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A few problems I have with Objectivism

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On Objectivist Epistemology

The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

On Objectivist Ethics

Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

On Objectivist Metaphysics

The problem of free will and causality. This is the biggest stumbling block for me, as one who holds no belief in free will. The arguments I have found against this problem have seemed very weak to me. Free will is held to be self evident in Objectivism, but an argument brought for it seems to be that choice and free will are not contradictory to the law of causality, but a part of it, that volition is causality. Seemingly volition is a causa sui?

Any help on these problems would be greatly appreciated.

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This is such a big question, I would suggest that you first state what you have read to date on Objectivism? If little, it might be best to read further before asking for so much.

Having said that, I will simply offer the following:

1. Metaphysically, objectivity is the recognition of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness.

Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a man's consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic).

Objective reality certainly does not suggest that man is infallible.

Re free will, you have a big issue here if you can't accept that you have the freedom to think or not; that to think is an act of choice; that you control the choices you make. Free will is what dictates the need for individual rights....

In ethics: if you hold someone else to be of greater value than self, than you would be sacrificing whenever you act selfishly. But rational selfishness is what is required to survive.

Chew on that....

Edited by TLD

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The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

Rand holds that perception is a valid means of knowledge, i.e. that it gives us an awareness of reality. She means something very precise here, though, and it is important to understand what. You say that our senses act "imperfectly". What exactly do you mean by that? Are there aspects of reality to which our senses do not respond? Of course. Rand never claimed that our senses tell us everything about reality -- only that what they do tell us about reality actually is about reality.

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What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

How do you know that? Also, how do you define imperfect? (in this context)

Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else

Metaphysically, the only alternative that faces all living organisms is the alternative of life and death. Since man is a volitional being, he has to choose between life and death. All other issues facing him are secondary and dependent on this choice. Therefore, if a man choses life and acts rationally, all his other values are sought to maintain his life qua man.

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On Objectivist Epistemology

The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

CJM, I’m sorry, but the first answer that comes to mind in response to your last comments is, speak for yourself. My senses work just fine. I’d also want to know how you came to realize that your senses were imperfect, if not through your senses.

More seriously, what Ayn Rand meant in objective reality is that it is reality that you perceive, only reality. She is also saying that you perceive in a certain manner, by a certain means, which is part of your nature as a human being. As with the rest of reality, you will want to learn what your senses are and how they function. I think that they work very well, considering the means by which you and I are communicating, CJM.

Unfortunately, you did not specify what you meant by “act imperfectly”. However, they don’t, what ever you meant. Our senses give us information from which we can know the world and continue to expand our knowledge. Give us the specifics you were thinking about and we will show you that the specifics are not examples of imperfection.

On Objectivist Ethics

Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

A human who does not regard his own life as his highest value will more toward self-destruction. It is unavoidable.

In you statement, you show that you have not yet realized the full meaning of “rational” and that you give too much importance to “I see no reason” (as a logical form it provides no justification or support for any statement). I am not criticizing you. Everyone’s beginning point is the current culture and it takes a lot of effort to understand that AR’s approach is considerably different. A rational person, by way of being rational would not choose someone’s life as a higher value. It is not rational.

Now with a child, a rational person will know that they have accepted the obligation to see to the child’s welfare. They will be willing to do certain things that they would not for another’s child, or another adult, even their own offspring. That is not placing the child as a higher value, but it is accepting the consequences of their obligation.

On Objectivist Metaphysics

The problem of free will and causality. This is the biggest stumbling block for me, as one who holds no belief in free will. The arguments I have found against this problem have seemed very weak to me. Free will is held to be self evident in Objectivism, but an argument brought for it seems to be that choice and free will are not contradictory to the law of causality, but a part of it, that volition is causality. Seemingly volition is a causa sui?

I am only going to deal with the “stolen concept” aspect of your statement. You say “the arguments seem very weak to me”. Implicitly in that statement is that you have consciously evaluated the arguments and decided that they do not sufficiently support the intended conclusion, right? Yet, your argument is that you do not have that capacity. Your actions, mental and otherwise, are determined by “causes” in the world. Your conclusions are merely the result of electrons, or muscle movement or something other than your own, independent actions. If your conclusions are to have any weight, they must be based upon your own judgment, not some other, causal force. You couldn’t speak, or write without that outside force.

