Delusions of Randeur: The missing link

[Reprised from SOLO, February 2008.]

An animal has no choice in the knowledge and the skills that it acquires; it can only repeat them generation after generation. And an animal has no choice in the standard of value directing its actions: its senses provide it with an automatic code of values, an automatic knowledge of what is good for it or evil, what benefits or endangers its life. An animal has no power to extend its knowledge or to evade it.

Man has no automatic code of survival. He has no automatic course of action, no automatic set of values. His senses do not tell him automatically what is good for him or evil, what will benefit his life or endanger it, what goals he should pursue and what means will achieve them, what values his life depends on, what course of action it requires. His own consciousness has to discover the answers to all these questions—but his consciousness will not function automatically. Man, the highest living species on this earth—the being whose consciousness has a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—man is the only living entity born without any guarantee of remaining conscious at all.

Ayn Rand, The Objectivist Ethics

So… according to Rand, an animal has an automatic code of survival, but man does not.

Leaving aside the fact that man is an animal (a fact which has been common knowledge for nigh on 150 years), we must ask how man—a creature with, allegedly, no automatic code of survival but a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge—evolved from an ancestral Tetrapod with no power at all to extend its limited knowledge but completely reliant on an automatic code of survival.

Evolution is a process of gradual change in a population over time. Thus, either the origin of a creature so radically different from other animals as man was an act of special creation, or there existed a "missing link"—a creature with the power to extend its knowledge without limit and an automatic code of survival.

Evolution, of course, is the survival of the fittest. Obviously, a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge and an automatic code of survival is fitter than a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge but no automatic code of survival

So… according to Rand, we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. Rand’s conception of man—and, thus, her conception of man qua man—is irredeemably wrong.

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55 Responses to Delusions of Randeur: The missing link

  1. Tim Wikiriwhi says:

    Not so Richard… By your reasoning it is just as plausible to say that the Theory of evolution is wrong, and that there is no common decent between Man and lower life forms.

  2. Richard says:

    Tim, bear in mind that I wrote this nearly 5 years ago.

    The point is that Rand’s conception of man is false if the theory of evolution is true.

  3. Luke H says:

    Rand was exploring the differences between sentient man and non-sentient animals. Her intent was a metaphysical exploration of the nature of sentience and the importance of rationality, not literal scientific truth.

    Besides which, there is no reason why a non-sentient predecessor species (an ape, perhaps) couldn’t gradually gain the ability to reason and extend its own knowledge, and in the process gradually lose its automatic code of survival.

    Now, I’m not saying I think that is what happened – my interpretation here would be more along the lines that our ‘code of survival’ is currently based around our ability to reason – but I do think this is a pretty weak criticism of Rand’s ideas.

    A much stronger criticism of Objectivism, IMHO, would be based around their refusal to consider the Big Bang Theory.

  4. Terry V says:

    Luke, you are right that “there is no reason why a non-sentient predecessor species (an ape, perhaps) couldn’t gradually gain the ability to reason and extend its own knowledge, and in the process gradually lose its automatic code of survival”, except that it is unlikely that that predecessor species would have been an ape, rather, apes and humans will more likely both have evolved from a predecessor species which no longer exists.

    How does Objectivism refuse to consider the Big Bang Theory? Are you sure that it is not only certain interpretations of the Theory which it refuses to consider, namely, those that contradict the Law of Identity? Consistent with Objectivism is that the Universe as we know it may have operated under different physical laws and/or taken a different form prior to any “Big Bang”, in which case whatever existed prior still existed, and what existed still possessed identity and acted according to it. What criticism do you speak of?

    Richard, this statement of yours is not compatible with the theory of evolution: “Obviously, a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge and an automatic code of survival is fitter than a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge but no automatic code of survival”. It is not compatible because it lacks proper context, that context taking into account environmental circumstances, including geographical separation. It is highly unlikely that the two ‘creatures’ you refer to will have inhabited the same geographical area and thus interacted, meaning they would not have had to ‘survive’ each other.

    As for requiring a “missing link” to solve what you view as a dichotomy between evolution and Rand’s conception of man, the reality is that the evolutionary process does not have ‘links’ *as such* in terms of species, that is because speciesization/taxonomy is epistemological in nature, not metaphysical. Metaphysically ‘species’ do not exist, only living things and their offspring do.

  5. If Objectivists read Rand in a less-than-trancelike state of adulation, they would notice that in the same essay – even on the preceding page IIRC – they would notice that she claims that man *does* have an automatic way of judging what benefits or threatens his life – the “pleasure-pain” mechanism. Doh!

    Truly, the more seriously you read Rand, the less seriously you can take her.

  6. Richard says:

    Truly, I tell you … 🙂

  7. Terry V says:

    Daniel, I am afraid that you have misrepresented and misinterpreted what Rand wrote.

