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Boydstun

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  1. LB, in the statement “No illusions if no correctness” I was speaking elliptically, that is, leaving out words (for speed on this occasion). Your question is natural. The idea is only that there could be no illusions if there were only illusions. The concept illusion depends on the concepts truth and correctness. It is like an error in a computer program. It is only by reference to the general idea of correctness in a program that the idea of an error in a program makes any sense. Furthermore, when we identify an error in a program, we will understand the error. That means we will understand how it is specifically wrong within the wider surround of right. Similarly, with perception. It is not that an illusion is an error, strictly speaking, but the situation is analogous, and an illusion can lead to error. Perception is so often integral with action that it is easy to slide in thought to thinking there has been an error in perception when there has been an error of action due to some sort of illusion in perception. That is a fine point, and I’m probably giving you too many words on this now, where I gave too few before. There is another way in which we glide into the idea that a perceptual illusion is an error, which really it is not, at least not of itself. Take the Müller-Lyer illusion.* In the illusion, the horizontal lines appear to be of unequal length. That is the way they appear, so of itself there is nothing erroneous about the appearance. The reason, however, that we call it an appearance at all and indeed an illusory one is that we have a wider web of perceptions and effective actions by which we can show that it is an illusion and explain in what way the illusion is a misleader. We have the power of measurement, and more generally the power of comparison and integrated cross-comparison, using the true to separate and to explain: (i) off-truth of anomalous perceptions (illusions) and (ii) errors such as occur in computer programs. Without our capability for truth in an area of cognition, we can have no capability for illusions or errors in that area. To overlook that result is to fall into what Rand called the “stolen concept fallacy” (a, b, c). I agree with her on this pattern of incorrect thinking, which should be let go of—it is not effective thinking, where our goal is truth. Another example of this fallacy would be were I to say “It’s possible that all is a dream.” No. We only know of dreams that they are dreams if we know of waking, successful cognition of reality into which we are able to fit dreams as a part. Descartes took up that sort of question and your item 2. Concerning the latter, he would say you cannot be only an illusion because you would still have be around having an illusion in order for there to be an illusion. He exposed a stolen concept. However, some sharp thinkers after him—Leibniz, Charles Saunders Peirce, and Rand—all challenged Descartes’ larger project of starting with doubt and then trying to figure out what cannot possibly be doubted. No, begin with truth you have, not doubt. Have reasons for doubting, reasons speaking the truths you have. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The point about machines and intelligence was only meant to remind that machines (and machines that make machines) are the result of living intelligence, ours, and that whatever intelligence a machine someday might have, it will have been a descendant of our intelligence. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ “Maybe consciousness is inherent in the fact of existence, but you’re just arbitrarily saying it’s not.” I was pointing out that the respondent can (after a little study anyway) come back and say “No, what I’m saying is not arbitrary, here are my grounds for saying it.”
  2. From Integrity to Calculus Part 3 Rand wrote: Notice that in the second quotation there is implicit the mild claim that concepts have implicitly in their constitutions differentiations from things excluded from the concept. That mild claim can be true even if some particulars of Rand’s conception of how the concepts came to be formed were incorrect. The “two or more” requirement could be dropped, for example, as when one forms the concept existence in the most general sense. “There is nothing antecedent to existence, nothing apart from it—and no alternative to it” (Peikoff 1967, 313; see also ITOE Appendix, 245–47, 149–50). Rand overstated the case when she wrote “all conceptual differentiations are made in terms of commensurable characteristics.” Existence and non-existence have no commensurable characteristics, as the latter has no characteristics. Moreover, incommensurable characteristics such a long and green do have characteristic in common as a genus. Rand readily allows, in follow-up verbal discussion, that at higher levels of genus, from higher abstraction, common characteristics can be found for incommensurable characteristics at a lower level (ITOE Appendix, 145–47). I have worked out the implications of these hierarchical circumstances for measurement theory of similarity and measurement-omission theory of concepts in the sections* Superordinates and Similarity Classes and Analytic Constraint of my “Universals and Measurement” (2004; see also Kelley and Krueger 1984, 55–57; Jetton 2011, 215–28). It remains that long and short are literally commensurable; they are of a common measurable dimension. Likewise it stands with blue and green. If all concretes stand in measurable relations with other concretes, then it remains that all concretes can be placed under concepts having the measurement-omission structure. (Usually the concepts will have multiple dimensions. For the concrete that is the whole universe, the concretes commensurable with it will have to be its own parts.) And it remains that long and green are incommensurable, a profound difference between them. David Kelley and Janet Kruger remarked “The natural place to look for a process of abstraction would be in modes of selective attention to determinate features and relations in the perceptual field, especially to concrete similarities among objects brought out by their common differences from other objects in the background” (1984, 64; further, Kelley 1984, 339). As we have seen, in Rand’s view, “You cannot form a concept by integration alone or by differentiation alone. You need both, always. You need to observe similarities in a certain group of objects and differences from some other group of objects . . .” (ITOE Appendix, 138). In “A Theory of Abstraction” David Kelley defends Rand’s model of concept-formation, describing “a sequence of cognitive states and processes occurring at the preconceptual level” (1984, 331). He draws out Rand’s formation process in fine lines, but at a remove from any consideration of child development. His is a logical contour of the process of forming concepts from perceptions, consistent with cognitive psychology, but guided by various general constraints on empirical, objective accounts of concept generation and by past failed attempts at such an account. Allan Gotthelf notes the excellent developments by Kelley from Rand’s basics on similarity and concepts in Kelley’s 1984 papers in his own “Ayn Rand on Concepts” (2007).