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Ilya Startsev

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  1. Ilya Startsev

    Transcending Objectivism and Kantianism

    Thinking back on Peikoff's careful note on application of categories, there is an opinion of quite an opposite thinker, namely Alfred Korzybski, that can be used to justify the metaepistemological nature of the DIM categories:
  2. As can be seen with an old popular thread I started on Objectivism online forum, I am very interested in putting side-to-side various philosophies, even before I learn that some of them cannot be thoroughly compared! So I would like to find out whether it is even possible to conceive of transcending Rand’s worldview with that of her well-known ‘archenemy’ – Immanuel Kant himself. I’ve spent the last two years trying to figure out this big conflict in contemporary philosophy by studying Kant’s philosophy and debating Kantians, especially on Philosophy forums, which are now, unfortunately, non-operational. So what are some ideas that I’d like to put forward to initiate this discussion? Part I: Describing conflicts First, I want to delineate the premises of my argument as conflicting characters of both philosophies. Let Objectivism take only (a) subdivisions, while Kantianism take only (b) subdivisions. General vs. specific Objectivism is general in respect to being broadly applied to most areas of life, including even sex (in Rand’s words!). Philosophy, according to Rand, is a way of living, rather than only a way of thinking (which is a part of living but not the whole). Hence Rand is more concerned with having an integrated picture of the whole rather than only its parts in isolation or abstraction. Rand’s epistemology starts with metaphysics (most broad or general field of philosophy). Kantianism is specific in respect to being narrowly applied only to thoughts concerning positive knowledge in theoretical science, moral/ethical practice, and judgments in art. Kantian way of thinking takes ideas in isolation and abstraction and only bounded by mind, representing all areas of knowledge within mental structures and through categories of thought. Kant’s epistemology cycles through itself, making metaphysics subservient to it without a possibility of deriving any knowledge about ends. External vs. internal Objectivism is concerned with external experience of reality, where it finds knowledge. Every judgment must correspond to or be ultimately derived from external reality. Kantianism is concerned with internal experience, wherein it claims to find all positive knowledge. Everything considered to be ‘external’ to mind is merely thought to be a representation or appearance structured by our mind as pure reason or inwardly directed by mind as practical reason with aesthetic judgments connecting the two reasons. Public vs. academic Objectivism is well known in general public by means of popular novels, podcasts, presentations, and audiobooks, but not among many academicians, who openly oppose it or try to avoid it. Formal discussions of Objectivism mostly occur in Objectivist journals, and Objectivist scholars do not take these discussions to established and trustworthy academic philosophical journals. Hence the nature of Objectivist discussions and research is mostly closed rather than open, in regard to academic work. Kantianism is popular among many academicians but not in general public. Kantianism is considered by many academicians to be a ‘suble’ and ‘true’ philosophy not comprehended quite enough by most others. Objective vs. subjective Objectivism follows the ethics of rational or objective egoism to the detriment of sometimes being able to develop healthy relationships with others. Objects in this philosophy precede private subjects. Kantianism follows the ethics of rational yet subjective altruism to the point of forcing others (even violently) to heed one’s ‘social’ will (especially of those in power) as if it were universal law. Peikoff describes Kantian influences on Nazism in The Ominous Parallels, and Kant himself praises the sublime in war over peace in Critique of Judgment, §28. Thus, subjects in this philosophy are not only central but the only ones, as physical objects in themselves are non-existent. Political vs. scientific Objectivism has greatly influenced the progress of politics and economics through conservatives, neoconservatives, libertarians, and even some liberals. However, Objectivism hasn’t had much effect on science. Kantianism has greatly influenced the progress of science through Bohr’s Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics, Chomsky’s universal grammar theory, and various neuro and cognitive scientists, anthropologists, and psychologists. However, Kantianism hasn’t had as much direct effect in politics. Part II: Transcending conflicts Second, as a possible way to transcend these areas as it would mostly benefit Objectivism (like a stronger connection to academia in 3), I need to provide a potential idea to be built upon. My