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Boydstun

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  1. 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:
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 
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.)
  8. 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.”
  9. 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.
  10. Objectivist views on the arbitrary and the meaningless* and their truth values, together with validation (and verification), justification and evidence, and contextually absolute cognition are critiqued in a pleasantly informed (though incompletely informed) way by John Scott Ryan in Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality (2003) on pages 144–55. Mr. Ryan is not a professional philosopher—he became an attorney—but his book is very refreshing, as it is not just a nick-nick here and nick-nick there against Objectivism. Notwithstanding the flashy title of the book, his is a comprehensive and explicit viewpoint in the tradition of metaphysical idealism (Spinoza to Hegel to the Americans), which is highly pertinent to Objectivist theoretical philosophy.
  11. Peikoff’s representation of the method of Einstein’s discovery of special relativity and of general relativity, his representations of the status of their postulates in respect of empirical test, and his representation of their ontology of spacetime and of causality are thoroughly incorrect (115–20). His conclusion that SR and GR are cases of misintegration is false. Quite the contrary. For correction, concerning special relativity, see my presentation here. VII. Galilean Invariance (p. 131) VIII. Ampère (136) IX. Faraday (139) X. Maxwell (143) XI. Einstein: Special Relativity – Kinematics (149) XII. Einstein: Special Relativity – Dynamics (164) On method of Newton and general relativity, see here. See also, Zahar (1989). Sample of this section of DIM: “In 1908, Hermann Minkowski introduced the concept of space-time, which, purely by mathematical inferences from the light axiom, he proved to be invariant—that is, the same for all observers regardless of their state of motion” (116). Spacetime was proven to be invariant? No. There is a perfectly specific spacetime interval, with specific physical, kinematical meaning that is invariant. See my own presentation linked above. On the interval, I can recommend also Geroch (1978). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The usual caveat applies.
  12. It is unfortunate, perhaps, that Dr. Peikoff has not dealt in this book with philosophy of mathematics. With Plato and with Kant, philosophy of mathematics is a major driver of and original contribution to theoretical philosophy. I say “perhaps” because thinkers before us, including Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff, should have a little heart and leave some important problems and discoveries for other philosophers, in our time and beyond. In DIM Peikoff touches on Aristotle’s conception of mathematics and how it is related to the world. He does the same for Newton. With these views from Aristotle and Newton, though only with a very broad brush, he makes a quick little case for the effectiveness of mathematics in science. He goes half wrong on each Descartes and Newton when he writes: “Descartes too had regarded mathematics as essential to science, but Newton is no rationalist, and there is nothing pure about his equations. Mathematics, in his [Newton’s] view, is only a tool devised by men to help answer questions about matter” (109). We can dig into what is right and what is wrong about those statements when readers here have gotten DIM and had some time to study it. My impression so far of this work is that, notwithstanding its errors, it is likely something fine and grand. It looks to be a book whose errors small or large can be instructive by dissection and whose attempts can clear, at least partially, the path to one’s own grand view. On that same page, Peikoff courts error in saying Newton deduced the Law of Circular Motion using not only geometry, but differential calculus. That’s a bumpy sweep. We should be aware of the distinction between Newton’s first statement and proof of the law and his later deductions of it or others’ deductions of it using his calculus. Not every limit process in geometrical reasoning requires knowledge, even implicit knowledge, of the limit process of differential calculus. Slightly before Newton, and in another way, Huygens also deduced that law. Huygens’ discovery was by kinematical reasoning, and he did not arrive at Newton’s eventual concept of force and so did not arrive at Newton’s eventual view of force and its relation to curvilinear motion. The ways of both Huygens and Newton to the Law of Circular Motion are set out in §II – Huygens* (27–28) and §III – Newton* (53–54) of my “Space, Rotation, Relativity” (1995). I indicated earlier that Peikoff has partly right, but only half of, what is original, major, and influential in Kant’s philosophy (a, b). To add a little to what I mentioned there concerning theoretical philosophy, I’ll say that in my view, which the reader may contrast with Peikoff’s treatment, the first tier of thinkers who loomed large for Kant, thinkers whom Kant confronted and partly appropriated, were Euclid, Newton, Leibniz, and Hume. Second-tier in Kant’s confrontation and appropriation, in his original construction of theoretical philosophy, would be Plato, Aristotle, Luther, Descartes, Wolff, Berkeley, and Reid. All of these thinkers would figure into my own account of the tributaries to and proportions in Kant’s theoretical philosophy in its mature, profoundly innovative phase known as the Critical philosophy or as Transcendental Idealism. Perhaps discussion here from readers of DIM will lead me to specify here some of that fuller picture of Kant and his influence. This book has been on my list of prerequisites for another project. I intend to assimilate DIM with Peikoff’s Ominous //’s in completing my study “Dewey and Peikoff on Kant’s Responsibility”.*