All the evidence for your free will is within the actions and functions of your own mind. This is an appeal to reality. You can perceive your own mental activities. Do so. Realize that in considering the truth or falsehood of a matter is the exercise of free will.

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The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly

With what other than your senses did you use to draw the conclusion that your senses are unreliable? The point is that your senses are a result of physical causation. Your sensory input is a direct interaction of thier physical identity in relation to the rest of existence. This is what is meant by the senses being Objective.

But having conceptual objectivity is not automatic.It is a volitional process that must be learned. Even here though it is not automatic because of the identity of consciousness.

One needs to differentiate between perception and conception.

Edited by Plasmatic

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1. The senses don't lie. They can't. We may misunderstand how they work (e.g. seeing a metal rod bend in water and assuming the rod is actually bending), or the amount of information they provide us (e.g. seeing a bundle of red and blue Christmas lights from a distance and concluding that the lights are all purple).

Think about it - how could your eyes lie to you? They would have to have a mind of their own, or work by way of a magic hidden function that is not understandable. How would such an unreliable faculty exist, let alone evolve in creatures that depend entirely on it for survival?

2. One's life as his standard of value stems from the origin of value in the alternative of life or death. Ethics and morality answer the question "what should I do in this situation?" - but toward what goal? If you choose to live, the goal must be rooted in the fundamental alternative of life or death for the question to have any meaning.

3. You reject free will? By what process? Do you believe free will - choice - is an illusion?

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Hmm, I can't seem to multiquote, sorry if this gets muddled.

This is such a big question, I would suggest that you first state what you have read to date on Objectivism? If little, it might be best to read further before asking for so much.

Having said that, I will simply offer the following:

1. Metaphysically, objectivity is the recognition of the fact that reality exists independent of any perceiver’s consciousness.

Epistemologically, it is the recognition of the fact that a man's consciousness must acquire knowledge of reality by certain means (reason) in accordance with certain rules (logic).

Objective reality certainly does not suggest that man is infallible.

Re free will, you have a big issue here if you can't accept that you have the freedom to think or not; that to think is an act of choice; that you control the choices you make. Free will is what dictates the need for individual rights....

In ethics: if you hold someone else to be of greater value than self, than you would be sacrificing whenever you act selfishly. But rational selfishness is what is required to survive.

Chew on that....

1.Metaphysically:Yes, I do not disagree with this.

2. Etymologically: Here I have misunderstood? It was my understanding that it was not just knowledge, but objective knowledge that our senses could percieve.

3. Free will: This doesn't really do much for the problem of causality I mentioned.

4: Ethics: Yes. But why can't a rational person hold something else of higher value than their own life?

Rand holds that perception is a valid means of knowledge, i.e. that it gives us an awareness of reality. She means something very precise here, though, and it is important to understand what. You say that our senses act "imperfectly". What exactly do you mean by that? Are there aspects of reality to which our senses do not respond? Of course. Rand never claimed that our senses tell us everything about reality -- only that what they do tell us about reality actually is about reality.

Yes, this is my problem. If what our senses tell us about reality IS objective reality, then our senses must work perfectly. We must be physiologically incapable of error in sense perception. Logically this seems ridiculous.

How do you know that? Also, how do you define imperfect? (in this context)

I don't "know". It seems a logical supposition that peoples senses do not work with perfection, that what we percieve is subjective. My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons. Imperfect in relation to objective knowledge.

Metaphysically, the only alternative that faces all living organisms is the alternative of life and death. Since man is a volitional being, he has to choose between life and death. All other issues facing him are secondary and dependent on this choice. Therefore, if a man choses life and acts rationally, all his other values are sought to maintain his life qua man.

But this is an ethical question. Why is it immoral to hold something else of higher value than your own life? Your childs life, your liberty, a teapot?

CJM, I’m sorry, but the first answer that comes to mind in response to your last comments is, speak for yourself. My senses work just fine. I’d also want to know how you came to realize that your senses were imperfect, if not through your senses.

More seriously, what Ayn Rand meant in objective reality is that it is reality that you perceive, only reality. She is also saying that you perceive in a certain manner, by a certain means, which is part of your nature as a human being. As with the rest of reality, you will want to learn what your senses are and how they function. I think that they work very well, considering the means by which you and I are communicating, CJM.

