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Post 40

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 2:41pmSanction this postReply
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But since institutes like ARI have so much invested in being the carriers of the torch, guardians of the closed system of Ayn Rand, and holders of the copyright and collector of the money, I doubt that we'll see an epiphany any time soon... 


Joe don't blame Peikoff for that, Ayn Rand wanted him to be her intellectual heir.
And had I been in his place, would I want someone else to be the collector of the money? Let’s be honest would you do that?
What would you do if you were in his place.? I don't think you would invite the Brandens out for dinner.?
The true honest objectivists should stop the criticism toward Peikoff, and direct their criticisms toward Rand, if they have any criticisms to make at all.
Why bother with Peikoff all the time?
CD




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Post 41

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 2:56pmSanction this postReply
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Joe-

It might very much end up going the way it looks now. If I had to make a totally pragmatic judgment call, that's what I'd say. 

On the whole, I do not see the ARI as all that inviting to those inside or out, and that is unfortunate. In terms of the overall synergy they create as an organization, I do not see much. They do not seem nimble, nor influential; their focus seems to be mostly on recruiting at the secondary education level (and they do some good things there, obviously). As an Internet presence, they clearly do not see any purpose in open forum communication. As far as other proactivity, they have a program that encourages people by example to write responses to editorials, and while that is a nice thing, it's not much more than that.

They send me a lot of letters asking for money.

As far as being more of an archival or museum-like entity, that seems to be OK, but I'm not sure how hard you'd have to work to screw that up anyway.

My critique of them as an organization is, then, that they are not really all that far from being merely a figurehead, and an univiting one at that, even to their own community. But for being aimed at young blood, the vibe it puts off is often taken as stodgy, stagnant, and closed. The choice others in Objectivism have is whether or not they want to attempt to dialogue with the ARI at all, knowing that it will be largely on ARI terms, if at all. On the other hand, the ARI surely must be aware of the nearly endless stream of criticism directed at them from within the movement (whether they recognize what outside their own house is another matter), and seem unplussed, uncommunicative,  and inflexible about it. It is telling as to how an organization will do outside of its own when you see something like this, and it ain't good, brother. I do not understand a lot of the whys behind how Dr. Peikoff runs the organization, and my opinions don't matter.

That being said, I still would hope for continued healing within the various factions of Objectivism, part of which means not bashing the crap out of the ARI.. It goes to the basic idea of knowing that we cannot control the behavior of another, and that, anyway, controlling our own is usually a full-time job for most people.   




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Post 42

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 5:52pmSanction this postReply
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While I agree with the overall thrust and tone of Marcus's article, I think Rand's actual quoted remarks need to be parsed a little more closely. I do not have a copy of the original text so I will just have to examine what he's quoted. While their overall intention is clear, there seem to be some important yet unspoken fishhooks that need to be identified:

For example Rand says:
"In fact, if you have written some bad sentences, or expressed some wrong ideas, the conclusion should be not that your subconscious has demons, but you did not think though the subject carefully and that your subconscious is fallible. But you are there to correct the mistake. Again, there is nothing wrong in making mistakes. What is wrong is not correcting them."

Now the very important question here arises: if I have written some bad sentences, or expressed some wrong ideas, they are 'bad' or 'wrong' *by what standards*? Are the sentences bad by the standards of grammar? By the standards of simplicity and clarity? By the standards of rigour in research, or imaginative originality? If I have some wrong ideas, are they wrong by general standards of argument (such as logic), or wrong by the usual standards of evidence or experience?

These are, of course, things that Objectivism has no specific claims over, so there would be nothing particularly Objectivist in adhering such standards. So I can't help but wonder what Rand is really referring to by a "mistake" that needs to be "corrected". Perhaps we get a hint in quote:

Rand:
"If, for example, you are an advocate of individualism, and you suddenly observe that you write like a collectivist, that is all right. That has taught you something; you have material that you can correct."

