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Dr. Peikoff on which party to vote for: GOP or Democrat

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I do believe that the statements are in opposition to individual thought.

But nothing that you said after that supports this claim. Even if everything you said were true, that still wouldn't make his statements "in opposition to individual thought."

Don't you understand the difference between a demanding standard and a statement that calls for the stifling of individual thought?

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Of course I can't speak for Peikoff's intentions behind the statement, because I am not able to read his mind. To me, however, that statement sounds like a commandment for all Objectivists to vote Democrat, or else be labled as not understanding of Objectivism.

What's with the "commandment" and "labeled" business? As you said before, "If you don't think you're right and people who disagree with you are wrong, then there's really no point in voicing your opinion in the first place."

It sounds to me like you're taking your personal issues into this. You need to learn to distinguish between a strong statement of fact and a commandment. He said that in his opinion anyone who disagrees does not understand the philosophy. Do not read too far into that. Take it on its face, nothing more.

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I've been a lurker on this forum for a couple years now, but this issue has caused me to come out of the woodwork and state my view. It is expressed in the following message of support I sent to Dr. Peikoff:

-----------

Dr. Peikoff,

There has been a considerable uproar coming from the various Objectivist-centered internet forums concerning your statement regarding the upcoming election. Of particular distress to many of the participants of these forums is your statement that those who abstain or vote Republican do not understand Objectivism or the role of philosophy in human life. There is no doubt however that this is true.

While the Left is a disintegrated mish-mash of feckless quasi-socialist remnants from 60 years ago, the fundamental underlying the Right is a systematic long-range project to undermine the sovereignty and the efficacy of the individual's reason and therefore to destroy his control over his life, metaphysically and epistemologically.

Why so many self-professed Objectivists take the short term view that Republicans e.g. won't raise taxes, favor economic freedom, will pro-actively prosecute the war against Islam etc. (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary besides) as the primary issues of this election, is a question that is best left to their therapists, when it is obvious that what is at stake is the long-term survival of a society of reason.

I appreciate that you are willing to take an absolute moral stand on this question, despite the outcry that you surely had forseen, particularly when you knew the public views of other prominent and popular Objectivists, particularly Mr. Tracinski, Dr. Binswanger, et al.

Thank you for having the courage to give words to the convictions of those of us who do understand the life-importance of philosophy, as against those pragmatists in Objectivist clothing, who "twist the truth you've spoken to make a trap for fools."

Sincerely,

Keath Cole

[email protected]

Las Vegas, Nevada

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That letter is a gross oversimplification of the stance of myself and the others who share it. We don't think that the Republicans are the lesser of 2 evils because of a few immediate differences, such as the fact that they won't raise taxes as much.

After surveying current political trends, myself and people who share my view have come to the conclusion that the left has made greater inroads into controlling our lives and are likely to continue doing so in the future. Notice how most people now think that the government is obligated to provide us with health care. Compare that to the number of people who think that abortion should be outlawed. We also, in most cases, choose economic freedom over the types of freedoms that Republicans wish to take away. If, tomorrow, they outlawed homosexuality, abortion, smoking, pornography, and flag-burning, my life would not be affected one bit. I am against it, but it does not affect me. As such, I prefer economic freedom, since that does affect me.

And you're kidding yourself if you don't think that the left is every bit as opposed to the principles of reason and every bit as dedicated to the destruction of man's mind and means of survival.

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Don't you understand the difference between a demanding standard and a statement that calls for the stifling of individual thought?

Although I agree with Dr. Peikoff's analysis of the current political scenario, I think that his charges of immorality and "no understanding of O'ism" should have required some serious justification. It wouldn't have been a problem if these strong statements had been backed up with some reasoning i.e. an explanation as to why one is necessary immoral and/or has no understanding of O'ism if one disagrees with Dr. Peikoff.

But as presented, these charges are wrong and if taken literally, do imply that if you do not agree with Dr. Peikoff, you are not an Objectivist (O'ist being someone who understands and practices O'ism).

