Comments from NoodleFood


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Comment #1

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 19:32:33 mst
Name: Jim May

Tore writes:

"There are many interesting questions relating to the broader issue of how to judge objectively who is an authority in a field, and when and in what manner to be guided by the greater knowledge of others, while maintaining one's intellectual independence. Such questions come up in one's relationship to doctors, garage mechanics -- and teachers."

And climatologists too, for that matter ;(



Comment #2

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 19:52:59 mst
Name: ObGrStud

Tore: Bravo!

Diana: Bravo! (And thank you for providing a venue for those maligned to respond to the Speichers.)

(The following may seem a bit harsh. I think it is warranted.)

First, I think the clear contractual violation of the HBL policy by Speicher is a serious lapse of morality. To make amends, he should at minimum immediately delete the post from his Form, apologize to those he illicitly quoted, and to HB. Of course, I'm sure he'll come up with some rationalization to excuse his shameful behavior (and to keep the illicit HBL quote on his Forum). He will probably offer something lame like: "Tore and Robert attacked the Forum on HBL, and so even though the posts I quoted from HBL weren't strictly authored by me, they involved me so it's only fair that I should be able to quote them in self-defense."

I've noticed over the years that the Speichers play a kind of good cop (Betsy), bad cop (Stephen) routine while engaging their enemies online. It's a way for them to get nasty with those they disagree with, while simultaneously maintaining a facade of civility. It doesn't help matters that they routinely provide erroneous interpretations of Objectivism with an air of authority. It's a sad thing to see people new to Ayn Rand's ideas stumble into the Forum (or its equivalent) and be continually misinformed by life-long dilettantes. The clear and distinct fact is that the Speichers encourage the unwitting and easily cowed to take their "analyses" as accurately representing Objectivism.

It's good to finally see these intellectual pipsqueaks get their comeuppance.



Comment #3

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 20:45:23 mst
Name: Greg Perkins
URL: http://dianahsieh.com/blog

Thanks for the excellent essay and comments, Tore and Diana!

This brings to mind how I am surprised at all the confusion which arises around authorities. There are mystics who try to paint reason and faith as being the same in principle because rational people "have faith in" doctors and lawyers and so on, after all. And among rational people, there are those who struggle to see how independence and reliance on expertise are not mututally exclusive (often in the face of the prior peoples' claims).

I usually head into the issue by pointing out that independence does not mean isolation. We enjoy the tremendous benefits of a division of labor in the market when we buy the tomatoes, shirts, happy-meals, and houses others have produced, for example -- and doing so is actually an *expression* of our being independent because we are producers trading for the goods that support our lives, rather than "living" as a dependent beggar or thief. Similarly, we can enjoy the tremendous benefits of a division of labor in knowledge -- and we can likewise do it as an expression of our being independent thinkers.

At that point, my (rational) discussion partners are eager to explore just how to do that in a healthy way, considering how important doctors, lawyers, scientists, and teachers seem to be. I think the parallel to proper use of the division of manual labor is helpful for approaching the proper use of the division of intellectual labor: in both cases we must judge the products and their producers, even though we are not experts in the domain. We check what they claim to know and do against what we know or can find out independently (are they in a position to deliver on what they claim, whether knowledge or goods; have they done so in the past; were prior customers satisfied or not, and why; can they or some other expert explain what they are up to in terms I already understand to build my rational confidence in them; can they provide intermediate results; on and on). In a division of labor we enjoy the products of others' minds and hands, and being independent means taking responsibility for the degree of trust we grant, the choices we make, the values we pursue -- whether material or spiritual. In short, it means taking responsibility for our lives, in the broadest sense.

I would love to hear about any sources where others have developed the area -- any leads?



Comment #4

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 21:14:46 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Tore writes: "Of course, it is irrelevant to Mayhew's thesis whether Thales successfully predicted an eclipse--or merely tried to, and had the reputation, in the classical period, for having done so."

Exactly, I thought that this was the more powerful argument. Let's take the Speicher's contention in context. Mayhew wrote:

"The first philosopher proper--the person who deserves the title Father of Philosophy--is Thales of Miletus (early 6th century, a younger contemporary of Solon), for he did something truly revolutionary. He was the first person in human history to attempt to explain the universe in rational, naturalistic terms--that is, with arguments and without any reference to anthropomorphic gods (e.g., Zeus, Poseidon). The assumption driving Thales was that the universe is an intelligible place, and the human mind is capable of grasping fundamental truths about it through reason (as opposed to "truths" revealed by seers or Delphic oracles or Muse-inspired poets). Thales predicted an eclipse--something inconceivable on the mythological world view, which held eclipses to be omens from the gods (and in one archaic poem, proof of the feebleness of man's mind). He held that everything was made of or came from water, and on the basis of this it seems he argued that earthquakes were the result of movements of the earth floating on water. This is not cutting edge philosophy or science by our standards, but it is a giant leap away from the traditional attribution of earthquakes to Poseidon's anger. Thales' basic outlook--rational, this-worldy, man-centered--set the trend for the next couple of centuries. Thales did not simply make "some important innovations."

Let's see. Does the contention that Thales might not have predicted an eclipse impact the fact that he was the "first person in human history to attempt to explain the universe in rational, naturalistic terms"? Isn't this fact rather than the detail about the eclipse actually Mayhew's main point to Tracinski, and doesn't it still stand, supported by other concretes, even if the eclipse prediction is contested? Certainly if Mayhew is incorrect in depending on the eclipse example, then it may weaken his argument a bit; however, I took that particular detail to be an example rather than part of an exhaustive enumeration of Thales accomplishments. Being a scholar of this particular era in history, I expect that he is actually integrating more observations than the eclipse in arriving at his conclusions about Thales, and if Speicher wants to overthrow the argument, he's going to have to do more than cite one contested concrete.

Methinks Speicher commits the "fallacy of the nitpick."

Nice job Tore. Thanks to both you and Diana.



Comment #5

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 22:56:09 mst
Name: Mike Hardy

Apply this to mathematics: should one learn that subject
from authorities---those with expertise---or should one
judge for oneself? Clearly a false dichotomy. Often
students who dislike mathematics refuse to judge for
themselves and demand that the teacher---the authority---
be dogmatic. Sometimes the teacher's job is to convince
the student that the purpose should be, not to _believe_
but to _understand_.



Comment #6

Monday, February 5, 2007 at 23:09:34 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Monday, February 5, 2007 at 16:52:59 mst, ObGrStud said: "First, I think the clear contractual violation of the HBL policy by Speicher [...]"

Burgess: I have recently signed up for HBL. Could you quote the passage in the contract that forbids such quoting? Was it the following passage from the Policies item on the menu at the http://www.hblist.com/ website?

5. Re-using your own posts: You may publish, on the web or otherwise, your own posts, but if your posts include quotes from any posts by others or by me, you must obtain the explicit permission of each person quoted. If you cannot get such permission, then state the substance of the other person's material in your own words and do not name the original author, but instead use a phrase like "another HBL member argued that . . ."



Comment #7

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 0:10:00 mst
Name: an angry liberal

Burgess wrote: "Could you quote the passage in the contract that forbids such quoting?".

I think policy items #4 and #5 may mean that both Dr. Binswanger and the quoted individuals (Dr. Mayhew and Dr. Boeckmann in this case) would need to give their permission, before such quotes could be posted on a public web site.

Quoting item #4:
"4. Rules on sharing or forwarding messages:
Since I am charging for membership, you need to get my permission to forward any posts from the list (other than posts you authored): simply send the post to me, with a first line asking me to forward it to so-and-so at such-and-such email address."

On the Speichers' 'FORUM' there is no indication that such permission was granted for either of the offending FORUM postings by the Speichers.



Comment #8

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 0:15:07 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Burgess: Yes. In my view, it would be absurdly concrete-bound to think that the policy you cited allows you to publicly post and comment on quotes from the HBL posts of other people without their permission -- just so long as you aren't doing so in the course of reposting your own HBL posts. (Moreover, the list policies forbid forwarding even a single message without permission.)

Of course, how Harry Binswanger interprets and enforces his own policy is entirely up to him; it's his list. My only point is that, absent some explicit permission from HB, the policy must be read as forbidding exactly what the Speichers repeatedly did.

Certainly, when I had my trial subscription to HBL, I wouldn't have dreamed in a million years of reposting quotes from the list to NoodleFood without the required permissions. And if I had done that, HB would have been perfectly justified in yanking my membership without so much as a word of warning.



Comment #9

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 0:15:51 mst
Name: kishnevi

First off, I would like to point out that publicly posting comments made in a private forum such as HBL without the permission of the original poster and/or the moderator may not merely be a violation of contractual obligations, but tortious or possibly even criminal independently of any contractual issues. (If the issue warrants prosecution, of course, you would need to consult the proper authority [:)] in the subject; ie, a lawyer familiar with these issues.)

Second, I wouldn't call Speicher's tactic the fallacy of the nitpick. It's really citing an authority to impugn another authority, and revealing in the process that he doesn't really understand either authority.

Third, this comment of Mr.Perkins drew my attention:
"There are mystics who try to paint reason and faith as being the same in principle because rational people "have faith in" doctors and lawyers and so on, after all."

I am not sure what the proper term for such people might be, but they are not mystics. If anyone does make such an assertion--that is, that reason and faith are essentially the same--it is a sure sign that they understand neither reason nor faith. The true mystic understands that reason has limits--that there are certain things that can be experienced but not described in terms completely intelligible to others, and which can be properly described by the term "mystery" as it is understood by Christian theology. But he also rejects faith, in the sense of blindly accepting a source of authority exterior to the self, or in the Pauline sense of "evidence of things unseen". He accepts that authority, but does not do so blindly: he does so because--as far as the use of reason will allow--what he learns from that authority matches reality as he has experienced it. [This approach is very different from the approach Rand condemned under the rubric of "mystic theory of ethics" in the essay entitled "The Objectivist Ethics". Obviously, a great number of people have the approach to ethics she condemns, and she is correct in condemning it; but a person who has that approach to ethics does not deserve the label "mystic".] Faith is a person's worldview; in that sense it is fair to say that Objectivists also have faith: only it happens that their worldview is Objectivism. "The righteous man lives by his faith"--in so far as Objectivists seek to live as righteous men (in the Objectivist version of that ideal) they live by Objectivism. It is, after all, as much a spiritual discipline as any way of life that is overtly religious. [If you doubt me, read Rand's remarks in the same essay I referred to above on the three virtues, especially the first (Rationality).] And it is impossible to do so unless fully internalizes that faith (whatever it is). Merely learning it from a person who has full knowledge of the subject does not suffice--and to that degree Speicher was correct in his original comment. You are probably aware of the criticism (and often enough, ridicule) leveled at Objectivists because of their apparent tendency to cite, or refer the inquirer, to Rand or another proponent, instead of answering in their own words. It seems odd that a school of thought which emphasizes rational, independent thinking should seem to appeal to authority so often. More importantly, it calls into question the degree to which the person citing authority has internalized Objectivism. If it the person had truly internalized the ideas of Objectivism, shouldn't he/she be capable of expressing them in his/her own way?



Comment #10

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 0:55:55 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Monday, February 5, 2007 at 21:15:07 mst, Diana Hsieh said, in part: "Burgess: Yes. In my view, it would be absurdly concrete-bound to think that the policy you cited allows you to publicly post and comment on quotes from the HBL posts of other people without their permission -- just so long as you aren't doing so in the course of reposting your own HBL posts. (Moreover, the list policies forbid forwarding even a single message without permission.)"

Diana, I agree with your interpretation.

For the record, I want to say, to make sure my own reputation isn't inadvertently damaged here, that the "you" in your statement refers not to me personally (even though it closely follows my name), but is an informal way of saying "one." Right?



Comment #11

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 1:23:53 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

"Who Is a (Non-Final) Authority in Philosophy?
Tore Boeckmann

[...] This raises a question in his mind, and he goes, presumably, on Google and searches for Thales+eclipse. The TAPA article is the third hit (try it yourself)."

In addition to this speculation ("presumably"), I would consider another one (assuming this particular subject is important to the overall thesis): A searcher -- especially one who is or was associated with a university such as Cal Tech -- might have access to a bank of journals in the social and physical sciences. There is a name for such a package giving access to a wide range of for-fee or free-access journals, but I cannot recall it. University libraries often buy such packages to facilitate research. Private individuals -- for example, individuals fascinated with the history of science as well as the sciences themselves -- can purchase them too, according to what one librarian told me. Such an avenue of search might be more productive than a Google search. I don't know. I am suggesting it only as an alternative speculation.

Tore Boeckmann also says: "Now, there is a large scholarly controversy over this matter, of which Speicher knows nothing and Mayhew knows everything."

What is the evidence for the comment about either Stephen Speicher's or Robert Mayhew's level of knowledge on this particular subject?



Comment #12

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 1:26:22 mst
Name: Jim (Free Capitalist)

"I would like to point out that publicly posting comments made in a private forum such as HBL without the permission of the original poster and/or the moderator may not merely be a violation of contractual obligations, but tortious or possibly even criminal independently of any contractual issues."

This is completely misplaced. I have myself quoted HBL passages in the past, and I did not have to get the permission of the original authors; only the permission of Dr. Binswanger himself was required, one which I sought studiously every time. But no other demand was placed, and no other requirement is stated in the terms of use. Nor is it obvious that Stephen Speicher received no permission from Dr. Binswanger. Is he obligated to inform what he received and what he didn't? Only Dr. Binswanger can speak definitively on what permissions were granted and what weren't.

Judgment here ought to be deferred until further information becomes available. There certainly should be no rush to judgment, especially in heated issues like these.



Comment #13

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 1:28:07 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Burgess -- My apologies. I didn't realize that I'd used "you" in two different senses so close together. I didn't mean to imply that you had -- or ever might -- post material from HBL elsewhere.



Comment #14

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 1:30:42 mst
Name: an angry liberal

Free Capitalist wrote: "Nor is it obvious that Stephen Speicher received no permission from Dr. Binswanger. Is he obligated to inform what he received and what he didn't? Only Dr. Binswanger can speak definitively on what permissions were granted and what weren't."

Well, Speicher has confirmed on his FORUM that he neither sought permission to post the quotes from HBL, nor did he believe it was necessary.



Comment #15

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 2:46:10 mst
Name: ObGrStud

Previously: "First, I think the clear contractual violation of the HBL policy by Speicher is a serious lapse of morality. To make amends, he should at minimum immediately delete the post from his Form, apologize to those he illicitly quoted, and to HB. Of course, I'm sure he'll come up with some rationalization to excuse his shameful behavior (and to keep the illicit HBL quote on his Forum). He will probably offer something lame like: "Tore and Robert attacked the Forum on HBL, and so even though the posts I quoted from HBL weren't strictly authored by me, they involved me so it's only fair that I should be able to quote them in self-defense."

I think the above wasn't quite a fair characterization, since it didn't take into account the fact that Speicher may have inadvertently violated the policy. That seems plausible. I think I jumped the gun a bit on this. So, until further relevant information is forthcoming, I would like to withdraw this criticism. I don't think it's fair at this point to say that what appears (to me) to be a violation of HBL policy (and perhaps actually is not) constitutes any sort of immorality. This retraction is supported by Speicher's own words on his Forum, and his request from HB to clarify the policy.



Comment #16

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 3:37:13 mst
Name: SomeoneNotInTheInCrowd

Diana, thank you for your posts, including especially this one. I had no idea I would be laughing that hard. Any aspect of this issue that I would have taken seriously is far beyond gone. Any pretense of objectivity is even further gone.

So Tore wants to paint himself and others as victims, when in fact it was he and others who turned disagreement over an application of Objectivism (first the election, then the DIM hypothesis) into a litmus test for belonging to the Objectivist "club," for how well one "really" understands Objectivism. You and they have made it impossible to have a discussion about the facts and the theory and instead turned it into psychologizing and personal attacks.

Any firsthander can look at the facts, at who calls whom names and sneaks notes to other people behind the scenes, at who boycotts whom for what reasons, and in the end determine by the facts who is up to what. There will always be some people who come to Objectivism for reasons other than coping with the world and seeking to understand it fully. Such people will never have anything to offer me, and if they don't want someone like me in their little club, fine by me.

Thanks for the laughs,
Someone Not In The In Crowd



Comment #17

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 8:37:04 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://z7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

Diana, thanks for the post. Of course, I left "THE FORUM" (!!!!!!!!!!!) (notice, not "a" forum, but "THE" forum - Sorry, "THE FORUM;" you have to capitalize the whole thing for some reason) long ago because of Stephen's bullying behavior.

Sometimes, the most indicting thing about a person is not any kind of intellectual failure, not any kind of major breach with Objectivist Metaphysics, Epistemology, etc, or any kind of factual stretching, but rather, and simply, that someone is a JERK.

No more, and no less.



Comment #18

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 10:01:56 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 0:37:13 mst, SomeoneNotInTheInCrowd said, in part: "Any aspect of this issue that I would have taken seriously is far beyond gone. Any pretense of objectivity is even further gone."

I don't understand. How can an "aspect" of an issue be "gone" or "far beyond gone"? If "aspect" refers to fact -- such as an element of an issue -- then how can a fact be "gone"? If "aspect" doesn't refer to fact, then to what does it refer?

Also unclear is your statement about "[a]ny pretense of objectivity" being "gone." *Shouldn't* a pretense *be "gone," that is, abandoned? By the way, are you referring to your own pretense of objectivity or someone else's? If someone else's, then whose? Please be specific, to tie your comments to reality. An example would help objectify your comments.

Further: "Any firsthander can look at the facts, at who calls whom names and sneaks notes to other people behind the scenes, at who boycotts whom for what reasons, and in the end determine by the facts who is up to what. [...]
Thanks for the laughs,
Someone Not In The In Crowd"

Your comments here present another puzzle. Exactly what facts of "who calls whom names" and "who boycotts whom" can be identified when some of the entities involved -- such as yourself -- hide behind screen names?

Whatever disagreements I have had with Stephen Speicher, Betsy Speicher, or Diana Hsieh and many other individuals at one time or another, I give them credit for operating out in the open. They do not hide behind the mask of a screen name -- as you do.



