The Sin against Objectivism

Ted Keer's picture
Submitted by Ted Keer on Tue, 2006-10-31 02:52

"He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men." Matthew 12:30-31

The sin against the Holy Spirit (The Ruach of the Jewish Kabbalah) is the one unforgivable sin of the Christian New Testament. Why? Because the authority of the Church and the divine inspiration of Holy Scripture is guaranteed by its transmission through the Holy Spirit. One may blaspheme God, and destroy the entire world, and still all manner of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven. But if one denies that Holy Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, documents forgiveness - if one denies that on Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and conferred upon them the authority to forgive sin - then not only is one denying the possibility of forgiveness, one is denying the possibility of authority in the first place.

"In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life--which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world." Leonard Peikoff [emphasis added]

The implications here are subtle, but profound. Whoever does not vote a straight Democratic slate is not (just) attacking reason, or not (just) denying reality or not (just) betraying the West - whoever does this is showing that he does not understand that realm over which one man, and one man alone, Leonard Peikoff, has a personal proprietary claim. Peikoff's claim as Ayn Rand's heir is stronger than that which even the law allows, since the law may confer royalties, not titles. Leonard Peikoff, through the authority invested in him by Rand, and through the instrument of The Ayn Rand ® Institute, has authority over Objectivism Itself. Peikoff, and his chosen associates, guard their exclusive claim with a closeness that excels that of the Papacy over its Vatican Archives, which are open without condition to scholars however sympathetic or hostile to the claims of the Bishop of Rome. (Wilson, A.N., The Rise and Fall of the House of Windsor, 1994.) Not only does Peikoff have the authority to loose and bind, he can withhold the text and the gravy train, and redact or release as he wishes. And in every edition of Rand's best-selling works comes a little remission, a little indulgence, a little prepaid postcard with the magical words, "If you find the ideas in this book engaging..."

Every religious sect sees other religious sects as its natural enemies. There is little reason for this to be any different with Objectivism, in so far as it has assumed the form of a church, with loyalty oaths and usage agreements and, if not outright excommunications, then at least shunnings and ex cathedra pronunciations. The fact that Objectivism ® now sees not an ideology but a revealed faith as its greatest enemy (and a faith that is not that of the cutthroats!) as its greatest worldly foe is telling. Not having been raised within or as members of churches, some here may not see naked sectarianism for what it is. There may be personal, professional and financial reasons why some may not wish to make themselves the criticisms that I am making. I bear none of those burdens, and feel no constraint in making these points myself.

Ted Keer, 30 October, 2006, NYC

( categories: )

As I work for one of the largest

Ted Keer's picture

Telecommunications companies in the world, I don't even answer my land line, let alone own a cell. I'd rather live in a barrel in the agora. I will email you at the address provided at length, later.


Ted ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I don't know which part of eludes you.

And all that palaver about a pic - surely you have a cellphone that takes pics, or a friend who has?

The pic is not compulsory, but I'm sure you understand why in this case in particular it's highly desirable - the remarkable similarities between your conduct & Sherk's. I haven't insisted that Fred Weiss supply a pic. I assume he's coy 'cos he looks like a dog's ass. Smiling

On Gays & 9/11

Ted Keer's picture

That is a matter that I do not wish to discuss in public yet. I feared that it might be misunderstood if I posted it without your input. Even now I find that I am unable to send you an email thru the site, I get the "Lindsay Perigo is not accepting private email" disclaimer when I try to contact you even now. The 9/11 matter is not pressing, and was a matter of speculation. If we can discuss it in private, I shall make myself clear.


[And as for "ultimatums," (I would say only challenges) I had no other way of gaining your attention, and was not attempting to pull an "Aaron what's his name" on you. I realized that you might ban me, and felt the site would have been the less for it, so feared it not.]

Thank You, Linz

Ted Keer's picture

I did attempt to address this several times by sending you private emails, but since asking you to sticky the SouthPark post, simply to bring it ASAP to the attention of those who would appreciate it, have been unable to send you private emails. I assume, given your political activities, and your life itself, that you have more important things to do than to deal with this silly matter. I will delete such references as I am able, and consider the matter closed.

As for the (sometimes large) images that I post, I find that an image is often worth 5,000 words, if it is relevant. I do try to post only the smallest clear images relevant to the matter discussed. Please have the sysop resize the images if they cause problems.

I will try now to justify my remarks on Peikoff, an argument which in itself should be of more interest to all. Be aware that I am on a dial-up as of today, and will be until I move. So listening to DIM and further explaining my criticisms of his treatment of Rand's patrimony may take some time.

And as for a pic of myself, I will either have to get MN to do a sketch, or we may have to wait till Christmas time. I am in the midst of trying to move, have a broken PC whose accoutrements do not work with my newly purchased Mac, and am simply not going to buy a digital camera now for that one purpose. Be aware that my closest relatives live over 100 miles away, that as a Manhattan resident, I do not drive, and that while my sister does email me pictures of my nephew, I do not have anyone who sends me images of myself.

