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It's some time ago that I read Scott Ryan's book, so I'll have to reread it before I can give detailed comments. But I remember that my reaction on reading it was that I was reminded of Mencken's remark: "Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself." In other words, Ryan makes some apt criticisms of Rand's philosophy, but his own ideas are often as bad or worse. Nevertheless one can distinguish good criticisms from bad solutions, so we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Unfortunately, for Ryan's book it's like the baby is getting a bath in Lake Erie circa 1969. :)

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Merlin,

I've been skimming the book today and I stand by my support for it. It does seem to me that the problems of universals is part of metaphysics and not epistemology, that Rand's theory of concepts oscillates between realism and nominlism, etc. It is quite unfair to compare Ryan's criticisms of Rand with her criticism of Kant. As far as Rand's "fear of religion," this is key to her thought. She said as much when she wrote that the existence of God was immoral because it demeaned man, etc.

I don't have my Brand Blanshard works handy so I can't comment on Ryan's use of them.

-NEIL

____

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Neil,

If you believe that Rand oscillates between realism and nominalism, then why don't you justify it? Define your terms and then explain how she oscillates.

I wasn't comparing criticisms, but emotional attitudes as conveyed by their writing, and used the word "gracious".

Her attitude toward religion is a component in her thought, but I wouldn't call call it "key" nor "fear". "Disgust" or "hatred" fit far better. Also, she didn't say a belief in the mere existence of God is necessarily demeaning. See The Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 288. And where did she say it was immoral?

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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This is a follow-up to posts 46 and 50. I thought of another topic in Ryan's book -- "primacy of existence" versus "primacy of consciousness."

Ryan devotes all of Chapter 11 to this dichotomy. Throughout he treats it as only an ontological question -- the existence of God, idealism versus materialism, and the mind-reality connection. It doesn't seem to occur to him the dichotomy is more than that. Rand also presents it as a choice regarding a person's mental functioning, or as a person's epistemological orientation.

Ryan even quotes Rand to that effect on p. 267:

- "The basic metaphysical issue that lies at the root of any system of philosophy is: the primacy of existence or the primacy of consciousness. " In other words, it isn't merely about ontology.

- "The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists -- and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward."

- "As far as can be observed, infants and savages do not grasp it (they may, perhaps, have some rudimentary glimmer of it). Very few men ever choose to grasp it and fully to accept it. The majority keep swinging from side to side, implicitly recognizing the primacy of existence in some cases and denying it in others, adopting a kind of hit-or-miss, rule-of-thumb epistemological agnosticism, through ignorance and/or by intention—the result of which is the shrinking of their intellectual range, i.e., of their capacity to deal with abstractions."

How did Ryan miss this? The only remark he immediately makes is "ad hominem remarks and unsupported empirical claims" about the last one.

Here are a couple more quotes to support said orientation not quoted by Ryan:

- "On the axiom of the primacy of existence, intelligence is man's most precious attribute. But it has no place in a society ruled by the primacy of consciousness: it is such a society's deadliest enemy." (The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made--Part II)

- "A simple example of the primacy-of-existence orientation would be a man running for his life from an erupting volcano. Such a man acknowledges a fact, the volcano—and the fact that it is what it is and does what it does independent of his feelings or any other state of his consciousness." (OPAR, 19).

I'm sure more could be found to support this argument. Another way to say it is that the primacy of existence principle (PEP) says all thinking must start with what exists out there in the real world, rather than the primacy of consciousness principle (PCP) that starts with thoughts or feelings or whims. Which do you choose -- PEP or PCP? Isn't it ironic that PCP is also the acronym of a hallucinogen? :)

Contra the clear evidence that Rand's choice of PEP is far more than atheism or theism, Ryan claims it is "fear of religion" pure and simple. Here is a hypothesis worthy of Ryan's style of thought: Ryan's philosophical motivation is "fear of atheism" pure and simple.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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I read Greg Nyquist's review of Ryan's book (linked in post 7). Nyquist finds a lot in Ryan's book to disagree with, especially Ryan's idealist position. Nyquist sides with Rand: "But there was one issue that she was clearly right about — namely, her position the independent existence of an external, material world" and "facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes, or fears."

So why does Ryan attack this position? Basically, like many idealists, Ryan believes that if the mind is independent from the external world, then knowledge is impossible. How can the mind -- being mental -- grasp an external, material world? They hold that for the mind to know anything at least part of the external world must be mental, and this doesn't mean simply other human minds. Ryan seems to want to find the mental everywhere in the external world. Like Nyquist notes, it is the search for mental objects, the pursuit of "abstract entities" in the external world that motivates Mr. Ryan's to attack Rand's take on the problem of universals.

