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Weird Email About ARI

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I got an email from some dude saying strange things about ARI. Who takes classes from the OAC out there? Is any of this true? Does ARI teach students to "parrot" Ayn Rand or refuse to let kids ask questions?

-----Original Message-----

From: William Thomas

[mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Wednesday, August 04, 2004 4:03 PM

Subject: Objectivism from the Source course

<snip>

The Ayn Rand Institute already offers phone-in courses, so why should

you consider a course from The Objectivist Center? You may have even

heard insults directed against the Center's founder, David Kelley, or

you may have heard the Center derided as "subjectivists" or fake

Objectivists.

But no authority can trump your need for objectivity. While ARI

virtually deifies Ayn Rand and teaches students to parrot her writings

and ideas, TOC is committed to an engaged, respectful, and independent

study of her rich system of thought. Instead of being suppressed,

criticisms and questions are accepted and openly discussed. This does

not mean we are not Objectivists--on the contrary, we recognize that any

philosophic system as robust and true as Ayn Rand's must confront and

answer objections with sound philosophical inquiry. Individualism and

reason require the open vistas of clear debate and wide-ranging

discussion. This is the principle on which TOC was founded, and on which

my course will operate. For more on the advantages of studying

Objectivism with TOC, see "Why Choose TOC?" on our website:

www.objectivistcenter.org/obj-studies/wthomas_toc-ari.asp

<snip>

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I'm not sure what to make of your question since you are a "mysterious stranger," you are asking about a ToC instructor's opinion about ARI, and the question is simply ridiculous on the face of it. On the benevolent universe premise I will give you the benefit of doubt and simply answer an emphatic NO! I was a student of both the undergraduate and graduate levels of the OAC and if this person is giving you that impression of the Center, I can only conclude that he is purposefully trying to deceive you. This is a person who is out to destroy Objectivism...do not fall for his tricks.

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And FYI...OAC courses have been the most demanding (and consequently rewarding) courses I have ever taken. This is coming from someone who has done graduate work in philosophy...

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I have comments on this email here:

http://angermanagement.mu.nu/archives/040214.html

Thanks for making your comments on this public, Don. And thanks to Daniel for the public comments pointed to therein.

I always say about the rabid anti-Objectivists and pseudo-Objectivists, that some are so bizarre in their intent and action that you cannot really make up fictional characters like them. I think that this is a perfect example of just that sort of character.

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Also, Diana has a post on her blog for 08/06/04 about a debate toc is apart of.

"A new low for Toc"

www.dianahsieh.com/blog

From TOC:

A dabate: Are ethics objective or subjective?

"Are ethics ultimately objective or subjective? This is an important question for classical liberals and libertarians. All agree on the goals of individual liberty, free markets and limited governments in a society in which individuals deal with one another based on mutual consent rather than the initiation of force. But on what moral grounds can they defend such a society and government? In this debate Edward Hudgins will take the objective side, basing his argument on the philosophy of Ayn Rand while Max Borders will take the side of a skeptical subjectivist."

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Thanks for your comments, Bowzer. I just wanted to know whether Thomas is misrepresenting ARI.

Now that I understand more about where this E-mail came from, I can be more confident about two things: your honest intentions, stranger, and my assessment of the pure maliciousness of Thomas.

Daniel Schwartz (a current OAC student) has already commented on how much you are pushed as an individual in the Center. I would just echo his experience and say that nowhere in the world will you be pushed harder to stand on your own two intellectual legs. You are constantly drilled in class and in one-on-one sessions with the instructor; in other words, you had better know what you are talking about!

If you want to know who the parrots are, just toss Mr. Thomas a cracker and see what happens.

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I've been taking classes at OAC for three years, and can say from personal experience that William Thomas has no clue what he's talking about. As others have said, the classes are very demanding intellectually. One of the *worst* things someone can do in an OAC class is simply parrot Ayn Rand. I've seen it happen occasionally, and it is always followed by a question which requires thought. After a while, those people start thinking a bit harder (or drop out of the program.) There's no other option.

My opinion of TOC was never particularly high, but it's going down even more as I watch their most recent actions. They're no longer even trying to *look* like they're telling the truth. For such a vapid and boring organization, they're doing a mighty good job at pulling frothing ad hominems from their nether-regions.

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Why does one even need to take classes from the so-called Ayn Rand Institute anyway? None of the instructors can speak for Ayn Rand. I see the whole exercise as silly. I read the works of Ayn Rand and other philosophers. It is a pretence to say that Ayn Rand's philosophy as she articulated it is comprehensive. So I see the classes from ARI and TOC as nothing more than the peddling of dogmatism (yes, I said dogmatism). I mean even a bible school teacher may not tolerate parroting (SO WHAT?).

