Q:I disagree with Ayn Rand on architecture as an art form and on the nature of masculinity and femininity, but I accept objective reality, reason, self-interest and capitalism. Am I still an Objectivist?
A: There is no list of concretes which bars someone from being an Objectivist. Objectivism is a philosophy and, as such, is defined in terms of essentials. Objective reality, reason – defined as the conceptualization of sense data using logic as the means of knowledge, rational self-interest in ethics, laissez-faire capitalism in politics and romantic art in aesthetics. All those are integrated into one system. If you deny any of those, as I argue in OPAR, you deny them all, or you deny the whole philosophy. But there are countless forms in which you have to ask yourself the question: how does that abstract philosophy apply in this particular case? And if you are truly applying the philosophy, applying it honestly, but you disagree with someone else, that has nothing to do with whether you are an Objectivist.
I frequently disagree with other Objectivists on the presidential election. I say that such and such a candidate is depraved, and the other one is better. Other people say, “But look at what the other one believes.” I do believe that on every single disagreement, contradictions can't exist. One is correct and the other is wrong. But that doesn't mean you know what is correct and it doesn't mean that the false choice came from not being an Objectivist. Maybe your error came from a misinterpretation of fact even though you conscientiously applied Objectivism.
There are many things which Ayn Rand believed which came from her study of psychology and of people which are not a part of philosophy. You will see that I left those things out of my book deliberately. For instance: masculinity and femininity. She had very strong views on that and very strong arguments. But, if you disagree, that doesn't say anything about Objectivism. Now if you say that you had a revelation from God that she was wrong, or that's inconsistent with egalitarianism, so therefore she's wrong, then that's not Objectivism. But you have to get over the idea that if you disagree with something Ayn Rand said, which she considered important, you're not an Objectivist. That's fantastic. That would turn Objectivists into mindless followers.
The extreme of this is somebody who once told me that he was changing his hair color to orange to be like Howard Roark. I don't know if he thought that was mandatory to Objectivism, but I really gasped at that. So I hope you don't think that this and this and this is required. I wouldn't even think about what's required for Objectivism. Just think about what's true. And then if Objectivists don't believe it, then it's tough on them. Objectivism is good but it has this mistake. But you can't think that the all the answers are in the back of the book given by Ayn Rand.
Gee. I wonder why anyone would think that?
Peikoff on the coming election (October 19, 2006)
(This is a link to a prior post of the transcript. I don't think this podcast is still on Peikoff's website.)
Q: In view of the constant parade of jackassery which is Washington, is there any point in voting for candidates of either entrenched party? Throwing out the incumbents "for a change" is to me an idea based on the philosophy that my head will stop hurting if I bang it on the opposite wall.
A: How you cast your vote in the coming election is important, even if the two parties are both rotten. In essence, the Democrats stand for socialism, or at least some ambling steps in its direction; the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.
Socialism—a fad of the last few centuries—has had its day; it has been almost universally rejected for decades. Leftists are no longer the passionate collectivists of the 30s, but usually avowed anti-ideologists, who bewail the futility of all systems. Religion, by contrast—the destroyer of man since time immemorial—is not fading; on the contrary, it is now the only philosophic movement rapidly and righteously rising to take over the government.
Given the choice between a rotten, enfeebled, despairing killer, and a rotten, ever stronger, and ambitious killer, it is immoral to vote for the latter, and equally immoral to refrain from voting at all because "both are bad."
The survival of this country will not be determined by the degree to which the government, simply by inertia, imposes taxes, entitlements, controls, etc., although such impositions will be harmful (and all of them and worse will be embraced or pioneered by conservatives, as Bush has shown). What does determine the survival of this country is not political concretes, but fundamental philosophy. And in this area the only real threat to the country now, the only political evil comparable to or even greater than the threat once posed by Soviet Communism, is religion and the Party which is its home and sponsor.
The most urgent political task now is to topple the Republicans from power, if possible in the House and the Senate. This entails voting consistently Democratic, even if the opponent is a "good" Republican.
In my judgment, anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man's actual life—which means that he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world.
If you hate the Left so much that you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.
I suppose being immoral and/or completely misunderstanding Objectivism are not exactly the same as "not being an Objectivist." In 2006, however, "bad" Peikoff was telling people that to vote one way was to be a "bad" Objectivist. In 2009, "good" Peikoff was saying to think for yourself, and if you're conscientious, no matter how you vote, you're still a "good" Objectivist (and not the least bit "immoral").
How to account for the difference? He got laid the night before in 2009? His doctor changed his medication? Who knows?
It's just too bad Dr. Jekyll isn't running ARI.