Does a Leonard Ever Change Its Spots?

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2010-09-06 10:49

On the face of it, I find this very disturbing:

http://www.johnmccaskey.com/re...

I hasten to say I haven't read Harriman's book. But Leonard's letter seems not to be concerned with the truth of the matter at hand, rather with McCaskey's temerity in criticizing Harriman's account, and by extension, Leonard's endorsement of it—even though the criticism has been made only in private, and in accordance with an agreement among those concerned that they could freely exchange ideas, however half-baked.

Enough to make one tear one's remaining hair out.

Ours is a contest of ideas. Especially in a field as rarefied as physics and induction, there will be a lot of groping and fumbling. Dogmatism and rank-pulling are the last thing we need.

It might be said, "Whoa! We haven't heard Peikoff's side yet." Well, we have. He gave his permission for his letter to be published, so is apparently happy that it represents his "side."

Is this the fatwa all over again? If so, bizarre and depressing.


So who are Peikoff's enemies on the Board?

Kenny's picture

From Peikoff's riposte that was linked to earlier "When McCaskey was appointed to the Board, I said nothing, just as I have not objected to the fact that a few longtime Board members and I are on terms of personal enmity, and do not speak to each other." Wow!

"I have been accused of

Boaz the Boor's picture

"I have been accused of presenting an "unconventional" history of science..." This is a joke, right? "Unconventional" was not the gist of any of JM's criticisms.

None of what Harriman has written comes close to a response. A response would present JM's criticism, paraphrase it accurately, cite it, etc. Then it would attempt to show that the criticism lacks merit, or, absent that, further refine the original claims and adequately account for the seeming gaps in his original argument.

But no, he's apparently not planning on responding. Instead, in the spirit of fighting "complexity worship," he's going to change the subject, present a simplistic (i.e., false) version of JM's criticism, and tear it down with slogans.

Ridiculous.

Another comment, naturally

Don E. Klein's picture

Another comment, naturally another full of obsequious praise, has been posted with a time stamp later than my post. I take this to mean that my comment did not pass moderation. I dare say that Harriman is displaying the mere pretense of answering his critics.

David Harriman has started a

Don E. Klein's picture

David Harriman has started a blog where he replies to his critics. I posted the following today:

Please explain at what point Dr. McCaskey’s criticisms crossed the line such that you no longer felt they merited an answer, and rose to the level that his position at ARI should be terminated. Yaron Brook claims that he failed to “support” your book, however the “undisputed” facts point to private criticisms only, and if the content of these criticisms don’t go beyond what has subsequently been made public, the implications for the institutional culture of ARI are either horrifying or comical. You haven’t yet addressed the truly important aspects of this imbroglio, and Yaron Brook’s and Leonard Peikoff’s public statements have been, at best, profoundly unsatisfying.

http://www.thelogicalleap.com/...

However, this post is "Awaiting Moderation". So far none of the comments that are showing contain even a whiff of criticism.

More on the problem of induction

BrianScurfield's picture

Lindsay - Further to my comments below about the problem of induction, Rand says in the ITOE reference that induction puts you in danger of the following “very, very grave error”:

If you follow the procedure ... , and you make certain predictions on the basis of a hypothesis, and the entities do act accordingly, you conclude that you can hold as a contextual absolute that it was your hypothesis that was operating and that it is therefore true. Because since you are not omniscient, within the context of your knowledge you cannot say that your particular hypothesis was the only possible cause of the entities acting the way you predicted. You would have to say this offers great confirmation of your hypothesis, but it still remains a hypothesis and cannot be taken as knowledge. [pg. 302]

Rand clearly sees that finding evidence consistent with your hypothesis doesn’t mean it is true. She knows about the problem of the black swan. I don’t know why she says, nevertheless, that consistent evidence offers “great confirmation of your hypothesis”. If there are many possible hypotheses that are consistent with the evidence then why should it greatly confirm your particular hypothesis? In particular, as I mentioned in my other comment below, evidence can be consistent with both an hypothesis and its opposite. Why would it confirm the one but not the other?

It’s a pity that Rand didn’t talk to Popper for it seems that she is reaching out in his direction. She would have learnt from Popper that the whole notion of confirmation is flawed. He would have told her that there is never enough evidence to confirm a hypothesis, that this “big question of induction” [ITOE, pg 303] is misguided. Popper realized that the important evidence is the evidence that could refute your hypothesis. So rather than trying to confirm your hypothesis you should try to rule it out by finding flaws. This puts testing for errors at the front-line of knowledge creation. It also puts criticism at the front-line as well for most hypotheses can be ruled out via criticism alone (testing is in fact a special case of criticism). Finding evidence consistent with your hypothesis doesn’t confirm it but, importantly, it does provide a stock of criticisms against rival hypotheses. And a hypothesis that has stood up to all the criticism and testing we can throw at it is still a hypothesis but it has to be considered objective knowledge. For what else could it be?

(BTW, since I'm new here and so you know: I like both Rand and Popper, but I don't think either is beyond criticism. It is essential that we look for mistakes in their ideas and attempt to improve them. And, indeed, both did make mistakes.)

My Thoughts

i.am.dan.edge's picture

From my blog - http://danedgeofreason.blogspo...

A Summary of My Thoughts on the Peikoff/McCaskey Affair

Over the past few weeks I've been digesting the details of the Peikoff/McCaskey affair and the subsequent fallout in the online Objectivist community. A few days ago I wrote a short, 4-page essay about this issue and the possible implications for the future of the Objectivist movement. While I wrote this in large part to clarify my own thoughts, I originally intended to publish it in full.

But I have a tendency to get wrapped up in controversies of this kind, and I've grown weary of the heated polemics on both sides. For this reason and others, I'm only going to post three general conclusions that came out of my reflection and research. I don't plan to spend too much time defending these conclusions; I'm ready to move on to other things.

1. Over the last decade, the ARI has experienced unprecedented growth in its income, project support, positive publicity, and large-scale dissemination of Objectivist ideas. I believe that this degree of success is due primarily to the expert leadership and organizational management of Yaron Brooke and his team. The new tendency to hire business and public relations professionals in leadership positions, rather than PhD intellectuals, is a very positive trend for the ARI which I hope will continue in the future. This is not to say that the ARI board of 1990 was of poor quality, but that the current group is better equipped to carry out ARI's mission.

2. Based on the unprecedented success of the current ARI leadership, I believe that they are more than competent to make board-level decisions without threats from Dr. Peikoff or anyone else. Such threats are unnecessary and display a disregard for the board's track record of success and professionalism. While I am sure that the board can benefit from Dr. Peikoff's experience and philosophical expertise, his forcing a decision on the McCaskey issue by threatening to leave the ARI called into question the board's integrity. His behavior has led many to question whether Dr. Peikoff has de facto control and veto power over board decisions. I believe that it is primarily this aspect of the affair, along with Dr. Peikoff's harsh tone in his written responses, that has caused such an uproar in the Objectivist community.

3. The explosion of publicity of Ayn Rand's ideas, along with rapid technological advances in communication (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.) has significantly decentralized the dissemination of Objectivist ideology. While the ARI is still HQ for the Objectivist movement, it is no longer the sole voice of rationality in today's culture. This, too, is a positive trend. For a number of reasons, I would encourage those interested in intellectual activism to strongly consider forming their own non-profit organizations without a strongly dependent relationship with the ARI. There are certainly benefits to associating one's organization with the ARI, but this is not the ideal set-up for every activist venture under the sun.

--Dan Edge

The problem of induction

BrianScurfield's picture

The general problem of induction is: How is it possible to reason from a finite set of observations to a generalization? The generalization, after all, goes beyond what we did observe and draws conclusions about things we did not or have not yet observed. What, if anything, justifies this?

Is it the law of identity and causality or something like that? Well, how do you know what to observe if you don't already have a theory? There are an unlimited number of things you could observe. If you don't have a theory then you don't know which observations are germane.

Another problem is that there are many generalizations that fit any particular set of observations, indeed an infinite number. In particular, evidence can be consistent with both a theory and its opposite. It seems therefore that nothing can be deduced about reality from finite observational evidence.

There is also the problem that induction implies a generalization is only as reliable and as precise as the observations upon which it is based. But our best theories are far more precise and reliable than any given observation. How is that?

Not the least of the problems is that induction conflates generalization with explanation. The sort of general theories that we should care most about are explanatory theories, not generalizations from a set of observations. An explanation is quite simply not a generalized observation and many of our best explanatory theories do not have the form of a generalization from observation.

The problem of induction was solved by Karl Popper. He showed that induction is in fact a myth - it never happens. Karl Popper argued that knowledge grows not by induction but by a process of conjectures and refutations. Evidence is one means by which we criticize theories but it is not the starting point of theory. The starting point is always problems. From the problem situation we advance rival conjectures to solve the problem and then try to refute them by subjecting those solutions to criticism, including testing based on observational evidence.

For his efforts, Karl Popper has been trashed or ignored by a lot of people. As he wrote in “Objective Knowledge”:

[Few] philosophers would support the thesis that I have solved the problem of induction. Few philosophers have taken the trouble to study - or even to criticize - my views on this problem, or have taken notice of the fact that I have done some work on it. Many books have been published quite recently on the subject which do not refer to any of my work, although most of them show signs of having been influenced by some very indirect echoes of my ideas; and those works which take notice of my ideas usually ascribe views to me which I have never held, or criticize me on the basis of straightforward misunderstandings or misreadings, or with invalid arguments. [1978, pg. 1]

Sadly the same is as true now as then. And so people go on trying to solve the problem of induction. They do not see how objective knowledge is possible without it.

Hope that helps!

An update on the situation

Aaron's picture

An update on the situation concerning OAC conference call and former OAC student Shea Levy. On the 11/2 conference call, the OAC violated Shea's privacy, IP rights, and made misleading or false statements about him. ARI/OAC owed him at least an explanation and apology. Instead, they spent donors' dollars on lawyers to threaten this college student and former OAC member with legal action.

Ellen

Lindsay Perigo's picture

My personal response to the "problem of induction" is: what problem?! I thought that was Rand's response too. Looking up your reference, I see she indeed thinks there is a problem, though I'd still like to know what it is, given causality and identity and the ostensiveness of the evidence of the senses. It's not clear (at least to me) from those two pages where exactly she thinks the problem lies. But it's clear enough that Peikoff is treating his own "answer" to this "problem" as ground-breaking, which view one challenges at one's peril. Doesn't one know who he is?

