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Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. Despicable Amendment – Amen Thanks, Diana. Those are the sorts of possible effects that could impact my partner and me. We have that sort of legal situation here in Virginia also. The good news is that so far the legal profession is not so bigoted as the general public. One good thing for same-sex couples throughout the country is that a couple of years ago, the President issued a directive that hospitals receiving Medicare business are required to have a written policy of nondiscrimination against same-sex couples concerning visitation rights. Unfortunately, even that can be overturned by a future President pandering to the bigots.
  2. Concerning Core Two of Rand’s ideas I find true, original, and important are these: The first is Rand's idea that concepts of any particulars can be fashioned according to a principle of suspended particular measurement values along certain magnitude dimensions shared by particulars falling under those concepts. This conjecture is important as a distinct position in the theory of universals. It has implications for metaphysics and for philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of science. I continue to develop the measurements-omitted theory of universals* and to put it to work in problems current in the philosophy of mathematics and science. The second is Rand's idea that value occurs only on account of the existence of life. Where there is value, there is life; and where there is life, there are values.* The first thinker who really got some grip on this idea was a philosopher of whom Rand likely knew little. Shoshana Milgram has informed me he was being taught at Rand’s university, but Rand did not take that course. His name is Marie-Jean Guyau. His theory of ethics was individualistic, against Utilitarianism, and purely secular. His book presenting this theory is A Sketch of Morality without Obligation or Sanction (1885). His concept of what biological life fundamentally is was somewhat different than Rand’s, and that is one reason for the differences between his ethics and Rand’s. I think Rand was mistaken in these ways: Metaphysics – Rand’s is overly deterministic. (a, b) Epistemology – Rand’s is overly to the side of the subject. Ethics – Rand’s is overly egoistic (a, b). Since you are interested in political philosophy, I will mention also that although there is some room for interpretation of Rand on the point, she may have made the error of assuming that individuals come to the state with their property rights in land (in the economic sense) already perfected, like their rights in their person. Murray Rothbard explicitly made that error. The corrective is here: a, b. Dormin111, what do you find true, important, and distinctive to Rand in her writings? What of significance do you find incorrect?
  3. Looking to the text, I see that Rand did not err by saying as Thomas, whom I quoted in #332, that Aquinas reintroduced Aristotle. She wrote: “Aristotle’s works were lost to the scholars of Europe for centuries. The prelude to the Renaissance was the return to Aristotle via Thomas Aquinas.” There is error in the latter sentence in saying that the return was only by Aquinas. Not only were there other minds bringing Aristotle’s ideas in his rediscovered work to ascendance in Western intellectual culture; without the Aquinas conduit, that ascendance would still have occurred via those other minds at that time. Think especially of the more scientific thinkers, with Posterior Analytics in hand, and think of the broad impact of On the Soul on philosopher-theologians other than Aquinas. In Rand’s first sentence, there is error in neglecting the logical works that had been already in the hands of earlier thinkers such as Abelard. That only concrete particulars exist outside the mind was already a live position, thanks in large part to Abelard’s interpretation and promotion of what is in those works of Aristotle. From those works, syllogistic logic was already the dominant mode of reasoning, and as Thomas has indicated in #335, to the purpose of much sterile rationalization (contrast with Rand: a, b, c). What was of interest to Rand in Aristotle’s logic was the (at once logical and metaphysical) principle of noncontradiction. That and Aristotle’s defense of it was not at hand full weight until Metaphysics was translated into Latin in the century before Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas. For the prelude to the Renaissance, we should add to the Aristotle of Aquinas and to the translations into Latin of Posterior Analytics, Physics, Meteorology, On the Heavens, Generation and Corruption, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Sense and Sensibility and translation into Latin of the commentaries of Averroes on Aristotle. We should add, also in the century before Bacon, Aquinas, et al., the translations into Latin of Euclid (Elements, Optics, Catoptrics), Ptolemy (Almagest, Planisphere, Optics), Avicenna (The Healing, Canon of Medicine), and Alhacen (De aspectibus).
