Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Posts

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. Wolff was a Lutheran, though an unusual one running full stride with reason: We should “give ear to our reason; namely our own Perfection, from which the Glory of God . . . cannot well be separated” (German Logic, 10.VI). Wolff defended the Leibnizian pre-established harmony, and together with Wolff’s wide scope of PSR, this could be stretched by others to support fatalism and removal of penalties for breaches of law, such as penalties for desertion from the Prussian military. Pietist faculty got the King to bar Wolff from university teaching, and Wolff was banished from Prussia in 1723 (if he was not gone within 48 hours, he would be hanged), which cemented Wolff’s status as intellectual celebrity of the Enlightenment throughout Europe. The serious Pietist philosopher Christian August Crusius (1715–75) rejected the full scope of Wolff’s PSR. Crusius was particularly concerned that PSR not overrun human free will, the truly originative agency of humans free to have chosen otherwise in a particular choice-circumstance. Crusius took it that humans are not subject to a PSR so strong as: nothing can be otherwise than it is (Sketch of the Necessary Truths of Reason, 1745, §84). Rand and Peikoff explicated Rand’s principle of causality (“All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements in the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved.") such that some human action can be freely chosen.
  2. "Existence exists, but there has to be a reason why it does; it's not sufficient to just state that it does. Existence must exist for a reason."* –EC Reasons presuppose possibilities presuppose potentials and actions presuppose existents, parts of Existence. Reasons presuppose Existence (by which latter, I mean not only existence per se and some existents, but as well, the totality of existents). From preceding post: "For Rand, rightly I’d say: PSR [Principle of Sufficient Reason] in the form “For every existent, there is a reason why it exists, rather than not” can apply at most to constituents or proper parts of Existence, not to that comprehensive standing Existence, the all, the whole comprising all actuals and their potentials, all those concrete objects and their concrete actions, attributes, and relationships.[18] PSR in the form “Nothing happens without a reason” applies only within Existence, not to that all-of-alls Existence, which is not a “happening.” PSR in the form “There must be a sufficient reason for every truth of fact” does not apply to the bare truth Existence exists. There is the reality of the fact that that truth acknowledges; there is nothing begetting that fact. Rand’s curtailment of PSR did not diminish one bit the intelligibility of Existence by human reason, I should mention."
  3. (click on photo) That is a poem I wrote last autumn. I think it is true. All people live under this shadow, which at some level they know. Long ago I came to think one way of looking at people is as walking philosophies. So in getting to know someone it is sensible to ask to oneself What philosophy is here being walked? I don't mean What philosophical heritage is here being walked? but what particular set of philosophical theses are here in this person, especially in their practices. Now I add for myself of each one How are they dealing with the fact of absolute mortality?
  4. To my last paragraph in the preceding post, I'd like to add that for concepts just a single level over the individuals they subsume it seems there will be some definitions of the concept, including some genus or other and some super-ordinate concept or other which will be a conceptual common denominator having magnitude and measurability as in Rand's conception of the character of concepts. And if that is so, then all concrete particulars stand in magnitude relations among other concrete particulars.
  5. Nemain, concept articulation can certainly be improved. We seem to know more about our concepts than first might be thought. We can come up with genus-species definitions of many of our concepts just thinking it over. When one has a genus for the definition of a concept, one has the conceptual common denominator, supposing there is one. That is, one has in such cases the dimension along which measure values may vary among species and among individual members within species under the concept. In my own view, we should start with formulating a genus-species definition. That articulation will be useful of itself. Then see if there is one or more magnitude dimensions shared at the genus level, that is, shared among all the species and their members. For the genus of a solid, we might take ability of a material to resist shearing stresses (fluids will not). Then specifying the different sorts of shearing stresses and how resistance to the various ones are measured, we get varieties of solids specified in terms of those sorts shearing-stress resistance. However, sometimes we have a genus, perfectly sensible, that does not seem to have one or more magnitude dimensions that can be Rand's conceptual common denominator spanning all the species under the genus and individuals under the species. Hardness, fatigue cycle limit, critical buckling stress, shear and bulk moduli, and tensile strength all fall under the superordinate concept strength of a solid. These various strengths of solids are all forms of resistance to degradations under stresses. That is their genus, but the variety of species seems so wide that there does not seem to be a conceptual common denominator in Rand's sense, though the concept with its wide range is useful in design engineering and in failure analysis.
