Neil Parille

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  1. New biography of Rand coming in August: WWW.AMAZON.COM
  2. Speaking of books, Yaron said the other day that he doesn't know why the Milgram Knapp bio has taken "longer than I hoped or expected."
  3. She has interesting things to say when it comes to Objectivism. When she talks about other things such as religion she should be used with some caution.
  4. I don't know much about this area of law, but people make millions of videos like this every year - excerpting another video interspersed with comments.
  5. Valliant sent Vocab Malone a cease and desist letter over this. Vocab told me he's not budging.
  6. No reply from Ben Bayer. Interesting that as usual no mention in the video of PARC.
  7. A recent interview with Harry and Ben Bayer. I'm not good at time stamping. It starts at 46:20 Hi Ben, Enjoyed the discussion, interesting anecdotes and observations. I wanted to point out that Harry misrepresents Barbara's biography on her final meeting and phone call with Rand. As Harry says, Rand and Barbara met in Rand's New York apartment in 1981. According to Barbara, after the meeting, she sent Rand a letter stating that she was writing Rand's biography. When Rand didn't respond, Barbara called her. Rand refused to talk. Barbara says she was certain that this was most likely due to Rand's disapproval of the prospective biography. Harry doesn't mention the letter and implies Barbara first sprang the idea of the biography in the phone call and asked for Rand's assistance. He says Barbara claims that the final conversation was of a ""I'm sorry that things didn't work out" variety. That's not what she writes. (The existence of the post-meeting letter telling Rand about the biography is confirmed by Cynthia Peikoff in 100 Voices) Feel free to share this with Harry. I don't think he'd open one of my emails. Regards, Neil
  8. James flips out again. Go to 2:02.40 James S. Valliant Author of Creating Christ enters Paradigm Shift TV 314 - YouTube
  9. Here is something else from Valliant. He and Rabbi Singer repeat the probably false claim that Christians settled on December 25 as Jesus's birthday because there were December 25 Sun God celebrations. I've sent Valliant the documentation that this is likely false, but he repeats it here as if it's not controversial.
  10. The debate between Craig Biddle and Stephen Hicks concerning Open versus Close Objectivism took place last month in Belgrade, Serbia. Biddle took the Closed position and Hicks the Open position. I enjoyed the debate and thought each side presented his position well. There wasn’t the rancor that one might expect for what has often been a contentious issue. For background on the Open versus Closed controversy see here. Biddle took a reasonable approach. Ayn Rand died in 1982 and the positions she set forth in her books and essays constitutes Objectivism. He conceded that there are philosophical topics that Rand didn’t discuss – such as propositions and the problem of induction – but what she did discuss constitutes Objectivism. Any extension of Objectivism outside of this is not part of Objectivism no matter how consistent it might be with Objectivism. He also said that if Objectivism were open, then one would never know what precisely Objectivism is. Is it Rand’s Objectivism plus Peikoff’s extensions or Objectivism plus Hicks’ extensions? Biddle, however, went on say that there were aspects of Rand’s thought that are incidental and shouldn’t be considered Objectivism, such as her opposition to homosexuality and a woman president. He even said that these positions are in effect contrary to Objectivism because a consistent application of Objectivism would lead to the opposite conclusions. This assumes that there are essential and non-essential parts to Objectivism.* Rand never said this, much less provided guidance on how one separates the essential from the non-essential. Consider taxation, which Rand considered immoral. Ideally, government should be funded by voluntary contributions. Is this incidental to Objectivism? One could make an Objectivist argument for taxation. Contrary to anarcho-capitalism, for Rand government is necessary. If government is necessary then shouldn’t it insist that citizens provide support via taxation (which in Rand’s view would be small)?* Hicks compared Objectivism to a science, giving the example of Newtonian physics. Hicks said one could still call himself a Newtonian post Einstein because Einstein’s physics is at most a modification of Newton’s physics. He said one should look at Objectivism as a method for discovering philosophical truth. He asked whether some of Rand’s ideas might need to be revised in light of later science. He gave the example of Rand’s theory of concept formation which is potentially subject to revision because of recent findings in neuroscience. Rand, however, seemed to look at philosophy as in effect the master science. Taken to an extreme, this implies one can’t properly understand contemporary findings in science outside the interpretive lens of Objectivism.