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Bush, Kerry, Binswanger And Peikoff

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Brent: “Also, I did not raise the Peikoff quote with any intention of opening a Peikoff "vs" Binswanger or Peikoff "vs" Kelley thread or of raising the issue of libertarianism in any way.”

That’s fair enough, but I was using the context of the quote you provided to answer your question as to why agreement on principles may nevertheless result in disagreement on particulars, or concretes.

Principles are singular and simple, while real life is varied and complex. Abstract principles are very general statements that may apply to very many particular situations, some of which may never have occurred to the originator of the principle.

So it’s not surprising that even the most experienced Objectivist might have difficulty in integrating his principles over a lifetime. That said, Peikoff was at least unwise to imply that there is little room for honest error because it undercuts the views of some people that the election is a stark choice between good and evil.

Eddie

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"I am asking how, given external reality can two Objectivist thinkers (not specifically Peikoff and Binswanger and not specifically the election race) disagree fundamentally over any major issue?"

In THE ANATOMY OF COMPROMISE, Ayn Rand said "In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins. In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil, or irrational one who wins. When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined it works to the advantage of the rational side, when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."

Brent assumes (above) that Peikoff and Binswanger hold the 'same basic principles,' and that there is a conflict. In fact, this is not a condition of any existence; it is an apparent contradiction, and, since contradictions don't exist, one of the men must be 'more consistent.'

Something is not being 'clearly and openly defined' by someone. The basic principles need to be traced back to their concrete referents in both cases. (This is a requirement of Objectivism in all cases.)

The only fact we have at hand for now is that both Kerry and Bush are leading America into slavery, and the only difference is that Kerry's slavery is communist, while Bush's slavery is catholic......which difference is meaningless to the slaves.

The absence of a difference between Bush and Kerry means that Americans' only choice is which one will institute slavery the slowest, and thus give Objectivists a better chance (more time) to educate, which is the only possible means to avoid this disaster.

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These options are diametrical opposites, both suggested by Objectivists who, no doubt, think they are operating from the same philosophical axioms and excercising their own rational thinking.

Here's where I disagree. Axioms are not really a starting point in most discussions. They are an implied statements that make discussions as such possible, not something that people explicitly begin their arguments from.

"Well you see, since A is A, .... , and therefore you ought to vote for Kerry."

That's not how it works. The starting point for all discussions is a person's personal life experience.

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I believe that if Ms Rand were alive today and able to articulata her position on a candidate, there would be few if any Objectivists who would disagree with her. Would this mean that those who would support a different candidate are taking a non-objectivist position?    No.    As long as their method for arriving at their conclusions were based on Objectivist principles.   

I assume Ms Rand would look at it the same way, and not see it as a departure from her philosophy - although she would likely take great pains to point out their errors and persuede them to accept her position. (But I don't know this for certain). I think an error I made though is ascribing the label Objectivism to a position,  when it is really the process that leads to the position which may, or may not be Objectivist.

Ok, I was kind of freaking out on that sentence.

When are these damn polls going to get done counting??!!???!!

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Here's where I disagree. Axioms are not really a starting point in most discussions. They are an implied statements that make discussions as such possible, not something that people explicitly begin their arguments from.

"Well you see, since A is A, .... , and therefore you ought to vote for Kerry."

That's not how it works. The starting point for all discussions is a person's personal life experience.

I agree that axioms are not the starting point for most discussions. But they are the basis for the "virtues" and the virtues, the morality of Objectivism.

If we take life experience as the basis of discussions (and I assume action) then I (as an ex-working class, ex-Englishman) could make a very strong case for Russian peasants supporting the revolution and communism as being (at least in their lifetimes) beneficial to peasants. But communism, in Objectivist terms is a great evil. Were Russian peasants, therefore evil? (And here we I go back to the quote from Fact and Value)?

Brent

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In short, Objectivism is both a body of philosophical thought and a method/tool.

Have you read Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff? If not I suggest you do so. A close study of this book should clarify your question.

Most of it, honest! But not yet from cover to cover. I am currently going through it chapter by chapter and analysing it as i go.

