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Post 0

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 5:56amSanction this postReply
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Hi Roger:

This is a fine essay! Thanks!

It reminds me of the argument that Doug Rasmussen is making in his 2002 JARS article, "Rand on Obligation and Value" and in several subsequent articles which I am not certain have yet been published.

Take care.

Ed




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Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 6:39amSanction this postReply
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Your essay may be fine but I'll never know since I find it too painful to have to scroll left and right on every line. Get the formating fixed and more people will take the time to read it.



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Post 2

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 7:25amSanction this postReply
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Ed, thank you!

Rick, I'm mystified as to the source of the problem. I even clicked on some
other articles to compare, and it looks just like theirs. (One exception: Tibor's
pieces have individual words appearing on a separate line here and there.
Apparently his didn't get reformatted properly.) When I submitted the article,
it was automatically reformatted so that it appears in a fairly narrow column
occupying about 1/2 of my computer screen (approximately 70 characters), looking exactly like this:

The central concept of, and the name Ayn Rand chose for her philosophy of
Objectivism has unfortunately been the subject of considerable debate and
confusion. Rand's views on objectivity and the objective have gone through a
definite process of evolution, but, in my opinion, not all of the modifications or
extensions have been for the better.

That doesn't run past the margins of your screen, does it? If so, maybe you can
ask Joe R. what the problem is due to. Failing that, you can always copy and
paste the article into a word processor document and format it for your reading
comfort. I think you'll find the effort worthwhile. :-)

Best regards,
Roger Bissell

P.S. -- I notice that the discussion posts do run considerably wider than
70 characters on my screen. I have deliberately suppressed my line widths
so as to (hopefully) be readable on your screen the way you like. Let me
know how this works out, OK?

P.P.S. -- Folks, I don't know how to fix the article, since first of all, as
I read it on RoR, it really, truly takes up only about half my screen,
unlike these discussion posts which run all the way across the screen.
Also, I have no access to my article. I'll try rousing Joe, to see if he
has a clue as to what's wrong and how to fix it. I'm really sorry for
the inconvenience and aggravation...

(Edited by Roger Bissell on 2/07, 8:06am)

(Edited by Roger Bissell on 2/07, 9:26pm)




Post 3

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 9:20amSanction this postReply
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Roger,

Thank you very much for posting this article. I know how much you have worked on this over the years.

I have a question. Actually, as you know, I have a lot of questions concerning your concept of ontological objectivity in application to perception.

[Full Disclosure: Roger and I have corresponded extensively concerning his refinements of the concept of objectivity. This past year, we studied together a marvelous, milestone book The Problem of Perception by A. D. Smith (Harvard 2002). It is a sustained and original defense of direct realism, the view that in perception we are directly aware of things in the physical world. Concerning directness, I want to test Roger's proposal.]

If I grasp a baseball in my hand, I sense its size, shape, rigidity, texture, and weight. I toss it well above me and snatch it from its fall with a smack. When I perceive the trajectory and the falling speed, when I perceive the sting and the sound of the smack, when I perceive the shape, rigidity, texture, and weight of the ball, are some of these things and aspects exactly as they are without my perception? Is the answer known? If we can answer that some of these things or aspects are exactly as they are without our perception of them, then aren't those things, just as we perceive them, physically intrinsic, not ontologically objective?

Stephen



Post 4

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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> Get the formating fixed and more people will take the time to read it. [Rick P]

I have the same problem Rick had, and I have never had this problem with a RoR or Solo article before.

My solution was to choose not to read it or emit a deep sigh and do a select all-> copy-> past to a word processing document. I just chose the latter.

Roger, your goddamn essay better be worth the extra trouble!!! :-)



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Post 5

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - 11:33pmSanction this postReply
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Roger,

I've had a chance to read it now. It is hard to follow because you go in too many different linguistic directions and drag in too many senses of the word 'objectivity' -- including a few which, while academically fascinating, are distracting and not relevant in a short, highly abstract essay (such as Kant's apparently using the word the opposite way & the entirely unrelated to the issue sense of objective reality - which is an entirely different concept).

You seem bothered by the fact that in the English language - and in philosophy - a highly abstract word can sometimes have up to a dozen meanings, sometimes in direct opposition to each other. And you seem bothered by the fact Rand can use objective in different senses. Even though she quite clearly explains in each case how it is being used. On this issue I think you are nit-picking, looking for a minor flaw while missing some considerable virtues in regard to Rand's technical language by comparison to previous less precise philosophers. Her great virtue is that she -cleans up- the messy, fuzzy uses of terms like objective, intrinsic, and subjective of previous philosophers. Roger, you need to just -throw away- those uses. You now have a doctor who has provided you with tools of surgical precision. Throw away the stone age tools of the clumsy previous usages of the academic philosophers and their endless linguistic wrangles instead of trying to resurrect them on this list!

Also when you paraphrase Rand or Peikoff or give your own formulations, they seem LESS clear and unambiguous than Rand's or Peikoff's actual words and explanations (which I remember and understood quite well). Take this formulation of yours as an example of what you take to be two meanings Objectivism uses for "objective":

"the nature of a reality-adhering consciousness—rather than the first aspect: the nature of reality when it is in the situation of being adhered to by consciousness. "

What on earth does "reality...in the situation of being adhered to" mean? Reality is not in a situation. Compare this to Rand's formulation of objective in ITOE as "a fact of reality as grasped by a conceptual consciousness" This, I admit, is a subtle idea to grasp and many Oists still don't get it, but once you do it is much more precise and less fuzzy: It explains the RELATIONAL NATURE, the duality, of an "objective existent" - it is neither "in here" exclusively, nor "out there" exclusively. Your formulations do not refer to this duality: you seem to split the phenomenon up again! Exactly the historic mistake that Rand's revolutionary concept of the objective gets us past! One needs to take ITOE as definitive (it is a tour de force of logical and linguistic precision from start to finish, once one grasps it) NOT what Peikoff says Rand said at one point, or a term used in a different context in an early work: It is the most extended and complete discussion of what Objectivism intends when it says an existent is objective.

And the metaphysical status of an "objective existent" is what illuminates all the other issues surrounding objectivity - metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical. ( And, by the way, a percept *is* an objective phenomenon in Rand's above definition, as is a concept, as is a value. ) Relational phenomena, regarding the relation between our consciousness and reality --- every one of them!!!

If you grasp this, you grasp the deepest roots of Objectivism. If you don't, then you are lost in a linguistic thicket of some kind.

Phil
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 2/07, 11:38pm)




