The Great Election Debate—Epilogue

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Thu, 2006-11-09 03:01

Islamo-Fascists, eco-fascists, statists of every hue, pomo-nihilists and Hsiekovians are cheering the Democrats' victory in yesterday's mid-term elections. The Dems are promising to push for "changing course" (i.e. capitulating) in the war against Islamo-Fascism and are in a position to engage in such favourite pastimes as raising taxes domestically. I trust the odd people out in the above list, the Hsiekovians, are satisfied.

I don't propose to relitigate the arguments that raged on this and other Objectivist forums as to which way one should have voted, if at all. Rather, I want to submit that Objectivists on Leonard Peikoff's and Diana Hsieh's side of the argument let themselves and Objectivism down badly in the way they prosecuted their case, Leonard and Diana most emphatically included. If Jeff Walker, Objectivism-hostile author of The Ayn Rand Cult were observing the Hsiekovians' behaviour, he must surely now be cackling with glee, thinking he has more than enough material for a whole new book!

The madness began with Peikoff's opining that one should vote Democrat across the board—the reason being that under the Republicans, a Christian theocracy was just around the corner:

If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.

On its face, this statement was bizarre enough. But there was more:

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.” … 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.

In other words, one should vote “consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a ‘good’ Republican,” and one would be immoral and deficient in one’s understanding of Objectivism not to.

And there’s the rub.

Had Leonard simply said, “Here’s the way I’m voting, and why ...” without effectively declaring it incumbent on every Objectivist to follow suit, a debate could have ensued free of the rancour, banishments, fallings-out, denunciations and all the rest of the depressingly familiar repertoire of Objectivist engagement. That’s what he did in 2004 when letting it be known that he’d be voting for the verminous John Kerry—made it clear that this was his personal choice reflecting his personal view, which Objectivists qua Objectivists were under no obligation to emulate or endorse. Alas, no such luck this time: “Vote as I decree or you’re immoral and deficient.”

It was downhill from there. Disagreement with Leonard and Diana was “abuse,” “Peikoff-bashing,” “venom” and the like; actually making fun of them—and given the bizarreness of their “imminent theocracy” scenario they were certainly fair game for ridicule—was “nihilism.” Anyone who disputed the “theocracy by lunchtime” scenario or maintained Islamo-Fascism was a much bigger threat was oblivious to any threat posed by the Christian Right. Hard-core Objectivist stalwarts like Robert Tracinski and Betsy Speicher who argued against Peikoff were “disgraceful.” President Bush was not merely mixed or confused, he was “evil.” And so on.

Now I’m the last one to nay-say harsh language just because it’s harsh—if it’s deserved, use it, I say. But the abiding disgrace of the Hsiekovians’ campaign rhetoric was their utter failure to justify it—or even attempt to justify it. Mid-way through the campaign I posed my “Turandot Challenge”—three simple calls placing the burden of proof where it belonged (on them) for the Hsiekovians to:

1) Demonstrate that a Christian theocracy is indeed imminent, bar toppling the Republicans now.

2) Demonstrate that the sins of the Republicans justify a blanket vote for the Democrats.

3) Demonstrate that not so voting is immoral, and illustrative of a deficient understanding of Objectivism.

Not one Hsiekovian stepped up. No takers at all. The imminent theocracy hypothesis, risible hysteria that it is, remains undefended; anyone who raises 2) is side-stepped with an accusation that he supports and/or denies the sins of the Republicans; anyone who raises 3) is told, in an unfathomably A = non-A manner, that he’s misreading what Leonard said, when he demonstrably is not.

Phil Coates and Jeff Perren, among others, fleshed out the anti-Hsiekovian case with exquisitely detailed arguments … only to be accused of being “concrete-bound”!!

All the while there’s a war on. A war against a primitive, murderous opponent vowing to continue Jihad against us till we, the West, are vanquished. A war that the West's Commander-in-Chief is waging as best he knows how—however imperfect his best may be to us Objectivists—with admirable tenacity, in the face of a maelstrom of abuse: including, Hsiekovians, from you. President Bush “evil”? What does that make the President, or Supreme Ayatollah, of Iran? The man who said this:

Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.

… is evil because he doesn’t recognise that this “perversion” is Islam? Gimme a break.

Hsiekovians, this wasn’t good enough. This was not Objectivism, it was Platonism mixed with Chamberlainism mixed with hysteria: if the war is not being waged perfectly, embrace your enemy’s most abject appeasers, in the name of fighting another, much less menacing enemy. In the name of all-or-nothing, embrace a something that entails white flags and tax increases. When challenged, evade, insult … and make yourself out to be the victim of insults. Substitute umbrage and indignation for arguments. Hsiekovians, this was rubbish.

I daresay I too will now be persona non grata—again—in certain quarters for having said all of this. So be it. I place no one’s judgment above my own—not Leonard Peikoff’s, not anybody’s. Would that all Objectivists took the same stance—and long may SOLO.

( categories: )


Landon Erp's picture

I'm tempted to agree with your statement on Peikoff. Granted I've been meaning to mention on here that since I've stopped paying attention to the debates on this topic here I've started looking closer to the actual events and I'm really starting to agree with the thrust of Peikoff's arguement.

The empowered democrats seem to be affraid to take a stand on just about anything (even obvious issues). They were elected on a platform of "See how horrible the republicans are doing. You can't honestly think we'll be worse." But the key thing is that there are a bunch of empty slogans and no real strong ideology behind it.

Meanwhile the Republicans are ideologically regrouping. There is some talk of pro-freedom values there and I think that is in response to the party that loves using Freedom as a buzzword lost it's way on that issue in a big way. Then comes the other part... The religious influence which is often to blame for this group abandoning freedom.

I think his problem has been correctly identified though I still don't think many good solutions are being offered.


Inking is sexy.

Don't Blame et Alia...

Ted Keer's picture

The problem is that given Peikoff's position as patron, the form of his argument makes it impossible for one to separate unqualified honest agreement from mere toadying. This is not the fault of his those who agree with him, and he has put them in a spot which he should never have been willing to approach. Let me strut here and ask if I was so wrong in my criticisms in the first place, and to point out what upstanding people have echoed my arguments, if not their exact form. I don't expect those who have accepted Peikoff's line to have to defend their independence as well. Peikoff should, for the good of his work, his values, and his accomplishments, withdraw the implication and apologize for having made it.


Get Your Rosary Ready

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Linz.

I would have been quite disappointed if one essay that was more biography than argument swayed you to convert to the One True Faith. As you know, if we are going to get the Inquisition up and running again, we need tougher-minded men than that!

Nevertheless, get your rosary ready, because I'll post a picture of me as soon as I scare one up. The only thing I have digitized at the moment is yours truly drinking a pint in an English pub twenty years ago. Being the handsome fellow I am, I hesitated to do so in the past because I didn't want to make the girls swoon when they had no hope of capturing a happily married man like me.

Now a serious note: I think I'm on the right track with Hsieh et al. I gave you the benefit of my thoughts, because even if I don't love everything you do, Linz, I do share your love for liberty. Anyone who will argue as forcefully (and sensibly) as you do for a government that will keep its nose out of my business while ensuring an effective defense of my liberty is a person who shouldn't be left out to dry when he does so.

Regards, Bill

They Are Not Happy Warriors

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Jeff.

"In any case, it's probably best to stick to arguing against their positions amd forget about their motives, don't you think?"

Nope. I've already made my argument with a joke about the likelihood of Christians in this country agreeing on how to impose a theocracy across the land. The nutty beliefs of Hsieh and company deserve no more argument than that.

Besides, those who have been benevolent enough to take the time to address Hsieh seriously, such as you and Linz, have made all the effective arguments that would persuade a fair-minded person. I might have more to add in terms of U.S. history and what Christians actually do want of government (most just want to be left alone), but that would only be extra detail unnecessary to what has already been said against the Peikoff/Hsieh position.

As to considering the motives of the likes of Hsieh, there's merit in it. Why do intelligent people take up such loony positions contrary to fact, especially when they explicitly commit themselves to a philosophy that proclaims: Reality is very real, and if you don't think so, it'll bite you in the ass? I gave you an answer to that from an outsider's perspective.

I see one group of Objectivists who are lovers of liberty and positively motivated to work towards a society in which we all respect, or at least tolerate, each other's pursuit of happiness. I see another group of Objectivists who are dogmatic to the point of despising anything heterodox. They are not happy warriors. They are a fearful lot, spooked by bogeymen that exist only in their imaginations. One of the biggest bogeymen is religion, and I think they glommed onto Objectivism not out of a love of liberty but a hatred of religion.

As any lover of liberty is a friend of mine (politically speaking), I thought it was in my interest to share with Linz and his allies my insight into the motivations of those giving him grief for his staunch stance against the false doom-mongering of Hsieh and company. Not so that Linz et al. can denounce them, but to be more effective (certainly more so than I could be) in persuading them of their errors and bring them into the camp of the liberty-lovers. After all, as self-identified Objectivists, Hsieh et al. are already halfway there.

Regards, Bill

Cardinal William

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I honestly don't think the Hsiekovians "hate" religion in the sense of having an irrational phobia about it. For mine, moreover, any form of unreason is the enemy, so I'm as opposed to Christianity as they are. I'm afraid your recent polemic didn't convert me. But I think the view that we're facing an imminent Christian takeover such that we (you guys) should all vote Dem across the board is screwy. Their (Hsiekovians') heads are so full of M-1, D-2, B-12, etc., they've gone funny. We are facing Islamo-Fascist Jihadists who are intent on takeover. That's the real-world fact of the matter. If Leonard can't bring himself to read the New York Times, he should switch newspapers and subscribe to Britains's Daily Telegraph. And actually read it so he knows what's going down.


PS—Bill, If you change your photo from that awful rodent to one of the real you, or get God to do it, I'll become a Catholic! Smiling


Jeff Perren's picture


I don't know that I would call it hatred, more like hostility. I suspect its source is similar to Jefferson's. I'm sure you know the quote I have in mind. Perhaps if they viewed most religious people more like you and less like Ted Haggard, they would feel differently. In any case, it's probably best to stick to arguing against their positions amd forget about their motives, don't you think?


Linz the Lover?

Bill Tingley's picture

Hi, Linz.

I disagree with you that Hsieh, Valliant, Fahey, and the gang have signed onto Peikoff's fatwa against the Republicans, because Peikoff commanded it. Peikoff launched a fusillade against something these folks hate, religion and Christianity in particular. So he not only put words to a passion they already had, he gave them a call to action that was persuasive to them, because Hsieh etc. were already alarmed by the bogeymen of Christendom.

Unfortunately hatred is blinding. That is why Hsieh and company do not see the facts as they are. There is no threat of a theocratic overthrow of the U.S. government, period. But without believing that such a threat exists, contrary to all evidence, how do they justify their hatred of religion?

