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One Fallacy of Objectivism — Part II

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Hello all,

 

I came across this argument on the Maverick Philosopher's blog and found it interesting and very well written. Even so, I am having a hard time determining what a rigorous Objectivist response to it would be. The original essay, with comments, can be found here. There is also a supplementary essay called, "Volition and Modality," which goes into greater detail in a bid to further buttress the arguments in the first essay. There is also a thread here on the forum that is a response to the original essay and appears to have been roughly contemporaneous with the ensuing related content on the Maverick Philosopher's blog. That topic thread can found here, "One Problem with Objectivism." Unfortunately, there is no point by point Objectivist rebuttal of the essay and, as far as I can tell, the thread  mainly tracks what is happening in the comments section of the original essay. There are also a fair number of interesting and related side conversations on that thread as well. It is worth noting that John Donohue, who rigorously debated in the comments section of the original essay, is very active in this thread and it is interesting to get his perspective.

 

At any rate, I was wondering if there were any point by point Objectivist rebuttals of this essay and its addendum (i.e. — "Volition and Modality"). Thanks. Happy thinking.

 

P.S. — Should it be of interest to you and should you have the time, it might be very much worth it to read "Volition and Modality" as a supplement to the main essay.

 

One Fallacy of Objectivism

 

The following comment is by Peter Lupu. It deserves to be brought up from the nether reaches of the ComBox to the top of the page. Minor editing and highlighting in red by BV.

 

One Fallacy of Objectivism

 

1) Objectivists seem to hold two theses:

 

Thesis A: There is a fundamental conceptual distinction everyone does or ought to accept between “metaphysical facts” vs. “volitional or man-made facts”; for the sake of brevity of exposition I shall occasionally refer to this distinction as the ‘Randian distinction’.

 

Thesis B: The content of the traditional philosophical distinction between contingent vs. necessary facts is either reducible to the Randian distinction or to the extent it is not so reducible it is conceptually incoherent, superfluous, or cannot be clearly demarcated; for the sake of brevity I shall occasionally refer to the distinction between contingent (and possible) vs. necessary facts as the ‘Modal distinction’.

 

2) I shall argue here that the Randian distinction, to the extent it is a cogent distinction at all, far from being the fundamental distinction in fact conceptually presupposes the Modal distinction. If my argument is successful, then Thesis B maintained by Objectivists is false. Thesis A is untouched by my argument because I shall not dispute the fundamental cogency of this distinction except insofar as I find the terminology used by Objectivists to mark this distinction lacking in clarity.

 

3) Examination of the Randian distinction.

 

3.1) Objectivists maintain that there is a distinction between so-called “metaphysical facts” and “man-made or volitional facts”. What types of facts belong to the class of facts labeled by Objectivists as “metaphysical”? Well, examples of such facts are the following:

 

(i) There are three trees in my backyard;
(ii) The earth is round and orbits the sun;
(iii) There are exactly 32,728 leaves right now on the closest tree to my house; 
(iv) It is raining here and now.

 

3.2) These sort of facts are claimed by Objectivists to have the common property of being “necessary”. But, what do Objectivists mean by the term “necessary”? Well, one possible meaning that they might give to this term is that facts of the sort (i)-(iv) “could not have been otherwise”. Let us grant for the moment that the sense of necessary here intended is that facts of the sort described by the above examples indeed could not have been otherwise. Let us also grant for the moment that these facts are indeed necessary in this sense of the term.

 

3.3) Now, these metaphysical facts that are necessary in the sense that they could not have been otherwise are contrasted with another class of facts, namely, those facts that are “man-made” or the product of “volition”. And what sort of facts are these? Well, I suppose that examples of man-made or volitional facts can be easily given (or so it would seem):

 

(v) I kicked the ball;
(vi) John divorced Merry because she insulted him;
(vii) Bill wrote a paper on existence in order to prove his thesis; 
(viii) George stole billions of dollars in an investment scam.

