virus: Objectivists Anonymous Cont'd

D.H.Rosdeitcher (
Thu, 11 Sep 1997 10:03:26 -0400

>> If a word's meaning depends on its definition, then all the words in
>> the
>> definition have to get defined have to get defined as well. Then all
>> those
>> words that define the words in the definition need get defined and it
>> goes
>> on ad infinitum. Pretty soon you may come to a point where each word
>> in a
>> definition has already been defined by other words, as words justify
>> words
>> in a circle which need not have any relationship with reality. Words
>> are
>> tools, whose meaning one guesses from its context.

> How does one define the color blue? Simple you point at something blue
>and say: That is blue.All valid words are based at some point in
>something that the senses alone have brought to our attention. This is
>not a vicious circle but points to a point: something we experience.
>Just because we form these concepts into larger and larger groups of
>concepts doesn't mean a particular word is not tied to reality at some

I agree that what you call "valid words" come from sense perceptions. In
your last sentence you seemed to get the issue that higher level concepts
are connected with sense perception mixed up with the issue about the
meanings of words--whether they're context dependent or definition
dependent. My point was that the context in which a word is used,
determines its meaning. For instance, if I say, "The sky is blue and I'm
feeling blue," the same word means something different according to

>> In both Objectivism and the Scientific method, the senses get used,
>> but in
>> different contexts. In Objectivism, you start out with the assumption
>> that
>> "the senses are valid" and draw conclusions about what is true based
>> on
>> that assumption. In the scientific method, the senses don't
>> necessarily
>> determine what's true--they don't have authoritative status--but they
>> get
>> used to test and measure hypotheses. The difference between the 2
>> methods
>> is that in Objectivism you start out with a weak assumption as a solid
>> platform from which to build knowledge. In the scientific method, you
>> start out with a wild guess which you don't take as true, but try to
>> and falsify.

> Not at all! All good scientific information is proved by experiment.

In science nothing is *proved*. You reach not truth, but "verisimilitude"
(truthlike) if an experiment shows a hypothesis to be tentatively correct.

>Something that had to be witnessed in some way

Nate--you seem to be getting the scientific method and Objectivist
epistemology intertwined, let's see if I can explain this.
In the scientific method a scientist uses his senses to test and measure
hypotheses. Such hypotheses are falsifiable statements, like "the dna
molecules will rearrange in a certain way when heated". Looking at this
scientific experiment from an Objectivist perspective, the experiment gets
perceived on a more general level, by saying, "the scientist is 'perceiving
reality' by using his senses to witness the experiment". The scientific
method would not require thinking in terms of that general level of
"perceiving reality", but would only need to get down the specific level of
the hypothesis, like how the dna acts when heated. The scientist wouldn't
deny he's "perceiving reality" but he'd bypass the general notion of
"perceiving reality" because it's not useful--the general notion of
"perceiving reality" is superfluous to his experiment, as he only deals
with specific hypotheses. Yes, he's perceiving reality, but he doesn't need
that broad concept to perform the experiment, as demonstrated by scientists
who do experiments without knowing objectivism. But to an Objectivist, the
fact that he's perceiving reality is of importance. I have a question for
you, Nate: Does the obvious fact that the scientist is perceiving reality,
have usefulness as far as doing the experiment is concerned? Or, does the
importance of that broad phrase, "perceiving reality" depend on an idea
that somethng has been tampered with on that broad "perceiving reality"
level, in which people's minds have been infected with the assumption that
they don't perceive reality and that this assumption wreaks havoc in

>.The best theories predict
>something otherwise unexpected! If we could not trust are own senses
>then all experimental evidence would be pointless.

.I never said we shouldn't trust our senses, I said that the senses should
not get authoritative status--for instance, the fact that eye-witnesses
often give conflicting reports of the same scene means the senses might not
always be reliable.

>The scientific method
>is the objective method!

Yes, the scientific method is objective, but is not the same as
Objectivism. Scientific method and Objectivism are 2 totally different
epistemologies. In the scientific method you make speculations, which you
try to shoot down through criticism and testing. In Objectivism, such wild
speculations would be considered "invalid" since they are not already
verified by sensory evidence. Scientific method uses *falsification* of
hypotheses, while Objectivism you verify what you know by building on
assumptions like "my senses are valid".

>For a "weak assumption" we've come pretty far.
>Man did not land on the moon by "wild guesses"!

