Friday, 24 March 2017

My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

I am inspired by Ayn Rand’s philosophy and literature, but I am now compelled to dissociate myself from the Objectivist movement. I was an enthusiastic supporter of organized Objectivism in the last five years, but now I feel disenchanted and disgusted by the shenanigans of the movement’s top philosophers and acolytes.

The Objectivist movement is in a state of disrepair and it is being led by men of low caliber and integrity. The Objectivist philosophers are insular and authoritarian. They prefer to waste time in petty squabbles instead of creating new articles, books and lectures for expanding the scope of Rand’s philosophy.

Here are the reasons for which I have decided to excommunicate myself from the Objectivist movement:

Open System—Closed System
I find the issue of whether Objectivism is a open system or a closed system, which is dogging the Objectivist movement for almost three decades, quite baffling. In his 1989 article, “Fact and Value,” Dr. Leonard Peikoff claims that Objectivism is a closed system. But his arguments are not convincing.

The podcasts by Dr. Peikoff on the issue of “Open-Closed System” are even worse. In one of the podcasts, he sounds complacent, authoritarian and instead of presenting logical arguments, he is insulting the other side. From the tone in which he speaks, I can only deduce that he is hoping to win support for his position purely by the virtue of “who he is” and “what his association with Rand is.”

Dr. Peikoff wrote "Fact and Value" in response to Dr. David Kelley's proposition that Objectivism is an Open System. Both Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Kelley believe that they are the true followers of Rand's philosophy. I find Dr. Kelley's arguments on the issue, which are contained in the chapter 5 of his book “The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand,”  quite convincing.

As an advocate of Open System, Dr. Kelley is not saying that anyone can be allowed to change the identity of Objectivism. He says that in an Open System there are limits "set by fundamental principles: the system is defined by the essential tenets that distinguish it from other viewpoints."

Dr. Peikoff holds that Objectivism is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded.”

But Dr. Kelley points out that "if Objectivism is to survive and flourish as a system of thought, it must attract philosophers who will build on Ayn Rand’s discoveries, using them as a base for an assault on specific problems in philosophy and drawing out their implications for other disciplines such as economics, psychology, and literary theory."

I think Dr. Kelley's view of Objectivism makes more sense.

The Authority Figure
In the Objectivist circles Dr. Peikoff is regarded as the supreme authority in Objectivism. I accept that Dr. Peikoff is a writer of important books and articles on Objectivist thought but why is he an authority figure? Why does Objectivism need an authority figure? This is the philosophy of reason and everyone is expected to follow the rule of reason and not of any human being.

The Intellectual Heir
On his website, Dr. Peikoff declares that he is Rand’s legal and intellectual heir. I understand the logic of having a legal heir, but why does Objectivism have a so-called intellectual heir? Why? It is ludicrous to think that anyone can inherit philosophical ideas. Also, I am unable to find any communique from Rand stating that she has conferred the title of “intellectual heir” on him.

Where is the evidence that Ayn Rand made Dr. Peikoff an intellectual heir? I think by claiming to be the intellectual heir to Rand, Dr. Peikoff is trying to walk in the footsteps of Nathaniel Branden.

Ayn Rand did a great disservice to Objectivism when she proclaimed in the 1950s that Nathaniel Branden was her intellectual heir. She wrote in the end of Atlas Shrugged: “When I wrote The Fountainhead I was addressing myself to an ideal reader – to as rational and independent a mind as I could conceive of. I found such a reader – through a fan letter he wrote me about The Fountainhead when he was nineteen years old. He is my intellectual heir. His name is Nathaniel Branden.” Branden’s “intellectual heir” status was revoked by Rand after his split in 1968.

Barbara Branden has claimed that Rand told her that she had learned from her bad experience with Nathaniel that it is not a good idea to have an intellectual heir. Rand had learned the right lesson. Objectivism is not a cult—it is not a religion—therefore it can’t have an intellectual heir. It is not as if Rand was akin to the Messiah who re-named Simon, “Peter”, the rock on which the church of Objectivism will be built. It is certain that Dr. Peikoff is not Saint Peter.

A Movement Mired in Schisms
What is the reason for which Rand evicted Nathaniel Branden from the Objectivist movement? I can infer from the articles and books that I have read on this subject that the breakup between Rand and Nathaniel was for personal issues and not on account of philosophical differences. Rand was entitled to remove him from her life but did she have to excommunicate him from Objectivism of which he was a good advocate, despite any personal flaws that he may have had?

