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Why Dont any Major Objectivists Participate in Online Forums?

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As far as I know, from my experience with OO.net, OL, and SOLOhq, no major (published books, articles, PhD, working for ARI/TAS, etc) Objectivist participates in these online forums. Does anyone have any idea why not? At a glance it seems like any one of them would have an immensely positive effect on the community they choose to be active in, since these forums are populated mostly by students.

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Oh hey. Johnathan13's post that I downvoted got voted back up to 0, and my post got downvoted to -3. Someone who insults expert Objectivists has his comment upvoted, while my post is downvoted by thre

Dagny Taggart and and Hank Rearden could've had a positive impact on the community if they continued to work rather than strike. Why would prominent (and probably busy) Objectivists find it in th

I don't think that people can be considered "major figures" in a movement while either hiding their identities or making them difficult to discover. I sometimes get the impression that certain people

Frankly, I consider the mods that keep this place running major figures. This is the biggest Objectivist community on the web, I believe. It's certainly one of the first results in Google. So, keeping this place up, you're doing a LOT for Objectivism. I understand what you mean though, intellectual leaders and such.

I know Travis Norsen has made posts here before. I've always suspected some members whose identities are obscured are probably people who don't just want their name on every post they make here.

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I know of two. Craig Biddle writes here under the name "The Objective Standard". Don Watkins has an account "DPW", although it says he was last active in 2006.

Craig Biddle does not write here. Posts by the account "The Objective Standard" are automatic reposts from The Objective Standard blog, with Craig Biddle's permission; the original posts can be found here. This blog was added to the Objectivism Meta-Blog a few months ago.

Stephen Boydstun, who posts here (occasionally) and on OL (more often), created and published in the journal Objectivity, which has some great content.

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Does anyone have any idea why not? At a glance it seems like any one of them would have an immensely positive effect on the community they choose to be active in, since these forums are populated mostly by students.

1. Virtually all are too busy with other endeavors to participate. Efforts to reach non-Obj.s are limited to specific programs, and the likes of ARI and OS reach Obj.ists in their own way.

2. Some, like HB, are very selective in how and to what extent they communicate and have their own forums.

3. This forum, quite frankly, is lacking sophistication. As I have noted on several occasions, participants do not stick to topic, mis-apply Obj.ist principles, ask too many questions without due diligence, etc.

4. This is not the only alternative outlet.

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Notice, too, that most of the major Randian/Objectivist writings are still privately held/copyright. As in my career, I was paid for what I wrote, invested my remuneration and now enjoy the fruits of my labors. Professional Objectivists are and have been paid for their efforts.

There's a new book out on the inner workings of Scientology and that illuminates its essential and integral business practices. Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman.

Edited by Doug Huffman
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As far as I know, from my experience with OO.net, OL, and SOLOhq, no major (published books, articles, PhD, working for ARI/TAS, etc) Objectivist participates in these online forums.

Ed Hudgins of TAS posts on OL, SOLO and Rebirth of Reason, as did Robert Bidinotto when he was working for TAS. Barbara Branden posts on OL, and she used to post on SOLO until she was no longer willing to tolerate the the owner's abusiveness toward members.

Does anyone have any idea why not?

I think that fear probably plays a part in it. I think that they want to limit and control the types of questions that they're asked, and minimize their exposure to informed, scholarly criticism.

At a glance it seems like any one of them would have an immensely positive effect on the community they choose to be active in, since these forums are populated mostly by students.

I think they fear that the students would no longer be "Students of Objectivism" if they saw their teachers being "taken to school" on a level playing field.

J

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Frankly, I consider the mods that keep this place running major figures. This is the biggest Objectivist community on the web, I believe.

I don't think that people can be considered "major figures" in a movement while either hiding their identities or making them difficult to discover. I sometimes get the impression that certain people here are ashamed to be associated with Objectivism.

It's certainly one of the first results in Google.

OO may be popular, and fun, but I think that if you want serious, meaty discussions with knowledgeable people, OL has much heavier hitters (including published writers like George H. Smith, Jeff Riggenbach, Roger Bissell, etc.), primarily because, unlike other forums, OL allows everyone to speak freely, including non-Objectivists, and thus attracts higher caliber minds (the owners of OL don't see Objectivism as being weak and as needing protection from strong criticism).

J

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I think that fear probably plays a part in it. I think that they want to limit and control the types of questions that they're asked, and minimize their exposure to informed, scholarly criticism.

I think they fear that the students would no longer be "Students of Objectivism" if they saw their teachers being "taken to school" on a level playing field.

J

This is the kind of thinking that could make them not want to participate.

They are exposed all the time - they are outfront in the media, at universities, etc.

I believe that they want students of Obj.ism to read and gain some understanding of Rand et al before asking questions; thus their interest in addressing the type of questions often asked here is of lower priority.

It does not sound like you are giving them - the experts - enough credit; I can't believe you would think that there is a "level playing field."

