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Post 0

Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 1:28pmSanction this postReply
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[double-post deleted]
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 9/09, 1:33pm)


Post 1

Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 1:31pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

I'm interested in getting this book.

You mentioned that Peikoff's representation of Kant, along with Rand's, was lopsided (lacking in balance). This calls to mind 2 questions: Does he rake Kant across the coals? Did Kant deserve it? You can't separate those 2 questions, isolating an answer to one of them and then trying to judge it without input from the answer to the other. Many people think that only Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff (and all the 'randroids') arrived at such harsh judgment of Kant's works. If this were the case -- if only 2 people, along with eyes-glazed-over groupies -- thought this way about Kant, then perhaps a case could be made that it is possible that he doesn't deserve such harsh, philosophical criticism.

But Rand and Peikoff are not the only critics of Kant who go so far. Here is Mortimer Adler writing about Kant in his book: Ten Philosophical Mistakes (p 96-100). He is as negative on Kant as was Rand:
... self-evident truths or axioms. They have mistakenly accepted Kant's restriction of such truths to verbal tautologies, to trifling and uninstructive statements.

But this is not the worst of Kant's mistakes. Much worse is his view about synthetic judgments a priori. A synthetic judgment is not trifling and uninstructive. It does not depend upon an arbitrary definition of terms. It is the kind of judgment that Hume regarded as a truth about matters of fact or real existence. In every such case, the opposite of what is asserted is possible--thinkable, conceivable. ...

To maintain that there are synthetic judgments a priori, as Kant does, is, perhaps, the singlemost revolutionary step that he took to overcome the conclusions reached by Hume that he found repugnant. ...

To do this, Kant endowed the human mind with transcendental forms of sense-apprehension or intuition (the forms of space and time), and also with the transcendental categories of the understanding. ... The mind brings these transcendental forms and categories to experience, thereby constituting the shape and character of the experience we have.

According to Kant, the mind is not (as John Locke rightly insisted it was in his refutation of Cartesian innate ideas) a tabula rasa--a total blank--until it acquires ideas initially from sense-experience. Locke rightly subscribed to the mediaeval maxim that there is nothing in the mind that does not somehow derive from sense-experience. It was this maxim that Kant rejected.

The transcendental forms of sense-apprehension and the transcendental categories of the understanding are inherent in the mind and constitute its structure prior to any sense-experience. The common experience that all of us share has the character it does have because it has been given that character by the transcendental structure of the human mind. It has been formed and constituted by it. ...

How anyone in the twentieth century can take Kant's transcendental philosophy seriously is baffling, even though it may always remain admirable in certain respects as an extraordinarily elaborate and ingenious intellectual invention. ...

Kant argues for the exclusion of traditional metaphysics from the realm of genuine knowledge on the grounds that it must employ concepts derived from experience to make assertions that go beyond experience--the experience that is constituted by the a priori structure of the human mind. Where Hume dismissed traditional metaphysics as sophistry or illusion, Kant dismissed it as trans-empirical. ...

Kant had no awareness of the distinction between empirical concepts and theoretical constructs. His reasons for dismissing traditional metaphysics as devoid of the validity appropriate to genuine knowledge would apply equally to much of twentieth-century physics. ...

Finally, we come to what is, perhaps, the most serious mistake that modern philosophy inherited from Kant--the mistake of substituting idealism for realism. Even though Locke and his successor Hume made the mistake of thinking that the ideas in our minds are the only objects we directly apprehend, they somehow (albeit not without contradicting themselves) regarded us as having knowledge of a reality that is independent of our minds. Not so with Kant.

The valid knowledge we have is always and only knowledge of a world we experience. But precisely because it is a world as experienced by us, it is not, according to Kant, a world independent of our minds. ... Not being independent of our minds, it can hardly be regarded as reality, for the essential characteristic of the real is independence of the human mind.

For Kant the only things that are independent of the human mind are, in his words, "Dinge an sich"--things in themselves that are intrinsically unknowable. This is tantamount to saying that the real is the unknowable and the knowable is ideal in the sense that it is invested with the ideas that our minds bring to it to make it what it is.
[Note how similar this last is to the more concise judgment by Rand that Kant says that humans are blind because we have eyes]


My question to you is this: Assuming for the sake of argument that Kant deserved the negative criticism given to him by Adler above, does Peikoff's criticism of Kant go a great distance beyond Adler's criticism (is Peikoff's criticism "special" or perhaps even "undeserved")? There is usually good reason to be "balanced" when judging others, but you can also go too far and be "too balanced."**

I'm trying to ascertain whether that is the case here. It seems like you were wishing that Peikoff had taken the usual, academian, disinterested-reporter/disinterested-professor stance when writing this book.

Ed


**An example of this -- of being "too balanced" -- would (for instance) be at the trial of an axe murderer, when someone stands up to proclaim:
But he took really good care of his vegetable garden!
[implying that he should receive a "light sentence" because of how he treated a confined scope of inanimate vegetation]
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 9/09, 1:39pm)


Post 2

Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 1:44pmSanction this postReply
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Get possession of the book. When it is in your hands, let me know. Then we'll talk precisely.

