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BaalChatzaf

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1 hour ago, merjet said:

Where are your thoughts located?

No thoughts easily implies no mind. :)

My thoughts are  effects of electrochemical activities of my brain.  So my thoughts originate in my brain.  I am aware of then in a subjective why  but I have seen them actually produced  through PET scans.  Physical causes have physical effects that are sometimes perceived subjectively.  So my "thinking machine" is located in my skull  between my ears and behind my eyes.   Where is your "thinking machine"  located?

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45 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

My thoughts are  effects of electrochemical activities of my brain.  So my thoughts originate in my brain.  I am aware of then in a subjective why  but I have seen them actually produced  through PET scans.  Physical causes have physical effects that are sometimes perceived subjectively.  So my "thinking machine" is located in my skull  between my ears and behind my eyes.   Where is your "thinking machine"  located?

Physicalists must always dehumanize themselves or delve into contradictions. They sum up a human being as a "meat machine" and humanity not at all.

Humanity is not 7 billion meat machines for you can't have humanity and eat it too. Meat machines are devoid of identifiable conceptual thinking, mind and consciousness. You cannot scan a body and see conceptual thinking knowing it as such

editing

--Brant

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2 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

Physicalists must always dehumanize themselves or delve into contradictions. They sum up a human being as a "meat machine" and humanity not at all.

Humanity is not 7 billion meat machines for you can't have humanity and eat it too. Meat machines are devoid of identifiable conceptual thinking, mind and consciousness. You cannot scan a body and see conceptual thinking knowing it as such

editing

--Brant

Wrong! I am a "meat machine"  and I do concepts quite well.  Probably better than you do.  Can you prove that the Tychonoff Compactness theorem is equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?  I can.  And the conceptual thinking is real electrochemical activity in the brain and the nervous system.  Thinking brains generation electromagnetic energy which is accurately measurable.  The way we tell that a brain (and its owner) is dead is the electromagnetic flat-line of the brain's output.  Dead Brains  tell no tales and generate no alpha waves. 

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17 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Well, that's the whole issue about volitional consciousness vs determinism. The "mind" is willfully turning a blind eye or choosing to focus, refusal to think or doing the mental labor of study. What we see in a scan of physical corpus is a snapshot of the result, not the action of mental management that could have produced a different physical result over time. Paradoxically a lot of mental work gets done when we have lucid dreams.

Yes, and the choice to "focus" one's thinking (to initiate, generate and intensify thought, change its direction, or end thought - at will) is one of those things that take a dive with a skeptical mindset which is by its nature, usually determinist. Not that the skeptic denies the "process" of thought (he knows he thinks), but that he ignores the resultant "content" of consciousness. He would have to admit to the existence of mind and the identity of mind and conceptualism to do so, and that it's more than brain-meat. 

I don't think "content" receives enough coverage even in O'ist circles when discussing volition. Focus-action is half the story.

(Isn't it inductively plain to older members, that we have heard far less of matters like "individual character, virtues, morality, convictions", in recent decades? I think that gives a strong indicator of 'not-knowing' and of 'not-judging', at work, and the subsequent down-grade of selfhood and values by many).

"A being of volitional consciousness" is neatly crafted, 100% accurate to what we can introspect, experience and know. Exactly what it says and no more. There is a dual symbiosis and interplay of "volitional" -- volitional in actions and volitional in substance. What one wants to focus upon and what mind one wants to build. 

From Rand: "Two fundamental attributes are involved in every state, aspect or function of man's consciousness - content and action".

So if the two "attributes" are applied to free will - the activation of mind self-determines what is the content of one's mind. (Not necessarily rational in outcome, I think , and for some, defaulting to the 'substance' of a group consciousness).

There is the power man can control if he wants it, and after, as we know, action and content together lay down the platform for our physical acts.

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On 7/2/2017 at 11:27 AM, Peter said:

Ellen's method of critical analysis resembles what we find in many medieval theologians when they investigated matters like the Trinity. No matter how sophisticated or complex their arguments may appear, you know in advance that they will come down on the side of orthodox doctrine. In thus defending an orthodox creed, they function as theologians, not as philosophers.

 

Of course these theologians, like Ellen Moore, will tell you that they are simply using reason to defend the truth. But they let the cat out of the bag in (1) their method of defense and (2) their method of dealing

with adversaries.

 

(1) A revealed religion typically begins with a sacred scripture that is deemed infallible, and which therefore serves as a benchmark to judge all other knowledge claims. Of course, no religious Objectivist will explicitly declare that Rand was infallible, but *in practice* this is how her writings are treated.

 

If Rand, like the rest of us, was a fallible human being, then it highly likely that she committed errors from time to time -- unless she was the first fallible being in the history of the world who managed to avoid this. Yet if you ask a religious Objectivist to point out some errors in Rand, what response are you likely to receive? He will either be unable to locate any at all, or he will concede some minor "personal" errors that don't relate (i.e., are not "essential") to her overall philosophical system. In other words, in everything that really counts, Rand never erred and was to all intents and purposes infallible.

 

When someone declares that Rand never committed any significant philosophical mistakes, we can interpret this statement in one of two ways.  First, this statement, however unlikely, might be true. Second, the statement is false, but it appears true to the religious Objectivist because he refuses to analyze Rand's philosophy in the same critical spirit that he applies to other writers. In other words, whatever Rand wrote enjoys a privileged status; her writings constitute a "sacred scripture" in practice, if not in theory.

 

This reflects a basic attitudinal difference between philosophers and theologians. Philosophers go looking for errors in other philosophers, however much they may admire them, because this is the best way to improve on what went before. The first concern of a theologian, in contrast, is to defend holy writ against all comers -- and this brings us to the second category mentioned about, namely, how religious Objectivists deal with adversaries.

 

(2) Religionists typically inject a strong strain of moralizing in their arguments. In Christian fundamentalism, this sometimes takes the form of claiming that only someone who has been "saved" can possibly understand and appreciate the scriptures. In other cases it is said that unbelievers are blinded by sin, etc., etc.

 

Just plug "rationality," "focusing," or some other Objectivist buzz word into the equation, and there you have the religious Objectivist.

 

Ellen Moore's posts are saturated with moral admonitions for her adversaries to "focus," to "integrate," etc., etc. Many veterans on Atlantis have grown accustomed to this incessant moralizing, and we have learned to ignore it, so we are apt to lose sight of how it strikes others, such as Mona and Kathleen, who immediately picked up on its religious overtones.

 

In short, I honestly don't think I have ever encountered any Objectivist who is more imbued with a religious spirit than Ellen Moore. She has truth on her side, as set down in the Gospel of Rand, and the rest is a mechanical problem of imparting this truth to others.

 

In theory, of course, Ellen will freely concede that Rand was a fallible human being (since this stress on fallibility is itself part of the Objectivist credo), but in practice she is unable or unwilling to point to a single error, or at least a significant one, that Rand ever committed. This tells us little about Rand, but much about Ellen Moore.

