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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
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Is it possible for you to be a bit more explicit as to the issue Odden, I have to say I don't really understand what you are talking about based on the posts alone thus far and I have yet to read ITOE. I know there is an error being made by Ctrl-Y but I am unsure as to the specifics of it.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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Perhaps your problem lies in not understanding what a scientific vs. a philosophical claim is. The distinction is discussed in ITOE.

Where? I have ITOE but cannot find the discussion of that distinction just using the index.

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Perhaps your problem lies in not understanding what a scientific vs. a philosophical claim is. The distinction is discussed in ITOE.

So whenever you are in doubt about what is or is not a philosophical subject, ask yourself whether you need a specialized knowledge, beyond the knowledge available to you as a normal adult, unaided by any special knowledge or special instruments.

Okay, so the issue of whether or not this is a philosophical subject goes back to the issue of whether or not these claims are obvious, and I've denied that they are obvious.

There is a scientific claim (about genetics), which Rand says nothing about. You are equivocating on the use of "instinct" or "innate predispositions".

I don't follow. There seems to be only one kind of "innate predisposition" that could exist, and claims about that will be scientific.

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I don't follow. There seems to be only one kind of "innate predisposition" that could exist, and claims about that will be scientific.
Here are some very simple examples. Rand claims that man does not have any in-born specific knowledge, and, experientially, that is obviously true. However, man has a faculty, the faculty of reason, which is part of his nature -- suggesting "innate" -- that allows him to acquire knowledge from experience. People who point (always indirectly, so that their error is not obvious) at man's natural ability to acquire knowledge as evidence for innate knowledge are not pointing to anything relevant. Another example is the existence of anatomical structures which in various ways impinge on behavior. Surprisingly many people equate the physical patellar reflex with "innate knowledge" because it's automatic. However, it is not knowledge.

I acknowledge that you persist in denying the self-evident nature of Rand's claims, and would hope that you would acknowledge that you have given nothing more that the 6 year old brother response "Nuh uhhh" when remind you that Rand only makes philosophical identifications, not scientific claims.

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The claim that the mind starts out tabula rasa seems to be a scientific one. Do you disagree?
It isn't even a scientific claim. It has no testable scientific content. There is no hypothesis that could be verified or disconfirmed by specialized investigation. And that is because "tabula rasa" is not a scientific, well-defined concept.
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He says these things as if they are obvious, when one would like something along the lines of a study to support them.

Rand laid out her ideas in her writing, in a style that is direct and dense with meaning at the same time. Her style is different than most philosophers in that it doesnt have the academic, repetitive, implicit pleading for acceptance and belief throughout. It seems incongruent to me that Rand or any Objectivist would feel the need to reference 50 million frenchmen in trying to prove their ideas, rather, she says what she believes, why she believes it, and leaves the rest up to the reader. Facts are not proven by taking polls, citing references and name dropping. If any of the claims she made were inconsistent with regard to any other aspect of her philosophy, then maybe I'd like to see more evidence as to where the idea came from, but she was so damn consistent.

j..

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Here are some very simple examples. Rand claims that man does not have any in-born specific knowledge, and, experientially, that is obviously true. However, man has a faculty, the faculty of reason, which is part of his nature -- suggesting "innate" -- that allows him to acquire knowledge from experience. People who point (always indirectly, so that their error is not obvious) at man's natural ability to acquire knowledge as evidence for innate knowledge are not pointing to anything relevant. Another example is the existence of anatomical structures which in various ways impinge on behavior. Surprisingly many people equate the physical patellar reflex with "innate knowledge" because it's automatic. However, it is not knowledge.

Okay, there is more than one kind of innate predisposition. I'm referring to the psychological kind, including the absence of innate knowledge.

I acknowledge that you persist in denying the self-evident nature of Rand's claims, and would hope that you would acknowledge that you have given nothing more that the 6 year old brother response "Nuh uhhh" when remind you that Rand only makes philosophical identifications, not scientific claims.

"Yea huhhh" does not seem much more sophisticated.

