Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

The Logical Leap by David Harriman


Recommended Posts

You have got to be kidding me. So Craig Biddle, editor of The Objective Standard, the only Objectivist journal at all supported by ARI, and from what I have read of his work a good Objectivist (in the sense that he seems to understand it and apply it well) is now being essentially booted out because he dared to express his opinion that Peikoff is treating McCaskey unfairly based on all the information he has available to him? This is either because Peikoff wants it so or because ARI is concerned that association with Biddle will damage them (even though he's a great Objectivist).

This is a travesty, at least based on the information available (I highly highly doubt that Biddle cancelled his own events, so its pretty definite that he's being hung out to dry). I hope there is a public explanation of this, but on the surface it seems like anyone who disagrees with or criticizes Peikoff is being banished from the realm (to be somewhat dramatic about it).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... is now being essentially booted out because he dared to express his opinion...
It is possible that if he stopped there, no action would have been taken. However, he took Brook's name off the masthead, thus distancing his journal from ARI in a very public way. It is true that he phrased his reason for doing so in a way that allowed Brook to ignore him without seeming to agree with him. Since the ARI is silent, it is hard to say what Brook is thinking. Up to now, it sounded like ARI was somewhat sympathetic to McCaskey, but had bowed to Peikoff's pressure. The fact that Brook reacted by cancelling Biddle's speaking engagements indicates a slightly higher probability that Brook might agree with Peikoff. Tough to say, when those who're concerned act as if the hoi-polloi are beneath explanation. Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

It is possible that if he stopped there, no action would have been taken. However, he took Brook's name off the masthead, thus distancing his journal from ARI in a very public way. It is true that he phrased his reason for doing so in a way that allowed Brook to ignore him without seeming to agree with him. Since the ARI is silent, it is hard to say what Brook is thinking. Up to now, it sounded like ARI was somewhat sympathetic to McCaskey, but had bowed to Peikoff's pressure. The fact that Brook reacted by cancelling Biddle's speaking engagements indicates a slightly higher probability that Brook might agree with Peikoff. Tough to say, when those who're concerned act as if the hoi-polloi are beneath explanation.

I take him on his word there, that he wanted to ensure that Brook wasn't placed in an awkward position, or make it seem like he was at all connected to or supportive of Biddle's statement. My biggest concern over all this though is the nature of ARI. They seem to do a lot of good (a LOT), but if they don't support vigorous debate on philosophical issues, and actively seek to repress it (either on there own or as a result of directions from Peikoff), they lose a huge amount of respectability in my eyes. Objectivism explicitly demands independence and integrity, which the actions of ARI seem to be actively working against. I really don't understand ARI's reasoning, or Peikoff's (his especially, in not issuing an actual statement on the issue). If he cared about the Objectivist movement and the future of ARI, I think he would issue a detailed response on this whole McCaskey issue. His silence is clearly damaging both ARI and the broader Objectivist movement (in large part due to the negative impact on ARI from the elimination of McCaskey and the apparent elimination of Biddle as well, and what that bodes for the future for Objectivist intellectuals interested in working with them).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Craig Biddle has confirmed via Facebook that ARI cancelled his upcoming lectures *because* of his letter:

I regret to announce that because of my recent statement "Justice for John P. McCaskey," the Ayn Rand Institute has cancelled my ARI-sponsored speaking engagements in the coming weeks. These include scheduled lectures at Kansas State U, U of Michigan, U of Minnesota, U of Wisconsin-Madison, and U of California-Irvine. I'm sorry that ARI has cancelled these events, and I hope to reschedule them in the near future.

Several folks on Facebook have reacted by changing their profile pictures to the cover of Biddle's The Objective Standard, or took photos of themselves with a copy of TOS.

I think the following reply highlights the overhastiness of ARI's action:

The worst tragedy about this scenario: The Poor Students of UMSO (University of Michigan Students Of Objectivism) -- they worked their tails off for THIS Tuesday’s SCHEDULED Lecture with all kinds of marketing in Ann Arbor, even in the midst of mid-term -- only to find themselves WITHOUT ANY SPEAKER AT ALL -- on two business day’s notice.

