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Notes on "Art of Thinking"


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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

applying Objectivist epistemology to one's own thinking

topics covered intensively elsewhere (OPAR, Understanding Objectivism) omitted {from this course, not the Notes}

Lecture I Volition as a means to clarity

LectureII Thought as Integration - Hierarchy

LectureIII Thought as Integration - Essentials

LectureIV Thought as Integration - Principles

LectureV Certainty

LectureVI Thinking vs. Writing

Lecture I Volition as a means to clarity

Volition is exercised in the choice to focus

Volition is also involved in changing the method of thought

Merely perceiving new material does not blast out old contradictory material

ex. Learning typing when you already have a long established 2-finger technique. Old technique is automatized, must bull through discomfort and disorientation while learning the better method.

definition of Objectivity is "volitionally adhering to reality by following certain rules of method, a method based on facts and appropriate to man's form of cognition" {from OPAR}

This point then is an application of the principle of Objectivity.

Clashing Contexts - when only one of two contradictory contexts can be active in the mind.

After thoroughly learning and proving to oneself that only one of the contexts is correct, an act of will is/could still be required to banish previously automatized knowledge.

Do not entertain or indulge doubts from an invalid context, when you know that context and the feelings of doubt are invalid.

Disintegrate falsehoods while integrating truths.

Feelings of plausibility can be wrong. When they are, suppress them (acknowledge then set aside, not repress which is refusal to acknowledge)

ex. LP's grad school experience shuttling between pragmatist context of school and Objectivist context of Ayn Rand.

ex. LP's ten years of saying "existence exists" before feeling the clarity of its refutation of Descarte's Cogito statement.

ex. Student knew religion was irrational but had memories, experiences of concretes, emotional pull of interacting with religious people who were 'reasonable'. Counter:

*method of proselytizing distinguished from content of doctrines

*man is conceptual so arguments are required, even dictators have propaganda

Then use will.

This technique is an application of Objectivity, so it cannot be used to make yourself believe any old thing.

This is not an attack on "Devil's Advocate" argumentation, which is a very useful method when still trying to reach complete understanding.

One cannot achieve clarity on a new context by continually reviewing and attending to the old.

One point/context can be proved even though neither/none are felt convincing. Suppress the wrong context until the correct context is automatized.

Learning one new principle will not disable a prior context.

Divided context is like a doctor treating himself. Don't let patient have equal time operating on the doctor.

There is no neutral or earlier ground upon which to resolve the contradiction between contexts.

Parallel: grieving for the dead. Reminders keep coming up because you automatically relate things to the now missing person. Fact of the death is not enough to stop your brain from working in that way.

Free will is clinging to a known truth in the face of your own doubts, because of evidence.

Faith is clinging to an idea in the face of your own doubts, lacking or in spite of evidence.

Intrinsicist demands faith.

Subjectivist is skeptic, indulges feelings of doubt.

Objectivist willfully adheres to the truly known.

Audience questions:

Binswanger: Don't dismiss a question unless it comes from a wrong context. LP -When you have intellectual certainty you can identify the premises of a question.

Locke: Application to psychotherapy. Not therapist's fault you don't drop your bad ideas and habits. LP - Deautomatization is a goal of therapy, achieved by disintegration.

Some guy: Debating as learning? LP - Interact with other people holding the opposing context while gaining intellectual certainty, and after you have clarity. In the middle stage of shunning the false context, don't engage in debate.


Origin and Edge of the Universe questions.

Primaries. "Everybody hates primaries"

Free will. "why did he choose that choice?"

"Why?" can be asked incorrectly.

"How do you know you aren't wrong?" Skepticism.

Reiteration of correct context is necessary but not sufficient. Banishment of wrong context is required.

Delayed gratification involved here. Achieving clarity can take time.

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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

{not a transcipt}

Lecture II Thought as Integration - Hierarchy

Define integration

give examples of integration

cover hierarchical reduction in depth

Integration - putting parts together into an inseparable whole. mere juxtaposition does not create a new whole

Forms of Integration:

*senses and sensations integrated into a percept

*percepts integrated into a concept

*concepts can be integrated into concepts

*concepts can be integrated with percepts into new concepts

*Newton's Laws of motion are integrations of his own observations + Galileo +Kepler + Tycho Brahe + tides + "the apple"

*"the one in the many" ancient greek phrase

*Integration was THE distinctive power of Ayn Rand.

