Is This What They Teach at the Ayn Rand Institute?

Robert Campbell's picture
Submitted by Robert Campbell on Thu, 2006-04-06 15:01

Since Diana Hsieh is remarkably quick to impugn the scholarship of her "detractors," I thought it might be worthwhile to go through one of her own recent public statements about Objectivist scholarship, to see what standards it actually meets.

In a SOLOPassion post on "pseudo-scholarship" dated April 3, Ms. Hsieh cited her blog entry of July 24, 2005, titled "Poisoning the Well" (http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2005/07/poisoning-well.html). So I may reasonably assume that, by Ms. Hsieh's lights, it more than adequately meets standards of evidence, argument, and intellectual exchange.

The entry begins with an account of "charity refutations." Ms. Hsieh (following Leonard Peikoff's familiar doctrine that arbitrary assertions are to be dismissed, not argued against), claims that many philosophical arguments are arbitrary, in Rand and Peikoff's sense, and therefore do not merit refutation. But refutations may nonetheless be "offered in generous kindness to the poor souls possibly taken in by epistemological hucksters."

For instance, an assertion that there is a God who created the universe is arbitrary, because believers in such a God bear the epistemic burden of providing genuine evidence for his, her, or its existence. "So the atheist has no obligation to refute it."

"However," Ms. Hsieh continues, "regular folks are often confounded by such arguments. A person may be innocently confused by the heavy metaphysics if unskilled in the fine art of tracing implications. Or he may only implicitly grasp the need for solid evidence for claims, such that he cannot explicitly identify and reject the argument as arbitrary. In such cases, explaining how God-as-creator as merely pushes the problem back one more step or endorses the primacy of consciousness can be worthy kindness to offer. Certainly, I have gratefully received many such kindnesses myself."

What Ms. Hsieh calls "kindness" most people would also call teaching or mentoring. Or just plain intellectual exchange, so long as there is even a minimal presumption of good will on the part of each participant.

What's wrong with arguments for the existence of God is "same old same-old" to knowledgeable Objectivists (and to a lot of non-Objectivists who have attained some philosophical sophistication). And the Peikovian doctrine of the arbitrary assertion is well known to people with intermediate knowledge of Objectivism. But all of these things have to be learned. What's more, recognizing what it is about a hypothesis or theory that renders it arbitrary is not always easy, and judgments of arbitrariness have to be backed up--they themselves can be made erroneously, even arbitrarily...

Ms. Hsieh now moves into territory familiar to readers of some of Rand's essays, and especially to readers of Peikoff's "Fact and Value." "In general," she says, "as Ayn Rand clearly recognized, it is far easier for a basically rational person to get suckered into a bad argument than to originate it himself. That's one of the reasons why I'm far less likely to offer a charity refutation to the originators or pushers of arbitrary theories. Either such people know well enough that their stated reasons are no more than rationalizations or they are too psycho-epistemologically screwy to grasp the point at hand."

Since many judgments of arbitrariness require careful analysis of the claims that turn out to be arbitrary, and even rather sophisticated thinkers can produce bad arguments without recognizing the fatal flaw in them (which is one reason why it's so important for us to publish our work and for others to respond to it), Ms. Hsieh seems in rather a rush to draw conclusions about the motives of anyone who puts forward any theory that she deems arbitrary.

One might wonder, in fact, whether a rapid judgment of arbitrariness, in the face of ideas that are new to one, or that give one the impression of requiring a bunch of heavy lifting to assimilate and respond to, might function as a rationalization for avoiding intellectual labor, or dealing with evidence or argument that might run counter to one's own views and disturb one's equilibrium.

But being infected with the Kelleyite virus of tolerance, I try to reserve judgments of arbitrariness for cases where I find the defects in the theory rather blatant and its proponent seems unable to recognize them after I have gone to some effort to point them out. It will take even more evidence before I drop the J-bomb, concluding that someone is knowingly putting forth an arbitrary theory. The same goes for judgments that someone is purposely avoiding his or her intellectual homework, or refraining from engagement with arguments that may have the power to refute his or her entrenched views.

Ms. Hsieh rolls out her Exhibit A, Neil Parille's SOLOHQ essay on "Ayn Rand and Evolution" (http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Parille/Ayn_Rand_and_Evolution.shtml). Referring to a critique of this essay by her ARIan co-blogger Don Watkins, Ms. Hsieh claims that most of Mr. Watkins' responses to Mr. Parille are "charity refutations." In other words, most of what Neil Parille said on the topic consists of arbitrary assertions!

Well, you can read Mr. Parille's essay in the SOLOHQ archives, and judge for yourself. I don’t consider the essay ready for publication in its current form. I find some of his arguments more persuasive than others. I would have liked to see more sensitivity to the history of evolutionary theory-- it hasn't been the same thing ever since Darwin, let alone since La Mettrie—and more of an effort to identify the views of evolution that Ayn Rand is likely to have come in contact with.. I also see places where he could have cited additional material by Ayn Rand that would have strengthened some of his claims. What I don't see is a whole lot of arbitrary stuff going on. What did I miss?

You can also read Mr. Watkins' critique in his blog archives, and judge for yourself (http://angermanagement.mu.nu/archives/102114.html). Mr. Watkins deserves credit for actually grappling with some of Mr. Parille's arguments, instead of declaring, in the manner of Ms. Hsieh, that he is above all that.

However, the overall quality of his critique is amateurish.

First, Mr. Watkins isn't terribly careful about distinguishing what he knows from what he insists Ayn Rand must have known. "Note the implied premise: for man to be unique, he had to have a unique origin. There is nothing in logic or science to support such a view." Well, yes, Mr. Watkins knows this, and so do I. But the important question is not whether he and I have spotted and rejected this implicit premise, it's whether Ayn Rand did.

Further, Mr. Watkins indignantly rejects Mr. Parille's argument that Rand might have seen a connection between evolutionary theories, Freud's conception of dark instinctual impulses to sex and aggression, and the doctrine of original sin. Mr. Watkins’ verdict: "This is just a joke. I'm sure of it." Mr. Watkins may not know that Freud was a professed admirer of Darwin who maintained, when he was developing and promoting psychoanalysis, that he was being true to evolutionary theory. Today's evolutionary theory sharply undercuts Freud's ideas, but the evolutionary theories that prevailed in 1895 didn't rule them out. Whether Rand was aware of Freud's claim to be doing good evolutionary work is unknown to me, but in the 1950s she was discussing him from time to time with Nathaniel Branden, who claimed to have read the complete published works of Freud during that period. (Meanwhile, the notion that the Freudian id is secularized original sin is commonplace; it can be found in Branden's writings, if not in Rand’s.) Mr. Parille's suggestion should not be brushed off quite so lightly.

What Mr. Watkins really can't stand is Mr. Parille's general thesis that Rand found evolutionary ideas a little worrisome, on account of their potential relations with instincts, determinism, or original sin. "Rand," he thunders, "was not 'concerned' with anything but reality, with the facts as she was able to identify them. To claim otherwise is to label Rand dishonest and her philosophy a fraud." In his conclusion, Mr. Watkins denounces "the unstated (and unjustified) premise that Rand was irrational." If this argument (which crops up in another couple of variants that I haven't quoted) strikes you as plausible, try plugging in Aristotle's name, or Herbert Spencer's, or Bertrand Russell's, or Henri Bergson's, or whoever's, and try it again. Or imagine the argument's potential impact on a non-Randian. Leonard Peikoff's logic course covers false alternatives and arguments from authority, as Mr. Watkins surely knows.

Worse yet, Mr. Watkins is not just arguing from authority; he seems to be arguing from Ayn Rand's perfection (epistemically, if not morally). Try selling that to a non-Randian.

A constructively minded editor would tell Mr. Watkins that he has a lot of work in front of him, before his critique becomes publishable; a malicious editor would accept it without revisions.

Picking up his logical fallacies where Mr. Watkins dropped them, Ms. Hsieh declares: "...I'm quite blown away by the fact that Neil never actually considers Ayn Rand's own perfectly reasonable explanation for her hesitancy about the theory of evolution, namely inadequate study. Instead, he engages in baseless speculations about the supposed implications of evolution she wished to avoid, e.g. instinctual knowledge, determinism, and original sin. The underlying premise of the whole discussion is that Ayn Rand was not an honest intellectual. That's why we need not consider the possibility that she accurately reported the reasons for her hesitancy or that she grounded her philosophic views in observed fact rather than desired conclusions."

Neil Parille is among us, so he can speak for himself. But I don't read his essay as impugning Ayn Rand's honesty.

Yes, I'm sure Ayn Rand didn't study evolutionary theory, and I presume she thought she couldn't devote the time to do it properly while getting her other projects done. I expect she also sincerely believed that the correctness of her philosophy did not depend on whether it incorporated evolutionary constraints. I happen to think she was wrong about that, but Rand was very clear, especially after 1968, in her insistence that there is traffic from philosophy to the "special sciences," never the other way.

But all I take Mr. Parille to be saying is that something about the topic made Rand uneasy, and she never quite put her finger on it. What's more, each of the issues that Mr. Parille speculates about is known to have been a serious worry for Rand. Why isn't it possible for Rand to have been genuinely concerned to get the facts straight, while trying to avoid what she thought were entire classes of errors, by steering clear of any notions that might lead to positing human instincts, determinism regarding human thinking and decision-making, or original sin? I doubt she knew nearly enough about evolution to be confident that it didn't require instinctual knowledge, determinism, or original sin. The first two of these propositions still need arguing for. Today, a lot of knowledgeable people would argue that an evolutionary account of human beings requires human instincts, and many believe that it requires determinism; only original sin is generally understood to be ruled out. And even brilliant philosophers use heuristic procedures (try this kind of constraint; avoid that kind of explanation) that might lead to error.

As for why an essay like Mr. Parille’s is worth writing, let me note that as a young Objectivist, I took it for granted that Rand's philosophy would square nicely with evolutionary theories (indeed, I assumed it would have to) and was thoroughly mystified to read her disclaimer in that 1973 essay, "The Missing Link." Around that same time, I read Mortimer Adler's book The Difference of Man and the Difference It Makes, which used to be recommended in the NBI days, and noted an undertow of doubt about the possibility that human cognitive capabilities are a product of evolution (indeed, Adler began his career with a book arguing for the fixity of species). So Mr. Parille's approach looks to me to be a completely legitimate one.

I further note that Ms. Hsieh, following Mr. Watkins, avoids mentioning a section in Mr. Parille's essay that covers Rand's (self-described) speculation to the effect that some members of species Homo sapiens are, well, not fully evolved. While outwardly normal they are not entirely human, for they have not yet ascended beyond a "preconceptual" or "missing link" stage to a fully "conceptual" stage. (The speculation can be found not just in a journal entry from the mid-1940s, but also in the 1973 essay "The Missing Link," which was later included in a 1982 anthology.) The "missing link" speculation is more than a little weird, in my opinion, as well as hard to square with what can be learned from paleoanthropology or developmental psychology. In any event, Mr. Parille was well advised to draw attention to it. Should we regard the "missing link" speculation as the work of Ayn Rand at her best? Is it an isolated speculation, or does it have connections with her views about creators and parasites, leaders and followers, or human history and social dynamics? Mr. Parille doesn't offer an answer to those questions, but they are certainly worth asking.

In all, I think Ms. Hsieh is being rough and hasty in her treatment of the essay, and massively overconfident in the quality of Mr. Watkins' purportedly charitable arguments against it. But now suppose that "Ayn Rand and Evolution" truly is as weak, unscholarly, and unfair to Rand as Ms. Hsieh declares it to be. Will Ms. Hsieh's conclusion follow?

