Thursday, July 25, 2013

Objectivism & Epistemology, 41

Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy 14: Peikoff on Logic and Experience. After discussing contigency and necessity, Peikoff moves on the logic and experience. He repeats his favorite charge against the analytic-sythetic dichotomy:

Any theory that propounds an opposition between the logical and empirical, represents a failure to grasp the nature of logic and its role in human cognition. [IOTE, 112]

Do advocates of the ASD really propound an "opposition" between logic and experience? Perhaps some do; but without giving examples, Peikoff is merely issuing an unsubstantiated assertion. The ASD grew out of distinctions generated by Hume and Kant. These philosophers were attacking rationalistic speculation (what Kant called "pure" reason). They were not, however, banishing logic from human cognition.

Peikoff goes on the present a brief one-paragraph digest of the Objectivist theory of knowledge:

Man is born tabula rasa; all his knowledge is based on and derived from the evidence of the senses. To reach the distinctively human level of cognition, man must conceptualize his perceptual data --- and conceptualization is a process which is neither automatic nor infallible. Man needs to discover a method to guide this process, if it is to yield conclusions which correspond to the facts of reality --- i.e., which represent knowledge. The principle at the base of the proper method is the fundamental principle of metaphysics: the Law of Identity. In reality, contradiction is the proof of an error. Hence the method man must follow: to identify the facts he observes, in a non-contradictory manner. This method is logic --- "the art of non-contradictory identification." Logic must be employed at every step of a man's conceptual development, from the formulation of his first concepts to the discovery of the most complex scientific laws and theories. Only when a conclusion is based on a noncontradictory identification and integration of all the evidence at a given time, can it qualify as knowledge. [IOTE, 112-113]

Let's examine this paragraph sentence by sentence.

  1. Man is born tabula rasa. Not true. See Pinker's The Blank Slate.
  2. All his knowledge is based on and derived from the evidence of the senses. Probably mostly, but not entirely, true. There may exist certain propensities of thought which are critical to effective cognition. For example, the tendency of the very young to conceptualize and name things might very well be an instinct of sorts. If so, it's merely a matter of semantics whether that "instinct" or propensity is regarded as knowledge.
  3. Conceptualization is a process which is neither automatic nor infallible. While almost everyone would agree that conceptualization is not infallible, the insistence that it is also not automatic appears unwarrented. The Objectivist position implies that very young children make a decision whether to conceptualize or not. This is grossly implausible and not consistent with the evidence presented by cognitive science.
  4. Man needs to discover a method to guide this process, if it is to yield conclusions which correspond to the facts of reality. Given how complex the process of conceptualization appears to be, this would seem impossible. Human cognition cannot be guided by a method. The philosopher Micheal Polanyi made a strong case against a methodology of thought in his Personal Knowledge. Subsequent research by cognitive science tends to support Polanyi's criticism of a non-tacit, consciously directed, purely "objective" knowledge.
  5. The principle at the base of the proper method is the fundamental principle of metaphysics: the Law of Identity. This is intolerably vague. As I have argued in a previous post, there are different types of identity. Until these different types are recognized and appreciated, talk of Law of Identity is largely wind and nonsense.
  6. In reality, contradiction is the proof of an error. True, but potentially misleading. Contradiction is important when making tests of hypothesis. It is also important in developing consistent theories, and in speculative hypotheses used when making educated guesses (when empirical testing is not possible). And while contradiction does constitute "proof of error," it doesn't necessarily tell you where that error resides. A contradiction could be an indication that a theory is wrong, or that there are errors in the test. Nor is lack of contradiction necessarily proof positive of truth. In pragmatic tests (where isolation of variables is difficult or impossible), success may result from factors that have nothing to do with the hypothesis being tested. (For example, if the aggresive application of the death penalty for murder led to a decrease in murder, that would not necessarily prove the thesis that the death penalty leads to a reduction in murder. The murder rate may have dropped for reasons that had nothing to do with the death penalty.)
  7. Hence the method man must follow: to identify the facts he observes, in a non-contradictory manner. As stated above, this is impossible. There can be no "method" of cognition (not at least in terms of consciously applied rules).
  8. This method is logic --- "the art of non-contradictory identification. To the extent that logic is a method, it is confined to formal deductive logic. It is unlikely that either Peikoff or Rand understands this. Formal logic is not applied, nor can it ever be applied, to all human cognition.(For more on this topic, see here.)
  9. Logic must be employed at every step of a man's conceptual development, from the formulation of his first concepts to the discovery of the most complex scientific laws and theories. If this were true, knowledge would be impossible. Can an infant or a toddler apply logic at every step of his conceptual development? No, of course not. We have yet another example of Objectivism's misplaced emphasis on the process of cognition. But it's not important how a man reaches his conclusions. On the contrary, what's important is whether the conclusions (regardless of how they are reached) are tested afterwards. (For more on this, see here.)
  10. Only when a conclusion is based on a noncontradictory identification and integration of all the evidence at a given time, can it qualify as knowledge. Complete and utter nonsense (for reasons give above). Since most of our knowledge claims are formulated unconsciously, without the aid of a consciously directed "logic," it would just not be possible to form conclusions based on the approach suggested by Objectivism. If you want to evaluate the reliability of a knowledge claim, the best way of going about it is to test is empirically. Ironically, the Objectivist method is contrary to objectivity. Other people cannot evaluate how an individual reaches his conclusions, or whether they are based on "noncontradictory identification and integretion of the available evidence." When put in practice, this approach will inevitably lead to just the sort of ex cathedra claims issued by the likes of Rand and Peikoff.

