Wednesday, November 11, 2009

(017c Ayn Rand and Reason)

[This is a lecture from the project 25+ Women Philosophers, which was not copied from the former blog]

If there is one philosopher well represented on the Internet then it certainly is Ayn Rand. And not only in the Internet. There also is an Ayn Rand Institute, in Irvine California and The Objectivist Center in New York.

The information is overwhelming, but yet it makes me think too. Is this still about a philosophical discourse or are we dealing here with a doctrine, an ideology, a cult or a sekt, a political organization?

"The impact of Rand's ideas is difficult to measure, but it has been great. All of the books she published during her lifetime are still in print, have sold more than twenty million copies, and continue to sell hundreds of thousands of copies each year. " A quote from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which has a decent article on her.
So, let's focus on Ayn Rand's philosophical ideas. She describes her philosophy of Objectivism thus:
1.Reality exists as an objective absolute—facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, wishes, hopes or fears.

2.Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality, his only source of knowledge, his only guide to action, and his basic means of survival.

3.Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life.

4.The ideal political-economic system is laissez-faire capitalism.

In short is means 1. Metaphysics: Realism, 2. Epistemology: Reason, 3: Ethics: Self-interest and 4. Politics: Capitalism. Let us focus on 1 and 2 for today.

In modern philosophy realism is used for the view that material objects exist externally to us and independently of our sense experience. Realism is thus opposed to Idealism, which holds that no such material objects or external relaties exist apart from our knowledge or consciousness of them.

It also clashes with phenomenalism which, while avoiding much idealist metaphysics, would deny that material objects exist except as groups or sequences of sensa, actual or possible.

What is the open philosophical nerve here? The claim of an "objective absolute". It is nothing more than a claim, not a statement of fact. There is no way of denying that the only source of knowledge we have is our individual sensory experience.

Perhaps our human situation is such that we cannot know anything beyond our experiences; perhaps we are, each one of us individually, confined to the theater of our own minds. Throwing reality on the table as an 'objective absolute' does not refute this observation.

Even more questionable is Ayn Rand's statement that "Reason (the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses) is man’s only means of perceiving reality"
It sounds so obvious, that you are immediately inclined to say: sure... yes.. absolutely true. But let me ask you a simple question.... it says "reason is a means". We all will claim that we use our reason every day, but how does reason work? What kind of machinery is it?

Philosopy: Who Needs It, pg 62: "Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach. The method which reason employs in this process is logic—and logic is the art of non-contradictory identification." Ayn Rand.

If this is a knowledge claim and I cant read it otherwise, I really have serious questions to ask, especially while Ayn Rand holds the view that we are born with an empty mind, a tabula rasa. All we know, we know by experience only. In other words..who sent her this revelation?

Let us first put it into historical perspective. Historically we have two kinds of reason. The 17th century philosophers like Descartes saw Reason as opposed to Experience, while the philosophers of the Enlightment saw Reason as opposed to Faith.

When we take an overall view of the work of Ayn Rand, her ardent condemnation of mysticism and religion, I would conclude that she uses the concept of reason in the way as the Enlightment philosophers like D'Alembert and Voltaire did: reason as opposed to faith.

That doesnt bring us much further, but it is a start. The question I still want to see answered is, how can we have knowledge of the existence of reason?

And there is more. What are human beings in a position to do, in virtue of their possesion of the faculty of reason? What , by means of reasoning, are we in a position to achieve?

In this form it becomes very clear that the question raises at least two highly disputable issues. First, it is far from immediately clear what reasoning is, on what occassion, in what activities or processes, reason is exercised.

And second, if we determine, probably with some degree of arbitrariness, what reasoning is, it may very well be highly disputable whether this or that can or cannot be achieved by reasoning.

So, in the end, saying that reason is the only guide man has to survive is not clarifying the human condition that much. And if reason is opposed to faith I even encounter a paradox in Randianism, for you have to accept the truth of her philosophical axioms in good faith, which is against reason.

