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: )

Sure

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Holly,

Sure. I am.

I need to find one of my former posts around here and correct it. I had forgotten that I actually am a formal member of TOC when I wrote it.

Kat visited TOC in Washington DC earlier this year and bought me a membership as a present. It was rather inexpensive too.

I am not really sure what this entitles me to, but I am glad we could help.

I also signed onto their forum and even made a congratulations post!

Dayaamm! That must have been my sabotaged subconscious from emotional repression and evasion kicking in when I wrote that post. I think I might need a moral overhaul... maybe suicide... I'm hopeless... help...

Michael

Anybody Out There?

Holly Valliant's picture

Is there anyone out there who will admit to a current affiliation with TOC?

Everyone seems to be running for the tall grass...

She,Everyone needs

James S. Valliant's picture

She,

Everyone needs philosophy, but very few need to take a professional interest in it.

It's taken me a long time to get a handle on philosophy to the extent that I have done so, and it's taken the help of several really good teachers and writers.

But if you can do it on your own then more power to you. We certainly are all alone in making up our minds about things.

I'd just note that history can be a cruel thing. Before you know it, George Washington has chopped down that cherry tree -- and it will take generations to convince the world otherwise. People can get things dead wrong.

In the area of philosophy this can make a big difference to the future.

But, I agree, why should most folks care about such arguments at this level of debate? You sure don't need them to live a happy, productive life, in my view.

However, as you can see, your innocent question was able to set-off a storm of debate! (These guys are locked and loaded 24/7!)

"Toleration"

James S. Valliant's picture

Jim,

Oh, you bet, "toleration" needs careful definition. What does TOC mean by it -- in practice? I agree with Peikoff about facts and values, but I am interested, for obvious reasons, in TOC's application of this idea in specific instances.

Kelley was once shocked that there was no debate about Ms. Branden's book, but, now, the debate appears to be utterly unworthy.

So, it's not like they are never "intolerant."

For example, it's one thing to "tolerate" by silence, a la PARC, but quite another to "tolerate" it by an invitation to speak and a glowing introduction. There can be no other way to look at the matter: the organization involved is officially promoting the person and the idea the person is articulating with their microphone.

Such instances give concrete meaning to the term "tolerate," don't they?

And, of course, as Shayne reminds me, we need to be vigilant about such things with everyone.

James…you said (in a

She's picture

James…you said (in a wonderfully written post) While merely sectarian squabbles come to nothing, of course, those arguments among intellectuals you deride, for good or ill, determine the course of history.

Let me make a minor note. I didn't think my post derided arguments among intellectuals at all. I love and value the kinds of intellectual discussions such as you have pointed out in your posts. (What woman doesn’t? Especially Objectivist Women...wordy things we are! ) Instead, I question the nature and value of the type of discussion I see as squabbles among Objectivists. I don’t consider derisiveness, sniping, and name calling as intellectual discussions. There is a clear distinction between the discussions of people who disagree but still respect their worthy opponent and squabbles that resort to name calling. Truly, and it may be a failing on my part, I get side tracked in wondering why someone who is acting so childish as to resort to name calling and such would think he (or she) would be found rational. I confess...I boggle right about there. 

I don’t see the need for intellectual guardians and, in fact, I’m not even sure what that looks like in real life. Knowing human nature, I suspect it wouldn't be pretty and could result in petty squabbles, one upmanship, and power plays that weaken the overall impact of Ayn Rand's works. But if you mean that not every one acts in integrity concerning their own mind, then I agree with that!! and how!

Thanks!!!

Thank You

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Your sincerity is deeply appreciated.

Examples

sjw's picture

James:

Back when I was an ARI loyalist and Objectivist "newbie", at my first conference (1999), was the first time I started seeing anecdotal evidence that these questionable purging events had happened. At the time I was extremely baffled--Atlas Shrugged was vivid in my mind and my expectations were not of dysfunction but of achievement. A number of experiences at that conference began to temper my expectations. Among those were stories from new friends I had made. One of the sources was a lecturer at that conference. And I didn't ask for these stories--they seemed to be at the forefront of their minds at the time.

If you're interested in digging into the history here I can give you the names of those who gave me their first-hand account privately because I trust you will respect their privacy, but I'm not going to post the names or the accounts here.

Again I agree with your questioning of TOC. They owe the world an explanation of what precisely is meant by their permitting the likes of Branden to speak there. Just as ARI owes the world an explanation by what precisely is meant by them ignoring the existence of George Reisman. From both organizations, I want to know the explicit philosophy they are using to guide them in these sorts of actions.

Shayne

Getting There

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James,

I think a college is lucky to have an Objectivist club of any stripe. My experience with college clubs is that ARI spokespeople are great to have at meetings and are very good at teaching the philosophy. We were lucky as a club to have Gary Hull and Linda Reardan as regular attendees at our meetings and I was lucky to have Darryl Wright as a professor in my philosophy course.

I don't think that "toleration" means you are officially neutral. It means you evaluate something as bad but put up with it in pursuit of a greater value. Now whether or not TOC correctly applies toleration or applies it in the correct instances is a separate question.

Jim

Nah....All is well

She's picture

Glad to see Linz ill-considered remarks didn't run you off. Linz, apologize to the lady. I take it this post of hers should clear up any misunderstanding over the word "interpret".

Now Now, don't let Linz fool you. I think his posts were brilliant! So...

Linz, thank you so much for helping me out! You write so well and have such a way of expressing yourself that I was touched when I realized what you’d done. I admit it took me by surprise at first, until I realize the humor. I couldn’t have asked for a better example of the type of thing I was talking about!!! You were excellent!

Your post to me was dismissive, called me a name or two, (not too much, just enough to make a "superior" point clear as so many people love to do!) and nit-picked at a word while ignoring the overall idea! In that first post, you managed to dishonor my mind and disrespect me for having the audacity to put my own thoughts out there. And you also managed to sweepingly condemn anyone that related to my post. Then, you brought up the rear with an innocent claim that you hadn’t judged me. Spiced with just the right dollop of a Jim Taggarty Whelp.

It was perfect!  A couple of illustrative posts that succinctly framed the things I was questioning! Beautiful! What fun! I was laughing my tail off by then. Linz…those posts were finely crafted masterpieces of wit!! If anyone didn’t get the overall point of my post, then they can’t fail to understand it after reading yours. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but I’m so glad you did! Thank you so Much.

Getting There...

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

My fault for lack of clarity. I meant examples of ARI's treatment of college clubs and the like.

Objectivity on this issue is important to me, too -- Shayne, my man, that's one reason why I'm soliciting you to keep tabs on me.

TOC will tolerate, i.e., is "officially neutral," then, on ideas that are alien to -- even sometimes hostile to -- Objectivism, as they certainly are "officially neutral" on that which is hostile to her as a person and artist?

This does cause me grave concern.

I wonder if they'd put it in the brochures that way?

Examples

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Shayne,

You've nailed it in the above post. I've generally found it's more pleasant and profitable to stick around a well-meaning group of people with subjectivist tendencies than one that gets the intellectual and social daggers out when there's a disagreement.

Exclusionary policies are OK, it's just much better form to understand ahead of time who they apply to so that people don't invest a bunch of time in social relationships that are doomed because of an intellectual disagreement.

Jim

Thank You

James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Bissell,

Thank you for the detailed response. (I regard myself as an independent, too.)

deleted

Holly Valliant's picture

deleted

Examples

sjw's picture

James:

I didn't suggest that it breaks down "neatly". On the contrary there's nothing "neat" about it, I regard it as a mess. I don't think that all TOC loyalists are subjectivists, nor do I think that all ARI loyalists are intrinsicists. What I'm talking about here are *tendencies*.

I'm not sure what you're asking for with regard to examples of the dichotomy. Read Fact and Value. You can see that Peikoff is making a push to get rid of subjectivists but says nothing of intrinsicists. There's your example of a dichotomy. Talk to people who were involved in the movement at that time and discover what actually happened in ARI circles. Maybe it's time for an investigative book on this subject, before all the people involved are gone? Maybe that can be your next book.

You make your opportunities, right? ARI's method generates little opportunity to "crack-down" on intrinsicism. If they were going for the "elite" organization, there would have been plenty of opportunity generated. If they were not going for the elite, then they shouldn't have "cracked-down" on either tendency.

You ask why subjectivists need an organization. I didn't call them "subjectivists". Again it's not that simple. As a group, I think it's clear that relative to ARI, they have subjectivist *tendencies*. Ironically, Diana Hsieh is an example of how TOC must not be that awful, at least if we take her at her word: Why would she have stayed there that long if there was indeed no value at all? She admits no gross dishonesty on her part, and that's what it'd take to stay there if they were truly horrible (I'm not defending TOC because I don't have experience with them--I'm merely reading the implications from Diana's actions). I know I know, "there's this subtle philosophical point, and it goes something like this, blah blah blah, but the full answer is complicated. All of this will be explained in more detail in a few weeks." Yeah, right. All I can say is: I'm looking forward to the explanation. For some time now.

Sorry, I got side-tracked. I guess your real question James, and it's a good one, is TOC's official position on who they will tolerate. E.g., the Brandens. It's a great question. I'd also like an answer to the question of who ARI *won't* tolerate. They've kicked George Reisman, without reference to their philosophy of who won't be tolerated. He's just kicked. Ostracized. The best explanation we get is Peikoff's "just trust me because I'm a man of great character" lecture.

