Rand and Darwin - Conflict or Not?

Doug Bandler's picture
Submitted by Doug Bandler on Fri, 2011-01-14 09:06

A common critique of the Objectivist ethics from evolutionary theorists is that it is in violation of the facts of biological reality. These critics say that Rand based her ethics on an Aristotelian meta-biology and not a Darwinian one. Thus for Aristotle, the teleology of an oak tree, the essence of the tree's existence, is the full grown tree itself. But Aristotle's biology has been replaced by Darwin's, in which an oak tree is an acorn's way of making more acorns.

The criticism is that Rand is wrong in one of her basic statements about life. She says that every function of a living organism is directed toward a single goal: the organism's survival. But this isn't true. Living organisms have reproductive organs, and the functioning of those organs is not directed to the organism's survival. Most living organisms spend a significant part of their lives living for the sake of something that will happen when they are no longer there to care about it, that something being the survival and reproduction of their descendants.

Thus the characteristics of living organisms are best explained by reproduction, not by survival. It is argued that this fact seriously undermines if not destroys the Objectivist ethics.

What are some opinions on this. I understand that Binswanger weighed in on this subject. Does anyone know what his answer was?


Soviet attitudes toward Darwinian evolution

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Darren has several times claimed that Rand was likely to have had Darwin's On the Origin of Species assigned as reading in her Russian schooling.

I've read little on the history of Soviet views on evolution, but what little I've read doesn't lend support to the idea that the Soviets were ever keen on Darwin's theories -- on the idea of evolution, yes, but not specifically on Darwin's theories.

It's well know that under Stalin there was a phase -- the Lysenko period -- when Lamarckian views were officially and aggressively supported. Dissent could endanger one's life. However, Lysenko rose to prominence after Rand had emigrated to the United States.

What of the period from 1917 to 1926 (the year Rand emigrated)?

Here's a passage which provides an indication. It's from Peter J. Bowler's compendious Evolution: The History of an Idea, Third Edition, pg. 306:

[I've left out the references to sources listed in the book's bibliography.]

It is sometimes implied that Darwinism was associated with the philosophy of Karl Marx, and at one time it was believed that Marx had offered to dedicate a volume of his Capital to Darwin. Marx and Engels certainly welcomed evolution theory because of its support for a materialist view of human nature. But they also realized from the start that there was an analogy between natural selection and the capitalist system of economic competition, and so were suspicious of Darwin's theory. Marx's concept of class struggle has different roots lying in Hegel's idealism--in the clash and synthesis of coherent social entities reflecting the stages of social evolution rather than competition between individuals or tribes. We now know that the claim that Marx offered to dedicate [a volume of] his book to Darwin was based on a misunderstanding of the relevant correspondence. In the twentieth century, Soviet communism was always hostile to the Darwinian theory, and Lamarckian theories such as Lysenko's flourished in Soviet Russia.

I'm interpreting "In the twentieth century, Soviet communism was *always* [emphasis added] hostile to the Darwinian theory" as meaning hostile from the start, hence as applying to the years of Rand's Russian schooling.

Ellen

Doug - Two Recommendations

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Doug, there's an essay by Ron Merrill -- published in 1997 in Volume 2, Number 5 of the journal Objectivity -- which I think you'd find interesting and informative. It's called "Objectivist Ethics: A Biological Critique."

You can access the article for reading on-line or printing. Warning before you click the link: it brings up the whole volume and takes a long while to load -- here.

--

Also, earlier tonight I came across a couple of Rand's Journal entries the details of which I'd forgotten, though I must have read them before, since there are some marginal markings by me. The entries are for May 9, 1934, and May 15, 1934, pp. 68-73. They're pertinent to her process of forming her ideas about "free will." Also to issues of her views in relationship to evol psych -- some details I wouldn't have noticed before, not being in search of material on Rand and evolution at the time when I read the Journals. I re-looked at that section of the Journals tonight because I wanted to see what she said about Kropotkin. There's a reference on pg. 70. Merrill, in the article I recommended, suggests that Rand might have been influenced by Kropotkin's views on evolution, which emphasized cooperation rather than competition. Her Journal comment, however, though it doesn't specify Kropotkin's views on evolution, sounds negative about Kropotkin's views generally.

Ellen

"someone like Ellen"

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Doug, question: Have you heard of the possibility of true conclusions coming from partly or wholly false premises? Also of the possibility of a conclusion being true even though the reasoning by which it's supported isn't valid?

I am not of the opinion that "rational egoism" doesn't "[fit] a conceptual being."

Whether Peikoff's answer would satisfy me will have to remain unknown until such time as I can gather the endurance to listen to that voice of his, hearing which on tape is true torture for me.

Ellen

Blake

Doug Bandler's picture

"Ultimate value to whom?" (from the Peikoff podcast)

Peikoff is arguing that modern biologists are approaching Darwinian evolution in a rationalistic way, turning it into a Platonic archetype. When animals copulate they do not do so with the intention of preserving or continuing the species. This is applying some type of teleological viewpoint towards evolution which I don't think is right.

I think Peikoff's answer makes sense but I would bet anything that it would not satisfy someone like Ellen who will still argue that Rand's meta-biology is not sound because of some of her formulations. But as for me, I'm coming to the conclusion that its a red-herring and it just doesn't effect the Objectivist ethics fundamentally. Given the nature of man, rational egoism is the only ethical theory that fits a conceptual being. That holds if the "ultimate end" of biology is survival or reproduction. You have to survive to reproduce after all.

Thanks for linking to that podcast.

@Doug

Blake's picture

What are your thoughts on Peikoff's response to the Rand/Darwin issue? In case you missed the link I posted, it is the first question he answers here: http://www.peikoff.com/2008/08...

Darren

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Summary: I think Binswanger is reliable on straight fact (which, note, is different from interpreting a theory). However, I didn't myself hear him say Rand didn't read Origin in her later years. Thus the "if." Could be my friend misremembered, hence my very slight allowance for the possibility that Rand did read Origin late in life. I much doubt she did, since she was said by several people who knew her well to be reading even less than before in her late years.

Re Binswanger's interview in 100 Voices: It was condensed from 52 hours of tape, according to the editorial comment at the start. Must have been quite a bit in it which didn't reach the final cut. And maybe the interviewer didn't ask about the issue of Rand's views on evolution.

Ellen

We see it from Earth, from

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Now, from precisely where do we see such a thing and by what means?"

We see it from Earth, from space, and in general, from wherever both the Earth and Sun can be seen. We see it with any instrument capable of detecting radiation from the two. This is because the Earth orbits the Sun.

Now tell me, why would we need a "zero" point in the Universe to make objective observations?

@ Ellen Stuttle

darren's picture

To the contrary, on straight fact, I find him very reliable.

Reliable? A few posts back you wrote:

I wouldn't quite trust Binswanger myself to explain evolution correctly. [This is "reliable" to you?]

And,

but of course Rand could have read Origin in the years since then, but didn't if the Binswanger report is accurate. ["IF the Binswanger report is accurate?" Doesn't sound as if you find him and his reports completely reliable.]

You also wrote this:

He hasn't the imagination to dissemble.

I never said anything about dissembling. I merely claimed Binswanger was a pompous, arrogant fool, ultimately interested in saving face. Many kinds of distortions of the truth are possible in his case, not just dissembling. I suggest you read Francis Bacon's wonderful little essay on "Idols of the Mind" for a fuller discussion.

Continuing,

Binswanger is reputed to have said somewhere -- I don't know where -- that he convinced her evolution was true in her late years, but I don't have any report of the details of what he supposedly said to her.

Of even if it's true. But the point is that IF it is true -- and I judge from the evidence that you actually have little confidence in the reliability of Binswanger's reports -- it follows, therefore, that Rand must NOT have been convinced that evolution by means of Darwinian processes was true in her early and middle years.

Pretty much as I suspected (which is why she skirted the entire issue at the Ford Hall Forum lecture I attended by responding to a question on Darwin with the claim that she "was not a student of his theory").

Then you say this:

I asked Peikoff back in the '70s, [who, according to your most recent post, told you categorically "No"] but of course Rand could have read Origin in the years since then, but didn't if the Binswanger report is accurate. [Again, "IF the Binswanger report is accurate." So far, I detect little confidence in you vis-a-vis Binswanger. You could have expressed some doubt about Peikoff's reply; instead you choose to accept Peikoff as 100% reliable and doubt Binswanger.]

Continuing,

There's nothing in his 100 Voices interview on the issue of any discussion he had with her about the subject.

Interesting. You think Binswanger is ignorant of the controversy raging over the subject of Rand and Darwin? I don't think so. I think if there was actually something to tell, he would have told it. This suggests that either he originally gave inaccurate information to your mutual friend, or your mutual friend gave inaccurate information to you.

Or perhaps both Binswanger and your mutual friend are innocents in this and it's simply that your memory is faulty.

So, trying to untie the knots that you've tied yourself into, Ellen, we can say this:
( 1 ) IF Binswanger's report is accurate, then Rand never read Darwin's "Origin of Species";
( 2 ) IF Binswanger's report is inaccurate, then Rand may have read Darwin's "Origin of Species" at some point after Leonard Peikoff told you "No, she never read it."

Is that what you're trying to say, Ellen?

Since the evidence from your previous posts shows that you have doubts about Binswanger's reliability (though none about Peikoff or your friend), the sensible thing to conclude is that she may have read "Origin" at some point after Peikoff answered your question.

Doug

Ellen Stuttle's picture

[...] I see that [volition] is an area where you raise questions about Rand's approach.You also have stated that volition has yet to be reconciled with quantum physics.

I've stated it has yet to be reconciled with *physics*. Some folk try to use a quantum indeterminacy approach to get volition, but I don't think that works, since it would only provide occasional unscheduled "swerves," not controlled action. (Plus, which I didn't mention before, there's an issue of the brain apparently being "classical," with any quantum effects decohering too fast to produce action.)

