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A few small problems I have with Objectivism


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#1 CJM

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:34 PM

Notes: I am not a troll, here to try to convert anyone, or provoke hostility. I am interested in Rands ideas and philosophy.

On Objectivist Epistemology
The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

On Objectivist Ethics
Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

On Objectivist Metaphysics
The problem of free will and causality. This is the biggest stumbling block for me, as one who holds no belief in free will. The arguments I have found against this problem have seemed very weak to me. Free will is held to be self evident in Objectivism, but an argument brought for it seems to be that choice and free will are not contradictory to the law of causality, but a part of it, that volition is causality. Seemingly volition is a causa sui?


Any help on these problems would be greatly appreciated.

Edit: Apparently I can't spell.

Edited by CJM, 23 October 2009 - 02:12 PM.


#2 general semanticist

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:38 PM

Notes: I am not a troll, here to try to convert anyone, or provoke hostility.

You aren't? That's no fun! :)
'Always' and 'Never' are two words you should always remember never to use. :-)

#3 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:44 PM

CJM,

Welcome to OL.

Good questions and there are answers. I will let others respond for now.

(Just for one of your questions, quickly, volitional awareness is seen as a causal agent in the Objectivist literature I have read. This doesn't mean that there are no automatic prewired mental operations. The mind has both. If volitional awareness is a causal agent, free will is its nature as per the Law of Identity. This is confirmed by observation. That's the short version.)

Michael

Know thyself...


#4 Brant Gaede

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:47 PM

Welcome back!

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#5 CJM

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:49 PM


Notes: I am not a troll, here to try to convert anyone, or provoke hostility.

You aren't? That's no fun! :)

Ha!


CJM,

Welcome to OL.

Good questions and there are answers. I will let others respond for now.

(Just for one of your questions, quickly, volitional awareness is seen as a causal agent in the Objectivist literature I have read. This doesn't mean that there are no automatic prewired mental operations. The mind has both. If volitional awareness is a causal agent, free will is its nature as per the Law of Identity. This is confirmed by observation. That's the short version.)

Michael


Thanks for the answer and welcome.

#6 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 01:54 PM

CJM,

Irish student?

Michael

Know thyself...


#7 CJM

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 02:09 PM

CJM,

Irish student?

Michael

Yes, History and Economics.

#8 Wolf DeVoon

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 02:44 PM

The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so?

You are alive, reading English, at Objectivist Living, a forum. Valid. Well done.

Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

If I let my child die, say for instance abandoned her and ran away to save my own skin instead of fighting off robbers, or made no effort to rescue her from a burning building, or delegated her education to church and state instead of answering her questions honestly -- the life being betrayed is my own. There is no pride or joy in cowardice.

volition is causality

Solar volition? Lunar? Do rocks or mushrooms choose their fate? Yet all of them cause man plenty of problems, or rather opportunity to study, think, experiment, take purposeful action (build a roof, make a calendar, melt iron ore and forge tools, use bleach and sunlight to control fungi). As Miss Rand used to say, there is only one choice: to think or evade the responsibility of thinking. That's the extent of your volition. To be or not to be.

Hi Brant.

Edited by Wolf DeVoon, 23 October 2009 - 02:47 PM.

Justice is the armed defense of innocent liberty.

#9 Reidy

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 02:55 PM

1. "Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so?"

She holds that what we perceive with our senses is objective reality, a different claim altogether.

2. "Objectivism seems to hold that a person's life should be [his] highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. [his] child's life to be of greater value than [his] own."

You might, in extreme circumstances, willingly risk or forfeit your life for a loved one or for a cause (as in a war). Galt's radio speech talks about this, and Branden has an entry in VoS on the topic. This could be a rational act because that these values matter as much as life to you and you wouldn't want to live without them. Thus the fact that you value your life is the reason why you'd do this, more explanatorily powerful and more fundamental than these particular values. Another reason valuing your life is of higher priority is that you will make a lot of choices and pursue a lot of goals that aren't related to your concern for your child; valuing your life will explain these, too.

3. Here you have simply stated your opinion. You'll have to give reasons if this is to be philosophically interesting.

#10 CJM

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 03:19 PM

You are alive, reading English, at Objectivist Living, a forum. Valid. Well done.

This has nothing to do with the question I asked, which was based on the level of validity of our senses, or at least Rands ideas of them. Well done.

If I let my child die, say for instance abandoned her and ran away to save my own skin instead of fighting off robbers, or made no effort to rescue her from a burning building, or delegated her education to church and state instead of answering her questions honestly -- the life being betrayed is my own. There is no pride or joy in cowardice.

