<< ARI vs. George Reisman

Letter from Genevieve Sanford to Leonard Peikoff

Genevieve Sanford

July 30, 1995

Dear Leonard:

Thank you for informing us of a remark made about Rick, giving us a chance to reply, and thank you for your warm personal regards. Rick and I decided to write separate letters without discussing their contents with each other.

Over the course of a year, Rick and I have spoken to about a dozen people regarding the ARI/Reisman controversy. All of these people have been friends that we have conversed with privately, and virtually all of them first raised the issue with us, as you now have done. We have told these people that we have known the Reismans for many years and have considered them to be moral. Since we have no compelling evidence to think otherwise, we don't agree with ARI's judgment of them as immoral. I would have taken the same position on your behalf, Leonard, if the Reismans one day had declared you to be immoral. I would have said that I had known you for 28 years and considered your moral character to be unimpeachable. Without the Reismans' providing persuasive arguments and unambiguous facts, I would have disagreed with any pronouncement of your immorality and continued to hold you in the highest esteem. While no one can guarantee another a moral sanction for a lifetime, since a person's character can change or new facts may be revealed to alter one's view, in this case, based on everything I know, I can't approve of ARI's moral denunciation.

We haven't attacked ARI nor have we initiated discussions on the matter. We are not engaged in any campaign against ARI; we just quietly disagree and disapprove.

I would like to relate to you a recent incident which, I think, demonstrates our behavior: Last October, at an Objectivist conference in Chicago, we met a young woman who has since become our friend. On an average of once a week for the past eight months, we have had dinner with her and her friends, all of whom are young Objectivists. While recently visiting a friend in Europe, she happened to meet on the street one of ARI's speakers who had attended the London Objectivist conference. (She had met this person just once before.) They stopped for a drink. During the course of a casual chat with a person he hardly knew, the ARI speaker found it appropriate to ask her where Gen and Rick stood on the ARI/Reisman issue. He also expressed the viewpoint that everyone should take a stand. The young woman told the speaker that she didn't know where we stood because we had never discussed the matter with her. I offer this incident to illustrate that Rick and I are not initiating any warfare against ARI; we have never mentioned the ARI/Reisman affair to Objectivists we have seen regularly and have had ample opportunity to influence; we have never discussed the matter with anyone except a handful of friends in private. (I hope this incident also does not illustrate the danger of young Objectivists' getting the impression that ARI is primarily concerned not with the ideas one holds, but with whose side one is on in a long-standing personal disagreement between parties they don't even know.)

At the time of the controversy we spoke to people close to the action in both camps, gathering as much information as we could. You might ask why I didn't call you, personally, to get your side of the story. If ARI made the accusation and now seeks our agreement, then shouldn't ARI take the initiative in offering evidence to those of us who have known the Reismans for over 25 years? If ARI does not offer an explanation or seek our agreement, then shouldn't the Institute expect us to consider the Reismans innocent until proven guilty? Isn't disagreement, not neutrality, the appropriate response to an unsupported accusation of immorality against people known and respected for decades? And if no reasons were to be given because the whole affair was a private matter not verifiable by anyone else, then why wasn't the moral evaluation kept private, as well?

Aside from the onus of proof, perhaps the primary reason I didn't call you, Leonard, is that I find it painful to be engaged in a controversy with someone I have profoundly respected and admired my entire adult life. I have never said an unkind thing about you, I care about you, and I find it inconceivable to be in conflict with you. However, I don't see why the long-standing disagreements between the Reismans and a few of ARI's directors suddenly became a moral issue, an issue that led to the dishonor of two life-long Objectivists, to the destruction of a school that advanced Objectivism and to the splintering of the proponents of a magnificent philosophy into two warring factions. How could matters on the level of George's calling Peter's course "remedial" be significant enough to have required total moral censure, an act that raises doubts about the judgment and integrity of ARI? Through the years of their relationship, can one say that it is the Reismans who have provoked and offended while the other side has not instigated conflict or deserved criticism? (None of this is any of my business, and I would take no stand today on the breakup if a moral denunciation were not made.) If there are persuasive reasons unknown to me that would justify ARI's position, I hope you will apprise me of them so that I may reevaluate the matter.

I'm angry at what I believe to be an injustice, but, because I profoundly value the memory of Ayn Rand, I'm not attacking the Institute or its directors. However, I think that the notable work and distinguished reputation of ARI have been undercut by its treatment of the Reismans. The whole affair leaves me disillusioned. I'm torn between wanting to continue supporting an institution that bears the name of Ayn Rand and really wanting to recede quietly from "organized" Objectivism.

On a personal note, [snipped]

I started out writing a polite and cautious letter but ended up writing a blunt one instead. This letter has been a painful struggle between my indignation at what ARI has done and my 28 years of admiration for you. Since you raised the issue, I hope you won't take offense at my speaking frankly.

Wishing you and Kira are well and happy,

Genevieve Sanford