On episode 70 of Objectivist Leonard Peikoff’s podcast (which I listen to from time to time and often enjoy), he informs us that it’s rational to mourn the death of a celebrity like Michael Jackson, even though (or even if) he also did terrible things, if he was a musical genius and if that matters to you. Whew.
He also responds to a question about someone filming an interview where there is a painting hanging over a mantle in the background. The questioner, an anarchist, asks if this is right; and if so, why shouldn’t the director also have to pay royalties to the person who painted the wall itself over the mantle.
In Peikoff’s reply he denigrates anarchists as those who don’t believe in rights (see his weak Anarchism is evil, claiming that anarchism is a form of “subjectivism”); he cavalierly dismisses the “ridiculous” notion that the painter of the wall deserves royalties–after all, he does nothing original; he just uses methods and paint invented “by others” (one wonders why he is entitled to paint the wall at all, according to Objectivist notions on IP). But he never answers the question of why, or even whether, the documentary maker should have to pay royalties to the artist who painted the painting. And he sets out a typically confused justification of IP as having to do with people who invent something “original” that “has” “marketable value.” Whatever. Here are some other notes on earlier shows, adapted from emails to friends about this.
On Attending Church and Being a Bridesmaid, Tenure, and Drugs for Grief; and the Morality of Show Notes
On the podcast around May 20, 2009–although he previously said it’s okay to be a bridesmaid at a religious wedding, he now says it’s immoral to play an instrument for money at a wedding–you are aiding and abetting immorality! Harumph. Also: he claims tenure to be “immoral.” He said in another one around this time that it’s moral to take psychotropic drugs to help you deal with extreme grief. A listener wrote in to ask if he could add show notes on his site, but Peikoff said he’s doing the show for free and has no time; and doesn’t trust anyone else, since they might make a mistake.
Is it Irrational to be Fat? Masturbation; Attending Church
On episode 51 or 52, I think, he answers the question of whether you can be an Objectivist if you are very fat; and then he answers another one about masturbation, opining on its philosophical benefits.
Peikoff also says that it’s okay for an Objectivist to go to a religious ceremony, even do the kneeling, following along in saying prayers, etc.
They have an answer for everything!
On another podcast, he or his participants discuss abortion–and make the standard offhand Randroid comment that you can never outlaw abortion even at late stage, even if fetus is viable, because it’s inside the woman–and “dependent” on her. Note that they also think it’s okay to kill civilians in bombing their enemy government, and presumably to kill a hostage held by a bad guy, to save yourself. But it seems to me this is inconsistent. If we assume the baby is late-stage enough to clearly have rights, then what is the relevance that it “is” “dependent” on the mom? So what. It seems to me the mom is analogous to the hostage: you have to kill the hostage to save yourself (or some loved one). Likewise, what if you have to kill the mom (actualy, do less: just restrain her actions, prevent her from aborting) to save the baby?
Update: see Objectivist Hate Fest
Objectivism hates God more than gays; prostitution and sex
Around Nov. 2008, Peikoff pontificates on the gay marriage vote in California. He says both sides are wrong, but if forced to choose he would choose the pro-gay-marriage side, since letting gays marry is trivial, but the religious types are a serious threat, blah blah blah.
He also repeated his bizarre claim that there is no purpose to prostitution since (a) the purpose of sex is some intimate sexual union; and (b) if all you want is physical pleasure, you can just “take care of that yourself”.
What is bizarre IMO is his repeated insistence in several podcasts that the purely physical pleasure derived from masturbation is “as good as” that derived from, say, sex with a call girl. “The orgasmic climax is the same.” Uhh, okay.
Peikoff on Circumcision (whim-worshipping!), Down’s Children (Immoral!), and dualism (ehhh, depends); Lying
On the 10/27 podcast Peikoff comments about circumcision that he’s against it, it’s mutilation, (see around 5:19-). There is no legitimate reason–it’s either “primitive religion, abject conformity, or the evil of destructiveness.” Uh, the evil of destructiveness…??
At 11:25 he addresses free will and dualism. He says that he rejects dualism in the Platonic sense of “opposing” realms. But he also rejects monism if it’s the type that makes you choose–either the material world is real (materialism) and the conscience is just an illusion; or the idea that only consciousness is real (idealism). rather, they are “dualists” in the sense of agreeing that there are two things (matter, causal things; and consciousness, or the will, teleology), but they are integrated, and not opposed to each other, and have “different characteristics–gravity will make your body drop, but not your “mind”. Now note that this is eerily similar to Hoppe’s own dualistic approach and his realistic reformation of MIsesian epistemolgoy–basically the same thing. Of course Hoppe would not say the teleological and causal realms are “opposed” to each other.