Aside from the entire Peikoff / McCaskey Debacle, and Craig’s Conclusion, this was poor, poor management on ARI’s END. Nobody Else To Fill The Void ??? Well, quite unfortunately, this matter-at-large has me sick to my stomach because, at a fundamental level, it equates to child-like nonsense. Every day the divergence widens over this. Let them (ARI) remedy this rift, or it will be a grave misfortune for all.

Diana Hsieh has also posted her thoughts on the cancellation. Apparently ARI is holding a private call-in session with OAC students to discuss the Peikoff-McCaskey matter, and Diana "strongly urges OAC students to take advantage of the upcoming OAC call in order to better understand ARI's position on this whole controversy."

Edited by brian0918
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think ARI acted very unfairly towards these students (thanks for posting that comment, Brian). However, I think we should be cautious about blamiing ARI for severing ties with Craig. ARI may have severed ties SIMPLY TO AVOID MORE ACTION BY DR. PEIKOFF. If that's the case, then ARI is as much a victim as Craig Biddle, and the person deserving of blame is Dr. Peikoff (for putting ARI in the position of having to take these kind of actions).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't know, maybe I am too much of an old timer, since I've been with Objectivism for nearly 30 years; but I fail to see why anyone ought to be surprised that ARI canceled Biddle after he wrote a letter accusing Dr. Peikoff of committing an injustice just because no more information is available. I've mentioned before that this can all be handled as if Dr.Peikoff is a expert eye witness when it comes to philosophic detection -- I've never seen him fail at all in the past with his analysis. But just because he doesn't show us the evidence does not mean that he is committing an injustice, and yet that is the position of Biddle. One can certainly want more evidence to come to a conclusion about McCaskey -- I know I want it, as do other Objectivists.

However, to take the position that there is no evidence -- no smoking gun in the emails not shown to us -- is to take the position that Dr. Peikoff simply flipped out for no reason whatsoever. And I find this attitude appalling, because I know some student of Objectivism do think that about him, not only for this incident of him and McCaskey but because of some of his podcasts that they disagree with.

A man is innocent until proven guilty, and that goes for both Peikoff and McCaskey. And to say, as Biddle does, that he wants to call it an injustice and yet only for this one act and not a black mark against Peikoff's character is just too much. If an injustice was committed then that is a moral mark against he who made the call. One cannot maintain integrity and say it was just one time, I condemn this act, but not the man. In other words, Biddle is claiming Peikoff committed an injustice, and yet he is not immoral because of that injustice, which would be reason enough to drop Biddle; because it is a violation of the Objectivist ethics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Miovas, one immoral act does not destroy someone who has otherwise been morally exemplary. It means he has made a bad decision, is not morally perfect, did something immoral. It doesn't mean he is evil or rotten to the core. Biddle is simply saying that given Peikoff's background this one act, while important and immoral in his estimation, does not destroy his evaluation of Peikoff as a fundamentally good person (though it certainly does mean he needs to attempt to make amends for the injustice). Your post makes it sound as if saying someone acted unjustly is equivalent to saying they are essentially evil, and it is not in my understanding of Objectivism (and I've read a LOT, just finished "Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics" by Tara Smith, very good book btw, I highl recommend it). There are different magnitudes of injustice, and their are different levels of character (as estimated prior to the injustice). Would an injustice committed by a person negatively effect one's evaluation of someone? Yes, of course, and Biddle admits as much. But it does not mean that you can't look up to them or still think them to be a fundamentally good person who has done something out of character (can't act out of character too much, but one slip, even if its biggish, for an otherwise exemplary person, does not destroy them).

I agree with Biddle that we all MUST make a moral judgment based on the information we have. By having that letter be his only public statement on this obviously very important issue, Peikoff is signaling that that letter is all the argument he should be judged on. Based on it and everything else I've read about this conflict, Peikoff acted unjustly. If he were to release a nice long essay explaining everything with new quotes from emails, etc. tomorrow which back him up, that assessment can change (all moral judgments, values, etc. must be open to be changed upon the arrival of new information, if that information warrants such a change). Until I see new evidence, I'm just going to have to conclude that Peikoff acted badly, and is hurting the Objectivist movement through his continued silence on the matter (which in my opinion reflects even worse, as he is the "intellectual heir of Ayn Rand" and should care about Objectivism as a philosophy and a movement enough to take a few hours and write a real statement on the issue so we might actually be able to get all this behind us).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've mentioned before that this can all be handled as if Dr.Peikoff is a expert eye witness when it comes to philosophic detection -- I've never seen him fail at all in the past with his analysis.