 

(In Ellen's defense, I would *not* say she is an Objectivist Borg -- "That is irrelevant," "Resistance is futile" --such as we find in Peter Swartz and some others affiliated with ARI, but the Borg gives even religion a bad name.)

 

One last thing: For centuries Christians debated over the essential and non-essential beliefs of Christianity. What exactly do you need to believe in order to qualify as a "Christian"? It was during these ongoing debates that some beliefs came to be regarded as "fundamental" to Christianity, whereas others were dubbed "indifferent," or non-essential. Although you could differ in matters deemed "indifferent," not so in matters deemed "fundamental." Someone who adopted unorthodox views about an essential doctrine was condemned as heretical and excluded from the ranks of Christendom altogether.

 

There was at least a comprehensible reason why this matter was important to Christians, since only authentic Christians were destined to spend an eternal afterlife in heaven. But Ellen Moore, like every other religious Objectivist I have ever encountered, is similarly obsessed with preaching which doctrines are "essential" to Objectivism – and therefore who does and does not qualify as a *true* Objectivist.

 

Why would this issue of labels matter to any rational person? Why would any freethinker care whether or not he is admitted into the fold of the faithful? This Chevy Chase business of "I am a true Objectivist, and you're not," aside from its obvious childishness, reeks of religiosity. One also finds this phenomenon throughout the history of Marxism,  which has many religious adherents. In this respect Marxism differs not at all from Objectivism. Indeed, a number of atheistic writers who have stressed the supremacy of reason have given rise to cults and religiously-minded followers. (The atheistic positivism of Auguste Comte, which actually spawned churches and rituals, is a good example of this.)

 

This cultish mentality is most likely to occur in movements that began with a highly charismatic figure, such as Ayn Rand. Anyone one who thinks that secular and reason-oriented movements are exempt from this charismatic religiosity are either or fooling themselves, or they know virtually nothing about the history of such groups. Objectivists, even well-intentioned ones, are not exempt from this tendency.

 

To someone who claims they are unable to find any mistake, weakness, or flaw in any of Rand's philosophical arguments, I say -- "Keep looking." On the day you find one, but not before, you will have graduated from the ranks of Objectivist theologians and become a philosopher. Ghs

Peter,

This quote from George Smith (criticizing one Ellen Moore) is excellent in describing aspects of religious versus philosophical mindsets.

It is exactly the distinction I was aiming at when Kat and I set up OL.

Michael

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On 7/3/2017 at 11:14 AM, merjet said:

You also can't see heat, sound, taste, smell, or thoughts. Does that imply they don't exist? :o

Merlin,

Here's a premise check. Some people can.

There is a state of crossed wiring in the brain called synesthesia. If you ever get a chance, pick up The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran.

It is an eye-opener, presuming you see more than light. (groan... :) )

Seriously, the ability of the brain to cross neural networks and the biological accidents that sometime happen in people's brains are amazing. In particular, the blind person who "sees" with her fingers in the book is really interesting. She can only see vague shapes, but she can detect dark from light patches easily with her finger tips. And she kinda needs weed to help her out if she really wants to perform. :) 

Neuroscience is fascinating...

Michael

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14 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Merlin,

Here's a premise check. Some people can.

There is a state of crossed wiring in the brain called synesthesia. If you ever get a chance, pick up The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist's Quest for What Makes Us Human by V. S. Ramachandran.

It is an eye-opener, presuming you see more than light. (groan... :) )

Seriously, the ability of the brain to cross neural networks and the biological accidents that sometime happen in people's brains are amazing. In particular, the blind person who "sees" with her fingers in the book is really interesting. She can only see vague shapes, but she can detect dark from light patches easily with her finger tips. And she kinda needs weed to help her out if she really wants to perform. :) 

Neuroscience is fascinating...

Michael

Hearing color can be distracting. Almost as distracting as seeing sound.

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2 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Merlin,

Here's a premise check. Some people can.

There is a state of crossed wiring in the brain called synesthesia.

Check yours. The subject of my sentence, "you", was BaalChatzaf. If he has synesthesia --  which is rare, and most commonly about colors, which I wasn't referring to -- he hasn't said so. 

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13 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Wrong! I am a "meat machine"  and I do concepts quite well.  Probably better than you do.  Can you prove that the Tychonoff Compactness theorem is equivalent to the Axiom of Choice?  I can.  And the conceptual thinking is real electrochemical activity in the brain and the nervous system.  Thinking brains generation electromagnetic energy which is accurately measurable.  The way we tell that a brain (and its owner) is dead is the electromagnetic flat-line of the brain's output.  Dead Brains  tell no tales and generate no alpha waves. 

Let's see: Bob is a better conceptual thinker than Brant. This means . . .?

I do suspect, Bob, that I read better than you do. Do you know what "editing" means?

--Brant

what kind of electromagnetic energy is generated by non-thinking (not human) brains and how is this distinguishable from thinking brains assuming thinking is conceptual and not thinking is not conceptual?

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6 hours ago, merjet said:

Check yours. The subject of my sentence, "you", was BaalChatzaf. If he has synesthesia --  which is rare, and most commonly about colors...

Merlin,

OK. I took you to mean the editorial "you," not the Bob "you."

I'm not so sure synesthesia mostly involves colors, though. Colors do play a part in many cases recorded, but this whole field is exploding in the most varied manners. It seems like this condition might be more common than previously thought.

One of the most common statements given to Ramachandran when he sought volunteers to take part in his experiments (including a rigid screening process, brain scans, etc.) was from people who had synesthesia, but nobody knew it. The people said they merely thought they were weird in some manner and, as children, didn't find a way to communicate well about their condition with adults, so they learned it was a lot easier if they just didn't talk about it with anyone.

In my own case, I don't have synesthesia, but I am lacking a normal human emotion: envy. I just don't feel it. I used to wonder a lot about this. There is a blank inside me in situations where I see other people get envious. In fact, this condition used to harm me because I didn't realize how much people around me looked at me with envy at times and acted to destroy or take over my projects, positions, property, etc. After getting clobbered many times, I started looking out for this reaction. But it's a cognitive recognition, not one felt like with mirror neurons. 

When I see someone doing well, if I like the person, I genuinely feel good for him or her. If I don't like the person, I don't feel anything. I've learned over my life that people tend not to believe me about this, so I rarely talk about it. (I do feel jealousy as I learned once the hard way with a woman skilled in prompting it :) , but I suspect even this is a bit different than most people feel since it is so distant to me the vast majority of the time.)

So it's very easy for me to imagine people with synesthesia not talking about it, especially with mild cases.

Oddly enough, when Ramachandran suggested to people who have synesthesia that he can try to cure them of it, almost all resisted, some even in horror at the idea of losing this special "super power." 

I know, in my case, I would hate learning how to feel envy. I'm crazy enough without one more torment. :) 

Michael

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2 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

Let's see: Bob is a better conceptual thinker than Brant. This means . . .?

I do suspect, Bob, that I read better than you do. Do you know what "editing" means?

