New Rules for Rand Criticism

Chris Cathcart's picture
Submitted by Chris Cathcart on Wed, 2010-12-29 13:13

(Originally published at TheUltimatePhilosopher.com)

I have made the following integration: Approximately 99.9% of critical commentary out there on Ayn Rand can be summarily dismissed as lacking certain minimum qualifications. The chief minimum qualification I have in mind is a working familiarity with Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.

That may not even be enough. I think the standards may have to be made more stringent than that, to ensure quality-control. As far as I'm concerned, a working familiarity with OPAR only gets you in the front door, onto the consideration list as it were. What would ensure quality control and prima facie status as someone with a clue is a familiarity with Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism course, and a familiarity with his advanced seminar course on OPAR would be a much-desired icing on the cake.

Short of that, it's pretty much a crap shoot whether you're getting commentary from someone with a clue. The minimum qualifications otherwise would make the number of qualified commentators verge on the vanishingly small. It would probably take, at minimum, some advanced training in philosophy, a solid background in Aristotelianism, and a keen awareness of Rand's place in the neo-Aristotelian tradition. Dougs Rasmussen and Den Uyl make the cut. That's about it. The number is frighteningly small in any event.

(I'll merely mention that the noteworthy academic commentary on Ayn Rand to date has been from those with a very favorable view of Rand overall. Pieces like Nozick's "On the Randian Argument" do not qualify as noteworthy even in this context; it's telling that the Dougs' response to that piece has never been answered, in over 30 years. There's a reason for that.)

One of Rand's associates interviewed for 100 Voices mentioned how Rand made her speeches in Atlas as lengthy as she did because she wanted to ensure that she would not be misunderstood, that she wanted to cover all the bases (in essentialized terms, of course). The interviewee goes on to mention how even that didn't help much - as evidenced by how intellectual thugs such as Whittaker "Gas" Chambers seemingly went out of their way to misunderstand it all, the fuckers. Clearly "familiarity" with the novels has guaranteed nothing by way of solid understanding in the popular culture. Too many goddamned hooligan thugs running around screwing up the discourse - and way too many without any philosophical sophistication whatsoever. Not to mention all the hooligan thugs that became cultist followers whom Rand wanted nothing to do with. (Not that you'd ever hear about her disdain for the cultists from the outsider thugs who call her a cult. Oh, in this context, Michael Shermer gets the boot unless or until he shapes up.)

It's also worth pointing out here that Understanding Objectivism served as a wake-up call to Objectivists who had been studying the printed works for years. There really was no substitute for years-on-end, first-hand interaction with Miss Rand. (I'll mention, as I have in the past, that John Hospers, a professionally-trained and widely-respected philosopher, was influenced tremendously by his own couple years of extensive interaction. You just never hear about that from the legions of neck-wringing-worthy thugs, now do you.) The Peikoff courses are the closest thing the general public has. When Peikoff introduced to Objectivist audiences the concept of rationalism and its insidiously destructive effects, it's like a veil had been lifted for many. (Hyper-rationalism is standard M.O. in academic philosophy, FWIW. There's a reason Rand found herself fundamentally at odds with the academy in her day. Perhaps it's getting better now with the modest influx of Aristotelian influence.) The concept of methodological integration is almost unknown outside of the circle of people familiar with these lectures. Not even "spiral progression of knowledge" appears in the Ayn Rand Lexicon, but it's partly definitive of a healthy, well-lubricated cognitive process.

To even so much as have a cognitively-clear, schmutz-free grasp of what Rand was ever getting at - and the clear thought is all hers, not her critics'; they only wish their cognitive processes were clear - requires a certain (re-)wiring of the mind/brain well removed from that of the mainstream "norm." (Did I also mention in a recent blog entry that Kubrick stood out far ahead of everyone else, and his cognitive processes were normal in the true sense of the term? The mainstream is a swamp.) The standard criticisms - you know how they go, they're so fucking cliche'd by now you can rattle 'em off like any old thug who doesn't engage in mental effort - have some kind of inbuilt misunderstanding-bias. None of that is surprising if the critics have - unbeknownst to them - been Comprachico-ized by the schools. That guarantees a lack of ability to handle serious ideas generally; the cognitive deficiency can only be multiplied when the ideas in question are Rand's. And no academic-level criticism is going to gain any headway without first making it past the quality-control committee at the Ayn Rand Society. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Distinguished Professor Leiter.

So, if you're one of those serious students of Objectivism who is sick and fucking tired of the same ol' same ol' about Rand wafting around in the culture, whenever you read some commentary or criticism that so much as suggests the critic doesn't know what he's talking about, just invoke the New Rules:

(1) Is the person familiar with OPAR? (This usually disqualifies the critic right off the bat.)
(2) Does the person demonstrate any philosophical sophistication otherwise? (Ditto.)
(3) Does the person demonstrate a seriousness about ideas, beyond snarky asides and punchy soundbites? (Ditto.)

That's gotta remove 99% of the stuff out there from serious consideration already. You may not even need to consider the contextually-optional Fourth Rule:

(4) Is the person familiar with Peikoff's major Objectivism courses? (This narrows the field way down.)

By the way, FYI: if you don't know what "contextually-optional" might refer to, you are disqualifed from serious consideration as Rand-critic. Ahhhh, ya see how easy it is to wipe away the otherwise aggravating mainstream and/or second-rate schmutz, once you've integrated and automatized the Rules? Go ahead, it's for your mental health - just wipe away "Gas" Chambers and Anne Hellish and the rest of their rationally-non-integratable ilk from your cognitive field of vision, like so much bug-splat from windshield, and pay them no further heed. It's very refreshing! Smiling


( categories: )

Callum

Lindsay Perigo's picture

That's an interesting way to look at it. I've never heard of an appeal to people who would never vote for you or even hear you out to be successful, but there you go.

Have you not been tapped on the shoulder about the Libz' new marketing strategy? It is based on 2 premises:

1) Marketing is all.

2) Optimal (they like that word) marketing is to put a positive spin on everything, and use the word "positive" at every opportunity. Thus, "The Libertarianz candidate for Man says he has a positive view of voters in the electorate."

Notice how crushingly successful the candidate was.

Actually, he succeeded with me. In making me barf.

Note, too, in response to Baade, that the ACT Party gets labelled greedy and selfish even though it eschews Ayn Rand and Objectivism.

Libz should stick to NIOF. That way we can all collaborate to good effect. I have always argued against the approach that, for instance, Goblians shouldn't be accommodated within Libz. It disturbs, but doesn't surprise, me that Baade is now saying "Objectivism must die."

What is *not* a good mix is Libz + MBA bullshit.

Objectivists will claim

Aaron's picture

Objectivists will claim (rational) selfishness, but the other parts of this mishmash package deal - greed and fear - are just smears by others.

"But you won't find many

Callum McPetrie's picture

"But you won't find many right-wing parties who brand themselves the party of "selfishness" and "greed". Those who do need better marketing advice. Mine is free."

We don't (with the apparent exception of you!)

"Yes, if they're on the electoral roll."

That's an interesting way to look at it. I've never heard of an appeal to people who would never vote for you or even hear you out to be successful, but there you go.

Marketing is everything

Richard Goode's picture

You'll find many right-wing (for lack of a better word) parties that are branded the party of "selfishness" and "greed".

But you won't find many right-wing parties who brand themselves the party of "selfishness" and "greed". Those who do need better marketing advice. Mine is free. Eye

are the people (anonymous internet posters) who go about calling the Libz the party of "fear, selfishness and greed" our target market?

Yes, if they're on the electoral roll.

'The point is that

Callum McPetrie's picture

'The point is that Objectivists, some of whom are prominent members of the Libertarianz Party, espouse selfishness, greed, and the inane philoso-babble of Ayn Rand. It is for this reason that Libertarianz is branded the party of "fear, selfishness and greed".'

You'll find many right-wing (for lack of a better word) parties that are branded the party of "selfishness" and "greed". Just saying that I, like anyone, have the right to the fruit of my labour is enough to get you branded such. If just espousing that position will earn you the label of "greedy", imagine how much worse defending it must be!

Now tell me, Richard: are the people (anonymous internet posters) who go about calling the Libz the party of "fear, selfishness and greed" our target market?

Callumny

Richard Goode's picture

You seem to be insinuating that I don't know what libertarianism is.

You also seem to be implying that some active members of the Libertarianz Party are anarcho-capitalists. (If so, it's news to me. Who are these people?)

What you don't seem to be doing is sticking to the point. The point is that Objectivists, some of whom are prominent members of the Libertarianz Party, espouse selfishness, greed, and the inane philoso-babble of Ayn Rand. It is for this reason that Libertarianz is branded the party of "fear, selfishness and greed".

Marketing is everything.

Some libertarians are

Callum McPetrie's picture

Some libertarians are anarchists (anarcho-capitalists), and openly espouse that position. Should the Libz therefore be accused of being the party that wants to abolish government, even though that is explicitly against the Libz' stated position?

A philosophy isn't defined by what some of its adherents believe (not that Objectivists do espouse greed and selfishness as they are commonly understood). I would expect you of all people to know that.

Yes

Richard Goode's picture

Is the accusation against the Libz any more justified than these?

Yes.

Bush doesn't openly endorse Nazism. Obama doesn't openly preach Islam. Some libertarians (viz., the Objectivists within the libertarian movement) openly espouse selfishness and greed.

The Force has done its work here...

Callum McPetrie's picture

... because it was this statement:

"Yes.

Bush doesn't openly endorse Nazism. Obama doesn't openly preach Islam. Objectivists openly espouse selfishness and greed."

in response to my question "Is the accusation against the Libz any more justified than these?"

Where the equation went on.

And you say my mind is corrupted!

Callumny

Richard Goode's picture

Yet you've gone on to equate the two!

No, I haven't. The fact that you construe

There are too few libertarians, and too many Objectivists within the libertarian movement, and the latter helps explain the former.

as equating the two is a sure sign that your mind has been corrupted by the dark side of the Force.

Objectivists =

Callum McPetrie's picture

Objectivists = Libz?

Objectivists: the group of people who espouse the philosophy of Ayn Rand.
Libertarianz: the only NZ political party which espouses libertarian political beliefs. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I've seen no press release or article, written on behalf of the Libz, which talks about how Objectivism is the only basis for libertarian ideology, or indeed a basis for it to begin with. Not every libertarian is an Objectivist, and vice versa. Yet you've gone on to equate the two!