Your questioning is good James, but who you apply it to seems a bit biased to me.

Shayne

One shot

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

John,

Here is what I mean by "work." The business of living to most people is living. It is not an intellectual journey on trying to find the meaning of existence.

However, everybody has his moments. There are universal doubts and fears that come with being human. There is an urge to find some kind of structure to discipline value choices. Just because Rand asked what are values and why are they important in defining Objectivist ethics does not mean that other people do not value according to a standard (however crooked it may be). What Christianity does for many is address all these issues in an organized manner, provides a social life to boot, and leaves people with their minds free to use on their professions, hobbies, families, friends and other values.

That's what I mean by "works." On that level, it works well too, because in its diluted form taught in churches (with reason sprinkled in varying doses), people prosper and are relatively happy.

Why are they going to question that? To them, God is giving them a good life.

I repeat, if you do not find a manner to talk to these people, they simply will not listen. Look around you. The majority are not listening and don't want to. (btw - many of them vote...)

Michael

Well said - you have the

Robert Malcom's picture

Well said, Nancy/She - you have the essence...

I know you are, but what am I?

rebissell's picture

James Valliant asked: "Then, maybe, you can help me, Mr. Bissell. Is TOC important to you and your work? If so, how? Without TOC would you be just an independent thinker with some provocative ideas about free will, or does TOC provide a "home," an outlet for your work, an encouraging forum, and a label, "Objectivist," with which you are comfortable? Are you a "TOCist"?"

I have been more involved with TOC than with ARI, but I support both of them financially, and I buy products from both of them, and I cheer when either of them does good work and boo when they fall noticeably short of what I'd like to see them do.

My wife and I have attended ARI events, and I have participated in the discussions. I have heard a number of Peikoff's lecture courses, including Philosophy of Education, Principles of Grammar, DIM Hypothesis, Objectivism through Induction, Induction in Physics and Philosophy, Objectivism the State of the Art, Understanding Objectivism, and Integration in Epistemology and Ethics (as well as several of the older ones (logic, history of philosophy, objectivism1976). I also have heard several of Harry Binswanger's lecture series and assorted lectures by Lisa Van Damm and Stephen Siek. And I have read Peikoff's and Binswanger's works, as well as many essays in the various Objectivist periodicals (I stopped subscribing in the mid-90s). ARI's work is very important to me, though not without some qualification.

I have attended four TOC Advanced Seminars, and I have presented on aesthetics and philosophy of mind to two of them. One of my presentations was later published in expanded form in JARS. None of my proposals, however, have been accepted for seminars during the past two years, and they did unexpectedly pull the plug on a monograph-in-progress on my interpretation of Rand's aesthetics views. I have read Kelley's works, including his book on the virtue of benevolence (which I agree with) and a BETA version of his and Will Thomas's Logical Structure of Objectivism, as well as various other lectures by Kelley on epistemology. I also participated in a cyberseminar on propositions during the 1996-97 academic year sponsored by TOC. TOC's work is very important to me, though not without some qualification.

I really couldn't say whether the TOC leaders regard me as an Objectivist, or as some odd sort of fellow-traveler working within the Objectivist tradition. I think it's likely the ARI leaders regard me as some sort of "anti-Objectivist" (a term Diana Hsieh seems to have pioneered).

If you want to know where I truly feel at home, it is with people who want to explore ideas and take a chance on questioning their cherished beliefs, as well as with those who believe that it is more likely one will discover truth when when calmly and carefully considers more than one perspective on an issue. For that reason, I truly feel at home -- with encouragement and an outlet for my work -- with Chris Sciabarra and Bob Campbell at the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. And I say that without qualification.

So, am I a TOC-ist? Am I an ARI-ist? Neither. I'm a critical supporter of each, and an enthusiastic supporter of JARS and the dialectics writings of Chris Sciabarra, as well as the psychology writings of Nathaniel Branden (with some reservations regarding his positions on "anomalous perception" and mind and body as "manifestations of an underlying reality"). As I said in my post, I'm an independent neo-Objectivist. That will have to do, from my perspective. You can call me what you like.

Roger Bissell, musician-writer

Glad you're here

Jeff Perren's picture

Nan,
Glad to see Linz ill-considered remarks didn't run you off. Linz, apologize to the lady. I take it this post of hers should clear up any misunderstanding over the word "interpret".

Hmmm...

She's picture

"She, you crashed your own arguement right from the beginning. Ayn Rand didn't have her own writings to read. "I am only really interested in how I INTERPRET her words. In what I think of her work, and what I think she meant." That says it all. And I thought Objectivism was what Ayn Rand thought."

Glenn... Either I missed your point or you missed mine? I'm not quite sure. Um, I didn't say that Ayn Rand didn't have her own writings to read. (That would have been kind of a "well duh" thing for me to think up!) I said that she had no ARI or TOC to help her understand what she was thinking. My point is that she trusted her own mind and didn't need an interpreter. Am I more clear now?

Perhaps I used the word "Interpret" incorrectly? My meaning is that because I trust my mind (I believe in me), I have no intention of using someone else's mind to determine what I think of Ayn Rand's work.

Thanks

Figures...

She's picture

http://www.adherents.com/rel_U...

This is a study from 2001. the top 20 religions in the U.S.
It gives some interesting numbers.

ARI, TOC, SOLO, Christianity

atlascott's picture

Nothing about Christianity is compatible with Objectivism.  It cannot be, since Christianity, at its core, requires a belief in another life, and in God.  It is mysticism.  Any attempt--ANY ATTEMPT--to reconcile it with Objectivism is by definition a dilution of Objectivism to the point of absurdity.

MSK is a very nice guy.  The criticisms of him, I think, are a tad strident.  Not incorrect, but a tad strident.  I do not agree with his thinking on quite abit of what he writes.

I also do not appreciate his and Casey's and Valliant's argument style.  They actually argue or post in conflict similarly: in an indirect fashion, with insult just behind a thin curtain, not directly or concisely.

They seemingly almost intentionally mischaracterize the others' argument.

When I mean to insult someone, I will swear, or make it nice and clear.  Leave the 'and another thing--what about this and that' type exchanges to people who aren't interested in getting to the truth.

Evidence

Jeff Perren's picture

John,

The examples you cite are illuminating and may indicate a trend.

I would warn those who live in urban areas, though, from putting too much stock numbers like 3,000 per service at 5 per week. While far from irrelevant, not everyone lives in OC, Phoenix, etc where such numbers can be found. If you look at the red/blue map by county for example you see that at the state level, it's about half-half, at the county level it's overwhelmingly red. And my experience in those red areas is they tend to 'live and let live' as far as religion goes -- for the most part -- though polls will overwhelmingly show them professing some kind of Christianity.

Of course, Hannity and others are much more popular these days, so my case isn't solid either.

Public policy is a concern, but the situation there too is very much mixed as far as influence of religion is concerned. I think it's still true that the overwhelming number of individuals working in State and Federal governments are Democratic/Socialist more than Republican/Christian. (The more obvious public figures consitute numbers closer to 50-50, of course.)

But, I could be all wet. I'd like to see a good study. How one would judge whether to believe any study is a good question. Until then, I can only judge by my own experience, as described earlier.

TOC Value Neutral?

Charles Henrikson's picture

James,

The Objectivist Center seems to have integrated many of the "libertarian" ideals into their objectivism; perhaps this is what causes many of their problems. TOC seems to lean toward, in some situations, tolerance which is a value neutral stance. Benevolence also may fall into the same arena. Wasn’t Ayn Rand was opposed to libertarianism precisely because of their value neutral stances?

Jeff

John M Newnham's picture

Christian book sales, church attendance and the growth of churches with attendance surpassing 3,000 per service (and at 5 services per week!) is pretty good starter evidence. I wonder if rather than signalling a philosophical victory, it is signalling a search for social stimulation and belonging?

The impact on individualism and the encroachment into public policy is where it concerns me most, and the seemingly increasing voting power of this block.

You are right Jeff that more evidence on trends would be good to examine.

regards
John

Popularity of Christianity

Jeff Perren's picture

Michael,
I'm inclined to think the popularity of Christianity is exaggerated, in the media and by you.

I've lived among white and blue collar middle class people my entire life in many areas around the U.S. (So. Cal, New York, SF, Boston, Dallas, North Idaho, etc) and frankly the subject of religion rarely comes up. Most people, if asked, would probably say they believe in some form of Christianity and in God, and even go to church from time to time. But they certainly don't live their lives according to even a watered down version of Christianity.

Even a watered down version of Christianity wouldn't motivate the average person to go to church on Sunday, then go dune buggying afterward, or pop in on the mistress for a fast one on the way home, or to play poker and drink all night on Saturday, or.... well, make up your own examples. Most people are interested in making enough money to buy themselves and their families the material things and experiences they think will help them enjoy their lives.

Most people are interested in golf, or yakking with friends, or watching sitcoms, and on and on. And this runs across several generations.

None of this is Christian like behavior, even of the 'very far from Fundamentalist' variety. Most are not out working in soup kitchens, or rescuing Katrina victims, or walking the neighborhood on Sunday handing out flyers, etc. Their participation generally ends at dumping a few cans of soup into a cardboard box at work, or -- in some cases -- sending a check to some charity that is helping Katrina victims.

If there's any sort of watered down philosophy being practiced, it's watered down (and highly confused, poorly understood) self-interest --usually of a vaguely Nietzschean sort.