You mention Adam Reed's argument on volition and information. I read material from Adam some years ago. I don't recall the details of his argument, but I recall thinking at the time that he was being beguiled by the current fad of "information" and was approaching the brain's functioning in computer-analogy terms, and that his solution amounted to mathematical legerdemain. I'd have to re-read what he said to provide the specifics which produced this conclusion and to find out if I'd see anything more in his line of reasoning today than I did then.

Perhaps when you have time you could lay out where you think Rand erred in her view of volition. Or at least where she over-simplified. But one last question, do you think there could be any truth to the idea that humans are deterministic super-animals? That is what discrediting volition would mean.

The first place where I think she erred was in limiting volition to humans. As I've said, I think there's an evolutionary continuum which traces back to the start of motility (by which I didn't mean, as some interpreted me to mean, amoeboid motion but instead motion involving contractile and nascent neural -- electrical transmission of impulse -- activity). Rand's model is very like Descartes', with other animals automata and some special added something for the human. Part of why she had this view is because of limiting volition to the activities of consciousness -- indeed, if I understand her few comments on the subject correctly, she thought of volition as *producing* properly human consciousness. This is how I ultimately have interpreted her "Man is a being of volitional consciousness."

Re do you think there could be any truth to the idea that humans are deterministic super-animals?:

I don't think it's true. I think if it were, there'd be no such enterprise as science. If we had no degree of non-necessitated control over the direction and degree of our attentional processes, we could have no legitimate claim to objectivity in trying to find out how nature works. We'd be at the mercy of whatever attention we deterministically happened to pay to an issue, without a means of having confidence that we'd checked our processing adequately to the problem. I think we would never even have been able to pose such a question as "Why?" or any form of question seeking truth.

Ellen

Ellen

Doug Bandler's picture

Thanks for the summary of your experience with Objectivism. Fascinating. "Rand-influenced" or "fellow-traveler" sounds fine to me.

The issue from the beginning on which I had the largest number of questions was her view of volition and the workings of consciousness.

Yes, I see that this is an area where you raise questions about Rand's approach. You also have stated that volition has yet to be reconciled with quantum physics. I believe Adam Reed has written on this and (from memory) he argues that there are very recent discoveries in physics and information science that reconcile free will with causality. However, I also remember thinking that Reed's discussion of information science was extremely technical, beyond the knowledge levels of most non-academics.

Perhaps when you have time you could lay out where you think Rand erred in her view of volition. Or at least where she over-simplified. But one last question, do you think there could be any truth to the idea that humans are deterministic super-animals? That is what discrediting volition would mean.

Linz

Doug Bandler's picture

Don't you have to foreswear association with "enemies of Objectivism" or some such?

Is SOLO an "enemy of Objectivism"? I don't think even Harry would label it as that. Maybe "ersatz Objectivism" but "enemy of"? I don't think so. Anyway, I haven't posted any content from HBL on SOLO, just some highlights of Harry's insights on perception. Hell, I just gave him free advertising for his upcoming book.

Also, it seems to me that Binswanger has mellowed. He is in his 60s now.

I'm often tempted to repair to small 'o' objectivism not because of any error in Objectivism but because of the religiosity of ObjectivISTS.

This could be one way to go about it. Small 'o' Objectivism. I'll consider that.

Doug

Ellen Stuttle's picture

BTW Ellen, do you go back to the NBI days? Were you part of that first generation? Did you know Rand personally? [....] I am curious how you would identify yourself. A Randian? Rand-influenced?

I first read Atlas Shrugged in June 1961, just following my freshman year as a psych major at Northwestern. I hadn't heard of Rand prior to reading Atlas, and the edition I read was a first edition which had no advertising in it for "Objectivism" and NBI. I re-read Atlas the following summer, taking careful notes and studying it as a novel, but it wasn't until spring '63 that I learned about NBI and the courses and the publication -- at that point "The Objectivist Newsletter."

I subscribed to the Newsletter, getting all the back copies. The fall of '63, AR spoke at McCormick Place in Chicago. I luckily got a front row seat to the right of the podium facing the podium.

Nathaniel came back to Chicago soon thereafter to give the opening lecture of the "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course. I took that, and "Basic Principles of Objectivist Psychology" and a course the name of which I keep forgetting which was a critique of other schools of psychology. (I thought that course was awful with its distorting.)

I moved to New York City in early September 1968, not because of Objectivism, instead because I was futzing around delaying my intent to start graduate school and I decided to live in New York City for awhile. After a couple truncated starts in a graduate program, I ended up by a lucky fluke getting what I thought of as a temporary job for the publicity department of Lippincott and liked the publishing atmosphere so much I then went into editing, which I enjoyed a lot.

My arrival being just after the Split (the big one), I never saw the NYC NBI scene. Larry did; he started taking courses there in '64.

I got to know many of the NYC O'ists, took a total of 4 psychology courses with Allan Blumenthal (2 of them repeats at different times of his basic course), plus his music course. Also two and a half courses with Leonard Peikoff -- his history of philosophy pair, and I signed up for the 1976 course on Objectivism but only attended a third to a half of the lectures due to time-pressured circumstances on my editing job.

I never considered myself an Objectivist, primarily because of questions and outright disagreements on psychological issues, though I also found the Objectivist account of history distorted in its simplifying. The issue from the beginning on which I had the largest number of questions was her view of volition and the workings of consciousness. It wasn't until after Rand's death -- too late to ask her if I'd gotten it right -- that I felt I understood what she meant by her plunked-down statement in Galt's Speech that "man is a being of volitional consciousness."

I describe my relationship to Objectivism as "Rand-influenced" or "fellow traveler."

There are people who call themselves "neo-Objectivists." That term might acquire more users as time goes on. I don't otherwise have a guess what might end up the preferred term for people who consider themselves basically in agreement with Rand but feel they have too many divergences to use "Objectivist" unqualified.

Re your question if I knew her. Not personally. I sat in the row in front of her about 36 times at NYC lectures, and saw her on other occasions, primarily the Ford Hall Forum. I only a few times exchanged (very brief) comments or glances with her and only once asked her something directly looking into those eyes (that was in the autograph line at the FHF). I heard quite a bit about her, though, from people I knew who did know her personally and I retain a strong feeling of her physical "aura" as something almost palpable.

Ellen

No ....

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... I haven't. Of course, I should have, especially given the brouhaha it engendered. I shall!

Even if he has a "better side" Harry should stay at home. No one who quacks through his nose like that should be allowed out, ever.

Linz, re "Binswanker"...

Ellen Stuttle's picture

and his "conscientiously obnoxious behaviour."

Although I've experienced that myself, as has Larry, as have others I know, to my surprise I found that I actually felt a liking for Harry as he comes across in his interview in 100 Voices. I felt it confirmed reports I've heard of Harry's having "a better side." Plus I found what he tells about Rand's last years very interesting, also emotionally moving. The account left me a little teary-eyed.

Have you acquired 100 Voices? If so, have you read Harry's interview?

Ellen

Darren

Ellen Stuttle's picture

[ES] I asked Peikoff back in the '70s,

[Darren] You asked him what? "Has Miss Rand ever read Origin of Species by Charles Darwin?" And he answered what? Yes? No? I'm not sure? She might have?

His answer was No.

[ES] but of course Rand could have read Origin in the years since then,

[Darren] Or read it earlier in her university days.

[ES] but didn't if the Binswanger report is accurate.

[Darren] I have found it a wise policy to discount everything Binswanger reports.

I haven't found it a wise policy to discount everything Binswanger reports. To the contrary, on straight fact, I find him very reliable. He hasn't the imagination to dissemble.

-

[Darren] So what you really meant to say was that Rand, unfortunately, was misled about Helmholz by Branden and Blumenthal.

No, that isn't what I meant to say. What I meant to say was what I said, that Rand was misled about perception BY Helmholtz.

Repeating my comment on that:

"Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz (as was the whole field of the study of perception, with results that continue). Yes, Helmholtz was a very great physicist, but he approached perception as if perception was additive of sensation instead of abstractive from an environmental surround, a mistake Rand adopted."

Ellen

@ Doug Bandler

darren's picture

I'm wondering what the preferred term will be.

Weird. Why do you need to know this? What if she doesn't pigeon-hole herself in any particular way? What if she simply calls herself "a well read woman" and leaves it at that? Are you unable to, ah, "integrate" her arguments (or criticize them, or refute them) unless she invents some sort of term to categorize herself?

Whatever, dude!

Doug

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Does Harry know you post on SOLO? Do you realize he'd likely boot you if he found out? Don't you have to foreswear association with "enemies of Objectivism" or some such? Do you know that Harry refused to let us publish something (I forget what, now) of his because to allow us to do so would be to "sanction" us?

Re a new term: I think you're panicking. As you know, I have my own disagreements with Rand and don't hesitate to express them. I've yet to see anyone in any of these discussions, however, demonstrate that any fundamental of Objectivism is wrong. This debate on evolution most certainly doesn't do that. Objectivism simply says whatever happened, happened. It's for science to tell us what. I can't see what all the fuss is about.

I'm often tempted to repair to small 'o' objectivism not because of any error in Objectivism but because of the religiosity of ObjectivISTS. By that I don't mean zeal; I mean the dogmatism/intrinsicism displayed, for instance, by Peikoff during the recent McCaskey episode ... not to mention the conscientiously obnoxious behaviour of the likes of Binswanker (on which matter I am in rare agreement with Barren Darren).

Binswanger & Gibson

Doug Bandler's picture

Yes, I am on HBL and Binswanger is definitely now influenced by Gibson. Binswanger has had some very interesting posts on perception over the last 2 or 3 years and he has admitted that some of Rand's formulations are wrong but he sees nothing fatal to Objectivist epistemology. Perception will be a big part of his forthcoming book on how we think.

