Sign in to follow this  
Robert Campbell

Greg Salmieri defends the doctrine of the arbitrary

Recommended Posts

Confirming the new status of the Ayn Rand Society of the American Philosophical Association as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Leonard Peikoff Institute, a new blog ("Check Your Premises") has been launched, with turns by reliable junior affiliates of the Institute, such as Ben Bayer and Greg Salmieri.

There is value in some of the posts, if only to clarify what the official line is today, and what the official line regarding defenses of the official line might be.

So Greg Salmieri's entry and the accompanying comments

http://www.checkyourpremises.org/2016/03/15/the-meaninglessness-of-arbitrary-propositions/

have proven most informative.

In his Ayn Rand Companion chapter on epistemology, Salmieri hewed closely to Rand's theory of concepts.  This could be defended on the grounds that the book is an Ayn Rand companion, not a Leonard Peikoff companion, so the chapter should confine itself to issues about which Rand herself published.

But of course an ARIan philosopher is still required to subscribe to Peikoff's doctrine of the arbitrary assertion, to treat it as indispensable, and to be prepared to defend it.

So now the obligation is being made good on.

Much should be of interest to participants here.  For instance, Donald J. Trump gets Salmieri's nomination as a serial generator of arbitrary assertions (which, in turn, implies that most of Mr. Trump's functioning, in any walk of life, is wholly noncognitive, and the product of "arbitrary internal monologues").

Here's another item.  In a response to a comment, Salmieri writes:

Quote

In any case, in normal cognition, we don't first come up with propositions, then think about what would count as evidence for them, and only then go looking for the evidence. The propositions are generated in the first place as part of a process of identifying things by subsuming them under concepts on the basis of evidence. They exist and have the identities they do only in relation to that process. So instead of asking, as separate questions "What does that mean?" and then "How can I know it?" it's better to try to reconstruct and evaluate the process by which one would come to think it.

This reads to me like a reaffirmation of Peikovian proof, tracking relentlessly from one truth to the next.

And, like Peikovian proof, it doesn't seem to allow for the method of hypothesis (even in highly restricted ways) as part of "normal cognition," because in testing a hypothesis, one generally comes up with a proposition without already having on hand all of the evidence necessary to show that is true (or false), one then looks for further evidence (sometimes, for scads of further evidence), and occasionally one has to try to figure out what the evidence might be like before going in search of it.

It also doesn't seem to allow for modus tollens or reductio ab absurdum.

Perhaps BaalChatzaf, Roger Bissell, or M. Guyau will have some ideas here.

Of possible further interest is the fact that Salmieri is responding to Chris Cathcart.

On the one hand, Cathcart gives an excellent example of a proposition some have claimed was asserted arbitrarily, but anyone else has for many years thought is true: "Rand and Branden had a romantic affair."

Salmieri refuses to consider the example, complaining that it's hurtful to him and all.  With the step-aside, he gets to avoid defending various things that Peter Schwartz, Leonard Peikoff, and Jim Valiant have said about that proposition.

On the other hand, Cathcart refers to a certain article of mine as proof that someone "has a hobby-horse."  He then proceeds to guess its contents, admitting in the process that he hasn't read the article.

Salmieri could use Cathcart's statements about my article as examples of arbitrary assertions.

I doubt he will.

Robert Campbell

PS. If Mr. Cathcart wants to read my article—I recall that he reached the second word, "Peikovian," in the title, underwent a dreadful attack of Peikovian paralysis, and could go no further, but this had to be 7 or 8 years ago—he is welcome to contact me (we academics are never hard to find) and request a copy.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Robert Campbell said:

Of possible further interest is the fact that Salmieri is responding to Chris Cathcart.

On the one hand, Cathcart gives an excellent example of a proposition some have claimed was asserted arbitrarily, but anyone else has for many years thought is true: "Rand and Branden had a romantic affair."

Salmieri refuses to consider the example, complaining that it's hurtful to him and all.  With the step-aside, he gets to avoid defending various things that Peter Schwartz, Leonard Peikoff, and Jim Valiant have said about that proposition.

