Announcement

William E. Perry's picture
Submitted by William E. Perry on Sun, 2006-04-02 12:57

I am no longer employed by, or affiliated with The Objectivist Center. Nor will I be attending their summer seminar. There are several exceptions to this. First I am technically a member of TOC under its rules until sometime in August due to previous donations. Second I wrote an article about Terry Goodkind which should appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine. (I wrote the article in October.) If there are any letters to the editor concerning the article I may reply. Finally I have agreed to answer questions from the center about work I did, as well as the location of files in my former office and on my computer. I have also agreed to forward any e-mail I receive regarding TOC to the appropriate person there. I have specifically not agreed to give any advice about any matter.

I do not intend to use this announcement to criticize TOC. I left because of a variety of issues. Most of them pertain to my growing disagreement with David Kelley’s views about judgment and toleration. My view of the application of justice is far different than David Kelley’s view.

I intend to take about a year to consider certain issues in Objectivism. I am about to complete a basic philosophical education course of my own design, which will better enable me to evaluate those issues. The course included working through John Hospers’ introductory text , David Kelley’s logic text, and the entire nine- volume history of philosophy by Frederick Copleston. (I am in the ninth volume of Copleston.)

I am then going to re-examine issues in Objectivism. I may write about them, but I don’t intend to publish or post anything from May 1, 2006-April 30, 2007. Nor do I intend to participate in any Objectivist conferences. My only contact with Objectivist groups of any sort will be attendance at Arizona Objectivists and other local groups. If I post anything on any website it will be about applications only, or about non-philosophical issues.

However, I will be writing a few things and posting them on SOLO Passion between now and May 1. I will discuss what I write until that date.

The issues I intend to explore during my “sabbatical” are:

1. What is the difference between self absorption and rational self interest?

2. How does keeping one’s commitments relate to the Objectivist ethics?

3. Why are so many Objectivists angry at Ayn Rand?

4. Is it appropriate for Objectivist organizations to attempt to influence public debate on political issues—as groups?
5. I want to more closely examine the open-closed system issue. Why are the closed system advocates producing more scholarly works about Objectivism than the open system advocates? What is the status of those works within the philosophy?

6. I may further refine my position about judgment. It is pretty well developed at this point given my past background as a prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge. I want to clarify it in writing.

During the time that I am doing this analysis I will only be discussing these issues and other issues about the philosophy with close friends. If I have spent the night in your home, or you have stayed in mine you qualify.

However, I am making a limited time offer to anyone who donated to The Objectivist Center when I was employed there from February 2004-March 17, 2006. If you donated in whole or in part because I was employed by TOC, I will answer any questions you have about the Center, and why I left through April 30, 2006. All answers will be by private e-mail or telephone conversation, and are solely for the use of the person asking the question, or his family members.


( categories: )

Photo please Roderick

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Eloquent and all your avatar may be, but we require authentic photos now. Smiling

Linz

"Abstract Particulars"

Fifth of November's picture

Hello SOLOists. It's been quite a few months since I've posted on the site, so I'll be trying to make up for lost time during this summer.

I'd like to thank Diana for her interview with Axiomatic Magazine, and Mike for some of his elaborations on what is included under "abstract particulars", which I've started to evaluate with my own understanding of proper nouns, concepts, and what time has to do with the term.

"If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever."- O'Brien, 1984.

TOC

eg's picture

Many years ago I made a contribution to TOC (IOS) and received its magazine for a while, but it was so insipid I simply gave up on it and lost track of its activities.

David Kelley read "If" just before they lowered Ayn Rand into her grave.

Tolerance in Action

DianaHsieh's picture

A little while back, Jim asked of me: "why would someone's Objectivist affiliation be the primary measurement stick by which you would measure someone's worth?" In fact, as I might have already mentioned, I don't measure people that way at all. As I said in my original post on this thread, I was impressed with Bill's "courage and honesty in seriously thinking through these issues for himself" -- not for any particular conclusions that he might or might not reach.

However, we do see some supposed Objectivists judge others solely based upon their institutional affiliation. Bob Bidinotto, for example, recently called an Objectivist unknown to him a "fundamentalist jihadist" (thereby equating him with mystical mass-murderers) just based upon his opposition to Ed Hudgins' latest article and to TOC in general. Yet TOC is willing to uphold Barbara Branden as a worthy speaker at an Objectivist conference, despite her numberous public evasions and lies, as Bill Perry recent post shows.

That's TOC style tolerance in action: like with the multiculturalists, all kinds of evils will be tolerated... except those who refuse to tolerate evil.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

I can't resist ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... pointing out that there is *one* magazine with a KASSier cover AND with content to match! Look left & scroll up. Smiling

Look Beyond the Cover

DianaHsieh's picture

Greg Perkins' post on Ed Hudgins' "train-wreck of an article" on the Danish cartoons was posted this morning on NoodleFood.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Wrong subject for thread

Rowlf's picture

Phil:

~~ Agreed re thread/subject moving. 'Concept Formation' sounds good for my interests; I'll check yours out also.

~~ Sorry I contributed to tangential hijacking, but, darn, the subject caught me !

~~ I definitely want to read Bill Perry's follow-ups...hopefully here, in this thread.

LLAP

J:D

threads

Mike_M's picture

I agree with Phil. Most of the discussion between Shayne and I was off topic and should be a different thread.

Shayne -

I think we've had a fruitful discussion, so I'll agree to end it here.

- Mike

Pulling Magazines off the Shelves; Giving In to Intimidation

PhilipC's picture

I'm moving or at least copying my post above (on the appeasement-intimidation-Borders issues) from the topic of Bill Perry's announcement to its own General Forum thread -- "Fighting Terrorism and Intimidation", which includes anything related to Borders, Danish cartoons, how to fight the war, Iraq, Iran, appeasement, intimidation, tactics, strategy, etc.

So if you want to reply to my post immediately above, please do it there.

I respectfully suggest the concept theory/abstract particulars discussion is also a bit of a hijack and should have its own thread, called something like "concept theory" perhaps? (Like my own fighting terrorism thread that could accomodate issues wider than the particular point being debated right now.)

Phil

Mike...

sjw's picture

"If I paint a chair, for example, it doesn’t become a new unit."

Painting is a small change to be sure and that example seems to advance your cause, but again you do not go broad enough in your thinking. In reality and across time, things can change in small ways and larger ways. A chair could have a minor repair replacing a small part of it and we'd still regard it as the same chair; repair it a lot over time and all of its elements might eventually be completely replaced--it's not the same chair. It is in fact a new unit.

I realize I didn't address all of your post, if you or anyone else cares about something I neglected, feel free to email me privately. I won't be responding further here.

Pulling Magazines off the Shelves; Giving In to Intimidation

PhilipC's picture

> As for Bidinotto's campaign against Borders, he's wrong to blame them for anything like "cowardly appeasement," for the reasons detailed by Amit Ghate..."please remember that: the Danish cartoonists are still in hiding"...I would add that two bookstores in California was firebombed for carrying Rushdie's _The Satanic Verses_..." [Diana]

To put the application of the Objectivist ethics here into one sentence which applies to private corporations just as much as anyone else:

It is both immoral and impractical in the long run to give in to bullies. Even if in the short-run you take a certain risk or may get beaten up.

The situation is not the same in the Borders case as for the cartoonists. There is a certain small risk that if you are a private business and you refuse to give in to intimidation, you may suffer an attack. (By the way, there is no possibility the police can protect everyone against every threat, so it is unrealistic to expect the government can keep you "risk free" or that removing the Iranian regime would eliminate threats of violence.) But at this stage in the attempt to intimidate freedom of expression, Borders is not the only bookstore carrying "Free Inquiry" magazine and the fascists can't attack everyone. They have many other targets including Wafa Sultan, the cartoonists, the newspapers that printed the cartoons, the websites that display them. So with regard to Border's the risk is limited and if they are attacked it will likely be limited damage, will probably be once or twice, damage at a handful of stores. The likelihood of injury is small. The entire chain may incur a pinprick, fraction of one percent financial loss from physical damage or boycotts or offended readers, but that is in the nature of running any business that disseminates ideas. You do get firebombed, vandalized, and boycotted from time to time over the decades. And this has happened in the past with intimidation from other interest groups. The proper response is the "I am Spartacus" one. When the Romans asked Spartacus, the leader of the defeated slave rebellion, to stand up, every single man in the vast army stood up.

Can't kill 'em all.

Another reason I say the risk is small is that violent muslims are isolated and of small number and strength in America. They can't attack everyone who offends them, which happens every day. Not even every bookstore or newsstand that carries the (atheistic) Free Inquiry magazine. And they know they will go to jail if they do, because Americans, apparently unlike many Europeans, have just about zero tolerance for political violence. Especially from this group, after 9-11. Spread the risk: Now, before the intimidation spreads further, and when American bookstores can still carry what they choose before the intimidators are emboldened. Under these circumstances, each bookstore, movie producer, magazine publisher, book publisher will take a risk, although a small one since Islamofascists are not widespread in America. We don't live in Paris or a war-zone. Diana, your implication that Border's should appease terrorists and pull material off its shelves to knuckle under to the intimidators would move this country further down the road to only being able to say or disseminate things the Islamists are not offended by. It sounds as though it would be in their self-interest to do so. But that is a misunderstanding of selfishness. It is not even in their *short range* self-interest to do so, because they will surely be approached again and again by Islamist groups to remove or carry something else, once they have accepted the status of self-censorship to muslim sensitivities the first time. All you have to do is threaten violence to get them to do what you want.

Sticky Stuff

Casey's picture

Hey, I agree. That's the reason for the reference, even if you have read them, anyone reading now should know that they can benefit IMMENSELY from them. They're so valuable for grasping these exact issues of concept formation and applying rational principles to the sticky wickets thereof that the principles become a profoundly powerful tool in the entire process of thought (use of concepts).

It's just that there is so much there I hate to see anyone immediately saddled with covering all that ground. Besides, it's better that people read and think for themselves the same material Mazza would have to digest and regurgitate in thread-post form. He's obviously an energetic guy (I salute you, Mike! Awesome work you've done and edifying to many I am quite sure!) but it's a lot to ask of him to go over all of this when folks who are interested owe it to themselves to investigate source material that is essential to the subject. "Newbies" got to read, by themselves, if they are ever to "get" Objectivism, after all!

I agree with Mike that proper names are practically tattoos on that which they name, unlike concepts. Using the measure of time to slice up the contents of what a proper name is tattooed on into separate and different units seems to be a form of Platonism in the sense that even proper names(!) exist on some level outside of time and time has an effect on the content of an otherworldly Platonic concept that is, for instance, Shayne Wissler. It presupposes something outside of the referent as a "measurement-omitted" concept -- that is not the purpose of proper names.

Sticky Stuff

Rowlf's picture

Casey:

~~ Been there; read them. Appreciate the suggestions, ntl.

~~ Ok; maybe (I stress 'maybe') I should re-read them (like, I got the time so many others here have). --- But...my main point was how (lessay for those 'newbies' who haven't read such) easy such technical, but extremely important issues can...be the bifurcation of decisions...for potentially O'ist-oriented persons to 'choose' about...affecting an awful lot of pro/con decisions on relevent subjects herein, and their own life-consequences of such.

~~ Ntl, my concerns still stand.

LLAP

J:D

Rowlf,

Casey's picture

If you're interested in these issues, might I suggest reading "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" by Leonard Peikoff, "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" by Ayn Rand, or any of Leonard Peikoff's excellent lecture courses ("Understanding Objectivism" or his courses, especially, on the history of philosophy), and Aristotle is a great reference on these very subjects, as well. To an Objectivist these issues aren't so "sticky."