In the end, it is better to be a lover than a hater. I think that is what you'll find separates you from Hsieh and her cohorts. What motivates you more? The pursuit of what you love or the destruction of what you hate? A lover succeeds only by moral knowledge and the sound reason to apply it. A hater needs neither, only the will to destroy.

This is not to say a person who is primarily motivated by that which he loves ignores evil. He can't if he truly does want what he loves, for he must protect it from that which would harm it. However, he will see evil for what it is and will not let hatred cloud his judgment. Nor is this to say Hsieh and the gang are immoral, because they have let hatred get the better of their judgment in this case. However, they would be wise to check it and not let it consume them as this Peikovian folly appears to be doing.

Regards, Bill

What "independent judgement"? It depends on the facts....

Orson's picture


Could the Hseihkovian's have adopted their conclusions "not out of blind obedience [to Leonard] but of their own independent judgement?" Of course.

But let's independently look at the facts behind the judgement that Bush's Freedom Forward strategy is the result of neo-cons influence, as Brad Thompson argues in the Objective Standard.

First, the source Thonpsom primarily relies on to indict the neo-cons as altruists is decades old. In truth, the neo-cons, according to Douglas Murray's RECENT (ie, 2006) book on the subject, are today more of a varied group of the like-minded on a set of foregin policy issues, not domestic ones - and thus not necessarily a bunch of altruists. On the contrary, they are often rational advocates of American self-interest.

Second, the policy Bush has advanced was not a neo-con creation but rather a product of the Clinton era. The Iraq Liberation Act of October 1998, passed by a Republican Congress and signed by Clinton himself, enshrined the toppling of Saddam and the installation of democracy in Iraq as US policy long-before Bush arrived on the scene. Therefore, attributing altruistic evil to Bush because of his listening to the "neo-cons", whatever that means, is mistaken. The policy antecedents aren't even "neocon" in origin, but bi-partisanly political.

The problem for the Hsiehkovians is in taking derived conclusions at face value and thus as brute "facts" when drawing conclusions, when in truth they are still subject to criticism and debate: they are treating contingent assessments as "facts," instead of treating them with all logically due circumspection.

Ideas in the air are not potent incantations without important (or even fundamentally originating) efficient causes, instantiated without socio-political processes that even contradict such ritual incantations. (eg, Republicans = theocrats, neo-cons= altruists in foreign policy; if Republicans act on neo-con ideas, they must therefore be evil altruists, bent on establishing theocracy.) In short, Linz judgement of their over-rationalism is correct.


Mike_M's picture

Jeff already started a thread on philosophy and history, so I'll comment there.

- Mike

tracinski's article

Mike_M's picture

I just finished my first reading of Rob Tracinski's article. I'm left wondering exactly who he is criticizing. The two Objectivists he quotes are Peikoff and an unnamed person from an unnamed discussion list. But as I believe Ed Cline pointed out, the OPAR quote is hardly representative of Peikoff's view. And quoting one unnamed person from wherever doesn't prove that the view he is criticizing is held by Objectivists. I can't think of any Objectivist intellectual who advocates the theory Rob is criticizing, so his argument strikes me as an elaborate straw man. Since I don't believe for a second that Rob would intentionally misrepresent his opposition I can only conclude that he hasn't understood the theory. I suggest asking Diana for a copy of the article if you haven't done so yet. (Sorry Phil I guess you'll have to sit this one out).

- Mike

Weaselly Cop Out

PhilipC's picture

> I've offered to send the whole essay to anyone interested enough to spend 5 seconds writing me an e-mail. [Diana]

Yeah, but that's hardly everyone who's read your accusation on your own blog and now here, is it? So the net effect is to fail to back up your charge by:

i) dodging the responsibility to present the evidence as widely as your exaggerated? charge.
ii) not specifying exactly what statement or statements he makes that justify your very strong claim.

How many beers in are you, Phil?

Chris Cathcart's picture

Have a couple more, and then come back and post.


PhilipC's picture

> Oh, so then you could accuse me of quoting him out of context? No thanks.

Diana, you are too focused on me:

If I were to say it was out of context, I'm sure you or many others would point that out.

The point is that scholarship and objectivity require that you treat someone you attack fairly by simply stating what that person said. The fact that *one person* (and even one person who most people on this list do not often agree with) is hardly a reason not to simply document your claims.

I'm finding it more and more suspicious when you can't find a central quote where the guy clearly says what you are accusing him of.


"I have a real good quote...AND IT WOULD SILENCE THAT DAMN PHIL...
But I'm not telling!!!
...The subhuman, anti-Objectivist Phil horribly, unjustly, viciously MISSTATED MY NAME and....[wait for it]...thereby made Vicious, Immoral, Unjust EVIL fun of me!!....That's why!!
[Chris and Fred-->]
Not only that but Phil is FAT and OLD...and BOSSY"


DianaHsieh's picture

Phil said: "The point is you posted a very extreme summary of his view publicly. So you could at least post an *actual quote* publicly. To show everyone who has read your original post that you are fairly evaluating him."

Oh, so then you could accuse me of quoting him out of context? No thanks.

I've offered to send the whole essay to anyone interested enough to spend 5 seconds writing me an e-mail. Anyone except you, that is. Given my offer, that's surely the only reason for your protest here. It's your own damn fault: I don't do favors for people who persist in calling me by some strange beast of a name for completely mysterious (but surely stupid) reasons.

-- Diana Hsieh

> Just e-mail me

PhilipC's picture

> Just e-mail me privately.

The point is you posted a very extreme summary of his view publicly (and have now -expanded- it: "doesn't even understand the Objectivist theory, except in highly rationalistic-deductive terms").

So you could at least post an actual quote publicly.

To show everyone who has read your original post that you are fairly evaluating him.

Tracinski on Philosophy

DianaHsieh's picture


Rob Tracinksi's critique of the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history (and the specialized sciences) appeared in the November 14th TIA Daily. I don't think it's publicly available, although I can forward it to anyone who wishes to read it. Just e-mail me privately. (However, I won't foward it to those who persist in referring to me as "Diana Mertz Brickell Hsieh.")

Ed Cline posted a fairly lengthy critique of RT's essay on Rule of Reason. In my view, the essay clearly shows that RT doesn't even understand the Objectivist theory, except in highly rationalistic-deductive terms.

-- Diana Hsieh

Now see what you've all gone & done?

Ted Keer's picture


Having a happy life, that's your "duty" not whether or not you have anything to "contribute" to Objectivism or elsewhere.


Rand did not "predict" the collapse of American society in Atlas Shrugged, she portrayed it.

God, this string has given me the apostate a big laugh. And Linz's "If there's anyone I haven't insulted" quote takes the cake.

Benevolence is Benevolent!


Incidentally ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In light of today's events, I urge everyone to read or re-read my essay at the top of this thread.



Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz, stop being such an asshole.
Did anyone ever say that Kant was the most evil man in history before Ayn Rand said it? Did you? Oh, so you're just cravenly and unthinkingly following her?

No, actually, since I disagree with her about that.

Thing is, Fred, if Lenny had come out & said "Vote Republican across the board, otherwise the Dems will impose a Green dictatorship any time now" (arguably a more reasonable proposition than the one he did come out with) you'd have agreed with that just because he said it, no?


Exaggeration and Overstatement....or Fair Accusation?

PhilipC's picture

> [Tracinski] now openly declares... a rejection of the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history. [Diana]

Are you saying Tracinski explicitly says that philosophical ideas are -not- a primary driver in human history? Because that is what it would mean to reject the view of the role of philosophy in history held by most Objectivists.

As has already been asked of you in a previous post: How about a *link* and an *exact quote* including his reasoning so your readers can see if your quite hostile summary is a fair one? ... Or should one conclude that you are, once again, using loaded and overstated language to slime or misstate the intellectual position of an intellectual opponent?


JoeM's picture

Linz, I re-read your comment to Jason and I withdraw my pope remark.

That said, this is getting too heated for my taste, and the heat is starting to obscure the debates, so I am excusing myself. I'm also going to take a break from SOLO (mainly for personal projects) but because I need some time away from Objectivist issues (not Objectivism per se, but the melodrama....and not necessarily passing the buck here, either; I need to assess whether I even have anything of worth to contribute.)

Happy Holidays all. Smiling

Linz, stop being such an

Fred Weiss's picture

Linz, stop being such an asshole.

Did anyone ever say that Kant was the most evil man in history before Ayn Rand said it? Did you? Oh, so you're just cravenly and unthinkingly following her?

Fred et al

Chris Cathcart's picture

Peikoff was in "bug-eyed panic mode" (definite scare-quotes here, like you use them) when he wrote The Ominous Parallels, though Peikoff also doesn't hold to a thesis of historical inevitability. That the nightmare scenario hasn't (yet) shown up in the USA doesn't prove him wrong -- perhaps because of the very factors (if they're there) that have entered in to prevent its occurrence.

It must also be kept in mind that, at the time, Peikoff hadn't developed DIM and focused on the influence of ideas from the standpoint of subjectivism/intrinsicism and saw the ominous parralels to Nazi subjectivism. Now he's analyzing things in terms of distintegration/misintegration, which could well intersect with the previous analysis, but this looks like difficult stuff to pull off, as Bill V. has acknowledged.

The nice thing about all this is that the alternative to it all to clean up the whole mess to begin with is Objectivism/Integration.

Diana -- now that's the spirit! Yeah, Linz, fuck off. Smiling Oh, wait, your turf, you ain't goin' anywhere. Say, Linz, you gonna study the DIM course or not, or are Leonard's conclusions so heinous as to make even you storm off in a huff? Anyhoooooo......

What I see from Linz here is his typical fire-lighting, again. He's trying to convey in his unique way that he has too much respect for the people who went along with Peikoff in terms of voting (still waiting for that explanation on how voting for one of the two schmucks in either party these days is KASS, btw) to accept that they could have agreed to his, um, to employ a Linz-style term, nincompoopery. It's definitely part nincompoopery, anyway. He's trying to say that Diana et al are better than this. Linz has an unusual style; here he says things that Diana interprets as accusations of gross immorality when they're more in the nature of KASS fire-lighting.


Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's my knowledge of you, Jim and Casey—or what I thought was my knowledge of you all—that makes this all the more incomprehensible to me. The fact that Jim and Casey just went quiet—and have been completely silent privately I find unfathomable. It has all the appearance of "Well, he served his purpose for us, but now he's being critical of Leonard—gotta dump him." Right at the time Yaron Brook stopped replying to my e-mails, too.

You forget that I took my stance on this Vote Dem thing after reading your essay. I'm sorry, but that essay didn't come close to proving to me that America will become a theocracy any day now unless everyone votes Dem across the board. That's why I put out the Turandot Challenge, which remains unanswered to this moment.

Now, I did attack your views. I didn't attack your understanding, intelligence or sanity because these are all unimpeachable. It's for precisely that reason that I think you have to be taking this stance just because it's Leonard's. That's not accusing you of "gross immorality"—it could easily be an innocent, albeit egregious, mistake.

