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Diana Hsieh on ARI vs. TOC

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Richard Halley responds to my last post, claiming that several of my objections to Joe's post were based on assumptions rather than facts, and furthermore that the facts support Joe's initial claims about Diana Hsieh.

In regards to my claim that Joe jumped to conclusions about the Diana's position regarding Objectivism as a closed or open system, Richard writes:

How do you know this?  From Joe's posts, I would guess that his discussion with diana included a number of such requests for further clarification.
How do YOU know this? From Joe's posts, it seems Diana stopped discussing the issue with him once he made their private conversation public.

Furthermore, while I would not attempt to speak for Diana, I have discussed this issue with her at length and have yet to encounter a single claim of hers that in fact contradicts Objectivism. Sure, she says she disagrees with the claim that Objectivism is a closed system, but the question is: what does she mean by that? You cannot take her claim out of context, as Joe did, and leap to conclusions as to what it must have meant.

In the meanwhile, drop the personal attacks.

It amuses me that you would ask me to "drop the personal attacks" when the very post you are defending is nothing except a malicious personal attack. That aside, here's what I wrote about Joe:

It is people such as him who give those of us who support ARI a bad name

That was not an arbitrary personal attack - it was a conclusion I spent a significant number of words defending. And I stand by it.

As you are probably aware, Diana broke with ARI after being attacked by people like Joe, who evidently feel compelled to accuse honest individuals of irrationality without sufficient evidence. I do not want to see good minds such as Diana leave the Objectivist movement because no one stands up for them when they are unjustly attacked. I will therefore NOT shy away from passing judgments when they are warranted. And in this case, mine was.

At issue here is whether it is appropriate to take one sentence from a private email, written by someone who has stated explicitly she is still in the process of thinking through the relevant issue, and drawing outrageous conclusions, such as, "She rejects the law of identity!" If you think that is rational, that is your right. But you are wrong.

Don Watkins III

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How do YOU know this? From Joe's posts, it seems Diana stopped discussing the issue with him once he made their private conversation public.
Actually, since Joe provided us with a response he received from Diana after he made their discussion public, we know the above not to be true.

Sure, she says she disagrees with the claim that Objectivism is a closed system, but the question is: what does she mean by that? You cannot take her claim out of context, as Joe did, and leap to conclusions as to what it must have meant.

I was given the impression that Joe was judging not only her claim, but the description, reasons, and context she gave him with it. If he was not, than he did jump to conclusions and you are exactly right in the above.

It amuses me that you would ask me to "drop the personal attacks" when the very post you are defending is nothing except a malicious personal attack
Now who is jumping to conclusions :). I defended nothing, I merely pointed out the flaws in your argument. Never did I say anything which defended Joe's conclusions (at least not based on the information he has given us in its defense). This may not have been clear, but my statement was about personal attacks in general, not only yours. So, in fact, I was doing quite the opposite of defending Joe's statements.

And this aside, I see no evidence that their was any malice in Joe's argument,

That was not an arbitrary personal attack - it was a conclusion I spent a significant number of words defending. And I stand by it.

This would be true if you had said:

"Such actions only push rational minds away from Objectivism."

But your claim was that Joe and people like him are what pushes people away from Objectivism. That is an unfounded personal attack, as it is only one particular action of Joe's which is discussed in your "significant number of words defending" it.

At issue here is whether it is appropriate to take one sentence from a private email, written by someone who has stated explicitly she is still in the process of thinking through the relevant issue, and drawing outrageous conclusions, such as, "She rejects the law of identity!"

Firstly, the fact that Diana is still thinking through the issue is not relevant. This is so because the quotes in question were in response to an argument, not just some preliminary stance taken by Diana. Basically Joe's argument is not an assessment of her preliminary stance, but of her argument against the closed system view.

Second, I was not given the impression that it was only one sentence in question, but an entire discussion, which, as you have pointed out Joe provided only part of (as representing the rest). If Joe's claims are based only on one sentence, than you are correct in saying that he should not have drawn the conclusions that he did.

Either way, I agree that he should not have shared them publicly, as it could accomplish no more than to patronize Diana, and since all of the evidence which he provided us with was available to anyone who wished to e-mail Diana asking her about her views. However, I find it more likely that his origional posting was a mistake, not a malicious attempt to discredit Diana.

And Betsy, while everything you said is true, I don’t think Joe was arguing against any of it.

His reference to the HBL loyalty oath seemed to, more logically, point to a different quote, one dealing with implications, applications, and extensions of Objectivism (which is what the question he was responding to was about).

And his statements about Diana seemed to be saying that she was about to make the wrong decisions, because she was using the wrong premises.

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Yes Betsy I agree entirely. I too think this is a common occurrence. I also believe this is a major turning point in her life and based on much of what she has written I think she will overcome her errors. She will not do this, of course, until she realizes her view is claiming that A can be not A.

I find this thread is getting out of hand. My initial purpose of posting my thoughts of Diana’s view was in fact, as Richard suggested, and error. I thought the topic was Diana and not what she had written about ARI vs TOC. My posts on this topic would have ended there except Diana asked I post her most recent letter in its entirety. Once she asked for our conversation to become public, which I had no problem with, I was not going to let her comments stand because they are implicitly wrong. Once her thoughts were public I found no problem quoting her previous remarks. Everyone should note that my intent was never to patronize Diana, as I have said before I congratulate her on her accomplishment of realizing the TOC is a crock, she now needs to realize that the premise she is operating under now is similar to the TOC’s and is incorrect. A is A!