*deductive reasoning is integration

"All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal." Unites a principle with an observation to reach a conclusion.

*inductive reasoning - unites observations with identified causation.

Integration is essential to all knowledge from percepts to wide & advanced scientific abstractions.

Early integrations are automatic, later are not.

Opposite of Integration is Context Dropping - treating something as isolated when it isn't (in a wide enough context nothing is ever isolated)

Always judge any argument against the total of your available knowledge.

Ex: Kant's philosophy was deadly but why blame Kant? Nobody was forced to follow him, they acted on their own free will so why blame Kant for what they did?

Drops context by ignoring specialization and division of labor. Not everybody is going to be up to the task of refuting a professional philosopher, who would farm, manufacture, sing etc? People rely on others judgements.

Drops context of free will. Volition is not an omnipotent power, it is the power to select from alternatives. What alternatives are available is the context.

Ex: One can add 3+3=6 and be right. One can add up a column of 75 numbers and be wrong, even after checking several times. Isn't it true then that adding two numbers is certain but adding a column of 75 numbers is uncertain?

Drops context that primitive addition is automatized, complicated additions are not.

Drops context of crow epistemology.

Hierarchy - applies when knowledge relies on prior knowledge. There are primary level concepts, secondary, tertiary, etc...

Reduction is integrating an idea with its referents, then tracing them back to their referents, traversing the hierarchical chain of concepts down to their perceptual roots. (ch 4 OPAR)

Integration can be done "vertically" along hierarchy and "horizontally" to other knowledge.

Reduction is not sufficient. Horizontal integration is a vital check.

Horizontal integration will determine the interpretation and use of the proven idea.

Ex: All of ethics is require to understand any one of its ideas.

*Honesty as the committment to live in this reality and not invent another reality.

Is a man that invents a steam engine or airplane dishonest? Need to recall distinction between metaphysical and man-made.

*Honesty again: I have to take in food. I don't have any. To correspond with reality, Ill take yours. But productiveness is how to get food. "But productiveness is next semester."

"The truth is the whole" only Hegel phrase thats good.

Ex: Literature. Fantasy and modern art are both unreal. But fantasy is taken symbolically to stand in for metaphysical reality so themes illustrated are transferable. Modern non-representational art is not relateable to metaphysical reality.

Supplement reduction w/horizontal integration.

Hiearchy applies when some idea is req'd before learning another.

Hierarchy does not apply where there are options. "Orange" and "peach" are not hierarchical, some fruit and "box of fruit" are.

Crudely combining in argument premises of different levels of hierarchy can be a problem.

Ex: sort the following ideas in order of ascending hierarchy (assume implicit knowledge has its proper place on the hierarchy)

A is A


Earth is round

Pride is a virtue

That tree is green

Principle of egoism


A is A - axiomatic, nothing can be prior

That tree is green - perceptual

Principle of egoism - implicit motivation for all

2+2=4 & Pride is a virtue - optional

Earth is round - scientific, unless you were born on a spaceship, then it would be perceptual

Argument misusing hierarchy:

Man has two means of knowledge: reason and other people.

"Reason is at the foundation of all thought" is low hierarchy

"Division of labor is productive and efficient" is high hierarchy

Religion compared and contrasted with Socialism

(long example reciting similarities and differences)

Religion is epistemology

Socialism is politics

These two concretes are incommensurate.

Socialism requires a compatible epistemology and ethics, of which religion coud be an example.

Religion leads to an authoritiarian politics, of which socialism is a possible manifestation.

Examples of reduction of ideas which are not simple concepts:

"The vital importance of philosophy in human life" (bottom up)

perceptual- life is goal-directed and self-generated action

perceptual- knowledge provides the means for man to act effectively

thought leads to action (role of the mind)

some thoughts are more fundamental than others

the most fundamental thoughts are philosophy (Plato)(the genius of all time (?!))

other paths are possible, such as through "value"

Reduce hierarchy (Reduce reduceability) (top down)

Knowledge is hierarchical (start)

Knowledge is conceptual

concepts are abstractions

some abstractions are of percepts (perceptual level)

Reductions are "inductive proofs"

Kantian doctrine is wrong.