31 comments:

Neil Parille said...

All his knowledge is based on and derived from the evidence of the senses.

It seems quite hard to show how mathematical knowledge and logic are based on or derived on the evidence of the senses. How is a mathematical concept such as infinity derived from the senses?

Bryan M. White said...

@Neil: I'm always more than a little perplexed when I hear people say things like this.

How do you think an individual -- let alone mankind as a whole -- ever learned about mathematics in the first place if it didn't at least begin with observation and experience? Do you think a baby is just born knowing how to do long division? Do you think someone born blind, deaf, dumb, and numb without the slightest sensory input from the outside world could learn complex mathematics all on their own in their head?

When you say something like, "I don't understand how someone could derive a concept like infinity from the senses," you're completely disregarding the antecedents of such an idea. A child learns that if they have one stick and then another stick, they now have two sticks. They learn this because you SHOW THEM the sticks, or because they've seen sticks or apples or balls or whatever you're using as an example in the confines of the classroom, and they can call the image to mind when you explain how addition works. From there they can build on that to form the idea of unlimited sticks, and thus infinity. But mathematics, like all learning, like all KNOWLEDGE, has to build on some kind of experience. You're just starting with something like infinity and going, "Derp, I don't know they can get THAT from sense experience." That's ridiculous.

Listen, I know you guys hate Ayn Rand and Objectivism and everything, and that's your prerogative, but half the time you don't know what you're talking about yourselves.

Bryan M. White said...

@Neil(cont.): And mind you, I'm not trying to draw on Rand's conjectures on how a child forms concepts or pretend to be an authority in the matter myself. We'll leave that for the developmental psychologists. I'm just saying that to understand a concept like an infinity, you must first have an experience of things and from that learn that there can be amounts of things and then from that conceive of an unlimited amount of something. You're cutting the steps that lead from experience to infinity and then complaining that the fact that you don't see a DIRECT link between the two and concluding that there is NO connection between them at all!!!

I won't insult you by arguing that, at the very least, a child has to HEAR their lessons in mathematics, which itself involves the senses. I'm assuming that you know that and see it as irrelevant to your point. I'm assuming that you consider such discussions as taking place in an abstract realm apart from sensory experience, and that the experience of HEARING the lesson isn't what you have in mind when talking about when you speak of something being "derived from the senses." In other words, I'm assuming that you know that a person has to at least HEAR about such a thing as "infinity", but I'm also assuming that that isn't what you mean by "derived from the sense."

However, I think it's precisely because we as human can communicate and benefit from each other's knowledge that grants you the luxury of thinking that a thing like infinity can be learned without experience. If the classroom doesn't count as "experience of the senses", then we should set it aside as a source of learning in our hypothesis. Suppose a person was born and grew up on a desert island without any human contact. Do you really think that concepts like infinity -- or really, any concepts whatsoever -- would just spontaneously APPEAR in this person's head without somehow building on that person's experience of self-educating themselves on the basis of their EXPERIENCES on the island?

Neil Parille said...

Bryan,

I don't doubt that there is some empirical content that is part of all or most mathematical or logical content. But how do we derives mathematical truths exclusively from experience? How many sticks, apples or whatever do we have to observe to know that 2+2=4 or that 92*872= whatever. If we weren't born with the ability to do at least some math then our mathematical theorems would never get off the ground.