current and main source of inspiration is Leonard Peikoff’s DIM Hypothesis (2012), which is based on Rand’s epistemology, in particular her theory of concepts. What Peikoff develops in his book called after his hypothesis is a metaphilosophy (although he doesn’t call it that) specifying boundaries of all philosophies involving three categories: disintegrating, integrating, and misintegrating. As a point of contention, these are Peikoff’s words that I reinterpreted in favor of my own hypothesis: I’ve been building on some concepts from Peikoff’s hypothesis this past couple of years and have found another way (a visual method) to describe all philosophies, while also borrowing some of these terms from Peikoff. Based on my extensive research, I would like to show not only that I independently verified some insights from Peikoff’s hypothesis (as I also did a few years back for Rand’s theory) but also describe what he had achieved (and he considers this book his greatest achievement so far) as an understanding of Rand’s epistemology not as an epistemology in academic sense (which they don’t accept as such) but a meta-epistemology that transcends epistemology as conceived by Kant. If Rand’s epistemology be truly a meta-epistemology and Peikoff’s hypothesis be truly metaphilosophical, then we can use these areas to transcend Kant’s ‘transcendental’ philosophy without losing specificity required (as in 1). As far as I know, Kant never covered these areas in his philosophy. Considering that there also exists a term ‘metametaphysics’ (books on the topic: 2009, 2015, and 2016; cf. my metaphysics), maybe this so-called ‘transcendence’ can also achieve greater breadth than Rand was able to conceive, although, as speculative as all this may sound, there is currently not enough understanding of these new ‘meta’ (meaning not just ‘after’ but ‘beyond’) fields because they are on the frontier of contemporary philosophical research. Maybe we can share knowledge and understanding to see whether any of my suggestions have ground for further developments. At the end, if we reach any conclusion, we may find and improve upon the missing links required for Objectivism to hold the center stage it deserves in philosophical discussions.
  3. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    On page 409 (halfway through the book), Korzybski states a millionth time: So his entire book most probably consists of such repetitions without any justifications.
  4. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    The only piece of information I found on this forum on Korzybski is the following: There is no discussion of him or his system, but I think the discussion is long overdue. First, why Korzybski, and who the hell is it? Does anyone know or has ever heard of him? Alfred Korzybski, as I found only by accident, was a 20th century thinker, who, like Rand, created his own system of thought and an institute (including an international one) with its own journals and researchers who wrote within the framework he set up. In stark contrast to Rand, however, he created, what he called, a 'non-aristotelian system of general semantics', the first of a kind and one that he thought was necessary for the world to overcome all the insanity of totalitarianisms and mental health problems in general. I am currently reading his major work Science and Sanity (Korzybski, 2000), and here are some excerpts from prefaces there: The above is a mixture of form and content impossible in Aristotelian system and in David Kelley's interpretation of Aristotle in particular. Going on: Here he is going against identity. About identification he also says the following: He generalizes the influence of Aristotle's thought on even ordinary individuals, a major contrast to what Rand thought: His comment is also coming from a war-like stance directed against Aristotle and all those in his tradition: And there is more, even though I still haven't finished reading all the prefaces yet (there is one for each edition). I wonder why Rand fought so fearlessly against Kant when she had a contemporary so much worse right at her nose. They wrote at about the same time and both lived in America. So what do you think about this guy? I know he appears to be a crackpot, but his use of contrariness against everything Aristotle and building an elaborate system around it, connecting most of modern scientific data (from einsteinian and quantum physics, psychiatry, and nascent neurology), makes him a peculiar and very nice contrast to Rand, a nice clean divide from her framework of knowledge. On every one of her yesses he says noes and vice versa. This is a more evident contrast than Kant had even been, since for Rand he mixed good and evil, or reason with unreason, while Korzybski includes Kant in the aristotelian tradition, and strangely discusses neither him, nor Rand, as far as I can see. Korzybski, A. (2000). Science and Sanity: An introduction to non-aristotelian systems and general semantics. (5th ed.). Brooklyn, NY: Institute of General Semantics.