Unfortunately, you did not specify what you meant by “act imperfectly”. However, they don’t, what ever you meant. Our senses give us information from which we can know the world and continue to expand our knowledge. Give us the specifics you were thinking about and we will show you that the specifics are not examples of imperfection.

Working very well is not the same as working perfectly. What I mean by act imperfectly is that, if our senses are to give us objective knowledge about the world, e.g. I am perceiving my laptop screen as it is, in objective reality, then they must act perfectly and be infallible. If they act imperfectly, the knowledge is subjective. I am under the impression that Ayn Rand holds that we gain objective knowledge about the universe through sense perception, correct?

A human who does not regard his own life as his highest value will more toward self-destruction. It is unavoidable.

Uh, what? Why would someone who held something other than their own life move towards self destruction? That is a strange argument. Doing the exact opposite could easily be in the best interest of said value. I fail to see how you arrived at this conclusion.

In you statement, you show that you have not yet realized the full meaning of “rational” and that you give too much importance to “I see no reason” (as a logical form it provides no justification or support for any statement). I am not criticizing you. Everyone’s beginning point is the current culture and it takes a lot of effort to understand that AR’s approach is considerably different. A rational person, by way of being rational would not choose someone’s life as a higher value. It is not rational.

Ayn Rand would seem to disagree.

PLAYBOY: Would it be against the principles of Objectivism for anyone to sacrifice himself by stepping in front of a bullet to protect another person?

RAND: No. It depends on the circumstances. I would step in the way of a bullet if it were aimed at my husband. It is not self-sacrifice to die protecting that which you value: If the value is great enough, you do not care to exist without it. This applies to any alleged sacrifice for those one loves.

With what other than your senses did you use to draw the conclusion that your senses are unreliable?

I did not say they were unreliable.

The point is that your senses are a result of physical causation. Your sensory input is a direct interaction of thier physical identity in relation to the rest of existence. This is what is meant by the senses being Objective.

So Rand does not hold that we can gain objective knowledge about reality through sense perception?

1. The senses don't lie. They can't. We may misunderstand how they work (e.g. seeing a metal rod bend in water and assuming the rod is actually bending), or the amount of information they provide us (e.g. seeing a bundle of red and blue Christmas lights from a distance and concluding that the lights are all purple).

Think about it - how could your eyes lie to you? They would have to have a mind of their own, or work by way of a magic hidden function that is not understandable. How would such an unreliable faculty exist, let alone evolve in creatures that depend entirely on it for survival?

They don't have to lie, they merely have to work imperfectly. Our sensory organs aren't magical, they are just organs, parts of our physical being. Why should they work perfectly?

2. One's life as his standard of value stems from the origin of value in the alternative of life or death. Ethics and morality answer the question "what should I do in this situation?" - but toward what goal? If you choose to live, the goal must be rooted in the fundamental alternative of life or death for the question to have any meaning.

I fail to see why the origin is so important. Why can't a rational agent hold something to be of higher value than it's own existence?

3. You reject free will? By what process? Do you believe free will - choice - is an illusion?

Yes.

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CJM

Why is it immoral to hold something else of higher value than your own life? Your childs life, your liberty, a teapot?

You seem to keep coming back to this question.

You quoted Rand who said that if someone else was a high enough value where you felt you could not live without him/her, than it is not a sacrifice to risk or compromise your own life.

Your context is very different; and as such, holding something or someone (with few exceptions) of higher value will inevitably lead to self-sacrifice.

Life requires that one possess a defined hierarchy of rational values. Without such a hierarchy, neither rational conduct nor moral choices are possible. Putting something else ahead of self is not rational hierarchy; it is sacrificing - putting a lesser value over a greater value.

Edited by TLD

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They don't have to lie, they merely have to work imperfectly. Our sensory organs aren't magical, they are just organs, parts of our physical being. Why should they work perfectly?

How do they not work perfectly? Do they not function according to the laws of physics?

Again, we may make poor conclusions from our senses, but the senses themselves work perfectly within the context of the information they are capable of providing. My senses can't tell me the future, or show me infinite detail, or anything else that is physically impossible. That does not mean they don't work perfectly - they do within the constraints set by reality.

I fail to see why the origin is so important.

How else do you define "value" without the definition being arbitrary?

Yes [choice is an illusion].

