Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Objectivism & Politics, Part 1

Starting Point. Fred Seddon, in his review of my book, Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature, chastised me for “not willing to consider ... normative political theory.” But as a matter of fact, I do consider it: I simply don’t consider it very highly. The trouble with normative political theory is that it too often degenerates into wishful thinking and unwitting rationalization. Those philosophers and social commentators who indulge in it become far more interested in defending their preferences than in understanding the political scene. What ought to be overshadows what is. Insight is sacrificed on the altar of advocacy.

Rand’s admirers brag about how prescient they find her on social and political issues. But her record (and that of her leading disciple, Leonard Peikoff) hardly bears up well under critical scrutiny. In October, 1963, Ayn Rand claimed that Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater “may become very much worth supporting ... most particularly because he seems to be our last chance to preserve two-party government.” In her last public appearance, Rand claimed that “the threat to the future of capitalism is the fact that Reagan might fail so badly that he will become another ghost, like Herbert Hoover, to be invoked as an example of capitalism’s failure for another fifty years.” After Rand passed from the scene in 1982, her leading disciple, Leonard Peikoff, continued the tradition of dubious commentary about politics. In 2004, Peikoff claimed that “there is no longer a mass base or any crusade for big government” and that “Bush is working to achieve a massive entrenchment of [Christian] fundamentalism into our government and political system.”

These statements by Rand and Peikoff strongly suggest a lack of judgment about political reality. Rand and Peikoff are ideologues who judge politics on the basis of their own unrealistic moral ideals. They are focused so intently upon how things ought to be that they haven’t a clue on how things are or are likely to be. Indeed, if they understood politics realistically, as the Founding Fathers and the Italian Elite School understood politics, they would realize that their political ideals, their “normative” politics, are unrealistic and therefore “utopian.”

My criticism of Objectivist political theory will have a realistic and naturalist base. My focus will be on whether Rand’s political theories can be realized in the world of experience and fact. The starting point will be human nature as it is discovered by the experimental sciences. The philosopher George Santayana gave voice to this position as follows:

There is a double force in repeated the old axiom that man is an animal. In the first place we confirm our initial naturalism, and place man among the wonderfully various living creatures that feed, fight, and reproduce themselves on the surface of the earth. But there is a second implication in that axiom that is no less important. An animal has inward invisible springs of action called instincts, needs, passions, or interests; and it is only in relation to these psychic springs of action that Powers and Dominations can be distinguished. The ... agent in politics is ... an inner proclivity to action and passion that animates [the individual], and that I call the psyche...

This topic, which might seem academic and speculative, is of great moment for the understanding of politics, especially in the present era. The literary philosophy and the psychological novels which have been dominant in modern times assume, if they do not teach, that thought is something substantial and self-developing; that it has no origin or milieu except in other thoughts; and even sometimes that the evolution of this ideation in a vacuum is itself guided by dialectic [i.e., by logic—which is more or less what Rand’s view of the matter amounts to in the end]. Nothing could be better calculated to keep politics in a fool’s paradise of verbal reasoning. [Dominations and Powers, 14-15]

That is precisely where we find Rand’s politics: in a fool’s paradise of verbal reasoning. The following series of posts on “Objectivism and Politics” will seek to demonstrate this assertion.

76 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greg,

What was your intellectual progression and where did you find the time to read all this Santayana etc. You must have two brains where I have one or no social life where I have an itsy bitsy teeny weeny bit of a semblance of one.

I think that the refusal of many philosophers to integrate their ideas with evolutionary theory is mind boggling. Santayana was light years ahead of his time.

Laj

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Are you claiming that logic is invalid? Or just invalid when it is put into verbal statments? Or logic being utilised cannot overcome evolutionary instinct and social influences even in a rational human mind?

Daniel Barnes said...

Michael S:
>Are you claiming that logic is invalid? Or just invalid when it is put into verbal statments? Or logic being utilised cannot overcome evolutionary instinct and social influences even in a rational human mind?

Mike, as you're talking about the special Objectivist-super-logic that only Objectivists truly understand (even if they can't actually translate how it works to outsiders) and Greg is talking about standard deductive logic that all us non-Objectivists use, you're talking at cross purposes right from the start.

Might as well get that clear from the outset...;-)

Anonymous said...

Nyquist approvingly quotes Santayana: An animal has inward invisible springs of action called instincts, needs, passions, or interests; and it is only in relation to these psychic springs of action that Powers and Dominations can be distinguished.

What then do you think about the following?

"In fact, the masses — precisely because they are not creative and do not develop philosophies of their own — follow the leaders. The ideologies which produced all the mischief and catastrophes of our century are not an achievement of the mob. They are the feat of pseudoscholars and pseudointellectuals. They were propagated from the chairs of universities and from the pulpit, they were disseminated by the press, by novels and plays and by the movies and the radio. The intellectuals converted the masses to socialism and interventionism. These ideologies owe the power they have today to the fact that all means of communication have been turned over to their supporters and almost all dissenters have been virtually silenced.
What is needed to turn the flood is to change the mentality of the intellectuals. Then the masses will follow suit."
http://mises.org/story/3313

gregnyquist said...

Michael: "Are you claiming that logic is invalid? "

No, of course logic isn't invalid--it is the very standard of validity! But validity is no guarantee of factual truth, and many a fact is discovered without the use of any logic. Nearly all our non-scientific knowledge is gathered either through mere observation or through logically invalid inferences.

We should also keep something else in mind in relation to Objectivism. Rand and her orthodox disciples, despite all the virtuous noise they make on behalf of logic, rarely make use of it in their writings. Instead, they reason on the basis of vague terms, which kinda of seem related to one another, and therefore are regarded as "logical" by the faithful. Where in Rand is the logical argument that establishes her theory of moral value? or her theory of rights? or her various "metaphysical" theories? There are no such arguments, because any Objectivist who tried to create a syllogism to defend these theories would be forced to adopt several premises that would clearly be factually wrong and contrary to Objectivism.

gregnyquist said...

Laj: "What was your intellectual progression and where did you find the time to read all this Santayana etc. "

When I was in my 20s I had several jobs that featured generous doses of down time when I could read--so I was reading about 70 books a year in those days.

"You must have two brains"

Last time I counted, only one. An extra brain might be useful, but where would I put it? A laptop is more practical in this respect.

"I think that the refusal of many philosophers to integrate their ideas with evolutionary theory is mind boggling."

It is mind boggling if you assume that philosophers are interested in truth. But what if most philosophers aren't interested in the truth? What if evolution (particularly evolutionary psychology and genetics) presents obstacles to the philosopher's pet theories? Santayana had no pet theories to get in his way, so he could be entirely open to the best science of his day, including evolution and the experimental psychology of his teacher, William James.

gregnyquist said...

"In fact, the masses — precisely because they are not creative and do not develop philosophies of their own — follow the leaders."

Reasonings of this sort always hide behind the vagueness of words to avoid serious empirical examination. Who are "the masses"? The non-intellectuals? The non-leaders? The proletariat? Whoever the term is supposed to refer to, it hardly refers to a homogeneous mass, but to a large ensemble of individuals with different temperaments and allegiances. And who are these "leaders" they follow? Are we talking political or "intellectual" leaders? It's difficult to assess the statement without knowing what precisely these terms refer to.

"The ideologies which produced all the mischief and catastrophes of our century are not an achievement of the mob. They are the feat of pseudoscholars and pseudointellectuals. "

What ideologies specifically are we talking about? And what mischief, which catastrophes? It would be helpful if we knew.

" The intellectuals converted the masses to socialism and interventionism."

