Rebirth of Reason

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Post 0

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 11:45amSanction this postReply
Thanks for that.
What you write is true. Nevertheless, I believe that good philosophy is like good science. Good philosophy should be based upon empirical facts -the interpretation of which help to establish, through reasoning, fundamental assumptions and ideas. In science, the interpretation of empirical facts into a constantly changing theoretical framework that helps to understand nature/the world is also essential. Whenever empirical facts are improved upon or even found to be false - there needs to a reinterpretation process in both science and philosophy.

Post 1

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 12:12pmSanction this postReply
Every action is explained by these two views [free will vs. determinism]. There is no evidence you can provide that will show that one is wrong and the other right.

Do you discount knowledge as evidence? If human consciousness is not volitional, that is, if what one thinks is determined, knowledge has no meaning. If the events of consciousness are just so many "naturally determined events," they have no more significance than any other "naturally determined events," and what we call knowledge has no more meaning than a dead tree falling or a swamp-gas explosion.

Someone can say, "I do not have volition," but if they are right, their saying it would just be another "determined event," having no more meaning than any other determined event, like a belch or a fart.

A more extreme example is the belief in an objective reality vs. a subjective reality. Again, all evidence always supports either view.

There is no "evidence" for the subjective view. Subjectivism is a denial of evidence.

The standard defines what's good and what's bad.

No, reality does. Good and bad assume a goal or purpose and have meaning only for creatures capable of having goals or purposes. The kind of beings that have goals and purposes have a very specific nature, and it is that nature that determines what kinds of goals and purposes they must have, and therefore what is good or bad for them.

Scientific ones [ideas] adjust themselves to evidence, and have the possibility of being refuted. Philosophical ones adjust the evidence, or the conclusions you draw from the evidence, to fit the beliefs.

Then where do the beliefs come form? As Ayn Rand would say, "blank out!"

This piece is an example of the worst of subjectivism. I cannot imagine how it got posted on this Objectivist site.


Post 2

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 1:03pmSanction this postReply

Of course you're right that a good philosophy incorporates all of the empircal facts. But what I'm saying is that bad philosophy "accounts" for the facts as well, as the examples I gave. You can't convince someone that altruism is bad because it hurts the self, unless they are willing to accept that the self is more important than the other people.

Regi, I can only assume you didn't understand a word that was said in this article. You clearly missed the point.

I wasn't saying that subjectivism or altruism or determinism are right. I said they account for the evidence.

How does determinism deal with knowledge? It says that knowledge is an illusion, and that you just think you know. You see, only if you accept that knowledge is real in the first place does your argument hold any meaning. A real determinist would be unphased by it.

Not to say it's a worthless argument. In my article, I said that contradictions with other beliefs is a weakness of bad philosophy. By showing what determinism is incompatible with (i.e, knowledge), you can attack the determinism. But simple saying "we have choice" will only convince those that believe it.

Your dismissal of altruism is weak. Clearly people can be altruists, since it happens. Unless you're denying this? Claiming that their natures determines what kind of goals they can have is worthless, in that people can choose destructive goals if they want.

And the line "No, reality does." is laughable. First, that line is only meaningful to an Objectivist. Religionists, moral relativists, and subjectivists would agree. But the truly laughable part is that reality does not automatically give us knowledge of right and wrong. The only way we can tell right from wrong is a moral standard of evaluation. Only by comparing to this standard can we make the evaluation. And if you use a standard like altruism, the result of your comparison does tell you what's "good" or "bad" (according to that standard).

Simiilarly with your dismissal of subjectivism. Simply saying "evidence" implies objectivity is meaningless for a subjectivist. They'd simply say "who says? In my reality it means what i want it to mean?".

Let's look at what this means in practice. If your claims are so obvious to everyone, why is it that everyone isn't an Objectivist? I assume from your arrogance that everyone you've ever talked to about philosophy was instantly converted? No? Didn't think so.

You greatly underestimate the power of philosophy. This isn't just a bunch of mind games or puzzles, or good arguments you memorize from Rand's writings. These ideas matter, and they matter in fundamental ways. The fundamental premises you accept changes your entire outlook on life and reality.

And the reason these bad philosophies are so difficult to challenge in our culture is because they don't stick out as obviously false to those that accept them. The beliefs I mentioned, and signficantly many more, are self-reinforcing. Once accepted, you view the world through those lenses, and everything you view seems to affirm those beliefs.

In short, it's not just an objective philosophy that's reaffirming. It's not just an objective philosophy that interprets the evidence to fit into a coherent theory.

