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: )

it goes on

Mike_M's picture

"By the way, why would anyone read several hundred pages of arbitrary gibberish three times? Doing it once, all the way through, would constitute an exercise in abject masochism."

I read it when I didn't know anything about Objectivism or philosophy. I read it again shortly after. I read it a third time when Don Watkins and Chris Sciabarra were arguing on NoodleFood. I still find it an interesting read, despite the arbitrary gibberish.

Since I had already posted a blog entry about RR, I assumed my comment on arbitrary gibberish obviously refered to it, since RR is after all a lot of arbitrary gibberish. I compared JARS to the National Enquirer because one of the few articles in JARS I know anything about was by Slavoj Zizek, who speculated that some of Rand's heros, e.g. Dagny and Galt, were effectively lesbian couples.

I'll leave it at that for now.

- Mike

Roid appears

Glenn I Heppard's picture

Linz says Brandroid and one pops up out of it's hole.

Ellen thinks Ayn Rand is pathetic because she didn't figure out the Brandens where scumbags as fast as Ellen did. But if Ellen figured it out so fast but...

I guess SoloPassion needs Preparation-H keep Ellen under control.

Mr. Mazza needs to reread his own blog entries

Robert Campbell's picture

I would much prefer to write about what happens when you combine a vigorous notion with the arbitrary with underdeveloped standards of evidence.  I think the issue might have some real philosophical interest.  But I see that that will need to wait a while longer.

Instead... is it really necessary for me to quote Mr. Mazza’s own blog entries back to him?

Apparently.

So here are two full paragraphs from Mr. Mazza’s Passing Thoughts entry of October 5, 2005. (Some of the material is about the Andrew Bernstein debacle of 2002, in which the ARI-affiliated scholar did penance for publishing a brief rejoinder in JARS, and called on his ARI colleagues to shun and boycott the journal.)

My post on SOLOHQ is in regular type; Mr. Mazza’s comments are in bold, within square brackets.

I’ll add that when Mr. Mazza’s entry first went up, I recall no link from the phrase "arbitrary gibberish" to his August entry on Chris Sciabarra’s book Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. (I only saw that link and followed it to that entry later.) And his language hardly suggested that this particular book was the only offender.

Besides, at the end of his second paragraph, he likens JARS to the National Enquirer.

**********

I’m well aware that ARI encourages some Rand scholarship. My concern is what the net effect is, once you factor in the organization’s vigorously ongoing efforts to discourage all other Rand scholarship. [if by "discourage" he means "ignore" and by "Rand scholarship" he means "arbitrary gibberish disguised by lots of footnotes and citations about Ayn Rand that those with loose standards of good scholarship refer to as scholarship," then yes]

I was naive enough to think that when Andrew Bernstein agreed to publish a (very short) reply to a review in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, perhaps ARI was beginning to show greater openness to Rand scholarship undertaken by persons not affiliated with the organization and its leadership [translation: ARI won’t do business with those who actively attack it, boo hoo!]. Instead, as soon as the article appeared in print, Bernstein had to make public penance in sackcloth and ashes. [blah blah witty phrasing designed to make Bernstein’s apology look like the product of some covert conspiracy blah blah] Adding to the insult was his face-saving but obviously false assertion that he didn’t know what kind of journal JARS was, [obvious? OBVIOUS? tsk tsk, are our standards of evidence so low?] or which authors had published in the journal in the recent past. These days, JARS is totally off limits to writers and scholars affiliated with ARI. [or ARI scholars now know better than to publish in a journal edited by the guy who wrote this post, or what you said, either one] Merely communicating with anyone on the JARS editorial board appears to be professionally risky for them. [I guess. Surely if you had evidence of this you’d make it public? or is it easier to spread lies and rumor cloaked in vague language with the hope that some naive dupe will be sucked in?] I hope someone will have the guts to defy the interdict, but I am not expecting anything like it any time soon. [Who oh who will have the courage to publish an article in the National Enquirer of Rand scholarship? I sure wish I had the poor judgment to be that brave]

********

I responded to Mr. Mazza’s October 5 entry on SOLOHQ. I stated that he appeared to regard the entire contents of JARS as "arbitrary gibberish," and asked whether Mr. Mazza had any first-hand knowledge of any of the material he was condemning.

I assume Mr. Mazza read my post, because he reproduced it in its entirety and then replied to it, in his blog entry of October 8.

He did not state there that only The Russian Radical counted as "arbitrary gibberish." (By the way, why would anyone read several hundred pages of arbitrary gibberish three times? Doing it once, all the way through, would constitute an exercise in abject masochism. It just illustrates how abuse of the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion, and unending, hyperbolic denunciations can end up making the denouncer look remarkably foolish.)

Mr. Mazza did now concede that JARS might publish good work on occasion--purely as a hypothetical. "I wouldn’t be shocked if there have been some quality articles published in JARS." In a comment that he attached on October 8 to his October 5 entry, Mr. Mazza mentioned that he had read works by Mack, Rasmussen and Den Uyl, and Flew. He did not indicate that he read anything in JARS.

Mr. Mazza is no slouch at responding promptly and incisively to criticism. If he had read a single JARS article as of October 8, 2005, why didn’t he say so? What would be a better time or place to do it?

Either Mr. Mazza really hadn’t read anything from JARS before he condemned it, or he lacked sufficient command of English to be able to express himself about a fairly simple matter.

Now if I were like Mr. Mazza, I wouldn't say what I just said.  I would simply conclude that he is a liar.

In fact, I am starting to believe that he is lying, to cover his embarrassment. For his command of English seems reasonably in order, and his jibe about the National Enquirer is sitting right out there on his blog for everyone to see.

Wouldn't it be a lot easier for Mr. Mazza to read an entire article or two from JARS and comment on it, than to keep up all this dodging and weaving?  It would surely be a lot more productive.

Robert Campbell

"Brandroids"?

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I wonder if there are any such. I can't say that I've ever met any in all my years (close to 38) of knowing Objectivists, though I have met a fair number who I think can (or at some stage in their development could) accurately be described as "Randroids." If Linz is thinking of the persons on MSK's list as examples, I haven't noticed anyone there whom I'd describe as a "Brandroid." However, among those on that list who have read PARC (by no means all, or even a high percentage of, the subscribers), the opinion seems to be shared that the book's methodology is slanted and non-objective -- and doesn't prove what Valliant claims to prove regarding the Brandens' motives (indeed, part of what he claims to have shown is in principle unprovable short of having had a recording device in the Brandens' minds registering their every thought and consideration) -- and that Rand's own journal entries don't portray her in the flattering light Valliant tries to cast. I wouldn't say that the entries show any immorality on her part, but they show a woman who is poor at psychological thought and is slow -- to me almost unbelievably slow -- at figuring out what's going on. The entries, I think, are very far from Rand at her finest; instead they make her look rather pathetic.

Ellen

___

Yup ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In due course, Adam. Gotta do due process first. Smiling

Quandary

AdamReed's picture

Linz - you write, "the ignoble (new, staggering instances of which by one secondary authority figure I have become privately aware of today)." I don't know what to make of this. Additional information would be welcome.

Omission

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Robert—you wrote:

A true believer is a person who gives his or her allegiance to an ideology and its authority figures such a high place in his her hierarchy of values that it interferes with independent thinking and judgment and, more generally, with living a good or flourishing life that is suited to that individual. In consequence, a true believer feels personally threatened, on a deep level, by questions about that ideology--or challenges to the ideology and to those persons whose pronouncements are deemed authoritative by adherents of the ideology. (The classic source on true believers is Eric Hoffer's book.)

A Randroid is a true believer who gives Objectivism and Ayn Rand (perhaps in combination with secondary authority figures) an overly high place in his or her hierarchy of values, etc.

You left out "Brandroid." A Brandroid is a true believer who gives anti-Objectivism & the Brandens (perhaps in combination with secondary authority figures) an overly high place in his or her hierarchy of values, etc.

Brandroids excuse, promote and practise the ignoble (new, staggering instances of which by one secondary authority figure I have become privately aware of today); they condemn all judgement (because they fear it) except negative judgement of the noble (because they practise it). And they camouflage their studied amoralism with psychobabble and phony love.

Randroids are a problem; Brandroids are a disease.

well

Mike_M's picture

I was kinda assuming Andrew was referring to something that wasn't publicly available. If Thomas was referring to the Hull classes and the tapes of the classes from ARB, his claims could all too easily be refuted. It seems that Mr. Thomas misled Andrew, then. So if Thomas is referring to these Hull classes, and his claims are now easily proved false, Moskovitz must be the source.

Let's take a look at the Moskovitz case, then. His letter is dated October 2001. If memory serves, the first OAC classes were in 2000. So it is unclear if Moskovitz even took classes on Objectivism from ARI (the first year of the OAC is a writing class and Introduction to Philosophy). He also claims to have been treated fairly and gotten great value from the class he did attend. So unless he is lying in the letter, his experience seems to contradict what Thomas wrote, again assuming he actually took Dr Ghate's Objectivism course, and not the Intro to Philosophy course.

So I guess where we stand now is that Mr. Thomas produced a grossly unfair and misleading email and also mislead his intern. (I say this since I can't imagine how someone could innocently mistake the dog house for something malevolent.) Or have I missed something?

- Mike

Don't argue with 'missing links' :D

Rowlf's picture

~~ Well, I guess I see now why we can't 'all just get along.' Some just plainly refuse to...resulting in the rest agreeing not to. Ah, well...but I do so hate seeing the beginnings of good, even thought-provoking, debate-subjects pointlessly interrupted (then overwhelmed) by name-calling and innuendo-filled soap operas that occasionally (inevitably?) become flame-filled tragedies. --- No argument: some lines, when crossed, require do-or-die duels; but some seem to be on the search for the slightest hint of possible insult as a reason to do a gauntlet-slap. Then, as they say in the asylum, "We're OFF!"

~~ Speaking of thought-provoking, Casey, re Rand's ref to 'subhumans' living amongst us, I can't even think of what that could mean. Conceivably, she had to have been talking about more than mere comparative IQ difference (say that between a retarded person and a 'normal' one; else, might's well call all 6-mo-olds sub-human.) O-t-o-h, she had to also mean something more than the dif 'tween Roark and Keating, or even Toohey. Even the morally-lesser there had use of volition. --- Presumably she meant some...'level'...of volition unattainable (which WOULD apply to some low-level retardeds, but...)?

~~ In another aspect, I'll be the 1st to agree that, like Toohey or Gotti, some do choose to live, in effect, as a 'sub-human' pretending to act otherwise, but, the capability is there to raise back up; though she did say somewhere that at a certain point "...it's an open question" as to some level of immorality reached being a point-of-no-return re re-becoming a 'civilized' (to be redundant) human. --- Yet, I don't think she was referring to this class of...humanoids...either.

Unless she was merely talking about some kind of diff between Hypatia or Leonardo Da Vinci and...Phyllis Schlafly or Dan Rather?

Perplexed,

LLAP

J:D

P.S: Sorry if this seems to be 'hijacking' a thread devoted to flaming; maybe my questions belong on another thread?

Re: Email on the OAC

Boaz the Boor's picture

Mike,

"I find it quite amazing that someone actually infiltrated the OAC and recorded classes. I'd like to hear more about this"

The UPAR I attended (i.e., pre-OAC) was actually available via Second Renaissance, and I think I still saw it listed last time I checked, so if that was their one primary source they obviously didn't need to resort to infiltration. I'm sure most of their accounts of OAC *do* stem from Moskovitz, by the way.

well ok

Mike_M's picture

Boaz, thanks for speaking up. What a, ahem, weird way for Mr. Thomas to interpret Gary Hull's class and the "dog house." Now I'm really interested in more of Thomas's now even more clealy inaccurate claims about ARI classes, pre-OAC or not.