"Showing that something is" vs. "it is necessary that something is."

Rand: "There are not two tasks in knowledge."

Q: A: Hierarchy is not metaphysical. Is contextual.

Q: A: Horizontal integration is necessary for certainty. Validity and certainty don't come in degrees. UNcertainty comes in degrees.

Q: Rationalism and Empiricism A: Are both context dropping, covered in UO.

Rationalism starts arbitrarily and integrates pell-mell.

Empiricism rejects the possibility of integrating.

Q: Theory of Induction? A: Not yet.

Christina Q: Relation of deductive logic to horizontal integration. A: Premises and conclusion must both be checked out against everything you know. It is all well and good to syllogize "All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal." But if Socrates never dies, that matters.

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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

{not a transcipt}

Lecture III Thought as Integration - Thinking in Essentials

Essential - Essence - that which constitutes the being of a thing; that by which it is; latin esse to be

- O.E.D. definition

but as Objectivism uses it, an epistemological term, not metaphysical. Metaphysically all attributes are equally important to an entity, no basis for discriminating among them.

Philosophical definition:

essential - that which constitutes the being of a unit; that by which something is the member of concept; that by which something belongs to a certain class

finding an essence is similar to finding a definition, must integrate and differentiate

essential is contextual

essence is found by rule of fundamentality among the differentiating feature(s); fundamental causes the other attributes, or the most attributes

forming an essence accomplishes unit reduction by

- discarding nonessential attributes because non-distinctive

-selecting the fundamental

fundamentality enables recall of the totality of knowledge of a subject by means of its many causal links to itother distinguishing attributes

Linda Rearden quote

"Thinking is essentials is the indispensable process of programming the subconscious mind for the instananeous recall of everything one nows about a subject, whenever the need for such recall arises. The recall of this information is the formation of a context."

putting information into your head using essentials enables its later uses - enables integration

Essence applies more broadly than just definition. Essence of a book, movie, person.

Essence of "Critique of Pure Reason"

discard that Kant favored American revolution - so were others, he contradicts himself other places

discard that Kant was against lying - so do others

discard that Kant believed our experience takes place in space and time - so do others

discard that Kant wrote tat all nowledge starts with the evidence of the senses - so do others

discard that Kant believed humans relied on the conceptual faculty - so did others

what was distinctive was the subjectivism in all of the above positions. Identity invalidates consciousness

broad meaning of fundamental - multiple relationships possible - causes, underlies, makes possible, relation of an attribute to its exercise, leads to deductively; a cause which is necessary but not necessary and sufficient

Thinking in nonessentials would be taking characteritics that are nondistinctive or not fundamental

Ex: "Ominous Parallels" chapter on Weimar culture - discovery of principle of nihilism - story of Rand and the streaker

Ex: researching "Why Johnny Can't Think" - discovery of anti-conceptual mentality in education doctrine

Negative Example: 1950's conservative's arguments against Truman's seizure of the steel industry. Steel is too important/only Congree can do it/Democrats motives impure/its ok only temporary

Negative Ex: assumed dichotomy of Fascism vs. Comunism common before Goldwater.

Negative Ex: M. Stanton Evans conservatrive attempt to ground freedom in religion

higher law limits secular power - but what about theocratic power?

concern for individual souls - modern bureacratic tyrannies also care for individuals

principle of separation of power - doesn't matter if powers are not justified to begin with

none of these are able to distinguish a free from a non-free country

The Essence of Objectivism

intense passion for architcture andd NYC. - no, this is too concrete

is a consistent philosophy based on reality - no, this is an evaluation

it starts with existence exists and consciousness perceives it - no, axioms have been acknowledged by others

existence, reason, egoism, capitalism, romanticism - no, is a summary (essentialized list of each field)

Philosophies are about methods of thought. Look to epistemology. Objective theory of concepts is the essence of Objectivism.