Now, I should point out that your post was rude and uninformed. Your last bit about it being subjectivism is a typical example of of a dogmatic, unthinking approach to ideas. What was subjectivist about the article? Do you deny that altruists interpret actions according to their standard? Do you deny that subjectivists think the world is anything they think it is? Do you deny that determinists think there is no free will?

Well, that's what you just argued. And you have the audacity to complain about subjectivism. Before attacking someone's article, you really might want to try to understand what's being said. You may apologize now.

Post 3

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 6:13pmSanction this postReply

Thank you for your comments.

You clearly missed the point.

Oh, I got the point, alright. If I were not kind enough to assume you are sincere, I would consider what you wrote as a deliberate attempt to sabotage sound reason. Though it would have that effect for anyone not careful about their essential philosophical principles, I do not believe that was your intention.

I wasn't saying that subjectivism or altruism or determinism are right. I said they account for the evidence.

But they do not all account for the evidence, unless you mean any absurd idea is an accounting of the evidence. Two contradictory things cannot both be an "accounting of the evidence" unless you are playing "anything goes." In a philosophical context, only that which is a correct (right) accounting of the evidence is considered an accounting. Everything else is a mistake, or worse, an intentional evasion of the truth.

A real determinist would be unphased by it.

What difference does it make what a determinist is "phased" by? There is no end of people who hold totally irrational views. They only significance that has is that most people are wrong about most of the things they believe. So what?

And the line "No, reality does." is laughable.

Laugh if you like, but ultimately, reality gets the last laugh. Methinks you may be heading for some real trouble if this is really your view.

Let me quote two things from the Autonomist:


By reality we mean all that is the way it is.

Reality is what is so, whether anybody knows what is so or not. Reality includes everything that is and excludes everything that is not. It includes everything, not as a random collection of unrelated things but every entity, every event and every relationship between them. It includes fictional things as fictions, hallucinations as hallucinations, historical things as historical things, and material things as material things. Reality does not include fictions (such as Santa Claus) as material or historical facts. It does include the fact that Santa Claus is a common fiction used for the enjoyment of Children at the Christmas season.


By truth we mean that which correctly describes reality or any aspect of it.

The following illustration demonstrates both the meaning of reality and truth.

Suppose you are very thirsty and find a bottle containing a colorless, odorless liquid. The liquid in this bottle is either water or a deadly poison. If you choose to drink the liquid one of two things will occur, your thirst will be pleasantly quenched or you will suffer excruciating pain and die.

Reality is what the liquid in the bottle actually is. Truth is whatever correctly describes that liquid. If the liquid is poison, only a statement that says the liquid in the bottle is poison is true. If you believe the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die. If you take a vote of everyone who has an opinion about what is in the bottle and they all say it is water, if you drink it and it is poison, you will die. If you feel very strongly that the liquid is water and drink it, if it is poison you will die.

Truth is not determined by belief, consensus, or feelings. It is determined by reality. It is determined by what is so, no matter what anybody believes, feels, thinks, or knows. In this case, the truth is determined by what really is in the bottle and only a statement that correctly describes that is the truth.

If your claims are so obvious to everyone, why is it that everyone isn't an Objectivist?

Because my "claims" are anything but obvious. The truth is not easy to discover, and most do not want to know the truth at all. Truth is like liberty, it makes one responsible, and most people are terrified of being totally responsible for their own lives. That is why most people evade the truth, rather than pursuing it. To pretend that those who embrace superstitions have an equally valid "accounting" of the facts is to pander to the worst that is in men.

You greatly underestimate the power of philosophy

You hardly have any idea what I estimate about anything. (You might be getting an inkling of what my estimate is of you, however.) I regard philosophy is the most important of all kinds of knowledge, and attribute the historical and current state of the world to the fact that almost all of it has been wrong.

Now, I should point out that your post was rude ...

No doubt.

... and uninformed

About what? I know what you said, I know what Objectivism teaches, I know they are in complete contradiction.

You said, "Philosophical ones [ideas] adjust the evidence, or the conclusions you draw from the evidence, to fit the beliefs." That is your idea of what philosophical ideas do. That is subjectivism. It puts "belief" before reason, without indicating what the source of the beliefs are. If the beliefs are principles derived by the ruthless application of non-contradictory reason to the evidence one has, those beliefs are rational. If the beliefs are mere credulity, picked up along the way from one's parents, peers, teachers, friends, favorite authorities like teacher, preachers, or radio talk-show hosts, those beliefs are superstition.

The beliefs must be judged in light of the evidence, that is philosophy. To judge the evidence in light of belief is backwards and subjectivism.

Sorry if the truth seems rude to you.

I want to say one more thing. I admire you for writing an article you knew would be seen and open to criticism by others. I admire you for defending your views. If I could do one thing for you it would be to encourage you to continue to think, and write, and defend your convictions.

