Stephen Speicher

Response To Charges Against THE FORUM

367 posts in this topic

I would suggest that we leave these people to what is obviously their idea of a serious subject for philosophical debate. They've gone so far off topic, anyone just tuning in would wonder what all the hoopla was about. Does anyone remember that this all began as a discussion about the nature of ideas in history? And now they are flinging increasingly desparate accusations about so and so doing such and such to whozits and whatzits, in the manner of one high school clique gossiping about another high school clique. How is any grown-up to take this seriously? What for?

I agree. On to more adult subjects for me.

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I posted this on Noodle Food:

"Putting aside personalities involved in this current dispute, I would like to concentrate on the fundamental question behind it. There is nothing new about Establishment experts having to deal with those with less credentials challenging their assumptions.

If you read Dava Sobel's "Longitude" you would be aware that it was a rather humble clock maker against Sir Isaac Newton. In the early 1700's the problem of knowing one's longitude was so urgent, that the government offered a huge reward for it's solution. Can you imagine, a watch maker against the intellectual Establishment led by the brilliant Isaac Newton? Did the final verdict handed down by reality diminish what Newton had achieved? No, but it would have reflected better on him if he had made allowances for the possibility that others could teach him something. Even a simple watchmaker, who concerned himself with how he saw reality, not the experts.

This is not to diminish in anyway the value and ability of experts. Without them, progress would hardly be a word. My point is only that even experts need to make allowances that other may have a bettter idea, and not to take such ideas as attacks on themselves. "

That's a nice point, Arnold, and has the added virtue of arguing to both the topic (ideas in history) and the discussion about the topic.

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Like Ayn Rand, Stephen and I are only concerned with whether something is right.

Also when someone claims that my position is wrong and offers evidence and gives his reasons, he is doing me a favor -- not "attacking" me.

I am wondering if there are examples on THE FORUM that might support this claim? Providing some examples might provide some evidence to refute some of the criticism about unfair moderation.

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Well, I give a release that all deleted posts of mine can be used as examples if they so choose. :)

I will not post them myself because they were deleted for a good reason as to why they should not exist on the board.

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Rereading, to clarify, by they, I mean the Speicher family. My deleted posts can be used in the defence of the forum if nessessary. :)

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Like Ayn Rand, Stephen and I are only concerned with whether something is right.

Also when someone claims that my position is wrong and offers evidence and gives his reasons, he is doing me a favor -- not "attacking" me.

I am wondering if there are examples on THE FORUM that might support this claim? Providing some examples might provide some evidence to refute some of the criticism about unfair moderation.

The charges of "unfair moderation" are among those we directly addressed in starting this thread. See, for instance, here, here, and here.

But, to address the spirit of the question, personally, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of THE FORUM is passionate debate about issues that are of interest and of value to me. If someone critically opposes my views the greatest favor they can perform is to change my mind, to learn from them. In fact, on THE FORUM I have learned a great deal from those who have opposed my position, positions both large and small. Sometimes it might take a long time for me to be convinced by critical opposition, and sometimes it happens rather quickly. An example of each.

For more than four decades I have held a view about certain aspects of the male/female sexual roles which is undoubtedly the predominant view held by most Objectivists. In many venues I have argued quite passionately against some who have challenged that view, and there are several rather contentious threads on the subject that attest to that here on THE FORUM. It took a long time for me (almost a year), but it was precisely the opposed and persistently reasoned arguments by another member of THE FORUM that changed my mind on a view I have held for more than forty years. I acknowledged that change of mind (albeit, in less splendiferous words) in the opening post of this thread that I started, a thread challenging others to justify the very same view I previously held.

An example of opposition that changed my mind more immediately is in this post. In several posts in that thread a member opposed a view -- a view framed as a matter of principle -- that I have held for a long time. His reasoned opposition eventually changed my mind, and I acknowledged that.

If someone argues with reason by reference to fact, they provide me with an opportunity to discover what is right, if I was wrong. That is, indeed, a big favor, for anyone who truly respects facts.

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Before attacking essays by ARI intellectuals - especially if you proclaim support for ARI ...

I can't let this go without comment. This is not an issue of the Speichers vs. ARI.

Stephen and I have always supported ARI and its mission and the way they are carrying it out. We make annual donations, participate in the Atlantis Legacy, give them moral support, and I promote their activities and fundraising in my CyberNet. Stephen and I have had some disagreements over some issues with some people who have lectured on an ARI platform or received ARI subsidies, so we earmark our donations for the Books Project, the Essay Contest, the Ayn Rand Archives, and other activities that we do support 100%.

