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Post 40

Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 9:17pmSanction this postReply
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"And I cannot help but think of a comment Rand made about the real challenge of writing about conflict was not about good vs. evil but about the good vs. the good.

Michael"

I agree, it reminds me of a quote: "The good is always the enemy of the better." It is a common theme in comic books nowadays as well; in some of the major story arcs, the enemy is on the sidelines while the heroes battle each other, usually over ideology.

Can anyone guide me to some good novels (beside's Rand's) that employ this plot?



Post 41

Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 9:21pmSanction this postReply
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Neil,

Thanks for the reference. I tend to take "Rand said this" reminiscences with barrel of salt. Rand did become somewhat disoriented about many things, including evolution, after she broke with the Brandens and especially with Robert Efron - she no longer trusted anything that she had learned from them, including anything she had learned about biological evolution from Efron. As I already wrote, Rand was at the peak of conceptual integration up to about 1970. Binswanger's "Biological Foundations of Teleological Concepts" is a much more coherent integration of the theory of evolution into the Randian system, than anything Rand herself wrote after she began to mistrust everything she had learned from Efron. I would put her 1973 excerpt into the latter category.



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Post 42

Saturday, December 18, 2004 - 10:55pmSanction this postReply
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"Binswanger's work on the relationship between evolutionary biology and teleology, or Gotthelf's work straightening out Thomist misunderstandings of Aristotle, are valuable beyond anything in the two examples you cited." 

I have to disagree.  Binswanger's work in evolutionary biology and teleology is interesting, but far from outstanding.  In fact, if memory serves, his book completely omits discussion of the "etiological versus propensity" accounts of function, which is perhaps the most crucial issue in contemporary teleology.  Check out the work of Ruth Millikan for a superb analysis of teleology in the light of Darwinism. 

The monographs published by TOC, especially the ones written by Neera Badhwar and Roderick Long, are far superior to anything published by ARI.  Of course, that is to be expected, given that both of these monographs are sympathetic yet critical reevaluations of Rand's ethics--something that ARI avoids like the plague.   Tara Smith's _Viable Values_ is a nice exposition of the Objectivist metaethics, but it certainly has not had any impact on academia.  People like Eric Mack, Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, and Fred Miller have done much more for Randian philosophy in academia than anyone from ARI.  The fact of the matter is not simply that professional philosophers are hostile to Rand (they are often hostile to her name, but her arguments are not rejected out of hand if they are not aware the arguments are hers or inspired by her), but that the uncritical presentation of Rand's arguments by ARI types completely turns them off.  Even if Tara Smith's book was perfect, it would still be poorly received because it does not contain one critical word against Rand.  I understand that I am likely preaching to the converted here, but I think that Kelley refocusing on philosophical work is a good thing--the best thing that TOC can do is publish more scholarly work and support the work of Randian scholars.    




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Post 43

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 4:31amSanction this postReply
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James,

I understand you - I was also "kicked out" by former good friends in the 1990's for not towing the party line. Unfortunately, what used to be an outrageous injustice at the time when Kelley broke off with ARI became a simple observation of the type of Rand-bashing and Objectivism-bashing that are allowed, even promoted, by TOC. 

I agree that ignoring anything written by Kelley or Reisman is bad scholarship. But I have to admit that TOC ignores many ARI-affiliated scholars just the same in its publications and lectures.  
Pointing out the faults of ARI does not exempt TOC from evaluation. It reminds me of those fanatic Israelis who point out the growing anti-Semitism around the world as evidence that Israel should be beyond reproach. 
 
Regarding your Buddhist wife - I know of an Objectivist whose wife is a staunch Socialist. She attended the ARI seminar in 1998 without a scandal and even enjoyed the lecture on art by Mary Ann Sures. The question is what is your wife's purpose in attending an Objectivist seminar. If one is opposed to most of the views expressed at a seminar, why waste the time and money? If one wants to give Objectivism a hearing, why should there be a problem?

Regards,

Michelle






Post 44

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 4:38amSanction this postReply
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Duplicate - deleted.

