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The Logical Structure of Objectivism

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Has anyone read "The Logical Structure of Objectivism" by David Kelley & William Thomas?  If so, what are your thoughts on it?  Personally, I think it is an excellent contribution to Objectivist literature.

http://www.objectivistcenter.org/objectivi...ctivism-lso.asp

Aside from any question about how qualified Dr Kelley is to represent Objectivism, I fail to grasp why he needs to draw complex diagrams to explain concepts such as rights. Besides that, it seems to be the TOC’s (stalled) attempt to make their own version of OPAR.

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Their purpose is to help people see the logical structure, but I don't think that it's successful. Those diagrams are hard to follow. More importantly some of them (and the accompanying expositions) contain significant mistakes. They either put ideas out of logical sequence or else they simply misrepresent arguments, making the reasoning more deductive and more contorted than it should be. I have in mind some of the diagrams in the chapter on Knowledge. I haven't read much of the rest of the book.

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The entire book, as GCS pointed out, has a heavily deductive feel to it. If I remember correctly, Peikoff pointed out, either in Objective Communication or Understanding Objectivism, I can’t remember which exactly, that if one’s writing is overly deductive it is a very good indication that 1) the thinking behind it is very rationalistic and, more importantly 2) the writer doesn’t understand what he is writing about. Such an observation would fit in perfectly with what Kelly has been accused of in the past, i.e. not understanding Objectivism.

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Haven't read it and probably don't plan to in the near future. I used to think it would be fun to make such a diagram, but I think focusing on the deductive structure in that way would contribute to rationalism. I can just see people memorizing the diagrams and think that they therefore understand Objectivism.

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Guest R

Why wouldn't any objectivist be interested in reading and evaluating what is supposed to be a major work on Objectivism?

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R asked "Why wouldn't proposition X be true?" without offering a positive reason for it to be true; rather, he assumed without evidence that positive proposition X was true, found it wasn't, and was shocked. To answer his question requires previously provided evidence; as such, his question cannot be properly answered except with rhetoric or someone pointing out the flaw.

Why wouldn't any great-movie fan be interested in watching and evaluating what the the director thought was a great movie?

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Guest R
Aha, so if Rosie O'Donnell writes a book she supposes is a major work on Objectivism, will it be a required lecture for Objectivists?
If Rosie O'Donnell had a Ph.D in philosophy from Princeton, had been a member of the objectivist movement during Ayn Rand's lifetime, had written and published numerous, scholarly essays and books examining, defending, and advancing the philosophy of Objectivism (including a widely used university textbook on logic), had lectured at universities such as Yale and Harvard on Objectivism, was the founder of the Ayn Rand Society, was the founder and executive director of an organization called The Objectivist Center whose explicit purpose is the promotion of Ayn Rand, her art, and her ideas in our culture, and had written a book titled "The Logical Structure of Objectivism," then, as an Objectivist, I would be interested--very interested--in reading and examining for myself a book that she supposed to be important.

The above, of course, is the bio (in brief) of Dr. David Kelly, co-author of the book in question.

R asked "Why wouldn't proposition X be true?" without offering a positive reason for it to be true; rather, he assumed without evidence that positive proposition X was true, found it wasn't, and was shocked.

Yes, I would be shocked.

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I think Y summed up the absurdity of the statement quite nicely with his restatement of the example: "Why wouldn't any great-movie fan be interested in watching and evaluating what the the director thought was a great movie?"

The director's evaluation of his own work is not the criteria for what makes a work "great", just as an author's opinion of his own writing is not the criteria for what makes a work "major".

With his question, R has attempted to engage in TWO logical fallacies. He attempts to engage in the argument from intimidation (Surely an objectivist would not ignore a major work on objectivism). And he also attempts an implicit smear in that argument (Surely, since an objectivist would not ignore a major work on objectivism, you cannot be an objectivist).

Sorry, but intimidation and smears are seen for what they are here. And so are the persons who use them.

On top of this, he now adds circular reasoning. (The author says he has produced a 'major' work, so you should read it. Why? Because it is a major work. According to what standard? The opinion of the author who wrote it, of course.)

Sorry, but just because someone makes a claim, does not mean the claim is true. Thus it does not provide a basis for action.

And finally, in response to his fallacies being pointed out, R resorts to the appeal to authority. The author has this degree, and has written alot, etc. None of these has any bearing on either the validity or 'majorness' of the work in question.

Sorry, but just because someone with degrees, etc makes a claim does not mean the claim is true. Again, such does not provide a basis for action.