  6. In the Greenhouse * Wagner Song – he used this melody also in Parsifal
  7. Rand v. Wolff Christian Wolff (1679–1754) was the most important German philosopher between Leibniz and Kant. His was the dominant philosophy in German lands to the middle of the eighteenth century, and his disciples continued his influence through the time of Kant, whose system cleared the Wolffian edifice away in the last decade of Kant’s life. For Wolff “philosophy is the science of all possible things, together with the manner and reason of their possibility.”[1] Possibility is most basic, existence being among things possible: the entirely determinate possibilities.[2] “That is impossible which contains something contradictory within it such as, for instance, an iron wood. From which one sees further that that is possible which contains nothing contradictory within it, that is, which not only can obtain along with other things which are or can be, but which also contains only that within it which can obtain together such as, for instance, a wooden plate. For to be a plate and to be made of wood do not conflict with each other but rather both can be at once.”[3] Possibility for Wolff was freedom from contradiction, and this was something obtaining in the world. Even were Wolff taking possibilities to be potentials subject to physical principles, it is still a marked difference from Rand for whom concrete actualities are the existents upon which all else, such as possibilities, must be framed. “Leaving aside the man-made, nothing is possible except what is actual.”[4] The possible, I say, should be in contrast to the actual. I should therefore amend that Peikoff remark a bit on the side of Objectivism: nothing is possible except what are potentials (co-potentials) of actuals. And potentials, like actuals, are existents. I submit that my amendment is consonant with Rand’s philosophy and with what Peikoff was getting at in that remark.[5] One big difference between the metaphysics of Wolff and of Rand is that for Rand existence is most basic. Another big difference, akin to the first, is that for Wolff essences of things are metaphysical and eternal, independently of their occasions in existents. “There is nothing that can be can thought of a thing prior to how it is possible, since it is only on account of the fact that it is possible that it is a thing in the first place. Therefore, essence of a thing is its possibility, and whoever knows the way and manner in which something is possible, understands the essence.”[6] Wolff set out in his German Logic: “By Science, I understand, that habit of the understanding, whereby, in a manner not to be refuted, we establish our assertions on irrefragable {indisputable} grounds or principles. . . .”[7] Wolff’s rules for attaining such a science were to formulate sound axioms and real definitions appropriate to the science, thereon to make intuitive judgments, and make inferences from those by syllogisms, arriving at new propositions that can then be taken into additional syllogisms.[8] Wolff thought that was the way the science of geometry works perfectly and the way needed by metaphysics as a science, which he had provided in the metaphysics he was setting forth. It is in truth not our method of proof in Euclidean geometry nor should it be, and we do not need such a thing as metaphysics as a science. Wolff: “Ontology or first philosophy is the science of being in general, or insofar as it is being.” “By sufficient reason, we understand that from which it is understood why something is.”[9] One difference between mathematics and metaphysics, in Wolff’s view, is that the principle of sufficient reason (PSR) is sensible and productive in the latter, but not appropriate in the former. By setting results of empirical experience in the context of sufficient reason for them, we comprehend them, as de Boer notes, “in view of the rationally ordered totality of which they are part.”[10] Wolff: “Denial of the principle of sufficient ground changes the true world into a fantasy world, in which the human will takes the place of the ground of that which occurs.”[11] Wolff took PNC and PSR to be rules of thought by which we can be objective, that is, cognize the world. He argued that PSR, and empirical knowledge as well, are grounded in PNC.[12] His arguments for the rules PNC and PSR are along the lines that without them we could not think coherently.[13] Additionally, Wolff rests our knowledge of PNC and its certainty on our pickup from a particular syllogism: “Whoever is conscious, exists. / We are conscious. / Therefore, we exist.”[14] To the contrary, Aristotle rests the rightness of syllogistic on our assent to any syllogism of first-figure form, whatever the specific terms in its premises and conclusion, and on sure reducibility of all other valid syllogistic forms to that one.[15] In turn, Rand’s metaphysics and conception of the place of logic in identification should rest the rightness of that particular form of syllogism, most basic for Aristotle, on the fact “existence is identity.” Wolff was attempting to impute assurance of the rightness of that particular form of syllogism, thence all other forms, from Descartes’s cogito. Rand did not defend her axioms and axiomatic corollaries in the Wolffian way. Rather, Rand specified and elucidated them as staying true to fundamental character of existence, the latter being the guiding ubiquitous nature for right cognition. Need for coherence that is lost by denial of those fundamental rules is not the source of their objective validity, only a showing of their correctness everywhere for keeping thought tuned to reality. Character of the world commending these rules is to be shown by illustrative empirical cases: “A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time.” Rand’s law of identity entails that objects come in some exclusive kinds. Leaf and stone are kinds that are exclusive with respect to each other. Objects may be also of kinds that are not exclusive of each other: a leaf is a kind of plant part, it is a kind of light catcher, and it is a kind of drain clogger. Saying that an object is a leaf and a stone violates identity in Rand’s rich sense; it is a contradiction. But to say that an object is a leaf and a drain clogger is no contradiction. Objects come in some exclusive kinds, and it is sensitivity to these sets of kinds that is written into Rand’s conception of noncontradiction concerning the kind-identity of an object.