Objectivism's Plague: Questions


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I would be grateful if any of you who have opinions on the following questions -- opinions tentative or firm -- would tell us what they are. (I originally intended to make the questions a poll, but for technical reasons that became unwieldy.) The source -- or sources -- of what I call Objectivism's "plague" is a major concern of mine, and I think of many other people. The infection continues to spread and we seem no closer to a cure, yet its cause --a knowledge of which surely is the first step in combating it -- has never publicly been discussed or identified. Let's discuss it here.

With regard to the periodic denunciations and "excommunications" that have plagued the Objectivist movement since its beginnings, what do you think is the cause (or causes)?

1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced?

2. Is it consistent with any or all of the principles of Objectivism?

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism?

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

5. Does it arise from virtues in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

9. Is its source to be found in a handful of nut cases of no importance or consequence?

10. Is it none of the above?

Please explain your answers. Many thanks.

Barbara

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Hi Barbara

Here are my thoughts on this, although I'm only a newbie to the psychology field so you may disagree with me entirely, but that's okay. And I won't go onto another website and denounce you as a a mean-spirited person ;-)

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

I wonder if some of it has to do with the fact that the founders of the movement, AR and NB, did this a lot (denunciations and excommunications). It's almost like, well if my 'parents' did this, it's okay for me to do the same. Or more so, this is what we're supposed to do.

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?.

Denouncing people is a way to draw attention to one's self and make one appear to be important. It's like "Oh, I'm not very well known in the O'ist movement, I know, I'll set up a website where I denounce other O'ists and this gives me the exposure and status that I crave." In a movement that places high emphasis on achievement and self-actualisation (which are good things), someone with poor self-esteem may see this as a 'threat' and attack others as a defensive strategy (I'm going to reject you before you can reject me).

One other aspect is - and this is a guess of mine - people who are most drawn to Objectivism probably have the Myers-Briggs NT (iNtuitive-Thinking) temperament, who are not renown for their interpersonal skills/emotional intelligence, more for their critical and analytical faculties. I'm not intending to bash NTs - I like them a lot and really value these skills, and it doesn't mean to say that they can't develop emotional intelligence, of course they can, and do. I think AR was probably an NT - :-k INTJ if I was determining her full personality type, as these can be highly original thinkers, but also critical and judgemental. I'm guessing that NB is an INTJ too.

Also, I think it a great shame that NB and AR never found a resolution for their feud. If they had, I wonder if this would have made people's fall-outs be just that, rather than elevated into something related to their moral standing and to be denounced as immoral. A resolution between the two would have provided a very powerful example of how issues between people, even extremely painful ones, can be resolved. I think this would then have motivated people to work through their own upsets, which is challenging, rather than take the easy way out and denounce people.

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

I've been involved in an organisation called Non-violent Communication (NVC) for about six years. Which is needs-based communication and is used all over the world in conflict situations (whether community or domestic). I sometimes wonder how open O'ists would be to this, as it is inherent in the philosophy (Virtue of Justice) to denounce 'wrong-doers' (which incidently doesn't help them to change), rather than recognising that people are always just trying to meet their needs (even though we could objectively judge their strategies for meeting their needs as wrong). People are much better equipped to come up with more life-affirming strategies, when they are clear about what their needs are in a particular situation.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

I can't really comment on ARI. I have only been to day-one of a weekend conference with ARI lecturers that was held in London last September. I found the lecturers to be excellent - I really enjoyed their clarity of communication, the intellectual stimulation and the knowledge and enthusiasm they conveyed about their chosen subject. I didn't feel 'judged' by them either and the only time any judgement was passed by one lecturer, was on Ayn's sister Nora when she visited Ayn in USA, and Ayn found that Nora had changed her worldview. Even then, understanding was conveyed about Nora's historical context (living under communism) and so therefore she wasn't an 'evil' person.

It was interesting to me though, that away from the lecturers during lunch, I mentioned in conversation that I had been to a TOC conference and I was met with with glares and a stony silence.

The attendees were somewhat on edge about being judged, but the lecturers conveyed no judgement of people that I could see, so where does this come from? (Although I didn't mention TOC when within earshot of the lecturers and so they may have responded differently to me if I had.)

[As an aside, I did have an attack of the 'mischief-maker' during a lecture on 'people who have been influenced by O'ism' - and I was tempted to put my hand-up and say "What about NB - did you interview him..." so maybe a part of me knew that I couldn't benevolently discuss TOC with them like I could discuss ARI with TOC] //;-))

No model is perfect (NVC has its problems too), but it's the contribution that they make to my life, despite these flaws, that's important to me.

So, despite all of what I have said above, for all of the problems that O'ism is experiencing, I am still hugely grateful that AR came up with this philosophy and that NB and yourself put it out into the world. I'd rather have O'ism and all its flaws than no O'ism - no contest.

Fran

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Fran wrote:

I think AR was probably an NT - INTJ if I was determining her full personality type, as these can be highly original thinkers, but also critical and judgemental. I'm guessing that NB is an INTJ too.

Fran, you're not the only one who thinks Rand was an INTJ.

See here: http://keirsey.com/personality/nt.html

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Paul, I appreciate your giving me the link to this excellent site - I learned a lot about myself from it :)

I've browsed a lot of MBTI websites, but none of them provided me with the understanding that I gained from this one.

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1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced?

I would say that it is somewhat understandable. I believe that this type of thing happens in many organizations when the founder dies. Any areas that the founder left open or that aren't 100% clear are open to interpretation and reasonable people can disagree. Unfortunately, there are those in the world who cannot stand any disagreement and view dissenters as heretics. And, to them, the heretic is worse than the non-believer.

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism?

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

These are the most puzzling to me. Of all belief-systems, I would've thought that Objectivism would be the least vulnerable to this. No, I don't believe the cause is anything inherent in Objectivism. I believe that this is merely a manifestation of how different people deal with those who disagree with them.

9. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

Clearly, ARI fosters and rewards this type of behavior. I blame Leonard Peikoff for this.

