Michael Stuart Kelly

A Question of Sanction

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Pointing out that Rand had a bad side constitutes "assaults on a profound value"?

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[....]

I am characterizing L.P.'s behavior as passive aggressive. He has not conducted his disputes in a quiet rational manner and he has resorted to character assassination too. Not nice. I have had conversations with L.P. and I do not consider him a first rate intellect. And he is not a nice man either. He is strident and insecure.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I do not know what came over me. I am psychologizing!!! Arrrghhh!

Shame on me! I will now mortify my flesh moderately. Shame! Shame!

Sorry.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Characterizing L.P.'s behavior as passive-aggressive isn't psychologizing. L.P. does engage in passive-aggressive behavior pretty obviously. The characterization is a supportable psychological description. Maybe the worst result of that damned article of hers on "Psychologizing" is that AR got her admirers throughly mixed up as to the difference between proper psychological description, analysis, and diagnosis on the one hand and on the other the improper use of psychology which she was calling "psychologizing" (and which, as Robert C. already indicated in another post several up the queue, she herself engaged in abundantly in the very article decrying engaging in it). I much wish she had never written that blasted article (and a couple others as well, but if I could choose only one of her articles to never have been penned, the "Psychologizing" article would be my choice).

Ellen

___

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On Sanctioning the Sanctioners is also available in The Intellectual Activist, 1979 - 1991 bound volume. A quick reread suggests that it is, there, unchanged from what you have posted.

Alfonso

Edited by Alfonso
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Kelley mentions the article On Sanctioning the Sanctioners (from The Intellectual Activist 2/27/89). This essay starts the whole debate. It sets the tone and context.

But virtually no-one has ever seen it. Neither side deals with it. It's been utterly supressed and unknown for almost 30 years now.

How is this remotely right?

Kyrel, you're exactly right. Schwartz is frequently republished in sanitized form with the most embarrassing bits edited or taken out completely.

Jim

I'm curious. Where have you seen "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners" republished in sanitized form? (I would be interested in comparing the original and revised versions.)

Alfonso

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I am characterizing L.P.'s behavior as passive aggressive. He has not conducted his disputes in a quiet rational manner and he has resorted to character assassination too. Not nice. I have had conversations with L.P. and I do not consider him a first rate intellect. And he is not a nice man either. He is strident and insecure.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I look in the American Heritage Dictionary for passive-aggressive (I don't have a dictionary of psychological terms) and find:

adj. Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, as by procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency.

This does not seem to fit the behavior description above. I'm not disputing the specifics of your description at this time - but do you think this demonstrates PASSIVE-aggressive behavior?

Alfonso

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Kelley mentions the article On Sanctioning the Sanctioners (from The Intellectual Activist 2/27/89). This essay starts the whole debate. It sets the tone and context.

But virtually no-one has ever seen it. Neither side deals with it. It's been utterly supressed and unknown for almost 30 years now.

How is this remotely right?

Kyrel, you're exactly right. Schwartz is frequently republished in sanitized form with the most embarrassing bits edited or taken out completely.

Jim

I'm curious. Where have you seen "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners" republished in sanitized form? (I would be interested in comparing the original and revised versions.)

Alfonso

Alfonso,

On Sanctioning the Sanctioners was not emphasized precisely because it was embarassing. Schwartz's article Libertarianism, the Perversion of Liberty was heavily edited to be published in the Voice of Reason. In either case, the idea is that the articles are used as intimidation (agree with us or else) in the Objectivist community, but the full force of which is shielded from public view precisely because it would not stand up in the light of day.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson
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EDITOR AND PUBLISHER

Peter Schwartz

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Leonard Peikoff

George Reisman

George Walsh

On Sanctioning the Sanctioners

Copyright © 1989 The Intellectual Activist, Inc.

February 27, 1989

Volume IV, Number 20

[TIA was at that time type-set using a standard typewriter; the underlining to indicate italics is as in the original.]

Ayn Rand's principle of not sanctioning evil has an aspect that some TIA readers apparently do not see. It is clear why one should not, for example, sell goods to totalitarian states or provide shelter to escaping criminals or work as a PLO fund-raiser. Assisting one's philosophical enemies--i.e., those who hold values fundamentally antithetical to one's own--is ultimately harmful to one's own interests. And the corrolary of this principle is: neither should one sanction the sanctioners of one's philosophical enemies--e.g., the Armand Hammers and Donald Kendalls who have blazed the trail for trading with the Soviet government. It is irrelevant that such people may profess to be strongly anti-communist. They are in fact abetting communism--both materially and intellectually--thereby increasing the threat to the values of human life and liberty, and they deserve to be ostracized for it.