Post 3

Sunday, September 9, 2012 - 7:10pmSanction this postReply
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Fair enough.

Post 4

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 - 4:39pmSanction this postReply
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The debate about what Kant “really meant” (Does anyone really care?) seems unimportant in comparison with Peikoff’s “bottom line.”

Skip ahead to Chapter Sixteen: “What’s Next?”  Peikoff’s prophecy: Religious totalitarianism in America within 50 years. 

In other words, Peikoff says Ayn Rand was wrong to predict Objectivism’s ultimate triumph.  (Recall her optimism about the the future as expressed in her PLAYBOY interview: Whenever men have been free, the most rational philosophy has won out.)

This also means that Ayn Rand’s number one disciple has declared that she will ultimately fail in her attempt to rescue America from its contradictory ethical/philosophical foundation.  (Now, you know how much she would appreciate hearing him say that.  OMG.  Branden got a slap in the face.  I doubt Leonard would get off that easily.  )

Atlas Shrugged will prove to be futile.  The American sense of life will die from religious asphyxiation.

And Peikoff wonders what Ayn Rand would think about his theory.  Yeah.  Right.

I will continue to read his book, but I sincerely doubt that 200 pages of “sound, inductive theorizing” is going to make such a preposterous notion look any more reasonable than it does right now.


Post 5

Sunday, September 16, 2012 - 8:59pmSanction this postReply
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Heinlein's 'crazy years', huh..........

Post 6

Saturday, September 29, 2012 - 12:13pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

I have acquired the book and have reviewed all Kant-related material therein (I've read straight through up to page 175, the last mention of Kant in the book's index). Getting back to your stated concern, you mentioned that there is evidence suggesting that Kant might have been the greatest philosophic integrator and defender of modern science in his time. Indeed, Mortimer Adler admitted that Hume was a science-destroyer, and that, after Hume, science required a defense -- that if philosophy stopped at Hume, then science itself would wither away from the radical empiricism, relativism, skepticism, and eventual solipsism that you arrive at; if you follow Hume to where he logically leads (p 96-7):
... step that he took to overcome the conclusions reached by Hume that he found repugnant. ... It was to establish Euclidean geometry and traditional arithmetic as sciences that not only have certitude, but also contain truths that are applicable to the world of our experience. It was to give the same status to Newtonian physics. ... This elaborate machinery invented by Kant enabled him to think that he had succeeded in establishing and explaining the certitude and incorrigibility of Euclidean geometry, simply arithmetic, and Newtonian physics.
 But he doesn't credit Kant with that. Instead, he says Kant was just error added on top of error (like economic controls leading to still more controls) for the spurious purpose of damage control (p 100):

In almost every case, the trouble has consisted in the fact that later thinkers tried to avoid the consequences without correcting the errors or mistakes that generated them.
In a shallow sense, it may be argued that Kant's efforts -- in the face of Hume's erected epistemological roadblocks for mankind -- are what it was that existentially kept Euclidean geometry on the map, made simple arithmetic continue to add up, and kept Newtonian physics moving along according to incorrigible laws. But you could have accomplished this -- someone could have accomplished this -- without Kant's castle-in-the-sky rationalization.

So that's my beef. I don't think it's proper to credit an error, a mistake, or worse -- simply because it was the only historical thing that had kept science alive. On that note, you can take any mistake after the fact and then re-interpret it as producing the best outcome. On a personal note, I've been guilty of this, myself. That's perhaps why I'm so strongly against it. Having a skeleton in my closet** makes me sensitive to this kind of an error.

Ed

**I remember times when I was too scared to approach a pretty woman at a bar. I was ashamed of not having the courage to be gregarious. Then, all of a sudden, her huge biker boyfriend appeared (back from a visit to the bathroom or whatever) and I scrambled to re-interpret the situation thusly:
Thank God for my deficiency of courage! If I had approached her and had gotten her phone number, then her boyfriend -- upon discovering that I was hitting on her -- might have beaten me up something fierce. It sure saved the day, me not having the courage to approach that pretty woman and all!
My point is that I do not consider this a "balanced" interpretation. It's true that my character deficiency kept me out of physical harm that day, but it is not something to champion or revere in any way, whatsoever. Just because an error happened to have worked out well temporarily is no reason to applaud it. The same is true of Kant's errors, even if they were all that it was that had kept science alive in his time. You could alternatively say that Scholasticism (because it championed "natural kinds") was a boon to science, but that -- in my opinion -- would be the same mistake.
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 9/29, 12:21pm)


Post 7

Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 11:04amSanction this postReply
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In Darkness at Noon, the hero is destroyed because he is accused of plotting the assassination of Stalin.  He is factually not guilty.  However, his interrogator convinces him from their shared beliefs that his actual ideological error - which brought him to the attention of the Party investigators - leads inevitably to the crime of which he is accused.  To be in error on the smallest point is to be guilty of the greatest crime.

Does that sound familiar?