The Discussion

[13:24] herman Bergson: So much on point 1 and 2 :-)
[13:24] Finding Nirvana chuckles
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: you can lol
[13:24] Anne Charles: I agree with Ms. Rand that religion is antithetical to
reason, and that is about all upon which we now agree.
Disclosure: In my youth, I was a militant ultra-right anti
-communist/socialist who agreed in total with Ms Rand, and I
have read "The Fountainhead", "Atlas Shrugged" and "We the
Living" to the last page.
[13:24] Gemma Cleanslate: if she were here she would dispute that
[13:24] herman Bergson: If you have questions or remarks..feel free ^_^
[13:25] hope63 Shepherd: applause..tonight we have had the best herman so far-- well he needed 3 lectures for that on ayn rand--
[13:25] ChatNoir Talon applauds too
[13:25] Samuel Okelly: You articulated exactly what I view as the contradictory nature of her approach so well herman and I’m sure it will come as no surprise that as a Christian, I find Rand’s views completely abhorrent, :)
[13:26] Hokon Cazalet: from what it sounds, she seems to advocate a tenent of logical positivism, that we structure sense data by as universal language of logic (which if true can come under attack by recent comments of quine and others)
[13:26] herman Bergson: Thank you for your cheers....especially from Hope..
[13:26] AristotleVon Doobie: I think her philosophy opposes 'subjectivism' in what ever form it takes inclulding religion
[13:26] herman Bergson: And yes Samuel, I can imagine how you feel about Rand
[13:27] Finding Nirvana: I acknowledge that it is hard to place a distinction between what we'd catergorize as faith and reason. Yet, my intuition tells me that 'reason' is being excecuted when you weigh the faith of others against your own. Is what I am proposing faith or reason? :)
[13:27] herman Bergson: biggest problem with her philosophy nowadays is that it isnt a philosophical discourse is a kind of belief....a cult or sekt
[13:27] herman Bergson: which is in absolute contradiction with the philosophy itself
[13:28] ChatNoir Talon: I love contradictions :-)
[13:28] herman Bergson: introduce a new epistemic tool..intuition
[13:28] AristotleVon Doobie: many weak folks will seek out cults, it is the strong minded that investigates for their own empirical refinement
[13:28] ChatNoir Talon: How about instinct?
[13:28] Finding Nirvana: how is it new?
[13:28] Finding Nirvana: :)
[13:29] herman Bergson: we have reason...experience..and now intuition too
[13:29] herman Bergson: Oh yes Chatnoir..forgot
[13:29] ChatNoir Talon: We all knew how to suckle on our mothers breast to feed.. isn't that something? ;)
[13:29] Mickorod Renard: reason is where she cannot apply logik in certain cases but then applies her dictoriate (reason)
[13:29] Finding Nirvana: i feel that the human language, or the English language particularly, tends to complicate something which is simple to understand in essence
[13:30] Finding Nirvana: reason, feelings, beliefs, experience/memory, etc
[13:30] Samuel Okelly: personally i recognise the fundemental basis for both in the human experience (hence my "fides et ratio" tag) :0
[13:30] Finding Nirvana: they're all one thing in the end: Thought.
[13:30] AristotleVon Doobie: all things other than the facts are merely feelings
[13:30] Finding Nirvana: It's like a stream of consciousness.
[13:30] Hokon Cazalet: where does logic come from for rand btw, if its not innate, but used to order experience, where does it come from?
[13:31] Finding Nirvana: And with the phenomenon of the 'mind', we categorize to make things simpler to understand :)
[13:31] Finding Nirvana: that's where our reasoning comes in?
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes Hokon....these are fundamental questions indeed
[13:32] herman Bergson: Well... so we have some open ends here ....
[13:32] herman Bergson: Hokon's question..where did logic come from to assist reason?
[13:32] Finding Nirvana: as always, innit?
[13:32] Gemma Cleanslate: that is not new
[13:32] Finding Nirvana: :)
[13:32] AristotleVon Doobie: LOL, I see no open ends , only 'subjectivism'
[13:32] Finding Nirvana: that is the "open end!" :D
[13:32] Paula Dix: Finding i think something in this line also, the separations of mind parts are artificial
[13:33] AristotleVon Doobie: If you can not exhibit the facts then it is not 'objective'
[13:33] Finding Nirvana: yeap
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes you could say man is a theoretical construct
[13:33] ChatNoir Talon: Very well put, Ari
