The following is my review of the section regarding metaphysics and epistemology in Ryan Hedrich’s A Systematic Refutation of Objectivism.
I began my reading of Hedrich’s essay with one prediction: This whole debate is going to fall back on the confusions in Christian Neoplatonism and Occam’s Razor brought into the history of Western Philosophy. Namely, Western philosophy fundamentally conflates a noun and a verb. That is, they think that actions are things or nouns/beings. This is a holdover of the Neoplatonic influence on Christianity where God is absolutely simple. Thus being, will and activity must be totally conflated. My prediction was satisfied methinks.
“For instance, Rand emphasized that “Man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, his only source of information”
>>>But are we all working off the same definition of reality? By reality does she mean man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with nouns/beings? Is she limiting reality to only nouns/beings? Are we to believe that verbs or actions are not real? And does Hedrich and his influences, Clark and Robbins, even make that distinction?
Let these questions remain at the back of your mind as we proceed.
Hedrich points out that Rand baselessly rejected empiricism. Hedrich states,
>>>We must always take into consideration how we view sensory means. Are we to believe that sensation has nothing to do with knowledge? Even Hedrich’s tradition, which I used to be a part of, admits that sensation is the occasion in which knowledge is attained. It still acts as an instrumental cause. So we must also deal with this issue:
When we refer to our philosophy’s means of knowledge, what kind of cause are we referring to? Material, Formal, Efficient, Instrumental? Which one?
Hedrich’s main arguments against Rand are as follows,
- “Though physicalism is what one might anticipate, Rand actually distinguished matter from volitional consciousness, equating to the latter to man’s soul or spirit. This raises an interesting question: how is one able to sense his conscious, free will? Even if “the validity of the senses must be taken for granted,” unless a volitional consciousness can be tasted, touched, heard, seen, or smelled – not merely unnecessarily inferred from the alleged effects thereof – self-knowledge would apparently be impossible. ”
- “One ramification is that no observation of the physical world can warrant belief in the following precondition for knowledge: “propositions may be true.”
And again on the issue of innate forms,
- “Moreover, if truth, knowledge, and language are creations of man, they must have been the creations of a particular man who Rand would have argued was born with a blank mind.[FN Ayn Rand, Return of the Primitive, pg. 54. Rand explained the Lockean theory of tabula rasa by using the following metaphor to describe a newborn: “…he has a camera with an extremely sensitive, unexposed film (his conscious mind), and an extremely complex computer waiting to be programmed (his subconscious). Both are blank.” Other statements by Rand herself show the faultiness of this theory: “A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something.” Atlas Shrugged, pg. 942.] This would make communication impossible, as no two individuals could ever verify that the differences in their experiences and sensations are negligible to the meanings each attaches to some word[s]. Of course, as Rand’s was not even able to demonstrate how she could know herself, she certainly could not have known any other consciousnesses.”
- “Interestingly, however, Rand denied the existence of abstractions.[ FN “Remember that abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists – and that which exists is concrete.” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23). Under what conditions could an abstract proposition be true, given that truth is recognition of reality and abstractions do not exist in reality?”] How can abstractions be formed yet be said not to exist? “To exist is to possess identity,”and as abstractions certainly possess identity, it is unclear what reason can be offered as to why Rand would have rejected the “existence” of abstractions apart from the fact her empirical epistemology could not account for them.”
>>>This is where I think my contributions to the history of philosophy become significant. I have spent my youth studying the philosophical blunders of Christian Neoplatonism. In this time I have seen the fundamental issue is Occam’s ridiculous notion of smashing categories of language together in order to gain clarity! Specifically the noun-verb conflation. I stand between both Hedrich’s Platonism and Rand’s Aristotelianism. I maintain that abstractions are activities;verbs, not nouns. Hedrich is right and Rand is right. While at the same time both being wrong. Thinking is the activity of a mind. Thoughts are not things/nouns/beings. Thoughts are verbs. This is what both Hedrich and Rand miss and continue the endless task of solving Western philosophical turmoil. Abstractions are real to buttress Hedrich, but no, they are not nouns to buttress Rand. Hedrich’s Platonist tradition has fooled us into thinking ideas are things. Rand’s Aristotelian tradition has fooled us into thinking that only nouns are real.
