Frequently Asked Questions

1. “Was CheckingPremises.org established just to criticize Diana Hsieh?”


 It did start as a discussion among a group of Objectivists who were concerned about many of Dr. Hsieh’s views; specifically that we considered them to show a poor understanding of Objectivism, not only in conclusion but also in philosophical method, and that they are potentially harmful to the spread of Objectivism and how Objectivism is perceived.

 However, during our discussions on this topic, we shared many personal stories about our early days as students of Objectivism, how past controversies and schisms in Objectivism affected our learning process, and how we all wished that there had been a central resource for identifying the principals and principles involved, collected in a convenient repository. We all agreed that such a resource would have been of great value to us, as we struggled to grasp and judge the often difficult issues in such cases.
Thus, the idea for CheckingPremises was born.
2. “Why is there so little content on the Libertarianism, Branden, and Kelley pages, but several pages about Diana Hsieh?”
First, we do not think that there is “so little content” on the other topics. On the contrary, we think that there is a far greater density of content in the reference links on those pages, than we could provide in personal commentary.
We consider the topics of Libertarianism, the Brandens, and David Kelley to be “finished business.” That is to say that those topics have been addressed and the cases against them fully established.  We consider the linked references, provided on those pages, to be the “ultimate,” “conclusive” treatments and refutations on those topics and that it would be an act of extreme presumptuousness (if not complete pomposity) to attempt our own rehashing. We do have some prospective plans for additional commentary on those pages, but it will be of the “personal anecdote” variety, not the “proving the case” variety.
We also chose not to link to any of the works or statements by the subjects of those topics, such as Kelley’s writings, specifically because we consider it “finished business.”  The linked references include, within their own content, references to such sources. CheckingPremises refuses to sanction those works by linking them to our site. We are not here to present a platform for the ideas of the likes of the Brandens or David Kelley to be disseminated.
Diana Hsieh, on the other hand, is a different matter. This is not “finished business.” There is no “Fact and Value,” “The Passion of Ayn Rand’s Critics,” or other content-dense articles, essays, or books that we can point to and say: “Read this.  All the issues and principles are expertly considered and explained herein.” 
On the contrary, we are not suggesting that the matter of Dr. Hsieh’s relationship to Objectivism is in any way fully established, nor have all the principles involved been publicly considered in full. There has been very little public debate and consideration. That is why it is a “current controversy.”  There is a substantial and growing number of Objectivists who are beginning to “smell smoke” with regard to Dr. Hsieh’s public commentary. What we hope to do, at CheckingPremises.org, is to bring these issues to a greater level of awareness within the Objectivist community so that there can be an open discussion and debate about them.
With this goal in mind, we have created topic pages within “current controversies.” We have, thus far, presented only a brief remark about each topic, which includes a statement of why we consider it an issue that needs to be considered, and linked to the original, relevant public statements made by Diana Hsieh herself, as well as any other relevant links, such as the appropriate podcasts by Dr. Peikoff, etc, that a serious student or proponent of Objectivism may need to consider the issue and form a first-hand judgment. That is not to say that we have no intention of making our own arguments and presenting our own assessments. We do and we will.
3. “Why is Diana Hsieh the only individual presented in Current Controversies?”
At this time, we consider Dr. Hsieh’s statements to be the only relevant current controversy. If and when we conclude that there is another public figure or highly visible statement, connected to Objectivism, that we think is potentially harmful to Objectivism, we will address such under current controversies.
4.  “Why are there no detailed, logical arguments presented against Diana Hsieh’s statements in Current Controversies?”
Short answer: There will be.
Long Answer: We worked, considered, discussed, and argued extensively, amongst ourselves, for quite a while about exactly how to go about dissecting and analyzing Dr. Hsieh’s various statements. While all principals and associates of CheckingPremises agree that Dr. Hsieh is potentially damaging for Objectivism, there is often disagreement about the specific arguments that should be put forth to address them. This should not come as a surprise. We are individuals and we each have a slightly different perspective.
We have established a linked Facebook page for CheckingPremises, where viewpoints, statements, and discussions will be hosted. In the future, there will be documents posted on our Facebook page with more detailed treatments of individual current controversy topics, authored by the individual principals and associates of CheckingPremises. Many of these future documents may be linked directly to the relevant topic page.
5. “Will CheckingPremises.org seek to ‘blacklist’ everyone who its authors, principals, and associates dislike or with whom they disagree?”
Of course not!  This is not The Spanish Inquisition, nor is it a “witch-hunt.”
We have a strict set of conditions which a person would have to meet before we would consider adding them to our current controversies page. These will be discussed in further detail in our response to some of the other relevant questions in this FAQ.
6. “Is simple disagreement with Dr. Leonard Peikoff or Ayn Rand or The Ayn Rand Institute, or anyone whom CheckingPremises.org considers a valid Objectivist intellectual all that is required to be considered a Current Controversy or ‘detractor of Objectivism’?”
Absolutely not.
The principals and associates of CheckingPremises each have various disagreements with positions taken or statements made by Ayn Rand, Dr. Peikoff, and/or various prominent Objectivist intellectuals, including those officially associated with The Ayn Rand Institute. Simple disagreement with any individual, on some interpretation or application of principle, is not our concern here.