* While Rand was putting integration to work in theory of concepts in the installments of ITOE, Branden was extending the work of integration in psychology. Recall that the Objectivists to this point and beyond regarded emotions as from automatic subconscious integrations of value judgments and that one’s conscious rational integrations of existence, including one’s own existence and possibilities, pave the road to happiness; whereas, evasion of integration, success in disintegration, leads to unhappiness. Recall also that Rand had lately added that there is a generalized emotion she called a sense of life, which is the result of subconscious integrations of one’s entire experience and reactions. (Rand had used the phrase sense of life once in Fountainhead, twice in Atlas, and evidently used it routinely in conversation [Branden 1999, 38, 56, 101, 105, 168, 171], before beginning to write about the meaning of the phrase in 1965.) Lastly, recall that she had conceived of human consciousness as naturally preserving a certain amount of continuity and as pushing forward to some amount of integration best it can without deliberate, controlled integration by the person. Branden proposed understanding pathological anxiety as subversion of “the clarity and integrity of [one’s] own mental processes, by evasion, repression, and rationalization” (1966, 170–71). He portrayed the subconscious as registering that there are things one needs to think about that one has refused to think about. He portrayed the subconscious as registering and summing implications about a policy of disconnect between one’s convictions and actions. These disintegrating policies and their subconscious records lead to self-distrust, the ramifications of which are drawn out in the essay. This is an example of the Rand-Branden idea that the science of psychology deals with the implications of the broad need identified in Rand’s philosophy, the need for integration, for integrity, for rationality (Branden 1962, 3). Rand and her circle had been using the term psycho-epistemology to refer to an individual’s method of awareness: Is the time scope of his outlook brief or long? Is his concern only with what is physically present? Does he recoil into his emotions in the face of his physical life and need for action? How far does he integrate his perceptions into conceptions? Is his thinking a means of perceiving reality or justifying escape from reality? (Rand 1960, 14, 19, 21). Chris Sciabarra reports that Barbara Branden was the one who originated the concept (and, I presume, the word) psycho-epistemology (1995, 194). In her lecture series Principles of Efficient Thinking, Ms. Branden had defined psycho-epistemology as “the study of the mental operations that characterize a man’s method of dealing with reality” (1962, 178). Nathaniel Branden had further specified the compass of psycho-epistemology in an essay with that title (1964). Rand had written on the psycho-epistemological function of art, integration of consciousness by concretization of abstraction and value (1965b). In 1967 Mr. Branden portrayed mental illness as at root a cognitive, psycho-epistemological disorder. Such disorders are disintegrations of consciousness, contravening a fundamental need. There is continuity in the need for integration from organic life to the life of consciousness. That picture of mental health and illness resonates with Rand’s contentions about egoism and the psyche in Galt’s speech. Branden’s picture of psychological maturity resonates with Rand’s stress on a policy of conceptualizing in “The Objectivist Ethics.” He outlines ways in which that policy is basic in psychological maturity and in fullest self-esteem (Branden 1967b, 230–31). The following year, Branden attempted to give further psychological explication of Rand’s concept sense of life: its development in childhood, its forms, and the affinity it buoys between persons. How much disparity there is between a person’s avowed philosophy and his sense of life depends on “such factors as how rational he is, how conceptually reflective about his own life, how well-integrated psychologically” (1968, 401). It seems to me that Rand and Branden portrayed one’s sense of life as too well integrated in itself, and their sets of philosophical issues going into the make-up of (all the facets of) one’s sense of life may well be incomplete. That is another story, for a separate essay. I mentioned in Part 1 that Rand’s emphasis on integration in childhood cognitive and affective development was in tune with the thinking of Jean Piaget. I quoted from some 1953 lectures of his, wherein he defined two of his key concepts in development, which are assimilation and accommodation. Those are processes coming under the concept integration in Rand’s system. The similarity between Rand and Piaget is even plainer when we turn to John Flavell’s The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget (1963). Unlike the lectures from which I was quoting, Flavell’s text was easily available to Rand and her circle. (By the late ’60’s, my college friends and I were very wrapped up in ITOE and Piaget’s genetic epistemology and their relationships; works about Piaget’s work were readily available. See further, Hsueh 2009.) In this text, one reads of Piaget’s concept of the schema in cognitive development, which is especially important for thought prior to language (see also Jetton 1998, 104–7). Rand makes brief contact with a schema of the image type when she speaks of the child’s iconic representation in drawing man as with oval torso, round head, and stick limbs (ITOE 13; Boydstun 1990, 16–18). In Piaget’s conception, With Piaget’s concept of schema in hand, one reads a little later “A Piagetian schema . . . is always the product of the differentiation, generalization, and integration of earlier schemas . . .” (Flavell 1963, 73). Differentiation and integration, Rand will announce in 1966, are active processes essential to all consciousness as a state of awareness (ITOE 6). That not only integration but differentiation should become highlighted when Rand came to presenting her theory of concepts and definition was natural. Why did she go on to announce at the outset of setting forth her theory of concepts that differentiation and integration are essential in all consciousness? To be sure, it is understandable that she should be setting her view of conceptual consciousness in wider patterns of consciousness. Then too, yes, differentiation and integration are implicit in the idea of consciousness as identification. And yes, years past Rand might have read Spencer saying differentiation and integration are essential to all consciousness. In Principles of Efficient Thinking, Barbara Branden had spoken of full mental clarity as “a state in which one perceives, judges, connects, and integrates the full conceptual meaning of every aspect of that with which one is dealing” (1962, 161). She had included some discussion of definitions and concepts (165–70), and that material, including the examples, was later reused by Rand in ITOE. This 1962 discussion of definitions and concepts by Ms. Branden is replete with references to processes of differentiation and integration. There is no mention of the essential role of that dynamic duo in all consciousness. It is possible that Rand had the generalization in her hand for some time, but never thought to show that card until ITOE. In the alternative, it is possible she had only recently come squarely to the generalization. I mentioned that in Flavell 1963 Rand and her circle could readily come across the Piagetian dynamics of differentiation and integration at the preconceptual level of cognition, at the level of schemas. That would be an inch towards the differentiation-integration generalization. Here would be another, though I'll trace a loop whose line integral is nine inches by way of gaining this other inch. In “The Objectivist Ethics,” Rand had written: Leonard Peikoff reports “Miss Rand used to be a strong advocate of what she called ‘the pleasure-purpose principle’. She meant the idea that on any level, whether we’re talking about thought or action, you cannot function without a purpose that brings you pleasure, something you want to achieve, that you enjoy achieving” (1983, 325). Suppose Rand had that idea far back and, like the dual cognitive-evaluative development she expressed in the preceding paragraph (1961), had this idea in advance of 1963. Flavell 1963 included a summary of Piaget’s Paris lectures I quoted