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Is Objectivism Falsifiable or Merely Explanatory?

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The problem is that she makes much stronger claims. She claims that Objectivism is derived from the foundational axioms...

Bob,

You just showed that you really do not understand the fundamentals of Objectivism.

The philosophy is built from induction, not deduction. So it is not "derived" from any principle. On the contrary, principles are abstracted (not even "derived") from observation at the base. Deduction comes only after that part, and it can always be superseded by reality. Deduction only comes after concept formation, for that matter.

Objectivism starts with observation and experience, not deductive reasoning. Conceptual thought kicks in after the perceptual part, and after abstract integration.

Crack open ITOE and you will see that axiomatic concepts are in Chapter 6, not Chapter 1.

Hell, Chapter 1 (Cognition and Measurement) deals with the mathematical basis of concept-formation and that you need implicit (perceptual) knowledge before you can have explicit (conceptual) knowledge, and Chapter 2 (Concept-Formation) is based on developmental psychology. None of that is "derived" or deduced from fundamental axioms.

I have several differences with Rand on her view of how the brain works (especially since I have started studying neuroscience, albeit neuroscience light so far), but I try to understand her correctly so I can agree or disagree correctly.

I am loathe to discuss my disagreements with you, though.

The impression I always get from you is that if a person bashes Rand for outright wrong reasons--like claiming she was a collectivist at root or something like that--I believe you would call that person a profound thinker, say you know exactly what the person is getting at, and crow some kind of imagined victory. I sense your negative judgement of Rand is far more important to you than accuracy. Something like a cognitive bias on steroids.

Michael

You know what? Perhaps "derived" was a poor choice of words - let me just say "based" on axioms.

So you're arguing that Objectivism is only loosely connected to the foundations so there's logical "wiggle-room" with respect to truth or accuracy? The axioms do not serve as a base for a strictly deductive chain so problems (fallacies) at the base don't matter?

That's you're argument? Seriously?

Bob

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Wel, Bob_Mac, now it's your turn to explain why you believe Rand's reasoning IS petitio principii. All you've done so far is assert. What do you say are the premises and conclusions? Since circular reasoning is not necessarily fallacious, why exactly is it a fallacious? Simply your declaring it petitio principii does not imply it is fallacious.

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Rand:

`If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought.`

'total consistency'

'prove'

That's deduction - in her own words. But I suppose 'total consistency', 'define', and 'prove' have context-specific meanings??

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Wel, Bob_Mac, now it's your turn to explain why you believe Rand's reasoning IS petitio principii. All you've done so far is assert. What do you say are the premises and conclusions? Since circular reasoning is not necessarily fallacious, why exactly is it a fallacious? Simply your declaring it petitio principii does not imply it is fallacious.

Ok, let me do this in the simplest possible terms.

Man is born tabula rasa. Assertion.

Why? Because he has no knowledge at birth. Premise.

Sounds simple, but it's fallacious.

Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise. That's all there is to it.

Bob

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[Rand] claims that Objectivism is derived from the foundational axioms [...].

Where?

Ellen

"`If you held these concepts with total consistency, as the base of your convictions, you would have a full philosophical system to guide the course of your life. But to hold them with total consistency—to understand, to define, to prove and to apply them—requires volumes of thought.`"

Is there any doubt whatsoever that she felt the system wasn't provable? C'mon now....

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Wel, Bob_Mac, now it's your turn to explain why you believe Rand's reasoning IS petitio principii. All you've done so far is assert. What do you say are the premises and conclusions? Since circular reasoning is not necessarily fallacious, why exactly is it a fallacious? Simply your declaring it petitio principii does not imply it is fallacious.

Ok, let me do this in the simplest possible terms.

Man is born tabula rasa. Assertion.

Why? Because he has no knowledge at birth. Premise.

Sounds simple, but it's fallacious.

Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise. That's all there is to it.

