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Monday, April 11, 2005

The third way

I don't know how many times I have read the presuppositionalists complaint "I am beginning to wonder if any of you that post here have ever read philosophy." This complaint comes in many forms. It is an accusation that since our ethics, concept formation, views on metaphysics etc are different from the dominant fields of philosophy we are in some way ignorant. It is not that we do not know of these things it is that we have rejected them in favor of what we think is an objective or consistently conceptual view of existence that is neither subjective nor intrinsicist.

I am going to quote Leonard Peikoff at length [gasp] because I think he has a section in his book on "The Good" which will explain the above. [Hopefully he will not come after me for some kind of copyright infirngement...] When I read remarks like that a couple of questions come into my mind.

1. Is this a complaint that we really don't know something about what the presuppositionalist is saying [or the field of philosophy at large has said] or
2. is it that ours is the first logically constructed philosophy that creates a real problem for their argument.

OPAR - Chapter on "The Good"
"Conventional moralists hold that ethics flows from arbitrary acts of consciousness, whether divine or human, social or personal. Such ethical codes express the primacy-of-consciousness metaphysics. Objectivism, because it upholds an objective theory of value, is the first ehtics in history to express consistently the primacy of existence.

The intrinsicist school holds that values, like universals or essences, are features of reality independent of consciousness (and of life). The good, accordingly, is divorced from goals, consequences, and beneficiaries. The good is not good to anybody or for anything; it is good in itself. One can come to know such an object only by the standard intrinsicist means: mystic insight. Thereafter, one "just knows" good and evil; one knows them automatically and infalibly, without benefit of any cognitive method.

Although it purports to discover vlaues in external reality, intrinsicism actually cuts the tie between values and reality. By divorcing value from purpose and beneficiary, the theory makes value-judgements pointless and arbitrary. Why then should men concern themselves with ehtical isssues? The most common intrinsicist answer is: God (or some equivalent, like Kant's noumenal self) has issued commandments, and it is man's duty to obey them."

Peikoff then discusses duty and obedience to some other "higher authority." Such morality is divorced from any "personal goal, motive, desire or interest." He then goes on to say that Kant's system of morality labeled man as "amoral" when he acts to acheive his own values.

Peikoff continues by saying that a duty ethics "detaches virtues from values, it offers man no guidance in the job of living." The everyday dealings for human existence - "the daily decisions men must make in regard to goals such as work, love, friendship, freedom, happiness - all this, for the intrinsicist, is beside the point. Ethics, he believes, defines man's obligations to the supernatural; it transcends what the vulgar call "real life."

Real life, however, remains a fact. It continues to demand a specific course of action - of rational, selfish action - which the duty advocates no only ignore but seek to countermand. The result is a moral code that is worse than useless, a code that dooms man to an unendurable dichotomy: virtue versus pleasure, one's character versus one's welfare, the moral versus the practical, ethics versus survival."

Peikoff goes on to discuss the subjectivist school. There are two camps of the subjectivist school of ethics - the social and the personal. The first follows the arbitrary whims of society - the second follows the arbitrary whims of the person. As Peikoff says "To secularize an error is still to commit it."

The third way:
"Just as concepts do not represent intrinsic features of reality, but presuppose a mind that performs a certain process of integration, so values are not intrinsic features of reality. Value requries a valuer - and moral value, therefore, preupposes a certain kind of estimate made by man; it presupposes an act of evaluation. Such an act, as we know, is possible only because man faces a fundamental alternative."

As concept formation is to reality values are to man's life. Concept formation, if done with the purpose of categorizing reality, becomes an objective process so too do values become objective if the purpose or goal of man's life is to live. This does not entail the personal subjectivist approach that seeks to "cheat, crush, or enslave the rest of mankind before they do it to him." Each man qua man has this potential - to apply force to another is to subvert one's own life and become a slave to him.

So why can't they understand?

Because the entire field of ethics is dominated by the school of duty bound morality. The conceptualist approach is quite new and is usually looked down upon. As Peikoff says later "One school then claims to have received such a message, [from beyond] while the other, rejecting this claim, throws out the whole field as noncognitive." The presuppositionalists seem to have only studied - or at least only adhere to - the philosophical schools that mirror their own thoughts. Both schools are bankrupt - both divorce ethics from man. They can't - or won't - grasp it because it places their entire argument into the trash bin with all the rest of the failed arguments for God.

