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Boydstun

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  1. Supplementary to #72, are these: What Ayn Rand Means When She Describes Selfishness as a Virtue Jason Raibley Cultural Snips William Thomas
  2. For some years, The News Hour has invited people affiliated with the Cato Institute to participate in discussions on the program. I was delighted to see last evening that those invitations will be continued with the change in leadership at Cato. There had been some public attention earlier over the concern that with the changes at Cato it would come to be seen as simply a Republican organization and would cease to receive invitations to advocate in forums seeking experts unaligned with political party to address issues. Cato is still in good standing with The New Hour, and this is important, as that public forum is probably the one through which Cato ideas are most widely seen by the general public. Last evening Neal McCluskey from Cato participated in a discussion of public policy on government-back college student loans. Link.
  3. No. And she would be right to decline that alteration. The center of pure self-interest is pure selfishness. That pure form of selfishness is articulated—expressly, by the name selfishness—in The Fountainhead, where it is contrasted to a variety of conceptions commonly accepted as selfishness. Her novel argues that the latter are incoherent and at odds with pure selfishness, which entails independence and a certain kind of integrity. It is not only those unfitting parts in common conceptions of selfishness that are attacked as immoral in our culture. It is also pure selfishness, as exposed by Rand in Fountainhead, that is daily attacked in moral criticism of behavior by voices such as those speaking Christianity. Rand was right in the Preface to The Virtue of Selfishness to defend her choice of the term selfishness as naming a core of human being needing to be championed. I would wish only she had added, “See also The Fountainhead.” Yes, selfishness in common parlance entails things excluded and antithetical to the selfishness Rand applauded. That makes for an invitation to further examination of the phenomena and the concept of selfishness. I mean among open-minded readers. Such are not those who understand well enough what is Rand’s ethical egoism and understand well enough the selfishness she was holding up as a glory, but are then smearing it for the sake of religion and politics, in a word, for the sake of old mistaken morality.
  4. Nicky and Eiuol, As you know, Rand defined knowledge as a mental grasp of reality, reached either (i) by perceptual observation or (ii) by a process of reason based on observation (ITOE 45). An example of (i) would be perceiving a drawn square with a diagonal of it also drawn. An example of (ii) would be a proof demonstrating that the length of the diagonal is incommensurable with the length of the square’s sides. The premises in this proof, such as the premise claiming that every counting number is either even or odd, will be based on yet other perceptual observations or on a process of reason based on observations. The premises of the proof are evidence (in the case at hand, incontrovertible evidence) for the truth of the conclusion. (They are also explanatory of the conclusion.) It was (ii) I was describing as evidence “integral with observations and proper conceptualization from them.” We are not in any disagreement on this. Stephen ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PS Eiuol, I’d say that in the case of the alien, the assertion would not be an arbitrary, and in the joke context, it would also arise from observations, so again would not be arbitrary. So far as I know there is no context in which the statement would be an arbitrary one. If one makes up a story for the children “Once upon a time, the King of Texas got lost in a dust storm. . .” the author knows it is a fiction and only related to observations in the ways that fictions are related to observations. However, if someone were to sincerely profess “Jesus Christ is the son of God and savior of the world,” I think we have an invalid assertion, one very largely not based on observations, but aspirations contrary basic observations. Some unbelievers would take this statement, particular affirmative, as neither true nor false, others would take it as false. Rand, Branden, Peikoff, . . . and I say one knows it is false. In my own view, such a statement is not only false, but grossly defective in meaning. I gather those Objectivist writers would say any meaningless assertion (authentically asserted) is fouled by its arbitrariness, meaning its freedom from observational constraint. That sounds reasonable. To that I add that the meaningless statement (or statement severely deficient in meaning) is based on error, on falsehoods. And I say the statement known to be meaningless is known to be false. That is contrary the position of many philosophers who say the meaningless is neither true nor false. Further study of them may abate this difference. –S
  5. Here is a clear succinct review of DIM by a friend of mine. There will be rhyming couplet at the end. He can’t help himself. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My own remarks on DIM so far are these: A, B, C, D, E, F
  6. Leonid, The claim “There is no A” is not essentially arbitrary: “There is no money in my pocket.” “There is no transport of bodies with non-zero rest mass faster than the velocity of light in vacuum.” More about the bald King of France: There is a controversy of logic standing in the relevant external background for Rand, other Objectivists, and thinkers about Objectivism concerning arbitrary assertion and assessability for truth. There is a tradition from Boethius, Abelard, and Buridan that any universal affirmative or particular affirmative statement in which the subject does not truly exist is false; and no such blanket verdict is given for universal negative and particular negative statements. Within this theory, we can argue (an argument of my own construction): 1. Affirmative statements concerning nonexistent subjects are false. 2. Assertions of the existence of a subject for which there is no evidence is presumptively false; the existence of such a subject is presumptively false. (Onus of Proof) 3. Arbitrary assertions are assertions for which there is no evidence (no validation, so no evidence). ____________________________________________________________ Affirmative statements concerning arbitrarily asserted subjects are presumptively false. It would surely be correct to drop the word presumptively from 2 and from the conclusion when the arbitrary assertion is one that cannot be invalidated in principle. From the Buridan et al. view of truth concerning nonexistent subjects we get presumptive falsity and unqualified falsity for affirmative statements concerning arbitrarily posed subjects. Whether negative statements concerning arbitrarily posed subjects would be meaningless rather than assessable for truth is unsettled on this view, but they are not automatically false. There is another tradition (P.F. Strawson and H.L.A. Hart) that instead takes existence of the subject to be presupposed in any universal or particular affirmative or negative statement. Under this approach, we get that arbitrary assertions are presumptively (or unqualifiedly) neither true nor false. They are presumptively (or unqualifiedly) meaningless.* There is a third tradition, the one predominate today, in which any particular affirmative or particular negative statement in which the subject does not truly exist is false; and no such blanket verdict is given for universal affirmative and universal negative statements. ** Determining which of these three approaches fits best with Rand’s epistemology is work remaining to be accomplished. I would examine the first and third as they look when their not-definitely-false pairs on the square of opposition are taken as meaningless. * Strawson would object to my use of the word meaningless here, which he would reserve for a use more narrow. He would call such statements spurious or failures to refer. All the same, he would agree that his approach casts all such statements, and singular statements such as "The King of Texas has a Cadillac," as not assessable for truth. ** On these three traditions and a fourth, see Laurence Horn’s A Natural History of Negation (CSLI 2001 [1989]).