  5. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I'm starting to think otherwise due to this quote, in which he removes Kant from the category of 'philosopher' to which Aristotle belongs: And because he attributes noumena to Aristotelian analytics:
  6. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    To elaborate and analyze one of the previous quotes, I want to note that in Korzybski's own words, the problem with the mentally ill is that they "identify the symbol with actualities" (p. 196, his italics), which he has done on the previous page when he "necessitated" the '1 = 1' formula to mean the following external (in Korzybski's words "outside of his skin") elements: "different nervous systems which produce and use these symbols"; "the surfaces" and "different parts of the paper"; "the distribution of ink"; other materials or material conditions. So what happens is the equivocation between symbolic language made as a tool for comprehending reality outside and the empirical data from reality outside to which our language refers. Without the link of reference, which Korzybski ignores in his definition of identity ('absolute sameness in all respects'), he projects his own disorienting confusion on the readers and Aristotle, whose works he never bothered to read. Although Korzybski states some truths in his work (e.g., "[A]n enormous amount of knowledge may be found in a mature occasional perusal of a good grammar or dictionary, the neglect of which acts as a psycho-logical blockage to the understanding" - p. 763), he doesn't usually follow his own advice.
  7. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Here is a quote by Korzybski that I think supports my evaluation of him as a mentally ill individual: And then, to make this absolutely clear, he adds:
  8. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I agree that there is no significant difference between 'unknowable connection to reality' and 'no connection', but I disagree with your definition of idealism. To the contrary, look at Plato. The only true reality, according to him, is the reality of ideal forms only through which our mind can grasp physical and illusory reality outside, [which in itself is] not true reality. Hegel and Emerson were idealists in pretty much the same sense, in that mind is the connection between physical and true (or metaphysical) realities. Representationalism, on the other hand, is a very vague term, to which we can append Descartes, Locke, and Kant, philosophers of significant differences, in fact, differences so significant that we can fairly judge these men to belong to three different categories. The notions of constructs is essential to another vague term: constructivism, which is popular in academia, or at least it was popular at the end of the 20th century. What you describe sounds more like social constructivism, which attributes even to science as an institute such purely subjective and arbitrary constructs. And this is surely neither Kant's, not Korzybski's positions. Hence your arguments to equate Representationalism with Idealism don't work, except in the case with Descartes, but only because the main 'thing' for him that constructs everything, including the mind (or the brain), is God.
  9. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Yes, that's Korzybski's non-aristotelianism, Ᾱ. But Rand also never discussed him.
  10. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I start thinking that Korzybski was insane but escaped hospitalization by lucky chance. First he calls Aristotle a 'genius' and then he writes this: So far the claim that Aristotle is 'the extrovert' is unsupported and the claim that he, Rand, I, and everyone on this forum think feebly is in logical error. He also so many pages into the book has yet to cite Aristotle at least once or at least analyze sufficiently any of Aristotle's ideas. Rand, in comparison, did a much better job with Kant than Korzybski can boast of doing with Aristotle. We have no details on Aristotle from Korzybski, only calling names. I will keep you posted if I find anything.
  11. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Well, actually he does say that Aristotle's system is more comprehensive than those that followed during the two thousand years. On page xli (one of his prefaces), he includes this figure in which A (aristotelian system) contains "a more limited and less general system such as 'christianity' (C), within which is, for instance, the leibnitzian system (L), and within which there are individual, personal systems (P)."
  12. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Korzybski doesn't use the term 'anti-Aristotelian' and doesn't consider himself to be opposed to Aristotle's main mission, which he thought was to make a system to explain science and set its goals. Korzybski only does it for the 20th century's science. He claims that his non-Aristotelian system is the first of its kind, as previous attempts (he doesn't yet mention which ones) weren't as comprehensive and complete as his own.
  13. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Therein, tjohnson wrote: I think that's harmless. Here is some context by Korzybski: I mean, Aristotle's subject-predicate logic is also all structure and forms. Besides it's ontological. How is it that he thinks it doesn't correspond to facts? In the second paragraph it seems he reduces reality to a sort of kantian inversion: noumenon is the unspeakable and phenomenon is the sensation (like light rays). And in the first he reduces aristotelianism to linguistics a la language games and empty scholasticism. Does then Korzybski misrepresent Aristotle?
  14. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    The link of the 'early responses' leads to a pro-GS blog post, which makes an impression that Science and Sanity received mostly positive reviews and the few negative reviews it had, including the one by Hook, were misrepresentations of Korzybski's work and misunderstandings of his system for a philosophical one, as if it isn't. In this respect I would go with Albert Ellis and say that all such cognitive creations, like the system of Korzybski, are inherently philosophical (even on the unconscious level).