Rand says many times that the world exists independent of consciousness. On the other hand, she said consciousness is efficacious. At first glance these positions may seem to conflict, but they don't, and I don't think Rand did a good job of reconciling them. What she meant by the first is that consciousness doesn't have the power to change the external, physical world via perception or mystically. What she meant by the second is that consciousness is capable of understanding the world, and (most likely) a human can change it by means of physical action -- using hands and tools. We can change what we perceive such as by moving our eyes, but that does not change how the incoming neural processing works. This reconciliation is supported by the structure of the nervous system.

Quoting from Wikipedia:

1. "In the nervous system, efferent nerves – otherwise known as motor or effector neurons – carry nerve impulses away from the central nervous system to effectors such as muscles or glands (and also the ciliated cells of the inner ear). The term can also be used to describe relative connections between nervous structures (for example, a neuron's efferent synapse provides input to another neuron, and not vice-versa). The opposite activity of direction or flow is afferent."

2. "In the nervous system, afferent neurons--otherwise known as sensory or receptor neurons--carry nerve impulses from receptors or sense organs toward the central nervous system. This is the case vice versa as well. This term can also be used to describe relative connections between structures. Afferent neurons communicate with specialized interneurons. The opposite activity of direction or flow is efferent."

Back to Nyquist's review, I much disagree with his opinion that Ryan "clearly gets the best of Rand in his essay." I've partly explained why in my earlier posts in this thread.

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I've been skimming the book today and I stand by my support for it. It does seem to me that the problems of universals is part of metaphysics and not epistemology [snip]

A few minutes ago I decided to grab my Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967) and reread the entry "Universals". Here is a quote: "Plato believed that the existence of universals was required not only ontologically, to explain the nature of the world which as sentient and reflective beings we experience, but also epistemologically, to explain the nature of our experience in it."

Of course, this doesn't settle the question entirely, but it gives my reason for holding that the topic is both epistemological and ontological.

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I recently put a book review of Objectivism and the Corruption of Rationality on Amazon (scroll down here). Much of the content is taken from what I posted earlier on this thread, but more polished. I encourage you to read it, then click 'yes' to 'Was this review helpful to you?'. The Rand haters may stampede to click 'no', so you can help to outvote them.

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The Rand haters may stampede to click 'no', so you can help to outvote them.

Why do you suppose "Rand haters" exist? Doesn't it seem odd that a philosopher/novelist could instill such strong feelings? I mean it's one thing to disagree with a philosophy but it's quite another to hate the person who started it.

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The Rand haters may stampede to click 'no', so you can help to outvote them.

Why do you suppose "Rand haters" exist? Doesn't it seem odd that a philosopher/novelist could instill such strong feelings? I mean it's one thing to disagree with a philosophy but it's quite another to hate the person who started it.

Your interest seems jejune.

--Brant

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The Rand haters may stampede to click 'no', so you can help to outvote them.

Why do you suppose "Rand haters" exist? Doesn't it seem odd that a philosopher/novelist could instill such strong feelings? I mean it's one thing to disagree with a philosophy but it's quite another to hate the person who started it.

I believe they emotionally cling to positions contrary to hers. When people misrepresent, even deliberately, what Ayn Rand said or wrote, and most of their arguments against her are ad hominem instead of addressing the philosophical issue, what do you think their motivation is? To fairly critique what she said is one thing. Mudslinging is another.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid: a jejune novel.

2. juvenile; immature; childish: jejune behavior.

3. lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed: jejune attempts to design a house.

Which flavour do you use?

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Other perspectives on Rand’s metaphysics and epistemology:

Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...ViewAPI#PPA3,M1

Wallace Matson

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...iewAPI#PPA21,M1

Robert Hollinger

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...iewAPI#PPA38,M1

Michael Huemer

http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand.htm

Bryan Register

http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/v1_n2/1_2toc.asp

Steven Yates

http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/20/rp_20_3.pdf

Wikipedia on Scott Ryan’s critique:

Ryan argues that Rand relied implicitly on a foundation of rationalistic objective idealism to create an explicit philosophy at odds with such idealism, and that in doing so she had the primary motivation of a desire to cleanse philosophy of anything smacking of religion/theism. Ryan claims that Rand's explicit philosophy contravenes its implicit presumptions at numerous points. He also criticizes Rand for what he takes to be her various philosophical shortcomings - e.g. her alleged misunderstanding of the problem of universals; her alleged failure to differentiate between sensation and sensory perception; her alleged failure to distinguish between the claim that sensory perception is reliable and the claim that sensory perception is our sole means of acquiring knowledge; her effective reduction of necessity to tautology. Though his primary focus is on epistemology, Ryan also devotes two chapters to criticism of the Objectivist ethics.