Bob

Or to put it another way Man is born tabula rasa because Man is born tabula rasa,

What is true is true because it is true. That is true, but it tells us nada.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Wel, Bob_Mac, now it's your turn to explain why you believe Rand's reasoning IS petitio principii. All you've done so far is assert. What do you say are the premises and conclusions? Since circular reasoning is not necessarily fallacious, why exactly is it a fallacious? Simply your declaring it petitio principii does not imply it is fallacious.

Ok, let me do this in the simplest possible terms.

Man is born tabula rasa. Assertion.

Why? Because he has no knowledge at birth. Premise.

Sounds simple, but it's fallacious.

Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise. That's all there is to it.

Bob

Or to put it another way Man is born tabula rasa because Man is born tabula rasa,

What is true is true because it is true. That is true, but it tells us nada.

Ba'al Chatzaf

The only difference is that the form of Rand's argument hides this somewhat. She of course takes the reasoning further but initially asks us to concede the point first by smuggling tabula rasa in via the definition of knowledge. You're right, but Rand is just sneakier.

Bob

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Sounds simple, but it's fallacious.

You sound like a broken record.

Here, I'll include the next two sentences (I guess you didn't get that far) that explains precisely why...

"Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise."

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You know what? Perhaps "derived" was a poor choice of words - let me just say "based" on axioms.

Bob,

This is still wrong.

You are so full of your conclusion you can't see the fact right before you when you look at it.

I mean that literally.

I do not mean you cannot deduct the fact from a proposition. I mean you cannot see the fact itself.

Logic in Objectivism has fundamental axioms at the base. The entire philosophy does not. Logic is merely one part of the philosophy.

I expect you to have the intelligence to understand that, but I do not expect you to have the willingness.

So you're arguing that Objectivism is only loosely connected to the foundations so there's logical "wiggle-room" with respect to truth or accuracy?

Nope.

And this is where I stop discussing with you.

You are a conclusion in search of anything to back you up. But you are just a wrong as the stuff you want to debunk.

Michael

EDIT: I wonder why I let myself get sucked into these anti-intellectual exchanges. I don't really care if Bob Mac thinks Rand and her ideas are stupid. May he live long and prosperous and distant, and soon get tired of mouthing off to people he knows will not agree with him.

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"Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise."

So what? That doesn't make it fallacious.

Premise: 3 > 2

Conclusion: 2 < 3

Fallacious?

Premise: x + 6 = 9

Conclusion: x = 3

Fallacious?

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You know what? Perhaps "derived" was a poor choice of words - let me just say "based" on axioms.

Bob,

This is still wrong.

You are so full of your conclusion you can't see the fact right before you when you look at it.

I mean that literally.

I do not mean you cannot deduct the fact from a proposition. I mean you cannot see the fact itself.

Logic in Objectivism has fundamental axioms at the base. The entire philosophy does not. Logic is merely one part of the philosophy.

I expect you to have the intelligence to understand that, but I do not expect you to have the willingness.

So you're arguing that Objectivism is only loosely connected to the foundations so there's logical "wiggle-room" with respect to truth or accuracy?

Nope.

And this is where I stop discussing with you.

You are a conclusion in search of anything to back you up. But you are just a wrong as the stuff you want to debunk.

Michael

EDIT: I wonder why I let myself get sucked into these anti-intellectual exchanges. I don't really care if Bob Mac thinks Rand and her ideas are stupid. May he live long and prosperous and distant, and soon get tired of mouthing off to people he knows will not agree with him.

Go ahead, quit. Fine.

You wrote:

"Logic in Objectivism has fundamental axioms at the base. The entire philosophy does not. Logic is merely one part of the philosophy."

I don't disagree. This is the part that's broken. That's my point. I did not discuss, nor give a crap, about the other parts.

I think we agree.

Bob

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"Knowledge as Rand defines it can only be acquired through experience. Therefore, the assertion (or conclusion) is directly implied in the premise."

So what? That doesn't make it fallacious.

Premise: 3 > 2

Conclusion: 2 < 3

Fallacious?

Um... yeah....