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4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

I think that is the main cause. Objectivism claims to be a complete and infallible philosophical system that can give the answers to all the problems in the world. That has several consequences: any criticism of one specific aspect is seen as an attack on the whole philosophy, as it claims to be an integrated whole. Rand said in effect: here is my theory, take it or leave it, but I'm not going to discuss it, this is the truth. And that inevitably will lead to the forming of a cult of followers who are attracted to a simplistic formulaic system which can generate all the answers to the problems in the world, and also to an uncritical adulation of the founder of the cult. Now the biggest threat for such people doesn't come from the "enemy" outside, but from those followers who are somewhat more critical than they and who even dare to question some points of the theory. Such people are 'traitors' who threaten to undermine their complete belief system, and it's therefore no wonder that all their wrath is directed at those people. And in a sense they're right: once you start to have doubts, those doubts tend to multiply rapidly and finally the whole system will crumble down.

The crux is that Objectivism in spite of all its claims about rationality and logic isn't a theory, it is a belief system. That's also an essential difference with a scientific theory: scientists are interested in a discussion, they invite attacks on their theory, to see whether it can stand the test. But orthodox Objectivists aren't at all interested in a real discussion with outsiders, they only want to convince the world of the Truth that they hold. And then the biggest threat comes from inside, from those followers who don't accept blindly the gospel and who even dare to suggest that their guru wasn't perhaps quite an infallible goddess. It's inevitable that those people will be vehemently condemned by the faithful, and it's also to be expected that minor differences of opinion between different factions will blow up to full-scale wars.

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?

That will be part of the explanation. A rigid belief system that claims to have all the answers will be very attractive to a particular type of person, but I know also examples of people who behaved quite rational and reasonably until they became cult followers and started condemning people, so the system attracts such people but also creates and reinforces such behavior.

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

That is also a factor, but in fact Rands' theory was closely linked to her character: one of her flaws was that she couldn't handle criticisms, which led to an untested and unchallenged theory which could not be defended in a rational way but had to be pushed as a system with definite answers. So 4 and 6 are correlated. But no doubt her example of condemning countless people with different viewpoints as "evil" gives an extra sanction to her imitators.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

Yes, but this is also a corollary of 4.

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Barbara,

I doubt it will come as any surprise to you to hear that the sorts of questions you raise are ones I've been thinking about (again) a great deal lately, and that I have some strong opinions about several answers (though little in the way of "solutions").

With regard to the periodic denunciations and "excommunications" that have plagued the Objectivist movement since its beginnings, what do you think is the cause (or causes)?

1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced?

That's a two-pronged question, and loaded in the second half. The first half first: In one respect, yes, I think the phenomenon is as "entirely understandable" as is human nature (which of course I don't find "entirely" understandable, by a long way). Denunciations and "excommunications" (in some groups, without the quote marks) are standard in communities of many forms of ideological persusasion. The absence of such behavior is outside the norm for such communities. And, as several have pointed out in recent debates on various lists, at least Objectivists don't execute those they denounce; they use words, not bullets (or other lethal means). For the bloodlessness of its internecine battles the Objectivist world is to be congratulated (praise be to the NIOF principle).

The second half of your question loads the issue by assigning blameworthiness to the blamed. But whether or not the blamed are, in any given instance, guilty of some or all of the list of wrongdoings with which they're charged, is not an adequate explanation for the blaming penchant.

2. Is it consistent with any or all of the principles of Objectivism?

Yes, with some of the principles -- with some of those pertaining to the nature of volition, with those pertaining to the nature of, and importance of, moral judgment, with those that make it appear that what Rand described as "moral ambitiousness" is of the utmost importance. It's consistent with an attitude which is prevalent in the original sources on Objectivism (her own writings) and in a number of the subsidiary sources.

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism?

No.

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

Yes. (See above.)

5. Does it arise from virtues in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

Neither. The questions themselves, I think, accept an Objectivist way of looking at things. If you were to change the question to, "Does it arise from psychological characteristics of Ayn Rand?," then I'd answer, "Yes, emphatically yes" (always including as an addendum the answer I gave to the first question, that the basic ways of acting you're talking about are common characteristics of human nature when humans are wrapped up in allegiance to ideological causes).

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?

I think that some of those drawn to Objectivism are more prone to being moralistic than are others. There's a wide variety of "types" in the O'ist world. Some, I think, were prone to judgmentalism before they ever heard of Ayn Rand and they found in Objectivism an excuse for their own tendencies. (Others I think tend to become judgmental because they believe that that's how they're supposed to be if they want to be good Objectivists -- and partly just because the behavior is so widespread in O'ist circles as to become hard to resist falling into.) Whether there really is a Myers-Briggs sort of breakdown of types, I'm not sure. The thesis has some plausibility, but..., for one thing, I don't think the Myers-Briggs does a good job of Jungian typology, so that issue becomes complex for me in ways beyond the scope of your question.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

My belief is that ARI teachings lead to this sort of thing more than do TOC's. But I have only a little experience with the TOC atmosphere (I've attended three days of, respectively, two summer conferences and one day-long event in NYC; that's all), and I've never attended any of the ARI events. There are some particular persons high up in the ARI hierarchy of whose moralizing characteristics I have a poor opinion (Harry B. and Peter Schwartz), but I don't know any of the younger ones. (Leonard Peikoff himself I think wasn't natively prone to being a moral termagant, just judging on the way he acted in my personal encounters with him.)

9. Is its source to be found in a handful of nut cases of no importance or consequence?

No, of course not. The problem is endemic and I don't think will ever be ameliorated unless some changes are made in the philosophy itself (and those changes are widely accepted by persons interested in Objectivism).

Ellen

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Such people [the questioners within] are 'traitors' who threaten to undermine their complete belief system [...]. And in a sense they're right: once you start to have doubts, those doubts tend to multiply rapidly and finally the whole system will crumble down.

There's the danger to any belief system: the stray thoughts, the questions which, if thought is left to "grow," always occur and multiply. Thus some methods of thought control are always needed with such systems.

The crux is that Objectivism in spite of all its claims about rationality and logic isn't a theory, it is a belief system.

I think it's an uneasy mix of the two, that partly it is a genuine philosophy and partly not.

Someone whom I met at one of Allan B.'s courses described AR with an aphorism I've always found especially pungent at evoking the disparity. (The guy's first name was Nigel; I don't recall his last name.)