in Part 1. Flavell reported Piaget’s view that Flavell writes that in Piaget’s view “cognitions with primary affective, interpersonal content function like those of a more purely intellectual sort” (1963, 80). He quotes from a 1951 paper of Piaget: With ITOE just around the corner, Rand writes that a child’s development involves growth of two interrelated chains of abstractions, one cognitive, the other normative (1965a, 10). “While cognitive abstractions identify the facts, normative abstractions evaluate the facts, thus prescribing a choice of values and a course of action” (1965b, 15). Rand soon adds a third distinct chain of abstractions interrelated with the two previous chains. Like Piaget, she sees the cognitive chain as basic. If Rand had exposure to Piaget, through Flavell 1963 or through other conduits, she could have adapted what was concordant therein to her own vocabulary and picture of child cognitive and affective development. Piaget’s discernment of the dual strands, cognitive and affective, in child development and in all human adaptation would strike a chord with Rand’s “pleasure-purpose principle.” That chord could resound in the dual chains, cognitive and normative, in Rand 1965a and 1965b, reformed into the triple chain in Rand 1966. Rand first took the normative chain to be the epistemological foundation of art (1965a, 10), but then gave art its own abstraction chain interrelated to the two other chains (1966, 34). Art does not evoke exactly an emotion, rather a sense or feel (ibid.). “Art is man’s metaphysical mirror” (Rand 1966, 37), and it permits him “to contemplate his abstractions outside his own mind” (36). The stylized subject of a work of art tokens aspects of existence known abstractly in one’s cognitive chain and in one’s esthetic chain of evaluations as to metaphysical importance. The style tokens psycho-epistemology (37). In the creation of a work of art, on Rand’s understanding, there is selection, which entails differentiation, followed by integration in a new concrete for respite-perception in concrete: human life in its abstract and protracted effort of thought and valuation. The process of art’s creation or appreciation is a type of construction requiring differentiations and integrations, cousin to those at work in the journey of consciousness from perceptions to abstract concepts (1965b, 15–16). That is our second inch toward the generalization that all consciousness as an active process involves both differentiation and integration in an essential way. Piaget’s discernment of dual processes of differentiation and integration in preconceptual, schematic cognition would strike a chord with Rand’s stress on those dual processes in definitions of concepts (which had been voiced by Ms. Branden in 1962). That chord advanced the other, more straightforward inch towards Rand’s differentiation-integration generalization. The Piaget of Flavell 1963 was in happy time for the dawn that is ITOE. (To be continued.) References Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity 1(1):13–41. ——.2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 5(2):271–305. Branden, B. 1962. Principles of Efficient Thinking. In The Vision of Ayn Rand. 2009. Cobden. Branden, N. 1962. Excerpt from Who Is Ayn Rand? The Objectivist Newsletter (ON) 1(1):3. ——. 1964. Psycho-Epistemology. ON 3(10):41, 43–44; 3(11):46–47. ——. 1966. The Nature of Anxiety. The Objectivist (O) 5(Nov):167–72. ——. 1967a. The Concept of Mental Health. O 6(Feb):216–22. ——. 1967b. Self-Esteem I. O 6(Mar):225–31. ——. 1968. Self-Esteem and Romantic Love III. O 7:(401–5). ——. 1999. My Years with Ayn Rand. Jossey-Bass. Flavell, J. H. 1963. The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget. D. Van Nostrand. Gotthelf, A. 2007. Ayn Rand on Concepts – Another Approach to Abstraction, Essences, and Kinds. Conference Proceedings Nature and Its Classification. Birmingham, UK. Hsueh, Y. 2009. Piaget in the United States 1925–1971. In The Cambridge Companion to Piaget. U. Müller, M. Carpendale, and L. Smith, editors. Cambridge. Jetton, M. 1998. Pursuing Similarity. Objectivity 2(6):41–130. ——. 2011. The Sim-Diff Model and Comparison. JARS 11(2):215–32. Kelley, D. 1984. A Theory of Abstraction. Cognition and Brain Theory 7(3&4):329–57. Kelley, D., and J. Krueger 1984. The Psychology of Abstraction. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 14(1):43–67. Peikoff, L. 1967. The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy IV. The Objectivist 6(Aug):311–16. ——. 1983. Understanding Objectivism. M. Berliner, editor. 2012. NAL. Rand, A. 1960. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet. ——. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet. ——. 1965a. Art and Moral Treason. The Objectivist Newsletter (ON) 4(3):9–10, 12–14. ——. 1965b. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. ON 4(4):15–16, 18. ——. 1966. Art and Sense of Life. The Objectivist 5(Mar):33–40. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Reprinted from The Objectivist 5(July–Dec), 6(Jan–Feb). Meridian. Sciabarra, C. M. 1995. Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Penn State.
  3. 
 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ In the course of remarks on the recently issued Ayn Rand Explained, I had written: In Understanding Objectivism there is a really illuminating and extended treatment of ways in which Objectivists distinctively can turn to repression concerning their emotions and how to avoid that turn (Lecture 10, 317–35). Branden’s The Disowned Self (1972)* treated the topic for people in general, but did not get into snares peculiar to people embracing Rand’s literature and philosophy.
  4. PPW, hear, hear! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 2. No illusions if no correctness. No correctness, no illusions, and no meaningful speaking of them, if no living, conscious being doing the speaking. No possibility this sentence is being read, yet by no one; and at the moment, no possibility you are not one reading this sentence. No reason to suppose every question sayable is objectively meaningful;* reason to think these two under 2 as merely grammatically correct and merely inauthentic with respect to reality. 4. Many times thinkers have argued that consciousness is inherent in all existence. Likewise, many thinkers have argued that consciousness is inherent in only some of existence, either in only living existence or in only some subset of living existence (or in machines made by living intelligence). Both sides have given reasons and evidence. There is no need for either side to assert their view groundlessly (arbitrarily). There is evidence and reason (everyday and scientific) to think that rocks have no sensations, that plants have no sensations, that without sensations there is no perception, and that without perception there is no consciousness. There is in fact evidence that without a cerebral cortex, there is no consciousness. (Rand had the impression, as have many, that animals as lowly as insects have consciousness; I think the accumulating research in the decades since then establishes that consciousness is not possible to insect neuronal systems; but there is at least one eminent researcher who does not yet close the book on the older view, Rand’s view.) The sequence of powers—sensation, perception, and thought—along with their corresponding suites of action, are what we learn in study of the varieties and history of life on the planet as well as in the development of individual animals from their single starting cell to infancy and on to maturity (see also OPAR 189–97). LB, you might find Understanding Objectivism (2012) helpful. More on Rand’s axioms: Lennox* – Boydstun* At a more advanced level, down the road, you might like to open: The Evidence of the Senses David Kelley (1986) Certainty: A Refutation of Scepticism Peter Klein (1981) The Threefold Cord: Mind, Body, and World Hilary Putnam (1999)
