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Rand and Kant Being Friends

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Confused? I'll summarize one of the main texts of the Kantian tradition. How compatible is the Kantian framework with Objectivism? You be the judge.

The book is F.W.J. Schelling's System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), a famous work that enjoys the same status in the philosophical tradition as, let's say, Beethoven's Eroica symphony does in music. (Also check out Boydstun's thread on the same book, and some of his other explorations of Kantianism.
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What causes the changes that occur in consciousness?

Two possibilities:

1. Consciousness arises out of physical objects impinging upon physical organs

or

2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking.
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According to Schelling (and his predecesors Kant and Fichte), neither possibility can be proved. 

Knowledge is contextual. If physicalism is the basic premise, then I have to explain consciousness in a way consistent with physicalism. Conversely, if thinking is the more fundamental premise, then I have to explain why I can't control some parts of my conscious experience, even though my premise says that I think all of my reality.

Since we check the validity of a claim by verifying if it contradicts other stuff we know, we need something to start off with, some axioms.

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Pros and cons of each starting principle

To know is to identify something, e.g. I identify that I have five fingers on each hand. There has to be some things to identify out there, otherwise the identification faculty (consciousness) will get bored.

Whatever you identify, you cannot deny the identification (consciousness) of that which you identify (identity/existence). Objectivism puts consciousness in a secondary role, on quite sensible grounds:

- Consciousness is one of many things that may exist
- Consciousness is, well, consciousness. There has to be something to identify, otherwise no identification occurs.

This does miss an important detail though. Consciousness can study its own doing. This is what Rand did when developing her epistemology - she did things with her mind, then looked back at what she did and neatly documented it in ITOE.

The possibility that Rand and Peikoff doesn't explore is this: the activity of producing thoughts, if it exists to begin with, can be conscious of its own self. Just as you, the reader, have a self-image (positive or negative).

This other posibility will be the starting point of Schelling's system. As Fichte did, he treats philosophy like Geometry: you start with a theorem, which you then prove by actually constructing the figure. Here, the theorem is that self-consciousnss can only occur in the form of a spatio-temporal individual. Only through proceeding with the construction will the hypothesis be proven or disproven.
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The transcendental deduction

Don't confuse a transcendental deduction with a logical deduction. A transcendental deduction asks 'what allows this action to occur?'

Let's say you teach a kid about apples. You place two apples in front of him, and point to both in succesion saying 'apple...apple'. The child points at them and repeats 'apple'. He's formed the concept 'apple' from experience, and now he can expand the concept to include other details, such as 'apples are a fruit', 'sweet', and so on.

But, says Kant, that child wouldn't have been able to do that without the ability to distinguish one point in space from another. Despite the apples looking similar, the kid could tell they're not the same thing because one's there and the other's over there. Space is the condition for the ability to pick apples.

If regular philosophers comment on the footbal game from the audience, the transcendental philosopher gets down-and-dirty by playing in the field. His method goes something like this:

1. He thinks something he wants to find the conditions for
2. While thinking it, his mind necessarily performs an additional act that enables the first act to be succesfully performed
3. He takes note of that additional act and freely recapitulates it. This causes yet another involuntary act to occur alongside it.
4. Rinse and repeat until the limit is reached.

Kant was the first to perform such a deduction. He asked what the mind has to do in order to distinguish between two kinds of mental content: sensations from outside and sensations authored by the self. This is because both of them are united in the same self:

I think both P and Q

and therefore a differentiation is necessary.

Rand says that Kant equivocates between content and form. This is certainly true under her framework, where the same content can be detected in many different forms. For instance, the same content - location - can be detected in forms such as sight (humans), echolocation (whales), and magnetoreception (pigeons).

However, for Kant, the content is already taken care of by whatever detection mecahnism you have in place. That's the level of sensation. His concern is, in fact, with the form in which the difference between 'inner' and 'outer' sensations is grasped.

To find out the answer, Kant does the only thing he can do, which is to study his own mind in the act of distinguishing the two. He concludes that categories such as quality, quantity and causality are needed for this.

Note that he doesn't rule out the actual existence of quality and quantity, out there in the world. His argument is actually much more simple (paraphrasing his Critique)

'About my own mind, I know certain things for sure. I know that I must actually see Bob to know whether he's tall or not. Consciousness is my turf, hence I can do that kind of study. The external world is, well, not my turf. Only it could study itself like that'.

Contra Peikoff, Kant's skepticism has nothing to do with the fact that consciousness grasps in a specific form, and thus all consciousness is disqualified from perceiving reality as it really is (even a godly consciousness).

Amusingly enough, Peikoff himself takes a somewhat Kantian route in OPAR, on page 45 where he asks you to imagine that

Quote

scientists have discovered that the material world of three-dimensional objects possesing color, texture, size and shape is not a primary, but merely an effect, an effect of various combinations of puffs acting on men's means of perception.

What would this sort of discovery prove philosophically? Ayn Rand holds that it would prove nothing.

So the mental effect of shape and size corresponds to something out there. In this same way, Kant's theory of perceptual form doesn't pose any problem for this mind-reality correspondence.

Regardless, Kant is concerned with studying the character of human knowledge. Metaphysics is for another discussion.
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We now turn back to Schelling - which, I remind you, does not ground his proof on physicalism, but on the act of producing thoughts. He dispenses with the external world, which might or not exist - it's not his business anyway.

If the act of producing thoughts tries to sense itself, here's what happens:

- I think
- I think that I think
- I think that I think that I think

Ad infintum. The activity of producing thoughts can only, well... produce thoughts. Sensing the production is not possible, except by representing it with yet another thought. The cycle goes on forever and ever.

John Galt notes, in his speech, that consciousness has to already be there in order for you to identify it as consciousness. This is also true on an idealistic account. The sequence goes like this:

1. You produce the thought (obviously, you're aware of that thought)
2. You distinguish yourself as the thinker of that thought (self-consciousness)

Now let's perform that transcendental deduction thingy. By studying my mind while performing that act of differentiation, I discover that I was able to distinguish myself as the thinker with the help of this criteria:

- The thinking act is felt as being in my control. I can analyze, count, think about celebrity gossip etc.
- The other side is felt as being outside of my control, i.e. indifferent to my wish.