- Mike

"DogPen"

Boaz the Boor's picture

Andrew,

"I will say, however, that Will had related to me the story of one pre-OAC ARI course where students who asked questions or made some comment deemed inappropriate by the instructor would be assigned to the "dogpen," and forbidden from participating in the next few discussions."

The pre-OAC course you're referring to was Gary Hull's UPAR. And it was the "doghouse," not "dogpen." I'm afraid you've been UTTERLY mislead on this count. No - Actually, I'm rather giddy you were mislead, because otherwise I might never have read that precious paragraph of yours and Will Thomas' account of cruelty dealt to hapless victims of ARI-style theocracy. You had my abs postively reeling from spasms of laughter.

The "Doghouse" was Gary Hull's mischievous invention, and it was used, sparingly, to inject HUMOR into the course. Not that He was short on humor in other ways. I was the "Doghouse King" of the 98-99 class - something of an honor, I must say - so I know perfectly well what I'm talking about. We nearly fought over the damn thing.

Dr. Hull used the "doghouse" as a kind of playful, mock-discipline. If you said something that anticipated one of his main points, if you "stole his thunder", if you teased him or said something too funny or smart-alecky, you would be punished (read: REWARDED) for your insolence. The idea that part of it entailed not being allowed to take part in discussions (!!) is laughably false. Really, is this the sort of thing you were hearing? Honestly, TOC deserves Hudgins and his philosophically illiterate commentary. (And please don't take that personally.)

That class was a *gem* - it was fun, engrossing, and intellectually demanding. "Parroting" Ayn Rand landed you a bad grade. The letter you guys sent out was patently unjust in that accusation.

email on the oac

Mike_M's picture

Andrew wrote,

"I will say, however, that Will had related to me the story of one pre-OAC ARI course where students who asked questions or made some comment deemed inappropriate by the instructor would be assigned to the "dogpen," and forbidden from participating in the next few discussions. IIRC, he said he had portions of the class on audiotape. I suppose one could argue that I should have asked to listen to these tapes since Will had an obvious interest in the matter, but I didn't doubt his honesty then, and I don't now."

I'd be interested to know the content of this tape, as this certainly doesn't happen in any OAC course I have taken. On the face of it, I can't do much of anything with this. It matters a lot what the student said and if the student was actually being disruptive or not. If, for example, some student started going on a rant about how great David Kelley is during a writing class, then that would be inappropriate conduct on the student's part. But I doubt that is what is being alleged. One could even ask a perfectly legitimate question while being a nuisance about it, as class does need to move on at some point.

This is the section of the email that was discussed on OO, to refresh everyone's memory:

The Ayn Rand Institute already offers phone-in courses, so why should
you consider a course from The Objectivist Center? You may have even
heard insults directed against the Center's founder, David Kelley, or
you may have heard the Center derided as "subjectivists" or fake
Objectivists.

But no authority can trump your need for objectivity. While ARI
virtually deifies Ayn Rand and teaches students to parrot her writings
and ideas, TOC is committed to an engaged, respectful, and independent
study of her rich system of thought. Instead of being suppressed,
criticisms and questions are accepted and openly discussed. This does
not mean we are not Objectivists--on the contrary, we recognize that any
philosophic system as robust and true as Ayn Rand's must confront and
answer objections with sound philosophical inquiry. Individualism and
reason require the open vistas of clear debate and wide-ranging
discussion. This is the principle on which TOC was founded, and on which
my course will operate. For more on the advantages of studying
Objectivism with TOC, see "Why Choose TOC?" on our website

This starts out by discussing ARI’s “phone-in courses,” in obvious reference to the OAC. One of you then wrote, “While ARI virtually deifies Ayn Rand and teaches students to parrot her writings and ideas.” Now you may have intended it to refer to the ARI as a whole, but since you specifically mention its attitude towards students, the clear way to interpret this is as an attack on the OAC, the only ARI program that had students at the time of this email. What you write about TOC, that it is “committed to an engaged, respectful, and independent study of her rich system of thought,” implies that the OAC isn’t. That at TOC, “instead of being suppressed, criticisms and questions are accepted and openly discussed.” And in the OAC they aren’t? “We recognize that any philosophic system as robust and true as Ayn Rand's must confront and answer objections with sound philosophical inquiry.” So in the OAC we approach philosophy carelessly?

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.

Andrew, I’m grateful that you admit you have no evidence that the OAC is run as this email claims, and that you’ve since talked to OAC students to find out what the program is like. You can add me to your list: At no time during my three years at the OAC has there been anything remotely similar to a “dog-pen.” But the fact of the matter is, this is all still seriously unbecoming of an institute called “The Objectivist Center.”

Bill pointed out that the emails were found through legitimate means. But there is still a problem here. You and Will found the mailing list of these clubs, how many of them were ARI-affiliated? If not all, probably most. ARI spends a lot of time and money organizing these clubs and helping guys like me establish them in the first place. So you and Will found the addresses for clubs that ARI is responsible for and then sent them all an email containing, as you’ve now admitted, inaccurate attacks (to say the least) on one of ARI’s student program. So you didn’t steal the emails, this is good. But you still used ARI’s resources against itself. You say Will did not do any of this dishonestly. Ok, I’ll assume that for the time being. It doesn’t change what those emails said (now admittedly inaccurate) and it doesn’t change the fact that you used ARI’s achievements to undermine it. ARI has never done anything like this to TOC. In fact, to my knowledge Dr. Ghate's email to students in response to this is the first official mention of TOC or David Kelley by ARI since Fact and Value appeared in the 80's. But ARI has resources TOC doesn’t, so why not try to tap into that, right?

I find it quite amazing that someone actually infiltrated the OAC and recorded classes. I'd like to hear more about this. I’d also be interested to know what you know about Damian Moskovitz. I’m still amazed that someone interested in Objectivism enough to be both an intern at TOC and a student at the OAC would be ignorant of the antagonism between these two groups. I also find it amazing how he missed the part of the OAC contract that said people affiliated with TOC were not wanted. I think Dr. Brook and Dr. Ghate gave him a benefit of the doubt he might not have deserved on that one.

- Mike

Randroid?

Jon Trager's picture

I've just been reading this thread with interest. And I don't see how Robert Campbell can apply his definition of a "Randroid" to Mike Mazza based on what I've read.

I've seen no evidence that Mike's comments aren't the result of his own independent thought. Robert obviously doesn't like what Mike has said about him, but that doesn't mean Mike's views are second-handed. A person who doesn't think independently is unable to give reasons for his conclusions; his conclusions fundamentally rest on "X said so." That's not the pattern that I've observed from Mike here.

And how would Robert know that Mike's allegiance to Objectivism or ARI is impeding the quality of his life? Robert, do you know Mike that well personally?

It seems that some people are quick to conclude that 20-something individuals who vigorously support ARI must not be thinking for themselves. How insulting!

campbell

Mike_M's picture

I did a search of my blog, and the only two posts referncing JARS were the ones Campbell linked to. The closest I come to any kind of a condemnation of JARS is the following quote:

"(1) The National Review is a destructive magazine. It actively attacks Objectivism and Ayn Rand, and it actively promotes the religious right. There have been valuable articles written in the National Review, yet somehow I don’t think calling NR a destructive force while conceding that it publishes the occasional insightful piece is a contradiction or problem. I wouldn’t be shocked if there have been some quality articles published in JARS. But that, in and of itself, doesn’t make JARS a worthwhile publication, and it doesn’t change the fact that, as a whole, JARS is a damaging force in Rand scholarship."

I wrote this in response to what Campbell said: "Case in point: What is the basis for the author’s Case in point: What is the basis for the author’s indictment of (apparently) every article that’s been published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies since its inaugural issue in 1999? And that isn’t the end of it. Because every other book or article concerning Rand’s ideas that has not enjoyed the blessing of the Ayn Rand Institute appears to be encompassed in this succinct dismissal."

In fact, I only mentioned JARS one time (when I refered to Campbel as its editor) in the first post. Yet somehow, my rejection of RR translates into an "indictment of (apparently) every article that’s been published in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies since its inaugural issue in 1999." Amazing, both that I missed this one at the time and that Campbell actually said this.

I was making a very simple point: the fact that good work is published in JARS doesn't necessitate JARS being a good journal. The same goes for any other publication: a bad publication is perfectly capable of publishing something good on occassion, and a good publication is capable of letting crap through on occassion.

Since I was specifically responding to the point that there might be good material in JARS, I should have written the last sentence of my quote as follows: "But that, in and of itself, wouldn't make JARS a worthwhile publication, and it wouldn't change the fact that JARS could be a damaging force in Rand scholarship."

Since I haven't read more than a few excerpts from JARS, I don't have grounds to make any firm claims about it as a whole. Doing so wasn't my intention in that post, though unfortunately my poor choice of phrasing made it seem that way.

I stand by my claim that Robert Campbell is a dishonest person. I offer as further evidence this claim:

"He referred to Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (which he said he had read) and to the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (which it turned out he had never read anything from) as "arbitrary gibberish disguised by lots of footnotes and citations about Ayn Rand that those with loose standards of good scholarship refer to as scholarship."

As I made clear in the VERY POSTS HE LINKED TO, the "arbitrary gibberish" comment refered only to Russian Radical. In fact, the words "arbitrary gibberish" link to a post I wrote briefly outlining some of the problems I have with RR. RR was the first book I read on Objectivism by someone besides Rand. I have read it twice more since. So despite what Campbell asserts, I never referred to JARS or anything in JARS as "arbitrary gibberish."

Since this is the first time I ever said I hadn't read much from JARS, I wonder how Campbell knew it before I wrote it? I couldn't find any record of me saying I'd never read JARS on my blog, nor could I find it here. I guess if your method is to just make shit up about people who disagree with you at will, you're bound to get it right one time.

- Mike

re: fair point

Andrew Bissell's picture

About the email, my thanks to Bill Perry for clearing up some of the confusion surrounding the circumstances of its distribution.

Will and I wrote the email together, so I don't recall exactly which portions of it were mine and which were his. I will say, however, that Will had related to me the story of one pre-OAC ARI course where students who asked questions or made some comment deemed inappropriate by the instructor would be assigned to the "dogpen," and forbidden from participating in the next few discussions. IIRC, he said he had portions of the class on audiotape. I suppose one could argue that I should have asked to listen to these tapes since Will had an obvious interest in the matter, but I didn't doubt his honesty then, and I don't now.

Since ARI maintained a pretty high degree of secrecy with respect to the OAC, it wasn't really possible for us to make claims about any specific aspect of its curriculum, which was why the email spoke only of *ARI*'s teaching methods. For the record, I will say that online and in-person comments from OAC students have convinced me that any "dogpen"-style excesses that may have existed in ARI's past are certainly not present in the OAC.

We were aware of ARI's policy statement regarding the club contact list. In a few instances I did use the ARI list to find out that a particular campus had a club, but the contact information for each club was always obtained through other means, usually a Google search. We never simply followed links or copied emails off ARI's website.

What is a Randroid?

Robert Campbell's picture

Casey,

If you really believe that all of Mr. Mazza's descriptions of me, and of the journal with which I am associated, are factual (or intended to be factual) instead of slurs or insults--and you really believe that I am dishonest--why keep asking me questions?

But you raise issues of substance nonetheless.

"Randroid" is not a mere insult, any more than "zealot," "fanatic," or "true believer" is a mere insult.  All of these terms are at least capable of being used objectively.

So let me try a couple of definitions here.

A true believer is a person who gives his or her allegiance to an ideology and its authority figures such a high place in his her hierarchy of values that it interferes with independent thinking and judgment and, more generally, with living a good or flourishing life that is suited to that individual.  In consequence, a true believer feels personally threatened, on a deep level, by questions about that ideology--or challenges to the ideology and to those persons whose pronouncements are deemed authoritative by adherents of the ideology.  (The classic source on true believers is Eric Hoffer's book.)

A Randroid is a true believer who gives Objectivism and Ayn Rand (perhaps in combination with secondary authority figures) an overly high place in his or her hierarchy of values, etc.

