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The Validity Of Subjectivism

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1. I do not read German, but German-reading friends, and my own glance at a German-English dictionary, tell me that Glaube (Kant's word for which "faith" is the usual translation, at least in Critique of Pure Reason) can indeed mean "faith" (in the religious, epistemological sense) -- but it can also mean and be translated as "belief" (with the connotation of having any emotionally-based or other arbitrary, subjective source).

Ah-- well, I can see how a Thomist would certainly be inclined towards the former meaning of "faith," but here in Bible Belt, one might be surprized how many religionists are perfectly content to use "faith" in the latter sense, in English, too. They are the people who say things like "We have faith in God but you have just as much faith in science," in answer to criticisms of faith as such. But thanks for all the leads.. I've been meaning to read a good biography of Kant. From everything I've read about his life, he seems like a really strange guy. (Obsessively punctual, nightly walks.. Never ventured outside the town he was born in, despite teaching Geography at the University, etc.)

P. S. -- David, thank you for laying out the various Greek ideas on pleasure and happiness. The Greeks were, as you know, the fountainhead of Western Civilization. In a sense, they are still part of the great debates of our time.

It was my pleasure. Writing down things like that, which I've been chewing on for a while, helps me solidify those concepts in my mind, too. I hope your thanking me for them constitutes an approval of the accuracy of my formulations. I know you've studied the Greeks pretty extensively.

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I'm interested in this statement, because I haven't spent much time talking to students of Kant, but I've spent considerable time reading him myself. Kant is the man who "suspended reason to make room for faith." So why are his students militant Atheists?

As a former student of philosophy (as a minor which I later dropped) I was immersed in debate with Kantians and all of the various schools that his philosophy ended up fathering (Existentialism, Pragmatism, Marxism, Hegelanism, et cetera). I was unique not only because I was also a student of theology, but in that I was the only one who argued for an objective reality, though be it one where God existed as the first cause (in line with the Thomist school).

Most Kantians were emersed in metaphysical agnosticism, ergo they couldn't even be sure if a pencil that they use to write existed in the same form independent their A Priori Synthesis, and they would get extremely offended if I even snickered at this (which I did constantly). This metaphysical agnosticism made such simple concepts as pencils and paper so convoluted that when it came time to talk of such things as God, there seemed to be a sense of mental fatigue, probably due to the overload they had given their minds with all the concepts at war with needless anti-concepts.

Kantians, furthermore, are extremely threatened by anything that would crush their little subjective universe, and the concept of an immutable diety that creates natural laws that can't be avoided is probably the most offensive attack to them in that regard. But ironically, when Ayn Rand's name would occasionally pop up in discussions (this was before I read her books), there was such vitriol and contempt for her that I wondered how an atheist could anger them more than Catholicism could. After I read "Intro to Objectivist Epistemology" I found my answer.

P.S. - It has often been my belief that Kant himself did not neccesarily share his followers fear and loathing of Objective Reality (this is by no meant to absolve him of the responsibility of the chaos that we've seen in the 20th century), and this is probably due to the fact that most Kantians are also influenced by Hegel, who inverted the principle and basically asserted that the subjective whim of the individual is an absolute (a contradiction to be sure) and the result is a person who is so militantly untrusting of his own mind that he feels threatened when others use their's to understand an external reality.

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Ah-- well, I can see how a Thomist would certainly be inclined towards the former meaning of "faith," but here in Bible Belt, one might be surprized how many religionists are perfectly content to use "faith" in the latter sense, in English, too. They are the people who say things like "We have faith in God but you have just as much faith in science," in answer to criticisms of faith as such. But thanks for all the leads.. I've been meaning to read a good biography of Kant. From everything I've read about his life, he seems like a really strange guy. (Obsessively punctual, nightly walks.. Never ventured outside the town he was born in, despite teaching Geography at the University, etc.)

Most Protestant Christians have Augustinian tendencies, this is mostly due to the fact that Martin Luther and John Calvin were both Augustinian enthusiasts in their view of theology (Martin Luther's By Faith Alone doctrine, which is an extreme take on Original Sin even by Augustine's standards, as well as John Calvin's predestination doctrine, which is in line with Plato's principle of unearned wisdom from the realm of ideas). Some Protestants who protested the original protestant churches have picked up on some of Aquinas' re-telling of Aristotle's philosophy, but they often get it in lesser amounts due to conflicts with their doctrine of Scripture Alone (which most protestants kept from the original reformation).

