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William O

Do Objectivists see self evidence differently from academic philosophers?

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William, I’m not sure Audi sticks to that list of conditions in all his works, and anyway, the list circumscribes a more narrow concept than the usual. In his The Architecture of Reason, he allows that certain moral principles could be self-evident or at least, more weakly, a priori. Right principles present to us in this way would seem to be at least about the perceptual level and, frankly, in the thick of it. That goes as counter only to his item 2 on the list.

The usual definition of the self-evident is the manifestly true requiring no proof. This is still a good place for philosophers to start and not forget. I doubt one would be laughed out of the academy if one did not confine one’s philosophic uses of the term to the constraints Audi was formulating for it. 

“Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” (ITOE 5; similarly, early Heidegger).

A paragraph from my book in progress:

Sextus, Peirce, and Moritz Schlick argued against self-evidence of our cognitive bases.* They erred in supposing self-evidence in cognition is spoiled by any obscure or fallible aspect and by connection of any purported self-evident cognition to other cognition. To the contrary: In one’s present perception is this text. That one perceives those marks in this read, perceptually knowing their existence and character, is self-evident. They are not only perceived as present, but as having the particular character they have. Additionally, they are not only perceived as present, but can then be reflected as self-evident. Their status as self-evident does not require they have no obscure or fallible aspect and have no connections with other cognitions, preceding, overlapping, or subsequent.

*Sextus c.200b, I, 151; Peirce 1868b, 19; Schlick 1925, §19; see also Maddy 2011, 118–37; cf. Binswanger 2014, 382.

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PS

Rand rightly held that it is incorrect to try to prove the existence of the external, perceived world.* The world’s existence is self-evident in perception. The existence of character and spatiality and action is self-evident in perception.

*Rand 1961b, 28; cf. Gilson 1937, 146–47, 152–55; Heidegger 1953, 202–7/194–200.

(1961b is For the New Intellectual, paperback.)

Edited by Boydstun

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William, this logic text by Stock in 1888 uses self-evident for the principle discussed at this linked page. It nicely mentions Aristotle’s first-figure syllogisms as those known as perfect, the self-evident ones upon which (with some other self-evident logical principles) Aristotle had argued the validity of the syllogisms of the other figures. Stock was an Oxford teacher of logic. At the beginning of the book, Stock had described the three laws of thought also as self-evident. His conception of the identity law among those three is very slender, though rightly conceived as necessary and universal. Were one to enrich the identity law along the lines of Rand’s enrichment, I think it would still pass for self-evident and indeed already encompass the principle known as nota notae discussed at the page of this link.

All the same, I don’t think nota notae would be inheriting its self-evidence from that more Randian law of identity. Self-evidence stands on each of its occasions without having had self-evidence transmitted to it from some other occasion of self-evidence. I don’t care for Audi’s grandparents-example in his point 4. There are things we prove are necessarily so, such as Lowenheim’s Theorem in logic or the Pythagorean Theorem in geometry, and that does not necessarily make those propositions self-evident, at least not in an unstrained sense of the self-evident. That is not to say that no propositions that are conclusions of a proof are not also self-evident. Some are and some are not. I can construct a proof to the conclusion “Nothing comes from nothing,” although that proposition were already self-evidently true to anyone who soundly grasped its statement.

Discussion of self-evidence of principles in logic, by Frege and by our contemporaries Tyler Burge or Penelope Maddy stays close to logic, recognizing that logic will apply to the actual world. But these proceed without (making explicit) the broad background thesis of Rand’s that “logic rests on the axiom that existence exists,” that two-word proposition being a report of a standing manifest fact, a truth known self-evidently by perception.

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Edited by Boydstun

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5 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Discussion of self-evidence of principles in logic, by Frege and by our contemporaries Tyler Burge or Penelope Maddy stays close to logic, recognizing that logic will apply to the actual world. But these proceed without (making explicit) the broad background thesis of Rand’s that “logic rests on the axiom that existence exists,” that two-word proposition being a report of a standing manifest fact, a truth known self-evidently by perception.

Boydstun,

To what extent do you think Rand accepted modern "formal logic" as having a role in Objectivism?  She is often critical of what she termed "linguistic analysts" in which I would lump Boole, Russell, Frege and Analytic Philosophy in general - along with Logical Positivism.  Your use of the term "self-evident" in the above posts seems to fall exclusively within the domain of "formal logic," while ITOE is almost exclusively about induction and arriving at generalizations.  Did she ever discuss or write about modern formal logic?

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Budd,

I’m pretty sure Rand would have been fine with that 1888 text on deduction by Stock I linked, and that is formal logic. Peirce reviewed that text shortly after its appearance, and complained it made errors on logic of relations, and complained it did not introduce the modern developments of Venn and of what Peirce termed Symbolic Logic. Self-evidence arises in the older, more limited vista of Stock, but as well in the more modern developments. Peirce would not have wanted to call it self-evidence, which he took in close proximity to intuition, which he detested. The self-evident things in logic, Peirce would have simple called facts, necessary facts. A rose by any other name. . . .

Whether Rand ever got into learning the contemporary logic, such as was presented in Irving Copi’s text Symbolic Logic (1954) or Quine’s Methods of Logic (1950), I don’t know, but I’d be surprised if she did. She’d have been familiar with material covered in the first-course texts, such as Copi’s Introduction to Logic, of course. She listened to what Leonard Peikoff had learned and concluded on modern logic, to be sure. In my notes to his 1976 lecture course The Philosophy of Objectivism, in the Q&A of Lecture 4, I jotted a reply evidently to some sort of question about modern logic: “Rand’s math/concepts antithesis of Russell <--severs both from reality // Symbolic logic rejected out of hand---arbitrary assumptions, etc.” <--For whatever indication my cryptic notes might contain. (Rand or Peikoff aside, logical relations between Rand’s conceptions of logic and Aristotle’s or Kant’s or contemporary conceptions of logic is topic for any informed intelligence, not only for the reflections of Rand or of Peikoff on those relations.)

