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Posts posted by Boydstun

  1. 2046,

    I’ll hold off remarking on pragmatism until we get to Dewey and Lewis.

    Concerning the classical ontologists, “they regarded the laws of logic as themselves matters of fact (i.e. ontological in character, not ‘mere’ matters of fact)” (Peikoff 1964, 13).

    The classical philosophers basing logic in ontology (such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Leibniz) would want to have PNC both as an ontological fact of the world and as a norm, a consciously followed constraint, for ascertaining any fact, whether itself or other facts, whether facts empirical or mathematical. With the variations in ontology between various theories basing logic in ontology are variations in what is ontological form. I think it is always what philosophers say about the ontology of form that is key to their ontology of PNC and their account of how PNC is also a norm.

    Below is Peikoff’s representation of Aristotle’s ontology at work in a syllogistic inference. I should like to mention that this text is my personal favorite in Peikoff’s dissertation. Also, I’d like to mention that, as Jonathan Lear showed from Prior Analytics, the certitude of the validity of the syllogism below, and the other first-figure ones, is the base certitude of validity by which Aristotle, using some self-evident logical conversions, certified validity of the syllogisms of the other figures. Lastly, in their lectures and writings concerted with Rand; Branden and Peikoff point to contradictions that occur if one denies the conclusion of this syllogism below while affirming its premises. It is a good assignment for the future to work out the moments of Aristotelian form in rendering those contradictions.



    All A is B. [major premise]

    This is an A. [minor premise]

    Therefore, this A is B.

    The major premise here represents a necessary connection learned on the level of apprehension of a separated formal structure; the minor premise represents the recognition of that structure in (or, as the structure of) a given particular stuff or material. (And the conclusion, derived from combining the two premises, represents our recognition that any property necessarily attaching to the “separated” structure will thus necessarily attach to the particular thing in question which possesses that structure.) Each premise then—and this is the key point for our present purposes—represents an apprehension of particulars, but in quite different ways. The difference is difficult to state simply; here are some possible formulations of it: the major represents an apprehension of the structure of particulars, the minor, of the structure in particulars; the major, of the particular qua possessed of a certain formal character, the minor, of the particular qua particular; the major, of an aspect, feature or element of the particular, the minor of the particular itself; the major, of form, the minor, of form in matter.*

    * This apprehension of form in matter, which follows the apprehension of the separated structure, is to be distinguished from a quite different apprehension of the form-matter amalgam which precedes the apprehension of separated structure, viz., the initial sensory perceptions of particulars qua particulars which occur as the prerequisite of the performance of the abstracting process. There are actually three stages in the process for Aristotle: a) Sense-apprehension of the particular qua particular prior to any abstracting process. This is an undiscriminating apprehension of the form-matter amalgam as a whole, and thus “accidentally” of the formal element of the particular . . . . b) At some point, after repeated experiences and memorial retention, we come to discriminate the form from the matter and “separate it out” in thought; we are then able, by contemplating the separated structure, to apprehend the necessary connections among its features. This is the level of rational cognition. c) Finally, we return to the particular and reintegrate the form with the matter, once again, as in stage a, perceiving the form-matter amalgam as a whole. Only we are now able to apprehend the form in the matter; i.e., to apprehend it as a distinctly discerned structure in this particular stuff. The perception of form in matter at this stage is thus authentic, not accidental; and we are thus able to apply to the particular the knowledge of necessary connection gained in stage b.

    (Peikoff 1964, 134–35)


    Under Aristotle’s account, we learn the truth of PNC by observing instances of it and performing an intuitive induction to it (also called an abstractive induction). PNC has to be a law prior to the operation of thought in order to be discovered by such observation and abstraction. The normativity of PNC in Aristotle’s account is from the purpose of thought, which is the comprehension of existence. To serve as guide to that purpose in the way PNC serves, PNC must, in Aristotle’s view, be a first principle in existence. We must not think a thing has and has not a certain character at the same time because, as Joseph puts it, “we see that a thing cannot have and not have at once the same character; and the so-called necessity of thought is really the apprehension of a necessity in the being of things’” (Peikoff 1964, 162).

    I’ll be looking at Dewey’s expansive notion of logic in turn when we come to it in this series. Looking also at Lewis and at Peikoff’s extractions from both of them. I don’t expect to take up Wittgenstein, and Peikoff also did not. But I thought I’d mention just now a book from Penelope Maddy The Logical Must – Wittgenstein on Logic (2014).

  2. PNC Ground Shifts to the Side of the Subject – Conventionalism I 

    Peikoff addressed logical conventionalism in a sense broad enough to include the various approaches to logical truth within what he took to be the most influential movements of Anglo-American philosophy in the twentieth century to the time of his dissertation (1964, 165n). Those would be pragmatism, logical empiricism, and the analytic movement. For exemplification of philosophies upholding conventionalism in fundamental character of logical truths, Peikoff delves into Dewey’s Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938); C. I. Lewis’ Mind and the World Order (1929) and An Analysis of Knowledge and Evaluation (1946); A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic (1946 [1936]); and E. Nagel’s Logic without Metaphysics (1956).