--Brant

what kind of electromagnetic energy is generated by non-thinking (not human) brains and how is this distinguishable from thinking brains assuming thinking is conceptual and not thinking is not conceptual?

The word "editing"  stands by itself, not in a sentence.  What am I supposed to make of it?  To what does it refer. What is edited?  What was the original and what was the edited version?  I ignored it. 

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8 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

The word "editing"  stands by itself, not in a sentence.  What am I supposed to make of it?  To what does it refer. What is edited?  What was the original and what was the edited version?  I ignored it. 

And you also ignored the first and last quoted sentences here.

You ignore a great deal. I understand the multiple virtues--to you--of that.

You really can't deal with what you call "doxa" no matter how much you adduce factual statements about Aristotle and Hume and all the doxa boys and girls, good and bad. You can't deal with the fact that science and math are foundationally what you keep calling "doxa." That's because you are incapable of seeing the non-doxa in the doxa. Even crappy Aristotelian "science" has value for crap implies that what isn't crap making the non-crap more identifiable. You literally cannot talk about the "philosophy of science" as philosophy more generally for to you one is not doxa and the other doxa but it's all the same. If it's not doxa for science then it can be not doxa for ethics and politics. Metaphysics and epistemology have nothing to do with numbers taken by themselves. You never take them by themselves. That requires abstraction. Abstraction, you know, is "doxa." It's not revealed by autopsy. But, then again, numbers aren't either.

Well, OL is doxa-land to you which explains, I suppose, why you keep doxa-ing here to make room for yourself. You want to have this place and eat it too, but no one's letting you. Your brain can't get you out of the contradiction.

The irony is your inability to explain what "morality is doxa" means except it's not math and science properly rendered. No argument about the math and science from me and I'm sure you can explain "doxa" as such. Good luck with "morality is doxa" for you'd have to explain morality.

--Brant

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8 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

The word "editing"  stands by itself, not in a sentence.  What am I supposed to make of it?  To what does it refer. What is edited?  What was the original and what was the edited version?  I ignored it. 

You might have tried thinking it through to a conclusion. Failing that--you failed--you could have asked what it meant.

--Brant

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44 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

And you also ignored the first and last quoted sentences here.

You ignore a great deal. I understand the multiple virtues--to you--of that.

You really can't deal with what you call "doxa" no matter how much you adduce factual statements about Aristotle and Hume and all the doxa boys and girls, good and bad. You can't deal with the fact that science and math are foundationally what you keep calling "doxa." That's because you are incapable of seeing the non-doxa in the doxa. Even crappy Aristotelian "science" has value for crap implies that what isn't crap making the non-crap more identifiable. You literally cannot talk about the "philosophy of science" as philosophy more generally for to you one is not doxa and the other doxa but it's all the same. If it's not doxa for science then it can be not doxa for ethics and politics. Metaphysics and epistemology have nothing to do with numbers taken by themselves. You never take them by themselves. That requires abstraction. Abstraction, you know, is "doxa." It's not revealed by autopsy. But, then again, numbers aren't either.

Well, OL is doxa-land to you which explains, I suppose, why you keep doxa-ing here to make room for yourself. You want to have this place and eat it too, but no one's letting you. Your brain can't get you out of the contradiction.

The irony is your inability to explain what "morality is doxa" means except it's not math and science properly rendered. No argument about the math and science from me and I'm sure you can explain "doxa" as such. Good luck with "morality is doxa" for you'd have to explain morality.

--Brant

Morality is opinion and judgement.  No of it follows from the natural physical laws that correctly describe how the cosmos works. 

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Here is the text:

"

Physicalists must always dehumanize themselves or delve into contradictions. They sum up a human being as a "meat machine" and humanity not at all.

Humanity is not 7 billion meat machines for you can't have humanity and eat it too. Meat machines are devoid of identifiable conceptual thinking, mind and consciousness. You cannot scan a body and see conceptual thinking knowing it as such

editing

--Brant

"

 

To what does  the word  "editing"  apply and how?   A word standing by itself outside of a sentence is not only confusing,  it is ungrammatical  

 

Nuts!

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1 hour ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Morality is opinion and judgement.  No of it follows from the natural physical laws that correctly describe how the cosmos works. 

I claim to you that's pure primacy of consciousness b.s. Where does one see and find these "natural physical laws" from which morality does not "follow". Are they obvious, written in the stars, or were they man made/formulated, then needing to be learned and assimilated (by you and the rest of us)? You take laws from the minds and observations of other men as 'axioms', neglecting that they too, like a rational, objective morality, are founded on the identity of things. I've said this before (you avoided a response). Existence has primacy, remember?

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12 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

 

I know, in my case, I would hate learning how to feel envy. I'm crazy enough without one more torment. :) 

Michael

 

Me neither. The back of the queue when handing out envy, I've remarked. I've tried to find one single benefit of envy (maybe it drives one harder to acquire wealth - nope) and gave up. All it does is accentuate discontent up to the point of bitterness, I've noticed. Instead of wanting things for their own sake and one's own sake, envy involves other people's possessions (a quality, a belonging, appearance, a certain style, money, talent, knowledge - IQ - etc.) There will never be an end to things which are "better" and "more" than what one has. Comparisons are odious, the same with other peoples' values/property. What strikes me, it appears a certain lack of independence and self-esteem are prerequisite in desiring what others have that you don't.

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Michael wrote: This quote from George Smith (criticizing one Ellen Moore) is excellent in describing aspects of religious versus philosophical mindsets. end quote

 

I agree, but I enjoyed and admired Ellen Moore. She taught “officially sanctioned” Objectivism in her native Canada. People I spoke to who had taken her course said she acted like Ayn Rand!  Here is an example of Moore when her feathers were ruffled.

Peter

 

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Principles of Objectivism Date: Tue, 01 Apr 2003 15:35:22 -0600

Tim Starr wrote, "What's missing from your account is exactly what principle you use to differentiate the essential from the non-essential in Objectivism, as applied to such examples as homosexuality, woman presidents, etc."

 

That is not the way I look at judgments at all, i.e., as essential or non-essential in Objectivism.  As I see the issue, it's applications of principles in Objectivism, or it isn't.  The fundamental principle for all judgments is rationality.  I maintain that choices are made volitionally as one's knowledge develops, and that process of premise choosing will be rational, irrational or mixed.

 

You say,

"Well, it's not enough to simply say: "X, Y, and Z are essential parts of Objectivism, in my judgment, while A, B, and C are not."  That doesn't explain how you made those judgments, or how to tell whether P or Q

are essential to Objectivism or not."

 

"Essential or non-essential" is not my criteria.  I make judgments based on facts and Objectivist principles. I discussed both homosexuality and women presidents as psychological issues that are developmental and psycho-epistemological starting early in life and continuing to be considered, and changed or not, throughout life.  In other words, psychological development begins before one is consciously aware of the meaning of rationality and morality.  So, these two issues, and one's sense of life, are well established early in life before one's adult ideas of morality are consciously chosen.  That is why these issues are not explicitly moral issues, but are open to rational and irrational options chosen unknowingly within early child and adolescent development.

