Sunday, January 21, 2007

"A Person" Writes...

Over at Amazon I've been parsing the 'review' of ARCHN by one "A Person." Interesting only as an example of the lengths some Randians will go to to misrepresent their critics, and of their cheerful rejection of such basic standards as providing evidence for assertions, keeping quotes in some semblance of context, or even reading the book in question. Not a pretty picture.

Update:
I've inserted some additional points into my initial Amazon comment to save casual readers the tedium of wading through the rest of the thread, which consists mostly of me extracting a couple of foggy retractions from a highly reluctant A Person. I reproduce my points here, however, because ultimately the exchange strongly reinforces Greg's basic thesis about Objectivism's avoidance of "empirical responsibility."

Let's start with AP's opening comment:

"...each of my observations is an obvious logical conclusion of Mr. Nyquist's statements."

If only this were so! Let's look at the first of his "obvious logical conclusions" . AP quotes Nyquist saying "What I seek is not for my readers to agree with me--that would be an immense bore--but that they understand and criticize me intelligently." From this, AP concludes that ARCHN is "more of a hypothetical stab against Objectivism than an organized argument, and its author's stated purpose is not to provide a convincing refutation of Objectivism". But this is a non-sequitur - it does not follow that ARCHN is therefore not an organised and convincing argument. While AP found himself unable to muster the intellectual stamina to make it past the book's intro, in order to make it even there he must have encountered the Table of Contents, which sets out Nyquist's comprehensive critique of the 7 main branches of Rand's philosophy. (Reader Alexander F├╝rstenberg in his 4 star Amazon review gives a handy overview of the book's structure in detail). Further, from the fact that philosophical systems cannot be *finally* refuted ( and this is true; for metaphysical statements are often unfalsifiable in form - think "A is A" for example - and also 'true believers' of particular philosophic systems can always simply *refuse to accept* any refutation offered, much like the priest who refused to look through Galileo's telescope) it does not follow that ARCHN does not set out to be strongly convincing. It does, and judging from the reviews of readers who are not already Randian "true believers", it is.

Of course, basic logical fallacies aside, we should not expect much factual information either from a 'reviewer' who reads no further than the introduction. It is little wonder then that AP makes any number of inane, fact free claims. For example, he says Nyquist views philosophical systems "as collections of isolated facts rather than integrated wholes that stand on foundational principles." But this is simply wrong - following Karl Popper, Nyquist *does* view philosophies as integrated wholes, which can nonetheless be criticised and successfully refuted (although not to "true believers" of course) by searching for counter-examples in empirical fact. Thus ARCHN is chock-a-block full of *factual* refutations of Objectivist dogmas, 360 or so pages of them starting with Rand's theory of human nature, moving through history, epistemology, metaphysics, ethics etc. These factual refutations are in turn logically devastating to the fundamental principles of Objectivism.

Thus AP's claims that Nyquist does not address Rand's "actual doctrines" and that he "does not intend to offer specific refutations of Miss Rand's factual assertions" are completely laughable - a perfect example of a 'true believer' simply refusing to look through the telescope.

One wonders: why isn't AP embarrassed by making such obviously fake statements in public? Why would one attempt such a lengthy and transparent folly as reviewing a book without reading it in the first place? Well, Greg Nyquist has written elsewhere (in the upcoming Journal of Ayn Rand Studies) that despite their rhetoric about "facts of reality", in practice the followers of Ayn Rand seem to believe that by adopting her dogmas they are somehow relieved of "empirical responsibility"; of the basic responsibility studying the facts. This is the essence of Nyquist's critique of Objectivism - that it is, despite its claims to the contrary, a philosophy that goes out of its way to evade reality. This 'review' gives us a nutshell case of this tendency, as AP does not trouble himself to study the fact of the book itself, and considers all it is necessary to do is trim a few quotes from the introduction into suitable cues to commence reciting his Objectivist catechism. Thus, as he has not read ARCHN, AP's 'review' *can only be* his own imaginary rendering of its actual content mixed with generic Randian boilerplate and some typically inept attempts at logical deduction; which in turn can hardly make it worth examining in any more detail, other than as a textbook example of the Randian method of "bluff, buttressed by abuse" in action, and, as I also write at the end of (the Amazon discussion) thread, of how *not* to conduct a good-faith intellectual discussion.

