Interesting

Adam Buker's picture
Submitted by Adam Buker on Wed, 2006-05-24 19:26

I put up a poll on RoR asking how many people had read Valliant's Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics. The choices available for response were as follows:
1) Yes
2) No
3) I refuse to.
4) I haven't yet, but I plan on it.
5) I simply don't care.

At the time of this posting, roughly 65% have not read the book, 27% presumably will not read it. 21% haven't gotten around to reading it. Only 29 people have voted at this time. It will be interesting to see how this will change as people vote.


( categories: )

"Ze Weiss Squad". Is this

Fred Weiss's picture

"Ze Weiss Squad". Is this like Robert Campbell's, "The Weiss Claque"? At least with Robert's I get to be a Claquer. I can't say that's exactly been my life's ambition - to be a Claquer - but it does have a certain ring to it.

Now all I have to do is figure out who is supposed to be in this Squad or Claque.

On more important matters, Linz, we seem to be making progress by inches. You are now at least an admirer of some of Peter's writing. You're a little late to the party though on that one. Ayn Rand, in one of her very rare (qualified) endorsements, praised The Intellectual Activist in its first incarnation when it was still Peter's baby. You haven't seen KASS until you read some of that stuff.

As for your seeing Peter "as a jerk in person" (as you report some others have), I don't know what to make of that, not knowing what you are referring to. Obviously I don't see him that way. There were people who saw Ayn Rand that way, too. One of William Dwyers favorite and oft-repeated stories is a report of a friend of his from some Ford Hall Forum occasion in which Ayn Rand is alleged to have rudely pushed her way through a crowd, "Get out of my way. Don't you know who I am!" she is supposed to have said. Who the hell knows what actually happened? The fact of that being *extremely* uncharacteristic of Rand doesn't bother Bill in the slightest.

As for Harry being a "robotic rationalist", I also have no idea what you are basing that on. Obviously, you've not been on HBL. Have you read some of his brilliant articles in TOF or heard any of his conference lectures or seen some of his debates with socialists? I appreciate that you had one unfortunate encounter with Harry in which you thought he was rude. Frankly, I don't know a single person of my acquaintance - anyone I've known for any length of time - where I didn't think at one time or another that they did something rude toward me, Harry included. But on the other hand I am sure all my acquaintances would say exactly the same thing of me.

Also, I don't know what

Fred Weiss's picture

Also, I don't know what "honest error" you are referring to which Peikoff acknowledged. I recall him acknowledging a problem he had with "rationalism", but that was mostly when he was younger. Regardless, up to a point, I don't regard rationalism as a moral issue anyway. Going through a period of it is almost an Objectivist "rite of passage". Smiling

> Will Wilkinson and Bryan

PhilipC's picture

> Will Wilkinson and Bryan Register...They never impressed me as bright...too arrogant to actually be educated...

I should withdraw my Thursday rant on this thread against these two people because it is based on only a tiny sliver of evidence, not enough to characterize them as sweepingly as I did. I don't know them well and have only a few pieces of evidence regarding their incomprehension/abandonment of Objectivism.

fact and value

Chris Cathcart's picture

Linz, it would be inappropriate to say that every "is" implies an "ought." That would be to assert an intrinsicist conception of value -- that values inhere in reality independent of a relationship to a valuer. I don't think that's what Peikoff's view is, though. I think a more careful reading would be that it's the identification by a consciousness of a fact -- the identifcation establishing a relationship between the fact and the identifier -- that implies value-signficance. The facts come into relation with and thereby have a bearing on one's cognition -- i.e., one's life. There are facts, and then there are things that you ought to do about it once those facts come into relation to you.

I've got some other theoretical comments (really, more in the nature of cursory notes) on the fact-value relation in the early sections of my "Integration and Unity" paper.

Ze Weiss Squad :-)

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Fred Weiss writes:

You and Linz are wrong about Schwartz (and Binswanger and Hull, et al).
Maybe I need to get James to write The PBSC - the Passion of Binswanger and Schwartz's Critics - to set you guys straight. It doesn't make sense to me that you guys admire Peikoff as much as you do (sheesh, even Phil does). Peikoff of course well deserves all the admiration he gets, but on this subject (upholding AR's legacy) he's as tough, if not even tougher, than Binswanger and Schwartz. Haven't you read "Fact and Value"?

I have, & I cannot agree with the minimal scope for honest error Peikoff allows therein (any more than I can agree with the seemingly limitless scope for honest error Kelley allows). This is one respect in which I agree with ARI's critics who say Fact & Value departs from Understanding Objectivism. Hell, when you look at the extent of his own honest error Leonard actually confesses to, it's clearly ridiculous to confine it to the young & retarded.

I also disagree that *every* fact has value significance. I emphatically agree that every ought is (or should be) derived from an is; I don't agree that *every* is implies an ought (without tortuous verbal gymnastics of Sciabarrian proportions), or that the latter follows from the former or vice versa.

But these to me are trifles. How much slack to cut is something to which there is no "perfect" answer. A perfect answer would require telepathy, or that one be God, able to divine infallibly the motives of questioners & critics. Being God is an affectation that Binswanger seems happy to affect, especially with respect to omnipotence (Fuck the Board & the contributors, I have the power, & I have it because I've earned it. Jerk). I love the *essential* rightness & sizzle of Fact & Value. I love the "cold fish" bit. I love Leonard for his passion and his prolificity, if I may coin such a word. And also what I can now see as his perseverance. Smearer-in-Chief told me a tale or two about him that I accepted at the time because I thought she was honest (I'm embarrassed to admit to such folly now, but it *was* an honest error on my part); I now discard these tales totally & see them as part of a pattern of what he has had to put up with over the years, probably because she & Nathan were pissed that he, Leonard, not they, ended up being the designated heir. And I empathise with him that he gets faulted for losing his rag occasionally, just as Rand did. That's part of this vile, hypocritical campaign against "Objectivist rage" that the permanently pissed Barbara Branden, Smearer-in-Chief, wages, lest righteous indignation ever, rightfully, be directed at her. I love him for his ongoing battle against rationalism, his own included, & his eulogies to induction. I respect him for the fact that he proceeds in good faith, which—I've come to realise—most of his critics don't. (One of the main ones is the ghastly Bidinotto. 'Nuff said.)