Rand, he said, was "two-thirds Aristotle, and one-third Savonarolo."

Ellen

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This sounds... fun, challenging, interesting, and insightful. I haven't read everyone's comments on it since I wanted to just plunk down my opinion, but I will go back and read others' opinions after I'm done. :)

1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation

other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced?

It's understandable in terms of how different people react to certain things.

I think one of the fundamental understandable (but no less frustrating) things about these behaviors is the need for certainty and deep-felt (but unrealized) insecurity. Perhaps a hardlined, strong tone draws people who are in some ways divided: they have an appearance of strength but it surrounds an insecure core. I've come across lots of people like this who become leaders, and I've been someone like this. I don't think the need to draw boundaries of "us vs. them" is based on external, social issues; it is, to me, much of a result of some un-dealt with internal issue. If everything was fine for the person, then there shouldn't be a tendency to cling to anything other than one's own self, nor should there be any confusion as to where one's personal identity is.

I think explanations are helpful in terms of the possibility that this kind of behavior would be understood and stopped, because destructive behavior without understanding the realities of human nature is blind, shallow, and only fuels itself.

2. Is it consistent with any or all of the principles of Objectivism?

If it is, then Objectivism is nothing more than a secular religion and it will not ever "win over" 6+ billion people. "You can fool some people sometimes, but you can't fool everyone all the time." Most people are pretty sane and happy outside of Objectivism. And I see no difference between happiness and sanity between Oists and non.

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism?

Not particularly. It arises from lack of self-responsibility, self-rule, and self-knowledge; so I guess it would more result from the person not knowing themselves and where their boundaries are. It's also due to thinking that intelligence is IT in order to "get Objectivism" (many people in the world are intelligent), and not searching for, or even understanding the need for, wisdom, balance, and maturity.

But of course, I see the philosophy as a tool I use, not as anything that is identical to me; nor that because I find it incomplete and sometimes inconsistently applied means that I am personally affected.

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

Not really, but since Objectivism is a more complex system expressed in simple language, this may be a weakness. I see this as a weakness. But different people might have different opinions.

5. Does it arise from virtues in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

If denunciations and such are considered virtues, no one's got more of a handle on it than Christian fundamentalists.

If it does arise from the personality and character of Rand, then it's really sad, because then you get to where people can't tell the difference between themselves and Ayn Rand. I don't use the phrase "hero worship", but even then, hero worship can be healthy or unhealthy. Not knowing the difference, or thinking that there is no difference, is a lack of understanding of context and the reality of using one's volition to draw appropriate personal boundaries.

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

See #5 answer.

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?

Like the INTJ thing? If psychology didn't matter, why would the INTJ thing matter? Why would it matter what Rand was, or what another person is?

I think Oism's tone draw certain types of people-- I don't see many scientists going for it, for one thing. Scientists on the whole are too skeptical, too questioning, and if going on the PhD track, too independent. I myself am very much not as much interested in it now as I have found out that what appears to be an objective, unbiased approach to knowing reality is, in fact, biased. Not only that, I got some sort of "vibe" that it was "not cool" to be unbiased, a.k.a. nonpartisan. Well, if I had that attitude, I wouldn't be doing good science. No good science = no good future.

I'm interested in my future.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

Again, partly. If the organization refuses to support you looking at other sources, I think that's a shitty thing to do. BUT, I also think it's the individual's responsibility to themselves to make sure what and how they're putting in their minds from different organizations, even despite the organizations' pressures towards this or that approach. An educational facility, if it supports critical thinking at all, would support a person who has used their mind to come to a decision-- even if it's not in convergence with the organization. Neither organization or the individual should have any dependent attitudes on each other.

So, to this question: yes, if the organization fosters a dependency. I think fostering a dependency is akin to enabling, but in order for this to work, there has to be people seeking out this type of relationship.

9. Is its source to be found in a handful of nut cases of no importance or

consequence?

Most likely. But I think there are a few nutcases in any field, endeavor, organization, or party.

10. Is it none of the above?

It's part of the above, in different factors, depending on the individual and their interactions with other individuals and organizations. But I think it's a lot about how strong an individual is in the face of group dynamics.

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scientists are interested in a discussion, they invite attacks on their theory, to see whether it can stand the test.

Exactly. I wrote that down in my post, but it's gotta be stated that the usual post-Bacc/grad-level+ scientist is not going to be very much interested if they can't discuss, theorize, critique, innovate, create, and change existing theories. It's within the work of a scientist to be competitive with other ideas; it's sink or swim. Scientists test ideas, their own and other people's. If that's not "allowed", then what the hell is the "objective" doing in the name "Objectivism"?

Objectivism claims to be a complete and infallible philosophical system that can give the answers to all the problems in the world.

I'd like to know where it says that. Infallible in regards to what? Reality? Complete in regards to what?

Integrated systems: When I think of this, I think of the brain-- how it's connected, and how even if one neuron dies, the whole brain doesn't. Yet the brain is an integrated system-- yet it's a system that's continuously changing, and what's amazing is that it retains an overrall stability over a long length of time.

It depends on what the integrated system is made up of. If it's made up of bivalent logic, then you have a computer. If it's made up of a system capable of parallelism, fuzzy logic, (and perhap, future innovations) and dynamic, fluid abilities, that it's much more in line with the human brain. Therefore the understanding of "integrated systems" is a big, huge "It depends". Also, "logically consistent" depends on what types of logic is being used, where, and how.

Moral perfection: According to whom? Even the words "moral ambitiousness" rings a bad bell. I'm not on this race to re-iterate a secular Leviticus.

I would rather something called "moral awareness and wisdom", as it does not eschew judgement, but that the judgement is realistic, benevolent, contingent, and used with mature understanding of many factors at once. I think forgiveness is on the other side of this coin.

I don't think judgements should be based on 1) guilt by association, 2) seeing people or ideas as monolithic so that even if some part of them is good, they're bad because everything else is bad, 3) never changing the judgements even if the person happens to learn and grow, 4) mental crutches, 5) ideological prejudice, 6) other people jumping on some bandwagon, 7) all-or-none thinking, and 8) what other people say/approve/disapprove/support/write/etc.