Essence of a person - examples drawn from fiction, author gives enough

Essence of Dominique

compare against most different for 'genus' - Roark

Roark vs. Dominique

male - female - non essential - sex doesn't cause the essence of the character

has career - has no real career just jobs

builds - tears down

creates - destroys

doesn't notice people - imagines people's eyes in an elevator

conclusion: Benevolent Universer - Malevolent Universer

compare against most similar of other characters for 'differentia'

Wynand vs. Dominique

wants power - wants independence via solitude and aloofness

has purpose and career - has no purpose or career

'breaks' best men - disapproves, but tries to break Roark

ends up defeated - ends up converted and saved

Body or Practical side of Mind-Body - Mind/morality side of Mind-Body

does evil acts - defaults on all action

conclusion: Cynical Malevolent Universer - Idealistic Malevolent Universer

essence of a real person requires discarding a lot more detail, everything an author would ordinarily omit is also "on the table" for consideration in real life, has to be sorted through to get to essential characteristics.

LP precis: originally an Idealistic Malevolent Universer plus productivity. Chose philosophy so could work without interference by the world. Corrupt beginning led to problems later.

Translating English to Essentials:

"competition keeps prices down"

freedom promotes wealth

"religion makes life exciting"

reason is incompatible with values

"humility in ideological matters is safe"

ignorance is essential to survival


Q: On nihilism in Wiemar: shouldn't you go further to find cause of the nihilism. A: contextual. Roark's 'Principle of the Dean'. Naming before explaining is ok.

Q: Wynand's art gallery evidence of idealistic streak in Wynand. A: Yes but nobody can live on just one side of the mind-body dichotomy. Exception makes for psychologically more interesting and 'realistic' character by showing the contradictions required by the mind-body dichotomy. Sometimes Dominique was a woman of action.

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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

{not a transcipt}

Lecture IV Extended Q&A

Q: What is essential to a movie version of Atlas Shrugged?

LP: Perfect work of art is appropriate to a context of Atlantis - not reality

Script control appropriate appropriate to a context of LP being a screenwriter - not reality

Find a sympathetic professional appropriate to the current context.

This is an answer to What is the current status of the AS movie project, but doesn't answer the question asked.

Q: What was favorite chapter of Ominous Parallels? (2nd fav being Wiemar).

LP: "Concentration Camps" writing challenge, integrating philosophy to actions

Q: What was the essence of the character of Ayn Rand

LP: Dagny, different profession. Dominique is Rand in a bad mood. Kira Rand as a girl.

Q: If Rand's views on a woman President are not part of Objectivism, why include that essay in Voice of Reason

LP: To write fiction requires not just a view of man but a psychological theory that includes sex and sex differences. Didn't want to censor Rand's views, book was about Rand and her "voice" not Objectivism.

Q: Reduce honor

LP: No

Q: Give example of horizontal integration.

LP: Economist reaches conclusion that profit motive is essential in econ. But religion contradicts it, and a psychologist tells you everyone is automatically selfish by nature.

Q: Comment on judging people when you don't have access to their motivations.

LP: Don't do it. Stranger asks for a job - ask him. He might not even know his own fundamental motivations, so observe over time. It is hard to get to know anybody as well as you should know them. "Never trust anyone under forty" youthful idealism wears off.

Q: Did Ayn Rand say anything about athletics.

LP: Nothing written. Ayn was a mountain climber [surely a hiker?] as a teen in Switzerland. Athletics gives people a spectacle of competence and justice. No points for mercy, ruthless ethics.

Q: Comment on "children should face hardship" [LP from some other context]

LP: Not hardship. Context is gratifying a childs every whim robs them of the experience of frustration and the realization that they have to do something to satisfy their desires. It is not an automatic world. Avoidance of spoiling is not hardship, and can still do things for your child. Necessity is the mother of invention, but frustration is the mother of motivation."

Q: Are you more optimistic or pessimistic about the culture since 1957?

LP: Was certainly young and naive in '57, less both today. No one can give in to pessimism anyway, nocomment.

Q: Any tips for doing the philosophy grad school/objectivism dual context.