Personally I think you have a lot to learn. I would hope something I have said might help, but it is just my view. Don't take things so personally.


Post 4

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 7:48pmSanction this postReply

Long post, and yet you've said nothing of merit. You've simply continued with your ignorant evaluation of my article.

For instance, you say "To pretend that those who embrace superstitions have an equally valid 'accounting' of the facts is to pander to the worst that is in men."

This line itself shows how far off the mark you are. Nowhere did I say that each "accounting" is equally valid with any other. You started off assuming that I was wrong, and never bothered to look at what I was saying.

And I noticed (and now everyone else will) that you never addressed any of my points. There's nothing you can point to in the world that a subjectivist couldn't fit easily into his own interpretation. You've gone off on the undisputed tangent of whether the subjectivist is right or wrong. That's not the issue, even if you'd desperately like it to be.

No, the issue is whether the evidence can be interpreted to fit in their world view. And the answer is yes. You're inablity to challenge that is not coincidental.

That's why philosophy is so powerful. Because the evidence is interpreted to conform with the philosophy.

Now you raise one valid point, although invalid in the argument you used. It's that the philosophical views don't just come out of nowhere. There are reasons, and evidence for them. But the truth is, many bad ideas can be formed by only looking at selective information. If you look at hypnosis, insanity, and drug addiction, you might form the belief that we lack free-will. Once you accept that, the rest of the evidence (all the choices we make) are ignored as mere illusions.

This is why I say you underestimate philosophy. You talk about bad philosophy as if it's just an accident that has no foundation. But even bad philosophical premises provide an explanation (even if it's not correct) for real events. You brush them off as superstitions. If you don't understand why people believe ideas, you'll never be effective at countering them.

Now back to the philosophy interpreting the evidence. If I run a scientific experiment, and the outcome of the experiment varies between the two, even though I kept the inputs the same, what would you conclude? One explanation is that the Law of Identity just doesn't hold. Is that what you'd do? Throw out the Law of Identity because some experiment ended different?

Maybe you would, but I wouldn't. I would assume that there was some other factor that wasn't taken into account. I would assume that although we might have tried to keep the variables the same, we missed something. I would say "The world doesn't work that way". That is philosophy interpreting the evidence, something you claim doesn't happen. Methinks you're not thinking this through all the way? Or are you abandoning the Law of Identity any time you see an apparent contradiction? No? Then by your own words you're a subjectivist (sounds silly, doesn't it?).

Now stop seeing this as a "deliberate attempt to sabotage sound reason". Stop spouting Objectivist dogma and use your own brain for a minute.

Imagine that there is a subjectivist. He believes that the world is an illusion, and nothing's real. This is his explicit philosophy. If you ask him why he works, he says he's just playing this game in his head. If you point to a table, he says "nope...all in my head". What can you possibly point out to him that he will immediately realize a contradiction between that and his fantasy? If you explain to him the laws of science, he'll say "part of the imagination". If you predict the result of a scientific experiment, he's say "part of the imagination". If you tell him to bash his head in the wall, he'll say "Nah...I don't want to. The wall isn't there, but my imagination might still hurt".

Do you still not get this? You can't point to ANYTHING you want! Everything is interpreted according to that view.

Same with determinism. A determinist can always say he has no choice. You can point out knowledge, but he doesn't care.

I gave other examples. In each, and many more, you can't just point out a fact. Just as they can't point out that the experiment from above has two different results. They won't persuade you, because you evaluate the information. You can't persuade them, because they do too.

And despite your worries, this is not an attack on reason. This is perfectly consistent with Objectivism. All that's being said is that philosophy is foundational, and you interpret evidence according to your philosophy (whether that philosophy is right or wrong).

Do I have to quote Rand to make you believe this? Well then:

"The task of philosophy is to provide man with a comprehensive view of life. This view serves as a base, a frame of reference, for all his actions, mental or physical, psychological or existential."

Notice the terms "base" and "frame of reference".

"Philosophy is the foundation of science, the organizer of man's mind, the integrator of his knowledge, the programmer of his subconscious, the selector of his values."

Hmmm...the integrator of his knowledge? Fascinating stuff.

You seem to think that if a bad philosophy can in any give a consistent view of reality (consistent, not correct), it somehow puts them on equal footing with Objectivism. This assumption needs serious examination. It's just not true. So relax, there's nothing to be afraid of.

As for my writing, and this website, you might have noticed that I do a lot of writing, and that I run this organization. So I certainly don't need your approval for running articles. Thanks anyway.

Post 5

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 - 8:12pmSanction this postReply
Ha! Great stuff Joe!