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You may be kidding, but you're absolutely right. He would consider it worse. That's one Objectivist stance I can't understand. For all their flaws, the Libertarians are exponentially better than either of the major parties, and I would love to see them start winning some national elections.

Hi Moose,

You may have read these already, but I recommend reading Ayn Rand's Q&A on Libertarians and Peter Schwartz's article: Libertarianism: A Perversion of Liberty.

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Why so many self-professed Objectivists take the short term view that Republicans e.g. won't raise taxes, favor economic freedom, will pro-actively prosecute the war against Islam etc. (despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary besides) as the primary issues of this election, is a question that is best left to their therapists, when it is obvious that what is at stake is the long-term survival of a society of reason.

While I think that many O'ists are taking a short term view of the situation, don't you think this could simply be an honest mistake? Why does it have to be NECESSARILY immoral?

It is not easy to predict how much will the vote this November push this country towards theocracy.

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Keath,

Since you seem to understand why Peikoff has taken this stand, please tell me why it is important to discredit the result of altruism in one party while supporting it in another. I don't think you can, but I am willing to see if your logic (or anyone else's, for that matter) bears out. It seems to me that tinkering with political trends is a short term solution to symptoms of a wider philosophical disease. Objectivist have, for many years, made statements to the effect that politics are a result of the ideas a nation holds. Why, in this particular election, has all of that changed? Why are politics now the driving force for philosophical trends?

edit for clarification

Edited by FeatherFall
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... If I predict that Hillary will not have the popular support necessary to become president, but you do, that is not a difference in philosophical principles. Likewise, if I believe that religious conservatism is not as much of a threat as socialism, but you do, that is not a difference in philosophical principles. ...

To state that these differences do not stem from philosophical principles, you are presupposing that the philosophies of the two or more individuals are coaligned. Perhaps this was your intent, but I wanted to nevertheless identify this.

In the first example, to predict that Hillary Clinton will not have the popular support that is necessary to become the next President of the United States, you would presuppose some sort of philosophy of science. It is possible to differ with another analyst on predicting an election outcome on statistical reasoning (i.e. you both had access to different data sets) and it is possible to differ with another analysts on philosophical reasons (i.e. you strongly disagree on what assumptions to make when modeling the political process). But this is not so important.

The second example is more crucial. To state that socialism is more of a threat in the context of present day society as opposed to religious conservatism, you need philosophy to justify what constitutes a threat and what is being threatened. Dr. Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis course offers some nice insight on categorizing ideas (and therefore distinguishing severe threats from mild threats).

Edited by DarkWaters
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To clarify my earlier post, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Dr Peikoff. From reading OPAR and his other works, as well as meeting him, I’m certain that he’s a philosophical genius, and I’m very grateful for the enlightenment he’s provided me.

That is why I’m shocked by his comments on the elections. If a leftist said this, I would just dismiss as “well, he’s just clueless.” But I can’t fathom why he would take a position that is so obviously wrong so as to say the things he did about those who disagree with him. It’s not just that I disagree with him – I don’t have a strong preference for either party. I just can’t understand how such an intelligent person could come to that conclusion. Furthermore, he implicitly insults many other people I admire, such as Robert Tracinski and Harry Binswanger – in fact, the vast majority of Objectivists if HBL is any indication.

Anyway, my comment was an emotional outburst that should have been phrased better. What I meant to say was: “I don’t understand how Dr Peikoff could have failed so grossly to consider the evidence and been so disrespectful of his peers.”

And you'd still be competely wrong to say that.

You ought not be shocked by Dr. Peikoff's position. It is the product of careful, longstanding consideration of fundamental principles, not the kind of hash of concretes bandied about here and on The Forum. As I've already indicated, Dr. Peikoff has been speaking in this vein for about two decades. If you wish to know his detailed reasons, you should particularly listen to his "DIM Hypothesis" course -- preferably before any further accusations of "fail[ing] so grossly to consider the evidence." More recently, Objectivist scholars like John Lewis, Craig Biddle, Bradley Thompson, and Yaron Brook have written and lectured in support of Dr. Peikoff's overall position, e.g. showing the utter disaster of Bush's altruistic "war on terror" and "fowward strategy of freedom."

