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Note that Dr. Kelley does not respond to the substance of the criticism expressed concerning the propriety of choosing Dr. Harriman as a featured speaker. Instead, he accuses us of the impertinence of not asking these questions before Dr. Harriman's selection had been finalized. Dr. Kelley complains that "they" had been discussing the pros and cons of this issue for over a year.(where and when this was discussed and who was allowed to participate, is not addressed). Perhaps, he thinks we should have had the prescience to have asked him or other TAS officers why Harriman was chosen before they even announced it (BTW, looking forward to that lecture on the psycho-epistemology of pre-cognition)..

Kelley isn't chiding you for a failure of pre-cognition(!), but for making a (public) statement without asking privately for clarification first. I agree with Jonathan's critique of this:

No one-not Irfan Khawaja, not Jerry Biggers, both of whom I have known for the better part of a quarter century-nor anyone else made any effort to contact me, or William Thomas, or anyone else at TAS, much less Harriman, to learn anything about the circumstances.

What does he think they were doing on the thread that he just shut down?!!! That was their effort to contact his organization and find out what is going on!!!
As you know, my position has been: wait and see, and hope for the best. I'm interested to hear what Harriman is going to say.

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Umm,... excuse me, but they (TAS) are the ones who first made (obviously) the public statement announcing Harriman as a featured speaker on their web blog. Apparently, they did not feel that there would be any question as to the propriety of his selection. Sorry, but considering the controversial nature of that choice, I find that rather astonishing..

As far as I know, there was no attempt by TAS to have a discussion of the Harriman selection prior to, or immediately after, their announcement. Therefore, Kelley chiding me (or Irfan Khawaja, or anyone else that he alludes to) about not asking him privately about the choice. is rather absurd. The decision had already been made. In effect, "It's my way, or the highway. End of story."

,

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I think that Harriman invitation is strange from Harriman's side, not TAS's. I'm encouraged Harriman is going to show up at an open forum like TAS, but this only a couple of years removed from John McCaskey being ridden out of ARI about minor debates concerning Harriman and Peikoff's book. The fact that Harriman is speaking at TAS indicates to me that he thought the scope of McCaskey's dissent was legitimate. If so, Harriman owes McCaskey an apology for not saying something at the time, but that's on him not TAS.

Harriman's book is more problematic, but not fundamentally that much more problematic than the dominant Objectivist movement approach to science in general. There is significant support in the movement for a weird skepticism about quantum mechanics, general relativity and other topics that are uncontroversial in the scientific community and as well validated as any theories we have. Will Thomas' reply also indicates a problem. There is not and never will be a foolproof method of induction. For one thing, quantum mechanics, radioactive decay, the standard model and chaos theory all indicate that there are things in the universe that are fundamentally statistical, uncertain and unpredictable. I am grateful, however, that he pointed to David Ross' terrific sidebar on Newton and quantum mechanics.

I think it is too late for the Objectivist movement to take a reasonable approach to science. It is too far behind and the people who could provide the best guidance in this regard reasonably find it not worth their while. There is a whole terrific body of knowledge in the mainstream scientific community for those with the patience, sense of intellectual adventure and openness to find it. But I am preaching to the scientific choir. Some of the best scientific thinkers in the movement Stephen Boydstun, Bob Kolker and Ellen Stuttle are members here.

Jim

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Jim,

I basically - and regrettingly - agree with your evaluation of the Objectivist movement in regard to science. (And thanks for the compliment!)

I just want to point out, as I have a number of times previously on this board, that John McCaskey's criticisms were NOT over a minor issue, but instead one which went to the core of the thesis on induction - i.e, to the core of Peikoff's thesis. Peikoff understood this (as he made clear in his ultimatum letter), which is why McCaskey had to go.

Ellen

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Hi Michael :-) I just got done with my full time MBA and application season before that so I haven't had time to post in a little under three years. If we were arguing about anything before, I have completely forgotten it. In the meantime, I may be the only one on the site that thinks that pumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is not a good idea, but I'll see how that goes :-). Good to see you again.

Jim

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Ellen,

I probably should have worded it differently. McCaskey provided constructive feedback for the book in as mild a manner as possible. If that betrayed a fundamental disagreement with Peikoff, well that was because Peikoff is wrong :-). In any case, if you invite book criticism, you should be prepared that it might not be in line with what you expect.

Jim

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I may be the only one on the site that thinks that pumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is not a good idea, but I'll see how that goes.

Jim,

Nobody I know of thinks doing that is a good idea. When it gets to the movement to contain cow farts, I start wondering how serious all this stuff is, though. :smile:

The subtext of the debate is always over money and power masked with climate change. As to the technology, I am more than convinced human ingenuity, not power over human producers, will fix any bad problems.

Michael

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I may be the only one on the site that thinks that pumping increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere is not a good idea, but I'll see how that goes.

Jim,

Nobody I know of thinks doing that is a good idea.

(overview) We're in a CO2-deprived period. CO2 is good for plant growth. The re-radiance effect is logarithmic, meaning that doubling the atmospheric CO2 would be needed to produce as much warming as whatever has been produced during the last century, and it would take a big increase in human-produced CO2 emissions to get anywhere near a doubling, since the human-produced percentage is currently only about 1/40. Thus there are people who recommend increasing human CO2 production. :smile:

Ellen

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I couldn't resist making a comment about the scientific controversy about which I know the least. Serves me right. One thing I do know is that is that if environmentalists are serious about reducing atmospheric CO2 levels, they would be pro-nuclear, pro-natural gas development and pro-GM crops. The cheap availability of natural gas means that there really shouldn't be a very big difference between the technologies championed by people on either side of the AGW debate.

