Monday, 24 July 2017

Yet Another Autopsy of Orthodox Objectivism by Greg Nyquist

Greg Nyquist has posted a new blog on his website Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature. He has nothing new to say in this blog—basically he is offering for the umpteenth time the same old dirty laundry from Orthodox Objectivism’s Augean Stables.

Here’s an excerpt from the post titled, “Orthodox Objectivism: An Autopsy, Part 2”:
Peikoff's stewardship of  Objectivism veered from one disaster to another, each worse than before. The first crisis was brought about by a biography of Ayn Rand published by Peikoff's cousin, Barbara Branden. If Peikoff had any notions of seeking to transform Objectivism into a respectable system of thought, he immediately threw all that overboard after the publication of the Passion of Ayn Rand. Under his leadership, the cultish aspects of Objectivism, which had been there from the start, became even more pronounced. This development became a stated point of doctrine when, a year or so later, he excommunicated David Kelley from the movement. In fairness to Peikoff, it's not clear he set out to give Kelley the boot. It is more likely that his minions, particularly Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz, set him to it. It's long been thought that the real reason why Kelley was thrown overboard stemmed from his endorsement of Branden's biography. But I've always suspected the primary reason stemmed form sheer envy. Schwartz, Binswanger, and others within the Objectivist elite resented Kelley's intelligence and scholarly credentials. They recognized Kelley as their superior and hated him for it. Hence their attempts to incite Peikoff against Kelley. 
Whether the ire of orthodox Objectivists against Kelley was motivated by envy and resentment and/or Kelley's endorsement of The Passion of Ayn Rand and/or some other factious reason, Peikoff was persuaded to write a screed against the perceived Kelley menace. In the essay "Fact and Value," Peikoff insisted that Objectivism was a closed system, on the grounds that the philosophy referred solely to doctrines originating, or at least endorsed, by Rand herself. This essentially mummified Objectivism into an Ayn Rand personality cult. The philosophy became largely restricted to Rand's known views, as sanctioned by Peikoff himself. Objectivists were allowed to apply those views to their own lives. But they were not allowed to revise or amend such views. Criticism of Rand's personal behavior was not tolerated. ARI became a kind of Objectivist Vatican, with Rand the principle deity and Peikoff its Pope. Excommunications followed. Not only Kelley and his followers, but ARI board members George Riesman, Edith Packer, and John McCaskey. Because of criticism directed against the Ayn Rand Institute and Peikoff for continuing Rand's policy of dramatic breaks with people over minor doctrinal differences, Peikoff and ARI often preferred to silently and discreetly ostracize those they no longer wished to be associated with. This, in any case, appears to be what happened with Tracinski, among others. 
Intellectually, Peikoff left orthodox Objectivism worse than he found it --- which is an accomplishment of sorts, though not in a positive way. As an intellectual movement, Objectivism was already veering towards its inevitable crack-up when Peikoff took over from Rand in 1982. His decision to close the system sealed the philosophy's fate. Unable to take in and adapt new discoveries in the cognitive and psychological sciences, Objectivism became increasingly difficult to regard as a serious, rational, science-friendly philosophical movement. Meanwhile, Peikoff was busy developing the worst aspects of the Randian creed. His specialty had always been one of the weakest parts of the system, the philosophy of history. Peikoff had come to believe that Rand's vague and scientifically dubious speculations about the role of philosophy in the course of history could provide special insights to the future of the United States and Western Civilization. Assuming that history is determined by the most fundamental ideas developed by the greatest philosophers, he came to the conclusion that the United States was heading towards a theocracy.

1 comment:

  1. Greg Nyquist thanks you for the shout-out. Isn't that what a force multiplier looks like? Not like you'd want to engage with him or anything... "A holdup man seeks to gain wealth by killing me; I do not grow richer by killing a holdup man."

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