This is the reason for the confounding of the borders between reason and faith, and ultimately why the "Bible Belt" can not differentiate between a metaphysical speculation to the source of existence and logical experimental methods done by induction and deduction. Essentially the so-called Bible Beater is walking in the 21st century, but his sense of rational discourse is still locked in the pre-13th century mindset of Platonic Christianity.

As far as what I've read of Kant, he was essentially an eccentric, and this can probably be traced back to his education in the Lutheran Church. One of the things which the Lutherans are really big on is extreme humility, to the point of appearing guilty of some crime. This would explain his extreme punctuality, as he did not wish to appear arrogant or prideful to his patrons. His nightly walks are a bit more of a mystery to me.

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Hegel... inverted the principle and basically asserted that the subjective whim of the individual is an absolute (a contradiction to be sure) and the result is a person who is so militantly untrusting of his own mind that he feels threatened when others use their's to understand an external reality.

Ohhh, so that's where that comes from. I wondered how transcendentalism got from Kant's universalizability principle to Emerson

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1. I do not read German, but German-reading friends, and my own glance at a German-English dictionary, tell me that Glaube (Kant's word for which "faith" is the usual translation, at least in Critique of Pure Reason) can indeed mean "faith" (in the religious, epistemological sense) -- but it can also mean and be translated as "belief" (with the connotation of having any emotionally-based or other arbitrary, subjective source).

Since I'm from Germany, I guess I can help here.

"Glaube" can mean belief or faith.

There are some other words, but they have a different meaning.

"Gl

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"Glaube" can mean belief or faith.

So what is the best interpretation of Kant's statement in context? Here's the full paragraph, in the NKS translation:

This discussion as to the positive advantage of critical

principles of pure reason can be similarly developed in regard

to the concept of God and of the simple nature of our soul; but

for the sake of brevity such further discussion may be omitted.

[From what has already been said, it is evident that] even the

assumption--as made on behalf of the necessary practical em-

ployment of my reason -- of God, freedom, and immortality is

not permissible unless at the same time speculative reason be

deprived of its pretensions to transcendent insight. For in order

to arrive at such insight it must make use of principles which,

in fact, extend only to objects of possible experience, and

which, if also applied to what cannot be an object of experience,

always really change this into an appearance, thus rendering

all practical extension of pure reason impossible. I have therefore

found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room

for faith. The dogmatism of metaphysics, that is, the precon-

ception that it is possible to make headway in metaphysics with-

out a previous criticism of pure reason, is the source of all that

unbelief, always very dogmatic, which wars against morality.

The way I read it, I think he probably meant religious "faith" and inexplicable belief-- because he mentions God; but he also mentions "freedom," which I think he means as something approximating volition, and which is not specifically religious, although in his formulation it certainly contradicts reason and evidence.

Dark_unicorn, now that I can see you include Hegelians and Kant's other decendents in the concept of "Kantian," I can understand how they could be atheists. Kant gave consistent arguments against every attempt to arive at the concept of God through reason, because he believed his epistemology to be the only way to get at it. But it was easy enough for his followers to just do away with the whole neumenal world altogether, because his arguments for God, freedom, and the imortal soul were about as compelling as his arguments "for" pure reason.

While thinking about this thread, I've gone back and re-read some of CPR. Man, when I don't read Kant for a while, and then I go back and read him again... I forget how explicitly disturbing he really was sometimes. :( He's so one of those, "well, he couldn't have possibly meant that" philosophers. But he did, I guess. Does that make any sense..?

On a related note, did Aquinas ever comment on Tertullian?

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  • 4 months later...
That's not the right method. Perhaps you're right that some drug-addicts are happy people; but, don't assume it. Instead of starting from an assumption, start from reality[...]
You're right.

I began this thread with the purpose of straightening out some issues with Objectivism I was having difficulty handling myself. My goal was to present my ideas in a well-articulated fashion with the hopes that other users would be able to hash out any misunderstanding and in turn explain to me my errors.