More importantly, why do Students of Obj.ism think they need the experts' participation? Don't they think it is possible to learn Obj.ism well without it? I and most Obj.ists I know certainly did.

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Does anyone have any idea why not?

I remember in the mid nineties Chris Sciabarra used to discuss online his then upcoming book Ayn Rand The Russian Radical, to the extent that I debated getting the book since I felt I’d been sufficiently exposed to its contents. I got it anyway (I highly recommend it), since back then you had email lists like MDOP which weren’t easily searchable the way forums like OO and OL are today. My point is that you don’t give away for free something you’re making your livelihood with.

Beyond that, imagine if you could lose your paycheck for critiquing a statement like “Doctors who perform sex change operations are the moral equivalent of Nazi concentration camp doctors who experimented on inmates. Without qualification”. Sometimes it’s prudent to just keep your mouth shut, and in practice that could mean restricting your online presence so you don’t even have to field questions about the loony pronouncements of those people who are above (and absolutely don’t tolerate) criticism.

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This is the kind of thinking that could make them not want to participate.

They are exposed all the time - they are outfront in the media, at universities, etc.

When they appear in the media and at universities, etc., they are usually criticizing other's views, not inviting criticism of their own, and they are being asked questions by talk show hosts and students, primarily about proposed solutions to current political events. They are not facing scholarly criticism of the philosophy of Objectivism from philosophical experts.

They are not seeking peer review, or fielding difficult questions from people who know more than they do. In fact, they're not even tolerating constructive criticism from amongst themselves. Remember the McCaskey ordeal? That smacks of fear.

I believe that they want students of Obj.ism to read and gain some understanding of Rand et al before asking questions; thus their interest in addressing the type of questions often asked here is of lower priority.

Sure, I think that annoying questions from students who haven't done their homework is also a part of what keeps them away. But I think the fear of potentially being exposed to questions from serious scholars is the bigger issue.

It does not sound like you are giving them - the experts - enough credit; I can't believe you would think that there is a "level playing field."

I think OL is a good example of a level playing field. I've never had my posts there deleted by the owners simply because I posed challenges that Objectivists couldn't answer.

But, to be fair, lately OO has become a much more level playing field.

J

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Sometimes it’s prudent to just keep your mouth shut, and in practice that could mean restricting your online presence so you don’t even have to field questions about the loony pronouncements of those people who are above (and absolutely don’t tolerate) criticism.

The McCaskey affair comes to mind, and that was not even online criticism. McCaskey's critiques were supposed to remain private.

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When they appear in the media and at universities, etc., they are usually criticizing other's views, not inviting criticism of their own, and they are being asked questions by talk show hosts and students, primarily about proposed solutions to current political events. They are not facing scholarly criticism of the philosophy of Objectivism from philosophical experts.

As a counterexample off the top of my head, I would cite the final section of Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue, which is entitled "Author Meets Critics: Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics." It contains three essays by non-Objectivist philosophers commenting on and critiquing Smith's book, followed by a response from Smith to each essay. Although I would very much like to see many more exchanges like this.

And no argument here about the McCaskey affair.

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As a counterexample off the top of my head, I would cite the final section of Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue, which is entitled "Author Meets Critics: Tara Smith's Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics." It contains three essays by non-Objectivist philosophers commenting on and critiquing Smith's book, followed by a response from Smith to each essay. Although I would very much like to see many more exchanges like this.

Yup. Objectivism needs to head in that direction. It should have abandoned the siege mentality decades ago.

J

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Major Objectivists as defined by the OP probably have little incentive to go to an online forum anyway to discuss general ideas (I'd rather use the term scholarly Objectivist). The format of a forum is not all that scholarly, and most forums don't deal with advanced topics. I'm not saying no one is around that wants to talk about advanced topics; I'm saying that those who are in scholarly fields and write *books* about Objectivism are probably the type who prefer to read scholarly stuff rather than casual debates/discussions. What would make a forum appealing to a scholarly Objectivist?

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In regards to Objectivist Living, I find that forum to be a lot more hostile and mean-spirited. I've been there and they are generally rude to anyone who likes Peikoff and folks like that. They're often people who believe in the "open system" theory of Objectivism or don't consider themselves Objectivists at all, which is fine, except, as I said, they can be rather rude to people who disagree.

This forum has certainly lost a lot of its intellectual heavyweights the past few years, mostly because the content went way down around 2008/09. Still, there are great conversations to be had on the forum from time to time and I respect a few chat members' opinions. The best conversations I've had on this website were in there.

So who really cares if major Objectivists don't post here? I encourage them not to, and work even more on popularizing Objectivism.

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In regards to Objectivist Living, I find that forum to be a lot more hostile and mean-spirited. I've been there and they are generally rude to anyone who likes Peikoff and folks like that. They're often people who believe in the "open system" theory of Objectivism or don't consider themselves Objectivists at all, which is fine, except, as I said, they can be rather rude to people who disagree.
Please don't mind me saying this: my preference would be to not use this forum to run down another Objectivist forum. (Not even to make an argument that it is not truly Objectivist, etc.) I think that's best done outside of any of the forums being discussed. If someone wishes to blog, comparing forums, and then link to it... preferably linking from all the forums being discussed, that would be a better way to handle it.

