Objectivism Is The Everyman's Philosophy
In the universe, what you see is what you get,
figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,
and each person's independence is respected by all
Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words
- "Metaphysics: Objective Reality" "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
- "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
- "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
- "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"
Objectivism Online Chat
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Hello all, I'm pleased to announce that the Atlasphere has just published an interview with world-renowned chef -- and exemplary capitalist -- Charlie Trotter. Trotter is a tour-de-force of the cooking world. In this interview he discusses his discovery of Ayn Rand at an early age, his unique approach to cooking and to business, and his dogged pursuit of excellence in his work. You can read the interview at the Atlasphere: http://www.theatlasphere.com Enjoy! Andrew Schwartz [email protected]
[NOTE: I would really appreciate feedback on this. Time is money, a word or two would be a blessing] ------------------------------------ Hey. I am new to this forum-- i am an ayn rand fanatic, usually post on 'atlas society' as of a week ago. you are not allowed to talk about philosophical views of A.R. in that forum, so i thought i would check this one out. i need to borrow someone's brain. i am doing an essay for a scholarship application and i really want to win. the all-too-common question- 'Why should we choose you? 'is one that i have answered a million times for scholarship apps. this time, i want to take a different approach: i am going to write about the kind of person who does not deserve to be winner, and use the reasons why i should be chosen to prove that i am not this person. here is my stalemate: i need a compelling argument to characterize the 'don't choose' person. traits of the person that are not-so-obvious, or all-too-obvious that the average person would overlook them. this is your chance to 'strut your stuff' for all you people out there who complain about an 'intellectual famine'. for the record: i am a philosophy student-19-surrounded by liberals-'experiencing' gender stratification-inlove with ayn rand's works and perspective-very interested in modern & post-modern literature discussion-very eager to hear comments from anyone on any of the topics mentioned, emphasis on the scholarship dilemma. proud to be a member, -m. Hello Daniel, I am a 'newbie'. I read your essay and I have some comments: "A sense organ has no choice about what to do when acted upon, while thinking must take an active role and create the intelligible thing." is this your interpretation? can you define sense organ? depending on your stipulative definition, i can think of some exceptions, if you are interested. important to stick to aristotle's exact vocab choice. avoid extremes such as right and wrong. this is a compliment to you. it would be like generalizing if you were to do otherwise. a lot of people do this when they are talking about aristotle. example: non-voluntary-voluntary-involuntary-ignorance-in ignorance- out of ignorance. hospers and rawls are fine-tuned as well, cause confusion/generalizations. example, while they embellish an 'extreme' veiw, they are not necessarily putting down the opposite view (particularily in their pieces on justice as utilitarianism). i could go on here but i have other things to say: i have a 'knack' for math and theology-- physics is another story. why do you suppose that is? what makes physics diff. for me? a few things that are especially important to keep in mind in reading aristotle (more so than some other philosophers' work): historical point of reference: one example--in talking about intellect and passive action. people born with systematic mal-functions not included in thinking. back then, people would have been killed for being born as such. very abstract- read his other works on different topics to make complicated formulas more concrete. distinctions blurry- this actually helps when looking at only one philosopher's thoughts across the board. makes it easier to answer question. "well what do you suppose aristotle would say about this. . . ?" stemming from abstraction note: literal interpretations (or the most literal interpretations given that we are talking philosophically) are usually lacking in one respect or another. a lot of his work, at least i think, has an ethnocentric element to it. disses women, other races, non-intellectuals etc., in other words, like other philosophers, in writing his views, they are more or less written in stone. for a lot of his work, it is only fair to use the principle of charity- more so for our own sake in understanding the complexities of his arguments than his. one thing is for sure about a lot of aristotle's work: he assumed that people reading it would have half the brain capacity he did. any thoughts/criticism welcome, maggie
[NOTE: I would really appreciate feedback on this. Time is money, a word or two would be a blessing] ------------------------------------ Hey. I am new to this forum-- i am an ayn rand fanatic, usually post on 'atlas society' as of a week ago. you are not allowed to talk about philosophical views of A.R. in that forum, so i thought i would check this one out. i need to borrow someone's brain. i am doing an essay for a scholarship application and i really want to win. the all-too-common question- 'Why should we choose you? 'is one that i have answered a million times for scholarship apps. this time, i want to take a different approach: i am going to write about the kind of person who does not deserve to be winner, and use the reasons why i should be chosen to prove that i am not this person. here is my stalemate: i need a compelling argument to characterize the 'don't choose' person. traits of the person that are not-so-obvious, or all-too-obvious that the average person would overlook them. this is your chance to 'strut your stuff' for all you people out there who complain about an 'intellectual famine'. for the record: i am a philosophy student-19-surrounded by liberals-'experiencing' gender stratification-inlove with ayn rand's works and perspective-very interested in modern & post-modern literature discussion-very eager to hear comments from anyone on any of the topics mentioned, emphasis on the scholarship dilemma. proud to be a member, -m.
