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Thursday, January 24, 2008 - 2:11amSanction this postReply
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One of the major themes of Senator Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency is a call for national unity.  The senator is fond of promoting himself as the one candidate who can provide such unity.  One way he goes about this is to reveal as little as he can about what he believes and stands for, so that those listening can feel free to project their own values onto him. It’s a brilliant, if somewhat deceitful tactic.

 

Ayn Rand wrote about this campaign phenomenon during the presidential election of 1972. 

 

“Every four years, at about this time, we begin to hear louder and louder appeals for national unity.” She characterized this wish for unity as a call for “peaceful coexistence,” and acknowledged that, “in order to exist as a nation, the large number of men who live in the same geographical area and deal with one another, must agree on some fundamental principles.”

 

She continued:  “The big questions, however, are: Peace—at what price?  Harmony—on what terms?  Agreement—about what?  And more: can such terms and agreements be chosen arbitrarily? Can men choose any terms and make them work simply by wishing them to do so?  Or are there objective factors which necessitate certain principles of human association, and defeat all others?  In sum, the fundamental social question is: What principles should men agree upon in order to live and deal with one another?”

 

“…Ask yourself: What rules of conduct would you be able and willing to accept in order to deal with your neighbors?” (The Ayn Rand Letter, October/November, 1972)

 

Of course, Ayn Rand used this issue as a way of underscoring the crucial role which individual rights play as the political foundation for a free society.   Needless to say, politicians like Obama have a very different kind of unity in mind.

 

“National unity, like love, is not a primary,” she said,  “but a consequence and must come voluntarily or not at all.  Just as one cannot order a child to love his mother, and if one does, one will make him hate her – so one cannot order or urge a nation to unite.  When a politician’s demands violate your convictions, when he claims that unity supersedes your judgment, when he urges you to support policies which you oppose, to participate in actions you regard as evil, to join your own destroyers, or to leap into a sacrificial furnace – all in the name of national unity – then pretense, hypocrisy, corruption, hatred and national disintegration will be the only results.”

 

“This is the kind of unity,” Rand wrote in 1972, “which [Democratic presidential candidate George] McGovern hopes to extort from the nation.”

 

There is a wider point here.  Is not this kind of arbitrary, artificial “unity” exactly what Ed Hudgins, Will Thomas and TAS are attempting to extort from the Objectivist movement?

 

When so-called philosophical leaders demand that you violate your standards, when they call for an arbitrary “unity” which supersedes your judgment, when they request that you sanction policies (e.g., egregious conduct) you deem outrageous, accede to behaviors (spitting on the Brandens and other prominent thinkers) you regard as evil, fraternize with the philosophy’s destroyers, or get down and wallow in their muck—all in the name of philosophical “unity”---what else can be expected but pretense, hypocrisy, corruption, resentment and complete philosophical disintegration?

 

Ayn Rand’s words deserve repeating:  “The big questions, however, are: Peace—at what price?  Harmony—on what terms?  Agreement—about what?  And more: can such terms and agreements be chosen arbitrarily? Can men choose any terms and make them work simply by wishing them to do so?  Or are there objective factors which necessitate certain principles of human association, and defeat all others?"

 

Clearly, there are objective conditions which must be satisfied before unity becomes a worthwhile, attainable objective.   By ignoring those conditions, and then compounding the error by trying to tap dance around them, TAS is promoting the destruction of the very philosophy they claim to champion. 

 

 

 




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Thursday, January 24, 2008 - 12:14pmSanction this postReply
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hm, yes, infighting.

Very productive. Certainly a right move.

I'll be, you know, at work...and talking to people about ethics, unearned guilt and dealing with liars.

I think that have a more far-ranging impact than sniping about irrelevancies.



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Thursday, January 24, 2008 - 10:00pmSanction this postReply
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Good thinking.  Moral judgment is such a trifling, burdensome, divisive annoyance.  What Objectivism needs now is love, sweet love.