 

You quote me,  >I have never sat down to itemize "the method", I just learned and applied all aspects of Objectivism as I learned to integrate the methods and conclusions of Objectivism.  Do I have a method?  Yes, but is now my entire personal psycho-epistemology and character which I've integrated by means of billions of rational judgments over my 75 years.

 

And you answer, "Thanks, but that's unfortunately rather subjective. Since no one else has your "personal psycho-epistemology and character," no one else is able to use this standard in determining whether, say, Rand's view of homosexuality is essential to Objectivism or not. "

 

No it is not subjective, it is rational and objective - based on Objectivist principles.  I'm competent to know and judge.  Anyone is able to develop their own personal psycho-epistemology, their own rationality, choose their moral principles, and make their own objective judgments.  If they disagree with Objectivist principles, then they have chosen NOT to be Objectivists.

 

You conclude,

"An objective method would be one that could be applied by anyone, not just some elite priesthood of those who've spent the most time studying the sacred texts of Objectivism."

 

"You would do well to simply stick to answering the question, rather than insinuating that those who ask it are allegedly incapable of answering it because of their alleged lack of understanding of Objectivist epistemology/ethics.  I have my own answer to the question of how to tell the essential from the non-essential in Objectivism, I don't need you to educate me about that.  The point of asking you how

you make that distinction is to get you to explain your answer."

 

An objective method may be identified by anyone who is factual, rational and objective.  I did explain my answers in principles.  I was not trying to educate you.  If you didn't want to know my method, then why insist that I answer the question?

 

Do whatever thinking you want to live with, and pay the price. I am.

Ellen

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From: BBfromM Date: Wed, 9 Aug 2000 20:17:40 -0400 Subject: Re: ATL: The Queen Speaks
To: atlantis: It is difficult for me to convey the amount of scorn and revulsion I feel for those who--like Ellen Moore, but there are others -- insist on deifying Ayn Rand. They clutch at her even as she lies in her grave, demanding that she satisfy their unmet needs, their desperate longing for a god to worship. And they do not take the trouble to understand her. She deserves so much better of them. She earned the right to be understood, to be seen as the woman she was, for good and for bad.

Ellen Moore writes such garbage as: "She was rational, objective, benevolent, humorous, stimulating, life affirming, joyous, brilliant, kind, generous to friends and fans, charismatic, serious, challenging, and light-hearted at the same time. . . " And "she lived a gloriously passionate and fulfilled life."

How dare you do her memory the disservice of distorting it, just as Peikoff reaches into her work to distort it? Yes, Ayn Rand could at rare times be many of the things you mention, but those times came to decrease over the year s, to be replaced in many respects by their opposites, as the continuing tragedies, often self-made, of her personal life mounted--her rejection by the father she loved, by the first man she loved as a girl, the lack of fulfillment in so much of her life with her husband, the catastrophe of her relationship with Nathaniel, her failed reunion with her sister, then Frank O'Connor's increasing mental and physical ill-health, culminating in his death, her own increasing ill-health, her disappointment with the world around her. "A gloriously passionate and fulfilled life?" How dare her idolaters ignore the pain and torment of so much of her life, how dare they speak of love and admiration while refusing to know who she was!

I do her the honor of loving and admiring the woman she really was. I do her the honor of understanding her. I do her the honor of being heartbroken over the suffering she endured.

What do you think it was like for her, Ellen Moore and others who commit the same crime against Ayn Rand, to be constantly clutched at by "admirers" like you, with your incessant demands that she meet your irrational needs, that she achieve some sort of "perfection"? Is what she was not enough for you? Was it not enough that she was a seminal genius? Must she also have led an ecstatically happy life?

But I know that her "adorers" are determined to uphold the myth they have created about Ayn Rand, never the reality. They would turn from her in horror if they faced the fact that just as her virtues were larger than life, so were her flaws.

Who really is her friend: I, who love the person she was--or those who
(sic - are) doggedly refuse to accept and to honor the reality of the person she was?
Barbara

 

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Was Ayn Rand ever wrong? To Ellen Moore Date: Tue, 5 Jun 2001 11:05:03 EDT

To Ellen Moore: To date, you never have said -- and have denied it when an instance was raised -- that Ayn Rand made a mistake. I want to ask you about the following:

Ayn Rand smoked a great deal, and for many years. And she announced often, publicly as well as privately, that there was insufficient evidence to prove that smoking caused cancer or any other disease. Many Objectivist students across the country felt safe in continuing to smoke because of her convincing arguments against statistical "proof." Then, when she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she stopped smoking at once, finally convinced that the evidence was sufficient. Her doctor did not have to tell her to stop; she did it before he could raise the subject.

 

When she was well, and back at work, friends said to her that she really should tell people that she had changed her mind, that now she was convinced that smoking was indeed dangerous to life. She flatly refused to do so. The reasons is not relevant; I can think of no reason good enough to warrant her silence when the results could be the death of some of the people who had accepted her original arguments and therefore had continued smoking.

 

For those of you who wish to know her so-called reason, it was her horror of announcing that she had cancer, because she believed that any serious illness resulted at least in part from "wrong premises." She could not bring herself to inform her students that she had any wrong premises, since she had so often told them and countless others that she had none, and had believed it herself. No matter how long and how hard her friends tried to persuade her, she refused. And she spent months, probably years, trying to discover the wrong premises that had resulted in her cancer.

 

Ellen, my question is: Do you think Ayn Rand was wrong not to tell her students her new conclusion about smoking?

Barbara

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Ellen Moore knew her stuff. I hope the following letter she wrote to Chris Sciabarra isn’t too long to re-quote, because it gives you an idea of Ellen’s depth of understanding.

Peter

 

From: Ellen Moore <ellen_moore To: Atlantis Chris Sciabarra Subject: ATL: The Objectivist Revolution of Philosophy Date: Sun, 02 Dec 2001 15:56:34 -0600

To the members: Ayn Rand said she was challenging the philosophy of the last two thousand plus years. She did, and she deserves full credit for her achievement.  Yet, many of her followers and her detractors wish to claim that Objectivism fits compatibly with particular, pre-Objectivism statements chosen piecemeal from philosophers based on different systems of yesterday's philosophy.  I maintain that clinging to "Yesterday" stands as a mental block in fully understanding the revolution that is within Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.  I use the term "revolution" in this sense, as a far-reaching and drastic change in philosophical premises, hierarchical structure, ideas and methods.

 

You have been told that Objectivism has a "minimalist" metaphysics. Nothing could be farther from the truth.  It is my contention that Rand fundamentally identified the axiomatic nature of existence, the fundamental nature of man, the objective nature of epistemology, of morality, politics and esthetics.  The integrated philosophical structure of Objectivism will stand against any challenge opposing it.

