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Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. Allan Gotthelf (December 30, 1942 – August 30, 2013) Fond memories of Allan, with highest esteem and appreciation. His written works,* and the younger generation of scholars he assisted, will continue to expand my understanding. From the festschrift for him, Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle (2010): From his Preface to Teleology, First Principles, and Scientificå Method in Aristotle’s Biology (2012):
  2. SL, I have written some about mysticism here at Objectivism Online. I know you don't have time to dig into this work at this time, but I thought you might like to have the links here in this thread for future easy reference. Mysticism – Kant and Rand Reason / Intuition / Feeling Concerning your ruminations so far, I'm inclined to keep reification of abstractions as an error that enters into mysticism at times, but enters in non-mystical error as well. A certain feeling of tremendous luminance and simplicity seems to be a necessary element of mysticism. Also, a sense of an external supersensible intelligent presence seems pretty common to it. -S
  3. Garshasp, Irfan Khawaja is known to me personally. He is a highly trained professional philosopher, as is his associate Carrie-Ann Biondi. Irfan contributed a paper to Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue (2011), edited by Allan Gotthelf and James Lennox. I have some comments on that paper here. Another paper of Irfan Khawaja “A Perfectionist-Egoist Theory of the Good” appeared in my journal Objectivity in 1997 and is available online in V2N5. The two seminars Khawaja and Biondi have designed look excellent: Fall 2013 Spring 2014
  4. . There is an informative review essay by Roger Scruton on modern theories of music hinged to generative grammar as well as to geometry in Reason Papers (Oct. 2012) online here.
  5. Why Does Music Feel So Good? National Geographic Music's Delight Science News 5/18/13
  6. RW, No. Michael Stuart Kelly does not at all appear to be any such thing. You are writing about and to real persons with the real names and personal identities they have shared, and with real families who love them. Stephen
  7. RW, No. I did not mean light in that sense. I meant light as in optics, a purely physical science, a very old one. In the nineteenth century, electromagnetism was comprehended sufficiently well that physicists were able to discover that light in the physical sense was electromagnetic radiation. This is a matter of physical identity. I can still remember the day over four decades ago when my physics professor demonstrated on the blackboard at the end of a long derivation that a ratio of a certain electrical and a certain magnetic property of the vacuum equals exactly the velocity of electromagnetic waves propagating in vacuum. The electrical and the magnetic characteristics of the vacuum are measurable to high accuracy, more and more as we go along, and from that we can calculate the velocity of electromagnetic propagation in vacuum. The velocity of light is measurable to high accuracy, higher and higher as we go along. The equality of the velocity of light with the computed velocity of the propagation of electromagnetic waves has been demonstrated by measurement of the velocity of light and measurement of the electrical and the magnetic characteristics of the vacuum. That is why one knows today that light---physical light absorbed by the retina, which signals receipt along the optic nerve to the thalmus---is electromagnetic radiation. In my coolness example, I was indeed referring to our subjective sensation. The conjectured neuronal processes to which some, including I, expect it is non-eliminatively identical has not yet been discovered so far as I know, at least not with the kind of specificity we need for confirming identity. As Eiuol surmised, I did deliberately chose feature instead of attribute. That was only to skirt the tendency of many to think of a simple property for example of an attribute. Many typically think of sonar as a feature of the the bat and color as a property of the bat. Me too. By feature I meant that sort of more complex attribute. My first philosophy professor was a Thomist, so like you, I do use attribute for both simple ones (properties) and more complex ones (features). Consciousness is a feature of some animals. Rand assumed it a feature of even insects (ITOE). Today, the neuroscientist Christoff Koch (an associate of Robert Efron, who was an associate of Ayn Rand and wrote an essay about reductionism for her journal) still thinks of them as having that feature, but that has become a minority view in the profession. I think the dominate view is that without cerebral cortex, there is no consciousness. That is not to say subcortical structures and their processes connected to cortex are not required for consciousness. Stephen