Here, clearly is an example of what Rand might mean by a distinctively Objectivist type of error: "writing like a collectivist", with its implied correction: writing more like an individualist - which, one assumes, simply means *writing more like an Objectivist*. If we are to avoid what she is condeming in this essay - that is, the mere aping of personal styles, such as hers, surely this must mean writing that conforms to *distinctively Objectivist standards*. But once again, what exactly are they? We have already examined some of the basic standards above, none of which are distinctively Objectivist. What I suspect happens is that faced with these difficulties, the aspiring Objectivist author tries to plug the gap by adopting elements of the existing template as expressed by Rand. This also buys them the "secure starting point" that they believe is required for all endeavours. But it also means that *the standards for assessing Objecivist excellence and Objectivist error become inherently ideological rather than rational*.

Another fishhook seems to lie in this same passage:

"... if you have written some bad sentences, or expressed some wrong ideas...you did not think though the subject carefully and that your subconscious is fallible. But *you are there to correct the mistake*." (emphasis DB)

It's interesting that Rand only says the *subconscious is fallible*. "You" - your conscious self, obviously - "are there to correct the mistake". But surely *your conscious self is equally fallible too* - very much so! I don't see how this could sensibly be questioned. Certainly we do not *intend* to make errors when we act consciously - and there may be problems we are not *conscious of* with our decisions. But if this is what Rand means, it would be confusing the meanings of "conscious".

I will have to leave it at this point, but perhaps someone who has the essay could provide some passages that might clarify these issues.

- Daniel





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Post 43

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 11:26pmSanction this postReply
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There's actually a lot of interesting implications that need to be properly unpacked in Marcus's article - almost too many. But there is an important issue that he misses.

Rand writes:"For example, in the presence of a given event, work of art, person, etc., too many Objectivists ask themselves, “What do I have to feel?” Instead of, “What do I feel?” And if they need to judge a situation I have not discussed before, their approach is, “What should I think?” instead of, “What do I think?”...

Marcus then wrote:
>Being true to oneself, in other words, is important when writing or expressing yourself. Say what you really think and what you really feel, but avoid blindly reciting Objectivist doctrine, even when writing for an Objectivist publication.

That issue is: what happens when "what I feel" or "what I think" - that is, being true to oneself - *clashes with Objectivist doctrine*? Isn't that where the self censoring first might start?

- Daniel



Post 44

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 12:38amSanction this postReply
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Ciro, if I were Piekoff, we would not be having this discussion.





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Post 45

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 12:49amSanction this postReply
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"if I have written some bad sentences, or expressed some wrong ideas, they are 'bad' or 'wrong' *by what standards*?... I can't help but wonder what Rand is really referring to by a "mistake" that needs to be "corrected"...*distinctively Objectivist standards*. But once again, what exactly are they? ...I will have to leave it at this point, but perhaps someone who has the essay could provide some passages that might clarify these issues." [Daniel]

It's not an essay but a book. And these questions are answered after you *read the entire book* and grasp her context. You can't really ask people to go back and try to point to passages to clarify for you what would be crystal clear if you just read Rand's book carefully and firsthand and see the many, many examples she gives from chapter 1 to the end.

Phil



Post 46

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 4:30amSanction this postReply
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That issue is: what happens when "what I feel" or "what I think" - that is, being true to oneself - *clashes with Objectivist doctrine*? Isn't that where the self censoring first might start?

Yes it would if you were not true to your self. If you actually believe what you have written is fully rational and truthful, then why would you censor it?

It is possible to write something, that on second thought you realize is in error.

For example, imagine that you concluded in an essay that "tax" can be a good thing. But then you thought to yourself, "wait a minute I also think that tax is theft. And theft can never be justified." Then you would have to think it through again.

Maybe your original thinking was flawed. Maybe tax can be justified in the right context or maybe it can never be justified. You would have to question your original position.




Post 47

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 7:31amSanction this postReply
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In the end, the standards have to be your own. Otherwise, you are attempting to adhere to outside standards, meaning that for whatever reason, you have not fully integrated them. In writing, like pretty much anything else, your true values are shown by your actions. Or, I should say, the values are objects of your actions. You choose, you are the final editor.

rde




Post 48

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 7:34amSanction this postReply
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Ciro, my old friend: Why bother with Peikoff all the time?
 
Good question. Better question: why do so many of us bother with Peikoff?

From what I can see, a main reason people do it is the same main reason I have- they feel disappointed.

rde




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Post 49

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 9:45amSanction this postReply
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I think the recent trend in this discussion is missing several important points:

First, Rand was primarily discussing how to write non-fiction, not how to be an Objectivist. To the extent that her remarks on "ritualistic Objectivists" are applicable in other contexts, that is certainly interesting, but she wasn't giving a lecture on Objectivism as such. In this context, for example, a reference to "bad sentences" does not necessarily mean sentences that are bad in a "distinctively Objectivist" way.

