Reprise—Provocative Post!

Casey's picture
Submitted by Casey on Sat, 2005-12-10 21:15

[Note from Linz: Here is a gauntlet being laid down by Casey Fahy. Because of the importance of the matters it raises, I've lifted it from one of the Forum threads to put it on the front page. It spotlights a major divide that had opened up on the old SOLOHQ, one that I categorised as Hard-Ons vs. Limp-Dicks. Others might categorise it as Peikovians vs. Kelleyites, though I suspect you'll find the same divide to some extent within both camps. Me, I want my Objectivism undiluted, fearless & resolute. Objectivism cannot really be any other way. But I don't want it cloistered & funless. A philosophy of reason must subsume an acknowledgement of the role of playfulness and humour in human wellbeing. Too many Objectivists have this core assumption that thoughtfulness precludes fun. In fact, the latter is an extension of the former. There is no dichotomy.]

In any event, here's Casey's gauntlet:

' ... there really is no such thing as Objectivism. It's just a bunch of nerdy terminology bleated by a bunch of spoilsport nerds who can't seem to just "get along" with all the comfortably random folks who really know what Objectivism means: anything you want it to mean. These uptight, juvenile Randbots are NO FUN. They insist on certain meanings of certain terms (defining their terms -- the epitomy of tedium!. Objectivism can mean a kind of Christian approach to the world (see some of Michael Stuart Kelly's works if you don't believe me -- everything his brain imagines is, by definition, Objectivism), if we have a broad enough mind and don't bother with definitions much. Objectivism can break bread with radical Islam, too (just read some of Ed Hudgins' work, which is forever expanding the borders of Objectivism to include everything around it like an insatiable ameoba that rejects the notion of exclusion utterly). We could all get along better with everyone if we did this more often! But "getting along," sadly, isn't the goal of some who would turn Objectivism into a religion worshipping the perfection of Ayn Rand, who was, we must remember, terribly flawed and therefore obviously wrong in her insistence on any certain meaning for her philosophy. Those psychological flaws of Ayn Rand give us license to take the name of Objectivism and turn it into something individual and "human" and "real" to ourselves and to all of those around us simultaneously -- although, of course, we don't really have free will in this matter (just read Roger Bissell if you choose to discover this -- although you don't really have any choice in the matter. LOLOLOLOL!!) And, if you're into the X-Files and all those "In Search Of..." episodes Leonard Nimoy narrates, then you'll be happy to know that intellectual giant Nathaniel Branden himself opens the door for ESP and psi phenomena -- neato! That's really fun. Yes, have lots of good belly laughs while doing all of this, because Lord knows those Randbots have no sense of humor at all and never seem to be able to get a joke when they see one. When you read Rand and responded to what she was saying, naturally that means that you are attracted to the wide open "anything goes" implications of Objectivism, which makes you an open-minded person who refuses to judge others, lest they judge you a Randbot. So you will instantly appreciate the loosey-goosey, FUN approach of the individuals I've mentioned above, and particularly of TOC, David Kelley's organization which welcomes them all with open arms providing they are people who loathe Peikoff and believe that anyone who adopts the horrible side of Rand, her insane insistence on certain principles, etc., etc. are people who seek to set back the real mission of Objectivism -- which is to accept everything (to a certain DEGREE) instead of being so unsociable as to exclude certain viewpoints entirely.

'Or, if you have detected the sarcasm here, you might check out Peikoff's lecture courses if you want to understand more about what Rand said. There are, as I said before, plenty of posers who seek to include any kooky theory that pops into their heads as Objectivism and trash Rand if she gets in their way. No one has ever more clearly and completely explained Objectivism than Leonard Peikoff, and it is a great pleasure to hear these courses and understand further Objectivism's relationship, positive and oppositional, to other philosophies. It is quite clear that in their mindless hatred of Peikoff and ARI, many at David Kelley's organization have avoided Peikoff's courses as obediently as a Christian would avoid investigating black magic. As a result, they are appallingly ignorant of Objectivism, so much so that it's been a real education in jaw-dropping ignorance to see the self-contradictory mush they trot out with the label "Objectivism."

Careful, though -- you wouldn't want to be called a Randbot, would you? Better stop listening to me if, like all true Objectivists (whatever that means for you, of course) you judge yourself based on what others think about you, whether they be Islamic terrorists, Christians or TOCers. You'll be considered NO FUN if you join that side, and won't be able to enjoy the warm, sticky embrace of all of those who call themselves Objectivists but loathe Ayn Rand. (That was sarcasm again.)

'Strange thing is, I don't call myself an Objectivist, and I understand and agree with far more of Objectivism than these others do. Go figure. On the other hand, I understand far more about Christianity than most Christians do, too, many of whom have never even read the New Testament. There's no necessity to explore the details of Objectivism as a philosophy if you already find agreement with its general principles. But there's no justification for calling everything in your mind "Objectivism" whether it is nor not because one is so cowed by the religious significance of the title that living without the title is unbearable to you. Ironically, that is the subliminal psychophancy folks like MSK, Bissel, Hudgins and Kelley practice. Take your pick.'

( categories: )


Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


That's good to know...



eg's picture

You cannot edit posts that have been replied to.


The same to you

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture





Casey's picture

... on our own petard, Michael?

Pardon me for a bit of boistrous good cheer.

(Folks, pardon me, it's a long story!)

By the way, Michael, best to you for the holidays, and hatchet buried for the moment. No kidding.



Good God!

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

I dearly apologize.

What a slip! I am correcting Ms. Packer's name in the other post right away.

Thank you, Jason.


EDIT - Now this is strange. I can edit posts from way before that one, but I cannot edit that one, which I only made a couple of hours ago. HELOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Tech support!!! What happened?

Edith Packer

Jason Quintana's picture

Just so everyone has it right -- her name is Edith Packer.

- Jason


Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

That's quite a bit of psychologizing without a shred of evidence.

The letters show that some people didn't like Ms. Packard. That's about it.

That means she was an ass? (That statement says a lot about the poster and nothing about her.) I have heard the contrary from several quarters - that she was a wonderful lady.

This particular interpretation of history is pure crap, especially in light of what transpired with the magnificent Capitalism book.

(It was probably all the Brandens' fault anyway... //;-)


Stubborn, I Know

James S. Valliant's picture


Not knowing the principals well or the issues involved, I reserve my own judgment on this issue, but, you're right, no one has articulated a moral or ideological reason not to carry Reisman's book.


sjw's picture

"Shayne, I would take your arguments more seriously if you could name one real organization, where a professional attacked the skills, honesty, and integrity of its Chairman and their still associated with it."

This is exactly the sort of demand I don't take seriously. It's an expression of pure pragmatism. You start concerning yourself with principles and perhaps we'll talk, but I'm not interested in your quibbles over my recollection of the facts, particularly when you have no regard for principles, and I'm not interested in your assertions about the facts without references to back them up.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


This means a lot to me. I knew Linda Reardan and Jerry Kirkpatrick as well as the Reismans when I was in college in Southern California. They are terrific people.



Glenn I Heppard's picture

Shayne, I would take your arguments more seriously if you could name one real organization, where a professional attacked the skills, honesty, and integrity of its Chairman and their still associated with it.

Just name one.

The bookstore, now dropping the context that it was a private business owned by schwartz shouldn't stop you. But you don't seem to know that Reisman and Packer pulled their products from him. The Jefferson School set up their own book service. Ayn Rand, Peikoff, Reisman, Packer, etc. products were sold through a small catalog predating the web site. They even offered "Tech support," you could pay per half hour and ask them questions over the phone.

It's worth a lot

Jeff Perren's picture

It's worth a great deal. Thank you for that statement, and the comment that accompanies it.

For what it's worth

Casey's picture

I think it sucks that Reisman's material isn't sold by the Ayn Rand Bookstore. If it's not a philosophical difference, then WTF? This is obviously a petty result of some sort of power struggle. And this particular result of that power struggle, whatever that was about, crosses the line.


sjw's picture

Glenn: The rationalization I'm referring to is your whole argument that it's OK to ostracize and ignore Reisman because of "irreconcilable differences". That would be a valid reason not to associate with Reisman on a personal level, a valid reason to take him off the board or other leadership positions, but it's not a valid reason to exclude his book from your bookstore, or ignore its merits in references, or not permit him to speak at conferences, etc.

But I think I made this clear enough already, and it's not exactly rocket science, so I really wonder why you're ignoring the main point and instead quibbling over some insignificant fact I may have gotten wrong, and going off on a tangent about who knows what.

Be specific

sjw's picture

Glenn: Exactly what facts did I get wrong here or anywhere, and exactly how is my getting them wrong relevant to the actual point I made, namely that as professional Objectivist philosophers and businessmen, they need to make decisions based on that standard not by the standard of "I personally don't like Edith Packer"?

