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I am currently in a philosophy class at St. Johns University and we never learn about people such as Ayn Rand, so in trying to learn her myself, I have a question that is troubling me. Does Ayn Rand believe in absolutes, or does she just believes in the absolute of reason. If she does just believe in the absolute of reason why does she write that a speck of dust in an absolute, is it because we learn that it is a speck of dust through reason. This leads me to another quick question, can't reason be wrong at times or flawed, how do we know our reason as a person is right?




Thanks,


David C.


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Rand believed in absolutes and the absolute of reason. She was an absolutist, in fact way too much so. If your reason is wrong or flawed it's up to you to fix it. You know your reason is wrong, when all else fails, when you bump into something your reason told you wasn't there.

Rand presented a vertically integrated philosophy from metaphysics, to epistemology, to ethics and to politics. One leads to the next out of the crux of individualism from the individually thinking and sovernign mind. Metaphysics and epistemology can be described as reality and reason. This part of the philosophy is congruent with and is shared with standard, good, scientific methodology. The ethics are rational self interest and the politics laissez faire capitalism or individual rights or freedom (as all the same). Off these bed rock absolutist principles you get man the rational animal as man also the social animal--and tentativeness. From me, not her.

I have not here described Orthodox Objectivism or Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. That contains all the cultural baggage she larded onto it including esthetics and myriad opinions on whatever she had an opinion on, at least insofar as she wrote it for publication in her lifetime. I have described my take on Objectivism as objective or objectivism. I indulge in this complication as I don't like the use of the lower case "o" when I think of the philosophy.

--Brant

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Rand believed in absolutes and the absolute of reason. She was an absolutist, in fact way too much so. If your reason is wrong or flawed it's up to you to fix it. You know your reason is wrong, when all else fails, when you bump into something your reason told you wasn't there.

Check your premises.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I am currently in a philosophy class at St. Johns University and we never learn about people such as Ayn Rand, so in trying to learn her myself, I have a question that is troubling me. Does Ayn Rand believe in absolutes, or does she just believes in the absolute of reason. If she does just believe in the absolute of reason why does she write that a speck of dust in an absolute, is it because we learn that it is a speck of dust through reason. This leads me to another quick question, can't reason be wrong at times or flawed, how do we know our reason as a person is right?

Thanks,

David C.

Hi David,

Welcome to OL.

When Rand says that reason is man's only absolute, she means that reason is man's only means of knowing reality. So, for example, reason is more important than truth, because the only way to know if you know something is to know how you know it, i.e., to know the facts that support it and how they are connected logically to your conclusion.

Darrell

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I am currently in a philosophy class at St. Johns University and we never learn about people such as Ayn Rand, so in trying to learn her myself, I have a question that is troubling me. Does Ayn Rand believe in absolutes, or does she just believes in the absolute of reason. If she does just believe in the absolute of reason why does she write that a speck of dust in an absolute, is it because we learn that it is a speck of dust through reason. This leads me to another quick question, can't reason be wrong at times or flawed, how do we know our reason as a person is right?

Thanks,

David C.

Do you mean knowing whether your process of reasoning actually works or knowing whether your conclusions are right?

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Ayn Rand was not an absolutist. If she had been, she would have called her philosophy Absolutism. In formal academic philosophy objectivism is synonymous with rational-empiricism. Capital-O Objectivism is closely analogous to the rational-empirical method (the "scientific method"). If you read her book Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology, you will find some strongly worded differences against what you might have learned in a high school or college general science class. However, those distinctions are not important in this discussion.

Rand identified certain fundamentals as absolutes. She identified certain facts as absolutes and equated the facts with the observation of those facts. If your neighbor eats your cake, that is an absolute. That said, of course, much higher in the order of discussion, you can, indeed, host a birthday party for neighbor and serve cake as an act of benevolence.

The problem is that many of Rand's admirers become fixated on the Absolute to the exclusion of the Objective. I suggest that you seek out Understanding Objectivism by Michael Berliner and Leonard Peikoff. You have scan through a lot of dross, but basically, Peikoff addresses the fallacy of Absolutism as held by many adherents to Objectivism.

The Law of Identity is absolute. Reality is absolute. The facts of reality are absolute. Their relationship to you is objective. Therein lies Objectivism.

(Just to note, I took the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" lecture series in 1967 while a high school senior. I have been at this a while. I hold a master's in social science. One way or another, everyone offers opinions on what Ayn Rand meant by what she said. In fact, they do that with Jesus and Buddha and Socrates...)

