I just posted the following to OWL:
Phil Coates’ recent posts (of November 15th and 19th) admonished all of us to take a more active interest in the Objectivist movement both on and offline. In particular, he argued that OWL suffers from a lack of quality and quantity, as well as too-academic of an orientation.
But Phil is wrong to tar listmembers with such a broad brush. Not only is Phil ignorant of what listmembers do in their time away from OWL to (directly and indirectly) promote Objectivism, but some listmembers clearly ought not be admonished in such a way.
For example, Arthur Silber has done an astounding job of bringing Rand’s ideas serious attention within the widely-read, libertarian-friendly blogosphere through his web log http://blog.light-of-reason.com. As a blogger myself, I was astonished by how quickly and effectively Arthur challenged others to take a serious look at Rand’s ideas on a wide variety of issues. I would strongly encourage listmembers to check out Arthur’s site — and donate a few bucks if you like his work as much as I do. Arthur hardly deserves to be chastised by Phil’s sweeping claims about “short run egoism” in promoting Objectivism — and yet he was.
And should I be so chastised as well? I don’t spend time posting to OWL because I’m busy working on the curriculum for the 17 year olds for Camp Indecon, revising my introductory lectures on Objectivism, preparing philosophy papers for publication, getting a graduate degree in philosophy, defending my right to freedom of speech from a lawsuit, and so on. Yet, as with previous negative comments about “young academics,” Phil makes no effort to limit his generalizations to the people to whom they actually apply. Such generalizations are offensive and unjust, particularly to the very people Phil ought to be praising by his own standards.
That being said, I should mention that I absolutely refuse to grant Phil’s argument that people *ought* to be devoted to the spread of Objectivism at all. People have their own lives to lead and their own values to pursue. The primary purpose of a rational philosophy is to help people live rational lives *themselves*, not to help others in that task. If people want to see the philosophy spread, they should act effectively to achieve that end rather than passively wishing for it. But promoting Objectivism is not a duty!
Finally, let me encourage Phil to follow his own advice in promoting “fair” and “reflective” engagement on the list by replying to my post on honesty and privacy from so many months ago. This summer, Phil invited me to comment on his hasty argument in favor of lying to protect privacy in this post. I wrote up a detailed and polite response (also available here highlighting some of the errors in the argument, particularly its short-sightedness. Phil never bothered to respond. Although I’m glad that I got my argument down on paper (so to speak), Phil wasted my time by inviting me to debate and then disappearing.
Additionally, Phil has consistently infuriated listmembers with his condescending remarks about “young academics,” about Roark as a role model for teenagers rather than adults, and so on. In his patronizing approach to others on the list, Phil has done much to undermine the “supportive” community he claims to advocate.
Perhaps Phil needs to clean up his own house a bit before he comments further on how messy other people’s houses must be.
Lately, I have particularly singled out Phil’s OWL posts to read because I know their condescension and finger-waggling will infuriate me. Apparently, I’m not the only one who is so bothered. Phil is a smart and benevolent guy, so I’m not sure why he’s taken this scolding parent approach to other listmembers lately. Whatever the reason, I hope it ends soon.