What is an illusion? Who is being deceived? How are they being deceived? For you to say that something is an illusion, and that I am being deceived by that illusion, you must accept that I am capable of integrating knowledge and forming judgments and conclusions. In other words, for me to be deceived by something requires that I make the wrong judgment about it - to come to the wrong conclusion. By asserting that I am making judgments, that I am making conclusions, you must assume that I truly am choosing.

So, by saying "choice is an illusion", you are saying that I incorrectly judge that I can make judgments - contradicting yourself.

Edited by brian0918

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Yes, this is my problem. If what our senses tell us about reality IS objective reality, then our senses must work perfectly. We must be physiologically incapable of error in sense perception. Logically this seems ridiculous.

I don't "know". It seems a logical supposition that peoples senses do not work with perfection, that what we percieve is subjective. My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons. Imperfect in relation to objective knowledge.

Working very well is not the same as working perfectly. What I mean by act imperfectly is that, if our senses are to give us objective knowledge about the world, e.g. I am perceiving my laptop screen as it is, in objective reality, then they must act perfectly and be infallible. If they act imperfectly, the knowledge is subjective. I am under the impression that Ayn Rand holds that we gain objective knowledge about the universe through sense perception, correct?

I did not say they were unreliable.

So Rand does not hold that we can gain objective knowledge about reality through sense perception?

They don't have to lie, they merely have to work imperfectly. Our sensory organs aren't magical, they are just organs, parts of our physical being. Why should they work perfectly?

AR is not making a distinction between knowledge and objective knowledge. It is to distinguish her view from that of others. It use regarding concepts is more important, not percepts.

Again, you are not specifying what you mean by “perfectly”. The potential problem that perception could offer is if it worked inconsistently. If it were, you go to a doctor and he finds out the problem and he fixes it if he can. Most examples of “imperfections” of perception turn out to be examples of its functioning consistently with reality, e.g., light bending in water.

When I said, “working very well”, I meant that my senses were working as they should, connecting me with reality, and thus working “perfectly” within the context of their nature. Even more, if they are reliable, they are appropriate to provide the bases for knowledge. Whatever this idea of perfection is that you have, you need to work it out clearly to yourself. I think that you will find that it has some Platonic elements that are not appropriate to living beings in the real world.

It seems a logical supposition that peoples senses do not work with perfection, that what we percieve is subjective. My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons. Imperfect in relation to objective knowledge.

Logical suppositions are not valid arguments. Any argument must be grounded in reality. To merely pop something out of your head is not the same as truth. It could be, but until you connect it to reality you cannot consider the idea to have any reality. This set of connections, perfection, perception, and subjective, actually do not connect. Senses either connect you to reality or they do not, perfection is not an issue. Subjective means there is no essential connection to reality. I say essential because, just like many good lies, there may be a little truth in a person’s subjective world.

Again, clear thinking and more examples will get us further.

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You seem to keep coming back to this question.

You quoted Rand who said that if someone else was a high enough value where you felt you could not live without him/her, than it is not a sacrifice to risk or compromise your own life.

Your context is very different; and as such, holding something or someone (with few exceptions) of higher value will inevitably lead to self-sacrifice.

Life requires that one possess a defined hierarchy of rational values. Without such a hierarchy, neither rational conduct nor moral choices are possible. Putting something else ahead of self is not rational hierarchy; it is sacrificing - putting a lesser value over a greater value.

But if life is to be held as the ultimate value, as Rand(I believe, if I am wrong please let me know) holds that it is, nothing else can be held to the same level or higher of value. Thats a contradiction in terms.

or show me infinite detail

Hence they do not work perfectly, perfect example. We do not see "the whole picture" even looking at the simplest things. The "whole picture" exists in objective reality.

How else do you define "value" without it being arbitrary?

This isn't about how they are defined, this is about hierarchy of values.

By asserting that I am making judgments, that I am making conclusions, you must assume that I truly am choosing.

So, by saying "choice is an illusion", you are saying that I incorrectly judge that I can make judgments - contradicting yourself.

Not at all. This has a large amount to do with how "free will" and "choice" are defined.

I would rather not turn this into a free will debate as focus on the problem of volition as a casual agent in objectivism, but if you wish to I will.

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AR is not making a distinction between knowledge and objective knowledge. It is to distinguish her view from that of others. It use regarding concepts is more important, not percepts.