BTW Ellen, do you go back to the NBI days? Were you part of that first generation? Did you know Rand personally? That period seems like it was quite an interesting time. There were some very smart people in that era and some bad personalities as well. Also Ellen, I am curious, you are obviously a well read woman. You also have some disagreements with Rand. I am curious how you would identify yourself. A Randian? Rand-influenced? I ask because we are reaching the point where there are many Rand-influenced people who will not want to use the term Objectivist for many reasons. I'm wondering what the preferred term will be.

@ ES

darren's picture

Technically, I don't know it as direct information

The "as direct information" phrase is simply a cute bit of defensiveness on your part. The meat of that sentence is simply I don't know it. Thank you for admitting it.

(the "certainly" was mocking your claim that "certainly" she did read Origin).

Clever! Thanks for explaining it. (No one got the intended joke, so I urge you not to give up your day job.)

I believe that she didn't,

And I believe she may have. Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace were huge in the educational philosophy of the Soviet Union after the revolution.

though, as coming from Binswanger via a mutual friend.

The problem is not with your mutual friend, who is certainly (wink, nudge, get it? Eye) a person of intelligence, honesty, and integrity. The problem is with Binswanger, who is a pompous, arrogant fool. He was so when I met him back in the '70s; he is so today. I would say that he is certainly unreliable when it comes to telling the truth about Ayn Rand or Objectivism or himself, for that matter. His main goal as a philosopher is to save face: Rand's, Objectivism's, and his. I'm not surprised that he credits himself with having "convinced" Rand of something so obviously dubious and outlandish as evolution by means of Darwinian processes. He's simply afraid that if he doesn't spread the notion that she at least accepted the conclusions of Darwinism without necessarily being interested in the details, she would leave herself and her philosophy (and therefore, her followers) open to charges of crypto-creationism.

I asked Peikoff back in the '70s,

You asked him what? "Has Miss Rand ever read Origin of Species by Charles Darwin?" And he answered what? Yes? No? I'm not sure? She might have?

but of course Rand could have read Origin in the years since then,

Or read it earlier in her university days.

but didn't if the Binswanger report is accurate.

I have found it a wise policy to discount everything Binswanger reports.

[ES] Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz

[Darren] To have read him and be misled by him is still to have read him -- which was pretty much the only point I was making in my previous post.

I doubt that she read much of the actual text -- maybe a few sections, but I'd be surprised if she read the whole book, which is a technical tome. My suspicion is that she mainly got her information about Helmholtz's theories second-hand via Nathaniel Branden (who might have studied Helmholtz in a course on perception) and/or Allan Blumenthal (who likewise might have read Helmholtz for course work or just from Allan's interest in music).

So what you really meant to say was that Rand, unfortunately, was misled about Helmholz by Branden and Blumenthal. If that is so, then it certainly could have been the case that she was misled about Darwin by Binswanger.

So it doesn't look good for the pro-Darwin Objectivists (orthodox or neo): if Binswanger IS bullshitting, then Rand remained unconvinced by Darwinism (whether from lack of knowledge or having rationally rejected Darwinist conclusions); conversely, if Binswanger is NOT bullshitting (a big "if", I grant you), and Rand did finally embrace Darwinism because of Binswanger's typically lucid explanations (ahem), she might just as easily have been misled in evolution by Binswanger, as much as she was misled in perception by the Cousins Blumenthal.

I predict the latter will become canonized as the "true" explanation in future revisionist books about Miss Rand by Objectivists. Instead of representing Miss Rand as a brilliant but seriously flawed thinker (with a seriously flawed character), she will be represented as being too trustworthy of her close associates, who constantly manipulated her by plying her with incorrect information regarding perception and evolution because of their own misunderstandings of the original sources (Helmholz and Darwin), and because of their own dark, twisted, "psycho-epistemologies", and overall "malevolent sense-of-life."

She will be drawn as the brilliantly compelling -- but naively trusting and innocent -- Othello; everyone else in her Inner Circle will be assigned the part of Iago.

I understand from a friend of mine, who is a friend of a friend of a friend of Binswanger (who himself purported to have gotten the information second-hand from an unnamed source), that Doug Bandler certainly might possibly be working on such a revisionist history right now. Technically, I don't know this as direct information; I just believe that it certainly might possibly be true.

Harry and J. J.

Ellen Stuttle's picture

Doug: Binswanger is an admirer of James J. Gibson who was a very important theorist in the field of visual perception.

My version is that Harry was heel-draggingly slowly argued into some appreciation of Gibsonian theory. Eye (The person who did the arguing is a long-time friend of mine and was Gibson's last graduate student.)

Are you on HBL?

I'm not, couldn't be without going against the admission rules. I sometimes get selected reports of proceedings however.

Ellen

Darren

Ellen Stuttle's picture

[ES] She certainly never read "On the Origin of Species."

[Darren] And how do you know that?

Technically, I don't know it as direct information (the "certainly" was mocking your claim that "certainly" she did read Origin). I believe that she didn't, though, as coming from Binswanger via a mutual friend. I asked Peikoff back in the '70s, but of course Rand could have read Origin in the years since then, but didn't if the Binswanger report is accurate. Binswanger is reputed to have said somewhere -- I don't know where -- that he convinced her evolution was true in her late years, but I don't have any report of the details of what he supposedly said to her. I wouldn't quite trust Binswanger myself to explain evolution correctly. There's nothing in his 100 Voices interview on the issue of any discussion he had with her about the subject.

[ES] Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz

[Darren] To have read him and be misled by him is still to have read him -- which was pretty much the only point I was making in my previous post.

I doubt that she read much of the actual text -- maybe a few sections, but I'd be surprised if she read the whole book, which is a technical tome. My suspicion is that she mainly got her information about Helmholtz's theories second-hand via Nathaniel Branden (who might have studied Helmholtz in a course on perception) and/or Allan Blumenthal (who likewise might have read Helmholtz for course work or just from Allan's interest in music).

Ellen

Re Perception

Doug Bandler's picture

Binswanger has also written that some of Rand's statements on perception are mis-formulated. He is writing a book on Objectivism and he will be addressing the issue of perception. Binswanger is an admirer of James J. Gibson who was a very important theorist in the field of visual perception. Rand was not acquainted with the ideas of Gibson I don't believe.

Perception is an important subject because the starting point of the materialist attack on consciousness and abstract thought is that we don't actually perceive the "real world" (how Kantian). Objectivism's answer is that we do but by the means possible to us given our perceptual mechanisms. Rand may have made some errors of formulation that need to be corrected, and we will see if Binswanger corrects them, but if perception is not defended then the rest of any defense of reason will fail.

Perhaps...

Frediano's picture

Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz

Perhaps he just didn't resonate with her.

Ayn Rand And Evolution

Neil Parille's picture

I wrote a piece about Rand and evolution a while ago. I didn't know at the time that Rand said something (apparently more supportive) about evolution in 1980 or so over the creation/evolution/public schools controversy.

http://rebirthofreason.com/Art...

-Neil Parille

Darren

Richard Goode's picture

I don't understand your methodology here, unless it's one of pure idolatry.

Pure idolatry? Neil Parille?! Shocked

If the list is supposed to be exhaustive (as you imply, or why even post it?)

I believe Neil's methodology amounts to nothing more than providing a helpful list of books that Rand is known to have read. He's a Rand scholar (not, thank God, an Objectivist), with (like you and me) an unhealthy obsession with Ayn Rand. And, in Neil's case, with minutiae.

If Rand told an audience at Ford Hall Forum that she was "not a student of Darwin's theory", should we conclude that she had read nothing by him, and was simply expressing an opinion based on whim or hearsay from others who had read him?

Yes. It's unlikely that she read On the Origin of Species because Rand didn't want to know about Darwin. Rand didn't want to know about Darwin because she feared that Darwin's account of man seriously undermines Objectivist ethics. Anyway, as you already said

She obviously rejected his hypothesis, certainly in regard to any putative gradualistic evolution from animal consciousness to human consciousness...

As to a putative physical gradualism from supposedly simpler life forms to man, she was obviously skeptical. Had she been convinced, she would have said "I buy the idea that man's body evolved gradually from that of the lower animals, but I reject the idea that man's mind evolved in this way." But she did not say this. Instead, she dropped the whole thing by declaring "I'm not a student of his [i.e., Darwin's] theory." Had she openly said "I reject his theory" she would have been accused of courting creationism. So she soft-shoed her way out of the controversy entirely.

Probably a wise move on her part.

@ Neil Parille

darren's picture

Also, it doesn't include books she may have read in university.

And Darwin was enthusiastically embraced by revolutionaries at the time, since he was understood to be a materialist who looked at facts "as they are, unburdened by religious or metaphysical speculative assumptions." Darwin might even have been assigned reading.

I don't understand your methodology here, unless it's one of pure idolatry. As the saying goes, "lack of evidence is not evidence of lack." That there exists a list of books she read does NOT mean that she did not read books that do not appear on the list.

I thought you would have learned that in Peikoff's taped lectures on logic.

By the way, in the Alvin Toffler "Playboy Interview" with Rand, he asks her what she thought of William Faulkner as a writer. "Not much" was her reply. Yet Faulkner is not mentioned on your list. If the list is supposed to be exhaustive (as you imply, or why even post it?), then it would appear that Ayn is talking through her proverbial hat -- expressing an opinion about a major writer whom she had simply never read. Conversely, if she had read Faulkner and simply didn't think much of his writing, then your list cannot be exhaustive (in which case, what was the point in posting it?).

Finally, "Origin of Species" is not a work of philosophy but a work of natural science. If Rand told an audience at Ford Hall Forum that she was "not a student of Darwin's theory", should we conclude that she had read nothing by him, and was simply expressing an opinion based on whim or hearsay from others who had read him? We know that she said this because I personally was there in the audience and heard her say it. There may even be a tape of the lecture somewhere.

What Rand Read

Neil Parille's picture

This is a list of books that Rand was known to have read, compiled by Richard Lawrence.

http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/m...