 

3.4) In what way do the facts described in examples (v)-(viii) contrast with the facts described by examples (i)-(iv)? Objectivists maintain that the former are man-made whereas the later are not. But this way of marking the distinction is inadequate. What do we mean here by “man-made”? Causally produced by a human being? Surely that will not do, for a burp is produced by a human being, but it is not voluntarily produced. So we must add here that in the examples (v)-(viii) a certain action was undertaken by a human being voluntarily or freely. But, now, what do we mean by saying that an action was performed “voluntarily” or “freely”? It will certainly not do here to keep re-describing the problem by introducing additional terms such as ‘free-will’, ‘choice’, ‘intention’ etc., because all of these additional terms belong to the very same family of terms we have already used to describe the situation in the first place. What is wanted is some kind of a property that belongs to all events that are the products of human beings and that belong to a category that can be clearly contrasted with the category of cases exemplified by examples (i)-(iv).

 

3.5) But clearly we already have access to such a property, for we have already characterized the class of cases (i)-(iv) as necessary in the sense that all of these facts could not have been otherwise. So why not characterize the contrast in these very terms: namely, say that in all of the cases (v)-(viii) we have a circumstance where the person who did such-and-such could have done otherwise instead. But, what do we mean here when we say that the given person *could have done otherwise*? We have to be very careful how we answer this last question. It would be tempting to answer that the sense in which a person could have done otherwise is that this person could have *chosen* to do something different than what  in fact he has done. But there is danger lurking here. It is false that the person could have chosen to do just anything they please as long it is different than what they have actually done. While I could have refrained from kicking the ball for sure, it is not the case that I could have made myself into a ball instead. It is not within my power to do such a thing: it is not *possible* for me to turn myself into a ball. And because it is not possible for me to turn myself into a ball, I simply do not consider it as one of the alternatives available to me instead of kicking the ball. So clearly, then, when I do something freely I first must recognize that there are alternative courses of action I could have chosen, alternatives that I must also simultaneously recognize to be within my *power* to do: i.e., that are *possible* for me to do.

 

3.6) But, now, what exactly are these possible alternatives which I must recognize as within my *power* to do: that are possible for me to prefer? Well, I suppose that it is possible for me to kick the ball, given certain facts etc. By contrast, it is not possible for me to turn myself into a ball or a bullet or fly without any mechanical devices like birds can. And so I could not have done any of these things instead of kicking the ball. By contrast, since it is possible for me to kick the ball or for Bill to write a paper or for John to get divorced and since each of us recognizes that these things are possible, we can exercise a certain faculty of choosing freely and opt to do just these things. But, notice, that the *possibility* of a certain course of action is conceptually prior to any of the other cognitive tasks (or conscious tasks) of recognizing these as alternatives among which I can exercise my free choice and select one of them.

 

4) What did just happen here? Well, what happened is that we have succeeded in clarifying the Randian-distinction; i.e., the distinction obscurely labeled by Objectivists in terms of the distinction between “metaphysical” vs. “man-made” facts, in terms of the Modal distinction between things that “could have been otherwise” vs. things that “could not have been otherwise”. Now, it is indeed true that in order to fully flesh out the category of “volitional” or “freely chosen” facts we will have to eventually introduced some faculty that enables persons to opt to do one thing instead of another among the things they recognize as being possible for them to do. And it might be that in order to introduce such a faculty properly, consciousness is going to play a central role. But it is imperative to see that we simply cannot demarcate a category of volitional or freely chosen acts unless we presuppose that certain facts could have been otherwise whereas others could not have been otherwise. And when we presuppose this distinction we in fact presuppose a Modal distinction which Objectivists maintain in Thesis B is either reducible to the Randian distinction or dispensable or irremediably unclear.

 

4.1) The first disjunct in this claim [Thesis B] turns things the other way around, as we have seen above. 

4.2) The second disjunct (i.e., that the Modal distinction is dispensable) cannot be maintained since, as we have seen above, this distinction is required in order to make sense of the Randian-distinction: so just on this ground alone the Modal distinction is indispensable, if the Randian distinction is to be maintained in any cogent form.

 

4.3) And the third disjunct (i.e., that the Modal distinction is irremediably unclear), if true, will have the result that so is the Randian distinction.

