Stephen Speicher

Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

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Q&A on The Summit and The Foundation by Robert Tracinski ( Post 4)

http://www.intellectualactivist.com/php-bi...cle.php?id=1097

Some of the confusion in the internet debates regarding this essay is due to not distinguishing between implicit and explicit philosophy. Here are a few questions on that topic.

I am wondering if you would like to elaborate more on what you mean by 'implicit' and 'explicit'? I am particularly interested in what you mean by 'implicit'. If I have a better understanding of your meaning of 'implicit', I might better understand what you mean by 'implicit philosophy'.

More importantly, or, at least I think so, is how "implicit" is used by Tracinski in his essay and what meaning he attaches to "implicit philosophy." I for one see no difference in Tracinski's usage of those terms in his essay from the standard Objectivist meaning as voiced by Ayn Rand.

The "implicit" is that which is available to your consciousness but which you have not conceptualized.
Fundamentally, what is important is not the message a writer projects explicitly, but the values and view of life he projects implicitly. Just as every man has a philosophy, whether he knows it consciously or not, so every story has an implicit philosophy.

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Q&A on The Summit and The Foundation by Robert Tracinski ( Post 4)

http://www.intellectualactivist.com/php-bi...cle.php?id=1097

The feat of transmission of a civilization across many dark centuries requires explicit philosophy.

I find this statement confusing. I am thinking about Plato and Aristotle, but don't know what you mean. Have two different civilizations been transmitted across many dark centuries?

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I agree that Tracinski's use of the concept implicit does not differ from Ayn Rand.

Tracinski deals with this issue extensively in his Part IV of the series, "The Metaphysics of "Normal Life"" which can be found here:

http://www.intellectualactivist.com/php-bi...cle.php?id=1096

Tracinski writes:

I've had a few people object to the ideas in this article by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address in looking at the global influence of scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government...

Both an individual and a culture have to learn a rational method and world view, not just from instruction in explicit philosophical tenets, but first from learning the specific methods and world view of the sciences and seeing the validity and power of that method in all of the myriad concretes it can explain to them and in all of the concrete problems it allows them to solve. If people who have been trained in a scientific education then encounter the basic tenets of a pro-reason philosophy, they will regard them as practically self-evident. That is, although those principles are not all self-evident, they will feel as if they were, because the broad philosophic truths are implicit in so many of the truths that the individual has grasped in his studies of mathematics, geometry, physics, engineering, medicine, and so on...

While it is true that few men grapple with explicit philosophical ideas, all men grapple with broad philosophical issues on the implicit level. They all have to form implicit conclusions about the nature of the world and the nature of man, and an estimate of what is possible to man in this world. To say that they do so implicitly is not to say that they do so blindly or that they must borrow their conclusion from those who do think about these issues explicitly. Most men draw their implicit conclusions based on their own experience, on what the day-to-day pressures, incentives, joys, and sorrows of their lives show to them is possible.

Regarding the power of explicit philosophy to transmit ideas:

Tracinski writes:

So what, then, is the role of the philosopher? As a clue to the answer, note that Aristotle did serve precisely the role of a catalyst for an explosion of knowledge—but not in the Classical era. Representing the pinnacle and integration of Greek intellectual achievement, he was able to transmit that achievement to the late Middle Ages, serving an indispensable role in the launching of the Renaissance.

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I agree that Tracinski's use of the concept implicit does not differ from Ayn Rand.

OK. But I am more interested in what You, PhilosophyOfHistory-101, mean by 'implicit' and 'explicit'. At the moment, I am confused about some of your posts. Several of your posts ask questions and than you answer the questions using what Tracinski said in his articles. I am not confused with those posts. My confusion stems from the questions you ask and than answer as 'PhilosophyOfHistory-101.' That is why I would like to know what 'PhilosophyOfHistory-101' is trying to say. Than I might better understand the differences, if there are any, between Ayn Rand, Rob Tracinski, and PhilosophyOfHistory-101.

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I’m sorry I was on vacation and missed so much of the discussion here of Rob Tracinski’s theory of the progress of the good in history.

I’m not sorry I missed the discussions about virulent reactions from several Objectivist intellectuals, two of whom are specialists in Classical History. Attacks against Rob Tracinski, against Stephen Speicher, and against anyone who would entertain Rob’s ideas serve only to distract attention from an important new idea that promises to open up a new level of understanding of history.

So, to put the attention on the subject myself, here are my thoughts on Rob Tracinski’s theory of history. (I have been aware of the basic formula of Rob’s theory for about a year, but I saw the specific details and arguments of his first presentation of it at the same time as all of the other subscribers to TIA Daily. I have not talked with Rob about the consequences of his idea or how it fits in or contrasts with Ayn Rand’s view of how ideas move history. My comments here are the extemporaneous thoughts of a part-time journalist and student of philosophy. If there are any errors in my observations on history, they are mine. I don’t know if Rob will agree with my observations, therefore my views on this subject should not be confusion with Rob’s. They are my preliminary comments on what I believe is a powerful new idea that will yield many interesting insights into history and new insights into how to work effectively for intellectual change.)

The first question that Rob Tracinski’s new theory has to answer is: Is it valid?

Since January 5, much space has been spent on this thread on whether or not the history of Greek Civilization provides evidence of the truth or the falsity of Rob’s new theory. This may be a logical place to start because explicit philosophical ideas did not exist before the Greeks. But that approach misses one of the key strengths of Rob’s theory. Evidence from all epochs of human history support Rob’s idea.

In Part V of “What Went Right” Rob points out the existence of the mini- Renaissance of the medieval era. Two centuries before Peter Abelard began advocating reason, there was a Carolingian Renaissance under the rule of Charlemagne – a revival that led to Romanesque and, then, High Gothic Architecture (a feat of structural design). Charlemagne’s non-philosophical (Christian) movement revived Classical learning at the University of Paris, laying the cultural foundations for Abelard’s influential lectures.

The baby steps Western Civilization took towards reason during this medieval period are often not recognized as a first budding of liberty. In the 13th Century, European farmers began empirical experimentation with plant breeding and methods of growing. The agricultural revolution that followed is little known today only because the Industrial Revolution was to overshadow it five centuries later.