Anyway, I'd like to know of the psychological studies that support Rand's extreme empiricism.

Bryan M. White said...

Obviously we have the ability to do math, but that's completely different than saying that a person can learn concepts without any basis in sense experience. A human being is born with the potential to run the bases and learn the rules of baseball, but that doesn't mean that they can learn those rules without ever going down to the field or ever having any of it explained to them.

And also, the fact that we don't EMPIRICALLY verify every calculation doesn't mean that our knowledge of mathematics doesn't begin with sense experience. Again, you're completely discounting the idea of building from sense experience. If you don't see the direct connection, you seem to think there's no connection at all. Yes, we don't need to physically test the proposition that 92 X 872 = 80,224, but the human race could never have reached the point of calculating such thing without STARTING with two sticks or apples or whatever. We build on our knowledge. We reach a point where we're building knowledge on top of knowledge. Drawing conclusions from our conclusions. Some very smart people sat down and said, "Hey, if I add this bundle of sticks to this bundle, I'll get X amount of sticks. But what if I keep coming back every day and kept adding two bundles like this together? Wouldn't it be easier if I had a had a concept to deal with how many times I had to repeat the process so that I could just extrapolate the results, instead of just adding the sticks over and over each day?", and then we taught this concept to out children and so on.

You can discount such a scheme if you like, since I certainly can't claim that I was there -- and I know that Ayn Rand is an easy target for not backing her theories up with hard scientific data -- but where are YOUR psychological studies? How do you suppose that the human race discovered the principles of multiplication without deriving any of it from "the evidence of the senses"? People are just born already KNOWING mathematics (not ability, mind you, KNOWING. Your original comment was "It seems quite hard to show how mathematical knowledge and logic are based on or derived on the evidence of the senses" [emphasis mine])? And you have tons of studies to back this up, I suppose?

Bryan M. White said...

Consider this:

When you go to the bank or a drive thru, you often see a sign that says, "Clearance 8 feet." Now, without ever actually WITNESSING it happening, you can probably well imagine what would happen if a truck which exceeded that height tried to drive through there. But that doesn't mean that that knowledge isn't based and informed by previous experience. You build and extrapolate from the experience -- probably much more than you realize. Imagine that you had someone next to you and it was their very first day on Earth. Imagine all of the things you would have to explain to them to get them to the point where they would comprehend that sign as you do, a whole lifetime of experience and learning from the knowledge built on other people's experience.

Or consider this:

When you were a kid, they taught you to count from 1 to 10. They showed you how the numbers corresponded to things. Then they probably taught you to count up to a hundred. And you understood that the numbers still corresponded to things, even though it was no longer necessary to show the things DIRECTLY. It was implied. You were building on what you learned. From there you began to see the repeating patters. When they told about a thousand and then a million and then a billion, you didn't need to count each individual number to grasp the idea. You built another layer on top of the layer you'd already built. This is proof positive of how we learn, how we build on what we learn. You don't need a "study" to see this. You know it yourself.

Then you reach a sad day where you go, "Well I comprehend what a million is, although I've never actually counted a million solid objects, so I guess that knowledge isn't based on experience.", and then all of human history just collectively hangs its head and sighs.

Bryan M. White said...

You see, I believe you're ascribing to the notion that for something to be "empirical" or "derived from the senses" that it requires testing or investigation to be verified. Things like Charlemagne's birthplace or the heliocentric theory and so forth. In this view, the fact that I have five dollars is empirical because I have to check my wallet to be sure, whereas 3 + 2 = 5 somehow exists independently of empirical reality because it doesn't require me to reach into my pocket.

That's absolute nonsense. Mathematics is an abstraction of quantity. It allows us to deal with the idea of quantity itself, apart from specific instances of it. Thus, it doesn't require me to reach into my pocket because it's concerned with something LARGER than the specific pieces of paper in my wallet. You don't have to go LOOKING for the fact that 3 + 2 = 5 because you're dealing with a universal not a specific case. However, 1.) Quantity is a genuine ATTRIBUTE of empirical reality, and 3 + 2 = 5 COULD be verified quite easily by investigation any time you like if you were so inclined. It just isn't necessary to KEEP verifying every equation because, again, we're talking about a universal. 2.) We would never have been able to devise this manner of abstracting quantity if we didn't have EXPERIENCE living in a world in which things have quantity. Mathematics may be abstract but nevertheless, it is a tool for understanding the world, the real, empirical, world. Once upon a time it MUST have started with those two sticks or rocks or whatever, with the recognition that the things of the world come in quantities.

