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Critique of Peikoff's interpretation of the 'arbitrary'

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Robert said :

Although I questioned in my article how Leonard Peikoff could know that every arbitrary assertion is "brazen" and so forth, and I asked whether he would be guilty, by his own lights, of gross "psychologizing" (see p. 130), I didn't take it further because the notion of psychologizing raises its own difficulties—and I plan to write about them in a future article

On this particular point of brazen. Im still dissecting context but in the paragraph of the brazen comment Dr. Peikoff does provide a specific context for his use. About the venusian session on Hegel"s logic, soul, etc the asserter says :

“I can’t prove any of these statements,” he

admits—“but you can’t disprove them either.”

Here we are not inferring the process of the asserter but he has asserted brazenly......

Im only commenting on this instance and havent extended this to anything else yet...

Edit: Peikoff again qualifies on OPAR 167:

.

No identification of error will affect the determined exponent

of the arbitrary

italics mine.

He then has the determined fellow assert:

“The meaning of ‘God’ is beyond the

power of language to specify,” they say. “God in this sense

does not involve any contradictions of man’s knowledge, as

we would see clearly if only we could know Him—which we

cannot, not in this life. Prove that this God does not exist.”

Edited by Plasmatic
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This equates that truth is a product of the consciousness deciding it, or a primacy of consciousness premise. When I believed that Jesus Christ was my personal savior, it was true to me because I was

Leonard Peikoff does occasionally refer to a person who says "you can't disprove it" or "it's beyond mere human comprehension."

In my article I call this procedure mystification (see pp. 118-119).

I think we can see why mystification is objectionable without needing to bring in the rest of Dr. Peikoff's apparatus.

And in calling arbitrary assertions "brazen," he is implying that every arbitrary assertion is produced deliberately, whether it is accompanied by mystifying commentary or not.

Robert Campbell

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In a broad sense, every assertion is produced deliberately, whether arbitrarily or as the product of a chain of reasoning leading to the assertion. Does whether it is accompanied by a mystifying commentary or the mystifying commentary is derived from a line of inquiry thus identify it as brazenly arbitrary?

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Weaver, I'm leaning in that direction. Dr Peikoff seems to be differentiating an honest arbitrary error,"as against deliberately arbitrary". Those who are the latter seem to be the "brazen,"passionate", " apostles of the arbitrary",who "insulate" etc. In each of those cases he uses language that leans to "mustn't" following an explicit assertion of said asserter of what Robert calls mystification.

Edited by Plasmatic
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So far as I know, Ayn Rand considered "Jesus Christ is the son of God and savior of the world" to be a false statement. Whether she considered it an arbitrary assertion in Leonard Peikoff's sense, I have no idea.

Nathaniel Branden was on record, in lectures and in his 1963 article, to the effect that this statement is false, and is asserted arbitrarily.

With Leonard Peikoff, take your pick.

2. Another aspect of the arbitrary assertion is that it is user dependant.

Would the statement "Jesus Christ is my personal savior" be false or arbitrary?

At first glance, I would think it's 'user dependent' (ie: if the person really believes that statement is true (for himself), then the statement is true. But if I said it, it would be false.) Is that right? :confused:

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Robert:

"And in calling arbitrary assertions "brazen," he is implying that every arbitrary assertion is produced deliberately, whether it is accompanied by mystifying commentary or not."

This is what I'm challenging. Implicitly, it seems that he was dealing with two types of approaches to the arbitrary.

Edited by Plasmatic
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Would the statement "Jesus Christ is my personal savior" be false or arbitrary?

At first glance, I would think it's 'user dependent' (ie: if the person really believes that statement is true (for himself), then the statement is true. But if I said it, it would be false.) Is that right? :confused:

This equates that truth is a product of the consciousness deciding it, or a primacy of consciousness premise. When I believed that Jesus Christ was my personal savior, it was true to me because I was not cognizant of the criteria required to ascertain something as true or false. It was an error that was derived from ignorance, perceived as correct to myself and other who shared the same framework of reference. Reality and the relationship of consciousness as a process of identification to reality was not the standard of truth, thus the product (knowledge) was not measured in such a way to be able to determine if it was actually in within tolerance or not. Without an objective standard of truth, truth becomes whatever meets the standard by which the product is gaged and measured according to.

Italics added.

Edited by dream_weaver
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In a broad sense, every assertion is produced deliberately, whether arbitrarily or as the product of a chain of reasoning leading to the assertion.

