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So far I haven't seen any comments on this quote I posted yesterday.

Never attempt to predict what someone will do. You can establish a strong probability. If you know a person well enough to know his basic premises, then you can say with assurance that the chances are he will make the right choice, if he understands a given situation. But you can't say that with full confidence ... [...] If you know a person is moral, you can expect his actions to be better than the actions of an irrational person. But the idea of attempting to predict human action, in the way you would predict an eclipse, is improper. You cannot and need not predict human actions that way.

I have been taking the exact same position on this issue as the author of this quote, to considerable opposition, and have even been accused of being a Kelleyite tolerationist, and worse.

The above quote comes from Page 155 of Ayn Rand Answers.

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So far I haven't seen any comments on this quote I posted yesterday.

I'll take a guess as to why, Betsy. Let's see, none of us feel like being obviously baited?

I have been taking the exact same position on this issue as the author of this quote, to considerable opposition, and have even been accused of being a Kelleyite tolerationist, and worse.

A whole post simply for ad veracundia?

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So far I haven't seen any comments on this quote I posted yesterday.

Mrs. Speicher, on the topic of How certain can we be about our judgement of others? - it was you who brought up the idea of predicting what a person is likely to do in the future - as being a part of the process. Then you said that since we can't be absolutely certain about such future predictions then we can't be certain about our evaluation of others (at least you said not as certain as our evaluation of ourselves).

I had made this point in my previous post: predictions about what a person is likely to do in the future is not a part of judging that person today. You are arguing against something which is not a part of the process of an objective moral evaluation.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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How reliable does an introspection have to be before you can know whether someone is evading? Let's say that you think his particular introspection is 90% reliable. Is that enough for a "conclusive moral evaluation?" Does it need to be 100% reliable? If so, can you give an example of what a 100% reliable introspection would be? Does the guy have to say something like, "I've looked inward at my thinking process, and, you know what, I have been evading this whole time?"

Betsy, since I posted the above question a couple days ago, I have since thought of another one that I think will help me understand your position better: What is the standard by which you determine the reliability of another person's introspection? For example, what criteria must be met for 50% reliability versus 100% reliability?

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I had made this point in my previous post: predictions about what a person is likely to do in the future is not a part of judging that person today. You are arguing against something which is not a part of the process of an objective moral evaluation.

I agree, but it is a related matter. That's why it came up in this thread (or the original thread from which it was split?).

When predicting future actions was discussed, I took a stand that some disagreed with. The Ayn Rand quote I supplied tends to support my side of that particular controversy.

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Betsy, since I posted the above question a couple days ago, I have since thought of another one that I think will help me understand your position better: What is the standard by which you determine the reliability of another person's introspection? For example, what criteria must be met for 50% reliability versus 100% reliability?

The process is neither a mathematical calculation nor a process of deductive logic. It is an inductive integration of all the information I have or can obtain that is relevant to evaluating the reliability of another person's introspection.

It involves answers to questions like:

How honest is this person? Have I ever caught him in a lie? Has he been honest even when it is not to his immediate advantage and/or he could get away with lying?

What motivation would he have for lying about his thoughts and feelings? Has he been trying to impress me? Does he seem to be hiding something?

How good an introspecter is he? Is he repressed or defensive? Is he afraid of what his thoughts and feelings might reveal about himself. Does he have rigid or unrealistic ideas about he ought to think and feel?

Do his reported introspections make sense in the light of his actions? Are his emotional reactions in sync with his reported values?

Would lying about his introspections be to his advantage in this situation? Could he be seeking a value that way?

How well does what he says about himself integrate with what I know about myself and about people I know who have been in situations similar to his?

Etc.

Edited by Betsy
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A whole post simply for ad veracundia?

Ad Verecundiam (note the spelling) is an irrelevant or fallacious appeal to authority.

Are you saying that what Ayn Rand had to say about the matter is irrelevant to what the Objectivist position is or ought to be?

Are you saying that what Ayn Rand said, and I agree with, is fallacious?

