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Peikoff's floating abstractions

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Well, I started this thread while Phil some time ago asked for a separate thread for Peikoff's blunders in physics, and instead of replying he's now hijacking this very same thread with posts about Shakespeare and Dickens!!! What has that to do with

Science & Mathematics??!!:angry::angry::angry: :angry: :angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry:

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Pauline Kael gave a rave review to Bonnie and Clyde. A totally false view of two minor sociopaths who met their well deserved fate. Pauline Kael is also the person who is supposed to have said that she couldn't see how Nixon had been reelected because no one she know on New York's upper West Side had voted for him.

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Well, I started this thread while Phil some time ago asked for a separate thread for Peikoff's blunders in physics, and instead of replying he's now hijacking this very same thread with posts about Shakespeare and Dickens!!! What has that to do with

Science & Mathematics??!!:angry::angry::angry: :angry: :angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry::angry:

Well, okay, my apologies, but, btw, what does Leonard Peikoff have to do with science and mathematics? :)

--Brant

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You realize the thread started with Peikoff's foolishness about physics and has progressed to sex scenes in movies, via Shakespeare and other intermediaries.
... btw, what does Leonard Peikoff have to do with science and mathematics?
Well, that was also the point of my article, but how many Objectivists stubbornly evade that conclusion while still praising Peikoff to the skies?

Come on, folks,

You guys set this one up to well to resist: I have read Objectivists who claim that Peikoff has just as much to do with "sex scenes in movies, Shakespeare and other intermediaries" as he does with science and mathematics...

:)

Michael

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Subject: ASSESSING THE TRAJECTORY OF AN INTELLECTUAL

> In the NBI days years ago, Peikoff was a wonderful lecturer; when he discussed the history of philosophy, he was very careful to be exact in the ideas he attributed to various philosophers, to explain the philosophical problems they were attempting to solve, and why they arrived at the answers they reached. In this lecture, the philosophers he discusses are unrecognizable caricatures. [barbara]

I'm not familiar enough with his most recent course to assess the last sentence (whether he is -oversimplifying- vs. -radically essentializing-). But an intellectual's work always has an "arc". There is a difference between his early work (in this case his lectures) and his late. Sometimes you can even distinguish a middle period.

I very intensively took -all- Peikoff's courses in his middle period - after NBI, entirely new courses, but before his most recent ones (DIM hypothesis, Induction). An intellectual either declines or improves. Rand gained in knowledge and insight from the time of Anthem to the time of Atlas and developing Objectivism. Then fully applying Objectivism to hundreds of issues.

So it is of great interest what is the "arc" of his intellectual development with Leonard, with this brilliant man (as opposed to just a static analysis of one particular course or error). But I don't know.

--Phil Coates

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I see nothing brilliant in Peikoff in what I've read. That includes his Ominous Parallels and The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy, both of which I find seriously flawed.

In regard to his first book, he wrote it under Rand's editorial thumb. 14 years from conception to execution.

In regard to the A-S Dict., very impressive for the fact it was written four decades ago, but it illustrates the problem of little feedback that doesn't exist today thanks to the Internet, leaving the author cocooned in an authority not really justified--and all those others too then, Rand included. She must have edited Peikoff's work from A-Z or it'd never have been published in "The Objectivist." We live in a different age.

--Brant

Edited by Brant Gaede

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I just gave a summary of a discussion and critique of the DIM Hypothesis. See here, in the ARI Corner, where the original discussion of DIM was presented.

(Thanks to Phil Coates for bringing this discussion up on another forum, thus bringing it to my attention.)

Michael

EDIT: Come to think of it, later I can transfer this entire thread over to the ARI Corner. So there is no need for posters to bounce back and forth to discuss the same issue. For the sake of convenience, here is my post on that thread.

I just read a highly interesting discussion and critique of the DIM Hypothesis on the Speichers' forum:

Issues with the DIM Hypothesis -- #1 Integration or Identification?

Hat tip to Phil Coates for mentioning this (elsewhere).

I read the full discussion. This is the first time I have paid attention to Betsy Speicher's arguments on a technical issue in Objectivism. I must say I was impressed with this go-round and I certainly learned some things. Here are some highlights I think are important to summarize.

