Low-Grade Opponents of Ayn Rand

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture
Submitted by Kyrel Zantonavitch on Wed, 2012-08-15 13:26

Ayn Rand was a brilliant philosophical innovator. People of low quality who oppose her tend to rather pathetically say that her ideas are both old and false. But this is self-refuting.

Whenever her lowlife opponents admit that one of her brilliant philosophical innovations is true, they generally say either that it's isn't new (she stole or plagiarized it) or that it isn't insightful (a banal and obvious observation any child could make). Whenever her lowlife opponents deny that one of her brilliant philosophical innovations is true, they generally say that it's (obviously) self-contradictory or that it's (absurdly) incoherent. Evidently Rand's thought is a collection of the really trite mixed with the really dumb! Poor Ayn!

But virtually no-one systematically refutes her. It's almost always an act of intellectual intimidation by her lesser opponents. But if she's such a philosophical thief, why not cite the three or four most important ideas she stole, and then point out in a scholarly fashion from who, where, and when she stole them? And if her intellectual claims are so blatantly untrue and self-contradictory, then it should be laughably easy to name her three or four worst mistakes, and then show in a formal and rigorous way how they're deeply ignorant as well as contradictory.

Part of the problem in evaluating the person of Ayn Rand, and understanding her thought, is Rand was never quite as original and innovative as she mostly-sincerely thought and claimed. Considerably more than she knew or admitted, Rand's thought -- and even her intellectual approach, attitude, and psychology -- was hugely part of the Western liberal tradition of Greece/Rome and the Renaissance/Enlightenment. And thus she should have cited these liberal sources and influences more in her work. But she didn't do this partially because she both wanted to claim a bit more than she really accomplished, and partially because she was somewhat unaware of her own philosophic background. Hence there was a bit of offensive and confusing grandiosity in her personality.

But even with a moderate amount of unjust arrogance, Ayn Rand is still the new Aristotle. She's just that intellectually brilliant and innovative, in my view.

This issue is also complicated by the fact that many mainstream illiberal thinkers (i.e. post-modernist conservo-progressives) honestly disagreed with her in her time because they didn't have her level of insight and genius -- but she presumptuously thought that they were mere liars and evaders of reality. As for those who studied Objectivism and understood most of her ideas, and then honestly disagreed with her, she also thought they were liars and evaders of reality -- as well as betrayers of her personally.

Most of those ignorant about Objectivism, and educated about Objectivism, were thus. But a large and hugely important minority were not. What a tragedy that -- based on outrage, indignation, and fury -- Ayn Rand almost always refused to debate them! If she had discriminatingly chosen to debate the intellectual and moral elite from both groups she would have emerged philosophically and personally stronger. And these two phenomena would have sweetly reinforced.

Instead, Rand somewhat deliberately, and somewhat ignorantly, choose to live as a kind of intellectual guru and cult-leader, especially at the end. This makes it easy to cheap-shot and smear her, but her massively important and almost-all-true ideas continue to have an impact.


( categories: )

Nope

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I was paying particular attention at 17' 50". She's talking about relating ought to is generally, not defending or even mentioning the proposition that every is implies an ought.

Richard

Craig Ceely's picture

"When people say that Rand has "crossed to the other side" they mean that she's dead, not that she bridged Hume's "is/ought" gap, inductively or otherwise."

Yes, and they usually reserve that phrase for Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and such. What's your point?

Directions

Craig Ceely's picture

Rand answers a question on "every is implies an ought" at 17:50 of the Q&A.

Ah, nicely said, Mr Perigo...

Ross Elliot's picture

"As I've asked before, where the hell else would one get oughts from?"

...that's actually it in a nutshell.

If you ought to do something, where is the precursor? It's like the why. Why do we? Why should we? Why ought we? Flip it over, and you have the real question.

What's the meaning of life? No. Silly question. What's the meaning of *my* life? Now you have something serious to think about.

Craig

Richard Goode's picture

Rand's approach to Hume's "is/ought" gap succeeds by being inductive, as opposed to Hume's assumed deductive, syllogistic approach.

When people say that Rand has "crossed to the other side" they mean that she's dead, not that she bridged Hume's "is/ought" gap, inductively or otherwise.

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

Now, I would say that's an astonishing example of a non-sequitur.

I would say that Rand's entire philosophy is an astonishing example of a non-sequitur.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

Empiricists treat each new situation, as much as they can, as unique.

Except that they don't.

It is you who misses the point. The point is that you can't redefine 'leg' to mean tail. (Well, of course, you can, but people will look at you funny when you tell them that a Manx cat has no leg.)

You can't redefine 'empiricism' to mean "direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts," either. (Well, of course, you can, but then no epistemologist will take you seriously, just as none takes Rand seriously.)

Rand was an empiricist. She held that sensations are the primary material of consciousness. Which, of course, they are.