Jim

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CO2 and its role in AGW is a dead issue still being moved along in our moral, intellectual and political culture on inertia alone. Changing AGW to climate change (CC) is a strategic retreat and the use of the "denier" smear mere smokescreen protecting that retreat.

--Brant

but I am afraid of global cooling for we are in an interglacial period: we need warm summers so snow and ice from the winters melt instead of feeding glacial advances--that's why I wish AGW were incontrovertably true (pure speculation: the trigger for the next ice age might be volcanic activity with the ash cooling the earth; then we might lack the requisite warm enough summers)

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The ironic thing is that a large majority of the environmental disasters have happened under socialism. Poverty beyond the stage of cave-dwelling is the ultimate cause for environmental damage. People that have money do something about air and water pollution and take safety safeguards that avoid Chernobyls. There are accidents in capitalist societies but they are not a permanent feature of the economic system. People that want to make a difference in the environment and not just talk about it will take their activism to China and India where the problems are.

Jim

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Returning to our regularly scheduled program. :laugh:

At the time of the mishandled Perigo invitation, I kept having image flash-backs of the first time, in the early 1970s, I and several others met David Kelley. I'm seeing those images again.

The scene turned out to be like a stage set for David's entrance. A dinner meeting had been arranged at a restaurant in New Haven, splitting the distance between Princeton, where David was doing graduate work, and New York City. Raymond Knapp, who was going to school at Yale, had selected the restaurant.

The group of us from New York City arrived before David, and we took places around a long rectangular table, leaving the end seat nearest the entrance to the room vacant for David.

Evan Pecoult sat on one side of the place left for David; I was next, then Larry, and maybe Shoshana Milgram (I'm not sure if Shosh was there that night). A mathematician named Robert Rubenstein sat at the far end. Debbie Goldstein and the Knapp brothers, Robert and Raymond, were on the other long side.

The room opened from a darkened foyer. After awhile, David entered from the shadows. Slim, wearing a belted rain coat, his posture erect, his stride brisk.

"He looked like a young conqueror," Robert Knapp said afterward.

The rest of us thought so, too. David, as he appeared that night, could have walked straight out of a heroic role in a Rand novel.

At the time of the Perigo incident, I told this recollection to Barbara. She said that she had a similar memory of her first meeting David, numerous years later.

The contrast, in my eyes, with now is painful.

Ellen

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We have closed the comments on this page. This will be the final comment.

The Atlas Summit blog is intended as a place for Summit attendees, and those considering whether to attend, to learn more about what to expect from the various sessions. In this respect, it is different from other blogs and content pages on the TAS Web site, where content we have produced is posted and comments are invited, pro and con, on what the author says. Unfortunately, the blog item on David Harriman was taken over by people who took it as an invitation to express their opinions about Harriman, about his history with the Ayn Rand Institute, and about the propriety of our having invited him to speak.

So, the TAS position is that they want to encourage open discussion and debate, except on this issue, so shut the fuck up?

We knew, of course, that his appearance at the Summit would cause a stir.

If they knew that it would cause a stir, why didn't they prevent the stir by explaining their position on what's going on with TAS and Harriman? What's the big secret?

But the opinions expressed in this thread were largely uninformed, speculative, rationalistic, and worse.

Where did Kelley get "rationalistic and worse"? The opinions are definitely uninformed and therefore speculative, but that's because TAS has not informed the public, and the posts in the comments sections were written to solicit information!

Principals at TAS, including myself, have been in discussions with Harriman since early last fall. We invited him not only as a prominent and productive Objectivist intellectual but as someone prepared to reflect on and discuss openly his past work with ARI. No one-not Irfan Khawaja, not Jerry Biggers, both of whom I have known for the better part of a quarter century-nor anyone else made any effort to contact me, or William Thomas, or anyone else at TAS, much less Harriman, to learn anything about the circumstances.

What does he think they were doing on the thread that he just shut down?!!! That was their effort to contact his organization and find out what is going on!!! And Will Thomas's response was to tell them to spend good money to attend their seminar to maybe find out, and maybe not. What's so difficult about answering Khawaja's questions?

But they apparently weren't interested in such facts. Instead, they vented their pre-conceived attitudes and hostilities. The worst examples were "Mitch" and "IanH," who attributed a financial motive to Harriman on the basis of completely unfounded rumor and speculation.

Most of the commenters seemed to be very focused on the facts. They asked lots of questions. They got evasive prevarications in response, and lots of smug mischaracterization of their comments and motives.

It never ceases to shock me-though, sadly, I am no longer surprised-that people who call themselves Objectivists have so little interest in objectivity.

Wow, what a hyper-ridiculous overreaction. You know, perhaps it's better that Kelley pretty much stays cloistered and distant. He's not very good at living and conversing out here in the real world. He sounds very emotional and thin-skinned.

We are looking forward to Harriman's contribution to the Atlas Summit. Those who have no interest in the Summit, those who merely want to get their ideological rocks off, those who are more interested in reliving the conflicts in the Objectivist movement than trying to heal them-please take your agenda elsewhere.