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Post 6

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 1:38amSanction this postReply
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Phil, you wrote:
You seem bothered by the fact that in the English language - and in philosophy - a highly abstract word can sometimes have up to a dozen meanings, sometimes in direct opposition to each other.
Nope. I think you have me confused with Rand. She had a devil of a time dialoguing with John Hospers, who insisted on linguistic precision when using such concepts. Rand was highly suspicious of this approach. She was the one who wanted to junk standard usage and technical usage that didn't agree with hers. She was the one who wanted to use "selfish" to apply even to acts like going to the dentist, which no non-Objectivist in his right mind would ever refer to in that way.
[PHIL] And you seem bothered by the fact Rand can use objective in different senses. Even though she quite clearly explains in each case how it is being used.
Not at all. I'm bothered by the fact that Rand uses "objective" in a misleading way ("objective reality") until about mid-1965, then quietly stops using it that way ever after, with no explanation. (It finally got some kind of apologetic mention by Peikoff in 1991 as being a relatively "harmless" usage.) Quite obviously, this usage was inconsistent with her wanting to use "intrinsic" to mean reality apart from consciousness, so it had to go. But rather than "quite clearly" explaining her switch in usage, she quietly abandoned it without an explanation -- as she did her original definition of "reason" in Atlas Shrugged or her decades-long belief that architecture was a form of art. And the fact that that doesn't bother you really bothers me!
[PHIL] On this issue I think you are nit-picking, looking for a minor flaw while missing some considerable virtues in regard to Rand's technical language by comparison to previous less precise philosophers. Her great virtue is that she -cleans up- the messy, fuzzy uses of terms like objective, intrinsic, and subjective of previous philosophers. Roger, you need to just -throw away- those uses. You now have a doctor who has provided you with tools of surgical precision. Throw away the stone age tools of the clumsy previous usages of the academic philosophers and their endless linguistic wrangles instead of trying to resurrect them on this list!
Huh? I'm using the doctor's surgical tools to show problems with the doctor's own practice! And I mention earlier philosophers for the same purpose that Rand does: to show by contrast how her good ideas make more sense than theirs. But I also mention them to show how Rand sometimes fell into the same pitfalls that they did. Kant's "objective" as "independent of consciousness," for instance. To her credit, she abandoned this usage, in favor of intrinsic as "independent of consciousness" -- but to her debit, she covered up her actions rather than explaining them. And this is not just a nit-pick, but calling attention to a negative character/behavior trait of hers that she repeated numerous times over the years.
[PHIL] Also when you paraphrase Rand or Peikoff or give your own formulations, they seem LESS clear and unambiguous than Rand's or Peikoff's actual words and explanations (which I remember and understood quite well). Take this formulation of yours as an example of what you take to be two meanings Objectivism uses for "objective": "the nature of a reality-adhering consciousness—rather than the first aspect: the nature of reality when it is in the situation of being adhered to by consciousness." What on earth does "reality...in the situation of being adhered to" mean? Reality is not in a situation. Compare this to Rand's formulation of objective in ITOE as "a fact of reality as grasped by a conceptual consciousness."
Now who's nit-picking? The phrase you quoted is not that bad. What is the difficulty with the word "situation"? It's just another way of saying "reality in the state of being the object of awareness" or "reality insofar as it is being adhered to by consciousness." There are two necessary poles in the relation of knower and known. One is an act of consciousness, and the other is an aspect of reality. An aspect of reality is either in the state of not being the object of awareness, or it is in the state of being the object of awareness.

But in order to try to make this point about my relative unclarity and ambiguity, you skidded several paragraphs past my best explanation of the two meanings of "objective," an explanation that compares well to Rand's formulation you quoted above. I wrote (highlighting added):
[REB] Rand's IOS trichotomy, which she first introduced in late 1965 in "What is Capitalism?", thus appears to involve a return to the original use of the term “objective,” pertaining to an existent before the mind, while retaining the more restrictive modern use of the term “subjective,” pertaining to a mind. The view that the good is "objective," Rand said, is the view that the good is "an aspect of reality in relation to man." The good, and the objective in general, is an aspect of existence insofar as it is being adhered to by an act of consciousness.

  But this is just one side of the equation—or the act-object, consciousness-existence relation. There is also the act of awareness that adheres to reality. And in her discussion of the "objective" view of the good, Rand also identifies this aspect of the "objective," when he says that the good is "an evaluation of the facts of reality by man’s consciousness." The good, and the objective in general, is an act of consciousness insofar as it is adhering to an aspect of existence.

Thus, there are two aspects of the "objective"—an aspect pertaining to existence in relation to consciousness, and an aspect pertaining to consciousness in relation to existence. (To keep them distinct in my mind, I sometimes call the former one the "ontological" or "metaphysical" objective—and the latter one the "epistemic" or "epistemological" objective. But they are inseparable aspects of a single situation.)
If I do say so myself, I don't think Rand or Peikoff ever wrote anything clearer than that about her analysis of the "objective." It is obvious from "What is Capitalism?" that she held there to be two aspects of the "objective," and that they are inseparable facets of the relationship between consciousness and existence. They are metaphysical correlatives, like Existence and Identity, or existent and characteristic, or cause and effect. What's more, I'm not aware that Rand or Peikoff ever recognized, or called our attention to, this correlation. Rand stated it in "What is Capitalism?" but she did not state it in a way that made it obvious she realized there was a correlation, so it's possible she simply didn't fully realize what an important insight she had there.
[PHIL] This, I admit, is a subtle idea to grasp and many Oists still don't get it, but once you do it is much more precise and less fuzzy: It explains the RELATIONAL NATURE, the duality, of an "objective existent" - it is neither "in here" exclusively, nor "out there" exclusively. Your formulations do not refer to this duality: you seem to split the phenomenon up again! Exactly the historic mistake that Rand's revolutionary concept of the objective gets us past!
Oh, please! Again, you are ignoring my clear statement just prior to the (supposedly) less precise and more fuzzy remark you cite. What is imprecise, or fuzzy, or "splitting up the phenomenon," or "failing to refer to the duality" in this?
[REB] ...there are two aspects of the "objective"—an aspect pertaining to existence in relation to consciousness, and an aspect pertaining to consciousness in relation to existence. (To keep them distinct in my mind, I sometimes call the former one the "ontological" or "metaphysical" objective—and the latter one the "epistemic" or "epistemological" objective. But they are inseparable aspects of a single situation.
It makes me wonder whether this material somehow got deleted when you cut and pasted my RoR essay! (By the way, I have a request in to our editor, Ethan Dawes, for help in reformatting it. Hopefully, he will be able to straighten it out. What puzzles me is why the article is so well-behaved on my computer, occupying no more than half the width of the screen, while others are having such trouble reading it.)
[PHIL] One needs to take ITOE as definitive (it is a tour de force of logical and linguistic precision from start to finish, once one grasps it) NOT what Peikoff says Rand said at one point, or a term used in a different context in an early work: It is the most extended and complete discussion of what Objectivism intends when it says an existent is objective.
Actually, for the purpose of reaching the correct view of objectivity, I think we have all the information we need from one sentence of "What is Capitalism?" and one sentence in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. The really crucial, and single best, expression of the two facets of the objective is in "What is Capitalism?" I dwell on it so much in part because it is the best passage in Rand to use in  clarifying the two-sided nature of the objective -- and partly because Rand and Peikoff did not dwell on it sufficiently for Objectivists in general to understand it.

As for ITOE, it contains much of value, but I don't see how most of it is relevant to the issue of an existent's being objective. I know that she spends a good amount of time elaborating on the trichotomy in ITOE, and that material is important. However, her one comment in ITOE about the havoc created by the false dichotomy of intrinsic and subjective in every issue of the relationship between existence and consciousness really says it all. "Every issue" is a clear authorization to apply the trichotomy to perception, which Peikoff did in 1970, and then recanted, at Rand's urging, in 1972.

Also, I do not regard ITOE with unalloyed admiration as you do. I think that her chapter on axiomatic concepts is a mess, and that her mistaken belief that babies are not capable of perception set her up for an even greater confusion when she tried to write about music several years later in "Art and Cognition." (Among other problems, she conflated James's view of sensations with that of Helmholtz, who used the term to apply to what we would call percepts, and she proceeded to speak of our awareness of musical tones as though they are sensations.)
[PHIL] And the metaphysical status of an "objective existent" is what illuminates all the other issues surrounding objectivity - metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical. ( And, by the way, a percept *is* an objective phenomenon in Rand's above definition, as is a concept, as is a value. ) Relational phenomena, regarding the relation between our consciousness and reality --- every one of them!!!
Of course! And Peikoff said as much about perception, as clearly as anyone could, in his final lecture (circa 1970) of the Modern Philosophy series. However, as Peikoff relates in "Objectivism: the State of the Art" (1987?), Rand took him aside after this lecture and chided him for making it sound as though perception were "objective." As a result, Peikoff recanted his entire formulation of the ontological status of sense data being objective. He never again referred to them that way, neither in his Ancient Philosophy series (circa 1972), nor his "Philosophy of Objectivism" course (circa 1976).
[PHIL] If you grasp this, you grasp the deepest roots of Objectivism. If you don't, then you are lost in a linguistic thicket of some kind.
You're preaching to the choir, my friend. Tell it to Leonard Peikoff, who (circa 1972-4) followed Rand off into the woods, rejecting the objectivity of perception. At least, unlike Rand, Peikoff admits when he has changed a formulation of his ideas. Unfortunately, in this case, he changed them for the worse!

