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Robert Campbell

The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion

198 posts in this topic

Here 'tis, at last.

http://hubcap.clemso...anarbitrary.pdf

Robert Campbell

Good scholarship. Well done.

Given L.P.'s notion of reduction I can see why he cannot grasp modern mathematics. Mathematical abstractions do not always ground to a percept, at least not in their full generality. How could L.P. deal with in infinite dimensional space or even a space with more than three (or four) dimensions?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I second the motion.

I like the open/closed distinction that you use on page 157.

I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, on the Branden issue, as being poor scholarship. However, it sure does make me uncomfortable.

The 1976 endorsement, by Ayn's silence [?]. Probable, he was inside the tent and I am assuming she was feeling very lonely and pretty angry by then.

Good work. I have to read it carefully, just scanned it so far.

Adam

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Bob K,

I have no idea how Leonard Peikoff would begin to try to apply his "reductions" to most mathematical concepts. There aren't a whole lot of hints in either his published work, or in the lectures with which I'm familiar.

Adam,

One of the unanswered questions about Objectivism is how much of the epistemology was actually developed by Leonard Peikoff.

The more extreme version of arbitrariness does seem to have been his creation.

I also suspect that the doctrine of contextual certainty is his. Nathaniel Branden once stated an Objectivist opposition to the death penalty on epistemological grounds (you shouldn't execute someone unless you are really, really sure that he is guilty of first-degree murder), and, on the face of it, this is inconsistent with the doctrine as Peikoff presented it.

In her Ford Hall Forum Q&A from 1971, Ayn Rand reaffirmed the position, using the exact same arguments.

But, uh, the argument, uh, against capital punishment, a valid one, is the fact that human beings, including juries, are not infallible. Mistakes can be made.

And, when, the, it comes down to what is better—not, I don’t mean what is better for society, but what is morally just—to let ten guilty men go, rather than execute one innocent man, then, certainly, by the proper American principle, uh, you, uh, place innocence above guilt. And, therefore, it’s better to condemn real murderers to jail for life, ek, rather than take the life of one innocent man, because a miscarriage of justice is always possible.

So that in that sense, ahh, solely on epistemological, not moral, grounds, I would be against capital punishment.

(This statement is also in Mayhew's book, prettied up but not semantically distorted the way some of the others were.)

Contextual certainty is all about being certain without being infallible, if you just use the right method. It shouldn't depend on the fault-tolerance of the environment in which the decision is made.

Peikoff is, of course, in a bind on these issues, because his claim to legitimacy is that Ayn Rand talked and he listened.

Yet in the Burns book, there are several assertions of important contributions by Peikoff (e.g.,, encouraging Rand to target Kant) that must derive from lore internal to the Ayn Rand Institute.

Robert C

PS. If you want to see blatant intellectual dishonesty in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, just reread Dr. Peikoff's discussion of self-esteem. The only citations are to Galt's Speech and to "The Objectivist Ethics." Excuse me?

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Bob K,

I have no idea how Leonard Peikoff would begin to try to apply his "reductions" to most mathematical concepts. There aren't a whole lot of hints in either his published work, or in the lectures with which I'm familiar.

In the realm of mathematical ideas and concept formation there is a process which plays a major role --- analogy. Mathematical concepts of a highly abstract nature, well beyond visualization are arrived at by making analogies. For example, a five dimensional space. In the case of a three dimensional space, one specifies a point by an ordered triplet of real numbers (x, y, z) where x, y, z are length measures along three mutually orthogonal axes. To get to a five dimension space, one constructs the set if quintuplets (x, y, z, u, v) where x,y,z,u,v are real numbers. Forget about the axes. There is no way to visualize five mutually orthogonal axes in a three dimensional space. So we cannot visualize or perceive, but we can analogize and define curves, surfaces, etc using five variables in a manner that is similar in form to the way we do it for three variables. And so it goes....

As far as I know, Ayn Rand did not spend much, if any, time on analogy. The center of her concept formation idea was the isolation of common properties, conceptual common denominators is the term she used, if I remember correctly.

If L.P. did not admit analogy formation as a type of concept building, then he is out of luck, but the mathematicians are not.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Ba'al:

I wish you had been my math teacher at 13 because this simple exposition of 3 and 5 dimensional representations with the use of analogy makes pure sense to me who is so word driven,

Thanks.

