Human Nature

Let’s Take Objectivism Back from Ayn Rand

A creed that is just like religious fundamentalism

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By David Sloan Wilson

In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, a totalitarian state has created a language called Newspeak designed to limit freedom of thought, often by inverting customary meanings. How ironic that Ayn Rand, self-appointed defender of economic freedom, should add the term “Objectivism” to the lexicon of Newspeak.

Here is the definition of Objectivism provided on the website of the Atlas Society, which is dedicated to the promotion of the creed.

Objectivism holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness. But one cannot achieve happiness by wish or whim. Fundamentally, it requires rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs. Happiness requires that one lives by objective principles, including moral integrity and respect for the rights of others. Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism. Under capitalism, a strictly limited government protects each person’s rights to life, liberty, and property and forbids that anyone initiate force against anyone else. The heroes of Objectivism are achievers who build businesses, invent technologies, and create art and ideas, depending on their own talents and on trade with other independent people to reach their goals.

The part that I have colored in red comes close to the face value definition of the word objective—something rooted in the facts of reality. Everything else might or might not be correct, depending upon the results of rational (which includes scientific) inquiry.

  • Objectivism holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness.” From an evolutionary perspective, happiness is a proximate psychological mechanism designed to reward actions that enhanced survival and reproduction in the “environment of evolutionary adaptation.” It is not a worthy moral goal to maximize happiness without considering the consequences that result from the psychological state.
  • Happiness requires that one lives by objective principles, including moral integrity and respect for the rights of others”. This is an empirical claim that is highly problematic. Many worldviews that depart from factual reality make people happy and lead to healthful and sustainable actions. I hope that a worldview anchored in factual reality can do as well as worldviews that depart from factual reality, but there is nothing axiomatic about it.
  • Politically, Objectivists advocate laissez-faire capitalism.” It is empirical question whether laissez-faire capitalism, however defined, benefits the common good. There is certainly no logical proof for it.

In short, a true objectivist, who is dedicated to creating a moral system based on a rational respect for the facts of reality, including the facts about our human nature and needs, would be willing to change his or her mind on these points based on the results of rational inquiry. But Ayn Rand treated them as axiomatic and so do most of her followers. There is no freedom of thought, which inverts the customary meaning of “objective” and makes Ayn Rand’s creed as restrictive as the Newspeak of George Orwell’s fictional totalitarian regime.

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Another comparison is with fundamentalist religions, which also restrict freedom of thought. A fundamentalist religion portrays all actions as either good for everyone or bad for everyone. That’s false as an objective description of the world but it is highly motivating, hurling the true believer away from ruin and toward glory in his or her own mind. In an academic article that I wrote long ago, I showed that Ayn Rand’s creed has exactly the same linear structure as a fundamentalist Christian creed (go here for a popular account). The only differences are that “glory” is the unrestricted pursuit of self-interest, “ruin” is conventional virtue and stupid forms of selfishness, and Rationality replaces God as the authority that is supposed to justify the whole system. There is no room for authentic rational inquiry and it is no secret that the Ayn Rand movement had all the earmarks of a cult.

What would a movement worthy of the name Objectivism look like? It would have a moral component, presumably oriented toward benefitting the common good. And it would be committed to methodological naturalism and scientific inquiry in achieving its social goals. That sounds a lot like the perspective featured on Evonomics.

1.Wilson, D. S. (1995). Language as a community of interacting belief systems: a case study involving conduct toward self and others. Biology and Philosophy, 10, 77–97.

2.Branden, N. (1989). Judgment Day. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

28 November 2015

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  • David Whitfield

    The philosophical system of ‘Objectivism’ as outlined by Ayn Rand is not the same as the general English language term objectivism/objective/et cetera, disregard for that important distinction is one of the roots of the authors frustrations, and he should reexamine his premises.

    “It is not a worthy moral goal to maximize happiness without considering the consequences…”, Ayn Rand was very explicit in her distinction between a rationally aware happiness, rooted in self-esteem, and the achievement of ones goals and values, versus hedonism or mindless self-indulgence.

    As to laisse-faire, it is in those societies that are closest to free market laisse-faire capitalism that the human condition has improved the most, and contrast to that the societies that haven’t or which have subsequently moved way from that approach, which have lagged behind, only advancing in large part due to those more free market societies; the record of history is quite clear on this point.

    For the clearest understanding of Rand’s philosophical system the best text I could recommend is ‘Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology’, a careful evaluation of the work should clear up any misunderstandings as to the specific meanings and philosophical framework of Ayn Rand.

  • Hi David,

    You have highlighted some of the failures of objectivism, and not others.

    Objectivism is based on a large set of assumptions, one of which is the notion of causality and the applicability of logic.

    When one starts from a causal set of assumptions, and applies the scientific method of testing assumptions through experiment, one is led via Planck’s experiments into the nature of black body radiation and Hiesenberg’s investigations into the limits of measurement, to Quantum Mechanics, which seem to indicate that the illusion of causality that we experience to a very high degree in our experiential world is the result of stochastic (random) processes working within certain probability distributions, on time and space scales that are so much smaller than human perceptions, that when summed over vast numbers of their time and space units to give something perceivable to our senses and ability to perceive time, give a close approximation to hard causality.

    Thus, starting from an assumption of causality, and following where question and experiment lead, we end up with a world that is a mix of the random and the regulated (within certain probability distributions) that gives the impression of causality to many occurrences at our particular scale of existence.

    Rand assumes causality and logic, and ignores anything that violates those assumptions.

    That isn’t actually an application of the scientific method, it is, as you say, a set of beliefs.

    Science is founded in both a willingness to question and a willingness to experiment, and to look very closely at what those experimental results seem most likely to indicate.

    Science is not a realm of hard causality or hard knowledge.

    At its best, science is a realm of eternal questioning, and of useful heuristics that have not yet been disproven by experimental outcomes.

    This rather puts a different perspective on the notion of “facts”.
    Rather than a “fact” being anything hard, they are things that have a certain level of consistency and repeatability in a certain set of contexts.

    There is a vast difference in between domains that are defined by hard binary values, and domains that are defined by probabilities and uncertainties with sets of boundary conditions that are contextually dependent, and have different permeabilities to different classes of phenomena.

    So I agree, that Rand fails to see the three basic sets of classes of information processes that define “Happiness” in the first instance:
    That contribution to the experience of happiness that is the result of genetic evolution over deep time that has given the form it has to our bodies and brains, at many simultaneous and recursive levels. In this sense, yes, there are aspects of our abilities and tendencies with respect to happiness that seem clearly to be deeply determined by the circumstances that our ancestors survived.