This is also completely off the point. Where was anything said about pride, joy or cowardice?
Either your life is your highest value, or it is not. It is my understanding that Rand holds that it is. If this is incorrect, I'd like to know. Id it is correct, then why can't a rational person hold some others life as a higher value than their own.


Solar volition? Lunar? Do rocks or mushrooms choose their fate? Yet all of them cause man plenty of problems, or rather opportunity to study, think, experiment, take purposeful action (build a roof, make a calendar, melt iron ore and forge tools, use bleach and sunlight to control fungi). As Miss Rand used to say, there is only one choice: to think or evade the responsibility of thinking. That's the extent of your volition. To be or not to be.

Again, this is off the point of my question completely. I don;t really know what to say to you about this one.



1. "Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so?"

She holds that what we perceive with our senses is objective reality, a different claim altogether.

I think this is pretty much the same statement structured differently, if you disagree could you point out why?

Our perception of reality is what we perceive with our senses. What we perceive with out senses is of reality.




2. "Objectivism seems to hold that a person's life should be [his] highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. [his] child's life to be of greater value than [his] own."

You might, in extreme circumstances, willingly risk or forfeit your life for a loved one or for a cause (as in a war). Galt's radio speech talks about this, and Branden has an entry in VoS on the topic. This could be a rational act because that these values matter as much as life to you and you wouldn't want to live without them. Thus the fact that you value your life is the reason why you'd do this, more explanatorily powerful and more fundamental than these particular values. Another reason valuing your life is of higher priority is that you will make a lot of choices and pursue a lot of goals that aren't related to your concern for your child; valuing your life will explain these, too.


But if your life is your highest value, if you are "To hold one’s own life as one’s ultimate value" by very definition you cannot hold any other value to matter as much as your own life. Is this not a contradiction?



3. Here you have simply stated your opinion. You'll have to give reasons if this is to be philosophically interesting.

This isn't my opinion at all, it is what I have heard numerous times in defense of Objectivisms satance on free will.

"Choice, however, is not chance. Volition is not an exception to the Law of Causality; it is a type of causation."
Leonard Peikoff “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy

So, I take it from this and most of my other readings that volition is a causa sui, a logical impossibility as I am sure you are aware.

#11 Brant Gaede

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 03:36 PM

(Hi, Wolfo. You still where you were getting a tan?

--Brant)

Edited by Brant Gaede, 23 October 2009 - 03:38 PM.

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#12 Dragonfly

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 04:12 PM

The validity of the senses, this is one I can't get my head around. Rand seems to hold that our perception of reality is objective reality. Is this so? This makes no sense to me, as it seems to suggest physiological infallibility on mans part. What we perceive is not objective reality, since our sensory systems act imperfectly.

Correct.

On Objectivist Ethics
Objectivism seems to hold that a persons life should be their highest value. I see no reason why a rational person could not hold something else, e.g. their child's life to be of greater value than their own.

Indeed.

On Objectivist Metaphysics
The problem of free will and causality. This is the biggest stumbling block for me, as one who holds no belief in free will. The arguments I have found against this problem have seemed very weak to me. Free will is held to be self evident in Objectivism, but an argument brought for it seems to be that choice and free will are not contradictory to the law of causality, but a part of it, that volition is causality. Seemingly volition is a causa sui?

Again correct. I'm not going to repeat here everything I wrote about free will, but you can read more here and here, with more references in the second link, etc. You'll see that on this forum already a lot has been written about this subject, and following my links you'll get a good idea of it.

#13 CJM

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 04:31 PM

It would seem from reading those links that you are not very Objectivist, Mr Dragonfly, however, I will read them properly tomorrow when I have more time.

Your a compatibilist?! That's even worse! Free will cannot exist without the possibility of alternative choices, and more importantly, there ability to be carried out.

Edited by CJM, 23 October 2009 - 04:40 PM.


#14 Dragonfly

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 05:09 PM

It would seem from reading those links that you are not very Objectivist, Mr Dragonfly, however, I will read them properly tomorrow when I have more time.

Your a compatibilist?! That's even worse! Free will cannot exist without the possibility of alternative choices, and more importantly, there ability to be carried out.

Yup, I'm not an Objectivist and I am a compatibilist. A lot of confusion about "free will" exists while people often are not clear about the exact definition of "free will" and incorrectly think that they understand what it exactly means (hint: the "possibility of alternative choices" creates a seductive trap that must be avoided). But you can find that all in my posts, of course!

#15 Selene

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 08:30 PM

It would seem from reading those links that you are not very Objectivist, Mr Dragonfly, however, I will read them properly tomorrow when I have more time.

Your a compatibilist?! That's even worse! Free will cannot exist without the possibility of alternative choices, and more importantly, there ability to be carried out.


