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Friday, July 14, 2006 - 11:39pmSanction this postReply
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I am reading Leonard Peikoff’s book on Objectivism, and I like much of what I have read about the philosophy so far.  There are aspects of it which I find to be a little inconsistent, however.  The role human’s free will plays in it seems to conflict with the foundations of the philosophy.  I mean Rand seems to put the mind in this sort of dualist supernatural role.  It seems to me as if she is saying that humans are unique, and causality, chemistry, physics, and biology do not affect the mind like they do the rest of the world.  She also says (according to Peikoff ) that the mind is  Tabula rasa”, or blank slate.  How does it affect the philosophy when, what seems to be an important aspect of it, is discovered by science not to be true.  Unless she is saying that a priori knowledge is not actually knowledge only because it has not been obtained through the senses, and that there is some kind of understanding (instinct) about the world befor sensation.

 

I freely admit I may be misunderstanding Objectivism in this aspect, this is just my perspective from what I have discovered so far.    




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Saturday, July 15, 2006 - 6:47amSanction this postReply
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Mr. Grooms,

In philosophy "a priori knowledge" means knowledge that has not been derived from experience. We call "a posteriori knowledge" any knowledge that is derived from experience.

These terms and the distinction they demarcate are not idiosyncratic to Objectivist philosophers such as Leonard Peikoff. They have been important in epistemology the last three centuries.

I don't recall any contemporary philosophers who argue that we have some knowledge that is a priori in the absolute, standard sense of the concept. I know one distinguished philosopher who argues for and puts to work a concept of relative a priori knowledge. His name is Michael Friedman

Could you give me an example of knowledge that is a priori knowledge? Is it the absolutely a priori, such as Kant would mean by the a priori, or is it a relativized sort of the a priori, such as Professor Friedman puts to work?

Stephen



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Post 2

Saturday, July 15, 2006 - 7:46amSanction this postReply
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Charles Wrote:

It seems to me as if she is saying that humans are unique
Some of these assertions are indeed highly questionable in light of recent knowledge but you need to look at the evidence and make up your own mind.

She also says (according to Peikoff ) that the mind is  Tabula rasa”, or blank slate.
Just discussed again fairly extensively in a recent thread. Personally, I conclude Rand was confused, wrong, and even contradictory regarding this issue.

 How does it affect the philosophy when, what seems to be an important aspect of it, is discovered by science not to be true. 
Just read more here and you'll find out.  However, the more important question is how it affects you.  I wish I could find the quote someone wrote here along the lines of reality being the ultimate test.  If our improved understanding of reality demands a change and it does not happen, then it's a problem, but it doesn't have to be a problem for you.

Unless she is saying that a priori knowledge is not actually knowledge only because it has not been obtained through the senses,
Yes, I recommend being on the alert for this type of argument that CANNOT be argued against because the definition of terms prohibits it.

Bob




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Saturday, July 15, 2006 - 10:04amSanction this postReply
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Not quite - it is the CONCEPTS which prohibit it....



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Sunday, July 16, 2006 - 11:36amSanction this postReply
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Charles,

First off, I would point out that Peikoff's OPAR is a pretty advanced book that assumes thorough knowledge of Rand's fiction and non-fiction on the part of the reader. For this reason alone, it would be a poor introduction to the philosophy, even (or especially) for someone who had a fairly sophisticated knowledge of other philosophical systems.

Secondly, some of Peikoff's arguments seem pretty tangled, and in a few cases, such as his notorious discussion concerning the choice to live, seem to contradict well-known tenets of Objectivism. He wrote the book after Ayn Rand passed away, so it was never vetted by her for correctness.

I would recommend that you consider the philosophical aspects of _The Fountainhead_ and _Atlas Shrugged_ first, then read the major works of Rand's published non-fiction (such as _The Virtue of Selfishness_, _Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal_, _The Romantic Manifesto_, _Philosophy: Who Needs It?_, the title essay of _For the New Intellectual_, and, when you are ready for something really challenging, her _Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology_.)

The one thing that this approach to her ideas is missing is a sense of how developed Objectivism is as a _system_ of ideas. Rand states this repeatedly in her writings but, because most of her non-fiction is in the form of brief essays on particular topics, there is no single place where she lays out the whole system of her mature thought. For a survey of that, I would recommend the recorded lectures of Peikoff's _Introduction to Objectivism_ course, which was done during her lifetime and with her approval, and/or his _Understanding Objectivism_ course, which was done shortly after her death. I have not heard this last course myself, but it is almost universally praised as the best overview of her thought by those who have heard it.

If you were already familiar with her fiction, but wanted a brief intro to her system before plunging into her non-fiction, I would recommend Shawn Klein's 6-lecture intro course available from The Atlas Society's bookstore. While it is not as thorough and systematic as Peikoff's lecture courses mentioned above, its shorter length, budget pricing, and orientation to beginners make it a good choice to start out with.

Forgive me if I have underestimated your knowledge of the philosophy, but I have not seen any of your posts before and had to make a guess.

-Bill



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Post 5

Sunday, July 16, 2006 - 12:01pmSanction this postReply
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Charles,

On the specific question of tabula rasa it is important to keep in mind what Rand meant by this concept. She was an ardent opponent of the Rouseauites, Marxists, and others who believed that there was no fixed human nature. So she did not believe that the human mind could, like silly putty, be twisted into any shape by "nurture." Recent research into the development of infants only serves to bolster this view of hers.

By tabula rasa, she meant that there are no innate ideas. By ideas, she did not mean drives, abilities, etc. She meant exactly what she said.

If there were innate ideas, please note that then you would believe things not because there was evidence for them, but only because your mind had somehow been pre-programmed to believe them. For example, the Nazis claimed that Germans came pre-programmed to love others and put the group ahead of the individual, whereas Jews came pre-programmed to be selfish and to make money. Since, according to the Nazis, the ideas were innate, there was no way to reason with the Jews or try to improve them, hence the Holocaust. These are among the reasons why she expressed so much hostility to those who maintained, without evidence, that there are innate ideas.

Objectivism teaches that there is mind-body harmony, not a mind-body dichotomy, so of all philosophies it is the one for which the phrase "supernatural dualism" is the least fitting. If you have been led to believe otherwise, it is because of your relative inexperience with the philosophy, or because Peikoff's turgid prose has proved unintelligible.

-Bill



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Sunday, July 16, 2006 - 1:18pmSanction this postReply
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Charles A Grooms,

I think Rand had little knowledge of how the mind works, and from speaking with Objectivists, it very much does seem like they believe in some kind of extra dimensions or realms where the human mind/spirit exists... yet they claim that it is all part of Reality.

Pre-computer era. Pre-neural net era. They can't imagine a physical system resulting in their own consciousness, all they can imagine is engines, elevators, and Dell laptops. When they say "free will", I think "self determining system". Forgive them, they are not physicists nor mathematicians nor engineers.

-Dean
But don't pay any attention to me, because I'm crazy.



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Thursday, July 20, 2006 - 12:40amSanction this postReply
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Excellent comments, Bill.

Ed
[Dean, you're a physicist, mathematician, engineer -- and yes, I mean that as an insult ;-)]



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