And, in turn, what are the conditions of this?

The side that is recalcitrant to my will is represented as the limit to my 'jurisdiction' - extensity/space. And, just as Nature limits my turf, I in turn limit how far it can go by imposing my will upon it ('Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed').

Although my bondage to Nature is permanent, it's actually valid to say that progress can be made. In fact:

- I cannot make progress unless there's something to make progress in (the boundary). 
- The 21st century is better than the Middle Ages, so there's progress even though the list of things I could improve goes on forever.

The tracking of your progress, in turn, is going to be made possible by the Kantian categories (causality, quality, quantity etc.) You can look these up, because for now we'll move to the next crucial thing.
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Selfhood (self-image) depends on two related 'shocks' to the self: 

1. Distinguishing 'Self' from, well, non-self. We've already covered that.
2. Affirming oneself as oneself, not some other wannabe self.

Expanding a bit on that, to recognize yourself you need Nature to serve as the foil, the 'not-self', which threatens your survival by not listening to your wishes, thus forcing you into a self-assertive, 'lord-over-nature' mode of operation.

The natural companion (no pun intended) is the clash with other Selves. This makes you realize that whatever you think, see and feel applies to your consciousness only - this is the crucial condition for sensing yourself as an individual self. Fichte and Schelling stress that a 'self-as-such' is a mere abatraction. It can, in fact, only exist as an individual, embodied self.

This has important political implications. If your will does not belong to you, then it will be part of somebody outside of your own self (slavery). To be free from others forcefully imposing on you, the Randian principle of physical force is a selfish necessity.

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As stated before, any attempt to sense the production of thoughts simply ends up creating yet another drasted thought, forever and ever. The development of the universe, from its basic elements all the way to organic matter and the biosphere, represents the dialectic by which the Self continually 'improves' its mental representation of itself, but never quite makes it (as is to be expected). The philosophy of nature is yet another fascinating aspect of the system we'll have to skip for now. 

These abortive and self-refining attempts eventually lead, through an evolutiomary chain, to the human being, whose reasoning faculties allow it to trace back the history of self-consciousness by philosophizing. In other words, what we did just now.

Turns out, this strategy doesn't work either. Recapitulating the history of self-consciousness is fine and all, but we started by wanting to sense thinking as a productivity. Philosophy responds 'sure, all you have to do is perform this roundabout feat of mental gymnastics, step after step after step, and you'll get to it for sure!'.
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Riddle: can you be unconscious of having produced some part of your experience? Because this is the number one thing L. Peikoff will bring up when arguing for physicalism. He'll say that you can't control the features of your own consciousness. Then he'll conflate 'consciousness has identity' with physicalism. A possible alternative has been provided by the previous deduction, but we want something more concrete.

Solution: Consciously produce something you don't recognize as your own.

This solution turns to Kant's aesthetic theory, specifically his treatment of artistic genius. There's plenty of artists with baffling craftsmanship, but no poetry. And just as many artists with splendid sense but no skill. The genius is one for whom nature was so generous as to provide him/her with both.

During the creation of a painting, a play, or even a whole mythology (as civilizations do), things go haywire and the artwork is infused with a kind of wisdom that the artist clealry doesn't possess. The kind of wisdom that applies universally to all epochs. The artist is not the author, and yet he is. Sounds familiar?

Nature doesn't care whether its channel of expression - the artist - even knows what the hell his painting means. That painting is an instance of Nature being driven by its frustration to properly represent itself as a productivity, and not as a product - the same frustration that caused all of its other attempts. It finally succeeds within the world of art, because in an artwork, the unconscious wisdom that makes a clandestine appearance alongside the consciously executed parts is a document that attests for a Nature that produces on and on and on, without conscious awareness of doing so. 

This is the conclusion of the system. Since consciousness, through man, is finally able to grasp its nature as an unceasing productivity, the dialectic tensions come to a halt and 'infinite satisfaction' is achieved. It's no coincidence that Beauty is defined as a sense of harmony. Ayn Rand seems to agree.

333px-Martinus_R%C3%B8rbye_-_View_from_the_Artist%27s_Window_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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3 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Because this is the number one thing L. Peikoff will bring up when arguing for physicalism. He'll say that you can't control the features of your own consciousness. Then he'll conflate 'consciousness has identity' with physicalism

What, in your words, do you take physicalism to be?

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Physicalism

Kyary, thank you for sharing this serious reflection.

I don't think the concept 'possible' is licit except as a recognition of potentials of actuals. However, 'potentials' is applicable only to actuals that are concrete. So it is not applicable to vector spaces, for example, in pure mathematics. And it is not applicable to morphisms in the category of vector spaces, and so forth. I submit we must walk before we do geometry. The possibility-relations between purely mathematical structures and their transformations are analogues of the possibility-relations reflecting poteniality-relations among concretes, such as relations engaged in walking.

Kant, of course, was presuming Euclidean geometry (as I recall, he does not engage the link between that geometry and algebra from Descartes and Fermat giving us analytic geometry) as something that is instantiated in the physical concrete world. His reason for Euclidean space being most fundamentally mental rather than physical is that he rightly saw that the results we arrive at when in geometry class working the proofs in Euclid yield perfect, absolute universality of the resulting truths. And that is of a different character (he thought) than the sort of results we arrive at in empirical science. He was right on that and right in rejecting the doctrine of Wolff that the high necessity of the truths of geometry come from capacity of Euclidean geometry to be put into the form of a sequence of syllogisms (which was probably also the way Aristotle looked at it, but without the attempt of full-blown showing of it as in Wolff's geometry text, from which Kant lectured). He was wrong in thinking we had no other cognitive access to features in the physical world to make into geometry that are not the methods of empirical science.