Happy Armistice day!


BTW, It is an interesting rhetorico-epistemological matter to consider what an avatar does actually prove. Given that I could simply use any image, I do think that my choice of the twin towers is actually more telling than a headshot would be...

Ted ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Something about you is not on the level. In the first instance, it was not my idea that you might be Sherk in another guise, but when the similarities were pointed out to me, including a sometimes-unintelligible verbosity, ostentation & propensity for posting over-sized images, I became suspicious. It bothered me that you might be attacking Peikoff from behind a pseudonym. I have no problem with folk attacking folk, including Peikoff, as long as they, the attackers, are open & honest. But cowardice is something I simply cannot abide. Contrary to what you claim here, you have made no attempt to "handle this matter in private." You know how to send me a SOLO-Mail—you've sent me a SOLO-Mail ordering me to sticky one of your posts, and an even weirder one about gays & 9/11, but none on the matter at hand. Nor any e-mail. The only e-mail I received on the matter at hand, strangely, was from William—very quickly after my message to him on this thread, to which it was Ted, strangely, who responded here.

There's no secret about my e-mail address:

Ted, the easiest way of solving this is for you to post a verifiably authentic pic of yourself, with some means of authentication. We've made it clear repeatedly that we prefer our contributors to do that. You're clearly not technically incompetent, so your coyness only serves to fuel suspicion. You manage to post a pic of your nephew as you on RoR, but can't manage one of yourself as yourself on SOLO? I don't buy it.

Oh, and reflect on this—it just might not be the best way to endear yourself to your host to question his integrity & present him with presumptuous demands & ultimatums. I let folk say pretty well anything about me on my own turf, for sure, but there are limits. Ask William, if you need to.


Still Waiting Linz

Ted Keer's picture


This "William ...[or] whatever your name really is ... we're on to you. Stick with the O-Liars & Frordsters, the Brandroids & the KASSless. Right place for bad faith, integrityless sherk-jerks like you." matter between us is not simply going to disappear. Wishing won't make it so. Blanking out neither. You have been horribly rude to me for no reason. You have neither responded to me in public nor allowed me to handle this matter in private. Retract your or insults or justify them. Or let your name calling and evasion stand as a witness to your character. I will be happy to let this matter drop. I do not see you as an enemy, but I don't let bums on the subway spit on me either.



Ted Keer's picture

deleted by TK out of courtesy


Ted Keer's picture

As for Peikoff, my argument was limited to what I said, that his recent statement as put forth with the "which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism," qualification was very bad form, for the reasons that I specified, and that his public face, as exemplified by the four pieces of his which I mentioned in "An Inordinant Fondness for Evils," is that of a person too concerned with the negative. I don't think that Peikoff wants to advocate that anyone take anything on faith or wants to be named Pope. My criticisms are not at all unique (Dan Edge) or unshared. I repeat again that he and I should be judged on the same standard, the merits of our arguments and works. I am appraised bianually by my employer and post informally as an educated amateur. He is Ayn Rand's heir and a self-described professional scholar.

[some other remarks deleted by TK out of courtesy]

Ted, if you're not William

JoeM's picture

Ted, IF you're not William Sherk, then my apology. I said it because I think you are him based on uncanny similarities. Since I have no proof, I have to withdraw the claim. Question my integrity all you want; but I'm not posting pictures of my nephew as my avatar. And I've seen instances of people on Objectivist forums using false identities, so I think I have every right to be on my toes.

Whoever you are, your ideas are what matter.

I stand by my assessment of your pantheism or your continuing the smear of Peikoff as a dogmatic Pontifex. I won't argue against your pantheism, since it's means nothing. I offered my rebuttal of your pope diatribe since that's a real world situation. And now I wash my hands of you.

Integrity, Gentlemen?

Ted Keer's picture

Linz & Joe, you are acting as cowards, and for no apparent reason.

If, given your continued silence, I should interpret your actions as concession to my prior arguments on Peikoff, I will accept the fact. But your gratuitous and, frankly, absurd insults, require me to defend my honor to the rest of the readers here.

I was contacted in private by the William Scherk whom both Joe & Linz have accused me of being. William advised me that he did find the matter silly, and that he has contacted Linz privately to confirm that I am not he.

Furthermore, I have met with a personal acquaintance of Linz's, who lived with Linz for a time in NZ, and he has seen my face and my ID. That person has given me free license to say whatever I like on this matter. Given that I don't see any reason to waste his time by posting his name and email and drawing him in to this stupid distraction, I will keep his name private, except from Linz and JoeM. He can assure them as to my identity, should they care about the facts in this matter where they have seen fit to insult me, questioning my integrity.

I truly do not comprehend the hostility here on your parts, Joe & Linz. I have never insulted either of you. My arguments have always been clear, consistent, and transparent. I have always answered you at great length. The pantheism matter was addressed specifically at Joe's prompting. I never made an issue of it.

