SELECTED INTERNET POSTS
Part 5: 3 February 2004 - 17 April 2004
Part 1 (13 December 2001 - 16 May 2003); Part 2 (18 May 2003 - 30 June 2003); Part 3 (1 July 2003 - 2 December 2003); Part 4 (3 December 2003 - 29 January 2004); Part 5 (3 February 2004 - 17 April 2004); Part 6 (16 May 2004 - August 2004); Part 7 (12 December 2004 - June 2005)
By Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Over the years, Chris Matthew Sciabarra participated in several Internet discussion forums, including several Objectivist lists (including The Atlantis Discussion List [ATL], Atlantis II, Mudita Forum, Objectivist Outcasts, Philosophy of Objectivism List [OWL], Secular Individualism List, SOLO HQ, SOLO Yahoo Forum [SOLO], Starship Forum, among others), and lists devoted to Nathaniel Branden, F. A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Karl Marx, psychology, Randian feminism, ifeminism, and so forth. Below are a few posts from the various lists.
Table of Contents
Music and Race (17 April 2004)
Madrid Madness (15 March 2004)
On Rand, Marx, and Mao (27 February 2004)
The Perils of Posthumous Rand Books (3 February 2004)
MUSIC AND RACE
The following includes several posts to the SOLO Yahoo Forum, under the thread "Re: New Wynton Marsalis Quote"
(Sat, 17 Apr 2004 12:02:29 -0400)
Actually, I don't disagree that Marsalis has had some very profound and wonderful things to say in support of an art form that is very dear to my heart (and I do ~not~ like all of the directions in which contemporary jazz has gone ... but I'm a bit more open to ~some~ of the developments than a traditionalist like Marsalis). I was the one who forwarded to Linz the Marsalis quote that was featured in FREE RADICAL #60: "I don't want my kids listening to music about pimps and bitches. Kids like rap because it exploits their sexuality. When you educate your son and daughter, it is incumbent upon you to take them to things you think should be part of their lives. That is what a civilization is about, an effort to ascend."
My biggest problem with Marsalis is that he has tended to be a bit of a racist in his discussion of the music as a ~black~ art form. Coming from a man who has demonstrated his proficiency as a classical trumpeter (as well as a jazz trumpeter), that's kind of ridiculous. Some years ago, I wrote an essay in the NY DAILY NEWS, entitled "Wrong to Trumpet Musical Segregation" (Sunday, May 3, 1992). In it, I said the following:
"The beauty of music is that it has the potential to integrate people of all races and nationalities. [It is wrong to imply] that only people of a particular subculture have the right to perform that culture's artistic forms. On this logic, are we to dismiss those genuinely brilliant jazz artists of the 20th century who were not African-Americans, on the grounds that they 'exploited' black music? ... But [these] premises cut both ways, for we'd also have to dismiss the contributions of African-Americans like Marian Anderson and Wynton Marsalis, who have performed in the classical music field, a 'white' art form. [We'd have to] condemn whites who 'exploit' black music, and would be forced to condemn blacks who 'sell out' to white music. ... Celebrate the power of music as a genuine force of racial and cultural integration."
Some additional thoughts on all this racialism in music were published in JUST JAZZ GUITAR and in JAZZ TIMES. See here.
(Sun, 18 Apr 2004 10:24:29 -0400)
M asks about Wynton's brother, Branford Marsalis. I personally like Branford's playing on saxophone ~more~ than I like Wynton's playing on trumpet. (Branford was lead instrumentalist in Sting's group when Sting broke from The Police; I saw him in person with Sting, after "Dream of the Blue Turtles" was released, and was blown away by the energy of his improvisation...)
I've always found Wynton to be a bit stiff, though I do appreciate his talent and his indefatigable energy in bringing jazz to wider audiences.
I don't believe, btw, that all of today's jazz is "multitudinous musical masturbation," but even though P and I have our differences in musical appreciation, we do share some likes and dislikes and have explored these by trading recordings.
I do think that guys like Crouch, Marsalis, Giddens, and others, are much too race conscious in their discussions of jazz; I've ~never~ denied that many of the great innovators have been black. I just don't like the collectivist presumption that one has to be "black" in order to exhibit "soul" or "feeling" for the music. As Linz would say: That's all crap.
(SOLO Forum, Posted as "Re: Terrorists are winning in Spain": Mon, 15 Mar 2004 09:57:27 -0500)
As most of you know, I am a staunch supporter of the War on Al Qaeda. I think the US should have staged an all-out campaign to destroy that group 11 years ago, when they first attacked the World Trade Center on US soil in 1993. They have been an imminent threat to US security and should have been squashed. (Of course, I do believe that the history of ~how~ that group ~became~ an imminent threat is important: for answers to that question, just take a look at the history of US interventionist foreign policy, which is an "incubator" for anti-American terrorism---a history of propping up regimes from the House of Sa'ud to the mujahideen in Afghanistan...)