In two or three hundred years, the agricultural revolution doubled and tripled the population of England. The high productivity of land motivated the enclosure movement, based on the implicit view that property should be possessed by right, based on the productive use to which it is put. This view became one of the intellectual building blocks for the concept of individual rights developed during the Scottish enlightenment.

There are many examples of this kind of inductive progress being achieved over a wide variety of geographical scales and over a wide variety of time intervals.

I would encourage you all to consider whether or not this pattern of the cultural growth of reason occurred in other areas. Whether it occurs in the mind of one man in a single lifetime or in the minds of hundreds of men over a two centuries, the progress of creating thinking moves from the concrete facts of reality to broader and broader ideas.

Take the mind of one creator we all know: Ayn Rand. She started out with the concrete goal of depicting the ideal man in fiction. She began developing her own view of what a literary hero is by watching the choices of people around her and intellectually immersing herself the events and ideas of the world (past and present). She digested political philosophy, collectivism, man’s nature, and the history of the Russian Revolution (and the English Language) in order to portray a doomed heroine in We the Living. She explored collectivism and independent thinking at a more abstract level in order to portray it in a highly stylized fashion in Anthem. She explored rationality, independent thinking, creativity, moral philosophy, architecture, the lives of Frank Llyod Wright and Louis Sullivan, newspaper publishing, and the sub-culture of modern art in order to depict the ideal man in The Fountainhead. And she explored the primacy of existence, rational epistemology, railroad operation, smelting and steel production, the life of Vanderbelt Schwabb, Morgan, and a dozen other American “Robber-Barons,” and developed an entire moral code in order to depict the ideal man fighting to create the ideal world in Altas Shrugged. Concrete observations about human behavior, the lives of specific individuals and the creative achievements of the giants of industrialized world were pressed into the service of forming a literary image that would reveal a new world-view; a new philosophy.

The pattern of the progress of the good that Rob Tracinksi claims for history is the pattern of action taken by every value-seeking creative individual. Philosophical ideas are not the goal of the good in history. Living, thriving, achieving, and creating something totally new is the goal of the good in history.

Rob's theory is particularly interesting because it follows the true pattern of the "spiral of knowledge" that exists inside each individual's active, thinking, creative mind. It is a theory for the role of ideas in history causation that is teleological (i.e., accepts that history is the product of goal-causation). History is caused by men who’s actions are chosen by a living, motivated, biological, and purposeful consciousness. In history, the intellectual objectives are the cause of the incremental intellectual progress that leads up to it. According to this view of the progress of the good in history, the philosophical integrations are at the end of the progression of intellectual discovery, not at the beginning.

I have a question for anyone who thinks he can answer it. Is Robert Tracinski stating a philosophical fundamental? Because, if he is, and this philosophical fundamental is not an Objectivist fundamental, it is not, and cannot be compatible with Objectivism….

…If Robert Tracinski is not stating a philosophical fundamental, then what is the nature of his main idea(s)? Is he trying to present some fundamental principle(s) for some other discipline, e.g. history? Does he think that he has discovered a need for some new and as-yet-unidentified discipline, and is trying to articulate that? I think the fundamental identity, the essential nature of his main idea is very unclear. And I would be glad to hear from anyone who believes that he is clear about the essential identity of Robert Tracinski's main idea(s).

I’m omitting an error in the approach this question originally took in favor of the virtue of the question. It bluntly asks a good question: Does Rob’s theory square with Ayn Rand’s view of life?

Yes.

Rob’s “What Went Right” articles do not propound any new philosophical ideas. They express a rational inference based on the concrete data and the factual sequence of history. And Rob implicitly takes Ayn Rand’s philosophy of history as his starting point. It was Miss Rand’s ardent belief that ideas move history. Again and again she demonstrated what explicit and implicit philosophical ideas stand behind the major events in human civilization.

History is caused by men operating under implicitly and explicitly held epistemological method and under an implicity and explicitly held philosophical self-image. History is caused by men motivated to inact their implicitly and explicitly held moral codes. History is caused by men seeking to remake the world in the image of their implicitly and explicitly held philsophical ideas.

In Ayn Rand’s view, all abstract ideas have the power to move history, the more abstract, the deeper the level at which they move men who make history. Of all ideas, philosophical ideas exercise the deepest level of influence over man and the history he has made.

This weekend I re-read Ayn Rand's 1961 essay "For the New Intellectual." I believe this was her first published non-fiction piece on how ideas drive history. By her explicit statement, Ayn Rand believed that ideas move history in a primarily deductive pattern, coming down from broad philosophical principles to the special sciences, to the cultural way of life, to the Zeitgeist, to the political organization of society, to technological and economic progress. Ayn Rand follows the pyramid of the division of labor down from the general and the abstract, to the specialized and the concrete:

The New Intellectual

The professional intellectual is the field agent of the army whose commander-in-chief is the philosopher. The intellectual carries the application of philosophical principles to every field of human endeavor. He sets a society’s course by transmitting ideas from the “ivory tower” of the philosopher to the university professor—to the writer—to the artist—to the newspaperman—to the politician—to the movie maker—to the night-club singer—to the man on the street. The intellectual’s specific professions are in the field of the sciences that study man, the so-called “humanities,” but for that very reason his influence extends to all other professions. Those who deal with the sciences studying nature have to rely on the intellectual for philosophical guidance and information: for moral values, for social theories, for political premises, for psychological tenets and, above all, for the principles of epistemology, that crucial branch of philosophy which studies man’s means of knowledge and makes all other sciences possible…

For the rest of her life, Ayn Rand articulated power of philosophy to shape history by this deductive process. As a philosophy of history, this view is undeniably correct -- that ideas, especially the philosophical patterns behind those ideas, move history. This view enabled Ayn Rand to explain the fundamental pattern of human history over the sweep of centuries, over its entire 2500-year life.