I have no reason to be hostile to either of you, except for your hostility toward me. I will simply conclude that your actions in this matter have been emotion driven and anything but objective. I don't want an apology, (although it would be justified, given the immature name-calling) just an admission of error on your part, and an argument against anything I have written, should you feel up to the challenge.

Ted Keer, 06 November, 2006, NYC

I'm not Aaron Williams...

Ted Keer's picture

deleted by TK out of courtesy

Who are Showing Their Hurt Feelings?

Ted Keer's picture

deleted by TK out of courtesy

William ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Or whatever your name really is ... we're on to you.

Stick with the O-Liars & Frordsters, the Brandroids & the KASSless. Right place for bad faith, integrityless sherk-jerks like you.


Ted, I'm not playing your

JoeM's picture

Yeah, Ted. I said, quote, "Bunk." Just like your pantheism and your little word games. Aww. Did I hurt your feelings? Yeah, you posted your blog with your name and your pic-oh, wait, you martyr, your pic is a building, and elsewhere, a baby. How apropos.

Ted, I'm not playing your games. Have all the last words you want.

Previously, on Diana's blog,

Ted Keer's picture

Previously, on Diana's blog, in response to my comments, JoeM said:

"Ok, let's drop this character assasination of Peikoff NOW. If you disagree with his strategy, fine. But this "pontiff" argument is nothing but a smear....I'm just about finished listening to the DIM .... but I can safely say that Peikoff is NOT 'asserting his authority'..."

During a tortuous detour through my Participating in the Eternal thread, Joe said that he had not acknowledged ( "not 'ignored', I just didn't respond to it") my previous generous responses to his accusations against me because they were, I quote, "bunk"

Here is my response:


"Bunk" in response to two essays is more of an insult than silence. Had Peikoff answered me, I would have said more.

You spoke of my "character assassination" of Peikoff, but by your accusations against me and then your silence in response, (belatedly replaced with a one-word epithet) it amounts to you doing the same thing to me, doesn't it?

Many, many people here & elsewhere have expressed the same response to Peikoff as me. (BTW, I have not posted on this at OL, at least not yet.) I am the only one who set up a blog here and put his name on it. (Assassins don't usually advertise.) I have been totally above-board, and even over-generous in my explanations and responses. If the only thing you read by me on Peikoff was the title of my blog post, I guess you could call what I have said mere assassination. But just as you say that he has made an argument, so have I.

It wouldn't have been fair for me to try to get the last word on the "eternal" thread, but I will drop this matter there on that thread. I respectfully request that you post your charges or any other comments about me or anything I have said on this here Pontifex Peikoff thread, and respond to me further not there but here. And you have my word that if you do I will answer you at length.

Like I said, I have downloaded DIM, and will listen to it.

Good Night,


Nolo Contedere

Ted Keer's picture


It is prcisely because I do understand that I am psychologizing (by claiming that Peikoff's "don't understand Objectivism" statement seems to be much more about his need to reassert authority than with the actual facts at hand) that I myself used the term. I do admit that I may be mistaken, but don't believe that's likely, or I would not have bothered. I don't expect anyone to disregard Peikoff's other works, or to ostracize him, or to cause him any financial harm. And I intend to listen to DIM over the weekend and respond to that both as a separate matter, and in reference to the election procalamation. My concern here is to assert that given the form in which he made his pronunciation - in effect saying that only a fool will question me - makes his claim dubious and even undercuts his own argument if it is true. As I pointed out first, and as others have repeated, if what he said was true, he could simply have said it without the qualifications. Before anyone else here, I said:

"Had Peikoff omitted the qualifier "actual," and ended his sentence with the word "life," rather than appending the "which means..." clarification, one could have taken his words at their value. But by flailing the club of "not understanding Objectivism" - a charge that amounts to a monetary threat to some people - it becomes all to obvious that this is all about control. Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Ted Keer


Michael Moeller's picture

If you are going to start speculating on people's motivations, especially where you leave little doubt as to the validity of your conclusions--I think it is instructive to consider what AR said on the topic (Ayn Rand Answers):

"The only way to attempt this properly would be to identify a philosophical idea, and ask what could be the psychological motive of anyone holding it. If you wanted to expose a psychological aberration, you'd need to analyze what's wrong with an idea and then demonstrate that only improper motives A, B, and C could lead to anyone holding such an idea...To deduce the motives of a man from his writings is improper and nonobjective, because there could be ten million motives for the same kind of action...You cannot deduce a man's motives from what he says, except in the generalized way I described. But even then, you should't make a claim about the only possible motive, because a special aberration or combination of psychological errors is always possible, which you couldn't judge simply from what someone said.


re Joe on Me & Piekoff on Diana's Blog

Ted Keer's picture

I have absolutely no problem with anyone's dogmaticity. I am as dogmatic as the rest. I have no comment whatsoever about the current members or writings of ARI, so, again, I don't know what to say about Sciabarra.