Craig

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I'm obliged to you for furnishing the link to the Q & A. I'm honestly not sure if that's among my stashed-away audiocassettes or not, but I heard it just now as though for the first time: a *stunning* demonstration of the power of Rand's mind, which at times had me in tears. Nonetheless, I didn't hear in there anywhere any defence of the proposition that every is implies an ought. Nor is there such a thing in her original essay/speech; rather, just this: 'Knowledge, for any conscious organism, is the means of survival; to a living consciousness, every “is” implies an “ought.”' Now, I would say that's an astonishing example of a non-sequitur. And an exasperatingly silly tangent upon which fetid hair-splitters like the Goblian nihilist Baade will seize. Earlier in the same presentation she has demonstrated the revolutionary point that "ought" is indeed determined by "is" in a way that the empiricist Hume could not grasp—then she has to go and sabotage herself with a statement that does not at all follow and will cause her uncritical acolytes like Peikoff to twist themselves into pretzels as they try to defend it: I seem to remember some excruciatingly tortuous response to Kelley's challenge re the normative implications of the number of blades of grass on Peikoff's lawn.

The point is, ought comes from is (not from non-is, Goblians to the contrary notwithstanding). That does not mean that every is implies an ought, which proposition is absurd on its face.

Craig

Tom Burroughes's picture

"That piece of wood generates nothing, Tom, and it never will -- it's a piece of wood. It could, of course, generate heat and light if you set it afire, but in that case, you are the actor, not the piece of wood, so you initiated the generating. So my question to you is, if you were asking about the meaning or import of "every 'is' implies an 'ought,' then why didn't you ask that? Why did you instead substitute "generate?" The two words are not synonymous. There's a clue here, though: why did you set that piece of wood afire? Did you desire that heat, that light? in other words, did that fire represent a value to you?"

The point here, I think, is that if I simply observe something, that is very different from my observing it and at the same time, thinking of what I want to do with that thing. When the issue of my current or potential action is involved, then an "ought" arises - how should I use it? What should I do with it? Is that object mine or does it belong to someone else? Do I need to buy it? Have I been just in my using or affecting this thing? Etc.

On that basis, I agree with the rest of your comments.

Tom

Very droll, Richard, but

Tom Burroughes's picture

Very droll, Richard, but misses the point.

"Empiricists treat each new situation, as much as they can, as unique. Pragmatism is empiricism in action: "expedient" behavior devoid of principle."

This discussion struck me as quite a good one. It faces the fact that "pure" empiricism is unworkable, for all the sort of reasons that Rand stated. http://objectivistanswers.com/...

An "ought"...

ding_an_sich's picture

is contingent upon an individual that values a said object, or quality about an object. So, to fix the proposition:

All "is" propositions possibly imply "ought" propositions.

Or, to put it in the de dicto...

Possibly, all "is" propositions imply "ought" propositions.

Ah... modal logic at it's finest. Smiling

Actually, now that I think about it, this is a second-order modal proposition! Talk about abstract! Shocked

But Tom....

Craig Ceely's picture

You wrote:

'Say I observe that a piece of wood is dark brown. What "ought" does that generate?'

That piece of wood generates nothing, Tom, and it never will -- it's a piece of wood. It could, of course, generate heat and light if you set it afire, but in that case, you are the actor, not the piece of wood, so you initiated the generating. So my question to you is, if you were asking about the meaning or import of "every 'is' implies an 'ought,' then why didn't you ask that? Why did you instead substitute "generate?" The two words are not synonymous.

There's a clue here, though: why did you set that piece of wood afire? Did you desire that heat, that light? in other words, did that fire represent a value to you?

But that's only if you set the thing on fire, which you could have done with any piece of wood. What about that particular piece of wood's being dark brown. What "ought" does that dark brown "is" imply?

You, Tom, must answer that question -- and, in fact, only you can answer that question for yourself -- at least, in terms of Objectivism. Remember Rand's assertion about the meaning of value: to whom and for what? And, as she said, the concept is not a primary. We're not speaking in Platonic or Kantian terms here: that piece of wood's being brown is not universally of value for all people at all times, and it cannot be, according to Ayn Rand, by the nature of values. Neither is that fire you could have set: but, if that fire provided heat and light and helped save your life for a night, is that value not objective?

The "is" of that piece of wood being dark brown implies (note: not "generates," not "results," not "requires") the "ought," to you, that if you are building, say, a guitar and you want blonde wood for some part, well... don't use that piece of dark wood. Or, if you prefer, you "oughtn't" use it. Is this subjective? No: the wood in question is dark; the guitar to be built will be, significantly, blonde. Don't use the dark wood on those parts. Is this intrinsic? No: the wood is already dark and the guitar design has already been made. Could have been different, but it isn't.

And, of course, it's your workshop and your guitar: cut and sand and polish the damn thing any way you want. What I might want is irrelevant. What Hume or Plato or Richard Goode or Ayn Rand might want...irrelevant. It's your shop, your wood, your guitar. Your values.