    The relevant point in her essay is as follows: one cannot survive based on the *physical* pleasure-pain mechanism alone. The mechanism is not a “code of values” by which one can proceed to evaluate things and make rational judgments about how to act. The experience of pleasure and pain is merely one’s first and primary clue as to *what* should be valued, protected and nourished: oneself. That is all. The mechanism does not indicate *how* to go about valuing, protecting and nourishing oneself – that requires cognition and the use of reason. It requires a consciously chosen ‘code of values’.

    Other animals have no choice about what to pursue or how to pursue it – nature and instinct decides this for them. Man’s goals and his method of how to pursue and achieve them must be chosen, which requires that he employ his mind in the correct way.

    Thus, conceptual knowledge is a *non*-automatic way – man’s *only* way – of “judging what benefits or threatens his life”. Physical pain and pleasure is merely man’s body’s ‘automatic’ way of telling him that his life is being benefited or threatened, but, the signals do not tell him *what* is benefiting or threatening him, or *why*, or what he should do about it.

  8. Richard says:

    Richard, this statement of yours is not compatible with the theory of evolution: “Obviously, a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge and an automatic code of survival is fitter than a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge but no automatic code of survival”.

    Man is “a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge and an automatic code of survival.” Man exists, whereas “a creature with a limitless capacity for gaining knowledge but no automatic code of survival” does not. Man’s existence is not compatible with the theory of evolution, you say? That’s my line, not yours!

    It is not compatible because it lacks proper context, that context taking into account environmental circumstances, including geographical separation. It is highly unlikely that the two ‘creatures’ you refer to will have inhabited the same geographical area and thus interacted, meaning they would not have had to ‘survive’ each other.

    The notion of geographical separation is basically an ad hoc add-on to the theory of evolution to get around the fact that otherwise the less fit creature would not survive. And by buying into this notion you fall into contradiction …

    it is unlikely that that predecessor species would have been an ape, rather, apes and humans will more likely both have evolved from a predecessor species which no longer exists.

    … since, if predecessor species and successor species become geographically isolated then there is no reason why predecessor species should not still be around. But, rather conveniently (for the evolutionists) they’re mostly not. They’re mostly not even in the fossil record!

    As for requiring a “missing link” to solve what you view as a dichotomy between evolution and Rand’s conception of man, the reality is that the evolutionary process does not have ‘links’ *as such* in terms of species, that is because speciesization/taxonomy is epistemological in nature, not metaphysical. Metaphysically ‘species’ do not exist, only living things and their offspring do.

    The word you’re looking for is ‘speciation’. 🙂 You have a point, we shouldn’t think of species in terms of Platonic essentialism. Dawkins makes this valid point in Chapter Two of his book The Greatest Show on Earth which you can read here. However, species most certainly do “metaphysically” exist. According to the theory of evolution a species is the set of organisms between two nodes or branch points in the tree of life. From a creationist perspective, a species is a created kind.

    Terry, thanks for your comment.

  9. Richard says:

    Luke, thanks for your comment.

    Rand was exploring the differences between sentient man and non-sentient animals. Her intent was a metaphysical exploration of the nature of sentience and the importance of rationality, not literal scientific truth.

    No, Rand’s intent was to ground her bat-shit crazy ethical theory in reality. EPIC FAIL.

    Besides which, there is no reason why a non-sentient predecessor species (an ape, perhaps) couldn’t gradually gain the ability to reason and extend its own knowledge, and in the process gradually lose its automatic code of survival.

    Well, no. But then we would expect to find a bunch of creatures with both an automatic code of survival and an ability to reason and to extend their own knowledge. In other words, we would find not just “Man” and “animal” as Rand describes them. And we do, both extant and extinct.

    Now, I’m not saying I think that is what happened – my interpretation here would be more along the lines that our ‘code of survival’ is currently based around our ability to reason – but I do think this is a pretty weak criticism of Rand’s ideas.

    I think my criticism of Rand’s ideas is forged in Rearden Steel. 🙂

  10. Terry:
    >Daniel, I am afraid that you have misrepresented and misinterpreted what Rand wrote.

    Terry, have you noticed how there are absolutely zero honest and accurate critics of Rand? How she never, ever, ever, makes an important mistake, there are only “misrepresentations” and “misinterpretations” by immoral and/or stupid people?

    I argue that Objectivism, far from being objective, is actually a thought-system that attempts to close itself off from objective criticism. It’s basically set up to mark its own homework. Why, it even tries to tell you what words officially mean, like some tinpot dictatorship trying to stifle critics…;-)

    >The relevant point in her essay is as follows: one cannot survive based on the *physical* pleasure-pain mechanism alone.

    Firstly, man either does have an automatic mechanism for evaluating what’s good or bad, or he doesn’t. Rand makes both claims within a page of each other.

    Of course, we do have the pleasure-pain mechanism. Is that mechanism sometimes erroneous? Yes of course. Sometimes something that hurts you is good for you – say, a vaccination. Sometimes something pleasurable is bad for you, like that third martini….But you can’t deny it exists (particularly if you just said it did exist on the preceding page.)

