Beware the Subjectivist Objectivists! They Will Eat Your Babies!

Mr. Chip Joyce is ready for a fight, he says.

I drafted a big, long post about his essay on so-called “Subjectivist Objectivists,” but when I looked at it this morning I realized it was boring and superfluous.

Here’s the summary of what he says: “There are people out there voicing opinions and conclusions that are not in line with Objectivism. These people are not honestly mistaken; they are evil-doers and must be stopped. The folks at Checking Premises aim to stop them. BRING IT!!”

Well, that’s kind of what he says. What he actually says is a lot of rambling and telling people to submit to the authority of Leonard Peikoff whom he insults by suggesting Dr. Peikoff asserts such an authority over people’s minds. “The reason they attack Dr. Leonard Peikoff is that he asserts an authority on judging what is and is not a proper application of Objectivist principles and methodologies to a topic,” he writes, but the same thing is true of every single one of us even if we lack Dr. Peikoff’s history and experience. “Judge and prepare to be judged,” Ayn Rand once wrote, so it would be absurd to accept Dr. Peikoff’s judgment in place of one’s own.

By the way, I find those remarks far more disrespectful toward Dr. Peikoff than making fun of the fact that when he speaks extemporaneously on his webcast he sometimes says things that are shocking or even, rarely, things that are not in line with the facts of reality. A factual error in his comments can be — and I assume it is — an honest even if irresponsible mistake.  He could even be honestly mistaken about applying a particular aspect of Objectivism to some situation in reality. But to suggest that he lords his qualification as the world’s foremost expert in Objectivism over our heads so that we might defer to his opinion regardless of what else we might know or think on a matter is a serious insinuation against Dr. Peikoff’s character. Perhaps only Mr. Joyce thinks we should behave that way, but he should take care not to be taken to suggest that he’s projecting that anti-independence mindset on Dr. Peikoff.

I’ll tell you what Dr. Peikoff’s authority gets him in my mind: an audience, consideration, but that’s it.  I still have to reach my own conclusions on matters. His judgment is not and never will stand in place of mine.

Here’s the thing: in Objectivism, if you want to have a fight about ideas, you have to present an argument with evidence. If you want to accuse, say, Dr. Diana Hsieh of having the wrong view of compulsory juries or the rights of the mentally disabled, then you have to explain that. You have to say something to the effect of, “You say X, but that contradicts Objectivist premise Y; therefore, your view is not in line with Objectivism and I think it is wrong.”

That is how intellectual disputes are conducted.  If parties refuse to change their mind on the matter in spite of each others’ best arguments then they each must live with the consequences of either being wrong or being right. And, again, it’s important to remember that we are all in on this fight no matter what Mr. Joyce thinks about our qualifications to air our opinions, conclusions, and methods publicly.

If Mr. Joyce and his compatriots at Checking Premises are spoiling for a fight, I think that is just great. I’ve changed my mind about things in the past and I am ready to do so again. My only conditions are that I be presented with evidence and rational arguments. But my seat belt is locked. Lay it on me.

So far, however, that site has not presented any arguments against Diana’s positions.  They admit that the site was inspired by their feeling that Diana is the wrongest of wrong people, but they deny that the site was created just to malign her, although they’ve yet to offer any explanations as to why they feel the way they do or why she is the only example in “current controversies” that they care to name when there are others readily available. Instead, they seem to think her comments on these matters are all that is needed to make their position clear. Can you imagine Ayn Rand saying, “Oh, I don’t have to explain Objectivism, just look out the window. It’s self-evident!” Sorry, bro, that’s not how this works.

So far, this just isn’t a fight.

Here’s an example of how that site is at best wildly inaccurate and at worst dishonest in the way it treats Diana Hsieh: The “McCaskey Controversy” is attributed to Diana even though the controversy itself is correctly named for the source of that particular dispute; Diana just happens to be one of many who commented on one side or the other. Why not name Craig Biddle who also wrote publicly about the issue? Or me? Or anyone else who came down on the side against Dr. Peikoff?

In other cases, their sole objection to Diana’s arguments is simply that they don’t like her attitude and use that as an opportunity to psychologize and issue more moral denunciations. “See?! She doesn’t respect Leonard Peikoff! This proves that she is not a True Believer!” Again, that’s not how this works. But, hey, it’s your business if you think it is.

In several instances, they’ve stamped the page with “[MORE TO COME],” but in the case of Privacy Lies, they criticize Diana for not writing a blog post as quickly as they like. It seems to be base hypocrisy not to allow others to criticize them for the same. And in that same instance, their criticism against Diana seems to be that she dared disagree with Dr. Peikoff on some matter. Oh! But they insist that disagreeing with Dr. Peikoff is not in itself wrong. So, why is this an issue for them at all?

I’m fine with those people exercising their freedom to call people names, make ugly insinuations, issue loud denunciations, and all of that. And they can even go around pretending as if they’re waging a war on Diana and her army of “Subjectivist Objectivists.” I assume I am one such person and since I’ve long referred to Diana as “Darth Hsieh, Dark Mistress of the Randroid Army,” I will be updating my resume with a bit of glee.

For some honest people who agree with their conclusions about Diana, they probably look at this site and say, “This echoes my own conclusions, I will stand by and see what they offer in support of their claims.” (I say this because I know people who agree with those conclusions and that is how they seem to react to the site.)  For those who disagree with the site, it’s obnoxious because as it stands today is that it purports to be conducting a fight in the realm of ideas without actually presenting any arguments.

I’m not opposed to name-calling as such, but I don’t go around acting that that’s a substitute for a rational argument.  Just as I don’t go around issuing proclamations about my conclusions and seriously thinking people will just nod and agree.

But Mr. Joyce says he and his ilk have violated some imaginary truce and struck a blow for reason and TRUE Objectivism. So, could someone please tell me when and where this happened?


  1. Michael Caution January 30, 2012 3:06 pm

    I agree though in situations like these I think it superfluous to remind people that you respect other people’s right to be stupid. The question of rights was never the issue only the moral aspect.

    • Trey Givens January 30, 2012 3:12 pm

      heh heh heh… well, just because my original draft was superfluous doesn’t mean I was able to avoid the same here! ;)

      In seriousness, the reason I wanted to point that out isn’t out of concern for the political aspects, but because while they are prepared to declare Diana an outcast from from the Objectivist movement, I don’t know enough about them to suggest the same back at them. Certainly there are aspects of this site which make me lean in that direction, but I haven’t seen enough to make me fully convinced.

  2. TheWild Webster January 30, 2012 3:12 pm

    “The blaze grew to a wide sun-white blossom under our fingers, and in a moment we let the bright shards fall to the ground. They burned a moment longer and went dark.

    The old man sighed his relief. “What a blessed evening!” he said. “How rarely are we given the chance to save the world from a new religion!”
    The fiery pages still burned in my mind, inspiration turned to ash.

    “But the ones who need what those pages had to say,” I said to Leslie. “How can they … how can we learn what was written there?”

    “He’s right,” she said, looking after the man until she could see him no more, “whoever wants truth and light can find it for themselves.”
    — Richard Bach, “One”, Chapter 13 ‘the Pageite wars’

  3. Ken January 30, 2012 4:27 pm

    Randian Objectivists Front! As if! We are the Objectivist Randian Front!

    The only people we hate more than the Subjectivists are the Front of Randian Objectivists!

    Sorry, that’s what it all sounds like to me…

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