Comment #19

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 10:12:00 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 5:37:04 mst, "Inspector" said, in part: "Of course, I left "THE FORUM" [...] long ago because of Stephen's bullying behavior."

As a step toward proving your position, would you define "bullying" and cite a particular example on the Speicher forum? I ask this question because I have a long-term interest in the nature of philosophical debate and discussion. "Bullying" is a term I have heard frequently, but never accompanied by a definition.

Inspector also said: "[...] someone is a JERK."

This also calls for definition -- and evidence. Would you care to cite such?



Comment #20

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 10:57:25 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://s7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

Burgess,

Of the definitions of "bully" that I found in a quick search, the following are most in line with my intended meaning:

1. a blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing person who habitually badgers and intimidates smaller or weaker people.
"verb (used with object)
6. to act the bully toward; intimidate; domineer.
"verb (used without object)
7. to be loudly arrogant and overbearing.

The definition of "jerk" intended is the one that indicates someone who is rude and nasty.

Actually, "bully" doesn't quite cover it. There is a particularly contemptable kind of bully who delights in pretending that he is never being a bully. Who will post up passive-agressive attacks on people, and when they justly respond with anger, acting the part of a wounded innocent. But there isn't a word for that, so "bully" will have to do.

I think that Diana's and Tore's posts show fine enough examples of this behavior. Of course, I have my own example from when I left, but my purpose is not to prove a position, merely to state it.



Comment #21

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 12:18:04 mst
Name: ipb512

Could somebody define "define" for me? Also, "define" the word 'me'. While "we" are at "it" what is the implicit meaning of the symbol '?' versus the symbol '.' (in this context of course).

hahahah Welcome to Objecitvism 2007. LOL



Comment #22

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 12:43:09 mst
Name: Kriegsgefahrzustand
URL: http://z7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=19

I should begin by saying that I do not consider myself to be an Objectivist. I am familiar with Objectivism, and have a deep resepct for Miss Rand in particular, but I lack the formal training and instruction which would permit me to declare that I have a full enough understanding of the philosophy to consider myself one.

Early on in my discovery of Miss Rand's writings I decided to look for a discussion group or forum for which to advance my understanding of the text and the ideas within. I came across The Forum as it is called, and I did not stay long.

I was immediatley set upon by Mr. Speicher who was relentless in his attacks upon even the most inessential details of nearly all the posts I made. He was not helpful or even instructive, so I couldn't help but wonder what it was that motivated him to respond in the first place. When I was in grade school there were children who engaged in this sort of behaviour, we called them bullies. They habitually preyed upon the weaker of our number. They also sought to disparage any and all which demonstrated talents beyond their own in an almost pathological reaction.

This is how I would characterize a bully, and it is how I would characterize Mr. Speicher. He is an intellectual bully. Do I have posts to prove my point? No, I left that place years ago, and don't care to return. That others who's opinion I respect and trust have had similar experience with him is proof enough to me that it was not an isolated incident.

I would further agree that moderated forums are a poor place to learn about something as complex as philosophy for exactly the same reasons. Moderated forums are an excellent venue however for like minded people to meet and discuss issues or simple topics.



Comment #23

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 13:21:28 mst
Name: Greg Perkins
URL: http://dianahsieh.com/blog

kishnevi wrote: "I am not sure what the proper term for such people might be, but they are not mystics. If anyone does make such an assertion--that is, that reason and faith are essentially the same--it is a sure sign that they understand neither reason nor faith. The true mystic understands that..."

Okay, you seem to have a different concept of "mystic" than I and most others here do. If you think I should drop my concept and adopt yours, you will need to explain why yours is better/more-useful for thinking about these issues than mine. Merely informing me that I have misclassified something by your lights is not worth much at all (there's that independence thing again).

"Faith is a person's worldview; in that sense it is fair to say that Objectivists also have faith: only it happens that their worldview is Objectivism. ..."

Same thing as above, but in this case you seem to be urging substitution of a derivative sense of the term for the fundamental sense I was clearly focused on: faith is a (nonrational/authority-based) means to belief, while "one's faith" is its product (a faith-based philosophy). And of course, you will have a very hard time getting me to adopt a classification system that defaults to regarding a philsophy of reason as being fundamentally similar to one based in faith -- they are, after all, fundamentally dissimilar. (Also, this particular classification-by-nonessentials maligns great enough values that you shouldn't be surprised to find people taking offense at its use.)

"You are probably aware of the criticism (and often enough, ridicule) leveled at Objectivists because of their apparent tendency to cite, or refer the inquirer, to Rand or another proponent, instead of answering in their own words. It seems odd that a school of thought which emphasizes rational, independent thinking should seem to appeal to authority so often. More importantly, it calls into question the degree to which the person citing authority has internalized Objectivism. If it the person had truly internalized the ideas of Objectivism, shouldn't he/she be capable of expressing them in his/her own way?"

Again, this seems to be a classification by nonessentials. Citing someone's formulation could be an argument from authority -- *OR* it could be simply reusing an excellent expression of something. Haven't you ever loaned someone a book or sent them a link because it does a great job of explaining something? That's not an argument from authority.



Comment #24

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 13:28:01 mst
Name: Anonymous

I am relatively new to blogging on several Objectivist forums, including "THE FORUM" and Objectivismonline.net. I had an experience similar to the post above (#22) wherein I expressed a viewpoint that Mr. Speicher disagreed with. He immediately asked how many books I had read on the subject, which was truly irrelevant to the discussion. In fact, for someone wont to describe which fallacy of argument his interlocutor is committing (complete with link-backs to an explanatory web-site), Mr. Speicher committed the fallacies of "Argument from Intimidation" and, indirectly, the "Argument of Authority" by asking that question. Instead of pointing out an error in my analysis or a factual inaccuracy, he asked how many books I had read on the topic.

On a separate note, I was appalled at Mr. Speicher's treatment of Diana Hsieh on the topic of religion and whether to vote Democrat or Republican. In nearly every one of his posts on the topic, he used ad hominem mockery the way a schoolyard bully would torment a classmate. Referring to her as "Noodly" and someone who is "looking for religionists under every rock in Boulder" (I quote from memory, but they capture the flavor of Mr. Speicher's approach) is not the method of an objective person. In fact, it is interesting that Mr. Speicher spends so much time lamenting the alleged ad hominem attacks of others, when he, in quantitative and qualitative terms, is the worst perpetrator.

My conclusion is that Mr. Speicher is a bully.



Comment #25

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 13:56:21 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

One thing I've noticed over the many years is how some people seem to confuse narcissism for Objectivism and contextual certainty for omniscience. They seem to take Ayn Rand's identification that one's life is the starting point of morality and paste that over their excessive self-preoccupation and deficits in self-esteem. They think that a layman can go round for round with an advanced expert in a given field just because the layman is "looking at reality" and claims to uphold a rational philosophy.

Lots of luck with that brand of thinking, yet I think it helps explain the various wild and outraged responses to Leonard Peikoff's 2006 election statements (which of course is what this debate continues to be about--and despite the fact that the real cause of this debate is Robert Tracinski's positions over the past several years).

Notice how these people don't simply disagree with Peikoff and his supporters via fact; they are personally affronted, appalled and imagine a conspiracy of God-like pronouncements made from up on high (and they fall over themselves to remind you of it). In their view, how dare Peikoff or anyone else declare their judgment or knowledge to be circumspect.

So rather than pause to think through the issue in all its essentials (which quite frankly takes study and time) and offer well-constructed alternatives, they simply upchuck a stream of context-busting and concrete-bound arguments, and then engage in an orgy of backslapping for the "courage" it ostensibly takes to disagree with Leonard Peikoff and other scholars.

Well, spare me. I think that their judgment and knowledge has been circumspect and that Peikoff and others were right to criticize their thinking, (even if only though a few terse words in the case of Peikoff). In my opinion, I see a lot of attempts to apply the veneer of Objectivism to this issue, but much too little of the substance.

And besides, how is the job of an Objectivist scholar to personally answer and unscrew every knucklehead that comes down the pike? I shudder just contemplating the tedium . . . .



Comment #26

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 14:41:24 mst
Name: DavidR
URL: http://davidrehm.com/

"So rather than pause to think through the issue in all its essentials (which quite frankly takes study and time) and offer well-constructed alternatives, they simply upchuck a stream of context-busting and concrete-bound arguments, and then engage in an orgy of backslapping for the 'courage' it ostensibly takes to disagree with Leonard Peikoff and other scholars."

Wow, that sounds like TOC all over again; its frightening to realize that we're talking about supposed ARI supporters.



Comment #27

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 14:58:26 mst
Name: Peter

Mr. Speicher should take to heart his own motto at the end of his posts:

Ignorance is just a place-holder for knowledge.



Comment #28

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 15:08:19 mst
Name: Trey Givens
URL: http://www.treygivens.com

I really don't have anything to add to the line of conversation but my applause.

I first encountered the Speichers during the election "debate" and went to the Forum to have a legitimate discussion among intellectuals. My shock and disgust at the utterly disintegrated view of history and mathematics and the lack of what I would consider even basic reading comprehension was only rivaled by the utter lack of courtesy.

I wanted to blog a response to some of their arguments, but I decided that they were so wrong that it would be worse to even try to dignify it with a response. I, too, requested that Stephen delete my account from the Forum. I'm happy to see someone addressing the snide anti-intellectualism that goes on there and elsewhere.

Thank you!



Comment #29

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 15:38:09 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://www.crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Nicholas Provenzo writes: "And besides, how is the job of an Objectivist scholar to personally answer and unscrew every knucklehead that comes down the pike?"

I think this is a critical aspect of why the expert/student relationship is structured as it is. An expert has much more to lose and little to gain by conferring his time, effort and reputation on an exchange with an unruly challenger, while an unruly challenger has much more to gain, and little to lose by continuing to be unruly in his challenge. For this reason, experts should be given leeway to decide which exchanges to engage in and whic to refuse, *even if* the challenge is in some way valid. Based upon this, Mayhew's decision not to answer questions on HBL for fear of sanctioning discussion elsewhere seems fully justified.

I have read through THE FORUM thread in question, and have some interesting observations. The relevant post starts here, and is from Betsy:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=4993&view=findpost&p=48251

1. The initial post that prompted all of this revived a thread that had been quiet for 2 months. It's sole purpose seems to be to announce publicly to THE FORUM that Mayhew was "blaming and attacking THE FORUM". I can find no other purpose to it as the previous discussion was not regarding Mayhew's discussion. I'm not sure why the quote was needed, but in any event, I can not see how such a purpose (simply making a public announcement of a comment made in a private forum) could constitute "fair use" under HBL policy. Frankly if such use causes experts who are willing to post to HBL more reluctant to do so, then I'd squash the practice (if it was my list, which it is not)

2. If I am to take Mayhew's quote at face value, then he is not "blaming" THE FORUM, but rather simply explaining why he chooses to withhold his participation in the HBL discussion, which is his right! He is fully justified in doing so, and I can think of no justification for why Betsy should think it proper to announce it publicly to THE FORUM. Also, Mayhew's claims of Stephen's attitude in rebutting his essay are spot on. He did not misrepresent Stephen's own claims about how much time he'd spent researching the issue before commenting on it.

3. The unsolicited resurrection of Tore's quote which happens a few posts later by Stephen seems wholly unjusified. It is almost 2 years old. Is clearly not directed at the forum, per se, (as Stephen claims) but at internet forums in general. And it is pretty much spot on in that regard. Internet forums are not the same as a structured class setting or a forum led by a moderator educated in the discussion topics.

4. Stephen's rebuttal to the "Tore straw man" (i.e. that Tore is claiming we should "defer to ... authority instead of reason") wholly missed the fact that Tore seems to be discussing effectiveness of method rather than the prerequisite of independant judgement. Yes, it might be possilbe to learn points of Objectivism from a forum, but it is hardly the "effective" method. This strikes me as quite true (using my own independant judgement ;-) ).

My take-away from just reading the basic logic of the early posts is that the responsibility for this whole issue lies directly at the feet of the Speichers. Regardless of their motivation (which I will not comment on), their direct actions and the logic they espouse, are inappropriate. I have no problem if one wants to challenge others and debate issues, but then turning around and casting others as "attacking" for simply withdrawing sanction from an exchange, or misrepresenting positions to claim moral high ground are out of bounds for rational debate.

Borrowing from Stephen's playbook, one "can't help but wonder what [other] corrections" of the Speicher's methods are needed.



Comment #30

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 16:46:56 mst
Name: Toiler

Re: Comment #17 by Inspector about ALL CAPS

One peak at The Forum casts doubt on Inspector's claim about the use of ALL CAPS, as does a reading of the forum's rules. I notice that the name is written variously as "THE FORUM", "the FORUM", "The Forum", and occasionally as "the Forum", yet none of these varying styles have been deleted by Mr. Speicher.

Even if Inspector's claim were true, his conclusion about it may be exactly backward. As a writer and past writing consultant, I can see why Mr. Speicher might insist on the use of "The Forum" or "THE FORUM" instead of "the forum". The first two merely imply that one has shortened the proper name, while the latter could be taken to mean that it is the *only* forum for Ayn Rand fans, which it clearly is not.

While people could disagree on the grammar, absolutely no one could possibly learn anything about Mr. Speicher's motives based on such a flimsy issue.

It looks like Inspector has done exactly what he accuses Mr. Speicher of doing. With no evidence and even less rational argument, he implies (if only by innuendo) that Mr. Speicher insists on capitalizing the name of his forum because of, what? Being a bully? And how do we know this to be true? What facts make this clear? Inspector offers none, yet he implies that Mr. Speicher is somehow megalomaniacal because of it (at least in part). C'mon! If Inspector has a real beef with Mr. Speicher, then he should have no need to resort to such insupportable innuendo. Besides, his statements are unjust if they're not true -- even if they're aimed at someone he doesn't like.



Comment #31

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 17:40:09 mst
Name: Jim May

Nick Provenzo writes:

"One thing I've noticed over the many years is how some people seem to confuse narcissism for Objectivism and contextual certainty for omniscience. ... They think that a layman can go round for round with an advanced expert in a given field just because the layman is 'looking at reality' and claims to uphold a rational philosophy." (Ellipsis mine).

This is a *spot on* observation. I've always understood since before I read Ayn Rand, that achieving certainty about something takes work, often a lot of it. I have see many people who seem to think that Objectivism's validation of certainty is somehow a shortcut to it, bypassing said effort (or at least some of it). It does no such thing.



Comment #32

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 20:41:50 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://s7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

Toiler,

You're reading far too much into what I have said. I didn't intend to imply that there was any rule of always all-capsing their forum's name, or that anyone had a post deleted for it. (you'll notice that I didn't say those things) All I meant was that this was the spelling method that the Speichers use, and that I find it bizarre and silly. Capitalizing it, as a proper name, would be one thing. (although the name does by its nature sort of imply that it is *The* forum for Ayn Rand fans)

This point was an aside, hence the parenthasis. It's not really connected to the major point of my post.



Comment #33

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 20:58:25 mst
Name: Adrian Hester

Quite an interesting topic! I only have a few comments. Tore Boeckmann writes, "Speicher replied, [*] on his forum, that while he was 'glancing through Mayhew's article,' he 'stumbled over a couple of apparent discrepancies in Mayhew's "correcting [of] Tracinski's presentation."' He went on: 'The last paper I read on this (Thales' Eclipse, A.A. Mosshammer, Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 111, pp. 145-155, 1981) made a very strong case in demonstrating "how fictional the story of Thales' prediction is."' Based on this, Speicher "can't help but wonder what corrections are necessary for correcting Mayhew's "correcting [of] Tracinski's presentation."'"

First (and very minor), "Speicher replied" just before [*] has a faulty link, leading back to Noodle Food. It should link to post #146 here:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=5033&view=findpost&p=47465

Second, I'm not convinced that Speicher made a false display of erudition there. He's a physicist with a historical bent, and I've found him to say some very interesting things on that score; I found his posts on science in his forum to be well worth reading. It doesn't stretch my credulity that he had actually read the article before on his own. More than that, I've read only a fair deal about the history of ancient Greek science myself and I know that some scholars hold the tale of Thales' having predicted an eclipse in some doubt.

However, I've also studied history semi-professionally and read a lot of historiographical disputes. When you get into the history of ancient Greek philosophy and science, you have to study the modern treatment of the subject in some detail with close reference to the sources, following everything back through the major books and papers of the past with an eye to the soundness of the arguments, because there are so few truly primary sources to go on that the secondary sources are invariably thoroughly informed by their authors' interpretation of the evidence. And in cases like this it *is* necessary to be a scholar of the subject; when Speicher writes, "As I noted before, I am not a scholar in these matters...", that's a sign of impetuousness in my book.

For example, in the same post he contrasts Mayhew's statement, "He [Thales] was the first person in human history to attempt to explain the universe in rational, naturalistic terms--that is, with arguments and without any reference to anthropomorphic gods," with Aristotle's statement, "Certain thinkers say that soul is intermingled in the whole universe, and it is perhaps for that reason that Thales came to the opinion that all things are full of gods," and declares these contradictory: "I do not know if Aristotle had Mayhew's 'anthropomorphic gods' in mind, but 'all things are full of gods' does not appear to be 'rational, naturalistic,' at least not to my unscholarly mind." Note that Mayhew did not say "gods" pure and simple but "anthropomorphic gods." This is not necessarily contradictory, since the gods in question are not specified as to shape or character; they are not given human motivations, so explanation of the why of things must be found elsewhere. More than that, this statement of Thales is often taken (or so is my impression from my readings in the subject) quite explicitly as evidence that Thales *did* naturalize the gods--the gods are not out there like Zeus sticking his thunderbolt into the works but rather are down-to-earth and inherent in each thing acting in its own way.

So, when Speicher writes, "As I noted before, I am not a scholar in these matters, but based on these few circumstances that I haphazardly came across in Mayhew's article, I can't help but wonder what corrections are necessary for correcting Mayhew's 'correcting [of] Tracinski's presentation?'", that's quite presumtuous. If someone admittedly not "a scholar in these matters" posted a screed attacking relativity theory on the basis of a few notional contradictions picked out in the course of a "haphazardly" read scientific paper or popularizing work, he'd make short work of the fellow. But then he has quite a bit of expertise in the field and no patience with that. So why does he rush in so haphazardly in the history of ancient Greek thought? That too requires a good deal of expertise. Well, my suspicion is that it's because it's just part of the humanities.



