Dr. David Kelley to Retire

Posted by sdesapio 6 years, 9 months ago to Philosophy
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Be forewarned, esoteric reading ahead...

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"Open Objectivism" - The recognition that Objectivism is open to expansion, refinement, and revision. Objectivism is a body of rational knowledge rather than a fixed, closed set of doctrines like a religion.

- Dr. David Kelley

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I first met David in 2010 while we were preparing to release Atlas Shrugged Part 1. David had been a consultant on the production of the film and I had been brought in only a few months prior to the film's release to help with marketing - I was a HUGE Rand advocate and damn near kicked the door down to work on the project (but that's another story for another day).

Prior to meeting David, I had only a cursory knowledge of the Kelley/Peikoff rift and looked forward to peppering David with my very hardcore "Objectivisty" questions, "Isn't Objectivism only what Ayn Rand said it was?", "Isn't Leonard Peikoff Ayn Rand's named successor and intellectual heir?", "Why must you name your philosophy 'OPEN' Objectivism!?"

I was ready for a fight. I was going to put David through his paces and I was determined that he would be mental mush when I was done with him. “Open Objectivism” my a**.

Yep. And, that's exactly how it went down. Or, at least... eh ehm... in my mind, that's how I thought it was going to go down.

Then David showed up.

"Great to finally meet you Dr. Kelley. I've read so much.", I said hand outstretched ready for him to just brush me off.

"Hey Scott! I've heard so much about you! Want to get a drink?", he exclaimed eyes piercing and fully engaged.

"Um... sure... yeah... a drink.", I murmured taken aback.

But, I wasn't going to let his "I'm Mr. Awesome" routine throw me off. I had business to attend to - a legacy to protect!

"So David," I continued, "Isn't Leonard Peikoff Ayn Rand's named successor and intellectual heir?

He laughed and did a dry spit-take as he sipped his wine, "Nice to meet you too."

I remained stoic. I wasn't budging.

The night went on, and we talked... and talked... and talked. David welcomed every question, every jab, and every poke. He was engaged, he was funny, he was thoughtful, and he was smart - like really smart. Like, "For Christ's sake, Seriously!?" smart.

During our conversation, I kept asking myself, "Why is this legitimate Professor of Philosophy not talking down to me? Why isn't he at least being a little defensive? Why is he so open to everything I'm throwing at him?"

"Why is he so open to every question... open to every assertion... open to every angle I present... open to every..."



"Oh no."

"Did he just...?"

That night, David took me by the hand, and showed me what "open" meant. Not by defending anything. Not by asserting anything. Not by digging in his heels.

But, by being "open", the epitome of open - open to criticism, open to challenge, and open to differing ideas in a way I had never before experienced.

David taught me by his action, what "open" meant.

So tells the story of the night I beat-up David Kelley, and the night David Kelley acquired a new student for life.

Well done David.

Scott DeSapio
Associate Producer, Atlas Shrugged

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David Kelley’s Greatest Hits

The Primacy of Existence:

David Kelley on Egalitarianism and Welfare Rights Theory

Selfishness: What and Why

Good Judgment

Choosing Life part 1

Choosing Life part 2

David Kelley on the Morality of Individualism

Interview with Dr. David Kelley

John Galt Speech Raw Footage

Producers ONLY: Scripting the speeches in Atlas shrugged

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  • Posted by Herb7734 6 years, 9 months ago
    An amazing person.But then, so is the man questioning him. When I grew up in Detroit, three of my friends, from elementary school through high school were three Irish boys named Maher, Mitchell, and McClure.They were the M and M and Ms.One of them was as sharp a mind as I ever encountered. And he is the only one who was able to talk elegant circles around me. So, early in life I learned that one should never try to argue with a very smart Irishman.
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  • Posted by $ HarmonKaslow 6 years, 9 months ago
    Great story. I have nothing close to Scott's familiarity with and understanding of Atlas, but I would like to add that I was quite fortunate to work with David on the Atlas Shrugged movies. John Aglialoro, a trustee of TAS and the Atlas Shrugged movies writer / producer, was committed to getting David's input on the movies. And, David made himself accessible and brought to the set his charm, intelligence and commitment to the task. He would give audience to my speculation and, without making me feel sophomoric, educated me so that I came away from our conversations with a much more meaningful and deeper understanding of Atlas Shrugged. I count myself so fortunate to have met David and been able to learn about Atlas Shrugged from such a learned and smart scholar.
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  • Posted by CircuitGuy 6 years, 9 months ago
    I only know him from the YouTube videos explaining in very simple easy-to-follow terms the philosophy behind clips from the AS films.

