Since I regularly attack orthodox Objectivists for failing to demonstrate any intellectual curiosity or rigor, it's only fair to point an example of at least one (now former) orthodox Objectivist who has shown at least some capacity to think outside the Randian box. Robert Tracinski, editor of the Intellectual Activist apparently has created a bit of stir amoing the ARI faithful because of his criticism and partial rejection of Rand's theory of history. "I do not mean to deny the crucial importance of fundamental philosophical ideas," Tracinski writes, "but to suggest that the relationship between philosophical ideas and all other ideas, and the means by which ideas are propagated in a culture, is more complex than Objectivists have recognized." Most interesting is Tracinski's explanation of why he's moving away from the Randian theory. He found that when trying to do journalistic work on a daily basis, he kept running across utterly novel experiences that could not always be easily integrated with his pre-existing knowledge. In other words, experience was teaching him that not everything in the world could be explained either by Rand's philosophy or by philosophy in general, leading him to conclude that "Any valid new observation or theory in a specialized field is based on an immersion in facts and observations, and on a whole range of lesser integrations and preliminary conclusions derived from those observations," a conclusion that veers toward my own position.
The question is: now that Tracinski has taken this one step away from orthodox Objectivism, will he be inexorably led, by the logic of that one step, away from Objectivism? Some orthodox Objectivists have accused Tracinski of moving away from Objectivism in order to become a conservative. I don't see that yet. He still seems pretty orthodox on most other points of Objectivism. However, once an individual makes that first step away from strict doctrine, the first thing that happens is that other orthodox Objectivists turn on him and essentially drive him out of the fold. Now Tracinski may be able to find refuge with the TOC crowd, where he's sure to be welcomed. But rejecting Rand's theory of history is a pretty big deal. It's much more important to Objectivism than most of Rand's admirers and critics realize, because it gives the philosophy an almost quasi-religious eschatological force. It provides Rand's disciples with a secular form of salvation which promises the (nearly) inevitable triumph of Objectivist values (see Rand's Playboy interview for more info). Once you reject this theory, it's just a short step to asking what else might be wrong with Objectivism. After all, Rand's main focus in epistemology (i.e., theory of concepts, problem of universals) is clearly motivated by her theory of history; the one follows the other like the cart follows the horse. So to doubt the one is to (at least potentially) experience doubts about the other. Once, however, you begin doubting Rand's epistemology (and there's a lot of evidence compiled by cognitive scientists that give compelling reasons for such doubts), it's just a short step to doubting many other doctrines in Objectivism, particularly the Aristolean methodology embraced by Rand and her rather naive politics.