- “There is also quite a bit of irony in the idea Objectivists do not think abstractions exist. There can be no more fundamental or well-known Objectivist axiomatic concept than Rand’s mantra that “existence exists.” But as a concept, “existence” is an abstraction, and Rand said abstractions as such do not exist. So, after all, existence as such does not exist.”
>>>I agree with Hedrich’s affirmation that propositions are the only objects of knowledge. I agree with Hedrich’s affirmation of innate forms. That is, I believe that Yah has created man’s brain with innate forms in his thinking. But, and this is a recent development, I can no longer maintain the doctrine of the ghost in the shell. I cannot believe that the innate forms are cosmic platonic ideas floating around in some ghost trapped inside my body (Pace Gnosticism). To be frank, I cannot see how even the Scripturalist view of innate forms requires the ghost in the shell. Crampton states,
“Rather, as noted above, the senses apparently stimulate the mind of man to intellectual intuition, to recollect the God-given innate ideas that man already possesses. Gordon Clark used the illustration of a piece of paper on which is written a message in invisible ink. The paper (by illustration, the mind) might appear blank, but in actuality it is not. When the heat of experience is applied to the mind (as when heat is applied to the paper), the message becomes visible. Human knowledge, then, is possible only because God has endowed man with certain innate ideas.”
I would simply ask the Scripturalists to account for the paper. My account is man’s physical brain and his dna.
I believe the ghost in the shell doctrine to be a holdover of Christian Neoplatonism. Milton,Bacchiocchi, and my brilliant friend Joshua Poore broke me of this idea:
I request my readers to search the use of the word Nephesh H5314, in the Tanach and you will see that the Nephesh is man’s physical life encompassing the complexity of man’s faculties. It is not a ghost in the shell. The use of the word in the Greek TRANSLATION of the New Covenant, psyche G5594, means the physical life encompassing the complexity of man’s faculties, the breath of life or the mind/thinking of man. There is not a single mention of a ghost in the shell or a light being. Thus, and I know this is going to drive the Clarkians crazy, I believe the brain to be essential to thinking.
Dialog With a Randian,
“(1) Is [Rand] limiting reality to only nouns/beings? Are we to believe that verbs or actions are not real?
She would say objects and the actions of objects are both real.”
>>>Then she should have said abstractions exist which she denies as we shall see. Moreover, then she is not an Aristotelian and thus she is not a classical Empiricist because Aristotle took Genus, an abstraction, out of the category of substance. Thus abstractions are not real.
Book 7 Part 4
“Nothing, then, which is not a species of a genus will have an essence-only species will have it”
Book 7 Part 12
“If then the genus absolutely does not exist apart from the species-of-a-genus”
“The species is more truly real than the genus because it is more closely related to individual things: In answer to the question, What? more information is conveyed by stating the species than by stating the genus. To be told that the thing growing out of the ground is an olive is more satisfying than to be told that it is a plant.”(Clark refers the reader to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, 1042a21, 1053b 21 “where genus is removed from the category of substance”) Thales to Dewey, pg. 95-96
As it cashes out in the end, Rand is just confused.
“(2) Rand is indeed a “classical empiricist”
>>>Actually she makes very clear that the classical empiricist is a savage Attila and clearly departs from him as we shall see shortly.
“as Hedrich says here “…confirms her to have been a classical empiricist.”
>>>That is a verdict of logic concerning one statement Rand made, not a quotation of Rand. In the end Rand doesn’t know what she is but confused.
“Yet strangley you write: “…Rand baselessly rejected empiricism…”
>>>Rand clearly distanced herself from Classical Empiricism:
For The New Intellectual: The Philosophy Of Ayn Rand,
“To negate man’s mind, it is the conceptual level of his consciousness that has to be invalidated. Under all the tortuous complexities, contradictions, equivocations, rationalizations of the post-Renaissance philosophy—the one consistent line, the fundamental that explains the rest, is: a concerted attack on man’s conceptual faculty. Most philosophers did not intend to invalidate conceptual knowledge, but its defenders did more to destroy it than did its enemies. They were unable to offer a solution to the “problem of universals,” that is: to define the nature and source of abstractions, to determine the relationship of concepts to perceptual data—and to prove the validity of scientific induction. Ignoring the lead of Aristotle, who had not left them a full answer to the problem, but had shown the direction and the method by which the answer could be found, the philosophers were unable to refute the Witch Doctor’s claim that their concepts were as arbitrary as his whims and that their scientific knowledge had no greater metaphysical validity than his revelations.