Again, you are not specifying what you mean by “perfectly”. The potential problem that perception could offer is if it worked inconsistently. If it were, you go to a doctor and he finds out the problem and he fixes it if he can. Most examples of “imperfections” of perception turn out to be examples of its functioning consistently with reality, e.g., light bending in water.

When I said, “working very well”, I meant that my senses were working as they should, connecting me with reality, and thus working “perfectly” within the context of their nature. Even more, if they are reliable, they are appropriate to provide the bases for knowledge. Whatever this idea of perfection is that you have, you need to work it out clearly to yourself. I think that you will find that it has some Platonic elements that are not appropriate to living beings in the real world.

Logical suppositions are not valid arguments. Any argument must be grounded in reality. To merely pop something out of your head is not the same as truth. It could be, but until you connect it to reality you cannot consider the idea to have any reality. This set of connections, perfection, perception, and subjective, actually do not connect. Senses either connect you to reality or they do not, perfection is not an issue. Subjective means there is no essential connection to reality. I say essential because, just like many good lies, there may be a little truth in a person’s subjective world.

Again, clear thinking and more examples will get us further.

Above is an example for you. Our sensory organs cannot perceive the whole of what we focus on.

Our eyes cannot see things if they are too far away. They cannot perceive objects in reality if the lighting is wrong.

If we are to gain objective knowledge, true objective knowledge, through our senses they would have to work perfectly in perceiving reality. They do not, they are limited physically.

Working "in their nature" means nothing in terms of gaining objective knowledge through our senses.

How do they either connect us to reality or not? Either they work perfectly or not at all?

As for perfectly, I am using it to say that we are perceiving, without fault(hence perfection) objective reality, as it is. Sorry if that was unclear.

Edited by CJM

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Yes. [freewill is an illusion]

An illusion is a term that only has meaning in comparison with something, in this case, reality. If you know reality, then something can be an illusion. It is known to be an illusion because of the comparison to reality. If you don’t know reality, then you can’t know it’s an illusion.

At root, CJM, you are just making this up. There is no connection that you can make to reality to support it. In your first post, you said that it violated cause and effect. At this point, you need to review your concept of cause.

Many thinkers and scientists view causality as a set of laws and treat them as if they are some sort of Platonic existents. In Objectivism, laws are conceptual. They are creations of man based upon his sense experiences. To know that they are true, man must be able to retrace them back to reality.

The only existents are things. They act according to their nature, their characteristics. The characteristics of an entity react with other entities, and we can learn to distinguish one thing from another. If we attempt to ignore a characteristic because we decide in advance that the characteristic does not exist, we automatically fail to have valid concepts, valid laws, valid understanding of the world.

By declaring that man cannot have free will, because of a concept of cause, brought over form the irrational world of Kant and Hume, you are closing off the very thing that you need to clearly deal with the world. You have then had to force yourself to think that the actions of your mind are in fact an illusion. Use your freewill and think about that.

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CJM

But if life is to be held as the ultimate value, as Rand (I believe, if I am wrong please let me know) holds that it is, nothing else can be held to the same level or higher value. Thats a contradiction in terms.

Where is the contradiction? It's about hierarchy - as everyone has noted. There can only be 1 #1.

Does that cause a concern to you?

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An illusion is a term that only has meaning in comparison with something, in this case, reality. If you know reality, then something can be an illusion. It is known to be an illusion because of the comparison to reality. If you don’t know reality, then you can’t know it’s an illusion.

At root, CJM, you are just making this up. There is no connection that you can make to reality to support it. In your first post, you said that it violated cause and effect. At this point, you need to review your concept of cause.

Many thinkers and scientists view causality as a set of laws and treat them as if they are some sort of Platonic existents. In Objectivism, laws are conceptual. They are creations of man based upon his sense experiences. To know that they are true, man must be able to retrace them back to reality.

The only existents are things. They act according to their nature, their characteristics. The characteristics of an entity react with other entities, and we can learn to distinguish one thing from another. If we attempt to ignore a characteristic because we decide in advance that the characteristic does not exist, we automatically fail to have valid concepts, valid laws, valid understanding of the world.

By declaring that man cannot have free will, because of a concept of cause, brought over form the irrational world of Kant and Hume, you are closing off the very thing that you need to clearly deal with the world. You have then had to force yourself to think that the actions of your mind are in fact an illusion. Use your freewill and think about that.

This has nothing to do with Kant and Hume.

