A is A, Except for Book Reviews

Stephen Hicks continues the venerable if mortifying Objectivist tradition of “reviewing” a book he hasn’t read, then accusing the authors of superficiality, low intellectual standards, and wanting to exploit buzz words for click-bait. Would he endorse this procedure for reviewing his own books? Or is that too Kantian a question?  

This has been installment #2 in my continuing series on Standard Objectivist Procedure or Studies in Objectivist Propaganda, or whatever I called it, not that it matters. Here is installment #1. 

30 thoughts on “A is A, Except for Book Reviews

  1. With the proper qualifications and caveats, to say things on a blog about a book from reading only some of it (here, what is available through Amazon’s “see more” feature) seems fine. Stephen makes good efforts to add the proper qualifications and caveats, I think — whether or not they are, in the end, adequate. He does not do anything close to what Rand does is “reviewing” Rawls’ “A Theory of Justice” (blatant misinterpretation of a complicated and subtle argument, blanket condemnation, proud statement of having not read the book and not intending to)! Whatever sins Stephen is guilty of here (and I’m not convinced he is guilty of much or any), I don’t think they are on par with Rand’s (or those of any other Objectivist who has followed Rand’s pattern here). Moreover, Stephen seems to have avoided the worst sins of today’s anti-woke-left cultural warriors in making relevant distinctions and treating CRT and related ideas pretty fairly. There just isn’t anything egregious here. (However, I entirely agree with your take on Tracinski’s “Woke Kant” nonsense.)

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    • If I took your comment at face value, nothing would differentiate Stephen’s “review” from Rand’s “review” of Rawls.

      You say Stephen makes “relevant distinctions.” So does Rand. She tells us that she hasn’t read A Theory of Justice, and has no intention of doing so. She tells us straight out that “one cannot judge a book by its reviews.” She then offers a “discussion” of a review of A Theory of Justice by Marshall Cohen, asking readers to “please regard the following discussion as the review of a review.” So what she says in her essay is not a discussion of A Theory of Justice at all, hence not a “blatant misinterpretation” (etc.) of Rawls. Rawls was never directly under discussion. Cohen was. “Mr. Cohen’s remarks deserve attention in their own right” (“An Untitled Letter,” p. 146, Philosophy: Who Needs It).

      Cohen offers several direct quotations from A Theory of Justice in his review. Rand relies selectively on these quotations to make the ideological points against Rawls she thinks it necessary to make. The rest of Rawls she ignores. Isn’t she entitled to ignore it? She’s carefully qualified her claims to tell the reader up front that she’s not really discussing Rawls at all. If she’s not really discussing Rawls at all, why is she obligated to respect the details or complexities of his argument? If those details and complexities don’t appear in Cohen’s review, she’s defined her task in such a way as to imply that they don’t matter. The essay is called “an untitled letter,” so no one can accurately describe it as a review or discussion of Rawls. The title doesn’t mention Rawls, the first half of the essay doesn’t discuss Rawls, and the part that mentions Rawls tells us that it’s not a discussion of Rawls.

      Granted, near the end, she does seem to be issuing a blanket condemnation of Rawls. That seems inconsistent, at least to a malice-filled hater of the good for being the good like me. But if we’re willing to read her charitably enough, we could say that if we respect the careful qualifications she makes at the outset, her condemnations of “Rawls” are really just condemnations of Rawls* or Shadow Rawls, i.e., Rawls-filtered-through-Marshall-Cohen. Ask any analytic philosopher. The asterisk makes all the difference.

      The preceding is–I would insist–a fully accurate summary of what Rand does in that essay. But it’s also a reductio of what she does, and Exhibit A of a specifically ideological form of intellectual dishonesty. A person can carefully, legalistically qualify every assertion that comes out of his mouth or into his writing and still gaslight his audience. That’s what Rand has done, at least for the part of the audience that accepts her critique of Rawls on the basis of “An Untitled Letter.” Her aim is to demonize Rawls so that every would-be reader of A Theory of Justice perceives a conflict between the task of reading Rawls and the task of upholding a sense of personal moral worth (see p. 160). According to Rand, every proposition ascribable to A Theory of Justice–every “hint, touch, or smell” of its thesis– should induce a person of moral worth to regard himself as under assault by Rawls, and to lash out in a spirit of moral self-preservation (whether he’s read Rawls or not, or just read Rawls through Amazon’s search feature).

