Frenzied Denunciations

 Posted by on 24 April 2004 at 3:21 pm  Uncategorized
Apr 242004

What follows is basically a reply to Jim Heaps-Nelson’s comment on my post on Objectivism as a closed system. Some of what I say is of sufficiently general interest that I thought it worthy of its own post.

Jim writes:

You state that you are in agreement with Peikoff’s statement that the fundamental principles of a philosophy are set down once and for all by its founder. Let’s look at a historical example to look at how erroneous this is: the political philosophy of the Founding Fathers. Are you saying that the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery is not an integral part of the Constitution? Clearly this is absurd.

Clearly, it is absurd — because it’s wholly irrelevant to the open/closed system debate. The abolition of slavery with the Thirteenth Amendment did not posthumously change the political philosophies of the individual Founding Fathers who supported the institution. It changed the Constitution and thus the from-then-on governing principles of the nation. The US Constitution might embody certain principles of philosophy, but it is not itself a philosophy.

As for Jim’s various criticisms of ARI, let me note a few points. I am not a supporter or defender of ARI. I know far too little about the organization to qualify as such, despite my agreement on the closed system issue. Certainly, I have been quite impressed and even delighted with much of what I’ve seen from ARI and ARI scholars. I’ve also realized that many of the common criticisms of ARI heard in TOC circles are simply wrong in various respects. My substantial concerns and questions about ARI policies and practices have not vanished into thin air. Rather, they are being addressed in the course of private conversations with knowledgeable ARI supporters whose judgments I respect and trust.

In fact, Jim’s criticism here seems like a prime example of the way in which TOC supporters often leap to the worst possible interpretation of ARI-connected actions:

As Chris Sciabarra has mentioned, ARI has resorted to voice-overs which cover up the voices of Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden in their audiotapes. These kinds of Bolshevik-style blank outs are clearly not the hallmark of an organization devoted to the search for truth.

Jim, do you know that the reason for the voice-overs was to rewrite NB and BB out of Objectivist history? Have you asked knowledgeable ARI people about it? Did you even consider whether some other explanation might be possible, e.g. legal reasons related to copyright? Personally, I know basically nothing about this issue — and that is precisely why I am unwilling to infer dishonesty in the quick and easy way you do.

Also, I know that Peikoff’s lecture courses (bought recently) include occasional favorable references to David Kelley and George Walsh. If whitewashing is the driving force that you claim it is at ARI, why would they not have edited out those references too?

So if you have a comprehensive critique of Truth and Toleration, let’s have it. If not, by all means continue the debate and critiques but let’s lower the level of frenzied denunciations in this Blog.

“Frenzied denunciations”?!? Now that’s quite revealing. If you can muster actual arguments against my criticisms of TOC work, you are more than welcome to post them. But I categorically refuse to allow my passion for ideas be used as a weapon against me.

My critiques of TOC work have certainly been passionate. That’s not surprising, since the issue matters to me in a very deep and personal way. Moreover, I do not regard passion as inimical to objectivity. TOC has been routinely churning out abysmal crap for some time now. Many TOC supporters are unaware of that, as they long ago lost interest due to sheer boredom. Others do not possess the knowledge or skills to see the problems quickly or clearly. And others offer excuses that need to be exposed as inadequate, even absurd.

Notably, the downward spiral of my basic judgment of TOC begun in late 2002 has persisted even since the publication of my public statement of disassociation. Further thinking, reading, and discussions have resulted in an ever-increasing awareness of the subjectivism and mind-body dichotomy central to the philosophy which justifies TOC’s very existence.

As a final note, my long commentary on Truth and Toleration has been delayed by both work for school and a need to think through various issues. I’ll be able to resume work on it in June, after the semester and a vacation is over. In the meantime, I’m likely to keep posting more exploratory and preliminary commentary here on NoodleFood.

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