Two other, equivalent examples of philosophical enmity are of particular interest to TIA--and to those readers who have asked me why, in their words, "honest differences of opinion" cause me to dissociate from cerain individuals who "still agree with your basic philosophy." The first example is that of Libertarianism. Libertarians are patently not allies in the ideological battle for capitalism, regardless of how many free-market positions they may claim to endorse. Nor are those who support them (i.e., those who contribute to the Libertarian Party or lend their names to Libertarian magazines or promote Libertarian bookstores or serve as after-dinner speakers at Libertarian functions). They are all in fact furthering ideas and values fundamentally inimical to those of Objectivism. Consequently, TIA's editorial masthead, as well as Second Renaissance Book's catalogue of authors, categorically excludes anyone who openly preaches Libertarianism--or who supports the preachers. It is dishonest and self-defeating to treat such people as partners in the cause of reason, egoism and capitalism. They are not.

The second example pertains to one's view of Ayn Rand. There are those who, not content to distort and disparage Objectivism, feel compelled to smear Ayn Rand as well. They launch hostile personal attacks against her--they denounce her for allegedly causing those who agree with her to live unhappy lives--they concoct ax-grinding, arbitrary psychologizings about her--they strive to tarnish her achievements and to "humanize" her character by bringing her down to their own sorry level. This attitude, unsurprisingly, generally goes hand-in-hand with a sympathetic view of Libertarianism, and I disavow both camps for the same reason: they represent irrational, unjust assaults upon profoundly important values. I have no significant values in common with those who explicitly hold such odious views--nor with those who, by their actions, implicitly endorse them. If those views constitute "honest" disagreement on the part of people objectively seeking the truth--then the concepts "honesty," "objectivity" and "truth" have been stripped of all rational meaning; and then everything, from communism and religion to terrorism and Libertarianism, becomes just a matter of opinion. Those who hold such a position are free to peddle their beliefs wherever they wish--but will simply have to do so without my cooperation.

Thank you!

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I am characterizing L.P.'s behavior as passive aggressive. He has not conducted his disputes in a quiet rational manner and he has resorted to character assassination too. Not nice. I have had conversations with L.P. and I do not consider him a first rate intellect. And he is not a nice man either. He is strident and insecure.

Ba'al Chatzaf

I look in the American Heritage Dictionary for passive-aggressive (I don't have a dictionary of psychological terms) and find:

adj. Of, relating to, or having a personality disorder characterized by habitual passive resistance to demands for adequate performance in occupational or social situations, as by procrastination, stubbornness, sullenness, and inefficiency.

This does not seem to fit the behavior description above. I'm not disputing the specifics of your description at this time - but do you think this demonstrates PASSIVE-aggressive behavior?

Alfonso

My favorite passive-aggressive vignette is the Jewish mother upon learning that her son married a shickse (non-Jewish girl) offers the couple her house to live in. After I stick my head in the oven (she says) you can have my house. In addition to the above there is malicious compliance and projecting blameworthiness on others. These are manifestations of sullenness and resentment. Passive-Aggressive behavior is a non-violent way of "sticking it" to other people. The passive aggressive motto is "I'll make him sorry he treated me this way" I am sorry I brought the subject up. I will make it a point to avoid psychologizing. It is not a productive activity and shame on me (!) for doing it at all.

I found L.P. to be thoroughly annoying in the the one-on-one encounters I had with him and it is not just because we disagreed. I disagree with a lot of people, and a lot of people disagree with me. But, by and large, I get along with these folk and even respect their disagreements. God in His infinite Wisdom made us different from each other and gave us the ability to have differing opinions and judgments. I would dread living in a world in which everyone agreed with me. One of me is enough, don't you agree? One of anybody is enough. The world is broad and deep and there is more than enough room for disgreement. I guess I am one of these accursed Tolerationists.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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After reading "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners," I have no trouble seeing why Leonard Peikoff felt the need to drop everything else he was doing, so he could come to the rescue with "Fact and Value."

But "Fact and Value" is one of the lowest points in Dr. Peikoff's output.

Most of the reasons for this have been widely noted.

Something I never cottoned to, though, until I started studying Dr. Peikoff's doctrine of the arbitrary assertion, is how "Fact and Value" contradicts OPAR on that issue.

For instance, in OPAR assertions about "past lives" are said to be arbitrary.

In "Fact and Value" they are said to be expressions of "inherently dishonest ideas"; on other words, they are false.

But "the arbitrary," according to Peikoff, is neither true nor false.

Oops.

Robert Campbell

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Hey Robert,

I'm no Peikoff scholar by a long shot, but from what I have read, it strikes me that in his writing revilement tends to trump philosophical consistency. So often, he seems simply to be going for the put-down: "It's evil!" becomes "It's meaningless!" becomes "It's stupid!" depending on what aspect strikes him as being the most damning in the moment.

The black and white world he inhabits (and no, I don't see a world that is all greys, but a world in full color, thank you very much ;) ) disallows him making distinctions between degrees and kinds of wrong. Wrong is all wrong, largely indifferentiable from any other wrong. How else can he list "Nazism, Communism, non-objective art (lol), non-Aristotelian logic, egalitarianism, nihilism, the pragmatist cult of compromise, the Shirley MacLaine types, who 'channel' with ghosts and recount their previous lives" as moral equivalents? Why didn't he include "libertarianism, adultery, taking more than one's fair share of donuts at breakfast and falling asleep in philosophy class?"