  7. Typo in #34: That should have been "B through Z," not "C through Z." No change in the point. Yes, Nicky, on Rand's definition of knowledge, evidence would be firstly observation. Definitely too, observations can become evidence. Rand's conception of validity in concepts, definitions, and other propositions, including philosophical axioms, also points to observations as the most basic form of evidence in knowledge. The need for logical integration for knowledge, including integration of mathematics with observations and with conceptual understanding, however, suggests that in Rand's view of knowledge more can be evidence than observations, at least if it is integral with observations and proper conceptualization from them. An example of such "more" (perfectly consistent with Rand's metaphysics and epistemology) would be Tibor Machan's essay "Evidence of Necessary Existence" (1992). He relies on the reader to have good enough sense about what is evidence. What is evidence and how something becomes evidence are good issues Machan does not take up. But as Nozick remarked, there are words on subjects worth saying besides last words. David Kelley has a neat essay "Evidence and Justification" (1991), which is integral with Rand's epistemology.
  8. "That falsity could be slight in comparison to truth that can be parsed within the proposition." Consider the proposition A and not-A and B and C and D and . . . and Z, where C through Z are objectively meaningful true propositions. In contrast the proposition A and not-A of itself is not one in which the falsity is slight or even half. Though half of its subsidiary propositions is true, the whole is asserted as true, and that whole is objectively meaningless and false.
  9. Mn, it is the former. “Saying A is non-A is objectively meaningless and false. As I said in ‘Between False, Invalid, and Meaningless’,* the objectively meaningless always stems from falsehood. In the case of asserting a self-contradiction, the root falsehood is self-same with the meaningless statement.”* That would seem to run counter the view of many philosophers, including Rand and other Objectivist philosophers, that meaningless statements are not assessable for truth. In elementary logic one learns that propositions are assertive statements, and such are assessable for truth. I would say further that in striving for truth, including true propositions, one is striving for objectively meaningful true propositions. Failure to attain entirely objectively meaningful propositions is failure to attain a square truth. Technically, a proposition defective in objective meaningfulness is false. That falsity could be slight in comparison to truth that can be parsed within the proposition. But propositions empty of objective meaningfulness, such as in negative-way theology* (which is pervasive in religious thinking), are simply false, objectively and simply false. Similarly, with self-contradiction. I will grant, however, that some objectively meaningless propositions warrant not a pause, only not.
  10. Here is another recent film taking head-on a cosmic view of human existence. It is without the supernatural. It is tremendous, unforgettable. Melancholia
  11. In other words, in a professor-superior tone: shut up. Grammes, you are exactly right. But you just don't fit the agenda of running down Objectivism by continual belittlement of its exponents and continual publicity of personal infighting among Objectivist types.
  12. Mn, Would you say that a self-contradiction is meaningless, yet false? Or would you say it is meaningful and simply false?
  13. It seemed to me that Prof. Campbell was stingy in effort to reconcile the various philosophical views he quoted by Rand and Peikoff. Good work remaining to be done. My own treatment of areas of Rand’s epistemology in areas pertinent to some of Campbell’s issues is Between False, Invalid, and Meaningless. Mn, I expect readers would be delighted to hear a little more than min. What specifically did you find "makes sense" in the essay? The historical point? A correct statement of relation between arbitrary assertion and lack of meaning? Between the meaningful and the true?
  14. . A scholarly review of the book* can be read here. Another is here. It deserved more. Years later there was another splendid book-length defense of direct realism in perception, which like Dr. Kelley's book, was philosophically sophisticated and scientifically informed. It has received wide acclaim among philosophers of perception. It is titled The Problem of Perception* and its author is A. D. Smith. I have a note on it here. Unlike Kelley's work, it does not rest ultimately and explicitly on Rand's metaphysics and conception of consciousness.