REB





Post 7

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 2:04amSanction this postReply
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Roger, I sanctioned this essay because of it's breadth, but am having trouble with it's depth. From my view now, it seems to have loose ends. Would you care to tie them for me? Begin pedantics ...

=====================
Rand first focused on objectivity as an ethical matter, an aspect of rationality.
=====================

While rationality is ethical (ie. a "universally-right" thing for humans to act to gain or keep), it does not follow that objectivity was only focused on as an ethical matter (rather than an epistemological matter). As it happens, the best place to start -- when "pushing" a philosophy is ethics, because human persuasion is linked to emotional evaluation. Another way to say this is that, even though the "entry-point" into philosophy is epistemology (which immediately leads to a certain, contended metaphysics) -- the "persuasive-point" in philosophies will be that which aims at value. Rand was merely utilizing psychology to get her point across. And there's nothing wrong with that (except, of course, reading too much into it).

Will you comment on that?


=====================
As for reality, it does not, strictly speaking, have objectivity. Reality only has objectivity in relation to consciousness.
=====================

The concept of objectivity, logically depends on the possibility of subjectivity (ie. of "getting it wrong"). I agree, but then we are limited to epistemic objectivity -- which you seem to decry as a concept exhaustive of objectivity (because it fails to integrate "metaphysical objectivity" -- what you had identified as a Primacy of Existence).

Will you comment on that?


=====================
Rand’s phrase “objective reality” thus was taken to reflect this metaphysical view, that reality is the object, not the subject or creation of consciousness.

But is this true?  In one sense, no.  Consciousness is real, too, and some real aspects of consciousness are generated by, created by, a person’s conscious acts.  Both subjective aspects such as dreams or imagination and objective aspects such as sense data are generated by consciousness (i.e., a person’s being conscious).
=====================

I think that it's useful to make a distinction between extra-mental reality (which "sense"-perception reveals to us) and an inner, strictly-mental reality (which introspection reveals to us). Consciousness of dreams is not direct consciousness of (extra-mental) reality -- it is consciousness of an "inner" reality, generated by consciousness, as you correctly say. But this just delineates that (after a necessary and sufficient perception of some parts of reality -- along with the functioning perceptual faculty of memory), that there will be mental objects to be aware of (besides the "extra-mental" objects). In a sense then, there is a unique "inner" reality generated by each consciousness -- but this has nothing to do with sense-perceived (extra-mental) reality.

Also, I disagree that sense data are "generated." I realize that there is a "process" to perception, but I do not recognize the "mental creation" of sense data. This view seems to fall into the trap of the sense datum theory of perception -- as opposed to direct (adverbial) perception.

Will you comment on that?


=====================
Even subjective phenomena (e.g., fantasies, etc.) have metaphysical primacy over an act of consciousness that holds them as its object! ...

... Everything that is being held as the object of a mind is uncreated by and thus independent of that act of a mind—even subjective phenomena that are generated by some other act of a mind than the act that views them.
=====================

Okay, the fantasies are real "for" the subject (though they don't pertain, at all, to extra-mental reality) -- I think I get it.


=====================
For this reason, the “mind-independent/mind-dependent” distinction, and its other traditional form, “objective/subjective,” should be avoided as vacuous. Instead, Rand's trichotomy of intrinsic-objective-subjective should be adopted as a fundamental distinction of mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities.
=====================

Agreed.


=====================
Prior to Kant, “subjective” referred to the nature of a thing in itself (i.e., as a thing, a subject), as opposed to “objective,” which referred to the nature of a thing as it is presented to (i.e., the object of) consciousness. 

After Descartes, the term “subjective” was constricted to refer specifically to the nature of the perceiving or thinking consciousness, while “objective” is used to refer to what is considered as independent of the perceiving or thinking self. 
=====================

These 2 alternatives are misleading, as Descartes was "[p]rior to Kant" and Kant came "[a]fter Descartes" -- ie. they are each speaking about the SAME time period (the time between Descartes and Kant), yet they postulate different views for that same time period.

Will you comment on that?


=====================
Once the meaning of “subject” changed from that of an existent, whether conscious or not, to that of a conscious being, it was inevitable that “objective” would lose the meaning of an existent before the mind and instead take on the meaning of an existent apart from the mind.
=====================

I'm muddled here. Is every act of consciousness awareness BY a subject and ABOUT an object, or not?

Will you comment on that?


=====================
... referring to mind-independent reality as "Objective Reality," a phrase she pretty much stopped using after the mid-1960s. Peikoff says in OPAR that this metaphysical usage is "harmless," since it is really just another label for Primacy of Existence (existence being independent of consciousness). But surely it's not that benign. (Besides, it's Kantian!)
=====================

Please elaborate.


=====================
Thus, there are two aspects of the "objective"—an aspect pertaining to existence in relation to consciousness, and an aspect pertaining to consciousness in relation to existence. (To keep them distinct in my mind, I sometimes call the former one the "ontological" or "metaphysical" objective—and the latter one the "epistemic" or "epistemological" objective. But they are inseparable aspects of a single situation.)

Much of Rand's and Peikoff's subsequent (i.e., post-1965) discussion of the "objective" focused on this second aspect: the nature of a reality-adhering consciousness—rather than the first aspect: the nature of reality when it is in the situation of being adhered to by consciousness.
=====================

This seems like a distinction without a difference. The law of identity ("existence is identity") seems sufficient for a complete validation of metaphysical objectivity, though only after practicing epistemic objectivity -- will this become inescapably clear to a rational thinker. The one is utilized, chronologically, prior to the other -- yet the other is logically prior. So there is a truth, and a means to know it -- and what folks need to learn, is how to recognize the truth (ie. philosophical justifications should be epistemic in nature).

Will you comment on that?


=====================
What turned Peikoff around (unfortunately) was Rand's argument that only volitional acts of awareness (and not perception) could be "objective," since one can only adhere to reality by an act of choice. Peikoff later echoed this argument in OPAR. Surely, though, this is not correct. Even though conceptual grasping of reality requires deliberate choice, the perceptual grasp of reality is automatic. We automatically adhere (attach) to reality in perception; but this does not make it any less objective, any less adherent to reality.
=====================

This sounds contradictory to what I've read. If perception can't be objective, then there is no base (or basis) for knowledge. If I ask Peikoff where he stands on that, what do you think he would say in response? If he's written a contradiction, please marshal it -- in detail -- as evidence.

Will you comment on that?


=====================
Another is that the initial move Rand made back toward the original meaning of "objective"—reality held as the object of awareness—seems to have been largely abandoned, in favor of a focus on awareness holding reality as its object.
=====================

1. "reality held as the object of awareness"
2. "awareness holding reality as its object"

Please elaborate on how these 2 things are different.


=====================
For instance, is the good an attribute of a thing one values, apart from one’s conscious rational awareness of it?  (Intrinsicism)  Or is the good an attribute of a thing one values, apart from the nature of the thing valued?  (Subjectivism)  Or is the good an attribute of a thing one values that is the product of one’s rational awareness of some aspect of the thing’s identity?  (Objectivism)  In other words, as Rand (1966) asks:  is the good an aspect of reality apart from man’s awareness of it, or an aspect of man’s consciousness apart from the nature of reality, or “an aspect of reality in relation to man”
=====================

But ANY potential, viable value, ie. something that is really good (for you), is something of which you can, potentially, be aware. If you couldn't ever become aware of something -- as a conscious being -- then it couldn't ever be a value (as it would then have no potentiality to become one, because values are always and only discovered things).

Will you comment on that?

