Daily Linz 25—SOLO, TOC ... and KASS!

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Thu, 2006-02-09 03:19

Note from Linz—Yes, I'm cheating. This is a reprise. I thought with all the discussion raging here about PARC, ARI, TOC, SOLO, the Brandens, etc., and the TOC Summer Seminar coming up, with me among the presenters, it would be timely to re-run this. It's reprinted exactly as it orginally appeared—no ARI-type airbrushing! Smiling

I have just returned to New Zealand from The Objectivist Center's Summer Seminar in Vancouver. I am feeling the blues that must inevitably accompany a return to the world of nihilism from one of exuberant rationality. Yes, "exuberant"! Yes, TOC! Just as you, dear reader, thought you'd never see me saying that, so too did I never think I'd be writing it. Fact is, the Seminar was a blast.

First, the speakers. I met and heard the world's best-kept secret: a philosopher who is also a stand-up comic (or perhaps that should be the other way round). His name is Fred Seddon. He has a vastly different take from Rand on Kant and Hume, but argues his case brilliantly and entertains uproariously. His presentations are not lectures, they are performances. Though his staple leitmotif, "Did I tell you I like sex?" is arguably overdone, there is no question that this man's comedic talents make him unique in Objectivism.

There was Molly Hays, who delivered solo a presentation on "The Necessity of Romance" that was intended to be delivered in tandem. Her unavoidably absent co-presenter, Larry Sechrest, would have been proud of her. The only question mark over Molly is her musical taste—she kept insisting that Linz sing, even after he obliged her.

There was Tibor Machan, in booming good form as always; David Kelley, delivering a tour de force about Islam; Nathaniel Branden, unmistakably aging but infinitely endearing as he ad-libbed in an unfamiliar interview format; Madeleine Cosman, magnificent and majestic as she swept aside the horrors of socialised medicine and conjured up free market alternatives; Stephen Hicks, suave and sophisticated, aglow from the publication of his new book; Francisco Villalobos, outrageously beautiful but annoyingly reluctant to proffer the empirical validation of the title of his lectures, "Look Better Naked." There were many more, whom it is unjust to omit but whom I cannot include simply because I didn't get to hear them. I walked out of one lecture only, because the speaker was less audible than the one in the next theatre who resonated passionately through the wall and thus staked his claim for my attention. As for my own presentation, I shall leave it to others who were there to post about if if they wish; suffice it for me to say that I couldn't have hoped for a better reception.

There were the vibrant people I hadn't met before: Andrew Bissell, familiar to SOLOists, a young man undoubtedly destined for a big future within Objectivism; ditto, Alec Mouhibian. There was the gorgeous and fascinating Caroline, who turned many a man's head even as she opted to keep a solicitous eye on the unavailable Linz, Terminally Bewildered in Vancouver, for which he is hugely grateful. There was Bill Nevin, who promised Linz evenings of red wine and good-natured argument ... and delivered. There was the supremely dignified and aristocratic Joan Kennedy Taylor, with stories aplenty about the early days of Objectivism and libertarianism and their luminaries. There was Duncan Scott, in charge of the exciting Objectivist History project, whereby people like Joan are having their reminiscences videoed so that the truth—as opposed to the ARI's Kremlin-like rewritings of it—will be readily and permanently accessible. There was Greg who played sax, Ken and Doug who played piano in the common room at night ... and many, many more whom I again do an inadvertent injustice by omitting.

A stand-out for me was the panel discussion on Objectivism and libertarianism, in which I participated. Robert Bidinotto argued that Objectivists should abandon the term "libertarian" because it has been hijacked by the Saddamite scum at LewRockwell.com and similar sites whose main mission in life is to attack America and promote anarchism. Too many prominent "libertarians," he argued, have no idea how to ground the non-initiation-of-force principle in metaphysics and epistemology. I argued that neither did the Founding Fathers— would we have shrieked "Intrinsicist, begone!" at Thomas Jefferson as he wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident ..."?! Should we really eschew cooperation on a political level with libertarians who believe rights come from God, or from nowhere? Such an approach, I argued, reeks of Peikovianism (Bob then brought the house down by interjecting, plaintively, "You really know how to hurt a guy"). I insisted that those who should give up the name "libertarian" are the Saddamites, who should accept the latter appellation as accurate and get on with attacking all things American and excusing all things terrorist. We Objectivists most assuredly should not give it up; Objectivists are libertarians, unavoidably, even if the reverse doesn't always (and doesn't have to) hold. The term has been too long fought for to be given up lightly to Saddam's succours.