*** Hicks conceded that there is a core to Objectivism and one can only go so far in rejecting this or that teaching of Objectivism and still consider oneself an Objectivist. Unfortunately, the debate format – lengthy presentations from each side – didn’t allow for much back and forth on this question, which seems to be the essence of the controversy. I’ll close with a few comments: 1. One factor not discussed is that Rand died in 1982. Not only that, but some of her most important members of the “Second Collective” are still alive such as Leonard Peikoff (Rand’s self-identified “intellectual heir”), Harry Binswanger and Peter “Don’t let the door hit you in the back” Schwartz. If Rand had died in 1882, the question of Open versus Closed Objectivism would probably be discussed no more than Kant’s contemporary followers discuss whether his system is open or closed. 2. The Ayn Rand Institute – which has the support of Peikoff and which will inherit the rights to her books – is well-funded. The ARI has staked out a claim that it is the expert on Rand’s thought and its contemporary application. Not surprisingly, the ARI is the leading advocate of the Closed position. (However, the ARI has no problem claiming that Rand would have despised Donald Trump or serially rewriting Rand’s posthumously published material.) In fairness to Biddle, he is not on good terms with the ARI so no one should question his sincerity. 3. I don’t know what Rand would have thought about this; however she was rather zealous in guarding her thought. As Nathaniel Branden wrote pre-split, “In the future, when Objectivism has become an intellectual and cultural movement on a wider scale, when a variety of authors have written books dealing with some aspect of the Objectivist philosophy – it could be appropriate for those in agreement to describe themselves as ‘Objectivists.’ However, at present, when the name is so intimately associated with Rand and me, it is not. At present, a person who is in agreement with our philosophy should describe himself, not as an Objectivist, but as a student or supporter of Objectivism.” ____________ *I am indebted to Scott Schiff for this and other insights. **Rand seemed to concede as much. In “Government Financing in a Free Society,” she suggested that the state could impose a “voluntary” surcharge on contracts which parties would not be forced to pay. However, if they didn’t pay, the government would not enforce the contract. This sounds as voluntary as paying the Mafia protection money. ***Hence the perhaps apocryphal statement attributed to Peikoff: “Philosophy has a veto over physics.” Note that Peikoff opposes Big Bang cosmology because it was first developed by a Catholic priest and has, at least to some, theistic implications.
  11. Thanks. I've mentioned that in the past but forgot it for some reason.
  12. Thanks for the comments. Most of the criticisms of IQ here are addressed in R. Warne's recent book: In the Know.
  13. I posted this over at Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature Blog. Wonder if anyone has thoughts. _________________ [Introductory Note: the following is an important article by ARCHNBlog contributor Neil Parille. One thing to bear in mind in relation to the subject of intelligence is that the correlation between measured intelligence (i.e., IQ) and societal outcome success is one of the highest correlations ever measured by social science. The persisting skepticism of intelligence in orthodox Objectivist circles constitutes, as Neil explains in this essay, the legacy of Rand's blank slatism.] One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that Objectivists are, like apparently a fair percentage of the population, skeptical of intelligence tests (which I’ll call IQ tests). A while ago I heard Ayn Rand Institute president Yaron Brook claim that IQ tests are “B.S.” (he didn’t use the abbreviation). Perhaps less surprising is that Objectivists are generally skeptical of the contention that intelligence is a highly heritable (put colloquially, genetic) trait. As I’ve mentioned before, there is quite a disconnect between what psychologists know about intelligence and what the average person believes. Here is what probably close to 100% of experts in the field of intelligence research believe: 1. There is such a thing as intelligence. Some people are better at math, have a bigger vocabulary and are better at solving problems of all kinds. 2. IQ tests reliably measure what we consider intelligence. 3. Intelligence is a highly heritable trait, probably in the 50 to 80% range.