individuals associated with TOC are much better philosophically than the op-eds would suggest, the organization as a whole has deteriorated markedly, and as you state, it had flaws from the start.

What are your ideas on what would make for a better Objectivist organization? If you could combine the best features of ARI, TOC, SoloHQ, and even some independants like Branden, Sciabara, etc to arrive at the perfect combination of philosophical integrity and civility and toleration, what would they be?

I often feel that Objectivism will either fragment into short-term oblivian or consolidate around an accepted "core" and march forward.

Hopefully, you will share your thoughts.

Regards



Comment #8

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 at 8:01:17 mst
Name: James Heaps-Nelson

Diana,
I have not attended a Summer Seminar for 5 years due to career commitments and getting married :-), so I'm not in a very good position to evaluate the quality of TOC's current offerings. I think the tensions of an organization that was founded largely with a bunch of high-powered undergraduate and graduate students who wanted to explore new vistas in Objectivism has clashed with many donors who want to impact the culture. I also think that the opportunity areas for expanding Objectivist scholarship have not been fully exploited. To name a few: the impact of biotechnology on ethics, fleshing out a theory of intellectual property, how does neurology and thermodynamics dovetail with free will. However, I think that the tone of your criticisms is unduly harsh. There are a lot of bona fide intellectual enemies out there. David Kelley is not one of them. I wish you well in your pursuit of Objectivist scholarship and hope that you find your future endeavors challenging and rewarding.



Comment #9

Wednesday, March 31, 2004 at 15:32:32 mst
Name: David Rehm
URL: http://www.davidrehm.com

Paraphrasing Rand, we cannot judge people by their thoughts/convictions, only by their actions (obviously the act of stating an idea is an action that can be judged, but in any breach between the two it is their action that 'counts'). I tire of hearing TOC apologizers make reference to the intentions or convictions of the organization while their track record in the realm of action is quite clearly at odds with some fundamental Objectivist principles, as Diana has clearly illustrated.



Comment #10

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 7:44:34 mst
Name: Steve Jackson

But doesn't TOC publish stuff that tries to be original contributions to the Objectivist community?

How many books have people associated with the ARI produced?



Comment #11

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 12:26:14 mst
Name: Don
URL: http://www.don-watkins.com

Steve: Here is a partial list of orginal work by ARI scholars...

-Tara Smith's Viable Values and her forthcoming book on normative ethics

-Harry Binswanger's work on teleology and his forthcoming book the nature of consciousness

-Peikoff's Ominous Parallels, OPAR, and his fortcoming book on integration

-Edwin Locke's work on motivation theory, a field in which is THE recognized leader

-David Harriman's two forthcoming books, including written with Peikoff which addresses for the first time the Objectivist response to the problem of induction

-Andrew Bernstein's novel, Heart of a Pagan, and his soon to be published book, The Capitalist Manifesto

And that's just off the top of my head. Now what, pray tell, has come out of TOC? Huh?



Comment #12

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 13:07:10 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/

Thanks to Don Watkins for his partial list of books by ARI scholars. I would also add:

- Tara Smith's _Moral Rights and Political Freedom_

- _Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living_ edited by Robert Mayhew. (More such collections on Ayn Rand's fiction are in the works.)

- Craig Biddle's _Loving Life_



Comment #13

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 17:29:03 mst
Name: Matt
URL: http://minorityofone.rationalmind.net

Also Andrew Bernstein's Cliffsnotes on Rand's fiction, his upcoming "Objectivism in One Lesson", and Robert Mayhew's "Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Republic."



Comment #14

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 17:45:08 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/

Oh, and Allan Gotthelf's excellent _On Ayn Rand_.



Comment #15

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 19:17:21 mst
Name: Steve Jackson

Tara Smith's books are OK. On the other hand I don't see much merit to the other books that are specifically on Objectivism by the ARI crowd.

For example, Gotthelf's book is a piece of partisan agitprop. He doesn't even have the courage to name the critics of Rand. He doesn't mention Sciabarra or anyone within the semi-Objectivist orbit. Is this fair to his readers? And, he annoyingly calls her "Ayn Rand" 100% of the time.

I hope Peikoff et. al come out with some interesting books, but if their history is any guide, it will just be parotting Rand's ideas without any development.



Comment #16

Thursday, April 1, 2004 at 20:23:36 mst
Name: Mike
URL: http://mikemazza.blogspot.com

"... I don't see much merit to the other books that are specifically on Objectivism by the ARI crowd."

You don't see merit in a book of essays analyzing We the Living? There is no merit in a book with the goal of introducing Rand's thought to novices? I don't understand the complaint. Which, specifically, are useless?

"I hope Peikoff et. al come out with some interesting books, but if their history is any guide, it will just be parotting Rand's ideas without any development."

What, may I ask, are you talking about? You mean OPAR? Or Harry Binswanger's book on teleology? The one that presents a theory entirely his own? Again, I don't understand. Which books are you claiming were worthless/parroting?

Oh, and to add to the list:

Craig Biddle is writing another book (called Good Thinking for Good Living: The Science of Being Selfish). I'm almost certain I read that Smith was working on another, also. No one has mentioned any books by Objectivists that aren't on Objectivism (such as C. Bradley Thompson's excellent book on John Adams). Do those count towards the tally?



Comment #17

Friday, April 2, 2004 at 5:27:29 mst
Name: Steve Jackson

I should have been clearer. To my mind, there are relatively few books by official (ARI) Objectivists that advance the philosophy of Objectivism. By advance the philosophy of Objectivism, I am referring to technical works on philosophy that would help Objectivism get a hearing in philosophical circles.

I haven't read Binswanger's book. On the other hand, OPAR is simply a lengthy introduction to Objectivism which doesn't interact with criticisms.

I've searched Amazon for the books that were mentioned by Harriman, Peikoff, Binswanger & Bernstein and they aren't listed.

There is nothing wrong with writing a book for non-scholars. However, Biddle's book is partisan agitprop like Gotthelf's.



Comment #18

Friday, April 2, 2004 at 8:40:22 mst
Name: Don
URL: http://www.don-watkins.com

Steve,

It seems your complaint is that ARI has not focused on writing about Objectivism for non-Objectivist academics (which no one at TOC has done either, to my knowledge). Why is this supposed to be a major virtue? Do you think Objectivism is going to win by converting present academics?

What ARI scholars have done for the most part is focus on addressing Objectivists and the general public. You may not like that "strategy" but it's based on the premise that the minds we want to reach can't be found in academia today - where all the premises we uphold are rejected, most particularly, our entire approach to philosophy.

Now, as for Sciabarra's work, why does it surprise you that ARI scholars would not want to promote a work they believe is completely at odds with Objectivism? What kind of moral code demands that one promote one's enemies?

This obsession with academic respectability is, in my view, nonesense - either they accept us on our terms or not at all.

And notice that they ARE beginning to accept us on our terms. Look at the growing number of ARI intellectuals with fulltime teaching positions. Look at the growing number of universities, including leading philosophy departments such as PITT, which have invited ARI sholars to teach classes *on Objectivism*.

We've come this far without watering down our philosophy or our approach - and, if I may be an optimist for a moment - you ain't seen nothing yet.

Now, if you are interested in addressing academics, there is nothing wrong with that. But it is not the way the battle of ideas will be won. Not in my view, and evidently not in the view of most ARI scholars.



Comment #19

Friday, April 2, 2004 at 19:26:56 mst
Name: Steve Jackson

I'm not suggesting that ARI promote Sciabarra's work (I don't happen to agree with his understanding of the Genesis of Rand's thought either.) But I don't think it's a sin to mention someone you disgree with by name and say why you disagree with it.

If Objectivists only write for the general public, what happens when these readers realize that the ARI crowd has never tried to defend Rand against obvious critcisms (such as the fact that she wasn't nearly the original thinker that she is made out to be)?



Comment #20

Saturday, April 3, 2004 at 1:52:31 mst
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Steven -

No, it's no necessarily a sin to mention someone with whom you disagree and explain the reasons for your disagreement. But that is NOT a moral duty, nor is it always in all cases a moral virtue.

It would be particularly dubious to mention a work with which one disagreed in a context where all one had room to do would be to say, "And I disagree with this book completely" which was the case with the book I believe we were talking about, "On Ayn Rand."

Now, as for your final point, there I think it would IMMORAL for someone to address that question explicitly, were it raised by anyone except an ignorant layman. This idea, that Objectivism shouldn't be taken serioulsy because it says nothing new, is not an argument, but a confession that there isn't one. Modern philosophy is built on the unoriginal - no one writes about ideas anymore, only the ideas of others and the relationships between those ideas and the ideas of still others, and the interpretatations of interpretations of the ideas of a guy who was talking about the interpretations of some other guy. So when you tell me that Rand is rejected by modern academics because she has nothing new to say, I just laugh.

And so would any rational mind when faced with that accussation.

"If Objectivists only write for the general public, what happens when these readers realize that the ARI crowd has never tried to defend Rand against obvious critcisms?"

Actually, I should ask you what you'd expect them to do. Because I would expect that they'd THINK on the matter, not turn blindly away from Objectivism. If you believe, as I do, that Objectivism is TRUE, then it does not matter that Objectivists haven't addressed every conceivable argument in print. Those that haven't been addressed can be answered by every individual interested in the matter. How? By using his own mind and looking at reality.

I happen to think that's an even better method than having the answers spoon fed to him by Objectivist scholars. It is only by taking on questions we can't easily answer that we discover whether or not we truly understand the ideas we espouse.



Comment #21

Saturday, April 3, 2004 at 13:05:46 mst
Name: Andrew Schwartz

Hi Diana,

You list as one of your regrets "that I pretty much uncritically accepted the Brandens' accounts of Ayn Rand actions and person," which seems to imply that you have come to disagree with, or hold suspect, at least some aspects of the Brandens' accounts.

Would you elaborate on what you have come to find suspect or inaccurate in the Brandens' accounts? (That is, unless you're already planning to do so at a later date.) It is a topic of interest to me, and I'm sure many others.



Comment #22

Saturday, April 3, 2004 at 13:13:37 mst
Name: Steve Jackson

Don,

You misunderstand my point. Just because Rand was not the highly original thinker that she is portrayed as by the ARI crowd doesn't mean she shouldn't be taken seriously. Rand had some interesting things to say and is worthy of moderate attention in the history of philosophy.

On the other hand, it doesn't do Objectivism any good to keep claiming that Rand is the most original thinker in history next to Aristotle. Most of her ideas can be found in other thinkers. I was surprised when I first studied philosophy to see that other thinkers believed in objective truth, thought man could know reality, thought concepts had a basis in fact and weren't subjective, etc. Then I ignored Rand for 15 years thinking she didn't have much to contribute. I think my story is similar to others.



Comment #23

Saturday, April 3, 2004 at 22:33:31 mst
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Steve - Rand's value was not simply that she "believed in objective reality" etc. It was that she defined a true philosophical system and provided proof for each of its principles. Are you really arguing that Objectivism is a cut and paste philosophy? If so, you are hopelessly deluded or purposefully evasive. In neither event do I wish to continue this conversation.



Comment #24

Monday, April 5, 2004 at 12:21:51 mdt
Name: Ed Hudgins
URL: http://www.objectivistcenter.org

Dear Diana,

I didn't respond to your statement of a month or so ago about TOC and one of my op-eds because, frankly, your whole dramatic "I officially break ties" approach was kind of silly. Come on Diana, we were colleagues at Cato back in the '90s, and while libertarians and Objectivists have differences with each other and among themselves, we generally discuss the merits of our perspectives and, as rational individuals, avoid the Objectivist-style factions and purges of the old days. But since you've posted another piece about us, I might as well weigh in and attempt to explain a few things about how one might go about communicating ideas. (Note, by the way, that I'm referring only to my own work.)

Addressing an Audience.