 

You have been told that the metaphysics of Objectivism does not include the nature of human consciousness, and if so, not the consciousness of organisms, animals, or humans.  You have been told that man's nature is an empirical and scientific issue, to be excluded from metaphysical issues.  The Objectivist view of consciousness is a primary metaphysical issue because humans possess a volitional consciousness, and are the only species concerned with philosophy.  Yet, you are told that man's nature is a scientific concern, but still has profound philosophical ramifications.  Of course, because man is the only philosophical being. Science has proved almost nothing conclusive about man's consciousness, or the many other forms of consciousness.

 

It is the premise of Objectivism that philosophy sets the epistemological standards and terms for the advancement of scientific investigation.  The main reason that sciences (especially psychology) are still in their infancy is because the philosophies, epistemologically, have been limited to the philosophical past.

 

Aristotle was the philosophical light for the western world, and his rediscovery brought on the age of reason, enlightenment and technological progress.  Modern philosophies remain responsible for the present age of faith, subjectivity, and irrationalism that surrounds us today.  As a significant alternative, let's really understand and integrate what Rand presented in Objectivism as her challenge to our future.

 

Here's the theory: Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of Being qua Being, i.e., the nature of everything that exists, past, present and future.  That includes the nature of matter, inanimate and animate matter, of concrete existents, and of all living existents - man, animal, fish, fowl, and all living organisms.  Metaphysics is all-inclusive of this finite, yet eternal reality.  Metaphysics covers the whole macrocosm of existence with its complex structured system in its entirety.  Those who claim the Objectivist metaphysics is "minimalist" must not understand the meaning and significance of Objectivist axioms; Existence, Identity, Consciousness.  Axioms of being qua being is a totality, all there is, ever was, and ever will be.

 

Philosophy is a human-only issue; no other species is concerned with philosophy.  To understand the complete structure of Objectivism one must see it from the perspective of conceptual cognition, i.e., perception of reality is necessary but not sufficient for a structured rational philosophy.  Objectivism is a philosophy of Individualism; it offers a hierarchical structure of principles for the identification, integration, and guidance by and for individual human lives. Objectivism holds that human beings, individually, are an integration of matter and consciousness, of body and mind.  This integration, properly understood, excludes all the traditional dichotomies claimed by earlier philosophers - body and mind are integrated, reason does not oppose emotion, the ideal is the practical, money is not the root of all evil, sex is good, etc.

 

Metaphysics, as a field of study, is conceptually open-ended; it includes all physical existents and their attributes, past present and future; it includes all forms of matter known and as yet unknown.  It includes all laws of reality, of nature, of identity, known and still unknown.  There is only the totality of existence, i.e., whatever is, is.  If metaphysics is the study of being qua being, then why would man and consciousness be excluded?  The identity of any specific being cannot validly be excluded from Being.  Objectivist  Metaphysics, understood, is certainly not "minimalist".

 

The primary Objectivist approach to metaphysics is to name the axioms at the foundation of the philosophy.  Rand named the axiomatic concepts, Existence, Identity, Consciousness.  Rand's specific integration is this: "Existence is Identity."  "Consciousness is Identification."

 

There is absolutely no justification for the subjective claim that any thing, or its attributes, is excluded from the branch of the Objectivist metaphysics.  It includes every thing, and every attribute of things that exist.  Individual humans exist and one's attributes exist. Consciousness exists; it is an attribute, and it possesses identity. Every entity is governed by the Law of Identity and Causality.  Every entity is a specific identity, is a particular thing of a particular nature.  Identity and causality govern the fact that entities cannot act in any way that contradicts identity.  A thing must, physically and metaphysically, act according to its nature; it cannot do otherwise.

 

Rand maintained that each human consciousness is required by its identity to act volitionally.  A human consciousness ~cannot~ act deterministically.  It is not programmed metaphysically as a determined automaton because its nature is volitionally causal. Each consciousness has the individual, independent power to initiate, direct, and control only its own actions of awareness.

 

Rand's fundamental metaphysical identification about human identity is, "Man is a being of volitional consciousness." This is Rand's most fundamental objective insight into human nature.  It changes everything about human nature and human behavior.  It places volitional consciousness outside the framework of any version of mysticism, past or present, and it objectively locates volition in the metaphysical identity of human consciousness.  Volition is the power of initiation, direction, and control of actions of conscious awareness, i.e., a state of human consciousness ~is~ volitionally initiated awareness.  Each degree or level of awareness is initiated, directed and controlled by one's actions of consciousness.

 

This premise sets the metaphysical foundation for an objective validation of human cognition, i.e., of epistemology.  It objectively validates human cognition by setting our knowledge on the basis of being directly, perceptually aware of external existents.  But perception is merely the base of cognition for a volitional consciousness.  A human consciousness may also learn to be self-aware by means of volitional introspection, i.e., by directing one's awareness to one's own internal mental processes, i.e., to processes of identification, integration and evaluation.

 

It means that one's individual awareness of existents is directly subject to one's initiation and control.  One can initiate, direct and sustain a keen focus of conscious awareness, or one can lower one's awareness by degrees; one can remain in a state of doze, or one can actively shut down [evade] awareness of specific evidence or events one refuses to acknowledge.  This is a significant insight into the psycho-epistemological workings of a human mind, and its consequent effects in human behavior.

 

Rand wrote, "Man's consciousness possesses the power of self-initiated motion in the realm of cognition (thinking), which the consciousness of other living species do not possess. ... so man is able to initiate and direct his mental actions only in accordance with the nature (the ~identity~) of his consciousness." "He [man] has the power to suspend, evade, corrupt or subvert his perception of reality."

 

Clearly, Rand is stating here that the power of volition initiates, directs, and controls "his perception of reality".  She is stating that this power of volitional consciousness differentiates man from all other

species - making humans unique among all living species.  Conscious awareness is an optional issue for individuals.

 

Objectivism holds that human consciousness functions at different levels; sensory, perceptual and conceptual.  Humans are not consciously aware of automatic physical sensations, therefore perceptions are the basis of our knowledge.  Perceptions are groups of sensations automatically integrated by the brain.   Humans may be directly aware of their perception of existents.  Yet, even though we are aware of our perception, being products of our automatic physical processes in sense organs, nervous system and brain, we are also volitionally in control of how we view and deal with our perceptions by means of the actions of being consciously in control of our awareness.  One may select from among one's context those perceptions to give attention to, or one may put perceptions out of one's immediate conscious awareness.  Still, at the same instant, all such perceptions available from the external context are automatically stored in the subconscious level ready for conscious recall as directed.

 

This Objectivist view of volitional consciousness, being a metaphysical attribute in human identity, means that each individual is in control of one's conscious mental actions, of what one will be cognitively aware, of what one will think about, of what one will refuse to be aware of; of what one will consciously identify with fully keen mental focus, and of what one will let slide out of immediate awareness.  This places the responsibility for volitional awareness and cognition directly on the individual who is initiating and directing one's consciousness.  Rand makes it clear that a human who is not fully conscious, not fully in focus, is not fully capable of thinking or of validating one's knowledge of external or internal reality. Because man's consciousness is volitional, we are capable of error, and our thinking is fallible. Therefore human knowledge requires a human method of acquiring knowledge of reality, and requires a method of validating knowledge.  How is an individual to be certain that one's knowledge corresponds to existents in reality?

