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Scott Ryan's critique of O-ist epistemology

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"Mental existent" works fine for me.

As to referring to it as a metaphysical object, I was thinking of ITOE Chapter 6 on Axiomatic Concepts "The units of the concepts "existence" and "identity" are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist."

Looking at it now, I can see it clearly states the units of the concepts, not the units of existence.

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Jacob said:

Could explain a bit more about what you mean by "strict identity"?

Thats how Ryan put it when referring to the way philosophers usually consider universals. that is that multiple particulars share identical qualities. Contrast this with Mrs. Rands statements on the order of men not sharing a single identical quality yet being of a kind.

The question is this though: do the similarities still exist even apart from the functioning of a conceptual faculty? Does the conceptual faculty CREATE or DISCOVER the similarity? If it creates the similarity, we have nominalism and subjectivism. If it discovers the similarity then we have some

form of realism and objectivism.

I say that this second (discovery of the similarities) is a form of realism because it insists that the similarities are real - that they are metaphysically real.

Not sure how to be more explicit than my previous post, as well as Grames reiteration. When I say there "is a metaphysical basis for similarity",Im saying that the multiplicity of particulars consisting a kind each posses attributes in common within a range and they do so metaphysically.

The reason that I seem to use the term "universal" in both the Randian and in the "traditional" sense at the same time is because there is a sense in which I am. In line with the traditional sense, I hold that universals are real - independent of the subject's mind - metaphysical realities. In line with the "Randian" sense, I hold that (provided we are thinking accurately) we discover these universals and process them using concept formation - forming epistemological universals in our minds which accurately (to some degree or other) reflect the metaphysical universals in reality

Again the term universals refers to objects of a bizarre kind, not simply metaphysically similar attributes shared by particulars. Aristotle coined the term to mean something more like Rands usage in spite of her and most others idea that he was a naive realist.(Salmiari has convinced me) In other words I don't think its correct to call the members of a kind attributes universals.

are all metaphysical realities - metaphysical objects. This much must be true. Are they objects up in heaven which communicate some of their essence to particular things down here? Likely not. But just because one (or a hundred) theories about the nature of these objects turns out to be wrong, this does not negate the fact that they must be objects none-the-less

No, attributes are not objects but attributes OF objects, however metaphysical.

The hangup that Objecitivists seem to have with this is that they can't conceive of a metaphysical object which is not a physical object because they believe that only physical reality exists. This is why most "Materialists" are also nominalists. Objectivists have enough sense to reject nominalism but seem unwilling to follow through with the implications of realism.

Object is a synonym of entity and all entities are physical. However this is NOT the hangup as far as I can see. The hang up seems to be the varying usages of "universal" between Oist and everyone else rather than the issue consisting of Oist not being able to use a non Oist method of conceiving to arrive at an invalid concept such as non-physical entity.

Edited by Plasmatic
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Objectivist views on the arbitrary and the meaningless* and their truth values, together with validation (and verification), justification and evidence, and contextually absolute cognition are critiqued in a pleasantly informed (though incompletely informed) way by John Scott Ryan in Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality (2003) on pages 144–55. Mr. Ryan is not a professional philosopher—he became an attorney—but his book is very refreshing, as it is not just a nick-nick here and nick-nick there against Objectivism. Notwithstanding the flashy title of the book, his is a comprehensive and explicit viewpoint in the tradition of metaphysical idealism (Spinoza to Hegel to the Americans), which is highly pertinent to Objectivist theoretical philosophy.

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Im curious to try something here. It will be most helpful if those who have not read Ryan's book and its relevant criticism answer my question but anyone is welcome to.

In ITOE Mrs. Rand says of the crows in the "crow epistemology":

"Apparently their power of discrimination did not extend beyond three units".

Does anyone think that this context and use of "units" is the same as when she says:

"A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members. (Two stones are two units; so are two square feet of ground, if regarded as distinct parts of a continuous stretch of ground.)"

Please, if you've read Ryans criticisms, wait to respond specifically in challenging them until a few folks respond simply based on their own context of Mrs. Rand.

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1. Not having read Ryan, I'd answer yes. Crows don't think in the abstract terms we see in your second quote, but that doesn't keep the quote from being a good description of what goes on in the crow's mind.

2. She wasn't Mrs. Rand. Her married name was "O'Connor."

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The crows distinguishing 2 or 3 units of man or even stones or trees seems plausible, but to distinguish 2 or 3 square feet of ground would require the ability to abstract 2, 3, a foot, much less a square foot.

That's true. The units of higher level concepts can be lower level abstractions. A unit is not necessarily a concrete, but it certainly still applies at the concrete level.

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I say she is NOT using unit the same way. ;) I'm working on developing this fully and will post when I'm done.

"The ability to regard entities as units is man's distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow." ITOE

Edit:Reidy, my wife reminds me of this all the time. She didn't call herself Ayn O'conner and she was not known as such so I just call her Mrs. Rand knowing she was technically otherwise.