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Rand laid out her ideas in her writing, in a style that is direct and dense with meaning at the same time. Her style is different than most philosophers in that it doesnt have the academic, repetitive, implicit pleading for acceptance and belief throughout. It seems incongruent to me that Rand or any Objectivist would feel the need to reference 50 million frenchmen in trying to prove their ideas, rather, she says what she believes, why she believes it, and leaves the rest up to the reader. Facts are not proven by taking polls, citing references and name dropping. If any of the claims she made were inconsistent with regard to any other aspect of her philosophy, then maybe I'd like to see more evidence as to where the idea came from, but she was so damn consistent.

j..

Yeah, but still. Some of her claims need support not present in her work. Do you think it's just self evident that history is driven by philosophy (like Odden seems to)?

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Rand laid out her ideas in her writing, in a style that is direct and dense with meaning at the same time. Her style is different than most philosophers in that it doesnt have the academic, repetitive, implicit pleading for acceptance and belief throughout. It seems incongruent to me that Rand or any Objectivist would feel the need to reference 50 million frenchmen in trying to prove their ideas, rather, she says what she believes, why she believes it, and leaves the rest up to the reader. Facts are not proven by taking polls, citing references and name dropping. If any of the claims she made were inconsistent with regard to any other aspect of her philosophy, then maybe I'd like to see more evidence as to where the idea came from, but she was so damn consistent.

j..

I think that this an absolutely valid point. Just to compare though

Mises's theory on economics laid out in his book Human Action, where he attempts to prove to the reader that human action is axiomatic, and that economics is a "deductive science". He wrote this in an extremely hostile academic environment (in austria). The heads of the university were Nazis and Reds. He wasn't even paid for his position. In his book, he answered every countered most arguments that could have been fathomed against austrian economics. He provided foot notes, and his book was giant.

Rand wrote most of her philosophical views in a a few very short books, that explained her ideas to others, they were not meant to prove them however. I actually think that this is very clear considering the lengths of her works. If she wanted to prove her views, she would had to spend many years researching and compiling, and then would have to write several very long books. I don't think she was interested in doing this.

That is why, if I someone were to ask where the proof for Objectivism was, I would refer them to several different books written by people other than Rand, Peikoff's books being the first on that list.

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Yeah, but still. Some of her claims need support not present in her work. Do you think it's just self evident that history is driven by philosophy (like Odden seems to)?

Not self evident as in we have an innate sense that tells us that, but self evident as in "yeah, that makes sense, let me look into it further.... yup sounds good to me". Its important to note that all her ideas came from a certain place, the consciousness of a genius who was un-matched in recognizing that "existence exists", and all that follows from that fact, not a grab bag of fleshed out ideas borrowed from other thinkers.

j..

Edited by JayR
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Here are some very simple examples. Rand claims that man does not have any in-born specific knowledge, and, experientially, that is obviously true. However, man has a faculty, the faculty of reason, which is part of his nature -- suggesting "innate" -- that allows him to acquire knowledge from experience. People who point (always indirectly, so that their error is not obvious) at man's natural ability to acquire knowledge as evidence for innate knowledge are not pointing to anything relevant. Another example is the existence of anatomical structures which in various ways impinge on behavior. Surprisingly many people equate the physical patellar reflex with "innate knowledge" because it's automatic. However, it is not knowledge.

I am a bit confused about this as well. Can you please elaborate what is meant as "knowledge"? For instance, would understanding of causality or permanence of objects be considered knowledge?

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Not self evident as in we have an innate sense that tells us that, but self evident as in "yeah, that makes sense, let me look into it further.... yup sounds good to me".

That seems kind of subjective.

Its important to note that all her ideas came from a certain place, the consciousness of a genius who was un-matched in recognizing that "existence exists", and all that follows from that fact, not a grab bag of fleshed out ideas borrowed from other thinkers.

j..

Well, Kant was a genius too... and so was Marx... and Mill... and so on. You can find a genius for any position you care to name.

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Can you please elaborate what is meant as "knowledge"? For instance, would understanding of causality or permanence of objects be considered knowledge?
As a reasonable first stab, "grasp of fact" is what "knowledge" means. I assume you understand "fact"; understanding of causality would be an example. Or, knowledge that cats have hair, or that nightshade is a poisonous plant.
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How so?