I installed the proper driver to listen to Peikoff's DIM lectures, and will be glad to comment once I have listened to them. Unfortunately, while doing so on my Mac, it crashed my MS Word program, so my intended post here comparing Peikoff & Theophrastus will have to wait.


Unhelpful distinction

Chris Cathcart's picture

(In response to Diana's posting.)

Calling an action immoral is, properly understood, to imply a moral judgment about the person doing it. To bring up the morality of something, you're bringing up essential factors like motivation or intention. It makes sense to call a person's actions evil or anti-life in its effects, but that's insufficient to call an action immoral.

It doesn't help to try to distingish an immoral action from a person who is being immoral.


JoeM's picture

Fair enough. Thanks, Linz.

Anti-life actions, not an immoral person!

Jon Letendre's picture

Not immoral, Linz. A dabbler in the anti-life. Or suboptimal, or something like that. But certainly nothing to imply that everyone who takes that action is immoral.

I've been out of it, but . . .

Chris Cathcart's picture

How the fuck did Peikoff manage to get around to explaining the causal efficacy of voting, period? Before we start hurling the ol' "Doesn't Understand Objectivism" Kiss of Death around, let's hear the argument from causality, shall we? Hell, let's hear it ESPECIALLY when he hurls it at those who abstain from voting altogether. Oh, and while you're at it: no rationalism detached from the world, please. This oughtta be good.

IOW, for someone who subscribes to "Causality vs. Duty," let's hear what effect I am causally enacting by my (individual) vote.

Responses to Lindsay, Joe & Claudia, with addendum

Ted Keer's picture


I find no profile for you, and have not before crossed threads with you. I tried to email you thru SOLO before engaging publicly, but was advised that you are not accepting emails. I simply don't see why you think that I accept anything on authority, or any evidence anywhere supporting that claim. I suppose I do accept what the weatherman says on authority, given I have reason to trust him. But I have never accepted any principle on authority, you can talk to my boss at work about that! If you want to track me on SOLO, or follow here to see much more of my writing, (I suggest you scroll down to links about vegetarianism, animals, religion or Narnia to see me at my most idiosyncratic) you can do so. Given that I have explicitly identified my disagreements with Rand in my profile and in my writings where appropriate, I simply can't fathom the grounds for your claim.


I am not accusing Peikoff of being dogmatic, per se, and I myself have no claim on ARI or any expectation or aspiration to be admitted to their archives. I have no criticism of the correctness of anything which Peikoff has said in OPAR. I neither expect anyone here to see him as an authority, nor accuse anyone here of that action.

What I do assert is that those who do have hopes to access Rand's archives, and those who do deal with ARI will understand the implications behind "which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism" quote to mean, [my words:] "and don't expect to benefit by association with me if you don't understand Objectivism." This is the entire implied point behind "Fact and Value." This is the reason why Diana Hsieh herself has said that she was leery of ARI - and they were leery of her - after she ended her relationship with TOC. I'll leave Sciabarra out of this, since I was not around for the last schism, and don't know what the relevant facts are to which you may be referring. As for anyone judging anyone else's "understanding of Objectivism" I have three statements. First, except for Objectivist movement employers, patrons, and teachers, I see no reason why anyone should concern himself with another's "understanding" of Objectivism. Second, it is another's understanding of reality, if anything, which we should be concerned with in almost all circumstances. Last, (this is not just to Joe) unless I knew Objectivism pretty well, it would be difficult for me to know where it is that I disagree with it.

I am glad that you realized that the South Park still was a joke. I do not think Puffy is anywhere near as evil as Peikoff. Smiling


Thanks. I regularly enjoy your reserved remarks, and love the smile in your headshot.

Ted Keer

The main point of this thread is not for anyone to change their minds about the value of Peikoff's works for them. My concern is to point out that his pontifical "which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism" shows that his recent ruminations on the election are much more revealing about him than they are about the merits of the Democrats. And the only reason that I care about him is that he is Ayn Rand's executor and legal heir.

Peikoff's Ultimatum

JoeM's picture

Since when do Objectivist support false dichotomies?

Ok, Ted, THAT was funny.

JoeM's picture

Ok, Ted, THAT was funny. Smiling

Vote Kerry (Hillary?) & Be Moral; Vote Bush & Be Immoral

Lindsay Perigo's picture


Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because “both are bad.”

Vote or Die, M*F*, Vote or Die!

Ted Keer's picture

Peikoff and Puffy, Perfect Together


DianaHsieh's picture

Where exactly did Leonard Peikoff say that Objectivists who vote for Bush are immoral? The judgment of a given act as immoral (i.e. anti-life) doesn't imply that everyone who takes that action is immoral (i.e. evading).

(I think you need to re-read his statement -- and perhaps the last third of my essay.)

-- Diana Hsieh

Peikoff said "immoral?"

JoeM's picture

Peikoff said "immoral?"

the gun...

Olivia's picture

that was aimed by Mr. Peikoff, was the "has no understanding of Objectivism if they vote Republican". For those of us who value morality and make the effort to live by it, there is no greater verbal shot to fire than calling us "immoral". Mr Keer is not taking that lying down and good on him.