 

5) Now, someone might object. Someone might argue that it is possible to define the notion of necessity involved in the Objectivists claim that the category of “metaphysical” facts are necessary without appeal to the modal notion of “could not have been otherwise”. For, one might argue, so it would seem, that these so-called “metaphysical” facts are necessary in the sense that they are made *inevitable* by the physical laws and initial conditions, perhaps going back all the way to….forever?

 

5.1) But in what sense are these facts *inevitable* and how do the physical laws together with the initial conditions *make* them so? We have to be careful here of not anthropomorphizing physical laws and turn them into intentional agents that make things happen. Well, we can perhaps say that these facts are "made" inevitable in the sense that given the laws and the initial conditions, they *must* occur. But, what is meant by the claim that these facts *must occur*? That the world *could not have but* contained these facts given these laws and these initial conditions? This, of course, introduces once again the Modal concept of “could not have been otherwise”, except this time it is introduced in order to explicate the additional loop of inevitability.

 

5.2) Someone might retort as follows: a certain fact is made inevitable by the laws together with the initial conditions in the sense that its truth is guaranteed by the laws and the initial conditions. Of course, this will not do. First, propositions are true, not facts. Second, what do we mean when we say that the occurrence of a fact is *guaranteed* by the laws and initial conditions? This account suffers from the same problems as the “inevitability-account” we have encountered previously featured and a few more to boot.

 

5.3) Someone might finally argue that what is meant here is that a given fact is necessary in the sense that the truth of the proposition describing this fact follows from statements of the laws and initial conditions. But “follows” in what sense? I presume the only adequate answer here is that it “logically follows”. Good! But, now, why can we explicate the notion that a given fact is necessary in terms of logical entailment; i.e., in terms of a proposition describing this fact being logically entailed by the laws and initial conditions? The answer is this: because if the proposition in question is logically entailed by the laws and initial conditions and the later are true, then the proposition describing this fact *must* be true as well. That is, under such circumstances this proposition *could not be false*. But, now, once again we encounter a version of the Modal concept of *could not be otherwise (false)*.

 

5.4) The above objections simply do not succeed to dispense with the Modal distinction; they cannot replace it; and they cannot show that it is not conceptually prior to any distinction they propose.

 

5.5) And if the Modal-distinction is conceptually prior, more fundamental, and presupposed by the Randian distinction, then the scope of the Modal distinction is determined on its own grounds rather than dictated by the Randian distinction it is used to explicate.

 

6) Hence, Thesis B is false.

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The essay in the OP doesn't make a single reference to the purpose of the metaphysical/man-made distinction, the reason that Rand makes it in the first place.  Ridiculous.   The purpose of the disti

I agree that references on his part would have been helpful, especially with regard to his "Thesis B."

 

Thesis A seems like a reasonable enough assertion. I can accept that one without specific citations. Its pretty non-controversial from an Objectivist perspective.

 

Thanks for the link. I have already read it, as well as mentioned it and provided a link for it in my opening statement. It definitely doesn't hurt to highlight it. There is a good bit of relevant discussion and other links in that thread. Thanks.

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One Fallacy of Objectivism

 

1) Objectivists seem to hold two theses:

 

Thesis A: There is a fundamental conceptual distinction everyone does or ought to accept between “metaphysical facts” vs. “volitional or man-made facts”; for the sake of brevity of exposition I shall occasionally refer to this distinction as the ‘Randian distinction’.

 

Objectivists don't hold that thesis. Maybe that's why there's never been a "rigorous response": usually people don't find much value in defending a thesis they themselves do not hold.

 

Sad that somebody went to all of that trouble to write such a long critique about something that actually doesn't exist...

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Objectivists don't hold that thesis. Maybe that's why there's never been a "rigorous response": usually people don't find much value in defending a thesis they themselves do not hold.

 

Sad that somebody went to all of that trouble to write such a long critique about something that actually doesn't exist...

 

It is unclear to me why you would say that Objectivists don't hold Thesis A. Could you please elaborate on why or how you think that? I am just confused because, if you just take a brief perusal of the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on Metaphysical vs. Man-Made, there are several instances where she distinguishes between two types of facts — metaphysical facts and volitional or man-made facts.