'Abstract "particulars"

Rowlf's picture

~~ I've gotta admit, this whole subject makes me think of my (I won't say when) philosophy professor's conundrum for students about 'the definition (or even concept) of Harvard.' --- Over the years the 'school' has existed, is there any constant meaning re 'it' between what it was when it began and what it is now? I see this as relating to ye olde prob about Theseus' ship, nm, the (Plato's Socrates' version of?) definition of 'chair' (take away 1 leg, and, is it still a 'chair'? If so, take another away, and..?) --- Of course, this whole prob of identification (identity?) in terms of dynamic-changes (transformations) gets a bit conceptually sticky, but...

~~ Welcome, Mike Mazzara. You are apparantly going to be as thought-provoking as Diana Hsieh...and Shayne Wissler

~~ I'll probably be interrupting you (as her and he) as you go along.

LLAP

J:D

reply to Marnee

Mike_M's picture

Thanks for the welcome!

That is generally right, I think. I kind of forget how we got on the topic of proper names, since the topic was originally abstract particulars. Incidentally, concepts are abstract particulars, so if Shayne is right and proper nouns are types of concepts, they would still be abstract particulars.

I think the issue you pointed out at the beginning is the problem any non-direct reference theory of names is going to encounter.

Take Kripke's classic counter-example to the description theory of names, which I will apply to our discussion of Objectivism. Say that Gödel refers to a concept. Our definition of this concept would be "the man who proved the incompleteness of arithmetic," since, historically speaking, this is the essential fact about Gödel. But what if it is discovered that Gödel really didn't discover incompleteness (he stole the ideas from Smith). Have we this whole time been talking about the man Smith when using the term "Gödel?" No, not really. When we refer to Gödel, we are talking about some guy, not some abstraction. The fact is, we can refer to a person without knowing very much about him.

Kripke doesn't really offer his own theory of how names work; he just suggests a path to explore. Basically, names are like name tags that we stick on to people. Who the name refers to is passed on from speaker to speaker. Now, this raises a lot of question that I don't have the answer to right now. I'm not even sure if I think that is entirely correct. But it doesn't raise the problems that placing an intermediary between the word and the object does. So I think it is a promising lead.

Some time over the summer, when I am out of my philosophy of language classes and all the negative baggage they bring with, I think I may write a paper about how Objectivism's theory of concepts might apply to philosophy of language. I don't want to offer too much positive material on language because, as I said before, I'm too immersed in school to know what part of my thinking on the topic is polluted and what part isn't. Maybe none of it is, maybe all of it is, I don't know right now.

Thanks again for the welcome.

- Mike

PS to Shayne, I won't be able to reply to any reply you give until some time tomorrow night.

reply to shayne's posts

Mike_M's picture

Shayne,

First of all, I am *not* saying that a proper name is not a proper name. Of course a proper name refers to some specific thing across time. My point is that these specific things are changing across time, and actually can end up being quite different things over time. So in that sense they are certainly not specific--at one time it's one specific thing, at another time it's a different specific thing. A fetus is not a baby. A baby is not a man. An old man is not a vibrant young man. And not only that, but our biological constituents are constantly being turned over. We are not even made of the same concretes over time, let alone those being in the same arrangement.

You are equating the various states a specific entity might be in over the course of its existence with the entity itself. Entities can change without becoming new things or units. If I paint a chair, for example, it doesn’t become a new unit.

Quoting ITOE: “When a child observes that two objects (which he will later learn to designate as “tables”) resemble each other, but are different from four other objects (“chairs”), his mind is focusing on a particular attribute of the objects (their shape), then isolating them according to their differences, and integrating them as units into separate groups according to their similarities.” Page 6.

In the case of the chair, nothing essential about it has been changed. When a fetus becomes a baby, something essential to its being a fetus has changed, thus it is not a subtype of fetus but something new - a baby. The difference between “old” and “young” does not work the same way. An old man is still a man; a young man is still a man. A baby is not a type of fetus.

Take another example: the Empire State Building. It doesn’t become a new unit of “Empire State Building” if you replace all the windows. It does, however, become something new if you triple its size, or hollow it out. To say that the same thing is multiple units of itself is odd, in a metaphysical sense. What is the status of these things that no longer exist, yet still act as units? That’s just not what "unit" means in Objectivism.

Also, the fact that the atoms in our bodies constantly change and move is not relevant to the context of classifying a person as a specific entity. “Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity – the corollary of which is: nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity.” (page 72) Unless we are talking as biologists or physicists etc, this information isn’t necessary to classify Mike Mazza as one thing.

And indeed I would argue that there is a continuity of change that would let us mentally isolate potentially limitless ("infinite") changes between these entities. So in a sense there are infinite units involved. And time does "create" them in a sense, in the sense that change only happens over time (although really its the actions of entites that create, over time). You're a being of self-made soul, right? Well who created that? You. Over time. And there were a lot of steps along the way, a lot of different "Mikes" at each point in time, and just as with concepts, we can qualify to get more specific: "Mike at X stage of development". That doesn't imply "popping in and out of existence", a ridiculous strawman version of what I'm saying.

But it is what your hypothesis implies. That Mike, “Mike at stage x” no longer exists. Mike of five seconds ago didn’t exist at four seconds ago, nor did he exist at six seconds ago. Where is this unit now? You need two potentially co-existing units. According to your theory, no two units can co-exist simultaneously. Your are in gross violation of both Rand’s and Ockham’s razors. You are creating an unnecessary theory that doesn’t adequately explain much anything, and you are positing entities beyond necessity.

So the question is, why does "Mike Mazza" stand for the same thing regardless of all this variation over time, regardless of whether the constituents and arrangements and characteristics can be completely different? For precisely the same reason that concepts can refer to a range of widely varying existents. It's essentially the same mental method as we use for concepts as for proper names, and it's the same validation of this method. I'm saying that Ayn Rand already answered this even though she didn't explicitly point it out.

But you don’t need this theory to explain how it is done! “Mike Mazza” refers to the same entity over time, because “Mike Mazza” is the name tag my parents gave to the entity they created. Since “Mike Mazza” refers to something concrete, we can fix the reference ostensibly. There just simply is not a need for an intermediary between the thing and the word, like there is with concepts. You might as well just join Frege and claim that there is a timeless “sense” in the third realm that connects my name to me. At least that way you wouldn’t run into the problem about needing multiple units of me.

So hopefully that addresses one half of your being baffled about what I'm saying. The other half I'm unclear on, but you seem to have some confusion over the definition of "abstract". Tree is most certainly an abstraction--first level or not. I never specified the level of abstraction, I merely pointed out the fact that it is an abstraction. A proper name is similar: it is a first-level abstraction like tree.

I did not say that “tree” is not an abstraction. I said that “tree” isn’t as abstract as the word “quite” implies. Something “quite” abstract would be something further removed from the perceptual level (an abstraction from an abstraction).

"Table" is an abstraction, since it designates any table, but its meaning can be conveyed simply by pointing to one or two perceptual objects. There is no such perceptual object as "furniture"; there are only tables, chairs, beds, etc." page 22

That's what I was getting at when I objected to your use of "quite."

Proper names do not work in the same way as concepts. Here is an abbreviated list of some of the things they do:

Concepts:
1) refer to the same entity across time
2) refer to an unlimited number of distinct entities at one time

Proper names:
A) refer to the same entity across time
B) refer to only one entity in a specific point in time

To be a concept, the thing in question MUST be able to do (2). That is what concepts are FOR, as Rand points out in the chapter on cognition and measurement. Even including your hypothesis that the same entity can have multiple units through time, you haven’t shown how proper names can do (2).

RE proofs, that's better, but I still think you've got it wrong. A proof can in principle have many variations, and you could call one class of proof by a single name, even though it means all the variations. Of course you're just going to say "well I mean one of those variations". And to that I'd just say what Ayn Rand did to the young Leonard Peikoff, "Can't you think in principle?!"

Here are three different phrases that refer to abstract particulars:

1) The first proof that x
2) The second proof that x
3) The combination of all proof that x

For (3) I am assuming that all sound proofs for the same thing would necessarily be interconnected. Could you give me an example of the multiple proof phenomena you are talking about? That doesn’t take place in philosophy as far as I am aware, so I’d like to know how it works in science.

I can refer to one proof individually. I can also refer to a group of related proofs together. I don’t see how this isn’t thinking in principle. My principle on the matter is that we talk about related things individually or as a group depending on context. If we are talking about Gödel’s incompleteness theorem and no other theories, we treat each step as a separate entity. If we are talking about proofs in general, we should treat Gödel’s theorem as one entity in relation to other proofs. If we talk about all the possible proofs of incompleteness, then we can talk about Gödel’s and Smith’s and Brown’s as one entity.

You've said a lot, but you've *still* not defined "abstract particular". I'd think that you would take Ayn Rand's admonition here seriously: "Define your terms." Not that I care much about it anymore per my comments to Diana.

If you don’t care anymore then I wont bother.

As a matter of fact my main point went over your head.

Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you.

(Note: It is artful how Linz comments on personality issues in the middle of a technical discussion while completely ignoring the content. And I mean that in the exact sense of art that Ayn Rand meant it in).

No idea what you are talking about.

You learned the wrong thing from Diana about "arbitrary".

Didn’t learn about “arbitrary” from Diana.

Arbitrary doesn't mean that I tell you I use ITOE in my work but don't fill you in on the details when it's the principle of the matter at issue. In principle I'm saying that ITOE isn't a complete guide to Objectivist epistemology (and Ayn Rand admitted as much--indeed the title uses the word *INTRODUCTION*). So clearly, if we are applying it to things we may need to extend it beyond the introductory. When we do that we are logically extending Objectivist epistemology.

Ok. But that isn’t what you said last time. You took your time to point out how much better you were than some unspecified group of Objectivists. That is what I was criticizing. I guess we’ll just have to take your word for it on this part.

If you want to say that ITOE isn’t the end all be all of epistemology, then just say it. In fact, I agree!

- Mike

Evaluations as 'arguments'

Rowlf's picture

Shayne:

~~ I've followed many (most?) of your arguments here at 'Passion' re one subject or another.

~~ There are times you are, well, 'right on, Bro!'; unfortunately, never totally in a given post.

~~ It's the other times (in some cases, complete posts) that really bug me. --- Consider: If mere moi is spelling this out, then, many others must see it, regardless that they merely 'lurk' and say nothing (I'm not talking about your seduced-into-'1-uppers')...while observing.

~~ I suggest that when you criticize others, try to do it in a, what I'm sure you would agree is a, non-ARI style. Spell out point-by-point (which you do, quite adequately) what (AND 'why' such is) is incorrect...

      ...without using evaluational-worth terminology. (Which I call 'subtle flaming'). -- You seem to have a prob about avoiding this 'without...' part.

~~ Your criticisms would get much more rational debate, rather than the frequent if not chronic emotional opposition...you really seem to be constantly fishing for.

LLAP
J:D

A World of Proper Nouns

Marnee's picture

Let me see.

I could say this: The human man , Mike Mazza, is new to the Objectivism website run by Lindsay Perigo, SOLOP, and I, human woman Marnee, welcome him. OR I could just say:

Mika Mazza is new to SOLOP and I, Marnee, welcome him.

I can drop the redundant identifiers (concepts themselves) because we (most of us) know generally what the proper nouns refer to and their abstract particulars, if that is a proper use of the notion.