  4. Ninth, Aristotle's ideas on logic were already dominant in the Latin West. In the rediscovered parts of Aristotle (the works I listed), there was a largely non-mystical, this-world comprehensive view to compete with the Christian view. Aquinas' synthesis co-opted that competitor for Christianity, perhaps extending the dominance of that mysticism considerably. Even as late as the 17th Century, when the modern mechanistic physics had become a new threat to Christianity, we find Leibniz bringing Aristotle's concepts such as substantial form to the rescue of Christian Mysteries. Aquinas' synthesis continues to give a patina of rationality to Christian faith in some quarters to this day. Yes, I concur that Aquinas was the one who more than any other thinker made Aristotle in those rediscovered parts of his philosophy, when curtailed, acceptable in Christianity. Whether that notable weight of Aquinas favoring Aristotle was greater than the combined weight of all the others in the West favoring Aristotle, I do not know.
 That is incorrect. In the century before Aquinas, there had been translations into Latin of Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, Physics, Meteorology, On the Heavens, Generation and Corruption, Metaphysics, On the Soul, Sense and Sensibility and the commentaries of Averroes on Aristotle. The logical works, by contrast, had not been lost to the West. Abelard, for example, had benefitted from them; he lionized Aristotle simply from those. Champions of Aristotle in Aquinas own time included Roger Bacon and Albert the Great, mentor of Aquinas. Rand was in error on this point when she wrote “For the New Intellectual.” No excuse for us.
  6. Worthwhile criticisms of Northrup Buechner’s Objective Economics (a, b) are put forward by Richard Salsman (a, b) in a hostile review in The Objective Standard, Spring 2012. Last summer at OCON 2011, Prof. Buechner was present, and his book was being sold (like hotcakes) independently of the ARI Bookstore, though in the same room.* Mr. Salsman will be an instructor at OCON 2012.* “The Law of Supply and Demand” – Northrup Buechner (2012) ~~ I ~ II ~ III ~ IV ~ V ~ VI ~ VII ~~
  7. Demanding tests for theories of dark energy and the origin of the acceleration of cosmic expansion are being set by precise cosmic distance and size measurements relying on baryon acoustic oscillation signals. Probing Dark Energy with Baryonic Acoustic Oscillations Seo and Eisenstein (2003) Baryon Acoustic Oscillations Bassett and Hlozek (2009) Some Results Anderson et al. (2012)
  8. Hi Thomas, Which translation of KrV do you have? I strongly urge getting one of the two fairly recent translations—the one by Pluhar or the one by Guyer—if you don’t have one of them already. I like Pluhar’s a lot. I had studied out of Kemp Smith about twenty-five years, but the switch to Pluhar was so worth it. So much help all along the way. Concerning #230 and #234: I wanted to mention that the realm of appearance, or the phenomenal realm, is not a realm of systematic illusion in Kant’s conception of it. And contrary to the excerpt from the Britannica article, the phenomenal realm is in no way unreal, not a bit less real than the noumenal realm. Kant loves the phenomenal realm; he loves its objectivity and intelligibility; he loves is objects and its spatial, temporal, and causal structure. In KrV think of the “Second Analogy of Experience” section, think of his “Refutation of Idealism” section in the B edition. Yes, Kant was horribly mistaken in thinking that the fundamental structures and unities in the “phenomenal realm” come from the constitution of the human mind. But in attributing way too much to the side of the subject, he was not thinking of it as subjective in the negative sense of non-objective. In fact, he has so much determination in the phenomenal realm (in physics specifically) that he ends up with another tragic mistake: he thinks there is no place left in the phenomenal realm for free will. Peikoff told a good joke I recall. After he had made his presentation of Kant’s philosophy in his history of philosophy lectures, one question he got was why didn’t Kant just dispense with the noumenal realm altogether. Peikoff quip: “Because Kant had big plans for the noumenal realm.” He then went on to explain Kant’s thinking on why he needed to retain the shadowy noumenal realm in his Kant’s total scheme of accounting for the phenomenal, experienced realm. I would caution against noumenal baseballs. That goes too Plato for Kant. I’d keep the noumenal behind the baseball in hand vague, indeterminate, and nameless. Now you probably know about Kant’s big plans for the noumenal realm (in KrV and beyond). One thing in that haven from the phenomenal realm was free will. This was Kant’s way of protecting free will against a mistaken total-determinism in the picture of physics. He had a couple of other valuables to stow in that haven as well. Stephen
  9. Of related interest: Isaac Newton’s Scientific Method: Turning Data into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology William L. Harper (2012 Oxford) “Newton's method endorses the radical theoretical transformation from his theory to Einstein's. Harper argues that it is strikingly realized in the development and application of testing frameworks for relativistic theories of gravity, and very much at work in cosmology today.”