"But Craig," I can hear you object. "What if I'm not building the guitar for myself? What if I'm building it, for, say, Segovia?"

Fair enough (although Segovia is dead). If you're building that guitar for Segovia, then it's for him, for him to play, not you: if you are an ethical luthier, then he gets what he wants. He'll be the one playing it. Your satisfaction comes in good craftsmanship, making your customer happy, and getting paid. His comes in playing his Bach transcriptions on the great guitar he commissioned from you. All of these values -- his and yours -- are still objective. Again, value to whom and for what? Hermann Hauser, for example, wasn't a prominent guitarist, and to my knowledge, Segovia never built a guitar in his life. But Hauser built a guitar for Segovia in 1937, and Segovia played that one for decades. You think objective values weren't created in this case?

So again, the wood's quality of being dark generated nothing. It never could, so it never will. It implied something, however -- to you, Tom. It implied a value: to you. Not to me, nor to anyone else. To you. It implied an "ought." Use it on the neck of the guitar, maybe. Or on a chair. Or throw it the hell away. But don't use it on the face of the guitar, where you want blonde wood.

A lot of the Objectivist literature discusses this at a pretty abstract level, or at least that's what the archivists at The Ayn Rand Library in Lawton, Oklahoma tell me. There is, first of all, Galt's big speech in Atlas Shrugged, which discusses values, and "is-ought," but doesn't get to "every is implies an ought" itself. Lecture One, "The Role of Philosophy," in Nathaniel Branden's lecture series Basic Principles of Objectivism, also doesn't explicitly deal with "every is implies an ought," but it does lay the foundations of ethics according to Ayn Rand with the rather memorable, "The briefest statement of what metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics encompass, and of how they relate to one another, is contained in three short questions: what exists? How do you know? So what?"

Your question, Tom, is about the "so what?" part. Well, the rest of Branden's lecture series -- like Galt's speech and Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand and a lot of the other Objectivist literature, deals with "is-ought" but again, on a higher, more abstract level. However, there are some good recommendations specifically delving into "every is implies an ought:"

1. Tibor Machan's Ayn Rand deals with the subject at length (for such a short book) and, unlike almost all of the others, includes it in the index. Dr. Machan is sympathetic to much of Objectivist thought and his discussion is pretty good.

2. Harry Binswanger's Life-Based Teleology and the Foundations of Ethics makes two very good points: that ethics is teleological, not deontological, and that Rand's approach to Hume's "is/ought" gap succeeds by being inductive, as opposed to Hume's assumed deductive, syllogistic approach.

Finally, Tom, as to the specifics of "every is implies an ought:" Rand did deal with this in concrete terms, in her essay "The Objectivist Ethics," originally delivered as a lecture in 1961. It was her phrase, after all, not Leonard Peikoff's. You can read it here or in your copy of The Virtue of Selfishness, or you can listen to it here. And you should give it a listen, or at least the QA, anyway: at about the 17:50 mark, she responds to a question about "every is implies an ought," and defends it. So does Leonard Peikoff, in the QA to his 1989 lecture series Moral Virtue.

Every "is" implies an "ought." I stand by this, and I can defend it. So did Leonard Peikoff. And so, in 1961, did Ayn Rand.

Objectivity

Richard Goode's picture

Empiricism

Tom Burroughes's picture

I rather like this:

Q: "How does someone embrace empiricism completely?"

A: "By dying".

" I said that the Objectivist

Tom Burroughes's picture

"I said that the Objectivist virtue of pride is a "notable exception." Nice to know that you agree with me, anyway, even though you won't admit it. What's stopping you? Pride? How virtuous!"

Alas, it is not clear that Christianity contributed to such virtues as rationality (clashes with faith); justice (clashes with the need to show mercy, and justice is ultimately down to God); productiveness (all that base materialism is usually denounced by Christians). I guess integrity is one, but it is also a virtue that is celebrated by other belief systems.

In truth, the more I think about it, the more your claim that Rand's notions of ethics are a "sub-set" of Christian thought is utter nonsense. I suspect you know it is nonsense.

Back on the pride point, as you should well know, Rand took the view that her ethical principles stood together and were part of an integrated whole. So removing pride does seriously weaken the claim you make that her ethics can stem from Christianity in any significant way. Your assertion therefore fails in substance.

Lindsay: I think my original comment on the is/ought issue was a bit sloppy. I concede you're point there, old chap.

Linz

Richard Goode's picture

Why are you so obsessed with infinitely sadistic goblins?

Sadistic goblin...

Marcus's picture

To imagine that every Christian who sins believes that they are adding to Jesus's torment and suffering on the cross is sadistic.

The very Jesus they all swear to "loving in their hearts" makes the proposition sado-masochistic.

And the Muslims told that it is sinful to worship "the prophet" whom they all constantly praise and worship. Sado-masochism again.