Were the masses really "converted"? Converted from what? And again, which "masses" are we talking about? It would be more accurate to say "Some intellectuals persuaded some of the masses to support interventionist measures." Whether that support was instrumental in bringing about actual "catastrophes" is a far more difficult question.

"These ideologies owe the power they have today to the fact that all means of communication have been turned over to their supporters and almost all dissenters have been virtually silenced."

Dissenters have been "virtually silenced"? What is that supposed to mean? Have they been silenced or not? Or is it merely that the dissenters haven't been listened to? Perhaps most people, for entirely non-rational reasons that have little to do with the verbalistic rationalizations of intellectuals, don't care for what the "dissenters" have to say? Of course, if you are one of these dissenters, this is not something you will ever admit. But then again, intellectuals have always tended to be cowards before the truth.

"What is needed to turn the flood is to change the mentality of the intellectuals. Then the masses will follow suit."

Well, if it's that easy, why hasn't it happened? But of course, it's not that easy. So even if were true that, if you change the mentality of the intellectuals, "the masses will follow suit," how to you in fact change "the mentality of the intellectuals"? Kidnap them and send them to re-education camps? Convert them with the "power" of reason? Bribe them? Threaten not to invite them to your parties? Promise them employment in a "non-interventionist" government, when and if that government is ever elected? What if this horrid "mentality of the intellectuals" is, at least in part, innate? What then? And even if it isn't innate, it's clear from experience that not many intellectuals ever actually change their minds, and when they do, it's often for trivial reasons that have little, if anything to do, with the merits for the case. So even if it were merely a matter of changing the mentality of intellectuals, you still find yourself confronted with an impossible task.

Anonymous said...

Nyquist: And who are these "leaders" they follow? Are we talking political or "intellectual" leaders? It's difficult to assess the statement without knowing what precisely these terms refer to.

It's difficult to assess such babble as "inward invisible springs of action called instincts, needs, passions, or interests" without knowing what precisely these terms refer to.

Nyquist: What ideologies specifically are we talking about? And what mischief, which catastrophes? It would be helpful if we knew.

He says quite clearly -- statism and interventionism. Or do you knot know what those terms mean?

Nyquist: Perhaps most people, for entirely non-rational reasons that have little to do with the verbalistic rationalizations of intellectuals, don't care for what the "dissenters" have to say?

So what? Many people do care for what the "leaders" have to say and they vote. Is who has political influence beyong your grasp? Did you not see all the swooning and praise for the messiah, charlatan, and to-the-core statist with initials BO?

Nyquist: Well, if it's that easy, why hasn't it happened?

He did not say it was easy.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>He says quite clearly -- statism and interventionism.

But Anon, you say this like it's a bad thing. Don't you know that Objectivists are statist interventionists too, as any anarchist will tell you.

Anonymous said...

Dubious Dan the flippant reappears.

Michael Sutcliffe said...

Mike, as you're talking about the special Objectivist-super-logic that only Objectivists truly understand (even if they can't actually translate how it works to outsiders) and Greg is talking about standard deductive logic that all us non-Objectivists use, you're talking at cross purposes right from the start.

Might as well get that clear from the outset...;-)


Pretty sure my logic is the same as anyone other logical person's, in that it's consistent with the reality of this causal universe.

No, of course logic isn't invalid--it is the very standard of validity! But validity is no guarantee of factual truth, and many a fact is discovered without the use of any logic. Nearly all our non-scientific knowledge is gathered either through mere observation or through logically invalid inferences.

Can can you clarify this? Maybe with an example. Even if we stumble across something that is logically true in our daily 'non-scientific' lives, how can we know it is a fact if we don't validate it through the application of reason?

MIchael Sutcliffe said...

Don't you know that Objectivists are statist interventionists too, as any anarchist will tell you.

True, but there's some very special limitations on the action of that state! ;)

And can you tell me why you clowns are so obsessed with the 'verbal' justification of capitalism?

Anonymous said...

Michael Sutcliffe: And can you tell me why you clowns are so obsessed with the 'verbal' justification of capitalism?

They feel it interferes with their verbiage they supposedly got from somebody like Santayana or Popper. :-)

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

But Anon, you say this like it's a bad thing.

Don't you know that Objectivists are statist interventionists too, as any anarchist will tell you. - Daniel on 3/19/2009 03:08:00 PM
===================================

And can you tell me why you clowns are so obsessed with the 'verbal' justification of capitalism? - Michael Sutcliffe from 3/20/2009 07:26:00 AM
___________________________________





Following is your own words from the post in "Is Orthodox Objectivism a Religion?" thread 07/08/08.


Ponder for a few seconds to see if you are a hypocrite or not.




___________________________________

The strength of objectivism is that it invites

criticism.

It[Objectivism]'s right partially because it will stand any test you throw at it.

I think that sometimes closed-system objectivists forget this, claiming objectivism is beyond reproach.

Well, it essentially is, but we don't know that unless we test the hell out of it - or at least if we have proven it by logic then we should be willing to test the hell out of it if we are being

honest

with ourselves that we have proven it beyond all doubt.

It's this lack of willingness by

some objectivists

to throw objectivism into the bloody arena to fight for its life that I think is corrupt and makes objectivism an act of faith like religion.


We should be willing to do this and throw our reputations in there with it!

7/29/2008 06:03:00 AM - Michael Sutcliffe

From "Is Orthodox Objectivism a Religion?" thread 07/08/08
___________________________________





Chew on it!

Your own words, no less.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "It's difficult to assess such babble as 'inward invisible springs of action called instincts, needs, passions, or interests' without knowing what precisely these terms refer to.

Santayana is intentionally vague because his assertion does not depend on the specific type of "instincts, needs, passions, or interests" that he is referring. He could have been more precise if he had merely said "non-rational motives" or, to borrow a phrase from Pareto, "non-logical conduct": but the attentive reader will understand the gist of what he is saying, and from that, decide whether the statement accords with reality. Does human motivation and conduct stem from ideas developed without influence of emotions, passions, personal interests and so on? Or is it the product of "pure," "detatched" utterly logical thought? These are fairly clear positions. Whatever vagueness clings to them does not prevent us from testing them against reality. Not so with the Mises quote. The phrase "intervention and socialism" contains vagueness that imperils the plausibility of his argument. Every state known to history has "intervened." Every state, for instance, that wishes to remain in existence must "intervene" against individuals who wish to destroy it. A non-interventionist state would not be a "state" at all: it would be a condition of anarchy. Now we know that Mises was not an anarchist. As a matter of fact, he supported military conscription, which certainly seems to be a form of intervention! So what he really seems to mean by the term "non-intervention" is: "any intervention that I, Ludwig, personally disapprove of." Interventions of which Mises approves are not really interventions. This is somewhat helpful, because from his writings we can make educated guesses about a lot of interventions that Mises would disapprove of. But there still is a lot of vagueness around the edges. We can be pretty confident, for instance, that Mises would have disapproved of the state intervening in the investment decisions of capitalists. Good! At least we can be clear about that. But what about regulation of nuclear power? Or of contracts involving "voluntary" slavery? Or regulation of airlines? We can't be sure exactly what Mises would say about these things, because he never specifically addressed them or gave a standard of "intervention" clear enough to enable us to apply it to these difficult issues and determine on which side of interventionist divide they fall. Yet such issues clearly have a bearing on Mises argument. Did the intellectuals, for example, really "convert" the "masses" to wanting regulations on meat? Or was it the experience of being sold bad meat? Or was it perhaps the knowledge that bad meat was being sold? Is it really pseudo-scholars and pseudo-intellectuals who convinced the masses to favor that enormities of airline regulation? Or was it merely a common sensical fear that one cannot always rely on "enlightened" self-interest and greed in matters that could potentially involve the deaths of scores of people?

