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The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand


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#1 Mike Renzulli

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 05:38 PM

David Kelley's ground breaking book that started the "open" faction of Objectivism can be read online in it's entirety for free.

http://www.atlassoci...of_Ayn_Rand.pdf

#2 Selene

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Posted 15 June 2011 - 05:48 PM

David Kelley's ground breaking book that started the "open" faction of Objectivism can be read online in it's entirety for free.

http://www.atlassoci...of_Ayn_Rand.pdf


Wow!

This is the "free lunch" that is the exception to the rule - TANSTAAFL!

I have wanted to read his book for quite a while!

Thanks!

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#3 Xray

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Posted 03 September 2011 - 03:05 AM

I started with it yesterday. Looks like this is going to be a great read!

At the beginning, Kelley lays out in a convincing manner what it really means to be objective.

Page 14/15:
"Philosophically, this concept of objectivity is not a compromise or
middle way between intrinsicism and subjectivism; it represents a fundamental
difference in principle. Fundamentally, the choice is objectivity
versus non-objectivity in its various forms. Being objective in practice,
however, does require a kind of mental balancing that sometimes feels
like striking a compromise. We have to hold in mind the requirements
both of reality and of our own nature, and if we focus too narrowly on one
or the other, we tend to slide into intrinsicism or subjectivism." (DK)

He also makes a convincing case in accusing Peikoff of "intrinsicism", using Objectivism's own 'philosophical weapons' in attacking his opponent back:

Pages 15/16
"I think it can be proven that my
approach is the one required by objectivity, and that Peikoff’s view amounts
to intrinsicism. The proof is supplied in the pages that follow.
The first issue concerns the basic relationship between fact and
value and its implications for moral judgment. Ayn Rand held that values
are rooted in the fact that living things must act to maintain their own
survival. Since I agree with her position, I do not accept any dichotomy
between fact and value, or between cognition and evaluation. On the contrary,
I hold that values are a species of facts, evaluation a species of
cognition. But this does not mean that we are obliged to pass moral judgment
on every person or action we encounter, as Peikoff claims.
A moral judgment, to be objective, must rest on a large body of
evidence, and it normally takes a substantial investment of time and energy
to gather the necessary evidence. Peikoff’s view that facts wear their
value significance on their face, that the moral status of an action or person
is revealed in a way that allows us to judge every fact, is a form of
epistemological intrinsicism. And his view that we have a duty to judge,
without regard to the purpose of judgment, without asking whether it is
worth our time and effort to gather the evidence, is a form of moral
intrinsicism." (DK)

Page 16:
"In regard to the mental actions that produce ideas, I will show that a philosophical
conclusion rests on an enormously complex process of thought
in which honest errors are possible at many points.
In holding that most positions at variance with Objectivism are inherently dishonest, Peikoff is,
once again, giving voice to intrinsicism—a belief that the truth is revealed
and that error reflects a willful refusal to see." (DK)

Pages 16/17:
"As a philosophy of reason,
Objectivism must be an open system of thought, where inquiry and debate
may take place within the framework of the essential principles that
define the system. Peikoff’s intrinsicism, by contrast, is reflected in his
view of the philosophy as a closed system, defined by certain authorized
texts. I will also comment on the kind of movement proper to a philosophy
of reason, and on the ways in which the Objectivist movement has
fallen short of this standard. The movement has been characterized by a
kind of tribalism that we must put behind us if we are to make any progress." (DK)

Pages 29/30:
"Of course we should draw any moral conclusions that do follow from the evidence at
hand, and we should make the effort to acquire evidence whenever a
moral judgment would have an important bearing on our relationship to
someone. But we cannot devote our lives to the task of investigating
everyone with whom we come in contact, so that we may judge them
fairly. And no one does so. But if we accept Peikoff’s sweeping injunction
to judge, then we are liable to judge people without investigating all the
facts: to judge unfairly, nonobjectively, on insufficient evidence.
This danger is accentuated by Peikoff’s claim about the intensive
character of judgments: that they should have “the feel, the power, and the
absolutism” of perception. It is intrinsicism to maintain that the moral status
of an action or a person is self-evident, like a perceptual judgment." (DK)

http://www.atlassoci...of_Ayn_Rand.pdf

Edited by Xray, 03 September 2011 - 05:55 AM.


