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Dustin86

No-one Denies that "A is A". Why Is It Such a Huge Theme in Objectivism?

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Nobody, not even the most ardent communist, denies that "A is A" or denies that a thing is itself. It's a stupid little theorem that truly impacts nobody's life. Unless you are a professional academician in math or a related field, which very few people are, it does not impact your life at all. Also, Aristotle did not invent the notion that "a thing is itself". Do Objectivists seriously think that every single human being before Aristotle thought that things weren't themselves? Even the claim that Aristotle was the first person to formally formulate this (as "A is A") is extremely dubious, given that most works from that time period and earlier did not survive to the present.

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7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Nobody, not even the most ardent communist, denies that "A is A" or denies that a thing is itself.

The denial of a thing as itself subsumes the affirming of a thing as that which it is not. There are and I haven spoken with many ardent Communists who describe private property as theft, i.e. deny that a thing is itself. There are also millions of people who believe God exists, i.e. deny that a thing is itself (in this case our subject is nonexistent).

7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

It's a stupid little theorem that truly impacts nobody's life. Unless you are a professional academician in math or a related field, which very few people are, it does not impact your life at all.

The Law of Identity is necessarily called upon in every claim and is the precondition to any claim retaining a status as meaningful. A failure to grasp the axiomatic and thus ever-pervasive effects of the LOI does not make those effects disappear. While it is probably true that the LOI itself has little conscious effect on most people, the denial of the LOI scarcely has any rivals with respect to its impact on anybody and everybody's life.

7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Also, Aristotle did not invent the notion that "a thing is itself".

It has long been known that Rand attributed to Aristotle a formulation of the LOI which he never presented.

7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Do Objectivists seriously think that every single human being before Aristotle thought that things weren't themselves? 

No.

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Dustin86,

I'm certain there are others on this forum better qualified in the study of philosophy, but I will offer this: While it is likely that there were "realists" prior to Aristotle, the vast majority accepted, if not deeply believed, that an object may not necessarily exist purely by natural means, nor act entirely by its own nature. Natural acts may have had supernatural causes. Many people still believe in supernatural causes for natural events. The corollary to "A is A" is the law of causality. In Athens, circa 4th century BCE, the philosopher, Plato taught that objects we perceive are merely forms of the objects. And this is where my own understanding of Plato requires further study. Modern philosophy, largely influenced by German Idealist, Immanuel Kant, created a study of thought more appropriate for the expansion of scientific knowledge, but that the certainty of this knowledge was contingent on mass acknowledgement, that is, when enough people accept a conclusion, then it can be understood as "the truth." In both cases, the object, or body of evidence one perceives are deemed factual primarily because one believes it, rather than affirmation through indisputable evidence. "A is A" establishes the primacy of existence, Ayn Rand's basis of metaphysics, which she credits to Aristotle as the original author. Now, I may have some error or important omission in my brief description, and if that is so, I would welcome some greater measure of clarity form the more scholarly contributors.

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7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Nobody, not even the most ardent communist, denies that "A is A" or denies that a thing is itself.

If only that were true.

 

The history of philosophy is full of "great" thinkers who do not ascribe to the full implication of and what we know is a fact that: "A is A"

A number of philosphers and I'm talking about so called giants of Philosophy followed by whole philosophic movements in their wake, greatly respected and studied in mainstream academic philosophy of today, dispense with "A is A" or treat it with a superficiality that trivializes and/or eviscerates its meaning. 

Hegel, one of the giants of modern philosophy held the following:

"To the contrary, the fundamental notion of Hegel's dialectic is that things or ideas have internal contradictions. From Hegel's point of view, analysis or comprehension of a thing or idea reveals that underneath its apparently simple identity or unity is an underlying inner contradiction. This contradiction leads to the dissolution of the thing or idea in the simple form in which it presented itself and to a higher-level, more complex thing or idea that more adequately incorporates the contradiction. The triadic form that appears in many places in Hegel (e.g. being-nothingness-becoming, immediate-mediate-concrete, abstract-negative-concrete) is about this movement from inner contradiction to higher-level integration or unification."

