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KyaryPamyu

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Schopenhauer was a big influence on Nietzsche, and Rand liked Nietzsche more than just a little. "His 'Thus Spake Zarathustra' is my Bible.  I can never commit suicide while I have it.", wrote Rand, answering a questionnaire, circa 1935[1]. By way of spiritual lineage, could it be that some of Schopenhauer's ethos inadvertently found its way into Objectivism? Well, probably not, but I'm getting paranoid! It's time for a trip down philosophical hall of fame.

Like many philosophers of his era, Schopenhauer believed that jumping straight into philosophizing about this and that is irresponsible. If we're going to use philosophy to gain insights, we ought to take a look at philosophy first:

Philosophy is concerned with explaining things, so explainability is assumed from the get go. Furthermore, if something requires an explanation, it means that it doesn't explain itself - some other thing does. In short, we assume the motion from an explanatory cause to that which it explains, from one state of matter to another.[2]

As the above analysis indicates, things like matter, motion, cause and effect, object-for-a-subject are already built into metaphysical inquiry, like your lungs are built into your body. As for logical, mathematical or moral investigations, they each come with their own inbuilt structure as well, according to Schopenhauer.

Interestingly, as Kant observed, those structures can mess up metaphysics big time. For instance, consider the claim that the world is One interconnected whole:

From one angle, 'Mankind', 'The State' etc. are mere abstractions, because only real individuals exist, like Sally, John, and Suzy. From another angle, everything is just a word or name for something else: 'pillow' is a name for feathers and cotton, 'feather' is a name for alpha-keratin and beta-keratin, ad infinitum. Individuals are illusory, the Whole alone is real.

This dilemma is rooted in the nature of the concepts themselves. Parts and wholes are two poles of a perspectival relation, similar to 'left and right', or 'here and there'. They are not something concrete like beef and candy, but ways of relating beef and candy, and all other empirical content.

In Book II of The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer proposes an alternative: instead of describing what the world is like, we might simply describe what it's like to be it. And what looks from the outside like a hand being raised, from the inside looks like raising a hand. Those are two ways of looking at the exact same thing, i.e. the angle of perception, plus the angle of a drive-for-activity.

Quoting Robert Wicks, "as one is a part of the universe as is everything else, the basic energies of the universe flow through oneself as they flow through everything else."[3] Schopenhauer calls this second aspect simply Will.

Will is harmless - unless, of course, Will is perceived through human cognitive structures like part-whole relationships, each part requiring others for its being, a veritable fight for existence. And, as Rand observed, the alternative between life and death grounds all values, and therefore all joys and woes as well.

Schopenhauer's Guide to Happiness

Suppose you're given a choice between two computer operating systems. They are identical in every respect, save for a key difference: one is aesthetically pleasing, the other is a crime against visual design. Which one would you pick? Most people would probably pick the pretty one.

Sure, being biased toward beauty makes sense in a sexual context, but come on - we're talking about pixels smeared on a screen! But Schopenhauer would have explained that the value of graphic design lies precisely in its uselessness for things like booting speed, security, software selection and the rest.

Beauty is a normative ideal for what something ought to look like. It's not an individual, it's a unified standard that individuals can succeed or fail at embodying. Thus, archetypes are not specifically concerned with you, or your friends, or what has been or will be; they make you think in Absolute terms rather than relative ones. In other words, during aesthetic contemplation, you lacking something doesn't even cognitively register.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that at the core, we are neither fragments nor wholes, but simply Reality proper. Remembering this can lead us to a more laid-back and friendly attitude to the world. In effect, we see ourselves in others. Universal empathy is, thus, another mark of happy individuals, according to Schopenhauer. And it's just as rare as artistic genius.

But those are temporary. If we're honest, the only way to not be disturbed by anything ever is to not care about anything to begin with. Sometimes this attitude comes naturally to individuals who are genuinely fed up with the cycle of distress. They will gladly ignore their leftover habitual clinging - a "dark night of the soul" - for the prize of tranquility. Asceticism, then, is the aesthetic or ethical consciousness made permanent.

However, poetic genius, empathy or ascetic inclination are reserved for extraordinary people, and those are one in a million. Everyone else must study the science of happiness, which Schopenhauer calls eudaemonology (Greek εὐδαίμων [happy] + λόγος [treatise]). However, just in case we forget that the world is not a problem-free place, Schopenhauer elaborates that the 'happy' part is an euphemism for "living tolerably."[4]

So, what should we do to become cheerful, according to eudaemonology? Well, that's a trick question. We don't do things to become cheerful; we do things because we're cheerful. The "genial flow of good spirits" is like the zoomies your cat or dog has, an energy that flows naturally from your constitution. Once possessed by it, you blow off steam by engaging in activity. "To secure and promote this feeling of cheerfulness should be the supreme aim of all our endeavors after happiness", says Schopenhauer in The Wisdom of Life.

He adds that nothing opens the gate to cheerfulness more than your physical condition, since the state of your body is also the state of your mind. However, "a man may be perfectly sound in his physique and still possess a melancholy temperament and be generally given up to sad thoughts. The ultimate cause of this is undoubtedly to be found in innate, and therefore unalterable, physical constitution."

Schopenhauer presents us with an indirect route to a bearable (and if fate allows, enjoyable) life. "The first and foremost rule for the wise conduct of life seems to me to be contained in a view to which Aristotle parenthetically refers in the Nichomachean Ethics: [Greek: o phronimoz to alupon dioke e ou to aedu] or, as it may be rendered, not pleasure, but freedom from pain, is what the wise man will aim at."[5] In other words, it's impossible to enjoy ourselves when we are in pain, so we ought to always set the stage for happiness by keeping preventable woes at bay.

(What about un-preventable problems, though? They are not the Boogeymen you think they are, according to Schopenhauer. His analysis of that is well worth a read.)

Rand and Schopenhauer

I did not feel discouragement very often, and when I did, it did not last longer than overnight. But there was one evening, during the writing of The Fountainhead, when I felt so profound an indignation at the state of "things as they are" that it seemed as if I would never regain the energy to move one step farther toward "things as they ought to be." Frank talked to me for hours, that night. He convinced me of why one cannot give up the world to those one despises. By the time he finished, my discouragement was gone; it never came back in so intense a form.[6]

It did come back though, even in that less intense a form. Rand was not exactly shy about making it known that the world isn't as it could be and ought to be. But Rand is Rand. It seems to me that Rand treats life the same way she treats a lover. When you love someone, even their flaws become glamorized to some extent. It's as if saying "although I don't necessarily approve of this flaw, even it is marked with my lover's scent." (Other people's flaws can go to hell.)

You know that a novel is a drama before you place your order on Amazon. That's what novels are, and novels are what you're into. So with life. I think Nietzsche had this element as well, of romanticizing life itself. And let me tell you: this is not for everyone. If you're not that kind of person, philosophy won't turn you into one. This romantic spirit might be like musical inclination, or introversion, or (as Schopenhauer says) physically-induced melancholy.

Corollary: to fully grasp all the nooks and crannies of Objectivism, or Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, your spirit must already be a little bit like theirs.

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FOOTNOTES
[1] See the first footnote of Lester Hunt's essay, Ayn Rand’s Evolving View of Friedrich Nietzsche.
[2] For Schopenhauer, human cognition is built around the principle of sufficient reason, to which he dedicates his PhD thesis, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason (1813).
[3] Wicks, Robert, Arthur Schopenhauer, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2021 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
[4] Schopenhauer, Arthur, Introduction to Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life.
[5] ———. Counsels and Maxims, §1.
[6] Rand, Ayn, Introduction to The Fountainhead.

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KP— Rand was continually and deeply at odds with Nietzsche, as shown in my Nietzsche v. Rand series. And surely any kinship in feeling she had with his outlooks went flat as she developed her philosophy. I have a favorite passage in Z, Before Sunrise, though only when I've stricken or bent some of that text. I read Nietzsche though I don't have any kinship to his spirit. Once I had studied him far enough, my overall feeling toward him was revulsion. In that I've some likeness with Rand's spirit. Indeed, I've much affection for her spirit.

My feeling towards the spirit of Schopenhauer is some warmth. I see now that "Counsels and Maxims" is contained within my copy of volume II of his Parega and Paralipomena, which I've yet to study. What I've studied of him pretty well thus far are The Four-Fold Root of Sufficient Reason, On the Basis of Morality, and The World as Will and Presentation. I thought that he agreed with Kant in thinking that happiness and morality are regularly at odds, though he disagreed with Kant on what was the basis and content of right morality. I thought Nietzsche came to be at odds with Schopenhaur concerning the nature of the will and evaluation of the will. Certainly Nietzsche came to sharp disagreement with Schopenhauer on the rightness of indulging in empathy, compassion, and pity (starting at least by the time of Daybreak 133). He put Schopenhauer among those secularists still clinging to Christian virtues, which should be discarded, at least the ones distinctive of that religion. It's hard to think of Nietzsche thinking highly of happiness, his sights of blessedness being conflict and beings higher than we humans from which they, the higher, might emerge.

Rand made enjoyment of life the purpose of morality (for genius and common person alike), unlike Schopenhauer or Nietzsche, it seems. Where Schopenhauer has the sensible goal for humans to be painlessness and not pleasure, Rand would spit, I'd think. And communion with Idea, Schopenhauer's redemption from life in art, is opposite the metaphysical import Rand sees in art. In quick sum, so far, I'm thinking you've got too much commonality among these three philosophers, at least in their mature views.

Delicious topic. Stimulating. Thanks for sharing this. 

