A problem with the Objectivist definition of reason


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What l_chaim29 wrote was no distortion of what Rand said. He/she merely replaced some words without changing the meaning of Rand's definition.

This is another example of Xray's sloppy reading. I didn't say l_chaim29 distorted anything; I said "misquoted". Xray did the distorting, by attributing Rand's use of "reason" to apply to dogs, when Rand clearly included only humans.

The sloppy reading was yours. For you had written verbatim:

"The alleged definition was not written by Ayn Rand. It was attributed to "Objectivists typically", which is highly ambiguous. It was also an obvious distortion of what Ayn Rand in fact said." (Merlin)

"The alleged definition" clearly referred to l_chaim29's post, and the "it was also an obvious distortion of what Rand said" referred to that post as well.

As to Rand's definition of reason applying to dogs - it does apply to dogs too, no question.

"Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses." (Rand)

For dogs too (as well as other animals) possess the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by their senses.

Edited by Xray
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Objectivists typically define reason as "the faculty which identifies and integrates the data provided by one's senses". This definition, however, leaves no room for identification or integration of concretes observed through introspection. Neither does it leave room for the possibility of identifying or integrating the concretes of the internal states of others, as these can only be inferred (in part) from the exisence of one's own awareness of one's own internal states.

Here's a boost to the discussion.

Objectivism and Transcendentalism are both prominent movements marked by their salient points concerning the supremacy of the individual and the inherent beauty of Reason. Reason with a capital 'R.' Rand projects upon man the claim that he is 'sovereign' because he is. "I am. I think. I will." Anthem famously asserts. Transcendentalists also make a similar claim, "The sublime is excited in me," as Emerson rules, "by the great stoical doctrine, Obey thyself." For there lies the crux of their belief: that Man is also endowed with a certain Holiness. They are, essentially, the same. There is certain squigglyness when one takes two carbon copies for comparison. Transcendentalism, at times, reeks of mystical aspersions when it mentions the 'Tree of Unity.' Both have different interpretations of the world around us: Objectivism falls in line with most capitalistic thinking when it says the world is absolute and A is A. Transcendentalism declares the world a illusion, different aspects of the same spiritual coin (remember, Tree of Unity).

You're likely wondering "where the hell is he going with this?" And my answer is: they both look at the accruing of knowledge, wisdom, insight - in the same way. That, I believe, is where the answer lays. In this overlap. You can judge for yourself.

The single statement which must be accepted, from which everything follows like clockwork, is that the world around you is an extension of yourself. What you gain through your mind, and what Nature gains for herself, is mirrored in the other.

As an aside, I find it inconsistent within Transcendentalism to claim most knowledge starts in the world around you. How can one find something new in something you are a part of? The world only seems to limit yourself from seeing the similarities you hold with others and by extension: limits you from knowledge. If the world is an illusion, how can an illusion provide truth? But enough of my ponderous questions. Though through them, Objectivism fills in the gaps.

Nature (viz., the world around you) is, to quote from Divinity School Address, the "raw material out of which the intellect moulds her splending products." That from the "shadow of the soul" stems the wisdom we synthesize as our own. It is Experience, a facet Transcendentalism emphasizes, which gives our mind the food to eat, the water to drink. That without that Experience our mind would be as refreshed by our introspection, as a desert is by a picture of water. It is through action and calm Reason based Judgments that we derive the material for which our introspection builds. Objectivism's definition of reason, one says, is faulty because it does not allow for more Judgments beyond categorization of stimuli - I say that introspection, Judgments, even Reason itself without that stimuli, that Experience, is false. That Reason does not exist within a vacuum, that Reason is the world around us and the value judgments we place upon it. That Reason restricted, is reason within ourselves. That true and free Reason is not only a twin to the applied Reason of our World, it is indistinguishable.