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Principles are singular and simple, while real life is varied and complex. Abstract principles are very general statements that may apply to very many particular situations, some of which may never have occurred to the originator of the principle.

Hmm. That is well put, thank you.

So it’s not surprising that even the most experienced Objectivist might have difficulty in integrating his principles over a lifetime.

I am relieved to hear this, I thought I was just slow witted! :dough:

That said, Peikoff was at least unwise to imply that there is little room for honest error because it undercuts the views of some people that the election is a stark choice between good and evil.

Within the limits of my current understanding of the context of Fact and Value, and my lack of knowledge of Dr. Peikoff as a person, I currently tend to agree with you on this......how's that for equivocation!

It seems to me that one either has to give a large degree of leeway for honest error in many topics related to (the complexities) of real life; or, one has to take the great risk of dogmatising Objectivism.

Brent

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"I am asking how, given external reality can two Objectivist thinkers (not specifically Peikoff and Binswanger and not specifically the election race) disagree fundamentally over any major issue?"

In THE ANATOMY OF COMPROMISE, Ayn Rand said "In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.  In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil, or irrational one who wins.  When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined it works to the advantage of the rational side, when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."

Brent assumes (above) that Peikoff and Binswanger hold the 'same basic principles,' and that there is a conflict.  In fact, this is not a condition of any existence; it is an apparent contradiction, and, since contradictions don't exist, one of the men must be 'more consistent.' 

Something is not being 'clearly and openly defined' by someone.  The basic principles need to be traced back to their concrete referents in both cases.  (This is a requirement of Objectivism in all cases.)

The quote from Ayn Rand was very interesting to me and as usual very perceptive of her. Thanks.

You are right, I did assume that LP and HB hold the same basic principles.

I assume they both hold the basic principles of Objectivism.

Are you saying that their disagreement over Bush/Kerry is evidence that they do not?

This would certainly be one answer to my original question, and perehaps the only rational one? But it would have the great disadvantage that, if it were proven to be true, then not even two of the leading ARI intellectuals are in agreement over the basic principles of Ayn Rand's Objectivism.

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But it would have the great disadvantage that, if it were proven to be true, then not even two of the leading ARI intellectuals are in agreement over the basic principles of Ayn Rand's Objectivism.

I'm sure you'll have no problem getting some people that visit this forum to agree with that "conclusion." I, however, think that's absurd.

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Bowzer, I am sure you are right, but if you put the sentance you quoted back in context I would value your opinion on the correct conclusion.

Brent

Consider what Miss Rand wrote in The Objectivist Newsletter (Vol. 1, #4):

To judge means: to evaluate a given concrete by reference to an abstract principle or standard. It is not an easy task; it is not a task that can be performed automatically by one's feelings, "instincts" or hunches. It is a task that requires the most precise, the most exacting, the most ruthlessly objective and rational process of thought. It is fairly easy to grasp abstract moral principles; it can be very difficult to apply them to a given situation, particularly when it involves the moral character of another person.

It's certainly possible that two people who disagree on a presidential vote may differ in fundamental principles. It's also possible that two people who share the same fundamental principles may disagree on the presidential vote. As Miss Rand noted above, the most complex kind of judgment to make is one that involves the character of another person. There are numerous complex issues that come into play when choosing a candidate in an election. To take the fact that two people disagree on a conclusion as complex as this year's presidential election as evidence that they disagree on fundamental principles is absurd. Kerry and Bush are so mixed philosophically that it is a very complicated matter to apply philosophical principles to either of them and I have seen many valid reasons to vote one way or the other. The differences I have seen among Objectivists (they aren't just between Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Binswanger), however, are optional ones since the principles behind each differing opinion are in agreement.

If you think that the application of principles to concrete situations is just a simple deduction, then I can understand why you would make such a disastrous conclusion. But even the most simple cases of principles in action are not strictly 1…2…3 deductions.

Rather than fault those of us who apply a consistent set of philosophical principles to the 2004 election you should blame the candidates; they are the ones who are inconsistent.

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If you think that the application of principles to concrete situations is just a simple deduction, then I can understand why you would make such a disastrous conclusion. But even the most simple cases of principles in action are not strictly 1…2…3 deductions.