And I don't understand your question about "scarce resources." Are you saying it takes significant resources to not ostracize Reisman and to list his book in a book catalog?

Rationalization for ARI

Glenn I Heppard's picture


Are you saying Packer being a lawyer is a rationalization or
that she was one of the board members at the beginning is a rationalization?

She was taken off the board after a few months is a rationalization or that ARI's charter is in PA is a rationalization?

The Packer memo of September 27th is a rationalization or that she mislead Jerry about the law is a rationalization?

"It was Jerry Kirkpatrick who called the California law to Edith's attention[why would he be looking into this?], and he LATER informed Mike Berliner of the fact."
"No one knew at the time [Especially Packer, the lawyer on the original board of directors], including Mike Berliner and the ARI Board of Directors (Harry and Peter),[I guess by reading their minds]that the institute is a Pennsylvania corporation rather than a California corporation."

Thoroughly wrong

Glenn I Heppard's picture


At least you admit to getting the facts wrong, again.

Instead of just "I've heard something" second hand, you should try reading Edith Packer's statements.

Packer & Reisman were not kicked off the board, wrong again.

ARI is private property,(the bookstore was a business until three years ago) why should scarce resources be spent on P&R?

Your whole arguement comes from a very collectivist view of the "movement."

Thoroughly Wrong

sjw's picture


I've heard that Packer nonsense before and it just flabbergasts me.

First of all, your comparing ARI to my private forum is absurd. The purposes and scale are just so totally different that it's just obvious grasping at straws on your part.

Regarding this rationalization for ARI (which has been floating around among ARI loyalists for quite some time): Keep in mind here that Packer & Reisman were not just kicked off the board (which could have been completely warranted), they were kicked out of the movement, and all of Reisman's work was subsequently ignored by ARI.

If two individuals get in a spat in private circumstances, I understand when they don't talk to each other anymore. But if it's two professionals, whose full-time job would be compromised if they didn't interact, I expect them to be able to set aside the squabble for the purposes of the work. And it is even more absurd that an Objectivist bookstore would not carry Reisman's book--that takes no interaction with Reisman at all.

This is just the height of pettiness, a complete breakdown of the principles that should govern the interaction of professionals. ARI's behavior here (if done for the reasons you suggest) is just high school silliness. Anyone who acts this way professionally deserves to be laughed at first and then sternly told to grow up.

ARI & Packer

Glenn I Heppard's picture

I think it is odd that the people who don't like ARI's actions concerning Packard/Reisman, reserve the right to do it themselves. Linz and Shayne own their sites and set the rules, James and others (including myself) have supported this based on property rights.

ARI's full and only statement on this is: "Due to irreconcilable (non-philosophical) disagreements with ARI's Dirctors, Edith Packer and George Reisman have been asked to step down from the Institute's Board of Advisors." December 1993.

So its not "fantastic that Dr. Bernstein references Reisman."(they'd never carry works by Hayek)

The release of letters by P&R actually makes ARI's case. Packer was a pain in everyones ass. The original board was Peikoff, Snider, and Packer(she is a lawyer). She so annoyed Snider, Peikoff had to change the board within months of it being set up. She seemed to be in everyones business, read the P&R sactioned and released letters again for everyone complaining about her. Reisman loves his wife, so if ARI is not going to deal with her, he's leaving too.

The letters from Jerry and his wife Linda show what a giant ass Packard was. Packard is a lawyer and was an original Board member of ARI, so she knew that ARI is legally based in Pennsylvania. She sends her "friends" and therapy patients to harass Schwartz, Berliner, and others with what she knew to be the wrong rules.

She burned enough bridges that no one wanted to deal with her.

ARI & Reisman

sjw's picture


I don't think anyone fully understands the issue. That's part of the issue.

But it's fantastic that Dr. Bernstein references Reisman (Incidentally, I ordered Bernstein's book last week). Maybe times are changing: It's a long-standing fact that ARI's bookstore (and its predecessor Second Renaissance) has not carried Reisman's book, though historically it had carried an number of other comparable works (I'm pretty sure they'd carried works by Hayek and/or Mises).


ARI, Reisman... and Bernstein

Greg Perkins's picture

A notion I've seen floated lately in discussions of ARI is that those affiliated with ARI won't/can't reference Reisman's works -- at least if they wish to continue being affiliated with ARI. Now, I don't fully understand the issue between Reisman and ARI, but I can report that in his wonderful Capitalist Manifesto, ARI's Bernstein prominently references and recommends Reisman's Capitalism.


James S. Valliant's picture

I second Casey's compliments to Shayne, Jim and Jeff.

Thanks, guys!

Shayne, too

Casey's picture

Shayne, that goes for you, too.

Since Robert Bidinotto has proscribed any dealing with Rand biography from now on, however, I object to his approach. It does not meet that basic standard, especially since he has gone beyond proscribing his own investigation but elsewhere claimed that no one will be addressing it in TOC's magazine, as well. TOC has now entered into the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil mode concerning this issue that ARI was accused of for 20 years -- the question is, which gods are they protecting from the truth? After ARI has been hit with that one for so long, the suspicion that TOC is protecting the reputation of the Brandens from the sunlight of the truth is only fair play, a bit of their own medicine -- karma, if you will. But also, hypocrisy, with the victim Ayn Rand's reputation. Think about it -- that's why the fact that this is off-limits suddenly, to The Objectivist Center of all places, has got to cause some headscratching. Who are they protecting is a natural enough question, and why is protecting them more important than objectivity itself, especially in regards to Ayn Rand? Surely, it's not because of a devotion to the IDEAS of Ayn Rand? That would certainly be ironic, since the issue involves her vindication on many historic points, as well as shedding light on her psychological insights. No, something else has taken priority, here. Not some purist devotion to Objectivist ideas...


Casey's picture

You've both met my standard for toleration -- I find you and Jeff are knowledgable, honest and open-minded to new evidence. That's all I require, but I do require that.


Jeff and Jim

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


No offense taken. I've been through this before with Diana Hsieh and I've remained cordial with her. I hope the same is true with you and James V. Thanks for "tolerating" me this long Smiling.



Jeff and Jim,

Casey's picture

No offense, guys, but I've been through these battles many times before and even though they are heated and pitched at the beginning by the end they always culminate in two kinds of white flags: 1) A pox on both their houses and who cares about TOC or ARI and 2) It's time to just move on. The last one, Jim, is particularly ironic -- ARI goes from being an ostrich with its head in the sand that will not brook any discussion of the Brandens and the biographical shadow they cast on Ayn Rand, whitewashing their "perfect" idol, to suddenly becoming a dog that just won't let go of that bone! That's quite an overnight transition...

Not Reciprocal?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I need to go off and read your book now. I'm expecting some of the same kind of agony as when I read "Passion of Ayn Rand" and "Judgment Day" and I'll approach it with the same degree of skepticism. You're a good man, but there really is a statute of limitations on this kind of thing. The Brandens don't know it, Peikoff doesn't know it and many Objectivists never learn it. Being an Objectivist doesn't mean never having to say you're sorry.

One thing I can tell you from having been at TOC since 1994 with a hiatus from 2000-2003 to get married and do my factory startup at Intel is, your characterization of the organization as a Branden tolerating monster is untrue. I've spent some of the best weeks of my life there and little of it had to do with Nathaniel Branden although he's given some wonderful lectures and I've learned a terrific amount from reading his books on psychology.


James,"The one group they

Jeff Perren's picture

"The one group they never irritate: the Brandens."

I have little interest in defending TOC or ARI or any other Objectivist group, but I have to wonder where you get this stuff.

Why ignore the years of sponsoring a wide range of speakers on topics from Quantum Mechanics to Economics, just to get in these digs?

Maybe, just maybe, Kelley and other senior managers of TOC just don't think the issue is as important as you apparently do. Putting their stance down to sycophancy or fear of authority or some other ugly motive is simply foolish.

And, to be as clear as possible, I have little interest in whether TOC (or ARI or any other Objectivist group) survives or prospers. Rand's work continues to sell well and to be highly influential independently of these groups. (Though I acknowledge that both, and others, have some influence both positive and negative.)

Your objectivity could use a little burnishing.

Believe it not: Respectfully,

For the record

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


For the record, I had heard that story about "If," but I couldn't remember where. I just wanted to make sure.

Also, for the record, my own opinion is that The Passion of Ayn Rand is a magnificent achievement in its own right.

Other biographies can fill in holes, clarify details, correct mistakes, whatever. The portrait given of Ayn Rand as a genius with inner conflicts and peculiarities who took on the whole world and even challenged herself on her own shortcomings, coming out victorious in life (and death), is one of the most inspiring stories of real-life people I have ever read. The final part of Rand's influence on the world is the most fitting tribute any thinker could ever wish for.