That's my interpretation of my experience. We'd need a good statistical study to get much further. James, maybe you've seen some?

Purpose of TOC

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

James,

You have a valid question and right now I do not have time to give a detailed answer. The main value I get from TOC is philosophical research and colloquia on Objectivist philosophy as it intersects with other fields such as philosophy of science, cognitive science, psychology, intellectual property etc.

I think TOC has been conflicted between its goals of activism and philosophical research. One of the things I think they need to do if they want to have effective activism is develop a clear editorial policy of where they stand as an organization. This has been a valid criticism of TOC. The other thing they need to do is make sure they have a systematic way of training philosophy students in Objectivism.

I see a different set of problems in ARI. They've largely solved a lot of their organizational difficulties that plagued them in the 80's and early 90's, however they still are fairly in-grown, authoritarian and generally hostile to internal criticism. I am not anti-ARI and in fact I would encourage people to consider the alternatives before choosing an organization if they choose one at all. I think Diana Hsieh would have been much happier if she had chosen ARI to begin with. Those students that are interested in strict philosophy and problems in ethics from an Objectivist perspective should probably choose ARI.

I don't know if this answers the question you had, but I wanted to register my thoughts since you asked for them.

Jim

Rats!

She's picture

I’ve suffered a hard drive crash at home (wailing) and, at work, I haven’t as much time to devote to this as it deserves. Lots of posts to read and little time to do so. I'll be getting back to it asap.

You know Michael, it does

John M Newnham's picture

You know Michael, it does bring up an interesting issue which is *why* people choose different ethical/philosophical systems by which to a) call themselves, b) live by, c) both a and b.

What do you mean by "work" in this context?

regards
John

Work

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Hi John,

You may not think it works. The others around here may not think it works. I may not think it works.

But for some reason, the people it works for ain't listening to any of us. And they are the majority of the people of the Western world.

I wonder why...

(blank-out)

(I think we are talking about different things with the word "work," anyway.)

To be clear - I have no interest in going into a church and talking about Objectivism. But I do talk to church-goers everyday. You just can't seem to get away from the darn little creatures...

Michael

TOCist?

James S. Valliant's picture

Then, maybe, you can help me, Mr. Bissell. Is TOC important to you and your work? If so, how?

Without TOC would you be just an independent thinker with some provocative ideas about free will, or does TOC provide a "home," an outlet for your work, an encouraging forum, and a label, "Objectivist," with which you are comfortable?

Are you a "TOCist"?

Christianity offers a breast

John M Newnham's picture

Christianity offers a breast on which to suckle. It doesnt "work", Michael, unless by working you mean as part of a fantastic business model (witness the growth of mega churches). In my experience it attracts broken people in search of forgiveness.

Some"thing" that is anti-reason cannot "work" as a philosophy for living.

That said, unlike some, though I disagree with the intellectual path you take on some issues, I have no desire to enter pissing contests.

regards
John

Roger,

Casey's picture

In that case everything is conditional and it hardly merits special labeling as such, eh?

I know that I'm aware of all my past ice cream choices and that bears on my present choices of ice cream flavors, but that is simply an awareness of REALITY, which is, sadly, limited to what it is (on the menu, in this case). This is not a defect of consciousness but proof of its validity in terms of corresponding to reality.

I think you are chafing against the fact that A is A as something that limits what amounts to a mystical and diaphanous view of human "freedom," which is defined as that which contradicts reality itself, which "never" happens (though it does, all the time -- Google "Darwin Awards"), so there is no "real" (based on this standard) free will.

Free will, like everything, is contextual. Conditional, yes. In the same sense that everything is. And that's not a bad thing to point out, as far as demystifying it goes. But to downgrade it for HAVING a nature and an identity seems to frame the issue with a religious, mystical bias and measure it against that impossible, supernatural notion of "free will."

Conditional free will ~is~ layered

rebissell's picture

Yes, indeed, Casey, conditional free will is layered. But who says that conditional free will excludes influence by prior choices and existing values? Not me! When I deliberate (because I want to do that more than anything else at that moment in time) about two alternatives, one of which is something I more preferred (and chose) in the past and the other of which is something (yet unchosen) that vies for my preference now, my deliberation includes a comparison of the intensity of preference I feel for them now. And, for instance, the relatively preferred alternatives may be concrete items, such as ice cream flavors, or they may be ways of choosing between ice cream flavors, such as relative intensity of present desire of each flavor vs. choosing contrary to strongest desire (in order to thwart someone's expectation) vs. choosing by coin toss in order to experience "spontaneity," etc.

Thus, there is layering in conditional free will, both of past and present valuing, as well as levels of preference! And in all cases, I choose what I most want to choose at that point in time, as influenced both by present desires and past choices feeding into those desires. E.g., if I most want to choose my historically chosen favorite flavor, vanilla, then I can (am free to) choose it. But if I instead most want to choose for the sake of variety (more than I want to again choose my favorite flavor), I can (am free to) choose chocolate. That is how conditional free will (the only kind we have) works!

Roger Bissell, musician-writer

Roger,

Casey's picture

You said,

"I suppose the best label for me is 'Independent Neo-Objectivist'."

OK, and thanks for the distinction. That wasn't so hard.

As for your concept of conditional free will I think you are only focusing on the "present" tense of free will and forgetting that the human self is an edifice built in past AND present tense. By your standard, animals who can not make deliberate universal judgements outside of the moment in order to direct all the particular moments and choices of their lives are actually closer to having what you seem to regard as "free" will, since prior choices are not included in their consciousness. Free will is necessarily layered; this does not negate but merely defines free will's nature, and also defines its obvious power and pitfalls. It's the reason cognitive therapists search for choices made in the past that may have been wrong, etc. But all of these things are, in fact, artifacts of what is free will, if we don't define "free will" out of existence.

Expect an answer?

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

James,

I certainly don't expect an answer. If I made that kind of misfire, I would just want the whole thing to go away.

The less people said about it, the better.

I do have a sense of humor, though. The "satire" backpedal has me laughing until now.

Back to my own nebulous, intrinsic, evasive little thoughts...

Michael

To Whom it May Concern

rebissell's picture

Dear SOLO-ists:

 

Casey has referred to my "ongoing campaign against free will." That is not accurate. I argue for conditional free will -- you could have done otherwise than you did in a given situation, IF you had WANTED to. This is in contrast to the standard Objectivist concept of free will, which is really more of a KANTIAN outlook, and which I have characterized as categorical free will -- you could have done otherwise than you did in a given situation, PERIOD, i.e., EVEN IF you HADN'T wanted to.

 

I am no more against free will than Ayn Rand was against necessity in morality. In regard to ethical necessity, she said, "Reality confronts man with a great many 'musts,' but all of them are conditional: the formula of realistic necessity is: 'You must, if --' and the 'if' stands for man's choice: '--if you want to achieve a certain goal.' " (CVD, pp. 118-119) 

 

Similarly, in regard to free will, I say: Reality confronts man with a great many "cans," but all of them are conditional: the formula of realistic freedom (of will) is: "You can, if --" and the "if" stands for man's desires: "--if you want to achieve a certain goal more than you want to achieve some other goal" (i.e., if you value a certain thing more than you value another thing). I think that, in order to remain consistent with her Aristotelian, anti-Kantian outlook, Rand ought to have defined free will as I have, as conditional free will -- not as Peikoff (in OPAR) and others have, as categorical free will.

 

I realize that it's standard practice in Objectivist circles to refer to Kant as a destroyer of reality, reason, morality, you name it, and that the effect of his categorical necessity was to destroy moral responsibility (CVD, p. 121). I think a case could be made that Rand's categorical freedom has a similar effect. If as Peikoff says (OPAR, p. 60), there is no reason or explanation for focusing, one just focuses or not for no reason, then all of one's actions (to the extent they flow from one's focusing) become arbitrary. Categorical freedom a la Peikoff (and Rand?) destroys moral justification.

 

However, in the interest of dialogue and mutual exploration -- you know, truth-seeking? -- I would gladly set aside such judgments so that some reasoned discussion could take place. But that presupposes people are more interested in discovering truth than being right and defeating their opponents. If someone wants to explore this issue, on or off list, I am all for it. But I am not going to engage in rhetorically heated debates, particularly not with people who have already amply demonstrated that their chief goal is to distort the views and tear down the character of others. So, anyone so inclined, have a ball: go on and take your best shot; I won't be replying to you.

 

I have one other comment on Casey's opening essay. He wrote: "...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."

 

I am an independent thinker, using Aristotle's and Rand's most general frameworks and methodologies as my starting point and method of operation. My resulting views are not immune to criticism (but neither are theirs!), so I proceed by checking my premises, trying to be sure my views correspond (reduce) to reality and cohere (integrate) with one another, and double-checking my conclusions. I consider myself an Aristotelian because I agree with his essential philosophy, just as I consider myself an Objectivist (or Randian) because I agree with Rand's essential philosophy. I am no more a psychophant toward Rand than I am (or she was) toward Aristotle.

 

You might think that it would be perfectly fine for me to regard myself as an Objectivist, since Rand has given several prominent statements of the essence of her philosophy, with which I agree in toto and unreservedly. Still, that is not good enough for some, because I disagree with the Objectivist (categorical) version of free will, which is not included in any of those statements.