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Post 3

Friday, January 25, 2008 - 12:16pmSanction this postReply
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What it certainly does not need is more schisms, personality conflicts and general high-school pecking order tomfoolery, Dennis.

Objectivism is for living life; not endlessly arguing over each and every goofy internal clash.

Judge it morally right or wrong or however and move on. This "Team TAS!" "Team WHOEVER" junk is annoying.



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Friday, January 25, 2008 - 10:41pmSanction this postReply
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What I did was offer a philosophical analysis of what TAS did wrong.  I have this overwhelming drive to understand things., which is what first attracted me to Ayn Rand.

 

It is unusual to encounter an Objectivist who considers that sort of thing annoying.




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Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 3:59amSanction this postReply
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It is interesting to note that, even as they withdrew their invitation to Lindsay Perigo, TAS made public statements to the effect that the members of another website who publicly criticized their decision did so in a manner that sank to his level, thus asserting—not implying-- a clear moral equivalence.  The only difference is that “those individuals were not invited to speak at our seminar about Objectivism.” 

 

TAS did nothing wrong, they contend.  They just wanted to proceed as if moral standards didn’t matter, framing inexcusable corruption in terms of personal differences and “disagreements.”

 

Hudgins states:

 

It was never our belief or aim that TAS could heal or unite the Objectivist community. However, it was our hope and our clear intention that in extending this invitation we might at least take the first steps toward reducing the decibel level of personal vituperation and the incivility by which even profound disagreements are expressed

 

So unity was never their goal?  Here is a quote from Hudgins’ statement on January 17, 2008, under the heading of “Our Purpose”:

 

“We want to build a benevolent community of Objectivists…”

 

And now, instead of admitting their own monstrous mistake, they choose to kick their loyal supporters in the teeth.  No doubt they anticipate their disobedient, castigated children will now flock back into their smarmy, condescending graces.

 

When so-called philosophical leaders demand that you violate your standards, when they call for an arbitrary “unity” which supersedes your judgment, when they request that you sanction policies (e.g., egregious conduct) you deem outrageous, accede to behaviors (spitting on the Brandens and other prominent thinkers) you regard as evil, fraternize with the philosophy’s destroyers, or get down and wallow in their muck—all in the name of philosophical “unity”---what else can be expected but pretense, hypocrisy, corruption, resentment and complete philosophical disintegration? 




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Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 8:45amSanction this postReply
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Dennis, it's very obvious you have some personal motivation behind all this, so stop putting up pretenses about "philosophy"; you're on the warpath.

Such vitriol for such a meaningless matter. You have weird priorities.

No one cares.



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Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 9:04amSanction this postReply
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Moral judgment is such a trifling, burdensome, divisive annoyance. 
 
Dennis,
 
For balanced people, moral judgement is reserved for those issues and individuals that have direct impact on one's life.  TAS does not have that kind of impact, nor does it strive to. Perhaps that's your rub, the idea that TAS has no interest in intellectual directives? Maybe it just isn't religious enough? 
 
I'm too busy living to cast moral judgement on every single issue that offends me.  I don't think of them, at least, not seriously.




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Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 9:47amSanction this postReply
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This may be relevant.





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Saturday, January 26, 2008 - 10:38amSanction this postReply
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Once a dog, always a dog - never quite the wolf......



Post 10

Sunday, January 27, 2008 - 12:11pmSanction this postReply
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These comments are fascinating and very revealing.  Thank you for taking the trouble to make sure I know how much you don’t care.   



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Sunday, January 27, 2008 - 12:42pmSanction this postReply
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I'm really interested in knowing why I should care.  Seriously, what's in it for me?



Post 12

Sunday, January 27, 2008 - 2:17pmSanction this postReply
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I'm just more concerned that you've focused what is obvious intelligence and ability to such a small thing.

I don't get it.