On the personal reasons given in PAR for many of Rand's quirks and glories, they are Barbara's own take on Rand during 18 years of intimate living with her and over 200 interviews of people who knew her (and there is a huge archive of taped interviews to back this up).

Other biographies are coming. I put my money on the total vindication of Barbara and PAR regarding much of the mud slung at her in the last few months. That goes for Nathaniel Branden too.


Not Reciprocal?

James S. Valliant's picture


Would they draw the line at student groups associating with Nazis, I wonder? Where would they draw the line? What's "tolerant" about that sort of "tolerance"? "We all just know." Do we?! "That would be absurd." Yeah, but where is the damn line?

TOC is willing to lose the Blumenthals, willing to ignore new words from Rand herself, and even willing to ignore many in their own membership for the Brandens.

The one group they never irritate: the Brandens.

Just keep your intolerance stealthy? I guess it's not reciprocal in that sense.

Feelin' Like the Popular Front

James S. Valliant's picture

"But whatever happened to the 'Popular Front,' Reg?"

"He's over there."


Lanza Morio's picture

Hey, are we the People's Front of Judea? Or The Judean People's Front? You'd have to reeeeaaaaally hate ARI to join the PFJ.

Interesting connection

sjw's picture

Jim: Interesting connection about Gail Wynand. I do not doubt that there are ARI loyalists whose integrity has been cracked by ARI's blackballing approach. All you have to do is look at what happened to George Reisman, then you shut your mouth. If you're an ARI intellectual whose career is at stake, it's going to be a difficult thing to speak up, and an easy thing to rationalize your injustice by saying "it's for the greater good of Objectivism that I compromise on this one issue" (altruism & collectivism) or "maybe there's some context here I don't know about that explains things" (skepticism & sycophantism).

To that behavior there's a great answer in the movie "Judgment at Nuremberg".


Quite an overstatement...

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Fair enough. I always wondered though how ARI representatives could read the passages in the Fountainhead about Gail Wynand "breaking" various people and not recognize that behavior in their various ostracisms. It is basically a power-wielding behavior.


Where did the gauntlet go?

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


People seem to think that this is something that you can blank out, so it will go away, but I ain't going to blank it out. Let's call a spade a spade. Let's look at that gauntlet again - maybe pick it up.

I mean, I have been called a lot of untrue names, with untrue characterizations on this thread, so I have a certain right to at least look at the reality of those who do the name-calling. (I especially thought the pig in a dress insinuation charming...)

Casey Fahy said that his amazing conglomeration of verbiage is nothing but SATIRE. I will admit that there were some sarcastic elements in it. But let's look again. He wrote:

"Objectivism can mean a kind of Christian approach to the world (see some of Michael Stuart Kelly's works if you don't believe me -- everything his brain imagines is, by definition, Objectivism), if we have a broad enough mind and don't bother with definitions much."

For some reason, I fail to get the satirical meaning here. It sounds like a characterization, with references to my work. Let's see the continuation. He wrote:

"Objectivism can break bread with radical Islam, too (just read some of Ed Hudgins' work, which is forever expanding the borders of Objectivism to include everything around it like an insatiable ameoba that rejects the notion of exclusion utterly)."

I fail to get the satirical meaning here too. It sounds like a characterization, with references to Ed Hudgin's work. On the contrary, I have seen nothing but venom spitted at TOC since that SATIRE backpedal was given as a reason.

But Casy Fahy said that all this is a SATIRE of me.

Here is my own appraisal.

If Casey Fahy maintains that these statements are SATIRE, then I say he is a BLATANT LIAR. I say he would be LYING to cover his ass.

(Maybe I misunderstood which part of that mess he meant was satire? There's your out, dude. go for it...)



James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Yes he did know her personally and gave the reading of the poem "If" at her funeral. I don't know how long he knew her. He also speaks of shortcomings in Barbara's book. In any case, I doubt that a book that completely omits the development of the philosophy of Objectivism in the 1960's can lay much credence in terms of giving a full picture of Rand's personality.



Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Do I understand history correctly?

I thought David Kelley knew Ayn Rand personally. Am I mistaken?

If he did know her, well, maybe he forgot everything he knew first-hand and relied solely on PAR for his appraisals.

It's a theory, I suppose...


Quite an overstatement...

sjw's picture

"I disagree with Kelley about the merits of Barbara Branden's book, however I don't think he is going to prevent me from going to this year's TOC conference."

ARI doesn't prevent you from going either.

And actually the situation *is* reciprocal. Each side is acting consistently to their reciprocal premises. Your mistake here Jim is to judge TOC by TOC's premises, and then judge ARI by TOC's premises. And so you then wrongly conclude "the situation is not reciprocal."


A thought experiment

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I like the above post. It brings the situation into focus. However, there are important differences.

How is TOC forbidding those conclusions? They aren't calling student groups and telling them they can't associate with you. They aren't blackballing you. They aren't telling people not to associate with you as a condition of associating with them. The situation is not reciprocal.

I disagree with Kelley about the merits of Barbara Branden's book, however I don't think he is going to prevent me from going to this year's TOC conference.


One point

bidinotto's picture

Lindsay, no more time for this, except for one thing:

The comment about you and "standards" was a JOKE, man. A JOKE.

Lighten up.

A Thought Experiment

Casey's picture

Here is David Kelley's quote regarding PAR:

"It is clear to me that Ayn Rand was a woman of remarkable integrity, who largely embodied the virtues she espoused. But it is also clear that she had certain other traits often found in great minds who have waged a lonely battle for their ideas: a tendency to surround herself with acolytes from whom she demanded declarations of agreement and loyalty; a growing sense of bitter isolation from the world; a quickness to anger at criticism; a tendency to judge people harshly and in haste. These faults did not outweigh her virtues; I consider them of minor significance in themselves. But they were real, and I thought [Barbara] Branden's book, whatever its other shortcomings, gave a reasonably fair and perceptive account of them.

"All of this is arguable, of course. But it should have been argued, and it wasn't. When the book appeared, I was shocked by the refusal of many prominent Objectivists to discuss the issues it raised, and their tendency to condemn anyone who did."

--David Kelley, PhD, Truth and Toleration (1990, I.O.S.), p. 75

Here is the same quote with PARC inserted and my conclusions of the Brandens based on PARC:

"It is clear to me that Barbara and Nathaniel Branden practiced a deceit of Ayn Rand that lasted for years, and largely contradicted the virtues she represented. It is also clear that they had certain other traits often found in those who follow dynamic thinkers: a tendency to lie about their innermost self to find agreement with the person they idolized and to whom they made excessive declarations of loyalty in this regard; a growing sense of entitlement based on the access they were given in return for this selfless agreement; an employment of militant authoritarianism on behalf of their idol for whom they had traded so much; a tendency to project the blame for their own deceptions on their idol, both harshly and unfairly. These faults outweighed their virtues; I consider them of major significance in themselves. They were real, and I thought Valliant's book, whatever its other shortcomings, gave a reasonably fair and perceptive account of them.

"All of this is arguable, of course. But it should have been argued, and it wasn't. When the book appeared, I was shocked by the refusal of many prominent Objectivists of TOC to discuss the issues it raised, and their tendency to condemn anyone who did."

--Casey Fahy

Now, you can say I have drawn unfair conclusions based on PARC about the Brandens's flaws -- but David Kelley drew conclusions about Rand that are obviously unfair given the evidence in PARC. To make such conclusions then and forbid them now as POLICY is the matter being discussed now.


Michael Stuart Kelly's picture



Mr. Valliant just answered your post and addressed it to Mr. Perrin, whoever that is.

I always see Mr. Fahy & Co. talk about a Michael Kelley, whoever that is.

Now Shayne is talking about David Kelly, whoever that is.

I wonder if spelling people's name incorrectly is a hardline Objectivist value, of if spelling is not much of a value at all to these people in written communication.


Not over the top--over your head

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I apologize for concluding your assessment of appeasement was about sanction. However, I think it's possible to judge Branden negatively and read his work and listen to his lectures and judge them on their own. This is my view of sanction.


ARI Seminars

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


It's a shame too. Because I know from first-hand experience that ARI has some brilliant people. I studied under Darryl Wright in college and he was one of the best teachers I ever had.

TOC has a different problem. At their best, they are brilliant. But their student development in philosophy is lousy. They do great research work in philosophy of science, technical epistemology, cognitive science and philosophy of mind, but I fear they are not very good at mid-level instruction in Objectivism.

Many of their best graduate students and recent PhD's such as Carolyn Ray, Irfan Khawaja, Rick Minto and others have struck out on their own. Some, such as Will Wilkinson and Bryan Register have strayed from Objectivism and of course Diana Hsieh has switched to ARI.