When I was 22, I was a Randroid.  (I would have fervently resisted being called one at the time, but in retrospect there is no denying it.)  I didn't worship Rand the way some people did (and still do), but I was overly focused on the ideology and its authority figures at the expense of setting the right priorities and living a good life.  I judged some things negatively, not because I really had good reasons for evaluating them as bad, but because Objectivism frowned on them, or they seemed to threaten it.

Now Mr. Mazza has read some of Mack ("rationalistic," he has said), Den Uyl and Rasmussen ("better," whatever that means in detail), Sciabarra ("arbitrary gibberish"), and others outside the ARI fold. So far, so good.  It would be helpful if he would explicate his reasons, but presumably he has some. 

Yet he is comfortable condemning the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies as harmful to Objectivism without ever reading a single article (are you going to tell me that that isn't an arbitrary judgment?).  I have seen him write on his blog of attacks on "ARI/Ayn Rand/Objectivism," as though they are all the same thing.  He responds to criticisms or challenges, particularly when they are directed at ARI, as though any such criticism must be malicious or dishonest.

Those are the sorts of things that true believers do, when their belief is challenged.  If the object of their belief is Ayn Rand and/or Objectivism, they're Randroids.  That's all "Randroid" means. 

There's no requirement that one belong to ARI to be a Randroid (nor does ARI membership necessarily make one a Randroid, though certain elements of  the culture of ARI certainly encourage it).  ARI didn't exist when I was one.  I've run into Randroids in the TOC orbit, and encountered others who had no organizational affiliation.

What you've said about the arbitrary has raised some interesting questions for me, about what happens when a philosophy combines the doctrine that arbitrary assertions are to be dismissed with underdeveloped standards of evidence, particularly when it comes to people's motives.

But that will have to wait for another post.

Robert Campbell

Mr. Campbell...

James S. Valliant's picture

Mr. Campbell,

Prior to your injury, you and I were engaged in a polite dialogue. I would call it polite disagreement. I emailed you my sympathies after the accident. In one of your earliest posts here at SOLOPassion, you accuse me of having a "cult mentality," then later saying that I am still a back-burner issue (i.e., your accusations are to be given any substance later, if ever.)

Not everyone has my patience. The moment something like this happens, others tend to shut off. Unlike me, they won't keep talking. Can you blame them?

This sort of thing also makes the next inevitable complaint, "ARI will never engage us," a baseless charge, don't you think?

Or, is that the idea: make discussion impossible, and then accuse the others of being uncivil, even as you complain of their absence from the pages of JARS?

Neil,

Casey's picture

I can only say that there are fundamental problems with a certain concept of "missing link" as some anthropologists have advanced the idea that could well have bothered Rand. Implying that a physical change made us human as opposed to the individual eureka moment, as discussed in the other thread, could have been a sticking point. The fact that the first true human, by my theory, could be described as the first one to grasp concepts and put them into action, and the fact that those who merely emulated him might not be considered "human" in that same specialized sense (of rationality), might have had some bearing on Rand's statements about what constitutes human-ness in any age, past or present, depending on what she meant by "human" in that specific context. She could have been saying that that first "human" who thought creatively was as human as productive geniuses today and that many people in any age are beneath even his status in what makes us distinctly "human!" She could have been elevating the crude innovator of the past above the civilized conformist of the present.

Unfortunately, ALL of this is arbitrary speculation. I can't say with ANY certainty that this is what she meant to say.

Casey

Neil Parille's picture

As a final comment, I certain believe that we should not enage in any unwarranted speculation about Rand's motives concerning evolution.

However, Rand's comments in her Journals about sub rational people living among us (which constitute a "separate species"!) and her 1973 article about the "missing link" indicate to me that she had some issues concern about contemporary theories of evolution. (And Rand's statement that she hadn't studied evolution enough doesn't rule the possibility of certain concerns.)

That being the case, asking whether some of Rand's general concerns in philosophy (orignal sin, instincts and free will) were related to her concerns about evolution strikes me as quite reasonable.

Incidentally, we do have Branden's statement that something about evolution bothered Rand. Even if one doesn't consider Branden to be a reliable source in general (and I don't have an opinion on this question) it seems a rather odd thing to make up. When Branden made the statment the journals hadn't been published.

Since you appear to have read and thought rather extensively about evolution, I'd be interested in knowing how you interpret Rand's comments in her Journals and in the 1973 article.

It's a shame

eg's picture

Robert, is this thread your defense of the Brandens?

Robert,

Casey's picture

You and I are considerably older than Mike, and I see an awful lot of dishonest argumentative tactics being employed from a very obvious agenda-driven stereotype which you may or may not be aware is a stereotype. The straw man of claiming that Rand perfection is a motivation on the part of your opponents in this debate was entirely spurious and baseless. You came in with this conclusion despite the lack of evidence for such a position, and when given clear argument that you had not established any such thing, you changed the subject to other issues. You made sweeping statements about what your opponents had read and how ARI-affiliations blind them to other sources, and when that was elaborately illustrated as false for you, you did not retract your sweeping judgments or even stop to consider that there was a bias operating in your conclusions. And you'll probably revert to the same false conclusions again, as you have done with conversations you have had with James Valliant. These straw men and your dishonest disregard for explicit refutations strongly suggest that discourse with you has no purpose.

As for your claims about Diana's "charity" designation, they were preposterous. Diana clearly laid out a case for generosity in regards to helping to answer what technically should not require refutation. You made much of nothing here, and even characterized her benevolent statement as showing a lack of benevolence.

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.

You keep using that word. I do not think you know what it means. (It's not an insult -- it's a description.)

Calling Mike a Randroid is worse than arbitrary -- it shows that you have not paid attention to what he has said and resort to a perjorative instead: add ad hominem to your list of tools.

All of these tactics are described by Mike using language that is neither arbitrary nor ad hominem -- he is describing the actual content of your arguments as summarized above.

More Distortions

DianaHsieh's picture

Robert said: "What's more, Ms. Hsieh has explicitly condemned JARS as a fount of pseudo-scholarship, right here on SOLOPassion (see my blog entry at the top of this thread)."

Yes, because you FABRICATED a story about my reasons for not wishing to publish in JARS. And now you falsely accuse me of breaking my word. Lovely, but not surprising.

I have acted in accordance with my promise to Chris -- 100%. The promise was made on August 15th, 2005 -- after the July 25th, 2005 "Poisoning the Well" article. (Once again, timeline troubles!) Chris was well aware of that article: it was in part his reason for writing to me to inquire as to where we stood.

As to the tea-leaf reading of the little I've said about pseudo-scholarship as a covert attack upon JARS, you might wish to get off your high horse. JARS certainly isn't the only source of bad scholarship on Objectivism; I doubt that it's even the most important or worst source thereof. And once again, the inference that I agree with all comments posted on my blog absent some public objection is nothing more than a pathetic and bizarre attempt to put someone else's words in my mouth -- since you can't find anything objectionable from me.

Go to hell, Robert.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Chris says ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... on his Notablog:

First, Lindsay Perigo and I have had a very long dispute about the character of my work, and I don't expect it will ever be resolved to our mutual satisfaction. That said, however, I don't believe that he has read more than an issue or two of JARS (and, quite frankly, too many JARS critics don't seem to be on our subscription list, so it leaves me wondering how they are able to make such sweeping generalizations about the quality of the scholarship therein). In any event, to dismiss JARS as a haven of "pomo-wankers" is, I think, a slap in the face to so many writers who have graced our pages, including such people as Erika Holzer, George Reisman, Larry Sechrest, Kirsti Minsaas, Mimi Gladstein, Tibor Machan, Douglas Rasmussen, Eric Mack, Marsha Enright, John Enright, John Hospers, Adam Reed, Stephen Hicks, Fred Seddon, Lester Hunt, Ari Armstrong, Edward Younkins, Robert White, and so many others. Dare I say it, but many of these writers have appeared in the pages of The Free Radical, and have been published on SOLO. And last I saw, there was no explosion of "pomo-wanking" going on at SOLO.

Now, what I actually said, as anyone can check simply by scrolling up or down this thread, depending on your settings, was that the Humanities side of academia is, generally speaking, a haven for pomo-wankers, one of whose hallmarks is speaking pretentious gibberish ("Polish") which Chris emulates in his bid to infiltrate academia. That's hugely different from saying JARS is a haven for pomo-wankers!

Yes, many of the above have appeared/do appear here on SOLO & in the FreeRad—NOT speaking Polish, because a) they know that'd be more than their life's worth, or b) they *never* speak Polish anyway (even in JARS, probably). Chris knows very well he *does* speak Polish when he's pitching to academics, & he once spoofed himself doing that very thing!

That aside, I *have* seen stuff in JARS by folk not listed here who are *definitely*, to my mind, in the pomo-snide smart-ass category, & I wouldn't give them the time of day. That's ABSOLUTELY NOT to say that I think JARS is worthless; just that for me personally, in a world where we're all very busy, as Chris says, reading it is not a priority (& avoiding SOME of its contributors IS! Smiling) "Too much of it looks like Polish to me."

Smack talking

Robert Campbell's picture

Mike Mazza says he is done talking to me. I will not miss him as a debate partner.

I first heard of Mr. Mazza when he slammed me on his blog, Passing Thoughts(http://passingthoughts.blogsome.com/2005/10/05/63/).

He referred to Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical (which he said he had read) and to the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (which it turned out he had never read anything from) as "arbitrary gibberish disguised by lots of footnotes and citations about Ayn Rand that those with loose standards of good scholarship refer to as scholarship."

Three days later(http://passingthoughts.blogsome.com/2005/10/08/blog-wars/), he compared JARS to the National Review and declared: "I wouldn’t be shocked if there have been some quality articles published in JARS. But that, in and of itself, doesn’t make JARS a worthwhile publication, and it doesn’t change the fact that, as a whole, JARS is a damaging force in Rand scholarship."

He still hadn’t read a single article.

In this present thread, which I am certainly ready to wrap up, Mr. Mazza has called me one name after another:

"an expert at constructing [false alternatives]"

"how does one consistently make hypocritical two-faced comments like yours and still manage to edit an academic journal?" [That’s two journals. I’m only the Associate Editor of the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I’m the Editor of New Ideas in Psychology.]

"either a scheming manipulator, an incompetent intellectual, or some combination of the two" [My vita is available at www.robertlcampbell.com. It won’t tell you whether I scheme, though.]

"continues to grossly misrepresent"

"As soon as he realized I wasn't going to sit and let him spread his manipulative double talk, Robert Campbell ran away to RoR"

"talk[s] so much shit I can smell the stink in NJ"

"manipulative liar"

"the kind of manipulation you traffic in"

"won't be able to catch ignorant victims in your web"

"Maybe this time you'll address the closed-system dispute without misrepresentation?"

"manipulative anti-ARI tactics"

"ran over to RoR to complain"

"call[ed] Diana a guttersnipe" [I never said this—perhaps Mr. Mazza had Robert Bidinotto in mind?]

"name calling, lying, and underhanded tactics"

"disingenuous manipulator"

I think that, under the circumstances, calling Mr. Mazza a zealot who is inclined to froth is mere accuracy in labeling.

What's more, Mr. Mazza certainly instantiates the generalization that Ayn Rand Institute folks are awfully quick to make judgments about their opponents' motives.

I’m not inclined to be too rough on a 22-year-old Randroid. I was a 22-year-old Randroid once. But at my most audacious, or oblivious, I didn’t ladle out verbal abuse on this scale.

If in the future Mr. Mazza can put as much effort into research and writing as he currently puts into pit-bulling and smack talking, I expect he will accomplish a lot of value.

Robert Campbell

PS. Lester Hunt is on the editorial board of JARS. Mr. Mazza refers to Hunt’s endorsement on the back of Smith’s Viable Values. I assume the endorsement was made before the Andrew Bernstein debacle.