Is Kelley admitting here that that's all that he was doing all those years ago: getting his ideological rocks off and reliving conflicts rather than trying to heal them? That's what it sounds like to me.

J

TAS is one side of a coin the other side on which is the much better struck ARI. I think more of the former because it is evaporating faster. Who needs these authority figures?

--Brant

it's always been about top-downism in purported Objectivism; it's time for it to go ("In the name of God go!" [a double irony intended]) for all the not-much good it has ever done (not a comment on the value of Kelley's intellectual work such as The Evidence of the Senses, Unrugged Individualism, etc.)

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Ellen,

I don't feel that way about David and this isn't a letdown for me. I think this is an opportunity. For induction we have to go back to Rand's basic question in IOE: what is cognition? Rand concerned herself with universals of cognition: concept formation, recognizing similarity and difference, measurement omission and abstraction. Induction involves some of these universal processes, but it also involves very individual processes such as visualization, pattern recognition and synthesis. All humans do these things to some degree, but the rich tapestries of induction by individuals are not merely the formalism of Mill's Methods or the validation of some particular inductive framework.

I like Damasio's framework that thinking is a narrative of mental images. Induction involves manipulating and constructing these these mental images, combining them with existing concepts and coming up with new syntheses. It can't be captured in philosophy cleanly the way Rand captured deduction, abstraction and concept formation. The power of Rand's epistemological approach was that it captured aspects of what humans actually do cognitively. We need to do the same thing with induction, but it is a multidisciplinary process and differs widely from domain to domain.

Jim

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A clue?

I am curious as to what happened between Peikoff and Harriman.

An "Anonymous" posted this suggestion on ARCHN:

link

Anonymous said...

Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

A few years ago (2?) there was an online Q&A with Peikoff about DIM. Someone points out to Peikoff that Schroedinger's Cat is supposed to be a reductio of Borh's position, even though DIM presents Schroedinger as pro-Bohr, and the Cat as a pro-Bohr argument.

After some discussion, Peikoff concedes the callers point completely, and is noticeably irritated at Harriman over the whole thing.

It was obviously embarrassing to Peikoff, and clear from the video the Peikoff blamed Harriman for the error.

(The video used to be on ARI's website, but since the redesign I couldn't find it.)

Rumor has it that this was the beginning of the end of Harriman's reign as "the world's only rational physicist."

Per above questions about ARI selling Harriman's lectures, etc... LP has broken with and/or denounced almost every major Objectivist. ARI's policy for about 10yrs has been Peikoff containment; they only listen to what he says when he threatens to dismantle the institute, which he has the right to do by its founding charter. The mere fact of a conflict between Peikoff and an Objectivist is meaningless in the eyes of ARI folk now.

5/24/2014 06:05:00 PM

Ellen

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I can understand why those with serious interest in physics might give a damn about Harriman's import to that subject--I don't give a damn--though not Peikoff's. TAS inviting him to speak, or whatever, strikes me as intellectual dumpster diving at best and movement power grabing between factions at the worst. There is no Objectivist movement, however. There has been none since 1968. In the 1960s there was a need for one so, thanks to Nathaniel Branden, Ayn Rand and Atlas Shrugged, there was one.

Here is a story about Nathaniel's ego and our psychotherapy group (of about 25) which I consider true: One of the clients spoke of how he felt about anyone smarter than himself--inferior, I guess but don't actually recall although in the context of therapy he was addressing a problem--and asked Nathaniel if he ever felt the same way when he encountered someone smarter. Nathaniel said, quietly, almost contemplatively, "I've never had the pleasure." This was 1976 (NYC).

He really was more brilliant than Ayn Rand, but she was the greater creator and the greater genius. They spent nearly 20 years feeding off each other and jacking each other up. This is obscured by Rand's stupendous deductive intellectual power. Arguing from principles there was no standing up to it by anyone, but if you take those principles as Nathaniel did and add in any needed facts you could find supporting them, then you absorb her power and stand on her shoulders and become a giant; he was a giant, but after 1968 he invented the sentence-completion technique--that was like taking the wheel and adding the axle and cart for psychotherapy--but the big brainwork was done with the publication of The Psychology of Self Esteem in 1969, which mostly came out of his Ayn Rand years.

There is a way to greater intelligence over time that only uses God-given brain power as a base and that concerns how you structure what you've put into your brain. You are making much better use of what you started out with. I think top-drawer physicists mostly hit the ground running with the raw brain power they were born with and are quite capable of getting all the formal education they need for physics at a young age and then do their best, most creative work, young. (The "soft sciences" are another matter entirely.) Not being one of them, I admit I might be showing my ignorance, but I do think Rand made herself smarter and smarter--whatever it was she started out with.

Please understand I'm putting this up not because I'm sure I know what I am talking about, but for consideration. There is only one item I am directly enough witness to for acceptable testimony, which is what Nathaniel said in 1976.

--Brant

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I haven't posted here before, but since my name has come up here a couple of times--once in the context of a public denunciation of me--I have a few comments to offer. Some of what I have to say overlaps with what Jonathan and Jerry Biggers have already very competently said, but I don't think it'll hurt to add my two cents. Or more.

