Riveting Rand

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Thu, 2006-03-23 00:33

I’ve spent the past day reacquainting myself with Ayn Rand, via the recently-published Ayn Rand Answers—the Best of her Q & A.

I’ve spent the past day in Atlantis.

I thought of leaving it at that. What more is there to say? But of course, I want to say more, in gratitude if nothing else.

Q: What is your purpose in life?

A: My purpose is to enjoy my life in a rational way: to use my mind to the greatest extent possible; to pursue, admire and support human greatness; to make all my choices rationally; to expand my knowledge constantly. That’s a pretty ambitious programme, and I’ve achieved most of it.

These are off-the-cuff answers, appearing for the first time in print, given by Ayn Rand to various questions at various venues, over the period 1958-1981. Editor Robert Mayhew confesses that “some (but not much) of my editing aimed to clarify wording that, if left unchallenged, might be taken to imply a viewpoint that she explicitly rejected in her written works.” I want to join those who have said to Editor Mayhew, “You should have left the wording as it was. We can figure things out for ourselves.” The original transcripts, he tells us, are available to “serious scholars.” Well, I’m not a serious scholar; I’m an intellectual ruffian and a polemicist; I can still figure things out for myself. If Ayn Rand contradicted herself while thinking on her feet, no big deal. She shouldn’t be edited to say something she didn’t.

Still, especially for those of us who’ve heard many of these answers on tape, this is unmistakably Ayn Rand we are encountering.

Q: Which composers do you recommend today?

A: Buy yourself some classical records. I cannot listen to modern music. I can’t bear it. It’s anything but music.

And:

Q: Could you comment on the current status of literature?

A: No. I don’t have a magnifying glass.

She is everything she always was—fearless, forthright, and frequently funny:

Q: Have you seen Milton Friedman’s program Free to Choose on public television?

A: I saw five minutes of it. That was enough for me, because I know Friedman’s ideas. He is not for capitalism; he’s a miserable eclectic. He’s an enemy of Objectivism, and his objection is that I bring morality into economics, which he thinks should be amoral. I don’t always like what public television puts on, but they have better programs than Free to Choose—the circus, for instance.

And:

Q: Could you comment on Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia?

A: I don’t like to read this author, because I don’t like bad eclectics—not in architecture, and certainly not in politics and philosophy—particularly when I’m one of the pieces butchered.

Or:

Q: What is the Objectivist view of free verse?

A: That it’s lower than free lunches.

It’s all here—the soaring eulogies to human achievement, the searing excoriations of evil and mediocrity, the unrelenting mind-and-man-worship, her batty views on a woman president and Beethoven—this is the Ayn Rand we all know and adore, for all her occasional barminess. There are no surprises.

Let me amend that—it’s not quite all here, and there is an occasional surprise. Missing is her infamously silly response on homosexuality. Instead, there’s a relatively mild answer on the subject on a different occasion, where she advocates the repeal of all laws against homosexual acts, even though “I do not approve of such acts or regard them as necessarily moral …”

Surprising, at least to me, is her answer on voluntary euthanasia. She’s against a law allowing it “because of the safeguards needed to prevent unscrupulous doctors in cahoots with unscrupulous relatives killing someone who is not dying and not in pain.” Well, what if such safeguards were to be put in place?

Surprising also her agnosticism on gun control:

I do not know enough about it to have an opinion, except to say that it’s not of primary importance. Forbidding guns or registering them is not going to stop criminals from having them; nor is it a great threat to the private, non-criminal citizen if he has to register the fact that he has a gun.

And:

I do not know how the issue is to be resolved to protect you without giving you the privilege to kill people at whim.

Not at all surprising, and extremely relevant to our contemporary context, is this, on whether freedom of speech includes the right to advocate genocide:

When you lose the distinction between action and speech, you lose, eventually, the freedom of both. … The principle of free speech is not concerned with the content of a man’s speech and does not protect only the expression of good ideas, but all ideas.

Obviously, space prohibits my quoting the lengthier responses. And there are many—on the correspondence theory of truth, free will, Kant, sense of life, romantic realism in the arts, for instance—where Rand really hits her stride and shows her intellectual mettle. One of her discussions of Kant appears to debunk the claim often made about her that she never read his actual text but relied on how interpreters, including Leonard Peikoff, presented him. And it’s remarkable that every time she’s asked about a movie or a book, she’s seen it and read it and is able to discuss it in impressive detail. Still, one of my favourite answers is the briefest:

Q: What do you think of the works of the artist Maxwell Parrish?

A: Trash.

It was not just the spectacle of a brilliant, nimble mind in action that transported me to Atlantis—it was the magnificent spirit that animated it. In an age of weasel-words, hand-wringing and touchy-feely political correctness, Rand’s sizzling-hot, unapologetic, in-your-face candour in pursuit of reason, freedom, the best within, and life as it might be and ought to be is more than simply refreshing, more than a mood-lifter, more than an inspiration—it’s a lifeline, especially for those like Steven Mallory in The Fountainhead who allow themselves to be ground down by it all. It’s a reminder that when we hear the caterwaulers’ headbanging, see the poseurs’ splotches and splurges, read the nihilist philosophers telling us philosophy cannot provide answers—we don’t have to take any of them seriously. They are “trash”—and this woman is a hero.

Q: What do you think will happen when you die?

A: I assume I’ll be buried. I don’t believe in mysticism or life after death. This doesn’t mean I believe man’s mind is necessarily materialistic; but neither is it mystical. We know that we have a mind and a body, and that neither can exist without the other. Therefore, when I die, that will be the end of me. I don’t think it will be the end of my philosophy.


( categories: )

Musing on artists as art

Newberry's picture

Musing on artists as art authorities. One of an artist's most important tools, and ever present are value judgments - which are often intensely personal, passionately held, and often come from very subtle elements; like the love or loathing of two juxtaposition marks of color. That last bit is nearly impossible to objectify, yet for the artist those kinds of opinions are the foundations for their creative process, more so than technical merits.

Artists worth their salt have value judgments flowing through their veins.

My preference for professional art commentary is from artists, whether or not I like their stance. You can often get from them a smattering of history, philosophy, technical execution, personal experience, and gut feeling.

Being periodically short and dismissive doesn't have anything to do with not being an authority, gosh read Oscar Wilde, or have dinner with a group of art experts!

Michael

www.artistsvoice.wordpress.com

The Parrish verdict

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Preface: This has been a doozy of a day. My brilliant husband, who sometimes needs help navigating life's mundanities, was in a huge hurry trying to leave the house. He was en route to a talk he was giving about global warming to an audience of about 250; from advance warning, he anticipated hostility from some of the attendees -- turned out there wasn't any hassling and most there were grateful to hear some straight stuff. Anyway, in his rush he started backing out the car before the garage door had finished opening. The door, knocked off its trolley, stuck at halfway height. So we got to spend half an hour removing the bottom segment of the door to give enough room for the car to get under. In process I came close to breaking a finger. The finger is still swollen; typing is difficult. But the finger isn't broken.

End of aggravated preface.

Prior to the garage-door episode, I was thinking of some questions, which I shall now, many hours later, proceed to ask, about AR's Parrish response.

--

Questions:

Why do you suppose all those O'ists who had Maxfield Parrish prints hanging on their walls had them? Do you imagine that by some strange confluence they all just happened to be enamored of Parrish's work from their own genuine response? Or might they have acquired the prints because they wrongly believed that ~Ayn Rand~ would be a Parrish fan?

Do you suppose that maybe Ayn Rand had heard of her admirers adorning their walls with Parrish prints and that she might have been irritated both by the copycatism and by the error of the presumption as to her tastes?

Ellen

Undeserved Charity

jriggenbach's picture

"I have to wonder whether Jim Valliant's reading disorder has claimed another victim."

The problem here is much more fundamental than that.

JR

No, Robert

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"Isn't it clear that Ayn Rand ~expected~ to be taken as the voice of authority?"

No, not on artistic tastes. It irritated her being taken that way. On the substance of Objectivism, yes, legitimately.

Judging from your remark about what Jennifer Burns makes of Rand's remarks to Hospers, I read those differently than you do. (Btw, Burns has a factual error about when Hospers relocated to California.)

The comment about graduating -- which as I've said (I'm forgetting on which thread, whichever was the thread in which you compared the direct transcripts with Mayhew's editing) was greeted with cacophonous, including whistles, applause -- seems to have been interpreted by the general audience just as I interpreted it, i.e., as indicating that if one wants to propose different ideas than Objectivism, then don't use the name "Objectivism." I quite agree with this advice.

Re Mayhew's rewriting, that's his responsibility not hers. Her presentation of her rewriting of passages in We the Living was hers. But I for one don't think she'd have appreciated what Mayhew did with her FHF answers.

Ellen

More dissembling

Lindsay Perigo's picture

What I have a problem with is his endless insistence that anyone who loves Wunderlich or du Pré or Richter is obliged to wish a painful death on Frank Zappa,

Never, let alone endlessly, insisted anyone at all is obliged to wish such a thing.

or to equate the notes played on an electric guitar with the roar of a chainsaw

Never, let alone endlessly, insisted anyone is obliged so to equate. They're often indistinguishable, but needn't be.

or to assume that 60-plus years of Sun Ra's musical production can be boiled down to a 90-second keyboard stunt.

Never, let alone endlessly, insisted anyone is obliged to assume such a thing. I plucked out the first Sun Ra I found on YouTube and found it thoroughly synergized with the Prof's acquiescence to libel and lies (La Babs's), his own practise of same, his view that hero-worship is inappropriate for humans, his hatred of the good for being the good and love of the evil for being the evil, his obsessive efforts to belittle and diminish Rand in particular, his arguments from intimidation (anyone who agrees with me is my toady, etc), his psychologizing-from-ignorance, and so forth.

The music that Mr. Perigo despises, he never quits dwelling on.

Oh, but I do, Prof, I do. The only time I hear it is when I'm unavoidably assailed by it, which is at every turn (to the point I now wear ear-plugs even when walking the streets), or when I investigate the Prof's pin-ups. And I know *this* is Steven Mallory's "drooling beast."