After Rand’s demise, Dr. Peikoff became the supreme leader of Objectivism and he started the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI). But under his leadership many wonderful thinkers have been shunted out of the Objectivist movement. Dr. David Kelley, George Reisman, Robert Tracinski and John McCaskey are apparently no longer fit to be called Objectivists, even though they are writing articles and books as good as the intellectuals in the ARI.

What is going on at the ARI? Why are good intellectuals being forced to leave the institution? From the books and articles that I have read on these schisms, I can infer that these intellectuals have departed from the ARI for reasons that have very little to do with philosophy.

Objectivism is bleeding talent because the top-level Objectivists have accepted the idea that Dr. Peikoff is the supreme authority and intellectual heir. This has led to a situation where anyone who disagrees with Dr. Peikoff is forced to sever all connection with the ARI. As long as the Objectivist movement remains subservient to one individual and one institute there is no possibility for Objectivist ideas to take root in our culture. Objectivism needs more voices.

The Demonization of the Brandens
In his 1987 talk at the Ford Hall Forum, Dr. Peikoff was asked if he had read Barbara Branden’s The Passion of Ayn Rand. Here’s an excerpt from what he said: “I didn’t, because I discount — you know, the technical term is not lie, which I would regard as inaccurate—I regard her book as non-cognitive. Uh… By this I mean, I do not think that it has reached the realm of cognition to be evaluated as true or as false.”

I have read Barbara’s book. It is certainly not a “non-cognitive” work as Dr. Peikoff claims. I won’t say that everything she has said is the truth. But she has an interesting story to tell and she has made a number of valid points. The book is quite popular. In fact, I fear that Dr. Peikoff's judgement of Barbara’s book has a non-cognitive bias. He has said that he will not read the book. But if he does not read the book, then how does he develop an opinion on its content? Heresy! Premonition!

In the case of Nathaniel Branden’s book My Years with Ayn Rand, we find a similar campaign of disinformation and vilification being launched to persuade the Objectivists that they should not read it. Well, I did read it. I didn’t like this book as much as I liked Barbara's book, but this does not mean that I should start claiming that Nathaniel has written a non-cognitive book. This business of branding books as non-cognitive is extremely ridiculous.

There are many faults in Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, but this does not give anyone a right to demonize them. They have said a lot of wrong things about Rand in their books, but they have also said many right things. Their books are not arbitrary or non-cognitive. They merit scholarly evaluation.

Support for Left-leaning Political Groups
In the time of the 2008 elections, Dr. Peikoff issued his Objectivist fatwa: "In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world."

Apparently, Dr. Peikoff was of the view that the Republicans were overrun by the Evangelical Christians and that voting for them was the same as voting for a theocratic autocracy. Irrespective of the reasons on basis of which Dr. Peikoff reached his political judgment, he had no right to dictate to others who they should vote for and to threaten them, even implicitly, with excommunication for having a different opinion. I think his claim that anyone who votes for Republican or abstains from voting is not fit to be an Objectivist is most amazing.

Then in the 2016 elections many Objectivist thinkers “ordered” the Objectivists to vote for Hillary Clinton. They happily joined hands with the liberal shills in the mainstream media and proclaimed that Donald Trump was a racist, fascist and barbarian warmonger. The worse thing is that they didn't consider it necessary to explain the logic and evidence on basis of which they had reached their political judgement.

The reason for which Dr. Peikoff prefers progressive political groups is, I think, stated in his book The Ominous Parallels. Dr. Peikoff has said in The Ominous Parallels that in a few years the political power in the USA will get usurped by a conservative fascist force. How can his prediction be wrong—after all, he is the intellectual heir to Rand! Since Dr. Peikoff has not predicted the rise of a progressive fascist group in the USA, the Objectivists are not expected to feel threatened by the rise of the welfare state under progressive regimes. Well, such is the post-Rand logic.

Lack of Research on Rand’s Soviet Background
I became aware of the influence that Rand’s education in Soviet Russia had on her after reading Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra. It is surprising that we don’t have any other detailed scholarly study of Rand’s Soviet background. Sciabarra’s work remains the only source on Rand’s education.

The authorized biographies of Rand written by scholars affiliated to the ARI seem to take a minimum cognizance of the fact that she lived in Russia till the age of 21. These biographies do not offer any insight into the teachers and philosophers by whom Rand may have been influenced while she was in Russia. It seems as if Dr. Peikoff, for some reason which is known only to him and his closest associates, is interested in re-writing the history of Rand’s life, and projecting her as a completely American writer.