"Objectivists openly espouse selfishness and greed."

Of a certain type. Let's not make that mistake again.

Yes

Richard Goode's picture

Is the accusation against the Libz any more justified than these?

Yes.

Bush doesn't openly endorse Nazism. Obama doesn't openly preach Islam. Objectivists openly espouse selfishness and greed.

"Ideological masturbation" is

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Ideological masturbation" is rampant on the internet - such is the nature of forums and chatrooms, and can be found on pretty much all political forums, regardless of where they fit politically and philosophically. And it extends to virtually all other areas of human endeavour that make their way into internet discussions.

I've seen fiery posts and insults flying during a discussion of how to compare the sizes of US cities vs. those elsewhere in the world. If such a petty topic can rouse the emotions and get people accusing one another, it should really come as no surprise that forums get heated when they deal with topics that are close to one's heart. Objectivism is the rule, not the exception.

"Now, ask yourself, why is Libertarianz branded the party of "fear, selfishness and greed"?"

Why is Bush branded a Nazi, Obama a Muslim? Is the accusation against the Libz any more justified than these?

Now you have to ask yourself: would the people making those accusations vote for Libz anyway?

Jedi v Libertarianz

Richard Goode's picture

This is from New Zealand's most widely read political blog.

Jedi v Libertarianz

A very amusing [exchange] of press releases, highlighted by Eric Crampton. The sequence is:

1. Libertarianz announce they seek an audience with Jedi Religious Leaders as 1.5% of NZers state that as their religion, greater than Ratana has.
2. Yoda on behalf of the Jedi High Council declines the meeting citing fear, selfishness and greed as manifestations of the dark side
3. The Libertarianz respond suggesting Yoda is a hoax and claiming to be in touch with the true Jedi
4. Finally the Sith Conclave put out a release saying the Libertarianz are too mediocre to each dark side greatness. They also claim credit for destroying the Alliance in 2002 (yay)

Now, ask yourself, why is Libertarianz branded the party of "fear, selfishness and greed"? Could it have something to do with Ayn Rand urging The Virtue of Selfishness?

Yes. The third comment on the post confirms this.

Well, the Libz need to do SOMETHING in order to gain traction. Currently, the party is really only a vehicle for a few arrogant, snobbish Randroids to engage in ideological masturbation

That's the sum and substance of it. As I already said, Objectivism is an impediment to the flowering of freedom. The influence of the cult paralyses the political success of the Libertarianz Party. No stronger retrograde force exists in the libertarian movement. There are too few libertarians, and too many Objectivists within the libertarian movement, and the latter helps explain the former.

Objectivism must die.

"You gotta do lunch with

Brant Gaede's picture

"You gotta do lunch with Bandler and rehearse your stories better."

I stopped reading him quite a while ago. You would find it salutary if you did the same.

--Brant

Well, Darren

Brant Gaede's picture

Well, Darren, I never worry about that "is-ought" stuff because I never could figure out why I ought to. Reasoning involves both inductive and deductive processes. Science and philosophy go their separate ways off their common metaphysical-epistemological base. There is no using scientific methodology, which is a more developed more particular form of reasoning than a philosopher can use, in ethics or politics and certainly not aesthetics.

Ethics is something all people across all cultures have. Getting a better ethics is really just an attempt to improve what you have so you can be happier both in regard to yourself and in regard to others you interact with. Ethics and morality aren't exactly the same thing even though I'm using them interchangeably. "Ethics" seems a little more top-down. "Morality" a little more ingrown. I've not time to write an essay or a book nor would I if I had the time.

Anyway the real basis of the Objectivist Ethics--this is how I see it--is the individual, thinking mind--hence the epistemological connection--hence individualism. Ergo, rational self-interest as the foundation. From there, human social and economic interactions. No science here, just an attempt to figure out best things which in the future might be replaced by a better understanding.

From individualism to individual rights. It's not right to violate rights and it's right to respect them. Ergo the rule of law. This whole thing is an interconnected chain of reasoning, but I can't figure out how to attach the car of aesthetics and if someone does they shouldn't ride in it. (Trainmaster to HQ: Passengers won't ride in the last car. They're afraid of an accident. HQ to trainmaster: Disconnect the last car!)

Here is where Rand really missed the boat. She concentrated on the whole of her philosophy instead of individual rights with the information she also had a philosophy that went along with it if you were interested. If not, not. So she blew off the libertarians and she blew off the conservatives and almost everyone else who might be willing to make a political common cause respecting human rights in the Lockean tradition. Instead politics became too early for her even though she was in the midst of that as early as 1940. It was certainly too early if you had to first study Objectivism for 40 years. The philosophy is really quite simple if you x-most of the culture larded onto it, mostly by her. We call this Orthodox or classical Objectivism. I call it jumping into the volcano. Regardless, morality is right there in the politics itself.

I know all this is too simple and incomplete and I'm sure you can throw criticisms at it from various angles--please do--but I'm not a philosopher. I'm putting this up so you and sundry can be clear as to where I'm coming from. If I want to take this further I'd start by putting up a rights' oriented Web site dedicated to the proposition that freedom is an objective good and we should as a society constantly strive for more of it. I'd throw in a heavy emphasis on the importance of critical thinking, something Rand, ironically, eschewed.

--Brant

@ Brant Gaede

darren's picture

In the real world Objectivism needs to investigate real human being better

...because it actually hasn't investigated it all, and the only world in which the philosophy works is the imaginary one of Atlas Shrugged. Got it.

because while rational self interest is a valid foundation for its ethics,

Not according to Doug Bandler, who believes that one first must put that on a scientific base. He believes that the statement "rational self-interest is a valid foundation for ethics" is a conclusion; what he seeks are premises. He's unhappy with the ones provided by Miss Rand in essays like Virtue of Selfishness because they are philosophical premises only and he wants "scientific" ones.

Of course it's a stupid, hopeless, pointless task: science deals with "is" statements; ethics deals with "ought" statements. You can never derive an "ought" from an "is." In order to do so, you have to have at least one premise with an "ought" in it -- which begs the question; after all, where did that "ought" come from except from a prior ethical notion (it obviously didn't come from physical nature or descriptive statements about physical nature).

Anyway, I heard Miss Rand a number of times -- Ford Hall Forum, Biltmore Hotel in NYC -- and she never claimed that ethics had anything but a logical/philosophical base. She didn't waste her time trying to establish it "scientifically." That doesn't even make sense: science requires experiments. What sort of experiment could possibly be done to establish in a valid, falsifiable way what one "ought" to do in a given situation?

a proper structure still needs to built on top.
On top? Let me see if I understand this: you believe the scientific structure should be built "on top" of the already-existing philosophical one?

You gotta do lunch with Bandler and rehearse your stories better. He believes that the scientic structure required by the Objectivist ethics should be "below" the already-existing philosophical one: he wants a scientific BASE -- a BASE goes BENEATH a structure, not on top of it.

Glad to see the same dumbshit inconsistent philosophizing going on in the Objectivist crowd. Nice to know that some things never change.

A morality created for imaginary, heroic Randian characters hasn't gone too far so far because it cannot.

That's probably because it is incapable of being practiced by real humans in the real world. Unless you intend on using the reputation of "science" as a kind of front to bluster people into thinking that Objectivism has been "scientifically validated", what are you going to do if upon setting up some experiment with the Objectivist ethics, your results end up invalidating the ethics? After all, in science, there are no guarantees that your experiment will turn out the way you want it to.

facts

Brant Gaede's picture

Science and Objectivism have the same metaphysical/epistemological foundation. Insofar as science informs us about human nature Objectivism can create a workable, true, valid ethics. Philosophy without science is philosophy up in the clouds and up there most philosophers do their arbitrary philosophical things. In the real world Objectivism needs to investigate real human being better because while rational self interest is a valid foundation for its ethics, a proper structure still needs to built on top. A morality created for imaginary, heroic Randian characters hasn't gone too far so far because it cannot.

--Brant

Dazzler

gregster's picture

You're displaying the trait common to all mystics - evasion. Or it may only be that you were born of two assholes and it's inherited. Did I not tell you to creep off and check a dictionary? I did.

@ gregster

darren's picture

must have a scientific base because it relates to man dealing with the facts of reality

And science is the only discipline that deals with facts of reality. Philosophy, I suppose -- despite everything Miss Rand wrote over her lifetime -- has nothing to do with the facts of reality. Only science does.

Got it.

Thanks for clearing that up for me.

Ethics

gregster's picture

must have a scientific base because it relates to man dealing with the facts of reality. Reality is proven. Only subhumans among us would ground ethics upon anything other than what works in concordance with the nature of man.

"A long recognized branch of philosophical inquiry"

What kind of Only a savage would wish to be guided by the non-scientific. Just what is your goal Dazzler - other than to look the class clown? You have displayed in a short time such a tenuous grip on reality and such meanness of spirit intertwined with a plunging malevolent universe premise that I wish you all the best for your psychological survival. Something isn't quite right. Your scientifically grounded physician will be in a better position to diagnose.

@ Doug Bandler

darren's picture

Whatever dude.

Cool, man.

Now why don't you stop the evasion and try to answer my question.

Why must ethics -- a long-recognized branch of philosophical inquiry -- have a scientific base?

Whatever

Doug Bandler's picture

For some reason, many Objectivists feel the reflexive need constantly to prove their Objectivist Bona Fides: "I love egoism!" "I hate altruism!" "I performed an integration today!" "I identified a contradictory premise in my psycho-epistemology and I'm feeling much better, thank you!" How tiresome.

Whatever dude.

@ doug bandler

darren's picture

I have often been troubled by Rand's ethics seemingly lacking a scientific base.

Why must ethics have a scientific base, as opposed to a philosophical one? By "scientific", you mean subject to falsification by means of hypothesis and experimentation? I don't see that ethics requires a "scientific base" any more than any other branch of philosophy. Do you lose sleep because Rand did not provide a "scientific base" to her ideas on aesthetics?

I will always be a die hard egoist. I loathe altruism.

(For some reason, many Objectivists feel the reflexive need constantly to prove their Objectivist Bona Fides: "I love egoism!" "I hate altruism!" "I performed an integration today!" "I identified a contradictory premise in my psycho-epistemology and I'm feeling much better, thank you!" How tiresome.)