Viewing Peikoff as an expert witness in philosophic detection is a flawed way of looking at the situation. It is imperative that an expert witness to a case be a disinterested third party not involved in the dispute. You couldn't call a murder victim's brother to the stand as an expert witness in the crime, even if he were a forensics expert. It's fine to trust that Peikoff kept his objectivity in making this decision if you have an extremely positive view of Peikoff (as it seems you do), but to call him an expert witness to the situation is to invoke a flawed analogy. We're talking about a dispute between people, all of whom are invested in the situation (Peikoff perhaps more than anyone else, with the long and public history of his theory of induction).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some more updates to the controversy:

1. Craig Biddle posted an FAQ regarding his letter. The most clarifying answer for me was regarding his reason for removing Yaron Brook from the TOS masthead.

2. On Nov. 2, Yaron Brook, Debi Ghate, and Dr. Onkar Ghate held a private conference call with 70+ OAC students regarding the controversy. The only details known about it were the ones revealed in Shea Levy's blog - he was an OAC student who dropped out due to the controversy, arguing that "the climate at the ARI will be incompatible with the needs of an academic."

3. Oh, and oodles more Facebook drama <_< . Most notably (for Facebook, that is) was Chip Joyce defriending Diana and Paul Hsieh (of NoodleFood) for linking to Shea Levy's blog post, saying that they are making themselves "platforms for other people's criticisms of ARI."

Edited by brian0918
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some more updates to the controversy:...
At risk of sounding like I'm stuck on a single point: ARI has not taken control of the conversation. In situations like this, the rest is fairly expected. They should also expect that this will continue: drip, drip, drip. The only entity that can bring closure to this is ARI itself. As an organization who does publicity as part of its job, I hope they come to realize this. They need to take the con. If they think they can present a strong and cogent position, they should do so. It's guaranteed that many will pooh, pooh anything they say; but, the bulk of those who have expressed disappointment in ARI will "come home" if they are presented with a string and convincing position.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What Diana, Paul, Shea, and Craig Biddle wrote publicly about this incident reflects the views, judgments, and concerns of many of ARI supporters. I am one of them.

From what I gather (second hand) all of the people mentioned above were strongly criticized during the call, however, going after the messengers, without bringing more light to the issue, does not make those concerns go away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But it does not mean that you can't look up to them or still think them to be a fundamentally good person who has done something out of character (can't act out of character too much, but one slip, even if its biggish, for an otherwise exemplary person, does not destroy them).

And the same principle applies to judging an organization.

This whole thing can be seen as an important lesson in objective judgment. In order to support an organization you don't need to agree with every single action they take. It is possible to even strongly disagree with an action or a position and still find such organization worthy of your endorsement. Objective judgment requires us to consider what is characteristic about an organization (or a person) and that sets the context of our judgment. I support "you" except on the issue of X is a valid position. One has to decide whether the X is a deal breaker or not.

Edited by ~Sophia~
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Personally, I don't think Shea added much to the discussion and I think he is being rationalistic about his decision not to support ARI and even to promote against it. Given the facts available, I don't think one can conclude that an injustice was done to McCaskey by Dr. Peikoff or by ARI for accepting his resignation. We don't have those facts yet, but I think one must already have had a very low opinion of Dr. Peikoff to conclude that without him showing us the evidence he must have committed an injustice. I don't buy it. And his evaluation of David Harriman is incorrect as well, and also about the amazon.com review, which he claims was not appropriate to go into the philosophy (I strongly disagree as some already have, myself included).