  15. John, I think you are correct. (Your signature is also true.) I would add that a choice to think is a choice to live, though the person choosing may not realize that. I have recounted a crucial pre-moral choice to live, by choosing to follow reason, in my own life here. Here are two other notes, including a list of essays by a number of scholars on the issue. The second note includes an essay-excerpt on reason for the choice to value: A, B. Stephen
  16. Ninth, concerning #102: Then I would say Peikoff erred in that sentence, or anyway, in that sentence's insinuation that the views expressed by Mr. Schwartz are all of them entirely true.* Other views of Dr. Peikoff expressed in "Fact and Value" are also not entirely true (a, b, c, d). Nor have they all been proven to be logically implied by the essentials of the Objectivist philosophy. On the concern of not sanctioning evil, the views I quoted from OPAR and from ARNE are better supported by Rand's writings and the logic of the basics. Now don't get me wrong. I do not take all of the rationale and contours of what Rand, Branden, Peikoff, and Smith have written about sanctioning evil as correct on the subject, because in the first place, I do not think that the basic ethical theory of morality as purely self-interest has yet been shown to be entirely correct.* Of course it is not only for egoistic ethics that “sanctioning of evil” or “sanctioning of good” are concerns to be illuminated and incorporated. For important example, Robert Nozick grapples with this issue somewhere, though I can’t locate it just now. It is a demerit of any ethical theory if it supports a non-attenuation view of the transitivity of moral sanction across individuals connected further and further from someone (or some organization) committing the evil act or working to do so. I see no evidence that the Objectivist theory of ethics implies any such non-attenuation, whatever the writings of Mr. Schwartz or Dr. Peikoff or Miss Rand state or suggest to the contrary. Similarly, there has never been any demonstration that nothing at all in Rand’s philosophy can be altered without toppling the philosophy altogether. Say-so is not enough, no matter who says it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Don, I see your #108 now. I think you can see what I would think about all that from the preceding.
  17. Jonathan, in #93 you wrote: I have not been able to find that view in Objectivist writings. Do you have some specific text in mind? In Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Peikoff writes: In Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, Tara Smith writes:
  18. Merlin Jetton’s essay “Theories of Truth” appeared in 1992–93 in Objectivity. The essay was published in three installments: In V1N4 were the sections: Ancient and Medieval Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz Spinoza and Kant An Assessment of the Correspondence Theory In V1N5 were the sections: Hegel Coherence Theory of Truth Foundational Truths Scientific Truths In V1N6 were the sections: Pragmatist Theories of Truth The Linguistic Turn Objectivism on Truth A Combined Approach About Objectivity At the Objectivity Archive, the essay can be read by clicking on those particular Numbers of Volume 1. It takes a couple of minutes to load. From the Subject Index, under Truth, we find that Jetton treats coherence on these pages: V1N4 11–13, 15–17, 20–22, 24–25 V1N5 111–13, 114–29 V1N6 93, 99–104 Check the bolded pages first. The bolded pages from V1N4 give the senses and roles of coherence for truth according to Locke and Leibniz. Pages 20–22 concern coherence elements in Spinoza’s view of truth. On pages 24–25, Jetton weighs quite heavily the coherence element in Kant. Pages 111–13 of V1N5 show Hegel’s tendencies towards a coherence account of truth. However, it is with §VI, which is on pages 114–29, that Merlin gives us the coherence account of truth proper. “The coherence theory is taken to include the following four theses by most, if not all, of its defenders: Truth (usually applied to ideas or judgments) is defined as coherence within the orderly system that constitutes reality. The criterion, as well as the definition, of truth is coherence within the ordered system of reality. Relations are internal; that is, a thing’s relations with other things are essential to its being what it is; indeed, they may constitute what it is. Truth admits of degrees. . . . No idea except perhaps the idea of the whole (and therefore no idea that a human being could grasp) can be properly said to be wholly true. “What more exactly does coherence in the coherence theory mean? It means consistency and connectedness. . .” (114–15). In the pages following, Jetton lays out the elaborations of the main coherence theorists, including Bradley, Joachim, and Blanshard. These coherence theorists do not suggest that truth consists in coherence among any arbitrary set of propositions (124). Blanshard writes that the coherence theory “does not hold that any and every system is true, no matter how abstract and limited; it holds that one system only is true, namely the system in which everything real and possible is included. How one can find in this the notion that a system would still give truth if, like some arbitrary geometry, it disregarded experience completely, it is not easy to see.” (quoted on 124–25). Jetton displays aspects of Rand’s metaphysics and epistemology aligning with correspondence theory of truth as well as aspects aligning with coherence theory of truth in V1N6, pages 98–99.
