Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
F23AC

Nothing left to do in Philosophy?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

This is an issue that has been on my mind recently. Objectivism is a philosophical system that covers every area of philosophy (excpting perhaps the philosophy of law, I dont know of any objectivist theory in the philosophy of law, but Im sure some of objectivism's wider principles entail certain answers in phil. law). As an objectivist, you believe that Objectivism is 100%TRUE. That being said, it seems that if you are an objectivist then you must believe that every philosophical question has been answered. If this is the case, why would any objectivist want to become a professional philosopher? I suppose he might find joy in teaching philosophy or might take a selfish interest in improving the minds of others. But he cannot actually believe that there are new grounds to break in philosophy, as an objectivist.

I was reading over the Brook/Ghate chat, and something Ghate said stuck out to me.

<Dr_Ghate> "Before commenting on Dr. Peikoff's course and book, let me just say that my view is this: what is needed to change the culture is not new innovations in philosophy. What is needed is to make Ayn Rand's philosophy known to rational minds."

I think this implies that he also takes the view that the reason innovations in philosophy are not needed is because there simply are no more innovations to be made. Since Ayn Rand has developed the true philosophy, all we need to change culture is to introduce rational minds to her ideas.

Any thoughts?

AC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No, I don't think that's true at all. Objectivism is a specific set of principles, but it's not an exhaustive set of principles. There are plenty of questions left to be answered... though I do think Rand hit all or nearly all of the fundamentals.

It's funny, actually. When I first discovered Rand, I read through the novels, and then I flew through all the non-fiction I could get my hands on. I had been interested in philosophy for years, and there was actually a part of me that was a little pissed off (though most of me was ecstatic) -- I thought Rand had ruined philosophy for me by being right. :P The more I learn, though, the more I find that there's a lot left to be done.

I think Ghate's comment just referred to the fact that the work Rand has done is sufficient to revolutionize the culture, if only people knew of it. I wouldn't take it to mean that he thinks nobody could discover new philosophical truths.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ayn Rand didn't even claim to name all the AXIOMS of philosophy, let alone all the principles.

Dr. Peikoff claims to have discovered some new axioms: the axioms of induction, an area which Ayn Rand addressed only very generally. I didn't yet hear his lecture on the subject, but in itself it doesn't contradict him being an Objectivist...

Many philosophical discoveries depend on further research on the human brain, psychology, physics.

I think being an Objectivist means being consistent with Ayn Rand's philosophy - but not limit yourself only to what has already been said.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just to clarify: LP's axioms of induction aren't basic axioms of philosophy like existence, identity, and consciousness. (They aren't even axioms of metaphysics like volition, entity, etc.) Think of them more like the axioms of geometry. They aren't first principles in general, but they are first principles for some more particular endeavor.

And of course, as has been stated, there's more to do in philosophy. I assume that Dr. Ghate's point was the reason that Objectivism isn't accepted isn't because the philosophy needs to be developed more, and then people will be convinced.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

New developments in Objectivism are great, but notice that when they have happened in the past, they are influential only within the small group of Objectivist intellectuals. Nobody can be influenced by applications of Objectivism until they are first influenced by what they are applications of.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems to be the case that Objectivists are commonly defined (by those who do not understand what Objectivism is) as having a dogmatic belief system taken on faith without the examination of Rand's ideas; without checking the premises of her philosophy. I'm sure Rand would be appalled at any kind of "cult" following of this nature. What these accusers are missing is the contradiction in their allegation, that an Objectivist cannot exist without using the ideas of Objectivism as a premise (i.e. not checking premises at all = contradiction).

The idea that philosophy has -ended- with Objectivism is one I simply can't subscribe to, although I believe Miss Rand has touched on issues with more clarity, depth, and truth that Man has had since Aristotle. At the same time, I believe that Objectivism is Miss Rand's philosophy and that any new discoveries and additions, while influenced by her ideas, are not a part of that philosophy but something seperate. (i.e. Peikoffs discoveries on induction) Therefore it would be a fallacy to assume that being an Objectivist means believing that all philosophical questions have been answered, since discoveries are still being made after her death.

I believe that being a human being of rational mind means believing that Man is capable of answering all these questions, and I believe in all of Rand's books this idea was stressed as central - that Man is capable of knowing the his own highest virtue and grasping it fully with his hands and mind.

