Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ayn Rand's Originality Pt 4: Epistemology

Neil Parille continues his exploration of Ayn Rand's much vaunted originality as a philosopher.

Epistemological Realism

Ayn Rand is an epistemological realist. She believes that the mind perceives the external world, a world of individual entities. Orthodox Objectivist Allan Gotthelf explains that Rand is a “direct” realist. We are directly aware of people, trees, cars and the like. (Gotthelf, On Ayn Rand, p. 54.)

Gotthelf discusses the most common objection to direct realism: the problem of seemingly false perceptions. The classic example is perceiving a stick in water as bent when it is straight. Doesn’t this prove that we are not in contact with entities “as they really are”? Gotthelf responds that perceptions don’t deceive us because perceptions must be interpreted by the mind. The mind, applying reason to concepts, determines whether judgments are correct. (Id., pp. 54-55.) Frederick Wilhelmsen said the same thing years before. “[P]erceptions always represent what is perceived. Falsity results from faulty judgments made about perception.” (Wilhelmsen, Man’s Knowledge of Reality, p. 31.)


Skepticism Is Self-Refuting

Rand argued that skepticism is self-refuting. “’We know that we know nothing,’ they chatter, blanking out the fact that they are claiming knowledge . . . .” (Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 154.) Non-skeptics often argue that skepticism is self-refuting in many ways. (See John Greco’s Putting Skeptics in Their Place.)

Concepts Are Objective

Rand defends at great length the claim that concepts are objective, almost implying that she is alone in this. John Dewey (1859-1952) wrote, “[m]eaning is objective and universal . . . . It requires the discipline of ordered and deliberate experimentation to teach us that some meanings, as delightful or horrendous as they are, are meanings communally developed in the process of communal festivity or control, and do not represent the polities, and ways and means of nature apart from social control . . . the truth in classical philosophy in assigning objectivity to meanings, essences, ideas remains unassailable.” (Dewey, Nature and Experience, pp. 188-89.)

Concepts are Mental Integrations Based on Common Properties

According to Rand, "[a] concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s) . . . ." (Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2d Ed., p. 13.)

Lyle Bourne said something similar in 1966:

"As a working definition we may say a concept exists whenever two or more distinguishable objects have been grouped or classified together and set apart from other objects on the basis of some common feature or property characteristic of each." (Lyle Bourne, Human Conceptual Behavior, p. 1.)*

Correspondence Theory of Truth

According to Leonard Peikoff, Rand embraces “the traditional correspondence theory of truth.” (Peikoff, OPAR, p. 165.)

Stolen Concept Fallacy

Objectivists make frequent use of what they call the “stolen concept fallacy.” According to Peikoff, “The ‘stolen concept’ fallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e, of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends.” He explains in more detail:

“Observe that Descartes starts his system by using ‘error’ and its synonyms or derivatives as ‘stolen concepts.’"

“Men have been wrong, and therefore, he implies, they can never know what is right. But if they cannot, how did they ever discover that they were wrong? How can one form such concepts as ‘mistake’ or ‘error’ while wholly ignorant of what is correct? ‘Error’ signifies a departure from truth; the concept of ‘error’ logically presupposes that one has already grasped some truth. If truth were unknowable, as Descartes implies, the idea of a departure from it would be meaningless.”

“The same point applies to concepts denoting specific forms of error. If we cannot ever be certain that an argument is logically valid, if validity is unknowable, then the concept of ‘invalid’ reasoning is impossible to reach or apply. If we cannot ever know that a man is sane, then the concept of ‘insanity’ is impossible to form or define. If we cannot recognize the state of being awake, then we cannot recognize or conceptualize a state of not being awake (such as dreaming). If man cannot grasp X, then ‘non-X’ stands for nothing.”

