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  1. The Ayn Rand Society session for Eastern 2022 was one of many sessions that opted in late December 2021 to not assemble in person, but virtually. The date was shifted to 18 January, at 2:00 pm. The paper to be read by Prof. Lester Hunt addresses, in view of some brief remarks by Rand on film, two related, long-standing questions in film theory and criticism. Comments on the paper, as noted earlier, will be from Prof. Andrew Kania.
  2. Sorry, Mike, to be so long in getting back to responding to your question about Dewey. It turned out that Dewey’s conception(s) of truth, idea, and fact was complicated, unusual, and difficult. It was not a case of him using the term truth where you or I use fact, and it was not a case of him being inconstant in his usage of those terms, at least within a single stage of his intellectual journey. In that paragraph from my old 1999 paper on his notions of perception and conception, my quotations from him are from an 1890 published paper “The Logic of Verification”. In my next post in this thread, I want to convey his conception of ideas (and truth) and facts put forth in that paper. I want to address the arguments he makes against our view of the relation of truth to fact in that paper. I said that paper of his was published; that was in a journal. However, it was never reprinted until 1969 when it was included in Early Works, volume 3. In the 1999 paper of mine, I left citations to later works in which he reformulates his complex conception in this area. These later ones are the ones likely to have been known by Peikoff and Rand in any engagement with Dewey’s position(s) in this area up through the 1960’s, when the fundamentals of Objectivism were set out (viz. Rand’s 1957 plus her ITOE and other writings in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist). I’ll take up those formulations from Dewey as he developed the mature philosophy for which he is mainly known over in the thread I have on OPAR, where I zoomed in on relations of the conceptions truth, logic, and proof in Dewey’s philosophy and in Objectivism as set forth in Peikoff’s book. (And I’ll repeat there my next post here.) Your second question and my study these days concerning it has gotten me in good position to wrap up that thread.
  3. It was during a summer conference of David Kelley’s (1995) held at the University of Wisconsin at Madison that I found in the stacks of the main library Gertrude Kapteyn’s 1898 translation of A Sketch of Morality Independent of Obligation or Sanction. That translation is of the second edition of Sketch, which was prepared in 1890 (after death of Guyau) by Guyau’s father-in-law, who was also a philosopher and whose name is Alfred Fouillée. All of the first edition is in the second. In 1996 I had met Walter (shown in the attached photo), and when we travelled to Paris that year for honeymoon, I went into Librairie J. Vrin near the Sorbonne, and there I was able to purchase for a memento a reissue of Esquisse (Sketch). That was the 1890 version. The first writing I did about Guyau was comparison of his 1885 ideas to Nietzsche’s. The Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago had the first edition (1885). That was important because I needed to go through both of the French editions together to figure out which parts of Kapteyn’s translation had been in the first edition of Esquisse. That is, Nietzsche saw only the first edition, and it was to that that any of his nachlass (also at Regenstein) pertained to Guyau and from that that any shadow of Guyau might show in Nietzsche from 1885 to the finish of his mind in 1889. All of the material from Guyau in my post above in this thread, for comparison with Rand’s thought, are from Guyau 1885, that is, they are assuredly from Guyau without additions or slants from Fouillée. Here are a couple of my earlier posts comparing Nietzsche and Guyau: 1 2
  4. Thanks, Mike. I think your first paragraph is a correct representation of the Objectivist view, and it is my own. That is, I think it is all true, at least under our way of using fact and truth. This usage is not idiosyncratic, although some philosophers use those terms otherwise, and I have to try to reach for their usage to be sure I understand what they are meaning, not just plug in my own usage and then miss their vista. A couple of things more concerning that picture in your first paragraph, natural to mention here, though widely recognized: 1. To a very wide extent, facts about a thing outrun the facts we’ve gotten hold of in our truths about that thing. So it was truth when science would say decades ago (as well as today) that graphite and diamond are stable molecular forms of pure carbon, even though we did not know back then that there were additional stable molecular forms of pure carbon. Likewise, we could know truths about the number seventeen—say that it is a prime number—without yet knowing the facts that seventeen is the limit-value of this or that convergent infinite sequence. 2. Quality of an idea held for true is raised by cross-checking with other ideas held as true. In Rand’s view, that comes to: “Truth is the product of the recognition (i.e., identification) of the facts of reality. Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts. He retains concepts in his mind by means of definitions. He organizes concepts into propositions—and the truth or falsehood of his propositions rests, not only on their relation to the facts he asserts, but also on the truth or falsehood of the definitions of the concepts he uses to assert them, which rests on the truth or falsehood of his designations of essential characteristics." (ITOE 48) Integration is essential for truth in Rand’s theory. Fact is interconnected and multilayered in Rand's picture. Fact caught in mind will be truth, and truths will not be isolated in their facts nor in their relations to other truths. In Rand’s metaphysics, every existent stands in relationships to the rest of the universe. Every existent affects and is affected (ITOE 39). In your second paragraph, Mike, the passage is from my “Dewey on Perception and Conception” which I’m continuing to extend. That Dewey idea you are recalling is from the following paragraph, and I hope to address your questions on it very shortly.
