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I was just wondering if there is what one would term "healthy debate" within major Objectivist organizations like the ARI. I know there is a huge conflict between the camp called "open Objectivism" and the ARI but my question has more to do with the ARI itself. I almost never hear major Objectivists disagree with, say, Leonard Piekoff or other senior ranking people such as Yaron Brook. Does this disagreement ever happen openly ? Is there any documented case where there has been a position, a logical argument and a significant change in position? I have not seen this kind of dialogue and would appreciate it if those more informed than me would inform me as to the facts. Stated otherwise: have the leaders of Objectivism always been right or are there cases where they have espoused a position, later to learn more, reconsider and change their position?

asked Jan 11 '12 at 23:29

Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image


edited Jan 11 '12 at 23:30

There's a mistaken premise somewhat implicit in the question: that regarding any particular issue there are only two options: "healthy disagreement" or "slavish alignment".

I can assure you that ARI staff have lots of healthy discussion about how to proceed in promoting the philosophy. One thing is for sure, though: airing, in public, internal disagreement at ARI would not be beneficial for the institute. I believe their goal is to decide what ARI's official stand is, and to present that in public.

You don't hear of their disagreements because their disagreements are their private business.

I have certainly been privy to discussions where even an Objectivist leader says he disagrees with Ayn Rand herself on a particular technical point.

But on fundamental principles, there is no disagreement, not because of intellectual dependence (which is actually a vice in Objectivism), but because both of the agreeing parties are being rational.

The idea that two people can agree without the necessity of one of them being slavish is essential to Objectivism. It's almost a direct implication of existence exists.

answered Jan 12 '12 at 09:45

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦

edited Jan 12 '12 at 09:56

Ok. Fair enough. Maybe I should have worded this better. Here goes: is there much debate within the wider community (which I am assuming this board represents) on positions taken by the ARI ? I just never see much and thus the question. I wonder there is any clear example where a "lay" Objectivist has openly questioned positions from Brook, Piekoff etc. and led to change in the official position ? It appears from a distance that there is much "interpretation" and "study" (in the religious sense of the word) of ARI positions but not much [respectful] challenging. Am I wrong ?

(Jan 12 '12 at 09:56) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I saw your edit. Thanks it clarifies things. So let me also further clarify: I am not speaking about fundamentals qua "A is A" etc. I am sure most Objectivists are aligned on those, since that is the bedrock of their system of thought. Fine. I am speaking about things like more nuanced political policy, positions on war, economics etc. I rarely see deviations from official positions. It almost seems like talking points are "proven" by the leadership, approved and then re-stated.

(Jan 12 '12 at 10:06) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

"is there much debate within the wider community (which I am assuming this board represents) on positions taken by the ARI"

You mean like this? http://blog.dianahsieh.com/2010/10/resignation-of-john-mccaskey-facts.html

(Jan 12 '12 at 10:07) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony. Thanks. Yes that is a clear example of internal issues being argued and discussed. Now I would still ask if there's disagreement of this sort around more political and/or economic issues?

(Jan 12 '12 at 10:11) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

If you look at Dr. Hsieh's blog you will find positions where she disagrees with Peikoff on issues of politics which are not part of Objectivism - the Ground Zero mosque and mandatory jury duty are two that come to mind. And AFAICT Dr. Hsieh is welcome to post here, so I'd say she is clearly part of "the wider community". And there are other blogs with others engaging in the debate (with which I am less familiar).

I can't think of an instance where such debate has led Peikoff to change his position, though that by no means implies there wasn't one.

(Jan 12 '12 at 10:15) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Thanks Anthony. As usual a helpful and enlightening answer.

(Jan 12 '12 at 10:30) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 11 '12 at 23:29

Seen: 2,275 times

Last updated: Jan 12 '12 at 12:36