Each one of these is something I've done in my twenties, especially in that cult, and that I am actively trying not to do because I think they're really immature. If I fall into one of those traps, then it says something about me-- and I'm too conceited to let myself have unnecessary dependencies.

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Barbara,

This is a huge and complex matter to try to understand. It is important and I do take it seriously. I have spent many years with this issue bouncing around in the back of my mind. Since coming to this forum, I have spent some time playing with it a little more seriously. With your questions, now it is time to bring it fully into focus.

I definitely will take more time to think about this subject. For now, here is my initial reactions to the first question. I would like to make time to say more.

Barbara wrote:

*With regard to the periodic denunciations and "excommunications" that have plagued the Objectivist movement since its beginnings, what do you think is the cause (or causes)?

1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation

other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced? *

No. I think there is more at play here than the characters of the people who have been denounced. I do not know any of these characters personally. The character I am most familiar with is Nathaniel Branden’s. Any insight I have into his character comes from an appreciation of the world-view, the values, and the spirit that comes through in his books; this and the occasional glimpse of the man who has a Yahoo forum in his name. From some of his actions on his forum, I can see how certain solipsistic tendencies of his would make some enemies. He pissed me off once. However, in my judgement, he developed a view of human nature more evolved than his predecessors. I do not see how he could develop such an evolved view of human nature without having an evolved world-view, values, and spirit within himself to explore and identify.

I am a big believer in connecting people’s actions to their psychological and philosophical perspectives. I look for the underlying causality. When I read Nathaniel Branden’s work I tried to understand the underlying psychological and philosophical perspective that caused his work. When I read Rand’s work, I looked for the same underlying causation. I experienced her philosophical perspective as the most evolved I had ever seen but her psychological perspective was very unevolved. There was much that she was blind to, that she had not identified, and that she did not integrate in her own psyche. I think there was much of her psyche that was denied to conscious awareness. It was submerged to the realm of the subconscious where intuitive understandings and unknown motivations caused strange and paradoxical behaviour. Her psychological blindness lead to a skewed understanding of human nature; a Jekyll and Hyde approach to social interactions; a propensity to excommunicate those who threatened her self-worth; and persona that lead the culture of Objectivism, by example, to disrespect those who’s perspectives are contradictory to hers. Ultimately, Rand's psychological blindness is where the cause to “Objectivism's Plague” is to be found.

There is no doubt Ayn Rand gave birth to Objectivism. For good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, her character still flows through the Objectivist culture. Both her profound vision and her incredible blindness are alive and well in the Objectivist world. I think the first step to eradicating the plague is to shed light on Rand’s blindness. This is what both Nathaniel and Barbara Branden have been doing already in their books but we have to go deeper. We have to understand more about the nature of the subconscious mind in general, and Rand’s in particular, before we can truly understand the cause of the plague.

Paul

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With regard to the periodic denunciations and "excommunications" that have plagued the Objectivist movement since its beginnings, what do you think is the cause(s)?

Not really knowing and understanding what "having one's own self" really means.

How to test this? Imagine that you are the ONLY Objectivist on the planet. If you're happy, smiling, joyful, and content with your life, loves, family, and friends in that situation, you know what it is-- because it does not depend on any other people. It depends on you, to be yourself, yet be comfortable and secure enough with yourself so that you can live your own life amongst different lives.

Therefore I don't think it's Objectivism that needs to be taught. I think it's something else.

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I have written on this before, but I would like to make more coherent reply than the sum of my earlier comments. That will take more time than I have now.

I like Jenna's approach in putting down her thoughts and then going back and reading everyone else's and commenting on some of their ideas. But this is a task for tomorrow.

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There have already been lot of good replies here and the food for thought these questions generate are well worth musing over.

I see a lot of this as more of a human dynamics issue that one which is tied to Objectivism in particular.

When I was younger I read a lot of John D McDonald's books written with Travis McGee as the protagonist which led me to keep an idea of someone who I wanted to emulate as being McGee-like and I was always asking myself what would T McGee do in this situation. I have read where people post the same kind of questions in regard to Roarke or Galt on Oist sites, but there is a major problem with this just as there was when I was trying to figure out what McGee would do in a given situation; neither McGee, Roarke, or Galt are real people and all of the situations which they found themselves in were created and controlled from beginning to end by the mind of the person who wrote of them with nothing left to chance.

I am well aware that the values and morals which were funneled into these characters are real and can be used in real life situations yet due to the ever shifting and changing interactions of people we can only use those as tools, and we must be ready ourselves to adapt the tool to the situation. This cannot be done by always referencing a fictional character because it is impossible to write of every possible human situation and we would be left with a total inability to meet life head on.

It would seem that Rand and her characters she created are often confused and Rand's striving to embody her ideals in Galt and Roarke should not be taken as everyone cne (Rand included) as having the perfect answer, perfect thought or perfect reaction to all of lifes vagaries.

What I am driving at is that while I respect Ayn Rand and I believe her philosophy has much to add to the human experience I do not place her on a pedestal as I found a long time ago that that is just too far for a human to fall when evidence of their ability to err surfaces.

For some whose posts I have read while on the various sites, I get the impression that they hold Rand up in the same light as the religious hold God and many have not developed the emotional maturity to match their intellectual savvy and which cannot allow for the fact that Rand -in spite of the great amount of work and ideas which came from her- was still a human being who should be allowed the dignity of everything that entails.

A lot of issues seems to arise out of the belief that Rand can somehow be tainted, yet if anyone if truly interested in her philosophy and they are able to think for themselves at all they will then investigate and arrive at their own conclusions. If all they are is followers who have no desire or ability toward self-growth which occurs with questioning of both others and ourselves, would they be of much use to Oism anyway?

L W

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Barbara,

It’s my conviction that the Objectivist “plague” is a largely understandable phenomenon. As I see it, the explanation lies not primarily in the philosophy or its philosopher, per se; nor in the characters and actions of the denounced. The explanation lies chiefly in the denouncers themselves (and their “me-too” followers) who perform the excommunications. However, the underlying issues in each denouncer’s character, and the motivations behind their actions, are myriad; ranging from innocent lack of knowledge to blatant lapses of integrity.

