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jonathanconway

Holding an idea without accepting it

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When encountering critiques of Objectivism, I've found the idea of holding an idea without accepting it both very powerful and very true to life.

The following two quotes express it for me:

"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it." - Aristotle

"At the root of every significant philosophic theory, there is a legitimate issue." - Ayn Rand

I have found this true in work for example. If I encounter difficult systems or difficult interpersonal interactions, rather than trying to escape or deny them, I have found it much more helpful to approach them and work towards understanding them. This isn't quite the same as accepting or resigning myself to them - ultimately I may seek to influence and change them. But it's more about being willing to begin with perceiving and conceptualising them in my own mind, in a way that integrates with the sum of my knowledge.

Likewise, in encountering critiques of Objectivism, I've been trying to understand any critique, and the ideas behind it, as clearly as possible. I don't see this as a fruitless exercise, but rather, understanding that there is likely to be some very real and important issue underlying the critique, I try to probe beneath the surface to uncover that issue. The resolution to that issue, if someone has discovered it, might come out of Objectivism, or it might come out of some other school of thought or area of knowledge. 

Holding a metaphysics of objective reality, I don't see any ideas as completely groundless, having just arbitrarily arisen out of some kind of 'nothingness'. Unicorns don't exist. But neither are they entirely arbitrary and groundless. Rather, they combine, in an imaginative way, elements of perception, which themselves do come out of reality (horses, horns, etc).

Edited by jonathanconway

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Your advice is good, but, despite what a lot of sources say, the quote doesn't come from Aristotle. It originated in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Crack-Up: "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."

Aristotle says that a good intellect will not require more or less rigor than a topic allows. Nichomachean Ethics I 1 1094b23: "The mark of the educated man is to seek precision insofar as each class allows it, so far as the nature of the subject-matter admits. To accept probable argumentation from a mathematician is like asking a rhetorician for formal proof." I.e. the two are equally absurd.

Philosophers other than Rand observe what they call the principle of charity: when in doubt about how to read a text, prefer the interpretation that makes it come out correct.

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There's a similar idea in Locke's Essay XX.5

Those who want skill to use those evidences they have of probabilities; who cannot carry a train of consequences in their heads; nor weigh exactly the preponderancy of contrary proofs and testimonies, making every circumstance its due allowance; may be easily misled to assent to positions that are not probable. 

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16 hours ago, 2046 said:

There's a similar idea in Locke's Essay XX.5

Those who want skill to use those evidences they have of probabilities; who cannot carry a train of consequences in their heads; nor weigh exactly the preponderancy of contrary proofs and testimonies, making every circumstance its due allowance; may be easily misled to assent to positions that are not probable. 

Yes, Book IV, Chapter XX.5

http://enlightenment.supersaturated.com/johnlocke/longcontents.html

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