Post 6

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 6:33amSanction this postReply

You said: ...you've said nothing of merit... continued with your ignorant evaluation... you never addressed any of my points...use your own brain for a minute...

Well, I see you caught me, so I'll just confess: nothing I say is of any merit, it's absolutely worthless. I mean, what do you expect from someone so ignorant, and I am ignorant. I make a profession of being as ignorant as I can be. I go out of my way to miss the point of everything, because otherwise I'd be required to use my brain, which is not much use anyway, since it is old, and I don't want it to hurt anymore. I really appreciate your taking the time to listen and respond to this old ignorant brainless meritless fool.

You said: So it should be clear now that there is at least one difference between philosophical ideas and scientific ones. Scientific ones adjust themselves to evidence, and have the possibility of being refuted. Philosophical ones adjust the evidence, or the conclusions you draw from the evidence, to fit the beliefs.

Our major difference is this. You seem to be saying that whatever anyone calls philosophy is philosophy. Now, if what you have meant all along by philosophy is anything that goes by that name, or anything anyone assumes is philosophy or even the implicit philosophies of those who do not have an explicit one, we have not been discussing the same thing.

The article, however, addressed the question of the difference between science and philosophy. Lots of things have been and still are called science (e.g. everything from alchemy to holistic medicine) but when one is addressing the question, "what is the nature of legitimate science," these would be excluded; and, when one is addressing the question, "what is nature of legitimate philosophy," religion, superstition, and subjectivism would be excluded. We presumed the question of the difference between science and philosophy would be about the difference in the legitimate forms, not just anything that goes by those names.

That is philosophy interpreting the evidence, something you claim doesn't happen.

Just for the record, all people have beliefs and some of them call their beliefs philosophy (even when they are not philosophy) and most do judge the evidence based on their beliefs. It is why most of what is called philosophy is wrong and why most people makes wrecks of their lives. They do this, but it is not correct, it is not philosophy.

Our minor difference is this: If you don't understand why people believe ideas, you'll never be effective at countering them.

Just as the first purpose of language is not communication, but knowledge, the first purpose of philosophy is not "countering" the errors of those whose philosophy is incorrect, but to ensure one's own understanding is correct.

I have no interest in changing the views of others (not even yours) or in countering their false beliefs, because it is not possible. You cannot change others and nothing but pain, suffering, disappointment, and sheer terror have been wreaked on this world by those who insist on trying.

I thoroughly enjoy the exchange of ideas with others, and learned much from them, and maybe some have learned something from me. If they did, I did not change them, they "changed" themselves.


Post 7

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 7:31amSanction this postReply
My 2 cents (on philosophy v science),

Philosophy & science cannot be fairly compared. To judge the consensus or progress of philosophy (which stems from the common experience of mankind) according to the standard of consensus or progress of science (which stems from the special experience of mankind's technical specialists in the field that they are in) is unjust, it does not correspond to and account for the major differences between the two.

Science is characterized by contemporary consensus and exponentially increasing progress (knowledge doubles about every 5 years in biological sciences). Philosophy started with tremendous progress (e.g. ancient Greece) and the consensus to be found is in a vertical timeline, not a horizontal one. The proof of this is that much of Aristotle remains true today, even though it is over 2000 years old (and evidence-based reasoning convinces us it will be true tomorrow, and the day after, etc). Name one scientific fact that has been understood this well for over 2000 years. This is the power of philosophy: timeless truth.

Regarding contemporary consensus:
The main reason for lack of contemporary consensus in philosophy (though vertical consensus exist) is that forums such as this one - where issues can be joined between 2 or more philosophers and active argument can narrow focus and direct them to begin from the same place (arguing the exact same question) - has not existed. With the existence of forums like SOLO, I expect for this to change and for progress in philosophy to accelerate from the "dogmatic slumber" of the past couple of centuries. All hail SOLO!

Indeed, evidence of this exists above in the discourse between Regi & Joe (that joining issue can be done, even if the original question argued between them was NOT THE SAME QUESTION - c'mon everyone, did you really believe that one of these 2 intellectual giants was actually an idiot in disguise! As the issues were joined, I was sure that they would come to agree on main principles (how could I have been so sure about this?! - answering this question foretells the bright future of philosophy).


Post 8

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 10:59amSanction this postReply
Regi, am I to understand that you equate philosophy with only that which is true? So Objectivism is the only philosophy? And how exactly would you define philosophy? How does it differ from other knowledge? This is quite a claim if you're really making it.

Ed, interesting points about the vertical vs. horizontal timelines.

You could also say that science usually progresses, with more accurate and plentiful knowledge acquired. Philosophy doesn't seem to, and can actually take large steps backwards.

