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  1. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    Eiuol, You can get a single issue of JARS for $23 or a two-issue annual subscription for $36. I gather you are not a subscriber to this journal. Why not? Are you a subscriber to any other journals? The Objective Standard? It is odd to me that people so continually interested in the thought of Ayn Rand, by their posts, do not subscribe to such journals and discuss them here. But what is far more odd to me is the little-to-zero quotations of Rand herself, fiction and nonfiction, I see in these online posting discussions. It’s as if as the decades went by few with a positive response to Rand’s writings cared to continue actually reading Rand and discussing those writings (with exact quotation and citation) in their online discussions supposedly about her philosophy. Claims about what she wrote without backing it up with exact quotation is beer talk. Rand’s writings are not that difficult. To fathom Rand, as for any philosopher (sometimes much more difficult), one should first, second, . . . and last, read Rand. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Eiuol, You asked of Merlin, could he share something of his manuscript, perhaps an outline, so we might discuss that in lieu of the paper itself. That is terrible. His actual work is not worth getting hold of so we readers of it might actually discuss that labor itself? Perhaps you noticed my post of the subheadings of my forthcoming paper on Rand and Descartes. They indicate areas covered in the forthcoming paper. Compared to the paper itself, they are as nothing. If someone said to me, well, instead of reading your paper and then discussing it, let’s discuss the topics named in your subheadings, I wouldn’t give them the time of day.
  2. ~Some Notes on the Concept(s) of Validity in Objectivist Epistemology~ Validity within propositional and predicate logic is generally taken to mean: that merit of argument in which the conclusion cannot be false if the premises are true. We speak also of validity in property titles and in contracts. Kant had much work for a sense of validity in epistemology joining those two senses. He announces in the Preface to the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason that a central component of that work “refers to the objects of pure understanding and is intended to make comprehensible the objective validity of understanding’s a priori concepts” (xvi). That general epistemological sense of objective validity in concepts is useful in application to concepts and propositions in philosophical systems besides Kant’s. In his mature, pragmatic philosophy, Dewey writes: “According to experimental inquiry, the validity of the object of thought depends upon the consequences of the operations which define the object of thought” (1929, 103). Speaking of experiment, Dewey refers to the process “by which the conclusion is reached that such and such a judgment of an object is valid” (ibid., 230). Logical positivist Ayer writes: “In saying that we propose to show ‘how propositions are validated’, we do not of course mean to suggest that all propositions are validated in the same way. On the contrary we lay stress on the fact that the criterion by which we determine the validity of an a priori or analytic proposition is not sufficient to determine the validity of an empirical or synthetic proposition. For it is characteristic of empirical propositions that their validity is not purely formal” (1952, 90). For Ayer one can validate a proposition either by finding it to be analytic or by finding it to be empirically verified. Rand remarked: “Objective validity is determined by reference to the facts of reality. . . . Man cannot know more than he has discovered—and he may not know less than the evidence indicates, if his concepts and definitions are to be objectively valid. / . . . When new evidence confronts him, he has to expand his definitions according to the evidence, if they are to be objectively valid” (ITOE 46). “How does one determine and objective definition valid for all men? It is determined according to the widest context of knowledge available to man on the subjects relevant to the units of a given concept. / . . . An objective definition valid for all men, is one that designates the essential distinguishing characteristic(s) and genus of the existents subsumed under a given concept—according to all the relevant knowledge available at that stage of mankind’s development” (ibid.). Expanding a bit on a point noted by Patrik: In Rand’s philosophy, Peikoff takes validation to be “any process of establishing an idea’s relationship to reality, whether deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, or perceptual self-evidence” (1991, 8). As Peikoff had expressed it in his 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism, “validation, in the broad sense includes any process of relating mental contents to the facts of reality. Direct perception . . . is one such process. Proof designates another type of validation. Proof is the process of deriving a conclusion logically from antecedent knowledge” (see further, Peikoff 1991, 118–20, 137–38). Returning to Rand, she further observes “there are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, . . . or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone . . . . An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion” (ITOE 49). I think of objectively meaningless concepts as a type of invalid concept. They are a subdivision of that type of error; not every invalid concept is objectively meaningless. Rand constructs an invalid concept man in which his ability to run is taken for his essential characteristic and running entities is taken as genus of the concept (ITOE 71). To better absorb this example, one should imagine that one does not have the other conception and definition of man rational animal, not even implicitly. Try to imagine that for basic adult definition of man one has only the definition running animal, alongside running water and so forth as species of running entities. That would be a misidentification of the essential trait of man. It would be an objectively invalid concept, though not an objectively meaningless concept. Such a concept is assessable for validity. It is assessable for contradiction with reality, including contradiction with other concepts warranted by reality in the present context of knowledge. That is to say, such a concept is objectively meaningful, though it is objectively invalid.
  3. Boydstun