This said, I have ~not~ been a supporter of the War in Iraq, because I believe that Iraq was (a) not an imminent threat to the US; (b) not in possession of imminently-threatening weapons of mass destruction; and (c) not in league with Al Qaeda. If it had been proven to me that the Hussein regime was an imminent threat and in league with Al Qaeda, I would have supported a war against Iraq. But I still would ~not~ have supported the Wilsonian "nation-building" campaign that the neoconservatives in the Bush administration have been championing: a campaign to build a political democracy, at the cost of many American lives, and billions of US taxpayer dollars, on the shaky foundation of a culture steeped in internecine tribalist conflict, which has no understanding of individualism or human freedom.
I have expanded on these subjects in at least two articles, and countless posts to the Liberty & Power Group blog. Check out my "Notablog" and also...
A Question of Loyalty
Understanding the Global Crisis
All of this said: IF it should happen that Al Qaeda was, indeed, involved in the bombings in Madrid, what did the War in Iraq do to undermine that group?
If anything, the US toppled a murderous "secular" regime in Iraq that even Osama Bin Laden condemned as a home to "infidels." If anything, the possibilities of an emerging theocratic movement in Iraq have been multiplied. If anything, Al Qaeda is simply using this US occupation as a pretext for recruiting more and more terrorists to its murderous cause.
No, I'm not "implicitly" supporting the return of Saddam Hussein---who, I believe, was being, and could have been fully contained without a US invasion. But I live in the real world ~as it is~, not as I would like it to be. Good riddance to him and his sons and to the Ba'ath killers.
Nevertheless, for those of us who are in support of the war against Al Qaeda, opposition to the Iraq war last winter was not a vote of support for Hussein; it was a strategic decision by some of us who believed that the Iraq war was a diversion from the true sources of Al Qaeda terrorism, with its roots in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, ironically: two US "allies."
I shudder to think that the Madrid bombings, 2 1/2 years to the day after 9/11, are a prelude to a similar multi-pronged attack on NYC subways in the coming months. If that were to happen during rush hour, Al Qaeda would take out ~thousands~ of Americans. They could conceivably cripple the city's underground transportation, destroy underwater tunnels, and fracture the city's infrastructure.
And the Iraq war would have done nothing to stop it.
ON RAND, MARX, AND MAO
(SOLO Forum, Posted as "Re: About TOC": Fri, 27 Feb 2004 08:22:10 -0500)
Let me make a few general remarks upon which I will be expanding in print at some point; these are points that I have made to Diana Hsieh in personal correspondence over the last couple of months.
I think there is a great parallel between the evolution of "Objectivism" and the evolution of "scientific socialism."
Marx set out the basic principles of his philosophy, which he called "scientific socialism." Ironically, however, the implications and applications of Marx's philosophy have not been known to history as "scientific socialism." They have been grouped under the general title of "Marxism." And in the history of thought, Marxism has undergone many transformations over time: Combinations with Hegel, Aristotle, analytic philosophy, Freud, Sartre, even Nietzsche. In essentials, though, among all the permutations---the "revisionist" Marxists, the Marxist-Leninists, the Trotskyites, the Maoists, the Frankfurt-school thinkers, the analytic Marxists, and so forth---there is a "core" that makes ~all~ of them identifiably Marxist.
Thus, we are dealing with two different levels of generality: Philosophy versus History of Thought (and in ~my~ reading of David Kelley's TRUTH AND TOLERATION, I think he and I are in sync on this, even if we use different language to describe it): In terms of fundamentals, every "philosophy"---be it "scientific socialism" or "Objectivism"---is, by necessity, "closed": it must be something definite, or it is not definable; it must have ~identity~ and it must have ~boundaries~ or there will be no way of distinguishing one doctrine from another. But in terms of the history of thought, every "philosophy" by necessity is ~open~ to interpretation... and what forms around it is a much broader "school of thought," or "tradition," wherein thinkers who accept the fundamentals (and sometimes even among those who don't accept every last fundamental) work out interesting implications, applications, and even ~combinations~ among different doctrines. And the "working out" is then subject to critique, as we argue over "whose" version is more in keeping not only with the "philosophy"... but, more importantly, with reality. There is thus a tension between investigatory and what might be called "hermeneutical" (or interpretive) aspects going on throughout the history of philosophy; these aspects are both a part of the broader process of the development of ideas over time.