If you actually examine history, you will find that the intellectuals were most successful at "convincing" the "masses" when they were addressing particular concerns of the said masses, such as bad meat or low wages. What most people are interested in is not theory, but results. Nor can they can be counted on to think logically. Remember when Joe the Plumber got Obama to admit to wanting to "spread the wealth"? There were pundits that this was a damaging admission, because there was a poll that seemed to show that nearly 80% of the population opposed redistribution. But did this prevent Obama from being elected? No. Many people voted for Obama for entirely non-rational reasons, that is, because they liked him personally and were tired of the "status quo." They interpreted his vague rhetoric in ways pleasing to themselves and never stopped to think what Obama, with his hard left record, might really favor.

The fact is, intellectuals have much less influence on the masses than they like to believe. When they do have influence, it is usually through political leaders, not through the masses, as Hayek, for example, had influence through Margaret Thatcher. Even then, the influence is hardly determinative, depending in large degree on non-rational factors. If Thatcher had not won the Falklands War, she would never have acquired the political capital necessary to defeat the Coal Miners union, and her program of free market reforms would have been nipped in the bud.

Michael Sutlciffe said...

Ponder for a few seconds to see if you are a hypocrite or not.

Pondering complete. No I am not a hypocrite. You'll notice I said 'It's right partially because it will stand any test you throw at it.' I included the word 'partially' because the fact Objectivism wins any argument is not the reason Objectivism is right, it's just further evidence it's right. Again, what's your point? Do you have one?

A consistent and logical moral system will always win a verbal argument, .....or a written one,.....or one done in sign language or braille, over an illogical system. But what's this obsession with verbal arguments? Why are you saying Objectivists depend only on those to establish what they are saying is right? You seem to be alluding that you know of some other more correct understanding that never gets mentioned in verbal arguments, but you never reveal what it is? Maybe god appears to you in dreams and tell's you that you're right or something?........ What are you crapping on about?

gregnyquist said...

"Can can you clarify this? Maybe with an example. Even if we stumble across something that is logically true in our daily 'non-scientific' lives, how can we know it is a fact if we don't validate it through the application of reason?"

Logic applies to arguments or reasonings: it is a method for determining whether a given argument or inference is "valid." An argument may be valid even when its conclusions do not accord with any facts.

What is important is not whether "logically true," but that its factually true. And facts can be known without logic—by observation, for instance, which people generally find far more convincing than logical arguments. Studies of actual cognition have demonstrated over and over again people don't use much formal logic in everyday life, and they are none the worse for it. See my Cognitive Revolution post on "reason" for more details.

Daniel Barnes said...

Michael Suttcliffe:
>Pretty sure my logic is the same as anyone other logical person's, in that it's consistent with the reality of this causal universe.

Actually, Harry Binswanger sez Objectivists do in fact use a different form of super-logic that surpasses that of us ordinary mortals. I quote:"The Objectivist theory of logic is a super-set of ordinary, Aristotelian logic. (Like those Bounty ads: "I don't use Bounty--I use New, Improved Bounty.")"

Super Objecto-logic sounds way, way, cool, but sadly is indeed different from - and clashes with (tho strangely Harry forgets to mention this fact) - the boring old vanilla Aristotelian logic that we ARCHNblog types nonetheless muddle along with. So sorry, Mike, it's not the same, so you're at cross purposes right from the git-go.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Dubious Dan the flippant reappears.

Look, you just need to face up to the fact that in essence you're a paternalistic statist interventionist too, just like me and Michael Sutcliffe and Ayn Rand herself. We just differ in degree! F'rinstance, both Mike and I put "special limitations" on our statism, just different ones (I'm not a socialist for example). But those are just "shades of grey" which as you know Ayn Rand sez we should disregard. Essentially we're the same.

So come on in, the state-worshipping's fine!...;-)

Anonymous said...

Okay, Dan. I must give you some credit for humor. Dubious Dan the Flippant Humorist. I hope this string doesn't get too much longer. :-)

Anonymous said...

Nyquist: Santayana is intentionally vague because his assertion does not depend on the specific type of "instincts, needs, passions, or interests" that he is referring.

Oh, I get it now. [Hits forehead with palm of hand]. Santayana can be deliberately vague and that is fine in Nyquist's opinion. On the other hand, L. von Mises must be very, very precise in Nyquist's opinion. Mises' "In fact, the masses — precisely because they are not creative and do not develop philosophies of their own — follow the leaders" could not possibly mean anything like what Pareto's "non-logical conduct" means. After all, one seems abstract and the other seems concrete. Due to that and L. von Mises did not write about the minutiae of practical politics, we should heavily discount whatever he said about the big picture. I learn something every day.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I get it now. [Hits forehead with palm of hand]. Santayana can be deliberately vague and that is fine in Nyquist's opinion. On the other hand, L. von Mises must be very, very precise in Nyquist's opinion. Mises' "In fact, the masses — precisely because they are not creative and do not develop philosophies of their own — follow the leaders" could not possibly mean anything like what Pareto's "non-logical conduct" means. After all, one seems abstract and the other seems concrete. Due to that and L. von Mises did not write about the minutiae of practical politics, we should heavily discount whatever he said about the big picture. I learn something every day.

No. If you are not statist, you are an anarchist. If you are not an anarchist, you are a statist. Since this would make everyone from a minimal government libertarian to an totalitarian a statist, there is a lot of room for distinction.

Are there innate human motives grounded in our animal heritage that govern political conduct or not? If you say yes, you are on the side of Santayana and many naturalists about the behavior of man as a political animal because that is often the way he is. If you say no, you are on the side of Rand and many idealists who see politics more about how man should be as opposed to how man is.

There might be devils in the details, and this is why we debate the details. However, Greg is pointing out that the statist/interventionist vs. anarchist distinction requires far more empirical detail to make sense of than the distinction between the naturalist political scientist camp and the idealist political scientist camp.

Laj

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Laj: Are there innate human motives grounded in our animal heritage that govern political conduct or not? If you say yes, you are on the side of Santayana and many naturalists about the behavior of man as a political animal because that is often the way he is. If you say no, you are on the side of Rand and many idealists who see politics more about how man should be as opposed to how man is.

Your division is off. Rand did not say no.

"The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man's body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. ... The pleasure-pain mechanism in the body of man—and in the bodies of all the living organisms that possess the faculty of consciousness——serves as an automatic guardian of the organism's life." - Rand, The Objectivist Ethics

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Okay, Dan. I must give you some credit for humor.

Well, I say it in a humorous way, but it's still true. Objectivists are statist interventionists. Also, almost all other types of statist interventionists put "special limitations" on their governments (for example, Social Democrats limit their government via the ballot box, among other means) so limiting state power is scarcely unique to Objectivism.

BTW, I'm also trying to make a more subtle point about the problems with the "essentialist" style of argument which Rand specialised in...;-)

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Your division is off. Rand did not say no.

Actually Anon, in fact Rand made directly contradictory remarks on the subject - and on directly following pages too. As we've noted elsewhere:

The Objectivist Ethics p19:
Rand:"Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it..."

But wait...what did Rand say just a page ago???

The Objectivist Ethics p17-18:
Rand:"The pleasure-pain mechanism in the body of man - and in the bodies of all living organisms that possess the faculty of consciousness - serves as an automatic guardian of the organism's life. The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the *right* course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the *wrong* course of action..."

So Rand's argument is that man has no automatic set of values, apart from his automatic set of values! (This reminds me of Harry Binswanger claiming that Objectivists don't use "some weird logic" before immediately rattling off some weird logic).