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Sunday, January 27, 2008 - 2:30pmSanction this postReply
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Ayn Rand often wrote that the key difference between Objectivism and Aristotle was his ethical theory, and that this fatal flaw made his philosophy vulnerable to attack and ultimately undercut his long-term influence.  There is no more critical aspect of Objectivism than ethics—i.e., the principles of moral living and moral judgment.  I have made no secret of the fact that I disapprove of Peikoff’s approach to this entire subject, with the whole notion of “inherently dishonest” ideas and the policy of morally condemning human beings because they disagree with certain specific views (e.g., the notion that Ayn Rand was perfect and beyond reproach). 

 

This has been my chief complaint against ARI, as manifested in Peikoff’s “Fact and Value” and more recently in their endorsement of James Valliant’s attack on Nathaniel and Barbara Branden.  I consider that approach not only fundamentally wrong but destructive to the ultimate success of a philosophy of reason.

 

I was a strong supporter of David Kelley in his break with Peikoff and had high hopes for The Objectivist Center (now TAS).  I wanted to see an Objectivist organization that was devoted to spreading the ideas without arbitrarily condemning everyone who rejected the notion that Objectivism is a “closed system” or wanted to subject other key tenets to serious philosophical debate. 

 

Unfortunately, TAS has tended to take the approach that the way to spread Objectivism is to dispense with objective absolutes altogether, most especially in the area of moral standards.  I have been a consistent critic of this tacit value-free philosophical perspective on the part of TAS in many other areas, most notably foreign policy.  This is just the most recent manifestation.  And a peculiarly blatant one.

 

Objectivism will not succeed without a clear and consistent defense of its ethical base.  I care about it because I care about the future of Objectivism.




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Monday, January 28, 2008 - 3:05pmSanction this postReply
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Dennis,

I'm sympathetic to your point of view on this matter. That being said, it's probably a bad time to bring up a technicality.

Ayn Rand had issues with Aristotle's ethics, but if there is anything that Ayn Rand had an issue with -- in the collected works of Aristotle -- it is his epistemological realism (which she, in ITOE, called "moderate realism"); something which she blamed on Plato's left-over influence on Aristotle.

That, and not his ethics, was her over-arching complaint about the greatest philosopher that had ever lived.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/28, 3:07pm)




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Monday, January 28, 2008 - 9:48pmSanction this postReply
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**Unfair Debating Tactics: the logical fallacy of looking for 'dirt', dropping context, and switching meanings**

A tendency that it is profoundly offensive because it displays little respect for fairness is when people on different sides of these movement squabbles tend to scour everything an opponent ever said and unfairly discard context (or charitable interpretation) of their statements in their eagerness to find a contradiction.

Here's an example from Dennis Hardin in this thread [numbers 1,2,3 added]:

" Hudgins states: [1] 'It was never our belief or aim that TAS could heal or unite the Objectivist community....' [2] So unity was never their goal? Here is a quote from Hudgins ... [3] 'We want to build a benevolent community of Objectivists…' ”

Mr. Hardin takes a statement [1] that TAS doesn't think it can heal or unite what, a commonsensical and fair-minded interpretation suggests, would be the -entire- Objectivist community. (Which would be common sense - they are not going to unite ARI and TAS.) He then restates it, changing its meaning in an unfair way into [2] unity was never their goal -- equating the attempt to bring -some- unity to unifying the -entire- community. He finally quotes a statement about building a benevolent community, as if that meant taking over or converting the entire community, as opposed to building a benevolent community out of SOME Objectivists. Which anyone would grasp is the meaning of statement [3].

At the same time, Mr. Hardin puts two entirely different concepts -- a benevolent community and a unified community -- interchangeably into the mouth of his opponent.

. . . What Mr. Hardin is doing here reminds me of 'opposition research' where you try to dig up dirt on your enemy to prove they are not true liberals or true conservatives. And you hunt back through all their old speeches where they say something that appears remotely at being a change of position or even hints at a contradiction.

Reminds me of Hillary dumping on Obama. Or Romney and McCain. Seizing on any stick to beat the enemy with. Fair or foul.