    There had been an analogue of conventionalism in logical and mathematical principles within a minority of earlier thinkers who, wanting to guard doctrine of the omnipotence of God and taking the truth and necessity of formal principles to emanate from divine selection of them, endowed formal principles with an ultimate arbitrariness. Those principles would be perfectly unchanging, however, as far as human thought is concerned. Anyway, such an ultimate situation was from a brew of theology with an extra-heavy dose of vacuum imagination.

    The conventionalisms Peikoff addressed took shape and took hold in part and in some sense due to inadequacies of the various forms of logical ontologism that had been on offer (186–87, 210–11, 235–36, 239). The rejection of those logical ontologisms was reasonable, as Peikoff illustrated, even if we consider them only from within the discipline of classical philosophy from Plato to Kant.

    The conventionalist replacements for logical ontologism were presaged by (i) nominalist strands in epistemology,* and (ii) substantial additions to logic itself and to geometry in the latter part of the nineteenth century. To those two in the vista of Peikoff 1964, I should add (iii) the spectacular empirical success—from Maxwell to Einstein (GR) and Schrodinger (wave QM) / Heisenberg (matrix QM)—won by casting physical relations in terms of portions of modern analytic mathematics. In my own assessment, it is (ii) and (iii), against the background of (i) and inadequacy of old-time logical ontologism that are the main and sufficient preparations for the crop of conventionalist characterizations of logical truth by logical empiricists to mid-twentieth century. 

    “My concern has not, of course, been to maintain a primarily causal thesis; it has not been my intention to argue, for instance, that Cudworth’s difficulties with God or Locke’s problems with Aristotle’s forms were the causal factors centrally responsible for the dominance in our century of the conventionalist approach to logical truth. Such a thesis would hardly be tenable; the creation of non-Euclidean geometries, to cite just one example, was undoubtedly more influential in this connection than the sort of difficulties I have discussed. . . . My concern has been rather, by considering a few aspects of the question, to suggest that, as a matter of fact, the seeds of conventionalism were implicitly present in the formulations of the classical logical ontologists, and that there was a logic to this presence.” (Peikoff 1964, 240)

    Peikoff took Kant to be “the philosopher most responsible for the demise of logical ontologism in the history of philosophy” (165). In a roundabout way, I concur. The demise of ontological essences, Platonic forms, and Aristotelian forms and formal causes had transpired before Kant, as far as the modern stream of philosophy was concerned. In that fall was also the fall of logical ontologism. Kant’s weight on the demise was through his own imposing, positive system of theoretical philosophy replacing Aristotle’s (and replacing modern systems such as the system of Leibniz). Kant weight on that demise and Kant shadows on the future saliently include: His success in bringing to much attention a philosophical division of sense and understanding and of the synthetic and the analytic (not what we mean by synthetic/analytic in geometry); his subject-rooted theory of how geometry is possible; his replacement of Aristotle’s categories as in the world with categories as belonging to human understanding in its approach to sensory experience of the world; lastly and most profoundly, in my estimation, his particular replacement of Aristotelian ontological form with subject-side form.**

    “Although many—but not all—classic philosophers subscribed to the necessary-contingent or rational-empirical dichotomies in their classification of propositions, this was not for them the equivalent of the logical-factual dichotomy; to this latter the vast majority did not subscribe, nor could they have, since they regarded the laws of logic as themselves matters of fact (i.e., ontological in character, not ‘mere’ matters of fact).” (13) 

    The philosophers Peikoff examines in their conventionality of logical principles do not regard these salutary principles as arbitrarily selected, although, as with Kant, their basis is not some fact(s) holding independently of human existence and consciousness. Peikoff quotes logical empiricist Ayer denying that analytic propositions “provide any information about any matter of fact. In other words, they are entirely devoid of factual content” (Ayer 79; Peikoff 170). Ayer does not follow Kant’s proposal that analytic patterns are from invariant organization of the human mind. Rather, granted various linguistic conventions, “the laws of logic which flow from them are necessary and incontestable truths” (Peikoff 174).*** 

    From what we have seen of Kant in previous segments of this essay, he would take conditioning truth and necessity of logical principles such as PNC on any conventional structure of language as inadequate to deliver the necessity logical truths possess. Any indebtedness of logic to structure of language cannot be indebtedness to anything conventional in language, because conventionality is contingency, not absolute necessity, not the necessity Kant attached to the a priori.

    Ayer and Kant agree that logical truths are a priori and analytic. An example of an analytic statement from Ayer is: “Either some ants are parasitic or none are” (79). “Either some are or none are” is so no matter what facts of the world it is being applied to. And no observation in experience could refute this logical truth. On that much Kant and Ayer could agree.

    Kant famously did not think that analytic truths are the only sort of a priori truths. The other sort of a priori truths, he called synthetic. He took the analytic and the synthetic to exhaust the sorts of a priori truth. The exemplar of synthetic a priori truths was geometry of Euclidean space, the only structure of physical space known until Einstein’s general relativity (1916). That space (spatial slices of the four-dimensional [semi-] Riemannian spacetime manifold of variable curvature) is not intuitive in the ready-to-hand way that Euclidean space is intuitive (in carpentry or, differently, in Euclid), thus not congenial to Kant’s conception of space as pure form of outer, sensory intuition (in Kant’s technical sense of intuition). Logical empiricism arose in an intellectual scene in which Kant’s exemplar of synthetic a priori truth lay in shambles. Moreover, by that time, David Hilbert had staked pure geometry as purely abstract and independent of any physical application or sensory experience.