Ed




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Post 8

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 12:42pmSanction this postReply
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Here are some points in reply to Ed Thompson’s 11 (!) questions. I’ll try not to write another essay! (And please just chalk up any repetitiveness to the "spiral theory of learning," OK?  J )

 

1. I wrote: “Rand first focused on objectivity as an ethical matter, an aspect of rationality.” 

 

Ed comments: “While rationality is ethical (ie. a ‘universally-right’ thing for humans to act to gain or keep), it does not follow that objectivity was only focused on as an ethical matter (rather than an epistemological matter). As it happens, the best place to start—when ‘pushing’ a philosophy is ethics, because human persuasion is linked to emotional evaluation. Another way to say this is that, even though the ‘entry-point’ into philosophy is epistemology (which immediately leads to a certain, contended metaphysics)—the ‘persuasive-point’ in philosophies will be that which aims at value. Rand was merely utilizing psychology to get her point across. And there’s nothing wrong with that (except, of course, reading too much into it).”

 

My reply: I certainly agree that Rand did not only focus on objectivity as an ethical matter. But actually, it appears that Rand's first public mention of "objectivity" or the "objective" was a metaphysical usage, the very usage which she abandoned after 1965. At the sales conference at Random House, preceding the publication of Atlas Shrugged in 1957, she presented the essence of her philosophy "while standing on one foot," and she bagan by saying: "1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality ('Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed' or 'Wishing won't make it so.') She didn't use the words"objective" or "objectivity" in regard to her epistemology or her ethics at that time. Even later, in 1962, in her column "Introducting Objectivism," when Rand gave the "briefest summary" of her philosophy, she only used the term in reference to her metaphysical views: "1. Reality exists as an objective absolute--facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes,hopes or fears." As Peikoff later clarified, this usage of "objective" ("Objective Reality") simply refers to the Primacy of Existence--reality exists independently of consciousness; it is the object, not the product, of awareness.

 

Her next significant public use of the terms "objective" or "objectivity" appears to have been her 1965 essay about who is the "final authority" in ethics, where she began switching over to an epistemological and a psychological/ethical focus -- on the nature of an act of awareness that adheres to reality, and the moral character of a person who consciously adheres to reality. Later that year, she wrote another essay ("What is Capitalism?"), in which she spoke of the good, in much the same way Aquinas did, as inhering in both the evaluation (act of awareness) and the aspect of reality so evaluated (object of awareness). To me, this is highly significant, yet she seems never to have explicitly developed this point further than this. And I think that is to the detriment of her trichotomy, especially seeing how she persuaded Peikoff (about 1970-72) to stop discussing perception in terms of sense data being objective (rather than intrinsic or subjective). She and Peikoff have written very good things about applying the trichotomy on the conceptual level, but I think they made a wrong turn at Albuquerque in regard to perception. (See below as well as my previous comments to Phil Coates about this.)  

2. I wrote: “As for reality, it does not, strictly speaking, have objectivity. Reality only has objectivity in relation to consciousness.

 

Ed comments: “The concept of objectivity, logically depends on the possibility of subjectivity (ie. of ‘getting it wrong’). I agree, but then we are limited to epistemic objectivity—which you seem to decry as a concept exhaustive of objectivity (because it fails to integrate ‘metaphysical objectivity’—what you had identified as a Primacy of Existence).”

 

My reply: No, that’s not accurate, in several ways.

 

First, “objectivity” only implies “subjectivity” in regard to volitional matters, where we have the option or possibility of “getting something” right or wrong, i.e., consciously adhering to reality or not. Perception automatically adheres to reality. Concept-formation, logic, etc. do not automatically adhere to reality. But I am saying that, in keeping with the original usage of the term, “objective” in its core, primary meaning simply means: pertaining to reality-adherence, irrespective of volition. If an act of awareness adheres to an aspect of reality, even automatically so, as in perception, then that act of awareness is objective—it adheres to the object of awareness. If an aspect of reality is adhered to by an act of awareness, even automatically so, as by perception, then that aspect of reality is objective—it is the object of (i.e., adhered to by) awareness. Objectivity is thus far broader an issue than volitionally getting something right vs. volitionally getting it wrong (subjectivity). These latter cases are special (and important) cases, but Rand and Peikoff mistakenly shrunk down our focus so as to omit some other very important cases, most notably, Peikoff’s now abandoned discussion of sense data as being objective (rather than intrinsic or subjective).

 

Secondly, it was not I, but Leonard Peikoff, who acknowledged that the metaphysical usage, “objective reality,” is just another and (allegedly) “harmless” way of referring to Primacy of Existence. Since the latter is actually less misleading, I am not surprised that Rand stopped using the phrase “objective reality” about 1965, and that she and Peikoff et al almost exclusively instead used the phrase “Primacy of Existence.”

 

My objection regarding the trichotomy was not about the above, now abandoned metaphysical usage, "objective reality" (meaning: reality being independent of consciousness). My objection was that Rand began so well by seeming to distinguish (in "What is Capitalism?") between two aspects of objectivity, and then she seemed later to abandon or severely delimit one of those aspects. 

Again, in any relationship between consciousness and existence, there is an act of awareness and an aspect of reality. The term "objective" applies to them both, and I tried to coin new terms to help avoid confusion with Rand’s (now discarded) metaphysical usage mentioned above. (When you re-read that section, you will see that I needlessly clutter up and confuse the issue by saying "ontological" or "metaphysical" -- and "epistemic" or "epistemological." Please delete in your mind the words following "or" in each case; they only confuse what I am highlighting with what Rand was trying to say in her essay the "final authority" in ethics.)

 

The act of awareness is epistemically objective, because it is an act of awareness that adheres to the aspect of reality. The aspect of reality is ontologically objective, because it is an aspect of reality that is adhered to by the act of awareness. An act of awareness that does not adhere to an act of reality is not (epistemically) objective. And an aspect of reality that is not adhered to by an act of awareness is not (ontologically) objective. Is that clearer now?

 

Finally, I am not decrying the fact that Rand abandoned her metaphysical usage “objective reality,” only that she did so without announcement or clarification. What I am primarily decrying and protesting about is the fact that while Rand performed the incredibly important service of uncovering the dual-aspect nature of objectivity (in “What is Capitalism?”), apparently she did not fully grasp what she had unearthed, and instead failed to fully integrate the ontologically objective to the epistemically objective. She overly focused on the latter, and made matters even worse by saying that objectivity (in the epistemic sense of adherence to reality) is impossible except volitionally. As a consequence of this error and distorting focus, she induced Peikoff to rip out one of the most original and illuminating portions of his presentation of her philosophy, his discussion of sense data as being objective, rather than intrinsic or subjective. (See #9 and #10 below, as well as my previous reply to Phil, for more on this.) Fewer things in “official Objectivism” upset me more than this. It will receive prominent attention in my forthcoming book The Errors of Objectivism. (Just kidding, I think. :-/ )

 

3. I wrote: "Rand's phrase ‘objective reality’ thus was taken to reflect this metaphysical view, that reality is the object, not the subject or creation of consciousness. But is this true?  In one sense, no.  Consciousness is real, too, and some real aspects of consciousness are generated by, created by, a person’s conscious acts.  Both subjective aspects such as dreams or imagination and objective aspects such as sense data are generated by consciousness (i.e., a person’s being conscious).”
 
Ed comments: “I think that it’s useful to make a distinction between extra-mental reality (which ‘sense’-perception reveals to us) and an inner, strictly-mental reality (which introspection reveals to us). Consciousness of dreams is not direct consciousness of (extra-mental) reality—it is consciousness of an ‘inner’ reality, generated by consciousness, as you correctly say. But this just delineates that (after a necessary and sufficient perception of some parts of reality—along with the functioning perceptual faculty of memory), that there will be mental objects to be aware of (besides the ‘extra-mental’ objects). In a sense then, there is a unique ‘inner’ reality generated by each consciousness—but this has nothing to do with sense-perceived (extra-mental) reality. Also, I disagree that sense data are ‘generated.’ I realize that there is a ‘process’ to perception, but I do not recognize the ‘mental creation’ of sense data. This view seems to fall into the trap of the sense datum theory of perception—as opposed to direct (adverbial) perception.”