      It’s of no concern to Rand that no one can actually do philosophy in that state of mind. Since right-wing ideology is at stake, the conditions of philosophy cease to matter. The goal is either to convince the reader not to read Rawls, or if he does, to read Rawls with the suspicion one reserves for a con artist or a fanatic.

      What I’ve just said about Rand is true of Stephen’s dismissal of this CRT book. The only difference is that he’s gaslighted his audience less adeptly than Rand. But he’s done it in the same way, for the same end.

      If you want to defend Stephen from that charge, you need to find a way of reconciling his commitment to the following two claims below. These are direct quotations from his post. Note that the first clause of the first sentence below flatly contradicts your attempt to defend Stephen. You ascribe “proper caveats” and so on to him. But he’s the first to admit that he wrote the whole thing on the fly, not giving the slightest shit about “proper caveats.” The proper caveats are in your mind, not on the page he’s written.

      Those few remarks were all made quickly and without elaboration, so who knows how deep the CRT engagement is.

      My sense, accordingly, is that the book is a collection of essays by writers who think we live in a too-racist society but who are using “CRT” as a label more because it’s trendy than because they’re deeply conversant with and committed to CRT.

      The word “accordingly” marks both a bluff and a non-sequitur. The first statement (really a mispunctuated question) is a confession of ignorance about the contents of the book with respect to CRT, and of the intentions or epistemic state of the authors. The second statement claims to infer a “sense” of the book as a whole (and the authors’ intentions and epistemic state) with respect to CRT–from a confession of ignorance about the contents of the book, precisely with respect to CRT.

      Pause on that for a moment to let it fully sink in. He’s telling us that he doesn’t know, and then he’s telling us that “accordingly” he does know. In other words, according to his confession of ignorance, he has…knowledge.

      Who knows how deep the CRT engagement is? Not Stephen Hicks, that’s for sure.

      I didn’t bring up the law of identity in my title entirely in jest. The conjunction of claims Stephen makes is at the level of Moore’s Paradox. Put in layman’s terms, it’s complete fucking nonsense. But Stephen offers it unblinkingly as an instance of Reason. In other words, his version of Reason is: paradox in the service of right-wing ideology. I regard that as an assault on philosophy. But frankly, I regard the whole Objectivist movement as one long assault on philosophy. It began with Ayn Rand and has remained that way. This particular blog post is one instance of a pattern that began in 1961, at Rand’s hands, with “For the New Intellectual.” Since then, Objectivists have done exactly what they accuse their antagonists like Kant of doing: used philosophy to destroy it.

      The phrase “My sense” is Stephen’s gaslighting way of appealing to his own “authority” in front of an audience that buys that authority. This audience is to be led to believe that if Stephen Hicks has the “sense” that these authors are using CRT because it’s trendy (rather than sincerely believing what they’re writing), well then–it must be true. Stephen Hicks, after all, is the Reasonable Camp’s heir to Leonard Peikoff and/or David Kelley. Who ya gonna believe? Stephen Hicks? Or your own inferences from a very short and simple text?

      Stephen has a genteel way about him that disarms (or appears to disarm) a strident critic like yours truly. If you look at his response to Sean Samis on the same page, it gives the faux appearance of standing above a fray that Stephen himself has initiated. Having ascended his own personal Mt Olympus, Stephen gives us all a tedious rhetorical display intended to suggest that he, Stephen, harbors no passive-aggressive malice whatsoever. Gosh, no. All of that yucky stuff is on the other side. Is it, really? I’ve read Stephen assiduously for the last twenty years. I think I can say with full confidence that, no, the passive-aggressive malice is not all on the other side. You don’t have to go far to find it on his blog.