I have serious doubts, however, about Binswanger's good faith. I see him as a robotic rationalist, for reasons canvassed previously, who knowingly relishes that status. Five minutes with Harry & I'd be screaming for oxygen & authenticity.

As for Schwartz, I just now re-read his contributions to The Return of the Primitive. Magnificent. Exactly the kind of prose I adore. The opposite of Polish. If Sciabarra faulted whatever Schwartz wrote on foreign policy, which I haven't seen, Peter should wear it as a badge of honour, Sciabarra being a Saddamite purveyor of Polish & all. In person, however, I found Peter a jerk. Well, maybe the fault was mine. I don't know. I just didn't like him. But that in itself is of no importance. If he's routinely been a jerk, for no good reason, to honest truth-seekers, as has sometimes been reported by non-Brandroids, then that *is* a problem for the promotion of Objectivism.

This last year has taught me so much, on the personal level. I've had allegations made about my medical & psychological state that are *false*, by Brandroids about whose medical & psychological conditions I could reveal things that are *true*, if I were as low as they. I've been back-stabbed, defrauded, defamed & lied to in ways which had two common denominators: TOC & the Brandens. I understand intimately now what injustices Leonard has had to endure, just as I understand intimately the injustices James Valliant has had to endure (not forgetting the injustices Ayn Rand has had to endure, of course). What I may still see as the excesses of Ze Weiss Squad are as nothing next to those injustices.

Linz

Tara Smith's book, from what

Chris Cathcart's picture

Tara Smith's book, from what I've been hearing, sounds like it serves a great dual purpose: reaching general as well as academic audiences. It may well be that the really big books in intellectual history are just those kinds of books. Rawls and Nozick made a big impact on contemporary moral and political philosophy that way. Changing a culture is not just about changing academia, but affecting lives more generally.

Cambridge Press will probably find ARNE:TVE to be one of its best-selling books of all time.

Fred, you're putting a lot

Chris Cathcart's picture

Fred, you're putting a lot of stock in crediting the ARI for advances in the past 10 years. Actually, the fountainhead is Ayn Rand, and what I think we're seeing is the effect of the passing from one generation to the next. These kinds of things can take generations; whatever great work the ARI has been doing, I wouldn't say that they could change things that much in the course of 10 years.

Even with some alternate parallel universe where Nat Branden remained good and took over the reins at Rand's death and went off into whatever new-agey interpretations as the "official" ones, as long as Atlas and the rest of Rand's works remain in print and there are plenty of dedicated individuals out there with minds of their own to promote her ideas, I'd be optimistic about the results over time. Rand is so much bigger than the factions and institutions that proclaim to carry on her ideas.

Phil's Plan for World Conquest

PhilipC's picture

Lot's of interesting things to comment on here, especially Fred's challenge: what would -you- do. I don't have time right now, but I'll start "Phil's Plan for World Conquest" thread and mention a couple nibblets and try to get back to them later...

This thread is great

Landon Erp's picture

"I don't believe my eyes. I agree with everything you said in this post, Phil. This thread is amazing! "

Believe it. Happens to me too sometimes I'll be reading several of his posts and beating my head against the wall over it and then he'll just suprise me by saying the most amazing thing I've ever read.

Sorry for the back handed compliment, Phil just calling it like I see it.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Good Meat

Boaz the Boor's picture

Mike Mazza, good meaty detailed post. On something like this especially, details and concretes matter. Not just floating abstractions.

I don't believe my eyes. I agree with everything you said in this post, Phil. This thread is amazing! Smiling

Though frankly, it's hard to really have this discussion without specifying what we mean by "cultural breakthrough" - what that would really entail. You think it would manifest in an intellectual achieving wider recognition - a "public" intellectual, then, like an Objectivist David Brooks or Hitchens? An Objectivist scholar ascending to the public pantheon, like Bernard Lewis?

All of that requires the spread of Objectivism - wholesale, as a philosophy of reason, not just a cluster of positions. What sort of process would you lay out for this? How long did the Renaissance/Enlightenment (the last time fundamental assumptions and attitudes shifted) take, from its very first beginnings? How much longer even after the advent of mass printing c.1450 (itself a product of cultural change), which revolutionized the spread of ideas? Another 300 years, give or take. Did it require mass conversions? Is there anything there that we can learn from?

Yaron Brook will become a public intellectual (and not just a more visible one) when he can go on a panel show and be met with something other than horror when he says that we shouldn't worry about civilian casualties (when it's the best way to win and will spare soldiers' lives) or that it's wrong to complain about oil executives' salaries.

What isn't ARI doing to try to make that happen? That's not a rhetorical question.

Philip Coates on Thu,

Robert Nasir's picture

Philip Coates on Thu, 2006-05-25 13:38 sez: "...'is, by my best understanding, premature and immature. But again, that's not what I've seen from ARI. [Robert N]' Why do you have to qualify this with "by my best understanding"? Is it something you're in enormous doubt about?"

Philip: Thanks for asking.  But that was such a trivial part of that post - let me humbly suggest that if you're wondering why some folks seem to give you a hard time around here, and why so many discussions seem to go nowhere, this may be one reason.  (To be fair, you're not the only one guilty of this.  Seems to get worse on the most controversy-laden threads.)

Is the issue of Robert Nasir qualifying his statement more important than the meat and potatoes of that post?  If so, I should quit while I'm behind.

Maybe it's a fault on my part, but my reaction was: I'd be happier if you'd convince me I'm wrong about my judgment of the Libertarian Party - or that The Ayn Rand's Institute's policy in their regard is in error.  Or almost as happy if you'd decide the opposite is true ('cept when I'm right, I don't get to learn anything)!

But since you asked, I qualified my statement because I personally have more to learn about the issue, and am open to doing so.  And because I think the context of each case is important; e.g. there are better and worse organizations - some are such that one cannot belong to them, and remain fundamentally honest. 

That is, if someone tells me, "I'm a Libertarian," I won't know what to think about their intellectual honesty until I know them better.  On the other hand, if they tell me, "I'm a Nazi Party member," I'll know more in advance (probably all I need to know, though I could also learn much more about the individual's particular context/reasons if I was compelled to deal with them).

If they tell me, "I like torturing animals," and as I'm not a psychologist specializing in psychopathology, the only thing I need to know about them is that they're not going to get anywhere near my bunny!