Look in the mirror

Lindsay Blair's picture

Whenever someone goes into the particular idiosyncratic rant Keer is on here, it only reveals, in my view, that he himself does not understand objectivity, and himself believes knowledge to be "revelation by authority" at some level.


JoeM's picture

"Peikoff's case is different because he is Rand's heir and he can deny those who would benefit from it access to her works."

Ugh. How Sciabarrian. I'm starting to see the old agenda to smear Peikoff as dogmatic...It's funny, it seems as if those who are quick to paint him as "Pope Lenny" give him more credence than they claim...

Like I said, If my copies of ATLAS SHRUGGED suddenly disappear, that's a different story. So far, that hasn't happened yet...That doesn't mean he's obligated to support or provide anyone with anything if he thinks it will harm Objectivism. As heir, he's the property holder and it's his decision. Don't like it? He's not the only player out there. Free market, after all...

(And I say this, btw, as someone with no vested interest in ARI or Peikoff's views.)

Correct me if I'm wrong, anyone, but are there "repercussions" for those who do not vote straight democratic this time out?


Ted Keer's picture

I have to run for a doctor's appt, so briefly - Peikoff's case is different because he is Rand's heir and he can deny those who would benefit from it access to her works.

I'll post later tonight.


Devil's Advocate

JoeM's picture

Ted: "I just don't think that he has a high enough standing to set himself up as the judge of who does and "does not understand Objectivism..."

To be fair to Peikoff, don't many of us say things like this when we feel strongly about our views? (FAMOUS examples here would include the assessments of musical tastes around here.)

I wondered whether or not Peikoff was encouraging blind followers with his statement. I'd like to give him the benefit of the doubt, NOT out of blind faith, but because of his DIM lectures (I'm on lecture 8A now: Politics and Law.) I am waiting for the "punchline" regarding the elections, but so far, the ideas he's espousing do not enourage blind faith. (Example, his portion on esthetics address those who've misintegrated Rand's esthetic theory and ideas on heroism to believe that heroes in fiction can only live in cities, never have any internal conflicts, etc..) He demonstrates an understanding, and warns against, the dangers of rationalism, so I would hope that he posseses the ability of introspection to recognize if he himself were guilty.

And let's not attack him for what he hasn't done, i.e., "not living up to Ayn Rand's legacy." How many of us have? It's a strawman to attack him for that. He's presented his argument, he's made his judgement, he's entitled to his opinion.

Now, if my copies of ATLAS SHRUGGED are suddenly revoked, that's a different story.

And Ted, just a light jab, but a jab: It's ironic to hear a non-Orthodox pantheist "objectivist" criticize Peikoff for not having a "high enough standing" to judge who or who doesn't understand Objectivism...

Response to Phil

Ted Keer's picture

Thanks for suggesting the Understanding Objectivism course. Is it available as a text? Does it cover material not covered in OPAR? That is, does it go outside of the limits of what Rand addressed, or does it just further expound upon what Rand addressed? I am looking for the former, not the later.

As for the other philosophers, they were quoted as people I felt were worth reading, not in support of any specific argument any one of them makes. Finding quotes from them now would be a little time consuming and off topic, but here is a link to Epicurus' Vatican Sayings (I don't care for this version, particularly) where he expounds his system in about 40 brief theses. The first, which is poorly put here, is a precursor of sorts to Rand's indestructible robot argument. Basically, he says that if the gods exist, then they are perfect, and so are not moved by passions, and do not interefer with the lives of men. Not Rand's full argument, since he does not link our values to life, but still an enlightening argument. I'll post later about the loss of Aristotle's writings, which is an interesting story.


Response to Tom Rowland

Ted Keer's picture


If I may be so informal, I am not looking for, and don't think Peikoff needs a defense as an expositor of Objectivism. I just don't think that he has a high enough standing to set himself up as the judge of who does and "does not understand Objectivism," and that his using just that phrase is much more telling about his overall motivations than the specific argument which he expects us to accept. Since I have no desire and little expectation to be found acceptible to ARI, I am happy to point out what I see as the agenda behind his statement. I might be wrong, but I doubt it. And I do give credit where credit is due, but none of the four works I mentioned deserved much credit. I will be happy to positively review anything good that he has done. I don't ask for any special consideration from you or anyone else, especially since I am not a published philosopher myself. The reason that I have made these statements on my Blog, rather than elsewhere, is to make it clear that these are my criticisms, and that I respect the right (if not the wisdom) of others following Peikoff's pronunciation. Again, had he not couched his argument in terms which, when coming from him, are particularly ominous for those whose livelihoods depend upon contact with him and ARI, I would simply have expressed my disagreement with those arguments. You are correct that I am not saying anything new as in outside of my thesis, but my last post "an inordinate fondness for evils" was further explaining and providing evidence for my argument. At this point I have received seven private emails on the matter, and have been responded to both positively and negatively on other websites. The silence here is the exception.