      You couldn’t gather from Stephen’s display of jocular magnanimity that what he’s actually done is half-read a book in order to poison the well of discourse on the topic–a tactic he gets directly from Ayn Rand. Isn’t it time that someone with an actual knowledge of Rand’s works stood up and pointed out what’s going on here? Objectivists and their sympathizers have basically made seven decades of excuses for this shit.

      Stephen has spent his entire career attacking the malfeasances of the Left, and to some extent the Right. But what about the malfeasances of Objectivism? On that topic, he’s been conspicuously silent. But can any honest person claim that there are no malfeasances worth discussing?

      I would re-iterate my challenge: would Stephen regard what he’s done with this book a permissible way of reading his own works? Would it be a legitimate way of my reading whatever response he writes to my critique, if he does? I could in that case half-read his response, and then offer my grandiloquent “sense” that Stephen was virtue signaling. Would it be a legitimate way of reading the works of Ayn Rand, or those of Ayn Rand scholars? I would say it isn’t. It’s not a legitimate way of reading anything because it’s not a way of reading anything at all.

      A piece of writing can’t impartially be judged by disconnected snippets. Nor can a critic evade the responsibility of offering an interpretation of a piece of writing by invoking his hand-waving “sense” of what it says, especially when he’s engaged in character-assassination of the authors. If he’s going to attack the authors’ character, then he fucking well has to read the whole book. And if he doesn’t, then he stands condemned, not them. The difference between Stephen’s condemnation of this book and its authors and my condemnation of his condemnation is that I don’t need to see more than I’ve seen to issue mine. He, alas, is in a different predicament. He’s welcome to it.

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      • SH’s main caveat is to the effect of “take what I’m saying here with a grain of salt because I’ve only read selections from this work.” And his conclusion is pretty reasonable — at least as anti-CRT stuff goes. Something like: “this book seems to have some sensible diversity/inclusion content and is not simply (bad, crazy, evil) CRT ideology” (he is, if anything, discouraging the more meat-headed anti-CRT folks from reflexively condemning the thing as “CRT trash” or whatnot). If there is anything to criticize here, it is a background mischaracterization (and demonization of) of CRT (and various present-day-popular left or “woke” ideas more generally). What he has done seems pretty analogous to you knowing more about topic X than me and my asking you what you think of some work, based on reading only bits of it.

        Maybe there is some kind of abuse of epistemic authority here? SH is something of an authority (in certain circles, to some extent beyond Objectivism) so there is some hazard here and potential for abuse. I would be much more concerned about such abuse here if his conclusion here were some blanket condemnation. But that is not the case. Again: we have epistemic caveats, consistently adhered to (not the case with Rand’s Untitled Letter), generating a reasonable, even-handed conclusion (again, not the case with Rand’s Untitled Letter).

        Stepping back from his post, I would certainly criticize SH for buying into some meat-headed philosophical criticisms of broadly woke-ist ideology (as an embodiment of no-truth or truth-is-power or whatnot “post-modernism”). These ideas are doing some damage as right-wing ideology (you need better criticisms here than what SH and, say, Jordan Peterson offer). I also suspect that, when one treats something as semi-obvious God’s honest truth when this is not really the case at all, all the politeness and formal even-handedness in the world (not so much exhibited by woke-ist dialectical tendencies fed by this stance) will not prevent one from falling into epistemic and dialectical vice. Though I have not kept up with his work in detail, I doubt that SH is immune from this. I just don’t see much of this disease here. Perhaps if I had kept up in more detail, I would see instances of a bad pattern emerge.