 

Here's something to ponder: no doubt, some of Aristotle's original followers, were they alive today, would dearly love to pitch out the whole lot of the Objectivists who identify themselves as Aristotelian, being in agreement with Aristotle's essential philosophy (while disagreeing with him on various very well known Aristotelian views, such as his politics, his Unmoved Mover, etc.). Would they be right? Are Objectivists out of line in claiming to identify with the basic Aristotelian world-view? Or would the purist Aristotelians be out of line in being so overly restrictive and jealous of competitors?

 

My way of cutting through all this silly squabbling and turf-protecting is this: of all the philosophies out there, which one do my views come closest to? For nearly 4 decades now, there has not been even a close second to Objectivism. Yet, despite the fact that I agree with the great bulk of Rand's views, I am certainly not a Randian/Peikoffian Objectivist. Nor am I a Kelleyite Objectivist (as I'm sure he's relieved to know, if he cares). Nor am I a Brandenian or Machanian Objectivist -- or Neo-Objectivist, as they sometimes style themselves. I think it's perfectly fine to qualify "Objectivism" in these ways, but since I don't have enough of a name or body of work to justify attaching my own name to it, I suppose the best label for me is "Independent Neo-Objectivist" (with no insult intended to the others). And that is where I will leave it.

 

Linz commented earlier that I was not posting here on Solo Passion (or whatever it's called), and it's true that I haven't paid this web site much attention. I've been very busy. However, Casey's comments were brought to my attention, and I wanted to register my protest and offer my perspective for whoever might value it. That's it for this thread. Good bye and good hunting.

 

Roger Bissell, musician-writer

Interesting, But

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

I need examples to see the dichotomy of which you speak, and I'm not sure it breaks down as neatly as you suggest.

And, where would the opportunites for ARI to crack-down on intrinsicism show-up, do you think?

Do subjectivists need an organization? Why not a bunch of indepenent, if a bit too free-spirited thinkers? No, there is a difference about the meaning of Objectivism at work that goes beyond "Truth and Toleration." One that includes a "toleration" of persons and ideas hostile to Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

It is as to the degree of this "toleration" that I seek clarification.

Still Don't Get It, Really?

James S. Valliant's picture

MSK,

TOC or not, your own conception of "Christian outreach" is nebulous, at best.

And here i thought it was supposed to be the intrinsicist ARI types with no sense of humor!

But I wouldn't expect an answer from Casey, sir.

I'm confused

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Casey,

I'm confused. Which work of mine were you satirizing? My style is not bombastic against a lot of different people like that and I sincerely do not have a clue as to what you were satirizing.

In my thinking, a satire should be of something...

Michael

Integration? One more clarification

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Jason,

You are correct that I have no formal ties to TOC. I like many people there and they like me, from what I can tell. I use some of their material in my own ventures - with due thanks. (It's really very good.) That is all.

I would like to clarify a new distortion that is being promoted, for some reason I am unable to fathom:

I do not advocate any integration between Objectivism and Christianity. I do advocate proper understanding of Christianity - as it is currently practiced, thus I advocate a study of it "as practiced" from an Objectivist viewpoint, other than the traditional scorn and scoffing.

This makes people afraid, for some reason, and they get really vituperative. I know I am on the right track, though. I can smell the fear.

(Oops!... couldn't resist that... you might as well sit back and enjoy the show... it's gonna be fun...)

//;-)

Michael

Edit - Dayaamm! I am a member of TOC. I was when I posted that, too. I had forgotten a membership I own to TOC that Kat bought me as a present earlier this year when she visited their office in Washington DC. So I actually do have a formal tie to TOC. I simply forgot. It must have been the Brandens' fault and I just haven't seen it yet...

Not Really

James S. Valliant's picture

Jason,

It was a reductio ad absurdum -- which is a valid technique. As is satire sometimes. No, I don't expect MSK's notions to get very far, but I still need, as I say, some boundaries.

Let me put the question this way: does The "Objectivist" Center have a policy of "official neutrality" towards hostility to Rand and her ideas, as the case now appears to me? Or, how much hostility will it tolerate?

I'm beginning to think that Diana may be underestimating the problem in calling it The Objectivish Center, if this is so.

Can they really be "officially neutral" on hostility to Objectivism?

What caused TOC

sjw's picture

James

You ask: "what concretely unifies the membership of TOC that ARI or SOLO could not also embrace?"

I our posts crossed and I kind of answered it. At the time of F&V, many Objectivists who were deemed to exhibit subjectivist qualities (often by those with intrinsicist qualities) were ostracized by ARI. From ARI loyalists I've heard of purges reaching down into campus groups conducted by students. Now a lot of these people who were purged I'm sure just walked away from Objectivism. But some were not willing to abandon the field. Which is where TOC comes in.

TOC is, ironically enough, really an ARI creation. It was implicitly architected by Leonard Peikoff himself: it was an inevitable result of his biased emphasis against subjectivism while turning a blind eye to intrinsicism.

If ARI had taken the high-quality approach instead, then we would have the more healthy situation of: ARI as the elite Objectivist intellectual organization, and various lesser Objectivist cultural organizations, with none inherently in conflict. But instead, because of Leonard Peikoff's approach, we have factions.

Shayne

Int/Subj

Lindsay Perigo's picture

When I first set up a Free Radical web site I had links to ARI & TOC. I billed them as "The intrinsicist wing of the Objectivist movement" & "The subjectivist wing of the Objectivist movement" respectively. Folk thought I was being funny. I was, but with a significant degree of seriousness mixed in. Though I've said that without PAR there'd be no TOC, I think on reflection that ARI's dogmatic behaviour, born of intrinsicism, would have spawned a rebellion & a TOC eventually, even without BB's book. But TOC fell into a subjectivist drift/mope mode.

Anecdotal accounts suggest that both organisations are trying to lift their game. On this very thread Ed Hudgins acknowledges the need for TOC to project more passion. Passion comes from conviction.

Meanwhile, of course, there is now an Objectivist wing of the Objectivist movement ... Smiling

Absurd

Jason Quintana's picture

With all due respect James, this comment :

"Opening new frontiers with MSK on Christian/Objectivist integration, perhaps?
A lecture on being more "open" to the possibility of ESP by Nathaniel Branden. maybe?"

Is absurd. There is absolutely NO INDICATION that TOC would accept any of this. To my knowledge MSK has no association or influence with TOC and there has never been any indication that TOC would support something like ESP. I don't understand where you are going with this post. Why not stick to legitimate critiques?

- Jason

Thanks

sjw's picture

James: Thank you very much for the compliment. I apologize for jumping to the conclusion that you were assuming I was somehow connected to TOC (which, coming from you, is certainly not a compliment!)

Honestly, I don't know much about TOC in particular and therefore can't evaluate them. But one thing I do know: It's hard to take at face value the pronouncements of a particularly prolific TOC critic who is at least partially motivated by a desire to appear to have made restitution to her fellow ARI loyalists for the "sin" of associating with them.

Also: If, as ARI has done, you make a point of ejecting all of the Objectivists with subjectivist tendencies out of the movement and absolutely no effort at ejecting the intrinsicists, you shouldn't be surprised to end up with two Objectivist organizations: One with intrinsicist tendencies (ARI) and one with subjectivist tendencies (TOC).

I have no problem at all with quality control. If ARI had wanted to have only the Objectivist elite as part of their movement, then I'm all for it. They would have openly advertised that that's what ARI was for, and that's who was welcome. Then it'd be this tiny but brilliantly generative organization (presumably), and we could all benefit from their publications (presumably). But they didn't do that. Instead, they weed out people who tend to subjectivism (and then complain when these people who were ostracized go off and do something on their own), while doing nothing about sycophantic intrinsicists (and I'm not making that up--ARI loyalists themselves will complain about the sycophants).

Shayne

No Help

James S. Valliant's picture

Jody,

It's a sincere question, and the answer is no more clear to me than it was before.

I am aware of their mission statement and the philosophical differences bewteen Peikoff and Kelley. But there are many such differences among philosophers.

And the context is more specific now, and loaded with many unanswered questions. Whom and to what extent will TOC "tolerate"? How far away from Objectivism are they willing to stray? How much hostility to Rand will they abide?

Invite the Brandens to speak -- check.
"Outreach" to moderate Muslim groups -- check.
Opening new frontiers with MSK on Christian/Objectivist integration, perhaps?
A lecture on being more "open" to the possibility of ESP by Nathaniel Branden. maybe?

Where are the theoretical boundaries?

Will this be "open" to debate?

Being the "anti-ARI" would be an empty purpose -- even if someone could put that together for me a little better. But what do we need another group for? The specific point of origin for TOC was a dispute over the reaction to Ms. Branden's book, but what concretely unifies the membership of TOC that ARI or SOLO could not also embrace?

Just Curious

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

It was just you're insight I was soliciting. It's impressed me so far.

?!

sjw's picture

James: Why on earth do you think I specifically would be of some help to you on the subject of TOC??

The only answer I have for you is the obvious answer one would get from reading "Fact and Value" and "Truth and Toleration" (which is about the extent of my knowledge of David Kelly). David Kelly and Leonard Peikoff have serious differences of opinion when it comes to the vision for a proper Objectivist organization, and TOC is presumably David Kelly's attempt at creating one in line with the values he expresses in T&T. The purpose seems pretty evident too: they want to be a catalyst for cultural change.

Maybe I don't understand the question, but in any case I'm not the expert on TOC or David Kelly....

