|Jeff writes: "I hope that helps make my earlier posts a bit more understandable."|
It does, Jeff, and that was a good post. You bring up a lot of points and I would like to take a look at it from a couple of other angles.
The first one is the issue of psychological diagnoses in people that one does not know well, especially in regards to one's Objectivist adversaries. Its an easy game to play, to observe some behavior and attribute it emotional dysfunction or neuroses or whatever. This may very well generate a lot of applause to if you are doing it to a crowd that doesn't like the other people.
The reason I think a lot of people retreat to this arena (and far too often) lies in a basic fact of consciousness--that another person's consciousness is not directly perceptible. Another person's own private world is accessible only by what they reveal, and there is a lot that is not seen. But to some, it is an open invitation to engage in arbitrary speculation about what is happening inside another's head--a very nonobjective enterprise. Rand's answer to the question--"Is it proper to judge the psychological motives of a person based on his ideas?"--is very instructive here (Ayn Rand Answers, pg 169):
...to arrive at a psychological verdict on the psychology of a man they [psychologists diagnosing Goldwater] had never met, which is just as improper professionally, if not worse, than a doctor diagnosing a medical disease in somebody he's never met....If you wanted to expose a psychological aberration, you'd need to analyze what's wrong with an idea and then demonstrate that only improper motives A, B, and C could lead to anyone holding such an idea...To deduce the motives of a man from is writings is improper and nonobjective, because there could be ten million motives for the same kind of action... I suggest that others read the whole answer because I left out some good parts in order to essentialize. Here, one can look at another's denunciations (or shifting evaluations or whatever) and analyze, they are statements afterall. Take these at face value and use them as a working template to evaluate methods, but speculations about the causes in another's consciousness is improper and unwarranted. If it was just to highlight the methods, then fair enough.
Secondly, when comparing other people by way of their methods, keep your context of whom you are comparing. Human consciousness is very complex, but there are a lot of commonalities on many levels and one can tune it down to "narrow senses" and establish all kinds of links. However, when this is not done by essentials, the comparison can look ridiculous (Hitler example post #131). Jeff, if you don't find the mentioned people to be horrible, then a comparison to horrible people is unwarranted; otherwise, restricting it down to "narrow senses" looks a lot more like rationalization.
So yes, Jeff, I want to correct on one count. I know you didn't do it as a general smear of Objectivism. I was trying to get people to pay attention to subtler levels when making comparisons like that, even if directed at specific individuals in narrow respects.
You make a good observation of the division in Objectivism based on both content and method. To be honest, I think there are good reasons for this division and good reasons NOT to find common cause. You mention some specifics (truth/toleration, ethics of emergencies, etc.), but there is one I find growing by the minute--moral judgment. A lot of people, particularly followers of N. Branden, have perceived this to be Judgmentalism vs. Non-Judgmentalism. To be fair to Mr. Branden, a lot of followers may have taken the ball and run with it way beyond what he perhaps intended. However, he does not help himself with a very concrete-bound view of moral judgment (see his answer on moral judgment in the interview with Alex Mouhibian).
A lot of people have also leapt on his criticisms of Rand and moral judgment, consider these statements:
One of the mistakes that Rand makes all over the place is that after she condemns a belief or an action, she goes on to tell you the psychology of the person who did it, as if she knows. I focus my judgment on the action and not on the person. (Alex Mouhibian interview)and
To look on the dark side, however, part of her vision of justice is urging you to instant contempt for anyone who deviates from reason or morality or what is defined as reason or morality. Errors of knowledge may be forgiven, she says, but not errors of morality. Even if what people are doing is wrong, even if errors of morality are involved, even if what people are doing is irrational, you do not lead people to virtue by contempt. (The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand)Now, the first question is whether she actually did this in practice, which I'll leave to others to debate. He uses her articles on esthetics to buttress this claim. Others also use the "judge, and prepare to be judged" or the "One must never fail to pronounce moral judgement" quotes to support this as well. But is this fair to what Rand actually said on the subject? Let's take a better look at her writings (in VOS--"How Does One Lead a Rational Life"):
Nothing can corrupt and disintegrate a culture or a man's character as thoroughly as does the precept of moral agnosticism, the idea that one must never pass moral judgment on others, that one must be morally tolerant of anything....But to pronounce moral judgment is an enormous responsibility. To be a judge, one must possess an unimpeachable character; one need not be omniscient or infallible, and it is not an issue of errors of knowledge; one needs unbreached integrity, that is, the absence of any indulgence in conscious, willful evil....so every rational person must maintain an equally strict solemn integrity in the courtroom within his own mind, where the responsibility is more awesome than in a public tribunal....(italics mine)A little later in the same article:
The opposite of moral neutrality is not a blind, arbitrary, self-righteous condemnation of any idea, action or person that does not fit one's mood, one's memorized slogans or one's snap judgment of the moment. Indiscriminate tolerance and indiscriminate condemnation are not two opposites: they are two variants of the same evasion.....It is not an easy task [moral judgment], it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one's feelings, "instincts" or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involves the moral character of another person. (italics mine)So compare NB's quotes against what Rand said, you'll see an enormous gap. From my Brandenian days, one thing became clear to me, there was a huge difference in a view of moral judgment, and how to apply it. I could see that, in my soul, I was Randian with respect to moral judgment and I was in the wrong arena. On the Non-Judgementalist side there is gaping holes, the most important of which is that one is confronted with morality every day of one's life. Non-Judgmentalism will tend to immunize one against how to properly use it, which is a matter of sufficient evidence, NOT of not exercising it.
What is my point in running on with this? Rand was a moralist, and huge breaches on moral judgment are going to create divisions in Objectivism, much deeper than people appreciate (based on content). Besides the personality conflicts involved, I think some more attention needs to be paid to the substantive issues in Objectivist divisions and whether it is even possible to find common cause.
As far as being upset at injustice, there is always a question of the appropriate expression of anger. And no, Jeff, I don't take offense to it being an "age thing". I fully recognize that. There's a lot of other factors in play with respect to personal style and one which I would like to mention--and this will shock some here--it is competitiveness. Yes, competitiveness, some people regard this as so foreign to the intellectual realm. It seems like a number of Objectivists have forgotten or don't know how to win. They would rather write articles cloaked in academicspeak with little intelligibility. Fine, there's a time and place for looking at subjects in a "cold light", but there is also an effectiveness in combining substance with fire. The key here is--have a better message.
(Edited by Michael Moeller on 5/12, 7:18am)