Second, The Art of Non-Fiction is a transcript of a series of informal workshops on writing. It would be a mistake to assume that she carefully thought through the possible implications of each phrase she uttered in such a setting.

Third, it is an edited transcript. Without referring back to the original recordings, it would be a mistake to assume that every phrasing was exactly what Rand uttered. Consider, for example, that the text refers repeatedly to "Objectivists." The workshops were given in 1969, when Rand's preferred term for those who followed her ideas was "students of Objectivism." This element alone makes me suspect that this particular section is not a precise transcript. The possibility of editorial changes makes interpretations based on specific phrasings problematic.

Finally, and most important: the approach of sifting through every phrase and exploring its possible implications to wring every last ounce of (real or presumed) meaning out of a sentence is typical of how theologians study sacred scriptures. It is not a very good way to treat the words of ordinary mortals. I am reminded of a writer who declared that Rand had "inveighed against girls wearing long dresses" because she once used a metaphor that was unflattering to maxi-skirts. Instead of trying to tease out the implications of particular phrases, I suggest taking Rand's (very good) advice at face value.

--
Richard Lawrence
Webmaster, Objectivism Reference Center




Post 50

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 9:54amSanction this postReply
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Jason,

So whether "Objectivism" is or isn't an open system is an irrelivent and silly question -- and this comes directly from Rand's mouth.  Philosophy is always an open system because human beings will ALWAYS be integrating new knowledge and will be required to apply all old knowledge to brand new contexts.  So I hope that this useless question will be considered closed once and for all. 
 hope springs eternal.





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Post 51

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 10:39amSanction this postReply
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Joe:Ciro, if I were Piekoff, we would not be having this discussion.

Dear Joe, I guess Mr. Peikoff doesn't need to. There are many people, I guess, on this forum that represents him well, "You never fight with generals, but with soldiers" 

 

My Friend Rich, disappointment? Here is what people get disappointed about Peikoff:

 

A very good statement of what is entailed in the virtue of justice is the following (and you should recognize the words):

 

 

Justice consists first not in condemning, but in admiring – and then in expressing one's admiration explicitly and in fighting for those one admires. It consists first in acknowledging the good: intellectually, in reaching an objective moral verdict; then existentially, in defending the good – speaking out, making one's verdict known, championing publicly the men who are rational (one also praises them to their face, if there is a context to indicate that this would be a value to the person rather than an intrusion). Evil must be combated, but then it is to be brushed aside. What counts in life are the men who support life? They are the men who struggle unremittingly, often heroically, to achieve values. They are the Atlases whom mankind needs desperately, and who in turn desperately need the recognition – specifically, the moral recognition – to which they are entitled. They need to feel, while carrying the world on their shoulders, that they are living in a human society and that the burden is worth carrying. Otherwise, like the protagonists of Ayn Rand's novel, they too, properly, will shrug. (OPAR, p. 284f.)

 

 

 

Now, George Reisman is a truly great mind (and there would be no reason for me to bother with this conflict, if he were not). In his own profession, he ranks with the great names (such as Smith, Ricardo, Mises, and a few others). His recent treatise will revolutionize the science of economics, if it gets to be known and read. He has ridded Classical and Austrian economics of the inconsistencies that have cluttered them up in the past, and added quite a few contributions of his own. (3) His work is certainly an application of Objectivism (and I challenge anyone to claim otherwise). (4) That his work will be belittled and/or silenced by today's establishment economists is bad, but to be expected. That it will be belittled and/or silenced by Objectivists is an outrage. Yet, this is precisely what is taking place.

That George Reisman's reputation is now to be destroyed – and destroyed by pure rumor mongering – is simply something I will not sanction.

Sincerely,
Per-Olof Samuelsson

Dr. Peikoff's answer:

 

My quarrel with the Reismans is none of your business. It consists of personal disputes which have nothing to do with Objectivism and could not be proved to outsiders even if I wanted to, even though those facts are objective and known to me as such. Precisely for this reason I expect nothing of you in Sweden except the courtesy of a polite question as to my policy regarding you and the Reismans – as against a diatribe. In light of this last, I must withdraw all cooperation from your [translation] venture and prohibit any further reprinting of Ayn Rand materiel.