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Schopenhauer's contribution to eudemonology is the essay called Aphorisms on the Wisdom of Life. I liked the second part (Counsels and Maxims) so much that I wrote a summary of the 53 pieces of advice, phrasing things in ways that aid my comprehension, and sometimes adding examples that are evocative for me. The audiobook version, narrated by the legendary David Rintoul, is a favorite listen of mine.
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Counsels and Maxims
I. General Rules
  • 1. There is a sneaky trap built into the pursuit of pleasure: we enjoy things only in those moments when our lives are problem-free. For instance, imagine going to an art gallery with a stomach acheyour entire attention will be concentrated on getting relief from pain, and the paintings won't matter to you. However, people are naive: they're taught that it's worth incurring stomach aches (i.e. problems and complications) for the price of visits to the gallery (i.e. pleasure and joy). Those who see through the illusion will focus on escaping life unscathed, rather than on dazzling themselves.
  • 2. When life is free of problems, our mind compensates by turning trifles into big issues. If you are annoyed by trifles, then consider yourself well off (as far as happiness goes).
  • 3. It's a common occurrence to completely lose interest in a goal after you've already put a lot of effort into it. This is because humans are ignorant about what the future actually holds, and they assume that what they want right now is also what they'll want in the future. Therefore, instead of assuming too much, limit your plans to the not-so-distant future.
II. Our Relation to Ourselves
  • 4. In spite of the previous advice, you should have a rough plan for your life (youth, adulthood, old age).
  • 5. Although it's wise to tend to your worries about the future, you must discipline yourself to have fun today. The present is all there is, every day is like a whole lifetime.
  • 6. Avoid adding politics, the fate of humanity etc. into your list of preoccupations. Think about your own life instead.
  • 7. If possible, pick intellectual hobbies, because with them, a lot less can go wrong. A side-advice: temporarily halt intellectual stuff if you're busy with practical matters.
  • 8. Help your brain spot patterns in the chaos of life: review how your day went, every night before going to sleep.
  • 9. Learn to be satisfied with your own company, if only to avoid the dangers associated with over-socialization.
  • 10. Envy accomplishes absolutely nothing. Also, avoid envious people.
  • 11. Before you set out to do something, plan well, and make preparations for unfairness and bad luck. But once you start doing, don't stop until you finish. You can't ask more than that of yourself, since you can't know in advance every possible contingency.
  • 12. Awaken to the truth of determinism: none of your misfortunes could have been otherwise, given the knowledge and conditions you had back then. However, you should conscientiously identify your missteps and learn from them.
  • 13. When you're stressed or tired, your brain will scare you with bogus fears. Leave plans for when you feel better.
  • 14. Think about what it would be like to not have what you have. It's all a matter of perspective anyway. (And that's way better than fantasizing about what you don't have.)
  • 15. Compartmentalize: do not think about things outside of the specific time you've allocated to them.
  • 16. Tame your appetites. Don't multiply desires, decrease them. The world offers very little for people with insatiable gullets.
  • 17. Take advantage of boredom: build something useful.
  • 18. Your dreams of future fame and wealth are not real, they're delusions of the brain. The only thing that's real is knowledge and concrete plans.
  • 19. The previous advice is a special case of this general principle: what is immediately present to us (a fantasy, a real-life event) tends to cloud our reason, to hide the forest and make us see only the trees.
  • 20. Take care of your health. And don't over-strain your brain.
III. Our Relation to Others
  • 21. Character is innate and unalterable, so learn the art of putting up with people.
  • 22. Men are united by common interests, and that's only natural.
  • 23. Do not deal with fools and blockheads, period. It's not a growth-inducing experience.
  • 24. People that spend their idle time thinking (instead of making noises to entertain themselves) are golden.
  • 25. Admiration is connected with real world value, while love is often connected to bulls*it.
  • 26. Avoid subtleties when you're around people that connect absolutely everything to themselves in some way or another, i.e. the easily offended ones.
  • 27. If some false theory becomes mainstream, be patientpeople will be forced to get it right at some point or another.
  • 28. Do not be indulgent and charitable beyond the natural, reasonable range. People will take you for a fool.
  • 29. Beware: people that value fairness naturally believe that others value it as well. Thus, they are highly prone to be deceived by others. And no, an outward appearance of fairness or a positive track record does not necessarily indicate that you can expect fairness.
  • 30. Do not try to be someone you're not. Nature can't be forced.
  • 31. If you see something contemptible in others, you have learned about something to fix in yourself.
  • 32. People value your titles or office, not what's in your head.
  • 33. Friendship is not what you've been taught in fairy tales. Also, appreciate the honesty of your enemies.
  • 34. People feel threatened when they're around people they evaluate as being superior to them, so they will sometimes instinctively look for the company of people they deem to be below them.
  • 35. Trust is hard, so don't expect it cheaply. As for you, don't give it foolishly either.
  • 36. Politeness is the reason social harmony and order exists.
  • 37. Do not try to perfectly replicate successful people's steps. Their circumstances (character, time, place etc.) were different from yours.
  • 38. Getting corrected in public is a potential source of embarrassment for people. Show social intelligence by refraining from casually schooling people.
  • 39. Speaking from facts gets you further than speaking from enthusiastic feelings.
  • 40. Anything beyond modest self-praise can create suspicion.
  • 41. To uncover a lie, play along with it until something incriminating comes up. In the same way, if you suspect that a certain matter is being hidden from you, pretend to have doubts about that matterit might lead the other person to openly defend (and therefore, expose) it.
  • 42. Information can be an unexpected, unsuspected weapon. Therefore, hide your personal affairs; show intelligence by shutting up.
  • 43. Be glad for swindled money, for it has thought you something.
  • 44. Learn what to expect from people by analyzing their characters.
  • 45. There's a time and place to express your anger, and "in the midst of other people" is not it.
  • 46. When you speak, putting emphasis on certain words can make people suspect that you're implying something about them.
IV. Worldly Fortune
  • 47. In spite of appearances, you can expect every life to be plagued by the same perennial problems, regardless of wealth and social position.
  • 48. Adapt. Life is like chess: the way your rival plays will require you to make changes to your original plan until nothing of it remains. Also: Nature might endow you with a natural intuition for something, in contrast to the mechanical manner in which we sometimes approach tasks.
  • 49. In moments of desperation, hold your horses. It's hard, but don't make rash decisions that you'll regret when the dust settles.
  • 50. Don't expect anything to be obvious. If possible misfortunes were self-evident, we'd be taking prevention measures right now.
  • 51. Misery is not a miracle, it's the norm. So, stop being surprised about it.
  • 52. Do not confuse fate with being in a hurry and irresolute.
  • 53. We need courage to slay life's dragons. But courage is an innate trait you might inherit or not. If you have it, use it.
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Posted (edited)
On 11/28/2023 at 3:41 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

Quoting Robert Wicks, "as one is a part of the universe as is everything else, the basic energies of the universe flow through oneself as they flow through everything else."[3] Schopenhauer calls this second aspect simply Will.

A bit more context on the Will, from Frederick Beiser's Weltschmerz (2016).

"When Schopenhauer wrote Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung in the early 1800, Naturphilosophie was in its heyday. Although Schopenhauer was critical of its wild and poetical speculations, he still makes clear in §27 of book II that he endorses some of its fundamental principles; he then proceeds to outline a conception of nature in accord with them. In the early 1800s, it was clear for Schopenhauer, and indeed most of his generation, that the mechanical view of the world had broken down entirely, and that it was no longer possible to explain matter as inert extension. The old Cartesian physics had shown itself to be utterly incapable of explaining the most basic phenomena, viz., magnetism, electricity and action at a distance. To overcome these shortcomings, it was necessary to adopt a dynamic conception of matter, according to which matter consists not in dead extension but in the interrelations of attractive and dynamic force. Even the occupation of space, which seemed primitive to the Cartesians, had to be explained in dynamic terms as the power to resist any body that would occupy the same place. Such was Kant’s argument in his Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaften, which was crucial for the development of romantic Naturphilosophie. However, the romantics (viz., Schelling, Baader, Oken, Eschenmeyer), went one significant step beyond Kant. They maintained that matter should be understood not only dynamically but also organically. A dynamic conception understands matter in terms of the interrelations of its forces; an organic conception conceives it in terms of an internal nisus, a spontaneous striving to realize an inner force. Only this organic concept of matter would explain—so it was argued—phenomena like electricity and magnetism, and only it could underpin the continuum of nature ruptured by Cartesian dualism.

If we place Schopenhauer’s metaphysics in this context, then it ceases to appear like wild speculation. On the contrary, it was based on scientific orthodoxy, the best normal science of its day. Since it was founded on the latest thinking in the natural sciences, Schopenhauer could claim that his metaphysics is based upon the facts of experience after all. There is indeed nothing extravagant in calling the inner nature of inorganic things the will if we use the term in the broad sense that Schopenhauer recommends. The nisus was not simply energy or power, but also a striving, a spontaneous urging and impulse, just as Schopenhauer described it. Schopenhauer’s claim that self-consciousness of my willing is consciousness of the thing-in-itself then amounts to the thesis that the awareness I have of my willing is of the same striving, urging and impulse that is found throughout all of nature. The microcosm inside myself reflects the macrocosm outside myself (I. 238; P 162). This is hardly extravagant at all; it is at least a plausible hypothesis."

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". . .In his Über den Willen in der Natur, which first appeared in 1836, he provided all kinds of evidence from every field of natural science—physiology, anatomy, botany, astronomy—to show that the will is the ultimate cause of organic and inorganic phenomena. If this were indeed the case, then Schopenhauer could claim that his metaphysics was keeping within his empirical guidelines, and that he was doing nothing more than interpreting and explaining appearances."

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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Nietzsche's dictum, "God is dead", was likely inspired by Philipp Mainländer's philosophical tour-de-force, The Philosophy of Redemption (albeit, Mainländer's meaning was much more metaphysical). I'm delighted that Mainländer's magnum opus has finally been translated into English, even if the extremely valuable appendix was left out. The chapter on aesthetics is one of the best I've read.

The main thesis of the present thread can be summarized as follows: Rand, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer lived on the same planet. They all saw that life is full of suffering, and also full of pleasure. Now, I'd like to believe that, on the basis of cool and calm reasoning alone, Rand settled on a “Benevolent Universe Premise”, Schopenhauer preached pessimism, and Nietzsche saw misery as a seed for greatness. But I kind of doubt this. I think that in an Objectivist society, there would be many grinches, many soldiers of positivity, and innumerable gradations in between.

Now, here is something I’d like to figure out about human happiness. From one corner of the vast Universe to the other, Entropy is king. And yet, when disorder kicks in and I cut my finger, my body actively fights this disorder through the healing process. What to make of this? What's the point of this counter-entropic tendency? I can think of no question more relevant for the pursuit of happiness. The answer to it would, among other things, elucidate why life exists, not just how it emerges.

Philipp Mainländer, a brilliant mind of the Schopenhauer school, gave a fascinating answer to exactly this kind of question. While reading the following overview of his system, remember John Galt's claim: "your work is the process of achieving your values, and to lose your ambition for values is to lose your ambition to live."

___

Central thesis: all things are moving toward absolute nothingness!

Philipp Mainländer’s ambition was to create the first truly immanent philosophical system. By this, he meant that all mysteries will be explained by means of actually experienced phenomena, and not through postulating invisible gods, Platonic ideas or Newtonian forces.

