Monday, February 13, 2006

Contested Legacy

In a comments thread on NoodleFood, Nicholas Provenzo asks,

Why do you think Kelly even keeps the Objectivist moniker? Since he doesn’t represent AR in any way and since his group engages in no Objectivist scholarship, why even try to maintain the tenuous connection? Why doesn’t he simply admit to what he is: yet another moonbat libertarian? What does maintaining the claim that he is somehow an Objectivist earn Kelly that he couldn’t get if he were honest about his creed?

Well, how many hundreds of thousands of copies of Ayn Rand’s books sell each year? The interest in Ayn Rand’s novels and her philosophy is a growing phenomenon. Young people excited about Rand’s ideas google “Objectivism” and find the Objectivist Center. There’s too much value in the word for Kelley to give it up.

I think the Objectivist Center would be more aptly named the Enlightenment Center. With their general respect for reason and emphasis on toleration, they often sound 18th century to me. Maybe Enlightenment Center sounds too much like some new age retreat with monks wearing saffron robes.


In “A Question of Sanction” Kelley argues against Peter Schwartz that ideas should be judged as true and false, and actions judged as good and bad, although he never states it as clearly as I just did. He makes a more elaborate argument on the same subject against Leonard Peikoff in The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand.

Kelley never mentions that Ayn Rand agreed with them, not with him. She wrote, “Kant is the most evil man in mankind’s history.” She didn’t say the most evil man was Attila or Stalin or Hitler or Mao, any of whom killed more people than peaceful little Immanuel Kant. The closest Kelley comes to acknowledging her statement is on p. 57 of Contested Legacy, when he mentions “Objectivists who casually denounce Kant as the most evil man in history without having read a word of what he wrote.” Where did those ignorant Objectivists get that idea? From Ayn Rand.

Why doesn’t Kelley address Ayn Rand’s statement instead of focusing his argument against Schwartz and Peikoff? Because he wants to claim himself as the proper heir of Ayn Rand’s contested legacy.

It’s a glaring omission. I don’t see how he can square Ayn Rand’s statement with his argument in Contested Legacy. And I don’t see how he could write that book without thinking that people would ask, “But what about Ayn Rand’s statement about Kant?” It is baffling that he never addresses it.

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