It doesn't include books that might have been mentioned in some more recent collections, such as 100 Voices. I believe someone in 100 Voices said Rand read Sabine's history of political thought. Also, it doesn't include books she may have read in university.

Since Rand didn't read much philosophy in the original sources it's unlikely she read The Origen of Species.

-Neil Parille

@ gregster

darren's picture

I'll just put this here to show what stupid pranks Dazzler pulls. Even an apologist for goblinism, Dazzler, should know the nuances of little words too. A further petty stunt of disingenuous pedantry from his arsenal of ineffective argumentation.

Practicing our big, adult, multisyllable words, I see. Good for you! Did you practice in front of a mirror and move your lips?

Since you have taken the childish approach of trying to solve philosophical problems by running to a dictionary, let's look at what your lexicographer masters have provided:

1.
to perceive with the eyes; look at. [Yes. To "look at" FROM a certain frame of reference. Change the frame of reference, and you see something different.]
2.
to view; visit or attend as a spectator: to see a play. [Yes. to "view" FROM a certain frame of reference. Change the frame of reference, and you see something different.]
3.
to perceive by means of computer vision. [Yes. From a specific frame of reference.]
4.
to scan or view, especially by electronic means: The satellite can see the entire southern half of the country. [Yes. And the satellite sees or scans the entire southern half of the country from a specific position -- or frame of reference -- in orbit above Earth.]
5.
to perceive (things) mentally; discern; understand: to see the point of an argument. [Yes. To discern an idea or argumentative point from a certain frame of reference, i.e., from a certain set of assumptions or premises. Change the assumptions or premises and you will discern something different.]
6.
to construct a mental image of; visualize: He still saw his father as he was 25 years ago. [Yes. To see, visualize, or imagine something from a certain frame of reference.]
7.
to accept or imagine or suppose as acceptable: I can't see him as president. [Yes. To imagine or suppose as acceptable from a certain frame of reference, i.e., from a given set of assumptions or premises.]
8.
to be cognizant of; recognize: to see the good in others; to see where the mistake is. [Yes. To be cognizant of, or recognize, from a specific frame of reference.]
9.
to foresee: He could see war ahead. [Yes. To foresee an event from a specific frame of reference.]
10.
to ascertain, learn, or find out: See who is at the door. [Yes. To ascertain, learn, or find out from a specific frame of reference.]
11.
to have knowledge or experience of: to see service in the foreign corps. [To have knowledge or experience of something from a specific frame of reference]
12.
to make sure: See that the work is done. [Yes. To make sure of something from a specific frame of reference.]
13.
to meet and converse with: Are you seeing her at lunch today? [Yes. To meet and converse with, from a specific frame of reference.]
14.
to receive as a visitor: The ambassador finally saw him. [To receive as a visitor from a specific frame of reference.]
15.
to visit: He's gone to see his aunt. [To visit from a specific frame of reference.]
16.
to court, keep company with, or date frequently: They've been seeing each other for a long time. [To court or date from a specific frame of reference.]
17.
to provide aid or assistance to; take care of: He's seeing his brother through college. [To provide aid or assistance from a specific frame of reference.]
18.
to attend or escort: to see someone home. [To escort from a specific frame of reference.]
19.
Cards . to match (a bet) or match the bet of (a bettor) by staking an equal sum; call: I'll see your five and raise you five more. [To call from a specific frame of reference]
20.
to prefer (someone or something) to be as indicated (usually used as a mild oath): I'll see you in hell before I sell you this house. He'll see the business fail before he admits he's wrong. [To prefer from a specific frame of reference.]
21.
To read or read about: I saw it in the newspaper. [To read, read about, or have learned something, from a specific frame of reference.]

Running to a dictionary to help you with a problem is a good idea when the problem is one having to do with something like spelling, or perhaps, the general, normal definition and usage of a word. Beyond that, a dictionary is useless. The reason is that dictionaries are put together by lexicographers; and how do they go about compiling their dictionaries? Generally, they check another dictionary. They don't sit and think and mull over basic philosophical problems associated with a particular word.

And just in case no one has ever told this to you before, let me be the first (as well as the most enthusiastic) to do so: You're a major fuckwit.

@ Ellen Stuttle

darren's picture

She certainly never read "On the Origin of Species."

And how do you know that?

Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz

To have read him and be misled by him is still to have read him -- which was pretty much the only point I was making in my previous post.

Rand didn't read Darwin - Darren

Ellen Stuttle's picture

First, sorry, Doug, for my total neglect of this thread for now nearly two weeks. I haven't had time. Tonight is the first I've even peeked since last I posted. Eventually, I hope, I'll catch up.

Upon peeking, I noticed this comment near the most-recent:

Darren post #95857:

'Rand certainly had an inquisitve mind. If she spent time reading "On The Sensations of Tone" by a great physicist like Helmholz, then she certainly would have read, at some point in her life, "On The Origin of Species" by Darwin.'

Rand read very little of original sources. She certainly never read "On the Origin of Species." Look into the sources on her reading.

Unfortunately, she was misled about perception by Helmholtz (as was the whole field of the study of perception, with results that continue). Yes, Helmholtz was a very great physicist, but he approached perception as if perception was additive of sensation instead of abstractive from an environmental surround, a mistake Rand adopted.

Ellen

"See"

gregster's picture

I'll just put this here to show what stupid pranks Dazzler pulls. Even an apologist for goblinism, Dazzler, should know the nuances of little words too. A further petty stunt of disingenuous pedantry from his arsenal of ineffective argumentation.

to perceive with the eyes; look at.
2.
to view; visit or attend as a spectator: to see a play.
3.
to perceive by means of computer vision.
4.
to scan or view, especially by electronic means: The satellite can see the entire southern half of the country.
5.
to perceive (things) mentally; discern; understand: to see the point of an argument.
6.
to construct a mental image of; visualize: He still saw his father as he was 25 years ago.
7.
to accept or imagine or suppose as acceptable: I can't see him as president.
8.
to be cognizant of; recognize: to see the good in others; to see where the mistake is.
9.
to foresee: He could see war ahead.
10.
to ascertain, learn, or find out: See who is at the door.
11.
to have knowledge or experience of: to see service in the foreign corps.
12.
to make sure: See that the work is done.
13.
to meet and converse with: Are you seeing her at lunch today?
14.
to receive as a visitor: The ambassador finally saw him.
15.
to visit: He's gone to see his aunt.
16.
to court, keep company with, or date frequently: They've been seeing each other for a long time.
17.
to provide aid or assistance to; take care of: He's seeing his brother through college.
18.
to attend or escort: to see someone home.
19.
Cards . to match (a bet) or match the bet of (a bettor) by staking an equal sum; call: I'll see your five and raise you five more.
20.
to prefer (someone or something) to be as indicated (usually used as a mild oath): I'll see you in hell before I sell you this house. He'll see the business fail before he admits he's wrong.
21.
to read or read about: I saw it in the newspaper.

@ Callum

darren's picture

We see the Earth orbiting the Sun.

Do we, indeed!

Now, from precisely where do we see such a thing and by what means?

From Earth by means of ground-based optical telescopes?

From space by means of satellite images? For example, if we position a satellite with some sort of telescope at or near the position of the sun, what do we see? What about if we position the telescope somewhere between Earth and sun and put it into geosynchronous orbit with us. What do we see then?

Where, precisely, is the "zero" point in the universe at which we can plant an observer with a telescope and claim that we observe true, objective knowledge about planetary motion?

Darren

Callum McPetrie's picture

"And what do we observe that they did not?"

I think you said it here:

"...for the first time in history, we can actually see that the Earth is not the center of the universe."

We see the Earth orbiting the Sun.

@ Doug Bandler

darren's picture

Wow. This thread got hijacked.

Nah, it just drifted off course. It happens in long discussions.

The fact is this:

Rand certainly had an inquisitve mind. If she spent time reading "On The Sensations of Tone" by a great physicist like Helmholz, then she certainly would have read, at some point in her life, "On The Origin of Species" by Darwin. She obviously rejected his hypothesis, certainly in regard to any putative gradualistic evolution from animal consciousness to human consciousness. She wasn't the first one to do so. In Darwin's day, a great philologist named Max Muller also rejected evolutionary gradualism on precisely the same grounds (and apparently even debated Darwin himself on that very point).

As to a putative physical gradualism from supposedly simpler life forms to man, she was obviously skeptical. Had she been convinced, she would have said "I buy the idea that man's body evolved gradually from that of the lower animals, but I reject the idea that man's mind evolved in this way." But she did not say this. Instead, she dropped the whole thing by declaring "I'm not a student of his [i.e., Darwin's] theory." Had she openly said "I reject his theory" she would have been accused of courting creationism. So she soft-shoed her way out of the controversy entirely.

Probably a wise move on her part.

@ Callum

darren's picture

Nowadays, in the full context of our observations and understanding of physical laws, it would be ridiculous to postulate that the Earth is the centre of the universe.

And what do we observe that they did not?

@ Blake

darren's picture

o say some sort of event or explosion occurred before consciousness is different from your hypothetical non-conscious scenario. You're posing the question, "What would we think?" as against "What happened?"

Good save!

How about the question "What would we think happened?" Does that count?

Anyway, my hypothetical merely brought to the present what astrophysicists and Darwiniacs hypothesize about all the time regarding the distant past. You need to follow Objectivist Epistemology more closely: abstract away the non-essential time-measurement -- i.e., "past time", "present time", etc. -- and focus only on the essential: i.e., making claims about "what happened before consciousness was around to identify anything happening" ("happened" is a verb, you know, and it means that entities of a certain kind -- "certain kind" means one is identifying them, OK? -- are changing over time -- "changing over time" refers to identified attributes that at time = 0 are one thing, and at time = 0+n are identified as being another. Got it? It all requires identification, ergo, it all assumes that consciousness is present. If you just don't understand my original hypothetical, let me know. I'd be happy to rephrase all of it in simpler language so that you can both understand it and see how it relates precisely to the claims made by astrophysicists and evolutionists in the present).