    I didn't know he was a professor or open Objectivism. It's nice he can make is so plain for people who aren't into the philosophical debates.
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  • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
    Being jovially "open" to talk to someone equivocates on the "open" in the demands that Ayn Rand's philosophy be "open" to being something other than what she said it was. "Objectivism" is the name Ayn Rand gave to her own philosophy and publicly advocated it under that name. Anyone can believe or argue for anything he wants to for any motive he wants to, and may or may not deserve to be taken seriously depending on what he says, but doing it in the name of someone else's ideas while subjectively redefining the name under the banner of "openness" is not honest. That is about much more than a name.
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    • Posted by $ CBJ 6 years, 9 months ago
      There are core principles/axioms of a philosophy and then there are applications derived from those core principles. Disagreement with one or more of the core principles means one is not an Objectivist, but disagreement among Ayn Rand advocates about how the philosophy should be applied is legitimate, even if one disagrees with Rand on such an issue. One can be an Aristotelian without agreeing with everything Aristotle said.
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      • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
        You can agree or disagree with anything you want to -- and may or may not be right and may or may not be similar to someone else to some degree -- but Ayn Rand's own philosophy is what she said it was under the name she gave it in what she wrote, said, and specifically included from others, not in any way what someone else prefers it to be -- including in their anarchism, religion, "toleration" as alleged fundamental virtue, inclusion of Libertarian Party politics, the attempts to "save" it by rewriting it, etc.
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    • Posted by ReasonableObjectivist 6 years, 9 months ago
      When Rand announced that Objectivism was only whatever she said it was, she was making a merely arbitrary claim. We do not have to respect a merely arbitrary claim. If she had labeled her philosophy, "Randism", (naming the philosophy after herself), then MAYBE she would have had a reasonable point. I have not yet heard a valid defense to my argument that Rand's CLAIM is anything other than arbitrary.

      You used a curious phrase: "doing it in the name of someone else's ideas while subjectively redefining the name under the banner of 'openness' is not honest." (end quote.) Who, exactly, is "subjectively redefining the name" of Objectivism? Your thinking, here, is muddy. Merely saying that Rand was wrong about X, Y or Z, (or that Peikoff is wrong about X, Y, or Z), is not "redefining the name" of Objectivism. If any Objectivist wishes to challenge Rand or Peikoff on any issue whatsoever, he or she does not cease being an Objectivist by so doing.

      Frankly, ARI-affiliated Objectivists are wrong to refrain from attempting to defend their positions from serious critiques from fellow Objectivists. For example, I would have loved to have seen a thoughtful and timely attempt by Peikoff to respectfully challenge Nathaniel Branden's classic, "The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand"; (if a rebuttal, indeed, was possible).

      I have been interested in analyzing this "taboo" against open dialogue, (Peikoff's/ARI's position), in terms of the analysis in Mary Douglas's 1960's anthropology classic, "Purity and Danger". Based on my reading of Douglas, I ask myself: Just what is the (actual) purpose served by the "taboo" against accepting and debating with Objectivists who openly admire Nathaniel Branden? Or David Kelley? or [insert name of person it is taboo to admire or even read].

      I am still thinking about the implications and possible applications of Douglas's findings, to the Objectivist community. What Douglas inspired me to consider is that it is inadequate to just "assume" that the taboo against the Branden's, et al., is merely a "power play" by Peikoff, or emotional immaturity, or whatever. I think something else is going on. Rather, thinking of the Objectivist community as a culture, it then makes sense to analyse that culture as anthropologists (or sociologists) would.

      What culture does not have taboos, of some kind? WHAT PURPOSE IS SERVED, by having THIS set of taboos, instead of another set?

      I do not know what the results of such a study might yield, but there could be a great doctoral dissertation in this, for someone.
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      • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
        That Ayn Rand's ideas and her own philosophical formulation are what she said they are, and are only what she said they are, is a matter of objectivity, not "arbitrary claims", whatever she chose to name her philosophy. Recognizing that does not depend on what Ayn Rand "arbitrarily" wanted but the objectivity of identifying what her ideas in fact were and that they were not something else. The arbitrary is the demands of anyone who wants her philosophy, i.e., her ideas, to be whatever else he desires. That is not an appeal to "truth" -- anyone concerned with truth can argue anything he wants and try to give reasons for it in his own name -- it is a subjective demand announcing in advance his desire for protection under a "get out of jail free card" exclusion from having to justify why he should be taken seriously in his claim that his ideas are in fact the same as Ayn Rand's.

        To demand that one's owns ideas be regarded as inherently part of a philosophy formulated by someone else through what she wrote and said is just as dishonest as plagiarism claiming to have originated another person's ideas. Those promoting this flim flam in the name of "openness" know fully well that Ayn Rand chose and publicly used the name "Objectivism" for her philosophy; they are appropriating the name because she used it, not because they have a superior regard for "truth" without regard to a supposedly arbitrary name.

