Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rationalistic - Please explain the term

Rate this topic


Recommended Posts

I'm usually more baffled than angry. Granted, I don't like being baffled and knowing there's no way whatsoever to make sense of it, but there you go.
Oh, I see what you mean now. By "dislike", I don't mean anger. Talking to a rationalist is like eating something that taste nasty :P
Link to post
Share on other sites
Not really, I said this was a complex issue because it goes all the way to the base of Objectivist philosophy and covers an enormous amount of territory. I really recommend you do more reading so that we can have a more specific discussion on this issue later.

I am working on the various works as fast as I can (at the speed of commute in my car at the moment - yay audiobooks). Currently I'm working on C:TUI. The harder core philosophical works like her treatises on Epistemology and Metaphysics are going to have to wait a while, I'm afraid.

Lets go back to the basic question that started this: "Is it ever valid to use rationalism as a concept in a positive way?"

As I said, I used rationalism (as I best understand the concept). I started with a premise not founded in reality (not inducted, I believe you would say). I know the premise is false, but the person with whom I was dealing did not, and believed strongly otherwise. I wanted her to understand the importance of resolving internal contradiction, and needed a premise from which to start: That of the mind as a rational tool - as man's most important and fundamental rational tool.

I rationalized from God as the false premise, to the rational mind as the logically deduced conclusion. One day I might take that logic further to show her the rational irrelevance of any concept of the supernatural, but if I had done that then, it would have most definitely gotten nowhere - at worst, shattering her rudder and leaving no direction for her to steer by, at which point before I could have gotten to the main objective, I'd have needed to go back all the way to the beginning. Time I didn't have, for a goal of minimal value to me in the context at hand.

So my options were:

1) Insist on forcing her to understand my fundamental core beliefs, to understand why the rational mind is our highest virtue and value, taking much longer and with more likelihood of ending badly;

2) Start from the premise of the rational mind, giving her no basis on which to accept the rational mind as an axiom (because it isn't, its a deduction);

3) Accept her false premise (making it clear that I was accepting her premise for the sake of argument, not because I believed it) and deduce the rational mind from there.

# 3 was the rationalization.

Given the circumstances, in that it got me to where we needed to be to START working on her problem rationally, was it valid?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Given the circumstances, in that it got me to where we needed to be to START working on her problem rationally, was it valid?
Let me ask you this: why not explain the real logical conclusion about God? That she should take the blame for their sins etc. That she should give all her efforts and happiness for someone else.

Obviously you did not. In fact, you just used her false premise, in a way that more conformed to reality. YOU yourself DID use induction there. Why else would you work towards rationality rather than blind faith?

So rationalizations on a false premise is never the way. What you did was not this, you faked that you accepted her premise (which you did not) and proceeded to modify it to fit what reality really is...

So I don't think it was really a rationalization in the first place.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Let me ask you this: why not explain the real logical conclusion about God? That she should take the blame for their sins etc. That she should give all her efforts and happiness for someone else.

Because had I "attacked God" (which would have been her perception of explaining the logical conclusion about God), then she would have stopped listening.

So rationalizations on a false premise is never the way. What you did was not this, you faked that you accepted her premise (which you did not) and proceeded to modify it to fit what reality really is...

Interesting point - so you're saying for me it was induction based reason - but nevertheless, for her it was deduction based reason.

From her perspective, since she still believes in God, it was still rationalistic reasoning to her, wasn't it?

Link to post
Share on other sites
From her perspective, since she still believes in God, it was still rationalistic reasoning to her, wasn't it?
If you told her God wants her to reason, yeah. I also don't think this is a good thing. All it does is make her connection to God stronger since it better works in reality. I think it would of been better to of done something like, "beside the God issue, one has to use reason when it comes to figuring a problem out..."

Do you think it will be easier to explain how reason is the opposite of faith, or harder now?

Edited by horvay
Link to post
Share on other sites
If you told her God wants her to reason, yeah. I also don't think this is a good thing. All it does is make her connection to God stronger since it better works in reality. I think it would of been better to of done something like, "beside the God issue, one has to use reason when it comes to figuring a problem out..."

Do you think it will be easier to explain how reason is the opposite of faith, or harder now?

Hm. That's a really good point. I had not considered that.

