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Does objectivism offer a way to demonstrate that even the purport that nothing is real/the objective doesn't exist/antirealism/idealism/etc is self refuting or otherwise flawed from the start?

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There are always people, from physics enthusiasts to philosophers, writing articles ostensibly proving that nothing is real, there is no such thing as the objective, everything is imaginary, etc. etc. I usually look for physicists or philosophers who conclusively demonstrate that realism is the correct position, and who refute these opposed ideas.

But, these people always pop up, and critical theory seems to be the main ideology driving culture and politics today, and it rejects science and objectivity entirely as tools of the oppressor. So a huge movement is forcing itself onto the world and seeking to refute realism, presumably because throwing out truth makes it really easy to manipulate people.

 I'm starting to think a better approach is needed apart from opposing idealists/antirealists/etc one by one, point by point. It seems there is a fundamental flaw in the very premise of even stating that nothing is real/the objective doesn't exist/everything is imaginary/etc. That such a purport is self-refuting, or otherwise inherently flawed and invalid. Thus, one need not engage someone in discussion nor debate if their initial point is self-refuting and irrevocably flawed.

Does objectivism offer this kind of refutation? A way to demonstrate that even the purport that nothing is real is self refuting and fundamentally flawed from the start?

Might we get on with our lives and blow off these pop philosophers by coming to an understanding that their premise need not be refuted in the first place, as it self-refutes or is otherwise invalid?

Edited by Frank
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On 6/19/2021 at 2:01 PM, Boydstun said:

. . .

“Being implicit from the beginning, existence, consciousness, and identity are outside the province of proof. Proof is the derivation of a conclusion from antecedent knowledge, and nothing is antecedent to axioms [cf. Met. XI.4]. Axioms are the starting points of cognition, on which all proofs depend. / One knows that the axioms are true not by inference of any kind, but by sense perception. . . . Axioms are perpetual self-evidencies. There is nothing to be said in their behalf except: look at reality” (OPAR 8).

What is the nature of axioms of the Objectivist philosophy and what is the content of those axioms is part of what the Objectivist philosophy is and indeed part of what is essential to that philosophy. The preceding excerpt from OPAR is a rendition of GS at 1039–40: “proof presupposes existence, consciousness, and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, . . . . / An axiom is a statement that identifies the base of knowledge and of any further statement pertaining to that knowledge, a statement necessarily contained in all others, . . .”

. . .

from Boydstun 2021, 73, 74:

Scan 8.jpeg

Scan 9.jpeg

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17 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Thank you so much. This made my day. So, essentially, no one could possibly make the argument that nothing exists, etc. because such a thing becomes illogical the second it is said, as it is already against the evidence necessarily allowed by the very making of the statement. Completely agree. People who write papers attempting to demonstrate that the external world doesn't exist or that all is imaginary, etc. or otherwise try to convince others of these things, belong in the dictionary alongside the word "asinine." If they are correct, and truly believed it, then proselytizing about it is utterly, laughably absurd. Hence, they do not believe even their own words, let alone believe anyone else should believe them.

That said, what about from strictly one individuals perspective, when pondering "What if it's all in my head?" How might this be countered?

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19 hours ago, necrovore said:

You should check out Leonard Peikoff's book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. It answers these questions in the first chapter!

Thanks! Does it cover the question both from the perspective of one person purporting to another and also from the perspective of one person thinking privately?

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1 hour ago, Frank said:

. . .

That said, what about from strictly one individuals perspective, when pondering "What if it's all in my head?" How might this be countered?

Frank, I’d say consideration of such an idea is only for sport, for entertainment, not something one actually could take seriously in one’s own solitary view, without some serious mental malfunction.

That everything might be only in one’s head is exposed to oneself as nothing more than idling entertainment (and not very clever entertainment) simply by being intellectually honest with oneself. And if fortunate, one might be smart enough to see as well for oneself that the proposed possibility is just a dull exchange of what (plainly, mundanely) is larger than what and inclusive of what.

Also, it would be superficial self-delusion to think that one is not living or breathing or residing; one knew oneself as living, breathing, and residing even before one had learned to say those things and understand much about them. And it is further self-chicanery to think in words and sentences without admitting that one has not been always alone in wielding those tools of thought and communication; there is no self-thinking and self-communication in language without communication with and thinking with others earlier.