 

My reply: In saying that sense data are “generated” by consciousness, I didn’t mean to imply that we create sense data out of whole cloth. The data are actually the result of the causal interaction between some aspect of reality and our brains, sense organs, nervous systems &c. So, it is the interaction between our consciousness and existence that “generates” sense data, and these data, as Peikoff well explains, are the means by which we perceive reality. However, since the interaction with the aspect of reality and the generation of the data takes place inside our bodies, while the aspect of reality we are interacting with and perceiving is, you know, “way over there,” it makes some sense to think of our conscious brains &c as generating the data. They certainly played a causal role in the generating of the data (as did the aspect of reality, “way over there,” that we are causally interacting with by, for instance, taking in a stream of light or sound waves radiating from it). I’m sorry for any confusion this might have caused, and I hope it’s clearer now.

 

4. I wrote: “Even subjective phenomena (e.g., fantasies, etc.) have metaphysical primacy over an act of consciousness that holds them as its object! ... Everything that is being held as the object of a mind is uncreated by and thus independent of that act of a mind—even subjective phenomena that are generated by some other act of a mind than the act that views them.”

 

Ed comments: “Okay, the fantasies are real ‘for’ the subject (though they don’t pertain, at all, to extra-mental reality)—I think I get it.”

 

My reply: Yup, you got it.
 
5. I wrote: “Prior to Kant, ‘subjective’ referred to the nature of a thing in itself (i.e., as a thing, a subject), as opposed to ‘objective,’ which referred to the nature of a thing as it is presented to (i.e., the object of) consciousness.  After Descartes, the term ‘subjective’ was constricted to refer specifically to the nature of the perceiving or thinking consciousness, while ‘objective’ is used to refer to what is considered as independent of the perceiving or thinking self.”

 

Ed comments: “These 2 alternatives are misleading, as Descartes was ‘[p]rior to Kant’ and Kant came ‘[a]fter Descartes’—ie. they are each speaking about the SAME time period (the time between Descartes and Kant), yet they postulate different views for that same time period.”

 

My reply: The period between Descartes and Kant was a transition period, in regard to usage of the term “objective.” Descartes still used it in the Scholastic sense, while Kant no longer used it in that sense, but instead in the new…Kantian…sense. The Oxford English Dictionary gives no further details except to make it clear that Kant was the most prominent, decisive factor in this definition switch of “objective.” No doubt a dedicated scholar could better ferret out exactly did what to whom about this, but I think it’s reasonable to blame Kant for it. J  (I’m smiling, because I’m expecting/hoping to hear from Fred Seddon on this.)

 


6. I wrote: “Once the meaning of ‘subject’ changed from that of an existent, whether conscious or not, to that of a conscious being, it was inevitable that ‘objective’ would lose the meaning of an existent before the mind and instead take on the meaning of an existent apart from the mind.”

 

Ed comments: “I'm muddled here. Is every act of consciousness awareness BY a subject and ABOUT an object, or not?”

 

My reply: Yes. The original meaning of “subjective” referred to any existent, including a conscious being, apart from its being the object of awareness—that is, anything that exists, considered “in itself.” The modern meaning of “subjective” was drastically narrowed to refer specifically to the person who is aware. The original meaning of “objective” referred to any existent, insofar as it is the object of awareness. The modern meaning of “objective” was totally switched to refer to any existent apart from its being the product of awareness. You can see how there has been a radical switch between the Scholastic usages and the Kantian et al usages. And in my opinion, the healthiest, most valid developments in Objectivism have been those away from the Kantian usages (e.g., Rand’s “objective reality”) and toward the Scholastic usages (sense data as objective, meaning a thing in reality as one is perceptually aware of it).

 

7. I wrote: “... referring to mind-independent reality as ‘Objective Reality,’ a phrase she pretty much stopped using after the mid-1960s. Peikoff says in OPAR that this metaphysical usage is ‘harmless,’ since it is really just another label for Primacy of Existence (existence being independent of consciousness). But surely it's not that benign. (Besides, it's Kantian!)”

 

Ed requests: "Please elaborate."

 

My reply: Sure. “Objective reality” meaning existence being independent of consciousness is “Kantian” if and to the extent that Kant is responsible for the modern usage of “objective” meaning existence apart from consciousness. It’s not benign, because it’s muddled. Rand improved the clarity of discourse by substituting the term “intrinsic” to mean existence apart from consciousness. To retain clarity, she also (apparently) felt she had to stop saying “objective reality,” because it would sound as though she were confusing the objective with the intrinsic. Furthermore, in its original, core meaning, “object” referred to the aspect of reality involved in an act-object relationship. Thus, an aspect of reality is literally only “objective,” if it is the object of an act of awareness, and to refer to an aspect of reality as “objective” apart from its being the object of an act of awareness is deadly confusing. Which again, it seems to me, is why Rand stopped using the phrase “objective reality.” (Those of you out there with the Rand research CD-ROM—I would be interested, and surprised, to know of any instances where she uses the phrase “objective reality” after 1965.)
 
8. I wrote: “Thus, there are two aspects of the ‘objective’—an aspect pertaining to existence in relation to consciousness, and an aspect pertaining to consciousness in relation to existence. (To keep them distinct in my mind, I sometimes call the former one the ‘ontological’ or ‘metaphysical’ objective—and the latter one the ‘epistemic’ or ‘epistemological’ objective. But they are inseparable aspects of a single situation.) Much of Rand’s and Peikoff’s subsequent (i.e., post-1965) discussion of the ‘objective’ focused on this second aspect: the nature of a reality-adhering consciousness—rather than the first aspect: the nature of reality when it is in the situation of being adhered to by consciousness.”

 

Ed comments: “This seems like a distinction without a difference. The law of identity (‘existence is identity’) seems sufficient for a complete validation of metaphysical objectivity, though only after practicing epistemic objectivity—will this become inescapably clear to a rational thinker. The one is utilized, chronologically, prior to the other—yet the other is logically prior. So there is a truth, and a means to know it—and what folks need to learn, is how to recognize the truth (ie. philosophical justifications should be epistemic in nature).”

 

My reply: It’s no more a “distinction without a difference” than the distinction between the act and object of awareness itself. We used to be encouraged to apply the term “objective” to reality as it exists independent of our awareness. But since 1965, Rand et al quietly stopped using the phrase “objective reality” in their writings and lectures. Instead, they spoke of “Primacy of Existence,” which is fine and definitely less misleading—and for reality independent of or apart from existence they instead consistently used the term “intrinsic.”

 

So far, so good. But if “objective” in its primary, core meaning pertains to an “adherence” relationship between existence and consciousness, then it is clear that this relationship goes both ways, just as the “spousal” relationship goes both ways between husband and wife. The man is a “spouse” when he is the husband of a woman, and the woman is a “spouse” when she is the wife of a man. An aspect of reality is (ontologically) “objective” when it is adhered to by an act of awareness, and an act of awareness is (epistemically) “objective” when it adheres to an aspect of reality. If this is a distinction without a difference, then you’d better take it up with my wife!  J

 

9. I wrote: What turned Peikoff around (unfortunately) was Rand's argument that only volitional acts of awareness (and not perception) could be ‘objective,’ since one can only adhere to reality by an act of choice. Peikoff later echoed this argument in OPAR. Surely, though, this is not correct. Even though conceptual grasping of reality requires deliberate choice, the perceptual grasp of reality is automatic. We automatically adhere (attach) to reality in perception; but this does not make it any less objective, any less adherent to reality.”

 

Ed comments: “This sounds contradictory to what I’ve read. If perception can’t be objective, then there is no base (or basis) for knowledge. If I ask Peikoff where he stands on that, what do you think he would say in response? If he’s written a contradiction, please marshal it—in detail—as evidence.”
 

My reply: Sure. Peikoff wrote it in OPAR. (I’m sure you can find the page it’s on; I’m not home, or I’d look it up for you, but I think it’s in the chapter titled “Objectivity.”) Perception is not volitional. Only the volitional is objective. So perception is not objective. (So the argument goes, anyway.) Peikoff first said it several years earlier in “Objectivism: the State of the Art.” He explained how Rand convinced him that he was in error in portraying perception as being objective in his Modern Philosophy lectures (1970). (See above as well as my previous reply to Phil for more detail on this.)