If you missed all that, if you thought that Dr. Peikoff et al were basically arguing in the same vein as Dr. Binswanger and particularly Mr. Tracinski, then you've missed the ever-growing elephant in the room.

If you respect Dr. Peikoff as you claim, then you ought to investigate his reasons for his views if you don't understand them, not dismiss and condemn them out of hand. That's what I did -- and he changed my mind.

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The issue is not whether or not Peikoff is right regarding which party is worse. The issue is that he included statements which sound suspiciously like attempts to stifle dissent amongst people from the same philosophical background. Whether he intended them that way or not, only he can know. From what I know of him, I doubt that's how he meant them. But he should have chosen his words more carefully to clarify his position a bit more, because it sounds like (and there are several people in here who agree with me) he is saying that, if you reach different conclusions, you cannot call yourself an Objectivist.

For the record, I do not consider myself an Objectivist, so any accusations in that vein will not phase me. I do try, however, to abide by this forum's rules. If I ever feel myself getting drawn into a conversation which would wind up with me arguing against Objectivism, I recuse myself from the thread...this doesn't happen very much though, as I agree with most of the philosophy. This is one instance, however, where I believe we have some Objectivists (not necessarily Peikoff, as he probably just chose poor words) defending a statement the goes against some of the core principles of the philosophy.

Edited by Moose
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The issue is not whether or not Peikoff is right regarding which party is worse. The issue is that he included statements which sound suspiciously like attempts to stifle dissent amongst people from the same philosophical background.

How does making a strong judgemental statement "stifle dissent" among Objectivists? If you hold your toungue for fear of not "belonging to the club", then Peikoff is right about the fact that such a person doesn't understand Objectivism. Strong statements do not check anyone's rational faculty, nor do they intimidate anyone who is an independant thinker. To anyone with an active mind, it is at best a provocative challenge.

In fact, if anything, his statement created dissent and discussion. hmmm, maybe not such a bad tactic. :thumbsup:

Since you seem to understand why Peikoff has taken this stand, please tell me why it is important to discredit the result of altruism in one party while supporting it in another.

How about this. Neither party is that effective as long as they cannot obtain strong majorities, since the system's checks and balances still function. This is not support for the philosophy of either, but a desire to see neither be that effective. This is effectively a "maintain balance of power" strategy.

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I recommend reading Ayn Rand's Q&A on Libertarians and Peter Schwartz's article: Libertarianism: A Perversion of Liberty.

In that Q&A, I recommend taking some of Rand's answers with a grain of salt. In particular, the following: ". . . most of them [Libertarians] are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas."

At the time she made that statement (1974), the LP had run one presidential campaign (1972). Its campaign literature consisted primarily of a largish book (about 500 pages IIRC) called Libertarianism, written by presidential candidate John Hospers. It was hard to find a page in that book which didn't have a quote from Rand's writings, complete with footnotes. I remind you that "plagiarism" consists of claiming someone else's ideas as your own, without crediting the source.

As for "denouncing" her. . . quoting someone hundreds of times in a book seems a strange way of doing that. And most of the party members at that time had come to their political beliefs by reading Rand; their feelings for her ranged from admiration to reverence. I know this from personal acquaintance with a large sample of them, as I was quite active in the LP and other individualist organizations at the time. The denunciations between Rand and the LP went in the opposite direction from what Rand claimed in this quote.

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How does making a strong judgemental statement "stifle dissent" among Objectivists?

Because it was more than a strong judgmental statement. A judgemental statement is a statement of morality...saying that Republicans and Democrats suck, for instance. Saying "if you perceive the threat of one party differently than I, then you have no idea what the hell you're talking about." The only way to be scientifically certain which party has the capacity to be worse would be to poll every member of the party on any number of issues, then poll every person who plans to vote in the election (i.e. just wait until the election), to see what the net effect on the country will be. This isn't really do-able. As such, it is perfectly reasonable for people who follow the same philosophy to come to diametrically opposite conclusions regarding which party has the capacity to do more damage. Others have pointed, as I shall now do, to Harry Binswanger and Robert Traczinski.