I'm reminded of a documentary on the Catholic Church's attitude toward pedophilia in the priesthood, Deliver Us From Evil. A therapist comments that since the Catholic hierarchy demands complete celibacy of its priests and therefore accounts any sexual act a mortal sin, they make no distinction between sleeping with a parishioner's wife and raping his 9 year old daughter. Sex is sex. Evil is evil.

At the risk of "psychologizing," Peikoff's attitude strikes me as fundamentally naïve. Whenever folks go on and on as he does in Fact and Value about "evil," I gotta wonder what kinds of evil they've actually had to deal with in their lives. The evil of murder, the evil of pedophilia (I've had the misfortune of personally dealing with both actualities in my lifetime) are, up close, not subjects for philosophical chit-chat. They are harrowing mysteries of human volition demanding the steadiest, most painstaking analysis and inquiry. To confuse this kind of absolute human failure with anything merely discussed in a lecture hall would excite my gravest contempt were it not so completely silly. (I hasten to add, even those of us who have dealt with significant evil in reality, because of evil's nature, are often undone by it and come away with the most warped and corrupt notions. Without help, we generally get worse, not better, after an encounter with real evil.)

My experience has taught me that most people are simply confused because their encounter with reality is impoverished--their range of experience is too narrow, too comfortable to demand thinking through the really hard stuff. Furthermore, the really hard stuff is definitively overwhelming and disturbing, so they're more than willing to take this or that authority's word on the subject in the hopes that the real deal never touches them directly.

Whatever method we find to encourage others of our species to think for themselves, to encounter reality fully and unflinchingly--no matter what evil, reality-contradicting gobbledygook they may have cluttering up their minds--is, to my mind, a very good thing indeed; be it lecturing to libertarians, or posting on the Internet.

-Kevin

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EDITOR AND PUBLISHER

Peter Schwartz

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Leonard Peikoff

George Reisman

George Walsh

On Sanctioning the Sanctioners

Copyright © 1989 The Intellectual Activist, Inc.

February 27, 1989

Volume IV, Number 20

(snip)

Assisting one's philosophical enemies--i.e., those who hold values fundamentally antithetical to one's own--is ultimately harmful to one's own interests. And the corrolary of this principle is: neither should one sanction the sanctioners of one's philosophical enemies--e.g., the Armand Hammers and Donald Kendalls who have blazed the trail for trading with the Soviet government. It is irrelevant that such people may profess to be strongly anti-communist. They are in fact abetting communism--both materially and intellectually--thereby increasing the threat to the values of human life and liberty, and they deserve to be ostracized for it.

(snip)

Thank you!

I find this quote interesting - about the need not to sanction the sanctioners. It is reminiscent of attitudes within Christian fundamentalism. Some fundamentalists separate from those who engage in practice X (X may be any of a large number of things, from drinking alcohol to playing cards, etc...). Then the stricter ones separate from all who refuse to separate from those who engage in Practice X (second-order separatism). The process can continue indefinitely. Suddenly someone (A) discovers that a friend/associate has refused to disassociate from someone who engages in practice X - it becomes immediately necessary to denounce them (A), and do separate from them. Imagine trying to compose a sentence describing fourth-order separatism...

Absolutely silliness.

Alfonso

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EDITOR AND PUBLISHER

Peter Schwartz

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

Leonard Peikoff

George Reisman

George Walsh

On Sanctioning the Sanctioners

Copyright © 1989 The Intellectual Activist, Inc.

February 27, 1989

Volume IV, Number 20

(snip)

Assisting one's philosophical enemies--i.e., those who hold values fundamentally antithetical to one's own--is ultimately harmful to one's own interests. And the corrolary of this principle is: neither should one sanction the sanctioners of one's philosophical enemies--e.g., the Armand Hammers and Donald Kendalls who have blazed the trail for trading with the Soviet government. It is irrelevant that such people may profess to be strongly anti-communist. They are in fact abetting communism--both materially and intellectually--thereby increasing the threat to the values of human life and liberty, and they deserve to be ostracized for it.

(snip)

Thank you!

I find this quote interesting - about the need not to sanction the sanctioners. It is reminiscent of attitudes within Christian fundamentalism. Some fundamentalists separate from those who engage in practice X (X may be any of a large number of things, from drinking alcohol to playing cards, etc...). Then the stricter ones separate from all who refuse to separate from those who engage in Practice X (second-order separatism). The process can continue indefinitely. Suddenly someone (A) discovers that a friend/associate has refused to disassociate from someone who engages in practice X - it becomes immediately necessary to denounce them (A), and do separate from them. Imagine trying to compose a sentence describing fourth-order separatism...

Absolutely silliness.

Alfonso

Exactly! This kind of reasoning turns people into paranoid snoops or hermetically cloistered monks. Of course it would be debilitating to practice this consistently so the ARI hardliners mostly perpetrate this absurdity against heretical Objectivists and classical liberals of stripes that meet with their disapproval.