    Then there follows that contribution to happiness that comes from the many layers of culture that we each absorb during our growth process. Those aspects include all aspects of sensations (dance, music, sports, any form of physical discipline) as well as the sets of stories and distinctions and abstractions provided by others present and past that form part of our culture. These can involve many levels of abstraction and logic, from the “Structions” of Jaynes to the logics of Russell, Goedel or Wolfram.

    Then there is what we as conscious rational (to the degree that we are rational, as distinct from habitual) entities choose to do with out time. The degrees to which we take apart and examine the distinctions and assumption in every level of every construct we have available to the mental models that seem to be all we each actually have as experiential reality.

    So yes – complex systems.

    Layers upon layers upon layers of complex systems.

    That seems to be what it is to be human.

    And no human can give their attention to all layers simultaneously.

    And we can each make some fundamental choices, then make our best guesses at how best to bring those choices into being.

    It seems to me that Rand pays lip service to holding life an liberty as her highest values.

    If she actually had a universal value of life and liberty, then she would see clearly that laissez-faire capitalism actually has an incentive structure that tends to deny the essentials of survival and liberty to a large set of individuals.

    In terms of capitalism, it is certainly true that in contexts where most things are genuinely scarce, then a strong case can be made that capitalism does provide a strong information context to send cooperative signals through the concept of profit – and only in systems where information is freely shared. As soon as one put significant impediments on the free sharing of information (such as IP laws) then the system breaks.

    Once we develop the tools to automate and decentralise production (ie can remove scarcity), then there is a strong case in both logic and morality, that the self interest of all individuals who wish to live a long time is most powerfully served by delivering the essentials of survival and freedom to all (and capitalism as a system actually works against the interests of the majority for life and liberty, and becomes a power tool for a minority). And clearly, no system of values based only in exchange value can achieve such an outcome. Exchange values must value any universal abundance at zero, and thus cannot be incentivised (internally) to deliver universal abundance of anything.

    This is the fundamental flaw in capitalism. It gets us part way there, then prevents us taking the final step to universal life and liberty.

    Certainly, value life and liberty.
    Those are great things to hold as one’s highest value set.
    I certainly do.
    And also be aware of the degree to which the circumstances of one’s liberty are enhanced by the many levels of cooperation that exist in making a human what a human is.

    Liberty is not a licence for selfishness, it is a responsibility for cooperation (within the higher value of a universal respect for life).

    There is no shadow of reasonable doubt that cooperation is our most powerful tool.
    And Axlerod proved beyond any shadow of doubt that raw cooperation is vulnerable to cheats (of which Rand is one example of the more abstract variations on a cheating theme), and requires secondary strategies that remove the incentives to cheat (and in an infinitely dimensional strategy space there will be ever recursive levels of such incentives, and thus there is eternal truth in the notion that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”).

    • David Whitfield

      Of course it should be noted Ayn Rand was a philosopher, not a quantum physicist or scientist, and she never attempted to portray herself as having any sort of a priori knowledge of those topics. I personally have not seen anything in Quantum Mechanics which would specifically invalidate or be unable to be reasoned from a view within/compatible to Objectivist epistemology.

      I would specifically note that the limits of peoples perceptual apparatus does not change the fundamentals of reality or the universe, and logic(Logic being the art of non-contradictory identification), man’s method of cognition, is the fundamental core of Science present at all stages of concept formation. There is no knowledge without logic. We apply logic to the factual measurements we observe and gather through our perception, integrating the facts and adjusting our abstract knowledge by reexamining any contradictory premises.

      The cooperative signals of capitalism are actually prices, which spontaneously result from the ordinal evaluations of innumerable individuals. As an economist I see “significant impediments on the free sharing of information”, when I look at things like price controls on the rates of interest set by the Federal Reserve and other Central Banks, which does cause a systemic breakdown resulting in malinvestment and exacerbation of the business cycle.

      The system you are describing is not the Objectivist conception of Capitalism(the system you’ve describe is corporatism, or fascism), its critical to understand that from the Objectivist view the United States or more specifically the American economic system while having some capitalist elements is not free market capitalism and it has never fully been capitalist, nor would it in any evaluation (Objectivist or otherwise) be considered laisse-faire. In the Objectivist view free market capitalism requires the complete banishment of physical force from human interactions, government only acting as an agent of self-defense(Which is considered a legitimate use of force). We can see some of this view in the book ‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal’ in which Rand wrote:

      “Why was capitalism destroyed in spite of its incomparably beneficent record? The answer lies in the fact that the lifeline feeding any social system is a culture’s dominant philosophy and that capitalism never had a philosophical base. It was the last and (theoretically) incomplete product of an Aristotelian influence. As a resurgent tide of mysticism engulfed philosophy in the nineteenth century, capitalism was left in an intellectual vacuum, its lifeline cut. Neither its moral nature nor even its political principles had ever been fully understood or defined. Its alleged defenders regarded it as compatible with government controls (i.e., government interference into the economy), ignoring the meaning and implications of the concept of laissez-faire. Thus, what existed in practice, in the nineteenth century, was not pure capitalism, but variously mixed economies. Since controls necessitate and breed further controls, it was the statist element of the mixtures that wrecked them; it was the free, capitalist element that took the blame.”

      From the Objectivist view free market capitalism is the only system fully compatible with life and liberty, the essential conditions for those being non-interference, the absence of coercion, and the enforcement of private property. Objectivism is not universalism, nor utopian, it is only egalitarian in regards to the application of the law, it doesn’t promise any provision of the material goods needed for life, only the prerequisites needed to acquire them by your own productive efforts.

      Ayn Rand was not an anarchist, and Objectivism has no philosophical objections to cooperation between individuals as long as they are voluntary and free from coercion. Aside to Objectivist semantics, Altruism is not a synonym for Cooperation, its literal meaning is trading a value for a non-value; Likewise Selfishness is not a synonym for Evil, its exact meaning is concern with one’s own interests, without any assumptions to the specific morality of those interests good or bad.

      • Hi David,

        I wrote a critique of the second edition of An Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology over 20 years ago. I updated it a little and published it on one of my websites 16 years ago.

        I debated it within objectivist circles at the time (early 1990s).

        My understanding has progressed a little in the last 20 years.

        I am now very clear that Rand made several errors common to philosophers, in assuming that reality obeyed some set of rules that make sense to them.
        Heisenberg has show beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, that is not the case.

        Your statement that there is no knowledge without logic is simply false, and one cannot get there with logic alone, one requires experience.

        It seems that most people are under the illusion that they are experiencing reality.

        The science is now clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that what we experience is not reality itself, but a software model of reality assembled by our subconscious brains.
        It seems very likely that there is a reality, and that it is often something like what we each experience, and that is a very different sort of starting point from where Rand started.

        It seems that reason and logic are great tools for modelling, and sometimes useful predictors of reality.

        It seems that reality contains many different classes of complexity, some of which obey predictable rules, and some of which do not.