  10. Loose connection looks to be source of the anomalous experimental result.
  11. Thanks for the further reflection, Leonid. I have now written a companion essay which expands a portion of this one. It is titled “Thought’s Living Existence” and is linked here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Return to Diana’s program for tomorrow here.
  12. A live-streamed debate on the topic Is Government the Problem or the Solution? is scheduled for next Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. at George Mason University, in Founders Hall, Room 134. The debaters will be Yaron Brook* and David Callahan.* Later in the year, there will be debates between the Democratic and Republican candidates for President. Wednesday’s debate foreshadows, at a deeper level, what is sure to be an underlying issue in the Presidential contest.
  13. Thought’s Living Existence This essay is a companion to “Your Love of Existence.”* We saw there that for Aristotle the true or false “is in the same province with what is good or bad” (DA 431b10–11). I want to add to what I said there about how this general state of affairs is reconceived by Ayn Rand. Rand proclaims that the root of her moral code is “the axiom that existence exists. / Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists” (Rand 1957, 1015). What is the sense of exists in the phrase “that one exists possessing consciousness”? Immediately it is that one is an existent among other existents in general and that one is an existent conscious of other existents. On the following page of Atlas Shrugged, we are told that consciousness is identification. So exists in “that one exists possessing consciousness” means furthermore that one exists as an identifier of existents. This much goes to the side of us concerned with the true or false, or the cognitive. There is a further sense of exists in the phrase “that one exists possessing consciousness.” That sense has been prepared by text preceding our quotation on 1015. In the preceding pages of Galt’s radio speech, Rand had outlined the place of the mind in human survival and in moral virtue. This outline had been dramatized in the final scene between Rearden and Tony just before the radio-speech scene (Rand 1957, 989–95). The sense of exists in the corollary axiom “one exists possessing consciousness” is living existence. One is implicitly conscious of oneself as a living identifying existent in one’s grasp of the statement existence exists (see also Rand 1969–71, 252). The normative side of us is joined to the cognitive at the deepest level of our conscious existence. Grasping the statement existence exists is the grasp by a mind mature enough to be understanding Atlas Shrugged. Therein such a mind can learn that life, living existence, is the metaphysical foundation of normativity, of values. Four years later, we find Rand adding: “In what manner does a human being discover the concept of ‘value’? By what means does he first become aware of the issue of ‘good or evil’ in its simplest form? By means of the physical sensations of pleasure or pain. Just as sensations are the first step of the development of a human consciousness in the realm of cognition, so they are its first step in the realm of evaluation” (1961a, 17). The fact of the pleasure and pain mechanisms of the human body is essential to valuation on Rand’s understanding of the human being. Pleasure and pain are mechanisms necessary for human survival, and the experience of them is epistemologically foundational for moral concepts. To this view of Rand’s, there is a precursor in Aristotle. “To feel pleasure or pain is to act with the sensitive means [in contrast to intellectual means] towards what is good or bad as such” (DA 431a10–11; also 431b2–9). Rand continued to elaborate the tie between the cognitive and the evaluative. In Aristotle’s conception, “soul is in some sense the principle of animal life” (DA 402a7). Soul is “that by which primarily we live, perceive, and think” (414a13). Its relation to the body: “The soul cannot be without a body, while it cannot be a body; it is not a body but something relative to a body. That is why it is in a body, and a body of definite kind” (414a19–21). Like Descartes and Spinoza and moderns generally, Rand held to the contrary that understanding natural life and its place in existence requires no appeal to soul or final causation, which the ancients had writ into life beyond the life that is thought-consciousness (a, b). However, Rand and we contemporary thinkers view the relation of thought-consciousness to the body as like the relation Aristotle had articulated in broad terms for the relation of soul (with ancient scope) to its animal body. Rand’s concept of living thought-existence differs from Aristotle’s importantly in that Aristotle held it to be free of identity other than its capability of becoming identical with the thinkable identities, the universal