For Ms. Hsieh moves without further delay to a broad generalization, claiming to discern in this one short SOLOHQ essay the intellectual faults of most recent published work on Ayn Rand. "Unfortunately, the philosophic style of this article is not an anomaly. Too much published on Ayn Rand in recent years has all the illusion of scholarly inquiry without any of its substance. It is pseudo-scholarship: it substitutes superficial understanding, invented controversy, and detached cynicism for the clarity, depth, and care of good study."

She insists that such pseudo-scholarship lurks around every corner: "Neil's article represents no great danger by itself, of course. It's a essay for SOLO -- not some massive tome, journal article, or even newspaper column. Yet its unserious intellectual style is a symptom of the very serious problem of pseudo-scholarship on Ayn Rand and Objectivism, a problem very much worth our attention."

In fact, she maintains that the pseudo-scholarship will scare people off Ayn Rand's ideas and allow detractors to discredit them, quite likely ringing down the curtain on Western culture in the process.

Personally, I am enough of an optimist to regard Rand's ideas, and Western culture more generally, as fairly resilient: some second- or third-rate journal articles will not wipe them out. Second or third-rate articles get published in all kinds of fields every day; it does not follow that the first-rate work will be choked out unless contact between the writers of first-rate articles and writers of second- or third-rate articles is kept to a minimum.

More to the point here is Ms. Hsieh's distinct lack of interest in identifying one single journal article or "thick tome" that exhibits pseudo-scholarship, and showing us just where all that really dangerous pseudo-ness is hiding.

She names just one further instance--her own essay in Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand. Even there, she describes none of the bad arguments or questionable interpretations or arbitrary assertions of which she now claims to be guilty. She merely pleads guilty to having the wrong attitude when she wrote it.

What, then, to bring away from Ms. Hsieh’s blog entry? If the reader has not already quit on her, after spotting Mr. Watkins' argument from Ayn Rand's perfection and his false alternative, or noting the ungrounded assertions of arbitrariness that Ms. Hsieh piles on top of them, then he or she is left to divine through innuendo where the pseudo-scholarship about Randian ideas is lurking.

Have ARI-affiliated authors produced any pseudo-scholarship? Ms. Hsieh never says, but the answer, I confidently take it, is supposed to be no.

Have authors not affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, other than Mr. Parille (and Ms. Hsieh in her unenlightened days), produced pseudo-scholarship? Ms. Hsieh never says, but the answer, I take it, is supposed to be yes--all of them--lots of it--nearly all of the time.

Is the repudiation of an old essay merely targeted on Ms. Hsieh during her iniquitous past--or also at Chris Sciabarra, who invited her to write it, and edited the volume?

The comments section undermines any doubts that Chris Sciabarra is a target. I'll quote two. Each, in turn, pointedly quotes the same passage in Ms. Hsieh’s blog entry.:

*****

Comment ID: #1 Name: GDavis

"So at this point, and for many years to come, even a few pseudo-scholars pose a grave danger, as do those who tolerate them. After all, today's intellectuals would love nothing more than to be able to dismiss Objectivism by means of stawmen erected by its supposed defenders"

I absolutely agree with this. Which is why I cringe at the thought of what damage Sciabarra's Journal of Ayn Rand Studies might be doing. With "friends" like those...

I wonder if it would be possible for the Ayn Rand Institute to sponsor some type of intellectual journal or publication. Perhaps it is too soon and there are not enough scholars yet. But it would be nice to see a precedent set for Ayn Rand scholarship conducted in an objective manner as opposed to God-only-knows what passes for scholarship at JARS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Comment ID: #5 Name: Mysterious Stranger

"So at this point, and for many years to come, even a few pseudo-scholars pose a grave danger, as do those who tolerate them. After all, today's intellectuals would love nothing more than to be able to dismiss Objectivism by means of stawmen erected by its supposed defenders"

The irony is that Sciabarra and others sometimes attempt to justify their "moderate" Objectivism (i.e. the strawmen they offer to academia to be knocked down) as something that will somehow help Objectivism to be "taken seriously" by academics (!)

Would be funny if not so tragic.

******

Any remaining doubt was dispelled when Ms. Hsieh's post of April 3 cited "Poisoning the Well" and made the point explicit: "All of that criticism very much applies to JARS. Moreover, it was my reason, then and now, for thinking the journal unworthy of submissions from genuine Objectivists."

I'm not going to emulate Ayn Rand so far as judgments about motives are concerned; nor am I encouraging anyone who has stayed with me this far to drop any J-bombs. But just imagine how Ayn Rand would have responded to an article that alleged rampant pseudo-scholarship in some area of philosophy, offhandedly mentioning a couple of minor works by less well-known authors without getting into any specifics about what was wrong with them--but kept signaling to those in the know, with confirmation by a noisy pack of claqueurs, that Rand herself was a major offender. At a minimum, she would have called it "the intellectual equivalent of hit-and-run driving." And she would have called the claqueurs an "intellectual goon squad" (both are quotes from "The Argument from Intimidation").

So is Ms. Hsieh's blog entry an instance of good scholarship, or an effective vehicle for promoting good scholarship? Has the Ayn Rand Institute been teaching its students and affiliates that false alternatives, arguments from Ayn Rand's perfection, arbitrary assertions of arbitrariness, and arguments from intimidation are marks of good scholarship? Whether ARI encourages such practices or not, should anyone who argues in these ways, and appears to believe that they are good ways to argue, be lecturing the rest of us about what's good scholarship and what's pseudo?

I would like to hear your answers.  In the meantime, you won't need to guess my own.  They are: Neither. Quite possibly. And absolutely not.


( categories: )

See my new blog entry

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Blair,

See my new blog entry for a response to most of your latest post.

The issues you raise concerning Ms. Touchstone's book need their own detailed treatment, which I will get to later.

Robert Campbell

Generally speaking

eg's picture

Generally speaking I have to agree with Lindsay's assessment of what is wrong with RR and JARS regarding Rand scholarship and the damage it can do.

Two Inaccuracies

DianaHsieh's picture

Robert Campbell said:
"Yet it seemed obvious to me, as well as to many other readers, that the entry was really pointed at Rand scholars whom Ms. Hsieh preferred not to name. . . . . So I took the comment pattern as a further indication of the article’s drift. (More recently, Ms. Hsieh has confirmed that her accusations of “pseudo-scholarship” were indeed meant to apply to Dr. Sciabarra and the journal he founded.)"

Once again, Robert Campbell distorts what I've plainly said. My criticisms in that post on pseudo-scholarship on Ayn Rand were not some kind of secret-code criticism of JARS or CMS. In discussing the serious problems with my own essay in the _Feminist Interpretations_ anthology, I deliberately avoided any mention of CMS, even though he edited the volume. (I didn't wish to attack an old friend.) Only much, much later -- after Robert Campbell invented spurious reasons for why I decided not to publish in JARS -- did I note that the same charges of pseudo-scholarship could and ought to be leveled against JARS.

Lindsay Blair replied:
"So then presumably it's all cleared up now? Surely if she's talking about certain scholars, and someone like me comments broadly on the subject but brings in a new example in the process, and Diana agrees with the example but was preparing to come out in opposition to Sciabarra and JARS shortly so didn't comment on my comments, that makes perfect sense."

People post all kinds of stuff in my comments. Sometimes I chime in, sometimes I don't. My silence about any particular comment cannot be justly taken as a sign of agreement. Certainly, when those comments by the Mysterious Stranger were posted, I had positive plans NOT to say anything about CMS and JARS.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Mr. Campbell:

Lindsay Blair's picture

"Thank you for stepping forward and identifying yourself as the author of that anonymous comment on Diana Hsieh’s blog entry of July 24, 2005."

My pleasure.

"Yet it seemed obvious to me, as well as to many other readers, that the entry was really pointed at Rand scholars whom Ms. Hsieh preferred not to name. . . . . So I took the comment pattern as a further indication of the article’s drift.  (More recently, Ms. Hsieh has confirmed that her accusations of “pseudo-scholarship” were indeed meant to apply to Dr. Sciabarra and the journal he founded.)"

So then presumably it's all cleared up now? Surely if she's talking about certain scholars, and someone like me comments broadly on the subject but brings in a new example in the process, and Diana agrees with the example but was preparing to come out in opposition to Sciabarra and JARS shortly so didn't comment on my comments, that makes perfect sense.

"Now that I’ve answered your question, may I ask why you think that Chris Sciabarra offers “strawmen… to academia to be knocked down”?  What has he specifically said, in any of his books or articles, that converts Randian ideas into “strawmen”?  Who are (some of) the “others” who are guilty of the same offense, and how are they crafting their low-grade simulacra of Objectivism?"

Nearly all of Russian Radical misrepresents Objectivism in both subtle and obvious ways. Similarly, many, many articles in JARS do the same even more egregiously. If you really, really want me to go into more detail on that given all that's been said on the matter by others in reviews, articles, and discussions since RR came out and as long as JARS has been published, I can do that.

But putting me through such tedium when you very much know exactly what I'm going to say is being more than a little obtuse. I don't appreciate the common dishonest debating tactic of asking an opponent to give you the specifics of something you already know from other sources or long ongoing debates--and she knows that you know it--and then if the opponent simply expresses agreement with one of the broad sides of the ongoing debate rather than going through a tedious re-hash, you can then try to discredit her by acting as if she's unwilling to engage the debate fully.

I hope that's not what's going to happen here, because I see this often and it's a way of evading a point and being deliberately obtuse so as to make it impossible to skip past the already well-established points and taking the overall subject to the next logical question to address. In this way, someone who has no argument can simply keep the same preliminaries going 'round and 'round forever to forestall actually getting somewhere.

So I will assume the shared context you and I know we both have concerning misrepresentations of Objectivism that have gone on for decades, whether honestly stated as "modifications" to it (which aren't then actually misrepresentations), or simply honest confusion where the person doesn't understand the philosophy fully but is encouraged to publish on it anyway, or dishonest misrepresentation of Ayn Rand's own ideas presented as such and as if they represented Objectivism as Ayn Rand formulated it. Then I will let you know that in all such debates we're both familiar with, I am in full agreement with what would be the standard ARI and its affiliates views on what scholarly works represent Objectivism accurately, and which do not. We both know exactly who and what I'm talking about here, so please now don't be obtuse.

Certainly in the case of either deliberate or unintentional misrepresentation of Objectivism in academic publications with little or no concern about quality control in this area, such can sensibly be called a "strawman" presentation of Objectivism.

It should be obvious that if the philosophy is presented to academics who are unfamiliar fully with Objectivism as it was formulated by Ayn Rand by someone presenting it innacurately--either intentionally or not--then those academics will then engage the false presentation, argue against it, and then they and others who are ignorant of what's happened will consider Objectivism proper as "disproved" by the academic who has been confused.

That is what "strawman" means, Mr. Campbell, and you know this. So what I was putting forward there shouldn't be all that hard to understand and accept.

Fortunately, we've just been provided with another example, from this entry in Diana Hsieh's blog:

http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog/2006/07/oddly-forthcoming.html

"Then Athena Said: Unilateral Transfers and the Transformation of Objectivist Ethics by Kathleen Touchstone

According to Objectivist David Kelley, financier Michael Milken has done more for mankind than humanitarian Mother Teresa. Working from this statement, Then Athena Said examines Objectivism, a philosophy founded by Ayn Rand, and ultimately concludes, in opposition to essential claims of Objectivism, that other people are a fundamental part of reality. In making this claim, Then Athena Said reconsiders Objectivism's central social tenet, the Trader Principle, which dictates the bilateral exchange of value for value between independent equals; elevates "reproductivity" to be on par with productivity, Objectivism's central virtue; and derives a "heuristic" for charitable giving. Relying, in part, upon economic theory, decision theory under uncertainty, and game theory, Then Athena Said examines unilateral transfers--including charity, childrearing, bequests, retribution, gifts, favors, forgiveness, and various infringements against persons or property--within the Objectivist framework."