  19. Grames, One can err about the level of one’s justification for thinking something true. When I come to understand that something I thought I was justified in thinking true is actually false, I may find that the extent to which I had earlier thought myself justified was in error. Then again, a less than full confidence with which I held the earlier truth may have matched the level of justification I had. I’m inclined to think that in all cases for which I had been fully confident, yet the belief later proves false, I was in error about the level of justification I had for the belief. People have some “intuitive” ideas about mechanics that are mistaken. When shown by the gedanken of Galileo that one’s intuitive belief that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones is false, one might find that one’s justification for the false belief had really been rather thin, indeed that one had very little justification for that false belief. There is one strong indicator that from sunrise to sunset the sun moves: we see it moving. When we learn that and how this can be explained by rotation of the earth, we understand that a distinction needs to be drawn between motions and kinematical perspectives of the motions from one of the involved bodies. Our earlier conviction that the sun moves was in fact ambiguous. For much knowledge, I incline to think we need to leave open the possibility that it is ambiguous and can become ever more exact with the growth of knowledge. The possibility that some knowledge is presently ambiguous seems, however, to be an inert possibility where much evidence has been thoroughly integrated for present knowledge. I don’t think we would be justified in withholding acceptance for true an integrated, logically processed idea based on an entirely unspecific possibility of ambiguity. There seems to be a rational threshold, beyond which acceptance for true should not be resisted on account of such a possibility. Also, the ambiguous belief is not going to become entirely untrue when disambiguated. I wonder if there are not just different degrees of certainty, but some different kinds of certainty. I’ll have to think about that and think about it in connection with establish in “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Plas, I wanted to let you know that David Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses has recently been made available online here.
  20. Hi Plas, I am against the “negative way” to God or to any other proposed existent. I am with Rand: Existence is identity.* If no identity, then nothing. I concur, furthermore, with Rand’s atheism entirely. Concerning the negative way (via negativa), from a composition of mine on the purported faculty of intuition in the history of philosophy:* Stephen
  21. Peikoff writes: No. Scratch a skeptic and you’ll find a mystic. He wants the connections to be what he wants and must undermine reason and the senses to get that comfort. Because mysticism has never been vanquished by philosophy, skepticism stays, and by its efforts, it has the positive value to which Peikoff alludes: it exposes defects in particular rational accounts of how rational knowledge comes about. Peikoff is elliptical in some of the true statements he makes. When he says Kant rejects reality (things as they are in themselves), he does not mean Kant is in league with Georgias, who held that nothing exists. Peikoff requires the reader to know that existence is identity and that for Kant to reject the idea that things in themselves are and have identity is to reject their reality. Actually, this claim is not that straightforwardly right for Kant, as Kant says expressly that noumena are whatever they are and have whatever character they have, but that what that comes to is unknown to us and unnecessary for us to know. To reject, however, as Kant does, the consciousness-free fact of space and time and to reject identity, causality, and other fundamental principles as true independently of consciousness is to reject mind-independent existence with any identity, for the notion that there is identity outside such as those constitute is without any rational foundation. I say the outside-those notion has a foundation. It is only the ancient mystical foundation of the negative way to the One or to God. In this sort of ploy, Kant is in league with the skeptics and their mystical aspirations. Kant puts God in the noumenal. That is no accidental coincidence. That such a thing be devoid of substantial identity is ancient hat. Kant’s bifurcation between things as they are in themselves and things as perceived and comprehended by the human being served to protect faith (of a watered-down sort) from reason, especially from science. Then too, it was to protect science from worldly suppression by fideists in positions of power, by assuring them science cannot endanger faith. They weren’t entirely assured, and the battle between reason and faith, in men’s souls and in society’s laws, continues today.
  22. Short introductions to DIM are given by Andrew Medworth here and by David Harriman here. As Greg noted in #34, David Gordon has posted a short critical review of DIM here. Scroll down here to page 135 to read an earlier, more extensive review by Dr. Gordon of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and therewith his view of the philosophy. A running commentary on DIM from Robert Campbell* continues here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I was a little surprised to read in his Preface for DIM that at the time of writing Ominous //’s it had not been clear to Peikoff “that materialists, just as much as idealists, are not secular at all, but rather are supernaturalists and thus essentially akin to religionists” (xiv). In Fountainhead Toohey says mysticism and dialectical materialism “are two superficially varied manifestations of the same thing. Of the same intention” (HR VI 600). In Atlas Rand called materialism “mysticism of muscle” (AS 1027, 1035–39, 1042–47). So I was a little surprised by the Preface remark. I’m looking forward to chapter eight of DIM, where Peikoff says he gives his mature analysis of materialism (xiv). It will be interesting to see in what ways he goes beyond Rand (and Nietzsche*) on this linkage.
  23. 
Hi Grames, I would say not being omniscient is only not knowing certain things. Any unknown thing can come to be known. Any unknown thing stands in definite unknown relations to things presently known. The mind not knowing a thing and its relations to things it knows can bring any such unknown thing and relations into its knowledge. The mind stands in a relation of potential integrated correspondence to anything presently unknown to it. Rand speaks in her epistemology of what is known to man at a given stage of human advance. It is not that any individual has all that knowledge at a given stage, but every fact some mind has grasped can come into the grasp of minds in the dark. What I will learn from others or directly from the world and my reasoning tomorrow stands today in a relation of potential integrated correspondence to my knowing mind today. 
The truth accepted by one of those minds you speak of and rejected by the other would not be a truth accepted with fully justified full certainty by the one and rejected with fully justifiable full certainty by the other. This way of looking at it seems consonant with Rand’s views. And it seems correct to me. To say that one was powerfully justified and perfectly reasonable in taking such-and-such for certainly true is not quite the same as saying one was fully justified in taking such-and-such for certainly true. There will be economy of time to factor into pursuit of assessing how highly certain one should be about something one is rationally accepting for true, for there will be competing fronts for getting on with the world. That sometimes rational thinkers have very reasonably taken something for true that is later shown to be false does not justify skepticism. Every such showing of falsehood is a showing of truth and a showing that skepticism concerning the type of knowledge at hand is false. (I'll get on now with the essay on truth in geometry.)