    >Other animals have no choice about what to pursue or how to pursue it – nature and instinct decides this for them.

    So the official dogma states. But what about the science?

    >Thus, conceptual knowledge is a *non*-automatic way – man’s *only* way – of “judging what benefits or threatens his life”. Physical pain and pleasure is merely man’s body’s ‘automatic’ way of telling him that his life is being benefited or threatened, but, the signals do not tell him *what* is benefiting or threatening him, or *why*, or what he should do about it.

    Have you really thought through what you’re saying here?

  11. In short, folks, as Richard (not to mention all of science) tells us, humans have both. How hard is that to grasp?

    Rand-fans now have to decide if they are going to accept the obvious evidence and admit this piece of antiquated Randian dogmatism is just plain wrong (or just typically confused, hence Rand’s self-contradiction), or try to cover over the error with suitable “philosophical” or “metaphysical” wallpaper.

  12. Terry V says:

    Cheers Richard. My reply to your points:

    >>”The notion of geographical separation is basically an ad hoc add-on to the theory of evolution to get around the fact that otherwise the less fit creature would not survive. And by buying into this notion you fall into contradiction …”

    It is not an “ad-hoc add on”, it is an observation of reality. “Fitness” is fitness for an environment, including but not limited to fitness to survive other species that exist in that same environment. The North Pole is a very different environment from the Sahara desert, which is very different from New Zealand. Until just last century, even man himself, who you claim is the “fittest” of all creatures, could not have “survived” such environments, yet other species have for millennia before us. Man is far from proving himself the fittest of all animals from an evolutionary perspective, and he will never be the fittest of all organisms, that will likely always go to bacteria (or viruses, if you consider them organisms).

    >>”if predecessor species and successor species become geographically isolated then there is no reason why predecessor species should not still be around.”

    Yes there is: they have long since evolved into something else.

    >>”But, rather conveniently (for the evolutionists) they’re mostly not. They’re mostly not even in the fossil record!””

    Actually, it is inconvenient, but what to do. Nevertheless missing fossils are not necessary to prove evolution. The fact is that “organisms are only rarely preserved as fossils in the best of circumstances, and only a fraction of such fossils have been discovered. This is illustrated by the fact that the number of species known through the fossil record is less than 5% of the number of known living species, suggesting that the number of species known through fossils must be far less than 1% of all the species that have ever lived.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil]

    >>”species most certainly do “metaphysically” exist”

    The *concept* “species” is epistemological in nature, it is our way of identifying (categorizing) what exists physically. What exists physically are individual things (“entities”), not the abstract concepts or categorizations which pertain to them – those are *mental* existents, not physical existents. That is what I was meaning.

  13. Terry V says:

    Daniel –

    “Terry, have you noticed how there are absolutely zero honest and accurate critics of Rand?”

    So far, yes. In my experience perusing forums and speaking to people (which is very limited in scope) I have only encountered honest and inaccurate critics and dishonest and inaccurate critics. That is not to say they cannot be honest and accurate critics. I hope to meet one! If two people are truly rational, then I hold that any differences held in their convictions will always boil down to a difference in definitions, so if those two people nut-out their definitions, there will necessarily be a meeting of minds. It is extremely rare though to find two truly rational people, and even more rare to find two with the patience to nut out their definitions.

    “How she never, ever, ever, makes an important mistake, there are only “misrepresentations” and “misinterpretations” by immoral and/or stupid people?”

    What starts wrong ends wrong. Rand started right by identifying a metaphysics and epistemology that is compatible with man’s nature in reality, that is all. Any mistakes that can be found cannot by definition be so ‘important’, but they can be found, for she was not infallible. And FYI to misrepresent does not necessarily imply dishonesty, misrepresenting can be done honestly too, that is, if one misinterprets what what is read before representing it.

    “I argue that Objectivism, far from being objective, is actually a thought-system that attempts to close itself off from objective criticism.”

    Objectivism starts with certain axioms and proceeds from there. Are you arguing that it is the axioms that “attempts to close itself off from objective criticism”, or what Rand derived from those axioms using logical inference?

    “Firstly, man either does have an automatic mechanism for evaluating what’s good or bad, or he doesn’t. Rand makes both claims within a page of each other.”

    Incorrect. You are conflating two concepts. What she claims is that man has a physical mechanism that tells him that *something* is for or against him, but that he requires a ‘code of values’ to give *mean* to what he is feeling, i.e. in order for him to be able to act and survive, and that in man’s case, that ‘code’ is not automatic, it must be chosen. Do you not accept that there is a difference between a “physical mechanism” and a mentally ‘chosen’ versus ‘encoded’ set of values?

    “So the official dogma states. But what about the science?”

    Rand made her observations about animal cognition based on the information that was available to her at the time, and was a *scientific* and not philosophical observation. Since all knowledge is contextual, she could have been wrong in her claims. If she was, that does not affect the validity of Objectivism; the identity of animals and their means of cognition is what it is.