We do not speak for ARI and neither do our critics. Robert Mayhew and Tore Boeckmann are associated with ARI as speakers and authors, but their opinions about Stephen, me, and THE FORUM are their own and not those of ARI.

The fact that both critics are associated with an esteemed organization like ARI is something they can be proud of and a fact in their favor. So are their past accomplishments -- Robert Mayhew's much more so than Tore Boeckmann's. But neither current associations nor past accomplishments can or should be used as weapons to attack people nor as shields against the facts of reality. Remember that David Kelley was once associated with ARI and Nathaniel Branden was once endorsed by Ayn Rand.

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Robert Mayhew responds on Noodlefood.

I may be alone on this, but I think it would be fruitful to have a point-by-point (or sentence-by-sentence) comparison of Mayhew's points vs. Stephen's points that would address what Mayhew has stated. It might make it easier to judge who is telling the truth.

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Robert Mayhew responds on Noodlefood.

This sounds like more a matter of personalities than anything else. Dr. Mayhew complains about Stephen's manners; speaking for myself, I found Dr. Mayhew's manners lacking. Dr. Mayhew doesn't want to "sanction" the Forum; whatever his reasons, that is cause enough for animosity between them. I have a feeling that Dr. Mayhew would have taken umbrage no matter what was said on the Forum. His primary complaint seems to be that the place exists, and that anyone here had the hubris to discuss his work here. Perhaps it is because the Forum isn't a place for strictly scholarly discussion--nor does it pretend to be.

The Forum is only a different schematic for the same kind of discussions that go on at Noodlefood (except that the Forum is better moderated), so I have to wonder why he's so comfortable there, but refuses to "sanction" the Forum. As I said, it sounds like a clash of personalities. It happens between good people all the time.

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As I said, it sounds like a clash of personalities. It happens between good people all the time.

(Speaking of the general case:) It does, and when it does, it's important to recognize it as such and not launch into moral condemnation, when that is established to be the only issue. I know plenty of decent people whose personality just makes them unpleasant to be around.

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Robert Mayhew responds on Noodlefood.

His penultimate paragraph is especially amazing in its illogic. I've never seen an Objectivist scholar resort to so much name-calling and appeal to his own authority.

Look, if Mayhew disagreed with Stephen's analysis of the eclipse, he could have said: "I disagree, but do not have time to respond further." Or, if Stephen's "errors" were so obvious and well understood by academics, are there websites that have such arguments? Are there academic papers that provide this analysis, as Stephen has access to them? Or he could have said nothing at all.

My point is there are more tactful ways to handle disagreement. Resorting to such personal attacks is not appropriate, moral, civil, or logical.

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I see that my post, here, has been referenced specifically by Nicholas Provenzo at The Rule of Reason Weblog (here). I'm honored to be singled out in such a way. I do believe, however, that a brief clarification is in order. Contrary to his assertion, my assessment of Mr. Provenzo was not inspired by his views on the 2006 election generally, nor was it based upon his agreement or disagreement with Dr. Peikoff's election-related commentary specifically. Rather, it was based upon the following statement on The Rule of Reason Weblog: here. Although it is my view that that statement and its implications speak for themselves, I will set the record straight in one respect: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a "movement". On the contrary, I am an individual with a mind of his own.

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I see that my post, here, has been referenced specifically by Nicholas Provenzo at The Rule of Reason Weblog (here). I'm honored to be singled out in such a way. I do believe, however, that a brief clarification is in order. Contrary to his assertion, my assessment of Mr. Provenzo was not inspired by his views on the 2006 election generally, nor was it based upon his agreement or disagreement with Dr. Peikoff's election-related commentary specifically. Rather, it was based upon the following statement on The Rule of Reason Weblog: here. Although it is my view that that statement and its implications speak for themselves, I will set the record straight in one respect: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a "movement". On the contrary, I am an individual with a mind of his own.

So where does the issue of authoritarianism come from in what Provenzo said? That appears to be what he is complaining about that you wrote about him.

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Robert Mayhew from NoodleFood

In this respect, Stephen Speicher is thoroughly modern. I am an Objectivist professor of philosophy working in academia (so you can imagine how popular my views are there), but I have never encountered such rude, insulting, or disdainful treatment as I received from Speicher on his Forum.

This was the worst treatment he has received (note he didn't really "receive" anything as he did not and does not participate in this forum) in his profession? Judging from this I could only assume that his views are very popular in academia.