Essentially Ms. Speicher takes Peikoff to task for focusing solely on integration to explain specific people and human events from an epistemological bias, especially his calling integration "the essence of human cognition from start to finish" and "the basic activity of a conceptual consciousness."

Giving ample sources from Rand, Ms. Speicher notes that the main function of consciousness is identification (which is how awareness works). Integration is merely one side of identification. Differentiation is the other side. She also mentioned two more complex types of identification that are critical: identifying causal connections and identifying contradictions. But she kept hammering home the essential point that in Objectivist epistemology, the basis of knowledge is identification and that requires both integration and differentiation. You cannot eliminate one or downplay its role without going off into left field.

I agree with her. Both elements (including her more complex identifications) need to be present in categorizing and analyzing people and human events if one wants to be universal and not arbitrary or lopsided.

Ms. Speicher also gives Peikoff's definition of integration: "an active human process of putting elements together to make a whole." She disagrees with this definition with some unnecessary hairsplitting about the phrase "active human process." (This discussion is here.) I agree with her that this phrase is not good, but not for her reasons (basically she objected to redundancy). I think the phrase is horrible because of the word "human." Other higher animals than human beings integrate sensations into percepts by definition just like they have consciousness. Nonhuman higher animals both integrate and differentiate. They identify things. Peikoff made a very poor choice in using the word "human" to define integration. Speicher also hairsplits on Peikoff's meaning of the word "whole," but I have no real problem with that.

An even more serious flaw in the DIM Hypothesis is inherent to its make-up and characterization. Ms. Speicher shows a clear contradiction in Peikoff's characterization of DIM as a trichotomy. In answer to a poster she wrote (see here for the full post):

If that it so, and DIM is a trichotomy, then it contradicts Dr. Peikoff's own definition of what a trichotomy is.

Very early in Lecture 1 he defined a trichotomy as "Three mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive possibilities within a given field or question." (DIM 1-1 3:30). If Hobbes can be classified in two categories, then the DIM categories are not mutually exclusive. If Rush Limbaugh cannot be included in any category, then the DIM categories are not jointly exhaustive.

Another damning criticism of the DIM Hypothesis (in its present form) is Peikoff's lack of clarity and outright vagueness. She correctly mentions that he is on a different wavelength from Rand (see here for the full post):

Precise definitions are especially required with DIM because this is a new hypothesis and because -- as I have been pointing out -- Dr. Peikoff uses terms in ways that are different from the way Ayn Rand did.

I think the jest in her post below is more to the point and gets to the core of what the DIM Hypothesis is really all about. It is a system where a person can be quite arbitrary in classifying specific people and human events, but give the impression of acting with logical validity (see here for the full post):

You can't classify things properly without clear definitions and standards. If we had clear definitions of "integrated" or "disintegrated" and "misintegrated" it would be easier to tell an "M" from a "D." If we had a clear standard, we could employ it to distinguish an "M1" from an "M2."

Lacking that, all we have are guesses about what Dr. Peikoff means and why he classifies things as he does. One "standard" I have seen proposed, in jest, is that an M1 is a religious person Dr. Peikoff likes, and an M2 is a religious person Dr. Peikoff doesn't like.

If this starts to make anyone uneasy, the reason is simple. This sets an arbitrary standard for making moral condemnations with the appearance of legitimacy. Ms. Speicher does not state this in my manner, but her concerns are clear in the following quote (see here for the full post):

What really concerns me is that some people are taking the DIM Hypothesis and applying it by condemning other Objectivists as "disintegrated" or as "rationalists" who don't understand Objectivism. Considering that DIM is not yet fully defined and developed and, being an hypothesis, is not yet fully proven, "applying" it like that is appalling.

I say applying it like that even after it is "fully defined and developed" is appalling. I seriously wonder whether the creator of this so-called tool to explain how philosophy drives social change is aware of the fact that it will be used as a weapon, or if he will use it himself as a weapon to trash those he doesn't like. It can certainly be used to shut down dissent at the leader's whim without scratching his prestige, regardless of the issue and even if the dissenter is right. Now look at that jest above. It starts to make even more sense.

There are several other really good points included in this discussion. If you are interested in the DIM Hypothesis, especially if you have listened to the course, I strongly urge you to go through Ms. Speicher's thread. Toward the end, it veers off on a tangent about stars and galaxies, but you can skim over that. The bulk is well worth it.