My goal as head of TOC advocacy is to promote Objectivist principles in politics and in the culture. But few people in the audience I'm addressing actually adopt a philosophy by sitting down, reading books, saying "Ah, the structure, logic, evidence and integrity of this philosophy is correct and therefore I am a (fill in the blank: Objectivist, socialist, whatever)." Many individuals do not hold or change their beliefs through a studied and academic manner; thus a professorial classroom approach might not be the most effective way to communicate with them. Also most individuals listen to arguments from the perspective of their logos, pathos and ethos - their reason, emotions and morals. Thus to communicate effectively we often must speak their language and lead them not only to the truth on particular matters but to the use of reason as the paramount means for making judgments and decisions.

With this in mind, I aim some of my pieces, especially the Reports from the Front, more at an Objectivist audience and others, op-eds especially, at a more general, non-Objectivist audience. When I'm addressing Objectivists I often use more biting rhetoric and I can assume a familiarity with a most Objectivist principles and concepts. When I write to a non-Objectivist audience that I know will disagree with us on many points but perhaps can be persuaded on certain points or reinforced in some correct belief, I figure it's not worth it to open a can of worms by saying "most of you guys are irrational mystics and looters, and your positions are indefensible but I hope you'll consider seriously my point of view on this particular issue." Insulting people rarely converts them. Sometimes I do the rhetorical equivalent of grabbing people by the collar and saying "What the hell are you thinking?" But in a short 800 word op-ed one needs to make strategic decisions about tone, approach and the like. You might disagree with my approach or efficacy in particular cases. Fine. But you need to appreciate that to actually change people's thinking can involve both rhetorical and academic approaches.

Christmas Cheer.

One piece you criticize is my Christmas op-ed.
<http://www.objectivistcenter.org/text/ehudgins_human-spirit-christmas.asp?mc>

By the way, Rand herself spoke in favor of the good aspects of Christmas, for example, gift-giving, and did not have a problem, even as an atheist of Jewish background, saying "Merry Christmas."

In my Christmas piece, addressed to non-Objectivists especially, I highlighted in this holiday - originally the Roman Saturnalia festival that the Christians took over -- the secular aspects that have developed in past decades. I start by mentioning the birth of a child that is said to manifest of the highest aspirations because that's a starting point for Christmas. You suggest that at this point I should have offered an analysis of Christianity. But I rejected a recitation of philosophical concepts because the audience probably wouldn't get it in an short, 800 words piece, would probably be bored as hell and would simply stop reading. Instead, I did something imaginative; I started by painting a picture! I said, "Let's examine the birth of any child." I then led the reader to reflect first on the joys of watching a child grow into an adult. Then I observed that growth is not simply physical but also is growth in our rational and moral capacities.

I observed that some people might call our uniquely human attributes "divine sparks" though I didn't endorse divinity; I used a beautiful, poetic description, appropriate for an upbeat holiday piece. Perhaps as an Objectivist I should have used "cigarette" sparks! I then explained what those capacities (or "sparks") really are. I led the reader to our principles. That's an attempt at good writing and rhetoric.

I observed that free will is a capacity to focus the mind. I pointed out that each of us, and not just Santa, knows when we're being bad or good, that immoral acts are not just errors of knowledge. No mystical interpretations here! What's so non-Objectivist about that? Am I not focusing on central aspects of Objectivism?

The fun of my Christmas piece was to state Objectivist truths in an imaginative way for non-Objectivists as well as Objectivists. Perhaps you just don't like myrhetoric or you believe that I failed to achieve my goal with this piece. Fair enough. But all of the emails I received from TOC members liked the piece and it did get picked up by at least three newspapers.

"The Passion."

Your criticisms of my piece on "The Passion" are not so much a matter of substance as style.
<http://www.objectivistcenter.org/text/ehudgins_human-spirit-christmas.asp?mc>

Here I was aiming to be a bit non-passionate, to take the reader by the hand and say, "Okay, let's go point by point over this stuff about sin, sacrifice and suffering. Does this make any sense? " And I did not want to criticize only Christians but also those who give a secular face to the same philosophical errors, in this case the notion of original sin as universal guilt for the problems of society and the need to sacrifice for some social good. Again, I was addressing a particular audience. My goal here was not to have Objectivists and atheists applaud me for really nailing those damned Christians to the wall - or cross! I stated clearly why those who buy the sin-sacrifice-suffering scenario - whether the religious or social versions - are wrong. But I'm fine with Ghate's punchy approach as well. It's a good take on the issue and good rhetoric.

In Summary.

My bottom line is that we need to fight the battle for a free, rational society on many fronts and in many ways. My goal is not only to seek applause from fellow believers but also to change the thinking of others. That requires judgment calls about rhetoric. Maybe your don't like my style or think I don't do a good job at it. Fine. (Is there anything I've done or we've done at TOC that you do like?) Remember: it is through honest, pluralist exchanges that we who agree with one another on much but have some disagreements as well discover the truth. If one rejects this approach, one's intellectual habits could become rigid, rationalizing and unimaginative - hardly what an Objectivist should ever want.

Sincerely,
Ed Hudgins



Comment #25

Monday, April 5, 2004 at 13:41:56 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Ed Hudgins writes to Diana:

"I didn't respond to your statement of a month or so ago about TOC and one of my op-eds because, frankly, your whole dramatic 'I officially break ties' approach was kind of silly."

This, I maintain, is so vicious a sentence that the person who wrote it has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being. It is the attempt to undercut Diana's moral certainty and commitment to principles. It is saying, in effect, "Don't take ideas so seriously."

"Come on Diana, we were colleagues at Cato back in the '90s, and while libertarians and Objectivists have differences with each other and among themselves, we generally discuss the merits of our perspectives and, as rational individuals, avoid the Objectivist-style factions and purges of the old days."

The premise here is that fundamental disagreements do not matter. That one should deal with and work with those with whom one disagrees about fundamental principles. Notice he does not say, "Diana, your evaluation of TOC's actions and principles is wrong." He says, in effect, "It shouldn't matter either way."

If you're looking for proof that Peikoff was right in identifying Kelley's and Kelley's followers' error as a disconnect between fact and value, there it is.



Comment #26

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 at 19:16:47 mdt
Name: Barbara Branden
URL: http://www.BarbaraBranden.com

Andrew Schwartz wrote: <<You list as one of your regrets "that I pretty much uncritically accepted the Brandens' accounts of Ayn Rand actions and person," which seems to imply that you have come to disagree with, or hold suspect, at least some aspects of the Brandens' accounts.

<<Would you elaborate on what you have come to find suspect or inaccurate in the Brandens' accounts?. . .>>

I agree with Andrew Schwartz that your statement implies disagreement with my presentation of Ayn Rand in my biography THE PASSION OF AYN RAND and with Nathaniel Branden's presentation in MY YEARS WITH AYN RAND. I, too, would like to know what you found to be inaccurate.




Comment #27

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 at 21:26:56 mdt
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/

In my post, I said that I regretted "that I pretty much uncritically accepted the Brandens' accounts of Ayn Rand actions and person." I meant exactly that. Should I instead have uncritically accepted those accounts? I won't dignify that question by considering it.

That's all I'll say at present, although I'll surely have more to say later.



Comment #28

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 8:37:29 mdt
Name: Chris Matthew Sciabarra
URL: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/notablog.htm

Just a couple of points in response to this dialogue:

I am waiting for Diana to post a more substantive discussion of the many points she raises in her various statements. I think that the points are extremely important and they need to be addressed in a more developed fashion.

As a prelude to this, I would like to say that a lot of this debate has to do with boundary-drawing. As I state in a forthcoming article of mine that will appear in The Free Radical <http://www.freeradical.co.nz/>:

===
This is an issue that speaks to the "open" versus "closed" nature of a philosophy, and the ways in which it evolves over time. ... I think there is a great parallel between the evolution of "Objectivism" and the evolution of "scientific socialism." Karl Marx set out the basic principles of his philosophy, which he called "scientific socialism." But the implications and applications of Marx's philosophy have not been known to history as "scientific socialism." They have been grouped under the general title of "Marxism." And in the history of thought, Marxism has undergone many transformations--e.g., combinations with Hegel, Aristotle, Freud, Sartre, even Nietzsche. In essentials, though, among all the permutations--the "revisionist" Marxists, the Marxist-Leninists, the Trotskyites, the Maoists, the Frankfurt-school theorists, the analytic Marxists, etc.--there is a "core" that makes ~all~ of them identifiably Marxist.

In ~essentials~, every "philosophy"--be it "scientific socialism" or "Objectivism"--is, by necessity, ~closed~: It must be something definite, or it is not definable; it must have ~identity~ and it must have boundaries or there will be no way of distinguishing one doctrine from another. But as David Kelley suggests in ~Truth and Toleration~, every philosophy is, by necessity, ~open~ to interpretation, which leads to the formation of a "school of thought" or "tradition," wherein thinkers who accept the fundamentals work out interesting implications, applications, and even ~combinations~ among different doctrines. And the "working out" is then subject to critique, in an even broader intellectual community, as we argue over whose version is more in keeping not only with the philosophy, but, more importantly, with reality. There is thus a dynamic tension between investigatory and what might be called "hermeneutical" (or interpretive) aspects throughout the history of philosophy.

Interestingly, in the face of such heretical, hermeneutical innovations, not even Marx liked what was being done to his "scientific socialism." Upon hearing statements made by some "Marxist" ideologues, Marx replied: "But I am not a Marxist." Rand expressed sympathy for Marx and echoed his sentiments by saying, in essence, "I am not a Randist"--when she heard of some of the "philosophical hodgepodge[s]" being perpetuated in her name.
===

The problem is, of course, that if one believes, as many orthodox adherents seem to, that Objectivism is strict adherence to every proposition ever uttered by Rand, then there has been only one "Objectivist" who has ever existed in history. Nietzsche once observed, similarly, with regard to Christ and Christianity: "In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross" (~The Antichrist~).

Now, it appears, there are "Objectivists" who are looking to crucify those of us who take a different approach to the philosophy and to Rand's legacy. Don Watkins, for example, derides Ed Hudgins and states that because of his "vicious" criticism of Diana, he "has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being."

Isn't that lovely?

With regard to ARI: They have no moral obligation to promote their "enemies" (like me, apparently), but they do have an obligation to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and to present the historic record ~accurately~. Take a look at some of these links and decide for yourself:

<http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/liberty.htm>

<http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/essays/text/chrissciabarra/openingaddress.html>

<http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/oioar.htm>

<http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/randt1.htm>

<http://www.solohq.com/Articles/Sciabarra/Partisanship_vs_Objectivity_in_Ayn_Rand_Scholarship.shtml>

One final note: My work, and the work of many other scholars, has never been about "academic respectability." If we wanted "academic respectability," we would not have taken a serious interest in a woman whose name is usually met with snickers and snide comments. The work that I've done on Rand, and that others continue to do, is based on our belief that she was a thinker of great significance. Our interpretations of her significance may differ from the orthodoxy, but, as I said above, that is in the nature of how an idea takes root, and how it flourishes. That is why I welcome a great diversity of views on Rand, including the work of ARI-affiliated scholars (the newest book on ~We the Living~ is a case in point).

I yearn for the day when people in this intellectual "movement" stop deriding those with whom they disagree as less-than-human. You disagree? Then don't be afraid to name those with whom you disagree, and the reasons for your disagreement. This is how philosophical discourse has proceeded since the ancient Greeks.



Comment #29

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 12:22:43 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Chris wrote:

"The problem is, of course, that if one believes, as many orthodox adherents seem to, that Objectivism is strict adherence to every proposition ever uttered by Rand, then there has been only one 'Objectivist' who has ever existed in history."

I am tired of watching people like Chris level this charge at the so-called Objectivist orthodoxy. Notice it is always stated in a vague fashion. "Many" of us "seem to" to believe that Objectivism is strict adherence to every proposition ever uttered by Rand. Okay Chris name one person who endorses that view.