Now this is the kind of thing I'm talking about. Notice who the author of what we can both clearly see to be based on a really confused understanding of Objectivism cites as her primary source of information on what Objectivism is. Being an academic, she likely also turned to several of the other secondary works on Objectivism routinely pushed to academics in the style encouraged by those who openly oppose ARI's approach to promoting Objectivism correctly and non-apologetically to academia or not at all and calls their alternate fast-and-loose, "tolerant" and "open" approach "engagement" with academia that will help to promote Objectivism. She likely turned to, I don't know, such academic publications as JARS, and academic works such as Russian Radical, Feminist Interpretations, and so on.

The result is perfectly predictable, a "snowballing" effect of confusion piled on confusion, until before you know it, academia is tired of debating about or thinking about a philosophy which they become sure is nonsense. But what's nonsense isn't Objectivism, it's the strawman versions arrived at by the JARS approach.

As to Russian Radical's "strawman", I'll give a partial answer here which won't be quite so tedious. And it will be something you should already know and I suspect you do know.

In particular, a non-Objectivist academic reading RR would conclude based on Sciabarra's thesis, that Ayn Rand developed Objectivism as based on dialectics she had picked up at university, with her "starting point" in developing her own answers to false dichotomies being just that. In fact, anyone with sufficient knowledge of Objectivism knows Ayn Rand's method was to throw all that out and just build up her own ideas inductively from observation, always reducing her abstractions carefully back to perception. Thus the standard false dichotomies don't arise in the first place.

To fully understand and appreciate Objectivism, an academic needs to understand it in this way, not by way of thinking of it being developed as Sciabarra gives them the impression it was in RR. And so an academic open to examining Objectivism will not get it, and will simply produce arguments against Objectivism based on ignorance. You see incompetent and ignorant criticisms of Objectivism all over the place, and it's not difficult to figure out that only those are encouraged by the JARS approach to "engaging" academia in the absurd way that it attempts to.

I'll stop here and see where we get. No time to edit this now, so I hope I've done a decent job of saying what I mean and there are no horrible spelling or grammar errors.

[As to my follow-up on July 31, those are my honest views expressed without holding back. That's how I do things, Linz's style notwithstanding. Others can decide for themselves by reading the things you and the other gentleman in question write and say and determine whether my judgment on that makes sense to them, and I invite them to. Prove me wrong over time if you can.]

 

 

Reply to Ms. Blair's post of July 25

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Blair,

Thank you for stepping forward and identifying yourself as the author of that anonymous comment on Diana Hsieh’s blog entry of July 24, 2005.

Ms. Hsieh was ostensibly criticizing the work of two individuals: Neil Parille and herself (before she converted to ARIanism).

Yet it seemed obvious to me, as well as to many other readers, that the entry was really pointed at Rand scholars whom Ms. Hsieh preferred not to name.

You and “GDavis” chimed in with condemnations of Chris Sciabarra and the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.  Ms. Hsieh, who patrols her comment threads with Javertian zeal and regularly bans participants who displease her, issued no cautions.  What’s more, she had decided a year and a half earlier that she would never publish in JARS.  So I took the comment pattern as a further indication of the article’s drift.  (More recently, Ms. Hsieh has confirmed that her accusations of “pseudo-scholarship” were indeed meant to apply to Dr. Sciabarra and the journal he founded.)

Now that I’ve answered your question, may I ask why you think that Chris Sciabarra offers “strawmen… to academia to be knocked down”?  What has he specifically said, in any of his books or articles, that converts Randian ideas into “strawmen”?  Who are (some of) the “others” who are guilty of the same offense, and how are they crafting their low-grade simulacra of Objectivism?

Robert Campbell

PS. I’m posting here in response to your question of July 25.  Your follow-up of July 31 seemed designed to insure that no one with a modicum of self-respect would ever answer you, but I’ve applied the principle of charity and assumed that you were merely following the wretched example so regularly set by Mr. Perigo.  I did not know of recent activity on this thread until yesterday, when I was alerted to it by a friend who does not participate on ObjectivistLiving. 

Thanks, Linz

Lindsay Blair's picture

I'd be certain someone at Lying has drawn Lindsay's question to his attention by now, if he hasn't seen it himself. He's welcome to post a reply here if he wants, but as I say, don't hold your breath.

That's kind of what I thought would happen.

I should have engaged Campbell in this thread when he was here, but I almost never participate in discussion boards and bit my tongue back when the thread was active.

If I do say so myself, on the typical Objectivist movement/ARI vs. TOC kinds of issues Campbell should be hesitant to debate with me directly. That's assuming there's such a thing as debating such a slippery and out of focus character as Campbell "directly" at all, mind you.

Personally, I think he's a person who's intellectually in way over his head as far as the kinds of things he tries to do and write about. It's glaringly obvious in everything he writes. I've often felt SOLO members go too easy on him, likely because it's often baffling what the hell he's even trying to say. The opening post in this thread is a perfect example.

Bidinitto is only slightly more in over his head than Campbell, IMO. Neither get any respect from me, because they don't have the intellectual gravitas to demand it in the slightest. It's obscene that even a tangentially Objectivist organization actually presents these two as qualified thinkers, and it sets such a low intellectual standard I think it makes all Objectivists look bad. This has nothing to do with agreement with them, it has to do with what comes across in their writing as regards maturity and thinking ability. Whatever one thinks of ARI, at least it is run by people we could call, you know, "intellectuals" without laughing.

Seeing that he quoted an anonymous comment by me from elsewhere in one of his disjointed and immature "pieces" here attacking Diana Hsieh prompted me to see if he'd be willing to take on someone who sees through his B.S. as clearly as I believe I do in a debate over the issues in this thread.

Maybe I'll get my wish at some point. I sure as hell ain't going to register on Objectivist Lying or similar sites just to engage with those idiots, but if they want to come here to SOLO and try looking like they actually have a point in my E-presence, bring it on.

Linz

eg's picture

Speaking of OL, that site has been down for several days. They may have lost their data base. You should make sure SOLO P has serious data backup.

--Brant

Brant ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

He hit & he ran. I'd be certain someone at Lying has drawn Lindsay's question to his attention by now, if he hasn't seen it himself. He's welcome to post a reply here if he wants, but as I say, don't hold your breath.

Linz

eg's picture

Campbell engaged this thread until it died off three months ago. It's a bit of a stretch to expect him to even be aware of Lindsay's questions now. I agree with you that he came and went here and that that was his basic intention all along. I thought he was hard put to defend his positions, just like some of the other Objectivist Living folk. It was also his way of getting at Diana without going to Noodle Food (see his article here), where I think he was unwelcome or didn't want to post ever again regardless or both.

--Brant

Lindsay from Linz

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Prof. Campbell is a hit-and-run coward, like all the JARS, KASSless folk at O-Lying & Frord. He won't respond here, even though he was perfectly happy to throw down his gauntlet on this site. So—don't hold your breath! Smiling

Linz

Mr. Campbell:

Lindsay Blair's picture

Mr. Campbell:

It was reading your post upthread which prompted me to (finally) register on SOLO today. I'd like to understand where you're coming from in part of your post.

Upthread you said:

"The comments section undermines any doubts that Chris Sciabarra is a target. I'll quote two. Each, in turn, pointedly quotes the same passage in Ms. Hsieh’s blog entry.:"

Then you go on to quote this from Noodlefood:

"Comment ID: #5 Name: Mysterious Stranger

[Quoting Diana's Blog] 'So at this point, and for many years to come, even a few pseudo-scholars pose a grave danger, as do those who tolerate them. After all, today's intellectuals would love nothing more than to be able to dismiss Objectivism by means of stawmen erected by its supposed defenders'

[Quoting the Reader Comment] 'The irony is that Sciabarra and others sometimes attempt to justify their "moderate" Objectivism (i.e. the strawmen they offer to academia to be knocked down) as something that will somehow help Objectivism to be "taken seriously" by academics (!)

Would be funny if not so tragic.'"

You include this as if somehow it was self-evident what's wrong with it, or to make some point or other about Sciabarra being a 'target'. I find all of this unclear and would like to know your point. Succinctly please.

You see, I am the "Mysterious Stranger" who wrote that post on Diana's Blog way back when. And of course, I stand by it 100%.

Could you please explain why you included the comment in your post, and what the point is exactly? It's surely a clear enough statement. Is it a mystery why I mentioned Sciabarra specifically? If you disagree with the statement, could you explain why? What is quoting my comment in response to Diana's piece intended to demonstrate?

Thanks in advance.

another thing about not seeing eye-to-eye

Chris Cathcart's picture

And that is that when Robert puts points about things he sees as criticizable in the "ARI approach," and I can see where he's coming from, he often puts his points in ways that are bound to rub many folks here the wrong way. All too often, it seems to involve making various inferences beyond what the available evidence shows. Why the "ARI crowd" reacts negatively to or ignores Chris S.'s work may be up for some speculation, but you get into some hard territory of ascribing motives to a wide variety of people. Maybe it's that a number of them (1) have limited time and/or (2) are inclined to trust the judgment of someone like Dr. Ridpath in a book review and/or (3) are heavily averse to the academic-lingo-ization of Objectivist study and/or (4) have what may be good reasons for that aversion and/or (5) don't think Sciabarra's thesis is worth taking seriously and/or (6) are honestly mistaken about what Sciabarra's thesis is. Those are reasons worth investigating before we get to the now-predictable (7) they got their gated community of approved scholars and Sciabarra wasn't allowed in, so screw him. Question is, who would hold to (7) in word or deed? I'm not saying that there aren't some, but let each person speak for himself, I say.

I consider it enough to point out that I regard the "ARI treatment" of Sciabarra and his work as disappointing and open to criticism. And I invite and welcome discussion on why I think so (which, when all is said and done, would hopefully end up in a discussion revolving around (5)). I think that'll do a more effective job of weeding out the reasonable from the unreasonable -- really, by letting people's words and actions speak for themselves. Robert, I think you rub a lot of people the wrong way by trying to do too much of that speaking for them. (I became something of an obnoxious SOB on HPO for a lot of years doing just that. There are ways of expressing disagreement and disapproval -- and lots of it justified -- and then there are ways of expressing disagreement and disapproval. Still, the "ARI crowd" does have its share of obnoxious an inane clowns; one in particular in HPO history was so overboard to the point of being entertaining to read, even as he was blasting the reader. Nearly all of his opponents on HPO he branded "nihilists" in over-the-top fashion, and he didn't seem to take the hint that he was the very punching-bag they were looking for. But that's an extreme case; the jerks will exist in varying degree in just about any group of ideological adherents.)

Anyway, what am I doing up at this godawful hour still posting to the 'net?

Diana's blog

Chris Cathcart's picture

Well, I'm a semi-regular reader and contributor to her blog; I don't think it's a secret that I'm not in with the "ARI crowd" (the diversity of links I have on my website's philosophy page would show that), and I'm more than willing to acknowledge that that there is, as Robert puts it, a good amount of "inane an obnoxious" rhetoric there on the comments boards (from ARI supports and non-ARI-supporters) that discerning readers can filter out for themselves. But I don't feel or consider myself unwelcome there at all. I think that, more than anything, she is looking for competently-reasoned (it's not that hard a standard to reach) and civil arguments in her blog from those with whom she has disagreements. It's not like she doesn't have a personal context from 10 years of her own history where she agreed with ideas she now disagrees with, and as such be in a position of understanding that these people could have honest disagreements with her.

