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Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Ayn Rand Explained From Tyranny to Tea Party Ronald E. Merrill, author Marsha Familaro Enright, editor (2012 Open Court) Description at Amazon
  6. Likely an important help in the follow-up work indicated in #13: Kant’s Elliptical Path Karl Ameriks (2012 Oxford) From the publisher:
  7. Supplementary to #72, are these: What Ayn Rand Means When She Describes Selfishness as a Virtue Jason Raibley Cultural Snips William Thomas
  8. 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.
  9. No. And she would be right to decline that alteration. The center of pure self-interest is pure selfishness. That pure form of selfishness is articulated—expressly, by the name selfishness—in The Fountainhead, where it is contrasted to a variety of conceptions commonly accepted as selfishness. Her novel argues that the latter are incoherent and at odds with pure selfishness, which entails independence and a certain kind of integrity. It is not only those unfitting parts in common conceptions of selfishness that are attacked as immoral in our culture. It is also pure selfishness, as exposed by Rand in Fountainhead, that is daily attacked in moral criticism of behavior by voices such as those speaking Christianity. Rand was right in the Preface to The Virtue of Selfishness to defend her choice of the term selfishness as naming a core of human being needing to be championed. I would wish only she had added, “See also The Fountainhead.” Yes, selfishness in common parlance entails things excluded and antithetical to the selfishness Rand applauded. That makes for an invitation to further examination of the phenomena and the concept of selfishness. I mean among open-minded readers. Such are not those who understand well enough what is Rand’s ethical egoism and understand well enough the selfishness she was holding up as a glory, but are then smearing it for the sake of religion and politics, in a word, for the sake of old mistaken morality.
  10. Nicky and Eiuol, As you know, Rand defined knowledge as a mental grasp of reality, reached either (i) by perceptual observation or (ii) by a process of reason based on observation (ITOE 45). An example of (i) would be perceiving a drawn square with a diagonal of it also drawn. An example of (ii) would be a proof demonstrating that the length of the diagonal is incommensurable with the length of the square’s sides. The premises in this proof, such as the premise claiming that every counting number is either even or odd, will be based on yet other perceptual observations or on a process of reason based on observations. The premises of the proof are evidence (in the case at hand, incontrovertible evidence) for the truth of the conclusion. (They are also explanatory of the conclusion.) It was (ii) I was describing as evidence “integral with observations and proper conceptualization from them.” We are not in any disagreement on this. Stephen ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PS Eiuol, I’d say that in the case of the alien, the assertion would not be an arbitrary, and in the joke context, it would also arise from observations, so again would not be arbitrary. So far as I know there is no context in which the statement would be an arbitrary one. If one makes up a story for the children “Once upon a time, the King of Texas got lost in a dust storm. . .” the author knows it is a fiction and only related to observations in the ways that fictions are related to observations. However, if someone were to sincerely profess “Jesus Christ is the son of God and savior of the world,” I think we have an invalid assertion, one very largely not based on observations, but aspirations contrary basic observations. Some unbelievers would take this statement, particular affirmative, as neither true nor false, others would take it as false. Rand, Branden, Peikoff, . . . and I say one knows it is false. In my own view, such a statement is not only false, but grossly defective in meaning. I gather those Objectivist writers would say any meaningless assertion (authentically asserted) is fouled by its arbitrariness, meaning its freedom from observational constraint. That sounds reasonable. To that I add that the meaningless statement (or statement severely deficient in meaning) is based on error, on falsehoods. And I say the statement known to be meaningless is known to be false. That is contrary the position of many philosophers who say the meaningless is neither true nor false. Further study of them may abate this difference. –S
  11. Here is a clear succinct review of DIM by a friend of mine. There will be rhyming couplet at the end. He can’t help himself. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My own remarks on DIM so far are these: A, B, C, D, E, F