Using this approach, Ayn Rand was able to describe the general rise of civilization and the specifics of every intellectual injury and collapse caused by contradictory, evil and destructive ideas. Contradictions in the philosophical thinking of a culture’s top creative minds (e.g., Locke and Hume) causes the culture to falter, making an opening for the mystics of muscle to take over, plunder, and destroy all that was built…and the mystics of spirit to move into the rubble and destroy the capacity to rebuild. She did not, however, address, with the same level of detail, the specific sequence by which good ideas have moved mankind forward. If progress were to originate with explicitly held philosophical ideas, there are 100-, 200-, and 500-year gaps to be found between each period in which more rational philosophical ideas were explicitly accepted and the existential progress in man’s life on earth. Ayn Rand did not assume that philosophy acts at a distance -- at a distance in time – but she explained these yawing, centuries-long gaps purely as periods of long-term resistance to and erosion of tyranny.

Ideas--philosophical and non-philosophical ideas—act in each man’s mind as and when they’re held, to the extent that it is possible to act on them, not centuries later. According to Rob’s theory, each period in which more rational philosophical ideas were explicitly accepted came at the end of a creative period in the arts and sciences. New philosophical integrations were crowning achievements that encapsulated the method by which the recent progress was achieved. In recording these philosophical ideas, the method of by which all was built is kept so that it might be built up again if it were lost, no matter how much time had passed, even hundreds of years.

Are the more rational philosophical ideas the crowing achievement in periods of growth? Was the acceptance of Aristotle’s ideas in the enlightenment, in essence, the crowning achievement of the period of medieval progress that immediately proceeded it? Were the secular and political ideas of the age of reason, in essence, the crowning achievement inspired by renaissance art and an science in the recent past? Or were the ideas of Aristotle the primary force that slowly breathed life into a dead medieval culture over a period of 500 years? Were the ideas of Aristotle the primary force that continued to breathe life into the renaissance culture over the next 300 years?

This is the chicken and the egg question.

Each chicken starts with an egg. In each human mind, the egg is the concrete observations and specialized knowledge and the chicken that hatches is the abstract ideas. In each mind, the egg is the non-philosophical abstraction and the chicken that hatches is philosophical ideas. The role of ideas in history follows the same pattern as the role of ideas in a man’s mind. After the first new egg of its kind hatches it lays its eggs and becomes a part of the spiral of knowledge.

Ayn Rand’s detailed discourses on philosophical history explicitly address the deductive leg (going from philosophical ideas to concrete achievements) of the spiral of knowledge in human history. Rob Tracinski’s theory explicitly address the inductive leg (going from new observations of concretes of reality to the creation of new ideas) of the spiral of knowledge in human history. Taken together, these two formulations of the role of ideas in history are complimentary. Taken separately, a piece of the mechanism of how ideas move history is missing.

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Ayn Rand’s detailed discourses on philosophical history explicitly address the deductive leg (going from philosophical ideas to concrete achievements) of the spiral of knowledge in human history. Rob Tracinski’s theory explicitly address the inductive leg (going from new observations of concretes of reality to the creation of new ideas) of the spiral of knowledge in human history. Taken together, these two formulations of the role of ideas in history are complimentary. Taken separately, a piece of the mechanism of how ideas move history is missing.

Thank you for your thoughtful post, Jack. I've been writing daily, going over all that I know of the ascent of man; I've come to much the same conclusion. Though I'm not completely sure of the construction, I think that Rob Tracinski has identified an important aspect of the role of ideas in history.

There are further aspects, however, that keep popping up. It is one thing to note the positive role that reason plays in a society, even when it is implicitly used (i.e., what men may call "common sense"), and another to recognize how most of mankind has organized its societies, its politics, because it is this organization that ultimately determined the success or failure of that society. By this, I mean that it is the political organization that determines the strength or fragility of the gains man has made. Miss Rand noted that most societies were based on what she called "Attila and the Witch Doctor" kind of society. History is rife with examples of societies whose fortunes rose or fell depending on the actions of a single leader (and an elite group of followers), whose power, in turn, was justified by his military prowess, coupled with whatever mystical proto-philosophy was prevalent within that culture.

I've always enjoyed studying the technical history of civilizations (even though I don't always understand the mechanics), and one thing that always gets my goat is the realization that we could be so much further advanced had the knowledge gained not been destroyed every few centuries. To give just one example, Britain gained from Rome the knowledge of central heating--something that was important for their health, as well as their comfort. After the Romans left Britain, that was one piece of knowledge that was lost for over a thousand years. I won't even go into the consequences of basic hygiene, and the water and sewer systems, or the illnesses, plagues, and death that followed their loss. There is much more, of course. Examples abound. Just the thought of the Library at Alexandria burning makes me weep for mankind.

Miss Rand spent a lot of effort warning us against the dangers of false philosophic ideas. Again, examples abound. I wonder if the hostility Rob's ideas have encountered is because he is focusing on the positive aspects of what is happening in the world, without taking note of how fragile the gains are because of these false philosophic ideas. Many Objectivist intellectuals seem to think that Christianity is the biggest danger. I disagree with that assessment because I think it ignores the greatest and most immediate twin dangers of Islam, and the Transnationalism that has disarmed us in the fight against Islam--both of which are deeply ingrained philosophies. (There is also the newest religious insanity of Environmentalism. I haven't quite worked out exactly the mechanism being used here, other than the irrationality involved. It is the ethics that confuse me.) While Christian ethics are fundamental to Transnationalism (usually in some Kantian, humanistic form), Christianity itself isn't. Fundamentally, it is altruism that is the enemy no matter where you look. But I do agree that the gains we've made are in danger from within and without.

It is in this part of the calculation where I think that one may say that it is the philosophical ideas, explicitly held by a civilization, that determine its ultimate success or failure, because it determines a civilizations ability to correctly determine its interests, and allows it to protect those interests against threats from within or without. That is as far as I've gotten. I'm not entirely sure of my ground here, either. I want to reread the materials and do some more thinking, but is this close to what you mean when you say, "Taken together, these two formulations of the role of ideas in history are complimentary. Taken separately, a piece of the mechanism of how ideas move history is missing."?

As an aside, I want to express my profound disappointment in the way certain Objectivist intellectuals have responded to this question. Instead of coming here and guiding the discussion, we were offered what I consider to be a condescending sneer. If it is the job of an intellectual to define and direct knowledge, I think they have failed to do their job. So, I want to express my appreciation to Stephen, Jack, and everybody else who has given this question thoughtful consideration, and then shared those thoughts with us. I cannot speak for others, but I've certainly gained from your efforts.