LP: Excruciating. Do Phd as fast as possible then recover in a hospital.

Q: Why did Rand say "Objectivism is a dangerous philosophy if you accept it partially"?

LP: Other philosophies leave you inconsistencies, loopholes to

Objectivism is a system. If accepted, the logical intellectual mind will acquire a certain mode of functioning that will require much more severe/intense degree of evasion to hold onto a contradiction. Objectivism could be the best or the worst in that way. Rand considered that justice.

Q:What did Ayn Rand mean by man-worship or hero-worship?

LP: (addressing the nonsexual aspect) Holding human beings as a top value, an exalted view of the possibilities of man, and working to actualize it in self, befreind it and encourage it in others.

Q: What are the essentials of the democratic and republican political parties?

LP: Dems - moderate socialism disguised as disappointed liberalism

Reps - nothing disguised as famly oriented group.

Q: Reconcile conservative defense of capitalism on utilitarian grounds w/ your acceptance of turning over AS to a sympathetic professional and hopng for the best.

LP: Do not compare incommensurates. Principle and a concrete. Principles are timeless, capitalism will always be true and moral. Copyright term is running out on AS.

Q: Is there a time most appropriate to teach Objectivism to a child?

LP: When they need to know a principle. If child can tell a lie, they can understand it is wrong. Provide explanation to a depth appropriate to depth of understanding.

Relates Kira story about B.C. and A.D.

No organized philosophy until midteens. Fiction first, supplied context is psuedo-experience.

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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

{not a transcipt}

Lecture V Thinking in Principles

start w/ O.E.D. definition

principle - source; beginning; fountainhead; initial or first place; latin prin first as in prince for first born son; front of an army

and also - fundamental truth, law or motive force; fundamental proposition upon which others depend; a primary truth related to subordinate truths; a general statement held to form the ground of a system of belief

and also - a general law or rule adopted as a guide to action; basis of conduct or practice; fundamental motive (an ethical definition)

Definition of Principle: a conceptual first cause which has many derivative generalizations; an integration of generalizations; the deepest level of integration possible within a given context

no rule exists for how many generalizations make a principle (same for concepts);

principles are contextual

Ex: Observe that censorship takes intellignece out of books; public ownership of steel industry makes steel worthless; 15other instances where coercion stifles creativity.

Form a principle: "force negates value"

but in a wider context even this is a concrete.

In metaphysics there is "causality or cause and effect", of which this is an application.

Don't go to widest context right away, you omit the context of the particular field of application and wind up with only philosophical principles. Intermediate level principles are crucial to function; can't get by with just concretes and philosophy. Need principles of politics, agriculture, etc...

Examples of the "Level of Thinking"

#1 Ex: "All cats have tails." NOT a principle but only a low level generalization. Only has to do with cats. (disregard manx cats)

better: "genetics causes body form" or "body form is caused by selective reproduction over generations" the principle of evolution

Calling a proposition a principle is an honorific, it should earn it.

#2 Ex: "If you travel by subway allow extra time because the trains are sometimes late." NOT a principle, as soon as you see 'trains' its concrete bound, so a generalization.

also BAD: "Recognize the facts of reality." Too wide, we already knew that. A retreat into philosophy.

GOOD: "One should plan ahead to allow for unforeseen contingencies." good because applies to travel, and money management, time management

#3 Ex: "If you want to grow bananas in Arizona then you need irrigation ditches." BAD - generalization about a single crop in one location

better but too wide: "Nature to be commanded must be obeyed"

GOOD: "Each plant requires certain conditions to flourish" i.e. principle of scientific agriculture

Try to form a principle whenever you suspect one may be around.

Formulate principles correctly.

Ex: "It is wrong on principle to doctor your resume." What is the principle? Name it.

* "It is wrong to lie or cheat your employer." too concrete, what about wife, child, grocery clerk...

* "Lying is wicked" but there are cases where it is right to lie : this drops context

* " It is wrong to mislead someone when it is to one's own selfish interest" i.e. "White lies vs. Black lies" contradicts egoism, basic principle of ethics

* "Never try to gain a value by faking reality" GOOD, precise formulation avoids mistakes

What do principles add to cognition? UNIT ECONOMY just like concepts

"Principles integrate into a unit, and thus make retainable, countless subsumed generalizations."

