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What's the deal with the Kelley Objectivists?

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I've seen criticism of TOC and Kelley in a few threads, and I'm trying to get my head around what differentiates ARI/Peikoff Objectivism from TOC/Kelley Objectivism. Browsing about on The Objectivist Center's website, I come to this chapter excerpt from one of Kelley's books. On reading it, I find myself a bit confused.

Kelley's argument with Peikoff Objectivists is in Peikoff wanting to call Objectivism a closed system -- complete and unchanging. Kelley further disagrees with the idea that any philosophy is unchanging. Kelley cites the fact that many of the philosophies Objectivists call Kantian weren't developed by Kant as evidence of philosophy changing. However Kelley seems to miss that people who speak about Kantian philosophies this way are relating philosophies by a subset of their common errors, not the complete set of Kant's defining rules. (Is there a better word for the positions that make up a philosophy than "rules?")

The rest of the page seems a bit muddled to me. On the one hand, he is trying to argue for broadening the scope of Objectivism, and on the other hand he's critical of rigid dogmatism that comes from formalizing everything. This would make me think he'd be more agreeable to the closed philosophy position, unless he believed errors existed in the rigidly defined and closed portion.

In the end, I don't get Kelley's point in making his argument, or what he's trying to accomplish.

Do the Kelley Objectivists have problems with some part of the closed definition of Objectivism as it currently stands? What is it that they are trying to teach or accomplish that is at odds with what already exists?

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Philosophy, as a field of knowledge, does not begin and end with Ayn Rand. Down the road there may be many new discoveries and identifications that Ayn Rand didn't make. In that sense, the field of philosophy is not and cannot be "closed:" it would imply omniscience to declare that there was nothing more to discover or develop in the field.

However, the particular ideas generated by particular philosophers are closed, once those philosophers stop contributing to philosophy. What Kant had to say, for instance, will never change in the future. So it makes no sense to claim that Kant's philosophy is "open" to revision.

Now "Objectivism" is the name Ayn Rand gave to her philosophy. What she had to say (philosophically) marks the entirety of her philosophy -- period. If someone agrees with part of it, but not all, they should not call themselves Objectivists. "Objectivist sympathizers" or "Ayn Rand-influenced thinkers" would be more appropriate and honest.

Some people want to modify Objectivism and still call it Objectivism. Kelley, for instance, thinks toleration and benevolence are virtues unto themselves, rather than special cases of justice.

So while philosophy as a field is open, the particular philosophies of philosophers who are no longer around are closed. As we develop new ideas in the future, the field of philosophy grows to encompass those ideas, but the particular systems (such as Objectivism) will remain as they are today.

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But here's my question, can we say that Objectivism and rational philosophy refer to two different concepts? Would it be correct to say that Ayn Rand's Objectivism stands as the highest example of rational philosophy? And if at some point in the future it is realized that certain of Rand's formulations were imprecise or perhaps even wrong then that new knowledge will be part of rational philosophy and Rand's errors will be ommited? This subject always gives me trouble.

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But here's my question, can we say that Objectivism and rational philosophy refer to two different concepts? Would it be correct to say that Ayn Rand's Objectivism stands as the highest example of rational philosophy?

I picked up my first philosophy book only recently, so I would welcome anyone correcting me on any of this. But no, I don't think Objectivism is rational philosophy. Rational philosophy either deals with unproven givens, around which everything else is built, or simply has no level beyond which you are able to dig. In rationalism, you keep asking "why?" over and over again until you either reach a given or you're confounded.

Objectivism looks like empiricism, where everything is based on what you can see and measure. I don't know what other philosophies are based on empiricism apart from Aristotle's, so I don't know how to differentiate among them, or whether Objectivism is a strict superset of any previous philosophy.

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Robert Tracinski's notes on Kelley answer my original question very well. In a nutshell, Kelley doesn't believe a human can operate logically because we're prone to error. Because we can never be certain of the integrity of our own ideas, we can't reject anyone else's ideas as invalid or evil until they cause actual harm.

If the above is true, I don't understand Kelley's promotion of any form of philosophy. Why offer a tool like Objectivism if you're not convinced anyone can use it? What's the point of his version of Objectivism if one can't develop certainty and integration?

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I picked up my first philosophy book only recently, so I would welcome anyone correcting me on any of this. But no, I don't think Objectivism is rational philosophy. Rational philosophy either deals with unproven givens, around which everything else is built, or simply has no level beyond which you are able to dig. In rationalism, you keep asking "why?" over and over again until you either reach a given or you're confounded.