"Intrinsicism"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz writes, a few posts below #93082:

"The more I'm hearing about this episode, which is much more than has been published here, the more it looks like rank intrinsicism and intrinsicist rank-pulling by Peikoff and the ARI."

In mentioning "intrinsicism," Linz approaches what I think is "the fatal flaw" in Peikoff's attempt to "solve" "the problem of induction."

Rand understood that asking to know the nature of "the thing in itself" was a false requirement, contrary to the nature of knowledge -- which always requires processing. Unfortunately, apparently she didn't understand that asking for a solution to "the problem of induction" -- i.e., asking for certainty about experientially derived universals -- commits a comparable error. She seemed to think in her response to questioning by "Prof M" (also known as Larry Gould), see pages 303-304 of the Extended Edition of ITOE, that the problem could be solved.

Peikoff has adopted the "program" she indicates there -- that of combining the efforts of a philosopher and a specialist in a scientific area -- as the ground plan, as it were, for his collaboration with Harriman.

However, what he does, in the foundational first chapter taken "nearly verbatim" from his course on "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" -- I can attest that the central argument *is* taken "nearly verbatim" from the core lecture of that series, which I've heard -- is to replace what Objectivism calls "contextual certainty" with contextual TRUTH. I.e., Peikoff has thrown out the correspondence theory of truth which is the basis of Objectivist epistemology.

Thus not only is the basis of the argument in The Logical Leap not in agreement with Ayn Rand's epistemology, it contradicts it.

I expect I'll be elaborating on this issue post-Thanksgiving. For now, I'm only indicating the most fundamental core of my objections to the book -- that of the ILlogical foundation underlying the spin-doctoring of the history of physics which attempts to support the foundational thesis.

Ellen

Innovators and Pioneers: Discovering vs. Creating

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Gregster asks: "Don't you think Objectivism was discovered, rather than created?"

Good point! Truth and nature seem to be discovered whereas things and inventions seem to be created.

So Now Everything is Clear

Jason Quintana's picture

Before this I sympathized with the ARI position, given people like Michael Stuart Kelley who claim to advocate Objectivism and yet twist it beyond all recognition to suit their own agendas and emotions.

However, this open extension to include the dictates of Leonard Peikoff, and the mandate of "official positions" makes it impossible to take anyone as an individual within the Ayn Rand Institute seriously. I can still support the message, but how can a hard core individualist respect any associate of the ARI now? The strange thing is that I come out of this with some respect for Leonard Peikoff, though I blame him for creating an outrageous mess. Yaron Brook on the other hand just lobotomized his entire organization in public.

The bleeding has stopped... I think. But I guess I was hoping for a different kind of resolution. That was probably an example of irrational wishful thinking.

Must Read

Boaz the Boor's picture

The Eponymous Leikoff paraphrases Peikoff's position pithily, I think. There were times when I would have looked down on this kind of sarcasm directed at Peikoff -- a brilliant, brilliant person who has given us much -- but (a) this is not really parody, in my view, but a reasonable gloss on a farcical statement and (b) it's worth reading, even if not respectful.

http://blog.dianahsieh.com/201...

...4) My long-held conclusion that Mr. McCaskey is immoral does not mean that I believe any of his behavior - which has caused me to hold this conclusion - had anything to do with his behavior towards Harriman's and my work. His criticisms there stemmed not from a volitional - and thus immoral - disagreement with us, but from a lack of knowledge. He was simply unaware of the fact that to criticize Harriman's and my work (regardless of the manner or venue in which he did so) constitutes a lack of ability to hold a leading position of authority in the Institute, and thus the movement. The purpose of the Institute and movement is to promote Objectivism, and even though this book was not written by Ayn Rand and thus (according to my well-documented position) not part of the philosophy of Objectivism, to criticize it is to criticize Objectivism. This is because I regard Mr. McCaskey's criticism as contradicting and undermining the ideology the Institute is devoted to spreading. Because I, uniquely, have attained the most practical results for it's spread since Ayn Rand's death, and because I best understand and uphold the ideology, I alone am capable of understanding how this point I am making right now does not blatantly contradict the one I have been making for the past twenty years. Mr. McCaskey simply does not realize that he is unqualified to speak on this matter, and thus incapable of refraining from improper criticism of works that only I can discern and pronounce as part of Objectivism. Yaron Brook, for his part, is simply unaware of this fact about Mr. McCaskey...

From ARI's statement: ...But,

Boaz the Boor's picture

From ARI's statement:

...But, at the end of the debates, ARI presents one, consistent position on each issue that we’re prepared to take a stand on. ARI has done so since its founding, as a matter of basic policy. It is this consistency, and the high quality of our scholarship, that has set ARI’s work apart from the many voices in the culture...

What are the implications of this for individuals who work with ARI? It depends on the relationship involved. Is the person a Board member, an employee, a guest lecturer, etc.? For instance, a Board member cannot undercut ARI’s major projects; an employee may present publicly only ARI’s official position (when we have one), not his particular view...

One thing I'd like to say in ARI's favor, which should be a given: it is entirely the board's prerogative to set the standards of loyalty to the organization and decide when a director/board member has not acted consistently with his duties, and their deliberation on this matter should not be available to us or the wider public. And it's reasonable to expect of McCaskey not to publicly criticize or "denounce" or "sneer" at the book, once ARI makes a decision to back it.

But is that what he did? That's what Peikoff and this letter says. Perhaps they have further evidence of it, but it seems absurd on its face to describe a small, scholarly forum, held under conditions of strict confidentiality (it was agreed not to repeat anyone's statements to anyone outside), as a breach of this loyalty. Isn't it obvious he at least believed himself to be acting according to that duty? These were private comments; explicitly, admittedly private -- and repeating them was an act of disloyalty to the scholars involved, all of them -- a breach of etiquette that ARI is apparently willing to sanction, in this case. Is it really expected of anyone in that position to refrain from private comments about the book?

Thus, what Ellen says here is correct: Notice, Peikoff is in effect declaring that to disagree with the book is to disagree with Rand and he's elevating the book to the status of official Objectivism. The most harmful potential I see here comes (1) from the possibility of Objectivist students believing Peikoff's evaluation, or alternately feeling that they have to keep quiet if they know enough to disagree -- he's tied an albatross around the neck of current and potential students...

That sums it up, the whole thing, pretty nicely.

Yaron Brook's statement:

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Aaron ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

One of those strange times where Linz and I agree.

There was a time when I would have been alarmed to find us agreeing. But I've learned that I can rely on you to be spectacularly wrong about something else in short order, so I'm now unfazed. All remains well with the universe. Eye

The more I'm hearing about this episode, which is much more than has been published here, the more it looks like rank intrinsicism and intrinsicist rank-pulling by Peikoff and the ARI.

The major matter

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz: [...] "the ARI's behaviour has reeked of refusal to look the matter in the eye."

The major matter which ARI isn't looking "in the eye" is the book itself, which is presented as having "solved" the problem of induction by extending Rand's theory of concepts and as illustrating the solution via the history of physics. It's because of his quarrels with this claim that McCaskey is being gotten rid of.

Notice this in Peikoff's statement:

[....] My interest is not to ferret out disagreements with Ayn Rand, but to strip them of the imprimatur of the Institute, and thus to diminish the practical consequences of such viewpoints. In other words, my role in this connection is to remove from the existential center of the movement any influence which I evaluate as harmful in practice to the spread of Objectivism. To sneer in a public setting at an epochal Objectivist book qualifies, in my judgment, as harm.

Notice, Peikoff is in effect declaring that to disagree with the book is to disagree with Rand and he's elevating the book to the status of official Objectivism. The most harmful potential I see here comes (1) from the possibility of Objectivist students believing Peikoff's evaluation, or alternately feeling that they have to keep quiet if they know enough to disagree -- he's tied an albatross around the neck of current and potential students; (2) from the possibility of honorable scientists learning of the book's content and losing their nascent interest in exploring what Objectivism might offer -- I know several scientists prominent in the effort to combat the AGW scam who were beginning to think that Objectivism might have something to offer but who will have reasonable basis to think, well, after all, Objectivism is as absurd as we've heard, if they're presented with a book like this supposedly based on Rand's theory of concepts (how would they know otherwise?). Yaron Brook at the March 2009 Heartland conference on climate change and Keith Lockitch at the May 2010 conference made some good outreach to scientists present. Now what, if the ARI booth at the next conference touts this book?

As to McCaskey's being a "blowhard" -- have people here read McCaskey's Amazon review, and other material on his site, and his remarks in Noodlefood discussion? McCaskey is someone who's studied the history of physics and is aware of Harriman's spin-doctoring. (I've been aware of that, too, for years, from earlier material of Harriman's, and I've been dreading this book's being published.) I figure that the reason Peikoff calls McCaskey an "ignoramus" and a "braggart" is because he senses that McCaskey really knows his stuff, unlike Peikoff's "house physicist" Harriman.

Ellen

One of those strange times

Aaron's picture

One of those strange times where Linz and I agree.

@Jason-
Thanks for the clarification.

@Boaz-
Peikoff claimed it wasn't just dislike in this case, but that he morally condemned McCaskey for years. That means that even if LP's correct in his unsubstantiated evaluation of JM, he is saying he sat idly by, tolerating someone evil on the board for years.

Pierson ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

As I've already admitted, I have a hankering to believe as you do: McCaskey is a wanker, possibly even a pomowanker with whose ilk we are all so tiresomely familiar, and Leonard is simply fast-tracking him to deserved dissociation from the ARI. The problem is, none of the published material supports that view. And the ARI's behaviour has reeked of refusal to look the matter in the eye.

Looks like a blowhard bypass...

Sam Pierson's picture

Well that's sorted I'd say. Peikoff saw McCaskey as a pain in the ass - a blowhard - and he had no oxygen for him at a time of significant achievement & breakthrough. LP wanted the focus to be on the achievement and moving that forward, and for ARI to move that way too. (He gave ARI the choice.) He did not want to spend time on quibbles with a McCaskey (which might be endless and go nowhere).

He was not shutting down McCaskey's ideas, or intellectual independence. McCaskey might be a little stunned and bewildered - but generally that's what happens to blowhards in these situations, otherwise they wouldn't be blowhards.

I'm not saying McCaskey is a blowhard. I don't know the guy. But it does seem that LP had better things to do with what he considers a significant achievement than have it stalled or nitpicked from within by small fry like McCaskey. Harsh but true.