    Hans Reichenbach in 1920 correctly observed that Kant had held a priori truth to be not only necessary and unrevisable, but constitutive of the concept of the object as object of knowledge. That last character of the a priori was not toppled by Einstein’s revolution. At least it was not toppled in the obvious way that universality and unrevisability were toppled with respect to physical Euclidean geometry. At first Reichenbach thought such constitutive principles were at hand in modern application of mathematics to physics, but he soon became persuaded that those principles of application were neither true nor false. They were simplicity- and tractability-based conventions. By the 1920’s, the last toeholds of Kant’s intuitive, synthetic a priori in geometry and in geometry’s physical exemplification had been dissolved by Reichenbach, Schlick, and Carnap.****

    (To be continued.)


    * In the installment “Aristotle II”, I conveyed Peikoff 1964 on inadequacies of nominalism in provisioning a theory of logic. See also Paul Forster’s Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism (2011, 24–28, 38).

    ** On transformation of Aristotle’s matter-form distinction from Leibniz to Kant, see Marco Sgarbi’s Kant and Aristotle – Epistemology, Logic, and Method (2016, 79–94).

    *** Cf. Herder c.1767 and 1772 in Michael Forster’s Johann Gottfried von Herder – Philosophical Writings (2002, 48, 100).

    **** Michael Friedman’s “The Evolution of the A Priori in Logical Empiricism” in The Cambridge Companion to Logical Empiricism, Richardson and Uebel, editors (2007, 95–108).

  3. .

    Hi Nell,

    If I recall Roe correctly, the 6-month mark was taken as significant not because at that point the fetus passed into being a human, but because of your other feature of that time: the fetus will have reached a development such that it could live outside the womb, live independently of its mother if supported by modern medicine and whomever pays for that. Roe’s mark there had two built-in considerations making the 6-month time not exact and not fixed against future contraction: (i) when a particular fetus might be viable outside the womb (judgment of viability in the case being made by attending physicians), with present technology, can vary somewhat from one fetus to another, though around 6 months was typical and (ii) with medical technological progress, the typical time at which viability outside the womb is reached could be pulled in to earlier and earlier times.

    I suppose that if entirely “test-tube babies” become a reality in the future, then any fetus or conceptus could be removed and grown to infancy independently of further support from the mother’s body.

    I’ve always supported Roe. It looks like the opponents have finally gotten enough anti-abortionists on the Court to overturn it, that is, to let each State determine the question within its own State boundaries. Here are a law professor’s brief and informative remarks on the recent moves on third trimester and their connection to preparations from the freedom-of-the-mother-to-abort side for the post-Roe legal situation in States in which abortions are not made illegal throughout pregnancy.


  4. PNC Ground Shifts to Side of the Subject – On to Conventionalism

    Peikoff laid out the varieties of logical ontologism, these being the various ways in which it had been thought that principles of logic, such as PNC, are general ways the world is. The principle of noncontradiction (PNC) is a guide for us to adhere to in thinking, and under ontology-based theories of logic—Plato to Leibniz—PNC is right to follow in one’s thought because it is a fact of the world independently of human mind, an everywhere fact of the world. If our aim in thought is grasp of the world, PNC is a fact of the world we must hold onto for success in that aim. 

    Let us notice that in claiming (not-A and B ) both the not and the and can be in the world. An object not having support and that object’s falling to the floor is a fact of the world. If our aim is keeping objects from falling, we must see to it that they are adequately supported. For that A and B, in usual household life, do not (not-A and B). In the formula (not-A and A), we move to what Peikoff called a formal aspect of the world. Logical ontologism would have it: do not (not-A and A) in thought if our pursuit is getting and keeping a grip on the world, because [not (not-A and A)] is an everywhere formal fact of the world, a necessity given, regardless of our aims.

    I had written in “Aristotle I” that for my own part I thought that, notwithstanding its objectivity, PNC has some dependency on thought which 2R (the fact that the angles of a triangle in the Euclidean plane sum to two right angles) does not have. That was because cases of noncontradiction run arbitrarily far afield, as far as our free imaginations: a five-fingered hand is not an opera, and so forth for anything at all not a five-fingered hand. That composition was nearly two years ago, and I’ve changed my mind. PNC is not partly dependent at root on operations of mind, notwithstanding PNC’s unlimited scenes of pertinence. 

    Peikoff’s 1964 dissertation talk of formal aspects to the empirical world, without embrace of Aristotelian or Kantian schemes of form, is talk and conception that has proven valuable to me in development of my own metaphysics in my book in progress. Independently of Peikoff 1964, it is also talk and conception now taking hold and developing in philosophy of logic and mathematics by Gila Sher, as in Epistemic Friction (2016). As of mid-20th Century, however, as Peikoff 1964 observed, principles of logic in modern philosophy had become sourced no longer in the world, but in the subject.

    (To be continued right away.)