Idealists of the various sorts (Berkeley, Kant, Bradley), I should mention, do not think it’s possible that nothing is real, or plausible that nothing we know is true. Primacy of consciousness over existence need not imply that nothing exists, at least that was not an implication seen or aimed at by those idealists or by Descartes or by Plato.

Is there philosophy you have studied or would like to study?

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4 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Frank, I’d say consideration of such an idea is only for sport, for entertainment, not something one actually could take seriously in one’s own solitary view, without some serious mental malfunction.

That everything might be only in one’s head is exposed to oneself as nothing more than idling entertainment (and not very clever entertainment) simply by being intellectually honest with oneself. And if fortunate, one might be smart enough to see as well for oneself that the proposed possibility is just a dull exchange of what (plainly, mundanely) is larger than what and inclusive of what.

Also, it would be superficial self-delusion to think that one is not living or breathing or residing; one knew oneself as living, breathing, and residing even before one had learned to say those things and understand much about them. And it is further self-chicanery to think in words and sentences without admitting that one has not been always alone in wielding those tools of thought and communication; there is no self-thinking and self-communication in language without communication with and thinking with others earlier.

Idealists of the various sorts (Berkeley, Kant, Bradley), I should mention, do not think it’s possible that nothing is real, or plausible that nothing we know is true. Primacy of consciousness over existence need not imply that nothing exists, at least that was not an implication seen or aimed at by those idealists or by Descartes or by Plato.

Is there philosophy you have studied or would like to study?

Thank you. That is very helpful. I was formally trained in the tradition of mind only Buddhist idealism. As a young man I thought it sounded neat. But as I learned more and took it more seriously, I realized that to take such teaching literally was, quite precisely, asinine, and taking the philosophy literally, and going "all in" so to speak, while having "great faith" is certainly the promoted goal. I started to realize my family, professional and social life were suffering as I spent so much time pondering these absurd philosophical positions and weekend meditation (or brainwashing, the meditation was to keep one phrase in mind for three 12 hour meditation sessions, three days in a row). 

 

I finally had my fill, and it kind if clicked that I was part of something ridiculous. Now I'm looking for a philosophy that has its feet on the ground, and which is diametrically opposed to such silliness to the point that its very foundational formulations rule out such a view point. One issue is that many will claim that quantum mechanics or other sciences support the mind only idealism position and that this can supposedly be proven (though one proving to someone else that they don't exist, and neither does the proof that they don't exist exist, is the height of absurdity). This has been the only sticking point for me shaking off this religion entirely; some have made the case that the religion is supported by science. Typically I find people disproving these scientific points, using science, but I was hoping this proving is itself unnecessary, and that there must be someone who has defeated the idea from the start, rather than always playing defense. Hence, I'm looking for help.

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5 hours ago, Frank said:

One issue is that many will claim that quantum mechanics or other sciences support the mind only idealism position and that this can supposedly be proven

I've heard some people say, more than a few times, that the reason they don't believe in objectivity or that an external world exists is "because of quantum physics." But, as far as I can tell, this rests on some kind of confusion. 

This doesn't sound like anything I've seen about quantum physics. But I think you have to go back to when the quantum revolution first dropped. Everybody was committed to a kind of implicit or explicit materialism in which the word was composed of these microphysical particles in which everything is deterministic and it's all bottom-up causality and so forth. So the quantum revolution hit and people were like oh it's not really like that at all, these things are not deterministic, these little objects don't have determinate positions, like wow, I guess there's no reality there at all then. 

But you can see that that doesn't really follow, that is resulting from a sort of frustrated materialist ambition. A lot of the anti-realist stuff isn't even consistent or methodical anti-realist. Very few people think anything like that. But what it is is misplaced realistic goals with a sort of implicit anti-realist premises that results in people getting tripped up.

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Some remarks by a trained physicist against QM supporting Buddhism are here. He makes one statement about QM, however, that is importantly imprecise, a misstatement made by knowledgeable physicists in the past and a misstatement that opens a playground for wishful metaphysics of consciousness. “Quantum mechanics reaches beyond the known physical realms and even claims that consciousness is a fundamental component of the nature of physics.”

