[Originally posted on Facebook, October 17, 2020]
I thought someone else might address this, but no one has, and I don’t want to let dangerous misinformation go unaddressed.
Don Watkins posted a piece on Medium claiming that according to his notes from the OAC meeting, Onkar did give reasons to support his claim that my statement was garbage. I can verify that Don’s notes are correct, but his interpretation of them is not.
The following passage is transcribed from a recording of that OAC meeting, which was temporarily posted on the Internet in November 2010. Here is exactly what Onkar said about my statement to the seventy students on the call:
It’s garbage… It’s terrible… Of the many philosophic concepts misused in that statement are the nature of the arbitrary, the nature of possibility, the nature of contextual knowledge, both of Ayn Rand’s statements that are quoted, the nature of moral judgment and what a judgment is, the nature of moral neutrality… I’m not going to go into all the details of the nature of the statement or what is wrong with it… If you read and can understand the philosophical issues involved in Craig Biddle’s statement, there are significant problems here… It is possible that you cannot see the issues in Craig Biddle’s statement. But I am not a student. I am a professional philosopher. And I can see many things that you can’t see.
Those are the “reasons” Onkar gave for why my statement was wrong and why it demonstrated that I don’t understand Objectivism. And those are the only reasons he gave. He did not point to any specific instance of a misused concept. Not one. He simply recited a list of highly abstract concepts and phrases and said that my statement misused them all.
That does not qualify as giving reasons.
If someone claims that an article misused a concept such as “arbitrary” or “context,” the onus is on him to point out specifically where and how it was misused. Likewise, if someone claims that an article misquoted Rand or misrepresented something she said, the onus is on him to specify the way in which the article misquoted or misrepresented her. Waving one’s hands and saying “The article misused concepts” is not giving reasons. Indeed, it is evading the responsibility of giving reasons, a responsibility that comes with making such claims—especially when the claims are made by a teacher to his students.
Suppose a philosophy professor told a class of seventy students that an essay by Onkar Ghate is garbage because “it misused the nature of the arbitrary, the nature of possibility, the nature of contextual knowledge,” and so on. And suppose the professor failed to provide any specific instance of the alleged misuse; he just asserted that the article misused all these concepts. Would you say that the professor gave the students reasons why Onkar’s essay is garbage? Of course not. Now suppose the professor followed up his claim with, “It is possible that you cannot see the issues in Onkar Ghate’s article as I see them. But I am not a student. I am a professional philosopher. And I can see many things that you can’t see.” How should his students respond to that? Should they say, “Well, professor, now that you’ve clarified the matter, I too see that Ghate’s article is garbage”?
Expecting students to accept such assertions as reasons shows utter disregard and disrespect for their minds. And the disrespect is multiplied by Onkar’s naked appeal to authority and a perfect instance of “To those who understand, no explanation is necessary; to those who do not, none is possible.”
No wonder several students quit the OAC after that meeting.
I’d rather not spend another minute of my life on this ugly situation. So I won’t say more about it unless further misinformation arises.
Back to producing values and loving life…