Shayne

James- I know your statement

Jody Gomez's picture

James- I know your statement is nothing more than insincere histrionics, but here is their mission statement. Usually when I want knowledge about an organization or individual I go directly to the source.

The goal of The Objectivist Center is to help create a new culture in our society, a culture in tune with the entrepreneurial spirit of the new economy, a culture that affirms the core Objectivist values of reason, individualism, freedom, and achievement. The Center promotes these values by articulating their meaning and implications for contemporary issues in every field of cultural significance: intellectual trends, the arts, psychology and personal growth, social manners and mores, business issues and achievements, law and politics. We seek to influence the course of debate and the climate of public opinion in these arenas, and to recruit like-minded people to our cause. Objectivism is the philosophical foundation for our cultural agenda. Ayn Rand's insights about human knowledge, moral values, individual rights, the role of art in human life, and many other topics give Objectivism a unique perspective on the cultural issues of our day. In support of our cultural mission, therefore, we sponsor theoretical research in philosophy and related fields as well as educational programs for those who wish to study the ideas of Objectivism.

Question

James S. Valliant's picture

In the context of the lighter-than-air responses to the issues raised about TOC on several recent threads here and at the old SOLOHQ, I have finally come to the point of having to ask the question, and maybe Jim Heaps-Nelson and Shayne Wissler can help me out here:

What is the purpose of TOC? Why does it exist? Is there a single answer that most there would agree with?

Linz -- As I indicated, I'm

Ed Hudgins's picture

Linz -- As I indicated, I'm really reading selectively these days because I just don't have time to follow all threads, but at least you'll note that I select to see what you're saying and if it's directed to me, give you a considered response!

I couldn't remember Casey's last name when I posted on R-to-R and I have not really been following all the back and forth over Valient and Branden. I did gather that Casey was more of an ARI guy and I've only read some selected part of the Valient book though I think Bill Perry's read the entire thing. (I find the references to the Rand diaries personally interesting and would like to finish reading it at some point, but I don't like Valient's prosecutorial style. But that's another discussion.)

Sorry I missed that Casey was satirizing MSK but his remark about my views on Islam certainly suggested that this was not going to be a serious thread. I note that I recently wrote a major piece on Islamists and posted it on SOLO.
http://www.objectivistcenter.o...

I also wrote a piece on flushing the Koran down the toilet:
http://www.objectivistcenter.o...

They only received a few responses, especially to the longer piece, and that's fine; I assume many people have their own priorities when reading threads and perhaps my topics are not among them. But if someone wants to discuss my thoughts on Islamo-fascists or anything else, it's a good idea to see what I have to say about the topic. (FYI, I received an email from Phil Coates indicating that Diana Hsieh was taking her usually vindictive and non-serious crack at a piece I did in May 2004 on Islam and the Illiad. I haven't read her stuff either, but I did respond to particular questions that Phil asked.)

Concerning your other points, there are in fact some who do refer to Rand first rather than reality; that was a fundamental difference between Kelley and Peikoff, which David discusses in his book. Concerning whether one interpretation of Objectivism is as good as another, if reality is the standard, the answer is clearly "No." Is it the case that concepts are formed in a certain way? Is it the case that benevolence is a virtue that yields us values? There will be definite answers to these and other questions. (By the way, it is these sorts of questions rather than Valient-Branden sorts of issues that really interest me.)

I suspect that there will be honest differences concerning many of these issues and discussing them on SOLO can be quite enlightening. But ultimately we can say, for example, that sacrificing your own life-affirming and happiness-giving values for a life you find to be sheer drudgery or boredom -- whether this is advocated by Christians, Muslims, Socialists or whoever -- is 1) not in accordance with Objectivism and 2) most importantly, is not in accordance with the facts of reality on which values must be based.

But as is perhaps also the case with Tibor, I find the sort of approach that Casey took to raising this sort of question to be particularly unproductive. Remember, productivity is a virtue!

Saying It Won't Make It So

James S. Valliant's picture

The contradictions in the Bible do not render it infinitely flexible. That's nonsense. In essence, it is hostile to reason, and the compromise its believers must inevitably make with reason to survive is always one of tension and transition.

A "newbie" wasn't trashed by anyone. MSK.

MSK said, unbelievably:

Casey's picture

MSK said, unbelievably:

"Satire?

"That's one hell of a backpedal. If you say so..."

It was a satire of YOU, damn it!! Jeeze Louise, you're criticizing a satire of yourself now as though it was... what? The intellectual switchbacks are... I give up. Those who wish to take up any argument with MSK are on their own from now on. I believe I've done yeoman's work here.

(Christ, I even talked about not getting the joke IN THE PARAGRAPH IN QUESTION just to disprove the idea that real Objevists were the ones missing a sense of humor... oh, it doesn't matter. God Bless you, Michael Stuart Kelly, for being such a perfectly reliable law of nature in this particular intellectual debate.)

Aw shucks

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Aw shucks, now.

I thought it was a gauntlet. Isn't that what the man said?

And for some reason, I thought the original post was addressed to a poster Casey did not know on a serious issue - thus with whom satire would not be all that appropriate a response.

Dumb, evasive me, huh? Thinking about context like that...

Shucks, anyway...

Michael

Satire On Its Face

James S. Valliant's picture

No one needed anyone to say so, MSK. The post itself says as much to the attentive.

That's one hell of an evasion.

One more clarification

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Linz,

When I say that diluted Christianity is working for people, I mean something very specific.

I am not referring to judging it as a formal philosophical system (like Objectivism, for instance). Frankly, there is no such thing as a consistent formal Christian doctrine other than love God above all else and accept Him on faith. The Bible is just too full of contradictions for much more logic-wise.

I am referring to the fact that most people are more engaged in living their lives, with jobs, marriages and families, funerals, etc., than they are with philosophical contemplation, and that diluted Christianity (meaning what they get in the church of their choice with reason added) fills their needs quite well.

They have no real compelling inner urge to change it because it works for them. Most people resist attempts to change what works. Seeing that is nothing but common sense. But still...

I offer the Western world as proof.

Look at the above posts and see who is trying to deny that this exists.

I fully agree with you that the reason part is what makes Christian principles tick properly.

Ah, well, that's complicated. Let's find a poster, maybe a newbie, and see if we can trounce him/her as despicable evil. That's a hell-of-a lot easier than trying to get through to Christians.

Let's just blank-out a bit and maybe they will all go away.

Michael

Satire?

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Satire?

That's one hell of a backpedal. If you say so...

Michael

Pay attention, Sir Ed!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Sir Edward Hudgins - I'm astonished that it has to be explained to you that "Casey someone or other" was not dissing Objectivism at all, but its opposite, subjectivism. I'm not so astonished that you refer to Casey this way even though you know very well who he is and that he is, among other things, a close associate of James Valliant, author of the book TOC pretends doesn't exist. Pretending you don't know who someone or what something is is an old ARI trick at which TOC under fire has proved very adept also.

No one here would dispute that one's first question about anything should be, Does it conform to reality, not, Does it conform to Objectivism, or, Does it conform to what Ayn Rand thought? The beef is with the contention that it's all a matter of interpretation, with one interpretation being as good as any other - epistemological equivalence, if you like - which is what Casey was tearing apart in his satire. Casey's post was a timely reminder (herein, Tibor, lies its importance) that Objectivists, being beholden to reality, are not equivalence-mongers.

MSK - I see endless references in your posts to "preachers," "world-savers," "knee-jerkers," "true believers" & the like who apparently dominate this site. Are you unhappy here? How can I get rid of these dreadful specimens if you don't tell us who they are?

I think the thing to realise with Christianity is that it's not "working" by being "diluted" - it's working by being flouted. What's working is not Christianity at all - it's reason.

Linz

The World's Smallest Objectivist Quiz

Charles Henrikson's picture

I have been working on something like this. It began with trying to rate drivers on the road as Fascist vs. Pacifists vs. Objectivists... Then I ran into an online brief of Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis: Disintegrated-Integrated-Misintegrated and it was applicable to the driver problem. When I tried to apply it to the “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” I ran into problems… where does an objectivist fit? The quiz needed a third axis: Objectivity. Working from my notes from Peikoff’s brief description of DIM I came up with the three axis: Self Determination, Self Actualization, and Objectivity. Separating the d sub 1, d sub 2, m sub 1, m sub 2, and I as Nihilist, Altruist, Fascist, Democrasist, and Objectivist and arranging them on a figure I get:

PPTD
Pyramidal Personality Test diagram 1.

Separating each axis in thirds I get 27 Frustums (one is colored red).

PPTD Frustum
Pyramidal Personality test Diagram with a colored frustum.

A Description could be written for each. One would get rated on how objective they are, how Self/Other Determined they are, and how self actualizing/destructive they are. This would get placed in three coordinates (O) (SD) (SA), and then plotted in the figure.

One more note:

Casey's picture

The first part of my post that started this thread is a SATIRE of the MSK approach to "Objectivism." I am not "dissing" Objectivism but satirizing the whole anything-goes approach of MSK. Sorry if that was not clear. I do not subscribe to the sentiments expressed there.