I would also like to clear up that Diana never let me know she still had questions concerning the open and closed system views, as I do not read her blog. In fact in my first letter to her I asked if she had questions or is still trying to figure some things out regarding this. Her response was that she disagrees with the closed system for the reasons I have already given. She never let me know until she asked me to post her letter. At this point I a little angry at her because she did not tell me she was still in question about the issue at hand and basically lied to me by not stating this was the case when I asked her directly. If there was any anger/frustration sensed in my post this was the source.

Diana’s tentative position was made very clear to me in her letters. She disagrees with both Closed and Open views. After some consideration I took he definition of open in this case to mean David Kelly’s view. This means she, at the time of our exchange, disagreeing that Objectivism is closed, which can only mean she thinks Objectivism is open to change. (i.e. Objectivism can be not Objectivism) My conclusion on this matter was at first merely a theory, which I though I mades clear in my first post but I later decided to clarify, hence the edit. Diana later proved me correct by other comments she made, a few of which I posted in this thread as examples. To me all this is very clear but as Richard said find out for yourself if what I have given you is not satisfying. Send her an email, maybe you can persuade her.

Next, I find DPW’s comments to be outrageous. Not only are they full of holes as Richard points out but his manner is uncouth. He accuses Richard and me of jumping to conclusions while he himself assumed that my intent was malicious (which it was not). I suggest that DPW take his own advice and ask for clarification preferably in an affable manner.

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I call a coke bottle open when I allow its contents to be mixed with poison. I call a coke bottle closed when the cap is on so tightly that nobody can drink the coke. I think that coke bottles should be neither open nor closed. I think that the cap should be on the bottle, but loosely enough so that one can still drink from it.

Similarly, Objectivism should not allow non-Objectivism into its coke bottle. Nor should it remain locked in its bottle through the reluctance of Objectivists to explore new outside applications and integrations. Leave the cap on Objectivism, but don't let that stop you from expanding outward.

This last view, I think, describes the closed system view, but if one instead saw the locked bottle as the closed one, I see no major error. I'm not sure if this, specifically, is all that is behind the current debate, but at least it serves as an example how one can claim to reject the closed system view and still be perfectly rational.

And ARI does not treat Objectivism as a locked bottle. Dr. Peikoff's work in induction should be evidence enough of that.

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Okay, if we are to bring any order to this discussion, we need to take a step back and identify what it is that’s at issue. This dispute did not concern, fundamentally, whether or not Diana endorsed the principle that Objectivism is a closed system. This dispute concerns serious charges Joe levels against Diana without and in the face of evidence. Such charges, I claimed, were epistemologically invalid and ethically lazy. Since my claims have been challenged, allow me offer into evidence the following…

Joe began with this post on April 7:

I emailed Diana congratulating her on her leaving the TOC and asked her why she had not become a full supporter of ARI. Her problem lies in the idea that A can be A and B(edit: her error is that A can be not A). She thinks that more can be added to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.(Edit: Note, she did not say this, this is merely my interpretation of what she said) I emailed her back telling her that Objectivism is Ayn Rand’s philosophy and only that and that nothing could be added to what Ayn Rand put in her philosophy unless Ayn did it herself, which of course is now impossible. I said that any other theories or ideas that come about, that lie directly in sync with Objectivism would also be just that, ideas that lie in sync with Objectivism and that Objectivist agree with and could never be a part of Objectivism itself.

Its amazing how people can study Ayn Rand’s works for many years, in her case 10+, and still think that they can put words in someone else’s mouth.

I haven’t receive an email in response to this, but I’ll let you know what happens if a response comes

Note a couple of things. First of all, notice that Joe is attacking a position Diana holds without giving any evidence that she holds in. In fact, Joe admits that what he is describing is not Diana’s position, but his “interpretation of what she said.” The point here isn’t whether or not Diana holds it. The point is – any claim she does demands evidence, evidence Joe doesn’t provide.

“But she didn’t make the comments publicly,” one might say. Well, that’s a very good point, but it only serves my case – that attacking Diana for holding a position she has not publicly endorsed is illegitimate because we the audience have no means of validating it.

“Just ask her,” one might say. True, this is an option, but Joe is making a positive assertion. It is his job to provide evidence for it. He did not do that. Instead, he made an assertion, a particularly heinous charge: that Diana, a proclaimed Objectivist, thinks she can “put words in [Ayn Rand’s] mouth.”

If I claimed, “Peikoff wraps puppies in duct tape for his amusement,” you would no doubt challenge me to provide evidence, and you would not accept as valid a response that amounted to, “Well, if you don’t believe me, ask him.” You would say that’s absurd – it would be an insult to Peikoff to ask him whether or not he duct tapes puppies unless I gave you evidence that might be true.

The same holds true when charging someone such as Diana with thinking she can put words in Rand’s mouth and that she holds that A can be not A (and, later on, that she is a liar). If she did believe that, she would be totally at odds with Objectivism – one cannot make such a charge without providing evidence. Not if one claims to be rational and just.

Incidentally, you all are aware that George Reisman broke with ARI. The dispute was largely personal, but Harry Binswanger has, as I understand it, pointed to private communications released without permission by Reisman as reason for outsiders to refuse to deal with Reisman. Binswanger’s point is well taken – and I hold Joe to that same standard.

Let’s move on, however, because there’s much more to be said.