19 comments:

Michael Prescott said...

A Person takes exception to the idea that someone can be considered a great philosopher even if his ideas aren't true. It seems to me that there are four respects in which a philosopher can be described as "great."

1. He comes up with new, valid ideas or approaches.
2. He asks new questions that stimulate productive lines of inquiry.
3. He provides answers that, while invalid, contribute to the debate by moving it in new directions.
4. He has a significant influence on politics or culture.

Of these, only #4 might arguably apply to Rand, and only if we assign her a "significant" influence on contemporary politics - which may be a stretch.

David said...

I was perplexed by AP's back-pedalling from the statement that Nyquist was an avowed Hegelian to Nyquist having a "clear Hegelian undertone" in his work - all without having read the work itself.

But let's let that issue slide for the sake of argument. What, praytell, is meant by Hegelian? What specific passages create this "undertone" and which ideas of Hegel's are discernable therein? And why is that bad?

Methinks that AP hasn't read anything about Hegel (aside from Rand's one-liners), let alone Hegel himself. Methinks that "Hegelian," like "Kantian" is Objectivist for "something I don't like."

Daniel Barnes said...

David:
>What, praytell, is meant by Hegelian? What specific passages create this "undertone" and which ideas of Hegel's are discernable therein?

Hi David

Well, AP first started out claiming that Nyquist had a "fondness for Hegelian Dialectics" but when challenged was completely unable to supply any example of this. He then tried to claim he was able to 'evince' it from the 'sum total' text of ARCHN's intro! As I replied at the time:

"Hey AP, did you know that from the 'sum total' of your review I am magically able to 'evince' that you are a Berkeleyian subjectivist with a "fondness" for playing nude volleyball, snorting baking soda and dressing up as Napoleon? Of course, according to you I do not need 'a single conclusive statement' to support this assertion!"

>And why is that bad?

David, didn't you know that all philosophers other than Rand and Aristotle are bad?..;-)

This is rather ironic too, given Rand scholar Chris Sciabarra's claims that Rand herself is a closet dialectician!

Anyway, AP's review itself is trivial, but interesting mainly as an example of Nyquist's central thesis in action.

Michael Hardesty said...

A Person kicked you're stinky arse rather hard, "Barnes." I can see why you wouldn't post the full context of the actual exchange. You
are a coward and a liar.

Daniel Barnes said...

Goodbye Mr Hardesty, and your various sock-puppet pals. Let's just refer to your indispensable Randzapper profile again:

http://randzapper.blogspot.com/2006/11/denial-aint-just-river-in-auschwitz.html

Primemover said...

It looks to me that this AP fellow was simply being intellectually honest when he took back the statement he made. Is the concept of intellectual honesty so nebulous that it hasn't even entered into your minds as a possibility?

But even more importantly than that, to bring up that issue does not address the thesis of his argument and serves as only a red herring.

I did take the time to read the entire exchange and it is clear that Daniel is rationalizing to make his argument work. AP's logic was flawless when he reached the conclusion that the books author in question thinks that having knowledge of logic is not requisite for being a good philosopher.

Daniel Barnes said...

Prime Mover:
>It looks to me that this AP fellow was simply being intellectually honest when he took back the statement he made.

If AP was "intellectually honest" he would have read the book before giving it a lowest-possible-rating review, Prime! And he didn't really take it back - he weaseled it back in in comments, despite admitting he had no evidence. It's your notion of "intellectual honesty" that's "foggy", dude.