Cian:

I guessing you are Irish and can trace back to Tipperary ... Kilkenny maybe.

At any rate, welcome to OL.

Adam
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#16 Christopher

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Posted 23 October 2009 - 08:42 PM

What lovely questions! You will find a variety of different answers to them on this forum.

On Epistemology
Our senses are not infallible, but we have processes of validation. However, there are many of us here who argue that the world can't exist purely as a product of sensory stuff because such a world would be deterministic. Basically, we can validate both sensory knowledge and internal non-sensory apprehensions; further, there is no evidence at all that the universe consists only of sensory-perceived stuff. For example, consciousness cannot be perceived through sensory-perception. Therefore, the process of validation is a more important consideration for knowledge than the origin of apprehensions (external sensory, internal "subjectivity". This is not an Objectivist position, this is my own.

On Ethics
My take is that "our life" is essentially our identity, our values, our volitional presence. Our chosen values, whatever they might be, is our life... not our biological survival per se.

On Metaphysics
(see epistemology). It all depends on how you want to see consciousness. There have been some pretty ruthless debates on this forum about the existence or non-existence of volition. Neither side has budged, and I'm sure those who believe in determinism think I'm just as wrong as I think they are wrong to believe their beliefs. But from an Objectivist standpoint, volition does exist, it is a causal agent, and it is a necessary premise for any and all validation processes of knowledge. NBranden writes in detail about this in The Psychology of Self-Esteem.

Great to have you here!

#17 CJM

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 03:02 AM

Yup, I'm not an Objectivist and I am a compatibilist. A lot of confusion about "free will" exists while people often are not clear about the exact definition of "free will" and incorrectly think that they understand what it exactly means (hint: the "possibility of alternative choices" creates a seductive trap that must be avoided). But you can find that all in my posts, of course!


I have read a lot of what you posted(some of the links to older threads from other links I haven't read through yet) and I am having difficulty finding how you reconcile Determinism and free will. I have found a lot of you saying they are not incompatible, but very little on why you feel this is.

Unless you hold a less strict definition of what "free will" entails I am at a bit of a loss as to where you stand.

Cian:

I guessing you are Irish and can trace back to Tipperary ... Kilkenny maybe.

At any rate, welcome to OL.

Adam

Thank you, Adam.


What lovely questions! You will find a variety of different answers to them on this forum.

On Epistemology
Our senses are not infallible, but we have processes of validation. However, there are many of us here who argue that the world can't exist purely as a product of sensory stuff because such a world would be deterministic. Basically, we can validate both sensory knowledge and internal non-sensory apprehensions; further, there is no evidence at all that the universe consists only of sensory-perceived stuff. For example, consciousness cannot be perceived through sensory-perception. Therefore, the process of validation is a more important consideration for knowledge than the origin of apprehensions (external sensory, internal "subjectivity". This is not an Objectivist position, this is my own.

On Ethics
My take is that "our life" is essentially our identity, our values, our volitional presence. Our chosen values, whatever they might be, is our life... not our biological survival per se.

On Metaphysics
(see epistemology). It all depends on how you want to see consciousness. There have been some pretty ruthless debates on this forum about the existence or non-existence of volition. Neither side has budged, and I'm sure those who believe in determinism think I'm just as wrong as I think they are wrong to believe their beliefs. But from an Objectivist standpoint, volition does exist, it is a causal agent, and it is a necessary premise for any and all validation processes of knowledge. NBranden writes in detail about this in The Psychology of Self-Esteem.

Great to have you here!

On Ethics
Yes, I see I may have taken Rand too literally when that was said. Even still, it seems a contradiction to me. Her whole Ethics seem strangely constructed, I can't quite figure out how she is getting from A to B quite often, and her moral absolutism bothers me.

On the free will issue, even if volition can be said to exist, and can be called a casual agent, there seems no reason why it should be viewed any differently than the rolling of an inanimate object which crashes into and shifts another. "Volition" itself is still subject to causality, unless it comes from nothing.

That is an interesting stance on epistemology.

#18 Bill P

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 04:34 AM

Welcome to OL, Cian!

Bill P

#19 Dragonfly

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 04:40 AM

On the free will issue, even if volition can be said to exist, and can be called a casual agent, there seems no reason why it should be viewed any differently than the rolling of an inanimate object which crashes into and shifts another. "Volition" itself is still subject to causality, unless it comes from nothing.

That sounds like compatibilism to me.

#20 CJM

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Posted 24 October 2009 - 05:11 AM

That sounds like compatibilism to me.


Not at all. You can consciously commit to a course of action without having alternatives.

Thanks Bill!

Edited by CJM, 24 October 2009 - 05:13 AM.





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