forms and essences, of any and all existents (DA 429a10–430a26). Of course “it is not the stone which is present in the soul but its form” (431b29). Though Aristotle conceived of thought as requiring imagination, and imagination bodily sense (DA 427b14–15), he held sensation to be yoked to the body, and in this, sensory perception is profoundly different from thought (429a29–b5). Then too, sensory perception “is of things in their particularity, whereas thought is of things in their universality” (417b17–27). He reasoned that if thought were itself tied to the body, its perfect identity with every possible intelligible object would be spoiled. The mind must lie ready to receive any characters, like a clean writing tablet lies ready to receive writing (430a1–2). Grasping the characters the intellect has received, indeed becoming them, requires not only capability for their reception, but capability for an active internal lighting of them. This latter feature, which has come to be called agent intellect or active intellect, can exist separately from the rest of our cognitive system. It is in fact necessarily immortal and eternal. We cannot remember it as since always because with it alone a human being could have thought nothing. We cannot think anything without the passive, receptive, and mortal component of human mind (DA 430a10–26; see also Gerson 2004). Intellective cognition is an immaterial reception of forms. In becoming in an immaterial way the forms and essences of its objects, the intellect comes to exist actually. It then is a type of being and truth. When intellect is thinking a form that is not a composite of still other forms, it has become a truth in which no bit of falsehood is possible. This is Parmenides’ existence view of truth incorporated in a circumscribed way into Aristotle’s system,* where it portends Plotinus’ identity theory of truth* (see further, Pritzl 2010a, 22–39). Parmenides had maintained: “The same thing is for thinking and [is] that there is thought” (F8L34, quoted in Gallop 1984, 71). Aristotle said “being and not-being in the strictest sense are truth and falsity” (Met. 1051b1–2). With regard to incomposites in particular, it is not possible to be in error. “They all exist actually, not potentially; for otherwise they would come to be and cease to be; but, as it is, being itself does not come to be (nor cease to be); for if it did it would have come out of something. About the things, then, which are essences and exist in actuality, it is not possible to be in error, but only to think them or not to think them” (1051b28–32; cf. DA 430b27–33; An.Post. 100a15–b8; see further Pritzl 2010a, 22–39; Salmieri 2008, 71–122, 158–83, 201–18). In Rand’s view, existence of thinking consists in the identity of thinking; it consists in the specific forms in which thought is a living identifier of existents. Rand held that thought functions by identifying existents and identifying as same existents and their identities, rather than as same thought and those identities. She conceived of identification by thought as having its distinctive forms: thought is conceptual and is capable of attending all one’s modes of consciousness (Rand 1957, 1015; 1961b, 17). She understood thought and conscious self, like all consciousness, to be supported entirely by mortal organic activities. “You are an indivisible entity of matter and consciousness” (Rand 1957, 1029). Rand rejected the idea that the intellectual essence of anything is received. Essential characteristics are found only by active thinking about differences, similarities, and causal dependencies (Rand 1966–67, 42, 45–48, 52; 1969–71, 230–31; Kelley 1984; 1988, 19–22, 39–40; Peikoff 1991, 97, 99–100; Gotthelf 2007).* All natures can be found out by mind with its definite nature (Rand 1966–67, 79–82). As with distinctively human value, in Rand’s account, truth lies in a relation between subject and object. Rand’s most elementary sense of the concept objective is the sense of ordinary parlance. This is the sense she talked of when explaining why she had chosen Objectivism as the name of her philosophy. She credited Aristotle as the first to correctly define “the basic principle of a rational view of existence and of man’s consciousness: that there is only one reality, the one man perceives—that it exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes, or the feelings of any perceiver)” (Rand 1961b, 22). In 1965 Rand published two refinements of her concept of objectivity. Early in the year, she distinguished a metaphysical from an epistemological aspect of objectivity (Rand 1965c, 18). Later that year, Rand refined her concept of objectivity further. She introduced her distinction of the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. This was in application to her theory of the good and its relationship to other theories of the good (Rand 1965d, 21–26). By the following year, it was clear that Rand