Michael Stuart Kelly

Theme and Plot Theme of The Fountainhead

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Peter    0

Tony wrote: Objectively I think the elitist concept can be ignored as intrinsicist, collectivist, unearned and second-handed. end quote

 

Well said. I think many Objectivists think of themselves as the “right sort” of elitist. We pass moral judgment on much that goes on in our lives and in the news. We know we are right and see proof of our rightness every day. Yet, we are also “live and let live” sorts, with a libertarian streak.

 

I have no real proof but I think most Republican candidates for office in America have approvingly but with reservations read “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged.” But did Ayn Rand build her intellectual empire on the shoulders of Aristotle? I don’t think so. I don’t think Rand was in any way a “second hander.” Now how does that arrow point? From Aristotle to Rand to  . . . Randian Scholarship . . . and where to we go from here?

Peter

 

From: "Reidy, Peter" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: RE: Orthodox Objectivist nonsense Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 13:00:19 -0700. Anecdotes like Sandra Mendoza's,

 

"Ayn Rand bought the Oxford edition of the Complete Works of Aristotle in 1946...She was hunched over her desk and reminded me of my mother, two women who worked incredibly hard at their craft and were best at what they did. I was surprised by the fact that she had so few books -- but she did have the Aristotle books"

 

are not the way to establish that Rand was the heavy-hitting Aristotle scholar Sandra says she was (but which Rand herself never claimed to be). This would require a close study of both authors' work, laying out the parallels in detail.  It would make for most interesting reading, but as far as I know, no one's ever done it.  The edition Sandra mentions is a translation.  If you're going to master an author through lifelong study, you're going to want to read him in the original language.  You might fall back fairly often on a translation to help with your reading, but you're going to have the texts in your library.  Thus, while the story is evidence that Rand took an interest in Aristotle and worked hard to understand him, it's evidence against Sandra's stronger claim.

 

The story brings up another point.  If Sandra was able to read the titles on a brief pop-in to the office, they were presumably up on a shelf.  Thus suggests in turn that whatever Rand was hunched over at the moment was not one of her Aristotle books.  On the other hand, it's a multi-volume set, so maybe she had only one of the volumes down on her desk.

 

-"'[The intensity of Rand's concentration] was why she couldn't read The New York Times for example."

 

That's odd.  She quoted from it regularly in her articles and speeches.

 

 - "First of all, we don't have Aristotle's dialogues as we do with Plato. What we have is his lecture notes. Secondly, Aristotle's CONTENT didn't influence Rand. What influenced her was his METHODOLOGY."

 

The first is one of several reasons why he's harder to read than Rand.  I still don't see how she makes this reading any easier. I could think of some places where their content is similar, but feel free to argue this if you want.  I'd have to see your case before I could evaluate it.

 

-           "Aristotle also created the branch of philosophy called aesthetics."

 

            Plato was writing about the philosophy of art in the "Ion" and "Republic" earlier than Aristotle.

 

-           "But, most importantly, what she learned from Aristotle was RHETORIC."

 

Whether or not this is true, I don't think Rand would be flattered to hear it.  She tried to make her ideas stand strictly on their rational merits and not on techniques of opinion-manipulation.  This is another case where you'd have to convince me.  I haven't read the "Rhetoric", but my understanding is that it's a dense and technical textbook, full of specific techniques with specific Aristotelian names.  To say that Rand knew how to get to a reader and sell him falls way short of showing that she studied Aristotle in this matter.

 

Her readers make a similar claim, more often, when they say that, since Rand gave reasons for what she said and fit her statements in with wider principles, she was a student of Aristotelian logic.  Here, too, they'd have to show that she knew, and used, the gnarly technical stuff about major and minor premises, modes and figures of syllogism and all the rest of it.  She didn't do this up front, and I've never seen anyone show that she did it tacitly.

Peter

 

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Ayn Rand and syllogisms Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 21:33:35 EDT

 

Peter Reidy wrote: << Her readers make a similar claim, more often, when they say that, since Rand gave reasons for what she said and fit her statements in with wider principles, she was a student of Aristotelian logic. Here, too, they'd have to show that she knew, and used, the gnarly technical stuff about major and minor premises, modes and figures of syllogism and all the rest of it.  She didn't do this up front, and I've never seen anyone show that she did it tacitly.>>

 

Ayn Rand really did know <<the gnarly technical stuff>> about Aristotelian logic. She once amazed me when she began quoting from it at length. No, she didn't refer to it up front: it would have been a bit strange to start quoting Aristotle's principles in the middle of an argument.