  5. True. Helmholtz writes in On the Sensations of Tone: Wow.
  6. From Integrity to Calculus Part 2 Identification entails differentiation. To point to a leaf and say leaf is not to point to a stone and say stone. Leaf is leaf and not stone. An item that is leaf is a leaf and not stone, and what a leaf is is not what a stone is (Rand 1957, 1016). Differentiation enters in that way in Rand’s conception of concepts as identifications. Differentiation enters her conception of concepts in two other ways as well. “A concept is a mental integration of two or more perceptual concretes, which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition” (Rand 1961, 20). Integration and uniting entail prior differentiation, and definition is going to require differentiation within a genus. At the perceptual level, one recognizes and distinguishes entities. At the conceptual level, one grasps relationships of similarity and difference between entities, between their identities, and treats the items as units in groups of similar items, such as tables or chairs (ITOE 6). Beyond concepts of perceptual concretes, Rand defines concepts more generally: The concept chair is the single particle of thought that stands for any chair. Any chair will do. Any particular chair fills the slot chair. Particular chairs are what I call substitution units in the concept chair. This is one of Rand’s two uses of unit in her theory of concepts (Boydstun 2004, 273). We can study logic in an elementary text. We can learn what is logic so far as the text takes the subject. We would not be able to understand what is being taught unless we already knew, less explicitly, some of that logic. But we do not have to understand how we came by our prior, less explicit knowledge of logic in order to understand logic as taught in the text. Rand’s treatise on concepts says much about what they are (or at least what they can and ought to be), but it also says much about how we come to have concepts. To a considerable extent, she can be mistaken on points of the genesis of concepts, yet correct, insightful, and fruitful in theory of what they are and how they can fail or be improved. It is the substitution-unit character of concepts that Rand displayed when she wrote, shortly before ITOE, “a concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units, going off in both directions, open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind” (1965, 15). The open-endedness in this picture captures the idea that there are more items than we have encountered that are qualified to be units within this concept. In this preview to her theory of concepts, it might seem puzzling from this quote alone that Rand pictures a sequence open at both ends, but the context shows she was thinking of the circumstance that in addition to units encountered, there are equally legitimate units of the concept not encountered, and these could reside in either the past or the future (see also ITOE 17–18). That is not part of the basic invariant structure of a Randian concept, for the set of integers (. . . –3, –2, –1, 0, 1, 2, 3, . . .) is in a one-to-one correspondence with the natural numbers (1, 2, 3, . . .), which is the more elementary sequence. Form an interlaced sequence from the integers, losing no members from their original sequence: (0, 1, –1, 2, –2, 3, –3, . . .). That sequence can be put into one-to-one correspondence with the naturals. To say that a collection of items, ones encountered and ones not encountered, fall under a concept is not to consider them as having one order rather than another within the concept. It is somewhat like counting objects in a collection. The items can be counted in any order to find the number. Rand said a concept was “like a mathematical series.” This is reasonable, thinking of the units of the concept as substitution units, although we need to get persnickety about the word series. In ordinary parlance, we often say “mathematical series” to indicate what is called a sequence in mathematics. That is what Rand means in this quotation, a mathematical sequence. In mathematics, we reserve the term series for a sequence in which some operation is being performed on the elements as we go along the sequence. An example would be [1 + (1/2) + (1/3) + (1/4) + . . . ], which sums to 2. And the measure value 2, indeed the magnitude of quantities affording real-number measure values of 2, are sums of that series and many others. It is with Rand’s second sense of unit, which is measure-value unit, that concepts begin to look a bit more like a mathematical series in the strict sense. Take the concept length. The lengths of the legs of the chair I sit on and the lengths of the legs of the table I write on have particular different values along the ordered dimension that is length. Such values of length can be operated on: physically, as when one adds the thickness of a matchbook to one leg of a table at the diner to keep the table from rocking or mentally, as in addition, taking logarithms, and so forth. Having such susceptibility to mathematical operations is a prerequisite for placement in mathematical series. Rand is staying with sequence, any sequence of instances, for concepts, even after measure values have been acknowledged of the substitution units, which could be arrayed in correct measure order along dimensions of the substitution units falling under the concept. For in the concept, the particular measure values are omitted. Not all measure values are susceptible to arithmetic operations such as addition. Ordinal values, such as the scratch-hardness of solids, are not meaningfully additive. Nevertheless, along the dimension scratch-hardness, substitution units under the concept minerals can be truly linearly ordered in mathematical sequence. If one has studied calculus, one has perhaps studied series. The latter are a nice way to approach integrals in calculus.* Because Rand speaks in ITOE of some likeness to mathematics in the differentiations and integrations that go into the constitution of concepts, because operations called differentiation and integration are basic operations of calculus, and because Rand mentions integration in calculus when speaking about measurement (14), one may slide from sequence to series as that which is more like the constitution of Randian concepts. Do not make that slide. Stay with sequence, indifferently any one with the proper members. There is impetus as well to slide from sequence/series to integral. Because the units of a concept are contracted into a single item, the concept, when their particular measure values along the concept’s dimensions are suspended, one can slip into thinking the contraction to be that which occurs in the evaluation of a definite integral in calculus. An example of the latter would be the evaluation of integrals over some figure to yield the single value that is the area of the figure or to yield the single value that is the volume of the figure. Do not make this slide either. No mathematical integration occurs along the measure-value dimensions of a concept when its measure values are omitted and the instances falling under the concept lose (in thought) their array in sequences in proper orders along those dimensions. Another likeness Rand observes between concepts in general and a concept learned in mathematics is the likeness between concepts and variable in algebra. Merlin Jetton has noted that this likeness was observed also by Berkeley, though the bishop did not attain a measurements-omitted conception of concepts (Jetton 1998, 66–67; see also). Rand writes: Rand was using the equation 2a = a + a only to illustrate the sense in which a concept is like a variable in algebra. She was not saying that two instances of a concept somehow combine to make a magnification of the concept. She was not insinuating that propositions in which a concept is explicated can be modeled on algebraic statements of equality or inequality such as a = b + c. She has not said that the is or has of a proposition is reducible to the equals in mathematical equations. (It remains, of course, that equations are propositions.) Lastly, she has not insinuated that the measure values of a unit falling under a concept are necessarily additive. Rand knew some algebra. I expect she knew also something of the basic operations of calculus: differentiation and integration. In Atlas Shrugged Dagny’s father had been inspecting A differential equation is something beyond an algebraic equation in that the terms in the differential equation are not only functions of variables, but derivatives of such functions, where “differentiations” or “taking derivatives” of functions is one of the two fundamental operations on functions distinctive of calculus. Having some elementary knowledge of what is a differential equation, such as the author of Atlas evidently had, would likely include knowledge that implicit in the differential equation are various specific relations among the variables whose differentials are as specified in the differential equation. One would likely know that solving a differential equation—sometimes by integration, the other operation of calculus—that correctly describes a physical system yields those various specific relations among the variables and that those relations tell how the system will behave. A humanities person in mid-twentieth century could learn these sorts of broad strokes by opening an encyclopedia, if a mathematics text were too forbidding. Perhaps Rand knew nothing of the use of integration in solving a differential equation. Still, she could know that differentiation and integration are the two basic operations of calculus, and even that the latter operation is at hand in convergent continuous infinite series and the value(s) to which they converge. I alluded earlier to the remark of Rand’s recognizing that integration in calculus can be used to measure areas (ITOE 14). After discussing the attribute of shape as one of the characteristics by which one clusters chairs with chairs and tables with tables, she wrote: “Measuring” by integral calculus is to be understood as a calculation using a measured value (the radius of a circle, in Rand’s example) to deliver another measure value (the area of the circle) that one did not measure directly. Rand drifts away from shape by her example, for area is not shape. I have repaired that in “Universals and Measurement.” We characterize shapes by distributed sets of measure-values of curvatures or torsions, creatures in the regions of mathematics called analytic and differential geometry, which indeed consort with calculus (see further Boydstun 2004, 275, 293, 296n8, 299n27). In 1991 Leonard Peikoff remarked: Rand was headed in the right direction on both counts. Her conception of cognitive systems as measurement systems needs to be situated within the modern program of understanding CNS as a computational system. As for the other avenue of research, it is voiced too softly to say there are “important similarities between concepts and mathematics still to be identified.” Similarities should be replaced with relationships in that prospect, so as to include similarities, but more intimate relationships as well. The relation of particular instance to concept is the same as the relation of particular numerical value to algebraic variable; they are the same, not only similar. Then too, measurement-omission theory is to be joined to real measurement and solid modern measurement theory, including geometry (synthetic, analytic, and differential) and calculus (see Boydstun 2004, a, b). To conclude the story of Rand and her long-time friend, integration, we shall pick up, in ITOE and beyond, her further employments of that friend in theory of concepts and related powers. (To be continued.) References Boydstun, S. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 5(2):271–305. Jetton, M. 1998. Pursuing Similarity. Objectivity 2(6):41–130. Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton. Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. 1965. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. The Objectivist Newsletter 4(4):15–16, 18. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Reprinted from The Objectivist 5(July–Dec), 6 (Jan–Feb). Meridian.
