Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Peikoff vs. McCaskey

Well, I'm prepared to admit a bit of an egg-on-face problem in light of Peikoff's explanation for the "split" with McCaskey.

One thing to mention as a matter of my context, was the impression that his released email criticizing McCaskey was a "last word" type of thing on the subject - a policy he adopted with respect to David Kelley upon publishing "Fact and Value." (I'm still disappointed with how the Kelley-split thing was handled, probably by a good number of those involved.) I'd also like to mention how Peikoff's statements of this sort come off in sense-of-life terms: a sense of needlessly contemptuous tone. The same tone drags down the ability of his magnum opus, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, to engage most effectively with a normal reader. It comes across in Rand's writings at times as well. (I'm not yet through with my multi-part explanation of my sense-of-life differences with Atlas Shrugged.) But one thing I simply don't have is a personal acquaintance with Leonard Peikoff, and such a personal-level acquaintance tends to help in situations such as this.

Further, a general epistemic lesson to take away from this is to consider that a wider context may well exist where we haven't heard "definitively" from both sides of a dispute. Just imagine watching a court case and forming a judgment based only on what the prosecution said. This lesson is particularly crucial when applied to the Rand/Branden break, where all kinds of people (myself included) drew conclusions about Ayn Rand based on distorted and one-sided accounts from the Brandens themselves without having seen/read/heard Rand's side of things (again, having been under the impression that "To Whom it May Concern" was Rand's "final" statement on the matter . . . which actually meant Branden getting off easy considering that the truly reprehensible nature of his misdeeds remained hidden from the public until James Valliant's The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics).

Anyway, for what it's worth, before I (just now) became aware of Peikoff's statement on the McCaskey matter, I had already purchased David Harriman's The Logical Leap, and Peikoff's The Art of Thinking course (one of the lecture courses from Peikoff's age 50-60 prime-period I hadn't heard yet) is already on its way. The more I study these two individuals - Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff - the more it keeps coming together and making total sense. Still not sold on all the (ultra-contemptuous) "Kant is evil" polemics, but I'm almost grasping the full context in which some of these polemics were formed. And her theory of concepts as inductive generalizations - the center of it all, the thing that really matters most in the end, long-term - is effing brilliant and cements Rand's place alongside Aristotle as the greatest philosopher to date. When Rand commends Peikoff for his ability to communicate Objectivist ideas "superlatively" (her word), there's no shittin' about it: he knows his Objectivism pretty much as well as anyone alive. (For whatever reason, Branden pretty fell off the map in this area; his theory-practice integration dropped through the floor, he indicates a failure to understand Objectivism by projecting his own psychological issues onto Objectivism's theoretical structure, and he hasn't produced anything like Peikoff's lecture courses since the Break. Just as with his relation to Rand, the Philosopher outlasts the Psychotherapist.) (Meanwhile, I'm the leading authority on the next level/integration beyond Objectivism: Perfectionism.) As his Understanding Objectivism course essentially established, the Objectivist methodology - the center of it all - is pretty much invincible, having to be invoked in order to be attacked. Once you account for how concepts (our means of grasping reality) are formed objectively, the rest falls into place.

(Damn, if only an in-fashion socialist had come up with the measurement-omission account, the academy would have lapped it all up already. But then again, the kind of integration it took to arrive at the theory of concepts is the same kind of integration involved in recognizing the truth of the moral rightness of capitalism. Hell, just to recognize this point requires an appreciation of and good job integrating the method. I ask again, as I did the other day, do present-day mainstream academic philosophers even know what "integration" means? By the way, there is ample justification for Rand's contempt towards the "academic model," a model drenched in social metaphysics. The contempt here seems quite mutual; they don't like her and she didn't like them. Of course, by a number of indicators, the academy isn't stuck in quite as big a pile of shit as it was mid-20th-century; the ascendancy of Aristotle - kinda hard to stop that juggernaut, innit? - and the relative decline of assholes like Marx and other socialists has surely added to the conceptual clarity going on there. And Rand is getting some traction in the area of ethics without any meaningful criticism in opposition, as well. Let's not forget about that.)

Speaking of integration, I'm still trying to integrate what Peikoff is doing bringing up his "stature" in the Objectivist movement in these kinds of disputes. Again, Peikoff does note that his comments in the email presupposed a context shared amongst all the recipients. Still, there's something "off" about it, perhaps part of the same tone that comes off (sense-of-life-wise) as so contemptuous. Anyway, I've got bigger fish to fry than spending a lot of time focusing on this stuff. I look forward to listening to his course, reading the Harriman book, and integrating it all as need be into my forthcoming treatise. This thing needs to come out of the starting gate full-speed with bases amply covered, see.

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