1) Principles make generalizations retainable

2) Principles make observations intelligible

3) Principles enable predictions about the future, because they abstract away time measurements.

Positivism - "wheat requires water" and "pineapples require heat" are unintelligible concretes, combining them just makes one giant unintelligible concrete. August Comte

In Objectivism, understanding is integration. There is no other mystical light that comes on. Principles integrate concretes to one another, and they thereby become mutually illuminating. One table is an unintelligble unique concrete, but several tables and chairs and beds allow one to perceive the pattern that is table. [similarity requires multiplicity, multiplicity creates need for economy, economy is based on the similarity- my comment]

Basic facts of the universe are unique; there are no other facts to integrate them with. This limits understanding, prevents explanation. "The little stuff" has nothing prior to or fundamental to explain it.

"The little stuff" is posited ultimate constituents of matter, smaller than even subatomic particles - function was to free thought from content of physics.

Why is "A is A" true? Can't say because "A is B" and "B is A" therefore "A is A". There is no B.

All understanding and explanation is starting with observations and taking it back one step at a time reducing back to ultimate laws and metaphysical primaries, creating relationships between observations. Science explains everything there is to explain, but there are irreducible facts it cannot explain.

Finding principles in everyday life. Newspapers are good for sophisticated presentations of fallacies.

Obituary of Orson Welles by Vincent Canby - key line - "He didn't coerce audiences with closeups" analyzed as resenting identity, link to St Jerome's praise of God for his indefiniteness.

NY Review of Books "The End of Books" "The power of the book is in the line. The author directed movement from the beginning of a sentence to the end, top of page to bottom, first page to last. Hypertext is freedom because it is nonlinear and nonsequential" Same crap as above. "Identity as coercion". Factually wrong, novels still exist decades later.

Forming Principles:

1) Widen perspective as broad as possible without leaving field

2) State first generalization

3) Go to deepest principle involved

4) Horizontally integrate to other knowledge

How do you prove or validate principles?

reach them by induction

validate them by integrating them/reducing to the entities involved.

Ex: "Knowledge requires a certain method"

Thales - knowledge begins with observation

Aristotle - you must not contradict yourself

Rand - form concepts in proper hierarchical relationship

Three concrete statements integrated by inducing "Knowledge requires a method"

Explain/validate - man's consciousness is volitional, mistakes are possible

Ex: "Why has mankind found it easier to discover scientific principles than ethical principles?"

Mind-body or split epistemology at work.

Science is done by scientists. Everybody participates in ethics. Bad principles are better than no principles.

Q: Do men always function by principles even if they are haphazard ill-formed principles? Whether they want to or not?

A: Yes and No. Can evade principles, but cannot turn off subconscious which will integrate anyway.

If unprincipled consciously then will be principled subconsciously in a bad sense. You can't escape some integration but you can easily escape the good. Good requires work, effort, attention.

see OPAR Integrity, the principle of being principled.

Q: What is the relation between thinking in essentials and thinking in principles?

A: Finding essential is analysis, taking apart. Finding principle is synthesis, uniting. Both improve unit economy by integrating. Each crucial to the other, enabling in turn in a spiral of knowledge.

"Thinking in essentials in the principle of thinking in principles." Essential is more basic.

Q: Can you integrate essentials and principles to logic?

LP: Logic is the science of inference. Essentials are necessary for clear concepts. Need to have concepts before putting them together in syllogisms.

Locke: Brings up motivation, "Don't examine a folly, ask yourself what it accomplishes"

LP: That is Toohey speaking, not Rand. She would ask "How do you know it is a folly without examining it?" She spent lots of time examining Kant's follies. For LP, philosophical explanations are preferred to psychological explanations, even when psychological explanations are available, because he is not a psychologist.

Q: Why are principles contextual?

LP: You do not and cannot start from scratch each time in formulating new principles and essentials. Context is necessary, context is not innate knowledge.

Has long example of employee at fraudulently obtained job.