My bunch of examples really just illustrate AP's fakin' ways. Answer this, George Washington. Would you consider it "intellectually honest" of me to give the ITOE a lowest possible rating review based on just reading the intro? and making a whole bunch of assertions for which there was no evidence - not even in the intro?

Go on. Would that be "intellectually honest" of me? Yes or no?

>But even more importantly than that, to bring up that issue does not address the thesis of his argument and serves as only a red herring.

If the claims underlying AP's "thesis" are shown to be false, it's not going to make said "thesis" look very good is it?

>AP's logic was flawless when he reached the conclusion that the books author in question thinks that having knowledge of logic is not requisite for being a good philosopher.

Prime, you bozo...;-) You've fudged up both Nyquist's version and AP's. Learn to read!

Primemover said...

***If AP was "intellectually honest" he would have read the book before giving it a lowest-possible-rating review, Prime! And he didn't really take it back - he weaseled it back in in comments, despite admitting he had no evidence. It's your notion of "intellectual honesty" that's "foggy", dude.***


If he were dishonest he would have simply said that he read the entire thing from the get go eh? The fact that he was honest about how much he read just goes to show that he's showing all his cards. If you don't agree with him giving the rating he did for what he read then that's just your opinion and you can hardly claim (if you are) that he is dishonest. To be dishonest or to lie means to make a conscious attempt to fake reality. Tell us, Mr Daniel, sir, what part of reality did AP make a conscious attempt to fake?


***My bunch of examples really just illustrate AP's fakin' ways. Answer this, George Washington. Would you consider it "intellectually honest" of me to give the ITOE a lowest possible rating review based on just reading the intro? and making a whole bunch of assertions for which there was no evidence - not even in the intro?***


Anyone that comes along can plainly see from what he wrote that he only read the intro so they can factor that into their own mind when they make up their decision of rather to buy the book. What would be dishonest if is AP had tried to deceive anyone by NOT saying he read just the into.

***If the claims underlying AP's "thesis" are shown to be false, it's not going to make said "thesis" look very good is it?***

I would not even consider that claim in question as something supporting his thesis at all. Notice how after he dropped arguing for it he still had an argument that you tried Christian style rationalizing apologetics against him? "You're taking that quote out of context wa wa wa". Right out of the fundy play book!

***Prime, you bozo...;-) You've fudged up both Nyquist's version and AP's. Learn to read!***

what I stated was a synopsis of what he stated.

Love the ad hominem by the way.

Michael Hardesty said...

Hey, dumbass, the randzapper link has been discontinued. Originally I
posted a full response to it on Prescott's site which per you're usual dishonesty you don't reference to.

Anonymous said...

“It looks to me that this AP fellow was simply being intellectually honest when he took back the statement he made.”

Perhaps this AP fellow might like to give a further demonstration of his intellectual honesty by admitting his failure to understand an elementary philosophical problem, viz: “Mr. Nyquist does not seem to be able to parse the sentence "I see a cat." On page xxi he says: "If I see a cat walking across the wall, my perception of the cat…”

Nyquist is quite clearly talking about the act of perception, not the statement “I see a cat”. The two are quite separate, although related, issues. AP has confused and conflated them and in the process rendered his argument moronic and meaningless.

If philosophy were simply a matter of parsing sentences, the discipline would have been done and dusted long ago. AP really needs to get himself up to speed on this subject. In fact, Nyquist’s book would be a good introduction if only AP could only bring himself to cough up the dollars and take the time to read past the introduction.

Otherwise he’s just looting off the productive efforts of other and more creative minds.

Brendan

Michael Prescott said...

Since he's brought it up, here is Michael Hardesty's post in the comments section of my blog. He posted it there apparently because he was under the impression that I wrote the RandZapper piece. The URL for the comments thread is:

http://michaelprescott.typepad.com/michael_prescotts_blog/2006/11/draft_horses_no.html

---

I take it that you are the lowlife who attacked me on the Randzapper blog.

When I briefly posted my comments on holocaust revisionism on the Barnes site you raised no objection or gave any semblance of an argument.