So to ask such questions as how is synthetic a priori knowledge possible is a legitimate use of 'possible', supposing your interlocutor accepts that the knowledge you are characterizing as synthetic a priori knowledge is rightly so characterized. Philip Kitcher in his book The Nature of Mathematical Knowledge is one of our contemporaries who rejects that characterization and would have to regard that particular possibility-question of Kant's as fallacy of complex question. 

That some spatial knowledge can be condition of much or all of our knowledge does not entail that that condition of knowledge cannot be physical.

I do not think we should join philosophers in their old arm-chairing of the evolution of consciousness or self-consciousness. We should rather overrule them or congratulate them with findings of modern developmental cognitive psychology* and anthropology. For example, Michael Tomasello's A Natural History of Human Thinking should be used to grade the arm-chair folk. One sorry blindness of philosophers from Descartes to Schelling is their failure to notice the fundamental social requirements for human consciousness.

I agree with your conclusion, Kyary, that Rand/Peikoff erred in thinking Kant closed the possibility of cognition of things as they are independently of consciousness on account of consciousness taking a specific form and having specific means of operation. I argue against this Rand/Peikoff conclusion in a paper currently at press. It should be published next April, and since there will be an online version of that journal, I'll be linking it at this site when they publish.

I attach an excerpt from my fundamental paper "Existence, We" in which I oppose Rand's approach to the idea of physical existence. Rand should have treated the concept "physical existence" in the way she had treated the developmental course of the concept "man".

(Click on image for ease of reading.)

Scan 10.jpeg

Scan 11.jpeg

Edited by Boydstun
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I should have added that talk and thought of possibility should be bounded. How is it possible that Existence exists? is out of rational bounds. The Principle of Sufficient Reason, before Kant, was being applied way out of rational bounds. Kant reined it in from above the atmosphere and replaced it with his bounded principle of causality. Rand also reined it in and replaced it with her very different principle of causality.

Also, contra Descartes, Kant and Rand agreed that the certainty of the existence of one's mind is not greater than the certainty of the existence of one's body (A366–80, B274–79). But Kant's reining in of speculative metaphysics to the point that we cannot know whether God exists or whether the soul is immortal is constraining inappropriate for existence and our minds among it, by the lights of Rand (and me).

Edited by Boydstun
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6 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

 

 

Thank you, I was unsure what was going on there.

My comments will be limited to matters of interpretation (until the very end.) When you're doing something like this, there is always the danger of stretching things out too much. There is also the danger of verbal agreement or disagreement when people are using words out of historical context and applying them to different people. In other words, of a sort of anachronism and equivocation.

Example: Suppose set myself to claiming Aristotle was a libertarian on the issue of free will. And I just claim that in passing in a paper about some different topic. Is that okay? Well, is he a libertarian? It's hard to say. The controversies over free will and determinism postdate his writings, and he doesn't ever address that question. It's more accurate to talk about the various parts of the soul and the role they play in choosing, and what counts as a voluntary action to Aristotle. It might be possible to do a text search for everything he said and using surrounding context, that I might make a thesis about whether or not he was a libertarian, if I converted the language over, but that takes work and space of its own. If I want to gain that point, I have to put in the honest toil, I can't just beg the question in passing. At best I would have to say, grant me this extremely controversial point passing, for the purpose of the point I'm trying to make. That makes my work a lot weaker.

Kant's thesis was aimed at the proposal that there are certain a priori conditions of experience. This was meant to answer questions raised much earlier by Hume that brought about deep skepticism about causation, self, and the relationship of mind to reality. The philosophy of mind emerged later in the late 19th and early 20th century as a distinct sub-discipline dealing with the relationship of mind to body and reality in general. In the second half of the 20th century, it developed its own unique technical language to answer questions brought up earlier.

Rand and Peikoff weren't a part of these debates. Nor were these debates or their technical terms aimed specifically at answering "how does conscious arise" or "what causes change in consciousness."

So is Peikoff a physicalist? I doubt it. He's not answer the questions you are asking and he's not using the terms you use. Nowhere does he say those things ("it arises out of just physical objects impinging.") The only time he talks about impinging in OPAR is talking about sense perception, and he distinguishes that from consciousness per se. 

Is he a physicalist in the sense of the contemporary use of the technical term? Absolutely not. 

The Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy entry on physicalism states:

Spoiler

"Philosophy of science, philosophy of mind A refinement of materialism introduced because not all physical phenomena are material. Physicalism assumes that physical science can encompass everything in the world, and that ultimately everything in the world can be explained through physics. Itis possible to reduce any scientific predicate to a physical predicate. The word was introduced by the logical positivists for the claim that all scientific statements could be translated into statements about physical or observable objects. In this sense,physicalism is close to scientism, which claims that any language that can not be reduced to scientific language is defective. Carnap took physicalism as a synonym for behaviorism. However, the Australia n philosopher J. J. C. Smart contrasted physicalism with behaviorism, taking the former to be a scientific approach and the latter a linguistic approach. Smart’s physicalism is also called the identity theory of mind or central-state materialism, because its main thesis is that mental events are identical to brain events."

The Oxford Companion to Philosophy entry on physicalism states:

Spoiler

"physicalism in the philosophy of mind. Physicalism in the philosophy of mind is an application of the general metaphysical thesis of physicalism, namely the claim that everything in the space-time world is physical. Concerning the sphere of the mental, then, physicalism claims that all the facts about minds and mentality are physical facts."

To me, paradigmatic physicalists are the ancient atomists, Hobbes, Marx, and people like Smart, Donald Davidson, and the Churchlands. Peikoff definitely isn't saying anything like that, or even remotely near that, and explicitly argues against materialism. So, in other words, for me, I'm saying 'no, that point is controversial, if you want to gain it by honest toil, I'm going to need a lot more.'

As to your main thesis: you started off making a really controversial claim about Rand and Kant, then shifted it to Schelling, then started asking and answering other questions without tying it back to the main thesis, or motivating it or signposting it. The whole thing just seems scatterbrained to me.