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      • Re Rand’s review-non-review of Rawls, she would in later work refer back to it as if she has engaged with Rawls himself. And at one point she even forgets what she originally wrote. In “An Untitled Letter” she discusses Marshall Cohen’s complaint that Rawls does not give any weight to envy. But in “The Metaphysical vs. the Manmade,” apparently confusing Rawls with Cohen, she describes Rawls’s theory (which she incidentally characterises as “obscenely evil”) as seeking to “subordinate man’s nature and mind to the desires (including the ENVY)” of the hypothetical contractors in the original position. Thus she not only clearly thought that she had enough information to condemn Rawls unread, but also she failed to keep track of the info she did have.

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  2. Irfan, I’ve also posted my impressions of books I’ve not read. A book may be in my library because I might want to read it in the course of future work. Once, someone responding to such a post asked enough about it for me to mention, in giving my further impressions, that I had not yet read the book. He was livid. I was amazed. Whatever the book was, it was one I thought would be of some interest for some of the audience or at least welcome that they come to know about the book. I still think I’m doing nothing wrong by such a communication.

    I was reminded that that odd encounter had once happened when this morning I happened across an old interview with Nozick I’d not heard. I just wanted to hear him speak again; I’d heard him speak in person years go, but it was so long ago. It turned out that in this interview he was being questioned about things in his book THE EXAMINED LIFE which is the only book of Nozick’s I never purchased or read. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ldngi2WtGik And here are my jots about what’s in the interview and apparently in the book:
    1990 interview regarding The Examined Life (begin at 3:30)
    Initial Interest in Philosophy
    Meaning of Life
    Parents and Children
    Material Goods
    Creative Molding of One’s Life
    The Holiness of Everyday Life – Buddhism
    No to Invocation of Modern Physics for Philosophic Predispositions
    Happiness as Feel-Good not Only Important or Basic Thing of a Life
    Darkness (Rilke quote) Responsiveness, but Not on Par with the Good
    Suffering and Experience of Life
    Enlightenment East and West
    That might give one some indication whether one should try out the interview. Years ago just perusing the book in a bookstore, I determined not to buy it or read it. Given my greater interests in other writings, I’ll just not have time for this one. Today, I don’t see candidate books in person except at the stalls at meetings of the American Philosophical Association. I end up buying about 14 when I go to that, and that tells me that most books I buy are only from information about the books online, mostly from sellers such as Amazon, not from having the book in hand.

    One thing online that is sometimes helpful in estimating the worth of a book to oneself is its Table of Contents. In the case of the book Stephen had remarked on, but had not read, which book I learned of only through you, its Table of Contents alone told me this book was not for my lifetime (and of itself seemed to induce a feeling in me of about-to-throw-up — thank you and Stephen very much).

    Yeah, I was appalled when Rand wrote about Rawls and attacked some of his ideas in a book by him without having read the book. (I’ve not read it, but fortunately have read Nozick and David Richards who seriously studied the book, decades back when I still doing social philosophy, and I wouldn’t write about the book in the way Rand did without reading it myself.) And I was even more appalled when Rand issued an essay called “From the Horses’ Mouth”, who was supposedly Kant, but when I turned the page turned out to be not that horse at all, but an old English-language scholar of Kant (and not one up to the caliber of contemporary Kant scholars).

    What Stephen did was fine by me (neglecting my teetering on throwing up). No, salesmen often don’t tell you what they think is wrong with their product, Objectivism the philosophy in this case. Sales is not a career for me. Glad to hear your thoughts and you providing a space for my thoughts on criticizing that or any philosophy. There is an ocean of talk online for decades on the sociology of Objectivist thinkers. That is without large space in my budget of time.

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  3. I think you’re both missing what strikes me as a relatively straightforward and transparent point. Boiled down to a single proposition, I’m defending a single conditional:

    If you haven’t read a book, it is wrong to cast aspersions on the author’s intentions in writing it.

    Stephen hasn’t read the book, but he does cast aspersions on its authors for writing it. He describes them, derisively, as superficial trend seekers. He does this, ludicrously, while professing not to know the degree of their commitment to CRT. Yet the claim he makes about them depends essentially on the very knowledge he disclaims. Can either of you make that make sense?