Intellect: Creator of All, Receiver of All Suppose a stranger were to approach you and say, "In my left hand, I hold something which can become all things. In my right, I hold something which can create all things." You might suppose him to be a magician-or mad. Yet this is what Aristotle seems to say regarding the intellect in On the Soul. Is the intellect magical? Is Aristotle mad? Or has he a reasonable theory with a reasonable explanation? If so, let us proceed to explain just what the intellect does that it can be mistaken for wizardry. Aristotle begins his account of intellect (nous) with a conditional: "If thinking (tò noein) works the same way perceiving (tò aisthanesthai) does, it would either be some way of being acted upon by the intelligible thing (tou noetou), or something else of that sort" (429a13). He then proceeds to say more about intellect, assuming it to be like aisthesis (sense-perception). He puts forth an account of intellect, even though by his own statement that account is only true if tò noein is like tò aisthanesthai. Yet in some way that analogy seems flawed. Indeed, in only the previous chapter Aristotle points out a difference between these two faculties: "And neither is thinking the same as perceiving, for in thinking there is what is right and what is not right, right thinking being understanding and knowing and true opinion, and the opposites of these not being right; for sense perception when directed at its proper objects is always truthful" (427b11). Elsewhere, Aristotle points out a crucial difference between nous and aisthesis: [A]ctive perception is of particulars, while knowledge is of univerals, which are in some way in the soul itself. Hence thinking is up to oneself, whenever one wishes, but perceiving is not up to oneself, since it is necessary that the thing perceived be present. And similarly too, even the kinds of knowing that deal with perceptible things are not up to oneself, and for the same reason, that the perceptible things are among particular, external things (427b21). The argument against Aristotle's analogy, then, would be that aisthesis is mere passive reception of something from the world, while intellect is something active and under one's control. Perceptible things are out there in the world and act on a passive faculty, which implies that intelligible things, assuming such things exist, are acted upon by an active faculty. This would explain why there is right and wrong in thinking but not in perceiving. A sense organ has no choice about what to do when acted upon, while thinking must take an active role and create the intelligible thing. Note, however, that Aristotle's conditional offers an alternative: nous is either acted upon by tou noetou, or something similar happens. The second alternative allows one to interpret the analogy loosely enough to dodge the above objections. Intellect may then be receptive in some way to its objects without being entirely passive. (In the above discussion, tò noein has been interpreted as the activity of nous. Yet Aristotle says that in tò noein, there is what is right and not right (427b9) while every act of nous is right (433a26). The trouble is resolved, however, when one notes that in the latter (atypical) case he is speaking about the contemplative intellect only. For earlier in that chapter, he makes a distinction between the intellect "that reasons for the sake of something and is concerned with action" and the contemplative intellect (433a15). tò noein is, therefore, the activity of the nous in general, but one must always be wary of context if one needs to know whether he is speaking of the intellect in general or one of its kinds.) This dodges objections, but what positive reason is there to claim the analogy? Aristotle tells us that the soul is distinguished by two potencies of living things, one of which is "that of discriminating, which is the work of reasoning and sense perception" (432a15). Both aisthesis and nous are means of discriminating or identifying things in the world. The comparison between the two faculties, therefore, should focus on this fact. Let us, then, list some general truths that make use of it. 1. All discriminating of the world requires both a thing discriminating and a thing being discriminated. The two are correlatives (cf. Cat. 7) and also "shut off or endure together" (DA, 426a18). 2. The two are peculiar in that they are non-simultaneous relatives. If there were no beings with souls, "there would be neither sense objects nor sense perceptions[...]but it is impossible that there not be the underlying things which bring about sense perception, even without the perception[...]for what causes motion is prior by nature to what is moved, and even if these things are meant relatively to one another, this is nevertheless so" (Met. 1010b31). And this applies to all discriminating of the world. 