Post 8

Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 3:36pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Ed, for the account of Adler. That much is good to keep in mind. In another thread “Between Metaphysics and Science”* I made a substantial comparison of Kant’s ideas on metaphysics and Rand’s. To that major article, I appended a note:
    In future installments, . . . I plan to discuss Kant’s metaphysics in its delimitations, guidance, and unifying structure for physics of Kant’s time and for physics and psychophysics in the nineteenth century. The philosophies of science of Kant’s descendants, the Neo-Kantians and logical positivists, will be set out.
Sorry to say, I’ve not yet accomplished the study and pulling together of that story of the last two centuries and have not gotten into a position to make an assessment of Kant’s influence on science. The work I’m doing now will still bring me back to making that study and assessment. But it will be a long time yet.

For now I leave open the possibility that continuation of the solid scientific method for physics since Newton may well have had more to do with the scientific education of the generations of physicists, who only dressed up statements of their method in this philosophic fashion or that, the fashion of Kant or Herbart or Helmholtz or Cohen or Mach or Russell or Carnap or . . . . I’ve always been struck with the circumstance that once the modern hard sciences found their effective method, their advance has been unbroken. That engine continues to roar forward today, and I have every expectation it will continue to do so on and on. So for now I leave open the possibility that the influence, good or bad, of Kant on modern science may have been small, notwithstanding lip service from the scientists. I’ll have to find out.

Now I’m a person who thinks ideas move the world. It’s a matter of taking into account all the sources and avenues of ideas.

To assess Kant’s influence more broadly in European and American culture of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, one also needs to lay out his influence on philosophy (including ethics, of course) and document the specific influence of those philosophies in the wider culture. That is not enough. One needs to also lay out the influence of Kant on theology across those centuries and the influence of new theology on those cultures.

I think of my grandparents. Actually they were the folks of my stepmother, but psychologically to me they were my grandparents. They were part of this country and its culture. Likewise for their neighbors and their community. Grandpa’s folks had emigrated from Hannover, Germany to Hannover, Kansas. When Grandpa was a young man, he moved to Oklahoma, where he drew by lot 160 acres to homestead. They used mules in those days. There was no electricity yet. He and Grandma made it. Their eight sons and one daughter made it. Those children learned English when they went to school, and by the time I knew the grandparents, starting in the 1950’s, they spoke English too, though with an accent. What was those people’s culture? They had newspapers. By the time I was there, they had electricity and radio. But I remember only three books in that farmhouse: the Bible, a hymnal, and a medical book. And I know what their “philosophy” was. It was Luther. Not a drop of johnny-come-lately Kant. Seemingly cut off from philosophy beyond the Bible and their conservative church, they worked to provide for themselves, and the sons served in WWII and Korea. Oh yes, they had political opinions. I remember how Grandma hated Woodrow Wilson for making war on the Kaiser. How Kant and other high philosophy finds ways into these parts of the culture is going to take some investigation.

I hope to work all this through and assimilate DIM eventually in completing my study “Dewey and Peikoff on Kant’s Responsibility.”* I’ll try to come back right here shortly, but gotta sign off just now.

Meanwhile, thanks again for the quotes Ed, and for your reflection.

Post 9

Sunday, September 30, 2012 - 4:27pmSanction this postReply
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I've always been struck with the circumstance that once the modern hard sciences found their effective method, their advance has been unbroken. That engine continues to roar forward today, and I have every expectation it will continue to do so on and on. So for now I leave open the possibility that the influence, good or bad, of Kant on modern science may have been small, notwithstanding lip service from the scientists.
Very well said! Now, if we can just find that 'effective method' for the soft sciences... sigh

Post 10

Monday, October 1, 2012 - 5:17amSanction this postReply
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It may be useful to have the following excerpts from my work, as far as I had taken it two years ago, titled "Dewey and Peikoff on Kant's Responsibility." I would expect that some of this supports Peikoff's views on Kant in DIM and some of it undermines his picture.
    Dewey . . . is not saying that Germany’s marvelous advances in science, industry, and the military were caused by Kant. He means, rather, “that Kant detected and formulated the direction in which the German genius was moving, . . . [and] that his formulation has furnished a banner and a conscious creed which in solid and definite fashion has intensified and deepened the work actually undertaken” (GPP 28-29).

    Concerning advances made by German scientists, that last statement by Dewey floats vaguely near the truth in the case of biology to the 1840’s (Lenoir 1982; Richards 2002, 229–61, 309–12, 407–9, 427–30, 488–91; Richards 2008, 31–36, 120–22, 459–60). However, what influence Kant had on German biology in the nineteenth century was mainly on account of his general characterization of organism life and his characterization of biological understanding in Critique of Judgment. His characterization of teleological judgments as strictly regulative (virtually hypothetical and immutably so), a doctrine well suited to his critical and transcendental idealism, was immediately pushed aside by German biologists. They took Kant’s teleological judgment to be essential in their advancing discipline, but they took teleology to be, in one form or another, a governing principle really operating in the physical domain of life, independently of our requirements for scientific explanation.