 

Epistemology: Objectivism holds that Reason is man's method of validating human knowledge of existence.  Rand's identifications are:  "Consciousness ~is~ identification." "Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."   " 'reason' is not an axiomatic, but a complex, derivative concept".

 

"Not axiomatic" in this context means that reason is not an attribute in the metaphysical nature of man, nor is reason a direct implication of the axiom, consciousness.  Why? - because man is a being of volitional consciousness.  Consciousness does not guarantee that reason is in the identity of man -- reason is a volitional option for each individual to process because one has a volitional consciousness.  Reason is a volitional faculty that is acquired by the initiation, direction and control of the individual.  Each individual is responsible for learning to reason, or not.  Some people think one has to be taught to reason by others.  Not true.  A human child alone, or who is learning among other educated humans, may or may not choose to reason.  Reason is the individual's identification and integration of the (perceptual) ~material~ provided by the senses.  Individuals do not share identical sensations and perceptions, nor do we ever share identical contextual experiences.  It is only by making the effort of abstracting conceptual identifications that we may compare and contrast our experiences and relationships.  Concept formation and usage is an individual volitionally learned ability.

 

Definition of faculty: "any ability or power of body or mind whether acquired or inherent."  Human faculties that are inherent and automatic biological processes are those of sensory perception like vision and touch.  Technically these are not attributes but are characteristics or parts.  An attribute is inherent, and it cannot be separated from the entity without changing the identity of the entity.  E.g., If a human loses his vision, he is still a human.  But if a human is separated from his consciousness, he is no longer a living being, but is dead.   A leg is a part that may be separated from a human, and he is still human, but volition is an attribute of human consciousness, and its power of actions cannot be separated from consciousness without changing its identity.  The nature of a mental volitional consciousness cannot be changed into a determined physical consciousness.  Sensory perception is a physical and automatic process, but consciousness' actions at the level of abstract, conceptual cognition are optional.

 

Because of the above premises of Objectivism, I am stating that, 1. human consciousness is metaphysical, and its actions are volitional; 2, reason is  ~not axiomatic~, and is not metaphysical; 3. reason is ~not an inherent or innate~ faculty, it is volitional; 4. reason is a volitionally acquired faculty by individuals; 5. therefore, reason is not a collective or universal faculty inherent in human nature, it is volitionally acquired.

 

Rand stated that the Epistemology of Objectivism is Reason.  Rand never stated that reason is physical or metaphysical.  She did state that reason is epistemological.  Rand did not write an essay explaining the nature of Reason; she may have assumed that we all know - her mistake! She did state about Reason, "It is a faculty that man has to exercise ~by choice~", and she defined reason as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."  Reason must be cognitively acquired and then exercised optionally by a volitional consciousness.  Reason is not necessitated by man's metaphysical identity, its acquisition and exercise is a choice that one may make, or not, while life lasts.  One may be conscious, or not.  One may think, or not.  One may reason, or not.

 

Rand left us to answer two important questions:  What is reason?   What does it mean to choose to exercise reason?

 

Many people argue that "reason" is a metaphysical, potential capacity universally in the brain, or some place, in every human being. If reason is metaphysical, then it is an inherent universal attribute of man, so then every man has no choice about exercising it, man must be determined to reason.  But that idea is not the Objectivist position. Reason is a product of only a volitional consciousness because this attribute is metaphysically distinctive to man - distinguishing man from all other species.

 

Reason is not a "potential capacity".  The term "potential capacity" is not validly applicable to the human brain, or to reason.  Actuality precedes potentiality.   "Capacity" implies a limited amount; the capacity to contain, to hold or absorb; the maximum amount that something can produce or contain.  A potential implies some measurement up to its actual limited amount - like a one gallon pail can contain only one gallon of water.  Is there any actual limit to reason or cognition?  No.

 

The brain is an automatic physical organ, so are the sensory organs, and perceptions are sensations automatically integrated by the brain organ. Thus the physical processes of sensation and perception are not volitionally controlled.  One cannot start or stop one's senses organs from sensing, or stop brain functions by voluntary decree.  If the human being is alive his consciousness is functioning at some level from minimal conscious activity to full mental focus.  An active living consciousness aware of existents is automatically registering in the organ of the brain all its sensory perceptual experiences.  But ...

 

Those who claim that reason is a potential capacity in the brain of the organism never describe exactly what this "capacity" actually is.  What to them is rational, cognitive "capacity"?  Does it have a physical scientific measurement?  Is there an actual or potential limit to what can be stored in the physical organ of the brain?  It there any actually limited "capacity" to reason and acquire knowledge?   If there is, then science has not yet discovered any so called "capacity" or "potential" limits on reason or knowledge.  In this field, science has failed, so far, to establish even a minimal explanation and understanding of the working relationship between body, brain and conceptual consciousness. Objectivist epistemology sets the standards and terms of  identification of identity in the field of scientific studies about consciousness to come, hopefully.

 

This brings up the further questions of mental determinism, innate intelligence, genetic inheritance.  Are newborns limited by biological "capacity" to whatever knowledge skills their parents and grandparents

had?  Are newborns limited to a specific capacity for cognitive experience?  Or are there other options directing the gaining of intelligence?  What about volition?  What about individual effort?  What about environmental factors?  What about context? What about individual volitional, mental actions initiated and directed by the consciousness of the individual responsible?

 

The nature/nurture controversy seems never-ending, but the Objectivist view of Human Identity of Volitional Consciousness puts an entirely new perspective on intelligence.  Rand stated that "intelligence is the ability to deal with a broad range of abstractions."  Rand denied "the myth of innate endowment".   Obviously, one cannot arrive at the human level of abstractions by means of the theory of physical determinism.  A genetically determined consciousness, and a physically determined body-brain mechanism cannot produce an abstraction, or a conceptual theory of epistemology, or concept formation. It is obvious within the philosophy of Objectivism that conceptualization and intelligence is an individually, volitionally initiated and directed, open-ended, man-made product.

 

Rand's premise of "the primacy of existence" directly put the end to any mystical/ faith view of the "primacy of consciousness.  Rand's theory of volitional consciousness is her major metaphysical innovation.  Rand's theory of concept formation, as introductory to an Objectivist epistemology, is her major epistemological innovation for objectivity. She began the epistemology based on the validity of sense perception. If that were not self-evident and valid, then no knowledge could be valid.   On the basis of differences in direct sensory perceptions by a volitional consciousness, she built and validated the Objectivist theory of cognition.  This is the basis of the Objectivist revolution of philosophy, and this is her challenge to the history of the last 2000+ years.

 

Volition and the Syllogism: Rand stated, "The pre-conceptual level of consciousness is non-volitional; volition begins with the first syllogism." But, she did not explain the connection to syllogism.  What did she mean?  I have my own explanation to offer that pertains to both perception and conception.  I do not think Rand meant that one did not use one's volition, i.e., one's actions of conscious awareness, until after one fully understands and applies the logical premise of syllogisms.  There are many individuals who never begin to know about syllogisms.  So, I looked at the form of the syllogism.