In an April 12 post, Joe posts Diana’s response to his original email and his subsequent comments about her posted on this forum. In Diana’s response we learn (a) that Joe and she had nothing more than a brief conversation (further evidence I was right to conclude Joe did not wait for clarification of Diana’s view before “going public” with his charges), (:) that this conversation occurred only because Joe was not honest enough to inform Diana that the intellectual content of her email(s) to him would find its way to a public forum, and (c ) that Diana hasn’t fully made up her mind regarding the closed/open system question.

Most important is this last point. Diana writes:

I have many substantial questions and concerns about the closed system

view of Objectivism. I will surely be writing about the issue on my blog in the coming weeks. I will be particularly interested to hear from knowledgeable and thoughtful advocates of the closed system. As always, my basic question will be: What is the identity of Objectivism?

Contrary to your summary, I will not be asking anything along the lines

of: Can Objectivism be more than it is? Can I put words in Ayn Rand's

mouth? Nor will I be asking: Does Objectivism have an identity? Can

it be something that it is not? Those are most certainly not legitimate questions in my view.

Notice what we learn in these two short paragraphs. We learn, first of all, that Diana has explicitly NOT endorsed the open system view of Objectivism. (Joe might claim she did so in private, but this just goes to show why private discussions should not be made public without permission – people often do not write as carefully in private correspondence as they do for “publication”.) On the contrary, she is skeptical of the claim that Objectivism is a closed system, but is interested in how those of us who believe it is closed defend that claim. In fact, Diana says that her basic question is: What is the identity of Objectivism? NOT, does Objectivism have an identity?

Now how would a rational person answer such a question? He would say, “Diana, by a closed system, we mean only that the identity of Objectivism is determined by the philosophical principles defined by Rand, and that any other interpretation of what Objectivism is is necessarily non-objective.”

But how does Joe respond?

Diana knows fully that Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, she studied it for 10+ years at the TOC. By asking the identity of Objectivism, while knowing it is the philosophy of Ayn Rand, she is asking if Objectivism can be more than it is.
Look at what Joe is doing. He accuses Diana of trying to put words in Rand’s mouth, but that is exactly what he is doing to Diana. She asks a very clear question – what is the identity of Objectivism? And instead of answering that question, Joe tells us she actually knows the answer and really must be asking a different question. He is implicitly charging Diana with dishonesty – with pretending not to know what Objectivism is, presumably so she can make it “ more than it is.”

Even the claim that “Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand,” still leaves a couple question unanswered. First, what qualifies as a philosophic principle? That’s answerable, but it’s not obvious. Second, what about philosophic principles that Rand did not address one way or the other? Do they or don’t they qualify as Objectivist ideas? That’s an honest question, even though I would say quite emphatically, “No they do not!”

But then we have this. From a post on April 19:

Here is a quote from [Diana] in one of our earlier letters.

“Although I think the closed system view is mistaken, I do regard it as a far less serious error -- both in principle and in practice -- than Kelley's open system view”

The discussion started as me congratulating her on leaving the TOC and my question to her, why she had not become and advocate of ARI. As shown here she thinks Objectivism is not a closed system. However, she also says she does not agree with the open system either. Which is it? I believe she is still attempting to figure this whole situation out because she never explains why or what her real stance is. You cannot disagree with both open and closed system views. As long as she does not agree that Objectivism is a closed philosophy, she believes at least in part that it is open.

Here Joe admits that Diana has NOT reached a firm conclusion, but you wouldn’t have gotten that idea from any of his previous posts, where Diana “knows Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand,” and where she must be trying to put words in Rand’s mouth, and where she must be trying to make Objectivism more than it is, and where she believes that A can be not A.

“You cannot disagree with both open and closed system views. As long as she does not agree that Objectivism is a closed philosophy, she believes at least in part that it is open.” As Matt points out, that depends on how you understand the terms “closed system” and “open system.” That aside, by the very fact that Diana is still attempting to “figure this whole situation out,” what sort of logic could lead Joe to assert that therefore she must believe ANYTHING? Being undecided is just that – being undecided. It is not an endorsement of any particular viewpoint.

Now we can turn to Joe’s next to last post on this issue, from April 19:

If you disagree with the closed system then you think things can be added to Objectivism. She gave me specific examples of what she thinks could be added, they include: a full theory of certainty, a theory of moral development, a theory of jurisprudence, further development of the virtues. Objectivism is Objectivism and by its own nature it is a closed system. If you do not think Objectivism is a closed system you think it is open, even if just a crack. No mater how close you are to being right, if you are a slightly wrong you are wrong. She may disagree with Kelly, but she still thinks it is open. This is very apparent.
Once again, Joe attempts to magically deduce what Diana MUST believe, even though his own words disprove his point.

“She may disagree with Kelly, but she still thinks it is open. This is very apparent.” How is it apparent? “She gave me specific examples of what she thinks could be added.” The key words there are “thinks could be.” She is mulling over the issue. She is saying, “Rand didn’t address these issues, but they do fall under the umbrella of philosophic principles, so wouldn’t an answer to such questions reached from more fundamental Objectivist principles rightfully be called ‘Objectivist’?” The correct answer, of course, is NO! It is that we must prove. But Diana has not yet said, “YES!” On the contrary, as Joe himself said in the previous post, “she is still attempting to figure this whole situation out.”

We have now laid the groundwork necessary to evaluate Joe’s latest post (April 20), in which he attempts to sum up the issue.

I would also like to clear up that Diana never let me know she still had questions concerning the open and closed system views, as I do not read her blog. In fact in my first letter to her I asked if she had questions or is still trying to figure some things out regarding this. Her response was that she disagrees with the closed system for the reasons I have already given. She never let me know until she asked me to post her letter. At this point I a little angry at her because she did not tell me she was still in question about the issue at hand and basically lied to me by not stating this was the case when I asked her directly. If there was any anger/frustration sensed in my post this was the source.