Edited by 2046
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3 hours ago, 2046 said:

When you're doing something like this, there is always the danger of stretching things out too much.

2046,

The OP is a book summary. I focus on what the book says and try to convey it in straightforward language. There's no connection between the terms I use and their professional academic usage. 

The actual term Schelling uses is 'dogmatism'. According to Merriam-Webster, this word is commonly used to mean

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the expression of an opinion or belief as if it were a fact 

but in this book it's actually an antiquated technical term:

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"The dogmatist explains finititude of the self as an immediate consequence of its restriction by an objective"

(Schelling's 1800 System, p. 37 of the english translation)

(note: 'objective' is an antiquated way of saying 'object')

Dogmatism, when used to mean the rival of idealism, has also been called materialism. But even that term is connected to an outdated theory of matter. By focusing on the content of my writing (not the fancy words), it's clear that I replace 'dogmatism' with a modern-sounding moniker ('physicalism') for the first of the two possible starting-principles/axioms:

18 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

What causes the changes that occur in consciousness?

Two possibilities:

1. Consciousness arises out of physical objects impinging upon physical organs

or

2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking.

. . . 

Knowledge is contextual. If physicalism is the basic premise, then I have to explain consciousness in a way consistent with physicalism. Conversely, if thinking is the more fundamental premise, then I have to explain why I can't control some parts of my conscious experience, even though my premise says that I think all of my reality.

Note that I personally have no interest in philosophy except as lessons I can apply to my life. I couldn't care less about academic technicalities - I know that precision is important if you want to distinguish between thinkers and establish taxonomies. Here, I choose to communicate some broad essentials that Fichte, Schelling and Hegel played with in various ways.
 
I believe that there are others in the same boat as me, even on philosophy forums, so I would only be worried about anachronism if I have clear indications that this is relevant to the topic being discussed.

3 hours ago, 2046 said:

As to your main thesis: you started off making a really controversial claim about Rand and Kant, then shifted it to Schelling, then started asking and answering other questions without tying it back to the main thesis, or motivating it or signposting it. The whole thing just seems scatterbrained to me.

The 'main thesis' is that Kantianism and Objectivism share some points of affinity, despite being grounded in quite incompatible premises. This affinity is not restricted to any topic in particular. For illustration, I used Schelling's system, which re-organizes the Kantian essentials by grounding them in a different principle: the self's activity. Yes, not in an external reality, which is doubly shocking for the conscientious Objectivist. This is precisely what makes the book a great tool for illustration.

Examples of this affinity:

- The status of perceptual form
- The 'subjugation' of nature (production) as central to morality
- Retraining from the initiation of physical force, also central to morality
- Free will as compatible with lawful nature.
- The artwork as a world-in-miniature (not mentioned in my summary), beauty as the pleasure resulting from overcoming tension.

The purpose of this thread is to show that Kantianism is not what O'ist thinkers (misleadingly) represent it to be. No, it's not about reality as social-consensus, wishes controlling reality, the form of perception being evil etc. Just listen to Peikoff's lecture on Hegel, then tell me whether this topic, however scatterbrained it may come across to be in your reading, is useful or not.

3 hours ago, 2046 said:

Rand and Peikoff weren't a part of these debates. Nor were these debates or their technical terms aimed specifically at answering "how does conscious arise" or "what causes change in consciousness."

Again, my interest is in the essentials. Does your mind conform to external reality, yes or no? If yes, then you're comfortable with the idea that forms (color, echolocation, Kantian categories) do not exclude a perfect mind-to-reality correspondence. Distinguishing between self and nature, and the form in which that occurs, doesn't compromise anything. Kant's skepticism has a lot more to do with the limits of knowledge. He says that if you use things from experience to explain experience, it's kind of like saying the Bible is true because the Bible says so.

3 hours ago, 2046 said:

Nowhere does he say those things ("it arises out of just physical objects impinging.") The only time he talks about impinging in OPAR is talking about sense perception, and he distinguishes that from consciousness per se. 

Peikoff distinguishes between awareness and means of awareness in OPAR p. 39. I don't see what this changes, though. Any affectation of the means (sense perception) will also affect the end (consciousness); whether consciousness is immaterial or physical is irrelevant, its content would still be conditioned by the whole impinging business. 

Peikoff's position is that reductionism does not erase the fact of consciousness (Source).

To expand on that quip I wrote about Peikoff, he basically looks at his consciousness and says 'look, I can't choose to not see the color green. My consciousness has identity, therefore reality is primary and consciousness is passive in regard to it! it's only a mirror! Q.E.D.' I chose Schelling's book because he theorizes about a free activity that creates its own passivity, i.e. it unconsciously limits itself. Every part of my summary is relevant to this central thesis. Yes, even the part about art, which is his solution-of-sorts.

4 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Kant's reining in of speculative metaphysics to the point that we cannot know whether God exists or whether the soul is immortal is constraining inappropriate for existence and our minds among it, by the lights of Rand (and me).

Thanks, Stephen. Lots of interesting points.

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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I do appreciate a good book summary. But as you may have guessed, I have different thoughts. I'm glad you brought up dogmatic philosophy as a technical term because that's part of what I mean here. You say at once that you don't care for such academic claptrap as using strict technical terms for things (my words.) You only are interested in philosophy insofar as it contributes lessons to living your life. But also your main thesis is what Objectivists think about Kant. They get him wrong! I wanna fix that!

I'm sorry but I do see a tension between those things. Don't get me wrong, pursue whatever your interested in. I think I get the motivation: suppose two people you're friends with are fighting. If only they realized how much they have in common. You want Randians to like German philosophers because that's what you like.

But if what you're interested in is what we call a reputational rehabilitation of Kant in a very specific philosophical circle, then precisely using specific technical terms (and in ways that appeal into that circle's framework) is going to be a huge part of that. 