Note also then Peikoff, after saying that the faculty of perception is a different “kind of thing” than “matter,” and has “different characteristics” (it doesn’t fall due to gravity like a ball would), he says that “and ONE of the attributes of consciousness is that it has free will”. Wow, how easy! This is very similar to Machan’s “ontological” argument regarding this issue (and Kelley too), when they just assert downward causation; and also Machan’s approach to IP. After all, there are “ontologically” different types of “entities,” each having different “attributes.” We “create” some of these “things,” and “therefore” “own” them, just as you own material things you appropriate. Why not just let there be ownership rights in all “kinds” of ontological “things”? What’s it harm? (In my view, this is similar to liberals’ rights-inflation–how inventing new, positive rights is not free; it comes at the expense of negative, natural rights.) It’s a way of brushing the problem under the table.
BTW in the 11/3 podcast, Peikoff (at about 6:25) declaims it to be immoral to carry a Down’s Syndrome baby to term–based in part on the idea that it is not self-supporting (productive). He thus adopts the Provenzo-Hsieh horrible quasi-euthenestic approach they share.
At 4:58: Peikoff justifies his view that lying is okay to protect your privacy–the reason being that if you just refuse to answer or say “none of your business” in some contexts, that is tantamount to an admission. This reminds me of Randy Barnett’s view that it’s not fraudulent or vitiates an agreement if one party lies about some aspect of the purchase–in his Rational Bargaining Theory and Contract: Default Rules, Hypothetical Consent, the Duty to Disclose, and Fraud:
Once again the issue involves the meaning of silence. To fail to disclose some fact is to remain silent about it. Those who favor a duty to disclose contend that sometimes such silence can constitute a fraudulent misrepresentation. This implication of silence is graphically highlighted in the Laidlaw case by the buyer’s silence in the face of the seller’s direct question concerning whether the buyer had any information that would affect the price of tobacco. The buyer’s silence conveyed a false representation that the buyer had no such information. Was this intentional misrepresentation fraudulent? I say no.
On the Patriot Act:
In the podcast around Sept. 13, 2008 he seems to oppose the PATRIOT act and spying on civilians… and offhandedly criticizes Bush for the way he’s fighting the war on terror, in part because Bush he hasn’t “declared” the war. If he had, that woul be different, … but “you have to do that”… a bizarre legalistic viewpoint I’ve heard other Randians make.
On Masturbation (around Sept. 3, 2008):
On this one, asked him about going to a prostitute for pure physical pleasure, or for conversation. Peikoff says that you can’t have real conversation with her, so that’s not the reason. And he says, as for pure pleasure, self-pleasure should suffice. Well, okay then! He had some dismissive comment that masturbation is as good as “rubbing on someone else” if you just want “mere” physical pleasure. Incredible.
On Ethics for Terminal People (Aug. 18, 2008):
In this one, he has some bizarre comments about ethics for dying people. Someone asked him about someone, say, with a tumor and months to live–why shoudln’t he take a huge loan out that he can’t repay, or kill an enemy. (Peikoff also does a decent job criticizing Aristotle’s idea of the “mean.”) Peikoff says that ethics is not for the dying. It’s for the living who have long-range projects. Then he tries to weasel out of it by saying why would the guy want the money anyway. Well, okay, maybe he wants it for a kid. And maybe he wants to kill some scoundrel who is dating his daughter and sure to ruin her life. He also says that society itself would still have a justification in stopping the a-moral ethics-less terminal guy from committing crimes.
Peikoff says that most of the time since you led a moral life, being moral is ingrained so you would not wan to do it. But then he says, bizarrely, that in some cases, e.g. where you could kill some bad person–no time to wait for the justice system to operate, or someone you really want to help–then you “should take advantage of the inapplicability of morality, he can get away with it”. !!! You “should” “take advantage of the inapplicability of moraltiy” ?! To “get away with it” to achieve what you want? This is just so screwed up on so many levels.
On Bridge and Philosophy (around Aug. 13, 2008):
Peikoff says bridge is a lot more difficult mentally than philosophy.
Other Peikoffiana: I recall that one of his audiotaped debates or lectures from years back, he stammered for a term to use for some vile person, and said “these …. these …. entities.”; and see my posts Rand on Collateral Damage; Objectivism Schism Form Letter; The Ignoramus Division of Randianism; Centralist, Pro-War Objectvists on Paul; Trouble in Paradise: Objectivists on Voting for Democrats; see also Diana Hsieh’s post Leonard Peikoff’s Podcasts.
Not all bad
Peikoff is good on some things too, such as the rise of the Nazis and Hitler, e.g. see p. 15 et pass of The Ominous Parallels; also excerpted here; on axioms etc., pp. 11-12 of OPAR. And I think he said once in response to a quesiton about when we were gonna respect the rights of mosquitos–“when they ask for them”!
He also tells a funny joke in one episode:
Q: What do you get when you drop a piano down a mine shaft?
A: “A Flat Minor.”