    What is 'reason'?

    I’d say the asking and finding of why and how is at the core of reason provide it is taken as understood that reason is always with a body and brain with a living developmental history and within a social context of coordination and training during in its development. However, I’d also stress observation, and by that I mean more than just a perceptual apprehension along one’s way. I mean a centered deliberate attention to something in perception (or thought) or how to get a new perception of that sort. There is a stage of the crawling infant, before any language acquisition, in which the infant cannot make visual observations while crawling. He or she crawls a bit, then stops and looks, then resumes crawling. Those self-world and inter-human observations of the infant are part of its growing package of reason, I’d say. Of course, it’s with languaged observations and languaged pursuits of why and how that we have full-blown reason. But at this fuller stage, I’d still want to stress the factor of observation and add the factor of reason thinking about itself. It needs to get to know what it can reasonably expect of itself. I don’t know how self-conscious they were about it, but the Babylonian observations of the paths and times of certain things in the heavens, their recording of those things and trying to fit mathematical schemes capturing those recurrences was not much pursuit of how and why. But it was within their ability in that culture, and it attained a better picture of the surface-what, which could be helpful later to other astronomy folk in more advanced cultures trying (sometimes terribly prematurely) to get somewhere with the how and why. Back when I first read Atlas Shrugged (while in college, but on the side), 10 years after it was first published, I formulated a saying for myself: “to reason is to question.” That’s fine if that is understood to mean that questioning is essential to reason, but not so hot if it is understood to mean that anything passing for a grammatically correct question can pass for an episode of reason. I do rather like Rand’s definition of reason as the faculty of identifying and integrating the evidence of the senses. I’d note, however, that our reason we put to work in pure mathematics is circumscribed by that definition in only a nebulous way. Also, the definition is on its face too much setting us pondering the givens in perception as merely evidence to use in winning our way to the real physical world, when really that is not her full picture of our way with the world and our blend of thought and action.
  4. William, looking through the "Look Inside" Table of Contents and text available from that first book, by the psychology professor, it looks like a large compendium of human errors, conceptually and scientifically amenable to analysis and discovery of their mechanisms. Starting with the second chapter, that is. In that, it seems like Dennis (Ninth) is right. However, the first chapter does seem to parade some all-too-common irrationalities that it suggests will be explained by the material in the succeeding chapters. I don't know if the book does fulfill that, and it is indeed unclear from what is shown whether the author regards the irrationalities such as murderous religiosity as anything more than deterministic errors. Also, I don't catch anything about rational belief such as our belief that the moon illusion is an illusion. In fact, he just seems to wave his hand, saying surely no one could believe the moon could be actually a larger size near the horizon. But what about people 25,000 years ago? They had natural language like us, but not our accumulated exploration, science, and mathematics. I don't see why they would not just presume the moon changes its size in the way it visually appears to change. I've taken a photograph of the rising moon before with my camera. It's marvelous largeness in our eyes is just not there in the photo. The largeness and marvelousness are not there in the photo. We have rational methods of investigating illusions. Not only in how they come about, but for determining that they ARE an illusion in the first place. Offhand, it does not look like this book stresses, if it addresses it at all, that we have rational beliefs and methods and why THEY are so compelling.
  5. Boydstun

    What is 'reason'?