This forum has certainly lost a lot of its intellectual heavyweights the past few years,...
And there too, except for one professor, I cannot think of any of our moderators who could be called professional intellectuals, far less philosophers. So, the premise behind the OP's question is true.

So who really cares if major Objectivists don't post here?
There is a sense in which it would be nice to see them post here: but only in the sense that it would be nice to have one's cake and eat it. The nature of the forum is such that it makes little sense for any of them to post here. Having posts "re-blogged" is one thing, sending ARI media-updates too; but, I don't think it makes sense for them to actually take much more "ownership" in a forum like this. A while ago, there was some talk about ARI starting some type of forum where people could ask questions. It may be a useful thing if they had a lot of funds; but, as it is, I don't think it is something they should do at least for a few more years.

So, I agree with you when you say:

I encourage them not to, and work even more on popularizing Objectivism.

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A Major Objectivist may have interesting answers to this question. Perhaps he is satisfied with the people he communicates with in his walking life. Perhaps online forums don't rate high on his list of priorities.

There are a lot of anonymous viewers, a Major Objectivist could just read, and reserve his responses for the content of his next book. (Its funny this idea just gave me the image of a Catholic confessional, where the priest uses the problems of his congregation as fodder for his next sermon)

Argument is a valuable development tool. Arguing with someone who doesn't get what you are trying to communicate takes a lot more time than clarifying the issue to yourself because you don't have to investigate the definitions and context that they seem to be missing. Perhaps Major Objectivists have had so many arguments that the arguments repeat themselves and they no longer have the fire to sing the same old song again and again. The key to the problem usually lies in the volition and ability to hold context of the one who doesn't understand (things that cant be taught). Objectivism has been clarified in many books, which also makes certain subjects redundant.

What would make an Online forum attractive to a Major Objectivist?

Do you wish to interact with Major Objectivists? What would inspire them to interact with you (i.e, what will you trade)? If you were a Major Objectivist what would you be looking for in a forum?

You could visit the web sites of Major Objectivists with questions that are of a quality that would inspire the initiation of a dialogue.

How would the personal interaction of a Major Objectivist affect the freshman? A few encouraging words from a hero has translated into tremendous volitional incentive for me. But, I knew that I have a lot of growth ahead of me before I can become his peer. I don't want to waste his time until I am ready to inspire him the way he has inspired me. Ayn Rand's books have a great deal of encouragement, the fact that she was alive in this world is an encouragement. One reason I am here is to become worthy of living friends who inspire me the way she does. When I come to that place I may spend more of my time with them in person and in private.

All the mods and long time posters here are like unpaid graduate students teaching the class of freshmen for the absentee professor. You can only see or hear the professors in pre-recorded lectures or read books.

I like this perspective, it does seem like Online forums are a kind of stairway for development and affirmation.

This brings up a lot of corollary questions in my mind:

If a regular member were to become a Major Objectivist would they continue coming here?

What kind of organization and commitments of his time is a Major Objectivist engaged in?

What is the nature of this Online forum?

What is the nature of the members I interact with?

What am I looking for; what is the nature of my participation; am I getting out of it what I am putting into it?

Where is there room for improvement?

Edited by Tenderlysharp
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This brings up a lot of corollary questions in my mind:

If a regular member were to become a Major Objectivist would they continue coming here?

What kind of organization and commitments of his time is a Major Objectivist engaged in?

What is the nature of this Online forum?

What is the nature of the members I interact with?

What am I looking for; what is the nature of my participation; am I getting out of it what I am putting into it?

Where is there room for improvement?

You should be a mod! :D
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As far as I know, from my experience with OO.net, OL, and SOLOhq, no major (published books, articles, PhD, working for ARI/TAS, etc) Objectivist participates in these online forums. Does anyone have any idea why not? At a glance it seems like any one of them would have an immensely positive effect on the community they choose to be active in, since these forums are populated mostly by students.

Dagny Taggart and and Hank Rearden could've had a positive impact on the community if they continued to work rather than strike.

Why would prominent (and probably busy) Objectivists find it in their self-interest to come to these forums?

EDIT: Can we raise the negative vote quota to more than one per day? I'd like to downvote all of Jonathan13's posts in this thread instead of just one.

Edited by Amaroq
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Why would prominent (and probably busy) Objectivists find it in their self-interest to come to these forums?

That is the key point. I would much prefer that, say, John Lewis spend his time working on his upcoming book on the morality of war instead of debating Iraq on some web forum. He'd be happier and so would I.

(I do know one Objectivist who used to be an active Usenet participant back in the day. Now he's working at ARI and co-authoring a book with Yaron Brook. I think that's a better use of his time, all things considered.)

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