"Now, it appears, there are 'Objectivists' who are looking to crucify those of us who take a different approach to the philosophy and to Rand's legacy. Don Watkins, for example, derides Ed Hudgins and states that because of his 'vicious' criticism of Diana, he 'has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being.'

"Isn't that lovely?"

It certainly is, my friend. Although you're wrong about one point I did not deride his vicious criticism. THERE WAS NO CRITICISM. He attacked Diana, not for her conclusion, but as I pointed out in my comment simply for taking ideas seriously. To call 's Diana's actions "silly" and "dramatic" in this context is clearly intended to undercut her moral confidence. It further demonstrates, as I also pointed out, a dichotomy between fact and value.

Both those errors support my conclusion: that Ed's attack was vicious, demonstrated his repudiation of Objectivism, and since it was anti-value he had surrendered his moral right to the title of "human being," in the sense Objectivists use that term.

As to your first point: No one, Chris, is trying to crucify those who take a different approach to Objectivism and to Rand's legacy. We have made only one claim that it is dishonest for you to do so and claim that what you are preaching is Objectivism, rather than your own Rand-influenced ideology. I should add that, if I recall correctly, you at least have the decency and honesty not to call yourself an Objectivist. For that, I thank you.

"With regard to ARI: They have no moral obligation to promote their 'enemies' (like me, apparently), but they do have an obligation to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and to present the historic record ~accurately~. Take a look at some of these links and decide for yourself:"

They DO have that obligation, but I'm not interested in arguing whether they have met it or haven't just this moment (although I will be taking up these issues very soon). I've been defending one essential proposition on this site: That the philosophy the people at The Objectivist Center are trying to pass off as Objectivism is not Objectivism.

"One final note: My work, and the work of many other scholars, has never been about 'academic respectability.' If we wanted 'academic respectability,' we would not have taken a serious interest in a woman whose name is usually met with snickers and snide comments."

I didn't say it was your fundamental or sole concern. I said it matters enough that you and others have been willing to water down Rand's philosophy in order to make it fit into a modern academic schema, wherein quotes are more valuable than arguments, theories more valuable than truth, and publication more valuable than anything.

"The work that I've done on Rand, and that others continue to do, is based on our belief that she was a thinker of great significance. Our interpretations of her significance may differ from the orthodoxy, but, as I said above, that is in the nature of how an idea takes root, and how it flourishes. That is why I welcome a great diversity of views on Rand, including the work of ARI-affiliated scholars (the newest book on ~We the Living~ is a case in point)."

What idea is it that's supposed to take root? Which idea is it that's supposed to flourish? Once you strip Objectivism of its identity (and that's exactly what happens when you place the value of diversity above the value of truth) then there will be nothing or nothing recognizable left to take root and flourish.

Objectivism is not like other philosophies, Chris. Since it is true, its success depends on the furtherance of all its essential elements. The false needn't and actually cannot survive intact just a few elements will do. But life requires a specific course of action. Nothing less will do.

"I yearn for the day when people in this intellectual 'movement' stop deriding those with whom they disagree as less-than-human. You disagree? Then don't be afraid to name those with whom you disagree, and the reasons for your disagreement. This is how philosophical discourse has proceeded since the ancient Greeks."

Since your comments are directed primarily at my posts, I wish to point out that I haven't derided those with whom I disagree as less-than-human. I derided one individual Ed Hudgins for being so, not for his philosophical views specifically, but for the disgusting comments he directed at Diana (which I DO believe were instantiations of his philosophy). In fact, Chris, you might like to know that I have defended your work in various contexts and within certain limits. Oddly enough, I have not been expelled from the movement.

It's ironic that the only thing you object to in your post is those who reject your ideal of a diversity of interpretations of Objectivism. That seems to be your highest value and only concern. Well, for an Objectivist, that's nonsense. The highest concern must always be for the truth the grasp of facts.

But that's just it. I believe your diversity obsession is founded in a Hayek-ian sort of skepticism, where individuals cannot reach true conclusions (or be certain of them, anyway), but social processes can result in the emergence of true ideas over time. Diversity, in this view, is an essential ingredient. It is the stew out of which bubble the best ideas, the same way the best businesses naturally rise to the top under capitalism.

On this view, the more viewpoints are in the stew to begin with, the better regardless of their truth, regardless of their merit, and regardless of how their proponents arrived at those conclusions.

The problem with this approach is that it attempts to reverse cause and effect. Good ideas arise only in the mind of the individual, and only to the extent that he grasps the truth of his ideas. The individual's grasp of the truth of an idea, therefore, is the means by which true ideas are spread, and since his grasp of the truth does not depend on an ever-growing number of falsities, diversity as such is not a value. Diversity of viewpoints is, at best, a *conditional* value.

I would add that I think the root of this viewpoint is the belief that honest error is at the root of most philosophical disagreement that evasion and dishonesty are rare aberrations. After all, if so many people disagreed honestly about the ideas they held, then how on earth could we claim to know the truth? The answer is: we couldn't.

I should probably sum all that up, but I quit smoking today and my mind is blurry so I'll just leave it at that.

Regards,
DPW



Comment #30

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 12:49:52 mdt
Name: Roger Bissell
URL: http://members.aol.com/REBissell/index.html

BRIDGES OR DRAWBRIDGES? OUTREACH OR SABER-RATTLING? DIALOGUE OR POLARIZATION? Thoughts on the issues that divide us...

If there's one thing that I learned from last year's TOC Advanced Seminar, it was that you cannot hope to have a significant effect on the culture as an active intellectual, unless you are willing to enter the existing dialogue and speak the same language as those you want to persuade. This means exploring common ground as a framework within to explore your differences and to promote your version of the true and the good. Yet, we still hear Objectivists such as Don Watkins implying that communication is worthless (except to stir up those who already agree with you) and that the TOC kind of bridge-building and outreach is badly motivated and an ultimate disservice to Objectivism.

Years ago (1998) on Objectivism-L, the late Ron Merrill claimed that the divisions within the Objectivist movement were fundamentally due to a split between what he called "the radical impulse and the yearning for respectability. This conflict was evident in Rand's psychology, and it continues to play out in the movement, both between proponents of the two viewpoints and within the minds of many individual Objectivists."

I took issue with this: "No, that is ~not~ the nature of the split among Objectivists, at least not fundamentally. We ~all~ want radical change, the replacement of the current mystic-altruist-collectivist status quo with a free, rational society--and I resent Ron's insinuation that Chris and others do not, or worse: would sell it out for something as shallow as 'respectability' in other circles." (And in the present context, add to that the insinuation of some that Ed Hudgins would sell out radical change for "respectability" in other subcultures.)

Now, within the broad umbrella of radicalism, it is true that some, as Ron made abundantly clear, want to go the narrower path toward that change, by in-your-face polarization between Objectivism and everyone else. They say, in effect, "We're right, we have the truth, and since we can't convince you of our monopoly on the truth, a plague take all your houses--which we won't bother to inspect for possible aspects of the truth we might have overlooked!"

Maybe these people are right. Maybe the academic establishment ~is~ as Ron said "savagely and unalterably opposed" to our ideas. Though Chris appears to have intrigued and excited people in both the Objectivist and the Marxist camps with his bridge-building, common-ground-seeking approach, he has also clearly aggravated and outraged quite a number in each group. And maybe these latter voices will win out. But if they do, then the future of Objectivism will be as sterile and eventually dead as that of Marxism.
Similarly, it may be that the culture at large is also "savagely and unalterably opposed" to our ideas. In which case, TOC's outreach efforts through Ed Hudgins and others will also fall short. However, we are operating in a ~social context~, and we ~must~ infect the culture with both the most effective ~ideas~ and ~methods~ we have, if we are to achieve the massive paradigm shift from mysticism-altruism-collectivism that our goals require. And that, to at least some of us, means promoting the methodology of dialectics and dialogue, in as rational and pure and uncompromising and ~civil~ a form as possible.

Chris' ongoing dialogue with the Marxists on the nature of dialectics is playing an important role in determining exactly how rational the methodology will be with which our culture moves into the 21st century--and, as a corollary, whether the Objectivist philosophy will ultimately triumph or fade away. In his own vigorous, clearly-argued, no-holds-barred, yet diplomatic, scholarly way, Chris is fighting a battle that serves something much more important than wangling a little extra respect for Rand's ideas and shelf-space for her writings in university bookstores. And in his own vigorous, yet diplomatic way, Ed is fighting a similar battle on behalf of Objectivism. Chris and Ed deserve better than they have gotten from the Objectivist movement thus far--and in particular from the posters to this.

Ron, much like one gathers from ARI's ultra-hawkish, op-ed posturing, described himself as being "in the tradition of the radical Rand--not the fashionable 'radicalism' of Chris's [book] title, but *real* radicalism--the kick-'em-in-the-nuts Rand who not only offended the bastards but enjoyed it. I speak for those who understand that you're not going to make friends, you're not going to make converts, you're not going to get your ideas accepted, *no matter what you do*, because the academic establishment is savagely and unalterably opposed to your basic premises. So it's neither moral nor practical to compromise. Tell the truth openly, and you'll be heard--by that 'one who understands'--and that's all you need. In the end, it's Gideon's Band that will triumph."

This, I submit, is the quasi-religious, circle the wagons, pull up the drawbridge, retreat into the fortress and hurl (verbal) missiles at outsiders kind of mentality that will ~never~ result in Objectivism making significant inroads into Western culture. To their credit, the leaders of TOC recognized early on that this approach, for all of its bluster, is culturally impotent.

If Rand enjoyed the "kick em in the nuts" approach as much as Ron (and, by implication, ARI) claims, why was she more depressed after the publication of ATLAS SHRUGGED than at any other time in her life? It was because whatever joy she got from "offending the bastards"--and when did she ever offend "the enemy" more than by ATLAS?--it paled compared to her feeling of deep frustration and isolation from her magnum opus not having attracted someone she could consider an intellectual equal. So, while Rand may well have slipped into a more negative, malevolent framework at times, drawing emotional fuel from intellectually bashing her opponents, as Ron claimed, but if so, it would not have been out of a healthy motivation.

Rand rightly regarded polemics as a secondary focus in philosophy, and did right in passing along this perspective to Peikoff and the rest of us. It is up to those of us who want to spend most of our energies pursuing positives to make sure that we are not drawn down into such negative, isolationist cul-de-sacs as Ron was promoting--and as ARI and Don Watkins and others continue to promote.

Best to all,
Roger Bissell, Neo-Randian Paleo-Objectivist



Comment #31

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 14:04:02 mdt
Name: Roger Bissell
URL: http://members.aol.com/REBissell/index.html

ED HUDGINS--NON-HUMAN BEING?

Don Watkins said that, because of the "vicious criticism" that Ed Hudgins leveled against Diana, Ed "has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being." He later fudged this by saying that Ed "surrendered his moral right to the title of 'human being,' in the sense Objectivists use that term." This is like saying that Catholics do not practice virtue, or that altruism is not a moral code, etc., "in the sense Objectivists use the term. Don has fallen prey to a certain logical fallacy has appeared in the writings of many Libertarian and/or Objectivist thinkers As defined by Ayn Rand, the fallacy of the frozen abstraction is a fallacy "which consists of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs." (Ayn Rand, "Collectivized Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, New York: Signet, 1964, p. 81)

In other words, this fallacy entails the refusal to include certain members of a class in the wider class to which they belong, and instead limiting the class to one or a select few of its members.

The example used by Rand in introducing this fallacy is that of many people who have been taught to view morality strictly from the altruist standpoint. They have learned to equate altruism--which is one specific ethic--with the wider, more general abstraction of "ethics." As a consequence, they refuse to regard egoism, hedonism, etc., as being alternative ethical systems or theories. Their concept of "morality," in other words, is frozen on the level of one of the species of morality, rather than being integrated to the higher, genus level, so as to include all of the species of morality.