Concretize, Concretize, Concretize

PhilipC's picture

> I have found reading the classics; Epictetus, Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius & the assorted Stoic fragments, Epicurus' fragments, Marcus Aurelius, Aquinas, Spinoza, Maimonides, Nietzsche, Cardinal Desire Mercier's Manual of [neo] Scholasticism, Paterson and so on, ever so much more fulfilling and broadening. [Ted]

I've often heard Oists or philosophy students speak of how wonderful it was for them to read some major philosopher in the original. But they never seem to fully explain and to give examples. After learning from Peikoff and from histories of philosophy how bad these thinkers' overall philosophy is, one needs examples in the form of actual quotes from these guys. It's easier and quicker to make a general statement from memory, which is perhaps why so many posters stay on the abstract or summary or sweeping level rather than concretizing.

In other words, Ted, could you PLEASE just give some examples containing actual quotes from these thinkers instead of merely just making an abstract summary laundry list?

> There may be some esoteric works of Peikoff's that I am not familiar with that would strike me as the breath of fresh air that Rand did...Can you suggest one such work?

His superb Understanding Objectivism course. It -applies- Objectivism to many areas and is an antidote to the "intellectuals disease", rationalism. It's in part a workshop as well as just lectures in which students were invited on stage to give an analysis which he would then critique.

> I have never been surprised by him, which is what I guess I really want. A new twist I hadn't considered, a new insight.

A central value of the Peikoff courses is not that they say things no one else would ever say, but how they integrate and organize the material brilliantly. One of his strengths is cutting to the heart of a complex matter and *essentializing* (which he sometimes calls thinking in principle, but that is not exactly the same).

Since concretization is a theme of this post, let me concretize and give from memory two somewhat condensed examples. These were from his History of Philosophy courses:

1. Kant sundered reason from reality, by arguing that reason cannot know reality (but only something secondary called the phenomenal world). Major philosophical movements since, never disagreeing with that premise, have split into those who accept the premise and choose reason while discarding reality: the logical positivists and "analysts" school in England and the U.S. (studying how people use words, discarding metaphysics and the real world, constructing imaginary languages and conventions, etc.) & the "continental" school in Europe centered around an "existentialist" and irrationalist approach which choose reality (heedlessly plunge in withou thinking or over-analyzing, use your feelings) while discarding reason.

2. History can be viewed as a long war between Plato and Aristotle. Major ages have either been dominated by Plato in essence (the Dark Ages and Medieval era) or by Aristotle in essence (Renaissance, Enlightenment, Scientific Revolution).

It's possible to quibble with an essentialization or add other factors and issues or drop the spirit or context in which is was intended, but if you grasp it properly it is enormously illuminating. You can learn a great deal by thinking of an age as a Platonic one or Aristotelian one and tracing how each particular idea or method of P or A can be traced through all the issues and ideologies of an era that lasts centuries.

And Peikoff constantly provided cut-to-the-heart-of-things essentialization in his courses.


(This is not to deny that sometimes one can over-essentialize or mis-essentialize, or use that as one's only tool, as in the whole Republicans-as-incipient-theocrats thing.)


TRowland's picture

there is nothing new in any of your diatribe about Peikoff I will give you the same respect you give him -- none. All of its content has been asked and answered elsewhere. Happy hunting.


If you install RealPlayer you can listen pretty easily with an intel mac, though YMMV.


Innovation versus Condescension

Ted Keer's picture

I do not make it a habit to purchase materials not available textually, given the difficulties placed upon the consumer and scholar who cannot access the material in an indexed form or at random without having to search and scroll. Given my disappointment, not with the orthodoxy, but simply with the originality (or lack there of) in Peikoff's work, I have not been tempted to spend good money on him. I have seen him on videotape, and read him in 1980's newsletters, making arguments that I could have made. I have never been surprised by him, which is what I guess I really want. A new twist I hadn't considered, a new insight.

I was particularly bored with OPAR. Peikoff's work there on the arbitrary was the only thing that struck me as something I had not heard before, but otherwise, after having read the entire available textual corpus to 1982, including having tracked down a hardbound reprint of the Objectivist (and having subsequently been absolutely enchanted and blown away by Rand's own posthumous releases, the Early Ayn Rand, and her Journals and Letters and the transcribed works on fiction and non-fiction writing) I have not read anything from ARI scholars themselves worth recommending. The non-canonical (hah!) works like Kelley's Evidence of the Senses and, to a lesser extent, the collections in What is Art? the feminism collection, Sciabarra's book and Rasmussen & Den Uyl were of some merit.

But I have found reading the classics; Epictetus, Aristotle, Diogenes Laertius & the assorted Stoic fragments, Epicurus' fragments, Marcus Aurelius, Aquinas, Spinoza, Maimonides, Nietzsche, Cardinal Desire Mercier's Manual of [neo] Scholasticism, Paterson and so on, ever so much more fulfilling and broadening. Most of Rand can be found in their wotks, if only in bits and pieces. I praise her as a systematist whose innovations extended philosophy beyond where it had ever gone before. I am grateful to this day for the adversary of mine in high school who through a copy of the Virtue of Selfishness on my desk as a challenge. But the best I can say for Peikoff is that he is usually unobjectionable, and has sometimes not put me to sleep.