I think some of TOC's problems are related to problems with Kelley's theory of error in Truth and Toleration. The reason Objectivist philosophers hold extreme positions is that it is not enough to be principled. You have to establish the principles over and over again in order to bulwark against subjectivism. If the forum and discussion method they use is not supplemented with rigorous, solid mid-level instruction in Objectivism, they will have problems.


Not over the top -- Over your head

sjw's picture


You wrote: "Accusing David Kelley of appeasement is simply James and Casey's (and Shane's) way of saying they disagree with Kelley on sanction. So be it."

I'll speak for myself on this if you don't mind and would kindly ask you not to attribute your poor guesses about what I think to me.

My views on PARC & TOC have nothing to do with my views on T&T. Evidently the point has gone clear over your head, but my issue isn't about "sanctioning the Brandens". It's about the nonsense Robert came up with in his last post: the idea that it's a sane policy to arbitrarily divide the intellectual world into two areas as they have. It is of course extremely germane to Objectivism what the true history of it is, and what the true biography of Ayn Rand is. And as Valliant pointed out, there are the other insights into psychology and ethics in PARC. To argue that it's not "relevant" is absolutely farcical--a virtual proof that it's hidden agenda driving their policies not reason.

Now whether they are consciously aware of these agendas or not is a different question. Regarding Kelly being driven by the Brandens: I've seen no evidence that would cause me to conclude that. However, assuming Robert's position is Kelly's position, TOC's policy on this matter certainly makes it *as if* Kelly were receiving his marching orders from the Brandens.


ARI Seminars

sjw's picture

Jim: I agree with you. There are brilliant exceptions, but a lot of the seminars are boring, in significant part because ARI is afraid to "sanction" anything that might not be "Objectivist".

Just Backwards

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


One thing I will change from the above is the word "honest" to the words complete and balanced. While you are polemical, I do get the sense you are scrupulous about the facts.


Just Backwards

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I do evaluate Branden, negatively. And I will include PARC in that evaluation as I have bought the book. But I will include everything in that evalution and like many professors I disliked personally in college, I will listen to him on subjects where I feel he has something important to say.

I'm not sure what David Kelley's moral estimate of Nathaniel Branden is. Possibly positive, possibly negative. More than likely, he thinks it's time to move on from 1968.


Just Backwards

James S. Valliant's picture

There is no sealed off world of neutrality. Kelley cannot be value-free on this issue, whether he knows it or not.

He has, in fact, taken one side and rather brutally.

If you were interested in an honest evaluation of Branden you would include PARC.

So would they.

Who's over the top?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


The policy of not discussing the Passion of Ayn Rand officially is not new. It existed long before the Brandens were invited to speak at IOS/TOC. You may disagree with the policy, but it is not driven by "marching orders" from the Brandens. Anyone who knows David Kelley knows he doesn't take marching orders from anybody.

IOS was founded as an academic organization. I wish it had stayed that way, but it's their prerogative to grow and change. Nathaniel Branden submits proposals to the Summer Seminar just like anybody else. Sometimes they are approved, sometimes they are rejected based on the merits of the proposal.

If James Valliant were interested in an honest appraisal of Nathaniel Branden, he would have something to say about the content of his works, besides Judgment Day. These psychological works are the only ones that have been advertised in the Navigator. If he thought there were something wrong with those works, he could complain about TOC featuring them.

The broad-based complaint about sanction is part of what the ARI/TOC split was all about. David Kelley and Leonard Peikoff disagree about it. Reams have been written about it. Accusing David Kelley of appeasement is simply James and Casey's (and Shane's) way of saying they disagree with Kelley on sanction. So be it.


Not a Chance

James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Perrin,

No, I do not. I made a circumstantial case based on the evidence. TOC will abide no other position but the Brandens'. Whether it is by conscious intent or is the residue of their subconscious values, they take an exclusively pro-Branden position on PARC.


It has now been brought to their conscious attention.

They stilll don't care.

Are we starting to moralize about intellectual differences? Where's that "toleration"?

Who's over the top?

Casey's picture


James laid out quite logically and specifically the logic beneath this TOC policy of NOT DISCUSSING RAND'S BIOGRAPHY. It is not merely a focus on ideas, but an otherwise inexplicable avoidance of her biography, which avoidance does not make sense from a purely ideological basis -- remember, we are talking about 'Objectivism' so what business does such a prohibition have here from a purely philosophical standpoint? The answer is none. I suggest you rethink your appraisal of what James has said here. You may owe him an apology, just as TOC owes Rand one for sanctioning the Brandens' works and now refusing to examine their credibility while continuing to give sanction to the Brandens. That association -- with the Brandens -- continues to warp their policy even in the light of new evidence, from Rand herself. That is undeniable, and has even been crystalized into a "policy" now. Explain that policy in a more compelling way than James V. has, please, because this simple focus on "ideas not private lives" is insufficient as a proscription of topics otherwise, especially given the nature of Objectivism.


James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Let me ask you James: what Nathaniel Branden books do you object to besides Judgment Day and why? What would you find objectionable in say "The Six Pillars of Self Esteem" or "The Psychology of Romantic Love". It seems to me you've taken a very selective view of Nathaniel Branden. Why exactly shouldn't people read these works?


ARI Seminars

Neil Parille's picture

"The Rise and Fall of Ancient Greek Justice: Homer to the Sermon on the Mount Robert Mayhew" is the only one that looks interesting to me.

Activist judges and neocons, boy haven't heard those topics discussed lately.

ARI Seminars

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


For a reason I don't go to ARI Seminars, I'll post the following list of Topics (and it's fairly typical):

Ayn Rand's Philosophic Achievement (2 lectures) Harry Binswanger
Consciousness: Foundations of a Rational Theory Harry Binswanger
The Neo-Conservatives—Friends or Foes? Yaron Brook
Creationism in Camouflage: The "Intelligent Design" Deception Keith Lockitch
How "Activist" Should Judges Be?: Objectivity in Judicial Decisions Tara Smith
Ayn Rand's Unique and Enduring Contributions to Literature Shoshana Milgram
Ideas and the Fall of Rome John Lewis
Notes on the Epistemology of Altruism Peter Schwartz
Reclaiming Education (Part 2) Lisa VanDamme
Ayn Rand's Home Atmosphere: Her Family in Russia Dina Schein
The Rise and Fall of Ancient Greek Justice: Homer to the Sermon on the Mount Robert Mayhew
Ayn Rand and the History of Ethics Darryl Wright
Man's Rights: Ayn Rand's Historic Contribution John Ridpath
Capitalism's Economist: The Life and Doctrines of Jean-Baptiste Say Richard M. Salsman

Is there anything in here (with the possible exception of Binswanger's series on Consciousness) that remotely tries to come up with something new? This is the same kind of time-warped, anachronisitic crap, along with the Reisman debacle that led me to leave in the first place.


Over the top

Jeff Perren's picture

"It's perfectly obvious that TOC is taking its marching orders from the Brandens."
is so over the top it doesn't merit serious consideration. It is completely ludicrous and false on it's face. Neither in it's founding, nor in its mission statement, nor practice nor history is there any evidence that would give this characterization merit.

At best it's a grotesque and deliberate misuse of language.

You owe Dr. Kelley and other senior members of TOC an apology, sir.

Whether one agrees with TOC's founding philosophy or not, whatever your view of their personal values, motives, or the appropriateness or lack of using the term Objectivist in their organization, your statement is just ridiculous.

Stooping this level does not help your case.


sjw's picture

"This myth of the value-free is the profound philosophical error upon which TOC rests."

"But let's stop playing games: both groups exclude what they find objectionable. ARI is just more honest about it."

Excellent summary.


Oh, well...

Holly Valliant's picture

So much for that invitation to the next TOC seminar!


James S. Valliant's picture

It's perfectly obvious that TOC is taking its marching orders from the Brandens. Let's count the ways we can see it:

1. In order to evade the charge of hypocrisy, we are told that the "focus" of TOC -- both its lectures and publications -- is on ideas. This is misleading.

The words more applicable here are "absolute prohibition against biographical considerations of any kind," not "focus upon philosophical ideas."

It is an absolute rule with no exceptions, it seems, and newly minted for the occasion.

2. This whole premise rest on the Brandenian smear that PARC is just about an affair, when, of course, it is about much more: biography, psychology, historiography, and, yes, philosophy. Neither Rand nor I have the last word to say on any of this, but, for gosh sakes, Rand does talk about such things.

Rand does.

3. This also rests on a very anti-Objectivist idea: the dichotomy between living and thinking -- the very dichotomy which inspired Rand's first notes on philosophy. What is ethics all about but living life? Or any of the other disciplines?

We will not and must not learn from Rand's errors? None of them involve issues extending more than three centimeters beyond one's nose -- or issues that someone else might learn from?