Bowzer, have you been following the thread, or did you just jump in in the middle? Where do you get the imporession that I think the application of principles is a matter of "simple deduction"?

Rather than fault those of us who apply a consistent set of philosophical principles to the 2004 election you should blame the candidates; they are the ones who are inconsistent.

Where am I faulting you, or anyone else?

The purpose of the thread was to ask how, on questions of "moral" or "ethical" judgement in general (not specifically the U.S. election), Objectivists in general (not specifically LP or HB) could differ so widely in their opinions. I gave examples of the threads about the war in Iraq, homosexuality and abortion.

I say again that in my opinion if we start out with the same reality and apply rational thought processes to a problem, we should arrive at the same conclusions. Or there should be a logical reason why we don't, which would generally be that there was an error of logic in one thought process along the way.

If this is not the case, then I think we should all be able to agree that "honest errors of judgement" are a lot more common than Dr. Peikoff states!

Now, my intention in the thread was not to criticise the content or conclusions of Fact and Value either, unfortunately it appears that (indirectly at least) that is the way the thread has gone.

So, if you can reconcile LPs assertion about honest errors being rare with your assertion about the complexity of social and political issues leading to differing conclusions even among rational observers I would value the clarification. In my opinion both assertions cannot be right, that would be a contradiction.

Brent

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I often use an impersonal “you” in reference to the general reader. There are a lot of readers on this board and I try to make my posts as relevant as I can to each and every one of you, i.e., the reader. I wasn’t so much addressing you, Brent Rolfe, as I was any reader who would assert that the application of philosophical principles is a straight matter of deduction. If you don’t think that applies to you then don’t take my comments personally.

Tell me how two people “contradict” each other when one says “Vote for Kerry” while the other says “Vote for Bush.” These are not assertions but directives, thus, they do not assert the truth of falsity of something. How is that a contradiction?

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Tell me how two people “contradict” each other when one says “Vote for Kerry” while the other says “Vote for Bush.” These are not assertions but directives, thus, they do not assert the truth of falsity of something.

First of all I apologise for taking the post personally if it was not meant that way, I in turn had thought that you had taken my post too personally :angry: !

In response to the quote above, I would not have taken HB or LP to be issuing directives. I took their "endorsements" to be considered opinions meant to influence their audience. As considered opinions from men who make their livings giving considered opinions I think they are offering comments on the truth or falsity of something i.e. the ability of either of two men to lead the U.S.

How is that a contradiction?

You have taken me out of context again you naughty man!

Put back in context I was saying that a contradiction would be evident if HB and LP had done thorough analyses of the candidates, arrived at different conclusions AND if honest errors of judgement are as rare as Fact and Value asserts. :blink:

Brent

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I haven't heard the DIM lecture yet but I have read a significant amount about it. I guess I'll just disagree that there is a fundamental contradiction between Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Binswanger's views and leave it at that.

Perhaps you can summarize the portions of their views that you see as contradictory for those who wish to pursue this further? Every comment I have read from Dr. Binswanger on HBL has been one of agreement with Dr. Peikoff on all of the fundamental issues so needless to say I am quite puzzled as to where your question came from.

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I haven't heard the DIM lecture yet but I have read a significant amount about it. I guess I'll just disagree that there is a fundamental contradiction between Dr. Peikoff and Dr. Binswanger's views and leave it at that.

Perhaps you can summarize the portions of their views that you see as contradictory for those who wish to pursue this further? Every comment I have read from Dr. Binswanger on HBL has been one of agreement with Dr. Peikoff on all of the fundamental issues so needless to say I am quite puzzled as to where your question came from.

Well the obvious difference is that they came to different conclusions and therefore different recommendations. And that was the only difference I was commenting upon.

Also, for the umpteenth time (though not to you personally), the thread was NOT meant to be about the difference of opinion re Bush or Kerry. That was one example of a difference. The others I gave are just as, probably more, valid starting points for the discussion I was hoping to have.....one about the same reality and rational/logical thought processes leading to different conclusions.