20 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Examples of this affinity:

- The status of perceptual form
- The 'subjugation' of nature (production) as central to morality
- Retraining from the initiation of physical force, also central to morality
- Free will as compatible with lawful nature.
- The artwork as a world-in-miniature (not mentioned in my summary), beauty as the pleasure resulting from overcoming tension.

I think this list is great. Any one of them could be its own fullblown topic. But we need references to the text, and explanations of the terms into mutual language, and argument as to how they are similar or different. Do they reach the same conclusions from different premises? If so why? Etc.

Here are some examples of his type of thing being done well. (And some are just blog posts.)

"Rand, Kant, and the Objectivity of Colour" Roderick T. Long

"Rand on Kant: Let’s Use This as a Teaching Moment" Jason Brennan

"Conceptualism in Abelard and Rand" Peter Saint-Andre

"Ayn Rand and Friedrich A. Hayek: A Side-by-Side Comparison" Edward W. Younkins

 

 

 

 

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Kyary, you mentioned among affinity between Kant and Rand, "the 'subjugation' of nature (production) as central to morality." I'd think the word for the relation between Kant and Rand on this would be "dissonance", not a harmony or an affinity. Do you know of some place in which Kant praised human alteration of external nature to serve the interests of humans? Kant salutes F. Bacon famously in his Preface to the second edition of KrV, but that is a salute to experimental methods in physical sciences (of heat and chemistry). It is no notice of Bacon in his saying that was so noticed by Rand and her intellectual kin: "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." I don't recall Kant taking any interest in commanding physical nature by getting better knowledge of it. Indeed, compared to his Enlightenment predecessor Christian Wolff, I have not found Kant concerned with the Enlightenment project of improving the physical lot of humanity. Correct me, if I'm neglecting something in Kant. Wolff, in addition to being a distinguished and influential German Rationalist formalizing the system of Leibniz, tried and succeeded in increasing the yields of grains in agriculture.

As for subjugation of nature and its place in morality, Rand and Kant are opposed. Productivity in the empirical world could not be morally significant for Kant, certainly not be so morally central as in Rand. In Kant's view, reason is given us “as a practical faculty, that is, as one that is to influence the will. . . . This will need not . . . be the sole and complete good, but it must be the highest good and the condition for every other, even of all demands for happiness”  (Groundwork 4:395; similarly, KrV, A841–42 B869–70). Rand did not entirely neglect the making of a good will,* along with other character traits, in production bettering human life. Successful life, with its expression in happiness, is the centerpiece of Rand's morality, not crafting of a good will or (4:393) the making of oneself worthy of happiness in a world in which happiness seldom attains and anyway would be an improper central moral aim.

The subjugation of nature in the moral realm for Kant, as for many others, is subjugation of natural impulses for life and joy. Rand would have a subjugation of irrationality to the purpose of life, including one's life in its interactions with others. For Rand the moral notion of duty—that subjugator is out the window.

In his secular construction of morality, Kant would give to good will the role Luther had given to right faith. Kant wants to keep with individual necessary reward and penalty for individual condition of will, and he thinks he can find this necessary connection right here in the constitution of human will and reason. Beyond the sure sanctions for a good will is the hope of happiness in this life and hereafter.

At Collegium Fredericianum, Kant had excelled in Latin. Among the Latin works he read there was Cicero’s On Duties (De Officiis). Cicero sees virtue in terms of duty. It is no controversy to say, as anyone should, that moral virtue is a performance of or disposition towards what one ought to do. But when a philosopher such as Cicero or Kant undertakes to cast all occasions of doing the morally right thing as performances of duties, he is giving a systematic and controversial slant to the entire moral plane.

Duties are various things owed, usually in various social relationships. In all things, Cicero is on the lookout for bearings on duties. “No part of life, neither public affairs nor private, neither in the forum nor at home, neither when acting on your own nor in dealings with another, can be free from duty. Everything that is honorable in a life depends upon its cultivation, and everything dishonorable upon its neglect” (O 1.4).

Kant’s ethics, like Cicero’s, is an ethics of duty. For Cicero the source of duties is honorableness, which is in contrast to personal advantage. “There are some teachings that undermine all duty by the ends of good and evil things that they propound. The man who defines the highest good in such a way that it has no connection with virtue, measuring it by his own advantages rather than by honorableness, cannot . . . cultivate either friendship or justice or liberality. There can certainly be no brave man who judges that pain is the greatest evil, nor a man of restraint who defines pleasure as the highest good” (O 1.5).

As the source of duties, Kant will replace honorableness with the nature of pure reason and a good will. That replacement understood, the following formula of Cicero will agree with Kant. Ethical systems in which the highest good is personal advantage “say nothing about duty; nor can any advice on duty that is steady, stable, and joined to nature be handed down except by those who believe that what is sought for its own sake is honorableness alone . . .” (O 1.6).

I do not see any affinity between Kant and Rand where there is affinity between Rand and F. Bacon. I do not see any affinity between Kant and Rand where there is affinity between Kant and Cicero. There is no distinctive affinity between Kant and Rand in the realm of morality. Kant's organic structure of reason too, fails to link, unlike Rand's reason, to the situation of reason within human physical life, which is the larger structure and process for the moral value of reason in Rand's morality. 

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4 hours ago, 2046 said:

your main thesis is what Objectivists think about Kant. They get him wrong! I wanna fix that!

No, it's not:

On 10/25/2022 at 11:50 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

The 'main thesis' is that Kantianism and Objectivism share some points of affinity, despite being grounded in quite incompatible premises.

---

4 hours ago, 2046 said:

Do they reach the same conclusions from different premises?

From different premises, that's the whole point.

Despite seemingly deal-breaking differences, both Rand and Kant were adults living in a world where success requires acquring a lot of practical wisdom. Combine that with their ferocious intellects and you're bound to learn a lot of profound lessons from reading both. The injustice done to Kant by O'ist thinkers is also important, but pales in comparision to this.

4 hours ago, 2046 said:

I think this list is great. Any one of them could be its own fullblown topic.

The list is extracted from the OP. The context is there, though anybody who wants more on this can search it up.