There may be some esoteric works of Peikoff's that I am not familiar with that would strike me as the breath of fresh air that Rand did, and that other authors continue to be to this day. Can you suggest one such work? (BTW, I am open to enjoying DIM, but have a Mac and have not been able to get a proper driver to listen to it yet.)

Finally, my complaint here with Peikoff is not for his unspectacularity. It is specifically for his pontification on the election matter, which is both nonsense as an argument, and an insult as presented. I am not interested in understanding what he considers to be Objectivism. I am interested in the truth wherever I identify it.

Ted Keer, 01 November, 2006, NYC

BTW, the story of what happened to Aristotle's papers upon his death is an interesting one. I strongly recommend Giovanni Reale's four volume history of ancient philosophy, especially his Systems of the Hellenistic Age. I will try to post later on his account of how Aristotle's legacy was lost to us.

Unfair Criticism of Peikoff

PhilipC's picture

Ted, your implied indictment of Peikoff as unproductive is an extremely poor one:

You make the mistake of only counting books. He has produced a series of courses still available in recorded form which have been ***the largest and most invaluable series of well-thought out, systematic multi-lecture courses on a wide range of topics produced by -any- Objectivist intellectual***. From grammar to logic to thinking to oral and written communciation to great plays to ancient philosophy to modern philosophy to understanding objectivism....and so on.

Many of these courses are the -best- presentations of their respective subjects I've ever encountered. And in almost every case, I've read more than one good book (or taken more than one course) on the subject.

(This does not mean it was not a mistake to fail to transcribe or provide printed versions of these superb courses.)

An Inordinant Fondness for Evils

Ted Keer's picture

Or the Malleus Randianorum

Leonard Peikoff's declared position is that one must vote for the entire Democratic slate, regardless of the individual merits of individual candidates, so that the Democrats gain a majority in the Congress. This is because, while the Democrats are statists, the Republicans are "this close" [my words] to establishing a theocratic dictatorship. Others have argued elsewhere that if this were a well thought out and principled stand of Peikoff's, he could have announced it long ago when there was still time to agitate (write, protest, make meaningful campaign contributions) for the cause which he has all of a sudden decided to champion. Peikoff's belated 11th hour pronunciation has nothing to do with what is right, and everything to do with him, his position, and the control - the authority - that he wishes to exercise and which he feels it is his right to exercise as Mr. Objectivism® Inc. Peikoff's authority to speak for Objectivism should be judged on the invaluable nature of the great corpus of work which he has produced. Peikoff has had a free meal ticket for almost 25 years, during which, given his guaranteed income, one might have expected him to double Rand's philosophical output - if he were capable of it. Instead, we have gotten his uninspiring Objectivism®, the Philosophy® of Ayn Rand® and little else but essays justifying his excommunication of others, for reasons sundry and various, over the last two decades.

So far as I am aware, Peikoff's significant original corpus over the last few decades has included:

Ominous Parallels - an analysis of the evil of Nazism, and more
The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy - a useful (but not unique) analysis of the fallacy
Fact and Value - an Objectivist Malleus Maleficarum
The DIM Hypothesis [forthcoming] another book on fallacies as they are embodied in systems

Note that each one of these works deals with evil, unreason and vice as its subject matter. The first, his longest entirely original work, is dedicated to dissecting Nazism and arguing, pre-Reagan, that a right-wing fundamentalist dictatorship is just around the corner in the U.S. It was strident and laughable in its warnings when it was published, and deserves the oblivion into which it has sunken. Fact and Value was nothing more, I assert, than a rationalization for removing from his circle what he saw as a threat from those who are, so far as I have been able to judge, his intellectual superiors, and hence threats to his self-proclaimed authority. Why the concentration on evil? On dictatorship? On fallacy? On vice and on systematic evil? Pointing out evil as evil is much more easy than explaining something which has not yet been explained. Explanation requires induction and integration. It is hard. It is why we value Rand so much, for her unique innovations, If she had only written The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged, she would be immortal. If she had only written the Virtue of Selfishness, or her posthumous works as released in her Journals, she would have been immortal. Had she only published The Romantic Manifesto, she would have been immortal. And she will be immortal, so long as one copy of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology remains on this Earth. Would any even have been published, if not for Rand's coat-tails? Can any of Peikoff's works be called immortal? Or best-selling? Or value-oriented? Or invaluable? Had Peikoff's works not been written, would something vital be lacking from the Objectivist corpus? Look here at Amazon to see the vast quantity of works authored by Peikoff available there. By vast, I mean two.