Interestingly, not even ~Marx~ liked what was being done to his ~system~ of "scientific socialism." Told of some of the "innovations" being made by others on the basis of his core system, Marx replied: "But I am not a Marxist." Rand expressed outright sympathy for Marx and echoed his sentiments by saying, in essence, "I am not a Randist"... or "I am not a Randian"---when she heard of some of the things being done in her "name."
So, how might we understand these dynamics in the context of Rand's philosophy? [As I suggested here,] I think one can draw a distinction between being an "Objectivist," which might designate strict adherence to every last detail of Rand's philosophic framework (and, honestly, if that's how we "define" Objectivism, there was only one "Objectivist" who ever existed in the history of Planet Earth), and being a "Randian," which might designate "of, relating to, or resembling" Rand's philosophic framework. In this instance, one can say that "Randian" is the broader designation, within which "Objectivism" is one possibility. In a crucial sense, however, we are all Randians now, since every act of personal interpretation or application by anyone on any subject is a step removed from Rand's formally enunciated framework.
On that basis, I am not an Objectivist. Call me a Randian, or a post-Randian or a neo-Objectivist or an advocate of Objectivism 2.0, or even the founder of Sciabarra-ism. But don't call me an Objectivist. I agree with the core principles of Rand's philosophy. But I don't believe that my own innovations (on subjects like "dialectics") are part of "Objectivism" as Rand defined it. ~Yes~: I do believe that my own view of dialectics as "the art of context-keeping" is fully consistent with Objectivism as Rand defined it. And even though I'd argue that Rand was a dialectician as ~I~ define it, I would never argue that Rand embraced "dialectics" as such, explicitly and by that name. I believe I'm carrying on Rand's legacy in many substantive ways, but the burden is on ~me~ to ~prove~ that through my life's work.
In the end, whatever Diana's views of TOC, the truth is that this is all in the nature of the development of ideas: A doctrine is put forth by an innovator. Over time, that doctrine is adapted, interpreted, and applied to various issues and experiences of which the original innovator could never have dreamed. Some of the approaches will resonate with us; others won't. Some will be more "orthodox" (like ARI), others will be more open to the give-and-take (like TOC), and still others will stress the total passion for the total height (like SOLO).
It was Chairman Mao, the authoritarian, who said, ironically: "Let a hundred flowers bloom: let a hundred schools of thought contend"---despite the fact that his Cultural Revolution was geared toward crushing all the flowers and creating an ideological monolith. The creation of a monolith, however, is the ~decadence~ and ~death~ of a tradition, which is why the approach of orthodoxies has always gone against my grain. When a tradition---like Randianism---sparks differentiation and specialization in the intellectual marketplace, it is not a sign of the decay of that tradition; it is a sign of its life, of its vibrance. As I see it, Diana is simply staking a claim, through her critique, to yet one more differentiated color on the broadening spectrum of Rand's legacy. And at the risk of sounding like Marx, let me say: This intellectual diversification is inexorable. Don't fight the future. It's already here.
This is a postscript to the above post:
(SOLO-Forum, Posted as: Re: Objectivism: A few thoughts: Tue, 02 Mar 2004 07:20:59 -0500)
I agree with J that the ARI position on what constitutes Objectivism is ridiculous. Peikoff's position is, itself, ridiculous. He actually says that his book OBJECTIVISM, is not an "official" part of the philosophy. This means that Objectivism begins---and ends---with Rand's words, and ~only~ Rand's words. In fact, Peikoff excludes any writings of Rand's not approved by her for publication in her lifetime.
This way of "doing philosophy" is so absurd on the face of it, that I'm baffled every time I read about it. It makes Objectivism not even "Rand scholarship"... it becomes more like the study only of ~approved~ books in the Medieval Church, viewing other writings as those as the Apocrypha. And if you should ~dare~ to read some of the books by Nathaniel Branden or David Kelley, you're consorting with the Anti-Christs... uh, sorry: Anti-Rands.
I didn't sign on to the study of Objectivism as a substitute for Sunday School Catechism. These people just don't have a clue about the nature of ideas and their evolution over time.
(I should note that while I ~do~ study ideas in their historical context, I do ~not~ believe that this is the only way to study ideas. My own approach blends historical and theoretical aspects: the first concentrates on the historical context within which Rand's ideas were developed; the second concentrates on the dialectical aspects of Rand's work---and seeks to develop that dialectical component in my analysis of current social problems.)
THE PERILS OF POSTHUMOUS RAND BOOKS
The following includes several posts to the SOLO Yahoo Forum, under the thread "Re: New Book by Ayn Rand!"
(Tue, 03 Feb 2004 08:19:37 -0500)
[Yes,] there are ~many~ posthumous Rand titles that have been published, and scholars like myself have benefited from these publications enormously.