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So far I haven't seen any comments on this quote I posted yesterday.

I basically already responded to your argument here, even before you posted this quote, but I too did not see any comments from you! From page 2 of this thread:

My argument against that is the same one I gave to Maarten.

If your basis for rejecting certainty (concerning another person's honesty, etc) is true, then you can't even say that you are certain of your own honesty (as you said). Because that basis - possession of free will - applies to yourself as well. You, in other words, are not a rock either, and if only "physical entities" that are "strictly determined" can be known, then you can't know yourself.

The principle you are probably overlooking is the idea of a "self made soul". If it is MADE, it can be known (even if, like other entities, it can subsequently change), through integration.

Thanks.

There's something you should notice in the Rand quote you supplied:

Never attempt to predict what someone will do. You can establish a strong probability. If you know a person well enough to know his basic premises, then you can say with assurance that the chances are he will make the right choice, if he understands a given situation. But you can't say that with full confidence ... [...] If you know a person is moral, you can expect his actions to be better than the actions of an irrational person. But the idea of attempting to predict human action, in the way you would predict an eclipse, is improper. You cannot and need not predict human actions that way.

My emphasis in bold says "if you KNOW a person is moral ..." So, by the time you are trying to do this prediction (of his actions), you already KNOW the person is moral. So, how do you know the person is moral? Judgment. Notice therefore that what is not absolutely certain is NOT the judgment, but the PREDICTION of his actions AFTER you are already 100% certain of his character through your judgment. This is why the passage continues with "you can expect his actions to be better than the actions of an irrational person."

So, you can KNOW someone is irrational just as you can know someone is moral; what you can't really KNOW is if they will always act right. The problem is that you've been mixing these two actions in your epistemological argument (by saying, for example, that you can only be fully certain of your own honesty).

Thanks.

Edited by blackdiamond
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My emphasis in bold says "if you KNOW a person is moral ..." So, by the time you are trying to do this prediction (of his actions), you already KNOW the person is moral. So, how do you know the person is moral? Judgment. Notice therefore that what is not absolutely certain is NOT the judgment, but the PREDICTION of his actions AFTER you are already 100% certain of his character through your judgment.

You can't be 100% certain that someone else is moral in his past and present actions either, just certain beyond a reasonable doubt which is as good as it gets. That's how Branden was able to deceive an excellent judge of character like Ayn Rand -- at least for a while.

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You can't be 100% certain that someone else is moral in his past and present actions either, just certain beyond a reasonable doubt which is as good as it gets.
I don't understand your conception of "certain". Do you accept this characterization of "certain"?

A conclusion is "certain" when the evidence in its favor is conclusive; i.e., when it has been logically validated. At this stage, one has gone beyond "substantial" evidence. Rather, the total of the available evidence points in a single direction, and this evidence fulfills the standard of proof. In such a context, there is nothing to suggest even the possibility of another interpretation. There are, therefore, no longer any grounds for doubt

If you do, what is the difference between "100% certain" and "certain beyond a reasonable doubt"?

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You can't be 100% certain that someone else is moral in his past and present actions either, just certain beyond a reasonable doubt which is as good as it gets. That's how Branden was able to deceive an excellent judge of character like Ayn Rand -- at least for a while.

So, are you saying that even AFTER the split, Ayn Rand was NOT 100 percent certain that Branden was dishonest? (Since your statement implies that 100% certainty is impossible.)

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I don't understand your conception of "certain". Do you accept this characterization of "certain"?

A conclusion is "certain" when the evidence in its favor is conclusive; i.e., when it has been logically validated. At this stage, one has gone beyond "substantial" evidence. Rather, the total of the available evidence points in a single direction, and this evidence fulfills the standard of proof. In such a context, there is nothing to suggest even the possibility of another interpretation. There are, therefore, no longer any grounds for doubt

If you do, what is the difference between "100% certain" and "certain beyond a reasonable doubt"?

I agree with the above statement but it doesn't specify the standard of conclusiveness nor what the process of logical validation consists of. That, I would hold, depends on the nature of the entities that are the subject of the conclusion.