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It is in this part of the calculation where I think that one may say that it is the philosophical ideas, explicitly held by a civilization, that determine its ultimate success or failure, because it determines a civilizations ability to correctly determine its interests, and allows it to protect those interests against threats from within or without. That is as far as I've gotten. I'm not entirely sure of my ground here, either. I want to reread the materials and do some more thinking, but is this close to what you mean when you say, "Taken together, these two formulations of the role of ideas in history are complimentary. Taken separately, a piece of the mechanism of how ideas move history is missing."?

This aspect is not clear to me either yet. Why did implicit philosophy (by this I mean the use of reason in dealing with nature) grow better in some societies than others? Was it because of the explicit ideas that prevailed at the time. For example when Attila and the Witch Doctor set the climate, their explicit might-is-right philosophy, would put a damper on mans freedom to think and explore (thus no lessons from nature to mold into the explicit).

Perhaps it is capricious circumstance that allows periods of freedom and the ability to induce good ideas. Weather, or disease or a more learn-ed leader could alter the equation. The reverse can happen as well. Look how the civilization that was Baghdad evaporated. This is an interesting subject, since it involves the very essence of what philosophy is, and how it relates to history. It brings it down from the ivory tower into the real world.

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It is in this part of the calculation where I think that one may say that it is the philosophical ideas, explicitly held by a civilization, that determine its ultimate success or failure, because it determines a civilizations ability to correctly determine its interests, and allows it to protect those interests against threats from within or without. That is as far as I've gotten. I'm not entirely sure of my ground here, either. I want to reread the materials and do some more thinking, but is this close to what you mean when you say, "Taken together, these two formulations of the role of ideas in history are complimentary. Taken separately, a piece of the mechanism of how ideas move history is missing."?

This aspect is not clear to me either yet. Why did implicit philosophy (by this I mean the use of reason in dealing with nature) grow better in some societies than others? Was it because of the explicit ideas that prevailed at the time. For example when Attila and the Witch Doctor set the climate, their explicit might-is-right philosophy, would put a damper on mans freedom to think and explore (thus no lessons from nature to mold into the explicit).

Perhaps it is capricious circumstance that allows periods of freedom and the ability to induce good ideas. Weather, or disease or a more learn-ed leader could alter the equation. The reverse can happen as well. Look how the civilization that was Baghdad evaporated. This is an interesting subject, since it involves the very essence of what philosophy is, and how it relates to history. It brings it down from the ivory tower into the real world.

Please don't forget -- not for a moment -- that the first cause of history is not ideas. It is man. History is the product of the choices of men. It is the story of their lives.

Man uses ideas to organize and coordinate his actions over time to achieve long term goals, and, thus, ideas play a decisive role in historical change. But it is the specific choices and actions of creative and destructive (good and evil) men that decide history. Among men it is leaders in intellectual, artistic, political, and (since the industrial revolution) business fields who dominate the historical scenes.

Among ideas, it is ideas working within man's political systems and the leaders of those political systems that dominate events...all except one kind of event. The discoveries and inventions and ideas of creative giants in every field of human endeavor move the world at a deeper level, changing the cultural ground upon which political systems and political leaders stand. In essentially free societies many of these influential creative giants have worked entirely within the normal division of labor system of the economy as intellectuals and artists who sell their works of art, their lecturs, and their written word. But some work outside of any system.

I have few doubts about the validity of Rob's theory. There are deep layers of evidence to support his view. The questions I have are: How does Rob's theory of history square with Ayn Rand's explicitly stated views? Are the two theories complimentary halves of the whole picture? I think I put together a good answer for myself yesterday, here on this forum. But my answers, no doubt, need more work, more technical detail and validation.

I don't know if my answers square with Rob's thinking or if he'll point out an error in my interpretation of his ideas to me. I'll talk to Rob about it. Hopefully he won't make me wait in suspense for him to explain his thoughts in a "What Went Right?" Part VI or VII. But he probably will. Communication at this abstract level usually requires the written word.

On the issue of what motivated Rob Tracinski to come up with his theory of history there should be no mysteries. I can give most of the back story -- for anyone who's interested -- on the process by which he came up with it.

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Rob Tracinski gave his explanation in a TIA daily(I believe it was last week). His explanation was consistant with Jack Wakeland's explanation that he provided on THE FORUM. I don't have the time right now to find the specific link but, personally, I accept both Rob's and Jack's explanation for why Rob is no longer associated with ARI.

The following is the reply Robert Tracinski gave in TIA Daily, and it is posted with his permission.
TIA Daily, January 16, 2007

A Question About Robert Tracinski and the Ayn Rand Institute

I only just noticed ARI's disassociation with you under one of your old op-eds on the ARI website. [The byline, which used to read, "Robert W. Tracinski is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute," now states, "Robert W. Tracinski is no longer associated with the Ayn Rand Institute—neither as a writer nor as a speaker."] Can you elaborate on this? Did ARI disassociate with you in response to your "What Went Right?" series or your criticism of Leonard Peikoff's election statement?

I agreed with your criticism of Piekoff's election statement and am slightly uncomfortable that that statement, or some similar variation of it, is integral to ARI policy now. I know you can't speak for ARI, but you can speak for yourself. Perhaps you could even make a public statement addressing the issue. I know there are some rumors out there.

—Tom Dykhuizen

Robert Tracinski responds:

I've received a number of questions about this, so before everyone jumps to a lot of conclusions, I thought it would be a good idea to clear things up publicly.

More than three years ago, I decided to phase out my work for the Ayn Rand Institute in order to focus all of my efforts on TIA. I quit as senior editor of the Institute's op-ed program in 2003, and my last writing course for the Objectivist Academic Center ended in 2005. I have not worked for the Institute since then, and the old description of me as a "senior writer" for ARI has been out of date for years. So their recent re-write of the byline on my old op-eds does not mean that I was suddenly fired by ARI. Why they chose to change that description now, and why they chose to do it in those particular words, I don't know.