    Advances in German science were not on account of Kant’s particular form of idealism and his situation of science within it. In the case of chemistry and physics, in Germany after Kant, his doctrines sometimes furnished “a banner and a conscious creed,” but it is not the case that they “intensified and deepened the work actually undertaken.”
    . . .

    Dewey is on the right track in stressing the repercussions of the obsessive a priori in Kant’s philosophy. I should say, however, that it is not plausible that the rational organization of concepts for research by the great German physicists in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was in accord with the a priori gloss Kant attempted in his pretentious rewrite of Newtonian mechanics in Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science (1786). Helmholtz, Mach, Einstein, and other luminaries of physical science had their particular stands on Kant. But Kant’s claim of the a priori nature of such things as the principle of inertia was silliness to them as it is to us. In his elegant text on mechanics, Hertz (1899) gave steady supplication to the Kantian a priori character of the kinematical prerequisites of dynamics, but he really had reverted to the pre-Kantian notion of the a priori. Although Hertz took what we would now call Galilean kinematics to be insusceptible to empirical test for correctness, he maintained that its value or worth hangs on whether the dynamics in which it is used coincides with experience. There is no such vulnerability to experience for Kant’s a priori principles of dynamics. In stark contrast to Kant, Hertz regarded the principle of inertia, his Fundamental Law of dynamics, to be “inferred from experience” (1899, 144). . . .

    Dewey’s 1915 effort to find philosophical roots of Germany’s disastrous attitudes and behavior in the sharp differences between the critical philosophy of Kant and his own philosophy of pragmatic experimentalism (or empiricism) goes overboard. Dewey thinks dangerous “the mental habitudes generated by attachment to a priori categories” (GPP 40), dangerous that “no moral, social, or political question is adequately discussed in Germany until the matter in hand has been properly deduced from an exhaustive determination of its fundamental Begriff [concept] or Wesen [essence]. Or if the material is too obviously empirical to allow of such deduction, it must at least be placed under its appropriate rational form” (GPP 41–42). It is plain that “the whole modern liberal social and political movement has allied itself with philosophical empiricism” (GPP 44). Think of Locke or Mill. “A hierarchically ordered and sub-ordered State will feel an affinity for a philosophy of fixed categories, while a flexible democratic society will, in its crude empiricism, exhibit loose ends” (GPP 44).

    It might be argued—and this may be an underground assumption of Dewey’s—that Kant saved rationalism and idealism in Germany, by his original and influential reform of them together with his mighty counter to empiricism and materialism. It is plausible that without Kant’s critical and transcendental idealism, the idealisms of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel would not have come about. Nevertheless, I expect these three men would have made philosophies, even had Kant never existed. Without Kant, these three might well have made new ways in philosophy, and it is reasonable to suppose they would have sprung their creations not from the empirical tradition in Germany (Sassen 2000; Kuehn 1987), but from the Leibnizian-Wolffian tradition. Then too, it is plausible that these three would have had the relations they did have to the Romantic movement in Germany. Goethe and Schiller were happening, Kant or no. Goethe was a realist, not an idealist. He put spirit into nature and that nature into man. Goethe’s only reliance on Kant was in biology, and like the other German biologists, unlike Kant, he took teleology to be in nature. The German enlightenment, the fideist reactions to it, and the German romantic movements in the arts and philosophy, would have happened without Kant.

    It is true that Kant’s a priori elements yield a grand organized structure of the phenomenal world. But it is not a resulting organization any more grand and unified than was taught by Kant’s contemporaries such as the Leibnizians Moses Mendelssohn and Johann Eberhard or than would be taught by a Thomist philosopher anywhere in the world. . . .
    . . .
    More important than systematic character in philosophy, whether a priori or entirely grounded by experience, would be Kant’s refashioning of the concept of the a priori. William Tait (1992) has argued persuasively: for Leibniz and Plato the a priori discipline of geometry had been the study of a type of structure whose truths hold independently of whether that structure is exemplified in the physical world; for Kant a truth of geometry is a priori true of the physical world. This facilitates casting the fundamental organization of the phenomenal world as issuing from something deep inside mind.

    Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel inherit and transform the Kantian a priori power of structuring the world, for use in their various editions of idealism, their various versions of Innerlichkeit. Dewey claims that “the Germans, more readily than other peoples, can withdraw themselves from the exigencies and contingencies of life into a region of Innerlichkeit [inwardness, or subjectivity; profoundness]” (GPP 46). We shall evaluate this claim in the sequel.

    Greatest within any possible importance of Kant’s a priori for the historical nightmare of the Great War is the role of the a priori in Kant’s renovation and central placement of duty in his ethics. That ethical realm, in Kant’s picture, is the realm of inner rational being. It is shielded from fundamental bases in the phenomenal world, outer and inner, by Kant having rendered the basic form of the phenomenal world fixed a priori by the sentient subject and by having free will completely compatible with the phenomenal world even while accepting that no free will is possible in the phenomenal world alone. The fact of free will is a testimony of the existence of the noumenal world, a touch of it within the rational self.