Objectivism looks like empiricism, where everything is based on what you can see and measure. I don't know what other philosophies are based on empiricism apart from Aristotle's, so I don't know how to differentiate among them, or whether Objectivism is a strict superset of any previous philosophy.

No I didn't mean "rationalism." I meant a rational, pro-reason philosopical thought system. In other words, I know that Objectivism is a rational thought system but if we are going to define Objectivism as the system laid down by Ayn Rand (and possibly some other contributions in her life time that she ok'ed) then there has to be a concept that identifies something broader than just her ideas because she was not omniscient and she could not anticipate all the consequences and new knowledge her ideas will (and have) led to. So I was using "rational philosophy" to mean something like all philosophic knowledge which corresponds to or accurately describes reality. If you were to use set theory than Objectivism would be one set of ideas inside the larger set of ideas which is rational philosophy; which would have ideas laid down by other philosophic thinkers, most notably Aristotle and Aquinas.

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But here's my question, can we say that Objectivism and rational philosophy refer to two different concepts?

Of course. "Rational philosophy" refers to philosophical ideas, systems, or methods reached through reason (properly defined). That's a concept that subsumes many things, including Objectivism. Objectivism is not a concept, but rather the proper name for a specific concrete: the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Would it be correct to say that Ayn Rand's Objectivism stands as the highest example of rational philosophy?
If someone shows me a better one tomorrow, I'll stop being an Objectivist. Until then, how could I answer this question except with a strong affirmative?

And if at some point in the future it is realized that certain of Rand's formulations were imprecise or perhaps even wrong then that new knowledge will be part of rational philosophy and Rand's errors will be ommited?

If that happened, yes. More likely, we would delimit some aspect of Objectivism to some context in which it is true, while this new knowledge would express either a more general truth or truth in a parallel context. That is, after all, the general nature of contextual knowledge adapting to new insights. An example might be some new insight into psycho-epistemology or a theory of induction.

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I come to this chapter excerpt from one of Kelley's books. On reading it, I find myself a bit confused.

I would recommend reading a couple more things.

First, Peikoff's response to David Kelley--"Fact and Value":

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...=objectivism_fv

The major distinction in practice, at least that I'm aware of, is that TOC supports libertarians and allows all varieties of people into its organization (anarchists, etc.), in order to compromise and be "practical." For ARI's position on Libertarianism, there is a great FAQ here (by Ayn Rand):

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...us_libertarians

and Peter Schwartz's "On Moral Sanctions"

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...ivism_sanctions

TOC stands for compromise, and ARI stands for principles. If you compromise and go with the libertarians, and they get power--and then the ideas fail (as they must), your view will be misrepresented and you will be set back very far. It isn't even practical.

ARI supports the philosophical revolution that will eventually lead to getting real change made.

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I think it's best to have an open door policy but only to a point. You can't compromise a philosophy's core values and expect it to be considered 'operational' at the same time. It's not only a matter of principles of what ARI does, it's a matter of survival, not that it is weak but like I said before, to keep folks that are not strict adherents from mixing their ideas into what has already come before.

-- Bridget

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Objectivism looks like empiricism, where everything is based on what you can see and measure.

"Rationalism" and "empiricism" are two different schools of thought in philosophy, neither of which subsume Objectivism.

Rationalism, loosely speaking, looks to build intricate, detailed, orderly systems of thought out of "pure reason" -- that is, by deduction from premises, without looking to the facts of reality. Adherents cast down upon reality declarations of how it "must be" -- without bothering to actually look.

Empricists dismiss rationalist thought as detached from reality, and respond by becoming concrete-bound, anti-conceptual and pragmatic.

Objectivism begins with observation of reality and uses reason to integrate perceptual data into concepts and principles.

For a more formal analysis, see The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy in ItOE. (In particular, see the section "Logic and Experience.")

Side question for extra credit: why is there such limited discussion of the two schools in the Objectivist literature? The Lexicon only has one reference (to FNI). I thought there was a section in OPAR dealing with it, but I don't see it. (The final sections of some of the chapters there are polemical: "Idealism and Materialism as the Rejection of Basic Axioms" or "Mysticism and Skepticism as Denials of Reason." Why not a section on rationalism and empiricism?)

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.....Side question for extra credit: why is there such limited discussion of the two schools in the Objectivist literature?  The Lexicon only has one reference (to FNI).  I thought there was a section in OPAR dealing with it, but I don't see it.  (The final sections of some of the chapters there are polemical: "Idealism and Materialism as the Rejection of Basic Axioms" or "Mysticism and Skepticism as Denials of Reason."  Why not a section on rationalism and empiricism?)