    “The process of a child’s development consists of acquiring knowledge, which requires the development of his capacity to grasp and deal with an ever-widening range of abstractions. This involves the growth of two interrelated but different chains of abstractions, two hierarchical structures of concepts, which should be integrated, but seldom are: the cognitive and the normative. The first deals with knowledge of the facts of reality—the second, with the evaluation of these facts. The first forms the epistemological foundation of science—the second, of morality and art.” (Rand 1965a, 10) --quote in my From Integrity to Calculus , Rand tells the religionist: “Whenever you committed the evil of refusing to think and to see, of exempting from the absolute of reality some one small wish of yours, whenever you chose to say: Let me withdraw from the judgment of reason . . . the existence of God, let me have my one irrational whim and I will be a man of reason about all else—that was the act of subverting your consciousness, the act of corrupting your mind” (1037). Rand was not opposed to feelings. She was not against the idea of the human soul, provided it is thought of as naturally part of one’s living body and mortal as one’s body. In Fountainhead she has dialogue between Keating and his wife Dominique in which soul is given the expressly nonreligious meaning: that in one that is one’s genuine person—not only one’s body—one’s will and meaning, that in one which independently thinks, values, decides, and feels (GW II 454–55; cf. 1957, 1057). -- from my Mysticism - Kant and Rand (Part 1 -Reason) . When philosophers lay out theories of good definition, they are theories of an explicative kind of definition (see David Kelley’s Art of Reasoning, chapter 3). Consider Rand’s definition of reason as the faculty that identifies and integrates the evidence of the senses. In my dictionary, I find reason defined as the capacity for rational thought, rational inference, or rational discrimination. The terms rational and thought go to already familiar synonymies with reason. The differentia within the rational, in this dictionary definition, are the discriminatory and the inferential. Rand’s definition stays close to the common usage reflected by the dictionary, but it replaces discrimination and inference by their kin identification and integration, it eliminates the non-explicative rational, and it adds a base for the activities of reason, specifically, deliverances of the senses. Rand’s definition is explanatory of the common usage found in the dictionary, and it is tailored to tie neatly to a particular wider philosophical view. Quine could say this is a fine explicative type of definition. Rand has given the term reason a new synonymy. The various contexts in which reason under the dictionary definition is properly used remain contexts in which reason under the new, explicative definition is properly used. The new definition covers the processes of drawing distinctions and making inferences. The new definition also applies to the wider processes of identification and integration of sensory evidence, processes in which the narrower processes are embedded. --from my On Quine's "Two Dogmas" PS - Welcome to Objectivism Online.
  6. Boydstun