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Notes on "Art of Thinking" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff

{not a transcipt}

Lecture VI Certainty

Certainty is the reward of proper thinking.

Lecture covers aspects of certainty excised from OPAR for space

4 problems or confusions about certainty

Review of relevant sections of OPAR:

Man is a being of limited knowledge—and he must, therefore, identify the cognitive context of his conclusions. In any situation where there is reason to suspect that a variety of factors is relevant to the truth, only some of which are presently known, he is obliged to acknowledge this fact. The implicit or explicit preamble to his conclusion must be: "On the basis of the available evidence, i.e., within the context of the factors so far discovered, the following is the proper conclusion to draw." Thereafter, the individual must continue to observe and identify; should new information warrant it, he must qualify his conclusion accordingly.

The modern definition of "absolute" represents the rejection of a rational metaphysics and epistemology. It is the inversion of a crucial truth: relationships are not the enemy of absolutism; they are what make it possible. We prove a conclusion on the basis of facts logically related to it and then integrate it into the sum of our knowledge. That process is what enables us to say: "Everything points to this conclusion; the total context demands it; within these conditions, it is unshakable." About an isolated revelation, by contrast, we could never be secure. Since we would know nothing that makes it so, we could count on nothing to keep it so, either.

Certainty is about knowledge from a certain perspective.

It designates some complex items of knowledge. Not all complex items, and no simple items, considered in contrast to the complex transitional evidential states that precede them.

(The extension of certainty to all knowledge to indicate the presence or absence of the emotions of conviction and doubt is ok but not essential to the epistemology considered here.)

Some knowledge is simple: it has no "transitional evidentiary states" See a table, or do not. Recall your wife's face, or do not. No progress through possible/probable/ to certain. Certainty applies to higher level inductive reasoning.

Problem #1 The future

How can statements about the future ever be certain? - Within a context.

Is this flight safe? - Check all conditions for a safe against this particular plane. Concretes more remote in the future are less certain, in that they could change.

What if some unknown, unpredictable thing happens? - This is what context is for, if no evidence in context then don't consider it.

What if a meteor hits your plane anyway? Were you wrong? - No. No fallacy, no lapse of logic, no misinterpretation of available data. New data doesn't contradict old data. It is not an error to not be omniscient.

Problem #2 Statistics

But isn't there always some evidence for every possibility? "1 of 1000 planes crash" "1 of 75 professors don't show up for lecture on a thursday"

Metaphysical possibility - capable by nature. a generalization. Planes can fall and crash. Feathers can fall but not crash.

Epistemological possibility - applies to a particular

Ayn Rand's statement on statistics: "Statistics are applicable only when 1) you are unavoidably ignorant about a concrete and 2) some action is necessary (time constrains investigation).

In a division of labor society much evidence is indirect via experts. Rational trust in an expert who has access to the concrete referenced above in 1) wipes out you ability to doubt based on statistics. (Knowledge about concretes wipes out arbitrary doubts, even statistically supported doubts. Related to fallacy of going from the general to the particular: gambler's mistake)

For a "safe" plane - "It is impossible for the plane to crash." True or false? - Metaphysically possible but epistemologically non-possible.

Do not plan for a metaphysical possibility in the absence of specific (not statistical) evidence.

Rand story - AR and LP talking about statistics. LP proposes to figure out how many people are in the lobby of her building by statistics. Factor in building size, nighttime, NY city, warm night, moon out. AR calls that "fantastic". LP asks "what would you do?" AR replies "I would go downstairs and count them."

It is wrong to appeal to statistics when direct evidence is available.

Problem #3 Must one preface all statements with "In the present context of knowledge"

No, don't say it about everything.

Not perceptual cognition and direct memory.

Not automatized conceptual identification (that's a table)

Not axioms - they apply to all possible contexts anyway

Not mathematics - delimited subject, where everything has been reduced to axioms

Not philosophy - delimited subject, is only about fundamentals, eternal universal principles that underlie everything else and are the framework for evaluating evidence in every other field.

Not "'Atlas Shrugged' is a great novel." - principles of aesthetics are timeless, and your knowledge of the novel is perceptual so this is a truth for all contexts.