(Binswanger, ed., Ayn Rand Lexicon, pp. 478-79)

Wilhelmsen’s description of this “fallacy” is almost identical. He writes:

“At this point the idealist and the skeptic . . . usually advance the problem of hallucinations, pathological sense states, and dreams. Because there are false perceptions such as hallucinations, so goes the objection, I could never be certain that there were any true perceptions. How can I know that what I perceive really does exist and that I am not dreaming or imagining, etc. This position . . . . is a painful sophistry. How can I even speak of false perceptions unless I can measure their falsity by a true perception? . . . . The fact that I can even raise the problem of false perceptions indicates that there are true perceptions and I know them to be true. The false can only be measured by the true.” (Wilhelmsen, Man’s Knowledge of Reality, pp. 31-32.)

The stolen concept fallacy didn’t begin with Wilhelmsen either. He acknowledges his indebtedness to a 1947 work of Etienne Gilson (1884-1978).

*According to Dan Ust via Ellen Stuttle

31 comments:

rville9755 said...

I'm glad to see that the writer agrees with Rand. Quoting others who said something similar only proves that after the Enlightenment, thinkers were beginning to grasp the value of man's mind. It refutes nothing and proves only that people attempting to understand the nature of the universe are going to find similar truths. I'm not sure if Dewey was saying the same thing as Rand, however. For Rand truth is an individual matter, not a collective one.

JayCross said...

some meanings, as delightful or horrendous as they are, are meanings communally developed in the process of communal festivity or control,

Rand would have abhorred this statement.

rville9755 said...

I agree, Jay. I think this effort to discredit Ayn Rand is fruitless since the method ignores the significant advances that Rand's thought represents. I don't think anyone has said that Rand originated every single philosophical principle she ever wrote about. The key is that she validated her philosophy "objectively" and many of those quoted in this work were rationalists and skeptics writing in different fundamental contexts. With the rationalists she questioned the floating abstractions of their thoughts and with the skeptics she questioned their fundamental view that man cannot know reality. What is the point of this exercise if not to give the wrong impression of Rand's true originality.

Daniel Barnes said...

rville9755 wrote:
>I don't think anyone has said that Rand originated every single philosophical principle she ever wrote about.

Dude, I think you need to read the intro to Part One of Neil's series.

Neil starts with Peikoff's claim that Rand “discovered true ideas on a virtually unprecedented scale.”

Well, Neil asked, what were these "discoveries"?? This quite a different claim from say, "she interpreted many well known philosophical ideas differently", or what you claim below:

>The key is that she validated her philosophy "objectively"

See, now the ground has shifted from "discovered" to the much milder "validated." Did Christopher Columbus "validate" America? The terms are hardly equivalent. Thus one would have to wonder what the point of Peikoff's claim if not to give a false impression of Rand's true originality.

Further, I note that this is a familiar misuse of the word "validated." This is really one of Objectivism's very own "stolen concepts", in that they've pinched the term from classical deductive logic then applied it all over the place, including things like induction, which are not deductively valid. One would have to wonder why Rand did this, if not to give a false impression of her philosophy's true validity.

rville9755 said...

I am not a spokesperson for her views and I don't claim to be an expert, but I do have an opinion about what you have said. I think Peikoff's claim is true but you have to analyze the state of philosophy at the time that she wrote and then recognize how her discoveries were original in that context. To merely bring up a number of Rand's concepts and then find quotes out-of-context from other philosophers blinds you to the actual discoveries and amounts to a smear rather than a philosophical argument. As for the rest of what you said, induction cannot be deductively validated because it is induction...induction starts with facts and reality, deduction starts with statements that are presumed to be true but are not necessarily true. You cannot deductively validate a method for getting at reality. That's like saying you can get downhill by going uphill.

Daniel Barnes said...

rville9755:
>I think Peikoff's claim is true but you have to analyze the state of philosophy at the time that she wrote and then recognize how her discoveries were original in that context.

But the whole point is that this exactly what Neil is doing:providing the context ie. the state of philosophy up to the time Rand wrote. It is precisely when Rand's philosophy is examined in context we find that she "discovered" very little. Instead she took well known ideas and added her particular spin to them - but then, as Neil shows, often not even that. Thus Peikoff is wildly and demonstrably exaggerating when he says she "discovered true ideas on a virtually unprecedented scale." Hence why this claim usually most impresses those who know little about philosophy.