The philosophers chose to solve the problem by conceding the Witch Doctor’s claim and by surrendering to him the conceptual level of man’s consciousness—a victory no Witch Doctor could have hoped to achieve on his own. The form of that absurd concession was the philosophers’ ultimate division into two camps: those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts (the Rationalists)—and those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts (the Empiricists). To put it more simply: those who joined the Witch Doctor, by abandoning reality—and those who clung to reality, by abandoning their mind.
Thus reason was pushed off the philosophical scene, by default, by implication, by evasion. What had started as a serious problem between two camps of serious thinkers soon degenerated to the level where nothing was left on the field of philosophy but a battle between Witch Doctors and Attila-ists.”
>>>So here we see that she is distancing herself from the two main groups of philosophy: The Rationalists dubbed Witch Doctors and the Empiricists dubbed Attila-ists.
“It is only the Attila-ist, pragmatist, positivist, anti-conceptual mentality—which grants no validity to abstractions, no meaning to principles and no power to ideas”
So here she even defines Atilla-ism precisely as Classical Empiricism.
“The New Intellectual will be the man who lives up to the exact meaning of his title: a man who is guided by his intellect—not a zombie guided by feelings, instincts, urges, wishes, whims or revelations. Ending the rule of Attila and the Witch Doctor, he will discard the basic premise that made them possible: the soul-body dichotomy.”
“The New Intellectuals must assume the task of building a new culture on a new moral foundation, which, for once, will not be the culture of Attila and the Witch Doctor, but the culture of the Producer.”
So on pages 43 and 46 she clearly distances herself from Classical Empiricism.
(3) You ask: “Are we to believe that sensation has nothing to do with knowledge?” Rand holds that sensation is the foundational base of all knowledge.
>>>That was a question to Ryan not to you/Rand.
“(4) Hedrich asks: “…how is one able to sense his conscious, free will?” Directly or austensively. Rand argues (and I agree) that consciousness is a necessary precondition of all demonstrations, proof, validation, etc. Without consciousness non of these concepts have meaning, in fact, no concepts have meaning. She holds the existence of consciousness as a basic axiom.”
>>>I agree which is why I can’t believe in Empiricism. What you just argued for is innate forms admitting that there is a means to knowledge other than the classic 5 senses.
(5) You write: “self-knowledge would apparently be impossible…” She contends that self knowledge is indeed possible.
>>>That was Ryan speaking and he did not mean that he believed self-knowledge to be impossible, but on the Empiricist theory it is impossible. It was an ad hominem argument.
(6) Hedrich writes: “One ramification is that no observation of the physical world can warrant belief in the following precondition for knowledge: “propositions may be true.” Rand contends that some propositions are true and some are false.
>>>That is ad hoc reasoning. Based on what? If experience is necessary for all knowledge then Ryan’s point stands.
(7) Hedrich writes: “…if truth, knowledge, and language are creations of man…” This is called Nominalism (namism) and Rand is not a Nominalist. She contends that concepts (and therefore prepostions & language) are caused by an interaction between man’s mind interacting with reality.
>>>You chopped up his statement. That statement was directed at Rand’s Tabula Rasa.
(8) Hedrich writes: “…Rand would have argued was born with a blank mind…” This is true, Rand agrees with Aristotle (not from Locke originally) that man’s mind is blank at birth (“Tablua Rasa”).
>>>You avoided the main argument of that paragraph:
“This would make communication impossible, as no two individuals could ever verify that the differences in their experiences and sensations are negligible to the meanings each attaches to some word[s]. Of course, as Rand’s was not even able to demonstrate how she could know herself, she certainly could not have known any other consciousnesses.”
You did not deal with this argument.
(9) You write: “…as Rand’s was not even able to demonstrate how she could know herself…” Of all of the philosophers in the history of philosophy such a statement was neverl less true. Rand has a sophisticated theory of concept formation which is in her book that I sent you a link to called “Introduction to the Objectivist Epistemology.” I don’t think you can evaluate it properly without reading it. From the quotes from you site from Return of the Primative and Hedrich neither shows signs of grasping her theory.