As one might gather, this fallacy is singularly well-suited for propagating subtle (and not-so-subtle) untruths, particularly in the realm of normative (i.e., value) considerations. In committing the frozen abstraction fallacy, a given speaker substitutes his view of what a given thing ideally should be, for the wider class of what that thing has been, is, and can or should or will be. He then defines his concept of that thing so as to exclude all non-ideal, imperfect, or bad (evil and/or harmful) examples of that thing from the concept.

Regardless of the motive involved, this is the basic pattern and premise of all instances of the frozen abstraction fallacy as it occurs in a normative context: the equation of the normative ideal (the good) with the epistemological ideal (the essential)-- i.e., the equation of what remains after one has abstracted away the evil or ugly, with what remains after one has abstracted away the non-essential. In order to illustrate this point, I will now examine a specific instance of this fallacy as it appeared in a 1971 essay by Ayn Rand herself, "The Age of Envy." This essay is an elaboration upon her claim that the emotional atmosphere of today's culture is one of envy or, more precisely, "hatred of the good for being the good." (Ayn Rand, "The Age of Envy," The Objectivist, July 1971, p. 1.) (For a fuller discussion of the fallacy, as well as a number of other examples from Rand's and other Objectivists' writings, see my essay on frozen abstractions at this web address: <http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmm4.html> )

The experience of this emotion is possible only to a person who has sabotaged his/her cognitive development by avoiding mental effort and understanding. Such a person is instead pursuing whims and deception of others (thus freezing his/her mental functioning to the concrete level appropriate to childhood). (ibid., Aug. 1971, p. 6.) Anyone who experiences this emotion as a characteristic response to the sight of his/her values, is referred to by Rand in bitterly caustic terms as a "hater," an "inhuman object," a "creature," "it," a "hating creature," an "envious hater," a "monster" (ibid., July 1971, pp. 2, 4-5, 7).

In other words, if one's basic, typical response to the sight of one's real values is hatred, one is not human, one is not a man. Yet, curiously enough, even though this assertion is stated or implied numerous times in Rand's essay, there are also certain passages in which she relents and temporarily admits these "haters" back to the human race:

"The hater of the good is the man who did not make this transition [from the perceptual level to the conceptual level]...[The hater has] as stagnant a mentality as a human being can sustain on the edge of the borderline separating passivity from psychosis...How does a human descend to such a state?" [emphasis added, ibid., Aug. 1971, p. 6.]

Rand first relents long enough to condemn those human beings who are haters of the good. She then denies that they are human beings, but later lapses back into referring to them as human beings (or men), after seeming to have firmly ostracized them from the human race with such epithets as "creature," "monster," "inhuman object," and "it." (!)

Rand has frozen her abstraction of 'man' ('human being'). She excludes from it certain men whom she considers as possessing "a quality of abysmal evil" (ibid., July 1971, p. 4). Then she fails to integrate her frozen abstraction consistently --which would be impossible anyway, with her knowledge of man's nature--instead allowing it to thaw out and expand again. (Coincidentally, this happens as her most intense expressions of moral wrath subside and scientific curiosity takes over (ibid., Aug. 1971, pp. 5-10).

Unless we choose to indulge in psychologizing and to speculate as to Rand's possible motives, we are left with a sense of confusion and uncertainty. Why does she present such a grossly inconsistent discussion of the concept of 'man'? Surely it would not be out of place to suggest that there is some carelessness here--a subconscious confusion of conceptualization with evaluation. It certainly appears that Rand has on occasion allowed her value-responses (i.e., her emotions) to control the way she sets up and uses her abstraction.

What, then, is the preferable policy? To conceive of and define 'man' as: the rational animal. This, of course, means not that man characteristically acts in accordance with reason, but that man has the volitional capacity to act rationally. Therefore, unless one contents that haters (and appeasers, who are even worse!) are metaphysically irredeemable, one must limit oneself to classifying them as (abysmally) evil men. Such a policy results in mental clarity, precision and objectivity--with no compromise of one's moral principles.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Applying this to the current controversy over whether and in what sense Ed Hudgins is not, or does not deserve to be regarded as, a human being, Rand's approach (i.e., her injunction to avoid the fallacy of the frozen abstraction) requires that Don limit himself to branding Ed as an ~evil~ human being, not as a ~non~ human being or "not really" a human being. In other words, Don needs to take responsibility for his value-judgments, particularly those ~condemning~ others, and stop perverting the English language and the Objectivist concept hierarchy in order to cognitively ostracize Ed from the human race.

Best to all,
Roger Bissell



Comment #32

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 14:23:42 mdt
Name: Chris Matthew Sciabarra
URL: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/notablog.htm

First, thanks, Roger, for some excellent points. A few points in response to Don Watkins:

Don said that he's tired of people leveling charges "at the so-called Objectivist orthodoxy" that insist that "Objectivism is strict adherence to every proposition ever uttered by Rand." He wants to know where one might find this argument.

I should have been more specific. "Ever published by Rand" is more specific than "ever uttered." Peikoff says that Objectivism is only what Rand published in her lifetime. It does not consist of any of her unpublished writings or any of her unpublished, unedited lectures, or anything published posthumously. And that's it. He likes to create a few exceptions to this. See, for example, his various statements on Rand's essay "About a Woman President." But for the most part Objectivism ~is~ Ayn Rand's work, everything she said---take it or leave it.

Peikoff claims that his own books are not even a part of Objectivism. Curiously, he has nothing to say about Nathaniel Branden's ~sanctioned~ works---those that were approved by Rand when she was alive and when Branden was her protege. That's because Peikoff refuses to even mention the name "Branden" without foaming at the mouth.

According to this logic, however, not even Peikoff is an Objectivist. For that reason, I have actually suggested that everybody is now a "Randian." There are no Objectivists anymore, because "interpretation" is an unavoidable aspect of the discourse at this point. See here: <http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/2035.html>

With regard to my rhetorical comment, "Isn't that lovely?," in response to Don's claim that Hudgins "has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being'," Don says: "It certainly is [lovely], my friend." It is immaterial whether Hudgins' assertion stands or falls; it is the fact that Don views Hudgins as ~less than human~ because he objects to Hudgins' reply to Diana. If you can't see how over-the-top that charge is, how utterly lacking in civility, how totally out-of-proportion it is, and how comments such as that shed more heat than light, then I suspect that nothing I say here will convince you.

As for my fundamental honesty or dishonesty: Objectivist or not, I ~am~ preaching Rand's radical legacy, in my view. Call me what you will... four-letter words included. But those of you who think you can cloak yourselves in the flag of "Objectivism" simply because you belong to the Ayn Rand Institute need to seriously check your premises. (I send an annual contribution to ARI, so perhaps I can make similar claims too.)

I have ~never~ "water[ed] down Rand's philosophy" for academic consumption. What I've done is simply to present it in ~different~ terms; I've chosen not to regurgitate Rand's work as if it were a catechism (why should I or anyone do that? Rand's work is brilliant and needs no regurgitation...). What I've done is to present her work, and the work of other thinkers (such as Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, and so forth), as part of a larger "dialectical libertarian" project. My aim is to defend libertarian social theory through a radical "dialectical" methodology: which only means, that I take seriously Rand's view that freedom cannot survive without an understanding of its full psycho-epistemological, ethical, cultural, and social context (dialectics being "the art of context-keeping").

And this "dialectical libertarian" framework, btw, does ~not~ "fit into a modern academic schema"; it seeks to overturns that schema fundamentally. And it's aim ~is~ truth, not the number of scholarly publications.

In response to my comments regarding the evolution of an idea, Don asks: "What idea is it that's supposed to take root? Which idea is it that's supposed to flourish? Once you strip Objectivism of its identity (and that's exactly what happens when you place the value of diversity above the value of truth) then there will be nothing or nothing recognizable left to take root and flourish." That's not the point, Don.

The point is: This evolution is going to happen whether you like it or not. When orthodox writers act as if nobody exists outside their little intellectual ghetto, they simply make themselves ~irrelevant~ to the larger dialogue. For God's sake... the orthodoxy even criticized one of their own---Tara Smith---for her academic "jargon" in VIABLE VALUES. What the hell was Tara Smith supposed to do? Ignore the larger dialogue on ethics that is taking place in the intellectual community? Act as if it doesn't exist?

Note: The value here is ~not~ diversity for its own sake. The value here is, indeed, ~truth~ --- and truth deserves nothing less than vigorous argumentation across diverse intellectual traditions, the willingness to engage, defend, critique, and participate in the dialogue that has marked Western civilization since the inception of philosophy as a discipline. On this, it is worth remembering what Rand herself said: "It is obvious that a boat which cannot stand rocking is doomed already and that it had better be rocked hard, if it is to regain its course--but this realization presupposes a grasp of facts, of reality, of principles and a long-range view, all of which are precisely the things that the 'non-rockers' are frantically struggling to evade." I believe this statement applies as much to Objectivism as to any other -ism or any other issue in the sea of discussion.

Finally, I'm happy, Don, to hear that you have "defended [my] work in various contexts and within certain limits." I'm happy that you've "not been expelled from the movement." Perhaps this a sign of the changing times. It wasn't too long ago, after all, that Andrew Bernstein called for a boycott of my work and THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES <http://www.aynrandstudies.com>, despite the fact that he had never actually ~read~ any of my books, and the fact that he had contributed to JARS without apparently realizing just how evil its contributors were.

In any event, clearly, you are not a full-fledged Objectivist. You've given up smoking. :) There was a time when even ~that~ seemed to be a Holy Sacrament. Good luck!



Comment #33

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 18:46:01 mdt
Name: Matt
URL: http://minorityofone.rationalmind.net

Chris,

"Every statement published by Ayn Rand" is not the standard underlying a closed-system view of Objectivism. Clearly not everything Rand wrote is part of Objectivism, because not everything she wrote was philosophical. For instance, some of her writings include historical observations. If she gets a date wrong, does that mean her philosophy is wrong? Obviously not.

You bring up the woman president issue as an example of how one might disagree with Rand. (In fact, I agree that she was wrong on that one, as well as on other issues involving sex and gender.) But she arrived at these views by applying her philosophy to her opinions on psychology. If the psychology involved was wrong, that doesn't mean the philosophy was. (And, for the record -- she was once asked what philosophy had to say about sex, and she repled: "It is good." And that's it.)

On the other hand, if one rejects the philosophy underlying her views on sex, one is rejecting part of Objectivism. If, for instance, one claimed: "Rand was right that the nature of woman would make it self-sacrificial to be president, but self-sacrifice is a moral ideal," one would be rejecting Objectivism.

Does that clarify the issue?



Comment #34

Wednesday, April 7, 2004 at 19:40:17 mdt
Name: Roger Bissell
URL: http://members.aol.com/REBissell/index.html

Ed Hudgins has taken some knocks for his style of outreach in regard to spiritual/religious issues. Personally, I don't have the same disdain for his approach as some of the others in this noodle comment forum, although my own style would be somewhat different, depending upon my audience, of course. For instance, if I were trying to bridge over to people from the Aristotelian and/or Thomist realms, I would adopt a more philosophical tone and content, but still attempt to dialogue with rather than condemn or browbeat the people I was communicating with. And since Easter is just around the corner, I think that the following concrete example of what I mean would be appropriate and helpful...
================================================
Is It Ever "Finished"?
Life as a Non-Messianic Process

An inspirational Easter-time message from Roger Bissell, April 7, 1996

"Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "it is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit." (John 19:28-30, New International Version, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1983)

"It is finished" -- "Apparently the loud cry of Mt. 27:50; Mk. 15:37. Jesus died as a victor and had completed what he came to do." (ibid)

"gave up his spirit" -- "An unusual way of describing death, perhaps suggesting an act of will." (ibid)

"Vita viventibus est esse" -- "for living things, to be is to live" (Aristotle, quoted by Anthony Kenny, Aquinas, p. 59)

"My life consists of many activities. I walk, I eat, I sleep, I think. While I do these things I am alive; but living is not some other activity which I am performing while doing these things, as breathing is; they are themselves parts of my life, it is in doing them that I am living. 'Live" is not a disjunction of these activities." (ibid)

-------------------------------------------------

If there was ever a eudaimonic man in history, Jesus Christ was that man. This may seem a strange thought, since Jesus was far from being an egoist.