And, for heaven's sake, let's not actually apply the Objectivist ethics to her example. Ethics is too abstract for that, not to be sullied by considerations of whether Objectivism could actually work or anything.

The "objectivism" of TOC is nothing more the moribund rationalism Rand had discovered in Nathaniel Branden -- a "Kantian stylized universe," as Rand puts in her notes. (Notice the issues we find in Rand's notes, e.g., her most complete exposition of "rationalism," etc.)

Jean-Paul Sartre's students could, in fact, learn a lot from his exploits, but they won't. They were never taught to look in that direction, were they? Nor has this stopped the various modes of analysis from the dissection of his life, though, has it?

I will say for the umpteenth time that the truth of Objectivism does not depend on Rand having lived it herself, but there can be no doubt to the sincere Objectivist that her life will -- inevitably -- be instructive in any case.

4. TOC cannot alllow discussion of PARC precisely and only because they wish to appease the Brandens. Their total endorsement of the Brandens -- that's right, the promotion of their work again and again cannot honestly be called anything else -- has them in a box.

"We, the tolerant TOC, will discuss anything, and shame on ARI for evadng Rand's life!"

Despite the so-far arbitrary assertion that TOC is not in perfect unity about such things, we are told that some had objected to Branden's invitation within TOC. We even are told that opinion is divided about PARC within their ranks, too.

But will any of these alleged differences see the light of day over at the tolerant TOC -- that once was so shocked about ARI's silence -- on this very issue? Until this debate actually surfaces, there can be only one conclusion: there are -- "officially" -- no such differences at TOC.

Indeed, TOC speaks with a single voice, it has a big, fat, bright "Party Line," on this issue: an exclusively and intolerantly pro-Branden one.

5. "Intolerance" is inevitable, and desirable, whatever they claim. By selecting certain articles and speakers, they must exclude others. By selecting in favor of Mr. Branden, they lost the Blumenthals, who were also members of Rand's original "Collective." A price they were willing to pay, it seems.

There is no pretended place of neutrality from which TOC can operate.

This myth of the value-free is the profound philosophical error upon which TOC rests.

Jim, it's plain that TOC seminars have meant a lot to you and that they discuss a great many things. The ARI loyalist would say the same about their own conferences.

But let's stop playing games: both groups exclude what they find objectionable. ARI is just more honest about it.

Bidinotto's initial reaction to PARC said it all from the start.

Here it comes

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


You stand accused of evasion. Well damn you! Stop evading will you?

The moral charge of dishonesty is right around the corner. But I ain't waiting. I denounce you and repudiate you, you dishonest evader!

You asked Shayne, "What kind of answer would possibly be satisfactory?" You could have asked that of several here. Can't you see anything, you rotten evasive second-hander?

Simply imagine how the person who asked would have answered, say the same thing and agree with it 100%.

I mean, any child can see that. How dishonest can you get, anyway? Dayaamm!



James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Valliant/Fahy are trying to make a bunch of hay from the fact that Nathaniel Branden has lectured there. Frankly, I expected they'd make a bigger deal out of the fact that George Smith, Randy Barnett, Mario Rizzo and others have spoken there. Yawn. I imagine their eyes would really bug out if George Smith shot heroin in front of the lecture hall Smiling.

It's all another tangled web of moral choreography and guilt by association and I'm not buying it. They've said nothing about Nathaniel Branden's moral character by inviting him to speak other than granting that he might have something worthwhile to say. Rand once wrote about how one of the Supreme Court Justices should not accept guilt for giving a lecture in front of the John Birch Society. I imagine the same applies to David Kelley.



eg's picture

I cannot stand by my TOC post in which I stated that "toleration" means that "everyone else's philosophy is all all right...."

I don't know this is true particularly or generally and I apologize to anyone mischaracterized or offended.

Thanks for your feedback, James; it made me think.



James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Honestly, after the invective pointed at TOC from the former SoloHQ site, I think you protest too much. I engage in plenty of criticism of TOC where I think it falls short and I haven't been upbraided for it. I guess I haven't quite gotten the Lindsay Perigo kick 'em in the nuts gestalt down yet. I need more practice Smiling.

I think the Objectivist movement in general is unique as a philosophy in its hand-wringing moralism. Can you imagine the Existentialists being worried about the extra-curricular exploits of Jean-Paul Sartre? I think most of us rightly think that's just a little too much information. I had that reaction to the Passion of Ayn Rand and didn't believe a word of the characterization in there, but Peikoff's reaction was just bizarre.

The Institute for Objectivist Studies wasn't formed to debate Barbara's book. When I first went to a Seminar in 1994 there were a bunch of graduate students and advanced undergraduates debating Hayek and advanced questions in epistemology. So I don't think it's exactly a departure for them not to debate Valliant's book, although you could certainly debate it in the common room if you so desired.

I'm not that impressed with what I've seen so far from Valliant and Fahy. They've torn a hole in the Brandens. Big deal. It's not like a lot of us are hanging on their words with bated breath. We have our own lives and our own understanding of the Objectivist philosophy to worry about. I'll put it to you since you've been to 3 IOS/TOC events.
How much discussion of the Passion of Ayn Rand and Judgment Day and how much slandering of Rand did you witness?


The Crux

sjw's picture


I tell you that the reason why I did not prioritize responding to your other post was because your last got to the CRUX of the issue, and you respond by accusing me of giving you an "avalanche" of questions that you can't see the point of? Well did you consider that maybe, you should just ASK what my point was, because obviously you had missed it?

You lament: "This appears to be pointless, Shayne. I am asked questions, and I answer them forthrightly, but rather than receiving acknowledgment that I have done so, the answers are ignored, and instead I am asked six more questions for every one I answer."

In the face of me saying "Robert, here's the crux ...", you not comprehending why I think it's the crux and KNOWING that you do not, your lament and indeed your entire response here strikes me as incredibly disingenuous and perhaps, just an evasion.

Now if you want to start this back on the right foot, demonstrate your sincerity and ask me why I thought my questions were so important, and I will explain. For unlike you evidently, my default position is that you are honest, and that if you don't understand something I said, that there is probably a way I can put it so that you will.

And by the way, what ever happened with the alleged TOC virtues of "tolerance" and "benevolence"? You certainly are not giving a benevolent reading of my posts.


More clarification

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


Maybe it is because you have not seen some things, or, I don't know... whatever. Since you seem to be posting in good will, there are a few items I want to make clear to you about my "behavior" that I think you do not understand - at least they come off as completely misrepresented in your observations.

You wrote: "I do not think that you are particularly trying to square O'ism and Christianity."

Good. There are several people who have accused me of just that - and in those terms. It is not true. That is why I am a bit careful when this comes up.

You wrote: "You rarely squarely address a direct criticism."

Could you provide an example, please? Then I will proceed to address it as squarely as I can. Incidentally, contrary to what you said, that is what I normally do. So if I haven't done so in one place or another, I would like to rectify it.

I don't remember backing down from any argument. (Only one - when a poster kept trying to push me into saying that he was an evil person when I had stated no such thing and had no such intention, but that was because he is a USA soldier and I respect that much more than getting any point across on a discussion forum. He seemed upset, so I let it ride.)

There is one exception to all this, however. There has been a bit of "criticism" of me recently such as: evasive, slippery, limp-dick, new age, Christian (meaning me), swamp, mush, well... you get the picture.

Are there any of these "criticisms" you think I should address squarely? If so, why? Is there any intellectual content to any of them I am missing? Or are they just meant as someone opening their shirt and beating on their chest and letting out a Tarzan holler?

You wrote: "You also pepper your disagreements with mildly insulting stuff like the head in the sand comment."

If you take a look at any of those posts where this kind of thing appears, then take a look at whom it is addressed to and read what that person wrote about me, you will find that the "mildly insulting stuff" always started with the other poster. Always.

I just hit back and many people are not used to that. Some people find it offensive. Sorry. My advice is: don't dish it out to me if you don't want it back in your face. Find an easier person to shit on.

That's about as clear as I can get. And I don't mean that offensively or belligerently. Just aiming at extreme clarity.


Small point

Lindsay Perigo's picture

MSK—this may be something the webmasters need to look at. I hit "reply" at the end of the thread as it then was because that's the only posting option displayed. As it happens, your post was the most recent one. Apparently, the way *you* have things configured, my post appears as a reply to that post rather than to Robert, even though I've headed it up, "Robert's Apologetics" and it simply appears in chronological order—at least, the way *I* have things configured.

Anyway, re your points re Xianity; notwithstanding our disagreements re cheek-turning, I'm not unsympathetic, as you would gather from the article I wrote when the Pope died. Somehow Xianity is still "hitting the spot" in a way that O/ism is not. But rather than try to deal with it on this thread, why don't you start another on just this topic?