And the Jews commanded to be racist, sexist, slave-owning homophobes who cut off their own skin. Sado-masochism again.

Tom

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Lindsay, my point was that I don’t know whether it is always possible to derive normative statements from factual ones. Say I observe that a piece of wood is dark brown. What "ought" does that generate? On the other hand, I can observe that Man has certain requirements if he chooses to live and flourish. I can clearly think through normative "oughts" as a result. (Maybe this is a definition issue).

That's not what you said. The question of whether every "is" implies an "ought" is different from whether it's possible to derive "ought" from "is." My position, which certainly differs from Peikoff's (what's new?) is that the proposition that "every is implies an ought" is rationalistic nonsense (witness his tortured efforts to defend that proposition in Fact and Value). Doesn't undermine the truth of the proposition that every ought is (or at least ought to be!) inferred from an is, which is the proper formulation. As I've asked before, where the hell else would one get oughts from? Baade, of course, says one gets them from his infinitely sadistic goblin, which is not part of "is" at all.

You make the relevant points about reason being applied to sensory evidence (the "primary" material) very well. I hope you appreciate that Baade will not be in the least bit moved by this. He is steeped, willingly and militantly, in the conventional dichotomies. He has Rand Derangement Syndrome, which, among other things, closes his mind to the fact that objectivity requires an interaction between subject and object, consciousness and existence (including its own).

The ominous parallels

Richard Goode's picture

it is true that there might be some small cross-over between what Christians preach and some aspects of her thought

Ooh, just an itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny bit, you think? (Could you concede my point any more grudgingly?)

Pride

Richard Goode's picture

Pride is an important part of the Objectivist ethic; the fact that it clashes with Christianity cannot be so easily brushed aside.

Of course it can't be "so easily brushed aside." That's why I didn't brush it aside. In fact, I said that the Objectivist virtue of pride is a "notable exception." Nice to know that you agree with me, anyway, even though you won't admit it. What's stopping you? Pride? How virtuous!

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

Say I observe that a piece of wood is dark brown. What "ought" does that generate?

It ought to look darker than a light brown piece of wood.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

I can observe that Man has certain requirements if he chooses to live and flourish. I can clearly think through normative "oughts" as a result.

Sleight of hand. I already showed how it's done here.

Is/ought

Tom Burroughes's picture

What part of the phony is/ought boundary remains uncrossed if Rand merely crossed it "to some extent," and which part of Rand's fulminations against "the approximate, to not-quite, the not-at-all" do you disagree with? Baade has got you here. Think about that. He subscribes to a superstition that says, to an unattenuated extent, that human beings are not autonomous and most of them will be condemned to eternal torture by a cosmically sadistic goblin. Filth doesn't come any filthier than that. But all you can say to an indolent witch-doctor like him is, Rand solved is/ought "to some extent"?? Is/ought is not the sort of thing to be solved "to some extent." It either is or it isn't.

Lindsay, my point was that I don’t know whether it is always possible to derive normative statements from factual ones. Say I observe that a piece of wood is dark brown. What "ought" does that generate? On the other hand, I can observe that Man has certain requirements if he chooses to live and flourish. I can clearly think through normative "oughts" as a result. (Maybe this is a definition issue).

Richard Goode:

“The Objectivist virtues (with the notable exception of pride) are a subset of the Christian virtues, as I argue here.”

How conveeeenient. Pride is an important part of the Objectivist ethic; the fact that it clashes with Christianity cannot be so easily brushed aside. Also, surely Christianity puts mercy above justice, arguing that ultimately, God, not Man, can and should dispense justice? Where does Christianity exalt productiveness. Okay, I guess it does not attack integrity, but obviously, given the focus on faith, it rather suggests that rationality is not a key virtue.

While it is true that there might be some small cross-over between what Christians preach and some aspects of her thought, I might as well point out that there is also a degree of overlap between the views of the Ancient Greeks and some theologians. But to claim that a doctrine that exalts the afterlife over life, that attacks the “sin” of pride, that talks about Original Sin, and so on, can somehow provide any antecedents for objectivism is self-evident nonsense and easily debunked.

I came across this point on an another Objectivist board on the issue of empiricism and Rand. It seems to make the point well:

2While Objectivism does argue that the senses are our only point of contact with reality, and that knowledge must be grounded in reality, it goes further by saying that the mind plays an active role in the construction of knowledge -- such as through conceptualization, using deduction, induction, measurement omission, and so on."

This seems to be an interesting set of points: http://objectivistanswers.com/...

Revelation 3:16

Richard Goode's picture

So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. (KJV)

Tom

Lindsay Perigo's picture

She said that the Humean is/ought boundary can be crossed, to some extent, and as such, reignited interest in this field, as far as I can see.

What part of the phony is/ought boundary remains uncrossed if Rand merely crossed it "to some extent," and which part of Rand's fulminations against "the approximate, to not-quite, the not-at-all" do you disagree with?