 

10. I wrote: “Another is that the initial move Rand made back toward the original meaning of "objective" -- reality held as the object of awareness -- seems to have been largely abandoned, in favor of a focus on awareness holding reality as its object." 

 

Ed comments: “1. ‘reality held as the object of awareness.’ 2. ‘awareness holding reality as its object.’ Please elaborate on how these 2 things are different.”

 

My reply: They are two inseparable aspects of the relation between consciousness and existence. However, since they can be distinguished in thought, a person can put an undue emphasis on one, while neglecting the other. And if that undue emphasis also has the added factor of ruling out the non-volitional, then the neglected facet will tend to be applied only to the volitional as well. I think that Rand’s focus on #2, and her insistence that only volitional awareness and not perception could be objective, led her to pressure Peikoff into dropping his luminously clear (and valid) discussion of how the trichotomy applies to perception. Sense data are objective, rather than subjective or intrinsic, according to Peikoff in 1970. By 1972 and forever after, they are not objective, because perception is not volitional. Q.E.D. (Not!)

 

11. I wrote: “For instance, is the good an attribute of a thing one values, apart from one’s conscious rational awareness of it?  (Intrinsicism)  Or is the good an attribute of a thing one values, apart from the nature of the thing valued? (Subjectivism)  Or is the good an attribute of a thing one values that is the product of one’s rational awareness of some aspect of the thing’s identity?  (Objectivism)  In other words, as Rand (1965) asks: is the good an aspect of reality apart from man's awareness of it, or an aspect of man's consciousness apart from the nature of reality, or 'an aspect of reality in relation to man'."? 

 

Ed comments: “But ANY potential, viable value, ie. something that is really good (for you), is something of which you can, potentially, be aware. If you couldn't ever become aware of something—as a conscious being—then it couldn't ever be a value (as it would then have no potentiality to become one, because values are always and only discovered things).”

 

My reply: Right, but as such, it’s only a potential value. Actual value, for Rand, was the result of a certain evaluative relationship between a living being and some aspect of reality, and the living being’s subsequent pursuit of that aspect of reality. (She even discussed value in regard to plants, which are not conscious, but do interact with and respond to their environments by seeking things that will help them survive.) If that evaluative/pursing relationship (which requires acts by the living being) does not exist, then value does not actually exist. To speak of value apart from this relationship (and the acts that generate it) is to either speak of value as “intrinsic,” or to speak of value that is merely potential and not actual.

 

Remember, nothing is “really good for you,” apart from your context and your awareness. One example will suffice: is water good for you? Not out of context. If you’re drowning in the ocean, a glass of water is the last thing you would benefit from. (Literally, even!) It’s potentially good for me, once I’m pulled to safety and feel thirsty. But even then, suppose I’m thirsty and facing a deadline on an essay, and I have to forego the drink, if I am to meet my deadline. Is the water “really good for me” then? Nope, unless my thirst reaches the point that my desire and need to drink is so intense that I may die as the result of continuing to write the essay without taking a drink. But suppose I am a terminal cancer patient, and this essay is the last thing I have any realistic hope of achieving, and I really want to have it as part of my legacy, what I leave behind, and taking a drink (substitute sex, if you like J ) will sufficiently disrupt my writing process that the essay won’t be as good as I want it to be. There really are dilemmas in life, where we have to choose what “really is good for us” (or “best” for us). As Adam Reed says, context matters, especially in regard to the good as objective.
 
REB






(Edited by Roger Bissell on 2/08, 1:30pm)




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Post 9

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 1:33pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen Boydstun -- I'm not ignoring your question, I'm just deferring a reply to it. :-)

In the meantime, you are cordially invited to put your own view on the table! Or to state in more pointed form any possible problem you see with my view in regard to the things we perceive being "ontologically objective" vs. "physically intrinsic."

REB




Post 10

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 7:46pmSanction this postReply
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> Rand took him aside after this lecture and chided him for making it sound as though perception were "objective."

Roger, do you happen to have an exact quote on this which includes the surrounding context? I believe I attended that lecture, this is the kind of thing I usually pick up on with my intense interest in metaphysics and epistemology, and I don't recall this. So I'm wondering if you possibly might have confused or oversimplified this point...



Post 11

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 7:56pmSanction this postReply
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> She had a devil of a time dialoguing with John Hospers, who insisted on linguistic precision when using such concepts. Rand was highly suspicious of this approach. [Roger]

Roger, I know you enough to know you mean well, but I don't think its fair to characterize with such certainty the details of a complex intellectual relationship such as this which you were not a party to "from a distance" or from third-party or hearsay evidence. You are overstating, extrapolating beyond what -you- can actually know of the intricacies of their private conversations, unless you had also heard Rand's side of it.

> she quietly abandoned it without an explanation...the fact that that doesn't bother you really bothers me!

Did you miss where I said that certain concepts can have multiple meanings and that, if the thinker is clear *in which sense he is using them at the time*, it is appropriate to do so?

Phil




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Post 12

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 10:52pmSanction this postReply
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I originally wrote (regarding Peikoff and his application in the early 1970s of the trichotomy to perception):

Rand took him aside after this lecture and chided him for making it sound as though perception were "objective."

Phil Coates asks:

Roger, do you happen to have an exact quote on this which includes the surrounding context? I believe I attended that lecture, this is the kind of thing I usually pick up on with my intense interest in metaphysics and epistemology, and I don't recall this. So I'm wondering if you possibly might have confused or oversimplified this point...

Phil, I too have an intense interest in metaphysics and epistemology, and when I heard Peikoff's 1970 lecture, the one applying the trichotomy to perception, no one could have been more rivetted and transfixed with insight and gratitude than I was. And no one could have been more uneasy when the same application was not present in his 1972 lectures or his 1976 lectures. It took FIFTEEN YEARS for an explanation to surface, and ANOTHER FIFTEEN YEARS before I heard it directly from the taped lecture (in 2002).

 

But you don't want to hear about all that. You asked for an exact quote. You are in luck. I am a major stockholder in Exact Quotes R Us! :-) Seriously, here is as exact a quote as my rock-music-deadened ears can render from the Q-A session of Lecture 1 of "Objectivism: the State of the Art" (1987). Perhaps you don't recall this due to the fact that it was not in the lecture but in the Q-A session that followed. (We must assume he is quoting Rand accurately.)

[Questioner asks:  What are things that you did in the past that you're right about now?]...[Leonard Peikoff:] I’ll tell you one really gross error that's on one of the tapes.  I applied the objective-subjective-intrinsic trichotomy to sense perception.  I took the view that sense experience was objective—this was many years ago—as opposed to being intrinsic or subjective, and tried to develop a whole thing around that, which is completely wrong, because the concept of objectivity” only arises on the conceptual level.  There’s no choice, and there's no method with regard to sense percepts.  They’re just given.  And that was thoroughly confusing.  That must have cost me three years of mental development, just that one error.  As I remember, Ayn Rand casually said to me, You know, that wasn't too clear, because you made it sound as though sense perceptions are objective.”  And I said, Well, what do you mean?” [Laughter] [Question-answer session #1]

So, what do you say about that, Phil? Are you chagrined -- incredulous -- outraged? All of the above? Any of the above? I hope you're not still wondering if it was me who was confused or oversimplifying the point. 

 

REB




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Post 13

Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 11:05pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote:
She had a devil of a time dialoguing with John Hospers, who insisted on linguistic precision when using such concepts. Rand was highly suspicious of this approach.
Phil Coates commented:
Roger, I know you enough to know you mean well, but I don't think its fair to characterize with such certainty the details of a complex intellectual relationship such as this which you were not a party to "from a distance" or from third-party or hearsay evidence. You are overstating, extrapolating beyond what -you- can actually know of the intricacies of their private conversations, unless you had also heard Rand's side of it.
Well, Phil, my understanding of their relationship, and of Rand's attitude toward Hospers' "linguistic analytical" approach, comes from two sources: Hospers' own comments, including comments made in person, and Rand's comments to him in the volume of her Letters. (I may also or instead be recalling comments in her Marginalia book.)

