April 2017
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Facile Critics of Ayn Rand

One of the more distasteful logical fallacies is the straw man, because its use implies a conscious intent to deceive. Honest, reasonable argument is noble on its face. But replying to an argument dishonestly makes a farce of what should have been fine. And it is shameful, and thus distasteful, to witness someone debasing […]

Open Letter to the Blue Team

Blue Team:

As you may have noticed, it is possible, sometimes, to tell how someone┬ávotes by the arrangement of their yard. I say, “sometimes,” because most yards are neutral. There’s a lawn, probably, and some landscaping. There might be a fence, or a garden gnome. If there are children in the house, there might […]

In Case You Ever Wonder

Why Ayn Rand Is “Not a Serious Philosopher”

Let us look more closely; what is the scientific man? A type of man that is not noble; he has an instinct for his equals and for what they need; for example, that claim to honor and recognition, that constant attestation of his value and utility […]

On Nonsense and Referents

The Internet hosts many critiques of Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand, most of which are useless or worse. Michael Huemer’s Why I Am Not an Objectivist (WIANO hereafter) is an exception. It has the great virtue that any Objectivist who engages its arguments can either realize a better understanding of philosophy by overcoming them, or else realize the inadequacy of his understanding by failing to do so.

What follows is a rejoinder to WIANO’s first section, “MEANING.” This is the first revision of a version published earlier here.

Huemer Against Rand on Meaning

Objectivism rejects the analytic-synthetic dichotomy. Michael Huemer accepts it. He correctly recognizes that the basis for Objectivism’s rejection of this dichotomy lies in its identification of the meaning of concepts. Leonard Peikoff writes, in “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy,” “[A] concept means the existents which it integrates. … [It] subsumes and includes all the characteristics of its referents, known and not yet known.” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Second Edition, p. 99. Emphasis in original. Hereafter cited as ITOE.) Huemer also notes that Objectivists consider concepts to be open-ended, or as he would have them put it, “[T]he meaning of a concept is all of the concretes it subsumes, past, present, and future, including ones that we will never know about.” (WIANO, §1)

Huemer prepares his attack on the Objectivist rejection of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy by reference to the story of Oedipus, who famously — and unwittingly — married his own mother, Jocaste. Huemer wants to show that the Objectivist theory entails that Oedipus could not have married his own mother unwittingly, since he knew that he was marrying Jocaste, and since “Jocaste” and “Oedipus’ mother” have the same referent. It is absurd to think that Oedipus knew he was marrying “Oedipus’ mother” just because he knew he was marrying “Jocaste,” so if Objectivism does entail this, Objectivism is absurd.

Continue reading On Nonsense and Referents

Premature Identification

One of the things I find most striking about Objectivism is its subtlety. I’m in the minority. The lucidity of Ayn Rand’s writing, I think, tends to fool her admirers nearly as often as it fools her critics. She reduces complex issues to essentials, casts fine lines of distinction in sharp relief, illuminates the obscure, and penetrates the impenetrable. She makes it look easy.

It’s not easy.

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. And an argument, to be refuted, must be comprehended, which means it must be surrounded with understanding. Ayn Rand made dispatching her opponents look easy because, far more often than not, she had them surrounded.

To my dismay, I’ve observed too many who call themselves Objectivists surround their interlocutors’ arguments, not with understanding, but with mere words. This isn’t comprehension; it’s circumlocution.

And in fact, it’s often worse than that. Continue reading Premature Identification

You Might Be a Fascist If …

I’m beginning to like this Russell Madden fellow. Seems I’m not the only one who can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a brown shirt.

(Link via Strike the Root.)

Physics v. Philosophy

If we are to carve the beast of reality along the joints, there is a dovetail where physics and philosophy meet, but the line will be carved by philosophy alone. The habit of philosophers and hangers-on to philosophy to discuss, armchair Hawking-style, matters cosmological and quantum-mechanical annoys me to no end. Reading a nice, […]