Look at it this way: the instructor does not like parroting he simply wants you to come to a particular conclusion while incorporationg Objectivist principles. Come to a different conclusion than Ayn Rand and tell me what happens.

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Why does one even need to take classes from the so-called Ayn Rand Institute anyway? ... I see the whole exercise as silly.

Obviously your understanding is well beyond anything that a mere OAC instructor could offer. Best you stay away from any kind of organized learning, I agree.

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Capleton slurred-

Look at it this way: the instructor does not like parroting he simply wants you to come to a particular conclusion while incorporationg Objectivist principles. Come to a different conclusion than Ayn Rand and tell me what happens.

If a person were to come to different conclusions than Ayn Rand it would probably mean they started out with different premises.

Do you have any examples of people who come to different conclusions, or is this another case of random (and senseless) claims that Objectivists are dogmatists?

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Why does one even need to take classes from the so-called Ayn Rand Institute anyway? None of the instructors can speak for Ayn Rand. I see the whole exercise as silly. I read the works of Ayn Rand and other philosophers. It is a pretence to say that Ayn Rand's philosophy as she articulated it is comprehensive. So I see the classes from ARI and TOC as nothing more than the peddling of dogmatism (yes, I said dogmatism). I mean even a bible school teacher may not tolerate parroting (SO WHAT?).
I'm not sure this is worth responding to, but what the hell. Look -- why take a class on Aristotle? Why take a class on Plato? Why take a class on geometry, for that matter, when you could just read Euclid? Obviously, because there is a benefit to learning from people who are more knowledgeable than yourself in the topic you wish to learn about.

Your post is, for lack of a better way to put it, retarded. Who's claiming to speak for Ayn Rand? I assume by "comprehensive" you mean "there's nothing more to be done in philosophy than what was done by Ayn Rand" -- who's claiming that? If somebody is -- somebody involved in OAC, not some jackass on some message board -- I'd love to know it. I've never seen it.

Look at it this way: the instructor does not like parroting he simply wants you to come to a particular conclusion while incorporationg Objectivist principles. Come to a different conclusion than Ayn Rand and tell me what happens.

I've seen it happen. More than a few times. Want to know the response? Usually a few minutes of debate, and then the class moves on. No hassle. Of course, the professors are Objectivists, so they tend to defend Objectivist positions. But they also spend a good deal of time playing devil's advocate -- and doing a damned good job at it -- in order to get people to really think the issues through for themselves.

I can imagine a situation in which someone might be removed from the class for taking some particular position -- say, for example, someone decided to become a rabid communist. ARI is picky about who they allow into the classes, and for good reason. They're spending a lot of money on them, and the goal is to train Objectivists to become better intellectuals. If someone decides to depart substantially from Objectivism, what value is ARI getting from their investment? But that said, to my knowledge it hasn't yet happened. (I've heard a very different story about Damien Moskovitz than what's on the TOC website, if you have that in mind -- but I'm not going to discuss that here, because I don't know anything about it first-hand.)

Whatever. I don't expect to convince you of anything, since you seem perfectly satisfied to draw conclusions without a pinch of evidence. Hopefully those who read this thread will take this first-hand report as reason to investigate for themselves.

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I'm not sure this is worth responding to, but what the hell. Look -- why take a class on Aristotle? Why take a class on Plato? Why take a class on geometry, for that matter, when you could just read Euclid? Obviously, because there is a benefit to learning from people who are more knowledgeable than yourself in the topic you wish to learn about.
A class on Aristotle is usually an unbiased look at what he believed and why. the professor may or may not be an Aristotelian philosopher. I never said you can't take a class on Plato. A class usually doesn't last four years you know. Likening geometry to Objectivism is a risky deed. One cannot just read about a branch of mathematics; mathematics requires a lot of practice. Why don't you just buy a book on geometry and practice at home? Of course, you may think that you are not disciplined enough to practice dilligently and sometimes the text book's explanation may not be sufficient. That's why you would want a tutor. You can learn as much about Plato and Geometry from your own efforts.

I've seen it happen. More than a few times. Want to know the response? Usually a few minutes of debate, and then the class moves on. No hassle.

Until grading time comes around, right?

I can imagine a situation in which someone might be removed from the class for taking some particular position -- say, for example, someone decided to become a rabid communist.
I am sure that at the Karl Marx institute anyone who shows symptoms of rabid laissez faire capitalism will be thrown out too. After all, the official dogma cannot be challenged. It doesn't matter that you had to read all the works of Karl Marx before being admitted to the classes. It does not matter that you passed the entry exam showing you have a good grasp of what Karl Marx believed. The purpose of the classes is to turn out Marxist intellectuals (in the case of ARI Objectivist intellectuals) who would then seek to spread the official dogma. The idea is not to produce indepedent minds at all.

If someone decides to depart substantially from Objectivism, what value is ARI getting from their investment?