Your whole approach is Hey,isn't this outrageous that someone could doubt this holy truth. Several folks have and the uniform response in many countries is to imprison them. Here they can't quite do that yet so smears are the only "argument" of the traditional defenders of the holohoax.

Sometime check out the video of the Michael Shermer-Mark Webb debate and you can decide which side here has the facts.

By the way wasn't the "someone" on the oofy Barnes site who asked me about holocaust revisionism you ?

Even Vad Vashem and the Wiesenthal Center don't peddle the hoary human soap nonsense.

Read Faurisson, Rudolph, Butz, Hoggan, Rassinier,Rassinier, Harwood, Sanning et al and seriously look at the many informative essays on the JHR part of the IHR website. If you can refute anything, let's see it.
Since NO one said Auschwitz or any other camp was a nice place you are inventing a strawman of your own making.

The fact that I reamed some moron who voted for Bush in strong language is not a bad thing.
I had stronger words for John Lewis at ARI. Michael, you are still haunted by The Silence Of The Laughs as I explained to you at site for popperian goofs.

You are pathetic, you are a liar and you are a coward.

Oakland News was a one person website of a local Demo Party hack and vulgarian named Jeanette Sherwin who was struck down dead a few months after she banned me. Gee, maybe Rand's wrong about God. Good riddance was the majority view in Oakland of people of all ideological shades.

She would ban people when she was losing the argument, a quite frequent occurrence.

As far as some typos go, it happens and you wouldn't even bring it up if we agreed.

On abortion, I was relaying the substance of Rothbard's argument in The Ethics of Liberty. Where's the rebuttal ?

mac said...

Just FYI, I posted as angry_beaver a while ago.

primemover:
"If he were dishonest he would have simply said that he read the entire thing from the get go eh?"

He gave THE ENTIRE BOOK a low rating because he read A VERY VERY SMALL PORTION of it. That is what I find to be intellectually dishonest.

"To be dishonest or to lie means to make a conscious attempt to fake reality. Tell us, Mr Daniel, sir, what part of reality did AP make a conscious attempt to fake"

If I didn't know you were a Randian, I would say YOU were lying. Lying has nothing to do with "faking reality", whatever that means. It has to do with telling someone what you know to be a falsehood. I don't think AP lied at all, because he honestly thinks what he says is true. But he is still spouting falsehoods, most of it being done for the same reason we're accusing him of intellectual dishonesty: he read nought but the book's introduction!

"What would be dishonest if is AP had tried to deceive anyone by NOT saying he read just the into."

Um, yeah, that would be. But the ratings are for products in their entirety, and AP didn't have knowledge of the contents of the entire book. Again, intellectual dishonesty. To put it in Randian terms, he was "evading the facts of reality". The fact is that he rated the whole book based on a very, very, very small part of it.

Randists judge too quickly and unrealistically. That is AP's problem.

Primemover said...

***Nyquist is quite clearly talking about the act of perception, not the statement “I see a cat”. The two are quite separate, although related, issues. AP has confused and conflated them and in the process rendered his argument moronic and meaningless.***


What's meaningless is your dearth of understanding in regard to Objectivist epistemology. AP is also talking about perception because how else is it that one forms the concepts assumed in the statement, "If I see a cat walking across the wall, my perception ...."? AP was pointing out that Mr. Nyquist has to accept the validity of the sense in order to attack them.

Primemover said...

***Lying has nothing to do with "faking reality", whatever that means.***


So you admit here that you don't know what "faking reality " means yet you have concluded definitely that that is not what lying is. Oooooook.........


***Um, yeah, that would be. But the ratings are for products in their entirety, and AP didn't have knowledge of the contents of the entire book. ***

He also didn't comment on the entire book. You see how that works? Is this what yalls "argument" has boiled down to?

Daniel Barnes said...

Prime:
>AP also didn't comment on the entire book.You see how that works?

Here's what AP wrote about ARCHN:
"If you are looking for a serious criticism of Objectivism, this is not it. Just read the introduction."