Jim

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I'm no Peikoff scholar by a long shot, but from what I have read, it strikes me that in his writing revilement tends to trump philosophical consistency. So often, he seems simply to be going for the put-down: "It's evil!" becomes "It's meaningless!" becomes "It's stupid!" depending on what aspect strikes him as being the most damning in the moment.

Kevin, this is a perfect description of the knee-jerk Loyalist mentality of the ARI crowd. My favorite example of it, which is so OVER THE TOP in its over-the-topness, dates to 2004, when Don Watkins (the turd, I mean, the third) excoriated Ed Hudgins for his relatively mild criticism ("silly") of Diana Hsieh's grandstand departure from TOC. Ed's characteristically gentle chiding was taken as being all the proof you would need of his being evil incarnate. In my comments to Diana's blog, Poodle Poop (well, that should be its name; actually, it's Noodle Food), I noted that Don was committing a very helpful though seldom invoked fallacy Rand called the Fallacy of the Frozen Abstraction, about which I have written quite a bit over the years. (Those interested may read the initial essay, dating from the early 1970s, posted at my website, here: Frozen Abstraction Essay)

Here is the text of my comments about Watkins' brilliant portrayal of the Frozen Abstraction zombie:

ED HUDGINS--NON-HUMAN BEING?

Don Watkins said that, because of the "vicious criticism" that Ed Hudgins leveled against Diana, Ed "has no moral right to call himself an Objectivist – or even a human being." He later fudged this by saying that Ed "surrendered his moral right to the title of 'human being,' in the sense Objectivists use that term." This is like saying that Catholics do not practice virtue, or that altruism is not a moral code, etc., "in the sense Objectivists use the term.” Don has fallen prey to a certain logical fallacy has appeared in the writings of many Libertarian and/or Objectivist thinkers As defined by Ayn Rand, the fallacy of the frozen abstraction is a fallacy "which consists of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs." (Ayn Rand, "Collectivized Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, New York: Signet, 1964, p. 81)

In other words, this fallacy entails the refusal to include certain members of a class in the wider class to which they belong, and instead limiting the class to one or a select few of its members.

The example used by Rand in introducing this fallacy is that of many people who have been taught to view morality strictly from the altruist standpoint. They have learned to equate altruism—which is one specific ethic—with the wider, more general abstraction of "ethics." As a consequence, they refuse to regard egoism, hedonism, etc., as being alternative ethical systems or theories. Their concept of "morality," in other words, is frozen on the level of one of the species of morality, rather than being integrated to the higher, genus level, so as to include all of the species of morality.

As one might gather, this fallacy is singularly well-suited for propagating subtle (and not-so-subtle) untruths, particularly in the realm of normative (i.e., value) considerations. In committing the frozen abstraction fallacy, a given speaker substitutes his view of what a given thing ideally should be, for the wider class of what that thing has been, is, and can or should or will be. He then defines his concept of that thing so as to exclude all non-ideal, imperfect, or bad (evil and/or harmful) examples of that thing from the concept.

Regardless of the motive involved, this is the basic pattern and premise of all instances of the frozen abstraction fallacy as it occurs in a normative context: the equation of the normative ideal (the good) with the epistemological ideal (the essential)—i.e., the equation of what remains after one has abstracted away the evil or ugly, with what remains after one has abstracted away the non-essential. In order to illustrate this point, I will now examine a specific instance of this fallacy as it appeared in a 1971 essay by Ayn Rand herself, "The Age of Envy." This essay is an elaboration upon her claim that the emotional atmosphere of today's culture is one of envy or, more precisely, "hatred of the good for being the good." (Ayn Rand, "The Age of Envy," The Objectivist, July 1971, p. 1.) (For a fuller discussion of the fallacy, as well as a number of other examples from Rand's and other Objectivists' writings, see my essay on frozen abstractions at this web address: <
http://members.aol.com/REBissell/indexmm4.html>
)

The experience of this emotion is possible only to a person who has sabotaged his/her cognitive development by avoiding mental effort and understanding. Such a person is instead pursuing whims and deception of others (thus freezing his/her mental functioning to the concrete level appropriate to childhood). (ibid., Aug. 1971, p. 6.) Anyone who experiences this emotion as a characteristic response to the sight of his/her values, is referred to by Rand in bitterly caustic terms as a "hater," an "inhuman object," a "creature," "it," a "hating creature," an "envious hater," a "monster" (ibid., July 1971, pp. 2, 4-5, 7).

In other words, if one's basic, typical response to the sight of one's real values is hatred, one is not human, one is not a man. Yet, curiously enough, even though this assertion is stated or implied numerous times in Rand's essay, there are also certain passages in which she relents and temporarily admits these "haters" back to the human race:

"The hater of the good is the man who did not make this transition [from the perceptual level to the conceptual level]...[The hater has] as stagnant a mentality as a human being can sustain on the edge of the borderline separating passivity from psychosis...How does a human descend to such a state?" [emphasis added, ibid., Aug. 1971, p. 6.]