That is a total of FOUR logical fallacies from R in the space of only three posts (with two of them VERY short). As such, I would say R can safely be dismissed, since his posts have no RATIONAL content.

As it stands, Kelley has demonstrated a failure to grasp major elements of Objectivism. He has written many arguments which contradict principles of Objectivism. Yet he still claims the mantle of objectivism. As such he is both wrong and dishonest. Since he has not recanted on either point, any work he produces is NOT about objectivism. As such, it cannot be considered a 'major' work on the subject, for it does not deal with the subject at all, let alone in a 'major' way.

Thus, the proper response to the question:

"Why wouldn't any objectivist be interested in reading and evaluating [The Logical Structure of Objectivism, by David Kelley,] what is supposed to be a major work on Objectivism?"

is:

The work in question is not about objectivism, is written by an individual who is both wrong and dishonest, and as such is of no rational interest to an objectivist.

'Nuff said

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Guest R
R resorts to the appeal to authority. The author has this degree, and has written alot, etc. None of these has any bearing on either the validity or 'majorness' of the work in question.
Of course not. I never suggested that. One would have to read and examine the work, and judge for oneself, in order to discover for certain whether the work was truly valid or major.

However, I did suggest that Dr. Kelly's academic record and history in the objectivist movement have a bearing on whether an objectivist should be "interested in reading and evaluating" a book that purports to be a serious discussion of the philosophy of Objectivism. Dr Kelly's record was not presented as proof that what he has to say is true, but as evidence that he is knowledgeable about philosophy and the subject of Objectivism. I for one (as an objectivist, and therefore, as someone who is always interested in the possibility of an intelligent discussion of Ayn Rand's ideas) would be very interested in reading and evalutaing a work by such an author. And, yes, I would be shocked if a person, who professes to be an objectivist, is not curious about reading for himself such a book as well.

As it stands, Kelley has demonstrated a failure to grasp major elements of Objectivism. He has written many arguments which contradict principles of Objectivism. Yet he still claims the mantle of objectivism. As such he is both wrong and dishonest. Since he has not recanted on either point, any work he produces is NOT about objectivism.

("Recanted"? That sounds silly RedCap. We are not in the Middle Ages.)

Can we assume from the above quote that RedCap has read other works by Kelly then? If so, what on earth promted him do that? If not, and he got Kelly's ideas second hand, how does he know that he has been fairly represented or put in proper context if he has not taken the trouble to read him first hand? Just think of all the works out there that unfairly represent Rand (e.g. The Ayn Rand Cult). If we were to base our judgments about Rand and her philosophy on such works, we would come to the conclusion that she was a fool. And she was no fool.

Most importantly, however, we must recognize that one need not be an objectivist or agree with (or even grasp) every aspect of Rand's ideas in order to speak intelligently about Objectivism. We may find that Kelly does in fact contradict some principles of Objectivism in certain areas. But we also may find that he has important contributions to make to Objectivism in other areas. Either way we would have to read his book and judge for ourselves in order to find out, and not simply dismiss him as RedCap would have us do. I submit that his academic record and long-time involvement in the objectivist movement should stimulate our interest, as objectivists--as people who are supposed to be interested in academic discussions and examinations of the philosophy of Objectivism--to do just that. (That is what drew us to this forum, right?) And even if we were to discover a combination of serious flaws and important contributions, the existence of the important contributions would make the book invaluable to objectivists, and we would be fools to rule out that possibility (as RedCap has done for himself).

So, to all the objectivists out there, have an independent look at Kelly's book (The Logical Structure of Objectivism), use your own mind, and judge for yourself.

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R,

I have no argument against you being interested in a book of your choosing. But why are you shocked that others might not be? Again, you expect something of others which you have no right to expect.

Neither Dr. Kelly's academic record nor his history with Objectivism, nor even his biography, is material to why one ought to read his book. What is it about the book itself? Is it, in fact, an excellent book on the subject? Or can it only boast of its author's name and credentials?

Suppose I express to you my appreciation of great movies and my deep interest in seeing those I have not yet seen or heard of. You then tell me of a movie made by a famous director who has made plenty of great movies in the past, with some major stars who have been very good in other films. I tell you I have as yet no interest in seeing it, and nothing you have said has been material in convincing me I ought to be interested. Why am I right, and why would your insistence that the artists' credentials are reason enough to see the film be nonsense in the context of what my interests are?

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"Dr Kelly's record was not presented as proof that what he has to say is true, but as evidence that he is knowledgeable about philosophy and the subject of Objectivism."

