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TAS vs. ARI: A Question of Objectivity and Independence

TAS vs. ARI: A Question of Objectivity and Independence

4 Mins
June 10, 2010

The Atlas Society (formerly known as The Objectivist Center) works with students to spread the revolutionary ideas of Objectivism and train a new generation of Objectivist intellectuals. We encourage students to attend our Summer Seminar and other conferences, to use the resources on this site as well as our products to master Objectivism, and to share these ideas among their peers.

We offer generous scholarships to our conferences for promising students. Through programs like these, you can learn Objectivism and learn to live it.But anyone who wants to take advantage of what The Atlas Society (TAS) has to offer can face a difficult choice. That is the choice between TAS and the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) and its affiliates. The Ayn Rand Institute has a long history 1 of breaking ties with students and groups who do not strictly adhere to its demands. 2 TAS is one such organization, and ARI has a policy of breaking ties with any person or group who does not condemn David Kelley, the founder of TAS. It has in the past insisted that student groups affiliated with it incorporate a rejection of David Kelley and TAS into their by-laws. If you have ties to ARI, exploring the values TAS has to offer could put those ties in jeopardy.

It takes courage to face that risk, but what's at stake is more important than any material support ARI can offer you.

What's at stake is your objectivity and your independence.

What's at stake is your objectivity and your independence.

In her explanation of independence in Atlas Shrugged , Ayn Rand dramatically stated the essential issue: "The vilest form of self-abasement and self-destruction is the subordination of your mind to the mind of another, the acceptance of his assertions as facts, his say-so as truth, his edicts as middlemen between your consciousness and your existence." (AS 1019)

Isn't self-abasement exactly what ARI and the estate of Ayn Rand demand from Objectivists? They denounce the character of Objectivist scholars, scorning demands for evidence of their claims, expecting you will take their say-so as truth. 3 They aim to teach you to repeat Ayn Rand's words, and reject out of hand the possibility that anyone could rationally criticize or amend them. 4 Doesn't that amount to a demand that you subordinate your mind? And their policies rest on a bedrock of never questioning certain authorities. 5 Aren't they then putting their edicts as middlemen between your consciousness and your existence?

We recognize the value of some of the work produced by ARI and the intellectuals associated with it. For example, we discuss Leonard Peikoff's survey Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand in our seminars and courses and recommend it as a resource. We do this as part of our commitment to deal objectively with scholarship on Objectivism .

But ARI doesn't share that commitment: books by David Kelley and other scholars affiliated with TAS and TOC are never mentioned at ARI, nor sold by the affiliated Ayn Rand Bookstore. What is it they don't want you to think about? What is it they value more than truth?

You deserve to learn Objectivism in an atmosphere of open rational inquiry, where teachers offer their expertise rather than their authority and where you can see the benevolent sense of life of Objectivism in action.

That's what The Atlas Society has to offer. You owe it to yourself—to your own intellectual integrity—to make a first-hand judgment about TAS. We invite you to compare the programs , research , and courses that we offer with their counterparts (such as exist) in the ARI-affiliated circle.

Independence is the recognition that the mind is a faculty of the individual. Objectivity is the recognition that all knowledge is based on the facts. A philosophy of individualism and reason cannot flourish in an atmosphere of dogmatism, appeal to authority, and loyalty to people over loyalty to facts. Individualism and reason require the open vistas of clear debate and wide-ranging discussion. This is the principle on which TAS was founded.

We invite you to take advantage of the resources TAS has to offer. Come see what it is like to learn Objectivism from people who take the philosophy to heart, at the home of rational individualism.

1. For a discussion of the history and issues behind the dispute between the Ayn Rand Institute and The Atlas Society, see David Kelley, The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand: Truth and Toleration in Objectivism .

2. For a recent example of Leonard Peioff's demands and his style of control over ARI, see John McCasey, " Resignation from ARI and Anthem ."

3. The denunciation of Objectivist scholars George Reisman and Edith Packer led ARI leaders to demand that others accept their moral judgment even in the absence of evidence. See Per-Olof Samuelsson " An Open Letter to Leonard Peikoff " for one example.

4. The classic statement of this position is Leonard Peikoff, " Fact and Value ," The Intellectual Activist V,1. There he writes "The 'official, authorized doctrine,' [of Objectivism]… remains unchanged and untouched in Ayn Rand's books; it is not affected by any interpreters."

5. See ARI's interview with Leonard Peikoff, Impact 8.1 (February 1993). In it, Peikoff is asked: "What do you like and dislike about being the spokesman of Objectivism?" Peikoff answers "I like having the power to make definitive statements on philosophical questions." This, taken in the context of Peikoff's status as "spokesman of Objectivism" and "intellectual heir" of Ayn Rand, appears to presume that Peikoff's word on philosophical issues is definitive.


William Thomas

William R Thomas writes about and teaches Objectivist ideas. He is the editor of The Literary Art of Ayn Rand and of Ethics at Work, both published by The Atlas Society. He is also an economist, teaching occasionally at a variety of universities.

William Thomas
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William Thomas