@ Chris Cathcart

darren's picture

"One of Rand's associates interviewed for 100 Voices mentioned how Rand made her speeches in Atlas as lengthy as she did because she wanted to ensure that she would not be misunderstood,"

(1) Unless Miss Rand actually said or wrote that this was the reason for the inordinate and generally insufferable length of her didactic speeches in AS, then this interviewee was simply second-guessing Miss Rand.

(2) As any writer -- including Miss Rand -- would know, the way to not to be misunderstood is to be (a) clearer and (b) briefer. Better yet, if a writer can simply dramatize an idea -- as Rand did very successfully -- then it makes boring speechifying unnecessary.

Brevity is the Soul of Wit.

Harris Sucks

Doug Bandler's picture

Having read half of his other The End of Faith I'm not too impressed with his direction at times there either.

'The End of Faith' was a disaster. Harris is an explicit Kantian who denies the existence of objective reality because quantum physics has apparently proved indeterminacy. He denies the existence of free will and is a hard core determinist. He denies the existence of volitional character. This last manifests itself in his view of criminal justice. He doesn't believe in punishment of criminals because "humans are like clocks. If a clock is broken you don't punish it, you fix it."

Harris is a real hard-core deterministic, egalitarian, skepticist, empiricist Leftist. He is VERY unlikable. Give me a hundred religious conservatives to one Sam Harris. That's how bad he is.

Doug

gregster's picture

Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape doesn't add anything to what Rand wrote back in the VOS The Objectivist Ethics, and it goes astray several times. Having read half of his other The End of Faith I'm not too impressed with his direction at times there either. Given her proven brilliance, I think you're a bit off the mark to say that the objectivist ethics lacks a scientific base. It will come.

To expand on that; are we really to believe that because the majority of man do not know how to live for the maximum average gain, that we are to give up the claim that rational self-interest produces by far the best outcome whenever it is spread far and wide?

Doug

Ellen Stuttle's picture

We better start a different thread. The topics we've touched on are very off-topic on this one.

Why don't you start a thread with your post?

Warning: We're in the midst of a heavy, heavy snowstorm here. Our power -- or server contact (the UHa server's power) -- might go out. And I have appointments scheduled for Thursday, assuming those occur as scheduled, so it might be a couple days before I can post again.

Ellen

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

I, too, think that Rand was hampered by her lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. Her conception of biology was Aristotelean rather than Darwinian, though what she says I think can be worked into an evolutionary context. Again, a long and complicated subject.

Ellen, this is a very interesting subject to me. I have often been troubled by Rand's ethics seemingly lacking a scientific base. I will always be a die hard egoist. I loathe altruism. But I feel that Rand's egoism rests on a shaky foundation. Needless to say, this causes me some angst.

If you should have the time, could you outline your thinking on this subject. It sounds as if you see the problems with Rand's meta-biology and that you see a way of salvaging it. The argument against Rand's ethics is that so much of human behavior is not done for the purpose of survival but for either legacy or offspring or reproduction, ie for things that bring us no survival value but are done for things that will outlive us. How is it possible to reconcile egoism with this? Rand's meta-biology would lead to the conclusion that much of human behavior is of no value to us. That's problematic.

Great is the new good

Richard Goode's picture

Perfectionism... its basic premise [is] that things should be made as great as possible

Great for whom? And for what?

Aristotelean rather than Darwinian

Doug Bandler's picture

Her conception of biology was Aristotelean rather than Darwinian, though what she says I think can be worked into an evolutionary context. Again, a long and complicated subject.

Yes, this is true. I think that it is *essential* that Rand's ethics be integrated with Darwinian theory. If this is not done, Objectivism will *never* advance.

Linz, thanks for the correction. You are right as always.

Linz, wow, that's a question!

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz (#94879) "There is a price to pay for such "naivete," for sure—but that is an indictment of the world as it is, not of Ayn Rand or the innocence of which such naivete is part. As you say, it was not a moral failing on her part. But you also say you wouldn't recommend that anyone try to emulate it. Would you give me this—that it would be nice if the world were such that we *could* emulate it with full practical impunity?!"

You bring to mind a memory from the summer after I was in 5th grade. My family (minus the two youngest, one of whom hadn't been born yet) were visiting my mother's home town, Creede, Colorado -- by then a very small town though it had once been a bit of a mining boom town. There was a church bazaar sale. Mother had bought a cake or something which she hadn't picked up yet, and the person in charge told her just to go get it, the door was unlocked. This was safe in that town then, since none of the locals would have gone into the building to steal anything.

Very nice, yes, if one could live like that in a larger social world. And more directly addressing the point, if there were a lot more people whom one could take at face value. I think it was probably the case in American history that there were once a lot more such people, especially in rural areas, than there are today. But even given a return to saner values than are prevalent today, I don't see that it would be realistic ever to expect "full practical impunity" for taking people at face value -- since humans are volitional and I think there would always be people who are engaging in deceit. So I think I still, even in a saner world, wouldn't recommend emulating Rand's particular naivety.

Ellen

Doug, re volition

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Me followed by Doug:

I think the start of volition goes way down the evolutionary scale, from the beginning of motility.

So you think single cell organism can be said to have volition. I have thought about this subject - what exactly is volitional behavior? I like your definition of the "effortful molding of action". Rand's definition of human volition is very similar; ie the choice to focus. That is a type of "molding of action". I guess an amoeba and a man can be said to both be volitional with man's volition being conceptual in nature.

OK, that's three people who thought I would have meant an amoeba. I do think that some single-cell organisms are on the evolutionary path toward volition, but not actually an amoeba, though amoebas move. What produced the misunderstanding, I assume, is the word "motility." Amoebas move by shape changes of the cell boundary, not by some organelle with a contractile property, which I think would be necessary for "effort."

The subject is complicated and needs much more than some brief statements.

"This is one of those areas where I think Rand is essentially right but her formulation is flawed because of her lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory."

I, too, think that Rand was hampered by her lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. Her conception of biology was Aristotelean rather than Darwinian, though what she says I think can be worked into an evolutionary context. Again, a long and complicated subject.

Ellen

Richard

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Your [*] definition of "volition" basically agrees with Rand's, and, like hers, leaves out how conceptual self-awareness would arise. Rand at least thought from something pertaining to life processes. It also leaves out (as does Rand's idea of volition) how "a process of deliberation and choice" would move muscles, without which of what use would it be?

Re my "ellen vital," amusing -- especially coming from someone who believes in the need of God as the support of morality.

Anyway...the topic's a digression from the thread. I was just curious. Thanks for answering.

Ellen

[*] Oops. I hadn't noticed that the definition you gave was quoted from Linz. Same point pertains.

And btw, I didn't say that an amoeba exhibits the beginnings of volition. I don't think an amoeba does.

Ellen

Richard Goode's picture

I don't get how anyone would think of "volition" as "implementation of a certain computational architecture." What do you mean by "volition" that you would think this? Generally, those who have a computational theory of brain function are determinists, or at most compatibilists with what I think of as a "paper tiger" version of "volition."

I'm a compatibilist with what you think of as a "paper tiger" version of volition.

[Volition is the] molding of action [by] an organismically produced force which isn't covered in current physics, classical or otherwise.

This is what I think of as the "ellen vital" version of volition. Smiling

Volition

Richard Goode's picture

Volition = the capacity to engage in a self-initiated, conceptually self-aware process of deliberation and choice.

This is a good conceptual analysis of volition.

The question is: In what does this capacity consist? (How is it exercised? What's the mechanism? What does it take to have volition? Humans have it, amoebae don't - wherein lies the difference?)

The answer is: It consists in the implementation of a certain computational architecture.

Chris

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's a funny thing about stinky Campbellians: they would claim to uphold being open to the possibility that one is wrong. But if ever one admits to having been wrong, and such an admission is to their polemical disadvantage, they can't wait to accuse one of hypocrisy.

I myself have noted your twists and turns. I haven't accused you of hypocrisy. I *would* recommend better sign-posting, however! Eye

More balderdash!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Saying a single-cell blob has volition is as silly as saying volition is the "implementation of a certain computational architecture."

"Effortful molding of action" (whatever that might mean) = volition? Gimme a break. Volition = the capacity to engage in a self-initiated, conceptually self-aware process of deliberation and choice. Volition is what the Goblians call "free will" (only they don't mean it). Amoebae don't have volition. They do what they do, with no choice in the matter and no means of identifying that fact. That there might be "effort" involved is neither here nor there. "Effortful" does not mean "deliberate."

More Campbell Stinkiness

Chris Cathcart's picture

He writes over on OL:


Mr. Cathcart's one article in JARS appeared in 2006. It was a response to "Egoism versus Rights," by a philosophy professor named Robert H. Bass:

http://www.aynrandst...7_n2/7_...

At the time, Cathcart didn't merely refrain from objecting to the decision to publish Bass's article. He talked up his many online dialogues with "Rob" Bass and praised this piece in particular.

Now he's blaming Chris Sciabarra for publishing it?

That's all anyone ever will ever need to know about Chris Cathcart.

Campbell is content to leave some kind of unstated implication, but what could it be?

Could it be that I had a change in perspective on things since then?

Also note the evasion here of the substantive criticism of JARS editorial policy. I think I have a fairly good grasp of that editorial policy: "Let's dialogue." Now, what my own article did was to establish that Rob Bass's article in particular was characterizing something called "egoism" that bore hardly any resemblance to the concept of egoism advanced by Ayn Rand. That being the case, what kind of editorial standards are there at JARS that would accept something non-applicable to Rand in a journal ostensibly about Rand?

Campbell can't really answer that one, which is probably why the "defensive-reactive smear tactic" switch clicked on in his head upon seeing what I said regarding its editorial standards. "Something about me changed, so what good is my claim," is that the gist?

Remember that this man is the Associate Editor there, folks.

The Sentiment and the Formulation

Chris Cathcart's picture

At this point, I am in more fundamental agreement with the sentiment that went into making these rules, rather than the specific formulations that came out. The sentiment I think we all, as serious students of Objectivism, share. We're just tired of seeing and endless stream of misinformation, mischaracterizations, etc. What this certainly does mean is that we have to have standards and to define them. We should be able to say, without sounding like we're ignoring criticisms, that a given criticism is too sloppy a characterization of Rand's ideas to worth spending the time on, and certainly too sloppy for anyone who wants to take the task of criticism seriously.