As I see it, the fundamental question is whether it is morally legitimate for TAS to invite David Harriman to give a talk, ignoring Harriman's decades-long role at ARI, ignoring his obvious complicity in ARI's decades-long campaign of defamation, and treating as inconsequential what I regard as his obligation to acknowledge his wrongdoing and make public amends for it. You cannot legitimately be part of a decades-long campaign of defamation, then drop it without a word, and then pretend that you weren't part of it, and proceed as though nothing had happened. Nor can the sponsoring organization string along its clientele and the public with breathless but vacuous announcements about what might happen when Harriman takes the stage this summer at their Summit, with no indication whatsoever that any admission of guilt or amends will be forthcoming. The issue is really pretty simple. Either he is guilty or he is innocent of complicity in ARI's defamations. If he is guilty, he needs to acknowledge guilt and be treated thereafter as a guilty party. If he is innocent, he has to acknowledge that the evidence against him rises to more-than-probable cause and then maintain his innocence. What he can't do--and can't be permitted to do--is to spend years benefiting from an institution that sold itself as the Objectivist answer to the Spanish Inquisition, priding itself especially on its insistence on exceptionless moral judgment, and then suddenly turn around, act as though he bore no responsibility for his actions whatsoever, and as though moral judgment has now become totally irrelevant. That is the essence of dishonesty and irresponsibility. No one has the obligation to tolerate it. And no one has the moral right to facilitate it. But this horseshit is what David Kelley et al so righteously want to cram down our throats, treating TAS's critics as the guilty party, and insisting on deference and respect for Harriman, their great catch.

I say all that because I disagree with Ellen Stuttle and others here who have made Harriman's views on physics the main focus. Personally, I have no opinion at all on Harriman's views on physics. I've never read Logical Leap, and have no qualifications to judge anyone's views on physics. (The last time I took physics was tenth grade and I got a C in it.) But unless Harriman's views on physics were at the level of the Flat Earth Society, I don't think it would be appropriate to denounce him morally for having false views about physics. Nor would I make a big moral deal about TAS's inviting someone with false views about physics. I'd leave all that to the physicists, and would expect them to discuss physics, not morality. My objection to Harriman is a moral one. I don't think it should be described as a matter of "ARI/TAS politics," either. I have no interested stake in ARI/TAS politics. I just regard myself as a moral critic of the Objectivist movement, full stop. And I regard myself as having made a criticism that no one in that movement can answer, least of all David Kelley.

I happen to agree with Jerry Biggers about The Journals of Ayn Rand, but regard that as a non-essential side-issue in this context. I don't think the Journals should ever have been published at all, but would not have objected to the Harriman invitation on those grounds by themselves. (I agree with and appreciate a lot of the other things Jerry has said, including his implicit defenses of me.)

In his "debate closing" post at TAS, Kelley has the nerve to bring up the "quarter of a century" for which he's known me, but doesn't have the integrity to respond to anything that his supposed colleague of a quarter of a century has to say. What then is the value of his having known me for so long? He waltzes on to the scene a week after the debate had gotten underway, doesn't say a word about any substantive matter in the debate, offers a saccharine homily about how sad he is about others' lack of objectivity as compared with his own presumably spotless record, then declares victory in a debate to which he has contributed not a single word, and closes it down so that he can have the last word. But ladies and gentlemen, he is "shocked" at everyone else's behavior--at how little interested in "facts" they are. Well. Let's see about that.

He starts with this:

The Atlas Summit blog is intended as a place for Summit attendees, and those considering whether to attend, to learn more about what to expect from the various sessions. In this respect, it is different from other blogs and content pages on the TAS Web site, where content we have produced is posted and comments are invited, pro and con, on what the author says. Unfortunately, the blog item on David Harriman was taken over by people who took it as an invitation to express their opinions about Harriman, about his history with the Ayn Rand Institute, and about the propriety of our having invited him to speak.

This supposed policy is an ex post facto rationalization. If a blog has a policy, it makes sure that those posting know that the policy exists. I didn't see any such policy, and had I seen it, I would have observed it. But this is a policy that didn't exist until Kelley decided to fabricate it from whole cloth a week after a debate began--so that he could accuse people of impropriety for not observing a policy that had never existed. Kelley himself tells us that he was well aware that the invitation would "of course" create a "stir." And yet it didn't occur to him or to his PR people that people might take the occasion to create the stir on the very page on which the stir-worthy announcement had been made. So he waited a week before deciding that, well, this wasn't the time and place for the stir...that was of course coming. That is frankly so stupid as to provoke either incredulity or laughter or both. But sorry, I can't accept guilt for violating the terms of his "policy."

Here is Kelley's next "argument":

But the opinions expressed in this thread were largely uninformed, speculative, rationalistic, and worse. Principals at TAS, including myself, have been in discussions with Harriman since early last fall. We invited him not only as a prominent and productive Objectivist intellectual, but as someone prepared to reflect on and discuss openly his past work with ARI.
No one—not Irfan Khawaja, not Jerry Biggers, both of whom I have known for the better part of a quarter century—nor anyone else made any effort to contact me, or William Thomas, or anyone else at TAS, much less Harriman, to learn anything about the circumstances. But they apparently weren’t interested in such facts. Instead, they vented their pre-conceived attitudes and hostilities.