There are two pillars on which an immanent system is built: a) sense perception, and b) introspection. The latter is very important. For example, when we say that our soul is in motion, we aren’t using an external fact (e.g. a spinning disk) as a metaphor for an inner fact (the motion of desiring, longing etc). No, we are really, genuinely moving, even if we don’t experience this movement spatially, as we typically do.

Perhaps in the future, we’ll be able to spot with absolute precision which movements in the brain correspond to thinking about Cheetos, but, it must be remembered: one type of perception (of the external world) should not be causally connected to yet another type of perception (of our inner soul). Both types of perception should be seen as comprising a single unit; neither one of them is interchangeable with mind-independent reality, because there is no blueness, sweetness, noisiness, loving, fearing and longing in the mind-independent world.

Nevertheless, Mainländer thinks that our brain’s “vocabulary” of perceptual forms does a good and faithful job at representing external forces, by which he means: a force exerted on someone's sense-organs. ‘Force’ and ‘mind-independent actant’ are interchangeable terms in his system.

Onto the next point. Suppose I said that there’s only one, solitary force in the whole world, and all individual forces are modifications or “states” of it. What grounds would I have for this assertion? Absolutely none. True, all blueness and sweetness and noisiness can be said to have a common origin in my mind, but that’s a truism, since I only perceive with a single mind, not with two or three separate minds.

In other words, the category of “substance” is a conjunction based on the common origin of perceptual forms in a single place (mind). That kind of unity does not exist in the real world. You can’t start with what is directly perceivable (chemicals, people, stars), then reduce them to an unobservable (thus unprovable) single substance, such as Matter, or Spinoza’s God, or the Brahman of the Vedantins. At least, not in an immanent philosophical system.

Another example to drive the point home: the brain must tell us precisely where a force’s sphere of efficacy (on sense-organs) ends, and where another force’s efficacy begins. In our minds, this appears as boundaries between objects. But again, mind-independent boundaries are not how they look and feel like in our heads. A distinction between real boundaries and perceptual boundaries must always be maintained.

Enough about the mind. Let’s tackle the world. I notice that all of the objects on my table would, if I pushed them toward the edge, fall onto the ground. How would an immanent philosophy explain this? Within the bounds of experience. Since we only ever know objects and their inner and outer actions, we have no reason to postulate an invisible principle binding things together. Objects are not pulled toward they earth; they push themselves into the Earth, as if trying to get to its center. All actions are to be placed inside of objects, not outside of them. It's a thing-only ontology. But if things move of their own power, then where exactly are they headed, and why?

For Mainländer, the answer is simple: all objects have a single obsession: to exert effort in order to reach a point where they become nothing. Since “nothing” cannot be perceived by any mind, our brains represent this ‘destination’ as the absolute narrowest point on our planet, a (necessarily) imaginary point because it lacks all length, height or width, i.e. is nothing. As for the mind-independent "solids", the striving movement is still there but it's distinct from how our brain represents it. As you will see, everything in the world is directly or indirectly working towards spending itself out.

Mainländer’s delightfully wacky and immanent system completely re-imagines phenomena such as heat, electricity or condensation. For him, the beginning of the Universe looks something like this. We start with gasses. A gas wants to disperse in all directions, to become weaker and weaker. If it could exercise this striving unhindered, it would come closer and closer to destruction, but would never reach it. In its striving, it gets worn-out, its temperature drops and from our perspective, it becomes a liquid: less agile, more dense and dull. We continue: liquids, if left to their own devices, would flow horizontally in all directions, hurrying toward the imaginary point of nought in the center of the gas sphere. We now have a terrible fight, because the gasses seek their doom by expanding outward, while liquids try to go inward toward the very same goal. As liquids get weaker and weaker, a solid crust forms, or: from our brain's perspective, it becomes inert, dull and lethargic. Of course, solids also want to move toward a point of nothingness. On our planet that point is the absolute center of the earth, but in the beginning of the world, the (probably less dense) solids detached and circled around the central body, forming planets. If the Universe succeeded in totally wearing out all gasses, the liquids would have a free flow toward their desired destination.

(Note the idiosyncratic view of gravity: under this model, the weight of liquids and solids is traced to their incessant pushing toward the center of the Earth. The weight of the gasses, however, is traced to their striving to push in all directions into everything and anything. This seems outrageous; if that was true, wouldn't all of the air on Earth just fly out into space, leaving us with no air to breathe? A fascinating study on this can be read here.)

As for the law of conservation of energy: recall the earlier discussion about a single “substance” or “substratum” in reality. Mind-independent reality is not composed of a single substance with its modifications, but rather of forces that can, in fact, weaken and perish. When a lion eats an antelope, it doesn’t gain the antelope’s strength. It merely preserves its own vitality, but at the cost of removing a whole antelope from the world. The struggle for continued existence is the means by which the sum of forces in the Universe is decreased. At first, this struggle merely takes the form of chemical compounds seeking stability through chemical bonding. Later, in the organic kingdom, stability is achieved through metabolism.

In the human world, an unquenchable thirst for metabolism and reproduction drives everyone's actions. Humanity will never be content until every illness and every type of pain will be eradicated. However, the essence of life is struggle, and nothing is more unbearable than having nothing to struggle for. If humans do reach that blessed life of the future, their desire for struggle will get frustrated and a terrible emptiness will reverberate throughout humanity's spirit. In desperation, the will-to-live will take its natural course: it will turn against itself. That is: humanity will consider reproduction a crime, and will gradually die out. But humans will have modified the world to such a degree that most other lifeforms won't stand a chance without humans.

After humanity is long gone, and all of the world's bodies get absorbed into the "true central sun", and all the gasses in the world have liquefied, nothing will stop the liquids from flowing toward the imaginary point. And then? Nothing. Absolute nothingness.

A creation myth

Throughout this essay, the concept of a singular substance or substratum underpinning all existents has been criticized. However, it's only natural to want to simplify reality, to reduce complexity to fewer and fewer principles. If we succeed in reducing everything that exists to three basic elements, we'll soon feel the siren's call to reduce them to just two elements, and—ah, but those two elements must have a common ancestor!

Materialism errs in misusing the concept of development. If a tree exists right now, then it used to be a seed, in the long-gone past. It is fine to trace the chemicals to a single ancestor, as long as this ancestor is not claimed to magically still exist today, floating somewhere between earth and heaven. This so-called "Matter", or "God" has vanished; let bygones be bygones. We're only concerned with our current world. And in our world, there is only multiplicity, and everything is in a never ending struggle-for-exhaustion. The total sum of force in the world is ever decreasing, even though this might go unnoticed due to our short lifespans.

What can be said about the genetic ancestor of every chemical element, and of everything that is, was and will be? Well, nothing really. "Differentiation" and "integration" are the songs of reason - it takes at least two things to tango. A solitary ancestor, existing all by itself is not "a" thing (as against another thing), it is unity itself. See? Reason cannot make anything of it.

What Mainländer can do, however, is to speak of this unity as-if it was amenable to reason. This will not yield a single morsel of knowledge about it, but it will at least make us feel a sense of connection to it, a nostalgia for our distant past. Once upon a time, God decided that non-being is preferable to being. Through an act of will, he became the very first link in the chain of genetic development, disintegrating into the gasses, liquids, solids. After an arduous struggle, the final goal was achieved. For us, that is still long into the future. But on a Cosmic scale, it only took as long as a sigh.

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The mind-independent universe is mass-energy, not philosopher-armchair substance. Knowledge of mass-energy and evidence for its amount in the whole universe being conserved back to and including the Initial Singularity is a glorious fruitful quest of science alone.

Whether there are extensionless points in spacetime is, in the armchairs of philosophers, as stuck in the mud as all the centuries they wasted over the question of whether matter was atomic or continuous. Science got the answers and subtleties of that and delivered a solid stage for bringing the world into our service.

Elementary particle physics has it that leptons, in their particle mode, are extensionless particles, perfect points of mass. The old sayings of philosophers that extension is more fundamental than weight is sensibly (on account of modern science) left back in those moldy old armchairs.

 

Additional Note
 

Quote

 

Nietzsche had read, in 1876 and 1883, a renovation of Schopenhauer’s system that made it less metaphysical. That was Philipp Mainländer’s Philosophy of Redemption (1876),5 in which the author claimed that throughout nature “instead of one metaphysical will, there are many individual (and immanent) wills that continually struggle with one another” (Brobjer 2008, 69). That is an opening for an individualistic theoretical employment of will in nature, in nature more widely than in intellectual animals such as man.

5.  In this title, I have translated Erlösung as Redemption because that is how the term is rendered by translators of Schopenhauer. However, it would also be reasonable to translate Erlösung as Deliverance. Schopenhauer and Mainländer were atheists and thought that death is the end of the individual. They thought of death as deliverance from the suffering pervasive in life.

Brobjer, T. 2008. Nietzsche’s Philosophical Context. U of Ill Press.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Elementary particle physics has it that leptons, in their particle mode, are extensionless particles, perfect points of mass.

Is the idea that sometimes a lepton can be in particle mode, sometimes in wave mode, and it can switch back and forth?  Or are the modes different ways of considering the same particle at the same time?

 

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39 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

Is the idea that sometimes a lepton can be in particle mode, sometimes in wave mode, and it can switch back and forth?  Or are the modes different ways of considering the same particle at the same time?

 

Apparently different aspects of the same entity at the same time. And I think that is smooth with the original paper of DeBroglie and with the way we learn to put together a particle as a wave packet in QM class (although the latter would be for ordinary QM, and surely we need to be at quantum field theory to be at fullest understanding of elementary particles).

What's the point?

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This article offers a different frame of interpretation of what was ‘captured’. It seems a better view of the image is to see at as capturing the interactions between  light’s ’energy’ and target particles , the light isn’t ‘seen’ or imaged as exhibiting dual aspects as much as what is depicted in the image is the history of the reactions between particles and light as akin to an interference pattern.

https://www.insidescience.org/blog/2015/03/13/no-you-cannot-catch-individual-photon-acting-simultaneously-pure-particle-and-wave

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On 3/24/2024 at 6:41 PM, Boydstun said:

The mind-independent universe is mass-energy. . .

On a related note: so far as I can tell, the Objectivist concept of identity is very similar to the concept of substance. When I ask what a thing is like, I am inquiring what kind of substance it is. Wooden? Big? Round? Heavy?