The defense of free will in objectivism, from my reading is that volition is causation. Where does this volition come from, eh? Is it subject to causality? If it is then seemingly it is not free. Is it a causa sui? That is a ridiculous concept antithetical to reason.

You have made no true defense of free will, or denial of determinism (or Kantian/whatever other generalization you wish to lump me in with).

I know there can be only one, and no this is no problem to me. Lets go through this step by step.

Rand holds that ones own life should be their highest value. Correct?

Edited by CJM

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Above is an example for you. Our sensory organs cannot perceive the whole of what we focus on.

Our eyes cannot see things if they are too far away. They cannot perceive objects in reality if the lighting is wrong.

If we are to gain objective knowledge, true objective knowledge, through our senses they would have to work perfectly in perceiving reality. They do not, they are limited physically.

Working "in their nature" means nothing in terms of gaining objective knowledge through our senses.

How do they either connect us to reality or not? Either they work perfectly or not at all?

As for perfectly, I am using it to say that we are perceiving, without fault(hence perfection) objective reality, as it is. Sorry if that was unclear.

Throw out your use of "objective reality". There is only reality.

There is no possible way for any sensory organ to provide "the whole picture". The very idea that you could see quarks and distance galaxies with the same apparatus at the same time is just silly. It is silly to think that you would want a scientific apparatus to do that. Yet, CJM, that you know that there are sub-atomic particles and distant galaxies is because of your senses. All you referred to is known by way of our senses. If they were "imperfect" we couldn't know anything. But we have learned about the "big picture" because of our senses. You are going in circles. Your reasoning is circular. Further, you are using the stolen concept in this argument. You know what we are saying by using your senses. If they were imperfect, you couldn't. You would have no knowledge at all.

And finally, as the example you cited demonstrated, we perceiving the world, reality, without fault. So our perceptions are, in fact, perfect.

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This has nothing to do with Kant and Hume.

The defense of free will in objectivism, from my reading is that volition is causation. Where does this volition come from, eh? Is it subject to causality? If it is then seemingly it is not free. Is it a causa sui? That is a ridiculous concept antithetical to reason.

You have made no true defense of free will, or denial of determinism (or Kantian/whatever other generalization you wish to lump me in with).

For now we will ignore Kant and Hume, but you are their intellectual offspring.

Okay, what is causation? Where does any causal source come from?

AR held that the source is the nature of a thing, its characteristics.

Where are you saying any causation comes from?

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Throw out your use of "objective reality". There is only reality.

There is no possible way for any sensory organ to provide "the whole picture". The very idea that you could see quarks and distance galaxies with the same apparatus at the same time is just silly. It is silly to think that you would want a scientific apparatus to do that. Yet, CJM, that you know that there are sub-atomic particles and distant galaxies is because of your senses. All you referred to is known by way of our senses. If they were "imperfect" we couldn't know anything. But we have learned about the "big picture" because of our senses. You are going in circles. Your reasoning is circular. Further, you are using the stolen concept in this argument. You know what we are saying by using your senses. If they were imperfect, you couldn't. You would have no knowledge at all.

That simply isn't true. My senses being imperfect does not imply that I could gain no knowledge whatsoever. I could however, only gain subjective or imperfect knowledge, and only approximations of objective reality(however accurate they may be).

And finally, as the example you cited demonstrated, we perceiving the world, reality, without fault. So our perceptions are, in fact, perfect.

Oh really, how does my example illustrate that now?

Not perceiving the whole picture(as you agree) is a fault. We are ignorant of detail. Deatails are left out(as you agreed). If this is the case(as you agreed), how is our knowledge perfect and objective?

Okay, what is causation? Where does any causal source come from?

AR held that the source is the nature of a thing, its characteristics.

Where are you saying any causation comes from?

I have no idea where causatio comes from originally. God, the devil, Russells teapot. That's akin to asking how the world started.

Causation is merely cause and effect. Nothing is an unmoved mover(except obviously, the unmoved mover, whatever that may be.)

Edited by CJM

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Etymologically: Here I have misunderstood? It was my understanding that it was not just knowledge, but objective knowledge that our senses could percieve.

Our sensory organs are infallible in the sense that they merely "collect" data from an objective reality. However, depending on whether or not we properly integrate this data will determine whether our knowledge has any errors or not.