(from Wiki entry on Hegel: under Triads https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel)

 

 

 

Take a course on philosophy and or ask a philosophy "professor" of today about the status of "A is A"... if you think it is an empty statement by virtue of its being an immeasurably obvious and uncontestable one, then good for you, you are thinking properly about reality... but be prepared for a shock... the "established" "knowledge" regarding these things may tell you otherwise.

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StrictlyLogical, you cite Hegel as someone who did not believe that things are themselves, well most people don't even know who Hegel is, and even when it comes to most educated people (outside Philosophy), they might know Hegel's name, but they know nothing about what he believed.

As for philosophy professors: I majored in math and philosophy as an undergraduate, and none of my philosophy professors throughout the four years of those studies denied that "A is A".

So really I'm still wondering why Objectivists seem to think that most if not all non-Objectivists deny that "A is A".

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18 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

So really I'm still wondering why Objectivists seem to think that most if not all non-Objectivists deny that "A is A".

They don't.

They believe that "most if not all non-Objectivists" deny that it is possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses.  And that 'A is A' is one of many important ideas that must be grasped if one is to arrive at objective knowledge.

You are correct.  Standing by itself -- A is A  -- is little more than a broad generalization.  It tells us nothing about how to grow crops, build buildings or heal the sick.

But the entirety of your post only focuses on 'A is A' - so we have nothing more to respond to.

Why don't you elaborate on your understanding of Objectivism?  How did you come to this site.  What problems/disagreements do you have with it? 

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Quote

They don't.

They believe that "most if not all non-Objectivists" deny that it is possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses.

Huh? Objectivists believe that "'most if not all non-Objectivists' deny that it is possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses."???

Huh?? During my years of philosophy study at college, I ran into only one person who was of this opinion, and he was not a professor, he was a student. And the professor, far from "welcoming" this opinion, spent an inordinate amount of time, like half the class period many times, trying to divest him of this notion.

 

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On 3/23/2016 at 8:31 AM, Dustin86 said:

Nobody, not even the most ardent communist, denies that "A is A" or denies that a thing is itself. It's a stupid little theorem that truly impacts nobody's life.

Really? Ignoring the law of identity, which is the basis for all logic, wouldn't impact your life? Now who's being stupid?

Edited by Nicky

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1 hour ago, Dustin86 said:

Huh?? During my years of philosophy study at college, I ran into only one person who was of this opinion, and he was not a professor, he was a student.

I doubt that's true. You realize that religious people, for instance, rely on faith for their knowledge, right? And that over 90% of Americans are religious?

You've never met a religious person before? During all your years at college? This was a 100% atheist college? What about when you weren't at college? You live in a 100% atheist town?

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^Nicky, that's something different. You're conflating the question of the truth or falsehood of religion with the truth or falsehood of it being "possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses", which is what New Buddha had said.

I think you and other Objectivists are perhaps confusing those who affirm the existence of things not sensible with those who deny the existence of the material world as perceived by the senses. New Buddha, whom I responded to, was talking about the second group, whereas you are talking about the first group. The first group has no shortage of people: New Agers, Hippie Indigo Children, all that crowd, whereas of the second I personally only ever knew one person, and even he did not flatly deny the existence of the material world as perceived by the senses, he only said that there was a small probability that it may not exist. Like I said, even that was enough to prompt the professor to often spend half the class period arguing with him at the expense of the proper class agenda.

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1 hour ago, Dustin86 said:

^Nicky, that's something different. You're conflating the question of the truth or falsehood of religion with the truth or falsehood of it being "possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses", which is what New Buddha had said.

I think you and other Objectivists are perhaps confusing those who affirm the existence of things not sensible with those who deny the existence of the material world as perceived by the senses. New Buddha, whom I responded to, was talking about the second group, whereas you are talking about the first group. The first group has no shortage of people: New Agers, Hippie Indigo Children, all that crowd, whereas of the second I personally only ever knew one person, and even he did not flatly deny the existence of the material world as perceived by the senses, he only said that there was a small probability that it may not exist. Like I said, even that was enough to prompt the professor to often spend half the class period arguing with him at the expense of the proper class agenda.