    “Have you really thought through what you’re saying here?”

    Yes, of course. Man has no choice about having to choose.

  14. Terry V says:

    Apologies for the spelling errors. I am too used to Facebook editing of comments, and there is no feature here to do that. (‘*mean*’ above was meant to read ‘meaning’)

  15. Terry,

    You seem like a nice guy, but I think you need to learn a little more about Objectivism, not to mention logic and philosophy in general before you embrace Rand’s doctrines wholeheartedly.

    Here’s just a few basic mistakes you’re making, some about Objectivism, some not.

    1) Rand does not “derive” anything from her “axioms” using logical inference. In fact, her philosophy would be a shedload more robust if she did. In fact, IIRC, Leonard Peikoff specifically states that nothing in Objectivism can be derived from them. What they are actually useful for, who can say? But Objectivists like to wave them about anyway as if they had some sort of useful logical implication.

    2) “Nutting out definitions” leads to stalemate or an infinite regress. (Aristotle knew you can’t prove all statements without an infinite regress; a definition is a form of statement). You simply have to agree to terms, otherwise you have the aforegoing. Rand claimed this problem could be solved by “logic” in the ITOE. She’s completely wrong; there is no logical solution.

    3) What starts wrong *does not* have to end wrong. In fact we all start wrong all the time on different things. I did not jump on skis and immediately power down the double-black diamond trails. Einstein started out with all kinds of wrong theories before he hit on his theories of relativity. And of course you have started out wrong on this particular point; but now you have been put right….;-) There is nothing wrong with starting out wrong. This is a classic Randian mistake.

    4) You are incorrect that I am “conflating two concepts”. Simply re-read the relevant passages; you will find that on one page man has an automatic system for detecting what is good or bad for him, the pleasure-pain mechanism. Then you will find on the next page Rand has forgotten what she had written a page before, and that he doesn’t have any such automatic mechanism.

    Who are you going to believe, Randian official dogma or your own lying eyes?…;-)

  16. Terry V says:

    Daniel –

    Thanks for your reply. As it happens, I think I have a pretty good grasp of Objectivism, and logic and philosophy in general, but I am still and will always be learning, as I hope you are and will too.

    My replies to what you view as my ‘mistakes’:

    1) It’s true I did make a mistake here, namely, I should have phrased my question as follows: are you arguing that it is the axioms that “attempts to close itself off from objective criticism”, or that what Rand derived using her axioms and logical inference, or both?. So I concede it was poorly phrased. It is true that one cannot derive anything from Objectivist axioms in and of themselves, they are what helps one to derive truth from reality. So, can you answer my question as it has been rephrased?

    2) “Nutting out definitions” leads to stalemate or an infinite regress *only* if one or other person is not rational, namely, if either person does not form their definitions using the correct rules of concept formation and/or their definitions using the correct rules of definition formation. The correct methods are covered in ITOE. It takes effort to form concepts and definitions correctly, and a mammoth effort to correct one’s past poorly formed concepts and definitions, which is why most people don’t do it, instead preferring to take the lazy route of forming a philosophy based on subjectivism or intrinsicism.

    3) By starting out wrong I am referring to one’s arriving at a conclusion *whilst maintaining* an underlying flawed premise. I am not referring to the process of achieving success after failed attempts. If one arrives *by coincidence* at the right conclusion while maintaining a false underlying premise then one will not hold on to the correct conclusion for long without fixing the underlying error, and in fact, one cannot even ‘know’ in the proper sense of the term ‘know’ that one has arrived at a correct conclusion.

    4) You have twice now ignored my point. I shall try word it differently. You wrote “you will find that on one page man has an automatic system for detecting what is good or bad for him, the pleasure-pain mechanism”. *That* something is good or bad for him *physically* is not a question, it is a statement. *What* is good or bad for him both physically *and* mentally and what he should do about it is a set of questions that requires answers. The first is provided automatically by the pleasure-pain mechanism, but is OF NO USE to a man in an of itself. Just knowing that ‘something’ is pleasurable or painful does not answer the ‘why?’, or the ‘how?’ or the ‘what is it?’ or the ‘what should I do about it?’ – all of these questions require that man think and that he form a code of values by which to work from, and *that* is NOT automatic. So I ask again: do you not accept that there is a difference between a “physical mechanism” and a mentally ‘chosen’ versus ‘encoded’ set of values? Hopefully you can now see that Rand was referring to two distinctly different things, one an automatic function and the other non-automatic requirement which needs to be fulfilled; *both* relate to man’s survival.

    Our eyes cannot lie, only our minds can do that.

  17. Terry V says:

    Correction: “if either person does not form their definitions using the correct rules of concept formation…” should read “if either person does not form their concepts using the correct rules of concept formation…”

  18. Terry:

    Thanks for your reply. You write:

    >1)…I should have phrased my question as follows: are you arguing that it is the axioms that “attempts to close itself off from objective criticism”, or that what Rand derived using her axioms and logical inference, or both?