Jonathan has nicely taken this ridiculous set of assertions apart, but I have my own take on it. The weasel word that gets the whole accusation off the ground is "largely," which is Kelley's way of making a handwaving blanket accusation without having to get his hands dirty in specificities. A challenge for Kelley: name one claim of mine that evinced a lack of interest in facts. It is Kelley who refuses either to discuss the facts I identified or to offer any of his own. Who is not interested in facts, and who is interested in them?

For all the bravado of his concern with facts, the fact remains that Kelley offers precisely nothing of a factual nature in answer to the claims I made or the questions I asked. Evidently, a concern for "facts" is evinced by not offering any. We are told that Harriman is prepared to reflect on and discuss openly his past work at ARI. That is a carefully legalistic and consummately uninformative formulation. If he is "prepared," why can't he tell us now, for public consumption, whether his reflections and discussions will involve a repudiation of his behavior at ARI? Why the need for such dramatic suspense, for private consultations, and for the aura of mystery? By the way: notice that this news comes a week after the discussion had begun, and while it involves claims about private discussions, according to Kelley, it's impertinent to ask questions in public about conversations that took place in private. The implication seems to me that we should have known about the impertinence of asking questions when we asked them. It has yet to be revealed what the impertinence was.

The tacit assumption is that since the conversations were private, all further discussion about them should have remained private. Only those with the proper backstage passes would be privy to these private conversations. But the fundamental question ought to be: why the need for such concealment? TAS is the organization that has sold itself publicly as the face of Open Objectivism. Why is it that the purveyors of Open Objectivism--their phrase, not mine--should take such umbrage at questions asked in public? As for Kelley's non-sequitur about my lack of interest in facts, let me refute it in one sentence: in fact, I'm morbidly curious to have him tell me what facts he has in mind. Alas, he is the one who has prematurely ended the debate, so the constraints on fact-sharing are his, not mine.

My favorite stuff comes at the end:

It never ceases to shock me—though, sadly, I am no longer surprised—that people who call themselves Objectivists have so little interest in objectivity.

We are looking forward to Harriman’s contribution to the Atlas Summit. Those who have no interest in the Summit, those who merely want to get their ideological rocks off, those who are more interested in reliving the conflicts in the Objectivist movement than trying to heal them—please take your agenda elsewhere.

Oh, David. What both shocks and saddens but doesn't surprise me is that the author of Truth and Toleration should be so little interested in truth, and so intolerant of those who expect it. What also shocks and saddens but doesn't surprise me is that the author of The Art of Reasoning should produce such artless reasoning and expect us to take it seriously.

The "agenda" to which Kelley refers is called justice. Part of it involves recognizing that the principles that were true and applicable in 1989 are still true and applicable in 2014. "Healing" presupposes injury, and injury in this context presupposes the existence of those who inflicted the injuries. You cannot "heal" injustices by pretending that the injuries produced by injustice were somehow created ex nihilo and can somehow be forgiven in a great big group hug. When you do that, what you end up doing is alienating your erstwhile friends and colleagues of a quarter century--the ones who have spent that quarter of a century defending your name, your reputation, your honor, and your work with more vigor than you have--and you turn them into enemies for life. That is to compound injustice with injustice. The word for it is betrayal.

Those of us who are "reliving the conflicts in the Objectivist movement" are the ones who actually remember, in full consciousness, what they were about. We are not "reliving" the original events in some psycho-traumatic way, but living the principles that gave rise to the conflicts then,and remain in force today. There's no great virtue in being a man of principle if that means that you've got a new principle for every new occasion. But that attitude toward principle accurately describes the leadership of the Objectivist movement today, ARI and TAS alike. Given that, I'm happy to take my "agenda" elsewhere, and would encourage others to do so as well. The leadership of this "movement," whether in its ARI or TAS incarnations, has nothing to offer us at this point but evasions and dishonesty. We can do better than that, and we should.

Irfan Khawaja

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Brant,

I don't think the problem for either Rand or Branden would be finding someone smarter, the problem would have been finding someone smarter in their work domains. Rand was contemporary with Einstein. Branden was contemporary with double Nobel Prize winner Frederick Sanger (developer of synthetic insulin and chain termination DNA sequencing). Almost everyone can find someone smarter. Einstein was a contemporary of J.W. Gibbs and John Von Neumann and was actually quite collaborative with the brilliant German mathematician David Hilbert.

Jim

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I haven't posted here before, but since my name has come up here a couple of times--once in the context of a public denunciation of me--I have a few comments to offer. Some of what I have to say overlaps with what Jonathan and Jerry Biggers have already very competently said, but I don't think it'll hurt to add my two cents. Or more.