We're not there yet no one

Fred Weiss's picture

We're not there yet no one disputes. But that's very different, Phil, from "We're highly unsuccessful as an intellectual force and movement."

What do you suggest, what would you have done differently, and what would you do differently now?

Mike Mazza, good meaty

PhilipC's picture

Mike Mazza, good meaty detailed post. On something like this especially, details and concretes matter. Not just floating abstractions.

> TOC ...two of your

PhilipC's picture

> TOC ...two of your pin-ups...the moral squalor of your camp, Phil. [Linz]

I don't have a camp, nor pin ups, nor people within Objectivism who I think are right on every issue.

(Other than me of course.)

> cultures are changed by very small, vocal and determined *minorities* [Fred]

The best measuring stick would be the one I suggested: "if some had become nationally known or intellectually influential outside of preaching to the choir". Not there yet.

> I don't know if you were suggesting that TOC is doing better than ARI on this count. [Boaz]

ARI has had more impact.

> So your complaint is that ARI hasn't pumped out a bunch of philosophers of Ayn Rand caliber? [Mike]

No. If I'd meant that I would have said it. My complaint was what I said exactly the way I worded it.

> Frankly Phil, since you don't hang around ARI circles...

Mike, I hung around ARI circles for approximately the length of time it took you to go from toilet training to puberty. Smiling You can hear my voice in the Q&A of most of the Peikoff lectures.

> TOC lost three of its brightest. Will Wilkinson and Bryan Register left Objectivism itself and are now critical of it

They never impressed me as bright, especially since they were too fucking dense to understand and accept Objectivism. When I saw them in the TOC Advanced Seminar they struck me as people in love with the sound of their own voices and too arrogant to actually be educated. And their arguments against Objectivism that I have read are **INCREDIBLY STUPID** and usually things that I saw through the very first time I read the nonfiction books.

> In terms of specific concrete achievements there is Allan Gotthelf's article on the Objectivist theory of concepts to be published in The Review of Metaphysics.

That's great! And everything you mention helps, but my point is there has to be some kind of cultural breakthrough of the kind I mentioned. More and more Objectivist intellectuals with no one actually willing to listen to them isn't going to work. Someone has to be converted to the -entire philosophy- in academe and hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have to accept Objectivism and be able to have a multiplier effect of their own.

Influence the academic ghetto AND break out of the academic ghetto.

Phil writes: Mike, this is

Mike_M's picture

Phil writes: Mike, this is very positive and ARI is to be commended for it. But who's reading the goddamn books and having their lives changed the way Atlas did? And what impact are the new intellectuals or their trainees having in mesmerizing people and changing their worldviews?

So your complaint is that ARI hasn't pumped out a bunch of philosophers of Ayn Rand caliber? Lance mentioned Craig Biddle's work. My friend and co-blogger began to take Objectivism seriously after first reading ARI commentary on the war on terror and seeing Yaron Brook's lecture on Israel. Back in high school I think he saw my Rand interest as somewhat goofy. He only considered reading Atlas after seeing what Objectivists (like Brook) could do. Here is another example. The first person I convinced to read Atlas was my Methodist friend back in high school. He read it, and loved it. He wouldn't give up his religion, though. VOS didn't shake him from Methodism either. Loving Life did. He's not an Objectivist (still clings to God and the afterlife), but he is no longer Christian and he tries to live his life egoistically. The "tag team" conversion strategy has been the most effective, I've found. I think it is important to show 'outsiders' that we are the Objectivist movement, not the Ayn Rand worship movement. Sane and rational people are generally skeptical of movements focused around one person. It's good to show them that we treat Rand as a genius and person worthy of praise (like enlightenment felt towards Newton), rather than as a half-god with all the answers to every question (like Christians feel towards Jesus).

Personally, I found Dr. Peikoff's lectures to be more helpful in teaching me how to live as an Objectivist than Rand's writing. I'd say that AR convinced me that Objectivism is true and inspired me to be passionate about it, while LP showed me how to implement it correctly. I'm half way through Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics. That is packed full of practical advice. I'm in the middle of the chapter on justice, which is very helpful. I'm looking forward to reading what she has to say about integrity, specifically courage. I plan on giving The Virtuous Egoist to an Objecti-curious friend of mine when I am done since it gives such a clear and complete presentation of what it means to follow Objectivism.

Frankly Phil, since you don't hang around ARI circles how are you in a position to say that ARI output isn't helping new Objectivists, or hooking people into Objectivism, or changing their worldview? If ARI is pulling in new Oist, wouldn't it stand to reason that these newbies would gravitate towards ARI, and not TOC/RoR/SOLO/JARS/Branden land? To use myself as an example, I read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal because I was inspired by Yaron Brook's passionate and articulate defense of mankind against a Greenpeace nut. I didn't really "get" that Objectivism was actually a full philosophy (and not just a political philosophy with ethics tacked on) until reading OPAR.

I think your criticism applies perfectly well to TOC, though. While ARI has a high retention rate of students, it is no secret that TOC lost three of its brightest. Will Wilkinson and Bryan Register left Objectivism itself and are now critical of it, and Diana left to come to ARI. I personally know an ex-Objectivist who was at one time involved with TOC. He flat out told me that his experiences at TOC convinced him that Objectivism couldn't stand up to the rigor of the "real" philosophy he was being taught at college. ARI students remain motivated and well versed in Objectivism, while I'm not even sure TOC has students. HB announces a new Objectivist PhD every few months on HBL. In terms of specific concrete achievements there is Allan Gotthelf's article on the Objectivist theory of concepts to be published in The Review of Metaphysics. In addition to announcing PhDs HB announced when Oist intellectuals get jobs, tenure etc. These announcements have become more frequent in the two years I've been on HBL. Like I said, what you are complaining about seems to be a TOC problem. There are plenty of inspired, motivated newbies flocking to ARI circles. I was one of them.

Mesmerizing

Boaz the Boor's picture

"People always respond to me by saying "Pessimistic, malevolent, killjoy Phil, fifty years is not a long time in the history of a civilization!" But, we should see -some- movement short of total cultural upheaval we can directly attribute to intellectuals other than Rand. If they were effective communicators. And the clear sign would be if some had become nationally known or intellectually influential outside of preaching to the choir."