        The work of guys like Turing on the many variations of the “halting problem” are worth pursuing (I’ve been programming computers and interested in algorithms for over 40 years).

        Wolfram’s work on generalised paradigm spaces is worth looking at.

        And no one can teach another person an abstraction.
        We can provide sets of evidence and clues that increase the probability of another mind making an abstraction, and each mind must make that leap for itself, no one else can do it. There are many people with PhDs who cannot do second order abstractions, and rarely do first order ones.
        It is very difficult to be confident that another person has actually made a second order abstraction.
        It is close to impossible to gain confidence that another individual is using a third order abstraction (an abstraction of abstractions of abstractions).
        I have gone to 12th order abstractions. Communication is impossible from that space – it is intensely personal. I rarely go past 3rd order these days, it is just too difficult to communicate things of interest.
        And there is plenty of interest at every level, even the level of concretes, world without abstraction. It seems that while physical reality may be vast but finite, it seems that all abstract levels are potentially infinite, and that there may be an infinite set of such levels. It gets messy. Lots of quicksand like places that once entered have no way out, except reset (that halting problem again).

        David Snowden has developed the Cynefin Framework for the management of complexity, which is highly simplified, and has a lot of utility. It might have been enough to shake Rand out of her hubris, and I suspect not. I suspect that she was too emotionally committed to logic to ever seriously question its applicability.

        Good and bad are such gross simplification of the reality of action that the terms are very close to meaningless to me. Children need to make such simple categories, we all must start from such simplicity. Adults need to get used to infinite realms of complexity and uncertainty. Getting there, one starts to understand why the Taoists thought as they did.

        Self interest, on the longest possible time-frame, becomes indistinguishable from community interest. The trick is in extending the time-frames, and being able to delay gratification on long time-scales (tens, hundreds, or thousands of years). One needs to be very confident of living a very long time to make such judgements, and have a very low discount rate on future benefits.

        • David Whitfield

          As to Quantum Mechanics, I believe you are making a not uncommon mistake in confusing Quantum Observation, or the propagation of quantum effects at relative c, for your personal perception of those effects; I can assure you the universe doesn’t care an iota about your personal perception, or knowledge of it.

          “Your statement that there is no knowledge without logic is simply false,
          and one cannot get there with logic alone, one requires experience.”

          I find your grasp of formal logic troublesome. Saying that one cannot get to knowledge with logic alone does not invalidate the premise that there is no knowledge without logic. Furthermore experience is implied in the initial statement, as logic(or identification if you prefer) always requires experience.

          “It seems that most people are under the illusion that they are experiencing reality.The
          science is now clear beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that what we
          experience is not reality itself, but a software model of reality
          assembled by our subconscious brains.”

          As far as I can tell you’ve simply restated the Homunculus fallacy here.

          “It seems very likely that there is a reality, and that it is often something like what we each experience,…”

          I detect a bit doubt here as to if you think you(or existence itself) actually exists, or that perhaps you’re simply a software simulation, if that is the case take care not to accidentally delete yourself, though I suppose you’d have to exist to do that too… but who’s to say how many turtles deep this path goes?

          “It seems that reality contains many different classes of complexity,
          some of which obey predictable rules, and some of which do not.”

          As noted previously existence is entirely non-dependent on your knowledge of it, errors of knowledge and perception, are not errors of the universe, which are impossible.

          “And no one can teach another person an abstraction.”
          Having learned Scheme some time ago now I’m inclined to dismiss this statement out-of-hand, and we could ask how could possibly have a field like QM if that premise were true? (recent misapplications notwithstanding.)

          “Good and bad are such gross simplification of the reality of action that the terms are very close to meaningless to me. ”
          The inability to distinguish between things as objectively Good or Bad, is not something one should brag about or aspire to, as it would be placing yourself below the conceptual level of most children, at the level of a young toddler. For instance; I would evaluate being mauled by a ravenous tiger as bad, the infinitely complex minutiae such an event is not going to change that ‘simplistic’ evaluation.

          “Self interest, on the longest possible time-frame, becomes
          indistinguishable from community interest.”

          Communities are nothing but groups of individuals, so what you’ve just said is concern with ones your own interests is indistinguishable from someone else’s concerns, this is what an Objectivist might refer to as an anti-concept.

          Looking to Ayn Rand on this point for some reference:
          “Let me remind you that the purpose of a definition is to distinguish the things
          subsumed under a single concept from all other things in existence; and,
          therefore, their defining characteristic must always be that essential
          characteristic which distinguishes them from everything else.” -from ‘Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal’

          “The trick is in extending
          the time-frames, and being able to delay gratification on long
          time-scales (tens, hundreds, or thousands of years).”
          Such a ‘trick’ would be self-delusion, certainly when it comes to time-scales of hundreds and thousands of years into the future as they are largely not relevant to self-interest(the prerequisite being ‘self’ here), individuals don’t live that long, and if you advocating some sort of mysticism, or religious eternalism here, those would be immediately dismissed by Objectivists.

          Now it a community(or some other grouping of individuals) could decide its in their interest to loot my home to satisfy whatever whims they may have at the moment, and their argument might even have the merit that it could possibly be easier for them to benefit in that way, rather than to rely on their own productive efforts, but that doesn’t make such actions agreeable to me or congruent with my self-interest.

          • Hi David

            I have no idea how you came to those conclusions. And come to them you obviously did.

            There is nothing wrong with my knowledge of formal logic. I just don’t make the mistake of thinking that the universe necessarily operates on logical principles. Formal logic delivers great modelling tools, the best we have, and that is all they are. All they actually deliver is our best guess at reality.

            My argument re the experience of being human has nothing to do with the Homunculus argument, and everything to do with the structure of the systems that create the experience of being human that we experience. I did study neurophysiology at University, and have kept up an interest in a wide variety of disciplines, while I have run a software company for the last 29 years. I am reasonably active in AI circles, though my company does not specialise in AI software.

            It became clear to me back in 1974 that it was logically possible to extend lifespans indefinitely. I didn’t know exactly how to do it, and I could prove beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt that it was possible. At that time I outlined 4 stages required. 3 of those have been achieved. Google’s Calico is now putting serious effort into the final phase.

            Just because something isn’t yet existent, does not mean that it wont be.

            Very little of the software I have created existed prior to me creating it. And long before I created it I knew what it would do, and planned accordingly.

            Most of my thinking for the last 41 years has been on the classes of strategies and systems necessary to allow potentially very long lived individuals to actually live a very long time. As Ray Kurzweil is so fond of saying, the trick with any invention is to time it to meet the reasonably foreseeable trends one is observing. I happen to trust myself on time scales that few others do, Ray is one of the few.

            I should not have expected others to get it – yet. Too many diverse disciplines involved.

            Close but no cigar.