    There are various features of Objectivism that serve to stifle objective criticism, and her so-called ‘axioms’ are one of them. In addition to their complete logical uselessness, the axioms are an example of what is called a “thought-terminating cliche”. You may google the term for further information.

    As to that “what Rand derived using her axioms and logical inference”, I repeat: Rand derives nothing and makes no logical inferences whatsoever from them. I don’t know why you keep suggesting she does.

    >2) “Nutting out definitions” leads to stalemate or an infinite regress *only* if one or other person is not rational, namely, if either person does not form their definitions using the correct rules of concept formation and/or their definitions using the correct rules of definition formation. The correct methods are covered in ITOE.

    This emphasis on definitions is a fundamentally Mediaeval idea, despite its popularity in Objectivist and other modern philosophy circles, such as Logical Positivism. It’s all wrong of course – definitions are of little importance, so long as we all agree on the meanings in the first place. Further, the ITOE is little or no help in resolving any problems in definition that may arise. Happy to demonstrate this with a real time example if you don’t want to take my word for it…;-)

    >3) By starting out wrong I am referring to one’s arriving at a conclusion *whilst maintaining* an underlying flawed premise.

    Well this is simple to clear up. “Starting out” is different from “maintaining.” By all means, do not cling to false theories! So, my point stands: that we almost always start in error in our search for truth.

    >4)*That* something is good or bad for him *physically*…is provided automatically by the pleasure-pain mechanism, but is OF NO USE to a man in an of itself.

    This is obviously incorrect. Consider this: an ape (or an amoeba) is poked with a hot needle. It moves away automatically to protect itself from damage. A man is poked with a hot needle. He moves away automatically, and by doing so also protects his body from damage. Of course, unlike the ape (or the amoeba), later and at a suitable distance he may seek to understand heat energy, the startle reflex, or why some idiot might be poking him with a hot needle in the first place. But this additional level of response does not discount the obvious usefulness of his basic automatic pain response system. It merely tells us that he is reacting at least two levels (in fact this is grossly oversimplified, but anyway). So the situation is, again as Richard has said, that man 1) does have an automatic evaluation system as well as his secondary, more intellectual evaluation system and 2) it is of the greatest usefulness for the most part. The Randian dogma on this issue is either incorrect or contradictory, born no doubt, along with Rand’s ambivalence about evolution itself, of Rand’s reluctance to see in her romantic Galtian heroes the reality that they are 99% chimpanzees.

  19. Terry V says:

    Daniel –

    1) How are Objectivism’s axioms “thought-terminating cliche’s”? I looked up the term and it bears no resemblance whatever to the axioms’ function, namely, to identify a *starting point* from which knowledge about reality can be derived. If Objectivism’s axioms are NOT a suitable starting point from which to derive knowledge, what is according to you?

    “I repeat: Rand derives nothing and makes no logical inferences whatsoever from them” – If you reread my previous reply you will see that I corrected myself, in that I accept axioms do not generate logical inferences, rather, logical inferences together with Objectivist axioms are what is required for objective knowledge, and if either is missing from the equation, one cannot claim that what one arrives at through inference or otherwise to be knowledge. That is not to say that one needs to be an Objectivist to arrive at knowledge, it is to say that one who arrives at knowledge must necessarily use Objectivist axioms and logical inference in their thought process, whether they do so implicitly or explicitly is irrelevant. For example, if one looks at the fire and decides it would be bad for one’s life to put one’s face in it, that is an *implicit* use of Objectivist axioms and logical inference, namely, The fire is real and one is aware of the fact (Existence and consciousness respectively), and, because fire is hot enough to burn flesh and one’s face is made of flesh one’s face will certainly burn off by putting it directly into the fire for a sufficient length of time (logical inference). Arriving at more abstract observations and conclusions about reality does not change need for the same starting point and use of the same epistemological process. Do you not agree?

    2) “definitions are of little importance, so long as we all agree on the meanings in the first place”. How can one agree on word’s meaning without using it’s definition?

    “the ITOE is little or no help in resolving any problems in definition that may arise. Happy to demonstrate this with a real time example if you don’t want to take my word for it” Yes please, demonstrate away…

    4) I concede that the pleasure-pain mechanism may help in a range-of-the-moment emergency, so yes, it is of *some* use. But if one is not experiencing a range of the moment emergency, like being poked with a hot needle, how does the mechanism help a man to *survive as a man* (as opposed to surviving the range of the moment like an ape or an amoeba)? Does HIS *survival* not require more than just the pleasure-pain mechanism? If it does, then THAT is Rand’s point: that one must think for oneself and generate a code of values to survive, and that THAT is NOT automatic. Again, where is the contradiction? There is none that I see, if one represents her position correctly as she wrote and it in its full context.