I will give up on this thread and assume for the moment that I have asked a poor question, certainly one that has been misconstrued beyong my wildest imaginings :angry: !

Isn't DIM the subject of Dr. P's next book? I am looking forward to this.

Brent

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Differences in time preference and and forecasting certainty could lead one to a different decision, I think. For example, a person who sees the long term as very unpredictible and subject to many potential influences may believe that minimizing certain near-term harm is more important than suffering near term harm in an attempt to avoid a perceived long-term harm. (DIM is still a hypothesis, right?)

E.G. if I worry about theocracy long term, but think it's not predestined and that there are many things to do about it over the next 30 years, then the question of a higher or lower tax rate over the next 4 years, when I expect a high taxable income, becomes an issue of greater weight to me.

Agreement in principles but disagreement in conclusions happens in investments all the time - people may agree on the same facts, and even share the same methodology, but have different time horizons, and thus disagree on valuation or buy vs. sell decision. Similarly 2 people can use the exact same framework to value stocks (same investment philosophy) but even slight differences in forecasts applied to multiple long-run variables can lead to dramatically different conclusions. And when you're attempting to forecast long run human actions, with people capable of changing their minds, changing course, etc., then I think there is always a lot of uncertainty in forecasting. For example, even the best industry analysts have great difficulty forecasting earnings with any accuracy beyond a 2 to 3 year horizon.

I believe the in the Bush/Kerry debate, the pro-Kerry side was presented (at least at first) that a Bush re-election would create a chain reaction leading to religious tyrrany in the long term. I perceived many pro-Bush counterarguments to be that religious tyrrany was not a sure thing long-term and that Bush wasn't a sure causal link to such a future anyway, and that Bush, for the next four years, was a less unpalatable choice.

For me personally, my family would have probably paid an extra $5k to $10k in income taxes over the next 4 yrs under Kerry, since Kerry defined me as a "rich" person, much to my surprise, "not paying my fair share". Just having those tax hikes just delayed 4 years is valuable to me.

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Differences in time preference and forecasting certainty could lead one to a different decision, I think.

Absolutely. And your points on investment time horizons are well taken too.

But given the same investment objectives, the same starting data and the same time horizon two investment managers will almost certainly choose two different stock portfolios. And in reality only time will tell which one was right.

I think we are all agreed that the same starting data, the same principles and a rational decision making process will not necessarily mean the same predictions of the future.

So let me let this thread go where it seems to want to go :) and say that given this agreement then there must be something wrong with Dr. P's statement about "honest errors" being rare occurences. Honest errors are not at all rare occurences because of the nature and complexity of human life and man-made choices.

I understand the Bush/Kerry difference of opinion, and I can see value in both analyses and I can see where both men are coming from.

I am not a TOCist, honest! Perhaps I am mis-interpreting Dr. P's comment about the frequency of honest errors of knowledge?

For me personally, my family would have probably paid an extra $5k to $10k in income taxes over the next 4 yrs under Kerry, since Kerry defined me as a "rich" person, much to my surprise, "not paying my fair share". Just having those tax hikes just delayed 4 years is valuable to me.

Just think yourself lucky you don't pay income taxes in Canada! The top marginal rate of income tax starts at just over $60,000 and in Ontario the combined Fed/Prov, rate on the marginal dollar is 47%.

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Brent: “Also…the thread was NOT meant to be about the difference of opinion re Bush or Kerry…about the same reality and rational/logical thought processes leading to different conclusions.”

Brent, you have highlighted the crux of the matter, that is, reality and reason. For Rand, both reality and reason are absolutes. Therefore, in theory, the right application of reason should lead people to identical or similar conclusions.

But as we know, nothing is that simple, so Rand introduced the notion of context. All knowledge is contextual, and events can be viewed from different contexts, hence it is possible to arrive at different conclusions on the same issue.

So how is it possible to square this contextual, relative notion of truth with the absolute claims for reality and reason? Not very easily, I’m afraid, and this is the problem you have identified.