Robert:

I remember well the capital punishment arguments. You reminded me of another incredibly impactful aspect of her mind which was the laser like perception that she possessed to take an argument like capital punishment and "simply" reduce them to an essential philosophical core argument.

It is an epistemological issue.

"Peikoff is, of course, in a bind on these issues, because his claim to legitimacy is that Ayn Rand talked and he listened. Yet in the Burns book, there are several assertions of important contributions by Peikoff (e.g.,, encouraging Rand to target Kant) that must derive from lore internal to the Ayn Rand Institute."

Yes indeed, he sure is...I guess I need to read the Burns' book, as well as some articles, and catch up on the Peikoff ARI regime. I did not like him when we traveled in some common NY political circles, but never got in a situation politically where we were both in the same small room.

Therefore, I have to shelve that internal suspicion that I had of him and view that period of the temporary decline and fall of objectivism with a completely open mind.

Thanks for the perspective.

Adam

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Bob K,

There's virtually nothing about analogical concept formation or model-building by analogy, anywhere in the Objectivist corpus.

Meanwhile, analogical reasoning is being treated as a significant research area in Cognitive Science.

Robert Campbell

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Bob K,

There's virtually nothing about analogical concept formation or model-building by analogy, anywhere in the Objectivist corpus.

Meanwhile, analogical reasoning is being treated as a significant research area in Cognitive Science.

Robert Campbell

A pity. Analogical and metaphorical concept formations is one of the chief modalities in very abstract (pure) mathematics and some branches of theoretical physics.

It is also a pity that Rand did not have more contact with children. Little kids in their early mental development do a lot of analogical thinking. It is one of the ways of getting an idea across to a kid. One of my grandchildren wanted to know what a glove was. I told her it was like a shoe but it is worn on the hand. She got the idea immediately.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob K,

There's virtually nothing about analogical concept formation or model-building by analogy, anywhere in the Objectivist corpus.

Meanwhile, analogical reasoning is being treated as a significant research area in Cognitive Science.

Robert Campbell

A pity. Analogical and metaphorical concept formations is one of the chief modalities in very abstract (pure) mathematics and some branches of theoretical physics.

It is also a pity that Rand did not have more contact with children. Little kids in their early mental development do a lot of analogical thinking. It is one of the ways of getting an idea across to a kid. One of my grandchildren wanted to know what a glove was. I told her it was like a shoe but it is worn on the hand. She got the idea immediately.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Ba'al Chatzaf

Precisely. I guess I assumed with all the objectivist seeds that were planted in the late 50's and 60's, someone would have developed it. I have to post my argumentative pyramid because he equates analogical reasoning as equal to induction and deduction.

Sometimes you can't "see" a fast ball, but you hit it and there is a lot of analogical reasoning that takes place in less than 3/4 of a second. Nice points Ba'al.

Adam

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Bob K,

It is also a pity that Rand did not have more contact with children. Little kids in their early mental development do a lot of analogical thinking. It is one of the ways of getting an idea across to a kid. One of my grandchildren wanted to know what a glove was. I told her it was like a shoe but it is worn on the hand. She got the idea immediately.

Yup. I think she could have gone a lot farther, epistemologically, if she'd spent more time doing real developmental psychology and less time doing the armchair variety.

Robert C

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This is turning out to be one hell of a great thread in terms of outlining some heavy-duty fundamental epistemological stuff Objectivists would do well to think about.

Michael

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In relation to its ambitions, Objectivist epistemology is the most poorly developed part of the system.

Rand came to it fairly late, in the mid-1940s, when she decided that reason vs. unreason was the key, both to Atlas Shrugged and to any nonfiction case that she would be making for her point of view.

She seems to have gotten to work on the problem of universals rather promptly.

Other pieces were developed as she was finishing Atlas Shrugged.

In the late 1950s, she wrote in her journal that metaphysics should be kept really lean—and that epistemology should be expansive.

Her only extended treatment, in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, covered concept formation and definitions.

If Rand personally developed any additional components of Objectivist epistemology, there is no publicly available record of her contribution.

Rather, it seems to have fallen first on Leonard Peikoff, then on David Kelley, to work up a theory of perception. After Kelley was expelled, Peikoff seems to have cut anything that resembled his ideas out of Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand—so the treatment in OPAR is a pretty good indicator of what Peikoff had come up with.