Post 11

Monday, October 1, 2012 - 8:46amSanction this postReply
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I've always been struck with the circumstance that once the modern hard sciences found their effective method, their advance has been unbroken. That engine continues to roar forward today, and I have every expectation it will continue to do so on and on. So for now I leave open the possibility that the influence, good or bad, of Kant on modern science may have been small, notwithstanding lip service from the scientists.
Very well said! Now, if we can just find that 'effective method' for the soft sciences... sigh
  


Actually Steve and Stephen, the so-called "soft" sciences - the social sciences - are in advance of the STEM (science-technology-engineering-mathematics) programs in teaching the scientific method of rational-empiricism (objectivism) and the modes and methods of scientific inquiry and discovery.

Since the Renaissance, the term experiment has been used in diverse ways to describe a variety of procedures such as a trial, a diagnosis, or a dissection … To examine changes in the textbook construction of experimental method, introductory texts in psychology, sociology, biology, and physics were surveyed during three time periods: 1930-1939, 1950-59, and 1970-79. […]
 
… the percentage of texts with discussions of research methods increased from 50%-90% in psychology, from 25%-70% in sociology, from 20%-45% in biology, and from 16%-30% in physics. Even in the 1970s, such discussions were absent from the majority of biology and physics texts.

"What Counts as an Experiment?: A Transdisciplinary Analysis of Textbooks, 1930-1970," Andrew S. Winston and Daniel J. Blais. The American Journal of Psychology, Vol. 109, No. 4 (Winter, 1996), pp. 599-616.

I validated this with a convenience sample from recent textbooks shelved at the Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy Library here at UT Austin.  I checked eleven texts. Only one explained "experiment" and the scientific method, but did so from the positivist school, saying that we can never know final reality but only get a better approximate understanding.  The entire blog post, "Is Physics a Science?" is here.


On the other hand, my undergraduate class in social science research methods explained the process of experimentation more deeply than any class in physics or chemistry.  In high school honors physics, we were shown what to do, but never told why.  Nothing changed in college. We slid carts on tracks, took pictures of air hockey pucks in collision, measured capacitances and popped a mass from an induction gun, but why this not that, how this operationalizes that, none of it was clear.  Moreover the fact that careful observation is also an experiment was never addressed, for example Aristotle on the Chick Embryo (cited in my review of Great Scientific Experiments).  Scientists do not record random walks.  Even granted a chance encounter, purposeful observation is motivated by a question.

My last graduate class was "Ethics in Physics" which I took to support a previous criminology class, "Miscarriages of Justice: Wrongful Convictions."  Laboratory fraud in the so-called "hard sciences" is real. Not only do research scientists bilk funding agencies with phony results, police labs including the FBI lab, routinely begin with the conclusion and find (or fake) the measurements they need.  When I presented CSI: Flint 2011 to middle school science students visiting the University of Michigan, I recommended that anyone interested in law enforcement and good at science could find a career investigating fraud for the federal Office of Research Integrity; and I pointed out that every university has some kind of office like this. 

Just saying...  the halo around hard science may be a Kantian fallacy (or something).

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 10/01, 8:54am)


Post 12

Monday, October 1, 2012 - 7:20pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

Thanks for continued analysis. Your point about nothing stopping the advance of science is intriguing. Speaking from a tired body and mind (I work long and hard) -- rather than from any kind of an effort to pre-evaluate the potential merit therein -- your links, for me, will have to wait until I have the time, energy, and inclination. In light of what I just said, the following request may sound disingenuous, but I'm just too intrigued to let it slip by:

Will you expound on your thoughts on how being wrong about Aquinas can be a deal-breaker for Peikoff, in his defense of the DIM hypothesis?

:-)

Ed
[former Thomist]


Post 13

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 5:34amSanction this postReply
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Ed, somehow you misread my sentence. I was saying it is hard to imagine that Peikoff's error about Aquinas could be a deal-breaker.

What I was regarding as an error is so slight that it likely does not undermine the general intellectual dynamic he is proposing. "In an era ruled by dogma, Aquinas taught that reason in the Aristotelian definition, reason as a secular, self-sufficient faculty is valid" (31). I was counting this statement as incorrect only in that it neglects the circumstance that Albert the Great and Roger Bacon, not only Thomas, were of such a mind. I imagine this is a trivial deficiency.

Stephen

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Post 14

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 - 7:28amSanction this postReply
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Peikoff writes:
    The Critical philosophy [Kant’s philosophy], though it bears a seeming resemblance to skepticism, must not be confused with it. Skepticism is an ancient view-point that has come and gone repeatedly in the West, mainly on the fringes of philosophy; it has never defined any period of Western culture.

    The skeptic holds that knowledge of reality is impossible to man, a conclusion that leads him to retire from intellectual pursuits, except to act as a gadfly exposing the illusions of other men. . . .