Rand first relents long enough to condemn those human beings who are haters of the good. She then denies that they are human beings, but later lapses back into referring to them as human beings (or men), after seeming to have firmly ostracized them from the human race with such epithets as "creature," "monster," "inhuman object," and "it." (!)

Rand has frozen her abstraction of 'man' ('human being'). She excludes from it certain men whom she considers as possessing "a quality of abysmal evil" (ibid., July 1971, p. 4). Then she fails to integrate her frozen abstraction consistently –which would be impossible anyway, with her knowledge of man's nature—instead allowing it to thaw out and expand again. (Coincidentally, this happens as her most intense expressions of moral wrath subside and scientific curiosity takes over (ibid., Aug. 1971, pp. 5-10).

Unless we choose to indulge in psychologizing and to speculate as to Rand's possible motives, we are left with a sense of confusion and uncertainty. Why does she present such a grossly inconsistent discussion of the concept of 'man'? Surely it would not be out of place to suggest that there is some carelessness here--a subconscious confusion of conceptualization with evaluation. It certainly appears that Rand has on occasion allowed her value-responses (i.e., her emotions) to control the way she sets up and uses her abstraction.

What, then, is the preferable policy? To conceive of and define 'man' as: the rational animal. This, of course, means not that man characteristically acts in accordance with reason, but that man has the volitional capacity to act rationally. Therefore, unless one contents that haters (and appeasers, who are even worse!) are metaphysically irredeemable, one must limit oneself to classifying them as (abysmally) evil men. Such a policy results in mental clarity, precision and objectivity—with no compromise of one's moral principles.

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

Applying this to the current controversy over whether and in what sense Ed Hudgins is not, or does not deserve to be regarded as, a human being, Rand's approach (i.e., her injunction to avoid the fallacy of the frozen abstraction) requires that Don limit himself to branding Ed as an ~evil~ human being, not as a ~non~ human being or "not really" a human being. In other words, Don needs to take responsibility for his value-judgments, particularly those ~condemning~ others, and stop perverting the English language and the Objectivist concept hierarchy in order to cognitively ostracize Ed from the human race.

REB

P.S. -- Watkins followed up my post with a partial recantation, though reserving the right to judge Hudgins action (calling Hsieh's actions "silly") as being viciously immoral. <sigh> This guy is an intellectual pit-bull, with attitude and intellect to match....

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I have read the issue of not sanctioning the sanctioners, and I saw it as a blatant imitation of Ayn Rand herself. It deserves no reply.

I am reading the Leonard Peikoff piece, have much to rebut. I am therefore proposing to present an open letter to Dr. Peikoff. Let me begin here:

Objectivism holds that value is objective (not intrinsic or subjective); value is based on and derives from the facts of reality...every proper value-judgment is the identification of a fact: a given object or action advances man's life (it is good): or it threatens man's life (it is bad or an evil). The good, therefore, is a species of the true; it is a form of recognizing reality. The evil is a species of the false; it is a form of contradicting reality. Or: values are a type of facts; they are facts considered in relation to the choice to live.

From this I have a rhetorical question which I doubt Dr. Peikoff would be glad to answer. One aspect of value is to evaluate music as "I like it" or "I don't like it." Among the music I evaluate as "like" is a piece of folk-music called "Nimpérde." Yes, I said folk-music. The piece is instrumental, and even if it wasn't, how many of us speak Uyghur? But I find that pleasing to the ear. And my question is for Dr. Peikoff: how does that choice advance or threaten my life? I mean, show me objectively, Dr. Peikoff.

From there, Dr. Peikoff appears only to rephrase ideas which Ayn Rand introduced; and it is unclear why he is writing this for a few paragraphs. Then I come to the conclusion which appears to be his leitmotif:

The originators, leaders and intellectual spokesmen of all such movements are necessarily evaders on a major scale; they are not merely mistaken, but are crusading irrationalists. The mass base of such movements are not evaders of the same kind; but most of the followers are dishonest in their own passive way. They are unthinking, intellectually irresponsible ballast, unconcerned with logic or truth. They go along with corrupt trend-setters because their neighbors demand it, and/or because a given notion satisfies some out-of-context desire they happen to feel. People of this kind are not the helplessly ignorant, but the willfully self-deluded.

Emphasis mine throughout.

One statement by Dr. Peikoff is very apt for reasons he probably would not appreciate.

EVEN IN REGARD to inherently dishonest movements, let me now add, a marginal third category of adherent is possible: the relatively small number who struggle conscientiously, but simply cannot grasp the issues and the monumental corruption involved. These are the handful who become Communists, "channelers," etc. through a truly honest error of knowledge. Leaving aside the retarded and the illiterate, who are effectively helpless in such matters, this third group consists almost exclusively of the very young

Emphasis still mine throughout. Nor will Dr. Peikoff like to hear that Nathaniel Branded has said of Ayn Rand, since the split, that her biggest influence was in the young. But worse: what Dr. Branden said that young people are attracted to Ayn Rand by her sense of life. He did not use those words; but the words he used do communicate that meaning. That is the sort of irony that is hard to invent, in fiction.