Dustin, those who affirm the existence of things not sensible are doing precisely what Buddha said they are doing.  They are denying that you can gain knowledge of reality SOLELY from the evidence of the senses.  And NO ONE here claims that anyone denies the material world.  That's your horrible misrepresentation of what anyone here has said.  

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Also, many people will affirm some principle intellectually in a "stand-alone" way, but also treat it as not quite absolute. Further, they will then affirm a derived principle that denies the more fundamental principle that they affirm intellectually, if presented on its own. 

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6 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

^Nicky, that's something different. You're conflating the question of the truth or falsehood of religion with the truth or falsehood of it being "possible for an individual to gain objective knowledge derived solely from the evidence of the senses", which is what New Buddha had said.

The Objectivist position is this: the evidence of our senses is the ONLY source of objective knowledge. Faith, guessing, "transcendental aesthetic", etc. are not sources of objective knowledge.

And that's what the law of identity logically implies: it's not "sometimes A is A". If we define knowledge as that which we can deduce from the evidence of our senses, then we can't also define it as something else, and equivocate between the two. That's a violation of the law of identity. With 90% of the US population (and 99% of the philosophy major population) habitually committing that logical fallacy, is it really that stupid to point it out?

As for the misunderstanding, New Buddha phrased it differently, but what he said means the same thing. You're the one who misunderstood things. And you have no one but yourself to blame...if you had bothered to inform yourself about Objectivism before coming in here with a superiority complex, you wouldn't have made that mistake.

Edited by Nicky

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7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

....those who deny the existence of the material world as perceived by the senses. New Buddha, whom I responded to, was talking about the second group....

No, I was not discussing the belief in the existence/non-existence of the material world.

This issue is: Can we gain objective (i.e. not subjective) knowledge of the world solely from evidence acquired by the senses.  This is a common theme (perhaps THE common theme) in Western philosophy for the last couple thousand years.

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Dustin, did you attend a religious college? As you report your experiences you have had an unusual or non typical encounter with skepticism of identity. A religious college of the more right leaning theistic types would explain that more Realist-anti irrationalist environment. 

As softwarenerd pointed out in different words, folks deny the LOI implicitly all the time. That is not to lessen the point that the majority of academic environments are filled with irrationalist philosophy. 

And just to correct an error being propagated here unintentionally.  Objectivism does not hold that "A is A" is grasped by the objective interaction of the form of senses and its objects alone. In fact it claims quite explicitly that to fully grasp what that means requires one to rise to the conceptual level and perform several integrations that enable one to realize that the LOI is implicit in every perception. This skill, the need for this epistemic process is precisely what enables many to affirm identity on one hand and deny it on the other. It is this fact that motivated Ms. Rand to stress the axioms as principled "reminders" that aid integration.

The objective relation of the senses is the "foundation" of objective knowledge but Objectivity requires "a process of reason based on the senses".

 

Edit: just wanted to add that I realize that your mention of college was in response to Buddha bringing up an alleged claim of Oism that did not address or relate to your question in the OP. My response is a result of integrating your comments with the actual issue you are questioning in the OP. 

Edited by Plasmatic

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On 3/23/2016 at 2:31 AM, Dustin86 said:

Nobody, not even the most ardent communist, denies that "A is A" or denies that a thing is itself. It's a stupid little theorem that truly impacts nobody's life. Unless you are a professional academician in math or a related field, which very few people are, it does not impact your life at all.

You seem to be wondering what's the big deal, it's a theorem for academics not other people, people don't deny apples are apples anyway. True, people don't usually go around saying things have no identity in terms of metaphysics, except for Zen Buddhists and some Buddhists. But Objectivism would say philosophy is for anyone, even the LOI. To know something about philosophy explicitly is better for your life than never learning it explicitly (e.g. "the unexamined life is not worth living"). You're not going to drop dead suddenly if you don't know it explicitly, the point is, it's better to know. The LOI is seen as axiomatic, and crucial to understanding the world in a full sense because it is so foundational. That's why it matters.