Merlin Jetton on Brand Blanshard:

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume1_number5.html#109

(Pages 115–17, 124–27)

Locating Rand among others in metaphysics and epistemology:

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume1_number4.html#31

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1772.shtml#1

http://www.saint-andre.com/thoughts/abelard.html

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1567.shtml#3

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1774.shtml#0

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0070.shtml#7

http://www.solopassion.com/node/1507#comment-17472

http://www.solopassion.com/node/1507#comment-67036

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/abstracts.html#10

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume2_number6.html#41

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...amp;#entry30371

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...ost&p=37435

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1639.shtml#1

http://www.solopassion.com/node/2805#comment-54321

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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1. without interest or significance; dull; insipid: a jejune novel.

2. juvenile; immature; childish: jejune behavior.

3. lacking knowledge or experience; uninformed: jejune attempts to design a house.

Which flavour do you use?

Ah. I take it back, GS. I was obviously wrong.

I use flavor flavour. :)

--Brant

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Thomas,

There are many, many people who despise Ayn Rand. When I first started the journal Objectivity (1990), which was advertised in some national magazines, I got some of the hate mail that was really meant for her. Some people, such as Bill Buckley, verbally danced on her grave when she died.

I do understand their feelings, as I do myself despise Nietzsche. It becomes easily possible where the writing is so personal. I have the warmest feelings for Rand. And for Nozick and Guyau and Leibniz. . . .

Well, obviously you don't despise Nietzsche since you never met him so it must be what he wrote that you find objectionable. :D Seriously, do you think that Rand's work touched more nerves than most philosophers or at least was quite controversial? You'll have to excuse my ignorance because I only heard of her a few years ago because I had absolutely no interest in philosophy all my life because of something Korzybski said (basically he said philosophy is bad and science is good :) )

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Ah. I take it back, GS. I was obviously wrong.

I use flavor flavour. :)

--Brant

OK, from now on I will use American spelling on all words. In the words of Mark Twain, "If I ever learn how to speak good English, who am I going to talk to?" :)

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Other perspectives on Rand’s metaphysics and epistemology:

Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas Rasmussen

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...ViewAPI#PPA3,M1

Wallace Matson

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...iewAPI#PPA21,M1

Robert Hollinger

http://books.google.com/books?id=GOfqqrylH...iewAPI#PPA38,M1

Michael Huemer

http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/rand.htm

Bryan Register

http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/v1_n2/1_2toc.asp

Steven Yates

http://www.reasonpapers.com/pdf/20/rp_20_3.pdf

Wikipedia on Scott Ryan’s critique:

Ryan argues that Rand relied implicitly on a foundation of rationalistic objective idealism to create an explicit philosophy at odds with such idealism, and that in doing so she had the primary motivation of a desire to cleanse philosophy of anything smacking of religion/theism. Ryan claims that Rand's explicit philosophy contravenes its implicit presumptions at numerous points. He also criticizes Rand for what he takes to be her various philosophical shortcomings - e.g. her alleged misunderstanding of the problem of universals; her alleged failure to differentiate between sensation and sensory perception; her alleged failure to distinguish between the claim that sensory perception is reliable and the claim that sensory perception is our sole means of acquiring knowledge; her effective reduction of necessity to tautology. Though his primary focus is on epistemology, Ryan also devotes two chapters to criticism of the Objectivist ethics.

Merlin Jetton on Brand Blanshard:

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume1_number5.html#109

(Pages 115–17, 124–27)

Locating Rand among others in metaphysics and epistemology:

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume1_number4.html#31

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1772.shtml#1

http://www.saint-andre.com/thoughts/abelard.html

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1567.shtml#3

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1774.shtml#0

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/Dissent/0070.shtml#7

http://www.solopassion.com/node/1507#comment-17472

http://www.solopassion.com/node/1507#comment-67036

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/abstracts.html#10

http://www.objectivity-archive.com/volume2_number6.html#41

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...amp;#entry30371

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...ost&p=37435

http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDi...ns/1639.shtml#1

http://www.solopassion.com/node/2805#comment-54321

Add a note on Blanshard and Objectivism:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/in...ost&p=32667

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