Your dilution of this claim is that, ok, if she didn't exactly discover these ideas, she did "validate" them. But I further challenge this. All that happens when Objectivists make this claim that they take standard problems of philosophy - of rationalism and skepticism - and redraft them into Objectivist jargon (eg: oxymorons like "contexual certainty"), after which they pronounce them "validated". Within the jargon the basic contradictions - hence the oxymorons - remain untouched. Thus Objectivism's method of "validation" is not either logical or empirical, but achieved simply by playing with words.

>You cannot deductively validate a method for getting at reality. That's like saying you can get downhill by going uphill.

No, it's not like it. Your second sentence is a contradiction. Your first sentence is not.

JayCross said...

Contextual certainty isn't wordplay, it's a refutation of the entire phenomenon of disconnected knowledge. It recognizes that something can only be absolute within certain conditions. Ie, "Within the conditions specified, X will always do Y."

Daniel Barnes said...

Jay:
>It recognizes that something can only be absolute within certain conditions. Ie, "Within the conditions specified, X will always do Y."

This is just what I mean. For what you just stated there is just the typical if/then formulation that underlies deductive logic in different wording.

To whit:
P1: If all men are mortal
and
P2: Socrates is a man
then
C: Socrates is mortal.

The problem has always been, since Hume, nailing the indisputable truth of the "within the conditions specified" (or "if") part. This is what Rand claimed to do. But as you hopefully can see, she just shifts the problem verbally around.

Neil Parille said...

RVille,

In addition to what Dan said, I would point out that Wilhelmsen operated within the Thomistic and Aristotelean framework. That's pre-Enlightenment, Dude.

rville9755 said...

I doubt that Dr. Peikoff knows very little about philosophy. You claim that the author of this book took an inductive approach and discovered through independent analysis that Ayn Rand discovered very little. You are saying then that this person was not influenced by Hume or Kant et all and did not let any of these influences, on a whole range of philosophical questions, cloud his evaluation of Rand. He is the most objective thinker in history because he discovered that Ayn Rand's "supposed" originality was a lie. You reveal your bias against Rand when you say that induction can only be validated by deduction. The fact is, your premise and the approach in the book is deductive through out...based on a conclusion reached before hand (that Rand discovered very little) and then the mustering of all the quotes from sundry sources to "prove" it. This is classic Humean technique; masquerading as an "empiricist" while having a preconceived notion (in Hume's case that man could not know). The author refutes himself by claiming an inductive evaluation (when he is merely supporting a preconceived notion) and you support him by claiming that induction can only be validated by deduction. So who's playing word games and putting spin on the issues? Ayn Rand originated the philosophy of Objectivism which is a consistent view of the nature of reality, the nature of man's mind, the nature of a rational ethics and the nature of a proper society and art. Through many years she made many observations of reality, of man, of history, of society that were original to her and that solved many philosophical questions with which previous philosophers had grappled. Which of the other philosophers quoted in this book originated the philosophy of Objectivism before Rand? Which of them created an integrated system that was not an attack on man's mind, his ability to know, not an attack on the individual and on his right to live freely and ethically, not an attack on capitalism but a proponent of capitalism. I'd like to know who this person was. If you can't produce him/her...and I mean someone who originated all the ideas of Ayn Rand with exactly the same meaning and conclusions, then the exercise is fruitless and a smear...pure and simple. You are saying Rand just stole Objectivism from the general philosophical mainstream. Where is the dead body then? When I was reading Rand as a young person, I noticed certain similarities in her words with those of some philosophers. I never said to myself, wow, she stole that from DesCartes because I knew better because I had looked at what DesCartes said and I knew that she was commenting on a specific philosophical question and coming up with a different answer than DesCartes. Are you saying that I should have just realized that Rand was not original? Then every other philosopher who commented upon and dealt with that same questions was also a thief and unoriginal. Right? Can't you see how ridiculous this smear is?

rville9755 said...