Recently I participated in a discussion about "Tolerationists" (which may or may not be an anti-label) and I brought up whether a certain characterization of them was an accurate one if applied to David Kelley. (Kelley may have some problems, but I would put them in the category of the ("psycho-"?)epistemological rather than of character flaws.) Some anonymous poster said that a certain extreme characterization of "Tolerationists'" characters applied to David Kelley as well. No supporting argument, just a "yeah, that describes Kelley to a 'T'." Diana's response was that while she had problems with Kelley, she wouldn't play host to arbitrary smears from anonymous posters.

Robert, in light of what I think is her fair-mindedness and genuine tolerance, methinks that you are taking her (indeed dramatic) turn in perspective and rhetoric as a turn towards the bad elements (real, imagined, exaggerated, or whatnot) that you see in the "ARI approach." (I don't think she's gone the route -- at least I would hope she hasn't -- of alienating good people like Chris Sciabarra with whom she could nonetheless have significant disagreements over, say, matters of strategy in promoting Objectivism. That's one of the areas where I see a pretty disappointing performance from the representative ARI folks rather across the board [which has been by and large to ignore or dismiss, but not to engage him or his thesis].) In any case, it seems unfortunate that, whatever the causes, your years-long correspondence with Diana appeared to have come to a sputtering end. As you suggest in your note to her from back then, and as appears to be the case with so much (non-)discussion here on these boards, it looks like you just don't see eye-to-eye with ARI folks on a number of issues.

Moral Rights & Political Freedom

Mike_M's picture

Cited in Smith's first book, published in 1995:

Den Uyl, Douglas and Douglas Rasmussen. Liberty and Nature - An Aristotelian Defense of Liberal Order. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1991.

Miller, Fred D., Jr. "Aristotle and the Natural Rights Tradition." Reason Papers 13 (1998): 166-81.

Rasmussen, Douglas. "Individual Rights and Human Flourishing." Public Affairs Quarterly 3 (1989): 89-103.

Intro to Tara Smith's book

AdamReed's picture

Robert: You don't need to wait until you get the book - just follow the link in my previous post to the intro, it is on the Web.

Reference to Badhwar

Robert Campbell's picture

Adam,

I haven't seen Tara Smith's book yet, though I plan to read it.

If she can acknowledge Badhwar, and not be struck by lightning, so much the better.

Robert Campbell

What Ms. Hsieh says

Robert Campbell's picture

 If Ms. Hsieh wants to reown work of such quality as “False Excuses” and “Dursley Duplicity,” so much the better. It remains a fact that she did not publicly mention her own book chapter in the Harry Potter anthology until challenged by me on that issue in our very last email exchange, nearly 3 months after its publication.

My email that Ms. Hsieh refers to is dated August 16, 2004.

I drafted a much longer version that enumerated the progressive stages in Ms. Hsieh's spiritual delousing as she moved into the orbit of the Ayn Rand Institute—the departure from managing Nathaniel Branden's website, the public denunciation of David Kelley, the public endorsement of “Fact and Value,” the insistence that Kelley was a pragmatist and a subjectivist, the private denunciation of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden (in June 2004, announcing a public denunciation at a later time to be chosen by Ms. Hsieh), the public denunciation in August 2004, and on and on. I didn't send it, because I thought it would come across as pointlessly inflammatory.

Included in the context was the fact that Ms. Hsieh had formerly sent me her papers for comment, including “False Excuses” and “Dursley Duplicity,” and stated her appreciation for what I had to say about them. But starting in April 2004 she publicly complained that no one in the TOC orbit had ever offered a proper Objectivist critique of any of her work. That, of course, included me, although as she has often done since she began her turn toward ARI, Ms. Hsieh left that indictment to innuendo. She also quit asking me to comment on any of her work.

By August 2004, Ms. Hsieh was no longer answering my emails inquiring about the details of her views concerning moral principles and their relation to action. These were politely worded, and focused on the details of what she had been saying on her blog over the previous month or so.

So here's what I wrote:

Diana,

I have a small request for you, when you are able to turn your attention back to your blog.

I am asking you to remove the link to my personal Web site.

I used to look forward to reading your blog.  I am sorry to say that I no longer enjoy it, and don't plan to read it any more.

I think the philosophical and political portions of your blog are now for Ayn Rand Institute supporters only.  There's the trouble.  I am not a supporter of ARI.  The barriers to my becoming one are just about insuperable.  I do believe that your ARI-oriented blog entries are sincere expressions of the conclusions you have arrived at.  But the manner in which you have been presenting them does not seem intended to persuade anyone like me to accept closed-system Objectivism, as propounded by the leading lights of ARI.   Meanwhile the ARI contingent that comments regularly on your blog strikes me as totally uninterested in persuading anyone who is not already a convert.

Less than a year ago, I would have enjoyed talking to you about philosophy of mind.  Yet I haven't dared send you a book review that I published recently.  It appears in a TOC publication, and there is too much in it that does not derive from Ayn Rand's writings, or from the expositions of her philosophy currently accepted by ARI.  I am afraid that these topics would end up dominating the discussion.

I am working with Walter Foddis on an article about theories of self-esteem... and one of the theories is Nathaniel Branden's.  It looks to me as though that the content of that theory, and its relationship with the evidence available to psychologists, would end up taking a back seat to discussions of how awful a person NB is, or how bad for Objectivism certain of his books and articles are.  So, little point in talking about theories of self-esteem either.

Looking at it from the other side of the table, I gather that you no longer see benefit in discussing your current work in ethical theory with me, because I might be objecting to portions of the framework that you have adopted, manifesting either gross misunderstanding or an incorrigibly non-Objectivist attitude.

So there's the impasse.  We're going to have to go our separate ways.

Robert

PS.  You're welcome to keep material of mine that you cross-posted in the past.

***********************

I have not been a regular reader of Ms. Hsieh's blog at any time since August 2004.

Beyond that, I am not going to post--or quote from--Ms. Hsieh's reply without her permission.

However, on rereading her reply, I will say that it struck me at the time, that I had to choose between breaking off our friendship, or waiting for her to break it off. I had already left NoodleFood in early June 2004, because I preferred leaving under my own power to being thrown off. It was already clear to me that she would throw non-ARIans off her blog, but never get rid of even the most inane and obnoxious of the ARI contingent that had already flocked there. (For instance, she complained about some of Fred Weiss's rhetoric, but was evidently unwilling to boot him out.)

The only other thing I can say is that others have preferred not to force the issue as I did—yet the longer-term results have been exactly the same.  Anyone who thinks that, had I not sent this particular email in August 2004, Ms. Hsieh and I would now be amicably discussing empirical tests of Branden's theory of self-esteem, or chatting about emergentist critiques of epiphenomenalism, has a lot of explaining to do; otherwise, a test for controlled substances might be in order.

Robert Campbell

Too Good to be True

Mike_M's picture

Diana wrote: Robert broke with me in August 2004 -- on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be friends with an advocate of the closed system view of Objectivism.

This is too perfect. Robert, you're trollin' around calling Diana, the Valliants, Casey Fahy, Don Watkins, and me true believers/Randroids/dogmatists/whatever, and then THIS is how you live your life!? Let's take a look at this again.

Robert broke with me in August 2004 -- on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be friends with an advocate of the closed system view of Objectivism.

Jesus. You're a bad person, Rob.

A Decided Lack of Glue

DianaHsieh's picture

I continue to be baffled by the claims that Robert Campbell makes about me. They just make no sense.

Here's what Robert said most recently:

    Fourth, Ms. Hsieh has shown no interest in defending her published work (see http://www.dianahsieh.com/ under Published Papers), even though, in my opinion, it is of substantially better quality than any of her post-conversion blog entries that I have seen. I presume this is because during her conversion to ARIanism in 2004, she publicly repudiated all of her previous work as the product of insufficient knowledge of Objectivism. In particular, I recall Ms. Hsieh declaring that her article on “False Excuses”was fatally infected with consequentialism. Yet more recently Ms. Hsieh has actually recommended “False Excuses” on her blog. And I continue to wonder about her chapter on “Dursley Duplicity,” which she did eventually announce on her blog despite apparently encompassing it in her repudiation. The chapter appeared in an anthology co-edited by Shawn Klein, who has received scholarship money from TOC and continues to be affiliated with that organization. Is Mr. Klein's involvement sufficient to taint the chapter? Or does it harbor fatal flaws that are strictly the fault of the author?

Huh?!? Why oh why must I "defend" my published work at all?!? I've negatively commented upon just ONE of my published papers, namely my paper for the Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand anthology. I haven't thought myself obliged to publicly state that I continue to regard the rest as good work, despite some flaws.

As for my false excuses paper, I did mention that I'd received some hard-hitting and just criticisms from an Objectivist graduate student of a short version of the since-published paper. In that post, I just said, "My commentator, Greg Salmieri, offered excellent and entirely just criticism of the piecemeal and consequentialist approach to honesty found in that paper." However, those problems were far less evident in the full version of the paper -- and I was able to make some minor critical changes before publication. I regard that paper as good work, although not perfect.

As for my "Dursley Duplicity" essay in Harry Potter and Philosophy, I have absolutely NO IDEA why Robert "continues to wonder" about my view of that. Robert broke with me in August 2004 -- on the grounds that he couldn't possibly be friends with an advocate of the closed system view of Objectivism. (I tried to argue against his misrepresentations of my views, but he never bothered to reply.) In January 2005, he wrote me asking various questions about the recent Ayn Rand Society meeting, my Harry Potter essay, and so on. I answered his e-mail only because I mistakenly thought that he was attempting some kind of reconciliation. Regarding the Harry Potter essay, Robert wrote:

    Is it true, by the way, that you've never mentioned the publication of Harry Potter and Philosophy on NoodleFood? I thought really highly of your chapter on "Dursley Duplicity." Do you really think so ill of it now? Or are you more concerned about Shawn Klein's connection with TOC?

I replied:

    It's true that I haven't yet mentioned the essay. However, that's due to perfectly ordinary oddities about blogging personal news, not any dismay over either the essay or the editor. I re-read the essay just a few weeks ago: I'm still very happy with it. I was hoping to post on it this week, in fact.

Shortly thereafter, I did post on it: "A Long Overdue Announcement About Harry Potter and Philosophy." I wrote:

    It's a good essay, I think, perhaps even my best work to date. So I'm pleased to have it published in a volume that is likely to be fairly widely read. In general, I do recommend the volume. As expected, I disagreed at least in part with many of the essays. Yet all were clear, and many were quite interesting. (I particularly enjoyed the essay on Slytherin and ambition, as it got me thinking about the relationship between various virtues and other character traits which are related to virtues but not virtues themselves.) Also, the subtitle ("If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts") is very apt, as most of the essays were Aristotelian in flavor.

    Of course, my friend and editor Shawn Klein deserves a great thank you for making it all possible. Not only did he approach me about contributing to the volume, but he also gave me helpful feedback along the way. More importantly, in so doing he introduced me to the ever-delightful Harry Potter novels. They were the best philosophy reading I've ever had to do! (And speaking of Harry, the sixth novel is due out this summer. Rejoice!)

For the record, I still think that essay my best work to date. I still think that Shawn Klein did a good job of editing that volume. I still think well of Shawn himself, despite his involvement with TOC.

I'm really growing tired of these misrepresentations from Robert. At this point, his claims are so obviously contrary to the facts in his possession that I suspect he's not attempting to lie, but merely that he's come mentally unglued about me. Really, there's not much I can do about that -- except continue to correct the record as necessary. Still, that's really tiresome.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Taint Hypothesis - Disconfirming Evidence

AdamReed's picture

Robert - you write: "(Hsieh's) chapter appeared in an anthology co-edited by Shawn Klein, who has received scholarship money from TOC and continues to be affiliated with that organization. Is Mr. Klein's involvement sufficient to taint the chapter?"