So then proper nouns are not concepts. They just differentiate between particular referents of the same kind, if you can say that.

Correct? Close?

I think it may be time for a new thread.!

Mike!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"Bright and alive" is exactly what we aim for. You've made my day. Thank you! Consider that "warm" welcome now to be a "hot" one! Smiling

Me & SOLO

Mike_M's picture

Mr. Perigo,

You can call me Mike. I'm still feeling things out here, but so far I'm satisfied that I can get a fair hearing. I mentioned to Jason Quintana that I think SOLOP is the best designed of all the Objectivism related forums/websites out there (most of them are really stale). Everything here is so bright and alive!

Thanks for the warm welcome.

- Mike

Mike2...

sjw's picture

You've said a lot, but you've *still* not defined "abstract particular". I'd think that you would take Ayn Rand's admonition here seriously: "Define your terms." Not that I care much about it anymore per my comments to Diana.

Regarding the insult you took: if I wanted to insult you, believe me, I would, and if you want my estimate of you, ask, don't presume. As a matter of fact my main point went over your head. (Note: It is artful how Linz comments on personality issues in the middle of a technical discussion while completely ignoring the content. And I mean that in the exact sense of art that Ayn Rand meant it in).

You learned the wrong thing from Diana about "arbitrary". Arbitrary doesn't mean that I tell you I use ITOE in my work but don't fill you in on the details when it's the principle of the matter at issue. In principle I'm saying that ITOE isn't a complete guide to Objectivist epistemology (and Ayn Rand admitted as much--indeed the title uses the word *INTRODUCTION*). So clearly, if we are applying it to things we may need to extend it beyond the introductory. When we do that we are logically extending Objectivist epistemology.

Mr. Mazza ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'd like to congratulate you on both the content and style of your posts here & extend a hearty welcome to you. Apart from anything else it's good to see class-act ARI members/supporters such as yourself & Diana, James & Casey, engaging critics of the organisation here, especially at a time when TOC, ironically, has slammed down the shutters on criticism. The passionate concern you have for getting it right is palpable, even though you have to put up with "pompous condescension" in the process (it's routine from that particular quarter - don't sweat on it Smiling). Again, congratulations, & welcome!

Linz

reply to shayne 2

Mike_M's picture

Shayne -

I'm caught between two thoughts: First, that you should finish up with "abstract particulars" before you move onto this. For one thing, Rand didn't really discuss proper names in much detail. She just made two very brief remarks in passing (going by the ITOE index).

Well, I didn’t really bring it up. You did. Also, my objection to proper names as concepts does not originate from these quotes. She doesn’t say enough on the subject outside of indicating her position. My objection to proper nouns as concepts is largely informed by Kripke’s criticism of proper names as some sort of substitute for definite descriptions. I think any attempt to classify proper names as concepts would eventually break down into some form of description theory.

On the other hand, it certainly looks like her passing thoughts were something along the lines that proper names are only superficially conceptual. I'm making a stronger statement: That Objectivist epistemology applies to proper names as much as it does to concepts, that proper names (at least those that refer to physical objects) *are* concepts. They are differentiated only from the time aspect as I mentioned, other than that they function identically to concepts.

Diana addressed this. As to the specific way in which proper names connect to their referents, I don’t have a fully thought through view as of yet. Rand’s comments seem to suggest a view similar to Kripke’s (since Rand came first I guess Kripke’s are similar to Rand’s). But I’m very worried that this is polluted by Rutgers, so I won’t say any more.

So this is an interesting case in the open/closed system debate, one that I really wanted to avoid for the time being (Diana has written so much that a proper response would take more time than I have right now). As a closed-system advocate, your answer to the first question is only permitted to be: "The Objectivist view is only those few brief statements Ayn Rand made in ITOE." And because you regard your closed Objectivism as true, I will make a wild guess that your answer to the second is going to be either "I don't know" or something weird.

Yes. Objectivism’s theory of proper names would be limited to those comments she made. A full theory of proper names would not be considered part of Objectivism.

Since I regard Objectivism as both true and open in a restrictive sense, I have no troubles in postulating that perhaps Ayn Rand didn't give much consideration to proper names, and so didn't realize that her theory for concepts works perfectly well with them. So assuming I have not missed something, I think my view here would be properly considered "Objectivist", although I should get the credit not Ayn Rand.

Why do you think a closed system view makes this issue “troubling?” A theory of proper names might give a better foundation for linguistics, or computer recognition of language, but nothing major turns on it, at least nothing major that I can think of.

Concepts, according to Objectivism, are mental integrations of two or more unites. To get around this obvious problem, you suggest that unites are formed over time. This strikes me as an ad hoc hypothesis. I'll think on it a little more, though.

And this wouldn't be the only time that I've had to extend ITOE to solve a particular problem. Contrary to many "students of Objectivism", I actually *use* it in my practice, and if it doesn't have the required tools at hand for the job, I have to extend it as necessary. And I consider the extensions both *mine* and consistent with Objectivism. I don't regard them as being part of the Objectivist cannon of course. Ayn Rand is *always* the place to begin. But if Objectivism is going to be a philosophy for living on earth, it has to be open in the sense I mean. It is fundamentally but not fully complete.

Remember when I admitted that what I said was arbitrary? I think it is your turn. I have no idea what you are talking about here. When, why, and how have you expanded on ITOE? Who isn’t applying it. As to your description of open, you are equivocating. That is not what open system advocates are claiming, nor is it what closed system advocates are denying. Peikoff specifically mentions applications in F&V.

Your pompous condescension towards unnamed students of Objectivism aside, I apply this stuff all the time. Hell, if there isn’t a discussion of abstract particulars in ITOE, aren’t my thoughts on the topic an application of ITOE? I don’t see the point of this last paragraph. It’s just a wordy way of saying, “I am smarter than you.”

- Mike

Mike...

sjw's picture

I appreciate the patience and care you are taking in your arguments.

First of all, I am *not* saying that a proper name is not a proper name. Of course a proper name refers to some specific thing across time. My point is that these specific things are changing across time, and actually can end up being quite different things over time. So in that sense they are certainly not specific--at one time it's one specific thing, at another time it's a different specific thing. A fetus is not a baby. A baby is not a man. An old man is not a vibrant young man. And not only that, but our biological constituents are constantly being turned over. We are not even made of the same concretes over time, let alone those being in the same arrangement.

And indeed I would argue that there is a continuity of change that would let us mentally isolate potentially limitless ("infinite") changes between these entities. So in a sense there are infinite units involved. And time does "create" them in a sense, in the sense that change only happens over time (although really its the actions of entites that create, over time). You're a being of self-made soul, right? Well who created that? You. Over time. And there were a lot of steps along the way, a lot of different "Mikes" at each point in time, and just as with concepts, we can qualify to get more specific: "Mike at X stage of development". That doesn't imply "popping in and out of existence", a ridiculous strawman version of what I'm saying.

So the question is, why does "Mike Mazza" stand for the same thing regardless of all this variation over time, regardless of whether the constituents and arrangements and characteristics can be completely different? For precisely the same reason that concepts can refer to a range of widely varying existents. It's essentially the same mental method as we use for concepts as for proper names, and it's the same validation of this method. I'm saying that Ayn Rand already answered this even though she didn't explicitly point it out.

So hopefully that addresses one half of your being baffled about what I'm saying. The other half I'm unclear on, but you seem to have some confusion over the definition of "abstract". Tree is most certainly an abstraction--first level or not. I never specified the level of abstraction, I merely pointed out the fact that it is an abstraction. A proper name is similar: it is a first-level abstraction like tree.

RE proofs, that's better, but I still think you've got it wrong. A proof can in principle have many variations, and you could call one class of proof by a single name, even though it means all the variations. Of course you're just going to say "well I mean one of those variations". And to that I'd just say what Ayn Rand did to the young Leonard Peikoff, "Can't you think in principle?!"

Interesting argument

sjw's picture

Amit's argument is interesting--I made precisely that argument regarding some calls by ARI loyalists years ago calling for the rebuilding of the WTC but I don't think they liked it. My basic point was that it was up to the owner to decide, given the current appeasing government and culture, whether it was worth the risk, but it was no one's place to tell the owner whether or not he should rebuild.

On the other hand, there is an argument to be made that if the risk is small, then being cowed to terrorists is cowardly regardless of government policy. In the case of the WTC, I don't think the risk is at all small, but in regard to Borders, I don't know enough to say. I suspect the risk is not that big. The risk would definitely not be big if most or all other book stores carried the cartoons.

In any case, I don't find it inspiring to see ARI loyalists beating down Bidinotto when he makes an argument like that, when years earlier many ARI loyalists were calling for rebuilding of the WTC on some kind of moral grounds.

First reply to Shayne

Mike_M's picture

Shayne -

Mike, I can't point to you aged 6mo or you aged 80 years, yet when I use your name I can mean those as well as you as you are right now. Likewise for the Empire State Building, yes you can point to it if you're standing in front of it, but usually we mean something abstract, we omit its current decor, whatever parts of it might come from renovation, etc.

Well, you could point to me at six month if this were 1984, and you could point to me at 80 if this were 2064. You can never point to “Objectivism.” That is (one of) the difference between these two types of proper names. With concepts, the difference is so striking I’m really at a loss as to how you could not see it. Proper names always refer to one specific thing across time. Concepts refer to an infinite amount of things across time. The difference? One vs. Infinite. This is an essential difference. If you like, I can explicitly apply the rule of fundamentality to show this.

I'm not going to address your "we can point to it" criteria at this time because you've not addressed this basic fact that I had already pointed out (I'll just hint: "we can point" merely means that something is perceptual; a tree in front of us is something we can point to, but the concept "tree" is quite abstract). If you can't reconcile the clear open-endedness of these kinds of proper nouns ("Mike", "Empire State Building", "New York City") then you're stuck. I reconcile them by saying they are a special type of *concept*--they fit in perfectly with the ideas of measurement omission, multiple units, etc. Their distinguishing trait is that the different units come as a function of time (you aged 6mo is a unit; you aged 80 is another).

“Tree” is not 'quite' abstract. “Tree” is a first level concept. An example of a “quite abstract” concept would be “freedom.” See chapter 3 on abstractions. In addition, you are equivocating on what “open-endedness” means. As used in ITOE, and by me, open-endedness refers to the fact that every new instance of a type is to be included in the concept. See page 147 for a brief discussion. Again, there is a fundamental difference between the fact that a proper name refers to one specific thing over time, and saying that a concept refers to an infinite number of concretes. And Shayne, if time creates unites, your position would force you to say that there are an infinite number of Empire State Buildings that instantaneously pop into and out of existence an infinite number of times during the course of that thing's existence.

Another item of evidence that you need to do more thinking here is your calling proofs "abstract particulars". As a matter of fact, the usual story with physical proofs is that there are many ways to prove the same thing. It happens in classical physics all the time. Indeed, that's one method for verifying a proof--try to prove it from a different angle and see if you get the same result.

I don’t follow you. All that would force me to say is that “The first proof of x” refers to one abstract particular, while “The second proof of x” refers to a different one. Not too controversial since they are, in fact, different proofs though of the same principle.

Again you declare that something is in ITOE, without offering quotes or page numbers. I regard that as arbitrary. And besides, my issue wasn't that there were two terms, it was that there were to clashing terms--the concept "abstract" and the concept "particular" are usually intended to differentiate between opposites. It's like saying "hot cold" or "capitalist communist" or something.

You are right. I should not have just asserted that “it was all in ITOE.” From my perspective, the concept of “abstract particulars” is implied all over ITOE and very obviously so. But it was not objective for me to just assert it without explaining.