Passionate About JARS

sciabarra's picture

I was recently alerted to this SOLO Passion thread. Ironically, I've been extremely busy editing the forthcoming Spring 2006 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Since December 2005, I ceased posting to the nearly two dozen forums on which I was a regular participant, including this one. Given the enormous research, writing, and editing responsibilities I currently have, I intend to stick to my policy of focusing on my own work, which includes posting to my Notablog. Given my focus and my very limited time, I have addressed some of the issues raised in this SOLO thread at my Notablog. Check out that post here.

Thanks to the many individuals who sent me private emails about this thread.
===========================================================
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Visiting Scholar, NYU Department of Politics
726 Broadway, 7th floor
New York, New York 10003
Website: http://www.chrismatthewsciabar...
Notablog: http://www.notablog.net
===========================================================

Response to Ms. Hsieh

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Hsieh has answered my first two questions.  I am pleased that she has done so in this forum.

I applaud her willingness to criticize some items produced or sold by the Ayn Rand Institute.  This means that ARI's output is not exempt from her proclaimed standards.

I also appreciate her continued endorsement of David Kelley's Rand scholarship in The Evidence of the Senses, as well as the scholarship of John and Marsha Enright, and Edith Packer.  (Though I must draw attention to the fact that Marsha Enright's 2002 article on emotions, which I encouraged Mr. Mazza to read, takes positions inconsistent with Mr. Watkins' presumptions about what is rational and what constitutes irrationality or "emotionalism.")

As for the third question, I hope Ms. Hsieh can come up with further examples of pseudo-scholarship besides Ron Merrill's book (which I happen to value a lot more highly than she does). 

But there is one matter on which Ms. Hsieh might be able to agree--namely, that we have reached the point of diminishing returns.  I am not inclined to press these questions about scholarship any further with anyone who has publically expressed hostility toward me and has gratuitously accused me of dishonesty on a regular basis.  As I've said previously on this thread, everyone can read the material by Mr. Parille, Mr. Watkins, and Ms. Hsieh (along with the two items on "missing links" by Ayn Rand) and make up his or her mind.

Two final points, one picky and one not so picky.

(1) The rule that arbitrary assertions are to be dismissed predates Peikoff's 1967 lecture.  The incorporation of this notion into a systematic treatment of certainty does not, to my knowledge--though I welcome correction on this point.  The widespread abuse of the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion is definitely Peikoff's doing.

(2) I was not aware of any promise by Ms. Hsieh to Chris Sciabarra, to the effect that she would not publically criticize either his books or the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I had no reason to think she had made such a promise, for the simple reason that Ms. Hsieh hasn't been complying with it.

I don't know how any reasonably intelligent person, on reading the "Poisoning the Well" entry on NoodleFood, would not be able to connect the dots and infer that Ms. Hsieh presently thinks ill of Dr. Sciabarra's work.  (Indeed, I am willing to bet that the anonymous author of the fifth comment, quoted above in my blog entry, is none other than Greg Salmieri, whose animus against Dr. Sciabarra is well known.  Ms. Hsieh is quite outspoken in criticizing comments on her blog that she disagrees with, and frequently bans commenters from her site--yet she left no rejoinder or disclaimer on the comment thread to the "Poisoning the Well" entry.)

What's more, Ms. Hsieh has explicitly condemned JARS as a fount of pseudo-scholarship, right here on SOLOPassion (see my blog entry at the top of this thread).

But now that I know of her promise, I will certainly not encourage Ms. Hsieh to break it in the future.

Robert Campbell

Re: Miscellaneous

Robert Campbell's picture

Linz,

I haven't posted on Bill Perry's thread concerning Barbara Branden yet, because I've been preoccupied with this thread.

But I will do so, probably tomorrow.

Suffice it to say that I believe that the "Drooling Beast" article was wrong, and that James Kilbourne and Barbara Branden should apologize to you for it.  This is quite aside from questions about whether it was a good idea to publish their article--had I been in your place, I don't think I would have.  But, yeah,  if you submit an article, you have to expect it can be published--otherwise, why submit it?

More when I respond to Bill.  Keep in mind that I am not in a leadership position at TOC, and often disagree with those who are.  (For instance, on SOLOHQ last fall, I urged Robert Bidinotto to publish a review or reviews of Mr. Valliant's book. I still think he should, but I don't edit the magazine, so what am I going to do?)

Otherwise, if you don't want to get drawn into a knock-down, drag-out concerning Rand scholarship, I can understand that.

However, I have to say that the teeming lair of "snides," "pseuds," and "pomo-wankers" that you take academia to be does not match up with my own experience.  If it did, trust me, I'd have long since gone back to work in industry.  Universities are full of all kinds of people--chemists, mechanical engineers, beef cattle experts, psychologists, finance profs, and on and on.  If you don't want to be around pomos, steer clear of English and Communications departments, especially at certain institutions, and you aren't going to run into a lot of pomos.  It's not as though most professors don't believe in objective reality, or have killed off the life of the mind.

Besides, the values of good scholarship are academic values, by and large.

Robert

Well observed, Phil.

JoeM's picture

I suppose there is a fear that personal tensions will cloud objectivity. It's almost a no-win situation; damned if you do, damned if you don't. And a true test of integrity for both parties.

Promising Not to Criticize?

PhilipC's picture

>As for why I haven't commented on The Russian Radical or the scholarship in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, that's because I promised Chris Sciabarra that I would steer clear of such criticisms out of consideration for our past friendship. [Diana]

I don't see why this is appropriate. For an intellectual, their scrupulously exact evaluations are worth their weight in gold and their silence on important matters shouldn't be promised away. There will be many times in your life when you will piss off a friend by being required to give your opinion of an intellectual work (or withold your praise when it is not earned). But if that friend does not admire the integrity and turns away from you because you don't think highly of his work, he's not a friend worth having at that price.

It's possible something is not worth your attention or your focus at a given moment, even if you are liberal in dispensing criticism in your 'movement' or intellectual sphere of interest. But that is not a friendship issue and you can never withold or avert your critical gaze out of "past friendship". Or present friendship or association. Just as you can never withhold praise out of present or past enmity.

And people have to be able to rely on your willingness to criticize...or praise...where it is needed and within your area of interest or concern.

Miscellaneous

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Robert—so many things have been said on so many threads, and even on other websites, that I've forgotten what was said where. Rather than try to track them down I'm going to content myself with a few observations here:

1) Somewhere you remonstrated with me and others for failing to reply to one of your posts re Neil's piece on Rand & evolution. The others can speak for themselves, & I see Diana just has, but I don't know why you'd expect me suddenly to enter a debate I'd never participated in. I have no particular view on Rand's view on evolution, except to say that I accept at face value what she said about why she said what she said. One can do that with Rand.

2) On the Cresswell/PARC thread I recently posted:

Mr. Campbell would have it that to react with due disgust to the reprehensible behaviour of the Brandens, revealed to its full extent and in its full enormity for the first time in PARC, is to be a "Rand-worshipper" and an ARIan. I defy Mr. Campbell to look at the evidence and classify me as an ARIan. "Rand-worshipper"? Well, yes, in the same way I am a worshipper of Rachmaninoff or any other hero. I worship, proudly, but hardly blindly. Whatever her actual flaws, the Brandens deceived and manipulated this woman over a period of years in a way that would leave any soap-opera script-writer breathless with awe, then smeared her as well. They're still at it. The kind of ignobleness required to turn a blind eye to such behaviour and succour its perpetrators beggars contemplation.

I'd be interested in your response to that, especially the last sentence. The lack of, and disdain for, moral hygiene currently practised by, for instance, the leadership of TOC, is quite staggering to me. You?

3) Re JARS, etc.. Academia (the humanities at least), generally speaking, is a playground for the dregs of humanity. Snide, sneering pseuds, pomo-wankers & nihilists of every hue. One of their hallmarks is pretentious gibberish—never use one word when a hundred will suffice. Chris tries, in my view, to penetrate academia by emulating it in this respect. (I'm not saying anything here I haven't said to him personally, as he's often acknowledged when citing my jibes about his "Polish.") It could be that I haven't given JARS a decent chance, but too much of it looks like Polish to me. Armchair jack-off competition stuff. What is the point? To reach pomo-wankers by pomo-wanking? Clearly there's no point to that. To reach academics who also happen to be decent human beings? Then pomo-wanking isn't going to do it. Chris himself, for one, knows exactly what I mean—his prose in The Free Radical is infinitely superior to that in, say, Total Freedom (as is the content!). Conscientious convolution ain't where it's at for me.

4) I'm curious why you would repair to a TOC stooge-site to suggest I'm about to boot you off SOLO & that you might pre-empt that by leaving first. Whether you do the latter is over to you, of course, but I think I've made it clear that I welcome the engagement that has occurred here lately, as does Jason. I am bemused by the fact that it's the "open," "tolerant" side that either does a no-show or shows then runs off & sulks, while those nasty ARIans have fronted up & given splendid accounts of themselves! Hell, they've even managed to be funny!

Linz

wasting my time

Mike_M's picture

Diana made excellent points, so I see no need to say anything else at this point.

She ended with this:

As for why I haven't commented on The Russian Radical or the scholarship in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, that's because I promised Chris Sciabarra that I would steer clear of such criticisms out of consideration for our past friendship. Since Robert surely knows that, I can only guess that he's trying to goad me into doing something unseemly -- just as he's already forced me to say more than I would have liked by posting outright lies about my reasons for deciding not to publish in JARS. (I do wonder whether Chris is aware of what Robert is doing. I can only hope that he does not approve.)

Yet another reason to call Campbell a disingenuous manipulator. I'm done replying to him on this subject.

- Mike

An Addendum

DianaHsieh's picture

My last post was a bit muddled on the following point, so I thought I should offer some clarification.

Good scholarship alone does not make a good academic work: it's just an aspect thereof. A good academic work requires clear writing, good organization, interesting thesis, etc -- and quality scholarship. The quality of the scholarship pertains to the treatment of source material: Does the writer pluck quotes out of context? Does he reliably summarize the source material? Are the interpretations fair and reasonable? Does he consider the various reasonable interpretations of ambiguous passages? Is he take account of all of the relevant material from his source? Does he base his conclusions on the evidence or engage in arbitrary speculation?

I would say that the issue of standards of scholarship primarily arises in the context of academic works, although other writings/speeches can clearly pass or fail in the scholarship required for the context.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

A Reply

DianaHsieh's picture

I just finally read Robert Cambell's post this morning, along with the major background articles.

I don't have much to say about it. It's a long-winded commentary amounting to little of substance written by a man who has already demonstrated his eagerness to blantantly misrepresent my views and my history. And I think his recent comments on this post further indicate substantial hostility toward me (and ARI), as well as an eagerness to presume far more than he knows. Based upon his private and public behavior toward me, I think that any discussion with him grants him far more respect than he deserves.

So the following comments are for the benefit of others:

I completely stand by my general evaluation of Neil's article: "In reading that article, 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. Particularly as applied to Ayn Rand, that's a disturbingly false premise."

Robert sees no problem with Neil's failure to seriously consider Ayn Rand's own stated reasons for her hestiancy about evolution while indulging in his own ill-justified speculations. He dismisses Don Watkins' appeal to the facts about Ayn Rand's first-handed, fact-focused philosophical method as "arguing from Ayn Rand's perfection." (Oy, that again!) He implies that the Objectivist view that arbitrary is to be dismissed is the invention of Leonard Peikoff, when in fact that view is clearly stated in Nathaniel Branden's Basic Principles of Objectivism course. He uses the comments of other people on my blog post as evidence of my views (!!). He characterizes me as "plead[ing] guilty to having the wrong attitude" in writing my article for the Feminist Interpretations of Ayn Rand, when in fact I said exactly the opposite, namely that I wanted to write a good article, but that my "skewed standards" of scholarship precluded that. He also seems unwilling to distinguish between the standards of blogging and those of academic publications -- as I clearly did with Neil's article.