But more pertinent is Dr. Peikoff's discussion of Dr. Kelley. I therefore quote the following:

Kelley adds that if, after a discussion, a particular intellectual proves to be "not open to reason," then we no longer have to be tolerant of him. But a man's viewpoint as such, he insists, no matter what its content, does not justify such a negative verdict. What then does or ever could? If the content of a man's ideas, even when they are openly at war with reason and reality, does not necessarily indicate a process of evasion on his part, how can we ever know that a man who disagrees with us after a discussion is being irrational? How can we know that he is not merely "honestly mistaken" still? Kelley does not address such questions, because the only answer to them is: on Kelley's premises, one never can know that a man is being irrational and, therefore, one never does pronounce moral judgment.

The emphasis here is most emphatically mine, Dr. Peikoff. And I therefore would ask Dr. Peikoff to underscore that section of Dr. Kelley's statement where he denies that it's impossible to know whether a man is being irrational.

By contrast I will quote Dr. Kelley where he said:

To have any hope of persuading others, we must take the trouble to understand their context; we must approach them on an equal footing, a mutual willingness to be persuaded by the facts; and we must grant them time to sort through the issues and make sure that any new conclusion is rooted in their own grasp of reality. If we find that the other person is not open to reason, we should abandon the effort. Tolerance does not require that we beat our heads against the wall, or put up with willful irrationality. But we should assume that people are rational until we have evidence to the contrary. In this respect, tolerance is the intellectual expression of benevolence.

The emphasis (mine) shows that Dr. Kelley can recognise irrational behaviour; he recognises that some people are not open to reason. He does not specifically state how we can tell if the behaviour we are faced with is irrational. That is true. But I did not require him to tell me that there is such a thing. I know irrationality when I see it, Dr. Peikoff.

Dr. Peikoff denounces tolerance, and I believe he is no hypocrite when he says this. I also have excerpted some of his commentary.

FOR DECADES, onetime advocates of Objectivism who have turned into champions of "tolerance" (or "kindness" or "compassion") have leveled a specific accusation against Ayn Rand and against anyone else who pronounces moral judgment. (Kelley a few years ago accused Ayn Rand and me of it to my face, and I broke off all relations with him.) The accusation is that we are "dogmatic moralizers" or "angry emotionalists." Up to now, I could explain these attacks only psychologically, in terms of the attackers' cowardice or psychopathology. But now I understand...[that] such people literally have no concept of "objectivity" in regard to values. Their accusations, therefore, are expressions of their own actual philosophy and inner state...To such a person, intellectual discussion is a game; ideas are constructs in some academic or Platonic dimension, unrelated to this earth...To tear values from facts and concepts from percepts is to explode any such integration and thus to defy the essence of the philosophy which demands it. Such is the result of trying to combine Objectivism with "tolerance" (or with "compassion" or "kindness" in the Brandens' sense). "Tolerance," as used by Kelley, is a concept (or anti-concept) out of the modern liberals' world-view; it is a further expression of the philosophy of subjectivism; it conveys the notion that one must be fair to one's opponents by means of not judging them, by being "open-minded" and saying, in effect: "Who am I to know? Maybe I have something to learn from this person." The term means, in essence, "fairness through skepticism." So crude a package-deal does not need much analysis. (In a political context, the term could be taken to mean that no one may initiate governmental force against others. But the proper concept to identify such a political condition is "rights" or "freedom," not "tolerance.")

Where to begin? Once more Dr. Peikoff insists that Dr. Kelley has said something which Dr. Kelley has NOT said. I have shown PROOF that Dr. Kelley has not said that. Which leads me to statements that "such people" who attack Dr. Peikoff have "no concept of 'objectivity' in regrad to values" and whose "accusations...are an expression of their own actual philosophy and inner state."

I know irrationality, and projection, when I see it.

Dr. Peikoff was honest at the end.

IN HIS LAST PARAGRAPH, Kelley states that Ayn Rand's philosophy, though magnificent, "is not a closed system." Yes, it is..."Objectivism" is the name of Ayn Rand's achievement. Anyone else's interpretation or development of her ideas, my own work emphatically included, is precisely that: an interpretation or development, which may or may not be logically consistent with what she wrote. In regard to the consistency of any such derivative work, each man must reach his own verdict, by weighing all the relevant evidence. The "official, authorized doctrine," however, remains unchanged and untouched in Ayn Rand's books; it is not affected by any interpreters.

The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence state the "official" doctrine of the government of the United States, and no one, including the Supreme Court, can alter the meaning of this doctrine. What the Constitution and the Declaration are to the United States, Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand's other works are to Objectivism. Objectivism, therefore, is "rigid," "narrow," "intolerant" and "closed-minded." If anyone wants to reject Ayn Rand's ideas and invent a new viewpoint, he is free to do so—but he cannot, as a matter of honesty, label his new ideas or himself "Objectivist."