But Jesus had a very deep, intense awareness of the historical context of his life. His entire identity and self-concept -- indeed, the very purpose of his
life -- was defined in terms of the past, present, and future of the human race.

And that purpose? To die. So that men might live eternally, of course. But to die, nonetheless. (He was, we might say, a eudaimonic altruist.)

So when Jesus said "It is finished," he meant that by dying he had achieved his life's purpose. The end (conclusion) of his life was, literally, the end
(purpose) of his life.

We are egoists. We want to live our lives, not end them! So Jesus' messianic purpose in life is, to say the least, something we would not eagerly embrace.

Yet, to the extent that we over-emphasize our goals, at the expense of the process by which we achieve them -- to that extent, we, too, are giving up our lives!

I am not merely saying that the ends do not justify the means. I am saying that the ends should not be allowed to overshadow or obscure the means.

It is in the means, in the various actions by which we pursue our goals, that we live our lives. It is in the concrete steps that we take toward our chosen
objectives that we experience the poignancy, the vitality, the juiciness of life.

I would rather die on the way to the sink to get a drink of water, than sitting in my easy chair reflecting on a life full of monumental achievements, but with no active impulse to achieve more.

To say "it is finished," to surrender one's desire to achieve more in life, is in fact to "give up one's spirit." Such spiritual death is not at all unusual. We see it all around us. And make no mistake about it, it is an "act of will."

Man's glory -- to pursue lofty goals, guided by his intellect and fueled by his ambition -- is also potentially his nemesis. If he allows his goals to
become the purpose of his life, rather than parts of his life, he can lose that which makes it most worth living.

The purpose of human life is happiness. And true happiness is not gained by achievement. Nor by fame, fortune, or power. And certainly not by sacrifice and self-immolation. It is gained by living well, which is a process, not a product.

Am I saying goals are unimportant? Quite the opposite. Goals are necessary as that toward which we focus our actions. More importantly, goals -- if properly chosen -- can serve the necessary function of sustaining our lives.

But the essence of life is not goals, but goal-directed activity. It is in acting that we live. And it is in experiencing the tangible, concrete feel of
our actions that we experience the full reality of our lives -- and our happiness, if we are acting well.

In this respect, dysdaimonic people are closer to happiness than we are. By living primarily in time-slices, they know better than we how to experience
their happiness. Living mainly in an ongoing present, they would be more likely to be puzzled by the notion that life is ever "finished."

But "living life to the hilt" requires more than simply "being in the moment" or stopping to "smell the roses/coffee." It requires a dynamic balance and
reconciliation of the two ways of experiencing the time-frame of our lives.

We can see the Big Picture, the integrated totality of our life course that gives it its grandeur. And we can see the many Little Pictures, the special individual moments that give it is piquancy.

Establishing and keeping a balance between these perspectives can be a life-long project and challenge. Something that is never finished. Something worthy of real, non-messianic human beings.
=====================================================
I hope you all can see that this is light-years away from the style that ARI writers would adopt, if they would even attempt to dialogue with Aristotelian-oriented thinkers. If anyone can explain to me what is wrong with it, or how it compromises my own Objectivist ideals (even though I do not mention Objectivism, let alone explicitly claim to represent it in this piece), please feel free to do so.

By contrast, what I would ~not~ do in the public arena, because it is simply too abrasive, in your face, and kick 'em in the nuts (with a nod to Ron Merrill and the ARI clan), is something like the following. Suppose I were to write in to TIME magazine in respose to their cover story "Why Did Jesus Have to Die?" and comment: "Because his Dad said so." Can everyone see why this is a ~bad~ idea for civil discourse of cultural matters?

Best to all,
Roger Bissell



Comment #35

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 0:49:37 mdt
Name: Richard Lawrence
URL: http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/

The ARI-TOC debate in these comments is an old, familiar one. I don't mean it is old and familiar because I have seen it many times in regard to Objectivism (although I have). No, I am referring to a type of debate that occurs in many movements: the antagonizers versus the mainstreamers.

In this context, the ARI and its supporters are the antagonizers. Antagonizers are openly radical and "in-your-face." They take extreme positions and act on them. They aren't particularly interested in dialog with the "enemy," which is often broadly interpreted as being anyone who doesn't agree with them in both content and method. It is "their way or the highway."

The TOC and its supporters are the mainstreamers. Mainstreamers may have similar long-term goals to those of the antagonizers (that is why they are classified as being in the same movement), but their short-term methods are entirely different. Mainstreamers want dialog with those outside of the movement -- lots of dialog, preferably of the polite variety, with measured words and soft tones. Immediate action is not their strong suit.

The antagonizers see the mainstreamers as appeasers and sell-outs. The mainstreamers (they think) are wishy-washy at best and traitors at worst, and do not deserve the good name of X (where 'X' is whatever term describes participants in the movement).

The mainstreamers see the antagonizers as extremists and crackpots. The antagonizers (they think) are embarrassing at best and dangerous at worst, and sully the good name of X.

This breakdown is not even remotely unique to Objectivism. It can be found in dozens of movements, past and present: movements for civil rights, for gay liberation, against slavery, against abortion, for evangelical Christianity, etc. In case after case, each side sees its own mode of discourse as the only effective one, and believes that progress towards the movement's goals cannot be made without it.

Both sides are right about the second point and wrong about the first. Any vibrant movement has both types, indeed, *needs* both types to progress. Without the antagonizers, the mainstreamers would go unnoticed, their quiet efforts lost in the intellectual background noise. Without the mainstreamers, the antagonizers would be laughed off, treated as unworthy of consideration. The fates of both sides of the divide are linked to one another -- and of course they can't stand one another.

None of this, by the way, should be taken to mean that either side is *always* right or justified. Both are fully capable of mistakes, usually ones that grow out of their preferred approach. In fact, from my perspective, such mistakes have been visible on both sides in the present debate. Naturally, the other side pounces on these as evidence of the irredeemable deficiencies of the other. And so it goes.

Get used to each other, folks. Both sides are here to stay.



Comment #36

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 1:03:17 mdt
Name: JTTrende

Steve Jackson writes:

"You misunderstand my point. Just because Rand was not the highly original thinker that she is portrayed as by the ARI crowd doesn't mean she shouldn't be taken seriously. Rand had some interesting things to say and is worthy of moderate attention in the history of philosophy.

On the other hand, it doesn't do Objectivism any good to keep claiming that Rand is the most original thinker in history next to Aristotle. Most of her ideas can be found in other thinkers. I was surprised when I first studied philosophy to see that other thinkers believed in objective truth, thought man could know reality, thought concepts had a basis in fact and weren't subjective, etc. Then I ignored Rand for 15 years thinking she didn't have much to contribute. I think my story is similar to others."

This is at best misguided, at worst (and probably) deliberately malicous. If Ayn Rand had done nothing more than develop her theory of concept formation and correct Aristotle's Flawed Naive Realism and then retired to a life of baking cookies, she would still go down in intellectual history as one of the greatest and most original thinkers in history. But add into her legacy two of the greatest novels ever written, all her brilliant insights into countless areas, and her laying down the broad foundation for the most developed philosophy of non-contradictory thinking ever and you have a prodigous intellectual giant.

If you don't like her, say it plainly. Dispense with these left-handed compliments. Call her a chain-somiking bitch if that helps you sleep at night. But undestand that the fact that other thinkers arrived at similar conclusions in a piecemeal fasion changes nothing. She created a system of thought that can only be compared with a giant like Aristotle.

The two of them are the spiritual father and mother of any future the human race might enjoy.



Comment #37

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 1:32:25 mdt
Name: Adam Reed
URL: http://www.calstatela.edu/faculty/areed2

I very much think that the moral is the practical. If the world, and especially the academic world, had changed since the time of Ayn Rand, and even since the time of Ron Merrill, in ways that could make the TOC approach more effective, then there would be some reason to support that approach. But the world has changed in the opposite direction - a direction that makes the consequences of appearing to compromise, as Roger Bissell's sample demonstrates, worse. Because information overload is greater then ever, and the cognitive elite have to adapt by being more selective than ever in what we read.

The starting point in communication is, who am I talking to? To be effective in spreading ideas, one must communicate with productive thinkers. And a thinker is only productive to the extent that he is able, and wants to, add to his mind ideas that he does not already have. I typically read only about one in 100 articles whose titles come across my screen. The 1% that I do read are those whose title or opening lines hold the promise of giving me an idea that I don't have already. Ron Merrill's "kick in the balls" comes from a folk tale whose punch line is "but first, I have to get his attention!" The TOC approach - hemi-demi-semi-Objectivism blurry enough to get through by stealth, by staying below the opponents' radar - also guarantees staying below the radar of anyone who can be influenced, but won't read the rest of the article _because its opening line holds out no prospect of changing his mind_.

The last time Kelley gave vent to a "kick them in the balls to get their attention" sound bite was when he said that "Milken had done more for the poor than Mother Theresa." How many years ago was that? Has anyone from TOC said anything since then, that would give the target audience enough promise of changing their minds to get them to keep on reading beyond the first line?



Comment #38

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 6:38:23 mdt
Name: Chris Matthew Sciabarra
URL: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/notablog.htm

I agree with Richard Lawrence's comments here. Interestingly, though, the "mainstreamers" do not succeed in getting the attention from the "mainstream" media that the "antagonizers" get. Check out Fox News. It's a lot easier giving a forum to somebody who says "Nuke em all" than to somebody who tries to weigh the issues in a complex context.

I also agree with Adam Reed. The standard should ~always~ be: "Who am I talking to?" Rand herself agreed with this standard in various lectures and books (including THE ART OF FICTION and THE ART OF NONFICTION). It is the application of context-keeping to exposition. One must always take into account the interests and knowledge of one's audience. I discuss this here:
<http://www.freeradical.co.nz/content/47/47sciabarra.html>. This helps to explain why it is that different audiences demand different ~styles~ of presentation.

Finally, with regard to Matt: Yes, what ~you~ say makes sense. But it's not entirely clear. For example, recently SOLO/Leap Publishing published a monograph of mine entitled AYN RAND, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND HUMAN LIBERATION. An author named Reginald Firehammer wrote a monograph in reply to mine entitled THE HIJACKING OF A PHILOSOPHY: HOMOSEXUALS VERSUS AYN RAND'S OBJECTIVISM. Rand never wrote an ~essay~ on the subject of homosexuality, despite having very negative views on the subject. People like Peikoff (and even N. Branden) have claimed that homosexuality is not a ~philosophical~ issue. And yet, Firehammer makes a very good case that Rand's view of homosexuality is a ~part~ of Objectivism because it subsumes a whole edifice of assumptions (some philosophical, some psychological) about man, woman, masculinity and femininity, and sex.

Let's not forget also that Branden himself, when he was associated with Ayn Rand, made the following statement, with which Rand agreed: "The Objectivist ethics is especially significant for the psychotherapist because it is the first ~psychological~ morality." Just as Branden thought of his psychology as a "philosophical" psychology, so too did Rand think of her own philosophy as having deep implications for human psychology.

