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Post 500

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 3:18pmSanction this postReply
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James,

Do people who object to some of ARI's norms and practices have a "fixation"?

I mean, it's pretty hard for those engaged in scholarly work on Rand not to be looking over their shoulders, from time to time, in that organization's direction.

I know from experience that authors who decide to align themselves with ARI will withdraw manuscripts from the journal I work for, after they have been accepted by the editor and been prepared for publication. Because, after all, the journal publishes the work of unapproved authors whom ARI deems "bad for Objectivism."

As far as I can tell, you genuinely reject the following argument form: If one discredits the biographical testimony of Nathaniel and Barbara Branden, one has thus proven "the moral perfection of Ayn Rand" (a phrase actually in use, in the ARI orbit); "consequently" one has firmly established that every one of Rand's philosophical ideas is true and will never need supplementation or correction. Some in the ARI world may be using PARC to bolster such this purported argument--and if they decide to do it, they're hard to stop--but you are not.

Suppose, then, that your book achieves some success. I.e., it gets people to quit making negative comments about Rand's personal life and treating them as arguments against the truth of her ideas. With that obstacle decisively cleared off the path, no one will have an excuse not to come to grips with the ideas themselves.

Where will ARI be then? Will it be working to facilitate engagement with Rand's ideas, or trying to hinder it?

I think that one of these days you're going to be raising your own public questions about ARI.

I can promise you this much. If you do, I won't be giving you a psychological diagnosis.

Robert Campbell





Post 501

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 3:29pmSanction this postReply
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Casey writes:
>She was harsh, yes, about Russell, she may have even been wrong about his ideas, but THAT IS NOT AD HOMINEM!!!

Yes, Robert, clearly you do not realise the important conceptual distinction between:

1) "Empty insults" and "ad hominems"

and

2) "Very negative evaluations" made without a shred of supporting evidence or argument.

Fortunately James and Casey are here to straighten us all out on that one.

;-)

- Daniel




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Post 502

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 3:31pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,
Re your Post #487. Your points are well made and I agree with you.

Jeff


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Post 503

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Hold everything!  We've been wrong from the start in talking about ad hominems.

Rand astutely distinguished between an ad hominem and an argument from intimidation (henceforth AI).  The first infers from premises about somebody's character to conclusions about the soundness of what he has to say.  An AI proceeds in the opposite direction, from what someone believes to what kind of person he is.  All the examples that people have come up with - Russell, Wittgenstein, Emerson, whom have you - are really AIs.  Fahy can raise the ad hominem bar as high as he likes; it's moot.

(As people use the term colloquially, an ad hominem is any argument that uses personal attacks.  This would cover both cases.)

Peter


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Post 504

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 4:43pmSanction this postReply
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Rich,

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL...
NB has always been into the weird stuff, somehow he hit the motherlode and figured out how to unleash Svengali Power<tm>. I hate when charismatic types do that, don't you? I've heard cases where they can even talk young disciples into letting them fuck their husbands or wives.
(tears streaming down)

Oh, the pain! Stop it!

Michael


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Post 505

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 4:56pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,

Did you stop talking to me?

I am still confused about double standards.

For instance, that piece of tripe (and I mean puke/shit/garbage/filth type tripe) that started this thread is a very personal attack on Ayn Rand, but do you think the author knew her? Is there anything in her reputation as a woman that was of much concern to him? Or was he in strong disagreement with her ideas and trying to insinuate that she did not practice what she preached, thus her ideas have no merit?

How is that essentially different from what Rand did? I mean in essence? Rand limited her comments to mental capacities and wholesale judgments like "evil person," but isn't the principle the same? Disagree with the idea so you go after the character of the person? All I see is a difference in style.

So Rand's style is acceptable as logical argument while that... er... thing... is not? Even though the essence is the same?

Michael


Edit - PS to James. Thank you so much for doing it the second time, since I completely missed the first and I know how much a bother it is for you to repeat yourself...
(Edited by Michael Stuart Kelly on 9/23, 4:59pm)


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Post 506

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 4:59pmSanction this postReply
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Now I do get it.

So long as the author of this Commentary piece does, someday, somewhere, get around to making a valid argument against Randís ideas, then the ad hominem she perpetrated with this piece will metamorphose, retroactively, into mere harsh language.


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Post 507

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 5:41pmSanction this postReply
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Maybe another facet on the meaning of argumentum ad hominem here is that Casey and James V. are trying to limit it to attacks based on the details of one's personal life. With that stipulation all the personal or character attacks Rand made were not "ad hominem" since they were not based on the details of the target's personal life. Of course, her attacks were ad hominem with the usual meaning.

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Post 508

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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Casey,

She was harsh, yes, about Russell, she may have even been wrong about his ideas, but THAT IS NOT AD HOMINEM!!!

Peter Reidy is correct about the Russell examples.

In Rand's terminology, they are arguments from intimidation, not arguments ad hominem.

And arguments from intimidation are among the worst fallacies, from Rand's point of view.  She wrote about them as though they were always done intentionally.