(Edited by Philip Coates on 1/28, 10:00pm)




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Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 12:06amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

 

Your expression of sympathy for my critique of TAS is in no way diminished by your bringing up that technicality.  I truly appreciate the support. 

 

You are correct that, as far as Ayn Rand’s published writings are concerned, Aristotle’s epistemological errors received a lot more attention.  Her views on the significance of the fatal flaw in Aristotle’s ethics, although very real, were likely expressed more in her discussions with her inner circle than in print.  It would have been more accurate for me to say that she often spoke about it, because it is not prominent in her writings. 

 

Here is an excerpt from Peikoff’s lecture on “The Founders of Western Philosophy,” as transcribed by Linda Rearden:

 

“…Aristotle’s ethics is very mixed in its merits.  Much of the time he is on the right track.  Many points you can agree with: his advocacy of happiness on earth as opposed to Platonic asceticism and supernaturalism; his emphasis on reason, the acquisition of knowledge, egoism, pride.  But these points, as you can see, are embedded in a framework streaked with Platonism and avowedly not scientific or proven.  As such, Aristotle’s ethics was not strong enough to combat the Platonic and Sophistic rivals in the field.   And therefore (to answer a question which I get all the time…), this—the deficiency of Aristotle’s ethics—is one of the major reasons why his philosophy did not become a major influence over all future philosophizing right away.   When a philosopher’s ethics is weak, no matter how many good points he has in metaphysics and epistemology, his influence on men will be significantly lessened, because men feel the influence of any philosophy primarily through its ethics.  That, after all, is the primary purpose of philosophy, to teach men how to live…

 

“You should not be too surprised, therefore, to learn that shortly after his death, Aristotle’s philosophy became ignored, and was not exhumed for many, many centuries…”

 

--from the Founders of Western Philosophy, Dr. Leonard Peikoff, Lecture 5

 

Prior to this, Peikoff comments as follows:

 

“…Aristotle did not know how to implement [a naturalistic, objective morality], in the form of a rational, scientific, proven code of ethics…”   It was Ayn Rand’s great genius to analyze and grasp the relationship between life and the concept of value, and thereby arrive at an objective ethics based on fact.

 

Objectivism’s answer to Aristotle’s erroneous view of the nature of concepts is critical to the foundation of ethics, but it is the scientific derivation of value—and the objective validation of rational self-interest—that will ultimately rekindle mankind’s passion for living, and hopefully—Galt willing--change the course of history.

 

 




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Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 12:56amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Hardin takes a statement [1] that TAS doesn't think it can heal or unite what, a commonsensical and fair-minded interpretation suggests, would be the -entire- Objectivist community. (Which would be common sense - they are not going to unite ARI and TAS.) He then restates it, changing its meaning in an unfair way into [2] unity was never their goal -- equating the attempt to bring -some- unity to unifying the -entire- community. He finally quotes a statement about building a benevolent community, as if that meant taking over or converting the entire community, as opposed to building a benevolent community out of SOME Objectivists. Which anyone would grasp is the meaning of statement [3].

 

One definition of unity, Phil, according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary 2006, is “oneness of mind, feeling, etc., as among a number of persons; concord, harmony, or agreement.”  That’s the sort of unity Ayn Rand was obviously talking about, and the concept I was addressing in my essay.

 

And Hudgins’ comment on “building a benevolent community of Objectivists” was not “dug up” from an “old speech.”  It was taken from his statement regarding “Our Purpose” in his initial explanation as to why TAS invited Perigo to speak.  It is transparent that benevolent unity between TAS and Perigo of the type referenced above is exactly what Hudgins meant.

 

Oh, and, Hudgins did talk about establishing a similar sense of unified, benevolent concord with ARI, in the very same statement.

 

Man, you really scoured the bottom of the acrimonious fish barrel to come up with this one.