            Another time perhaps. Perhaps you may care to reread what I wrote having been so disambiguated, and perhaps not. Your call.

          • TeaParty1776

            > The inability to distinguish between things as objectively Good or Bad, is not something one should brag about or aspire to

            Unless one is a student at a Progressive school.

        • VisiGarth

          you have identified the hardest concept for most Randians
          “self interest, on the longest possible time-frame is indistinguishable from community interest”

          • TeaParty1776

            Your rationalization of sacrifice is noted.

          • VisiGarth

            as is your inability to recognize the finite nature of the planet

          • TeaParty1776

            Tu quoque fallacy.

            Basically, youre evading reason as man’s profoundly successful method of transforming nature into a human environment. You rationalize the evasion of reason. Man’s life by a rational standard requires accepting the risk of knowledge. Refusing to focus mind onto reality is the basic cause of suffering and death. Farmers need to focus mind onto reality to grow wheat or they starve. There is no alternative, as the near-starvation history prior to the 300 yrs of reason-based, capitalist industrialism and its increasing mastery of nature powerfully proves. Mysticism is retreat into emotion, not a guide to survival.

          • VisiGarth

            it’s not “rationalization of sacrifice” to think beyond the next quarter’s profits

            do the full accounting & assign realistic values for for all the resources
            instead of socializing the costs & privatizing the profits
            the winners & losers are always determined by the rules & who gets to enforce them
            profit derived should reflect true value added

          • TeaParty1776

            Businessmen, in capitalism, are long-range planners,as powerfully shown since the 19th century. Rockefeller produced cheaper and better oil by long-range planning. Businessmen, in our Pragmatist/fascist/Leftist/govt-controlled economy, are Pragmatists to try to evade or exploit short-range Pragmatist political chaos. Obama is a Pragmatist ,acc/to Reading Obama: Dreams, Hope, and the American Political Tradition
            by James T. Kloppenberg, a pro-Obama book.

            Capitalism individualizes costs. Your current Pragmatist/altruist economy socializes costs. Man’s independent mind is the basic cause of production. Leftists and conservatives hate man’s independent mind, thus their support for a century+ of increasing controls, continued by Trump. See Atlas Shrugged for more.

          • VisiGarth

            “Capitalism individualizes costs”
            how does that work for say acid rain?
            the scale of an activity matters

          • TeaParty1776

            Isolated facts are irrelevant. Leftists dont think systematically.

          • VisiGarth

            as are evasions & ad hominum attacks
            your replies reflect a weak argument

          • TeaParty1776

            What evasions? I attacked non-systematic thinking, not persons.
            You mentioned acid rain is an isolated concrete, w/o meaning. You didnt systematically, causally, link it to capitalism. Its like saying businessmen wear brown shoes. OK, but so what? Acid rain exists. So? Progressive education teaches students to memorize isolated concretes, rationalized by floating abstractions, eg, common good. Rational education teaches students to abstract and induce from observation. Cats observe. Man conceptualizes his observations. Progressive ed doesnt provide the habit and skill of reasoning needed for capitalism. Progressives feel lost in capitalism because they stare mindlessly at markets and machines, waiting for society to reveal ideas to them. Leftist thinking couldnt even grow a field of wheat, never mind manage a complex , tech, trading economy.

          • VisiGarth

            I’ll not hold your hand…
            if you are unable to make the connection between acid rain and capitalism
            you have shown yourself incapable of having a rational discussion about economic systems

          • TeaParty1776

            Reason requires evidence, which you evade. You feel as if capitalism causes acid rain. You regard emotion as an absolute to which reason must conform, ie, you rationalize. You have withdrawn from rational discussion. The benefits of capitalism, ie, individual rights, for man’s life by a rational standard, are vastly more than any other social system. This includes ending or radically decreasing the natural dangers to man of nature. This is caused by the progressive tech and wealth of capitalism. Man’s independent mind, the basis of capitalism, is the main enemy of your hidden context, modernist/nihilism, inc/the environmentalist demand to smash industrial civilization.

        • TeaParty1776

          > It seems that most people are under the illusion that they are experiencing reality.

          Your hidden mysticism is noted

          • There is no simple sensible response to that comment.

            It seems simultaneously right and wrong, depending upon levels of interpretation.

            My operating paradigm is an synthesis of the rational and the mystic in a very real sense, in the clear understanding that any attempt to rationalise the heuristics present that deliver “mystic” experience would take far longer than I have available. Evolution tends to do things like that in complex contexts.

            It takes a deeply nested understanding of complexity, uncertainty, biological system, systems more generally, and evolutionary strategy to get a feel for what I understand by the term mysticism.

          • TeaParty1776

            Youre rationalizing the evasion of reason, man’s basic method of survival. The result, as you confess, is uncertainty. Evolution is not a moral issue. Evolution provided a volitional mind to man for his survival. Aristotle taught us how to consistently focus it onto reality. The 17th century
            Scientific Rev. applied that in physics and politics, ie, capitalist industrialism. Modern culture is nihilist, with no values at the basic level. Thats why mysticism is returning, to offer the illusion of automatic knowledge. Back to Aristotle. Forward with Rand.

          • Nope.
            You misunderstood completely.
            Not that at all.
            Far more complex, far more layers, way beyond both Aristotle and Rand.
            Was deeply in objectivist circles 20 years ago.

          • TeaParty1776

            You evade ideas for pretentiousness. You are modernist/nihilist complexity worshipper. Some people superficially attracted to Objectivism as another external authority or hedonism. But Objectivism is a guide to integrating complexity into principles, seeing the forest for the trees. You want to look at twigs and leaves.

            Both Rand ,Aristotle liked causal universe as known by mind as integrating complex knowledge into principles.

          • No – none of those things.
            I have done a lot of looking, and many different evidence sets, and many different interpretive schema.

            It seems very probable to me, based up both those evidence sets, and the logic of complex systems, that any claims to any sort of absolute knowledge about reality are illusory.

            Certainly we need operational confidence, and we seem to get that from many levels of heuristics installed in our embodied cognition from both genetic and cultural aspects of our being, that allow us to develop language and culture and such understandings as we individually have.

            We seem to be very complex entities.
            And we must all start from relatively simple models and distinctions.
            The simplest of possible distinctions are binaries.
            So there is a sense in which as children we become habituated to seeing things in binary terms, and some people find that a very difficult habit to break.
            And binary logic is a valid form of logic, and it is the simplest possible of what seem to be an infinite class of logics.

            Logic is a great modeling tool, and it is not necessary that reality comply with any form of logic, and at many levels aspects of reality do appear to very closely approximate logical principles, and at other levels and aspects not so much.