As I see it, the fundamental question is whether it is morally legitimate for TAS to invite David Harriman to give a talk, ignoring Harriman's decades-long role at ARI, ignoring his obvious complicity in ARI's decades-long campaign of defamation, and treating as inconsequential what I regard as his obligation to acknowledge his wrongdoing and make public amends for it. You cannot legitimately be part of a decades-long campaign of defamation, then drop it without a word, and then pretend that you weren't part of it, and proceed as though nothing had happened. Nor can the sponsoring organization string along its clientele and the public with breathless but vacuous announcements about what might happen when Harriman takes the stage this summer at their Summit, with no indication whatsoever that any admission of guilt or amends will be forthcoming. The issue is really pretty simple. Either he is guilty or he is innocent of complicity in ARI's defamations. If he is guilty, he needs to acknowledge guilt and be treated thereafter as a guilty party. If he is innocent, he has to acknowledge that the evidence against him rises to more-than-probable cause and then maintain his innocence. What he can't do--and can't be permitted to do--is to spend years benefiting from an institution that sold itself as the Objectivist answer to the Spanish Inquisition, priding itself especially on its insistence on exceptionless moral judgment, and then suddenly turn around, act as though he bore no responsibility for his actions whatsoever, and as though moral judgment has now become totally irrelevant. That is the essence of dishonesty and irresponsibility. No one has the obligation to tolerate it. And no one has the moral right to facilitate it. But this horseshit is what David Kelley et al so righteously want to cram down our throats, treating TAS's critics as the guilty party, and insisting on deference and respect for Harriman, their great catch.

I say all that because I disagree with Ellen Stuttle and others here who have made Harriman's views on physics the main focus. Personally, I have no opinion at all on Harriman's views on physics. I've never read Logical Leap, and have no qualifications to judge anyone's views on physics. (The last time I took physics was tenth grade and I got a C in it.) But unless Harriman's views on physics were at the level of the Flat Earth Society, I don't think it would be appropriate to denounce him morally for having false views about physics. Nor would I make a big moral deal about TAS's inviting someone with false views about physics. I'd leave all that to the physicists, and would expect them to discuss physics, not morality. My objection to Harriman is a moral one. I don't think it should be described as a matter of "ARI/TAS politics," either. I have no interested stake in ARI/TAS politics. I just regard myself as a moral critic of the Objectivist movement, full stop. And I regard myself as having made a criticism that no one in that movement can answer, least of all David Kelley.

I happen to agree with Jerry Biggers about The Journals of Ayn Rand, but regard that as a non-essential side-issue in this context. I don't think the Journals should ever have been published at all, but would not have objected to the Harriman invitation on those grounds by themselves. (I agree with and appreciate a lot of the other things Jerry has said, including his implicit defenses of me.)

In his "debate closing" post at TAS, Kelley has the nerve to bring up the "quarter of a century" for which he's known me, but doesn't have the integrity to respond to anything that his supposed colleague of a quarter of a century has to say. What then is the value of his having known me for so long? He waltzes on to the scene a week after the debate had gotten underway, doesn't say a word about any substantive matter in the debate, offers a saccharine homily about how sad he is about others' lack of objectivity as compared with his own presumably spotless record, then declares victory in a debate to which he has contributed not a single word, and closes it down so that he can have the last word. But ladies and gentlemen, he is "shocked" at everyone else's behavior--at how little interested in "facts" they are. Well. Let's see about that.

He starts with this:

The Atlas Summit blog is intended as a place for Summit attendees, and those considering whether to attend, to learn more about what to expect from the various sessions. In this respect, it is different from other blogs and content pages on the TAS Web site, where content we have produced is posted and comments are invited, pro and con, on what the author says. Unfortunately, the blog item on David Harriman was taken over by people who took it as an invitation to express their opinions about Harriman, about his history with the Ayn Rand Institute, and about the propriety of our having invited him to speak.

This supposed policy is an ex post facto rationalization. If a blog has a policy, it makes sure that those posting know that the policy exists. I didn't see any such policy, and had I seen it, I would have observed it. But this is a policy that didn't exist until Kelley decided to fabricate it from whole cloth a week after a debate began--so that he could accuse people of impropriety for not observing a policy that had never existed. Kelley himself tells us that he was well aware that the invitation would "of course" create a "stir." And yet it didn't occur to him or to his PR people that people might take the occasion to create the stir on the very page on which the stir-worthy announcement had been made. So he waited a week before deciding that, well, this wasn't the time and place for the stir...that was of course coming. That is frankly so stupid as to provoke either incredulity or laughter or both. But sorry, I can't accept guilt for violating the terms of his "policy."

Here is Kelley's next "argument":

But the opinions expressed in this thread were largely uninformed, speculative, rationalistic, and worse. Principals at TAS, including myself, have been in discussions with Harriman since early last fall. We invited him not only as a prominent and productive Objectivist intellectual, but as someone prepared to reflect on and discuss openly his past work with ARI.

No one—not Irfan Khawaja, not Jerry Biggers, both of whom I have known for the better part of a quarter century—nor anyone else made any effort to contact me, or William Thomas, or anyone else at TAS, much less Harriman, to learn anything about the circumstances. But they apparently weren’t interested in such facts. Instead, they vented their pre-conceived attitudes and hostilities.

Jonathan has nicely taken this ridiculous set of assertions apart, but I have my own take on it. The weasel word that gets the whole accusation off the ground is "largely," which is Kelley's way of making a handwaving blanket accusation without having to get his hands dirty in specificities. A challenge for Kelley: name one claim of mine that evinced a lack of interest in facts. It is Kelley who refuses either to discuss the facts I identified or to offer any of his own. Who is not interested in facts, and who is interested in them?

