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]
This objector holds that axioms must lead to deductive consequences.  A proper philosophy (this objector believes) begins with axioms, and then is filled with deductions that permeate its metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and study of human nature.  It should consist of a coherent structure of axioms branching out into deductive conclusions for each area of philosophy, similar to the structure of geometry.  In other words: the Objectivist axioms should operate as the axioms in rationalistic philosophies function, but they fail in this task and therefore are defective.

Objectivism as a system rejects the entire approach of rationalism, which characteristically adopts an axiom-deductive structure as the model of philosophy: announce your axioms, and then deduce principles and conclusions from them.  (For examples of rationalism, consult the philosophies of Plato, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and Immanuel Kant.)

What the axioms actually do is identify the preconditions of all knowledge, and afterwards Objectivism integrates the axioms to specific corollaries in the fields of metaphysics and epistemology, and eventually to the non-axiomatic principles in epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics.  (In Objectivism, epistemology is unique in the respect that it has principles that are corollaries of axioms and unproved, as well as theoretical principles that can and must be proved.)  But these corollaries and theoretical principles are not deductions from the axioms. 

For instance, the law of causality is not deduced from the law of identity, although I said in my earlier blog post that it is a corollary of identity.  When Rand said that: “[t]he law of causality is the law of identity applied to action,” she meant it as a certain angle on the law of identity when connected to facts about entities and actions, a corollary or new perspective on identity.[2]  She did not mean that causality follows from identity, or that causality is a deduction from the law of identity.  The identity axiom states that “a thing is what it is,” “A is A”: it doesn’t even tell you that there are actions.  Consequently, it cannot tell you that actions must have a nature too, they cannot contradict the entities that act, or even that the actions must be caused by entities.  Different and new observations are needed to reach these kinds of insights and finally form the law of causality; it is not a logical deduction from the fact of identity.[3] 

More often than not, the non-axiomatic, theoretical principles of Objectivism are induced.  Only a relative few principles are properly deduced.  I believe that it would be helpful to some philosophy students and other interested parties if someone would simply list which principles of Objectivism are induced and which are deduced.  (Once I’ve done enough inductions on the principles of Objectivism, I’ll try my best at carrying out this task.)


In any event, I can say with certainty that none of the principles are deduced from the axioms.  If this means that Objectivism fails the test of having “proper,” usable axioms in the sense that philosophical rationalism uses them, then so much the worse for rationalism and that erroneous view of axioms.


[1]: Part of the eighth comment on this post:  Made by Dominic Bnonn Tennant.
[2]: Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 151.
[3]: Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism Through Induction," Disc 2, Lecture 2, Track 1.

Next:  Objections to the Axioms (Part 3)

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