envisioned a broadened role for the intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist way of locating her philosophic theories in relation to others. She applied the tripartition to the theory of concepts and universals. Rand’s conception of concepts and her conception of the good can be rightly characterized as (i) objective with Rand’s metaphysical-epistemological faces of the objective relation and, at the same time, as (ii) objective within Rand’s intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist tripartition. She remarked that “the dichotomy of ‘intrinsic or subjective’ has played havoc with this issue [of universals] as it has with every other issue involving the relationship of consciousness to existence” (Rand 1966–67, 53). The thinker who innovated on Aristotle by defining truth as adequation of thing and intellect was probably Arabic. Thomas Aquinas adopted this as his preferred definition of truth. It stresses the mutual relation of thing and intellect in any occasion of truth (Aertsen 2010, 136–40; Milbank 2010, 279–84). Rand writes “Truth is the recognition (i.e., identification) of the facts of reality. Man identifies and integrates the facts of reality by means of concepts” (Rand 1966–67, 48). Concepts are rightly understood as objective, Identifications asserted in a proposition depend importantly on the identifications made by the concepts composing the proposition.* “Truth is the recognition of reality” (Rand 1957, 1017). So it is, and so we are. References Aertsen, J. A. 2010. Truth in the Middle Ages: Its Essence and Power in Christian Thought. In Pritzl 2010b. Aristotle c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1984. Princeton. Gallop, D. 1984. Parmenides of Elea – Fragments. Torronto. Gerson, L. P. 2004. The Unity of Intellect in Aristotle’s De Anima. Phronesis 49: 348–73. Gotthelf, A. 2007. Ayn Rand on Concepts – Another Approach to Abstraction, Essences, and Kinds.* Kelley, D. 1984. A Theory of Abstraction. Cognition and Brain Theory 7:329–57. ——. 1988. The Art of Reasoning. Norton. Milbank, J. 2010. The Thomistic Telescope. In Pritzl 2010b. Peikoff, L. 1991. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton. Pritzl, K. 2010a. Aristotle’s Door. In Pritzle 2010b. ——., editor, 2010b. Truth – Studies of a Robust Presence. Catholic University of America. Rand, A. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. 1961a. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet. ——. 1961b. For the New Intellectual. Title essay. Signet. ——. 1965a. The Psycho-Epistemology of Art. In Rand 1975. ——. 1965b. Art and Moral Treason. In Rand 1975. ——. 1965c. Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics? In The Voice of Reason. L. Peikoff, editor. 1990. Meridian. ——. 1965d. What is Capitalism? In Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. 1967. Signet. ——. 1966. Art and Sense of Life. In Rand 1975. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. Meridian. ——. 1969–71. Transcript of Ayn Rand’s Epistemology Seminar. In Rand 1967–71. ——. 1975 [1971]. The Romantic Manifesto. 2nd ed. Signet. Salmieri, G. 2008. Aristotle and the Problem of Concepts.*
  14. Wayne, Nicky’s point in #7 is important. It is the Christian Left in America that has always made for Left Socialism in America. It is because of Jesus, as they see him, that we got the Health Care Reform Act. Christian work for governmental social welfare programs was afoot in America when Karl Marx was only a gleam in his father’s eye. Throughout my voting years (I’m 63), I almost always voted Democratic because I always voted Pro-Choice. The issue of individual freedom at stake in that controversy is the issue of involuntary servitude, the same issue as in military conscription. So I voted for Bill Clinton because he was Pro-Choice, hoping he would be thwarted on his plan for socialized medicine (and he was). Likewise for Barack Obama (whose attempt was nearly defeated in the Congress and may yet be defeated in the Supreme Court this summer). My voting decisions have been for Pro-Choice candidates, and like all the Objectivist or quasi-Objectivist people I have personally known, my decisions have not been made in order to fall in line with the voting decisions of Objectivist leading lights, such as Ninth insinuates in #8. Stephen