  7. . Many here might well enjoy Unholy Quest by John Enright – action, romance, and laughing intelligence. Also, This Perfect Day by Ira Levin. Two recommendations from Rand as superb romantic literature are Quo Vadis and The Scarlet Letter.
  8. Two novels mentioned by Ron Merrill in Ideas and Explained* are by Cameron Hawley. They are Executive Suite (1952)* and Cash McCall (1955). They portray commerce as an honorable activity and leadership in a business enterprise as a noble responsibility. I think most readers who enjoy Rand’s literature would enjoy John Steinbeck’s masterpiece East of Eden (1953). (The movie made of this book shows no trace of the greatness of the book.) The theme it dramatizes is written on its sleeve: the power and glory of human free will. Magnificent.
  9. From Integrity to Calculus Part 1 In July 1966, Ayn Rand issued the first installment of her treatise Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. She opened the first section “Cognition and Measurement” with an idea that had not appeared in her previous writings: “Consciousness, as a state of awareness, is . . . an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration.” Integration was an old key in her work. Differentiation was new. In The Fountainhead Rand had trumpeted the virtues of independence, reliance on reason (one’s own), honesty, creative achievement, love of one’s work, and courage (HR II 559–60, XVIII 739–40). She contended that a concept of justice will make human life and happiness impossible if the concept ignores the uniqueness of individuals and the unity and self-sufficiency required by the preceding virtues (HR II 559–60, XVIII 740). She held up integrity as the overarching virtue pronouncing this unity and self-sufficiency (PK XIII 166, HR VIII 625–28, XVIII 742). Integrity is characterized as “the clean, consistent, reasonable, self-faithful, the all-of-one-style, like a work of art” (GW IX 532). Howard Roark is integrity in the flesh. And though each of Roark’s buildings is unique—as each human being is unique (GW V 495)—they all display the concept and virtue of integrity. A client of Roark’s, Kent Lansing, says to Roark “‘Integrity is the ability to stand by an idea. That presupposes the ability to think’” (ET X 333; also GW IX 53). Roark remarks, speaking of a housing complex he wants to design: “I want to make it real, living, functioning, built. But every living thing is integrated. Do you know what that means? Whole, pure, complete, unbroken. Do you know what constitutes an integrative principle? A thought. The one thought, the single thought that created the thing and every part of it.” (HR VIII 628) When we turn from Fountainhead to Atlas Shrugged, we find Rand’s ethical thought fully developed. Seven moral virtues are articulated, for all individuals: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride. By the time of Atlas (1957), loyalty to truth in all things by reason, which is termed rationality, is the premier virtue. As with integrity in Fountainhead (1943), integration is key to the overarching virtue rationality in Rand 1957. Rand writes in Atlas: Subsumed under rationality in Atlas is our old friend integrity, trueness to the fact that one “is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of two attributes: of matter and consciousness,” integrity as keeping unity of mind and body, action and thought, life and convictions (1019). In Rand’s “For the New Intellectual” (1960), integration is express and is underscored everywhere in the properly functioning lives and minds of individuals. There is the integration of what she conceives as The New Intellectual, “an integrated man, that is: a thinker who is a man of action” (51). Rand sets forth her formula of perception and conception as shot through with integrative process in this essay and repeats the formula the following year in “The Objectivist Ethics.” She writes “Sensations are integrated into perceptions automatically, by the brain of a man or an animal. But to integrate perceptions into conceptions by a process of abstraction is a feat that man alone has the power to perform” (14; see also the remarks on Hume). She conceives of human consciousness as preserving some continuity and as demanding “a certain degree of integration, whether a man seeks it or not” (18). Two disintegrators of human consciousness are guilt and fear (44). Philosophy should formulate “an integrated view of man, of existence, of the universe” (22). “Man needs an integrated view of life, a philosophy, whether he is aware of his need or not” (18). In “The Objectivist Ethics” (1961), Rand writes of animals capable of perception as having awareness of integral entities, not only receipt of separate sensations, and of such an animal being “directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” (19). Man is such an animal and beyond. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, he is able “to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge” (20; see also Branden 1963, 9). And what is a concept? It is “a mental integration of two or more perceptual concretes, which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition” (20). The lives of animals are repetitive cycles without conscious connection between them. “An animal’s consciousness cannot integrate its entire lifetime” (Rand 1961, 24). Humans can and, for their survival, they must. Integration is key not only in cognition, but in emotion. “Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious” (Rand 1961, 27). “If a man desires and pursues contradictions—if he wants to have his cake and eat it, too—he disintegrates his consciousness” (28). Failure of rationality, failure of conscious, volitional integration, yields emotional dissonance. Success in rationality produces happiness (29). In the premier issue of The Objectivist Newsletter, there is an excerpt from a composition of Nathaniel Branden’s, a composition for the book Who Is Ayn Rand? He writes: In reason one identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses. In one’s subconscious, there are “super-rapid integrations of sensory and ideational material” (Branden 1966, 68). In 1965 and in the months of ’66 preceding the unveiling ITOE, Rand and Branden (1965, 53) wrote some on child cognitive and emotional development, and Rand wrote of more integrations distinctive of human life. The following month, Rand penned “The Psycho-Epistemology of Art.” In this essay, there is a five-paragraph stretch summarizing the nature and function of concepts. There we read of integration, of identification and integration, and of the ability of concepts to extend the range of consciousness. And we read: “A concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units, going off in both directions, open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind” (1965b, 15). We do not read of differentiation. In February and March of 1966, Rand issued in order “Philosophy and Sense of Life” and “Art and Sense of Life.” By a sense of life, she meant a person’s “generalized feeling about existence, an implicit metaphysics with the compelling motivational power of a constant, basic emotion—an emotion which is part of all his other emotions and underlies all his experiences” (1966a 17). This generalized feeling she took to be the result of a subconscious integration summing the history of one’s psychological activities, one’s reactions and conclusions. She extends her earlier notion that human consciousness preserves willy-nilly some continuity and demands a certain degree of integration (1961, 18). “The enormously powerful integrating mechanism of man’s consciousness is there at birth; his only choice is to drive it or be driven by it” (1966a, 18). Recall Rand’s mention in Atlas of early integration of sight and touch to perception of solid objects as such. I noted in “Induction on Identity” (1991) research on that integration: In its selective recreations of reality, according to Rand, art isolates and integrates aspects of reality