Dude, Thomism was not Objectivism.

gregnyquist said...

Dewey: "some meanings, as delightful or horrendous as they are, are meanings communally developed in the process of communal festivity or control.”

Jay: "Rand would have abhorred this statement."

That's right, Rand would have abhorred—yet without due cause. Rand tended to maliciously interpret such statements as "communally developed" as meaning: "the community decides what is true" or "truth is determined by the majority." I am not aware of any pragmatist that holds that position. Nor does this statement, which is about meanings, not truth, support Rand's interpretation. Meanings are independent of truth. If this were not so, it would be impossible to express falsehoods, or to use terms like unicorn or jackalope that don't refer to anything at all in reality.

merjet said...

Daniel Barnes, I believe you misconstrue a syllogism. There is no 'if' in it as if the premises must be true. The conclusion *formally* follows from the premises, period.
Truth or falsity is another topic. You being a Popper fan, it's understandable that you are confused about true and false. :-)

The syllogism you use has the form:
P1: All M are P.
P2: All S are M.
C: All S are P.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syllogism

I will use this form in order to keep Socrates from confusing the issue of whether or not men are mortal. :-)

If P1 and P2 are true, then C is true. If P1 is false, then either (a) some M are P and some are ~P, or (b) no M are P. If (a) is true, then S could be P or ~P. If (b) is true, then S is ~P.

It may help to use Venn diagrams.

Neil Parille said...

But Dewey goes on to say, that such meanings "do not represent the polities, and ways and means of nature apart from social control." So even Dewey is placing limits on this.

Daniel Barnes said...

Merjet:
>Daniel Barnes, I believe you misconstrue a syllogism. There is no 'if' in it as if the premises must be true.

HI Merlin

Just trying to show that the problem is getting to the true "all" premise in the first place, and how Jay's qualification "within the conditions specified" is just another way of assuming the truth of the premises. But of course assuming such truth is nothing like the guarantee of truth at the conclusion of the syllogism, no matter how Rand played with the terms "valid" etc

As you are only a partial Rand fan I do not expect you are confused in these matters, but others are...;-)

Daniel Barnes said...

I should add that while Merlin is formally correct, and I jumped a bit of a fence to make my point, I assume you still "got" what I was trying to say, Jay?

Neil Parille said...

RVille,

There is no attempt here to "smear" or "discredit" Rand with this series of posts.

In addition, you claim that my quotes are "out-of-context." Unless you can point to some book that I've misquoted, that claim is, as they say, arbitrary.

Take Wilhelmsen's discussion of the stolen concept fallacy. It is almost identical to what Peikoff attribitutes to Rand. That Wilhelmsen was a catholic doesn't make the parallel any less accurate.

Nor am I saying that Rand stole these ideas from other people. Maybe she came up with some on her own, maybe some where "in the air."

rville9755 said...

I was referring to the quotes on this page: Ayn Rand's Originality Pt 4: Epistemology" as taking quotes out of context. I think only one quote is necessary to prove my point:

"Rand defends at great length the claim that concepts are objective, almost implying that she is alone in this. John Dewey (1859-1952) wrote, “[m]eaning is objective and universal . . . . It requires the discipline of ordered and deliberate experimentation to teach us that some meanings, as delightful or horrendous as they are, are meanings communally developed in the process of communal festivity or control, and do not represent the polities, and ways and means of nature apart from social control . . . the truth in classical philosophy in assigning objectivity to meanings, essences, ideas remains unassailable.” (Dewey, Nature and Experience, pp. 188-89.)"

