JARS V15 N2 - December 2015


Roger Bissell

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Here is a link to the full table of contents for the current issues of JARS, now available!

http://www.aynrandstudies.com/jars/v15_n2/15_2toc.asp

This is my piece:

WHAT'S IN YOUR FILE FOLDER? PART 2: EPISTEMOLOGY, LOGIC, AND "THE OBJECTIVE", 185-279

ROGER E. BISSELL

The author discusses how Rand's largely underdeveloped concept of the "dual-aspect objective," first introduced in the 1960s, is vital for understanding how knowledge is grounded in reality. He defines it, then applies it to perception and introspection, and to concepts, propositions, and syllogisms. The author also defines content of awareness, carefully distinguishing it from both object and form of awareness, and applies those distinctions throughout. In addition, he discusses how truth is both dual-aspect and contextual, and he extends his discussion in Part 1 of Rand's "unit-perspective," showing how units, too, have a dual-aspect, even on the level of syllogisms.

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At the opening of Part II of “What’s in Your File Folder?” (V15N2 of JARS), Roger quotes from Louis Groarke 2009, page 367, including:

On Aristotle’s account, induction is an interaction between the mind and the world. The world possesses a definite nature; the human mind possesses a definite nature; and the interaction of the two results in principles that follow necessarily. It is not as if we alone project our categories on the world, and it is not as if the world alone projects its categories on the mind. The mind and the world impose on each other. Given that the world has a particular nature and the mind has a particular nature, what results is a matter of necessity.

Aristotle?

Roger generalized to knowledge and put that word in brackets in place of induction in this quote. But in either case, Aristotle?

What is the text in Aristotle for such a Kantian cast? What I do recall from Aristotle, quite famously, is a one-way street and necessity:

Turning now to the part of the soul with which the soul knows and . . . we have to inquire what differentiates this part, and how thinking can take place.

If thinking is like perceiving [and Aristotle affirms elsewhere in this work that it is], it must be either a process in which the soul is acted upon by what is capable of being thought, or a process different from but analogous to that. The thinking part of the soul must therefore be . . . capable of receiving the form of an object; that is, must be potentially identical in character with its object without being the object. Thought must be related to what is thinkable, as sense is to what is sensible.

Therefore, since everything is a possible object of thought, mind in order, as Anaxagaoras says, to dominate, that is, to know, must be pure from all admixture; for the co-presence of what is alien to its nature is a hindrance and a block: it follows that it can have no nature of its own, other than that of having a certain capacity. Thus that in the soul which is called thought (by thought I mean that whereby the soul thinks and judges) is, before it thinks, not actually any real thing.

On the Soul 429a10 –24

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More to follow...but

Even if this view of the interaction of mind and world is not fully true to Aristotle, how is it at all Kantian?

My understanding of our cognitive interaction with the world is that it is very much like any other interaction, not only between ourselves and the world, but between any two entities. Viz., that it is very Aristotelian (and Objectivist), things acting - i.e., interacting - according to their natures.

If you are saying that Aristotle was not fully Aristotelian, I see your point. But I'm not confident that the De Anima passage you cite is the only or best representation of his view of the mind and its nature.

Like I said, I'll get back to you on this later.

REB

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Even if this view of the interaction of mind and world is not fully true to Aristotle, how is it at all Kantian?

Since Stephen Boydstun hasn't responded, I will (my bold).

It is not as if we alone project our categories on the world, and it is not as if the world alone projects its categories on the mind. The mind and the world impose on each other. (Louis Groarke, An Aristotelian Account of Induction, p367)

The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion which no one has the power to escape. (Rand, For the New Intellectual, p30)

I read Groarke's book and reviewed it on Amazon (link). I gave it a favorable rating overall, but Groarke distorts or misrepresents the statements of other philosophers several times.

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I asked Stephen Boydstun: "Even if this [Groarke's] view of the interaction of mind and world is not fully true to Aristotle, how is it at all Kantian?"

Merlin replied: "Since Stephen Boydstun hasn't responded, I will (my bold)."

Merlin then juxtaposed *part* of the quote from Groarke with a quote from Rand, highlighting a single word which supposedly makes his case:

It is not as if we alone project our categories on the world, and it is not as if the world alone projects its categories on the mind. The mind and the world impose on each other. (Louis Groarke, An Aristotelian Account of Induction, p367)

The “phenomenal” world, said Kant, is not real: reality, as perceived by man’s mind, is a distortion. The distorting mechanism is man’s conceptual faculty: man’s basic concepts (such as time, space, existence) are not derived from experience or reality, but come from an automatic system of filters in his consciousness (labeled “categories” and “forms of perception”) which impose their own design on his perception of the external world and make him incapable of perceiving it in any manner other than the one in which he does perceive it. This proves, said Kant, that man’s concepts are only a delusion, but a collective delusion which no one has the power to escape. (Rand, For the New Intellectual, p30)

Are we really quibbling over the philosophical meaning of "impose"? Seriously?