At the risk of getting ahead of myself, I think your question could be generalized and re-phrased as "Why didn't Ayn spend more time debunking her opposition?" As a general answer to both your question and my new one, I offer it in two parts: 1) For a person who wrote 4 novels, a play, several short stories _and_ created an entirely new and superior philosophy to boot, I'd say that she had to keep her eyes on her priorities and, in turn, this means 2) She was more concerned with asserting the positive by elaborating her philosophy rather than with rejecting the negative by focusing heavily on differentiating her philosophy in toto from her opponents' work.

Now on to OPAR: If you hold on a moment(!) and go back, I think that you'll find that you glossed over the book that last time! For example, just in Ch. 4: Objectivity _alone_ there are two relevant sections: one on context and another on hierarchy. Context and hierarchy are ultimately anathema to both Rationalists and Empiricists, but in partcular, the Rationalists would reject hierarchy for fear that their ordained premises i.e. their baseless presumptions could be replaced by something better tied to (and suited for) reality, and the Empiricists would reject context for fear of premises that don't directly follow from their (narrow) observations.

(The older-guard Objectivists are watching me closely here at this point. :D :-P )

Of course, both the Rationalists and the Empiricists do not abide by the rules of valid induction. As Dr. Peikoff might put it, neither group has "flooded the senses" enough and followed through accordingly to draw the right conclusions.

(You're just itching for me to give an example to concretize these points, right? Me too!)

I guess one of the wiser things that I can (and should) state is that hierarchy and context are not divorced from each other!!!! Think of the events leading up to the train crash in _Atlas Shrugged_. Doesn't it make a difference _what kind_ of people are on the train? Well, there's some context! Doesn't it make a difference that Dagny's company is suffering from "brain drain" _before_ the crash? Well, there's some hierarchy! These are the SAME EVENTS leading up to the inevitable result. You can't partition out and drop an aspect of the story either "out of hierarchy" or "out of context" and expect the same resulting conclusion to that scenario!!! (In case, anyone is wondering, you can analyse her essays and find the same type of considerations for epistemic integrity.)

Returning to your original question, here's another version of my question for you: Why would she (separately) focus on other Modern philosophies at the expense of developing her own work when she can "feed one bird" while killing off the others at the same time. "Objectivism provides for its own defense." You _can_ use Objectivism to reject Modernism (which is part of what ARI does.) Again, I refer to the mortality of human life. What more would someone expect of Ayn given what she _did_ achieve? ...same for Peikoff, Binswanger, Hull, et al.

I don't fear what Ayn's enemies do as much as what Ayn's supporters fail to do, (and I want to stress that ARI _has_ succeeded... and in so doing has achieved what others have _not_)! "The road to Hell is paved..."

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For ARI's position on Libertarianism, there is a great FAQ here (by Ayn Rand):

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...us_libertarians

That was written more than 30 years ago! Most of the libertarians I meet these days (mostly at the CATO Institute) are not hippies or anarchists. They are people who are generally pro-freedom but without a solid philosophical base. I think it is worth trying to reach out to them and provide them with that base. Perhaps we will not always succeed but of course that is true with many other people Objectivists try to influence.

(I don't want to get into a long debate here about this. There are already other threads on the site about how to deal with libertarians.)

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In re-reading this last post of mine, I still feel compelled to further clarify...

I actually didn't mean to imply that you, Ed, had a particular agenda advocating for or against either Rand or Peikoff just based on this thread.

On a related but _different_ note:

"I don't fear what Ayn's enemies do as much as what Ayn's supporters fail to do, (and I want to stress that ARI _has_ succeeded... and in so doing has achieved what others have _not_)! 'The road to Hell is paved...'"

I really was not making reference to anyone in particular with this paragraph. It's just that (as an aside) I _would_ like to see Objectivists be more aggressively active in advocating on behalf of Rand's work.

The most general point that I wanted to make was that both Peikoff and Rand _have_ asserted their respective priorities in what they focus on within their writing (as well as in other venues, of course.)

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That was written more than 30 years ago! Most of the libertarians I meet these days (mostly at the CATO Institute) are not hippies or anarchists. They are people who are generally pro-freedom but without a solid philosophical base. I think it is worth trying to reach out to them and provide them with that base.

Concretes change, but principles remain the same. Your attitude is more in tune with that of David Kelley and his TOC than it is with Objectivism and ARI.