  15. Some considerations to add to the train of good responses for the good lead question of this thread: All consciousness is organic. Perhaps we organics will introduce artificial non-living forms of consciousness, even conceptual consciousness, into the world eventually. I doubt it, but even if we did, it would remain that natural consciousness arose as a living activity useful for survival of certain animals, individually and as a species. Without the natural, organic, conceptual form of consciousness, no artificial forms, whether living or non-living, shall have come into existence. As a lower bound on perceptual requirements of an animal possessing what Rand called percepts, I would say that three-dimensionality, shapes, relative sizes, and degrees of solidity given in percepts, would be required for its species-success within its feasible range of behaviors in its environment. It seems implausible that the further range of adaptability to environments that is brought about by extensive manipulation of environments—through conceptual thought and communication—would be possible if evolution to this highest level of animal life had to develop straight out of lower animals possessing no percepts, no consciousness of entities, only sensations. So I would say that three-dimensionality, shape, relative sizes, and degrees of solidity given in percepts also form a lower bound of what must be perceptually given for conceptual animals. Turning from phylogeny to ontogeny should yield tighter, fuller specification of what must be perceptually given for the emergence of symbolic representation in general and linguistic, conceptual representation in particular. Shape, Action, Symbolic Play, and Words Linda Smith and Alfredo Pereira The Origin of Concepts Susan Carey ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Background: Rand thought that higher animals, such horse or wolf, are guided by percepts. The actions of such animals “are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” (OE 19). We should note, however, that “an animal has no critical faculty. . . . To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality—or rather, it is a distinction he is incapable of making: reality, to him, is whatever he senses or feels” (FNI 17). “A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. . . . Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” (ITOE 5). “The first concepts man forms are concepts of entities—since entities are the only primary existents” (ITOE 15). “The ability to regard entities as units is man’s distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow” (ITOE 6). On Rand’s concept entity and its role in cognition, see ITOE 264–76 (seminar) and Peikoff’s OPAR, 12–14, 74–75. From Gotthelf’s On Ayn Rand: “In the concept’s primary sense an entity is a solid object with a perceivable shape, which acts or resists action as a whole. The beginnings of cognition, at the perceptual level, involve the grasp that the ‘somethings’ out there are distinguishable things, entities, and the concept is basic to all subsequent cognition” (40).
  16. Your Love of Existence In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says “existence is to all men a thing to be chosen and loved” (NE 1168a6; further, 1170a20–b10). In Atlas Shrugged, Rand writes: “All life is a purposeful struggle, and your only choice is the choice of a goal. . . . Such is the choice before you. Let your mind and your love of existence decide” (AS 1068). Those Atlas lines are near the end of Galt’s speech, which was the first extended statement of Rand’s philosophy. Woven all together therein were metaphysics, philosophy of mind, epistemology (broadly), ethics, and politics. In the present essay, I want to reflect on this text of Rand’s in connection with her fundamental metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and metaethics. The first sense of existence in the Rand quotation is one’s own personal living existence. I suggest two further senses of love of existence that are cohorts of that first sense. One of these further senses is love of human existence of which one’s own is a case. The other is love of existence-with-identity in general, against nothing. In On the Soul, Aristotle says: “That too which involves no action, i.e. that which is true or false, is in the same province with what is good or bad: yet they differ in this that the one is absolute and the other relative to someone” (DA 431b10–12). We should hesitate over the conception of cognition involving no action, for at least there is the aim and movement towards truth. Aristotle will concede that, and we should concede to Aristotle that good and bad are relative to an agent, whereas truth and falsehood are independent of the identifier. American Pragmatists take thoroughgoing issue with Aristotle’s conception that cognition is sometimes untied from possible action in the world. They could warm, however, to Aristotle’s thought that true and false are in the same province as good and bad. Rand was warm to that idea as well. She set forth a way, different from Pragmatist ways, for tying true and false to good and bad. Hers is a tie more intimate than would be suggested by Aristotle in my isolated quote from him in DA 431. Rand articulates an absolute character of agent-relative good and bad by taking them in view under identities of existents, their traits, relationships, and kinds. She stresses particularly the kind to which the individual human belongs, the kind one is. Rand once remarked that if she were to place a preamble over the total of her fiction writing it would be: “To the glory of Man” (1963, 172). Her fiction and her Objectivist philosophy are shot through with love of the existence of man. “Man, not men [as a collective]” (1946, XII). Man the individual, independent, productive, rational animal; not man the irrational animal, the all-sharing animal, the suicidal animal (AS 1013). Man worthy of honor and love is man as maker of the means for human life. Man in this goodness is the broad ideal that should be held dear to every individual.