Jeff Perren's picture

I have to disagree on at least this point:
"Then there's this piece of venom"

I think you've seen Robert's sense of humor in action often enough to read this as I did, nothing but sarcasm. I.e. I read it as suggesting that TOC had no reason whatever to apologize for your participation.

Robert B? Am I being too easy on you here?

What is the premise of these questions?

bidinotto's picture

To your avalanche of new questions, Shayne:

"...[At ARI conferences] you can get lectures on Frank Sinatra or Ayn Rand--as 'personalities.' Do you think this is wrong?"


"If so, why?"

See above.

"If not, then why does TOC exclude such things?"

Because of their irrelevance to Objectivism. Such topics might be raised by attendees in participant-sponsored presentations, which are not part of our formal program. But what conceivable insights about the philosophy can be gained by rummaging through private letters in order to probe the sexual relationships of individuals, and assess the reliability of the biographers who report about them?

"How does this square with Objectivism?"

That is a question I should be asking YOU.

"How does it square with 'tolerance of other viewpoints'?"

The issue here is not tolerance, but relevance. Specifically, philosophical relevance. The intimate lives of Frank Sinatra or Ayn Rand, or the moral characters of their biographers, have nothing to do with an understanding of Objectivism.

"Or is there in fact no legitimate 'why';"


" it in fact the case that TOC's policy on this topic exists in order to appease?"

Certainly, Shayne. Just like the "tolerance" policy of the Ford Hall Forum...which policy Ayn Rand endorsed.

Incidentally, I love the "have you stopped beating your wife" form of that question.

This appears to be pointless, Shayne. I am asked questions, and I answer them forthrightly, but rather than receiving acknowledgment that I have done so, the answers are ignored, and instead I am asked six more questions for every one I answer. Why? Because the premise underlying the endless questions is evidently that I cannot possibly be giving honest answers in defense of a legitimate, or even plausible, policy; I can only conceivably be motivated by some moral failing, e. g., "in order to appease."

If your bedrock premise is my dishonesty, then say that, and spare me the trouble of trying very hard to answer fully someone who will never be satisfied with any answer I could possibly give.

Or let me turn this around: What kind of answer would possibly be satisfactory?

At the 2006 Summer Seminar, I plan to address the principles -- though not the principals -- at the root of this discussion, in a lecture tentatively titled, "The Anatomy of Cooperation." For now I have no further time for this.

MSK, Closet Christian?

atlascott's picture


Just so that we understand each other, I do not think that you are particularly trying to square O'ism and Christianity.  I was just pointing out that it cannot and should not be done, because they are antithetical.

Your arguments do jump around.  You rarely squarely address a direct criticism.  You can conduct yourself however you choose.  After all, its your life.  And making up one's own mind is what real freedom is all about.

You also pepper your disagreements with mildly insulting stuff like the head in the sand comment.

In this, you, Fahey and Valliant are similar, but different in degree.  I think their posts are much more filled with bile and nastiness than yours.

Fahey and Valliant want to define the argument or disagreement, and want you to play by their rules.  It's sort of heads I win, tails you lose. 

I really appreciate Robert Bidinotto's posts.  To me, he is coming off as the least partisan and most reasonable of the bunch.  True, he did piss on Valliants book without having read it--a curiously ARIan behavior.  But I'll tell you, it really IS my impression that on some level, Valliant and Fahey are rather shills for ARI.  When's the last time YOU got an invitation to access private, sealed ARI stuff?  Stuff that guys like Ramblin' Robert and Triple D would lilely never get access to?

One of the big schisms between ARI Objectivism and TOC Objectivism, to my understanding, is the significance of personality trifles, and esthetic preferences.  My impression of the ARI line is that everything you do must be considered, judged and approved according to Randian edict.  Music preference, social behavior, things such as these are interpreted according to what Rand wrote was best, and what her 'intellectual heir' has determined is most rational. SUre, its not like they take you out in the back and shoot you if they dont like your tie, or you refuse to retreat from an intellectual position.  But if you do not eventually change the tie or flip on an idea, you are eventually relegated to "flawed" status, and they look down their noses at you.  Or you are "disaapeared."

In this sense, ARIans are REQUIRED by these beliefs to maintain the illusion of perfection in Rand.  And, since Rand repudiated Branden, demonize Branden.  Of course, Rand would only prefer rational music.  She would only thin rational thoughts.  She would never act on emotion.  She was the most rational person ever to live, and since rational people only act rationally (and since it is irrational and IMMORAL to act otherwise), she was perfect according to her standard of moral conduct.

TOC takes a step back, to my understanding.  TOC also seems to accept  the idea that someone who holds a contrary idea is not necessarily an enemy.  That a person can appreciate a less rational musical form, but still be a friend of Objectivism, or even an Objectivist.  That a person can act on emotion on occasion, and maybe it is a mistake, but is not so damning of their sole that they ought to be an object of scorn or derision.  This view of Objectivism allows a Rand who occasionally made a mistake or fucked up.  It allows for different levels of understanding, and learning Objectivism, and integrating Objectivism as a process.  It allows someone to be mistaken, but still be moral.  Rather than having only two judgment options:  (1) Perfectly moral; or (2) utterly depraved.

This analysis at least explains why: (1) ARI has a vested interest in protecting the public and private life of Rand, as well as her ideas; and (2) Why TOC does not necessarily have to defend every word and action of Rand's while still esteeming her tremendous accomplishments.

The entire Affiar makes my skin crawl.  The whole thing was a slimy deception, and it doesn't help my estimation of either Branden, or of Rand.  It also cements the strong postive finding on my bullshit detector every time someone tells me what music I ought to enjoy, or snowball me into believing that the contents of their mind ought to determine how I act, what I do, who I speak to, or what former friend I ought to pretend doesn't exist anymore.  Or that trifling decisions are so indicative of one's mental contents that on their basis, you can tell the righteous from the wicked.

You know, I think I just figured how an important way that ARI Objectivism and Christianity DO square with one another.  In Christianity, Christ was the world's one perfect man, the son of God.  In ARI Objectivism, Ayn gets that role.

Okay, that's enough of that, for now.

Small point

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


This is just a small point, but your post seems to be addressed to Robert Bidinotto. Shouldn't it have been in reply to one of his posts instead of mine?

I just did a thing on the influence of Christianity in today's world and the apparent lack of any interest by Objectivists to address the reasons.



eg's picture

Thanks, James

Robert's apologetics

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Eloquent as always, Robert, but mistaken.

1) You can't credibly claim that TOC is a "non-player" in the PAR-PARC "dramatics" when Kelley (correctly) faulted ARI's head-in-the-sand attitude to PAR in his inaugural TOC(IOS) address & called for debate on PAR, when Nathaniel has been a regular at TOC Summer Seminars, when you yourself, Mr. Bidinotto, trashed PARC and called its author a parasite before it was even released (and don't throw in that red herring about "intellectual heir" this time). It's not rocket science to get the point that TOC luminaries are in thrall to the Branden version of Rand's behaviour and are strangely reluctant to consider any other account, including Rand's own (journals).

2) "Ideas, not personalities" is a nonsense, coming from an Objectivist, as Shayne has correctly identified. Are we Platonists, all of a sudden? If Objectivism is for living, may we not expect its founder to have lived it? May we not expect her biography to reflect her philosophy? May we not mention her biography simply because it is biography, a mere trifle?! (If I were to propose a talk on, let's say, Lanza or Jolson or Callas, would you seriously insist on only the singing, no "personality" stuff?)

3) Then there's this piece of venom, directed at me:

And so we have hosted libertarian speakers. We have had a few Aristotelian rationalists. We have had one or two anarchists. We have showcased a variety of artists. We have "tolerated" a few subjectivists and intrinsicists who THINK they are Objectivists. And yes, among many hundreds of speakers and participants, we have also hosted Barbara and Nathaniel Branden. But then, of course, we have even hosted Lindsay Perigo. Repeatedly. An argument might be made that this last is surely proof of altruism on our part, if not a complete subjectivist lack of civil standards.

Curious, a standard of civility that permits one to say that of someone on the latter's own Forum. Curious that my being invited to speak is touted as self-sacrificial on TOC's part when, if the written audience feedback is any indication, TOC got more bang for its buck out of me than from any other speaker. And let's be clear what "repeatedly" means. I spoke at a one-day event in San Fran in 1995 and the Summer Seminars in 1997 & 2004. I'm certainly not complaining—I thoroughly enjoyed each occasion—but let's not make it sound, Mr. Bidinotto, as though I've been at TOC events time after time after time. And we both know I'll never be invited again, even though I do indeed "play by the rules" and even though I've every intention of seeking to continue SOLO's policy of cross-fertilisation between it and TOC.