This is, yet again, why the first thing one take into account in analysing Objectivism is, as Greg says, the complexity of its confusions.

gregnyquist said...

Anon: "Santayana can be deliberately vague and that is fine in Nyquist's opinion. On the other hand, L. von Mises must be very, very precise in Nyquist's opinion. Mises'"

You still don't get it, so I'll try to help. All broad descriptions about the human condition tend to be vague. That sort of goes with the territory. They need to be "fleshed out," so to speak—reduced to terms that are closer to reality. In and of itself this is not a probem. When Ayn Rand, for example, was asked to summarize her philosophy on one foot, her summary, as it had to be, was rather vague. But that goes with the territory. Summaries tend to be vague. And since Rand was not trying to use these summaries as a basis of an argument, that's no problem. The problem arises when one uses vagueness to mask defects in reasoning and lack of evidence. Because of the vagueness, it makes it very hard to criticize, because the vagueness allows room for equivocation: you're criticizing a moving target. For example, it is possible that Mises remarks may be referring (among other facts) to the influence that Marxist intellectuals had on "the masses" (actually, some of the masses) prior to World War I—a fact which, at first blush, seems to bolster his case, right? Well, not quite. Marxism taught that the proletariat (Mises' "masses") in France had more common with the proletariat in Austria and Germany than they did with the non-proletariat of France. Hence it would be stupid of them to fight for their countries, because they would merely be fighting "capitalist" wars against their proletariat brethren. And many people in "the masses" swallowed these rationalizations from intellectuals with great fervency. "Solidarity" (whatever that means!) was a great watchword in those days: solidarity of the proletariat transcended national boundaries. Marxism and unionism were secular religions that were making great headway, and their priesthood were "intellectuals" and union leaders. But then World War I came along, and those proles who had swallowed the Marxian ideology without a second thought barfed it right back up and ran to the front and started to killing proles in other countries. This was a tremendous blow to Marxian and International Socialism, and it would seem also to be a blow to Mises' theory, but because his theory is defended in such vague terms (since the masses turn out to be rather fickle in their allegiance to the theories of intellectuals), an adept casuist could probably equivocate his way into saving the theory from empirical refutation. That would not have been the cases had Mises been more precise. But in that case, the errors either in his reasoning or in his facts would have become readily apparent.

Whatever vagueness exists in the Santayana quote has no bearing on the conclusion: he doesn't use vagueness to hide anything. He merely suggests that because human beings are animals, they are bound to have some of the same traits as animals, including non-rational sources of motivation (which happens to be true: this is merely evolutionary psychology 101). His further assertion about "ideation in a vacuum" is only vague to people who are not well versed in Santayana: but if you know his philosophy well, it makes perfect sense. And it is well defended in other quarters (by cognitive science and evolutionary biology, for example).

Mises, alas, does not flesh out his theory about changing the mentality of intellectuals in other places. He merely repeats it and gives it a fresh spin or two. In Human Action, he declares that its economic knowledge that is determinative. Merely educate the masses about economics and they'll support the right economic policies! Nice theory—too bad it ain't true.

Anonymous said...

Barnes: So Rand's argument is that man has no automatic set of values, apart from his automatic set of values!

Dubious Dan, if you sometimes used the principle of charity regarding Rand, you would be far less confused and mocking. A pain-pleasure mechanism a not a "set of values". For Rand a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. It is not a primary and it presupposes an answer to the question of value to whom and for what. No creature acts to gain or keep its pain-pleasure mechanism. It is part of "for what". Pain and pleasure are not actions by the valuer but inner states. When Rand says, "his senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil", any reasonable person would think she refers to the five senses of vision, etc. The senses are used to identify and achieve values.

Anonymous said...

Nyquist: You still don't get it, so I'll try to help.

You spend most of a long post on terms L. von Mises used like "leaders", "the masses", "converted", and "ideologies" that you call vague. I reply, "On the other hand, L. von Mises must be very, very precise in Nyquist's opinion." Then you say I don't get it. Amazing!

I observe your criticizing L. von Mises because he did not write about the minutiae of practical politics. Then a big part of your reply is about national boundaries and more minutiae about day-to-day practical politics. You end complaining about L. von Mises not fleshing out his theory in other places to your satisfaction. And you say I don't get it. Amazing!

Anonymous said...

Your division is off. Rand did not say no.

She did not say "no", but she said and wrote more than enough for us to find out where she really stood. And as Daniel points out, her position ultimately amounts to a "no", or if we are really generous, is confused on this point.

But all this is besides the point of this discussion. What in general you fail to appreciate, and what Greg is trying to explain to you, is that it is easy to be swayed by just about anything that sounds plausible unless you subject it to a fairly high experimental/predictive standard. This is important in part because many of your (and most people's) convictions are not subjected to the kind of testing/feedback that would reveal them to be false in quick fashion.

This is why the details are important - I have always said that I am NOT a history buff so I don't debate history in general because there is too much idelogically motivated revisionism.

But in fields like psychology, or education (I taught both publicly and privately), or most importantly business, I've dealt enough with issues to have some insight into when people are lying/telling the truth based on my own experiences viewing lots of business situations and seeing how managers handled them, or teaching kids and seeing the vast spectrum of talent I had to deal with in the American public education system.

In business especially, results are especially unforgiving. This is not the case with philosophy, where people can write all kinds of impractical nonsense without getting shown up for the charlatans they are. No one likes to lose money, so if you raised your standards of criticism so high that you asked yourself something like: could I go out and make money by betting on this prediction/theory made by Ayn Rand etc., then you would see how lazy a lot of Objectivism is.

If you give supposed experts too much wiggle room to redefine terms, make statements that can be given broad interpretations etc., you will end up believing in Nostradamus type predictions, because you can always reinterpret what the expert said to fit into this or that kind of claim. Objectivism likes to use the "if only" excuse a lot, as in "I would have been right if only laissez faire capitalism was in play" etc. Well guess what? That's their excuse to engage in all kinds of runaway speculation. After all, false premises are always consistent with false conclusions. What you should do is try to figure out what they were really good at and give them some credibility when they consistently make good empirical predictions and analysis in a field.

Would you trust Michael Phelps if he gave you economic advice? Or Warren Buffett if he told you how to shoot a basketball? So why listen to Ayn Rand's views on how children think on when she never raised children, had friends who mostly didn't have any children, and didn't cite the best research on the subject? And all this belief without having a good bar by which to measure her success in predicting things!

This is very different from taking her thoughts on writing seriously. But even then, there is an issue with that.

If you had a million dollars to invest in learning to shoot basketball free throws with the goal of gaining $10 million if you could raise your shooting % over 80%, would you pay Michael Jordan teach you to shoot free throws or Gary Boren, who was an investment banker who studied free throw shooting and used his techniques to help many players improve their techniques, including one of the best free throw shooting team in the NBA, the Dallas Mavericks?

Don't let people use the "if only" excuse to continue to play with your mind. Sit down and do the hard work of trying to get it right and understanding the difference between science and ideology. There is nothing wrong with ideology (the most polite term for it is "conjecture") as long as you don't confuse it with science. Objectivists however don't get the difference. Raise your bar for taking someone seriously. Half the time, it won't make a difference in your personal life because you'll discover that many things you think are true despite having little first hand contact with the evidence that justifies them (Socialism is evil) will often never make a difference to how you live your live because you've never had your success or failure measured against such ideas.

Laj

Anonymous said...

Laj: What in general you fail to appreciate, and what Greg is trying to explain to you, is that it is easy to be swayed by just about anything that sounds plausible unless you subject it to a fairly high experimental/predictive standard.

How do you know what I appreciate or not and whether or not Greg has anything to teach me about empirical testing? And what entitles you to presume you are fit to make such judgments?