First of all, the quote says that Ayn Rand is "almost implying" that she is alone in saying that concepts are objective. What could that possibly mean? I've read many philosophical works where this very issue is raised and discussed and I'm sure Rand knew that other philosophers had made similar observations and asked questions about the "objectivity" of concepts. It was a major question of the age and many philosophers were trying to get at the correct understanding of the role of knowledge and concepts in human life. Yet you say she "almost implies" that she was alone in her statement. Many philosophers had discussed it and there were many "mis-steps" on the issue that needed clarified because it still left open the question. Rand clarified those questions.

The quote you use shows Dewey stating that "(m)eaning is objective and universal..." Does that mean that Dewey developed Rand's theory of concepts? If so then why did pragmatists think that meaning was collective and could only be proven by trial and error? Whey did they think it could not be separated from communal goals? Why did they claim that we could not see the connection between cause and effect? What the author has done is taken Dewey's statement out of context and implied that Dewey was talking about the same thing as Rand. In fact, Dewey was not talking about "objective concepts" as Rand was. He was talking about collective meaning and that is not the same thing. So the author has taken the quote and applied it out of context. It is a smear.

And as I said before, Rand never thought that concepts (or knowledge) was communally developed. Dewey was. Perhaps the author doesn't know that, which may be an indication of how well he actually knows Rand's philosophy. He may not even be qualified to comment on her ideas. The quote is totally inappropriate for the issue of "concepts." It looks like someone just did a look up in some database on philosophy and just found a quote that loosely discussed "objectivity" and then just threw it in to discredit Rand by loose approximation. In fact, Dewey is saying that "meaning" resides in the collective and that is not the context in which Rand ever spoke in explaining her theories of concepts. He has taken Dewey out of context and claimed that Dewey invented Rand's theory of concepts and then accused her of being unoriginal.

Regarding Wilhelmson, "almost identical" is not the same as "identical" and that really is the point...the author of this book is trying to smear Rand on the basis of almosts, similarities, kind of likes, and other such imprecise reasoning that reading the book would be a total waste of time for a person who wants specificity and real understanding. One can't evaluate a philosopher "kind of" or "almost".

Cavewight said...

Neil wrote: 'Ayn Rand is an epistemological realist. She believes that the mind perceives the external world, a world of individual entities. Orthodox Objectivist Allan Gotthelf explains that Rand is a “direct” realist. We are directly aware of people, trees, cars and the like. (Gotthelf, On Ayn Rand, p. 54.)'

Rand was a direct realist at heart, but her "epistemology" reveals her inclination toward indirect realism:

'A percept is a group of
sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality.' (ITOE, 5)

Notice that it is not by means
of perception that man apprehends reality, which would be a direct realist position, but solely by means of groups of sensations integrated by the brain, i.e., percepts, which is indirect realism, or perhaps representationalism, but definitely not direct realism.

rville9755 said...

Rand did not say that we perceive reality directly (at least not in the sense that cavewight implies), with concepts fully formed when we perceive them. And I don't think that is what Gotthelf meant to say. cavewight may be mis-representing the objectivist position. I think what Gotthelf means is that we do perceive reality directly but it is the reality that our mind integrates conceptually that we perceive. cavewight appears to be taking the discussion onto a Humean base rather than an Objectivist. You cannot use Humean "empiricism" to get to objective knowledge. They are entirely two different frames of reference and they have two different sets of foundations. To Rand, knowledge is objective if it is properly conceptualized. To Hume there is no such thing as knowledge that is reached by looking at reality. The mind isn't capable of it for Hume. Only "impressions" can be reached and there is no connection between impressions and knowledge (concepts). For Hume they are opposites and getting to knowledge is just trial and error. As I said, you can't get to Rand from a Humean base. You only get skepticism with Hume, not objectivism.

Cavewight said...

rville wrote: 'Rand did not say
that we perceive reality directly
(at least not in the sense that cavewight implies), with concepts fully formed when we perceive them. And I don't think that is what Gotthelf meant to say. cavewight may be mis-representing the objectivist position.'

I did not imply that concepts were fully formed when we perceive them.
To sum up what I said: a percept is a representation, perception is not.