[13:33] Finding Nirvana: aristole
[13:33] Finding Nirvana: you speak much of facts
[13:33] Finding Nirvana: what is "fact" to you?
[13:33] Finding Nirvana: :)
[13:34] herman Bergson: One moment....
[13:34] AristotleVon Doobie: that is what Ms. Rand speaks of
[13:34] ChatNoir Talon: Oy, that's another thoughie
[13:34] herman Bergson: HOLD ON
[13:34] Finding Nirvana: i wasn't here for the
[13:34] Finding Nirvana: lol ok
[13:34] herman Bergson: There is the isssue of 'fact' indeed
[13:34] herman Bergson: Rand say 'a fact is a fact'
[13:34] herman Bergson: In a way that is her objectivism....
[13:35] herman Bergson: but objectivity..what is it....
[13:35] herman Bergson: John Locke had a briliant example....
[13:35] herman Bergson: you hold one hand in ice water...
[13:35] herman Bergson: the other hand in warm water
[13:35] Travieso Sella: So, next week you'll talk about the other two parts, herman or when is that?
[13:36] herman Bergson: then you put both hands in trepid water....
[13:36] herman Bergson: the observation then is..that you see ONE object....the bucket with both your hands in and you experience it in two ways...warm and cold
[13:37] Cailleach Shan: The question I still want to see answered is, how can we have knowledge of the existence of reason? Has your reason answered this question yet Herman?
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: a fact to me is something that I have personally experienced, Mr Locke's experimant merly confirms the phenomonm of illusion
[13:37] Paula Dix: great experiment!
[13:37] herman Bergson: so one mind can observe on object and have two different experiences..
[13:37] herman Bergson: this explains how two minds can see one object in two different ways....
[13:37] herman Bergson: what is the escape....????
[13:37] AristotleVon Doobie: reason is like thinking,' I reason, therefore I survive'
[13:38] Finding Nirvana: your fact doesn't seem very objective to be generalized, then, ari :)
[13:38] herman Bergson: Measurments.....
[13:38] herman Bergson: that is how science developed in those days...
[13:38] Travieso Sella: How often does this class meet?
[13:38] Paula Dix: thats where science came in i guess
[13:38] Samuel Okelly: it is an act of faith to hold that any sensory corresponds to an objective truth
[13:38] hope63 Shepherd: Samuel.. when will men acknowledge the fast that all his sensory experiences are limited to what "they can experience..
[13:38] Finding Nirvana: hmmmm Samuel
[13:38] AristotleVon Doobie: faith has nothing to do with reason
[13:38] herman Bergson: No samuel....we even dont get that far...
[13:39] Finding Nirvana: u're such an aristotlean
[13:39] Finding Nirvana: :P
[13:39] Mickorod Renard: hi rodney
[13:39] herman Bergson: What we have reached by now it that we measure....calculate...
[13:39] Rodney Handrick: Hi Mick
[13:39] ChatNoir Talon's head hurts
[13:39] Samuel Okelly: :)
[13:39] Daruma Boa: hi rodney
[13:39] Mickorod Renard: i have a sneaky idea that reason and faith are very similar
[13:39] herman Bergson: you can say ..this feels cold ..I can say this feels warm...but we both say this is 20 degrees celcius
[13:40] AristotleVon Doobie: faith is a way for us to explain something we wish were true
[13:40] herman Bergson: a very sneaky idea Mickorod ^_^
[13:40] Mickorod Renard: its about choice
[13:40] Finding Nirvana: ahhh
[13:40] herman Bergson: So eventually we have a degree of intersubjectivity
[13:40] Samuel Okelly: we do not "choose" what we believe or have faith in
[13:41] Finding Nirvana: everything is subjective enough to have something in common between them :D
[13:41] Mickorod Renard: we do choose if we believe it
[13:41] Finding Nirvana: we're "alive" that is a facty
[13:41] Finding Nirvana: :D
[13:41] AristotleVon Doobie: I choose not to file somethings as fact until I have experienced it
[13:41] herman Bergson: To state it again....
[13:42] Finding Nirvana: is your fact supposed to be objective, then?
[13:42] Finding Nirvana: ari?
[13:42] herman Bergson: we all have our private we are locked in in our own mind....
[13:42] AristotleVon Doobie: accorindg to Ms Rand facts are the basis of objectivisim
[13:42] herman Bergson: by measurements we get a mutual agreement about values...facts
[13:42] Cailleach Shan: lol sometimes experience can come from 'no mind'
[13:42] Paula Dix: hmmm even if i experience something i have to think a lot before accepting it as a fact :)
[13:43] herman Bergson: Yes Aristrotle, but what are facts?
[13:43] herman Bergson: she doesnt tell
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Paula....reasoning