Comment #34

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 21:07:29 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Adrian: Thanks for the note about the broken link. (It was malformed HTML.) It's now fixed.



Comment #35

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 21:32:23 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

*grumble* The link would be fixed if Blogger were working right. I'll try to republish later.



Comment #36

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 22:33:07 mst
Name: Paul's Here

Stephen reports: "Harry Binswanger has informed us that we were not in violation of the stated HBL policies."

We can only hope facts don't get in the way of others arguments who want to arrest Stephen. I really enjoyed those types of discussions.

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=4993&view=findpost&p=48626



Comment #37

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 23:03:01 mst
Name: kishnevi

(In response to Mr. Perkins, comment 23).

You think of faith as contrasting with reason: a line of thought that is fundamental to Christian thinking and that goes back to Paul of Tarsus. But that is not the only view of what faith is, and since neither one of us is Christian [I am not, and I am presuming neither are you], why should we labor under the burden of Christian theological terminology? I come from a tradition that views faith as I defined it in my earlier comment: as one's worldview. What you think of as "faith" is simply blind acceptance, and I think it clarifies matters to term it "blind acceptance", instead of euphemisizing it as "faith". One can have a worldview that is based on reason, or one that is based on blind acceptance. There are vast dissimilarities between them, but both of them are worldviews. I feel the appropriate term is faith, and that it does no insult to rational thinking to call reason a form of faith, because to me faith does not really imply blind acceptance or irrationality.

You also question my use of the term mystic. To be very blunt, the use of the term in Rand's* writing is inaccurate. She used it, as far as I can tell, as a synonym for irrationality and/or blind acceptance. People who think of themselves as mystics have a very different opinion. If you read the writings of actual mystics, you will not, in general, see rejection of rational thinking--that is generally confined to people who have read the mystics without any personal experience of what the mystics are talking about--but only the insistence that reason has its limits, and that human experience includes things that can directly experienced but not described or reasoned about with any degree of accuracy. If I told you I once stood outside of the universe, and held it in the palm of my hand, you would [probably] say I was being irrational and/or unintelligible. But I would only be describing an experience which did occur, in words that best convey that experience to others--but can not do so completely because no words or no category of rational discource can adequately convey that experience. Reason is both good and necessary for correct human action in general life. When mystics attack reason, they are not attacking reason per se, but only the over-reliance on reason, and a pronounced tendency among human beings to substitute the results of their own thought processes (which may or may not include reason) in place of direct perception and experience--even if the results of those thought processes conflict with perception and experience--and often enough to replace doing with thinking. I am a mystic; but that does keep me from being intensely interested in reasoned discussion. (In case you are wondering why I am here--it's because this site seems to be one of the few places I have encountered on the Internet that makes an effort to maintain reasoned discussion, and because my interest in Objectivism revived a while ago on renewed exposure to it through libertarian discussion groups.)

Finally, my comments on the (in my view) ironical habit of citing Rand or other prominent figures in place of expressing themselves were based on the belief that it usually is an argument from authority, and that many people cite Rand* as often, and in the manner, of a fundamentalist Christian citing Christian scripture: as if what Rand said is the final word on the subject, and not as a statement which is better formulated than anything they could come up with. They cite her as proof--or at least, evidence-- and not as illustration. And in a school of thought which emphasizes the importance of people thinking for themselves, such a habit is, to the say the leas, odd.

I hope this clarifies my previous comments--or at least, does not obscure the matter more.

A final question, signalled by the asterisks above, is on a (minor) point of ettiquette: what is the proper usage--Miss Rand or Ms. Rand. Or can one follow 18th century usage and say "Mrs. Rand"? Or may one, in desperation,evade the whole thing and speak about "Mrs. O'Connor"? :) To say simply Rand seems to me a bit brusque and disrespectful about a woman who is still a living memory for many people.



Comment #38

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 23:44:43 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Regarding the comment from kishnevi that "I would like to point out that publicly posting comments made in a private forum such as HBL without the permission of the original poster and/or the moderator may not merely be a violation of contractual obligations, but tortious or possibly even criminal independently of any contractual issues."

Paul, you need to pay a bit closer attention to the facts. That comment was not written nor endorsed by any "NoodleFood blogger" -- as you've falsely reported on The Forum. It was written by some random person whose identity is not even known to me. Personally, I regarded the remark as beyond absurd, particularly the bit about "possibly even criminal." I meant to object to it at the time, but it slipped my mind.

Given what you've said about me on The Forum, you're kindly welcome to go away. Please do not post in the NoodleFood comments again.



Comment #39

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 0:23:37 mst
Name: Mike
URL: http://theprimacyofawesome.blogsome.com

Speicher's quoting of Boeckmann is odious beyond its violation of HBL policy. What isn't known to apparently everyone posting on the thread at The Forum is that Boeckmann's comment from two years ago was part of a protracted discussion spanning days about the value of attempting to learn philosophy from a message board. Why is this odious? Because Mr. Speicher ripped the comment out of its context and then used it to paint this (false) picture that there is some cadre of Objectivist intellectuals intimidating students into agreement with them. FYI, Boeckmann hadn't said ONE WORD on HBL about the topics of Tracinski, Mayhew, or The Forum debate surrounding those topics (the last time he participated was in early December, when he provided a quote for a quote quiz). But Stephen decided to drag Mr. Boeckmann (by taking something he said out of context and using it to attack him) into this debate.

What is also omitted on The Forum is the context of Mayhew's comment about The Forum. Reading the thread in question, one is left with the impression that, out of the blue, Mayhew decided to begin bad mouthing The Forum. Also not the case.

So to sum up, Boeckmann and Mayhew were quoted out of context (Boeckmann being dragged into a conversation he had nothing to do with), those out of context quotes were used to impugn their characters, and non-HBLers are incapable of putting those quotes back into their contexts. That is utter bullshit, and it is not honest.

(Mayhew was right to decline to answer the question he was asked. In the past, the Speichers failed to comment on HBL, but instead conducted threads on HBL topics on The Forum, using HBL posts (wihtout refering to them) to direct the conversation. A recent example would be Stephen Speicher's obvious interest in Greg Salmieri's theory of possibility, yet his total absence in the discussion on HBL. Speicher's comments in that The Forum thread make it clear he was responding to issues raised on HBL. Given this, and the subsequent use of out of context quotes on The Forum, Mayhew was right to fear that his HBL comments on Aristotle and the Greeks would be ripped out of context and used as fodder for The Forum discussions.)

Paul's Here should familiarize himself with ALL the facts, not just the selective quotations available on The Forum, before deciding that there is group of rationalists out to get the Speichers. To anyone who thinks the Speichers are being unjustly maligned, but don't know what has (actually hasn't) happened on HBL, you quite literally do not know what you are talking about.



Comment #40

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 0:25:31 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

From Torre Boekmann's post, in the second and third paragraphs:
----------------------------------------------------------
My old statement has been dug up by Stephen Speicher, who replies thusly on his "The FORUM": "Any man who uses reason and whose frame-of-reference is reality possesses the key to understanding Objectivism--or anything. Those who would have us defer to 'intellectual superiors' and 'genuine authorities' instead of reason and reality, are dead wrong."

The subjectivism and anti-intellectualism of Speicher's reply is obvious. ... [*]
----------------------------------------------------------

My main reason for studying Objectivism is to learn better mental methods. My question here is about methods, specifically about a problem that has perplexed me long before Mr. Boeckmann's essay appeared on NoodleFood. My question is about the idea of the "obvious."

"Obvious" to me means that something is understandable without any further conscious mental activity. Following is an example, but keep in mind that I am not a mathematician.

On a screen, I see a series of numbers like this: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Someone asks me: "What do you except the next number to be on the right side, given the series you see?" It is obvious to me that 8 will be the next number. That is because I already know the meaning of "number" and the idea of incrementing by one (and probably other ideas too).

Now, if that is a valid use of "obvious," then in what sense is Stephen Speicher's reply ("Any man who uses reason ...") *obviously* subjectivism and anti-intellectualism? In other words, what preceding ideas must already be in my mind and accessible for Mr. Boeckmann's identifications to be obvious to me?

The concepts "subjectivism" and "anti-intellectualism" (if the latter is a concept rather than a compound idea) are required, of course, but what else?

MAIN QUESTION: Why are Mr. Boeckmann's identifications of Mr. Speicher's reply, as characterized by subjectivism and anti-intellectualism, *obvious*?

[*] Be sure to revisit the original quote. I cut out a lot from the second paragraph, because I don't see it as relevant to the idea of "obvious," but perhaps I am mistaken. (The "obvious," by definition, doesn't need explanation (to an audience with the same prior knowledge as the writer), only identification. Elaboration of an identification, however, might be appropriate. Is that what Mr. Boeckmann is doing in the rest of the paragraph?



Comment #41

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 0:27:33 mst
Name: michael

I am saddened by much of the discussion here, as I have a rough acquaintance with some of the principals. I never imagined them arriving at opposite sides of a debate such as this.

A request for clarification: several comments have referred to a person's manners. I infer that some of the writers are connecting a person's treatment of others in a public forum to his philosophical approach and thinking.

So, can we conclude things about a person's values and philosophical beliefs based upon their social graces? This may be possible; I welcome debate on it. If not, I would like to be certain that we are all distinguishing between refusing association with a boorish person and refusing association with a philosophically suspect person.

Bad philosophy is worth fighting. A boor may be dismissed with minimal comment.

And, as John Allison pointed out to a group of Objectivists in 1999, the world today is like the Wild West. We're the cowboys and we're surrounded by indians. When they needed to win, the cowboys didn't target each other first.



Comment #42

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 0:52:49 mst
Name: kishnevi

Ms. Hsieh:
My comment may have sounded absurd--but if you think it is, then blame the absurdity on the law. Additionally, it was a general statement. I have no contact with HBL or the The Forum, and therefore no information on the circumstances beyond what has been posted here, by yourself or in comments. The criminal aspect would come in because all of this is being published on the Internet, using interstate communications. And you will notice that I ended by saying that if you felt legal action was warranted, you should consult with a lawyer familiar with that area of law. And I made no claim to being such a lawyer.

However, a statement such as "One Noodlefood blogger advocated having you arrested for violating HBL policies"
is fairly good evidence of why one would want to avoid The Forum. I didn't advocate arresting him--only wanted to draw attention to what could be serious consequences for the conduct in question.

But I apologize for providing an opportunity for someone to sling mud at you.



Comment #43

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 1:16:52 mst
Name: John Dailey

~ Well, another situation where personal accusations/attacks/bashings abound back and forth re the ignorance, slander, immorality, libelousness, criminality (and, who went '1st') of another is once again a hot tabloid subject.

~ Is such near-chronic seasonal vituperativeness really all that necessary to any blogs/forums devoted to Objectivism?

LLAP
J:D



Comment #44

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 1:28:28 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://z7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

Michael,

I will assume you refer at least in part to my post #17.

"Bad philosophy is worth fighting. A boor may be dismissed with minimal comment."

That's really my point. Maybe there is bad philosophy involved; maybe not. What I do know is that boorishness certainly is, and that is enough for me to wash my hands of THE FORUM and its creators. Seeing that others, even major and respectable Objectivist intellectuals like Mayhew, are treated with the same insulting, degrading, passive-agressive bullying as I was cements it for me.



Comment #45

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 2:06:20 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

My apology to Tore Boeckmann for incorrectly spelling his name.



Comment #46

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 2:18:14 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Tuesday, February 6, 2007 at 21:23:37 mst, Mike said: " In the past, the Speichers failed to comment on HBL, but instead conducted threads on HBL topics on The Forum, using HBL posts (wihtout refering to them) to direct the conversation. A recent example would be Stephen Speicher's obvious interest in Greg Salmieri's theory of possibility, yet his total absence in the discussion on HBL."

I doubt that the absence of someone's posts can be used as evidence of anything -- on either HBL or the Speichers' forum. I may write a post and send it to HBL, but Dr. Binswanger may choose to not distribute it to the HB List for any of a variety of reasons. Anyone can post on the Speichers' forum, but the administrators and moderators may choose to delete it for any of a variety of reasons.



Comment #47

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 2:58:26 mst
Name: Toiler

Inspector wrote: "Of course, I left "THE FORUM" (!!!!!!!!!!!) (notice, not "a" forum, but "THE" forum - Sorry, "THE FORUM;" you have to capitalize the whole thing for some reason) long ago because of Stephen's bullying behavior."

Now Inspector writes, in part, "You're reading far too much into what I have said. I didn't intend to imply that there was any rule of always all-capsing their forum's name, or that anyone had a post deleted for it.... This point was an aside, hence the parenthasis."

Alas! I overreacted. How could this have happened? Perhaps it was the eleven exclamation points, or the precise explanation of the word "a" versus "THE", or the sarcastic use of the word "Sorry", or the phrase "you have to", or something like that. Who knows. In any case, it seems that the act of turning a small thing into a big thing is all my fault.

It's clear that I don't belong on these kinds of discussion boards. I simply don't treat people this way, even on such a minor issue, and especially if it's not true. Best of luck to you all, and thanks to Diana for letting me speak. Goodbye.



Comment #48

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 4:36:25 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://z7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

Wow. Was it something I said to him, or is he just like that?



Comment #49

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 5:58:45 mst
Name: John Stark
URL: http://starkrelief.blogspot.com

As I expected, The HBL policy was revised today: <http://www.hblist.com/policies.htm> section 6.



Comment #50

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 9:29:59 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Here's the new policy for HBL:

"6. Re-publishing HBL material

"You may not re-publish elsewhere any HBL post, in whole or in part, unless you obtain the explicit permission of the post's author; if the material you wish to re-publish includes quotes from another HBL member's earlier post, you must also get that member's explicit permission. The purpose of this policy is to assure those posting here that their words will not be thrown into the public arena where they would appear out of the context of our ongoing discussion and not be subject to our standards of civility and respect.

"By the same token, posts on HBL should not import parts of discussion going on elsewhere or comment on them. HBL should be a self-contained world, with no cross-conversations."

While I think that the old policy as clear enough that reposting required permission, I'm glad to see that the new policy is unmistakable.



Comment #51

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 10:04:47 mst
Name: Tore Boeckmann

Burgess Laughlin asks: “The ‘obvious,’ by definition, doesn't need explanation . . . only identification. Elaboration of an identification, however, might be appropriate. Is that what Mr. Boeckmann is doing in the rest of the paragraph?”

Yes, it is, by means of the Ayn Rand quote: "Only a subjectivist, who equates facts with arbitrary assertions, could imagine that to 'learn' means to 'accept on faith.'" This is the “preceding idea” that must be held in mind for it to be obvious that when A says, “You should learn from experts” and B answers “Oh, so I should accept the word of experts on faith?”, B is relying on a subjectivist premise.

In other words, the “methodology,” as far as I can understand, is the same as in Mr. Laughlin’s mathematical example.



Comment #52

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 11:02:51 mst
Name: Michelle F. Cohen

I thank Tore Boeckmann for his essay and Diana for posting it.

I find it ironic that of all people, Dr. Mayhew and Mr. Boecmann were singled out for allegedly advocating that Objectivists should defer to the authority of experts. It is Dr. Mayhew who challenged the prevalent view of Aristotle as a misogynist in his book "The Female in Aristotle's Biology: Reason or Rationalization." It was Dr. Mayhew was provided a new and improved translation of Aristophanes' "The Assembly of Women: Ecclesiazusae" rather then rely on the older, "authoritative" translation.

As to Mr. Boeckmann, he is an independent scholar, unaffiliated with the academic world and its authoritative experts. In his audiotape "What Might Be and Ought to Be," Mr. Boechmann challenged the claim made by academic critics of Rand that she misrepresented Aristotle's statements in the "Poetics" to fit to her own esthetic theory. Mr. Boeckmann's arguments in this tape are original and exhibit independent thinking.



Comment #53

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 11:49:08 mst
Name: PMB

Mike wrote, "And, as John Allison pointed out to a group of Objectivists in 1999, the world today is like the Wild West. We're the cowboys and we're surrounded by indians. When they needed to win, the cowboys didn't target each other first."

I don't know the context John was speaking in, so don't take this as disagreement with him, but one must ask: what if the Indians start dressing like coyboys? It is difficult enough for rational minds to grasp Objectivism and its positions on current events. It is a rich, complex philosophy that demands years of careful thought and study. When people pose or are looked up to as authorities (even if only by a few hundred people online) on Objectivism when in fact they are *not*, that should be of great concern to those of us who wish the philosophy to spread.

The Forum and its owners demonstrate, in my view, the danger of subtle but fundamental errors--particularly in methodology. (As just one recent example, see this thread and Mr. Speicher's demand for context-dropping as a precondition of debate: http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4717.) It's true that someone focused on reality will generally, ultimately, see through even subtle errors, but that does not undo their damage. (And in the meantime, young people are left thinking *that* is Objectivism.) This is precisely why it is so important to choose one's authorities with care--and why it's important to speak out when someone posing or seen as an authority isn't.

The case of the Forum is particularly bad since the Speichers are not only seen as authorities when they in fact are not--they are also engaging in vicious attacks on legitimate authorities (and, more broadly, on *good people*). Observe the bizarre spectacle of Forum posters charging Tore Boeckmann and Diana with rationalism and second-handed acceptance of authority. Anyone who has read Mr. Boeckmann's essays in *Essays on AR's The Fountainhead* knows that his is a first-rate and first-handed mind. As for Diana, I'll let her blog speak for itself. (The personal attacks on her, and Leonard Peikoff, and Robert Mayhew, and Tore Boeckmann, and who knows who else, which are abundant on The Forum are so disgraceful that they don't even deserve comment...only, to borrow from Burgess Laughlin, identification.)

