Saturday, October 16, 2010

WTF Happened to Leonard Peikoff?

Diana and Paul Hsieh present an array of relevant facts relating to the recent silliness surrounding the "Peikoff-McCaskey schism" which threatens to splinter Objectivists into silly warring factions yet again. I'm ready to draw some conclusions here that are amply justified based on the available data.

First off, Peikoff has decided not to hold himself accountable for his behavior. The sum total of his "reasons" for issuing his "him or me" ultimatum are contained in an email which leaves a bunch of questions unanswered. McCaskey, for his part, is accountable for his doings and responds to inquiries. The fact that Peikoff would fail to respond to the Hshiehs' follow-up inquiries after maintaining a consistent correspondence with them prior to that is evidence of . . . well, what? Evasion? Arrogance? Incompetence? We just don't know. What we do know is that somehow Peikoff's "stature within Objectivism" is supposed to be some kind of undefined trump card he feels he can pull in any dispute.

Second, following Objectivist inductive method, what we have seen in this latest instance is an addition to previous behaviors on Peikoff's part that establish a pattern from which we can draw a generalization. For one thing, he pulled the same "I'm Ayn Rand's heir" card in the Peikoff-Kelley split of 1989. For another, Peikoff leaves questions unanswered but has decided that his judgment is final. Usually, when forming an objective judgment of something, you don't make a final determination while leaving questions hanging. That is the behavior of an authoritarian who expects people to go along or leave. How this is consonant with Objectivism, I haven't the faintest. This occurred not just with Peikoff-McCaskey and Peikoff-Kelley, but also with Peikoff-Reisman (1993). How many times do we need to see this pattern rear its ugly head before we conclude that Peikoff, for all his stature and accomplishments, isn't the be-all-and-end-all of the advancement of Objectivism today? (Besides, the be-all-and-end-all of Objectivism, the Prime Mover, remains Ayn Rand. It bears noting that the one great schism of which she was a part - the Rand-Branden split (1968) - was one where Rand was entirely justified given Branden's ghastly moral crimes against her and countless other Objectivists.)

Third, Peikoff's moral condemnation of McCaskey ("raises him one rung in Hell") is inexplicable based on every item of evidence that has come forth. There's no rationally-identified (or identifiable) context to this - for the simple reason that the judgment is contrary to the facts, i.e., false. But this appears to be a judgment for which Peikoff, again, has decided not to be accountable. The significant conclusion to draw from this is that this judgment-methodology (if there's even a methodology behind it) runs counter to the spirit and letter of Peikoff's own advice given in such outstanding courses as Understanding Objectivism.

There isn't room for agnosticism on this point: the facts establish that Peikoff has abdicated his credbility as a leader within the Objectivist movement. That may not come to much, considering how he has recently announced his official "retirement" from teaching Objectivism, but the fact that (due to his control over Ayn Rand's estate) he continues to hold sway over the ARI, self-described as the Center for the Advancement of Objectivism, shows that he continues to throw weight around in certain "Objectivist circles." Now, either he's "in retirement" or he isn't. This behavior resembles that of a diva who wants to have it his way or else, and expects everyone to simply understand, somehow.

Finally, this stuff is just all too silly considering how far removed it is from the spirit of Ayn Rand herself. The "Objectivist movement," whatever advances it has made in recent years (capped off most notably by Tara Smith's 2006 Cambridge-published book, Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics), it's simply not up to the standards that Ayn Rand or I would have demanded. The intellectual-cultural revolution Rand had foreseen could have happened a generation ago had a lot more people had their acts together. (This is one reason why Nathaniel Branden was and is such a fuck: were it not for his massively anti-Objectivist behaviors, the Revolution might well have happened by the 1970s. That is the power that ideas have over a culture, and how the course of those ideas can be affected for better or worse by a mighty few.) Fortunately, there is at least one person ready, able and willing to take up the torch in ways the current mainstream Objectivist movement has yet to even foresee, but of which Ayn Rand herself would have been proud. Thankfully, for all concerned, this business of Peikoff and his schisms will be left in the dust.

Know hope.

[A follow-up post is here.]

No comments:

Post a Comment