I don’t mean to be petty, but this is so badly written I can only guess at its meaning, but guess I will because – after all – if Joe can tell us what Diana must really mean even when she says this is not in fact what she means, then why can’t I give myself the right to guess at what Joe probably means?

As far as I can tell, he is admitting that Diana has not, in fact, reached a conclusion on the closed/open system issue, and that she somehow had a moral obligation to tell him so in their private correspondence. In fact, he claims that Diana was LYING to him since she evidently did not tell him (a complete stranger who had just gone public with their private conversation without her permission!) about the status of her conclusions prior to her public statement, as if she had ANY such obligation simply because he asked.

(Parenthetically, I must note that to accuse Diana, of all people, of lying is not even vicious – it is laughable.)

Lying, evading, trying to put words in Rand’s mouth – these are SERIOUS moral charges Joe is making while at the same time admitting that he knows almost nothing of Diana (“I do not read her blog”), and providing NO evidence to support his claims. Once again, I will say for the record that that is intellectually irresponsible and epistemologically invalid.

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She will not do this, of course, until she realizes her view is claiming that A can be not A.

It might be, but I really don't have enough evidence to be sure yet. There are other possibilities.

Beware of "filling in the blanks" -- the knowledge gap we always have about others because we can't read minds -- by making assumptions. That's something we all do and it's fine to entertain hypotheses about another person's thinking and motivations.

A problem arises, however, if we don't carefully distinguish between assumptions and established facts. Sometimes we can assume the best about others and trust them way too much or assume the worst about them and then unnecessarily get all upset about it.

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DPW: after Joe's most recent post, there is no reason to continue this discussion.

Joe has stated that he was in error in making his origional post, that he stands by his , and that, in the case that you want to find out for yourself, you should do so.

Some of your points are valid, some of them not so, but upon the posting refered to above, none of them are significant. In fact, this discussion should now be over, and any further posts attacking either Diana or Joe (or anyone else for that matter) for the contents of this thread are unproductive (as they are attacks, not on ideas, but on people).

Daniel:

Leave the cap on Objectivism, but don't let that stop you from expanding outward.

Yes, one should expand outward, but one should not attribute ones own expansions to Ayn Rand. Expansions, implications, applications, etc... of Objectivism are just that--expansions, implications, applications, etc...--they are not a part of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

If the ARI is calling Dr. Peikoff's recent work Objectivism (which I highly doubt), than it is doing so improperly and against Peikoff's own stated view on the matter.

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DPW,

Your constant hostility toward me is dreadfully uncalled for. I have not acted in such a manner toward anyone, why have you done so to me? You make assumptions about me, about the conversation I had with Diana, and about how I came to my conclusion just to prove that my claims are intellectually irresponsible and epistemologically invalid. You do not know the whole story, this much is clear to me. You should not have attempted to prove me “ethically lazy” or my thoughts “epistemology invalid” without this knowledge. I fully understand that everyone reading these posts may not see things the way I do because they did not engage in the conversation that I had with Diana; this is fine, I have no problem with that, but your attacks toward me are out of line. If you think my judgment is mistaken you do not have follow it. Like I said before, I think the thread has gotten out of hand. I agree with Richard, nothing further can develop from this discussion. Let us end it.

I would like to thank Betsy for her sensible interaction with the topic. Her skepticism was very levelheaded.

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I am very happy to end the discussion. But my point was not to engage is purposeless intellectual attacks (those here who know me know that's not my style). My purpose was to defend Diana, someone I have long admired, because she was being treated unjustly on these boards. I think I succeeded, so I'll leave it at that.

Don Watkins III

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Oh goodness. Until I popped by last night, I had no idea that this thread had been resurrected from the dead. A few clarifications are in order:

Joerj11 never had my implicit or explicit permission to reproduce my private e-mails. Given the clear dismay in my final letter to him (reproduced in this thread), I am flabbergasted that he continued posting bits of our earlier private correspondence, once again without even alerting me. I can only hope that he has actually stopped for good, as I never intended nor imagined that my brief comments would become the subject of public discussion.

One frustration of Joerj11 publishing my private comments is that, in the time since that exchange although certainly not because of it, I decided to step back and examine the closed system view in greater detail. I presently have substantial doubts and questions about the views I sketched in those e-mails to Joerj11, so much so that those e-mails should not be taken as indicative of my present views. Of course, I don't fault Joerj11 for failing to know that, but such considerations are precisely why private correspondence shouldn't be published without permission.

Since I fear that people will continue wrongly speculating about my views, let me sketch my current thinking. I am quite interested in hearing thoughtful and knowledgeable arguments on these issues.

First, in "Fact and Value," Peikoff says that the "the essence of the system [of Objectivism]--its fundamental principles and their consequences in every branch--is laid down once and for all by the philosophy's author." I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. Contra Kelley, to reject or revise some principles of Objectivism is to depart from Objectivism. The philosophy is not some loose family of views generated within a school of thought, but a specific system developed by a single person. It necessarily includes many principles regarded as derivative and hence optional by Kelley, such as the axiom of consciousness, the virtues of pride, honesty, and integrity, knowledge as hierarchical and contextual, the form/content distinction in perception, the benevolent universe premise, the value of romantic love, the whole of aesthetics, and so much more. In my view, the claim that Objectivism is an open system is not merely wrong, but disastrous as implemented in both academics and activism at TOC.