Leonard Peikoff is, I repeat, a flailing intellectual irrelevance. The man can quote Rand just as good as the best of them. But remember that the Devil quotes scripture too. Whatever happens during the 2006 U.S. mid-term elections, Bush will remain as President. Last minute declarations on a subject which will be of little consequence in the long term, couched in what are actually hysterical hyperbole - if one listens to them - throw little light on politics of the Federal kind but show plenty of light on the inner politics of the Objectivist community, on the wisdom of Rand's endowment of Peikoff (or any heir) and on the motivations of the man who has made those hysterical declarations.

Ted Keer, 31 October, 2006, NYC

Let me disclose that although I have read him, and heard him speak, I have never spoken with or met Leonard Peikoff. My sole interaction with the ARI was through a short-term subscription in the mid 1980's and by attending a speech by Harry Binswanger. I am not affiliated with TOC, TAS, the Knights Templar, or any other formal organization. Also, I realize that it is bad form to be the only person responding to one's own Blog. But I have now received four emails to my personal email account on this matter, so I will assume that there is still some interest in my statements justifying my keeping this thread alive.

Not his Opinion, But the Throne Whence he Delivered it

Ted Keer's picture

My objection to Peikoff's argument is not that it is an argument, but that he brings in the irrelevant "does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism" which in effect means - so don't expect to benefit from interaction with the ARI, or have the possibly lucrative benefit of its endorsement, or access to Rand's esoterically held private papers if you disagree publicly with me. Had Peikoff made this argument a matter of his analysis and his understanding, it would not only be innocuous, it would be worthy of consideration. But by bringing in the Objectivist (i.e., ARI) edifice to back him up, he has shown either a lack of confidence in the merit of his own individual statements or he is explicitly warning those who expect to deal with him not to disagree without thus demonstrating their moral turpitude. To fail to "understand Objectivism" is worse than advocating statism, than being a collectivist, and so on - since these people can be spoken to and voted for, but those who do not "understand Objectivism" will be ostracized, cut-off, denied access, and ignored.

As for fear? Well, I have to thank you, Mr. Rowland, for being the first person to respond to me on line in the public forum. But this is the first post I have ever made anywhere about which (until your post) I had received private email to my off-site address (i.e., not through the moderator here) when I had not yet gotten public replies or on-site messages.

I have no questions with the motivations behind Peikoff's thoughts on the election. I have every objection to his couching disagreement with him not in terms of disagreement, but in terms of what is, in effect, heresy.

Ted Keer, 31 October, 2006, NYC

I would be interested to know if there is any official dissent in ARI from Peikoff's position? This would be a refreshing counter-argument to my analysis.

Here is my earliest statement on Peikoff, (from Diana's Blog) in case you missed it:

This ad hominem, ex Cathedra pontification, too close to the election to effect any practical result, has ever so much more to do with the personal demons of an unworthy heir than with objective reason and principled thought.

The paranoid fantasy of a Christian dictatorship is an old bugbear of Peikoff's. [Ominous Parallels] I haven't inherited the authority of Ayn Rand (r) to stand behind my pronouncements, so rather than accuse people of not understanding my proprietary crutch, I can only say that those who uncritically vote a full Democratic slate on "principle" are fools. I can't claim the apostolic authority to interpret Objectivism for them. Had Peikoff omitted the qualifier "actual," and ended his sentence with the word "life," rather than appending the "which means..." clarification, one could have taken his words at their value. But by flailing the club of "not understanding Objectivism" - a charge that amounts to a monetary threat to some people - it becomes all to obvious that this is all about control. Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

Why is it

TRowland's picture

that some find it so difficult to distinguish between someone, a man, Leonard Peikoff, stating his opinion backed by reason and argument on the one hand and the Pope stating his opinion backed up by faith and revelation on the other? Is it because they are all skeptics, leary of anyone claiming to know with certainty? An untenable position at best. Rand gave a speech called "Faith and Force; the Destroyers of the modern world" in which she showed the correlation between belief based on faith and the use of force. I don't see a gun in Peikoff's hand. Nor do I see an appeal to his authority. I see an argument. All of the rest is your projection of fear at anything that demands that you actually think about it.

Contra Biddle per Visconti

Ted Keer's picture

According to Bill Visconti, the following quote by Craig Biddle can be found at
"Rebublicans (ie. Bush - our Commander-in-Cheif) wouldn't even bomb a graveyard with over 190 members of Al Queda attending some religious ceremony because they wanted to maintain the "moral high ground"

According to US Marine Ilario Pantano of Warlords, No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy fame, (acquitted of charges of murdering insurgents in Al Anbar, Iraq) the decision not to bomb the Al Qaida funeral in Afghanistan was made not in accordance with rules set by Bush, but in accordance with a misplaced view that the Marines have of themselves, one which Pantano argues they must abandon. On September 28 2006 Pantano laid the blame for the failure to strike the terrorists at the feet of the commander on the ground, whom he said should be brought up on charges of dereliction of duty. Pantano made this statement on a CSPAN2 Book TV broadcast of a speech held held at the John Locke Foundation to promote his work.

Ted Keer

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