Michael

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My own idea of the history of philosophy, from the time I was a child, has been summarized by the title of the introductory volume of the Great Books set: "The Great Conversation." I have thought of philosophy as a discourse amongst intelligent minds grappling with difficult questions in an ongoing dialogue over the ages. [...]

Mortimer Adler, who created the Great Books program and breathed that perspective, was worth a dozen Peikoffs as an educator.

I am dismayed that more haven't followed Adler's lead in a host of areas. Such as with his small but potent book Aristotle for Everybody. That got me interested in delving into Rand's idol as no other book ever could, including the one she recommended by John Herman Randall. Why haven't more Objectivists or sympathizers found the writing touch to do other such brief, accessible treatments of philosophers for the general public?

Amen to that. Adler has presented Aristotle in the best light for those not familiar with Aristotle's works. I am not an Aristotle fan myself. I think the blunders he committed in his -Physics- and -On the Heavens- set back real science hundreds of years. In spite of this, Adler has given me an appreciation of just how broad The Philosopher's interests were. He was a smokin' Philosophy Machine and he left his mark on the ages for -both- good and ill. A true genius.

Men like Adler have done yeoman service to making philosophy both interesting and relevant to the non-scholar. On balance, I think Adler has done a better job of promoting Aristotle's philosophical heritage than either Rand or Peikoff.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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It is interesting that I haven't found any discussion of the Peikoff and Harriman show in the DIM course on any of the Objectivist forums that I've visited (other than OL of course). Perhaps the subject is a bit too embarrassing? Neither can I believe that none of the ARIans has very serious disagreements with them in this matter. The threat of excommunication must be like the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads, so they keep a very low profile. Peikoff rules!

Clearly Peikoff believes (and others support him in the belief) that he can speak ex cathedra. Infallibly.

And nobody (within the ARI camp) is going to contradict what might be, after the fact, announced to be an ex cathedra pronouncement. Anyone remember "Fact and Value?"

Alfonso

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To the extent that he [Einstein] got anything right, he got it inductively.

So poor Einstein got at least something right?

The Equivalence Principle which is the basis of the General Theory of Relativity is about as un-inductive as it gets in physics. The equivalence principle states that in a sufficiently small region of spacetime acceleration and the action of a uniform gravitational field on a body cannot be distinguished. From this, Einstein deduced that gravitation is equivalent to a kind of curvature in the spacetime manifold in the presence of mass. Since there were no orbiting satellites, nor airplanes that could simulate free-fall (Vomit Comet) for any appreciable length of time in Einstein's day the Equivalence Principle was pure idealization and not the least bit inductive.

In this respect the Equivalence Principle is very similar to the Displacement Current postulated by Maxwell. There was no experimental evidence available to Maxwell at the time he postulated the Displacement Current. His assumption was made to account for the existence of a magnetic field in a non-circuit bounded by a capacitor. The assumption was made to maintain the completeness and symmetry of the field equations for magnetic and electrical fields. See http://farside.ph.utexas.edu/teaching/em/l...res/node46.html.

Einstein had great success in formulating sound physical theories based on principles rather than providing a fit to multiple observations. Kepler's assumption of elliptical orbits of planets about the Sun was this kind of hypothesis. It was made so that the orbits of the planets would more closely fit Tycho Brahe's observed planetary ephemiruses, particularly that of Mars. Newton later provided a principle that accounted for the elliptical orbits, to wit his famous Law of Gravitation. Boyle's Law is another example of a physical law construct to provide a good fit to a large body of data. In short, it is curve fitting. Boltzman's molecular theory of gas behavior gave a reason or cause for the correctness of Boyle's law.

Cumulative induction of the Baconian sort is rarely used to formulate physical theories. Physical theories are derived from idealization of observations, or hypotheses of causes for observed phenomena. This process of hypothesizing to likely causes was called -abduction- (as opposed to -induction-) by C.S.Peirce who first developed this view of physical theories. Theories do not leap out of piles of facts like frogs from lily pads. Theories are more often formulated to satisfy the principle of sufficient reason. Causes are hypothesized to provide the -why- and -how- of observed phenomena.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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