[16] Unlike Wolff, Rand did not base her metaphysics on PNC, rather, on the fact of Existence and the completely general condition that existence is identity.[17] Rand took consciousness to be most fundamentally identification of existents. This bears a surface likeness to Wolff, who took the essence of the soul to be the power to represent the world. Unlike Wolff, Rand did not take her metaphysics to be a mathematical-deductive sort of discipline. Rand rejected PSR in its Wolffian scope. That means that Rand should have other ways of distinguishing metaphysics from mathematics. Rand’s way of making that distinction was not worked out. Rand, I should note, does not need the distinction by way of justifying metaphysics “as a science.” Unlike Wolff and his successors, for Rand the distinctive function of metaphysics does not rely on prying actualities from possibilities by joining possibilities with a notion of what is most perfect among a collection of possibilities and relying on the idea that the actual world is the best, most perfect world. For Rand, rightly I’d say: PSR in the form “For every existent, there is a reason why it exists, rather than not” can apply at most to constituents or proper parts of Existence, not to that comprehensive standing Existence, the all, the whole comprising all actuals and their potentials, all those concrete objects and their concrete actions, attributes, and relationships.[18] PSR in the form “Nothing happens without a reason” applies only within Existence, not to that all-of-alls Existence, which is not a “happening.” PSR in the form “There must be a sufficient reason for every truth of fact” does not apply to the bare truth Existence exists. There is the reality of the fact that that truth acknowledges; there is nothing begetting that fact. Rand’s curtailment of PSR did not diminish one bit the intelligibility of Existence by human reason, I should mention. Wolff’s 1730 statement of the Principle of Sufficient Ground: “Nothing is without a sufficient ground {reason} why it is rather than not; i.e., if something is posited as being, there will also be posited something from which it is understood why this thing is rather than is not.”[19] Wolff gives an argument for this which maintains that to claim an exception to PSR is to reify a nothing from which the thing is. This argument is circular, for Wolff begins with the premise “were something to be or take place without a reason why it should occur being met with either in that thing itself or something else, then it would come to be from nothing.”[20] Rather than join PSR to her principle of Identity to further extend her general metaphysics, Rand in 1957 had identity as applied to the existent that is action as giving the necessity of identity, for all existents, to a principle of causality. “The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. . . . The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the things that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. An action not caused by an entity [a thing with identity] would be caused by a zero. . . . [which means] the non-existent ruling the existent.”[21] Rand’s law of causality is quite like PSR in her 1973 statement of it here: “All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved.”[22] I notice that having taken identity, rather than PNC, as deepest base of causality in widest generality, Rand could (but apparently did not notice she could) distinguish metaphysics from mathematics by taking identity (not only PNC) as basis of mathematics; and mathematics, which has not essentially to do with action (only with morphisms and other interrelations of formal objects), has not to do with causality. That is, in contrast to Wolff, she requires no PSR as distinguishing note between mathematics and metaphysics. She can instead take causality as that distinguishing note. Action and causality are not under the subject matter of mathematics as such. Then too, passage of time is not under that subject matter. Rand could say that not only is there the law of identity applied to action. In a thinner sense of identity (genidentity), there is the law of identity applied to things simply existing through time. Application of the law of identity to action and to mere passage in time goes a significant way for distinction of metaphysics, which deals with those applications, in most general form, and mathematics, which does not deal with those applications. Notes [1] Wolff, Christian 1713. Vernünftige Gedanken von den Kräften des menschlichen Verstandes und ihrem richtigen Gebrauch in der Erkenntnis der Wahrheit, §1. Rational Thoughts on the Powers of the Human Understanding and Its Proper Use in the Cognition of Truth. London: L. Hawes, W. Clarke, and R. Collins, (1770). This work is commonly known as Wolff’s German Logic, and it is available online https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=pst.000003010372&view=1up&seq=15. [2] Hettche, Matt, and Corey Dyck 2019. “Christian Wolff,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [3] Wolff, Christian 1720. Vernünftige Gedanken von Gott, der Welt und der Seele des Menschen, auch allen Dingen überhaupt, §12. Rational Thoughts concerning God, the World, and the Human Soul, and also All Things in General, In Early Modern German Philosophy (1690–1750), Corey W. Dyck, ed. and trans. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2019), 99. This work is commonly known as Wolff’s German Metaphysics. [4] Peikoff, Leonard, 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, 28. New York: Dutton. [5] Rand, Ayn, c. 1970. Appendix – Transcription from Seminar. In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, expanded 2nd edition (1990), 286. Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff, eds. New York: Meridian. [6] Wolff, Christian 1720. German Metaphysics, §35, In Corey W. Dyck, ed. and trans., Early Modern German Philosophy (1690–1750). Oxford: Oxford University Press (2019). [7] “Preliminary Discourse,” §II, in German Logic. [8] Wolff, German Logic, in Dyck 2019, 99–134. [9] Wolff, Christian 1730. Philosophia Prima Sive Ontology (1730), First Philosophy, or Ontology, Frankfurt), §§1, 56. Passages I quote from this work are translations of Courtney D. Fugate and John Hymers. [10] De Boer, Karin 2020. Kant’s Reform of Metaphysics, 30. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. [11] Wolff, Ontology, §77. [12] R. Lanier Anderson, “The Wolffian Paradigm and Its Discontents: Kant’s Containment Definition of Analyticity in Historical Context.” Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 87, no. S (2005), 22–74. [13] Wolff, Ontology, §§27–30. [14] Wolff, German Logic, §6. [15] Lear, Jonathan 1980. Aristotle and Logical Theory, 1–14, 34–53. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Malink, Marko 2013. Aristotle’s Modal Syllogistic, 86–97. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. [16] Cf. Plato, Sophist 252e–54b. Nicholas P. White, translator. In Plato – Complete Works, John M. Cooper, editor. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett. [17] I capitalize existence when I mean not only existence per se, but additionally, existence as a whole, existence in its entirety. [18] Rand, Ayn 1973, “The Metaphysical versus the Man-Made” In Philosophy: Who Needs It, New York: Signet, 1982, 25. [19] Wolff, Ontology, §70. [20] Wolff, German Metaphysics, §30. [21] Rand, Atlas Shrugged, 1037. [22] Rand, “Metaphysical,” 25.
  8. What is the theme of Atlas Shrugged, and why is it important to understand?
  9. In July 2022 Ayman al-Zawahiri was at last killed by USA. Good. memory
  10. that I'm so happy that you're mine
  11. Just some information from the latest issue of SCIENCE NEWS (30 July 2022): The "fetal heartbeat" heard at around six weeks of pregnancy are not caused by the opening and closing of heart valves moving blood through heart chambers. The heart's chambers have not yet developed at that time. The ultrasound machine is creating the heartbeat-like sounds upon detection of fluttering of the heart-tube tissue, which is due to electrical activity in that tissue. So the ultrasound is detecting something new in the development that concerns tissue that is on the way to becoming a heart, but not the onset of a beating heart.
  12. Tad, I'm not sure it is sensible to hope for it being only one or the other. I mean maybe nature is being inconvenient for such a distinction. If I have a tumor growing in me, it is part of me, and it is also alien. The fetus, thanks to modern medicine, is rarely the death of the mother. But it has had a biologically alien course. The woman's body initially tries to reject the blastomere in an autoimmune response. Concerning the difference between the fetus the day before it gets born (which is triggered by its own effect on the mother's body) and the live-born, there is a big difference in the kind of adult support required just because afterwards the baby gets oxygen from the air on its own, whereas before, it had to be get oxygen from the mother's blood.
  13. SL, I think the "basis of your question" the woman referred to in response to the question posed by the man in your video was most likely his assumption (and simplifying belief) that the unborn is an infant. That is, the scene was political, which is rife with gotchas in oral argument. This debate requires written debates and readers, because it takes serious thought. Do not trust any sources of the anti-abortionists such as the one you linked on law in CA. They are going to represent any state that is not outlawing all elective abortions as being overrun with Democrats who want to slice up fetuses late in the term, and if then, want to slice up neonates as well, but for salvation by the anti-abortionists. The usual misrepresenting political circus.
  14. ET, just to be extra clear: There is no state in the US in which a pregnant woman has a right to procure an elective abortion after the stage of viability has been reached. For example abortion is legally permitted in the State of New York after 24 weeks since fertilization only if the fetus is not viable or the health or life of the mother is at risk. (I think the condition of not being viable at that stage in a pregnancy means further that it is not going to become viable as additional time passes; I don't know the examples that have come up. My Mom had three live births and one miscarriage. That fetus was known to be dead prior to its removal. [The main thing I remember that was salient to her when telling me of this occurrence decades later was how terribly sad she was on leaving the hospital amid all the other women carrying a baby.] This had occurred in the 1940's. I don't know what law if any was applicable in whatever state they lived at that time, definitely before my time.)