As for "fuck off"—I shouldn't have to remind you of all people that this is my turf and I ain't goin' nowhere. I'm not going to reciprocate the invitation—you're always welcome here. As I said a few posts back, I'll always admire you, no matter what. But I must also be true to myself.


PS—Edited to add: As a matter of interest, was any Objectivist saying "Vote Dem across the board" prior to Leonard's coming out with it?

Request for explanation

Jeff Perren's picture

"Long before this election debate, I recognized his positions for what he now openly declares them to be, namely a rejection of the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history."


I'd be grateful if you would say a few words about your view of the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history, and why you say that Tracinski has rejected it. I'm not a subscriber to TIA and don't have any of that material.




DianaHsieh's picture

ChrisC said: "Although it may not be group-think, it's right and much appreciated that you [i.e. Linz] continue to raise a stink about it and harangue them just as the drill instructor harangues his recruits to keep that fire under their asses lit -- for the simple fact that Peikoff's statements are indefensible at least in part. It's sissiness to make a fuss about the manner in which you're lighting that fire. Some folks need a good ass-kicking to keep them KASS."

Oh please. You do not combat group-think by randomly accusing your friends of it when they happen to agree with someone other than you.

Linz has publicly accused Jim Valliant, Casey Fahy, me, my husband, my best friend, myriad ARI speakers, and countless others he doesn't even know of abject immorality. He's declared that we've subordinated our judgment to the decrees of Leonard Peikoff. I challenged him about that some weeks ago. He seemed to back down -- or so I thought. Now he's back at it again.

The simple fact is that Linz has absolutely no grounds for accusing any of his opponents in this election debate of "blind obedience" or the like. We've offered arguments (or, in my case, a 5500 word essay) based upon careful consideration of the empirical facts and philosophic principles. We've strongly recommended the sources that helped us integrate those facts in accordance with those principles, particularly Peikoff's "The Dim Hypothesis" and the slew of articles and lectures by Yaron Book, John Lewis, and Brad Thompson. Even if we're totally wrong, we've not said anything remotely resembling, "Well, I was going to vote for the Republicans, but since Dr. Peikoff said to vote for the Democrats, I'd better do that." We've given no grounds whatsoever for thinking that our views were determined by anything other than our own independent judgment.

Moreover, many (if not most) of us thought that Peikoff was wrong in 2004, then slowly changed our minds well before his latest statement. Personally, I've been thinking about, discussing, and gathering data about these matters consistently since the 2004 election. I didn't suddenly discover the issue when I read LP's statement, as Linz seemed to do. I've also been considering Tracinski's views for about as long. Long before this election debate, I recognized his positions for what he now openly declares them to be, namely a rejection of the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history.

Finally, Linz's accusations are particularly offensive in light of his knowledge of Jim, Casey, and me. He knows all of us well enough to know that we'd never do what he so loudly and vehemently accuses us of doing.

Linz, your moral accusations are nothing more than your indulgence in blatantly dishonest emotionalism. If you'd attacked my views, we could have discussed these issues. If you'd attacked my understanding, my intelligence, and even my sanity, we could have discussed these issues. (I'd be annoyed, but I could chalk that up to your unique personality.) These wild accusations of gross immorality are quite another matter. They cross a huge bright line for me. They make discussion with you absolutely impossible, since you've already dismissed anything I might say as mere blabberings in worship of Leonard.

So until you retract your moral accusations -- in a way that shows some substantial understanding of the serious injustice you've done -- you are kindly welcome to fuck off.

-- Diana Hsieh

"Bug-eyed Panic"

Fred Weiss's picture

Mike Moeller accuses Peikoff of "bug-eyed panic".

So, Mike, do you also think that Ayn Rand was guilty of it when she wrote Atlas Shrugged? In it she predicted the economic collapse of the US "at some point in the future". Well, here we are 50 years hence and not only is there no economic collapse in sight, we're prospering.

So do you think that Ayn Rand - as you are accusing Peikoff now - was not "objective and balanced" and that one could have said that she "lacks perspective"?

Not only that, but Ayn Rand was worried about the threat of the Soviet Union right up through the last issues of the Ayn Rand Letter in the 1970's. And yet just a mere 7 years after her death the Berlin Wall was torn down.

I wonder how many of us who were adults at the time saw that one coming. I sure as hell didn't.

I can also remember being worried by the prognosticators - like Harry Browne and James Dines (and George Reisman, I might add) - who were forecasting worldwide economic collapse and who urged their clients to stock up on precious metals, especially gold. They were urged to buy gold all the way up to $830/ounce and then...umm...all the way down to
$250/ounce. Needless to say, there has not been worldwide economic collapse (altho' we perhaps teetered on the brink a couple of times).

On the other hand, I'll bet that anyone in the 1930's who predicted that Hitler would kill millions of Jews would have been accused of "bug-eyed panic" - even obviously by Jews themselves, those very millions who he did kill. And yet, looking back on it now, weren't the signs unmistakeable?

I wonder if anyone could have passed Linz's "Turandot Challenge" and convinced his counterpart in the 1930's of what was coming.

But here's something else I wonder - and this would be exceedingly difficult to prove. I wonder if the predictions of Ayn Rand and Harry Browne, et al led to actions which have (so far at least) prevented it from happening. I mean, what is the point of these catastrophic forecasts if not to get people to take the actions to prevent them?

Then when they are prevented, smug people can say, "Oh, see, we had nothing to worry about." Smiling


Chris Cathcart's picture

Bullshit, I can't hear you! Tongue

So it was addressed somewhere after all, eh? So, how do principles integrate with practice when the practice involves no cause-effect relationship?

Whatever the practice involves, it's not essential that it involves voting, especially in the present environment of piss-poor candidates. Cultural change is a long-term thing much bigger than the result of an election -- something that individuals can and do influence through non-voting means. In the meantime, individuals should be focused on doing what they, as individuals, have the power to do to affect their own lives. Voting doesn't do it.

I have said that, like cheering for a worthy team, I would vote, when the candidates and principles they run on are worthy.

Why Debate?

Jeff Perren's picture

"Now that I've brought that simple point up about voting yet again, why do I still see all this hand-wringing, debate and discussion about why anyone should be voting any given way?" Chris Cathcart.

Because you are mistaken.

It often does matter to a larger degree than you have yet aknowledged, as in local election issues where the result may be altered by a few dozen votes.

Second, it's a matter of integrating one's actions with one's principles. Diana understands this and I have explained this point before.

More importantly, beyond the actual act of voting, thinking about, discussing and debating how one should vote is terrific exercise in understanding ideas, since it gives you concretes to employ in the process of chewing them. And it does have an effect both on many individuals emotional well-being as well as the views they ultimately adopt. All that has important consequences for how individuals influence those around them and the culture at large, as well as the effect on their self-interest.

Now, for once, I will descend to your level and suggest that if a juvenile, vulgar, fuzzy-minded windbag like you isn't interested in the debate that's fine. Don't participate. But please shut the fuck up and let the adults carry on a conversation without having to wade through the muck you continually dredge up and obviously so much enjoy swimming in.

Thank you Bill!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As Brahms once said so memorably when grumpily leaving a party, "If there's anyone here I haven't insulted, I apologise."


Linz Maintaning Objectivist KASSness

Bill Visconti's picture

I agree with Chris on that point. While I disagree with a number of things Linz has said, I appreciate his desire to watchdog against intellectual conformity especially to authority figures. I don't care if he fusses and bitches alot and occasionally drops a few too many insults. After all, few people do it in a more entertaining style.

Chris ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In a way I'd prefer to think it is group-think: it's rather mind-boggling to contemplate a number of otherwise highly intelligent folk each coming up with something so dopey on his own! Smiling

You're right about keeping the fire lit. That fire is what SOLO is all about. But of course it's not confined to (& sometimes, depressingly, conspicuously missing from) SOLO. Diana has it. That's why I'll always admire her no matter what. Peikoff has it, too. KASSless Society, of course, makes a virtue of not having it. In your case, Chris, you didn't have it ... now you've got it. Wondrous to behold! Smiling


As Julian Pistorius' footer reminds us:

"..It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate,
tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.."—Sam Adams


Chris Cathcart's picture

Although it may not be group-think, it's right and much appreciated that you continue to raise a stink about it and harangue them just as the drill instructor harangues his recruits to keep that fire under their asses lit -- for the simple fact that Peikoff's statements are indefensible at least in part. It's sissiness to make a fuss about the manner in which you're lighting that fire. Some folks need a good ass-kicking to keep them KASS.

William ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Thing is, Peikoff sees immorality in your vote, as well as a deficient understanding of Objectivism. And those I suspect of group-thinking are defending that. It's absurd on its face. What explanation other than group-think can there be?



Chris Cathcart's picture

You wrote:

[someone else said,] “Peikoff merely attacked my intellectual efficacy, not my integrity and honesty.”

He wrote, “immoral.”

First, he said specifically something about folks who vote Republican or not at all not understanding Objectivism. Well, you've got an exception to the rule right here, someone who didn't vote at all, and knowing, based on my own very understanding of Objectivism, that there's virtually no moral weight of any kind attached to not voting, as I've explained. Anyway, it's sort of a fine line, when speaking, between claims about not understanding Objectivism and claims about lacking some intellectual efficacy, but there's still a difference. People with the right intellectual efficacy may be deficient in understanding but can come (via that efficacy) to a better understanding. (Shouldn't this go without saying?)

As to the immorality part, I'd cut Peikoff some slack; he's referring specifically to those who know and understand the nature of the options they're "choosing" from. So it would presumably be meant to apply to those who know and understand the DIM hypothesis. As you know, there's a difference between errors of knowledge and breaches of morality. Some point in Objectivism somewhere about that, I think. The usual caveats about voting still apply, however. So it's a valid point (that would also go without saying) tangled up with a confusion.

Linz, I do not see any

Linz, I do not see any evidence of group-think from the DIM crowd, nor do I see immorality in those who voted for the Republicans. I voted for 2 of them in fact.


Real simple point here

Chris Cathcart's picture

And I'll keep on making it and it'll keep on going unrefuted: Peikoff can't justify any statement about the morality of voting a given way absent the requisite cause-effect relationship (unless you want to speak about causality as applied to tiny, tiny mathematical probabilities) necessary for an action to be open to moral judgment. Peikoff has dropped some context in order to say it. Dare I say it, it runs against core principles of Objectivism to espouse it; he just didn't do so knowingly. But so fucking what, he's dropped some context, not the end of the world. The idea that voting is an action open to moral evaluation is fairly widespread and open to misapprehension. He can fix it if he wants to consider this point, but I won't make any intrinsicist pronouncements about a lack of understanding of Objectivism on his part if he hasn't yet even considered it. So he didn't accord others the same leeway, that's his problem, and if he keeps this kind of crap up, it'll only speak poorly of him. Now, let's get onto some serious consideration of the DIM hypothesis, shall we? Peikoff's earned at least that much respect.