4) The scary thing is that there's nothing in your apologetics, Robert, to acknowledge the long period of navel-gazing torpor that TOC fell into, just a propensity to lash out at those like me who pointed it out and expressed alarm about it. That doesn't augur well for the change that is needed. You claim that my presence indicated a willingness by TOC to be challenged & criticised as an institution, but you know very well that my topics had nothing to do with TOC and that I didn't use any TOC platform to voice my criticisms. The standard TOC response to public criticism, as far as I can tell, is exactly the same as ARI's—ignore it or snarl at it. Perhaps you can offer some instances of public criticism that has been publicly welcomed?

5) To end on a note of agreement—I couldn't agree with you more about the futility of preaching to the choir and the need to engage the very world we seek to change. None of us should be reluctant to debate our good-faith adversaries, much less good-faith allies with whom we have some particular disagreement or other. In that spirit, I look forward to reading that Mr. Valliant will be speaking at TOC's next Summer Seminar.


Yes I am for real

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


I am going back over a few posts that I did not answer. You made two astounding statements in your previous post that I wish to comment on.

You wrote: "Any attempt to reshape or soften Christianity into something actually benevolent is a misbegotten enterprise. It is dishonest, dangerous, and an idea doomed to bite its authors in the end."

All I can say to that is that the enterprise of "reshaping or softening Christianity into something actually benevolent" is precisely what is being done out in the real world every minute of every day. In case you did not notice it, there is a publishing industry moving billions of dollars doing that. There are churches popping up all over the place doing that. There are TV and radio programs with enormous audiences (in the millions) doing that. Hell, there is even the President of the USA doing that.

Instead of asking if I am for real, I suggest that you get your head out of the sand and look at real reality. The "non-benevolent" version of Christianity is not what is holding all this together. The "benevolent" version is. Somebody better ask, "why?" someday.


The other comment is your question, which sounded very much like a leading one. You asked: "... does an "Objectivist" really need lessons in dissecting the Gray into its constituent hues? Or the dangers of such compromises?"

I didn't understand you here. Are you saying that there is danger in dissecting Christian compromises into their different parts, or are you saying that making such dissections of Christian principles will result in compromising Objectvist principles?

If you are claiming the first, would you care to state just what such terrible dangers are being faced (and how I am probably playing fast and loose with intellectual explosives), and if you are claiming the second, would you please explain why analyzing how Christian principles are successfully being implemented in society (especially through compromise) will compromise Objectivism - at least in the mind of the person thinking about such God-awful things?

I don't get it from either angle.


It's becoming clear

sjw's picture


I was going to respond to your original post and I still may but your latest is getting to the crux of the issue. You say:

"TOC's focus has always been on Ayn Rand's philosophy -- not on her person or the details of her intimate life."

On the surface, that has a noble, academic feel. But I wonder if you can square this attitude with Objectivism. You remark that you want "ideas, not personalities" at TOC--as if biography and history were not valid subjects, as if Valliant's work was just gossip not rigorous analysis of an important subject.

ARI has no such arbitrary seams in the types of topics you can see at conferences (though it does have arbitrary seams in other places). You can get academic discussions, and you can get lectures on Frank Sinatra or Ayn Rand--as "personalities". Do you think this is wrong? If so, why? If not, then why does TOC exclude such things? How does this square with Objectivism? How does it square with "tolerance of other viewpoints"? Or is there in fact no legitimate "why"; is it in fact the case that TOC's policy on this topic exists in order to appease?

I know of no precedent in Objectivism that would divide the intellectual world up the way you want to. Indeed, I don't know of anything David Kelly said *explicitly* that would do this--though some have accused him of meaning more than what he precisely stated. Actions do speak louder than words.


Which TOC Sponsor thinks Rand was deeply flawed?

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I know many of the TOC Benefactors and Sponsors. I haven't seen you at a TOC function. Who thinks Rand was a deeply flawed human being?


You got that one right

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


You got that one right. They are fishing for an invite.

(hint, hint, hint...)

They don't seem to like the rules, though.


One small answer

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture


You completely miss the point of my writing. I am not in the business of reconciling Objectivism with Christianity. I am in the business of understanding why Christianity just won't go away.

(Blank-out is not my cognitive method, but many Objectivists use it with Christianity.)

You have to study your enemy if you wish to defeat him. Your own post shows that you, like so many others, prefer the ostrich with its head in the sand approach.

It makes me wonder. What is everybody so afraid of? Like I said in another post, I can smell the fear of Christianity on Objectivist forums.

Well I am not afraid. Somebody has to look at what REALLY is happening and study it so something can be done about it. CHRISTIANITY IS NOT GOING AWAY! IT IS GROWING!

Merely parroting the sections that Ayn Rand did half a century ago is nothing but a fart in a shit factory, to be blunt.

About my conflict with other posters, just skip 'em if they bother you.



eg's picture

If TOC events are concerned only with Rand's philosophy and not her personal life how is her philosophy going to be judged as used by real life human beings and as reflected in the life of its creator?

The real problem of course is that TOC depends on the financial support of people who accept the premise that Ayn Rand was a deeply flawed human being and by implication that her philosophy is also deeply flawed so that everyone else's philosophy is all all right, certainly no worse (if you don't eat babies). This is called "toleration."


One more thing...

bidinotto's picture

I forgot to clarify one other matter.

TOC's focus has always been on Ayn Rand's philosophy -- not on her person or the details of her intimate life. Speakers at our conferences, especially the Summer Seminar, are invited to speak on topics relevant to our intellectual focus. We do not solicit or welcome presentations about anyone's private life, Rand's included.

In almost all cases that I can recall when speakers have commented concerning Ayn Rand's private life (and there have been very few such instances), it's because they have either strayed from their stated topics and their submitted lecture outlines, or they have remarked "off the cuff" in response to questions raised during Q&A sessions. We certainly don't invite or expect such commentaries.

Regarding our policy of inviting speakers:

Each year, TOC publicly announces that it invites lecture proposals from prospective speakers for the Summer Seminar. These announcements are open public invitations, published on our Web site and elsewhere. We are as willing to consider proposals from ARI-affiliated writers and speakers as from anyone else. And if their expertise and proposed subject matter meets our requirements, they are as likely to be accepted as anyone else.

The caveat relevant here is that the proposed subject matter deal with Ayn Rand's philosophy and its related intellectual implications -- not with her personal life, and not with the lives and characters of those involved in the disputes about her personal life. Even those who have written extensively in this latter area are welcome to propose lecture topics for our consideration...IF they agree to play by the rules and confine their remarks to ideas, not personalities. And when I say "play by the rules," I don't mean wangling an invitation in order to try to deviously push the boundaries of a lecture into these unwelcome areas. We, and our audiences, do not welcome "bait and switch" presentations.

Clear enough?

Hear, Hear

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I don't think TOC is being hypocritical. I doubt David Kelley would have mentioned Barbara's book at all in Truth and Toleration if it wasn't for the hysterical atmosphere around it. If ARI had simply denounced the book, but made it clear that people should come to their own first hand conclusions about it, I doubt that he would have mentioned it at all. In the 7 years that I have gone to TOC Seminars I have never heard Kelley talk about the personal relationship between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden once.

Whenever Nathaniel Branden speaks at TOC, there has always been a high quality alternative talk to attend for the sizable fraction of TOC regulars who don't support Nathaniel Branden.


Am I missing something?

sjw's picture

I'm going to get back to Robert's comments when I have more time, but for now I have a question for the other side: Why is it assumed that James would not be invited to a TOC event?


Hear, hear

Casey's picture

The hypocrisy's so thick you can cut it with a knife. In one case, "tolerance" means totally ignoring something as though it doesn't exist (PARC), in the other case "tolerance" means paying for airline tickets, room and board, providing a microphone and an audience and protecting (the Brandens) from anyone whose mind was changed by PARC. So much for the truth.

Sorry State

Holly Valliant's picture

By "affiliation" I meant any kind anyone was willing to admit. This is getting trickier to find, it seems.

How did my husband get those notes? Precisely by not trying to appease anyone. (Check the record.)

But, Mr. Bidinotto, you still haven't addressed any of the questions raised here. Not one.

Shayne was noting, for example, something about "hypocrisy."

"Sincerity," Scott? Seriously?

Kelley's praise for Ms. Branden's book speaks for itself. Bidinotto's mindless attack on PARC -- pre-publication -- speaks for itself. The Brandens will continue to get TOC invites, no doubt, and the discussion Kelley was "shocked" wasn't happening won't be happening anytime soon at a TOC outlet near you.

But my question: will Linz get invited BACK now that he's persona non grata with the Brandens? Will any friends of PARC ever be permitted there? What, exactly, is the price of tolerating the less-than-tolerant Brandens?

No, no, Mr. Branden will give a speeches -- no, on nothing about Ayn Rand, mind you -- but purest psychology -- and then use Ayn Rand as an example of the neurosis he's talking about! That's mere "toleration" of the Brandens, you see.