"To exist is. . . to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes." - Ayn Rand, Galt's speech

Contra Rand, Mainländer would simply deny that identity presupposes either substance or so-called entities. We can say, for example, that motion has identity, i.e. that there's different kinds of motion. Rand would probably reply that no one has ever observed disembodied acts, nor will they ever. Mainländer would agree, then quip: no one has ever observed an opaque object that is colorless either, and yet we don't attribute color to mind-independent reality.

In short, Mainländer thinks that "entities" like an eye, a stomach, a cat etc. are at the bottom, in a way quite unimaginable to us, motion-identities. To stop moving is to stop existing.

"Thus the brain is the objectification [perception] of the will's striving to recognize, feel and think the external world; thus the digestive and procreative organs are the objectification of its striving to maintain itself in existence, etc." (P. Mainländer - The Philosophy of Redemption, Physics)

Mainländer would then ask: how many times can you see blue before the brain's supply of blue runs out? Of course, the question is nonsensical; we can establish a priori that if a brain's supply of blue ever decreased, that would mess perception up. Likewise, since energy is our form of perception, we can establish a priori that it is constant. Its constancy is essential to it. Likewise, infinite divisibility is an essential aspect of mathematical space. But neither energy nor mathematical space have parralels in the mind-independent world.

To summarize, Rand claims that:

"Matter is indestructible, it changes its forms, but it cannot cease to exist." - Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics

And Mainländer disagrees:

"6) the great law of the weakening of force.
This great law is in contradiction with the law of the conservation of energy, which is still taught today. I confidently leave it to time to supersede the latter and bring the former to general validity. Tempo è gallantuomo. [i.e. time will tell if promise turns into results]" - Mainländer, Philosophy of Redemption, Vol. II, 6th Essay

Although Mainländer's prediction hasn't (yet) come true, his law of the weakening of force shows some resemblance with the law of degradation of energy.

While typing this post, a review of yours came to my mind as relevant to this worldview.

On 12/3/2017 at 4:38 PM, Boydstun said:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -- Process Philosophy --Johanna Seibt (2017)

The Activity of Being --Aryeh Kosman (2013) / From the publisher: For Aristotle, to ask “what something is” is to inquire into a specific mode of its being, something ordinarily regarded as its “substance.” But to understand substance, we need the concept of energeia―a Greek term usually translated as “actuality.” In a move of far-reaching consequence, Kosman explains that the correct translation of energeia is not “actuality” but “activity.” We have subtly misunderstood the Metaphysics on this crucial point, says Kosman. Aristotle conceives of substance as a kind of dynamic activity, not some inert quality. Substance is something actively being what it is.” / This book from Kosman is not an argument over what is true in the matter, only over what Aristotle thought true in the matter. As for true in the matter, I think Aristotle (under this interpretation of him) was wrong, although one doesn’t have to go back to Plato or Parmenides and pals to get things right. And I take Rand as by her philosophy to agree with me in all that.

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On 9/24/2023 at 10:47 PM, Boydstun said:

Ayn Rand introduces her principle of identity and its exclusionary character with examples of physical entities being themselves not each other and examples of physical entities capable of contrary traits at different times, but not at the same time: “A leaf cannot be a stone at the same time, it cannot be all red and all green at the same time, it cannot freeze and burn at the same time” (1957, 1016). From the pervasiveness of such exclusionary identities in any existents, Rand proposed them as basis for non-contradiction being a pervasive right rule for us in identifying things. . . .

Kyary,

In this quoted excerpt from Rand, which you likely would recall, she had no problem with and found it useful to look at attributes and actions separately from the entities to which they belong and to which she also applies identity in the stone/leaf example. She applies exclusionary identity to all of them, separately and together. Rand's entity is in quite a bit of difference with Aristotle's substance, though there is some overlap in their ontological placement.* Entity made a neat fit with identity, of course.

Have you studied any of Whitehead's process philosophy? A comparison with Mainländer might be quite interesting.

I would not put too much weight on order of learning categories of things as keys to ontological priorities and dependencies (I put weight on adult experience and science for that), but philosophers, including Rand, have tended to use order of learning as a bit of confirmation of priorities in ontologies (such as that attributes and actions have an asymmetric dependence on entities). An example would be child learning of common nouns for objects before verbs for actions. (I should mention that understanding A is itself [a mapping of self to self] comes rather late.)

Concerning perception, we have a lot of gear for detecting motions and objects. Humans, and some other primates too, are able to categorize perceptually because they are able to percieve directly some of the invariant structural and transformational relations in the world. The visual system spontaneously extracts relational invariances in the optical flow across the retina. One result is our ability to see solid objects and their motions in three-dimensional space. An analogy between the visual system and a prism can be drawn. A prism is commonly characterized as a kind of fourier analyzer, a separator of harmonic components of light. Similarly, the visal system can be conceived as , among other things, an analyzer of projective geometry. Without any measurements, of lengths or angles, the visual system sorts out relations in figures that remain invariant under transformations of perspective. 

There are geometric signatures through which we can perceive as (human) walking any instance of that class of events. In vision we can also apprehend categorically skipping, jogging, or sprinting, We can perceive the various kicks of swimmers all as kicks. We can perceive the variations and underlying constancies of these categories directly, sensitively, and without linguistic articulation. (See "Capturing Concepts," [1990] pp. 14–16.) 

You mentioned Rand's claim that matter is indestructible and can only change its forms. There is truth in that taken as a statement of conservation of mass in chemistry or as conservation of mass-energy in physics. But that was not what she was working on in that statement. She was contrasting the continuing existence of inanimate matter with the discontinuing existence of life and the efforts required of life such that it continue (for a while) in existence. So, for example, when the character Tony dies in the arms of Rearden, all of Tony's chemicals are said to continue fine, but his life has gone out of existence.

From what you have shown on Mainländer's general metaphysics, it looks to have the chronic mistake—from Aristotle to Schopenhauer to late Nietzsche—the mistake of projecting teleological actions from their true and only place, which is life (and its machines devised by humans), onto the whole of inanimate nature. Rand and I and modern science dispute the correctness of such a projection.

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Stephen, thank you for the inputs on substance, and how it relates to sense-perception and Objectivism.

6 hours ago, Boydstun said:

From what you have shown on Mainländer's general metaphysics, it looks to have the. . . mistake of projecting teleological actions from their true and only place, which is life, onto the whole of inanimate nature.

The premise upon which his system stands and falls is what he calls "real individuality". By this he means that the world is a collection, so to speak, of discrete individuals. However, he sees a challenge to his thesis: empirical observation proves that many individuals are essentially alike. For example, I posses reason, but so do billions of other people. Mainländer wants to explain this observation without going Plato's route, because that would convert the individual into the mere shadow of a Universal.

"[W]e must trace all the chains of organic forces back to the chemical forces (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, phosphorous, and so on). That we shall also succeed in tracing these simple chemical forces, the so-called elemental substances, back to fewer substances, is an unshakeable conviction of most natural scientists. However, whether this shall happen or not remains quite irrelevant for our investigations, since it is an unalterable truth that we shall, in the immanent domain, never overcome multiplicity to arrive at unity." (Philosophy of Redemption, Analytics)

Why is the last point important for Mainländer? We can use the analogy of an ocean. The waves of an ocean are not true individuals; they are identical with the one, single and solitary ocean. If reality has a single substratum, then all "individuals" are just aspects of that single substratum, which is the same as saying that there's no individuals.

"Nevertheless, reason does not allow itself to be kept from pointing time and again to the necessity of a simple unity. Reason’s argument is the one already presented, that for it all forces which we keep separated are, as forces, at root essentially alike and for this reason must not be separated (. . .) There is only one way out. We already find ourselves in the past. Let us then allow the final forces, which we were not permitted to touch lest we succumbed to wishful thinking, flow together in the transcendent domain. It is a domain that has passed, vanished, that was but is no more, and with it the simple unity, too, has passed and vanished."

In other words: yes, all of the individual forces in reality have a common ancestor, because they're essentially alike in many respects. However, this common ancestor no longer exists in its old form. The ancestor used to be a single thing, once upon a time. But he didn't remain like that. He eventually split up into the individuals of the world. Since those individuals have a common origin (like the slices of a cake), they are alike in many respects. But because the split has occurred, no unity remains in the world.

Mainländer claims that, properly speaking, the world consists of a single event: the event of a solitary ancestor splitting itself into individuals. That's it. (How so? Crossing the street is a single event, but this event is composed of several "sub-events," i.e. there's a history involved. Mainländer is a determinist in regard to the world's history.)

Now, at this stage, this theory has no meaning for the pursuit of happiness. This is why Mainländer combines this theory with additional observations from epistemology, physics, aesthetics, ethics and politics, in his quest to solve the puzzle of human existence.

In the Physics, he presents a very peculiar model of the Universe. A good analogy for it is autophagy: if a person starves himself, his body will eventually "eat" its own cells and muscle tissue in order to generate the energy it's not getting from food. Likewise, the Universe is a system whose vitality is constantly being drained because it feeds upon itself. He calls this the law of the weakening of force. Since our form of perceiving the world (matter/substance) is necessarily constant, he says:

In physics, we cannot provide direct proof and must be content with having found the great law of the weakening of organisms indirectly, in the stony record of the earth's crust.

That is:

[T]he ever more intense and horrific struggle for existence. . . must have the same result as the struggle in the inorganic realm, namely the weakening of the individuals. This is only seemingly contradicted by the fact that the strongest individual in the broadest sense remains victorious in the struggle for existence and the weaker one is defeated; for the stronger one usually always wins, but in each new generation the stronger individuals are less strong and the weaker ones weaker than in the previous one.

As geology is for the inorganic kingdom, so paleontology is for the organic the important document from which, beyond all doubt, the truth is drawn that in the struggle for existence individuals perfect themselves and climb ever higher levels of organization, but become weaker in the process. (Physics)

Although he doesn't give specific examples, we could mention cockroaches the size of cats, mushrooms the size of trees, and dinosaurs (of course). I've heard all kinds of theories about why prehistoric organisms reached those enormous proportions, but there's nothing conclusive yet. Something I read today:

Oxygen levels is apparently a myth with maybe the exception of insects. They breathe using spiracles, essentially holes in their body or limbs. . . However for dinosaurs that isn’t the case. There were long periods of time when dinosaurs existed where oxygen levels were what they are today or even lower. From what I remember increasing in size was an evolutionary adaptation that worked for them and their bodies became increasingly specialised to “go large”. (Source)

Back to Mainländer's quest. From his Ethics, we learn that humans are not happy unless they always have projects and puzzles to chew on. From Politics, we learn that the "law of suffering" is pushing people away from primitive social organization, and toward the "ideal State". From Aesthetics we learn that art is a temporary respite from our inner restlessness. What does Mainländer make of all of this?

