While much of IOTE is clearly agenda driven (the agenda being Rand's theory of history), there is a portion of Rand's epistemology which, although not entirely free of agenda-based thinking, at least is intermixed with some level of genuine truth-seeking. For example, Rand seems to have sincerely believed that her measurement-omission theory solved the "problem of universals." The question confronting the critic is to determine whether her measurement-omission theory actually delivers the goods.
Rand claimed that “A concept is a mental integration of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted.” [13, italics added] This theory has been decisively refuted by Merlin Jetton in a paper he wrote for Kelley's Objectivist Center (now known as the Atlas Society):
Let us test a wider variety of concepts ... to see how well the claim of “measurements omitted” holds up more generally. In other words, we will try to follow Rand’s dictum of reducing a concept to its basis in particular facts (Rand IOTE, 51).
Consider the concept occupation, in the sense of a job or career. Several particulars that might be treated as units in this concept are doctor, fireman, nurse, lawyer, teacher, computer programmer, civil engineer, truck driver, and salesman. They are similar in that each refers to particular kinds of activities the person does in order to earn an income. Such activities differ from case to case, but all such differences are not amenable to some kind of measurement. There is no standard quantitative unit that can be multiplied by a real number to derive a magnitude for each particular occupation and each kind of difference between these occupations. The differences in the activities performed are only qualitative.
Imagine a person assigning a number to each of the above particular occupations according to how he or she would rank each one as desirable, or their difficulty. It then might seem plausible that he or she has some “measurements” to omit. But what does such assignment gain as far as integrating these particulars to form the concept. Nothing at all; indeed, the concept has already been formed. Again, letters of the alphabet would work just as well to rank them. The differences that need to be omitted are qualitative, not quantitative.
This is a devestating refutation. It should settle the issue once and for all, at least among rational individuals. However, there is an even more devestating criticism that could be leveled at Rand's measurement-omission, which I will introduce in my next post.