I sincerely don't get the "preaching to the choir" trope. There have been op-eds I've read, for instance, that I thought were nothing but preaching to the converted because they simply weren't good enough - they didn't really challenge opposing ideas enough or present a positive case in a way that wasn't just regurgitated Rand. On the other hand, individual Op-eds aren't going to do anything more than grab a certain kind of attention; they're a sophisticated form of organizational and ideological publicity. At their best, they'll speak a provocative, unique message that an intelligent person will find new and somewhat convincing, in which case he'll start searching for the source.

I don't know if you were suggesting that TOC is doing better than ARI on this count. If you were, I'd be interested in hearing why you think so, since most of what I've read was homely and fantastically boring, decorated with Objectivist wallpaper.

Cultural Change

Boaz the Boor's picture

While I agree with Phil that whatever philosophic influence Objectivism has had on the wider culture is entirely Ayn Rand's doing, I don't think every achievement can or should be measured by its direct and pervasive impact. There are various historical analogies one could make here (Albertus Magnus' teaching of Aquinas, versus his original work, for instance), but the more essential point is that ARI is applying its philosophy of history to its overall cultural mission by attracting the best minds and then helping them do the best work they can. If anything is necessary (though not sufficient), it's certainly that.

Phil asked Mike:Mike, this

Lanza Morio's picture

Phil asked Mike:

Mike, this is very positive and ARI is to be commended for it. But who's reading the goddamn books and having their lives changed the way Atlas did? And what impact are the new intellectuals or their trainees having in mesmerizing people and changing their worldviews?

Mike and Phil, I've been listening to Craig Biddle's lectures on Thinking in Principles as well as reading The Objective Standard. It's been a dramatic positive for my life and the lives of my friends, loved ones, students and business associates. I can see very clearly that my discovery of just the Biddle stuff has effected 50 people. This is just one example.

Phil, you sound like one of

Fred Weiss's picture

Phil, you sound like one of those no context 20year olds right out of school.

I can remember no more than 10-15 years ago people saying to me, "Ayn Rand? Objectivism? Isn't that dead? Does anyone read her anymore?" I can even remember not infrequently *educated* people saying they'd never heard of her.

The establishment did everything in its power to kill her by silence in the hope that if they never mentioned her name or acknowledged her
ideas, she would go away.

So, what's changed in the last 10 years, if not the advent of ARI? Who else has been pushing her ideas in the culture?

And please remember that cultures are changed by very small, vocal and determined *minorities* - especially among the intellectuals and literati. It does not require huge numbers. Ayn Rand is reported to have once said that one more Leonard Peikoff would be enough.

Well Phil ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Your pin-up boys at TOC scarce fill the bill of "effective," let alone "mesmerising" communicators. Effective sleep-inducers, more like it. And for Rand to be as enduringly and singularly effective as you say is a remarkable tribute to her, given the decades-long efforts of two of your pin-ups in particular to diminish her.

I was just reading Yaron Brook's article on foreign policy from The Objective Standard, being that I'm looking more favourably on the ARI these days, in part because of the moral squalor of your camp, Phil. What a difference from the marshmallow palaver out of TOCville! Clear, KASS, courageous & convincing. That's the sort of polemic that will triumph, Phil, not weasel words, hand-wringing & honey-coated cowardice perpetrated by the rotten-souled.

And remember, "It's earlier than you think."

Linz

> we've seen such a rapid

PhilipC's picture

> we've seen such a rapid growth in the last few years, because LP/PS/HB have been educating new intellectuals. As of the state of ARI talk in Sept 2005, there are fifteen books being written by ARI affiliated intellectuals

Mike, this is very positive and ARI is to be commended for it. But who's reading the goddamn books and having their lives changed the way Atlas did? And what impact are the new intellectuals or their trainees having in mesmerizing people and changing their worldviews?

At some point people training people training people has to show -external- results in the six billion people on planet Earth. So far has there been an impact on the culture of the philosophy of Objectivism at the philosophical roots of the culture? It's been fifty years since Atlas Shrugged and other than Miss Rand's novels, it's not clear to me that any changes are due to anyone other than her.

People always respond to me by saying "Pessimistic, malevolent, killjoy Phil, fifty years is not a long time in the history of a civilization!" But, we should see -some- movement short of total cultural upheaval we can directly attribute to intellectuals other than Rand. If they were effective communicators. And the clear sign would be if some had become nationally known or intellectually influential outside of preaching to the choir.

So far:

Ayn Rand: 100. Every other Objectivist intellectual: .01.

.....

Moral: It's always good to be highly critical of your own movement and your own allies (and your own work) because then you can learn from what you are doing wrong to correct it and actually have an impact instead of talking to yourself.

Lose the Smugness and the "Tude -- We're highly unsuccessful as an intellectual force and movement.

> Collective judgment of

PhilipC's picture

> Collective judgment of individuals about whom one knows nothing (except their political party membership) is, by my best understanding, premature and immature. But again, that's not what I've seen from ARI. [Robert N]

Why do you have to qualify this with "by my best understanding"? Is it something you're in enormous doubt about?

Mike, I get a little bit of

Fred Weiss's picture

Mike, I get a little bit of the same feeling of "datedness" reading her Journal entries or letters from the 40's and early 50's. Obviously not from the 60's/70's which I lived through- and, boy, yes we all terribly miss the commentary she might have made about our contemporary situation!

But the "dated" elements are really very minor. The beauty of reading an Ayn Rand commentary is that she never got all that caught up in the specific concretes of the time or the occasion as compared to naming *the principles* involved. That's what you need to focus on. In that respect most of her "dated" commentary is really timeless.

Joe, I was thinking more

Mike_M's picture

Joe,

I was thinking more along the lines of, for example, the use of "extremism" to illustrate the package deal. The Goldwater campaign and the John Birch Society wouldn't hit home with my generation in the way it probably did back in the 60s. Another example would be her criticisms of the 60s student movements. While her examples always illustrate her point, they were meant I think to be cultural analysis as well as lessons in philosophy. The urgency and excitement that I'm sure her analysis must have had back in the 60s and 70s is somewhat lost on me. A lot of her examples were current events for you old timers. To me it's all stuff from history books, so a lot of the excitement doesn't carry over for me. I'm not sure how else to say it, other than to suggest imagining if AR were alive today writing about Bush and terrorism. Her essays would have an added excitement and sense of importance, no?

