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new perspectives on Rand's philosophy

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How (and How ~Not~) to Spread Objectivism

To Phil and whomever else it may concern: Isn't there something deeply contradictory about the mission of trying to "fix the world" by converting it to a philosophy whose founder celebrated one's prime focus being not on saving others from their folly, but on pursuing one's own self-development and self-fulfillment? When Rand was told she was obligated to write a new novel, she rebelled against the altruism of it -- then wondered: What if all the creative, productive people in the world went on

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Just Who is a "Degenerate Objectivist"--and Who the Frack Cares!

An Open Letter to Phil Coates and the Other Denizens of Objectivist Living: For the past couple of days, I've been reading and re-reading the latest iteration over in the Living Room section of: "let's show our asses by bashing Phil for preaching to us about how to be better Objectivists." (Oh, I'm sorry -- it's not bashing, since it's all true, Phil deserves it, blah-blah-blah.) I've managed to get a lot done in the past two days, just by "biting my tongue" each time I've had the impulse to jum

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Secular Spirituality

I think most of us are realistic and level-headed enough to acknowledge that the great world religions are not completely devoid of worth for guiding one’s actions in life. Like any other body of ideas, a religion must be carefully examined and weighed, keeping the pro-life elements and discarding the rest. For a person to do otherwise, living in a significantly religious culture as we do, is to risk throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That is why I found two essays in the most recent iss

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

The Significance of Tibor Machan's book on Ayn Rand

In 1999, Peter Lang Publishing Group put out Tibor Machan's fine little book on Ayn Rand, and it was my privilege and pleasure not only to get to preview the book and offer pre-publication comments, but also to write a blurb for the event of the book's publication. Here is the text of that blurb: The designation of me as being anything more than a musician was not my idea, but I kind of liked it. :-) REB

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Why Being Morally Denounced by Objectivists May Be a ~Good~ Thing

I thought I would share some thoughts about the intense, personal nature of the condemnations that Objectivists dish out, especially toward certain prominent people “in and around” the Movement. First of all, who are the two people most roundly denounced by Objectivists, and what do they have in common? As to the first question, my best guess is: Immanuel Kant, who supposedly stands for the opposite of everything essential to Objectivism, and, of course, Nathaniel Branden, the co-founder, with B

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Who Qualifies as an Objectivist?

[An earlier version of the following material was published sometime about 2005 on the Rebirth of Reason web site.] Who qualifies as being an Objectivist? I think that’s a legitimate question, but I also think that it’s too easy to pick one’s own pet list of views that can qualify one as being or not being an Objectivist. (E.g., Rand’s views on a woman President, on homosexuality, on anarchism vs. limited government in politics, on survival vs. flourishing in ethics, etc.) Nathaniel Branden has

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Kleenex and Objectivism--the Ominous Parallels

There has been much debate over whether the label "Objectivism" is legitimately applied only to those writings by Rand and those she authorized by others, or more broadly to any thinker whose philosophy is more similar to Rand's viewpoint than to that of any other philosopher. In other words, some claim that there is an ambiguity in how "Objectivism" is used, while others deny this claim, of course. Unfortunately for those who subscribe to the Purist Proper Name Theory, there is an ambiguity in

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

The Virtue of ~For the New Intellectual~

It is often derisively stated that the survey of Western civilization that Ayn Rand presents in her title essay of her book For the New Intellectual is seriously flawed and disrespectable because of her sweeping use of two quite negative metaphors to characterize the views she opposes. I'm speaking, of course, of Attila and the Witch Doctor, or what she also calls "the mystics of the muscle" and the "mystics of the mind." Because of the simplicity of this model, it is viewed not as elegant and i

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

To Whom Do I Pledge Allegiance, as an Objectivist?

Without suggesting that a preference for one group or the other would in any way compromise my own intellectual independence and honesty, some might reasonably wonder which, if either, of the two main Objectivist organizations I am more comfortable with. Am I more “at home” with The Ayn Rand Society (ARI) or The Objectivist Center (TOC—now The Atlas Society/TAS)? Does either of these groups, more than the other, provide an outlet for my work or an encouraging forum for my ideas? Well, over the p

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Just What Kind of Objectivist Do You Think You Are, Anyway?!

Given my standing disagreements with some of the views traditionally attached to Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism, why do I continue to regard myself and refer to myself as an Objectivist? Isn’t this a bit sycophantic and cultish of me, to cling to the label, when it is obvious that I’m off on some tangents that neither of the two main Objectivist organizations approves of? Isn’t it unreasonable for me to regard my ideas as Objectivist, even though some of them have gained little or no tract

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Kant and Rand: an Ominous Parallel regarding Morality and Free Will

One of my views that frequently raising eyebrows among Objectivists, and raising questions as to my bone fides as an Objectivist, is my view on free will or “volitional consciousness.” Some have gone so far as to accuse me of campaigning against free will. This is not accurate. I just don’t hold the same view of free will that they do (or think they do). What I argue for is conditional free will—the view that you could have done otherwise than you did in a given situation, IF you had WANTED to.

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

How Can Objectivists Help to Better the Human Race?

