Posts Tagged ‘rand’


In critical rationalism, fallibilism, fideism on 11/07/2011 at 5:50 am

Over at Ayn Rand Contra Human Nature, Daniel Barnes (who I understand is at least sympathetic to critical rationalism) provides the following quotation from Rand:

“Don’t be so sure—nobody can be certain of anything.” Bertrand Russell’s gibberish to the contrary notwithstanding, that pronouncement includes itself; therefore, one cannot be sure that one cannot be sure of anything. The pronouncement means that no knowledge of any kind is possible to man, i.e., that man is not conscious. Furthermore, if one tried to accept that catch phrase, one would find that its second part contradicts its first: if nobody can be certain of anything, then everybody can be certain of everything he pleases—since it cannot be refuted, and he can claim he is not certain he is certain (which is the purpose of that notion). (Ayn Rand, “Philosophical Detection”, Philosophy: Who Needs It? p.14)

Barnes provides a subjectivist account of the comprehensively critical rationalist’s response, but it should be objectified to explain its true strength: talking about the status of mental states tells us nothing about the epistemological status of statements. Is the statement “Nobody can be certain of anything,” when rephrased as “We cannot know of any statement as justified” justified, true, or believed?

Someone may in due time develop a powerful objection to the statement, but so far none have been raised and survived even the most superficial criticism. If some statement is found that is known to be justified, then the sentence would be false. This negates the first criteria of justification.

It’s then permissible to adopt the statement as true. Adopting a statement as true, provisionally as it may be, does not make the statement true. This means that we cannot know (in the sense of having sufficient reasons) that the statement is true. The statement is then not self-refuting, but a conjecture about a critical failure in justificationist theories of knowledge: they are dealing with a pseudo-problem, a ‘false consciousness’ about ‘knowledge.’

It is not my duty to justify conjectures, for the conjecture asserts that very impossibility. To anyone that adopts the conjecture, according to their own lights, such an activity would be a waste of time, for it is prima facie absurd. It is my duty, and the duty of others, to criticize conjectures.

I do believe the statement is true, in much the same way I believe that I exist, but my beliefs, my psychological states, are unimportant–truth is primary.


Rand’s Misunderstanding of Philosophy Post-Kant

In rand on 21/06/2011 at 3:28 am


Dykes begins his next ‘assault’ on CR with

If it is true that our senses are pre-programmed; if it is true that ‘there is no sense organ in which anticipatory theories are not genetically incorporated’; then what flows into our minds is determined and what flows out of them is subjective. … Since it is ultimately the product of the pre-programmed interpretation of the data which entered Popper’s mind, CR is a theory which can only be applied to Popper. According to his own view of his contact with reality, he would not be able to verify the relevance of CR to anybody else (§3,¶3).

Yes, if Kant is correct in making a distinction between the phenomenal and noumenal, then there could be no such thing as direct and unmediated communication, utterly free creation of theories, and so on. What of it? Does that make CR, or any other post-Kantian stance for that matter, incorrect?

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Rand’s Problem with the Problem of Induction

In induction, rand on 21/06/2011 at 3:16 am


By careful observation – free from preconception – we are able to discover the identities of the entities we observe. Thereafter, we are fully entitled to assume that like entities will cause like events, the form of inference we call induction. And, because it rests on the axiom of the Law of Identity, correct induction – free from contradiction – is a valid route to knowledge. (¶ 11)

I must address this paragraph, line by line: “By careful observation – free from preconception – we are able to discover the identities of the entities we observe.” (¶ 11) The assumption that we may have unmediated observation, ‘free from preconception’, is just that: an assumption that such an observation may take place. From what we know in neuroscience and basic biology, it appears that all sensory qualities we have are not in any way immediate. It is dubious, to say the least, that it is possible to observe ‘free from preconception’, for it would require a mind wiped clean even of its structure, and perhaps eliminating all its previous content. Simply put, the mind is not in any way a blank slate. To counter the fact that it is impossible to know if one is observing ‘free from preconception’ by declaring that we have observation ‘free from preconception’ is absurd.

Thus, Dykes must first argue that observation is ‘free from preconception,’ and that we may come to know which observations are ‘free from preconception’ and which observations are not.

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Rand’s Law of Identitiy

In induction, rand on 21/06/2011 at 2:59 am

I’ve learned very few truly valuable things in life. I won’t list them all, and they may be repugnant or less than valuable to some, but I will list one: argument is not about winning. If you win an argument, you lose. Arguments are about getting closer, no matter how hard they are, to the truth. Of course, I choose not to go into a lengthy argument about why this is the case, simply because I’m not out to convert anyone.

That said, there are times that I see arguments that are just wrong. In these cases, I do not mean to say that their conclusions are therefore false, only that the argument is fallacious — not manifestly so, as is often the case. Some times the wrongness is hidden deep within, and only by prying carefully at the edges can we get a glimpse at where the argument runs afoul.

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