Well, since an immanent philosophy must stay within the limits of experience, Mainländer cannot make use of teleology, cannot appeal to a god, cannot do what transcendent (i.e. going beyond the limits of experience) theories can do.

Teleology is merely a regulative principle for the assessment of the course of the world. . . (Metaphysics)

To give his readers a coherent view of the whole, Mainländer combines all of his observations into an "as-if" story that goes like this: the "simple unity" - which we can metaphorically call God - wants the peace of non-existence, but cannot attain it immediately. An obstacle stands in his way, but we cannot fathom it. However, from our post-split perspective, it appears as if the obstacle is none other than God's sheer strength; to drain his powers, God disintegrates into individual forces ("wills") that fight for survival.

On 3/24/2024 at 3:35 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

The struggle for continued existence is the means by which the sum of forces in the Universe is decreased. At first, this struggle merely takes the form of chemical compounds seeking stability through chemical bonding [and combination reactions]. Later, in the organic kingdom, stability is achieved through metabolism.

Mainländer doesn't see a gulf between the inorganic and organic realms. As an example, he considers combination reactions to be a very primitive form of "reproduction" (a third substance is formed, but its "parents" are contained in it). Primitive inorganic compounds, unconscious organic beings, conscious organisms, rational individuals, all have just one function: to drain the sum of forces in the world. This is why people cannot exist without some problem or puzzle to tackle. Their whole being screams: "Activity! Activity!" and as Schopenhauer observed, mere existence (without challenges) is not a value.

One of the most interesting things Mainländer wrote was an essay on the Christian Trinity, where he interprets the Father as the pre-wordly unity, the Son as our current world, and the Holy Spirit as the world's unitary movement toward nothingness. It was immediately banned in Imperial Russia. I wonder why 🤔

6 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Have you studied any of Whitehead's process philosophy? A comparison with Mainländer might be quite interesting.

I might do one in the future!

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Can philosophy make you happy (or at the very least, not a buzzkill)? Leonard Peikoff says:

If you hold the wrong ideas on any fundamental philosophic issue, that will undercut or destroy the benevolent universe premise . . . . For example, any departure in metaphysics from the view that this world in which we live is reality, the full, final, absolute reality—any such departure will necessarily undercut a man’s confidence in his ability to deal with the world, and thus will inject the malevolent-universe element. The same applies in epistemology: if you conclude in any form that reason is not valid, then man has no tool of achieving values; so defeat and tragedy are unavoidable. (Leonard Peikoff, The Philosophy of Objectivism lecture series, Lecture)

In this thread, I expressed some skepticism about this:

On 3/24/2024 at 3:35 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

Now, I'd like to believe that, on the basis of cool and calm reasoning alone, Rand settled on a “Benevolent Universe Premise”, Schopenhauer preached pessimism, and Nietzsche saw misery as a seed for greatness. But I kind of doubt this. I think that in an Objectivist society, there would be many grinches, many soldiers of positivity, and innumerable gradations in between.

On this topic, a comparison between Schopenhauer and Mainländer could be interesting, for two reasons:

  • Schopenhauer was an idealist, but Mainländer was a metaphysical realist (although he uses "idealism" to designate philosophizing within the limits of human experience).
  • Schopenhauer died of natural causes. Mainländer committed suicide.

It's worth mentioning that Mainländer's older brother and older sister have also committed suicide. As for Schopenhauer, he believed that his father committed suicide (although there was no conclusive evidence for this).

Instead of psychologizing, let us restrict ourselves to epistemology, because one's (implicit or explicit) epistemology is the methodology through which a philosopher's abstract conclusions in Ethics, Politics, Metaphysics and Aesthetics are reached. What follows is a summary of Mainländer's epistemology; how close or far is Mainländer, epistemologically, from what Leonard Peikoff considers to be a locus for the Malevolent Universe Premise?

___

Philosophy of Redemption, Analytics

(Wherever possible, I have modernized the language and examples).

  • 1. Before venturing into solving the big mystery of the World, we must first investigate our mind. Specifically, we want to know whether:
    • a) the world in question is produced by the mind
    • b). the world is mind-independent and perceived as-is
    • c). the world is mind-independent, but its appearance depends on the perceiver's cognitive faculty (e.g. the difference between normal and color-blind people)
  • 2. All knowledge is rooted in:
    • a). the senses
    • b). introspection
  • 3. The senses can be divided into:
    • a) the sensory organ itself (e.g. the skin on your toe)
    • b). the conductive apparatus (transmits information from the toe to the brain)
  • 4. The brain converts stimuli into two types of presentations:
    •     1. Percepts (full objects) - the domain of sight, and partly of touch
    •     2. Sensations (which only last for the duration of the stimulus) - the domain of sound, smell, taste, also partly of touch.
  • 5. Just as the stomach's function is to digest the nourishment it receives, the mind's function is to determine what caused the stimulation of the sense-organ(s). Causality is presupposed by this mechanism. We can expand causality into general causality, i.e. apply it to all objects.
  • 6. The mind represents each actant's sphere of efficacy on the sense-organs via extension in three dimensions. That is: precisely where the actant ceases to have an effect on the sense organs, the perceived object's spatial extension is capped (e.g. a quartz granule extends very little, is small for us; a palace extends generously, is large for us).
  • 7. The so-called secondary qualities (sound, color, taste, texture etc.) are collectively called matter, and their function is to make the qualities of mind-independent objects perceptible to us.
  • 8. The production of percepts requires all of the aforementioned forms together, which, to recapitulate, are: a function for identifying the cause of a stimuli (causality), a function of delimiting the stimulus's sphere of efficacy (point-space), and a function of representing the qualities of stimuli (matter).
  • 9. We never see the whole world, just parts of it. For example, when I see a tree, I must move my eyes up and down to see the whole object. So, how come I understand that each disjointed, partial snapshot is in fact a fragment of one single object, the Tree? Through reason.
  • 10. Reason moves gradually, from point to point (its standpoint is the present moment, because it can't process everything instantly), and works with the help of three other innate faculties:
    • Memory -> keeps track of succeeding partial snapshots
    • Judgement -> decides what belongs together
    • Imagination -> is how we keep the completed tree in mind, even if we're looking peace-meal at it.

However, the function of the mind in general is to give us a sense of self, i.e. to see those discrete faculties (memory, judgement etc.) as mere aspects of one single self.

  • 11. An adult knows that the moon is very far away, but an infant might think that the moon is within arm's reach. The reason why adults think that they receive ready-made impressions (i.e. devoid of post-processing) is because they forget their infancy [and because processing happens very fast].
  • 12. The faculty of Judgement compares percepts. What is similar is classified under concepts. No matter how abstract a concept is, it's still reducible to its "maternal soil" (sense-perception). Concepts are the material from which judgements and premises are drawn according to the well-known laws of logic.
  • 13. Time is a measurement of motion.
  • 14. The mind's integration of sensations is a type of motion, hence it too can be measured via time.
  • 15. Although our brains cannot produce material and spatial representation of gasses, scents or sounds, we nevertheless assign the conjunction of substance to them.
  • 16. An analysis of the sense of taste.
  • 17. During states like dreaming, the mind is capable of constructing representations from memorized material.
  • 18. There are three types of causes:
    • a) Mechanical (pressure and impulse). Inorganic beings are restricted to this.
    • b) Stimuli. Starts to apply within the plant kingdom.
    • c) Motivation. Applies to animals only (e.g. the desire to experience pleasure or to avoid pain)
      • c. 1) Final, imaginary causes (i.e. setting goals and resolutions). Exclusive to humans.

In addition, we can mention occasional causes. For example, the sun might be the direct cause of my hand getting warmed up, but the clouds occasioned this event by ceasing to obstruct the sun.

  • 19. General causality implies a fourth type of cause: all individual things mutually affect each other. We can call this community, or interaction.
  • 20. Mathematical space is an artificial construction on the basis of a perceptual form (space). Its infinite divisibility is only possible in the mind [recall Zeno's paradoxes].
  • 21. All optical and sensory illusions can be corrected by reason.
  • 22. A summary of the preceding investigations.
  • 23. Causal chains are difficult to identify, because they tie together events, not things. By contrast, a developmental chain studies how one single thing develops. For instance: a seed becomes a plant; in this example, the plant is related genetically, not causally, to the seed. The seed is also a thing of the past, and the plant exists right now, in the present.
  • 24. We can therefore trace something like water to its "parents", hydrogen and oxygen. But hydrogen & oxygen do not coexist with water; on the contrary, they have modified their essences completely, have raised themselves to a new form, water. Consequently, water is not a mere amalgamation of something else. In light of this, science wants to discover the entire history of how something is formed across time.

This quest leads scientists to posit a beginning of the Universe, [a "before" protons and neutrons have formed and stuck together to form atomic nuclei, then incorporated electrons into themselves to form complete atoms]. But it would be a mistake to think that this postulated Singularity still exists today. Just as hydrogen and oxygen truly become water, this singularity has truly become the Plurality (our world).

  • 25. No scientist can cognize the Singularity, because reason's function is to connect the elements of a Plurality.
  • 26. The introduction of multiplicity into the world [through the formation of protons, neutrons electrons etc.], was the first development of the world, not an arising out of nothingness.
  • 27. No one has ever observed something like sulfur completely go out of existence (forever). But we can ask: what can be said a priori about matter? The answer is: nothing. Many of the things we currently "know" will probably get overturned in the future, on the basis of new empirical data.

The philosophical distinction between substance (matter) and accident (solid state of matter, liquid state of matter etc.) is to be scrutinized here. Since the accidents (water, people, stars) are just modes of one substance (matter), it's clear that only those "modes" can ever arise and cease, not the underlying substratum itself. Matter neither arises nor perishes, because matter is the very precondition for arising and perishing.

However, an imperishable Universe cannot be established a priori. True, all present-day empirical experiments point without fail to a conservation of Nature's substratum (in a closed system). However, a true, empirical proof of this requires observation over a very, very, very large period of time, so large that humans can't even fathom. (In the chapter on Physics, he mentions geology, paleontology and even politics (!) as a way of observing this leakage indirectly.)