Recognizing Ayn Rand for what she was, and what she wasn't, does not in any way detract from her considerable achievements. Constantly running people down for enjoying the music of Beethoven or liking the novels of Thomas Wolfe did not make Ayn Rand a better person. Mostly, it helped to make her old age lonely and bitter.

Constantly running people down for enjoying the music of Beethoven or liking the novels of Thomas Wolfe? More of La Babs's nonsense from her toady. You'd think La Babs would be over that Wolfe episode by now. Just whose old age is lonely and bitter, exactly?

For Mr. Perigo, whose achievements are considerably sparser than Ms. Rand's, constant denouncing does not appear to be producing happier results.

Oh but it is, Prof, it is. I just can't get enough of denouncing. "Constant" is not often enough. I am delirious with denunciation. It's why I so look forward to your posts, Prof. Another opportunity to denounce.

The Voice of Authority

Robert Campbell's picture

Isn't it clear that Ayn Rand expected to be taken as the voice of authority?

Jennifer Burns (correctly, I think) makes much of her remarks in a 1960 letter to John Hospers.

And one her 1971 comments (from the Ford Hall Forum answer about sainthood) is unintentionally revealing: "You graduate from being a student when you no longer have to use the name of your teacher."

What does that imply about anyone who ever claims to be a proponent of "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand"?

Now I do agree that off-the-cuff remarks should not be held to the same standards as carefully thought out material intended for publication.

But notice how Bob Mayhew rewrote those off-the-cuff remarks so they would (in his mind) more closely resemble ... carefully thought out material intended for publication.

Robert Campbell

Passionate Valuing and Passionate Despising

Robert Campbell's picture

I didn't figure that Lindsay Perigo would get my point.

How could he, when few in Rand-land have so thoroughly conflated passionate valuing with passionate despising?

I have no problem with Mr. Perigo's praise for Fritz Wunderlich or Jacqueline du Pré or Sviatoslav Richter.

What I have a problem with is his endless insistence that anyone who loves Wunderlich or du Pré or Richter is obliged to wish a painful death on Frank Zappa, or to equate the notes played on an electric guitar with the roar of a chainsaw, or to assume that 60-plus years of Sun Ra's musical production can be boiled down to a 90-second keyboard stunt.

The music that I despise—say, the latest Britney Spears ditty, or some nasty, unimaginative gangsta rap—I see no need to dwell on.

The music that Mr. Perigo despises, he never quits dwelling on.

If Mr. Perigo's procedure were ennobling, we'd be compelled to concluded that snobbery confers grandeur—and that the most sniffish among snobs is the grandest of heroes.

Recognizing Ayn Rand for what she was, and what she wasn't, does not in any way detract from her considerable achievements. Constantly running people down for enjoying the music of Beethoven or liking the novels of Thomas Wolfe did not make Ayn Rand a better person. Mostly, it helped to make her old age lonely and bitter.

For Mr. Perigo, whose achievements are considerably sparser than Ms. Rand's, constant denouncing does not appear to be producing happier results.

Robert Campbell

If it were anyone else but Rand,

Ellen Stuttle's picture

would all the fuss be made over her delivering a snap-judgment statement about an artist she didn't like, or her being ungenerous to a rival theorist, and especially in a Q and A?

The subtext I hear in the complaints is that Rand should have known that she was taken as a kind of authority figure by her followers which she shouldn't have been taken as, and she should have catered to this inappropriate way of taking her.

Being interested to know why she felt negative toward Parrish -- whom so many Objectivists had assumed she would like -- and why she was negative toward Milton Friedman is one thing, but getting upset about her stating her opinions without elaborating is another and I think grants legitimacy to the idea of her as Vox Auctoritas.

Ellen

Robert, Do you see a

Newberry's picture

Robert,

Do you see a contextual difference between a professional writer writing and answering questions extemporaneously? It doesn't nullify anything one says, but the two forms don't have equal weight or importance in my view.

Michael

Objectivity, Anyone?

Robert Campbell's picture

Mindy says:

If Maxfield Parrish is a good artist, dismissing him in a word is poor judgment. If his work is schlock, a dismissive word is wholly appropriate.

Ayn Rand put forward an aesthetic theory. To the extent that she achieved her aims for that theory, aesthetic judgments are objective.

If they are objective, then reasons can and ought to be given for them.

A one-word dictum may be appropriate when you are merely expressing your personal opinion.

Rand claimed to be doing more than that.

Where's the "intellectual courage" in what she did?

Robert Campbell

PS. It would be fair to say that Milton Friedman's defense of capitalism was incomplete, and that Ayn Rand's defense of capitalism supplied a moral dimension that his did not. But the contrast between her treatment of Friedman and her treatment of Mises is instructive. Rand had major philosophical differences with Ludwig von Mises; at times she ranted against him in private. But her public treatment of him was always respectful.

PPS. If a weak defense of capitalism is worse than none at all, and Friedman's defense was weak, very well then: Would we all be better off had he never tried to defend capitalism at all?

Mindy contemplated: "If

Newberry's picture

Mindy contemplated: "If Maxfield Parrish is a good artist, dismissing him in a word is poor judgment. If his work is schlock, a dismissive word is wholly appropriate."

I am still laughing at that. I wonder why anyone would get upset about Rand's comment, unless they took it personally.

Michael

www.artistsvoice.wordpress.com

Nobility through passionately valuing the noble

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Says the Prof:

The intensity and breadth of one's hatreds are not proof of one's nobility.

The intensity and breadth and objects of one's hatreds and loves are certainly part of the evidence of nobility or ignobility.

Constant ripping, trashing, and denouncing ... aren't so good.

Unless it's constant ripping, trashing and denouncing of Ayn Rand of course. Personally I'd say constant ripping, trashing and denouncing of trash are pretty good, and constant promoting and applauding of greatness are excellent.

The Prof. seems to think it's a major flaw to be bad-tempered towards the vile and a major virtue sardonically to approve of it (say, Sun Ra). He will diminish an Ayn Rand and elevate a pedo-publisher. He will observe the forms of politeness while uttering lies and libels.

And anyone who can't get a good hearty belly-laugh from the Parrish and Friedman answers is in serious need of psychotherapy. Only not, Galt forbid, from anyone who admires this garbage:

Nobility through hatred.

Ptgymatic's picture

It all depends on whether one is right or wrong. The intellectual capacity to be decisive is good, but being arbitrarily "decisive" is bad. If Maxfield Parrish is a good artist, dismissing him in a word is poor judgment. If his work is schlock, a dismissive word is wholly appropriate.

Rand had great intellectual courage. She saw the implications of errors of thought and belief. She saw the self-delusions, and pernicious assumptions, and outright stupidity that lay behind others' beliefs and were expressed in their questions. People who don't understand WHY she held the opinions she did, and who cannot see into and through the issues others bring up, would naturally look on her passionate statements against those issues and opinions as causeless, and therefore socially abusive.

Regarding Friedman, was he guilty of a weak defense of capitalism, or a misleading presentation of it? A weak defense is worse than no defense, they say. Mis-stating the philosophical basis of capitalism makes it vulnerable, in fact weakens it.

All of that aside, what is the significance of your position--that Rand was bad-tempered? What errors in her thought do you see that leading to?

Mindy

Robert, I agree with you in

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Robert,

I agree with you in the Milton Friedman case. A rational argument would be: I don't support Milton Friedman and here's why. Not ad hominem. I think the disagreements she had were important to her and whe wanted to register that importance with her vehemence.

Jim

Ayn Rand

Brant Gaede's picture

liked no competition in the realm of ideas. Since William F. Buckley was intellectually bankrupt she disliked him for other reasons. But the other guys such as Friedman were not intellectually bankrupt. It was Rand's way or the highway. If it was hers you could only follow in her wake, even if your name was Nathaniel Branden. This had a certain value through most of the 1960s. Unfortunately, it became and still exists in some quarters as obsolete behavior. Orthodox Objectivism itself is obsolete because it is the philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). She died in 1982. It was frozen in place long before that.

--Brant

Nobility through Hatred?

Robert Campbell's picture

I agree with Mr. Perigo that this passage in his review is important.

In an age of weasel-words, hand-wringing and touchy-feely political correctness, Rand’s sizzling-hot, unapologetic, in-your-face candour in pursuit of reason, freedom, the best within, and life as it might be and ought to be is more than simply refreshing, more than a mood-lifter, more than an inspiration—it’s a lifeline, especially for those like Steven Mallory in The Fountainhead who allow themselves to be ground down by it all. It’s a reminder that when we hear the caterwaulers’ headbanging, see the poseurs’ splotches and splurges, read the nihilist philosophers telling us philosophy cannot provide answers—we don’t have to take any of them seriously. They are “trash”—and this woman is a hero.

But almost certainly not for the same reasons.

In your face candor is good.

Constant ripping, trashing, and denouncing ... aren't so good.

What's admirable about using one word to consign Maxfield Parrish's entire output to the crapper?

What the hell's admirable about declaring that the circus beats Milton Friedman's Free to Choose?

We all know that Ayn Rand had been down on Milton Friedman since 1946, when she registered her objections to a pamphlet that he coauthored with George Stigler. Putting out that pamphlet wasn't his finest hour. But the guy publishes Capitalism and Freedom, and she's still down on him? He gets Free to Choose onto PBS, and she's still down on him?

The airing of Free to Choose was one of the most positive developments, politically, during the last part of Ayn Rand's life. But she was too attached to denouncing, too consumed by chronic hell-in-a-hand-basketude, to be able to acknowledge it.

Despite their fundamental disagreements, Milton Friedman was generous in his public comments about Ayn Rand. We know how she was about him...

The intensity and breadth of one's hatreds are not proof of one's nobility.

Ayn Rand had a positive message. Those who take her frequent and fierce denunciations as the most important thing to emulate have failed to grasp it.

Robert Campbell

Is Reading Disorder Contagious?

Robert Campbell's picture

Mindy says

You're one step closer to dealing with the actual evidence here, only you have to take that last step. The original said..., the edited version said..., and that violates the spirit of the original in that...

Well, er, I have taken that last step. On this site, too.

Here:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Here:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

As well as here:

http://www.solopassion.com/nod...

Of course, Mindy may now tell us that these posts do not exist.