You can't have your metaphysics and eat it, too. (But still: good save.)

Never a miscommunication.

Blake's picture

They are using consciousness to observe the present, and in building onto observations from past minds, we can theorize about events in which consciousness was not present, such as the origins of consciousness itself. To say some sort of event or explosion occurred before consciousness is different from your hypothetical non-conscious scenario. You're posing the question, "What would we think?" as against "What happened?"

If you would like to continue our discussion, you can PM me. Otherwise, I agree that this thread has gone completely awry, and it's only fair to other users to move back to the Rand/Darwin discussion. Thanks.

"Really? So, learned men of

Callum McPetrie's picture

"Really? So, learned men of the time -- all Aristotelians, by the way -- simply "believed" the Earth to be the center of the universe based on whim, or arbitrary belief, with no observational evidence at all?"

But now! Ah, now we have radio telescopes and satellites, and for the first time in history, we can actually see that the Earth is not the center of the universe -- perhaps, something else is. Now, therefore, we have real knowledge; back then, they had no knowledge but only belief."

Believing something does not equate to a blind faith (whim, arbitrary belief) in something. What matters is the grounds upon which that belief is based.

They based their belief on the best observational evidence available at the time, and it seemed to make sense in the full context of what they had observed. Nowadays, in the full context of our observations and understanding of physical laws, it would be ridiculous to postulate that the Earth is the centre of the universe. The fact that they were wrong doesn't mean that whim or arbitrary belief was necessarily the basis upon which they based their belief.

@ Blake

darren's picture

No, we wouldn't say anything, because "we" are not there. In all of your examples, you're getting caught by trying to insert consciousness. If "we" were in fact there, we would identify those things as such.

Ah! I knew there was a catch! Thanks for correcting me on that and setting me straight!

So, if someone starts talking, or writing, about how different kinds of entities -- stars, planets, rocks, minerals, plants -- must have "looked", or how these entities "changed" into other entities -- during a time in which there was no consciousness around of any kind to perform the "looking" or consider the "changing" -- then you would say that such a person was (like me) "getting caught by trying to insert consciousness."

Right?

@ Frediano

darren's picture

The heavier elements that you and I and everything around us is made from was once forged in the furnace of stars now long dead.

"Long dead?" How long? Because you admitted earlier in the thread that without consciousness, we cannot speak of things like "libraries" and "books" and "plants" and "electric light fixtures" without committing the stolen concept fallacy, right? If it's true for libraries, books, and fixtures, it must also be true for stars.

@ Callum

darren's picture

For a certain statement to constitute knowledge, it has to be true. Any book which stated that the Earth was the centre of the universe didn't contain information of what was known, but what was believed at the time.

Really? So, learned men of the time -- all Aristotelians, by the way -- simply "believed" the Earth to be the center of the universe based on whim, or arbitrary belief, with no observational evidence at all?

But now! Ah, now we have radio telescopes and satellites, and for the first time in history, we can actually see that the Earth is not the center of the universe -- perhaps, something else is. Now, therefore, we have real knowledge; back then, they had no knowledge but only belief.

Would that be about right?

@ Frediano

darren's picture

Inside your hypothetical, impossible to understand.

The purpose of any hypothetical is to put oneself inside of it. There's no point in positing one otherwise.

Got it? So we're INSIDE the hypothetical. Now, what does "impossible to understand" mean?

Richard, Reed & Bill O'Reilly: Peas in the same pod.

Robert's picture

Richard - I've never

reed's picture

Richard -
I've never seriously doubted the modern evolutionary synthesis.

You should try it sometime.

Callum, Frediano, Darren, Brian, Brant et al....

Marcus's picture

...should start their own thread on the difference between facts and knowledge and leave this one to the discussion of differences or not between Rand and Darwin.

"According to you, these

Callum McPetrie's picture

"According to you, these facts were true, because these old books contained information of what was known."

For a certain statement to constitute knowledge, it has to be true. Any book which stated that the Earth was the centre of the universe didn't contain information of what was known, but what was believed at the time.

Hijaked

Doug Bandler's picture

Wow. This thread got hijacked. It was supposed to be about Rand and Darwin. Specifically, it was supposed to be about Rand's meta-biology and if and where it went wrong and how that impacts Rand's ethics. Ellen has made some interesting comments. Really, the threads revolving around her discussions are the only ones on point.

No

Frediano's picture

Then, essentially, my scenario was meaningless. Would that be an accurate way of describing it?

Safely outside of your hypothetical, your scenario is not meaningless: we, here, safely outside of your hypothetical, are perfectly able to understand your scenario and give it meaning and even describe it.

Even as there is no consiousness inside of your scenario to give it meaning inside the context of your scenario.

Is that really that hard to understand? Inside your hypothetical, impossible to understand. Outside of your hypothetical, ie, here, trivial to understand.

Your questions concerning your own scenario are being asked...understood...known....described.... outside the context of your scenario.

Inside the context of your scenario, there is no entity to ask...understand...know...describe... anything.

Physics, not music

Frediano's picture

That was beautiful, Frediano. Let me break out my guitar and try to set it to music:

"All we are is dust in the wind . . ."

Darn, it's already been done before. Oh, well.

Physics, not music class.

Objectively, we live in a universe that by some estimates is still 90% by mass made of a single electron orbiting a single proton, the simplest form of Hydrogen.

Where do you think every other element more complex than that came from? The heavier elements that you and I and everything around us is made from was once forged in the furnace of stars now long dead. We are objectively processes of energy passing through our borrowed star dust.

Clearly process, if we were to see our existence in time lapse. We are not even the same borrowed star dust that we were ten years ago. We are self-aware finite duration processes, passing through borrowed star dust.

You and I all the other special self-aware bits of borrowed stardust/process represent that tiny fraction of the other than simple Hydrogen in this universe that became self-aware, driven by the universe's 'what works, works,' -- a process that mankind continues.

Where did you think the heavier elements came from? The cosmic lumber company?

Balls

Frediano's picture

We can have false information about something; can we have a "false fact" Aren't facts always facts OF reality? If so, how can there be a "false fact"? If this is so, then "information" and "facts" are not the same thing."

It was once common knowledge in the minds of some men that the earth was flat, even as it wasn't a fact. But the fact that men sometimes deal with faulty knowledge does not mean that Man is incapable of refining knowledge. We today know that the earth is in fact about as spherical or even more perfectly spherical than a billiard ball and smoother than a billiard ball. (See the specs for a billiard ball, and scale them to the earth...)

In some men, that is grasped as a kind of carte blanche to forever wing it. I'm not sure why they make that leap.

Perhaps they want to play billiards with reality, as a kind of political tactic. (Before some can sell political slop to another human being you must first kick the legs out from underneath them, and convince them that we are all unable to know reality. Then, in a jarring act of about face, some must then proceed to explain reality to us after having just asserted that it is unknowable.)

It is like Kant's carny huckster trick. He claims a variance between a thing and the thing in itself, as it 'really is.' And yet, to have knowledge of that variance, he would have to have knowledge of 'the thing in itself.' So, he hypothesizes a place that mere humans can never visit (the truth of a thing in itself) and then jarringly visits that very place, to tell us that we are at variance with it. Who buys such argument in modern times?

Well there was Rawls, who pulled the same carny huckster trick. First he hypothesized a land where no human may visit: a state of pure unbias(by future outcomes), where man is in a state capable of making his unbiased 'initial position.' And then, no surprise, he roll his eyes into the back of his head and visits that unvisitable place, and comes back to the rest of us bearing the unremarkable news that the people who live there choose his politics.

God,"S"ociety, the land of 'the thing itself', the jungle beyond the Volcano where the Harvest god lives, on ad infinitum, naked sweaty apes and their carny huckster politics are forever manufacturing authority safely removed from the rest of us and then jarringly visiting them to speak for the magic spirits found there.

And like children, some fall for the carny hucksters leg lifting logic, victims of a quest by some to run skins not their own.

Where does the urge to run skins not our own(of which these carny huckster authority safely removed from reality arguments are part of)come from? IMO, from our irrational existential terror. The same place where Hitler got his motivation to run skins not his own, the hunger of his childhood.

Callum

darren's picture

For those books to have contained information of what was known, the facts contained within had to have been true - otherwise, it would not have been information of what had been known.

So in those old books that contain information on the geocentric system of the solar system, that's what was known at the time: the earth was the center of the universe, and the sun and the planets revolved around earth. The stars didn't move at all since they were known to be "fixed."

According to you, these facts were true, because these old books contained information of what was known.

Blake

darren's picture

You can't argue from the state of non-consciousness that you are trying to establish.

Then, essentially, my scenario was meaningless. Would that be an accurate way of describing it?

"You and gregster should get

Callum McPetrie's picture

"You and gregster should get together and work out your alibi since you're both telling different stories."

If I were here to defend Gregster's position, I would've adopted it and be arguing for it. I'm not here to do either.

"Taking your position (knowledge is created): that would mean that every time a schoolboy somewhere in the world learns Newton's law of universal gravitation, that knowledge -- i.e., The Law of Universal Gravitation -- is re-created? We realize that the schoolboy may be learning this law for the first time; but does it make sense to say, 400 years after Newton already created it, that each time it is learned it is simultaneously being created again?"

It is being created again, in the mind of the person that has learnt the Law of Gravitation. This is because knowledge exists, and only exists, at the individual level - what we call 'knowledge' is only applicable to the individual minds that do the knowing. This doesn't mean that those who have already learnt the law are learning it again, or that an entirely new fact has been discovered. Anything that could be deemed 'collective knowledge' (eg, "scientists know that...") is simply knowledge that is known by a majority or all of the persons specified.

'Summing up: the major problem in your position is that you conflate the wider concept "knowledge" with the narrower concept "conceptual knowledge."'