4 hours ago, 2046 said:

You want Randians to like German philosophers because that's what you like.

Never said that.

4 hours ago, 2046 said:

we need references to the text, and explanations of the terms into mutual language, and argument as to how they are similar or different.

No, you need that for your specific purposes. Not 'we' - as in, the whole forum. 

The premise you're smuggling in here is that there's one, and only one, proper way to discuss books, such as your

4 hours ago, 2046 said:

examples of his type of thing being done well. (And some are just blog posts.)

and if you don't do it like that, that's not in accord with the Rules of Philosophy, section 73, paragraph 2.

I do whatever I want. The OP is a presentation in a language that (I hope) a five-year old or layman could understand. I'm not doing something as grandiose as defending a thesisdressed in formal wear with PowerPoint presentations behind my back, being very careful about what my distinguished colleagues/blog readers might think about how I phrased paragraph 42.

-----

45 minutes ago, Boydstun said:

Kyary, you mentioned among affinity between Kant and Rand, "the 'subjugation' of nature (production) as central to morality." I'd think the word for the relation between Kant and Rand on this would be "dissonance", not a harmony or an affinity. Do you know of some place in which Kant praised human alteration of external nature to serve the interests of humans? Kant salutes F. Bacon famously in his Preface to the second edition of KrV, but that is a salute to experimental methods in physical sciences (of heat and chemistry).

You're right Stephen, there is dissonance between Kant and Rand regarding this issue. Though this is not also true of Fichte and the early Schelling, who wanted to 'finish' Kant's project. My interest is in exploring affinities between O'ism and Kantianism, including other (major) Kantians.

Fichte also dissolves the duty-pleasure dichotomy:

Quote

Fichte rejects the Kantian position that morality and happiness are ultimately opposed. . . "Only what is good makes us happy. No happiness is possible apart from morality".

(Allen W. Wood: Fichte's Philosophy of Right and Ethics. A copy can be downloaded from here: Stanford)

 

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Kyary, I've an additional piece about Rand and Schelling 1800 here.

I think it most interesting to explore affinities philosophers A and B have that are positions not widely shared by other philosophers. Even then, A and B's reasons can be quite different and interesting. The case I'm still not finished with, but will probably finish in the first half of 2023, is both Dewey and Peikoff holding Kant and subsequent German Idealists as philosophers most to blame for making the culture in which the Nazis ascended to power and carried out their heinous deeds. This is a minority position; even Sidney Hook, who was Dewey's bulldog (and Piekoff's dissertation advisor) disputed Dewey on this idea. Right or wrong in the conclusion, the reasons for it from Dewey and from Peikoff, from Pragmatism and from Objectivism, are different. (I'll also dispose the correctness of the conclusion by the end of this study.)

Always, anyway, precision of representation is everything. If we are too coarse-grained or use A and B's shared words with double meaning not drawn out, we'd not be saying much.

I've noticed that it takes a lot of study and rehearsal of thinkers to be able to state the difference between them off the top of one's head. Most of my non-professional philosophy friends cannot tell me the difference between Kant and Berkeley or between Kant and Descartes off the top of the head. (As I recall, your first language is not English; do you know phrases like "off the top of the head"?) And many Objectivist friends of mine have not read much of the classical philosophers (or Freud, . . .) themselves and know only Rand's or Peikoff's representations and criticisms of them. Those criticisms do not generally get to the really deep differences between Kant and Rand because some of their understanding of Kant goes off the rails and some of the pertinent Kant is never sufficiently grappled with and understood at all. (Do you read Kant, Fichte, and Schelling in German or English?)

I take the remarks of 2046 to heart for my own sort of writing. I listen carefully and at least kick myself when I've decided to sacrifice writing advice I've gotten from my philosophy professors and professional-philosopher friends for some special concern I have for a particular audience. One reason I've always (since I began to write papers in 1984) tried to cite specific places in writings of thinkers when I represent their thought is for me to be able to easily get back to the source of my claim about them when I need to refresh my learning years later. The other reason is to give readers, with a contrary view of a thinker, that cited text for imagining how I might be led to my representation of the thinker and for such a reader, in reply, to analyze the specific text differently or bring in other countervailing text of the thinker being represented.

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2 hours ago, Boydstun said:

do you know phrases like "off the top of the head"?

Of course. It means to lift your hat up :P

I've never written any philosophy papers (nor have I ever felt the temptation), but I do have my own preferences regarding what I read. If possible, I go with a scholar that specializes in that particular thinker. I noticed from my career in classical music that Jack-of-all-trades musicians are very limited in their grasp of the genres they play compared to musicians that immerse every ounce of their energy into a single musical period (even a single composer). In philosophy as well, this sort of immersion often leads to unearthing many flaws of past scholarship. 

I don't think it's a good idea to read the originals until one has first read the work of somebody who dedicates the bulk of his career to that thinker. That scholar usually does the heavy-work when it comes to pointing out very subtle differences between seemingly identical statements made by other thinkers of that tradition. Most importantly, there are often differences between the early and later versions of a philosophical system. Many times, the author of that system never points that out, creating the misconception that it's still the same Coca-Cola.

I don't doubt 2046's advice is in good spirit. I've gone through my share of academic pains. Although I always stress, to myself, the importance of keeping context in any discussion, online or in person. 

2 hours ago, Boydstun said:

The case I'm still not finished with, but will probably finish in the first half of 2023, is both Dewey and Peikoff holding Kant and subsequent German Idealists as philosophers most to blame for making the culture in which the Nazis ascended to power and carried out their heinous deeds.

Yes, a prime example of blowing out the consequences of an idea out of proportion. I highly recommend the paper on Fichte I linked in my previous post. No other Kantian has as many (strong and loose) affinities with Rand.

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1 hour ago, Boydstun said:

Most of my non-professional philosophy friends cannot tell me the difference between Kant and Berkeley or between Kant and Descartes off the top of the head. (As I recall, your first language is not English; do you know phrases like "off the top of the head"?) And many Objectivist friends of mine have not read much of the classical philosophers (or Freud, . . .) themselves and know only Rand's or Peikoff's representations and criticisms of them.