I have to wonder whether Jim Valliant's reading disorder has claimed another victim.

Robert Campbell

Of course ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Rand said:

A: Because it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors—or unfortunate premises—but there is a psychological immorality at the root of homosexuality. Therefore, I regard it as immoral, but I do not, uh, believe that the government has the right to prohibit it. It is the … privilege of any individual to use his sex life in whichever way he wants it. That is his legal right, provided he is not forcing it on anyone. And therefore the idea that it is proper among consenting adults is the proper formulation, legally. Morally, it is immoral, and, more than that, if you want my really sincere opinion, it’s disgusting.

Here's what Rand *should* have said:

... it involves psychological flaws, corruptions, errors—or unfortunate premises—but there is a psychological immorality at the root of heterosexuality. Therefore, I regard it as immoral, but I do not, uh, believe that the government has the right to prohibit it. It is the … privilege of any individual to use his sex life in whichever way he wants it. That is his legal right, provided he is not forcing it on anyone. And therefore the idea that it is proper among consenting adults is the proper formulation, legally. Morally, it is immoral, and, more than that, if you want my really sincere opinion, it’s disgusting.

Evil

This is the important thing:

Lindsay Perigo's picture

If I may be so "narcissistic" as to quote myself:

It was not just the spectacle of a brilliant, nimble mind in action that transported me to Atlantis—it was the magnificent spirit that animated it. In an age of weasel-words, hand-wringing and touchy-feely political correctness, Rand’s sizzling-hot, unapologetic, in-your-face candour in pursuit of reason, freedom, the best within, and life as it might be and ought to be is more than simply refreshing, more than a mood-lifter, more than an inspiration—it’s a lifeline, especially for those like Steven Mallory in The Fountainhead who allow themselves to be ground down by it all. It’s a reminder that when we hear the caterwaulers’ headbanging, see the poseurs’ splotches and splurges, read the nihilist philosophers telling us philosophy cannot provide answers—we don’t have to take any of them seriously. They are “trash”—and this woman is a hero.

That's the important thing that the Prof. will never accept, because he's part of the trash set.

In this very review I stated my wish that Mayhew had left the bloody thing alone. No need to sanitize Ayn! But it's not something to obsess about. I have the tapes. I imagine they're still for sale. We can hear the unsanitized Ayn any time. Actually, I hear her voice in my head when I'm re-reading ARA now, so she can't have been that sanitized. As I also said, "this is unmistakably Ayn Rand we are encountering."

I would agree with the Prof. on one thing, however: the gay thing. It was simply dishonest not to use the notorious answer we all know and love.

If you want to quote, quote.

Ptgymatic's picture

Using a single word someone else used, in quotation marks, yet not referring it to its source, is no kind of credible reference. Does Diana Hsieh's word rule with you? If you are speaking to something from the past, maybe make that explicit?

You're one step closer to dealing with the actual evidence here, only you have to take that last step. The original said..., the edited version said..., and that violates the spirit of the original in that...

When you claim, above, (below) that the changes make her sound less dismissive of disagreement, opinion is stretching very thin. How dismissive of what disagreement? These things become apparent when the exact words, the question, and the answers, before and after editing, are laid out.

Mindy

Objectionable Was Ms. Hsieh's Word

Robert Campbell's picture

I put "objectionable" in quotes because it was Ms. Hsieh's word.

It's not the word I would have preferred (probably not hers, either; she seemed less interested in explaining responsible editing than in covering for Bob Mayhew).

To me, editorial tampering means changing the words that someone said so as to change the meaning of what was said, or to change the tone of what was said. More strictly, it means altering the contents of a raw transcript beyond what is needed to cut out hesitation pauses and stumbles, to sort out places where people talked over one another, or to patch inadvertently ungrammatical sentences (and even grammar patches are best done with words in brackets).

I've put three examples from one of Ayn Rand's question and answer periods (Ford Hall Forum, 1971) right here on SOLO. There are other examples over on ObjectivistLiving.

Bob Mayhew made the answer on saints appear less angry, less focused on moral perfection, and more concerned with epistemological issues, than the original.

He made the answer on cancelled subscriptions appear less angry, and less dismissive of disagreement, than the original. By cutting the beginning of the first sentence, he drew attention away from Ayn Rand's expressed desire to be entirely insulated from "rude and crude" letters from subscribers.

He made the answer on homosexuality disappear completely, even though it is the best known of Ayn Rand's comments on the subject.

How many instances of discrepancies between what was said and how it appeared in print are required, before one is allowed to conclude that there has been editorial tampering?

Robert Campbell

PS. When I said I've "now" given examples, I meant to contrast the present day (Fall 2009) with Spring 2006, when Diana Hsieh was defending the editing of Ayn Rand Answers and Lindsay Perigo was reviewing that book. Look at the dates of the posts downthread...

Now, Campbell, you can show...

Ptgymatic's picture

...objectional changes, though a few weeks ago you couldn't? Or only "objectionable" ones? "Objectionable" ones are not quite objectionable. But maybe they are changes someone said they objected to? Is that why you use the cheat quotes? It is the crudest of equivocations.

What I find objectionable is that you are determined to make claims you cannot back up, refusing to even discuss the actual instances. Is it satisfying in itself to make complaints, or are you rabble-rousing, in which case, what is the use you have in mind for the rabble?

Mindy

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Robert Campbell's picture

It's interesting to reread that fervent defender of ARIanism, Diana Hsieh, assuring us that Robert Mayhew's editorial manipulations were no big deal.

When I asked Robert Mayhew about his editing, he told me that he changed the meaning a grand total of about six times -- all and only in cases in which it was very, very clear that Ayn Rand had omitted a word in the course of extemporaneous speaking. To take a hypothetical example, she accidentally said "emotions are tools of cognition" rather than "emotions are not tools of cognition." Given that the book is intended for a general audience, rather than as a resource for scholars and intellectuals, I regard those kinds of edits as entirely reasonable. (Even brackets would be confusing to people not terribly familiar with Objectivism, I think, if not fodder for all kinds of false claims that Ayn Rand changed her mind on basic principles.) Also, in most cases, the Q&A is already available to everyone in raw form.

Anyone familiar with Robert Mayhew's work knows him to be an extremely thoughtful, careful, and serious scholar. While I do think questions about his editing are legitimate, I've been more than a little dismayed to see so many people jumping to wildly malevolent conclusions in the absence of any concrete evidence of objectionable changes to Ayn Rand's words. (In George Reisman's review, for example, he made lots of strong accusations about the supposed evils of Mayhew's editing, without ever bothering to compare even a single instance of the audio recording with the book.)

I've now given two examples from the 1971 Ford Hall Forum Q&A (the sainthood answer and the answer about canceling subscriptions), which demonstrate the extent of Dr. Mayhew's editorial tampering.

Plenty of the changes that he made are "objectionable."

Robert Campbell

Brilliant

Jeff Perren's picture

"Q: What is the Objectivist view of free verse?

A: That it’s lower than free lunches."

What a treasure has been gone these 27 years.

What a pity that - despite the wealth, fame, and even adulation - she got so little of the kind of recognition she deserved during her lifetime. How much worse is it that some who ostensibly agree with her philosophy spend so much time ankle biting. But then, I guess when you have the stature of a bacteria, ankle biting is equivalent to a climb up Mt. Everest. A doff of the cap to all the amoebic Sir Edmund Hillary's of the world.

Answers

Kenny's picture

It would be interesting to know what remains in the archives, presumably held by ARI and Peikoff, that would add to the world's understanding Rand and her philosophy. Perhaps Mr Valliant knows the answer.

Remember

eg's picture

No, no, Linz. This thread is about

"Brant Gaede Answers"

Now, what are the questions? To ensure a quality response, use Paypal ($US 50.00).

--Brant

Thanks for the reminder!

DianaHsieh's picture

Thanks for the reminder, Linz. I very much enjoyed Ayn Rand Answers, particularly the later material on aesthetics, since that's far from my area of expertise. (At this point, I'm mostly interested in aesthetics as a consumer of art, not as a philosopher.) It's an easy and fun and informative read, highly recommended.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Don't forget, everyone ....

Lindsay Perigo's picture

There's a book called Ayn Rand Answers which this thread was originally about. Highly recommended! Smiling

James

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Kenny,

No offense taken. We should all be willing to have our statements held up to scrutiny and in an open arena we are sticking our neck out and should expect to have our commentary criticized.

jim

Andre the Gentleman?!?

DianaHsieh's picture

Here's the problem, Andre. I've already seen, first-hand, how you comport yourself with "ARIans." And it ain't pretty, polite, gentlemanly -- or just.

Still, I'm glad to know that you stand by your ravings about me. So if I ever meet you, I'll be delighted to treat you with all due justice, respect, and civility.

As for your befuddlement about my participation on an open forum like SoloPassion, you might do well to remember that contradictions are a damn good reason to check your premises.

Over and out!

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

James

Kenny's picture

I still think that your encouragement of the Brandens is at odds with your "negative" opinions of them. As for TOC, you make a fair point.

Your posts are interesting and enjoyable. I hope that I did not offend you with my remarks that were intended to provoke a response.

With respect, politeness, and OPEN FRIENDLINESS

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Diana quotes me at length. It's hard for me to read it without smiling and agreeing with myself. Typical. Eye

Uninformed speculation about how I comport myself with ARIans or others is just that. Certainly I have a standard of gentlemanliness with is finer and higher than anything found at ARI.

Any compliment or derogation made about ARI, TOC, SOLO, RoR, etc. is based on my consideration of the merits. However harsh or hostile I might sometimes seem, I'm always looking to do the respective parties justice. But as for anything negative written about ARI and their partisans, there probably isn't much I regret. Historically, they're going to have almost an infinity to answer for.

But make no mistake: I utterly welcome the contributions of ARIans on SOLO. I just don't think participation in an open forum is a sustainable option for them personally or organizationally. It simply makes no sense to me. Either a given Objectivist is brave, honest, virtuous, and decent enough to engage in a free and open forum -- or he is an ARIan. Not both.

I hope I'm wrong about all this. But to me it seems like Linz has virtually performed a miracle. I just don't think this or any other miracle is very sustainable. 