In fact, it should tell any objective observer something that it is the first-rate minds who uphold the importance of identifying and learning from intellectual authorities. One of the great values of learning from an authority is that, left to one's own devices, one isn't even necessarily aware of how much one *does not* know. Learning from an authority does not just help one learn more faster--it does so on such a scale, that those who have had such a privilege feel a profound debt of gratitude, and a profound respect. It is only the pseudo-authority, who thinks he has all the answers (and yet doesn't even know half the questions), who could claim that it is to his credit that he does not recognize "genuine authorities."

This is one of the reasons why message boards are not a place to go to learn philosophy. They foster a destructive intellectual egalitarianism, which says, "I don't need to read and study and ask questions of the masters...I can just jump in and debate because my ideas are just as good as his ideas." (Such an attitude is understandable in young people, and represents a certain virtue in many cases. But it is still not a desirable attitude.) And this, I think, is why you see a spectacle such as The Forum, where you get a gaggle of voices strutting their faux-intellectual independence by insulting great minds: after all, if what you say is just as valuable as what Leonard Peikoff has to say, then who is *he* to make a bold statement without answering your questions and charges and responses? Who is he to make such bold claims while expecting *you* to make an effort to learn *why* he made them?

So there are two issues here: one is how one learns Objectivism. That is an interesting and important topic. The second issue, the need to boycott The Forum, is less interesting. But it too is important.





Comment #54

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 12:48:20 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

"... to grasp Objectivism and its positions on current events."

As a philosophy -- the fundamental science that studies the most basic issues facing man, and thus applies to everyone, everywhere, and at all times -- Objectivism (the philosophy that Ayn Rand created) does not have positions on current events at particular times and places. Particular people who have integrated the philosophy into their lives should *apply* their philosophy to current events. ("Apply" does not necessarily mean only "deduce," but it does always mean "set the context" and thus condition the results.)

Applying the same philosophy doesn't ensure, especially on the short-term, that all adherents to the philosophy will agree about the particulars of current events. Two people who actually share the same philosophy may reach different conclusions about:
- the nature of a current event.
- the value-sgnificance of the event.
- what action they should take, if any.

One or both individuals may err in their methods, lack sufficient knowledge, or (relative to individual actions that should be taken) hold different goals and priorities. On the short term, differences are inevitable. Debate and discussion are two means of resolving those differences. But to be productive, those discussions must follow strict rules of etiquette. After all, that is what etiquette *is* -- the art of setting guidelines for interaction among individuals for the purpose of facilitating trade of one sort or another. Etiquette isn't just nice. It makes life in society more productive.



Comment #55

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 14:06:42 mst
Name: Galileo Blogs
URL: http://galileoblogs.blogspot.com

Nicely put, Burgess.



Comment #56

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 15:19:59 mst
Name: JT

PMB: "[Objectivism] is a rich, complex philosophy that demands years of careful thought and study. When people pose or are looked up to as authorities (even if only by a few hundred people online) on Objectivism when in fact they are *not*, that should be of great concern to those of us who wish the philosophy to spread."

PMB, surveys show that at least half of US adults *don't read* (here I'm referring to books, magazines, or other substantive publications--even popular ones--and not to emails, instant messages, television/movie listings, signs, and that kind of thing). Is it your belief that in order for the ideas to spread and for us to achieve Objectivist culture, most Americans will have to spend "years of careful thought and study" on the philosophy? If so, I suggest not holding your breath too long.

Personally, I don't think Objectivism demands that; I think it demands honest agreement with and consistent reliance on certain fundamental philosophical ideas. But people can achieve that without ever studying the system in any formal or rigorous manner (they may have achieved it before they ever even hear the term "Objectivism"). Of course, there's nothing wrong with studying the philosophy intensively for one's own purposes, and anyone who can clearly and accurately explain the logical connections among Objectivist principles is surely to be admired.



Comment #57

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 17:02:22 mst
Name: PMB

JT writes, "Is it your belief that in order for the ideas to spread and for us to achieve Objectivist culture, most Americans will have to spend 'years of careful thought and study' on the philosophy?"

No. I agree with Ayn Rand that a culture is determined by its predominant intellectual trend. My point was different. I was saying that Objectivism is not obvious, and that to actually grasp what it is and how to apply it, one must *study* the philosophy--and that message boards are antithetical to that end, while learning from real authorities is, if not necessary, pretty close to it.



Comment #58

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 17:25:11 mst
Name: BBB

"The Forum and its owners demonstrate, in my view, the danger of subtle but fundamental errors--particularly in methodology. (As just one recent example, see this thread and Mr. Speicher's demand for context-dropping as a precondition of debate: http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4717.) "

The resulting record of this 'debate' (and who knows about others)is not an actual record of what the participants had to say on the topic. Many posts by various posters, many of whom argued against the moderator's position were marked by the same moderator as 'off topic' and deleted.

So when reading THE FORUM one might incorrectly believe that there was not an adequate support for an idea.



Comment #59

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 18:00:22 mst
Name: Amy Nasir

I find it sad and exasperating to see Objectivists who I had thought were happy, secure and kind people to behave like this. I suspect, as I've witnessed this many times in my own life, that many players involved with this conflict have projected evil motivations on each other.

From what I've read, the Speicher’s are at fault and need to apologize, but I cannot assume what their motivations might be without more information. I've never met them personally. But I think it's easy for posters to imagine the emotional state and motivations of other posters, while not knowing the others personally - because they're communicating in written form without seeing the information that is normally portrayed in a person-to-person setting.

I also find, in plenty of experiences with Objectivists who I see in person on a regular basis, that many of these conflicts start with written correspondence and get very ugly from there - that is until the conflicting parties finally pick up the phone or meet each other.

Suddenly, the two parties come to an understand. This is why I avoid as much as possible sending bad news or criticism to a co-worker, friend, or Objectivist (or anyone I might potentially care about) via written word. It's best to have the courage to talk in person.

It’s a shame that serious Objectivist intellectuals need to spend time cleaning up sloppy-thinking-people’s messes. These scholars deserve more respect as they are the primary hope for a civilized future.



Comment #60

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 18:42:02 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 2:58:45 mst, John Stark said: "As I expected, The HBL policy was revised today: <http://www.hblist.com/policies.htm> section 6."

When I follow the link you provide, at least as of a few moments ago, I do not see a new policy statement -- at section 6 or anywhere else. Have I misinterpreted? Or are you relying on a statement of intention which Dr. Binswanger has -- so far -- only privately communicated to his list?

I am not the world's swiftest computer user, so perhaps I have made an error somewhere.



Comment #61

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 18:55:34 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Burgess, Diana reposted it here. Comment #50 above.



Comment #62

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 19:17:44 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 15:55:34 mst, Kendall Justiniano said: "Burgess, Diana reposted it here. Comment #50 above."

Thank you. I was already aware that Diana had provided text of the policy to be changed. What I was saying is that that text does not actually appear on the HBL website under Policies. Instead, at least the last time I checked, item 6 is "Philosophic issues" not "Re-publishing HBL material."

Where have I gone wrong?



Comment #63

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 19:28:48 mst
Name: John Stark
URL: http://starkrelief.blogspot.com

Burgess, try forcing a refresh of the policy page [normally Ctrl+F5], as it sounds like you have an old, cached version. I see the new policy, as I did this morning.



Comment #64

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 22:03:38 mst
Name: Bearster

I clicked on a link to this site from the right margin of the Little Green Footballs. Little did I realize I'd end up back in 1999.

Let me explain. In 1999 (if I recall the year correctly). I had a little run-in with the Speichers. Let me just say that A appears to still remain as it was, A.

Appeal to his own authority
Argument from intimidation
Ganging up with a chorus of third-handers
Sloppy thinking

I don't know if he's written any fake material yet in this one. Back in 1999, Speicher even wrote a fake "UPI" newsfeed article about me, alleging I ran a cult (among other things).

He also "outed" me by posting my real name and location. I prefer to use a psuedonym online (the same and only one that I've used for over 10 years).

The Speicher vs. Bearster thread ran almost six months on humanities.philosophy.objectivism. I think posted five times. I assume it's still available on deja.com.



Comment #65

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 23:16:48 mst
Name: Dismuke
URL: http://RadioDismuke.com

In the name of justice I simply must respond to the comment put up by "Bearster."

The thread on HPO he refers to was not initiated by the Speichers. It was initiated by me and I was primarily the one leading that charge. The thread was about the treatment and outright abuse accorded to newbie Ayn Rand fans in Bearster's IRC channel which was actually named #AynRand. The Speichers merely investigated for themselves the evidence that I and, very quickly, others had put forth and joined me in my effort to publicize the sorts of disgraceful abuses that were put forth in the name of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Stephen Speicher's "fake UPI newsfeed" that Bearster refers to was a PARODY - and a well deserved one at that. I, not the Speichers, was the first person in that thread to publicly accuse Bearster's IRC channel of being run like a cult - and I staunchly stand behind that description of it to this very day.

Ever since that thread ran its course, questions about it have come up from time to time on various discussion boards. The last time this issue was brought up a couple of years ago, I put up a page on my website providing a brief overview of what happened with links to a few of the more relevant Usenet postings. You can find it at: <http://www.dismuke.org/ircissues.html>

The links include my initial posting in the thread as well as Stephen Speicher's description of what happened when he tried to investigate first hand the validity of my accusations. There are also links to postings by Bearster himself in which he very clearly and openly describes the manner in which he operated his IRC channel. There are also links to postings by others who had encounters with Bearster - including a very revealing chat transcript between Bearster and a young man who worked for ARI around the same time. Also included is a link to the "UPI newsfeed" parody that Speicher posted.

I regret that it is even necessary for all of this to be brought back up - but the blame for that rests with Bearster, not myself. If I had engaged in the sort of behavior that he did - well, I would not wish to draw people's attention to it.

I might add that all of the back and forth between Noodle Food and the Forum in recent weeks has been very disturbing and painful for me to witness. While I have never met the Speichers, they have been "online friends" with me for almost a decade now. I only became aware of Diana much more recently, but I very quickly developed a great deal of respect and admiration for her. It hurts when people you like are going at each other. At some point, I realize that I am going to have to form judgments and opinions on all of this - but, quite frankly, I am waiting for the dust to clear first. In my own personal context - well, there is no pressing need for me to make any final judgment today verses next week or next month.

Whatever opinions and conclusions one may have reached about the Speichers, please realize that they have been associated with Objectivism and active in Objectivist discussions for many years. During that time, they acquired a great many enemies - not on grounds of any flaws that one might wish to make the case they have but on grounds of their VIRTUES as admirers of Ayn Rand. It is not surprising that some of those enemies are now taking delight in seeing the Speichers being criticized by fellow Objectivists.

In the case of Bearster, the Speichers were just as outraged as I was about the sort of treatment that was being dished out to newbies Ayn Rand fans (i.e., potential future Objectivists.) It broke my heart when I read Diana's description of how, as a newbie, a negative experience by a jerk in a discussion group years ago led her to made the all-too-easy-to-make conclusion that his behavior was representative of ARI supporters and she ended up being taken in the Kelleyites. Well, what Bearster did to newbie Ayn Rand fans in the name of Ayn Rand and as a self-proclaimed supporter of ARI was FAR WORSE than what happened with Diana. His behavior was, in fact, a grotesque caricature of every smear and straw man the Brandens and Kelley have put forth against ARI supporters. Who knows how many people were run away from the philosophy as a result. That the Speichers (and a good number of others besides myself, by the way) were indignant at and spoke out against that outrageous injustice was proper and JUST.



Comment #66

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 0:10:30 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Well, I have to agree with Dismuke specifically and in general.

The behavior is getting old from both sides. It seems everyone who has ever had a run-in with the Speichers thinks this is the time to pile on with their stories, and over on the Forum and equally silly group of persons all of whom have had posts pulled by Stephen wish to proclaim their acceptance of his methods.

It seems that the Speichers and Mayhew/Boeckmann may have "history", and at the first fopah, desire to dredge up old feuds, and do so in public.

The basic fact of the matter is that this wouldn't have gotten to where it is if the Speichers hadn't decided to air their issues in public. Stephen drug Tore into the middle by dredging up a quote which did not support Stephen's assertion, only to later add what is at best circumstancial claims of "a pattern" of behavior. I have yet to see direct evidence of Mayhew and Boeckmann's demand for blind faith and unless he can support his claims, Stephen's claim remains unsubstantiated. Regardless of the truth, the fact remains that maturity would tend to suggest not airing one's dirty laundry in public, and the really honorable person might even ring the other up and hash the issue out in private. I don't know the personalities involved, and frankly none of you might be particularly friendly people. I stick to the claims and issues of the matter in question (and not previous issues which are ancient history). I certainly am interested in discussing the proper role and actions toward experts in their field, but it seems most have dropped that issue and resorted to asserting the other sides motivation etc...

It may have not been clear before, but certainly is clear now that HBL doesn't want it's content used for such purposes, and this is the smart course. It will be curious to see if in his desire to "do the right thing" Stephen means what technically *was* the right thing, or what clearly *is* the right thing *in principle*, which is to abide by Binswanger's now explicit wishes.

My last comment here,
Kendall Justiniano



Comment #67

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 1:10:23 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

The matter of whatever dispute whoever had with Bearster is now off-limits.



Comment #68

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 1:17:51 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Wednesday, February 7, 2007 at 20:16:48 mst, Dismuke noted: "At some point, I realize that I am going to have to form judgments and opinions on all of this - but, quite frankly, I am waiting for the dust to clear first. In my own personal context - well, there is no pressing need for me to make any final judgment today verses next week or next month."

I think you are right on two counts. First, letting the dust clear is the right approach because then you can see more clearly whatever needs to be seen. Second, there is no emergency here, so there is no need to make a judgment of one person or one side versus another immediately.

As I said earlier, I am looking for more effective methods. In this situation, one approach might be a sort of inductive one. Rather than attempting to make a judgment immediately about a whole person or a whole side of an issue, one can examine individual components an item at a time, and then draw wider conclusions from the narrower ones. If I were buying a new bicycle (I don't own a car), I would not try to begin with judging the whole, but would instead have a checklist of parts to look at first: gears, brakes, and so forth.

I see the process as akin to discovering an entity's essential characteristic(s). To do that, I must first know what the entity's characteristics are in general (the many), and then try to trace them back to their cause(s) (the one). After awhile, a pattern emerges: One or more characteristics are the root (cause) of a lot of the others. That one, then, is the essential one. In personal disputes, there seem at first to be a flurry of particular disputes. The challenge is to first sort out the irrelevant ones (table manners, for example) from the relevant ones (ranging from etiquette to honesty), and then among the relevant ones try to decide which are fundamental, that is, causal in relation to others.

Another factor is that sometimes in personal disputes there are legitimate philosophical or at least general issues that are important regardless of the particular persons involved. One example here is the compound issue of what it means to be an authority (or expert) and then, if that is an objective idea, what one's relationship to an authority should be.

I welcome suggestions for other ways to approach such situations. This hasn't been the first dispute I've seen in 45 years of contact with Objectivists and I am sure it won't be the last. So, learning better methods now will make life easier later.

Dismuke, thank you for your comments.



Comment #69

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 2:04:49 mst
Name: Mike
URL: http://theprimacyofawesome.blogsome.com

Burgess wrote:
"I doubt that the absence of someone's posts can be used as evidence of anything -- on either HBL or the Speichers' forum. I may write a post and send it to HBL, but Dr. Binswanger may choose to not distribute it to the HB List for any of a variety of reasons. Anyone can post on the Speichers' forum, but the administrators and moderators may choose to delete it for any of a variety of reasons."

Sorry if I wasn't clear. I was using that example (the possibility discussion) to illustrate how one's commentary on HBL might be used as material for The Forum, and to point out that the Mayhew flap was not the first time HBL discussions found their way onto The Forum.



Comment #70

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 11:28:19 mst
Name: Michelle F. Cohen

BBB writes in comment #58:

"The resulting record of this 'debate' (and who knows about others)is not an actual record of what the participants had to say on the topic. Many posts by various posters, many of whom argued against the moderator's position were marked by the same moderator as 'off topic' and deleted.

So when reading THE FORUM one might incorrectly believe that there was not an adequate support for an idea."

Another method used by the moderator to silence dissenting views and establish a "consensus" was to twist an opposing argument into a supposed smear. For example, my argument against Tracinski's support for Pres. Bush's policy in Iraq (as well as Diana's argument which I was quoting) were twisted into a smear of Pres. Bush. See my initial post at:
http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4869&st=19
and the ensuing exchange with the moderator.



Comment #71

Thursday, February 8, 2007 at 23:13:53 mst
Name: John Dailey

~ Tore does make several worthwhile points (apart from referring to the Speichers) re a rational handling of the thread's title-question.

~ That there are degrees of difference in knowledge amongst all discussers of any subject, even if all are 'experts' (aka Professionals) in it, of course should be kept in mind.

~ That no one really ever 'learns' anything in depth in any non-professional/expert gathering, be it a cocktail party, local fan-meeting, blog-forum (with or without a 'moderator'), or even happenstance telephone discussions I would quibble with. --- Such IS the nature of social (interactive?) 'chewing' on ideas, is it not? And, 'chewing' IS part and parcel of learning, whether lone-chewing or group-chewing (pardon the images such conjures up.) To be sure, such is appropriate only AFTER one (or all) have listened to a lecture given by a professional teacher/expert/authority...or, read a book/essay/article by such. --- Discussions amongst non-experts are not inherently that trivial in any 'learning' by them. Such an idea seems a bit too condescending towards such common-interest get-togethers. After all, what are all of US commenters doing in these blog/forums? Learning from some, a-n-d, 'teaching' others (besides newbies), is my view; well, that's what I see as the ostensible purpose...by most. True...then there are 'those OTHER' problem-makers...but, they're ignorable; God bless that scroll bar! Also true, some 'teaching' (or, explaining-as-another-sees-things) can be false, unintentionally, but, that's also a part of learning...eventually. But then, such applies to 'experts' also; where two disagree, one of them is wrong.

~ Now, as to criticism ('ignorant' if you will) by non-experts of experts, this is an etiquettely sticky subject. Respect of knowledgeableness, if nothing else, is definitely due, at least in going-through-the-motions as so many politicians do on C-SPAN ("With all due respect to my esteemed colleague, Senator 'X',...) Anything smacking short of such is insultingly (especially publicly!) rude. Such, unfortunately is de riguer in forums it seems, especially by non-professional know-it-alls, so, maybe Tore has a grain of truth in this specific concern. Would that he not also have indulged in it while attending to the thread's Title-question.