 

The classic syllogistic statement is:  All men are mortal.  Socrates is a man.  Therefore, Socrates is mortal. The form of syllogism is: All S is P.   Q is S.   Therefore, Q is P.

 

All individual knowledge is contextual.  When an infant is consciously perceiving things in reality, the perceptions within the context are retained and stored in the subconscious.  From the earliest acquisition

of perceptual contents, the infant is gaining contextual information data from the context of his body and his conscious awareness of externals.  A newborn's senses provide the perceptual data of what one hears, smells, tastes, touches, and sees.  A newborn's visual range is about 12 inches, one sees everything within that range, and one reaches the adult visual range of 20/20 within 3-4 months.

 

Let's say that one infant has perceived at least three different things having three different colors - two different shades of the color blue and one different shade of the color red. Perceptually, one is volitionally conscious and aware of these things.  Within this limited context the baby is implicitly aware of perceptual differences.  There are three colors set against a background.  If one raises one's awareness, one will perceive implicitly that, while volitionally aware and retaining the characteristic of colors in mind, and by omitting their specific degree of measurement of differences, the two blues are closer, more alike, than they are like the red color.  By means of volitional selection, retention and measurement omission one has implicitly discovered a "similarity" between the two blues as distinctly differentiated from the red.

 

At this point in one's context, one will perceive and think of the two colors, X1 and X2, as blue.  Then as one perceives another color Y that is similar to X(s) - Y is retained as an implicitly "similar" blue. At this point, one implicitly integrates the blues in this context into the form of the syllogism.   All colors X(s) are blue.  Y is color X. Therefore, Y is blue.

 

This is a "Eureka" moment of conscious discovery, identification and integration.  And my point is this.  It works in this syllogistic form for infants and adults, in perception and conception - and perhaps in the physical process of integrating perceptions from groups of sensations.  All consciousness' integration follows the form of the syllogism.  Rand stated that consciousness is an integrating mechanism. The integrating mechanism of consciousness acts on the premises of the syllogistic form:  "All S is P.  Q is S. Therefore, Q is P.

 

I have concluded that Measurement omission is the ~primary volitional~ action that produces similarity, and that is the starting point of conception.  As Rand said, "Similarity reduces to measurement omission."

 

This same process is the means by which an individual consciousness integrates perceptions into more complex knowledge about entities, and it is the same process by which concepts are integrated into broader and ever higher conceptualizations.  It is by volitional measurement omission - similarity - abstraction - mental integration that human consciousness activates the process of acquiring objective knowledge of reality. When this perceptual and conceptual process is volitionally activated in full focus, then one's epistemology will produce objectivity.  I view this Objectivist innovation as of primary significance, and that Science should study and apply the Syllogistic Form of Integration as the Ontology of the Identity of Consciousness.

 

Rand's Revolution: We have all heard about the Copernican revolution where the scientist, Copernicus, in theory, turned the universe upside down.  He claimed that the sun did not revolve around the earth - that it was the earth that revolved around the sun.  He was proven to be right.

 

Objectivism is an innovative and unique integration of a hierarchical structure of philosophy.  Thereby, it is self-sufficient; it stands on its own premises.  The revolution begins with the premise that the primacy of existence precedes the actions of consciousness. Consciousness is directly aware of the identity of existence.  The individual's philosophical revolution begins with acknowledging the uniqueness of human nature which comes with the introspective understanding and acceptance of the metaphysical premise that all human beings possess a volitional consciousness.

 

Ayn Rand's philosophy offers us a metaphysical-epistemological revolution.  She identified the objective identity of human volitional consciousness.  She identified the axioms of existence.  She identified the unique human process of objective concept formation.  And she turned Reason upside down.  Reason is not an innate physical or metaphysical capacity in the human organism.  Reason is individually self-created. Because of human volitional consciousness, each individual is able to initiate, direct and control his conscious actions in the context of reality.  Volitionally, one may raise one's awareness and think, or one may lower one's awareness and not think. One may mentally acknowledge one's perception of the facts of reality, or evade them.  One may learn to integrate concepts based on perception, or not.  One may learn to initiate, direct, and follow the step by step process required for concept formation, or not.  One may learn to think logically, or not.

 

Concept formation: Accurate concept formation is an acquired skill; it is a learned process that requires volitional effort at every step.  Our specific distinctive method of cognition is to learn the ability to regard entities as "perceptual units".   Rand described, "A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members."  Rand stated, "Thus, the concept "unit" is a bridge between metaphysics and epistemology: units do not exist ~qua~ units, what exists are things, but ~units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships~." It is our individual "perceptual units" that we volitionally abstract, mentally integrate, and logically organize into concepts, and from concepts we proceed into the complex process of "conceptualization".

 

I organized Rand's hierarchical process of concept formation based on her presentation in ITOE.  Each one of you may make the same effort I did in order to understand it clearly, or not.

 

Here it is: The process of forming a new concept is implicit during its early stages regardless of the age of the individual.

 

Perceptual forms of entities automatically give one the basic content data of differences, and one initiates and directs one's perceptual awareness.

 

Omission of measurements volitionally gives implicit awareness of similarity.

 

Grouping of similars volitionally transforms the identification of perceptual members of a group into implicit "units".

 

Abstraction of units volitionally selects and isolates units transforming perceptual units into abstract mental units.

 

Two or more abstracted units (a group) are integrated mentally into a first level concept.

 

Abstractions from abstractions are based on and derived from first level concepts, and this volitional process continues being integrated into ever broader, and ever more precise identifications for conceptual

knowledge.

 

The ever present guiding principle of volitional, valid, cognition at every stage of this process must be non-contradictory identification (logic).

 

By means of non-contradictory identification, the process is: Perception of entities, Measurement omission of commensurable characteristics, Grouping of similars transforms members into perceptual units, Abstraction of units, Mental integration of units into concepts, Conceptual integration into higher, broader and more precise conceptual units, Objectivity of valid conceptual knowledge.

 

This is Reason.  It is the method of conceptualization starting with perception and volitional actions throughout the process of arriving at abstract, valid conceptual knowledge.  This is the abstract conceptual integration we refer to as "Reason".  This is why Rand stated that reason is "not axiomatic, but a complex derivative concept."

 

Definition: The main point to make about the definition of man is that while definitional essences are epistemological, what we are really defining about man is his fundamental metaphysical and epistemological identity that separates and distinguishes man from all other physical and metaphysical entities.  Man may have physical similarities to animal biological organisms, but these are not fundamental distinguishing characteristics, and thus are not defining. Animals consciousness is sensory perceptual, but human consciousness is volitional and conceptual.  This ~is~ the primary metaphysical distinguishing characteristic of man.  The Objectivist view is that man's defining characteristic is the objective fact of possessing a volitional consciousness.  This distinguishes man from all other species of living beings.  Therefore, the genus of man is "being" and the differentia is "of volitional consciousness".