        Those most loudly and insistently making this "open Objectivism" demand are typically the worst offenders of ignorance and misrepresentation of Ayn Rand's philosophy, demonstrating the purpose and expected results of cashing in on the ensuing confusion by a combination of crack pots, incompetents, and amateurs who may or may not know any better, and who don't deserve the audience they are misleading and seek to capture under the banner of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

        This was the case even within Ayn Rand's own lifetime by those appropriating her name and cashing in on her fame while advertising themselves as "teaching" her ideas, "rewriting them", and/or "revising" them to whatever contradictory ideology they chose, from Libertarians to anarchists and more. She properly denounced it as half plagiarism and half contradicting her. They are typically those who don't know what much or most of her philosophy is, treating what they have read as a hodge podge of slogans and feelings on a philosophical Chinese menu. On such fringes today we even see the spectacle of "Christian Objectivists" insisting they are perfectly "compatible". It's not enough for them that they agree with some of her ideas despite their own contradictory premises, they demand that their own antagonistic views be packaged under the name of Ayn Rand along with those selected ideas of hers which they regard as required for their purpose.

        Even if one formulates ideas that are compatible with Ayn Rand's philosophy, it is up to him to honestly acknowledge their status, with the true combination of sources, while demonstrating why he thinks his ideas and their formulation are implied by or an application of or an elaboration of her philosophy, distinguishing between it and his own work and not calling it her philosophy. If he contradicts it then they are flatly not Ayn Rand's philosophy regardless of what he thinks of it.

        Ayn Rand's philosophy is radically different than most prevailing philosophical premises in all the historically major realms of philosophy. One of the central ideas is the importance of knowledge as an integrated, consistent, logical hierarchy, based on direct experience of facts of reality in a process of objective abstract concepts -- not a subjective hodge podge of ever-evolving "pragmatism" or constructed "models", or intrinsic (mystic) "Truths" to be "discovered". Leonard Peikoff realized in accordance with this the importance of maintaining the integrity of the philosophy as a basic principle of the educational organization he founded to address those who take ideas seriously. Ayn Rand's philosophy cannot be understood by watering it down with a maze of contradictions, poor rewrites, and floating abstractions coming in from multiple sources, muddying it and obstructing understanding what it is by obscuring its identity. ARI is not based on "taboo" and does not tell anyone what he must think. It focuses on its own intellectual and educational goals and integrity, and does not concern itself with unimportant distractions demanding an audience.

        Nathaniel Branden has nothing to do with this and is not relevant. He discredited himself a half century ago through his own psycho-implosion and actions, personal hostility trying to undermine Ayn Rand, and fundamental changes in his ideas (including forays into New Age mysticism), all of which few pay attention to.
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        • Posted by $ puzzlelady 6 years, 9 months ago
          Ayn Rand never claimed to have a monopoly on the truth. She said the truth belonged to all who are able to discover it through their own rational thought. Individuals can reach insights that map exactly onto the Objectivist principles without ever having heard of Rand and her philosophy. They are virtual Objectivists without ever coming across Objectivism by name.

          The axioms and premises defined by Ayn Rand are objectively universal. The world did not stop when Rand left it. It is the nature of existence that things evolve and more knowledge becomes available. Objectivism is a template, not a prison door. It cannot be a closed system, never allowing any new developments to enter human consciousness. Its principles can be and should be applied to any newly emerging events that can be measured against those fundamental principles.

          The wisdoms Rand stated and defined are permanent tools for evaluating any ideas, relevant beyond the author's lifetime. They are not invalidated by changing contexts.
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          • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
            You didn't address anything I wrote. No one said Ayn Rand has a "monopoly on truth", or that the "world has stopped", or that no one can learn from or apply what she accomplished, or that no one should learn more and expand his own knowledge in any realm. Recognizing that Ayn Rand's philosophy is the philosophy she formulated and not something else is objectivity, not a "prison door". Whatever "mapping on Objectivist principles" is intended to mean, no one else has independently duplicated her accomplishment of discovering and integrating principles into the philosophy she formulated, and in my experience those who claim they have done so understand the least about what her philosophy is and what she accomplished. It has a content. It doesn't just say be rational and independent.
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    • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
      A rampage of 'downvotes' from those accusing others of being "religious" and not "open" to discussion.
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      • Posted by $ TomB666 6 years, 9 months ago
        I remember a bumper sticker that said: “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” That is pretty much LP’s take on Rand’s philosophy, in that he has said if she didn’t say it, then its not relevant to Objectivism. But then, I thought she said that Objectivism was a philosophy of life and wonder how she could have addressed every possible situation for all time?

        I guess I’m just not smart enough to figure out things like: “Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift it?”

        You can down vote this if it makes you feel better.
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        • Posted by ewv 6 years, 9 months ago
          Whatever this post is trying to say other than to convey snideness on behalf of whatever side of what feuding, "God said it", the "Libertarian Party", and "God making rocks" have nothing to do with Ayn Rand or her philosophy. It contributes nothing to rational discussion.
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