Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Peikoff-Kelley Dispute

Those new to Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism are no doubt a bit mystified by the fact that there appear to be two rival "camps" that both claim to represent and promote Ayn Rand's ideas, namely the Ayn Rand Institute, still influenced by founder Leonard Peikoff, and what is now called The Atlas Society, whose senior intellectual is David Kelley. The dispute between the two sides is now over 20 years old and is certainly not easy to understand for new students of Objectivism.

Fortunately, blogger Roderick Fitts of Inductive Quest, has now written a series of essays that clearly, carefully, and in some detail lay out why Kelley is wrong and Peikoff is right. He has written four parts so far:

Closed vs. Open Part 1: Introduction, and the Issues

Part 2: The History of the Dispute, and the Closed and Open Systems

Part 3: On Moral Judgment

Part 4: Moral Sanction

I think these essays will be useful not only to newcomers but experienced Objectivists as well because they do an excellent job of clarifying and concretizing the issues involved. As someone who has at various points in time struggled with these issues, I highly recommend this series of essays.


madmax said...

Thank you for pointing this out. I have always been confused by the Kelley split as well.

mtnrunner2 said...

I second the thanks. I don't know how I missed Fitts' posts! I'll check it out.

The whole thing became clear for me when I read Kelley's Truth and Toleration a couple of years ago, and realized it basically meant he didn't think ideas had moral import. When that finally sank in, I was taken aback.

Way back when, I was bummed when he was repudiated by other Objectivists, but at the time I didn't really understand the ideas underlying the dispute.

Roderick Fitts said...

Thanks for sending traffic to my posts, Reich.

I should have part 5 up this week, and I've already published my review of "The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics," which I think is a great work.

I'm disillusioned by the evil capable of the Brandens, to be honest. As Rand once remarked about Nathaniel Branden, they are both the real enemies in Atlas Shrugged: the people who wanted Rearden Metal without Rearden, except in their case it's Objectivism without Rand.

Gideon said...

You're very welcome. Sadly, the Brandens are hardly the only enemies of Objectivism. However, it's a sign of the increasing exposure of Ayn Rand and her ideas that more people feel a need to denounce her. Some people are definitely getting worried. It reminds me of the phase in The Fountainhead when Toohey decided it was no longer possible to ignore Howard Roark.