Well, I will end the article at this point. I think I have covered the key reasons for which I am forced to withdraw from the Objectivist movement. Hasta la vista, dear Objectivists.

*******

I have read a number of books, articles and blogs to develop my view of the current sad state of the Objectivist movement. Here I mention a few of these works:

The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand by Dr. David Kelley
The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand by Douglas J. Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen
The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden
My Years With Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics by James S. Valliant
The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: A Symposium on Nathaniel Branden
Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical by Dr. Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Resignation from the Boards of ARI and the Anthem Foundation” by John P. McCaskey (Article)
Anthemgate” by Robert Tracinski (Article)
The 1980s Called, and They Want Their Objectivism Back” by Robert Tracinski (Article)
"Intellectual Inheritance?" by Per-Olof Samuelsson (Article)
Beneath The DIM Hypothesis: The Logical Structure of Leonard Peikoff's Analysis of Cultural Evolution” by Roger Bissell (Article)
Open Letter to Objectivists” by Lindsay Perigo (Article)
The Vision of Ayn Rand by Nathaniel Branden
“In the Ayn Rand Archive” by Jennifer Burns (Article)
The Rewriting of Ayn Rand's Spoken Answers” by Robert L. Campbell (Article)
Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden

Websites:
http://www.aynrandstudies.com
http://ariwatch.com/index.htm
http://objectivish.blogspot.com/  
http://www.solopassion.com/frontpage
http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com
https://perolofsamuelsson1.wordpress.com/

22 comments:

  1. Anoop, I have not read as much on the "open-closed" debate, but I don't agree with your conclusion. I regard the closed system argument as pointing to fundamentals. Metaphysics is predicated on A is A. Ethics is based on life as the standard of value. I am pretty sure you don't see those statements as negotiable. These form the base which individuals should build on. The further you are from that base, the more logical steps are required to reach the conclusion. This doesn't rule out the potential for new knowledge or areas of exploration.
    I view Dr. Peikoff as a great source information. But he is crotchety. I view some of his statements the same way I view an old man on the porch yelling at me to get off his lawn. Other things he says, I agree, are difficult to stomach. I studied the spat that resulted from publication of Logical Leap. His letter to the ARI board had a line that was clearly an appeal to authority and my opinion of him was diminished. I also read McClusky's critique on Amazon before it ever became aN issue. McClusky made a valid point that did not diminish the central theme of the book.
    I was disappointed by the ejection of Robert Tracinski.

    So, I see your reasoning but I am not at a point where you are. I hope we can stay in touch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I meant "non-negotiable" in that first paragraph

      Delete
    2. Hi Steve, you will come to the same point, I believe. We will be here, waiting for you. :-) https://atlassociety.org/sites/default/files/The_Contested_Legacy_of_Ayn_Rand.pdf

      Delete
  2. I will miss your insightful and interesting articles and comments. I hope to see you contributing again soon.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really? Lack of research into Ayn Rand's history in Russia is a reason to remove yourself from the Objectivist movement?

    I really think that needs further clarification. Because, it seems you are just grasping for justifications.

    ReplyDelete
  4. From your reading, it looks like you've already discovered that there is an Objectivist movement that doesn't bend knee to Leonard Peikoff as lord and master, and that doesn't view Ayn Rand as an infallible, inerrant saint. And yes, it's an open movement that must rely on objectivity as its method.

    So it looks like you are giving up on ARI. Which is fine. That's not all of Objectivism, by any means.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well put, Will. Here are some interesting works by Will that are well worthwhile. https://www.amazon.com/William-R-Thomas/e/B00I3J70JE

      Delete
    2. multi-part response; Part 1

      What in non-Peikoff-related Objectivism studies compares to the quality and usefulness of his body of work? I'm sure you're aware of Miss Rand's 1980(ish) letter of recommendation for Peikoff, not to mention of course the fact of her authorization and participation in his 1976 course. Are we to believe that Rand had a less than firm grasp of who was qualified to be a deputy spokesman for her philosophy? Does the issue lie somewhere else, perhaps?

