>Dan, I was very wrong about the problems with Aristotleian essentialism being well known.
Yes, I'm suprised myself. But there you go. I think it's principally because of Aristotle's immense influence on philosophy, many of his mistaken assumptions have become the basis for the mistaken assumptions of later philosophies. (Look how many centuries it took to drive his assumption about the heavenly nature of circles out of astronomy!)
See, here's the intriguing question to me:
If Regi's obviously hopeless philosophical method is "very ortho-Objectivist", and is entirely contrary to the "true" Objectivism apparently practiced by a minority - then how on earth did the fallacious version come to be the *common practice* in the first place?
There seem to be a few possibilities:
1) The real Objectivism has been corrupted by human error
2) The real Objectivism has been corrupted by deliberate intention
4) Or perhaps, as I suggest, there are actually serious problems in Objectivism's basic method, caused by errors in the assumptions it inherited from Aristotle. Thus, there is a hard-to-spot yet inexorable tendency towards Regi-like argumentation - so inexorable that this wacky style of thinking has come to be considered the orthodox practice in the movement!
It seems to me Rand's respect for Aristotle's achievements has caused her, and her followers, to completely overlook these problems, or refuse to accept that they exist. (Much the same can be said for many Plato influenced philosophers who became hypnotised by his genius to the point they seemed to not notice his nasty political tendencies). Judging by the responses I've had not many seem to be even aware there *are* major problems with Aristotle's method. They've been told it is the answer to the vacuous modern philosophy thinking, and have accepted this uncritically. Which is doubly unfortunate, as many of the errors of postmodernism too can quite clearly be traced back to the errors of Aristotle!
The fabulous Ms Ring writes:
>Otherwise, Msr. Barnes. I don't recall Popper's discussion of Aristotle, but you greatly intrigue me with it.
The problems with Aristotle's method are roughly as follows:
1) The regressive nature of definitions, which he didn't notice (this is just like the infinite regression of statements, which he *did* notice, and which lead him to propose his axioms). In the hands of a wily opponent, arguments are diverted into endless preliminary debates over definitions, and thus never even get started. Popper perfectly describes this as "endlessly sharpening your pencil, and never writing anything".
2) The problem of identifying the true "essence" of a thing. This quickly leads to a stalemate, as you may say that a young dog a "puppy", but I may say a vain young man is a "puppy"! (you'll note both refer to facts of reality) This is a trivial example, but the problem of which is the "true" one is clear enough, and only gets worse when you start talking about "true democracy" for example. This problem drove Aristotle to propose his doctrine of intellectual intuition to identify the essences, which Rand rightly criticises but actually did not propose a clear alternative to. As a result, many Objectivists use the self fulfilling definitions that Alec rightly criticises Regi for. But this is not a good solution either, obviously!
3) The problems of the vagueness of language complicate and overlay the former two, as words, being rich in content, can in no way match the precision of, say, numbers (which are empty of content by comparison)
Because of the above problems, among others, Popper proposes we should replace Aristotle's methodological essentialism with methodological *nominalism* ie: phrase our arguments so they depend as little as possible on the meanings of words, and focus more on problems, arguments, propositions and plans. This is the way a scientist would approach it, as opposed to a philosopher. If addressing the problem of the action of wind upon a sand dune, the scientist does not first say "Ah - but what is a *true* wind, and what is a *true* sand dune?...." and thus avoids the resulting acres of blab. And that is the difference. As a result, science has progressed in leaps and bounds in the past few centuries once it escaped the Aristotelian method. Whereas philosophy entered a verbal cul de sac and lies in half submerged in a ditch.