Nathaniel Branden has claimed responsibility for the earlier, milder version of the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion. There is no reason to doubt that the later version is Peikoff's work. Nor that the doctrine of contextual certainty is also Peikoff's. Rand never used the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion in anything she published. She maintained an epistemological objection to capital punishment that is inconsistent with the doctrine of contextual certainty.

The treatment of the analytic-synthethic dichotomy is Peikoff all the way. It builds on his doctoral dissertation.

Other components remained undeveloped. No account of analogical reasoning, as Bob K noted. No philosophy of science, as Rand once admitted during her workshops.

And Rand was somewhat open to input from psychology while Nathaniel Branden and, more briefly, Robert Efron were in her circle. Once they were gone, she reasserted the primacy of philosophy over psychology.

I don't recommend taking up closed-system Objectivism under any circumstances. But if the philosophy consisted only of metaphysics, ethics, and politics, closing the gates of ijtihad might look like a viable course of action.

Since Objectivism includes an epistemology, and that epistemology is supposed to be both highly elaborated and crucial to the entire network of ideas, there simply is no closed-system option.

First, because the epistemology was never completed.

Second, because at least one part of it, the latter-day doctrine of the arbitrary assertion, is internally contradictory.

Robert Campbell

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PIG.jpg

Geez, I am so technologically challenged.

This was my rhetorical/reasoning/logic model that I used to allow my students to gain perspective on different paths to "truth".

The circled I in the apex (?) of of the base in white represents the intuitive, instinctive or unexplained connection.

And of course we have the essential criteria for a good teaching model - acronyms.

PIG - particular to generalization or induction;

GDP- generalization to particular [well at least its a memorable one from economics]

PAP- Particular to particular via analogy

Adam

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Robert

Okay it took me a week or so to fully digest that. Wow. You really tore LP a new one. (Not that he didn't deserve it.)

When I was young, my music theory teacher once said to me, "Gagne, you're a dilettante" (which, I assure you, I took in the best possible way. NOT.) But what he said was true. I still try to learn everything all at once, flitting from one thing to another; and I still haven't figured out what I want to be when I grow up.

So I would never have been so generous with my time as you were in either analyzing LP's work, nor in writing a critique. (LP is just NOT that important to me.) I would have only picked one point that you touched on, and risked the accusation of "psychologizing": that the primary purpose of this doctrine, and its application, is so people can make uninformed condemnations of others without having to justify their actions. For me, that "revelation" of moral irresponsibility on his part would have been enough to make me dismiss any of his assertions concerning arbitrariness, or of anything else for that matter.

But you aren't me, and instead have written something worth saving in my library, instead of one of my drive-by arguments. Thank you.

vty

steve

(postscript added...Somewhere...in the cobwebs...something like..."Never try to understand a folly...only ask yourself, 'what does it accomplish'?")

Edited by Steve Gagne
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In lining some of Ayn Rand's Ford Hall Forum answers up with Bob Mayhew's edited versions, I've come across two further public acknowledgments of the incompleteness of Objectivist epistemology.

In 1976, Ayn Rand acknowledged at Ford Hall Forum that she hadn't worked out a philosophy of science. I'm going to try to find the original and compare it with Mayhew's rendition.

In 1980, during Leonard Peikoff's Objective Commmunication course, she said she hoped to work out "the principle of induction," but hadn't yet done it. I don't have access to audio of this material.

See p. 177 of Mayhew's book Ayn Rand Answers for his versions of both.

Robert Campbell

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In lining some of Ayn Rand's Ford Hall Forum answers up with Bob Mayhew's edited versions, I've come across two further public acknowledgments of the incompleteness of Objectivist epistemology.

In 1976, Ayn Rand acknowledged at Ford Hall Forum that she hadn't worked out a philosophy of science. I'm going to try to find the original and compare it with Mayhew's rendition.

In 1980, during Leonard Peikoff's Objective Commmunication course, she said she hoped to work out "the principle of induction," but hadn't yet done it. I don't have access to audio of this material.

See p. 177 of Mayhew's book Ayn Rand Answers for his versions of both.