On minor matters, differences in context don’t matter a great deal -- one can enjoy Beethoven without qualms of conscience. But on matters of greater importance, differences in context can become intractable. In that situation there is a very strong temptation to treat context as an absolute, which makes it possible to integrate ones knowledge with the absolute demands of reality and reason.

The downside is that there is also a strong temptation to regard ones opponent as not just mistaken, but evasive. In the particular example of the current Peikoff/Binswanger difference, for obvious reasons the participants want to keep their differences at the level of honest error.

But the price is uncertainty, and this is a psychologically difficult state to maintain, especially for those who value certainty. As I say, we live in interesting times.

Eddie

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So how is it possible to square this contextual, relative notion of truth with the absolute claims for reality and reason? Not very easily, I’m afraid, and this is the problem you have identified.

The downside is that there is also a strong temptation to regard ones opponent as not just mistaken, but evasive. In the particular example of the current Peikoff/Binswanger difference, for obvious reasons the participants want to keep their differences at the level of honest error.

But the price is uncertainty, and this is a psychologically difficult state to maintain, especially for those who value certainty. As I say, we live in interesting times.

Eddie

During the course of the thread I have been hypothesising privately on what might have happened if LP and HB had concluded for, say Bush and Kelley had been the one endorsing Kerry? :)

One wonders if it still would have been an example of honest error?

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What's the smiley face for, Brent? I see nothing humorous in a statement that implies a belief or suspicion that Objectivists are incapable of honestly judging people or making decisions. I think it would be better if you just explicitly state your hypothesis/accusation, and without a smiley face.

Furthermore, why would an Objectivist care who Kelley endorsed? I think it's well established that Objectivists consider Kelley to have committed enough dishonest errors that any particular new one would be of no interest whatsoever, other than for the purpose of keeping detailed statistical records.

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Mr. West I generally enjoy your posts, so I was both surprised and annoyed to read this one.

What's the smiley face for, Brent? I see nothing humorous in a statement that implies a belief or suspicion that Objectivists are incapable of honestly judging people or making decisions. I think it would be better if you just explicitly state your hypothesis/accusation, and without a smiley face.

I was not impuning anyone's honesty, but if you are sensitive about the frequency with which honest errors of knowledge occur, you may have taken an innocently added smiley face as an affront. :) . That is not my problem and I do not accept unearned guilt. :lol: . I will continue to add smiley faces wherever I feel they are appropriate. :) .

[qoute=A.West]Furthermore, why would an Objectivist care who Kelley endorsed? I think it's well established that Objectivists consider Kelley to have committed enough dishonest errors that any particular new one would be of no interest whatsoever, other than for the purpose of keeping detailed statistical records.

I am neither a TOCist nor a Kelleyite. If you interpret my posts in this thread to label me as one then that is your prerogative. But I will continue to treat honest errors wherever I find them with a modicum of toleration (gasp horror!).

Though not the topic of the thread specifically, during its course I did give a lot of thought to the F&V quote about honest errors of knowledge being "rare" and came to the conclusion that such errors are, in fact, quite common when debating many issues especially political ones.

But, since I am quite sure that Dr. Peikoff's error on this point was an honest error I will continue to read his books and learn from them.

And since I will take the pomposity of your post as an honest error I will continue to read them too.

Enjoy your detailed statistical record keeping, won't you? :):(:(

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So let me let this thread go where it seems to want to go  :)  and say that given this agreement then there must be something wrong with Dr. P's statement about "honest errors" being rare occurences. Honest errors are not at all rare occurences because of the nature and complexity of human life and man-made choices.

Peikoff didn't say honest errors were rare occurances. He said honest errors were not as common as some people wish to think, especially in the field of philosophy. Before you criticize someone, it's best to make sure you understand what it is he really said.

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Peikoff didn't say honest errors were rare occurances.  He said honest errors were not as common as some people wish to think, especially in the field of philosophy.  Before you criticize someone, it's best to make sure you understand what it is he really said.

I wasn't criticising Peikoff, I was disagreeing with him.

He actually wrote "not nearly so common as some people wish to think"....in my view this makes the occurence of such errors an order of magnitude less frequent than a plain "not as common".

Perhaps before you correct me you sholud get the quote right yourself?

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