First of all, Peikoff's

Boaz the Boor's picture

First of all, Peikoff's statement is wonderfully candid and a very good read. So hurray for that.

Now, let's see...

Peikoff doesn't like McCaskey. His dislike of McCaskey comes with a negative moral evaluation, though he won't specify what that is or why. It's not even clear why this is relevant, because this doesn't seem to have been a factor in his decision. By his own account, the letter was not a moral condemnation, and his judgment of McCaskey's character wasn't the reason for the ultimatum.

Peikoff has the right to veto any member of the board at any time for philosophical unfitness, without giving any reasons. He won't say what intellectual flaws or confusions he sees in McCaskey's criticisms of LL.

He think McCaskey sneered at the book (though it doesn't seem he has direct evidence of it, and there are people in a position to gainsay this) which book he again implies is above criticism as an expression of Objectivism. Meaning: you can disagree with its contents all you like, but you can't criticize it publicly and remain on the board of ARI, or some similar important position he's in a position to influence.

So what we know is that Peikoff didn't like McCaskey personally, sees something dangerous *intellectually* in his remaining in a position of great influence, and viewed McCaskey's alleged misconduct in sneering at the book (or just criticizing it in a private forum under cloak of strict confidentiality) as an adequate pretext, the last straw.

Is that it? Am I missing something essential? Aside from his contempt for those who sought to understand the nature of his actions and his relationship with ARI (and this last was their, ARI's obligation, to clarify in the first place!), because lacking such knowledge left them with no choice but to see something strangely wrong with someone without any formal relationship to the board nonetheless contriving to have a board member (of an organization they support in a number of ways) booted without any explanation as to why?

Huh.

Kyrel

gregster's picture

"Any statement, claim, premise, thesis, etc. which contradicts this essential center and theoretical foundation is not part of Objectivism, no matter who says it. This includes Ayn Rand. Philosophies have integrity and enjoy an existence independent of even their greatest champions, including their creators." Don't you think Objectivism was discovered, rather than created?

Aaron, I didn't mean anything

Jason Quintana's picture

Aaron, I didn't mean anything positive beyond the hope that ARI can hold together given the presence of someone with this kind of "intellectual status".

Jason- Other than mistaking

Aaron's picture

Jason-
Other than mistaking frankness for honesty, I agree with all your factual statements concerning Peikoff - the McCaskey issue being rooted in a personal dislike, LP meddling with ARI despite not being on its staff or board, his view as Supreme Leader, and now redefining the scope of Objectivism. However, while your tone implies you view these positively, I see them as ammunition for those who unfairly paint Objectivism as a cult, and sorely in need of being corrected.

"Open" vs. "Closed" System

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Objectivism is like all other philosophies: a more-or-less coherent and integrated thought-system -- an intellectual gestalt. Any statement, claim, premise, thesis, etc. which contradicts this essential center and theoretical foundation is not part of Objectivism, no matter who says it. This includes Ayn Rand. Philosophies have integrity and enjoy an existence independent of even their greatest champions, including their creators.

Peikoff is honest about

Jason Quintana's picture

Peikoff is honest about everything. He dislikes McCaskey, he directly intervenes in ARI political matters when he sees fit, and he views himself as the "Supreme Leader". His views, and those by people he endorses are part of Objectivism even though it used to include only the published writings of Ayn Rand.

I don't know if this takes pressure off of Yaron Brook, or just explains what the role of the ARI leadership really is. This statement though might kill off a lot of the internet chatter and allow ARI to take a more public position.

Funny you should mention

Aaron's picture

Funny you should mention Peikoff now considering DIM Objectivist doctrine. In his latest post I also noticed: "To sneer ... at an epochal Objectivist book" - referring to Harriman's book on induction, a topic which Rand did not address in any significant way. Someone unexpectedly seems to be adopting an open-system view of Objectivism Eye.

I confess ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... I enjoyed the defiant tone of Peikoff's riposte. "... obnoxious braggart as a person and pretentious ignoramus as an intellectual." Hahaha! I find it hard to believe that someone who uses English so well could be wrong. But then we have this: "An organization devoted to spreading an ideology is not compatible with 'freedom' for its leadership to contradict or undermine that ideology." What happened to Leonard's mastery of English in that sentence? It may seem like a small thing, but does it in fact indicate a slippage in his formidable powers, and with it, in his judgment? He goes on to describe McCaskey's review as a "sneer." Really? And if, as he says, he had to release his private e-mail in order not to be accused of a cover-up, shouldn't he have issued a more formal rebuttal of McCaskey's critique simultaneously or shortly thereafter?

Truth to tell, I'd desperately love for Leonard to be vindicated in this matter, but even if he were to be, there's still the matter of the ARI's cultish cloak-and-dagger clandestinery in the aftermath.

Yes, it's a contradiction for a leader of a movement devoted to promoting an ideology of freedom to contradict or undermine that ideology, if I may presume to make sense of the sentence Leonard mangled. But Leonard hasn't even tried to demonstrate how McCaskey's critique represents a repudiation of Objectivism. And are we now being told that DIM has now gone from "hypothesis" to official, authorized Objectivist doctrine? May we not debate all this stuff out in the open?

Thanks, yes, Onkar. Peikoff

Aaron's picture

Thanks, yes, Onkar.

Peikoff has just posted 'Peikoff vs an ARI Board Member', adding nothing to justify his reasons for condemning McCaskey or for the ultimatum, but making it clear he was an enemy of McCaskey for years. LP also manages to get in an underhanded swipe at Biddle and the Hsiehs along the way.

Aaron

Also, Shea Levy, a former OAC

Boaz the Boor's picture

Also, Shea Levy, a former OAC student, previously posted his evaluation of McCaskey, Harriman, Peikoff and ARI, a lengthy but thorough criticism written before ARI's treatment of Biddle was added to the equation. During the November 2nd OAC conference call, Shea was singled out and mistreated concerning his privacy, being quoted out of context and having a false claim made about him by Ankar Ghate.

Onkar, not Ankar. It's not clear whether the false claims were just a matter of negligence (they claimed he made hasty conclusions about OAC without even trying to contact them first, but apparently they just didn't receive his emails), but it's pretty nasty to criticize someone in name while holding his colleagues and friends in attendance to a promise not to notify him of the specific claims made and other related commentary.

A note on confidentiality: if person A (Onkar Ghate) gives false or damaging information about person B (Shay) to person C, person A cannot morally or legally rely on confidentiality to prevent person C from revealing it to person B. This is especially true when the comments in question are already related to something known publicly and easily researched.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how badly the topic of confidentiality has been misused. Some of the commentary I see makes it clear the authors haven't thought for longer than two seconds about what the obligation even means. It's not an absolute, context-less obligation -- among other factors, it's conditional on the nature of your relationship with the person and on the content you intend to reveal and protect from others.

More information on this

Aaron's picture

More information on this situation, none of it positive for ARI or OAC:

Craig Biddle has responded to several questions concerning his post. This includes most significantly clarifying that removing Yaron Brook from TOS masthead was done after discussion with Yaron and his knowledge.

Also, Shea Levy, a former OAC student, previously posted his evaluation of McCaskey, Harriman, Peikoff and ARI, a lengthy but thorough criticism written before ARI's treatment of Biddle was added to the equation. During the November 2nd OAC conference call, Shea was singled out and mistreated concerning his privacy, being quoted out of context and having a false claim made about him by Ankar Ghate.

This is ridiculous. I don't have the attachment, time, or energy to write my own long explanation and criticism when others have already explained the facts and even my own assessment so well, so all I have to add is:

ARI/OAC? *shrug*

Aaron

A significant amount of the

Boaz the Boor's picture

A significant amount of the stakes is what ARI, officially, unofficially (on the part of individuals), is going to do about Leonard Peikoff's having produced an intellectual disaster. Very sticky wicket.

Perhaps. But this assumes they view it as an intellectual disaster, which either they do not (in some cases) or they're not willing to say -- and that's the point. I think the fundamental issue is ARI's view of its relationship to Peikoff, his recent "intellectual product" and the extent to which anyone associated in an important way with ARI can criticize the work publicly. Unlike a few others I've spoken to, however, I view this improper relationship as a two-way street, with more of the blame placed where I think it belongs -- the people who participate in turning Peikoff into a latter-day Augustus, formally a private citizen in retirement but de facto the man who for them defines the boundaries of one's proper relationship to "objectivism".

I think it's entirely plausible that for Peikoff this whole thing is a just a temper tantrum on crack, that all he ever wanted was to force McCaskey off the board and leave everything else in place. (The timing and tenor of his Q&A on "excommunication" seems to fit this description.) For some people, that doesn't seem to change much and raises only trivial concerns of corporate governance, which ARI might clear up with a short, cookie-cutter statement (perhaps even some perfunctory words to the effect that they regret how this incident was handled). The problem, to put it politely, is that no serious person can respect the way this was done, and no one can say how next time will be any different -- in other words, it's a matter of principle. To put it impolitely, the people who go along with Peikoff's actions have subordinated their brains to Leonard Peikoff.

With respect to LL and its flaws, I've read a number of critiques. I'm by no means an expert in the philosophy of science, but if it's true that the book fails to treat seriously (or at all) some of the key questions that any successful theory must address (and this is apart from the criticism that LL fails as an academic work to treat seriously other scholarship on these matters), then the book is a failure even if some of its harshest critics are wrong about, e.g., Harriman's treatment of Newton's discoveries. That is a huge problem. But the fact that ARI is institutionally incapable of addressing that problem is an even bigger problem. Put another way: is there anyone associated with ARI who can publish a review like Travis Norsen's, whether on Amazon or in an academic journal, and hope to remain on good terms with the Institute? Not as a friend or fellow-traveler, but formally as a fellow or lecturer or beneficiary of Anthem? The answer isn't necessarily "no," the answer is "we don't know" -- and that's a big deal.

ARI thinks it's a private matter -- that's an ever bigger deal. It's a deal-breaker.

The stakes

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Boaz:

[...] this conflict is not about what LP thinks anymore, is it? McCaskey and ARI have raised the stakes significantly beyond that.

A significant amount of the stakes is what ARI, officially, unofficially (on the part of individuals), is going to do about Leonard Peikoff's having produced an intellectual disaster. Very sticky wicket.

Ellen

This case is too similar to

Boaz the Boor's picture

This case is too similar to the Reisman expulsion to ignore the parallels.

