Before we look at the highly cultic nature of "The Logical Leap", I'd better explain some of the mechanisms a typical cult uses to function.
Based on his experiences with survivors of Chinese Communist re-education programs, in the early 60s psychologist Dr Robert J. Clifton developed what he called the "Eight Criteria For Thought Reform" - a set of methods for moulding individuals to fit a given ideology. He soon realised that these programs closely resembled those of the plethora of different cults from the Children of God to EST to Scientology that sprang up in America during the '60s counterculture revolution.
Almost all of the eight have some relevance to Objectivism. However, the three key ones for the purposes of this discussion are as follows:
LOADING THE LANGUAGE
• The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliche (thought-stoppers)
• Repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon - "The language of non-thought"
• Words are given new meanings -- the outside world does not use the words or phrases in the same way -- it becomes a "group" word or phrase
THE DEMAND FOR PURITYTo the first mechanism, Objectivism has a well-established obfuscatory jargon which puts a myriad of very effective "thought-terminating cliches" in the hands of its followers. The second standard mechanism, also known as "black and white thinking", is also part of Rand's standard operating procedure. Finally, Objectivism offers an "ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence". Naturally this entails ultimate reverence for the creator of this ultimate morality. Hence Job #1 for official Objectivism, as with most cults, is always and everywhere the premise that Ayn Rand was, as one adherent put it to Newsweek back in the 1960s, "the greatest individual that has ever lived."
• The world becomes sharply divided into the pure and the impure, the absolutely good (the group/ideology) and the absolutely evil (everything outside the group)
• The totalist milieu maintains an aura of sacredness around its basic doctrine or ideology, holding it as an ultimate moral vision for the ordering of human existence
• Questioning or criticizing those basic assumptions is prohibited
• A reverence is demanded for the ideology/doctrine, the originators of the ideology/doctrine, the present bearers of the ideology/doctrine
These three criteria explain a lot about Objectivism in general, and "The Logical Leap" in particular. Their demands set up all kinds of strange tensions in their adherents, giving Objectivist writing a distinctive apparatchik and even robotic flavour and shrouding even the simplest issues in esoteric confusion. Like Mediaeval astronomers obsessed with "saving the appearances", they have to produce ever more convoluted epicycles to maintain their sacred beliefs. For example, the first question one asks on encountering TLL is: who is actually responsible for this damn book in the first place? The front cover says: "David Harriman with an Introduction by Leonard Peikoff". The back cover, however, leads with "A groundbreaking solution to the problem of induction, based on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts." It then claims the book is
"inspired by and expanding on a series of lectures by Leonard Peikoff...Ayn Rand presented her revolutionary theory of concepts in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. As Dr. Peikoff subsequently explored inductive reasoning, he sought out David Harriman...for his expert knowledge of the scientific discovery process...Here, Harriman presents the result of a collaboration between scientist and philosopher."Say what? If this is a "collaboration" why does Peikoff only get a credit for the introduction? This confusion is intensified by Harriman's preface, which goes even further:
"This book is the result of a collaboration between myself and Leonard Peikoff....I was excited by his breakthrough discoveries...so I decided to write this book which is a full presentation of his theory as it applies to physical science...the original philosophic ideas belong to Dr Peikoff..."In fact Harriman also claims how a whole chapter is taken ""nearly verbatim" from his lectures, and that Peikoff exercised "line-by-line scrutiny" and "taught me how to write this book." OK: so it's Peikoff's breakthrough discoveries, his theory, and even his lectures that the book is presenting. Um, but didn't the blurb say the "groundbreaking solution" was based on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts? Turning to Peikoff's Introduction, we find that yes:
"The theory developed here is based on Ayn Rand's theory of concepts...Although she did not provide the solution, she did provide the key to it....This book represents the first major application of Ayn Rand's epistemology to a field other than philosophy. "
So what we seem to have here is not really a book by David Harriman at all, but rather David providing an "illustration" of Peikoff's "original philosophic ideas"; which in turn can hardly be very original as Peikoff himself declares them merely an "application of Ayn Rand's epistemology"!
What we're seeing here is, of course, merely the cultic tensions playing themselves out and twisting everyone into knots. If Job #1 is always and everywhere the premise that Ayn Rand is the greatest philosopher that ever lived, this sets up the problem of authorship: for her mere acolytes cannot possibly have solved major problems of philosophy that she failed without betraying this prime directive. The appearances must be saved. Hence her ultimate authorship must be somehow asserted - even of those solutions she "hadn't worked on...enough to even begin to formulate".
But this in itself produces other tensions. What if Peikoff has got it wrong? What if "the first major application of Ayn Rand's epistemology" is not a triumph but an embarrassment? What then? And in fact it seems that Peikoff has had some kind of crisis of confidence over his theory, leading to a major internal schism. After all, he's been claiming he has this "breakthrough" solution for years now yet has dragged his feet over publishing it, and now is presenting it via a third party as a "collaboration" rather than risk putting out simply, say, "Leonard Peikoff's Solution To The Problem of Induction". So now we have plausible deniability. But on the other hand if the solution turns out to be right then it's almost worse - the pupil trumping the master using the master's own tools. Given Peikoff's remarkable feat of self-abnegation in his Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, where he presents himself as the entirely passive vessel for Rand's epochal doctrine, this must have been unthinkable. Ah, the lot of the cultist apparatchik is perpetual anxiety. And we haven't even got to Chapter 1.