The way you evaluate the evidence concerning physical entities is different than the way you evaluate people who have free will. Also, the purpose of the evaluation affects the standard of proof used. In civil cases, the standard is the "preponderance of the evidence" while in criminal cases it is "beyond a reasonable doubt."

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So, are you saying that even AFTER the split, Ayn Rand was NOT 100 percent certain that Branden was dishonest? (Since your statement implies that 100% certainty is impossible.)

No, that is not my point. Sometimes you do have incontrovertable evidence of immorality -- too many contradictory statements and actions -- that a conclusion of immorality is certain. When it comes to someone's morality, however it's a different story. You can't conclude that someone is virtuous simply because you don't have conclusive evidence about their immorality.

You can conclude, with 100% certainty, that someone is dishonest if you catch him telling too many lies or contradicting reality too many times. You can't be certain that he is totally honest just because you haven't caught him telling a lie yet.

The principle applicable here is that absence of proof is not proof of absence.

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The way you evaluate the evidence concerning physical entities is different than the way you evaluate people who have free will. Also, the purpose of the evaluation affects the standard of proof used. In civil cases, the standard is the "preponderance of the evidence" while in criminal cases it is "beyond a reasonable doubt."
I did not ask you what standard of proof is necessary for a particular purpose. In your reply (#79), you said 'You can't be 100% certain that someone else is moral in his past and present actions either, just certain beyond a reasonable doubt which is as good as it gets.' I cannot comprehend this distinction. As you know, the concept "certain" refers to one endpoint in the evidential continuum, where there are no longer grounds for doubt. Let me emphasize the word grounds: there is always the metaphysical possibility of un-reasoned, irrational doubt, but we are only talking about people who operate by reason. So if reason provides no grounds for doubt, and you are certain beyond a reasonable doubt, then what more is required to go from "certain beyond a reasonable doubt" to that endpoint beyond the end of the evidential continuum when you are "100% certain"? You have denied that it is possible to be "100%" certain (at least in the case of moral evaluation), while claiming that it is possible to certain "beyond a reasonable doubt".

The common skeptic's response is to involke the arbitrary, th fact that you "can imagine" things being otherwise, so that even if you don't have any reason to doubt a claim, you can still "imagine" that it is false and therefore you cannot be 100% certain. But we know better than this, because the arbitrary does not constitute evidence. This is why I an utterly puzzled by your statement, because in fact being certain means being certain beyond a reasonable doubt, that is, 100% certain.

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That, I would hold, depends on the nature of the entities that are the subject of the conclusion.

Are [wo]men unique, among all existents, in having the power to confuse even the best among us? Is human consciousness, unlike everything else in the universe, not open to awareness and cognition? What is the nature of human consciousness which clouds any attempt to gather evidence of its properties and evaluate that evidence?

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No, that is not my point. Sometimes you do have incontrovertable evidence of immorality -- too many contradictory statements and actions -- that a conclusion of immorality is certain. When it comes to someone's morality, however it's a different story. You can't conclude that someone is virtuous simply because you don't have conclusive evidence about their immorality.

You can conclude, with 100% certainty, that someone is dishonest if you catch him telling too many lies or contradicting reality too many times. You can't be certain that he is totally honest just because you haven't caught him telling a lie yet.

The principle applicable here is that absence of proof is not proof of absence.

Four points:

1. Firstly, as far as i know, "beyond reasonable doubt" is used for guilt in law, not for innocence. A person must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt to be convicted. You, on the other hand, are applying this principle to proving "morality" (innocence) and not immorality (guilt), which is odd. is the law wrong, or is there no connection between the legal usage of this principle and a moral usage, epistemologically?

2. You say that we can tell that someone is dishonest if we catch them telling "too many lies or contradicting reality too many times". I don't understand why we can't, similarly, tell that someone is honest (with equal certainty) if we"catch" them telling "too many truths", as it were (eg telling the truth all the time that we've known them, even in difficult situations). Why should we be 100% certain of the negative, but never 100 % certain of the positive when we use an identical process of induction? [And note that I am not suggesting proof of positive by mere absence of negatives (deduction), but by integration of positives (induction)].

