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.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ayn Rand & Epistemology, 40

Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy 13: Is contingency necessary? Objectivists tend to be overly fond of accusing their philosophical opponents of the "stolen concept" fallacy. If some philosophers insists "Nobody can be certain!" an Objectivist is bound to retort: "Can you be certain of that!" What is lost is such facile refutations are the nuances and depth of rigorous philosophical discourse. Stolen-concept "refutations" constitute a philosophical short-cut that fails to do justice to either side in the debate.

If, in opposing the Peikoffian view of necessity, we were to declare the contingency of truth, we must be prepared for stereotypical Objectivist refutation, namely: Is this declared contingency of truth itself a necessary truth? The philosopher George Santayana answered this charge in his book The Realm of Truth as follows:

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Best Living Philosopher Reviews ARCHN

"Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature" and the ARCHNblog have their critics. Some have the decided advantage of having read the book. Some have not, but following in the footsteps of Ayn Rand herself do not see this as much of a obstacle to voicing a strong opinion. A recent critic, Elliot Temple, happily falls into the former category. He has reviewed the book here at his blog, and has also posted it in various Objectivist-friendly corners of the internet. While his review is somewhat lengthy and more than somewhat unfavourable both to the book and to us personally, we are happy to link to it here and let readers make up their own minds as to its merits.

All we would note is that Temple is a rare and interesting bird in the Objectivist aviary in that he is both a fan of Objectivism and Karl Popper's Critical Rationalism, two philosophies that are ostensibly opposed. We also advise readers in advance that Temple bills himself as "the best living philosopher", so perhaps we should be flattered to get his attention.