  5. Mike, I'm with Objectivist philosophy on this. I wrote within the fundamental paper of my own metaphysics published last summer: There is further discussion of "fact' between Rand, Peikoff, Gotthelf, and Walsh on pages 241–45 of ITOE 1990 (seminar transcription). I should say that because "existence" is not definable in terms of anything more fundamental, and "fact" is only the "that which" of existence, and the "that which" of existence obtains independently of the existence of any beings trying to get the facts right, i.e. any beings using facts, "fact" has meaning, it can be situated in our understanding, but not defined.
  6. AR writes in 1961: "No philosopher has given a rational, objectively demonstrable, scientific answer to the question of WHY man needs a code of values. So long as that question remained unanswered, no rational, scientific, OBJECTIVE code of ethics could be discovered or defined." Guyau had been born into the world having Darwin and Spencer, and beyond the scientific facts of evolution, in which seeming teleology or aiming in living nature is explained by natural selection, he, like Rand later on, realized that one should look scientifically to the nature of the living organism per se---a look alongside the perspective of non-purposive evolution of species---as the realm in which aims are naturally housed and objectively based and sorted.
  7. SKETCH OF MORALITY WITHOUT OBLIGATION OR SANCTION (1885) Jean-Marie Guyau (1854-1888) Guyau was better known in the early twentieth century than today. Shoshana Milgram Knapp has found that while Rand was attending college in St. Petersburg, Russia, a course including the thinker Guyau was being offered. (Rand did not take that course.) I learned of Guyau some decades back from Frederick Copleston’s A HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY, then encountered him again in my studies (present century) of Nietzsche, who had acquired Guyau 1885 hot off the press from Paris. In this 1885 work, Guyau was setting aside morality from religious faith, from Kantian duty, and from utilitarianism. He was investigating how far morality could be determined from a purely scientific view of the nature of life. Guyau had some training in and love for science; he prized modern, capitalistic life; and although his was a thoroughly individualistic vision, it was not an egoistic vision. Concerning morality based on faith, Guyau writes that “the believer wants to believe without knowing.” Faith is a “renunciation of all personal initiative . . . . This kind of intellectual suicide is inexcusable, and that which is still more strange is the pretension to justify it, as is constantly done, by invoking moral reasons. Morality should command the mind to search without resting—that is to say, precisely to guard itself against faith. . . . In the domain of thought there is nothing more moral than truth; and when truth cannot be secured through positive knowledge, nothing is more moral than doubt. . . . We must therefore drive out of ourselves the blind respect for certain principles, for certain beliefs. We must be able to question, scrutinize, penetrate everything.” (62–63) Concerning Kant’s precept “‘Act in such a way that your maxim may become a universal law,’ no sentiment of obligation whatever will attach itself, so long as there is no question of social life and the deep inclinations awakened by it. . . . / . . . . Will it be said that the universal law itself contains at bottom will—pure will? The reduction of duty to the will of law, which itself would still be a purely formal will, far from building up morality, seems to us to produce a dissolvent effect on the will itself. The will to do a certain deed cannot be based on any law which is not founded on the practical and logical value of the deed itself.” (50) There must be a specific valued object for pursuit to be morally praiseworthy. Without a specific object valued for its actual or potential uses, “we should no longer have courage to will and to merit; we do not use our will for the mere sake of willing” (32). Guyau proceeds to lay out his positive moral theory with a preamble: “Scientific morality, in order not to include from its very beginning an inverifiable postulate, must be first individualistic. It should preoccupy itself with the destiny of society only in so far as it more or less includes that of the individual” (71–72). “An exclusively scientific morality must, to be complete, admit that the pursuit of pleasure is only itself the consequence of the instinctive effort to maintain and enlarge life. . . . It is, then, life itself—life most intense and, at the same time, its most varied forms. From the first bound of the embryo in the womb of its mother, to the last convulsion of old age, every movement of the creature has, as cause, life in its evolution.” (75) So far as the discipline of ethics can be a science, its task will be to articulate “the means of preserving and enlarging material and intellectual life,” and its laws “will be identical with the deepest laws of life itself” (75–76; further, 80–81). There is in us a cause which “operates as an aim, even before any attraction of pleasure; this cause is life, tending by its nature to grow and to diffuse itself, thus finding pleasure as consequence, but not necessarily taking it as an end in itself” (210–11). Life