3. Moral judgment is about establishing the presence of virtue (or vice) in a person (yes, for selfish reasons). If what you are saying is true concerning certainty, then it should be true not only about the virtue of honesty, but about the other virtues as well, no? Are you saying you can't be 100 per cent certain that someone else is rational? Or even more easy, that someone else is productive? independent? if you answer in the affirmative, then you will need to say why this applies only to one (or some) virtues and not to others.

4. Are you saying you've never been totally sure of another person's virtue of honesty (with the same certainty as your own)? not even a relative? not even Ayn Rand? Not even of her rationality? or her self-esteem? you've only been that certain when it's a vice involved? [This is the same as point 3 above, I guess].

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You can't be certain that he is totally honest just because you haven't caught him telling a lie yet.

By "totally" do you mean 100%, i.e., that you can't be 100% certain that someone is 100% honest?

If so, then is it possible to be 100% certain that someone is less than 100% honest? Let's say that I have never caught my friend in a lie, and he has displayed remarkable truthfulness in a variety of significant situations. Can I at least be 100% certain that he is 99% honest? Or, if you prefer, maybe I should be 99% certain that he is 100% honest?

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What about someone like Kant, Betsy? Technically, I don't think one could catch him in a lie. One might say that he evaded. However, can one really say that, if he insists that that is what his mind tells him?

The most important thing about Kant -- and what really ought to concern us most -- is that his ideas are evil and they lead to misery and death. That being the case, whether he was personally evil, crazy, or honestly mistaken pales by comparison.

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As you know, the concept "certain" refers to one endpoint in the evidential continuum, where there are no longer grounds for doubt.

The concept of "certainty" has been used to mean different things by different posters. For what I mean by certainty, see this post.

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Are [wo]men unique, among all existents, in having the power to confuse even the best among us? Is human consciousness, unlike everything else in the universe, not open to awareness and cognition? What is the nature of human consciousness which clouds any attempt to gather evidence of its properties and evaluate that evidence?

Human consciousness is open to awareness and cognition, but only the contents of our own minds are available to each of us directly by introspection. The minds of others are not and must be inferred.

Thus, the cognitive process is different for understanding the minds of others and, being more steps removed from direct perception, more prone to error.

Edited by Betsy
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1. Firstly, as far as i know, "beyond reasonable doubt" is used for guilt in law, not for innocence. A person must be proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt to be convicted. You, on the other hand, are applying this principle to proving "morality" (innocence) and not immorality (guilt), which is odd. is the law wrong, or is there no connection between the legal usage of this principle and a moral usage, epistemologically?

The legal standard for innocence is "innocent until proved guilty" with "beyond a reasonable doubt" as the standard of guilt. That strikes me as a reasonable and useful standard of proof when evaluating people in general and not just legally.

2. You say that we can tell that someone is dishonest if we catch them telling "too many lies or contradicting reality too many times". I don't understand why we can't, similarly, tell that someone is honest (with equal certainty) if we"catch" them telling "too many truths", as it were (eg telling the truth all the time that we've known them, even in difficult situations). Why should we be 100% certain of the negative, but never 100 % certain of the positive when we use an identical process of induction? [And note that I am not suggesting proof of positive by mere absence of negatives (deduction), but by integration of positives (induction)].

Dr. Peikoff makes the point, I believe it is in his lecture "Why Should One Live by Principle," that to be moral, a man has to be moral all the time, but to be immoral, a man only has to be immoral occasionally. You can't prove a Mafia hit man isn't a murderer by pointing to 58 days in which he didn't kill anybody.

3. Moral judgment is about establishing the presence of virtue (or vice) in a person (yes, for selfish reasons). If what you are saying is true concerning certainty, then it should be true not only about the virtue of honesty, but about the other virtues as well, no? Are you saying you can't be 100 per cent certain that someone else is rational? Or even more easy, that someone else is productive? independent? if you answer in the affirmative, then you will need to say why this applies only to one (or some) virtues and not to others.