 

What is it about that statement that you disagree with? What am I missing?

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Just to clarify: in "traditional" philosophy, a statement like "A is A" would be considered a necessary fact, while "this rock no man even touched is white" and "this pen is red", contingent facts, correct?

In Oism, the first two are metaphysical facts, the third, a man made fact.

So why would anyone conclude that the first distinction is reducible to the second? More importantly, why would anyone write a several thousand word essay explaining why it's not? It's clearly not. No Oist would suggest otherwise, because we're not in the habit of denying the obvious.

As an aside, Oism denies that the first distinction is useful. We understand what the distinction is (necessary facts can be proven using pure logic, contingent facts cannot), but we don't think that makes the latter category "contingent". Just because it would be possible, as far as pure logic, for a pen to be blue, it doesn't make it any less of a fact that this particular one is red. What makes that fact "contingent"? Contingent on what? I'm looking at it, it's red. It's not contingent on anything that it's red. It just is.

I suppose to you it's contingent on whether I'm telling the truth, but if contingency refers to a person's lack of knowledge, then we're no longer talking about facts at all.

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"A is A" , the explicit statement, is a man made fact based on the nature of existence. The 'law' of identity as an explicit philosophic premise or axiom is a product of consciousness, an abstraction that refers to the nature of 'things'.

 

The red of the pen is metaphysical, though purposefully arranged to be part of the pen .

 

No?

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As far as I know there is no metaphysical dichotomy between classes of "facts".

 

Certainly there are facts of reality which have resulted from interaction with a volitional consciousness, so the "how" and "why" of the fact is causally linked with a volitional conscious actor - man.  Certainly also there are other facts of reality which are a result of a myriad of causal factors reaching back in time, none of which was influenced by any volitional conscious actor - any men.

 

The characterization of the causal history of any fact as "independent" of any action of any man and the characterization of the causal history of other facts as dependent causally upon some action of a "man" in history is an observation of reality, which in some contexts may be useful, but this does not drive a wedge to divide the natural universe into two.

 

 

Facts are facts, some result from men's actions, some do not.  This is an important distinction when a person decides to live in accordance with reality and not the whims of his fellows...

 

 

BTW:  Objectivism rejects wholesale the concept of "necessary versus contingent facts" and any related notion of an analytic  synthetic dichotomy.

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"A is A" , the explicit statement, is a man made fact based on the nature of existence. The 'law' of identity as an explicit philosophic premise or axiom is a product of consciousness, an abstraction that refers to the nature of 'things'.

 

The red of the pen is metaphysical, though purposefully arranged to be part of the pen .

 

No?

No. There's a link to Ayn Rand's explanation of what she means by metaphysical facts. I'm confident that "A is A" fits that definition.
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Nicky, notice tadmjones said that  "the explicit statement" is a manmade fact. 

 

I think the definition of fact may come into play here, and unfortunately a few dictionaries confirms we often mean different things by the term "fact" based on the context.  I've seen the following classes as a definition of "fact", and I have translated them as best I can into Objectivist concepts:

 

1. things that actually exist (O: existents)

2. truths (O: knowledge that corresponds to existents in reality)

3. statements of truth (O: true statements, whose origin is knowledge, which corresponds to existents in reality)

 

Without a qualifier should we generally take the word "fact" to mean a true statement or the existent referent of a true statement?

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It is unclear to me why you would say that Objectivists don't hold Thesis A.

Thesis A is fine. Thesis B isn't. The whole essay never once quoted Rand. The weird thing is, the metaphysical vs manmade distinction is nothing more than some facts are a result of human choice, and others aren't. After 3.3, the essay fails to summarize/clarify the "Randian Distinction" by discussing whatever the author attributes to Rand without any quotes of Rand's. It's just poor scholarship - to criticize a viewpoint of a specific philosopher, you need their words.

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As far as I know there is no metaphysical dichotomy between classes of "facts".

...

 

The characterization of the causal history of any fact as "independent" of any action of any man and the characterization of the causal history of other facts as dependent causally upon some action of a "man" in history is an observation of reality, which in some contexts may be useful, but this does not drive a wedge to divide the natural universe into two.