Robert Campbell

Molly Hayes Secrest at Free Minds said that Ayn Rand had told her that Objectivism was far from complete and would not be completed by Rand. This was reported during the question period in David Kelley's lecture

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Chris G,

I got to Free Minds 09 on the evening of the second day, so I missed David Kelley's talk.

What Molly Sechrest said makes perfect sense.

Robert C

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In lining some of Ayn Rand's Ford Hall Forum answers up with Bob Mayhew's edited versions, I've come across two further public acknowledgments of the incompleteness of Objectivist epistemology.

In 1976, Ayn Rand acknowledged at Ford Hall Forum that she hadn't worked out a philosophy of science. I'm going to try to find the original and compare it with Mayhew's rendition.

In 1980, during Leonard Peikoff's Objective Commmunication course, she said she hoped to work out "the principle of induction," but hadn't yet done it. I don't have access to audio of this material.

See p. 177 of Mayhew's book Ayn Rand Answers for his versions of both.

Robert Campbell

Robert - I asked Rand at a New York event in, I believe, 1980 on what issues Objectivism still needed work and she answered something along the lines of epsitemology and the relationship between induction and deduction. I think the event was Peikoff's "Understanding Objectivism" course but I'll have to find my notes and check.

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Ed,

Thanks!

In the meantime, I've located the 1976 answer about philosophy of science, which I'll post soon.

By 1976, the Ford Hall Forum must have gone to floor mikes, because the questioners can all be heard clearly on that recording.

Which leads me to wonder: did you ask the question about bonuses and profit-sharing plans?

Robert Campbell

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> No philosophy of science, as Rand once admitted during her workshops. [Robert]

I took a year long Graduate Seminar in the Philosophy of Science from Peikoff when he taught at Brooklyn Polytechnic. Lots of advanced topics in epistemology.

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Phil,

What year was that?

And what has Leonard Peikoff published from it?

Robert Campbell

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Phil,

What year was that?

And what has Leonard Peikoff published from it?

Robert Campbell

Robert -

To the best of your knowledge, did Peikoff ever "publish" anything in the academic sense of peer-reviewed publication?

Two books - yes.

Lots of articles in TIA - yes.

Article in ITOE - yes.

Articles in ARL and The Objectivist - yes.

But my question remains...

Bill P

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Bill P,

To my knowledge, Leonard Peikoff has zero academic publications.

By contrast, Harry Binswanger has a couple.

But I wasn't asking Phil for a reference to an academic publication on philosophy of science.

I want to know whether Leonard Peikoff has ever put out a bunch of grubby old ditto-machine pages held together with a rusty staple—as long as those pages are about the philosophy of science :)

Robert C

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Bill P,

To my knowledge, Leonard Peikoff has zero academic publications.

By contrast, Harry Binswanger has a couple.

But I wasn't asking Phil for a reference to an academic publication on philosophy of science.

I want to know whether Leonard Peikoff has ever put out a bunch of grubby old ditto-machine pages held together with a rusty staple—as long as those pages are about the philosophy of science :)

Robert C

Robert C -

I understood you were asking a broader question.

Bill P

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I'm going to cross-post this here; it first appeared last night on the Ayn Rand and the World She Made thread.-RC

****

I gotta say, they're outdoing themselves at SOLOP.

All of a sudden, Chris Cathcart has reappeared.

Mr. Cathcart used to be a competent writer on Objectivist philosophy. He published a decent piece in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Then he joined SOLOP, took up Perigonian bully-blather, and pretty quickly was going off the deep end.

Now after a lengthy absence (left in 2006, made a few fitful appearances in 2008), he's popped in to deliver stuff like this:

http://www.solopassion.com/node/2597#comment-83928

Mr. Cathcart has decided in advance that my article on the doctrine of the arbitrary assertion can't be any good.

Umm, is this because the arguments are wrong? Or because I don't know the primary sources on the doctrine? On account of anything like that?

Nope, it's because he doesn't believe "Peikovian" is an adjective.

Even Michael Moeller overlooked that lexical dereliction.

But Cathcart's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language must contain entries for every past, present, and future word of English.

No coinages allowed, unless they're already in Cathcart's Unabridged!

I'll bet Cathcart's Unabridged also lacks an entry for "Perigonian."

Pity...

Robert Campbell

PS. Either Mr. Cathcart is unaware that I've been banned from posting to the SOLOPsists, or he's emulating Jim Valliant's recent bogus victory laps.

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