Well, a Marxist would likely say that Marx's theories meet that criterion, a Freudian that Freud's theories meet that criterion, and so forth. It just seems very subjective and prone to bias.

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The basic question is: "So, did Ayn Rand present sufficient evidence to justify her psychological and historical claims?"

Yes. Absolutely.

As a writer you have to assume some knowledge on part of your reader. Some of her articles were written for an Objectivist audience. A few of her articles were written for people with specialized knowledge of philosophy, history, psychology or some and other special science. Most of her articles were written for the intelligent and knowledgeable layman.

I have noticed that some articles I read years ago only make sense now when I know much more than I used to. That's why it is important to "spiraling" as Rand and Peikoff called it. That is you go back to the old issues you have dealt with before but now you read it in light of an expanded context. All of a sudden you will see things you did not notice before; the importance of some formulations you earlier did not understand, new implications you did not consider before. Whatever you see, you will see it clearer and with a greater understanding.

Ayn Rand did not always give the "complete proof". But that is a problem any writer faces; you can only say so much given the time and space you've set out for yourself and your audience. (Many of her articles were speeches that she gave under time restrictions.) But even when she could not offer the "complete proof" or validation of some idea or claim, she always offered some evidence, in terms of essentials, to clearly _indicate_ where one can look for further proof on your own and what type of observations would constitute proof of her claims.

You have to validate and prove Objectivism on your own. Ayn Rand gives you many suggestions on how you can do this: look for more examples on your own of the type that Ayn Rand have indicated and where Ayn Rand have indicated; reduce crucial concepts and principles back to the perceptual level so you can see, with your own eyes, that these concepts and principles are, indeed, based on the facts of reality; integrate everything you learn with everything else you know and everything else you learn (e.g., economics, psychology, history).

Ayn Rand can fairly be accused of one thing: She did not spoon-feed her readers. You have to do some thinking on your own. Ayn Rand did not seek out blind "followers." She never wanted you to take her on faith. She wanted you to see the truth with your own eyes. (Ayn Rand offered on many occasions, explicitly and implicitly, many suggestions on how they you can go about to do this. See for instance Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. In addition to this Leonard Peikoff have held at least two courses with the purpose to help you prove Objectivism inductively, namely Understanding Objectivism and Objectivism Through Induction.)

I will not comment the specific claims being made here. In part for reasons I have already mentioned. In part because some if not all of the accusations here rest on a false premise; the false premise that philosophy is dependent on the special sciences and not the other way around.

What is a philosophical question and what is a "scientific" question? A philosophical question is a question about the _fundamental_ nature of reality, man and his relationship to reality. When we say that a question is scientific that is not to imply that philosophy is unscientific. It is only to make a distinction about the fundamental science, namely philosophy, and the special sciences.

Philosophy does not deal with the nature of physics or with animals or rocks or layers of dirt or DNA or computers. It deals with the fundamental questions about reality: What is reality? (Metaphysics.) It does not deal with the specific claims within any special science, such as whether the theory of evolution is true or false or whether the general theory of relativity is true or false. No, it deals with the fundamental questions about knowledge: How do you know? Can we know? What is truth? (Epistemology.) The answer to these, and other fundamental philosophical questions, constitute the precondition of every single claim to knowledge.

To concretize the relationship between philosophy and the special sciences, just ask yourself the following questions: What is the point of making experiments to determine the nature of things and to discover, for instance a cure for cancer, if reality is not an absolute, if what is true today may not be true tomorrow? What is the point of making any observations if our senses are invalid? Unreliable? If everything is an illusion? And why use reason, if there is no objective basis for our concepts or generalizations?

Given this very clear distinction, is it a question for any specialized science whether man have "innate ideas" or "instincts"? No. Whether emotions are the products of your ideas, knowledge and values? No. The basic philosophical truths do not rest on specialized scientific knowledge. It is specialized scientific knowledge that rest on philosophy. "All" you need to _prove_ both claims is to, primarily, engage in introspection and then integrate these observations with everything else you know, including observations of how of other men react all different to the same facts, the only difference being that they have different ideas, values and knowledge.