            I am all in favour of learning logic.
            I strong recommend all people read Ayn Rand, as part of their study of history.
            I recommend people read as many different ideas, thinkers, paradigms as possible, and be willing to trust their own judgments about which paradigm (if any) is most usefully applied to any particular situation.

            I strong recommend Yudkowski’s Rationality from AI to Zombies, and Gribben’s History of science, and Roll’s history of economic thought.
            And reading works of the scientists and philosophers themselves is important, like Hilbert, Einstein, Goedel, Kant, Russell, etc.

            Principles are useful tools.
            Reality doesn’t necessarily follow principles, unless you count fully stochastic systems as principles.

            Some aspects of reality do in fact seem to be chaotic, from many different classes of chaos, and any of those classes is by definition unpredictable.

            The human mind is so primed to find pattern, it tends to find pattern even where pattern does not exist – hence we tend to come up with ideas like human sacrifice, and most of witchcraft, etc.

            I like to look at all levels I can manage. I like flying, I enjoy the view from mountain tops, I am happy walking and looking at what is around me, I am happy looking through a micro-scope, and looking at electron micro-graphs. Each view contributes a different aspect to picture, and no picture is ever the thing it images.

            And I am very much in favour of values – not at all nihilistic.

            My prime value is individual life, followed closely by individual liberty, and both of those need to exist in responsible social and ecological contexts as we absolutely need both.

          • TeaParty1776

            “[Philosophers came to be divided] into two camps: those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts (the Rationalists)—and those who claimed that man obtains his knowledge from experience, which was held to mean: by direct perception of immediate facts, with no recourse to concepts (the Empiricists). To put it more simply: those who joined the [mystics] by abandoning reality—and those who clung to reality, by abandoning their mind.”

            -Ayn Rand, “For the New Intellectual”

          • That is a true statement of Rand, and a reasonable approximation to the state of philosophy at the time Rand wrote that, and neither of those truths (in the probabilistic sense of truth as beyond reasonable doubt), necessarily makes that statement applicable to philosophy or understanding applicable to me now.

            When one starts to understand the function of the structures that give rise to mind and awareness, both in terms of their biochemistry and larger morphology and in terms of the levels of software systems present and operating, one starts to understand the many levels of heuristic priors (in the Bayesian sense) encoded by evolution into the structure of our being, both at the level of genetic evolution and at the levels of cultural evolution. And all of that occurs prior to the software bootstrapping trick of a failure of being instantiating a new level of self awareness into being through a declaration in language.

            Every individual has a complex pattern of development. Developmental psychology is a fascinating subject, all the more so when one doesn’t fit the pattern, in my case when a flap of skin under my tongue prevented me from being able to make speech ordinarily comprehensible to strangers (only my family had any idea what I was trying to talk about). That simple physical problem, cleared about age 5 by the simple expedient of a doctor cutting the flap of skin with a pair of scissors, meant I avoided developing the patterns that lead most people to stay within the bounds of agreed social interpretations, and for 55 years I have essentially been free to study history, logic, and science, and derive through contemplation my own sets of relationships, without any undue subconscious bias towards creating or maintaining agreement within peer groups.
            So I have explored interpretive schema that few (and in some few cases, perhaps none) have explored previously.

            None of that gives me any tendency towards making any grand claims to truth, actually quite the reverse.
            It does give me a very powerful understanding of the probabilistic nature of many aspects of our being.
            It lets me see pattern in operation at many different levels simultaneously.
            It lets me view sets of self consistent constraints in operation, kind of like cellular automata on some infinite game of life board.

            And it also gives me profound appreciation for the ways in which evolution has selected for systems that work in practice within the time constraints available to deliver survival in some very hostile environments.
            In this sense it has given me a profound appreciation for risk management in highly dimensional strategy spaces, where one is dealing with profound uncertainty at many levels, as one must when faced with potentially infinite levels of infinite strategy sets.
            Dimensionality increases rapidly.
            The sets of heuristics one chooses to approximate such things become important – as first principle calculation is not an option, as the problems scale as high order exponentials.

            So I see Rand as someone who played with an interesting if somewhat limited set of assumptions, and made few (though significant in the few I have found) errors in what she did from there.

            So I am in part existentialist, in part empericist, mostly evolutionist, eclectic, deeply concerned by the general failure of even the intellectual elite to comprehend the sorts of existential risk that they are playing with in allowing simplistic notions like “evolution is all about competition” (which is demonstrably false) to dominate our age, and support a set of market based values which are now, beyond any shadow of doubt, the greatest existential risk to humanity, and may in fact be the great filter that Fermi and others were looking for {though I suspect it may only be the first in an infinite class of such things – which actually is nowhere near as terrifying a thought as it would have been 40 years ago}.

            So yes – by all means study Rand.
            No – don’t necessarily believe anything is true simply because it is consistent with her assumption sets.

            And I get how hard it is to break free of fundamental assumptions.

            To step into profound uncertainty can be terrifying.

            And an analogy I find useful (from being a kid growing up near swamps) is that it is possible to build a stable house above a swamp, by pushing many bamboo poles into the swamp and lashing them together. You know that none of the poles alone can support your weight, You can easily push any one of them our of sight, and and up in the bog yourself, if you put all your weight on any one pole.
            But when you lash together a few thousand poles (sets of heuristics stable to a certain level), then one can build a very stable hut in a swamp, that can survive both flood and earthquake.

            Faced with the profound uncertainty of any infinite set of infinite sets of strategy spaces (Axelrod, Maynard-Smith, Snowden, et al), computational algorithms (Turing, Wolfram et al), values sets (religion, culture, Campbell, Peterson et al), etc and the reality that no finite entity can explore any infinity in any finite time, one must accept uncertainty, and give up the myths of certainty and security that are our childhood beginnings.

            What one is left with is both risk mitigation strategies in profoundly uncertain environments, and a realm of infinite possibility – two sides of the same coin in a sense.

            No chance of boredom.

          • TeaParty1776

            Your mind is shot, kaput, gone to a corner of Hell so deep that the Devil forgot about it eons ago. In reply to a principled comment, you deny your volitional control of your mind, then conceptually disintegrate and emit a stream of consciousness in the form of floating abstractions and pseudo-scientific concretes. Kant’s CPR has had its way with you. Your mind has been deflowered. That braindead but culturally dominant book is 623 pages of Kant careening amidst pretentiously named subjective states signifying nothing. There is not one comment about reality there and, as result, in your post. Your personal history may be as sad as you say but it doesnt add up to a hill of beans philosophically speaking. Either man focuses or evades, our primary choice. Youve chosen evasion. OK, I disagree w/that choice but its your responsibility to choose. And face the consequences. As rock singer Marianne Faithfull so tartly warbled, “We’ve been trying to get high without having to pay.”

