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Open Objectivism

Posted by DavidKelley 6 years, 4 months ago to Philosophy
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For reference:
Fact and Value: https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...
The Leonard Peikoff/David Kelley intellectual exchange: https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post...
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As the person who first raised the issue of tolerance and of open vs. closed Objectivism—and the person whose position has been under consideration in recent posts—I’d like first of all to thank Walter Donway for his articulate explanation and defense of the position we share. To weigh in with additional thoughts:

1. Historically, the debate began in 1989 when Peter Schwartz attacked me for speaking to a libertarian organization, the Laissez-Farire Books supper club. I responded with a 4-page open letter ( http://atlassociety.org/about-us/abou... ) mailed (in pre-internet days) to my Objectivist colleagues, including Schwartz and Peikoff among others. I advocated tolerance in the service of the open expansion of Objectivism:

“There is much we can learn from others if we are willing to listen. And even where they are wrong, we strengthen the foundations of our own beliefs—the accuracy and range of our observations, the validity of our concepts, the rigor of our arguments—by the effort to prove why they are wrong.

“That’s why every age of reason has welcomed diversity and debate. The great minds of the Enlightenment declared war on the entire apparatus of intolerance: the obsession with official or authorized doctrine, the concepts of heresy and blasphemy, the party lines and intellectual xenophobia, the militant hostility among rival sects, the constant schisms and breaks, the character assassination of those who fall from grace. These are the techniques of irrational philosophies, such as Christianity or Marxism, and may well have been vital to their success. But they have no place in a philosophy of reason.

Ayn Rand left us a magnificent system of ideas. But it is not a closed system. It is a powerful engine of integration. Let us not starve it of fuel by shutting our minds to what is good in other approaches. Let us test our ideas in open debate. If we are right, we have nothing to fear; if we are wrong, we have something to learn. Above all, let us encourage independent thought among ourselves. Let us welcome dissent, and the restless ways of the explorers among us. Nine out of ten new ideas will be mistakes, but the tenth will let in the light.”

That excerpt should make it clear that toleration of and engagement with those we disagree with is not the primary issue. The primary issue is whether Objectivism is open or closed as a philosophical system. If it’s open, we benefit from engagement. If closed, why bother? The open character is the founding principle of The Atlas Society, and we have pursued it many ways. An example is my work on benevolence as a virtue, which, as Walter explains, is grounded in basic values of Objectivism. That said, we are rigorous about what work we endorse: it must be consistent with established Objectivist principles, as hundreds of pages of exposition on our website will attest.

2. To my knowledge, this was the first time any Objectivist thinker has raised the issue of open vs. closed. I thought the open character was obvious; I thought my Objectivist colleagues were pursuing new Objectivist insights. “Fact and Value” was Peikoff’s response, saying that the philosophy was closed. I replied to his essay at length in The Contested Legacy pf Ayn Rand, esp. Chap 5. ( http://atlassociety.org/about-us/abou... ) No principal in Peikoff’s camp has responded to my arguments in 25 years. Meanwhile, I gave a talk on the issues in 2010, “Truth and Toleration Twenty Years Later” ( http://atlassociety.org/about-us/abou... ).

My friends in the Gulch, this is an important issue and well worth debating. Having been party to this argument for 25 years, I hope my writing here today provides some historical context for those pursuing the issue in earnest. I'll try to answer any questions you might have.


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  • -2
    Posted by wiggys 6 years, 4 months ago
    Have you attempted to write about other philosophy's in a critical manner as you are attempting to do with Objectivism? Do you have a philosophy that has the depth of Objectivism? Can you present examples of what you would add to any branch of Objectivism and explain why?
    Ayn Rand once said and she may have said it more than once is that she was only interested in attracting people who had an interest in what she had to say. She also said that her ideas i.e. philosophy would endure long after she was gone. My proof of her statement is this site. Will the same hold true for you? What does it matter to you that Lenard Peikoff , Peter Schwartz and many more of her inner circle to include someone like me who was not part of the inner circle view Objectivism as a closed philosophy?