For all the bravado of his concern with facts, the fact remains that Kelley offers precisely nothing of a factual nature in answer to the claims I made or the questions I asked. Evidently, a concern for "facts" is evinced by not offering any. We are told that Harriman is prepared to reflect on and discuss openly his past work at ARI. That is a carefully legalistic and consummately uninformative formulation. If he is "prepared," why can't he tell us now, for public consumption, whether his reflections and discussions will involve a repudiation of his behavior at ARI? Why the need for such dramatic suspense, for private consultations, and for the aura of mystery? By the way: notice that this news comes a week after the discussion had begun, and while it involves claims about private discussions, according to Kelley, it's impertinent to ask questions in public about conversations that took place in private. The implication seems to me that we should have known about the impertinence of asking questions when we asked them. It has yet to be revealed what the impertinence was.

The tacit assumption is that since the conversations were private, all further discussion about them should have remained private. Only those with the proper backstage passes would be privy to these private conversations. But the fundamental question ought to be: why the need for such concealment? TAS is the organization that has sold itself publicly as the face of Open Objectivism. Why is it that the purveyors of Open Objectivism--their phrase, not mine--should take such umbrage at questions asked in public? As for Kelley's non-sequitur about my lack of interest in facts, let me refute it in one sentence: in fact, I'm morbidly curious to have him tell me what facts he has in mind. Alas, he is the one who has prematurely ended the debate, so the constraints on fact-sharing are his, not mine.

My favorite stuff comes at the end:

It never ceases to shock me—though, sadly, I am no longer surprised—that people who call themselves Objectivists have so little interest in objectivity.

We are looking forward to Harriman’s contribution to the Atlas Summit. Those who have no interest in the Summit, those who merely want to get their ideological rocks off, those who are more interested in reliving the conflicts in the Objectivist movement than trying to heal them—please take your agenda elsewhere.

Oh, David. What both shocks and saddens but doesn't surprise me is that the author of Truth and Toleration should be so little interested in truth, and so intolerant of those who expect it. What also shocks and saddens but doesn't surprise me is that the author of The Art of Reasoning should produce such artless reasoning and expect us to take it seriously.

The "agenda" to which Kelley refers is called justice. Part of it involves recognizing that the principles that were true and applicable in 1989 are still true and applicable in 2014. "Healing" presupposes injury, and injury in this context presupposes the existence of those who inflicted the injuries. You cannot "heal" injustices by pretending that the injuries produced by injustice were somehow created ex nihilo and can somehow be forgiven in a great big group hug. When you do that, what you end up doing is alienating your erstwhile friends and colleagues of a quarter century--the ones who have spent that quarter of a century defending your name, your reputation, your honor, and your work with more vigor than you have--and you turn them into enemies for life. That is to compound injustice with injustice. The word for it is betrayal.

Those of us who are "reliving the conflicts in the Objectivist movement" are the ones who actually remember, in full consciousness, what they were about. We are not "reliving" the original events in some psycho-traumatic way, but living the principles that gave rise to the conflicts then,and remain in force today. There's no great virtue in being a man of principle if that means that you've got a new principle for every new occasion. But that attitude toward principle accurately describes the leadership of the Objectivist movement today, ARI and TAS alike. Given that, I'm happy to take my "agenda" elsewhere, and would encourage others to do so as well. The leadership of this "movement," whether in its ARI or TAS incarnations, has nothing to offer us at this point but evasions and dishonesty. We can do better than that, and we should.

Irfan Khawaja

I hope you take this material to a different forum. To me it's just more of the same old over-using morality in-movement as a weapon crap*. Whatever else you post here stands or falls by itself, just like this does, which is true of all postings.

--Brant

*that was Rand and that was Peikoff, but likely not Kelley, who manifests a different type of problem

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Irfan Khawaja,

Welcome to OL.

(Dayaam! My post crossed with Brant's.)

:smile:

Here on OL, each person speaks for himself or herself.

Just so you know the tenor, the purpose of OL is not to promote the Objectivist movement. It is for people of all stripes who are interested in Rand and Objectivism (including interest in the Brandens, the history of the movement and all the rest) to discuss things with each other.

I constantly say Objectivism is a starting point on OL where people who are attracted to it (at all stages of knowledge and even friendliness) go out from that starting point onto their own directions using the best thinking they can muster. And folks sometimes end up in the weirdest places (me too :smile: ).

Objectivism is not an end here like it is with a movement or at other sites where people from all stripes show up to learn what it is and, if things work out, start adhering to it. I'm not against this. It's just that this is not what OL is all about.

My approach is extremely messy because people from all walks and contexts show up. The Objectivism as end approach is a lot more neat and tidy. (If you know about the Overton Window, let's just say that OL is for moving the window of what is reasonable to discuss toward the direction of making sure Objectivism is a normal legitimate topic in the mainstream, not for promoting the ideology qua ideology.)

Now about me and the Harriman issue. I have stated my views and they are probably at odds with yours on a point or other, but as a gracious host, I believe it will be better for the forum for me to be more like a traffic cop than a participant.

So let 'er rip. I have read and seen enough of your stuff to know you may be hotheaded at times (er... maybe "passionate" would have been a more diplomatic word :smile: ), but you are not childish and malicious.

What you and Jerry and others are talking about hurts--not just you but many who are lurkers only. I am pretty sure the TAS folks have their reasons, that these reasons will come out over time, and things will not seem as bad, if bad at all, from that context. (I don't know anything special. That is just my opinion and speculation.)

But this issue pinches hard a legitimate nerve with a lot of people (including the variations and tangents like the science angle), so I am all in favor of getting it out in the open and having people work through it.

