|I wrote, "Mr. Bob Mac is a good case in point. His whole orientation was towards invalidating certain aspects of Objectivism. He had made up his mind that the philosophy was wrong, and by God, nobody was going to convince him otherwise." Cal replied: |
How do you know? We could as well say that you have made up your mind that Objectivism is right and that nobody is going to convince you otherwise. This is cheap psychologizing and in fact an ad hominem argument: you "know" that he has "made up his mind", suggesting that he has done so in advance, without really considering the arguments pro and con. You don't consider the possibility that he has considered all the arguments and has come to the conclusion that they're wrong, no he disagrees with you and therefore he must be biased. Cal, go back and read the exchange between us, and you'll see what I'm talking about. He was not simply making the argument that you're making. He was being completely unresponsive and disingenuous. Don't just look at his conclusion; look at the manner in which he defended it - especially his dismissal of the Objectivist axioms as question begging.
I also wrote, "So, if I understand you, you're claiming that Joseph's argument begs the question - that the author of An Introduction to Logic, and a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Oxford committed an obvious petitio. Well, I'm sure that the Oxford University Press would be glad to know about that, so that they can issue a retraction and expunge this embarrassing philosophical faux pas from their now tarnished reputation." You replied,
This is a perfect example of an argument from authority: because he's written an introduction to logic and is lecturer in philosophy his argument must be right. Don't you think there are also many professors in philosophy who think that Rand's philosophy is bunk? Of course, and I should not have written that, because it does sound like an argument from authority. I was simply being sarcastic, because I was so fed up with Bob's evasiveness. Of course, you don't base an argument on appeals to authority. I would be the last person ever to suggest that.
But remember also that Bob was arguing that the Objectivist axioms of existence, consciousness and identity are themselves question begging, which is absurd, as these axioms are the basis of logic and of any logical fallacies, such as question begging. To say that the axioms are question begging would divest the concept "question begging" of any meaning. It's a classic example of the fallacy of the stolen concept - of accepting and using a concept in the very act of denying the concept(s) on which it logically and genetically depends.
In fact Bob is right. If you look at Joseph's argument: If a thing is to have any determinate nature and character at all, there must be uniformity of action in different things of that character, or of the same thing on different like occasions. His supposition is that a thing has a determinate nature, and then he tells us that it under the same circumstances can only produce the same effect. Well, that is of course a classic example of begging the question: you suppose that its nature is deterministic and that supposedly "proves" that it does behave deterministically. By "determinate" nature Joseph doesn't mean a deterministic nature; he means a specific nature. In other words, he means that if a thing is to possess a specific character or identity, then there must be uniformity of action in different things of that character, or of the same thing on different like occasions.
And the argument of the Law of Identity is of course also fallacious: A thing, to be at all, must be something, and can only be what it is. This does not imply that it must behave deterministically, however, that is an extra assumption that is not contained in the definition of the Law of Identity. I see what your saying, Cal. I do see your argument, even though I don't agree with it, but if Bob was making that argument, it certainly wasn't obvious. He was arguing that to base the law of causality on the law of identity is question begging, viz.,
You assert that the law of identity demands, infers, or deductively requires causality. This is 100% identical to the begging the question fallacy. Of course, if the law of causality isn't based on the law of identity, then it has no basis whatsoever and can no longer be considered a valid principle of scientific induction. Don't assume that because Bob happens to agree with you that he is doing so for the same reasons - that he is making the same argument; he isn't. In any case, I would say that causal necessity does imply deterministic behavior, and that such behavior is therefore not an assumption but an implication of the law of identity. You continue,
This is a big flaw in the Objectivist reasoning and no argument from authority or argument ad hominem can change that. I was not making an argument from authority; I was not saying that Bob was wrong, simply because he disagreed with Joseph; if I gave that impression, I certainly didn't intend to. Nor was I saying that Bob was wrong because he was biased, which is what an argument ad hominem would entail. But he was very definitely biased, which is something that even he admitted in one of his posts. If a man concedes his own anti-Objectivist bias - if he states it explicitly - and then argues like it for all the world, then I think it's rational for me to conclude that he is biased.
As for Objectivism's claiming that the law of identity implies determinism, don't forget that Objectivism advocates (non-deterministic) free will, so it doesn't make that claim. Granted, some Objectivists claim that in the sub-atomic realm, determinism must obtain, but I don't think that this is an official Objectivist position. It is my position, however, based on Joseph's argument. What Joseph is saying is that, under the same conditions, a thing could only act differently if it were different, because its action is a function of its identity - of what it is. If we deny this, we're saying that the nature or identity of a thing has nothing to do with its behavior, but in that case, its action would be completely unrestricted, because if its nature doesn't restrict it, then nothing else could. Remember, a thing is nothing but its attributes, including its action, so if its attributes aren't the same, then on what grounds can we say it's the same thing? How can it be the same thing under the same conditions, yet have different attributes? If it is truly the same thing, then it must have the same attributes, including the same action. That's the argument. Whatever is wrong with it (assuming that there is something wrong with it), I don't think it begs the question. We could express it formally as follows:
The same thing must possess the same attributes under the same conditions.
Action is an attribute.
Therefore, the same thing must perform the same action under the same conditions.
If you want to attack this argument, you will have to challenge either the truth of the premises or the validity of the conclusion. If you're interested in continuing this discussion, the ball is in your court. The conclusion is unquestionably valid given the premises, so if the conclusion is false, then one or both of the premises must be false. But I don't see how they could be. To say that the same thing need not possess the same attributes under the same conditions - that it need not take the same action - is to say that we have no basis for predictions of any kind. It is to say that just because something behaved a certain way in the past under a given set of conditions is no reason to believe that it will behave that way in the future.