  12. Leonid, The claim “There is no A” is not essentially arbitrary: “There is no money in my pocket.” “There is no transport of bodies with non-zero rest mass faster than the velocity of light in vacuum.” More about the bald King of France: There is a controversy of logic standing in the relevant external background for Rand, other Objectivists, and thinkers about Objectivism concerning arbitrary assertion and assessability for truth. There is a tradition from Boethius, Abelard, and Buridan that any universal affirmative or particular affirmative statement in which the subject does not truly exist is false; and no such blanket verdict is given for universal negative and particular negative statements. Within this theory, we can argue (an argument of my own construction): 1. Affirmative statements concerning nonexistent subjects are false. 2. Assertions of the existence of a subject for which there is no evidence is presumptively false; the existence of such a subject is presumptively false. (Onus of Proof) 3. Arbitrary assertions are assertions for which there is no evidence (no validation, so no evidence). ____________________________________________________________ Affirmative statements concerning arbitrarily asserted subjects are presumptively false. It would surely be correct to drop the word presumptively from 2 and from the conclusion when the arbitrary assertion is one that cannot be invalidated in principle. From the Buridan et al. view of truth concerning nonexistent subjects we get presumptive falsity and unqualified falsity for affirmative statements concerning arbitrarily posed subjects. Whether negative statements concerning arbitrarily posed subjects would be meaningless rather than assessable for truth is unsettled on this view, but they are not automatically false. There is another tradition (P.F. Strawson and H.L.A. Hart) that instead takes existence of the subject to be presupposed in any universal or particular affirmative or negative statement. Under this approach, we get that arbitrary assertions are presumptively (or unqualifiedly) neither true nor false. They are presumptively (or unqualifiedly) meaningless.* There is a third tradition, the one predominate today, in which any particular affirmative or particular negative statement in which the subject does not truly exist is false; and no such blanket verdict is given for universal affirmative and universal negative statements. ** Determining which of these three approaches fits best with Rand’s epistemology is work remaining to be accomplished. I would examine the first and third as they look when their not-definitely-false pairs on the square of opposition are taken as meaningless. * Strawson would object to my use of the word meaningless here, which he would reserve for a use more narrow. He would call such statements spurious or failures to refer. All the same, he would agree that his approach casts all such statements, and singular statements such as "The King of Texas has a Cadillac," as not assessable for truth. ** On these three traditions and a fourth, see Laurence Horn’s A Natural History of Negation (CSLI 2001 [1989]).
  13. Typo in #34: That should have been "B through Z," not "C through Z." No change in the point. Yes, Nicky, on Rand's definition of knowledge, evidence would be firstly observation. Definitely too, observations can become evidence. Rand's conception of validity in concepts, definitions, and other propositions, including philosophical axioms, also points to observations as the most basic form of evidence in knowledge. The need for logical integration for knowledge, including integration of mathematics with observations and with conceptual understanding, however, suggests that in Rand's view of knowledge more can be evidence than observations, at least if it is integral with observations and proper conceptualization from them. An example of such "more" (perfectly consistent with Rand's metaphysics and epistemology) would be Tibor Machan's essay "Evidence of Necessary Existence" (1992). He relies on the reader to have good enough sense about what is evidence. What is evidence and how something becomes evidence are good issues Machan does not take up. But as Nozick remarked, there are words on subjects worth saying besides last words. David Kelley has a neat essay "Evidence and Justification" (1991), which is integral with Rand's epistemology.
  14. "That falsity could be slight in comparison to truth that can be parsed within the proposition." Consider the proposition A and not-A and B and C and D and . . . and Z, where C through Z are objectively meaningful true propositions. In contrast the proposition A and not-A of itself is not one in which the falsity is slight or even half. Though half of its subsidiary propositions is true, the whole is asserted as true, and that whole is objectively meaningless and false.
  15. Mn, it is the former. “Saying A is non-A is objectively meaningless and false. As I said in ‘Between False, Invalid, and Meaningless’,* the objectively meaningless always stems from falsehood. In the case of asserting a self-contradiction, the root falsehood is self-same with the meaningless statement.”* That would seem to run counter the view of many philosophers, including Rand and other Objectivist philosophers, that meaningless statements are not assessable for truth. In elementary logic one learns that propositions are assertive statements, and such are assessable for truth. I would say further that in striving for truth, including true propositions, one is striving for objectively meaningful true propositions. Failure to attain entirely objectively meaningful propositions is failure to attain a square truth. Technically, a proposition defective in objective meaningfulness is false. That falsity could be slight in comparison to truth that can be parsed within the proposition. But propositions empty of objective meaningfulness, such as in negative-way theology* (which is pervasive in religious thinking), are simply false, objectively and simply false. Similarly, with self-contradiction. I will grant, however, that some objectively meaningless propositions warrant not a pause, only not.