I have worked on many different projects over the years, but most of them, including my work for ARI, have been sidelines. For the past ten years, my main job has always been TIA, and I decided that I should focus all of my efforts there. I thought I would be able to pursue my career goal—to be an independent writer reaching a wider, mainstream audience with rational analysis of current events—more effectively through a company I owned and controlled.

There were a number of practical reasons why I didn't think I could pursue my goals as effectively through ARI, but one reason is that I anticipated something like the bitter arguments among Objectivists over the War on Terrorism and the merits of the two political parties, which came to head during the recent elections. I was still a bit surprised by the specific form this argument took, with Leonard Peikoff going so far as to declare that anyone who doesn't vote a straight Democratic ticket "does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism, except perhaps as a rationalistic system detached from the world." I decided that if such a disagreement were going to arise, it would be less damaging—both to me personally and, I hope, to the Objectivist movement—if I were not working for ARI.

Though the transition to working solely for TIA has been a bit bumpier than I anticipated, I have been very happy with the growing success I have achieved. This allowed me to start TIA Daily, which led, among other things, to my column for RealClearPolitics—which, as you may have noted, led to my being picked up recently by the Wall Street Journal's online editorial page, one of my biggest op-ed "hits" to date.

I think that this success is only a small down payment on what is possible in reaching a wider audience with an Objectivist perspective on the news.

—RWT

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The following is the reply Robert Tracinski gave in TIA Daily, and it is posted with his permission.

Thank you for posting Mr. Tracinski's response. I appreciate the fact that he allowed you to post it. I helps to clear up some questions I've had.

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In previous posts (here, here, and here) I have pointed out that Robert Mayhew's critique of Tracinski misrepresents Tracinski's actual position and counters Tracinski's arguments with claims of fact that are controversial or outright wrong. After Mayhew's refusal to even address those objections -- here, on HBL, or anywhere else -- I decided to read the rest of Mayhew's article. I did not get more than a few sentences further when I found another serious factual error that I must comment on.

Mayhew writes:

We turn finally to Socrates. Tracinski claims that "Philosophy did not fully emerge as a separately defined field until Socrates." This is inaccurate, as Socrates was interested in moral philosophy alone.

Now, if Tracinski had claimed that Socrates was the first systematic philosopher, it would be inaccurate, but Tracinski does no such thing. In fact, in the very next sentence after the one quoted by Mayhew, Tracinski states explicitly that it was Socrates' student Plato who first systematized philosophy -- a view that Mayhew, himself, endorses.

So what did Tracinski mean by writing that philosophy emerges "as a separately defined field" with Socrates? There is no need to guess. Tracinski writes "there was in these early years no strong differentiation between philosophy and science or the other specialized fields." Tracinski is simply saying that, with Socrates, philosophy was -- to an extent not seen before Socrates -- differentiated from science and other specialized fields.

On what basis, then, does Mayhew criticize Tracinski as being "inaccurate?" Mayhew simply states that Socrates "was interested in moral philosophy alone," and provides a quote from Cicero that, ironically, supports the very idea Mayhew has just labeled as "inaccurate." Cicero notes -- as have countless philosophers and historians since Socrates' time (see footnote [1]) -- that Socrates "was the first to divert philosophy from matters which nature herself wrapped in obscurity, with which all philosophers before him had been concerned." But THAT is Tracinski's point.

Cicero refers to Socrates as the "father of philosophy," as in Book I, XXXIV, of De Natura Deorum, and Cicero speaks of Socrates separating philosophy from physics, and for that many say that philosophy is derived from Socrates:

... and Philosophy is said to have derived her birth from him [socrates]; -- not the doctrine of Physics, which was of an earlier date, but that Philosophy which treats of men, and manners, and of the nature of good and evil.

In addition to disagreeing with Tracinski, Mayhew also seems to be disagreeing with himself. Here Mayhew's argument against Tracinski is "Socrates was interested in moral philosophy alone." (Emphasis added.) Yet, earlier this year Mayhew argued the opposite!

In an HBL post (6/21/06) about whether to divide the ancients into Pre-Socratics or Pre-Platonics, Mayhew quoted Aristotle saying that Socrates "fixed thought for the first time on definitions," and Mayhew himself thought of Socrates that "[h]is 'fixing thought for the first time on definitions,' especially in ethical matters, is a great original achievement." But fixing thought on definitions is a great epistemological achievement. That contradicts Mayhew's criticism of Tracinski on the grounds that "Socrates was interested in moral philosophy alone."

Now, unquestionably Socrates is considered to be a moral philosopher, but, as confirmation of Socrates' interest and work in epistemology, I (ahem) dusted off my copy of Windelband's A History of Philosophy. (All emphasis in original.)

This conviction was with him [socrates] of an essentially practical sort; it was his moral disposition, but it led him to an investigation of knowledge, which he anew set over against opinions, and whose essence he found in conceptual thought.
Just through the process in which individuals had achieved independence, through the unfettering of personal passions, it had become evident that in all fields man's ability rests upon his insight. In this Socrates found that objective standard for the estimation of men and their actions which the Sophists had sought in vain in the machinery of feeling and desires.
Socrates, however, needed truth, and on this account he believed that it was to be attained if it were honestly sought for. Virtue is knowledge; and since there must be virtue, there must be knowledge also, Here for the first time in history the moral consciousness appears with complete clearness as an epistemological postulate.
In contrast with the change and multiplicity of individual ideas he [socrates] demanded the one and abiding all should acknowledge. He sought the logical "Nature" as others had sought the cosmological or ethical "Nature," and found it in the concept or general notion.
The inductive method of procedure as employed by Socrates, according to Xenophon and Plato, is, to be sure, still marked by a childlike simplicity and imperfection.... But however great the gaps may be in the arguments of Socrates, the significance of these arguments is by no means lessened. His doctrine of induction has its value not for methodology, but for logic, and for the theory of knowledge.

Thus, the facts show that Socrates, though primarily a moral philosopher, was interested in, and important in, epistemology as well. Mayhew's use of the argument "Socrates was interested in moral philosophy alone" (Emphasis added) to claim Tracinski is "inaccurate," is factually inaccurate.

Once again Mayhew makes a "correction" that is itself incorrect.

----------------------------------------------------------------

Footnote [1]: A few scholarly sources confirming the stated perspective on Socrates.