    On every fundamental integrative issue, such a viewpoint clashes with Kant’s. The skeptic seeks to gain knowledge of reality, then bewails the failure of his quest; Kant scorns the very attempt, rejecting reality because it is reality. The skeptic prizes the awareness of facts, but they elude him; Kant rejects awareness because it is awareness. The skeptic would welcome the discovery of connections among things, but cannot find any; to Kant, integration is the cognitive villain because it is integration. (37)
No. Scratch a skeptic and you’ll find a mystic. He wants the connections to be what he wants and must undermine reason and the senses to get that comfort. Because mysticism has never been vanquished by philosophy, skepticism stays, and in its efforts, skepticism has the positive value to which Peikoff alludes: it exposes defects in particular rational accounts of how rational knowledge comes about.

Peikoff is elliptical in some of the true statements he makes. When he says Kant rejects reality (things as they are in themselves), he does not mean Kant is in league with Georgias, who held that nothing exists. Peikoff requires the reader to know that existence is identity and that for Kant to reject the idea that things in themselves are and have identity is to reject their reality. Actually, this claim is not exactly right for Kant, as Kant says expressly that noumena are whatever they are and have whatever character they have, but that what that comes to is unknown to us and unnecessary for us to know. To reject, however, as Kant does, the consciousness-free fact of space and time and to reject identity, causality, and other fundamental principles as true independently of consciousness is to reject existence with any identity, for the notion that there is identity outside such as those constitute is without any rational foundation.

I say the outside-those notion has a foundation. It is only the ancient mystical foundation of the negative way to the One or to God. In this sort of ploy, Kant is in league with the skeptics and their mystical aspirations. Kant puts God in the noumenal. That is no accidental coincidence. That such a thing be devoid of substantial identity is ancient hat.

Kant’s bifurcation between things as they are in themselves and things as perceived and comprehended by the human being served to protect faith (of a watered-down sort) from reason, especially from science. Then too, it was to protect science from worldly suppression by fideists in positions of power, by assuring them science cannot endanger faith. They weren’t entirely assured, and the battle between reason and faith, in men’s souls and in society’s laws, continues today.




(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 10/02, 11:28am)


Post 15

Friday, October 5, 2012 - 7:49pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the responses, Stephen. I'll take time to reply but I'm not snubbing you. Instead, please take the long delay as a compliment.

Ed


Post 16

Sunday, October 14, 2012 - 5:24pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

Whew! You sure know how to write and think comprehensively! My thinking is much more choppy than that. I think that we approach issues in radically diverse ways and that we end up complementing each other, but now I digress. I'm starting with post 10 and hoping that I can make it to post 14 before the end of the decade:

:-)
But Kant’s claim of the a priori nature of such things as the principle of inertia was silliness to them as it is to us. In his elegant text on mechanics, Hertz (1899) gave steady supplication to the Kantian a priori character of the kinematical prerequisites of dynamics, but he really had reverted to the pre-Kantian notion of the a priori. Although Hertz took what we would now call Galilean kinematics to be insusceptible to empirical test for correctness, he maintained that its value or worth hangs on whether the dynamics in which it is used coincides with experience. There is no such vulnerability to experience for Kant’s a priori principles of dynamics. In stark contrast to Kant, Hertz regarded the principle of inertia, his Fundamental Law of dynamics, to be “inferred from experience” (1899, 144). . . .
I know of 2 senses of the term a priori.** In one sense, it's this mysterious, boogeyman stuff that you can somehow know without ever having to perceive or integrate anything (i.e., knowledge without ever having to employ your specifically-human methods of awareness). In another sense -- knowledge involving no further empirical input -- it's not such a mysterious thing.

For instance, when you come to understand that a coin has 2 sides and that one of them is heads and that one of them is tails, you develop an understanding of the mechanics of coin-flipping -- such that you can "know" (without any further empirical input) that a coin flip is something that results in either heads or tails. Radical empiricists might claim that, because this "knowledge" does not depend on any further input, that it is not "real" knowledge, or whatever. They might say, for instance, that it is disturbingly a priori. Once properly understood, it is not, as you say: vulnerable to experience. But -- in spite of not being susceptible "to empirical test for correctness" -- it really is true of the world, and you can really come to know it.

The alternative is to hold out and say that we don't really know enough about coins to get into the epistemological position to be able to predict -- with conclusively-justified certainty -- that a coin flip will result in either heads or tails. The problem for me is that you cannot be such a hold out unless you fortify your position by making fantastical appeals to the arbitrary, such as these doozies, just off the top of my head:

What about that one time in a million or trillion (or whatever) where you flip a coin and it lands -- and stays -- on its side?
What about if Martians with an anti-gravity ray-gun find mischief in being able to disrupt your empirical test and they make the coin perpetually float in the air (instead of landing heads or tails)?
What about if a dastardly enemy of yours knew you were going to empiricially test your predictions in front of a crowd -- and then slipped a bunch of double-headed coins into your pocket covertly (in order to embarrass you)?
What about if everything that we've ever known was actually backwards, and heads was really tails and tails was really heads all along (and it took us this long to figure it out)?
What if no coins actually exist and instead have just been figments of our collective imagination, mistakenly utilized for life-promoting trade among men for thousands of years?
What if you flip the coin and, at that moment, a crevice opens up reaching down to the core of the earth and the coin falls down the crevice to the core, where it is so hot that it melts the coin into a blob before the coin actually lands on anything [can I get a Mulligan? :-)]?