  5. NC,

    I liked Neal and Massey the best. But linked below is a scene in which Cooper as Roark is landing the book true (though he has the drawback of age). There is a Cooper scene I especially liked (no link) in which Roark says to Keating that men able to do something are his kind of man. Cooper seemed to really get that.


    Neal and Massey



    Neal and Cooper


  6. .

    Possibilities are cognitive/epistemological (or entertainments in the case of fictions). Potentials are existential/metaphysical things belonging to concrete actualities. Possibilities are run over actualities with their potentials (or they are run over formalities such as in mathematics). I’ve some significant overlap with pre-modern philosophies in these partitions. Additionally, I’ll mention again for ease of reference for interested readers the book arguing in the contemporary vernacular to the vicinity of my partition, the book by Barbara Vetter: Potentiality – From Dispositions to Modality (2015).

    One book I’ve found helpful in tracing the rise, the variations, and the fall of the actual/potential partition in the history of philosophy (from Aristotle to early modern), as well as occurrences of the actual/potential distinction in contemporary science is Handbook of Potentiality (Engeland and Quante, editors, 2018). There is an excellent chapter “Potentiality in Physics” by Max Kistler in the Handbook. He sorts out what is and is not an occasion of metaphysical potentiality in the various modern physics concepts, classical and quantum, going under such names as potentials and capacities. 

    Thanks to you all for sharing your conceptual organizations concerning these fundamentals.

  7. .

    SL, our quickest perceptions of objects or events is one or two hundred milliseconds in duration. We have some quicker processes of perceptual discriminations occurring (requiring) only about ten milliseconds. There is nothing physically significant in the demarcation of past and future existence about those particular intervals of “the present” of our experience. In our “instant” of perceptual consciousness (or of any consciousness) of a physical object, there are atomic transitions taking place in the object down at the level of 10-to-the-minus-18 seconds and nuclear transitions taking place in those atoms down at the level of 10-to-the-minus-23 seconds. In an instant of observation is an ocean of objective time.

    Transitions, actions, and processes are part of existence. They are existents, and the entities to which they pertain are existents. An episode of alterations is part of existence no matter the rate of its transition or epoch of its occurrence. I'd not confine existence or Existence to a particular point or particular limited interval in its duration. No dividing line of past and future existents should be treated as containing all that exists. And if we say only that that dividing line is all that exists at that dividing time, that's true, but it does not preclude existence at all times being included in the all that is Existence.

  8. Grames, it's a fact that from now all the way to tomorrow there will be photons. You seem to confine Existence to only the present. Only to actualities in the present? What about potentials of the present actualities? Would you count them as part of Existence? Rand did count those potentials as part of Existence, though she did not write about it (ITOE Appendix). Aristotle thought it true now that a sea battle either will happen tomorrow or not happen tomorrow. That disjunction would be a fact now about tomorrow. I don't know if he would count all facts as part of what we are calling Existence, though I don't think he was confining Existence to present actualities. How do you conceive present traces and indicators of the past, such as the rings of a tree trunk? Surely they are indicators of part of Existence, indeed past actualities.

  9. Grames,

    I too capitalize the term existence to indicate I'm referring to the entirety of existents. When referring to the existence of this or that, of course, it's lower case. My full convention, which I call out in my book, is this: I use lower case when talking about existence in general or existence per se or existence as such. I use Existence to refer to existence as such at the whole of it. 

    I use Existence, as did Rand also, to mean the totality of existents, and like Rand, the Universe. I mean the full Universe, regardless of whether its particulars are fairly directly observable (the light of this computer screen) or not so directly (such as the mass of the earth exactly three billion years ago is detectible fairly). There is much in the past I count as part of Existence, though it is not observable at all by now, such as the weight to the nearest ounce of each of my 32 great-great-great grand parents at the time of their very last heartbeat. Then too, and this also is merely in the classical regime, which day will be the day of my death cannot presently be determinately computed because that reality in the future is not yet a determinate reality---siding here with Peirce and Aristotle, contra Rand and Leibniz. Future indeterminates are also part of Existence.

  10. .

    Thanks for the further info and reflections, SL. I agree we should not go with the Newtonian type of view of time as flowing by on its own, independently of activities of matter (and energy). Newton thought of space that independent way too, and space he took as coeternal with God, not as something created by God. (The distinctions of various kinds of eternity did not begin with Objectivists, viz., with Leonard Peikoff in that lecture Q&A.) I don’t recall if Newton conformed to the standard theology that time was created by God when God created the world. (I know Newton had some nonstandard “Christian” views. Jesus was not the son of God. One biographer quipped: “God did not need more than one son.”)

    Hi Grames,

    Rand was indeed focused on a minimum claim, which comes up in refuting the fairly standard mystical view that there is a being, namely God, who is unchanging and who created the world and time from nothing and who is not Itself in time. In the course of her argument against such a First Cause of the all that is existence, Rand held forth Existence as a whole as being outside of time. So there can be no rational talk on her view of whether the universe has always existed or only for a finite time. Both are ruled out by the fact that time simply does not apply to the whole of existence at all.