The opposite of “abstract” is “concrete.” “Particular” means we are talking about one thing but doesn’t imply what that thing is. There are thus concrete particulars, such as Mike Mazza, and abstract particulars, such as Objectivism, or "tree."

My response to your second post is in the works right now.

- Mike

Fine

sjw's picture

"I suspect that only a serious rationalist would be convinced by such a deduction from capital letters."

Fine. Sounds good to me. And I'm glad you point out that this "abstract particular" notion is not part of Objectivism. I still think it's whacky, but hey, as long as it's not being advertised as "Objectivist", it doesn't concern me much (it only concerned me to the extent that I assumed ARI intellectuals thought this was a valid justification of "closed system").

So I guess in the end this Axiomatic interview didn't do much to further the "closed system" argument. For that I guess it's the other articles on your site? Or are those too viewed by you as essentially sketchy and incomplete?

The New Individualist

DianaHsieh's picture

Bill Nevin writes: "You will be hard pressed, otoh, to find anyone associated with ARI having a kind word for, or even mentioning, Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses, Stephen Hicks' excellent Explaining Postmodernism, the latest issue of The New Individualist, which featured a Danish Mohammad cartoon on the cover, Robert Bidinotto's recent email and blog campaign against the cowardly appeasement of terrorism on the part of Border's Books, or anything positive that TOC or anyone affiliated with TOC does."

In fact, Bill has no idea what ARI scholars and supporters discuss amongst themselves -- and more of his wildly rationalistic deductions from a paragraph of F&V won't get him anywhere close to the truth. Personally, I've discussed all the listed items, with the exception of Stephen Hicks' book, with numerous ARI scholars and/or supporters on more than one occasion. (I think reasonably well of Hicks, so I'd like to read his book.) I even heard that an informal epistemology study group of Objectivist graduate students discussed David Kelley's "Evidence and Justification" one session -- and gave it exactly the shredding it so richly deserves.

As for Bidinotto's campaign against Borders, he's wrong to blame them for anything like "cowardly appeasement," for the reasons detailed by Amit Ghate here and here. Borders. Borders should be commended for being honest enough to identify the real threat of violence from Muslims, not castigated for their unwillingness to turn themselves into an armed camp.

As Amit says: "But for those who still think Borders et al. are culpable, please remember that: the Danish cartoonists are still in hiding while those who place bounties on their heads are out in public (and surrounded by adulating mobs); Ayaan Hirsi Ali has to be guarded 24 hours a day, and is often moved to army barracks just to be kept safe; Theo Van Gogh is dead; Iran has very recently reconfirmed the Rushdie fatwa against all those who are involved in publishing his book, etc. etc. Yet no Western government takes the steps necessary to remove those threats. How can you fault Borders for acknowledging that fact and acting accordingly?"

I would add that two bookstores in California was firebombed for carrying Rushdie's _The Satanic Verses_ -- and that one of them was a Waldenbooks, i.e. Borders!! They have good reason to fear for their safety.

As for that much-touted issue of _The New Individualist_, Greg Perkins is writing up a blog post on it. In my view, TOC deserves no praise whatsoever for the cover, since Ed Hudgins' article discussing the issue is worse than saying nothing at all: it is a long pointless confused ramble without any substantial connection to Objectivist principles.

TOC is a fundamentally dishonest and corrupt organization. Perhaps its only virtue is its incompetance, since that prevents it from doing great damage. To praise the fundamentally bad for occasional goods is to drop context, particularly to ignore the purpose of moral evaluation. To praise TOC would be just as inappropriate as praising Lenin for his devotion to his brother or praising Hitler for his kindness to his dog. (And no, I'm not saying that TOC is morally equivalent to Hitler. If you think that, you need training in Analogies 101.)

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Oh, Bother

DianaHsieh's picture

Shayne: When I said that proper names refer to single particulars, I meant just that. They refer to single things, whether concretes (like "Linz Perigo") or abstractions (like "The Law of Identity"). The opposite of particular is "universal," not "abstract" -- contrary to your claims about my Orwellian doublespeak.

Also, if you'd bothered to read my full comments on abstract particulars from the _Axiomatic_ interview, you'd know that I specifically recommended against arguing for the closed system by such means, precisely because the issue is so technical -- and not part of Objectivism. So please, put your strawman back in the closet where it belongs.

Here are those _Axiomatic_ comments in full:

    AM: Even some Objectivists don't really grasp the argument for what it means to have a closed system. Usually they say Objectivism is a proper name and leave it at that.

    DH: That was a very common argument for the closed system years ago, and I still see it occasionally. It basically says: "Objectivism" is capitalized, therefore it's a proper name, therefore it designates something particular, namely whatever Ayn Rand said it is, and that's that. I found that argument unconvincing those many years ago, as I thought Objectivism was a concept. Now I see that the claim is basically right, but that it's a far more complicated issue than most people realize. Let's see if I can get this right.

    It's true that "Objectivism" is a proper name. It designates something particular, i.e. some one thing. It's also abstract. Unlike with ordinary proper name existents, I cannot point to it, saying "That's John" or "There's Mars." "Objectivism" refers to abstractions, particularly to a set of interconnected ideas. And it can be grasped by millions. In essence, it's an "abstract particular"--but what the heck is that? Is that like a Platonic Form, floating around in Platonic Heaven somewhere? Let's hope not!

    Honestly, I had to answer this question before I could fully accept the idea that Objectivism is a closed system. Happily, I was straightened out by a very smart Objectivist graduate student friend of mine. He pointed out that abstract particulars are not such a strange notion at all, since all concepts are actually abstract particulars. For example, the concept "tree" is the same for all of us, so long as we can identify the referents. It refers to the exact same mental contents in all of us, not some meta-concept formed by omitting the measurements of our individual concepts of "tree." The term "Objectivism" is like that, in that it refers to a particular interconnected set of abstract philosophic principles.

    In my view, actually grasping that Objectivism is a proper noun requires at least a basic understanding of such abstract particulars. Yet obviously Ayn Rand never discussed the matter, at least not in print. So it's not a part of Objectivism. It's also a highly technical point of epistemology. So I'm more than a little skeptical of attempts to argue for the closed system on the grounds that Objectivism is a proper noun. I suspect that only a serious rationalist would be convinced by such a deduction from capital letters.

    From what I've seen, a much better argumentative route is to consider the point in relation to other philosophers in history. Kant, for example, has a boatload of contradictions in his philosophic system, but Joe Blow Kantian philosopher has no right to revise Kant's philosophy as he pleases, not even for the better. He can draw substantially from Kant, he can be part of a Kantian tradition, but Kant defined his own philosophy once and for all in his own works. The same goes for Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Arcane?

Casey's picture

Saying that a proper name is open-ended because the person or building it names changes over time is arcane -- and pointless.

The point made by the term "abstract particular" is quite clear -- and quite useful.

"Arcane philosophy for living on earth"

sjw's picture

Kinda sounds like "abstract particular" to me. I'm not going to try to pretend to know what Diana is actually thinking, but my guess is that she thinks that the only way to resolve the open/closed system issue is to resort to arcane philosophy. Which is very convenient if you happen to regard yourself as an expert in the arcane. The religious parallels are palpable.

In spite of Diana's straining to disagree with me to the maximal extent possible, "superficially conceptual" means "not actually conceptual." If I say that water has a superficial resemblance to alcohol, that means that it isn't actually alcohol. Of course, maybe Diana's arcane terminology gives her some excuse to use a different definition for "superficial."

"Proper names refer to single particulars, not open-ended categories, as do concepts." -- Looks like Diana uses "particular" as a synonym for "concrete". I'm really looking forward to the definition of "abstract particular", which it would seem has an equivalent form of "abstract concrete", making the weirdness of the term all the more clear.

Proper Names

DianaHsieh's picture

Ayn Rand's clearly stated view in the quotes posted by Mike was that proper names do not stand for concepts at all. Proper names are not "only superficially conceptual," as Shayne claims. Rather, they aren't conceptual at all. Proper names refer to single particulars, not open-ended categories, as do concepts. (As for our grasp of the identity of particulars over time, that integration is grounded in perception: we perceive whole entities persisting through time, not disconnected sensations.)

Without an understanding of the very basic distinction between proper names and concepts, any further discussion of the complex and technical question of "abstract particulars" is impossible.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

First things first?

sjw's picture

I'm caught between two thoughts: First, that you should finish up with "abstract particulars" before you move onto this. For one thing, Rand didn't really discuss proper names in much detail. She just made two very brief remarks in passing (going by the ITOE index).

On the other hand, it certainly looks like her passing thoughts were something along the lines that proper names are only superficially conceptual. I'm making a stronger statement: That Objectivist epistemology applies to proper names as much as it does to concepts, that proper names (at least those that refer to physical objects) *are* concepts. They are differentiated only from the time aspect as I mentioned, other than that they function identically to concepts.

So this is an interesting case in the open/closed system debate, one that I really wanted to avoid for the time being (Diana has written so much that a proper response would take more time than I have right now). As a closed-system advocate, your answer to the first question is only permitted to be: "The Objectivist view is only those few brief statements Ayn Rand made in ITOE." And because you regard your closed Objectivism as true, I will make a wild guess that your answer to the second is going to be either "I don't know" or something weird.

Since I regard Objectivism as both true and open in a restrictive sense, I have no troubles in postulating that perhaps Ayn Rand didn't give much consideration to proper names, and so didn't realize that her theory for concepts works perfectly well with them. So assuming I have not missed something, I think my view here would be properly considered "Objectivist", although I should get the credit not Ayn Rand.

And this wouldn't be the only time that I've had to extend ITOE to solve a particular problem. Contrary to many "students of Objectivism", I actually *use* it in my practice, and if it doesn't have the required tools at hand for the job, I have to extend it as necessary. And I consider the extensions both *mine* and consistent with Objectivism. I don't regard them as being part of the Objectivist cannon of course. Ayn Rand is *always* the place to begin. But if Objectivism is going to be a philosophy for living on earth, it has to be open in the sense I mean. It is fundamentally but not fully complete.

proper names as concepts?

Mike_M's picture

I'm between classes, so I'm just going to make a quick post in the form of a quote from ITOE:

"Every word we us (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind.

(Proper names are used in order to identify and include particular entities in a conceptual method of cognition. Observe that even proper names, in advanced civilizations, follow the definitional principles of genus and differentia: e.g., John Smith, with "Smith" serving as genus and "John" as differentia - or New York, U.S.A.)" 10-11

"And conversely, a sound, if it is to be a word, cannot deonote objects directly, without representing a concept. (A word which did that would be a proper name.)" 175

Several paragraphs later:

"A word which is not a proper name does not refer directly to an indefinite number of concrete objects." 175

Look them up for the full context.

So there are two questions: What is the Objectivist view? (Not yours) and, What is the correct view?

I'll post my full reply later tonight.

"Abstract Particulars"

sjw's picture

Mike, I can't point to you aged 6mo or you aged 80 years, yet when I use your name I can mean those as well as you as you are right now. Likewise for the Empire State Building, yes you can point to it if you're standing in front of it, but usually we mean something abstract, we omit its current decor, whatever parts of it might come from renovation, etc. Likewise for a city: New York City means that place when it was young, its current modern state, and its future state. It's still New York City, even though there is a wide range of particulars (which we omit) that have changed about it over time.