I also had in mind - and here I was getting ahead of myself some - that these Rules (or something relevantly similar to them) would come into effect a short time after my book hit the market and people got a taste of what a seriously philosophical and informed commentary on Ayn Rand looks like, in conjunction with a pro-awesomeness Perfectionist thesis, of course. Eye

Best as I can determine, BTW, Perfectionism is irrefutable and undeniable, since any attempt to refute it would have to accept its basic premise that things should be made as great as possible and the refuter is purporting to offer something better. It's basically the normative corollary of the axioms.

I think that puts the is-ought unity into stark focus, Dr. Goode.

Thus Spake the Ultimate Philosopher.

Sticking out tongue

Good definition of volition

Doug Bandler's picture

I disagree with Rand's limiting volition to humans and to actions of consciousness. I think the start of volition goes way down the evolutionary scale, from the beginning of motility.

So you think single cell organism can be said to have volition. I have thought about this subject - what exactly is volitional behavior? I like your definition of the "effortful molding of action". Rand's definition of human volition is very similar; ie the choice to focus. That is a type of "molding of action". I guess an amoeba and a man can be said to both be volitional with man's volition being conceptual in nature.

This is one of those areas where I think Rand is essentially right but her formulation is flawed because of her lack of knowledge of evolutionary theory. This is what I mean by "Objectivism 2.0" being an update. Things like this need to be corrected.

Ellen

Lindsay Perigo's picture

In saying I didn't find Rand's "naivete" odd, but rather, exemplary, I was invoking the spirit of the following note for The Fountainhead in Rand's journals:

"This may sound naïve. But - is our life ever to have any reality? Are we ever going to live on the level? Or is life always to be something else, something different from what it should be? A real life, simple and sincere, even naïve, is the only life where all the potential grandeur and beauty of human existence can be found. Are there real reasons for accepting the substitute, that which we have today? No one has shown today's life as it really is, with its real meaning and its reasons. I'm going to show it. If it's not a pretty picture - well, what is the alternative?"

It would be so refreshing to live in a world where one didn't constantly have to be on guard against "fronts," against being misled by appearances, a world where one could take people at face value, a world in which Rand's psychology would not be deemed "unusual." Alas, we don't (I confess I for one still haven't come to grips with this). Rand's critics are among those working overtime to make sure we never do. That, I think, is the very point of their hysterical hostility to her. "Life on the level" must be fought tooth and nail. It's not enough for the drooling beast game-players that they are at perfect liberty to play their pomo-games with each other; they must strike down any semblance of honesty, of on-the-levelness, wherever they discern it.

It's not a "flaw" that Rand couldn't see how she was being deceived by Nathan; she simply couldn't conceive of anyone being as rotten as he would have to be (and was) to be doing what he was doing.

There is a price to pay for such "naivete," for sure—but that is an indictment of the world as it is, not of Ayn Rand or the innocence of which such naivete is part. As you say, it was not a moral failing on her part. But you also say you wouldn't recommend that anyone try to emulate it. Would you give me this—that it would be nice if the world were such that we could emulate it with full practical impunity?!

Richard

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"What is consciousness, and how did it evolve?"

An organismic discernment of an environment in which the organism has to act to live. How it evolved, I don't know. I have leads but not "answers."

"If volition isn't just the implementation of a certain computational architecture, then what is it?"

I don't get how anyone would think of "volition" as "implementation of a certain computational architecture." What do you mean by "volition" that you would think this? Generally, those who have a computational theory of brain function are determinists, or at most compatibilists with what I think of as a "paper tiger" version of "volition."

What I mean by "volition" (working definition, which I'll probably stick with) is "the effortful molding of action." I'm thinking of "effort" not as it's sometimes used in classical mechanics but as an organismically produced force which isn't covered in current physics, classical or otherwise. I disagree with Rand's limiting volition to humans and to actions of consciousness. I think the start of volition goes way down the evolutionary scale, from the beginning of motility.

Ellen

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Interesting comments. There may be something to the argument that Rand's psychology shaped the Objectivist moment for better or worse. I guess the same has happened with Peikoff. All of this leads me to believe that what is needed in the end is time. As Objectivism matures, less emphasis will be placed on the personalities of Rand and Peikoff and more emphasis will be placed on ideas. Objectivism will need an update soon; call it Objectivism 2.0. In this update there are many areas that need to be better developed. "Man qua man" is one example.

Also, your discussion of social metaphysics resonates with me. As much as I love Rand, I regard some of her ideas, such as in psychology or art, along the lines of "fascinating and possibly leading to something substantial but still speculative." Social Metaphysics falls into that category. As a simple expression of "don't be a conformist", it is undeniable. But like other things that Rand opined on it needs to be fleshed out. Add to this that science may be uncovering that "social metaphysics" may be a kind of default psychology for humans given our evolutionary past (and here I am thinking of all the "status mongering" that evolutionary theorists constantly talk about). To what extent is social savvy a conformist thing or an example of a type of worldly efficacy? These questions need to be answered I think.

With regards to Rand's moral status, I am very lenient with this. I don't think it reasonable to expect Rand to have been perfect. In fact, given how brilliant she was, its amazing how normal and sane she ended up being. It does seem that she was naive. But I actually find that very appealing about her. She wasn't a cynic in her personal life. Also, when analyzing her dealings with Nathaniel, I look at this from the perspective of a woman lusting after a much younger man. I think that some element of self-deception was inevitable in that type of relationship. By even getting into that type of relationship, Rand left herself open for exploitation and betrayal. She should have known better, but she was a WOMAN and a passionate one. I forgive her for wanting to experience sexual ecstasy with a young, handsome, intelligent man.

I am perfectly willing to forgive Rand for the remarkably few flaws that she had. It is not necessary for her to be morally perfect. I detest the Rand-diminishers. But the Rand worshipers have not helped the situation any. I think Lindsay is right, that if Peikoff, Binswanger and Schwartz had been different, the history of the past 30 years could have been very different even at the political level.

Ellen

Richard Goode's picture

What is consciousness, and how did it evolve?

If volition isn't just the implementation of a certain computational architecture, then what is it?

Doug, re the focus on Rand's character

Ellen Stuttle's picture

"You might be right that personal criticisms of Rand's life will always follow her though. Especially since these supposed flaws of Rand's character will be used to argue that her ethics are unlivable. Its funny, does anyone make this argument against Kant or Comte or Rawls or even Jesus? No, just Rand. Shouldn't true intellectuals realize that an ethical theory must be tested out by means other than examining the life of its author? What an obvious logical fallacy."

I think a major factor producing the focus on Rand's character is a particular feature of the Objectivist ethics -- its providing no escape clause.

The other ethicists you mention presented as the ideal a standard which humans are expected to fail to meet. Rand, by contrast, presented an ideal which she claimed is achievable. Thus, for those who don't like her ethics -- which is apparently a lot of people -- an obvious route of challenge is to attack *her* as having been a hypocrite who didn't meet her own standard. She said that rationality is possible to humans? Ha, ha! Look at how irrational she was!

The same emphasis on her own character is adopted in reverse by some of her followers who take any sign of her falling short of rationality as a threat to the viability of her ethics.

All the focusing on Rand's *moral* status from both sides gets in the way of understanding what I think was a most unusual psychology. For instance, even Linz -- who doesn't hesitate to express disagreements with Rand -- when I said on the 100 Voices thread that she had an odd combination of brilliance and naivety, responded (#94337):

"I don't find anything "odd" about it. It's the way we all ought to be."

But the specific combination I was getting at (though I didn't describe it well) isn't something other people either should or could have. It's been unique in my experience to Ayn Rand. It's why she could penetrate powerfully to the roots of good and evil yet fail to see, in an intimately personal relationship, that she was being lied to.

Valliant speaks of the "MRI" discernment with which she was uncovering Nathaniel's deceptions, a description which just makes me laugh, since I think that lots of women would have seen in a flash what Rand never did see until she was told. The impediment to discernment wasn't that Nathaniel was a master deceiver -- I don't think he was even especially fluent at producing excuses. It was that she could be taken in by a "front." She was misled by "appearances" with some others too.

I don't recommend anyone's trying to emulate that sort of naivety, but neither do I think that it was a moral failing. It needs to be recognized, however, in order to understand both her and aspects of how the Objectivist movement developed -- including features of the psychological notions which were larded into presentation of the philosophy via Nathaniel's influence. An important for instance is the idea of the "social metaphysician," which I think is a jerry rigged supposed psychological "type" and which, because of the way a diagnosis of "social metaphysics" was used, importantly contributed to the repressive atmosphere.

The atmosphere indeed did become repressive. That's very true. As Burns described it, there seemed to be two Objectivisms, the philosophy of rationality and independent thought and the careful-what-you-say-and-do other Objectivism. I used to explicitly ponder about "two Objectivisms" back when I was in close contact with NYC Objectivist circles (late '68 through late '80, i.e., after the split).

The continuing question is: "Why?" What produced this paradoxical result? To what extent were Rand's characteristics causative? I think understanding would be assisted if the hypothesis were entertained that her psychology could have been partly causative without this meaning hypocrisy or other moral failing on her part.

Ellen

Richard

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I reject the idea that the brain is "computational architecture," for one thing. It's a living organ in a living organism during the evolutionary history of which consciousness evolved as a director of survival-oriented action. "Minds" aren't "implemented." Brains aren't computers. Surviving isn't running a program. I think the whole approach stems from a mistaken analogy between brain and computer and from not understanding the nature of life and consciousness to begin with.

Ellen

Ellen

Richard Goode's picture

I gather that you, Richard, do actually believe in a forthcoming "Singularity."

I do. (See here.)

Thoroughly relevant.

I don't see how.

It seems to me that you (and Linz) are rejecting "substrate independence", viz., the claim that

conscious minds could in principle be implemented not only on carbon-based biological neurons (such as those inside your head) but also on some other computational substrate such as silicon-based processors.

In other words,

what allows you to have conscious experiences is not the fact that your brain is made of squishy, biological matter but rather that it implements a certain computational architecture.

Do you accept or reject substrate independence? (See also here.)