    Her later expositers try to paint hers as a rather non-constraining position within which scientific cosmology (which mostly has built up since she was living) could rationally go wherever the experimentally successful and observationally successful modeling of the universe may go. That is incorrect. Her position rules out rational consideration of whether the universe has existed forever and whether it will exist forever into the future.

    Here are some of the statements she made or approved:

    NB – “The concept of time applies to events and entities within the universe, but not to the universe as a whole.” (1962)

    AR – “We can’t ascribe space or time or a lot of other things to the universe as a whole.” (1969/1970)

  11. Concerning Rand’s view, I see from posting this little piece on the blog of Irfan Khawaja I’ve caused some unnecessary confusion by my order of presentation. In my first paragraph, only the first sentence was the view of Rand. The rest of her view does not come until the fourth paragraph. She did not follow the natural progression from “no creation or annihilation of all that exists” to “the totality of existence is endless in time, past or future.” Rather, as in my fourth, final paragraph, Rand simply denied that time is something that could apply to existence as a whole.

    The first presentation of her view in print, so far as I know, was in that 1962 article by Nathaniel Branden. He was also presenting that view---time is inapplicable to existence as a whole---in his lecture series The Basic Principles of Objectivism. He brings up the issue in offering a rebuttal of the First Cause argument for the existence of God in the ex nihilo Creation context, that context being commonplace in the culture. Branden and subsequent Objectivist expositors of Rand’s position continued to address the question of the finite or infinite extent of time through which the universe exists (the universe being what they meant by all that exists, including mind as part of the universe) as affiliated with the idea of an external cause of the existence of the universe. In their Objectivist view, the whole did not require and could not have a cause, the idea of cause is inapplicable to this ultimate whole, and the idea of time is also inapplicable to this whole. They would say (Peikoff in his 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism) that it is sensible to say that the whole of existence is eternal if meaning by that that whole is outside of time, but not sensible to say it is eternal in the sense of existing through time without end or beginning. Being outside of time, of course, would also mean that the whole of existence could not have a beginning or end in time.

    These proponents of Objectivism were like Ayn Rand in their education. They were thinking about these issues in the history of classical philosophy, such as the history set out in the Sorabji book I cited. That really won’t suffice. It was not until the 1960’s, if I recall correctly, that the idea of black holes (infinitely dense but finite mass) and an Initial Singularity took hold in physics. Black holes are singularities too. When physicists come to implications of physical infinities from the mathematical devices that are otherwise successful in describing physical realities, they look for things that prevent such infinities in physical reality. The infinities had been in the mathematical equations for spacetime implicit in Einstein’s field equations for general relativity (1916), but for a few decades, if I’m recalling the history of black-hole theory correctly, it was held that a specific physical factor would prevent gravitational collapse of matter and energy into the spacetime singularity we now call a black hole. But by the 1960’s physicists had shown that the preventing factor did not prevent after all, and theory of black holes and of a Big Bang singularity were off and running. And with enough decades and expense since then, the tests and spectacular accuracy of Einstein’s GR have been in our headlines.

    Physics and me with it certainly reject the idea that the universe as a whole is outside of time. The time being marked by the coo coo clock behind me and the time being marked in the corner of my computer screen, is the time there is and the only time there is (contra Heidegger). It is physically real pure-time slices on the physically real local spacetime. Following the GR equations for the universe as a whole back in time, all of spacetime was a point with absolutely zero extent. Time appears in that picture to come into existence at the Big Bang, and it comes into existence with mass-energy afoot and having the same amount of mass-energy as there is in the universe today. But physics has had, since facing up to that startling picture, a new intervening factor for that Initial Singularity, though only down at the so called Planck scale of spacetime (one over ten to the 35th power, as I recall), a tremendously small smallness about that projected absolute initial point inferred from the classical GR equations: quantum field theory yet needing to be fathomed in that situation. So they say the quest of physics for what happens way-close-about the Initial Singularity is not yet done.

    My new thought, explored in my post, is that I’ll go ahead and argue, as I did, from the philosopher’s chair, that ‘final physics’ will find the mass-energy (ever some nonzero amount) of the universe has existed forever and will exist forever.

    I’m looking forward to the further remarks from Eric on this topic, with his physics background. And I appreciate any thoughts on this on very general philosophical grounds as well.

    SL, your conception of the necessary attachment of time to processes is in tune with modern physics so far as I know. The overly poetic presentation of the modern-physics standpoint in Carlo Rovelli’s The Order of Time (2018) may dispute that, it seems to contain a lot of talk-pedestrian exaggeration, but I’ve not gotten to really study this little book yet. Concerning language about time, I’m studying at this time, the book by Olley Pearson Rationality, Time, and Self (2018), which includes assimilation of tense logic. I might be able to parlay some of this later for this thread.

    I’d be careful not to slip from thinking of time as being relational to processes and alterations to thinking of the temporal relation as being only something from our constitution for perception and intellectual understanding, for making the world orderly and intelligible for us. Kant made that subject-side move, and Leibniz took relations to require mind. Wrong and wrong. Time is physical, even if relational. We measure it, our bodies register it, and there’s all too little of it.