Barbara

 

From: "Michelle F. Cohen" To: objectivism <objectivism> Subject: OWL: Rand's reception in academia

Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2002 13:19:00 -0400

 

On Rand's reception at the academic world:

There is no doubt Rand's bold, new formulation of ideas was met by resistance at the academic world.  Nevertheless, it is doubtful that the content of her ideas was the only reason for that resistance.  Her research methods did not stand the rudimentary requirements of academic work. Let me bring just one example.

 

In "The Virtue of Selfishness" Rand writes: "The greatest of all philosophers, Aristotle, did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise." (VOS, 14)

 

Rand does not provide any reference in Aristotle's writings for her allegation. She does not even mention the "Nicomachean Ethics."  She could just as well have claimed that Aristotle believed in gremlins. As a conscientious scholar, I looked up what Aristotle wrote in his "Nicomachean Ethics." Here are just three examples:

 

"Therefore the good man should be a lover of self (for he will both himself profit by doing noble acts, and will benefit his fellows), but the wicked man should not; for he will hurt both himself and his neighbors, following as he does evil passions.  For the wicked man, what he does clashes with what he ought to do, but what the good man ought to do he does; for reason in each of its possessors chooses what is best for itself, and the good man obeys his reason."      (NE, ix, 8, 10-15).

 

"He who exercises his reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind and most dear to the gods."  (NE, X, 8, 20)

 

"If the appetites are good, the state of character that restrains us from them is bad." (NE, VII, 2,2)

 

Rand's condescending misrepresentation of Aristotle cost her a possible alliance with Neo-Aristotelian scholars that could have helped her writings to be accepted in the academic world. I believe she wanted it this way.  She wanted to be the "bête noire" of academia, and she got her wish.

-- Michelle

 

From: Christopher A Robinson To: objectivism CC: michal35@comcast.net, mingshan87@hotmail.com

Subject: Re: OWL: Rand and academics Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 12:23:54 -0500

 

Hi Ming and Michelle,

After reading Ming's (15 Aug) post, I went to find where I had gotten my interpretation of that passage from Nicomachean Ethics. I got it from W. T. Jones' History of Western Philosophy, vol. 1.

 

Here Jones argues that Aristotle would have held that ethics could not be an exact science because ethical truths can't be recognized by an intuitive act of the intellect or deductions from such intuitive acts, as other sciences (e.g., geometry) could. The facts of ethics were anthropological, how people actually behave, not universal truths.

 

In his history of philosophy, Peikoff makes a similar argument, referring to many of the key phrases that Jones uses in his discussion:

"[Aristotle] held that ethics was not an exact science, in which you could formulate precise principles and give mathematical proofs from logical premises." Peikoff then interjects that Objectivism solves this problem of basing ethics on how people actually behave by clarifying the nature of life and the relationship between life and value.

 

So, it seems that Aristotle would want to appeal to absolute right and wrongs, as one would in geometry. He wants to "proscribe" (to use Peikoff's word) how men should behave. So, it would seem that Aristotle is looking for universal application: we should all behave in a certain way to be good. Since one can't appeal to universal facts to support this, however, then ethics is not as exact a science.

 

In so far as W. T. Jones' history of philosophy series is a standard work (and Peikoff offers the same interpretation, for what that's worth), it would seem then that Rand's comments about Aristotle were justified. Further, if this is the standard interpretation of this specific passage, and judging from Jones and Peikoff, it is (but I am not an Aristotle scholar, so I don't know), then it seems that Ming should offer an account for why the standard interpretation of Aristotle or this passage is wrong.

 

Christopher Robinson, University of Alabama at Birmingham

 

From: "William Dwyer" Reply-To: "'objectivism'" Subject: OWL: Rand's dismissal of Aristotle Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2002 11:33:48 -0700

 

In _The Virtue of Selfishness_ Rand writes:

"The greatest of all philosophers, Aristotle, did not regard ethics as an exact science; he based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the

questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise." (VOS, 14)

 

In her post, “Rand’s Reception in Academia” (8/11/02), Michelle Cohen criticized Rand for not providing any reference for the above comment on Aristotle.  However, later, (in her post on “Rand and

Academics,” 8/12/02), she reported that Christopher Robinson sent her a quote from the _Nichomachean Ethics_, Book I, Chapter 3, that supported Rand's position, to wit:

 

"Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so that they may be thought to exist only by convention, and not by nature."  Etc.