Kant identified *one-half* of the truth, so the full truth is not the truth? Groarke used the same word to identify the full truth that Rand used to ridicule Kant, so Groarke's identification is invalid? Seriously?

Also, Merlin, nice going in omitting the part of the quote that undercuts your case.

Here is the *full* Groarke quote, including the final sentence, which to my ear and mind makes Groarke's analysis sound far more Aristotelian and Objectivist than Kantian:

On Aristotle’s account, induction is an interaction between the mind and the world. The world possesses a definite nature; the human mind possesses a definite nature; and the interaction of the two results in principles that follow necessarily. It is not as if we alone project our categories on the world, and it is not as if the world alone projects its categories on the mind. The mind and the world impose on each other. Given that the world has a particular nature and the mind has a particular nature, what results is a matter of necessity.

This is not a Kantian "collective delusion" or "subjective whim" or any of the other Randian bugaboos. This is straightforward Aristotelian (and Objectivist) causal interaction. The content of awareness is determined *jointly* by the nature of a person's cognitive faculty (senses, intellect) and the nature of the thing in the world that is interacting with him.

Also, I will point out that both Leonard Peikoff and David Kelley concur with this view:

In 1986, in Evidence of the Senses, David Kelley explained how perceptual content and form are inexorable results of the perceptual interaction between organism and world. On the one hand, he wrote, "What the object causes is the awareness of that object...It is the object that we perceive. In the case of surface vision, objects act on us as they do because of their reflectance properties; hence we perceive those properties" (108). On the other hand, he noted, it is also the case that "The causal sequence depends in part on the nature of our own means of perception, and these must therefore affect the way the object appears" (108, my emphasis).

In 1991, in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff wrote: "Our sensations are caused in part by objects in reality. They are also - an equally important point - caused in part by our organs of perception, which are responsible for the fact that we perceive objects in the form of sensations of color, sound, smell, and so forth" (41-42, my emphasis).

How is "imposing" relevantly different from "affecting" or "causing" here?

"Our own means of perception...must...affect the way the object appears."

"Our organs of perception...are responsible for the fact that we perceive objects in the form of sensations of color, etc."

"The mind and the world [in interacting] impose [their natures] on each other" (i.e., in interacting with the world, the mind imposes [its nature] on the world [as does the world on the mind]).

Looks to me like clearly equivalent descriptions of what's going on in cognition. Maybe *all* of them are Kantian! If so, then I'd say that the Objectivist movement (*and* that part of the Aristotelian community in agreement with Groarke's take on Aristotle) is toast. R.I.P. Objectivism. Kant finally won.

But I think they are about as Kantian as is an Objectivist who says that we shouldn't sacrifice others to ourselves is an altruist. There must be a fallacy behind that sort of error. But it is clearly an error. Let's have no more of it.

REB

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Assertion #1 - The content of awareness is determined *jointly* by the nature of a person's cognitive faculty (senses, intellect) and the nature of the thing in the world that is interacting with him.

Sunlight is "interacting" with me? It interacts differently if I have a particularly low IQ?

Assertion #2 - The causal sequence depends in part on the nature of our own means of perception, and these must therefore affect the way the object appears.

The sun in the sky on a clear day is not always intensely bright, doesn't cast shadows if I squint?

Assertion #3 - Our sensations are caused in part by objects in reality. They are also - an equally important point - caused in part by our organs of perception, which are responsible for the fact that we perceive objects in the form of sensations of color, sound, smell, and so forth.

Reality of sun and shadow are caused in part by eyesight? Caused?

Next you'll be telling us that thermometers cause different temperature readings in sun and shade.

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I won’t have time to look these points up for citation and confirmation, so this is off-the-cuff. Firstly, on Aristotle’s view of mind and its relation to the world, a tremendous help is Jonathan Lear’s Aristotle – The Desire to Understand. Chapter 4 is titled “Man’s Nature,” and therein the subsections 3 (Mind) and 4 (Active Mind) are to our historical, textual issue. The road from the Aristotle passage I quoted to Groarke’s amazingly different picture in the quotation with which Roger begins his essay is likely woven by Groarke from the transition in Aristotle that Lear covers as we enter his subsection 4 of Chapter 4. One should of course consult the writings of Groarke to see how he backs his representation of Aristotle. Unfortunately, I don’t have his works, but for what I can see of them on Google Books. Looking up Merlin’s review on Amazon (informative), I see another reviewer complaining about Groarke’s lack of citations to Aristotle’s works to support his representations. So finding how Groarke gets to his claims about Aristotle may take some digging.