Philosophy is Man's attempt to seek, actualize and communicate these ideas with others so not only do I believe that we have not reached the end of philosophy - but I do believe an end of that nature would be the end of rational thought.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As everyone else here has already said, there is still a lot of work to be done in philosophy. I think Dr. Ghate's comment should be taken in precisely the context that he specified for it: that of changing the culture. He didn't say that no new innovations are possible in philosophy--only that such innovations are not what's needed to changed the culture. Further, since I think Ayn Rand identified almost all of the basic principles, I think one could say that Objectivism is basically all the philosophy that the layman needs. What remains to be done in philosophy (much of which will be technicalities or minutiae compared to what had already been done by Aristotle and Rand) will be plenty to occupy professional philosophers, but will not be of that much direct interest to anyone else. The one major exception to this that I can think of is the problem of induction.

Let me ask all of you this: Do you think it would be correct to say that Objectivism exhausts metaphysics, and perhaps to a lesser extent ethics and politics (I think most of what remains to be done in those fields is just polemical), and that most of the philosophical work left to be done is in epistemology and esthetics? It seems to me that those are the two branches in which Ayn Rand explicitly left the most unanswered, although even there she did provide the fundamentals.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Do you think it would be correct to say that Objectivism exhausts metaphysics, and perhaps to a lesser extent ethics and politics (I think most of what remains to be done in those fields is just polemical), and that most of the philosophical work left to be done is in epistemology and esthetics?

I think that there is a lot of work to be done in ethics -- by everyone.

If there ever was a applied science, it is ethics. In the few pages of Ayn Rand's essay "The Objectivist Ethics" she spells out the origin of "value," the proper standard of value, man's need of morality, and the necessary virtues. Everything else she ever wrote on the subject -- including all her novels -- is an application of ethics.

For any of us, studying the technical applications of esthetics or politics is optional. Not so ethics. We have to make specific, concrete choices every second of our waking lives and every choice is an application of ethics in some form.

There will always be work for moralists.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
As everyone else here has already said, there is still a lot of work to be done in philosophy.  I think Dr. Ghate's comment should be taken in precisely the context that he specified for it: that of changing the culture.  He didn't say that no new innovations are possible in philosophy--only that such innovations are not what's needed to changed the culture.  Further, since I think Ayn Rand identified almost all of the basic principles, I think one could say that Objectivism is basically all the philosophy that the layman needs.  What remains to be done in philosophy (much of which will be technicalities or minutiae compared to what had already been done by Aristotle and Rand) will be plenty to occupy professional philosophers, but will not be of that much direct interest to anyone else.  The one major exception to this that I can think of is the problem of induction.

Let me ask all of you this: Do you think it would be correct to say that Objectivism exhausts metaphysics, and perhaps to a lesser extent ethics and politics (I think most of what remains to be done in those fields is just polemical), and that most of the philosophical work left to be done is in epistemology and esthetics?  It seems to me that those are the two branches in which Ayn Rand explicitly left the most unanswered, although even there she did provide the fundamentals.

Do you think it would be correct to say that Objectivism exhausts metaphysics, and perhaps to a lesser extent ethics and politics (I think most of what remains to be done in those fields is just polemical), and that most of the philosophical work left to be done is in epistemology and esthetics?

The best answer to this question is another question: what are the unanswered questions in each branch?

Another question to ask: Can we rule out the possibility of asking new questions in the future?

The answer to the latter is a firm "no", which is why I don't think philosophy (or any theoretical field) could be described as "closed" or "exhausted" -- meaning there are no new discoveries to be made. Until men are omniscient, nobody can claim to know everything, which is what would be required to say that there are no more questions to ask.

Periodically in the history of physics, the consensus was that the field was ending, and that all remained was wrapping up loose ends. This was the case at the end of the 19th century. Then along comes this patent clerk to spoil things with talk of things like "relativity."

There are popular physics books today with names like "The End of Physics" proclaiming the same thing. So maybe the day is approaching when someone will sweep aside the status quo and push forward the field once again. Maybe it will be a big new theory, maybe a new Little theory.

If it can happen in physics, I don't see a reason why it can't happen in philosophy. Some day, when John Galt is re-elected to the White House, some young thinker may come along with questions that haven't been asked before.

By the way, isn't it interesting that when people first dig into Objectivism and find that Ayn Rand answered so many of the long-standing "big issues" in philosophy, they often ask this question? It is a hasty generalization to go from correctly answering many to correctly answering all questions -- and not just known questions, but all conceivable ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
...There will always be work for moralists.

Yes, that's true. I should have specified theoretical ethics, and added applied along with polemical to what can still be done in that field. But with those modifications made, what about the rest of my question?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ed, while I partially agree with what I take to be the spirit of your post, there are a few specific points with which I strongly disagree.