I have seen some questionable to bad scholarship at ARI, including at my first conference. I also recently listened to some lectures currently available for sale from the Ayn Rand Bookstore that I found to be extremely superficial, not well-integrated to Objectivism, and promulgating significant errors. (These are not philosophy lectures.) Unlike TOC, I know first-hand that ARI is determined to produce only quality material -- and I've seen that committment in action. That's why I'll address the matter privately when I have a few moments to write a polite but concerned letter, mostly just to recommend that someone knowledgable listen to the lectures in question. Certainly, I do not think the lecturer in question dishonest, just in over his head. (That's another reason why I wouldn't wish to identify him/her by name here.) However, if ARI decides to continue selling those lectures, I'll probably post a note on NoodleFood at some point that I do not recommend buying them for the reasons mentioned above.

I have seen good scholarship from people outside ARI. For example, I regard David Kelley's Evidence of the Senses as a basically good work. I'm also sure that almost anything written by John or Marsha Enright is of good quality, even though I might disagree at points. I can't say much more than that because I haven't gone back to re-evaluate works from non-ARI sources in recent years -- and I don't trust my past judgments. I've been too busy catching up on works that I'm certain will be well-worth reading, like Robert Mayhew's anthologies Essays on Ayn Rand's We the Living and Essays on Ayn Rand's Anthem. I'm sure I'll do a review of the other work in the next few years -- and I'll be happy to praise and recommend work that I think good, just as I recently did with Edith Packer's lectures on psychology. (Also, I just remembered that I posted two lengthy comments on Ron Merrill's book The Ideas of Ayn Rand fairly recently: here and here .)

As for why I haven't commented on The Russian Radical or the scholarship in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, that's because I promised Chris Sciabarra that I would steer clear of such criticisms out of consideration for our past friendship. Since Robert surely knows that, I can only guess that he's trying to goad me into doing something unseemly -- just as he's already forced me to say more than I would have liked by posting outright lies about my reasons for deciding not to publish in JARS. (I do wonder whether Chris is aware of what Robert is doing. I can only hope that he does not approve.)

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

JARS

PhilipC's picture

> How about [assessing] anyone else's published articles in JARS?

Hi Robert,

1. Is there any chance that any individual articles from JARS will become available at any point--whether free or for sale by download from the web? If one is not a subscriber (and has no access to a fence-smuggler-bootlegger), I don't know how they could assess or debate the quality of JARS. I, for one, am unable to subscribe to each of a half dozen magazines or journals in which I have interest. And, unlike with most academic journals, I never was able to find JARS in -any- of the San Francisco public or university libraries when I lived there until recently.

2. After a period of time, do JARS authors have the right to make their articles avalable, as on a website or reprint or anthology? (For example, If I submitted a piece to JARS would I be "selling all rights" or "first serial rights", as is the case with many magazines?)

I have *literally no idea* whether JARS is of generally good writing quality or generally good intellectual quality or generally good scholarship since my mind-reading powers are somewhat attentuated and I have never had access to a single JARS article. And from time to time, there are some that I am intensely curious about...

Phil

Dan

William E. Perry's picture

My comment was a bit sharp. I'm sorry for that. I could have made myself clearer.

Bill

Bill

Dan Edge's picture

I will endeavor to pay closer attention in the future. Sorry about that.

--Dan Edge

Background reading

Robert Campbell's picture

Mike,

Hmm, the passage from Rand's Journals isn't that long.  Could someone post it here without breaking copyright laws?

In any event, I'll be happy to pick the "missing link" issue up again when you have a chance to review the material.

Robert

Refuting the arbitrary

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Fahy,

I don't see it as being just about the arbitrary, because Mr. Watkins did make arguments against Mr. Parille, and, in my opinion, they're lousy arguments.

But, yeah, I suppose you could boil the rest of it down to "What's arbitrary?" and "How much time should be spent refuting it?"  Problem is, Ms. Hsieh seems to draw the boundaries so expansively that that any argument or position uncongenial to present-day ARI Objectivism would qualify as arbitrary. Which implies, in its turn, merely teaching someone Objectivism, or responding to views that are critical of Objectivism, would constitute "charity refutations."

If that's what Ms. Hsieh's view truly amounts to, the least of its problems will be that it stinks as an outreach strategy...  Which is why I hope she will explain her views in depth, instead of curtly referring to everything I say on the subject as dishonest.

Robert Campbell

Three questions for Ms. Hsieh

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Hsieh has yet to defend her blog entry on alleged pseudo-scholarship.  She has contented herself with calling my post "dishonest" and accusing me of misrepresenting her views on who's doing real Rand scholarship and who's perpetrating the pseudo.

It should be easy for Ms. Hsieh to prove me wrong.  All she needs to do is provide answers to three questions, which I'm confident she has thought about at length.

(1) Has any author associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, on any occasion, produced what Ms. Hsieh deems pseudo-scholarship?  If so, who?  Where?  And what was subpar about it?

(2) Has any author not associated with the Ayn Rand Institute, on any occasion, produced what Ms. Hsieh deems good quality Rand scholarship?  If so, who?  In what book or article?  What was good or exemplary about it?

(3) What is a significant example (i.e., a published book or journal article) of pseudo-scholarship on Rand by a non-ARIan author?  What was bad about it?

For instance, is Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical a work of pseudo-scholarship?  How about Sciabarra's sequel, Total Freedom?

Is Torres and Kamhi's book What Art Is pseudo-scholarly?

Is Hicks' book Explaining Postmodernism pseudo-scholarly?

How about Rasmussen and Den Uyl's Norms of Liberty?

How about The Evidence of the Senses by David Kelley?

How about Harry Potter and Philosophy, co-edited by Shawn Klein?

How about Roderick Long's TOC monograph--or Neera Badhwar's?

How about The Ayn Rand Companion by Mimi Reisel Gladstein?

How about any of my published articles in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies?  (This ought to be a walk in the park, if I'm as "maliciously dishonest" as Ms. Hsieh has decided I am.)

How about anyone else's published articles in JARS?

And of course there are other candidates. 

If pseudo-scholarship on Rand is as rampant as Ms. Hsieh alleges, she should experience no difficulty in ferreting out prominent examples of it, and showing just where the scholarship is painfully lacking.

It's time to stop going after one SOLOHQ essay, or one guy's website (now defunct), or a few passages from Kelley's "Truth and Toleration," or Ed Hudgins' latest editorial.  Not when Ms. Hsieh sees rich veins of fool's gold all around, just waiting to be mined.

And Ms. Hsieh, the author of "False Excuses" and "Dursley Duplicity," is well enough read and articulate enough to handle this challenge.

If Ms. Hsieh prefers not to post her answer here on SOLOPassion, she can post it on NoodleFood.  (It would be nicer if she posted here, if only because I expect she will not allow me and a number of people who share my concerns to comment over at NoodleFood.  But that's a secondary matter.)

If Ms. Hsieh does not make some kind of answer to these questions publically available, the most reasonable interpretation of her views will have to be that, for her, good scholarship = that which is produced under the auspices of ARI and pseudo-scholarship = that which is produced by those not authorized or endorsed by ARI.  For that is what her effusive praise for each new book that comes out of ARI, along with her blog entries like "Poisoning the Well" and "False Friends of Objectivism," leave the reader to conclude, not through explicit reasoning, but through innuendo.

What's more, if she keeps making charges of this gravity against unspecified targets, without providing evidence and argument to support them, readers may fairly conclude that she is putting forward arbitrary assertions.  Indeed, that she is being irresponsible in the process.

Robert Campbell

Robert,

Casey's picture

It seems you have two complaints: Diana's use of the term arbitrary and her position on how much time should be spent on refuting the arbitrary. Right?

my fault

Mike_M's picture

Robert -

"You've now told Neil Parille that you won't be responding to his questions about Rand's "missing link" speculation, because you don't have time to (re?)read his essay, Mr. Watkins' critique, and Ms. Hsieh's blog entry."

I meant the Rand essays and journal notes. I'm not sure if I even have them with me at school.

- Mike

It's All About Phil...

PhilipC's picture

> you can't arm me with things like that, because now you know I'll *have* to ask [Jen]

...Have to ask what? How much people had to pay for the honor of being my roommate at The Jefferson School? Whether I took the entire proceeds or I gave TJS a cut? Whether Andy Bernstein learned everything he knows from me?...

Shocking revelation!

Robert Campbell's picture

Ms. Hsieh declares:

Without a doubt, I learned more about Objectivism in six months of listening to most of Leonard Peikoff's major lecture courses than I learned in all my ten years with TOC. (And believe me, I missed a great deal in my first listen!)

I share Phil Coates' perplexity here.

I also learned a lot about Objectivism from taking Peikoff's lecture courses on tape: Thales to Hume; Kant to the Present; Logic; Understanding Objectivism.  I took them in the 1970s, with a couple of years off when Peikoff didn't want any of them "Branden readers" around.  I still have all my notes.  I use some examples that I learned from him every time I teach Cognitive Psychology, or History of Psychology (especially the latter).

What's more, I still admire Peikoff's "Certainty without Omniscience," which I first encountered through Jarret Wollstein's quirky notes ("Counterpossibilities asserted cannot logically be arbitrary").  I am not so thrilled with the style of argument in "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" as I once was, but I still buy the general conclusions.

I just wish I could quote from Peikoff's lectures, instead of his 1991 book, because when they diverge the lectures were nearly always better.

It would have been preferable, especially given her strong assertions of ownership over Objectivism and her impatience with the mildest of deviations, for Rand to have written her treatise on Objectivism.  But the fact is, she didn't, and somebody had to make many of her detailed ideas explicit and systematize them.  This doesn't mean that Peikoff never imported any notions of his own into the presentation; it doesn't confer ownership of the philosophy on him now.  But if you try to read some other presentations that had to be stitched together by students after the master failed to write a treatise--let's say, Ferdinand de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics, if you want to suffer real pain--you have to appreciate Peikoff's effort.

I've never discouraged anyone in TOC-land from taking Peikoff courses--in fact, I've told some that they should.  I sure as hell didn't discourage Ms. Hsieh from doing so.  The irony is, I haven't noted a lot of divergences from those Peikoff presentations in the way Objectivism is taught at TOC.  (I think I might know something about this, because when Ms. Hsieh and I were on speaking terms, she asked me to comment on her Introduction to Objectivism slides.  I also attended lectures by David Kelley, Will Thomas, David Ross, and others, and I have had a couple of lengthy discussions with Kelley on matters where we disagree.)

For years, I went to some trouble to defend Peikoff's work as a philosopher to colleagues who saw him only as a toady to Ayn Rand who treated them with disdain, never had an idea of his own, and didn't publish enough.  I've quit doing that only because Peikoff has kept making himself harder to defend...

It would be most enlightening to see how Ms. Hsieh understands the ARI/TOC differences concerning the choice to live, the arbitrary, reduction, hierarchy, principles, and sanction.  (OK, I don't need a reminder about sanction.  I've read "Fact and Value."  And I asked Ms. Hsieh in some detail what she thought moral principles were, when were still communicating, and she never answered my questions.  So it would be nice to know.)

Personally, I find the "choice to live" untenable in Peikoff's formulation--downright incoherent when you factor in the side remark about "the lowest rung of hell" that he included in his 1991 book.  And I've published on that subject.

I also think that Peikoff's development of the notion of arbitrary is important, but that Peikoff and his followers have chronically abused it till it's turned black and blue.  If you aren't careful, you can end up arbitrarily presuming that any doubts about your arbitrary formulations are arbitrary.  That, at least, is what I think Ms. Hsieh ended up doing, in the blog entry that I have critiqued.  A moratorium on hasty judgments of arbitrariness would do wonders for Randian philosophy.

