Normally, I don't wade into controversies and debates among Objectivists, at least not online. I prefer to discuss such matters in person. It's not that I don't have opinions on recent topics of debate (recent meaning, over the past couple of years). I do. I have lots of opinions about many things, as regular readers of this blog should well be aware. :)
Generally, I choose not to spend my time sharing and/or discussing and/or debating such matters with people on the internets. It is not a good use of my time usually. And I am ever-mindful of the fact that non-Objectivist spectators are watching and forming opinions about Objectivists, and Objectivism, based on what they see on the internet. This stresses me out because many of these disagreements turn ugly and are full of accusations and pointless bickering (on both sides, even among those I end up agreeing with). I know newbies and Objectivist-curious folks are turned off by this. Hell, I'm turned off by this.
It just occured to me that one of the reasons I rarely engage in this online stuff is that my day job is full of ugly accusations and pointless bickering already, so I usually get my fill of it. And I have little enough patience for this stuff with my children--but I especially have no patience for this kind of stuff from grownups.
Okay. Here the wading begins. The first thing I will do is point you to Diana's post on the matter, which contains all of the relevant links. If you are aware of this already, you've no doubt read this excellent post.
About watchmen: Here's a post about the role of watchmen in a movement. I need to think about this more, but I don't have a problem with this idea. In fact, if it weren't for excellent posts by other Objectivists, namely Diana and Paul, it would have taken me much longer to understand many of the problems that hit Objectivism just before I read Ayn Rand and while I was in college (specifically, the Branden/Kelley stuff, and Libertarianism). So I appreciate those who have taken the time to help straighten out areas where a lot of people are or could be confused.
Anyone can choose to have a watchman role, and really I think that's awesome. As Burgess writes in his post above:
The responsibility of being watchmen is heavy. It requires diligence in research, thought, and argumentation. It also requires the strength to withstand scrutiny.
I agree. Also, when there are watchmen around, it means those of us who use those people as resources must decide for ourselves whether they are credible as watchmen. Truth be told, and I'm sorry if this is the first Diana knows about this, but it took me a while to consider her a credible resource. It took me lots of time (more on this point in a bit) because, well, maybe I'm slow. It takes me a while to make up my mind about people in general, especially if I only "know" them online. And I don't just believe everything I read on the internet--so take heed, watchers everywhere! I am watching--and thinking about--you. And you do the same to me. ("Judge, and prepare to be judged!")
I think I'd be able to take this new project more seriously if they had brought out some evidence that Diana disagrees with something fundamental to Objectivism. I see nothing fundamental put forth here, in the Diana column, anyway. (There are plenty of fundamentals pointed to under the other tabs, as anyone familiar with Objectivism for any length of time is no doubt already aware.) I've known Diana for a long time now (though we only met in person last year), so I am not expecting any such evidence to come to light.
Matters of disagreement over philosophical or political application are interesting to me, because I often can learn something about the different points of view based on following the discussion. However, unless someone is behaving in a dishonest (not virtuous) way or rude fashion, I find it difficult to get to the point where I must condemn someone's character over our disagreement.
Which brings me to my main point, which Christian mentioned on Facebook:
[The] method of assessing people primarily according to their professed conclusions about issues and people is profoundly anti-intellectual. . . .
As I told my friend Kelly the other day, I am certain that there are Objectivists out there on the internets who would have de-friended Dagny and Hank about 50 pages into Atlas Shrugged for being too dense to figure out their errors already. Someone like Eddie Willers would never even have stood a chance with such Objectivists.
Yaron Brook repeated this theme at last year's OCON: "Objectivism is HARD." He is correct. I first read this stuff when I was only 18 years old. 23 years later and I'm still working hard to figure things out. In fact, I was WRONG about all kinds of things for a long, long time. Thank the gods that the internets weren't really around back then, lest I be smote for my ignorance or wrongness. In fact, my first forays into internet Objectivism--the old usenet groups--turned me away from even trying to find Objectivists in real life for YEARS because people were so ugly to those who were new and/or confused.
There's a difference between being wrong about something and being immoral. What I mean is, holding a wrong conclusion (or even many) is not necessarily immoral, or even damaging to the movement especially when you are open to discussing (not debating--I refer you here if you'd like to learn the difference between a discussion and a debate) the premises and arguments around the issue.
And because Objectivism is hard, it takes lots of thinking and lots of time to figure things out, even if you are already basically a moral person. And until you figure things out, you might be holding a wrong premise or conclusion or two. (And even then, once you think you've got X figured out, then suddenly you realize that Y needs addressing, and oh no--what about the implications of Z?, etc. It's an ongoing process, the thinking.)
How long did it take Hank and Dagny to figure it out? As I recall, most of that enormous book. Poor Eddie never quite got there. (I like to think he might have, if he'd had a bit more time.)
Note: I'm not referring to any particular area of disagreement I have with Diana--or anyone--here. It's merely a commentary on how many people confuse being wrong with being immoral.
I'm still thinking through what I think about this whole new controversy. Probably there is more I can add, but I think I'll stick to one last thing. This seems a huge waste of time and resources, given the enormity of what we all would like to accomplish.
And now, I'll climb out of the muck, clean up, dry off, and get back to work.