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Dubious Dan, if you sometimes used the principle of charity regarding Rand, you would be far less confused and mocking. A pain-pleasure mechanism a not a "set of values".

One would perhaps be more charitable toward Rand if a) she and her followers did not make such grandiose claims as to her millennial genius, b) if one did not come across these obvious self-contradictions thinly disguised by verbal legerdemain quite so frequently and c) she and her followers claimed such charity was a virtue, and exercised it toward other thinkers. Alas, this is not the case.

Now Anon, all you are doing here is avoiding the point by wandering off on a tangent about what we mean by the "senses".

You need to focus on the key point: Right and wrong are/imply values. If man has an automatic mechanism that tells him which is the right or wrong course of action, he has an automatic valuing mechanism. This is what Rand is saying in this para, and it would take a truly superhuman amount of hairsplitting to deny this.

Yet if this is true, her subsequent claim that "Man has no automatic code of survival...no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values.." must be false.

So Anon, do humans have an automatic course of action, an automatic way of determining right from wrong, or don't they? Which is it?

Anonymous said...

Dubious Dan: You need to focus on the key point: Right and wrong are/imply values. If man has an automatic mechanism that tells him which is the right or wrong course of action, he has an automatic valuing mechanism.

You need to focus on a key point. An automatic valuing mechanism does not tell automatically what is the right or wrong course of action. Does every pain tell you the best kind of treatment for it? For Rand, in her main usage, a value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. 'Automatic value mechanism' uses "value" in a different but related way.

Dubious Dan: So Anon, do humans have an automatic course of action, an automatic way of determining right from wrong, or don't they? Which is it?

I believe Ayn Rand would answer no to the first part and a limited yes to the second part. The pain-pleasure mechanism is not an action. Pain and pleasure are signals of right or wrong, but they do not indicate the correct course of volitional action. This is basically what Rand said, and they are not the "directly contradictory remarks" you wish to see them as.

You say Rand and her followers don't claim the principle of charity is a virtue and don't exercise it toward other thinkers. Never? If you regard such behavior as bad, why do you copy it so much?

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

You'll notice I said 'It's right partially because it will stand any test you throw at it.' I included the word 'partially' because

the fact Objectivism wins any argument is not the reason Objectivism is right, it's just further evidence it's right. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




Then you have just proven to be a pathethic liar.

You didn't win the arguments with me regarding Aristotle, reason, slavery in another thread, you just ran away from it.

If you want me to show it, I'll surely comply.



___________________________________

Again, what's your point? Do you have one? - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




After all this, you still don't know my point?

or

just hiding?


The point is, not only Objectivism itself is based on fraudulent understanding of history,

but also, some of the "Obectivists" themselves are charlatans, or intellectual sloths or in philosophical denial based on either the lack of faith or lack of understanding of Objectivism itself.



___________________________________

A consistent and logical moral system will always win a verbal argument, .....or a written one,.....or one done in sign language or braille, over an illogical system. - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________



and you didn't, you ran away from it when you saw you were losing.


If you want me to post those arguments you ran away from, I'll comply.



___________________________________

You seem to be alluding that you know of some other more correct understanding that never gets mentioned in verbal arguments, but you never reveal what it is? - Michael Sutcliffe
___________________________________




Since you still don't get it

or

you just hiding your embarrassment,


I'll explicitly point out.


The lack of philosophical consistency

and

discrepency between history Objectivism claims

and

history as shown.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>You need to focus on a key point. An automatic valuing mechanism does not tell automatically what is the right or wrong course of action.

Anon, this is what Rand wrote:

"The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the *right* course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the *wrong* course of action..."

Deal with it.

>Pain and pleasure are signals of right or wrong, but they do not indicate the correct course of volitional action.

See the above passage, again! And then read yourself above again, where the first part of your sentence contradicts the second. For what do you think "signals" are, other than "indications"!

You then confuse the issue further by saying "Does every pain tell you the best kind of treatment for it?" as if anyone is saying that an "indication" or "signal" is the same as a doctor's prescription! Who says that it is?

Now Anon, the sad fact is that one can hairsplit away any contradiction by playing word-games over verbal meanings, and this is precisely where the principle of charity you appeal to wears thin. For every time Rand says something silly or flatly contradictory, which is both frequently and fundamentally, we critics are bombarded with special pleading either with regard to infinitely regressive hairsplitting over unspecified "different but related" meanings of various terms, or appeals Objectivism's vague, obscurantist jargon, and even insistence that her obvious fallacies can all be explained only by Objectivism's own "super-logic", details of which are seemingly only available to Objectivists.

Of course, we here at ARCHNblog are indeed charitably minded. However, Anon, the question is: just how much intellectual charity do you demand that we critics donate to the abject poverty of Rand's philosophy?

Anonymous said...

How do you know what I appreciate or not and whether or not Greg has anything to teach me about empirical testing?

Your Objectivist rationalism. That anyone would go to such lengths to defend Ayn Rand's pronouncements on psychology is unfortunate, to say the least.

And what entitles you to presume you are fit to make such judgments?

My years of experience with Objectivist rationalism. Objectivists are usually high IQ individuals who do not understand the limitations of philosophical speculation.

I mean, listen yourself:

You need to focus on a key point. An automatic valuing mechanism does not tell automatically what is the right or wrong course of action.

Of course an automatic valuing mechanism does what you said it does not do. What you are really trying to say (charity! charity!) is that either that

the pain/pleasure mechanism is not an automatic valuing mechanism,

or that

automatic valuing mechanisms should be infallible and that the pain/pleasure mechanism is not infallible.

Both are just moronic to me. Here we are, back to this defense of "reason, reason, reason", just because it sounds intellectually cool to do so. This obsession with the belief that a conscious reasoning process is the only good way to arrive at good decisions or that good decisions can only consistently be the result of rationally validated processes is just vapid.

I've often wondered how Objectivists would ever rationally validate having parties or marriages or funerals. So much tradition seems useless from such a rationalistic perspective.

Laj

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

I've often wondered how Objectivists would ever rationally validate having parties or marriages or funerals. So much tradition seems useless from such a rationalistic perspective. - Laj
___________________________________




Great argument.






___________________________________

My years of experience with Objectivist rationalism. - Laj
___________________________________





I, too, have had a long association with those who call themselves Objectivists.

Except that, all these so-called Objectivists would end up contradicting themselves.




___________________________________

Objectivists are

usually high IQ individuals

who do not understand the limitations of philosophical speculation. - Laj
___________________________________




Not based on my experience.

Usually ones I've met are psuedo-intellectuals (who are more interesed in style over the substance)

,who just want to look "cool" by throwing away some fancy words, 'concepts', and sophistic arguments.

and they are not even very good at that.

Anonymous said...

Laj:That anyone would go to such lengths to defend Ayn Rand's pronouncements on psychology is unfortunate, to say the least.

That is your rationalism. I say something about the pain-pleasue mechanism and you have me defending "Ayn Rand's pronouncements on psychology." Does that include whatever whim you decide belongs? Do you deny what Ayn Rand said about the pain-pleasure mechanism?

Laj: Of course an automatic valuing mechanism does what you said it does not do. What you are really trying to say (charity! charity!) is that either that the pain/pleasure mechanism is not not an automatic valuing mechanism, or that automatic valuing mechanisms should be infallible and that the pain/pleasure mechanism is not infallible. Both are just moronic to me.

It is moronic because you completely made it up. It is uncharitable and wholly rationalistic nonsense. I said things like a pain does not tell you the best course for treating the pain. I did not say the pain-pleasure mechanism was not an automatic valuing mechanism. I said nothing about infallibility.