McCaskey has not shown that he understands induction even though he has written about it. And I am beginning to read William Whewell's "Theory of Scientific Method" and it is super rationalistic at this time at the beginning. He spends a whole chapter discussing whether or not geometry ought to have definitions or axioms, but he never goes to the facts of reality. At this point he strikes me as a combination of Kant and Descartes! But I'll get back to you on that when I have read the whole thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... I think one must already have had a very low opinion of Dr. Peikoff to conclude that without him showing us the evidence he must have committed an injustice.
This is a false premise. It amounts to saying that anyone who thinks LP is not perfect has a low opinion of LP. Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another update: Following Shea Levy's lead, Rory Hodgson (a former regular on this forum) has also resigned from the OAC program, and encourages other OAC students who are worried about the anti-academic environment of ARI to follow suit, in hopes that they will change their policies. The crux of his concern:

And the point is this: the ARI is a politically-organised, intellectual activist organisation. It offers its official comment on oil spills and grand philosophical debates. It has its line, and it must - according to them - be fixed and uniform, like a political party. There is no room for dissenting opinion or criticism. Not like there would be in a properly academic organisation. Not like there would be in a proper intellectual-activist organisation in general.

...

But if it wants to take on doing academic work, or supporting such work, it certainly must not hold this principle of non-dissent. Such critical work is vital for flourishing intellectual work, and if the ARI wants to be a business producing such intellectual products, it can only do that job well by allowing dissent. The Logical Leap is a first step down a long road, and if we are going to get anywhere, it is only by allowing that book to face academic criticism within the Institute, so that even better books can be built on its back.

Edited by brian0918
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In response to the quote from Rory, a voluntary association should not tolerate dissent from any high-level manager directed to its central purpose, regardless of the nature of its central purpose.

I don't know about ARI's corporate charter, but its central purpose as stated on its website is:

to introduce young people to Ayn Rand’s novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience.
http://www.aynrand.o...ename=about_ari

ARI should not tolerate dissent on its central purpose of introducing young people to Ayn Rand's novels. ARI should not tolerate dissent on its purpose of supporting scholarship and research based on her ideas, either. Agreement with the central purpose(s) of a voluntary association should be a minimum standard for whether a person is qualified to be a high-level manager for the association.

Of course, it is the role of the managers of ARI to be critical about which particular scholarships and research projects are based on Ayn Rand's ideas and are of sufficient quality for ARI to support (and for how much to support each, morally and financially). An association such as ARI should have mechanisms--bylaws--for resolving internal disputes among the managers in making these difficult judgments. In addition, such an association should be able to expel from its management a person who is intractably--especially if publicly--at odds with the rest of the intellectual leadership regarding which particular scholarships and research projects to support.

I have not seen any evidence that McCaskey dissented from the central purposes of ARI, even though he criticizes Harriman's work. In addition, even though I have not read the book, in reading through this and other threads on the internet, it appears many people I regard as honest are struggling to independently understand whether Harrimans' work is valid in light of Dr. McCaskey's criticisms. While Dr. Peikoff is surely an expert on Objectivism--though not on science or the history of science--and while I assume ARI is within its rights under its bylaws to expel McCaskey from its board, in my judgment Dr. Peikoff has not made an objective case for damning McCaskey to hell.

“If, in a complex moral issue, a man struggles to determine what is right, and fails or makes an honest error, he cannot be regarded as ‘gray’; morally, he is ‘white’.” —Ayn Rand

Link to comment
Share on other sites

..., in my judgment Dr. Peikoff has not made an objective case for damning McCaskey to hell.

“If, in a complex moral issue, a man struggles to determine what is right, and fails or makes an honest error, he cannot be regarded as ‘gray’; morally, he is ‘white’.” —Ayn Rand

Although dated November 5, 2010, Dr. Peikoff just published a public statement on his website, including regarding the issue of damning McCaskey to hell.

http://www.peikoff.c...i-board-member/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My evaluation of Peikoff's statement:

1. This point is understandable, though it would still, in my understanding of his letter, mean that McCaskey is a bad person/not an Objectivist/severely damaging to the Institute and the Objectivist movement. So it is a denunciation, in any case.

2. I don't believe McCaskey demanded that exact letter, nor do I understand, even if he did, why Peikoff wouldn't have written a real response immediately and either given it to McCaskey or published it shortly after McCaskey resigned in order to head off obvious criticisms that he should have known were going to come and to actually explain his actions.

3. He hates McCaskey and won't explain why, and says he is an ignoramus. And that justifies his not dealing with him at all. Well I don't get him calling him an ignoramus. In any case this whole point is kind of pointless.