No, I don't. This is because that fact that knowledge is created in a number of different ways (eg. learning, discovery, repetition) to reflect different types of knowledge (conceptual and instinctive) does not affect the fact that knowledge is created, as there is a new construct in the mind of the being doing the knowing that didn't exist before. There are many ways to eat an apple, but this doesn't affect the fact that the apple is being eaten.

"You just said that knowledge is created. Most of us would have thought that the law demonstrating the equivalence of matter and energy was something created by Einstein, and that this knowledge was expressed in the form E=mc^2. Now you're telling us that this equation isn't knowledge at all but a mere fact -- something requiring no creation at all to bring it into existence and which existed for all time and eternity. Which is it? Is E=mc^2 a fact, existing independently of mind, including Einstein's mind? Or is it knowledge, requiring mind, probably Einstein's mind, to create it or to discover it?"

Where did the dichotomy between "facts" and "knowledge" arise? E=MC^2 is a true statement regardless of whether we are aware of it or not. To call it knowledge requires this awareness. The knowledge was created in Einstein's mind when he discovered the fact - when he became aware of the truth of the equation.

E=MC^2 is a fact, as it is a true statement.
E=MC^2 is knowledge, as we are aware that it is a true statement.

"It doesn't say that it exists independently of mind, but, on the contrary, suggests that it, too, requires a knower..."

Yes, to know that a certain proposition or a statement is true - a fact - requires a knower. The truth or falsehood of the statement or proposition does not require a knower.

I'd also like to say that you've brought up two different definitions of fact that are relevant (the first and third, the second not being applicable to this discussion). I've always understood "fact" to be any statement/proposition which is true (the first definition), and thus that will be my definition (and, in fact, you used this definition yourself in your rebuttal to my LoC claims). Therefore, there is absolutely no contradiction involved in saying that the LoC books contain facts, but not knowledge.

"Finally, you claim that the LoC books contain information of what was known when there were minds around to be the knowers, but that they nonetheless contain facts.

Are you equating "information" with "facts"?

We can have false information about something; can we have a "false fact" Aren't facts always facts OF reality? If so, how can there be a "false fact"? If this is so, then "information" and "facts" are not the same thing."

For those books to have contained information of what was known, the facts contained within had to have been true - otherwise, it would not have been information of what had been known.

@gregster

BrianScurfield's picture

You may use any adjective, parochial will do. But genes was the context.

But you would agree that evolution does not require a biological context? It operates, as a matter of logic, in any context where you have selection and variation.

And my point was that information held in cells was never knowledge until humans first discovered the fact. If not genes, then "information" or similar. No biggie.

It is a special kind of information though isn't it? Information that is adapted and that bears a truth-like correspondence with reality. Calling it just "information" means that you aren't distinguishing this special kind of information from information in general. A random base-pair sequence has lots of information but none of this special kind of information. Humans discovering the information does not change what the information represents.

Can't

Brant Gaede's picture

Can't we simply say a fact is an aspect of reality and knowledge is someone's identification of that? "I know that" is coherent. "I fact that" isn't. I must have missed something, just having rather quickly perused this thread for the first time, that makes sense all this brouhaha.

--Brant
books per se can contain passive, unused knowledge

Universality and nature

BrianScurfield's picture

The Church-Turing thesis concerns the notion of an effective or mechanical method in logic and mathematics.

David Deutsch, whom the article you linked to quotes, disagrees and once said to me that "having carefully read Turing, I disagree with all the mathematicians and historians of mathematics in the world, and believe that Turing meant his statement to be about nature."

Relative Stupidity

gregster's picture

"The stupider a person is, the less he believes in absolutes and the fewer consequences he is able to predict. That is why fools never know what to do or what's going to happen, or often, what has happened. Conversely, the brighter a person is, the more absolutes and consequences he can see. That's why brighter people accomplish more and stay out of trouble more. Disbelief in absolutes is the mark of the unintelligent. It's almost the definition of a dummy. Dummies never know what is happening or what is going to happen."

Robert L Kocher

Semantics

Frediano's picture

Good. So without minds, there are no such things -- as we understand them

In your hypothetical-- post mankind -- there are such things, but there is no 'we' to understand them in the context of your hypothetical.

Surely you don't mean 'there are no such things.' They exist, by definition, in your own hypothetical. Only in church do we get to claim that something both exists and does not exist at the same time. (Not even childish misinterpretations of quantum physics suggest that. Even in quantum physics that is only implied in a special sense-- a mathematical sense safely forever isolated from where we actually are which is here and now.)

Surely you mean 'as we understand them' ... because there is no 'we' to understand them in the context of your hypothetical. The only 'we' are we safely outside of your hypothetical. That is the only knowledge that exists of the facts within your hypothetical. The fact of those items exists. The universe is pitching the facts, but no self-aware mind is catching them(perfectly or imperfectly)as knowledge outide the context of your hypothetical. The facts are immutable, our knowledge of them is conditional on there being a receptive mind to catch them. The fact of them exists even if our knowledge of them is imperfect(or even non-existing.

Otherwise, if you actually believe that 'there are no such things' -- even in the context of your hypothetical, then it is trivial to turn the hypothetical around and imagine it pre-man and pre-self-aware borrowed stardust/cold process mind. The only evidence we have of self-aware intelligence arrived locally very recently. If there was no awareness of the universe prior to our arrival, then by your calculus, 'there is no such thing' as the universe, and there was nowhere for mankind to appear and we don't exist. From which, if you accepted the still not proven hypothesis that all of reality has just been dreamed up by pure consciousness, would lead one to conclude their very favorite bedtime story, the one that is supposed to ease our existential terror, that there is a primary consciousness that just dreamed everything up. And, instead of curiously asking why this hypothetical consciousness seems intent on creating both heaven and hell here and now on earth, having purely imagined this consciousness ourselves, we are free to speak for it and imagine unbelievable sweet deals waiting for us in the safely unseeable next world, the better world, the one in our imaginations, because when it comes to the world as it is, we are special ingrates and claim to have been born deserving more than what is and can be.

Only, at least one requisite is missing: evidence of that uber consciousness be it Jungs 'collective unconscious' or Durkheim's 'consciousness of all consciousness' or "S"ociety or God or the Magic Spirit that lives forever safely and irrefutably just beyond the Volcano forever outside of our reach, but who somehow inevitably yet requires sweaty naked apes just like me to jarringly speak for it here and now, gee, now where did we see this carny huckster political trick before ever in the history of mankind and his naked sweaty ape politics?

Our faulty leaps of illogic are not that evidence. It might help if the eyes rolled into the back of the head believers -- be they in Jung or Durkheim or whatever -- could at least come to grips over whether it is a conscious or unconscious consciousness they are foaming on about in their imaginations.

I don't know if a primary consciousness exists inside this universe, and especially, outside of this universe. Whatever emitted me here, either by cold process or divine intervention, resulted in me being here, and who am I to argue with what I have no means of altering in the least? What I can do is use what I have to perceive and understand where I am and what I am, and the only evidence I see is of cold process, both outside of man and preceding him, and even, inside of man. When I look, what I see is evidence of the cold process machine inside of man as a continuum of the 'what works, works' cold process unfolding in the universe, so I run with that.

Its not necessary, or even remotely possible, that we all come to the same conclusions regarding that which is safely outside of this universe. Not in the least.

@ reed

darren's picture

Darren -
Hello.
The discussion regarding "knowledge" is simply arguing about the meaning of a word.

Greetings!

I fear you might be right.

Nevertheless, I wonder if there's some value in teasing out possibly important differences among terms like "fact", "knowledge", and "information".

@ Blake

darren's picture

No, we wouldn't say anything, because "we" are not there.

Ah. Now I see. You are claiming that the scenario I invented is epistemologically and logically invalid, so there's no such thing as agreeing with it or disagreeing with it.
Would that be a correct assessment of your position?

Further, if I have it correct this time, would you also say that the scenario I invented is simply meaningless?

Darren - Hello. The

reed's picture

Darren -
Hello.
The discussion regarding "knowledge" is simply arguing about the meaning of a word.

Cheers,

Reed.

You understand that in saying

Blake's picture

You understand that in saying X exists, you are assuming the role of consciousness by identifying a fact of reality.

You said: "...we would have to say the same thing of all those petri dishes full of bacteria, molds, and fungi."

No, we wouldn't say anything, because "we" are not there. In all of your examples, you're getting caught by trying to insert consciousness. If "we" were in fact there, we would identify those things as such.

"...then gingko trees qua gingko trees don't exist without minds..."

No; consciousness does not precede existence. I could make the claim that a certain tree will continue to exist after I die, right? Chances are, it will for some time. Perhaps it will be cut down, burned, rot, etc. I can only make this claim while I possess consciousness. Other conscious beings can observe the life of the tree after I have died. If there are no conscious beings, no one is there to identify it. It's still a tree, at least it was the last time someone saw it.

You said: "Good. So without minds, there are no such things -- as we understand them -- as "books" or "libraries" or "movie theatres" or "jet planes" or "cruise ships" or "restaurants" or "silverware", etc."

That holds the implicit statement: "no such things exist". This claim could only come from a human consciousness, (so OF COURSE it sounds ridiculous for me to outright deny something self-evident to consciousness). You can't argue from the state of non-consciousness that you are trying to establish.

Checking in, briefly

Ellen Stuttle's picture

It's been a hassled week since last (a week ago) I had time to look at this thread. Long story, "climate" dominated -- ice storm on Wednesday, plus the immediate need to drop everything else in order to vet the wording of scientific details on an "amicus curiae" being filed in an AGW-related suit headed for the Supreme Court. Neither Larry nor I "needed" that.

I'd like to address a possible misunderstanding of my gradualism thesis about the phylogenetic development of volition:

Maybe Linz (and Marcus) are misinterpreting me to be proposing a case for animal rights.

If so, please be assured: I am not.

My thrust is an attempt to address 2 (interrelated) problems:

(1) the bad and worsening problem of "integrating" volition with physics. I think that few Objectivists have any knowledge to speak of of physics and thus aren't aware of how bad a problem the issue of alternatives of action presents in relationship to modern physics. Rand never addressed this problem at all, as best I know.