Okay, But...

James S. Valliant's picture

Pete,

Let's hear it for "gut" wisdom. However, the film you call accurate is, in fact, full of egregious errors, most especially at O'Connor's expense, as I hope PARC would demonstrate for you.

Plus ça change,Plus c'est la meme chose

JoeM's picture

Mike: "There is a problem with a lot of her writing on the left; specifically that it is out of date."

I disagree, but maybe it's because I'm a little older (31). Some of her terminology may be out of date, "brother love" comes to mind, but I think she nailed it in principle, and her indictment of Woodstock was particularly prescient in anticipating today's trends. And in my recent rereading of Atlas and Fountainhead, I was struck by how many things her villians say could have been said by our multicultural media today...and I was amazed at the description of Lois Cook's house, almost "goth." Lois Cook in general is alive and well...

Kicking around kicking

Craig Ceely's picture

Okay, Chris, wasn't sure who you'd aimed at!

Although, in Fred's defense (somewhat): in the older (I christened it "T1") online article, Dr. Machan discusses what he terms the "unevenness" of his success, and attributes some of that unevenness "to my admittedly hurried writing." I can attest that his Ayn Rand contains both decent insights and some of the most unacceptable editing of any book I've ever owned.

I don't have much first hand

Mike_M's picture

I don't have much first hand knowledge of Schwartz, outside of his material on writing, which is beyond fantastic. What I do know is that, as Fred pointed out, he has the respect of all the Objectivist intellectuals that are being praised as being anti-Schwartzian. For instance, when I met Andy Bernstein in the fall, Dr. B put Schwartz on the same level as Binswanger and Peikoff in terms of understanding Objectivism. (I asked Bernstein about his new book and he said he would like a senior Objectivist to review it before it went to press. He mentioned Peikoff, Schwartz, and Binswanger as the senior Objectivists he had in mind). In addition, if you are going to go after Schwartz for the libertarianism article, you might as well blame all of ARI for it, since as far as I know they all agree with it.

In regards to Return of the Primitive, the purpose of that book is to give newbies and youngsters intellectual ammunition to fight the left. I found both Rand and Schwartz's essay very helpful back when I was in high school (the other budding intellectuals were all lefties, so it was basically me vs them). I'd never heard the term "New Left" until I started reading Rand. There is a problem with a lot of her writing on the left; specifically that it is out of date. Her examples simply don't hit home to someone who wasn't alive back them. The leftisism I encounter is of the multiculturalist kind, gender nonsense, and environmentalism. The book on the new left needed to be updated, if the aim is maximum effectiveness. Frankly, I'd like to see a new book with some essays of AR and some from other Oists about the religious right and the neocons. I'd also like the name AYN RAND in big bold letters on the cover so lots and lots of people buy it and get the message.

Chris C,
As for the amateur psychology lectures, have you any idea what they consisted of? Kind of odd to say he shouldn't have given them if we've never heard them. The fact that he's an amateur doesn't carry much weight, I think, lest I remind everyone that we follow a philosophy that was technically developed by an amateur. If the lectures suck, then they suck, but I've yet to see what the lectures were even about, or even an indication of their content.

Also, I don't think equating successfully promoting Objectivism is properly judged by books published articles written etc although that can be part of it. Peikoff Schwartz and Binswanger have spent the last 12 or so years educating people like Tara Smith and building the OAC. This is why we've seen such a rapid growth in the last few years, because LP/PS/HB have been educating new intellectuals. As of the state of ARI talk in Sept 2005, there are fifteen books being written by ARI affiliated intellectuals, a good number of them trained by LP/PS/HB and now Onkar Ghate, who was trained by LP/PS/HB. So Schwartz hasn't written a half dozen books, big deal. He helped run the institute that produces intellectuals who are writing those books. That's pretty good.

Actually, I lied. I said I didn't have first hand knowledge of Schwartz. Now that I think about it, I have some through his writing. I don't have any with him personally, though. His short book on foreign policy is excellent work, the bumbling attempt of Sciabarra to label it rationalism aside. His essays in Return of the Primitive are good. So are his posts on HBL and his op-eds.

So it's all clear, this is the case against Schwartz as I understand it:

1) the libertarianism article
2) his criticism of DK for speaking at the book club and his other essay on sanction (the initial essay about DK and the book club isn't online, so I and I suspect many others haven't read it)
3) his lecturing on topics he may not be qualified to lecture on
4) his review of PAR back in the 80s
5) his actions in the Reisman/Packer thing
6) a general sense that he is a big ass hole, I'm not sure if this is based on 1-5, or some other things I don't know of

PS - in reference to the libertarian essay, are you guys talking about the longer version from TIA or the shorter one in VOS? I've been told that the longer version is better.

Kicking around Machan

Chris Cathcart's picture

I was referring to Fred's comments about Dr. Machan complaining somewhere (RoR?) that Prof. Smith wasn't showing him attention and credit, and Fred pointing out that maybe it wasn't because Machan hadn't done enough to warrant it -- with some dig about lots of unread books he wrote while a new ARI face landed tenure at Texas and a book from CUP.

A couple things

Chris Cathcart's picture

Fred, based on LTPOL, I can't trust his credibility enough to read his essays in "ROTP". Also, TVOR was a posthumous anthology, indeed, meaning that it wasn't an alteration of or addition to an anthology she herself put together and named.

Also, you seem to be under the impression that my dislike and distrust of LTPOL is based on two quotes from Rothbard which (he did, not "I claim" he did) take out of context and distort on top of that. No, it just happens to be the first quotings used in his essay, and it so happens that it just sets the tone for everything else. I just thought that these were glaring enough examples of the kind of method he was using, and now-easily verified against now-webbed source texts. The fact that you continue to speak in unambiguous but ambiguous fashion about "the essence of libertarianism" shows that you haven't really grasped the point of the criticisms of his essay. So many things and concepts are being run together by such Schwartz-inspired phraseology that it ends up coming out as useless for identifying anything.

I was already aware of the Intellectual Activist and Second Ren. Books. I'm perfectly ready and willing to grant him the appropriate and relevant credit as it pertains to these things -- and still stand by my estimation of him as an intellectual figure.