    >> “So the situation is, again as Richard has said, that man 1) does have an automatic evaluation system as well as his secondary, more intellectual evaluation system and 2) it is of the greatest usefulness for the most part. The Randian dogma on this issue is either incorrect or contradictory, born no doubt, along with Rand’s ambivalence about evolution itself, of Rand’s reluctance to see in her romantic Galtian heroes the reality that they are 99% chimpanzees.”

    Rand called what man requires non-automatically and what other animals possess automatically a “code of values”, not an “evaluation system”. A “code” and a “system” are two different things. Sure, man has a physical evaluation system and a mental evaluation system. So do other animals. The difference is that man’s mental one is not fully automatic whereas the animals’ one is fully automatic. Man’s is not automatic because his *code* of values is not imprinted or automatically arrived at, whereas other animal’s *code* of values is. Does this clear up the perceived contradiction?

    Lastly, Rand never dismissed evolution and the possibility (which we now know is fact) that man came from a common ancestor of the chimpanzee.

  20. Terry:
    >1) How are Objectivism’s axioms “thought-terminating cliche’s”?

    They are mindless cliches to be ritually recited whenever an Objectivist encounters a conflict with their official doctrine. “A is A” is a typical example. This “blanks out” the conflict, and Objectivists then feel better…;-)

    I note you have again claimed that the axioms are some kind of “starting point” from which knowledge can be “derived”. I will repeat again: nothing is logically “derived” from the axioms. They logically connect to nothing, to no system whatsoever, not even themselves. They just sit there in the corner, picking up lint, and this is according to the small print of official Objectivism. They connect to nothing…yet are also supposedly “fundamental” to the system. #majorfail.

    As to the correct “starting” point in the search for truth, there is no such thing. I repeat: you can start anywhere! In fact, the idea that you have to start with truth before you can search for truth is an obvious fallacy.

    >2)Yes please, demonstrate away…

    Happy to when I get a moment.

    >4) Rand called what man requires non-automatically and what other animals possess automatically a “code of values”, not an “evaluation system”. A “code” and a “system” are two different things.

    This is hairsplitting. I think we fundamentally agree.

  21. Terry V says:

    Daniel –

    Thanks for your reply.

    1) An Objectivist would only invoke the axioms if someone implicitly or explicitly claims that reality doesn’t exist, or that one is not or cannot be aware of reality, or that things are not what they are (i.e. they have no identity), or that something other than the things that exist can cause actions. Do you not think that these premises are a reasonable ‘starting point’ from which to pursue knowledge from? If not, why? If you started a discussion with someone who claimed one of these things, what would *your* argument be? Or, would you agree with them?

    2) Look forward to it.

    3) Good. But we only agree if you also agree Rand did not contradict herself. To arrive at *that* conclusion you must accept my ‘hair-splitting’ as being necessary.

  22. Richard says:

    An Objectivist would only invoke the axioms if someone implicitly or explicitly claims that reality doesn’t exist, or that one is not or cannot be aware of reality, or that things are not what they are (i.e. they have no identity), or that something other than the things that exist can cause actions.

    No one makes such claims. But Objectivists “invoke the axioms” incessantly. A is A, existence exists, yada yada yada.

    Do you not think that these premises are a reasonable ‘starting point’ from which to pursue knowledge from?

    No.

    If not, why?

    Because they’re empty tautologies from which nothing follows except further empty tautologies. B is B, C is C, etc.

  23. Richard says:

    The *concept* “species” is epistemological in nature, it is our way of identifying (categorizing) what exists physically. What exists physically are individual things (“entities”), not the abstract concepts or categorizations which pertain to them – those are *mental* existents, not physical existents. That is what I was meaning.

    Sounds like nominalism or reductionism to me. Next, you’ll be telling me that Boeing 747s don’t have wings.

    Terry, I intend to address your points about geographical separation, predecessor species and fossils in subsequent blog posts. Stay tuned. 🙂

  24. Terry V says:

    Richard –

    “No one makes such claims.”

    Of course they do:

    Standard interpretation of modern quantum physics rejects the first and/or third axioms (e.g. http://www.theuniversesolved.com/theuniversesolved/blog/post/2008/07/Reality-Doesnt-Exist2c-according-to-the-latest-research.aspx)

    Kant’s philosophy – the most widely accepted philosophy in the world today – is based explicitly on rejecting the second axiom, namely, we can only know our perceptions of reality, but never reality itself.

    All of theology implicitly rejects the last axiom.

    “Because they’re empty tautologies from which nothing follows except further empty tautologies.”

    A tautology by definition is an unnecessary statement. Given that most of the world rejects Objectivist axioms, how are they unnecessary and thus tautologies?

  25. Richard says:

    Terry, let’s start with your claim that

    All of theology implicitly rejects the last axiom.

    I am aware of no theological claim “that something other than the things that exist can cause actions.” Please enlighten me. 🙂

  26. Richard says:

    Kant’s philosophy – the most widely accepted philosophy in the world today

    That’s bullshit, Terry, and so is Kant’s philosophy! Widely accepted by whom? Not by me!