Hahahahahaha!

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Robert,

For once I agree with Cathcart.  While I'm not an expert on the ins and outs of epistemology, traditional logic (or common sense argumentation) gives us the tools we need without recourse to the "arbitrary assertion."

I haven't looked into Salmieri's examples about Trump, but if what he's saying is true, then you could say Trump is a liar or doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.  If Trump said Trump Steaks are sold nationwide and there are sold in a few stores in New York and California then the guy shouldn't be trusted.  It's not arbitrary, it's wrong and he shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt going forward.

But I'd really like to know if Salmieri agrees with Peikoff that everything Barabara said in her book was arbitrary.  I mean, Rand was born in Russia, wrote Atlas Shrugged, etc?  If anything is arbitrary, it's Peikoff denouncing a book which he swore he would never read.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
19 hours ago, Neil Parille said:

I haven't looked into Salmieri's examples about Trump, but if what he's saying is true, then you could say Trump is a liar or doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.  If Trump said Trump Steaks are sold nationwide and there are sold in a few stores in New York and California then the guy shouldn't be trusted.  It's not arbitrary, it's wrong and he shouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt going forward.

I'm offended and traumatized that Salmieri would be so distasteful as to publicly dissect such a painful episode in the life of someone I admire! Surely there are better examples that would do just as well, and which would allow everyone and anyone to evade, as Salmieri does, the reality of their personal heroes' having behaved irrationally and/or immorally? I mean, it's hypocritical, and downright anti-Objectivist, of Salmieri to insist on judging others, while demanding that the topics of Rand's and Peikoff's dishonesty, stupidity and viciousness are off the table! If Trump doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt, or is to be considered a liar, shouldn't the exact same standard of judgment apply to Rand and Peikoff regardless of Salmieri's little feelings? If he can just brush justice aside like that, why would he think that anyone else could not use the same tactic when excusing the behavior of their own personal heroes?

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jonathan,

In case Greg Salmieri's prior complaint wasn't enough, check this response out.  It's a response to Mark, no less:

Quote

The point of having the concept "arbitrary" isn't that we can infallibly identify when other people are engaging in it and use the label to damn them. We need the concept to name a disastrous way of using one's mind so that we can avoid falling into it in our own mental lives.

Fox Butterfield, is that you?

The entire purpose and application of the doctrine of the arbitrary are to damn people.  What does Salmieri think all the hot blasts in OPAR are for?

If the goal was to help people avoid major mental blunders, or worse, you'd have to think the effort would first been put into laying out what Peikovian proof is, how to use it and apply its criteria of evidence in a wide range of cases, what the common ways are of deviating from it, and how to avoid them.  Maybe even some discussion of why some non-Peikovian ways of thinking look like they might be useful but really aren't good.  Then, maybe get in a couple of licks at people who make arbitrary assertions.

Oh, and I like the bit about "infallibly."  The problem isn't that we don't know how to nail an arbitrary assertion, infallibly, on first exposure.  The problem is that in many cases we're never going to be able to nail it as such, because the criteria are so unclear and require us to know so much about the state of mind of the person who made the assertion.

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Mark said:

I watched the video and replied to Salmieri.  In 131 words I say he's all wet.

 

Mark,

You gave a perfectly reasonable response.

Frankly, I think Donald Trump's answer to Anderson Cooper (who really was asking about the short-lived enterprise from 2007) was motor-mouthed BS.  For that matter, that Trump has already proven himself a master of motor-mouthed BS.  He also has a big problem admitting that he has ever made one bad business decision.

Which are good reasons to question whether Trump is trustworthy, or fit for the office he is seeking.

But they have nothing to do with Donald Trump being addicted to arbitrary chains of nonthought.  Trump knows exactly what all of the words mean, which is why he's in such a hurry to dodge and parry.

Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I replied to Salmieri in 173 words saying he has no sense of perspective.