Edited by knast
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Well, a Marxist would likely say that Marx's theories meet that criterion, a Freudian that Freud's theories meet that criterion, and so forth. It just seems very subjective and prone to bias.

Youre focusing on the "sounds good to me" rather than the "let me look into it further", and obviously it wasnt meant to represent the literal process for verifying her ideas. It would have been a wet dream if she has presented her philosophy in a single tour de force epic book, but she didnt. But, the fact that she makes you do some thinking, and homework of your own is appealing in a way as well.

j..

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Youre focusing on the "sounds good to me" rather than the "let me look into it further", and obviously it wasnt meant to represent the literal process for verifying her ideas. It would have been a wet dream if she has presented her philosophy in a single tour de force epic book, but she didnt. But, the fact that she makes you do some thinking, and homework of your own is appealing in a way as well.

j..

Okay. The problem is that if you have to look into it further to validate the claim, it's not self evident. You've pretty much swung over to my side of the aisle here.

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Okay. The problem is that if you have to look into it further to validate the claim, it's not self evident. You've pretty much swung over to my side of the aisle here.

I havent "swung". I havent been clear on what claims if any, I find self evident because untill we define what that means its pointless. Context is key, what Rand work youre reading, your knowledge of Objectivism as a whole, and all your other knowledge and beliefs come into play. What is self evident for some, is like a crack on the head with the basball bat of knowledge for others.

see knasts post, I agree with that.

j..

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Maybe you are just concerned with her lack of footnotes, but just FYI, as I am learning in psychology, Rand's statements about sensations, emotions, reasoning, (eg. in PWNI) hit the nail right on the head.

As far as her claims that history is a result of philosophy (eg. in FNI) you can find all sorts of historians and sociologists making those claims before her, the first as far as I know is Étienne de La Boétie.

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I really don't understand what you are wanting out of this discussion after the posts that have already been made ctrl_y. As far as I am able to tell your concerns have been answered in full. If you are expecting us on the other hand to validate these points to you from other peoples works, in detail, without you doing any of the footwork on your own I wouldn't wait around in expectation of such. There are a number of books, there are literally tons of video recorded lecture, speeches, etc. on arc-tv.com and tons of audio lecture/speeches by Rand herself and others on the registered section of the ARI website. There are also plenty of explanations of these things, summarized to some degree or another, in various .pdf format write-ups and on fan webpages all over the web.

It seems to me like you are expecting Rand to have done something that was not required of her (as Odden and others have explained via the differentiation), expecting something that she never intended to do and was not the purpose of her writings as is evident both by the content, the context, and the length (as was pointed out) and that have been validated by the works of many others, historians, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and otherwise. Please let me know if I am mistaken in this assessment.

Edited by CapitalistSwine
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I really don't understand what you are wanting out of this discussion after the posts that have already been made ctrl_y. As far as I am able to tell your concerns have been answered in full.

Yeah, the topic has definitely been answered. The answer seems to be pretty much what I said in the OP, i.e., that Rand's works don't contain everything, but we can forgive her for that because she was leaning on others' works; also, per knast's excellent post, Rand seems to have thought that some of her points were self evident. I guess I'm just disappointed with that response. I don't know what I was hoping for, exactly, though.

If you are expecting us on the other hand to validate these points to you from other peoples works, in detail, without you doing any of the footwork on your own I wouldn't wait around in expectation of such.

I never even suggested such a thing.

It seems to me like you are expecting Rand to have done something that was not required of her (as Odden and others have explained via the differentiation), expecting something that she never intended to do and was not the purpose of her writings as is evident both by the content, the context, and the length (as was pointed out) and that have been validated by the works of many others, historians, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, and otherwise. Please let me know if I am mistaken in this assessment.

I was mainly wondering whether people think that Rand's works are sufficient by themselves. Some do and some don't, as you can see. I was also a little disappointed in Rand that she didn't provide footnotes and so on, and wondering why that was.

Perhaps what we should take home from this is that Rand, in her works, is essentially giving us a bundle of conclusions that we ought to come to on our own.

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