Unfortunately, among my goals was not the polite articulation of my ideas. As I see it now, that was pretty absurd, considering that I was showing little respect for the same people I was hoping would help.

I have been enjoying this forum and from it have gained a lot of value. Since I so publicly lambasted the users of this thread (and by extension, this forum) for no good reason, I would now like to apologize for it, and more so to DavidOdden and Proverb, whom I wrongly insulted. A late apology, but one nevertheless.

Ok, I quoted softwareNerd because I believe that was the main error in my thinking; I was creating some implausible hypotheticals in my head, which I did not observe anywhere in life, and holding them as possible evidence against an objective ethical standard. My use of drug addicts was a good example of this, as I even know from immediate second-hand experience that addicts of heroin are the most miserable, pathetic, gut-wrenching individuals I have ever known. So I have been trying to change my approach to things in that regard.

However, there is one issue I originally brought up that I still do not understand, which I would now like to politely inquire about: I realize that the ultimate choice is whether to live or not. However, how is someone supposed to arrive at a conclusion to this without considering happiness? How can a separation be made between a man's life and his happiness, when there is no reason for him to value his life at all without the experience of happiness? Shouldn't the fundamental-choice statement read something more like, "The ultimate choice is to live, and living as a man means to experience happiness"?

Without happiness mentioned, I read it, "The ultimate choice is to survive," which no man would choose.

Also, the statement, "Anything that furthers your life is the good, anything that doesn't is the bad," a paraphrase of Rand, is to me misleading as well. Furthering your life must include happiness, or it is meaningless. I would change the statement to, "Anything that works toward the greatest improvement upon your happiness is the good. Anything that doesn't is the bad."

Could anyone offer another perspective, please?

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Could anyone offer another perspective, please?
Let's quote Ayn Rand...
...the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose.
From that brief statement it isn't obvious, but the rest of that essay shows that Miss Rand was not speaking of hedonism. Indeed it might be more accurate to say that, in Miss Rand's view, happiness is the opposite of hedonism. Now, that's radical, eh? :thumbsup:
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Could anyone offer another perspective, please?

Happiness comes from your subconscious, and the subconsciousness just adopts whatever you repeatedly do on the conscious level. So to become happy you have to consciously think a certain way.

The way to think is rationally. If you are rational you will avoid logical contradictions, so everything that filters in to your subconscious will be consistent and you won't experience mixed emotions, you won't be an "emotional wreck." Also, if you are rational you will be successful in reality (since reason is the way to make things work in reality). So this success and non-mixed signals should result, over time, in a constant background feeling of contentness or happiness.

Now the way life as the standard fits in to this is that setting your life as ultimate goal is a part of being rational: it's using reality as the standard of the true and the good. So it is necessary to follow the proper morality to be happy, but you don't aim directly at the happiness, you aim at being moral, and then your subconcious eventually obliges and makes you happy.

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James, I think this is a tough question to answer. The question “How...” implies a method of reaching a goal, and for beings that use logic, the validity of conclusion has to be based on a standard. What then is the standard for validating the choice to live? Why life, and not death? I think the choice is axiomatic. Not that we are born knowing that the right conclusion is to live, but that we have direct sensory access to what it means to live, and that it is self evident, when you experience life, that “this is good”. Life is not being in a constant state of physical pain, and if it were, I would probably have a hard time deciding “Yes, this is what I want”. Pleasure is part of life, and it arises from reaching your goals (which you do by using reason and what you know about the world, to keep the rain out, feed yourself, discover miracle metals and invent the nanometer-width CPU). Your statement about living as a man is close -- it’s not wrong, but can be elaborated to be more explicit. The ultimate choice is to live, qua man, which means living rationally and achieving one’s goals, and that results in experiencing happiness. To merely exist as a brute animal, against your nature, is not something that a man would choose. Having made the decision to live, the next most important thing for a person to do is discover rational goals -- goals that work towards living. It’s all about the goals.

BTW I had completely forgotten your initial struggles here: what I see is a good and thoughtful integration of Objectivist principles in your posts. Error is possible, and working to eliminate error is a virtue. For my part, your apology is accepted and implicit in your continued contributions to the forum.

Edited by DavidOdden
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