Aug 1, 2013

Best approach to disputes in the Objectivist movement?

I have been a student of Objectivism, and a member of the Objectivist movement, for 50 years. I have seen conflicts arise and fade. I am learning that there is a proper procedure for outside individuals—those who are not directly involved—to approach these conflicts. Part of that procedure consists of asking and answering these questions: 

(1) Exactly what is the type of conflict? Is it philosophical, personal, something else, or a combination?

(2) Exactly what is the issue in dispute? If there are several issues, in what order should I resolve them?

(3) Is all the evidence available that I need in order to make a decision about which side, if either, to support?

(4) If any, what is my stake in this conflict? How does it affect my pursuit of my lifetime philosophical and personal values?

(5) Do I need to make a decision now or at any time? If so, why?

(6) If I do decide to investigate a dispute and if I uncover enough information to form a judgment, should I take a stand (which entails time and effort to formulate, present and defend), either in private or in public?

The main lesson I have learned is to wait until I can answer such questions with confidence. A secondary lesson is that Objectivism (which is a fixed set of ideas) remains unchanged no matter what happens in the Objectivist movement. (For my understanding of "movement," see )

What other approach would you suggest?

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, here

P. S. — Thank you to Pooja Gupta for suggesting Question 6. Thank you to Rohin Gupta for reminding me to make this available on the internet and not merely on Facebook (published as a note three years ago).


Prometheus said...

I would like to add another question to the list. Is there a thinking error involved such as context dropping, rationalism, etc.

David McBride

Burgess Laughlin said...

Yes, I think asking myself to look for errors in my thinking is always appropriate.

Even more important would be the positive question: Have I drawn all of my conclusions logically from facts of sense-perceptible reality? In other words, am I being objective?

Both the negative and the positive should always apply.

Another helpful technique would be to write out one's position: a review of the facts, one's argument, and one's conclusion. Reviewing a written statement makes uncovering errors easier.

Another advantage of a written statement is that it allows one to simply post a link to it and not waste time in fragmented commentary in the snowstorm of threads that appear around controversies. Written statements, if comprehensive, provide complete arguments not merely fragments of arguments.