  12. Which Eternity?

    Rand held her axiom Existence exists to include that the universe as a whole “cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence” (1973, 25).[1] One would naturally suppose Rand was thinking that immunity from creation or annihilation means the universe has existed an endless time in the past and will exist an endless time in the future. Plausible as that picture appears, might the axiom Existence exists not strictly entail the endless duration of Existence? Might it entail only that at no time was there nothing at all or that at no time was there no time, yet not also entail that the duration of the existence of Existence extends into a past that is infinite?[2] Might the boundary of the past be finite, and at the first, the universe have its present mass-energy (as in classical GR back to the Initial Singularity) and be passing time, yet since it was the first of time, there be no "before" that first, and it simply not be sensible to talk of a "becoming" from a "before" the first?

    In our philosophical reflection, should we prejudge the physics of whether the universe of mass-energy and its spacetime extend into an infinite or only a finite past? Should that issue be left to scientific cosmology to settle? Nearby issues such as whether time, space, or spacetime in any way have causal powers and whether there are more primitive physical elements from which spacetime arises should not be prejudged by philosophy, I say. Rather, those issues should be left open for scientific cosmology to settle. I think, however, that philosophy can and should go beyond observing that there was no time and will be no time at which there was nothing, go on to the conclusion that Existence is eternal, meaning endless in past and future.

    If no Existence at all, then no character-identity at all. Had Existence come into existence, it would have to do so in a specific way, yet that way would be some character-identity, which requires some existents and is an existent, and by hypothesis there were no existents. Coming to be without a way, as Parmenides realized, is nothing.[3] Moreover: Coming to be is itself an existent. Coming to be of the all that is Existence would be coming to be of any coming-to-be at all. That cannot be sensible unless there were some background existence lacking any coming-to-be. But by hypothesis there was no existent of any sort—thence no existent lacking coming-to-be—before the coming into existence of Existence.[4] Therefore, Existence has no beginning. Then too, absent power of coming-to-be of its entire self, Existence cannot come to be not. That is, Existence has no end. 

    Rand did not accept the idea that the universe as a whole is in time. She thought that time was one of those things applying to things within the universe but not on up to the entire universe itself. One might sensibly say, in Rand’s view: Existence, the entirety of all existents, is eternal in the sense that it is outside of time, but not in the sense that it exists endlessly.[5] That is erroneous. As my life advanced in time, so did the Milky Way advance in time, Andromeda too and on up to the whole universe. That is how our modern physics has it also. The universe has a certain age since such-and-such event, most importantly, since the event of the Initial Singularity (or Planck-scale of the spacetime around that classically projected event). Existence as a whole endures through definite time, and that is not to say that time or alteration can exist without other sorts of existents.


    [1] Cf. Aristotle, Cael. 279b4–84b5; Broadie 2009; Sorabji 1983, 205–9, 245–49.

    [2] Cf. Lennox 1985, 68.

    [3] “What coming to be of it will you seek? / In what way, whence, did [it] grow? Neither from what-is-not shall I allow / You to say or think; for it is not to be said or thought / That [it] is not. And what need could have impelled it to grow / Later or sooner, if it began from nothing?” Gallop 1984, Fragment 8, lines 6–10.

    [4] Matter is mass-energy having nonzero rest mass. Only matter and its changes can be a clock. Were the universe to contain no matter, only pure energy, there would be nothing registering the advance of time. So far as I know from modern physics, time would yet advance while a pure-, all-energy of the universe and its changes (say, internal propagations at vacuum light speed) existed. A universe purely energy, of course, would be an existent.

    The current picture from scientific cosmology is that the quantity of mass-energy in the universe today is the same there has been all the way back to the Initial Singularity. Particles of ordinary matter, the neutrinos (they have nonzero rest mass), emerged after the first ten-thousandths of a second following the onset of expansion of the universe from the Initial Singularity. Dark matter, having rest mass, may have been present before the neutrinos. I gather that at the present state of scientific knowledge the remote future (years from now about 10 to the 100th power, whereas the present day is only about 10 to the 9th power from the Initial Singularity) of our ever-expanding universe will contain only or very nearly only massless particles such as photons and gravitons (Penrose 2011, 139–49).

    [5] Branden 1962; c. 1968, 82­–83, 101–2; Rand 1990 App. 273; Binswanger 2014, 26. Cf. Peikoff 1991, 16; Gotthelf 2000, 48.


    Anagnostopoulos, G., editor, 2009. A Companion to Aristotle. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

    Aristotle c.348–322. B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor (1984). Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Branden, N. 1962. The “First Cause” Argument. The Objectivist Newsletter 1(5):19.

    ——. c.1968. The Basic Principles of Objectivism. In The Vision of Ayn Rand 2009. Gilbert: Cobden Press.

    Binswanger, H. 2014. How We Know. New York: TOF Publications.

    Broadie, S. 2009. Heavenly Bodies and First Causes. In Anagnostopoulous 2009.

    Gallop, D. 1984. Parmenides of Elea – Fragments. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

    Gotthelf, A., editor, 1985. Aristotle on Nature and Living Things. Pittsburgh: Mathesis.

    Gotthelf, A. 2000. On Ayn Rand. Belmont: Wadsworth.

    Lennox, J. G. 1985. Are Aristotelian Species Eternal? In Gotthelf 1985.

    Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Dutton.

    Penrose, R. 2011. Cycles of Time. New York: Knopf.

    Rand, A. 1973. The Metaphysical versus the Man-Made. In Philosophy: Who Needs It. New York: Signet.

    ——1990. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd ed. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. New York: Meridian.

    Sorabji, R. 1983. Time, Creation, and the Continuum. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

  13. I just learned of a 2-person game from the Bronze Age (4000 years ago). Today's archaeologists evidently call it 58 Holes. If I understand correctly, the game Chutes and Ladders is that game. (I'm not a game person, as an adult, except for a period of playing Scrabble, which I liked---but no time for it in many years.) The game had been found in the Near East, but in November, Walter Crist of the American Museum of Natural History in New York discovered that it was also played in Azerbaijan, which is about a thousand miles north. SCIENCE NEWS (12/22/18) quotes Crist as saying "Bronze Age herders in that region must have had contacts with the Near Eastern world [eg. Iran]. Games often passed across cultures and acted as a social lubricant."

  14. William,

    I link below a good book of modern formal logic. (The author has another book on mathematical logic, which is beyond this much logic.) I learned a lot from it, and he has some neat historical notes at the ends of chapters. This logic is not a rejection of Aristotelian logic (leaving aside A’s modal logic, which is a further area, beyond what we’d think of as standard formal logic, and beyond the scope of this textbook), certainly not whole cloth, though it assimilates advances in deductive logic attained in the late 19th and early 20th century.

    I’m not aware of anything Rand wrote decrying modern formal logic itself. She probably never took up mastery of the contents of the textbook I link here. I’d think she would have taken issue, however, with common philosophies of logic with then-current views on the ways in which logic is situated with our understanding of the world. I’m thinking of the various views on logic expressed by Dewey or Nagel or Wittgenstein (in his later phase). When I look into the Index of The Letters of Ayn Rand, I find no entry for logic, only for basis of logic. The basis of logic in her philosophy (and I concur in this view) and setting the nature and use of logic in serious sensitivity to that basis was a part of Nathaniel Branden’s lectures in those days The Basic Principles of Objectivism and later in Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Beyond those, I incline to take issue, springing from Rand’s view of the nature of logic, with a couple of ways in which inference is treated in standard modern logic texts. But this is no wholesale rejection of formal modern logic, the contested friction points are actually old, and there are contemporary experts on both sides.


  15. .


    The tale of Beauty and the Beast or Victor Hugo’s novel The Laughing Man or the play Cyrano de Bergerac dramatize in extreme form something pervasive in real life: It is inner life, one’s soul, and inner health with its inner beauty that is the realm of moral character. That character is displayed in real life in outer life behaviors, not in outer beauty. Don’t judge people such as the four real men you mentioned to be “seemingly” lacking in concern with or effort for their health because they appear not beautiful to you. That is not sound and would be a disastrous way to proceed with your life in the social world.

    If you have issues against Rand’s philosophy, go right to those, and state them directly. Don’t settle for glancing blows against the philosophy by attacking its exponents personally. That is junk. Attack the philosophy position-by-position head on. (Even if you agree with points in the philosophy, consider what arguments and evidence can be mustered against them and what you think about those counters specifically. This is philosophic understanding.) Think about the philosophy itself, and give your objections and counter-reasoning. That is the stuff worthy of smart heads.

    Some examples:

    Rand held that the only way of winning knowledge was by rational processes. True or false? What can be said against this view? Not against the person holding the view, but the view itself.

    Rand held that every individual and their life is an end in itself. True or false? . . .

    Rand held that the purpose of morality is simply to help one live and enjoy oneself. True or false? . . .

    Rand held that the justification of a national defense is the protection of individual rights. Really? . . .

  16. .

    “In the poem ‘Human’ (1903), Gorky says of the new man that he is lost ‘among the desserts of the universe . . . on the little piece of the earth’. Yet, ‘he is going bravely ahead! and higher! On the way to victories over all the secrets of the earth and sky’. . . .

    “‘There was a cold wind outside, and an empty stretch of land under an empty sky” (Rand 1957, 15). The train encapsulates all the problems of a society that is living---and dying---due to the principles of collectivism. . . . The desert is the symbol of a hostile world in the novel: it is made obvious in the scene depicting the crash of the train at the Arizona desert [1160-61]. . . .

    “. . . In ‘Human’, Gorky glorified the new type of human, who is a creator and whose major impulse is Thought. . . .

    . . .

    “But there is a great difference between Gorky’s Human and Rand’s ‘new human’. . . .”

    JARS 18(2):326-27)

    --From the paper in that Winter 2018 issue of JARS: “Ayn Rand’s ‘Integrated Man’ and Russian Nietzscheanism” by Anastasiya Vasilievna Grigorovskaya, who has a number of publications on Ayn Rand, in Russian, and who is working on the first doctoral thesis about Rand in Russia (Tyumen).

  17. Doug,

    I don’t think that the philosophy of Ayn Rand nor any other particular philosophy—whether rational, irrational, or mixed—will ever come to be the guiding philosophy for all autonomous humans. Were such a philosophic frame ever accepted universally, then just wait. In time diversity of frame would return. Not returned after 100 years? Wait. It would return. But more realistically, the course is never going to result in any one particular philosophy being universally accepted. I mean freely accepted, but that just means really accepted.