Now, when I say that every statement published by Rand constitutes Objectivism, clearly I don't mean things that are immediately falsifiable, such as a historical date. I'm talking broadly about her ~philosophical~ analysis---which impinges on virtually every issue on which she ever wrote, from sex to U.S. foreign policy to Romantic literature. And, quite frankly, one needs to really ~grapple~ with the issues that Rand raises in that woman president essay because I'm also not entirely sure that it is proper to reject her views on sexuality and gender and still call oneself an "Objectivist."

One of the reasons that I co-edited an anthology entitled FEMINIST INTERPRETATIONS OF AYN RAND (an anthology, btw, that Diana herself contributed to) was because I thought these issues were interesting and worth discussion from diverse scholars. Whatever one's view of that anthology (which included contributions from such writers as Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Camille Paglia and Susan Brownmiller), it did bring attention to this aspect of Rand's corpus.

As for Rand's view on sex, I think her philosophical statements go ~way~ beyond her assessment of sex as "good." It entails: the integration of mind and body, the integration of reason and emotion, the integration of love and sex, the celebration of life, love as a response to values, and so forth. I know I am stating the obvious, but Rand was, quite simply, a stupendous ~integrator~. So it is a very real question what one means when one states that Objectivism is "closed" or "open," for if one believes that the system is One Superlative Integration, then, I submit, the alteration of any aspect of the whole will redound throughout that whole in a way that might ~fundamentally~ change it.

That's why these debates over what constitutes Objectivism often go nowhere. Because too often, the principals in the debate are not clear enough as to what is "closed" (and therefore ~essential~ or internal to Objectivism as a philosophical whole) and what is "open" (and therefore ~nonessential~ or external to Objectivism as a philosophical whole).

I think that the moment one starts to parse Rand's work, the system can no longer be viewed as "closed." That's why I don't believe that the "orthodox" Objectivists have a monopoly on being "Objectivists." (It's also why I think we are all Randians now...) Because ~they~ themselves parse Rand's work, and tell us what is essential and what isn't... something that Rand never actually spelled out. Woman President? Not essential. Homosexuality? Not essential. Rand's views of interventionist U.S. foreign policy as an extension of interventionist domestic policy? Not essential. Every one of these issues is an issue that ~orthodox~ Objectivists have deemed nonessential, while other interpreters of Rand's work have viewed them differently.

So, Matt: The jury is out. And, as far as I can tell, the battle for the "soul" of Rand's legacy will be going on forever. Because that is the nature of how ideas evolve, and it is a process that can't be stopped. That's why I have lent my support, in varying degrees, to ARI, to The Objectivist Center, to SOLO, to FREE RADICAL, and to various other Objectivist and Objectivist-influenced organizations and periodicals. Not just because I'm a promiscuous intellectual; but because I think each entity has its role, and I've always advocated a multi-pronged attack on the status quo, aimed at every audience, on every level, from the personal, to the cultural, to the "structural" (political & economic).

That does ~not~ mean that I accept ~uncritically~ the organizations to which I lend my support. Hence, my criticisms here.



Comment #39

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 9:44:19 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Chris has corrected his position regarding what the orthodoxy demands from those who call themselves Objectivists. At first it was: adherence to every proposition uttered by Rand. Then it was: every proposition every published by Rand. And now it is: whatever propositions the orthodoxy thinks are essential to Objectivism, which excludes a slew of propositions published by Rand (a woman president, homosexuality, the connection between interventionism at home and abroad, to name a few).

So, assuming this last what you REALLY mean, Chris, let us consider your latest argument. You argue, in effect, that since there is no objective way to determine what is essential to Objectivism, to claim that not everything Rand published is essential to Objectivism is to admit that Objectivism is not a closed system.

That's a very good argument, except that it does not represent the orthodox position. The orthodox position, as Matt said and as Peikoff has said, is this: Objectivism is defined by principles. It consists of all the philosophic PRINCIPLES defined and identified by Rand. Now, I think you'll grant me that there is an objective way to determine what is and is not a philosophic principle. I certainly hope you will.

An Objectivist is anyone who embraces all those principles, which would presumably include Peikoff, myself, and many others.

This, however, is the point I most want to put to rest. Chris writes:

"With regard to my rhetorical comment, 'Isn't that lovely?,' in response to Don's claim that Hudgins 'has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being,' Don says: 'It certainly is [lovely], my friend.' It is immaterial whether Hudgins' assertion stands or falls; it is the fact that Don views Hudgins as ~less than human~ because he objects to Hudgins' reply to Diana. If you can't see how over-the-top that charge is, how utterly lacking in civility, how totally out-of-proportion it is, and how comments such as that shed more heat than light, then I suspect that nothing I say here will convince you."

Chris, this is becoming disingenuous on your part. Let me quote Ed's remarks to Diana once more:

"I didn't respond to your statement of a month or so ago about TOC and one of my op-eds because, frankly, your whole dramatic 'I officially break ties' approach was kind of silly."

Now, you tell me Chris. How else can you interpret that except as an attack on Diana for taking ideas seriously?

Imagine, Chris, that you are telling the love of your life how much he means to you, how everything about him fills you with joy, and how life on earth would be meaningless without him and he said: "Don't be so dramatic Chris. This isn't a romance novel. Stop acting so silly." You would be crushed, and rightfully so you would feel as if the metaphysical rug had been pulled out from under you. He would have attacked you at the deepest level. He would have attacked you, not for your values, but for your commitment to values as such. He would thus be guilty of the worst kind of crime.

I do not believe there is any essential difference between my example and what Ed said to Diana, and therefore I do not believe my statements were over-the-top. They certainly did not result from a refusal to deal with his arguments, in any case.

But why should arguments matter, anyway? Why should I care about the truth? Why should I be rational? Because cognition is our means of self-preservation. Cognition therefore demands evaluation, specifically, moral evaluation. Unless you accept that in the first place, you have no basis for claiming rationality as a virtue. In this sense, you are guilty of the stolen concept fallacy. You are saying, in effect, that rationality is a virtue because it sustains human life, but I should not morally evaluate ideas or those who preach them because that is irrational. If that is not what you're saying, then please explain where moral evaluation is supposed to enter into the picture.

Finally, let's be clear about some things: I do believe the orthodoxy has failed to engage some legitimate (albeit false) arguments against Objectivism. And I do believe there is a lot of room for growth within an Objectivist framework. Sadly, we have not taken the opportunity to do so. As I have said to Diana in email: Where is a publication where people can discuss and debate the applications and implications of Objectivism within an Objectivist framework?

Those are valid points, and there are more I could make, but none of them justifies sundering fact from value, aligning ourselves with libertarians, or providing a platform for the enemies of Objectivism. And none of them justifies the incessant ARI bashing, which seeks to portray us as anti-intellectual dogmatists because we refuse to sunder fact from value, and refuse to sanction evil, and know with certainty that Objectivism is TRUE.

More later. DPW.



Comment #40

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 11:12:34 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Roger Bissell notes that in my criticism of Ed Hudgins, I committed the fallacy of the frozen abstraction with regards to the concept "human being." I think Roger's point is valid, so I retract my previous claim. Ed Hudgins certainly has a moral right to call himself a human being - albeit a vicious and immoral one.

-DPW



Comment #41

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 11:35:15 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

I wrote:

"Roger Bissell notes that in my criticism of Ed Hudgins, I committed the fallacy of the frozen abstraction with regards to the concept 'human being.' I think Roger's point is valid, so I retract my previous claim. Ed Hudgins certainly has a moral right to call himself a human being - albeit a vicious and immoral one."

Lest I jump to conclusions, even that is not exactly right. Writing that sentence was a vicious and immoral action on Ed's part. Whether or not HE is vicious or immoral would require more evidence.



Comment #42

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 12:09:27 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Here's one the principles I live by if you ever get mentioned in the same breath as Ron Merrill and ARI, you must be doing something right. In any case, Roger Bissell writes:

"If there's one thing that I learned from last year's TOC Advanced Seminar, it was that you cannot hope to have a significant effect on the culture as an active intellectual, unless you are willing to enter the existing dialogue and speak the same language as those you want to persuade. This means exploring common ground as a framework within to explore your differences and to promote your version of the true and the good. Yet, we still hear Objectivists such as Don Watkins implying that communication is worthless (except to stir up those who already agree with you) and that the TOC kind of bridge-building and outreach is badly motivated and an ultimate disservice to Objectivism."

That is NOT my position. My position is what I've said it is. But before I define my position any further, I want to point out that I disagree emphatically with this entire approach to ideas. It treats spreading the ideas as an intrinsic value and then asks, how best can we spread them? Spreading one's ideas is a secondary matter. The first thing we must attend to is the pursuit of our own values, which demands, among other things, integrity including the integrity of our ideas. Roark wanted to sell his buildings, but not at the expense of the integrity of his design.

So the question is: Are we sacrificing the integrity of our ideas by engaging "the existing dialogue" using "the same language as those you want to persuade"? Well, first let's be clear on what this is asking: Are we sacrificing the integrity of Objectivism by engaging in debate with the current intellectual establishment on its own terms? Or, more precisely, are we sacrificing the integrity of Objectivism in order to make the intellectual establishment "take Rand seriously" (whatever that means)?

My answer is: Yes. Emphatically.

A cornerstone of the Objectivist ethics is the virtue of justice. One of the tenets of justice is that one must not provide a platform for the spread of destructive ideas. This is based on the recognition that evil is impotent and can thrive only by piggybacking on the good and THAT requires the moral sanction of the good.

But this is exactly what Bissell is advocating, whether or not he realizes it. Notice what "bridge building" means. It means WE change for THEM. It means we cloak ourselves in the form of analytic philosophy, as if Objectivism did not have a distinctive method, only distinctive conclusions. It means we create publications that are open to every sort of misstatement about Objectivism and claim this openness as a primary virtue.

I DO NOT believe communication is worthless, but I do ask: communication with whom, for what, and by what means? The claim that Objectivism's affecting the culture depends on joining the intellectual establishment in its ivory tower games does not, in my view, stand up to scrutiny. Objectivism will win by reaching MINDS. Are we to believe there are converts to be made among modern intellectuals?

Of course not "But they're taking us seriously!" Why the glee? Why should we be so eager to get a nod of approval from those we regard as WRONG? Should biologists attempt to "build bridges" to creationism?

Besides, we shouldn't be surprised Rand is getting a hearing. According the intellectual establishment, all sides to every issue deserve an equal hearing, whether they claim that A is A, or whether they claim the moon is planning a vacation on the shores Cancun. If you understand Objectivism, you know who benefits by meeting such people on equal footing.

Let's be clear. In a contest between true ideas and false ideas, true ideas will win unless taking part in the contest necessarily concedes the premises of the other side. One does not engage in a public debate with one who denies the historicity of the Holocaust. In my view, that is exactly what is happening when we speak of "building bridges" to modern philosophy.

"Though Chris appears to have intrigued and excited people in both the Objectivist and the Marxist camps with his bridge-building, common-ground-seeking approach, he has also clearly aggravated and outraged quite a number in each group. And maybe these latter voices will win out. But if they do, then the future of Objectivism will be as sterile and eventually dead as that of Marxism."

Let us be clear about what I am being attacked for. I am being attacked for opposing THIS for opposing the idea of seeking common ground with Marxists purveyors of an ideology so false and so evil that it nearly led to the destruction of civilization. People who preach the most vicious ideas to young minds these are the people to whom we are supposed to build bridges and from whom we are supposed to learn something.

To hell with that. Ideas matter. You DO NOT seek common ground with evil, and if there are any bridges, better they be burned than built.



Comment #43

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 13:49:04 mdt
Name: Chris Matthew Sciabarra
URL: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra

Don: You don't like or wish to engage in "the existing dialogue"? Fine. We live in a semi-capitalist society, which has a division of labor and specialization of knowledge. You can do whatever you want---nobody is stopping you, and More Power to You! Leave it to those of us who ~do~ enjoy engaging in that dialogue to do just that. Anybody who is actually interested in anything Rand scholars say might actually go back to the source---always a good, established scholarly practice---and read ~her~, rather than just the commentaries on her.