You seem to be making the leap that just because I don't have to get out of my chair to check and see if 3 + 2 still equals 5, that somehow that information must have come pre-installed in my brain. Yeah, that's not right.

gregnyquist said...

Obviously we have the ability to do math, but that's completely different than saying that a person can learn concepts without any basis in sense experience.

Who has said that a person can learn concepts without any basis in sense experience? Here's what Neil wrote: "I don't doubt that there is some empirical content that is part of all or most mathematical or logical content. But how do we derives mathematical truths exclusively from experience?"

The fact is that either extreme (math is exclusively empirical, math is exclusively non-empirical) appears unwarranted. Experience may suggest some of the basic principles of mathematics; but mathematics involves elaborations that can be developed entirely independent of experience. This is why it's considered in some quarters as "a priori."

The larger point is that, regardless of what the source of mathematics is, the relevance of mathematics to empirical reality cannot be assumed from the start; it must be established via empirical testing. The Objectivist position, although it seems to be species of extreme empiricism, ironically leads to a rationalistic conclusion. Rand's empiricism, in some respects, seems merely a way of dodging the criticism of conventional empiricists that the Objectivist axioms (and consequently much of the Objectivist metaphysics) are founded on "a priori" reasoning; that Rand is guilty of attempting to determine matters of fact on the basis of an analysis of the meanings of words. "A priori," in this context, is not necessarily meant literally. It's hyperbole, meant to illustrate a point. What these empiricists aren't claiming that Objectivism is solely based on notions developed prior to experience, but that it is not sufficiently empirical, that it relies far too much on the sort of approach adopted by Aristole in The Physics: that is to say, inferences based on loose generalizations from experience.

Samson Corwell said...

I think the point is that deriving basic concepts from experience sort of kills the analytic/synthetic dichotomy.

Anonymous said...

No it doesn't. Here's a classic analytic statement. "Every magl is a bakht. F237R6 is a magl. Therefore, F237R6 is a bakht". You ahve no experience with any of those things, since I made them all up. But it is absolutely so that F237R6 is a bakht. Even if you say that it's based on experience, you've experienced similar situations, you're wrong. Suppose you use the typical, all men are mortal, Etc. You havent' met "all men". You have no experience of ALL.

QuantumHaecceity said...

(Part 1) This article is such a steaming pile of garbage, it's not even funny. I couldn't believe how bad this newest attack was.


1. I don't know how many times you people have to be told, but when Objectivism talks about tabula rasa, it means epistemology.

You keep laboring under the delusion that when Objectivism says man is born tabula rasa, that Objectivism is referring to psychology and innate instincts, or behavior. It's not.

2. "There may exist certain propensities of thought which are critical to effective cognition. "

Irritatingly again, you confuse the Objectivist position. The word knowledge is referring to Epistemology, not Psychology.

3. Number 3 was amazing. Do you goofballs really think conceptualization is automatic?

In Objectivism, conceptualization either refers to concept formation, or simply thinking on an abstract level, above sensation and perception.

Do you goofballs really think children automatically form concepts? Like kids automatically conduct the process of concept formation? Thinking is itself, at all times volitional. You don't have to think, as human behavior throughout history, shows the many times we do things without thinking.

4. Number 4 was so stupid it was jaw dropping. Nyquist, or whoever wrote this crap, is actually dense enough to think use of logic and reason, is impossible?

Human cognition cannot be guided by a method? You goofballs have never heard of the Scientific method, that guides us in Scientific advancement? How about the hundreds of methodologies we use to guide our cognition in everything from baking a freaking cake to building a space shuttle?

5. "This is intolerably vague."

Good lord man. You are constantly attacking a philosophy for 8 years, and don't know something as basic as what it means by one of its fundamental principles? I can research and find out exactly what Objectivism means by the Law of Identity in like 50 seconds.


You haven't learned what it means in 8 years? Is Nyquist, or whoever that wrote this crap, for real?

6. Now in number 6 we get a whole bunch of text about how this dude wants to parse and interpret and play devil's advocate on the word contradiction. Like really dude? Does it really need all those mental gymnastics?


CONTINUED

QuantumHaecceity said...