            As for your claim of a probablistic universe, probability is known only relative to an absolute reality. Other than that, you experrenced something you dont understand and you arbitrarily describe it. As Bob Dylan sang, “Something is happening, Mr. Jones, and you dont know what it is.” Modern culture is basically nihilist and it doesnt become respectable when rationalized with pseudo-philosophy that starts inside consciousness and never leaves. You can use a corruption of science to study the details of your intellectual confusion but its worthless.

            >But when you lash together a few thousand poles (sets of heuristics
            stable to a certain level), then one can build a very stable hut in a
            swamp, that can survive both flood and earthquake.

            This is a rationalization of a disintegrated mind. Man’s life requires that he identify and integrate his perceptions of concrete ,causal reality, not mentally retreat into a realm where one is god of nothing. See: Madness And Modernism, Louis Sass. Sass noted the big increase in schizophrenia (mind/reality split) since Kant. Man’s volitional ideas cant be reduced to automatic psychological processes but evasive cognitive habits can disintegrate man’s mind. Disintegration isnt pretty, whether or not its rationalized with supernaturalism or, as you call it, infinite possibility. As Rand discovered, existence is identity; consciousness is identification.

            And as I say:
            Everything exists
            Everything is limited
            Know your limits, especially in waterfront bars.

            Youve slopped over your limit. You dont seem to be enjoying it.

            Focus your mind.
            Look out at reality.

            Read Atlas Shrugged and listen to Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Symphony. Throw modern culture into your toilet. Read Leonard Peikoff’s The DIM Hypothesis, about the three choices ,in history, possible relative to man’s survival need of conceptual integration.

          • Your typical response to a paradigm you do not understand is insult.
            Most cultures hold respect for diversity in higher regard – one of Rand’s many fundamental failings.

            Experimental evidence is clear that we have volitional influence, and control is too strong a word in most contexts.

            We are embodied within complex systems.
            We are influenced by and can in turn influence.

            I evade nothing.
            I have read all of those books, and 20 years ago began a catalog of their many errors.
            I have had many long conversations with Peikoff many years ago.
            Like many, he let the limitations of his assumptions blind him to experimental evidence.
            If a thorough examination of results is at variance with theory – I tend to challenge theory. It really doesn’t bother me how many people disagree or agree.

            You want comments about reality – OK, let’s look at a few.
            Let’s just look at existence for a moment.
            Science tells us that the average adult human being has about 10,000 times as many cells in their body as there are people on the planet.
            Every cell has about 5 times as many atoms as there are cells. Each cell is a collection of about 30,000 different types of molecules interacting.
            Some of those molecules are enzymes, the fastest of which can catalyse about 100,000 reactions per second.
            Just to see each cell, looking at 3 per second, would take a million years. 5 million years to see the atoms in any one cell.
            Just to watch one second’s interaction at a single enzyme, slowed to a speed that our awareness could actually perceive all of the movement, would take about 3,000 years (for 1 enzyme, 1 active site).
            Getting into the chemical and electrochemical mediators of computation within the brain and body more generally is even more complex.
            What can it possibly mean to say we know such complexity?

            Certainly the evidence is overwhelming that we are such complexity.
            Certainly the evidence is that we each subconsciously create very low resolution models of that complexity which become the objects of our conscious experience.
            But a lack of understanding by philosophers as to the nature of the processes that have selected the sets of heuristics that make our existence as experiential entities at all possible have lead to all manner of hubris – and Rand is a prime example of the very worst of it.

            I can focus my mind to many different levels, and have over 50 years experience of doing so.

            I have looked at many levels of reality, from the quantum to the cosmological.
            I have looked at computation and strategic spaces abstractly, and am clear that both contain infinite classes of infinite sets.

            I am clear that no human mind (no finite entity) can explore any infinity, and all must adopt heuristics, and that all such heuristics come with both costs and benefits.

            In some aspects, Rand’s thinking was sublime, in other aspects it was willfully blind, and arrogant. Disrespectfully so.

          • TeaParty1776

            Your hidden context is the supernaturalism and coincidences of superstitious, primitive savages before the Greek discovery of natural causes, mind, logic and scientific method. You start inside consciousness split from causal ,objective reality (the metaphysical primacy of consciousness of Plato and Kant), rationalize the resulting intellectual disintegration with the corruption of reason of modernist/nihilist culture, and conclude, consistently, with a hatred of capitalism as the only society based on man’s independent mind. Man’s volitional mind requires the moral responsibility to choose to focus one’s mind onto reality. Youre waiting, in vain, for a revelation.

          • My explicit context is a probabilistic understanding of evidence sets available from many domains of science and experience more generally.
            That explicit context was arrived at by a recursive processes of examination and testing of the validity of the explicit and implicit assumption sets in the systems of thought I was using.
            A part of that process was a multi-year immersion in the objectivist community, involving thousands of hours of study, contemplation and argument.

            You start from an assumption that objective reality is necessarily causal (rather than approximately causal), and ignore any evidence to the contrary.

            I found many errors in Kant long before approaching Rand.

            I have focused my mind on the many aspects of reality in ways and to depths that few have achieved.
            That process has created a degree of humility in the face of the vast sets of chaotic systems that exist both as logical possibilities and as aspects of reality that by definition defy prediction, which sets include maximal computation complexity, Heisenberg uncertainty, stochastic uncertainty and many others. Those sets can be found in many aspects of reality, including many levels of our being.

            I do not hate capitalism.
            Capitalism has serious problems, and it is better than any of the alternatives currently in existence.
            That does not mean in either logic or reality that it is the best of all possible systems, indeed logic would seem to clearly indicate that is not the case. And it certainly was the best of a bad bunch – which is not necessarily saying a lot. And the context is changing exponentially, making capitalism exponentially more dangerous.

            I am not in favour of any sort of central control.
            I am very cautious of the two major tyrannies – the tyranny of the majority and the tyranny of a minority.

            My highest values are individual life and individual liberty, and I acknowledge the reality of the need for both social and ecological responsibility in the expression of those values.

            I am certainly all in favour of individual choice, the highest expression of which is the choice of moral context, and the universal application of that to all sapient entities.

            How exactly does your righteous misinterpetation of me in any way exhibit moral behaviour?

            If you think the mind is fully volitional, then try depriving it of air.

            I suspect you would lose consciousness in less than a minute.
            If the removal of air was more than a few minutes, systemic damage to the cellular systems that support awareness would be so severe that restarting of that awareness would no longer be possible.

            As someone who trained for about 7 years in the disciplines of deep free diving, I suspect that I could still maintain consciousness for about 5 minutes, but it would be a very reduced form of awareness for the last 3 of those minutes.

            Our needs for metabolism are but one set of the limits of the volitional mind.
            There are many others imposed by the many levels of structure present.
            And the more awareness one gains of such things, the greater the levels of influence one can exert, and control is too powerful a word, and with awareness, we can achieve significant influence.