Quotes Selected from "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" pages 241-247

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14 Comments:

At 4/11/2005 11:58 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Nice post, Cadman!

And that book you quoted is on my Amazon wish list. Sweet!

I think you are right, and that quote you typed up describes it nicely. One of the many problems with theists in their denouncing of objectivism, is that they misunderstand the part of objectivism that demands action.

A theist thinks, and insists, that we are reduced to doing whatever fool thing we want on a whim, including hurting people, and its "moral" because one wants to do it. This is of course a mistake.

An objectivist thinks that we should apply reason and science to the choices we make in life so that we make the best possible or moral choice. An objectivist thinks that the best moral choice in a given situation is going to be the same regardless of whether the chooser in question properly identifies that choice or not. The important part is that the objectivist must apply reason and science to analyse the possible choices and their outcomes, in order to make that best, or most moral, choice.

 
At 4/12/2005 12:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous declaimed...

well, you are confusing epistemology with metaphysics, that's one reason. It's not so much not agreeing with other philosophies but it is not even understanding basic terms and issues

 
At 4/12/2005 12:26 AM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

Care to set us all straight then anonymous? Support your assertion.

From this site:

http://www.whatisobjectivism.com/
explained/index.htm

* What is the fundamental nature of reality ? Is reality dependent on our minds, or independent of our minds ? (metaphysics)

* How can we acquire knowledge, and what is the nature of this knowledge ? (epistemology)

How is objectivism confusing metaphysics and epistemology? I put it up here for you on the chopping block, now chop!

 
At 4/12/2005 12:28 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

anonymous:
well, you are confusing epistemology with metaphysics, that's one reason.

... because the basic terms and issues are bankrupt. They get us nowhere. Metaphysics should look to our broadest descriptions of what reality is or appears to be. Here is a paragraph from my "Battle of worldviews" blog post that ended upon on the cutting room floor.

To further explain the idea of how things “really are” let’s turn our attention to current quantum physics. I will not pretend to understand these theories however there have been attempts by many objectivists to criticize them because they appear to promote the idea that reality is created by our minds – or some such banter. It is my contention that they miss the point of the foundational axioms with such a complaint. Quantum physics is dealing with particles that are described as “non-local.” Existence and Identity as axioms are not concerned with temporality – it is only when a conscious subject turns his attention upon an object that temporality comes into play. The fact that science is pointing in the direction of “non-local” entities should not concern us as being anti-thetical to foundationalism but rather encouraging. It is a form of “justification” that our foundational axioms are indeed based upon reality. Identity is a link between non-local existence and local existence as viewed by a subject. In this case we can quote Peikoff by saying “Existence is Identity and Consciousness is Identification.” As far as our human scale of observation can take us to point is that materiality is based upon “non-local” particles that in some way give rise to local entities.

Things exist and must exist in some way - Identity - this does not speak of how they "are now." It is only when my mind focuses upon an object that reality takes on a temporal component. Our foundational axioms have a firm footing. But as metaphysics based upon realist and nominalist approaches have shown us - they end up getting us disconnected from reality.

 
At 4/12/2005 12:31 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Anonymous
It's not so much not agreeing with other philosophies but it is not even understanding basic terms and issues

It is also my belief that many times when people think they are doing metaphysics they are really doing epistemology...

 
At 4/12/2005 7:59 AM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

I would like to clarify my comments on quantum physics for in one sense I seem to be playing into the hands of the intrinsicists complaint about reality as it "really is." I inserted it "as is" and some clarification is in order.

The comment was made that obejctivism - or conceptualists [I say this because I am not fully commited to the "Randists" philosophy] are not taken seriously because they do not understand the fundamental issues.

