Capitalists, Note Well

[Hayek] argues that markets generally do not reward “merit.” That is, the people who become wealthy in the marketplace do not do so, for the most part, because they are somehow “better” people than those who are not as wealthy. [Merit is] not what the market rewards. The market rewards the creation of value in the form of providing goods and services that other people want. Period, end of sentence.

Something to keep in mind. From The Freeman Online via STR

Slush Mugs

There’s this box I haven’t unpacked sitting just out of reach. Its top is partway open. I can see there’s a “Slush Mug” in there. If you don’t know what a “Slush Mug” is, that sucks for you. The product of a “Slush Mug” is delicious.

Between me and the slush mug box there’s a stack of books that I really want to get into. I don’t see that happening this week or next.

These facts, and others, indicate that finishing some of the projects I’ve got open here is a way off.

A Sense of Proportion

The chancellor at Indiana University-Perdue University Indianapolis has apologized for accusing a janitor there of “racial harassment.”

Some are no doubt unsatisfied with the university’s apology, thinking it too little, too late. I think we should not get ahead of ourselves. We must maintain a sense of proportion here. Calling for the resignation of all key figures involved, or anything like that, would be inappropriate.

No, if the university were serious about redressing its mistake, not only would every official responsible for the accusation, the lateness of the apology, or its obvious insincerity be asked for his resignation, but all of the following measures would be implemented as well:

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Thinking About Thinking About Our Interlocutors

I wrote the following as part of an ongoing debate over my solution to the problem of universals. I leave it for the reader to surmise why I thought it worth sharing here.

Let me take a moment to make a meta-argument before I dive back in to addressing the comments in this thread.

I am working under the assumption that Ayn Rand is a hero to most of the participants here. Ayn Rand herself called the problem of universals “philosophy’s central issue.” Those who profoundly admire Ayn Rand do so, in large part, because of her achievements in philosophy. By any measure, then, Ayn Rand’s solution to the problem of universals is an important value to Objectivists.

Now, suppose I am right, and that Ayn Rand either did not solve the problem of universals, or only solved it partially. Ayn Rand’s philosophy then has an error of omission, at the least, down near its very roots in metaphysics.

From the perspective of hero-worshipping Objectivists, it could hardly matter whether this error is a minor error of omission or something more significant; the prospect that Objectivism could have a flaw at a point so fundamental in the hierarchy of philosophy should be disturbing.

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The Solution to the Problem of Universals

Late in the week of April 16, 2000, I solved the problem of universals. I have delayed publication for a number of reasons. Before publishing, I wanted to develop the perfect formulations, to have ready answers to all probable objections, and to have acquired a detailed knowledge of the history of the problem. I have never quite been able to find the time. Until yesterday, I figured I would just keep waiting. But then I found myself searching for a fitting way to celebrate a recent victory. It came to me: why not publish? And so I am. I would still especially like to have had time to have developed that detailed knowledge of the history of the problem, but eight idle years is more than long enough. If I am right in my solution, then it is, after all, a matter of some urgency.

Readers of philosophy of a certain bent of mind may wonder why I have been so concerned with the history of the problem, especially if they find themselves agreeing with my solution. It has been my experience that the majority of those who concern themselves with philosophy and its problems are, in fact, concerned not with philosophy itself, but with its history. In the case of the problem of universals, for example, attempts at solutions apparently fallen into one of two mutually exclusive traditions: nominalism and realism. These traditions loom so large in the minds of, it seems, most philosophers, that they cannot conceive of a solution that does not belong to one or the other. But the history of philosophy is their cave, and nominalism and realism shadows on the wall. The real solution comes from outside. My interest in a deeper knowledge of the history of the problem of universals has its origins where philosophy and rescue spelunking meet.

Since I have not had time for a full survey of the history of the problem, I will make do with something more modest.Instead of placing my solution to the problem of universals in the full context of the history of Western philosophy, I will place it in the context of Objectivist philosophy. One reason this appeals to me is that, while I am not an Objectivist, if I can be said to belong to any tradition or school of philosophy, Objectivism is it.

Many Objectivists reading this will now wonder how I might propose to place my own original solution to the problem of universals within the context of Objectivism, given that Ayn Rand claimed to have solved the problem of universals herself.The answer lies in that the problem of universals, while a real philosophical problem, is also a historical artifact. I am not sure exactly how or why Ayn Rand misapprehended the nature of this historical artifact, but, to a significant degree, she did.

Certain critics of Objectivism have claimed that Ayn Rand totally misapprehended the problem of universals, and was therefore totally unjustified in her claim to have solved it. These critics are quite wrong on this point, but their criticisms have been very useful to me, because they have provided an avenue for placing Ayn Rand’s solution to the problem of universals into the larger context of Western philosophy. By borrowing from these critics of Objectivism, I will be able to show that the critics are right on one point: Ayn Rand did not solve the historical problem of universals — and wrong on another, far more important point. Borrowing from these critics will also allow me to compensate somewhat for my own limited knowledge of the history of the problem since Plato.

Continue reading The Solution to the Problem of Universals