Now that I've brought that simple point up about voting yet again, why do I still see all this hand-wringing, debate and discussion about why anyone should be voting any given way? You're all looking like a bunch of fucking amateurs, as Walter put it so eloquently. As far as I'm concerned, this point is beyond discussion; Peikoff fucked up a little bit. So what, who hasn't? (Well, I'm having a hard time thinking if or when Rand ever did. . . . Wink ) There's nothing to defend in Peikoff's statement about voting unless it's cleaned up a ton, but then it'd be a different statement anway.

So . . . is there something awry about the DIM hypothesis?

Phil, you prissyholic, shut the fuck up ;-)

Chris Cathcart's picture

One of my favorite movies involves these kinds of dialogue amongst friends who didn't break up and schism because of it:

"Walter, you know, you're right, there is an unspoken message here, it's 'Fuck you, leave me the fuck alone!' Yeah, I'll be at practice."

"No, Walter, you're not wrong, you're just an asshole."

"Donny, you're out of your element!"

"Walter, you fuck! Come pick me up or I'm off the team, man!"

"Fuck the tournament, and fuck you, Walter."

"Shut the fuck up, Donny."

"Shut the FUCK up, Donny."

"Donny, shut the fu-- when do we play?"

"What the fuck you talkin' about?"

"Goddamit, Walter, you fucking asshole! Everything's a fucking travesty with you man! What was that shit about Vietnam? What the fuck does anything have to do with Vietnam? What the fuck are you talking about?"

"Another Caucasian, Gary. Friends like these, huh, Gary?"

"Walter, would you shut the fuck up! Don't say peep while I'm doing business here, man!"

"Walter, sooner or later you're going to have to face the fact that you're a goddamned moron."

"Shut the fuck up, Donny! V.I. Lenin! Vladimir Ilyitch Ulianov! These rich fucks, this whole fucking thing, I didn't watch my buddies die face down in the muck so that this fucking strumpet, this fucking whore, could waltz around town-- well, there isn't a literal connection, Dude."

Oh boy!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Jason let rip in a moment of exasperation. I actually burst out laughing when I read it. Its language was so unlike him it was really funny. Does it mean I endorse "Shut the fuck up"? Which part of the following does Joe Maurone, who now calls me "Pontifex" not understand?

Not that I want the Hsiekovians to be shut down—the more this stuff is debated the better—but I understand your being so pissed off with them. I am too.

"Pontifex"?? Seriously??

Then I'm accused by my exec dir of levelling "despicable" character attacks against the Hsiekovians, of epitomising the making of statements in bad faith. I would say it's the eptome of bad faith on the part of my most senior staffer to launch such an attack on me without any kind of prior warning privately. We spoke by Skype the other day. This debate was raging at the time, and John said nothing to me about my being despicable or my proceeding in bad faith. He did say he "generally agreed" with my position. Where's the bad faith here, exactly?

See, to me it's bad faith that the Turandot Challenge has been evaded. Remember, Leonard is not just lambasting the Republicans. He's positing an imminent theocracy, telling everyone to vote Democrat across the board, and calling them immoral and understanding-deficient in that instance if they don't. That's heavy duty stuff, in serious need of defending, which is what the Turandot Challenge asks for. It hasn't been given that defence. The Hsiekovians have turned themselves into pretzels trying to justify it without actually confronting the challenge, which is what persuades me that they do that because Leonard said it. Craig Ceely takes the prize for the most tortuous gymnastics, even to the point of that Reagan/Carter stuff. Now he's calling me "Barbara Branden's best pupil." This from the side that doesn't engage in character attacks?

All the while the admirable Mr. Moeller's very measured contributions are largely ignored too?

I think we should all take time out for some deep breathing. Good folk who shouldn't fall out are in danger of doing so. Shouldn't happen.


Sigh, Tom

Michael Moeller's picture

I'm not sure exactly how many ways I can put it. What I obviously mean by "face-value" is the words that were written and the plain, English meaning of them.

For instance, in law, when one is reading a statute, is it appropriate to say that the legislators really meant X and Y? Do you try and ascertain the intent of the legislators and read that into the statute? Or do you look at what is actually written in its plain meaning and apply it as such? That's precisely my point--you starting going on about "students in Objectivism" and the "role of epistemology in the philosophy of history" and so forth. That's not written anywhere--you injected that on your own initiative. When people start to impose their own meaning on what is clearly written then its dueces wild--that's what you did.

In contrast, I took his "no understanding" clause exactly as it was written and, using its plain meaning, I applied it as such. But hey, Tom, if you are comfortable causally dismissing what I said (with not much understanding of the argument) and declaring yourself the winner--well, that's certainly your prerogative. Good luck to you.



James Heaps-Nelson's picture


If you think this is down and dirty, you should've seen the Arizona political ads this year Smiling.


Purges, Schisms, Condemnations...and now....ShutTheFuckUpIsm

PhilipC's picture

1. First they split off from and morally condemn classical liberals and libertarians, calling them AnarchoEvaders or the equivalent. So there are maybe ten thousand instead of hundreds of thousands. They can't write for libertarian publications or learn their craft at their think tanks and institutions. They are unskilled and not plugged-in but "pure".

2. Then they split in two from other Objectivists, calling one side MoralAppeasers or InsufficientlyKass or the other side MindlessCultistTrueBelievers. So there are four or five thousand in each camp.

3. Then some of them split among themselves over how to conduct a website or a sub-movement [Linz and Joe]. Or over alcoholism charges or supporting pedophilia charges. Or over what kind of person Ayn Rand was. Or over hostile websites spitting venom at each other. Splitting that group of a thousand or so down to several groups of perpetually quarreling hundreds or less.

4. Then they split amongst themselves over, for example, who to fight first and how to fight---how to apply Objectivism to (i) voting and political parties, (ii) how aggressively and in what form to pursue the war on terrorism). Causing purges and not speaking to each other between those on the vote for the Democrats side [DMBH website vs. Speicher website, and many others]. And on the Solo website. Smaller still yet perpetually name-calling warring groups.

5. In each of the above stages, they are perpetually focused on infighting issues and on denunciations, not on positives: Little time or "focus" left for the positive, to solve problems, to create a better world.

6. And finally reduced to reverting to the elementary school level of the momentarily angriest or least intellectual on each side repeating the same low-grade, anti-intellectual epithets:

" Shut the fuck up."
" No, YOU shut the fuck up."
"I said it first and you're a meanie".

Those who do not live by the (schoolmarmish, boring, kassless, old-fashioned) principles of tolerance, civility, mutual respect, and benevolence among men of good will who basically want to improve the world are condemned --in the very long run-- to die or fail and lose friends and potential mates and allies and audiences by those principles.

They will end their days unhappy. As angry, frustrated, isolated people. Having led embittered useless lives. They will rot in drydock on the shore, in the words of the famous poem.

With no success and no effect on the world.

And a lasting legacy of futility.

Face value reading

TRowland's picture

First you claim that my post is an interpretation which you contrast with a "taken-at-face-value" approach. Then you say that others have a different interpretation, arguing that this paragraph is a "thinly veiled attempt at intimidation." Then you ask me, again, to take it at face value and make my own decision between the two interpretations. HUH!?

An interpretation of that kind doesn't qualify for serious attention, particularly if "face value" is the standard.

Two Cents - Or Heaps Puts a Value on his Opinions

Fred Weiss's picture

Well, Heaps, I also would not likely be swayed by arguments in defense of the existence of God - and a whole host of other subjects none of which would require great predictive powers on any one's part. So, I long ago stop worrying if anyone is "exasperated" over it, let alone Jason or you.

If you think you are accusing me of not being being "open-minded", you needn't bother. I'm not - and that includes regarding the achievements and stature of Leonard Peikoff and the respect he deserves because of it.

But while we are on the subject, what do you think it would take for you to stop sanctioning Barbara Branden and attending TOC conferences? Now there, massive evidence has been presented which you should be considering all of which you have chosen to evade.

In other words, you are the last one to be making pronouncements on this subject. So you would do well to follow the advice of your pal Jason and Shut the Fuck Up.

My Two Cents

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I don't think Lindsay has operated in bad faith. He put forward his arguments contra Peikoff in his Turandot challenge and he thinks his opponents are skirting the central issues. His demeanor is exactly the same as it has always been on this board. I've been on the receiving end of some of Lindsay's broadsides, but I've never thought he was operating in bad faith with an agenda turning a blind eye to the evidence.

This is first time I've seen Jason Q this exasperated in print. I think what he's exasperated about is that he could have predicted where Fred W would come down on this issue in advance and that he would not be swayed regardless of the arguments presented here.


My Two Cents

jtgagnon's picture

I've kept silent during this whole thing, in part because I wasn't sure where I stood because I hadn't studied the issues thoroughly enough and in part because I wanted to see how it would all play out in the discussion. I've since listened to the DIM lectures, read the arguments from both sides, and now feel comfortable inserting myself into the discussion.

First, a few initial matters: I take the same stance Dan does regarding a lot of this. I am highly disturbed by the silly claims that anyone holding Peikoff’s view is a blind ARI-worshipping dogmatist. I think it is quite clear that Hsieh, Weiss, and others have arrived at their conclusions independently. To say otherwise is the epitome of making statements in bad faith. The character attacks that have been leveled against them are despicable. Such accusations are wrong and inappropriate and I heartily condemn them.

I also agree with Weiss, that Quintana's random expletive-filled shriekings have been completely counterproductive. Jason: If you admire Jeff Perren so much, maybe you should conduct yourself in a similar manner - polite, honest, good faith debate.

Finally, I voted for Republicans across the board, just as I said I would. I did this, in part, because of local issues revolving around the recovery process down here in Louisiana. The Republican candidates had better solutions and better plans for the local recovery. That said, I appreciate Peikoff's arguments, and do think that his stance is the most "internally consistent," to borrow Dan's phraseology. And the more I have considered Peikoff's stance, the more I agree with it.

This is a subject of discussion that has hardly concluded...but for the debate to be productive, the character attacks must stop.

I've been out of it . . .

Chris Cathcart's picture

Too busy and the dough too good to keep on wallowing in these increasingly hostile discussions. Wink Looks like it's been pretty slow otherwise, anyways, so I haven't missed much. Anyone get around, yet, to proving the efficacy of voting at all? I haven't yet gotten to huddling around my computer to hear the DIM course, but I'm still looking forward to it. I remain puzzled still by his talk of immorality-in-voting and people not understanding Objectivism if they haven't taken a step in application to the question of historical trends (an area of specialty that Peikoff has investigated but the rest of us schmoes didn't get around to, indepth). Fine for him to fling around the charge that people who vote (okay, prefer) one way don't understand the way that ideas affect societal trends, though that would only be a shortcoming in application, not core understanding. I think I understand the philosophy enough, without having heard DIM, to appropriately analyze the present trends and, consequently, be plenty disgusted with a core trend, not with a particular political party.