"Percept" is not synonymous with "perception." A percept is a thing created by the brain out of groups of sensations: "A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality." (ITOE2, 5)

Rand explained something to this effect in the Appendix to the second edition, to which Prof. E (Leonard Peikoff) replied, "Berkeley did exactly that and came to the conclusion that everything is subjective."

Indeed, Prof. E, and Berkeley did not start off by *assuming* objectivity as Rand did, therefore he logically came to the correct conclusion using the same analysis of human perception as Rand.

And typically, I am not the one who may be misrepresenting Objectivism, Randites do that often enough. Rand may have wanted to be a direct realist, but her theory of perception at ITOE p.5 proves that she was not.

merjet said...

Cavewight: a percept is a representation

I disagree. Here is 'direct realism' from Wikipedia"

"Direct realism is a theory of perception that claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world. In contrast, indirect realism and representationalism claim that we are directly aware only of internal representations of the external world.

"Direct realists might claim that indirect realists are confused about conventional idioms that may refer to perception. Perception exemplifies unmediated contact with the external world; examples of indirect perception might be seeing a photograph, or hearing a recorded voice. Against representationalists, direct realists often argue that the complex neurophysical processes by which we perceive objects do not entail indirect perception. These processes merely establish the complex route by which direct awareness of the world arrives."

Nowhere does Rand say percepts are representations.

rville9755 said...

The description of percepts and perceptions are scientifically proven observations. They are generally not questioned except by some philosophers. Rand would probably not call herself a "direct realist" as that implies that ideas pre-exist perception. That is not her position. Her position is that we get data directly from reality but as sensations, our physical nature converts that data into perceptions and our mind interprets the data and organizes them into concepts. Objectivity is the process of taking that data and ensuring that our understanding, stored as words and ideas, corresponds to reality. To say that she is a "direct realist" is to say we get our ideas directly from perceptions. Perceptions come from percepts. That's why we call them perceptions.

Ayn Rand did not "assume" objectivity. She observed human beings functioning and she induced it. This is where "critics" get off on the wrong foot. They don't understand that her entire philosophy is inductively verifiable and they can't see that her method was revolutionary because most of what they hold in their minds was not inductively verified. Most of it was deduced from Hume, et al. So they just assume she assumes. I think it is fair to ask, what else can you expect from Humeans and Kantians?

Cavewight said...

rville wrote: "Her position is that we get data directly from reality but as sensations, our physical nature converts that data into perceptions and our mind interprets the data and organizes them into concepts."

We? That's not a very individualistic term.

I noticed that you used the word "perceptions." Why did you diverge from Rand's term "percept"?

That 'interpretation' theory doesn't derive from any Randian source I know of. It does however lead to the problem of determining whether or not this interpretation corresponds to reality, since after all perception is just an interpretation. Lacking a theory justifying this interpretation in reality, Rand must assume the objectivity of perception. But then there are so many ways of proving by example that sense-perception is flawed, that even if reason is objective, it is not due to perception.

So you bring in induction to solve the problem of objectivity. At least induction involves the use of reason and not merely perception. However, induction must itself be based upon objectivity (or to put this in Peikoff's terms, the axioms of induction must first be established as objective), it cannot derive objectivity, thus your theory begs the question.

Your idea that Rand looked around
at people functioning and induced objectivity from that is not well-founded in the Rand literature, but it is rather imaginative.

Cavewight said...

Merjet:

I am in agreement with that part of the Wikipedia article. And so I don't see where I may have contradicted it.

You could have gone one better than the article you posted by looking up the word "percept" in a dictionary. You would then have found out that it has two very distinct, perhaps even contradictory, meanings, such that believing both of them true would lead to a dichotomy.

From Dictionary.com -
A percept is:
1. the mental result or product of perceiving
2. something that is perceived

So you have there two distinct definitions: 1. a percept is either a subjective mental thing resulting from a process, or 2. a percept is a thing external to the mind being perceived.