I think the "establishment" people involved in this are trying to keep this at the level of a personal/corporate dispute which won't have Reisman-like consequences. And this is much worse than Reisman. I don't have a lot of interest in that topic (which isn't to say I don't care -- I've read over some of that material and it's relevant in several ways, though not necessary to understand what's happening now), but if you or someone else is interested you might want to start another tread.

Ellen:

Something which might be being overlooked here which could help with understanding (not with condoning, with understanding) Leonard Peikoff's attitude toward criticism of The Logical Leap is that he does not consider the issue non-fundamental.

True. But this conflict is not about what LP thinks anymore, is it? McCaskey and ARI have raised the stakes significantly beyond that.

Linz:

Simply decreeing that 'so-and-so disagrees with me and one of us has to go' is unconscionable. So is silently acquiescing to such behaviour.

First, learn to spell 'behavior' correctly. Sticking out tongue

Second, there's worse going on than silent acquiescence, though I agree that would be bad enough.

Quoting Peikoff

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz:

"I don't doubt Leonard considers the disagreement fundamental. He usually does. That doesn't mean it *is*, or that Leonard is absolved from the responsibility of *demonstrating* that it is, and that he's right about it."

Here's what Peikoff says in his email to Arline Mann, quoted by McCaskey -- link.

I do not want to argue what I regard as facts:

That M [McCaskey] attacks Dave’s book, and thus, explicitly or implicitly, my intro praising it as expressing AR's epistemology, and also my course on induction, on which the book is based.

I have seen a large part of this criticism myself, and have heard its overall tenor and content from others who attended a forum on the subject. I do not know where else he [McCaskey] has voiced these conclusions, but size to me is irrelevant in this context. By the way, from the emails I have seen, his disagreements are not limited to details, but often go to the heart of the philosophic principles at stake.

In essence, his [McCaskey’s] behavior amounts to: Peikoff is misguided, Harriman is misguided, M knows Objectivism better than either. Or else: Objectivism on these issues is inadequate, and M is the one pointing the flaws out.

Whether or not Peikoff usually sees disagreements as fundamental, I think that in this case he correctly gets the import of the criticisms as "often go[ing] to the heart of the philosophic principles at stake."

What I'm pointing out is the extent of Peikoff's personal contribution to and involvement with this book -- hence the amount which is at stake for him personally in having the book criticized.

Harriman describes Peikoff's contribution thus on pg. 2:

In essence, the original philosophic ideas belong to Dr. Peikoff, while I provided their illustration in the history of science. In particular, the philosophic foundation presented in Chapter 1 is taken nearly verbatim from Dr. Peikoff's lectures. Also, I have incorporated into Chapter 2 his discussion of concepts as "green lights to induction." Finally, many of the essential points in Chapter 7, including the explanation for the role of mathematics in physical science, are taken from his lectures.

In addition, every chapter of the book has benefited greatly from his line-by-line scrutiny. [...] Dr. Peikoff has been a very generous editor and teacher. [....]

I think Peikoff is feeling that his status as contributing something major to the content of the philosophy is at test, and that's why this issue is assuming such enormous importance, it's looking like it might threaten to blow ARI apart.

Ellen

I don't doubt ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... Leonard considers the disagreement fundamental. He usually does. That doesn't mean it is, or that Leonard is absolved from the responsibility of demonstrating that it is, and that he's right about it. Simply decreeing that 'so-and-so disagrees with me and one of us has to go' is unconscionable. So is silently acquiescing to such behaviour.

Leonard stated an objective position on disagreement admirably in his recent podcast on the subject. Such a shame and travesty that in this instance he is not practicing what he preaches.

Not about "non-fundamentals"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz #92763:

"The issue is openness to honest disagreement about non-fundamentals vs. the Argument from Authority (amounting to, 'It's true because *I* say it. Don't you know my status within the movement?')"

Something which might be being overlooked here which could help with understanding (not with condoning, with understanding) Leonard Peikoff's attitude toward criticism of The Logical Leap is that he does not consider the issue non-fundamental. The book develops from Peikoff's attempt to extend the Objectivist theory of concepts into providing a solution to the problem of induction. To challenge the book's thesis is to challenge that Peikoff has correctly understood and correctly extended the Objectivist theory of concepts. More fundamental to Objectivism than that theory one can't get.

A similar point pertains to this comment by Olivia #92745:

Honestly.... when a book which is obviously quite profound has a few facts central to its thesis questioned and then the head of an organization dedicated to liberty, reason and truth comes back with a pulling of rank; "I-endorse-that-book-do-you-know-who-I-am-one-of-us-has-to-go" styled retort... comeon!

The issue is whether the book indeed is "profound" or instead wrong-headed. The facts being questioned are ones of large significance for the accuracy of the book's thesis.

(In my opinion, not only are the factual challenges correct, the book's thesis fails without needing to get so far as the attempt at historical illustration. But even for a person who starts by seeing merit in the foundational chapter, the non-fit in application to the historical progression of scientific thought would raise doubt. Thus, again, what's being challenged at root is Peikoff's grasp of fundamental Objectivism, since he's the one who provided the basic thesis supposedly being illustrated.)

Ellen

Reisman?

Don E. Klein's picture

Qouth the Boor: McCaskey hasn't been excommunicated.

This case is too similar to the Reisman expulsion to ignore the parallels. In that case they also didn’t “excommunicate” anyone, not right away. First they announced that there were “personal” differences, but soon they demanded everyone “condemn them as immoral”, and booted the people who refused. The difference between that case and this is what? Secret personal differences vs. secret criticisms of a book? No demand (yet) for others to issue condemnations without evidence?

http://www.jeffcomp.com/faq/so...

How sad and absurd that we

Boaz the Boor's picture

How sad and absurd that we can't have a open, free, fair, full debate about philosophy of science and history of induction by Leonard Peikoff, David Harriman, John McCaskey, and others with no-one being excommunicated for dissent and thought-crime!

McCaskey hasn't been excommunicated. It doesn't have to get anywhere near that for this to be a travesty. He chose to resign rather than be booted off the board, and right now there's nothing stopping him participating in other ways under ARI's aegis. But in the process, the objectivist movement was given a demonstration of what can happen to any person of lower "status", no matter what his accomplishments and contributions, who offers highly valuable, informed criticism of Peikoff's work in a private setting. Why would anyone interesting choose to devote significant chunks of their time and effort under those conditions? It's a demonstration that we don't know what can happen to such a person. Like buying a house next to a volcano that only has a 20% chance of erupting every 5-25 years.

And the rejoinder to that for the moment seems to be: "Hmmm, well, I suppose the worst that can happen to someone like that is that he's forced to resign an important position. That's not so bad, is it?"

Open and Free Exchange of Ideas

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

How sad and absurd that we can't have a open, free, fair, full debate about philosophy of science and history of induction by Leonard Peikoff, David Harriman, John McCaskey, and others with no-one being excommunicated for dissent and thought-crime!

This is so normal and so easy. Why can't today's Objectivist Movement achieve it??

Um, Olivia, no one argued for Obama in 08.

Boaz the Boor's picture

Not going to rehash this at length, but:

(a) In 2006, Peikoff gave you a choice (which in retrospect I view as non-objective, unserious and insulting) between philosophical ignorance/ineptitude and immorality. Not a fatwa. It's quite commonplace among many people in political discussions to say: either you're with me on this, or you're stupid, or you're wicked. I've heard the same from professors, lawyers, musicians, etc. I seem to remember getting that impression of Linz's argument, truth be told. Eye In retrospect I'd call it bullying, but it's harmless. Was it becoming of someone of Peikoff's "status?" No. And I think that's really the point about his statement in 06: it wasn't becoming of a serious intellectual. Neither is anything he's said about politics since then. Regardless, no one took it as any kind of demand, threat or condition -- many people disagreed with his reasoning or his conclusion, or both.

(b) His latest statements are akin to a fatwa: a demand that people take his views as sufficient on any given point because of his greater general philosophical acumen and act on his say-so because of his past accomplishments (i.e., an appeal to his epistemic perfection and an appeal to his own moral authority).* Now does he believe that this is good philosophy? Not really, but he thinks these statements should be sufficient to communicate with the Board of ARI and other objectivists. As Tracinski puts it, this shows contempt for your and my mind; he doesn't give a shit whether he's surrounded by toadies who will do his bidding or if intelligent outsiders (not blessed by personal acquaintance with him) will see something sinister in his letter. Worse, however, is that he doesn't mind it if other scholars conclude that they have to keep quiet about any disagreements they have with him if they wish to associate with ARI. Perhaps he doesn't see himself as a cleric, someone with automatic intellectual veto power, but he doesn't seem to mind it if others fear him as one. So yes, this is akin to a fatwa.

(c) is the difference important to the current dispute? Yes, because people didn't let Peikoff's determination of their morality affect their disagreement with him. Binswanger and others disagreed with Peikoff, various others did as well without fear of reprisals. Peikoff's voting prescriptions/injunctions today carry about as much weight as they did when he was urging a vote for democrats in the 1990s. Even now, during the summer, Peikoff made bizarre pronouncements about The Mosque and implied that certain people who disagreed with him were wicked (at which point I was finished with him) -- which did nothing to stop people from disagreeing. Today, however, we have the spectacle of ARI and company either silently endorsing or acquiescing in silence. It's disgusting. I'm thankful that Craig Biddle showed some courage and made things slightly less creepy, while revealing more of ARI's hand in the process.

Oh, and Olivia: NO ONE was arguing for Obama in 08.

PS, Linz: there's plenty of outrage over Craig Biddle on Facebook!!

Thank you Lady S ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... for looking up and reproducing the relevant parts of the fatwa. I knew it said what Boaz says it didn't say but wasn't looking forward to tracking the bloody thing down.

Folk who should have known better twisted themselves into cultist pretzels over that abomination. Even more shameful were those who maintained a resolute silence.

Organized Objectivism will go nowhere while it's full of yes-men (oh hideous irony!).

Even in the current melee, the scandal in my view is not just Peikoff's latest relapse into authoritarian petulance but the widespread acquiescence to it. At least this time this doesn't apply to Diana, who I gather has displayed admirable integrity and independence.

All this blather about who disclosed what to whom behind the scenes is a sideshow. The issue is openness to honest disagreement about non-fundamentals vs. the Argument from Authority (amounting to, "It's true because *I* say it. Don't you know my status within the movement?") The cancellation of Craig Biddle's appearances because of his entirely reasonable defense of McCaskey is a disgrace, and I'm appalled at the lack of open outrage about this. "Objectivist" cowards, you stand indicted, you miserable simpering second-handers!