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:warn: As a final 'Fact and Value' comment, Tracinski states in 1996:

<<In conclusion, it is clear that, whether Kelley recognizes it or not, ”A Question of Sanction” is his declaration of a full and complete break with Objectivism on all levels, both in theory and in practice.>>

Now, this is absurd. If someone walks and talks and thinks and writes about Objectivism all day long and is totally influenced by it then he's an Objectivist! No one would claim otherwise if we were talking about marxism or existentialism. :dough:

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If he were talking about Marxism all day, but said he agreed with "everything but that bit about putting society before the individual," he would not be a Marxist no matter how closely he embraced the term.

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No one would claim otherwise if we were talking about marxism or existentialism.  :dough:

Objectivism is the only truly consistent philosophy. If you understood this then you would understand Robert's statement.

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Concretes change, but principles remain the same. Your attitude is more in tune with that of David Kelley and his TOC than it is with Objectivism and ARI.

People keep saying that, but take his quote and change it to this:

Most of the Republicans I meet these days are not fascists or theocrats. They are people who are generally pro-freedom but without a solid philosophical base. I think it is worth trying to reach out to them and provide them with that base.

and it wouldn't have been met with an insult.

Why?

Why not just engage them and find out whether they are irrational or not and then treat them accordingly? People are individuals and will vary in knowledge and outlook. Why write them off because of an issue they may know absolutely nothing about, either because of a lack of knowledge, or an honest error and a lack of someone to point it out and explain it to them?

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:dough: As a final 'Fact and Value' comment, Tracinski states in 1996:

<<In conclusion, it is clear that, whether Kelley recognizes it or not, ”A Question of Sanction” is his declaration of a full and complete break with Objectivism on all levels, both in theory and in practice.>>

Now, this is absurd.

I agree with you. That is absurd. The fact is that Kelley broke with Objectivism before A Question of Sanction. It just took that writing for some to recognize that fact. (Of course, as is evident from the post to which I respond, some will never see that fact.)

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Why?

In a previous post "jedymastyr" gave pointers to several sources, and if you cannot understand "why" after reading those, I doubt I can be helpful.

(All I will say is that there is a big difference between how you treat an innocent person who wandered into Libertarianism, and how you treat its staunch adherents and the movement itself.)

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I agree with you. That is absurd. The fact is that Kelley broke with Objectivism before A Question of Sanction. It just took that writing for some to recognize that fact. (Of course, as is evident from the post to which I respond, some will never see that fact.)

There are many things which I will never see: that up is down, black is white, 5 is 7, true is false, good is evil, etc. Perhaps I should just take it all on faith from Stephen Speicher.

The limitless extremism on display above is wholly irrational and devoid of any hint of factuality. It deliberately, militantly, religiously lacks all nuance, subtilty, context, and truth.

Why not just say "Kelley broke with Objectivism" in 1975 -- or when he was in the womb? Why not just say each and every sentence he ever wrote is a complete and total act of ignorance and depravity, as well as utter, obvious, self-evident repudiation of all of Rand? Why not just say Kelley stands against all of reason and all of truth and all of human decency? Why not just say he completely and totally embraces all of Plato, all of Kant, all of Marx, and all of Satan himself in each and every philosophical, psychological, professional, social, personal, and sexual aspect whatsoever? :)

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There are many things which I will never see: that up is down, black is white, 5 is 7, true is false, good is evil, etc. Perhaps I should just take it all on faith from Stephen Speicher.

The limitless extremism on display above is wholly irrational and devoid of any hint of factuality. It deliberately, militantly, religiously lacks all nuance, subtilty, context, and truth.   

Why not just say "Kelley broke with Objectivism" in 1975 -- or when he was in the womb? Why not just say each and every sentence he ever wrote is a complete and total act of ignorance and depravity, as well as utter, obvious, self-evident repudiation of all of Rand? Why not just say Kelley stands against all of reason and all of truth and all of human decency? Why not just say he completely and totally embraces all of Plato, all of Kant, all of Marx, and all of Satan himself in each and every philosophical, psychological, professional, social, personal, and sexual aspect whatsoever?    :)

Why don't you just say what you really want to. Ie that Peikoff, Binswanger and the entire ARI wing of Objectivism are religous dogmatists and corrupting the "true" message of Ayn Rand, or that Kelly, Sciabbarra and Silber are Objectivism's best minds. Or maybe you should just say that you hate Ayn Rand alltogether and have done with it. Whatever one is your actual view or whatever mixture, come out and say it. Why attack Stephen?

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...Peikoff, Binswanger and the entire ARI wing of Objectivism are religous dogmatists and corrupting the "true" message of Ayn Rand...

The above is called psychological projection.

What I said is that Kelley is (obviously) an Objectivist. If you or Stephen choose to evade or lie about this that's your problem.

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