Have you read Tara Smith's introduction to her "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics?" In the very first paragraph it has a favorable reference to Neera Badhwar, who has published under the auspices of TOC, and, as far as I know, has not repudiated any of her publications. I think that this disconfirms the "taint" hypothesis.

The Arbitrary

Fred Weiss's picture

Robert, you claim that "...the Peikovians...reject a wide range of hypotheses or assertions as arbitrary, even though in many (most?) cases they haven't a bloody clue whether they're really arbitrary or not. They end up substituting their dislike for the assertions, or their judment that they are inconsistent with Objectivism as they understand it, for proper assessments of arbitrariness."

As far as I can tell your charge against us in this regard is in itself a very good example of the arbitrary. At least as it stands.

Would you mind providing some examples?

Closing thoughts

Robert Campbell's picture

Now that activity on this thread has quieted down, I'll offer some closing observations.

First, if you scroll down it a piece, you'll see I posted what I thought was a pretty substantial critique of the way that ARI Objectivists use the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion. So far, no ARI Objectivist has responded to it. Should I conclude that the differences between ARI Objectivists and Randians outside of ARI concerning the arbitrary aren't all that crucial? Or should I conclude that ARI Objectivists aren't interested in defending their conception of the arbitrary? Could it be that they're content with asserting it arbitrarily?

Second, I've realized that my generalization, a couple of weeks back, about Mr. Valliant's book as a recruiting tool for the Ayn Rand Institute was way too hasty. The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics may now be serving as the new loyalty test among the orthodox, supplementing or replacing Peikoff's “Fact and Value,” but it seems to have played a decisive role in only a small number of conversions to ARIanism. So I will keep recommending the book without worrying that I am thereby giving a whole lot of assistance to ARI, or lending much support to the policies of its leaders.

Third, I genuinely do not know what is currently taught to students at OAC, or other ARI-sponsored venues. I do not think that Will Thomas's mass emailing to members of Objectivist clubs was appropriate—not because of the way that he got the addresses, but because of the content of the email. I doubt he knew enough about what was going on OAC to be in a position to say some of the things that he said. The only information available to me is what senior figures at ARI are writing, and what ARI supporters who blog, or contribute to message boards, are saying. I can see some dreadfully poor argumentation being put forth by ARI supporters. It provides plenty of data to confirm that ARI encourages Randroidism, but no basis for singling out individual teachers or what they specifically teach. That's why I worded the title of my blog entry as a question. In the best of all worlds, all of the contributors at ARI will get their ideas into the open literature. That, in turn, will largely dispel any mystery that might cling to OAC or other such instructional activities.

Fourth, Ms. Hsieh has shown no interest in defending her published work (see http://www.dianahsieh.com/ under Published Papers), even though, in my opinion, it is of substantially better quality than any of her post-conversion blog entries that I have seen. I presume this is because during her conversion to ARIanism in 2004, she publicly repudiated all of her previous work as the product of insufficient knowledge of Objectivism. In particular, I recall Ms. Hsieh declaring that her article on “False Excuses”was fatally infected with consequentialism. Yet more recently Ms. Hsieh has actually recommended “False Excuses” on her blog. And I continue to wonder about her chapter on “Dursley Duplicity,” which she did eventually announce on her blog despite apparently encompassing it in her repudiation. The chapter appeared in an anthology co-edited by Shawn Klein, who has received scholarship money from TOC and continues to be affiliated with that organization. Is Mr. Klein's involvement sufficient to taint the chapter? Or does it harbor fatal flaws that are strictly the fault of the author?

For the record, I read “False Excuses” and “Dursley Duplicity” before publication and told Ms. Hsieh that I thought highly of both. Not that any of this will work in their favor today...

Robert Campbell

Link to one more article

Robert Campbell's picture

Here's a link to one more of my articles in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/brandenreview.pdf

Full disclosure: this is a largely favorable review of a book that Nathaniel Branden published in 1997.  I've known Nathaniel Branden since 1996.  (For what's it worth, I've also corresponded with Barbara Branden.)  I do not know either Branden as well as Chris Sciabarra does.  Make of all of this what you will.

I have one further article in press; it will be out the Spring 2006 issue of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.  It's a defense of Ayn Rand's conception of altruism, against Robert Bass's complaint that she created a straw man version of altruism that no one actually believes in.  Rand defined altruism as "living for others and placing others above self" (Roark's courtroom speech in The Fountainhead).  This is essentially the same definition as was put forward by Auguste Comte, who invented the word altruisme, which he said amounted to Vivre pour autrui (living for others).  I also discuss how the notion of altruism was quickly made vague or watered down by other philosophers, during the two generations that followed Comte's introduction of the word.

As per the JARS copyright agreement, I can't put this article on my website till 6 months have elapsed since the paper version came out.  I'll be happy to answer questions, though.

Robert Campbell 

Links to more of my JARS articles

Robert Campbell's picture

Here, as promised, are links to three more of my articles in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/machanreview.pdf

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/impliedepist.pdf

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/goalsvalues.pdf

And since the link to my article on Rand and the cognitive revolution didn't heat up properly, here it is again, at the correct serving temperature:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/randcogrev.html

Robert Campbell

deleted.

JoeM's picture

deleted.

Seriously?

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

As my reply to Siabarra's review indicates (i know it's almost impossible to find, unheralded -- and buried deep within the comments section), that review was anything but "balanced." Are you suggesting that Sciabarra's review, despite its length, actually addressed the substance of PARC? I have received a lot of constructive criticism of the book which I value. That review is not among such criticism.

I understand Sciabarra's context, his good friendship with both of the Brandens, and hoped that we could politely leave it there... And, as Chris knows, the reveiw was hardly surprising to me.

If JARS does not understand that it has a distinct problem with scholars like me, not to mention ARI-affiliated scholars, then JARS is in deep trouble.

Misc.

Neil Parille's picture

James,

If Prof. Campbell said you have a "cult mentality" then I think he owes you an apology. He says he didn't. I don't have time to research the back and forth between you two.

I note (again) that you don't seem worked up over the attacks by ARIans against non-ARIans, nor have you commented on any piece in JARS.

What started this thread was a discussion by Prof. Campbell of an attack by Diana Hsieh and Don Watkins on a piece that I (of all people) wrote. Prof. Campbell pointed out that they attacked my article without mentioning my key points (Rand's Journals and the article "The Missing Link"). With the exception of Casey, no one has told us what Rand might have meant with her reference to "sub humans" and "missing links" living among us, so I think Prof. Campbell made a good point.

Casey,

Since Dr. Sciabarra did a balanced review of PARC (as someone pointed out). I think any review of PARC in JARS would be fair and far from a "hatchet job."

Mr. Cathcart,

Parrish is a Christian philosopher so I think it's fair to say he's a critic of Objectivism. I believe Chris has said that the next issue of JARS will have an article by T. Machan defending Rand's ethics against Mack's criticism. This certainly indicates that it is non-partisian, as we would agree.

James,

Chris Cathcart's picture

Submitted by James S. Valliant on Thu, 2006-04-13 05:41.
Chris Cathcart,

When did I say that ONLY ARI types are worthy of decent treatment? I merely asserted that EVEN ARI types are worthy of decent treatment -- if JARS is really "nonpartisan," that is.

Okay. In any case, I hope I hadn't said something suggesting that you had said that "ONLY ARI types are worthy of decent treatment." My comments pertained to other points, namely that folks like Mack and Rasmussen are "leading thinkers" who do publish in JARS, even if there are "leading Objectivists" (in the strict sense of "Objectivist") who do not.

As to whether JARS is "non-partisan," I don't see why it wouldn't be, particularly if its submissions are blind-reviewed. Well, and I also view Chris Sciabarra moreso than Robert Campbell or anyone else as the "name and face" of JARS, which people can take for what it's worth. I take it to mean that JARS has a very respectful, objective and non-partisan approach. Like you, I regard it as unfortunate that he's not actively participating on forums like this anymore, to best demonstrate that. Not that I hadn't seen him do it before, for years....

Nonpartisan?

James S. Valliant's picture

Chris Cathcart,

When did I say that ONLY ARI types are worthy of decent treatment? I merely asserted that EVEN ARI types are worthy of decent treatment -- if JARS is really "nonpartisan," that is.

Casey

Mick Russell's picture

Deleted

Submitted by James S.

Chris Cathcart's picture

Submitted by James S. Valliant on Wed, 2006-04-12 21:10.
Neil,

That you simply take for granted with a shrug the absence of the leading Objectivist thinkers from the pages of something called 'The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies,' is a sad and sorry state of affairs, don't you think? If the likes of Tara Smith (or Leonard Peikoff or a host of others) won't contribute, the journal can hardly be said to be representative of the serious scholarship in the field.

Well, first, a minor nit: I wasn't aware of Peikoff publishing an article in any journal in recent years anyhow.

Second, you make a comment that mostly mirrors one that you made in Sciabarra's blog, but actually more pronounced: not that merely "so many leading Objectivists don't publish there," but that "the leading Objectivist thinkers don't publish there." Whether they qualify as Objectivists strictly speaking or not, people like Mack and Rasmussen are nonetheless highly sympathetic to Objectivism at the very least and are leading *Rand-inspired* thinkers. Your reference to "the leading Objectivists" has the appearance of downplaying the importance of the contributions made by thinkers like Rasmussen and Mack.

Also, I don't know which all individuals get the designation "Objectivist" in the strict sense, but I don't see that only "ARI types" would qualify. Admittedly, we have few concretes to go on as of yet for what I would think are (a) "leading Objectivist scholars" (Tara Smith, most noticeably) and (b) "leading Rand scholars" (most notably Ms. Smith, Mack, the Dougs).

Neil, is there any doubt...

Casey's picture

... that if JARS did a review of PARC it would be a hatchet job?

Criticism in print/journals

Chris Cathcart's picture

Submitted by Neil Parille on Wed, 2006-04-12 22:02.

However, I don't think that the decision of ARI scholars in this respect is a referrendum on the quality of JARS. I'm sure they have their reasons. For example, JARS has published essays critical of Rand's ethics (such as those by Mack and Parrish). If I were associated with the ARI, I probably wouldn't publish in JARS for that reason.

Except that in the case of Mack (I don't know about Parrish), it's a case of very-friendly and respectful criticism that aims at clearing up ambiguating issues regarding aspects of Rand's method of argument or presentation. At minimum, it's useful for purposes of seeing how and where Rand might be taken the wrong way by a normal reader of her works, and working towards steering away from such misunderstandings. In the case of Mack's "Problematic Arguments" essay, the specific piece I have in mind, I don't consider it to be lousy scholarship, even if I do think he's giving Rand something of a tough time. I think that essay does considerable work at picking at Rand's mode of presentation without sufficiently acknowledging the spirit of her argument, which is less ambiguous than he makes it out to be when he's pointing to separate "strands" of her argument for virtue. (I think he's well aware that she herself, in spirit, falls squarely into the "virtue is a means to, and constitutive of, living *qua man*" camp and decidedly not the contingent-consequentialist one, but he does rather effectively show that her writings have the understandable effect of leading the normal reader into distinct and disparate lines of argument.)

In the end, I don't see what the big problem is. So Mack raised some respectful and friendly critical remarks that aren't out of left field but have some reasonable basis in the literature. I don't see why some group of "ARI types" or anyone else for that matter should get worked up against it. Usually when someone like Mack speaks up, he's got something worthwhile to say. Is the problem that the criticism and question-raising showed up in print? I don't get it. The criticism is there, deal with it with the respect it rightly commands, and move on.

Uh-oh. Did I just get into a little bit of substantive discussion of a journal article? Did I forget where I was? Back to your regularly scheduled mudslinging....
Eye

Lesbians

Chris Cathcart's picture

Submitted by Philip Coates on Thu, 2006-04-13 02:12.
> Hey, did someone mention lesbians? [cathcar]

Bit behind the curve, dude. We've moved on and are only discussing them now if they are cultists or claim moral perfection or can tango and have had the love child of some obscure figure named Zizek.