      I understand how, appropriately framed and executed, an "open-minded and tolerant" approach to disagreement is an essential of good thinking and communication. The issues here can get difficult and complicated, as evidenced by the basic differences dividing Peikoff and Kelley, neither of them exactly young'uns new to the philosophy. Kelley has said things in this regard that I agree or sympathize with, particularly if such basic points are framed with the utmost care and precision. I would probably differ from Peikoff in regard to what approach he takes to someone like an "academic Marxist". (I am of the "Dennett/Rapoport Rules" sensibility, i.e., going out of one's way not to caricature one's opponents.)

      Then again, I've had *enough* exposure to Marxist and other leftist writings, as well as their omissions, to be highly suspicious. Heck, to know "Marxism" by its fruits, the fact that scores of millions of people were killed by regimes proclaiming Marxism as their idea-set, should scare *at least half* the shit out of anyone considering recommendations for political institutions from self-proclaimed Marxists. The "no real Marxist" response would have a lot of 'splainin' to do, *combined with* a sincere program to severely discourage would-be Marxist agitators from going down murderous paths. Any failure to do the latter would be intellectually monstrous. Did prominent academic Marxists of the 20th century come up with such an anti-mass-murder-mentality program, or was there something more like an evasion of the issue about the just-maybe-not-coincidental relation between Marxist ideas and millions of dead bodies in their enactors' wake?

      Just maybe, Peikoff had a better *inductive* (experience-based) basis for damning academic Marxists. Perhaps one just has to actually interact with these types for decades on end to get the point. (If you read Mises' Notes and Recollections, you would find that he encountered exactly one Marxist thinker - one Otto Bauer - who was worth much of anything and demonstrated some intellectual integrity. This was back in the '20s, of course, before the repeated horrors of Communist experiments became widely demonstrable and readily explained in terms of the evils - death and destruction upon implementation - of the motivating ideas.) Something tells me that, whatever you think of his "intolerant" attitude, Peikoff comes off as a more reliable commentator on what makes Marxists tick than Kelley was. They were the concrete under consideration, after all. Maybe Kelley could have picked a better concrete to illustrate whatever valid point he was making, but there you have it: experience and wisdom were more likely on Peikoff's side.

      Delete
    3. Part 2

      Now, does the Peikoff attitude mean not holding conferences in which the likes of John Hospers or Eric Mack are invited, as was the case in the IOS/TOC/MDOP mid-'90s heyday? Well, if the context here is one of conferences devoted to *studies and applications of Objectivist philosophy*, Hospers and Mack *might* claim some level of qualification in speaking about Objectivism, but on the other hand Peikoff was probably quite capable of making his own judgments on that matter in terms of what kind of personnel to bring on. Whatever else one might say about Hospers or Mack, they don't bring the level of understanding *of Objectivism* that a Harry Binswanger reliably does. And, heck, Peikoff *himself* was the highlight speaker at these '90s events, adding to his considerable body of lecture-course work on Objectivism (after OPAR, there were Art of Thinking, Unity in Epistemology and Ethics, and of course Objectivism Through Induction, and that's before the '00s courses on induction and DIM, a groundbreaking area of work whatever one thinks of it. Subsequent to all that, we've seen quality academic work from ARI-affiliated scholars such as Smith, Salmieri and Gotthelf (who I guess also failed to see the superior wisdom of the Kelley approach and join IOS - although George Walsh did, and unfortunately Walsh's viewpoint on all this remains obscure to good historical documentation; I for one remain curious).

      Those are the fruits of "the Peikoff approach." The fruits of "the Kelley approach" are . . . can they be even compared, really? Are they in the same league? One thing that Peikoff evidently picked up from Rand in a way that Kelley didn't, was to communicate in a more engaging fashion, at least if you look at their lecture courses. Just on the basis of ability to engage the listener, one cannot rate Kelley's courses in the same league. If his writing style in 'Evidence of the Senses' is an indication, his written work suffers from similar issues. I haven't read his two later books on the "virtue of benevolence" or the welfare state; perhaps they add something really new. I already take issue with the apparent mangling of the concept of "benevolence" by equating it to other-oriented benevolence; perhaps the content of the book isn't as misleading in this regard as the title?

      OTOH, I do find it somewhat noteworthy that a sustained rebuttal of Truth and Toleration/Contest Legacy hasn't been written, but maybe the point in respect to all that is something else, and I've been suggesting it already: look at their respective behavioral practices and their fruits. Do Kelley's books have the overall oomph of an OPAR or DIM Hypothesis? I find it hard to believe that they do. I know the courses don't, whatever their merits.