As I said, an appeal to authority. AND an inaccurate one at that, as I stated.

Next R adds the attempt to ridicule to your list of logical offenses (oh - that sounds silly).

And then R continues his attempts at smearing by questioning not the accuracy of my statements, but whether they are first or second hand.

Additionally, R sets up a straw man: "Most importantly, however, we must recognize that one need not be an objectivist or agree with (or even grasp) every aspect of Rand's ideas in order to speak intelligently about Objectivism"

No one claimed otherwise. What WAS claimed is that he does NOT grasp certain principles of objectivism. Additionally, it was stated he contradicts principles of objectivism while also claiming to BE an objectivist. Since these contradictions have been pointed out to him, yet he still persists in using the terms objectivism and objectivist to describe philosophic tenents which are in contradiction TO objectivism, he is also dishonest as well as contradictory.

Put simply, as an individual who contradicts objectivism and is dishonest about objectivism, one CANNOT glean anything about objectivism from him. As I stated (and which R studiously ignored, thus placing evasion on the list of the logical fallacies he has committed), the subject of which he dishonestly speaks is NOT objectivism.

As it stands, R continues to pile logical fallacy upon logical fallacy. Since such troll-like behavior is not tolerated, if he persists those posts WILL be deleted and he will be barred from posting further.

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Guest R
I have no argument against you being interested in a book of your choosing. But why are you shocked that others might not be?
Put it into context. The "book" is not just any book. The "book" in question is a book on Objectivism and is written by a professional philosopher who has devoted his academic career to writing and publishing scholarly works that examine, defend, and apply the philosophy of Objectivism. The "others" are not just any others. The "others" in question are objectivists, i.e., people who are supposed to be interested in the philosophy of Objectivism. It should come as a shock to anyone to learn that such "others" would not be interested in having a look at such a "book."

Neither Dr. Kelly's academic record nor his history with Objectivism, nor even his biography, is material to why one ought to read his book.

But it is most definitely material to why an objectivist ought to be at least interested in reading his book. His advanced degrees in philosophy from respected institutions and his impressive record of publishing articles in a variety of scholarly journals are evidence that a work of his is unlikely to be amateurish or unsophisticated. His history in the objectivist movement as an objectivist scholar devoted to the spread of Rand's art and ideas are evidence that a book about Objectivism written by him is likely to be informed and respectful. If an objectivist is someone who is interested in (if not passionate about) the possibility of a sophisticated, informed, and respectful examination of Objectivism, then he should be interested in having a look at a book in whose pages there is evidence that such a discussion may be found. It is that simple.

Is it, in fact, an excellent book on the subject? Or can it only boast of its author's name and credentials?

This is precisely what one cannot learn for certain without first reading and examining the book for oneself. There is evidence that it could be a decent book, and this is why an objectivist should be interested in having a look at it. But one has to actually read it in order to find out whether it is in fact a decent book. I for one, as a rational objectivist who is (by definition) always interested in new, scholary works on Objectivism, and who has taken Ayn Rand's message of independent thought and inquiry to heart, am very interested in finding out. At worst, it will be a waste of some of my time. At best, it will advance and enrich my understanding of Objectivism. But I have enough passion in Objectivism and in philosophy to make the effort to find out which one it will be.

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R,

The name of the author and any facts attached to his name are not reason enough for me or any independent-thinking individual to be interested in a book, whether "any book" or "a specific book". On top of committing many errors in thinking in arguing that it should be, you fail to address what is in fact reason enough: the book itself.

"I am interested in all things Star Wars" vs "I am interested in all things Steven Spielberg calls Star Wars".

"I am interested in all things Cake" vs "I am interested in all things My Favorite Bakery calls Cake".

"I am interested in all things Objectivism" vs "I am interested in all things Prominent Objectivists call Objectivism".

We are the former; you are shocked that we are not the latter. Your argument is, in essence, "Steven Spielberg calls it Star Wars" ... "Your Favorite Bakery calls it Cake" ... "Dr. Kelly calls it Objectivism". Although your argument might be correct, you have done nothing to address our actual interest.

Is Kelly's book good (for what it claims to be) or not? And what is your rational evidence? The answer to the first question is yes or no, and the answer to the second must be something else than the logical fallacy of appeal to authority by citing the author's record. Have you read the book and can you offer a factual/rational review to entice us?

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Guest Guest
Is Kelly's book good...or not? And what is your rational evidence? The answer to the first question is yes or no, and the answer to the second must be something else than the logical fallacy of appeal to authority by citing the author's record.

