Friday, February 29, 2008

Understanding Objectivist Jargon:"Metaphysical"

"Metaphysical"= a) used by Rand to provide pseudo-intellectual gravitas to otherwise completely banal statements eg "By normal conditions I mean metaphysically normal.."(VOSp47) Often so italicised for double-plus good philosophical importance.
b) Occasionally used as a peculiar substitute for the word "physical" eg:"...metaphysical facts are are unalterable by man..." (ITOE p110) This would typically be expressed in non-Objectivist terms as something like "ye cannae change the laws of physics."


Jay said...

Maybe there should be another section, "Understanding Empiricist Criticism"

"Jargon": Any abstraction or generalization that

A) Assumes the validity of words, definitions, and conceptual hierarchy, and
B) Cannot be immediately verified by means of scientific testing in a laboratory.

Sounds like fun to me, anyway ;)

Daniel Barnes said...

Heh. Unfortunately for your idea we don't have a distinctive "jargon". No one is going to write a Greg Nyquist Lexicon, because Greg uses words in the way they're used in most dictionaries. (There'll never be a Karl Popper Lexicon either). Thus we can't hide behind our own secret verbiage, buddy. That's the point.

Rand on the other hand appears to use ordinary language, and to avoid the convoluted obscurities of many philosophers. However, rather than use obscure terms as they do, she uses ordinary terms with obscure meanings. This moves her obscurantism back a step, and often fools people (and I think herself) into thinking she's a straight talker. But on examination this turns out to be very far from the case.

Jay said...


Alright, well take this entry for example. You may not like Rand italicizing metaphysically, but that makes it jargon? I don't think so. No one comes away from Rand's books wondering "Gee, what does she mean by this "metaphysical" nonsense?"

Also, we have to remember that Rand was a philosopher, not a layman. Accusing her of using jargon for saying things like metaphysical would be like accusing a lawyer of accountant for not calling dollars "bucks."

Ernest said...

Actually, she's using the term as a synonym for "transcendental," since she is discussing that which given to man at the beginning of existence.