Saying “the known physical realms” is an imprecision resulting from a physicist trying to indicate to persons uneducated in modern physics—indicate without mathematical characterization—the actual concept he means, which is “the classical regime” which is what we commonly deal with in ordinary experience and which (i) is not really the same as “the known physical realms” and (ii) whose essence is not ease of our accessibility.

But the remark I want to underscore as imprecise is that QM “even claims that consciousness is a fundamental component of the nature of physics.” This is false. This error may come partly from such handy, but imprecise, descriptive labels put on the family of experiments known as the “delayed choice” experiments. That is not the big source, however. The big source emerged much earlier. For example, the 1932 book by Von Neumann Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics includes a description of measurement on a quantum system in which the physical settlement-registration-detection, which is physical outcome ready for cognizance in perceptual consciousness, is crudely claimed to have required participation of consciousness for bringing about the outcome. This line of misspeaking turned on simple ambiguities of terms such as detection and observation (same ambiguity for observer in SR, which is really just some matter on course of its time-like world line), which in QM are purely physical occurrences, to which the consciousness element of those concepts in ordinary usage was unnecessarily imported, smudging some presentations of QM. This was an error alongside the one mentioned by 2046.

Quantum physics, like all physics, is physical, only physical—physical sequences, alterations, setups, and outcomes in physical time. Comprehension of physics is through mathematical understanding and through design of physical instruments for physical detections necessary to conscious observational function in human minds.

Edited by Boydstun
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16 hours ago, 2046 said:

I've heard some people say, more than a few times, that the reason they don't believe in objectivity or that an external world exists is "because of quantum physics." But, as far as I can tell, this rests on some kind of confusion. 

This doesn't sound like anything I've seen about quantum physics. But I think you have to go back to when the quantum revolution first dropped. Everybody was committed to a kind of implicit or explicit materialism in which the word was composed of these microphysical particles in which everything is deterministic and it's all bottom-up causality and so forth. So the quantum revolution hit and people were like oh it's not really like that at all, these things are not deterministic, these little objects don't have determinate positions, like wow, I guess there's no reality there at all then. 

But you can see that that doesn't really follow, that is resulting from a sort of frustrated materialist ambition. A lot of the anti-realist stuff isn't even consistent or methodical anti-realist. Very few people think anything like that. But what it is is misplaced realistic goals with a sort of implicit anti-realist premises that results in people getting tripped up.

This has been my experience as well. Nonetheless though, it bears consideration, until one comes to some kind of conclusion that it need not be considered at all. Like, for example, if someone told you they were going to demonstrate to their imaginary friend that they, the imaginary person, are imaginary, you'd likely not find that to be a good use of time. 

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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Some remarks by a trained physicist against QM supporting Buddhism are here. He makes one statement about QM, however, that is importantly imprecise, a misstatement made by knowledgeable physicists in the past and a misstatement that opens a playground for wishful metaphysics of consciousness. “Quantum mechanics reaches beyond the known physical realms and even claims that consciousness is a fundamental component of the nature of physics.”

Saying “the known physical realms” is an imprecision resulting from a physicist trying to indicate to persons uneducated in modern physics—indicate without mathematical characterization—the actual concept he means, which is “the classical regime” which is what we commonly deal with in ordinary experience and which (i) is not really the same as “the known physical realms” and (ii) whose essence is not ease of our accessibility.

But the remark I want to underscore as imprecise is that QM “even claims that consciousness is a fundamental component of the nature of physics.” This is false. This error may come partly from such handy, but imprecise, descriptive labels put on the family of experiments known as the “delayed choice” experiments. That is not the big source, however. The big source emerged much earlier. For example, the 1932 book by Von Neumann Mathematical Foundations of Quantum Mechanics includes a description of measurement on a quantum system in which the physical settlement-registration-detection, which is physical outcome ready for cognizance in perceptual consciousness, is crudely claimed to have required participation of consciousness for bringing about the outcome. This line of misspeaking turned on simple ambiguities of terms such as detection and observation (same ambiguity for observer in SR, which is really just some matter on course of its time-like world line), which in QM are purely physical occurrences, to which the consciousness element of those concepts in ordinary usage was unnecessarily imported, smudging some presentations of QM. This was an error alongside the one mentioned by 2046.