I'm not going to address your "we can point to it" criteria at this time because you've not addressed this basic fact that I had already pointed out (I'll just hint: "we can point" merely means that something is perceptual; a tree in front of us is something we can point to, but the concept "tree" is quite abstract). If you can't reconcile the clear open-endedness of these kinds of proper nouns ("Mike", "Empire State Building", "New York City") then you're stuck. I reconcile them by saying they are a special type of *concept*--they fit in perfectly with the ideas of measurement omission, multiple units, etc. Their distinguishing trait is that the different units come as a function of time (you aged 6mo is a unit; you aged 80 is another).

Another item of evidence that you need to do more thinking here is your calling proofs "abstract particulars". As a matter of fact, the usual story with physical proofs is that there are many ways to prove the same thing. It happens in classical physics all the time. Indeed, that's one method for verifying a proof--try to prove it from a different angle and see if you get the same result.

Again you declare that something is in ITOE, without offering quotes or page numbers. I regard that as arbitrary. And besides, my issue wasn't that there were two terms, it was that there were to clashing terms--the concept "abstract" and the concept "particular" are usually intended to differentiate between opposites. It's like saying "hot cold" or "capitalist communist" or something.

But I look forward to the definition.

Scholars or Sellers?

James S. Valliant's picture

Neil,

If an economist, scholar, or political writer were to simply ignore the work of someone like Reisman, that would indeed be bad.

But does ARI bookstore have to actively promote authors who they see as active enemies of their organization? This is something else, isnt it?

Since TOC doesn't carry either PAR or PARC, in an odd ban on Rand biography, or to avoid controversy or whatever, and since LaissezFaire doesn't carry PARC, I tend to let folks take the partisan stances as booksellers they choose to...

ARI

Neil Parille's picture

Jim,

I certainly think the ARI does good work and ARIans are free to associate with whomever they want.

However, the ARI attitude appears to be that the only important work on Objectivism or by Objectivists is done by ARIans.

Did The Evidence of the Senses cease being valuable because of the Kelley/Peikoff split? What about Reismann's Capitalism?

From what I can tell, ARIans have ignored Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism even though it is a careful work in the history of ideas.

Huh?

James S. Valliant's picture

Robert,

Don't you think that there should be an organization which helps and sponsors the work of serious writers and teachers whose work, though perhaps even highly creative, is consistent with Objectivism? It's Objectivism, right? Isn't a little part of Objectivism the worship of creative thought? Rand herself said that she didn't have the last word to say on the subject of philosophy. Closing Objectivism off from the tampering of others who would hijack the name does not preclude new thinking.

No doubt about it: ARI should be very careful in selecting what to support – and only the work most consistent with Objectivism should be supported, of course – but it should foster and encourage new ideas which are consistent developments of Rand's, don't you think?

No, proper names that refer

Mike_M's picture

No, proper names that refer to object do not refer to something abstract. That is the difference. You can point to me, as you can point to a building. You cannot point to life as the standard of value and objectivity and the primacy of existence and the virtue of integrity and individual rights, etc all as one unit. Nor can you point to all of the principles Darwin reached in his thinking. There is a big difference between saying some specific object changes over time and saying that something is abstract.

Proper nouns work the same in that they refer to particular things, what differs is the types of things they refer to. Some proper nouns can refer to abstractions, while others refer to objects. Proper nouns that refer to some group of ideas would fit in the former category. Proper nouns that refer to objects, such as me, are in the other.

I think the names of stories might refer to abstract particulars, such as "The Tortoise and the Hare." A story is a set of connected ideas, so I think that would qualify.

Here is a list of proper names that refer to abstract particulars:

In philosophy, "Objectivism." In science, "Newtonian Mechanics." In math, "Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem". In fiction, "The Tortoise and the Hare." Fictional proper names may also fit this, for example John Galt refers to a set of connect ideas, not a person, not sure though.

Here is a list of definite descriptions that refer to abstract particulars:

In philosophy, "The philosophy of Hegel." In science, "The proof that E=MC^2." I don't know enough math, so I’ll stick with the same proof: "The proof that arithmetic is incomplete." In fiction, "The story about the architect named Howard Roark." Describing a fictional character, "The main character of The Godfather."

I think every concept is also an abstract particular, as Diana said in the interview. Here is a list of concepts, just in case:

From philosophy, "Justice." In science, "gravity." In math, "triangle." I don't know how we could talk about a fictional concept, so: "fiction," and "character."

You'll have to wait for a formal definition, since that takes more time than I have tonight. But off the top of my head, I think the term does most of the work for us. Abstract (differentia) particular (genus).

Actually Mike, I'll use the term "Mike Mazza" to refer to you when you were born, now, and when you're 80.

And the implication of this is that everything is an abstraction, or everything is a particular. If "Mike Mazza" works in the same way that "Objectivism" does, then either Mike Mazza is some abstract thing, or Objectivism is some concrete thing that can be referred to ostensibly. You can point to Mike Mazza, you can't point to Objectivism. Yet both refer to one thing. That is where the need for some concept describing an abstract particular comes in.

And frankly it baffles me that any Objectivist would tolerate such an Orwellian clash of terms, as a matter of style if nothing else. Rand discusses concepts using two terms in the appendix of ITOE. I think this would be an example of that.

Oh, and this will most likely be my last post until sometime after 6pm EST. I have to go to sleep now and I have class all day tomorrow.

- Mike

"Abstract Particulars"

sjw's picture

Actually Mike, I'll use the term "Mike Mazza" to refer to you when you were born, now, and when you're 80. Even though you're quite different at all those different times. Same for the Empire State Building. So at least in these cases the proper nouns refer to something that looks a lot like a concept if not exactly like a concept--the referents change over time, but there is something essentially similar being united.

I don't think you were very good coming up with a nice range of examples. The only thing counting as particulars were systems of thought; then you had the more vague "some proper nouns" and "some definite descriptions" that definitely does not count as examples. So I don't think you understand this term. That is OK, because I don't think anyone can understand it. And frankly it baffles me that any Objectivist would tolerate such an Orwellian clash of terms, as a matter of style if nothing else.

Well I'll move onto the next obvious question anyway. What is your definition of "abstract particular"? What is the genus and differentia?

Good luck and good premises,

Adam Buker's picture

Good luck and good premises, Bill.

'Fundamentals'

Rowlf's picture

Diana:

~~ You said, "However, the gaps concern specialized domains of knowledge, not fundamental principles. The only exception -- recognized by AR herself -- is a theory of induction."

~~ Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't LP say that much (if not 'major') work was needed re definitions? Or am I thinking also of 'induction.'? I believe it was in one of his (a while ago) tape-lecture series on basic logic, probably in the Q&A's.

~~ Additionally, why would Philosophy-of-Mind be considered non-fundamental? It strikes me as about as 'metaphysical' as one could get, implying something special regarding some existents. Derivatively, it seems that the nature of 'healthy' motivations implied therein would have some bearing on the science of Psychology, and without such, well, we see where Psychology presently is. Additionally, AR's characters seem to have their motivations tied pretty directly to O'ism's ethics (hinted at in Galt's speech re volition and evasion), ergo, for a couple of reasons the whole area of Psychology-of-Mind seems fairly 'fundamental.'

~~ Finally, maybe the term 'fundamental', like 'fairness' is not all that...unambigous. As you mentioned re Induction, maybe there are fundamentals worth calling such, but, like axiomatic-concepts (A is A,etc) vs basic-propositions-of-philosophic-areas (metaphysics, epistemology, etc), some 'fundamentals' are more fundamental than others. Ergo, like Aristotle's absolute-absolutes vs relative-absolutes, there should be distinctions 'twixt basic-fundamentals and...secondary ones? Maybe I'm nit-picking here, but, the term 'fundamental' seems to be a hinge-term for arguments about 'open vs closed' systems...which I'll not get into here.

~~ Anyhoo, keep writing.

LLAP
J:D

abstract particulars

Mike_M's picture

Well, "Mike Mazza" is not an asbstract thing of any sort. Nor is the Empire State Building. That is why only some proper nouns fall under this concept, but not others. I thought it was clear that concepts are also types of abstract particulars, since Diana, you, and I already covered that point. Remember?

You wrote: I suppose you must mean that "abstract particular" is a wider class, to which the concept "concept" belongs. So, can you point to other types of referents than just "concepts"?

So the wider classification of "abstract particulars" includes concepts, some proper nouns, and some definite descriptions. Maybe more things, I don't know at this point.

The only examples you listed were extremely similar to Objectivism in the respect of being systems of thought in some area or another.

I don't think it is too controversial for things that fall under the same classification to be similar. So we have "systems of though" or something like it, and concepts. Both of these have the property of being abstract and at the same time particular. Systems of thought aren't concepts, and concepts aren't systems of thought, yet they are similar in the way I just indicated. So we use the term "abstract particular" to refer to them together.

- Mike

"Abstract Particulars"

sjw's picture

Mike: Only some proper nouns? Why not all of them?

The only examples you listed were extremely similar to Objectivism in the respect of being systems of thought in some area or another. Is it the idea then that this new concept is only intended to mean "systems of thought" or "theories" or something similar? Is that as broad as this new term is intended to go? If so I wonder why we need the new term. We already have a concept "system of thought".

Diana already declared war on me so I don't think the joke's going to make a difference.

Smith's new book

Mike_M's picture

Mr. Perry,

I saw on RoR you were discussing Tara Smith's new book. You linked to the Wikipedia article on her. In case you weren't aware, the book has a website which includes the book's introduction. I recommend reading the pdf, as the other version doesn't include the footnotes.

- Mike

abstract particulars

Mike_M's picture

Some proper nouns would qualify, "Objectivism" being the obvious example. "Newtonian mechanics" I think would be another, in that it refers to a set of abstract principles and methods as a whole. I think some types of definite descriptions might qualify, such as "Darwin's theory of evolution," in that it refers to a set of principles again as a whole. I wrote a little more, though I erased it because I think it might have been a little polluted by the philosophy of language classes I've been taking. Perhaps Diana could add something. But since you basically just called her a charlatan out of the blue I wouldn't be surprised if she wasn't in the mood to reply.

And Shayne, I wasn't objecting to your use of humor. I was objecting to your equating me and those who hold my view with the tyrants who distort language in order to maintain conformity from Orwell's novel.

"Abstract particulars"

sjw's picture

"So there you go. All of that is in ITOE."

Very funny. With such a good sense of humor, I don't know why you didn't like my joke about Orwell!

Seriously though, all your quote of Diana said was that "abstract particular" means "concept". Unless it's a completely pointless term designed by the coiner to try to make us think she's clever, I suppose you must mean that "abstract particular" is a wider class, to which the concept "concept" belongs. So, can you point to other types of referents than just "concepts"?

(BTW, I'll use humor as I please. Keep telling me how to talk if you like, but I'm not gonna listen to you).

Why learn Objectivism from an expert?

Mike_M's picture

Robert Campbell wrote:

However, if Objectivism is a closed system, the advocates of that view ought to take that fact with the utmost seriousness, as Bill Nevin suggests. No exceptions granted to a few specially trained and anointed; no special dispensation to hex the Pentateuch.

I'm not sure what you are getting at. Who is presenting new theory and calling it Objectivism?

Peikoff's theory of induction would not be Objectivism, nor would Binswanger's theory of consciousness, nor would Smith's work in legal philosophy. I would refer to it as Objectivist or informed by Objectivism or some such, but it's really just semantics at that point. I don't think any of them have claimed their theories as part of Objectivism.

Campbell again:
If the new work being done today by Peikoff, or Smith, or Wright, or others at ARI isn't Objectivism, why does it need sponsoring by something called the Ayn Rand Institute? Is non-Objectivist philosophy within the purview of an Objectivist institute, as the ARIans profess to conceive it? And why would anyone need training in Objectivism, to be able to make a go of non-Objectivism?

