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Ayn Rand's Evidence

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Ayn Rand's Evidence  

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  1. 1. Does Rand's work, taken alone, contain sufficient evidence to justify her psychological and historical claims?

    • Yes, completely
      6
    • Yes, for the most part
      2
    • Maybe
      1
    • No, not quite
      6
    • No, not at all
      2


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Nyquist says that Ayn Rand did not present enough evidence to justify her psychological and historical claims. Her psychological claims should have been backed up with scientific data, and her historical claims with intensive historical investigation, so he says.

Now, the inquiring reader will wonder where exactly he makes these claims. To show that I am not making this up, here are some quotes from Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature.

Does Rand provide any evidence for this view [that innate predispositions do not exist]? No, she does not. You can go through all of her writings without finding so much as a shred of scientifically validated evidence supporting her contention that innate predispositions do not exist.

ARCHN, 24

The theorist is expected to back his claims with scientific evidence. But Rand never once bothered to provide any such evidence [for her claim that emotions are solely the product of our ideas].

ARCHN, 32

Rand's theory of history is built upon a number of extremely questionable premises, many of which Rand failed to support with either factual evidence or logical argumentation.

ARCHN, 64

In order to come to any sort of definite conclusion about a subject as vast and multifaceted as this one would require several volumes. Each period of history would have to be subjected to an intensively detailed examination in order to determine the causal factors present in that era.... Causal uniformities about history can be discovered in no other way.

ARCHN, 69

These accusations (that Rand's theories about psychology and history require significant backing that is not present in her work) do seem correct. Perhaps we can forgive her on the grounds that she was probably just presupposing the work of others when she wrote.

So, did Ayn Rand present sufficient evidence to justify her psychological and historical claims?

If not, is that a bad thing?

Edited by ctrl y
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Your first supposed problem, about not citing evidence for "her" position against innate predispositions, is made, it seems, in ignorance of the arguments and investigations that exist on the subject. Did you think she was writing original theory when she said man was, e.g., tablua raza?

These are vaccuous and unwarranted complaints. "Somebody said something was wrong. Disprove it!" If you have a real, thought-out question or problem, you ought to state it, with your reasons explicit. THEN you might ask for responses.

-- Mindy

Edited by Mindy
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haha... Most of those quotes are simply trash.

There are very few philosophers who provide "evidence" for the suppositions of their philosophy beyond thought experiments and deductive reasoning etc.

The theorist is expected to back his claims with scientific evidence. But Rand never once bothered to provide any such evidence [for her claim that emotions are solely the product of our ideas].

Well to begin with, this premise is the basis of entire branches of Psychology...

Well, I know that at least two of the main branches of psych therapy are based upon thought and the corollary emotional response (and vice versa). It wouldn't surprise me if they all were, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment on all the fields of Therapy.

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I'll have to agree with ctrl y to some extent. I don't disagree with any fundamentals of Objectivism, but I disagree with some of her historical claims, particularly her theoretic and historical understanding of communism, which I've discussed here at lenght before, but I don't think it really does much harm. I don't know anything about psychology, but some scientific evidence would've been nice, I don't know. Anyways, I hope no one goes all mad and make a big fuss about this.

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Your first supposed problem, about not citing evidence for "her" position against innate predispositions, is made, it seems, in ignorance of the arguments and investigations that exist on the subject. Did you think she was writing original theory when she said man was, e.g., tablua raza?

These are vaccuous and unwarranted complaints. "Somebody said something was wrong. Disprove it!" If you have a real, thought-out question or problem, you ought to state it, with your reasons explicit. THEN you might ask for responses.

-- Mindy

Wouldn't it have been helpful then for her to have footnotes or something? I grant that she doesn't have to prove assertion she writes if someone has already provided convincing arguments, but if that were the case why didn't she say something like "as argued by x"?