After the root post linked below, the follow-on posts are in reverse-chron.

http://www.solopassion.com/node/6043

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PS - I notice now in this link that Fred Seddon's question to me eight years ago included not only the name Peikoff, but the name Veatch. Henry Veatch's book Intentional Logic was a text Peikoff relied on in his Ph.D. dissertation (1964). So Veatch's outlook there might be of a feather with Peikoff those decades ago concerning "symbolic logic."

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Edited by Boydstun

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Thanks for your posts in this thread, Boydstun. You have been very helpful.

A word of clarification: The points I listed in the OP were my own summary, and do not appear in that form in Audi's book.

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On 8/2/2017 at 2:25 PM, Boydstun said:

Sextus, Peirce, and Moritz Schlick argued against self-evidence of our cognitive bases.* They erred in supposing self-evidence in cognition is spoiled by any obscure or fallible aspect and by connection of any purported self-evident cognition to other cognition.

 

13 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Peirce would not have wanted to call it self-evidence, which he took in close proximity to intuition, which he detested. The self-evident things in logic, Peirce would have simple called facts, necessary facts. A rose by any other name. . . .

I view is that fallibility had no role in Peirce's position on what he called perceptual judgements but rather, he was contending with the growing role that probability theory was starting to play in science (gas laws, thermodynamics, etc.).  In my copy of his essay, The Fixation of Belief (1877), there is a very long footnote added in 1893 where he states among other things:

"Many critics have told me that I misrepresent the a priori philosophers when I represent them as adopting whatever opinion there seems to be a natural inclination to adopt." (Descartes, Leibniz, Hume and Kant are the philosophers referenced directly in the footnote)

He goes into greater detail explaining their position that something being universally true and necessarily true goes further than experience can warrant.  And he says of himself  "I may add that whatever is held to be precisely true goes further than experience can possibly warrant."

The key word here is "precisely" - and it applies to the emerging role of probability theory in science.  And, indeed, he devotes a great deal of thought to probability theory in his essays.  He contrasts his position on preciseness (in the footnote) with Kant's wrt to mathematics and geometry.  Peirce says of Kant in the footnote:

"Accepting those criteria of the origins of ideas, Kant proceeds to reason as follows:  Geometrical propositions are held to be universally true.  Hence, they are not given by experience." 

In my Dover book on Peirce, Chapter 20 is called Perceptual Judgments he ties perceptual judgments to Abduction (which is tied to probability in his works):

"Abductive inference shades into perceptual judgment without any sharp line of demarcation between them; or, in other words, our first premises, the perceptual judgments, are to be regarded as an extreme case of abductive inferences, from which they differ in being absolutely beyond criticism. [...]  On its side, the perceptive judgment is the result of a process, although of a process not sufficiently conscious to be controlled...."

The integration of probability into science in the 19th Century was not straight forward and flew in the face of "a priori" ideas.   And it even formed the basis of the mature (post-Mach) Einstein's disagreements with the QM of Bohr and Heisenberg in the early 20th Century.

I don't see that Peirce was troubled with "fallibility."  His "anti-intuitionist" stance was driven by thoughts regarding probability.

Edited by New Buddha

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I found a passage in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy that talks about self evidence in conjunction with the concept of "intuition." I quote from page 382:

Quote

intuition, a non-inferential knowledge or grasp, as of a proposition, concept, or entity, that is not based on perception, memory, or introspection; also, the capacity in virtue of which such cognition is possible. A person might know that 1+1=2 intuitively, i.e., not on the basis of inferring it from other propositions. And one might know intuitively what yellow is, i.e., might understand the concept, even though "yellow" is not definable. Or one might have intuitive awareness of God or some other entity. Certain mystics hold that there can be intuitive, or immediate, apprehension of God. Ethical intuitionists hold both that we can have intuitive knowledge of certain moral concepts that are indefinable, and that certain propositions, such as that pleasure is intrinsically good, are knowable through intuition. Self evident propositions are those that can be seen to be true once one fully understands them. It is often held that all and only self evident propositions are knowable through intuition, which is here identified with a certain kind of intellectual or rational insight. Intuitive knowledge of moral or other philosophical propositions or concepts has been compared to the intuitive knowledge of grammaticality possessed by competent users of a language. Such language users can know immediately whether certain sentences are grammatical or not without recourse to any conscious reasoning. See also A PRIORI, EPISTEMOLOGY

This suggests that there is a connection between self evidence, as academic philosophers think of it, and rationalism.

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11 hours ago, William O said:

I found a passage in The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy that talks about self evidence in conjunction with the concept of "intuition." I quote from page 382:

This suggests that there is a connection between self evidence, as academic philosophers think of it, and rationalism.

The passage you quoted defines intuition as a "non-inferential knowledge or grasp, as of a proposition, concept, or entity, that is not based on perception, memory, or introspection" then gives yellow as an example as if it were not based on perception.  It also claims that yellow is not definable but with a moments thought I can come up with "the color of ripe bananas and dandelion flowers" and can recall Rand's insistence that an ostensive definition is valid.  Academic philosophy is quite frustrating for me to deal with.

Intuition is how one gains access to a priori knowledge.  It is a secular version of divine revelation and should denounced wherever it appears.  I think the relation to rationalism is that it allows rationalists to make the rhetorical ploy of an appeal to authority without having to appeal to God.  

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