  15. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    That's the complexity issue that Rand didn't understand, thus she called it a bunch of names. It was Kant's style that was cumbersome, but, just so you know, so was the style of Copernicus, yet Rand had no issue with him. The part about 'self-evident' is also arguable. I agree that some of Kant's arguments come from common sense, especially his arguments for ethics in the Metaphysic of morals, and P. F. Strawson would agree concerning circularity in Kant's logic. I would also argue that Kant didn't come up with many original ideas but merely mutated old ones (like Aristotle's categories, to which he added other ones but placed them in a vacuum, removing the subject-predicate context), yet all of these Kant's faults are contained in the writing of a very complex and comprehensive manner on all topics, but once grasped he becomes boring (at least for me). From personal experience, there was a critic on this and other forums named Bill Harris, and his vendetta against Objectivism started when he was 15 years old (supposedly) when he first read Rand calling Kant a 'witch-doctor'. He is an academician and from an academic family. He claimed that Rand isn't interesting to academia because she doesn't follow academic rules, such as referring to first and second sources exhaustively and not using logical errors like ad-hominem attacks. That's from philosophical departments' view. From a literary point of view, again anecdotal, I had spoken to a professor of literature at NIU, and in his class on American literature of the 20th century he rejected my proposal of studying Atlas Shrugged because he attributed to it an utter lack of literary value. And some other professors agree that AS is too cold (concerning style) and uninteresting (concerning content). I, of course, disagree with them all, but maybe that's idiosyncratic, as I'm interested in female Russian philosophers, as I'm Russian myself, and, contrary to what Rand says about Russian culture, I feel a sort of cultural bond with her nonetheless.
  16. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I don't know, I was hoping to discuss Korzybski while I'm still reading him. Frankly, I think him the 20th century Kant but more on the commonsensical side in the context of today's sociocultural nihilistic and postmodernistic, non-identity perspectives. He was coming on that wave against which Rand battled.
  17. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    And that's Rand's problem. Yes, Kant avoided definitions in his pre-critical period especially because he wanted to make his philosophy end with the best possible definitions, that is to form definitions by the end of the discussion or make them clear by then at least, hoping that readers would be able to figure them out in context during the process, like in mathematics. He opposed traditional, scholastic metaphysics that started with definitions before the discussion. In his critical period, however, Kant used a lot more definitions and even started many of his works with them, as he thought it would be easier for readers, and besides by then he wanted to avoid confusion. For Rand, Kant's works are not only complex (that was an understatement earlier on my part), but incomprehensible because he deals with the mental processes required as conditions for knowledge. He explores the inner world as it has to be for us to have any knowledge at all, and be human at that. Kant's logic on the surface is Aristotelian, but really he was more concerned with mathematical thinking, as he applied all his thinking externally -- outside in with his theory of knowledge (erkenntnistheorie) with the faculty of understanding as primary; inside out with his ethics, or practical theory, with mind as the primary faculty; and outside in and inside out together with his mechanics and teleology with his aesthetics and the faculty of judgment. Kant thus answers on these questions: What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope? What is man? - in his anthropology (a primary question for Korzybski, I should note) Korzybski makes greater focus on illogic than Kant since Kant was under the influence of the sociocultural conditions of the time which favored strict logic as applied in science before logic became mathematized and completely removed from its scholastic treatments. I am not hereby trying to defend Kant's rationality or even his philosophy as a whole, but merely trying to make it clear that Rand really didn't have any sufficient reason to reject Kant on the basis of her arguments.
  18. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    As to me, that is exactly what I said, but a lot more eloquently and from a perspective that knows Kant (having read all of his works).
  19. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    For example, here Ellis speaks on behalf of Korzybski: First of all, Kozybski is also concealing an all-or-nothing outlook called Aristotelian vs. Non-aristotelian. You are either in the first or in the second system; there is nothing else, according to Korzybski. Such form of concealment is similar to the kind of pathological egoism that all collectivist/altruist tyrants deny and want us to believe they don't have. And second, considering especially that Ellis has written a book denying self-esteem, called The Myth of Self-esteem: How Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy Can Change Your Life Forever, then he is on the side of quite a pathological 'altruism' of these collectivist folks we all know from the 20th century, although he would of course deny this, just as would Korzybski, by making us believe that their systems would lead us away from such atrocities, even by making them approach so much closer. That's the essence of the non-identity mentality.