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Hi David. Welcome to OL. St. John’s has a very good reputation among my Objectivist friends.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Relating to #1 and #4:

In The Fountainhead, Rand wrote that the protection of man is a thought in the mind of a man, and fundamentally, “not the content of that thought, nor the result, . . . nor the will . . . that [makes] it real—but the method of his thought, the rule of its function . . . .” (HR I, 548). An important and absolute part of that method (creative reason) is logic. I’d like to mention also that in Rand’s philosophy there are moral absolutes, based ultimately on the absolute difference between life and death. Moral values are relational in this value theory, but there are relations in the world (including our living bodies as part of the world) independently of our cognizance of them, and such relations have in Rand’s view the absoluteness had by any other real thing.

David, you are correct in observing the contradiction between Rand's remark that reason is man's only absolute and there being other absolutes proclaimed in her philosophy. Her saying reason is man's only absolute was in a summary of the view of man's existence in her philosophy. That statement in her summary proclaims by implication the sufficiency of reason for man's heroic, happy, moral, and productive existence, and it cuts out any need for supplements to reason such as faith. That implication is truly part of her philosophy, but her summary statement slips out of being a true representation of her philosophy by its simple saying that reason is man's only absolute.

Darrell, I wonder if too much might get aimed for by saying the only way to know if one knows something is to know how one knows it. It would seem enough, and consistent with Rand’s thought, to (i) understand that any part of one’s knowledge has rational means of its attainment (and its rechecking) if it is rightly taken for knowledge and (ii) one is sensitive to when one needs to look further into specific means of how one knows any part of one’s knowledge. Otherwise—aiming for too much—we get into a regress problem: knowing the how of something is another knowing, and tracing the chain back to bases possessing their own warranty (as well as cross-checking for consistency with all one’s other knowledge) for every part of knowledge we are relying on is not feasible.

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Thank you all for the feedback, this actually really helped me. I just hit part three of Atlas Shrugged and I can't wait to read it. I actually can't even focus in class because I want to read so much. Just to make sure I understand correctly, Ayn Rand believed reason was an absolute because we gather our reason from reality and reality is an absolute (IE a speck of dust is a speck of dust ), if our reason is wrong it is in fact a contradiction which as Francisco says don't exist, on that note BaalChatzaf your comment was quite amazing.

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Thank you all for the feedback, this actually really helped me. I just hit part three of Atlas Shrugged and I can't wait to read it. I actually can't even focus in class because I want to read so much. Just to make sure I understand correctly, Ayn Rand believed reason was an absolute because we gather our reason from reality and reality is an absolute (IE a speck of dust is a speck of dust ), if our reason is wrong it is in fact a contradiction which as Francisco says don't exist, on that note BaalChatzaf your comment was quite amazing.

Please relax and read the rest of the novel before you have a brain attack.

--Brant

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Entirely correct, #10. Rules of basic logic are right rules for thought because they suit all reality; Rand is like Aristotle on this. Reason as the instrument for fullest comprehension of reality is a means for identifications of existents, and identification is fundamental good cognizance because identity is basic to any existent in the view of Rand. The speck of dust has its character and potentials, and these are in some ways different from anything not a speck of dust. Identifying existents in their identities—including discerning their features, occasions, and causal relationships, and placing existents in logical relations with other existents, informed by those discernments—is reason's gig in Rand's philosophy.

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Not bad so far for this new thread.

--Brant

Absolutely.

Ghs

That's the code word Objectivists in NYC used to identifty each other*. I remember when someone first said that to me. It was Barbara Weiss at the office/bookstore she was running for Ayn Rand on 34th St. What I liked about the old building it was in was that there was an architect on the floor above the 2nd or 3rd floor office. Could it have been Howard Roark jr.? That would have been 1971, I think--I mean--Absolutely!

--Brant

*facetious alert! facetious alert! facetious alert!

better than eating the body of Christ (yes, I did that once, in Vietnam, just for the experience; the waffer was tasteless--nutz!)

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Entirely correct, #10. Rules of basic logic are right rules for thought because they suit all reality; Rand is like Aristotle on this. Reason as the instrument for fullest comprehension of reality is a means for identifications of existents, and identification is fundamental good cognizance because identity is basic to any existent in the view of Rand. The speck of dust has its character and potentials, and these are in some ways different from anything not a speck of dust. Identifying existents in their identities—including discerning their features, occasions, and causal relationships, and placing existents in logical relations with other existents, informed by those discernments—is reason's gig in Rand's philosophy.

I saw your post before the edit, Stephen. What the right hand giveth the left hand taketh away, but you can't take it out of my brain! See the highlight!

--Brant

also #11

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If you are not aware, Ayn explicitly stated that she owed no philosopher, other than Aristotle, for what she had arrived at. Hence, she dedicated the three (3) sections of Atlas to his intellectual gifts to her.

And, even though I have read Atlas at least 20 + times, I never noticed that each of the sections is divided equally into ten (10) parts each.