They don't need ARI/Anthem to discover something new. But ARI and Anthem offer them help, and they take it. I'm not sure I get the meaning of the question. ARI/Anthem provides support for Objectivist intellectuals. As long as the work they do does not contradict Objectivism, I don't think there are major restrictions on what they can do.

"And why would anyone need training in Objectivism, to be able to make a go of non-Objectivism?"

Because Objectivism serves as a foundation for their work? Just a guess. Given that a very large part of OAC training is in proper methodology, your question could be rephrased thusly: Why does anyone need training in proper methodology to do discover new truth? Objectivism, at least as I understand it and have been taught it, is just as must method as it is content; the philosophy is equally radical in method as it is radical in content. To the extent that I understand what you are asking, that is the best I can answer.

- Mike

Closed system

eg's picture

Objectivism is reality congruent, not Leonard Peikoff congruent. Reality, reason, truth (or science). LP merely over-estimates his ability to actually know something. As a philosophy it can be considered closed or open or what-have-you or what-anyone-else-has-to-say. Then you get various tribes at each other's throats, each representing the true or right system. As a method first, it can be a (tentative) philosophy off its non-controversial metaphysical-epistemological base. That's right, ethics and politics are up in the air for a practicable philosophy. This is not pragmatism but an acknowledgement we need to know much more about ourselves--about human being.

Rand came down off the mountain with The Law ("Atlas Shrugged") in her hands. But what does Galt's Gulch mean except the good guys rest having withdrawn from the world? The central idea of her philosophy is the impotence of evil. She gave a lot more thought to that than the potence of the good. The most important thing she failed to adequately identify ("mixed premises") is the potential for good and evil in each and every one of us. The idea of moral perfection demands a non-dynamic non-self-struggling human being as an achievable ideal. This is the "closed" system of Objectivism: The bad guy collectivists in "Anthem" are merely the other side of the Rand coin, invisible to her and most others. This is why her heroes didn't become heroes they are just given to her readers as fully developed, with the possible exception of Dominique Francon.

Those of us who don't go along with the closed system stand on her shoulders, not under the thumb of some orthodoxy. Ayn Rand is fuel, but she needs to be constantly deconstructed. PARC is as much a part of that as JD, MYWR, PAR, etc.--including Internet discussions.

--Brant

Closed-system Objectivism and new knowledge

Robert Campbell's picture

I've become convinced, by Ms. Hsieh and others, that Objectivism is a closed system.  Not because this is the only sensible way that one could think about Ayn Rand's ideas, but because the people with the biggest stake in deciding who is or is not an Objectivist are the closed-system advocates.

However, if Objectivism is a closed system, the advocates of that view ought to take that fact with the utmost seriousness, as Bill Nevin suggests.  No exceptions granted to a few specially trained and anointed; no special dispensation to hex the Pentateuch.

As Peikoff said, Objectivism holds that every truth is an absolute, and that a proper philosophy is an integrated whole, any change in any element of which would destroy the entire system.

Therefore, if Ayn Rand didn't cover some philosophical issue, big or small, it will have to covered by others who, by definition, are not doing Objectivism and whose ideas are not part of Objectivism.  So there never will be philosophy of mind, or philosophy of law, or philosophy of science, or an account of practical wisdom, or what have you within Objectivism.

And, if Rand did cover some philosophical issue, and she turns out to be wrong, Objectivism is stone dead, for it must be accepted or rejected in toto. (See Peikoff quote above.)

So if today's developmental psychologists are right, and human beings are not born tabula rasa, Objectivism is stone dead.

If critics of the distinction between perception and conceptual identification are correct (I know this as a Peikoff/Kelley distinction, but I will assume for the sake of argument that it was imparted to Peikoff by Rand), for instance when they ask how the Objectivist epistemology could account for mistakes made by frogs or squirrels... Objectivism is dead.  The entire closed system must be rejected.

Which leads to a further question.

If the new work being done today by Peikoff, or Smith, or Wright, or others at ARI isn't Objectivism, why does it need sponsoring by something called the Ayn Rand Institute?  Is non-Objectivist philosophy within the purview of an Objectivist institute, as the ARIans profess to conceive it? And why would anyone need training in Objectivism, to be able to make a go of non-Objectivism?

That may sound paradoxical, but I don't have a Captain Magic Decoder Ring at my disposal either.  I confess I do wonder from time to time whether to those at ARI, "closed system" really means "closed to outsiders," rather than "closed to additions or modifications."

Robert Campbell

ARI and TOC people

PhilipC's picture

Bill, I have to agree with Mr. Mazza and Diana that you are generalizing or universalizing about people who include those you don't know and have very indirect evidence about regarding ARI. It would be no more valid to say the staff and students at ARI are robotic, kneejerk, unoriginal minds than it would be to say that those associated with TOC are appeasers with no committment to Objectivism.

[Edited next day: The way I worded the above, it sounds as though I agree that there are *many* at ARI who are robotic, etc. and many at TOC who are appeasers. I do not. Most people at both places seem to be good people, who may be mistaken on certain issues of the application of Objectivism. I've discussed this on other websites, so I won't repost it all again here.]

I have a lot of years of familiarity with people in both 'camps'. There seems to be a wide range of people of all ages, intellectual abilities, levels of knowledge, degrees of motivation, and degrees of understanding of and committment to Objectivism...and at least four different sexes...in both organizations.

Phil

ARI and TOC people

PhilipC's picture

I just joined today (but I'm unable to post...Is this because I'm evil?)

if this works and appears, I'll then edit it or delete it.

Phil

Open and Closed Systems

DianaHsieh's picture

Thank you for correcting the record, Mike. As those of us in OAC know first-hand, Bill Nevin's assertions about what OAC must be like are wildly off the mark. And once again, I urge people -- particularly students -- to investigate ARI (and OAC) for themselves, rather than relying about the stories of others. Once I did that, the tales of Bill Nevin and others about the authoritarian, dogmatic, oppressive ARI were shown to be not just false, but completely absurd.

Regarding the open versus closed system debate, I wrote up some comments in private e-mail just a few days ago that might be helpful. (I've edited them slightly for the different context.)

    ...I regard the philosophy of Objectivism as *far* more rich and complete than most TOC folks acknowledge. TOCers seem to hold that Objectivism doesn't amount to much for two reasons: (1) they accept of DK's list of principles in T&T as all that constitute the philosophy and (2) they fail to study the philosophy in any depth.

    However, it's certainly true Ayn Rand didn't discuss every philosophic issue. She has no explicit and detailed account of the nature and limits of moral responsibility, as Aristotle does in the _Nicomachean Ethics_. Also, she said fairly little about jurisprudence. So what should we say about those and other gaps? Here's my basic view:

    (1) They are gaps, but not major holes in her philosophic system. The topics not covered may well be of overriding importance to some people, as jurisprudence is to lawyers. However, the gaps concern specialized domains of knowledge, not fundamental principles. The only exception -- recognized by AR herself -- is a theory of induction.

    (2) Such gaps are not unique to Objectivism. Given the huge range of issues in philosophy, no single philosopher can possibly write upon them all. For example, John Locke said nothing about aesthetics as far as I know. Aristotle never directly discussed free will, although he's clearly relying upon some conception of human choice in his accounts of both moral responsibility and moral habits. (His followers did some work in that area though.) Off the top of my head, I'd say that the work of a given philosopher is a *system of philosophy* despite such gaps if and only if (1) it lays down fundamental principles in the fundamental branches (i.e. in metaphysics, epistemology, and
    ethics) and (2) those principles are generally well-integrated rather than a contradictory hash.

    (3) The fundamental principles of Objectivism can often shine great light upon the issues not directly or adequately discussed by Ayn Rand. That work isn't part of Objectivism, since we shouldn't put our words into Ayn Rand's mouth, as a matter of honesty and of pride. However, that philosophic work can and ought to be done. More generally, nothing in the closed system view precludes new philosophic discovered, whether substantially grounded in Objectivist principles (e.g. Tara Smith's work on judicial interpretation) or substantially new integrations (e.g. Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis). That's because the closed system view does not equate Objectivism with the whole of true philosophy. I've been very impressed with what I've seen from ARI scholars in this regard. Notably, doing that kind of work well requires much study of and respect for the principles of Objectivism by the Objectivist philosophy. DK's open system discourages both -- and that's why TOC has produced mostly junk over the past 15 years.

    Also, as a minor point of terminology, I'd say that if the work is fundamentally derived from and integrated with Objectivist principles, I think it's appropriate to describe it as "Objectivist" even if not "part of Objectivism."

    My two essays on the errors of the open system discuss these issues:

    Ayn Rand on David Kelley

    The Open System, One More Time

Also, I do have an early post on the closed system that might be helpful to honest inquirers: Questions and Comments on the Closed System. However, readers should keep in mind that I have been able to resolve those questions to my satisfaction since the time of that writing, in part due to those rather fascinating discussions about abstract particulars.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

reply to Bill and Shayne

Mike_M's picture

Bill,

That's a mighty convenient formulation if you happen to own the copyrights to Rand's works and have exclusive access to her unpublished documents.

I'm not sure why this is relevant.

If we want to draw a parallel to these sciences, I would say that "Objectivism" works like "Newton's Physics," rather than the adjective "Newtonian."

The open/closed dispute is a small issue, which is why Peikoff spent a relatively small part of F&V discussing it. Closed advocates have always said that "Objectivism" refers to Ayn Rand's philosophy, and only Ayn Rand's philosophy. Really, not much else needs to be said, that is what is meant. I'm saying that "Objectivism" refers to Rand's philosophy, and any other true philosophic discover that comes afterwards is not to be considered Objectivism. I think that this is all Peikoff is getting at, and since this is exactly how things are working out in practice, I'd say its a safe bet that there isn't any hidden meaning behind it.

I've also read the statement of more than one person who was kicked out of ARI-affiliated education due to minor disagreements.

Who, may I ask? The only one I am aware of is Damian Moskovitz, who was not kicked out. He was told that being an intern at TOC was in violation of the contract he had signed. He was informed of ARI's stance on Dr. Kelley, given a year to think through the issue, and expected back the next semester. Then, without a word to his OAC professors, he quits and posts a letter online. At least that's the story I heard. Who is the other person?

And Bill, you do need to be either an employee of ARI or a student of the OAC to know the content of their teaching programs, as that material is kept very private. In fact, I am aware of no publicly available material that would give you enough evidence to say that Dr. Ghate teaches his classes one way or the other (outside of student testimony, that is), which is what your initial criticism amounts to. Perhaps you could send me a link to what you are describing?

Shayne,

Mike, is this concept of "abstract particular" something out of Objectivist epistemology? If so I must have missed it. And doesn't sound oh so Orwellian?

By the way, your "first hand evidence" about OAC is certainly relevant, but only in an incomplete way. If you were to prove that ARI didn't actually follow Peikoff's prescription, it indeed might mean that there is some other interpretation of F&V possible than the one that seems obvious when reading it, it might also mean that they're hypocrites.

"And doesn't sound oh so Orwellian?" Hmm... cut the crap, ok? I have no desire to get into a pissing match with you, so I'll pretend that wasn't there and see if I can address the question.

Abstract particulars. The only place that discusses this issue in print using that terminology is in the Axiomatic interview with Diana I mentioned before. I suppose it is one of those things where I had the knowledge from ITOE, but I didn't have a word(Drunk to describe it.

