|Robert Bidinotto asks: Let me revitalize this poll discussion by pointing out that here, at the site called "Sense Of Life Objectivists," fewer than half of those responding to the poll as of June 12, 2005 prefer to call themselves by the name "Objectivist." Does this tell us something? And if so, what?|
The simplest, and most negative explanation would be that the term 'objectivist' has become widely associated as a negative as a result of the schisms, in-fighting, and post-Randian re-interpretation of her philosophy. If one were so disposed, they could point to the Branden-Rand affair as the seed that would undermine the title ‘Objectivist’. The majority might say that it all started with the Kelley-Peikoff split, and blame either TOC or ARI depending on their point of view. And still others might say, that the term ‘Objectivist’ has become so loaded with the vitriolic debate that ensues when factions lay sole claim to the title, that they would rather just side-step a debate they consider pointless.
There is however an alternative rationale, and one that is much more positive. Consider the possibility that since her death, Ayn Rand’s ideas have significantly influenced (directly or indirectly) a large enough number of people, that the term has become too narrow to fully embrace the wide array of people that adhere to it, either in part or as a whole. To use a terrible analogy, the term ‘Protestant’ can no longer subsume the totality of its adherents; thus the birth of Methodist, Baptist, Lutherans, et al.
I doubt that the founder of the philosophy would be amused at this development, since founders are rarely amused at seeing the child of their efforts grow beyond their own control or teachings. I doubt many of the original participants in the objectivist movement welcome this, since they may feel that it signifies the watering down of their efforts as activist for ‘Objectivism’, or some sort of challenge from the “outside”. In my opinion it is a testament to the effectiveness of their efforts. Both Peikoff and Kelley, and all those that worked along with them to advance this philosophy, may have succeeded to a point that would surprise them. To their chagrin, or dismay, the price of their success may be manifesting itself by their own ‘tents’ becoming smaller or fixed in numbers, while new tents spring up elsewhere.
In spite of those that would still like to debate it, we are past the point where the debate about “open system – closed system” is a significant issue. Like it or not, Rand’s philosophy, like Aristotle’s before her, must now deal with those that build upon the foundation that was laid. Some of this building will be for the better, and some for the worse. It should be expected, that as the years go by people will speak of Ayn Rand and Objectivism, with a reverence for the ‘Fountainhead’ of their ideas – but without calling themselves Objectivist.
(Edited by George W. Cordero on 6/13, 5:29am)