It's worth remembering, post-fatwa, Peikoff's groupies defended such abominations as the bleeping out of names from tapes and the Gary Hull letter, right here. When I called this behaviour "Stalinist" they went into umbrage mode. They stand indicted too.

These are exemplars of a philosophy of reason??!!

Disagree Boaz...

Olivia's picture

Even for those not terribly well-disposed toward Peikoff's particular arguments in 2006 or his manner of delivering them, it wasn't clear at all (and wasn't true, as far anyone could tell) that agreement with his theories was somehow a condition of intellectual support or moral standing.

I'm not exactly panting at the idea of opening up the fatwa debate again, but personally I think its instructive as an example of how leaders with cult-like tendencies operate in organized institutions - and why, as an individualist, I regard them with extreme suspicion.

You say that it wasn't clear that agreement with his theories was a condition of moral standing, yet it was clear. He wielded around the term "immoral" as a weapon knowing full well being moral is massively important to Objectivists and knowing that his words have weight (yes, we "know who he is"). Argument from manipulation in other words.

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

Then this grotesque piece of manipulation:

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

His actual point about Republicans standing for religion and their attempt to enshrine it politically has value, but he took it to a ridiculous extreme, which I think is evident even to him given his about-face on how to vote in these mid terms. His rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer is only half way through its rampage after all. Not so enfeebled huh.

One of the problems I had with Linz at the time was that he either ignored or didn't know about (and didn't seem interested in) (a) the multiplicity of o'ist opinions on politics that led to a pro-democrat position and (b) varying assessments people had of Peikoff's approach, from negative to ambivalent to positive.

Of course I can't speak for Linz on what you say above so I shan't, but I can say that nothing would've felt more like self-abuse to me than reading through the multiplicity of O'ists opinions on politics that led to a pro-democrat position in the last Presidential Election - the notion was so very vile.

The older I get the more value I attach to concepts and actions which can be explained simply. In fact, I have recently dedicated myself as a matter of principle to keep my thoughts, speech and actions as simple as possible because I think there is something very powerful in pursuing that ability. Everything today is so damn complicated, obfuscated, multi-faceted, multi-plex and multi-everything-else under the sun. Complication and confusion have almost become synonymous to me with half-baked ideas and pomo-wankery, so when I hear it, see it and have to read it my bullshit radar now has a habit of flicking on.

Briefly

Boaz the Boor's picture

(a) Partly in response to Olivia: This isn't anything like the vote democrat "Fatwa". Even for those not terribly well-disposed toward Peikoff's particular arguments in 2006 or his manner of delivering them, it wasn't clear at all (and wasn't true, as far anyone could tell) that agreement with his theories was somehow a condition of intellectual support or moral standing. One of the problems I had with Linz at the time was that he either ignored or didn't know about (and didn't seem interested in) (a) the multiplicity of o'ist opinions on politics that led to a pro-democrat position and (b) varying assessments people had of Peikoff's approach, from negative to ambivalent to positive.

(b) Mike: While some of the info I received was misleading*, you've confirmed that OAC considers the substance of its comments about this dispute to be confidential, meaning they can't be repeated (though you're free to discuss your evaluation). This kind of secrecy IS new, I think, but then again this kind of call-in conference is also unprecedented. You don't think this confidentiality is objectionable as long as its temporary -- meaning that you expect some kind of public statements soon that will cover the relevant issues addressed during the call-in. Ok, fine. But isn't it strange to insist on confidentiality over materials/statements that they intend to release soon anyway?

(c) Assuming that "private matter" isn't just some silly clerical mistake, or an idiosyncratic way of characterizing some position I haven't yet been able to identify (e.g., maybe the intended meaning was "We at ARI must consider this a private matter because Peikoff is holding a gun to our heads"), the very attempt to put this position forward is sinister and reflects very poorly on the author. I don't think it's possible to hold this position in good faith, not if it means what it plainly seems to mean. It didn't say: "the Board's communications and positions must remain a private matter, and we as employees cannot take any position at odds, etc." It clearly referred to more than that. For ARI to take this position is worse, as far as I'm concerned, than anything Peikoff himself has done. It is not only short-sighted and buffoonish, it is dishonest. That might appear intrinsicist to you, but my view is that no one can hold all the relevant facts of this controversy in their minds and honestly come to the assessment that it's private in any relevant, important way.

[note to Linz -- if you can cross out this paragraph:"First, OAC students were reproached for chatting about the first email and discussing the absurdity of "private matter," and a request was made that such students should withdraw from the OAC forthwith" http://www.solopassion.com/nod..., I would be much obliged. That part was entirely baseless.]

"We know they are following

Aaron's picture

"We know they are following Peikoff's orders, but what we don't know is if they're doing it because (a) they think he is right, or (b) he will destroy them if they don't. If they disagree with Peikoff's condemnations, but are just following (b), they are far less blame worthy than if they are following (a)."

But no more worthy of support.

Aaron

two things

Mike_M's picture

(1) ARI hasn't engaged in any damage control. That's the problem. They've been stone cold silent, other than Yaron Brook telling Paul Hsieh he can't speak about it. That's the problem. No one knows what ARI's position is. We know they are following Peikoff's orders, but what we don't know is if they're doing it because (a) they think he is right, or (b) he will destroy them if they don't. If they disagree with Peikoff's condemnations, but are just following (b), they are far less blame worthy than if they are following (a).

(2) You're dropping context. This call is not any more secret than any other OAC call going back to its foundation. They care about their students concerns, and are addressing them. If you didn't know: the first complaints about McCaskey-gate were leveled by ARI's own students. Since ARI's main purpose is educational, and its long term survival depends on helping its students grow, it stands to reason that they would be among the first to get an explanation in this kind of situation. Yes, it's taken them longer than it probably should have. Yes, they should make some sort of statement to donors about Peikoff's power over the institute and the institute's policy regarding disputed with him. But there's been no evidence offered yet that ARI is doing anything sinister. The only thing objectionable thing about the OAC call is that the initial email refered to the issue as "private."(The internet rumors you've read are false.) It still remains a live possibility that ARI is a victim in this, and I'm not ready to reach any firm judgments of until I at least hear something about this from them.

Peikoff, on the other hand, I think we can judge readily. Best not to confuse the actions of Peikoff with the actions of ARI, lest one condemn an innocent party in haste.

Creepy.

Olivia's picture

The whole thing is creepy - but then so was the "vote Democrat across the board for an American theocracy is imminent" fatwa!

Honestly.... when a book which is obviously quite profound has a few facts central to its thesis questioned and then the head of an organization dedicated to liberty, reason and truth comes back with a pulling of rank; "I-endorse-that-book-do-you-know-who-I-am-one-of-us-has-to-go" styled retort... comeon! Then a month of damage control strategy before a confidential in-house phone call to students of aforementioned organization dedicated to liberty, reason and truth. It's beyond cult like, I'm beginning to think that some Objectivists must actually like that about it - perhaps they don't feel safe being left to their own thoughts and devices.

Remember when Jefferson had to deal with devastating rumors regarding fathering children to one of his slaves, his comment was; "The man who fears no truth has nothing to fear from lies."

That's the difference in simplicity when one is sure of one's integrity. That spirit of greatness would be more befitting a philosophy of liberty, reason and truth, to say nothing of benevolence. But where is it?

Since I was mainly posting to

Mike_M's picture

Since I was mainly posting to clear up some misinformation about what's going on, I'll message you about the rest.

But there isn't anything in

Boaz the Boor's picture

But there isn't anything in the emails I received that could reasonably be taken to be "admonishment of students for gossiping about the email generally," or any of what Bill Schreck said on NoodleFood.

Just to be clear, by "gossiping about the email generally" I meant students discussing and bitching about it with people outside OAC , not discussing it among themselves.

Re misinformation, I think the person who told me about this email (the one that followed the dissemination of the first one) was probably reading more into it from anger and hostility [edit: the part about facebook?]. And Bill Scherk's (not Schrek) comment on Noodlefood looks partly like stuff I heard and otherwise things I didn't hear about -- e.g., "I have yet to confirm a breaking rumour that several OAC students face disciplinary action/expulsion for forwarding/discussing the private announcement I linked to in my previous post here" -- that seem like speculation turned into fact. Basically a gossip-chain/telephone game.

quick post

Mike_M's picture

Just a quick post for now. Since I've seen both you (Boaz) and Bill Schreck post similar things in the past day, it looks like someone on the OAC list (or someone with access to it) is spreading misinformation (either on purpose or through gross misunderstanding of the Enlish language). I've received 4 emails about the upcoming phone discussion, one of which contains purely logistical info about the class. Of the other three emails, there isn't one passage remotely suggesting that OAC students shouldn't be talking to each other about the McCaskey issue, or the OAC emails, or the upcoming call. Nor has there been anything about expelling people (the only thing that comes close to this was a line that said (my paraphrase) "if you don't like or can't follow OAC confidentiality rules, please remove yourself from the OAC." A totally fair unsinister reminder that one is honor bound to abide by ones agreements).

Now perhaps this person talking to you has received some communication targeted directly at him. If so, then he has more info than I and the rest of us students. If so, I'm sorry for accusing him of being a fool or liar. But there isn't anything in the emails I received that could reasonably be taken to be "admonishment of students for gossiping about the email generally," or any of what Bill Schreck said on NoodleFood. Judging by the content of the subsequent emails, they would not have been written at all had the initial email been kept private. There's nothing in the confidentiality agreement that bans me from telling the topic of next Tuesday's class or anything, and if they are serious about treating this conference call like a class nothing bars me from telling anyone that it exists and that its topic is John McCaskey's resignation. Also, you aren't the only person to have diseminated the email, so the phone complaint most likely refers to some other leak. (It seems the emails was forwarded by quite a few people and has generally made the rounds.)

Hmmm

Boaz the Boor's picture

I should say that the distinction you discuss in the paragraph beginning "Two, I think..." isn't mine. 'As a result of communication with OAC I believe' -- ahem -- that it's one they themselves expressly endorse. I'm looking at the relevant email now, and I'm sure that I'm allowed to talk about my views and how they changed, but am not allowed to say what any persons participating in the call may have said.

Yeah, I assumed you were taking it from the email itself, so I didn't mean to imply the distinction was your own. I do think your example of what you can say (your views, including any changes) and what you can't say ("Yaron said...x") is strange, for the reason I gave, namely that it will be possible to gather correctly what certain people believe anyway. Or worse, from ARI's standpoint: people will think they know what so and so said, and the telephone games won't end.