Barbara Branden

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Kenny,

It's my policy when I've met someone personally, as I have Barbara Branden, to take up matters with them directly. It's a matter of courtesy that I think is due even those you think have done wrong. I doubt that anyone could construe that post as an endorsement. Make of it what you will. My only personal interaction with Barbara is when I met her at the 1999 TOC Seminar and I found her to be a pleasant person in conversation, as no doubt, many of the Solopassion members have at one time or another. Negative moral judgment is an occasion for sadness and I don't relish it.

Also, I do see how people could see an incongruity between my characterization of myself as a TOC supporter in that post and a TOC sympathizer/independent below. As Diana says I've been a harsh critic of ARI on many issues. I've also praised them when I've felt they've deserved it. My opinion of ARI overall is negative with regard to their policies. I like many of their people.

My overall opinion of TOC is positive. I've detailed my agreements and departures with them below. My first concern with any organization is that I can speak my mind freely. Put me in whatever category you like or ignore me if you like.

Jim

"However, I am hoping upon

Landon Erp's picture

"However, I am hoping upon hope that you and Nathaniel will come to this seminar with a view to the importance of seriousness about the philosophical ideas of Objectivis."

Sounds pretty consistant with his views as stated here. Hate to speak for the man but he stated that they shouldn't be talking about Rand's life anymore or topics related to it. But speaking on topics in their chosen fields (psychology and efficient thinking)is still welcome because there is still value to be derived there.

---Landon

It all basically comes back to fight or flight.

James

Kenny's picture

Perhaps you could explain this post on Objectivist Living

http://wheelerdesignworks.netf...

"Barbara,

As a longtime supporter of TOC and antagonist of ARI....Having been to the 2004 and 2005 seminars, I can happily say the seminars were outstanding, they've righted the ship and the 2006 program is terrific. However, I am hoping upon hope that you and Nathaniel will come to this seminar with a view to the importance of seriousness about the philosophical ideas of Objectivism."

So much for your "negative opinions of the Brandens period". How can anyone take what you say seriously?

Conspiracy

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

Of course I don't think there is a conspiracy about the Kelley/Peikoff split. Contrary to the Reisman issue and the Rand/Branden break before that there has always been enough information to make informed choices either way on this issue. With the advent of wide adoption of the internet ~1994, there is no one that can legitimately claim to be kept in the dark concerning available information about issues within the Objectivist movement they really wish to pursue.

I do think that there has been a change in tack by ARI in the way they've handled the dissemination of information. Before about 1994 or so, they tended to be much more tight-lipped about things such as Kelley/Peikoff or the Brandens. Incidentally, I had an extremely negative view of the Brandens based on having read as much of their "biographies" as I could stomach going into my second IOS seminar in 1995.

That view changed to mixed about Nathaniel Branden after reading his Psychology of Romantic Love and Six Pillars of Self-Esteem after attending Carolyn Ray's Friendship and Love talk at the 1995 seminar. I have since revised that opinion to negative after reading Bryan Register's comparison of Judgment Day and My Years with Ayn Rand and most recently PARC.

Since you suggest that I feign neutrality about ARI/TOC, I'll lay out what my positions are:

1. In general, I agree with an open system conception of Objectivism. I do not wholly endorse the way in which it is conceived in T&T. The open system argument has to be coupled with a methodology for identifying fertile areas of explication and discovery. In order to give guidance to further exploration of Objectivism, we need criteria for identifying which areas in which we are most likely to be successful. For instance, I think that the Objectivist Ethics and Politics are very well developed are likely to change little if at all. I do wholehearted endorse David Kelley's Unrugged Individualism and the elevation of benevolence as a major virtue in Objectivism. The epistemology will be added to significantly as our knowledge of human neurology and cognition becomes more sophisticated. However, philosophically speaking, Objectivism has enough in the way of a validated theory of knowledge and concept formation to provide a bedrock anchor for the for the rest of its integrated system. One criteria for determining which areas of Objectivism are ripe for development is simply analyzing the amount of new inductive data that comes into a given branch of the philosophy.

2. I have mixed feelings about the issue of sanction. In the main, the libertarian movement in the U.S. as a political and moral force is largely bankrupt. On the other hand, there is a terrific body of pro-biotechnology, pro-globalization, and pro-open source libertarian scholarship that I support.

3. I have a negative opinion of the Brandens period. I do think that some of Nathaniel Branden's books such as Psychology of Romantic Love and The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem can be evaluated independently of his personal character. I do not, however, view going to a TOC Summer Seminar is an endorsement of the Brandens. I have never spoken at TOC and I have never given enough money to be considered an IOS/TOC Sponsor. Every year I evaluate the strength of their program in my areas of interest and weigh it against other uses of my time. If ARI offers a program that dovetails with my interests, I will go. I have attended their Seminars in '94-6, '98-99 and two days in 2004, the complete week 2005 and I plan to attend this year.

4. I think that both ARI and TOC should be upfront with students about the strengths of their various offerings to students. I tend to view ARI as stronger in certain areas of ethics and presenting Objectivism as an integrated system. I tend to view TOC as stronger in epistemology, philosophy of science and cognitive science.

All in all, I think I've generally been fairly forthright about my positions on these issues and I've wandered back and forth between considering myself a TOC sympathizer and an independent at various times. At no time have I portrayed myself as "neutral".

Jim

Thank you

DianaHsieh's picture

Thank you, Brant, apology happily accepted. In return, let me say that I appreciate the thought that you've given these hard questions about the Brandens. As we've all seen, some are unwilling to do that, whatever the evidence.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

ARI

eg's picture

I don't know much about the Ayn Rand Institute. I think they have Rand's desk. I don't like the use of her name when spokemen comment on current events.

respectfully and politely probe?

DianaHsieh's picture

Andre,

Based upon your online writings about ARI and its supporters, I cannot imagine that you merely "respectfully and politely probe" ARI supporters. For example, consider what you said about me not too long ago:

    Diana is a cut above the typical zombie cyborg loser of ARI. But only that. Her reasons cited above for not participating on SOLO are a mish-mash of half-baked nonsense. In the end she refuses to argue and debate here -- or anywhere slightly open and honest -- because she secretly knows she would lose. SOLOists and TOCers belong to the philosophical branch of Objectivism. Diana and her evil ARI cohorts belong to the religious branch of Objectivism. The intellectual divide here is wide.

    Ultimately, Diana and her fellow ARIan intellectual perverts are enemies of the Western tradition and Westen liberal progress. They stand in fundamental opposition to reason, philosophy, scholarship, speculation and inquiry, intellectual discourse and dissent, Aristotle, the Enlightenment, Rand, and Objectivism.

    These sadsack deviants only discuss things with themselves and those massively ignorant of Ayn Rand and Objectivsm. But when they come across SOLOists, TOCers, libertarians, Austrians, classicists, the Brandens, or anyone whatsoever with any knowledge whatsoever -- they turn tail and run. Like vermin, they fear the light of day. Their claims that the totality of the widely variegated and informed critics of cult "Objectivism" are all intellectually "unserious" and dishonest" are themselves unserious and dishonest.

    How sad that like Darth Vaderette, Diana recently turned to the dark side!


And that's just one example. Any ARI supporter with any knowledge whatsoever of those kinds of nasty public comments is fully justified in treating you like a sack of shit before you even open your mouth. And even if a given ARI supporter isn't aware of your boundless hostility to anything associated with ARI, I doubt that you could effectively econceal that fact from them for more than a few moments -- or that you even try.

Oddly enough, with this post, I've just became the public exception to your universal claim. Even though you've made all kinds of obscene claims about me, just based upon my writings, I've been nice and polite in my response. Still, if you attack me again, I'll return to ignoring you.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Andre...

sjw's picture

Andre,

The last conversation I had with my friends involved ARI's vision as such. I took issue with it as not being a proper vision for an Objectivist organization. And I criticized the content of the lectures as being largely boring because of it. I was quite passionate about my vision of the ideal and quite critical of ARI for not seeing it for themselves. (I'm going to pass on elaborating on my vision, it's not trivial and the point here is--I was questioning ARI at its roots, emphatically and passionately, and my ARI friends stayed benevolent).

But I'm not going to deny the pattern you see among some ARI loyalists, which is real. I'm sure it's not just an ARI thing--in general people don't like criticism. But with some ARI loyalists it goes beyond that. It's as if they have the one true religion and anyone who criticizes is an evil heretic. E.g., one time at an ARI conference I criticized Peikoff calling someone an "armchair engineer" on his radio show for criticizing Microsoft. If an Objectivist engineer isn't permitted to criticize Microsoft on any grounds unless he builds an alternative, then why is it permissible for an Objectivist philosopher to criticize whatever he wants? By Peikoff's standard for engineers, how can Peikoff criticize "The Titanic"--he didn't make his own movie, because he's just being an "armchair director". Anyway, after I said this the guy looked at me like I was evil and just got up and walked off and never said anything to me again. Certainly, weird behavior and fitting with your experience.

But it's not universal.

To answer your last question: Yes, I think it's wrong to do that no matter how polite you are. I think if you engage someone in conversation it ought to be for the sake of the conversation not for some ulterior purpose. On the other hand, if you're engaged in conversation, and then you see this zealot pattern, then I think it's legitimate to start asking them about it and try to figure out what in the hell is wrong with them that makes them act like that.

Yep

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Shayne: Yes, pure. No exceptions. That's what's so stunning. It would be nice if I could honestly say one was malicious but not wierd, or wierd but not malicious. But I can't honestly say this.

If you truly took into account what I posted above and can genuinely contradict it I'm happy. I have enough respect for your views to believe it. A bit. But it would help to hear a story or two. Maybe some discussion you had of TOC, Kelley, Nathaniel, Barbara, memoirs, F & V, T & T, cultism, authoritarianism, faith, libertarians, intellectual fraud, hagiography, etc. which didn't have a relatively hateful result.  

Certainly the desideratum here would be for me to hear you have a chat with them -- or you to hear me. At some point, naturally, I have to rely on my own uncontroverted and emphatic experience.

Your point about testing is interesting. Maybe that's the crux. But is it really wrong to respectfully and politely probe, test, and examine? In my life this doesn't seem to bother anyone. So too on all these Objectivist websites. I do it continually, just like now, and don't seem to encounter strangeness or left-field hostility except from the ARIans.