I see that I'm jumping in both on here and on RoR to get my ass kicked by both camps -- pro-ARI and pro-TOC. Eye

Repackaging Rand

Craig Ceely's picture

Chris, this is worth discussing. It used to bother me, too.

You wrote: "I mean, shit, how can someone presume to alter and add to an Ayn Rand book without her knowledge and consent."

This is easier than it looks, although it took me some time to get to it. I'll use your words, since your question/reaction strikes me as sincere.

The presuming was entirely Ayn Rand's, and the consent was there, too: she left those copyrights to Leonard Peikoff, trusting him thereby. Those copyrights are his property to handle as he chooses, period, end of sentence. As for knowledge: come on, she had no knowledge of what would happen after her death, and she knew that she had no such knowledge. She trusted Peikoff -- a man you admire -- and that's that.

The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution differed in significant ways from the other, previous, Ayn Rand compilations. First of all, unlike The Virtue of Selfishness or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, it offered no significant material unavailable from the Rand periodicals -- which were at the time still available for after-publication purchase. The two previous books did. Second, it was only available in a mass-market paperback edition. Finally, the previous anthologies dealt with larger issues (ethics and politics), whereas The New Left limited itself to that movement: the New Left. So it was more of an exercise in pamphleteering, if you like, than were the previous anthologies -- or the later ones (The Romantic Manifesto and The Voice of Reason), for that matter.

Peter Schwartz, by adding Rand material as well as three of his own essays, expanded the range of the book and that constitutes an improvement, in my view.

In any event, it's no hijacking of Ayn Rand's name or reputation or material -- and no violation of trust -- to have repackaged the book the way it was done.

Who did what kicking, Chris?

Craig Ceely's picture

Chris, you wrote: "You just got done kicking around Tibor Machan on this very sort of thing, so let's see it."

Nice physical imagery, Chris, but Dr. Machan didn't get "kicked around" by anyone here. He chose to spit in the soup. I called him on it. Simple as that.

Fred Quote

JoeM's picture

"Objectivism should therefore not attempt to "reach-out" to libertarians. We have nothing to gain from them. Libertarians should reach out to us. We have the philosophy they need if they are to have any hope of achieving their purported objectives."

I wish we had a quote section for this.

Robert, I forgot to mention

Fred Weiss's picture

Robert, I forgot to mention his important role in the early years of ARI. So, I'm glad you did. And, right, there is also Second Renaissance Conferences, which his wonderful wife, Sandra, managed for years. And also his teaching and training of Objectivist scholars and writers. One cannot underestimate the esteem with which he is held by knowledgeable Objectivists. Much of his influence is quiet and behind the scenes. For example, Harry Binswanger will often mention Peter on HBL in adding to or correcting something he (Harry) had said.

Re: the achievements of

Fred Weiss's picture

Re: the achievements of Peter Schwartz.

You mean apart from founding The Intellectual Activist and Second Renaissance Books?

Well, first and foremost "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty", the essay of his you most love to hate, that hatred based entirely on one or two quotes of Rothbard's which you claim he took out of context. What you can't deny is that he did in fact capture the essence of libertarianism and its major spokesmen - and reaffirmed at an important and formative moment in the history of Objectivism Ayn Rand's own conviction that libertarians were not merely not allies in the fight for liberty but were positively detrimental to it.

Objectivism should therefore not attempt to "reach-out" to libertarians. We have nothing to gain from them. Libertarians should reach out to us. We have the philosophy they need if they are to have any hope of achieving their purported objectives.

Other than that there is this lengthy resume, much of which you are apparently unfamiliar with.

http://www.aynrandbookstore.co...

Furthermore, have you bothered to read his essay in "The Return of the Primitive"? It is brilliant. (Your objection to the re-titling of that book is nonsensical. You might as well denounce Peikoff for including essays of Ayn Rand's in The Voice of Reason, a posthumous anthology she never endorsed.)

Yikes again!

Robert Nasir's picture

"So just tell us -- what Peter Schwartz has done that's so great in the advancement of Objectivism."

I hope I'm not insulting Mr. Schwartz by defending him (I'm hardly the man for the job, nor should such defense be neccesary).

But I can't resist saying that Peter Schwartz' critiques of the Libertarian Party are nowhere near the first thing I think of when I think of his accomplishments!

Mr. Schwartz founded The Intellectual Activist, and was editor and publisher for years.  He founded Second Renaissance Books (now superceded by The Ayn Rand Bookstore), which not only had the best selection of Objectivist materials available, but produced quite a bit of new content unavailable elsewhere.  He's served on the Board of Directors of The Ayn Rand Institute, and was chairman for years.  (The value of this may not be evident if one is unaware of the magnificent work Institute has done and the outstanding results produced.  I, of course, am.)  He founded Second Renaissance Conferences, making it possible for many people (including myself) to attend informative and inspring events.  He has updated "The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution," republished with several new essays by Mr. Schwartz as "Return of the Primitive", to bring the work to new audiences (an excellent update, as the expression "The New Left" means nothing to the current generation ... but should).  He has trained many outstanding Objectivist intellectuals (including Robert Tracinski) as a teacher at the Objectivist Academic Center (formerly the Objectivist Graduate Center).

Undoubtedly there's more - but I'm no expert on Mr. Schwartz - these are just the things that I know offhand.

I probably won't read it...

Pete L's picture

Let me offer the perspective of someone who has thus far chosen not to read PARC. For starters, I've never read PAR or any other books by the Brandens, so I don't feel there's any mis-information to purge from within.

I have seen the film version of PAR, but I never put much stock into it as being the full story of l'Affair. My main interest in viewing it was to see a Hollywood treatment of Ayn Rand - it was pure curiosity. The basic facts I took from the movie have thus far seemed to remain true even in light of what appears to have been published in PARC:

- That Nathaniel and Ayn had an affair which they hid from the public

- That this affair had the full knowledge and consent of their respective spouses

- That Nathaniel deceived and cheated on Ayn, and that this deception (in part, at least) led to the split

In order for me to come to a fully independent opinion of the whole ordeal, I would have to read PAR, Judgement Day (and any other Branden memoirs), and then read PARC to see if these accounts add up. There are simply many other ways that I'd rather spend my time. In the end, what would I really stand to gain from such an exercise? I just don't care!!