Man did reach the moon by making wild guesses--the flight took a lot of
practice and preparation--a lot of wild guesses and embarrassing mistakes
that you don't see when you only see the finished product.

>> Which approach brings about more progress? Do you know anyone who
>> has
>> made major discoveries or breakthroughs using the Objectivist
>> approach?
> Again the scientific method, that is the experimental method, is an
>objective method, so they bring about equal progress.

You seem to imply that Objectivism is necessarily objective and shares the
same achievements as science. But they are 2 different thinking processes.
Objectivism starts out with broad non-falsifiable assumptions while science
starts with specific falsifiable hypotheses.

> The only real
>difference is science concerns itself with the nuts and bolts of
>metaphysics whereas Objectivism is concerned with all the other branches
>of philosophy as well.

The metaphysics of science is different than objectivism. Objectivist
metaphysics claims that if something exists, it exists as something,
therefore, an ultimate particle must exist as a primary constituent of
matter. (Rand made a rationalization that the universe is finite since "it
is what it is and it is no more")Science makes no assumptions that language
limits the possibilities of reality. Also, science, too, is concerned with
the other "branches" of philosophy like ethics and politics, since
voluntary complex interaction can get studied scientifically.
BTW, Do you know any Randian Objectivists who have made great scientific

>> I agree that reality is that which exists, but, the *notion* (mental
>> map)
>> of reality, changes from person to person, culture to culture. When
>> you
>> refer to "reality" you refer to something so vast and vague that it
>> cannot
>> get tested scientifically.

> Ah but it gets tested all the time! That is way the scientific method
>is so successful. It refines our mental picture with what's actually
>"out there" all the time! Can you deny the march of progress?

When you test something in science, you test something specific and you
make a falsifiable statement (hypothesis). When you speak of "reality",
meaning "everything that exists", like one does in Objectivism, you cannot
make a falsifiable statement about that--it's too vast--you can only make a
falsifiable statement about part of reality.

>> The importance of the concept, "reality is that
>> which exists" gets over-estimated because of stories that you hear
>> that the
>> cause of society's problems is that people think reality does not
>> exist or
>> is a subjective phenomenon.

> It's more than just stories. As long as religion is the motivating
>force in the middle east do think that you'll ever see peace there in
>the future?

I agree religions can be destructive but suppose Rand was putting down not
just destructive religions, but thinkers who were more advanced than she
was, in order to promote her agenda?

>> Our *notions* of "everything that has existence", could be so far off
>> from
>> "everything that has existence",

>If they were ,you'd find out about it. Natural law is self enforcing.

Not necessarily. The nature of far off galaxies, the small constituents of
matter or even how my own mind works could be totally different than I
imagine. In other words, my notion of existence could be so different than
existence itself..

>> that for all practical purposes the idea
>> of 'everything that has existence' is as imaginary as Santa or the
>> Tooth
>> Fairy, which exist only in the mind.

>How do we figure out as kids that Santa is just a myth? I know at one
>time in my heart of hearts I really believed in him. The answer is
>experience with the real world.

The fact that you could get deceived at first by Santa implies that you
could be deceived, period. I'm not saying we are being deceived and that
we shouldn't trust our minds, I'm only saying that it is possible that our
basic assumptions could be totally wrong. And yes, as kids we find out
things by experimentation, like pulling on Santa's fake beard--a process of

>True. But as a libertarian I'm sure you've seen Adam Smiths invisible
>hand at work. Objectivism helps explain the force behind that hand.

Capitalism is better explained using a scientific paradigm which shows why
it is evolutionarily advantageous for cooperation to emerge without a
centralized authority. The Objectivist justification for capitalism, on the
other hand, is based on non-sequiturs. Would you like me to elaborate?

>If I claim "x" as a self justification virus than
>no matter what the holder of "x" says I can dismiss what they say as a
>symptom. It makes "x" automatically powerless to respond.

When I said Objectivism is a self-justification virus, I was going by
personal experience, as well as contact I've had with other Objectivists. I
wasn't attacking you or automatically classifying what you say as "virus
symptom". :).

>However my
>confidence in objectivism is based on experiance, not faith. As I said
>in the beginning A=A. It all follows from there.

Have you ever imagined that another paradigm may come along to render
Objectivism obsolete? Such paradigm shift happen in science. Is it
possible that the foundations of objectivism have a certain flaw that you
might be overlooking--the kind of flaw that once you discover it, you
think, "how could I be so stupid"?
Do you know what TAUTOLOGIES are? (hint, hint)
--David R.