* Man in this goodness is concretely in oneself and in others. For such men, there is possible the joy that is happiness and there is for each “the joy he receives from the virtues of another” (1034, also 1059–60).[1] Rand’s character John Galt is an artistic concretization of ideal man in general. By Galt she has ideal man speak to each reader, at least to each retaining “a remnant of the dignity and will to love one’s life” (AS 1052). Ideal man says to the listener: “Whatever living moments you have known, were lived by the values of my code” (1060), the code of reason, purpose, and self-esteem (1018). “If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life” (1014). “Let your mind and your love of existence decide.” Love of one’s existence includes love of man the ideal, rational being. Aristotle held in the Metaphysics: The side of the list of opposites to which Aristotle fundamentally fastens thought and desire is the side of being and its categories, in opposition to their negations. The primary type of being, on which all others depend, is substance. There is not only substance that is essence of sensible, material things; there is substance that is essence of pure intelligibility, pure in that it is entirely free of sensible matter. Substance of pure intelligibility is most actual and is logically prior in being to substance of material things. According to Aristotle, the intelligibility of the world and our fundamental desire to understand the world spring ultimately from the expression in the world and in ourselves of immaterial maximal being. It is ultimately towards this being that all life, perception, and human intelligence strive. Aristotle identifies ultimate being that draws our thought with the unmoved mover of the heavens and of the world of nature below. It moves the world by its allure. God is this being. God the first mover is good and most worthy of human desire and intellectual reach. “And life also belongs to God; for the actuality of thought is life, and God is that actuality; and God’s essential actuality is life most good and eternal” (Met. 1072b26–28). God’s permanent state is ours in the moments our thought is in active possession of its objects. That is our own divinity, the best within us.[2] There are great differences between Rand and Aristotle in this area, but much in common as well. Recall this passage of Rand’s: The existence in “love for existence” in the preceding quoted passage is at once existence of the individual human and existence of the world, of existence per se. One’s living self-existence together with existence of the world is here spoken of as a lover to which one may be worthy. This mild personification of one’s biological nature as well as of existence in general is employed elsewhere in Galt’s speech. Rand speaks of human virtue as loyalty to life, akin to the loyalty of “a bird or flower reaching for the sun” (AS 1059). One’s biological nature calls for rationality and calls one to rationality (1012–14, 1021–22). Then too, Rand speaks of the world as being a place “so eagerly worth seeing” (AS 701). It was as if Galt’s eyes imparted that value to the world, as if his sight lit the seeing-value of the world. In the world is worth for those worthy by sight. Galt is a moral avenger. In her mild personification, Rand speaks of existence and its law of identity also as a moral avenger (AS 1062). Subversion of mind affronts reality (1013); all the same, “reality is not to be cheated” (1037). There is something one owes to all of existence, as well as to oneself: rationality (1022). One may drop rationality. That is an attempt “to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out reality. But existence exists: reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely wipe out the wiper. . . . / . . . Reality will wipe him out, as he deserves; reality will show him that life is a value to be bought and thinking is the only coin noble enough to buy it” (1018). “By refusing to say ‘It is’, you are refusing to say ‘I am’” (AS 1018). Then truly and fully loving “I am” is loving “It is.” “Whoever rejects reality rejects existence [of self]” (AS 1046). Then whoever loves their existence loves reality in its affordance of human comprehension and human life. Rand against Aristotle (and Plato): It is earthly life alone, not God, that is the undergirding and ultimate reason we seek understanding. The