  13. The Principia is splendid. If there were a Son of God, it would be Isaac Newton. Principia is thoroughly accessible if one has had high school geometry and if one has the following guide to Newton's masterpiece: The Key to Newton's Dynamics J. Bruce Brackenridge 1995, University of California Press
  14. OSO, Get this book. When you have it, let me know. Then we can talk about the book and Kant and the book way seriously, to which I look forward. Ninth, No, the main problem is not in views misattributed to Kant, but in the major, influential views Peikoff neglects to attribute to Kant. You are right, however, in noting that any views misattributed to Kant may very well have been held by others, others historically influential. I certainly did not say that for DIM to be right the intellectual history has to be right. I said the opposite, and that was the lesson of the post. Now to say, as I said, that getting it wrong need not demolish the DIM hypothesis, to see whether it does, we have to read the book. I hope you too get this book right away. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PS Some of my writings on Kant are these: Metaphysics of Kant and Rand Normativity of Logic – Kant v. Rand Mysticism – Kant and Rand Kant from A to Bxxx Kant and Principia Space, Rotation, Relativity – Kant Kant’s Wrestle with Happiness and Life Part 1 – to 1781 Part 2 – towards 1785 Part 3 – into 1785 Part 4 – Moral Worth, Necessary and Free – A, B
  15. The DIM Hypothesis Leonard Peikoff (2012) The representation of Kant’s philosophy in this book is grossly out of balance, and in this it is like Leonard Peikoff’s earlier representations of Kant and the representations of Kant by Ayn Rand. Some errors in intellectual history may not affect Dr. Peikoff’s DIM hypothesis itself. It is easy to imagine that his incorrect view, in this book, of Aquinas among his contemporaries is an error that does not. But such a vast blindness as he has towards Kant as formidable and influential philosophic integrator and defender of modern science in his time? (To be sure, that integration and defense is unsound by my lights.) With Kant as one of Peikoff’s big three philosophers, how can Peikoff’s grand lopsidedness on the Kant of Kant’s works not undermine his DIM hypothesis? It need not. The intellectual pole he takes as Kant can be only half the face of Kant and still be a pole, indeed one with real historical influence.
  16. . Infinite Secrets In this NOVA program, deciphering the battered manuscript Diana highlighted expands our view of Archimedes’ mathematical advancements.
  17. You weight enormously higher the possibility of your future action, experience, joy, and contentment—however vague your sense of them now—over present pain and loss. The actual explicit decision for ending one's life comes up when there is something very wrong in one or very wrong for one. Even if you can no longer remember what is happiness, you still know what life is. Even if you are too young to have yet experienced the larger struggle and happiness of adult achievement and romance to come, you have had at least some glimpse of them. Remember to love yourself or work on getting to where you can. You have before. You still know what life is, and I urge you to choose it. You are correct, I think, in supposing there are situations in which the correct decision is to end one’s life. These are situations in which there is prospect only for great pain in the remaining course of a terminal illness or injury. Mostly they are situations for old people. As I recall, Arthur Koestler and his wife committed joint suicide as one or the other of them was dying of cancer in old age. There was nothing wrong in that choice for their life situation. Sometimes one honors one’s life by ending it. But generally suicide is disrespectful of one’s life and love, and one should hold on tight against all the pain and loss, bracket the despair and work towards its unraveling, as in my first paragraph. I had a brother who worked as a wildcat in the oil fields. One night he went around to where a rope winding on a large spool had become tangled. As he tried to untangle it, he became caught by the winding rope. It carried him around, winding the tight rope over him. Normally, in this type of accident, the rope eventually crushes the man and kills him. But in my brother’s case, it severed one of his arms, and he and it fell off the rotating spool. He picked up his arm with the one remaining, walked around to where the other workers were, and told them to put it in ice. I think of him that night if I need a little courage. There is something I have seen save the life of a man eighteen years old, who was suicidal. He read The Fountainhead.
  18. Further public attention on Rand's ideas from connection to Paul Ryan: What Ayn Rand Says about Paul Ryan Rand Influence on Ryan Ryan’s Economic Plans Aren’t as Ayn Rand-Based as You Think Another Influence: Prime Time for Paul Ryan’s Guru (the one that’s not Ayn Rand)
  19. There is a piece on Rand and Ryan in The Washington Post here. It gives a fair view of Rand, and it includes good links to ARI and to David Kelley's summary of Galt's Speech. Thanks to R. Latimer for the heads-up.
  20. Rand’s reply to Nathan Blumenthal’s third letter is one of the letters to him mentioned by Peter Reidy that are included in Letters of Ayn Rand. From Rand’s reply, you can get a good idea of what was in NB’s letter. The editor added what had been asked by NB where Rand did not repeat the question at the head of her answer to it. Apparently NB’s letter still exists.
  21. Rep. Ryan has a 100 percent voting score from the National Right to Life Committee. I don’t want any more Supreme Court appointments from this quarter.