Do you even know which of Bertrand Russell's views Rand was attacking in the first quote (from p. 50 of ITOE)?

Robert Campbell


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Post 509

Friday, September 23, 2005 - 10:03pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote here some months ago that you can't build up Ayn Rand by tearing down Nathaniel and Barbara Branden. To the extent you succeed Rand is diminished in her personal stature. And succeeding doesn't mean you are right, only effective in that regard. Soon the conservatives will be calling her a moron.

--Brant
back again.

(Edited by Brant Gaede on 9/24, 8:09am)


Post 510

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 7:45amSanction this postReply
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Tom thinks I tied into the fahr-water:

Actually, I think you know better, but may have had a few too many TGIF adult beverages.
 
Actually, that just goes to show what happens when you think too much. Svengali-power is not yet yours. Elvis, yes. You, no. :)

rde
Does purple antioxidant green tea count?




Post 511

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 11:26amSanction this postReply
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--Brant
back again.

 
"Where's the gimp?"
"The gimp's asleep."
"Well, I guess you better go wake him up, then..."

Nice to see you back!  :)

24 hr. shore pass, this time?

rde




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Post 512

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 4:35pmSanction this postReply
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James, I read your book today...I was surprised. I was expecting a hatchet job in the vein of THE AYN RAND CULT by Walker. Instead, you've caused me to reconsider my position on the work of the Brandens. I found the book angry, but angry out of protection for Rand as opposed to any personal grudge against the Brandens. (I could be wrong on this, but then, the Brandens account should not be trusted by that same logic.) I realize that I was wrong in accepting their accounts as fact simply because they were close to Rand, and I will never have firsthand knowledge of the story (and of course, neither do you) but based on your arguments and the excerpts from Rand's journal, there is reasonable doubt cast on their biographies on Rand. One thing I do not understand...I can see the motives for their portrayal of Rand, but not Frank O'Conner, at least not from Barbara. If she was so concerned for him...would she really smear him as an alchoholic? What is to be gained from any false portrayal of a person who seems to be the only one, by her accounts, to be most deserving of privacy and respect throughout the whole affair? Why drag him through it? Only Barbara can answer that, I suppose, but when THE PASSION OF AYN RAND reads more like a novel than a factual biography...



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Post 513

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 5:22pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, Barbara did not "smear" Frank as an alcoholic. She thought, rightly or wrongly, that he was. Frank was portrayed by her with great sympathy in The Passion of Ayn Rand.

--Brant


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Post 514

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 5:55pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, The Passion of Ayn Rand reads like a novel not because it is fiction, but because Ayn Rand's life was like a novel. Barbara has indicated in various forums over the years that that was one of the great attractions for her to do the biography. Now that you have read James' book you might investigate his thesis about the lack of credibility of the Brandens a little more critically. For instance, you might juxtapose that with the various contexts available including the overall life and nature of Ayn Rand. But please, take a little more time to digest and reflect.

--Brant


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Post 515

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 9:05pmSanction this postReply
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To those concerned: I am not about to give Valliant or anyone else carte blanche to my mind. The Brandens will have their defense, the best among them being people like Chris Sciabarra. What should reign is Objectivity, respecting the facts of reality, even if in such a case like this we may never be able to know or infer the total truth.
What I am saying is that Valliant has raised a reasonable doubt in my mind, and I admit that, whether or not ALL Rand criticism stemmed from the Brandens (It didn't, obviously, Chambers, Buckley, et. all attacked before the bios), MY criticisms of Rand were based on the Branden's accounts. I agree, let there be checking of Mr. Valliant's claims; digesting and reflection are good ideas. That is what I didn't do with Barbara and Nathaniel's books. To her credit, Barbara is an incredibly moving writer, I got so caught up emotionally with her book that I did not think about checking facts.

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Post 516

Saturday, September 24, 2005 - 9:34pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Reasonable doubt is not bad because once you become certain, you have tested your thinking. As much as I disagree with the heavy-handed overly-biased slant of Valliant's approach, I applaud you for using you own mind. I urge you to keep using it as strictly and rationally as possible, especially in digesting what you read and adapting it to your body of knowledge and values.

(What I especially do not like in Valliant's approach is that he wants to think for you, not let you do your own thinking, and constantly offers all kinds of negative scenarios for possible motivations, even in the most trivial matters. I also severely disagree with a great many of his interpretations and consider them as just plain mean-spirited. He's an excellent researcher, however.)

Michael

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Post 517

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 1:36amSanction this postReply
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POST AUTHOR, JAMES S. VALLIANT

(I have to use my wife's computer, please forgive me posting under her moniker.)

I have been away, but, Michael, your last post requires response.

Joe's reaction is precisely what I had hoped to inspire. I had hoped that people would rethink all of these things -- for themselves -- rather than uncritically accept the existing accounts of Rand's life. You might wish to reread the chapter "School or Cult?" to get my perspective on this. The "trivial scenarios" argument is the one that I first made against the Brandens, Michael. It is they who have warped the trivia into something significant, as I demonstrate. It's not the truth or falsehood of anything the Brandens say, as I keep emphasizing, but the critical evaluation of these claims and their sources that has been sorely missing. What my book asks of the reader -- and Objectivism demands at all times -- is thinking for oneself. that most private and sacred of things.