  24. Hi Budd, On the factor of context, we agree. When you say that essence is epistemological, not metaphysical, I imagine you are concurring with Rand when she wrote: “Aristotle regarded ‘essence’ as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological” (ITOE 52). In Rand’s view, “the metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is not a special, separate metaphysical essence, but the total of the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential” (ibid.) She goes on immediately to say in what sense an essential characteristic is factual and in what sense it is epistemological. Rand is excluding from her concept of an essential characteristic the overblown sort of metaphysics Aristotle gives to essence, and she is introducing epistemological factors that bear on correct identification of an essential characteristic. She is not excluding metaphysics as a crucial, determining factor in the identification of essential characteristic(s). I concur with Rand. Essence as in her conception of an essential characteristic is not metaphysical in the full sense of the metaphysical that Aristotle gives to essence. However, in a less ponderous sense of the metaphysical, Randian essential characteristics are both metaphysical and epistemological. Rand requires a metaphysical basis for the designation of essential characteristics for our concepts of things. Furthermore, an essential characteristic should be not only a fact distinguishing a group of existents from all others within the present context of human knowledge; the essential characteristic of items under a concept should be additionally a fundamental one, the fundamental one on which the greatest number of the items’ other species-differentiating characteristics depend. This is metaphysical structure. Rand should agree with Aristotle that capability for learning grammar would be an improper distinction among animals for capturing the essence of that which is man (Topics 102a18–30; ITOE 49). This is due to facts of dependency. This is metaphysical structure. It would not do in Rand’s epistemology to follow Descartes in his idea that the primitive essence of matter is extension. That is a good distinguishing and logically necessary characteristic of matter (provided we take extension to stand for all aspects of spatiality). But it ignores the ontological primacy of entities among existents. And space is an existent. Concrete relationships are existents. A proper definition of matter must set it correctly in its relation of non-containment to consciousness (ITOE Appendix 247–50), and it must situate matter in relation to entities. Matter can be rightly defined in that second aspect partly by finding a fundamental distinctive commonality —say mass-energy—for all materials, but the standing of materials in relation to entities must also be captured in a proper definition of matter. There is much metaphysical structure in Randian definition according to essentials. Consider too a definition of solidity. I like to define it as a state of matter in which there is resistance to shearing stresses, or more exactly, in which there is an elastic zone of resistance to shearing stresses. This definition states physical relationships. It reflects metaphysical structure and physical structure within that metaphysical frame (assuming a proper concept matter). It reflects also context of cognition (and of potential vital action). That is to say, it reflects also the present state of knowledge of matter, an epistemological circumstance. Rand allows that with further understanding of matter I may have to expand my definition of solidity. Expanding “does not mean negating, abrogating or contradicting; it means demonstrating that some other characteristics are more distinctive” of solidity (ITOE 47). The qualification of a characteristic to be taken for essential continues to rest on the identities given to our consciousness so far—including relations of difference, similarity, and dependency—identities basing the economical scope of cognition and effective action we attain by rightly recognizing them. These considerations overlapping and supplementing the text of my essay support the view stated therein that in Rand’s theory of definition (and in mine): “The fundamental characteristic serving as the essential characteristic of a concept is both metaphysical and epistemological; it tells relations of dependency in the world and relations of explanation in the mind.”
  25. Objectivist Theory of Truth In Altas Rand wrote: “An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole. No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge” (1016). She continued, “to arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking.” She had already stated “a contradiction cannot exist,” which we may take to mean there are no contradictions in existence, that they do not obtain in reality. That fits with a correspondence view of truth,* but maybe with others as well (Schmitt 1995; Newman 2002; Armstrong 2004; Walker 1989; Thagard 2007). In the next paragraph, Rand wrote: “Truth is the recognition of reality; reason, man’s only means of knowledge, is his only standard of truth.” This sounds something like correspondence, but more. By her insistence on integration, wholly rational integration, she seems be fashioning herself a determined variation on the correspondence theory of truth. A recognition is an identification, and it looks highly likely that Rand took truth to be an identification as of ’57. She fills in that point expressly when she addresses truth again in ’66–’67. The following is her statement, which Merlin Jetton examined in Part 3 of his “Theories of Truth” (1993, 96–99). Jetton points out that concepts and universals have a couple of correspondence characters in Rand’s view of them. Moreover, in Rand’s view, Jetton argues that Rand’s epistemological views and her metaphysical views “purport some version of the correspondence theory of truth.” He notes that both David Kelley (1986, 28) and Leonard Peikoff (1991, 165) classified Rand’s conception of truth as “in essence” the traditional correspondence conception. Fred Seddon notes that Rand understood her concept of truth as recogniton of reality to be a correspondence theory of truth (Seddon 2006, 42–43; Rand 1974, 14). Jetton goes on to argue, however, that Rand’s emphasis on non-contradictory integration, as well as her metaphysics, gives her conception some of the character of the coherence theory of truth.