Moved on? Moved on?!?! That's a subject that we need never move on from. If there's one thing that all of us here can and should agree upon, it's lesbians.

(It's a favorite running bit over on HPO. All there seem to be able to agree on that one issue. The great uniter, or something. Smiling

JARS

James S. Valliant's picture

Yes, Neil, the level of hostility expressed here makes it quite reasonable for me to want to know about the attitudes of each of the editors of JARS towards ARI-affiliated scholars in some detail.

If JARS wants to really "invite" ARI scholars, the burden of proof is on them, Neil.

Notice the title and substance of associate editor Campell's essay which started thread.

Robert

eg's picture

You seem to have a profound dislike of Ayn Rand if not Objectivism too. I don't think she was perfect.

Seriously

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

I ask you to observe what Mr. Campbell has just posted. He owed me a clean apology, or, at least, the recognition of the truth of what he had said.

Frankly, he should be fired at this point, simply in order to salvage the sinking credibility of JARS. (And I've read every issue.)

A single editor who can be that uncivil and out of touch with reality -- that far out of touch with reality -- and that warped by partisanship -- is enough to demonstrate just how warped the very process of hiring and supervising editors is over there.

Unless management does something immediately about this, why should I, James Valliant, trust JARS, Neil? (One of Campbell's editor-colleagues there is a good personal friend of both Brandens.)

Such reasons are not "arbitrary," nor need we speculate, when they are so obvious.

In this case, I can just point.

Perfect Lesbians

PhilipC's picture

> Hey, did someone mention lesbians? [cathcar]

Bit behind the curve, dude. We've moved on and are only discussing them now if they are cultists or claim moral perfection or can tango and have had the love child of some obscure figure named Zizek.

Seriously

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

I do not think the ARI is a cult or that you have a cult mentality. The latest issue of JARS lists 12 people: editors (3 people), associate editor (Campbell) and board of advisors (8 people). If one of these people has said you have a "cult mentality" (and I would like to see proof) then I consider it inappropriate. On the other hand, that doesn't indicate that JARS as such has a negative view of you or ARI people.

And I stand by my comment that the bile is much more directed by ARIans against the JARSians than the other way.

In any event, until ARIans state why the won't submit article for publication to JARS, isn't any speculation about their motives "arbitrary"?

Bernstein affair

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant,

You've also not commented, during this thread, on Andrew Bernstein's public recantation and call for a boycott of JARS in June 2002.

Wasn't that "bile" directed at JARS by a major figure at ARI?

Robert Campbell

"Cult mentality"

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Valliant,

I never said you had a cult mentality.  The word "cult" is at best imprecise, and the worst stuff that anyone has done at the Ayn Rand Institute would not begin to compare with what has gone on in, say, the Church of Scientology.  Ayn Rand was not another L. Ron Hubbard; neither is Leonard Peikoff.

What I have inferred, from reading your book and from participating in many rounds of exchanges with you (mostly on SOLOHQ), is that while you make an occasional concession that lasts a hot minute or two, you quickly revert to a pattern that includes:

* presupposing that Rand had the best motives in any particular case, while her adversary (e.g., Nathaniel Branden) had the worst possible motives

* denying that you attribute moral perfection to Rand, while rejecting any proffered evidence of the slightest moral imperfection

* defending virtually every action taken by ARI and its principals, no matter how questionable

I tried pointing out, on SOLOHQ, that Rand used the argument from intimidation on multiple occasions (and that Rand believed that arguments from intimidation are always done on purpose).  You construed every example (provided by me, by Merlin Jetton, by Peter Reidy, and others) as something other than an argument from intimidation.

I'm prepared to develop the case that, in her essay on psychologizing, Rand hatched an anti-concept.  She didn't think hatching anti-concepts was an innocent activity.  But would you take hatching an anti-concept as a moral imperfection?

I tried pointing out, on SOLOHQ, that Rand's journal entries showed plentiful evidence of jealousy (my word) or insult (Ellen Stuttle's--I think they are pretty much the same) vis-a-vis her rival, Patrecia Scott.  In your book, you had denied that Rand was jealous.  You continued to do so in our exchanges.

In your book, you regularly praised Rand's psychological diagnoses of Nathaniel Branden, when in fact they were not particularly accurate, and her inaccuracy could easily be excused on the grounds that she was being lied to.   You also failed to note that Rand's acting as a psychotherapist for Nathaniel Branden is considered unethical by professional therapists and counselors.

Many people have challenged your defenses of the Ayn Rand Estate's game-playing with regard to Chris Sciabarra seeing her college transcript, of the policy of erasing the voices of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden and John Hospers from tapes, of ARI's decision not to sell George Reisman's book Capitalism, of ARI's decision to stop selling David Kelley's book The Evidence of the Senses, etc. etc.  In all cases (except the Kelley book issue, where I don't recall seeing any response), you've kept defending the actions of ARI and its principals.

Personally, I take all of this to mean that you are acting as a partisan of ARI.  It doesn't mean that the other members of the editorial board agree with me, and it definitely doesn't constitute a reason not to publish your work in JARS. (Leonard Peikoff is widely viewed as a partisan of ARI, but JARS wouldn't turn him down as a potential author.)  I suspect that your work will invite vigorous rejoinders upon publication there, but so have a number of other articles published in JARS.

I withdrew my claim that you were promoting the moral perfection of Ayn Rand at a much earlier stage in our exchanges.  Since then, there have been a lot more exchanges, and the pattern has continued.  I've been frustrated, in fact, that you've seemed not to take Rand's own (rather Olympian) characterization of moral perfection seriously; surely this was what she claimed for herself when she compared herself to the heroes of her novels, and declared "And I mean it."

Just in the present context, what's your view of your supporter Mr. Fahy's recent statement, at

http://www.solopassion.com/node/835#comment-6216

I read it as a brief for Rand's moral perfection, which everyone would have seen long ago, had it not been for the calumnies spread by "the Brandens."

Do you agree with Mr. Fahy?

And am I reading him wrong?

Robert Campbell

Seriously

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

I have demonstrated my ability and willingness to engage Chris Sciabarra in a civilized way. As a subscriber to JARS, at the moment, I can even tell you that Campbell is the only "associate editor" listed on the magazine's front credits. I have successfully engaged you without a single insult of that kind passing between us.

Now, if I am a "cult mentality" to this delightful bigot, ARI-affiliated scholars would be out of their minds to have anything to do with JARS.

JARS as non partisan

JoeM's picture

Here's the official status, James:

The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is a nonpartisan journal devoted to the study of Ayn Rand and her times. The journal is not aligned with any advocacy group, institute, or person. It welcomes papers from every discipline and from a variety of interpretive and critical perspectives. It aims to foster scholarly dialogue through a respectful exchange of ideas.

While we publish essays by Objectivists and those influenced by Rand, we are especially interested in publishing scholars who work in traditions outside of Objectivism--including those who are critical of Rand's thought. We promote and encourage scholarly give-and-take among diverse elements of the academy.

Straw Man

JoeM's picture

I didn't say JARS was or wasn't a very good magazine. I stated that JARS stands behind the qualities of its work by claiming to hold a high standard for inclusion. I objected to Neil's statement to engage the "better" articles because of the this standard. His objection is akin to the beginner martial art student eager to show off a newly learned technique, only to be frustrated when the other person doesn't hit him as choreographed.

And why should someone at ARI be enthusiastic about reading an article in JARS when said journal openly welcomes critics who do not take Rand seriously, as Zizek admittedly does?

Straw Man

JoeM's picture

double post deleted.

That's The Case

James S. Valliant's picture

Forget "personalities," Neil, why should I, or any like-minded person, participate when an editor calls us names like that? You don't have to be an editor to answer that one, or to see why the "invitation" looks insincere.

In That Case

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

You will have to take up your complaints with the editors of JARS. Considering that they are wililng to publish stuff by ARIans, TOCers, neo-Objectivists and non-Objectivists they seem about as non-partisan as you can get. Of course, most people who publish there probably think the ARI is a bit extreme in some of its policies and attitudes. I don't think that makes them slanted to the "enemies" of Objectivism (unless you consider all critics of the ARI enemies of Objectivism). Actually, I think those who reject some of Rand's more extreme ideas (Kant the most evil man in history, for example) are probably better friends of Objectivism in the long run than the ARI. But since I'm not an Objectivist my ideas don't count for much in that respect.

My interest is in Objectivism and Rand's ideas, not personalities. I've learned a lot from ARIans and non-ARIans.

Oh, In That Case...

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

Whether O.S. claims to be "non-partisan" or not, like JARS, I do not know. If it did, then absurdly partisan assertions by its editors would be important. Do they make the same insincere claims to be "inviting" others that JARS does?

The "bile" you speak of would indeed be a bad thing if it were directed at writers a journal claims to be "inviting" (like me) BY ONE OF ITS EDITORS.

If JARS admits that it is a partisan magazine, intentionally slanted to the enemies of Objectivism, of course, I withdraw my complaint.

What's the point

Mike_M's picture

Robert, what's your point? That I was over-dramatic in the one brief comment I made on JARS? OK, guilty as charged. Of course, that was never the point of either of my posts. The point of my posts on the blog was the same as my point here. You have repeatedly used loaded and unjustified language in 'criticizing' ARI, while refusing to address the point that your characterization of ARI contradicted known facts. I called Bill Nevin on the same thing, and he apparently backed down when I pointed out that he had no factual basis for his accusations. You, on the other hand, invented stories about Diana and others and refused to back down when she others proved those stories impossible. Then you went on a tangent about how I am a Randroid on three different forums. (Apparently the working definition of "Randroid" is "someone who doesn't like Robert Campbell").

I have no opinion of your scholarly abilities, which I why I didn't comment on them. Given your pattern of making up things about your opponents, your misrepresenting the views of your opponents, and your pattern of running to other forums after every other post, I have no desire to engage you in any type of serious exchange. I hope I've been clear.

- Mike

Inviting

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

I think it's unforunate that ARI scholars don't publish in JARS. Chris Sciabarra says they are welcome to.

However, I don't think that the decision of ARI scholars in this respect is a referrendum on the quality of JARS. I'm sure they have their reasons. For example, JARS has published essays critical of Rand's ethics (such as those by Mack and Parrish). If I were associated with the ARI, I probably wouldn't publish in JARS for that reason.

But until ARI types discuss articles in JARS (such as the ones I have mentioned) I think their criticism of the quality of JARS work is rightly ignored. (And, as Chris said, I don't think Tara Smith is on record as saying she wouldn't publish in JARS, but maybe her position as changed.) In any event, do you think the Objective Standard should publish stuff by non-ARI scholars? I think the O.S. is entitled to make whatever decisions they want concerning whom to publish, even if they "marginalize" themselves.

Prof. Campbell can speak for himself. I find that the "bile" is generally directed at Chris Sciabarra, Tibor Machan, JARS, etc. by ARI types much more than the other way around.

It's Got Me Laughing...

James S. Valliant's picture

But it can't be too entertaining for the editors of JARS, however.

Entertainment value

Chris Cathcart's picture

Philip Coates writes:
"In the main ring, we have the Robert Campbell - Mike Mazza match which is just entering its 29th round, with no one willing to break off contact and go sit in their corners. Jon Trager, Brant Gaede, Diana Hsieh, BSimovici, the Incredible Hulk and several other participants have entered the ring from time to time to try to bite the ear or butt of one or more of the contestants contestants and Jenna W tried to start a seminar on neuroscience in the least sweaty and slippery corner of the rink. The referee gave up on enforcing the no blows below the belt rule about eight hours ago and has left to catch a flight to Cleveland. The blood has begun to clot in the aisles. Cable television coverage has ceased, however, along with interest from those outside of the immediate family of the combatants. The TV audience began to flip channels looking for a Disney movie or other family entertainment quite some time ago."