Quantum physics, like all physics, is physical, only physical—physical sequences, alterations, setups, and outcomes in physical time. Comprehension of physics is through mathematical understanding and through design of physical instruments for physical detections necessary to conscious observational function in human minds.

Thank you for this, very helpful.

I thought more about your previous reply, and realized it really is perfect for one of the two issues and completely buttons it up.

To circle back around, from the very useful text you so kindly quoted above: "The world may not exist" includes the possibility that the text does not exist, that its originator does not exist..."

Essentially, proving that the external world does not exist is impossible, as you'd end up disproving all of your data, proofs, evidence, even yourself. So this is perfect, exactly what I was looking for. So, when I see some article purporting to provide some kind of scientific proof that the objective doesn't exist, I just need remember that the article is necessarily self-refuting.

Now, forgive me for asking the same question again, but you touched on a few points that were very helpful on this topic before, but not as beautifully destructive as the argument against other people trying to prove it (or I just failed to apprehend it properly, if so, apologies). I think it is pretty apparent you've the mind to come up with such a thing, or you already have, or know of someone else who has, and it would be wonderful if you could share. What kind of logic could we apply to the same issue, but from the perspective of the individual asking, privately, "What if literally everything is in my head?" In what way could we make such a question invalid? There must be some reason that asking if literally everything is in your head is a ridiculous question that is self defeating, just as trying to prove to someone else, or accept someone else's arguments that the objective doesn't exist is irrevocably flawed.

 

 

Edited by Frank
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On the scenario of the solitary thinker Frank raised, additional to what I responded earlier, were I that thinker:

Thinking to myself discursively and being intellectually honest in my course of thought, I’d acknowledge, to myself, that my question “What if everything were literally in my head?” is in fact an extrapolation from an earlier perfectly sensible sort of question of mine: “What if this particular item of thought or perception, seeming to reside in the world independently of my thinking it or my perceiving it, were really only in my head?” And I’d acknowledge to myself that the latter sort of question makes sense only if there are some things I think of or perceive that are in the contrast condition of not being only in my head. Without carrying that condition right along in the extrapolation to all things possibly being only in my head, the extrapolated possibility cannot really make sense. Then the thought to myself that everything might be only in my head is false and is itself an occasion of something only in my head.

Thanks for raising these issues, Frank, and thanks to 2046 for the link on the related topic.

Edited by Boydstun
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On 7/16/2021 at 7:32 AM, Boydstun said:

On the scenario of the solitary thinker Frank raised, additional to what I responded earlier, were I that thinker:

Thinking to myself discursively and being intellectually honest in my course of thought, I’d acknowledge, to myself, that my question “What if everything were literally in my head?” is in fact an extrapolation from an earlier perfectly sensible sort of question of mine: “What if this particular item of thought or perception, seeming to reside in the world independently of my thinking it or my perceiving it, were really only in my head?” And I’d acknowledge to myself that the latter sort of question makes sense only if there are some things I think of or perceive that are in the contrast condition of not being only in my head. Without carrying that condition right along in the extrapolation to all things possibly being only in my head, the extrapolated possibility cannot really make sense. Then the thought to myself that everything might be only in my head is false and is itself an occasion of something only in my head.

Thanks for raising these issues, Frank, and thanks to 2046 for the link on the related topic.

I agree and thank you.
 
I'd like to add my own argument:
I think we can agree that the burden of proof of ownership, for proving to all parties, including the claimant, falls on the claimant. If I claim I own your house or car or something, I have to demonstrate this to be true. Otherwise, I have no basis for this claim, and no one will recognize that I own them, including me. The same logic applies if I said I own Jupiter, or the milky way galaxy, etc. No one would take me seriously, and I'd have to admit to myself that I'm incorrect without significant proof. 
 
That said, the only being who could demonstrate ownership over ALL to the extent needed to make the statement, and mean it literally, "All is my mind." Would be a god. They would have to demonstrate that they control literally everything.
 
Assuming they're not omnipotent, they will fail to demonstrate that everything is in their mind. And anyone would fail to demonstrate to anyone else that everything is in their mind, the other person's mind, either, as they'd have to prove to the other person that they, the other person, are omnipotent.
 