Groarke is a Catholic philosopher. Aristotle and Lear do not share that context. There is another modern Catholic philosopher, very famous, who was likely the greatest Aquinas influence on Ayn Rand, and his name is Étienne Gilson (d. 1978). He would for sure be ripping Groarke’s picture to shreds both as to fidelity to Aristotle and to the way we are with the world. Two notable works of Gilson that I have studied are The Unity of Philosophical Experience (1937; read by Rand) and Thomist Realism and the Critique of Knowledge (1939). In the latter, Gilson attacks the tide of efforts (from 19th century forward) to cram Aristotle and Thomas into Kantian shoes. I gather from the Groarke paragraph that Gilson’s battle did not carry the day entirely with Catholic philosophers.

“It is not as if the mind alone projects its categories on the world, and it is not as if the world alone projects its categories on the mind. The mind and the world impose on each other. Given that the world has a particular nature and the mind has a particular nature, what results is a matter of necessity.”

Merlin has rightly pointed to the Kantian contribution to this picture of how things are: the mind imposing categories on the world. What did Kant say about the world imposing its categories on the mind? He gave it effectively zero weight. Not quite so profoundly zero as is popular to think in Objectivist circles. True, he puts identity and existence into the bin Categories of the Understanding. They come with their mandatory character from our minds, specifically from the synthetic unity of apperception. Not perception, apperception. Identity is for Kant in his intellectual heritage a narrower thing than it is for Rand. Leibniz, Kant, and Rand all say that the principle of noncontradiction rests on the principle of identity, but the scope of the latter, thence the former, is more ample in Rand’s scheme of the world. Kant never denies that noncontradiction would be the way of noumenal things. There is a nice statement from KrV in which he says that things in themselves have whatever character they have (so they have a definite character!), but it is irrelevant to us in our understanding, here in the phenomenal realm.

There is a mind that imposes on the world in Aristotle, though it’s not our mind and it’s not a god-mind that also creates the world. I do have to get back to Aristotle now, alas, not this part.

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Stimulus-response. Somewhat different for different folks. Somewhat the same for biological commonality. It's analogous to "man is the rational animal" but not all men are rational only that it hurts a man's survivability to the extent he's not, all else being equal.

"Interaction" is dubious because the action of the first actor, call it the sun (or stimulus), may interact with the receiver, a man, but the man's action in return is not a stimulus back to the sun.

True interaction would be a man stimulated by a woman and a woman in turn stimulated by a man to be a couple. Now, if a man is hungry he will be stimulated to hunt and fish, plant and harvest, first by his hunger then by the opportunities to satiate that hunger. So he shoots the deer and then does some mumbo-jumbo over its corpse thanking its soul for the physical bounty. And you become further one with the deer by eating it. Etc. Even trophy hunters love their prey. That elephant head on the wall means its hunter has big balls. The tiger skin on the floor he makes love on--same thing--maybe with Elinor Glyn*.

There is a problem with philosophical reasoning interacting with itself getting blown up like a balloon. If I were to study Kant I suspect that would stimulate that criticism from me and would be my main criticism of him, especially in juxtaposition to Rand. Most philosophers are not gainfully employed except for their paychecks. To be honest, I don't think I'm smart enough to study Kant or to be a philosopher. So all this may be bogus, but it's the best I can do. (I dropped out of philosophy101 in college. One prof. helped by grad students and 300 or 400 students. I couldn't stand it. The grad students graded the examinations. But no one graded the grad students understanding of the prof.'s material. It it was a "C" then if you got a "C" from him, WTF did that mean? And there was no explanation of the grade on the paper and no way to get one. It was the only course I ever took that justified grade inflation to the max., and but this was before grade inflation.)

--Brant

*Would you like to sin

With Elinor Glyn

On a tiger skin?

Or would you prefer

To err with her

On another fur?

The Kaiser sent her a tiger skin

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Let's talk sense. For the past eight years, Art Berman and I have warned that horizontal drilling and fracking to produce tight oil and natural gas was unprofitable at anything south of $65 bbl and $6 mcf. If you don't know what that means, I'll summarize. Zero percent Fed funds and 1/2 percent CDs drove savers and investors into high yield junk bonds, with a notional coupon of 4%-7%, to bankroll the shale game. $80 billion was spent and nothing returned. Shale drillers rolled their debt every time it came due. Are you with me so far?

