Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tracinski no longer associated with ARI

A RoR reader sent me the following snip taken from the Ayn Rand Institute's website:

Robert W. Tracinski is no longer associated with the Ayn Rand Institute--neither as a writer nor as a speaker. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
Objectivists are often criticized for their public break-ups, but I think being forthright when a relationship ends is the more honest approach. Reality demands an unflinching dedication to the truth, including the fact that some relationships deserve to end.

In my opinion, Tracinski has publicly embraced a theory of history that rejects the importance of Objectivism and principled consistency in defining and defending the long term good. As such, it would be dishonest to claim that he continues to be a public advocate for Ayn Rand's philosophy. If the end of Tracinski's association with ARI was brought on by his recent thinking, I am glad for it, for it would be an honest end to recent events.

22 comments:

Apollo said...

I got almost the same message about Gary Hull. But it was when I emailed ARI about getting permission on quoting an article by Gary.

Grant Jones said...

Aloha Nick,

Do you have a link to the article on the philosophy of history by Tracinski that you cite?

I let my subscription to TIA lapse (they are still publishing?) so I'm not familar with the particulars.

Thanks,

Burgess Laughlin said...

"In my opinion, Tracinski has publicly embraced a theory of history that rejects the importance of Objectivism and principled consistency in defining and defending the long term good. As such, it would be dishonest to claim that he continues to be a public advocate for Ayn Rand's philosophy."

[Bold mine.]

Could you elaborate?

I don't agree with some of Mr. Tracinski's (or his main associate's) conclusions, but a puzzle arises for me here:

I don't understand what you mean when you say his theory of history rejects the importance of Objectivism.

Why would any theory of history -- which would describe what history is and what causes it play out the way it does -- need to consider the importance, to the past or the future, of any particular philosophy? Should not a theory be universal, that is, subsume all particulars -- in this case all particular philosophies?

Burgess Laughlin
www.aristotleadventure.com

avi said...

I have never heard about Tracinski's theory of history. Link?

Anonymous said...

Rob's comments about the philosophy of history were published in the Nov. 14th edition of TIA Daily. It wouldn't be available to non-subscribers unless he decided to post it on his website (I haven't checked if he did). The title of the edition was "Pajama Epistemology."

For the record, I entirely agree with Nick's assessment of the meaning of that article.

Sven Magya said...

"In my opinion, Tracinski has publicly embraced a theory of history that rejects the importance of Objectivism and principled consistency in defining and defending the long term good."

I don't think so. He argues that how ideas influence history is a little more complex that some Objectivists suppose. It's interesting that despite requests in the other comments, we're not getting any citations to support the claim.

Fred Weiss said...

His article on "Pajama Epistemology" can be found here:

http://journalsmith.blogspot.com/2006/11/what-went-right-part-iii.html

http://tinylink.com/?5YLuZeBTXi

The view he expresses in this article constitutes a total rejection of Objectivism, right down to its roots. It is not just a quibble about "the philosophy of history".

Folks, if philosophy is not *the primary and most fundamental* determinant of history then we are all wasting our time trying to get Objectivism more widely accepted - and Ayn Rand was profoundly mistaken in the importance she placed on philosophy. Atlas Shrugged would have to be re-written from the ground up.

Incidentally, Tracinski blatantly and dishonestly lifts Leonard Peikoff's comments in OPAR out of context and thus thoroughly distorts Peikoff's views on the subject.

Both Ed Cline and Harry Binswanger have responded to Tracinski's essay and thoroughly demolished it. However anyone who understands Objectivism should be able to easily see on their own what's wrong with it.

Nicholas Provenzo said...

Fred Weiss wrote:

> Folks, if philosophy is not *the primary and most fundamental* determinant of history then we are all wasting our time trying to get Objectivism more widely accepted - and Ayn Rand was profoundly mistaken in the importance she placed on philosophy.

I agree, yet that’s the plain implication of Tracinski’s position.

FYI, the analyses by Ed Cline that Fred Weiss cites can be found here:

http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/11/intellectual-activists-lost-guide.htm

Anonymous said...

Could someone post or link, Cline and/or Harry Binswanger answer to Tracinski's essay?

Thank you

Anonymous said...

Nick-

I've read and reread Tracinski's "new" theory, and though it may not comport with long-standing "Objectivist theory", it is Objectivist in that is the result of a more consistent application of Rand's epistemology than anyone else has had the insight and/or courage to publish.

I agree, however, that some relationships deserve to end, and this one clearly does. I wish both Robert Tracinski and ARI much success.

Burgess Laughlin said...