* He quotes a passage from Peikoff (OPAR 123, which is straight Atlas and ITOE) and remarks “the similarity to coherentists like Bradley and Blanshard is clear” (98). Brand Blanshard’s book Reason and Analysis appeared in 1962. It was reviewed favorably by Nathaniel Branden the following year. Branden understood that Blanshard was some sort of absolute idealist, but the book offered access to contemporary positivist and analytic philosophy (including the A-S distinction*), and it offered criticisms of them, which Objectivists might join. Notice the similarity of Rand’s view, as stated by Nathaniel Branden in the Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures (c. 1968), to that of coherence theorists. In Rand’s view, he says: Peikoff writes “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the ideas’ truth” (OPAR 171). Of that statement, Jetton writes: Peikoff maintained that unless his proposition is true, the fact that we don’t know everything can be turned into the skeptical result that we don’t know anything. If we have no means of possessing any limited knowledge not susceptible to being shown false in the future, no means of knowledge sufficient for truth, then the skeptic can say “for all we know, all of our limited knowledge is false.” “Logical processing” in Rand’s philosophy, as is well known, includes a lot and is essential to truth and objectivity. To know that the number of oval-head #4 five-eighths-inch brass screws I have remaining in the box, I need to count them. That process and result will require not only correspondence, but the right connections among the parts of the process of counting. Moreover, the process of counting is not only necessary; counting, with all my counting crosschecks, is sufficient for truth about the number of screws. Truth at a conceptual level of cognition is necessarily an integration, and if it were entirely free of any misidentifications in all its network, it would necessarily be true. That is, in this limit of cognitive performance, the cognitive conditions are sufficient for truth. That is Rand's picture. I say Peikoff's establish should stand between verify or confirm, on the one hand, and constitute, on the other; therewith he was not saying something beyond Rand’s picture of ’57 and ’66–’67. I take issue with Rand’s philosophy on the issue neatly captured in Peikoff’s statement. The “an idea” and the “the idea” will usually have evolved with the advance of knowledge. That all animals are mortal was a truth with the Greeks as with us, but what we mean by animal and mortal have been considerably revised and improved over what it meant to them. In his contribution* to Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue, Irfan Khawaja also takes issue with Peikoff’s bold assertion that objectivity as epistemic justification is sufficient for truth. Khawaja gives a quick insightful objection, which I think is incorrect (2011, 64). I attended Lecture 6 in Peikoff’s 1992 series The Art of Thinking.* Peikoff remarked there, allowing for inaccuracy in my notes, that he does not see the preface “in the present context of knowledge” as sensible for: (i) perceptions or memory, (ii) automated conceptual identifications (table in contrast with hostility or pneumonia), and (iii) axioms (philosophical [very delimited; widest framework] and mathematical [very delimited subjects]). Saying “in the present context” in the cases where it is sensible is not proof against error. One can have been fully rational to have held views based on errors one later sees. However, error is not inevitable for the methodologically conscious adult. That is what I have in my notes. Suppose one’s knowledge were based on perceptual observation and correct reasoning upon them, including correct use of mathematics in application to them. Then it would seem fair to say that “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth” (OPAR 171). Perfect conceptual identifications, even though not all the identity of their referents are known, if perfect in all presently known connections with observations and with all other perfect conceptual identifications, are sufficient to establish the conceptual identification’s truth. (A good study might be to contrast and compare the Objectivist view with the very local sufficiency condition of Descartes: When we have clearly and distinctly understood a proposition, we can infallibly assign a truth value to it. Then too, an interesting comparison on this point could be made between Objectivism and Stoicism [see Potts 1996, 12–13, 37–39]* and Peikoff 2012, 48.) Leaving aside the three categories of knowledge set aside in Lecture 6, there remains much in our knowledge that is also virtually perfect knowledge, because it has been so thoroughly tested for contradiction in its many connections, and because these durable propositions have been given ever more exact delimitation with the advance of science. “All animals are mortal” or “I must breathe to live” are examples. Even for a given context of knowledge, our integration and checking for contradictions is an incomplete work in progress. Meanwhile, we are adding new information, more context for knowledge, and beginning its integration and checking for contradiction. For all conceptual identifications in a condition of significantly incomplete integration and checking, correct logical processing (so far with go-ahead) is insufficient to establish truth (cf. Peikoff in Berliner 2012, 303–4). At first blush, this is no problem for the Rand-Peikoff view, for that just means that the knowledge is not to be rightly taken as certain knowledge. It has seemed to me for some decades, however, that the history of science as we come to Galileo and Descartes showed that sometimes one’s experience leads one to an extremely well justified proposition in which it would have been very hard to realize that one was overstepping the evidence and that the proposition should not have been taken as certain knowledge, only as likely knowledge. Such would be the old, mistaken propositions that every moving body requires a mover* and that heavier bodies fall faster. This is a danger zone (this-worldly and rational) for the precept “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth.” In the contexts of ancient or medieval knowledge, one could have checked the idea that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones by doing Galileo’s thought experiment. Their integrations and checking for contradictions of the idea was not complete, not perfect, even within their own contexts of knowledge. Granted these cases are unusual, nevertheless, this danger zone is there. The earlier men could have made the reasoning check made by Galileo: In