    Unfortunately for me I am not as perceptive as Ayn Rand was but I think you have a motivation to some how degrade the work of a genius. She over time will have more of an effect on people with education than anyone else who has ever lived. You know of course Atlas Shrugged is only the SECOND most influential book ever written, the bible being number one. As an avowed Objectivist I do not to the best of my knowledge deviate from the principles set forth by Ayn Rand!!!!
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    • Posted by khalling 6 years, 4 months ago
      Several of your questions were answered above, wiggys. See Dr. Kelley's work on Benevolence. Read his powerful essay on Rand vs Hayek. You are highly critical for someone who has not read his work . This is an important point to make-"deviation" is not what is asserted here. Application-is.
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      • -3
        Posted by wiggys 6 years, 4 months ago
        I did not say he deviated. I just believe the Ayn Rand took basically Aristotle's work and built upon it. She also read all of the philosophers that existed between Aristotle and herself and maybe since i have not read them incorporated some of their think, but if she did it was to minor to remember. The facts speak for themselves so it is not necessary for me to re-present them.
        Maybe he should address my question of an ulterior motive.
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        • Posted by dbhalling 6 years, 4 months ago
          Wiggys your question is insulting. You know nothing about Dr. Kelley's work but you suggest he has an ulterior motive. When did you quit beating your spouse?
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          • -1
            Posted by wiggys 6 years, 4 months ago
            the man has spent 25 years trying to get his point across and will spend the rest of his life at it with the same lack of accomplishment.
            As for my personal life what if you knew that my wife appreciated a slap now and then. I guess personal attacks outside of the subject is acceptable to you. Your wife could only wish to have received the gifts I have bestowed on my wife.
            PS he has no defense as I see it, he leaves it to you, a joke.
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    • Posted by $ WilliamShipley 6 years, 4 months ago
      That sounds rather messianic, where Ayn Rand is no longer an innovative philosopher but a religious messiah with a claim of infallibility. If Objectivism is not a religion with affirmation of faiths, but a philosophy based on rational analysis of a real world, the real world is the final arbiter.

      I am a computer programmer. For years I have told people I work with that the computer is the final authority on how it works. If Bill Gates says the computer does X and it actually does Y, then Y is the proper answer. The real world is the final arbiter.
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  • -2
    Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 4 months ago
    Much depends on what you mean by "open".
    Objectivism is not open to any change that would lead to conflict with the philosophy that AR created; the def. of Obj.ism cannot change.
    If dealing with libertarians in any manner that would diminish the image of Obj.ism, then that would (in '89 or now) be wrong.

    Debate on issues is one thing; conflicting with Obj.ism while representing oneself as an Obj.ist is quite another.
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    • Posted by dbhalling 6 years, 4 months ago
      So giving a talk to libertarian groups diminishes Objectivism?
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      • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 4 months ago
        Neither you nor I know the whole story. But knowing what I do about Peikoff and his concerns, I expect there was more than just a talk there; i.e. Kelley was in agreement with some of the Libertarian viewpoints. If so, then Peikoff did not want him representing Obj.ism.
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        • Posted by ewv 6 years, 4 months ago
          The promotion of Objectivism as "open", including to "variations", and other disagreements, are different questions than the one about speaking at libertarian events. You would agree with "some of the libertarian viewpoints", too; the controversy on that front was over implying a sanction of radical libertarians (especially anarchists) opposed to Ayn Rand's philosophy and publicly attacking her for it over a long period of time. https://www.galtsgulchonline.com/post... (David Kelley did not believe he was doing that but it's not the only controversy.)
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    • Posted by dbhalling 6 years, 4 months ago
      Of course - If parallel lines meet in the distance it is not Euclidean geometry. If for every action, there is not an equal and opposite reaction then it is not Newtonian Mechanics. In both of those cases a few fundamentals allowed incredibly complex logic/rational systems that people are still working out the implications of.
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      • Posted by ut91t05 6 years, 4 months ago
        There is a big difference in the laws of physics or mathematics and comparing the ideas of a person long since dead in any context with the laws of science in my eyes has no relevance.
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    • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 6 years, 4 months ago
      Sentence two conflicts with obectivist principles.

      The last sentence only means it's time to search for false premises.

      the whole comment is well meant but needs to be re-written.. It defeats it's own purpose.
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      • Posted by tdechaine 6 years, 4 months ago
        Your 1st sentence: you missed the point re definitions.
        Your 2nd sentence: the point was directed to any Obj.ist who would diminish the image by dealing with those who are in contradiction with Obj.ism (e.g. Libertarians). It's about protecting the def. of Obj.ism, not preventing debate on issues. And if you were suggesting that Libertarians have found false premises in Obj.ism, you are wrong.
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