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Further Thoughts on McCaskey's Resignation

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I know this entry was promised forever and a day ago but I've been incredibly busy with school and work and haven't had the time to sit down and write this one out. Since the time has passed, this post has been reposted on several meta-blogs, and tweeted enough that I don't feel comfortable letting the previous post stand publicly as my current views on the issue.

After reviewing the facts available on McCaskey's site: the e-mail which Peikoff approved the release of, the recent e-mail samples between McCaskey and Harriman, and John McCaskey's own statements on the issue, it is clear that my previous argument about there not being enough evidence simply doesn't hold anymore. Furthermore, I learned another fact that was key to the issue- McCaskey is still welcome at ARI events. Let me explain the implications of that last fact- if McCaskey is still sanctioned by the Institute, then the "philosophical principles" that M has criticized is not Objectivist principle per se, but the principles set forth in Peikoff's Theory of Induction.

It is clear that a special relationship exists between the Ayn Rand Institute and Leonard Peikoff, the executor of Ayn Rand's estate. One simply has to observe the number of articles, essays, and interviews contained on ARI's website that end with the footnote "Used with permission by the Estate of Ayn Rand," and I would speculate that a certain arrangement between the two regarding the distribution of Peikoff's materials through the Institutes's bookstores (his site redirects you there) and the use of Ayn Rand's materials or discounts on her books. The issue, therefore, was not a matter of excommunicating an otherwise good intellectual, but simply a matter among the Board of Directors of the Institute. In this instance, the (now former) Chairman of the Board was criticizing one of the Institute's founders and top contributors (if not in dollars, then intellectual ammunition.) In other words, Peikoff's "him or me" ultimatum was in essence "Me, the Estate of Ayn Rand, and our arrangement- or John McCaskey," not some dogmatic appeal to authority based on his being Ayn Rand's intellectual heir.

One thing I keep hearing is that Peikoff should simply "man up" and sit down with McCaskey and talk this out, and by not doing so he is not being a proper intellectual. But why does the burden lie on Peikoff to do so? Harriman's book readily acknowledges from the outset that it is Peikoff's theory applied to physics and by McCaskey's own admission he has never spoken with Peikoff directly about it. If McCaskey has an issue with Peikoff's theory, then Peikoff is the one to talk to, not Harriman or any other intellectual. On that note, blaming Peikoff alone is neither fair nor just.

The last thing I've heard is that Peikoff needs to make a public statement. After reading this post, hopefully you'll see that Peikoff's email is enough of a statement, and anyone claiming that this is intellectual suicide (aka Robert Tracinski) is simply not considering all the facts available or actively evading them. For an intellectual activist like Tracinski, a lack of correction, retraction, or clarification given these facts is an act of evasion, and one should judge that act accordingly.

For those interested in a little more detailed and first-hand information, Diana Hsieh made a post on NoodleFood a few days ago that confirmed what I was thinking about the time. Particularly of note is Yaron Brook's comments to the effect that the issue was an issue of the Board of Directors.4881190164581591848-7866962588888792199?l=fallingabstractions.blogspot.com

Meta-blog cross-posting

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To write that email and not be embarassed enough to retract it or provide the context in which it is not a simple and transparent strong arm tactic to avoid rational debate (if that context can even exist - I confess I fail to imagine it) is quite enough for me to form judgment.

I struggled to imagine a scenario where that email to the board is not simple bullying. And failed.

PS: Of course Brook is going to minimize the whole issue, that was the whole point of the resignation - to allow the board to pretend it is not being bullied.

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One of the positives that has come out of this is now I know exactly where Robert Tracinski stands. If he thought that way, why didn't he write about the problem before? I don't care what he retracts, if he even cares to do so, because his allegations were way too damning. I still had respect for him after the debate he engaged in about the agents of history and culture; however, now, that amount of respect has significantly diminished. He might as well totally 'jump ship,' if he already hasn't, and join the conservative movement that he's concerned himself with for many years now.

mrocktor: I agree with you. There's no reason to mince words on this point: Dr. Peikoff used a strong arm tactic to get his way. That is his prerogative, and he is well within his rights and means to make such requests. However, this brings up a good question: how much authority does Peikoff, due to his philosophical and legal status, have over the institute as an organization.

Edited by RussK
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