Hey, did someone mention lesbians?

How Inviting

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

That you simply take for granted with a shrug the absence of the leading Objectivist thinkers from the pages of something called 'The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies,' is a sad and sorry state of affairs, don't you think? If the likes of Tara Smith (or Leonard Peikoff or a host of others) won't contribute, the journal can hardly be said to be representative of the serious scholarship in the field.

Robert Campbell has, on this site, said that I have a "cult mentality." I cannot blame ANY ARI affiliated scholar for refusing to contribute to JARS, simply based on his use of this smear and his relationship to JARS. I am told that this kind of story (with a different cast) can be multiplied many times over.

If JARS is serious about its "invitation," it might begin to consider the noxious bile that routinely oozes from the critics of ARI.

Until then, it marginalizes itself.

Chains and links and such

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Maurone,

Would you take seriously the argument that The Objectivist wasn't a very good magazine, because it published Rand's essay, "The Psychology of Psychologizing"?

I am prepared to make my case that "The Psychology of Psychologizing" was a weak, muddled article. I would not leap to the conclusion that The Objectivist, overall, was on the same level of quality as the National Enquirer.

Robert Campbell

Responses to JARS articles

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Maurone,

The reason I asked whether Mr. Mazza had read Zizek's article in its entirety is that he used the ambiguous locution "know about" in connection with it.

In other words, somebody might have told him about this wild and crazy pomo article that suggested that Galt and Dagny were, covertly, a Lesbian couple.

Mr. Mazza is welcome to comment on any article in JARS, so long as he has actually read it.

If it turns out he that has read only Zizek's article... we'll cross that bridge later.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mazza has yet to confirm that he had read any articles in JARS before he called it the National Enquirer of Rand scholarship.

Robert

Showing rather than telling

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Edge,

You can find my first article in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies here:

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~cam...

Comments are welcome, as they have always been.

I will make my other JARS articles available on my website during the next week or so.

Robert Campbell
http://www.robertlcampbell.com

A chain is only as strong as the weakest link...

JoeM's picture

Campbell seems to have thought that the Zizek piece had enough merit to come out and defend it; he even said to Mike M.:

"Mr. Mazza,
Did you read Zizek's entire article?
Or did someone else merely describe it to you?
Trust me--whatever you think of Zizek's worldview, it's a lot more fun if you read the whole piece."

So don't say no one is willing to engage with some of the "better" JARS articles.

It's my understanding that JARS is double blind peer reviewed, and takes seriously every bit of writing that is submitted to ensure that they are taken seriously. It was also considered a major coup to have Zizek write for the journal, given that he was a political figure and "respected" intellectual overseas.

As stated on the "Call for Papers" section of the JARS website: "While we publish essays by Objectivists and those influenced by Rand, we are especially interested in publishing scholars who work in traditions outside of Objectivism--including those who are critical of Rand's thought." Zizek's piece fits the criteria here, so it is indeed reflective of what JARS seeks to publish.

Zizek Piece

Neil Parille's picture

I'm not a fan of it and I don't think JARS should have published it.

But JARS has published 13 issues so their decision to print this 14 page article isn't reflective of much of anything.

Prof. Campbell, myself and others have asked for ARI supporters (or anyone else) to engage with some of the better articles in JARS. Of course, no one will do that.

How about Bryan Register's article on concepts in vol 1, no 2 as an example?

Well, you know, some people

JoeM's picture

Well, you know, some people just can't get enough of that wonderful muff...

Lesbians Again

PhilipC's picture

Look, enough with the Lesbians, already. We did them a few posts back.

To be fair...

JoeM's picture

The Zizek piece as it appears in JARS is "an expanded and revised version of 'The Lesbian Sessions,' an essay which appeared in LACANIAN INK 12 (Fall 1997):58-59."

*Yawn*

Dan Edge's picture

I'm with Phil. I'm tired of seeing people argue endlessly about who is more "scholarly." Essays speak louder than ad hominems. If Robert wants to prove that he is more scholarly than Diana, let him present his work here and defend it. I challenge Mike and others to do the same. That said, I'm inclined to give Robert more hell, since he's the one that started this thread, and has fueled the fire throughout. Show me, don't tell me!

--Dan Edge

Zizek

JoeM's picture

I HAVE read JARS (not to mention the fact that my article followed the Zizek piece, which made similar claims as my own, which I know disown.) Mr. Campbell fails to mention that the Zizek piece was not quite the same as the non-JARS version, it was much more hostile.

Here's a link to the non-JARS version:

http://www.egs.edu/faculty/ziz...

Rand, who wrote the two absolute best-sellers of our century, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), was (deservedly) ignored and ridiculed as a philosopher: her fascination with male figures displaying absolute, unswayable determination of their Will, seems to offer the best imaginable confirmation of Sylvia Plath's famous line, "…every woman adores a Fascist." However, although it is easy to dismiss the very mention of Rand in a "serious" theoretical article as an obscene extravaganza — artistically, she is of course, worthless — the properly subversive dimension of her ideological procedure is not to be underestimated: Rand fits into the line of over-conformist authors who undermine the ruling ideological edifice by their very excessive identification with it.

" (deservedly) ignored" does not appear in the JARS version; neither does "artistically, she is of course, worthless." It's not surprising that such sentiments would be edited for a pro-Rand audience, and Zizek does indeed find some good in Rand, but by no means is he an ally.

Zizek supports Rand against "the Brandens" (?!)

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Mazza and others who are scandalized by the very thought that Slavoj Zizek has published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies might want to consider what this authentic pomo has to say about Ayn Rand's affair with Nathaniel Branden:

**************

There is a well-known story about Rand whose superficially scandalous aspect often eclipses its extraordinary ethical significance. When, in the early fifties, she suffered a writer’s block in the middle of her work on Atlas Shrugged, she proposed to the young Nathaniel Branden and his wife Barbara that, during the time of writing the novel, she would meet Nathaniel in the afternoon twice a week for sexual relations to help her overcome the block ([Barbara] Branden 1986, 259). They came to an agreement, the encounters took place, and when, years later, the novel was completed, the encounters were over.

Although, later on, relations got more complicated, there are nonetheless two important aspects to this anecdote. First, contrary to the standard patriarchal procedure of men exchanging women among themselves, here, the exchange took place among women—one woman borrowed a man from another one. Second, more importantly, Rand did not cheat, the writer’s block was not an excuse to indulge in promiscuity. Once the work was done, she returned the man to his wife. To show such firmness in the most intimate domain bears witness to an ethical stance of extraordinary strength: while Rand was here arguably "immoral," she was ethical in the most profound meaning of the word. It is this ethical stance of inner freedom that accounts for the authenticity clearly discernible in Rand’s description of the momentary impact Howard Roark makes on the members of the audience in the courtroom where he stands trial. (Slavoj Zizek, The actuality of Ayn Rand, JARS 3(2), Spring 2002, p. 224)

Zizek then quotes from the courtroom scene in The Fountainhead.

Robert Campbell

Coates the Peacemaker, and He is Bless-ed

PhilipC's picture

Wait a minute! I thought the Lesbians were holding the cue cards and smooching in between the rounds??? But maybe I just can't see clearly through the cigar smoke and fog.

At any rate, I've given up trying to be a peacemaker. In other situations, scholarly contexts, or venues, I've simply been rewarded by getting dragged into the center of the ring and pummeled alternately with a chair by both sides, both of whom have screamed EKE!! (Evil Kantian Evader) at me. When I get off lightly, they merely condemn me as being unserious about important issues or they ban me from further participation and further beatings.

Coates the Peacemaker, and He is Bless-ed

Boaz the Boor's picture

So which are you, then, immediate family or bored TV audience? There are non-trivial things at stake, here, I think.

Lesbians, for one.

The Contestants are Yet to Tire...and the Beat Goes On

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Phil,

I don't think this has beaten the record at Noodlefood yet. The Disney Channel? Come on, Phil. Where's Hugh Hefner when he's needed most Smiling

Jim

The Contestants are Yet to Tire...and the Beat Goes On

PhilipC's picture

In the main ring, we have the Robert Campbell - Mike Mazza match which is just entering its 29th round, with no one willing to break off contact and go sit in their corners. Jon Trager, Brant Gaede, Diana Hsieh, BSimovici, the Incredible Hulk and several other participants have entered the ring from time to time to try to bite the ear or butt of one or more of the contestants contestants and Jenna W tried to start a seminar on neuroscience in the least sweaty and slippery corner of the rink. The referee gave up on enforcing the no blows below the belt rule about eight hours ago and has left to catch a flight to Cleveland. The blood has begun to clot in the aisles. Cable television coverage has ceased, however, along with interest from those outside of the immediate family of the combatants. The TV audience began to flip channels looking for a Disney movie or other family entertainment quite some time ago.

Inverse Proportion?

Jon Trager's picture

"To repeat something I've said before on OL: if Nathaniel really was the incredible rotter you (and others, not singling you out) indicate he was, then Rand really was a fool ever to have seen in him what she did to begin with. The worse one paints Nathaniel, by inverse proportion, the more foolish one makes her look."

Ellen, I don't see the logic in your comment. If a person is great at pretending to be something he's not, then why would it mean his target was "foolish" for being deceived? Even Leonard Peikoff, in Ayn Rand: A Sense of Life, describes Nathaniel Branden as extremely intelligent and articulate, and excellent at imitatation. I don't think you can infer anything negative about AR based on the premise that she was hoodwinked (temporarily) by someone so skilled--especially if she wanted to give bright and interested people the benefit of the doubt.

Re: Lesbians

Robert Campbell's picture

Sorry to disappoint you, Brant, but JARS rarely pulishes photos.  Dr. Zizek's article is unillustrated.

There is a nice photo of Rand's one-time professor, Nikolai Onufrievich Lossky, accompanying Chris Scibarra's article in a more recent issue.

Probably not what you were looking for, though Smiling

Robert Campbell

PS. To do what the National Enquirer does, wouldn't JARS need lots of photos?  (Preferably including some faked ones...)

Jennifer

eg's picture

Will you marry me?

--Brant

Lesbians

eg's picture

Is JARS illustrated?

--Brant

Sigh.

Prima Donna's picture

First, you're acknowledging then that Valliant does make unprovable claims? (The acknowledgment would seem to be implied by your analogy.)

Ellen, I'm acknowledging no such thing. I substituted the apt words to show that your implications can be pointed in the reverse. No more, no less.

Third, I wonder if you've yet read, or re-read, the post of mine at which you've taken umbrage...

As I've stated previously, I read it the first time. If you couldn't say, you shouldn't have said -- implications are what they are, no matter how you try to couch them. What I'm illustrating is a pattern when coupled with the statement above.


-- "The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

A-D-R-I-A-N-N-N-N....!

Rowlf's picture

Brant:

~~ Get outta the ring! There's a cool cat-fight going on in the middle of Mike's and Robert's UFC!

~~ THIS is S/P's R-A-W!

LLAP

J:D

P.S: "lesbians"? Man, I gotta get a subscription to JARS.

Ellen

eg's picture

I think Ayn was unsophisticated, so does Barbara. Then came Nathan. When you condemn Nathaniel for being a liar ten times as much as Ayn for being a fool, the latter might be more persausive.

--Brant

Ellen

eg's picture

I don't think Nathaniel is an "incredible rotter." I wish him well.

Robert

eg's picture

You don't think much of Ayn Rand?

--Brant

Brant,

Ellen Stuttle's picture

To repeat something I've said before on OL: if Nathaniel really was the incredible rotter you (and others, not singling you out) indicate he was, then Rand really was a fool ever to have seen in him what she did to begin with. The worse one paints Nathaniel, by inverse proportion, the more foolish one makes her look.