 




Post 18

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 11:13amSanction this postReply
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**instead of admitting error, digging in one's heels and vehemently defending an equivocation**

> It is transparent that benevolent unity between TAS and Perigo of the type referenced above is exactly what Hudgins meant. Oh, and, Hudgins did talk about establishing a similar sense of unified, benevolent concord with ARI, in the very same statement. [Dennis Hardin]

In your statement above regarding Perigo and ARI you are equating the attempt to bring -some- unity in a limited sense of benevolent interaction to unifying the -entire- community.

That is the sense in which you are falsely attempting to find a "contradiction" in Hudgins' two statements.

> One definition of unity, ....the concept I was addressing in my essay.

Who cares how *your* essay was using the word 'unity'; the point is you were attempting to manufacture a contradiction in *Hudgins'* use of that word. Not yours.

> It is transparent that benevolent unity between TAS and Perigo ... is exactly what Hudgins meant.

What's transparent is that Hudgins' position with respect to Perigo [as well as to ARI] was NEVER unity in the full, fused, lockstep, no dissent sense -- not that they would have the same unified views or fuse together on movement differences, but that they could discuss those differences benevolently, maybe speak together at each others events from time to time.

Not that they would form one movement, not dissenting or disagreeing, or close ranks as in the sense of "party unity", once the candidate has been chosen at the political convention, everyone shuts up and gets behind him.

Jesus Christ, do you REALLY not get this distinction?

........

The name for shifting the meaning of a word in the middle of an argument can be found in any logic textbook: It is the Fallacy of Equivocation.

.......

[Aside: I really detest getting into a debate with someone who forces me to basically repeat what I just said (and what I really dislike about some posters is that they are never willing to publicly "lose face" by admitting an error. Even after you've backed them into a logical corner.]



(Edited by Philip Coates on 1/29, 11:15am)




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Post 19

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 2:10pmSanction this postReply
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Allow me to back-pedal; I (now) look at it this way:

The choice to have Linz speak at the TAS Summer Seminar was, in retrospect, wrong. But hindsight is 20/20. And if TAS had not first offered Linz this deal for him to go ahead and muck up, then a proper moral judgment of Linz might have been put on the back-burner (as otherwise-rational folks would've kept giving Linz the benefit of the doubt).

From what I've read, TAS had real reasons to believe in Linz -- and they believed. The biggest issue being whether their mistaken offer to him corrupts the moral independence of the key players involved. TAS ended up pronouncing moral judgment and treating Linz accordingly. If they, in the future, make effort to avoid repeating this kind of mistake -- then I'm cool with that.

I realize the spectrum of dogmatism-subjectivism, and how ARI and TAS (which was a response to ARI) have almost dug their heels in in their respective foxholes. Here, at mighty RoR, we have some dynamic, highly-rivalrous, and innovative dissent -- and there is a special kind of wisdom in that of which both ARI and TAS should take note. At RoR #1, for instance, there was a presentation from an avowed Thomas Barnettian (Thomas Barnett writes about the U.S. as a kind of 'Team America: World Police').

Politics (how to live together) is, to me, the most abstract that you can get -- even more so than esthetics which, though it makes use of the abstract in forming concretes, is more straightforwardly good or bad. I don't feel I need to remind anyone of the relative difficulty that politics is infested with as an applied morality -- with its spin-doctoring, flip-flopping, and everything else one can imagine.

It's hard for an individual to be moral (even though its ultimately practical). But how much harder is it for individuals to be "political" -- in the "right" way? In politics, there's so much to think about -- so many factors to factor in to some grand algorithm that likely contains dozens of variables.

In sum then, TAS was wrong about Linz -- but if they show that they learn from that mistake, then what more could be asked of them at this point in the game? We're all learning. A proper moral judgment of TAS must include their historical trend, taking into account their potential for moral perfection, and -- on their moral journey -- their direction of travel and their pace.

Dennis' points are not without merit, and there are few on all sides who couldn't learn from them -- but in my current analysis, I find it profitable to withhold moral condemnation.

Ed
[known, pseudo-affectionately, by Linz -- as a "Saddamite"]
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/29, 2:16pm)




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