(Part 2)

7. "As stated above, this is impossible"


As stated above this attack piece was amazingly stupid.

8. More whining from Nyquist, as he acts like he's too dense to understand that what Objectivism is saying is that we apply logic and reason to come by way of valid knowledge.

Is that a problem for you Nyquist? Did you really need to whine about that and have a problem with that? Really?

9. "Can an infant or a toddler apply logic at every step of his conceptual development?"

The above was about so stupid I nearly fell out of my chair. I would never imagine any goofball, when reading that tenet, would try to invalidate it by applying it to infants and toddlers.

To show you how brick stupid that is, it would be like me saying you need to apply proper rules or methods when doing Calculus or Trigonometry, or Combinatorics, to get the correct results, and some clown says if that were true, mathematical knowledge would be impossible because, can an infant or toddler apply those rules or methods?

All you can do is sit there slack jawed at the level of stupidity and density it would take to pull something like that.

10. "Complete and utter nonsense"

The goofball that wrote this steaming pile of plant feed actually claims that a philosophy saying you should have information or knowledge that is NOT contradictory, and that takes into account all the evidence available, is complete and utter nonsense?

My lord. The stupidity simply hurts.

This piece was without a doubt, one of the dumbest critiques of Objectivism I've ever read. All around a disgrace, and unnecessary.

You ought to know something is seriously wrong with the people behind this blog like Nyquist, Parille and Daniel Barnes, when they have so much malice for Objectivism, they will actually take the time to attack it for espousing the use of logic and reason to come by way of valid knowledge and understanding of the world.

My word what a disgrace.

Jzero said...

"Bluff, buttressed by abuse of all critics" indeed.

There's barely anything TO this critique, it's mostly "you're so dumb! how can you be so dumb?!"

No wonder a common stereotype is that people discover Rand in their teenage years and it kind of locks them into that juvenile, name-calling mindset.

Bryan M. White said...

@Jzero: I know, right? I regretted some of the ways I put things in the heat of the moment the other day -- I still regret them -- but this guy can't go five words without some ejaculation of, "You SO STUPID!" I can appreciate being frustrated, but that sort of thing is hardly constructive. If you disagree, MAKE A COUNTER-ARGUMENT. If you can't make a counter-argument beyond sputtering about how "stupid" something, then do us all a favor and save your breath.

gregnyquist said...

I think the point is that deriving basic concepts from experience sort of kills the analytic/synthetic dichotomy.

This would be true only if one assumes that all concepts are literal transcriptions of reality. But they are no such things. Concepts are symbolic meanings that can represent truth and falsehood, hypothesis and refutation, preference and distrust. While these symbols may be suggested by aspects of experience, to say that they are derived from experience misses the point. Concepts are (potentially) constiuents of veracious description. But how an individual concept is formed or derived is not decisive in evaluating whether a given proposition or theory is true.

The ASD may have its flaws, but there is a kernel of truth in it that is completely ignored by Peikoff's critique. An ideal description of something true and real, and the real thing itself, are not identical. The symbol should not be confused with its object. The real cat should not be confounded with his name, or with the concept of a cat, or with a verbal description of the cat. The verbal description may be true, but it's truth does not depend on literal identity. It's truth is representative, like a photo or a painting is (or can be) representative. Our idealized descriptions have different ontological characteristics from the real objects they represent. Whatever truth can be found in the ASD grows from an appreciation of some of the important differences between mental descriptions on the one side, and the real world on the other. One important characteristic of concepts is that, in and of themselves, they are neither true nor false. They are like the splotches of paint from which a painting of something real can be formed.

Concepts are identified by their meanings; but this identification is no warrant of truth. The phrase "A bachelor is an unmarried adult male" doesn't tell us anything about reality, it only tells us what the term bachelor means. To find out whether bachelor's exist, or who might qualify as one, you have to turn your attention away from the meanings of words, and attend to the real world.

Rationalistic philosophies tend to base their conclusions on arguments deriving, at least in part, on an analysis of the meanings of words. The ASD evolved to combat this error of rationalistic speculation.

Samson Corwell said...

gregnyquist said:
Concepts are identified by their meanings; but this identification is no warrant of truth. The phrase "A bachelor is an unmarried adult male" doesn't tell us anything about reality, it only tells us what the term bachelor means. To find out whether bachelor's exist, or who might qualify as one, you have to turn your attention away from the meanings of words, and attend to the real world.

