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.


QuantumHaecceity said...

Greg, please, please shut up. You sound like a vindictive, childish gossip columnist.

I was so proud of you when you hadn't belched out anymore of this hateful, petty tripe for about 2 months and thought you finally quit.

Please knock this off Greg. Don't you think enough is enough?

Somebody leaves some group or organization, which happens probably everyday, and you act like its some type of Communist, political thing, like say Oswald has defected to the Soviets.

Hence your pathetic use of the word DEFECTION.

Please go away Greg.

This mess is seriously pathetic. We got to have you reporting on people's death, reporting on what someone said about that person's death. Get all up in people's business and reporting on personal matters and all this.

Greg, please knock this childish mess off. Did an Objectivist slap someone in your family or something?

What is your malfunction boy?

Neil Parille said...

I went to the link and apparently a lot of people think Harriman should make some kind of apology for his complicity in various Peikoff/ARI attacks on people.

For example in 2000 he ganged up with Peikoff to attack Hotthelf's fawning On Ayn Rand. He stood by and said nothing when Peikoff attacked McCaskey.

Only one person mentioned his rewriting of Rand's Journals, which seems to me te worst think he's done.

Neil Parille said...

Interestingly, Peikoff has been silent on this. Maybe he realized his denunciation of McCaskey backfired.

Anonymous said...

Peikoff/ARI broke w/ Harriman over a year ago. Word on FB from ARIans is that Peikoff finally realized Harriman is a physics phraud, and that ARI never really had any love for Harriman anyway. Calling it a 'defection' implies that things were fine and then diamond Dave had some sort of change of heart. That's contrary to the stories people in the know are telling on Facebook.

Daniel Barnes said...

As I've written earlier, the greatest intellectual challenge in The Logical Leap is just trying to figure out who's idea the whole mess was in the first place. Harriman credits Peikoff who in turn credits Rand, who never did any work on induction in the first place.
So now we see the cultic tensions play out. If the thing had been a hit, Rand could get the ultimate credit, which is a cultic requirement, with Leonard getting a pat on the way through and Harriman the dutiful vehicle. As it was a flop however, and even an embarrassment, Harriman takes the hit and Peikoff and Rand get a fig leaf of plausible deniability - from their fans at least. Add some personal dynamics and next thing you know he's gone.

That would be my guess.

Anonymous said...


Peikoff tells us plainly in the preface: AR came up with the theory of concepts, LP came up with the theory of generalizations (chapter 1), and DH attempted to apply it to the history of physics. There's a lot of unclarity in that book, but who's responsible for what is crystal.

Daniel Barnes said...

Yes but if it's a flop - and it certainly seems it is - who's responsible? Rand for her theory of concept formation? Peikoff for his theory of generalisation? Harriman for unsuccessful application? All of the above? It's not at all clear. (I would say it has to be Peikoff, incidentally. But note the hesitancy with which this whole project has been shrouded in since its inception years ago, and the lack of clear authorship of this "new approach" even now. It is an apparatchik dilemma!)

Jzero said...

"Greg, please, shut up."

Ah. The infallible arguments of QH.

Neil Parille said...

Apparently Peikoff hadn't been speaking to Harriamn for a year before the split. I suspect something went wrong in addition to the book not being much of a success.

gregnyquist said...

Peikoff/ARI broke w/ Harriman over a year ago.

Maybe so. But there was no official announcement, and Harriman's lectures are still offered for sale at the ARI estore.

Word on FB from ARIans is that Peikoff finally realized Harriman is a physics phraud, and that ARI never really had any love for Harriman anyway

If Peikoff realized that Harriman was a fraud, why are Harriman's physics lectures still offered at the ARI estore? And what about "The Logical Leap." If Harriman is a fraud, what does this say about the scientific portions of the book? Could it be that McCaskey was right all along? And if so, where is Peikoff's apology to McCaskey?

It seems likely that Harriman was disliked at ARI. After all, it was Harriman who roused Peikoff to go after McCaskey, leading to the embarrassing scandal. And there are reports that Harriman was using his status as Peikoff's favorite protege to lord over the ARI faithful, engendering much resentment.