But anyway, it won't be necessary to guess what certain people believe. The chances that some students will talk about this meeting outside OAC are about 100%. I've already told you I'll respect their desire for secrecy even if I think it's silly, so I won't encourage anyone to tell me anything about that meeting. But I'm hardly the only person on the receiving end of the chain of info and gossip.

To the first point you raise: again I can't quote text from the email, but I can give you my strongest assurance that they WERE NOT mad that the email was being discussed by students. They were VERY MAD that it found its way online. (Someone had suggested to an OAC student they he record the call and post it online. They were very mad at that). Also, by releasing the email, certain information about how to access the OAC phone system made it out. And they've been inundated with requests from non-OAC students to participate in the call. THIS is what made them so mad, not that the email was discussed. (As I understand it, they've had to take extra measures to prevent non-OAC students from 'crashing' the call. That cost them money. Again making them mad).

Ah. The person I spoke with put all the emphasis on the admonishment of students for gossiping about the email generally, so it looks like I was misled. And I take it this piece of misinformation found its way to several other people. As for the phone system, that's a legitimate reason to be mad. I'm surprised it was somehow compromised -- the numbers had been xxx-ed out, but I should probably have cut that section of the email out entirely.

What I disagree with is the claim by some (maybe you don't agree with this? I'm not sure now) that privacy of the OAC call and related correspondence is objectionable. (I'm thinking specifically about Olivia's last comment that confidentiality agreements are cult-like. That would make most private education cult like, but maybe that's what she thinks?) Here's what I think. ARI should publicly answer questions about "how far intellectuals and aspiring academics can go in criticizing Peikoff's (or Harriman's, or whoever's) work with ARI's support." But this conference call is specifically for OAC students, i.e. students with specific personal concerns that may not be the business of any random person who is interested. As I understand it, the call is FOR US ("us" being OAC students). Do you think that there is something wrong with addressing our concerns IN PRIVATE, while then later addressing the general concerns the public has in a separate, PUBLIC, act? That is what I think they SHOULD do. If they don't, then they deserve blame for not addressing legitimate public concern. But not blame for holding a call for people with more important concerns than those of the general public.

Of course there are matters that should be addressed to students first, or matters that pertain only to students, etc. (And yeah, all private education is protected by IP and confidentiality, but that doesn't seem apposite here. We're not talking about protecting educational materials.) But in this case I think your and my and the interested public's concerns are fairly co-extensive: wtf is going on, wtf do you expect of us as donors or aspiring academics, and wtf is up with "private matter."

So my guess is that Olivia believes that keeping OAC's position on those things secret is creepy. I agree. It's creepy that people's positions on these matters have to be kept secret, unless the reasons for it are purely formal or legal. Sure, we shouldn't get to hear about the deliberations of the board, or what board members think about anything for that matter (if we were privy to it then the board wouldn't be able to function). But if someone else's general view on this whole dispute is going to be aired among a hundred students aged 18-25, it's pretty creepy that it be kept secret and that students should have to guard this information. We're not talking about the formula for Pepsi. Move this conversation back twenty years, before Kelley formed IOS: wouldn't it have been creepy if back then you couldn't get anyone's opinion (other than some kids on facebook) for a significant length of time about that controversy? This is the lowest of the low we've seen of the objectivist movement: people refusing to speak their mind and leaving the impression for others that they're *afraid* to speak their minds. What is all this supposed to accomplish? If ARI is in such dire straits, is this kind of behavior supposed to make it better? Maybe it's all just temporary and people will soon act human again (making our conversation entirely irrelevant), but how likely is that?

The idea that there might be horrible consequences if it gets out that Yaron or Onkar believe this or that is...creepy. What's the strategy, avoid the prying eyes of Peikoff et al for a few months while ARI puts all the pieces together to fix this thing? (And did you just seriously propose that ARI cancelled the Craig Biddle events to forestall another conflict with Peikoff? So who's next, then?) I can think of better ways of achieving that than talking to a hundred students aged 18-25 who inhabit the land of objectivist gossip.

Sorry for some of the ranting above, I'm sure I'm mostly preaching to the choir. Someone's crazy here, and despite the rantings I don't think it's me.

Actually...

i.am.dan.edge's picture

This makes a lot more sense. Thanks for the clarification.

privacy

Mike_M's picture

Hi Boaz,

I should say that the distinction you discuss in the paragraph beginning "Two, I think..." isn't mine. 'As a result of communication with OAC I believe' -- ahem -- that it's one they themselves expressly endorse. I'm looking at the relevant email now, and I'm sure that I'm allowed to talk about my views and how they changed, but am not allowed to say what any persons participating in the call may have said.

To the first point you raise: again I can't quote text from the email, but I can give you my strongest assurance that they WERE NOT mad that the email was being discussed by students. They were VERY MAD that it found its way online. (Someone had suggested to an OAC student they he record the call and post it online. They were very mad at that). Also, by releasing the email, certain information about how to access the OAC phone system made it out. And they've been inundated with requests from non-OAC students to participate in the call. THIS is what made them so mad, not that the email was discussed. (As I understand it, they've had to take extra measures to prevent non-OAC students from 'crashing' the call. That cost them money. Again making them mad).

Re: Privacy as an issue. Maybe there is a confusion between the two of us over what we are talking about when we say the "privacy issue." I agree with you that 'McCaskey-gate' is NOT a private matter. At least, enough of it should properly be of public concern that calling it "private" is problematic. What I disagree with is the claim by some (maybe you don't agree with this? I'm not sure now) that privacy of the OAC call and related correspondence is objectionable. (I'm thinking specifically about Olivia's last comment that confidentiality agreements are cult-like. That would make most private education cult like, but maybe that's what she thinks?) Here's what I think. ARI should publicly answer questions about "how far intellectuals and aspiring academics can go in criticizing Peikoff's (or Harriman's, or whoever's) work with ARI's support." But this conference call is specifically for OAC students, i.e. students with specific personal concerns that may not be the business of any random person who is interested. As I understand it, the call is FOR US ("us" being OAC students). Do you think that there is something wrong with addressing our concerns IN PRIVATE, while then later addressing the general concerns the public has in a separate, PUBLIC, act? That is what I think they SHOULD do. If they don't, then they deserve blame for not addressing legitimate public concern. But not blame for holding a call for people with more important concerns than those of the general public.

Like I said previously, it's not clear to me if ARI is a wrong-doer in the case, or one of the parties wronged. Based on what I know, I think they've made some wrong choices (one of which was the content of the initial OAC email), but I don't yet believe that these wrong choices weren't made out of desperation at the terrible position Peikoff put them in.

EDIT: corrected spelling. And a second time to add paragraph breaks.

Mike: Re Additional Clarification

Boaz the Boor's picture

Those corrections are good to have, but I don't see any important difference between anger that the email was forwarded and anger that its contents were publicly discussed -- surely the point of prohibiting the former (in this case) is preventing the latter. But I'll take your claim that people were only chided for forwarding the emails at face value. That's less alarming, but I think the anger is misplaced in any case. ARI/OAC might have good reasons to keep silent, but they sent an email to a hundred people that (1) took a very strange (indeed, outrageous) position and did so in a manner that any reasonable person would expect to cause those one hundred students to talk. And surely even as a matter of contract law the confidentiality agreements you signed don't extend to "ARI is saying that this whole thing is a private matter"?

Further things about privacy:

One, I already made the correction that these confidentiality agreements weren't new (I italicized that, but maybe my words weren't clear enough).

Two, I think this distinction -- students are barred [from] saying things like "Dr. Brook said such and such." We are allowed to discuss our own reactions to and evaluations of what is said. So I can post things like "After the call I now believe the ARI's policy is xyz" but not "Yaron Brook said xyz." -- defeats the purpose of the confidentiality agreement. In order for these to be meaningful (morally if not legally), you can't reveal information that would give me a reasonable clue as to what was said and who might have said it. If you say in public or to a group of people that ARI's policy is xyz and give your evaluation and tell us whether you intend to stay in OAC, I and others will be privy to what was likely said. Your distinction makes a hash out of the need for secrecy.

Which leads me to say that I think (a) if you agree to be on the teleconference, you're obligated not to discuss it at all; and (b) I think it's unreasonable of OAC to expect this of you, and highly unreasonable and morally problematic to ask it of incoming students who were already freaked out by the first email. If it were up to me, I'm not sure I would feel right about participating in the call -- I'd need to think about it, gather more information and answer in my own mind whether I could respect those terms.

Three, I think in order for this policy to be closer to reasonable, someone at OAC should have given some reason in advance why this whole thing should be kept closed-knit -- some prima facie justification, even something as vague as: these are some trying times and unusual circumstances, we ask that you wait until you hear from us before you discuss this with others...

Four, as to whether the privacy policy is a side-issue:

I think the privacy policy is every bit as bad as the belief that McCaskey/Peikoff is a private matter -- indeed, the policy is an expression of that latter belief. But precisely because McCaskey's resignation raises issues far more important and sinister than the original dispute, there's a legitimate question (not yet a fact, I don't think) about how far intellectuals and aspiring academics can go in criticizing Peikoff's (or Harriman's, or whoever's) work with ARI's support, and this is a question which should be answered by someone in public. Otherwise reasonable people are entitled to conclude that they should seek work, sponsorship, and fellowship elsewhere and donors entitled to shift their support elsewhere.

privacy, etc

Mike_M's picture

FYI, none of the privacy constraints are on OAC students are new. I signed up in 2003 and the privacy requirements were then as they are now. Whatever complaints one might have about privacy, it's false to imply that the policies are in any way a reaction to the McCaskey scandal. (OAC students are required to sign a confidentiality agreement. The contents of courses, correspondence, and assignments are ARI property). There's a lot of valid criticism to level at Peikoff and Harriman, and at ARI for being so silent about this for so long (and I assume taking Peikoff's side). But I think this talk about privacy is a major distraction from the real issues: McCaskey was treated unjustly by Dr. Peikoff, David Harriman is a menace, and ARI is being put in an impossible situation by Peikoff (and unsurprisingly making bad choices as a result). Since ARI was put in the position of either committing suicide, or turning its back on John McCaskey, I'm not yet sure who to blame for what and how much. I guess I'll find out in a few days. So like I said: plenty of blame to go around, specifically for Peikoff and Harriman. Privacy is a minor sub issue, if it's even one at all.