Ellen

PS: Anyone interested in my further comments on these topics can find them on OL. One needn't be subscribed there to read the posts there.

PPS: Excellent remarks about the issue of the "arbitrary," Robert!

___

Jennifer,

Ellen Stuttle's picture

First, you're acknowledging then that Valliant does make unprovable claims? (The acknowledgment would seem to be implied by your analogy.)

Second, yes, both Brandens are at times, in their respective books, guilty of the same flaw, although I think Barbara more often than Nathaniel. (Nathaniel wasn't claiming to write a biography, only a memoir, in which he told the story as it looked to him, from his perspective.)

Third, I wonder if you've yet read, or re-read, the post of mine at which you've taken umbrage:

http://wheelerdesignworks.netf...

I think that a careful reading would show that your remarks were only used as a springboard for the speculation and that there's no implication that the further set of emotions described is meant as depicting you in particular. Your comments merely triggered thoughts of persons I've known. To what extent you in particular have any need to see Rand as "unblemished," I couldn't say.

Ellen

___

The Randroid

Jon Trager's picture

If a person considers *any* criticism of ARI or Ayn Rand, no matter how mild or proven by objective evidence, to be an "attack" that should be condemned, then I'd agree that person deserves the title.

But if a person considers a specific criticism of ARI or Ayn Rand to be accusatory and baseless, then viewing such a criticism as an "attack" that should be condemned is rational, and not evidence of "Randroidism." The same principle applies if instead of one such criticism, it's two. Or twenty.

What I've read from several people who have been accused of being Randroids doesn't logically support the conclusion that they oppose any and all criticism of ARI, AR, or O'ism in principle.

Are you serious?

Boaz the Boor's picture

Mr. Campbell,

The paragraph you cited as evidence of Mike's "Randroidism" (about TOC using OAC material) refers to something TOC did that actually qualifies as an attack, not mere disagreement or mild criticism or whatnot. Certainly an insult, like the claim that OAC fosters "parroting" of Ayn Rand, constitutes more than "criticism".

Here's a criticism: you don't seem to have read anything but your own posts very carefully, only enough to glimpse that Mike has the intellectual goods to stand on his own two feet - yet you harp on about how slavish he is to his ARI lords.

You wrote:

"And what is being taught in some of ARI's courses has to be kept secret, in case enemies use what they've learned from and about them to... 'attack.'"

Why should valuable material not be protected? Is there no plausible reason (other than the ridiculous one you impute to ARI) why an organization would want to prevent its competitors from benefiting from its work?

Misuse of notions about the arbitrary

Robert Campbell's picture

Casey,

Here's the big problem I have with the notion of the arbitrary assertion, as Peikoff and subsequently the ARI crowd have come to use it.

An arbitrary assertion is one for which no evidence or rational argument has been provided.  (And the standard here is not whether the evidence or argument is sufficient to prove the assertion true, just whether's there's enough to regard it as plausible, to take it seriously as an assertion about a possibility).

Fine and dandy, so far.  Against radical forms of doubt (say, Descartes' procedure), the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion is effective without much further elaboration.  But most of what Objectivists complain is arbitrary is not part of some brief for skepticism.  The real question becomes: What are the standards of evidence or argument that apply to some kind of assertion?  What are the relevant classes of assertions, for that matter?

Objectivism as Rand left it includes old-fashioned deductive logic, a theory of concept-formation, and some distinctive tools for detecting and rejecting bad arguments, e.g., the fallacy of the stolen concept.  (The stolen concept fallacy makes some nontrivial presuppositions, but I'll assume for purposes of the present argument that they are correct.  I'll assume that the other tools are appropriate as well--with one exception that I'll single out below.)

What closed-system Objectivism does not include is a theory of induction or a philosophy of science.  In other words, many, if not most of the standards of evidence or argument that would be needed to apply to particular assertions are missing.

So far as I know, there isn't even a clear treatment of hypothesis testing.  In his 1970s logic course, Peikoff acknowledged that scientific thinking (and sometimes more ordinary thinking) involve testing hypotheses--and that generating such hypotheses involves creativity.  So where do you draw the line between creative hypothesis generation and what Rand derided as a "flight of fancy"?  (I don't know what Peikoff's current views on the subject are, but if he tries to account for induction entirely without hypothesis testing, he won't get very far.)

What's more, the Objectivist literature includes an essay by Rand titled "The Psychology of Psychologizing."  Ellen Stuttle proposed an interesting test a while back.  Can you recall Rand's precise definition of psychologizing?  (I couldn't.  I had to look it up.)

And if you can recall her definition--do you think that Rand successfully refrains from psychologizing. as she defines it, in the very article in which she declares that it's wrong to do it?

In defense of Mr. Watkins, and of others who find his arguments against Mr. Parille's essay persuasive, you say:

As for the arbitrary claim, ANY speculation about Rand's unspoken motives, mental processes, or methods concerning her sparse comments about evolution, especially when they contradict consistent examples of her motives, mental processes, and method in all other respects, is inevitably arbitrary.

What criteria of evidence apply to analyses of any thinker's motives, or procedures for approaching problems?  (Not just to Ayn Rand's--to Isaac Newton's, Michael Faraday's, Charles Darwin's, or whoever's.)

Is what the thinker says about his or her ways of doing things sufficient?  Or are there aspects of his or her thinking that are inaccessible to introspection and will need to be gotten at some other way?

Indeed, contemporary psychology says that much of what happens in problem-solving and decision making, let alone in remembering or recognizing, is subconscious.

What's more, Rand made many statements about the role of subconscious processes (and of emotions) in her own work--these come through very clearly even in the bowdlerized published versions of her workshops on writing.

So, I'm sorry, unless you have clear criteria for judgments about a thinker's operating procedures and motives--criteria that Rand's own statements about herself invariably meet, and that Mr. Parille's suggestions about Rand's dealings with evolution invariably do not meet--you lack a basis for ruling out Mr. Parille's suggestions.  Instead, you and the others who agree with Mr. Watkins are declaring them to be arbitrary because they fail to meet criteria of evidence that you have not yet established.

If you don't believe me on this issue, ask some people who do good quality intellectual history or intellectual biography, and find out how many of them would reject Mr. Parille's suggestions out of hand.  (For that's what must be done, if they're truly arbitrary.)

And if you say that Mr. Parille has to be wrong, because he is psychologizing, you have your work cut out for you.

I am prepared to argue that "psychologizing" is what Rand called an "anti-concept."  In particular, I believe it's easy to show that Rand's advice for avoiding psychologizing is completely bogus--not to mention unreflective of her own ways of judging people's motives.  But that will take at least another post.

If you say that Mr. Parille has to be wrong, because this is Ayn Rand we're talking about, and not some other thinker--then, I would submit, you are appealing to the supposed perfection of Ayn Rand.  Which you insist that you are not doing.

To summarize:

You can't judge an assertion or hypothesis to be arbitrary, without clear criteria for the evidence or argument that would be required to establish its plausibility.

If you combine the doctrine that an arbitrary assertion must be dismissed (and, by the way, I agree that it must) with inadequately developed standards of evidence or argument, you're going to end up with gross unclarity about when an assertion is arbitrary.  Consequently, nonobjective assessments of arbitrariness are going to proliferate.

And this, so far as I can determine, is precisely what the Peikovians have ended up doing.  They reject a wide range of hypotheses or assertions as arbitrary, even though in many (most?) cases they haven't a bloody clue whether they're really arbitrary or not.  They end up substituting their dislike for the assertions, or their judment that they are inconsistent with Objectivism as they understand it, for proper assessments of arbitrariness.

If the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion were in wider use, what we would see is dueling proclamations of arbitrariness: the Objectivists dismissing a wide array of non-Objectivist theses as arbitrary, and vice versa.

But since Objectivists are far more inclined than others to talk about arbitrary assertions, they may form the illusion that because only they are dismissing a wide range of assertions in this fashion, and their opponents aren't throwing judgments of arbitrariness back at them, they must be right.

Problem is, no one outside the Peikovian camp will ever accept many of these judgments of arbitrariness.  Everyone else would sooner take wooden nickels. And, in the absence of clearer criteria for evidence and argument, I would say that they are right to reject the poor quality judgments and the poor imitations of coinage.

Robert Campbell

PS. For Ayn Rand, "charity" was at best a two-edged word, and "charitable" had a negative connotation that "benevolent" did not.  (Recall the way that Rand portrayed social workers, in both The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.)  So calling something a "charity refutation" connotes inferiority on the part of the person who really shouldn't need it but evidently does.  And if you don't know whether some assertion is really arbitrary or not, calling an argument against it a "charity refutation" is a pure show of arrogance-- if not an argument from intimidation.

HA!

Prima Donna's picture

That's the best laugh I've had all day. Thanks, Jason. Smiling


-- "The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

Lesbians?

Jason Quintana's picture

Where???

- Jason

To paraphrase you, Ellen,

Prima Donna's picture

To paraphrase you, Ellen, making the apt substitutions:

However, among those...who have read PAR and MYWAR...the opinion seems to be shared that the books' methodologies are slanted and non-objective -- and don't prove what the Brandens claim to prove regarding Rand's motives (indeed, part of what they claim to have shown is in principle unprovable short of having had a recording device in Rand's mind registering her every thought and consideration).

Intriguing comparison, don't you think?

P.S. I find it interesting that you attempted to portray me as someone who needed Rand to be "unblemished," while you have clearly displayed that you are eager to find fault wherever you can. What you call pathetic, many would objectively name diligent. Thanks for that insightful lesson in premise checking, however; things are quite clear now.


-- "The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star." Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste

Randroidism again

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Trager,

Mr. Mazza feels called upon to defend pretty much every action or policy of the Ayn Rand Institute, usually in rather belligerent terms.

See, for example, the two paragraphs that I quoted from his blog entry of August 5, 2005.

Or how about this quotation:

And if anyone is curious as to why ARI is so tight on its standards of who gets in and who doesn’t, here is one good reason: At least one person, contrary to the wishes of ARI and contrary to the contract he signed, recorded sessions of courses and then gave them over to people who would use them to attack ARI.

It seems that for Mr. Mazza every criticism of ARI is an "attack."  Just as every criticism of Ayn Rand, no matter how mild, constitutes an "attack."  Comments on Ayn Rand's thinking about evolution that aren't even intended as criticism constitute... an "attack."  And what is being taught in some of ARI's courses has to be kept secret, in case enemies use what they've learned from and about them to... "attack."

This is Randroidism.  Mr. Mazza did not originate the notion that "attackers" are everywhere, as soon as one steps outside the confines of ARI.  Some more senior person or persons had to teach it to him. When Mr. Mazza begins to ask his own questions about the alleged omnipresence of "attackers," he will have started on his path away from Randroidism.

Robert Campbell

PS. Those who still don't get my critique of Mr. Watkins' remarks on Mr. Parille's essay really should try the little experiment I suggested.  Hand copies of both items to an reasonably sharp acquaintance who is interested in issues about philosophy and evolution and has few, if any, preconceptions about Ayn Rand.  See how persuasive he or she finds Mr. Watkins' arguments to be.

?

eg's picture

I think that she didn't know. (Mangled)

Dammit, Campbell!

Andrew Bissell's picture

Why the *hell* haven't you mentioned there was an article about lesbians in JARS? Smiling

Re: Roid appears

Robert Campbell's picture

Troll alert!

Zizek article on Rand

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Mazza,

Did you read Zizek's entire article?

Or did someone else merely describe it to you?

Trust me--whatever you think of Zizek's worldview, it's a lot more fun if you read the whole piece.

Robert Campbell

 

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