in its “aspiration towards incessant development . . . makes its own obligation to act by its very power of action” (211). Life makes also “its sanction by its very action; for, in acting, it takes joy in its own capacity” (213). For Guyau the deepest laws of life are that it is nutritive and self-preservative and that it is fecundity (S 70, 75, 79, 209–10). Beyond nutrition and appropriation necessary for self-maintenance, there may accumulate superabundance capable of the expansion of life that is reproduction. This is a good for humans, as it is for all other life forms. Generation is an elevated intensity of life. Without sexual reproduction, the good that is man, with family and society, would not exist (82–83). “Individual life is expansive for others because it is fruitful, and it is fruitful by the very reason that it is life” (209–10). Guyau does not think that scientific morality can disparage the tendency of modern higher classes to have fewer children (114), and he realizes that having children is in tension with creating intellectual works (83), but he thinks there is a “need of each individual to beget another individual; so much so that this other becomes a necessary condition of our being. Life, like fire, only maintains itself by communicating itself” (210). We find the same force of expansion with intelligence: “It exists in order to radiate” (210). Likewise with sensibility: We need to share our joys and sorrows. “It is our whole nature which is sociable. . . . [Life] cannot be entirely selfish, even if it wished to be. . . . Life is not only nutrition; it is production and fecundity” (210). “The purely selfish happiness of certain epicureans is an idle fancy, an abstraction, an impossibility. . . . Pure selfishness, . . . instead of being a real affirmation of self, is a mutilation of self” (212). Guyau included biological fecundity in his basic characterization of all life. For human life, this encompassed not only procreation, but intellectual fecundity and practical productivity (76, 183–84, 214). There are differences with Rand in the preceding samples from Guyau, which should be plain to the reader. Likewise plain, some similarities with Rand. The thing most important to further investigate in the thought of Guyau is the expansiveness of life per se he makes salient and his sketch for how to parlay that (not only into human reproduction, but) into human social solidarity, a circumscribed altruism, and limitless intellectual advance and productivity. Highly pertinent for close comparison in Rand’s thought would be the Branden essay in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS titled “The Divine Right of Stagnation” and the Rand/Branden writings underpinning love and other social enjoyments with an egoistic psychology. (My quotations from Guyau 1885 are from its translation into English by Gertrude Kapteyn in 1898.)
  8. The boy in the 1960 photo below is me. We children made posters to get placed in store windows in that community for our church outreach. The girl and I were awarded a Bible for best posters. That was the first Bible I owned. It is a King James. I still use it, together with other translations in my scholarly work. I want to recommend especially, in the links above, the two videos “The Rise and Fall of Unitarianism in America” and the link “Lutherans in America.” They are superb in their information and in their production quality. I compiled the links in this thread, interesting of themselves, along my course of researching the education systems and the religions across the nineteenth century in America and in Germany on up to WWI. This is for my project “Dewey and Peikoff on Kant’s Responsibility.” Tracing the influence of German Idealism on the peoples of these countries up to WWI and on to WWII has little substance if it does not deal with the ways in which (1) German Idealism came to America, and that includes through Unitarianism and Transcendentalism, and the extent and specifics of their cultural impact (2) the ripples from German Idealism into new German Protestant theology and cultural impact of both those philosophies and theologies in Germany (relative to sway of traditional Protestant sects; it was districts Protestant, of whatever sort, who voted for Hitler, not the districts Catholic). (1) and (2) need comparison as part of the dissection of why there was NAZI fascism in Germany, while so much freedom in America at that time. I am helped greatly in this part of my project by Philip Gura’s American Transcendentalism - A History (2007) and by Arthur Preisinger’s Ph.D. dissertation The Church Struggle in Nazi Germany, 1933-34: Resistance, Opposition or Compromise (1991). Rev. Preisinger was my catechism instructor (finished 1962). He is not the pastor in the photo, who shortly after the photo took a call from Colorado Springs. Preisinger was his replacement. I was acolyte boy at his installation service. He was high church, a good singer of canticles, good at composing sermons and delivering them, and good at private counsel (he helped my parents greatly coming to them at the hospital the night before my father was to have brain surgery). Under Preisinger we got a canticle light and a communion chalice, leaving behind the former individual shot glasses. I see from the photo that in 1960 I had not yet broken my nose in baseball.