  8. Plas, in #12 I did not say the phrase I meant. I meant and should have said non-eliminative physicalism. By non-eliminative physicalism, a non-eliminative reductionism, I mean only the general form as was accomplished when light was identified with electromagnetic radiation. It was learned that light was electromagnetic waves of a certain frequency range. Yet light did not then cease to be light, or become some sort of prior delusion now dispelled. Similarly, we know that there are sensors in the skin that register the rate of heat flow out the surface into the environs. We feel that as coolness. My idea is only that if we someday fully understand the brain processing that culminates in the feeling of coolness from activation of the sensor, coolness will not have ceased to be coolness, or become some sort of delusion then dispelled. Stephen
  9. . History of Materialism (1866 – 3 volumes) Friedrich Albert Lange Eliminative Materialism RW, I don’t know if you have read Atlas Shrugged, but therein Rand criticizes the materialisms of Marx and of Skinner under her label “mystics of muscle,” and she tries to compose a unified relationship of body and mind, affirming each. Rand, and I too, would go for your integration-but-not-dissolving of mind and matter. Mind is a feature of living brain in Rand’s view, as are all other forms of consciousness lower than mind. I am a non-reductive physicalist, and this may be consistent with Rand’s view of mind and matter (mind, brain, and physical world).* I think true the Union theory of mind and brain set forth by Ted Honderich,* though I think his inference of determinism from it is unsound.
  10. Vic, I would say that concepts logically presupposed by measurement methods are not analyzable in terms of the omission of measurements. How far concepts of measurement, including geometry, require a form of mathematical induction would be good to look into. I know that in my practical measurements, I’m not presuming the principle of mathematical induction. The point of contact with mathematical induction would be in measurement theory, with conceptual analysis of measurement, such as in Foundations of Measurement.* To pull away the logical and mathematical presuppositions of measurement theory leaves a great deal of substance to Rand’s proposal. That all other concepts are in principle analyzable in terms of measurement-omission, even if only ordinal measurement (or ordered geometry) in some cases, is a very substantial claim about the nature of those remaining universal concepts. John, Thank you for sharing your achievement. Are some results provable only by mathematical induction? Is there some sort of proof or disproof of that conjecture. Even if there is no such proof, I’d be interested to know simply if there are results that have only been proven using mathematical induction so far as you know. –Stephen
  11. Thanks, Chris, for the intriguing thinking in #5. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I’d like to lodge in this thread for future reference a couple of remarks of Leibniz, written in 1693 and in 1700. They are from Prefaces he wrote for collections of medieval state documents.
  12. . Morally right or morally wrong means to me only: which should be chosen in certain kinds of situations with certain sorts of consequences. I believe I mentioned, by link, that I am not an ethical egoist. However, I think Rand was right to say that choices affecting the course of your own life are within what should be called moral choices. She takes humans, rightly so, to be not only animals who live over a span, but who choose to some extent what sort of life they might win. That is, they not only have life, but are capable to some extent of making a life and a character. I think, beyond Rand, that the core context of moral choices is effect on persons, more specifically, as Nozick puts the nerve of it, moral responsiveness is responsiveness to value-seeking selves as value-seeking selves (1981). Selves are centers of human lives and both form the compass of what I would call moral choices of which thing to do.
  13. . TJ, concerning #53, would you exclude as outside the realm of logic and reason the opportunities for enhancing your struggle for existence and your enjoyment of existence by doing what you can to help the washed-ashore man survive? I gather from #40, that bringing facts into a decision about what course to choose is automatically unreasonable in your view. “The fact that a man must consume nutrients in order to live . . . is neither good nor evil, it just is.” Is there any way in which you think such a fact provides guidance about what you ought to do. Come along now. You are not a blank on such issues. You have positive values to share. Again, person-to-person. Help us out. Just say No to prosecution. Would you say that pleasure and absence of hurt are good reasons for selecting certain actions and not others? Would you say they are causes of such selections, but not reasons for such selections?