You have not escaped the rationalism you malign. So far you have shown yourself to be a great example of "the pot calling the kettle black".

Anonymous said...

Dubious Dan: Deal with it.

I have dealt with it. You confuse a signal with a course of action. An example is confusing a pain with a doctor's prescription.

I wrote, "Pain and pleasure are signals of right or wrong, but they do not indicate the correct course of volitional action."

Dubious Dan replies: And then read yourself above again, where the first part of your sentence contradicts the second.

You show the same confusion again and confuse automatic with volitional.

Dubious Dan: You then confuse the issue further by saying "Does every pain tell you the best kind of treatment for it?" as if anyone is saying that an "indication" or "signal" is the same as a doctor's prescription! Who says that it is?

Yeah! Maybe you finally get it. A signal is not a course of action. Deal with it.

Dubious Dan: Of course, we here at ARCHNblog are indeed charitably minded.

Yeah right, concerning Rand, like Joseph Stalin was a benevolent dictator.

Dubious Dan: However, Anon, the question is: just how much intellectual charity do you demand that we critics donate to the abject poverty of Rand's philosophy?

I suggest about the same amount you give to the defective philosophy of Karl Popper. Nitpicking or hair-splitting can yield a contradiction in what Rand said (especially if words have no "true" meanings like Dubious Dan says). This is Dubious Dan's modus operandi concerning Rand. Does he treat Karl Popper the same way?

Bye for a while. I suddenly lack time for this.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Yeah! Maybe you finally get it. A signal is not a course of action. Deal with it.

Anon, you just dig yourself deeper and deeper. Who said a signal is a course of action? No one! I don't know why you keep repeating it. The issue is Does Rand say there an automatic mechanism for evaluating a man's course of action? Rand's answer is both "yes" and "no", depending on which passage you read.

Now, you don't seem to clearly understand the "yes" part of Rand's remarks, which is probably not helping you get the clash. I'll break it down so you can hopefully see the problem you have. Here's Rand again:

"The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the *right* course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the *wrong* course of action..."

You see, it's Rand who says the signal indicates the right course of action or, alternately, the wrong course of action. And here are the courses of action in question: pleasure= keep doing X or pain= stop doing X. Thus the mechanism is evaluating courses of action as "right" or "wrong" automatically, something that Rand explicitly says man doesn't have in the later passage:

"Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. "

Now as Laj points out, these automatic evaluations may err (they are pre-programmed "guesses" by the body) but in general they are pretty good guesses, having been honed by evolution. And of course, a cognitive diagnosis and treatment from a doctor may also err. (Incidentally, just because it is "volitional" doesn't make a course of action "correct" either, yet you have conflated the two).

But as hopefully you can now see, Rand claims this automatic set of values exists (I agree) at the same time as she insists it doesn't!

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>I suggest about the same amount you give to the defective philosophy of Karl Popper.

What exactly do you consider defective with Popper's thought? I can think of a few things, though overall it is far superior to Rand's. Who knows, perhaps we might agree on something...;-)

Anonymous said...

Barnes, quoting Rand: "Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values."

Yes, and the next two sentences in the same paragraph are: "His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions-but his consciousness will not function automatically."

These you completely and uncharitably neglect, like the context two pages later is irrelevant.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>These you completely and uncharitably neglect, like the context two pages later is irrelevant.

AFAICS the passage you cite doesn't alter the problem at all. I honestly don't know why you think it does. After all, it's man's senses that deliver pleasure or pain signals automatically, telling him what is "right" or "wrong" for him. "Senses" is just another word for the automatic evaluation mechanism she talked about earlier. What else is there??? Now she's saying that they don't in fact do this. It's more double talk. I don't see how you think this helps.

Anonymous said...

Barnes, quoting Rand: "The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the *right* course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the *wrong* course of action..."

Here is the entirety of the second sentence: "The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it."

You drop the last half. Why, because it would weaken your position? Pretty clearly this last phrase refers to volitional, non-automatic action.

Barnes: After all, it's man's senses that deliver pleasure or pain signals automatically, telling him what is "right" or "wrong" for him. "Senses" is just another word for the automatic evaluation mechanism she talked about earlier.

No, "senses" usually means sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Anonymous said...

I wrote: Pretty clearly this last phrase refers to volitional, non-automatic action.

Correction: Pretty clearly this last phrase refers mostly to volitional, non-automatic action for humans.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>You drop the last half. Why, because it would weaken your position? Pretty clearly this last phrase refers to volitional, non-automatic action.

Why do you think this weakens my position? Here's the missing phrase again:

"...[pain indicates] that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it."

Yes, and the course of action automatically evaluated as "right" in response to pain is to stop doing X, and "wrong" is to keep doing X Just like I said. Are you trying to argue that these somehow aren't courses of action?? That to stop doing something - or even to do nothing - isn't a course of action? (If so, you need to read some Mises...;-)) This additional quote changes nothing, once again

I honestly don't know why you think it does, unless you think that we're discussing whether you can have a conscious valuation to supplement or alternatively override this automatic valuing mechanism - which of course you can. But that is not the topic at issue. The issue Rand's alternating claims as to the existence or non- of an automatic valuation mechanism in man.

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Yes, and the course of action automatically evaluated as "right" in response to pain is to stop doing X, and "wrong" is to keep doing X Just like I said. Are you trying to argue that these somehow aren't courses of action??

No, if stopping doing X stops the pain. However, the stopping is likely volitional, not automatic, and it may be the kind of pain where "stop doing X" doesn't apply, e.g. stomach ache or kidney stones.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>No, "senses" usually means sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell.

Yes, and how else do you think the automatic pleasure/pain mechanism functions but through these??

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>However, the stopping is likely volitional, not automatic, and it may be the kind of pain where "stop doing X" doesn't apply, e.g. stomach ache or kidney stones.

So what if it is? Any course of action - doing nothing, taking aspirin, whatever - still gets automatically evaluated by the pleasure/pain mechanism. You keep conflating the automatic evaluation of the course of action with the action itself.

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Yes, and how else do you think the automatic pleasure/pain mechanism functions but through these??

Pains from kidney stones and lots of other pains do not "function through" sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell.

Barnes: You keep conflating the automatic evaluation of the course of action with the action itself.

Huh? I think not. Several times now I have distinguished between signal and course of action.

Anonymous said...

That is your rationalism. I say something about the pain-pleasue mechanism and you have me defending "Ayn Rand's pronouncements on psychology." Does that include whatever whim you decide belongs? Do you deny what Ayn Rand said about the pain-pleasure mechanism?

Well, free to state what parts of Ayn Rand's psychology you do not agree with. Since I'm dealing with an Objectivist rationalist like you who is more interested in defending Rand than discussing material facts with implications beyond Rand's legacy's veracity, I won't belabor the point that we've been discussing the pain pleasure mechanism in the context of human behavior, which was the original context in which I suggested that Ayn Rand did not accept the existence of innate human motives that affected political behavior and you raised the incredible example of the pain-pleasure mechanism to claim that she did.

It is moronic because you completely made it up. It is uncharitable and wholly rationalistic nonsense. I said things like a pain does not tell you the best course for treating the pain. I did not say the pain-pleasure mechanism was not an automatic valuing mechanism. I said nothing about infallibility.

Thanks for the clarification. I now see where the ridiculousness came from and it is in two parts. The first is that you are contradicting Rand. Rand stated explicitly:
:"The pleasure-pain mechanism in the body of man - and in the bodies of all living organisms that possess the faculty of consciousness - serves as an automatic guardian of the organism's life. The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the *right* course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the *wrong* course of action..."

So in the first place, you're contradicting Rand.