It was my intent to show that metaphysics needs to be broad brush strokes on how reality appears to be. We need to ask what the purpose of metaphysics within the broader question of what the purpose of philosophy is. The purpose of philosophy - according to a conceptualist approach - is to help us understand how to live - our metaphysics, then, should not be attempting to tell us what "really is" but rather what are the broadest principles on how reality appears to be. This allows for the bridge to connect our metaphysics to our epistemology. Current metaphysics intermingles physics or science - which in the end creates problems as science changes with what we know about reality the philosophy constructed on top falls flat.

My intent was also to show that conceptualist metaphysics accomplishes just that - broad strokes about reality that can include objects that appear as "non - local." If there comes a day when scientists discover a way to explain quantum physics in terms that give these particles "solid attributes" we will only push things back another notch - finding things that once again seem to defy attributes. So the conceptualist metaphysics continues doing its job.

Discussions on entities, particulars, universals, properties, predication in language are all matters of epistemology due to the nature of a conscious subject focusing on reality.

As an example: predication in language.
Predication in language is usually assumed to mean predication in reality. This "assumed fact" is what gives rise to the many examples of bad metaphysics.

 
At 4/12/2005 10:22 AM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

When apologists try to heckle non-believers with statements like "I am beginning to wonder if any of you that post here have ever read philosophy," ask them how many philosophy books one needs to have read in order to have a good understanding of philosophy. Then ask if Jesus read that many books.

CADman wrote: "It is an accusation that since our ethics, concept formation, views on metaphysics etc are different from the dominant fields of philosophy we are in some way ignorant."

Correct. It's an attempt to infer from the fact that we reject bad ideas (which are commonly accepted in academia, for instance) that we must therefore have no firsthand understanding of the ideas we are rejecting. But of course, they leave such inferences implicit and simply level the charge as if it were self-evidently true, even though it's just another non sequitur. It's just one of many tactics intended to malign non-believers for their non-belief, specifically those who adhere to a rational system of philosophy. Since they have no positive rational ideas to offer in place of ours, perhaps their animosity is fueled by a jealousy that torments them.

I've visited many churches in my day, and they're filled mostly with people who couldn't spell David Hume, let alone have any familiarity with his writings.

 
At 4/12/2005 5:12 PM, Blogger 'Thought & Humor' declaimed...

Thought I would stop in to say, "Hi"!!!

Howdy
'Thought & Humor'
http://ilovehowdy.blogspot.com/

 
At 4/13/2005 1:37 PM, Blogger Mark Kodak declaimed...

BB said:
"When apologists try to heckle non-believers with statements like "I am beginning to wonder if any of you that post here have ever read philosophy," ask them how many philosophy books one needs to have read in order to have a good understanding of philosophy. Then ask if Jesus read that many books."

I only ask the question to those who talk as if they have read philosophy, when indeed, their use of philosophic terms suffers from aphasia.

Jesus spoke with authority and spoke the truth. He did not need philosophy.

 
At 4/13/2005 3:12 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

Mark: "Jesus...did not need philosophy."

Human beings have a profound need for philosophy, Mark. It is what enables them to live. But since Jesus never lived, I see your point.

 
At 4/13/2005 5:23 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

Do the gospels even claim Jesus spoke anything new on ethics that hadn't already been spoken by someone else...

 
At 4/13/2005 5:46 PM, Blogger Bahnsen Burner declaimed...

The point seems to be that Christians seem to think there's a need to act AS IF Jesus taught something unique and wondrous, even though virtually none of his moral teachings were original.

 
At 4/13/2005 6:16 PM, Blogger CADman904 declaimed...

BB:
The point seems to be that Christians seem to think there's a need to act AS IF Jesus taught something unique and wondrous, even though virtually none of his moral teachings were original.

CAD:
Well... you know... these teachings existed at one time and man corrupted them - Romans tells us that doesn't it. "For though they knew God they never glorified him as God.... therefore he gave them over to... .... a depraved mind."

See - all the ethical teachings in the world originally belonged to the xtian God - but man corrupted them and he had to insert himself into the works to remind us of just where all these good ethical teachings came from...

So there :p

 
At 4/13/2005 7:12 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

"To assert that Christianity communicated to man moral truths previously unknown, argues on the part of the asserter either gross ignorance or else willful fraud... The system of morals expounded in the New Testament contains no maxims which had not been previously enunciated."

-Henry Thomas Buckle

 

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