Consider Rand's definition of "percept" and compare it to those two definitions: "A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism." (ITOE2, 5) This definition tells me that Rand would relate better to definition (1), the subjectivistic, mental perspective on what a percept is.

The trick involved in Rand's argument lies in her relating this (and notice, without citing any specifics) to "a scientific, conceptual discovery," thus granting her argument the illusion of scientific credibility. But it has backfired on her, because even if someone declares that the science does exist (and maybe it does 40 years later, but it didn't back then), this science does not provide for direct perception of reality as Rand stated at (5): 'When we speak of "direct perception" or "direct awareness," we mean the perceptual level.' Indeed, the science Rand neglected to cite "proves" that perception of things in reality is actually indirect.

rville9755 said...

cavewight, you are being silly. "We" means each of us individually. It is also silly to make a point of why I use the term "perception." Rand uses the words hundreds of times in her writing in various contexts. Perhaps you don't know that.

Apparently you think I just make up my own theory of knowledge acquisition. Here is Dr. Peikoff in "The Analytic Synthetic Dichotomy":

"The pattern is as follows: When a child grasps the concept 'man,' the knowledge represented by that concept in his mind consists of perceptual data, such as man's visual appearance, the sound of his voice, etc. When the child learns to differentiate between living entities and inanimate matter, he ascribes a new characteristic, 'living,' to the entity he designates as 'man.'"

There is nothing that I wrote before that contradicts that. I've just said it in my own words but essentially I have it right.

Regarding my "bringing in" the word "induction", in IOE, Ayn Rand writes: "Thus the process of forming and applying concepts contains the essential pattern of two fundamental methods of cognition: induction and deduction.
The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction."

Regarding my making up the idea that Rand induced her philosophy, it was covered extensively in one of Dr. Peikoff's lectures where he described why Rand specialized in History in college.

You write: "But then there are so many ways of proving by example that sense-perception is flawed, that even if reason is objective, it is not due to perception." And this is the crux of the matter. It was Hume and other philosophers who created this myth and he invented many of those ways of "proving" that sense-perception is flawed...in fact, he appealed to sense perception in order to prove his case. How did he know that sense-perception was invalid unless he analyzed reality and how did he analyze reality when sense-perception is invalid? Hume's position is self-refuting as is yours. In fact, why even try to communicate when you need words that are dependent upon "objective" knowledge in order to prove your case?

This is the flaw of any philosophy that asserts that man can't develop objective knowledge. They have to talk in the terms of objective knowledge in order to refute that there is no objective knowledge. When you say sense-perception is flawed you are uttering an affirmation that you consider to be factual. If sense-perception is flawed, then man can't utter assertions of fact and he can't even say "sense perception is flawed." That's not a debating trick, that's the situation you are in. You have invalidated yourself and have shown that you are not interested in actually learning but in destroying other peoples' efforts to learn.

merjet said...

Cavewight,

It seems to me the 2nd meaning of "percept" you report is unusual and maybe fairly new. I looked in my Webster's from 1970. It has only one meaning, the 1st. On the other hand, the 2nd meaning of "perception" in my Webster's is "the understanding, knowledge, etc. got by perceiving, or a specific idea, concept, impression, etc. so formed." Also, peoples' use of "perception" has expanded in recent years. I often hear it used as a synonym of "belief", often not a well-informed one. For example, "his perception is that professors do little work" (based on time spent in the classroom.) Maybe the 2nd meaning you give derives from the 2nd meaning of "perception" in my Webster's -- but the latter is still not the object of perception -- and/or this new "stretched meaning."

Cavewight said...

One does not have to be some kind of Humean or Kantian to contend with Objectivism, it only requires a logician competent enough to point out the flaws in Rand's reasoning. Therefore, Rand's (or Peikoff's) constant contending against skeptics, mystics, Humeans, Kantians, and Moderns is an example of someone who refuses to clean up their own logical "backyard."

rville wrote: 'you are being silly. "We" means each of us individually.'