As for the distinction between intelligence and volition - volition, like intelligence, is just the implementation of a certain computational architecture. What else could it be?

Singularity

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Linz followed by Richard:

"not to mention between the organic and the inorganic."

Is this latter distinction relevant to the topic? [....]

Thoroughly relevant.

Humans will produce "artificial intelligence" after they first produce artificial animalian life. (I think that will happen eventually, but the AI idea of a super-computer passing a threshold where intelligence emerges...get with the "program" eluding those who propose such an idea.)

I gather that you, Richard, do actually believe in a forthcoming "Singularity."

Ellen

Objectivism is the last degradation of a free and moral agent

Richard Goode's picture

I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent.

- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Hopkinson, 1789

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

It's nonsense propagated by nincompoops who can't distinguish between intelligence and volition,

What's the distinction between intelligence and volition?

not to mention between the organic and the inorganic.

Is this latter distinction relevant to the topic? Please don't tell us you've turned into a Greenie!

Aaron

Richard Goode's picture

Goode, thanks for much entertainment in this thread.

You're welcome.

I might as well be here to entertain.

Also entertaining …

Curt Holmes's picture

… is being labeled a “sheep” by one who must tap out the word with a cloven hoof. Just one more in a worldwide herd of goblians who worship the arbitrary.

Singularly stupid

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I tend to think that all this is rationalism. But it would be interesting to hear some arguments made in its favor.

There is none. It's nonsense propagated by nincompoops who can't distinguish between intelligence and volition, not to mention between the organic and the inorganic.

Chris- I follow your blog and

Aaron's picture

Chris-
I follow your blog and agree with much of what you say in general. I think you're significantly off in your rules of engagement, however.

It is true many critics are so uninformed on Rand or incapable of forming a coherent argument that responding to them would be difficult and unproductive. Their claims may just be arbitrary, not even wrong. But criticism even in the form of strawman attacks, let alone semi-informed criticism should at least be refuted when possible.

The only place where your prerequisites may even start to come into play would not be general criticisms, but debates among Objectivists on points of the philosophy - it's safe to say we should have read enough to know the subject matter. But even there I disagree with your specific requirements. Reading OPAR rules out the 50%+ of Oists I've known who've 'only' read Atlas, VoS, CtUI, ItOE, etc. but skipped that weak rehash by Peikoff.

Goode, thanks for much

Aaron's picture

Goode, thanks for much entertainment in this thread. 'Objectivists are evil' is overdone and boring. But 'Objectivists are evil because they'll create AIs that destroy humanity' you should make into a B movie.

Singularity - myth or not?

Doug Bandler's picture

Just curious: Do you seriously believe that stuff?

We need to start a thread on this because there are more than a few Objectivists who believe something like this is a possibility. Chris Cathcart believes in the Singularity himself although he thinks that the pathway to it is philosophical and not technological.

I tend to think that all this is rationalism. But it would be interesting to hear some arguments made in its favor.

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Thanks for posting these comments although they are tough to read. They are all an expression of the empiricist/skeptic claim that there are no absolutes and to believe that there are is either religious or despotic. This is just bad epistemology. People holding such views will always think negatively of Rand. How can they not?

You might be right that personal criticisms of Rand's life will always follow her though. Especially since these supposed flaws of Rand's character will be used to argue that her ethics are unlivable. Its funny, does anyone make this argument against Kant or Comte or Rawls or even Jesus? No, just Rand. Shouldn't true intellectuals realize that an ethical theory must be tested out by means other than examining the life of its author? What an obvious logical fallacy.

Heller is truly an intellectual light-weight.

Richard, re the "Singularity"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Just curious: Do you seriously believe that stuff?

Ellen

Doug, re AR's personal life

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Doug (#94674): "I suspect that with each passing decade the ARIan stuff is going to recede. I also suspect that the obsession by the Rand-diminishers with Rand's personal life will wither away. After all, when Rand is dead over 50 years, who is going to care about her sex life? In that sense, we are the generation that gets screwed because we have to deal with this crap."

I don't suspect that "the obsession by the Rand-diminshers with Rand's personal life will wither away."

It isn't just an issue of Rand's sex life. The overarching issue is what sort of person Rand was. Was she or wasn't she, quoting Charles Murray -- link; see the start of the 4th section -- "a deeply flawed woman—putting it gently"?

The answer has implications for the practice-ability of the Objectivist ethics, since Rand claimed to have lived by her own philosophy. See, e.g., her "About the Author" statement at the end of Atlas Shrugged.

Anne Heller was explicitly asked by the first poster on the "Ask Anne C Heller a Question" Doubleday page for her book if Rand lived consistently by her philosophy, to which Heller answered (link):

"no, I don’t think she lived or could live consistently with her philosophy. I don’t imagine anyone could."

Here, in full, is that first question and Heller's answer plus a few excerpts from other questions and an answer which illustrate the message being conveyed by Heller and received by some readers.

link

Patrick Dameth says:
October 13, 2009 at 10:45 am

Given the perspective that you have attained by searching and writing this biography, did Rand lived consistently her life according to her Objectivist philosophy?

This might be too broad but I would like to emphasize the possible existence of major contradictions or conflicts in key moments of her life.

--

link

snash [Heller] says:
October 14, 2009 at 2:43 pm

Dear Patrick,

Your point is one that I try hard to make and document in my biography of Rand. I found that she was as subject to longings, fears, and self-deceptions as any of us are, and that her ideology and characters treat make no provision for such things. They treat what they look on as weaknesses with contempt and moral outrage. In the end, Rand preferred to hold on to her inner world and ideology rather than to live openly and honestly in the real, disorderly world. So my answer to your question is no, I don’t think she lived or could live consistently with her philosophy. I don’t imagine anyone could.

Yours Truly,
Anne C. Heller

--

link

Michael Dennis Mooney, Albany, NY says:
March 4, 2010 at 3:12 pm

[....]

The story you tell is the real truth about
egotism, the hurt it causes, the ingratitude
it expresses, the sick narciissistic hold over
others which a dictatorial personality attempts.

[....]

--

link

Jenny Palmer says:
March 31, 2010 at 11:18 pm

[...] what would you say your main underlying messages/concepts are that you werer trying to get across to readers?

--

link

Anne Heller says:
April 20, 2010 at 9:33 am

[....]

One of my main messages turned out to be the dangers of utopian–or ideological, or absolutist–thinking, both in a private life and publicly.

[....]

Btw, I disagree with the idea that Rand was "utopian." "Absolutist," in a Randian sense, yes. "Utopian," no -- contra Greg Nyquist in Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature.

Ellen

Brant knows his stuff

gregster's picture

He just got in with a bad crowd.

He sniffed straight off something not right with Cathcart's rules for engagement. They're nonsensical.

Animadvert & Meretricious Indeed

Doug Bandler's picture

this business of quoting a tiny bit of Rand in order to animadvert on and undermine her philosophy is meretricious.

I had to look up animadvert and meretricious, but I definitely agree! When you're good Brant, you're good.

Really, RG?

Brant Gaede's picture

Your own comments proceeded from that axiom. Humans power propositions, not the other way around. They do this using reason. Acknowledging reality is acknowledging your own, individual existence and ability to identify and deal with it and aspects of it. It seems that you are looking for singularity in words, not just in AI. The axioms of Objectivism are also the axioms of science; the two are joined at the hip.

--Brant
this business of quoting a tiny bit of Rand in order to animadvert on and undermine her philosophy is meretricious. Rand's concise axiomatic statement is in Galt's speech pp1015-1017, AS, hc.

Peikoff's Policy of Avoidance

Ellen Stuttle's picture

I fear that Ayn Rand might have made an even bigger mistake, long-term, with the reliance she placed on Leonard Peikoff than she did, shorter-term, with the trust and romantic love she accorded Nathaniel Branden.

Peikoff may have had as good an understanding of Objectivism as Rand thought he did in 1976, when he gave his course on Objectivism with Rand in attendance. However, for at least 24 years, since at latest 1986 and the publication of The Passion of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff has been on a slide toward a viewpoint on "truth" which is at strong variance with Objectivism's correspondence theory of truth, though Peikoff's viewpoint has now been proclaimed, in effect, an official extension of Objectivism. I fear that The Logical Leap, a work supported by Peikoff and for which he provided the philosophic foundation, will set back for years the possibility of what I see as a much-needed and much-to-be-hoped-for rapprochement between Objectivism and modern science. I expect I'll be saying much more about the (Peikoff)/Harriman book during the coming year.

Meanwhile, I want to focus on what seems to have been the start of Peikoff's slide toward repositing "truth" in the mental processes of the cognizer -- the policy Peikoff adopted toward addressing (or, rather, not addressing) The Passion of Ayn Rand. If I understand you correctly, Chris, what you're proposing is a continuation of Peikoff's policy of avoidance.

The Passion of Ayn Rand, Peikoff declared at a Ford Hall Forum talk, was "arbitrary" because of the psychology of the person who wrote it. It was cognitively unprocessable, and he, Peikoff, wasn't going to read it and wasn't going to address it. This policy of dealing with it by ignoring it may have first been suggested by Peter Schwartz. Whatever the origin, it's the policy which was followed in the main by the major persons at ARI.

With what result? Was the policy a good one? I think it was a terrible policy which has had the effect of allowing a negative portrait of Ayn Rand to become ensconced as the virtually unchallenged reality of Rand. Dealing with claims by ignoring them leaves the claims to be accepted by default. And legends, once established, are hard to combat.

Consider the issue of Frank's supposedly beginning to drink heavily at the time of the start of the AR/NB affair (early 1955), due to "Ayn's shocking insensitivity toward Frank in matters involving her relationship with Nathaniel" (quoting Passion, pg. 273). Suppose that Peikoff or one of his close associates -- say Harry Binswanger -- had read the book back then and, recognizing that Barbara's claim indeed does have cognitive content, had questioned the content. Suppose that Barbara had been publicly pushed to name the unnamed witness, Frank's supposed drinking companion "who sometimes joined him for the drink or two which became three and four and five and more" and who "was convinced that Frank was an alcoholic." It could have been uncovered then, 24 years before it was uncovered, that the purported witness was a person who didn't know Frank during the stated time period. Barbara could have been pushed to provide -- then -- her documentation for what Ventura told her. Similarly in the case of Eloise, by now dead for 13 years and unable to provide details. She could have been asked specific questions: Did she find "rows" of bottles in Frank's studio each week? If so, what kind of bottles (a "row" of beer bottles presenting a different picture than a "row" of fifths of hard liquor). Did she witness "explosive...friction" between Ayn and Frank (Passion, pg. 273) over the issue of Frank's drinking? Did she witness violence on Frank's part toward Ayn? Regarding Leonard Peikoff's story at the Ford Hall Forum of bottles found by "a housekeeper" after Frank's death: Was Eloise the housekeeper (or someone from the building staff)? If Eloise did find bottles after Frank's death, how many bottles, what kind and in what disposition (stashed on a closet shelf? new or looking as if they'd sat there gathering dust? etc.)?