My concerns about the posthumous publication of these works is not that they are being published per se. Posthumous publication of previously unpublished material is not unusual to the Rand literature. Indeed, I ~salivate~ over publications like the letters, the journals, the unpublished fiction, and so forth. Rather, my concern is about what is being ~altered~ by the Guardians of Rand's Estate. For example, I've already shown that the publication of Rand's JOURNALS led to various ~changes~ in the text of Rand's journal entries. See here.
And, it is also true that the "Lectures on Fiction-Writing" were ~severely~ edited when they were packaged as THE ART OF FICTION. See here.
Add to this the fact that names such as Barbara Branden, Nathaniel Branden, and so forth, have been airbrushed out of existence, and we get to the heart of the matter. It's not that they are republishing and repackaging the material---which is their right. It's that they are ~altering~ the material, and making it very difficult for anyone (except those with privileged access to their archives) to ascertain the accuracy or authenticity of the material.
They don't even have the decency to leave Ayn Rand's ~words~ alone. Rand made it very clear that she had broken from Nathaniel Branden. But in all post-Branden printings of her books, she ~never~ cut Branden's "approved" essays ~or~ references to his work in ~her~ essays. Take a look at Rand's article, "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" in its original form:
>>In his essay on "The Psychology of Pleasure," Nathaniel Branden writes: "Pleasure, for man, is not a luxury, but a profound psychological need. Pleasure (in the widest sense of the term) is a metaphysical concomitant of life, the reward and consequence of successful action---just as pain is the insignia of failure, destruction, death ...." [and what follows is an extended excerpt from the Branden essay]<<
The extended excerpt from Branden ~remains~ in the reprint of "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" in the posthumously published book, THE VOICE OF REASON, except something has changed (the [bracketed] material is ~in~ THE VOICE OF REASON, an alteration by the editor):
>>[An essay from ~The Virtue of Selfishness~ on "The Psychology of Pleasure" states,] "Pleasure, for man, is not a luxury, but a profound psychological need. Pleasure (in the widest sense of the term) is a metaphysical concomitant of life, the reward and consequence of successful action---just as pain is the insignia of failure, destruction, death....<<
Note: Branden has disappeared from Rand's text. Now it is the "essay" that "states," not "Branden," who "writes." And this is ~typical~ of what ARI-affiliated scholars do. I've heard them speak before The Ayn Rand Society and in audio lectures. Branden is quoted on topics such as self-esteem and pleasure---but nowhere is his ~name~ uttered.
There is only one word for this practice: DISGUSTING.
Utterly, absolutely, completely DISGUSTING.
It is unprofessional, unscholarly, and ... well... DISGUSTING.
(Wed, 04 Feb 2004 12:19:27 -0500)
A couple of points in response to the various threads here on ARI:
1. K criticizes the use of Rand's name on derivative works, saying: >>It's like bottling up a liquid and stamping in red and white letters "Coca-cola", when it is not Coca-cola.<<
That's not too far off, however. They believe they own a ~trademark~ on Rand's name, which the Estate can use in any manner it so chooses---and they try to block other people's use of the name "Ayn Rand" on such grounds, which is, uh, "beyond disgusting," indeed. :)
2. Schwartz ~does~ contribute essays to THE RETURN OF THE PRIMITIVE, btw---just not to the original NEW LEFT volume.
3. L asks about veiled criticisms of my book by ARI-affiliated scholars. They have launched into veiled and not-so-veiled criticisms. Here's the explicit ones: John Ridpath; Robert Mayhew.
and my responses here and here.
Peikoff may have, indeed, mentioned in his lectures on "Integration as the Essence of Personal Identity," "how 'absurd' it would be to try to understand Ayn Rand on the basis of her Russian background." He's made similar statements in other contexts. He has an inscribed copy of my book, which I sent him; he knows of its existence---because I corresponded with him during my period of research into Rand's college education. The story of ~that~ fiasco is told here:
Peikoff is not alone in taking implicit swipes at my work; routinely the orthodox "Objectivists" at humanities.philosophy.objectivism talk about how I've set back Rand scholarship 30 years, and how I'm not a "reputable" scholar or authority on Rand.
So they mix their attacks with explicit references (see Andrew Bernstein's classic call for a boycott against my work and THE JOURNAL OF AYN RAND STUDIES) ~and~ "coded" responses, such as those written by Allan Gotthelf, whose book attacks the view that Rand learned anything from her teachers or used a dialectical method---without ever mentioning ~who~ might have even ~raised~ these issues to begin with.
I really can't be too upset with these people. Their demonization of my work has upped the controversy quotient to the point where RUSSIAN RADICAL is one of Penn State's all-time best-sellers, now in its seventh printing.