    OCON 2018

    Good one.
  7. Test of Stochastic Collapse-of-the-Wave-Function Models Probing the Quantum Interface with the Classical and How the Q-Regime yields the C-Regime Quantum Optomechanics with Photonic Crystals
  8. Bill, There is an article about Noether and the continuing importance of her results for modern physics in the June 23, 2018 issue of Science News. This report includes her work as pertinent to general relativity. I am familiar with her work from my background in physics. Philosophers of physics know her work and write about it sometimes in scientifically informed articles or books on ontology. I see there is a nice fairly recent review article on her work and particle physics here. Stephen
  9. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    SL, Where I've mentioned Merlin Jetton, I was saying something about his views, but in any posts that I've not expressly mentioned his position(s) in his JARS (#35) paper, "what is being proposed" are my own criticisms of Rand's ethical theory, and probably have only some overlap with his thinking. (I do not agree with all the views he express in the article; if someone else reads it, perhaps we can discuss it.) I've bandied these criticisms of mine (with examples) about these Objectivist-type public posting sites a few years now. These are 'old hat' to me, and none include what I develop further upon them in my book in progress (which I'll leave secret). By the way, in the 1990's, in my philosophy journal Objectivity, I never wrote anything concerning my ethical differences with Rand, although I think their onset was in the early '80's. (I began reading Rand in 1967, my copy of The Virtue of Selfishness is the paperback Signet one, the pages are often separated from the binding, they are yellow and crumbling at the edges, and I hope no words of it go missing before I myself go missing. Economy, after all.) Rand and I concur that to significant extent, one can choose whether one will make someone else's benefit the primary motive of one's action or make one's own benefit the primary motive of one's action. Her view and argument was that it should always be the latter. Because I disagree with that uniformity, I'd say my disagreement with Rand in this area is a matter of broad principle, not disagreements in complexities of application. Then too, my own theory, presumably eventuating in a combination of the former and the latter alternatives, will be from a systematic viewpoint, stemming from my fundamental metaphysics and my portrait of the nature of life per se and of the life constituting human consciousness; and this circumstance too, inclines me to say my disagreement with Rand in this area is a difference of broad principle. I'm out of the present discussion. I've other things I need to think on. I hope some readers at this site will obtain the copy of JARS with Merlin's paper, and I hope this thread will not become useless as a thread for announcements concerning Objectivism in academia through inundation of other sorts of posts, excellent as these posts ensuing my announcement and taste of the Jetton paper have been.
  10. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    In Rand's egoism, the aimed-for beneficiary of every action should be oneself. Not only the aimed-for beneficiary in organizing one's life as a whole. If one aids a Steven Mallory, it should be for the potential of a value one wants to see in the world. It should be for the joy one experiences in seeing such artworks and the joy one takes in the company of such creators in the world. It is one's own experiences and joys that should be the aim of such an action, not firstly the interests, potential achievements and experiences of Mr. Mallory himself. All proper examined values should be in relation to oneself as beneficiary, on Rand's view, although she would have the normal, healthy constitution of oneself significantly include need for self-visibility through certain others: Visibility.
  11. Boydstun

    Objectivism in Academia

    New at Check Your Premises: How Should Philosophy Professors Approach Ayn Rand by Greg Salimieri
  12. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    SL, None of us want to get sidetracked from your original honest questions. Talk of injustice was part of Rand's answer, but her answer to your questions are crystal clear. She did not think it right to have as motive for your actions the benefit that accrues from the action to persons other than you the agent. I suspect that you disagree with that view of hers. I gather Merlin disagrees with it. I disagree with it, have often said so, and speaking only for myself, I count it as a serious suspicion one should have of the possible complete correctness of any authentic ethical egoism whatever, from Socrates to Rand. I applaud that long string of philosophers who have made a valiant effort to justify all moral virtues on the basis of self-interest. It is a worthwhile effort and has shown the great extent to which moral virtues ARE justifiable by purely self-interest. Moreover, for my own part, I enthusiastically agree with Rand on the virtue(s) of selfishness. I agree with her there are things rightly condemned as wrong and wrongly called selfish. I agree with her that there are things rightly called selfish and wrongly condemned as wrong. But that does not amount to ethical egoism, not as the sincere challenge has been sincerely taken on from Socrates to Rand. EVERY moral virtue must stand on the rationale of purely self-interest in all the settings for moral virtue in any theory of moral egoism with no tap dancing. And in this effort, Rand did not distract or confuse or water down. She went for a real ethical egoism.
  13. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    SL, There is a scene in The Fountainhead in which the narrator lays out the sort of third-party situation you describe. It’s upshot, it has struck me, is that when the outside pressure to help your fellow man is lifted, as it is lifted in the mind of Roark, then men feel a natural benevolence towards each other. This narrative is at the opening of Roark’s ultimate court trial, in which Rand will give him an extended soliloquy to lay out her main positive message of the book. However, I think you are mistaken concerning the passage Merlin quoted from the Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness. She means exactly what she wrote there, full tilt. She makes clear there that she is not assuming at the outset of argumentation that “the proper beneficiary of moral values” is oneself. That is not a moral primary in her view, rather, “it has to be derived from and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system” (x). She takes her argument in “The Objectivist Ethics” to have shown that “man must be the beneficiary of his own moral actions. / . . . Since all values have to be gained and/or kept by men’s actions, any breach between actor and beneficiary necessitates an injustice . . . . Nothing could ever justify such a breach, and no one ever has” (ix). From “The Objectivist Ethics” ~ “Man’s life is a continuous whole. . . . ‘Man’s survival qua man’ means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence open to his choice. / Man has to be man by choice—and it is the task of ethics to teach him how to live like man. / The Objectivist ethics holds man’s life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.” (24–25) “It is only on the basis of rational selfishness—on the basis of justice—that men can be fit to live together in a free, peaceful, prosperous, benevolent, rational society. / Can man derive any personal benefit from living in a human society? Yes—if it is a human society.” (32)
  14. Boydstun