In keeping with the above, I also agree with Peikoff that "if anyone wants to reject Ayn Rand's ideas and invent a new viewpoint, he is free to do so--but he cannot, as a matter of honesty, label his new ideas or himself 'Objectivist'." I know and respect many "fellow travellers" of Objectivism, i.e. people who agree with some aspects of the philosophy, but not the whole. Such standing is basically fine by me, so long as the disagreements with Objectivism are openly acknowledged. (Of course, I regard them as in error, but that's another matter.) So long as they approach ideas (including Objectivism) seriously and carefully, debate and discussion with such fellow travellers can be extremely profitable.

Second, in "Fact and Value," Peikoff also says that "the 'official, authorized doctrine' [of Objectivism] remains unchanged and untouched in Ayn Rand's books." Again contra Kelley, I have no objection to the idea of an "official, authorized doctrine" of Objectivism. I deny that such represents a departure from the norms of the history of philosophy. A person wanting to know the definitive Kantian view on some subject ought to consult Kant's writings; secondary sources or later thinkers may be illuminating, but only Kant's writings are authoritative. (Of course, Objectivists also validly use the term "Kantian" to encompass a wide range of philosophic views which trace back to Kant, such as pragmatism and logical positivism. However, such usage is derivative and dependent upon a more restricted understanding of the term as referring to the particular philosophic system developed by Kant.) In addition, Kelley's argument that an authorized Objectivist doctrine generates conflict between the demands of Objectivism and the demands of independence and rationality is an expression of tribalism, not a repudiation of it. Rational and independent people discard labels like "Objectivist" when no longer applicable to them; they do not clutch onto them by arbitrarily weakening and redefining their terms.

I am, however, quite reluctant to limit the principles of Objectivism to only those found in Ayn Rand's books. This limited view is most clearly elucidated by Harry Binswanger in his HBL List Policies, where he writes that "Objectivism is limited to the philosophic principles expounded by Ayn Rand in the writings published during her lifetime plus those articles by other authors that she published in her own periodicals (e.g., The Objectivist) or included in her anthologies." Clearly, such carefully vetted written works constitute the core of the Objectivist corpus. They are the "gold standard" against which all other potential sources ought to be judged. Nonetheless, some other works do seem worthy of standing in establishing the principles of Objectivism, even though excluded by Binswanger's criteria. Most uncontroversially, Peikoff's _The Philosophy of Objectivism_ course was specifically endorsed by Ayn Rand as a presentation of "the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism." From what I understand, other lecture courses given by Ayn Rand's associates were presented with her basic approval. In addition, a wealth of very Objectivist material is found in Ayn Rand's posthumously published letters, seminars, and journals, as well as in recorded Q&As. Also notable are reliable reports of philosophic discussions, particularly those between Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, as he reports taking copious notes over the course of 30 years. Given that such sources were never prepared for publication by Ayn Rand, they ought not be accepted at face value as part of Objectivism, but instead carefully compared against the principles found in the core sources. The often fascinating and illuminating insights in these sources ought not be regarded as mere curiosities irrelevant to the substance of Objectivism.

In essence then, my basic view is that Objectivism includes all of the philosophic principles and methods substantially developed by Ayn Rand, i.e. those elements of her personal philosophy given physical form.

Third, in "Fact and Value," Peikoff says that "new implications, applications, integrations can always be discovered" and that "anyone else's interpretation or development of her ideas, my own work emphatically included, is precisely that: an interpretation or development, which may or may not be logically consistent with what she wrote." Read literally, I am again in agreement with these claims. My question concerns the status of such "new implications, applications, integrations," in particular, whether they are part of Objectivism or not. From what I understand, the closed system answers an emphatic "no." In many ways, this strictly limited understanding of Objectivism seems quite sensible and significant to me. People often claim that some new idea is merely a straightforward and logical development of Objectivism. To passively accept such claims would be idiotic -- and to investigate them requires differentiating between the core principles of the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand and the work of later Objectivist scholars. This strictly limited sense of "Objectivism" is, I would say, the root meaning of the term.

So my question is really whether such is its only possible meaning. In other words, are there contexts in which a slightly broader term -- one which includes later philosophic developments deeply and thoroughly consistent with the core principles of Objectivism -- would be appropriate? From my perspective, it seems that Objectivists, including advocates of the closed system, appeal to this broader meaning rather frequently -- and rightfully so. For example:

- Objectivists commonly claim that "the Objectivist view on X is Y," even though Y is a later application of the core principles established by Ayn Rand rather than one of those principles themselves. So if an analytic philosopher invents some new object allegedly demanding our sacrifice (such as bacteria, alien invaders, or household pets), we would not be shocked or dismayed to hear Objectivist scholars say that Objectivism rejects that view entirely, even though such a rejection is, strictly speaking, an application of the general Objectivist view on self-sacrifice to this new case.

- As far as I recall, Leonard Peikoff's lecture course, "Objectivism: The State of the Art," primarily concerns material he learned while writing _Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand_. On the strict and narrow meaning of "Objectivism," this title seems baffling to me. How could such material fall under the title "Objectivism"? How could Objectivism have a "state of the art" after Ayn Rand's death? Yet such is perfectly comprehensible under a slightly broader meaning of the term.