As you know, it starts with the Objectivist virtue of justice, and in particular, with the execution of moral judgment. If the excommunications, which are based on a negative assessment of the denounced’s moral character, are commonly rooted in unconsciousness or outright irrationality—whether it’s a matter of mindlessly mimicking Ayn Rand while reciting her injunction to "never pass up an opportunity to pass moral judgment," or the wielding of an ethical sword with the intention of cutting down one’s real or perceived enemies—a resulting “plague” should be of no surprise.

But I’m sure that many denouncements and excommunications are the result of an honest attempt at evaluating the character of another, then acting accordingly; a task which is obviously more complicated than it sounds. Even with the best intentions in the world, executing moral judgments—and doing so objectively—is not easy. Rand herself said, “it is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought.” An example of the complexity can be seen in Objectivism’s own schism: Philosophically, it can be traced back to differing views of the nature of objectivity itself, and how the concept applies to the virtue of justice and the execution of moral judgment.

This brings me to an interesting twist of the discussion’s application. I asked myself: “If I were in the position to ‘excommunicate’ a leader or two in the ‘true-believers’ camp, would I?” My automatic response was, “you bet!” But that begged the question: “Would I call that denouncement a perpetuation of Objectivism’s ‘plague,’ or perhaps explain it in more benevolent terms, based on my ‘tolerantist’ view of objectivity?”

I believe that combating the “plague” starts with a commitment to individual responsibility. If I blame Ayn Rand’s personal choices for my mindless decision to brand someone an “irrationalist” because they happen to disagree with me—I’m not taking responsibility. If I blame Objectivism for my choice to practice the virtue of justice, but misunderstand its proper application—I’m not taking responsibility. If I blame a certain organization’s teachings because I simply recycle their ideas without considering them myself—I’m not taking responsibility. Ultimately, these are scapegoats, which are used less often to explain poor choices, but more often to justify them.

Thank you for raising this issue, Barbara, which I see as relevant not only to the movement, but to our personal and professional relationships as well.

Respectfully,

Jason

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I am a big believer in connecting people’s actions to their psychological and philosophical perspectives. I look for the underlying causality. When I read Nathaniel Branden’s work I tried to understand the underlying psychological and philosophical perspective that caused his work. When I read Rand’s work, I looked for the same underlying causation.

This is what I do too, where when I read a piece of writing, there is always the sense of the person, and their context, behind the piece of writing. Divorcing the psychological and the cognitive from the philosophical the dumbest thing-- it perpetuates this vision that people are compartmentalized. On the other extreme, there are those that view people as monolithic structures.

I see this as an inability to keep context, where there's this tendency to fly off into one or the other extreme. Hopefully my future research can help me understand why some people are more prone to this behavior (what factors are involved in it) than other people.

I experienced her philosophical perspective as the most evolved I had ever seen but her psychological perspective was very unevolved. There was much that she was blind to, that she had not identified, and that she did not integrate in her own psyche.

I think in some ways she immensely lived in the "world of ideas" yet at the same time this only went so far on the introspection level. She was way more interested in what was wrong with things external to her in terms of psychology, morality, and logical consistency but not being able to apply that to herself. In a different context, it seemed she was living inside her head philosophically and trying to apply it to everything, yet the psychological barriers that she consciously or unconsciously set up hindered her. In essence, I think at times her major battles were with herself, but she did not realize it. She developed the understanding of the context of knowledge, but then it seemed like her own context of knowledge was not even accepted by herself in some cases-- and I think she didn't start off this way, but that she veered towards this as she got older. Likewise I think some people associating with her work imitated this to different degrees.

I think there was much of her psyche that was denied to conscious awareness. It was submerged to the realm of the subconscious where intuitive understandings and unknown motivations caused strange and paradoxical behaviour.

Well, I hope she didn't write about paradox.

Her psychological blindness lead to a skewed understanding of human nature; a Jekyll and Hyde approach to social interactions; a propensity to excommunicate those who threatened her self-worth

If that's how it was, then it doesn't even smack of self-worth at all. Someone who has self-worth is secure in the moment of "agreeing to disagree". A person who can't handle that has no self-worth because others' opinions matter.

that lead the culture of Objectivism, by example, to disrespect those who’s perspectives are contradictory to hers.

This is dangerous. When someone can't handle difference, and on top of that disrespects someone else because they think, or do, things differently, then it opens the floodgates to allow the "denunciator" to treat the "other" as subhuman-- and if they are subhuman, any action done upon them is "legal", or even in some cases, "mandatory". Hitler didn't call the Jews "people"-- he called them "parasites", and that opened the way for allowing all kinds of atrocities. Before any action is allowed, there must be some kind of rationalization behind it to lessen the cognitive dissonance. Basically, if you change your thinking such that who you are dealing with is not human anymore-- as "evil" or "subhuman", or some such, then you allow yourself any kind of action because you have convinced yourself (and others) that since they are not up to your standards, anything goes. In a sense, it is morality without morality.

Ultimately, Rand's psychological blindness is where the cause to “Objectivism's Plague” is to be found.

Fortunately, most of the Plague is done in words, but taken to the political sphere and irresponsibly used, can be deadly.

We have to understand more about the nature of the subconscious mind in general, and Rand’s in particular, before we can truly understand the cause of the plague.

We have to understand the mind-- our own, and in general. Unfortunately, Objectivism is not the critical thinking philosophy that I thought it was, as one must use critical thinking already present in order to navigate and use it. Therefore, I think critical thinking, autonomy, self-worth, etc. must be taught first before Objectivism; if not, then the cart is pulling the donkey. And we also have to understand that there is no "one ultimate field that dictates other fields"-- that philosophy does not rule over the activities of any other field, but that it is a GUIDELINE. Philosophy does not, in reality, rule over all other fields (which I'm glad of)-- it is an interrelated field to every other field. If I am wrong, I would challenge the fact that there has not yet even been an Objectivist philosophy of mind, nor even a philosophy of science-- although there has been much done in the scientific fields of cognitive science or neuroscience-- outlapping Objectivism. As far as I know, Oism is still trying to deal with quantum mechanics.

I believe that combating the “plague” starts with a commitment to individual responsibility.