Also: the second hand info you got fully accurate. No one was chided for discussing anything. People were chided for violating the privacy policy they agreed to (forwarding OAC correspondence to non-OAC students). Second, Boaz your "second" point is only partially correct. Per the confidentiality agreement, students are barred saying things like "Dr. Brook said such and such." We are allowed to discuss our own reactions to and evaluations of what is said. So I can post things like "After the call I now believe the ARI's policy is xyz" but not "Yaron Brook said xyz." I've been seriously considering quitting OAC in protest, but I've decided to wait for the call to make my decision. I think their privacy policy is fair, in that it will allow me to communicate how the call impacts my decision. So long as I'm permitted to do that, I don't care that Yaron or whomever doesn't want to be quoted directly.

Despicable behaviour.

Olivia's picture

Second, students were told that per already signed confidentiality agreements they were not to discuss what was said at the teleconference with anyone who wasn't pre-registered for the call -- including other OAC students not invited or unable to attend.

Utterly cult like, it's embarrassing to read but not a surprise given the original fatwa.

Once and for all, the roar needs to go out: Religious intrinsicism and bigotry are incompatible with a philosophy of reason. Those who preach the latter and practice the former are hypocrites and traitors. They are enemies of independent judgment and the right to get it wrong without being damned to hell. Once and for all this beautiful philosophy needs to be rid of them. [Linz]

Their egos seem so fragile yet this *beautiful* philosophy is so robust! What happened?

This is pathetic. It is pathetic even to discuss it seriously. Please, someone else skewer these people with all the righteous ridicule you can muster. It's not worth my time to write, but I might enjoy reading it. [Boaz]

I believe someone already did:

Peikoff, Binswanger, Schwartz, and all your lackeys and echo-chambers ... in the name of Galt, go, and take your strutting, snot-nosed pseudo-superiority with you. You have tried to sacrifice the integrity of Objectivism on the altar of your own vaingloriousness, which Narcissistic perversion you have equated with objective self-esteem. "Objectivism, c'est moi"?? Not to put too fine a point on it, fuck the fuck off. Go, go, go!! Begone!! Get thee to nunneries—nunneries would be far more congenial for your mentalities than the open sunlit field which you have prevented Objectivism from being!! We who remain will honor your great moments (even though you yourselves have honored them more in the breach than in the observance) and strive to bring them to consummation in a way your tawdry prosaic vanities would never allow. [Linz]

"Official word from Biddle is

Jason Quintana's picture

"Official word from Biddle is that his upcoming lectures have indeed been canceled."

Biddle and Hsieh combined are a dominant ARI loyalist presence on the internet. This isn't about Leonard Peikoff anymore, it is about Yaron Brook losing either his job or the prominence ARI has in Objectivism. I'm not close with any of these people, and I have disagreed with them in the past, but it would be terrible to see either of these things happen.

Correction and Elaboration

Boaz the Boor's picture

Re: additional OAC emails and confidentiality

First, OAC students were reproached for chatting about the first email and discussing the absurdity of "private matter," and a request was made that such students should withdraw from the OAC forthwith.

Second, students were told that per already signed confidentiality agreements they were not to discuss what was said at the teleconference with anyone who wasn't pre-registered for the call -- including other OAC students not invited or unable to attend.

This is pathetic. It is pathetic even to discuss it seriously. Please, someone else skewer these people with all the righteous ridicule you can muster. It's not worth my time to write, but I might enjoy reading it.

(Edit: again, I'm not in the OAC and this information comes to me second-hand from various people)

You're correct concerning OAC

Aaron's picture

You're correct concerning OAC conference call. I hope many students make the choice to publish the information and get booted.

Aaron

More than disappointing ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... it's disgraceful.

I understand the OAC students wanting to take part in the teleconference at which ARI will explain its position and why this is a "private matter" must sign and observe a confidentiality agreement concerning what they are told during the conference, on pain of expulsion.

May there be a loud and decisive rebellion against this sort of crap.

Disappointing

Curt Holmes's picture

I was planning on attending Biddle's lecture at the University of Michigan on Tuesday. But I received notice of cancellation.

I can't help but think of the one or two minds (or more!) that would have been persuaded to consider an alternative to the altruist/collectivist worldview. How desperately we need them!

Scholasticism Reborn

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

This is a tedious, tiresome, fatuous, vacuous, embarrassing, ridiculous battle between pseudo-Objectivist cultists. It's a tempest in a teacup. Certainly some of the religiosos and mindless cultists involved are worse than others. But all are cultists. All assiduously practice censorship and excommunication. None permit free discussion and debate. None allow the Individual to freely, openly, honestly, bravely doubt and question, which is normal and healthy behavior, and which is the natural, ineluctable, fruitful, wonderous product of independent, rational thought. The participating combatants, such as they are, are absurd and pathetic enemies of reason, philosophy, Objectivism, and Ayn Rand. All are "second handers" and "social metaphysicians" who relentlessly practice the Objectivist sin of "evasion." But despite what they secretly, passionately, zealously, dogmatically believe, Objectivism isn't a religion. It isn't the One True Faith as passed down by the prophet Ayn. Thus its organizations shouldn't be run like a cult. Some Objectivists continue to claim -- against a tsunami of evidence -- that ARI and its ilk aren't really religious or cultist. Kelley calls them "tribalist" and Tracinski "establishmental." Many call them "orthodox." Wrong, wrong, wrong. The truth is much simpler. For those confused about the reality of this situation, here's a hint regarding factual accuracy and a true description: If something looks like a cult, acts like a cult, walks like a cult, talks like a cult, and smells like a cult: chances are...

Official Word

i.am.dan.edge's picture

Official word from Biddle is that his upcoming lectures have indeed been canceled.

Biddle nails it, with

Aaron's picture

Biddle nails it, with thoroughness yet succinctness that many others writing on this lacked. I especially appreciated his addressing contextual moral judgments and their appropriateness and necessity.

It currently looks like ARI has cancelled Craig Biddle's upcoming events. This includes campus club events scheduled for as early as next week, ones which have already been promoted and advertised by college students. I'm reserving judgment for a bit longer in case there's a mistake or official word from ARI or Biddle. However, if this is what it appears - if the ARI is indeed screwing over college kids in what should be one of its most important outreach programs, simply due to vendetta against someone who wrote an extremely calm respectful criticism - then for me that would certainly seal ARI's fate.

Aaron

Note ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Biddle quite aptly quotes Rand: “In no case and in no situation may one permit one’s own values to be attacked or denounced, and keep silent.”

It is for want of adherence to this stricture by Objectivists that Objectivism is struggling.

Biddle Weighs In

Lindsay Perigo's picture

An exemplary post by Craig Biddle at CraigBiddle.com

Justice for John P. McCaskey

Note: This post assumes general understanding of the publicly available facts about a conflict that has recently emerged between Leonard Peikoff and John P. McCaskey. For a fairly comprehensive statement of these facts, see Paul and Diana Hsieh’s post on the matter. To read the email in which Peikoff (among other things) morally condemns McCaskey, see McCaskey’s announcement of his resignation from the boards of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) and the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship.

Because John P. McCaskey is on the masthead of my journal, The Objective Standard, and because I have great respect for him, I want to say a few words about Leonard Peikoff’s now-public moral condemnation of him. This is a personal statement from me, not a statement from TOS, and it does not imply that those who contribute to or are involved with the journal (including McCaskey) agree with me.

Read the rest

These episodes ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... bespeak something about the human condition with which Objectivism hasn't come to grips. PhDs behave like spoilt children. Advocates of reason behave with consummate unreasonableness. Advocates of freedom throw authoritarian hissy fits in the face of entirely reasonable dissent. Intelligent folk prostitute themselves butt-licking the authoritarian hissy-fitters.

Something is rotten in the state of humanity—and of organized Objectivism (damned Hamlet again).

Jason, I understood that well

Boaz the Boor's picture

Jason, I understood that well enough. And there are in fact people who see things that way and acting accordingly -- so the analogy holds as a factual matter as it regards those people. What I think is "nonsense" is the idea that this can work -- that waiting can work, that self-censorship and hypocrisy on that level can work, and I would posit a number of reasons (I've outlined some of them below) why it can't work.

Scroll down a bit in this

Jason Quintana's picture

Scroll down a bit in this thread and you will see what I mean by this. I assumed people had understood what I meant. It has nothing to do with whatever people are saying on the MSK site. The analogy (which is inexact) relates to the leader for who the probable successors wait to die before they denounce him because as a living figure his power is too strong, and his personality is too admired among to flock to denounce him while he is alive without ruining the power structure.

Someone has said to me

Boaz the Boor's picture

Someone has said to me privately that things won't come right within organized Objectivism till Leonard, Binswanger, Schwartz and co. die and someone does a Khruschev-like posthumous 'fess-up about them and denunciation/repudiation of them.

Yeah, that kind of talk was also reported recently by someone at OL, I think, especially the "Khruschev" analogy. It's nonsense. ARI (along with its various constituents) isn't the Soviet Union, as you said, so it would shrink and die from within long before this happens. No one can read Ayn Rand and then say, "yeah we couldn't really address this issue before Peikoff died, but...."

And shouldn't that be obvious?

Waiting for Khruschev?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Someone has said to me privately that things won't come right within organized Objectivism till Leonard, Binswanger, Schwartz and co. die and someone does a Khruschev-like posthumous 'fess-up about them and denunciation/repudiation of them.

The analogy is inexact and inappropriate in several crucial respects, of course, not least of which is that Peikoff is not remotely a Stalin. Most of the time he propounds brilliantly a philosophy that is the hope of freedom, and thus is the antipode of communism. Even when behaving badly, he uses bullying rather than bullets, intimidation rather than internment, shunning rather than show-trials, shouting rather than shooting, etc. But while the first of these alternatives is obviously preferable to the second in each case, it's still eminently undesirable as a general rule in the promotion of a philosophy of reason (though shunning and shouting are certainly justified in the face of outright evil). When all of them occur chronically and morbidly as they have over decades at the hands of the Unholy Trinity, they amount to a cancer. A cancer upon Objectivism. We thought it was in remission. Clearly it's rampant again.

Only the ARI can heal itself. To all intents and purposes, it is organized Objectivism. Those within its ranks currently cowering in abject denial, or awaiting "guidance" in a month's time about "how to think objectively" about what is a "private matter," must speak up, or make a mockery of their commitment to integrity and independence. They have been enablers of the carcinogens for long enough.

Waiting for Khruschev doesn't cut it. Quite apart from anything else, Khruschev was part of the very things he denounced.