Now, this is where I think Rand's notion of "floating abstractions" comes in, the point being that concepts need some kind of content to be intelligible or of use. This content derives from the senses and you can then use this content to build the ideas in your head.

Daniel Barnes said...

@Jzero,

"Bluff, buttressed by abuse of all critics", with perhaps a touch of self delusion.

Obviously Quantum Haeceitty's comment is mostly the empty abuse we expect. But let's take a look at the bluff content. A couple of examples will do, starting with his 1.

QH considers himself an "expert" in Objectivism. He claims that we should know better, that Rand's version of tabula rasa clearly *doesn't* include "innate instincts, or behavior".

Yet here's Rand:
"[Man] is born naked and unarmed, without fangs, claws, horns or “instinctual” knowledge."
And further:
"An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess."

And there are many more claims, often cited here, that lead in a similar direction, such as her remarks about innate talents and innate tendencies.

Obviously, then QH is bluffing (or he is not much of an "expert" in Objectivism). He must know Rand does make many claims consistent with a crude tabula rasa(as a side issue, both of the above quotes are empirically false). Now, does she sometimes say other things that don't quite fit? Yes. But this is because Rand is a confused and contradictory writer who knew very little of biology and evolution, not because she had something particularly new or compelling to say. As we have pointed out recently on this blog, Rand even seems unclear as to what an "instinct" is, calling it "an unerring and automatic form of knowledge". Of course while instincts can be called automatic, they are certainly not "unerring". No such thing has ever existed. So behind her confusion is even deeper confusion.

Now let's look at QH's 4. He writes:
"Human cognition cannot be guided by a method? You goofballs have never heard of the Scientific method, that guides us in Scientific advancement? How about the hundreds of methodologies we use to guide our cognition in everything from baking a freaking cake to building a space shuttle?"

This gets bonus bluff points, because what QH has done here is not contradicted, but merely agreed with Greg's basic position. There are hundreds of "methodologies", if you like, that we use to guide our cognition. See the relevant chapter discussing things like cooking and swimming in "Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature"! Contra Rand, there is no "master method" on which the fate of mankind depends. (There's not even a clearly agreed "Scientific method", though it is generally agreed in the methodology of English grammar that "science" is not a proper noun.)

That QH denounces people as "goofballs" for agreeing with him suggests he either doesn't actually understand what they're saying, or worse, doesn't actually understand what he's saying. Either way, it's pretty clear who the real goofball is in this debate.

Bryan M. White said...

@Samson: I was going to say something similar as well. Words and concepts mostly denote genuine distinctions. Some make distinctions which are more or less arbitrary but possibly useful. Others may make distinctions which are entirely made up. For instance, following Greg's example concerning "bachelors", I could say that a "Sneelorp is a person who recites Shakespearean sonnets backwards when they smell frozen yogurt", although it's unlikely that such a person actually exists. But, should such a specimen present themselves, we'll have a way of distinguishing them from people who ... don't ... do that. The rationalist position which Greg is criticizing takes it for granted that the word "bachelors" is already here, treats the concept and the thing as one in the same, and then asserts the word itself as proof of the thing.

All well and good. The flipside of that mistake, the "empiricist" error you might say, would be, I think, to assume that ALL the distinctions made by our words and concepts exist solely in the words themselves, to assume that the world is like a giant turkey that we carve up and categorize as a means of communicating with one another, and that somehow the world out there exists inviolate of these distinctions. THAT, I believe, is what Rand was trying to defend against, the notion that concepts bear no real relation to physical reality, not this notion that concepts and reality were the same thing. I won't say that she did a very GOOD JOB of defending it, and I'm certainly not here as an apologist for her sloppiness. But that does seem to be the message I got, at any rate.

However, I'm not sure that "floating abstractions" are the same as what we're discussing here. As I understand it, a "floating abstraction" is what she called it when someone had an idea in mind like "love" or "freedom" but they didn't really understand it or connect it with anything concrete. It just "floated" in their mind as vague feeling or a meaningless word. It was more about how a person treated abstractions, then it was about the abstractions themselves.

A more appropriate "Randism" for the current discussion, would be, I believe, the term "anti-concept", which she called "a term that was meant to destroy one or more legitimate concepts." (I'm paraphrasing here.) "Anti-concept" isn't directly revelant to the conversation either, I suppose. But by showing that she distinguished between legitimate and illegitimate concepts, suggests that that she at least understood that there was SOME sort of separation between concepts and reality. Of course, one could just as easily claim it as evidence to the contrary. But hey, for what it's worth....