Most objectivists are like most amateur philosophy hobbyists in general: they're roleplayers.

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3 hours ago, 2046 said:

Most objectivists are like most amateur philosophy hobbyists in general: they're roleplayers.

That's a funny thing to say, considering that O'ists don't care much for philosophy, if at all. Which is ironic, considering that Objectivism is a philosophy.

I've seen people on this forum complain about discussing 'esoteric' metaphysics stuff when people could be discussing what's realy important, which is the current political events. Bringing up things like emergence, mathematics or idealism is simply way outside the scope of why many O'ists adopted O'ism in the first place: to ground a political stance in a rational foundation, and/or to hold a rational alternative to the mainstream 'cults'. It serves as a clear-cut and complete-ish worldview, while simultaneously minimizing the need to window-shop for other philosophies.

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Kyary, my impression is that there are some who classify themselves as Objectivists who complain that the only practical merit of the philosophy is politics (and although none of Rand's fictional protagonists spend their lives in political advocacy, and those Objectivists do), complain that we are all not up for joining them in their political advocacy and their mental preoccupation with politics. There has to be a bottom ten percent of the class. They are wrong in thinking the only or most valuable practical use of the philosophy is political activism and political reform. The most important is its effect on one's own life and mind. Blaming the present social derangements for one not venturing into new education and better employment or for not venturing to have children is feeble excuse-making for not reaching for greater and better making of one's own life or it is cover-up of one's authentic interests and mental capture having nothing to do with real possibility of and desperate need for affecting the course of politics and world affairs.

I was a political activist for the first fifteen years after college. In those days, that did not mean electronic communications, but writing surface-mail letters to the editor and to one's Senators and Representative. It meant talking to members of the general public in person, and it meant marching in demonstrations for which you had made your own picket sign. And it meant some study of what you were pushing. "I'll know my song well before I start singing." –Dylan. But when I talked to my fellow-activists in those days while we were stuffing envelopes, it was pretty stunning how easy it was to get our conversation to swerve into discussion of additional, non-political areas of philosophy, especially Rand's philosophy. I concluded that most of those activists were additionally interested in philosophy and read some in philosophy beyond political philosophy.

I think it is sad that so many Objectivist-types spout public assessments of philosophers not Rand (or her crew of intellectual descendants become professional philosophers)  without themselves making independent serious study of those philosophers or trajectories of thought in the history of philosophy. I do not say things like "Atlas Shrugged is the greatest novel ever written" because the number of novels I've read is only a smidgen of the great literature out there. Yet you see all over Facebook, by unlearned Objectivists, that "Ayn Rand is the greatest philosopher ever" or that she is revolutionary so far that (conveniently) there is no need to read any other philosophy. And, of course, being that ignorant, they do not get to see as such what is truly original, true, and important about Ayn Rand in the history of philosophy, and they end up spouting stupid pat assessments that for every particular social problem there is, it has a philosophic source, namely, Immanuel Kant and/or Postmodernism.

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On 10/24/2022 at 7:53 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking.

Is the "experience", an experience of the "self" being a "spatio-temporal being", or is this to imply that everything is a thought?

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:
On 10/25/2022 at 5:53 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

2. The experience of being a spatio-temporal being is a thought, produced by the act of thinking.

Is the "experience", an experience of the "self" being a "spatio-temporal being", or is this to imply that everything is a thought?

In a nutshell, If I think about Selena Gomez, then I'm responsible for having Selena present in my head.

If I see a car on the street, then that sight was not my own doing. Some external objects made contact with my eyeballs, thus I saw a car. Can't do much about that.

The premise of Schelling's system is that your own thinking is not a primary. There's another thinking activity, separate from yours, somewhere in the back, that produces:
- The cars that you see on the street
- The you, a human person of a particular gender, age and height, who sees cars and can also freely think about Selena

The reason you're unconscious of that force in the back is because thinking-as-such cannot come into conscious awareness. Try it: think about mangoes and then catch yourself in the act.

1. Mangoes
2. I'm thinking about mangoes
3. I'm thinking about thinking about mangoes
4. (Goes on forever)

Hence, for Fichte and the early Schelling, there's only two (indirect) ways for humans to discover that hidden, unconscious force:

- Transcendental deduction, see the OP for what that is
- Art, in which case it appears in the form of certain unplanned things bleeding into the artwork. 

-----

A third possibility which they don't explore (due to not knowing much about it), is the one proposed by certain schools of Eastern philosophy. If you represent that unconscious side with '0' and the conscious side of being a human person reading this post with '1', like this:

0-|-|-|-|-|-|-1

Then there are certain meditative practices that allow the conscious side to go from this:

0-|-|-|-|-|-|-1

...to this

0-|-|-|-|-1-|-|

...to this

0-|-1-|-|-|-|-|

....all the way up to this

0-1-|-|-|-|-|-|

In other words, you can at least become conscious of the intermediary steps between the unconscious impulse and the full fledged reality you experience right now.

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1 hour ago, KyaryPamyu said:

The premise of Schelling's system is that your own thinking is not a primary. There's another thinking activity, separate from yours

I'm tying to understand "it is not primary" and the best I can do is:  "you don't know" unless "you know that you know".
So the ability to know that you know, indicates that you know (or is primary). In some ways invalidating the act of perception.

Other than that, if you see a two dimensional picture of Selena, you don't know about the depth, so you never experienced it fully. But you know that it is Selena. Does that count as knowing?

Isn't the existence of conceptual ability the negation of all this, meaning that that fact you abstracted, you know.
Even though you didn't experience every angle, every nuance, everything about the entity.

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37 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I'm tying to understand "it is not primary"

Try this: imagine yourself laying on your back, in a hammock on a Hawaiian beach. Now imagine that as you lie in that very comfy hammock, you start to think about which movie you're going to watch after you return to the hotel.