I wrote:
...she quietly abandoned it without an explanation...the fact that that doesn't bother you really bothers me!
Phil commented:
Did you miss where I said that certain concepts can have multiple meanings and that, if the thinker is clear *in which sense he is using them at the time*, it is appropriate to do so?
Yes, multiple meanings with clarity and specificity is a good thing. But that is not what I was bothered about. In the early days of her public statements about her philosophy (1957 and 1962, for instance), she explicitly offered as the one major attribute of her philosophy regarding "objective" the metaphysical view that "reality is objective" with references to "objective reality." Then, at some point about 1965, she appears to have stopped cold in using that terminology, while offering no announcement or explanation of doing so. That was her pre-eminent usage of "objective" prior to 1965, one that really got my juices flowing (anyone else?), but then she just dumped it as if it never existed. Doesn't this bother you?

REB

P.S. As obsessive as I have been in culling Rand's work for usage about the "objective," I still admit it's possible I'm wrong about this, and I have appealed to Ayn Rand Research CD-ROM users for documentation of any references she made after 1965 to "objective reality," but so far no one has responded. I will check it out myself when I return home from Arizona this weekend, if I haven't heard from anyone else by then. And if I find that I'm wrong about it, I will admit it, you can rest assured on that. (Despite what some soreheads are saying on RoR about my trustworthiness.)




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Wednesday, February 8, 2006 - 11:07pmSanction this postReply
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Okay Rog,

Point 1 (regarding the -- ethical vs. epistemological -- initial use of the term: objectivity):
Agreed.

Point 2 (regarding the notion that reality ONLY has objectivity in relation to consciousness, yet you still -- on pain of contradiction? -- still push for a 2nd -- ie. metaphysical -- notion of objectivity):

======================
an aspect of reality that is not adhered to by an act of awareness is not (ontologically) objective. Is that clearer now?"
======================

Hell no! Sheesh! What you are saying here is that even reality isn't (ONTOLOGICALLY???) objective -- if an "act of awareness" is not adhering to it. Welcome Ontological Idealism! Berkeley would be too proud of you!

;-)

======================
She overly focused on the latter [epistemic objectivity; over-and-above ontologic objectivity], and made matters even worse by saying that objectivity (in the epistemic sense of adherence to reality) is impossible except volitionally.
======================

Roger, a CONCEPTUAL awareness of reality is only possible via volition. And how can you be so sure that she meant ALL awareness?! How do you square this notion of yours with her dictum that all objective concepts must be able to, in principle, be reduced down to perceptions??!! If it all, potentially, reduces to perception -- then she's clear of your charge here. Again, if I were to ask Rand whether or not perception epistemologically "trumps" everything else, or not -- how do you think that she would answer that???

I'll have more to say later, but I don't want to be criticized for "overkill" ... so, after these 2 points are answered, I will address 2 more.

Ed




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Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 12:05amSanction this postReply
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Hi Roger,

Interesting article (which I think is formatted better now).  I don't have too much of a problem with Rand using the phrase "Objective reality", although it's obvious with a little inspection that the adjective is all wrong.  I consider that a very minor problem, but I think I understand your perspective.  If you really want to get very specific and precise with concepts like that, it has to be outright rejected.  I think the point tied in well with the rest of the article, and I came away having a deeper understanding and interest in the topic.  Thank you.

I think in the discussion that followed your example of Existence and Identity being two aspects of the same thing very clearly explains your two aspects of objectivity, and how the concept can be broken up. And obviously one of them is very dominant, for good reason.  Epistemic objectivity, by your wording, is of fundamental importance in epistemology.   I can understand the distinction (I think), and don't want to argue it.    My question is, what uses does "ontological objectivity" have?  Can you give some examples of why it's worth thinking about things in that way, and what we gain?  It's not obvious, and I didn't see it in the article or the following discussion (although I admit I didn't read it all).  I assume you have something important in mind or you wouldn't bother with such a distinction.

Thanks again for the article.  You've obviously put a lot of time and energy into this topic, and I'm glad you shared.




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Post 16

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 12:31amSanction this postReply
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Hi, Joe! You wrote:
Interesting article (which I think is formatted better now).  I don't have too much of a problem with Rand using the phrase "Objective reality", although it's obvious with a little inspection that the adjective is all wrong.  I consider that a very minor problem, but I think I understand your perspective.  If you really want to get very specific and precise with concepts like that, it has to be outright rejected.  I think the point tied in well with the rest of the article, and I came away having a deeper understanding and interest in the topic.  Thank you.
I'm glad you got some insight and appreciation for the importance of the subject. That was part of my purpose in sharing the article. (And thanks for tweaking the article so it is easier for the others to read!)
I think in the discussion that followed your example of Existence and Identity being two aspects of the same thing very clearly explains your two aspects of objectivity, and how the concept can be broken up. And obviously one of them is very dominant, for good reason.  Epistemic objectivity, by your wording, is of fundamental importance in epistemology.   I can understand the distinction (I think), and don't want to argue it.    My question is, what uses does "ontological objectivity" have?  Can you give some examples of why it's worth thinking about things in that way, and what we gain?  It's not obvious, and I didn't see it in the article or the following discussion (although I admit I didn't read it all).  I assume you have something important in mind or you wouldn't bother with such a distinction.
There is a big issue in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of perception which is called "the ontological status of sense data" (or "the metaphysical status of sense data"). Peikoff had a wonderful and illuminating discussion of this in his 1970 Modern Philosophy lectures. Basically, as he outlined it, there have traditionally been two, erroneous positions about the nature of sense data: one view is that colors, sounds, etc. are "out there," intrinsic in reality -- the other that colors, sounds, etc. are "in here," subjective. Peikoff outlined the Objectivist position, which is that sense data are "the out there as perceived in here." Sense data, like so many conscious phenomena (like values, the good, truth), are objective phenomena or, as some put it, relational phenomena. They arise when consciousness adheres to reality. In his 1970 discussion, Peikoff used the trichotomy terminology. Then, at Rand's gentle (?) urging, he stopped using the trichotomy to discuss perception and sense data, as I noted and documented in my reply to Phil.

What is its importance or worth? If you are at all concerned with the issue of where sense data (or value or truth or essence &c) are located -- out there, in here, or relationally: the out there as grasped in here -- then the trichotomy is the tool par excellence for laying out the three options. The "where" of conscious phenomena is what the ontologically objective is all about. And its application to perception and other issues, like the nature of mind, has been given short shrift by Objectivism, ever since Rand had her little chat with Peikoff in 1970. In fact, I think it's reasonable to suppose that Objectivism's view on the mind-body problem, which still seems lacking to me, could have greatly benefited from a treatment similar to Peikoff's 1970 treatment of sense data -- and would have, had his confidence not been shaken in his use of the ontologically objective (out there/in here/out there grasped in here) kind of analysis. But that is speculation on my part, and lots of water under the bridge. Maybe some day it will all be straightened out...
Thanks again for the article.  You've obviously put a lot of time and energy into this topic, and I'm glad you shared.
You're welcome, Joe. I've thought a great deal about this topic for about 35 years now. It has been a great source of frustration, being an outsider on the sidelines of the movement, knowing that the "powers that be" were not going to want to hear what I had to say, because it would expose a great detour or loss to the movement, brought about because of unclear thinking by their mentor and themselves. And it is a great source of satisfaction, having a place like RoR to share these concerns and insights.

REB




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Post 17

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 1:06amSanction this postReply
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Ed Thompson raises two more points (with two more in the wings):

1. Ed asks: "...regarding the notion that reality ONLY has objectivity in relation to consciousness, yet you still -- on pain of contradiction? -- still push for a 2nd -- ie. metaphysical -- notion of objectivity..." and quotes my previous comment:

REB: "...an aspect of reality that is not adhered to by an act of awareness is not (ontologically) objective. Is that clearer now?"