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What I'm really wondering is whether Objectivism is a philosophical school of thought or a political movement or both. I agree with Objectivists that government should not be a behemoth, should not eat up 40-50% or more of GDP, should not provide universal health care, should not provide a cradle to grave welfare state. What puzzles me is that Objectivists claim to arrive at these conclusions about government from things like "A is A", the Law of Causality, etc. And people like Yaron Brook, who is the head of the Ayn Rand Institute, say that it is important not just to understand Objectivist conclusions about government, but how Objectivists use Objectivist philosophy to arrive at those conclusions. That is what I truly do not understand.

I arrive at those conclusions by looking at what has happened every time socialism has been tried. The horrors of the genocides, famines, and red terrors of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The failure of so-called "democratic socialism" in places like Greece and Venezuela, where now people can't even get toilet paper. Etc.

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51 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

What I'm really wondering is whether Objectivism is a philosophical school of thought or a political movement or both. I agree with Objectivists that government should not be a behemoth, should not eat up 40-50% or more of GDP, should not provide universal health care, should not provide a cradle to grave welfare state. What puzzles me is that Objectivists claim to arrive at these conclusions about government from things like "A is A", the Law of Causality, etc.

Dustin86, you've nearly answered your own question. You've listed some of the reasons our current assumptions and ideologies are creating dangerous results. Objectivism is a new school of morality, or that is one way of looking at it. In the process of arriving at any standard of morality, one must begin with metaphysical explanations, otherwise the argument for that standard rests on a weak foundation. As a non-academic, I find the axiomatic truth of Objectivism provides all of the answers necessary for any debate over politics and morality. So far, I've not had to go up against any philosophy majors, but non-academics can always use a little philosophy in their lives as well. My hope is that Objectivism grows into a political movement.

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It might be a nitpick here, but I don't think Rand ever did attribute the discovery or invention of the LOI to Aristotle. Is there a citation of this?

In fact, Peikoff in his history of philosophy attributes the first known formulation that we have today to the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides in his saying "a thing is itself" but the phrase "law of identity" was not used until the Middle Ages.

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I think you're correct, 2046. A passage in ITOE discusses that "existence" was set by Parmenides, "identity" by Aristotle, and "consciousness" was not until Augustine.

Prof. E noted that the human race developed the axioms in the right order.

Miss Rand acknowledged that it has been said the human race follows in a general way the stages of development of an individual, adding that she shuddered to think of the time elements involved.

I think the LOI's benefactor was addressed in Peikoff's Introduction to Logic course. Aristotle's contribution was specifically the principle (or Law) of non-contradiction, and the oft misunderstood excluded middle.

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Galt's radio speech attributes "A is A" to Aristotle, inaccurately.

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9 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

What I'm really wondering is whether Objectivism is a philosophical school of thought or a political movement or both. I agree with Objectivists that government should not be a behemoth, should not eat up 40-50% or more of GDP, should not provide universal health care, should not provide a cradle to grave welfare state. What puzzles me is that Objectivists claim to arrive at these conclusions about government from things like "A is A", the Law of Causality, etc. And people like Yaron Brook, who is the head of the Ayn Rand Institute, say that it is important not just to understand Objectivist conclusions about government, but how Objectivists use Objectivist philosophy to arrive at those conclusions. That is what I truly do not understand.

I arrive at those conclusions by looking at what has happened every time socialism has been tried. The horrors of the genocides, famines, and red terrors of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The failure of so-called "democratic socialism" in places like Greece and Venezuela, where now people can't even get toilet paper. Etc.

Without any guidance, who is say there is any "wrong" in genocide, famine, and red terrors?  Those who caused such things certainly believed they were "right".  By what standard are you to say the causal agents who brought these things upon the world were wrong?  Wrong to "whom" and for "what"?

 

You could, if you are a mystic, claim that the good is defined by God or some supernatural dimension, and that to know it we need come into direct contact with the supernatural.  Because such things do not exist, any standard of "good" necessarily is a product of whim, chance, subjective states of mind of the one who has the "revelation" and walks down the mountain to tell us what is "right".  All he can actually tell us is the unsupported arbitrary edicts he happens to have rattling in his mind whose source he now attributes to another dimension.