      Delete
    4. Part 3

      I did not like the way the "ARI-affiliated" treated Sciabarra's scholarly work - the only scholarly work that contains as much (by far!) Peikoff taped material in its bibliography: how awry could someone doing that much research with that kind of material go? (What's more, if we want an answer about what "makes Marxists tick" that doesn't completely indict them for intellectual crimes, we might have a look at what they have to teach about methodology, but there Sciabarra says that Aristotle is the real fountainhead for dialectics done right/well, anyway.) That was a very, uh, timely book in terms of the different cultures of study or scholarship, the one at IOS and the one at ARI. At the ARI, it was not received well by any stretch; at the IOS it was enthusiastically embraced. It's hard to see Sciabarra's book in any worse light than its being benign; in a better light it can be seen as one possible book-length study demonstrating that Rand is a thinker of world-historic importance, with emphasis on her radical methodology. Even if the presentation style is lacking, there's no bastardization of Rand's ideas going on. There is one other book, though, that's even better at presenting what Objectivism is all about, and even gives insight into its methodological essentials, and even doesn't have a questionable presentation style: Peikoff's OPAR. One virtue of the early MDOP days was the OPAR study sessions.

      As for the biggest fruit that was supposed to come from the Kelley approach, some book you might have heard about one the logical structure of Objectivism, a book that might itself serve as material for internet study groups, that hasn't materialized in published form. Could it be published in a form as engagingly written as OPAR, and teach us new things to boot? Logical structure more specifically has been explored at length in none other than Peikoff's lecture courses, and also at some length in Sciabarra's book. I stopped holding my breath on seeing a published version of this book some time ago.

      This is not of course to say that the Kelley approach didn't bear some useful fruit; there have been some useful things put in out one or more of its 'Studies' series, like Long on "Aristotle vs. Rand on Value", a decent presentation by Mack at an IOS conference, those come readily to mind. But if we were to do an all-things-considered comparison between the fruits of Kelley's way and of Peikoff's way, what reason would we have to think that Kelley's way is better, more preferable, etc.? What's more, the dynamics of online Objectivist interactions as well as developments in the academic area Rand-wise have long since made it questionable whether Kelley/IOS/TOC/TAS of all outlets is a big player. It's not to say that Peikoff is the only player, either. But he remains - as far as Oism studies are concerned - as big a player as there is even in his retirement. There's no better source to go to, than his body of work. Not even the meticulously researched Sciabarra, not even close. And arguably the best light of the next generation going forward in this regard - Salmieri - didn't come from anywhere other than the ARI/Peikoff/Binswanger/Gotthelf region; and as anyone aware of such things has figured out some time ago, establishing Rand's place in the Aristotelian tradition is a major piece of the challenge of getting Rand's ideas a widest possible intellectual/scholarly audience and following. Salmieri is as qualified as it gets when it comes to meeting that challenge. Now that's some fruit.

      UP / CRC

      Delete
  5. I never understood the whole "movement" approach, except that it seemed to have begun with Branden's eponymous "Institute" which had more cultural than philosophical aspects. As Rand said, "It's earlier than you think." It still is. Fortunately, the truth is not a pathless land...

    ReplyDelete
  6. For better or worse, Leonard Peikoff has no longer any active interest in "organized Objectivism." I too was baffled at the open/closed dichotomy, and his insistence on voting Democrat in 2006 (no matter how bad the GOP had become). This last was based on his conclusion in The DIM Hypothesis that the US was in imminent danger of a Christian theocratic takeover, which was a bizarre conclusion that I addressed in a previous essay (which I will post shortly).

    My "break" with organized Objectivism, if I ever was a member at all--the day I stopped contributing to ARI--was over two basic points:

    1) ARI has become a left-libertarian organization, funded by the Koch Brothers and toeing most of the Koch/Cato line on practical political matters. If the world needed another Cato Institute with a little more muscular pro-Israel foreign policy, I'm sure the market would provide, but morphing ARI into it was a mistake.