The only question above that might require a response -- the first one -- is dispensed with easily in one of 2 ways:

(1) via proper, albeit retroactive, rationalization: by ruling out such an anamoly by definition. The empirical result of a coin landing and staying on its side is not to be categorized as one of the results of a coin flip. In the same vein, consider going on a picnic. Perhaps one time in a million or a trillion (or whatever), someone who embarks on a picnic will have a heart attack. But from this empirical data, it is not proper to conclude that picnics are even remotely associated with heart attacks -- even though some people embarking on picnics do have them at those rare times. It is also not proper to conclude that coin flips are even remotely associated with a coin landing and staying on its side -- even though some coins flipped into the air do land that way at those rare times. It's an issue of scope which takes into account the nature of the investigated entity or event.

... or ...

Amended to account for the possibility of a coin landing and staying on its side, you could say that there are 3 outcomes: heads, tails, and sides -- and that one of the 3 outcomes will occur. More specifics might even begin to include differentiated probabilities like this:

P(heads) = 0.49999998
P(tails)    = 0.49999998
P(sides)  = 0.00000002
------------------------
Total = 1.00000000

The point is that, in a defined context of coin flipping, you've reached the limit of what can possibly be true of the world. That's all I've got for now, and that is my response to just a 5-line quote. I'll end with a complex question:

Can you outline the implied difference in the utilization of the a priori between Kant and Hertz? How differently do they each view the a priori? How differently do they each use the a priori. Are these 2 views of the a priori the very same 2 views I described above (where Hertz would actually agree with my** differentiation of the 2 senses of it)?

Ed

**See discussion following Neil Parille's RoR (actually: SOLO-HQ) article submission on Barry Smith's differentiation of the a priori.

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 10/14, 5:46pm)


Post 17

Monday, October 15, 2012 - 4:55amSanction this postReply
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The most mind-jarring thing I said above is that one of the potential outcomes of coins flips is not associated with coin flips. I'm shaky on that detail. If you think like a rationalist, then any outcome of coin flips is associated with coin flips (because that's how rationalists think). However, if you think like an empiricist, then every observation gets compared and contrasted to every other observation -- and only observations observed with good frequency are important. For instance, assume that a coin lands on its side one time in a million coin flips, but lands on heads or tails 999,999 times in a million coin flips. In science, when something happens that regularly, it is a candidate for investigation and for possibly becoming a law. Something that happens only once every million experiments, however, is roundly dismissed.

Just think of how many different kinds of events occur after a coin flip with greater frequency than 1-in-a-million. If you say that the coin flip ought to be associated with the coin landing on its side, then what about the thousands and thousands of events that happen more frequently whenever you flip a coin. I'm playing devil's advocate now, and am still teetering over what I said -- asking myself: "What is the very best argument on the opposing side of this hypothetical debate?"

Ed


Post 18

Monday, October 15, 2012 - 4:57amSanction this postReply
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The most mind-jarring thing I said above is that one of the potential outcomes of coins flips is not associated with coin flips. I'm shaky on that detail. If you think like a rationalist, then any outcome of coin flips is associated with coin flips (because that's how rationalists think). However, if you think like an empiricist, then every observation gets compared and contrasted to every other observation -- and only observations observed with good frequency are important. For instance, assume that a coin lands on its side one time in a million coin flips, but lands on heads or tails 999,999 times in a million coin flips. In science, when something happens that regularly, it is a candidate for investigation and for possibly becoming a law. Something that happens only once every million experiments, however, is roundly dismissed.

Just think of how many different kinds of events occur after a coin flip with greater frequency than 1-in-a-million. If you say that the coin flip ought to be associated with the coin landing on its side, then what about the thousands and thousands of events that happen more frequently whenever you flip a coin. I'm playing devil's advocate now, and am still teetering over what I said -- asking myself: "What is the very best argument on the opposing side of this hypothetical debate?"

Ed


Post 19

Monday, May 27, 2013 - 8:18amSanction this postReply
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The following excerpt from my essay From Integrity to Calculus would be appropriate to add to this thread.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Immanuel Kant was an integrating son-of-a-gun. Synthesis and unity are leading ideas in his Critical philosophy.
    Human cognition has two stems, viz., sensibility and understanding, which perhaps spring from a common root, though one unknown to us. Through sensibility objects are given to us; through understanding they are thought. (KrV A15 B29)

    By means of sensibility objects are given to us, and it alone supplies us with intuitions. Through understanding, on the other hand, objects are thought, and from it arise concepts. But all thought must, by means of certain characteristics, refer ultimately to intuitions, whether it does so straightforwardly or circuitously. (A19 B33)

    The kind of presentation that can be given only through a single object is intuition. (A32 B47)

    Intuition is that by which a cognition refers to objects directly, and at which all thought aims as a means. (A19 B33)