The second point is that what Rand should have said was the judgments we get from what she called our "pain-pleasure mechanisms" are not infallible. But Rand being the defender of certainty did not want to go there. She wanted to avoid undermining the erroneous judgments we can get from our senses by acting as if she never said that the pain-pleasure mechanism gives judgments about good and bad.

It seems that her legerdemain worked on minds like yours.

Laj

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Pains from kidney stones and lots of other pains do not "function through" sight, hearing, touch, taste, or smell.

Well, that's just wrong, Anon. The kidney stones touch sensitive nerves as they pass thru the urethra, for example. How else do you think we find them painful?

I really don't think you know what you're talking about here.

Anonymous said...

DB:"You keep conflating the automatic evaluation of the course of action with the action itself."

Dan,

In fact, this is something that Scott Ryan showed that Objectivists in general do not comprehend. "The evidence of the senses" is ultimately intellectually apprehended as *judgments*. Objectivists think it is easy to separate the signals from the judgments that we make on the basis of them. In fact, the separation is far more difficult that Objectivists make out.

When we are saying "evidence of the senses" or "pain pleasure mechanism", we cannot think of these mechanisms apart from the judgments they give rise to. A sensation of pain cannot be wrong - it can only be a judgment about the cause/source of the sensation that is wrong.

Therefore, Anonymous, in true Randian fashion, is going to defend the claim that the "pain pleasure mechanism", which in his mind, is somehow not a source of judgments, does not tell you anything about how to avoid the pain. Of course the judgments we make on the basis of the sensations can be wrong or right. But what Anonymous is trying to avoid is admitting that there is a judgment attached to the "pain pleasure mechanism" which the pain-pleasure mechanism is useless without.

Laj

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Well, that's just wrong, Anon. The kidney stones touch sensitive nerves as they pass thru the urethra, for example.

Touch usually means via the skin. The urethra is not skin. All pains are transmitted by nerves, but far from all are considered "by touch". You have a long way to go to prove your point.

Anonymous said...

Laj: Therefore, Anonymous, in true Randian fashion, is going to defend the claim that the "pain pleasure mechanism", which in his mind, is somehow not a source of judgments, does not tell you anything about how to avoid the pain. Of course the judgments we make on the basis of the sensations can be wrong or right. But what Anonymous is trying to avoid is admitting that there is a judgment attached to the "pain pleasure mechanism" which the pain-pleasure mechanism is useless without.

Laj is just making stuff up again. He has already proven his expertise at fabrication, so any more is excess.

Daniel Barnes said...

Laj:
>But what Anonymous is trying to avoid is admitting that there is a judgment attached to the "pain pleasure mechanism" which the pain-pleasure mechanism is useless without.

Yep. We're now down to hairsplitting over what is "touch" and "skin" means. Anon, FYI skin is just one of many touch-sensitive forms of nerve-carrying human tissue! You're simply being pedantic.

I also agree, Laj, Anon seems confused as to which side of Rand he agrees with...;-)

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Yep. We're now down to hairsplitting over what is "touch" and "skin" means. Anon, FYI skin is just one of many touch-sensitive forms of nerve-carrying human tissue! You're simply being pedantic.

Yes, and you started the hairsplitting, trying to say all pain is delivered by the five senses in order to try to make a pedantic point against Rand. By the way, from Wikipedia: "The three types of pain receptors are cutaneous (skin), somatic (joints and bones) and visceral (body organs)." Somatic and visceral are far from touch.

Laj: But what Anonymous is trying to avoid is admitting that there is a judgment attached to the "pain pleasure mechanism" which the pain-pleasure mechanism is useless without.

Laj is just making stuff up again. He has already proven his expertise at fabrication, so any more is excess.

Daniel Barnes said...

What exactly is your point Anon?

Can you state it clearly?

Daniel Barnes said...

BTW Anon, "body organs" include eyes ears, nose, tongue etc!

Are you trying to argue that pain does not occur through these? If not, what in tarnation is your point?

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Are you trying to argue that pain does not occur through these?

In what body part does being absurd give you pleasure?

Barnes: If not, what in tarnation is your point?

The conventional meaning of "touch" is a body touching something external, or one part touching another part. See a dictionary. The fact that pain may accompany it, like stepping on a tack, does not give you license to confound pain and touch.

Bye. I have far more important things to do.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>What exactly is your point Anon?

I meant your substantial point rather than cavilling over kidney stones etc.

It's not at all clear what you're on about, other than we're being "uncharitable". How? Why? You don't explain. Simply citing other passages and saying that we're just haters doesn't make a counter argument, especially as they don't conflict with my criticism AFAICS.

Red Grant said...

___________________________________

A note about Red Grant. I stopped replying to this obnoxious, logic-challenged smear artist - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________





___________________________________

Laj is just making stuff up again. He has already proven his expertise at fabrication, so any more is excess. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/25/2009 06:35:00 PM
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________







___________________________________

This is Dubious Dan's modus operandi concerning Rand. Does he treat Karl Popper the same way? - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/25/2009 02:34:00 PM
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________






___________________________________

It is moronic because you completely made it up.

So far you have shown yourself to be a great example of "the pot calling the kettle black". - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/25/2009 02:32:00 PM
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________







___________________________________

Dubious Dan the Flippant. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/20/2009 10:48:00 PM
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________






___________________________________

Dubious Dan the flippant reappears. -
Anon defending Yaron the Fraud
3/20/2009 05:41:00 AM
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/02/2009 07:36:00 PM
___________________________________







___________________________________

A note about Red Grant. I stopped replying to this obnoxious, logic-challenged smear artist - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud
-----------------------------------
And farewell to your obnoxiousness. - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud
-----------------------------------
So far you have shown yourself to be a great example of "the pot calling the kettle black". - Anon defending Yaron the Fraud

3/25/2009 02:32:00 PM
___________________________________




hypocrite - 2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

Anonymous said...

Barnes: It's not at all clear what you're on about, other than we're being "uncharitable". How? Why? You don't explain.

Are you trying to be obtuse?

My substantial point was the difference between the pain-pleasure mechanism and the senses. That difference bears upon the two quotes from Rand that you allege are contradictory. However, your allegation depends on muddling that difference. The following is only one such attempt.

Barnes: After all, it's man's senses that deliver pleasure or pain signals automatically, telling him what is "right" or "wrong" for him. "Senses" is just another word for the automatic evaluation mechanism she talked about earlier.

It is not. Pain is internal perception (interoception or proprioception). The senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste are external perception (exteroception). When philosophers use perception, or senses, they usually mean exteroception. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_perception
In the second quote Rand did not stipulate a special meaning of "his senses." If she meant what philosophers usually do, then there is no contradiction. If you believe her intent and the usual meaning do not matter and only your interpretation counts, then there is a contradiction. Enjoy your booby prize.

Xtra Laj said...

So Mr. Anonymous,

Given that you raised this issue to claim that I had misclassified Rand as a philosopher who did not believe in innate human motives that could affect political behavior,

Could you please explain how Rand's claims about pain/pleasure constitute anything approaching an acceptance of innate human behavior that would affect how human beings behave politically?

As in, can you show the empirical distinction based on your claim that shows that I placed Rand in the wrong camp when contrasting her with Santayana and Adam Smith, to name two philosophers amongst many?

Thanks in advance.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>However, your allegation depends on muddling that difference...My substantial point was the difference between the pain-pleasure mechanism and the senses...When philosophers use perception, or senses, they usually mean exteroception.

Anon, your "substantial point" is a distraction, and has been all along. The issue is, to restate it yet again, about the existence or not of an innate mechanism that values courses of action.( What we call it is irrelevant; equally irrelevant is pretending, as you do, that just because philosophers talk about a simple divide there necessarily is one in biological reality).