- In his excellent course _Understanding Objectivism_, Peikoff breaks new ground in his detailed discussions of the rationalist and empiricist methodologies, particularly their relationship to the mind-body dichotomy. Such elaboration upon and integrations of already-established Objectivist principles are apparently not part of Objectivism, narrowly construed. Yet the deep connection to Objectivism is undeniable. One of the primary values of such work is that it provides us with the means to substantially enrich our concepts, e.g. those of rationalism, empiricism, and the mind-body dichotomy. Since such concepts refer to all that we might ever learn about their referents and such concepts compose various principles of Objectivism, in what sense can Objectivism exclude such new insights? We might think of many such insights as implicit in the system and thus part of it, even if not explicitly identified until after Ayn Rand's death.

- In Ayn Rand's writings, some principles of Objectivism were merely asserted, but not explained or justified. For example, she claims that reason, purpose, and self-esteem are the cardinal values, but does not tell us what that means or why that is. Without a good explanation of the meaning and justification of this claim, it stands alone, without any connection to the rest of the system. When a good, deeply Objectivist explanation and justification is offered, should we continue to allow those cardinal values to stand outside the system? Or should we integrate them by incorporating this new understanding into our understanding of Objectivism? The latter seems like the right approach to me, but it also seems incompatible with the strictly closed system.

To be clear, I'm not advocating any version of the open system here. Instead, my modest proposal is merely that "Objectivism" might also derivatively refer to the full system of philosophy rigorously and consistently developed from the principles and methods established by Ayn Rand. Some people might ask "Who decides what is included and what is not?" Let me answer simply by quote Peikoff: "In regard to the consistency of any such derivative work, each man must reach his own verdict, by weighing all the relevant evidence." Ultimately, the final arbiter is, of course, reality.

To forestall confusion, perhaps the broader notion of Objectivism ought to be designated "extended Objectivism" or some such. Perhaps instead we ought to say that such later developments are "Objectivist" but not part of "Objectivism." However, I tend to think that the same term could be used reasonably clearly for these two related meanings based upon the context. In any case, unit economy seems to demand a single word to designate the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand plus the valid and consistent "new implications, applications, integrations" of that philosophy. (That's quite a mouthful!) So long as we adequately differentiate between Ayn Rand's philosophic work and the developments of later thinkers by retaining the root meaning of "Objectivism," this modest proposal seems reasonably consistent with Ayn Rand's comments about the use of the term "Objectivism" in the first issue of _The Objectivist Forum_.

One final puzzlement: Adherents of the closed system generally claim as justification that Objectivism is a proper noun, not a concept. (Peikoff doesn't say that in "Fact and Value," so I'm unsure of the origin of this idea. Does anyone know?) I've always been rather puzzled by this view. If Objectivism is a proper noun, to what single particular does it refer? None of the candidates I've considered make much sense to me. One option is that the particular could be the philosophic ideas which once existed in Ayn Rand's mind. If so, Objectivism doesn't exist any more -- and no one but Ayn Rand could have been an Objectivist. So surely that's wrong. Another option is that the particular is the sum of the philosophic ideas which Ayn Rand gave physical form. However, those ideas do not exist in some Platonic realm; their physical forms do not possess intrinsic meaning. Individual minds are required to grasp the meaning of the ideas in those physical forms. Yet then we seem to have multiple instances, which excludes a proper name. Such multiple instances also serve as the basis on which to form a concept. Thus I must admit to some bafflement at the proper noun view.

I hope that sufficiently explains my present views. I'm eager to hear the best contrary arguments that thoughtful and knowledgeable Objectivists can marshal!

-- Diana Hsieh

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I would say that the single particular that the proper noun "Objectivism" refers to is the philosophical *system* that Ayn Rand developed. I think she hints at this at the end of her statement in The Objectivist Forum ("If you should ask why I take all these precautions..."), but she does not say it explicitly there. But she was elsewhere very clear on the systematic unity of Objectivism.

Any further epistemological issues involved here I shall leave to more competent commentators.

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Objectivists commonly claim that "the Objectivist view on X is Y," even though Y is a later application of the core principles established by Ayn Rand rather than one of those principles themselves.
"The Objectivist view on X is Y," may be translated to: "Objectivism, when applied to X, leads us to Y." So the claim is not actually about Objectivism itself, but about what we may infer by applying Objectivist principles to X. Does this answer your question about this sort of claim? If it doesn't I will try to word it better for you.

How could Objectivism have a "state of the art" after Ayn Rand's death?

It can't, and if Peikoff's lecture (which I haven't heard) does claim that, than, I would argue, it was a mistake.

Yet the deep connection to Objectivism is undeniable.
Yes, there is a connection to Objectivism, specifically, the work you speak of is based on--and presumably compatible with--Objectivism. This doesn't justify calling it Objectivism though, and I'm not sure exactly how you see this as an argument for doing so. Please clarify, if you still think that it is.

When a good, deeply Objectivist explanation and justification is offered, should we continue to allow those cardinal values to stand outside the system? Or should we integrate them by incorporating this new understanding into our understanding of Objectivism? The latter seems like the right approach to me, but it also seems incompatible with the strictly closed system.

Yes, you should integrate your new understanding with your previous concepts... but why call the new concept Objectivism? Why attribute it to Rand?

To forestall confusion, perhaps the broader notion of Objectivism ought to be designated "extended Objectivism" or some such.
Or perhaps, as Peikoff and Binswanger suggust, each individual discovery included in your "broader notion," should be called "an extention of Objectivism." You may freely claim, and argue for, thier compatibility with Objectivism, so long as you don't assert that they are Rand's ideas (by calling them "Objectivism").