Substance, as a form of perception, has a definite function: to cognize the dynamic interconnection between real individuals. In the mind-independent world, this mutual interaction is something quite abstract; it's not a glue that binds individuals together, nor is it an invisible slime that engulfs all individuals into one single jelly. However, our mind can, and does represent this abstract interconnection in a form, namely the idea of a substratum. Independently of the mind, there is no substratum, only discrete individuals.

  • 28. The world is a finite collection of finite forces.
  • 29. Real space is not infinitely expansive or divisible.
  • 30. We can break things down into other things (e.g. break water down into hydrogen and oxygen). However, this kind of division cannot go on infinitely, because infinity is a mental construct. To get around the absurdity of infinite division, some thinkers are satisfied to posit a "smallest particle" that can't be divided anymore, i.e. is immune to destruction. But this is a rationalistic fiction.
  • 31. Time is finite as well.
  • 32. A recapitulation of the aforementioned errors.
  • 33. So far, we have discovered that independently of the mind, there are moving forces (upon sense organs) with a definite and finite sphere of efficacy. We can now proceed to our remaining source of knowledge: introspection.

That which we've discovered by means of the senses, we can also apply to human beings: a human is a moving force with a definite and finite sphere of efficacy. However, since a human force is self-conscious, additional information about force is available to him in his first-person experience, nakedly exposed and in plain sight.

After abstracting away the forms of the outer-sense (color, taste, space etc.), we are left with the additional information we were seeking:

  • Our efficacy extends only to the utmost tips of our body, only to a definite and finite sphere. We are individuals, and this separateness from other individuals (which science and metaphysics ignores on the basis of the substance-accident relation) is revealed clear as day.
  • We are always in ceaseless motion. Even if our body stands still, we are nevertheless internally restless, and this is not volitional, but rather how our being is like. This inner drive, if stripped of all human elements, can help us understand other humans, other animals, unconscious organisms and yes, even inorganic nature and the puzzling phenomena of life arising from it.

We may call the drive "the individual Will". What is its nature? Is it an entity, a substance, a process, something else? The answer is that there's no reason to box the Will into existing philosophical ontology. We already know what a will is. That will be sufficient for our future investigations in physics, aesthetics, ethics, politics, metaphysics.

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On 3/31/2024 at 9:11 PM, Boydstun said:

She was contrasting the continuing existence of inanimate matter with the discontinuing existence of life. . . So, for example, when the character Tony dies in the arms of Rearden, all of Tony's chemicals are said to continue fine, but his life has gone out of existence.

I've always been puzzled by this particular claim in Galt's speech:

The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action."

It seems like Galt is contrasting inanimate matter to its opposite, animate matter, a.k.a living organisms.

However, Galt never seems to address this point: inanimate matter can go out existence just as well. When inanimate matter converts into a living organism, that chunk of inanimate matter is no more; it has vanished, has completely upgraded itself to being alive. For a while, of course.

Put differently: if "going out of existence" is defined as "a state of matter going out of existence - because it transitioned to another state", then Galt's claim that

"There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms."

does not hold, because many more things go out of existence, although not all of them have a choice in the matter. When a snowflake ceases to exist, due to melting, its remains continue fine! Contrast this to the epistemology outlined in the previous post, which carefully pre-empts this problem.

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3 hours ago, KyaryPamyu said:

When a snowflake ceases to exist, due to melting, its remains continue fine!

Technically, when a person dies, their remains continue fine, too!

I think Galt is contrasting inanimate matter to life itself, not to animate matter. Living matter can die, but it is the life which goes out of existence, not the matter; the matter remains but is dead.

Matter (or more precisely mass-energy) can change its forms but it cannot cease to exist. Matter can become part of a living organism or can become no-longer-part of a living organism.

But a life can come into existence, e.g., when a person or animal is born, and it can go out of existence, when the person or animal dies.

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5 hours ago, necrovore said:

I think Galt is contrasting inanimate matter to life itself, not to animate matter.

It seems like Galt is suggesting that life is an emergent property of matter, with the property being wholly distinct from what gave rise to it (matter). However, we could say that all the emergent properties in the world come into existence and cease to exist, depending on the state of their substratum (matter), so this is by no means restricted to life alone. That was my point.

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"Teleology is merely a regulative principle for the assessment of the course of the world. . . (Metaphysics)"

This sounds like an allusion to Kant's regulative principles (cohort of an as-if take on teleology in vegetative life) as distinct from constitutive principles. If so, Mainländer is projecting life as conceived by Kant onto the world in general (going beyond Kant), continuing the line on this from Leibniz. The as-if purposive view of life by Kant in the Critique of Judgment is mistaken. Organisms with no consciousness actually act teleologically; that aspect of their causation is from evolutionary inheritance of structure within which efficient causes are constrained. (Biology folk like Goethe paid lip service to Kant, but then went on in biology as usual: all biological entities as actually teleological, as in Aristotle.) The animal become the intelligent conscious animal that is us is able to engineer devices and artificial life deliberately, design-engineer things with structure, control systems, and functions.

The world at large does not need regulative principles of any sort. Its laws do not regulate. They just are the patterns in place. That goes for principles of Lagrange and Hamilton as well as Newton and likewise Pauli's Exclusion Principle. The law of identity also does not regulate in nature; it is only the grand pattern in place and principle we keep in back of mind for success in inventions and solutions.

A molecule is not in striving-processes in its continued existence. Neither is the universe, the totality of all existents. A living cell is in striving-process which continues its existence; it has teleological causation enacting chase of such things as survival and reproduction.

Inanimate matter does not go out of existence, unless one is talking in a context in which "matter" is standing as in contrast to fields. But taking matter as in contrast to living matter, that is, taking inanimate matter as in contrast to animate matter, matter means mass-energy. (I don't mean to say that Rand was fluent in mass-energy, only that we should be fluent and identify older talk of matter by philosophers as mass-energy.) Matter as mass-energy does not go out of existence or even become reduced in the big picture. Then too, I should not regard any of my lost tools as having gone plum out of existence; it is not plausible, for example, that they've encountered that much antimatter. Upon collision an electron and a positron become two gamma rays. Among physical things not going out of existence in the annihilation of the electron and positron, is, notably, their total mass-energy. Furthermore, the electron and positron and the gamma rays do not have teleological processes maintaining them in existence.

It is only with advent of teleologically organized matter that alternatives enter nature. That much is Rand. I concur. I say, in addition: We say that when we've got the accelerator on, a given electron is either going to encounter a positron or not. That saying is true to nature, but it, unlike identity, is not something in nature independently of a striving mind. Either-Or, I have written in "Existence, We", is based in identities in nature, but is only in nature where living systems are in nature facing nature. That is, the Law of Excluded Middle for thought rises as high-animal mind rises by organic evolutionary layers on vegetative neuronal control systems of animals. The electron will either encounter a positron or it will not, but the electron does not face an alternative of continued existence or not. We see the possibilities, but the electron, unlike a living cell, does not face them. We and all living things face the alternative of continued existence or not, and from that fundamental alternative, all alternative is born.

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10 hours ago, Boydstun said:

This sounds like an allusion to Kant's regulative principles (cohort of an as-if take on teleology in vegetative life) as distinct from constitutive principles.

Right on the money. Also, your take on the "constitutive vs. regulative" issue is interesting, because this is rarely talked about in Objectivist literature.

Mainländer suggests his own, non-Objectivist, solution to this problem. He thinks that the history of philosophy has always struggled with a false alternative:

  • a) Life has no special significance. Out of pieces of dead matter following laws of physics, there arose entities capable of painting the Sistine Madonna and pondering moral questions.
  • b) There is a demand in Nature, and life arises to fulfill it. After a series of unsuccessful prototypes (species of animals), the highest being (man) is finally produced and the goal is fulfilled.

Because ancient people explained natural phenomena in life-like terms (e.g. Zeus wielding thunderbolts), the need for a sharp distinction between life and non-life arose, as a first step to acquiring reliable scientific knowledge. Hence, the first alternative described above.

On the other hand, suppose that the Laws of Physics were such that no life could ever arise. Just as no gold can be fashioned from metals, no life can arise in the Universe in principle. Would life arise? A rhetorical question, but it illustrates why teleology (the second alternative) is seductive to people.

(That the Laws of Physics are rigged to yield life is undeniable. However, self-conscious scientific people cannot permit themselves the extravagance of saying that the world is "rigged", because only living organisms can rig a game in their favor. "Teleology is a sin!" they cry.)

To recapitulate, the false alternative Mainländer posits is between: a) Denying that the world is rigged to produce life, and b) Saying that the world is rigged to yield life, perhaps by a god, or World-Spirit, or Schopenhauer's Will. How does Mainländer overcome this alternative?

As early as the first chapter of his system (Analytics, i.e. epistemology), he traces all the developments of the world to a Singularity. That is: the Singularity existed before the first atoms were formed, before the laws of physics started to apply, before things like spacetime, causality and life became a thing. (He was ahead of his time, as the Big-Bang theory only came about 51 years later).

Mainländer starts by showing why the Singularity cannot be cognized using the human cognitive faculty. The purpose behind this is clear: throughout history, people have engaged in extraordinary, fantastical speculations about a being who is beyond time and space, beyond individuality and limitations. But this is precisely what the Singularity is - and Mainländer wants to show: 1). That such flights of fancy are pointless, and 2). That the Singularity is in the past, not in the mind-independent realm, as Schopenhauer thought.

Next, Mainländer says that we can nevertheless describe the Singularity in regulative terms, a nod to Kant. His goal with this is to overcome the false alternative described above. In this enterprise, he will be inspired by Schopenhauer, for whom the Will is

"a blind striving energy that, once it becomes individuated and objectified, turns against itself, consumes itself, and does violence to itself. [Schopenhauer's] paradigm image is of the bulldog-ant of Australia, that when cut in half, struggles in a battle to the death between its head and tail. . . within the world of appearances that we structure, we are fated to fight with other individuals, and to want more than we can ever have. (Source)

Schopenhauer believed that there is a single, unified Will beyond space and time. Cognition splits this Will into individuals, after which those individuals proceed to fight to the death. Mainländer completely changes this: the unified reality is placed before history, in the Singularity. Furthermore, the split into individuals occurs for real, in the "Big-Bang". Individuality is not just an illusion of cognition.