Diana explains: "abstract particulars are not such a strange notion at all, since all concepts are actually abstract particulars. For example, the concept “tree” is the same for all of us, so long as we can identify the referents. It refers to the exact same mental contents in all of us, not some meta-concept formed by omitting the measurements of our individual concepts of “tree.” The term “Objectivism” is like that, in that it refers to a particular interconnected set of abstract philosophic principles."

So there you go. All of that is in ITOE, just without the words "abstract particular." I think this terminology describes the issue very well, so I kept Diana's phrasing.

What do you mean that my evidence is only relevant in an incomplete way? I can dig up the testimony of several other students from other forums if I dig enough. Should I? Also, my testimony is not meant to show that ARI does not follow Peikoff's prescription, or that there is another interpretation of what he wrote. I am saying that Bill's (and your's, if you agree with him?) interpretation is incorrect. ARI is following Peikoff's prescription, and that prescription is not what Bill claims it is. Given that the facts contradict Bill's theory, I think it's time that (maybe) he should re-think his interpretation, rather than just assume that the hundred and some OAC students are dolts.

- Mike

The Goodkind-Shapiro

MichaelGShapiro's picture

The Goodkind-Shapiro dichotomy was firmly established upon reading the nth Sword of Truth novel, whereupon said novel was literally flung across a room. It doesn't get more dichotomous than that.

However, I am delighted to hear your work was based upon my lectures, and I mean that financially. My lawyer and personal assistant, Guido, will be contacting you shortly with a royalties schedule.

Abstract particular?

sjw's picture

Mike, is this concept of "abstract particular" something out of Objectivist epistemology? If so I must have missed it. And doesn't sound oh so Orwellian?

By the way, your "first hand evidence" about OAC is certainly relevant, but only in an incomplete way. If you were to prove that ARI didn't actually follow Peikoff's prescription, it indeed might mean that there is some other interpretation of F&V possible than the one that seems obvious when reading it, it might also mean that they're hypocrites.

Good points

Neil Parille's picture

Bill,

And if you expand the circle to include people who have been inspired by Rand but might not call themselves Objectivists (Chris S., Machan, the two Dougs, etc.) then the amount of material produced is quite impressive.

Another example is JARS, which isn't associated with any group. Every year 500 pages of material about Rand and Rand-related stuff. The most recent issue had an excellent piece by Rod Long comparing Rand/Peikoff on concepts with the Kripke/Putnam view. Quite interesting, but you won't hear any ARI types comment on it.

ARI types won't say that only an ARI person can produce valuable works on Rand or Objectivism, but in practice their methodology weeds non-ARIans out.

Good points

nevin's picture

Neil,

I really enjoyed the Tara Smith works that I have read and I will get her new book you mentioned too. Daryl Wright gave a talk in Houston a few years back and I enjoyed it also.

But then I, like you, and like the TOC folks I have discussed this with, can be objective about these things. You will be hard pressed, otoh, to find anyone associated with ARI having a kind word for, or even mentioning, Kelley's The Evidence of the Senses, Stephen Hicks' excellent Explaining Postmodernism, the latest issue of The New Individualist, which featured a Danish Mohammad cartoon on the cover, Robert Bidinotto's recent email and blog campaign against the cowardly appeasement of terrorism on the part of Border's Books, or anything positive that TOC or anyone affiliated with TOC does.

This is of a piece with the ARI parody of Rand's method, which they call "objectivity" and "thinking in principles," whereby they first decide whether they like something or not. Then, if they like it, they won't say one negative word about it. And, if they don't, they won't say one positive word, and maybe not any word. By this means David Kelley, and many others, have become unpersons in ARI circles, and their books have become unbooks.

-Bill

Goodkind-Shapiro dichotomy

William E. Perry's picture

Mike Shapiro writes, "I'm more concerned about this article on Terry Goodkind. Reading any of his novels constitutes violations of both rational aesthetics and the principle of justice."

The article is based upon your lectures on music and aesthetics and shows that in that area of philosophy the Goodkind-Shapiro dichotomy is a false.

Open vs. Closed System

Neil Parille's picture

Bill,

You make some good points on the relative success of the ARI and TOC.

Looking at just the books produced, much of the ARI associated material is due to their connection with Rand's Estate. Some of Mayhew's books are examples of this (Marginalia, Q&A and Song of Russia).

TOC people have produced good stuff, such as Kelley's EOS and Hicks' recent book on postmodernism.

That being said, ARI people appear to have lots of material in the pipeline (Tara Smith's new book, for example).

Objectivism vs "Fact and Value"

nevin's picture

Mike M.,

Our posts crossed.

As I understand it, the word "Objectivism" refers to and only to the set of philosophic principles discovered by Ayn Rand.

That's a mighty convenient formulation if you happen to own the copyrights to Rand's works and have exclusive access to her unpublished documents. Oh, wait. Leonard Peikoff first stated that formulation, and he does own Rand's copyrights, etc.

"Newtonian" physics doesn't just mean the things Newton discovered. "Darwinism" doesn't just mean The Origin of the Species and other works by Charles Darwin. Nor does "Aristotelian" philosophy refer only to the ideas of Aristotle himself. "A is A," for example, is a medieval formulation.

You are making it sound like this whole argument is just a "branding" issue. That is to say, an argument over how the philosophy is to be marketed, rather than over the content of the philosophy itself. Do we call the whole school of thought "Objectivism," or "Randianism?" Or do we reserve those terms for Rand's own ideas, and call the work of later thinkers in her school something else, like ARIism? While I'm sure Peikoff would dearly love to control all efforts at marketing her ideas, I don't think that the marketing aspect is what he was getting at in "Fact and Value." Nor do I think he would be willing to split the movement apart in 1989 over a mere dispute over how best to market it.

Peikoff's use of the term is at odds with Rand's published statements.

I've read numerous statements on ARI by Peikoff and other honchos there, starting from when it was founded, and including their plans for educational programs. I've also read the statement of more than one person who was kicked out of ARI-affiliated education due to minor disagreements. So I do have some evidence of their nature. And I don't need actually to attend their classes to know that I don't agree with ARI's educational principles.

-Bill

Objectivism vs. "Fact and Value"

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

In fact there is a fairly simple heuristic for determining which areas of Objectivism are ripe for new exploration. Those areas where new inductive data is coming in at a faster rate a will be targets of opportunity for new philosophical innovation. Epistemology, esthetics, and the interface between philosophy and other fields such as science, economics and law are good examples.

Jim

Mike,

Casey's picture

Really good post. Glad to see you here.

I would add one thing: Objectivism is not only the philosophy of Ayn Rand, according to Rand herself -- it is the recognition of existential truth whose recognition on her part she credited merely to the honesty that was required by reason. So Objectivism is more than just her to the degree that it is actually true, no? She was naming things that people like Frank Lloyd Wright pointed at and said "You got that right" because her philosophy, uniquely, aimed directly at objectivity and so shared a common ground of discovery by others. That makes it categorically different, if you will, from just a personally-proscribed tautology or "system" that includes everything she ever said and excludes everything she didn't from qualifying as an "objectivist" idea. But this is ONLY possible when the fundamental principles are considered closed, just as E=MC2 is only possible when the basic principles of mathematics are considered closed. If math had to go through (and it increasingly is) what Objectivism has gone through to "open it up" there would be no way to advance mathematical thought. It's not suprising at all, therefore, that the "open-systemed" folks have produced less original and groundbreaking material.

Objectivism vs "Fact and Value"

nevin's picture

Casey,

I'm not suggesting that 2+2=5 or that A can be non-A at the same time and in the same respect. I ruled that out with these two sentences:

And I mean "open system" in its proper usage: a system that starts from Rand's work and builds on it with valid inductions from reality. This is a far cry from the strawman the open system's critics are continually parading around -- a "wide-open system," where one starts with Rand and then subtracts whatever one doesn't like and adds any random nonsense one does likes.

Let's review. Here's Peikoff:

Every philosophy, by the nature of the subject, is immutable. New implications, applications, integrations can always be discovered; but the essence of the system—its fundamental principles and their consequences in every branch—is laid down once and for all by the philosophy's author.

I think that's pretty clear. The way I interpret this is that current philosophers can take the principles that Rand induced and apply them to new situations, using deductive logic to move from her general statements to their own specific statements. The part about "integrations" might also leave open finding new relationships between the various formulations of her philosophy and maybe even finding new arguments for her existing positions. But inducing fundamental new principles -- moving from specifics to anything very general, that she did not discover herself -- is out. You are not the author of Objectivism. Neither is anyone else alive today. Therefore, in Peikoff's view, no one can change any fundamental part of it, even by addition. This contradicts various published statements by Rand looking forward to the further development of the system. There are specific areas that she said needed work. Does the fact that she died before completing it mean that it should never be done, or that The Evidence of the Senses should only be considered a contribution to "Kelleyism," not to Objectivism, as it was when it was first completed and sold by Second Renaissance?

I'm not talking about challenging established principles of Objectivism, only about extending philosophical research into new areas, especially the areas that she said needed it. Your argument about math is also a red herring. You can do way better than that.

If I've totally misunderstood Peikoff here, please be kind enough to spin his words around the dial on your Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring and pass along to me what he "really" meant.

If Peikoff had said that the basic principles of computer science had been established by Turing, or that the basic principles of electrical engineering had been laid down by Steinmetz, or that the basic principles of medicine had been discovered by Hippocrates, and that "[n]ew implications, applications, integrations can always be discovered; but the essence of the system... is laid down once and for all" he would be laughed right out of his ivory tower. It's only because Rand's epistemology is so new and advanced that we have trouble visualizing anyone (David Kelley excepted) building on it, that Peikoff has been able to get away with this ridiculous line of garbage.

-Bill

what does closed mean?

Mike_M's picture

Mr. Nevin,

As I understand it, the word "Objectivism" refers to and only to the set of philosophic principles discovered by Ayn Rand. No decoder ring necessary. "Objectivism" therefore works like any other proper noun, except that it refers to some abstract particular, rather than a concrete particular like a building or a person. The Axiomatic interview with Diana covers that. Do I need to point out that there is a difference between saying that Objectivism, one particular philosophy, is closed and saying that philosophy in and of itself is closed?

Now, Bill, you are free to make any deductions from the word "closed" you like, it doesn't change the fact that your ARI-archetype doesn't fit with actual reality. Of course, if you were concerned with facts and not deducing the way ARI 'must' be from your straw man, you might want to take into account the fact that Peikoff, Binswanger, Smith, Darryl Wright, and Pat Corvini have all presented their own new philosophic material at ARI conferences in recent years. Doesn't seem to fit with your characterization, does it?

On top of that, I am offering first hand evidence of the way ARI actually conducts its educational program. Your response? Ignore it, followed by a deduction from the word "closed."

So where do we stand? Bill Nevin thinks that the closed system view leads to stagnation of inquiry. I just listed, off the top of my head, five people who indicate that there is a rift between Nevin's theory and actuality. Where do we go from here? We could attempt to reconcile the theory with the facts, and show that they aren't in conflict (I defy someone to attempt this). We could, ahem, check our premises and ask if, maybe, the closed system view doesn't work as Bill suggests it does. Or we could ignore the facts and stick with our castles in the sky by claiming that ARI simply has more money/cards in books. There is a word for this last option. It begins with an "R" and ends with "ationalism."

Bill, I asked what I thought was a rather simple question (why do you have this opinion of the ARI educational programs when you have no evidence of their nature?). I don't think there was any sarcasm or negativity in my question at all. You responded with smug sarcasm. OK, fine. I can take it as well as dish it. But Mr. Perry is probably more interested in a calm, sarcasm free discussion. I thought, as an ARI student, I could provide him with that perspective on the matter via my dialogue with you. Maybe I can't.