Jzero said...

@ Daniel Barnes:

While we're at it, one could dissect QH's "10" as well:

"The goofball that wrote this steaming pile of plant feed actually claims that a philosophy saying you should have information or knowledge that is NOT contradictory, and that takes into account all the evidence available, is complete and utter nonsense?"

Leaving aside the question of whether that is ACTUALLY what Nyquist claimed (and I'm pretty sure it isn't), it's interesting how QH reduces Objectivism to merely saying one should consider all available evidence and avoid contradictions.

If that's ALL that Objectivism was, I doubt anyone would have any problem with it, ever. But of course, it's all the other baggage Rand drags along into the equation that's the problem.

Similarly, his closing statement:

"they will actually take the time to attack it for espousing the use of logic and reason to come by way of valid knowledge and understanding of the world"

--tries to present the whole situation as simplistic as possible so as to spin any critique into an attack on (gasp) logic and reason itself!

This fails to take into account all the OTHER philosophies, ones that Rand vehemently opposes, that claim to be using logic and reason. Would they not get a pass, then? Why would Objectivists "take the time" to savage Kant, when he also was trying in his own way to use logic and reason to acquire "valid knowledge"...?

What's more, it's almost an appeal for critical mercy on the basis of good intentions! "Well, we're seeking truth and trying to do good! How can you be so mean and nasty as to criticize our stances?"

Bryan M. White said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bryan M. White said...

@Samson: Actually, looking back at your comment, it seems that maybe you were bringing up floating abstractions in a way that WAS relevant to the conversation and I simply misunderstood what you were saying. So, ummm...nevermind?

awkward

QuantumHaecceity said...

"is mostly the empty abuse we expect"

As opposed to what. Your abuse towards Rand and Objectivism, and Objectivist's, mixed with substance? Your hypocrisy is impressive.

People who have engaged in years of abuse towards a group, complaining about abuse in return. Cute.



"Yet here's Rand"


Your quotes are a complete joke. Your first quote, about the horns and fangs, has Rand saying instinctual KNOWLEDGE. Again supporting exactly what I said. That when Objectivism speaks of tabula Rasa, it's epistemic. Not psychological or behavioral.


That quote even has the word instinctual in scare quotes, which means that word is being used in a special way, or signifies the author might not mean it with its traditional or apparent meaning.


"An instinct of self-preservation is precisely what man does not possess"


This quote is also a joke, as Rand clarifies what she means by instinct, in the very next sentence from that, in The New Intellectual.

She means knowledge, which again shows instinct is being referred to epistemically not psychologically or behaviorally.


"He must know Rand does make many claims consistent with a crude tabula rasa"


Also, everything Rosenbaum says is not in Objectivism. You, to be fair, would have to separate her personal beliefs from the philosophy itself. For example, Rosenbaum was against homosexuality, but Objectivism is not. And as far as the philosophy itself, Objectivism does not claim man has no instincts, in the sense of psychology or behavior. If you know otherwise, produce it.


"Yes. But this is because Rand is a confused and contradictory writer who knew very little of biology and evolution,"


What's this, more abuse/insult. Oh no. Dash it all. And we had ol Danny-boy crying about empty abuse he has come to expect. Oh the hypocrisy.



"but merely agreed with Greg's basic position."


I have no idea what you're doing with the above. Greg claims "Human cognition cannot be guided by a method", which is patently false.

Greg claims "There can be no "method" of cognition", which is patently false. I disagree with him vehemently on both counts.

Yet you somehow manage to B.S. your way into claiming I agree with Nyquist.

Impressive.







Neil Parille said...

Also, everything Rosenbaum says is not in Objectivism. You, to be fair, would have to separate her personal beliefs from the philosophy itself. For example, Rosenbaum was against homosexuality, but Objectivism is not.

Rand said homosexuality was "immoral." When Rand said something was immoral she meant it was against rational ethics as explained by Objectivism.

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Neil Parille

Neil, did you know you and the other two main knuckleheads on here are hardheaded?

If I tell you something about Objectivism, it's a good idea to take it as the truth, because I'm an expert on it.

When I say not everything Rosenbaum said or believed is in Objectivism, it's true.

When I say Objectivism is not against homosexuality, it's true.

But sure, if you don't believe me, consult Rand Lexicon. There is not even an entry on Homosexuality, because it's not something the philosophy holds to be a matter it should take an official position. on.