No wonder I have never heard of any great achievement from Dr. Peikoff. Many people know of Ayn Rand, and deservedly so. Who has heard of Dr. Peikoff, other than the people who have considered Ayn Rand in depth. But surely THIS is the reason why Dr. Peikoff has not followed Ayn Rand in blazing new trails, nor even extending further the trail which Ayn Rand blazed. Because Objectivism is "the name of Ayn Rand's achievement" which means by definition there is no seeking new knowledge, there is only the guarding of tradition.

What if the sequel to THE FOUNTAINHEAD was about Howard Roark's architectural heir, who insists that Modernism is "the name of Howard Roark's achievement" and therefore no new architectural innovations, because they may or may not be consistent with the official work of Howard Roark? A horrible idea? I agree. I don't like seeing it in reality.

Dr. Peikoff's statement about the Constitution is also untrue. The Supreme Court interprets the meaning of the Constitution with every decision they make, and the Congress has the power to amend the Constitution. Most Americans know this.

And Dr. Peikoff, rest assured that I shall never label myself or my ideas Objectivist.

I am not part of your movement. (Who were part of a "movement" in THE FOUNTAINHEAD? Ellsworth Toohey and Gus Webb) because I know that a rational man gives me reasons, and an irrational man uses emotions that go against reason. And in your case, you use emotional language, you denouce, and you say that those you denounce don't understand Objectivism. But you do not tell me any of the real reasons. The only reason given was that Dr. Kelley said something, which he did not say.

Who is being irrational?

And why do you paraphrase Karl Marx? I don't just mean at the end, Dr. Peikoff. I mean when you spoke as if the tide of history was on your side. That was Communist dogma. How should I interpret that?

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I was contacted off line by a person who prefers to remain unnamed about Ellen's quote of "On Sanctioning the Sanctioners" by Peter Schwartz. (He mentioned that he contacted her about it.)

He was concerned whether she had asked for copyright permission from The Intellectual Activist. He mentioned that ARI needed to obtain permission from TIA to reprint "Fact and Value" by Leonard Peikoff. He also mentioned that he had already contacted TIA about this (the insinuation was that he had done some kind of preemptive measure).

I responded that I did not know if she obtained permission, but in my understanding of Title 17 of the US Code, Section 107, she did not need to. (See here for an easy explanation from the Copyright Office). The Schwartz excerpt was only 3 paragraphs long and obviously a notification, not a full article like Peikoff's. Proper attribution was made, it was short, the purpose was educational (in a sense), and no profit was made. This fall squarely within the fair use provision as far as I am concerned. Ellen has worked in publishing many years so I have no doubts at all about her knowledge of all this.

OL stands fully behind Ellen presenting it as a legal and moral thing to do. I asked the gentleman to refer any copyright complaints (legal or otherwise) he might receive from TIA or anyone else to me and provided him with my email.

Michael

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I responded that I did not know if she obtained permission, but in my understanding of Title 17 of the US Code, Section 107, she did not need to. (See here for an easy explanation from the Copyright Office). The Schwartz excerpt was only 3 paragraphs long and obviously a notification, not a full article like Peikoff's. Proper attribution was made, it was short, the purpose was educational (in a sense), and no profit was made. This fall squarely within the fair use provision as far as I am concerned. Ellen has worked in publishing many years so I have no doubts at all about her knowledge of all this.

I didn't attempt to obtain permission, since I thought the length and nature of the piece was within "fair use" standards. Those standards change, and there can be iffy calls in interpreting them; but the use was clearly educational and not for profit. I told the person who inquired that if TIA objected to having the piece quoted, I'd delete the post.

OL stands fully behind Ellen presenting it as a legal and moral thing to do. I asked the gentleman to refer any copyright complaints (legal or otherwise) he might receive from TIA or anyone else to me and provided him with my email.

Thanks, Michael.

Ellen

___

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FWIW, I finally recently got a copy of Kelley's Contested Legacy book (took advantage of LFB's September sale as a sort of birthday gift to myself. I also got his "A Life of One's Own").

I haven't yet started reading in beyond the intro (am in the middle of Goodkind's "Naked Empire"), but thanks to this thread, I took the time to print out the articles that started his book and their 'responses'.

I will only say that Kelley's writting were IMO very reasoned and resonable, unlike his attackers. Considering some of the vitriol sent his way, its a wonder he hasn't responded in kind at some point.

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I would like to link to David Kelley's open letter on wikipedia. It would not be reproduced there, only a link to this page would be provided.

Michael, is this essay reproduced here with permission? Is there any objection to linking to it?

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Ted,

David gave me permission. Do what you will with this.

Michael

Somone on WP (who is not anti-Rand, but not an objectivist) has told me that your say-so is not enough. All I wanted to do was link here. I'll see once I read the exact policy. Thanks for the resonse, though.