Baade has got you here. Think about that. He subscribes to a superstition that says, to an unattenuated extent, that human beings are not autonomous and most of them will be condemned to eternal torture by a cosmically sadistic goblin. Filth doesn't come any filthier than that. But all you can say to an indolent witch-doctor like him is, Rand solved is/ought "to some extent"??

Is/ought is not the sort of thing to be solved "to some extent." It either is or it isn't.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

one can, by looking at what sort of creature Man is, think through as to what sort of ethics Man needs to thrive and flourish.

Perhaps. But Rand didn't do this. The Objectivist virtues (with the notable exception of pride) are a subset of the Christian virtues, as I argue here.

there has been a revival of virtue ethics as an area in recent years; consider the writings of the late Philippa Foot, Matt Ridley, David Norton, and so on. Here is a link to Norton's fine book, Personal Destinies ...

Well, I agree with you about this. There has, indeed, been a modern revival of interest in virtue ethics. Academia traces the origins of this revival to Modern Moral Philosophy, a 1958 paper by G. E. M. Anscombe, whom I mentioned earlier. And, yes, Personal Destinies is a fine book, albeit, ultimately, a disappointment. (I tried to lend my copy to Linz, but he politely declined to read it.)

Why did the chicken cross the road, to some extent?

Richard Goode's picture

She said that the Humean is/ought boundary can be crossed, to some extent

To get to the other side, to some extent.

Tom

Richard Goode's picture

Thanks for your reply.

Please take a moment to read this.

Rand is notorious for her pernicious redefinitions of both philosophical terms and garden-variety terms in everyday use. These include pernicious redefinitions of the terms 'reason', 'empiricism' and 'rationalism'.

Wikipedia's entry on Objectivism tells us that

Rand defined "reason" as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses."

Wikipedia's entry on Empiricism tells us that

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience.

Wikipedia's entry on Rationalism tells us that

In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification."

Given that Rand said

My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with ... reason as his only absolute.

and that she defined 'reason' as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses," and that empiricism "is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience," I think the conclusion that Rand was an empiricist is unavoidable.

Rand said

[Philosophers came to be divided] into two camps: those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts (the Rationalists)—and those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts (the Empiricists). To put it more simply: those who joined the [mystics] by abandoning reality—and those who clung to reality, by abandoning their mind.

In other words, Rand realised the fatal mistake made by those who only relied on concepts, and the mistake of those who made no use of them at all. She added something of significance to how people think about these things ....

Well, no. In other words, Rand committed the stupid mistake of redefining the terms 'rationalism' and 'empiricism'. In so doing, she ensured that history will remember her as being among the philosophers who (in Berkeley's words) "kick up the dust and then complain they cannot see."

That is your opinion.

The opinions I express are bloody good ones.

Craig

Richard Goode's picture

Are your secret initials M.M., by any chance?

Thanks for the gratuitous insult.

More Cheap Shots...

Michael Moeller's picture

Craig?

"But thanks for the gratuitous insult. Are your secret initials M.M., by any chance?"

I guess when you can't argue, you need to grasp at something...anything.

Good for you, Craig. You've really proven your intellectual ability (*long roll of the eyes*).

Michael

The art of non-contradictory identification

Richard Goode's picture

No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge. To arrive at a contradiction is to confess an error in one’s thinking; to maintain a contradiction is to abdicate one’s mind and to evict oneself from the realm of reality.

Logic with Rational Jen

Richard Goode's picture

Click here for some exercises in the art of non-contradictory identification.

Wait...

ding_an_sich's picture

"Parmenides gave us the concept of Existence, Aristotle that of Identity, and Augustine that of Consciousness.

Whether we refer to these as "discoveries" or "identifications" is trivial compared to what these guys did, and what they've meant to all of us since.

But only Rand gave us the integration: "Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification." Very concise and, I'd say, innovative in that very concise integration."

Phenomenologists got the "Consciousness is Identification" down. To be conscious is to always be conscious of something, i.e., to have an intentional character.

"Beyond which...

Three very, very good books offer us quite weak definitions of logic. Raymond J. McCall's Basic Logic tells us that "Logic is the science and art of right thinking." Yeah.....Whatever "right thinking" may be. Something offered by William F. Buckley, Jr., perhaps?

Max Black's Critical Thinking offers that "Logic can be briefly defined as the study of reasoning." Um...well. So, "study, is it? Logic isn't something one to be used in real life, in real time? And what then is reasoning?

And Lionel Ruby's Logic: An Introduction gives us logic as "the science of valid inference." Before he gives us "valid" or "inference.""

Valid inferences involve arriving at conclusions which allow for consistency, and this, in turn, involves the absence of contradictions. This is seen when we deal with completeness and soundness in mathematical logic.

"Mind you, I admire all three of these books."