Because Socrates was known to have turned away from the study of natural phenomena ... Cicero was often cited, since he had contended that Socrates turned away from the physical science of Archelaus, for whom "philosophy dealt with numbers and movements, with the problem whence all things came, or whither they are returned, and ... the size of the stars, the spaces that divided them, their courses and all celestial phenomena" Socrates was considered the father of philosophy because he shifted the focus from natural to moral philosophy.
Socrates was in his [Cicero's] eyes the father of philosophy, the founder of ethics, the public benefactor who first called philosophy down from the clouds of metaphysical speculation to the solid ground of occupation with those matters that best tend as bene vivendum.... Socrates, in fact, is the ideal practical philosopher and as such is lauded by Cicero.... He is frequently mentioned in connection with other philosophers, usually as the founder of their systems, or, at least, of the valuable part of their systems.
Timon's [Timon of Phlius] observation that Socrates concentrated on ethics and repudiated physics is the best starting-point for viewing Hellenistic philosophers' attitude and approach to the great man. The point had already been made in similar brevity by Aristotle: 'Socrates occupied himself with ethics and not at all with nature as a whole' (Metaph. A. 6, 987bl-2); and it would become the most commonly repeated Socratic characteristic in the doxographical tradition.

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Q&A on The Summit and the Foundation by Robert Tracinski (Post 5)

What is the best example illustrating Tracinski's argument that a philosopher induces fundamental principles behind the achievements in special sciences?

Ayn Rand's formulation of the principles of Objectivist epistemology by generalizing principles underlying mathematics

Ayn Rand on why the special science of mathematics serves as a model for epistemology:

ITOE Page 202

But this is one of the very vague suggestions of why I think that mathematics has something to do with the essential pattern of concept-formation--that it servers as an ideal.

But I don't want to sound Platonic here. It is simple that the kind of perfection which mathematics used to have (and applied mathematics still seems to have) is the pattern for concept-formation and concept-use. That is the way our conceptual equipment should be. But it's much harder; more involved... So that mathematics as a science that deals with firmly defined entities can serve as a model.

I cannot do justice in this short post to Ayn Rand's brilliant presentation of the key ideas of Objectivist epistemology and on how they generalize mathematical ideas. I will simply provide page numbers where you can see this for yourself.

All page numbers (and quotes) are from the 1990 expanded second edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology by Ayn Rand.

1. Pages 7: The concept of unit as the base of both mathematics and epistemology.

2. Page 8: Mathematics as the science of measurement and the function of measurement.

3. Page 9: Man's mathematical and conceptual abilities develop simultaneously

4. Pages 14: Concept-formation and applied mathematics have a similar task of bringing the universe within the range of man's knowledge--by identifying relationships to perceptual data.

5. Page 17: A concept is like an arithmetic sequence of specifically defined units.

6. Page 18: The basic principle of concept formation is the equivalent of the basic principle of algebra.

7. Page 63: Unit-economy as the guiding principle of the conceptual faculty and in mathematics

8. Page 64: Mathematics indicates the pattern of the cognitive role of concepts and the psycho-epistemological need they fulfill.

ITOE page 7

With the grasp of the (implicit) concept "unit" man reaches the conceptual level of cognition, which consists of two interrelated fields: Conceptual and the Mathematical. The process of concept-formation is, in large part, a mathematical process.

ITOE Page 64:

Mathematics is a science of method, (the science of measurement), a cognitive method that enables man to perform an unlimited series of integrations. Mathematics indicates the pattern of the cognitive role of concepts and the psycho-epistemological need they fulfill. Conceptualization is a method of expanding man's consciousness by reducing the number of its content's units--a systematic means to an unlimited integration of cognitive data.

I think this to be one of the best examples of the inductive process Tracinski talks about because:

1) It is recent

2) Most Objectivists are intimately familiar with both elementary mathematics and Ayn Rand's epistemological principles

3) Chronology of the achievements in mathematics and Objectivist epistemology is not in doubt

4) We have a detailed testimony of the philosopher herself on the matter.

5) We know that Ayn Rand was studying mathematics in her last years in order to identify more epistemological principles.

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Presently, I want to add only this to the conversation:

I applaud Stephen Speicher's courageous stand in speaking publicly about the manner in which Tracinski's essay - and the man himself - has been criticized. Right or wrong, Tracinksi's views deserve to be discussed without any attached invective. It's regrettable that Stephen's stand should need to be courageous, but there it is.

The one thing that is, sadly, too frequently absent in discussions among too many Objectivists is objectivity, yet it ought to be utterly commonplace. It is this characteristic that Stephen brings to all his posts, as do many others on this forum.

Bravo, Stephen.

Belatedly,

Jeff Perren

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Presently, I want to add only this to the conversation:

I applaud Stephen Speicher's courageous stand in speaking publicly about the manner in which Tracinski's essay - and the man himself - has been criticized. Right or wrong, Tracinksi's views deserve to be discussed without any attached invective. It's regrettable that Stephen's stand should need to be courageous, but there it is.

The one thing that is, sadly, too frequently absent in discussions among too many Objectivists is objectivity, yet it ought to be utterly commonplace. It is this characteristic that Stephen brings to all his posts, as do many others on this forum.

Bravo, Stephen.

Belatedly,

Jeff Perren

Thank you, Jeff. I'm grateful for your support.

Right now Betsy and I feel as Ayn Rand did when she said, "I'm not brave enough to be a coward -- I see the consequences too clearly." Because we know we are right, it makes it easy for us to speak up publicly and openly state the facts and the reasons that led us to our conclusions and trust that reasonable people will evaluate us on that.

We are well aware that there are those who would like Objectivists to unquestioningly take them on faith and hate those who won't, but they don't dare say that publicly. Some are cowards who give pseudo-reasons for their hatred and then refuse to answer questions about their attacks. Then there are those who spread rumors and smears behind the scenes, like the well-known intellectual who sent letters to other Objectivist intellectuals attacking THE FORUM, calling Betsy and me rationalistic imbeciles, and saying that I was bolstering my "pseudo-self-esteem through finding errors in the writings of his intellectual superiors." (I am not making this up!)

With opposition like that, courage is easy.