to yield a new concrete that can serve certain functions for the human psyche. The artist’s sense of life is the controller and integrator of the artwork he or she creates. Rand saw Cubism,* in its attempts to display objects from multiple perspectives at once, as aiming for disintegration in consciousness (Rand 1966b, 38). So once more, as with her discussions of concepts and their formation to this point, Rand writes of isolation and integration, but not of differentiation. Then comes ITOE where Rand open its first section “Cognition and Measurement’ with a proclamation that consciousness is “an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration” (1966–67, 5). She says “discriminated awareness begins at the level of percepts” (ibid.) I would say this is not quite right in that a newborn can discriminate his mother’s voice from other voices, and he discriminates directions of sources of sounds (see Appendix and its links). But Rand is on to something. Recall that she had tied experience at the level of percepts to awareness of entities (1961, 19). It is true that in every percept, we discriminate its object from other things or from background. Then too, we discriminate components within its object. Discrimination in perceptual consciousness had already been part of her conception of the perception of entities. In Atlas she had spoken of the infant learning to distinguish solid objects and learning that Mother is one thing, a curtain is another, and neither can turn into the other (1040–41). Of later, conceptual development, Branden had written: “As the child grows, his intellectual field widens: he learns language, he begins to grasp abstractions, he generalizes, he makes increasingly subtle discriminations, he looks for principles, he acquires the ability to project a distant and more distant future” (1965, 53; emphasis added). Rand’s emphasis on integration in childhood cognitive and affective development was in tune with the thinking of Piaget (e.g. 1954). For Piaget the main English terms would be assimilation and accommodation, denoting technical concepts of his which, with coordination between them, are the essence of development . Here is an example from lectures in 1953: Not only integration, but differentiation too, and by those names, loom large in Piaget’s studies in generalization, which he composed in the years after Rand’s ITOE (Campbell 2009, 157–59; note also*). Herbert Spencer, in his Principles of Psychology, had written: “Under its most general aspect therefore, all mental action whatever is definable as the continuous differentiation and integration of states of consciousness” (1855, 333; see Smith 1981, 119). Perhaps Rand had been familiar with Spencer’s theme of differentiation and integration in his thinking about biology and epistemology. Discrimination or differentiation had always been part of Rand’s conception of consciousness as identification. That was logically entailed. But it is with her closer analysis of concepts—their structure, function, and genesis—in ITOE that differentiation becomes prominent. (To be continued.) Appendix – Baby This is a more complete picture of the competencies of the human infant from day of birth to three weeks. Prior to birth, one had the grasp reflex, responsiveness to sounds, and the gustofacial reflex. One’s eyelids were opening, the retinal layers of the visual system were complete, and one was responsive to light intensity. By day of birth, one had the additional reflexes of pupil dilation, kneejerk, and startle. On that day, one had visual preference for 3-dimensional objects (one perceived something of the 3D of objects), visual discriminations of different static line orientations, visual correction for 3D size constancy under variation of distance and correction for shape constancy under variation of object orientation. One was unable to detect boundaries and unable to fill in invisible parts of objects. One’s visual acuity was poor (probably due to immaturity of both the retina and the visual cortex), and one’s contrast sensitivity was poor. One’s significant body motions were in alternation with visual attending. One was capable of rough, saccadic tracking, which was not only not smooth, but not anticipatory. One fixed on interesting objects, and perhaps one had some slight control in this; perhaps it was not entirely passive capture. One may have had an early visual preference for faces in tracking. One could imitate two facial movements and one head turn; one could perform these imitations when forced to delay until the model movement was absent. One’s auditory resolution of pitches and volumes was already pretty good. One had a preference for Mother’s voice over the voice of a stranger, and one could distinguish human language from other auditory input. One was engaged in early head-turning, in the horizontal plane, towards sound sources. As of the time I compiled—fifteen years ago—the developmental time line from which the items here are taken, it was unknown whether the sound source is experienced as outside the head; head-turning had been evoked also by earphones. Let’s wrap up the first day. One cried when other infants cried. One had auditory recognition memory; retention was for days under conditioning, for 24 hours under habituation. One was sensitive to pain, to touch (coetaneous and active), and to changes in bodily position. By the end of the second day, one could discriminate Mother’s face from a stranger’s face. One had a preference for infant-directed speech (motherese) over adult-directed speech. By five days, one engaged in early reaching towards an object in the visual field, reaching that included a preparation for grasping. This reaching and visual detection may be an undifferentiated attention system. By twelve days, one could imitate three facial (oral) movements and one set of sequential finger movements. By fourteen days, one had a preference for Father’s voice over that of other males. By three weeks, one expected the reappearance of visual objects that were gradually occluded by a moving screen, provided the occlusion time was short. (See further, a, b, sections from “Universals and Measurement” (2004); see also the posts following them, starting here.) References Branden, N. 1962. Excerpt from Who Is Ayn Rand? The Objectivist Newsletter (ON) 1(1):3. ——. 1963. Mental Health versus Mysticism and Self-Sacrifice. ON 2(3):9–11. ——. 1965. What Is Psychological Maturity? ON 4(11):53. ——. 1966. Emotions and Values. The Objectivist 6(May):65–73. Boydstun, S. 1991. Induction on Identity. Objectivity 1(2):33–46. Campbell, R. L. 2009. Constructive Processes: Abstraction, Generalization, and Dialectics. In The Cambridge Companion to Piaget. U. Müller, M. Carpendale, and L. Smith, editors. Cambridge. Piaget, J. 1953. Intelligence and Affectivity – Their Relationship During Child Development. T. Brown and C. Kaegi, translators. 1981. Annual Reviews. —. 1954. The Construction of Reality in the Child. Routledge. Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill. ——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. 1960. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet. ——. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. Signet. ——. 1965a. Art and Moral Treason. ON 4(3):9–10, 12–14. ——. 1965b. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. ON 4(4):15–16, 18. ——. 1966a. Philosophy and Sense of Life. The Objectivist (O) 5(Feb):17–22. ——. 1966b. Art and Sense of Life. O 5(Mar):33–40. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Reprinted from O 5(July–Dec), 6 (Jan–Feb). Meridian. Smith, G. H. 1981. Herbert Spencer’s Theory of Causation. The Journal of Libertarian Studies 5(2):113–52. Spencer, H. 1855. The Principles of Psychology. Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans. Spelke, E. S. 1989. The Origins of Physical Knowledge. In Thought without Language. L. Weiskrantz, editor. Oxford. Steri, A., and E. S. Spelke 1988. Haptic Perception of Objects in Infancy. Cognitive Psychology 20:1–23.