This is something, as Objectivists, that we all owe to her legacy.

--Jim Valliant

(Edited by The Magenta Hornet
on 9/25, 1:53am)


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Post 518

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 1:06pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,
There is all the difference in the world between a teacher "looking over your shoulder" and a dictator. One chooses one's teachers. Hopefully one chooses wisely. Choosing a teacher involves listening to what they say and making judgments about it. The relevant question is "is what my teacher is saying true?"  If one judges that it is, one acts accordingly. An onlooker, even one whose life is directly affected by the choice (as you have been when a manuscript is withdrawn) cannot assume that that result is the work of anything other than considered choice. It is, after all, the author's right to agree that publication in JARS is "bad for Objectivism" even if you disagree and even if the author reconsidered under the direction of ARI. Any insinuation that "do it our way or leave" is an effort to  stifle debate (one can, obviously, as in the case of Linda Reardon and George Reismann, leave and continue to debate), or anything more than the legitimate desire to control content given its mission (to promulgate what it believes to be true) is totally gratuitous. ARI is clearly not a debating society, a liberal arts college, or a haven for dissidents. One agrees or one doesn't.

A broader stroke: Individualism is not a matter of conformity, it is a matter of first-hand judgment. One cannot  decide whether any given person has exercised it by virtue of agreement -- whether with ARI, TOC, or you, or anyone. Surely this is not an issue unfamiliar to the  readers of The Fountainhead.

The idea that one can prove "the moral perfection of Ayn Rand" either in whole or in part by discrediting the Brandens is hogwash. To the best of my knowledge no reputable person at ARI or within its orbit subscribes to such a bizarre non-sequitur. If you think that has been MY claim, I'm sorry that you so grossly misread and misunderstood me. But EVEN IF IT WERE MY CLAIM, its truth or falsity has to be demonstrated.

Even more bizarre is the claim that her moral perfection could be construed as an adequate proof of the truth of any or all of her philosophy. On the contrary, it is the truth of her philosophy -- specifically her moral code -- that must be accepted before one can make any judgment about the morals, perfect or otherwise, of anyone on the planet (including professors of philosophy or publishers of magazines). Again, if you think that I have made that claim I am sorry about your inability to read.

The possibility that any one of her ideas will "never need supplementation or correction" is a straw man. First, because they are HER ideas. She can neither supplement or correct anything she said.

Can others "correct" her ideas. NO. They can disagree with them and are free to do so in any forum, including JARS or TOC or The Ayn Rand Society or The Ford Hall Forum, that allows such disagreement. Fred Seddon is one scholar who does so with some measure of success -- i.e. there are some that agree with his dissenting views. ARI is not such a forum, in my judgment.

Can others "supplement" her ideas. SURE. Leonard Peikoff and Tara Smith and Gary hull, et al, do so all the time, if by supplement you mean take one or more of her ideas and integrate it within a narrower or wider context. People outside the ARI orbit can as well. And any and all of them can claim that their "supplementation" is true. It is then up to the individual judgment referenced  above for each of us to decide the truth of their claim.

Finally, that brings us to the issue of the arbitrariness of any argument that assumes the falsehood of any of her ideas in the absence of proof. Further, when such a proof is offered, the failure to agree that it is valid or true does not constitute evidence of nonengagement. I can have every issue of JARS on my shelves, and read every article and disagree and believe that publishing an article of mine would not be good for Objectivism, and still be very much engaged with Rand's ideas.

To repeat, disagreement does not imply dis-engagement.

Tom

P.S. to Michael...The world is full of people who want to "do my thinking for me" if by that you mean people who have ideas, argue for them, publish them, and obviously want to influence my thinking. James is no more guilty of that than Ayn Rand is. To object to this is to object to living in a society that exchanges ideas and learns from others. People who are sure of the truth of their position hope to persuade. If not, they keep to themselves and don't publish books or write posts.

(Edited by Tom Rowland on 9/25, 1:15pm)


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Post 519

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 2:13pmSanction this postReply
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Tom,

Do you believe that those who choose to leave or who are asked to leave ARI are morally wrong or philosophically mistaken (Reismans included)? If not, it seems that the withdrawal of sanction can be applied to areas where there are honest disagreements and areas that do not pertain to disagreement with fundamental principles of Objectivism. If so, it would behoove someone joining such an organization to know what those were going in.

If I belong to an advocacy organization with a published party line I understand that the editorial stand they take can and should influence what I write for that organization. However, ARI is an organization which does both advocacy and philosophical research. Is it true that you can do honest philosophical research knowing what the outcome will be in advance?

To be fair, it is also difficult to do effective public advocacy when you're not quite sure where you stand on an issue as an organization, like TOC.

Jim


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