Thursday, March 26, 2009

Objectivism's Benefit to Me #4

So far, Objectivism has helped me to do away with the unknowable, beliefs and faith in my thinking. Little did I know that this was just the tip of the iceberg; that I had much more to learn about what is knowledge and what isn't. (I'm still learning.)

About knowledge Rand wrote "'Knowledge' is 'a grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation.'" (From the Lexicon) So knowledge then must be based on observation either directly or indirectly. If a claim to knowledge isn't based on some observational evidence, it is not knowledge. Such claims can be some form of revelation, intuition, instinct, feelings or some kind of automatic knowing. All of these can be subsumed I think under the concept of arbitrary which means made up or not grounded in observational evidence.

Objectivism holds that the arbitrary is always meaningless.
"Let me elaborate this point. An arbitrary claim has no cognitive status whatever. According to Objectivism, such a claim is not to be regarded as true or as false. If it is arbitrary, it is entitled to no epistemological assessment at all; it is simply to be dismissed as though it hadn’t come up . . . . The truth is established by reference to a body of evidence and within a context; the false is pronounced false because it contradicts the evidence. The arbitrary, however, has no relation to evidence, facts, or context. It is the human equivalent of [noises produced by] a parrot . . . sounds without any tie to reality, without content or significance."(Again from the Lexicon)
So now I liken what I allow into my store of knowledge to the 'always allow or block' function on my computer. I can 'always block' or 'always allow' other computers access to mine. Thus, under 'always block' from my knowledge are listed
>the unknowable
>believing (instead of knowing)
>faith (instead of confidence)
>the arbitrary

Under the 'always allow' is listed
>any cognition which has some corresponding evidence in reality.

Needless to say the above still leaves much to be added or updated to these lists. For example, I think the Logical Fallacies should be added to the always block list after one becomes adept at spotting them. As mentioned at the beginning, this is just a brief mention of how Objectivism has helped clear my thinking regarding what should be considered true and what false. For a more in-depth, technical study I recommend Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) and Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR).

The next post will be about how Objectivism taught me that knowledge can be certain provided it is contextual.

3 comments:

c1992w said...

Mike,

Hats off to you for digging your way out of an ugly hole. I first read Atlas in '58 (as a page turner only, then) and have worked my way out of the same muck of 'beliefs' and other non-sense. Today I am late 60s and I am still learning.

By the way, I have a couple of conservative friends to whom I send your URL. Maybe they can work their way to daylight in time.

Thanks for your posts.

Cecil Williams

Mike N said...

c1992w:
Thanks. Glad to help in any way. And thanks for passing my posts along to others. Yes, as I read more of Objectivism I was amazed at how much I didn't know and worse, how much I thought I knew that just wasn't true.

Books with Heroes said...

Again, you are right on, Mike.

In the task of 'blocking' something I refine that further by paying close attention to differentiate what I perceive vs what I want to perceive! For example, this often shows up in romantic relationships that always end painfully because person A 'wants badly' person B to be in love with person A and hence is blinded by wanting it to be so much..... When I was young hormones obfuscated the issue for me even more so.

The same process holds often for stock traders..... For example, I have felt like a stock I owned that was loosing money was coming back! Such investors loose lots of money - me included!

Cecil Williams

Cecil Williams