  14. . TJ, I mentioned this to you already in #35. I'll try a second time, but then leave you alone on it. The word meaning what you mean should be spelled principle, not principal. The latter is a different word, with a different meaning. --S
  15. TJ, If justice is treating people as the kinds of beings they are, and they are ends in themselves in the human way, justice would include treating them as ends in themselves. At least that would be the just thing prima facie. Sacrifice of others and exploitation of others in the negative senses of those concepts would be inconsistent with treating them as ends in themselves, wouldn't you think? Treating gasoline as water would be a performative inconsistency; that is the kind of inconsistency relevant to ethical theory. Do you think Rand's arguments for the virtue of justice are wanting? I am still learning and developing my views on some aspects of ethical theory as well (e.g. a, b, c). I'd like to mention for everyone a couple of papers pertinent to the issues TJ has raised, essays now online: Human Rights as Game Strategies SB A Perfectionist-Egoist Theory of the Good Irfan Khawaja
  16. . What do you think, TJ? Care to share your views of the truth about self-interest and the rights of others? Like if you were talking to persons, not prosecuting or beating someone up. (Note: principle, not principal.)
  17. This thread is an excellent discussion. TJ, Beyond the ways in which each individual organism of a species and indeed the species itself exists as a dynamic end in itself, wouldn’t the reason that individual people ought to be treated by others as ends in themselves be because their intelligence and psyche is organized towards being an individual dynamic whole? That would be Rand’s stress on the circumstance that only individual minds can think, and from there comes the way individuals of our species and indeed the species itself can continue their organic end-in-itself existence. There is at least one place where Rand wrote “Only man is an end in himself.” That was in an Introduction written for a 25th anniversary edition of The Fountainhead. From the context, I gather that Rand was not here denying the end-in-itself character as it occurs in other living beings. The contrast class was something else here. The full paragraph is: “But neither politics nor ethics nor philosophy is an end in itself, neither in life nor in literature. Only Man is an end in himself.” By the way, the statement “Man is an end in himself” was apparently a common saying, at least among literati, a long time before Rand. In his 1853 work The Aesthetic Relations of Art to Reality, Nicholas Chernyshevsky wrote: “Artistic form does not save a work of art from contempt or from a pitying smile if, by the importance of its idea, the work cannot answer the question: Was it worth the trouble? A useless thing has no right to respect. “Man is an end in himself”; but the things man makes must have their end in the satisfaction of man’s needs and not in themselves.”* The point I note here is how the author put our subject proposition in quotes, indicating that it was a common current saying that man is an end in himself.
  18. . Oh yes, Plas, mathematics certainly is objective. I know a fair amount of mathematics, and it is hard-as-nails, stubborn-fact objective. So is logic. We continue to make discoveries in them, not unconstrained fancies, notwithstanding the contrary sayings of the formalist tradition (with Hilbert's more grandiose moments of text scooped up and paraded by nominalists). On the usage of science, that was only to keep very present the distinction between our empirical science and the mathematical in the science. I have no problem with people continuing to refer to mathematical science. I'll keep to mathematical discipline. Partly that is also for personal sentimental memories of a stage of my life thirty-plus years ago. There is no real confusion of what one is referring to in either case. By the way, you might like to follow my developing serial essay, Truth in Geometry Part 1 – Aristotle Part 2 – Locke and Leibniz Part 3 – Kant, Precritical Part 4 – Kant, Critical (forthcoming) There will be an additional part or two bringing the history up to the present and drawing final conclusions on the nature of truth in geometry (all of them).
  19. . Chapter 5 of DIM is on literature. Finally read it. It is splendid. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On Kant and integration, note.