Robert Campbell

Assumptions and creative inquiry

Robert Campbell's picture

Mr. Mazza,

You've now told Neil Parille that you won't be responding to his questions about Rand's "missing link" speculation, because you don't have time to (re?)read his essay, Mr. Watkins' critique, and Ms. Hsieh's blog entry.

I could stop right here, because I asked commenters on this thread to take the time to read these three items before offering substantive critiques of what I wrote.  Surely you expended more time writing that thick stack of comments that had nothing to do with my blog entry than it would have taken to read Parille, Watkins, and Hsieh.

But in case anyone else is willing to take this exchange more seriously than you are, I'll give your arguments one more try.  And I won't call my remarks a "charity refutation."

You emphasize the following statement by Mr. Watkins:

The implication is that Rand started with some set of assumptions, and selected the rest of her ideas according to how they fit with those assumptions. But this is precisely what Rand did not do. Rand 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. And yet this is the assumption with which Neil starts his essay.

First, Mr. Watkins is making general claims about Ayn Rand's working methods.  I also read him as making modal claims, about what Rand could or could not have done.  Modal or not, those general claims require evidence or argument to back them--and neither Rand's say-so, nor Mr. Watkins' assurances about what would make her irrational, will be sufficient.  Unless you think Ayn Rand knew, in full detail, the precise conscious and subconscious processes by which she solved every problem.

Second, studies of problem-solving and creative inquiry indicate that human beings work from assumptions all the time.  No one is accusing Rand of a crime by saying that she worked from assumptions--everybody works from assumptions.  Irrationality lies, not in working from assumptions, but in not working to identify one's assumptions, criticize them, and replace them if they are leading one astray.  We even make meta-assumptions about which areas of inquiry we need to concentrate on in working through our assumptions.  And the process is never entirely finished, before we die or become demented.  Mr. Parille made some plausible identifications of assumptions that Rand never completely worked through.  He didn't accuse her of willfully evading the need to work through them, or letting her emotions "rule" her thinking, or putting her "I Wish" over the "It Is."

You definitely should take advantage of Jim Heaps-Nelson's suggested readings (Csikszentmihalyi in particular) and of what is available to you through Rutgers.  You simply can't do epistemology or ethics properly without paying close attention to cognitive science.  It wouldn't hurt Mr. Watkins, or some of the other folks at ARI, if they were to do the same.

Third, I'll suggest a 2002 article from the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:If "Emotions Are Not Tools of Cognition," What Are They? An Exploration of the Relationship between Reason and Emotion, by Marsha Enright, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp. 25-67.

Finally, I want to re-emphasize Mr. Watkins' continuing equivocations between the facts and Ayn Rand's knowledge of the facts.  You can't just leap from one to the other, unless you are seriously egocentric, or you are imputing omniscience to Rand.

Robert Campbell

PS.  I couldn't resist saying that Mr. Watkins was thundering, because in that passage he reminded me of a stern fundamentalist preacher.  As for me, I don't care whether you say I roared it, squeaked it, burped it, yelped it, or sang it in the manner of Howlin' Wolf, as long as you quote me straight.

Re-read my post

William E. Perry's picture

Dan,

You really needed to re-read my previous post carefully, but I will try to make it clearer. Will and Andrew didn't do what you did. They didn't send it to all of the clubs on the ARI list. They sent the e-mail only to clubs that you could find on internet searches. Think Google, Yahoo etc.

Bill

Mike

eg's picture

Then my post is for RC, not you. Let the chips fall where they may.

--Brant

just learning from an expert

Mike_M's picture

Brant,

"Booms" and "roars" were in reference to Campbell's use of the word "thunders" to describe Don's post. It was actually put in to jab at RC's sneaking ad homs into argument against Don.

- Mike

Bullets

Prima Donna's picture

See, Phil, you can't arm me with things like that, because now you know I'll *have* to ask. 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

Mike

eg's picture

It's okay if RC "booms" or "roars;" neither are logical fallacies, but argumentum ad h. is.

--Brant

Andy Bernstein

PhilipC's picture

> found Andy Bernstein to be quite warm and friendly. [Jen]

Andy's a great guy.

He is one of the few authorized sources for Phil Coates stories, as he had the honor of being my roommate at one of the Jefferson School's Smiling

stupid me

Mike_M's picture

I wrote a lot about all of the good things ARI has done, and I forgot to mention my personal favorite! The Undercurrent is a student newspaper that can be found on college campuses around the country. It might not be fair to call this an ARI thing. The paper is run and was founded by OAC students, not anyone working for ARI. You can read their current and back issues on their websites for a look at the skills of some other OAC students.

- Mike

ARI's Student Mailing List

Dan Edge's picture

Bill,

Mike's charge may have some merit if your collegues used the list of Student Clubs available on ARI's website. Somewhere on the ARI page there is a legal notification that the student club list can only be used if you want to contact a particular club to join it, or something to that effect. Basically, it implies that one cannot use the list for a mailing list of any kind. I ran into this because I sent a blast e-mail out to everyone on the campus list to spread the word about Objectivist Singles, and one of the club leaders wrote me back and pointed out the legal notification, which I hadn't seen before. Easy mistake to make, in any case.

--Dan Edge

Neil

Mike_M's picture

I wasn't so much agreeing with Don's criticism of your essay as I was pointing that he wasn't arguing that Rand was perfect. To evaluate your essay and Diana and Don's criticisms I would have to read all those essays again. I don't really have the time or interest for that right now. That is why I only focused on the way in which Campbell was critiquing Don.

- Mike

Don's Arguments

Neil Parille's picture

Mr. Mazza,

If you read my article you will see that I place great emphasis on Rand's own statements from her Journals and from her 1973 essay "The Missing Link." Rand herself suggested a theory (or theories) that were at odds with traditional evolution (at least as I understand it).

For example, she suggests that we may be living side by side with "missing links." She even suggests that some people (alive now) may be "pre-human." Or her theory that man may be the "final goal of the universe."

In 1973, she propounds an unusual theory of evolution which she says has "haunted [her] for years."

So I think its fair to assume that Rand had a certain hesitancy about evolution. I then suggests some reasons why I think this might be so.

In any event, I'm interested in what you think about the Journal entries and what you think Rand was getting at in 1973.

For example:

1. Are we living in the presence of "missing links"?

2. Are there people who appear to be human but are really "pre human"?

3. What do you think about Rand's theory presented in 1973?

4. Why did this theory "haunt [her] for years"?

Links I mentioned

Mike_M's picture

Poster MinorityOfOne (a fellow OAC student) and I defending Klein and Kelley from some guy's weird attacks.
I made some of those posts exactly two years ago!

Discussion of Thomas's email and links to other sites also discussing it. Also includes part of the email itself. I didn't comment on that thread. I forget why. Some of the comments are dumb, but the comments from OAC students are all spot on.

Thought I'd add this quote from the conversation: "My opinion of TOC was never particularly high, but it's going down even more as I watch their most recent actions. They're no longer even trying to *look* like they're telling the truth. For such a vapid and boring organization, they're doing a mighty good job at pulling frothing ad hominems from their nether-regions."

- Mike

Don's arguments

Mike_M's picture

Don said:

What about, “Rand rejected the claim that man has instincts because he hasn’t any”? The implication is that Rand started with some set of assumptions, and selected the rest of her ideas according to how they fit with those assumptions. But this is precisely what Rand did not do. Rand 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. And yet this is the assumption with which Neil starts his essay.

And later:

Once again, all this says is that some people interpret evolution to imply X, Rand disagreed with X, therefore she was “hesitant” to endorse evolution. This says that Rand would have been unable to reach her own conclusions regarding what a fact implies, and that she would have been afraid to accept a fact that may have had implications she didn’t like (or didn’t presently hold) – that is, that Rand was an emotionalist.

These are his only two statements relevant to your claims.

You thunder:

I have already quoted Mr. Watkins at some length, to the effect that Rand could not have felt any uneasiness about the implications of theories of human evolution for epistemology and ethics. To feel such uneasiness, she would have had to be irrational or dishonest.

What did Don actually? Don says that if Rand put her unease above the facts this would make her an emotionalist, and it would! And since she theorized at length about the nature of emotionalism and dishonesty, this would make her a hypocrite. Don isn’t saying that Rand couldn’t feel unease. Don says that we have to evidence to suggest that she let her unease rule her thinking about evolution.

You said, “he seems to be arguing from Ayn Rand's perfection (epistemically, if not morally).”

Rand is epistemologically perfect vs. there is no evidence to support the claim that Rand engaged in emotionalism in this case.

Mr. Campbell booms:
As though a rational person couldn't feel uneasy about something that she didn't understand very well, and regarded (correctly or incorrectly) as being off to the side of her main project and needing more effort to sort out than she thought she could spare.

This isn’t Don’s argument. Don is arguing that Neil speculates that Rand said what she did about evolution because of her unease.

Campbell roars:
What’s more, Rand could not have had concerns beyond her stated motives, unless she was a liar. That’s part of the appeal to Ayn Rand’s perfection—in this case, Watkins presumes that, unlike the rest of us, she consciously knew at all times what all of her motives were.

No. Again, Don’s claim is that in this case we have no grounds to infer that she had motives beyond her stated ones. The only thing amateurish about Don’s critique is your response and your attempt to paint Don as part of the fictitious perfection brigade.

- Mike

Robert--missing link

eg's picture

Ayn Rand displayed complete ignorance about the paleontology of man in her "missing link" article speculation. It was an interesting read, though. Neil's article is good enough as an aid for him or another to write a better one.

I hope you aren't here on a bear-baiting expedition. I know you don't intend to stick around.

--Brant

fair point

Mike_M's picture

Bill Perry wrote:

"But I do know precisely how they got the list they mailed it to. They got it from publicly available sources only. And they only mailed it to the clubs that you can find through an internet search. The comment is grossly unfair and false.

Mike, you've argued fairly and strongly for your positions. Quite bluntly you falsely accuse Will of theft of ARI property. That comment was unworthy of you."

Ok. I was wrong to do that. I apologize to Mr. Thomas. I based that claim on some of the discussion that surrounded the email way back when. My memory must have been faulty.

The fact that Will and Andrew got the email addresses through legitimate means doesn't excuse the content of the email, though. I'll see if I can dig up the email and some of the discussions surrounding it. If memory serves, I recall reading posts by Andrew Bissell here on SOLOP. I'd be interested in hearing why he and Thomas thought was in any way fair or accurate to write what they did. As was said among ARI students at the time, either Will Thomas as been grossly mislead by his sources or the email was a deliberate smear. If there is a third option I'd love to hear it.

- Mike

A Spade's A Spade

Teresa's picture

Robert, I really want to thank you for providing this valuable opportunity for an excellent exercise in critical thinking. Try as I might, I could find nothing even slightly derogatory in Parille's essay toward Rand. Watkins's hypersensitivity toward and harsh judgement of it is a mystery to me.

Mike Mazza writes, "nor has

William E. Perry's picture

Mike Mazza writes, "nor has Yaron Brook hijacked TOC's mailing lists and sent out emails lying about the Summer Seminar."

I'm assuming Mike is taking a side swipe at a message that Will Thomas and Andrew Bissell sent to ARI affiliated clubs. I know that because I had the cubicle across from Andrew's when he was compiling the list. I don't recall the content and won't comment on it. But I do know precisely how they got the list they mailed it to. They got it from publicly available sources only. And they only mailed it to the clubs that you can find through an internet search. The comment is grossly unfair and false.

Mike, you've argued fairly and strongly for your positions. Quite bluntly you falsely accuse Will of theft of ARI property. That comment was unworthy of you.

Bill

Exactly, Dan. And it's those

Ross Elliot's picture

Exactly, Dan. And it's those that hurl epithets like Randroid who are exactly the type that *can't stand* civility and calm adherence to principle when the heat gets turned up. Having once been called a Randroid by none less than The Great Pretender himself, MSK, I don't usually take it to heart, I just don't engage them. I mean, would you try to discuss philosophy with a talking ape, especially if he insisted on throwing bananas at you?