imagination drop two identical bricks, of identical weight, from the same height. You know they must reach the ground at the same time. Now consider the two bricks joined, making a combined brick weighing twice as much as the two individuals. Drop that joined brick from the same height as before. The time of fall cannot be different than when the halves were individuals falling side by side. Therefore, bodies of different weights fall at the same rate. (And observations in contradiction with that result must have specific causes of their nonconformity, which need to be found.) The earlier men’s checking was incomplete without this creative check, and one would have had no inkling of that until the wise guy came along. Rand’s picture in Peikoff’s bold statement is significantly incorrect in my view because as one’s (scientific) knowledge grows one’s knowledge of what was one’s previous context of knowledge also grows (cf.). One continues to learn what were the ways in which one's previous generalizations were over-generalizations (and in what ways they were inexplicit, indefinite, or vague). There was no reason to suppose that the Galilean rule for addition of velocities was only a close approximation to the low-velocity portion of a different rule for addition of velocities more generally, no reason until the electrodynamical results in the nineteenth century. There was no reason to post a specific caveat before then, along the lines of "for all velocities we've experienced so far." It remains that in present truth there is past truth and so forth to the future. We cannot know entirely which elements of scientific truth today will stand in a hundred more years of advance nor how those elements will have been transformed and connected with new concepts. Our repeatable experiments will still be repeatable (notwithstanding the unfounded imaginings of the Hume set), whatever new understanding we bring to them. Peikoff is correct when he writes “No matter what the study of optics discovers, it will never affect the distinction between red and green. The same applies to all observed facts, including the fact of life” (OPAR 192). Rand read John Hosper’s book An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis in 1960–61. Rand’s firm anchor of truth in correspondence and the primacy of existence comes through in her marginalia on truth, on propositions, on definitions and tautology, and on logical possibility (Mayhew 1995, 68–70, 75–80). Rand objected to shuffling the question “What is truth?” into “What are true propositions?”. She jotted: “Truth cannot be a matter of propositions, because it is a matter of context” (Mayhew 1995, 68). Like Aristotle’s, Rand’s is a substantial theory of truth. It pertains to the real, the cognitive agent, and the right relation between them. It declines linguistic stances as well as deconstructionist and relativistic stances towards truth. Aristotle’s writings “present truth in the context of a multifaceted account of knowledge that includes epistemological and psychological dimensions and in which truth directly pertains to issues of meaning, reference, intentionality, justification, and evidence . . .” (Pritzl 2010, 17). Rand can agree with Aristotle that being is the single constant context of truth. She can agree with Aristotle in holding truth to be not only saying of what is that it is, but saying of what is what it is (Metaph. IX.10). However, she should deny Aristotle’s views that intellectual truth is an irreducible type of being and that “cognition is an identity of knower and known” (Pritzl 2010, 17). I shall refer to the “coherence” strain in Rand’s theory of truth as the integration element in her correspondence theory of truth (cf. TT 2 114–17; Peikoff 2012, 12–15). Integration is essential for truth in Rand’s theory. Fact is interconnected and multilayered in Rand's picture. Fact caught in mind will be truth, and truths will not be isolated in their facts nor in their relations to other truths. In Rand’s metaphysics, every existent stands in relationships to the rest of the universe. Every existent affects and is affected (ITOE 39). Rand does not go so far as the coherence theorist who would hold that relations to other things is what constitutes what something is (TT 2, 114). Concerning the historical roots of the integration element in Rand’s theory of truth, I think the main root is not the coherence views of absolute idealists, nor of Spinoza before them, but the views of Aristotle. Rand’s conception of the connectivity of facts for truth and her requirement of definitions designating essential characteristics for concepts in assertions are among the integration elements in Rand’s theory. Her theory is revised Aristotle. Aristotle wrote that "a definition is a phrase signifying a thing's essence" (Top. 101b37). Fundamentally, "the essence of each thing is what it is said to be in virtue of itself. For being you is not being musical; for you are not musical in virtue of yourself. What, then, you are in virtue of yourself is your essence" (Metaph. 1029b14-16). For Aristotle the essential predicates of a thing say what it is, what it is to be it. To say that man is musical does not say what man is. It says something truly of man, but it does not say what is man. Thus far, Rand concurs. "A definition must identify the nature of the units [subsumed under the concept being defined], i.e., the essential characteristics without which the units would not be the kind of existents they are" (ITOE 42). Moreover, the essential characteristic of a kind under a concept is "the fundamental characteristic without which the others would not be possible. . . . Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible; epistemologically, it is the one that explains the greatest number of others" (ITOE 45). Aristotle held that all natural bodies are a composite of matter and form. He took form, rather than matter, to be what makes a thing the kind of thing it is. Essence is a form. Rand rejected this component of Aristotle’s metaphysics (ITOE Appendix, 286). "Aristotle held that definitions refer to metaphysical essences, which exist in concretes as a special element or formative power. . . . Aristotle regarded 'essence' as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological" (ITOE 52). For Aristotle what makes gold gold or an animal cell an animal cell is a metaphysical essence, a metaphysical form. Metaphysical essential forms in Aristotle’s account are traditionally seen as universals; Charlotte Witt argues they are particulars (1989, chap. 5). In our modern view, the essence of the chemical element gold, that in virtue of which it is gold, is: having such-and-such numbers of protons and neutrons bound in a nucleus and the electrons about it. That is what makes its further distinctive properties possible. The essence of a living animal cell is that it offsets the potentially catastrophic drive of water inward through its wall by pumping sodium ions out through its wall. That is what makes possible its further distinctive properties (distinctive, say, from a living plant cell). These essences are physical. The essence of a human being—rational animality—is physical and mental. These are all essences in Rand's sense. They are physical or mental, but not metaphysical in the form-sense of Aristotle's essences. For Rand "an essential characteristic is factual, in the sense that it does exist, does determine other characteristics, and does distinguish a group of existents from all others; it is epistemological in the sense that the classification of 'essential characteristic' is a device of man's method of cognition" (ITOE 52). Proper essential characteristics in Rand’s theory of definitions required for truth use factual characteristics about a thing to state what it is. Aristotle, in contrast, did not take the essence of a thing to be one of its characteristics among others. He did not take it to be a characteristic of a thing. The form that is the essence of a thing, the form that makes it what it is, is prior in every way to the individual thing it makes possible (Witt 1989, 123–26). In Rand’s metaphysics, entity, not substance, is the primary existent. Though characteristics and relationships presuppose entities, an entity is nothing but its characteristics and relationships, for entities, like all existents, are nothing but identity. Rand’s realism of definition and essence reaches rock bottom of reality, while dropping some Aristotelian doctrines of substance, essence, and form. Rand contended that one must never form any convictions “apart from or against the total, integrated sum of one’s knowledge” (1961, 26). That integrated sum is one’s entire cognitive context, “the entire field of a mind’s awareness or knowledge” (ITOE 43). We have noted Rand’s statement “No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the sum total of his knowledge” (AS 1016). To the extent that his mind deals with valid concepts, “the content of his concepts is determined and dictated by the cognitive content of his mind, i.e., by his grasp of the facts of reality” (ITOE 43). It is not the integration that makes the content true, though the integration is necessary to truth, necessary to the grasp of fact. Peikoff writes “If one drops context, one drops the means of distinguishing between truth and fantasy” (OPAR 124). That is partly due to the nature of facts. The context of knowledge is the context of grasped fact, which is a context of fact. Facts have contexts, independently of our grasp of them (cf. OPAR 123). The contextual character of truth in an Objectivist account should be hands-on-world, rather as Rand’s essential characteristics of concepts are hand-on-world. Recall that in Rand’s theory of definition, the fundamental characteristic serving as the essential characteristic of a concept is both metaphysical and epistemological; it tells relations of dependency in the world and relations of explanation in the mind. The relations of context in the world will naturally include more than relations of dependency, and relations of context in the mind will include more than relations of explanation. The membership relation is one relation among contents of mind that is not that relation among the mind-independent, concrete objects corresponding to those contents. That is entailed when philosophers say with Aristotle that what-such depends on this-such, but not vice-versa, or when one says with Rand that only concretes exist in reality. The binding of membership relations to concrete factual relations, though necessarily not by complete identity with the latter relations, is surely a major impetus for integration in abstract knowledge and integration of abstract knowledge with experience. Rand’s cast of concept-class membership relations as analyzable in terms of suspension of particular values in mathematically scaled relations—relations that can express concrete magnitude relations in the world—is a grand structure for integration beyond non-contradiction. It makes the meaning of correspondence in “truth as correspondence with facts” more specific, and it accords with the success of science in improving correspondence by use of mathematics. References Aristotle c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1983. Princeton. Armstrong, D. 2004. Truth and Truthmakers. Cambridge. Berliner, M., editor, 2012. Understanding Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff’s Lectures. NAL. Blanshard, B. 1962. Reason and Analysis. Open Court. Branden, N. 2009. The Vision of Ayn Rand. Cobden. Hospers, J. 1953. An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis. Prentice-Hall. Jetton, M. 1992–93. Theories of Truth. Objectivity 1(4):1–30, 1(5):109–49, 1(6):73–106. Khawaja, I. The Foundations of Ethics – Objectivism and Analytic Philosophy. In Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue. A. Gotthelf and J. Lennox, editors. Pittsburgh. Kelley, D. 1986. The Evidence of the Senses. LSU. Mayhew, R. 1995. Ayn Rand’s Marginalia. ARI. Newman, A. 2002. The Correspondence Theory of Truth. Cambridge. Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton. ——. 1992. The Art of Thinking. Lectures. ——. 2012. The DIM Hypothesis. NAL. Potts, D. 1996. Rationalism, Skepticism, and Anti-Rationalism in Greek Philosophy after Aristotle. Objectivity 2(4):1–76. Pritzl, K. 2010. Aristotle’s Door. In Truth – Studies of a Robust Presence. Catholic University of America. Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. 1990. Meridian. ——. 1974. Philosophical Detection. In Philosophy: Who Needs It. 1982. Signet. Schmitt, F. 1995. Truth: A Primer. Westview. Seddon, F. 2006. Rand and Rescher on Truth. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 8(1):41–48. Thagard, P. 2007. Coherence, Truth, and the Development of Scientific Knowledge. Philosophy of Science 74(1):28–47. Walker, R. 1989. The Coherence Theory of Truth. Routledge. Witt, C. 1989. Substance and Essence in Aristotle. Cornell. In preparing this paper, I have benefited from discussions at Objectivist Living. I hope to write another paper for this thread, which will be on the nature of truth in geometry.
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