Post 9

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 11:58amSanction this postReply

Here is an explanation of the apparent regression that has been noted regarding philosophy:

There are 2 ingredients that must be brought together in order to achieve real knowledge, evidence & reasoning. Apparent knowledge - which is not real knowledge - comes from somehow botching up the recipe for knowledge: evidence-based reasoning. The 2 errors that we can make are to (1) fail to account for evidence available, or to (2) make critical error in our inference from the evidence available.

In the case of science, the rate-limiting factor for progress is found with number 1 above (either we haven't run the experiment, or we haven't heard from those who have). Notice how this is effectively dealt with by appealing to more evidence; thus bypassing any stumbling blocks or missing pieces of the puzzle in our understanding. Appeal to the evidence, appeal to the evidence, appeal to the evidence - this is the message of science. The opposite is found with philosophy.

In the case of philosophy, the rate-limiting factor for progress is found with number 2 above (the evidence is everywhere in the form of common experience, we simply must discover how to think well about it). In other words, we don't need more & more experience to progress (Aristotle apparently had enough to find truth that exists even today), we simply need better thinking (we need to take the good thinking of the past and integrate it, added to it if possible, but never evading the examples of right thought).

Most philosophical errors by contemporary philosophers (and those of the recent past) can be explained by their poor examination of the history of thought. In fact, most errors have already been made (and corrected!) at least once throughout the vertical timeline. Rand touched on this by linking thought errors made through the following vertical timeline: Plato - Kant - Hegel - Marx - Stalin (along with the 10+ million unnecessary deaths that occurred as a result of Stalin's counterfeit, but not untraceable, "wisdom"). Now, had we corrected Plato's errors by appropriately applying Aristotle's corrections (leaving any of the "good" in Plato intact), the "planned starvation" of millions would not have been "needed." The full context to keep here is: "all recorded human thought".

Appeal to "great thinking wherever you find it," appeal to "great thinking wherever you find it," appeal to "great thinking wherever you find it" - this is the message of philosophy.


Post 10

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 1:13pmSanction this postReply

Thanks for the interesting questions.

am I to understand that you equate philosophy with only that which is true?

No. Philosophy is a pursuit of truth. It is successful only when truth is the result, just as in science, and, just as in science, there is philosophy, meaning the field of enquiry (metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, ethics, politics, aesthetics, etc.), and philosophy, the body of correct knowledge thus far accumulated and non-contradictorily integrated. We do not call all the failed versions of past science, science. We do not call all the quack and junk science of today, science either. We should not call all the past failures in philosophy, philosophy, nor should we call all the junk philosophy of today philosophy, either.

If you refer to the field of inquiry, and disregard the content, many things can be called philosophy. If you refer to the content, only that philosophy which is correct is really philosophy, the rest is just a mistake, or worse.

So Objectivism is the only philosophy?

Certainly not. No doubt, Objectivism is the high point of well known philosophy, but it is not philosophy anymore than Boyle's or Dalton's chemistry was chemistry. Their field was chemistry, and they advanced it, just as one of Rand's fields, and Kelly's is philosophy, and they have advanced it. Objectivism is a philosophy, but it is not all of philosophy, nor is it complete, nor is it without error. (There is virtually no ontology, there is an important mistake in both Rand's and Kelley's explication of concepts, and both, along with Peikoff, repeat a pretty basic mistake about the nature of perception, which is too bad, because that could have been Kelly's real contribution so far to Objectivism, and to philosophy itself.

And how exactly would you define philosophy?

There is not space here to do that, since to avoid the intentional misinterpretation of any definition I would give would require a rigorously explained definition. If you like, you may give your definition, which I would probably agree with.

How does it [philosophy] differ from other knowledge?

Except for content, it doesn't.


Post 11

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 2:33pmSanction this postReply
Jeremy, thanks! And do you mean the article, or the posts, or both?

Ed, I think I agree with your two reasons for things going wrong. And I'm following you on which applies to reason and which to philosophy. You could say the point of the article was that point 1 doesn't apply to philosophy, at least in many cases. But I think there's more work to be done in your description of the progress of philosophy. "great thinking" is too vague, and you have to answer how you can compare two philosophies and decide one is better or worse, and whether that can be communicated to someone who upholds a different philosophy.

Regi, I almost thought I was following you, but your last post confused it all again. You say that some things used to be called science, but aren't anymore. And somethings, like junk science, aren't science at all. I can agree with that in principle, but it's a bit vague. What specifically makes something not science?

I can see two answer, but you're welcome to provide your own. First is whether it's actually correct. I don't think that's a good measure, because science sometimes leads to mistakes or incorrect theories. Often science is involved in testing whether theories are correct or not.