    Nothing in either of your comments deals either with the truth of that conditional, or its application to Stephen’s post. But the conditional, and its application to Stephen’s post, was my main point.

    I also don’t see that either of you have answered the challenge I raised. Would you like to be read in the way that Stephen has read this book? Would he? Imagine that instead of reading your comments, I had skimmed them and showered them with derision. Would either of you, or Stephen himself, regard that as a defensible procedure?

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    • I do myself cast speculative aspersions like that, on books or papers, fully read or skimmed, quite often, but I keep them in my own head. Unless maybe we were just chatting over a beer.

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    • Here is what SH says (in conclusion): “My sense, accordingly, is that the book is a collection of essays by writers who think we live in a too-racist society but who are using “CRT” as a label more because it’s trendy than because they’re deeply conversant with and committed to CRT.” I take this to be more of a statement concerning how ‘CRT’ is used, not primarily a statement of the author’s intentions (or any particular aspersion-casting against their intentions). With some caveats, I’ll endorse your conditional though!

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  4. I haven’t read this post by Irfan, but I assume it is motivated by an anti-mind, anti-life orientation.
    But that’s okay, because I am anti-mind and anti-life too.

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  5. Speaking of reviewing the unread, or in this case unseen: in the Dec. 1969 issue of The Objectivist, Rand and Erika Holzer published a jointly-written, scathing review of three recent movies: Bullitt, Charly, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Objectiscuttlebutt has it that only Holzer had actually seen the movies; she told Rand about them, and then together they wrote a review (that feels like Rand’s prose throughout, but as her disciples were all imitating her writing style that’s not dispositive as to apportioning responsibility for the final product) condemning the films in question, as well as the entire film industry for being such as to produce them. Reviewing a movie or other artwork based on someone else’s report of its content seems problematic; she would hardly have welcomed such a review of her own work.

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    • I’m also peeved at Rand’s and Holzer’s repeating the common charge that 2001: A Space Odyssey is “incomprehensible.” I saw it when I was five years old and had no trouble following it. People who call it incomprehensible are just not paying attention.

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      • The three-movie review that included 2001: A Space Odyssey was in the June 1969 issue of The Objectivist under the title “The War of Liberation in Hollywood.” The paragraph asserting the unintelligibility of the film leans mainly on backing of that conclusion by direct quotes from Kubrick on the topic. The complaint (and merit to Kubirck’s mind) is that the film did not have an ARTICULABLE meaning in its arc. I am myself able to have experiences worthwhile in a film that does not have an entirely articulable meaning. That is the same as worthwhile experience possible in absolute music or in mysteries in some of my poetry. / I personally dislike stories (again, again, . . .) that utilize extraterrestrial life, intelligent or not, engaging with this planet and its life. Finer wonder and worth and companions are all right here in the native development of life and intelligence on earth.

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        • “I personally dislike stories (again, again, . . .) that utilize extraterrestrial life, intelligent or not, engaging with this planet and its life.”

          Wow, that’s a dismissal of a pretty vast and diverse genre.

          “Finer wonder and worth and companions are all right here in the native development of life and intelligence on earth.”

          One of the functions of stories about interactions between human and nonhuman intelligence is to provoke reflection on what it means to be human. Such stories aren’t necessarily at war with your “Finer wonder ….” point.

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          • I count with that same defectiveness any stories engaging beyond-nature intelligence, like from heaven. It’s cheap. People’s routine talk, in stories or not, of a quest to find extraterrestrial intelligence “to know we’re not alone” is so twisted. All around us are other animals and our fellows, which in that thought (“to know we’re not alone”) is taking the real company here for dirt when it is everything and the real completeness, richer than any imagination. / There is a film (at least one) of science fiction (I think) that is an example of the use you spoke of, and I’ve noticed it before in that aspect, but I’m failing at getting it recalled just now.

