virus: Re:Objectivists Anonymous Cont'd

D.H.Rosdeitcher (
Fri, 12 Sep 1997 15:46:49 -0400

Nate wrote:

> It is quite common for a word to have multiple meanings. This is why
> defination is important. You use the word as you meant it to be used
> that way.

If definitions are so important how could societies work before the 18th
century when dictionaries didn't even exist? Context, not defiitions,
determine meaning. Does 'church' in Church of Virus abide by any common
definitions of a church?

>The results of an experiment which can be repeated is proof. The
>hypothesis which was successful in explaining those results is
>considered truthlike.

Almost everyone once thought Newton's laws of motion were "proved", since
they seemed work repeatedly. But at speeds close to light, Newton's laws
got falsified--they were found wrong. In science nothing is definitively
proven, even though a theory can "work for now".

>> Does the
>> importance of that broad phrase, "perceiving reality" depend on an
>> idea
>> that something 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
> society?

> You got me confused here. We all perceive reality (Unless of course you
>are genuinely crazy). The question is are we ignoring it in order to
f>ollow beliefs we'd rather believe in. You don't need to think getting
>it wrong is bad, if you get it wrong you lose, regardless of your
>beliefs. Natural law is self enforcing.

What I'm saying is that in Objectivism there's this abnormally high
emphasis on the notion of "reality" or "existence"--meaning "all that is",
a notion which doesn't seem needed for scientific progress, since most
scientists do not use those *notions*. Could the perceived value of the
emphasis on "all that is" be connected with fighting a counter idea that
"all that is doesn't exist"?.
Another question: Plato had an idea that a higher unknowable world--the
world of the Forms--existed from which all things in this world are just
reflections. How is Rand's "reality" or "existence" different from Plato's

>> .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 senses were reliable. The memory and the processing are what got
>screwed up. Kinda like Windows 95.

But in Objectivism, when you consider information as "valid", you rely on
the senses, but you implicitly mean your senses as well as your memory and

>> 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".

>The "speculations" must be consistent with previous experiments. If they
>are valid with previous experiments that hardly makes them "wild" .
>Objectivism far from throwing that technique embraces it. Being
>consistent with previous experiments is the very essence of sensory
>evidence. The scientific method is not so much concerned with
>"falsification" as it is with the best way to explain the results of the
>sum total of all previous repeatable experiments. (I have to use the
>word "repeatable" because as someone who has actually performed some
>complex experiments its easy to screw it up!)

One of the flaws in Objectivism is the idea that you increase knowledge
through a process of induction and integration--that you take pieces of
knowledge and integrate them and the "hypotheses" must explain this
integrated whole. But, theories work differently. One theory can completely
replace another instead of being built on another. And the theory can be a
wild speculation which you throw out without having any reasonable

>> 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.

>Sounds like them there guesses got themselves tamed. You either get it
>right or its "Houston, we have a problem here!"

They got "tamed" through a process of trial and error.

>> They are 2 different thinking processes.
>> Objectivism starts out with broad non-falsifiable assumptions while
>> science
>> starts with specific falsifiable hypotheses.

>That's because objectivism deals with the whole ball of wax whereas
>science only deals with some of the parts. But before you work on the
>parts you have to know "parts is parts".

The "whole ball of wax" is so big that assumptions about it are
meaningless. And the "parts is parts" notion usually means that the way you
choose to break up the world into concepts is more than a subjective
cognitive process that depends on culture, even though in some cases some
ways of breaking up the world seem to work for certain purposes.

>> BTW, Do you know any Randian Objectivists who have made great
>> scientific
>> discoveries?

>In the sense that they had to use it implicitly to make their
>discoveries, every single one. In the sense that they followed it
>explicitly they generally don't publish that information with their

The question had to do with success of RANDIAN Objectivists--people whose
philosophy has been majorly influenced by Rand.

>> 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.

>True. That is the nature of the beast, how can one make a falsifiable
>statement about an objective truth. Is something false because it cannot
>be proven false?

Not false, just meaningless and useless.

>> 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?

>One assumes the existence of more advanced thinkers and then says: see,
>she's stopping these grand fellows who I've just made up! Well who are
>they and what did they say? I don't just hand over my judgment to Rand.
>I make the final decision as to what I think is right. I just happen to
>agree with her most of the time.

In this case I actually came across a better epistemology before making an
accusatation that Rand attacked people in order to spread her propaganda.
In selfish meme terms, her philosophy attacked competing alleles--other
rational philosophies. Examples are the works of Popper, Wittgenstein,
Hegel, the Logical Positivists, and from what I can tell, Kant.