The fallacy stems from the idea that in order for an argument to have any dialectic/epistemological value, the argument must proceed from a point of agreement (premises) to a conclusion that must be something that was NOT known or agreed upon. By defining knowledge as Rand does, tabula rasa is implied in the definition. Therefore the statement "Man is born tabula rasa" has zero epistemological value.

It is a viciously circular argument as you have shown. It is NOT wrong. It is worthless. There's a difference. Sometimes circular arguments have value. Not this one.

Bob

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It isn't an argument. It's an assertion as a two-part sentence, not a premise and a conclusion.

In the case of the quote above, yes. But that's hardly where she stops with tabula rasa is it?

You damn well know that she extends this circular/fallacious/tautological nonsense much further than that simple sentence. The truth is that the basis of her extended arguments is a fallacy.

Some Rand quotes:

"Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally, a rational man regards strangers as innocent until proved guilty, and grants them that initial good will in the name of their human potential."

"He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically."

"Since man has no automatic knowledge, he can have no automatic values; since he has no innate ideas, he can have no innate value judgments."

All based on a fallacy. That's the point, not the single sentence - the larger idea of tabula rasa. Sheesh, thought that was rather obvious.

Bob

All these quotes are fallacious or contestable.

--Brant

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I did not discuss, nor give a crap, about the other parts.

I think we agree.

Bob wants to judge Objectivism with logic disconnected from reality--with logic without sense organs at the foundation of the brain. So I agree that he does not give a crap about connecting logic to reality or how this is done in Objectivism.

But agree with him on anything else?

Heh.

I most definitely do not agree with what he insinuates--that the process of logic in Objectivist epistemology is "broken." I believe his logic per se is not "broken," but it is about as valid as the rules for canastra without a deck of cards to play it.

He's calling foul according to those rules for an imaginary game that no one is playing.

Anyway, that's enough wasting time on fruitless crap. I have some work to do

Michael

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I don't see what Bob _ Mac's beef is with this statement:

"At birth, a child's mind is tabula rasa ; [semi-colon] he has the potential of awareness -

the mechanism of a human consciousness - but no content."

Rand did that a lot - a proposition, followed by an explanation - in different phrasing.

Substitute the semi-colon for : "which means..." and it's clearer.

Nothing circular about it. Nobody can fault her for imprecision, agree with the statement, or not.

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Anyway, 'sucking instinct' is a misnomer, I think - technically it's "sucking reflex."

Like the 'gag reflex', I think.

The term "Sucking reflex" is used as well. It "causes the child to instinctively suck at anything that touches the roof of their mouth" http://en.wikipedia....mitive_reflexes

There exist several other neonatal reflexes, like the grasp reflex, the Moro reflex etc.

Babies have no inherent knowledge - 'instinct' - to survive.

Instinct is different from knowledge in that it is already present, hardwired, and not the result of a conscious learning process.

If instinct is important, you have a hard road ahead showing me :-

a. What instincts are we born with, that can support our survival, and further our thriving. (a list of them, maybe.)

b. What significance a philosopher should place in instincts; iow, for the student of knowledge, does

the conscious mind take precedence over the instinctive brain, or vice-versa?

c. That instincts are always 'good' instincts, always to be acted upon - or should they ever be counter-

manded?

Instinct- supporters usually pose a rational person with an either/or dichotomy ( false, of course) that

he/she doesn't acknowledge his or her instincts, doesn't respect them, and never acts on them.

They do enjoy the mind-body split that much, it seems.

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I don't see what Bob _ Mac's beef is with this statement:

"At birth, a child's mind is tabula rasa ; [semi-colon] he has the potential of awareness -

the mechanism of a human consciousness - but no content."

Rand did that a lot - a proposition, followed by an explanation - in different phrasing.

Substitute the semi-colon for : "which means..." and it's clearer.

Nothing circular about it. Nobody can fault her for imprecision, agree with the statement, or not.