Pure uniformity?

sjw's picture

I don't think so Andre. No group that large is perfectly uniform, and my experience flatly contradicts yours. Not only have I met a number of very benevolent ARI loyalists, but I have a few friends who are loyal to ARI but don't get bent just because I criticize ARI.

If you've gotten pure hostility then I'd say you must be engaging in some kind of bad behavior, and I suspect it's because they discern that you are testing them. Testing people like that is not benevolent. These people are individuals first, ARI loyalists second, but I suspect that you treat them the other way around given how you are talking here.

My Experiences

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

On Thursday Diana Hsieh wrote:

At the 2004 OCON, Yaron Brook told me -- quite emphatically -- that I ought to come to him with any doubts, questions, or worries about the Institute that I might have, including about its history. If that's not openness, I don't know what is....

From what I've seen, the people who find ARI "closed" on such matters usually broach the topic with enormous hostility. They presume the worst possible explanation true, then demand to be proven wrong. (Certainly, I've seen tons of that on SOLO.) How would you like to be treated in that fashion -- over and over and over again? I suspect that you'd get somewhat testy after a few dozen rounds of that kind of abuse.

The proper method of inquiry about such matters is polite benevolence. Personally, I've had all my questions to date answered with that approach. (And believe me, I had plenty of questions and worries at first!)

I've actually had quite a lot of contact with these people in the past three or four years, both leaders and regular ARIans, and the experience has been simply remarkable. Not once have I had a positive experience with them. Not once have I found them to be anything other than malicious and bizarre. If the conversation lasts for any length of time...the result is always the same. And I don't just approach them with polite benevolence but also open friendliness.

I invite and defy anyone anywhere to put my conclusions to the test. The key points, I think, are these: Talk to them as if they're normal people. Talk to them, in content and style, as you would to any other TOCer, SOLOist, RoRist, libertarian, etc. See to it that you have zero secret passive aggression but also zero self-renunciating self-censorship. Then see what the result is. Mine has been absolutely uniform.

Just as I have had but a single experience with ARIans, so too I have had another with non-ARIans. Altho' the results with the normal Objectivist and libertarian community vary widely -- with a fair amount of people I didn't like or agree with -- I've never once had an experience I would call malicious or bizarre. Not once. And I always ask the same questions and make the same comments -- and in the same way.

I find the effect of pure uniformity from ARIans and non-ARIans to be very convincing. That's why it defies belief that everyone else doesn't get the same result. I'm utterly convinced that once good and decent people visit the vile atmosphere and evil realm of an ARI event they must be strongly impacted -- whether they know it or not -- and then engage in either passive aggression, which isn't legit, or intense self-censorship, which isn't legit either.

On Sanctioning Libertarians

DianaHsieh's picture

Regarding the wrong of sanctioning subjectivism by speaking to a libertarian group, let me strongly recommend my husband Paul's essay, "The Fable of the Cardiac Surgeon and the Organization of Health Practitioners or Why I Don't Support Libertarian Organizations (at least not any more). Paul also wrote a critique of TOC speaker Randy Barnett's explicitly subjectivist libertarianism.

I discussed the issue more directly in my post on DK's endorsement of a Muslim organization. Here's the relevant passage.

***

It's worth pausing for a moment to compare and contrast this explicit sanction of Islam with David Kelley's implicit sanction of the subjectivism of libertarianism in his talk to the Laissez Faire Supper Club so many years ago.

In that talk to the Laissez Faire Supper Club, David Kelley clearly identified reason, egoism, and mind-body integration as necessary to any proper defense of liberty. He openly criticized those who defend liberty on the grounds that we shouldn't force anyone to conform to our inherently subjective notions of right and wrong. Given the content of his speech, it can seem more than a bit strange to say that David Kelley sanctioned subjectivism in giving it. That's pretty much what he says in defense of it in "A Question of Sanction":

    The sole purpose of the occasion was to hear my explanation of why individual rights and capitalism cannot be established without reference to certain key principles of Objectivism: the absolutism of reason, the rejection of altruism, and the commitment to life in this world as a primary value. Since I explicitly criticized libertarian ideas that are incompatible with those principles, I was obviously not endorsing them.
Understanding the criticism leveled at this talk requires understanding the precise way in which the libertarian movement is thoroughly subjectivist. Obviously, not all libertarians are subjectivist in the substantive sense of opposing the initiation of force because right and wrong are just a matter of personal opinion. After all, many libertarians advocate some particular moral foundation for liberty, whether utilitarian public good, vague common sense, Christian scripture, or even Objectivism. However, that doesn't rescue the libertarian movement from the charge of subjectivism, but only confirms it. The movement is wide open to any claimed foundation for liberty, no matter how absurd. So while each individual person might have his own preferred moral foundation, his libertarian alliance with others simply on the basis of claimed agreement with the principle of the non-initiation of force amounts to an admission that his moral foundation is optional. Even if he claims otherwise, his actions speak louder than his words.

Peter Schwartz makes his general point in his essay "On Moral Sanctions":

    If one wishes to reach those who have been defrauded by Libertarianism, it cannot be done by speaking under the auspices of the defrauders. It cannot be done even if one's topic is why Objectivism offers the proper foundation for genuine liberty. Such a talk grants Libertarianism precisely the moral sanction it seeks and thrives on. Libertarians will readily listen to a talk on Objectivism and liberty--and the next day they will invite someone to speak on why the Bible is the only basis for liberty--and the next week they will hear someone argue why only skepticism and amoralism can validate liberty, etc. They lap this up. It is all entirely consistent with Libertarianism. It is consistent with the philosophy that philosophies and reasons are irrelevant to a belief in "liberty." By speaking under the roof of an organization dedicated to purveying Libertarianism, one concedes that Libertarianism does in fact value liberty (and is simply confused about the proper means--i.e., Objectivism--by which to gain that end). Once that fatal concession is made, Libertarianism has obtained the basic moral sanction its survival requires.

    The contradiction, then, is this: The handful of Libertarians who may be open to reason need to be told that Libertarianism as such is anti-liberty and that Libertarian organizations should be boycotted. But this cannot be conveyed via a talk which is itself sponsored by a Libertarian organization.


Paul also developed an excellent analogy on this point in his Fable of the Cardiac Surgeon.

So over the course of more than 15 years, David Kelley has moved from the implicit sanction of libertarianism to the explicit sanction of Islam. In light of his pragmatist rules of association, I'm not surprised.

***

My writings on these topics are collected on my page on False Objectivism. (It's not fully up-to-date at the moment.)

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Well, OK

Casey's picture

Given only these facts, I would say there was nothing wrong with Peikoff being on Brudnoy's show and nothing wrong with Kelley speaking at the small "l" libertarian gathering where he lectured them on the importance of an objective moral basis for politics.

But I suspect that ARI's break with Kelley and Schwartz's objections to the talk concerned other details. If so, reducing the argument to these essentials might not be appreciated by Peikoff or the others involved. For instance, knowing that TOC supports the Brandens and all that they have done to undermine Rand unjustly adds a whole new dimension to accepting an offer to lecture at one of their functions. If one simply reduced the issue to the terms above, it would not make sense to refuse the speaking engagement. But it's considerably more complicated than that now.

Ha!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Bill, I suspect you'll still be waiting on your deathbed, 100 years from now!

And yes, this "state of affairs" long precedes PARC, as you acknowledge. PARC has merely crystallised it & they've indicted themselves, moving, as I've said, from "ineffectual" to morally bereft.

As for TNI & its cover, I haven't seen it. I seem to have been removed from the distribution list, even though Bidinotto is still on mine. But no part of *any* magazine, cover or content, will *ever* rival the FreeRad for "pure balls"! Smiling

TOC's recent behavior

nevin's picture

Linz,

I am more interested in their future behavior. Their recent behavior is not very appetizing if one regards it as following from PARC. But I don't think it does, and am still waiting to see what happens wrt PARC's impact on them.

Seriously, when have you seen TOC respond to anything rapidly? Not to rag on them too much, but they do not tend to be an organization that strikes while the iron is hot. There can be other possible explanations for this state of affairs besides Diana's refrain of "philosophical corruption."

There are some good signs coming from them now, like the latest issue of The New Individualist, which sports a cover that rivals that of the recent Free Rad for pure balls.

So, even if you have lost patience, I am still waiting.

-Bill

Bill

Lindsay Perigo's picture

TOC & PARC?

You are?

eg's picture

The host comes first, or the show won't stay on the air. The ideology doesn't particularly matter.

--Brant

But Casey ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Kelley was invited to address the libertarians (small 'l') on why libertarianism needs an objective moral base. I've heard the talk & he did a good job. How does that constitute "promoting the organisation's agenda"?

And if the Dems invited Ayn Rand to address them on the evils of collectivism or some such, I'd like to think she would have done it, unless they were using her name as a fundraiser. Certainly, doing it would not have made her an Armand Hammer.

Logical consistency

nevin's picture

Casey,

When Peikoff and Brudnoy regarded Leah Cruz as a fanatic, they would have been correct -- had her objection been to anyone other than Leonard Peikoff or Peter Schwartz appearing on the show. The illogic is not in Brudnoy's format or in her objection. It is in the Schwartz/Peikoff rationalistic misapplication of the principle of sanction.

-Bill

OK,

Casey's picture

But there is a difference between a libertarian think-tank and a libertarian who has a talkshow onto which he invites people to speak from across the spectrum. Dan Rather is a democrat who had a News program -- people yelled, however, when he appeared at a Democratic fund-raiser. Ayn Rand appeared on Phil Donahue's show -- he was a democrat. If Ayn Rand appeared at a Democratic Party think tank function, that would have MEANT something quite different, no? In one case, it's a talkshow and the spotlight is on the guest and the host is there to interview the guest. In the other case, it's an organization with a set of ideas that THE ORGANIZATION is advancing and the guest is invited to promote that organization's agenda.

Am I crazy for seeing a clear difference here? Seriously, think about that before coming to the conclusion that I'm blinkered and bending over backwards to defend Peter Schwartz. I couldn't care less about defending Peter Schwartz. I'm honestly trying to figure out what the frickin' beef is here.

