Blogs > Liberty and Power > Funding for an Orthodox Objectivist Faculty Member Rejected by Texas State

Jul 13, 2007 11:14 pm

Funding for an Orthodox Objectivist Faculty Member Rejected by Texas State

David Glenn of the Chronicle of Higher Education has followed up his article on the denial of tenure to John Lewis with a new article on the Leonard Peikoff, er, Ayn Rand Institute's efforts to place orthodox Objectivists in academic jobs.

Till it turns into a pumpkin, the link is

(If you open a free online account with The Chronicle, you'll be able to read the entire article.)
The Philosophy Department at Texas State (formerly Southwest Texas State, in San Marcos) was offered a multi-year grant by the Anthem Foundation to fund a visiting professor who would specialize in Objectivism.

They turned down the money.

Here are the key passages, to my way of thinking.

Mr. Fulmer [Gilbert Fulmer, a Full Professor of Philosophy] and some of his colleagues also had specific worries about the world of Rand scholarship, which has occasionally been marred by schisms and accusations of scholarly foul play. In particular, the Ayn Rand Institute, a nonprofit organization with which the Anthem Foundation is closely associated, has sometimes been accused of enforcing rigid ideological conformity — and even of failing to acknowledge the work of scholars associated with rival organizations.

Debates surrounding Rand's work often"resemble a religious dogma surrounding a sacred text, and not the free give-and-take of ordinary scholarship," says Rebecca Raphael, a senior lecturer in philosophy at Texas State.

Rebecca Raphael was specifically worried about ARI's institutional culture and its promotion of unscholarly behavior by its affiliates.

Much of the opposition was organized by Ms. Raphael, the lecturer in the department, who was disturbed by the notion that money might shape the department's offerings."Debate about Rand's quality and significance should be pursued — but not by these means," she says.

While researching the objectivist world online, Ms. Raphael began to fear that Anthem's grants were given only to a narrow range of scholars associated with the Ayn Rand Institute. No Anthem grants appear to go to scholars associated with David Kelley, a former Vassar College philosophy professor who broke with the institute in 1990 amid a personal and ideological dispute that concerned, among other things, whether it is appropriate for objectivists to speak at events organized by libertarians. Mr. Kelley, who now directs the Atlas Society, an objectivist group in Washington, says he can understand that the institute might not want anything to do with him personally. But he believes it is absurd for the institute to demand that its associates"repudiate" any and all scholars who"tolerate" him — a formulation that often appears in objectivist blog posts.

Mr. McCaskey, the Anthem president, says that Ms. Raphael's concern about narrowness is unfair and unfounded. Many of the Anthem Foundation's grants, he points out, go to institutions like the University of North Carolina, where there are no objectivists on the faculty. And Mr. Gotthelf noted that he himself has historically had an arm's-length relationship with the institute. In 2000, four of its leaders declared that they felt"morally obliged" to criticize Mr. Gotthelf's book On Ayn Rand (Wadsworth) for being written in inaccessible academic language. Ms. Raphael is correct, however, to note that the foundation has never supported any scholars associated with Mr. Kelley, some of whom have published extensively in objectivist philosophy.

The Chronicle could have said more about the different ways that ARIans treat academics with no prior connection to Objectivism and those they consider heretics or apostates. But there is an explicit reference to the way David Kelley and his associates are shunned.

Wouldn't you know that one of the academics that Anthem was thinking of placing at Texas State was Andrew Bernstein?

Another red flag for Ms. Raphael was an abject apology distributed online in 2002 by Andrew Bernstein, a visiting professor of philosophy at Marist College. Mr. Bernstein lectured on Rand at Texas State this past March, and Mr. McCaskey mentioned his name as someone who might fill the position that Anthem offered to finance.

In his 2002 statement, Mr. Bernstein apologized for having contributed a one-paragraph letter to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a journal that publishes a variety of approaches to Rand's philosophy, many of which the institute's leaders find false and offensive. (Mr. Bernstein's short contribution was a reply to a negative review of his CliffsNotes of Rand's novels.)

"The so-called Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is filled with writings by people with whom I refuse to knowingly associate under any circumstances," wrote Mr. Bernstein in his apology."I deeply regret my thoughtless decision to contribute to this journal, and hereby irrevocably repudiate any and all association with it. In this regard, the fault is entirely my own. This journal does not hide what it is. Its contents are available on the Internet for all to see. In failing to do the requisite research and gather the necessary data, I failed to properly use my mind. I must now suffer the consequences of that. To all who are sincerely concerned with objectivism, I apologize, and recommend a complete repudiation and boycott of this journal. ..."

When asked by The Chronicle about his 2002 comments, Mr. Bernstein replied that rejecting The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies was a moral and intellectual obligation."We are literally in a struggle to save human civilization from the destruction wrought by irrational philosophy," he wrote in an e-mail message. The editors of the journal have been hostile to the Ayn Rand Institute, he said, but"anyone who sincerely supports Ayn Rand's philosophy, and appreciates its indispensable role in promoting cultural renaissance, must, as a logical consequence ... respect ARI's dauntless, indefatigable, gallant struggle on behalf of a rational philosophy."

The Ayn Rand Institute is now getting the publicity that it deserves.

Robert Campbell

[Cross-posted at Objectivist Living]

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More Comments:

Robert L. Campbell - 7/18/2007


It's not at all clear who will succeed Leonard Peikoff as "intellectual heir of the intellectual heir."

The current director of the Institute, Yaron Brook, is a manager and a political speechmaker. No one considers him an authority on Ayn Rand's philosophy.

I may blog about this issue in the near future.

Robert Campbell

Craig J. Bolton - 7/16/2007

A good article.

I hope that you will next address the very serious question of who is the legitimate successor of Leonard Peikoff to the Throne of Saint Ayn. After all, he's not getting any younger, and how will the mindless Randroids function without a successor Pope?