"Anonymous" says: "I've read and reread Tracinski's "new" theory, and [...] it is Objectivist in that [it] is the result of a more consistent application of Rand's epistemology than anyone else has had the insight and/or courage to publish."

In what way is Mr. Tracinski's theory "a more consistent application" of Objectivist epistemology than any other theory published?

Further, why do you mention courage? Does publishing a theory of history require special courage?

gnargtharst said...

I have also read and re-read Tracinski's "What Went Right" articles (including the portion "Pajamas Epistemology"), and my judgement is that his articles are being misprepresented.

*IF* his article had said what some are claiming it said, *THEN* I'd agree with the criticisms.

But Tracinski doesn't deny the importance of fundamental philosophic ideas -- particularly Objectivism -- on the course history. Rather, he criticizes the *under*emphasis of nonfundamental-but-still true ideas.

As an example, he points to the liberation in the last quarter century of a billion people across the globe, despite no fundamental change in mainstream philosophy.

Fred Weiss said...

"Tracinski doesn't deny the importance of fundamental philosophic ideas"

That's a strawman because no one said that he did. The issue is whether philosophical ideas are fundamental. That he does in fact explicitly deny - that's the whole point of his "Pajama Epistemology" - and in doing so he rejects Objectivism down to its roots. See my comment above.

gnargtharst said...

Perhaps if I'd re-phrased that: "Tracinski doesn't deny that fundamental ideas are important, and that of these, philosophic ideas are fundamental". But he challenges the idea that "ideas" are a source of cultural direction, if "ideas" is considered in a rationalistic way, divorced from a person's non-philosophic observations. My take is that true, but non-philosophic, ideas have an influence on a person's -- and a culture's -- development. Philosophy integrates, and so determines the long run, but short and medium terms, measured in lifetimes, should not be ignored. Especially not by philosophers.

Two observations: 1. I cannot deny the persuasiveness of the evidence he presents, nor the fact that my development -- via introspection -- is further evidence. I find his theory worthy of consideration, if not agreement. And 2. Regardless of the ultimate status of the fully-fleshed out version of Rob's theory, I have found some parties' moralistic condemnation of Rob to be extremely unbecoming.

gnargtharst said...

Addendum to my above comment: I have mentioned in other contexts that I am not necessarily entirely supportive of Tracinski's position, and indeed still have yet to integrate it entirely. But, in my judgement, I have integrated it enough to be frustrated by what I consider to be misrepresentations.

In fact, I am simply unable to understand some of the criticisms directed toward him. Further, although I am eager to learn the reasons for such, in some cases I am unconvinced of the objectivity of the sources of criticism. In this context, I will note that although I followed a link here and posted a comment and am grateful to the owner of this forum for such a privelege, I am ultimately not comfortable discussing the matter at length here.

I would welcome anyone who would graciously consider discussing this issue further, to contact me at gnargtharst@earthlink.net

I particular, I know of Fred Weiss to be an honest dealer and sincerely appreciate his comments thus far, and potential consideration of the matter.

Anonymous said...

There's a world of difference between "Tracinski is no longer associated with ARI" -- which is all we have to work with, unless you know something I (we) don't -- and "Tracinski should no longer be considered an Objectivist."

I think ARI has every reason to protect the integrity of its mission by formally disassociating with someone whose views, in their judgment, significantly depart from their own (on issues of paramount importance). I would suggest, however, that until they amplify their position on what now appears to be another "schism," you should make it clear that you don't represent ARI and that readers shouldn't infer anything unwarranted from your own speculations.

Jack Galt said...

> you should make it clear that you don't represent ARI

No one has. That’s a figment of your creation.

>readers shouldn't infer anything unwarranted from your own speculations.

I think it is safe to say that readers of this blog (or any other) are responsible for their own inferences.

Mark said...

“... being forthright when a relationship ends is the more honest approach. Reality demands an unflinching dedication to the truth, including the fact that some relationships deserve to end.”

The implication is that ARI was forthright and honest about Mr. Tracinski’s departure.

Mr. Tracinski had been ARI’s most prominent and prolific editorialist. Not only had he been a senior fellow/writer, he had been their editorial director. Then he downgraded to guest writer, then stopped writing early in 2004.

There are two ways to tell Tracinski is no longer at ARI:
1. After he stopped writing for ARI they removed his name from the main pages of their website then a long while (two years?) later replaced “Robert W. Tracinski is a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. ” and similar with “Robert W. Tracinski is no longer associated with the Ayn Rand Institute – neither as a writer nor as a speaker.” in each of his archived articles.
2. If you phone or email ARI and ask about it.