Get it? The thinking you did while chilling on the hammock is itself grounded in the earlier act of thinking of yourself as being in Hawaii.

Transcendental philosophy solely describes facts like these. It doesn't make claims about metaphysics.

The absolutely first act cannot enter consciousness - its through it that the experience of being here reading this post, imagining yourself being in Hawaii and analysing what you did, happens at all.

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6 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

That's a funny thing to say, considering that O'ists don't care much for philosophy, if at all. Which is ironic, considering that Objectivism is a philosophy.

I've seen people on this forum complain about discussing 'esoteric' metaphysics stuff when people could be discussing what's realy important, which is the current political events. Bringing up things like emergence, mathematics or idealism is simply way outside the scope of why many O'ists adopted O'ism in the first place: to ground a political stance in a rational foundation, and/or to hold a rational alternative to the mainstream 'cults'. It serves as a clear-cut and complete-ish worldview, while simultaneously minimizing the need to window-shop for other philosophies.

Objectivism is rooted in practicality; that's why Objectivists have little to say about things like idealism.

Philosophy, according to Objectivism, is supposed to be a tool that you can use to understand the world and live in it.

Politics as a branch of philosophy is practical to the extent that it deals with creating and maintaining a civilization fit to live in, but there are plenty of other practical concerns that Objectivism helps with that have nothing to do with politics.

This is why, as far as I remember, the heroes and heroines in Rand's fiction (such as John Galt, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Howard Roark, etc.) were always concerned with doing real physical things instead of just sitting around contemplating ideas.

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17 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

The absolutely first act cannot enter consciousness - its through it that the experience of being here reading this post, imagining yourself being in Hawaii and analysing what you did, happens at all.

Okay, where there is nothing to perceive, perception does not happen.

Inside a container that was not filled up, it's empty (by definition).

As long as we differentiate between thinking vs. the capability to think.

We are capable of perceiving and thinking even without content.

Otherwise when the content is present, we would not perceive it. Perception would be meaningless.

Which seems to be an affirmation of the primacy of existence over consciousness.

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32 minutes ago, necrovore said:

Objectivism is rooted in practicality; that's why Objectivists have little to say about things like idealism.

Philosophy, according to Objectivism, is supposed to be a tool that you can use to understand the world and live in it.

Politics as a branch of philosophy is practical to the extent that it deals with creating and maintaining a civilization fit to live in, but there are plenty of other practical concerns that Objectivism helps with that have nothing to do with politics.

This is why, as far as I remember, the heroes and heroines in Rand's fiction (such as John Galt, Hank Rearden, Dagny Taggart, Howard Roark, etc.) were always concerned with doing real physical things instead of just sitting around contemplating ideas.

So, in brief, O'ists don't care about idealism, because O'ism is all about practicality and idealism is impractical (or, at best, sitting around contemplating ideas).

And you've learned this from... where? Idealist philosophy itself? Some claim made by an O'ist?

A study of Fichte's philosophy will make it clear that no one, not even Rand herself, was so maniacal about practicality as Fichte. So maniacal, in fact, that he believed the universe itself exists solely as an enabler of human morality. Don't even consider mentioning ecology or animal rights to this guy.

On 10/27/2022 at 12:58 AM, KyaryPamyu said:

(Allen W. Wood: Fichte's Philosophy of Right and Ethics. A copy can be downloaded from here: Stanford)

 

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23 minutes ago, KyaryPamyu said:

And you've learned this from... where? Idealist philosophy itself? Some claim made by an O'ist?

Chapter 1 of OPAR has a whole section called "Idealism and Materialism as the Rejection of Basic Axioms"...

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1 hour ago, KyaryPamyu said:

Unfortunately, that chapter is not an accurate resource. I myself used to trust it before I looked it up.

I freely admit that I haven't read a lot of other philosophy. I don't think it's necessarily a waste of time in general; studying philosophy is basically studying the history of thought. There's nothing wrong with that.

I have seen a lot of writings by people who say that Rand or Peikoff didn't really understand Kant, and yet when I look for myself at what they are quoting I find that Rand and Peikoff got it right. Rand and Peikoff both judge by essentials, and the essential characteristic of a philosophy is the most deeply-rooted (or most abstract) difference it has from its predecessors.

Many philosophers contradict themselves, often because they don't know the full implications of their own new ideas, and sometimes because they carry on the ideas of their predecessors without realizing the contradiction. Aristotle is known to have written some things which are non-essential to Aristotelianism, and Kant almost certainly wrote some things which are non-essential to Kantianism (which Peikoff refers to as "occasional fig leaves"). Kant, for example, valued logic and freedom -- while undermining their actual roots.

What I'm describing is a specific way of reading Kant and other philosophers, and it is itself a product of the Objectivist epistemology. That's one reason why students of other philosophies might find it surprising; they might not be thinking in that way (in terms of essentials, or "essentials as defined by Objectivism" as they might put it). The reason Objectivists are wont to discard Kant's lavish praise of freedom and so forth is precisely that such praise is undermined and contradicted by Kant's own revolutionary approach to reason and reality, even if this contradiction was not explored by Kant himself. But others might not see the contradiction, or might not care about it.

Because philosophies have inconsistencies, philosophers invent new philosophies, to "fix" what they see as flaws in the previous philosophies. Rand saw herself as "perfecting" work started by Aristotle. Kant has also been "purified" by some of his successors -- but the original revolutionary idea that was being purified was his.

Sometimes, too, philosophers can go into great and intricate detail about finer points of consciousness or ideas or what-not, but if the basic premise is wrong then it becomes an "error pyramid," the way Ptolemy's epicycles were made to describe planetary motion. This is one reason why Objectivism discards the whole philosophical subject of ontology, among other things.

(Again, though, studying ontology is not necessarily a waste of time. It's part of the history of thought...)

Also, it's certainly valid to consider consciousness and memory and the senses and how they interact with each other. That begins to get into subjects such as neurology, though, so Objectivism probably wouldn't consider it part of philosophy per se.

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