(2) the need to provide a genuinely biologically-founded theory of volition, which Rand's theory doesn't provide. Rand was ignorant of evolution. She was impressed by the "gap" between humans and other extant earth species but had no way of bridging the gap. In my view, the gap is actually not that hard to bridge, but "bridging" requires some reformulating of Rand's arguments.

--

Meanwhile, I see on quick skimming that challenges are being raised from computationalists -- plus that theories of perception have come up. (Rand was in error about the infallibility of perception, and about details of her views on how perception works.)

Re Brian's theory on the jump to universalizability, a quick comment on one of the many problems:

I recommend (I think) an article in the Stanford Encyclopedia on the "Church-Turing" thesis, from which I excerpt the start:

link

[underscores added]

The Church-Turing Thesis
First published Wed Jan 8, 1997; substantive revision Mon Aug 19, 2002

There are various equivalent formulations of the Church-Turing thesis. A common one is that every effective computation can be carried out by a Turing machine. The Church-Turing thesis is often misunderstood, particularly in recent writing in the philosophy of mind.

• The Thesis and its History
• Misunderstandings of the Thesis
• Some Key Remarks by Turing
• Bibliography
• Other Internet Resources
• Related Entries

The Thesis and its History

The Church-Turing thesis concerns the notion of an effective or mechanical method in logic and mathematics. ‘Effective’ and its synonym ‘mechanical’ are terms of art in these disciplines: they do not carry their everyday meaning. [....]

I've read the original -- 1997 -- version of this article. I don't know what the revisions are.

In the original version, the author, Jack Copeland, argued well, imo, that the thesis DOES NOT propose what it's often misunderstood to propose -- i.e., that any physically realizable function is computable by a universal Turing machine, nor did Church-Turing make the claim the thesis is often misunderstood to have made, and that even some prominent philosophers, such as Daniel Dennett and John Serle, have misunderstood the thesis to have made.

More later.

Ellen

PS to Marcus: No, your guess isn't what I meant. Try again?

@ blake

darren's picture

My position is that one CAN'T say anything about reality in your scenario, because your scenario eliminates any possibility of "one".

darren: "To use your own argument: since I have defined the situation as one in which all minds have been wiped out, then you can't even properly speak of "books" and a "Library of Congress" because that would assume a consciousness sneaking around somewhere able to be aware of these things, right? So not only would the knowledge in the books be gone, but the books, qua books, and library, qua library would be gone, too."

Exactly, you're just expanding my argument. It's pointless.

Good. So without minds, there are no such things -- as we understand them -- as "books" or "libraries" or "movie theatres" or "jet planes" or "cruise ships" or "restaurants" or "silverware", etc.

I assume what applies to the library, as such, applies to everything inside the library and not just the books. For example:

Without minds, we mustn't say that lighting fixtures qua lighting fixtures exist; we mustn't say that those potted plants qua potted plants exist; we mustn't say that the polished wooden banister on the Grand Stairway leading up to the Reference Room exists; obviously, the stairway qua stairway wouldn't exist either.

It occurred to me that if everything you claim is true for libraries and their sundry contents, then it must also be true of a Natural History Museum, right? So without minds, not only are there no such things as Natural History Museums qua Natural History Museums, but the contents of such museums -- for example, the various exhibits -- wouldn't exist either qua exhibits. So, in the Rocks & Minerals Exhibit, there are no such things as "Diamond", "Gold", "Lead" "Tin" "Tungsten" "Aluminium" etc. Right? And if we go to the exhibit titled "Microbes: Friends or Foes?" we would have to say the same thing of all those petri dishes full of bacteria, molds, and fungi.

Next door to the museum are the famous Botanic Gardens, with all kinds of exotic plants. Wouldn't it be true that if books qua books don't exist without minds, and gold qua gold doesn't exist without minds, then gingko trees qua gingko trees don't exist without minds (and similarly for all the other plants on display).

Have I overstated things, or have I got it about right?

I'm genuinely interested in your answer because I have another question for you.

Darwin

Richard Goode's picture

Very gradual change we can believe in

Trick/illusion...

Frediano's picture

Greg:

It's our cognitive machinery, trying to interpret what we see and make it fit our model of the world. We're looking at a flat, 2D representation on our monitor, but it is of a 3D representation of an object that we recognize. Our pattern matching machinery recognizes it as a 'checkerboard' that we 'know' has alternating adjacent dark and light squares in a regular pattern.

We also 'see' that there is a shadow cast by the green object, so it is not unreasonable that the light square in shadow would have the same grayscale value as the dark square in full 'light', but for some reason, our visual processing circuitry insists on giving us the impression that the squares are different shades, because we have a processing bias -- we 'know' that the squares should 'really' have different shades(even as we also know that it is reasonable that in shadow, etc.)

It just reflects a bias in our visual processing, when we first view the image. It is evidence -- to me -- that our brains are able to self-reweight our higher order neural networks, and bias our perception away from 'accurate measurement of greyscale value' to 'pattern recognition -- because in general, without additional information, we value pattern recognition over 'accurate measurement of relative greyscale value.

Said another way, in terms of what we value, it isn't that important to us to measure the relative greyscale values accurately. We value the recognition of the object/pattern more.

But oddly, once we 'know' that the squares are in fact the same shades of grey, we can also reweight our visual processing wetbits to actually perceive them as the same shade of grey!

This is one of my favorite illustrations of 'the machine inside our brain.'

To me, this isn't evidence of some failing in our cognition. To the contrary, it is a verification of how powerful our cognition is. Because, we understand this apparent illusion, and do not regard it as 'magic' or a supernatural deception of the universe. It is, to me, in total, evidence of our ability to master our perception apparatus, not our blind slavery to it, as some have nakedly asserted in the past.

Yes, savages might be fooled by the perception of a spear halfway into the stream appearing to 'bend' in the water, but freshmen by the thousands wrestle their way through Haliday & Resnick every semester and comprehend 'refractive index' and the realignment of light as a waveform, as other than magic or deception...

Mankind can, via cognition, understand the universe, even as men do not. Both happen every day...

Fred

gregster's picture

The DigitalColor Meter tells me RGB 42, 42, 42. So the trick works fine here, thanks.

By whom?

Frediano's picture

Not sure what you mean by "accepted". Accepted by whom?

Accepted by you and me, safely here, outside of your hypothetical, and yet pondering it.

Within your hypothetical, by nobody; there is, according to your hypothetical, nobody in your hypothetical to accept anything.

regards,
Fred

Man's cognition

Frediano's picture

Man's cognition is exactly why his senses cannot deceive him; this illusion is understood, and explained. See the link from where this example came.

What Man can do is not necessarily what men do. Men can be deceived by their senses, and are, but Man is not.

In the end, 'what works, works.' Even as it doesn't work for all men.

This example is proof that Man is not a slave to the demonstrable limits of his sensory apparatus, even as some are. Man can understand and explain and even, see accurately, even as men do not.

@darren

Blake's picture

darren: "Essentially what you're saying is that in the absence of human consciousness actually existing to be aware of reality, one can say absolutely nothing about reality. Would that be a correct assessment of your position?"

Who's this "one" you keep trying to slide in there? My position is that one CAN'T say anything about reality in your scenario, because your scenario eliminates any possibility of "one". OK, say an alien group of higher intelligence was watching the whole thing take place. THEY could identify the books as containing knowledge, if and when they verify its claims about reality.

"Existence is identity, consciousness is identification." -GS, Rand

Reality is defined as that which exists. Reality is independent of consciousness, as against being dependent on consciousness. These are axioms in Objectivism.

darren: "To use your own argument: since I have defined the situation as one in which all minds have been wiped out, then you can't even properly speak of "books" and a "Library of Congress" because that would assume a consciousness sneaking around somewhere able to be aware of these things, right? So not only would the knowledge in the books be gone, but the books, qua books, and library, qua library would be gone, too."

Exactly, you're just expanding my argument. It's pointless. If you ever try to consider it, even hypothetically, you're positing consciousness. Think, what is books qua books? Clearly book means something much more to a human than to a rock or lizzard. If there is no one there to use "books qua books", they aren't books qua books.... they're skdfjhsf. They are a conglomeration of the whatever materials they are constructed with. (Here again, I am actually trying to think from your proposed perspective: one of non-consciousness, which is a contradiction).

Galt speaks

Richard Goode's picture

[Man's] senses cannot deceive him.

Man's senses cannot deceive him

Greg:

Frediano's picture

When I download the jpg and sample both squares, they both have pixel value RGB = (107,107,107)

OK

gregster's picture

I did that, I tore up a losing betting slip and placed it to take out the surrounding. Nevermind, I've seen that work once before.

Cheers Smiling

Greg

Frediano's picture

You can download the image, then sample the jpg bitmap in both squares, and compare the pixel values.

Or, take a piece of paper, put it over your monitor, and poke a hole over where both squares are.

Or, follow the link and see the proofs.

The A and B squares don't 'look' the same in their context. (This might be aided somewhat by the color of the font/text used for the letters A and B, which also appear to be different. But, even that might be part of the illusion. The squares themselves are the same shade of gray.

You can also train youself to actuall 'see' them as the same shade of grey. Just stand back from your monitor a little bit, and (ironically) unfocus your eyes just a little bit. Suddenly, you will see them as the same shade of gray.

edit -- when I go back and look at the 'proofs', the text fonts also appear to be the same...

regards,
Fred

Fred

gregster's picture

Are you using a PC? Not the same on my iMac.

My favorite example of facts, knowledge and perception...

Frediano's picture

Is it a fact that blocks A and B in this image are different shades of grey, and is that knowledge that we share via our perception wet bits?

Because the fact is, squares A and B are the same shades of gray.

source: http://web.mit.edu/persci/peop...

Facts are facts.

Perception and even knoweldge can be faulty. In our wet bits, where perception and knowledge exist and even change, even as the facts do not.

