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Critique of Peikoff's interpretation of the 'arbitrary'

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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

The terminology that Miss Rand used "Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal", "The New Left" and "The Virtue of Selfishness" was an "arbitrary postulate".

When Robert Campbell claims that: "Peikoff has yet to present an example of an arbitrary claim or supply any instructions as to how to identify one.", he does so ignoring Dr. Peikoff's example starting in the last paragraph of Chapter 5 on Reason on page.184 up to the point where he writes: "Here again we see all the flaws inherent in the assertion of the arbitrary."

When "S" puts forth his assertion, O replies: "Can you point to any sign of such fallacy, such as a logical flaw in my argument, or a neglected fact, or an improperly defined term?" In other words, an assertion which cannot be backed up by evidence qualifies it as arbitrary and makes it eligible for dismissal.

In the case of Robert Campbell's claim, the existence of the preceding evidence dismissed his assertion not as arbitrary, but as simply fallacious.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Cambell's fallacy is an equivocation. All arbitrary concepts are invalid but not all invalid concepts are arbitrary. The falsehood of invalid concept could be proven by referral to observation ( like in case of phlogiston or cosmic ether). But arbitrary concept has no frame of reference and identified as such.

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It seemed to me that Prof. Campbell was stingy in effort to reconcile the various philosophical views he quoted by Rand and Peikoff. Good work remaining to be done. My own treatment of areas of Rand’s epistemology in areas pertinent to some of Campbell’s issues is Between False, Invalid, and Meaningless.

Mn,

I expect readers would be delighted to hear a little more than min. What specifically did you find "makes sense" in the essay? The historical point? A correct statement of relation between arbitrary assertion and lack of meaning? Between the meaningful and the true?

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A correct statement of relation between arbitrary assertion and lack of meaning? Between the meaningful and the true?

Yeah, all of it really. In retrospect, I should have realized the distinction Dream Weaver pointed out. However, Campbell does a perfect job (as far as I can tell) arguing against the position he sets out to oppose.

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A guy named Robert Campbell...

I've been known to answer to that description.

When Robert Campbell claims that: "Peikoff has yet to present an example of an arbitrary claim or supply any instructions as to how to identify one.", he does so ignoring Dr. Peikoff's example starting in the last paragraph of Chapter 5 on Reason on page.184 up to the point where he writes: "Here again we see all the flaws inherent in the assertion of the arbitrary."

On page 86 of my article, I'm referring to what Leonard Peikoff has been saying up through page 163 of OPAR.

My point being that he has strongly condemned "arbitrary claims" before providing a single example of one, or taking any other steps to help the reader identify a claim as arbitrary.

I then mention some examples that Dr. Peikoff gets around to providing on page 164 of his opus.

Criticism is valuable—when it's informed.

Robert Campbell

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Cambell's fallacy is an equivocation. All arbitrary concepts are invalid but not all invalid concepts are arbitrary. The falsehood of invalid concept could be proven by referral to observation ( like in case of phlogiston or cosmic ether). But arbitrary concept has no frame of reference and identified as such.

Leonid,

My article is about the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion.

Generally, what's asserted is a statement or a proposition, not a concept. Dr. Peikoff's examples, when he does get around to providing some, are all statements or propositions.

Robert Campbell

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It seemed to me that Prof. Campbell was stingy in effort to reconcile the various philosophical views he quoted by Rand and Peikoff.

As I endeavor to show in the article in question, the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion poses all kinds of problems as Leonard Peikoff has stated it.

Besides OPAR, I draw on the relevant portion of his 1976 lecture series on Objectivism, a 1987 article that presents an early version of his treatment in OPAR, and a lecture from his 1997 series on Objectivism through induction. (I also point out how "Fact and Value" handles some of the same examples in a manner inconsistent with Dr. Peikoff's treatment in these other sources.)

Secondarily, on reviewing the rather skimpy information on the history of the doctrine that is publicly available, I point out how Dr. Peikoff's conception of the arbitrary, from 1976 and later, is at variance with Nathaniel Branden's views, as expressed in his lectures on Basic Principles of Objectivism and in a short article from 1963.

I further point out that Ayn Rand never stated or explicitly referred to the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion in anything that she published during her lifetime. Her references to it in remarks that were not published during her lifetime are extremely scant and very sketchy.

Robert Campbell

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A guy named Robert Campbell...

I've been known to answer to that description.

On page 86 of my article, I'm referring to what Leonard Peikoff has been saying up through page 163 of OPAR.

My point being that he has strongly condemned "arbitrary claims" before providing a single example of one, or taking any other steps to help the reader identify a claim as arbitrary.

I then mention some examples that Dr. Peikoff gets around to providing on page 164 of his opus.

Criticism is valuable—when it's informed.

Robert Campbell

I apologize. I have not read your entire article. When I had read "Peikoff has yet to present an example of an arbitrary claim or supply any instructions as to how to identify one." I took it to mean that Peikoff has not yet presented an example, nor has ever supplied any instructions by which to identify such a claim." At this point, I asked myself if I really wanted to read any further. Your criticism is noted, and in light having this ambivalence clarified, I must withdraw my hasty judgment.

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dream_weaver,

The article goes through Dr. Peikoff's main discussion of "the arbitrary," in Chapter 5 of OPAR, in a great detail. Almost paragraph by paragraph of Dr. Peikoff's presentation.

And the passage you objected to is in the fourth paragraph of the article.

There are reasons why the article is so long.

