Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sensory Qualities as Real

If Objectivism had been created earlier in history, perhaps a mere mention of the validity of the senses combined with the consciousness axiom would have sufficed. However, this is not the case: centuries, even millennia of philosophical debates have clouded and casted doubts on the issue of sense-perception. Several problems and purported solutions were advanced long before Objectivism was formed, and merit responses or clarification. This principle, the validity and metaphysical status of sensory qualities, is one such issue that will be tackled in the foregoing.

The Metaphysical Status of Sensory Qualities

Philosophy acknowledges that perception is an activity that people engage in. Epistemology generally holds that an “object” is “that which a cognitive subject perceives, knows, is aware of, describes, refers to, etc.”[1] A perception is understood to be a type of enduring awareness of an object.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Senses as Necessarily Valid

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature and means of human knowledge.  The field lays out the rules and principles to guide the formation of concepts, the construction of logic, and generally how to gain knowledge and show its validity.  Objectivism holds that metaphysics and epistemology combined are the theoretical base of any philosophy.[1]

There is a little more context needed than metaphysics to fully confront the issues in epistemology. We must first discuss 2 topics that make the field of epistemology possible: sense-perception and volition (free will).  I’ll also cover the axiomatic concept of “self” at the end of this series, as I think it’s a subject that needs to be discussed for a complete understanding of Objectivism.

Now we can begin with the role and validity of human sensory-perception.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 6)

This will probably be my last response to the metaphysical axioms for some time.

A commenter raises the following issue:
It's often said that to deny axiom[sic] is to engage in self contradiction - and that wouldn't be a valid objection because in order to classify contradiction as an error one has to assume axioms to be true. I see circular reasoning in this answer against axiom deniers.[1] 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 5)

Objection: The Axioms Equivocate on Their Content

This objection concerns exactly what it is that the axioms are explaining and implying.  It highlights a seeming equivocation:
[…]In the Logical Structure of Objectivism, David Kelley makes the following observation:
Notice that neither [the axiom of existence nor the axiom of identity make] any specific statement about the nature of what exists. For example, the axiom of existence does not assert the existence of a physical or material world as opposed to a mental one. The axiom of identity does not assert that all objects are composed of form and matter, as Aristotle said. These things may be true, but they are not axiomatic; the axioms assert the simple and inescapable fact that whatever there is, it is and it is something.
Very well. Now consider what Rand draws from these very same axioms:
To grasp the axiom that existence exists, means to grasp the fact that nature, i.e., the universe as a whole, cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence. Whether its basic constituent elements are atoms, or subatomic particles, or some yet undiscovered forms of energy, it is not ruled by a consciousness or by will or by chance, but by the law of identity. All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved. 
In other words, she draws from these axioms: (1) that the universe is permanent and can neither be destroyed nor created; (2) the universe is not ruled by will or chance, but by the ‘law of identity’; (3) everything that happens is caused by the ‘identities’ of the elements involved. She also implies that the basic constituents of the universe, whatever they may happen to be, are non-mental (i.e., atoms, particles, or forms of energy). How does Rand draw all these things from these axioms when, according to Kelley [quoted earlier in the blog post] (who, in this instance, is being entirely orthodox) these axioms only assert that ‘something’ distinguishable exists?[1]
I’ll sum up this objection as: “Objectivism equivocates between axioms not specifying content (e.g. specific identities, specific actions), and inferences about reality that supposedly follow from the axioms (e.g. the universe cannot be created or destroyed, reality isn’t ruled by chance).”

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 4)

Objection: The Axioms are Circular
The axioms rest on the law of noncontradiction for their validity, but the law of noncontradiction itself rests upon the axioms.[1] 
The Validity of the Axioms

The (basic) axioms do not rely on each other for their validity. Direct experience or sense-perception is the means of validating the basic axioms.[2] Derivative axioms like "self" and "volition" rely on the fact of the basic axioms and direct experience for their validity, but not the basic axioms themselves. Further, the basic axioms being part of the validation of derivative axioms does not mean that the derivative axioms are deductions from the basic ones, or logical consequences. In Objectivism, the material required to form the basic axioms of existence, identity, and consciousness are discovered simultaneously. Peikoff mentions in a lecture course that: "'A is A' is independent of consciousness for its truth, but it’s not independent of the existence of consciousness to be grasped."[3]

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 3)

Previous: Objections to the Axioms (Part 2)

Question: “Are Axioms Proven or Merely Assumptions?”

“Are first principles or the axioms of logic (such as identity, non-contradiction) provable? If not, then isn't just an intuitive assumption that they are true?[...]”[1]

The axioms are neither “proven” nor “assumed.” 

(In the Objectivist view of axiomatic corollaries, Aristotle’s “Laws of Thought” are corollaries of the Existence axiom.  And more specifically, the Law or Principle of Non-contradiction and the Law of the Excluded Middle are restatements/corollaries of the Law of Identity, which is a corollary of “existence exists.”[2] So I’ll consider this question as broad enough to encompass any first principle, including the Objectivist axioms.)

I’ll make several points about why this can’t be the case when speaking of actual axioms.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 2)

Previous: Objections to the Axioms (Part 1)

This next objection is about the utility of the axioms.  

Objection: “Axioms Must Have Deductive Implications”
[...]A first principle is only useful and workable if you can deduce the rest of the worldview from it. You can't deduce anything from 'whatever exists exists'. You can't deduce any kind of epistemology (ie, how we know that whatever exists exists, how we know that we know, etc); we can't deduce any kind of metaphysic (ie, what is the nature of existence, what is the ground of existence, etc); and we certainly can't deduce any ethical or anthropological propositions (ie, what is right and wrong, what is the nature of man, etc).[...][1]

Monday, July 13, 2015

Objections to the Axioms (Part 1)

The axioms lay the proper foundation for a philosophy.  But for any statement or expression, there is almost always someone who disagrees.  Axioms are of no exception.  Of the people who are dismissive of Objectivism, I believe many are especially opposed to the Objectivist axioms.

Since I covered the metaphysical axioms of Objectivism in this series of posts, I’ll take the time to answer a series of actual objections to the axioms of the philosophy, and one objection to the idea of axioms as unprovable, originally answered by Aristotle.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Order of the Objectivist Metaphysics

Previous: The Metaphysically Given as Absolute

With the final principle of the Objectivist metaphysics articulated, we can now see the structure of this branch of philosophy.

The Basic Axioms, and Their Corollaries

We begin with the metaphysical axiomatic concepts and axioms, which I’ve already discussed in my essay on the axioms (the others will be discussed in the following essays on sense-perception and free will):

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Metaphysically Given as Absolute

Previous: The Primacy of Existence

The Objectivist view of metaphysics ends with the principle that alternatives to facts of reality are impossible and unimaginable.  These facts, which Ayn Rand called the “metaphysically given,” necessarily exist.  Man-made facts, on the other hand, are conditional, not necessary.  Due to this, metaphysically given facts are absolute.