Also ctrl y is pointing out a problem, and is citing someone else who brought it to his attention. The problem is lack of evidence. It isn't "disprove something that someone said is wrong". It isn't about the conclusions, the writer of the quotes pointed out that Rand rarely put footnotes or citations or anything of that kind that is required of any other thinker to be taken seriously. Academics don't just hate her because of her ideas (they do though), but also because of the fact that ideally they have to cite evidence that their arguments rely on, and she didn't.

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Your first supposed problem, about not citing evidence for "her" position against innate predispositions, is made, it seems, in ignorance of the arguments and investigations that exist on the subject. Did you think she was writing original theory when she said man was, e.g., tablua raza?

These are vaccuous and unwarranted complaints. "Somebody said something was wrong. Disprove it!" If you have a real, thought-out question or problem, you ought to state it, with your reasons explicit. THEN you might ask for responses.

Well, when the complaint is concerned with the lack of evidence then the natural response for that concern is to provide the evidence. I see that there is a problem that some of the criticism is rather vague, but at least two concerns are specified (i.e. nonexistence of innate predispositions and emotions being solely a product of ideas). It may be that both are invalid for some reason, but then the reason can be provided.

Now, I think that there is a problem with a lack of evidence in AR's claims in both mentioned matters. I don't think that those claims somehow follows from other premises. On the other hand, they seem to me as assertions about human nature that can be otherwise and are testable in principle. Furthermore, as far as I know, strong versions of both claims don't seem to be supported by facts (i.e. psychology experiments). However, unfortunately I don't know what are exactly the thoughts of AR in those matters so I can't tell that she was wrong because I suspect that her claims were not as strict as were stated in cited criticism.

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The issue of innate knowledge is completely handled by the axiomatic status of the Primacy of Existence principle. Since there are no innate ideas, there are no innate identifications, no innate value judgments and no innate emotions.

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All human "sciences" must begin with axioms, self-evident truths. Including, properly, philosophy. Otherwise you are caught in an endless progression backwards..."What is the proof that the proof you offered is correct? And the proof that that proof is correct?" Ayn Rand quite clearly laid out the axioms. They are ultimately the evidence for everything in Objectivism, and that is one of its beauties.

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haha... Most of those quotes are simply trash.

Well, their purpose was just to show that Nyquist also thinks that this is a problem.

There are very few philosophers who provide "evidence" for the suppositions of their philosophy beyond thought experiments and deductive reasoning etc.

I think they typically at least point to other people who've argued for their premises.

Well to begin with, this premise is the basis of entire branches of Psychology...

Well, I know that at least two of the main branches of psych therapy are based upon thought and the corollary emotional response (and vice versa). It wouldn't surprise me if they all were, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to comment on all the fields of Therapy.

You're not too specific here about which branches and fields are based on this. Nevertheless, Nyquist sort of anticipates your argument when he says that while some psychologists do think that our emotions follow from our thinking to some limited extent, "no reputable psychologist believes that emotions are solely the product of our ideas." (ARCHN, 31-32)

Edited by ctrl y
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This discussion needs some focus, its a little bit all over the place.

Ctrl-y I would like to see a direct response from you in regards to Peikoffs summarization of emotions:

Emotions as a Product of Ideas

An emotion is a response to an object one perceives (or imagines), such as a man, an animal, an event. The object by itself, however, has no power to invoke a feeling in the observer. It can do so only if the observer supplies two intellectual elements, which are necessary conditions of any emotions: identification and evaluation. Emotions are states of consciousness with bodily accompaniments and with intellectual causes. The four steps in the generation of an emotion are perception (or imagination), identification, evaluation, and response. Because human minds learn to automatize their evaluations over time, people frequently lack explicit awareness of the intermediate steps of identification and evaluation.

Please identify, specifically, where you believe there is a problem, and please explain why you think there is one.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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The issue of innate knowledge is completely handled by the axiomatic status of the Primacy of Existence principle. Since there are no innate ideas, there are no innate identifications, no innate value judgments and no innate emotions.

