1 pointNow see, your question leads me to the problem I have with how people typically conceive of "certainty" (or at least how that conception presents itself in discussion). I think I'd mentioned elsewhere that "certainty" (like evasion) needs further exploration, and I don't know if I'm equipped for it at present. But as a shorthand, if we look at the skills necessary for what I believe to be "good thinking," which includes strategies for rooting out one's own potential for evasiveness, and etc., and say -- "well, yes -- but when can we be certain?" -- then we are looking for the wrong thing. The process of being willing to examine (and re-examine) one's own beliefs, in the face of new evidence or new arguments (or even a fresh perspective) doesn't have a stopping point, a point at which you can rest and not perform any of that work anymore. It is an ongoing process. Certainty, whatever it is, cannot be threatened or compromised by the idea that we must be on guard against the possibility of our own evasion. Peikoff says of "certainty": "Idea X is 'certain' if, in a given context of knowledge, the evidence for X is conclusive. In such a context, all the evidence supports X and there is no evidence to support any alternative..." And this is fine; I use "certainty" in, I'm sure, this way (or very nearly so). But all of these assessments that we make (for instance, when we decide that "all the evidence supports X" or "there is no evidence to support any alternative") -- there is yet the potential that we may make a mistake in such an assessment. When we consider ourselves certain about X, that is not some guarantee for the correctness of X (or the correctness of our evaluation of our own certainty) such that we are permitted to stop thinking. I'm not saying that we cannot consider ourselves "certain" on some given point. We can. (And in fact, I think we must.) But this does not relieve us from the duties of thinking, of rooting out the potential error -- even in those cases where we consider ourselves certain.
1 pointHi, what's up, this is CartsBeforeHorses, and I'm a 25-year-old Objectivist from Colorado Springs, Colorado. I'm a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) by trade. and in my spare time I enjoy cycling, video gaming, reading, and writing my novel. The novel I am working on is an Objectivism-inspired sci-fi novel that takes place in a world 1,000 years from now where man has been divided into three distinct races after centuries of genetic engineering. Aside from that, I write Objectivist-themed blogs and videos to try to reach audiences that might not otherwise hear of our ideas. One such project should be completed by this weekend, and I will share once ready.
1 pointObviously, and it might need re-stating, virtues are the means to an end. Nobody has stated otherwise, I believe. The inversion, of placing virtue over value - and isolating virtues "in a vacuum" - is an error of intrinsicism sometimes made. To put it this way, as much as one prizes his virtues, moreso does he prize the values that follow from them. They have a hierarchical relationship and also a causal relationship, based and dependent upon one's cardinal values and virtues. "As a consequence, it [a lack of virtue] may cause reconsideration". (ET) No. And there is no "may" about it. What one reconsiders is: rational, virtuous action -> rational outcome. A rational action presupposes it has virtue. What result did I accomplish? Is it good (for me)? Was it what I wanted it to be? Could it be better? Which actions could I change? Simply, as one does for any endeavor, I am matching up my intentions and efforts, with what I finish up making (with the purpose of improving my performance). This isn't consequentialism, which judges the 'good' (whether subjective, intrinsic, or objective) by results, "solely". Applied to rational selfishness, then, since I gained an achievement -- therefore I MUST have practiced the virtues of Objectivism... Not necessarily. Good conclusions often arrive from mixed premises. How much rationality, independence, justice, integrity - etc.- one brings to the actions is a prior commitment, not - only - to be reviewed and assessed after the fact. And it could be overlooked that it is not only for the 'gaining' of goals that virtues are crucial, but equally for the ongoing 'keeping' of those values already attained. Also, one never knows, in reality, which specific virtue, or combination of, may be called upon next, from moment to moment. This and more, as I've learned by experience, settles for me the necessity of a conscious commitment to every "objective" virtue, full time. This morality is not called "rational" selfishness for little reason. (Consequentialism seems like baking a cake without the recipe. See - it turned out fine and tasty! Therefore, it follows, I can repair an engine without using the engine's manual...)