[13:43] AristotleVon Doobie: the facts are a personal matter, and we each opine what they are
[13:43] herman Bergson: Like the word reason, when we hear the word fact we all think to know what it is all about
[13:43] Finding Nirvana smiles
[13:44] herman Bergson: That..Paula is just renaming your experience
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: many of us exist in a world where we trust in facts,,as they are told as being facts to us by scientists,,so we have faith in what they say
[13:44] Paula Dix: lol hence platos cave?
[13:44] Cailleach Shan: What if there is no such thing as 'facts' what if we just made it all up!!
[13:44] Finding Nirvana: :D
[13:44] Finding Nirvana: There is no spoon
[13:44] Mickorod Renard: or not
[13:44] ChatNoir Talon is so confused :-(
[13:44] Sluggy Easterwood: dictionary says facts are true statements
[13:44] AristotleVon Doobie: Mick, you can not believe everthing you hear ,
[13:45] Finding Nirvana: Bend your mind to bend the spooon
[13:45] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:45] herman Bergson: We did made it all up. Cailleach...
[13:45] Finding Nirvana: :D
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: lol, Clailleach
[13:45] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[13:45] Cailleach Shan: lol
[13:45] Mickorod Renard: exactly,,we have to have faith that someone has tested it
[13:45] Paula Dix: Mick, what we believe is that scientific community will really test the new info and confirm or deny
[13:45] Finding Nirvana: <3 Plato + The Matrix
[13:45] herman Bergson: but by means of intersubjective agreement we have some hold on an external world
[13:45] ChatNoir Talon: >_<
[13:45] Samuel Okelly: you couldnt make some of this stuff up herman ;-)
[13:45] Daruma Boa: keep te faith, oh yes
[13:45] AristotleVon Doobie: keep the reason
[13:45] Mickorod Renard: lots could be conspiracies
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: oooo
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: u want real conspiracy Mickorod?
[13:46] herman Bergson: True Samulel..I used books..:-)
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: watch Zeitgeist
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: some had faith in wall street
[13:46] Paula Dix: Perfect Herman, and science is the best way to get hold of whats real
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: both 2007 and 2008
[13:46] AristotleVon Doobie: we must be skeptical
[13:46] Onasander Belavidorico: facts are something we delegate on a polycentric level authority to- we cooperate with them to the scale our groupings can tolerate until they are codified by law- this is a form of fact- another fact it the brute forceo f reality telling you otherwise
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: um, paula, science started as beliefs as well
[13:46] Mickorod Renard: yea,,seen all that zieder poo
[13:46] Finding Nirvana: lol
[13:46] Onasander Belavidorico: the word fact is deceptive- it's not really one thing
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: I will confirmn ehat is told to me with my own empirical database or as many facts as I can gather
[13:47] herman Bergson: Science still is based on believes
[13:47] Finding Nirvana: indeed
[13:47] Paula Dix: true
[13:47] Mickorod Renard: but you cannot test everything in the world Ari
[13:47] Daruma Boa: hi tammy
[13:47] Paula Dix: like poor wegener was laughed until his death...
[13:47] Samuel Okelly: i think honest introspection informs us that the self is shaped by faith AND reason
[13:47] AristotleVon Doobie: only wht I am confronted with, Mick
[13:47] Finding Nirvana: it's science only when a whole bunmch of egomaniacs asserts that it's "the truth"
[13:47] Tammy Zipper: hi
[13:48] Paula Dix: now everybody talks like they agreed with continental drift forever
[13:48] Daruma Boa: mh, u stand on my legs...
[13:48] Tammy Zipper: thanks qwark
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: it is reasonable to use faith
[13:48] ChatNoir Talon: Faith is just belief in a thought
[13:48] herman Bergson: That is quite a different discussion Samuel
[13:48] Finding Nirvana: what does Faith tell you, people?
[13:48] Finding Nirvana: what does the heart say? :)
[13:48] Birgie Breck: yes Samuel... both faith and reason
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: Egomaniacs Anoymymous
[13:48] Finding Nirvana: to me, that's intuition
[13:48] Hokon Cazalet: its science when we have a method that gives us reliable information time and time again