I agree. Yet what is meant by "individual, personal responsibility" must be unpacked because I can see how some would say it's "personal responsibility" to send a person, or group of people, on the way to the gates of hell. Perhaps we can all elucidate what personal responsiblity is-- as any action taken by the individual must be understood deeply by the individual that their actions have an impact and that it could possibly boomerang back onto them.

So maybe an individual could take all the care in the world to make sure their actions are realistically relevant, contextually contingent, balanced, necessary, sagacious, benevolent, and unbiased. Perhaps tacking on "realistically relevant, contextually contingent, balanced, necessary, sagacious, benevolent, and unbiased" to all actions would educate: instead of just plain moralizing, why not use "realistically relevant, contextually contingent, balanced, necessary, sagacious, benevolent, and unbiased (a.k.a. nonprejudiced) moralizing"?

What I am driving at is that while I respect Ayn Rand and I believe her philosophy has much to add to the human experience I do not place her on a pedestal as I found a long time ago that that is just too far for a human to fall when evidence of their ability to err surfaces.

A pedestal is not necessary for hero worship. Some people tend to act it is, though, and that's where they put the blindfold on.

If all they are is followers who have no desire or ability toward self-growth which occurs with questioning of both others and ourselves, would they be of much use to Oism anyway?

I think I know what you meant by this, but I like to form the sentence in another way, just to make things clear to myself and others: What use would Oism be to these types of people?

This is just a way that I think about Oism, or any kind of -ism, doctrine, guideline, ruler, measure: that it never, ever, has a use for me. Instead, I put myself in the position of power, where it's always "What use would I have for this?" It keeps me alert, sane, and secure-- and it's all a matter of where to focus so that I never think/feel like I'm under any notion to be used. The tool doesn't use me, I use the tool. :)

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Folks, I have no time for this discussion right now. I'm in Omaha right now, with a group of college-days Objectivist friends, discussing what's wrong with the Objectivist movement, particularly the judgmentalism and purging (not to mention binging, ha-ha). Barbara, I shared your list of questions with Douglas Rasmussen, Milo Schield, and others, and they all found it very interesting. Godspeed on this discussion.

REB

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I think I know what you meant by this, but I like to form the sentence in another way, just to make things clear to myself and others: What use would Oism be to these types of people?

This is just a way that I think about Oism, or any kind of -ism, doctrine, guideline, ruler, measure: that it never, ever, has a use for me. Instead, I put myself in the position of power, where it's always "What use would I have for this?" It keeps me alert, sane, and secure-- and it's all a matter of where to focus so that I never think/feel like I'm under any notion to be used. The tool doesn't use me, I use the tool.

Thanks Jenna, O:)

My many years of being away from writing down my thoughts still surface at times, so the clarification is welcome and I realized I made an error in implying that Oism is an entity in and of itself apart from those who practice it.

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I’m enormously pleased that so many members of Objectivist Living are answering the questions I raised, and I hope to hear from many more of you. When more votes and comments are in, I’ll discuss some of your comments and outline my own views on the issue. I don’t think we will put an end to the problems that continue to be so damaging to the public image of Objectivism, but we can make a start.

I believe this issue is of overwhelming importance to the future – if there is to be a future – of the Objectivist movement. You all know the extent to which Objectivism is summarily dismissed by many people – including people with a public voice -- as simply another fanatical cult, and you all know some of the reasons why this is so. Of course many of the attacks on Objectivism and the movement are unjustified, but we must be willing to consider whether or not some of them are justified. If they are, we must recognize it and acknowledge it.

Let me give you just three shocking examples of the results of Objectivism’s plague. They provide powerful evidence that something is terribly wrong, and that the battle for ideological “purity” has gone badly off the rails. The examples all involve The Ayn Rand Institute, but I do not want to single out the Institute as the sole culprit; it happens, however, that it is the major organized and publicly recognized culprit. (I hasten to add that The Objectivist Center is markedly free of this plague.)

1. Shortly after the publication of ATLAS SHRUGGED, the Nathaniel Branden Institute was formed to answer, through public lectures, the requests that poured into Ayn Rand for a formal, systematic presentation of Objectivism. That presentation – fully and enthusiastically endorsed by Rand -- eventually was given in more than eighty cities throughout the United States and Canada (and even on a Polaris submarine somewhere under the Atlantic ocean). It marked the beginning of the Objectivist movement, a movement that altered the perception of Rand from a novelist with many radical and intriguing ideas to a philosopher-novelist who had originated a challenging and important philosophical system. Yet The Ayn Rand Institute – the most powerful and wealthy of the Objectivist organizations, avowedly dedicated to spreading Objectivism – does NOT endorse or promote Nathaniel Branden’s seminal course, “Basic Principles of Objectivism,” nor any of the other NBI courses, which Rand also praised as offering important insights into her philosophy; it does not sell these courses, and, like other orthodox Objectivists, it does not mention them. Why? Because Ayn Rand broke with Nathaniel Branden.

2. George Reisman, an economic theorist who was for many years associated with Rand and later with ARI, has written a profoundly important book – important to the wider understanding of Objectivism and capitalism – which has been praised by such Nobel Laureates in Economics as F. A. Hayek and James Buchanan. Buchanan said of it: “Reisman’s exposure of modern mercantilist fallacies takes its place alongside that of Adam Smith.” Yet ARI, avowedly dedicated to a defense of capitalism, does NOT endorse this book, does not promote or sell it, and, like other orthodox Objectivists, does not mention it. Why? Because Leonard Peikoff broke with George Reisman.

3. Chris Matthew Sciabarra’s AYN RAND: THE RUSSIAN RADICAL, a drastic reinterpretation of Rand’s intellectual development and the structure of Objectivism -- was the first and most important book to penetrate the hitherto impregnable walls of academia, an area that Rand considered crucial to the success of Objectivism, and to result in academic discussions of and interest in the formerly pariah philosophy. The book gave coherence to Rand’s rejection of the apparent irreconcilable dualism of mind and body, fact and value, theory and practice, rationalism and empiricism, a rejection central to her thinking. Yet ARI, which has announced that its important function is “to move Objectivism into today’s universities,” does NOT endorse this book, does not promote or sell it, and, like other orthodox Objectivists, does not mention it. Why? Because Rand stated that the only influences on her thinking and writing were Aristotle and Victor Hugo.