It will inevitably appeal to specialized tastes, but if you are really interested in the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion, give yourself time to follow the arguments.

Robert Campbell

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Mnrchst,

Here's a very quick answer: the doctrine of the arbitrary is internally inconsistent in several different ways, and Peikoff claims that all kinds of dire consequences flow from arbitrariness, while offering no clear criteria that a person could use to reliably identify it.

Slightly less quick answer:

An arbitrary assertion is supposed to be one that has been put forward without any evidence to support it.

But Dr. Peikoff has never laid out much in the way of criteria of evidence, either in OPAR or elsehwere.

And if you don't have a clear idea as to what constitutes evidence in support of asserting a proposition, how are you going to be able to identify those cases in which there is no evidence at all, therefore the proposition is being asserted arbitrarily?

Yet Dr. Peikoff not only assumes that arbitrariness can be easily spotted without ambiguity, he writes with extraordinary confidence about all the awful consequences that must flow from ever making a single arbitrary assertion on any occasion.

What's more, Dr. Peikoff claims in Chapter 1 of OPAR that certain propositions about the supernatural are contradictory, and are therefore asserted falsely. Yet in Chapter 5 of OPAR he claims that some of the very same propositions are asserted arbitrarily, therefore are effectively meaningless, therefore cannot be true or false.

And the reader, having noted this contradiction, will only grow more confused as to which assertions are actually being made arbitrarily.

Robert Campbell

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I'm reading the paper but this:

"In Karl Popper’s philosophy of science, there is no requirement for positive evidence for a testable universal hypothesis. Indeed, Popper would obviously have to reject the Peikovian criteria (176, 178, 179) whereby a hypothesis that is supported by some positive evidence is possible, one supported by a lot of positive evidence is probable, and one supported by all of the available positive evidence is certain.

[T]he probability of a statement (or a set of statements) is always the greater the less the statement says: it is inverse to the content or the deductive power of the statement, and thus to its explanatory power. Accordingly every interesting and powerful statement must have a low probability; and vice versa: a statement with a high probability will be scientifically uninteresting, because it says little and has no explanatory power. Although we seek theories with a high degree of corroboration, as scientists we do not seek highly probable theories but explanations; that is to say, powerful and improbable theories. (Popper 1965, 58)

A very low probability hypothesis hardly teeters on the brink of meaninglessness; on the contrary, it will have “empirical content” (in Popper’s terms) so long as it has testable consequences. The adequacy of Popper’s account is a topic for another discussion; indeed, many other philosophers of science would argue that to be worth testing a hypothesis needs to have something going for it. But Popper’s work constitutes a prima facie challenge to Peikoff’s claims about “the arbitrary.” And Popper, unlike Peikoff, went to great lengths to elaborate a philosophy of science."

Severely curbs my motivation to do so. Popper is so thorughly antithetical to Oist epistemology that one questions what Campbell does consider to be correct in Rands epistemology. This departure into what seems to me to be sort of appeal to authority seems a complete aside from the previous claims. Popper's criteria and position on meaning,concepts,induction, proof etc is so far from anything compatible with fundamental Oist tenets that bringing him up is baffling.

Edited by Plasmatic
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Severely curbs my motivation to do so. Popper is so thorughly antithetical to Oist epistemology that one questions what Campbell does consider to be correct in Rands epistemology. This departure into what seems to me to be sort of appeal to authority seems a complete aside from the previous claims. Popper's criteria and position on meaning,concepts,induction, proof etc is so far from anything compatible with fundamental Oist tenets that bringing him up is baffling.

The point to me of that quoted paragraph (I haven't read the paper yet) is that it is presenting Popper's claim. As a prominent figure in the philosophy of science, it is worth mentioning that such a claim exists. No conclusion is being made except that Peikoff hasn't gone anywhere near the lengths Popper has gone. Of course, rigor isn't necessarily better, but what I'm seeing are some legitimate claims that are worth refuting. Nothing in that paragraph particularly sets alarms off in my mind. Even if Popper is wrong, from what I've read in OPAR and heard in OTI about the arbitrary, Peikoff's account is weak and could use deeper explanation.

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Even if Popper is wrong, from what I've read in OPAR and heard in OTI about the arbitrary, Peikoff's account is weak and could use deeper explanation.

Mr. Campbell's piece may not provide a deeper explanation, but the first half provides what can seriously be considered as a thought provokingly deeper examination of Dr. Peikoff's treatment of the arbitrary.
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Mr. Campbell's piece may not provide a deeper explanation, but the first half provides what can seriously be considered as a thought provokingly deeper examination of Dr. Peikoff's treatment of the arbitrary.

Oh, I meant Peikoff's own account could use a deeper explanation by Peikoff himself. In any case, I intend to read the paper linked here when I have free time to read it all.

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I wouldn’t let that stop you Plasmatic. The author disclaims in the paragraph you wrote that he is not endorsing Popper but simply pointing out that other philosophers have treated this subject in greater detail. I find it fascinating, especially since I find myself grasping certain subjects in greater depth when I can review it from multiple authors and the particular lens they use.

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Finished 1st read through for overview. Im now on the 2nd reading where I'm formulating my responses.Since Im working on like 4 projects as time permits ,I cant promise I'll finish a whole review. What conclusions I do formulate and have time to conceptualize in any decent manner Ill post.

Just one more comment on the Popper thing. If you havent read Popper you wont understand that the whole subject of analysing a concept for coherence and meaning is rejected outright as unscientific "physchologism"and Campbell's paper itself is not about a philosophy of science anyway.

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