You simply won' t address this point about the automatic valuation of a course of action directly; from your peculiar, beside-the-point comments, such as saying I "confuse a signal with a course of action" I can only infer that you can't see the issue.

The whole point is that an automatic pleasure/pain signal IS an automatic valuation of a course of action. "Right" and "wrong" are value judgements, Anon! When you put your hand on a hot stove, you get an automatic pain signal that tells you this course of action is wrong. When you drink a glass of water on a hot day, you get an automatic pleasure signal valuing this course of action as right. Rand says this, and I agree with her. Therefore, man has an innate, automatic mechanism for valuing a course of action.

The problem is she also says "Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values." (my emphasis). Now, you reckon the following sentences influence meaning somehow: "His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it..." etc. But all this is just caviling over what the word "senses" means. This is Rand's vagary, not mine. Man still has an automatic set of values in the pleasure/pain mechanism, regardless of to what degree it is interrelated it is with the functioning senses (eg: you need touch to feel the hot stove). You then tried to cavil over the word "value", introducing the point that elsewhere Rand calls a value "that which one acts to gain and/or keep." But this is irrelevant: once again "right" and "wrong" are value judgements Anon; if she uses these terms to describe the action of an automatic, non-volitional mechanism, and this contradicts what she says elsewhere about values being volitional, then this is hardly my problem. Indeed, it is my point!

Finally, Anon, Rand contradicts herself both frequently and fundamentally, a classic example at the heart of her system being her oxymoronic "contextual absolute". So her blunder over this is no mere exception, that we should be charitable over, but is instead a standard modus operandi verbalist double-talk and sloppy, uncritical thinking that should be consistently highlighted.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon,

Here's my argument:

P1: "Right" and "wrong" are value judgments

P2: Man has an automatic mechanism of determining "right" and "wrong" courses of action.

C: Man has an automatic mechanism for making value judgments about courses of action.

What do you deny about this?

Anonymous said...

Xtra Laj: Could you please explain how Rand's claims about pain/pleasure constitute anything approaching an acceptance of innate human behavior that would affect how human beings behave politically?

"Man cannot survive, as animals do, by the guidance of mere percepts. A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food (if he has learned to identify it as "hunger"), but it will not tell him how to obtain his food and it will not tell him what food is good for him or poisonous." - The Objectivist Ethics

Hunger and pain are both discomforts for Epicurus and others, and eating pleasureful.
http://philosophy.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_hedonism_of_epicurus
Some people believe it is politically acceptable or necessary to rob Peter in order to feed Paul.

Anonymous said...

Dubious Dan: The whole point is that an automatic pleasure/pain signal IS an automatic valuation of a course of action. "Right" and "wrong" are value judgements, Anon!

I'm glad to see you agree with Rand. Of course, there are many courses of action for which there is no automatic pleasure/pain signal. You may or may not agree, and I won't presume either way.

Other than that and to use your words, it's hardly clear what you're running on about and you don't explain. Your post adds nothing new and is another attempt at muddling. Like I said, enjoy your booby prize.

Dubious Dan: Here's my argument:
P1: "Right" and "wrong" are value judgments
P2: Man has an automatic mechanism of determining "right" and "wrong" courses of action.
C: Man has an automatic mechanism for making value judgments about courses of action.
What do you deny about this?


If "judgments" is replaced by "signals", it is what Rand said. Therefore, I see no point at all to your "argument."

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>If "judgments" is replaced by "signals", it is what Rand said. Therefore, I see no point at all to your "argument."

Ok, I won't argue over terminology, so let's bend over backwards and rephrase it along your lines to make it "what Rand said".
Man has an automatic mechanism that makes value signals about courses of action.

And I agree, roughly. However, you keep forgetting she also says:

Rand:"Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values."

I don't see how you can keep denying what's written in black and white in front of you, but I suppose people can deny anything if they want. Why don't you just drop all the hairsplitting and say she was wrong to say this, she misspoke, and let it go?

Oh, I know: it's because to assert some form of innate values is a very slippery slope for Objectivists...

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>I'm glad to see you agree with Rand.

Yes I do with this passage, I've said so all along.

>Of course, there are many courses of action for which there is no automatic pleasure/pain signal.

So what? Who ever said there aren't? This doesn't touch my argument in the least.

Anonymous said...

Barnes: Why don't you just drop all the hairsplitting and say she was wrong to say this, she misspoke, and let it go?

Okay, she misspoke. You did, too. You pluck two sentences, compare them to a distant parapraph, and behave like the rest of the paragraph they are in didn't exist. Why don't you say you were wrong to do so and let it go?

Barnes: Oh, I know: it's because to assert some form of innate values is a very slippery slope for Objectivists...

You don't know. Calling the biological need for food and water or pain relief "innate values" is fine with me.

I wrote: "Of course, there are many courses of action for which there is no automatic pleasure/pain signal."

Barnes replied: So what? Who ever said there aren't? This doesn't touch my argument in the least.

Sure it does. The rest of the paragraph you choose to ignore is about what is not automatic.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>Okay, she misspoke.

Hallelujah! So man does in fact have an innate set of values! If "calling the biological need for food and water or pain relief "innate values"" is fine with you, then we're on the same page. The camel's nose of innate values is firmly inside the Objectivism's tent...;-)

Unfortunately Rand's error - which, being not at all self-critical, she never spotted herself - is actually a widely cited one, the consequences of which has been one of the biggest confusions in Objectivism: the confusion over innate values. For example, Diana Hsieh's denial that homosexuality might be innate, or Rand's own denial of the existence of inborn talents.

But we can explore that in later posts.

>You did, too...The rest of the paragraph you choose to ignore is about what is not automatic.

Er...no. You seem to have trouble grasping this point, Anon, so let's get it clear. I have never argued that man doesn't have a set of what you would call "volitional" values as well as his "innate" (or "instinctive") ones. The two are not mutually exclusive. The fact that there are automatic values doesn't affect that there are non-automatic ones too. In denying the former, Rand misspoke, and that is what I criticised her for. So the additional lines of Rand you cite implying possible volitional courses of action - even in charitably interpreting that they do necessarily imply this, which in fact they don't - are irrelevant.

Or to put it in a simple logical form: If I said Rand misspoke, and it turns out she did, then I didn't...;-)

Got that now? Good.

Anonymous said...

I asked Dubious Dan, "Why don't you say you were wrong to do so and let it go?"

Dubious Dan's reply shows his unwillingness to do so.

Dubious Dan: Er...no. You seem to have trouble grasping this point ....

I got your point, which is to evade, muddle and be disingenuous. Got that now? Good. Be content with your booby prize. Bye.

Daniel Barnes said...

Well, seeing all you have left to reply with the Pee Wee Herman argument I can understand why you're outta here. Never mind. If you have a moment, before you leave why not take our new test?

Anonymous said...

Dubious Dan,
I'm "outta here" mainly for lack of time. I scored 0 on your test. Why don't you make a test for anti-Rand cultists? I am sure you would score high.

Kelly said...

It appears Anonymous has you Dan. That last comment was quite a burn, here's hoping you recover soon.

Daniel Barnes said...

Anon:
>I scored 0 on your test.

Well that's promising at least.

>Why don't you make a test for anti-Rand cultists? I am sure you would score high.

Always with the Pee Wee Herman* argument, Anon! No doubt you were short of time again...;-)

Kelly:
>That last comment was quite a burn, here's hoping you recover soon.

Thanks Kelly, after years of having to face such devastating intellectual ripostes one learns to bounce back...;-)

*"I know you are, but what am I?"