Nothing I can do if you cannot see how the basic reasoning is viciously circular. But, be that as it may, your question is a good one. What I mean is the question, more or less :

"Babies are born blank slates more or less, they have to choose to learn everything - knowledge, morals, everything. Even if this isn't exactly right, what's the big deal??"

The problem is the extension of her argument here that places the responsibility of moral development entirely on the individual. Hey, I think we could use a great deal more of individual responsibility and accountability in just about every walk of life. However, she's wrong to be at the total far end of the spectrum. Personality, intelligence and morality are more inherited than they are self-directed and self-created. We need to understand this reality and deal with it, and not accept Rand's deceptive and erroneous utopia of the 100% self-made man. This is a fantasy, it ain't real.

Bob

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Instinct- supporters usually pose a rational person with an either/or dichotomy ( false, of course) that

he/she doesn't acknowledge his or her instincts, doesn't respect them, and never acts on them.

They do enjoy the mind-body split that much, it seems.

Do you really believe that I want to base a philosophy on instinct?

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Instinct- supporters usually pose a rational person with an either/or dichotomy ( false, of course) that

he/she doesn't acknowledge his or her instincts, doesn't respect them, and never acts on them.

They do enjoy the mind-body split that much, it seems.

Do you really believe that I want to base a philosophy on instinct?

My instincts tell me that you might...

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Instinct- supporters usually pose a rational person with an either/or dichotomy ( false, of course) that

he/she doesn't acknowledge his or her instincts, doesn't respect them, and never acts on them.

They do enjoy the mind-body split that much, it seems.

Do you really believe that I want to base a philosophy on instinct?

My instincts tell me that you might...

Your instincts might mislead you here. :)

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"Babies are born blank slates more or less, they have to choose to learn everything - knowledge, morals, everything. Even if this isn't exactly right, what's the big deal??" The problem is the extension of her argument here that places the responsibility of moral development entirely on the individual. Hey, I think we could use a great deal more of individual responsibility and accountability in just about every walk of life. However, she's wrong to be at the total far end of the spectrum. Personality, intelligence and morality are more inherited than they are self-directed and self-created. We need to understand this reality and deal with it, and not accept Rand's deceptive and erroneous utopia of the 100% self-made man. This is a fantasy, it ain't real. Bob

"She's wrong to be at the total far end of the spectrum" - well, I suppose that depends where one stands.

If one starts in the middle, one stays there - I believe I've seen/experienced. Just drifting a little, one way, or other

according to "the flow".

Start at the end you think reality lies - and you can always adjust yourself to what life throws at you, but with

firm ground to step back on.

I think there isn't an emphasis on '100% self-made' - no more than Objectivists believe volition is 100%.

Obviously not. It's what one does with all areas that can and do come under one's power - character, thoughts, acts,

values and virtues - and feelings. Once these are made objective (identified) and considered - and given time

and practice, it's incredible how much that 'power' expands further.

Personality and intelligence (also one's culture, you didn't mention) are 'a given', none of which ultimately influence understanding, or one's approach. Unless you want it to so (as perhaps with culture.)

You raised a serious and honest criticism, I think, and this is the best I can do right now and without getting heavily

philosophical, to answer it.

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"However, she's wrong to be at the total far end of the spectrum."

Every being, including man, is completely self made. Every cell division and specialization of cells in the womb is the result of the being in question. Right decisions result in birth, wrong ones miscarriage. Once born every movement, every sound you make, every thing you put in your mouth, everything is the result of an individual decision. Everything you become is your decision. You can have a dream, focus all your energy on it and achieve it or you can decide "it's too hard", "I didn't get the right breaks", and fail. The dreams you have are your decision, they can be based on fantasy or realities. In the end, no one makes you except you. All of the accidental conditions in your life and your environment are not decisive. The decision making being at your center is. You are either self made or you are nothing. This is extraordinaryly obvious.

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This is a late post but it deals with some of the things stated earlier about Karl Popper.

First, one habit I find some Objectivists lapse into is that of casually, caustically, condescendingly criticizing other thinkers without taking the time and effort to understand that other thinker or the context that they worked in.