Defenses of Mr. Watkins' arguments

Robert Campbell's picture

You'd think that when participants on this board get a day and a half’s opportunity to challenge my essay, they'd be piling up defenses of Mr. Watkins' critique of Mr. Parille. After all, I charged Mr. Watkins with two logical fallacies: relying on a false alternative (either Rand never endorsed theories of evolution because she hadn't studied them enough "or" she was an irrational phony unconcerned with facts) and making repeated appeals to the epistemic perfection of Ayn Rand.

No word yet from Mr. Watkins--but maybe he hasn't read my entry, or lacks time to reply.

No word from Ms. Hsieh, who thought Mr. Watkins' arguments against Mr. Parille's "Ayn Rand and Evolution" were as effective as shooting fish in a barrel, scarcely merited repeating, and only needed to be presented out of charity to the easily suckered. I have to presume she has read my entry, at some point since Messrs. Quintana and Bayne fixed the screwy HTML, because she has kept posting on this thread.

Not a single word in defense of Mr. Watkins' arguments from Mr. Fahy, Mr. Valliant, Mr. Perigo, or Mr. Edge.

So I gotta credit Mr. Mazza, who in one post amongst his voluminous output offers the only defense of Mr. Watkins' critique so far:

You have consistently equated any denial of a specific fault of Rand’s with a claim of perfection. What did Valliant do? Argue that a specific set of claims about Rand made by the Brandens is false. But by employing Sciabarran dialectics, we can unify the thesis with its antithesis and learn that Valliant’s true motive was to argue the moral perfection of Ayn Rand, I suppose. Don Watkins argued that one specific claim (that Rand wasn’t enthusiastic towards evolution for motives outside her stated ones) was arbitrary. Somehow this translates into an argument for her infallibility.

I have already quoted Mr. Watkins at some length, to the effect that Rand could not have felt any uneasiness about the implications of theories of human evolution for epistemology and ethics. To feel such uneasiness, she would have had to be irrational or dishonest. As though a rational person couldn't feel uneasy about something that she didn't understand very well, and regarded (correctly or incorrectly) as being off to the side of her main project and needing more effort to sort out than she thought she could spare. As though a rational person couldn’t feel uneasy about something that she wasn’t sure could be delinked from ideas she considered pernicious, such as instinctual knowledge, psychological determinism, or secularized original sin. There’s the false alternative.

What’s more, Rand could not have had concerns beyond her stated motives, unless she was a liar. That’s part of the appeal to Ayn Rand’s perfection—in this case, Watkins presumes that, unlike the rest of us, she consciously knew at all times what all of her motives were.

Worth noting as well is the language Rand used in the 1973 essay on the "missing link." She wrote that the issue had "haunted" her. An odd way to talk, if nothing was making her uneasy.

Here’s another quote from Watkins, though I frankly don’t see why another one should be necessary. Following a long quote from Parille on widely presumed ties between theories of human evolution and reductive materialism, Watkins complains:

…all this says is that some people interpret evolution to imply X, Rand disagreed with X, therefore she was "hesitant" to endorse evolution. This says that Rand would have been unable to reach her own conclusions regarding what a fact implies, and that she would have been afraid to accept a fact that may have had implications she didn’t like (or didn’t presently hold [sic])—that is, that Rand was an emotionalist.

Again, if Rand was uneasy about some aspect of evolution, this could only be because she was irrational. And again, such an argument rates a giant "Huh?" Unless Rand was not just perfectly rational, but always consciously knew her own motives, and (apparently) always drew correct conclusions about what evolutionary theories really imply.

So I wouldn’t say Watkins is presuming that Rand was infallible; the perfection he’s assuming is more like being an "Aquinas’s Angel," almost instantly knowing all of the ramifying implications of what she knew, believed, or hypothesized.

Once again, too, Watkins is being egocentric, in the Piagetian sense. If he knows something, he’s damn sure that Rand knew it, too. What ever happened to context-keeping?

Here’s a juicy example: "She would have seen that nothing in evolution implies determinism, because nothing in evolution does." Actually, Watkins is assuming that Rand knew what he thinks he knows. I actually agree with him that evolution doesn’t require determinism, but he and I both have a lot of work cut out for us before we can finish making good on that claim.

Here’s an even better one. Parille has to be wrong when he says that Rand worried about a link between evolution and instincts. According to Watkins, Parille should merely have concluded: "Rand rejected the claim that man has instincts because he hasn’t any." OK, what about the fact that modern city-dwelling human beings are more likely to develop a phobia of snakes, which aren't a widely encountered danger in their environment, than a phobia of riding in fast automobiles, which are? (See Steven Pinker’s book How the Mind Works for this example.) More assuming that Rand knew what Watkins thinks he knows.

Finally, I note that the prolifically posting Mr. Mazza (as well as Ms. Hsieh, and the other folks who have complained about my essay) are so quiet about Rand’s "missing link" speculation that you can hear a pin drop. Do they genuinely have no opinion on the subject? They won’t even classify it is a "nonphilosophical" matter, irrelevant to Objectivism? Surely they don’t need to wait for someone to tell them how to think about it.

Robert Campbell

PS. There's enough to chew on here.  I'll respond to Mr. Valliant (and Mr. Mazza) about Mr. Valliant's implied appeals to Ayn Rand's perfection later on.

hi Jim

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Mike,

For me this isn't about personalities. If TOC went away today, I would still be an advocate of Objectivism as an open system. I also have no real worries about how ARI and TOC happen to be doing beyond hoping that Objectivism develops as a philosophy. I'm too busy with my job and my own intellectual development.

I don't view what other people choose to do as a problem for me.

Jim

hi Jim

Mike_M's picture

I really wish there were material on cognitive science from ARI. From what I've read on HBL, Dr. Binswanger's new book will be heavily informed by recent developements in the psychology of perception. I've been very sure to take advantage of Rutgers' excellent cogsci department, though.

I've heard of "Flow," though haven't read it. I'm about a quarter through "Guns, Germs, and Steal." Maybe when I finish I'll start a thread on it.

As for philosophy of science, there is some material, but not a lot. I think this has been changing in the last few years. There is obviously Peikoff's work on induction. John McCaskey gave lectures on Francis Bacon last year. Pat Corvini has given a few lectures on the philosophy of math. There's not a lot, but there is some. I'd also recommend David Harriman's excellent article on enlightenment science in the first issue of The Objective Standard.

And you're right, I probably gave the impression that I think a lot of TOC supporters are ARI-bashers. I don't think that. I was a fan of Diana's from before she left TOC, and obviously you and Phil Coates aren't "bashers." Actually, the three big offenders in my book are Campbell, Bidinotto, and Will Thomas. (These guys are supposed to be intellectuals!) I don't see Ed Locke or Rob Tracinski over on OO calling people guttersnipes or cultists, nor has Yaron Brook hijacked TOC's mailing lists and sent out emails lying about the Summer Seminar. So like I've been saying, name calling, lying, and underhanded tactics are all problems for you TOC guys. ARI just ain't doin' it.

Dan

Mike_M's picture

I think you are largely right. In fact, (I'll try to dig up the links) there are some conversations on Objectivism Online displaying some of this behavior. I distinctly remember someone claiming that David Kelley was a post-modernist and then attacking someone named Shaun (Sean?) Klein. Two other posters and I (all three of us OAC students) defended Kelley and Klein against the unwarranted attacks. I'll link to the thread when I find it. So there is evidence indicating that ARI students and teachers are not involved in this negative behavior (and actually discourage it). I think that attitude is largely a product of rationalism, which a significant portion of the OAC is designed to fight. As you can see by looking at the topics Dr. Peikoff addressed in lectures during the 90s, there has been a big campaign against rationalism going on over the past 12 or so years. I think it has been resoundingly successful. For example, the types of people that drove Diana away from the OSG list are far far less common nowadays, if they are even around at all any more.

I'd also like to point out that, while Campbell and Bidinotto gleefully call me a zealot cult ARI whatever, and call Diana a guttersnipe, I've yet to see anyone call Campbell or Bidinotto a "Brandenoid" or a TOC cultist. These two insults could be launched at both of these two guys with more evidence to back it up than the ARIan insults. Yet that hasn't happened. I think this is a good example of the difference between the two sides. On one side, we have prominent intellectuals calling people names in internet forums. On the other side, we have prominent intellectuals writing books and giving symposiums at Brown on Objectivism. On one side we have two students competently arguing against the other side. The other side doesn't even seem to have students as far as I can tell.

Of course, internet forums tend to be nasty places that attract nasty people. As bad as the flames get on some of the Objectivism forums, they are far worse on places like Internet Infidels, for example.

- Mike

Casey

Dan Edge's picture

The fact that I of all people have been labled a "Randroid" so frequently is significant to me, because I've always made a point to be polite and professional when debating such issues.

A note to TOCers:

Take my experience into consideration. If you indiscriminantly label young Oists as "Randroids" and "Idolators" when they politely question technical aspects of philsophy, you contribute negatively to your organization's reputation.

--Dan Edge

ARI/TOC

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Mike,

I think you also generalize when you characterize TOC supporters as ARI-bashers. The internet is a poor sample from which to draw conclusions. I've had mostly positive personal experiences with ARI folks and I generally encourage people to give ARI/TOC a fair comparison. ARI simply hasn't had much in the way of material that has addressed my areas of interest which are predominantly philosophy of science and cognitive science. That may change and I am open to new developments. That's OK, they've got other focus areas.

Also, people who look predominantly within the Objectivist movement for intellectual nourishment are seriously limiting their scope.

There is a long list of books that I would recommend that O'ists read
after reading Rand. I will give some of my favorites below. None of them are written by O'ists of any stripe:

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Creativity by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins
The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman
The Future of Work by Thomas Malone
The Cathedral and the Bazaar by Eric Raymond
Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Moral Animal by Robert Wright
Serious Play by Michael Schrage

Jim

Dan,

Casey's picture

I couldn't agree more. Charges of "Randroid," "frother," "whitewasher," "guttersnipe," etc., etc., have been leveled at me many times simply because I fail to see a clear reason for ARI's evil reputation among TOC boosters. TOC depends more on ARI having a bad reputation (and thus a justification for existing) than the other way around. I think this must be the reason for this. Defend ARI and you are a "true believer," defend Rand and you are some kind of idolater, etc., etc. It's so ironic because TOC won't allow any discussion of the Brandens and continues to invite them to represent them no matter how many scholars they lose in the process. Since I've been exposed to this whole world, TOCers appear to be much more cultish and slavish in their blind devotion to the Brandens and their hysterical demonization of ARI, Rand and Peikoff.

The ARI True-Believer Stereotype

Dan Edge's picture

Stereotypes are often based on reality, to some degree. I have met ARI supporters who fit the "True-Believer" stereotype, in the sense that they are belligerently critical of TOCers (and others) without first understanding the philosophical issues separating the two groups. I have met 5 or 6 such individuals in person over the years (and several more over the internet), almost all of them young, almost all of them new to Objectivism. These folks can be quite loud and vicious in their indignation, especially over the internet where they never come face-to-face with their intellectual opponents.

[To be clear, I do not know any SOLO writers who fall into this category.]

In my experience, this small subset of under-educated, self-proclaimed ARI-supporters misrepresent the larger ARI community. I was "ARI-educated" in the sense that all of my intellectual elders and teachers growing up were ARI supporters, advocates of closed system theory, non-tolerationists, etc. I've never know a single one of them to be rude to or condemn someone just because he went to a TOC conference or something like that. Don't get me wrong, they'll give someone hell if he deserves it (as I have deserved it on various occasions), but they are far from the belligerent, closed-minded, "true-believer" type you hear about. In fact, they would kick a belligerent, closed minded, self-proclaimed ARI-supporter out of their house before they would a polite, open-minded TOCer.