Secondly, nobody has ~changed~ for the establishment. When engaging in dialogue, however, a translation exercise is always involved. You may not wish to speak to analytic philosophers or continental philosophers or even contemporary physicists. But if you have chosen philosophy or physics or any number of disciplines as your field, you best ~understand~ your opponents because you're going to be speaking to them ~all the time~. That's just the nature of the academy and of scholarship.

If you are a professional philosopher and you do wish to speak to a profession that is dominated by analytic philosophers, you need to at least ~attempt~ to understand what they say and how they say it in order to bridge the gap between your meaning and theirs. You want to engage other schools of thought that advocate egoism (Nietzschean, Stirnerian, etc.), in order to show why Rand's rational egoism is superior? You need to at least ~familiarize~ yourself with what they say in order to engage in the comparative critique.

Let me give an autobiographical example: When I began work on social theory and political science, I made it my business to master the Marxist canon, because that canon dominates those fields. Trying to speak to other academics in my field, I did not simply adopt ~their~ language. I was ~intrigued~ by the Marxist use of dialectics because I saw profound similarities between the underlying principles of that method and Rand's emphasis on understanding the full context. (Rand herself always admired the Marxist emphasis on systematic theorizing.)

Not content with either the Marxist conception of dialectics or Rand's rejection of "dialectical materialism" (something quite different), I went back to the ~source~ of dialectics in ancient Greece. The first theoretician of dialectics was Aristotle. I wedded that dialectical method to a this-worldly Objectivist sensibility and what I've done is to challenge the entire leftist establishment. Now, important histories of dialectical method are being written, and many of these histories are beginning to ~grapple~ with ~my~ dialectical-methodological critique of Marxism. This is not about "seeking common ground with Marxists"; it's about ~challenging~ and ~undermining~ Marxists and Marxism by using the reality-based, context-keeping tools that they've misused. But if you read orthodox Objectivist commentaries on my work, all you will see is that I'm some sort of "Hegelian." I'm so ~tired~ of the misrepresentation that comes from those circles. This is not ~analysis~; it's knee-jerk denunciation---and it is all too typical among the orthodoxy. And when some good "orthodox" scholars, like Tara Smith, embark on an adventure---which demands comparative weighing of different perspectives---they are similarly criticized by their orthodox colleagues for adopting too "academic" a style. Get over it already!

As for my "corrected" positions on what the orthodoxy believes constitutes Objectivism: Don... the whole purpose of a dialogue of this nature---especially one that takes place practically in real time in the blogosphere---is to make clearer and clearer that which we mean. That's the virtue of give-and-take, and it is precisely that kind of dialogue and give-and-take that is rarely present in orthodox circles.

Note, however, that in this entire discussion of what constitutes Objectivism, I did not say that this is what ~I~ believe it is to be an Objectivist. I ~don't~ buy the proposition that Objectivism is ~everything~ Rand ever uttered. But some people do. And some people ~act~ as if they do. It seems to me that whatever the actual statements made by various orthodox interpreters of Rand, too many arbitrary boundaries have been drawn as to what constitutes and what does not constitute Objectivism. I'm not even sure that Rand herself would agree with the kind of boundary-drawing that the orthodoxy has engaged in. And my point is that we ~all~ engage in boundary-drawing, we ~all~ engage in a process of abstraction regarding Objectivism, ~including~ the orthodoxy. The latter is ~not~ privileged in this regard, simply because the pronouncements come from an institute bearing Ayn Rand's name.

For the record: I have ~never~ said that "there is no objective way to determine what is essential to Objectivism." Check out my first post here, where I talked about the ~need~ to identify Objectivism, that Objectivism must be something specific---or nothing at all. I agree completely that "Objectivism is defined by principles." For me, it is defined by its ~core~ principles in each of the branches of philosophy, not by ~all~ of Rand's published work, or unpublished work, etc. As a completist, however, I do believe that one needs to grapple with everything Rand ever uttered in order to understand her consistency, her inconsistency, the consistency or inconsistency between her work and that of her followers, and, most importantly, the consistency of ~all~ of this with the ~facts of reality~.

I think that, in the sense of core principles, Objectivism ~is~ closed. As for applications, implications, and so forth, this field is wide open; it depends on active minds who are building a veritable school of thought... nay, ~diverse~ schools of thought within a wider "paradigm" that I've called "Randian." I have long quoted Mao (sorry) who said: "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend." If the orthodox version of Objectivism is ~right~, then a ~thousand~ schools won't change that truth. Let none of us be fearful of the flowering that is happening right before our eyes. There's no turning back.

Also for the record: I embrace all those ~core~ principles that Rand defined---and I'd have no problem calling myself an Objectivist if it weren't for the fact that, today, too much is being said in the name of Objectivism that ~turns my stomach~. But that's way beyond our scope here.

As for the comments that Ed Hudgins made: I simply would not call an interlocutor like Ed, less-than-human. If Diana didn't like the fact that Ed called her approach "kind of silly," there's nothing wrong with saying: "Hey, Ed, it's not silly. Diana takes ideas seriously." You could accuse him of being condescending or flippant. You might even ~ask~ him what he meant (that's a novel idea!).

But... I'm from Brooklyn---and I know "over the top" when I see it; wishy-washy academic or not: claiming that Ed "has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist or even a human being" because of this is just a bit much. I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Nobody is telling you not to ~evaluate~ Ed's comments. I'm just asking for a sense of proportion here. Ed Hudgins is not Adolf Hitler. Cognition demands evaluation, including moral evaluation, but moral evaluation must always pay attention to ~context~ or it ends up sounding like Bible-thumping denunciations from the Pulpit.

Speaking of context: I can't imagine Ed's comment "crushing" Diana in the way that you suspect a romantic partner might do, but I'll leave it to Diana to assess. Given her relationship with her husband Paul, I doubt that she has that kind of relationship with Ed. The point is: The context of ~her~ relationship with Ed is important to ~her~ assessment.

You ask: "Where is a publication where people can discuss and debate the applications and implications of Objectivism within an Objectivist framework?"

Check out THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES. It's open to people working in many different frameworks, but it is also a place where people working within an Objectivist framework can discuss and debate applications and implications. It's good enough for George Reisman and Erika Holzer (both of whom will be in next year's issues), and for many others who still consider themselves Rand's progeny (including David Kelley, William Thomas, and neo-Aristotelian post-Randians, if you will, like Tibor Machan, Douglas Den Uyl, Eric Mack, Douglas Rasmussen, and so forth...).

As for "sundering fact from value, aligning ourselves with libertarians, or providing a platform for the enemies of Objectivism," we just have very different views of what is entailed in social discourse.

And, finally, as for "the incessant ARI bashing," it seems to me that if we're going to evaluate The Objectivist Center, an evaluation of ~all~ organizations purporting to spread Objectivism is incumbent upon us. TOC was built, in many respects, as a response to the shortcomings of ARI. That TOC has its own shortcomings does not erase the very real ~failures~ of the Ayn Rand Institute (nor does it shortchange the very real ~successes~ of ARI, especially in the area of essay contests, archival preservation, and so forth).



Comment #44

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 13:59:47 mdt
Name: Eric Barnhill
URL: http://musicembodied.com

There's hints of a false dichotomy in some of these comments which tags ARI as close-minded, radical, and unconcerned with the outside, and TOC as open minded, heterogeneous, and outreach-oriented. While I welcome the idea of a heterodox Objectivist-oriented organization, that acts as a genuine home for people from all angles and interests in the Objectivist debate, TOC is not that place.

On the contrary, after ten years of being a member, TOC appears to be no more open minded than ARI and a lot less interesting. True enough, they avoid the hard-edged, alienating rhetoric of a lot of ARI's stuff, but they seem equally restricted in only admitting a certain flat-toned, banal, family-friendly style into their public works that they seem to think "benevolent". It's like all the internal debates and ideas that actual Objectivists are out there having are an embarrassment to them that might besmirch their establishment creds.

This is not emblematic of the views of the many denizens of TOC, who often have interesting views, new directions they want Objectivism to go (like those charming Objecti-Buddhists), and of course the internal camps and rivalries that are hallmarks of any movement. But you'd never know it based on TOC's public profile. As is clear from these comments, internal debates are roiling the TOC scene - but all we get in the newsletter are articles on the ten most rational movies, and silly half-pagers on Lewis and Clark that could have been pulled from a middle school history textbook.

TOC started off as a place for "homeless Objectivists", and this had everyone all excited ten years ago. It still invites them there, but wants them to keep their issues to themselves. While my involvement with TOC has not been that extensive (but not negligible either) I have made a surprising number of close friends there, including not incidentally a couple of long-time sponsors. And I have to say, among all my friends who have been there a while, every one thinks that TOC is failing at its mission. They seem to be appealing to nobody.

I say this with no plausible alternative. I will never have a home at ARI. I am still waiting for the home for the homeless Objectivists to set up shop. I think TOC could have been an immensely colorful, exciting, significant institution. But ten years later, they're not.



Comment #45

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 15:43:16 mdt
Name: Mike Hardy

Since I seem to recall reading (where?) that you are in Colorado, I wonder if you've met Mike Huemer and/or Todd Olson? -- Mike



Comment #46

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 17:38:35 mdt
Name: Matt
URL: http://minorityofone.rationalmind.net

Chris,

It's true, as I pointed out earlier, that Rand's view of homosexuality subsumes both philosophical and psychological assumptions. But I disagree with your claim that these can't be distinguished and evaluated separately.

Now, of course, Rand's philosophy has implications for psychology. It also has implications for other fields: hell, Mike Mentzer applied Objectivism to a field as far-flung as bodybuilding. In fact, I think we can use that as an example of how one might distinguish between philosophy and non-philosophy in a context where they are mixed. (Sometimes it's useful to step away from standard examples, since they tend to carry baggage.)

Let's pretend for a moment that Rand, along with being a world-class philosopher and novelist, was also a world-class bodybuilding champion. Imagine that she wrote a series of books in which she disputed the common assertion that bodybuilding defies the need for theory, that since each body is different the only way to succeed is through trial-and-error. She then went on to discuss her research and to advocate what she thought was a correct universal theory of body-building.

Isn't it fairly clear that in this context, it'd be possible to distinguish what was part of Objectivism and what wasn't? The assertion that there's one reality and one set of principles that fits it; the epistemological need for integration and induction; the rejection of pragmatism... those are all clearly philosophical. But the specific claims about what constitutes a productive workout would not be. They clearly belong to a different field. If Rand had written such books, I seriously doubt that anyone would be claiming that they were part of Objectivism.

Is this really so far from the cases we're considering? I don't think so. Philosophy and psychology aren't as distant from each other as philosophy and bodybuilding, but there remains a real distinction between the two. It may not be so easy to figure out where the line is to be drawn, but that doesn't imply that there is no line. At risk of repeating myself, I have to simply insist that there is a real difference between philosophy and psychology, it's a difference which can be discovered and known, and it's a difference one must try to understand if one wants to define what is and is not Objectivism. It may be true that some people have made arbitrary distinctions, but that doesn't imply that no real distinctions are there. I believe I've pointed some out already.



Comment #47

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 20:15:41 mdt
Name: Roger Bissell
URL: http://members.aol.com/REBissell/index.html

Adam Reed said: "The starting point in communication is, who am I talking to? To be effective in spreading ideas, one must communicate with productive thinkers."

Not necessarily. You can communicate with those who are in the position of choosing literature for a course on ethics, for instance. And if you convince them that Rand has a position that is interesting and likely to help engage the students in the course, they may well include an essay or book of hers, ~even if they DISAGREE with her~, and ~even if they are not themselves productive thinkers~.