Ed then says: "Hell no! Sheesh! What you are saying here is that even reality isn't (ONTOLOGICALLY???) objective -- if an "act of awareness" is not adhering to it. Welcome Ontological Idealism! Berkeley would be too proud of you! ;-)"

My reply: Please adhere to the particular sense of "objective" being discussed!

"Ontologically objective" does NOT mean "independent of consciousness." (That is Rand's original and now abandoned sense of "objective reality," referring to the fact that reality exists and is what it is independent of consciousness. That is the sense usually referred to a "metaphysically objective," a usage pretty much obsolete nowadays, since 1965 or so, and replaced with "Primacy of Existence.) And it does NOT mean "created by consciousness" either! (And George Berkeley can kiss my ass! Satisfied? :-)

"Ontologically objective" refers to an aspect of reality that (while existing independently of consciousness) is the object of consciousness. It does NOT refer to an aspect of reality that is the creation of consciousness. And it does NOT refer to an aspect of reality apart from being the object  of consciousness. (That is what Rand introduced the term "intrinsic" for, and it has been her stand-in since 1965 for "objective reality.")

2. I previously wrote: "She overly focused on the latter [epistemic objectivity; over-and-above ontologic objectivity], and made matters even worse by saying that objectivity (in the epistemic sense of adherence to reality) is impossible except volitionally."

Ed comments: "Roger, a CONCEPTUAL awareness of reality is only possible via volition. And how can you be so sure that she meant ALL awareness?! How do you square this notion of yours with her dictum that all objective concepts must be able to, in principle, be reduced down to perceptions??!! If it all, potentially, reduces to perception -- then she's clear of your charge here. Again, if I were to ask Rand whether or not perception epistemologically 'trumps' everything else, or not -- how do you think that she would answer that???"

My reply: In my response to Phil Coates, I quoted Peikoff's 1987 explanation of how Rand convinced him to stop talking about perception as though it were objective. He also states the point in OPAR in the chapter on objectivity. If Peikoff's recollection of this radical swerve isn't sufficient, there is also his own actions in regard to how differently he discussed the ontological status of sense data in his 1970 lecture, vs. every subsequent lecture and his book. Rand clearly wanted Peikoff to stop referring to perception as "objective," as adhering to reality, because it is not volitional -- and he unfortunately complied.

Further: when Rand first raised the issue in ITOE (1967), she clearly stated that the false dichotomy of intrinsic vs. subjective raised havoc in every issue of the relation between existence and consciousness. (It's somewhere in the final two chapters; I don't have the book with me here in Arizona, but I'm sure you can find the quote.) She clearly implied that the proper view was to see every phenomenon of consciousness in this manner, not just those arising on the volitional, conceptual level. Peikoff gave an elegant application of her trichotomy to the subject of perception in 1970, and then, at her request or suggestion, he dumped that application forevermore.

Your other comments don't seem relevant to my point. I am well aware that to be objective, our conceptual knowledge must reduce to a base in percepts. Rand's point was that objectivity = adherence to reality must be volitional, that if a process like perception automatically adheres to reality, that doesn't count as objectivity. Only volitional adherence to reality counts as objectivity. (We can't have animals going around thinking they're objective, don't you know! ;-)

================================================================================

Ed, I can't promise that I will continue to have this much time and energy to answer your concerns, but I'll try. Some of the questions you ask are very good and important, and there's no time like the present to get at these long overdue issues. I appreciate your help in digging into this neglected topic.

REB




Post 18

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 2:07amSanction this postReply
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Roger, I think part of the problem here is the inherently linguistic nature of the body of human knowledge (as opposed to the immediate contact with reality that perception affords). With regard to this, Peikoff (OPAR, p 37) says that human knowledge is, inherently, something conceptual ...

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Human knowledge however, though based on sensory perception, is conceptual in nature.
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So, when he's talking about objective knowledge (that body of knowledge potentially knowable by every man), then he's talking about something arrived at via volition.


And, regarding the postulate of objectivity of perception he writes (same page) the following ...

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If seeing is not believing, then thinking is worthless as well.
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Now that seems difficult (if not, impossible) to square with any kind of view of perception other than one of total objectivity -- and that is my current beef with your essay, now.

Also, there is a point to be made about perceptual acknowledgment of a variant -- or an invariant -- picked up in our perceptual field: Perception doesn't afford direct identification of every knowable entity (that wily notion that is oft called "perceptual judgment"). In this special case then, perception is not identification (though conceptual awareness is).

And, looked at in this wrong way (where mere perception is taken to afford identification) -- the objectivity of (mere) perception BECOMES subjective. The kicker is that this is the pitfall of Naive Realism (things are that which they initially look like), an inescapable pitfall of the realist side of the anti-conceptual mentality (and solipsism is the inescapable pitfall of the nominalist side). The stick in water is not bent. The railroad tracks do not converge.


Peikoff hammers this point home on page 40 of OPAR ...

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The senses do not interpret their own reactions; they do not identify the objects that impinge on them. They merely respond to stimuli, thereby making us aware of the fact that some kind of objects exist. We do not become aware of what the objects are, but merely that they are. ...

If a casual observer were to conclude that the stick actually bends in water, such a snap judgment would be a failure on the conceptual level, a failure of thought, not of perception. To criticize the sense for it is tantamount to criticizing them for their power, for their ability to give us evidence not of isolated fragments, but of a total.
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And that's difficult (if not, impossible) to square with your thesis here.

You mentioned to Joe ...

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Peikoff outlined the Objectivist position, which is that sense data are "the out there as perceived in here." ...

... Then, at Rand's gentle (?) urging, he stopped using the trichotomy to discuss perception and sense data ...
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But Rand had once asked -- in response to a question of where the attribute is (out there, in here, or out there as perceived in here) -- when cars crash, in which car is the collision? Using analogy to show the inseparable connection of the "out there" to the "in here" -- to prove that attributes are "the out there as perceived in here."

My take is that the underlying problem here is Rand's (and your's) implicit acknowledgment of "sense-data" (which cannot be done without adopting the sense-datum theory of perception). Rand's words about infants experiencing only buzzing confusion comes to mind (ie. having only sense data, by no real perception yet). THIS is the flaw that broke THIS camel's back.

Ed
[direct perception is adverbial perception]





Post 19

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 8:44amSanction this postReply
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This is continuation of my post #3, the continuation Roger invited in his post #9.

I have the baseball in my hand. I squeeze it and sense its rigidity. Compared to a ball of modeling clay, the baseball is very rigid. My question for Roger's distinction of the ontologically objective is whether the rigidity of the baseball that I sense is intrinsic as distinct from ontologically objective. When I sense the ball's rigidity, am I sensing a physical quality of the ball itself---exactly that quality it has when left in a vise in the shop, say? Is rigidity or anything at all that we perceive known to be in itself exactly as we perceive it?

If Yes, then some of our perception is of the variety known as direct realism. If No, then all such allegedly direct perceptions, such as rigidity of the baseball, are correctly analyzed as: (1) indirect realism or (2) idealism.

Roger's characterization of all sensory perception as ontologically objective in an epistemological tripartition of intrinsic-objective-subjective would seem to fit most easily with the indirect realist account of perception. That is the dominant school in contemporary philosophy of perception. The milestone work The Problem of Perception (2002) by A. D. Smith, which I applauded in post #3, is a sustained argument against the coherence of indirect realism. It defends direct realism. I expect it is known to readers here that the preeminent defense of direct realism anchored expressly in Rand's metaphysics is David Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses (1986).

On Roger's account of perceptual awareness, I don't see how we could ever know if the rigidity of my baseball as I experience it is the very quality of the ball as it is when locked in a vise in the shop. I cannot know the sameness, even if I reach my fingers around the ball and squeeze it while it is locked in that vise. It seems that on Roger's account, it is an indirect realism, not direct realism, that gives the best account of perception. Roger anchors his account in Rand's metaphysics, and his account would seem to be a competitor to, not simply a sub-account of Kelley's.

I really appreciate the thoughts from the other contributors to this thread, and I appreciate Roger's responses to them.




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