|James, thanks for your fair and balanced reply. It's more than I have come to expect from orthodox defenders of Rand's philosophy. I have been associated with and have studied her philosophy for over 40 years, and I can tell you that the kind of dogmatism I've been discussing was alive and well under NBI no less than under ARI. What has appalled me is the manner in which Objectivists have typically dealt with dissenters, and it can be the most mild kind of dissent. You can't disagree with anything; even something as simple as a question is often viewed with suspicion and as evidence of hostility towards "all that's good and moral." I could cite you chapter and verse from my encounters with Objectivists over the years, but I'll spare you the details. It's ridiculous, and it doesn't seem to be improving, if my interactions on Diana's blog are any indication. She has now banned me from posting there, because of my latest SOLO article, citing her aversion to "tolerance." In addition, I am now being smeared by other posters in the most intellectually dishonest fashion, while being denied an opportunity to reply to anything they say.
You write, "I do not think that everything that Rand ever said can be included in what we call her "philosophy." Rand held philosophy to be a distinct field of study, and that, properly, it must be an integrated set of ideas and principles. Where an expression of Rand's is not both: 1. philosophical in nature, and 2. not integrated by her into the wider context of her ideas, I'm not sure that Rand herself would have included it as being part of her philosophy."
I don't think you can say that if a philosophical view that she held cannot be integrated into the wider context of her ideas, it is not part of her philosophy. If it is philosophical in nature but cannot be integrated into the rest of her philosophy, then that simply means that her philosophy is not entirely consistent.
You continue, "In addition, there is the entire realm of what Rand called 'optional' issues (still objective, of course.) Peikoff explains this distinction at some length in his lecture series 'Understanding Objectivism' from 1983, if memory serves."
Yes, I've taken that course, and I have no problem with the concept of "optional" values. The fact that Rand liked a certain kind of music, for example, does not mean that she considered it the only kind that is aesthetically acceptable.
You write, "As I acknowledge, Rand's use of the term 'immoral' suggests something philosophical to her view on homosexuality. (The whole of Rand's statement is something with which I personally disagree.) It's just that without Rand connecting this assertion to the rest of her ideas for us, I cannot see how 'it fits,' if you will. And, as Rand insists, to be philosophy, especially her's, it must 'fit'."
Well, again, I don't think that it "must" fit in order to considered a part of her philosophy. All that says is that her philosophy ~must~ contain no contradictions, but if it contains contradiction, then it contains contradictions. You cannot excuse a philosopher's inconsistencies by exempting one or the other of his or her views in order to resolve the contradiction. A philosopher is responsible for being logical and consistent, and cannot be excused from that responsibility simply in order to make his or her philosophy less vulnerable to criticism.
Her article on a female president was written for _The Objectivist_, a publication dedicated to the presentation of her philosophy. In the article, she writes that no rational woman can ever want to be president. If this isn't considered a philosophical position, I don't know what is. She is not simply presenting a view of how she personally would feel about being president. She is speaking about what is rational for woman qua woman, which must be considered a part of her philosophy.
You write, "However, Rand was a human being, and she did have flaws. Peikoff himself has commented that Rand's anger was sometimes unjust. And there can be no doubt that an objective biography will need to address such things. Britting's book, despite its many virtues, cannot be said to be the in-depth biography that the subject deserves. It was hardly the place where any such considerations would be 'essential,' in my view. That's not the same thing as evading -- or denying -- those issues, either."
You know, of course, that by identifying Rand as having flaws, you could well be accused of diminishing her stature - of making her out to have "feet of clay," which is a common response to those who have the temerity to suggest that she might not have been a perfect philosopher or a perfect human being. But if you write a biography, isn't there an implication that you are presenting a complete and balanced portrayal of the subject, not a one-sided view that is either positive or negative? To be sure, if the subject is a saint, then a fair and balanced portrayal ~would~ be entirely positive. But you certainly shouldn't sanitize a biography in order to create a false or misleading impression.
"As for ARI, I cannot speak for them, as I am not affiliated with them."
My apologies for suggesting otherwise.
"However, the Ayn Rand Archive was nothing but open and cooperative with me. Leonard Peikoff and Rand's estate were extremely generous and open with me, as well. I have heard the complaints of others, but I have experienced nothing like it myself."
Well, that's certainly good to hear.
"From personal knowledge, however, I can confirm that many have treated Rand and her ideas without the critical thought and care necessary to qualify as being 'objective.' Certainty often attracts those who seem to need its aura overmuch, I think."
Yes, and it does a disservice to Rand and to her philosophy for her to be associated with this kind of conformist mentality.
"At least irrationality and conformism are inconsistent with Rand's ideas -- ideas that can be classified as being part of her 'philosophy.'"
Precisely! And sometimes I think that she would roll over in her grave, if she saw how her devoted followers were behaving.