Today the chance for questioning Eloise is long gone. And the story Barbara told had nearly 20 years (prior to Valliant's raising issues about Barbara's story) of taking hold met only by silence from Peikoff and his associates.

Is this the sort of result you favor, Chris? It's the sort of result to which I think the policy you propose has led and would continue to lead.

Consider a different example, that set by scientists who have been attempting to combat the fraudulent "science" behind AGW alarmist claims and predictions.

You wonder in your "The New Rules, Cont'd" blog entry -- link -- "how the scientists can keep their wits about them with such insanity [about evolution and climate science] swirling all around." I know a lot about the answer in the second case, that of climate science, since I'm married to someone who's been heavily involved in combat efforts since 2004 and I hear a great deal, on a nearly daily basis, about what's happening in the battles. In order to answer false claims, the respondents wade through miles of scientific detail. They address the minutiae, never mind the cognitive status of the persons whose claims they're answering. The devil is in the particulars.

For example, here's a link to an article just posted today on "American Thinker," though it's been available elsewhere since it was written in February 2010. The article, by Fred Singer, hopefully titled "The End of the IPCC," examines the history of IPCC scientific chicanery step by step.

Contrast to the impatience you exhibit at addressing issues of Rand biography. Who cares?, you ask. Well, I submit, those who would like to see a true picture of Rand presented. Peikoff and Co. have been of little help with providing this picture. There have been years of opportunity for addressing the minutiae lost. I think it's long past time for the policy of avoidance to be retired.

Ellen

Sheep

Richard Goode's picture

Doug doesn't know the meaning of the word 'libertarian'.

Brant doesn't know the meaning of the word 'false'.

Curt doesn't know the meaning of the word 'arbitrary'.

But each is blissfully ignorant of his ignorance. Objectivism has this effect, of lulling its adherents into cognitive complacency. That's one reason it's pernicious.

Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air? You'd better watch out! Things are not what they seem. Meek and obedient you follow the leader down well-trodden corridors into the valley of silicon and steel. What a surprise! A look of terminal shock in your eyes. That's what you get for pretending the danger's not real.

Galt speaks

Richard Goode's picture

If you believe in God and the arbitrary they ['A is A' and 'existence exists'] put a stick in your bicycle spokes. That's what they're there for.

Tautologies are no threat to anyone's religious faith. If that's what they're there for, then EPIC FAIL.

If you wish to criticize the axioms of Objectivism simply adequately quote Rand then make your remarks.

OK.

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these.

"Existence exists" is a tautology, and nothing (let alone an entire moral system) proceeds from the tautologous.

"Existence exists" is a tautology because "existence" is shorthand for "all that exists", and "all that exists, exists" is a necessarily true proposition, in virtue of its logical form.

"Existence exists" is a useless, inert nothing of an axiom.

AA and EE

Brant Gaede's picture

"'A is A' and 'existence exists' are tautologies. Nothing follows from them. They are useless as axioms."

If you believe in God and the arbitrary they put a stick in your bicycle spokes. That's what they're there for. If you wish to criticize the axioms of Objectivism simply adequately quote Rand then make your remarks. She is short and sweet, and hard, with this part of her philosophy.

--Brant

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

You claim to be a Ph.D. in Philosophy, is that right?

Others claim this on my behalf.

What issue do you have with those values?

None. My issues with Objectivism are listed below.

Curt

Richard Goode's picture

Arbitrary assertions by one who worships the arbitrary.

None of my assertions (the ones to which you refer) is arbitrary.

Do you agree with the following?

"Arbitrary" means a claim put forth in the absence of evidence of any sort, perceptual or conceptual; its basis is neither direct observation nor any kind of theoretical argument.

Brant

Richard Goode's picture

Reality and reason = false?

Rational self interest = false?

Laissez-faire capitalism, individual rights, freedom = false?

None of these things is false.

Doug

Richard Goode's picture

the world is dominated by those who believe in the is/ought dichotomy and "things in themselves."

Who, specifically?

"A is A" and "existence exists" are axiomatic concepts.

"A is A" and "existence exists" are tautologies. Nothing follows from them. They are useless as axioms.

Libertarianism is so pathetic that it is Objectivists that have to constantly deal with the negative associations of libertarianism

You're an Objectivist, aren't you? Objectivists are libertarians.

humans must seed the first AI

Doug Bandler's picture

humans must seed the first AI with humanity-affirming values.

And where are you getting these "humanity-affirming values" from? God? Society? Genetic programming?

If your philosophy were right then the world would not be in the shape it is today, because the world is dominated by those who believe in the is/ought dichotomy and "things in themselves."

For example, if one is asked about the philosophy that underpins libertarianism by a prospective freedom-fighter, and one replies with "A is A", "existence exists", "man qua man" or "I have made the following integration", then one gives a clear impression of being retarded.

"A is A" and "existence exists" are axiomatic concepts. To deny philosophic axioms is itself a sign of being "retarded". Or of having a phd in philosophy.

As for tarring libertarianism, please. Libertarianism is so pathetic that it is Objectivists that have to constantly deal with the negative associations of libertarianism; especially from goblin-damned anarchism.

Chris

Richard Goode's picture

Aren't you supposed to invoke the New Rules? Aren't you supposed to wipe me away from your cognitive field of vision, like so much bug-splat from a windshield, and pay me no further heed?

Die! Die! Die!

Brant Gaede's picture

"Objectivism must die"!

So subjectivism can live?

Reality and reason = false?

Rational self interest = false?

Laissez-faire capitalism, individual rights, freedom = false?

--Brant
"Brother, you asked for it!"

As Goode as it Gets

Curt Holmes's picture

Arbitrary assertions by one who worships the arbitrary.

I know a philosophical enemy when I see it.

Here you get it right.

Not too Goode

Chris Cathcart's picture

You claim to be a Ph.D. in Philosophy, is that right? I'm not seeing Ph.D.-quality commentary here. First, how 'bout dealing with this question in a serious and substantive way: If a greater number of people adopt Objectivism or a highly-similar perfectionist (neo-Aristotelian) ethic, complete with the intellectual mindset that seeks reasons for things as a matter of necessity, then what is the problem you foresee in the resulting social order? Rand gave some quasi-modeling of a utopian social order with Galt's Gulch. I say "quasi-" because she also went out of her way to specify that this was a small-scale society and didn't intend for it to be a blueprint for all of society. (Her more exact statements on that show up in her Letters and in Q&A.) But she was quite clear as to the shared values that went into the creation of Galt's small society of strikers. What issue do you have with those values? If those values - or, again, something very similar to them - were widely adopted, what would be the problem?

Objectivism must die

Richard Goode's picture

Objectivism must die, and here's why.

(1) Objectivism is false. Not only that, it's pernicious.

(2) Objectivism is an impediment to the flowering of freedom. There are too few libertarians, and too many Objectivists within the libertarian movement, and the latter helps explain the former. For example, if one is asked about the philosophy that underpins libertarianism by a prospective freedom-fighter, and one replies with "A is A", "existence exists", "man qua man" or "I have made the following integration", then one gives a clear impression of being retarded. And libertarianism gets tarred with the same brush.

(3) Objectivism is a clear and present danger to the entire human race. If the whole world were Objectivist, the human race would go extinct shortly after the Singularity occurs later this century. To stand a decent chance of survival into the next century, humans must seed the first AI with humanity-affirming values. Objectivists, under the dangerous illusion that Rand somehow busted the "is/ought" dichotomy, deny the necessity of this. They tell us that "perfectly rational but amoral" is an oxymoron. I can put it no more clearly than this: Objectivism is inimical to the survival of humanity.

I know a philosophical enemy when I see it.

if the Republicans were smart...

Doug Bandler's picture

...and home-schooling to replace public and copy-public private education. The universities need to be destroyed with technology, not reformed.

I agree with this. If the Republicans were smart, which they are not, and if they should ever regain power, the first thing they should do is to start to dismantle the public school system as well as the entire government-subsidized university complex. All the public high schools and the colleges and universities are Leftist indoctrination centers.

Remove all the diverted resources that go into the university system because of loan guarantees and you will pave the way for the universities to either fail or be transformed because of competition from a true market in advanced education.

But Republicans are too ignorant to understand this. And so the Leftist strangle-hold of education continues.

Yeah, right

Brant Gaede's picture

Keep it up with this approach and your grandchildren will be writing the same thing in the next century. The situation needs to be hit with assertive critical thinking centered on individual rights first and home-schooling to replace public and copy-public private education. The universities need to be destroyed with technology, not reformed.

--Brant

On Target

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Chris Cathcart writes: "[W]e have to aim right at the foundations of cultural change: the primacy and supremacy of reason, i.e., the primacy of epistemology over politics. We need, now more desperately and urgently than ever, a culture of reason. The rest will follow."

Bull's-eye!

Completely nutz

Brant Gaede's picture

Whacko

--Brant

Look

Chris Cathcart's picture

I'm not going to entertain silly little misrepresentations of my ideas here. What I will say is that both the Left and the Right in this country stink, but here's what just has to be done - there's no way around it - and it's the same thing Rand (exasperatedly?) aimed for in her lecture on "The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Our Age": make an appeal to those who are intellectuals. They needn't be academics; they can be wherever they might be found. Further, we have to aim right at the foundations of cultural change: the primacy and supremacy of reason, i.e., the primacy of epistemology over politics. We need, now more desperately and urgently than ever, a culture of reason. The rest will follow.

