Sunday, August 16, 2009

Retouching Rand

I posted this piece over at Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature. Probably my hardest-hitting piece. For those few viewers of my blog I should note that I have a relatively high opinion of Rand, certainly higher than my posts would indicate. I hope to do a series on the things I like about Rand starting in September.


Richard said...

But Neil, history remembers Aristotle for the GOOD in what he developed. It does not decry his faulty ethics, but celebrates his logic.

Why focus on unimportant details in Rand's ideas or life?

Why participate in seeking any excuse to put 'concrete overshoes' on a heroic mind? Why insist on philosophical Schadenfreude?

Why join with gleeful nihilists, deceitful half-truth manipulators, & crowing subjective pseudo-intellectuals (Nyquist), to pursue any avenue of doubt they may discover by abandoning conceptual hierarchy and context? Yes, that is the basis, or root, of ALL their arguments.

Why entertain and defend frauds, who seek to capitalize on Rand's coattails, and who seek the unearned whilst practicing the opposite of her philosophical principles? (The pursuit of the unearned IS, intellectually, the ongoing motivation of both Brandens.)

David Kelley was rejected (tearfully) by serious Objectivists for his perfidious treatment of true Objectivist principle. Why would you choose to play the same game, rather than thoughtfully examine, and discover what Kelley (& the Brandens, & all at The Objectivist Center) never sought to understand? Why be like Eddie Willers, convinced that one should do what is Right, yet never bothering to grasp what that rosy ideal really means?

There is a very good reason why many key Objectivists, who once admired Kelley (as Rand admired N. Branden), no longer associate with, or tolerate, Kelley's views. Surely your own sense of rightness and of contradiction behooves you to look at why with greater care.

For example, why do you suppose Diana Hsieh eventually quit The Objectivist Center (TOC) in horror?

"Horror", Neil, entails no small (secular) revelation. It is seeing beneath the soft and gentle concern of a man's arguments, to see their ultimate consequences as being evil.

Surely such nihilists as Greg Nyquist and Daniel Barnes, whose arguments are transparently contrived rationalism, are not your intellectual allies! Your alliance with them in reviews and blog posts places you all too firmly beneath even the low moral level set by TOC.

Neil Parille said...


I saw that Diana Hsieh recently accused David Kelley of being "dishonest."

Does she think Peikoff and Harriman are dishonest? Do you?

Favela Cranshaw said...

Your response to Richard is beyond feeble. Why don't you address his accusations? I was hoping for honesty.

Richard said...

Gosh, out of nowhere (as I see it) Favela hits the nail on its head. She addresses precisely the intellectual and moral evasion inherent in Parille's response.

Parille also reveals considerable lack of awareness of Ms. D. Hsieh's evaluation of Mssrs. Kelley and Brandon. Parille should visit Diana's web page dealing with such matters to see her thoughtful arguments on her experiences with TOC, et al.

When Kelley defected to subjectivism OPAR had not been written.

Sadly, friends of mine followed Kelley. I knew his view was wrong, because I had long doubted the academic view that all new scientific knowledge should be openly shared, to anyone.

If a scientist works to discover cheap energy, should he not be rewarded for his discovery by MORE than simple praise and awards? I saw that 'Nobel' perspective as a rejection of material value, and as a confiscation of material value, on the grounds that public esteem, in altruism, is the more important 'profit' an academic should pursue!

That is, material value is secondary to academic superiority, and is subordinate to spiritual value. That is, the academic has found a Platonic Essence, and in doing so he has found an Intrinsic value to which all men should hew. Kelley is caught in this game but, because the material World is the only World, he can only fail.

I remember Ridpath's tears over Kelley's refusal to even discuss his errors with his closest friends. Kelley was tied, as an absolute, to typical academic collectivism: "my ideas are free fodder for everyone, regardless of how dishonest & evil their manipulations may be. We are, simply, morally equivalent souls wrestling with ideas." What an enormous error of judgment!

By the above "doublethink" Kelley, the Brandens, Libertarians & Communists have been able to gain unearned credibility. They set "open-mindedness" as a value that supersedes justice, honesty, & reason, suggesting, "be open-minded even when the argument you face is irrational".

So it is in academia, and so that mentality is used against those who exert careful and precise protection of Objectivism. Kelley wants his cake to be seen as reason, but wants us to eat its unreasonable content too!

Neil Parille said...

If Diana Hsieh prefers the ARI's brand of Objectivism to Kelley's, that's all well and good.

What does that have to do with whether the ARI should promote a deliberately false view of Rand?

Favela Cranshaw said...

Pot calling the kettle black.

Richard said...

Neil, go and actually read the material Ms. Hsieh wrote. Also, keep in mind that she was in the TOC & Branden fold, but did the hard thinking needed to escape it. I would that more people should actually think, which by no coincidence is the primary message of Objectivism.

Your response asks that I a) speak for Ms. Hsieh, and b) that I have some sort of omniscience with respect to Peikoff, whilst leaving the honesty of your sources as unimpeachable. One might conclude that you gave no consideration to the series of questions I posed?[*]

Frankly, I am skeptical of J.Burns as well as any who give credence to anything written by the Barbara (BB) or Nathaniel (NB) Branden. I have read their, respectively, "The Passion of Ayn Rand" and "Judgement Day".

TPAR starts out quite factually, but the latter half focuses on blemishes. The astute reader grasps that he is being subjected to an exercise of converting any blemish into boils and abscesses. He detects a veiled resentment —that motivates the exercise— begins to realize he being subjected to dishonest rationalizations (the redundancy is for emphasis). The book becomes less of a biography of Rand and more of an attempt by BB to whitewash the circumstances by which Rand broke with her. Of course, BB did not publish the book until years later, after Rand died; thus, BB would face no direct rebuttal or factual dispute.

Other TPAR readers only 'adopt' the sub-text message, that Rand IS riddled with boils and abscesses. These readers are naive (not in the sense of being childish) or relish cutting down tall poppies.

JD by Nathaniel is a very similar exercise. While NB is a more subtle writer, the book quickly becomes an obvious and preposterous rationalization for his actions and attitudes towards, not only Rand, but all of Objectivism.

The entire mentality boils down to hating the good for being good. When other writers/bloggers etc. eagerly adopt Branden-like behavior and Branden-like claims, and leap to find fault at the slightest clue, it becomes clear that it is not Truth they seek. They stoop to muckraking for minutiae, by which they can gleefully fault the Good. They parallel cheap tabloid writers who report, with similar glee, that Elle Macpherson wore a frumpy dress with a crass hairdo.

Some of these muckrakers go further, pretending to a more academic approach. They assume a lofty, intellectual superiority whilst engaging in dropped contexts, stolen concepts and other fractures of the conceptual hierarchy so as to critique Rand's epistemological discoveries!! Yet, for all their pseudo-intellectual posturing, their subtext projects the same glee of the tabloid muckrakers. These charlatans would be laughable if they were not so calculatedly dishonest.

I suggest the "retouching", of which you have written, is only significant to muckrakers, and not an issue of the character of the minds behind ARI.

[*] I believe the method of your response to me is patently dishonest. The details you focus upon, and the manner & venues by which you have sought to 'expose' ARI are equally dishonest.

Jennifer Burns said...


A lot of what I'm blogging about touches on these issues, but some of it will probably surprise you. Based on my experience at the Archive, which is affiliated with but not contiguous with ARI, there is change afoot.


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