  27. Terry V says:

    “Sounds like nominalism or reductionism to me.”

    It is neither.

    The concept ‘species’ integrates all of the mental ‘units’ that correspond to all of the physical entities that exist in reality and which we are referring to. Concepts and units are epistemological in nature, entities are metaphysical in nature.

    Rand: “units do not exist qua units, what exists are things, but units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships”.

    Rand’s identification of the mathematical nature of concept formation and specifically of “units” and unit-economy as the guiding principle the conceptual process solved the problem of universals lamented by all nominalist positions.

    I don’t see the relevance of my statement to reductionism, and Objectivism is clearly not reductionist given how it categorizes consciousness and free will.

    “Terry, I intend to address your points about geographical separation, predecessor species and fossils in subsequent blog posts. Stay tuned.”

    Cool.

  28. Terry V says:

    “That’s bullshit, Terry, and so is Kant’s philosophy! Widely accepted by whom? Not by me”

    Not be my either. You are right, I should have qualified that with “by academics”. His philosophy is wide reaching though for sure in terms of its influence: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/

    My point is that his philosophy rejects at least one of Objectivism axioms, in contradiction to your claim that no one does.

    “I am aware of no theological claim “that something other than the things that exist can cause actions.” ”

    I was careful to include ‘implicitly’ reject. Any religion that claims something other than existence created or creates existence (i.e. all that exists) is logically claiming that something other than that which exists can can, namely, the act of creation.

  29. Richard says:

    Any religion that claims something other than existence created or creates existence (i.e. all that exists) is logically claiming that something other than that which exists can can, namely, the act of creation.

    Parsing error. Can you rephrase that?

  30. Terry V says:

    “Parsing error. Can you rephrase that?”

    Yes, sorry, that’ll teach me to comment so close to bed time when I am completely zonked…

    My point is as follows:

    Creation is an action. But the concept ‘creation’ can have two meanings: 1) to rearrange the combinations of the natural elements, or, 2) to bring into existence something from nothing. Theology, by all accounts I have read, holds the latter to be true.

  31. reed says:

    Terry
    Are you saying that all theologists you have read imply the following?

    1) Everything was brought into existence from God.
    2) God is nothing.
    3) therefore, everything was brought into existence from nothing.

  32. Terry V says:

    @ Reed –

    1) Yes, but typically “by” God, not “from” God
    2) Yes, implied by 1)
    3) Yes, implied by 1) and 2) together

    All of the above implications are logical of course, not intended, and are dependent on one using the dictionary definition of “existence” as being “everything that exists”.

  33. reed says:

    Terry
    Does the problem disappear if the theological claim is the following?

    Everything except God was brought into existence by God.

  34. Terry V says:

    Reed –

    In short no, the problem is not solved. Nothing can be brought “into” existence if existence is “everything that exists” without creating a contradiction. It would help greatly if you define for me what you mean by “existence”.

    In your proposition, does God ‘exist’? If you hold that He does exist (which I assume you do), then what is the difference between “existing” and “being in or a part of existence”? How can anything exist and not be in or a part of existence?

    Lastly, if I were to state that “Existence is everything that exists *except* God and what He created” how am I not using your logic?

  35. reed says:

    God exists and everything except God was caused to exist by God.

    This is a normal theological proposition.

    The proposition has to be misconstrued to imply that “something other than the things that exist can cause actions.”

  36. Terry V says:

    “God exists and everything except God was caused to exist by God.”

    I prefer to apply Occam’s Razor to your proposition and acknowledge simply that “Existence exists”. Why the need to complicate things?

    If the simpler statement doesn’t satisfy because you need to identify a cause for everything that exists, then here it is: “Existence exists and everything that exists is a cause”.

    I read once a quote by a Hindu Guru: “There is not many Gods. There is not one God. There is *only* God.”

    If you accept the above statement, then the transition to an Objectivist premise is very simple. Just replace “God” with “Existence”.

  37. reed says:

    Terry
    One of your original points was that theologists imply that “something other than the things that exist can cause actions”. My objective was to demonstrate that this is false and that objectivists misconstrue theological propositions to make their case. I think I have demonstrated this.

    I think your response is to evade but your evasion is a topic I like. 🙂

    Does existence have many foundations, one foundation or no foundation?

  38. Terry V says:

    Reed –

    I do not accept that you have demonstrated your objective at all. You did not even answer any of my questions:

    1) define for me what you mean by “existence”;
    2) what is the difference between “existing” and “being in or a part of existence”?
    3) How can anything exist and not be in or a part of existence?
    4) if I were to state that “Existence is everything that exists *except* God and what He created” how am I not using your logic?

    All you did was state a proposition that complicates metaphysics to the point of error.