That was my first thought.  My second and considered thought – not risked on Salmieri's blog – is that Salmieri deliberately exaggerates Trump's flaws because Salmieri hates his policies:  no fear of AIPAC, opposition to unrestricted immigration, opposition to TARP/NAFTA/GATT.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mark,

He almost certainly doesn't like Trump's policies.

But substitute a classic run of BS from Bill Clinton, or whoever.  Are we supposed to conclude that Bill Clinton endlessly indulges in arbitrary internal monologues?

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Mark:

Quote

Indeed there is the concept of “arbitrary” – the classic example being the claims of astrology – but it doesn’t apply to Trump where it matters.

Wouldn't it be better to say that the claims of astrology have been studied and have shown to be wrong?

I don't know of any Objectivists who like Trump.  They all call him a "populist" or "demagogue" as if trying to show that The Ominous Parallels is being vindicated before our eyes.  (In a similar vein, Yaron Brook said recently that he is more concerned about Europe become fascist than Islamic)

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My chart for Tuesday indicated, vaguely, I shouldn’t have added the last line.  I put it in because I didn’t want Salmieri to go into that aspect of his original post.

Years ago a government agency (NSF I think) funded a study of astrology, which ended up proving that astrology was .... drum roll ... unreliable.

Isn't that annoying, annoying beyond the fact that the government had no business funding studies of anything?  There wasn’t the slightest tincture of a reason to spend money or effort or time doing the study.

Think of a denial-of-service attack (DoS) on a computer or network, where the attacker overloads the system with requests for information trying to bring it down.  Something similar would happen to people if they had to investigate every “arbitrary”  theory such as astrology.

That said, the official Objectivists – OrgOists – misuse the epithet, just as they misuse every other Objectivist epithet.

I see Salmieri replied to my post, saying he disagrees and continues regarding Trump (emphasis mine)

“I think the way he handled the Trump Steaks issue is an example in miniature of how he's handled every issue in his campaign, and that, despite his reputation, hes the least straight talking candidate of a particularly unsavory and dishonest lot (on both sides).”

And goes on to say he doesn’t want to talk politics.  Probably I won’t reply because I can only repeat what I said before well enough.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Attributed to Cardinal Richelieu (1585–1642):

“Give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I will find something to hang him.”

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
39 minutes ago, Mark said:

My chart for Tuesday indicated, vaguely, I shouldn’t have added the last line.  I put it in because I didn’t want Salmieri to go into that aspect of his original post.

Years ago a government agency (NSF I think) funded a study of astrology, which ended up proving that astrology was .... drum roll ... unreliable.

Isn't that annoying, annoying beyond the fact that the government had no business funding studies of anything?  There wasn’t the slightest tincture of a reason to spend money or effort or time doing the study.

Think of a denial-of-service attack (DoS) on a computer or network, where the attacker overloads the system with requests for information trying to bring it down.  Something similar would happen to people if they had to investigate every “arbitrary”  theory such as astrology.

That said, the official Objectivists – OrgOists – misuse the epithet, just as they misuse every other Objectivist epithet.

I see Salmieri replied to my post, saying he disagrees and continues regarding Trump (emphasis mine)

“I think the way he handled the Trump Steaks issue is an example in miniature of how he's handled every issue in his campaign, and that, despite his reputation, hes the least straight talking candidate of a particularly unsavory and dishonest lot (on both sides).”

And goes on to say he doesn’t want to talk politics.  Probably I won’t reply because I can only repeat what I said before well enough.

 

The government has the power to fund studies in matters pertaining to the military preparedness of the nation.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Least straight talking, huh?

Isn't Hillary Clinton giving Trump some competition in that department?

Maybe Trump was an arbitrary choice...

Robert Campbell

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

The government has the power to fund studies in matters pertaining to the military preparedness of the nation.  

And just about everything/anything else the "government" wants to do.

--Brant

back in the USSR real world

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
58 minutes ago, Robert Campbell said:

Least straight talking, huh?

Isn't Hillary Clinton giving Trump some competition in that department?

Maybe Trump was an arbitrary choice...