However - in her case? Not terribly much harder. She's one of the least rational people I know when it comes to her supposed religious belief. She professes belief in God, but tends mainly, from what I can tell, to use her religious "beliefs" to make use of every religious holiday she can.

Link to post
Share on other sites
She professes belief in God, but tends mainly, from what I can tell, to use her religious "beliefs" to make use of every religious holiday she can.
Haha! I wasn't expect that to be the end of that sentence.
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 months later...

Ok I had forgotten about this. Here are some quotes from The Capitilist manifesto.

"the enlightenment philosophy was essentially one of secular rationalism"

"The thinkers of the day were committed to rationalism"

"The accomplishments of Newtonian science were made possible only by the new observation based rationalism"

They are all on page 76

I guess I am just confused, because I always here rationalism described in a negative light. Do these quotes mean something else.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Do these quotes mean something else.
Yes. I haven't checked the source myself, but it seems clear from the multiple instances that what is meant is "a philosophy of rationality".

On the other hand, the negative way you've seen "rationalism" used is different. Maybe someone has given a good definition above, or can offer one (or a link to one); but, briefly and approximately, it's when one is thinking without concretizing one's concepts sufficiently, and thus being led astray by the process.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The term rationalism, in the relevent sense, first appears in the literature in Peikoff's lecture course "Objective Communication" from 1980. In 1983 Peikoff gave an entire lecture series on rationalism, why it is a mistaken way of thinking, how it stunts ones understanding of philosophy, how to avoid the error, etc. The lecture course is "Understanding Objectivism." The course is sold through Ayn Rand Bookstore. Campus clubs can borrow copies for free. It's also part of the OAC curriculum. It should be required listening for all Objectivists.

Link to post
Share on other sites

So Andrew Burnstein isn't saying "The enlightenment philosophy was essentially one with thinking without concretizing concepts properly" and he wasn't suggesting captialism grew out of this unconcretized philosphy. I remember Ayn Rand calling rationalism an "intellectual disease", in a situation where a questioner was attributing rationalism to her. It seems like rationalism is like taking the end result of knowledge like a commandment without figuring out(or caring) about how the principle is arrived at. That seems very much like a religious method, and one that objectivism rejects but always finds itself of being in a position of being accused of anyway. Wouldn't it be best not to use the word, for clarity. I have a friend who wants to borrow the book, because he supports capitalism. But due to the absolutist nature of the philosophy, and due to the anti-absolutist nature of the culture, the default for people not willing to put the time into learning philosophy properly is to casualy assume the philosophy is somewhat religious in nature. Now, that is there own problem, but is there an issue of clarity here. I mean, practicaly speaking, if I lend the book to him, do I have to tell him that Bernstein doesn't mean rationalism when he uses the term over and over.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Now, that is there own problem, but is there an issue of clarity here. I mean, practicaly speaking, if I lend the book to him, do I have to tell him that Bernstein doesn't mean rationalism when he uses the term over and over.
If your friend is not too aware of philosophical-terms, I assume he will think that the term "Rationalism" means "rationality"

For a general, non-Objectivist, philosophical usage, along with a contrast to Empiricism, see this link.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well I think that link helps quite a bit. Is the contrast with empiricism only found outside objectivism? If my friend was an empiricist and Bernstein uses the term rationalist, wouldn't my friend think Bernstein was a Rationalist in the general non objectivist, philosophical meaning.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well I think that link helps quite a bit. Is the contrast with empiricism only found outside objectivism? If my friend was an empiricist and Bernstein uses the term rationalist, wouldn't my friend think Bernstein was a Rationalist in the general non objectivist, philosophical meaning.
Is your friend an empiricist, or is this just a hypothetical friend? Personally, I cannot speculate how your friend will interpret the term, or what conclusions he will draw about Bernstein or anything else.

People have used the term "rationalism" to refers to theories that give reason precedence over sense perception. On the other hand, the term has also been used to describe the philosophical approaches that gave reason precedence over faith; approaches that tried to frame things in the form of rational arguments rather than baseless revelations. (Check this link, for instance.)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, he is a real person. Whether he is an empiricist or not I don't really know. Although I don't see how that would matter. I guess I was just curious as to whether this was a big deal or not. Because if its not, I guess if someone were to ask me about Ayn Rand (whether its my friend or not), and her philosophy, and how to describe it, I guess it would be ok to call her a rationalist, I mean if the word really can just mean rational then it wouldn't matter.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...