I will say this, however: the Branden's silence on all this has been deafening. If it were the case that Valliant's book was merely a dishonest smear campaign which preached only to a Randroid choir, I could understand why the Brandens would simply ignore it. However, the seismic shift of individuals previously pro-Branden or Branden-neutral over to the anti-Branden view is undeniable. I watched it happen over the past few months with my very own eyes.

If I were in the shoes of an innocent Branden, and someone had written a book of ridiculous smears about me, and my former friends and supporters began to believe it, I personally would find myself forced to offer an ironclad point-by-point rebuttal of the attacks in question (as much as I would otherwise like to avoid doing so). Clearing my good name would simply be too much of a priority. Yet, we haven't heard a peep from the Brandens. That either means they simply don't care about their legacy anymore, or they can't refute the allegations found in PARC. My gut tells me it's the latter.

Tangent Continued: Capital "L" Libertarianism...

Robert Nasir's picture

Chris Cathcart sez: "Collective judgment isn't useful, but an organization can dominantly take on the tone of one or more of its directors, and I think the ARI unfortunately did this for years ..."

I suspect that a great number of Ayn Rand Institute supporters would better apply this formulation to the Libertarian Party. 

"Collective judgment" of (small "L") libertarians isn't what's going on here, not with the better folks in Objectivism, but the well-earned assault on organized Libertarianism, its leadership and its ideology, and the analysis of the value/disvalue of addressing folks in a forum sponsored by the Party is another matter entirely.

Collective judgment of individuals about whom one knows nothing (except their political party membership) is, by my best understanding, premature and immature.  But again, that's not what I've seen from ARI.

Fred,

Chris Cathcart's picture

Maybe I wasn't clear enough on why Schwartz is just really, really bad news, sets a really bad example for how to promote Objectivism, etc. But you've already heard plenty of it before.

His biggest claim to fame is the LTPOL essay. And it would be worthy of taking seriously if it represented serious KASS scholarship. But it doesn't, and can't, when he distorts the words of leading figures like Rothbard the way that he has. The best ammo against an opponent is to take their arguments and positions head-on, not a straw-man distortion of them.

I just got done over on RoR making a big long post, the punchline of which is a question about what exactly TOC has to show for the past 15 years. That's a tough question, and I'll turn it right around on ARI. And while ARI has Tara Smith, she can be pointed to as an example because she's accomplished something. What has Schwartz accomplished for the advancement of Objectivism? His biggest claim to fame is a single discreditable article that makes un-objective hash of a legitimate issue.

Peikoff has two books and a dozen or so great lecture courses. That's the reason for admiring him -- he's accomplished things. At least for Binswanger, there's much more there to his accomplishments than in the case of Schwartz. It's the influence of his personality, apparently more than anything, that turns off Linz and others. I'm still pissed at the nature of the Loyalty Oath he has for his list -- he could have simply said that the list is not run for the purposes of debating tenets of Objectivism (i.e., that there are other places for that), but he has to go further and gratuitously be a jerk about it.

Leading figures of a movement set examples. Peikoff has overall set a good example. Binswanger has set an example that being arrogant about being an Objectivist, just because one is an accomplished and intelligent Objectivist, is appropriate. And Schwartz has set just about the worst example of any leader-figure at ARI in its history. Linz has been applauding ARI as of late because of its move towards being objectively open and tolerant -- objectively of value if one is to be KASS. Schwartz is not due credit for any such move. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised that plenty others at ARI besides the Reismans (when they were there) are pissed at the way Schwartz does things.

Look at it this way: what if everyone followed Schwart'z example? What would they accomplish in the advancement of Objectivism? What would they get published, aside from article-length negative polemics of questionable-at-best objectivity? Would they be reduced to hoping to be lucky enough to slip some of their essays into a repackaged/retitled Ayn Rand book? Giving amateur lectures on fields where they don't have expertise?

So just tell us -- what Peter Schwartz has done that's so great in the advancement of Objectivism. I don't wanna hear about how he was instrumental in getting all kinds of people kicked out of ARI in periodic convulsive bouts of so-called quality control (which apparently means sometimes kicking out those who've accomplished way more than he has). I don't wanna hear about his polemics of questionable credibility. I wanna hear about what he's done as an intellectual to be considered such a good leader-figure for Objectivism.

You just got done kicking around Tibor Machan on this very sort of thing, so let's see it.

And now it seems that 72%

Adam Buker's picture

And now it seems that 72% have not read the book.

Adam
www.adambuker.com

You and Linz are wrong about

Fred Weiss's picture

You and Linz are wrong about Schwartz (and Binswanger and Hull, et al).

Maybe I need to get James to write The PBSC - the Passion of Binswanger and Schwartz's Critics - to set you guys straight.

It doesn't make sense to me that you guys admire Peikoff as much as you do (sheesh, even Phil does). Peikoff of course well deserves all the admiration he gets, but on this subject (upholding AR's legacy) he's as tough, if not even tougher, than Binswanger and Schwartz. Haven't you read "Fact and Value"?

Saccharine vs. Schwartz

Chris Cathcart's picture

False dichotomy, of course. I think the Schwartz model, which ARI had been following way too closely for years, is bad news. I mean, everything that has come up about the guy that I've seen/read/heard about him. The LTPOL essay, the amateur lectures on psychology, the repackaging/retitling of Ayn Rand's New Left with articles she never saw nor approved. (I mean, shit, how can someone presume to alter and add to an Ayn Rand book without her knowledge and consent. Are we reduced to desparately hoping that this doesn't happen with any of the other books she authorized in her lifetime?)

I was intrigued when I had read that Jim V. had been a student of Rothbard's, which suggests that he may be much more familiar with Rothbard than most, perhaps with his faults as much as his strengths. So perhaps he would be in such a position to understand why I can't consider LTPOL to be trustworthy right from the get-go when he twists (and out of context) Rothbard's words the way that he does.

Collective judgment isn't useful, but an organization can dominantly take on the tone of one or more of its directors, and I think the ARI unfortunately did this for years with Schwartz at the helm there, at Second R. Books, seemingly everywhere -- with the "best" stuff to his name being LTPOL and the repackaged/retitled-New Left essays. I don't know the context behind Peikoff's decisions as executor of the Estate to let Schwartz end up being ubiqitous like that. Peikoff, I have much more respect for as an individual, and his decision to allow Jim V. access to the Rand journals for open examination in PARC reflects that. Schwartz strikes me as one of those who'd rather the whole Branden thing be swept under the rug rather than brought out in open debate -- which, BTW, seems to make PARC a rather tide-turning (tide-reflecting?) event, the kind which Linz speaks of. I don't get the impression at all that this is with any thanks due to those like Schwartz.