I already dealt with this. If you read my posts you will not be able to see one attempt to prove that Kelly's book is in fact good. (Whether Kelly's book is in fact good or will turn out to be a rewarding experience for objectivists is something that we cannot know for certain without first reading and examining it for ourselves.) What I did say, of course, was that there is evidence that a book by him is unlikely to be amateurish, uninformed, or disrespectful. His Ph.D in philosophy, his intimate involvemnet in the objectivist movement, and his record of writting and publishing numerous scholarly papers and full-length books examining, defending, and applying the philosophy of Objectivism (including the only comprehensive work on the objectivist theory of perception that has ever been published, and to whom he dedicated to Ayn Rand, The Evidence of the Senses) collectively constitute a good reason to suspect that a work by him on the subject of Objectivism is likely to be an interesting and knowledgeable discussion. And objectivists (at least the ones who are passionate about ideas) should always be excited at the prospect of a new work for which there is prima facie evidence that an intelligent, informed, and respectful discussion might be had in its pages.

Now, about logical fallacies and "the appeal to authority." Y_feldblum, you are failing to grasp how this fallacy works and to what kind of argument it applies. The fallacy of "the appeal to authority" applies to deductive arguments and says that from a person's credentials it does not necessarily follow that he possesses certain skills or knowledge. For example, from the fact that a person has a medical degree, we cannot deduce (viz., conclude with certainty) that he knows something about medicine. After all, it is logically possible that he somehow managed to cheat or bribe his way through school.

But the fallacy of "the appeal to authority" does not apply to inductive arguments. It does not say that a person's credentials do not constitute evidence that he possesses certain skills or knowledge. To appeal to one's "authority" not as proof but as evidence that one is likely to possess certain skills or knowledge is a perfectly rational thing to do, and we do it everyday. So although it is logically possible that a person could graduate with a medical degree from a respected institution and still not know anything about medicine, it is extremely unlikley; that is just not the kind of world we live in. Induction has shown us that those who manage to acquire a medical degree from a respected institution are very likely (if not most certainly) to know a lot about medicine. In the absence of any other powerful mitigating evidence, it would be irrational to think otherwise.

Just imagine if we were to take y_feldblum's grasp of the "appeal to authority" to heart. Everytime we step into an emergency room, hop on a city bus, walk into a lawyer's office, or give weight to expert testimony in a court of law we would be committing a logical fallacy! What irrational fools we have all been.

So I am not committing any fallacy by pointing out that Kelly's credentials and track-record are good evidence that a philosophical work on Objectivism by him is likely to be informative to objectivists, and consititute a good reason for why objectivists should at least be interested in having a closer look at it. For his credentials are good evidence of truth of the propositions that I am actually defending.

If Kelly was some bum off the street, then I could understands your hasty dismissals and complete lack of interest. But he is not. And as an objectivist, I am not going to needlessly forfeit an opportunity to have a closer look at a new work by a philosopher with the academic credentials, publishing history, and intimate association in the objectivist movement that he has. My passion for objectivism, ideas, and truth is too strong.

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Guest Guest

The fact that facts R sights about Kelley's credentials do not necessarily establish that the book is worth reading, these considerations all have to be taken in context. Those of us who are familiar with Kelley's past work and actions (including the actions of TOC) have formed opinions of him, which govern how interested in (or dismissive of) his future work we are.

For my part, I think he did some good work early in his career, but everything I've read from him in the past several years or more has been shoddy at best. He seems to have destroyed his mind, So I didn't expect much from the Logical Structure book. I looked at parts of it online and was on the whole unimpressed. I don't have any particular reason to read any more of it. The discussion on this forum of the book indicates that a number of other people here have also read all or some of it.

R's original post was a criticism of ALP's statement that she hadn't read the book and didn't plan to in the near future. Which, for all R knows, may be a perfectly rational orientation for her to have towards the book given her context. Note that she never denied that people in other situations might have reason to read the book. So, R's comment was inappropriate.

Clearly if R is so interested in the work, he should read it and should discuss it with other people who have some interest in the work, including those on this board who have been interested enough to at least look at it. But this argument that everyone who is interested in Objectivism should be interested in reading it merely b/c Kelley has certain credentials is silly. Credentials are useful evidence in assessing an expert, but they are not the whole story. If you walk into a doctor's office, see a diploma on the wall and notice that the doctor is extremely drunk, the diploma no longer gives you reason to expect quality care from the man. If a philosopher does some promising work early in his career and then spends a decade producing garbage, the early work no longer gives one reason to expect much from the new book.

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