  20. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I've just found that Albert Ellis, an enemy of Objectivism, quotes Korzybski quite often in his Are Capitalism, Objectivism, and Libertarianism Religions? Yes! I attach his book in the pdf format, if anyone is interested in checking it out. [Ellis]_On_Objectivism.pdf
  21. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    Actually I have a problem with traditional definitions of those terms, as the definitions are confusing and contradictory. In this instance, Korzybski's idea of the multiordinality of terms (pp. 14-5 in the book) is quite useful. Regardless of how a term is used, we must look for its definition in the context where it's used. Reality for Rand is metaphysical, hence ideational, not physical, as the general concept of reality implies. Kant and Korzybski, on the other hand, are indeed similar in regard to their philosophies, but even though they were idealistic, they surely weren't idealists. Here is just an example of how a person could call himself an idealist based on sociocultural and/or historical circumstances, which are not objective references for the meaning of a term: And Fichte, of course, misunderstood Kant, as Kant later rejected him. They are not inconsistent, especially if materialism is subjective, and it's also always idealistic, as are we all, to a certain extent. However, what do you mean that the passage illustrates that Korzybski was also an idealist? Being the brain has nothing to do with idealism, since idealism is only concerned with the metaphysical in the metacosmic sense (Platonism, Christianism, Descarteanism, & Hegelianism).
  22. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    I understand that we're dealing here with the past, which we cannot change, but I'd like you to understand where I'm coming from. Kant is a major figure in academic circles, just like Aristotle, and Korzybski isn't. Korzybski conflicts with much work from academia and attacks academicians along the same lines Rand does: that they are too verbose and abstract with their ideas removed from reality and facts. I can understand that Rand wanted to become famous, and the best way to do that and become a part of history is to attack a famous person (like Booth did with Lincoln and Chapman with Lennon). But the issue is that Rand composed her line of attack ineffectively from the academic point of view. She didn't read enough of Kant and merely said that we shouldn't read him much at all. All that we need to understand about Kant, according to Rand, is that his texts are basically meaningless because they are too complex. Now, this position would have never persuaded academicians a priori. So Rand merely showed that she couldn't think like academicians do and created the division between her philosophy and academia, thus hindering a deeper discussion of her philosophy in which all intellectuals could be involved. This I pity much because I cannot write about Rand in the philosophical departments around the world. She is a persona non grata there. This is also so in Russia where I studied philosophy but abandoned it because Rand is as irrelevant as Lenin here today (the two figures I studied most extensively, and now cannot share my knowledge in academic circles). On the other hand, if we could go back in time, we should have told her to attack Korzybski along the same lines she attacked Kant. Korzybski created a similarly artificial barrier between his system and the academic world. Now, the potential downside to such an option is that Rand would have never become so popular if she had never attacked Kant, but I think she is popular among ordinary, commonsensical people not because she attacked Kant (they don't know much about him), but because of her fictional works (The Fountainhead and, especially, Atlas Shrugged). In academic circles both Rand and Korzybski are non-existent because they both attacked major philosophers in a very inadequate, ad-hominem manner (Rand called Kant a 'witch-doctor', and Korzybski associated all followers of Aristotle with the mentally ill). If they would have bound up together in a polemic, their polemic could have become interesting from the academic point of view, and maybe one of them would have been better understood then and even studied and accepted in academia due to such polemics. Without conflict with major philosophers like Aristotle and Kant but only through second-hand debates, they had a chance to be heard up there and become not major but at least minor figures in academic philosophy, but now it's all too late and useless to do anything about them there, unfortunately. People would simply look at you like you are wasting your time.
  23. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    An Idealist, you say? And Rand isn't an Idealist? Here is a quote from Korzybski that focuses on matter rather than ideas:
  24. Ilya Startsev

    Korzybski vs. Rand

    It's a surely better way to PR your philosophy by attacking a more popular opponent than the one who is a better contrast to help clarify your philosophy.
  25. Ilya Startsev

    Transcending Objectivism and Kantianism

    Although I would rather not make such an argument because it goes against some of my own evaluations, I should say that Kant indeed, at least on the surface, is much closer related to Rand (and perhaps, psychologically, she understood this fact) than she is related to the one man who truly contrasted with her, Alfred Korzybski.
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