Thus, barring a god entering the mix, it is impossible for anyone to say "All is your mind" or "All is my mind" and be correct.
 
And, so, this argument is destroyed.
 
There are a lot of things to be debate, but it is not up for debate as to whether or not all is in someone's mind. That is a ridiculous position that is immediately disproven. 
 
In other words, only a fool runs into a wall that they didn't create and that neither they, nor anyone else can breach, and declares "This wall exists strictly as MY mind." Even a god who came up against such a wall would have to admit that, while everything in the universe is their mind alone, this wall is something other, as they didn't create it, and have no control over it, and thus have no right to say the wall is strictly their mind.
 
Thus, there's a subjective and an objective, always, a self and an other. That is, unless one is omnipotent and can thus demonstrate that they everything is strictly theirs, they must always admit an other, and if there's an other, and a not self, then it is more reasonable to call it objective, than to illogically call it subjective.
 
Edited by Frank
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A perhaps more elegant solution than what I wrote above:

 

To think "All is in my mind, there is no objective, no real." Means to conclude that the statement just made is merely subjective, unreal, not true, and thus unreliable and conclusively false.

"All is in my mind." Is a self refuting statement.

To prove that there is no real, objective reality is always, without exception, to disprove your own proof, and thus the argument can never succeed. Such is impossible.

Edited by Frank
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Finally, I was doubting myself, so I looked it up, and, indeed, "All is mind." is a problem of absolute generality and leads inevitably to a liar's paradox. It's similar to saying "All is true." Or "All is false." And nearly identical to saying "Nothing is real." Etc. It is the rambling of a charlatan or a lunatic and not something to be bothered with by reasonable people.

 

If nothing else, we need point out that all who preach this tripe eat and drink, pay their bills, and in every respect live as if they are staunch realists, yet lie through their teeth to others and maybe even themselves when they proselytize on this topic.

The only ones who preach it and believe it are running wild in the streets and probably near death, as people who truly don't believe things exist/are real/etc. Wouldn't eat or drink or avoid danger, etc. and would starve to death very quickly or otherwise self destruct due to delusion caused accident. Hence, 99.99999% of those who preach it are dishonest, whether they realize it or not.

 

Please forgive my verbose writing, and repetition.

I should also say, as a side note, that traditional orthodox Theravada Buddhism is actually a realist school. All this anti realism and idealism stuff was developed centuries after the Buddha's death. Not relevant to objectivism, just food for thought and to clarify.

Edited by Frank
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9 hours ago, Frank said:

To think "All is in my mind, there is no objective, no real." Means to conclude that the statement just made is merely subjective, unreal, not true, and thus unreliable and conclusively false.

"All is in my mind." Is a self refuting statement.

To prove that there is no real, objective reality is always, without exception, to disprove your own proof, and thus the argument can never succeed.

The only item in this thread that I question is that idea that "the self evident" is not proof.

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On 7/23/2021 at 11:46 PM, 2046 said:

Maybe check out some Thomas Reid, he had some things to say about the place of argument vs ridicule to the denier of common sense.

Thanks. I'm confused, though. Are you implying I need to be taught a lesson on this topic because I am ridiculing when I should be arguing?  Or what are you meaning with this suggestion?

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On 7/24/2021 at 2:11 AM, Easy Truth said:

The only item in this thread that I question is that idea that "the self evident" is not proof.

I love this forum so much. I expected a counter, assumed you were going to be arguing that everything is imaginary or some other hogwash. However, unless I'm much mistaken, it seems you're so in agreement that you see my arguments as excessive and the matter as solved wordlessly and without debate nor argument as the issue is self evident and automatic, irrefutable proof of the objective?

A bit like if I was going on and on arguing that water is wet. You'd be like, "Obviously, why all this discussion when that is self evident?"

Am I reading you right? Or am I about to be schooled on why everything is imaginary and such is a perfectly intelligent conclusion?

Please forgive my caution, I've dealt with Buddhist forums and philosophy forums for 10 years and 90% of replies to questions like this either argue for "All is mind" or seem to agree, kind of, but are ultimately trolling in favor of "All is mind." 7% are on the fence and may lean toward "Some things are real." But while strongly cautioning against realism. And about 3% are actually realists.

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