    There can be nuclear exchanges that do not result in total extinction. Wait. The finale one not happened after 500 years? Wait. It will come.

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read the neat book This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. In that story, there is massive secret coercion being committed on the world population by a central authority, making the people peaceful as well as completely determinate and coordinate in their productions and consumptions and life spans. But there will be leaks, sooner or later, of individuals slipping out of the system, returning to their own free mind and body, and they will join together with other leaked fellows and fight the world system.


  18. .

    Nuclear war is not an idle threat. It is a real threat. Multiple states having great nuclear weapons capability---USA, Russia, France and some others---together with the real potential for use in an escalating international crisis is how nuclear deterrence has been able to work so long as it has. There was no guarantee it would work this far, but on the other hand, our understanding of mutual unacceptable damage and our moves to secure it were our best move in the circumstances. All-out nuclear war will happen sooner or later. I suggest that internationalism on that issue, specifically nonproliferation meddling in the programs of other countries, is a way of pushing that finale of the human world, including all the peoples of all the nation states, to later rather than sooner. Silence on this reality will not make it go away. The human world changed with the Bomb. Even if mutual nuclear disarmament were someday attained, human nature will not change, and the technology and new production will come back to that ultimate, total human demise. Our best move is to push out that demise to the farther future, and pure nationalism, a nationalism that would include non-intervention on this issue of ever more countries attaining deliverable nuclear explosives, rather hastens that future extinction.

    I do not take the end of the race of men to diminish a whit the glory that our kind existed and was what it was. Our kind was an end in itself, just as each individual and mortal human life was an end in itself. I think a book today on nationalism that does not address effect on the nuclear end-date would be myopic.

  19. This note too is not on experimental tests, but this seems a fair place to put it.

    Since Stephen Hawking made the theoretical discovery of particle/anti-particle pair production at the event horizon of black holes, many couldn’t help but think he was touching some key to future profound unification of quantum mechanics and relativity. For Hawking had drawn that conclusion we know as Hawking Radiation by doing quantum field theory in the spacetime structure at the event horizon. This possible key seems to be taking further tantalizing shape by recent work on quantum chaos effects in black holes.

    Douglas Stanford

  20. sN,

    Looking into the New Testament just now, I see that Jesus gave two overarching commandments. Firstly, to love God with all your heart and mind; secondly, to love your fellow humans as you love yourself (Luke 10). I gather he thought you should be loving yourself. This prophet was going around, as the story goes, performing miracles to good purposes for humans of earth. So there is a large reservoir of mystical power in the background of the moral perspective he declares.

    He says he is adding to and completing the old Commandments, and he gives some examples of how to go above and beyond their letter with an understanding of them grounded in love. Not only do not murder, but do not be angry with your fellow human nor call your fellow a fool nor look down on your fellow. Else be punished by God. Make peace with your fellow before coming to the altar to leave a gift for God. (And don’t be making a big show of your gifts to God or to your fellows.)

    In some cases, he reverses the old precepts. Down with “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Rather, do not resist evil. Turn the other cheek for the evildoer to hit as well. Down with loving only those who love you. “What credit is that to you? Even the tax-collectors do that!” Love your enemies as well. Then you are sharing in the perfections that are possessed by God (Matthew 5).

    His moral rationales are shot through with alleged reciprocities of benefit to one performing the good act. These are benefits, physical and social, coming back to one who sticks with God in letting go of benefits for now. The coming back will be from other humans or from God.

    In his model prayer, Jesus says to ask God for the bread one needs and to forgive one’s failures, as one is forgiving the failures of others (Luke 11). Some reciprocity here, and nothing against bread for oneself.

    Beyond keeping the religious law, Jesus tells one wealthy man who keeps the law, yet still feels incomplete, to reach perfection by giving all his possessions and money to the poor. He’ll have riches in heaven if he does that. Meanwhile, join Jesus in his crusade (Matthew 18).

    From the Sermon on the Mount:

    “How happy are those who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

    “How happy are those who know what sorrow means, for they will be given courage and comfort!

    “Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!

    “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for true goodness, for they will be fully satisfied.

    “Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!

    “Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!

    “Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!

    “And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. . . .

    “You are the earth’s salt. . . .

    “You are the world’s light. . . . (Matthew 5)

    I rather think that building a case for altruism—or for socialism or for capitalism—based on the teachings of Jesus is far off the mark. Altruism is the doctrine that moral goodness is from sacrifice of self for the benefit of one’s fellow humans. Jesus-likeness without God at center of moral goodness should be laughed out of court.

    (The translations are by J. B. Phillips.)

  21. 9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

    . . . As for oneself dying, I think it will be hard to know what happens internally at those last moments until that moment finally visits itself upon you as it inevitably will. 

    You might get a chance to know because you seemed to be dying and then it turned out you did not. That happened to me. I know. It was about the matter of fact of how far and not farther I'd gotten with my intellectual discovery and creation, and lastly just about me and the one I love, just a lighted disk of light with only the two of us in it and only dark and irrelevance and nothing all around that disk. 

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