Friday, May 16, 2014

Surprise Defection from the Peikoff and ARI

This is actually somewhat old news (several months old), but apparently there's been a rather startling defection from the ARI/Peikoff/Orthodox wing of Objectivism. This isn't so much as an excommunication as a pure defection, and from an entirely unexpected source. Dave Harriman, Peikoff's most prominent philosophical protege and virtual co-author of The Logical Leap, has defected from the ARI to TAS, from Peikoff to David Kelley. I have no idea why Harriman defected. Usually, there are personal reasons for splits of this sort, which are masked with philosophical ones. Apparantly, Harriman and Peikoff have not been on speaking terms for last year or so. Beyond that we know nothing and are not likely ever knowing much more than that, as it looks Peikoff and ARI are going to be silent on this one, since it's obviously a defection that places them in a very awkward position. They cannot, after all, turn Harriman into a complete non-person, since Harriman, rather than Peikoff himself, wrote the book which introduced Peikoff's theory of induction to the world. That book won't be disappearing from ARI book shelves any time soon, regardless of what Peikoff may privately think of Harriman. My guess is that this weakens the orthodox faction over at ARI, and makes Peikoff and the old guard look out of touch and even irrelevant to many within the Objectivist movement.

Those of us who are outsiders and critics of Objectivism have always regarded Harriman some suspicion, not only for his close ties with Peikoffian orthodoxy, but for his rather eccentric views on physics. Kelley's version of Objectivism has always sought to make Rand's ideas as intellectual respectable as possible. Will Harriman's views on modern physics soften now that he has thrown over the incubus of Peikofian orthodoxy? Hard to say. But his first scheduled talks for the Atlas Society have nothing to do with physics.