As you should. Smiling

"But compare them to Ayn Rand, who, after discussing Existence, Identity, and Consciousness, and contradictions, states: "Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification."

Innovator."

No. More like very-good-at-being-explicit (is that the innovation?). Non-contradictory identification is at the heart of logic, and this is seen way before Rand. Lionel's Ruby Logic is a perfect example. Or any book on mathematical logic.

Gee...

Craig Ceely's picture

Well, you know, as an Aristotelian, with the link "entity," I find "Existence is Identity" to be worthwhile, and for Consciousness, we could (and should) look to "Conscious of what?" And, short of Rand, I don't find many philosophers leaning in that direction.

My major advisor in college was a logician, and I learned a lot from him -- but I never saw him get this concise without leaving out anything relevant.

But thanks for the gratuitous insult. Are your secret initials M.M., by any chance?

Mantras for morons

Richard Goode's picture

Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.

Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification.

Oh, look! It's Ayn Rand.

Real contributions

Craig Ceely's picture

Parmenides gave us the concept of Existence, Aristotle that of Identity, and Augustine that of Consciousness.

Whether we refer to these as "discoveries" or "identifications" is trivial compared to what these guys did, and what they've meant to all of us since.

But only Rand gave us the integration: "Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification." Very concise and, I'd say, innovative in that very concise integration.

Beyond which...

Three very, very good books offer us quite weak definitions of logic. Raymond J. McCall's Basic Logic tells us that "Logic is the science and art of right thinking." Yeah.....Whatever "right thinking" may be. Something offered by William F. Buckley, Jr., perhaps?

Max Black's Critical Thinking offers that "Logic can be briefly defined as the study of reasoning." Um...well. So, "study, is it? Logic isn't something one to be used in real life, in real time? And what then is reasoning?

And Lionel Ruby's Logic: An Introduction gives us logic as "the science of valid inference." Before he gives us "valid" or "inference."

Mind you, I admire all three of these books.

But compare them to Ayn Rand, who, after discussing Existence, Identity, and Consciousness, and contradictions, states: "Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification."

Innovator.

Wait...

ding_an_sich's picture

"I think Ayn Rand's three most brilliant philosophical innovations were discovering and comprehending the importance, centrality, power, and magnificence of (1) reason in epistemology, (2) individualism in ethics, and (3) freedom in politics. Her understanding of these three issues and ideas constitutes such a quantum leap up from her classical liberal heirs that they no longer even seem like the same intellectual ideas. I think she imprinted her views on mankind forever with her ingenious insights into, and developments of, these pivotal values and concepts."

Have you ever read Spinoza? He demonstrates these three brilliant philosophical innovations, and with far greater rigor than Rand.

Rand, when I read her, does not seem like an innovator, but a philosopher demanding for the resurgence of reason in all manners of discourse, notably philosophical ones. And this is by no means a bad thing.

Kyrel

gregster's picture

Here's another journo who either hasn't read Rand or wants to look good by talking in the same lies of her audience. Look at this bitch here Rachel Maddow. Watch the video from 6:49 for the Rand references from Ryan, if you can stomach it.

[I don't get her logic of saying "fiscal conservatism" is anti government profligateness and that Ryan would not be a "fiscal conservative" if he went ahead with tax cuts for the rich. Unless she imagines his tax cuts would not be matched by spending cuts. I know it's too much to ask that she consider that by incentivizing the rich, more revenue will return to the government.]

Contributions

Tom Burroughes's picture

Richard Goode writes:

Rand was an empiricist. She added nothing of importance, centrality, power, or magnificence to the body of work of Aristotle, Bacon, Locke and others who preceded her.

That is your opinion. On empiricism, Rand had this to say:
“[Philosophers came to be divided] into two camps: those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts (the Rationalists)—and those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts (the Empiricists). To put it more simply: those who joined the [mystics] by abandoning reality—and those who clung to reality, by abandoning their mind.”
In other words, Rand realised the fatal mistake made by those who only relied on concepts, and the mistake of those who made no use of them at all. She added something of significance to how people think about these things, in my opinion.

“Rand was a virtue ethicist. She added nothing of importance, centrality, power, or magnificence to the body of work of Aristotle, Aquinas, Anscombe and others who preceded her.

That is idiotic. Her formulation of ethical egoism clearly goes beyond Aristotle, for example. I am not aware that any of these thinkers nailed down as hard as she did the way in which one can, by looking at what sort of creature Man is, think through as to what sort of ethics Man needs to thrive and flourish. She said that the Humean is/ought boundary can be crossed, to some extent, and as such, reignited interest in this field, as far as I can see. She also explained why morality exists at all as a basic human need, going beyond a lot of the “duty ethic” approach that, with barely any exception, dominated thought from the ancients. Interestingly, there has been a revival of virtue ethics as an area in recent years; consider the writings of the late Philippa Foot, Matt Ridley, David Norton, and so on. Here is a link to Norton's fine book, Personal Destinies: http://books.google.co.uk/book...