    As Abe Lincoln once pointed out, just because you call a dog’s tail a leg does not make it a five legged dog. I.e., just because you claim that “God exists” does not mean that He does, or that there are two “existences” – one being your self-existing God and the other being that which he creates, or that there is even one existence – Him and what He creates; to be accurate there is *only* existence.

    “Does existence have many foundations, one foundation or no foundation?”

    It *is* the foundation, the *only* foundation.

  39. Terry V says:

    For clarity let me add that there are no numerical quantities in reality, i.e. “out there”, at the metaphysical level. Numbers, as with all of mathematics, are simply a tool of measurement, an epistemological *method* that helps us to grasp what exists. The concept “one” is not real, except in our minds, for there is no concrete we can point to and say this “one”. The concept “existence” is real though, we can point to by looking outward and saying “this is existence”.

    That is why there is not “one” existence (nor can there be “one” God, if He exists). There is *only* existence (or in your parlance, if you were to be accurate and logical about it, *only* God).

  40. Terry V says:

    * this is “one”

  41. reed says:

    It *is* the foundation, the *only* foundation.
    This sounds contradictory.

    Do you believe there a metaphysical foundation or not?

    I’ll answer your questions a bit later.

  42. Terry V says:

    If it is contradictory, how so? It is the foundation of all knowledge, and of our very being. That is the context I was referring to.

  43. Terry V says:

    Reed – please add to the list of unanswered questions: “Why the need to complicate things?” and any comments you have about my points following this question. Thanks.

  44. reed says:

    I prefer to apply Occam’s Razor to your proposition and acknowledge simply that “Existence exists”. Why the need to complicate things?

    Occom’s Razor was only intended to be applied to competing explanations.
    To say “Existence exists” is to say “the way things are is the way things are” – it’s not an explanation but avoidance of an explanation.

  45. Terry V says:

    How is it not an explanation? Since one cannot explain *how* existence came to be, it simply ‘is’, so there is nothing more to explain. Why the need for further explanation?
    Can you not see that there is no more need to explain how existence came to be than there is a need for you to explain how God came to be?

  46. Richard says:

    I think Terry suffers from delusions of Randeur. 😉

  47. Terry V says:

    Richard, your quippy pun ad hominem does not pose an argument nor reveal any flaw in mine. You are allowed your fun of course, it’s your site.

  48. reed says:

    How is it not an explanation? Since one cannot explain *how* existence came to be, it simply ‘is’, so there is nothing more to explain. Why the need for further explanation?
    Can you not see that there is no more need to explain how existence came to be than there is a need for you to explain how God came to be?

    It’s both an explanation and not an explanation.

  49. Terry V says:

    >> This has been another episode of what Richard said.

    This has been an episode of me answering everyone’s questions and having almost none of mine answered.

  50. reed says:

    Terry

    4) if I were to state that “Existence is everything that exists *except* God and what He created” how am I not using your logic?

    I have no idea what you are asking.

    1) define for me what you mean by “existence”;

    When I said…

    Everything except God was brought into existence by God.

    … my meaning for “existence” was “everything including God”.

    God + Everything except God(i.e. creation) = Everything including God

    2) what is the difference between “existing” and “being in or a part of existence”?
    3) How can anything exist and not be in or a part of existence?

    Well.. it depends.. if by “existence” you are talking about the set “everything including God” or if you are meaning the universe (i.e. creation or everything except God).

    Does God exist? Yes.
    Is God part of creation? No.
    Is God included in the set “Everything including God”? Yes.

  51. Terry V says:

    Reed –

    Thank you for your answers.

    You have stated that “existence” [is] “everything including God”.

    You have also stated that “God + Everything except God(i.e. creation) = Everything including God”, which is the same as saying “Everything [is] Everything including God”.

    So you have in essence said that “Existence is Everything”, “including God” is superfluous to the equation. So logically we agree. I simply choose to give God a zero value in the equation.

    “When I said…Everything except God was brought into existence by God … my meaning for “existence” was “everything including God”. God + Everything except God(i.e. creation) = Everything including God”

    Looking at it from another perspective, what you are saying in mathematical terms is that E = e = u + G (where E = Everything, e = existence, u = the universe, and G = God). Which is to say, what exists is God plus an unspecified value, but since God is an unknowable value (i.e. He is infinite, right?), what exists is ultimately an unknowable value. In contrast I am saying that E = e, where e is an unspecified but finite value, which is to say that what exists is a knowable value. I could use your equation also and simply state that G has a zero value.

    So, in closing, I suppose it boils down to whether you want to remove the epistemological self-limitation you have set on yourself by including the unknowable value ‘God’ in your equation of what exists.

  52. Terry complained:
    >This has been an episode of me answering everyone’s questions and having almost none of mine answered.

    What particular unanswered questions did you have in mind?

  53. Glenn says:

    Richard… you invited objectivism home? Now it’s going to expect you to feed it.

  54. Pingback: What have I been using for brains? (Friday ramble) | Eternal Vigilance

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