If you hold your toungue for fear of not "belonging to the club"...

I don't. I hold my tongue because to not do so would be against forum rules and could result in my being banned.

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Although I agree with Dr. Peikoff's analysis of the current political scenario, I think that his charges of immorality and "no understanding of O'ism" should have required some serious justification.

The immorality charge is valid; you're reading too much into it. He doesn't say you're immoral if you disagree with him; he says you're immoral if you deliberately choose to vote for the greater evil. Which is the greater evil is a question of debate, but that's a separate point.

The "no understanding of Objectivism" part is a bit harsh. I don't see why it is necessarily Objectivism that one must not understand in order to disagree (accepting, for the sake of argument, that he is right in his major premise). Perhaps it is some other fact, not one that is a part of Objectivism, that we don't understand.

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Because it was more than a strong judgmental statement. A judgemental statement is a statement of morality...saying that Republicans and Democrats suck, for instance. Saying "if you perceive the threat of one party differently than I, then you have no idea what the hell you're talking about." The only way to be scientifically certain which party has the capacity to be worse would be to poll every member of the party on any number of issues, then poll every person who plans to vote in the election (i.e. just wait until the election), to see what the net effect on the country will be. This isn't really do-able. As such, it is perfectly reasonable for people who follow the same philosophy to come to diametrically opposite conclusions regarding which party has the capacity to do more damage. Others have pointed, as I shall now do, to Harry Binswanger and Robert Traczinski.

Which is all very nice, but it doesn't really answer my question. What is the mechanism by which Peikoff's statement (whether incorrect, or not, verifiable or not) "stifles dissent" among Objectivists? You did say that the issue is not whether he is right or wrong, but that his statement stifles dissent. Then you proceed to justify that statement by telling me why he is wrong.

I don't. I hold my tongue because to not do so would be against forum rules and could result in my being banned.

Sorry, general "you". I should have used "one". We already know you're not an Objectivist. But the statment holds true for anyone who calls themselves one.

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How does making a strong judgemental statement "stifle dissent" among Objectivists? If you hold your toungue for fear of not "belonging to the club", then Peikoff is right about the fact that such a person doesn't understand Objectivism. Strong statements do not check anyone's rational faculty, nor do they intimidate anyone who is an independant thinker. To anyone with an active mind, it is at best a provocative challenge.

YES, THANK YOU.

I don't. I hold my tongue because to not do so would be against forum rules and could result in my being banned.

...Unless you go to the debate forum.

You did say that the issue is not whether he is right or wrong, but that his statement stifles dissent. Then you proceed to justify that statement by telling me why he is wrong.[and not at all showing how he is "stifling dissent"]

Moose, notice this is an exact parallel with our, earlier, conversation. You are jumping at shadows, man!

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Which is all very nice, but it doesn't really answer my question. What is the mechanism by which Peikoff's statement (whether incorrect, or not, verifiable or not) "stifles dissent" among Objectivists? You did say that the issue is not whether he is right or wrong, but that his statement stifles dissent. Then you proceed to justify that statement by telling me why he is wrong.

It's as I've said before. It's the way he worded it. I'm not crazy in thinking so, because other people apparently agree with me.

Here's why I think it stifles dissent...amongst people who call themselves Objectivists, there are many overly zealous people who truly do treat it like a religion. Note that I am not calling Objectivism a religion or suggesting that all Objectivists treat it as such. But there are large numbers of young idealists who get excited by Rand's philosophy and start to treat her and her successors as gods, impervious to error. I went through that phase for about 2 weeks, when I first started getting into Objectivism, but I daresay some people remain in that phase for much longer periods of time. By using statements like the one he used, it just reinforces that aura of infallibility that so many young "Objectivists" attribute to him. It can give them an excuse to not think about the issue for themselves, but to continue to uncritically regurgitate the sayings of the person they see as the Pope of Objectivism.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing in that paragraph is a critique of Objectivism. It is a critique only of how some people treat it like a religion and treat its leaders like clergy. I fully recognize that this is the opposite of what Ayn Rand would have wanted.