So what's wrong with being silly sometimes?

rville wrote: 'It is also silly to make a point of why I use the term "perception." Rand uses the words hundreds of times in her writing in various contexts. Perhaps you don't know that.'

But I wasn't referring to other contexts, only the one found on page 5 of ITOE, which is where Rand defines the term "percept." And as I said previously, a percept is a representation, perception is not.

rville wrote: 'Apparently you think I just make up my own theory of knowledge acquisition.'

I am thinking that, when you wrote 'our mind interprets the data,' it is not part of Rand's theory. You would have to make up the idea that Rand said anything like it because it is not found in the Rand corpus.

Notice that your Peikoff quote contained no idea that the perceiving mind interprets reality.

You "brought in" the word "induction," but I didn't say you made that up, only your idea that "sense data" are interpreted.

And when I write that sense-perception is flawed, that idea did not come from sense-perception itself but from questioning the senses using reason. If sense-perception is never flawed, and that is your absolute, then all it takes is one counter-example to cause you to have to re-examine your absolute. This is easily done by explaining the nature of the cosmos versus that which is evinced by the senses. Copernicus did not come up with the idea that the sun is in the center by going only by the evidence of the senses. Hypotheses have a source quite different from that provided by the senses: reason itself. That is why "sense-data" is called evidence and not proof. Retrograde motion was explained away previously by complex mathematical models which functioned perfectly well; however, reason proved that this wasn't the only solution.

Part of the problem with Objectivism is that Rand never thoroughly distinguished between perception and reason, and even after she omitted "perceives," around 1961, from her definition of "reason," I have seen where she continued to include it after 1961. Conflating perception and reason is such a grave error that it practically commits Objectivism to the wastebasket of being reduced to a mere historical curiosity.

So even if it were the case that I invalidated myself, as you wrote at the end, that would not suffice to prove your own Objectivist position which suffers from egregious flaws, many of which have been pointed out by authors such as Greg Nyquist.

And lastly, I am interested in knowledge, not necessarily subjective or objective knowledge a distinction which is only being used by Objectivism to pursue ideological goals, and not the pursuit of knowledge. Nor do I assume that all knowledge is objective by starting from a perceptual ground and refusing to budge from that position, as Rand did. That is to beg the very question of objectivity being asked. And even if Rand did start with induction, she was begging the question of induction which she admitted in ITOE had no solution at that time, the problem being 'outside the province of my book' (ITOE2, 302) and not even dealt with until Leonard Peikoff wrote about it decades later.

Cavewight said...

merjet wrote: 'It seems to me the 2nd meaning of "percept" you report is unusual and maybe fairly new. I looked in my Webster's from 1970.'

Then I guess it depends on which dictionary you use, but it sounds like the recent dictionary editions include more of the prevailing usages. Rand, however, didn't cite her source.

As an aside, Rand was curiously inconsistent in her preference of dictionary. She was known to have rebelled against trusting "modern" dictionaries, but she would cite them anyway.

rville9755 said...

cavewight: I'm not even commenting. You have so thoroughly contradicted yourself that I don't have to comment.

Cavewight said...

rville: First of all, judging something self-contradictory is not based in the senses, but in logic applied to the mere form of an argument in abstraction from its content. So your charge against me contradicts your own sense-based absolute, it is hypocritical. Secondly, the charge of self-contradiction is serious enough to require evidence, which you have not offered up because, I'm sure, you believe I have argued for an absolute distrust of sensory evidence.

Sorry, but you are sadly mistaken. Nothing in my post absolutely dismissed the evidence of the senses, in fact I am all for it in cases such as criminal court hearings, detective work, and the like. But the senses are limited in their perspective, and this was obviously proven with the falsifying of the first cosmological, geocentric models. It just seems that Objectivism wants to return to that kind of model, basing theories in the limited senses, for everything. Thus I oppose Objectivism on the grounds that, taken literally, its kind of reasoning would only bring a new Dark Ages to science and civilization.

To start from the senses, and never budge from that position, was Rand's greatest and most egregious error since Nathaniel Branden.