I don't "know". It seems a logical supposition that peoples senses do not work with perfection, that what we percieve is subjective. My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons. Imperfect in relation to objective knowledge.

A statement of the form "My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons" is a claim to objective knowledge. The mere fact that you can state propositions implies that you already hold that reality and reason are absolute.

The phrase "logical supposition" is a contradiction. Logic is an art of non-contradictory identification. There are no "suppositions" while using logic.

But this is an ethical question. Why is it immoral to hold something else of higher value than your own life? Your childs life, your liberty, a teapot?

Ethics is a branch of philosophy and is based on its two primary branches - metaphysics and epistemology. As to your question of "why is it immoral ...", please read my post again. In my previous post, I explained to you that since, metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon which is an end in itself, ethically, it follows that a rational man must holds life as his standard of value.

What I mean by act imperfectly is that, if our senses are to give us objective knowledge about the world, e.g. I am perceiving my laptop screen as it is, in objective reality, then they must act perfectly and be infallible.

Sorry, that does not make any sense to me. Could you please explain what do you mean by "imperfectly" in your statement "[w]hat we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly".

Uh, what? Why would someone who held something other than their own life move towards self destruction?

If you hold something above your own life, it would imply that you are willing to sacrifice a higher value for a lesser value. Since it is life which is the standard of value, any such sacrifice implies acting against your life i.e. towards self-destruction.

Ayn Rand would seem to disagree.

No she wouldn't. Observe that in the quote you provided, she says "t is not self-sacrifice to die protecting that which you value". This is consistent with her idea that man's life qua man (not as a tortured soul) is the standard of value. If a value is so great to you that your life without it (or without attempting to save it) would be rotting in hell, it would be a sacrifice to live without it.

I did not say they were unreliable.

Then else do you mean by "imperfectly"?

So Rand does not hold that we can gain objective knowledge about reality through sense perception?

Sense perception is different than forming higher level concepts. When you perceive a table, it's concept is so automatized in your mind (from childhood) and so substantially verified, that you perceive it infallibly. However, when a young man tries to understand, say "whether health care is a right", it entails a complex integration of his knowledge. Since integration is an act of thinking, one can make mistakes about it. (these mistakes could either be honest or be an act of evasion.)

Our sensory organs aren't magical, they are just organs, parts of our physical being. Why should they work perfectly?

Precisely because they are "parts of our physical being". I think you need to precisely define "imperfect".

Yes.

I understand your confusion here of why you consider it to be an "illusion". All I will ask you is one question, is it possible for you to choose your values? And if your answer is yes, then all you have to do is integrate this knowledge with the fact that actions of our body do not violate causality.

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Hence they do not work perfectly, perfect example. We do not see "the whole picture" even looking at the simplest things. The "whole picture" exists in objective reality.

You've not refuted anything I've said. The fact that the eyes don't give us infinite detail does not imply they don't work correctly. Nothing in reality can provide infinite detail - it's a contradiction.

Not at all. This has a large amount to do with how "free will" and "choice" are defined.

You have not addressed my statement. Do you or do you not believe that choice is an illusion? If you do, please explain what you mean by an "illusion", and how it is different from making an incorrect judgment.

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Our eyes cannot see things if they are too far away.

They work exactly as reality demands they do. I have a finite number of light receptors in my eyes, and there are a finite number of photons emitted from any given object. You're demanding infinity of reality - a contradiction.

Edited by brian0918

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On Objectivist Epistemology

The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

Your senses sense. Your interpretation of those sensations may or may not be accurate. Optical illusions are not a sensory malfunction. They are due to a poor interpretation of what you see.

On Objectivist Ethics

Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

Because proper ethics are based upon one's life. Any other standard of value is irrational. This is pretty clearly stated in "Virtue of Selfishness". A rational person holding someone else as a higher value than themselves is a contradiction. Such a person would not be rational.

On Objectivist Metaphysics

The problem of free will and causality. This is the biggest stumbling block for me, as one who holds no belief in free will. The arguments I have found against this problem have seemed very weak to me. Free will is held to be self evident in Objectivism, but an argument brought for it seems to be that choice and free will are not contradictory to the law of causality, but a part of it, that volition is causality. Seemingly volition is a causa sui?

I guess you're saying that if volition is causality and volition is also self-causation, then it's just circular. I don't really follow what you're saying, but I think I understood. No where is it suggested that volition is caused by or made possible by nothing. That would be mysticism. It is possible because of the structure of the brain.