Several things are worth noting here:

  • Individuality is absolutely essential for destructive conflict. Only individuals can eat each other, hinder each other, and so on. On the other hand, individuality did not originally exist in the world, in the Singularity.
  • The limit to what people can, and cannot do, is largely dictated by external circumstances. It's just part of life. However, for the Singularity there are no external circumstances, thus it is limited only by its own essence/identity.

The Singularity was incredibly peaceful. It lacked predators. It lacked hunger to incite it to hunt, and there was nothing to hunt either. Further, it was not constrained by anything external, only by its own identity.

Could we say that the nature/identity of the Singularity was to explode into individuals? Not so fast! That's the safe, Objectivist-friendly answer. We must remember: no one can cognize the Singularity, so we can't determine which answer is true or not. So why pick such a hand-wavy answer? No, this is a golden opportunity to fix that false alternative that has been plaguing philosophers since time immemorial.

Let's say I build a clock. Do I violate any laws of physics by building it? No. Will the clock's components show the time before I build the clock? Again, no. Lastly, after the clock is finished and running, will it show the time all by itself? Certainly.

We now have the tools to tackle this problem. When the Singularity fashioned itself into the "clock" (the post-Big-Bang world), it did not defy any law pertaining to its essence/identity. The law of identity was still in full operation. Therefore, Objectivists are right to say that we live in a naturalistic world, where no miracles occur. They are, however, patently wrong when they say the world is not thoroughly purposeful, or that such purposefulness is restricted to the biosphere.

Before individuality came onto the scene, death was eo ipso impossible. The invention of individuality was the invention of death itself. New laws of nature followed from this invention, the ones still operative today.

If the purpose of the clock is to show time, what is the purpose of our World? Mainländer gives a very German answer: the function of the post-Big-Bang universe is to completely evaporate out of existence. Everything is unconsciously working toward the World's demise.

To understand this bold claim, we must first clear something up: like Schopenhauer, Mainländer believes that everything is alive. For example, the atom, to the chagrin of many self-conscious "naturalists", is a rudimentary life-form, more rudimentary than the most basic microbes. For those who consider this claim to be extravagant, consider this: do you expect starfish or clams to have brains? Are you puzzled that sponges don't have hearts? And yet, you are so wide-eyed when you hear that a class of living beings can be so simple as to lack even metabolism and organs. Before eating can come into existence, there are many more preliminary stages to pass trough. Rome wasn't built in one day.

We are now faced with a weird fact: atoms try to reach the most stable (lowest-energy) state they can. They "want" to become stabler, not weaker, as Mainländer claimed. So which one is it: do atoms want destruction, or do they want stability? The answer is simple: atoms want stability, if this stability is the better means toward their goal.

Here, we see Schopenhauer's Will-to-Life getting turned on its head: life is the servant of death. It doesn't matter whether stability is achieved through chemical bonding (for atoms) or eating beef (for humans), the principle is the same: life is a struggle, stability is sought, and its attainment occurs at the expense of other individuals. This is what is slowly, but surely, leading the World to its doom. If we substitute Mainländer's law of weakening of force with the law of degradation of energy, we can perhaps see something of merit here.

10 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Inanimate matter does not go out of existence, unless one is talking in a context in which "matter" is standing as in contrast to fields.

Regardless of what someone calls life - an emergent property, a hologram of matter, an emanation etc. - my point is that Galt's claim is incredibly bold: out of the entire list of emergent properties in the Universe, life is the only one that is able to cease existing?

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Inference to the existence of atoms is a case of induction in the genre of what William Whewell termed consilience. By 1900 atoms and molecules were evidenced by Dalton’s law of multiple proportions, Gay-Lussac’s law pertaining to the volume of gases, Avagadro’s law (which made possible the determination of molecular weights), and the kinetic theory of gases (which could approximately predict molar heat capacities). After 1908, when Jean Baptiste Perrin published his results on the sedimentation distribution of (visible) particles suspended in a still liquid and his measurement of Avogadro’s constant, the existence of atoms could not be reasonably doubted. These lines of induction, and many others, converged steel-strong in favor of the atomic hypothesis, by consilience. The evidence was and is several (many-kind) and joint. 

What did all those centuries of armchair from Democritus and Aristotle to Leibniz contribute to our knowledge of atoms and molecules? Exactly nothing. There is nothing of merit in an armchair “law of weakening force,” whatever similarities there might be with some scientifically established law.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kyary, in what other emergent property of chemical elements, besides life, do you see entities striving to remain in existence and going out of existence by spoilage of that teleological organization in its existence? Not the earth, its minerals, or mountains. Not the atmosphere or its tornados. Not the rivers or oceans. Not a virus. The only places I’ve seen clearly such a thing is in living cells and multicellular organisms. Fairly plain Jane, not bold.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Writing “Galt’s claim” induces a distracting circuity of thought. Galt is nothing but a perfectly passive creature of Ayn Rand. Any “Galt’s claim” is better simply “Rand’s claim” in a philosophical discussion. 

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20 hours ago, Boydstun said:

There is nothing of merit in an armchair “law of weakening force,” whatever similarities there might be with some scientifically established law.

With this, I certainly disagree. What Mainländer has observed is not incorrect: energy ends up in a form that's harder to use, due to spreading out or becoming less dense. Consider a wooden log. If you burn it, you get: ash, heat, light, and the release of CO2 and water (as gasses which will expand and be released). Now it's harder to use the same energy and matter from that log. Ash doesn't burn well, and has very few use-cases. Whether Mainländer correctly identifies the reason for why this happens is utterly irrelevant for his goal: to see what this constant decrease in usable energy means for the Universe. This is hardly "useless", regardless of how much better scientists are than philosophers. Mainländer never claimed to be better than scientists, and claimed that the philosopher's task (as far as those issues go) is "to sift through the material collected by natural scientists and bring it under general aspects." Standing desk, not armchair.

Per the contemporary Heat Death hypothesis (or Big Chill/Big Freeze), energy will dissipate to the point where there won't be any usable energy to produce changes. The Universe will be completely still and at uniform temperature. All lights will go out as stars run out of fuel. No stars will form anymore, black holes will evaporate due to Hawking radiation, and black dwarfs will explode due to quantum tunneling.

Specifics like this are irrelevant for Mainlander; he is concerned with two things: a) the entropic course itself, and b) the existence of life. About the entropic course, he says: entropy is not a "sickness" or malady of the Universe; rather, the Universe is the process of entropy itself. And about the existence of life he suggests: living organisms are not an inexplicable "protest" against the entropic course; life is the mechanism through which Entropy takes place!

Lastly, he tells us: the history of the world does not start with energy spreading out and becoming useless, but with a Singularity to whom entropy was essentially foreign, and who was therefore under no external compulsions to disintegrate itself.

20 hours ago, Boydstun said:

These lines of induction, and many others, converged steel-strong in favor of the atomic hypothesis, by consilience. The evidence was and is several (many-kind) and joint. 

I'm not exactly sure what this is in response to, but I can say how it relates to this:

On 4/2/2024 at 8:25 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

To get around the absurdity of infinite division, some thinkers are satisfied to posit a "smallest particle" that can't be divided anymore, i.e. is immune to destruction. But this is a rationalistic fiction.

The rationalistic fiction is not the "smallest particle" itself, but rather its indestructibility. It was in this rationalistic vein that Democritus posited an indestructible smallest particle, likewise the ancient Indians. In our current times, there is a basic particle which we call "atom", but it can definitely be smashed into bits, and this proves Mainländer's point: if an indestructible particle exists, this will be settled by empirical means, not rationalism.

20 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Kyary, in what other emergent property of chemical elements, besides life, do you see entities striving to remain in existence and going out of existence by spoilage of that teleological organization in its existence?

My claim is that there's many more emergent properties, besides life, which come into being, then cease to exist. Nowhere did I claim that said properties are life-like or that they involve teleological self-organization in any way, shape or form.

Here's an example: the majestic fractal patterns in snowflakes are not the design of a deity, but occur naturally. When the snowflake melts, those fractals exist no longer. Is the aforementioned emergent property identical with matter, or distinct from it? If one answers "it's identical with matter", then life, too, is identical with matter.

Sure, a process is not identical with matter, it's something that matter does. But processes are still actions of physical entities, unless Objectivism is sympathetic to Process Philosophy.

20 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Writing “Galt’s claim” induces a distracting circuity of thought.

This is not a universally valid claim. Here is Ayn Rand, in a 1962 radio lecture she gave (and published as The Objectivist Ethics)

The concept “value”. . . presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

I quote from Galt’s speech: “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms (...)"

She did not say "I quote myself", but "I quote from Galt's speech" - yet she did not induce any circuity of thought.

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Everybody gets the blues once in a while. A few moments from Ayn Rand's life, as recounted by Nathaniel Branden in Judgment Day: My Years with Ayn Rand (1989):

By the fall of 1958, it was apparent that Ayn was sinking into a deep and tenacious depression. Not the sales of her novel or the torrent of fan mail or any of the interesting people we were meeting seemed to cheer her for more than a few hours or evoke in her any desire to write again. The thought of another project—any other project—exhausted her. Every day, she sat long hours at her desk playing solitaire, the game becoming a metaphor for her sense of her position in the world. She did not read. She left her correspondence largely unanswered. Her body ached with numerous tension pains. She had written a novel about a man who stops the motor of the world; now it was as if her motor had stopped. She saw herself as trapped in a swamp of mediocrity, malice, and cowardice. She had found admirers but no champions. . . I thought she was experiencing a delayed letdown after thirteen years of high emotional intensity while writing Atlas full-time. Ordinary living could hardly compete. In many of our discussions, from the summer of 1958 and for the next two years, she would begin to cry while describing her perception of the world and her own place in it, and she confided that she cried almost every day. This struck me as shockingly out of character, and I realized that I had underestimated the depth of Ayn’s struggle, with which I felt enormous and painful empathy.

We had long conversations on the telephone every day. I visited her two or three evenings a week, sometimes alone, sometimes with Barbara, so we could discuss how we might better interpret the events that were such blows to Ayn’s ambition, energy, and enthusiasm. These sessions typically lasted until five or six in the morning. Her suffering was devastating to watch. [...]