Tibor,

Casey's picture

The post was taken out of its original context, which was a response to Michael Stuart Kelley's post to a newcomer to the site on another thread posted by "SHE." It was also referring to a whole body of posts by MSK over time, posts on threads here and at SOLOHQ of which you are hopefully blissfully unaware. Also, I refer to the positions of Ed Hudgins, Roger Bissell, and Nathaniel Branden. Interesting discussions of Ed Hudgins' articles about Islam can be found at Diana Hsieh's site, Roger Bissell's ongoing campaign against free will is occurring even now at the other site, RoR, as well as threads about Nathaniel Branden's dabbling with mysticism, discussions about which can also be found at Diana Hsieh's site. I'm not sure if citing Diana is a no-no, but nevertheless, interesting and well-footnoted discussions about these very topics abound at her site. I did not prepare my very contextual comments as a stand-alone article -- Linz posted it as one anyway! But, in the interest of sharing the context for my remarks I include the above. I was referring to what I thought was a disturbing trend of "inclusion" that was misrepresenting the definition of Objectivism, whether one is an Objectivist or influenced by Objectivism, or not. Sorry if my context-shorn remarks were somewhat baffling.

Nancy/She -- I haven't been

Ed Hudgins's picture

Nancy/She -- I haven't been following this thread (see below) but when I spotted your name, in light of your earlier post, I read your remarks and they're right on the mark. The principal virtue in Objectivism (and in reality!) is to think, to use your own mind, to judge for yourself as honestly as you can. I'm an Objectivist but my first question is not whether my ideas conform to those of Ayn Rand, Branden or anyone else. It's "Do these ideas conform to reality?"

Objectivism is the most reality-based philosophy there is but we're not omniscient and the virtue we must cultivate above all is our ability to think.

I thought I'd also share something from a discussion over on the "Return to Reason" website. Joe Rowlands had an interesting post about benevolence in which he asked readers to consider what value they get from exercising that virtue when engaging in exchanges on forums like his (or on SOLO). You can read the thread for yourself at:
http://rebirthofreason.com/Art...

Part of my response to his remarks are appropriate here:

"You are right on the mark about the need to ask, 'Why is benevolence in these forums (or anywhere else) in our self-interest?' And, of course, if one's goal is a socially metaphysical one -- to appear better than someone else -- one's values conflict with the the values of others because one's values are not rational ones, especially here in the context of an Objectivist forum rather than some trivial gameshow.

"I agree that those who come to this and other forums with ends and thus means that conflict with others create, among other things, incivility and will marginalize themselves. I have all too little time to read everything I want (as I'm sure is the case with others) and thus when I see a thread that seems to be a competition for who will look better, with truth a secondary concern, or just a a bunch of name-calling, I skip it.

"Over on the new SOLO site Linz -- who I still respect and agree with on the need to put some passion into our advocacy -- posted something by a guy named Casey something-or-other. After reading a couple of paragraphs that simply dissed Objectivism (as well as me) in the most non-serious way, I just gave up reading. Why is it in my self-interest to wade through stuff that doesn't somehow enlighten, educate, entertain or inform me or even challenge me on some point or show a mistaken or something I need to think about a little more?"

I like both the content and spirit or you post and you'll certainly be one of those whose posts I do keep my eyes opened for!

Are You For Real?

James S. Valliant's picture

MSK,

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.

Perhaps I overstated things a bit. There are and always have been consistent threads running through the whole of Christianity's history. Every one of its various incarnations -- even the most benevolent -- has pernicious features -- features inevitably retained from the original.

Take the Reformation. While it challenged the authority of the Church (with the effect of creating a new focus on the individual soul), and cleared away a good deal of superstitious rot -- and among some sects even made material prosperity a good thing -- it also came packaged with a "back to basics" movement of Predestination and Puritanical values. It also challenged the "hypocrisy" of some of the best features of the Renaissance Church as "corruptions," including all those marvelously sensuous nudes the painters were doing for Cardinals and Popes.

This was the "Reformation" in an era that was intellectually improving. Today, we see retrograde interpretations of the Gospels growing popular. Acknowledged kook that he is, Mel Gibson has found it to be good box-office to get back to our Biblical basics in cinema -- even if this might offend some of our Jewish friends. (C. B. DeMille was a better "compromise" in this sense.) The Jerry Falwell's are always urging us to read this stuff literally, even as they have to dance like Fred Astaire around certain passages themselves.

Why? Because the New Testament remains the eternal benchmark. Christian disputes are about its "real" meaning and every new claimant announces that he has found the correct reading of THAT theological and ethical nightmare. (Occasionally, like the Mormons, they discover whole new texts with eerie echoes of the original but no sounder.)

But, please, does an "Objectivist" really need lessons in dissecting the Gray into its constituent hues? Or the dangers of such compromises?

Not pragmatism

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Jason,

Not pragmatism. Understanding. Your question shows how my intention is simply not seen. People want to preach around here. I don't.

(And boy, do they need an enemy! The real-life bad guys just won't act right and pay attention...)

I seek to talk about ideas on terms other than Objectivist jargon. I try to use Objectivist concepts without the knee-jerks.

But hell, I'm not the one who is saying that I want to save the world. I will leave that noble enterprise to the other eminent aspirants and preachers who can be found in abundance here.

I'm just trying to see why the majority of people out in the real world aren't listening to reason so I can talk to them instead of ignoring them. (Note, I said them, people, not Objectivist preachers on a website.) Maybe I can do my little share in helping to keep some idiot from blowing the planet up.

In no way am I advocating the dilution of Objectivist principles. I am advocating the analysis of Christian principles, the diluted ones that the vast majority of people out in the real world use. The ones that Objectivist preachers claim not to exist (when they wanna preach real bad).

Only that for now.

Michael

Edit for Lance - The diluted version is the one James Valliant mentioned - the one diluted with part reason. Please pay attention if you wish for me to answer any further.

Dear Linz, I have no idea

removed's picture

Dear Linz, I have no idea why this is such an important post (the one by Casey Fahy). Taking your word, I went to it and it was mostly venting with hardly any substance to it. Why did you think it is so important? (Also, the guy mentions none of the people whom he supposedly is talking about, so one cannot check out what he says.) BTW, I don't usually call myself an Objectivist--now and then, for the sake of brevirty I say I am a neo-Objectivists, like saying I am an ethical egoist in certain contexts, because it helps avoid lengthy explanations. But so what if I did--it simply means agreeing with the central tenets of this philosophy--like calling oneself a materialist or pragmatist or conceptualist or conventionalist or communist or socialist or libertarian or monarchist. These labels help us communicate and there need be nothing wrong with them at all.
Now, again--what's so precious about the piece?

Michael, this one takes the cake...

Lanza Morio's picture

MSK sez:

______

However, it is obvious that compromise is one of the reasons Christianity is working so well for so many people.
______

Michael, if Christianity works then why would Objectivism be relevant at all? A is A. Christianity is Christianity. The word "Christianity" means something specific and absolute. It cannot be "diluted" into having two separate meanings. Christianity, in its essence, is mysticism. It discourages critical thinking at every turn.

Your claim is that mysticism is working for many people. Are you an Objectivist?

Switching to pragmatism?

Jason Quintana's picture

Employing pragmatism to convert people to Objectivism?

- Jason

Tangent - Christianity

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

James,

This post is on a tangent to this thread, but it is important. You wrote, "Today, the Christianity practiced in the West would be unrecognizable to the pious of only three centuries ago. The idea of strictly adhering to the Bible is today met with revulsion by most Christians..."

Here is the hint of a double standard and, I believe, one of the reasons that the war of ideas is being won by Christianity in today's world.

When Objectivists wish to denounce Christianity, one of the examples they hold up is this diluted version you mentioned. It is heralded as one of Christianity's prime failures. However, note well: this is the version of Christianity that is practiced in today's world.

Now, here comes the double standard. When Objectivists wish to discuss the IDEAS of Christianity, it is the ancient version they use, not the diluted one.

This is especially evident when a person like myself comes along (or others - I have seen one or two) and wants to discuss the diluted version - see what principles were diluted and why. They are denounced as if they were advocating ancient Christianity, as if they were trying to rot Objectivism from within.

Ayn Rand already trounced the ancient version of Christianity ages ago. That job is finished. Enough already. But it seems that many Objectivists are frothing at the mouth to imitate her and cash in on some of the heady excitement in her writings.

It is so hard to find an ancient Christian these days, isn't it? Urrrggg. I got this horrible itch to DO SOMETHING! I WANT AN ANCIENT CHRISTIAN TO TROUNCE, DAMMIT!!!

No matter. Let's make one up! There he is! He's in our midst! Chaaaaaaaaaaaarge!!!

The Objectivists I have encountered use modern Christianity when it is convenient to do so (like the example of failure I mentioned) and, likewise, use ancient Christianity according to convenience (like for doing the Don Quixote windmill routine).

However, it is obvious that compromise is one of the reasons Christianity is working so well for so many people. The only way to understand these compromises is to look at what is working, see how it works, take it apart and expose the bad portion. Similarities of the good parts with Objectivism needs to be pointed out - showing that Objectivist principles (or reality principles if Objectivist ones are not explicit) are the good part of the compromise that allows these principles to work.

Once this job is done properly, principle by principle, it will be much easier to discuss these things with Christians. Most are very, very content with their compromises and that is the enemy that now has to be overcome. That is the real battle. Diluted Christianity works just fine for most everybody and they are blind to the evils that come with it.

These people are not being reached by Objectivism, though, and they certainly will not lend an ear to Don Quixote. (They think he is great comedy, however.)

I would remind you that the overwhelming bulk of the Western world practices diluted Christianity. The USA currently has a President who practices diluted Christianity - and he seeks supernatural advice on when and how and where to deploy the most deadly military capacity in history.