#4 Roger Bissell

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Posted 28 September 2011 - 08:15 PM

My absolute favorite passage from this fine book is on pp. 92-93:

Since our ideas are founded on reason, let us make sure that we associate on terms consistent with the needs and standards of rationality. Rational knowledge is acquired by integrating the facts, by sifting and weighing the evidence, and a vital part of this process is open discussion and debate. We should encourage this process. Rationality means integrity, a loyalty to the conclusions of one’s own mind. We should honor this, even in a person whose conclusions we disagree with. Rationality requires justice, adhering strictly to the facts in judging other people, and applying moral standards impartially. We should practice this. And a rational person is independent. Above all, as I said in “A Question of Sanction,” let’s encourage this virtue within our own ranks. Let us welcome dissent, and the restless ways of the explorers among us.

REB, Independent Objectivist
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#5 whYNOT

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Posted 29 September 2011 - 05:10 AM

My absolute favorite passage from this fine book is on pp. 92-93: Since our ideas are founded on reason, let us make sure that we associate on terms consistent with the needs and standards of rationality. Rational knowledge is acquired by integrating the facts, by sifting and weighing the evidence, and a vital part of this process is open discussion and debate. We should encourage this process. Rationality means integrity, a loyalty to the conclusions of one’s own mind. We should honor this, even in a person whose conclusions we disagree with. Rationality requires justice, adhering strictly to the facts in judging other people, and applying moral standards impartially. We should practice this. And a rational person is independent. Above all, as I said in “A Question of Sanction,” let’s encourage this virtue within our own ranks. Let us welcome dissent, and the restless ways of the explorers among us. REB, Independent Objectivist


REB,

I am knocked out by this book. ( Though I haven't finished it yet.)
It was what I needed decades ago when having to find my own way to practise and apply Rand's system to real life.
By necessity, trial and error, I had found a rough-and-ready approach including tolerance - which, naturally lacked the elegant rationality David Kelley provides.

This work should stand beside Rand's greatest books, since it fills the gaps, and breaks new ground in ways completely consistent with Randian Objectivism. It would be too facile to judge 'tolerationism' as a 'softer' O'ism, yet, read carefully, it compromises nothing.

That some Objectivists are steered away from reading Kelley is a crying shame.


Tony
(BTW, Xray, have you completed your reading of it? What do you think?)
"To know that we know what we know, and to know that we do not know what we do not know, that is true knowledge". Nicolaus Copernicus (An original objectivist) 1473-1543 ***No man may be smaller than his philosophy...***

#6 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 09:24 AM

Here's a new/old talk that's just surfaced on YouTube. Looks good.


Prandium gratis non est

#7 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:23 AM

Dennis,

What a breath of fresh air. I thoroughly enjoyed that talk, although I wish David were a more forceful speaker.

For instance, the following has to go down as one of the weakest opening lines I have come across by an important speaker in O-Land and l-Land:

Yesterday I gave you a fairly highly prepared talk...

What on earth is fairly highly prepared? Suddenly I feel nuance-challenged.

:smile:

I loved the fact that David talked about "other founders" of Objectivism. That really makes fundies go berserk. What's worse, it's true.

There are two stances one can use in a public presentation of ideas:

1. The Guru.
2. The Witness.

You either tell people what to do and how they should do it (Guru), or you tell them what you have seen and what your conclusions are (Witness).

David is clearly the Witness in many of his positions and this has always run the Guru spirits up the wall. They clamor for a leader--or to be a leader--to tell them what to think and do. But what they get from a Witness is a call for them to think for themselves. I think, underneath, on a very deep level, that scares the bejeezus out of them.