Oddly, when one first sees this image, it is difficult to see the blocks as the same shade of grey.

After a while, with knowledge that the blocks are the same shade of grey, it is difficult to see them as different shades of grey.

Our self-reprogrammable higher order neural networks are remarkable masses of wet bits.

This image, on several levels, exposes the machine inside of man. And, it is still a miracle.

Dazzler

gregster's picture

"That a fact is identified as a fact by a conceptually aware creature doesn't preclude that it could also simply "be made use of" by some other creature, not conceptually aware. It need not even identify it; it just has to make use of it."

Could I ask the courtesy of your explaining the relevance of this?

@ gruntster

darren's picture

A fact is identified by a conceptually aware creature.

"Identified", not "created." That a fact is identified as a fact by a conceptually aware creature doesn't preclude that it could also simply "be made use of" by some other creature, not conceptually aware. It need not even identify it; it just has to make use of it.

You are proving to be one of the more obnoxious and/or dumb

Well, darn! I was hoping to be the most obnoxious and/or dumb, but it appears that honor long ago went to you. (Congratulations, by the way.)

Fizzler

gregster's picture

A fact is identified by a conceptually aware creature. The entity identified by the fact would exist after your doomsday scenario, but then there would be no-one to identify the fact, reality, knowledge, or anything.

Get it? (You are proving to be one of the more obnoxious and/or dumb.)

@ Frediano

darren's picture

I'm not here to tell you how to react to your own existential introspection. If you, as a peer, regard this existence and demand a higher being, then who am I to claim otherwise? Whatever gets you through the days and nights of this existence. Your trip with our merely borrowed once star dust is not mine, and vice versa. We share existence, as peers. I hope you enjoy the ride.

That was beautiful, Frediano. Let me break out my guitar and try to set it to music:

"All we are is dust in the wind . . ."

Darn, it's already been done before. Oh, well.

@ gruntster

darren's picture

You and Callum are just going to have to rehearse your alibi again because you keep telling it differently under cross-examination. You say:

if rational creatures were not around, facts and knowledge would disappear

But Callum says:

They contain facts, which are independent of man's mind.

So if facts are independent of man's mind, why would they disappear if men (or other rational creatures) were not around?

I know it's tough for Objectivists to reason in a straight line for any length of time, but do try to come to an Executive Decision on this sometime soon, OK?

Darren

Frediano's picture

Not according to the infinite wisdom of the lexicographers at dictionary.com

I agree with Callum's analysis of that. "By whom?" is all over the place there.

a mere semantic quibble.

I'd agree wih you on that. Also what I call a 'parochial' quibble, in that it cropped up very recently and very locally in the universe. Mankind appeared very recently with his mere semantic quibbles. In a universe that is still objectively mostly(as high as 90% by mass by some estimates) the simplest form of Hydrogen -- a single electron orbiting a single proton -- where all the heavier elements were forged in the furnaces of once stars now long dead-- we and our self-aware animated bits of merely borrowed stardust, process just passing through, have come along to stake out all kinds of cut and try fresh new entrants in the universe's game of 'what works, works.' Including our self-awared semantical defintions of 'creation' and 'intelligence' and so on freshly printed rules on the freshly printed bylaws for admittence to the freshly painted clubhouse called Mankind.

The universe that 'emitted' us, some say (including me) is cold process. Mankind, some say, is other than cold process, because we are self-aware. Mankind is certainly unique in that regard, but speaking only for me, it doesn't bother me in the least to regard mankind as an extension of that same cold process, the bits of merely borrowed star dust that became self-aware, and yet still subjcet to the universe and its cold process laws of 'what works, works' -- just with better wet bit tools of guiding the shake and bake, resulting in a local acceleration of both successes and failures.

It doesn't bother me to ponder the machine inside of man, for several reasons. One, because in the end, I am what I am, where I am, and how I can be, in this universe as it is and can be. Two, because I am not an ingrate, for whatever 'emitted' me -- be it cold process or not, I am happy to be here, now, where I am and how I am. I would regard it as ingratitude to look this gift in the mouth, to demand/expect a 'better' universe beyond this one with its miracles in plain sight. But that is just speaking for me. If there is a 'higher being' then, for sure, I don't speak for it make rules for it, or tell it what it wants or thinks, nor can I imagine why others just like me would ever suspect that I would accept their claim to speak for that higher being. For all I know, I was placed here by the universe, as it is. The illogic of speaking for that which is safely out of our universe is not something I could ever grasp, and don't, even as I recognize the clear political incentives of others for attempting to do so.

That type of introspection, in some results in a kind of existential terror. For others, it results in a kind of existential peace and joy. I'm not here to tell you how to react to your own existential introspection. If you, as a peer, regard this existence and demand a higher being, then who am I to claim otherwise? Whatever gets you through the days and nights of this existence. Your trip with our merely borrowed once star dust is not mine, and vice versa. We share existence, as peers. I hope you enjoy the ride.

regards,
Fred

@ Frediano

darren's picture

Because in your hypothetical , the lonely library of congress and books sans humans are accepted as facts, just as, in your hypothetical, the fact that there are no humans around is accepted as a fact.

And the knowledge in the books is "accepted" as fact, too.

Not sure what you mean by "accepted". Accepted by whom?

Anyway, the position that "facts" are things outside your head, and "knowledge" is something inside your head is blather: an arbitrarily staked-out position by you based on semantic quibbles. As I've already pointed out, the dictionary authorities used by gruntster, et al., insist on no such sharp distinction.

The thing that is inside your head is perception. That, of course, is subjective and individual and variable person to person. The way I look at a tree from one angle will be different what you see at a different angle. Our knowledge of the tree, however, can be identical -- which rather proves that it cannot be in my consciousness or your consciousness. It exists independently of both of us.

@ gruntster

darren's picture

I will make your time here miserable, if you continue in this fashion.

You make everyone's time here miserable. On or off your meds.

Can you hack it?

Make my day, redneck.

Correct, Dazzler

gregster's picture

"fact' is part of "knowledge' and I didn't lead you astray there. Similarly if rational creatures were not around, facts and knowledge would disappear.

darren

Frediano's picture

Why do such things as "libraries of congress" exist as facts, and "books" exist as facts but not the knowledge in the books?

Because in your hypothetical , the lonely library of congress and books sans humans are accepted as facts, just as, in your hypothetical, the fact that there are no humans around is accepted as a fact.

In your hypothetical, the library of congress and books and lack of humans are accepted as 'facts.'

As well as the fact that there are facts that are in the books described in pictures and words and media of all kinds.

But, the knowledge of same is in your head -- here, safely outside of your hupothical. Insife of your hypothetical there is no knowledge of those facts, because there is nobody around to be the holder of that knowledge.

Facts are pitched by the universe, and knowledge is caught, synthesized, understood, and what-iffed to sometimes create new facts in the universe, and sometimes to create going nowhere gibberish. All subject to the absolute 'what works works. What can be, can be.'

And, in fact, inside your hypothetical you better use it quickly, because those books and the library of congress are decomposing.

Inside the international bureau of standards somewhere in a vault is the interntaitonal standard defintion of 'the kilogram' -- an actual mass of metal. And it is slowly losing mass. And that is a fact, and now you have knowledge of that fact. As best as we can tell, the entire universe is on its way to a distgant dim 3 deg K future, the consumption of all gradient in the universe. Ours is a temporary local ride; even our hypotheticals won't last forever as facts, much less knowledge.

'Value' is something that mankind does, IMO, literally via the mechanism of self-weightable weigthings in our highest order neural nets, constructed to seek what we choose to value. (We don't concsiously choose to take the next breath; we do conciously pursue degrees in science and theology and even internet porn.)

Mankind can create new facts and share knowledge, even as men do not always. What works, works, and sometimes but not always failing men , IMO are part of that cold process continuum of the unverse. Does that make us machines, like the universe? Wouldn't bother me in the least; I am what I am, where I am, and how I can be, in the universe as it is and can be.

So, when a fact is understood

darren's picture

So, when a fact is understood by someone, it is understood by someone as a fact and becomes knowledge of that someone.

Not according to the infinite wisdom of the lexicographers at dictionary.com who claim that "fact" requires a knower of the fact, just as "knowledge" requires a knower of the knowledge. The mystical/magical transmutation of "fact" into "knowledge" that you keep harping on is simply an idiosyncracy and a mere semantic quibble. The authorities at dictionary.com don't seem to draw a sharp distinction between "fact" and "knowledge".

For me it's a matter of utility: "knowledge" is simply "useful facts."

Much better:

Knowledge is objective, i.e., exists independently of consciousness. A living organism can make use of certain kinds of knowledge -- and a living organism with a conceptual consciousness can make use of other kinds of knowledge -- but the knowledge remains knowledge whether inside consciousness or outside of it. Rand defined consciousness as "that which was aware of reality" not "that which transformed reality." Unless you're merely engaging in semantic hairsplitting, a "fact" doesn't become transformed into something else just because it is grasped by consciousness. If you wish to rename "fact" as "knowledge", go ahead, but what's the point? They're the same thing.

@ Fizzler

gregster's picture

you really must try harder to stick with your own scenarios. Fred of course doesn't need any assistance from me to be sure. I won't let you talk shit across this site without comeuppance. You are one fucking troll - with nothing to offer here. Why don't you take a hint, read a dictionary, get with the real world, and perhaps fuck off?

DUNCE

I will make your time here miserable, if you continue in this fashion. Can you hack it?

@ gruntster

darren's picture

are you on drugs, or high on god?

How your knuckles must hurt from dragging them on the ground all day. You're a living example of Darwinian evolution, gruntster. A true Missing Link. (Naturally, I mean that with the utmost respect.)

@ Frediano

darren's picture

They exist in your hypoothetical as facts,

Really? Why do such things as "libraries of congress" exist as facts, and "books" exist as facts but not the knowledge in the books?

Comment viewing options

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