 

It is not entirely clear to me that Rand is asserting a metaphysical dichotomy between classes of "facts." She is however, definitely asserting a division of of facts — in general. One "class" is metaphysical and one "class" is "man-made/volitional."

 

As far as dividing the natural world in two, what you mean here is not clear to me either. If it is the case that the natural universe is that which is the metaphysically given (i.e. — non-man-made), then I don't think that Rand has driven wedge into the natural world. She is expressly not dividing metaphysically given facts into two types.

 

If you mean to say that the natural universe includes both metaphysically given and man-made/volitional facts, then Rand has definitely driven a wedge into the natural universe with regard to facts — in the sense that she asserts that some facts are metaphysically given and some are man-made.

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Again, I would recommend that interested parties read the supplementary essay, "Volition and Modality." It definitely helps clarify some of the points that the author is attempting to make — right or wrong.

 

What is your opinion on "Thesis B"? A lot of posters have said it is not from Objectivism. Do you agree? Or, do you agree with the author, that Rand supported "Thesis B"  and it therefore needs to be reconciled with "Thesis A"?

 

If you do not think Objectivism advocates "Thesis B", then why move beyond that point in the essay? 

 

If you do think Objectivism advocates "Thesis B", then why do you think so? The author didn't bother with quotes, but what references/quotes do you look to for support? 

 

Or, are you, by any chance, the author, trying to get people to read your stuff?

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The essay in the OP doesn't make a single reference to the purpose of the metaphysical/man-made distinction, the reason that Rand makes it in the first place.  Ridiculous.

 

The purpose of the distinction that Rand puts forth is to aid in one's moral judgment of facts.  Specifically, it helps distinguish facts which can properly be judged (such as the structure and powers of a government) from those which cannot (such as the occurrence of a storm).  This is a necessity for man for several reasons.  Passing moral judgment on metaphysical facts (such as blaming a storm for the damage it caused, or blaming nature, or the universe, etc) is a waste of time and effort, and prevents the person in question from simply accepting reality as it is, which is necessary for living successfully.  On the other hand, accepting man-made facts without judgment (such as accepting that one's country will always be ruled by a dictator, no matter what) prevents one from taking the steps necessary to change those facts.  A populace that accepts the inevitability of dictatorship will never rise up for a better government.

 

This is the purpose served by the distinction between the metaphysical and the man-made.  Keeping this in mind, it's easy to see that the essay in the OP is superfluous at best.  Regardless of whether the distinction between necessary facts and contingent facts makes sense, it cannot serve this purpose.  Knowing that the course of a particular river could have been different, whereas 'A is A' could not have been, does not help me determine which facts to judge and which to simply accept.

 

The famous serenity prayer, often spoken at AA meetings, speaks to the same fundamental human need:

 

"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."

 

Rand's distinction purports to give some wisdom as to how to tell the difference.  The Modal distinction, valid or not, does not.  It makes no sense to attempt to eliminate Rand's distinction without even making a passing reference to the purpose that it serves.

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 The error in his reasoning is with his original premises.

 

One Fallacy of Objectivism

 

1) Objectivists seem to hold two theses:

 

Thesis A: There is a fundamental conceptual distinction everyone does or ought to accept between “metaphysical facts” vs. “volitional or man-made facts”; for the sake of brevity of exposition I shall occasionally refer to this distinction as the ‘Randian distinction’.

 

Thesis B: The content of the traditional philosophical distinction between contingent vs. necessary facts is either reducible to the Randian distinction or to the extent it is not so reducible it is conceptually incoherent, superfluous, or cannot be clearly demarcated; for the sake of brevity I shall occasionally refer to the distinction between contingent (and possible) vs. necessary facts as the ‘Modal distinction’.

Notice that while he explains the Objectivist stance towards the 'modal distinction' he doesn't specify what that distinction is.  Considering the rest of the article I doubt this was done innocently.

 

Rand's distinction (which I also object to) is between facts or events which were inevitable, and those which could have happened otherwise.  She explicitly defined it that way when she introduced it. 