I took Leonard Peikoff not to be saying not just that the assertion is deliberate, but that its arbitrariness is deliberate.

In other words, that in every case the asserter either knows that the assertion is arbitrary—or is acting in reckless disregard of such knowledge.

Robert Campbell

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Sprial Architect asks: Why is this important in the first place?

The primary importance is how do you deal with an assertion that is incorrect.

  • Do you inquire as to the basis on which it is presumed to be correct?
  • Do you point out that it is incorrect?
  • Do you simply not honor the assertion with a reply?

The purpose of breaking the error down lay in selecting the proper way with which to deal with it.

An inquiry as to why it is presumed to be as asserted is asking - how did you arrive at this conclusion? Do they have the complete Mises library on their bookshelf, did their preacher say it, or does Polly want a cracker?

If you have no history with the asserter, this should help to establish a basis for determining if you are dealing an honest error, and whether the asserter is aware that the position may even be in error,

If you are already familiar with the asserter's position (i.e. you've discussed it before), you need to assess the situation in which the assertion was made.

  • Are they just re-asserting it knowing your position on the matter privately?
  • Was it pronounced in a group setting where your response could be interpreted as a sanction or not.

If it is stated privately, you could politely remind them that you've disagreed with the point previously, or possibly allow the point to pass, uncommented.

If the assertion was made in a group setting, is it just an exchange between you and the asserter or did it come up in the context of a group discussion?

  • You could publicly explore why it is presumed correct, dissecting it along the way.
  • You could point out that you disagree but that this may not be the time or place to lay out all the cards on the table.

This should also address what you ask later on in your question, How do I know the person is repeating knowledge arbitrarily?, as well.

So the purpose of identifying an arbitrary assertion is that is part of how to respond to an assertion? In false assertions you can identify the part that is false but for an arbitrary assertion there is nothing to prove so you need to determine with whom or what you are dealing?

I’m honestly not sure of the need for the distinction on a practical level, since if something is false or not and whether I want to pursue the person’s opinion is usually an issue of time or interest on my part, not the status of the assertion itself. I can see how it can serve as a good way to determine if a subject is worth my time but then again, given the context of a situation, I’d likely dissect an economic or business arbitrary assertion verses an artistic falsehood since those things are of greater interest to me.

If anything, this looks more like a good method of critically reviewing information for personal use (i.e. an epistemological tool for evaluating reality). If I am presented with subject X when I read a book I might ask myself “Should I integrate ‘X’ into my hierarchy of knowledge?” If I can spot an arbitrary assertion I can dismiss the subject out of hand with little thought since there is no hope of integrating the assertion. If it is not arbitrary, then it would require critical review to see if it is true or false. An arbitrary assertion in this case is simply a sign post that tells you not to waste serious time l thinking about the statement.

That would also be more in tune with epistemology and philosophy being driven by the value of egoism versus focusing on the source of the assertion.

Now whether this is true or not, and whether this is covered I’ll have to go back and review it. I’m just thinking out loud here based on some quick deductive thinking while typing.

Edited by Spiral Architect
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Page 96, of the "Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion" points out “Peikoff insists that there is no way to judge what constitutes evidence for an assertion unless one knows what would prove it.” This is followed by the Oxford definition of evidence which is then followed by “… if one does not know what constitutes evidence for an assertion, one does not know when no evidence has been provided.”

This puts the cart before the horse. The concept of gravity was induced from the evidence as outlined in Newton’s Principia. When one invokes the concept of gravity, doing so implies the various observations and steps (evidence) required to grasp it. Likewise to prove a case of murder does the same thing. If the evidence is consistent with what constitutes an act of murder, then murder has been committed.

When the arbitrary has been asserted, it does so by referencing a concept that has not been properly formed from evidence, thus providing no recourse to evidence by which the assertion may be affirmed.

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Spiral, the more I consider this topic, the very idea of trying to address the arbitrary aspect of the assertion has to be dismissed. If a discussion were to ensue where the arbitrary was asserted, it could only be pursued by parsing the nature of proof and more deeply what constitutes the proper formation of a valid concept, if the assertion is to be resolved on objective territory, i.e. an identification of the basis for its dismissal.

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I'm still wondering how I should categorize Plasmatic's earlier statement:

Is it arbitrary or false? How should I decide?

J

As for myself,I'm still working that out.

