The New Objectivists

Before I go on, I want to note that the previous blog entry had exactly 666 words (including the title). Whether ominous or not, we shall retain our mental strength and courage and proceed with this blog entry. Shoo evil thoughts! However, it is indeed fearsome to mix into the affairs of the idolaters. So, instead of proceeding into new and unexplored heights, I shall return and shine greater light at those places from the previous post that most need it.

I have mentioned that there are others who love Objectivism but want to combine it with their not-so-Objectivist ideas. So far I have found that there are three individuals to mention: David Kelley (and perhaps others in his camp), Marc Gerstein, and Lindsay Perigo (and some others of his community).

David Kelley, a professional philosopher, has shown that one can still be an Objectivist even if others do not consider you one. His is the true spirit of individualism and of independence from opinions of others (even if they are Objectivists). In the 90s, Kelley saw the first schism among Objectivists after Rand had passed away. He was ex-communicated by the fundamental Objectivists, led by Rand’s intellectual heir–Leonard Peikoff. However, Kelley continued being devoted to Objectivism and even created his own Objectivist institute, but he differentiated himself as an “open” Objectivist versus “closed” ones like Peikoff. Surprisingly, Kelley also found that the “closed” Objectivists showed “tribalist[ic]” tendencies and complete intolerance toward non-Objectivists of similar beliefs, such as libertarians (Kelley, 2000:Ch.5). In his book, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism (2000), Kelley puts forward his own interpretation of truth and moral judgment, deeming it not in conflict with Rand’s original views, and he differentiates his views from Rand as more open to correction by science than the “closed” Objectivism.[1] Kelley’s breakthrough provided the opportunity to differentiate branches of Objectivism. In other words, thanks to Kelley, you can now add (something) to Objectivism, and thus go beyond traditional Objectivism. Nonetheless, Kelley’s views are very similar to Objectivism, while his form is quite different.

One of the most recent books published on the topic of new Objectivism is Marc Gerstein’s Atlas Upgrades: Objectivism 2.0 (2013). Gerstein, an Objectivist aficionado, puts forward new arguments and ideas against Objectivism, but, instead of abandoning this philosophy altogether, he reinterprets it as politically moderate. There are three stages that Gerstein associates with Rand: Rand number One, the novelist, whom he judges to be “an inspirational genius,” Rand number Two, the philosopher, who “had some decent ideas,” but was lacking in terms of conclusions and vulnerability of imprecision, and Rand number Three, the policy maker, who “is the most troublesome . . . shallow at best and disastrous at worst” (Gerstein, 2013:11). Gerstein claims that Rand’s fiction works are the best and her ideas in the nonfiction book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal are “hopelessly flawed” compared to her other philosophical works. Arguing from the jurisprudential and economic backgrounds, Gerstein disagrees with Rand in the implementation of her philosophy, which is without “a strong economic foundation”, and criticizes her grey area in politics that she calls “philosophy of law” (224). He opposes the gold standard due to its material limitations on economy and supports mixed economy for its mature growth and interconnectedness. He favors psychological egoism, or altruism, which he believes she misunderstood. On the basis of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand’s two major novels, Gerstein changes Rand’s “four pillars”–“Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, and Politics”–to “Process, Ethics, Politics, and Economics” in his own, more balanced vision of Objectivism (65). In contrast to many other criticisms of Objectivism, Gerstein takes this philosophy to the next level and can be considered a true ice-breaker in the sense of opening the discussion to diverse audiences and truly taking Objectivism out of the box. His book is a sign not only that Objectivism is an immensely influential and important philosophy, but also that Objectivism is not static and it is starting to change its shape under the direction of such open-minded individuals. By Rand’s own standards, individuals like Kelley and Gerstein have an active mind and are eager to examine her ideas critically.

Besides these excellent individuals, there are more works-in-progress on the new Objectivism. As we have seen, Kelley had provided the ground for new Objectivists to rise, and the third branch that formed is SOLO, or Sense of Life Objectivists. Lindsay Perigo, the founder of SOLO, inspired by Rand’s concept of a sense of life from The Romantic Manifesto (1971), in his Singing Solo manifesto addressed other “homeless Objectivists” who “are turned off by both the mouth-foaming intolerance of the ARI [Peikoff] & the pallid Pollyannaism of the IOS/TOC [Kelley]” (original italics). Perigo is probably the first Objectivist who found it problematic that the ideas of change and evolution are missing from Rand’s Objectivism. He established a SOLO community where on his forum an individual by the name of Hugo Schmidt in his thread on Neo-Objectivism has stated that his purpose is to integrate “the discoveries of evolution and neuroscience” into Objectivism. This indeed would be a welcome addition, but it would not leave any Objectivist stone unturned. When more of such scientifically-minded individuals would get involved in grounding Objectivism in physicalism, in no time would a new Objectivist science develop–an inductive science that rationalist, theoretical Objectivists are trying very hard to establish.

[1] Roderick Fitts, with some help from others, countered Kelley’s arguments by calling him a skeptic, reinterpreting the closed system as open to applications, and noting Kelley’s “frozen abstraction” fallacy of taking religious totalitarianism to be the abstracted closed system (“Closed System vs. Open System: Why the Open System Fails“).

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8 thoughts on “The New Objectivists

  1. Kelly misunderstood Rand therefore he mis-interprets her and Objectivism. Peikoff is far more accomplished Objectivist scholar. Expanding Objectivism eventually becomes non-Objectivist then anti-Objectivist. The goal of Kelly leads to anti-Rand.

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      • Analysis of Kelly’s position of Tolerance goes counter to Rand’s insistence on reality. Tolerance is neither a Randian Value nor a Randian Virtue. Tolerance leads to tolerance of evil. Evil is anti-Life. Anti-Life is Anti-Rand. So Kelly is either Anti-Rand or his ideas are. Or both. Since his goals are anti-Rand his goals lead there.

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    • Your understanding of “thinking” and wrongly labeling it as “rationalistic” is the application of labels as substitutes for evidence. JohnWilliamGalt was correct. Rand’s Objectivism, as identified by her intellectual heir Peikoff is a closed system. Kelley and others who want to expand and amplify Objectivism then consider those ideas as some kind of Objectivism miss the principles of Objectivism yet they desire the cloak of Objectivism to cover their errors. I don’t buy it and neither should you.

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      • Yes, Rand’s Objectivism is indeed “closed.” Kelley’s Objectivism is not Rand’s Objectivism. I never said that I “buy” Kelley’s Objectivism. My argument was that Kelley’s Objectivism is new and different than the traditional one. I never evaluated Kelley’s or anyone else’s Objectivisms. I think it is safe to assume that individuals like Kelley help generate interest in Objectivism, regardless of its kind, and that’s why such individuals are useful.

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