~ Authoritative experts themselves, of course, have to contend with keeping clear about differing degrees of knowledge amongst themselves in their own unofficial discussions and professional lectures. Etiquette clearly can be a tightrope where criticism seems appropriate. Stephen Hawking was not above subtle criticism of a 'lesser's criticism of one of his points when penning one of his famous lay-people books. Yet Einstein himself had to criticize Newton to advance physics. Newton saw motion (ergo location) as 'absolute', inherent in an object; Einstein, apologizing to Newton, saw motion as merely a relationship between objects in terms of distance-changing from each other, neither in a privy 'location.' I guess the real trick is just what degree of not only knowledge, but, etiquette (aka respect) is deserved of one who disagrees with one...including, sometimes, what to (at least initially) 'overlook'. --- Consider what Newton would have thought of Al's disagreement with him...in the beginning, anyway. Dis-respectful of a giant? Critical? Disagreeing for sure. But, had Newton voiced such, what would be the proper, rational, response by Al?

~ Finally, there's a subtle concern implied in Tore's essay which I wish he had touched upon: When 'experts' disagree (nm how vehemently or insultingly), such as, oh, in the latest news-fad Global Warming (er, now Climate Change I guess), how should a non-expert rationally decide (without having to become a science [philosophical?] 'expert' [aka professional])which of the experts are MOST expert to learn from, ergo, which expert is wrong?

LLAP
J:D

P.S: Diana, your comments were at least as interesting, but, this post is definitely long enough.



Comment #72

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 9:09:33 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On February 8, 2007, in Comment 71, John Dailey said: "... even if all are 'experts' (aka Professionals) [...]"

Words label ideas. Everyone is free to use any words he wants to label any ideas he holds. Of course, ideally we should all use the same words to label the same ideas (referring logically to the same facts of reality) to enhance thinking, communication, and therefore trade.

One of the purposes of discussion is to uncover differences in nomenclature and meaning, and then either resolve them or at least recognize them and work around them. Following are my notes on *my* use of several words that have appeared in this topic-thread.

EXPERT. I use "expert" to name a certain kind of person, one who knows both (1) the fundamentals (the "philosophy") of his particular field, *and* (2) the general nature of every department within that field. In modern life, with its extreme specialization and division of labor, being an expert is not possible for most people except in very narrowly defined fields. Further restricting the use of "expert," is the fact that very few individuals know explicitly the fundamental principles of their field, no matter how many of the derivative ideas they know.

Experts are rare. Very knowledgeable, but not expert people are somewhat more common; I would call such individuals MASTERS. They know their field so well they can teach it, even if they aren't familiar with the underlying principles (as in the philosophy of law or the philosophy of history).

An expert is not necessarily the same as a professional. Perhaps many experts are professionals, but not all professionals are experts -- as anyone knows who has worked with a very young attorney or physician, one who has just begun working in his field. The term "professional" is sometimes used in contrast to amateur (one who works for love, not pay) or, in another direction, in contrast to a laborer working in an occupation such as carpentry.

Mr. Dailey continues: "[...] Authoritative experts [...]"

AUTHORITY. In my vocabulary, for my needs as a student of history (especially socio-intellectual history), AUTHORITY refers to someone who has power to affect the behavior of others. That power can take any of a variety of forms. In a theocratic society, for example, a priestly Censor has the coercive power to determine what people read. In a free society, a scholar (expert or not) in a particular field can be an authority (in this sense) if he has the power of persuasion in leading others to set certain courses of action as a result of his explanations. A scholar can be an authority without being an expert -- depending on the social situation: Does he have competition? Are his listeners required by law or organizational rules to go to him for advice? Likewise, a scholar can be an expert without being an authority -- if he has lots of knowledge but no persuasive skills or if he chooses not to interact with others about his field.

Of course, "expert," "authority," and "professional" can be used in a variety of ways -- sometimes synonymously and often in a heap of confusion. The uses I have outlined work for me, especially when thinking and talking about intellectuals taking action in society.

When in doubt about someone else's use of these terms, I query the speaker. That is, in part, what discussion is for.

I am not wedded to any of these terms/ideas. I developed them in response to a particular need as a student of medieval history in particular. The Church, many medievals believed, is the authority on the meaning of God's messages revealed to man in ages past and recorded in Holy Scripture and passed on by a tradition guarded by the Church. So, I needed to wrestle with "authority" and other such terms/ideas.



Comment #73

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 12:41:25 mst
Name: Bearster

Burgess Laughlin wrote:
AUTHORITY refers to someone who has power to affect the behavior of others.
That power can take any of a variety of forms. ... for example, a priestly
Censor has the coercive power ... In a free society, a scholar (expert or not)
in a particular field can be an authority (in this sense) if he has the power
of persuasion

Aren't these two uses of "power" different concepts, i.e. applications of force and reason?

I'd like to add my own two pennies. "Authoritative" is a word I've used a way that differs from either of the two concepts of "authority" described by Mr. Laughlin. I think we need a concept that means "someone who is sufficiently familiar with a field, and who is acutely aware of the line between what he knows and what he does not know, that one can trust his opinions without proof."

It is not practical (or even possible in most cases) for one to become either an expert or a master as defined by Mr. Laughlin. The breadth and depth of knowledge available today is huge. So, for example, if one feels a pain in one's chest, one seeks a doctor. He may diagnose acid reflux, lung cancer, or a heart valve defect. One has to treat his opinion as authoritative. (One can seek another doctor's opinion, but I don't think that changes anything).

Even in philosophy, which I think is important for everyone to understand to a certain level, there is a depth beyond which most people can learn.

If one does not accept the concept of authoritative, then I think one is left with the false dichotomy of either blind faith or pure skepticism.

Actually, I think that to type that one rejects the concept of authoritative is to steal the concept that one is trying to deny. I don't believe there is any one man who understands to root premises computer hardware, software, http and other protocols, Internet routers, switches, fiber optics, etc. etc. to build a system truly from scratch that would allow remote parties to type "hello" on a website. So to read or write something here, one accepts that there are men who are authoritative on these matters, and one uses the product of their work without necessarily delving into any such knowledge.

This leads to an entirely separate question. If one does not know much about the field, how can one judge whether someone in that field is authoritative?



Comment #74

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 13:15:26 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Last night on The Forum, I noticed the following polite but critical comment appear, only to be deleted within a few minutes, presumably by Stephen Speicher.

***

Stephen:

I read Robert Mayhew's essay on Noodlefood , and then I read your response to it here.

I'm sorry to say your response was highly inappropriate, for the following reasons:

You essentially stated that Mayhew's scholarship was shoddy, a conclusion you arrived at, according to your own writing, by non-thorough means: you write "I simply do not have the time or interest to study it in detail", and that there are "apparent" discrepancies.

Furthermore, you stated your conclusion in an underhanded way: "... based on these few circumstances that I haphazardly came across in Mayhew's article, I can't help but wonder what corrections are necessary for correcting Mayhew's 'correcting [of] Tracinski's presentation?'"

This is not a professional, civil, intellectual way to deal with people, regardless of who they are or what their background is.

What if you were attending a presentation at a physics conference, and at the end of it you raise your hand and say to the presenter:

"I wasn't closely listening to your presentation because I was reading the newspaper and anyway I have no interest in listening to your presentation, but while turning the sports pages I noticed that the constant you used in the equation on slide 37 differs from the one used by Smith et al. in their paper. Therefore, I can't help but wonder what else is wrong with your work."

Any conference moderator would cut you off immediately, and rightly so, regardless of whether the presenter was a lowly grad student or a world renouned physicist.

The same applies here.

***

That comment was posted to this thread: <http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=4993&st=80>. (Unfortunately, I had no way to contact the author (Joe) to ask if I could repost it here. So if he wishes me to remove it, I will do so.)

As in the election debate, Stephen seems to be deleting the most effective criticisms of his views while permitting only a few weak objections -- under the guise of enforcing civility. Meanwhile, he permits attacks (and himself attacks) various Objectivists by attributing false and vicious motives to them, such as wanting others to accept them on faith and demanding that laymen critics simply shut up. The "civil debate" on that forum is a sham on both counts: it's not civil and its's not a genuine debate.



Comment #75

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 15:15:40 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://www.crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Thanks Diana,

I was watching last night too and a bit stunned (which is why I am posting again), as the only objector so far is being mired down in demands for proper ettiquete, and thus the issues are being deflected.

I think the two main issue are:

a. Was Mayhew justified in pulling his sanction from the private HBL discussion? Given Stephen's shoddy treatment of his arguments, this seems quite reasonable. I think Joe has nailed this issue as above. Was Mayhew harsh in his criticism of the Forum, perhaps, but certainly Stephen was flippant in his treatment of the essay, nor has he provided any evidence that he attempted to engage Mayhew through HBL first.

b. Were the Speichers acting appropriately in publicly announcing Mayhew's criticism of the Forum and withdrawal from the HBL discussion, and then bringing Tore into the fray? This to me is clear. Not only has Binswanger now modified his HBL policy to deny this sort of behavior, but Stephen has yet to produce anything other than circumstancial claims that Tore has ever said what Stephen accuses him of saying (that one should defer to experts *instead of* reason)

Everything after this is simply incidental crap. These seem to realy be the fundamentals, and it is interesting to see such a post pulled.

Note also, he has admonished his posters from cross-posting comments made here over to the Forum, which is a rich form of hipocrisy since this is exactly what he did to HBL. (http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=4993&view=findpost&p=48703) I guess the source of the issue rather than it's validity or truth of the issue is more important, regardless of what Betsy claims. (http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=4993&view=findpost&p=48703)

Thanks Diana for catching the deletion.



Comment #76

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 19:05:09 mst
Name: Galileo Blogs
URL: http://galileoblogs.blogspot.com/

It is an incredible thing, the power to delete forum comments.



Comment #77

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 20:01:58 mst
Name: Anonymous

About two years ago, Stephen Speicher left Objectivism Online (another internet forum) because his posts there were being deleted by a moderator who presumably had a personal vendetta against him. He expressed his outrage about what happened and made a final post saying he was leaving Objectivism Online immediately. He then turned right around and founded The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans. Quite a few people left Objectivism Online and began going to his new forum instead. And in many ways his forum was much higher quality than the one he left.

But I was surprised to find that he eventually began deleting posts in his own forum. Why was doing the very same thing, in his own forum, that he left Objectivism Online for? At first, the posts he deleted were things like personal attacks or bickering between posters. I can understand that. But later he began deleting posts that were, in my judgment, legitimate. I was particularly shocked when he deleted a post by Diana. Since the post was deleted long ago, I can’t recall if it was in response to an attack by Stephen on Dr. Peikoff, on Diana, or both. Either way, there was nothing wrong with the post of Diana’s that Stephen deleted. The same goes for this recent post by Joe.

I don’t really see any difference between Stephen’s posts being arbitrarily deleted on Objectivism Online, and the post by Diana (and now the one by Joe) being deleted by Stephen. In both cases legitimate, honest posts were unfairly deleted by the moderator.



Comment #78

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 20:34:37 mst
Name: Kyle Haight
URL: http://www.leftist.org/haightspeech/

That doesn't quite match my own recollections of the reason Mr. Speicher left the Objectivism Online forum. As I recall, the issue was not deletion of posts, it was moderator *editing* of other people's posts. Mr. Speicher objected to being in a position where a post with his name on it could contain words crafted by somebody else, and as the Objectivism Online forum would not change their editorial policy, he took his words elsewhere.

There is a difference between deleting a post outright and giving its author a chance to rewrite it in a way that is acceptable to the moderators, and the moderator simply editing the offensive part of the post. (Note that this is not a defense, or criticism, of whatever standards Mr. Speicher is currently using to moderate his own fora; I'm simply pointing out that in my own recollection the issue that led him to leave Objectivism Online is not the same as the way he is treating people on his own forum.)



Comment #79

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 21:04:10 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Friday, February 9, 2007 at 17:34:37 mst, in Comment ID: #78 (link), Kyle Haight says: "That doesn't quite match my own recollections of the reason Mr. Speicher left the Objectivism Online forum. As I recall, the issue was not deletion of posts, it was moderator *editing* of other people's posts. Mr. Speicher objected to being in a position where a post with his name on it could contain words crafted by somebody else, and [...]"

Burgess: Yes, that is my recollection too. I was briefly a moderator in that forum. If you want to verify Kyle Haight's recollections, go to Stephen Speicher's personal profile and look at his last posts. That will connect you to the discussion and debate at the time.

KH: " [...] as the Objectivism Online forum would not change their editorial policy, he took his words elsewhere."

Burgess: My recollection is that the precipitating event happened when a very inexperienced moderator made changes to Stephen Speicher's posts -- AND DIDN'T EVEN INFORM HIM OF THE CHANGES OR LEAVE A "FOOTPRINT" ON THE CHANGED POSTS, letting all readers know the moderator had made changes! My recollection is also that OO.net *did* change their policy in some way, for the better. (I recall, shakily, that the solution was to formulate a rule for mods requiring them to leave a statement about modification.) That too should be available in public statements by David Veksler or others.

KH: "(Note that this is not a defense, or criticism, of whatever standards Mr. Speicher is currently using to moderate his own fora; I'm simply pointing out that in my own recollection the issue that led him to leave Objectivism Online is not the same as the way he is treating people on his own forum.)"

Burgess: Ditto.

Controversies -- especially the ones that are a heap of elements of contention and not one welded-together, clear-cut issue -- can only be solved by identifying facts one element at a time. Then when that is done, rational people can essentialize, as appropriate, and draw inferences logically from those facts -- that is, if the controversy is worth that much attention to them personally.



Comment #80

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 21:32:09 mst
Name: Anonymous Reader

In comment #66 <http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/comments/view.pl?entry=117071529208710466#66>, Kendall Justiano says "on the Forum and [sic] equally silly group of persons all of whom have had posts pulled by Stephen wish to proclaim their acceptance of his methods."

I would like to comment that, in my experience, Stephen Speicher's post deletion has always been explained to the original poster. He deletes entire posts even if a only a few words are objectionable (I've seen posts deleted for inflammatory language, assigning motives to other posters, making assumptions about the other person's reasoning--see <http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showforum=2> for those who are still gathering evidence about this entire discussion) and sends the specific reason to the author and welcomes the author to repost, if they desire, after correcting the wording. Stephen Speicher will not edit another person's post; not even a few words. All of the posts on the forum attributed to a person are their own words, wholly and completely.

I believe that calling the people who have admitted to having posts deleted and who still support Stephen Speicher's moderation of the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans silly makes the assumption that everyone would be unhappy at having their posts deleted. I would like to posit that those people may feel that, in their experience, they have been treated fairly, understood the rules prior to posting or decided that the rules were reasonable once they were informed of them. It is obvious from this comment thread that not everyone likes Stephen Speicher's moderation.



Comment #81

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 21:46:54 mst
Name: John Dailey

~ As Burgess Laughlin points out, "...'expert', 'authority', and 'professional' can be used in a variety of ways..." He painstakingly defines how *he* uses the terms. (Wish most would do this kind of thing; what a breath of fresh air in such miasmic fogs of accusations!)

~ I have no, absolutely no, argument with such clarity, nor with the meanings he gave. I saw the exact same meanings in Tore's essay...which I was referring to in my post, and not Burgess'...and believe that we're all on the same page(s) there.

~ Given that the terms were 1st used by Tore (as well as 'teacher' and, which I didn't comment upon, 'amateur' [I used 'non-expert']), I question why Burgess comments on *my* use of those same terms, but not Tore's use. I do hope it's not merely because of my use of 'quote' marks in emphasizing the concepts relevent to the original topic. If so, such may have been interpretable in a negative way, I guess; not intended, that's for sure. But, if not...why refer to *my* use of these terms...but not Tore's?

LLAP
J:D



Comment #82

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 21:55:48 mst
Name: Arnold

Putting aside personalities involved in this current dispute, I would like to concentrate on the fundamental question behind it. There is nothing new about Establishment experts having to deal with those with less credentials challenging their assumptions.

If you read Dava Sobel's "Longitude" you would be aware that it was a rather humble clock maker against Sir Isaac Newton. In the early 1700's the problem of knowing one's longitude was so urgent, that the government offered a huge reward for it's solution. Can you imagine, a watch maker against the intellectual Establishment led by the brilliant Isaac Newton? Did the final verdict handed down by reality diminish what Newton had achieved? No, but it would have reflected better on him if he had made allowances for the possibility that others could teach him something. Even a simple watchmaker, who concerned himself with how he saw reality, not the experts.

This is not to diminish in anyway the value and ability of experts. Without them, progress would hardly be a word. My point is only that even experts need to make allowances that other may have a bettter idea, and not to take such ideas as attacks on themselves.



Comment #83

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 22:39:34 mst
Name: Kendall Justiniano
URL: http://crucibleandcolumn.blogspot.com/

Anonymous Reader said (Post *80): "I believe that calling the people who have admitted to having posts deleted and who still support Stephen Speicher's moderation of the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans silly makes the assumption that everyone would be unhappy at having their posts deleted. I would like to posit that those people may feel that, in their experience, they have been treated fairly, understood the rules prior to posting or decided that the rules were reasonable once they were informed of them. It is obvious from this comment thread that not everyone likes Stephen Speicher's moderation."

AR, please note that I called *both* the folks on this forum who wish to recount their run-ins with the Speichers negatively, as well as those on the Forum who wish to recount their run-ins with the Speichers positively, silly. The point is that Stephen's history with others is not the issue here. His actions in this particular case are. Certainly, history can help *support* conclusions about specific actions, but it does not *replace* them. I think it is "silly" to dredge up all this other stuff. It clouds the issues at hand. Stephen is not right in this case simply because 20 people vouch for him, nor is he wrong because 20 others don't like him. What is silly is substituting peripheral issues for the issue at hand. That's all.