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I see that my post, here, has been referenced specifically by Nicholas Provenzo at The Rule of Reason Weblog (here). I'm honored to be singled out in such a way. I do believe, however, that a brief clarification is in order. Contrary to his assertion, my assessment of Mr. Provenzo was not inspired by his views on the 2006 election generally, nor was it based upon his agreement or disagreement with Dr. Peikoff's election-related commentary specifically. Rather, it was based upon the following statement on The Rule of Reason Weblog: here. Although it is my view that that statement and its implications speak for themselves, I will set the record straight in one respect: I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of a "movement". On the contrary, I am an individual with a mind of his own.

I haven't kept up with everything, but I find it odd that Provenzo thinks that "we" are still upset over Dr. Peikoff's pre-election statement--especially because of DIM! "We" are supposed to be against Dr. Peikoff and DIM because some of us are discussing the hypothesis? Does this mean that Mr. Provenzo, and those who have no questions about DIM think that "we" are evil because there are those among the member of the Forum who have questions? Or that "we" are no longer to call ourselves Objectivists because some individuals here might question, or disagree with, Dr. Peikoff? How utterly bizarre! Where are such ideas coming from within a philosophpy that teaches its adherents to accept nothing without examination" I'm not being sarcastic here, I'd really like to know what is going on!

I am reminded of this scene from Life of Brian:

Crowd: Look! There he is! The chosen one has woken! ... The Messiah! The Messiah! Show us the Messiah! ...The Messiah! ... Brian! Brian! ... Brian! Brian! Show us the Messiah! [...]

Brian: Good morning!

Crowd: A blessing! A blessing! A blessing!

Brian: Oh, please, please, please, listen! I've got one or two things to say.

Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!

Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't need to follow me! You don't need to follow anybody! You've got to think for yourselves! You're all individuals!

Crowd (as one voice): Yes, we're all individuals!

Brian: You're all different!

Crowd (as one voice): Yes, we are all different!

Homogenous Man: I'm not.

Crowd: [Multiple Silencing Sounds]

Brian: You all got to work it out for yourselves!

Crowd: Yes, we've got to work it out for ourselves!

Brian: Exactly!

Crowd (as one voice): Tell us more!

Brian: No! That's the point! Don't let anyone tell you what to do!

Are we mystics that one group splits to follow the gourd, or the shoe, or the sandal, or the gnostics, or the Arians, or the tolerationists, or the Peikoffites? Or are we individuals that follow Objectivist principles as defined and proven by Ayn Rand? What is happening here and where did this attitude come from?

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I'm not being sarcastic here, I'd really like to know what is going on!

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I gave my best evaluation here and the following two posts of mine.

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What is happening here and where did this attitude come from?

That fact that a group of people share a common philosophy does not mean that it will be applied properly in every instance.

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That fact that a group of people share a common philosophy does not mean that it will be applied properly in every instance.

Yes, and part of the instigating issue is: how should members who disagree over some applications treat each other? Should one be morally condemned for disagreeing over, say, how to vote in an election, when the candidates offer a lose-lose option? Or disagreeing over whether the world is falling to pieces, if so at what rate, and why or why not? Is there room for honest error in one's grasp of the facts, or does disagreement necessarily imply a lack of understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy and/or moral failure?

In my view, there should be open, rational debate among all (experts and otherwise). I can't imagine someone's view on these matters leading some to denounce others as unworthy of the title of "Objectivist" and call them immoral -- yet here it is. We should be able to debate the merits of particular issues without resorting to flame wars -- yet here we are.

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Yes, and part of the instigating issue is: how should members who disagree over some applications treat each other? Should one be morally condemned for disagreeing over, say, how to vote in an election, when the candidates offer a lose-lose option? Or disagreeing over whether the world is falling to pieces, if so at what rate, and why or why not? Is there room for honest error in one's grasp of the facts, or does disagreement necessarily imply a lack of understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy and/or moral failure?

In my view, there should be open, rational debate among all (experts and otherwise). I can't imagine someone's view on these matters leading some to denounce others as unworthy of the title of "Objectivist" and call them immoral -- yet here it is. We should be able to debate the merits of particular issues without resorting to flame wars -- yet here we are.

I agree that there should be rational debate, which I have not seen from many who have posted on Noodlefood and have supported Mayhew/Boeckmann. But the isssue is, they don't see the debate as being a rational disagreement over some applications. If someone insulted me or attacked me in the manner that they claim Stephen did, I'd be pretty upset too, and I wouldn't talk with such a person. (Which, by the way, was one reason why I rarely posted on Noodlefood: the frequent use of foul language and personal attacks by the commenters even though I thought that Diana and other bloggers wrote on some fairly interesting subjects.) I think civility is a very important precondition for rational discussion. And as long as the "other side" thinks that they have been demeaned and insulted, we are only going to see rants and assertions and denunciations.