The modal distinction has been explicitly rejected by Objectivist philosophers, thusly:

 

"The theory states that there is a fundamental cleavage in human knowledge, which divides propositions or truths into two mutually exclusive (and jointly exhaustive) types. . .

Analytic truths represent concrete instances of the law of identity. . . frequently called 'tautologies'. . .  e.g. '[man is a rational animal because] a rational animal is a rational animal'. . .

A 'synthetic' proposition is defined as one which cannot be validated merely by an analysis of the meanings or definitions of its constituent concepts. . .  For instance, conceptual or definitional analysis alone, it is claimed, could not tell one if ice floats on water. . .

Analytic truths are necessary; no matter  what region of space or what period of time one considers, such propositions must hold true. . .  Synthetic truths, however, are declared not to be necessary; they are called 'contingent'. . .

Analytic propositions provide no information about reality. . .  Synthetic propositions, on the other hand, are factual- and for this, man pays a price.  The price is that they are contingent, uncertain and unprovable. . .

If your statement is proven, it says nothing about that which exists; if it is about existents, it cannot be proven. . .

Objectivism rejects the analytic-synthetic dichotomy as false- in principle, at root, and in every one of its variants."

-Leonard Peikoff

 

The Randian distinction refers to causal necessity, while the modal distinction refers to logical necessity.  It's the critical equivocation which he never addresses; he simply glosses over it in the beginning and then continues onward as if 'Thesis B' had actually been defined.

 

So let's review the rest of it, point by individual point, gripping our referents by the epistemological short-hairs.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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On closer inspection, he has a point.  It simply isn't the one he intended to make.

 

He wanted to prove that the Metaphysical-Manmade distinction (specifically as what "had to be" or "could have been otherwise") is logically derivative of the Analytic-Synthetic dichotomy, and therefore validate the latter.

As far as I can tell, at the moment, they actually seem to be two different applications of the same concept.  So he's ultimately wrong; if I'm correct then they can't depend on each other because they're synonymous.

 

We all have alternatives to choose from and act on, in any given moment.  The crux of the issue is what to make of those alternatives, after they've been rejected (the could-have-been's).  Rand said, in the essay he's quoting (without explicitly quoting it), that no intentional action had to occur; they're all contingent.

Peikoff's article does actually apply to that statement, and all its implications.

 

That much seems to be true.

 

He wants the realization to validate the Modular distinction; I think it should mean the opposite.

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What is your opinion on "Thesis B"? A lot of posters have said it is not from Objectivism. Do you agree? Or, do you agree with the author, that Rand supported "Thesis B"  and it therefore needs to be reconciled with "Thesis A"?

 

If you do not think Objectivism advocates "Thesis B", then why move beyond that point in the essay? 

 

If you do think Objectivism advocates "Thesis B", then why do you think so? The author didn't bother with quotes, but what references/quotes do you look to for support? 

 

Or, are you, by any chance, the author, trying to get people to read your stuff?

 

First, I am definitely not the author. I would have no problem saying that I was in the case that that was actually true. However, it is not true. I am not the author.

 

With regard to Thesis B, I am not completely decided. Before making any definitive assertions with regard to Thesis B, I will have to locate sources and get a better grasp on what exactly the Objectivist position is with regard to contingent and necessary facts and then consider how that position lines up with what the author asserts is the Objectivist's position with regard to contingent and necessary facts.

 

My very general and non-definitive perspective on the Objectivist's position with regard to contingent and necessary facts is that Objectivists reject the division of facts into contingent and necessary facts. Nonetheless, if I am not mistaken, I believe that Objectivist's do assert, in some sort of qualified way (that I am currently unaware of), that whatever is a necessary fact is also a metaphysical fact. I could be totally wrong on both counts. I have to do more research before I can say anything with confidence in that regard.

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I am not the author.

Okay. Thanks for saying so. I did not think you were, but wanted to get that out of the way.

 

My very general and non-definitive perspective ...

... ... Objectivists reject the division of facts into contingent and necessary facts.

... ... Objectivist's do assert, in some sort of qualified way ..., that whatever is a necessary fact is also a metaphysical fact. ...