Comment #84

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 22:56:03 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Friday, February 9, 2007 at 18:46:54 mst, John Dailey asks, in part: " ~ Given that the terms were 1st used by Tore (as well as 'teacher' and, which I didn't comment upon, 'amateur' [I used 'non-expert']), I question why Burgess comments on *my* use of those same terms, but not Tore's use."

I am not sure I understand your question correctly. Regardless, here is my provisional answer, because it might give us more information for discussion: I quoted your comments because ...

(1) I had already commented on Tore Boeckmann's essay, enough for the time being;

(2) I had also already decided a little earlier to set aside Tore Boeckmann's essay until later (thereby using a mental method that has worked well for me in the past);

(3) Your post came up in the queue as I was beginning to consider whether to write about the terms/ideas we are talking about here in this thread -- terms that I have wrestled with, off and on for nine years, and wanted to expose to criticism.

My quoting you was a way of showing my readers that what I was writing about *is* already a subject of discussion *in* this thread. My quoting you is also a way for my readers to link to other comments on the same subject so they can see possibly different viewpoints.

Quoting someone does not always mean that a poster is "targeting" another person -- although it surely can mean that. I quoted Kyle -- and then launched into my recollections about an OO.net experience. I wasn't targeting him.

JD: "I do hope it's not merely because of my use of 'quote' marks in emphasizing the concepts relevent to the original topic. If so, such may have been interpretable in a negative way, I guess; not intended, that's for sure. But, if not...why refer to *my* use of these terms...but not Tore's?"

In thinking back on my state of mind, I do remember that the quotation marks piqued my interest -- negatively. I wasn't sure, but their use did raise the possibility, in context, that you were casting doubt on whether there even can be experts. But again I wasn't sure. So I didn't contend over that, but I tried to give a statement of what in my usage an expert *is* -- and by implicaton a suggestion that such *can* exist (despite contrary statements from another poster in this thread). Cynics deny the existence of experts. I am not a cynic, I hope. (By cynic, I mean someone who denies the possibility of virtue and therefore of achievement.)

That's about as far as I can recall my state of mind and motivations at the time.

One lesson I draw from your question is for me to keep re-examining the etiquette of discussion and debate. In some forums, quoting others is discouraged, precisely because it can be misused or misinterpreted.

Why am I interested in all this? I have a long-term, serious (but amateur!) interest in the etiquette and process of philosophical debate. The roles of novices, authorities, experts, professionals, amateurs, and etiquette in debate are intriguing to me.



Comment #85

Friday, February 9, 2007 at 23:37:22 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Friday, February 9, 2007 at 18:55:48 mst, in Comment ID: #82, Arnold said: "My point is only that even experts need to make allowances that other may have a bettter idea, and not to take such ideas as attacks on themselves."

I certainly agree with your point. However, to concretize your theme, would you point to an example of an expert (who has been mentioned in this topic-thread), an expert you know for a fact (1) believes non-experts can't ever have better ideas, and (2) has taken such ideas, when they did arise, as an attack on himself?

P. S. -- Thanks for mentioning *Longitude*. I would like to reread it. I don't remember a main personal conflict between the marvelously meticulous, persistent, and inventive clockmaker John Harrison and Isaac Newton. But perhaps you are not saying that.

One question here for you: Was Newton an expert on *measuring longitude*? If not, then perhaps your example does not apply to Newton and Harrison. Of course, my knowledge of science and technology is only slightly above zero.

Coincidentally I have just been reading about John Locke's involvement in intense discussion and debate. He spoke at length with Newton about their favorite subject -- theology.



Comment #86

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 0:04:34 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Hi Arnold:

I know you from many years to be a thoroughly honest person and completely committed to the truth. With that in mind I was surprised when you cited the example of William Harrison's work on the longitude problem and his willingness to challenge the prevailing wisdom on the subject.

I can only assume therefore that like Stephen you either merely skimmed Tore's essay or did not make an effort to understand what he was saying at its deepest fundamentals. Here's what he explicitly and clearly says.

"It is interesting that Speicher should associate the idea of teachers being authorities with the idea that they are the 'intellectual superiors' of their students--which may be, but is not necessarily, true (in any sense more fundamental than knowledge of a specific subject matter). He even puts this phrase in quotation marks, as if it came from me, which it did not. (The one time I recall using this phrase is in a recent discussion, not of the relationship of students to teachers, but of the resentment and envy of a mediocrity toward his betters.) In combination with Speicher's characterization of learning from experts as 'deferring' to them, this view of being a student as being an intellectual inferior makes one think that he regards learning as humiliating."

Or in other words the Harrison example you cite is a strawman and has nothing whatever to do with what Tore is saying.

Stephen btw should understand this issue better than anyone because he has frequently cited Einstein's reverence and deference to Newton, while at the same time realizing that there was knowledge that Newton did not and could not have had because it had just become apparent in the decades leading up to Einstein's revolutionary breakthroughs.

Stephen's misreading and distortions of Robert Mayhew (not to mention Tracinski) are similar.

I would have been happy to debate this with him on The Forum but as I said to him about a year ago on a different issue entirely, I will not subject myself to moderation from a person with whom I am debating.



Comment #87

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 1:27:46 mst
Name: Arnold

Fred said:
"Or in other words the Harrison example you cite is a strawman and has nothing whatever to do with what Tore is saying."

Hi Fred, nice to hear from you. I think you missed the part where I said: "Putting aside personalities involved in this current dispute, I would like to concentrate on the fundamental question behind it."

This means I could not be speaking about anyone in particular. My point is not to involve personalities, (or who said what) but to address a common problem as I see it. I think that more breathing room needs to be given to those who question accepted interpretations (even if they are wrong). I'm being deliberately general here, because I think this is a problem that goes back further than the current manifestation. Every disagreement seems to end in personality clashes and splits in the movement. We need to rise above this, as the truth will sort itself out in the end.

I'm not going to pour petrol on a heated area like this, so there is no need to link my comments to particular individuals.



Comment #88

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 3:04:22 mst
Name: Anonymous

Kyle Haight,

Thank you for correcting me. My memory of those events was apparently off.

But I still think the deleting of Diana's and Joe's posts on The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans was unwarranted.



Comment #89

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 3:12:18 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

But Arnold questioning "accepted interpretations" is meaningless in itself and is completely lacking in objectivity. Not all questioning has equal merit nor equal validity whether wrong or right. The issue with John (I mistakenly said "William") Harrison is that the evidence he was offering was being ignored. There are many similar examples, the most famous perhaps being Galileo. And of course, as Objectivists, we know the extent to which Ayn Rand challenged the accepted wisdom.

But Ayn Rand also knew the burden that put on her to prove her case. She correctly had nothing but contempt for the currently fashionable view that all views are equally valid and that everyone equally can legitimately say "I'm entitled to my opinion", regardless of how empty and baseless it is.

I know the extent to which you have personally observed and have had to endure many of these empty and baseless intepretations flung at Objectivism. You have often argued very strongly against them and (justifiably) with little sympathy.

So there is no great virtue in itself of "questioning accepted interpretations". Do you for example think there is any merit in the "creationist" questioning of evolution? Are evolutionists dogmatists for rejecting such questioning out of hand? Now if some supposed Objectivist starts questioning Objectivism itself along a similar vein, severing it from its fundamental premises such as for example first the Brandens and then Kelley did, don't you think that such an attack *should* produce a clash and a split? I certainly hope when you said, "Every disagreement seems to end in personality clashes and splits in the movement. We need to rise above this..." that you weren't referring to them. Were you? I mean what is this "movement" if not a shared agreement on certain fundamental philosophical principles. If that agreement is not there why shouldn't it lead to clashes and splits?

There was a time (and actually for several years) when you and I - and for that matter Stephen and Betsy - used to argue shoulder to shoulder on precisely these points.



Comment #90

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 4:19:04 mst
Name: Arnold

Fred said:
"So there is no great virtue in itself of "questioning accepted interpretations". Do you for example think there is any merit in the "creationist" questioning of evolution? Are evolutionists dogmatists for rejecting such questioning out of hand?"

You know me well enough to know I'm an absolutest through and through, so don't for a second think I'm claiming all opinions equally valid.
I'm not speaking of questioning fundamentals, such as creationism versus evolution, but interpretations within the those fundamentals. If a basic underpinning foundation of a philosophy is disputed, well of course there will be a split. However, I do think that questions such as Robert Tracinski brought up do have validity. This is the point I'm trying to make; that every question, is NOT a fundamental rejection of a philosophy. It is essential, for me at least, to be open to evidence that conclusions I have drawn may be wrong.
Fred, you may have noticed that a certain section of Objectivists treat the philosophy as some kind of set of commandments. They are prone to quote line and verse in place of thoughtful argument in their own words. The antidote is to understand everything you believe, and one cannot do that without questioning it - at least once.

When I'm presented with an idea that I hadn't considered before, I don't analize it to see if it fits in with my philosophy, I only ask if it's true. If it's true, then it automatically is part of my philosophy.

I have tried to make my points without reference to individuals, and as a last resort made an exception in this post, even if it was a positive one. Of course you don't have to ask questions such as "is reason a way of understanding reality?" once you have concluded it is. However, one should always be ready to question whether his reasoning is correct.



Comment #91

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 11:12:58 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 1:19:04 mst, Arnold said: "[...] I do think that questions such as Robert Tracinski brought up do have validity."

If by validity here you mean the proposed ideas are credible enough to deserve serious, respectful consideration, then I agree, as I stated here: http://www.medworth.org.uk/ in the January 20, "Mayhew on Ancient Greece" comments section.

Of course, if the person presenting a new idea is disrespectful to people I admire, then he deserves reproach. Even so, such a failure wouldn't mean his questions don't deserve consideration. I can and should separate the question from the questionner if I have reason to hold the questions to be both new and deserving of consideration.

Arnold: "When I'm presented with an idea that I hadn't considered before, I don't analize it to see if it fits in with my philosophy, I only ask if it's true."

I need clarification. I *do* check to see if a new philosophical or nonphilosophical idea "fits" the principles of my philosophy. If I see a contradiction between the new idea (whether it is philosophical or nonphilosophical) and one of my basic philosophical principles (such as the Law of Identity), then I am likely to reject the new idea. However, if I have doubts about my already existing philosophical principle that I am applying in a particular question, then I re-examine the principle.

Is that what you mean?

The only way I have of examining the truth of a new idea is to use the philosophy I already have as context. For example, I use the idea of "truth" that is part of my philosophy when I question the truth of a new idea. If a contradiction results, I need to do more work in one direction or another.



Comment #92

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 11:34:57 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Nick Provenzo weighs in:

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2007/02/continuing-post-midterm-election-debate.htm>

I particularly appreciated his comments about me -- or rather about Stephen Speicher's comment that "You can take the girl out of the TOC, but apparently you cannot take the TOC out of the girl." That kind of comment was also made on The Forum during the election debate. I was extremely upset by it at the time; now I'm inured.

It's a rather strange accusation, to say the least. Somehow, defending the views and integrity of ARI intellectuals like Leonard Peikoff and Robert Mayhew is acting like a TOC supporter. [?!?] Somehow, distinguishing genuine from spurious advocates of Objectivism is acting like a TOC supporter. [?!?] Well, I guess poisoning the well with long-dead history looks like a good option for people bereft of arguments.



Comment #93

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 11:48:45 mst
Name: R Mayhew

I don't read The Forum. But since Stephen Speicher's rude ad hominem reply to my essay on Tracinski (which Speicher presented not as an informed argument, but as a sloppy, off-the-cuff, Cartesian casting of doubt), I have received a number of e-mail updates on what's being said about me on The Forum. (If you're one of those who sent me something, thank you--but please stop.) For the most part, I don't care. But there seems to be some confusion about my motives in not replying to Speicher, and I think that's worth clearing up.

One reason for not replying is time: I'm on sabbatical, working on three books, and I want to waste as little time as possible on the web. Of course, there is no question of responding on The Forum, as I don't wish to sanction it. But there's another reason--an aspect of the issue of sanction--that I think is worth explaining. I'll do so in the style of Betsy Speicher: Like Ayn Rand, I regard politeness as important. Here's a relevant quote from Miss Rand:

"It's not an issue of ideology, but manners. I reject the modern conception of manners; I don't have to engage in conversation with, or offer a service to, anyone who doesn't know how to disagree with me politely." (Ayn Rand Answers, p. 132)

In this respect, Stephen Speicher is thoroughly modern. I am an Objectivist professor of philosophy working in academia (so you can imagine how popular my views are there), but I have never encountered such rude, insulting, or disdainful treatment as I received from Speicher on his Forum. (And anyone who considers my comment on HBL rude, but not Speicher's reply to my essay, is as hypocritical as he is.)

I could easily correct the errors in Speicher's remarks on Thales, which betray a colossal ignorance or misunderstanding of both the methodology and content of early ancient Greek philosophy--but I don't wish to engage him, or offer him that service. I have written three books in ancient philosophy (the latest is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2008). I have recently completed a draft of a fourth. I have published a number of articles and reviews in top journals. I have taught Thales over a dozen times, have read all the relevant passages in the original Greek, and am fairly up to date on the secondary literature. It is my considered opinion that Speicher's claims about Thales range from off the mark (on the eclipse) to breathtakingly stupid (on everything being full of gods). Speicher is not worthy of a response; and if anyone prefers his admittedly unscholarly, rudely delivered, assertions over what he calls "taking me on faith"--well, The Forum is the right place for you.

This is my last word on all of this.



Comment #94

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 12:42:56 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

This is a fun story about Thales that I offer as a break from all the crazy.

A few years back, I was asked to give the best man speech at the wedding of my friends. They are both Objectivists and one comes from a large, traditional Greek family. Earlier that week I has been listing to Leonard Peikoff’s History of Philosophy tapes where he talks about Thales’ search for "the one in the many" and tells a joke about how it is relatively easy to become an expert on Thales since only a few sentences of his are known to have survived.

As I thought about it, I thought how Thales' search for the one in the many was a perfect metaphor for my friends' wedding, and I decided to make it the theme of my speech (also borrowing LP's joke as well).

Well, my speech went over fantastically; it was funny, poignant, and most importantly, it paid homage to both my friends' love of ideas and love of each other. But what I didn't expect what that the bride's very proud Greek family would be so utterly chuffed that I paid homage to a Greek philosopher, and subsequently would all but wear out my shaking hand that night in appreciation.

So in my book, thank goodness for Thales, 'cause without him, I could have easily wound up giving just another boring and unremarkable wedding toast. . .



Comment #95

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 18:22:34 mst
Name: Arnold

Burgess Laughlin said:
"I need clarification. I *do* check to see if a new philosophical or nonphilosophical idea "fits" the principles of my philosophy. If I see a contradiction between the new idea (whether it is philosophical or nonphilosophical) and one of my basic philosophical principles (such as the Law of Identity), then I am likely to reject the new idea. However, if I have doubts about my already existing philosophical principle that I am applying in a particular question, then I re-examine the principle.

Is that what you mean?"

Yes of course, I USE the philosophy, since it is a tool for living. It is my means, but not my standard. My standard is strictly the facts, the standard that the philosophy is also (hopefully) based on. More often it is not principles, but their application that needs examining.

Burgess Laughlin said:
"The only way I have of examining the truth of a new idea is to use the philosophy I already have as context. For example, I use the idea of "truth" that is part of my philosophy when I question the truth of a new idea. If a contradiction results, I need to do more work in one direction or another."

It seems then that philosophy is your tool, and reality your standard, which, in the case of Objectivism, should involve no contradictions. Two people with the same principles may disagree on their application. If a philosophy of reason can generate the friction we often see, it is there that the heat is generated.



Comment #96

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 18:36:03 mst
Name: Bob

From Post #77

"About two years ago, Stephen Speicher left Objectivism Online (another internet forum) because his posts there were being deleted by a moderator who presumably had a personal vendetta against him. He expressed his outrage about what happened and made a final post saying he was leaving Objectivism Online immediately. He then turned right around and founded The Forum for Ayn Rand Fans. Quite a few people left Objectivism Online and began going to his new forum instead. And in many ways his forum was much higher quality than the one he left."

Yes, and on that last thread on Objectivism Online (the one where Mr. Speicher announced he was leaving) one of the lead players in this current conflict swooped in to peck at Mr. Speicher after a 9 month absence on the very morning of his departure. It was blatant pecking, like someone had an axe to grind. I pecked back and got a 25% warning mark from the forum administrator for making "no-no" against an Objectivist intellectual. Here's the thread: <http://forum.objectivismonline.net/index.php?showtopic=2723&st=0>

I'll give a hint at who this is - though figuring it out will cost you some clue digging. He loves to talk about people in the third person in public discussion. And he likes to mention other people's use of quotation marks. He is usually confused about the use of them. I love giving homework.

BTW. I think Tracinski is utterly wrong. And Peikoff's election comments had me falling off my seat in laughter.



Comment #97

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 19:56:13 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

In Comment ID: #96 (link), Bob ("thoydloki") said, in part: "And Peikoff's election comments had me falling off my seat in laughter."

Why? Laughing with the delight of recognition or with derision?

I am in the process of reviewing The Dim Hypothesis sessions (which are walk-throughs as much as lectures). I am very interested in hearing your analysis of his 2004 election position presented there.



Comment #98

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 20:49:59 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Bob -- The NoodleFood comments are not the place to post hints to your mysteries, nor to play guessing games -- particularly not when implying unseemly things about the mystery person's character. So please cut the innuendo: speak plainly or not at all.



Comment #99

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 20:53:54 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Oh, and Bob, if you're going to make comments like "And Peikoff's election comments had me falling off my seat in laughter," then you need to explain yourself. LP has earned more respect than what that comment implies.



Comment #100

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 21:05:18 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

"The only way I have of examining the truth of a new idea is to use the philosophy I already have as context."

Exactly right, Burgess.

And, if you have a philosophy which is committed to the truth and our ability to know it, then pursuing the truth is *an application of that philosophy*. It's not as if they are two separate issues - as if one could ask "first I'll see if something is true" and then, separately, "I'll see if it is consistent with my philosophy which commits me to the truth". It is that very commitment to the truth, which is your philosophy, which leads you to pursue the truth.