The second possibility is that the important part of science is the kind of knowledge it's trying to acquire. For instance, science is an attempt to identify the identity of an entity in reality. Whether it's a plant, or an atom, science is trying to figure out what it is, and consequently what it does.

This is relevent to philosophy because you're also excluding certain ideas that Objectivists normally consider philosophy.

You have claimed that ideas are not philosophy just because someone believes them. Well, that's a negative statement. It doesn't say what it is. But it sounded like you were dismissing bad philosophies as not real philosophies. Determinism, altruism, subjectivism, etc. Is it correct that you do not consider these actual philosophies or philosophical beliefs? And what's your reasoning?

I realize you might hesitate to give a definition to what you call philosophy, but look at it from my position. You start off insulting my article, claiming that it's bordering on an assault on reason, and that it has no right to be on an Objectivist site. What explanation do you provide for this? You've said that these things aren't really philosophy. Well then, explain why.

You've asked me to give a definition, which I could roughly say is "the fundamental ideas by which you view the world". I would say that philosophy is not what is true or false, but a description of the status of particular beliefs. Some ideas are foundational, and you view the whole world with that belief. They differ from other ideas that are non-foundational. Philosophical princples are the widest-reaching beliefs, shaping the way every other fact or idea is interpreted.

And once again, the validity of these beliefs does not alter their status as being philosophical. This is consistent with Objectivism, which holds that everyone has a philosophy.

But you've already made it clear you don't agree with me. So the question is, how exactly do you disagree? How is it that you dismiss these major philosophical ideas as non-philosophy? If you don't want to give a definition, that's fine as long as you can give some account to your notion that these philosophies are not really philosophies. You're the one making the radical divergence from Objectivist philosophy.

As for your comments about Kelly, Peikoff, and Rand, we've seen this kind of thing before. Your paragraph conveyed no actual information, except maybe that you disagree with someone on something in someway (if you call that information!). I don't mind you criticizing any of their works, but at least have the decency to explain yourself (on a different thread...or submit an article).

And I'm going to assume, from the non-response, that you've agreed with most of my previous post on issues like "interpreting the evidence according to the belief" and that these fundamental beliefs (like subjectivism) do provide and account (even though it's wrong) of all of the evidence? It looks like you've settled on what counts as philosophy as the primary issue? You still think the article is pure subjectivism? Of course, you may apologize at any time.

Post 12

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 3:24pmSanction this postReply

In trying to argue that bad philosophy accounts for the facts you have revealed yourself to be an argumentative idiot.

If my philosophy is that reality does not exist and only what I believe is reality. Then what is to stop me believing I can jump off a building and fly. According to you my philosophy will account for the facts! Well I say reality will approach rapidly and hit me hard.

Your article was without merit and your replies show an ugly degree of hubris.

Post 13

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 3:56pmSanction this postReply
No. 6,

What I said was that a bad philosophy accounts for the facts. A subjectivist who jumps off a building and dies it irrelevent, since he can't interpret the new evidence. So lets just say he breaks his leg. What would a subjectivist say? "Oh...my mistake...reality is objective.". No. He'd say "This is all in my head, including the pain." and maybe "I must have had an unconcious desire to have my legs break". He interprets the event according to his view of the world.

I know you're a little slow, so I'll say this one more time for you. Pay attention. Philosophy decides how you interpret facts. Notice the term "interpret". It does not change the facts. A subjectivist will still hit the ground hard. But his explanation for it will be very different from an Objectivist.

Really, this isn't that complicated. Your philosophy determines how you view the world. What did you think philosophy was for?

Once again, you've proven yourself to be a first-rate thinker.

Post 14

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply

You said: ...it sounded like you were dismissing bad philosophies as not real philosophies


The problem I think begins with academia, which has pulled this trick of calling anything that addresses philosophical problems, philosophy. It is a hangover from theology, which included anything which attempted to address theological issues as theology.

But philosophy is not theology. The material of philosophy is not mystical, not opinion or revelation, not subjective experience. The material philosophy deals with is objective, and every bit as objective as that dealt with by geography, astronomy, physics, chemistry, or mathematics.

Philosophy is the discipline that seeks to understand what the nature of existence is (it has a real objective nature), what the nature of mind is (it has a real objective nature), what the nature of knowledge is (it has a real objective nature), what the nature of values is (they have a real objective nature).

If I took a course in chemistry and what they taught me was, 1. all the things chemistry attempts to discover the nature of and the problems of doing that, 2. all the different crackpot theories anyone has ever had about chemistry, 3. the theories of alchemy, 4 the phlogiston theory of combustion, but never taught me any real chemistry, I would want my money back.