Calling it a 'defection' implies that things were fine and then diamond Dave had some sort of change of heart.

At some point things were fine (like after the publication of "Logical Leap") and at some point Harriman did have a change of heart (like after he wore out his welcome at ARI and Peikoff got tired of him). Defections usually have a long genesis. Now we can quibble about definitions of words, but Harriman has not been officially excommunicated from ARI, and yet we find him now doing business with TAS. Sure has the shape and lineaments of a defection. Obviously, Harriman is a unique case, since neither Peikoff or ARI can officially excommunicate him without appearing ridiculous.

What I find most curious is: why would David Kelley wish to bring Harriman on over at TAS? Not only has Harriman indulged in dubious physics, but he is not exactly regarded as a nice person. It seems that Harriman can only bring TAS down a notch or two, closer to where ARI is.

Also another curious note, unrelated to Harriman. Apparently, Yaron Brook was introduced to Nathaniel Branden at a party and they spoke together for maybe as long as half an hour. Branden suggested they have lunch together and talk some more, but Brook refused.

Mark Plus said...

>Apparently, Yaron Brook was introduced to Nathaniel Branden at a party and they spoke together for maybe as long as half an hour.

It looks as if some Randroids in the Peikoff camp realize that they need contingency plans in place to start the reconciliation in the Objectivist movement after Peikoff's departure from the world of the flesh. If Brook can see the ridiculousness now of Rand's reaction to her affair with Nathaniel Branden over two generations ago, then he might bring some overdue emotional maturity to the ARI side of the Objectiverse.

Francois Tremblay said...

"Saturday, June 21: Dinner Event: Who is John Galt? Panel.

For this panel examining where we find traces of Ayn Rand’s hero John Galt in the real world, Harriman will speak on "Isaac Newton and Power of Reason," offering reflections on the similarities between Newton and Galt."

Hooray, he's gonna butcher history too. Puke!

Daniel Barnes said...

I thought that was hilarious too. Just consider the whacked-out thinking behind such a premise. Is Harriman going to discuss how John Galt might lose all his money investing in a foolish stock market bubble, as Isaac Newton did in the tulip bubble? Oh, but of course not. Because he's an Objectivist, he's way smarter than Isaac Newton.

Being fictional helps too.

Mark Plus said...

"the similarities between Newton and Galt."

Like their adult virginity?

Anonymous said...

Missing Piece of the Puzzle?

A few years ago (2?) there was an online Q&A with Peikoff about DIM. Someone points out to Peikoff that Schroedinger's Cat is supposed to be a reductio of Borh's position, even though DIM presents Schroedinger as pro-Bohr, and the Cat as a pro-Bohr argument.

After some discussion, Peikoff concedes the callers point completely, and is noticeably irritated at Harriman over the whole thing.

It was obviously embarrassing to Peikoff, and clear from the video the Peikoff blamed Harriman for the error.

(The video used to be on ARI's website, but since the redesign I couldn't find it.)

Rumor has it that this was the beginning of the end of Harriman's reign as "the world's only rational physicist."

Per above questions about ARI selling Harriman's lectures, etc... LP has broken with and/or denounced almost every major Objectivist. ARI's policy for about 10yrs has been Peikoff containment; they only listen to what he says when he threatens to dismantle the institute, which he has the right to do by its founding charter. The mere fact of a conflict between Peikoff and an Objectivist is meaningless in the eyes of ARI folk now.

michalek said...

Anonymous: I think this is what you had in mind? The bit about Schrodinger starts around 25:30

Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks Anonymous, interesting observations.

Anonymous said...


Daniel Barnes said...

Thanks Anon. Doesn't sound like Harriman's much of an asset to anyone.

Anonymous said...

So in AS Part 3, does Ron Paul play Jesus? Leave it to one of Rosenbaum's "heroic types" (a hard-charging American businessman) to make a movie that shoehorns Christianity into AS. The notion that businessmen are intellectuals is one of the bizarre literary gimmicks of hers that she fell for herself - and it's come back to bite her in the butt.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons why Harriman left:

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