In my opinion, the best thing an intellectual can do to better the human race is to figure out what he or she really, really, really wants to accomplish in life–then figure out how to do it–then do it! Repeat, as needed. Then you will be truly happy, and your genuine happiness is the very best thing you can do to further mankind. This is my advice not only philosophers, but also to normal people. :-) Similarly, my favorite psychologist and the first systematic presenter of Objectivism told a gro

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Objectivist Punctuation -- Two Schools, One Method

There are many ways of distinguishing between the two main factions in the Objectivist movement, which are, of course, the pro-Brandenians and the anti-Brandenians. For instance, you can look at who gravitates to the two main institutions that promote Objectivism: TOC tends to attract pro-Brandenians, while ARI seems to be totally comprised of anti-Brandenians. (This is not the official stance of either organization, but the Brandens have appeared at a number of functions of the former, while be

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

The Biological Function and Survival Value of Philosophy

It is rather surprising to hear a psychologist like Stephen Pinker say (How the Mind Works, 1997] that religion and philosophy are "fascinating but biologically functionless activities." Isn't it obvious that we need religion and/or philosophy? Even if the answers they provide are wrong, we need some kind of plausible answers to the "holistic," orientational questions about life. That is an unavoidable consequence of the fact that humans require not just perception but concepts for successful l

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Why is there so much infighting among Objectivists?

Maybe it's just laziness! Seriously, hostile commentary and personal attacks are a lot easier than rolling up one's sleeves and trying to fight productively for reason and freedom. If your internet posts help you to clarify your own thoughts, or to enjoy some fellowship, or to be playful, or as a brief diversion from your real work and relationships, that's great. But when I see how many posts are sent up each day by some people, I wonder if they have considered whether this is the most rationa

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

The Limits of Deduction: Garbage In, Garbage Out!

Consider these two valid deductive inferences: All cows are fish (false) All fish are flying creatures (false) So, all cows are flying creatures (false) All cows are fish (false) All fish are four-legged (false) So, all cows are four legged (true) Doesn't this show us that deduction carried out with false premises is just another case of garbage-in, garbage-out? The truths and falsities produced by inference from false premises are not necessary truths or falsities, but just accidental. Hardly

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

When is an axiom not an axiom? When it's a corollary!--L. Peikoff, 1991

Exercising undue caution against over-application of the Law of Contradiction, Leonard Peikoff, in Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand, managed to mangle the application of the concepts of "axiom" and "corollary" to not just one, but two issues: volition and validity of the senses. In his discussion of causality (p. 15), Peikoff defines "corollary" as: "a self-evident implication of already established knowledge," and he clearly states that: "A corollary of an axiom is not itself an axiom."

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

When is an entity not an entity? When it's a pile of dirt!--A. Rand, c. 1969

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." ("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. This fallacy is singularly well

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

The ~Conditionally~ Benevolent Universe

Rand says in her aesthetics writings in The Romantic Manifesto that art concretizes metaphysics and performs the psychological and epistemological function of allowing us to directly grasp that metaphysics. What is the deepest significance, then, of the fact that Rand portrays in her novels a deeply chaotic and turbulent world? The explanation is found not in Rand's aesthetics, however, but in her metaphysics—-specifically, in her "metaphysical view of man's nature," a given view being defined b

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Dialectical Objectivism? Comments on Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical

Few works with the level of scholarship evidenced in historian and political theorist Chris Sciabarra's book about Ayn Rand's philosophy (Penn State Press, 1995) have generated such a visceral, polarized response: scathing hostility and scorn on the one extreme and glowing, enthusiastic praise on the other. What has set everyone on their ears--with either delight or outrage--is his claim that the methodology by which Rand developed her philosophy is the "dialectic." Dialectics, he says, is a met

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

An Explanation for the Paucity of Objectivist Intellectual Risk-Taking?

There seems to be a strong tendency among Objectivist thinkers not to take such intellectual risks—certainly not in print. Peikoff, in his 1996 lecture "Knowledge as a Unity," sheds some light on the reasoning behind this reticence: Peikoff seems to be saying not just that he’s not going to write on something that he hasn’t thought out properly (which is fine), but that he never will write on it (implying that he may never get around to thinking it out properly). In the meantime, people who want

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Toward a Revitalized Philosophy of Objectivism

It is undeniable that many important discoveries and advances in human history have been made by those who “stand on the shoulders of giants.” Progress, in other words, is often rooted in the past accumulated knowledge and technology of mankind, as freshly viewed or modified by innovative individuals. Ayn Rand, who acknowledged a considerable intellectual debt to Aristotle, the greatest thinker of Antiquity, was herself a visionary genius—and her philosophy, Objectivism, while true to any of Ari

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

Who is an Objectivist?

In his 2000 essay of this name, first published on the web site of The Daily Objectivist, and later republished on his own web site, Nathaniel Branden wrote: That says it very well. I certainly ~have~ challenged some of Rand's positions, but ~never~ on the basis of anything other than widely known facts and/or more basic views Rand herself firmly espoused. Some examples: 1. Rand claimed in the first chapter of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology that babies are incapable of perception. Mos

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

What's an Independent Objectivist Intellectual to Do?

Even apart from its 2009 brouhaha with on-again/off-again renegade speaker Lindsay Perigo, The Atlas Society has had diminishing value for me in the past few years. While I certainly appreciate TAS's hard work for the 50th anniversary of the publication of Atlas Shrugged) -- and while I fervently hope that the Atlas Shrugged Part 1 movie is as much of a blockbuster as it can and ought to be -- on the intellectual side, I think TAS is becoming irrelevant. Not that I’m even faintly considering g

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell

No New Objectivism? Ever??

Is it true that all Objectivism stopped being created as of Rand's death? In the preface of Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (1991, henceforth OPAR), its author, Leonard Peikoff, wrote: We can only speculate about what OPAR would have been like, had Peikoff set aside "Ominous Parallels" and written OPAR while Rand was still alive and could guide and endorse it (as she did "Ominous Parallels"). But it still remains that, as Rand wrote in 1976 about Peikoff's lecture course on "The Philoso

Roger Bissell

Roger Bissell