Though it can be said to be non-orthodox Objectivism(or whatever), here is an article on it:

http://www.atlassociety.org/homosexuality-moral

Jzero said...

""Yes. But this is because Rand is a confused and contradictory writer who knew very little of biology and evolution,"


What's this, more abuse/insult."

As abuse goes, that's pretty mild. Particularly compared to QH's screeds. I suppose it's insulting in the sense that Rand (or her supporters) may have tried to present herself as knowledgeable in some things and others say, in direct contradiction, "no she's not." How dare people not worship Rand's intellect!

But note what pointing out this "abuse" does not do: refute it, prove it wrong. It does not provide evidence of Rand's understanding of biology or evolution, nor does it really clear up her seeming inconsistencies, which remain unclarified.

This is the emptiness of abuse: a remark which is simply the equivalent of a disdainful sneer, of no value to discourse and existing for the sake of its own contempt.

QuantumHaecceity said...

@Jzero

"As abuse goes, that's pretty mild."


Of course you would say it's mild. Based on your behavior, you are heavily biased in favor of this blog and the people behind it, so of course you would try to apologize, or lessen the royal (A)-hole behavior of Parille, Nyquist and Barnes.


"refute it, prove it wrong."


Yeah sparky, I did address substance, gave substance, and substantiated that Nyquist was wrong. Does your bias really blind you that badly to what's right in front of you?

Did you really not see me analyze those quotes and refute them in how Barnes was trying to deploy them?

Did you not see me again take on their tiring nonsense about tabula rasa? Showing again that it is epistemic, not psychological?



"How dare people not worship Rand's intellect!"


Why in the world would someone need to worship Rand's intellect? How stupid is that? You seem to be engaging in some silly stereotypes of some sort.

Jzero said...

"Of course you would say it's mild. Based on your behavior, you are heavily biased in favor of this blog and the people behind it, so of course you would try to apologize, or lessen the royal (A)-hole behavior of Parille, Nyquist and Barnes."

No, I say it's mild because it's mild.

It is far less insulting than the attacks Rand gives in her own writings, or, for that matter, your own name-calling. And critique of the sort that appears here is the least of the hardships a philosophy (or its proponents) should be able to deal with. If you think this blog is "abuse", then how sheltered and fragile must Objectivism and Objectivists be? Oh no, a pointed question! A refusal to accept all offered premises! How insulting! How abusive, this failure to agree with Rand!

"Yeah sparky, I did address substance, gave substance, and substantiated that Nyquist was wrong."

Well, that's what you CLAIM. Most of your post, though, was "oh boy you guys are dumb!" That's not substantive by any meaningful measure. And your so-called refutations amount to little more than "nuh-UH!" when you get right down to it.

But that's not even what I was talking about - you're taking things "out of context", as some Randroids like to complain about.

What I was saying was that your remark about abuse does not, in itself, provide any refutation of any point Nyquist or anyone else makes. It's just noise to show how tsk-tsk disapproving you are of all this "attacking" of Rand and her pet theories. Let's say I conceded that it was "abuse" - but would that make it an incorrect assessment? Well, you don't fully make that case, you spend time calling people "a-holes" and bragging about how you're such an expert on Objectivism. Sure, THAT's going to convince people.

"Did you not see me again take on their tiring nonsense about tabula rasa? Showing again that it is epistemic, not psychological?"

What the hell does that even mean? First there's the implication that Nyquist means "tabula rasa" in some "psychological" sense - whatever that's supposed to be, you don't explain that at all - and then there's the contention that man IS in fact born tabula rasa in an epistemic sense, which I don't think has been at all proved by Rand, Piekoff, or yourself. And this is a refutation?

"You seem to be engaging in some silly stereotypes of some sort."

And you seem to be living up to them.

Bryan M. White said...

What was Ayn's position on spambots?

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Justin Hall said...

@gregnyquist

Hello and pardon me if I may enter the discussion so late but I have something I would like to share with you concerning Rand's proposition that we are born a conceptual clean slate.

I was once in a debate defending the objectivist position of tabula rasa when this was brought to my attention

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/01/120124113051.htm

It appears there is mounting scientific evidence that we are born with an innate implicit conceptualization of space and time as well as possibly some rudimentary understanding of how objects fall. If true this would constitute knowledge in implicit form prior to conceptual self awareness and without prior sensory input.

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