* 4. IQ correlates to a variety of life outcomes. Higher IQ people on average commit less crime, have less illegitimacy, have lower rates of drug use, etc. If you don’t believe me, here are three prominent left wing intelligence researchers. Here is Rand’s definition of intelligence: “Intelligence is the ability to deal with a broad range of abstractions. Whatever a child’s natural endowment, the use of intelligence is an acquired skill. It has to be acquired by a child’s own effort and automatized by his own mind, but adults can help or hinder him in this crucial process.” It is occasionally said by Objectivists and others that there are kinds of intelligence or aspects of intelligence that aren’t captured or measured by IQ tests. This idea was made popular by Harvard University’s Howard Gardner in his book Multiple Intelligences. Gardner listed among other types of purported intelligence musical ability and athletic ability. Most would consider these things skills. In any event, this dubious theory doesn’t undercut the consensus view of intelligence. For example, if you consider playing baseball a form of intelligence, it is still the case that given two equally gifted baseball players the one with the higher IQ will tend to be a better player. Put differently, nothing has been identified as a form of intelligence which inversely correlates to IQ. Leonard Peikoff was asked in 2016 what Ayn Rand’s IQ might have been. He responded that he didn’t have any idea because IQ was not a topic in the Objectivist community during Rand’s life. He said that he didn’t know whether IQ tests were valid. I recall, but can’t find the podcast, where Peikoff was asked if Rand believed intelligence had a genetic basis. His response was that Rand didn’t think it mattered because we don’t use all of our brain power (or words to that effect). This is a common claim but, if one thinks about it, is untrue. If someone has an accident and loses twenty percent of his cognitive functioning, he is unlikely to increase his mental ability to his pre-injury level by more effort. It does seem that Objectivists who are informed on these issues accept the consensus. Edwin Locke is a prominent Objectivist psychologist and an expert in the field of motivational psychology. In his 2017 book, The Illusion of Determinism, he accepts that intelligence is genetic in the 50 to 80% range. He sees egalitarianism behind the multiple intelligences theory, e.g., “we are all equally smart, just in different ways.” In his 2020 Objectivist Conference talk he discussed IQ tests and accepted their validity. Harry Binswanger said in a couple podcasts that he thinks IQ tests measure intelligence and intelligence is at least moderately heritable. I imagine that many Objectivists have a hard time accepting the high heritability of intelligence for a few reasons: First, it conflicts with their blank slate view of human nature.* As Rand famously said, man is a “being of self-made soul.” In her essay “Racism,” Rand defined racism as “the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry.” Taken to the extreme this means that every person is born with the potential to be a Newton since Newton’s genius must have been unrelated to his “body chemistry.” (But note that in her definition of intelligence Rand referenced a child’s natural endowment.) Yet if intelligence is highly heritable then nature places a limit on human ability. The average IQ is 100. It takes an IQ of 115 to be an accountant and an IQ of 130 to be a Ph.D. research scientist. It follows then that the average person will not be able to become an accountant and the average accountant won’t be able to become a physicist. Second, an additional reason is the correlation between intelligence and desirable life outcomes. Put differently, people with an average IQ of 110 will have an easier time navigating the difficulties of life than people with an average IQ of 90. Some people are just born to be more successful than others. Although high IQ people can make a mess of their life, the Bernie Madoffs of the world are the exception. Third, Objectivists, like Rand, contend that achievement is largely a question of proper epistemology. In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand considered the world’s problems to be largely caused by an inability to solve “the problem of universals” (which she considered to be synonymous with a theory of concept formation). I’d rather have a good theory of concept formation than a bad one, but there is no evidence to believe that Objectivists develop scientific breakthroughs at a higher rate than others. Fourth, if intelligence is highly heritable, then what about other traits such as political beliefs, personal honesty or industriousness? Evidence shows that there is at least a moderate genetic component to these as acknowledged by up and coming Objectivist psychologist Gena Gorlin. _______________________ *This is established by studies of identical twins separated at birth and adopted into families with different socio-economic status. The IQ of an adopted child correlates to the IQ of the biological parents than the adopting parents. **I’ve heard Objectivists say that Rand’s view of man being a blank slate is limited to the rejection of innate knowledge and isn’t necessarily related to the nature/nurture debate. On the other hand, I’ve corresponded with at least a couple prominent Objectivists who claim that males are not innately more aggressive than females notwithstanding that this is observed everywhere and persists even when attempts are made to raise boys and girls equally. See James Q. Wilson’s Crime and Human Nature.
  14. Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature: Objectivist Schisms: an Overview by Neil Parille AYNRANDCONTRAHUMANNATURE.BLOGSPOT.COM As observers of Objectivism know, schisms are a perennial part of the world of Objectivism. In particular, the “official Objectivism” going ...