Letting the Leonard out of the bag

nevin's picture

Some have wondered how Dr. McCaskey, who as a Board member was honor-bound to defend the interests of ARI, could have asked for permission to publish the letter, despite the negative light such publication would cast on Peikoff and the Institute (i.e. why McCaskey, who for all we know is an innocent victim of a backroom personal vendetta, could not be safely expected to go off and lick his wounds in private, protecting with his silence the one who had done him wrong, and whose dealings had run the risk of hurting McCaskey's own reputation.)

Perhaps Dr. McCaskey, recoiling from this mistreatment, if mistreated he in fact was, became more concerned for the future of Objectivism as a whole than with the fortunes of one particular organization. Dangerous nonsense in high places, if not exposed to the light of day, will only fester, thereby bringing them low.

-Bill

Excommunication?

nevin's picture

Aaron wrote: that McCaskey was not 'excommunicated', his lectures still available through ARI, etc.

In the ARI world, once one shoe drops, it sometimes takes awhile for the other to follow. If anyone has his heart set on hearing McCaskey give another talk in an ARI-sanctioned venue, see another McCaskey title appear for sale at ARI's bookstore, or even buy any of McCaskey's current works through them after the next catalog comes out, methinks that person would do well to revise his expectations downward.

Aaron wrote: I'm skeptical it will not grow into that (after all, he's posting divisive Amazon reviews!)

This is still playing itself out. We will see how far it leads. For example, David Kelley's expulsion about 20 years ago eventually triggered secondary explosions around the Oist world. Now, even people who were able to stomach all that seem to be waking up with palates soured by the taste of the latest over-the-top dish to which Peikoff has treated them.

-Bill

The Happiest Thing ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

The happiest thing for me from this sorry episode is that Diana is no longer a Hsiekovian! (Nor Boaz of course.)

"Independence is the recognition of the fact that yours is the responsibility of judgment and nothing can help you escape it—that no substitute can do your thinking, as no pinch-hitter can live your life—that the vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of an authority over your brain, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middle-man between your consciousness and your existence."

Borrowing the "Sword of

Boaz the Boor's picture

Borrowing the "Sword of Damocles" metaphor, what would happen both to Peikoff and to ARI if Peikoff dropped his sword and severed all ties with ARI?

That's an interesting topic, but the question is relevant to the topic at hand in only this respect: *GIVEN* that Peikoff has tremendous financial leverage with respect to ARI in the short term, and given the tremendous influence many objectivists have ceded to him morally over the years, what response is now warranted? Is it acceptable -- moral and practical -- to sit idly and wait for Peikoff to die? I've heard people talk this way for a few years who should know better. It's naive as strategy and corrupt to boot. It overlooks the implications of this kind of conduct (and their acquiescence to it and SANCTIONING of it) for the next ten years, to say nothing of the effect such an attitude has had over the previous ten years.

The fact is that some people around ARI have *invited* this incident, they should have known it would happen, and perhaps some of them knew enough to plan in advance. That's for them to decide, now. I'm not sure why we should care anymore what they do. I think it's revolting.

Worse yet, it warrants ridicule. The people who do not yet warrant ridicule should speak up before they become tainted by it forever. Because when you've become ridiculous, you've become small and soon you will become boring. And when you've become boring, there's nothing left to talk about.

Who will inherit Rand's estate after Leonard Peikoff?

Kenny's picture

It is a very significant question. The answer will determine the future of ARI and Objectivism, both financially and the use of her works, writings, photos etc. My guess is that he will leave it to a family member, e.g. Amy, rather than ARI or another Objectivist.

Sword of Peikoff

Luke Setzer's picture

Borrowing the "Sword of Damocles" metaphor, what would happen both to Peikoff and to ARI if Peikoff dropped his sword and severed all ties with ARI?

Diana and Paul Hsieh's

Aaron's picture

Diana and Paul Hsieh's fact-finding mission is up now. Enough information to confirm much from McCaskey - but not enough that's going to change the mind of anyone who's already condemned him. The only solid new pieces of information (to me) were that permission to publish the LP letter was linked to resignation, and that McCaskey was not 'excommunicated', his lectures still available through ARI, etc. I'm skeptical it will not grow into that (after all, he's posting divisive Amazon reviews! Smiling ), and this does not assuage my concerns about ARI and being beholden to Peikoff. I do wish McCaskey had not 'fallen on his sword' and had rather forced them to make a solid choice in face of LP's ultimatum.

Aaron

Thanks Aaron. Good to see

Boaz the Boor's picture

Thanks Aaron. Good to see you, here, too.

Your and Linz's points are well taken, but I think you're being much too kind. It's not even an argument from authority. There's a subtler informal fallacy involved -- the appeal to pity (ad misericordiam). As applied to Peikoff, it's truly disgusting.

But talk of fallacies is irrelevant in the face of systemic mental collapse, at least with regard to a particular issue. The broader fallacy of mental collapse is technically called "being a fruitcake." And on this issue, at least, the person who wrote that post is a fruitcake. (I'd hasten to include all of his fans, but perhaps they only skimmed a few paragraphs or clicked "like" by mistake.)

Welcome back Boaz. I was

Aaron's picture

Welcome back Boaz. I was also baffled by the Facebook thread in question when I saw it. As I told Dan, I don't have time for the flame-war it would entail, but I'd love to go on and post:

Two words: Nathaniel Branden

Eye

Boaz

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I didn't get it either. Perhaps the fellow had too little of the red liquid obscuring his face. There is a minimal amount required for lucidity, and he may have fallen short of his RDA.

That said, it looked awfully like AFA (Argument from Authority) to me.

Yes, Ayn chose Leonard to be her heir (though I don't believe the words "intellectual heir" can be found anywhere).

Had she died in 1967, we'd be saying the same of Nathaniel Branden.

There seems to be an assumption abroad that to call Peikoff out on this occasion is to diss him altogether. I for one have been at pains to try to keep faith with what is great in him while repudiating, and exhorting others to do so, the ghastly religiosity he displays during these episodes, with the conscientious acquiescence of the lemmings, which religiosity has held Objectivism back. For a time I was convinced that Binswanger and Schwartz bullied him down to their level; now I believe he's as guilty as they. During the Reisman expulsion he claimed he couldn't control Harry and Peter. Well, why not?! Is he their slave?

There's been a want of honesty during these disputes. Folk on the wrong side of them were arguing on the basis of being employed/sponsored by ARI, or hoping to be. Ack!

In any event, this carry-on with McCaskey is beyond the pale.

"Sixty-Four People Like This"

Boaz the Boor's picture

http://www.facebook.com/#!/note.php?note_id=132646316783999&id=100000328890345

Can someone translate this into english? There are several paragraphs written with familiar script but I only pick up something about how this dispute involves Leonard Peikoff, the heir of Ayn Rand, her representative (agent?) on earth.

Please, can someone help me out.

Humiliation

Boaz the Boor's picture

Some worthwhile commentary on the imbroglio here:

http://treygivens.com/?p=2361

Dan's last reply misses the point. The point isn't that ARI faces imminent extinction. The point is that ARI has well earned a massive blow to its reputation and respect among those most inclined to view it with favor, and is no longer worth supporting.

This has been happening now for a few years. The email I quoted from Ghate is a disgrace. Now I suppose I could be generous and say it was written by a convalescent who is badly in need of a nap. But the words "private matter" are likely the product of a committee. And because I don't feel like going out of my way to be generous, I'm just going to go ahead and say the obvious: the people who wrote and ratified this email are (to quote George Carlin) stupid, full of shit, and fucking nuts.

There is not a single person I keep in touch with who knows of that email and who thinks differently. Of course there are plenty of creepy wingnuts in this movement who might offer a different assessment, the robots who know how to say "ra-ra-ra," they've always been around.

Your point about good people at ARI ignores the possibility that anyone who stays there now has to answer for that email, because it's THAT bad. It's outrageous. And while I'm sure there are no marching orders, as such, gosh I just have to wonder how many among the OAC will want to stick their necks out and say the obvious -- that the email is an insult and a scandal in its own right.

Even the Amazon review speaks

Mario's picture

Even the Amazon review speaks for itself. Here is more or less the heart of his criticism:

[It] is not that a fully formed concept comes into the mind of the scientist who then uses it as a green light to an inductive propositional generalization, but that a partly formed concept serves as a flickering greenish light to a partial generalization, which acts as a less flickering, somewhat greener light to a better concept, which in turn improves the generalization, which then improves the concept, and so on, until well-defined concepts and associated propositional generalizations emerge fully formed together [...]

He's saying that Harriman presents oversimplified understands of history, and that he needs to refine his understanding of what scientists have done and use that to refine his theory of induction. Elsewhere in the review he says that he's not criticizing Harriman's theory as being wrong. (I got the feeling he thought the work was very valuable on really onto something. I think he used the phrase "potentially seminal" or something.)

My goodness, what a "monster."

This is small potatoes, folks

Chris Cathcart's picture

Know hope:

http://www.ultimatephilosopher...
http://www.thesingularitybegan...

(and, yes, the book is fast becoming a huge improvement, in both scope and content, over that of the original proposal a few months back. [Long story short: with the right set of preconditions and education - especially in Ayn Rand's theory of concepts as laid out in ITOE - the world as a whole begins to look like Galt's Gulch.] Don't want to give away too much at the moment, though.)

Cash

Tone

i.am.dan.edge's picture

P.S. I'm used to having to scream to be heard on Ye Old Solo, so you'll have to excuse / accept the tone.

Laughing out loud

--Dan Edge

Kenny

i.am.dan.edge's picture

My latter comments were not directed at you specifically. Mixed messages. My bad.

--Dan Edge

WTF are you talking about Dan?

Kenny's picture

Where did I say that ARI staff were lemmings? What do I need evidence for? Read my post!

Kenny

i.am.dan.edge's picture

No offense intended. We have been on opposite sides of many issues, but I have no beef with you.

In other news, those predicting the downfall and/or lemmingization of the ARI, I suggest to get to know a few employees at ARI. For the most part, they are brilliant, independent minded young men and women dedicated to the dissemination of a rational philosophy of life to the world. They are not lemmings, and any who say otherwise frankly don't know what the fuck they're talking about. You lack evidence.

Dan Edge

"Guidance"??

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Hahahahaha! This just gets more and more tragi-farcical.

The remaining lemmings may well be offered jobs, but with what will they be paid when contributions have dried up?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.