(Edited by Michelle Cohen on 12/19, 4:40am)




Post 45

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 4:38amSanction this postReply
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Adam - about the Advanced Seminar, TOC is now offering seminars for Graduate students, and I heard good things from Joshua Zader and Dan Baldino about the seminar they attended. The format appears to be similar to that of the Advanced Seminar. Why not give the next one a try?




Post 46

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 4:46amSanction this postReply
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An additional problem is that most of the work of the ARI types is in the form of conferences and only available on tapes.  I think its hard for professional philosophers to take Objectivism seriously when, as a movement, it doesn't interact with critics and contemporary problems in written form.

For example, Rand's theory of concept formation has been subject to a great deal of criticism, but has anyone associated with the ARI defended it in writing?




Post 47

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 4:55amSanction this postReply
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Ryan wrote:
Tara Smith's _Viable Values_ is a nice exposition of the Objectivist metaethics, but it certainly has not had any impact on academia.  People like Eric Mack, Douglas Den Uyl, Douglas Rasmussen, and Fred Miller have done much more for Randian philosophy in academia than anyone from ARI.
Do you mean that in order to have impact on academia you have to point out the flaws in Rand's philosophy? Then why is it that Marxists never have to point out the flaws in Marxism in order to be influential?

Michelle




Post 48

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 5:14amSanction this postReply
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Lindsay Perigo writes:

TOC [in general] is too cowardly, compromising, timorous, tepid & tame.
Adam Reed writes:

I can't think of anything [new leader] Hudgins has written, in his assigned role as the agent of Objectivist influence on the political scene, that was not either redundant, or wimpy, or wrong.
I know Robert Bidinotto -- who I regard highly -- may strongly disagree, but these two statements seem correct to me! What a shame that TOC can't find somebody intellectually brilliant, morally fearless, and spiritually ferocious! How can you spark or direct a world revolution with the current TOC approach and leadership?

But one point that everyone needs to remember in any TOC vs. SOLO skirmish is that at least the philosophic wing of Objectivism does talk to each other and can debate in some fairly proper fashion. This is very different from the religious wing of Objectivism. The quantity and quality of discussion and dispute with and between the ARIans is vastly inferior.

Indeed, I think the evil ARI cultists are a shame and disgrace to the whole practice and tradition of philosophy and rational discourse. I think they're the enemy of both -- and of the best of Rand and Objectivism. ARI overall probably does more harm than good.

Michael Newberry writes:

And I cannot help but think of a comment Rand made about the real challenge of writing about conflict was not about good vs. evil but about the good vs. the good.

 
I think this is important and where the real battle lies. Ultimately, evil is impotent -- and even non-existent. The religious branch of Objectivism isn't participating in this conversation because it has no voice or power. But the philosophic branch -- however much it lacks the fire and fury I prefer -- is participating because it has both.

I hope both groups improve the other and if there has to be a victor in either a short-term or long-term battle then
may the better man win!

 






Post 49

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 5:19amSanction this postReply
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Newberry says:

I don't know if Mr. George Cordero is impishly sitting on the sidelines and thumbing his nose through this Aristotle quote at this thread:Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.


Michael,

The above confirms a suspicion of mine; that you are one never to be underestimated.

George




Post 50

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 5:32amSanction this postReply
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NOTE:

As someone who published two articles in Navigator, I wonder if those who are critical of my articles can write to me why. The articles are:

1. Romanticism is Dead! Long Live Romanticism!
2. An Israeli Airman Attains New Heights in Painting

Also, those who heard my talk on Victor Hugo's "Ninety Three," either live or on audiotape, are welcome to express their criticism.

My e-mail is michal35_at_comcast.net

-- Michelle Fram Cohen



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Post 51

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 9:05amSanction this postReply
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Do you mean that in order to have impact on academia you have to point out the flaws in Rand's philosophy? Then why is it that Marxists never have to point out the flaws in Marxism in order to be influential?