And Don Watkins said: "Objectivism will win by reaching MINDS. Are we to believe there are converts to be made among modern intellectuals? Of course not "But they're taking us seriously!" Why the glee? Why should we be so eager to get a nod of approval from those we regard as WRONG?"

Don, that "nod of approval" ~might~ just get the ideas you champion a chance for a hearing in a college classroom, ~even if they regard YOU as wrong~.
"Reaching minds" does not necessarily entail the brass ring of ~agreement with the CONTENT of your ideas. It may involve the still considerably valuable ~agreement that your ideas merit a HEARING~.

John Hospers did not swallow all of Ayn Rand's ideas -- not by a long shot. Yet, he liked and agreed with ~some~ of them. And probably more important, he recognized the challenging, intellectually stimulating nature of her writings, and he ~engaged~ with her ideas and ~included~ excerpts and references to her ideas in his own philosophy books.

And ~this~ happened, ~even with~ Rand's abrasive, heavy-handed manner of communicating with him. (See their correspondence in ~The Ayn Rand Letters~.) Think of how much more Rand could have accomplished with Hospers (and other academics), if she had eased off of the intellectual strong-arm tactics.

Best to all,
Roger Bissell



Comment #48

Thursday, April 8, 2004 at 21:27:51 mdt
Name: Jordan Zimmerman
URL: http://www.jordanzimmerman.com

With all the criticism of TOC, I feel like giving it some praise. TOC (and IOS previously) was a vital resource that allowed me to reconnect with Objectivism and reorient my life. It continues to be that. My interest in TOC is not what it affect it has on the world, but what affect it has on me. So far, that affect has been wonderful.

Frankly, I've been very surprised at the negative comments about TOC. What alternative is there? The things that have been found lacking in TOC are not to be found anywhere else. Much of the criticism amounts to disappointment that TOC isn't something other than it is.



Comment #49

Friday, April 9, 2004 at 9:19:59 mdt
Name: Don
URL: http://angermanagement.mu.nu

Chris Sciabarra writes, "Speaking of context: I can't imagine Ed's comment 'crushing' Diana in the way that you suspect a romantic partner might do, but I'll leave it to Diana to assess. Given her relationship with her husband Paul, I doubt that she has that kind of relationship with Ed. The point is: The context of ~her~ relationship with Ed is important to ~her~ assessment."

My point in using the romantic analogy was not to highlight the extent to which Ed may or may not have hurt Diana, which I have no way of knowing. It was and I can't believe this wasn't obvious to describe the *nature of what he was saying*.

In "A Question of Sanction," Kelley wrote that when we apply our principles, which were formed by a process of abstraction, we reintroduce the measurements and thus are able to achieve a "sense of proportion." Interestingly enough, in regards to my comments about Ed, Chris writes: "Nobody is telling you not to ~evaluate~ Ed's comments. I'm just asking for a sense of proportion here. Ed Hudgins is not Adolf Hitler. Cognition demands evaluation, including moral evaluation, but moral evaluation must always pay attention to ~context~ or it ends up sounding like Bible-thumping denunciations from the Pulpit."

This approach, in my view, represents the abdication of principles. If two acts are essentially the same Ed's comments and my romantic example then differences of degree are not relevant insofar as we are evaluating them morally. The D.C. Sniper is not made better by comparing him to Hitler.

What made Ed's comment so despicable was not that what he said was "mean" or "false" or anything so superficial as that. It was the attempt to undercut Diana's devotion to her values. If you think in principles, you will see such an attack for what it is: anti-value and therefore anti-life and therefore vicious.

If you don't think in principles, you will see only that he called her actions "dramatic" and "silly." You will think, "I've been called much worse than that. That's not so bad." But it IS so bad because it represents a fundamental assault of human valuing.

My point is not to argue this particular issue, but to identify our respective approaches and how they are instantiated in this issue. You seem to imply that context and degree can wipe away principles. But the context in this case is not Adolph Hitler vs. Ed Hudgins. The context is the nature of values. To value passionately is a human need, one of our most fundamental needs. To attack someone for valuing passionately by trying to make them feel stupid for valuing passionately and worse, for valuing IDEAS passionately is therefore, in that context, the most outrageous act one can perpetrate.

Perhaps there is room in philosophy for debate where value judgments are omitted, not because they don't exist, but because they are non-essential in that context. Perhaps there is nothing wrong to speaking to academics in their own language. Perhaps we should expect less from outsiders.

But within our own ranks, my expectations are much higher. It is for that reason I am sympathetic to ARI's attempts to weed out non-Objectivists like Kelley and, by extension, Hudgins. To tolerate those who are fundamentally opposed to Rand's philosophy, in the name of spreading her philosophy, is the worst kind of contradiction.

I think we've exhausted these issues for now, so I'll let you have the last word, Chris. Thank you (and everyone else) for an engaging exchange.



Comment #50

Friday, April 9, 2004 at 11:44:48 mdt
Name: Chris Matthew Sciabarra
URL: http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra

A few points in response... or else this discussion will have to be called: HIJACKING NOODLEFOOD. In truth, I had initially hesitated to enter this discussion because I had ~genuinely~ wanted to wait for Diana to post her opus, exploring what she believes is wrong with TRUTH AND TOLERATION. I still hope to participate in ~that~ discussion, but I do believe that Diana will have to address a lot of the issues that have been raised here. I'm ~genuinely~ interested to see how she grapples with them.

Don writes: ]]]"My point in using the romantic analogy was not to highlight the extent to which Ed may or may not have hurt Diana, which I have no way of knowing. It was and I can't believe this wasn't obvious to describe the *nature of what he was saying*. ... In "A Question of Sanction," Kelley wrote that when we apply our principles, which were formed by a process of abstraction, we reintroduce the measurements and thus are able to achieve a "sense of proportion." Interestingly enough, in regards to my comments about Ed, Chris writes: "Nobody is telling you not to ~evaluate~ Ed's comments. I'm just asking for a sense of proportion here. Ed Hudgins is not Adolf Hitler. Cognition demands evaluation, including moral evaluation, but moral evaluation must always pay attention to ~context~ or it ends up sounding like Bible-thumping denunciations from the Pulpit." This approach, in my view, represents the abdication of principles. If two acts are essentially the same Ed's comments and my romantic example then differences of degree are not relevant insofar as we are evaluating them morally. The D.C. Sniper is not made better by comparing him to Hitler.[[[

But Don, I ~don't~ agree that the two acts are essentially the same. I also believe that there are ~deep~ differences between the psychological dynamics of the situation you describe (which shows a kind of hostility that I'd pray never to find in any romantic relationship of mine) and the one between Ed and Diana. This does not mean that I've abdicated thinking in principles; it simply means that I think one's evaluation of this situation must take into consideration the rich ~context~ before us. Indeed, you do have "no way of knowing" that context, without exploring it. Have you even bothered to engage Ed, who posted here, to actually ask ~him~ what he meant? You've had absolutely no problem engaging me, day after day, in a probing discussion of what I meant or what I haven't meant in my various statements. Why be so quick to judge Ed Hudgins as less-than-human based on a letter that he posted here?

I must confess I have never understood the ~need~ to make these moral denunciations in the manner that you do. I've never understood the need to constantly engage the world in an Us-versus-Them manner. There is very ~real~ crisis in this world; when "Objectivists" make enemies of their fellow travelers with such a broad moralizing stroke, one wonders what venom they will have left for the collectivists and statists who, daily, are wiping out the human race. And honestly, if this is what Objectivism is all about, Don, then, with all due respect: You can have it.

I can't speak for Ed, but this is how I interpret his statement: Ed was not calling ~Diana~ silly. I don't even believe that he was calling her differences with TOC silly. What he seems to regard as "silly"---and this is something with which you may agree with or disagree---is Diana's very public approach to "breaking" with TOC. Diana has reasons for this public approach, but Ed seems to suggest that he saw Diana as a ~colleague~, and colleagues are usually more "collegial" in their personal relations. The "officially break ties" approach is something that, for Ed, seems to reek of the old very un-collegial purges and schisms that marked the NBI and early ARI days (from the Branden break all the way up to and including the Reisman break). Now don't go telling me that all these breaks were breaks on "principle." Clearly, Ed is suggesting an aversion to this kind of factionalism.

Now, Don, you have basically focused on a single "silly" comment in Ed's discussion, and you've not examined ~anything~ of substance that he raises about the need to address different audiences in different styles. You've taken one sentence and reified it as the whole of Ed's commentary; you've taken one sentence and focused on ~it~ to the exclusion of anything else Ed has said.

I have to say, respectfully, that I've developed a pretty thick skin over the last decade, with the things that have been said about me. If all that had been said about me was that my approach was "silly," I would have laughed it off. And then I would have gotten into the nitty-gritty of ~arguments~ (or lack thereof) presented by my interlocutors. (BTW, have you ever read Plato's dialogues? Have you ever read Aristotle's critiques of his interlocutors? Calling the approach of an interlocutor "silly" is ~nothing~ compared to the invective and biting sarcasm that one finds even among these masters of ancient philosophy.)

As an outsider, I don't want to psychologize about the people involved in this "break." But I don't think one has to be a rocket scientist to see that there are very real ~personal~ dynamics here, because Diana devoted many years of her life to an organization with which she became disillusioned, upset, and angry. Is it any surprise to find that some people in that organization are now equally upset over the nature of her comments? Get past the hyperbole, stop focusing on it as if it is symptomatic of the "anti-human," and start focusing on some of the ~real~ issues that have been raised, and that, I hope, Diana will address in her more comprehensive commentary.

Whatever one's view of TOC, I do believe that the organization has done some ~excellent~ things over the years, and, quite frankly, they've been good to me personally. David Kelley was the only person in any Objectivist organization who thought it valuable to schedule a roundtable discussion of AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, two years before the book was published. Back then, the IOS JOURNAL even sponsored rough-and-tumble discussions of the very negative Jim Lennox review of RUSSIAN RADICAL---something that one would never have found in any ARI-related publications. NAVIGATOR even did a cover story on my scholarship. And the Atlas Society published my monograph, AYN RAND: HER LIFE AND THOUGHT.

I can't say anything about the TOC Summer Seminars, because I've never attended one (though I have attended a few very well done one-day conferences here in NYC over the years). But I can say that I am ~deeply~ impressed with TOC's OBJECTIVIST STUDIES series, which includes a fine Roderick Long monograph on Rand and Aristotle, and an equally fine Neera Badhwar monograph on happiness---and both of these books feature excellent give-and-take between the authors and their critics. I ~wish~ TOC would do more studies like these.

Finally, as to Matt's comments about Rand's view of homosexuality, let me be clear. I was ~not~ arguing that we should ~not~ make the distinctions you make. I was saying that some people of a more orthodox ilk don't make those distinctions. I ~do~, in fact, believe that we can distinguish and evaluate Rand's philosophical and psychological assumptions separately. I agree with you completely. My criticism was that ~some~ people ~don't~ make these distinctions. Many of the early Objectivists didn't make those distinctions (see some of the scorn that was heaped on gays and lesbians in the early movement---as I document in my own survey in AYN RAND, HOMOSEXUALITY, AND HUMAN LIBERATION <http://www.nyu.edu/projects/sciabarra/essays/homosexuality.htm> ),
and used psychology as a philosophical and moral ~weapon~.

I ~champion~ the need to distinguish between philosophy and psychology (whatever their complex relationships), and I have always said that there is a distinction between the philosoph~y~ and the philosoph~er~. Ayn Rand had many personal aesthetic and sexual tastes that weren't mine. Not agreeing with her view of Vermeer or Beethoven or horror films doesn't make me any less of an "Objectivist." (On these issues, I should mention that one of the finest courses that Leonard Peikoff ever gave was "Understanding Objectivism.") But there was a time in this "movement" when such distinctions were ~not~ made. And we shouldn't forget that, lest we repeat the mistakes of that generation.