It would be like asking, "Let's see if something is contradictory" and then inquiring, "Ok now let's see if it's consistent with the Law of Non-Contradiction".

There is something entirely specious in these proclamations of one's commitment to the truth as if that *were not a basic principle of Objectivism* or as if it would be possible to uphold Objectivism while at the same time denying what one knows to be true.

What is the point then of even bringing it up except as a rather blatant attempt at "argument by intimidation". We all know it is the most common of smears thrown at Objectivists by those hostile to the philosophy - the accusation that we are cultists and dogmatists. See, here is this thing which I purport to be true and over there are all these supposed Objectivists shaking their heads in denial either refusing to even consider the possibility of its truth or knowing its truth but evading it.

How about, fella, first *proving* it is true and leaving the insults out of it - the proof in fact being noticeably absent and the insult being used to mask that fact. Take for example the Tracinski argument against the Objectivist view that philosophy is the primary and fundamental causal factor in history. Does anyone think that either Tracinski himself or any of his supporters have successfully answered any of the now numerous critiques of his position - assuming they have even done anything more than...ummm...skim them? That is certainly not my observation and I have been actively engaged in the debate.

So what do we get instead? "Oh, you're not willing to consider any view that contradicts something Ayn Rand said" or "You're clearly not willing to look at the actual facts instead of just rationalistically repeating Objectivist dogma".

Etc, etc. ad nauseum.

The purpose of it should now be clear.



Comment #101

Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 23:51:33 mst
Name: Arnold

Fred said:
"There is something entirely specious in these proclamations of one's commitment to the truth as if that *were not a basic principle of Objectivism* or as if it would be possible to uphold Objectivism while at the same time denying what one knows to be true."

You seem to be inferring things I never said. If one rejects the basic principles of Objectivism, then naturally one isn't an Objectivist. However, to discuss (or advocate) whether implicit philosophy had an influence on history, and to what degree, is not a challenge to Objectivist principles, it is a discussion involving them. I didn't come here to advocate a position involving either ideas or people. I came to advocate an attitude that accepts we may not always have the correct conclusions. If someone tells me I have the wrong answer in my additions, I don't accuse him of questioning the validity of Maths.

I have nothing more to add



Comment #102

Sunday, February 11, 2007 at 0:49:40 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

On Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 20:51:33 mst, Arnold said: " [...] to discuss (or advocate) whether implicit philosophy had an influence on history, and to what degree, is not a challenge to Objectivist principles, it is a discussion involving them."

I realize you don't want to be involved further in the discussion. I do want to put some light on this point. The question I have is this: Is a philosopher's view of history (What is it? What causes it? And other questions) part of the philosopher's general philosophy or is it an element of that philosopher's "philosophy" (basic principles) of a specialized science, the science of history?

Arnold further said: "I didn't come here to advocate a position involving either ideas or people. I came to advocate an attitude that accepts we may not always have the correct conclusions."

I agree with your "attitude," but I am puzzled. Who has been saying otherwise? I know of no one who says, "[W]e ... always have the correct conclusions" -- particularly in the specialized sciences and in trying to understand and predict current events.

Perhaps you mean to say that someone has that position as an "attitude" (an implicit premise that guides a wide range of actions) but has not spelled it out. If so, perhaps you or someone else could point to evidence proving that observation. Even a single example -- of (1) an individual who worked under Ayn Rand's guidance or (2) another individual actively and knowledgeably supporting Objectivism today who demonstrably held this attitude -- would suffice to advance the discussion.

Of course, in the Wild West of the egalitarian internet world, I am sure you can find some voice somewhere saying, in effect, "Every Objectivist draws conclusions which are invariably true, even about the most specialized subject, simply because his philosophy is true."

Would such a voice be representative of those you know to have spent a long time studying Objectivism while struggling to develop their careers, particularly in intellectual fields? I doubt it, but I am open to argument.



Comment #103

Sunday, February 11, 2007 at 2:33:24 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

I am sorry once again to point out to you, Arnold, that you are arguing against a strawman. Who has ever denied that implicit philosophy has not had an influence on history? And actually, if anyone has come closest to so denying it, it is Tracinksi not Objectivism. It is Tracinski's thesis that the achievements of the "special sciences" precede that of philosophy, philosophy merely *following* them. If he does acknowledge any implicit philosophy in this work it is riddled with ambiguity - an ambiguity which pervades his essay on this and other subjects, so much so that he can almost claim to be saying anything you want him to be saying.

Furthermore, I agree with Mayhew that the "special sciences" that Tracinski cites in his discussion of Ancient Greece are not examples either of merely implicit philosophy or worse of no philosophy at all. They are examples of *explicit* philosophy. In addition, they would not have been possible without that philosophy. After all, what general principles guided their work? They in fact stated what those principles were explicitly.

For example, Tracinski himself says of Hippocrates that he "argued that diseases are not caused by gods or by supernatural forces but instead have natural causes." Of Thucydides he says he "wrote the first scientific work of history, the History of the Peloponnesian War, which used rigorous research and the comparison of first-hand accounts to separate fact from legend."

He goes on, "Science reached an important peak with the theories of Anaxagoras (500"428 BC), who was accused of being an atheist because he attempted to give natural explanations for such phenomena as eclipses, meteors, and rainbows, and because he taught that the sun and planets were not gods but were made of natural materials such as stone and metal."

Now let's consider Hippocrates as just one example. How could he have concluded based on however much work he may have done identifying these "natural causes" that they were the only cause or that gods or other supernatural forces had no influence. There are intelligent men, even many scientists, who *still* think that gods or supernatural forces are at work in medicine and in the universe as a whole. Hipprocates conclusion and belief in this regard is therefore a profoundly *philosophical* one and it is *not merely implicit*.

Tracinski then makes much of the fact that Aristotle was "following the achievements of those in specialized fields" and notes that "philosophy as a separate discipline, considered apart from particular scientific questions"and particularly systematic philosophy" does not occur until after those achievements which, as regards their philosophical content, he regards as a "mere set of particular musings".

The actual historical facts are of course obviously quite different. The stunning achievements of ancient Greece were not the result of "mere musings". As Dr. Mayhew points out Tracinski "conflates philosophy exerting an influence and philosophy reaching its peak". Philosophy - explicit philosophy - was not absent in the period leading up to Aristotle. That Aristotle followed that and was its pinnacle doesn't change that fact.

Tracinski makes similar errors in his discussion of the Carolingian Renaissance and the rise of capitalism.

There is much more that can be said about this but what I have found is that after the more obvious errors in Tracinski's essay and his various strawmen are pointed out whoever is arguing in his defense simply folds and walks away with nothing further to say. Then all we get is the constant irrelevant repetition of a plea for tolerance and that we should accept differences of opinion and the truth is more important than the philosophy and blah, blah, blah, ad infinitum.

I must note that I have never in my life pleaded for tolerance - except in a handful of instances where I was confronting blatant intellectual bigotry (such as in graduate school). I have always worked on the assumption that if you are right that you should be able to argue for your position and prove it. Then it is not tolerance which you require...but intelligence and honesty.

What is notable about the Tracinski camp is that virtually all we hear from them is pleas for tolerance.

Some good arguments instead would be nice.



Comment #104

Sunday, February 11, 2007 at 4:20:18 mst
Name: Arnold

Fred said:
"What is notable about the Tracinski camp is that virtually all we hear from them is pleas for tolerance.

Some good arguments instead would be nice."

How many times do I have to tell you I didn't come here to argue for a specific position. You don't know my conclusions. Enough already.



Comment #105

Sunday, February 11, 2007 at 4:26:09 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Yes, I know, Arnold. You just came to assert, without supporting your assertion, that Tracinski's "questions...have validity" and to insult (as btw also does Tracinski)an unspecified but "certain section of Objectivists" who "treat the philosophy as some kind of set of commandments. They are prone to quote line and verse in place of thoughtful argument in their own words."

I'd like to know who these Objectivists are and what that has to do with the Tracinski debate. Why is that being brought up in the context of this debate unless it is to imply that anyone who doesn't see the validity of Tracinski's "questions" are such Objectivists - unless it is to replace an argument of substance with an "argument from intimidation"

Am I quoting "line and verse"? Issuing commandments? Are Robert Mayhew, Ed Cline, Harry Binswanger, "Noumenal Self", and a number of others who have taken the trouble to critique Tracinski not been presenting "thoughtful argument"?

You complain that this "goes back further than the current manifestation. Every disagreement seems to end in personality clashes and splits in the movement. We need to rise above this..."

Need to rise above what? What "clashes and splits" are you referring to? When I ask if you are referring to Branden or Kelley, you deny it. What then?

Let's be blunt, shall we? All of this originates in Peikoff's pronouncement about the election and the fact that a number of people took umbrage at it. Tracinski's essay is an offshoot of that and an attempt to create an alternate view of Objectivism on a whole host of issues most especially concerning the current political situation. It is in fact you guys who have created the clash and the split, not us. Peikoff hurt some people's "tender feelings", just as btw he did with "Fact and Value", so they have taken that as an excuse to launch an attack on Objectivism/Objectivists.

As you should vividly remember, the same exact thing happened on HPO in connection with Stephen's (in?)famous "Nuke Tehran" proposal. People who were once strong Peikoff/ARI supporters suddenly were rushing away from it - until...ummm...9/11 when they came rushing back as quickly as they left.

For some of them Stephen's proposal would now be considered tame. :-)

Look, the issue isn't the specifics. There were aspects of Stephen's proposal which were questionable, just as there may be with Peikoff's now. But the point they were making was the essential. In Stephen's case it was that strong action needed to be taken against terrorism and specifically Iran (whether it was a nuke or not was secondary but he got hopelessly saddled with that specific). So with Peikoff, it is that religionism is a threat to the country and needs to be taken seriously (which btw is something he has been saying for years, as did Ayn Rand in her last years). Whether you regard it as the most serious threat or that the Republicans are the sole source of it is secondary. It is that his point is valid - as his points usually are - and that in any event he is Leonard Peikoff and he is deserving of our admiration and respect whether we agree with every word he utters or not.

I am trying to give you some pause.

You certainly don't want to consider your current view "a set of commandments", do you? :-)

The direction you, Stephen and Betsy have gone with this is extremely unfortunate - and you keep sinking further and further into the morass rather than trying to extricate yourself from it. That's what you need to give a lot of thought to. We all go back a long ways. It's been painful to me to see the direction it's gone - and with Rob, too.

I hope you will think about this very seriously.



Comment #106

Monday, February 12, 2007 at 14:04:50 mst
Name: Bob

Post #99 Diana Hseih

"Oh, and Bob, if you're going to make comments like "And Peikoff's election comments had me falling off my seat in laughter," then you need to explain yourself. LP has earned more respect than what that comment implies."

Mr. Laughlin, as usual, was patient and objective enough to realize my statement could imply more than one thing. This could be especially true since in the preceding sentence I stated that I thought Tracinski to be wrong. I will give Mr. Laughlin a Private, considered (and polite), reply. Frankly, I was curious as to whether you'd snap before you thought. My suspicions were true. Thanks!



Comment #107

Monday, February 12, 2007 at 15:38:11 mst
Name: an angry liberal

I only recently became aware of a discussion of Peikoff's "DIM Hypothesis" course on THE FORUM. See for example, Betsy Speicher's post which launched the discussion:
<http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=5430&view=findpost&p=47204>

Betsy displays the same degree of intelligence and perceptiveness displayed by Stephen in his replies to Dr. Mayhew's essay: Betsy's "criticisms" of Dr. Peikoff's lectures are childish and silly. Years ago, I often read Betsy's many postings on APO and HPO, and respected her. Sadly, her remarks on the Dr. Peikoff's view of integration remind me of ancient accusations by Kelley-supporters which also criticized Dr. Peikoff's statements regarding integration, ultimately claiming that Dr. Peikoff was an "idealist".

Before the election, Diana wrote: "Dr. Peikoff has been attacked in the very same terms as I often heard in TOC circles, i.e. with the same casual disregard for facts and the same specious arguments about intimidation. Also like at TOC, many people have dismissed his arguments as absurd without any substantial effort to understand them."

I did not fully appreciate this point until recently. I'd like to add that one other attribute of the attacks by Kelley-supporters on usenet was to praise each other on how polite and civil they are, especially compared to those "rude" and "mean" people who support ARI and Dr. Peikoff. Sound familiar? Nestled among their attacks on Dr. Mayhew, Diana, and Tore Boeckmann, recent threads on THE FORUM feature the Speichers and their members "high five"-ing each other on how civil and polite discussions are on THE FORUM.



Comment #108

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 0:55:49 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

No, Bob, there was nothing wrong with Diana's call for you to explain your comment. *As you admit*, what you wrote was ambiguous ("could imply more than one thing"), and thus could reasonably be interpreted to be disrespectful of Dr. Peikoff. That was the *problem* with your remark, not a virtue of it, as you seem to be suggesting. Someone who writes objectively -- and values doing so -- would either take better care to express themselves clearly, or would at least take responsibility for not having done so when called on it.

Your comment about disagreeing with Tracinski's views was irrelevant, since it is entirely possible for someone to both do so, and to express disdain for Dr. Peikoff. I certainly thought that was a reasonable interpretation of what you were saying, especially given the somewhat breezy tone of your entire post. And your response to Diana was beyond inappropriate. When she asked you to explain what you *admit* was an ambiguous remark, pointing out its disrespectful *implication*, you responded by insulting her and claiming that she "snapped" at you. Give me a break!



Comment #109

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 2:22:28 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

In Comment ID: #107, "an angry liberal" said: "I only recently became aware of a discussion of Peikoff's "DIM Hypothesis" course on THE FORUM. See for example, Betsy Speicher's post which launched the discussion: <http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s=&showtopic=5430&view=findpost&p=47204>

Betsy displays the same degree of intelligence and perceptiveness displayed by Stephen in his replies to Dr. Mayhew's essay: Betsy's "criticisms" of Dr. Peikoff's lectures are childish and silly."

A few associates and I are reviewing The DIM Hypothesis sessions. Based on your study of them, which one of Betsy Speicher's criticisms would you consider to be the most important in subject matter, but is, in your view, childish or silly?

P. S. -- For anyone considering auditing the sessions, which are temporarily available for free at ARI's website, be aware that these are not formal lectures. Rather, I would characterize them as "walk-throughs," as the term/idea was used by software engineers in the electronics industry years ago, before I retired. Also, the audio quality is at times poor. Further, Dr. Peikoff assumes a "graduate level" (I think that is his term) understanding of Objectivism. So, these sessions are not suitable for everyone.

Dr. Peikoff presents his ideas formally at times, and at other times discusses the process he went through, and at still other times he requests information from his invited audience, occasionally modifying earlier statements about particular issues.

I infer, from comments Dr. Peikoff makes throughout these sessions presented in 2004, that he is (in 2004) testing both (1) the content of his outline of a provisional version of his hypothesis and (2) his ability to communicate his ideas -- for example, to see which parts are most difficult to understand.

I applaud him for having the courage and persistence to take this approach. I find many of his ideas intriguing enough that I look forward to a formal, polished, and probably modified version when his book appears in a few years. I also gained a better understanding of his statements about recent elections. That doesn't mean I agree with all his conclusions, but at least now I have a context for his terse statements as they appeared on his website.



Comment #110

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 14:28:48 mst
Name: an angry liberal

Burgess wrote: "which one of Betsy Speicher's criticisms would you consider to be the most important in subject matter, but is, in your view, childish or silly?"

The most important topic on which Betsy is arguing is whether "integration is the essence of human cognition", and I consider her comments on this topic to be childish and silly. I mentioned, in my last post, that I have read many postings by Betsy on APO and HPO, over the years, in which she has argued with Kelley supporters and offered corrections to those who were new to Objectivism. It is ironic to see points her recent posts that I am she would have argued against in the past on usenet.

A few specific points by Betsy that I'd like to highlight:

Betsy offers a strawman, somehow intepreting the statement that "integration is the essence of cognition" as meaning that Dr. Peikoff is claiming that it is "all of cognition 'from start to finish'".

Betsy writes: "IDENTIFICATION of the facts of reality -- rather than integration alone -- is the essence of cognition", and goes onto describe logic as "the art of non-contradictory IDENTIFICATION". But what does "non-contradictory" mean, except as the reason that *integration* of the new idea with the rest of one's knowledge is needed to even consider the new "identification" true?

Several times Betsy suggests that the focus on integration in the DIM hypothesis lectures short changes the concepts of "differentiation" and "identification". She writes: "I see serious discounting of differentiation in saying that integration is 'the essence of human cognition from start to finish' and that 'Integration is the essence of human cognition. It is the basic activity of a conceptual consciousness.'" As Betsy herself states, she believes that the DIM hypothesis contradicts the Objectivist epistemology. Of course it is proper in digesting Dr. Peikoff's lectures to relate the new ideas to Objectivist epistemology; if only Betsy would. What she represents as Objectivism (in the DIM hypothesis threads) is instead out-of-context quotes and concrete-bound interpretations of those quotes.

In Betsy's posting that I referenced, she quotes ITOE to justify her position. And yet concept formation is about integrating the many into the one. And try opening ITOE to a random page, and observe how many instances of integration (in different forums) one will find on that page--demonstrating the point that integration is a process that runs through all of human cognition.



Comment #111

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 15:37:54 mst
Name: an angry liberal

In the event that anyone wishes to further discuss my last post with me, please reply to me via email. I don't wish turn the comments section on Diana's blog into an extension of the discussions happening elsewhere.



Comment #112

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 at 23:42:32 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

As regards the relationship of "identification" and "integration" in Objectivist epistemology, on the conceptual level identification *requires* integration. It is the means by which we achieve it. If identifying the facts of reality is the purpose of cognition, it is integration which makes it possible.

For example in ITOE, Ayn Rand writes, "Measurement is the *identification* of a relationship"a quantitative relationship established by means of a standard that serves as a unit."

But just two paragraphs below that she writes, "The process of measurement is a process of *integrating* an unlimited scale of knowledge to man's limited perceptual experience."