In the meantime, Objectivism goes on its merry way, with Objectivists (many of the ones I have come across) shifting back and forth between ancient Christianity and modern (diluted) Christianity at whim. They keep missing the mark altogether.

The war of ideas in the world is being won hands-down by Christianity. This is not because Objectivism does not have good answers and can be persuasive. It has and it can be.

It is because most of today's Objectivists simply walk off the battle field and let diluted Christianity win by default. They prefer to bicker with each other and pretend that they are Ayn Rand or one of her fictional heroes. Strictly speaking, they are evading reality on a monstrous scale and turning the world over to President Bush's preacher and others like him. Objectivists have nothing to say to these people that they will ever listen to.

Meanwhile, more churches are being built everyday.

Michael

WOW

Adam Buker's picture

This is the most honest post I have ever read on SOLO. Bloody fucking brilliant! Good luck and good premises.

Adam

OK

Casey's picture

I'm interested in Nancy's answer to the above responses to her own statements and questions.

Harsh?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

On Nancy? Didn't mean any judgement of her *at all.* I meant I wasn't bothered by her "interpretation" comment since it's what I've come to expect from youngsters steeped in pomo-wanking deconstructivism - the kind that says what the author intends is irrelevant & all that matters is the reader's own subjective "deconstruction" of the author's *hidden* intent. This stuff is standard in English Lit classes. I don't blame its victims at all. Would be nice to rescue a few!

MSK

Casey's picture

I did not imply that Nancy was getting anything wrong -- just pointing out that the debate itself has merit in a certain field, and that in that field, philosophy, it is important that it be got right.

And that is all that James said, as well, if you READ it.

And Linz, I think you're being a bit harsh on Nancy, maybe? There are two levels of interest in these ideas, the first and primary is what it means to one's self, the secondary and long-term is how these ideas are given a chance in the society around us to have any positive effect.

Nancy was asking what the hell all this is all about and that was answered so I, for one, look forward to a response based on the answer.

See how you do?

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Linz,

Now you see how you do?

Nobody is celebrating the warping of Ayn Rand's ideas. Nancy did not mean that and I certainly did not endorse it. But you just distorted it that way (along with the others, no doubt).

I do celebrate the independent use of the mind, wherever I see it. If Ayn Rand's works can't convince this person, how on earth are you guys going to do it? Being "intellectual guardians"? High-fiving each other?

(trying not to laugh...)

Dayaamm! You guys sound like control freaks.

Hey - I HAVE A GREAT IDEA! Why not actually discuss some of Ayn Rand's ideas for a change?

Nah... that ain't all that interesting, is it?

Michael

Applause ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... for James & Casey. Nice to see Holly Hornet chiming in, too!

It doesn't worry me that a newbie comes on & says that all that matters to her is HER "interpretation" of what Rand wrote, not what Rand actually said & meant—that's just your typical contemporary pomo-wanking deconstructivism, & I'm happy to see it get debated & debunked—but to see such a sentiment applauded by self-proclaimed longstanding "Objectivists" is scary in the extreme.

Shayne is right to applaud you for engaging, as opposed to ARI's head-in-the-sand, anything-non-ARI=evil attitude. Posting on SOLO is sanctioning EVIL??!! Because it allows interaction between lucid Objectivists, confused & pseudo-"Objectivists," non-Objectivists & anti-Objectivists? Only an ARIan could come up with something so warped & hysterical.

As I've said elsewhere, if ours is a battle of ideas, we should actually engage in it. Preaching to the choir is simply a waste of time.

Linz

Can't Resist

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Thanks, again. I've heard something similar, but I simply can't resist unsettling someone else: I DO call myself an "Objectivist." It's my dear friend Casey Fahy who refuses the title. (Perhaps he's right -- you should hear some of our knock-down-drag-outs!)

Thank You

James S. Valliant's picture

Shayne,

Thank you very much, and the differences you note are well-observed. But, you must admit that some posts on this very thread justify (somewhat) my less sanguine attitude about the potential future of Rand scholarship. And, one needs only to observe the real ways Rand has been mischaracterized by the media in the past to see that the existence of books filled with lucid prose is no defense against misrepresentation.

One more thought

sjw's picture

James,

One more thought:

> Seeking no role at ARI itself, and never having one,
> I have never been expelled from anything.

You've never been expelled, but you are being criticized by ARI loyalists. I am sure that some of them don't even like the fact that you wrote the book, and I know that some of them do not like the company you keep. One put it to me this way (this is not a literal quote): "James Valliant is sanctioning evil by posting to Solo, but since he doesn't claim to be an Objectivist I wouldn't condemn him for it, but I would say that he is confused."

Well I say that this person does not see the big picture you do, but that his view is typical of ARI loyalists. Now precisely because I think your approach is proper and good, I think these ARI loyalists have an improper and bad and ultimately self-destructive approach. I am hoping that you help turn things around.

Just for clarity, I don't intend to imply here that Solo is this wonderfully principled Objectivist organization and therefore that it's good that you interact here. My approval is in regard to how you have conducted yourself and set an example, it has nothing to do with Solo per se.

Shayne

Objectivism isn't Christianity

sjw's picture

James,

Objectivism isn't like Christianity in the sense that you can legitimately interpret it N different ways. Ayn Rand, unlike the Bible, is crystal-clear. So I disagree with you that it could be possible for Objectivism to be perverted in the same manner as Christianity.

It's also not like Nietzshe: all of Ayn Rand's important works have already been published.

Objectivism is really in no need of intellectual protection. A is A--and what Ayn Rand wrote is what she wrote. Barring a global disaster, no one can do anything about that to the positive or the negative. Well, I would make one and only one exception here because Ayn Rand specifically indicated that its predecessor was valid: OPAR. And that's finished too.

It's to your credit that you've not sought anyone's approval, that you've proceeded with this work in spite of the fact that some at ARI didn't approve. In my opinion, you're teaching them and the Objectivist culture in general some very good lessons. Objectivism doesn't need a protector, but it does need a healthy culture to be created and protected so that it can be more effective at changing the culture in general--and your work is a historic step in the right direction on this count.

Shayne

Integrity Counts

Holly Valliant's picture

Or, to paraphrase what Howard Roark said about a building: "A philosophy, like a man (or a woman), has integrity."

Or, at least it should. Keep the second-handers second- and third-rate hands off of her graceful edifice, for Athena's sake, and make 'em go and build their own!

For What It's Worth

James S. Valliant's picture

I will share my own experience with you, for what it's worth.

I wrote a book on subject many considered to be "off limits." I cited whoever the hell I needed and wanted to cite without regard to any alleged Index of Prohibited Citations. I freely post my disagreements with Rand's views on homosexuality on any forum I see fit. The worth of my book is still debated among some of those associated with ARI. Disagreements about Reisman's work, I know, continue within ARI circles, too.

I never sought anyone's endosement or approval -- I thought that I was courting the opposite. Yet, I was offered Rand's notes by her estate and unrestricted access to them.

Seeking no role at ARI itself, and never having one, I have never been expelled from anything.

And, it doesn't seem likely.

Spoken [Written] Without the Slightest Trace of Irony

jriggenbach's picture

"Around here, there seem to be a lot of people who can't get their supposed enemies off their mind."

-Jody Gomez, 12/11/05

James, Casey, fantastic

Ross Elliot's picture

James, Casey, fantastic posts. Objectivism *is* a self-correcting mechanism as long as there are mechanics around to maintain it. But start filing down the cogs or loosening the drive belts and before you know it the feedback loop gives way to loopy feedback.

To all...

Casey's picture

All,

I was in Palm Springs for the day and just got back to find an interesting debate going on.

Linz: for the record, I don't have an opinion about Ed, but his positions on Islam seem more political than philosophical to me, and that is a problem since he's not a politician. As for the fun you mentioned at the top of this thread, well, I was having it, driving my 2006 silver Mustang to Palm Springs for the day with my girlfriend. I highly recommend fun to all.

Shayne: See what I mean now? (I think you do.) I don't go around claiming to be some kind of scout master of Objectivism like MSK does, but I do have standards about representing what something is and is not. It is tantamount to Platonists calling themselves Aristotleans. I mean, WTF? I don't think it's the end of Objectivism, and I agree with Nancy that we need not concern ourselves about some institutional "Objectivism" at a personal level. That's putting the cart before the horse, to be sure. Ayn Rand shined light on the tools and said "Now get on with it! Build, create, live, prosper, enjoy!" She did not shine light on the tools and say "Now get on with protecting the tools!" The tools are a means, not an end. But uniquely for scholars and philosophers, these tools are the end, and protecting them from misinterpretation, etc., is the productive work of their profession. So in this specialized case, the tools doubleback on themselves and are put into action to protect the tools themselves from getting broken.

Even so, in the same broader sense that I care about civilization simply as an individual, I care about naming things what they are. It's important. It's why the insidiousness of language manipulation was pointed out by Orwell. If when the chocolate rations are down we are trained to automatically say "Choco rations are up, double plus good!" then we're losing the foundation of everything. I'd get just as pissed off if an announcer went through a whole Dodgers' game calling them the "Yankees." (Apologies to Chris Sciabarra.)

Anyway, there were a lot of great thoughts in the posts above, so while I winced when Linz plucked my post to start a thread, I'm glad to see what resulted.

Have fun, all!

Integrity and Objectivity

James S. Valliant's picture

She,

While merely sectarian squabbles come to nothing, of course, those arguments among intellectuals you deride, for good or ill, determine the course of history.