    2) The people leading Objectivism are fundamentally horrible people on a personal level. They descend to vicious personal attacks as step 1 when dealing with people who disagree. The suppress dissenting viewpoints in comments, on blogs, on the air--and not just when people are obnoxious, just when they dissent politely. They ridicule their interlocutors, engage in ad hominem attacks, and exhibit a group-think that would be remarkably consistent in the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

    It is really this last that's the most important. If being an "Objectivist Leader" means you have to be a jerk to everyone who does not fall immediately into line with whatever the issue of the day is, then Objectivism will soon be lacking any supporters at all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ed, I would consider David Kelley one of the people "leading Objectivism" for the past quarter century, as a Princeton trained philosopher and founder of The Atlas Society. As CEO of The Atlas Society (I guess that also makes me an "Objectivist Leader") over the past year, I've had the honor to spend a great deal of time learning from and working with David. A kinder, and Lord knows, more PATIENT soul you'll be hard pressed to find. The members of The Atlas Society board -- Jay Lapeyre, Cliff Asness, Baron Bond, and Franklin Brooks -- are also wonderful people by just about any measure: they have integrity, are good family men, are civic minded, and generous, with their time, tolerance, and resources. That said, I have most certainly been singed by the obnoxious, intolerant elements within Objectivism, so I do get where you're coming from. I hope you'll join us on Facebook to get a taste of a different kind of Objectivist community. Namaste.

      Delete
    2. Ed - your experience tracks mine.

      Delete
  7. If you consider an argument to be incorrect, you must refute it with better argument. Terms like, “arbitrary,” and “non-cognitive,” are not arguments. You will NEVER win an argument by resorting to such worthless terminology.

    Here is a fact: Barbara Branden’s “The Passion of Ayn Rand” is a GOOD book. It is possible that she may have made some factual errors in the book, but such factual errors are there in most of the biographies that are published. Are you going to term 90% of the biographies in the world as “non-cognitive”?

    The Passion of Ayn Rand is NOT a “non-cognitive” book. Dr. Leonard Peikoff has done a disservice to himself by using this term for a bestselling novel. He could have accused Barbara of factual errors—he could have said that he does not have time to read her book. By terming it as “non-cognitive” he has caused damage to not only his own reputation, but also to Rand’s philosophical system.

    After almost 30 years of its publication, The Passion of Ay Rand continues to be in print. The book sells tens of thousands of copies every year in many countries around the world.

    Does Dr. Peikoff believe that everyone who is buying Barbara’s book is a person with non-cognitive mentality? People are using their hard earned money to buy this book. Why do they buy it? They buy with the hope of getting some value from it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. On the Open-Closed system controversy, Dr. Peikoff has a podcast titled: “Is Ayn Rand’s philosophy a “closed system”? Here’s an excerpt from the transcription:

    “Now, but what these people mean, who say that it's bad for a philosophy to be a closed system — and they even use the word "system," you see, which means all interconnected — what they want is that everything be optional about the philosophy, not just, for instance, whether you should go into law or medicine, but whether you have a career, whether you should do anything long-range. It's all subjective; it's whatever you want. So, in other words, it's philosophy as a bunch of fortune cookies thrown together, open to anyone, any new one. That is the end of philosophy, the so-called open philosophy.”

    This is a completely incorrect view of the Open System position. This is NOT what the advocates of “Open System for Objectivism” stand for. Dr. Peikoff, in this podcast, is setting up a straw-man that he will demolish with ease. Those who want to know what the idea of a “Open System” stands for should go to Dr. David Kelley’s book, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand. He has described the idea of Open System in Chapter 5, “Objectivism.” It is a short chapter of only 14 pages.

    Coming back to Dr. Peikoff’s podcast, he goes on to say:

    “Have you ever talked to someone who prides himself on what he calls an "open mind"? An open mind means an empty mind. It means no matter what you tell him, he'll say, "Yeah, that's interesting, but so-n-so is interesting, and so-n-so is interesting." This guy prides himself on never closing a question. In other words, it's just what it is.”

    This is so INSULTING. Now he is proposing that the advocates of “Open System” are fools with “Open Mind.” It is this kind of insulting behaviour by certain high-flying Objectivists that is responsible for driving people out of Objectivism.

    In case of the “Open-Closed System” issue, Dr. Kelley has much better arguments than Dr. Leonard Peikoff. Kelley has WON this debate. That is a fact. Accept it. I can’t deny reality, if Kelley has won the debate, I must accept the truth.