Comments, hopefully, unnecessary. Except, perhaps, this one:

I do not need anyone's "cooperation" in order to translate Ayn Rand's works into Swedish. All I need is my brain, a good dictionary, and some time in which to do the job. The only scarce item on this list is time. And if Leonard Peikoff wants to make a martyr out of me and mete out some terrible punishment for the crime of translating Ayn Rand into a foreign language (something which, if properly and conscientiosly done, deserves a medal and a place in the Objectivist Hall of Fame) - well, he can always go to court.

 

 

 

I am not in the position to judge Peikoff or any of the others luminaries of objectivism, but I can certainly say that

for what I read, many objectivists, especially those whose interest in objectivism is based  in making money, have

Changed their position about Peikoff a least once. Why? I guess the above letter tells us why.

(Edited by Ciro D'Agostino on 8/06, 10:42am)




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Post 52

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 12:44pmSanction this postReply
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Phil Coates:
>It's not an essay but a book. And these questions are answered after you *read the entire book* and grasp her context. You can't really ask people to go back and try to point to passages to clarify for you what would be crystal clear if you just read Rand's book carefully and firsthand and see the many, many examples she gives from chapter 1 to the end.

Of course I can ask. If you don't want to answer, that is up to you. What you seem to be saying is that these standards are impossible to articulate in less than a whole book - an idea which in itself is highly interesting in the context of this discussion.

Once again, my question is simple: If I write a bad sentence, or express a wrong idea, it is 'bad' or 'wrong' *by what standards*?(other than the usual ones, which I have already listed)

By now my hypothesis should be fairly obvious: is there perhaps an unspoken intellectual mechanism strangling the creation of Objectivist art? And if so, how exactly does it work?

- Daniel





Post 53

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 1:11pmSanction this postReply
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Richard writes:
>In this context, for example, a reference to "bad sentences" does not necessarily mean sentences that are bad in a "distinctively Objectivist" way.

This is precisely what I am asking: is there such a thing?

>Second...It would be a mistake to assume that she carefully thought through the possible implications of each phrase she uttered in such a setting.

The point I'm trying to make is one about *unspoken* expectations.

>Finally, and most important: the approach of sifting through every phrase and exploring its possible implications to wring every last ounce of (real or presumed) meaning out of a sentence is typical of how theologians study sacred scriptures.

This is true, but it is also how anyone studies anything. I for one am not in the least interested in textual analysis over trivia - say, over whether long dresses are to be ideologically condemned or not. But I am very interested in why Objectivism - a movement founded on aesthetic creation - seems to be mostly counter-productive to it.

- Daniel





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Post 54

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 1:31pmSanction this postReply
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Marcus, Ciro, Rich, friend Phil and others – This has been a very enlightening thread! I'll add a few observations since it's touching on some old, perennial questions.

 

While I don’t expect Peikoff will ever invite the Brandens to dinner, I don’t think that he needs to behave as he has or set the tone for ARI that Rich mentions because he considers himself to be Rand’s intellectual heir. The reason is that he – and all of us – should not be loyal to Ayn Rand or Objectivism but, rather, to what Rand rightly said we should be loyal to: the truth and objective reality. This gets to the distinctions between the different views of Objectivism as an opened or closed system.

 

1) Ultimately I want my ideas to correspond to the truth and to reality, not to the thought of Rand; whether someone calls me an Objectivist, Aristotelian, libertarian or whatever is of secondary importance if that.

 

2) I do call myself an Objectivist – as do most of the folks on SOLO -- because I have no major disagreements with the philosophy developed by Rand, those ideas best explain, predict and prescribe in the world in which we live and my ideas and approach to knowledge correspond to those ideas better than to any others. While Rand might be considered generally in the Aristotelian school, she departs from and adds to the premises of the Philosopher, so "Objectivist" is most accurate for me, my TOC colleagues and most folks on SOLO.

 

3) If Objectivism is simply a name for the beliefs of Ayn Rand, then the question "Are you a true Objectivist?" becomes an uninteresting, antiquarian inquiry.