I think Rand's theory of concepts and Randian/Peikoffian methodology are the ultimate game-changers here; they are the most powerful aspects of her philosophy. They provide the key to how cognitive efficacy - and therefore everything else - can be achieved. We need to get as many people as possible thinking the way Rand did about any and every issue that came up - not superficially on the question of content or how she might have phrased certain points that are so easily misinterpreted, but on cognitive method. Gotthelf wasn't shittin' that sitting in on those epistemology workshops was like having Aristotle in the room.

So we simply need to get the intellectuals on board by appealing to the primacy of reason and cognitive efficacy. If intellectuals of whatever political stripe have their wits about them, they'll get the point and get on board. I'm perhaps as disgusted by a whole lotta stuff about the academy's performance as anyone, but it's also where you're going to find a lot of intellectuals who might help a lot of people in getting the point. I don't know if you've noticed, but the left is all out of intellectual leadership. Rawls is gone, Chomsky is way past his prime, and the intellectual-left just doesn't know what to do to counter all the mainstream ignorance.

I just wrote a blog entry on this very thing which further spells out the case:

http://chriscathcart.blogspot....

And, no, I'm not going to get bogged down in a discussion about global warming, which would be beside the whole fucking point - which is that a culture of reason can solve any number of problems that it runs up against. Please don't miss the point. It upsets me when you do. Shape up! A whole shit-ton of you people - shape up! Get fucking serious about studying the philosopher you admire. Learn and integrate the method all the way down to the fucking roots. I'm sick of even a bunch of students of Objectivism wasting their talents on stupid shit. Grow up! Get with the program! Learn to think and fight just like Rand did. Linz is one of the few who get the idea in basic form, but goddammit, give me something we can all be impressed with. I'm fucking sick and tired of Oists dropping the ball, going out of their way to drop the ball it seems. Stop missing the point! Stop needlessly misrepresenting other people's positions, and know exactly how to undermine them from the inside out, like fucking Ayn Rand did. Start doing everything first-rate, no mistakes! If you don't realize the exact problem with the Dingbat, you're not doing your job. Get some will-to-power and some KASS and get fired-up, and above all, THINK through every fucking idea so that you KNOW it meets the absolute highest standards of irrefutability. Rand did it with her theory of concepts - NOW DO LIKEWISE.

Okay, now if you don't mind, I've got a fucking manuscript to go write.

Smiling

Lindsay, Peikoff's old

Doug Bandler's picture

Unfortunately ARSI's apparent reversion to cultish behaviour means it'll be churning out robots, not folk with the star power needed to succeed in politics.

Let's just hope that this is the lingering effects of Peikoff's influence. Look, the man is getting old and he is retreating. I don't know how much longer he will even stay involved with the Objectivist movement. I suspect that with each passing decade the ARIan stuff is going to recede. I also suspect that the obsession by the Rand-diminishers with Rand's personal life will wither away. After all, when Rand is dead over 50 years, who is going to care about her sex life? In that sense, we are the generation that gets screwed because we have to deal with this crap.

My only hope is that there can be some Reganesque free-marketish movement in the next 5 years or so that will buy us another 2 or 3 decades. None of us want to live through a global-wide civilization down-turn that manifests itself with, say, a 50 year flirtation with global fascism. That is very possible. Obama is proof of this, and a portent of great evil.

As much as I enjoy reading Chris' blog, he is still a Leftist-sympathizing academic. He doesn't understand that the Left is on the verge of wiping out at least 5 decades of wealth and sending the entire planet into a socialist/fascist free fall for who knows how long. To him, Sarah Palin is a dingbat and Obama is just a misguided Left-liberal who has the potential for greatness.

Needless to say, I disagree. As do you.

Doug ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Since I don't read Chris's blog other than what he reproduces here I can't be sure just how much slack he cuts the Left. I've already mentioned though that it's not that long ago that Chris was arguing, or serving notice that he was going to be arguing, that coercively-enforced welfare rights were real ones. I gather he's now dropped that, but it would certainly indicate Leftie hankerings. And during the fatwa debate he sidestepped the issue of voting Dem-scum across the board by saying voting was not important. I suspect he supported the fatwa. Me, I agree that the Peikoff/ARSI agenda of going after the Right first and foremost is wrongheaded. We should attack their Goblianity and sacrificialism for sure, while making common cause with them on those discrete issues where we can do so without compromise. Better still, get our own people in there! No better time, with the ascendancy of the Tea Party and all. Unfortunately ARSI's apparent reversion to cultish behaviour means it'll be churning out robots, not folk with the star power needed to succeed in politics.

Oh dear, I'll be in trouble now. Again. Eye

Chris & Lindsay

Doug Bandler's picture

Actually, let me ask this: what did you get out of all that? Were your cognitive resources spent wisely? Are you better off now?

Point taken. You are right, in the end it really does very little to waste time dealing with the ignorant attacks on Rand which is basically all of them. But sometimes I do dive into the gutter despite the stench to better learn the arguments and the psychology of the enemy. It also helps me better understand the Objectivist arguments better. I have done this with left-liberals, anarchists, and true cultural (Paleo) Conservatives

Actually, this is one point where I disagree with you. After reading your blog for awhile now (and its a damn good blog), I see that you are more sympathetic with the Left and you heap scorn and ridicule on the Right. I am the opposite. I consider the Left to be totally nihilistic and evil, especially the academic Left. The Right is a mix of 1) watered down libertarianism 2) watered down left-liberalism 3) watered down Conservatism. The Right is not dominated by true Hillaire Belloc type Conservatives. If it were, there would probably be a bloody civil war.

Sarah Palin is a typical example of the modern libertarian-liberal-social conservative hybrid that you see on the Right. You treat her as if she were an example of true 19th century traditionalist Conservatism. Are you fucking kidding me? She's a pro-feminist, pro-big government, socially-conservative (in a watered down modern way - she aint no St. Augustine;, her daughter is a teen-mother who is partying it up on 'Dancing With the Stars' for Galt's sake) welfare-statist. She's essentially what every other Republican is: the religious wing of the Democratic Party.

Your treatment of her is way too much like the Left's treatment of her: unhinged, pathological hatred. You reveal this by calling her a "dingbat". What, Obama isn't a "dingbat"? Please. Obama is in all probability a low-IQ black guy who is America's first Affirmative Action President. He's an empty suit if ever there was one. Palin at least has the right "instincts". She loves America although she doesn't know why and she hunts and likes guns which makes her likable precisely because she is not a weakness-worshiping cultural liberal.

So you're wrong to cut the Left the slack you do. I'm pretty certain Lindsay will back me up on this. I would much rather have Sarah Palin on my side than any academic Leftist. Those zons-of-bitches are pure fucking evil.

Lindsay, what sayeth you on this subject.

Sun Ra Equals Pain

Luke Setzer's picture

I have a high pain tolerance but could only tolerate ten seconds of the Sun Ra clip Linz posted before I felt ready to scream. It brought back horrible memories of the John Cage sessions to which I was subjected at a state "gifted students" retreat back in the summer of 1982. You can read about that experience and watch the associated YouTube video criticizing that program here. Be sure to go to the main page for the YouTube video to read some of the pomowanking comments condemning my criticism.

I agree with Cathcart's attitude regarding rules for engagement with critics of Ayn Rand.

Chris

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I think everyone has for too long underestimated the pervasiveness of Rand's drooling beast:

"Listen, what's the most horrible experience you can imagine? To me—it's being left, unarmed, in a sealed cell with a drooling beast of prey or a maniac who's had some disease that's eaten his brain out. You'd have nothing then but your voice—your voice and your thought. You'd scream to that creature why it should not touch you, you'd have the most eloquent words, the unanswerable words, you'd become the vessel of the absolute truth. And you'd see living eyes watching you and you'd know that the thing can't hear you, that it can't be reached, not reached, not in any way, yet it's breathing and moving there before you with a purpose of its own. That's horror. Well, that's what's hanging over the world, prowling somewhere through mankind, that same thing, something closed, mindless, utterly wanton, but something with an aim and a cunning of its own."

I first encountered it in Victoria University's Music Department where I was told the sound of breaking glass was beautiful, and where respected musorati applauded tapes of same. It seriously threw me, scared me and scarred me. I wish I'd been better prepared. At the time I had no idea what I had run into. Foolishly I dismissed it as an aberration. Alas, indeed it prowls through mankind, even attempting to pollute and destroy something as noble as Objectivism from purported-within via ignoble sub-dregs like the Brandens, Campbell, Parille and those other things at O-Lying. And of course, there are the avowed enemies and unabashed pomowankers from without: creatures like Richard Goode. These things know a philosophical enemy when they see it. That is why they are Rand-diminishers first and humanity-diminishers second. They know if they can get Rand they can get all of humanity.

When Campbell was ejaculating its slime on SOLO you were pretty quiet. I'm glad to see you've come to appreciate how calling Campbell slime is unfair to slime. It is beyond unthinkable that this comprachico is in charge of young minds. It is entirely commonplace that it is a professor of psychology, demonstrating simultaneously that with academia as corrupt as it is any mountebank can become a professor and that psychology is still the playground for mountebanks that Rand thought it was.

Sciabarra will for ever be an enigma to me. You are quite right: he knows his stuff. Which makes his submission to sub-scum like Babs and Campbell all the more inexplicable and inexcusable.

For the zillionth time I post this embodiment of the drooling beast, Campbell's self-acknowledged anti-musical pin-up, as a concretization of everything I've just said, in the probably-vain hope that this time it might sink in with someone:

A taste of Campbellian sliminess

Chris Cathcart's picture

Prof. Campbell had to be corrected over on OL about some of his more egregious misrepresentations, but here are a few slimy things:

(1) "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is a seriously flawed book. Does Cathcart really want everyone to get a working familiarity with it—or is he hoping for rote memorization and unquestioning agreement with all the contradictions in it?"

I've already mentioned that Peikoff's status as interpreter of Objectivism has been confirmed by Miss Rand's own explicit statements. Further, Peikoff is explicit that his book, while based on the '76 course, has not been seen by AR and therefore does not qualify as official Objectivist doctrine. That's not really relevant to the point here, the essential reason being that OPAR is simply more accessible than the '76 course. Ideally, the '76 course would be made cheaply available, but Peikoff has also given his reasons why he regards OPAR as a more definitive statement - and if we get into the business of recommending courses, the book plus Understanding Objectivism would surely be a more sensible recommendation. Students familiar with both can then do the requisite integration of material. As print materials go, there are three basic sources we have for Objectivism as a theoretical system: (1) Galt's speech, (2) ITOE, (3) OPAR. (I'd throw in the Lexicon as more in the nature of a handy reference; these other three are systematized presentations of the essential material.)

