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William O

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Everything posted by William O

  1. The way contemporary academic philosophers usually think about self evident truths, as opposed to Objectivists, is: They are a priori and independent of experience. They are abstract "truths of reason," not on the perceptual level. Often they are regarded as defeasible in principle. Their truth is not necessarily immediately obvious to everyone. For example, an academic philosopher would say that it is self evident that first cousins have a pair of grandparents in common. I'm taking these claims from Audi's introduction to epistemology (p. 94-96). It seems like Objectivists don't regard anything as self evident in the sense most academic philosophers use that term. There are axioms in Objectivism, but they are grasped by perception, not by seeing intrinsic connections between concepts. However, that is how Audi seems to characterize the academic concept of self evidence. Am I correct in drawing this conclusion?
  2. I found a passage in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy that talks about self evidence in conjunction with the concept of "intuition." I quote from page 382: This suggests that there is a connection between self evidence, as academic philosophers think of it, and rationalism.
  3. Beyond Morality

    Yes, criminals develop their own moral codes to justify their actions. For example, a burglar breaking into someone's house usually has a moral "justification" of some sort for doing so. Many of them believe that it isn't morally wrong to commit burglary because the victims will be reimbursed by their insurance agency, overlooking the loss of peace of mind that they cause. Rapists are not a category that I have looked into, but I know that they also develop moral "justifications" for their actions.
  4. I think this is probably the right solution. Perhaps this is not the right attitude to use when studying the history of philosophy. Evaluation of a philosopher's work should come after understanding it, not before.
  5. This is either inaccurate or at least poorly phrased. Hume's view is that our belief in causality has no foundation in reason, not that the current accounts of causality are "problematic." He thinks we have a non-rational faculty distinct from reason, which he variously calls habit, custom, or instinct. At bottom, he would say that all of our beliefs are based on this non-rational faculty rather than on reason.
  6. Thanks for your posts in this thread, Boydstun. You have been very helpful. A word of clarification: The points I listed in the OP were my own summary, and do not appear in that form in Audi's book.
  7. This isn't true. If someone cares about being right and is paying attention, it matters how good your evidence is. The problem is establishing credibility with someone so that they will pay attention to what you have to say, as well as engaging their emotions at appropriate points. As Aristotle said, ethos, pathos, and logos are the key elements.
  8. This part has been cleared up, I would say: However, this part could use clarification, since it seems like a version of the analytic - synthetic dichotomy:
  9. I think I thought that propositions can be self evident for Rand because I was under the impression that axioms like "existence exists" and "A is A" are regarded as self evident in Objectivism. I can find a lot of blogs and websites by non-scholars saying that online, but it's difficult to find a place in the primary sources where Rand actually says that. (The other reason is that, well, these propositions do seem self evident, and I would expect - rightly or wrongly - that Rand would agree with me about that.)
  10. When you talk about a computer malfunctioning or producing an error, what you are doing is imposing a mathematical model on the behavior of the computer and pointing out that the behavior of the computer diverges from the model. The word "malfunction" contains the word "function" right in it - it's a mathematical concept in the context of computer science. Unless you are telling me that the computer fails to correspond to its correlate in Plato's intelligible realm of mathematics, there is no such thing as a computer error apart from the interpretation of a rational observer.
  11. The page number for the fallacy of retroactive self evidence is 157.
  12. That's a good distinction, I'm glad you posted this. I need to figure why I thought that and whether I had any evidence for it.
  13. It appears that propositions are only self evident in a derivative sense, for Rand. By contrast, academic philosophers, in my experience, only regard propositions as self evident (e.g. 1+1=2). Dr. Binswanger identified a fallacy in How We Know called the fallacy of retroactive self evidence, which is basically when we get so used to a claim that we start to call it self evident even though it wasn't originally. The discussion so far in this thread, then, seems to have a striking implication: If Rand is right, then every usage of the term "self evident" in contemporary academic philosophy commits the fallacy of retroactive self evidence. What are your thoughts on my reasoning here?
  14. Objectivism holds that the denial of any true proposition is self contradictory. Read Peikoff's essay on "The Analytic - Synthetic Dichotomy."
  15. Maybe I need to clarify the goals of this thread. Goal 1: Clearly identify how Ayn Rand thought about self evidence, using primary sources. Goal 2: Clearly identify how most academic philosophers think about self evidence, using reputable secondary sources. Goal 3: Compare the two and identify similarities and differences. That is all I am trying to do in this thread. I would appreciate any help from knowledgeable forum members.
  16. Can you clarify what you mean? I don't mean to be rude, but I would think it obvious that Rand accepted the concept of the self evident. At the very least, if you're going to interpret her that way then you need to explain how you interpret passages like those quoted in the Lexicon under "self evident." aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/self-evident.html Also, haven't you essentially reinvented the analytic - synthetic dichotomy here?
  17. Okay, but how is that relevant in the current context? We are comparing Rand's concept of self evidence to the contemporary academic concept. Thanks, that's helpful. I don't know what he means by contemporary. He mentions Mill, so a reasonable assumption would be that he means since 1800.
  18. Regarding the claim that 20% of Objectivism be removed, wouldn't that completely gut Objectivism if carried out consistently? For example, if Objectivism made some allowance for forcible taxation in order to help the poor, we would have to give up the non-initiation of force principle and the trader principle. Further, the non-initiation of force principle and the trader principle are based on the Objectivist ethics, so we would have to give up the Objectivist ethics. Rand regarded Objectivism as an integrated system. It is not a bunch of independent parts with no connection to each other that you can freely tinker with.
  19. This is something you would need studies to establish. The work I've seen done on public opinion seems to indicate that it generally acts sensibly, although there are different theories about why this is. The public pays attention to the arguments politicians and public figures make and responds to them. If people were so stupid that they couldn't grasp critical, life saving ideas and vote based on them, democracy would have crashed and burned centuries ago.
  20. Can you clarify? Dialectic is an epistemological approach, and it was endorsed by Aristotle as well as Plato. I'm not sure why you're contrasting it with realism, which is a metaphysical position. Can you give some examples of contemporary philosophers who see self evidence differently from how Audi describes the concept?
  21. I think the lesson of this thread, which has been exhibited in the forum's reaction to more than one participant, is that if you confront a bunch of people who hold an ideology with a vague or non-specific objection to that ideology, the resulting discussion will generate more heat than light.
  22. I think a typical Objectivist probably does not have a deep understanding of Kant or Hume. However, I think a typical Objectivist will have a better understanding of Kant and Hume than the general population, and that someone who is an Objectivist is much more likely than the general population to have seriously studied those authors.
  23. US Communism Survey

    It isn't that surprising to me that Americans don't know that much about Communism. There have been a lot of surveys in the past that concluded that the overall level of political knowledge in the United States is low - that's pretty much taken for granted in political science at this point. I think some of the ignorance we see in this survey might be concentrated "at the bottom," so to speak. For example, maybe the quarter of Americans who don't know that Stalin killed more people than George Bush are mostly the same people as the 18% of respondents who said they weren't familiar with Stalin and Putin, respectively. So, maybe one problem we're seeing here is that a specific subset of the people polled just aren't interested in politics or history at all (and probably don't vote).
  24. If the goal is just to improve your mood in the short term and take your mind off of it, try changing your point of reference by thinking about things you're glad haven't happened to you instead of things you wish you had. You can probably find a lot of ways that you've been fortunate in the big picture if you think about it.