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          • “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel – or have done and thought and felt; or might do and think and feel – is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

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            • Likewise, although stories about meeting extraterrestrials ARE in part about the possibility of meeting extraterrestrials in real life (which after all is a genuine possibility), they’re not JUST about that. They’re also stories of self-understanding, seeing aspects of ourselves externalised as aliens, or seeing ourselves through alien eyes, etc., etc. Those are valid artistic purposes even if there are no aliens.

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              • Think, for example, of three novels by H. G. Wells : The War of the Worlds, The Wonderful Visit, and The Sea-Lady. They detail human encounters with Martian invaders, an angel, and a mermaid, respectively. But they’re not really, or anyway not primarily, about Martians, angels, or mermaids. The War of the Worlds is about showing an imperial power (Britain) or a dominant species (human) what it’s like to be a colonised culture or a species further down the food chain. The Wonderful Visit satirises human society by showing us how it looks through an angel’s eyes. As for The Sea-Lady, I’ve said more about it here:

                https://praxeology.net/unblog03-06.htm#12

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                • But the prospect of meeting actual extraterrestrial intelligence is also important for our self-understanding. How much of rational agency is universal across rational agents, and how much is specific to our biology and evolutionary background? We don’t really know. Even if we found terrestrial animals as intellectually advanced as ourselves, they’d still share our history and DNA broadly speaking. An intelligent alien might well be more different from us than an intelligent octopus.

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                • I like the film “Shape of Water” a lot. Not only does it have another endlessly appealing rendition of ‘beauty and the beast’ but it has one ponder the leaving of one’s whole human world for love of another sort of intelligent and feeling living being.

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                • I must say, concerning extraterrestrial intelligence, I do find it hard to conceive without at least supposing it coming from cellular life, gone to multicellular, gone to excitable cellular systems such as muscle and neurons. Along the lines you say, even with those broad features and Darwinian evolution all in common with earth life, the chemistry and microbiology might be something radically different. / Concerning actually meeting extraterrestrial intelligent beings, I’m in the no-go set, as with Fermi. I expect the most likely reason that we do not detect radiation indicating extraterrestrial intelligence is because there have not been such sources or they have been very sparse and all have been war-makers among themselves and reached nuclear weapons, then sooner or later destroyed themselves. Which I expect is the future of humankind. I like to stress that outcome for us not only to pull people back from what I see as false hope, but to reorient them to accept the end of the species (and all higher animals on the planet) and to accept that, all the same, the life of the species, like the life of the individual, was an end in itself, the only locus of value or meaning. (A good consciousness raising concerning the fantastic occasion in the cosmos that is life on earth is the film Melancholia.)

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                • Sci-fi isn’t really my taste, but of the two films I’ve “recently” seen that involve extra-terrestrials, “Contact” and “Arrival,” I found both pretty enthralling without quite being able to articulate why. I suspect it’s more the terrestrials’ reactions to the extra-terrestrials than the ETs themselves that does it for me. I found both Jodie Foster’s and Amy Adams’s characters incredibly endearing, and found something compelling about the idea of being thrown into a high-stakes situation where the only hope one has of survival is to find a way to communicate with totally alien creatures. Though I don’t think it involved extra-terrestrials, I had a similar reaction to “Interstellar.”

                  That said, I kind of sympathize a bit with Stephen. I often find ordinary terrestrial life alienating enough; I prefer not to add to that sense of alienation by introducing literal aliens into the mix. Speaking of contact with alien beings: I found it hard enough to stay married for long to a small handful of entirely terrestrial women. If I couldn’t pull that off, why bother thinking about aliens? I think it was Goethe who defined genius as “knowing where to stop.”

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                • I saw “Melancholia” soon after it came out, and “enjoyed” it, to my great surprise. (I’m not sure anyone can really “enjoy” it, but I don’t know what other word to use.) I’m not sure how much of this was literal enjoyment of the film, and how much was perverse enjoyment of how much my then-wife Carrie-Ann hated it.