>>>That is an assertion not an argument. And you avoided the quotation Hedrich gave you from her own work:
“Remember that abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists – and that which exists is concrete.” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23)
I would have to tell a deliberate lie if I said Rand believed abstractions do exist, if she just said “abstractions as such do not exist”.
“(10) Hedrich writes: “…Rand denied the existence of abstractions…” She most certainly did no such thing.”
>>>Unbelievable! I’ll quote it again,
“Remember that abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists – and that which exists is concrete.” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23)
You are deceiving yourself.
“She, in fact, gave the first fully this-worldly explanation of abstractions/concepts. In the quote where she says that abstractions don’t exist what she means is simply that there is no object that you can touch, for example, that is “man-ness,” “feline,” or canine” there are only particular men, cat’s or dogs that we can touch. She is not denying that man uses abstractions/concepts to apprehend reality.”
>>>Then she is making the exact same conflation that Christian Neoplatonism has made for so many centuries: the noun-verb conflation.
“You write: “…I maintain that abstractions are activities; verbs, not nouns…” Rand too contends that concept formation is a (mental) process or action and not a thing (noun).”
>>>Then it exists, directly contrary to her admission that they do not exist and only concrete things exist. You stated, “She would say objects and the actions of objects are both real”. Obviously not. If concrete things are the only things that exist then only nouns/being exist just as I predicted.
I am not trying to blow my horn too loud here but I think I have fingered the issue that solves all of the disagreements in the history of Philosophy. Call me a looney tune, but my prediction on this issue keeps vindicating itself every single time I have a debate about hard core metaphysics.
“(11) You write: “…Rand’s Aristotelian tradition has fooled us into thinking that only nouns are real…”
No where does she say that only nouns or things are real and that processes are not real.”
>>> Rand, “that which exists is concrete.” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23)”
(12) Hedrich: “There is also quite a bit of irony in the idea Objectivists do not think abstractions exist..”
I’ve been in the Objectivist movement since I was 16 and I NEVER have encountered a single person, much less any spokesmen for Rand’s ideas contending that abstractions to do not exist.”
>>>”Remember that abstractions as such do not exist” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23)
Please stop playing a game with your life miss.
(13) Hedrich: “…But as a concept, “existence” is an abstraction, and Rand said abstractions as such do not exist…” I’ve already addressed this above, but again, we can’t taste, touch, hear, see or smell canine-ness only particular canines. She does believe abstractions exist. To understand her you’d need to read her epistemology.
>>>If I said Ayn Rand believes abstractions exist after she says ”Remember that abstractions as such do not exist” (The Romantic Manifesto, pg. 23) I would be lying to myself and to everyone I said that to.
(14) You write: “I agree with Hedrich’s affirmation of innate forms…” This is precisely what Rand denies, i.e., Plato’s explanation of universals or abstractions as existing in another dimension (aka: The World of Forms).
>>>I don’t follow Plato and I explained why. He conflates nouns and verbs.
(15) You write: “I believe that Yahuwah has created man’s brain with innate forms in his thinking…” This is Augustine’s combining of Plato and mysticism.