  15. The pregnancy would end when the hypothetical mother wanted it ended. Birth and abortion are a degenerate pair in this situation. On the practical level, she would not really get this termination, for lack of willing doctor, and indeed the situation, so far as I know, has never come up of a pregnant woman seeking an elective termination of pregnancy of a fetus having reached viability. Perhaps it comes up in imagination and political hyperbole and distraction, but the serious moral business is here in the real world, in the case law and in the abortion statistics.
  16. They have a right to take possession and take guardianship rights when the fetus is delivered. I am assuming here that the woman has decided to terminate the pregnancy, abort the viable fetus, before full term, and as I remarked in the original article, that is not realistic if there are no medical problems going on because you won't find a doctor whose services for such an abortion would be offered (regardless of law, just considering values of medical profession). And this period was not one in which elective abortions were allowed under Roe. So my thinking was at odds in this way with what was the current law. In the alternative situation in which the mother does not want to keep the infant delivered at full term, then we simply have the adoption rights presently in place and those doings with the infant. But suppose medical help was available for performing an abortion of a viable fetus as elective before full term. Then what the new guardians would be doing with the right is requiring, for one thing, (and paying for it) full effort to deliver the infant live. I do not know what all that entails, and I do not know if ever there has been a pregnant woman who decided that late in the term that she wanted an abortion even though everything was going along fine medically.
  17. No, a right of others to a viable fetus is simply after it reaches viability, even while still undelivered (the mother, of course, has right of first refusal, but we have assumed that refusal in the cases at issue). At birth, such a fetus makes the big transition we all made to breathing and not relying on the mother's circulatory system. (I think this point of mine is at odds with what Rand thought and what many others against abortion regulation thought.)
  18. Boundaries of bodies fully distinct and organically autonomous, as is usual, is the paradigm situation under which we conceive of rights. And in the paradigmatic case, we throw in as well that the bodies are with sovereign minds capable of voluntary self-regulation and consensual relationships with others. But I don't think it would be correct to transport the resulting character of rights tout court over to cases in which body boundaries are not separated, such as in pregnancies or in siamese twins. Getting to separateness and individuals capable of autonomy could be goal of what should be done, but we'll need some deeper additional moral principles along the way to knowing what should be done along the way to that end.
  19. A right to the viable fetus, a right held by others, will not give them a right over the woman's circulatory system, another part of her body, nor any part of her body not that fetus.
  20. Here is my original article on the topic (which was in 1983, not 1984).
  21. That would be "physically speaking", rather than "philosophically speaking". Viability is purely a physical condition. That there are parties willing to support the viable fetus does not confer the status "viable". It is rather: passing the point of viability, others can take on the project of support without requiring continued pregnancy of the mother. To your question, ET: Yes, just as the volunteered custodian (or the agencies for such possible custodians) has rights in the matter of other people's children in the community. Their right is not over the body of the pregnant woman, but over a part of her body coincident with the whole. Specifically, it is a right over what anyone, including the mother, can do with that entity once it is assessed as viable. A right against the killing of the viable fetus, delivered infant, or young child is not a right those developing little characters hold against all the adults in the community, rather, it is the right of adults in the community against anyone killing those living entities. Admittedly, the right stems from the specialness of the project of making progeny of the human species. (The community would not have a right against our family killing at birth an undesired litter of pups from our dog.) (This way of looking at the abortion issue I have advocated [since first formulating it in 1984] was built around Rand's idea of what a right is, which partly but importantly included the point that rights are coordinating principles under which each person is left, vis-a-vis others, to their autonomous self-activity. Keeping moral obligations to others tied to potentials or actualities of the others making their own life, composed of certain sorts of projects, is also consonant with Rand's ethics. However, if one lets that idea of Rand's I mentioned above, near the end of her essay "Causality versus Duty" that the only rational obligations between people are those by promise, agreement, and contract, run everywhere; then one cannot go the way I have gone on this. With my outlook, of course, contract cannot be the only way under which governments can be legitimate. I'd like to mention, however, that while I have described all this as "my outlook", that cannot be a fully correct ascription. I have my own metaphysics now, and because of a couple of differences in its most basic part with Rand's in its most basic part, it seems likely that if I were to develop a value theory and ethical theory [partly] upon that new base it would differ from what can be drafted from Rand's.)
  • Create New...