Therefore, I am providing you with certain links to Aristotle and believe that it will help with your approach to Ayn and Objectivism.

Part One -Non-Contradiction - a speck of dust can not be a chair and a speck of dust at the same time. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-noncontradiction/ *

Part Two - Either Or - a speck of dust is either a speck of dust, or, something else. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-logic/ **

Part Three - A is A - a speck of dust is a speck of dust. http://importanceofphilosophy.com/Metaphysics_Identity.html ***

*

Aristotle on Non-contradiction
First published Fri Feb 2, 2007; substantive revision Wed Jan 26, 2011

According to Aristotle, first philosophy, or metaphysics, deals with ontology and first principles, of which the principle (or law) of non-contradiction is the firmest. Aristotle says that without the principle of non-contradiction we could not know anything that we do know. Presumably, we could not demarcate the subject matter of any of the special sciences, for example, biology or mathematics, and we would not be able to distinguish between what something is, for example a human being or a rabbit, and what it is like, for example pale or white. Aristotle's own distinction between essence and accident would be impossible to draw, and the inability to draw distinctions in general would make rational discussion impossible. According to Aristotle, the principle of non-contradiction is a principle of scientific inquiry, reasoning and communication that we cannot do without.

Aristotle's main and most famous discussion of the principle of non-contradiction occurs in Metaphysics IV (Gamma) 3–6, especially 4. There are also snippets of discussion about the principle of non-contradiction early in the corpus, for example in De Interpretatione, and there is the obscure chapter 11 of Posterior Analytics I, but none of these rival Aristotle's treatment of the principle of non-contradiction in Metaphysics IV. Below is a summary of the main interpretative and philosophical issues that arise from reading Metaphysics IV 3–6.

**


Aristotle's Logic
First published Sat Mar 18, 2000; substantive revision Wed Mar 23, 2011

Aristotle's logic, especially his theory of the syllogism, has had an unparalleled influence on the history of Western thought. It did not always hold this position: in the Hellenistic period, Stoic logic, and in particular the work of Chrysippus, took pride of place. However, in later antiquity, following the work of Aristotelian Commentators, Aristotle's logic became dominant, and Aristotelian logic was what was transmitted to the Arabic and the Latin medieval traditions, while the works of Chrysippus have not survived.

This unique historical position has not always contributed to the understanding of Aristotle's logical works. Kant thought that Aristotle had discovered everything there was to know about logic, and the historian of logic Prantl drew the corollary that any logician after Aristotle who said anything new was confused, stupid, or perverse. During the rise of modern formal logic following Frege and Peirce, adherents of Traditional Logic (seen as the descendant of Aristotelian Logic) and the new mathematical logic tended to see one another as rivals, with incompatible notions of logic. More recent scholarship has often applied the very techniques of mathematical logic to Aristotle's theories, revealing (in the opinion of many) a number of similarities of approach and interest between Aristotle and modern logicians.

This article is written from the latter perspective. As such, it is about Aristotle's logic, which is not always the same thing as what has been called “Aristotelian” logic.

***

A is A: Aristotle's Law of IdentityEverything that exists has a specific nature. Each entity exists as something in particular and it has characteristics that are a part of what it is. "This leaf is red, solid, dry, rough, and flammable." "This book is white, and has 312 pages." "This coin is round, dense, smooth, and has a picture on it." In all three of these cases we are referring to an entity with a specific identity; the particular type of identity, or the trait discussed, is not important. Their identities include all of their features, not just those mentioned.

Identity is the concept that refers to this aspect of existence; the aspect of existing as something in particular, with specific characteristics. An entity without an identity cannot exist because it would be nothing. To exist is to exist as something, and that means to exist with a particular identity.

To have an identity means to have a single identity; an object cannot have two identities. A tree cannot be a telephone, and a dog cannot be a cat. Each entity exists as something specific, its identity is particular, and it cannot exist as something else. An entity can have more than one characteristic, but any characteristic it has is a part of its identity. A car can be both blue and red, but not at the same time or not in the same respect. Whatever portion is blue cannot be red at the same time, in the same way. Half the car can be red, and the other half blue. But the whole car can't be both red and blue. These two traits, blue and red, each have single, particular identities.

The concept of identity is important because it makes explicit that reality has a definite nature. Since reality has an identity, it is knowable. Since it exists in a particular way, it has no contradictions.

Copyright © 2001 by Jeff Landauer and Joseph Rowlands

Aristotle.gif
Aristotle

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The syllogism is a form of inference that lacks generality. In particular it cannot hand binary and ternary relations gracefully.

Here is something you cannot prove using syllogistic:

All asses are animals

The head of an ass is a head of an animal.

This does not follow using Aristotle's rules.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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