His departure may not have deserved a press release, but at least a separate notice on their website was in order. Many people did not know he had left and wrote about him accordingly. Capitalism Magazine, for example, referred to him as an ARI writer just a month ago.

“I got almost the same message about Gary Hull. But it was when I emailed ARI about getting permission on quoting an article by Gary.”

ARI’s archived articles still refer to him as a senior writer for ARI, the last time on February 8, 2005 (a reprint of an earlier article). His lecture recordings are still advertised at ARI’s bookstore.

Another Anonymous Fellow Traveller said...

I really tried to let this pass without comment but I just could not resist. It is truly painful to see our movement eat its own. We are few enough in number already. Let's not expect ideological purity or be so wont to excommunicate just because we can.
Even when an issue seems huge to us (such as our November elections process) it is still relatively nominal in the overall scheme of things. All of us believe that rational thought powers the world and in our own way we try to change history through philosophy. We may be writers, researchers, teachers, engineers or other professional specialists. Each of us share at least 90% of our beliefs in common -- can't we please be more willing to allow strong and heated disagreement on the other 10%? Let us step back and welcome each other as much as we can. I'd still rather be in a foxhole with my fellow objectivists no matter how much we may disagree on certain tenets. There is room for dispute.
This current situation reminds me of some of the petty swipes taken at Founders' College in VA. They are implementing a brilliant plan with courage and creativity, and there was no warrant for some of the snide digs (I am referring to multiple blogs not just this one).
Thanks for letting me express my thoughts and my call for amity. Honestly, when I encounter any of you at meetings/conferences (i.e. real world not just virtual reality) I will greet all of you with hugs --- you are still more family than all the looters we have to face in normal life on a daily basis. Our sub-community is special and valued. Excommunicate one of us? Please, no.

Burgess Laughlin said...

>anonymous fellow traveler says: "... to see our movement eat its own."

A movement does not "eat its own." A movement is simply the fact of many individuals going in the same direction, at the same time, and on the same issue. A movement is not an organization; it does not, by definition, act as a corporation. A movement has no official gate-keepers.

Within a movement, some individuals might and should criticize other individuals whom the critics believe to not be qualified to be elements of that particular movement. To tolerate unqualified individuals as elements of the movement or, worse, as spokesmen for the movement, would lead to contradiction.

>"Let's not expect ideological purity ..."

What would you recommend as an alternative -- ideological impurity, or, even more fundamentally, philosophical impurity?

If ideas are unimportant to you and you are willing to sacrifice their "purity," that is, logical integration, then why are you in the Objectivist movement?

Perhaps your mask-name explains your position: You don't support Objectivism. You are merely a "fellow traveler." Is that correct?

Another Anonymous Fellow Traveller said...

Hello, Burgess. I appreciate your post and I understand what you are saying.

As I was having a private conversation with one of my fellow objectivists last night, he made this remark to me... He commented that I tend to look at objectivism as a set of principles which I strive to incorporate into my existing life, whereas most movement objectivists look at the philosophy as something to build their lives around. Therefore, I acknowledge I am less of a purist.

I find the blogs here and on similar objectivist-allied sites to be quite valuable and insightful. I particularly like Nick Provenzo's writing and the way he gives a fresh and unique take on current events while also referring to other sites and news sources I don't have time to read myself.

Recalling Nick's comments on the forthcoming Atlas Shrugged movie (I don't have those remarks in front of me and I'm working from memory), let's celebrate the simple fact that objectivist philosophy will receive a widespread public airing and that the involvement of big-name stars will encourage broader reading of Ayn Rand's original writings. I won't be one of those hard-core purists who lambasts every small detail the producer/director may screw up. (Yes, I will note them to myself.)

I'm going to go out on another limb here and suggest that we'd all be better off spending more time in the original sources than with more current commentators. (If anyone wanted a valid reason to read more historical Playboy issues, there it is.) After all, we (and by "we" I mean our movement, our family, whatever) really did not need to get into a dispute about how to cast votes in the November elections. I am returning to that point because I think it was key to the severing of ties with Tracinski, disagreement over Peikoff's demand that understanding objectivism strictly required voting straight-ticket Dem.

Respectfully submitted.

Burgess Laughlin said...

"another anonymous fellow traveler" says: "As I was having a private conversation with one of my fellow objectivists last night, he ..."

What do you mean by "objectivists"?

How do they differ from Objectivists, that is, those who have studied at least the basics of Ayn Rand's philosophy and agree with all they have read?

Specifically, how does "objectivism" differ from "Objectivism"?