Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reduction of Objectivity (Ayn Rand)

[Previous post in the series: "Induction of Objectivity (Aristotle)"]

Now that we’ve reduced and induced Aristotle’s idea of “objectivity,” we can start the reduction of Rand’s concept of “objectivity,” which is an important advancement over his idea.

Let’s start with Ayn Rand’s definition, though presented in Leonard Peikoff’s words: “volitional adherence to reality by following certain rules of method, a method based on facts and appropriate to man’s form of cognition.”

The “rules of method” is Aristotelian logic, but there are important epistemological discoveries within Rand’s version of objectivity that we need to focus on. Aristotle wouldn’t have focused on man’s form of cognition as something worth analyzing in order to understand how we reach knowledge.

Whereas, for Ayn Rand, it wasn’t enough that our method is based on facts; our consciousness offers something in the acquisition of knowledge, concepts are partly human, and as a consequence, objectivity has to take this element into account. So, to reduce the idea of “a method based on facts and based on human consciousness,” we need to understand Rand’s theory of concept-formation, specifically why it is that concepts require both reality and human consciousness.

There’s some kind of element involved in forming concepts, and recognizing this element will allow us to learn something that is inherent in all concepts, to then form Rand’s theory of concept-formation, and after that we can amend Aristotle’s view of objectivity.

The next step down is: how did Rand reach her theory of concept-formation? What observations did she need to reach it?

There four elements of consciousness that we need to know before reaching her theory of concept-formation:

1. We need to know beforehand that consciousness has a specific identity, the principle that identity is the means to knowing reality, not the impediment.
2. The identity of concepts includes the fact that it does something with measurements, and this is the means by which concepts can surpass and rise above percepts.
3. An understanding of cognitive integration is necessary before we notice that aspect of the identity of concepts; we need some general awareness that integration plays a crucial role in gaining knowledge.
4. Of course, before we can put things into a sum, integrate them, we must be able to take things apart, go through a certain sequence, a series of steps. This leads to our earliest understanding that knowledge inherently has a certain kind of sequence—concept-formation involves a process of forming one concept, and then forming another based on the earlier one, etc. To understand integration, we need to reach the idea that there’s an order to knowledge.

And this is where we’ve reached the end of the reduction, since below “an order to knowledge” are specific items of knowledge that we later relate as being in a certain sequence or pattern, and these are available to introspection.

[Next post in the series: "Induction of Objectivity (Ayn Rand)"]

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Advances in Baconian Induction: John Herschel (Part 2 of 3)

(Previous post: Advances in Baconian Induction: John Herschel (Part 1 of 3) )

This essay will focus on the aspects of John Herschel’s Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy that discuss his ideas on causation and induction. Before presenting his rules of philosophizing, which amounts to his theory of how induction works, John Herschel discusses the characteristics of cause-and-effect.