value of thinking arises purely from the value of life, earthly life (a, b, c). Joined to love of existence as object of thought is love of thinking of existence. As with contemplation in Aristotle’s God, thought in man is itself a mode of life (I say, harmoniously with Rand who does not say this[4]). Thinking itself—the process of grasping that two and two make four—thinking itself—“the process of defining identity and discovering causal connections” (AS 1038)—thinking itself bears the goodness of life, the foundational end in itself. One’s thinking self is an end in itself because its organized activity is an occasion of life itself and because it is the integral, necessary, and proper leader of a human life. Rand with Aristotle (and Plato): Aristotle, as I said, fastens thought and desire fundamentally to being and its categories, in opposition to their negations. Rand upholds life, not death, as the premise proper to man (AS 1050). “Your fear of death is not a love for life and will not give you the knowledge needed to keep it” (1013). Furthermore, Rand with Aristotle: Notes 1. Cf. NE 1155b17–20, 1156a14–19, 1156b7–24, 1157b25–1158a1, 1167a18–20, 1169b31–1170b10. 2. See further, Lear 1988, 134–41, 265–306, and Richardson Lear 2004, 188–207. 3. The idea that man is a completion and height of nature, in which man is at home and to which he says Yes is an idea in her earlier novels that Rand developed and brought forward to Atlas. In his self-transformation from Equality 7-2521 to a Prometheus, Rand’s protagonist of Anthem says “all things come to my judgment, . . . and I seal upon them my ‘Yes’ or my ‘No’” (1938; quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 39; see also Milgram 2005, 17–18). He discovers that it is he, his body and spirit, that is the meaning of the earth (XII). For architect Howard Roark of Fountainhead, his work is consecrated to a human joy, “a joy that justifies the existence of the earth” (PK VI 80).* 4. Well, in the original edition (1937) of We the Living, Rand has Kira say to Andrei “What do you think is living in me? Why do you think I’m alive? Because I have a stomach and eat and digest food? Because I breathe and work and produce more food to digest? Or because I know what I want and that something that knows how to want—isn’t that life itself?” (quoted in Wright 2005, 203). References Aristotle c. 348–322 B.C. The Complete Works of Aristotle. J. Barnes, editor. 1984. Princeton. Lear, J. 1988. Aristotle – The Desire to Understand. Cambridge. Mayhew, R. 2005a. Anthem ’38 & ’46. In Mayhew 2005b. ——., editor. 2005b. Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Lexington. Milgram, S. 2005. Anthem in Manuscript: Finding the Words. In Mayhew 2005b. Rand, A. 1943. The Fountainhead. Bobbs-Merrill. ——. 1946 (1938). Anthem. Issue 3(1) of The Freeman. ——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. 1963. The Goal of My Writing. In The Romantic Manifesto. 1971. Signet. Richardson Lear, G. 2004. Happy Lives and the Highest Good. Princeton. Wright, D. 2005. Needs of the Psyche in Ayn Rand’s Early Ethical Thought. In Mayhew 2005b.
  17. A reliable online reference for relativity, special and general, is Einstein Online. Also, on special relativity, “Space, Rotation, Relativity” – Part 4.
  18. Predicted bound-energy state of a quark-antiquark system has received its first confirmation at ATLAS. Quantum Chromodynamics Made Simple Frank Wilczek Quarkonia and Open Beauty Production at ATLAS (Scroll down to §5 for quarkonia.) Else Lytken and Martin zur Nedden
  19. Hint of lightweight Higgs boson. Discussion of the LHC findings announced today, their background, and their implications will be here, today 12:30 ET.
  20. Det, Rand was an Objectivist. What did she think was moral perfection? What did she write on the concept? Did she think her fictional character Howard Roark was a morally perfect person? Why did his big mistake not count as a moral failing? Did he attain perfection by "paying for" the error? Why not learn Rand's philosophy from her? No, I am not an Objectivist. I'm very strict about what counts as which philosophy. You said in your bio that you study biology, but have an interest in philosophy. Good and good. I invite you to study philosophy. Study it with the precision with which you would study science. Find out what it really is. Leave the little stuff to the little people. Stephen
  21. Not five sigma, but something is up at Atlas and CMS on the Higgs boson. Existence of the Higgs boson “is a prediction that stems from a very mathematical approach to understanding the Universe, which is guided by the idea that it is simple at heart.” —
  22. There is some thinking about capitalism and The Fountainhead from an academic, apparently Marxist, in the following work: The Overman in the Marketplace: Nietzschean Heroism in Popular Culture by Ishay Landa (2007) Review Rand
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