I don't necessarily agree with Popper, but the man has had plenty of influence and much of it positive. For one, his intellectual relationship with Hayek resulted in Hayek producing one of the most brilliant, stunningly effective critques of the Rationalist/Intrinsicist underpinnings of modern totalitarianism and technocracy. Hayek's work on the Abuse of Reason (by which Hayek meant what we Objectivists would call Intrinsicism and Rationalism) was strongly influenced by Popper.

Second, and this is a more personal point, the Evolutionary Economics of Jason Potts and Kurt Dopfer were originally based on Popperian thought (Potts and Dopfer had not even read Ayn Rand at the time). I did my Masters Thesis on Potts and Dopfer's Evolutionary Economics and found it completely consistent with Objectivism. I even got Jason to read Atlas Shrugged and he loved it. If you want more, read my Masters Thesis in the articles section of the forum (full disclosure: Jason was my thesis advisor).

Basically, Popper is not to be tossed aside with snide, sneering scorn. Whatever his errors, he deserves to be taken seriously.

Now, on to my point about reading Popper in context. First, Popper was principally a philosopher of science and he was dealing with scientific hypotheses first and foremost. Now, also remember that Popper was a traditionally trained philosopher and as such his definition of "certainty" was an intrinsicist definition. The Objectivist notion of "contextual certainty" would simply have made no sense to him. Contextual certainty is a far easier standard than the intrinsicist version.

It is a distortion of Popper to say he argued "empirical evidence tells you nothing about reality." That is completely inaccurate. What Popper was saying was that it is easier to find empirical disproof of an (absolute) hypothesis than it is to find empirical proof of it.

Simple example: "All Swans Are White" (note that this is an absolute hypothesis with no contextualization)

To empirically prove this, you need to go and discover every single swan and check the color of said swan. To empirically disprove this, all you need is a single example of a non-white swan.

Now, to an Objectivist, the discovery of non-white swans is simply an instance where an abstract concept (remember that concepts are open-ended and always subject to revision and recontextualization) needs to be revised; in the context of our previous experiences we were not wrong, but the context has changed and thus the concept needs to adapt to the new evidence.

But by an intrinsicist standard of certainty, we were (absolutely, completely, irreperably, completely) wrong. Popper is simply arguing that, by the intrinsicist standard of certainty, we can never be certain (a point with which Ayn Rand would have agreed).

I haven't read Popper that extensively, but from what I know, his discussion of the Problem of Universals came very close to a conceptualist approach, like Rand's.

Popper is indeed an advocate of what we might call epistemic modesty. But given how the kind of acontextual/intrinsic/eternal truth that the Rationalists hold as the ideal is impossible, perhaps we might benefit from remembering that our knowledge is knowledge of something in particular and thus by definition limited. Perhaps a bit more epistemic modesty (properly conceived) would be a good thing.

Certainly, some Objectivists should be a bit more epistemically modest before launching into critiques of other philosophers.

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"However, she's wrong to be at the total far end of the spectrum."

Every being, including man, is completely self made. Every cell division and specialization of cells in the womb is the result of the being in question. Right decisions result in birth, wrong ones miscarriage. Once born every movement, every sound you make, every thing you put in your mouth, everything is the result of an individual decision. Everything you become is your decision. You can have a dream, focus all your energy on it and achieve it or you can decide "it's too hard", "I didn't get the right breaks", and fail. The dreams you have are your decision, they can be based on fantasy or realities. In the end, no one makes you except you. All of the accidental conditions in your life and your environment are not decisive. The decision making being at your center is. You are either self made or you are nothing. This is extraordinaryly obvious.

Except you're wrong...

"Right decisions result in birth, wrong ones miscarriage. "

You have a very "interesting" definition of decision....

I do not deny the influence of self on one's character development, intelligence etc., nor do I deny the influence of the environment either. It is an objective and empirically answerable question how much influence each exerts. Best answer right now looks like about 3/4 genetics with variations depending on which trait you examine. Just facts...

Bob

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