The list goes on. Major philosophical and epistemological works by David Kelley, ground-breaking works in psychology by Nathaniel Branden, the first academic journal devoted to Rand – The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies – important work by such scholars as Tibor Machan, Douglas Rasmussen, and many, many others have either been ignored by the orthodox or damned as the babblings of heretics.

What a spectacle such policies present to the world! The spectacle of people whose most fundamental dedication is not to the spread of important philosophical ideas, but to backbiting, hysterical denunciations, fanatical sectarianism, and inquisitions.

Barbara

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1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced? Far from it. How can an advocate of reason condone such an action? It's akin to saying "…because I said so." That was how the villains of Atlas Shrugged behaved.

2. Is it consistent with any or all of the principles of Objectivism? No.

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism? No.

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism? I would say, more in the errors of the true believers.

5. Does it arise from virtues in the personality and character of Ayn Rand? Not hardly.

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand? Yes, that is more likely to be true.

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism? It is found among those who treat Objectivism as a closed system of thought, more than anything. It is found among those who more closely mirror Ayn Rand's flaws, as opposed to her virtues.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations? I have seen it at Leonard Peikoff's web-site, and in the blog of Diana Hsieh. I don't know enough of the many organisations to say; but I can certainly recognise a true believer from their style.

9. Is its source to be found in a handful of nut cases of no importance or consequence? The sad thing is, I do not think these people are necessarily "nut cases." But that would be another post.

10. Is it none of the above? My answers above should answer this.

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1. Is it an entirely understandable phenomenon, needing no explanation other than the characters and actions of the people who have been denounced?

I believe it is understandable while not being condonable. I think it comes down to power.

There are many self professed Objectivists out there who truly believe they are models of objective purity. Yet, they only look at the outside world with the Objectivist magnifying glass. They ignore themselves when it comes to objective judgements. Not very objective!

I think something is missing inside of them, whether it be in their self esteem or some other part of their psycho-anatomical makeup. They, like most people, ignore it out of intellectual laziness perhaps or maybe fear or simply not knowing what to do. Anyway, they just do not want to deal with it, so they don't look at it.

We all know how nature abhores a vacuum, right? Something is going to fill the void or voids. So what happens when power comes along, rushing in to fill the holes of a Swiss Cheese Objectivist? A micro-tyrant is born.

Long story short - Why are these people carriers of the plague?

They are simply not ready to be Objectivists yet.

2. Is it consistent with any or all of the principles of Objectivism?

Nope.

3. Does it arise from strengths in the philosophy of Objectivism?

No, it arises from subjective people defining Objectivism.

4. Does it arise from errors or weaknesses in the philosophy of Objectivism?

No, it arises from the errors and weaknesses of subjective thinking tyrants.

5. Does it arise from virtues in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

No, it arises from certain people seeing the virtues of Ayn Rand, such as conviction of principles, true self esteem and character, and then they try to duplicate them. The problem is these people do not actually have any of these virtues themselves. And it shows.

6. Does it arise from flaws in the personality and character of Ayn Rand?

No, it arises from the flaws in personality and character of incomplete people.

7. Is its source to be found in the psychology and character of a particular type of person who is strongly drawn to Objectivism?

I think Eric Hoffer answered this question.

8. Is it caused by the teachings of one or more Objectivist organizations?

No, it is caused by the agendas of the leaders of one or more Objectivist organizations.

9. Is its source to be found in a handful of nut cases of no importance or consequence?

Who, me? 8-[

Seriously, Yes! Along with the lack of any viable action from the Objectivist community.

I think using the marketplace is the best way to "quarantine" the carriers. I suggest a central, non forum based, for profit site, that keeps it simple and has the "BRANDEN" name associated with it in big bold letters.

The forums will always be there and with time a weeding out process should pidgeon hole Hoffer's "fanatics" from the "True Believers."

It is sad that the only Objectivists some people see are the diseased ones.

Somewhere, right now, a small child maybe saying -

"EEEEEWWWWWWWWW! Mommy, look at the holes in that man!"

Then again, I could be wrong! :-k

gw

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My many years of being away from writing down my thoughts still surface at times, so the clarification is welcome and I realized I made an error in implying that Oism is an entity in and of itself apart from those who practice it.

I think everyone knew what you meant and how you meant it, no worries :)

I try to be nitpicky as to how I phrase things-- not like I'm striving for literary perfection-- but I do notice how words, phrases, and sentences can impart a perspective depending on how it's put together. Slight changes can remind me of big things. Someone else said on this forum that "Objectivism doesn't use you, you use Objectivism" and since then I have paid a lot more attention to how I interact with ideas.

And how one's interaction with ideas, re: this particular thread, obviously has bad, as well as good, consequences.

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Barbara,

Thank you for submitting this list of questions. No doubt this will be an extremely important thread for analyzing where Objectivism went wrong. For now, I just want to offer some preliminary thoughts.

It is easy enough to make the case for using moral condemnation as a means of (a) protecting one’s personal integrity and (b) safeguarding the purity of Objectivism. These two justifications have been the key ones used by the Objectivist hierarchy (primarily Rand and Peikoff) in all of the major purges. Of course, Objectivism is not unique in this regard. A great many ideological movements—from psychoanalysis to Hegelianism to all major religions—have made it a practice to dispel infidels for similar offenses against officialdom. But few secular belief systems have made it so convenient to combine accusations of ideological deviance with charges of personal and moral misconduct, thereby justifying exile from the official ‘movement’ (whatever that is) as well as the total dismissal of a human being from one’s life.

An important issue here is whether or not this is ever a legitimate course of action when the “perpetrator” is clearly acting out of a rational, conscientious concern for truth. It is as though there were some inherent contradiction between the principle that “Every is implies an ought” and an assumption of innocence in such matters. We must always be ready to cite the underlying villainy. In the eyes of the public, outright dismissal of an individual for deviating from orthodoxy implies some very uncomplimentary things about that philosophy, alienating those who might be making an honest effort to comprehend a radically new belief system.