The point is ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Speakers don't have to agree with THEIR hosts' ideologies either. Hell, I've spoken to all manner of groups who don't agree with me. Does that make me Armand Hammer? That's ridiculous, & Schwartz is a jerk. I'm with Bill on this, though I'd like to see him explain how he could justify TOC's recent behaviour.

Linz

I am?

Casey's picture

Does this mean that all guests on talkshows must agree with the host's politics and ideology? That would make for pretty boring talkshows. Peikoff was on O'Reilly's show, for cripes sake. (Or are you being facetious, Brant?)

Well, well

eg's picture

U're about 100% wrong with that, Casey. It's the other way around.

--Brant

Well,

Casey's picture

On that standard Rand should never have appeared on Mike Wallace's show or Phil Donahue's show. I think talkshow hosts are there to spotlight their guests, not the other way round, no?

More specific...

nevin's picture

Casey,

You wrote: "Even one fact cited as a basis for one allegation about ARI would be more clarifying to me than a catalog of sweeping generalizations. (And no, I am not insulting you here, I'm stating a fact.)"

Good point, and no insult taken. Pace Shayne, I could have described some of the specific incidents I alluded to, but it was getting late and I was trying to keep the post short. (I hasten to add that, even if I unfortunately left you guys in the dark, Diana is well aware of my accounts of a couple of the more egregious ones.)

Here is a mention of my problem with Andrew Bernstein. I can't get the link to point to the specific entry from 17 June 2002, but you can search on the page for its title: "Arguments from Intimidation".

My biggest single source of problems with ARI was the series of appearances Leonard Peikoff made on the David Brudnoy radio show on WBZ AM in Boston, MA. I don't have a list of dates, but these were more-or-less annual events, typically in the spring, on the Friday evening before each of Dr. Peikoff's Ford Hall Forum talks. The radio talks in question began, I believe, some time in the late 1980s (before I ever listened to Brudnoy) and ended some time in the early 1990s. I moved from Boston to Houston, TX in June 1994, so I don't have any information if they resumed after that. They had stopped before I left, perhaps as a direct result of my own activism.

I have repeatedly been very disappointed and frustrated by arguments that ARI supporters have made in response to my objections to these talks. So here I will try to spell out as briefly as I can what my problem with them was.

The late David Brudnoy was a professor of history at Boston University, a writer, a world traveler, and a talk show host. His show lasted from 7 PM to midnight, Monday through Friday, and predated the rise in popularity of Rush Limbaugh. Unlike all contemporary right-wing radio that I have heard, Brudnoy maintained a very high intellectual tone at all times on his show. He regularly interviewed writers, thinkers, artists, and other cultural figures, as well as journalists, politicians, officials from all levels of government, and activists from across the political spectrum. His show was very popular.

He was a brilliant host, who routinely asked questions or made comments that cut to the essentials of the issue at hand. He admitted on-air that as a young man he had been a liberal, but that he changed his views upon reading a copy of Atlas Shrugged that a friend had once handed him before he (Brudnoy) boarded a plane to Israel.

WBZ's transmitter is in the highest power class authorized by the FCC, so the show was heard all over New England. In favorable weather conditions, it was regularly heard as far away as Pennsylvania and southern Quebec. In perfect conditions, Brudnoy would receive calls from listeners in North Carolina.

I eventually became a big fan of David Brudnoy. It is easy to see why Leonard Peikoff, or any Objectivist, would be delighted at a chance to air his own views by speaking on such a show. Dr. Peikoff's appearances on the show were particularly memorable, and usually showed him at the top of his game, often better than during the Ford Hall Forum talks that they preceded. The two men, as well as the local audience, looked forward to them, and the two developed a warm rapport on the air.

Now, how could I possibly have any objection to such appearances?

David Brudnoy frequently described himself as a libertarian. Every month, in fact, his show would feature political discussion with his "libertarian circle" of friends of like mind. He had achieved the status of a household name in New England, as a libertarian public intellectual and radio personality, similar to the status our own Lindsay Perigo enjoys today in New Zealand. None of this is bad, per se. There is no rational objection to a small-l libertarianism that is grounded, as Brudnoy's was (and of course as Linz's is) in an objective moral base. The problem is that, during the era in question, Peter Schwartz, editor of The Intellectual Activist newsletter (TIA,) issued a series of editorials attacking "Libertarianism." These were later reissued as a pamphlet called "Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty." Later still, a shortened and bowdlerized version of this, missing the more scurrilous allegations, was reprinted for some reason in a book entitled The Voice of Reason: Essays in Objectivist Thought, which otherwise consisted mostly of an excellent collection of Rand's own articles. Schwartz was deafening in his silence on the distinction between small-l libertarianism and capital-L Libertarianism, of the corrupt American Libertarian Party variety. This distinction was, at the time, a staple of discourse in libertarian writings in the USA. And Schwartz was considered ARI's great expert on libertarianism, for having done the research that went into his series, so the omission could not have been through ignorance.

Then, in early 1989, David Kelley gave his landmark talk to the libertarian Laissez-Faire Supper Club, which was a marketing arm of Laissez-Faire Books. In it, he challenged the libertarian movement to base its politics on valid philosophy, to study Objectivist arguments, and to use Rand's ideas. His name was dropped from the masthead of the subsequent issue of TIA (dated 27 Feb, 1989,) which featured an editorial by Schwartz attacking unnamed "sanctioners," who aided and abetted such enemies of Objectivism as "Libertarians." Dr. Kelley was also dropped from the ARI Speakers Bureau at this time. He then wrote his open letter "A Question of Sanction" in response to these actions. The next issue of TIA (dated 18 May 1989,) contained Dr. Peikoff's "Fact and Value," in which he began:

I agree completely with "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners," Peter Schwartz's article in the last issue of TIA. That article has, however, raised questions in the mind of some readers. In particular, David Kelley, one of the persons whom the article implicitly criticizes, has written an articulate paper in reply, identifying his own philosophy on the relevant topics.

There are many comments I would like to make on many points in "Fact and Value," but I will limit myself here to the very first point he made in his first line. In "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners," Schwartz, among other contentions, compared those who would "lend their names to Libertarian magazines or promote Libertarian bookstores or serve as after-dinner speakers at Libertarian functions" to Armand Hammer. (Please recall that Schwartz consistently makes no distinction of case in his criticism of "Libertarians," and that the specific Laissez-Faire Supper Club at which Dr. Kelley gave his after-dinner speech was not an organ of the Libertarian Party.) Hammer, in case you are not aware, was an oil executive, propagandist, life-long Communist, and paid agent of the Soviet Union, who materially financed some of the Soviet Union's first intelligence forays against the Western powers. Hammer also later financed the rise of the pro-Soviet dictatorship of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi. I personally believe that the late Hammer was so conspicuously and historically evil that any patriotic American would have been morally justified in assassinating him on the spot, like the scientist in Rand's play "Think Twice." This is the individual to whom Schwartz was comparing David Kelley. And this was the editorial with which Dr. Peikoff agreed completely.

It was in this context that my then-girlfriend, Leah Cruz, and I were shocked to hear from friends of ours, who were ARI supporters in the Boston Objectivist community, that Leonard Peikoff regularly appeared on David Brudnoy's show before each of his Ford Hall Forum talks. I can't remember the specific hours from 7 to midnight during which Dr. Peikoff spoke. Therefore, these appearances may have been morally justified on the grounds that they were made before dinner. But when I pointed out the inappropriateness of them to my ARI-supporting friends, they were rather sheepish about the whole situation.

During one such appearance that Leah and I heard, she called in to the station and asked Dr. Peikoff how he could share a microphone with a libertarian like David Brudnoy after he himself had kicked David Kelley out of ARI for giving a talk to a libertarian book club. [Some have pointed out recently that there were also other reasons Dr. Kelley was kicked out. Though this point may be true, it is irrelevant to Leah's position in the light of my quotation from "Fact and Value" above which establishes that Dr. Peikoff must have regarded any talk at a libertarian function as a sufficient condition to kick him out.] Both men reacted with incredulity that she would regard so little a thing as a radio show appearance as grounds for moral condemnation. They both made light of her position, and treated her as kind of a nut. Dr. Peikoff said that he hadn't known that Brudnoy was a libertarian. [Oh, really?!] But he went on to argue that by appearing as a guest on the show, he was obtaining access to Brudnoy's large audience to spread his own Objectivist ideas, access that he otherwise would not have been able to achieve. [Hmmm. Where have I heard something like that before?] This argument has a certain power. But Schwartz and others, then and now, have criticized this argument, as they understand it, as a Pragmatist rationalization of the sanctioning of evil, when the argument is used to exonerate David Kelley for his appearance in a libertarian forum.

Approximately 48 hours later, at the Ford Hall Forum talk itself, Sunday evening on the campus of Northeastern University, I stood up during the Q&A period and asked the following question. (This is from memory, but is close to verbatim and is virtually identical in substance and tone.) "Dr. Peikoff, since it is now okay for some Objectivist intellectuals to appear in public forums with some libertarians, such as talk show host David Brudnoy, as you yourself said on his show Friday night, can you please tell us by what principle it is possible to decide when such an appearance is proper?" What I received in reply was a lot of angry bluster, devoid of any substantial answer to the question. Hey, I didn't accuse him of hypocrisy. His answer to Leah was a new one on me (coming from him,) and I just wanted to understand the philosophical complexities involved. Why did he need to get so hot under the collar, if he had done nothing wrong?

Now, which is more defensible ethically? An Objectivist like David Kelley going before a group of libertarians that assembled to hear him speak in a venue closed to the public, who goes on to tell them why a libertarianism unanchored by moral philosophy is cruising in intellectually-shallow waters, and why they therefore need Rand? Or an Objectivist like Leonard Peikoff, joining in Schwartz's denunciation of Kelley's talk, who then went on for hour after hour, year after year, warmly conversing about political and philosophical matters on-air with David Brudnoy, a man every taxi cab driver and politically-aware grad student in the greater Boston area knew was a libertarian? When any member of the general public between Harrisburg and Montreal who tuned into the show would have no idea that the guest morally rejected libertarianism? Ah, the irony.