    ReplyDelete
  10. If the Branden's didn't vilify and lie about Ayn Rand in the first place, no one would have any cause to point out they were doing it. The Brandens were the demonizers. It's not demonization to identify demonization, unless you ignore the original demonization, or worse ... agree with it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I think you are right to leave the movement. The closed-society of "men who get shit done" doesn't account for the fact that failure is apart of iteration. And it is only through iteration that the ideal can be achieved. I think in terms of political expediency it is important to restore Capitalism as the ideal economic system rather than getting in a 'huff over the theocratic mysticism in the republican party. Socialism is a blight that traps all into a state mediocre stagnation. It must be discredited and destroyed before further objectivist aims can be met. Otherwise there will be nowhere for anyone to voice an objectivist thought.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Anoop, I have some points to dispute:

    1. The Brandens. Nathan especially. His behavior leading up to the 1968 schism was not that of someone who was qualified to teach the philosophy, seeing as how he was committed to a breach between ideas (the ones he was preaching) and action (the patterns of actions where he was acting in a systematically dishonest way). He so much as admitted this himself when announcing to his students that he was quitting his position teaching at NBI. Given that all this is documented in Valliant's book (which you've included in your list of sources), I find your comments on NB to be non-responsive to the case made in that book. (What's more, I'm not clear on what major contributions he made to Objectivism theoretically; his psychological theories would not have been part of Objectivism given the nature of the relation between philosophy and psychology (and it's quite important to get this relation right in one's understanding!). Given Peikoff's body of work in particular, what good reason is there to think that we learn much qua students of Objectivism from Branden's that we don't already learn from Peikoff much less Rand?)

    2. Closed system stuff. It's a simple issue of the proper name Rand gave to her philosophy (noun). Philosophy qua activity (verb) is of course an open endeavor. I'm not sure it needs any further amplification than this.

    3. Authority. There is a difference between 'authoritative' and 'authoritarian.' The latter implies submitting one's mind and judgment to that of an authority, which of course is incompatible with Objectivism or philosophy. 'Authoritative' on the other hand means expertise, well-established and objectively so over a period of time. There is no question about Peikoff being in the latter category even if he makes mistakes. (Experts do make a good number of mistakes! Expertise is not perfection, although it is or can be perfective. :) ) There is a well-documented record of Rand conferring this expert-authority status on Peikoff, so in this regard she is putting her own judgment on the line for all to assess.

    4. Political preferences. Peikoff here has arguably erred, although I'm quite curious to know more about his reasoning. But the idea of some theocratic takeover or even a fascist takeover - however well-argued-for - seems not to get it right, for a number of reasons. I don't share his pessimistic outlook (but then again I happen to be in a rather epistemically unique set of circumstances, what with my whole 'perfectivism' idea and such and how no coherent opposition could be made to it). I suppose if we are to take Peikoff's arguments with the utmost seriousness we should use the caveat, "if the present trends continue...." He never did say that he would specify a timeline for all this, did he? And if present trends - considered in the most all-embracingly comprehensive-picture fashion that we can muster - do continue, where might we indeed end up as a culture? Peikoff does have a lot of inductive experience to go on, when concluding that even when a philosophy of reason is presented to people in such bold terms as provided in Rand's works - in so hard-hitting a fashion as Galt's radio address among other writings - there are a lot of people that nonetheless resist, or their psycho-epistemology is not fully functional, or there is outright dishonesty, or they find Rand's words and whatever else off-putting, etc.

    5. On "isms". How about embracing an "ism" than which no better "ism" can be conceived? ;) :D

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anoop, I am heartened to see another person find their way out of the tragedy that is Closed Objectivism. In the early 1980's Dr. Peikoff did some good work that seemed to be leading in an open direction, but he also admitted in one of his taped lectures that he has a tendency to rationalism. Then the schism with Dr. Kelley happened and he wrote Fact and Value. It was a dark day for me when that arrived in the mail. The value of any fact depends upon context; any fact may have many values in different contexts; and it may often not be worth the time to understand the value of a given fact in any context. But none of this was recognized. I remain baffled that anyone finds that article convincing.

    My spouse and I got together at the time with a couple who were our dear friends (one of whom just recently died of cancer and I miss her) and took apart that disastrous article line by line. I was devastated. I wrote David Kelley about the potential to promote a view of objectivism that is more consistent with its underlying principles, as did others. The four of us were all proud to be Founding Contributors of what is now the Atlas Society. I am incredibly proud of the work the Society has done, and greatly value the later philosophic breakthrough made by Kelley regarding benevolence. But much more could have been achieved, had objectivism managed to grow in ways consistent with its fundamental principles.

    Whether or not you affiliate with the Atlas Society, I hope you will continue to bring your independent thinking to the progress of rational human philosophy and advocacy.

    ReplyDelete