  22. Atlas, Peter Schwartz' point that “amount of government” would not be a principle giving genuine unity to a political philosophy is correct. When “limited government” libertarians use that adjective to distinguish themselves from individualist anarchist libertarians, they are talking about limited proper functions of government. Defending the country could at times require a whole lot of government, but the number of proper functions of government would still be limited to its constant few. That is what was in the books on this political philosophy in the ’70’s written by Robert Nozick, by Tibor Machan, and by John Hospers. What those proper functions were coincided with Rand’s conclusion in the matter. The preeminent libertarian political philosopher of that decade was Robert Nozick. His book Anarchy, State, and Utopia towered above all others in libertarian philosophy, in content and in public recognition. That is still so today. I know, I know, some folks attached of the political philosophy of Murray Rothbard may not like to admit that; some also do not like to admit the importance of Ayn Rand’s writings in political philosophy to the existence of the modern libertarian movement. Nozick’s book is studied in classrooms today, and it will be studied a hundred years from now. It is a modern classic of political philosophy. In the ’70’s the other writings influential with libertarians were free market economics books, Rand’s literature and essays, Tibor Machan’s Human Rights and Human Liberties, and John Hosper’s Libertarianism: An Idea Whose Time Has Come. On the anarchist branch of libertarianism, there was Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty and David Friedman’s The Machinery of Freedom. Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty issued in ’82. Those are the books one would need to discuss in order to genuinely discuss libertarian political philosophy of the ’70’s and early ’80’s. The Schwartz criticism you mentioned might have some traction in connection with David Friedman’s approach, but to his alone. He is a utilitarian and is concerned to maximize liberty with an eye to utility, as I recall. All the others come from the perspective that individual rights is a valid moral concept and that the sole proper function of government would be to protect them. Rothbard and his followers would argue further that there is no proper function of government because such an institution necessarily violates individual rights. A few years after leaving the Libertarian Party in ’84, I stopped studying and writing about political philosophy. I returned to what I had studied in college (late ’60’s), which was metaphysics and epistemology. In 1990 I created the journal Objectivity * (subscription, hardcopy) from which political and social philosophy more generally was excluded. Finally there was a place to focus in print on the other areas of philosophy, at a level of interest for both academics and independent scholars. There was also much history of philosophy and science education in the journal. It was not limited to Objectivist contributors and readers. Anyone friendly toward rationality, objectivity, and modern science (standard, no reactionary or basement science) was at home in that clean calm place, made so in part by the exclusion of political philosophy and cultural commentary. My statements about libertarianism and about the LP in those days are from personal memory, not from reading about those days. My impression that Rothbard was not in attendance at the founding national convention of LP was from my memory of the report at the time by an acquaintance who had attended. My memory of such a detail could easily be mistaken. I was a delegate from Illinois to the LP national convention in New York in 1976. I would say most delegates were in the limited government side the divide. Rothbard, Raico, and Childs were delegates and were active on the floor in attempting to put anarchist planks into the party platform. I remember one of their attempts, concerning national defense, failed after Nozick got up, identified the sneaky move that was afoot and the unacceptability of its ultimate implication. There was a big struggle going on at that convention. Anarchism seemed concentrated in the New York delegation. There was only one anarchist in our Illinois delegation as I recall. Objectivist political philosophy is a type of libertarianism, which is the view that the only proper function of government, if any, is to protect individual liberty. That is the paramount political value. In Rand’s political philosophy, the proper purpose of government is to protect individual rights, and the purpose of individual rights is to protect the free exercise of the individual mind in the conduct and service of his or her life in a social context. That is a type of individual liberty. Well, Atlas, I better close. One more memory. Some generous people had put some money into that New York convention. There was a brief sound and light show that had been created for the occasion. The music was a song I had not known till then. It was “Won’t Get Fooled Again” by The Who. On a screen were flashed various images, but I only remember some of the photos of faces of intellectuals important in the political movement and political philosophy. Rand’s face flashed on the screen, and he crowd went wild.
  23. Precisely. I see that sort of image and don't bother to click on it. Now you confirm I was right not click on it. The entry of the image and the expectation of what is under it is distracting enough and is an undermining of sober thought. And look what you had right under it. I did click on that one. It was serious, and it was pertinent to your subculture concerns over changes at Cato. But the other---the continual "good laugh" and ridicule of Rand and of Peikoff---that is bizarre. This audience is not a joke. Life is not a joke. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Related
  24. Thanks for the correction, Ninth. I really wish you wouldn't post so many goofy visuals. True, I seldom click on them. They are nevertheless distracting from the seriousness in text, yours and others' in a thread. Atlas, I wanted to add to that last sentence that the important thing, in my view, is that old errors are no longer repeated. I never care whether someone acknowledges their past errors in public. That kind of concern is not mine.
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