Robert Campbell

Indeed. Salmieri's statement is an arbitrary assertion. So much for his allegedly focusing on avoiding the "disastrous way of using one's mind so that we can avoid falling into it in our own mental lives." What a dimwit.

J

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Neil Parille said:

Mark:

Wouldn't it be better to say that the claims of astrology have been studied and have shown to be wrong?

I don't know of any Objectivists who like Trump.  They all call him a "populist" or "demagogue" as if trying to show that The Ominous Parallels is being vindicated before our eyes.  (In a similar vein, Yaron Brook said recently that he is more concerned about Europe become fascist than Islamic)

 

The political prognosticators associated with the ARI tend to have been shown to be laughably wrong, time after time. I think you're right that they start with The Ominous Parallels, Peikoff's DIMwit theory, or other half-baked Objectivish concoctions, and then try to predict the future based on them. It doesn't work out well for them, and they're not bright enough to adjust their theories and methods accordingly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, Neil Parille said:

Mark:

 They all call him a "populist" or "demagogue" as if trying to show that The Ominous Parallels is being vindicated before our eyes.  (In a similar vein, Yaron Brook said recently that he is more concerned about Europe become fascist than Islamic)

 

Does nobody think this feasible? Islamism sweeping the continent is more alarmist than a strong possibility, I believe. But the fear exists. In a few countries there has shown to be a rise of right wing fascism: the intellectually bankrupt reply to 'Multiculturalism' would seem to prompt the move to Nationalism. Quite a few European countries are struggling to keep a balance between their cultural identity and their altruist-morality self-identity, and a collapse could well open the door to Fascism. One Statism replaced with another, so familiar to Europe. (Bad as it would be, between the two I am not sure I'd be "more concerned").

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
58 minutes ago, anthony said:

Islamism sweeping the continent is more alarmist than a strong possibility ...

There are isolated neighborhoods where you could say Islamism has taken over, and these will expand and their number increase.  Still, I agree with you.  What is sweeping the continent are people foreign to the West both culturally and racially.  Talking about an Islamic takeover is a way of avoiding talking about culture and race, while really talking about it – implicitly.  

In Europe you risk going to jail if you point out that whites sustain the West.  And in most cases the threat of jail isn't necessary, the interdiction has become internalized.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've read conflicting things as to whether there are "no go zones" or "sharia zones" in Europe.  One thing that seems clear is that in places such as Molenbeck the percentage of people who are Jihadis or Jihadi sympathizers is so high that Jihadis can plan their attacks without fear of being ratted out.

The San Bernadino couple had a bomb factory in their garage and none of their Muslim friends seemed to care.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ZUS are effectively "no-go" zones.  If you run through the French government's list (and you consider the location and the demographics), a few are no-go because they're controlled by the Corsican mob or whatever its counterpart is in 2016.  Most, however, are no-go because of their high Islamic immigrant populations (in particular, the ZUS around Paris).  It's a good guess that in any of these, people plotting a jihadi strike would have plenty of others covering for them.

If the Belgians keep a list of ZUS, Molenbeek would have to be near the top.  It doesn't matter whether some imam has announced that a district is "shari'a only" if most of the people in it will shelter and encourage those who plan mass killings, or at a minimum pretend not to notice what they're doing.

Robert Campbell

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For anyone who is interested, here is Yaron Book explaining why he thinks Europe is likely to become fascist in 30 years with concentration camps for Muslims:

http://www.peikoff.com/2016/03/14/to-yb-what-is-the-probability-that-europe-will-become-islam/

It doesn't seem to occur to him that people could be motivated by the fear of, among other things, women and girls being attacked.  Curiously, Brook said recently that Islam is not a misogynistic religion and that the attacks in Cologne and other cities may have been coordinated terrorism!

-Neil

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yaron Brook is staying DIM and keeping the faith.  

Even though he asks for money for ARI Europe, he doesn't seem to think that anything besides fascism is really capable of resisting or repelling Islamic conquest.

Robert

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this