 

Despite this quote, Michelle still says that she thinks Rand's dismissal of Aristotle was unwarranted.  In her initial post on the subject (of 8/11), she cited three examples from the _Nicomachean Ethics_ which she evidently regards as countering that dismissal, viz.:

 

"Therefore the good man should be a lover of self (for he will both himself profit by doing noble acts, and will benefit his fellows), but the wicked man should not; for he will hurt both himself and his neighbors, following as he does evil passions.  For the wicked man, what he does clashes with what he ought to do, but what the good man ought to do he does; for reason in each of its possessors chooses what is best for itself, and the good man obeys his reason." (NE, IX, 8, 10-15).

 

The problem with this statement is that it doesn't tell us what Aristotle regards as good and noble.  He says that the good man will profit by doing noble acts and will benefit his fellows.  But what does it mean to be a "good man" and what precisely are "noble acts"? Aristotle does not tell us, which is the very point that Rand is making!

 

The second quotation states,

"He who exercises his reason and cultivates it seems to be both in the best state of mind and most dear to the gods."  (NE, X, 8, 20)

 

Again, this statement does not tell us how we should conduct our lives, except to say that we should exercise our reason.  Fine; we should exercise our reason.  But what does that mean exactly?  How does that provide us with a guide for living our lives?  That's like telling someone that he should act reasonably.  Great.  So what is "reasonable" in Aristotle's view?  We need some content here; Aristotle does not provide it.

 

The third quotation Michelle cites is the following:

"If the appetites are good, the state of character that restrains us from them is bad." (NE, VII, 2, 2)

 

But this statement does not tell us what appetites are good or bad, let alone why they are good or bad.  We have the same problem. So, even in these supposed counter-examples, I don’t see how Rand was wrong to dismiss Aristotle for not answering the fundamental questions of ethics?  The statements that Michelle cites from the _Nichomachean Ethics_ would still appear to beg the very questions that need to be answered.

Bill

 

From: "Peter Reidy" To: objectivism Subject: Re: OWL: Aristotle. Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2003 20:22:34 +0000. Jason Reagan asks for some examples of Rand's disagreements with Aristotle.  She probably wouldn't have bought much of anything he said about politics.  In her speech "The Objectivist Ethics" she's fairly dismissive of his efforts on the topic, as was Nathaniel Branden in his "Basic Principles" at about the same time.  She seems to have grown in respect for his writings on the topic over the years, though, as in the last issue of "The Objectivist" in 1971.  She disagreed with his ideas about essences and about teleology *as she understood them*, but the latter, at least, may not be what he really said.

 

Natural science isn't philosophy, as she pointed out herself, but I hope she wouldn't accept his quaint ideas about mechanics and cosmology.

 

Separate from questions of actual disagreement is the question of whether or not she actively used what she did accept.  In logic, she praised his theory of syllogism and, in metaphysics, his insights into the primacy of particular things/entities/substances, but in her actual philosophical practice she virtually never invokes them.

Peter

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Peter    0

How do we *know*? I copied this earlier but I am not sure what topic this was to be used in. I will stick the thoughts here. The other idea I have been considering: Is a *bold* person a *wise* person?

Peter

From Wikipedia:  . . . . Belief is the state of mind in which a person thinks something to be the case, with or without there being empirical evidence to prove that something is the case with factual certainty. Another way of defining belief sees it as a mental representation of an attitude positively oriented towards the likelihood of something being true. In the context of Ancient Greek thought, two related concepts were identified with regards to the concept of belief: pistis and doxa. Simplified, we may say that pistis refers to "trust" and "confidence", while doxa refers to "opinion" and "acceptance". The English word "orthodoxy" derives from doxa. Jonathan Leicester suggests that belief has the purpose of guiding action rather than indicating truth.

In epistemology, philosophers use the term "belief" to refer to personal attitudes associated with true or false ideas and concepts. However, "belief" does not require active introspection and circumspection. For example, we never ponder whether or not the sun will rise. We simply assume the sun will rise. Since "belief" is an important aspect of mundane life, according to Eric Schwitzgebel in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a related question asks: "how a physical organism can have beliefs?"

The problem of induction is the philosophical question of whether inductive reasoning leads to knowledge understood in the classic philosophical sense, since it focuses on the alleged lack of justification for either:

Generalizing about the properties of a class of objects based on some number of observations of particular instances of that class (e.g., the inference that "all swans we have seen are white, and, therefore, all swans are white", before the discovery of black swans) or

Presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (e.g., that the laws of physics will hold as they have always been observed to hold). Hume called this the principle of uniformity of nature.

The problem calls into question all empirical claims made in everyday life or through the scientific method, and, for that reason, the philosopher C. D. Broad said that "induction is the glory of science and the scandal of philosophy." Although the problem arguably dates back to the Pyrrhonism of ancient philosophy, as well as the Carvaka school of Indian philosophy, David Hume introduced it in the mid-18th century, with the most notable response provided by Karl Popper two centuries later

 . . . . David Hume Few philosophers are as associated with induction as David Hume. He described the problem in An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, §4, based on his epistemological framework. Here, "reason" refers to deductive reasoning and "induction" refers to inductive reasoning.