But they will "tolerate" PARC with their silence...

No, no "official" position about these things mind you, except to hope that it goes away and no one makes them talk about it ever again... ever.

Or any of their other instances of rank "intolerance" of truth.

Another bit to consider...

atlascott's picture

"Hmm.... Gosh, folks, an outside observer -- one without any dog in this race -- might begin to wonder if all those initial proclamations of "only defending Ayn Rand against the Brandens," of organizational independence, etc., were truly sincere..."

Another log for the fire is how the 'independant" Mr. Valliant got voluntary, privileged access to the ARI treasure trove...


Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Standing ovation, Robert.


Holly-Speaking of running

Jody Gomez's picture

Speaking of running for the tall grass, I could equally ask is there anyone out there who will admit to a current affiliation with ARI?

You and hubby want to pony up to that bar?

To your questions about TOC

bidinotto's picture

Just noticed the continuation of the thread here, Shayne. You have been raising some interesting questions about TOC. Let me address the basis for those questions -- not as some "official spokesman," but as someone long involved with the organization, and who has an informed perspective on what we are trying to accomplish. (Other TOC staff may wish to chime in later to add to or to amend my explanation.)

First though, speaking personally: I find it most curious that those who originally proclaimed that their "only" agenda was to expose "lies" told by the Brandens about Ayn Rand have suddenly, mysteriously shifted their entire topical attacking The Objectivist Center -- starting with Mr. Fahy's pointed post, continuing with Mr. Valliant's ongoing jibes against TOC and David Kelley, and their simultaneously making nice toward ARI and Leonard Peikoff.

Hmm.... Gosh, folks, an outside observer -- one without any dog in this race -- might begin to wonder if all those initial proclamations of "only defending Ayn Rand against the Brandens," of organizational independence, etc., were truly sincere, or if perhaps some broader agenda is at work here. It might certainly seem that way, since no one at TOC has said a public word in defense of the Brandens views or books about Rand, since the organization has never carried their works or endorsed them, and since it has in fact meticulously avoided any attempt to enter the fray concerning Ayn Rand's private life.

Why, then, the continued attacks on TOC, a non-player in these dramatics? Doesn't this seem quite far removed from the anti-BRANDEN agenda initially proclaimed by a certain tag team of polemicists? Again...hmmmm....

Ah, no matter. Any good lawyer knows that the truth is a defense. And as for the truth regarding TOC's commitments to Objectivism, the revamped TOC Web site provides an easy-to-navigate archive of position papers and FAQs specifying our positions, in great depth. Principled, unapologetic, uncompromising positions, incidentally. I leave it to anyone truly professing "objectivity" about TOC to check this resource out for himself.

One thing that I think does require clarification is the role of forums in spreading ideas. TOC has created several of these, and when non-Objectivists participate in them, some might misconstrue their presence as indicating our lack of commitment to philosophical purity. So let me elaborate.

Ayn Rand participated each year in a forum -- the Ford Hall Forum in Boston. I attended a number of her lectures there. The Forum also hosted a wide array of speakers representing viewpoints completely antithetical to Objectivism. But Ayn Rand defended this institution and endorsed it glowingly as one of the few public platforms which encouraged a full, civilized interchange of ideas from across the intellectual spectrum. She apparently did not believe that she was "sanctioning evil" in endorsing or participating on a platform also shared by her enemies.

Now it just so happens that TOC also hosts forums. One of these is its Summer Seminar. I cannot speak from experience about what other groups' seminars are like. But let me tell you what ours is, and is not.

The Summer Seminar is a forum at which Objectivism and topics that Objectivism touches upon can be probed, debated, discussed, and investigated down to their deepest roots for their meanings and implications, by people with an interest and expertise in those issues. Besides offering hardcore courses and lectures on Objectivism, and an advanced seminar where Objectivism's most subtle implications are hashed out by academics on a scholarly level, we also invite a wide spectrum of people as participants and as speakers in our general program of lectures and presentations.

By far, most of these speakers are, by any measure, committed Objectivists. Ironically, they have even included a number of the most prominent among those now decrying TOC for a lack of commitment to Objectivism. One wonders exactly what it was that they were preaching to our audiences in those earlier days....

To be sure, not all speakers are Objectivists, nor are they touted as such. However, if we think a prospective non-Objectivist speaker has expertise related to some aspect of Objectivism, or on its implications for some specialized topic, or on some subject OF INTEREST to Objectivists, or even offers an interesting CHALLENGE to some aspect of the philosophy, then he or she may be invited to lecture.

And so we have hosted libertarian speakers. We have had a few Aristotelian rationalists. We have had one or two anarchists. We have showcased a variety of artists. We have "tolerated" a few subjectivists and intrinsicists who THINK they are Objectivists. And yes, among many hundreds of speakers and participants, we have also hosted Barbara and Nathaniel Branden.

But then, of course, we have even hosted Lindsay Perigo. Repeatedly.
An argument might be made that this last is surely proof of altruism on our part, if not a complete subjectivist lack of civil standards. Yet we prefer to regard it as demonstrating a willingness to let our views, and even TOC as an institution, be subject to public critiques, debates, and probing from an array of vantage points. Outlandishly, we even happen to believe that our understanding of Objectivism -- and TOC as an institution -- are strengthened by such challenges, not diluted or weakened.

And in fact, non-Objectivist speakers are typically challenged, often vigorously, by other speakers and participants when they stray too far off the Objectivist reservation, so to speak. This, we believe, is a good thing.

Let me be clear about what the TOC Summer Seminar is NOT. It is not a place for some callow laiety to sit attentively at the feet of church vicars and imparted wisdom in the form of official pronouncements of dogma. We respect our audiences too much to treat them as if they were little children in need of catechismal instruction from annointed oracles. We treat them as grown-ups: as intelligent adults fully capable of sorting through the presentations and assessing the merits of speakers in order to determine for themselves the presentations' relationship to Objectivism, and to reality.

Now I know that this may sound blasphemous to those who prefer to hide behind the intellectual equivalents of castle walls and moats, but we also happen to think that by inviting influential non-Objectivists to participate in our conferences -- and by appearing on THEIR platforms -- we create unique opportunities to spread Objectivist ideas beyond our own little circle. Opportunities to spread the word to NON-OBJECTIVISTS. And it works. It is a great pleasure when we see formerly hostile philosophical adversaries carrying around works by Rand and other Objectivists, citing Objectivist ideas in their subsequent writings, absorbing Objectivist premises into their views as they wrestle their own philosophical contradictions to the ground.

That, of course, is how challenging new ideas spread through the world. Not through insulation, but through engagement.

You know, Shayne, it is the easiest thing in the world to damn non-Objectivists from afar and simply to wash one's hands of them. But it seems to me that ALL of us began life as non-Objectivists. In fact, I have even read ARI members publicly confess that before encountering Objectivism they were enamored of such things as Scientology, Christian fundamentalism, even Marxism. Isn't it fortunate that they managed to find Objectivists willing to civilly debate and explain these complex, challenging ideas to them, rather than to strut, posture, and prove their Manhood through denunciations?

Isn't it fortunate that some Objectivists tolerated least enough to continue an intellectual exchange?

So Shayne, please do not think of TOC's Summer Seminar -- or our outreach magazine, The New Individualist -- as demonstrating a lack of commitment to Objectivism. These are forums for the public discussion of Objectivist ideas...and thus serve as transmission belts for the infusion of our ideas into the broader culture of non-Objectivists.

Whether this "tolerant" approach is treason to the philosophy -- evidence of subjectivism, relativism, social metaphysics, namby-pambyism, etc. -- I leave to history to decide.

But meanwhile, I sleep comfortably concerning history's ultimate verdict.

Affiliated, definition?

Jeff Perren's picture

Robert Campbell and I had a related discussion recently. Could someone define what they mean by 'affiliated'? (Starting with Holly, I suppose.)

To me, 'affiliated' means more than being a dues paying member, or advocate or fan. It means being, in some sense, employed by. For example, Diana Hsieh, would not in my view be considered affiliated with ARI, however much she agrees with those who are on the board or staff, since she doesn't publish papers under their auspices, teach classes sponsored by ARI, nor give lectures arranged by that organization.

But perhaps my definition is too professional.


". . . the likes of Branden"

jriggenbach's picture

This board just keeps getting funnier.


Anybody Out There

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Yes, Mrs. Valliant I will admit to a current TOC affiliation as I've been to their last two Summer Seminars and plan to go again next year. I guess in ARI-related circles that's a little bit like admitting to being a child molester Smiling. My affiliation doesn't mean I agree with everything they do, but I am impressed with the work they do in cognitive science, philosophy of science and other areas of interest to me.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.