It applies to all virtues. To be virtuous means to be virtuous all the time. Unless you are with someone all the time -- as you are with yourself -- you do not know what they actually do all the time. All you know is what they have done some of the time. Using that information, you make the best evaluation you can.

4. Are you saying you've never been totally sure of another person's virtue of honesty (with the same certainty as your own)? not even a relative? not even Ayn Rand? Not even of her rationality? or her self-esteem? you've only been that certain when it's a vice involved? [This is the same as point 3 above, I guess].

I haven't been as certain of others as I have been of myself, but with people I know very well, who have never exhibited any vice, and whose statements and actions integrate extremely well with the idea that they are virtuous, I am almost as certain of them as I am with myself.

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By "totally" do you mean 100%, i.e., that you can't be 100% certain that someone is 100% honest?

If so, then is it possible to be 100% certain that someone is less than 100% honest?

Yes. To be honest means to be 100% honest all the time. To be dishonest, as I recall Dr. Peikoff saying, a person doesn't have to be dishonest all the time. A few venal whoppers will do.

Let's say that I have never caught my friend in a lie, and he has displayed remarkable truthfulness in a variety of significant situations. Can I at least be 100% certain that he is 99% honest? Or, if you prefer, maybe I should be 99% certain that he is 100% honest?

I wouldn't quantify it that way, but one can judge such a man to be probably honest or likely to be honest and, therefore, worthy of one's trust.

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The legal standard for innocence is "innocent until proved guilty" with "beyond a reasonable doubt" as the standard of guilt. That strikes me as a reasonable and useful standard of proof when evaluating people in general and not just legally.

Perhaps I was unclear. Simply put, the law uses this principle ("beyond a reasonable doubt") as the standard of GUILT, as you correctly say. But you are using it as a standard of INNOCENCE.

Dr. Peikoff makes the point, I believe it is in his lecture "Why Should One Live by Principle," that to be moral, a man has to be moral all the time, but to be immoral, a man only has to be immoral occasionally.

So, if i told a lie once in the last seven years then i am not moral? or does it have to be in the last seven days? 7 hours?

You can't prove a Mafia hit man isn't a murderer by pointing to 58 days in which he didn't kill anybody.

As i said just in my last post, i am not proposing proof of a positive by absence of negatives. I am proposing proof of a positive (evaluation) by presence of positives, as a primary. Besides, a mafia is evil by the very fact that he is a mafia, just like every voluntary member of Al Qaeda is evil, whether he has done a suicide bomb or not in the last 58 days.

It applies to all virtues. To be virtuous means to be virtuous all the time. Unless you are with someone all the time -- as you are with yourself -- you do not know what they actually do all the time. All you know is what they have done some of the time. Using that information, you make the best evaluation you can.

As i argued earlier, by this kind of epistemology, we are not certain of anything except things that are directly before us, perceptually. Thus, even when I address you as Ms Speicher, I shouldn't be totally certain that that's your name because you could have changed it in the last two hours. A woman can't even be totally certain that her husband loves her or that he is happily married to her (it could have changed in the last two minutes, or perhaps it's false because he didn't love her for a moment last week?). All this strikes me as odd epistemology. But even stranger is the idea that if you just do ONE wrong action then you are immoral (or at least not moral).

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Dr. Peikoff makes the point, I believe it is in his lecture "Why Should One Live by Principle," that to be moral, a man has to be moral all the time, but to be immoral, a man only has to be immoral occasionally.

On further thought, I believe that I can show that this statement (or your interpretation of it) is wrong, by a reductio.

Let's accept that a person has to act moral all the time to be moral, but to be immoral he has to be immoral occasionally.

So, what happens when a person acts immoral once and only once? Since by your standard he has not been moral all the time, he is not moral. But also, he is not immoral OCCASIONALLY, since it is only once, so he is not immoral either. So, the person is not moral and he is not immoral. Contradiction?

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