Rand's approach to the history of ideas is perfectly appropriate and more essential to understanding Objectivism proper, before further analysis and development that Peikoff gives. Peikoff understood Objectivism plenty in '70-72 when he lectured on the history of philosophy, without having developed his own theory about integration. Then, he was discussing the effects of variants of intrinsicism and subjectivism -- a related dichotomy but at a different layer of analysis than DIM (which is meta-level, perhaps, as somoeone suggested). The DIM hypothesis is novel and Peikoff deserves credit for developing some intriguing-looking ideas here -- but it doesn't justify the sweeping "doesn't understand Objectivism" claim to those who might not have even heard of the course. People will demonstrate the level of their understanding by how they analyze Peikoff's hypothesis. I see it as a potential refining of understanding, of adding another layer onto how one examines things from an Objectivist perspective. That takes a process of objective communication and study, not intrinsic-type pronouncements. If someone like Jim Valliant voted for Republicans in the last election, it should tell you that Peikoff was speaking too broadly. JV understands it well enough, and his appropriate response to Peikoff's claim was that he's willing to listen to Peikoff's teaching on this -- but I don't thing he was about to concede that he didn't understand Objectivism well based on Peikoff's authority. Peikoff needs to prove his thesis objectively to advanced students of Objectivism, at least give them the opportunity to see and hear it for themselves, before commenting on their level of understanding.

Okay, sounds like I'm starting too repeat myself in different ways. Bottom line: people need to hear Peikoff's DIM, take it seriously, and he still spoke out of line. Live with it and move on, people.


Jon Letendre's picture

“Peikoff merely attacked my intellectual efficacy, not my integrity and honesty.”

He wrote, “immoral.”


JoeM's picture

I agree with Dan. This has gotten out of hand. And if Jason's attempt to stifle dissent is to be praised, then we see who the real pontifex is.


Michael Moeller's picture

You write:
As for the difference between Peikoff's statements, of course there is a difference. There is also a difference of 14 years - 14 additional years in which the strength of religion in politics has increased dramatically. Unless you forgot the extent of the role of evangelicals in giving the Republicans a landslide in 2004. Or the extent to which it was a factor in Bush's Supreme Court nominations.

If you remember, Fred, it was but a few posts ago that I used a quote of AR's to show how the prediction of long term trends was difficult because one does not know the events that will take place between now and then, the intellectual leaders that will arise, how the majority of Americans will respond, their free will, and the many other things that could affect cultural change. Now, you just proved my point with LP himself. In other words, if it was necessary for him to adjust his judgments or "raise the stakes", as you say, doesn't the same apply to the next 14 years? Couldn't certain events like 9/11 or the rise of other influential groups similarly affect the course? Or is DIM the magic crystal ball that obviates weighing all of those factors?

Based on Peikoff's own change over 14 years and all the things that affect intellectual trends, Fred, tell me--do you think it is wise to vote based on speculations about long term intellectual trends, especially in a free country? Especially in America? Again, reread AR's statement I linked to on The Forum.

Fred, you write:
That's true but what you are not willing to face is the reason why they won - and that reason is because the Republicans have been a disaster. What message would it have sent if we had sent them back to fuck up even more?

Did I miss something, Fred? Where in Peikoff's argument does he say one should vote based on punishing the Republicans for their actions? His argument goes WELL BEYOND that, ie. that the Republicans are an "ambitious killer" hell-bent on merging the state and the church. In other words, Fred, its not just their failure to institute the right policies, but their active destruction of the very basis of the US government. And its up to you to prove the latter. Its up to you to prove that they are creating a theocracy. Its up to you to prove that they are a "more ambitious killer". Its up to you to prove that Demcrats are comparatively harmless and merely instituting "ambling steps". Oh, and Fred, arguments from aphorisms ("Never trust a guy who says 'trust me'") or the argument that "Peikoff was right before so let's trust him again" isn't proving anything. In fact, the last reveals an awful lot.

Yes, Fred, I could name names here. I am not going to. Why? I am not interested in starting a flame war right now and I am not going to be goaded into arguing about Person A, B, and C and the quality of their thinking. You want to argue the evidence for theocracy? Let's do it. The war or theocracy in Afghanistan? Sure. You want to argue the objectivity of Peikoff's statement (which I offered before and noticed you conspicuously declined to do)? Go ahead. But I am not go to be dragged into personality wars--you're going to have to debate that with somebody else.

Speaking of Peikoff's statement, I want to put it side-by-side with Rand's statement from How to Judge a Political Candidate so people can judge for themselves. Which is objective and balanced and which is bug-eyed panic and lacks perspective?

Ayn Rand:
"The political ignorance and intellectual disintegration of our age become appalling evident in a major election year. They range from lethargic passivity to those who ignore elections have no consequence--to the frantic hysteria of those who believe that the life and death of a nation is determined on single Tuesday in November...One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate's total philosophy--only with his political philosophy...It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job."

"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.
If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner."



Dan Edge's picture

I think it is far too soon to declare that this debate is in an "Epilogue" stage.  This is the sort of debate that needs to be dissected for a long time.  Many questions remain unanswered.  The more I think about it the more I lean towards Peikoff's view, but if I said I completely agreed at this point I *would* be a rationalist.  The issue is very complex, and I don't fully grasp it yet.

I've done an awful lot of thinking and deliberating on this issue.  I've read hundreds and hundreds of pages of recent political news, statistics, and argumentation on either side of the debate.  I've talked to my friends about it, debated with them, and challenged both sides.  After all this, I'm still undecided.  But Peikoff's view is the one that is the most internally consistent, and most closely reflects what I know of human history.

While I was offended by Peikoff’s claim that I have no understanding of how to apply Objectivism, I’m even more offended by the absurd charge by Perigo and several others that anyone holding Peikoff’s view is a blind ARI-worshipping dogmatist.  Peikoff merely attacked my intellectual efficacy, not my integrity and honesty.

No one in the Hsiehkoff camp is going around questioning the integrity and honesty of dissenters.  They are challenging people’s understanding of the issues, not their characters.  Character attacks have been the exclusive tool the Brandenoids, OLers, TOCers, and Lindsay Perigo (who’s the odd man out here, Linz?)

I agree with Fred that folks like Jason have contributed nothing to the debate besides mindless hostility.  Linz’s head-patting for such content-less vulgarity is discouraging.  If Jason had actually made some kind of an argument for his position, had somehow justified his hostility, it might make some sense.  But as it is, the only ones acting like “mindless drones” in this debate are the ARI-hating crowd who cannot focus on Peikoff’s argument after feeling insulted by him.

--Dan Edge

Shut the fuck up?

Fred Weiss's picture

Oh, brother, that's always one that works with me. Right.

Sorry, Jason, it's not in my nature otherwise I'd be happy to accomodate you (me being such a kind and gentle soul).

That aside, you in particular are not in any position to be telling anyone what to do in this debate since you have contributed absolutely nothing to it - unless one wants to count your periodic outbursts which have been totally empty of any intellectual content.

You have reduced yourself to nothing more than a heckling bystander. Of course I doubt you are capable of anything else anyway so perhaps you have found your place in life.

Btw, it is becoming quite clear as this debate proceeds that the Linzinskis in general are increasingly losing their cool. That's because it becomes increasingly clear that their position amounts to not much more than bluster and bombast. The reason for it is that Peikoff is of course right - they don't understand Objectivism. But rather than acknowledge that honestly, they'd rather petulantly whine about supposed Objectivist "authority figures" telling them what to think and do.

Jason ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

This is the first time I've seen you let rip like this, and I applaud it. I hope you don't regret it when you've cooled down. You shouldn't. Not that I want the Hsiekovians to be shut down—the more this stuff is debated the better—but I understand your being so pissed off with them. I am too.

I thought "official" Objectivism was taking great strides away from Randroidism. This episode has shown, tragically, exasperatingly, that Randroidism rules still on the non-Brandroid side of the divide. Leonard says something really, really dopey ... and his intellectual yes-men rush in to defend it. If they wanted to be true friends—and true intellectuals—they would tap him on the shoulder and say, "Leonard, that was dopey."


Jeff Perren versus the "Hsiekovians"

Jason Quintana's picture

Jeff Perren = One of the few intelligent, thoughtful people who post on SOLO (or any other Objectivist related forums or blogs).

- Jason

Fred Weiss (and every other similar variant of moron -- Lindsay refers to these types as as "Hsiekovians") Shut the fuck up.   You are a fucking drone who would try to rationalize an argument in favor of anything Leonard Peikoff says regardless of how idiotic it is.


Fred Weiss's picture

"But -- contra Lewis, Thompson, Biddle, and anyone else who says so -- that 'disaster' has almost nothing to do with Bush or anyone else's religion."

You have once again named the correct issue but arrived at exactly the wrong conclusion.

It has *everything* to do with religion - in fact, specifically the *Christian* religion which has thoroughly infected Western culture with the stench of altruism. The "multi-culturalism" and such which you keep referring to is merely an outgrowth of Christian missionary zeal, i.e. that we must sacrifice ourselves to bring the word of God (or its modern, secularized version: egalitarianism and democracy)to all the besotted savages around the world.

The "Forward Strategy of Freedom" is merely American foreign policy Christianized.

I assume you won't argue with me that "compassionate conservatism" is Christianized conservatism.

Yes and No

Jeff Perren's picture

"That's true but what you are not willing to face is the reason why they won - and that reason is because the Republicans have been a disaster."

'Disaster' is stronger than I would put it, but ok. Not only willing to face it, but will insist upon it. The major reason the Democrats won is because the Republicans lost. I.e. many in the middle weren't fond of the Dems, but they were seriously pissed off about the Republicans', Bush first and foremost, handling of the war. Every poll says so, and it's obvious anyway.

But -- contra Lewis, Thompson, Biddle, and anyone else who says so -- that 'disaster' has almost nothing to do with Bush or anyone else's religion. George Bush isn't pussyfooting around in Iraq because he's a Christian and feels some affinity with Muslims who - like him - have a religious faith. He's pussyfooting around because he has swallowed -- or at least is willing to give too much weight to -- the Democrats insistence on 'multicultural-style war'.

That is, one shouldn't go in aggressively because people will whine about civilian and military casualities, the Iraqis will be angry with us, blah, blah blah. That ain't Texas kick-ass talkin', it's Northeastern crocodile tears.

It's a modern philosophical disease and Bush has a bad case.

Since Michael brings it up,

Ted Keer's picture

Since Michael brings it up, I will again cop to his charge of questioning Peikoff's motivations in his pontification, if not his motives. (I am not sure which words I used before, but feel motivation is the best to use now.) I am near the end of DIM and intended to revive my argument on my blog then. I am not challenging either of you on this issue here and now, just acknowledging that my accusation is out there, and I will either defend or withdraw it.



Fred Weiss's picture

"...many people on the other side of this debate are willing to swallow those statements whole--without a whole lot of independence, at least in my judgment."