Marxists aren't influential in academic philosophy--literature and sociology perhaps, but those aren't especially analytical disciplines.  My point is that when you write an entire book on someone's ethics, analytic philosophers expect it you to subject it to critical analysis.  I remember some philosopher had a list of least likely titles in philosophy and one was "Ayn Rand and Analytic Philosophy"--precisely because of the fawning, uncritical presentation of Rand by most ARI types.  At the very least, one would expect them to address sympathetic criticism to Rand's work, but they refuse to do that as well. 




Post 52

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 3:31pmSanction this postReply
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I agree with James Heaps-Nelson that there is the notion of the Objectivist intellectual as philosopher is still prevalent, and makes for a great many problems of its own.

The academic humanities aren't doing well these days.  They are turning out squads of PhD's who will never find permanent jobs in academia.  Philosophy is among the humanities disciplines that are in the worst shape.

Meanwhile the intellectual resources needed to handle the kinds of problems that James mentions are increasingly going to come from other disciplines.

ARI doesn't seem to have moved beyond the philosopher model at all.  TOC has ventured some distance into psychology, whereas even the clinical side looks to be closed off to ARI because of Nathaniel Branden's status as an unperson.   Such disciplines as biology and physics are still barely on the horizon.

Robert Campbell




Post 53

Sunday, December 19, 2004 - 6:36pmSanction this postReply
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I'd like to see a really thorough discussion of Binswanger's book.  I haven't encountered one in print so far.

I agree with Ryan Hacking's overall evaluation of the book.  Binswanger does not get into questions about the
"etiological" view of function--I took him to be accepting it uncritically.  I found his book rather disappointing because there was neither anything distinctly Randian about his treatment of function (although there was some amount of rhetoric about how benighted nearly everyone else was).  Nor was there anything that rose above a fair-to-middlin' analytic philosopher's approach to teleology.  Ruth Garrett Millikan is much better on these issues--and, I would argue, Mark Bickhard gets past some of the obstacles that Millikan is still faced with.

But Binswanger's book was published over a decade ago.  Given Peikoff's apparent dismissal of the importance of evolutionary biology to phllosophy, I wonder whether a book on teleology like Binswanger's could even be published under ARI's auspices today.

Robert Campbell




Post 54

Monday, December 20, 2004 - 6:32amSanction this postReply
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Pete,

Regarding your message - the ARI was in a slump in the 1990's, while TOC was doing quite well. After Yaron Brook took over ARI, and after the impact of 9/11, there was a clear reversal of fortunes.  In fact, I suspect Peikoff's semi-retirement contributed to the improvement of ARI's image. ARI succeeds because it has a clear and consistent message - you may disagree with it, but the public knows exactly where they stand. TOC paid the price for being an open forum where you can critique Rand and Objectivism on anything. As a result, the public has no idea what they stand *for*. Scholarly critique of Rand and Objectivism is fine for a scholarly organization the way IOS was, but it does not work out for a public advocacy organization.

-- Michelle






Post 55

Monday, December 20, 2004 - 6:49amSanction this postReply
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Ryan - Thank you for your response. I hope Rasmussen's friendly criticism of Rand in his paper for the Ayn Rand Society this year is a good start.




Post 56

Monday, December 20, 2004 - 8:29amSanction this postReply
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Michelle,