Introspection for the sake of introspection, without the world around you, without acknowledging reality is obviously a strawman argument I manage to avoid; it is clearly wrong. My main point is that even a small influx of introspection, not based upon reality, does not merely lead to false conclusions. It does not exist. Created within a vacuum is something Reason is not. "The world.... [is] the key which unlock my thoughts and make me acquainted with myself," and to take the point to my own ends: beyond the door, which the world unlocks, lies Reason. To unlock that door one must use the Five Senses to discover the most important object: the key. The key to Reason and what shape that key takes. Its dimensions are of invaluable importance and to possess a perfect key you, and only you, create a perfect key. Through, not introspection or needless worry, Experience. Through the world. 3/4ths whole with Experience, 4/5ths whole, even 5/6ths whole is of little value; it may as soon not exist at all. You must construct immutable access out of the knowledge and judgment around one's self. Only that. To reach Reason and for Reason to reach you: you must look at the world as it is completely, not as what you wish it to be.

The material is built by the Five Senses for "He and he only knows the world." Everything of Reason is a contingency founded in that simple phrase. That it is not "He and only he knows himself, thus the world," but instead the emphasis is on the world around you. For the world is an extension of your mind, that anything you receive from it, Experience, is what you need. Experience is what you need to be a "Man Thinking." (More Divinity School Address) For to be Man Thinking you do not look to yourself for transmuting life into truth, you look to the world around you and that is where (for those still following and remembering my previous questions) Objectivism meets up with our Transcendentalism. For the world around you is absolute, that it is where the Great Truths reside; not within your brain, nor within rote introspection, but instead through the acknowledgement of Nature. The categorization and judgment of your world. That to sit in cloistered seclusion, caught not in books but merely the love of books is not knowledge. It is not Reason or wisdom. For he shall see as he studies the world around him and categorizes it: "that Nature is the opposite of the soul, answering to it part for part." That to dismiss or not include a endless feed-back loop: your mind, studying your mind, studying your mind and only your mind is not merely prudent. It is Reason.

Which, for me, wraps up the question nicely. Only your senses can create Reason.

Edited by Areopagitican
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You might like Ken Wilber's book Eye to Eye. It discusses ways of asserting validity within the realm of sensory information, internal logical and emotional information, and transcendental information. He argues that each of these 3 dimensions of knowing cannot be used to validate knowledge in a different realm. For example, the senses cannot be used to validate the existence of emotion or necessarily mental-logical structures; likewise, internal information such as emotions or transcendental information such as connection with the divine cannot be used to validate the existence of sensory information. To attempt to use one realm's apprehensions to validate the existence of another realm's apprehensions (apprehension being any event arising in consciousness from whatever source) is to commit a category error. So, with our five senses we can't know if someone is necessarily feeling joyful; with our mind we can't know if it's raining outside; with our spirit we can't know if the sun revolves around the Earth; with our mind we cannot know a transcendental experience (as is commonly said, spiritual lessons are signposts, not the actual experience of spirit).

However, Wilber concludes by saying that the mind (internal dimension) is capable of reasoning about any of the three dimensions.

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There is a great deal of wisdom in Wilber's writing (what I have read of it), and there are some things I don't quite follow or agree with.

But I particularly like his use of Koestler's holon theory and his quadrant chart for categorizing the perspectives of mankind's great thinkers.

Here's the acid test for all thinking: observation. If the thinker can provide you with a procedure whereby you can observe first hand what he is talking about in some form or another, he is on to something. If all he has is words, he is not.


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There is a tendency to assume many people are wrong and the self is right. This tendency is a middle-ground to a mature relationship with the world and reality. It seems more logical to assume many people are right, but that we all see different things. In this way, we should look not at issues of right and wrong per se, but rather we should investigate perspectives taken on reality. If everybody is looking at something different and claiming that that singular perspective is reality, then it's probably best to accept and combine than reject and cling to a singular vision. That's why Wilber is a great author. This is also post-modernism at its finest.

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