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  • 9 months later...

Scholardarity has a pdf version of Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality by Scott Ryan.

 

In his own introduction, he provides quite an irony for comprehending what's wrong with his approach.

 

f you brush [certain philosophers] aside, saying: “Why should I study that stuff when I know it’s nonsense?”—you are mistaken. It is nonsense, but you don’t know it—not so long as you go on accepting all their conclusions…[a]nd not so long as you are unable to refute them…. The battle of philosophers is a battle for man’s mind. If you do not understand their theories, you are vulnerable to the worst among them…. [Y]ou have to understand the enemy’s ideas and be prepared to refute them, you have to know his basic arguments and be able to blast them. [Ayn Rand, “Philosophy: Who Needs It,” in Philosophy: Who Needs It, pp. 7–8; emphases hers.]

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I say she is NOT using unit the same way. ;) I'm working on developing this fully and will post when I'm done.

"The ability to regard entities as units is man's distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow." ITOE

Edit:Reidy, my wife reminds me of this all the time. She didn't call herself Ayn O'conner and she was not known as such so I just call her Mrs. Rand knowing she was technically otherwise.

 

I think she was just referring to existents when she wrote: "Apparently their power of discrimination did not extend beyond three units". Crows aren't able to regard entities as units, but they can discriminate them perceptually.

Edited by thenelli01
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  • 3 weeks later...

I say that this second (discovery of the similarities) is a form of realism because it insists that the similarities are real - that they are metaphysically real.

 I would agree with this and furthermore, from your example involving cats, I think we would agree that such things exist "out there" in the world.

 

There is no "man" or "cat" as idealized, floating essences.  However, there are very real organisms, and some of them have thumbs and even minds.  I would dispute that universals exist in reality but, from the example you gave, I think my disagreement would be a purely semantic one.

 

 

The hangup that Objecitivists seem to have with this is that they can't conceive of a metaphysical object which is not a physical object because they believe that only physical reality exists. This is why most "Materialists" are also nominalists. Objectivists have enough sense to reject nominalism but seem unwilling to follow through with the implications of realism.

 There are no nonphysical existents.

 

What does "physical" even mean?  What does that concept refer to?  Physical- as opposed to nonphysical, nontangible and nonquantifiable?

What would "nonphysical reality" look like?  Seems oxymoronic to me.

 

"Physical" means tangible; you can touch it, taste it, see it and hear it.  Now what's the common element to integrate, there?

You can QUANTIFY it.  It has a specific identity which you can discover.

Neuroscience tells us that there is no mind, because we can't see one inside of people's skulls; only lots of grey stuff.  But I'm aware of my own mind and, furthermore, I can quantify myself to my heart's content!

 

So mindless physicalism is like denying that sound exists, because it has no length.  Nonphysicalism agrees that sound cannot exist, because it has no length, and then launches into a dissertation about unreal reality; i.e. SUPERnaturality.

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And Scott Ryan does have some relevant issues for Objectivist Epistemology (specifically sensation and perception; that's the furthest I read).

 

And then he declares that the idea of the Stolen Concept begs the question and that the senses cannot be man's only source of knowledge, and I simply find other books to read.  =D

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  • 4 weeks later...

I say she is NOT using unit the same way. ;) I'm working on developing this fully and will post when I'm done."The ability to regard entities as units is man's distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow." ITOEEdit:Reidy, my wife reminds me of this all the time. She didn't call herself Ayn O'conner and she was not known as such so I just call her Mrs. Rand knowing she was technically otherwise.

So, notice how Ms Rand uses "unit" here to refer to the primary entity or "1":

"June 18, 1959

(Hurried notes, which require hours and hours of further thinking.) Arithmetical numbers are taken as entities in any arithmetical calculation, which means: an arithmetical calculation is an action by which the relationship of certain entities leads to the discovery of a final entity, which is the goal and the stop of the action. A series of arithmetical equations involving action is incomplete until it has reached the stopping point of a specific arithmetical entity, e.g., a number.

But the numbers themselves are composites. The only primary entity here is the unit—the concept of one (1). Every other number is an abstraction which replaces a certain repetition of ones by a single concept meant to stand for that repetition (1 1 1 1 means 4)."

From her Journal entry dated above.

I noticed that she sometimes used "unit" in this way, to refer to a particular. It is that sense I think she meant "unit" in regards to the crow. The crow sees this particular, that particular and the other one, but doesnt see them as three of a kind.

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I would have to ask why the crows don't fly up into the trees when three scarecrows are in the field, but when three men enter the field they do? Note, with pie-tins attached to the scarecrows, given some wind, they can be more effective.

 

While the crows do not abstract "three" from the three instances, they do react to men differently than they do scarecrows.

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If the crows do not see them as three of a kind, yet respond to types or kinds of things differently would that be type as in things which move as opposed to things which do not?

Notice that birds on the side of a road as cars move by do not necessarily fly off. While their identification of things are not conceptual, there does appear to be some form of identification taking place.

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