Take a course in philosophy and what is one taught? 1. all the kinds of problems philosophy tries to solve, 2. all the different crackpot philosophies that have been propounded throughout the ages, 3. Platonic realism, idealism, skepticism, 4 logical positivism and linguistic analysis, and this is supposed to be philosophy; but, unless one has been accidentally introduced to the ideas of Aristotle, Peter Abelard, William of Ockham, Sir Francis Bacon, John Locke, or Ayn Rand (very unlikely) along the way, it is almost certain they have learned no philosophy at all.

Yes, I dismiss all the mistaken and incorrect attempts at philosophy as non-philosophy just as I dismiss all the mistaken and incorrect attempts at chemistry as non-chemistry.

You asked a fair question. Here are some mistakes in Objectivism:

1. There is no ontology. (Well, there isn't.)

2. In concept formation, the idea that similarity consists of qualities or characteristic common to two or more existents, with the exact measurement of those qualities left out, is incorrect. The similarity consists of essential qualities or characteristics shared by two or more existents, but with different non-essential qualities left out (but always implied and possible). Measurement is only a quality, and is sometimes the differentiating non-essential quality. But many times it is a different non-essential quality that differentiates between units or particulars of a concept. Some examples of concepts for which the "left out measurement" idea does not work are: logic, verb, preposition, beer, cheese, milk (is 'goats' a different measure than 'cows'?), brother, uncle, history, man-made, concept, memory, cough, blink, malaise, smallpox, cancer, ethics, politics, value, esthetics. Units of concepts for most adjectives are not differentiated by a measurement of some common quality, for example, satirical, mysterious, pregnant, alive, dead, true, false. What is the difference in the measure of fruitiness between a pear and an apple. They are both fruit, but it is non-essential qualities (those that do not make them fruit) that are different, not a difference in the measurement of some common quality.

3. I can only mention what the mistake about perception is, because the explanation is lengthy. Rand, Peikoff, and Kelly all assert the brain integrates sensations into percepts. Here is Peikoff, "The integration of sensations into percepts, as I have indicated, is performed by the brain automatically." [Ojectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand page 54]

There are three mistakes here. First, it requires the brain to have the mystic ability to know ahead-of-time which sensory data to integrate into entities and which to integrate into background. Peikoff does try to get around this problem by suggesting the brain, learns, through experience, how to do this. The solution is problematic, but unnecessary in any case. Second, it supposes the perceived qualities are first "separated" by the nervous system, as though individually sensed, then "reassembled" by the integrating process of the brain. Third, it supposes that what the nervous system does is create sensory data from whatever stimulates it, which data is then processed by the brain to create the percepts, like a computer. But this is exactly the objection Kant made about the validity of perception.

These concepts are wrong, but easily corrected. Perception is a totally valid and accurate apprehension of reality. Unfortunately, objectivism, even Kelly's excellent attempt to, does not explicate how this is so.

I do not oppose Objectivism in any way. It is the best and most complete philosophy to date, sweeping away junk yards of mystic nonsense and integrating into a comprehensive philosophical view the best of historic philosophy and advancing the whole discipline (especially in the areas of epistemology and ethics). Like any other discipline, it is open ended and much more needs to be done, and I sadly see very little new work being done. A lot of objectivists have settled, assuming they have all the answers. They have a lot, but it's just a beginning.


Post 15

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 9:27pmSanction this postReply
Joe, both.


Post 16

Wednesday, October 29, 2003 - 10:14pmSanction this postReply
Joe states:
" No. He'd say "This is all in my head, including the pain." and maybe "I must have had an unconcious desire to have my legs break". He interprets the event according to his view of the world.

I accept this, but he is not basing this view on evidence! Evidence is a thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion. In your example the man simply 'JUMPS' to a conclusion.

Post 17

Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 5:47amSanction this postReply
Let’s get a little perspective. There are two valid usages of important terms. Let me illustrate this with the word “ethics” instead of philosophy. Ethics can be used for a proposed code of values or a valid code a values. It makes sense to talk about the ethics of altruism, utilitarianism, and egoism. This doesn’t mean one endorses them all. It also doesn’t mean that one’s a subjectivist. It merely means that one considers these proposed theories as attempts at developing an ethical system, which requires an analysis to determine whether they are indeed successful. Being ethical and epistemological absolutists, we will conclude that altruism isn’t ethical upon analysis. Usually the context tells whether one is using the word ethics as “proposed ethics” or “truly ethical”. Every philosopher, including Rand, uses the word in both senses.

Now, when I read Joe’s article, I gave it a “sympathetic read” and concluded that despite some objections on the literal exposition, I think Joe has an important point: a worldview is a (set of) premise(s) that permeates a person’s total modus operanti to life. Philosophy permeates all knowledge. Refuting a false worldview can’t be easily achieved by showing the “internal contradictions”; arguing with someone who refuses to check his premises can be so futile.