Also, I've found that a majority or TOC-supporters I've met are not even aware of the philosophical differences between ARI and TOC. Some of the contentious ARI/TOC issues are highly technical, and very few folks on either side of the fence understand the issues in detail. Some TOC supporters were introduced to Objectivism by a TOCer. Others met one of the few loud, belligerent, self-proclaimed ARI-types who gave them the impression that ARI folks are assholes. Many others have heard rumors about negative ARI personality-types and ally themselves based on this (which is a decision based on unjustified prejudice and self-imposed ignorance).

I've found that at this point the belligerent true-believer stereotype applies much more to the TOC community than the ARI community. When I was struggling with questions about toleration, open vs closed system, and other questions, I discussed these issues at length with many many ARI supporters, and was never "condemned." On the other hand, i have been called a "Randroid" more times than I can count when discussing the same issues with TOC-oriented folks, most of which did not display any significant understanding of the issues involved.

--Dan Edge

JARS

James S. Valliant's picture

JennaW,

The Journal of Neuroscience doesn't have the same problem that JARS does. Imagine that a major share of top neuroscientists and researchers, leaders in the field, refused to publish in that particular journal. Whatever its own standards, the journal would be less effective and less representative of the scholarship in the field.

Whether this refusal is justified is, of course, another matter.

Who's "afraid" or "intimidated" about publishing in JARS? Not me.

However, I do have some concerns. For instance, I am seriously concerned about Robert Campbell's association with JARS, given his remarks here.

NYU club

Mike_M's picture

The NYU club is great. It should serve as a model for all O'ist campus clubs around the country. I highly encourage any people in the NYC area to attend their events. Don't just sit and absorb, though; try to interact. Objectivism is not a spectator sport!

- Mike

Events

Prima Donna's picture

Mike, I attended a lecture on The Capitalist Manifesto at Marist a few months ago, and found Andy Bernstein to be quite warm and friendly. I'm also an NYU alum, so time permitting I may check out those events at some point as well.


-- "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

I support JARS the same way

JennaW's picture

I support JARS the same way I support the Journal of Neuroscience. As in, they're valuable for information's sake.

fair enough

Mike_M's picture

Ok Phil, understood.

Jen, is there any ARI friendly Objectivist group or campus club near you? I've been to a few events sponsored by the NYU Objectivist club. On one occasion I got to have dinner with Andrew Bernstein. Through the NYU organization I've met both young Objectivists still in college, as well as old timers from the NBI days. None of this awful behavior that Bidinotto or Campbell like to talk about was present. The best way to see what the intellectual climate is like around ARI is to (!) interact with ARI students, supporters, and leaders. I'm sure Diana can testify to that.

Just think about this from the perspective of a young ARI student who until very recently had no investment in ARI.

ARI Critic: ARI encourages dogmatism and is authoritarian to its students.
Me: Can you back that up with facts?
ARI Critic: I had one isolated bad experience with an unnamed ARI person five years ago. Tara Smith didn't quote my favorite people in her books. Some unnamed ARI supporter told me he is afraid to publish in JARS.
Me: Sorry. What I meant was, do you have anything outside of rumors to support that claim?
ARI Critic: Well if I read my negative view of ARI into F&V, it should be dogmatic and authoritarian.
Me: What about all the evidence that indicates ARI will patiently answer student question and encourages new philosophic work?
ARI Critic: You are a crazy zealot. I find your cultism amusing.
ME: Huh!?

That's what it all looks like to me. And judging by the private message I’ve been receiving that is what it looks like to a lot of former ARI skeptics here. This has all been very enlightening.

- Mike

JARS

eg's picture

In principle I support JARS. I have never read an issue, but I'd have to read it before coming to a negative conclusion. There are probably hundreds of publications purporting to be scholarly that would not be missed save by publish or perish academics that are full of pseudo-scholarship badly written by PhDs. I really have no reason to put JARS in such a category. I thnk it's good to have a place for articles about AR and Objectivism as an easy point of reference for serious, competent AR scholars now and in the future.

--Brant

Very True

ethan_dawe's picture

Jen said:

"Those with independent minds will evaluate and make their decisions based on the ideas, not the smoke and mirrors."

I agree!

Curiouser and curiouser...

Prima Donna's picture

I've not yet seen anything cult-like or True Believer-esque, so I'm not understanding where this is coming from. I know little about ARI, but from what I've seen so far from its supporters here, such adjectives are misleading. Many of my close friends, for whom I have a great deal of respect, are also supportive of ARI, which is what compelled me to take a look at all of this in the first place (evidence is evidence).

Those with independent minds will evaluate and make their decisions based on the ideas, not the smoke and mirrors.


-- "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

Phil Coates

PhilipC's picture

> "the actual respectful discussion to name-calling ratio is not very high."
I hope this isn't in reference to me. [Mike Mazza]

It wasn't. It's not any one (or every) person...it was my general weighted average after having read all the posts on more than one side of various issues on many busy threads.

life imitates art

Mike_M's picture

Robert,

I see you are complaining over at another forum. Let's take a look:

[dislaimer: I did not wrtie this, and it is not another parody like I posted before. These are the comments of two real people.]

Michael Stuart Kelly: "Robert,

I just read through the article and the thread.

All I want to say about that thread is, "What an amazing amount of bitching against you and TOC by so few!"

Well, they have have to save the world, I guess..."

Dragonfly responds: "Do they really think they can convince independent minds with such completely cult-like behavior, like the really endless bashing of the False Prophets who threaten to destroy the True Faith? Imagine the harm those False Prophets can do if they get young people into their clutches! They will be forever lost for the Eternal Truth of Objectivism!

And that is supposed to be a rational philosophy?"

Person A: Can you believe what dogmatists they are over at ARI?
Person B: Yeah they are in cult! They'll never have tens and tens of supporters like we do!
Person A: Yeah! Objectivism is dying because of those zealots.
Person B: Right on! Let's go live some more, since that is what Objectivism is all about.

Amused,
Mike

Phil Coates

Mike_M's picture

On RoR you wrote: "I can't speak for Robert C, but I've just recently been following the most active threads on SoloPass and the actual respectful discussion to name-calling ratio is not very high."

I hope this isn't in reference to me. As you can plainly see in my discussion with Shayne, I am perfectly capable of having a respectful exchange with minimal insults. What ticked me off about Robert (besides the manipulative anti-ARI tactics I've seen him employ over time), is not that he didn't immediately respond, but that he ran over to RoR to complain about "zealots" so Bob Bidinotto and MSK could cheer him on. Like I said, I don't would have made some of the comments he made over there over here.

- Mike

looking forward to it

Mike_M's picture

Robert Campbel: "As some have duly noted by looking up my posts on RoR, I did indeed want to give the zealots a day to froth."

Thanks for the compliment! I look forward to your reply. Maybe this time you'll address the closed-system dispute without misrepresentation?

- Mike

Where we are

eg's picture

It sure be obviously clear that we here are in a war zone. Civilians should get out! Take such belongings that can't be replaced. Bring the dog, leave the cat. Turn off the water!

--Brant

How I plan to reply

Robert Campbell's picture

I don't know where some of the folks who commented on this entry got the idea that I wouldn't be replying to them.

I had three reasons for taking a one-day hiatus from SOLOHQ after posting my entry yesterday:

(1) The essay took some time to write, and I have plenty of other responsibilities that need attending to, such as teaching classes and supervising students' research.

(2) I thought it would be better to see an overall pattern of responses to my entry, as it would help me to organize my replies.

(3) As some have duly noted by looking up my posts on RoR, I did indeed want to give the zealots a day to froth. In my experience, some posters on boards such as this one take the slightest delay in responding as proof of cowardice and concession of defeat. Without an instant response from their opponent, they rush in and fill the space with further assertions that are easy to challenge. Mr. Mazza, in particular, has surpassed my expectations.

My detailed responses will follow, later today and tomorrow.

In the meantime, I have one request. You're welcome to pick my entry apart as much as you like, but whether you like what I say or not, please read Ms. Hsieh's blog entry and comments section in their entirety, along with Mr. Parille's original essay and Mr. Watkins' critique of it. None of the material is all that long, and none of it should be too difficult for present company. I'm sorry about the convoluted structure of the essay (which Mr. Edge remarked on), but Ms. Hsieh's arguments presuppose the soundness of Mr. Watkins' critique of Mr. Parille, and I couldn't see how to address Mr. Watkins' critique without tucking that section into the middle of my entry, interrupting my run-through of Ms. Hsieh's blog entry. Plus I needed to mention one portion of Mr. Parille's essay that Mr. Watkins and Ms. Hsieh both pointedly ignored.

Anyhow, you can call me a jerk or proclaim that I'm brilliant, but my replies are going to focus on informed judgments of my essay, not on cheering and booing.

Two issues, in particular, I want to reserve for other threads.

One is Bill Perry's criticisms of Barbara Branden. I'll have something to say about that on Bill's thread, not here. And my comments may not be quite what Mr. Valliant and Mr. Perigo were expecting.

The other is where the Ayn Rand Institute presently stands on the open-system issue. Mr. Mazza's recent comments on this board, and Ms. Hsieh's, have led me to realize that the closed-system vs. open-system dispute isn't quite what I thought it was. But I'll get to that in a second blog entry, so as not to clog up this thread.

Robert Campbell

An Excellent Idea

DianaHsieh's picture

Phil asks: "Instead of only tersely listing six concepts or principles, can you over time do a post on each one on NoodleFood and explain in some detail exactly where you were wrong before and what, in your view, is the correct position?"

I think that's an excellent idea. I'll put it on my blogging to-do list.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Epistemology

PhilipC's picture

> the "Objectivism" standard at TOC is wrong in so many other ways, including on the arbitrary, the choice to think, the choice to live, hierarchy, reduction, principles, and more. I cannot count the number of times that I've realized "Oh, I got that totally wrong."

Diana, I hadn't realized there are disagreements on this fundamental an epistemological a level:

I learned these subjects from Peikoff, not at TOC, so I'm unaware of these differences. Instead of only tersely listing six concepts or principles, can you over time do a post on each one on NoodleFood and explain in some detail exactly where you were wrong before and what, in your view, is the correct position?

My awkwardness with baby HTML

Robert Campbell's picture

Duncan and Jason,

My apologies for causing you technical problems. My blog entry was the first one I'd prepared for a site like SOLOPassion that uses this particular form of simplified HTML. I use the grown-up version of HTML all the time, and definitely prefer it. So I made the mistake of preparing my entry in HTML, then realizing that some of the tags weren't being recognized and having to strip them out. Next time I'll stick to the tags that baby HTML supports.

Robert Campbell

Credit

ethan_dawe's picture

Despite my (continued) disagreements with Linz about the SOLO/RoR split, I wish to credit him for calling it like it is regarding the debate between SOLO TOC ARI etc etc etc.

Despite the fact that some here think that everyone at RoR or RoR itself is a rubber stamp for TOC and Branden Lovers, I have posted to the previously mentioned thread on RoR suggesting that TOC supporters, Brandenians, and those who have something to say about this come to SOLO and debate the issue rather than sitting on some other forum hurling turds. We shall see what happens.

For my part, I'm NOT a Brandenian. I haven't read PARC, but the whole drooling beast affair did much to swing my opinion.

Ethan

It looks like Campbell hasn't been banned...

Casey's picture

Instead he's been promoted to the top tier of your site!

Well, Bravo Linz.

That's the building material if this bridge to those who would debate will actually debate -- after all their tough talk. This should help settle these differences, once and for all for the public to judge, unless they run away from this kind of venue. I think the fact that they would walk away from a venue such as this would speak volumes given its unprecedented nature. But maybe they would prefer to speak only at sites that don't allow anti-Branden comment, like RoR or OL. Well, that would speak volumes, too.

And

Utility Belt's picture

Also, you might want to read "The Origins of Virtue" by Matt Ridley. It's an introduction to the evoloution of ethical behaviour, which then evolves into an argument for laissez-faire capitalism.

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