    "Egoism and Others" by Merlin Jetton

    ***** Split from Objectivism in Academia ***** The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies is in its eighteenth year of publication (Penn State University Press). It issues twice a year, July and December. I have all its issues, hardcopy, from its beginning. I’ve mentioned elsewhere on Objectivism Online an extensive review, in the July 2018 issue, of Harry Binswanger’s book How We Know. I notice also in this issue a paper “Egoism and Others” by Merlin Jetton, a long-time friend of mine. In his contribution “Egoism and Others,” Jetton draws Rand’s ethical egoism as an extreme position, polar opposite the extreme altruistic ethics of Comte. That sketch seems right. But Jetton writes “Contra Rand, one can benefit others without self-sacrifice” (85). I don’t think that statement in itself is an exact representation of Rand. She characterizes voluntary productive, romantic, and esthetic relationships as benefitting both self and others. Jetton later tempers that statement on Rand, thankfully, in his addressing for example her ambitious essay “The Conflict of Mens’ Interests.” Jetton conveys altruism as taking various forms. Rand’s notion of altruism, he correctly takes as entailing self-sacrifice. He maintains that Rand disdained altruism in any form and that this stance “may actually detract from a person’s self-interest” (85). “Rand advocated self-interest all the time and typically treated acting for the interest of others as equivalent to self-sacrifice” (86). Correct. Jetton concurs with Rand’s stance that one should not live for the sake of another. Contra Rand, he writes: “Acting for the sake of another is sometimes the rational thing to do” (87). I concur, and I concur that this is contra Rand (notwithstanding denials or fogging of this ascription to Rand by some sympathizers with Rand’s egoism). Jetton observes that among our choices of action, there are ones “you might agree that anyone similarly disposed would have in such circumstances” (87). He dips into a work by Charles Larmore, a former professor of mine, in filling out this idea. From the reflective plane of regarding ourselves as responding to reasons and binding ourselves to reasons, Jetton goes on to gauge the morality of benefitting others in business, familial, fiduciary, governmental, and charitable relationships, marking up Rand’s pertinent words all along the way. An additional basic frame of Rand’s ethical egoism I think would be worth examining in future examinations and assessments along the lines of Jetton’s present study is her proposition “Life is an end in itself.” This is a basic frame not only for her ethical egoism, but for her case for universal individual rights. And the latter, with their justification, could have fertile ramifications for treatment of others, even going beyond scope of the law.
  15. Boydstun

    Number of people in Atlantis

    I’d forgotten all about that, Ninth. This speculation of Ron Merrill is on pages 61-62 of his book The Ideas of Ayn Rand (1991). It is disappointing to learn from Merrill that, in the Talmudic account, Sodom was not destroyed for the sodomy in the town. I’d hoped we’d find out some day what sexual inventions had caught on over at Gomorrah. By Merrill’s report on the Talmud, these cities were destroyed on account of collectivism, and in the case of Sodom, for “placing envy and equality above benevolence and justice.” I didn’t find Ron’s speculation on some fun he thought Rand was having in placing some parallel particulars with the S&G tale in her story of the strike and withdrawal of good people to the Colorado refuge. In Ayn Rand Explained (2013, 120), Marsha Enright also did not find this speculation of Ron’s likely correct from his evidence brought forth.