The most extensive criticism of OPAR by Prof. Campbell I am aware of, is a JARS article critiquing the "Peikovian" doctrine of the arbitrary. (I think an article title including the pejorative-sounding "Peikovian" is indicative of the quality-control standards at JARS.) I certainly think Peikoff's doctrine of the arbitrary is worthy of critical examination given the traditional meaning of truth as correspondence, but in the hands of Prof. Campbell I wouldn't expect anything impressive. What I would recommend, is looking at the fully-authorized discussion of the arbitrary in the Lexicon and comparing it carefully to the OPAR one. The OPAR discussion on the arbitrary has been a popular "easy" target among critics for years, but how a flawed presentation on that point transforms OPAR into a "fundamentally flawed" book is anyone's guess when we're talking about Prof. Campbell.

This point is fairly typical of Prof. Campbell's less obvious distortions. This one, though, is downright slimy:

(2) "Understanding Objectivism appears to have been Leonard Peikoff's failed course in self-therapy. I expect Cathcart endlessly promotes it because few outside the ARIan orbit will ever have taken it."

This characterization of UO, on its own, should disqualify Prof. Campbell as a serious commentator, given AR's own endorsement of Peikoff. What's more, it's entirely irrelevant whether the course is one in "self-therapy," much less a "failed" one. The important thing is what the course's substantive content is. What's more, had Campbell ever bothered to get Chris Sciabarra's opinion about the course, he might be favorably inclined to listen to it. The only prohibitive element is cost, but I don't know of anyone who's listened to this course and not found it either considerably or immensely valuable.

It gets even slimier:

(3) "Now, let's look at Cathcart's philosophical exemplars: Doug Rasmussen and Doug Den Uyl.

To my knowledge, both have read OPAR. To my knowledge, neither recommends the book.

And neither of "the Dougs" has taken the Peikoff courses that Cathcart insists are essential.

Uh oh... time to toss them on the same pile as "Hellish" and everyone else Cathcart imagines is emitting "schmutz.""

I don't even know what to say to this other than that it's flush-able. I already explained how the Dougs are a rare case for which clauses within the Rules are made. Notice that I don't say that the Rules would have been applicable to a time before OPAR ever came about - a time when the Dougs provided what was leading in-print commentary on Rand. OPAR changes that dynamic; had the Dougs not read OPAR after it came out, and thereby not glean the important points they couldn't get elsewhere, then the Rules would apply. But, of course, they are serious scholars when it comes to Rand, so, of course, they would have read it. I'm talking about the run-of-the-mill fly-by-nighters who pose as serious commentators in the post-OPAR world.

(It's nuts that I'd have to spell all that out. I mean, shit, the whole reason Peikoff wrote OPAR was to raise the bar for Rand studies without scholars having to buy the course(Drunk. The bar gets raised higher when we're talking about scholars involved, say, in running a journal of Rand studies. At least Chris Sciabarra meets that bar, whereas Campbell doesn't. Campbell's credibility as an associate editor of a FUCKING JOURNAL ON RAND STUDIES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD is severely hampered by lack of familiarity with the advanced Peikoff courses. And it's amply revealed in how he goes about his own brand of so-called commentary on Rand/Objectivism.)

(4) "Now, who has read OPAR backwards and forwards, and taken every Peikoff course Cathcart deems essential, along with a bunch of others that Cathcart never got around to?

Chris Sciabarra.

Uh oh... "

Typical Campbell. The apparent problem I've supposedly overlooked is that I wasn't aware of Sciabarra's level of knowledge of Objectivism, and that somehow this is a "gotcha" moment. As it happens, a significant part of my interest in listening to Peikoff's courses was spurred on by the fact that Sciabarra's vast and erudite biography for Russian Radical included these courses. My issues with him don't concern his level of knowledge of Objectivism; the issues concern other things, like his editorial judgment and standards (given his knowledge, shouldn't he know better?), or his association with the likes of Robert Campbell.

(5) I'll refer readers once again to more commentary on Campbell and his typical MO:
http://blog.dianahsieh.com/201...

(6) Campbell really went into the gutter when he accused scholars like Tara Smith of intellectual dishonesty for not including Branden in her discussion of self-esteem and relying for input on Rand's best student and chosen heir instead. Really fucking slimy and reckless MO there.

(7) Campbell's paranoid speculations about Linz, Valliant and others back when. They were good for a laugh, at least. Laughing out loud

Doug

Chris Cathcart's picture

Well, clearly your tolerance for stench is much greater than mine. I guess there's no penalty for flouting the Rules, other than prolonged exposure to stench. Congratulations?

Actually, let me ask this: what did you get out of all that? Were your cognitive resources spent wisely? Are you better off now? (You don't have to answer here. Just think it through from your own perspective of self-interest.)

P.S. I don't know much Wittgenstein, but I will be curious to find out in X number of years just how her analysis in ITOE stacks up to the Philosophical Investigations in the judgment of the professional mainstream. Clearly the run-of-the-mill fly-by-night types don't have any clue as to what's being accomplished in ITOE, if they even ever looked at it - or even if they're aware of it. Usually their skill level and interest don't go beyond lousy, basically-surface-level impressions of the ethics and politics - all out-of-context 'n' shit, of course.

OL

Chris Cathcart's picture

I see there's some slime and filth going on over there in regard to this. I've never been impressed with MSK's "philosophical detection" skills; unsurprisingly, he misses the point. Then there's Campbell. Ah, Campbell . . . what to say about Campbell. Last time I gave Campbell much of any attention was via Robert Mayhew's response to Campbell's silly mischaracterizations: http://blog.dianahsieh.com/201... . That's just the tip of the iceberg with Campbell.

(As he points out, Sciabarra is indeed familiar with lots of Peikoff's lecture courses; there is no doubt that he knows his stuff. Which then in turn raises some serious questions about his approach to Rand studies, and other unaccounted-for behaviors that caused quite the stir around here in '06 - unaccounted-for behaviors which have driven me unavoidably into a position of not being able to trust him personally. In retrospect, I find it obscene that he would publish an article by the widely-acknowledged troll, Slavoj Zizek; further, I take serious exception to an editorial policy that admits for publication pieces like the one to which I had responded in that journal. This is not an isolated instance, either; there have been pieces by folks I've found in online forums to be seriously bad in their approach to Rand and ideas generally. I take further serious exception to the strategy of dressing Objectivism up in "Polish" to pander to corrupted academics. Then, there's the fact that he pals around with Robert Campbell.)

I'll cut the other newbie-looking-types there whatever slack is appropriate; jumping into this stuff mid-stream without a grasp of wider context is rookie error and I don't take it personally.

The essential of all this is how people well-versed in Objectivism should assess the cognitive status of Rand-criticism they encounter. There is such a thing as slumming, which only gives a credence the intellectual slum-dwellers do not deserve. It is a commentary on the very, very low caliber of mainstream discourse right now in connection with Rand and ideas in general. Time and resources need to be directed accordingly. An instructive concrete in this context is Anne Hellish. I mean, just fucking *look* at the cover of her book; it's all you need to know just what the agenda and quality is there; the only people who would get off on it are folks who don't know jackshit about Objectivism. The whole enterprise is corrupt. What's so difficult to see about that? Her interviews describing Rand as "fearful" are cognitively corrupt, through and through. And this is a book that's supposed to be *better* than the standard Slate.com hatchet job? The Burns book is supposed to be better than that - it has the status of an Oxford University Press release - and there's nothing there to suggest an intellectual seriousness worth paying attention to, or that demands paying attention to, once you get a taste of some of the excerpts.

That is to say, that the standards just have to be set higher. The newly-released book on Rand's ethics edited by Lennox and Gotthelf meets that standard. *Prima facie* it meets that standard, in virtue of who is doing the editing, and what context they have.

Now, before the point-missers keep on missing the point, let me address one thing about, e.g., the Burns book. People like Edwin Locke and James Valliant did go through her book; they had to do so to identify its obvious flaws. What's the appropriate policy there? *Someone* had to do the reading and flaw-exposing, but how do you know ahead of time whether it is worth going through? That's the reason I came up with the Rules. Someone comes out with a book on Ayn Rand. How do you decide whether you think it's worth the time? How do you decide whether it rises above the common muck in a way that rationally commands your attention? Is being Oxford-published relevant? It could be relevant for certain reasons in abstraction from the merits of the work itself. But also note Burns' occupation: a historian. Why should we expect a historian by occupation to wield the tools necessary to grasp Rand's ideas? What other requirements might we look for if what we want is a seriously-informed discussion about Ayn Rand and her ideas (which are in many ways inseparable)?

Does the person grasp, say, the world-historic import of Rand's theory of concepts? That's a major, centrally-important consideration. MAJOR. CENTRALLY IMPORTANT. I don't know how I can stress that enough. If someone doesn't have a firm grasp of her theory of concepts and why her theory is so relevant to everything . . . how useful is the commentary going to be in the end? Trained philosophers are up to the task of grasping the theory and its import; Peikoff, Gotthelf, Binswanger and (at one time) Kelley are/were highly attuned to the theory and its importance. Concepts as means to unit-economy is a DAMN IMPORTANT thing for psycho-epistemology and cognition as a whole. How is someone going to grasp such importance without deep familiarity with the relevant literature? How is someone going to recognize the importance of Peikoff's work, otherwise? How is someone going to recognize the significance of Rand's endorsement of his 1976 course, or the generic letter of recommendation she wrote for him?

If you're going to present some commentary on Ayn Rand in the hopes and expectation of being taken seriously, just how can you glide over the fact that Rand explicitly said that Peikoff is her best student and that his course is the only one she authorized as a presentation of the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism?

How on earth can someone who wants to write credibly about Rand's ideas not take these facts with the full seriousness they deserve? Whatever else you say about Sciabarra, at least he was serious about this point. At least we know he isn't one of these run-of-the-mill, fly-by-night types who put in a half-assed job of things just so that they can publish a book with "Ayn Rand" in the title.

It's just amazing this stuff even needs to be spelled out.

Sheesh.

:-/

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