            I continue the habit of over 50 years – of daily study of new material, and the active contemplation of its relationship to existing datasets and available interpretive schema.

          • TeaParty1776

            :Existence is metaphysically primary. Existence exists. Existence IS identity. Causality is identity applied to action. A thing’s actions are the actions of its identity. Consciousness is metaphysically derivative.
            Consciousness is consciousness OF existence. The consciousness of existence is man’s first consciousness. Only then, in that context, can man be conscious of consciousness. Everything you claim is merely an application of the impossible metaphysical primacy of consciousness. Bit consciousness cannot cause existence. Probability is epistemological, a measure of ignorance, not metaphysical. Your primacy of consciousness datasets, whether mystical or subjective, do not identify existence.

            Logic is the method of identifying existence w/o contradiction, not arbitrary symbol manipulation.

            > My highest values are individual life and individual liberty, and I
            acknowledge the reality of the need for both social and ecological
            responsibility in the expression of those values. Your comments about capitalism are a sleazy evasion of anything definite, a miasma of rationalist floating abstractions. Capitalism, ie, individual rights, is the political protection of man’s mind from the initiation of force.

            Existence is identity, not contradiction. You contradict life and liberty w/ the moral depravity of sacrifice to society and non-human nature. Man has a moral right to his life. Morality is the mind’s guide to man’s life, not a rationalization of primacy of consciousness sacrifice.

            > If you think the mind is fully volitional, then try depriving it of air.

            This question is absurdly invalid. Religion is false. Man does not face the alternative of omnipotence or impotence. Volition is the power of focusing mind, thru the senses, onto concrete reality, thus indirectly causing our emotions, character, psychology, images, values and actions.

            You are intellectually lost in a disintegrated chaos of floating abstractions not abstracted or induced from observation of the concrete, material, causal universe. Man’s life basically requires a mind focused onto reality. You evade focusing and rationalize the evasion with philosophical nihilism laced w/mysticism. As Kant summed up his pretentious, pseudo-philosophical drivel, “I have denied knowledge therefore, in order to make room for faith.”

          • Yes existence is a metaphysical primary, but absolutely nothing about the systemic structure of that primary is a necessary given.

            There are an infinite set of possible systemic primary structures.
            A set based upon hard causal rules is one particular possibility (the simplest of all possible, and therefore the first one encountered by most people in the exploration of such things).

            If one starts with such a set of assumptions (as most do, including me a long time ago) and follow it where it leads, one ends up at quantum mechanics in the realm of physical models, and in exploring infinite realms of possible computational and logical systems. And lots of people have made conjectures about such things then spent their lives exploring them. Wolfram is one of the more interesting of recent times.

            If you go down that road, then you end up at a place where the evidence suggests that one’s initial set of presumptions about the systemic basis of the universe within which we find ourselves does not match with what one would expect if there was a strictly causal relationship (as the simplest of possible logical forms would suggest).
            Instead, what seems to be at the fundamental base is constrained stochastic (randomness within certain probability distributions).

            That is not at all obvious to the unaided eye, as in terms of the smallest units we can currently investigate within this reality within which we find ourselves, the smallest thing a human eye can resolve consists of some 10^18 units having existed for some 10^40 of their time units (in as much as our common notion of time has meaning in that context). That gives a very large collection, which fills out the probability distributions, and so behaves in a very close approximation to following hard causal rules.
            The difference occurs within the measurement errors of even our best instruments at present at that scale.

            My mind has been very focused on reality, on experimental design, on examination of assumption sets and result sets.

            My mind has also looked very broadly at the space of possible logics, possible interpretive schema, and possible models that result.

            Contradiction involves a failure of the modeling tool to align with that which is being modeled. It is a failure of assumptions or heuristics at some level.

            If you are confident of the data, then one must examine the set of possible assumptions and see what alternative sets of assumptions deliver.

            That is what I have done.

            I get that is probably incomprehensible to you in your current state of development.
            Put another 40 years into the study of biochemistry, paradigms of logic, systems, computation, complexity, evolution, history and science more generally.

            If you actually put in the time and effort, abandon all sacred cows (assumptions), I suspect your view will have altered somewhat as a result.

          • TeaParty1776

            >> Yes existence is a metaphysical primary, but absolutely nothing about
            the systemic structure of that primary is a necessary given.

            Existence IS

            existence, ie, existence IS Identity. There are no metaphysical splits, not between Form and matter, world and God, noumena and phenomena or existence and systemic structure. Existence is systemic structure. Systemic structure is existence. In the context of metaphysical fundamentals, necessity is redundant. Existence is necessary. Necessity exists.

            >There are an infinite set of possible systemic primary structures.

            There you go again, bringing in religion and rationalizing it with pseudo-rational, floating abstractions. Existence is finite. Everything is finite. Infinity is a mathematical method of knowing reality ,merely identifying man’s conceptual power to increase any number. There is no infinite God except within a limit, perhaps imagination or conceptual error.

            > basis of the universe

            Religion again, rationalized. The universe is everything and eternal, w/o a transcendent cause. Causes are in the universe. Virtually the entire history of philosophy is a rationalization of religion or of an equally irrational, subjectivist rejection of religion. And philosophy is the base of all knowledge, inc/science. False philosophy->false science.

            > What one would expect if there was a strictly causal relationship (as
            the simplest of possible logical forms would suggest) is not what we

            Youre confusing seeing with your chosen conceptual context of seeing.

            > randomness within certain probability distributions)

            Certain=identity, ie, non-random. Randomness is the product of volitional mind evading a focus onto reality.

            > the smallest units we can currently investigate within this reality

            Units are epistemological, not metaphysical. Units are real entities conceptualized, eg, a unit of length or trees.

            > If you are confident of the data, then one must examine the set of
            possible assumptions and see what alternative sets of assumptions
            deliver. That is what I have done.I get that is probably incomprehensible to you in your current state of development.

            I’ve studied the Pragmatist corruption of reason. As Peirce said, “Thought is not necessarily connected w/a brain.” How true.

            >If you actually put in the time and effort, abandon all sacred cows
            (assumptions), I suspect your view will have altered somewhat as a

            When you abandoned all sacred cows and your mind disintegrated without a framework, did you find Jack Daniels more interesting? USAF sensory deprivation experiments show that the lack of anything definite to think about causes the loss of volitional control over one’s mind, ie, psychosis. Indian Yogas, however lasted longer than jet fighter pilots. What if a Yoga was in a jet fighter hit by a rocket and was hurtling wildly to the ground? Would he retain control longer than a trained pilot? I don’t think so but I guess we’ll never know.

          • It is clear that you are a religious adherent to a simple set of constraints, and you are not interested in considering any evidence or possibility that might violate those constraints. Very similar to Rand in that respect.