Sorry, general "you". I should have used "one". We already know you're not an Objectivist. But the statment holds true for anyone who calls themselves one.

No harm done.

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Here's why I think it stifles dissent...amongst people who call themselves Objectivists, there are many overly zealous people who truly do treat it like a religion. Note that I am not calling Objectivism a religion or suggesting that all Objectivists treat it as such. But there are large numbers of young idealists who get excited by Rand's philosophy and start to treat her and her successors as gods, impervious to error. I went through that phase for about 2 weeks, when I first started getting into Objectivism, but I daresay some people remain in that phase for much longer periods of time. By using statements like the one he used, it just reinforces that aura of infallibility that so many young "Objectivists" attribute to him. It can give them an excuse to not think about the issue for themselves, but to continue to uncritically regurgitate the sayings of the person they see as the Pope of Objectivism.

So, if you're Peikoff, do you really think that he should watch where he walks for fear that the Objectivists "baby chicks" (especially the ones who don't actually "get" Objectivism) don't get stepped on. These are the last people in the world to worry about. Those who are intellectually honest will work it out, and those who aren't aren't much of a dissenting group in the first place, and they'll drift away ever so quickly.

This is an odd little microcosm of a group upon which to base the way one articulates their statements, don't you think?

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So, if you're Peikoff, do you really think that he should watch where he walks for fear that the Objectivists "baby chicks" (especially the ones who don't actually "get" Objectivism) don't get stepped on. These are the last people in the world to worry about. Those who are intellectually honest will work it out, and those who aren't aren't much of a dissenting group in the first place, and they'll drift away ever so quickly.

Yes, I was going to say: why should the misinterpretations of new fish who don't understand Objectivism and who are already being dogmatic concern him? Why should he taylor his statements to get around some peoples' vices?

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So, if you're Peikoff, do you really think that he should watch where he walks for fear that the Objectivists "baby chicks" (especially the ones who don't actually "get" Objectivism) don't get stepped on?

It's particularly inappropriate to claim that Peikoff is somehow unaware of the existence of people who treat Objectivism rationalistically (as a religion), given the literally years of his life that he's spent combatting rationalism inside the Objectivist movement.

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That statement, if taken literally, actively promotes dogmatism. No, I don't believe that we should tip-toe around what we say to avoid misleading n00bs who aren't thinking individually anyway. Regardless of who it effects, the statement is contrary to the idea of individual thinking. It promotes the unquestioning acceptance of the leader's statements and makes it clear that, if you question his opinions, you are one of them.

It's particularly inappropriate to claim that Peikoff is somehow unaware of the existence of people who treat Objectivism rationalistically (as a religion), given the literally years of his life that he's spent combatting rationalism inside the Objectivist movement.

Never said he was unaware of it.

As a side note, I know that there are other people in this thread who agree with me. I would appreciate it if some of you could help me out, because I'm growing a bit weary of answering the objections of about 32021034968 people by myself.

Edited by Moose
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That statement, if taken literally, actively promotes dogmatism.

No, it doesn't. That's my entire point. If you take it literally, it does not. It is only when you interpret it from a paranoid angle and read a bunch into it that it does. The problem is not with him or the statement, it is with you. You are misinterpreting it.

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the statement is contrary to the idea of individual thinking. It promotes the unquestioning acceptance of the leader's statements and makes it clear that, if you question his opinions, you are one of them.

I don't think this is fair. He's not saying you're not "one of us" if you don't agree, he's just saying you have made a misunderstanding.

I think we have to give maximum deferrence to someone like Dr. Peikoff and understand that maybe after many years of strictly logical thinking he can see a bit further than the rest of us. I have his DIM tapes and he is not losing his faculties. Like I said earlier, it's more likely he is making so integration that the rest of us aren't seeing.

That said, I think he is coming from a point of view that says ideas are the sole cause of history. Given the nature of man as a conceptual being, that is correct, but I also think different peoples of the world have different temperament.

Whereas the Germans might go nuts if they have a religious party in power, the Americans and English are a more mild people. They won't let it get out of hand. If the Republicans push it they will be kicked out.

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