                  It’s a deeply perverse, painful film–hence totally up my aesthetic alley. I didn’t find it “consciousness raising” at all. I found it enjoyable, but in a perverse, neurotic way. There isn’t an attractive character in the whole film, and Justine, the de facto protagonist, is a complete psychological train-wreck–a truly realistic version of Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead. The paradox is that Justine is designed to be a highly arousing character, which worked in my case. The idea of being aroused by such a vicious, neurotic character–and aroused against the film’s apocalyptic backdrop–is part of the total perversity of the film. But the film’s perversity is its genius.

                  I have no intention of ever watching it again. Once was enough.

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                • Arrival is based on a short story by one of the most interesting and most philosophical (but least prolific — he’s only written 17 short stories over the past three decades, and no novels) science fiction authors working today, Ted Chiang. I highly recommend his two anthologies.

                  Irfan, if you don’t want an enhanced feeling of alienation in the face of the possibility of extraterrestrial intelligence, don’t read Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem trilogy. Possibly the darkest story of extraterrestrial contact yet written. Yes, darker than all the stories where aliens merely enslave or wipe out humanity. It’s brilliant but horrific.

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    • I wasn’t clear on whether Holzer and Rand were both listed as authors of the review, or whether Holzer was listed and Rand was inferred on “stylometric” grounds as an unlisted ghost author/editor. Assuming that Rand hadn’t seen the movies, the first case strikes me as objectionable, but not the second. If you’ve seen a movie and I haven’t, and you ask for my help in drafting a review, I don’t need to have seen the movie to help you. But in that case, you bear full responsibility for what’s in the review, not me. Whereas if we’re both listed as authors, we both bear responsibility, in which case my failure to see the movie is morally irresponsible.

      I was a “ghost editor” behind almost all of Christopher Hitchens’s Slate columns in the 2000s, but though he often took my edits, he never gave me credit for playing that (unpaid) role; consequently, I don’t take responsibility for anything he said in the columns. Carrie-Ann Biondi was Frances Kamm’s editor for several of Kamm’s books, doing a fair bit of the re-writing of some of Kamm’s major papers. But the papers were Kamm’s, not Carrie-Ann’s. I help edit my present company’s white papers, but my name never appears on them, and I take no responsibility for their contents. The last one I edited was about Diagnostic Related Group Reimbursement Downgrades, but I’ve never actually handled a DRG Downgrade myself, and hope never to have to.

      That said, it’s not clear how anyone can know whether Rand saw the movies or not. The Objectivist rumor mill presents epistemic problems of its own. Unless I can pinpoint a source, and independently verify its reliability, I tend to discount anything coming out of Objectiscuttlebutt.

      I think it’s obvious that Rand’s readings of classic works of philosophy and literature are extremely tendentious. But critics often go further and assert that Rand hadn’t actually read what she claimed to have read, or seemed to have read. I’ve never been convinced of claims of that sort. In some ways, they seem to understate the problems with Rand’s interpretive procedures: some of her interpretations are so far off that it seems worse that she came up with her interpretation after reading the text as opposed to after not having read them.

      In any case, her omissions are often bad enough. Can anyone really discuss Romantic art without discussing Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, or Blake at all (or any of the Bronte sisters), and while making only hand-waving references to Byron, Goethe, and Schiller that coyly side-step what she’s actually read of them? (She claims to have seen Don Carlos, not read it.) Hard to imagine an MA thesis being accepted under that description, much less a full-scale “manifesto” on Romantic art.

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  6. I have a good sense of all of those sci-fi works you mention, Roderick, through a set of assiduous readings done on Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature. Though I couldn’t pretend to tell you anything of substance about their contents, my sense is that they’re all lamentable exercises in wokeness and virtue signaling, and therefore deserve universal derision.

    Having offered that admittedly incoherent judgment, I refuse to acknowledge or respond to criticism, on the grounds of its being a waste of my time and an affront to my personal dignity and high minded intellectual standards to do so. I specialize in dishing it out, not taking it.

    On to my next PR adventure masquerading as intellectual inquiry! Time to attack some practitioners of CRT and post-Modernism!

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