You said "many", so it should be easy for you to name *one*.

As for the difference between Peikoff's statements, of course there is a difference. There is also a difference of 14 years - 14 additional years in which the strength of religion in politics has increased dramatically. Unless you forgot the extent of the role of evangelicals in giving the Republicans a landslide in 2004. Or the extent to which it was a factor in Bush's Supreme Court nominations.

It was also 14 years in which this country was attacked and in which we needed a President who was not only capable of defending us militarily but also philosophically - and not just in the words he mouthed but more importantly in the actions he took.

So, yeah, if Peikoff thinks the stakes have been raised significantly that might be understandable, ya think? What kind of grasp of the philosophy would it demonstrate if someone didn't see that?

All we're hearing from your side is what a horror it is that the Democrats won the elections. That's true but what you are not willing to face is the reason why they won - and that reason is because the Republicans have been a disaster. What message would it have sent if we had sent them back to fuck up even more?


Michael Moeller's picture

You write:
Mike, that interpretation of Peikoff's comments is a total red herring. He's saying nothing more than he has said in previous elections.

Fred, Tracinski, in his article Philosophy and Elections quoted Peikoff (from 1992) as writing in TIA:

"I want to stress at this point that the above is [my] recommendation for November, not Ayn Rand's or Objectivism's. A philosophy is a view of the universe; it does not back candidates. There can be legitimate differences among people of the same philosophy in regard to political tactics and strategy. So please think the issues over and judge for yourself. I have merely told you how (and why) I propose to vote in November."

That's a significant difference, wouldn't ya say? Compare both of Peikoff's statements (1992 and 2006) to what AR wrote How to Judge a Political Candidate, which statement of Peikoff's was her analysis consistent with? Why did she not find it necessary to use the same "I mean it" language (as you called it)?

And no, Fred, it is not a "red herring". For the tenth time, I am not questioning Peikoff's "strength" or "emphasis" on a position. I am questioning the objectivity of the statement, which you conveniently brush aside. I think those are valid grounds, don't you? If you want to defend its objectivity then let's debate it out--attack my reasoning and I will rebut.

I don't expect to get "hit by a bolt of lightening" either. I don't take nonobjective statements as any sort of judgment at all--I stand by my own judgment and his statement carries no weight with me. Again, for the tenth time, the other problem is that many people on the other side of this debate are willing to swallow those statements whole--without a whole lot of independence, at least in my judgment.

Thirdly, if you are assuming that I am operating under insults or disrespect that is not the case. I am sure you are aware of my style by now and its just my sarcasm at work--its not intended as insults or disrespect. Fred, I respect you and your intelligence and ditto for Tom and others on the other side. However, I can't say that I am not disappointed by many things I see on the other side of this debate--but its nothing personal for me.

I am not sure why you brought up Barbara Branden or Campbell or why you would think somebody like me would give a shit what they think. What does that have to do with anything?

As to "attacking Peikoff", I, for one, am not attacking him. I am attacking what he wrote--that's a HUGE difference, Fred. I have specifically refrained from character questioning; although it could be argued that his statements certainly open the door to that. In fact, when Ted questioned his motivations, it was I who posted a response about the nonobjectivity of questioning people's motivations. I've learned a great deal from and respect his works, but that does not mean he gets a pass from putting these remarks under scrutiny. "Question with boldness...", Fred.



Fred Weiss's picture

Mike, that interpretation of Peikoff's comments is a total red herring. He's saying nothing more than he has said in previous elections. At most he is adding by way of emphasis, "Oh, and I mean it. I'm deadly serious". He does believe that he is applying Objectivism correctly and that a profound moral issue is at stake.

So? I don't agree with him and I don't expect to get hit by a bolt of lightening in punishment for my sins.

Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz didn't agree with him in 2004 and said so publicly. I don't know Peter's position now, but Harry now agrees with Peikoff (although he said that there is no way he could vote for Elliot Spitzer for NY Governor - as, Linz, I couldn't vote for a Keith Ellison).

Nonetheless, there has been a vigorous and hard-hitting debate pro and con on HBL on this issue for several weeks with dozens of posts. Somehow it has gone on without the necessity of insults or disrespect of either side - and I expect no less from at least some of the people here. It hardly matters what the anti or pseudo-Objectivists have to say on the subject. If they associate with Barbara Branden, Robert Campbell, etc. or issue apologetics for Chris Sciabarra, they have zero moral standing anyway, so what difference does it make?

Doesn't anyone else see the inherent contradiction and absurdity of mush-brained Republicans being defended who do virtually nothing right, while Peikoff who has spent his lifetime doing virtually everything right is being attacked?


Michael Moeller's picture

You write:

"So I hope you'll read it when I get it done."

Certainly, Tom, I look forward to it.

As to my point on the Peikoff statement, I think it is rather obvious. Just read your last post, its filled with what you are "reading into" Peikoff's statement. You're not the only one, others have built elaborate rationalizations to justify it. Here is part of the actual quote from LP:

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.

Tom, I've heard LP speak in person, read his books, and listened to many of his tapes--he is not imprecise with the words he uses. And considering this is a written answer to a question, I think his words should be taken at face value. What you wrote amounts to your interpretation. Others have interpreted it as a thinly-veiled argument from intimidation. Who is right? Judge the words at face value and make your conclusion.

He did not say, "To understand why I am voting blanket Democrat and how it is justified via the history of philosophy etc etc you need to to listen to DIM..." What he did do is merely assert his conclusions and then claim that those who did not agree with it--regardless of the reasons why or the context of their knowledge or the evidence involved--then his verdict is they have "no understanding". Huh? No understanding from this single act alone?

My further point, Tom, is that EVEN IF I grant that Peikoff is entirely correct in his conclusion and his justifications--the statement is still totally nonobjective. How can he make claims about about the knowledge and understanding of people he does not even know, including their reasoning, their convictions, their values and how they pursue them? And not just about judging candidates or even politics, but the entire philosophic system--all from a single vote in a midterm elections and no other context god knows how many people? In fact, he doesn't know.

Its a mistake on his part, no big deal--it happens. But if it is a mistake, or even just a flaw because of poor wording, then he should correct it. And those on your side should acknowledge it for what it is, but you guys are unwilling to--and it speaks volumes.


Doin' Something

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Rand would never have issued a vote for Democrats across the board edict. The only lesser of two evils vote she advocated was Nixon over McGovern in 1972. How is voting for Democrats standing on principle? Looks more like a political Rube Goldberg calculated capitulation to me.



TRowland's picture

I will answer this one. Peikoff didn't say student of Objectivism, I did, and I meant by it "those, like me, and you, I presume, who are making an effort to understand Objectivism." Nothing more, nothing less. And what the hell's your point?

No, I mean what Peikoff meant and said "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life." How can Peikoff make that statement? Because he has just presented a short form argument for the necessity of voting Democratic based not only on the facts, but on prinicples for interpreting those facts that come from the Philosophy of History, a subject with which he has dealt since the early 80's. "The practical role of philosophy in man's actual life" is the subject matter of Philosophy of History. Not trying to whiitewash (how does anything I've said about this passage do that?) just make it clear. "Rationalistic system" comes directly from not knowing the practical role of philosophy.

Doin' "Something"

Fred Weiss's picture

I mean, gee, yeah, whaddya expect of us next to a genius like Jon Letendre?

But he's right, you know. It's all Ayn Rand's fault.

She had this terrible insistence of standing on principle and a lifetime of experience of what happens when you compromise them, going back to seeing what happened to the Kerensky gov't in Russia.

Look, you guys are right. The Republicans have done "something" - and that's all that counts, right? Doing "something"? And if we're really, really patient maybe they'll do "something" more.

In the meantime, while we're waiting for them to do "something" and Iran gets nuclear weapons, maybe then we'll do "something" about it.

The way we did "something" about Pakistan and then N. Korea.


TRowland's picture

Given the number of points requiring an answer I'm going to delay a reply. I do appreciate the quotes from Rand, though, since the article you sight is specifically my jumping of point for the essay I'm working on. So I hope you'll read it when I get it done.


Capable of much better?

Jon Letendre's picture


The authority being bowed to is not so much Peikoff, but Rand. Remember that she in her last years held to the theocracy fear mongering—it’s really her baby; remember how she so hated Reagan for initiating this irreversible slide?

“…they're obeying for the sake of obeying. That's saddening and maddening. If I didn't know they were capable of much better it wouldn't matter.”

What ever made you think such a thing about the people you named?

Adam and Fred

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's no more a matter of defying authority for the sake of defying than it is of obeying it for the sake of obeying. I am disillusioned with the people I mentioned because the piss-poor job they have done of defending the indefensible (or the great job they've done of evading the issue altogether) tells me they're obeying for the sake of obeying. That's saddening and maddening. If I didn't know they were capable of much better it wouldn't matter.


Here's the Rub

Fred Weiss's picture

Thank you, Adam.

Just as you should never trust a man who keeps telling you, "Trust me. Trust me", you can pretty much discount the intellectual integrity and genuiness of people who feel obliged to continually parade their purported "independent, fearless pursuit of the truth" and who make a noisy show of defying supposed authority. It's clearly done more for effect than because of any genuine substance behind it.

People who are deserving of your trust earn it. They don't have to ask for it. People who are genuinely committed to the truth doggedly pursue it. They don't make speeches about it. Their principle is not "to defy authority". When it is that tells you that truth is not their primary concern - and especially not when they feel obliged to continually wave it in your face.

So, just as you can be sure not to trust a man who continually asks you to trust him, you can also be sure that truth is not actually the primary concern of someone who continually tells you it is.

In this respect the Nike ad is right on the money. Don't talk about it.

Just do it.


Adam Buker's picture

Leaving aside the questions of disagreement, is it not possible that these people agree with Peikoff's position not out of blind obedience, but of their own independent judgement? I understand why you are frustrated and angry, but I find this charge of blind obedience is too ludicrous for me to believe.

Adam Buker

Music Composition

Here's the Nub:

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Michael Moeller:

The point is this, Tom, its bad enough that LP makes a nonobjective (read: stupid) statement like this; but you guys compound the problem when you try to whitewash it.

That's the truly depressing thing. Leonard's allowed to make mistakes. Who the hell doesn't? But for him to elevate the mistake to a high-level imperative which one is understanding-deficient and/or immoral to disobey, and—worst of all—for folk who should know better then to blindly comply, is an inexpressible travesty.

This has been a low point for Objectivism. I am especially disillusioned with Diana, with James Valliant and Casey Fahy, with Fred Weiss, and with Craig. In the matter of James and Casey, I would expect them to display the same independence and integrity that I had to muster to do the right thing re PARC. But it would appear I've outlived my usefulness. Doing the right thing by PARC (meaning the right thing by the maligned Rand) = blind obedience to the result of some rush of blood to Leonard's head, apparently. The hell it does.