In Joe’s article, I saw some statements that I thought were too general. But I viewed them in the context and purpose of the article. I viewed them descriptively: this is how a (proposed) philosophy readies a person for life – for better or worse. A person’s philosophy, explicit or implicit, is an attempt to organize all knowledge. Since it seems to integrate most matters, one hesitates to abandon it upon the first problem one encounters. It’s only after prolonged failure that one considers questioning one’s premises. (I’m obviously assuming a person who sincerely seeks truth)

Sure, I thought of saying to Joe that he should add some qualifiers. But then I realized that a vibrant essay could easily turn into an insipid legal document or weighty academic tome – a tendency to which I’m particularly susceptible. Quite frankly, I like Joe’s style. He writes essays that are focused, have a good point, and are enjoyable to read.

Post 18

Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 10:16amSanction this postReply

You ask: " What is the difference in the measure of fruitiness between a pear and an apple. They are both fruit, but it is non-essential qualities (those that do not make them fruit) that are different, not a difference in the measurement of some common quality."

Regi, I found p. 120 in the Rand Lexicon to be helpful here:

"The metaphysical referent of a man's concepts is not a special, separate metaphysical essence, but the total of the facts of reality he has observed, ..."

What are you thoughts on my "assisted" solution to your proposed problem?:
Your use of "fruitiness" implies "a special, separate metaphysical essence" making further queries or corollaries on the matter arbitrary, or at least, equivocal. The essential characteristic of the concept "fruit" will somehow involve the "reproductive body of a seed plant," which would serve to differentiate the "seed-bearing" nature from nuts, which have a seed and a "dry" shell. If you would like to measure the amount of the non-seed part of fruit (which is "essential"), then you could.

Also, regarding perception my question concerns the "concept formation" required to come to a definition of perception as "an integration of the senses." I understand your concern regarding whether the process of perception from senses is an automatic one. But can't we simply assume the opposite and check for absurdity? What would consciousness be like if it weren't automatic? We would have radically different perceptual realities based on whatever "got in" through the senses. I find this hard to believe, not likely to be validated, even downright absurd (but I am ready & willing to expand my consciousness, if I am effectively rebutted on this point!).

And don't you agree that, under the assumption that the process is automatic, we really don't need to have a contextually-absolute, mechanistic understanding of the process here, Regi? In other words, I think that you are asking too much of philosophy (but I could be wrong) and that you are demanding that it answer the scientific questions of reductionistic, mechanistic details.


Post 19

Thursday, October 30, 2003 - 11:54amSanction this postReply

Thanks for the comments and questions.

If you would like to measure the amount of the non-seed part of fruit (which is "essential"), then you could.

Of course you could, but that would not be what distinguishes a pear from an apple, and the common quality shared by pears and apples that makes them fruit is that they are the "reproductive body of a seed plant," of their respective kinds of trees, and no measurement of any characteristic of the fruit will tell you that.

I do not criticize Rand, because her progress in the field of epistemology is nothing short of phenomenal, but in this, she was mistaken. The "measurement" thing works for all concepts that have essential measurable or countable qualities, but there are more concepts that have no such qualities than there are that do. The solution is the simple one I suggested, it is not differences in measurement, but differences in non-essential qualities (of which measurement is just one example) that differentiate between units or particulars of a concept with the same essential qualities.

No damage is done to her epistemology by this correction.

(Do you really think the concept milk can be formed by identifying the common quality of all kinds of milk, for example, cows and goats, and leaving out the specific measure of that quality. What is that common quality that is only different in measure between goat and cow milk?)

Also, regarding perception my question concerns the "concept formation" required to come to a definition of perception as "an integration of the senses." I understand your concern regarding whether the process of perception from senses is an automatic one.

I don't want to say too much about this, because I don't want to give away the whole show just yet. My objection is not to any supposed "automatic" integration of the senses, but the assumption any such integration is required at all. I suppose this sounds even more unlikely. I can tell you, the whole problem stems from the fact Objectivism has no Ontology beyond the axiom, "existence exists." A thorough-going ontology solves half the problem of the veracity of perception, and makes the integration of the senses unnecessary for the perception of entities being both correct and accurate.

In any case, I only mentioned these things at all in response to a request to make my off-hand remarks about problems with Objectivism explicit. These are certainly not arguments for these positions, and these were only picked because they are fairly cut and dry. There are much more serious problems with social ethics and politics. There is, believe it or not, and only as an example, the taint of both collectivism and statism in current Objectivist views of politics.

Still, the best philosophy around is Objectivism and the one I always point people to if they ask me where they should begin.


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