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Having studied the history of astronomy I remember that modern historians of science, starting from mid-ninteenth century, began to reasonably question whether such a prediction really occurred. After uncovering more and more facts, many (if not most) historians of science do not accept the prediction. The last paper I read on this (Thales' Eclipse, A.A. Mosshammer, Transactions of the American Philological Association, Vol. 111, pp. 145-155, 1981) made a very strong case in demonstrating "how fictional the story of Thales' prediction is."

Herodotos's Report on Thales' Eclipse

This paper argues that maybe Herodotos is the one that needs to be corrected. If this paper is correct than Thales might have been able to predict a lunar eclipse.

In any case, armies fighting at twilight, expecting the full moon to light their continuing onslaught were astounded not to see the moonrise as expected during the half-hour after sunset. As the bright sky faded, the growing darkness of night that had been delayed on the previous three or four nights with its fully splendid presence revealed the moon's face occulted by a shadow. The men, we imagine, were in a panic and the soothsayers non-plussed. Their fearsome report led the generals to abort their plan to continue the battle into the night. On that occasion, indeed, ignorant armies clashed by night. Herodotos, it seems, re ported a battle from annals for the summer of 587 shrouded in omens; the report was compiled from accurate sources, but Herodotos did not fully understand the nature of the omen. His confused report led to a specious date determined from solar eclipse records known in antiquity, and extended to Thales powers he could not have had. Thales' skill with eclipses became legendary thereafter, but it was not mythical, as some have alleged, merely misunderstood.

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Herodotos's Report on Thales' Eclipse

This paper argues that maybe Herodotos is the one that needs to be corrected. If this paper is correct than Thales might have been able to predict a lunar eclipse.

I find no merit in the speculation of this internet paper (that Herodotus' "day was on a sudden changed into night" [one standard 19th century translation by Rawlinson] is to be reintepreted afresh as referring to a night battle, and therefore a lunar, not a solar eclipse). But, regardless, more to the relevant point -- Mayhew's critique of Tracinski's essay -- I doubt that Mayhew would suggest that, contrary to the two millenium understanding of Herodotus, that he [Mayhew] was really referring to a lunar eclipse, not a solar eclipse, when he said "Thales predicted an eclipse--something inconceivable on the mythological world view." Now, that would be a real a doozy!

Incidentally, I find this mention of lunar eclipses to be somewhat ironic. Mayhew criticized Tracinski for "count[ing] what he [Anaxagoras] did as science in contrast to philosophy," yet it was Anaxagoras who, according to Plato and Theophrastus, gave a causal explanation of lunar eclipses.

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OK. But I am more interested in what You, PhilosophyOfHistory-101, mean by 'implicit' and 'explicit'.

The concept of implicit knowledge/philosophy and how it operates in the lives of individuals and cultures is a complex subject. Ayn Rand has written about it in Romantic Manifesto as well as Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Tracinski deals with this subject extensively in his series of essays. To grasp the concept and to think about it yourself, I would recommend focussing on those two sources--rather than the little I have had to say on the subject. Having said that, if I can find the time to do a detailed write-up based on my explicit and implicit grasp of the concept, I shall do so.

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I want to extend my thanks to everyone at the Forum who has contributed to this discussion. I intend to eventually publish the "What Went Right?" series in written form, and the discussion here and elsewhere has been very helpful. But I am particularly grateful to the participants here because most of you intended to be helpful and have offered your comments and criticisms in a benevolent spirit.

A lot of issues have been discussed here, but I want to focus on just one, which I think is the most important. It is also the issue raised by Robert Mayhew's partial critique of Part 5 of the series.

I read Professor Mayhew's critique with a certain degree of apprehension. I was confident of my overall grasp of the progression of Greek history—I wouldn't have written that article if I weren't—but I also acknowledge that Robert Mayhew knows ten times as much as I do about the details of that history. So I was concerned that he might raise some crucial facts that I had somehow missed that would invalidate the application of my theory to Ancient Greece.

Instead, I found that while he corrected some of the details of what I wrote—and many of them were legitimate corrections—he did not refute the overall story I was trying to tell.

In that respect, I think Vespasiano got it right, on this thread, when he wrote:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s...597entry47597

In my view, Dr. Mayhew’s “rebuttal” of Rob Tracinski’s article consists of a fleshing-out in greater detail the activities of some of the major historical figures and the "tweaking" of a virtually identical chronological sequence noted by Rob Tracinski in his very brief discussion of the development of philosophy during the Golden Age of Ancient Greece and the consequent emergence of Aristotle toward the close of that Golden Age in the mid- to late-fourth century BCE. I will not restate for comparison purposes those details precisely because there is no substantive difference between the two in my view….

As to the specific question you raised, it is my position that Dr. Mayhew’s view actually reinforces Rob Tracinski’s central point at least with respect to the culture of Ancient Greece and the development of Greek philosophy.

But the main substance of Dr. Mayhew's disagreement with my article is not on the timeline of Ancient Greek intellectual history. Instead, he says that I equivocate on the meaning of "philosophy," and specifically that I fail to recognize that what was driving Ancient Greek culture from the beginning was "implicit philosophy."

Perhaps I could have made my arguments clearer, and when I work on the final version for publication, I'll work harder to protect it from such misunderstandings. But I explicitly addressed this very objection in an earlier installment. In Part 4, "The Metaphysics of Normal Life," I wrote:

http://www.intellectualactivist.com/php-bi...cle.php?id=1096

I've had a few people object to the ideas in this article by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address in looking at the global influence of scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government.

Vespasiano "gets it," again, when he writes:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?s...609entry47609

As I see it, and contrary to Dr. Mayhew's view, Rob Tracinski is not denying that philosophy CAN be the fundamental driving force in a culture. In the fifth part of his series, he is exploring the question of HOW that comes to be.

That's a pretty good way of putting it.

I'll elaborate on this a bit more in my upcoming Part 6—and don't ask when it's coming; I'm working on this series in between trying to cover the daily news, along with a number of other projects, so I have learned to avoid making promises about when it will be completed—but I think the discussion in the Forum has worked its way around nicely to addressing the most interesting philosophical issue involved.