As for your proper noun question, I would say that "Objectivism" refers to the philosophical ideas/system espoused by Ayn Rand.

their physical forms do not possess intrinsic meaning. Individual minds are required to grasp the meaning of the ideas in those physical forms.

True, this is why we must sometimes argue about what her writing meant, and thus argue about what Objectivism is. It does not mean that every person's claims about what she meant are to be properly called Objectivism.

I hope this answers--at least some of--your questions. If you would please point out which ones it dosen't and why, I would be happy to take another shot at it.

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Diana,

The issue seems to be, "Can you properly use the word "Objectivism" to refer to new philosophical ideas which are based on and consistent with Ayn Rand's philosophy?"

Maybe it would help to clarify things to first answer the question, "Why does it matter?"

We both know -- and reject -- people who want to take ideas which are not consistent with Objectivism and call them "Objectivism" in order to exploit Ayn Rand's reputation. It is obvious why it matters to them.

On the other hand, many Objectivists, myself included, have done original work, discovered new philosophical truths, and applied Objectivism to areas which Ayn Rand didn't get around to. Such works stand on their own and their authors don't label them "Objectivism." Their only concerns are whether their ideas are true, communicating them to them to, and convincing, thinking people, and having their own authorship acknowledged.

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Maybe it would help to clarify things to first answer the question, "Why does it matter?" 

That just about summed it up for me in 1994, and still does to this day.

My view of the whole issue from the start, was that it was about the biggest mountain made out of the smallest molehill that I saw in the whole PK debate (Peikoff-Kelley). Not that serious issues weren't at stake once the mountain got built, but dammit, at root it was the merest of semantics. It took me weeks of work to complete my analysis of T&T, but this particular issue was done in about eight seconds, as follows:

If Objectivism is considered as an Aristotelian philosophy in a general sense, in terms of its relationship to the rest of philosophy, then here "Aristotelianism" is used in the "open meaning", which refers to later ideas that are based on or otherwise have strong, fundamental similarities to Aristotle's.

But Aristotle, like Ayn Rand, is dead, and left behind a definite body of work. This "Aristotelianism" would be the closed meaning.

So if Objectivism is an open system, later ideas that are based on Objectivism can be referred to as Objectivist ideas, or even Objectivist philosophies. But if it is a closed system, we need a new term to designate these.

So coin a new term and be done with it. Knowledge is open, whatever it's called. :)

Incidentally, I'd like to thank Diana for sparking my return to active participation in Internet Objectivism. Before this post, my last activity was in 1996 (and a few token posts in 1998) on h.p.o. I washed my hands of the scene when someone who seemed an awful lot like an unruly teenager in 1994 still seemed like that in 1998 :P

I rediscovered Diana indirectly via the Glocktalk firearms forum; an issue she was having with a certain firearms facility was being discussed there, and I became curious about the combination of familiar and unusual names this person had. After a brief reintroduction, I became an occasional reader of her blog. Her split with the TOC and the reasons given sparked a double-take and made me a regular reader, and the links she's been posting to other blogs and fora have pulled me in.

Jim May

... once known as "The Practicing Objectivist", and then later "Your Friendly Neighborhood Objectivist" (which was a Spiderman reference, but so few got it).

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Diana,

I think a lot of the cases you bring up amount to "acceptible shorthand." When the audience understands Objectivism, there's no need to go through a whole song-and-dance about what is & isn't. It's still worth taking note of it briefly, though; for instance, many Objectivist intellectuals point out at the beginnings of their lectures that they'll be mixing Objectivist points with their own work.

I want to reply to various points in your post, but it'd be nuts to quote it paragraph-by-paragraph. So I'll just quote the beginning of the section I'm referring to; it should be understood that I'm addressing the whole section, though, not just what I quote.

I am, however, quite reluctant to limit the principles of Objectivism to only those found in Ayn Rand's books...
I agree with most of this, Diana. Certainly the principles espoused in Peikoff's original lecture course can be considered as part of Objectivism, and this is true, I think, of any philosophical material put out by NBI. (However, most of what's still available is on non-philosophical topics, as I understand. I haven't heard any of it.)

Using informal discussions, Q&A sessions, etc., is really more of a spiral issue. As you say, they can be used to improve one's understanding of principles set forth elsewhere, to make new integrations, and so forth. I'd say, though, that if there are any new principles expressed in such informal modes, they shouldn't be counted as part of Objectivism. They may be true and important, but it can't be assumed that they reflected Rand's final thinking on a subject. I think we're in agreement here, too, but I'm not entirely sure.

Objectivists commonly claim that "the Objectivist view on X is Y," even though Y is a later application of the core principles established by Ayn Rand rather than one of those principles themselves....

I think this falls into the category of acceptable shorthand. Strictly speaking, they should say: "Objectivists commonly hold view X regarding Y." In the case you mention, I think what they're getting at is this: "The analytic philosopher's view implies X, which directly contradicts Objectivist principle Y." So there are two issues: the objectivist principle and the thing which contradicts it. Once you've established that, say, the analytic philosopher's view implies primacy of consciousness, of course you can say it's contrary to Objectivism. But the identification of his view as implying the primacy of consciousness is equally clearly not part of Objectivism.

In his excellent course _Understanding Objectivism_, Peikoff breaks new ground in his detailed discussions of the rationalist and empiricist methodologies, particularly their relationship to the mind-body dichotomy... Since such concepts refer to all that we might ever learn about their referents and such concepts compose various principles of Objectivism, in what sense can Objectivism exclude such new insights? We might think of many such insights as implicit in the system and thus part of it, even if not explicitly identified until after Ayn Rand's death.