In the Objectivist ethics, immorality is considered evil and anti-life. Theoretically, one can make a case for cutting immoral (i.e., irrational) people out of one’s life because their refusal to act in accordance with reason could potentially threaten the rational well-being of innocent people with whom they come in contact. In the history of Objectivism, such “repudiations” have been far too numerous to fall within the parameters of common sense. Of course, the accusers always maintain that the transgressions surpass the category of “errors of knowledge” and reflect overt dishonesty, revealing psychological “corruption” which makes simple re-education inconsistent with basic ethical principles. A prolonged phase of contrite rehabilitation is then required before they can be deemed trustworthy again.

The actual term of their sentence is typically whatever enables the executioner to effectively dismiss that individual from further consideration during the balance of his lifetime, but this is not always the case. It is amusing to note that today’s Grand Inquisitor, Leonard Peikoff, was himself often temporarily exiled by Miss Rand for conduct unbecoming, but was always allowed back into the fold with his contrite tail tucked opprobriously between his legs.

Of course, once the personal condemnation has been pronounced, an orthodox Objectivist will invariably add that his action is required in the name of maintaining ideological purity. They will contend that other philosophical movements have failed because their adherents did not insist upon a thoroughgoing internal theoretical consistency among their adherents. The ‘repudiation’ will then be advocated as mandatory on the macro as well as the micro level. We shall not prevail if we do not provide a rational example and demonstrate the clarity of consistency to the public at large. In reality, of course, as already noted, outsiders tend to perceive such apparent dogmatism as symptomatic of an intellectual position that is weak and ultimately indefensible.

The first excommunication I knew about was that of journalist Edith Efron. Shortly thereafter came the Great Schism—the break with Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. Long before that, there was Isabel Paterson, Henry Hazlitt, Bennett Cerf and John Hospers. No doubt the list is much, much longer. In the post-Branden era, there were Erika and Henry Holzer, Robert Hessen and Kay Nolte Smith. Following Ayn’s death, Peikoff honored the tradition by purging David Kelley, George Reisman and Edith Packer. Aristotelian scholar Allan Gotthelf and economist Richard Sanford also appear to have earned the status of persona non grata, although I do not know for a fact that they were officially “repudiated.”

It is simply not reasonable to justify such an extensive record of emotional carnage in the name of a moral crusade. It should be blatantly obvious that the more this practice continues to be defended by its leadership, the more it tarnishes Objectivism as a viable philosophical viewpoint.

The case of David Kelley is somewhat unique in that it explicitly involves a philosophical disagreement with respect to moral judgment. In many of these cases, needless to say, the only crime committed by the individual was that of insufficient idolatry of the philosophy’s founder. In other words, the individual did something to offend Ayn Rand, and her response was to find some way to demonstrate that such behavior represented deliberate irrationality and immorality. If the fundamental issue were philosophical rather than personal, why would it be necessary to banish that individual’s past contributions to the philosophy’s literature? If their prior contributions were deemed legitimate and valuable, why do they suddenly become otherwise when the individual who wrote them mysteriously begins to stray from orthodoxy?

Following their break, Ayn Rand announced that the prior contributions of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden were consistent with Objectivism, but that she could not endorse their future works. From that day forward, however, any reference to their prior writings was effectively airbrushed from the literature. If it had been possible for Ayn Rand to remove their past articles from her published books and magazines, does anyone doubt that she would have done so? Such practices underscore the conclusion that the primary issue is personal. From the standpoint of the philosophy, their writings were no less valid after the break than they had been before—but Ayn Rand did not wish to give them further credit for those contributions, so they were treated as if they had never been written.

The exact same pattern is true with respect to Leonard Peikoff’s condemnation of David Kelley. Shortly before bringing out his article condemning Kelley for the crime of speaking to a libertarian group, this writer overheard Peikoff recommend Kelley’s brilliant book, The Evidence of the Senses, to a member of his audience at an Objectivist conference in La Jolla, California. The individual had some questions about the validity of sense perception, and Peikoff referred him to Kelley’s wonderful book. Following the publication of “Fact and Value,” however, that particular work of Objectivism was no longer deemed an appropriate reference. And the same pattern held true, years later, with regard to George Reisman’s monumental work, Capitalism.

So much for the importance of philosophical purity. There is a huge difference between the practice of not promoting an author’s works, and pretending they do not exist. To obliterate an author’s valid contributions to Objectivism’s literature is to elevate personal condemnation above the goal of ideological education.

It might be reasonable to claim that certain individuals deserved to be permanently banished from the movement for conduct so heinous that any association of that individual with that ideology would hinder its growth. Needless to say, concealing a love affair or speaking to a libertarian group are scarcely in that category.

In his autobiography, My Years With Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden spoke of his regret about the role he had once played in this madness. He described his motivation in this way: “I looked for alternative ways to reassure Ayn of my devotion. I became her ‘enforcer.’ “ Can anyone doubt the power of this woman to exert such control when, more than 20 years after her death, this practice continues within and without institutionalized Objectivism?

The purges and condemnations which have decimated Objectivism from within are largely a reflection of the rather obvious psychological imperfections of the movement’s founder, Ayn Rand. The fact that her penchant for condemnation does not exactly set her apart from the leaders of other intellectual movements throughout history is interesting from a historical standpoint, but scarcely relevant to the legitimacy of this practice. Her intellectual heir, Leonard Peikoff, could not be expected to depart from custom and exhibit any significant self-restraint in this area. His continuation of this self-destructive ideological charade was easily predictable as an expression of his own sycophantic devotion. It is tragic that so many of the brilliant minds surrounding him have extended the same blind deference to him that he has extended to Miss Rand.

Objectivism deserves better. The general public will only embrace radical new ideas when those ideas are presented with a respect for their initial skepticism. If ever a philosophy did not require condemnation of dissension to insure its survival, it is Objectivism. Everything about Ayn Rand’s philosophy—quite apart from her own enigmatic psychological tendencies—suggests that her ideas can only flourish in the open market of rational debate. A clear understanding of its principles is all any serious advocate of Objectivism needs to demonstrate its superiority in the context of any reasonable discussion or debate. Religion and collectivism need authoritarianism and intimidation. We don’t. Let’s start acting like it.

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