    Our intuition, by our very nature, can never be other than sensible intuition; i.e., it contains only the way in which we are affected by objects. Understanding, on the other hand, is our ability to think the object of sensible intuition. . . . Thoughts without content are empty; intuitions without concepts are blind. Hence it is just as necessary that we make our concepts sensible (i.e., that we add the object to them in intuition) as it is necessary that we make our intuitions understandable (i.e., that we bring them under concepts). (A51 B76)

In Kant’s view, our experience of space does not consist of separate disconnected bits nor of less than three dimensions. We experience spatial form directly and as a unified whole. The presentation that is space is an intuition. That presentation is one whose constituent parts are not prior their whole, not parts whose accumulation makes their whole, and not instances under a concept of that whole. Rather, the parts of intuitive presentations, such as the parts of space, are by limitations and divisions of a singular, unified whole. All objects encountered or even possible in sensory experience have their places in that unitary space. Our abstract geometric reasoning, Euclidean geometry, is not disconnected from the space of our sensory experience (KrV A22–30 B37–45; B162; A140–42 B180–82; A162–66 B202–7; A223–24 B271–72; A712–24 B740–52).

Our experience of time, in Kant’s view, is also of a continuous unified whole. All objects, whether in sensory or inner experience, have their places in that one time. Physical things endure and have their motions in determinate ways obligating our perception of them in just those temporal and spatial ways (KrV A30–41 B46–58; A103–10; B136–40; B150–56; B162–63; A140–45 B181–85; A189–211 B232–56).

Kant’s faculty of understanding is a part of what has traditionally been called reason. The power of understanding is the power of concepts. Our rational faculties beyond the understanding are two, which Kant called the faculties of judgment and reason. The powers of reason, in this narrower sense, are of inference and cognitive management (KrV A130–31 B169–70; A686–87 B714–15; A723–38 B751–76). The three higher faculties work together, and each is a grand cognitive unifier (A67–234 B93–294; A669–704 B697–732).

Kant joined his philosophy of experience and understanding to fundamental physics (1786). He further elaborated our cognitive powers to enfold our esthetic capabilities (1790). In the power he called reason, he located the keys to morality. Between reason and morality, there is no divide (KrV A800–819 B828–47; 1785, 4:389–90, 403–4, 408, 411–13, 426–40, 446–48, 453–63; 1788, 5:15–16, 31, 42–57, 89–110, 119–21, 131–32, 134–48; 1797, 6:213–21, 375–78, 396–97). Yet, the reality of moral law, free will, and God largely transcend reality accessible by our intuition and understanding.

Kant inherited entrenched problematic divides in philosophy. Older among them would be the divide between the material world of the senses and the immaterial realm of thought, soul, and God; the divide between inclination and moral obligation; and the divide between reason and faith. More recent among them would be the divide between the deterministic world of science and the inner world of freedom; the divide between the value-absent world of reason and the value-full world of action and feeling; and the divide between things and their effects on us.

Where Kant attempted to smooth together those divisions, he succeeded little. Kant deepened and hardened the divide between inclination and moral obligation. However many ties he made between sensing and thinking, he deepened and hardened the divide between them. Moreover, he deepened and hardened the divide between things and their effects on us. His embrace and expansion of that divide entailed that all the unity and structure he would give to experience, understanding, and morality must come from the side of the subject. Space, time, objects, identity, causality, and moral reasons—all of them, systematically and fantastically, and seductively to many bright thinkers, must come from the constitution of an articulate subject striving for and touched by things as they are in themselves, things as they cannot be in our grasp, things with their own articulation unknowable to us.

Reinhold, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel would innovate their own further integrations to bridge or dissolve problematic divides as they stood in Kant’s philosophy, but their solutions further increased the crafting of reality by subjectivity and, of course, continued to make room for the supernatural. Leonard Peikoff was partly right, though in considerable exaggeration, to call Kant’s philosophy anti-integration (2012, 34–35). That was part of Kant’s endeavor, a result overachieved, alongside his achievements of integration.

Rand’s world and ours is only one world. There is life, condition of consciousness and value. Human consciousness and valuation are open to human choice, within the one, natural world. In all the one world, existence is identity. Consciousness is identification, the grasp of what is and exclusion of what is not. Consciousness is an active process of differentiation and integration. We grasp the world in its given particulars, settings, dimensions, interactions, and magnitude structures. We detect and measure in perception, joined to the magnitude structures there in the world. Our concepts, at their best, rearticulate the world’s own articulation, including its magnitude structures. We are highly integrated in our cognitive powers and highly integrated with the only world, the one available for perception, comprehension, enjoyment, and action.

References

Kant, I. 1781, 1787. Critique of Pure Reason (KrV). W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1996. Hackett.
——. 1785. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.
——. 1786. Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science. M. Friedman, translator. In Immanuel Kant – Theoretical Philosophy after 1781. H. Allison and P. Heath, editors. 2002. Cambridge.
——. 1788. Critique of Practical Reason. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.
——. 1790. Critique of Judgment. W. S. Pluhar, translator. 1987. Hackett.
——. 1797. The Metaphysics of Morals. M. J. Gregor, translator. In Practical Philosophy. 1996. Cambridge.

Peikoff, L. 2012. The DIM Hypothesis. NAL.


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