    After three years of having been completely immersed in Intel's 300mm wafer fabrication startup and getting used to being newly married, I moved to Poughkeepsie, NY to be involved in IBM's development of next generation server chips. This brought me back in contact with official Objectivism after having lived under a technological rock for several years. After a terrific 1999 IOS conference which included David Kelley's terrific lecture on Choosing Life" and Jose Pinero's stirring account of the privatization of Social Security in Chile, I came back to an atmosphere of carping and backbiting that I had not seen for a while. It seems as if many people go into some kind of existential crisis every time they feel not enough is being done to advance Objectivism.
    In 1999 and 2000, I attended Reason's Dynamic Visions conferences in Silicon Valley where I heard Eric Raymond lay out his case for Open Source and Linux, Robert Zubrin talk about preliminary groundwork for Exploration of Mars, Gregory Stock of UCLA's school of Medicine give an overview of the groundwork for human genetic modification, Virginia Postrel give a stirring talk about her new book " The Future and its Enemies", Michael Schrage talk about the effect of models and prototypes on corporate culture in his book "Serious Play" and a talk by someone from MIT's media lab about wearable computing. Sadly, those conferences have not continued, but I've got a reading list a mile long  that will last me for some time.
    I have reflected on the fact that Peter Schwartz and ARI would brand these first-adopter libertarians with the same broad brush as the Libertarian Party. Philosophically in league with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Now, I have serious issues with the CATO Institute, the Libertarian Party and the way Reason magazine is being run right now, but that does not mean that I will stop mining gold when I find it.
    Having attended the last three days of TOC's 2004  Conference and listened to David Kelley's terrific lectures on the origins of modern day fundamentalist Islam and Fred Seddon's terrific lecture on  coherence and correspondence theories of truth, I think they are making a good faith effort.
    As for ARI, I will admit to being weary of dusty history of philosophy expositions and rhetoric about nuking the Arabs until they glow. What have they done that is fundamentally new and even approaching the level of the first-adopter libertarians they bash so much?




Post 57

Monday, December 20, 2004 - 7:00pmSanction this postReply
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Michelle,

I have little knowledge of the relative degrees of success that TOC and ARI experience, but I'm sure there is truth in your analysis.

However, I still think that ARI's recent successes (at least as far as media exposure is concerned) are helped by the fact that third party outsiders are more likely to view ARI as the authoritative source on Rand's ideas for the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post.   




Post 58

Thursday, December 23, 2004 - 3:01pmSanction this postReply
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Michelle--I agree; I have high hopes for Rasumussen's piece.  I think you are right in thinking that a lot of this ARI-TOC debate boils down to domain--it seems that ARI types like Schwartz will always have more success generating polemical soundbites for FOX News or the local newspaper, while TOC will be more successful making inroads in academia.  Flip through the pages of Social Philosophy and Policy and you'll see pieces by Mack, Miller, Den Uyl, Rasmussen, Robert Campbell, Neera Badhwar, etc.  These are philosophers associated to a greater or lesser extent with TOC--they have lectured at conferences, written articles, and so on.  I think one major value offered by TOC is that it comes much closer than ARI to being a genuine marketplace of ideas within which Objectivist-minded scholars can operate.

Also, regarding what Robert Campbell wrote, I would also love to see an in-depth treatment of Binswanger's book.  As far as I can tell, teleology is making a comeback in philosophy of biology and especially biocentric approaches to ethics and psychology such as Aristotelian virtue ethics and evolutionary and positive psychology.  If I remember correctly, The Monist had a special issue about a decade ago edited by Den Uyl devoted to teleology and the foundations of value and had pieces by Henry Veatch, David Norton, Binswanger, and others.  It's cool stuff.   




Post 59

Saturday, December 25, 2004 - 8:49pmSanction this postReply
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Ryan,

I agree that scholars like Mack, Miller, Den Uyl, Rasmussen, Robert Campbell, Neera Badhwar and others were at one point guest speakers at TOC seminars or published articles via TOC.  The question is whether their publications on Social Philosophy and Policy incorporate Objectivist ideas. I am not familiar with their articles on Social Philosophy and Policy, so please let me know what you think.

Recently, I was writing an article on Aristotle's Eudemonia and Galt's Gulch for Ed Younkins'  anthology.  While looking for material, I became aware that TOC does not offer much on Aristotle. There are only Shawn Klein's audiotape "Was Aristotle an Egoist?" and Roderick Long's monograph "Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand."  Aristotle's books are not sold at all. There is no Aristotelian scholar at TOC while ARI has Robert Mayhew and Alan Gotthelf. The omission of Aristotle is odd since Objectivism is founded on Aristotle in the realms of metaphysics, epistemology and ethics.  Even constructive criticism of a philosophy requires a thorough knowledge of its foundations.

-- Michelle


(Edited by Michelle Cohen on 12/25, 8:51pm)




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