(emphasis in both quotes mine)

Later she writes, "This process of conceptual identification (of subsuming a new concrete under an appropriate concept) is learned as one learns to speak, and it becomes automatic in the case of existents given in perceptual awareness, such as "man," "table," "blue," "length," etc. But it grows progressively more difficult as man's concepts move farther away from direct perceptual evidence, and involve complex combinations and cross-classifications of many earlier concepts."

Please tell me how one could perform "complex combinations and cross-classifications" without integration.

Rand makes the connection between identification and integration particularly clear in her discussion of the axiomatic concepts.

So, it is ridiculous on its face for anyone to say that Peikoff is somehow ignoring identification in pointing out the primacy of integration in cognition. It would be like saying that in grasping the mechanics of the internal combustion engine one is somehow ignoring its purpose which is motion.



Comment #113

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 at 23:13:34 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

TRACINSKI'S DISTORTIONS OF MAYHEW

Following a pattern which is now becoming pervasive - first of distorting the Objectivist theory of causality in history and of misquoting Peikoff on the subject - Tracinski in comments on "The Forum" is now distorting Dr. Mayhew.

The latest distortion centers around the notion of "implicit philosophy". Tracinski proclaims it here, "I've had a few people object to the ideas in this article by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address..."

He then proceeds to distort what Mayhew said in regard to ancient Greek philosophy, "But the main substance of Dr. Mayhew's disagreement with my article is not on the timeline of Ancient Greek intellectual history. Instead, he says that I equivocate on the meaning of "philosophy," and specifically that I fail to recognize that what was driving Ancient Greek culture from the beginning was "implicit philosophy."

Except that is not what Mayhew said. Mayhew's single reference to implicit philosophy concerns the world-view of the Greeks *before Thales*, e.g. "the implicit philosophy or basic ideas that we find in Homer and Hesiod, c. 8th-7th centuries".

But after Thales it is explicit. And thus Mayhew tells us, "Not long after Thales (and two other Miletian monists, Anaximander and Anaximenes), another Ionian--Xenophanes of Colophon--presented an alternative to the monism of Thales (Xenophanes holding that all things were earth and water) and for the first time, as far as we know, presented *explicit arguments against the existence of the Olympian gods*. (Xenophanes himself seems to have been some kind of pantheist.) (emphasis mine)

In regard to Hippocrates, Mayhew argues that there is no reason to treat it as something "apart from ancient philosophy" since "many of the most important works in it (including On the Sacred Disease) represent fusions of philosophy and science in the manner of the presocratics".

He goes on, "From Thales and the Ionian materialists through the Atomists, Empedocles, and Anaxagoras to Diagoras of Apollonia, and including the unknown authors of the bulk of the works of the Hippocratic corpus, we are dealing with the progression of one cultural movement--the history of ancient Greek philosophy."

Not the history of "implicit" ancient Greek philosophy. But actual, explicit philosophy. It was not of course on the formidable systematized scale of Aristotle and he of course represents the culmination and pinnacle of ancient Greek philosophical thought. But no one has ever denied that either.

Mayhew summarizes his view, "it simply makes no sense to say: first there were major developments in medicine and history and the arts, and then there were the major developments in philosophy... They all developed at the same time and no doubt influenced each other--in complex, fascinating ways that specialists try to detail--and there was no doubt a spiraling effect. But there is no reason to think that anything other than philosophy--especially the basic philosophical outlook that I sketched at the outset--was the most fundamental force driving the culture."

P.S.: I have now learned that since Tracinski was called on his misquoting of Peikoff by several critics, apparently this has become one of several "revisions" Tracinski has made in his article over recent weeks. As he himself admits, "I have omitted or re-worded several references to the 'standard Objectivist theory' on the role of ideas in history." One should note however that he never acknowledges that it was a deliberate and blatant misquote soley designed to present a distorted view of the Objectivist view of causality in history and to bolster his own. (Peikoff's elaboration of the Objectivist view, which is essential to understanding it, comes *immediately after* the quote Tracinski lifted out of context, so there was no excuse for it.)

P.S.S.: Please keep aware that what you will likely continue to get from Tracinski supporters is not arguments but mostly "arguments from intimidation". You will get very little if any substance but lots of accusations of dogmatism or lack of open-mindedness or pleas to stop splits and schisms, etc. etc. blah, blah. (See my exchange with Arnold earlier this week). That should tell you a lot about the substance of the Tracinski case, just as it has in the past (or should have) in regard to the Brandens or Kelley. (It is of course therefore not a surprise that the Branden/Kelley crowd have gleefully leaped onto the Tracinski bandwagon - or, as I have now started to call it, the Tracinski Train Wreck. "Birds of a feather...etc.")



Comment #114

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 6:19:46 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

In Comment ID: #113 Fred Weiss ("TRACINSKI'S DISTORTIONS OF MAYHEW") says:

"Except that is not what Mayhew said. Mayhew's single reference to implicit philosophy concerns the world-view of the Greeks *before Thales*, e.g. "the implicit philosophy or basic ideas that we find in Homer and Hesiod, c. 8th-7th centuries". / But after Thales it is explicit."

1. Fred, thank you making your main point, that Dr. Mayhew is mainly discussing explicit philosophy.

2. I have a question about part of your comments in your postscript:

"P.S.S.:[...] You will get very little if any substance but lots of accusations of dogmatism or lack of open-mindedness or pleas to stop splits and schisms, etc. etc. blah, blah. (See my exchange with Arnold earlier this week). That should tell you a lot about the substance of the Tracinski case, just as it has in the past (or should have) in regard to the Brandens or Kelley. (It is of course therefore not a surprise that the Branden/Kelley crowd have gleefully leaped onto the Tracinski bandwagon - [...]

My question is this: You are not saying, are you, that advocates' illogical arguments are evidence of the weakness of an argument -- authored by someone else -- that they are defending? In particular, Mr. Tracinski and Dr. Mayhew are not responsible for the arguments that their unchosen advocates offer in public, right? Likewise, the validity of the original piece -- a lecture, book, or essay -- cannot be judged objectively by the quality of any one or even all of its defenders -- correct?

My point is that sometimes good causes have bad advocates. If Mr. A illogically defends Mr. B's position X, that by itself is no reflection on Mr. B or position X, which stands or falls on its own merits.



Comment #115

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 6:44:53 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

As usual, you are of course correct, Burgess, in pointing out the implied logical fallacy in my comment about the lack of arguments emanating from the Tracinski side of this debate. It's a fair point but I wasn't strictly making a logical point which of course you would be absolutely correct in faulting me on. My point was more polemical and largely resulting from my being very tired of being accused of all kinds of things having nothing whatever to do with the quality of *my* arguments. It's a bit by way of throwing the same thing back in their faces.

But yes you are technically correct.

That said, I still do find it worth noting that, despite having some bright people defending Tracinski, they can't seem to mount an effective defense of his thesis and whatever points they do make are fairly easy to shoot down - and yet they continue doggedly defending him. That suggests to me that there is something more behind their support - an agenda - than the truth or falsity of Tracinski's thesis - which is ironic considering that it is very much that kind of thing which they fling at us by way of accusation. Projection perhaps?

What do you think?



Comment #116

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 7:28:36 mst
Name: Jim (Free Capitalist)

Fred, I'm puzzled by your indignation, and wholesale sweeping conclusions. I am not Arnold, and yet you implicitly condemn me because I find Tracinksi's views on history to have merit. You and I haven't even discussed this issue, but you have already not only dismissed my potential arguments, but cast my very character in doubt by psychologizing me all the way into vice. What the heck? I saw you being far more reasonable than this. You have absolutely no basis for denouncing me because you have NO IDEA about my views, or my motivations. Why don't you examine some Ayn Rand's essays ("On Psychologizing") before pontificating so righteously on the matter.

Now, on to the concrete issue, and *away* from all the personal bickering that is ultimately irrelevant. In comment #113, you say:

'The latest distortion centers around the notion of "implicit philosophy". Tracinski proclaims it here, "I've had a few people object to the ideas in this article by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address..." '

The fundamental issue under discussion is the degree, and the relevance, of implicit philosophy in Greek culture. Yet you avoid this issue completely, and instead choose to focus on the bickering between the two intellectuals. I have read Tracinski's post, and have not detected any willful misrepresentation. Some things could be explained clearer, but you clearly draw up charges of willful misrepresentation, and everything that implies. How you know Tracinksi's motivations is beyond me. Perhaps you possess a sixth sense that I do not. As far as I can see, Tracinski clearly makes an attempt to clarify that his essays do not discredit implicit philosophy (as was charged of him), but in fact gives it ALL OF THE CREDIT. He equivocates on the word "philosophy" in some places, which raises confusion as to what kind of philosophy (implicit ideas, or explicit ideas) he is referring to. Yet if we take all of his essays in context, it seems very clear (to me at least) that it is implicit philosophy he values, and explicit philosophy that he casts doubts of efficacy on. That is an interesting and intricate point, yet it is dismissed out of hand, without question or consideration, by mind-reading Tracinski's character, and skimming through HIS works. You give him no benefit of the doubt. You take an expression, and unload a tirade of vituperation upon it, upon everyone who considers it at least interesting, and you dismiss the whole lot with nasty psychologizing that better belongs in pseudo-Objectivist forums than in a place where only rational arguments ought to have been considered in the first place. Congratulations on sound thinking.



Comment #117

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 8:30:26 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com

In Comment ID: #116 "Jim (Free Capitalist)" says, in part: "Fred, [...] The fundamental issue under discussion is the degree, and the relevance, of implicit philosophy in Greek culture."

Burgess: That is "[t]he" *fundamental* issue -- for whom? Not for me. If it is for you, then you might clarify by saying so -- and perhaps why you think it is "fundamental."

Why would the role of implicit philosophy in *ancient Greek culture* be *fundamental* in a discussion of what moves history in general? From my initial reading of the first five parts of Mr. Tracinski's series, I would say he was using Greek culture as one of several examples. Examples do not make a foundation. They illustrate. They are not a substitute for an abstraction which is fundamental to other observations. Nor, as far as I can tell, has Mr. Tracinski himself ever made any such claim.

Jim: [...] "I have read Tracinski's post, and have not detected any willful misrepresentation. Some things could be explained clearer, but you clearly draw up charges of willful misrepresentation, and everything that implies. How you know Tracinksi's motivations is beyond me."

Burgess: I too question any unproven allegations -- by anyone, on any "side" -- about motivation and mental state. I explain my questions here: <http://www.medworth.org.uk/?p=248#comments>

Jim: [...] "You [Fred] take an expression, and unload a tirade of vituperation upon it, upon *everyone* who considers it at least interesting, and [...]" [My emphasis.]

Burgess: As I stated in the medworth.com piece, *I* find the Tracinski articles worthy of discussion. But I have seen nothing indicating that Fred Weiss is unloading "a tirade of vituperation" on me, either directly or indirectly. My exception disproves your universal ("everyone"). Suggestion: Reconsider and perhaps reformulate your statement. Or, as an alternative, point to particular passages that prove that Fred was unloading on everyone with an interest in Mr. Tracinki's thesis.



Comment #118

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 9:13:14 mst
Name: Jim (Free Capitalist)

Burgess,

"Or, as an alternative, point to particular passages that prove that Fred was unloading on everyone with an interest in Mr. Tracinki's thesis."

In comment #115, Fred says:

"My point was more polemical and largely resulting from my being very tired of being accused of all kinds of things having nothing whatever to do with the quality of *my* arguments. It's a bit by way of throwing the same thing back in their faces."

In "whose" faces?

In comment #113, Fred says:

"Please keep aware that what you will likely continue to get from Tracinski supporters is not arguments but mostly "arguments from intimidation". You will get very little if any substance but lots of accusations [...] (See my exchange with Arnold earlier this week)"

Who qualifies as a "Tracinski supporter"? Someone who at least in part agrees with T's conclusions, and is to that extent a "supporter". To the degree that you Burgess find some of T's conclusions plausible, Fred's statement includes you and me in his description, even if you don't find yourself offended by his comments. I do.

As to the "implicit philosophy" as a fundamental issue in T's essays, this is a complicated subject that requires more space than should be allotted in a comment section. Suffice it to say that when Tracinski dismisses the relevance of philosophy, but points to people's every-day good living and good thoughts which they themselves don't verbalize and formulate, I take this to be a rather careless expression of an actually important point, and that Tracinski only dismisses *explicit* philosophy, but values implicit philosophy all along.

I lament that Tracinski's formulations have at times been muddled and equivocal on the issue, but still, the importance of the point he makes (as I understand it) is hard to over-estimate.



Comment #119

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 11:03:18 mst
Name: Jeff Perren


"The dedication to ideas leads, in practice, to an almost involuntary goodwill toward men -- or rather to something deeper and more important, which is the root of goodwill: respect. It leads to the attitude, in individual encounters, of treating men as rational beings, on the unstated premise that a man is innocent until proved guilty, that he is not evil until he has proved himself to be; "evil," in terms of this attitude, means closed to the power of ideas, i.e., of reason." Ayn Rand, The "Inexplicable Personal Alchemy", The Objectivist, January 1969.

Does anyone here honestly believe that Robert Tracinski is "closed to the power of ideas," in virtue of the views he expressed in "What Went Right?" or elsewhere?



Comment #120

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 12:27:07 mst
Name: Anonymous

Jeff, maybe I'm a little bit slow, but what bearing does this have on the current controversy? What's your point?



Comment #121

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 12:33:57 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Burgess, of course the relevance of "implicit" philosophy in ancient Greek culture is not *the* fundamental issue. Its relevance, as you say, is only that Tracinski raises it as a significant illustration in support of his thesis. If he is mistaken in his interpretation, as he clearly is (see Mayhew), then it offers no evidence in support of his thesis. In addition, it argues *against* his thesis.

In my view his interpretation of the other historical periods he cites, including the Carolingian Renaissance and the Enlightenment (as providing the basis for capitalism) are just as mistaken. In fact some of his comments about those periods are even more absurd than his comments about ancient Greece.

But if you take away all of his historical evidence, what is left of his thesis - especially since he claims to be basing it on that very evidence?



Comment #122

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 12:42:07 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Jim laments "that Tracinski's formulations have at times been muddled and equivocal on the issue, but still, the importance of the point he makes (as I understand it) is hard to over-estimate."

Perhaps Jim then can do better than the muddled and equivocal Tracinski and would care to share with us what exactly that point is - this point which is so "important" and "hard to over-estimate".



Comment #123

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 14:28:00 mst
Name: Burgess Laughlin
URL: http://www.aristotleadventure.com


Jim, in Comment 118, you rightly quoted me as requesting this: "Or, as an alternative, point to particular passages that prove that Fred was unloading on everyone with an INTEREST in Mr. Tracinki's thesis." [Emphasis now added.]

I have read your responses -- in part quoting Fred -- in Comment 118. Nowhere do you quote Fred as using the word "interest" or its equivalent. Your post was long, but provided no evidence to support your case. Your assertion remains unproven.



Comment #124

Thursday, February 15, 2007 at 15:16:21 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Free Capitalist writes: "Suffice it to say that when Tracinski dismisses the relevance of philosophy, but points to people's every-day good living and good thoughts which they themselves don't verbalize and formulate, I take this to be a rather careless expression of an actually important point, and that Tracinski only dismisses *explicit* philosophy, but values implicit philosophy all along."

In stark contrast, Ayn Rand knew full well that good implicit philosophy will not sustain a person, let alone a culture. That's a major theme of her essay "Philosophy: Who Needs It." It's also an important theme in Atlas Shrugged. Just consider at the inadequacy of Hank Rearden's implicit philosophy -- and the way in which his family is able to wield his hidden contradictions as a weapon against him. Even Dagny Taggart works for the looters and against the strikers because she doesn't yet understand the full depth of the evil of the looters, nor the principle of the sanction of the victim. Neither she nor any of the other strikers would have understood that on their own, despite their best efforts, without the explicit identification of those truths by a philosopher. That's what the division of labor makes possible -- for both good and ill.

Frankly, these points are so unbelievably obvious from an Objectivist perspective that I cannot muster the patience for debate. So I can only recommend re-reading "Philosophy Who Needs It" and _Atlas Shrugged_. And probably 100 other sources that all make the Objectivist view on these matters -- namely that philosophy is the fundamental driving force of history, cultures, and the lives of individuals -- abundantly clear.

(Just FYI, I disagree with Fred's claims about the dishonesty of RT's quoting of LP. Although I agree the quoting was very bad, I think far more evidence is required for such a strong moral judgment.)



Comment #125

Friday, February 16, 2007 at 0:23:08 mst
Name: U.N. Owen

I agree with Diana, in the previous comment (I'm referring especially to the second paragraph), and would add this vitally important (for this discussion) passage from a Q&A. It's from 1976, shortly after Carter defeated Ford. Someone asked Ayn Rand why the sense of life of the country hadn't saved us from Carter, as it had saved us from McGovern four years earlier. Here is part of AR's response. (From AYN RAND ANSWERS, p. 71.)

"You cannot blame the people for not seeing through Carter as they saw through McGovern. The sense of life hasn't changed--but a sense of life is not a substitute for a conscious philosophy. You cannot by means of it recognize with certainty who are your friends and who are your enemies. It would be wonderful if the mere sense of life of the country had saved us--for at least the next four years--but we had no right to expect it. Without philosophy, nothing can be done; evil wins by default, as it did this time."

Read Tracinski's whole series with this passage (and the truth behind it) in mind, and you'll see just how off he is.



Comment #126

Sunday, September 23, 2007 at 23:05:59 mdt
Name: James
URL: http://www.theaynrandforum.com


Burgess: My recollection is that the precipitating event happened when a very inexperienced moderator made changes to Stephen Speicher's posts -- AND DIDN'T EVEN INFORM HIM OF THE CHANGES OR LEAVE A "FOOTPRINT" ON THE CHANGED POSTS, letting all readers know the moderator had made changes! My recollection is also that OO.net *did* change their policy in some way, for the better. (I recall, shakily, that the solution was to formulate a rule for mods requiring them to leave a statement about modification.) That too should be available in public statements by David Veksler or others.

I was that moderator, and your facts are incorrect. I did, in fact, leave a "footprint" noting that the post had been edited, and by whom. The editing consisted of replacing the offending post with the rule that had been violated.