 

4) But Objectivism in an open system in the sense explained better than I can by David Kelley. Since Rand did not say everything about everything, there are many areas where the philosophy needs to be applied or extended. (I asked Rand once if there were areas in which more thinking needed to be done and she said "Yes" and specified epistemology and induction.) So we can speak of Objectivists as individuals who accept the basic insights of Rand but who might differ in certain areas, for example, on the debate over survival versus flourishing in values. At a certain point some might so depart from the principles of Objectivism that for purposes of identification they might be classified with some new name of additional description in the same way one might specify an Aquinas Aristotelian versus a classical one.

 

5) Sadly, the ARI types, rather than engaging in a health exchange of ideas at conferences and in journals like others do in the realm of ideas, choose to treat SOLOists, TOC folks, libertarians and other like enemies and refuse any discussion with them. While I understand that there are personal and personality reasons why Peikoff or others might not want to deal with this or that person, it's unfortunate that part of their understanding of Objectivism is that they assume the worst of those who disagree with them and treat them like they're a new Stalin or Mao. I personally acknowledge the good work that has come from those associated with ARI – Peikoff’s “Understanding Objectivism” is probably his best work. But they've chosen a certain approach that leaves them separate from a lot of debates.

 

6) This approach often results in the sort of writing or statements that Rand denounces as ritualistic Objectivism. It might elicit cheers from true believers but it does not convince those who do not already accept the basics of the philosophy.





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Post 55

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 1:33pmSanction this postReply
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Ciro, what I meant by "we wouldn't be having this discussion" is that ARI has too strict a policy of not communicating with anyone outside their guidelines. For example, Andrew Bernstein wrote a brief defense of his Cliff Notes for JARS, and was called on it for contributing to JARS by ackowledging its existance. Excommunications are not frowned upon, and since we're at it, I find Piekoff's attempt to save the world a little screwy (place acid free copies of ATLAS in locations all over the world so if civilazation crumbles, the survivors will have a rational guide to restart civilization. Ok, maybe not THAT screwy, but still...).

ARI is great for archival, but I don't trust their editing of Rand's journals, etc. I have the same problem, btw, with Jung's estate and Princeton for doing the same.
(Edited by Joe Maurone
on 8/06, 5:08pm)




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Post 56

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 2:18pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

It was Andrew Bernstein who had to repent in sackcloth and ashes after putting a one-paragraph reply to a review in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

But of course your point stands.

It's bad enough that no one affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute will publish in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, for fear of excommunication.

What's worse is that some ARIans make the public pretense that there is no official policy against publishing in JARS. According to them, Bernstein did his penance because he personally concluded that JARS was bad, therefore not worthy of his "sanction." But he didn't realize how awful a journal it was--until he had already published in it.

Gimme a break!

Robert Campbell





Post 57

Sunday, August 7, 2005 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
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(Edited by Ciro D'Agostino on 8/07, 2:31pm)




Post 58

Sunday, August 7, 2005 - 10:53pmSanction this postReply
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These bits from The Art of Non-fiction hit my sweet spot:

To speak or write, you must rely on your subconscious. automatized integrations.

Write directly from the subconscious, as the words come to you.

And especially:

It is a contradiction to think you can do better than your own mind, yet that is what the overcritical approach amounts to.
 


Thanks for taking my questions, Miss Rand.




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Post 59

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 2:20amSanction this postReply
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Lance quoted Rand:
> Write directly from the subconscious, as the words come to you.

Yes I consider this good artistic advice, writing or otherwise. Where inspiration comes from is not important. Splurge it out, edit it, rinse and repeat. It's what Shaw was talking about when he said the subconscious is the true genius. That's one way at least. One good thing about using subconscious sources is that you often don't quite know what it means, but it has a kind of intriguing, mysterious nature that is fruitful for other ideas. Later on you discover what you meant by it.

Of course this kind of advice is in practice quite contrary to other things she wrote about the creative process.

Another way is to address yourself to a particular problem, even if it's quite arbitrary. Someone asked the great songwriter Sammy Cahn which came first when he wrote, the music or the lyrics. "The call from my agent" Cahn replied.

>It is a contradiction to think you can do better than your own mind, yet that is what the overcritical approach amounts to.

I tend to think that the problem is trying to criticise the artwork too thoroughly before it is even an artwork.

- Daniel




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