The main issue here is new integrations. I'm inclined to think that integrations among the principles of Objectivism are implicit within the system; they don't really constitute a new item of knowledge, but rather a better understanding of an old one. This applies too to your question about Peikoff's lectures on "Objectivism: The State of The Art." As I recall, he regarded that course as largely presenting his latest formulations of Objectivist principles, as well as discussing aspects of Objectivism he didn't really understand before writing the book. Now, I haven't heard it for a while, so maybe he does give some genuinely new material. If so, he should have said as much (and maybe he did). But if it's just an issue of integrations and formulations, it comes back to the spiral issue -- and the validity of the integrations and formulations themselves, as well as their coherence with Rand's actual ideas, is (of course) up to the listener to judge.

Hmm... one thing that just occurred to me as evidence for this: definitions. Definitions are highly contextual and may change over time. As such, it's unlikely that all of Rand's definitions are "final". By the nature of her own theory, they may need to be modified in the light of new knowledge. Is this a contradiction? I don't think so. So long as we think of Objectivism as the body of principles expressed by Rand, the specific formulations are secondary. One could memorize every word in everything that Rand ever wrote and still have more to learn, ones understanding of Objectivism would still have much room to increase. So to regard the definitions, formulations, and integrations set forth in Rand's works as being the only ones which can be regarded as Objectivist is a concrete-bound approach; rather, it's the principles themselves which constitute Objectivism. (This implies that there can be debate about what, exactly, Objectivism is. Contra ssome supporters of the open-system idea, this doesn't imply that Objectivism isn't anything in particular.)

You give good reasons for not regarding Objectivism as a proper noun. I'm looking forward to the responses, too.

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I want to thank Diane for her post. She expressed much of my own thinking on this matter. Her post has been illuminating -- this whole discussion has been!

Edited by oldsalt

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I emailed Diana congratulating her on her leaving the TOC and asked her why she had not become a full supporter of ARI. Her problem lies in the idea that A can be A and B(edit: her error is that A can be not A). She thinks that more can be added to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism.(Edit: Note, she did not say this, this is merely my interpretation of what she said) I emailed her back telling her that Objectivism is Ayn Rand’s philosophy and only that and that nothing could be added to what Ayn Rand put in her philosophy unless Ayn did it herself, which of course is now impossible. I said that any other theories or ideas that come about, that lie directly in sync with Objectivism would also be just that, ideas that lie in sync with Objectivism and that Objectivist agree with and could never be a part of Objectivism itself.

Its amazing how people can study Ayn Rand’s works for many years, in her case 10+, and still think that they can put words in someone else’s mouth.

I haven’t receive an email in response to this, but I’ll let you know what happens if a response comes

Objectivism is as revolutionary, and controversial, as Newtons's theory on Science. That doesn't mean everything in Objectivism is correct to the level of the very tee but from where we stand it stands close enough. What we need is a formal system of processing data that is symbolic and capable of being compared to both Objectivism and Mathematics.

I suggest reading http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/rosetta.pdf to get an idea how we can make a new system of reason that is analogous to many of the already well understood systems of reason.

Edit: Whoops, sorry. I didn't realize how old this topic was. I came here straight from google. X.X

Edited by TuringAI

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What we need is a formal system of processing data that is symbolic and capable of being compared to both Objectivism and Mathematics.
The problem is that one can talk about a lot of things in Objectivism that you can't talk about in Mathematics, for example dogs and cats.

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The problem is that one can talk about a lot of things in Objectivism that you can't talk about in Mathematics, for example dogs and cats.

Not today's mathematics, no. However, computer algorithms involve mathematics and they are pretty powerful. I imagine there is an even more powerful generalization of mathematics that works to prove Objectivist concepts.

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Not today's mathematics, no. However, computer algorithms involve mathematics and they are pretty powerful. I imagine there is an even more powerful generalization of mathematics that works to prove Objectivist concepts.

Yeah, it's a powerful, revolutionary theory. It goes like this:

Jimmy has 2 apples.

He adds 2 apples.

There are 4 apples.

Jimmy has 4 apples. 2+2 = 4!

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I imagine there is an even more powerful generalization of mathematics that works to prove Objectivist concepts.
They're already proven; but I take it you mean, someone might construct a set of axioms and a deductive proof of some a statement that characterizes Objectivism. No doubt in theory that can be done, but not until someone solves the cat and dog problem, as a first step.

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I imagine there is an even more powerful generalization of mathematics that works to prove Objectivist concepts.

I imagine that such generalizations cannot exist. You cannot reach philosophic truths through deductive reasoning, which is all that mathematics can provide.

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I imagine that such generalizations cannot exist. You cannot reach philosophic truths through deductive reasoning, which is all that mathematics can provide.
I think I'd like to challenge that statement (depending on what you meant). If you meant that mathematics can't validate the basic perceptual axioms, then that's not in contention. I argue that the inability to reach philosophical truths via deduction is true only given an undefendable definition of "deduction" which excludes inductive generalization. Is your claim about deduction, or the axioms?

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I think I'd like to challenge that statement (depending on what you meant). If you meant that mathematics can't validate the basic perceptual axioms, then that's not in contention. I argue that the inability to reach philosophical truths via deduction is true only given an undefendable definition of "deduction" which excludes inductive generalization. Is your claim about deduction, or the axioms?

What I intend to do is create a whole new field which involves both deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. It will be a symbolic system that makes mathematics and language interconnected.

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