Dear ARI supporter:
On September 3, 2010, John McCaskey resigned from ARI’s Board of Directors on the condition that he be permitted to publish an e-mail Leonard Peikoff had sent to Arline Mann, co-chair of the Board. That e-mail was in fact published by Dr. McCaskey on his personal website.
What Dr. McCaskey published has caused a clamor—one continually reinvigorated by statements of “fact” and commentaries from a small group of people who lack the full context. Unfortunately, ARI’s Board of Directors did not foresee the extent to which this would happen. Our willingness to let Dr. McCaskey release Dr. Peikoff’s e-mail and our silence since the resignation have caused much confusion among our supporters and for that we apologize. So I am now writing to you, on behalf of ARI’s Board of Directors, to rectify the matter.
We realize that one cannot understand and evaluate what occurred at the Board level from a single e-mail, and we did not expect anyone to try to do so. Dr. Peikoff’s private e-mail was informal, unedited, and not written for publication. We regarded the events and discussions leading to Dr. McCaskey’s resignation, like many Board matters, as private and confidential to the organization. However, it did not remain so. We are now providing additional information that we hope will answer questions you may have.
To begin, Dr. McCaskey’s service to ARI’s Board and his considerable contributions to the spread of Objectivism, especially his creation of the Anthem Foundation for Objectivist Scholarship (a separate organization affiliated with ARI) are recognized and appreciated.
However, in early August 2010, Dr. Peikoff raised the question of whether Dr. McCaskey should continue to serve on ARI’s Board. Dr. McCaskey had indicated that he did not and could not support a significant intellectual project funded by ARI and championed by Dr. Peikoff and ARI’s Board. The project, David Harriman’s new book, The Logical Leap, presents Dr. Peikoff’s ground-breaking theory of induction, and illustrates the theory’s essentials through an examination of the history of physics. In essence, Dr. Peikoff viewed Dr. McCaskey as having a serious conflict in this regard. The Board began a discussion of how to resolve the matter.
On August 30, 2010, Dr. Peikoff reiterated his views quite passionately in his e-mail (and also in subsequent conversations). In these communications, Dr. Peikoff presented the terms and timeline he expected ARI’s Board to meet in order to resolve the conflict. At all times, Dr. McCaskey’s unfavorable attitude toward this major ARI project and Dr. Peikoff’s view on the matter were the only issues, not any personal views Dr. Peikoff had about Dr. McCaskey’s moral character.
The substantive issue that Dr. Peikoff raised—whether a person who does not support a central ARI project should sit on the Board—was itself a very serious one. In addition, the Board had the practical, moral, and fiduciary responsibility to avoid needlessly damaging our important relationship with Dr. Peikoff. Dr. Peikoff founded ARI, served as its first Board chairman, and has continued to provide ARI with moral, financial, and practical support over the 25 years of ARI’s existence. As Ayn Rand’s heir, he has been very generous in giving Ayn Rand’s materials to the ARI Archives, with much more planned for the future. In these and many other ways, Dr. Peikoff’s ongoing support is important to ARI; we are certainly interested in hearing his thoughts and analyses, and we give them due weight in our deliberations.
As ARI’s Board deliberated whether Dr. McCaskey should remain on the Board, he offered to resign. (Note that there was no request made by anyone that Dr. McCaskey resign from the Board of Directors of the Anthem Foundation.)
ARI’s Board believes that the right outcome was reached—that Dr. McCaskey is no longer a Board member.
Let me turn now to some of the wild rumors and accusations that have been circulating. First, there was no attempt to quash Dr. McCaskey’s criticisms of The Logical Leap. To the contrary, Dr. McCaskey may now freely express his views about the book and has done so; he no longer has a conflict of interest given that his obligations as an ARI Board member have come to an end.
More widely, ARI is dedicated to fostering a rational, vigorous discussion of Objectivist ideas and of innovations based on them. Every day at ARI, we engage in a critical discussion of philosophical, cultural, and political issues—with our staff, Objectivist intellectuals and activists, and a range of non-Objectivist thinkers and educators. But, at the end of the debates, ARI presents one, consistent position on each issue that we’re prepared to take a stand on. ARI has done so since its founding, as a matter of basic policy. It is this consistency, and the high quality of our scholarship, that has set ARI’s work apart from the many voices in the culture.
What are the implications of this for individuals who work with ARI? It depends on the relationship involved. Is the person a Board member, an employee, a guest lecturer, etc.? For instance, a Board member cannot undercut ARI’s major projects; an employee may present publicly only ARI’s official position (when we have one), not his particular view; an ARI guest speaker must show that he maintains an appropriate understanding of Objectivism.
We are careful in selecting whom we will work with, including guest speakers. There are ongoing internal reviews, which consider any new developments. If a guest speaker exhibits views that are significantly at odds with ARI’s, or has poor methods of communication, or poor thinking skills as related to a specific topic, or just poor judgment, for example, we may not allow this person to appear on our stage. But we do not expect all Objectivists to agree with or adopt all of ARI’s positions; anyone is free to act and work independently of us. Contrary to the charges some are making, parting ways with someone from your organization who is not on board with a major project does not constitute censorship, authoritarianism, or being dictatorial.
If the controversy around Dr. McCaskey’s resignation has caused you to have doubts or reservations about ARI, please set aside the selective reports, slanted histories of old conflicts, and rampant speculation—and consider the actual facts. Take a look at ARI’s track record, its work and successes in promoting Ayn Rand and Objectivism, its mission, and its considerable achievements. ARI is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and in the past 25 years, much of the necessary groundwork has been laid for ARI’s mission to succeed.
I, along with the ARI staff and the Board of Directors, deeply appreciate your ongoing support of the Institute. We look forward to working with you to achieve our shared goals.