3. The discriminator and the discriminated are meant in two ways, either as in potency or as at work. In the latter meaning, there is no whiteness without seeing or tableness without thinking, but in the former meaning there is (cf. DA, 426a20). Already, our analogy is given some content. aisthesis and nous are similar in that they both imply a soul which receives something from the world, the latter existing prior to the former, existing as a thing received either in potency or in actuality. This is what it means to say that the two faculties are similar in that they are both ways of being acted upon by their proper objects. Both faculties receive something from the world. But what do they receive? Aristotle answers, "the sense is receptive of the forms of perceptible things without their material." The intellect is also receptive of forms (432a), but whereas the sense seems to be receptive of the forms proper to the sense (425b30-a2), e.g., the sight to the being-white of a thing, the intellect is receptive of its proper forms, which amounts to all the forms, and thus to all things (430a15). Like aisthesis, the intellect is potentially its object. But whereas aisthesis requires only a sense organ and a perceptible thing to be in contact with each other in order for their potentialities to be actualized, intellect requires more. As has already been said, a sense organ has no choice about what to do when acted upon, while thinking must take an active role and create the intelligible thing. This is why Aristotle must posit two aspects of the intellect, one passive and the other active, one which becomes all things (panta ginesthaii) and one which creates all things (panta poein). The active intellect is what one uses to derive universals from particulars (NE, 1143b). The passive intellect is a sort of storage area for the results of that derivation; it is "in potency not to be the form, but to be such as it is" (DA, 429a15). (The active intellect which creates all things can be seen as Aristotle's answer to our initial objection to his analogy. The intellect is not merely receptive, but rather creates the things it receives.) How do these two aspects of the intellect do this? How else would one derive universals from particulars except by combining particulars and setting them apart from other particulars? "But since being as the true and nonbeing as the false concern combining and separating, and the whole topic concerns the division of a pair of contradictories (for truth has the affirmation in the case of a combination and the denial in the case of a separation, while the false has a contradictory of this division, but how it happens that one thinks things together or apart is another story-I mean together and apart in such a way that they are not in sequence but become some one thing), since the false and the true are not in things, as if, say, the good were true and the bad automatically false, but in thinking, and not even in thinking in what concerns simple things and what things are[...]but since the intertwining and dividing are in thinking but not in things, and being of this sort is different from the being of what is in the governing sense (for thinking attaches or separates what something is, or that it is of this sort, or that it is this much, or anything else that it might be) [...]" (Met. 1027b19-35) Aristotle provides an example of combining the group of pale people apart from other particulars: "[O]ne who thinks what is separated is separated and what is combined is combined thinks truly[...]For you are not pale because we think truly that you are pale, but rather it is because you are pale that we who say so speak the truth" (1051b4-9). He provides more detail about this process in Parts of Animals: Groups that only differ in degree, and in the more or less of an identical element that they possess, are aggregated under a single class; groups whose attributes are only analogous are separate. For instance, bird differs from bird by gradation, or by excess and defect-some birds have long feathers, others short ones. Bird and Fish only agree in having analogous organs; for what in the bird is feather, in the fish is scale (644a16). Because the "intellect is directed at what is ultimate on both sides, since it is intellect and not reason that is directed at both the first terms and the ultimate particulars," it is able to perform this combining and separating (NE, 1143b). It seems, then, that the active intellect creates all things by combining and separating, while the passive intellect in some way stores the results of this activity. It may be unclear how the ability to group birds and fish into groups is also the ability to create all things. The answer lies in the ability of nous to think itself: And when the intellect has come to be each intelligible thing, as the knower is said to do when he is a knower in the active sense (and this happens when he is able to put his knowing to work on his own), the intellect is even then in a sense those objects in potency, but not in the same way it was before it learned and discovered them, and it is then able to think itself (DA, 429b5). Throughout On the Soul, Aristotle distinguishes between two types of actualities, the kind exhibited by knowledge and the kind exhibited by contemplation. Knowledge is the being-at-work of the one capable of knowing, but it is still in potency relative to contemplation; when knowledge is exercised or put "to work on his own", the result is contemplation. But even then, Aristotle now says, the intellect is in potency relative to some more complete actuality, because it can proceed to think itself. What does it mean for noèw to think itself rather than its objects? It means that, after directing itself towards particulars and combining and