Not sure how you reconcile those two. Since Objectivists reject the distinction of necessary and contingent facts, how does it follow that whatever is necessary is metaphysical? I assume you mean that the facts that others call "necessary" would be called "metaphysical" by Objectivists. Is that what you meant?

I assume you also agree that a vast number of facts that are called "contingent" by others would also be called "metaphysical" by Objectivists?

Given all this, how would you sum up the key issue here?

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The purpose of the distinction that Rand puts forth is to aid in one's moral judgment of facts.  Specifically, it helps distinguish facts which can properly be judged (such as the structure and powers of a government) from those which cannot (such as the occurrence of a storm).

...

 

Rand's distinction purports to give some wisdom as to how to tell the difference.  The Modal distinction, valid or not, does not.  It makes no sense to attempt to eliminate Rand's distinction without even making a passing reference to the purpose that it serves.

I think you make a good point. The purpose of the distinction does seem to serve the purpose that you assert and is certainly worth mentioning, as you suggest.

 

However, it is unclear to me why you would say that the modal distinction does not provide some "wisdom" as to how to tell the difference between facts that can be judged and facts that cannot be judged. If we understand the modal distinction as there being necessary facts, which could not have been otherwise, and contingent facts, which could have been otherwise, then how is that all that different from what you are saying.

 

The modal distinction, right or wrong, may not "purport" to actually provide any wisdom. However — analogically considering your description of the purpose of Rand's distinction, the modal distinction certainly allows for one to distinguish between facts that can properly be judged (i.e. — facts that could have been otherwise) and facts that cannot be properly judged (i.e. — facts that could not have been otherwise). Maybe you disagree, but I see very little difference between your position and the Modal position other than your assertion that Rand's distinction expressly purports to give some wisdom.

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Okay. Thanks for saying so. I did not think you were, but wanted to get that out of the way.

 

Not sure how you reconcile those two. Since Objectivists reject the distinction of necessary and contingent facts, how does it follow that whatever is necessary is metaphysical? I assume you mean that the facts that others call "necessary" would be called "metaphysical" by Objectivists. Is that what you meant?

I assume you also agree that a vast number of facts that are called "contingent" by others would also be called "metaphysical" by Objectivists?

Given all this, how would you sum up the key issue here?

Really, I need more time to formulate a coherent response. So, please don't take what I said there too seriously.

 

I guess I should have explained myself better. I have seen Objectivist's use the phrase "necessary fact" to mean "metaphysical fact." I think that, in those instances, the Objectivists are applying their own meaning/usage to "necessary." It seems like that usage of the phrase "necessary fact" is different from non-Objectivist's usage of the phrase "necessary fact." 

 

At this point, I really want to emphasize that I need to do more research before I can adequately respond to your questions. I fully and readily admit that I may be completely mistaken with regard to my above distinction.

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No, they wouldn't have. There is nothing in Rand's works to support that nonsense claim.

Here, you are referring to Thesis B.

 

Thesis B says:

 

Thesis B: The content of the traditional philosophical distinction between contingent vs. necessary facts is either reducible to the Randian distinction or to the extent it is not so reducible it is conceptually incoherent, superfluous, or cannot be clearly demarcated; for the sake of brevity I shall occasionally refer to the distinction between contingent (and possible) vs. necessary facts as the ‘Modal distinction.’

__________

 

Rand says: 
 
The theory of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy has its roots in two types of error: one epistemological, the other metaphysical. The epistemological error, as I have discussed, is an incorrect view of the nature of concepts. The metaphysical error is: the dichotomy between necessary and contingent facts.
 
Rand, Ayn (1990-04-26). Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition (p. 106). Plume. 
_________
 
So, here we can observe that, to the extent that Rand asserts that the dichotomy between necessary and contingent facts is a metaphysical error, it can certainly be said that she is asserting that the traditional philosophical distinction between contingent vs. necessary facts is, at the very least, conceptually incoherent. This of course assumes that we can agree that whatever is an error — at least in terms of thinking, is also, ultimately, conceptually incoherent.
Edited by Questioner
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