Some of Rand’s originality may be exaggerated – as Kyrel says – but that is not the same as denying her contributions in toto.

Oh for Gobby's sake!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I can't believe what I'm reading here—you guys going soft on superstitionist goblinism. Weasel words such as, "I have a problem with it when we should be ready to move on" don't cut it. Yes, Doug, that's directed at you, in a loving way. Eye When the cashing-in of the persistence of Goblianity is, "human beings are not autonomous," the statement by the Bishop of Oxford reported by Goblian Baade on another thread, there is no room for an iota of tolerance. Human beings are autonomous. In the context of an enlightened 2012, Goblinism is filth. Goblianity is filth. Yes, existentially, socialism is filth and an even greater immediate threat. But actually, Goblinism underpins it. Its ethics (sacrificialism) and its epistemology (intrinsicism/subjectivism). One doesn't have to be a Hsiekovian to recognise that.

Jeezy, how little it takes for you guys to go wobbly. Pull yourselves together!! Eye

Objectivism

Richard Goode's picture

Objectivism is a crude precursor to suppurating brain death.

Currently read God is not Great....

Marcus's picture

Doug: Many good points. Religion is natural, inevitable, and part of the intellectual progress of mankind.

As Hitchen's puts it religion was the crude precursor to philosophy just like Alchemy was the crude precursor to chemistry. Men stumbling around in the darkness of ignorance and incredulity discovering the odd nugget of truth, nearly always in an impure and toxic mixture.

Religion Explained

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Doug: Many good points. Religion is natural, inevitable, and part of the intellectual progress of mankind.

But I also have a a simple psychological interpretation to supplement your ideas. The invention of reason from Thales to Socrates (or at least to Aristotle) made life really sweet, and death outrageously painful. But since reason and science couldn't defeat mortality (yet), and since the philosophers back then didn't fully satisfy humankind, people inevitably turned to "god" --especially the massmen. Only thru the fiction and self-deception of religion can the Individual live forever.

What does Jesus represent?

Doug Bandler's picture

If you read the Christian texts and you actually talk with Christians, you will see that Jesus serves a very important function for the Christian worldview. Christians will say things like "I have accepted Jesus into my life" or "Through Jesus I have been saved" or similar sentiments. If you step back and look at the Christian mythology it becomes clear what the early Christians were doing with Jesus.

Jesus is supposed to be a conduit to god. This was common in the ancient world and it was central to Plato's system. There were the events on earth and they paralleled the events in the heavens. Through Jesus, innately depraved humans have a chance at moral salvation. Accepting Jesus allows a person to connect with the creator and thus have access to the source of morality. This is as it must be in a dual metaphysics system. Even deeper, Jesus is the means by which humans can have morality at all. This is pure Platonism. Morality accordingly must have an external source. Since the belief is that there is no way to get an ought from an is then where will humanity get its morality from? Well from the son of god who is also the "word" according to John. Jesus was the attempt of a primitive people to establish a moral framework for mankind.

Think about that. Humanity had to go through stages like this before it could get to Rand. I actually don't have a problem with the origins of Christianity. It was inevitable that you would get such intrincisist loaded mythology. I have a problem with today's Christians who live in a post Rand industrial world that still cling to the Christian worldview when they should have moved on.

Hey, Richard...

Ross Elliot's picture

...how exactly did Jesus die for my sins? How, exactly, were they imputed from me to him?

It's funny I get called obsessed...

Marcus's picture

...when it is you who believe in this crap.

Anyway if you think Jesus died for your sins, then the joke was on you when he rose from the dead.

Jesus: "I died for you sinners. No, wait a minute back from the dead. Yeah didn't I tell you, death doesn't kill me. All that writhing around on the cross was just for effect. I predicted it all anyway- God that I am. Not a sacrifice, just a minor inconvenience really. Sorry you're all forgiven for believing this was for real!"

He's dead, Richard

Tom Burroughes's picture

Jesus is dead as a physical person, but his ideas live on in your head. Just as those of other thinkers/actors do, either for good or ill.

Here endeth my lesson of today.

Doug

Richard Goode's picture

Today's Left doesn't believe there is any such thing as objectivity or moral virtue and the Conservatives to varying degrees link objectivity with supernaturalism. So you either get nihilism or Victorianism. Some choice.

False choice.

Marcus

Richard Goode's picture

Did Jesus die for your sins?

Yes.

Why are you so obsessed with Christ and Christianity?

Rand's Greatness

Doug Bandler's picture

Here's how I would put it: Rand's greatest innovation was the insight that objectivity consists neither in subjectivism nor intrinsicism but in the proper interaction between perceiver and perceived, subject and object—and that nobleness is a function of objectivity.