So, as a bare minimum, I'd like to see the commenters or bloggers who post on Noodlefood, demonstrate that the principals on The Forum side of the debate have been uncivil to the degree that Mayhew can assert that no one has ever been less civil to him than Stephen. This is related to Diana's main claim that she's fighting to protect the integrity of Objectivist intellectuals. Well, Noodlefooders, where's the evidence for your assertions of lack of civility to such a degree that all we get in response are denunciations? In-context quotes would be greatly appreciated.

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But the isssue is, they don't see the debate as being a rational disagreement over some applications. If someone insulted me or attacked me in the manner that they claim Stephen did, I'd be pretty upset too, and I wouldn't talk with such a person.

I disagree that that's the issue. Why is intellectual debate, discussion, debate or criticism taken as a personal affront? Stephen didn't insult; he criticized an argument. Why even claim such is an insult?

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I disagree that that's the issue. Why is intellectual debate, discussion, debate or criticism taken as a personal affront? Stephen didn't insult; he criticized an argument. Why even claim such is an insult?

I agree with you that that is not the issue and that Stephen didn't insult them; but that is the issue for the Noodlefood commenters. You ask "Why even claim such is an insult?" Well, without getting into psychology, what I tried to provide is a philosophic explanation in Posts 46, 47, and 49. Apparently, formulating a causal theory to explain the events was too much for Diana, as she kicked me off Noodlefood for posting my theory, saying it was a personal attack.

Look at it this way. If someone said to you and thousands of others: "You're a fool who misrepresents what Mr. X said in the past, and you don't know your subject matter. Now, let's debate the truth of Mr Y's ideas." Would you engage such a person? I know I wouldn't. And that is the way that they view what Stephen has said about Mayhew and Boeckmann. Now, if someone said that about me and then if he wanted to debate what I said about Mr. X and did I misrepresent him and do I know the subject, that's a different matter (provided the person had actually presented evidence of his assertions to begin with). But that is not what they want to debate. And the reason for that is obvious. For one week now since Boeckmann posted his comments on Noodlefood and over 100 comments, no specific evidence has been presented by any of the Noodlefood commenters to support their assertions of Stephen's "transgressions of civility" or attack on the "integrity of Objectivist intellectuals."

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It's from being rationalistic. Someone latches on to one statement that one disagrees with, and rather than looking at the facts of the disagreement one asks oneself why such an attack took place (since, in the opinion of the rationalistic person, the attack is unjustified.) One then deduces the reasons for the attack by attributing motivations to the attacker. These motivations may be psychological or philosophical. In either case, there is no concrete evidence that such motivations are present in the attacker. The motivations must be present, according to the rationalist, because what else would explain such unjustified attacks? Once the entire structure of the argument is established, alleged facts are brought into play to support the rationalistic argument. At that point, others begin to argue over the alleged facts without realizing that the entire argument is floating in air.

That's an excellent observation, Paul. Well said. And it explains the observed behavior, up to and including your invitation to leave the premises. You offered a bit more food for thought than the noodle could take.

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You offered a bit more food for thought than the noodle could take.

:):D:D

Good one, Alann

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For one week now since Boeckmann posted his comments on Noodlefood and over 100 comments, no specific evidence has been presented by any of the Noodlefood commenters to support their assertions of Stephen's "transgressions of civility" or attack on the "integrity of Objectivist intellectuals."

Nor has Dr. Mayhew actually responded to the allegedly shoddy historical objections that Stephen raised. Instead he says: "I could easily correct the errors in Speicher's remarks on Thales, ...but I don't wish to engage him, or offer him that service" and then proceeds, equally unhelpfully to the rest of the benighted world, to label the points Stephen raised by degree of folly (reaching a crescendo in "breathtakingly stupid"), while, again, refraining from actually providing any actual information of his own and revealing that allegedly breathtaking stupidity to the world at large. A bizarre display of Argument from Intimidation from a professional Objectivist intellectual.

Regardless of his righteous indignation and obvious lack of respect for Stephen Speicher, Dr. Mayhew's audience on that list is not Stephen, it's a public forum and his respect for that audience appears no greater. Does such posturing work in any other context? A resume is not an argument once one has actually taken the job, and calling something stupid is rarely as effective as showing how and why it might be.

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