Edited by Eiuol

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Our sensory organs are infallible in the sense that they merely "collect" data from an objective reality. However, depending on whether or not we properly integrate this data will determine whether our knowledge has any errors or not.

Coleecdting data from objective reality and collecting objective data about reality are two very different things.

A statement of the form "My sensory organs do not work exactly the same as another persons" is a claim to objective knowledge. The mere fact that you can state propositions implies that you already hold that reality and reason are absolute.

Lets not get carried away here, I am not changing my manner of writing to reflect the fact that I believe all knowledge to be subjective. That is unnecessary.

The phrase "logical supposition" is a contradiction. Logic is an art of non-contradictory identification. There are no "suppositions" while using logic.

Yes.

Ethics is a branch of philosophy and is based on its two primary branches - metaphysics and epistemology. As to your question of "why is it immoral ...", please read my post again. In my previous post, I explained to you that since, metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon which is an end in itself, ethically, it follows that a rational man must holds life as his standard of value.

Being a standard of value and being an ultimate value are two very different things.

Sorry, that does not make any sense to me. Could you please explain what do you mean by "imperfectly" in your statement "[w]hat we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly".

Perfectly would be perceiving objective reality as it is.

If you hold something above your own life, it would imply that you are willing to sacrifice a higher value for a lesser value. Since it is life which is the standard of value, any such sacrifice implies acting against your life i.e. towards self-destruction.

Being willing to act against does not necessitate moving towards in the way you used it.

No she wouldn't. Observe that in the quote you provided, she says "t is not self-sacrifice to die protecting that which you value". This is consistent with her idea that man's life qua man (not as a tortured soul) is the standard of value. If a value is so great to you that your life without it (or without attempting to save it) would be rotting in hell, it would be a sacrifice to live without it.

If you sacrifice your life for a value, you are holding that value as a higher value than your life. This contradicts holding your own life/existence as your highest value.

Then else do you mean by "imperfectly"?

Not perfect. My lawnmower is not perfect. It is reliable.

Sense perception is different than forming higher level concepts. When you perceive a table, it's concept is so automatized in your mind (from childhood) and so substantially verified, that you perceive it infallibly. However, when a young man tries to understand, say "whether health care is a right", it entails a complex integration of his knowledge. Since integration is an act of thinking, one can make mistakes about it. (these mistakes could either be honest or be an act of evasion.)

Whether it is different or not is irrelevant to whether we can gain objective knowledge through it.

I understand your confusion here of why you consider it to be an "illusion". All I will ask you is one question, is it possible for you to choose your values? And if your answer is yes, then all you have to do is integrate this knowledge with the fact that actions of our body do not violate causality.

There is no confusion. It may be possible for me to choose my values, or it may not, depending on how you choose to define choice.

You've not refuted anything I've said. The fact that the eyes don't give us infinite detail does not imply they don't work correctly. Nothing in reality can provide infinite detail - it's a contradiction.

Why infinite, why not absolute?

You have not addressed my statement. Do you or do you not believe that choice is an illusion? If you do, please explain what you mean by an "illusion", and how it is different from making an incorrect judgment.

I believe most peoples conception of free will to be an illusion. It is not different from making an incorrect judgment.

They work exactly as reality demands they do. I have a finite number of light receptors in my eyes, and there are a finite number of photons emitted from a given object. You're demanding infinity of reality - a contradiction.

No I am not, did you just copy what the guy above you wrote?

Absolute detail.

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Your senses sense. Your interpretation of those sensations may or may not be accurate. Optical illusions are not a sensory malfunction. They are due to a poor interpretation of what you see.

And your sense organs may not be accurate aswell? If not, why not?

Because proper ethics are based upon one's life. Any other standard of value is irrational. This is pretty clearly stated in "Virtue of Selfishness". A rational person holding someone else as a higher value than themselves is a contradiction. Such a person would not be rational.

How do you get from A to B. Something being your standard of value does not entail that it must be your ultimate value.

I guess you're saying that if volition is causality and volition is also self-causation, then it's just circular. I don't really follow what you're saying, but I think I understood. No where is it suggested that volition is caused by or made possible by nothing. That would be mysticism. It is possible because of the structure of the brain.

If volition is possible and controlled by our brain, a casually determined physical object, then how is it free?

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