Your response, Bill?

- Mike

Strawman

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

As an addendum to my previous post, Diana, I'm glad you've found your comfort zone and have come to an equilibrium about these issues. Having known well many of the Colorado Objectivists in FROG and some of the ARI folks you hang with now, you're in good company.

Jim

Bill,

Casey's picture

I can't believe your understanding of Objectivism is really this shallow. "Why do you think they call it a closed system" is the level of argument you really bring to this issue? Wow. Sophomoric semantics suggesting that "closed" in this hyper-technical context means no thinking is allowed as opposed to referring to the nature of Objectivist principles like A is A, existence is identity, consciousness is identification, etc. can only be intended to challenge the very core of Objectivism itself and the proposition that knowledge CAN BE objective, implying instead that Objectivism and what it explicitly claims as truth is impossible to ascertain and therefore any moral dimension ascribed to recognition of its principles is arbitrary and "unproductive." This seems to be the conceptual trope at work here, and as far as I can see it's meant to scare off younglings with scary words like "closed" to imply emotionally repressing dogma. This is a dishonest (or ignorant) characterization of the very concepts of "open" and "closed" in this very technical context. Mathematics is a "closed" system. 2 plus 2 equals 4. Period. Not 5, not 3, and 7 is right out. Does that make mathematics emotionally repressive? This is the SAME CONTEXT in which Peikoff is arguing that Objectivism is "closed." "Why do you think they call it closed" indeed. Come on, Bill. You can do way better than that.

Strawman

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Diana,

I'm not quite sure what some of this is about, but why would someone's Objectivist affiliation be the primary measurement stick by which you would measure someone's worth? I have very fond feelings toward many people in ARI and most of the people who originated the things I have policy differences with I don't know personally anyway.

Believe it or not, there are many people, including me, who like you regardless of your affiliation. When I went through a couple of semiconductor startups and a marriage for 5 years and didn't have time for participation in organized Objectivism, I really didn't feel like a substantially different person.

And ultimately, what's the incentive for building a primarily Objectivist social network if these kinds of things become such impediments to maintaining lasting relationships?

Jim

Why d'ya think they call it "closed," anyway?

nevin's picture

Well, Mike, one clue was that they called it the "closed system." Do you that if they regarded it as open to new developments over time then they might have called it, oh, I don't know, maybe "the open system?"

Another clue is the repeated assertion by Peikoff and others in the hierarchy that Objectivism is the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Full stop. For instance, this jewel:

IN HIS LAST PARAGRAPH, Kelley states that Ayn Rand's philosophy, though magnificent, "is not a closed system." Yes, it is. Philosophy, as Ayn Rand often observed, deals only with the kinds of issues available to men in any era; it does not change with the growth of human knowledge, since it is the base and precondition of that growth. Every philosophy, by the nature of the subject, is immutable. New implications, applications, integrations can always be discovered; but the essence of the system—its fundamental principles and their consequences in every branch—is laid down once and for all by the philosophy's author. If this applies to any philosophy, think how much more obviously it applies to Objectivism. Objectivism holds that every truth is an absolute, and that a proper philosophy is an integrated whole, any change in any element of which would destroy the entire system.

Since you ARI guys seem to be so interested in context these days, you can find the context from which I drew that quote here.

Of course, I've never worn an ARI-issue Captain Midnight Secret Decoder Ring either. So I suppose what Peikoff really meant was something completely different from what the overt words of his cyphertext seem to say. But until someone offers me a decrypt of his editorial, I will go with what I can see.

-Bill

I'm more concerned about

MichaelGShapiro's picture

I'm more concerned about this article on Terry Goodkind. Reading any of his novels constitutes violations of both rational aesthetics and the principle of justice.

The closed system people say, in effect...

Mike_M's picture

Bill,

I'm curious as to why you think this is even a remotely accurate description of what ARI teaches. What discussion of the closed system do you think implies this? I can tell you first hand that this is not what is being taught in the ARI educational programs you alluded to. You don't like ARI. OK, fine. But why do you think it is just to characterize ARI's programs as intellectually crippling and its students as stupid pushovers when you have no knowledge of the content of those educational programs or the students actually in them?

The great value I have gotten out of ARI's undergraduate program is why I am making my first post on SOLOPassion a defense of this specific aspect of ARI. Since I credit the OAC as the major reason why I remain motivated to get a PhD in philosophy, I find your closing thought particularly absurd.

- Mike

Strawman

DianaHsieh's picture

Bill says: "Diana, I agree with you that [Bill Perry] is a good man. In my experience, however, men don't typically become good or cease to be good suddenly as their context of knowledge changes."

And when have I ever said or implied anything like that?!?

As I said in my blog post, Bill and I hadn't spoken for some time until just recently, so for a long time Paul and I wondered what to think. Now we know. Certainly, I've been burned by more than a few of my prior friends from TOC. You're an example of that, although by no means the worst.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

Question 3

nevin's picture

Lance,

You wrote: "Question #3: Why are so many Objectivists angry at Ayn Rand?

Answer: They aren't Objectivists."

I think we need to hold off on final judgment here. You may well be correct in most cases (and in all cases of those who have never seen Ayn Rand in person.) But among those who did have personal encounters with her, there could be some who agree with her philosophy and admire her literary work but are nevertheless severely disappointed in her as a person. There is some evidence, completely independent of the Brandens' slanders, that she did some very frustrating things and had some very frustrating traits, especially later in life after she was somewhat embittered by the Branden betrayal.

-Bill

Re: Good man

nevin's picture

Diana,

I agree with you that he is a good man. In my experience, however, men don't typically become good or cease to be good suddenly as their context of knowledge changes.

-Bill

Best of success; open vs. closed system

nevin's picture

Bill,

As I already expressed privately, I hope you are settling into Tucson happily. Also, best of success in your new endeavors.

Re: question 5: "I want to more closely examine the open-closed system issue. Why are the closed system advocates producing more scholarly works about Objectivism than the open system advocates? What is the status of those works within the philosophy?"

The open system people have certainly not been as productive as we might have liked. But their best stuff is still excellent. It advances the state of knowledge and advances the Objectivist cause in society, not that you will see any of it mentioned on the websites of ARI aficionados.

So I would argue that the main issues with the open system academics are productivity and, occasionally, quality assurance. These can have many explanations besides anything being wrong with the open system itself. (And I mean "open system" in its proper usage: a system that starts from Rand's work and builds on it with valid inductions from reality. This is a far cry from the strawman the open system's critics are continually parading around -- a "wide-open system," where one starts with Rand and then subtracts whatever one doesn't like and adds any random nonsense one does likes.)

The closed system people have a larger, better funded, and, let's face it, better managed organization. It is far more visible, in large part due to the "for more information" postcards stuck in Rand's books. But also, in fairness, i.) due to an aggressive op-ed program, which is often but not always on target, ii.) due to good works such as the high school essay contests, and iii.) due to other positive actions on their part.

Being larger, they benefit more from a division of labor economy. They can run a more formal program for training grad students, for instance.

But whatever temporary advantages they enjoy now, in the long run their closed system will kill off their credibility. And, if they are then still seen as the chief exponents of Rand, kill off her credibility too. This is because, if they keep going around saying, in effect:

"Objectivism is what is in Rand's books. To learn Objectivism, look in Rand's books, Peikoff's books about Rand's books, and take our classes. Don't you dare go looking for Objectivism anywhere else,"

eventually, two or three or four generations down the path, they will produce a batch of scholars who take them seriously and who therefore have their noses stuck in a book when they should be looking at reality and making inductions from it.

Aristotelianism died this way when Scholastic monks, who followed the letter rather than the spirit of the master's works, killed off the scientific method by trying to look up every answer in some dusty old tome of his instead of imitating him by studying nature. This left the field clear for the "anti-Aristotelians," like Galileo, who followed Aristotle's spirit but ridiculed the philosophical system that gave rise to it. The anti-Aristotelians took full credit for the scientific and industrial revolutions, and left the field of philosophy vulnerable to takeover by the enemies of Aristotle, who then paved the way to the Modern era. I think we, as 21st century Objectivists, should learn something from this stark example.

The closed system people say, in effect:

"If you are an Objectivist and an architect then, great, be like Howard Roark, be the best you can be, design the most beautiful, original buildings that you can. If you are an Objectivist and a chip designer then, great, go out and be the best electrical engineer that you can be. Give us great new computers and great new electronic appliances and prove how brilliant you are. But if you are an Objectivist and a philosopher, well, then, hold on a minute, buddy! A different set of rules applies to you! We don't trust ourselves to be able to evaluate anything really original that you might do, to check if it is consonant with Objectivism. So to be an Objectivist philosopher, you have to be a classicist, a traditionalist. You have to stick to studying what Ayn Rand wrote and applying it. It is her job to tell the world what Objectivism is. It is our job to tell the world that it is. Ayn Rand was a great original genius. Who the heck are you anyway, to dream that you could think up improvements to her system in your puny little brain?"

Whatever appearance they have created thus far, if they keep on with this closed system nonsense, they will eventually discredit the philosophy, and/or drive away great minds that might otherwise pursue philosophy Ph.D.'s and contribute to it systematically.

-Bill

A salute, Bill ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... to your integrity in opting out of a situation in which you were clearly compromised. All the best in your stock-taking. I got a huge belly-laugh from your question about self-absorption & rational self-interest. If I can't guess what/who prompted that, I'm a monkey's uncle. You might enjoy my essay on Objectivist monologuers in the archive:

http://solohq.solopassion.com/...

Hope to see you here often!

Linz

You don't sound "retired" to me.

Lanza Morio's picture

Bill, best of luck with all this new work you're taking on. I have some thoughts about the questions you are looking into:

Question #3: Why are so many Objectivists angry at Ayn Rand?

Answer: They aren't Objectivists.

Question #5: Why are the closed system advocates producing more scholarly works about Objectivism than the open system advocates? What is the status of those works within the philosophy?

Answer: The advocates of a closed system are better able to stay true to the philosophy, i.e., are better able to stick to the principles. Ayn Rand developed principles that cannot be compromised even the tiniest bit or things will fall apart. Water and poison as she said. Or Aristotle: The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold. Any breach of a principle will lead to major problems eventually. Craig Biddle gave an excellent lecture course called Elements of Thinking in Principles through ARI that has helped me to see a lot of what I was missing before.

Sorry things didn't work out at TOC, Bill.

Announcement

James Heaps-Nelson's picture

Bill,

Welcome back to Arizona and I look forward to seeing you at Arizona Objectivists! I thank you for suggesting the reading of Bryan Register's article that also led me eventually to read PARC. I also salute your independence in considering these issues.

I've posted many of my thoughts on these issues here and I look forward to your posts over the next month on Solopassion.

Jim

Good Man

DianaHsieh's picture

Let me quote the final remark of my blog post on Bill's announcement:

"Most importantly, I would like to express my open admiration for Bill Perry's courage and honesty in seriously thinking through these issues for himself. I know that must have been a hard task, but I'm also sure that Bill expected nothing less of himself."

Bravo, Bill! I'm very much looking forward to your posts over the next month.

-- Diana Hsieh
diana@dianahsieh.com
NoodleFood

TOC

Robert Campbell's picture

Bill,

I donated in part because you were at TOC.

My contact information is on my website: http://www.robertlcampbell.com

Sincerely,

Robert Campbell

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.