>>>No it is not. Augustine believed that people think with their souls not their brains. Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin (Book IV) Chapter 25 [XVII.]— The Disembodied Soul May Think of Itself Under a Bodily Form,
You must not, however, suppose that I say all this as if denying it to be possible that the soul of a dead man, like a personasleep, may think either good or evil thoughts in the similitude of his body. For, in dreams, when we suffer anything harsh and troublesome, we are, of course, still ourselves; and if the distress do not pass away when we awake, we experience very great suffering. But to suppose that they are veritable bodies in which we are hurried, or flit, about here and there indreams, is the idea of a person who has thought only carelessly on such subjects; for it is in fact mainly by these imaginarysights that the soul is proved to be non-corporeal; unless you choose to call even the objects which we see so often in ourdreams, besides ourselves, bodies, such as the sky, the earth, the sea, the sun, the moon, the stars, and rivers, mountains, trees, or animals. Whoever takes these phantoms to be bodies, is incredibly foolish; although they are certainly very like bodies. Of this character also are those phenomena which are demonstrably of divine significance, whether seen in dreams or in a trance. Who can possibly trace out or describe their origin, or the material of which they consist? It is, beyond question,spiritual, not corporeal. Now things of this kind, which look like bodies, but are not really corporeal, are formed in the thoughts of persons when they are awake, and are held in the depths of their memories, and then out of these secret recesses, by some wonderful and ineffable process, they come out to view in the operation of our memory, and present themselves as if palpably before our eyes. If, therefore, the soul were a material body, it could not possibly contain so many things and such large forms of bodily substances in its scope of thought, and in the spaces of its memory; for, according to your own definition, it does not exceed this external body in its own corporeal substance. Possessing, therefore, no magnitude of its own, what capacity has it to hold the images of vast bodies, spaces, and regions? What wonder is it, then, if it actually itself appears to itself in the likeness of its own body, even when it appears without a body? For it never appears to itself in dreams with its own body; and yet in the very similitude of its own body it runs here and there throughknown and unknown places, and beholds many sad and joyous sights. I suppose, however, that you really would not, yourself, be so bold as to maintain that there is true corporeity in that form of limb and body which the soul seems to itself to possess in dreams. For at that rate that will be a real mountain which it appears to ascend; and that a material house which it seems to enter; and that a veritable tree, with real wood and bulk, beneath which it apparently reclines; and that actual water which it imagines itself to drink. All the things with which it is conversant, as if they were corporeal, would be undoubted bodies, if the soul were itself corporeal, as it ranges about among them all in the likeness of a body.
“He and other Neoplatonists take Plato’s “World of Forms” and turn it into a divine consciousness, or personality, and say that this is where man gets universals/abstractions – from the mind of God.”
>>>Which is a confusion of nouns and verbs.
(16) Crampton: “…the senses apparently stimulate the mind of man to intellectual intuition, to recollect the God-given innate ideas that man already possesses…” This is straight Platonism except for the fact that these forms or innate ideas are in the mind of God instead of in another dimension where Plato placed them.
>>>No it is not. On my view the innate form is in the physical brain. There is no cosmic abstraction floating around in a ghost in the shell. I made that really, really clear.
(17) Crampton: “…Human knowledge, then, is possible only because God has endowed man with certain innate ideas.” Rand, (like Aristotle regarding many things in nature when he says simply “thus it is so constituted”), would simply say that man’s mind has this ability to gain knowledge”
>>>Which has already proven to be ad hoc and baseless.
“and that we add nothing to our understanding of this fact by claiming that God created this aspect of man’s nature.”
>>>The Bible is not a book on metaphysics. I don’t claim to understand every little thing about the world. That is a Greco-Roman mindset. It is not a Hebrew mindset. The Hebrew mindset is that the creator spoke with some men in the past and they wrote those things down in a book. That is knowledge. This book tells us how to live our lives. We are judged by our works, not on how well we understand metaphysics. Your position is gnostic in that you are seeking some mental state that will liberate your soul from the lower physical prison of matter.
On the anarchy question: Rand says in the same work page 47,
“b. This second principle represents one’s basic rejection of Attila’s psycho-epistemology. To claim the right to initiate the use of physical force against another man—the right to compel his agreement by the threat of physical destruction—is to evict oneself automatically from the realm of rights, of morality and of the intellect. Perhaps the most obscene legacy of altruism among modern intellectuals is their axiomatic acceptance of brute force and of somebody’s sacrifice as a normal and necessary part of a human society, and their refusal to consider the possibility of a non-sacrificial, non-compulsory co-existence and co-operation among men. Observe that they cannot conceive of “selfishness” except in terms of sacrificing others to oneself, and they cannot conceive of anyone who does not regard such sacrificing as to his own interest This, of course, is a psychological confession about the nature of their own desires and about the Attila in their souls. When they declare that they see no difference between economic power and political power—which means: no difference between an employer and a holdup man, no difference between the United States and Soviet Russia—they are confessing a Witch Doctor’s abject fear of reality, which makes them equate a Producer with an Attila.”
>>>First notice a rejection of Atilla. Representing classical empiricism. Second, these principles demand anarchism and really the moral condemnation of humanity. Both government and the human family require compulsion. Children do not chose to exist. They do not choose their childhood environment. Children do not choose their citizenship. Children do not choose the language they speak. They do not choose their educational curriculum. All these things are forced on them and necessarily so. Nature demands Fascism. Thus am I.