Nothing is more important than the truth—and one's independent, fearless pursuit of it, regardless of whom one befriends or alienates in the process.


I agree

Bill Visconti's picture

"This underscores many things, the most important of which is that human beings have free will and it is extremely difficult to predict trends, especially long term cultural trends in a free country. You just don't know what kind of events will take place, what kind of intellectual leaders will appear, etc etc between now and then that will substantially effect the course of the culture. And the frantic hysteria over a blanket vote for the Dem's in a mid-term election lacks all perspective and sense of history in this country."

I agree with this. I have argued that Peikoff's DIM deals with very broad philosophical themes over very long historical stretches. He then applies that to a mid-term congressional election and tries to predict the emergence of an impending theocracy and pin it to a realy short period of time. I don't see how he can be confident in such a prediction. Especially when the evidence for an immenent theocracy is far from convincing.

I really like DIM and have found it useful. But not as a forecasting tool for short term historical trends.

One more thing, Tom...

Michael Moeller's picture

On the previous thread you wrote:

"Similarly, Peikoff judges those who disagree with him as making a mistake in knowledge. They have "no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life -- which means that [they do] not understand the philosophy of Objectivism."

I think this is also true. I think it's a rare student of Objectivism that understands its philosophy of history and the foundational role of epistemology in shaping history."

You seem like a nice guy Tom, but this kind of thing is really starting to aggravate me, and I wager I am not the only one. Tom, where, oh where, does Peikoff talk about "students of Objectivism" or their understanding of "philosophy of history" or "the fundamental role of epistemology in shaping history"? Certainly not in that statement.

It is a conditional statement, Tom, that if you do X, then it demonstrates Y. And it is not restricted to "students of Objectivism", it says anyone. It is not focused on the "philosophy of history" nor does it mention the "the fundamental role of epistemology in shaping history". What it DOES say is that IF one votes Republican or abstains it deomonstrates one has "no understanding of the philosophy of Objectivism"? No understading? Zip? Zero? Nada?

Tom, you mean to tell me that you can tell how well somebody understands, say, the trader principle from how they vote in a mid-term election alone? How they understand the role of cognition in art? How they understand the rule of fundamentality in concept formation? etc etc. Wow, Tom, that's amazing!!! Usually it takes a hell of a lot of knowledge about that person's reasoning and convictions to ascertain those things--not to mention the values they hold and pursue to see whether they regard Objectivism as just a "rationalistic system".

The point is this, Tom, its bad enough that LP makes a nonobjective (read: stupid) statement like this; but you guys compound the problem when you try to whitewash it.



Michael Moeller's picture

I second Jeff's frustration, here. About the only evidence you presented in your numerous posts was the growing popularity of country music? Country music? That demonstrates Peikoff's conclusion? Nor does arguing about arson analogies or analogies to Atlas Shrugged pass muster, here. Consider this quote from AR in Ayn Rand Answers (pg 158):

In regard to correspondence to reality, you need only be concerened with two simple rules: In drawing a conclusion you claim is true, you must have (1) included everything relevant to your conclusion, and (2) omitted nothing relevant."

I think it would be better formulated if it read included nothing irrelevant to your claim and included everything relevant; but the essential point remains the same. Tom, that is essentially what our side of the debate is arguing, that you are missing relevant evidence to support Peikoff's conclusion. I hate to tell you, Tom, but in any conflict between the relevant facts and DIM, it is DIM (or its conclusions) that go, NOT the facts.

Tom, you cannot argue about the history of philosophy without examining whether the facts do indeed support what you are asserting. Instead of floating in the clouds, you need to get your hands dirty with the facts here on earth.

For instance, imagine I started arguing about business principles and how they have and have not shaped the success/failure of companies. I say that Company X is applying all the wrong principles and doomed to failure. You point out that they have done A and B and implemented procedures C and D--all of which do NOT support those wrong principles. To which I respond, "No, no, no, I am arguing about the history of business principles here, and that is where Company X is heading because of these false principles". Don't you see how absurd that is? Don't you see that I would have to support my assertions with what the company is actually doing?

You brought up The Anatomy of Compromise, which is bizarre because AR suggests a trend the opposite of what you are asserting here. To refresh your memory, she writes:

For instance, consider the conflict between the Republicans and the Democrats (and, within each party, the same conflict between the "conservatives" and the "liberals"). Since both parties hold altruism as their basic moral principle, both advocate a welfare state or mixed economy as their ultimate goal...Since the Democrats are more consistently committed to the growth of government power, the Republicans are reduced to helpless 'me-toong', to inept plagiarism of any program initiated by the Democrats, and to the disgraceful confession implied in their claim that they seek to achieve the 'same ends' as the Democrats, but by different means."

Based on the principle you cited earlier, ie. that most consistent advocate of a principle will win, AR comes to the exact opposite conclusion. She notes that for this same reason the liberals will give way to the socialists, who will then give way to the communists. Note also, that this is precisely the same reason she thought the conservatives would die in Conservatism: An Obituary. Why wasn't it titled Conservatism: Rise to Theocracy?

I realize that your side seems to have claimed a more recent reversal of trend, I think Diana said it started within the last thirty years, if I am not mistaken. Considering these essays were just over 40 years ago, I wonder if it was to avoid conflict with Rand? At any rate, the main point is this: if you think AR was wrong initially, then cite it with the facts. If you think the conservatives have become the more consistent advocates of altruism and seek an outright mergence of the state with the church, then you need to support this with the facts. I am sorry to say, noting the rise in popularity of country music ain't going to cut it.

Another issue is the time frame of the supposed theocracy. How do you assess the time frame, Tom? How are you able to pinpoint to 14 years? What facts do you use to support the "imminence" or lack thereof? And Tom, the longer you stretch the time frame, doesn't the conclusion of theocracy become even less credible?

For instance, I may be able to make predictions of a stock better in the short term based on revenue streams, earnings, the growth into other industries, etc. But what about stock predictions decades from now when management changes, overall economic forces change, regulations may change, etc etc--doesn't it become a hell of a lot harder to predict? Now consider cultural change in human beings with free will--isn't that even MORE difficult? Consider this quote from AR given here on The Forum . I urge others interested in the debate to give that quote a full read as not all of it appears in Ayn Rand Answers and it is an intriguing insight into Rand's thoughts; but I want to exerpt just a portion:

But, so long as a country is not under a dictatorship, a trend, an intellectual trend, can be turned peacefully, particularly in a country like the United States, which was fundamentally based on the ideas of freedom...But I don't think any totalitarian dictatorship would ever hold here. Because under all their errors the American people's basic premise is freedom. That is the unspoken emotion, the emotional sense of life atmosphere in this country. And traditionally, historically, the American people can be pushed just so far, and then they stop it.

This underscores many things, the most important of which is that human beings have free will and it is extremely difficult to predict trends, especially long term cultural trends in a free country. You just don't know what kind of events will take place, what kind of intellectual leaders will appear, etc etc between now and then that will substantially effect the course of the culture. And the frantic hysteria over a blanket vote for the Dem's in a mid-term election lacks all perspective and sense of history in this country.

Rand even states in that quote that the religionists in this country are relatively "good, healthy materialists" who would "not stand in our way". Again, Tom, if you think she is wrong or that the times have fundamentally changed, then appeal to the facts to make your case.

And in case you are wondering, I included all the Rand quotes on purpose. It quite possibly could be the only thing to make the Leonard Loyalists shed the blinders, at least for a few seconds.



TRowland's picture

I feel your pain! For I don't think I said anything that came close to "Facts OR Principles."

Not giving up, and will be back with some hopefully clearer explinations and demonstrations of my position.


TRowland's picture

It's the reasons that count. Suppose 40% of the people who voted against the latest environmental law rejected it because they think God ordained the individual human being to be the steward of what is the Lord's (render unto Ceasar ... ). Well there's a couple of positive and a negative interpretation here. The positives are: 1. Christianity is much more individualistic than other religions, making membership a matter of choice rather than racial decent and 2. it displays that individualism in arguing against government involvement and for individual stewardship. The negative is: it's all based on religious faith, not the facts of reality (the long chain of abstractions leading from the percieved nature of man to individual rights). Now...the ultimate question. Which is better, to get the right results from using the wrong epistemological method or to get the wrong results from the right method? Ayn Rand put it succinctly when she said, "when you introduce faith, it's dueces wild."

I want to say at this point that, in my judgment, there are circumstances when political cooperation is possible in an ad hoc way with people who are religious as long as the issue itself is not a clearly religious one. Initiatives are one good way to do this. For example, in this past election I voted for Democrats for office while voting against many of their positions in the initiatives.

But in judging trends it is all in the reasons. And trends are not proven or disproven by momentary blips in the poll numbers or voting patterns, particularly in a culture with premises as mixed as the one we live in.

The moral requirement to vote Democratic doesn't exit as I've argued over and over, if by that you mean that anyone who vootes Republican is therefore immoral. Morality, for Objectivism, is, while not being a strictly consequentialist ethics, certainly an "if-than" ethics, emphasizing individual judgment (read the Ethics section of Galt's Speech and look for all the 'if's'). The context for any moral judgment made by any Objectivist is "If you agree with my argument, facts, assessment, judgment, it would be immoral to act otherwise (integrity being a virtue)." "If you agree that X is arguing dishonestly it is immoral to act otherwise (justice being a virtue)." "If you agree that the Republican's increasing reliance on faith-based support for it's positions is more dangerous than the Democratic reliance on nililism, then it would be immoral to act otherwise (self-sacrifice being a sin)." This, btw, leads to the conclusion, in my judgment, that no one should ever be slammed for making a moral judgment, even when you believe they are wrong. It's all in the reasons (i.e. the method). In effect, Objectivism, as Galt says, has no commandments from on high. Even the admonition "think" is preceded by "If you want to live ..." No one is high enough to claim precedence over your mind and no judgment by Peikoff or Diana or any one that something is mistaken or immoral should have any greater consequence than that dictated by your honest judgment of its truth.


John and William

Craig Ceely's picture

I second your sentiments: There is certainly reason left for optimism.


jtgagnon's picture

Mr. Green states: "If we are to be alarmed at the reasons for people attending church and the religious rhetoric surrounding laws, should we not also be optimistic when such things are rejected in Missouri, South Dakota and my home state of Michigan?"

Absolutely. And I thank you for bringing this up. There remains a lot to be optimistic about.

As far as the Dem/Rep issue goes, I've been pretty silent because I've been doing some studying of my own and still haven't come to a satisfactory conclusion. I agree with Peikoff - to an extent. But, I still think that America is not yet "on the edge." It is close...but not quite there.

I do want to thank Jeff P., T. Rowland, Craig C. and others for your insights...I've appreciated your comments and am still trying to reach a reasonable conclusion from everything that's been thrown out there.

Questions for Mr. Rowland

I agree that with Peikoff's statement when he says, "The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia,, imposes taxes ... [etc.]. What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy." I just don't see how voting for the Dem's as a moral requirement follows (I'm on lecture 4 of DIM, maybe I should skip ahead?)