  16. Here is another recent film taking head-on a cosmic view of human existence. It is without the supernatural. It is tremendous, unforgettable. Melancholia
  17. In other words, in a professor-superior tone: shut up. Grammes, you are exactly right. But you just don't fit the agenda of running down Objectivism by continual belittlement of its exponents and continual publicity of personal infighting among Objectivist types.
  18. Mn, Would you say that a self-contradiction is meaningless, yet false? Or would you say it is meaningful and simply false?
  19. It seemed to me that Prof. Campbell was stingy in effort to reconcile the various philosophical views he quoted by Rand and Peikoff. Good work remaining to be done. My own treatment of areas of Rand’s epistemology in areas pertinent to some of Campbell’s issues is Between False, Invalid, and Meaningless. Mn, I expect readers would be delighted to hear a little more than min. What specifically did you find "makes sense" in the essay? The historical point? A correct statement of relation between arbitrary assertion and lack of meaning? Between the meaningful and the true?
  20. . A scholarly review of the book* can be read here. Another is here. It deserved more. Years later there was another splendid book-length defense of direct realism in perception, which like Dr. Kelley's book, was philosophically sophisticated and scientifically informed. It has received wide acclaim among philosophers of perception. It is titled The Problem of Perception* and its author is A. D. Smith. I have a note on it here. Unlike Kelley's work, it does not rest ultimately and explicitly on Rand's metaphysics and conception of consciousness.
  21. John, I think you are correct. (Your signature is also true.) I would add that a choice to think is a choice to live, though the person choosing may not realize that. I have recounted a crucial pre-moral choice to live, by choosing to follow reason, in my own life here. Here are two other notes, including a list of essays by a number of scholars on the issue. The second note includes an essay-excerpt on reason for the choice to value: A, B. Stephen
  22. Ninth, concerning #102: Then I would say Peikoff erred in that sentence, or anyway, in that sentence's insinuation that the views expressed by Mr. Schwartz are all of them entirely true.* Other views of Dr. Peikoff expressed in "Fact and Value" are also not entirely true (a, b, c, d). Nor have they all been proven to be logically implied by the essentials of the Objectivist philosophy. On the concern of not sanctioning evil, the views I quoted from OPAR and from ARNE are better supported by Rand's writings and the logic of the basics. Now don't get me wrong. I do not take all of the rationale and contours of what Rand, Branden, Peikoff, and Smith have written about sanctioning evil as correct on the subject, because in the first place, I do not think that the basic ethical theory of morality as purely self-interest has yet been shown to be entirely correct.* Of course it is not only for egoistic ethics that “sanctioning of evil” or “sanctioning of good” are concerns to be illuminated and incorporated. For important example, Robert Nozick grapples with this issue somewhere, though I can’t locate it just now. It is a demerit of any ethical theory if it supports a non-attenuation view of the transitivity of moral sanction across individuals connected further and further from someone (or some organization) committing the evil act or working to do so. I see no evidence that the Objectivist theory of ethics implies any such non-attenuation, whatever the writings of Mr. Schwartz or Dr. Peikoff or Miss Rand state or suggest to the contrary. Similarly, there has never been any demonstration that nothing at all in Rand’s philosophy can be altered without toppling the philosophy altogether. Say-so is not enough, no matter who says it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Don, I see your #108 now. I think you can see what I would think about all that from the preceding.