>> 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..

>Far away or extremely small. Notice how you worry about things that
>don't affect you. If you should ever find yourself in a far away galaxy
>or dependent on the nature of some strange quark I advise you to get
>their nature down pat.

The particles in and around my body don't affect me? If we could learn more
about these things we'd have a lot better control over them. And you don't
know how much far off galaxy affect Earth or whether some day we could
move through a bend in space to arrive at a foreign galaxy. And even of the
things I see in the everyday macro world, I have a model of it, but
sometimes it's wrong--the concept of existence cannot model the phenomenon
of existence in as meaningful a way as concepts that model finite objects.

>As for how the mind works, it works is all I can
>say. If I really knew the answer to that I'd have my computer type out
>these responses for me!

The idea that your mind works doesn't say a whole lot.

>> 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
>> falsification.

> Since when is Santa a basic assumption? A lot of folks hold God as a
> basic assumption but I'm no longer fooled. A=A.

I didn't say Santa was a basic assumption, I was just making the point that
some of our basic assumption reality could be wrong-- even if A is A.

>> 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?

>It's two paths to the same answer. A common thing in science. Why should
>one be better than the other when they reach the same conclusion?

First of all, science and Objectivism are not the same since in science
you reach conclusions by starting with *falsifiable* statements. And the
conclusions are not actually the same, although they are similar.
Capitalism doesn't necessarily follow from the foundations of objectivism
(explained later). But in Rand's time, since the industrial revolution
already had an impact, one could make a good guess that capitalism works
better than other systems. But, capitalism as described in Objectivism,
might not be the best system--there might be a better way to conceptualize
the relationships between individuals and society.

>> Have you ever imagined that another paradigm may come along to render
>> Objectivism obsolete?

>In the words of a famous commercial "where's the beef?". If you got
>something better I'd like to see it.

Keep reading.

> Such paradigm shift happen in science.

>The ideas seem to change radically but they ultimately are just

You call Einstein's theory of Relativity a "refinement" over Newton's Laws?

> The latest and greatest must still agree with past
>experiments. It usually just ends up adding a few more decimals to the
>certainty of the results. The old way is just as close as it ever was.
>Which is why Newtonian gravitation is still taught to beginning physics
>students even though special relativity is more accurate.

Newton's law is taught because it's still practical for many (but not all)

>> Is it
>> possible that the foundations of objectivism have a certain flaw that
>> you
>> might be overlooking--

>The foundation is that contradictions cannot exist. How can that be a

Often we look for flaws by looking for contradictions. But there's another
kind of flaw which seems to get overlooked.----

>> Do you know what TAUTOLOGIES are? (hint, hint)

>sure. Do you know objective truth?

There are 2 kinds of truths (things we can be certain about)--mathematical
truths (ie.2+2=4) and tautological truths (ie. a chair is a chair).
Tautological truths are circular statements which don't lead to any useful
information. The objectivist axioms like "existence exists" are tautologica
truths and tell you absolutely nothing useful about existence--you can't
really draw any conclusions from such a statement. The fact that existence
exists doesn't limit the possibilities of what the nature of existence
could be. Rand's philosophical system is based on tautologies which get
connected with conclusions about reality by non-sequiturs. For instance,
the statements "existence exists" and "I am conscious" lead to "I am
conscious of existence" which somehow leads to "my consciousness is valid"
which via another non-sequitur leads to "my senses are valid", which then
gets used to justify the absurd statement, "I can know reality." The whole
thing does not follow. We could be totally wrong about any of our
assumptions. And there might be realms of reality we can't know. Unlike
say, Christianity, which took unfounded arbitrary assumptions as a
foundation, Objectivism takes meaningless statements as foundations. The
seemingly flawless connection between the tautological axioms and the rest
of the philosophy is an illusion.
We have no meaningful solid foundation to stand on. Some thinkers
acknowledged that situation and developed a different philosophy in which
you don't deduce anything from axioms, you simply take guesses at things
and determine which guesses seem to correspond to reality or are useful by
testing and criticizing the guess. In other words, we admit we're a bunch
of dingbats, in the sense that we're infinitely ignorant and that we can
only guess at things, but the process of criticizing and testing, not only
weeds out bad hypotheses, but makes us better guessers, since we make more
guesses, increasing our chances of making hypotheses which turn out to be
"winners". This philosophy, which is like using the scientific method
applied to philosophy, has been called "Pancritical Rationalism". But
Pancritical Rationalism doesn't assume that "it" is the best system, it
just appears to be the most useful one that we have at the moment. --David