So that is the primary issue between Peikoff and me: the incoherence of him repeatedly showing up for interviews on David Brudnoy's show after signing off on "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners," and his inability to explain the apparent paradox to me when I asked him about it in the Q&A. Secondarily, and much more recently, I've run into problems with ARI supporters for their non sequiturs in arguments about the Peikoff/Brudnoy imbroglio as I have described it. It is these radical differences in opinion that led me to hypothesize the existence of the ARI-issue Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring, that Peikoff's adherents can use to decrypt what he has really meant in each of his public statements. If only someone in-the-know were to loan me one of these, I could spin the dial on all of the major ARI cyphertexts and my misunderstandings would quickly evaporate, as I learned that the "Fact and Value" quote above was actually code for "A=A. Ayn Rand is the greatest thinker of the 20th century. John Galt rocks!" and other uncontroversial statements.

Later I will write about these, and other, specific quarrels that I have with ARI and various of its supporters. But today I am on a new regimen in which I am trying to keep my impolite, ranting screeds to a minimum, in both frequency and length. "Tauba, tauba," as they say in India. That is the Hindi expression one uses when renouncing a vice.

-Bill

Conspiracy!

DianaHsieh's picture

Jim said: "I graduated high school in 1989, so the May 1989 issue of TIA came out when I went off to college and I didn't read it. I spent the next 4 years not knowing that David Kelley had been tossed out of the Objectivist movement. I had reasonably regular contact with some ARI-related people so you might think the subject would have come up."

So are you suggesting that the people in question knew that you hadn't received your copy of TIA -- and then deliberately hid the dispute from you? That's quite a conspiracy! (And what a stupid one it would be! Did they think that you'd never find out? Or that once you did, it would somehow be "too late"?)

Don't you think it's far more plausible that the topic simply never arose, perhaps because the people in question weren't terribly interested in discussing it endlessly? Or that they expected you to raise the topic if you had questions, not realizing that you were ignorant of the matter? And if this is such a sticking point for you -- as it seems to be, since you've mentioned it multiple times -- why not just e-mail the people in question to determine the facts of the matter?

As for the case of George Reisman, I've already indicated why people need not publicly air their dirty laundry in the case of personal disputes.

Also Jim, I'm puzzled by your claim that you're neutral, since you've been attending TOC Summer Seminars pretty regularly these past few years. You're planning to attend this year too, from what I understand. You're also a vocal critic of ARI for breaking with George Reisman over a personal dispute, whereas you give TOC a free pass for their ongoing close relationship with two dishonest and unjust critics of Ayn Rand and Objectivism. If that's not taking sides, then I'm not sure what is.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Specifics

sjw's picture

Casey, Bill was specific, he cited specific personal incidents. My guess is that if you asked he'd get even more specific about them. Obviously it's just his word here because ARI intellectuals do not do online Q&A about these topics.

Speaking of specifics, there was an incident with Jason Roth and Mayhew on HBL for which Jason was booted from HBL and there was additional private exchange which you'd have to ask him about. That's the most recent incident of hostile ARI behavior when benevolently questioned.

Personal Disputes

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

I'd be delighted to hear ARI's side of the Reisman/Packer issue. I'll take it up with you in private e-mail some other time. It is my personal policy never to divulge the contents of private e-mail without permission except when subpoenaed by criminal courts (and even then it would become a matter of judging the situation objectively). I have a much lower threshold for the kinds of things that can be said in private. However, I also don't say anything in private correspondence that I would be embarrassed about appearing in public.

Jim

Bill,

Casey's picture

Even one fact cited as a basis for one allegation about ARI would be more clarifying to me than a catalog of sweeping generalizations. (And no, I am not insulting you here, I'm stating a fact.)

Ironically, because sweeping generalizations are so often employed on this issue (whereas Diana has been rather extraordinarily specific about the philosophical differences she has with TOC), it makes me wonder if that's all there is to the anti-ARI debate. The Reisman issue has been raked over enough times to realize there was a personal falling out. It doesn't sound, therefore, like much of an issue that ARI has not made it public and that ARI does not complete some kind of list of mea culpas in public, either.

And I think the fact that PARC was published at all should count for something. Not mentioning the Brandens used to be one of the main complaints on the TOC side. Boy, has that one one ever evaporated, while little credit has been given to ARI for selling and promoting the book and Peikoff allowing Rand's material on the subject to be published in it. Instead, the same arguments are leveled against ARI as though nothing happened, from a considerably weakened position since TOC is now dodging the issue instead.

Personal Disputes

DianaHsieh's picture

Personal disputes can get extraordinarily ugly, as we've seen recently with Joe and Linz. In those cases, working together will be seriously unpleasant, if not persistently contentious. The people involved ought not sacrifice their well-being for the sake of "The Movement."

As for the case of George Reisman, I'd be more than happy to discuss the matter with Yaron, then report back to any honest person interested to know ARI's side.

However, I don't think the topic is nearly as hot as Shayne suggests. I suspect that's because people don't need to know the private details of the original dispute to morally judge the situation as it stands. For example, after various Objectivists decided that they did not wish to deal with GR and EP further, EP and GR chose to publish the personal correspondence of those people, even though clearly intended for private discussion only and even after explicitly promising to say nothing about the matter. GR also has longstanding ties to the (unfortunately mis-named) Von Mises Institute, a decidedly pro-anarchist libertarian organization openly hostile to Ayn Rand. More recently, GR opted to publish in JARS, as well as to write a rationalistic, context-dropping, and bitter review of _Ayn Rand Answers_. (Just for the record, it was that review that sealed my judgment of him.)

Oh, and I won't be replying to Bill Nevin's ranting screed against imaginary demons. I do require some measure of politeness -- and objectivity -- in my interlocutors.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

On ARI

nevin's picture

Diana,

You wrote "Yaron Brook told me -- quite emphatically -- that I ought to come to him with any doubts, questions, or worries about the Institute that I might have, including about its history. If that's not openness, I don't know what is."

If you were to take him up on his kind offer, and if he were then to answer your questions forthrightly, explaining why they had followed a particular course of action rather than others, mentioning things that, with 20/20 hindsight, they can see they should have done differently, not shying away from any tactical blunders or other mistakes that they made, and apologizing for any hurt or offense that their gaffes might have caused to innocent parties,... Ah, now THAT would be "openness!"

In the absence of such a demonstration, Dr. Brook's offer remains only a proud boast.

And even such a demonstration would only be proof of their openness to you - someone who has praised them effusively on your popular website, while repeatedly criticizing their competitors in the harshest available language. It would say nothing about how "open" they would be to someone of a lesser-known name, or to someone who had not demonstrated her loyalty to them so effectively.

For those, like me, on the outside, ARI remains what it has been since 1989: an exclusive private club that features some really sweet amenities, but that has a membership policy denying admission to all except those who accept the totality of Objectivism, including especially the four new axioms:

i.) There is only one Objectivist organization in the world, and Leonard Peikoff is its founder. A valid reason for the establishment of any rival to it is unimaginable.

ii.) Contrary to the opinions of those of only humble abilities in philosophical interpretation (such as the present author,) Ayn Rand held that there is, in fact, a final authority in ethics - and Leonard Peikoff is his name. It's his way or the highway.

iii.) Arrogance is a major virtue. Running ARI means never having to say you're sorry.

iv.) Advanced thinkers have determined that, in the Objectivist hierarchy of values, boosterism outranks truth.

The provenance of these last four is best known to Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Brook. For my part, I'll stick to Objectivism as Ayn Rand explicated it.

I have politely asked questions of prominent ARI intellectuals, to receive bluster and the argument from intimidation in return. And, after reading angry, one-sided attacks against TOC by ARI supporters on the web, I have to smile when encountering your call for "polite benevolence." ARI strikes me as being a bit like the Mughal court, where you bow low, speak softly, and use the polite "aap" form in addressing your superiors, but are free to use the the familiar "tuu" or "tum" forms cavalierly with your subordinates. What that type of protocol has to do with rational individuals pursuing objective values in a free society, each holding his own life qua man as his highest value, I don't know.

-Bill

Arbitrary?

sjw's picture

Diana: You really think it's arbitrary to claim that people affiliated with ARI have engaged in unjust hostile behavior?

Oh Dear.

DianaHsieh's picture

Shayne,

I picked out that sentence of your post for my reply for the simple reason that it was the only one of substantial interest to me. I didn't take umbrage to it, I just asked for the relevant particulars. That's standard practice in internet discussions, including friendly ones. So unless I've dropped some context somewhere, I don't understand your objection to my choice.

In any case...

Many, many examples of the kind of unjust hostility I discussed can be found in the SoloHQ archives, on RoR, on SoloPassion, and even in the NoodleFood comments on occasion. I didn't think that I needed to dredge up particular examples to make my meaning clear, but I can do that, if you genuinely don't know to what I'm referring. Or you might just look back to the comment by "Reidy" in this thread inferring that Mayhew must be guilty of "deliberate misrepresentation" because he's a careful scholar. That's exactly the kind of malevolent presumption I'm talking about.

In contrast, I really don't know to whom or to what you're referring when you say "And we've never heard of anyone from ARI doing anything of the sort, have we?" I'm certain that I'm not the only person with only a vague and fuzzy grasp of your intended meaning. Yet unless we know what you mean, we cannot rationally assess your claim. It's just arbitrary. And that's why I asked for particulars.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Reisman & Packer

sjw's picture

Diana,

"And yes, inquiry should be necessary in the case of Reisman and Packer. It would be unseemly for ARI to air dirty laundry about personal disputes on its web site."

On the one hand you say inquiry is necessary here. I agree. An Objectivist movement that can't include George Reisman seems inherently in difficulty. On the other, the only means you give for doing it is to ask Yaron Brook. Now I don't think it's just a few people here who have questions, it's probably like hundreds. Seems like a logistical problem if nothing else.

Further you imply that this booting of Reisman was a "personal dispute". So you accept some premise along the lines that it's reasonable that people at the head of a movement could have a personal falling out, that would require not merely Reisman being demoted in some way, but outright booted. That does not square with my idea of how organizations like this ought to be run. In the field of business, when you have a personal falling out, you deal. It's certainly not rare for people in business to dislike each other, but still be able to maintain a sense of perspective and get the job done.