CitiShale1_0.png

With oil at $38 and natgas at $2, suddenly the jig is up. The shale drillers have cut capex and laid off workers. There is going to be a wave of bankruptcies. Bondholders are going to get shafted, because they believed a blue sky pitch about shale, without knowing squat about the financial reality. What this has to do with sensation, perception, and cognition is simple. You can bullshit yourself (and HY investors) quite a long time -- but the sun is still hot, shade is cool, and the facts of reality will bite you on the butt if you pretend otherwise. http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-25/oil-bankruptcies-hit-highest-level-crisis-and-theres-more-come-fed-warns

A thing is itself. There's nothing faulty in man's cognitive equipment. We use reliable measurement tools and arithmetic to demonstrate that A is indeed A. People who buy fairy tales in energy, or philosophy, or "social justice" are fools.

The asshats who peddle make-believe are liars. http://cwsx.org/21darts.pdf

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Assertion #1 - The content of awareness is determined *jointly* by the nature of a person's cognitive faculty (senses, intellect) and the nature of the thing in the world that is interacting with him.

Sunlight is "interacting" with me? It interacts differently if I have a particularly low IQ?

Assertion #2 - The causal sequence depends in part on the nature of our own means of perception, and these must therefore affect the way the object appears.

The sun in the sky on a clear day is not always intensely bright, doesn't cast shadows if I squint?

Assertion #3 - Our sensations are caused in part by objects in reality. They are also - an equally important point - caused in part by our organs of perception, which are responsible for the fact that we perceive objects in the form of sensations of color, sound, smell, and so forth.

Reality of sun and shadow are caused in part by eyesight? Caused?

Next you'll be telling us that thermometers cause different temperature readings in sun and shade.

Very interesting discussion.

My understanding so far, it is ~a sensation~ which is "caused", 1. by the property of an object - 2. by the property of the specific organ of perception.

The identity of any such organ dictates its function - causality is identity in action.

E.g. the perception of sound is determined - caused - equally by the nature of our auditory equipment, as well as the nature of the sound wave. No sound -- silence. Sound and no hearing -- silence (hmm, there's a song in here somewhere...)

"Interaction" is a tricky one. Stimuli 'arrive', and the appropriate sense/senses (vision, touch etc.) responds according to the nature of the stimulus. OK, action, reaction. I think I get it.

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Contents of conscious awareness are the product of interaction between a conscious organism and something in reality. Some particular thing in reality without a conscious organism = no content of conscious awareness of that thing. Some conscious organism without a particular thing in reality it's aware of = no content of conscious awareness of that thing.

This is not Berkelean solipsism. It's not even UC Berkeley solipsism.

It may not follow from Aristotle's model of sense perception - but it follows from a correct model of sense perception in keeping with Aristotle's model of causal interaction.

Any defects in the former model do not rule out the fundamental importance and validity of Aristotle's thought in constructing the latter model.

Objectivism has similar doctrinal flaws that can be corrected on the basis of more basic Objectivist tenets - and attention to the facts of reality. (Many Objectivists don't like to acknowledge this, since they have been told by Rand and Peikoff that if you reject *any* tenet of Objectivism, you are rejecting *all* of Objectivism - which is utter balderdash.) (You won't find "balderdash" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, so don't bother to look.)

REB

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Does an archer interact with the target? The archer interacts with the arrow which interacts with the target. Ever see a chain reaction pileup on the highway? It ain't pretty. But the last car damn straight *does* interact with the first one in the line.

If the sun reached out 93 million miles with one of its prominences and caused you a nasty sunburn, *that* would be interacting with you - while emitting radiation to do the same thing would *not*?? Hmmmm....

I feel sorry for your eyes. Their owner needs to read the operator's manual.

REB (B as in "blithe")

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My sunburn does nothing to the sun.

It absorbs some of a certain part of the energy the sun emits.

Negligible, however, it is doing "something," minuscule though it is, to the sun.

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My sunburn does nothing to the sun.

It absorbs some of a certain part of the energy the sun emits.

Negligible, however, it is doing "something," minuscule though it is, to the sun.

WHAT?? ... a nuclear explosion on Earth would do nothing whatever to the Sun!

sun5b15d.png

"Some five billion years from now, after the sun has become a red giant and burned the Earth to a cinder, it will eject its own beautiful nebula and then fade away as a white dwarf star," Howard Bond, of Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland, said in a statement.

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