  10. Hi Clive, Hope you return to Rand’s very rich Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) again and again through the years. It may be helpful to also read Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by way of getting the broader strokes of her epistemology, then return to ITOE. A nice exposition of and perspective on much of Rand’s theory of concepts has been written by Allan Gotthelf and is available here. My own elaborations upon Rand’s theory are here and here. Stephen
  11. A view of the choice to live as it figures in Rand’s ethical theory—a view along the line of John’s post #1—is set out by Darryl Wright in his essay “Reasoning about Ends: Life as a Value in Ayn Rand’s Ethics” (in Gotthelf/Lennox 2011). In the second sentence of the quotation, I think Prof. Wright is saying that the choice, not the experience (of one’s life as a value) that provides nondeliberative grounds for the choice, “involves forming certain kinds of intentions, which set an agenda . . . .” In further development of the Wright view, I would expect a natural join with the following picture from Rand:
  12. I had never gotten around to reading Ronald Merrill’s original The Ideas of Ayn Rand until now, in parallel with Marsha Enright’s expanded version Ayn Rand Explained. Enright has expanded Ideas considerably in Explained, beyond the three new chapters. For example, Merrill wrote in Ideas: “Rand’s predilection for paradox and her pleasure in surprising and shocking the reader probably owed much to the influence of O. Henry and Oscar Wilde.” That statement, its paragraph, and its section remain in Explained. But the element of paradox and six others (mostly additional to those remarked by Merrill) in Rand’s literature receive fresh and delightful notice and discussion from Enright. One of the hazards Nathaniel Branden had attended to in “The Benefits and Hazards of Ayn Rand’s Philosophy” (1984) is perhaps more a psychological hazard than a philosophical one: repression.* As I mentioned in another thread,* his lectures The Basic Principles of Objectivism, as transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand, contain much more psychology than does Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. As readers here know, Branden published quite a bit of psychology in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. In recent years, he has allowed that the psychology he propounded then as well as his later corrections and extensions to it are not part of the philosophy of Objectivism, and he has acknowledged that Peikoff’s OPAR is an accurate representation of Rand’s philosophy. The divide between philosophical psychology (as my Thomist first philosophy professor called it) and what we call cognitive psychology* or therapeutic psychology* is not sharp. For example, Rand would not have gotten far in posing her view of the nature and role of reason in human life without saying things about the nature of perception and emotions and their relations with reason. Theory of perception and emotions at some level of outline has to be part of a philosophy such as hers. Moreover, emotional dynamics figure into film, such as Love Letters,* and novels, such as Fountainhead and Atlas. It is in connection with Rand’s literature that Branden came to see a hazard in the “philosophy” of Ayn Rand. He wrote: No such lesson took on me as a young person reading those books. In Fountainhead again and again Roark is shown to be the character not evasive about himself, the character most not evasive about himself. In Atlas Dagny, Rearden, and Galt are shown as kin of Roark in that respect. Rand was no Doris Lessing when it came to space devoted to self-reflection in characters. Lessing is no Rand when it comes to space devoted to the glory of sustained productive achievement. The two authors had different aspects of human existence, both of them important, that they especially wanted to embroidery. The view that Rand’s protagonists are emotionally and introspectively inept has become a cliché. It was a pleasant surprise to find that in Ayn Rand Explained that cliché is challenged. This work counters that image, specifically with respect to Branden’s contentions about emotions and repression as portrayed in Atlas (pp. 120–25 in Explained; 79–84 in Ideas).
  13. Intel, In his book My Years with Ayn Rand (1999), Nathaniel Branden relates his feeling, while the deception continued, of enormous guilt over his (and Barbara’s) withholding from Rand the important information that he was no longer in love with Rand. He finally disclosed the information in a letter to Rand, which he delivered in person. In that letter, he apologized to her for the deception. Some days later, Barbara revealed to Rand the further information that Nathaniel had entered into an affair with a young woman known to them all. Rand had Nathaniel come down from his apartment in the same building in which she lived, had her scene with him (along the lines you would expect), and during that scene, he apologized to her for the pain he had caused her. Of course that pain was about more than the deception. They had all been deceiving the public. That is entirely different. Their affairs of he heart were none of the public’s business. Lying to the public in such matters is part of one’s rightful autonomy over the intimacies of personal identity. Branden chose eventually to discuss publicly his affair with Rand and their total parting, and in this memoir, he chose to convey is own (and Barbara’s) wrongfulness in their deception of Rand and admit their motives for carrying on that charade. Barbara has made these admissions in a post at OL, which I had stumbled across a few weeks ago, but I have been unable to locate it just now and can’t give further time to this topic. Nathaniel Branden chose to display also in his memoir his apology to Rand for his deception. The important thing in The Vision of Ayn Rand is the Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures. The important thing about Ayn Rand is the literature and philosophy she created.
  14. . How Einstein Found His Field Equations: 1912–1915 —A— —B— John Norton (1984)
  15. Michelle, Intel's concern and the widespread concern over Branden doing something wrong against Rand does not include his loss of romantic interest in Rand. No one faults that; it happens. The concern does include, importantly, Nathaniel and Barbara's concealment from Rand his change of heart and his having fallen in love with another woman. It was a deception over a considerable amount of time, and both of the Branden's have acknowledged that moral wrong they committed against Rand's person, as I recall. Intel, by buying Vision and studying and writing about Basic Principles of Objectivism lectures therein, I do not "support" Branden in some way against Rand, and I do not give him something he does not deserve. Impact on the author existentially, and symbolically in my own psyche, compared to interest (or not) in the ideas in a book is as the weight of a feather in comparison to the weight of the book. I think one sense of Branden getting something he does not deserve by publication of those lectures is that much of the interest in the lectures in the first place and later was their close attention and concurrence from Rand. However, the content of the lectures simply is what it is. Its ideas and their expression simply have the merit they have under rational scrutiny regardless of who wrote the lectures. I don't mean to try to talk you out of the way you feel or say the weighting you give against Branden for his elaborate dishonest behavior while he was delivering those lectures is incorrect in comparison to the weighting you give to the possible value from reading the lectures. I don't mean to say there is only one imbalance of that scale that is the objectively correct result for every psyche. And even for a single individual, he or she might rightly change those comparative weightings through time. I was curious if you think your own feeling that Branden gets something he does not deserve by having this book and having it read would change after the Brandens are both dead. Would that make a difference in your decision and its reasons? One thing I would venture is that as the generations pass, fewer readers will decline the book for the reason that they think it gives Branden something he does not deserve. After all, the parties to the incidents will have all been dead for decades, then centuries. Rand said her "permanently." She definitely meant also, "If you value me, don't listen to that pair concerning what they might say about me and my philosophy. For that matter, don't give them any encouragement to further success or fulfillment in life." Naturally, some people responded that the conditional statement was incorrect---when referred to their own interests and values, rather than to Rand's---for they found they still valued Rand all the same and followed the later writings of the Brandens about Rand and her philosophy. As for Rand's "permanently," I doubt she gave a care over whether it pertained to time of readers after she and the Brandens were all dead.