But ... there is a sting in the tail. An abiding concern pervaded the week, notwithstanding all of the positives nominated above: a deep anxiety over TOC's lack of what I came to call—borrowing from the American colloquialism—the "kick-ass" factor (in all public discourse hereafter, I shall refer to it as KASS). All present in Vancouver seemed aware that TOC lacks KASS—the sharp polemical edge that should accompany the scholarly deliberations on which TOC wants to be able to pride itself. TOC donors and grass-roots supporters alike want to see their organisation become much more visible and potent. They want it to stop pulling its punches as a matter of principle. They want to know just what the hell the full-time staffers do Monday to Friday?! Why is their productivity so easily able to be eclipsed by rank-and-file Objectivists with day jobs? Why is its public persona so anaemic? These are concerns I raised some years ago ... their resolution now, I submit, is a matter of life-and-death urgency for TOC. Perhaps SOLO could become TOC's KASS-partner? We would insist on retaining a separate/equal identity, of course, with the right to beat up on our comrades' lack of KASS ... but we who understand the importance of the division of labour should be looking to effect an amicable and workable detente here.

The future of western civilisation rests with Objectivism. The future of Objectivism rests with us, the non-religious bearers of the torch. "TOC, SOLO ... and KASS" is not just a cute title. It bespeaks our rendezvous with history.

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James Heaps-Nelson's picture


The frustrating thing is, they have good stuff in their trunk that hasn't seen the light of day. I've seen and heard it. David Kelley will bring the Logical Structure of Objectivism out as a book this year. His lecture at the 1999 Seminar, Choosing Life is one of the best I've heard. If it would come out as a written monograph that would be terrific. Also from that same Seminar, Jose Pinero's delivery on privatizing Social Security and how it was doen in Chile. Over 300 people attended that seminar which I think was a high-water mark for them.

Ken Livingston has some good stuff that hasn't made it into monograph
form yet and some that has. His 1996 talk on the psychological basis and verification of measurement omission was terrific.


Thanks for the thanks! :-)

Lindsay Perigo's picture

James—TOC's "dormant" period began well before 2001, believe me. But of course, SOLO was born in 2001. Smiling

When Kelley founded IOS it was an exciting time to be around. The Binswanger-Schwartz duo (to whom Leonard seemed so sadly in thrall) were put on notice that all that studied snottiness and repressiveness no longer had to be tolerated by folk wanting to be involved in organised Objectivism. The attitudes are alive and well still, but there are lots of alternatives for folk turned off by them. IOS/TOC kinda lost its way somewhere along the line and became quite KASSless. And it didn't like to be told. Has it gotten better? Their current deafening silence on the Brandens/PARC issue doesn't bode well. The evidence as it stands points to a conscious, deceitful effort by the Brandens to diminish the person who gave us Objectivism, a true hero of western civilisation, without whom these folk wouldn't have their current jobs. Their ongoing silence constitutes negligence at best, treachery at worst.

Neither does their having Barbara deliver a talk on how awful Objectivist "rage" is bode well. Not enough of it, if you ask me! Smiling


James Heaps-Nelson's picture


I think there is finally the beginning of a flowering of the Objectivist 2nd Renaissance. There is more good Objectivist material out there than I have time to read and in the 1980's I never thought that would happen. I was in Barnes and Noble the other day and I saw the Centennial cover for Atlas Shrugged in huge storyboard next to F.Scott Fitzgerald's the Great Gatsby and I never thought something like that would happen Smiling.


Thanks for reprising this article

James Heaps-Nelson's picture


Thanks for bringing back this article. I believe in the marketplace of ideas. It's great that there is an ever increasing amount of choices in Objectivism. SOLO's mission of taking on controversial issues and emphasizing integrity are important values indeed. The real danger is when these issues lie dormant and fester without resolution.

I remember when ARI went through its purge and mismanagement days in the late '80s and early to mid 90's I'm glad IOS was there to take up the slack. I'm glad in TOC's dormant days from 2001-2003, SOLO was there to take up the slack and provide a true alternative to ARI. As of 2004-2005 TOC has made what I see as a marked improvement in the quality of their offerings at the Summer Seminars and I like what I've seen from their new magazine and the exposure it's getting.

Keep up the good work with this site and keep providing KASS competition to and strategic cooperation with TOC.


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