In other words, for the first time in human history a philosopher nailed down exactly what is objectivity and then linked it with morality and moral virtue. David Hume's Is/Ought be damned. Today's Left doesn't believe there is any such thing as objectivity or moral virtue and the Conservatives to varying degrees link objectivity with supernaturalism. So you either get nihilism or Victorianism. Some choice.

Did Jesus die for your sins?

Marcus's picture

You evaded that question.

Did he?

Marcus

Richard Goode's picture

He's dead, isn't he?

No. But Rand is.

"I hope you find Jesus soon."

Marcus's picture

He's dead, isn't he?

I don't do archaeology.

Did Jesus die for your sins?

Discuss.

Marcus

Richard Goode's picture

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I hope you find Jesus soon. Then we can get back to discussing Rand's intellectual legacy.

Goode...

Marcus's picture

Religion is man-made.

Discuss.

Kyrel

Richard Goode's picture

"I believe it 'cos I want to"

How's that for intellectual honesty?!

Nothing new under the sun

Richard Goode's picture

Rand's greatest innovation was the insight that objectivity consists ... in the proper interaction between perceiver and perceived ...

Jesus identified "the proper interaction between perceiver and perceived" when he said, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Google

Richard Goode's picture

No results found for "nobleness is a function of objectivity".

Kyrel

Richard Goode's picture

you're one of the seemingly unserious, unrewarding, unworthwhile AR opponents I had in mind.

Yes, I realised that.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think you, Massimo Pigliucci, or almost any other of the potshot critics of Ayn Rand have much in the way of intellectual honesty, courage, and integrity.

You're wrong. I win gold for intellectually honesty. And I'm on steroids.

Nor do I ever anticipate seeing a analysis of Objectivism of any substance or quality from any of you.

I don't owe you one.

I think Ayn Rand's three most brilliant philosophical innovations were discovering and comprehending the importance, centrality, power, and magnificence of (1) reason in epistemology, (2) individualism in ethics, and (3) freedom in politics.

(1) Rand was an empiricist. She added nothing of importance, centrality, power, or magnificence to the body of work of Aristotle, Bacon, Locke and others who preceded her.

(2) Rand was a virtue ethicist. She added nothing of importance, centrality, power, or magnificence to the body of work of Aristotle, Aquinas, Anscombe and others who preceded her.

(3) Rand was a (lowercase 'l') libertarian like no other. Credit where credit's due. Her political writings are works of importance, centrality, power, and magnificence. Rand shone in this area. She was razor sharp. Ingenious insights, yes. Developments, yes. But philosophical innovations? No, not really. Rand's fundamental ideas in political philosophy are no advance on those of, say, Jefferson or Locke.

Kyrel

Lindsay Perigo's picture

I think you've nailed Rand's epoch-making significance. With other thinkers we got grab-bag intimations of reason in epistemology (the thing the faith-touting "I believe it 'cos I want to" Baade hates most), individualism in ethics and freedom in politics; in Rand they were all validated and integrated into an original and irresistible whole. Incorrigible (I'm depressed to report, after an unprecedentedly candid post by him on some other thread) nihilists/mystics/irrationalists like Baade will continue on what you so accurately call their "unserious, unrewarding, unworthwhile" paths, devoid of integrity, playing infantile word-games; they are mere dust-bugs on a space capsule (to invoke someone, I forget who, in Vanity Fair).

Here's how I would put it: Rand's greatest innovation was the insight that objectivity consists neither in subjectivism nor intrinsicism but in the proper interaction between perceiver and perceived, subject and object—and that nobleness is a function of objectivity. This latter in particular is seriously under-appreciated, especially by the likes of Baade, who openly embraces the ignoble.

Let me say it again: nobleness is a function of objectivity.

Low-Grade Interlocutors

Kyrel Zantonavitch's picture

Richard: It's ironic that you choose to participate in this discussion since you're one of the seemingly unserious, unrewarding, unworthwhile AR opponents I had in mind. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think you, Massimo Pigliucci, or almost any other of the potshot critics of Ayn Rand have much in the way of intellectual honesty, courage, and integrity. Nor do I ever anticipate seeing a analysis of Objectivism of any substance or quality from any of you. Such an apparent waste of time to converse with those who don't know how, and who don't answer to reason! Nevertheless...

I think Ayn Rand's three most brilliant philosophical innovations were discovering and comprehending the importance, centrality, power, and magnificence of (1) reason in epistemology, (2) individualism in ethics, and (3) freedom in politics. Her understanding of these three issues and ideas constitutes such a quantum leap up from her classical liberal heirs that they no longer even seem like the same intellectual ideas. I think she imprinted her views on mankind forever with her ingenious insights into, and developments of, these pivotal values and concepts.

Kyrel

Richard Goode's picture

What are you waiting for? Christmas?

Kyrel

Richard Goode's picture

Ayn Rand was a brilliant philosophical innovator.

Can you give me a specific example of "one of her brilliant philosophical innovations"?

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