  9. Yes. I've sent a message to Greg for help. I can't get any of them to work this morning.
  10. Episcopal Congregational Calvinism Hammered by the Enlightenment Baptist Methodism in America Presbyterian The Rise and Fall of Unitarianism in America Lutherans in America Reformed (Christian) Catholic Jewish Religion vs. America -Leonard Peikoff
  11. I take as included in the thesis “Existence is Identity” the thesis “An existent is things, and its existence is only the existence of all the things it is”. The self-sameness, the just-one-thingness, of two hypothetical such existence-sets of all the things a thing is, if proven, would yield the Identity of Indiscernibles principle at least among existents. But I have not attempted such a proof. When I do, I’d like to run it both taking existents as exhaustively parsed among Rand’s categories (entity, action, attribute, relationship - ITOE) and as exhaustively parsed among my categories ([enlarged] Entity, passage, character, situation). I expect the answer will be Yes for both hers and mine or No for both hers and mine. (The significance of the categories is that supposing the category lists are exhaustive of the types of existence, the attempts at proof of Identity of Indiscernibes can be run by cases, like Euclid does in some proofs. Also, not getting both Yes or both No for our two sets of categories would indicate that one set or the other is not an exhaustive category-set of existents.) To begin working on a proof, I’d first study a book waiting for me a long time on my shelf, whose title is Leibniz’s Principle of Identity of Indiscerenibles (Rodriguez-Pereyra 2014) to fully comprehend the reasoning of Leibniz to the truth of the principle. Where he relies upon the Principle of Sufficient Reason, I and Rand would require the correctness of it to range over a smaller domain than had Leibniz. So that sort of difference might play into a verdict on the Identity of Indiscernibles principle. Then too, one needs to analyze in terms of all that, the identity facet of bosons. Get right with the bosons, we must. One problem I’d have to dwell on also is my talk of “all the things something is” because that would have to include the potentials for all the ways intelligence could use the something, including in inventions. Makes me a little nervous.
  12. SK, thank you for this contribution, the two posts preceding this one. Why couldn't we say that any perceived item is an existent and that existents come in various basic sorts, such as Rand's sorts: entity or attribute (characteristic) or action. Whether that is the best scheme of what are the basic sorts and whether it succeeds in covering all the sorts of perceived items, all the sorts of existents, is debatable. But Rand has this system of categories in her 1957, and takes it there that in infancy one can perceive motions without perceiving them as of an object. So she could say that we know the infant is perceiving a swish of Mother's skirt, but does not yet know the item perceived---the swish---belongs to an object. The order of first experience of the various categories need not be the same as the ordering discerned in mature thought concerning ontological dependencies among the various categories. In her 1957, Rand used "entity" at times in the usual way of meaning "any item" such as any item in perception, any existent. But she stopped that usage in later writing, reserving "entity" to mean only a member of her ontological category of that name. In her ITOE, she set forth one elaboration of her category entity that is really an error on her part. She tried to capture "entity" in her special categorical sense by linking it specially to nouns. That was a mistake because any item, of any category, can be the subject of a sentence and have things said of it in the sentence, as when I say "Swinging on the big swing out at the old cemetery is fun." "Swinging" is a noun, but is an action, not an entity in Rand's special sense. After we have reached the resolution at the end of your reflection, should we go back upstream and use the resolved picture to criticize the formulation of 2 as ambiguous? Also, it seemed that the immediate argument you gave against 2 is circular. I'd have to think about both of these issues further, but first I need recharge my higher brain with a little more sleep. I notice that the ecological psychologists have it that perception of the entity as a whole is only possible (i) with attendant perception of it as in an environment and (ii) with a self as in an environment and (iii) with characteristics of the entity as affording this or that action. There is an up-to-date book (unfortunately expensive) on this conception of perception. Its title is The Philosophy of Affordances.
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