AP's review is a comment on the entire book, based purely on the introduction. You see how that works? Prime, you - and AP - really should take my advice and learn to read!

>Is this what yalls "argument" has boiled down to?

Yes! It's boiled down very nicely to reflect Nyquist's fundamental thesis; that is, despite their claims to the contrary, in practice Randians think that it is not necessary to study the facts of reality to discover truth - even as basic as reading the book they are claiming to be reviewing. As one migh expect, this leads to all kinds of intellectual pratfalls. AP's review provides us with a nice mini-example of this tendency, as he tries to make sweeping conclusions about ARCHN despite having read no further than the introduction! And as I show at some length, even then AP must resort to quote-clipping from that intro, and even pure invention, to make his bogus points. Basically he's like a less sophisticated version of Fred Seddon, who used the same fact-free approach in his review of ARCHN. I expose Seddon's amusing errors in considerable detail here:

http://aynrandcontrahumannature.blogspot.com/2006/09/absent-minded-professor.html

Thus if you want to continue to defend the intellectually indefensible, Prime, we at ARCHN say: go right ahead! Knock yourself out! Because all you'll be doing is providing us with yet another real live example of a Randian who has no regard for facts; thus corroborating Nyquist's whole thesis!

Daniel Barnes said...

Just another interesting side-note: while there is a diversity of philosophical opinion on this forum, no-one thinks that practices like 'quote clipping', making claims without any evidence, and giving a hostile review to a book you haven't even read qualifies as being 'intellectually honest.'

No one, that is...except the Randians!

Anonymous said...

PM: “What’s meaningless is your dearth of understanding in regard to Objectivist epistemology.”

Peikoff is assuming what he is trying to prove. Standard philosophical error.

He really does need to have a chat with some more philosophically astute thinkers. Otherwise, he is destined to languish with the ranks of the also-rans. That would be very sad, given the high hopes of her followers.

PM, you need to provide us with a reasoned argument, ie a series of connected steps leading to a conclusion.

Otherwise, I might conclude that you are a Randian clone without a thought of your own. I don’t want to draw that conclusion, but you are certainly tempting me in that direction.

Brendan

Anonymous said...

Mac: “If I didn't know you were a Randian, I would say YOU were lying.”

True enough, Mac. The huge irony of Objectivism is that Rand’s charges against her enemies are the very sins she herself commits.

“Lying has nothing to do with "faking reality", whatever that means.”

Yes, that’s Randian wank-speak for “I disagree”.

Having said that, we should not prejudice ourselves against all Randians – I am sure that most Objectivists honestly believe their burblings, and not all Objectivist-speak is burble.

After all, many are intelligent and aesthetically aware individuals.
To my mind, Objectivists are least half-way respectable intellectuals because they try to answer some very basic philosophical questions.

Their corruption is that they try to do so from a religious mind-set.

Brendan

Primemover said...

***Peikoff is assuming what he is trying to prove. Standard philosophical error.****

Who said anything about Peikoff?

***He really does need to have a chat with some more philosophically astute thinkers. ***

Flag down on the field. Fallacy: appeal to authority. Five yard penalty!

***PM, you need to provide us with a reasoned argument, ie a series of connected steps leading to a conclusion.***

An argument for what? My argument is that you DO NOT understand Objectivist epistemology so you must make the case sine you assert the positive. You do assert that you understand Objectivist epistemology huh?

***Otherwise, I might conclude that you are a Randian clone without a thought of your own. I don’t want to draw that conclusion, but you are certainly tempting me in that direction.***


fallacy : argument from intimidation.


***Here's what AP wrote about ARCHN:
"If you are looking for a serious criticism of Objectivism, this is not it. Just read the introduction."

AP's review is a comment on the entire book, based purely on the introduction. You see how that works? Prime, you - and AP - really should take my advice and learn to read!***

Right because having failed to defeat anything in his rebuttal this is all you have left.