Saturday, February 03, 2007

JARS: Seddon's "Rand and Rescher on Truth"

Fred Seddon once again reinterprets Rand in light of philosophers Rand wouldn't have approved of. The philosopher this time is Nicholas Rescher, often regarded as kind of "pragmatic idealist." Rescher wrote about what he regarded as the four major theories of truth: correspondence, coherence, intuitionistic and pragmatic. Correspondence means agreement with facts; coherence means logical agreement where the truthfulness of a proposition is judged by its implicit coherence with other (presumably true) propositions; intuitionistic truths are either those given in consciousness (i.e., "primative" datum) or primative inferences from these datum (Seddon equates them with Rand's self-evident truths); and pragmatic means that a theory has acceptable practical consequences. Seddon's thesis is that "Rand's theory of truth incorporates all four aspects of Rescher's"

Commentary: Seddon is rights about Rand, but some of the examples he gives are wrong. For example, placing Rand's self-evident truths under the intutitionistic category (I would argue that they go under the coherence category). Of course, the reason for Seddon's mistake here is that what he describes as the intuitionistic theory is a false theory: primitative datum cannot be regarded as making up a theory of truth, if for no other reason than that no primative datum can ever be regarded as knowledge. A primitative datum, stripped of all the presuppositions of intelligence, would provide us with little more than the solipsism of the present moment. For it is these presuppositions that give meaning to the primitative datum in the first place; which leads to my second criticism: namely, that claims of truth involve elements of both correspondence and coherence, and also of a tacit intuitive component (different from Rescher's primitive-datum intuitive), and finally of a pragmatic (or rather experimental) aspect. Does Rand accept the four components of truth of this revised theory? Up to a point, she does: she obviously supports the correspondence, coherence and pragmatic components (for the reasons Seddon gives, among others); and she also supports, implicitly at least, a tacit-knowledge intuitionist component of sorts (i.e., her "automatic knowledge), though her version of the theory is completely inadequate, as she is holds a very deep prejudice against both tacit knowledge and what is commonly refered to as "intuition." What Rand doesn't accept is that truth claims must inevitably use all four of these elements, especially the intuitionist. She would claim that truth doesn't require the tacit-intuitionist element, that tacit presuppositions and tacit conjectures are not necessary to arrive at truth.

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