Our concerns result from the specifics regarding certain methods and/or means of expressing such disagreements, when they arise. With respect to Dr. Hsieh, specifically, we consider the cognitive methodology exhibited in her public statements to reveal some consistent flaws in her thinking methods and misunderstanding of (or unidentified disagreement with) some fundamental principles of Objectivism. Furthermore, we consider her public demeanor when expressing disagreement with a man of Dr. Peikoff’s history and well-earned stature within the Objectivist community to be completely unacceptable. (See the commentary on the “On Transgender Persons” page, for one specific example of this behavior.)
7.  “Person “X” is an outspoken critic of Objectivism and/or has made statements that are far more egregious than any of the statements made by Diana Hsieh.  Why isn’t person “X” addressed on CheckingPremises.org?”
As stated previously, CheckingPremises is absolutely not intended, nor shall it conduct itself, as a forum for “blacklisting” individuals based upon personal grudges or disagreements. We are only interested in raising awareness about individuals or statements that we think have a real potential for damaging the spread of Objectivism or for diminishing the proper understanding of Objectivism in those who seek to learn more about it and seek guidance for a deeper grasp of it.
We have a strict standard with regard to whom we should consider a figure of controversy.
First, the individual must self-identify as an Objectivist. We aren’t here to answer the statements of those who do not claim to be proponents of Objectivism. There are public statements from critics of Objectivism everyday in the media. There are writers at various online publications that seem to be making Objectivism-bashing their stock in trade. They are not our concern.
Second, the individual must be highly visible. Person “X” who claims to be an Objectivist and has a personal blog or Facebook profile from which he makes ridiculous statements that may cast Objectivism in a bad light or confuse his readers with regard to the proper understanding of Objectivism, but who has not achieved a meaningful level of visibility, prominence, or readership, is not our concern.
We all know “that guy” who is constantly making pronouncements that show a total lack of understanding Objectivism or who is always ranting disrespectful invectives about Dr. Peikoff or The Ayn Rand Institute. We’ve even read where one such “Mr. X” made a statement to the effect that he looked forward to the death of Dr. Peikoff so that Objectivism could finally move forward! Yes, there are any number of incredibly unsavory individuals out there, claiming to be Objectivists, whose statements are far more abusive, irrational, and disturbing than even the worst statements (in our estimate) that have been made by Diana Hsieh. But, such statements made by such individuals are not the concern of CheckingPremises.
Diana Hsieh has a PhD in philosophy. She describes herself as “a philosopher specializing in practical ethics.” She has a blog, a webcast, multiple mailing lists, is a leader of the Front Range Objectivist Group, leads a discussion group called “Explore Ayn Rand,” and has lectured at OCON, ATLOSCon, and SnowCon (of which she was an organizer). Her many activities, statements, groups, articles, and discussions can be easily found during a routine web search of many “Ayn Rand” and “Objectivism” related keywords and are referenced and linked at various reference sites, such as Objectivism Online and The Objectivism Reference Center at Noblesoul.com.
The preceding list of facts has the unfortunate result of giving Diana Hsieh the appearance of being a serious Objectivist Intellectual and of being an authority on the Philosophy of Objectivism in the eyes of the public, young students of Objectivism, those who are seeking to become involved in cultural activism, and those who are seeking to learn more about Objectivism via the internet. This is what, in our opinion, makes her misrepresentations of Objectivism (in our opinion) a potential threat and liability to the continuing emergence of Objectivism in the culture and the long-term integrity of the philosophy. This is the level of visibility that meets our standard for a “Current Controversy.”
8. “Why haven’t you just taken these issues up with Dr. Hsieh herself? Why the need to address these issues in such a public forum?”
The answer to the first part is that we have. Many of the individual principals and associates, as well as many others have attempted to engage Dr. Hsieh in discussion of these issues. Her responses have generally been to insult us, often in profanity-laced tirades followed by immediate removal of our comments or blocking our visibility and ability to respond to her posts.

The answer to the second part is that we want these issues to become public. We desire open discussion on these topics within the Objectivist community at large. We also want those who are just beginning their exploration of Objectivism via the internet, who are almost certain to come across one or more of Dr. Hsieh’s many activities, to at least be aware that she is a figure of some contention within the Objectivist community. 

9. “Why did you disconnect the Facebook social plugin?  How can we comment on the content of this site?” 

On this (and every) page of CheckingPremises.org, there is a link to our public Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/checkingpremises

Due to some technical issues with the Facebook social plugin, we quickly determined that it was causing problems; particularly in the fact that we were unable to effectively moderate it in accordance with our comments policy.  We are currently investigating alternative comments options, as well as the possibility of reactivating the social plugin, but with some changes to our stated comments policy.

There is also a “contact us” link at the bottom of every page.  This allows you to email us with comments, questions, or concerns.  We do read all the emails, but due to time restraints cannot possibly respond to all of them.

As one of the purposes of this site is to foster open and honest debate about current controversies, we urge anyone who is interested to post comments and participate in thread discussions on the Checking Premises Facebook page.  It is open to the public.