First, Hume ponders the discovery of causal relations, which form the basis for what he refers to as "matters of fact". He argues that causal relations are found not by reason, but by induction. This is because for any cause, multiple effects are conceivable, and the actual effect cannot be determined by reasoning about the cause; instead, one must observe occurrences of the causal relation to discover that it holds. For example, when one thinks of "a billiard ball moving in a straight line toward another",[14] one can conceive that the first ball bounces back with the second ball remaining at rest, the first ball stops and the second ball moves, or the first ball jumps over the second, etc. There is no reason to conclude any of these possibilities over the others. Only through previous observation can it be predicted, inductively, what will actually happen with the balls. In general, it is not necessary that causal relation in the future resemble causal relations in the past, as it is always conceivable otherwise; for Hume, this is because the negation of the claim does not lead to a contradiction.

Next, Hume ponders the justification of induction. If all matters of fact are based on causal relations, and all causal relations are found by induction, then induction must be shown to be valid somehow. He uses the fact that induction assumes a valid connection between the proposition "I have found that such an object has always been attended with such an effect" and the proposition "I foresee that other objects which are in appearance similar will be attended with similar effects".[15] One connects these two propositions not by reason, but by induction. This claim is supported by the same reasoning as that for causal relations above, and by the observation that even rationally inexperienced people can infer, for example, that touching fire causes pain. Hume challenges other philosophers to come up with a (deductive) reason for the connection. If a deductive justification for induction cannot be provided, then it appears that induction is based on an inductive assumption about the connection, which would be begging the question. Induction, itself, cannot validly explain the connection.

In this way, the problem of induction is not only concerned with the uncertainty of conclusions derived by induction, but doubts the very principle through which those uncertain conclusions are derived.

I am not sure where I got the following. Peter

Karl Popper: The Problem of Induction (1953, 1974). . . . (8) Neither observation nor reason is an authority. Intellectual intuition and imagination are most important, but they are not reliable: they may show us things very clearly, and yet they may mislead us. They are indispensable as the main sources of our theories; but most of our theories are false anyway. The most important function of observation and reasoning, and even of intuition and imagination, is to help us in the critical examination of those bold conjectures which are the means by which we probe into the unknown. Even where a term has made trouble, as for instance the term 'simultaneity' in physics, it was not because its meaning was imprecise or ambiguous, but rather because of some intuitive theory which induced us to burden the term with too much meaning, or with too 'precise' a meaning, rather than with too little. What Einstein found in his analysis of simultaneity was that, when speaking of simultaneous events, physicists made a false assumption which would have been unchallengeable were there signals of infinite velocity.

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BaalChatzaf    0

Knowledge is empirically justified  true belief.  

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Peter    0
54 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Knowledge is empirically justified  true belief.  

Amen Brother. And please pass the intellectual ammunition, and some gravy.

Peter

Stephen Boydston in 2009 to 2011? On a Professor Garson:
“A pervasive feature of natural languages is that sentences depend for their truth value on the context or situation in which they are evaluated. For example, sentences like ‘It is raining’ and ‘I am glad’ cannot be assigned truth values unless the time, place of utterance, and the identity of the speaker is known. The same sentence may be true in one situation and false in another. In modal language, where we consider how things might have been, sentences may be evaluated in different possible worlds.” (57)

One might try “to repair ordinary language by translating each of its context-dependent sentences into a complex one that makes the context of its evaluation explicit” (57). Consider all one would need to specify in order to do that for it is raining. “There is a more satisfactory alternative. . . . [Let] the account of truth assignment [be] adjusted to reflect the fact that the truth value depends on the context. The central idea of intensional semantics is to include contexts in our description of the truth conditions of sentences in this way. / To do this [for modal logic], let us introduce the set W, which contains the relevant contexts of evaluation. Since logics for necessity and possibility are the paradigm modal logics, W will be called the set of (possible) worlds. But in the same way that necessarily is a generic operator, W should be understood as a generic set including whatever contexts are relevant for the understanding of necessarily at issue.” (57–58)

The discipline of logic is for discovery and teaching of the most general forms of truth-preservation in conceptual thought. In modal logic, “no attempt is made in intensional semantics to fix the ‘true nature’ of W, and there is no need to do so. When one wishes to apply modal logic to the analysis of a particular expression of language, then more details about what the members of W are like will be apparent” (58). 

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