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Response to "Anthemgate" - McCaskey's Resignatio

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NOTE: The contents of my forthcoming post may or may not supersede the content of this post.

After reading Robert Trancinski's piece on The Intellectual Activist, the topic of my next blog post became clear to me. This article needs to be addressed and I haven't seen any concentrated dissection and criticism (Then again, the article only came out a few days ago.) Many correctly hit on a few of Tracinski's points, but I feel that a full analysis is needed in order to nip this article in the bud and prevent any damage this article can cause to the movement. This will be a multi-part series to give the article the proper response it deserves. Furthermore, I highly recommend that those unfamiliar with the article read it before reading this post, since I will not be quoting passages at length.

First of all, let me explain my position regarding the nature of Objectivism and Leonard Peikoff's status within the philosophy- I agree that Objectivism is a closed system that consists of the principles set forth only by Ayn Rand and those principles she endorsed written by others, and I do not regard Peikoff as some sort of pope for Objectivism by Ayn Rand's sanction. I regard him as a man who has proven through his work that he has a clear and consistent understanding of Objectivism, and whose input is valuable insofar as it is valid or true.

The first issue with the article that needs to be addressed is Tracinski's treatment of the Peikoff/McCaskey issue. Tracinski declares that this issue highlights the end of the Objectivist movement as we know it- McCaskey has disagreed with Leonard Peikoff, Peikoff has demanded his resignation, and that the intellectuals associated with the Institute have not spoken out or taken a stand due to intellectual cowardice on their part.

First off, his criticism of those of us who are reserving judgment on the issue until we learn more of the nature of McCaskey's criticisms is inappropriate for an honest intellectual. According to him, those of us waiting of a proper context are simply trying to "permanently suspend judgment." The point that Tracinski seems to miss is that the nature of Peikoff's charges make this context crucial to judging the issue, and one can't simply drop it when that information is essential to a proper judgment. Leonard Peikoff isn't merely saying that McCaskey is disagreeing with him- he also says:

...from the emails I have seen, his disagreements are not limited to details, but often go to the heart of the philosophical principle at issue.

Let me repeat the key phrase in the passage- "philosophical principle at issue". The missing piece of the puzzle is "Whose principle is McCaskey disagreeing with? Leonard Peikoff's or Objectivism's?" If McCaskey is merely disagreeing with Peikoff, it would suggest that this is an over-reaction by Peikoff. However, if M has disagreed with Objectivist principle (Ayn Rand's ideas), then he has departed from Objectivism. If he has departed from Objectivism, then he has no place on the Ayn Rand Institute's Board of Directors, and Peikoff is perfectly justified to demand his resignation. Furthermore, consider Peikoff's recent answer on his podcast to the question- "Can two Objectivists disagree on a point without one being cast out of Objectivist society?". His answer is emphatically yes, which seems to point to my finding that it's possible that McCaskey criticized Objectivism.

In this light, waiting for the right context is the only proper thing to do before declaring that "Objectivism has committed suicide" and writing off a great philosopher, a great organization, and the entire Objectivist movement. Tracinski has jumped the gun, and hopefully more people will begin to realize this.

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