Ayn’s depression persisted relentlessly. “I’m ashamed of myself for crying so much,” Ayn said one evening. “The Collective would be shocked if they knew. You don’t tell them, do you?” I told her I did not. “Galt would handle all this differently. Somehow, he would be more untouched by it. More realistic. But I don’t know how or in what way. I would hate for him to see me like this. I would feel unworthy, as if I had let him down.” I was used to hearing her discuss Galt as if he were a real person; all of us did that. I said, “I look at it differently. If I were knocked down and hurt badly by something that had happened to me, so that I was crying a lot or devastated or whatever, I think I would say, ‘All right, look at me. I’m in a bad way. So what? In a little while, I’ll pick myself up again. Meanwhile, this is reality. Why pretend it isn’t?’ ” She chuckled unhappily. “You’re quoting my own philosophy back to me. Only, for once, I can’t seem to apply it.” (ch. 11)

Her view of depression, if accurately told, was interesting:

When I tried to tell her of some new research that suggested that certain kinds of depression had a biological basis, she answered angrily, “I can tell you what causes depression. I can tell you about rational depression, and I can tell you about irrational depression. The second is mostly self-pity, and in neither case does biology enter into it.” I asked her how she could make a scientific statement with such certainty, given that she had never studied the field. She shrugged bitterly and snapped, “Because I know how to think.” (ch. 15)

I suppose she would have scoffed at Schopenhauer's claim:

On 11/28/2023 at 3:41 PM, KyaryPamyu said:

However, "a man may be perfectly sound in his physique and still possess a melancholy temperament and be generally given up to sad thoughts. The ultimate cause of this is undoubtedly to be found in innate, and therefore unalterable, physical constitution."

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Kyary,

The context in Galt’s Speech in which Rand says “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms“ (1957, 1012) is one in which she is setting out a notion of alternatives as something presented only to living things. The fundamentality goes to location of that alternative among all the alternatives an organism might come into. (For much living process, these alternatives are not presented as choices before the organism; choice is not essential to alternatives in the conception she is trying to get into the reader’s head in this stretch.) 

The sentence immediately following the one you have quoted in isolation shows that Rand is contrasting inanimate matter to animate matter and that an essential to their difference is that animate matter has to pursue a specific course of action among alternatives having differential import for it’s continuation as animate matter. The emergence of the various forms of inanimate matter such as a tornado and the conditions that make such an inanimate formation possible are irrelevant in the context surrounding the sentence you quoted. To take the sentence from its context and give it a different context is to change the topic (in which, in the new context, the sentence would state an absurdity). That is cheap and is indeed beyond an absence of charitable reading. It is any-straw-for-derision-will-do. There are serious flaws in the philosophy, I’m sure, as any philosophy, waiting for serious, patient mining.

Rand once remarked: “It is not fools I seek to address.” And indeed she did find not-fools who comprehended, for example, the conception of alternative she was articulating in this stretch of Galt’s Speech and who need for their suite of errors in Rand’s philosophy things genuinely in the philosophy. The point you bannered as you bannered it is not.

The sentence you quoted is part of Rand’s argument to the momentous conclusion that value (and function and need and problem and so forth) arises only in the situation and process that is life. One way to topple this account of value would be to pose an alternative account and argue for the latter’s superiority in truth. One notable attempt along that line is the one of Robert Nozick in his Philosophical Explanations (1981). He points to the occasions of “organic unity” (which he as defined) in the world ranging from nature to art. He argues that the objective dimension of value is organic unity. I do not find this plausible. More plausible is that life is the basic and fullest occasion of organic unity and that all other occasions of organic unity are derivative of organic unity in life or are merely analogical.

I don’t think the schemes of Empedocles, Schopenhauer, Mainländer, or Nietzsche (in his late imputation of will to power to even the inanimate world) have such plausibility (in our own era) as Nozick’s proposal. And his is wrong, Rand’s right, in my assessment. You talked of atoms wanting to become stabler, and you put want in scare quotes. That is a promising sign. A harmonic oscillator, classical or quantum, will tend to spend most of its time in its lowest energy state. That is cool, but there is nothing teleological about it and no need to understand it as teleological (and no need to take such a purported end-seeking as explanation for the teleological character of living things). Ditto, as I mentioned before, for the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations of mechanics with their extremum principles.

I notice that we do not spend any time at all, let alone most of our time, in a state of non-existence. The natural seeking of life is not death.

The Objectivist idea of a human-benevolent universe is not a naturalized mimicry of the idea of a benevolent God. It is not a postulate. It is only the proposition, with evidence, that humans with their power of reason fit superbly in the struggle for life and for wide, flexible grasp of reality, which has enabled ever more serviceability of nature for humans. It is the suitability to living and knowing of the character John Galt as described by Rand in the opening to Part III of her 1957 novel, which has affinity with Aristotle’s opening to Metaphysics. At times Rand displayed in her novels and declared in her nonfiction a sense of optimism (though pessimism about the future culture of Russia, taking its past as prologue). Rand’s optimism was not so far as Leibniz or the poet Alexander Pope. Rand’s optimism has some basis in the power and community of human reason, but I don’t see that optimism as strictly implied by the benevolent-universe idea. And in rejecting that optimism, one need not embrace the profound pessimism argued by Schopenhauer or Mainländer.

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3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

The context in Galt’s Speech in which Rand says “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or non-existence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms“ (1957, 1012) is one in which she is setting out a notion of alternatives as something presented only to living things.

There is no ambiguity here: only living organisms can act in favor of a certain outcome, as against an alternative outcome. Further, being alive is the precondition of pursuing any outcomes in the first place, so no alternative is more fundamental than being alive or not.

However, following this up with "matter is indestructible" is a non sequitur. Suppose that the quantity of matter gradually decreased, but very slowly. Or, suppose that half of matter is indestructible and the other half will eventually vanish. I reckon that, even in cases like these, it would still be absolutely true that only living beings are presented with alternatives.

3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

That is cheap and is indeed beyond an absence of charitable reading. It is any-straw-for-derision-will-do. . . Rand once remarked: “It is not fools I seek to address.” And indeed she did find not-fools who comprehended, for example, the conception of alternative she was articulating in this stretch of Galt’s Speech and who need for their suite of errors in Rand’s philosophy things genuinely in the philosophy.

The part about the indestructibility of matter is completely irrelevant to her point. As a consequence, it can potentially confuse everyone, not just uncharitable readers. Although any deficiencies in the presentation do not diminish the value of the insight.

3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

[Nozick] points to the occasions of “organic unity” (which he as defined) in the world ranging from nature to art. He argues that the objective dimension of value is organic unity. I do not find this plausible. More plausible is that life is the basic and fullest occasion of organic unity and that all other occasions of organic unity are derivative of organic unity in life or are merely analogical.

I'm not familiar with Nozick, but I can speak from personal experience. In my case, the feeling of aesthetic pleasure arises when I get a specific impression: the impression that external reality is in perfect harmony with my own needs. So intoxicating is this feeling that, even if the aesthetic object is considered "stimulating," (erotic art, technological gadgets etc.) my natural appetites are instantly tranquilized and my mind is immobilized into a state of bliss. My interest in Friedrich Schelling's idealist philosophy is, in part, a response to the fact that he also traced aesthetic pleasure to the cognition of a harmony between the "I" and "not-I".

This harmony could also be described as an organic unity between me and the world.

3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

You talked of atoms wanting to become stabler, and you put want in scare quotes. That is a promising sign.

Whether atoms partake in some grand teleological movement, I do not claim to know. The scare quotes are there because atoms are not conscious.

In this context, I can make one observation: the gulf between many philosophies is, in principle, unbridgeable - because they define things very differently. Some examples:

  • For Objectivists, to be "conscious" means to have first-person subjective experience of the external world. By contrast, in Advaita Vedanta, "consciousness" simply means "dynamic resposiveness to something external"; as a consequence, this definition encompasses atoms, plants reacting to stimuli, qualia-based awareness and the like.
  • In Objectivism, to be "alive" involves pursuing certain things and fleeing from others. For Mainländer, "life" simply means that a chemical compound persists unless it encounters a situation that will break it down. Microbes are not more alive than sulfur; both represent different paradigms or plays on the same universal theme (persistence).
  • According to Objectivism, free will means to regulate one's focus, to choose to think (and perhaps to be able to act "out of character"). Schopenhauer would quip that Objectivists merely think that their position is "free will", because they define things incorrectly; perhaps he'd say that Objectivists uphold some variety of compatibilism.

In no other case is the "apples to oranges" saying truer than when comparing philosophies.

3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

I notice that we do not spend any time at all, let alone most of our time, in a state of non-existence. The natural seeking of life is not death.

"Altruism cannot be bad - how can helping other people be bad?" Every Objectivist must have heard this at least once, before proceeding to explain that helping others is not the same as being altruistic, so on and so forth.

Experiences like this have thought me that whenever a philosopher seems to not see something blatantly obvious, he in fact does, and with gusto. If the above was a reference to Mainländer, he'd say that inspecting the parts of the locomotive without knowing what a locomotive does will always yield only partial knowledge. The function of the Universe is to destroy all useful energy. The thirst for life is the most effective means toward this goal. Or so he says.

3 hours ago, Boydstun said:

I don’t see that optimism as strictly implied by the benevolent-universe idea.

I also do not see Objectivism as an "optimistic" philosophy. Optimism is, plainly put, crude idiocy that is incompatible with reason or with a reality-oriented philosophy. Voltaire's response to Pope expressed this better than anyone.

Edited by KyaryPamyu
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Kyary,

I had stated: "I notice that we do not spend any time at all, let alone most of our time, in a state of non-existence. The natural seeking of life is not death."

You replied in part: "Experiences like this have thought me that whenever a philosopher seems to not see something blatantly obvious, he in fact does, and with gusto. If the above was a reference to Mainländer [it is], he'd say that inspecting the parts of the locomotive without knowing what a locomotive does will always yield only partial knowledge. The function of the Universe is to destroy all useful energy. The thirst for life is the most effective means toward this goal."

The universe does not have a function. Functions arise only with the advent of life. He is simply wrong and fudging, like so many philosophers before him, in trying to slip teleology into inanimate matter before the molecular machinery of life is on hand.* These are the facts with which our modern science works. We don't get to just speculate a reorder of things and count it as reality and yield something productive. The thirst for life by the researchers who prolonged my life did not attain some greatest effectiveness to my demise. And the end of life is not a goal of the universe. The universe has no goals. 

"I notice that we do not spend any time at all, let alone most of our time, in a state of non-existence. The natural seeking of life is not death." A great many people fall into thinking that after they die they are somehow still around, in some minimal way at least, passing through time. They will not be any such thing. They will not exist. That is neither rocket science nor obvious; it is a wide consilience of inductions to something as absolutely established as the existence of the hydrogen atom.

Edited by Boydstun
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