Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Movement: The Evolution of Diana Hsieh

Diana Hsieh has gone through a tremendous transformation. Once a supporter of David Kelly’s Objectivist Center, she became disenchanted by what she viewed as the group’s lack of scholarship and intellectual consistency. This compelled her to revisit the writings that led to Kelly’s ostracism from Objectivism; from there, she concluded that her original positive assessment of Kelly’s arguments was wrong.

At that point, Hsieh decided that she wanted no further relationship with Kelly’s organization and its lieutenants and she said so publicly. Many of people Hsieh was distancing herself from were long-time friends; her decision was no doubt difficult and painful. To make it was a heroic act of honesty—a virtue that makes the truth the cornerstone of one’s being. I admire both her (and her husband, it should be said) for making it.

In the months since, Hsieh has chronicled the thinking that led her to this realization at her weblog. It has been an earnest and thoughtful effort, explaining some of the off-putting things ARI supporters did (it seems the notorious Objectivist charm brigade struck her with full force) as well as the evolution of her thinking over the past ten or so years. Judging from the comments section or her weblog, her writing has piqued tremendous interest from both sides of the debate, including that of the owner of a website she used to manage—none other than defrocked Objectivist Nathanial Branden.

Hsieh has revisited Branden’s writings as well and decided that he too is an opponent to what she stands for and cut off ties to him accordingly. She asked him not to contact her or post on her website—a request evidence now indicates he is unwilling to respect. Apparently, he got his girlfriend to post to Hsieh’s comments section in an attempt to goad Hsieh into debate and then began make posts himself in his girlfriend’s name. Branden’s act is appalling—it shows no respect for Hsieh’s request for distance and privacy from a person that she no longer agrees with.

As I said before, everything I’ve seen in Hsieh’s writing has struck me at thoughtful and honestly introspective, if not painfully so. She says she is working on a complete statement of her transformation and the reasons behind it. Philosophy is a powerful tool, but its malpractice can lead to devastating effects. Because of her past, Hsieh feels compelled to answer the questions posed by the Branden/Kelly alliance. I look forward to these writings. I think they will do much to bring light to the mistakes people make about Objectivism from a person who understands them all too well. I think her analyses will carry a lot of weight and serve as a useful guide for others as they grapple with the questions that being an Objectivist poses. In the face of the attacks we all know she will face as she works on this project, I wish her the best.

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