You also say "It's not the number of laws or the number of people attending church that is the primary here, but the fundamentally of the REASONS for those laws and that attendance. That's what informs Ayn Rand's discussion of the influence of religion in the 60s and what makes her conclusions (but not their grounding in fundamentals) irrelevant today."

If we are to be alarmed at the reasons for people attending church and the religious rhetoric surrounding laws, should we not also be optimistic when such things are rejected in Missouri, South Dakota and my home state of Michigan?


Craig is Right

But so is Linz. Congress was no longer lulled into Carter's fantasy world after it came to a crashing halt the day of the invasion of Afghanistan. Remember it was the moral certainty of Reagan that the Democrats feared, and rightly so. They could not defend their buildup of the military outside of an immediate threat and the American voters saw through the Democrat's pragmatic political move to strengthen the military after they were proved wrong as not a principled change of direction, but a political fire hose.


Another first for SOLO

Craig Ceely's picture

You know, it's been almost thirty years since the Carter administration, and in all that time I have never encountered, or even heard of, anyone, anywhere, willing to deny that the military buildup of the 1980s began under Carter. No one, until Lindsay Perigo. Something noteworthy there, and we were all here to see it.

No word, either, about how the military expenditures of 1980 and 1981 came about. No word about budgets or the budget process or of who served as president in 1980.

Of course, Lindsay will tell us that it doesn't matter, that I'm the one offering "succour" to whatever or appeasing what-have-you, all while he carries water for the man who created more Islamic republics than Khomeini.


Jeff Perren's picture

My head hurts. Not facts or principles, principles and facts.

Principles induced from facts and facts used in conjunction with principles in deductions. Deductions checked against the facts to ensure their proper application. Back and forth, forth and back. Integrated.

I give up, for now anyway.



TRowland's picture

One short comment then I'll be back with more as I can.

You're absolutely right about physics. But political trends are a different animal. If for no other reason then that there are no Newtonian Laws of political trends. Nor can there be. Determining where a trend is headed, how fast, how far, is not the product of simple poll results and projections of current trends far into the future. Who would have predicted, e.g. at the time, that from the onset of the Weimar Republic in 1919 it would be a mere 14 years until Hitler was elected Chancelor (January)and had the entire basic enabling legislation and the first camp by March?

There can't be physics-like laws but there can be principles and that's what I keep pointing at. Bye for now.

Some points

Jeff Perren's picture


I don't have time to respond to all this. But,

"They came to power when they had a fundamental -- and it wasn't nihilism, as, of necessity, it is now."

You might consider that they just came to power, again, a few days ago.

And, I don't remember promising to tell you what was wrong with Anatomy of Compromise. I haven't double-checked, but as I recall you stated you were interested to hear why I made the statement that it has led many astray and I didn't respond.

True, evidence doesn't come with written instructions on how best to intrepret it. That's one of the reasons I found Fred's alternative suggestion intriguing.

But, you continually simply beg all the questions when you point to Objectivism's Philsophy of History -- which you don't define, but I assume means simply that fundamental ideas determine long-term historical trends. But you don't address any of the evidence which influences me in determining how to judge those trends.

I've said more than once, and will for the last time, that in order to determine which way the culture is going and how fast, you need more than fundamentals. Until you agree to come down from the Ivory Tower, I really can't see any way to move the discussion forward in a productive way.

If you want to judge where missiles will land, where they are headed, how fast, how far they'll go, and how much time it will take them, you can't just repeat the truths of Newtonian Physics. You have to take actual measurements and perform actual calculations.



TRowland's picture

They came to power when they had a fundamental -- and it wasn't nihilism, as, of necessity, it is now. The fundamental at the time -- one the country pretty much shared, was a Marxian Scientific Socialism intellectually and, more practically, Progressivism and Populism in the streets. As more and more Countries put socialism into effect and found it wanting (including the Soviet Union, Sweden, England, Canada, etc.)but were loath to turn to evil Capitalism (see Peikoff's description of a similar situatioon in the Weimar Republic)Socialism lost its cachet but with nothing to replace it (at least not according to altruism's moral code. Etc. etc. Surely you've heard all this before.

I am not dismissivie of evidence, I am dismissive of what you call evidence. And for reasons stated. If not clearly and well, that is surely my fault. The presentation of those trend lines once again doesn't impress me now any more than it did then. If you have trouble with my reasons show me why my reasoning is faulty, don't accuse me of being dismissive of evidence just because I don't think you've got any.

Objectivism is not a realist philosophy if you mean that Objectivism holds that you can read the significance of poll outcomes directly from those outcomes without a wider context. I have repeatedly questioned whether the trend line poll numbers are adaquete to establish a downtrend in the acceptance of religion as a justification of political action. My latest attempt is stated a couple of posts down. If that reasoning is inadequate or wrong-headed -- anyone -- please tell me why.

I didn't say "some", I didn't say "made some efforts to act on those beliefs," nor did I point to Objectivism and say QED. Instead I pointed to the inadequacy of your evidence to convince me and raised questions about your understanding and/or agreement with Objectivism's Philosophy of History. At one point you even promised to tell me what you thought was wrong with Rand's Anatomy of Compromise. I must have missed it.

And if you question my pointing to 'the mere fact that...' what in the hell do you think you're doing pointing to Ellison? And who ever said that individual Democrats don't have fundamental beliefs. I'm not familiar with Ellison but so what?? How does your question matter? Is he the trend? The downtrend or the uptrend?

Now, Linz

TRowland's picture

Don't have a hissy fit and flounce off.


TRowland's picture

In answer to just one of your questions, the one about where political power comes from, I have this problem with the trend lines. It's the nagging question "does this trend line adequately answer the question of people's acceptance of religion?" My answer is "no" based on the kind of reasoning you see in the post to Linz that I just wrote. In that post I suggest a poll question. How would you answer it. Do you agree with my assessment? Why or Why not?

One more (I can't resist). Those on your side fault me for demanding some justification for the use of the word 'imminant' to describe Peikoff's position. Now I'm going to insist that we get clear about what you mean by "to a degree" and "very long periods." And, in that context, why you think well over 50 years is not long enough.

And, what issue was it that I raised to no effect? Oh, yes, the issue of Objectivism's Philosophy of History. I believe I said that the truth of that theory -- that the course of history is determined by the predominant philosophy in the culture -- is what's at stake here. If you disagree with it, say what you think it is and what you disagree with and why.

Just quick for now

TRowland's picture

I concede imminent if you mean something, say around 14 years. Two further quick-for-now shots across the bow. It doesn't take a monolith (Christian or otherwise) to overthrow a government or subvert a constitution or foment a civil war. Nor does it take a conspiracy. Witness what the Democrats did with the socialist party platform for something like 40 years as just one example.

Yes, nihilism is pretty much the fundamental philosophy of the left. But I would argue, nihilism provides no answers on principle, and at the voting booth -- where people want answers -- can only get votes insofar as it hides its nihilism and its ties to socialism. The Democrats will be very surprised I think when they find that this mid-term is not the mandate they seem to think it is for environmentalism or universal health care. On the other hand Religion does provide answers and does not have to hide their source in Religion. It may be that only 45% of the American people consider Religion to be "a significannt influence on my life," and that the trend is down, but how that argues against the growing influence of religion in the Republican party is beyond me. Perhaps the idea is that if the trend is down there are less votes for specifically religious based laws (of which there are, btw, not very many). Perhaps a pertinant poll question would be "is the fact that a proposed law is suported by an explicit appeal to religion -- god, higher spirit, quote from a religious text, for example -- a reason to vote against it?" I'm only guessing but I think the overwhelming percentage of people -- perhaps including a good number of the posters to this site -- would answer "no." And the answer would probably be based on the idea that it matters whether the law is a "good" law. Peikoff, and the rest of us are saying it's too late for that kind of temporary compromise (if, in truth, there ever was a time).

Linz, the idea that the Republicans are "the lesser of two evils" should die the natural death it deserves. From the Gingrich Revolution of 1994 to today the Republican Party has flourished. But the Contract with America which promised an end to "government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public's money" has floundered. The facts and figures you are looking for are in the various articles and books refered to in this and other threads. Your incredulity at Peikoff's suggestion that we should vote Democratic seems to indicate that you haven't read them or are unwilling to argue against them. Maybe I'm your weakest opponant. After all, all I've been doing is pointing to the the works and the words of Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff. Today, I suggest three articles "Faith and Force, the destoyers of the Modern World," "Conservatism: an Obituary," and "Religion against America."

I'm done for today, but I'll be back. In the meantime go argue with what Rand and Peikoff said years ago.

Specify, please.

Jeff Perren's picture

"The difference is that it's the job of the administration to have the proper foresight. The civilian administration systematically destroyed all opposition in the Pentagon to the administrations plans." Ethan

Can you explain what you mean here in more detail? Who is the 'civilian administration'. How was it 'systematic'? (I've never observed anything in Washington be done systematically.) Specify what you mean by 'administration's plans'. If it's what I think it was, isn't that what we are arguing in favor of?

I agree with you about the overall point: our choices suck.


ethan_dawe's picture

Lindsay said:

"What I still can't abide is this sanctimonious I-knew-it-all-along stance being adopted by the latter-day cut-&-run armchair quarterbacks who compound their humbug by saying "Vote Dem" as well. Or blame Bush for not having foresight that they didn't have either."

The difference is that it's the job of the administration to have the proper foresight. The civilian administration systematically destroyed all opposition in the Pentagon to the administrations plans. That is criminal.

In fact these people are responsible for many things. The downsizing of the military in the 90s? It started hard under George H.W. Bush when the secretary of Defense was Dick Cheyney.

The biggest mistakes made in the 80s and 90s were exactly what you think we should do now. Back then, the enemy was the Soviets and Communisits, so we allied with everyone we could against them. This included many people we didn't like though they were the lesser of two evils. Who armed Saddam? Who helped create the Taliban? We did. Niether party is worth a damn, and voting for one to support what is your current big enemy while ignoring all else is foolish! Today's allies of convenience is tommorrow's ultimate enemy. We need to choose more carefully and have a policy that looks past the next year. Neither the Dems or Repubs offer this. In fact no current party offers this in the U.S.. The Iraq debacle is going to cost the U.S.. When this little war is over, the number of people in Reserve and Guard usits is going to plummet. Already recruiting for new people is down. We are shooting ourselves in the foot to acheive poor results. Now, Afganistan is flaring up, because we didn't finish the job there. We're in danger of losing it all and having thing be far far worse. Bush is an idiot, and Rumsfeld and Cheyney are downright incompetant. I'm one veteran who has never voted for a major party, but I'll be damned sure to vote to put them out and someone with some sort of a clue in come 2008.



Jeff Perren's picture

"Is it that far-fetched a theory?"

Yes. I've argued why from a dozen angles.


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