 

Note: Rand often spoke of metaphysics, of existence, as that which was, is, and will be.  But I understood that when Rand spoke of "objective reality", she meant reality as processed and identified by the human method of reason.  Objectivity is epistemological.

 

It is perfectly obvious that all men do not reason, if you understand the complexity of what reason actually is.  Reason cannot be an innate capacity of all men or all men would automatically be rational.  Rand's final definition of reason does not explicitly state the subsuming of volitional consciousness, perception, conception, or logic, but did she actually think those are non-essential and non-fundamental characteristics of reason?  No, she knew they are all characteristics subsumed under the non-axiomatic concept of reason.  She did include the terms "identifies and integrates", and both are Rand's specifically chosen terms relating to consciousness, i.e., Consciousness is Identification", and "Consciousness is an integrating mechanism."  As for reason, Rand stated that the epistemology of Objectivism ~is~ Reason.  Reason in Objectivist epistemology is not axiomatic, but is a complex derivative concept, and that is sufficient and necessary to show that reason is not an innate metaphysical characteristic of human identity.  Reason is an optional, abstract, conceptual characteristic for each individual to acquire volitionally, and then an individual may exercise his/her volitional faculty of reason.

 

Throughout the last 2000 years, the definition traditionally accepted is that by metaphysical identity "man is the rational animal".  In ITOE, Rand discussed the changing content of definitions as human knowledge

expands.  She wrote, "What is the common characteristic of all men's varied activities? What is their root?  What capacity enables man to perform them and thus distinguishes him from all other animals?  When he grasps that man's distinctive characteristic is his type of consciousness – a consciousness able to abstract, to form concepts, to apprehend reality by a process of reason - he reaches the one and only valid definition of man, within the context of his knowledge and of all mankind's knowledge to date: ~ a rational animal~."

 

We know that at this present stage of human knowledge, mankind does not yet know that human consciousness is inherently volitional for ~every~ man.  This is Rand's identification.  We all know that reason does not mean that every man invariably acts rationally.  Yet we do know that human knowledge and survival depends on man acting ~predominately~ on the basis of reason.  The crucial issue to understand and explain is: if man is a rational animal, why does he act irrationally?  Why does man think and act irrationally?  Obviously, it's because man's consciousness is volitional, and reason is not innate.  Possessing reason is a characteristic that man does not by nature have to either acquire or follow.   As Rand explained, rational means "possessing the faculty of reason", but that is fundamentally a metaphysically volitional faculty that must be acquired.  Rand knew how irrationally humans may choose to live, and she philosophically identified, integrated, defined, and clearly stated the metaphysical cause that is primary in human identity.  Rand's Objectivist definition is: " Man is a being of volitional consciousness."

 

This is the most fundamental and essential characteristic that isolates man from all other species.  According to all Objectivist philosophical stipulations about the epistemological nature of definitions, this is the essence of what we know about man's metaphysical identity.  It explains the primary, fundamental characteristic that explains all of man's other characteristics.  Volitional consciousness explains the metaphysical root of the individual's physical ability of perception; it sets the basic terms for individual's ability of abstraction, concept formation, and conceptualization, and it explains the necessity for humans to identify logical principles at the root of epistemology.

 

Volitional consciousness also explains why all men do not acquire rationality, and why some men are reasoning only some of the time.  In fact, it is the essential characteristic of human identity that explains

all the best and the worst ideas and behavior arising from human nature.

 

My final point is about the logical validity of reason itself.  Reason cannot be, at the same time and in the same respect, both the faculty of reason and of non-reason.  Logic cannot be both logical and illogical.

We cannot have our cake and eat it too.  We have to understand, finally and certainly, exactly what makes it ~possible~, even probable, for some human beings, who supposedly are "rational animals", to be almost totally irrational in their ideas, values, and actions -- actions that with certainty lead them to an irrational desire to cause destruction and death instead of a desire for rationality, happiness and life.  The fundamental answer that is now obvious to Objectivists, or should be obvious, is so clearly true - volitional consciousness explains the nature of human life, both for good and evil.

 

"Man is a being of volitional consciousness."  This, I contend, is the Objectivist definition of man because of its essential fundamentality. It is not yesterdays' true definition, "rational animal", but it is the Objectivist definition of man for a philosophy of the future.

 

Rand did explicitly state many times that volitional consciousness is the fundamental and essential characteristic definitive of man that distinguishes and explains the nature of human beings.  The fact is that Rand did identify and integrate this essentially distinctive characteristic of human consciousness into every aspect of Objectivism; in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics. Volitional consciousness is the root of all human thought, ideas, knowledge, moral actions, politics, and artistic achievement.  When one understands Rand's identification of volitional actions and effects within human lives, it does become clearly accepted as self-evident and axiomatic.  As Objectivists know and accept, axiomatic concepts are primary, self-evident, fundamental, and inescapable.

 

We could go on, in the context of a book, to show that Rand challenged the Ethics, Politics, and Esthetics of the last 2000+ years, but this essay has highlighted the content and context to cover the essentials for Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology.

 

Why should anyone accept Ayn Rand's ideas and principles?  Well, I do suggest that it is advisable to study and understand the history of philosophy in order to compare, challenge, and judge the objectivity of Objectivism.  Whether Objectivism is the philosophy to choose for oneself is a judgment for each individual to make alone - based on one's own degree of rationality, knowledge and objectivity - so one may choose opposing philosophical ideas and values since human history is full of irrational, mystical subjective, collective, emotionalist philosophies. Rand's essays, novels, and books, expressing her ideas, principles, values and philosophical integration are having a rapidly growing influence for intellectual, literary, and philosophical individuals today.

 

Rand would say, "Check your premises".  "Judge, and be prepared to be judged." I stake my life on these Objectivist premises.  Ellen Moore

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Barbara Branden: {to Rand followers] "Must she also have led an ecstatically happy life?" [Subtext - "to satisfy you?" .. and .. "above the enormity of what she did accomplish?"]

That is marvellous.

And true, of some first generation Objectivists - I gather - who became disappointed with Objectivism because Rand did not end up ecstatic, nor perfect. (Check the mystical premises).

For all that BB was having a full go at Moore there, I also admire Ellen's exposition. She didn't learn all the above 'by rote', she'd thought it through for herself, applied it and linked its parts all together. In short: she independently realised her own concepts, and it shows. As far as any "religiosity" goes, ~I~ think that settles that. Whats left is a fervor and 'enthusiasm' for the knowledge for living. And if that is considered "religious", too bad I believe.

 

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3 hours ago, anthony said:

I claim to you that's pure primacy of consciousness b.s. Where does one see and find these "natural physical laws" from which morality does not "follow". Are they obvious, written in the stars, or were they man made/formulated, then needing to be learned and assimilated (by you and the rest of us)? You take laws from the minds and observations of other men as 'axioms', neglecting that they too, like a rational, objective morality, are founded on the identity of things. I've said this before (you avoided a response). Existence has primacy, remember?

Morality is a human artifact.  It is as made up  as  the game of checkers.

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