The "ARI side" can do things just fine, maintain rational quality control and the like, without doing things the Schwartz way. It has much better individuals, e.g., Tara Smith, who've accomplished much more and better, as examples to look up to. I don't think that Linz is going to go for this "last lingering fix-up" thing, Fred. The ARI doesn't need to operate like assholes to be KASS -- indeed, it works against being KASS.

Not bothering?

Peter Cresswell's picture

I have to say that when PARC first appeared I felt little interest in reading it. I couldn't see what more it might offer than what was already out there, I was uninterested in more litigation of The Affair, and it was hardly going to be available at my friendly local bookshop for me to browse so I figured I'd never have either the motive or the opportunity to delve in, and that didn't bother me at all. In fact, if Linz hadn't dumped the thing on my coffee table and left it there for me to peruse, I probably never would have bothered. Blame him. Smiling

But, boy, would I have missed out. Boy, was I wrong about PARC. I can understand that people don't take an interest in it -- but boy are they wrong -- I can understand it, but I'm not sure how to counter it beyond what I already said in 'Betraying the Self,' where I tried to show why reading PARC should be ~selfishly~ essential to any Objectivist.

But I can understand it. However, what I don't understand is those who take such an interest in ~not~ taking an interest in it, or that those who take such an aggressive disinterest have generally been exposed as intolerant voices for 'tolerance,' and angry denouncers of rage.

Are these people who opposed their boat being rocked perhaps an example of the militant agnosticism that Rand wrote so much about? And didn't she suggest that when you start hearing cries of 'don't rock the boat' that it's generally a sign that the boat needs rocking good and hard? Just asking.

Ha, Fred!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"I really hope that this sacharine is not symptomatic of where Objectivism is heading."
Not likely. There are too many of us who won't let it happen. And as a side note to Linz (in my on-going campaign to help him overcome his one last lingering hang-up), it certainly won't happen so long as Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, and Gary Hull have anything to say about it.

There's no question that Objectivism *would* be headed in the saccharine/cyanide direction if left to the TOC Brandroid types. That would be as fatal as literal cyanide. But I remain convinced the antidote to saccharine cyanide is not an airless interrogation cell. I'm excited by the ARI newbies, & by the extent to which the new-ish regime seems to have escaped from that cell. I'm excited by your own KASSness, too, Fred, but you have better uses for it than defending an old goon squad.

Linz

Hey Fred and Jim!

Chris Cathcart's picture

Stop claquing, you two! Smiling

BTW, I put in my vote as "haven't, but plan to." Was there a sub-vote for exactly how soon?

I didn't get the impression of the posters in that thread being militant or dishonest or indifferent to the truth in their stances (whatever they were), though. Context, context. I'm sure that, as someone remarked here somewhere, those in the know about PARC find the attitudes among those who haven't as contemptible, though it's important to avoid intrinsicism about this. How are "they" supposed to know what "those in the know" know?

I did see JordanZ's database that he posted in that thread, but it hasn't dissuaded me from wanting to read the book. I would have thought that, unless someone has pretty context-specific reasons for not reading a book of its "genre," that it's must-reading for those interested in Rand and Objectivism. That goes for plenty other Rand/Objectivism books out there as well. (I'd say that about JARS, for hardcore scholars and academics who, virtually by necessity of their professions, need to keep abreast of the developments in the literature. Not everything in JARS is crap, you know. Eye)

"Thank You"...

James S. Valliant's picture

... doesn't meet the case, Fred.

I simply think it's funny

Adam Buker's picture

I simply think it's funny about how many on that forum are being so militant about not caring and refusing to read the book. All they do is just oust themselves as being dishonest and indifferent to the truth. And they wonder why some of them feel unwelcome here.

Adam
www.adambuker.com

Fred

Adam Buker's picture

Ha! I forgot about that one. I must report for my flogging immediately... Glad you're enjoying the book. The most eye-opening aspect for me was the demolishing the Frank O'Connor alcoholism myth and the myth surrounding his comparative lack of intelligence in regard to Rand, the Brandens, etc.

Adam
www.adambuker.com

Adam, there's also:

Fred Weiss's picture

Adam, there's also:

(6) Currently reading it

And thoroughly enjoying it, I might add. It's not so much the demolishing of the Brandens, which I took as a given. It's the very insightful and deep grasp of Objectivism which he applies to a number of perennial controversial issues which never seem to go away, such as AR's edits of certain passages in WTL or her displays of anger at certain kinds of questions or her moral judgmentalism, etc. Valliant is not just a devastating prosecutor of the Brandens. He's also a brilliant defender of Ayn Rand. Therefore one can learn a great deal about Objectivism by reading it.

"There's one thing worse

Fred Weiss's picture

"There's one thing worse than venom... it's sacharine disolved in cyanide"

Sweet, Landon.

"I really hope that this sacharine is not symptomatic of where Objectivism is heading."

Not likely. There are too many of us who won't let it happen. And as a side note to Linz (in my on-going campaign to help him overcome his one last lingering hang-up), it certainly won't happen so long as Harry Binswanger, Peter Schwartz, and Gary Hull have anything to say about it.

Sacharine

Landon Erp's picture

This got me thinking. Over at RoR (I don't check OL anymore) they're complaining about all things PARC related, including tangentally the recent CMS situation. They're complaining about all the time spent on it and the venom.

There's one thing worse than venom... it's sacharine disolved in cyanide. I'm kind of wishing these disputes would work themselves out in a timely manner but at least when I visit this site I know I'm not going to have my stomach turned in moral revulsion from "tolerationists."

Some things are life are just ugly and need faced head on. In short I really hope that this sacharine is not symptomatic of where Objectivism is heading.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

hmm..

Adam Buker's picture

I would have added a poll here as well, but I'm not sure if I can since there doesn't seem to be an option for it.

Adam Buker

I kind of wonder what a

Landon Erp's picture

I kind of wonder what a similar poll here would yield

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

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