Not "There is no God" - God contradicts axioms. Since axioms are for all contexts, God's nonexistence is for all contexts.

"in the present context" does not mean that you are actually uncertain. This just tells listener/reader that conclusion is not self-evident or perceptual. It is built on an accumulation of knowledge which may not be complete. It does not mean the opposite is possible, or that conclusion is untrustworthy.

Knowledge is limited. If you think this undercuts knowledge or makes it vulnerable to overthrow you are implicitly holding omniscience as the standard of certainty.

"in the present context" is not an assertion that anything else is possible. It means: everything known supports this but I know there is more to learn, and what that more might be can't even be speculated. There is more to come and I acknowledge this. My method is right so I know what I learn tomorrow will not contradict what I have learned so far.

What is the point of making the statement "in the present context" if it leaves nothing open?

1) Intellectual honesty - highlighting an inductive conclusion

2) Declares you will entertain evidence (related and credible) for further integration

Problem #4 Error

Context does not eliminate the possibility of error. Being wrong in fact but right in method is possible and a common occurrence. Gives checkbook example where you make an error. Objective yet still made an error. Objective is not infallible.

Distinguish context-limited knowledge from error-limited knowledge.

Context-limited knowledge - new qualifications are not contradictions because method was correct.

Error-limited knowledge - new data can lead to a contradictory conclusion

Context is objective, an error is an error even in context. Context does not include mistakes. "Wrong" means method was erroneous, only use "wrong" for faulty method. (Simple arithmetic mistakes in executing an otherwise sound method are considered making the method faulty.)

The two problems of knowledge are fallibility and non-omniscience. Address fallibility with logic (method). Address non-omniscience with context.

EX: Child raised by good people. He is told man is made in God's image, God is good & that is why men are. He later encounters evil men. Was he in error or was he contextually limited?

Error, because man is volitional is axiomatic i.e. for all contexts. Can also identify fallacies of hasty generalization and appeal to authority at work here. Doesn't even matter that poor kid was practically doomed to make this mistake. Error does not make the kid blameworthy.

Errors are avoidable only by knowing and applying epistemology. No error is inevitable after that, but errors are still possible. If error was inevitable even to a methodologically conscious adult then determinism would be true.

Q: Is a standard of proof an item of knowledge? How could one be certain?

LP: That is induction. Long answer about the induction problem.

Christina: inaudible

LP: "Informed statistics" is a contradiction is terms.

Q: Statistics is applicable to groups. Insurance companies.

LP: Yes. Statistics can be helpful in the early stages of a science.

Q: If certainty is a subcategory of knowledge what would be an example of knowledge that is uncertain?

LP: No, it is not the case that all knowledge is certain or uncertain. Complex inductive conclusions can be certain or uncertain, does not apply to other knowledge.

Q: What is difference between data and statistics?

LP: Data more general. Statistics are special kind of data about correlations.

Q: Mirages.

LP: Perceiving an actual phenomena. Don't be unwary in making conceptual identifications.

Q: Is horizontal integration necessary for certainty? Does concept of proof include horizontal integration?

LP: Yes and Yes. Horizontal integration is always necessary.

Q: Certain vs. fully certain.

LP No, any modifier of certain is a mistake.

Diana: Adults that don't have a proper method of logic. Are they blameworthy or innocent?

LP: Ethical question. It depends on their access to the right method. If a person is well-educated, well-read or brilliant enough to come up with the idea that some method is necessary and these are the steps then he is responsible. But 999/1000 cases a person can't do it. It takes a genius. Most mistakes are not morally blameworthy because people don't know what the hell they are doing.

It is blameworthy that they posture as though they do know what they are doing. If they acknowledged they don't know then the next logical step would be to find out. Dishonesty is not in lacking the right method but just turning off the whole subject and going with what they've got even when they know its no good. Even that I don't blame most people for because they don't know what they are lacking and they find the opposite of it if they go to college in courses that are supposed to offer logic and methodology. Most people are really in a bind. They could be more honest than they are but they couldn't be substantially ahead of where they are at this stage of philosophic development.

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