4. Not really new or important either. But it is a little weird he didn't say anything before.

Rest: His high estimation of himself is largely valid, though of late he has made some big errors in applying philosophy (don't have the right to build a mosque anyone? That was pretty off in my opinion). However, he is outside of ARI now. And he should not be involved with it at all. He should not have the ability to throw people off the board because he doesn't like them, nor should he threaten to (apparently, since it's his only power) remove all rights to the works of Ayn Rand, etc. from ARI because they don't go along with what he wants. He should either be officially involved or have no influence on ARI at all, otherwise it gets all mushy and wibbly like it is now, which damages the Institute.

He doesn't explain how McCaskey actually disagrees with AYN RAND. No such argument has been given, ever. Knowledge develops, our definitions of concepts change, the context of concepts changes as knowledge grows, etc., and so I think McCaskey's whole "spiral" idea could very well be compatible. And there obviously is a process where one does not have a crystal clear concept but one is using a fuzzy concept to try to integrate information in order to spot new connections that can be used to clarify the concept, which I don't see as contradictory to Objectivist epistemology, nor a contradiction of anything Ayn Rand said (at least not that I've read, and I've read almost all of her books like VOS, ITOE, AS, TRM, etc. , none of "The Objectivist" or anything like that though). Plus, "The Logical Leap" is NOT a work of Objectivist cannon, as that was all pubished prior to Rand's death (with the exception of OPAR). And I never saw McCaskey sneer in any context, but simply criticize an academic work (well, work of philosophy along broadly academic lines anyway), which is not at all an issue. If criticism of other Objectivists work is impossible, then the ARI is not an academic organization, period.

I don't think he is dictatorial (not generally anyway), or an opponent of free speech. I simply think that he does not want ARI to be an academic institution, because an academic institution must be able to criticize work done by people in the Institute. Unless the criticism is clearly contradictory to Objectivism, (which I haven't seen any argument for, certainly not from Peikoff or Harriman) then one can't kick anyone out over a dispute without losing the status of a true academic institution.

And oh boy, let's go after Craig Biddle and the Hsieh's, Biddle because he criticized Peikoff because Piekoff hasn't ever given an argument for why McCaskey is wrong, and the Hsieh's apparently because they dare to tell people about the various statements of people on all sides (they posted a link to Peikoff's statement too, so it's not like they're being unfair up to this point). Peikoff is, apparently, incapable of making a mistake, nor does he have to explain his actions (that is, exactly how McCaskey ever criticized Objectivism). And so Objectivism is going to be torn apart as a cohesive movement because Peikoff is apparently too weak to remain silent but too strong to actually explain his actions. Fantastic.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that ARI is trying to fulfill two different roles--one is to propagate Objectivism, and the other is to encourage more research into extensions of Objectivism. For the first role it certainly does make sense to ensure the board members are Objectivists. For the second, OTOH, there needs to be some freedom to criticize another's work in house. Hell, it should be expected.

It seems here as if the two missions got confused a bit here. McCaskey got bounced at least in part for critiquing a work that attempts to extend Objectivism--but such a work by definition cannot be Objectivism itself.

Maybe we need two separate organizations?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When McCaskey was appointed to the Board, I said nothing, just as I have not objected to the fact that a few longtime Board members and I are on terms of personal enmity, and do not speak to each other.

Who does he hate? Berliner, Ridpath or Binswanger? Someone else?

This is sooo much more interesting than mere Facebook drama. :whistle:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Mindy Newton pointed out something interesting in the comments at Noodlefood regarding Peikoff's letter:

"After I received a copy of the email, I offered to resign if he gave permission to release that. It was the only thing in writing I had. I expected he would edit it first. He preferred to have it stand as is." (From McCaskey's writings, in the Hseih summary.)

"Since I was writing an extemporaneous, private email to two people with the same context of knowledge as mine, not a statement for the general public, I did not aim for objectivity by means of a running philosophic commentary replete with definitions, step-by-step proofs, and answers to possible objections. But when McCaskey asked me to allow him to make my unedited letter public, I had to agree, because I did not want to give him the opportunity to charge that I was engaged in a cover-up." From Peikoff's statement of Nov. 5 (today.)

Someone is misleading us.

Edited by brian0918
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...