Another question to ask:  Can we rule out the possibility of asking new questions in the future?

The answer...is a firm "no", which is why I don't think philosophy (or any theoretical field) could be described as "closed" or "exhausted" -- meaning there are no new discoveries to be made.  Until men are omniscient, nobody can claim to know everything, which is what would be required to say that there are no more questions to ask.

I think this is wrong. There are some delimited fields or areas of knowledge about which we can say with more or less certainty that they are closed--everything there is to know about them has already been discovered--such as, for example, arithmetic. I think at least some areas of philosophy, particularly metaphysics, are strictly delimited in this way and we can in fact say with certainty that there is nothing left to add. This in no way implies or requires omniscience, any more than the idea of certainty itself about any point of knowledge requires omniscience (contrary to the skeptical claims). (I also object to your use of the phrase "Until mean are omniscient...," but I will assume that you didn't mean that men might actually someday become omniscient. :) )

I don't think your examples from physics are relevant, because that is a very broad field which we have no reason at this point to think we have discovered everything about. Notice that it is disanalogous from metaphysics in those ways.

By the way, isn't it interesting that when people first dig into Objectivism and find that Ayn Rand answered so many of the long-standing "big issues" in philosophy, they often ask this question?  It is a hasty generalization to go from correctly answering many to correctly answering all questions -- and not just known questions, but all conceivable ones.

Let me assure you, I have been studying Objectivism for quite some time, and though I am still open to arguments on this issue, I do not think my tentative position here is in any way a "hasty generalization."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think this is wrong.  There are some delimited fields or areas of knowledge about which we can say with more or less certainty that they are closed--everything there is to know about them has already been discovered--such as, for example, arithmetic.

I think you really have to be careful here. One of the hallmarks of genius is to think out of the box, not being constrained by how others before have delimited their thinking. I am sure some thought that everything about arithmetic was known, just before complex numbers were discovered. Operations with complex numbers are not the same as with classical arithmetic, and the use of complex numbers in mathematics opened up whole new areas of mathematical investigation. Not to mention the application of complex numbers to physics, where entire disciplines owe their existence to the complex domain.

The expansion and generalization continues to this day, in ever more complicated forms. A paper just last month by A. Beckmann in Annals of Pure and Applied Math, titled "Preservation theorems and restricted consistency statements in bounded arithmetic" proclaimed a new restricted consistency notion for bounded ariithmetic theories.

I do not think Ed's caution can be so easily dismissed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Stephen--

You are probably right that I do need to be more careful (especially given my perhaps unwarranted assumptions about arithmetic?). But picking on that one example, even if it was bad, doesn't really address my fundamental point. To repeat:

"...I think at least some areas of philosophy, particularly metaphysics, are strictly delimited in this way and we can in fact say with certainty that there is nothing left to add. This in no way implies or requires omniscience, any more than the idea of certainty itself about any point of knowledge requires omniscience..."

Again, to cut off a potential objection, you could say that there will still be plenty of new applications of the principles of metaphysics (after all, every new piece of knowledge will be in some sense an application of metaphysics). But my point/question has to do with whether the theoretical part of it is a delimited field, about which we may be contextually certain that we know everything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
"...I think at least some areas of philosophy, particularly metaphysics, are strictly delimited in this way and we can in fact say with certainty that there is nothing left to add.

If this were the case, why is there so much argument among Objectivist intellectuals on the precise meaning of the finite unbounded universe?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ash, perhaps this might help clarify the general point.

We can attain certainty in regard to what we know. And, if indeed we have knowledge, new knowledge will not contradict what we are certain of. All knowledge is contextual. But the difficulty lies in anticipating the context of this new knowledge. I think this latter statement reflects the point which Ed made.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If this were the case, why is there so much argument among Objectivist intellectuals on the precise meaning of the finite unbounded universe?

Wouldn't this fall more in cosmology than metaphysics?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's a metaphysical problem arising from seeming incompatibilities between axioms and their corolaries. If existence is everything, then there is nothing outside of existence. But if existence is finite, then it cannot go on forever. It doesn't seem to make sense to posit a "boundary" to existence, since nothing could be "outside" of it. But it also doesn't seem to make sense to say that it goes on forever, since that would be positing an infinity.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wouldn't this fall more in cosmology than metaphysics?

Cosmology, as a science, deals with the large-scale structure of the universe in terms of specific attributes of the entities involved. Metaphysics, as a part of philosophy, deals with the nature of existence as such, and does not rely on any specialized scientific knowledge. What the terms "finite" and "unbounded" mean, as applied to the universe as such, is primarily a metaphysical issue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...