Gurus certainly don't get to rule independent thinkers. They only get to rule (1) sheeple for the long term, and (2) independent seekers for the short term. Independent seekers actually do accept being dominated at first because they are seeking enlightenment, but they move on after they get their knowledge (they have their own worlds to build) and, especially, after they get sick of the bullying and manipulation.

I think if a person wants to be a Guru, but a Guru for real, not a cult leader, he needs to delimit his area to a specific body of knowledge. That way he will be respected by one and all as a master.

A case in point--Peikoff. If he stayed within the confines of being a Guru on Ayn Rand's works, correcting people when they got an idea of hers wrong, that would be OK. But he acts like Guru of what everyone says or thinks about Ayn Rand, trying to prohibit this person and that person from official sanction or whatever, and that leads him straight into dogma.

I think I'm going to look deeper into David Kelley. There's some real gold there.

I've met him and read several things by him, but I've always put off going deeper. I think this is because of his limpid presentation.

Maybe there's a way to jazz up his messages (which are great). The only time I saw him give a talk live (about three years ago, if I remember correctly), I didn't like his stage presence. To be blunt, it was boring. I hate to say it, but he was much better in the video above from 1991, and even there, he was not very good.

I'm going to do some thinking on this.

Thanks again. David's message gave me an excellent start to my day.

Michael

Know thyself...


#8 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:32 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed that talk, although I wish David were a more forceful speaker.

When I saw him in 1997 in Washington, DC, he really did well, he gave the climactic talk and delivered it well. He must have practiced. When he speaks extemporaneously he lacks charisma, though the content is still good. They ought to put that talk up on YouTube, I'd like to see it again. I'm sure it was filmed.
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#9 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:33 AM


I thoroughly enjoyed that talk, although I wish David were a more forceful speaker.

When I saw him in 1997 in Washington, DC, he really did well, he gave the climactic talk and delivered it well. He must have practiced. When he speaks extemporaneously he lacks charisma, though the content is still good. They ought to put that talk up on YouTube, I'd like to see it again. I'm sure it was filmed.


He writes better than he speaks.

Ba'al Chatzaf
אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#10 Anya

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Posted 12 September 2013 - 10:12 PM

I am about 45 pages into this. I think his approach to ethics is interesting, and there are some technical points that are intruiging in terms of a philosophy of teleology and law. I'll reproduce some passages here:

 

Moral Judgement as Principled Egoism in Evaluation, 'Cognition and Evaluation'

Let us begin by putting moral judgment in its wider context. In order to live, man must pursue values. He must therefore  evaluate  things and events in the world, discovering which are good for him and which are bad. Whether something is good or bad, a value or a disvalue, is a fact about its relation to man’s life.  V alues are thus a species of fact. Evaluation, in turn, is a species of cognition: it is our means of grasping the particular type of fact that values represent.  We evaluate something by identifying its relationship to a purpose, which provides us with a standard of evaluation. Since life is our fundamental purpose, it is the allencompassing standard. Fundamentally , there is a single question we ask about anything, whether a thunderstorm, a pesticide, industrial growth, the writing of novels, the telling of lies, the election of candidate X, or whatever.  The question is: does it serve our lives or not? If it does, we should encourage and pursue it; if not, we should avoid, change, or eliminate it.



Guilt and Advocacy, Limited Liability. From 'Error and Evil'
 

Some critics of “A Question of Sanction” have said that the academic Marxist is guiltier than Stalin, because his ideas were the under lying cause of the horrors. This argument is doubly fallacious:  first in attributing causal agency to the ideas themselves, and secondly for investing that agency in every individual adherent of the ideas, treating each one as fully responsible for effects that occurred only because millions of other people embraced the same ideas. This is the kind of irrationality we see in current liability law , where someone marginally responsible for an accident may be sued for the full amount of the damages.

David Kelley is one of few philosophers I've read who recognize the legitimacy and importance of limited liability in law and contract. Robert Hessen (also influenced by Objectivism) is another. This is a very important point with the rise of 'left-libertarianism' and the anti-corporate movement.
 






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