  20. To some extent, Rand continued to use the label and concept science in the old ways. My first philosophy professor (1967) was a Thomist, and in his course, we heard of not only the sciences we freshmen were familiar with from high school—biology, chemistry, and physics—but of the sciences of logic, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics, esthetics, and theology. Yes, the science of theology. That was a very general conception to which the label science was being applied, namely, to any organized, systematic body of rational knowledge (rational, as opposed to mystically revealed). You can find Rand speaking of the science of mathematics, and perhaps some people still talk that way today. Near the end of Rand’s life, I was in graduate school in physics at the University of Chicago. From some of my professors, I learned to make a sharp distinction between science and mathematics. So to this day, I always say the discipline of mathematics, not the science of mathematics. Geometry was one of the great sciences, in the broad sense of the term, achieved by the Greeks. It was quite possibly the greatest one, and surely in the ensuing centuries, educated people were more likely to have worked through some of the splendor of Euclid, than to have gotten far into Greek astronomy, optics, harmonics, or biology. Mathematics has continued its advance of light and power in modern times, but because of the new methods of empirical science perfected in the age of Newton and beyond, which has revolutionized our insight and power, and because those methods are in sharp contrast to our method of pure mathematics, it is natural to want to seal that hard-won distinction by keeping the species name science for modern physics et al. and some other species name such as formal deductive discipline for mathematics. When Rand spoke of the science of ethics, she could easily mean it in that general old sense of an organized, systematic body of rational knowledge, as when she would speak of the science of mathematics. But in the case of her own ethical system, she meant more than that, drawing attention to its basis, at least in part, in facts evident in the science of biology. I include the qualification in part because her ethics also depended on psychological claims, not only biological ones. It is the stronger, modern sense of the science of biology (which had its work advancing big-time in the nineteenth century before and independently of evolutionary theory,* to which it later would be integrated) that is parent to the strong sense in which Rand saw her ethics as scientifically founded. Jean-Marie Guyau (1885) viewed his ethical system also in that way. His conception of life was somewhat different from Rand’s, and this yielded a not wholly egoistic system, though a thoroughly individualistic one.* ^ Quite a few contemporary ethical theories try for a biological basis: a, b, c
  21. Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape (2010) has received a substantial review from a Randian perspective by Ari Armstrong in the Winter 2012 issue of The Objective Standard.* (Cf.)* “Sam Harris’s Failure to Formulate a Scientific Morality” —Harris’s Hedonism —Harris’s Utilitarianism —Harris’s Dearth of Reasons —Utilitarianism’s Totalitarian Implications —The Individualist Alternative
  22. Niapri, Congratulations and welcome to this online circle. I gather there is an Objectivist group at your school, where you might find people nice to find. But you have big finds indeed in the written word. Best wishes. Stephen
  23. Another idea on Marc’s list (#6), though he is unsure it was original with Rand, is the idea “The primary choice is the choice to focus.” So far as I know, the only prior expression of this idea, or very nearly this idea, was from William James in The Principles of Psychology (1890).* He writes “To sustain a representation, to think, is, in short, the only moral act” (II 566). “Effort of attention is thus the essential phenomenon of will. Every reader must know by his own experience that this is so, for every reader must have felt some fiery passion’s grasp” (562). James goes on to illustrate his points persuasively, in detail. Here are some more of his conclusions: It seems likely that Rand was familiar with James’ thought on will, as windowed above. The Dover edition of James’ book (to which my page citations refer) came out in 1950. The treatise was widely known and available, indeed it was and is a modern classic. It is implausible that Rand’s associate, Nathaniel Branden, a college student of psychology, did not become familiar with James’ The Principles of Psychology. The greatest difference between James and Rand on what she called the choice to focus lies in her join of this psychology to the thoroughgoing circumstance that reason is man’s basic means of survival. The choice to think, in the intended sense, becomes the choice to live, thence to live as a human animal. The volitional character of a human consciousness, required for his survival, is then justifiably called out in a fresh basic conception and definition of human nature: rational animal or suicidal animal. This nexus is so far as I know original. It is important, true, and a lovely integration.
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