First, I wanted to address a question posed by Rose Lake: whether my series of articles states a "philosophical fundamental." My answer would be "no." I am not writing a treatise in philosophy. Instead, I am writing about the bridge between philosophy and two fields: history and journalism. I am looking at the mechanisms by which ideas spread, grow, and have an impact on the world. Part 5 is the only part of the series that really addresses this issue in a historical context. The rest of the series addresses this question in a contemporary, journalistic context, as a way of explaining some of the events of today and of the past few decades. (What has most disappointed me about the reception of this series is that so little attention has been paid to that aspect of the article, which is my starting point and main motivation.)

If there is one big philosophical issue that is involved (other than the hopefully uncontroversial one that philosophical ideas are discovered and learned by an inductive process), it is this: what is an implicit idea?

Why do we need the concept of an "implicit" idea? We need it to capture the fact that certain knowledge is, in some way, available to us and can be used to shape our thinking and our actions, before we are able to grasp it explicitly. In effect, my theory combines this with the observation that we can also see cultural, economic, and political progress in areas of the world (and in eras of history) where that progress goes beyond what would seem possible if we only look at men's explicit convictions. So some basic ideas about the nature of the world and about man's potential must be available to men, shaping their thinking and their actions, before men are able to name them explicitly.

And here's my big point: we don't really explain this just by saying, "Oh, well, that was because people had a good implicit philosophy." For this observation to be really useful, we have to ask: How do men acquire a good implicit philosophy? How does an idea spread even when no one names it? What are the stages by which an idea grows from its first inklings to become a fully explicit idea?

My current series mostly tries to provide concrete answers to those questions by making observations about how particular ideas are having an impact on today's world. The broader philosophical issue which I will suggest for discussion here is the issue of implicit ideas as such. I'll leave you with a relevant quote from Ayn Rand on that subject. When asked about this in her seminars on epistemology, here is what she said.

(From Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, expanded edition, p. 162.)

Prof. B: Would you say that a child has an implicit concept of "table" at the stage when he has isolated the differentiating characteristics of tables but has not yet integrated them?

AR: At any stage before he is able to grasp the word "table." An implicit concept is the stage of an integration when one is in the process of forming that integration and until it is completed.

Prof. B: Any time after he detects the similarities and differences?

AR: Right. What has to be clearly delimited is only this: not everything that is around you is an implicit concept. For instance, subatomic physics is operative there in the room which the infant first observes, but you can't say that its concepts are implicit merely because when he reaches college he will grasp them. They are not implicit concepts. An implicit concept is the stage, that period of time whatever it may be, when a child is actually focusing on a certain group of concretes, isolating them from the rest of his field, and/or integrating them. And that's not all done instantaneously: it is a process. It is in that process that the future concept is implicit.

I can't say when I'll be able to come back to the Forum and post more, but you all have been having an interesting discussion without me, so I'll leave it to you again for a while.

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Does this mean that this thread is open again? (This is kind of a test post I guess). I thought that "pinned" meant that the thread was closed. Maybe that's not right. If people thought the thread was closed, that would go a long way toward explaining why this discussion ended.

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The broader philosophical issue which I will suggest for discussion here is the issue of implicit ideas as such. I'll leave you with a relevant quote from Ayn Rand on that subject. When asked about this in her seminars on epistemology, here is what she said....

In the referenced ITOE discussion Miss Rand speaks of an "implicit concept" and for illustration she uses the first-level concept "table." But is a very long distance to travel from first-level concepts of entities to wide-ranging ideas that represent an implicit philosophy.

Previously in this thread I quoted Miss Rand from The Art of Fiction:

Fundamentally, what is important is not the message a writer projects explicitly, but the values and view of life he projects implicitly. Just as every man has a philosophy, whether he knows it consciously or not, so every story has an implicit philosophy.

The ITOE quote seems to indicate an active mind performing a process: "actually focusing on a certain group of concretes, isolating them from the rest of his field, and/or integrating them." But The Art of Fiction quote does not necessarily imply the process of an active mind, since we know that many people develop their implicit philosophy as a matter of default rather than an active process focused on reality.

How then to integrate what is said about the process, "that period of time" when an active mind is focusing on grasping some aspect of reality, with the existence of the much, much more broad notion of an implicit philosophy which, presumably, may have been arrived at by mental default rather than by performing an active and purposeful mental process?

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I, too, thank Mr. Tracinski for coming to the FORUM and updating us.

I was hoping that the discussion wasn't closed, because...well...it wasn't closed to me! I certainly haven't come to any conclusions since we haven't had the whole argument yet.

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Does this mean that this thread is open again? (This is kind of a test post I guess). I thought that "pinned" meant that the thread was closed.

No, quite the opposite. When we "pin" a thread it means that the thread appears above others in the particular forum, and that is done purposefully to bring attention to the thread, This thread has never been closed. Rather, almost from its inception, I "pinned" this thread.

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No, quite the opposite. When we "pin" a thread it means that the thread appears above others in the particular forum, and that is done purposefully to bring attention to the thread, This thread has never been closed. Rather, almost from its inception, I "pinned" this thread.

I really appreciate that we feel free to explore issues such as this here. I would not attempt it in some forums, where the question morphs into a matter of loyalty. I want to be allowed to make mistakes and still be considered an Objectivist. It is so much more pleasant to have someone say. "I think you have overlooked this (etc.)" than having a finger waved at me and be told how disappointed they are that I have fallen into a bad camp, and need to reform.

A true Objectivist IMO, is one who has challenged every aspect of the philosophy before agreeing to it. This is a quite different process from those who appear to do the same, but who's only intention is to rationalize an attack on it.

When there is a fear, especially with the newer students, of asking challenging questions, of exposing themselves to 'scoldings', for want of a better world, the very intent of the philosophy is negated.

I don't know enough to have an informed opinion on Rob Tracinski's views, but I appreciate his efforts to get me thinking. The type of discussion Ayn Rand had with the "Profs" in ITOE, is what I expect. A conversation of exploration without defencive emotions coming into play.

For that, I thank the Forum.

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This is a bit OT, but....

I want to thank Mr. Tracinski for his gracious response to the FORUM. Agree or disagree with him, the man shows a lot of class.

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