Well, my point contests that there is sufficient evidence in Rand's work for the causal connection between thinking and emotions. The only real answer to that is to show that she did provide sufficient evidence.

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All human "sciences" must begin with axioms, self-evident truths. Including, properly, philosophy. Otherwise you are caught in an endless progression backwards..."What is the proof that the proof you offered is correct? And the proof that that proof is correct?"

It should be obvious that I'm just asking whether Rand provided sufficient evidence, not indulging that sort of recursive skepticism.

Ayn Rand quite clearly laid out the axioms. They are ultimately the evidence for everything in Objectivism, and that is one of its beauties.

Perhaps, but then my question is just how these particular doctrines get reduced to the axioms.

Edited by ctrl y
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Have you provided sufficient evidence to justify your claim that Rand made scientific claims about psychology and history?

On this forum, it should be common knowledge. Rand claimed that there are no innate predispositions, that emotions follow from thinking, and that the course of history is set by philosophy.

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This discussion needs some focus, its a little bit all over the place.

Ctrl-y I would like to see a direct response from you in regards to Peikoffs summarization of emotions:

Please identify, specifically, where you believe there is a problem, and please explain why you think there is one.

He says these things as if they are obvious, when one would like something along the lines of a study to support them.

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On this forum, it should be common knowledge. Rand claimed that there are no innate predispositions, that emotions follow from thinking, and that the course of history is set by philosophy.
So you accept obvious facts that need no proof, and yet you do not accept obvious facts that need no proof. The only thing I can see that explains this is that you accept such statements as needing no proof if you make them, and you require proof if Rand makes them.

Unfortunately, you did not answer the question that I asked. Why is that?

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So you accept obvious facts that need no proof, and yet you do not accept obvious facts that need no proof. The only thing I can see that explains this is that you accept such statements as needing no proof if you make them, and you require proof if Rand makes them.

Common knowledge is acceptable, but some things that are not common knowledge require evidence. Rand's claims are neither common knowledge nor obvious.

Unfortunately, you did not answer the question that I asked. Why is that?

Well, there's really no one way to answer the question. Taken by itself and given to someone ignorant of Rand, no, the post does not contain enough evidence that Rand made those claims. Here, yes, it does.

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This part has been proven with ample evidence I believe, merely by Peikoff's Ominous Parallels and the, on its way, DIM Hypothesis.

That is not part of Rand's work. More importantly, I believe it was published a good twenty years after she had written For the New Intellectual, which seems to make the claim in question.

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No, not even here. And that is because you don't understand Rand's claim, and therefore you have misrepresented them.

I'm not sure how one could make those sorts of claims without making them as scientific claims.

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That is not part of Rand's work. More importantly, I believe it was published a good twenty years after she had written For the New Intellectual, which seems to make the claim in question.

I am aware. Why does it matter if Rand did it? (I understand that this question is specifically in regards to Rands works) It has been done and it has validated the supposition. It is not invalid merely because it was not done by Rand.

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I am aware. Why does it matter if Rand did it? (I understand that this question is specifically in regards to Rands works) It has been done and it has validated the supposition. It is not invalid merely because it was not done by Rand.

You have a good point here. I'm not sure whether The Ominous Parallels counts as proof that history is determined by philosophy, as I have not read it. I will say that it is rather short relative to what I would expect to be the length of a work that proved that point, and it seems to be aimed mainly at a specific time and place.

Edited by ctrl y
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If you want length that is what th DIM Hypothesis is for, (I think there is a lecture by Peikoff up for it? I know he did a lecture on it at OCON) but Ominous Parallels is a pretty much perfect account of how philosophy brought about the Nazi regime based on my reading of it.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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I'm not sure how one could make those sorts of claims without making them as scientific claims.
Perhaps your problem lies in not understanding what a scientific vs. a philosophical claim is. The distinction is discussed in ITOE. There is a scientific claim (about genetics), which Rand says nothing about. You are equivocating on the use of "instinct" or "innate predispositions".
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