If you are a subjectivist you could say there are no rights and wrongs, no good and bad outside the whims and feelings of men.  That men do what they do and no one can say what actually is good.  There is nothing more to the statements "Killing that man for no reason was wrong" or "Accomplishing that goal was good" than the subjective exclamation of disproval or approval by the speaker "Killing.. BOO!" and "Goals ... YAY!", and that it is simply a mistake to try to objectively validate any statement regarding "the good".

You could try to claim the good is intrinsic somehow.  That by virtue of the nature of the universe itself, its very fabric, some things have value, in and of themselves.  That "good" and "bad" is embedded in stuff, actions, relationships, like little raisins (or razor blades) baked in a muffin and all we need do is identify them in the things out there.  Again, because such a thing can logically be shown as baseless it cannot be claimed to exist, and the result is once more the subjective whim of the person who believes they somehow had "contact" with these things.

The good has been claimed to be defined by God, an emanation from a perfect world of forms, whatever you want it to be, an illusion, the unknowable, duty, the will of the collective, etc.

 

Governments arise as manifestations of explicit or implicit political culture of a society, the political culture of a society is directly derived from (whether consciously or not) the ethics of the individuals of that society, and that ethics i.e. the morality, primarily rests on what the individuals define as the good, which presupposes answers to the question "Good for whom and for what?"  This question can be "answered" using any of the invalid processes as described above or any of a great multitude of others.  These invalid ethics will lead to the genocides, famines, and red terrors you speak of.

Ethics then becomes the central key (when correct) to how you individually can validate your assessments of genocides, famines, and red terrors, and it also can be identified (when it is the wrong ethics) as the cause of those very things.  Discovering what a proper ethics (i.e. morality) IS (as it turns out) is crucial, not just for philosophical rumination, not even only for creation of a government which is "good", but for leading your very personal individual life.

Morality as Rand discovered has an objective basis in reality and your choice to live, and it in turn rests on epistemology and metaphysics.

 

In some sense ethics IS what is most important to keep in focus as it is the closest thing to consider in relation to your individual life.  To derive it and validate it and continually monitor it and live by it you go back through epistemology and metaphysics, to apply it and make a society and a proper government most consistent with it you need to derive a politics.

 

Simply looking at "what has happened" in the past without any standard or guidance is in the end fruitless.  Learning what Objectivism has to say, however, is priceless and I encourage you to read and explore!

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As a follow up to my earlier post, this Wikipedia entry supports that Aristotle did not explicitly concretize the "Law of Identity", or that "A is A"

Aristotle takes recourse to the law of identity—though he does not identify it as such—in an attempt to negatively demonstrate the law of non-contradiction. However, in doing so, he shows that the law of non-contradiction is not the more fundamental of the two[.]

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz claimed that the law of Identity, which he expresses as "Everything is what it is", is the first primitive truth of reason which is affirmative, and the law of noncontradiction, is the first negative truth, arguing that "the statement that a thing is what it is, is prior to the statement that it is not another thing". Wilhelm Wundt credits Gottfried Leibniz with the symbolic formulation, "A is A"

Attributing "A is A" to Aristotle, is certainly within the spirit of the essence of his discovery, albeit not within the letter of it.

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Sorry, but I still don't understand how "A is A" and the Law of Causality lead to what Objectivism has to say about government.

Could you please go over again specifically how "A is A" and the Law of Causality lead to what Objectivism has to say about government.

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5 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Sorry, but I still don't understand how "A is A" and the Law of Causality lead to what Objectivism has to say about government.

Could you please go over again specifically how "A is A" and the Law of Causality lead to what Objectivism has to say about government.

Here is an example of denying that A is A (force is force).  Harry Reid, in this interview, flat out says that Federal income taxes are voluntary.  Implied in this and other claims made by statists, is that the law of identity is invalid.  Needless to say, we suffer the consequences of such thinking while he collects a nice paycheck and benefits for the privilege of telling us what we know is false.   

 

 

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