Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Institute for Objectivist Studies

I've been meaning to post something on this web site "founded in March 2013 by Irfan Khawaja and Carrie-Ann Biondi, professors of philosophy at New York City-area institutions with long-standing interests in Objectivism." In short, I recommend checking it out.
Irfan's latest post about The Atlas Society's Graduate Seminar caught my eye when he shares his observations after attending this seminar.
[M]any of the problems I observed at the seminar were, to put the matter bluntly, an offense against the practice of philosophy and of inquiry quite generally. I said that many of the presenters presented their material in a competent, responsible way. But some did not. I think candor compels the assertion that some of the presentations given were shockingly deficient in argument, evidence, and coherence. This would be a relatively minor issue, or at least a remediable problem, if the atmosphere of the seminar had been conducive to an open airing of the relevant problems. But it wasn’t. This latter defect--a defect of openness obvious to just about every participant in the seminar--calls into question The Atlas Society's much-advertised claim to practice an "open" form of Objectivism not practiced elsewhere. With all due respect, I must dissent from this claim, and insist that those who make such claims acquire more inductive evidence about the rest of the Objectivist movement before they make them. Movement Objectivists should also (let me suggest) stop deriding academic philosophy and start learning something from it. The fact is, there is more openness at the average academic conference--I've run five in the last five years--than there was at the TAS Graduate Seminar.
I agree with Irfan’s comments about learning from academic philosophy. While I have never attended an academic conference (primarily because I’m not an academic philosopher) I have read books written by philosophers. Their usual style of building their case is to first present the positions of other philosophers, critique them fairly (or as fairly as possible) then build the reasons why we should accept their counter proposal. The acknowledgement sections of these books (and papers) often cite many people who reviewed the manuscripts and offered criticisms or suggestions where the argument could be improved.
I know some Objectivists yearn for the day when the academic world will take Rand and Objectivism more seriously. Part of the “dues” that need to be paid for this acceptance is their willingness to let peers critique their work. If what Irfan says is true (and I have no reason to doubt him) The Atlas Society still has a ways to go.