[13:48] Samuel Okelly: :)
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: the heart?
[13:48] Mickorod Renard: that ayn rand is a dodgy character
[13:48] Cailleach Shan: Faith..... what's that?
[13:48] AristotleVon Doobie: is that like God?
[13:49] Finding Nirvana: metaphorically speaking
[13:49] Qwark Allen: ty herman
[13:49] Finding Nirvana: cuz we all know that the heart just speaks blood
[13:49] herman Bergson: Bye Qwark
[13:49] Daruma Boa: see u later q
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Q-man
[13:49] Paula Dix: faith isnt then a kind of reason? we do some leaps without complete evidences because that looks logical?
[13:49] Rodney Handrick: bye Qwark
[13:49] hope63 Shepherd: bye.q--
[13:49] ChatNoir Talon: Have to go. Thank you Herman. It was a VERY confusing lesson but a really good one! ^^
[13:49] herman Bergson: Ok......
[13:49] Samuel Okelly: thank you herman! tc every1 :)
[13:49] AristotleVon Doobie: how coul faith ever be reasoned?
[13:50] herman Bergson: let's conclude our discussion....
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: thanks, Professor
[13:50] Daruma Boa: thxs herman
[13:50] herman Bergson: there are a few philosopphical questions for you to contemplate...
[13:50] Mickorod Renard: thank you Herman..that was a cool session
[13:50] AristotleVon Doobie: indeed
[13:50] Finding Nirvana: lol chatnoir
[13:50] Rodney Handrick: thanks Herman
[13:50] Finding Nirvana: philosophy is meant to confuse you :P
[13:50] Cailleach Shan: Good one people.
[[13:51] herman Bergson: the first one is that even when accepting an external world, we still are confinded tou our own mind
[13:51] Finding Nirvana: yep
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: yes, Herman, my mind is at the center of the universe
[13:51] Alarice Beaumont: well Ari... if succeed 10 times in doing a special thing... don't you think you got faith in yourself that you can make it an 11. time?!
[13:51] herman Bergson: and second.....what kind of mechanism is reason..and how did we 'discover' it. with what means???
[13:51] Mickorod Renard: I have tested a fair rang of substance
[13:51] AristotleVon Doobie: ahh, Alarice, I call that confidence :)
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: lol
[13:52] Alarice Beaumont: :-)
[13:52] Finding Nirvana: aristotleVon clearly speaks from a human-centric point of view
[13:52] Anja Amaterasu: Danke Professor für die Lehrstunde, aber jetzt muss ich noch schnell meinen neue Mammi besuchen und dann schell schlafen gehen
[13:52] Finding Nirvana: :)
[13:52] Paula Dix: Ona science is forever a work in progress, never says all answers are there
[13:52] AristotleVon Doobie: thanks Finding :)
[13:52] Daruma Boa: lol
[13:52] Hokon Cazalet: i find the second question the most interesting one =)
[13:52] Daruma Boa: grüss schön anja^^
[13:52] Finding Nirvana: you're welcome
[13:52] Anja Amaterasu: =)))
[13:52] Onasander Belavidorico: some do say all the anwsers are there
[13:52] Hokon Cazalet: ty herman for the class
[13:52] Finding Nirvana: man.... i miss my philosophy class in RL
[13:52] Mickorod Renard: reason,,,mmmmmmm
[13:52] Finding Nirvana: fun talking about "what is ethics?"
[13:53] herman Bergson: My pleasure ..thank you for participating...:-)
[[13:53] herman Bergson: Next class will be on Rand Ethics
[13:53] Mickorod Renard: thanks herman..i will ponder over reason
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: i mean, i can't say that i haven't heard of this before ^_^"
[13:53] Alarice Beaumont: great .-)
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: tho
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: i must admit
[13:53] Ze Novikov: ty Herman
[13:53] Daruma Boa: why do humans alwasy searching for something??
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: that it's nice to hear Rand in details
[13:53] CONNIE Eichel: lovely class, prof :)
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: details*
[13:53] Onasander Belavidorico: thanks for the class
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: Daruma
[13:53] Finding Nirvana: because we uh
[13:54] Finding Nirvana: "think"
[13:54] herman Bergson: thank you CONNIE :-)
[13:54] Mickorod Renard: ok must go,,bye all
[13:54] Paula Dix: Oh, dont trust militars, they have a department called Intelligence! :)))
[13:54] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:54] Finding Nirvana: that's the problem
[13:54] Finding Nirvana: :D
[13:54] AristotleVon Doobie: bye Mick

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

No comments:

Post a Comment