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Ted,

Just so you know, you will always have a fistfight in posting links on Wikipedia. This will be due to two factors:

1. There are some self-styled "protectors of Objectivist purity" who are free website junkies. These people constantly monitor free Internet sites, heckle people who disagree with them and try to manipulate public image in any manner they can. In their zeal, they have no scruples against using sabotage of correct information and almost any underhanded method of rigging results they can find.

These folks can be irritating, but if they get asked to pay for something, they suddenly and miraculously disappear. They consider themselves Randian heroes. :)

There is another issue that carries even greater weight, though.

2. In order for Google to keep its standing as the top search engine (and its enormous earnings from Adword ads), it must ensure that quality content appears high in its search results. If a person is searching on a term and only comes up with 10 spam sites on the front page of results, he will find some other form of seeking the information he wants. The reality for Google is no searchers, no audience, no clicks on Adwords ads, no money.

As not everyone is computer savvy and it is extremely hard to write algorithms that take elementary-level errors into account (many of which are similar to traditional spam practices), Google encourages certain enterprises that are devoted to getting people to post good quality content (as opposed to spam and simple sales pitches). The advantage is that Google can use a simple algorithm when a lot of content is in one place using the same content management system. Typical enterprises are Wikipedia, Squidoo, Hub Pages, Knoll, etc. (That is even why certain platforms like blogs are favored by Google. Even with video, when Google perceived that people were creating content for free, it bought YouTube.)

In the case of a new enterprise, Google tries to reward it financially or by granting user advantages. (This encourages people to write and publish for free.) After enough content is up and the enterprise becomes an authority that is growing on its own, Google then removes the user advantages and puts its efforts in a new place.

With Wikipedia, the issue was backlinks. When a person can get a oneway link to his site from another site that has a high page rank, that person's site is favored in Google's search engine results. In the beginning, when Wikipedia needed a lot of content, it encouraged people to use backlinks (or at least, looked the other way with a certain... er... enthusiasm). Many people contributed because of the advantage their own sites gained from the backlinks they included in the material they provided. After Wikipedia reached a certain limit of content, an operator was introduced called a "no follow" tag. This means that even if a site has a backlink from Wikipedia, Google's spider will not crawl to the site from that link, thus the site will not receive any Google indexing attention from that link. It's almost as if the link doesn't exist (for the search engine, not for readers of the article, of course).

Also, Wikipedia hired a bunch of people (in addition to volunteers) to weed out the weaker backlinks to improve source credibility and keep Wikipedia's reputation high as an authority site. Some of these folks exist spiritually on a a level of serious overkill in their enthusiasm. The position of Backlink Censor Tzar has certainly attracted some bureaucratic minds typical of what you find in government regulatory agencies.

I know all this because I tangled with one such zealot and had no idea why he was so difficult, nasty and even dishonest about something really obvious (after he lost the issue, he sabotaged the link to OL from the Wikipedia Barbara Branden entry and I had to further complain about that to get it fixed).

So I studied this issue and what you read above is what I have discovered. I don't have a taste for tangling with nasty zealots, so I backed off from further edits. My interest is not going solely after backlinks, but if a person is abusive on that issue, in my experience he is abusive on other issues. You just never know when he is going to blow.

Since you are enthusiastic about editing Wikipedia, I posted this so you know why there seems to be such a large amount of irrationality and power plays by certain editors.

To be fair, not all editors on Wikipedia are Backlink Censor Tzars and Wikipedia's concerns about avoiding spam and fostering credible sources are valid. But there are some real pieces of work out there who abuse their positions and turn the most innocent matters into opportunities to bluster and try to show off how much power they wield, as if controlling the editing of Wikipedia were the equivalent of real power over people.

What's funny is that the reason the Backlink Censor Tzars came into being is no longer that critical thanks to the "no follow" tag. Without the search engine advantage, spammers naturally seek other avenues. But ask a petty little soul to give up power after he has tasted it. He will bite you like a rabid dog.

Michael

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In this case, I believe that the editor is simply doing the right thing as he interprets it. I get the impression that the presumption is that if a person's writings are hosted on his own site, they are fair game to link to. But if material with copyright protection is posted on a thirrd party site, there is no presumption of permission. Now why this would matter for wikipedia, since they are linking to a page address, not publishing the material, and the burden is presumably upon you and not them, I don't know. He sent me a link for the policy in general, but it would take a few days to read. I have asked him to point me to the policy directly. I think it will come down to wheteher the David Kelley corner is considered his or not.

Has he ever posted here?

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Ted,

David has not posted here because he does not post on discussion forums, not even the TAS forums. This is BS anyway. If copyright were truly the issue, they would accept proof. They post links from News agencies and similar all the time for third-party information. It basically boils down to whim. If the Tzar says OK, then OK. If he says no, not even a letter from David directly to him will convince him.

Even today, the entry for Nathaniel Branden does not mention that he is married to Leigh. According to Wikipedia, Nathaniel Branden's marriage status is falsely given as "divorced." The Tzar at the time would not allow the new information, even when I offered to show him proof. He said only a mention in a published source accepted by him would convince him.

So there it stays, giving out false information.

Michael

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