  23. Jonathan, in #93 you wrote: I have not been able to find that view in Objectivist writings. Do you have some specific text in mind? In Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Peikoff writes: In Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, Tara Smith writes:
  24. Merlin Jetton’s essay “Theories of Truth” appeared in 1992–93 in Objectivity. The essay was published in three installments: In V1N4 were the sections: Ancient and Medieval Hobbes, Locke, Leibniz Spinoza and Kant An Assessment of the Correspondence Theory In V1N5 were the sections: Hegel Coherence Theory of Truth Foundational Truths Scientific Truths In V1N6 were the sections: Pragmatist Theories of Truth The Linguistic Turn Objectivism on Truth A Combined Approach About Objectivity At the Objectivity Archive, the essay can be read by clicking on those particular Numbers of Volume 1. It takes a couple of minutes to load. From the Subject Index, under Truth, we find that Jetton treats coherence on these pages: V1N4 11–13, 15–17, 20–22, 24–25 V1N5 111–13, 114–29 V1N6 93, 99–104 Check the bolded pages first. The bolded pages from V1N4 give the senses and roles of coherence for truth according to Locke and Leibniz. Pages 20–22 concern coherence elements in Spinoza’s view of truth. On pages 24–25, Jetton weighs quite heavily the coherence element in Kant. Pages 111–13 of V1N5 show Hegel’s tendencies towards a coherence account of truth. However, it is with §VI, which is on pages 114–29, that Merlin gives us the coherence account of truth proper. “The coherence theory is taken to include the following four theses by most, if not all, of its defenders: Truth (usually applied to ideas or judgments) is defined as coherence within the orderly system that constitutes reality. The criterion, as well as the definition, of truth is coherence within the ordered system of reality. Relations are internal; that is, a thing’s relations with other things are essential to its being what it is; indeed, they may constitute what it is. Truth admits of degrees. . . . No idea except perhaps the idea of the whole (and therefore no idea that a human being could grasp) can be properly said to be wholly true. “What more exactly does coherence in the coherence theory mean? It means consistency and connectedness. . .” (114–15). In the pages following, Jetton lays out the elaborations of the main coherence theorists, including Bradley, Joachim, and Blanshard. These coherence theorists do not suggest that truth consists in coherence among any arbitrary set of propositions (124). Blanshard writes that the coherence theory “does not hold that any and every system is true, no matter how abstract and limited; it holds that one system only is true, namely the system in which everything real and possible is included. How one can find in this the notion that a system would still give truth if, like some arbitrary geometry, it disregarded experience completely, it is not easy to see.” (quoted on 124–25). Jetton displays aspects of Rand’s metaphysics and epistemology aligning with correspondence theory of truth as well as aspects aligning with coherence theory of truth in V1N6, pages 98–99.
  25. Grames, One can err about the level of one’s justification for thinking something true. When I come to understand that something I thought I was justified in thinking true is actually false, I may find that the extent to which I had earlier thought myself justified was in error. Then again, a less than full confidence with which I held the earlier truth may have matched the level of justification I had. I’m inclined to think that in all cases for which I had been fully confident, yet the belief later proves false, I was in error about the level of justification I had for the belief. People have some “intuitive” ideas about mechanics that are mistaken. When shown by the gedanken of Galileo that one’s intuitive belief that heavier bodies fall faster than lighter ones is false, one might find that one’s justification for the false belief had really been rather thin, indeed that one had very little justification for that false belief. There is one strong indicator that from sunrise to sunset the sun moves: we see it moving. When we learn that and how this can be explained by rotation of the earth, we understand that a distinction needs to be drawn between motions and kinematical perspectives of the motions from one of the involved bodies. Our earlier conviction that the sun moves was in fact ambiguous. For much knowledge, I incline to think we need to leave open the possibility that it is ambiguous and can become ever more exact with the growth of knowledge. The possibility that some knowledge is presently ambiguous seems, however, to be an inert possibility where much evidence has been thoroughly integrated for present knowledge. I don’t think we would be justified in withholding acceptance for true an integrated, logically processed idea based on an entirely unspecific possibility of ambiguity. There seems to be a rational threshold, beyond which acceptance for true should not be resisted on account of such a possibility. Also, the ambiguous belief is not going to become entirely untrue when disambiguated. I wonder if there are not just different degrees of certainty, but some different kinds of certainty. I’ll have to think about that and think about it in connection with establish in “Logical processing of an idea within a specific context of knowledge is necessary and sufficient to establish the idea’s truth.” ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Plas, I wanted to let you know that David Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses has recently been made available online here.
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