My point exactly. They are not looking for peoplewho take objectivity serious they are looking for people who subscribe to Ayn Rand's ideas. The classes are to make them more articulate in espousing those ideas not to question those ideas rigorously. Consider a seminary is dedicated to producing good Christian theologians who embrace the official dogma. Can anyone graduate from OAC who thinks that alturism is moral?

By the way, thanks for the shameless insults you hurled at me.

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My point exactly. They are not looking for peoplewho take objectivity serious they are looking for people who subscribe to Ayn Rand's ideas. The classes are to make them more articulate in espousing those ideas not to question those ideas rigorously. Consider a seminary is dedicated to producing good Christian theologians who embrace the official dogma. Can anyone graduate from OAC who thinks that alturism is moral?

To compare the study of Ayn Rand's ideas to the study of Christina dogma, to imply a dichotomy between Objectivism and objectivity, and to imply that the OAC is seeking mindless agreement is insulting, arbitrary, and unjustified. Stop it.

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Until grading time comes around, right?

All right, obviously you have access to the statistics that show a correlation between agreement during class and participation grades in the OAC. Maybe you would like to post those statistics here?

For you to question the honesty of the wonderful people at the OAC, without any means, on your part, to know how they conduct class, is downright dishonest. Furthermore, the only evidence you DO have is the reports of those of us on this forum who are in the OAC. Yet you ignore and MOCK those reports.

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My point exactly. They are not looking for people who take objectivity serious they are looking for people who subscribe to Ayn Rand's ideas. The classes are to make them more articulate in espousing those ideas not to question those ideas rigorously. Consider a seminary is dedicated to producing good Christian theologians who embrace the official dogma. Can anyone graduate from OAC who thinks that alturism is moral?

The purpose of the ARI is to the spread the ideas of Ayn Rand throughout the culture. Working to increasing the number of Objectivist intellectuals is not the same thing as spreading dogma. Whether Objectivism is dogma or not requires the independent judgement of each individual, judgement that seems to be encouraged at the OAC according to accounts made here by people who have attended.

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It is telling that Thomas knows he must confront the competition from ARI in the first place, rather than simply offer his class. Of course, a simple acknowledgment won't do; his only chance to draw any potential client, he believes, is to insult ARI. How weak is that!

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The purpose of the ARI is to the spread the ideas of Ayn Rand throughout the culture.  Working to increasing the number of Objectivist intellectuals is not the same thing as spreading dogma.  Whether Objectivism is dogma or not requires the independent judgement of each individual, judgement that seems to be encouraged at the OAC according to accounts made here by people who have attended.

This isn't the first time I've noticed you respond to something in a clear and succinct way which captures the essence of the issue.

My compliments.

Fred Weiss

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Daniel:

For you to question the honesty of the wonderful people at the OAC, without any means, on your part, to know how they conduct class, is downright dishonest. Furthermore, the only evidence you DO have is the reports of those of us on this forum who are in the OAC. Yet you ignore and MOCK those reports.
I understand most of what you say. But one factor that must be taken into account is the fact that ARI screens its students rather well. I would like to think that it is for this very reason that such problems may not arise.

DPW:

To compare the study of Ayn Rand's ideas to the study of Christ[ian]dogma, to imply a dichotomy between Objectivism and objectivity, and to imply that the OAC is seeking mindless agreement is insulting, arbitrary, and unjustified. Stop it.

Your statements seem to assume that Objevtivism and objectivity go hand in hand by default. Objectivity is what Objectivists proport to be using but many fail in that regard. Why the need to create a straw man here? Attending the classes does not make on mindless so much as it would make one single-minded. By single-minded I do not mean principled but dogmatic. I will take not of you concerns though.

Andrew:

The purpose of the ARI is to the spread the ideas of Ayn Rand throughout the culture.  Working to increasing the number of Objectivist intellectuals is not the same thing as spreading dogma.  Whether Objectivism is dogma or not requires the independent judgement of each individual, judgement that seems to be encouraged at the OAC according to accounts made here by people who have attended.
Dogma: a belief or set of beliefs that a political, philosophical, or moral group holds to be true.

Given the definition above I am perfectly justifed in saying that ARI wants to spread dogma. I never said anything about religiousity mind you. The purpose of turning out intellectuals is to spread the dogma. The truth of Objectivism is most often taken as a given. The purpose of ARI is not question Objectivism but to spread it. One wonders whether Rand herself would want such an organization in existence after the (cultic) problems that arose with the Nathaniel B. Institute. Note: I have never said Objectivism is a cult but the fact remains that some people develop a cultic following nonetheless.

Oldsalt:

Daniel and crew: You are feeding a troll. Stop it.

I am not a troll FYI! I would like to think that you are the troll for posting an insult without much elaboration. Clearly you want to stir up my emotions while not offering anything of substance (isn' that the definition of a troll?).

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