Christianity, to take one example, was a brutal and mystical doctrine. Under its rule, Europe a few centuries back could have made the Taliban green with envy. In its core, the New Testament is the very opposite of Objectivism in every way: it calls for mysticism in epistemology, self-abnegating altruism in its ethics and collective ownership, along with submission to dictatorship and slavery, as its politics. And centuries of gothic art show its esthetic.

Fortunately, Christianity was “hijacked” by more secular, pagan ideas. A love of this world, and with it science and discovery and the quest for material improvement, began to take hold. Today, the Christianity practiced in the West would be unrecognizable to the pious of only three centuries ago. The idea of strictly adhering to the Bible is today met with revulsion by most Christians – "What, stone someone to death for being gay?" Today, the pious are convinced that many of its implications are un-Christian.

This is a good thing.

But the Bible remains the same document. The founding ideas of Christianity have, in fact, simply been perverted. The mystic ready to burn both heretics and their books lurks ever in the background.

The same might happen to Objectivism. If someone were to gain an audience calling himself an “Objectivist” while preaching Nazism, the damage could be terrible. It would be a shame if Objectivism got “hijacked” as Christianity was.

For those sympathetic with what Objectivism currently stands for, that would be a bad thing.

Reading the posts of someone like MSK, I grow ever more certain that Objectivism needs intellectual guardians.

Of course, it’s up to each one of us to think things out for ourselves – yeah, that is the essence of it. But Objectivism appealed to you because of what it says, I hope, not because you think that it can mean anything to anybody.

Objectivists should engage with others, but defenders of Rand’s intellectual tradition have a worthy vocation. If, for some reason, “outreach” to Christians and Muslims is vital to you, join some group that doesn’t call itself “Objectivist.” Call it the “Tolerant Outreach” group or something.

Why use the name at all except to grab the eyes of a certain audience and to publicly associate oneself with Rand’s ideas? Such groups and persons wish to use Rand to promote what they do. To promote ideas obnoxious to Objectivism in the name of Objectivism is not fair to Rand or her system of thought. It is dangerous to the future of the ideas she thought important.

When Nietzsche checked into the psych ward, his sister took over his affairs. It was she and others who later controlled the publication of his writings and their presentation to the world. This contributed to the terrible misrepresentations of his thought still popping up in discussions of his work. It has marred his legacy, and the philosopher will forever be living down a bogus reputation, it seems. It has certainly made the explication of his true teachings all the more difficult.

It is important whether ARI and Peikoff are doing justice to the legacy of Ayn Rand. It is important that Objectivism have guardians of its intellectual integrity. It is important whether Objectivism gets identified with any of the wretched ideas of Christianity. It would be a shame if those with their own agendas, like the Brandens, were allowed to sell any image of Rand and her thought that suited them.

No, I am not calling for rigid conformism. I am one of those “independents,” although I still don’t see the beef against ARI. And, I’m with them if they are simply asking intellectuals to refrain from using Objectivism for the promotion of their own contrary and hostile viewpoints.

I believe in me

Glenn I Heppard's picture

She, you crashed your own arguement right from the beginning.
Ayn Rand didn't have her own writings to read.

"I am only really interested in how I INTERPRET her words. In what I think of her work, and what I think she meant."

That says it all. And I thought Objectivism was what Ayn Rand thought.

That is a great post Nancy.

Jody Gomez's picture

That is a great post Nancy. Remember in the Fountainhead when Toohey asks Roark what he thinks of him, and Roark's reply is-"But I don't think of you." Around here, there seem to be a lot of people who can't get their supposed enemies off their mind.

Bravo

Michael Stuart Kelly's picture

Bravo, Nancy.

Wonderful post. In your last line, you wrote, "Is there a productive value that I just don't see?"

Nope. It's all pretty petty. That's the full size of it.

..Eye

Go forth, woman, and make the world your own.

Michael

I just do not grasp this

She's picture

Oh dear. I’ll probably upset everyone here with this post. So let me say in advance that that will be a back blast and not the aim. I do not grasp this premise.

Here's my take on why this is not making sense...which is sure to offend everyone who isn't me.

Being somewhat of a loner and a bookworm, I have been left to my own devices when it comes to the understanding of Ayn Rand’s writings.

Ayn had no ARI or TOC to help her understand what she was thinking. Hmmm. That also has meaning for me.

From my understanding of her books, I see that if I wish to be a Howard Roark, (I.E. my own hero) I will learn from Henry Cameron but I will not imitate him and I will not make my living off of his work.

I will, instead, stand for myself and what I think. I will stand in support of the effort of a thinking mind. If that mind is yours, then great. But I will make the call of what mind I choose to support. It seems very silly to have anyone think they can tell me which mind I think is thinking. (That was fun to write!)

As I understand it, I can only honor Ayn Rand by the use of my mind. Not hers. In its most simplified form, that’s what being an Objectivist means to me. That’s the end of it. I have no need to fit myself to guidelines or display the traits of how anyone else defines it. It's not for show and tell.

I think for myself. I speak for myself. Rightly or wrongly. And it is the ideas I try to present that I value. Not the words I use to present them, which may indeed be faulty. Ideas not words. That is so important to me.

One thing that is clear to me is that I cannot speak for Ayn Rand. I am not she. No one is. I am not interested in what other people think of her work, how they interpret her words, or what she might have meant according to ________. (fill in the blank with the expert of choice).

For me, it's interesting as an essay on the expert, but not Ayn Rand.
I am only really interested in how I interpret her words. In what I think of her work, and what I think she meant. I believe in me.

I have been shocked to discover a world that says it is based upon Ayn Rand’s writings, and yet, would waste time on these kinds of fusses. Fusses of This Nature make no sense to me. I don't understand what value they produce.

I watch the fighting and “put downs” by various people and it's no more than a footnote about the writer and not the object. I see how they call names and jeer at one another for “Being Wrong” and I’m appalled. I have no wish to be part of that. I stand for the support of the mind and the hard parts of living that reveal themselves in the struggles and trials of living. I celebrate those struggles. They are different from my own, but no less valuable.

You are here because you try your best to think for yourself. I wish to honor that in you and I wish it to be honored in me, even if we do not agree that my thought is better, smarter, or faster than yours. (I am woman hear me roar.)

I remember that Hank Reardon slapped Francisco. Hank also made love to Dagny and then labeled it depraved. Francisco and Dagny both knew he was flat wrong but they never lost respect for him. They knew he was a "man of the mind” even if he hadn’t quite worked it all out for himself. Even Dagny hadn't worked it out when she crashed into the Gulch and she was so freakin' misguided she LEFT. Yet, the people in the gulch treated her with honor and respect. No one jeered. No one put her down. No one attempted to diminish her mind because she hadn’t agreed with them. She wasn’t called a troll. She wasn't called an insane doofus. She wasn’t called a Randroid. She wasn’t treated with disdain. Neither was Hank.

It was a great example, I thought, of how men of the mind honor one another. My bad?

What makes a looter these days?

As I understand it, if I make my living and base the passion for my life on anyone else's thoughts, work, or productivity, even if I am in harmony with people that think as I do, then I am not an Objectivist but a looter.

And wouldn't that mean Ayn Rand's back isn't there to be ridden to stardom but as a guide to find your own star? That's what I think anyway.

In summation, you see, I have no real interest in how Peikoff, Kelley, or the Brandons might interpret Ayn Rand, (gasp!) even acknowledging I might be in harmony with one or the other at a given time or point of interest. I don't find that Ayn Rand is SHe WHo MUST BE OBeyed. The only SHE that I must obey is me.

I don’t care what anyone, besides myself, thinks of Ayn Rand. I don’t care how they amassed great knowledge of her works and what they think she meant. I don’t care where they have been published. I don’t care who made them an expert on Ayn Rand. The fact is: They aren’t Ayn Rand, so I have little interest in those versions of her.

What Ayn Rand told me is that I “design my own buildings. I invent my own metal. I drive my own train. I mine my own copper and I do it for me, not you.” If this means that I do not fit in, don’t belong, or have it all wrong, so be it. But respect me for thinking what I think. Respect me for being willing to put my mind to the task of learning more. Honor a mind that is working for it’s own productivity. As I honor yours.

I couldn't care less what you think about Ayn Rand, however, I care what you think about YOU. I know that Ayn Rand didn't make you what you are. YOU did that. So, what are YOU making next? Why are you making it? What are you building? How will it work? Did you read the recent article on America’s Brain Drain and how our scientists are disappearing? It says that in a survey of science literacy, U.S. Students came in tied with Lativa…24th out of 40. What do YOU think? Can we, as People of the Mind, change that or should we let the motor stop? Or shall we just squabble amongst ourselves?

I see a higher road for thinking people and I doubt I will ever understand squabbles of this nature. They just seem small to me, so I'm not really sure I wish to take the time to grasp them. Is there a productive value that I just don't see?

"That fear of dying is there

Jody Gomez's picture

"That fear of dying is there because they first instilled the fear of life..."

Well said Robert. It reminds me of a Toad the Wet Sprocket song "Pray Your Gods". There is a line in it that says "is it that they fear the pain of death/or could it be they fear the joy of life?"

Christianity works well for

Robert Malcom's picture

Christianity works well for the majority of people in their daily lives, and it comes with the added bonus of addressing the fear of dying.

That fear of dying is there because they first instilled the fear of life...

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