separating them, say by setting birds apart from fish, it then directs itself towards the universals themselves. It would then perform the very same combining and separating functions on itself. Whereas it first combines particular bird with particular bird, it now combines birds in general with fish in general (setting these apart from, say, plants and rocks), resulting in a new universal: animal. The intellect can then put itself to work on even this, combining animal with plant, setting these apart from rock and house, resulting in a new universal: living being. If one continues in this way, the most actual of the actualities will be that group which combines everything into one. It will be the widest universal, and this is being. Thus, successively higher abstraction is successively higher actualization. A diagram of this process might look something like this: There would be a cool diagram here. The active intellect combines a group of particulars apart from the others, and the passive intellect receives the form. When the passive intellect has received many forms, the active intellect can then turn towards it and combine a group of forms apart from the others, and the passive intellect stores the new, more abstract, form. This process continues all the way up to being. Being is a group which includes all things. Since the active intellect can create something such as the form of being is, and the passive intellect can receive it, the active intellect can be said to create all things, while the passive intellect can be said to receive all things. Finally, then, we have made some sense out of Aristotle's confusing formulation. Now let us return to the distinction between the intellect in general, which is either right or not right, and the contemplative intellect, which is always right. We have already seen Aristotle say that true and false concern combining and separating. Therefore, the active and passive intellects are concerned with the true and false, while the contemplative intellect is not. It merely looks within the passive intellect to existing knowledge, and beholds. (This is why it cannot err.) The contemplative intellect seems, therefore, to be a very different third aspect of the intellect. But this is not so. It is clear, says Aristotle, "that there are three classes of contemplative knowledge: physics, mathematics, and theology" (Met. 1064b). For each of these concern things that are either separate or motionless. They are the most primary sorts of knowledge and the most distant from particulars and are reached by the process of abstraction described above. When one reaches them (or even before, since contemplation seems to be possible even on less abstract levels, in a lesser sense), the intellect's thinking itself switches from abstraction to contemplation, since it is impossible to abstract any further. Thus, the intellect's thinking itself refers to the active intellect's turning inward in general, which includes both abstraction and contemplation. This means that the contemplative intellect is not entirely different from the active intellect, but rather refers to the active intellect in its most actual of stages. Aristotle claims that the active intellect alone is deathless and everlasting. He has earlier said, "nothing prevents some parts from being separate, so long as they are not the being-at-work of any part of the body" (413a8). Therefore, the active intellect cannot be a being-at-work of any part of the body. But he calls the intellect a form of forms, and a form is a being-at-work. Thus, the intellect is a being-at-work. So Aristotle must be restricting himself to the active intellect in this claim about separability, since what is true of one of the intellect's parts will not necessarily true of the whole. Aristotle also says, "thinking seems most of all to belong to the soul by itself; but if this is also some sort of imagination, or cannot be without imagination, it would not be possible for even this to be without the body" (403a8). Though in On Memory and Recollection, Aristotle states, "it is not possible even to think without an image," he must there be speaking only about the intellect in general; what is true of the intellect as a whole is not necessarily true of one of its parts (450a). If the active intellect does not depend on imagination, and is not a being-at-work of any part of the body, how is it able to create all things? Is it the being-at-work of something other than a part of the body? Or is it pure being-at-work apart from any material? These are difficult questions which I have been unable to answer. It has been shown that the intellect is not magical and that Aristotle is not mad. Its capacity to create and become all things is what gives man his distinctive power. Only the intellect can allow man to discriminate not just things that he happens to see at the moment, but anything at any time. I will leave you with an image of this discriminating power, since images are indispensable to thought. Imagine someone pointed Aristotle towards a table and said, "Fifty years from now, I will set an object on this table. Predict for me some things about that object." Aristotle might reply with a whole treatise, for whatever that object might be, it will certainly have being. And we all know how much Aristotle has to say about that.