Alice in Objectivist Land, part four

NickOtani's picture
Submitted by NickOtani on Sat, 2007-07-07 15:52

As Alice slept, she dreamed she met the twins, Tweedledee and Tweedledum. Tweedledee represented rationalism, the mind or soul, the analytic or a priori, and Tweedledum represented empiricism, the body, the synthetic or a posteriori. Rand seemed to think these two categories should never have been separated. She rejected the dichotomies.

About rationalism and empiricism, Rand decried that philosophers became divided into the two camps, those who claimed man obtains knowledge of the world by deducing it from concepts, as did Descartes, and those who claim man gets it from experience, without any help from concepts; “those who abandoned reality, and those who clung to reality by abandoning their minds.”

About the soul/body dichotomy, Rand ranted, through characters like Galt, that they have cut man in two, setting one half against the other. “They have taught him that his body and his consciousness are two enemies engaged in mortal combat, two antagonists of opposite natures, contradictory claims, incompatible needs, that to benefit one is to injure the other.”

This is a criticism of religion, which teaches that the soul should pure but is vulnerable to being corrupted by the body. The body dies, but the soul escapes, as if it had been held captive while the body was alive.

Galt said, “A body without a soul is a corpse, a soul without a body is a ghost….”

“It is true,” thought Alice, “that since Descartes, the mind/body problem, or the soul body dichotomy, presented many problems for philosophers. Metaphysics became concerned with trying to solve them. It was like there was a ghost in the machine, and nobody could explain how the two entities interacted.

“Rand simply rejected the dichotomy and must have thought she had dodged all the problems. Still she had a dualism. She still believed in a consciousness, a mind or soul which was conscious of existence. She kept referring to an external world, which implied that there was also an inside world, even though she insisted there was only one world.

“At least,” thought Alice, “she could prove the existence of a consciousness or mind if she could prove the existence of matter. If there is consciousness of matter, then there is a mind to be conscious of it. However, if no matter, then never mind.”

“What?” asked Tweedledee.

“No matter, never mind.” said Alice.

“Anyhow," remembered Alice, “Rand never tried to prove matter or mind. She simply declared them self-evident axioms. That way, she didn’t have to defend an argument.

“Later, Rand described the philosophers of the mind as witch doctors and the philosophers of the body as Atilas and wrote a long essay about them in For the New Intellectual.

“About the analytic/synthetic dichotomy, Rand said that by a route of tortuous circumlocutions and equivocations, it leads to the dogma that a “necessarily” true proposition cannot be factual, and a factual proposition cannot be “necessarily” true.

“Well,” thought Alice, “this isn’t really so tortuous. Ever since the early Wittgenstein, we know that tautologies, like A is A, or “Bachelors are unmarried males,” are necessarily true, but they don’t tell us much about reality. We have to go to the window or out the door to see if it is raining outside. Then, sentences like, “It is raining outside,” are not necessarily true.

“By a route of tortuous circumlocutions and equivocations, Peikoff tried to argue against the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. He said that man’s knowledge is not acquired by logic apart from experience or by experience apart from logic, but by the application of logic to experience. All truths are the product of a logical identification of facts of experience.

“This sounds great,” thought Alice, “but she didn’t know how one derives basic empirical assumptions, including assumptions about the laws of logic themselves, by applying logic to experience.”

Just then, Alice was awoken by a group of soldiers, wearing uniforms which made them look a little like playing cards, holding spears on her, the Red Queen, and the Mad Hatter.

“What’s going on?” asked Alice.

The Red Queen explained that they were all under arrest for being irrational, for violating the law of identity.

“This can’t be happening!” said Alice. “Objectivists only enforce laws against people who initiate the use of force against others. We’ve done nothing of the kind.”

“They have a way of rationalizing that here,” said the Red Queen. “This is their land and their airspace,” explained the Queen, “and they object to people using their platform and facilities to speak out against their views. It is loosely a form of physical force. They think they have a right to defend their philosophy on their land from agitators like us.”

“Well,” said Alice, “what are they going to do? Are they going to kick us out of Objectivist Land?”

“They may kick you out,” explained the Red Queen, “since you are an outsider, a guest, but they may chop off the heads of me and the Mad Hatter.”

“What? That’s absurd!” said Alice.

“It really depends on the extent of our transgressions,” explained the Red Queen. “They are going to have a trial, and we will have to defend our views against theirs. The King will be the judge, and there will be twelve people in the jury box. We will get to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses as they do also.”

“Do they have the burden of proof,” asked Alice, “since they are bringing the charges?”

“Yes,” said the Red Queen, “but it won’t be hard for them to prove that we are critical of aspects of pure Objectivism. The blind man heard us talking last night, and he will be one of the witnesses for the prosecution.”

“Okay,” said Alice, “then it will be our turn to justify our positions. Hopefully, the jurors will be reasonable. Do we get to participate in choosing them?”

“Yes,” said the Red Queen, “but they will all be strong Objectivists, just like the blind man, the turkey, and the frog.”

“Well,” said Alice, “we’ll have to see what we can do. At least we are going to have a trial. This is better than just punishing us without a trial. If we can convince a few jurors that some dissent may be good for Objectivism, we may have a chance.”

“Well,” said the Red Queen, “it didn’t work for Socrates, with his gad-fly defense. It didn’t work for Nick Otani when he got banned from other Objectivist boards, but it is our only chance. Let’s try.”

To be continued...

Bis bald,


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Though the mad hatter may

reed's picture

Though the mad hatter may cry for excommunication or confinement for infringement of the laws of logic, to his credit, the Red Queen of SOLO land has decreed that, other than a good telling off, there will be no punishment for violating Ologic.

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