On the topic of brazenly asserted arbitrary claims being accompanied by explicit rejections of the onus of proof(while still differentiating arbitrary vs faith):

In the 1976 lecture Peikoff says:

" If you are to postulate something beyond existence, some supernatural realm, you must do it by openly rejecting reason, dispensing with definitions, proofs, arguments and saying flatly, "to hell with argument I have faith". Now that,of course, is a willful rejection of reason, if you do it, and as such  it is not properly to be discussed by the advocate of reason."

Again we see Peikoff clarifying that the rejection is "willful" as opposed to implicit error. Again following that context,he says "it is not to be discussed".

Edited by Plasmatic
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As to Mr. Campbell's question in reponse to my comment on Popper: I am intentionally avoiding that debate for now because it would require debating your apparent rejection of foundationalism.(which points directly to my concerns initially about what you actually agree with in terms of fundamentals of Oism.) This is something that, the rejection of which, means to me the acceptance of intrincisim and some form of the a priori. (that is unless you disregard the entire endeavour as Popper did)

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Plasmatic,

My issues with foundationalism are rather different from any of those raised by Karl Popper.

Mainly, they have to do with the metaphysics, or ontology, of knowledge and of mental processes. In particular, with whether knowledge is an irreducible primary, or something that emerges.

Psychological ontology is not a well explored topic in Objectivist writings. Objectivism isn't dualistic. Various Objectivist writings reject eliminative reductionism and epiphenomenalism. After those are ruled out, it isn't clear whether there is a specific Objectivist position on the subject... Ayn Rand's ambivalence concerning biological evolution and her insistence, at least after 1968, that philosophy has priority over the special sciences appear to stand in the way of developing an emergentist conception within Objectivism.

But nothing in my critique of the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion depends on any of this. Whether you consider all knowledge to be made of, or from, knowledge-elements—or you reject this conception of what knowledge is—you should still find Dr. Peikoff's doctrine unnecessary, on the one hand, and seriously confused, on the other.

Robert Campbell

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You visit a friend one day and his two year old child says to you, "it's a warm day today!" And indeed it is truly a warm day today. Impressive kid, right?

After visiting your friend for several days, and weeks, you discover that the child actually just says "it's a warm day today" every time someone walks in.

The statement is arbitrary -- whether it happens to be a warm day today or not. You might as well replace the kid with a parrot or a tape recorder. Is his statement true or false when you know it is actually not connected to reality (in the way it was processed)?

My 2 cents.

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Plasmatic,

Here are a couple of things I've written about the importance of emergence and its relevance to conceptions of knowledge.

Campbell, R. L., & Bickhard, M. H. (1987). A deconstruction of Fodor's anticonstructivism. Human Development, 30, 48-59.

Campbell, R. L. (1998). Representation by correspondence: An inadequate conception of knowledge for artificial systems. In G. Antoniou & J. Slaney (Eds.), Advanced topics in artificial intelligence (pp. 15-26). Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

I don't currently have PDFs for these on my website. But it's time I did some upgrading. I will make them available in a week or so.

Robert Campbell

Edited by Robert Campbell
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I would, if they weren't so damn long and pointless. Meanwhile, if I call you out on anything specific, all you have is a complaint that I'm trying to intimidate you.

No, you were told which posts to read that addressed your objections, but you decided to not read the post anyway, calling it pointless. If you want to participate in discussion, then read the posts. It's not as bad as you make it out to be - there is a lot to be had by talking about specifics of what Peikoff asserts in OPAR. Many people here have read the book, I'm sure. Nobody is even denying basics of Objectivist epistemology, just questioning (or denying altogether, perhaps) some philosophical conclusions Peikoff has made.

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I would, if they weren't so damn long and pointless.

Nicky,

Have you read what is under discussion here: Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand?

Could it be that you've found Dr. Peikoff's book "long and pointless"?

Robert Campbell

Edited by Robert Campbell
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Nicky,

Have you read what is under discussion here: Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand?

Could it be that you've found Dr. Peikoff's book "long and pointless"?

Robert Campbell

No, I find Peikoff's 500 page book an excellent read, concise and always to the point, and your one page posts long and pointless.

Edited by Nicky
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there is a lot to be had by talking about specifics of what Peikoff asserts in OPAR

Read back a few posts. I started out by trying to have a conversation on Mr. Campbell's objections to Peikoff. Instead of answering my straight forward question, he accused me of using an argument from intimidation (falsely - he clearly doesn't understand the concept - it has nothing to do with my perfectly valid point).

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