  16. Intel, Rand said future, thenceforth from 1968. "I hereby withdraw my endorsement of them and of their future works and activities. I repudiate both of them, totally and permanently, as spokesmen for me or for Objectivism." Aside from the preface and epilogue, the contents of this book are evidently from years prior to Rand’s split with Branden. Rand had already assured her audience that all those lectures, which are from before the split, were accurate representations of her philosophy. I don’t mean to encourage you to buy or read the book. It may very well hold little that would be new and significant to you. However, it is an error to think that because you buy a book you sanction its content or its existence. I have four translations of the Bible. I use them all for scholarly work. I do not thereby sanction the content or existence of them. Were Rand alive, she would not like me bringing this book Vision to her soiree (supposing I found the book so gripping). I wouldn’t do that, out of personal respect for her realm. We are in no such place. Rand is long dead, and before long all the people who knew her personally and significantly will also be dead. The rotten things they did to each other—preeminently the Brandens’ deception of Rand for continuance of their position and enterprise—are not our rational personal concern. Their deeds were not done to us, and they set no norms for us or society. We do not require those persons nor Rand as role models. Their personal conflicts are not to the point of which ideas are true and important and which expressions of them are eloquent.
  17. M remarked in #4 on Nathaniel Branden’s Epilogue to Vision, which is titled “The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand.” In the hazards portion of that retrospective essay, one of Branden’s analyses is especially wide of the mark. He writes of readers of Rand who say Rand did not paint any such priority of virtue over achievement or happiness. I suppose psychologists making money off persuading people they are underachieving, and in need of encounters with the profession to get where they should be, encourage an inversion of priorities somewhat along those lines. Among philosophers Kant certainly set virtue in the way decried by Branden. Rand did not. From Kira to Roark to Galt, she set concern with what is right only within a wider context of life, achievement, and happiness. When Rand addressed the moral virtue of pride, one may be reminded of Kant’s remarks on the preciousness of a good will.* There too, the discussion is within a setting of value wider than moral value. With Eddie Willers, we have a young person looking for the best in humans as under conventional notions of the morally extraordinary. Dagny does not look there, nor to what one thinks of at that early stage of the novel as the region of morality at all. In the end, Eddie comes to find the best in us not in an extraordinary and separated plane of morality, but in business and making a living and in the esteem, will, and thought making them possible. Eddie is not portrayed as morally defective. He is as moral as Dagny or Galt. They all make errors. None of their errors are held up as moral failings. They have differences in abilities, interests, and personality. “Sometimes I’m not even sure I’m as good as Eddie Willers.” There is bound to be some running together of moral goodness with intellectual ability in that sort of attitude. It is, of course, John Galt, not Eddie Willers, who is Rand’s conduit for letting morally ideal human being speak to the reader. In absorbing Rand’s literature and philosophy, one who ends by taking an individual personality such as Galt (or Rand) as model for one’s own ideal, rather than self-consciously taking abstract ideal human (tuned to the present world and having one’s own personality), might very well end up accepting an unearned guilt, or anyway, a guilt out of all proportion to one’s real error.
  18. Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is shorter. That one and Branden’s transcripts The Vision of Ayn Rand both have the merit for older eyes of having large type. The Index in the latter is totally off. Roger Bissell has since prepared a correct one. Write to me via the email service of this site if you would like a copy of it. I have found the corrected index very helpful. I use Vision for history of Rand’s views. OPAR has more metaphysics and epistemology, and it was composed as a book. I find it easy to read, it is admirably organized, and it includes detailed citations to Rand's own writings. Vision has more psychology, and it is more rambling due to being a compilation of lectures, not a book distilled from lectures. It is unclear if anything within Branden’s recorded lectures to the point of his break with Rand in 1968, anything he might later have found embarrassing (such as that homosexuality is a mental illness), has been omitted from the transcriptions. If there are any such omissions, I’m sure it’s for the better.
  19. Re: #19 I don’t see how there can be any truths certified as objective without combining one’s third-person perspective on them with one’s first-person perspective on them. Kant correctly observed that any assertion of P can be prefaced with I think. That is, if I assert P, that entails “I think P.” But conversely, I claim and hope you will agree, “I think such-and-such is the case” entails the straight assertion “Such and such is the case.” The frame of the knower in the latter is one of third-person (the same knower who also can take up the frame of first-person, to be sure), in which what is the case is acknowledged to be so independently of the knower. Cognizance of one’s ignorance beyond what one has grasped also requires not only one’s first-person perspective, but one’s third-person perspective, one including in view both the world and one’s trajectory of knowing. Grames, in thinking about whether the way I have positioned a ladder will be safe for my use, it would seem I can go back and forth between first- and third-person perspective on the assessment. I’m not sure that that distinction is the one you are after. Ex ante and ex post are situations in which different information is available, but I wouldn’t identify one situation with the frame of first person and the other with third person. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What has proven to be the final version of “Objectivist Theory of Truth,” which was improved somewhat by responses in this thread, resides here.
  20. Resolution of distance down to the level of about 5 times the theoretical Schwartzchild radius of a black hole has now been attained: “Jet-Launching Structure Resolved Near the Supermassive Black Hole in M87” MIT – Doeleman et al. A future test, by the Event Horizon Telescope, of the GR prediction that only mass and angular momentum (and net electric charge, not likely large) are conserved in black-hole influx is summarized here.
  21. Ayn Rand Explained From Tyranny to Tea Party Ronald E. Merrill, author Marsha Familaro Enright, editor (2012 Open Court) Description at Amazon
  22. Likely an important help in the follow-up work indicated in #13: Kant’s Elliptical Path Karl Ameriks (2012 Oxford) From the publisher:
  23. Supplementary to #72, are these: What Ayn Rand Means When She Describes Selfishness as a Virtue Jason Raibley Cultural Snips William Thomas
  24. For some years, The News Hour has invited people affiliated with the Cato Institute to participate in discussions on the program. I was delighted to see last evening that those invitations will be continued with the change in leadership at Cato. There had been some public attention earlier over the concern that with the changes at Cato it would come to be seen as simply a Republican organization and would cease to receive invitations to advocate in forums seeking experts unaligned with political party to address issues. Cato is still in good standing with The New Hour, and this is important, as that public forum is probably the one through which Cato ideas are most widely seen by the general public. Last evening Neal McCluskey from Cato participated in a discussion of public policy on government-back college student loans. Link.
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