I expect it to be messy.

Once again, welcome to OL. I, for one, hope you consider sticking around.

Michael

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Michael,

Thanks. You are a gracious host. And yes, I guess your post crossed with Brant's. Unfortunately, Brant's advice comes about a post too late for me to make any practical use of it.

About sticking around, while I don't have any intention of "taking my material to another forum," I've promised myself lately to stop generating as much hotheaded stuff online as I have in the recent past, so I'll probably end up lurking more than I end up fulminating. Not that I'm promising.

I realize it's anti-climactic, but I'm heading out to a conference tomorrow and will be caught up in it for a few days, so it'll be mid-week before I respond to anyone who responds to me (if anyone does).

Irfan

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I still haven't figured out how to force OL to let me quote other posts in toto or in part, so I'll just toss out a few brief comments:

1. Although I'm no longer a regular or frequent poster here, I'm *very* glad to see Irfan sharing his observations and criticisms of the Objectivist movement, such as it is. He is one of the few articulate and passionate, truth-seeking, justice-seeking voices we have left. It's a reflection not on him, but on the movement that he is without a home in either of the two main centers of Objectivism.

2. Irfan and Carrie-Ann Biodi are currently publishing Reason Papers, a journal that has been around since 1974, and which was a home for many of us fledgling Objectivist writers who were not then part of Objectivist officialdom either. Back issues can be accessed for free online. Anyone sufficiently interested can easily find the web site, so I won't bother to post a non-functional link here.

3. Much has been said about the gradual leakage of good thinkers from the ARI faction, but not so much about those who have left IOS aka TOC aka TAS (we need a pool on what the next initials will be). Just to name one, Diana Hsieh was fully justified in leaving Kelley's organization - though totally *unjustified* in how she treated the Brandens, David Kelley, Chris Sciabarra, and others, in her exit.

4. I continue to mourn the loss of Free Minds which organized Open Objectivist seminars for independent scholars and writers to share their ideas. The two talks I gave (2009, 2011) were the result of (and the impetus for) big leaps forward for my thinking on aesthetics and logic, and it's painfully clear how much of a role having to "prepare a talk" plays in actually getting something done.

5. Finally, I applaud Michael and Kat for all the hard work and (at times) skillful maneuvering theyve had to do in order to provide Objectivist Living as a (relatively) safe haven for homeless Objectivists (and others). They've taken a lot of knocks for the benevolent universe they've created here - but then, if the outside world were that benevolent, we wouldn't need Objectivist Living!

All 4 now,

REB

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I still haven't figured out how to force OL to let me quote other posts in toto or in part, so I'll just toss out a few brief comments:

1. Although I'm no longer a regular or frequent poster here, I'm *very* glad to see Irfan sharing his observations and criticisms of the Objectivist movement, such as it is. He is one of the few articulate and passionate, truth-seeking, justice-seeking voices we have left. It's a reflection not on him, but on the movement that he is without a home in either of the two main centers of Objectivism.

Sigh. It would seem, Roger, the likes of me is leaving Objectivism behind so maybe I should stop complaining about what Objectivists say and do as if I were one so I'll try weren't one. Irfan seems like an intelligent stand up guy--great name, is it Indian?--but Objectivists chasing after each other with meat cleavers only makes cannibal sense.

--Brant

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. . .

I do not concur with Diana's or anyone’s denigrations of David Kelley’s character, intellectual or moral. It was on account of their (behind-the-scenes) denigrations of David that I stopped my financial support of the Ayn Rand Institute years ago.*

I’ll stand up this little bit, Brant. I do not concur in the correctness or virtue of the preceding criticisms in this thread of the intellectual and moral character of David Kelley and of the preceding denunciations of the moral and strategic practices of David and co-owners concerning their private institution. Irfan Khawaja’s considerable intellectual contributions in other philosophic writings and his prospects for further such attainments remain, all the same, bright as ever and in AE’s phrase “the friends that cannot be lost.” I wish both TAS and ARI continued flourishing in their positive efforts, and from my experiences with both of them, I expect they will so continue. Alongside their future, my situation with respect to the philosophy they promote is:

. . .

Yes, my own book draws from my previous work in essays. From the current Introduction to the book:

This philosophy is mine, significantly indebted to that of Ayn Rand, yet seriously opposed to hers. In the course of presenting my own philosophy, I present Rand’s in her development of it and in its situation with other philosophies. I critique her mature view and extend her right elements. I set out a new philosophy of . . . .

Although much is drawn from my previous writings, those views are reworked and supplemented into an integrated whole. Of course much from earlier essays in pertinent areas has to be omitted too. Thus far the scope of the book is metaphysics, epistemology, and theory of moral value. The last should reach well into theory of individual rights, but I expect no political philosophy proper (nor esthetics) in this book. Thus far I remain with an axiomatic foundationalist approach, of empirical stripe, though axiomatic concepts and propositional axioms are added to Rand’s. My concept of consciousness and my definition of knowledge will differ from Rand’s. The theoretical Part of the book is to include the philosophic axioms, philosophy of logic, perception, concepts, and judgments (including analyticity), the natures of mathematical and scientific truth, and free will. The metaphysics and epistemology then reverberate through the Part on theory of value and are some of the reason for my considerable differences (and affinities) with Rand’s ethics. Still hoping to complete within two years.*

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