Feelings over Facts

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

Perhaps I was imprecise with my "feelings", so I will get specific. I graduated high school in 1989, so the May 1989 issue of TIA came out when I went off to college and I didn't read it. I spent the next 4 years not knowing that David Kelley had been tossed out of the Objectivist movement. I had reasonably regular contact with some ARI-related people so you might think the subject would have come up.

The same kind of thing happened with the Reisman thing. This time I knew people that were involved (Linda Reardan and Jerry Kirkpatrick on one side and Gary Hull and Darryl Wright on another). This time there was no evidence on the side of Dr. Peikoff, Harry Binswanger and Peter Schwartz. In my previous post, I did not accuse ARI of bad behavior, I simply said they refuse to be transparent in circumstances that seem to require it. That has consequences in reality and ARI is bearing those consequences. You are telling me that you have had a different experience and that may well be the case.

I have little patience with the kind of thing I mention above. I really have little need for ARI, TOC or SOLO for that matter. I simply interact on my own terms with those who have something to offer me and who are upfront with me. If you are flabbergasted with that, that is your prerogative.

Jim

Ironic?

sjw's picture

The most important thing I wrote was "The quickest way to defuse hostility given well-meaning parties is to simply address the points raised. And the quickest way to earn further hostilities is to hide behind taking umbrage at them while ignoring legitimate points."

Now I don't wish to read anything into your response that wasn't there. You can tell me whether it fit the whole pattern. Definitely it fit the "ignoring legitimate points" part of the pattern.

I'm sitting here wondering why I should name some names. I mean, you didn't name any names when you wrote "From what I've seen, the people who find ARI "closed" on such matters usually broach the topic with enormous hostility." What's the difference between your non-particularized accusation and mine? And I'm thinking that if we start naming names, this discussion will quickly devolve into arguments over whether this or that particular fits the pattern or not.

What's the point when you can just deal with the principle I proposed? Aren't the principles far more important than various and sundry stories about hostilities?

Feelings Over Facts

DianaHsieh's picture

Jim, I'm flabbergasted. You just have a feeling that ARI people are behaving badly, even though all your experiences with them have been positive?!? I care not a jot about your mysterious feelings, only what factual evidence you can present. If you value reason, that should be your currency too.

Also, the hostile critics of ARI are not testing the coal mine, they are deliberately violating the basic canons of decent behavior, usually to rationalize their already-entrenched judgments. You don't test whether someone is a nice person by seeing how he reacts to a punch in the face.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

On ARI

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

I've seen the kind of tail-twisting, provocative behavior from ARI critics you're talking about and I think it's kind of immature, but that's the kind of thing you're going to get among many freedom-oriented people. They will test limits. It's kind of like the canary in the coal mine. Before you invest a lot of time with a group, you want to know when you're walking on eggshells and if they're touchy right off the bat, well what will happen later on?

I haven't had any personally unpleasant experiences with ARI folks, but then again I've always gotten this feeling I'm not being told everything and there are subjects that are taboo. As a scientist and engineer, I don't do business that way. Suppose one of my technicians at work decided there were some facts I just didn't need to know or my boss decided I really didn't need to be informed about something within my job scope? I would try asking nicely, yes, but to me that would tarnish the relationship somewhat and I would keep my distance.

Jim

Particulars!

DianaHsieh's picture

Shayne said: "And we've never heard of anyone from ARI doing anything of the sort, have we?"

It's not nice to leave such matters to innuendo. So please tell us precisely to what and to whom you are referring.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

It cuts both ways

sjw's picture

"How would you like to be treated in that fashion -- over and over and over again?"

Indeed. And we've never heard of anyone from ARI doing anything of the sort, have we?

There's only one way out of this kind of vicious cycle: a focus on the principles and facts of the matter. This is a philosophy of reason. Reason should trump emotions. The quickest way to defuse hostility given well-meaning parties is to simply address the points raised. And the quickest way to earn further hostilities is to hide behind taking umbrage at them while ignoring legitimate points.

On ARI

DianaHsieh's picture

Jim,

At the 2004 OCON, Yaron Brook told me -- quite emphatically -- that I ought to come to him with any doubts, questions, or worries about the Institute that I might have, including about its history. If that's not openness, I don't know what is. (And yes, inquiry should be necessary in the case of Reisman and Packer. It would be unseemly for ARI to air dirty laundry about personal disputes on its web site.)

From what I've seen, the people who find ARI "closed" on such matters usually broach the topic with enormous hostility. They presume the worst possible explanation true, then demand to be proven wrong. (Certainly, I've seen tons of that on SOLO.) How would you like to be treated in that fashion -- over and over and over again? I suspect that you'd get somewhat testy after a few dozen rounds of that kind of abuse.

The proper method of inquiry about such matters is polite benevolence. Personally, I've had all my questions to date answered with that approach. (And believe me, I had plenty of questions and worries at first!)

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Song of Russia

Neil Parille's picture

Here is a review by S. Cox of another Mayhew book.

http://www.mises.org/journals/...

Transparency

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

I've enjoyed reading your blog over the past 2.5 years or so on issues related to TOC and the Brandens and my positions regarding the issues have evolved somewhat over that time. However, ARI's lack of transparency on intellectual and historical issues whether the motives are benign or malign leaves observers in a position where they have to trust that ARI is acting in good faith.

Good companies in corporate America don't operate that way. Why should any evidence ever be hidden unless privacy concerns are an issue? If it's truth we want, openness should be a cardinal virtue.

Given that independence is an objectivist virtue, shouldn't Objectivist organizations strive to supply as much information as possible on issues where they've taken a stand or made moral pronouncements so that each individual can make up his mind according to the untampered evidence? Transparency is a hallmark of objectivity because you are telling people, here is the data you are free to verify my work . People who have pride in the integrity of their conclusions and of their judgments should be willing to do this if they expect others to share those judgments.

Jim

Refreshing

sjw's picture

Diana I disagree somewhat but I have to say it's refreshing the way you come out swinging unabashedly.

I think the principle you have in mind is right, but ARI has earned suspicion. I realize you disagree. But given a person who thinks they have reasonable grounds to be suspicious of ARI, this criticism of Mayhew isn't that off base, though admittedly all we can do is speculate about why there was a "typo".

I also think that then notion that brackets would "confuse" people is silly, and more evidence that ARI wants to treat people like children and more reason to be suspicious of them. It is entirely unreasonable to edit a book to the lowest common denominator.

Go Crawl Back Under Your Rock, Peter

DianaHsieh's picture

Peter has outdone himself in the category of "Fantastically Malicious Non Sequitur." Careful scholarship does not imply infallibility. Even careful scholars do sometimes make mistakes, as Dr. Mayhew told me happened in that case. Given his track record of nothing but scrupulous honesty, I have no rational grounds upon which to doubt his word.

If people politely inquired about such matters -- instead of leaping upon arbitrary and unjust accusations like "deliberate misrepresentation" -- they might actually discover the facts of the case. However, I don't think that people like Peter are interested in the facts at all, only in whatever mud they might be able to sling, whether warranted or not.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

If Mayhew is as careful a

Reidy's picture

If Mayhew is as careful a scholar as Diana says, then the misattribution of Branden's "Counterfeit Individualism" to Rand is not, as Valliant suggested, a typo , probably on the part of some freelancer who prepared the index, but a deliberate misrepresentation.

It may not be Rand's words strictly speaking, but it's objectionable.

Peter

Good Stuff

jtgagnon's picture

I had been debating whether to spend the money to purchase this, but Linz's posting has whetted my appetite. I'm off to the bookstore shortly... AS for the editing bit, I think Diana's view is the most reasonable. I understand the reservations some people have - and I share them to some extent - but in the end, I think some of us may just be overreacting.

Editing

eg's picture

He should have indicated all the edits in the book instead of leaving everything to trust--therefore up in the air with question marks and vague uneasiness.

Fair enough ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... but why didn't he just use square brackets, with an explanation to the young & illiterate, who don't know what square brackets are for, what square brackets are for?

I wasn't even tempted to leap to malevolent conclusions since it was pretty clear that what I was seeing was authentic Rand. And as I say, I've heard many of those answers on tape, albeit not for some time now, & no editorial distortions leapt out at me.

I'm very glad this volume was published. Today, unfortunately, I'm coming down from the high. Smiling

On Mayhew's Editing

DianaHsieh's picture

When I asked Robert Mayhew about his editing, he told me that he changed the meaning a grand total of about six times -- all and only in cases in which it was very, very clear that Ayn Rand had omitted a word in the course of extemporaneous speaking. To take a hypothetical example, she accidentally said "emotions are tools of cognition" rather than "emotions are not tools of cognition." Given that the book is intended for a general audience, rather than as a resource for scholars and intellectuals, I regard those kinds of edits as entirely reasonable. (Even brackets would be confusing to people not terribly familiar with Objectivism, I think, if not fodder for all kinds of false claims that Ayn Rand changed her mind on basic principles.) Also, in most cases, the Q&A is already available to everyone in raw form.

Anyone familiar with Robert Mayhew's work knows him to be an extremely thoughtful, careful, and serious scholar. While I do think questions about his editing are legitimate, I've been more than a little dismayed to see so many people jumping to wildly malevolent conclusions in the absence of any concrete evidence of objectionable changes to Ayn Rand's words. (In George Reisman's review, for example, he made lots of strong accusations about the supposed evils of Mayhew's editing, without ever bothering to compare even a single instance of the audio recording with the book.)

Linz, you didn't jump to malevolent conclusions -- and I'm grateful for that. I understand your desire for the uncut transcripts, but I think that drops the context of the intended audience and purpose of the book. I think the better option would be for ARI to make all of the source material available for sale as audio recordings. I'll inquire about that possibility next time I see the relevant people.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

"Therefore, when I die, that

Ross Elliot's picture

"Therefore, when I die, that will be the end of me. I don’t think it will be the end of my philosophy."

And in a wider sense it's not the end for any of us. We go on in the memories of others, the extent and effect of our words and actions, and the energy imparted to the world by our heroic movement through life. We live for ourselves but in the living we enrich Man. Rand was a dynamo, some of us are mere twinkles, but it all adds to the brilliance.

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