            Unless you relax some of those constraints a little, your conceptual and perceptual world will be forever limited by them.

            Any such fundamentalist system which is so intolerant and disrespectful of diversity is a threat to all others (to the very concept of freedom), and will, of necessity, be managed as such.

            Not a lot more need be said.

          • TeaParty1776

            Existence is constraint. Existence is constrained, finite, limited, definite. Everything is constrained, a house, a tree, a politics, evidence, possibility, ideas, a method of using one’s mind. Rationalism is a constrained use of the mind. In Marxism, evidence and possibility are constrained by economic determinism. Your nihilism is constrained within the impossible dream of escaping constraint. Even freedom is constrained. Capitalist freedom is constrained by reason and individual rights.. Leftist freedom is constrained by momentary emotion or sensation. Mind functions by constraint to a definite framework. An unconstrained mind is impossible, tho psychosis approaches it. Diversity is restrained, eg, a diverse portfolio of stocks, a diverse group of ideas in a university, the biological diversity of nature and Leftist politics. Threats are constrained, eg, the threat of fire from bad wiring, the threat of egalitarianism to individual rights, the threat of individual rights to egalitarianism, the threat of independent judgment to people who hate moral choice and the risk of knowledge, the threat of Leftists adding to their 200 million murders of the 20th century, the threat of nihilism to man’s independent mind and his life ,the threat that nihilism will be destroyed by Ayn Rand’s defense of man’s independent mind, the threat that your ideas will be recognized as a rationalization for destruction as an end in itself.

          • Existence is – yes.
            Levels of constraint are present – yes.
            When we look closely at such constraints they vary, the closer one looks the less definite they appear (at whatever dimension one cares to investigate).
            I am not nihilistic – I don’t know why you keep making that assertion.

            I accept constraint is a necessary part of existence, and the exact nature of those constraints are very interesting.
            When one looks very closely at such things, one ends up at various levels of understanding, like quantum mechanics, or string theory, or at various approximations to various field theories, or complexity theory, or computational theory, or a bunch of other things that are infinite in possibility and limited in the number and degree of such possibilities as yet instantiated in the reality we observe.
            In every case, the closer one looks, the less distinct something is, the more uncertain become the boundaries, the greater the influence of other agents in the system.

            When you examine complexity theory, it is the nature of constraints that define the major properties of systems. If constraints become hard, then the system become brittle and breaks under stress. Flexible constraints allow resilience.
            Flexibility in a knife edge not such a good idea, brittleness in a social construct not such a good idea.

            Yes we have existence, and yes we are finite in a sense, and we are connected also.
            Fields tend to extend indefinitely, though the influence is small at great distance. And the gravity of our bodies hold us to this planet, and are part of what holds us all in orbit around the sun. So small influences over great distances can be important, even if hard to measure.

            Rationality is the tiny tip of the vast processing system that is the embodied cognition of human existence.
            It is a very important part, and the other parts are important also.
            Rationality can only emerge as an emergent phenomenon when all of those subconscious systems exist.

            No person can exist on rationality alone.
            One can learn the disciplines of influencing aspects of our being like respiration, heart beat, facial muscles, peristalsis of gut, etc. But only one at a time. It is impossible to consciously manage balance. One must hand over control to the subconscious automomous systems if one wants to walk without crashing. Rational consciousness is too slow.

            Rationality is important.
            It is a very valuable part of being human, and being human is a lot more than being rational, and no human is entirely (or even mostly) rational.
            The vast bulk of what most people is consists of layers of heuristics embodied in genetic or cultural constructs.
            And yes, it takes reason to come to such and understanding, and the systems exist whether or not they are understood.

            I agree that developing the greatest degree of independence possible is a great thing to aim at, and it doesn’t pay to be delusional about the degree of dependence and relationship.

            Ayn Rand was very adept at rationalising whatever she wanted to do, as her personal life adequately demonstrated. And she did a lot of stuff that I found very interesting and valuable – and her ethics were a mess (fundamentally irrational).

            Bacon’s “Nature to be commanded must first be obeyed” still contains a lot of truth.
            We don’t understand nature just by thinking about it, we actually have to experiment and observe and refine our understandings. That process is both iterative and recursive, and without logical end.

            Yes we have a degree of independence, and I cherish that; and we also have necessary degrees of relatedness. Both need to be acknowledged. We need to be responsible in both sets of contexts.

            If freedom (independence) is to have any real meaning, then it demands of each of us an acceptance of, and a tolerance of, and a respect for, diversity.

            When one looks deeply, systemically, at epistemology and ontology, then all knowledge seems to be heuristically based, based in the survival of something in genetic or mimetic (cultural) environments. Rationality emerges as an epi-phenomenon from that multilayered heuristic construct, and not entirely independent of it.
            One needs to accept the constraints that system imposes if one wants to develop technologies to go beyond them. Pretending that they are not there is like trying to do molecular biology using the paradigm of the 4 elements. It aint going to work.
            We don’t get to see reality, we only ever see the model of reality that our subconscious processes assemble from various sensory inputs, distinctions, contexts, habits etc that exist within our brains. We can influence the constraints on process, and never entirely control it.
            Sometimes the boundaries we see are artifacts of the resolution of our models rather than attributes of the things being modeled.
            We are complex entities.

            Accept the starting point, then build from there.
            Build where-ever you want, provided you respect the rights of everyone else to do likewise.
            If conflict arises, conversations will be necessary to reach some sort of agreement. Such conversations will demand going beyond the limits of current paradigms – actually listening to others. That is only possible if there is agreement about some minimum set of fundamental values.
            The minimum possible set seems to be a universal respect for individual sapient life and a respect for the liberty of such individuals, and both of those necessitate responsible action in social and ecological contexts.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Existence is – yes. Levels of constraint are present – yes.
            When we look closely at such constraints they vary, the closer one looks the less definite they appear

            Metaphysically, existence is constraint is definite. There are no levels (degrees of being, types, species, kinds, variations, forms, categories, etc ,etc ) or more or less of constraint (ie, existence, as if “levels,” “more,” and “less” transcended existence) Everything exists equally. A pebble and the whole of the universe exist equally (without implying that equality somehow exists “more” than other things). Levels, degrees, kinds, variations, forms, categories, etc ,etc are epistemological, methods of conceptualizing our perceptions of existence). Youre bringing in, implicitly and very abstractly, the impossible metaphysical primacy of consciousness. This has corrupted virtually the whole history of philosophy. Even Aristotle, in his Metaphysics, claims species of being (tho his system as a whole is not corrupted thereby). Heidegger had his Being/beings split. All this is impossible, a pseudo-intellectual rationalization of mysticism and religion. There is just existence. Thats it. Nothing more. Existence exists. There is nothing behind, to the left of or in between (whatever that might mean) existence. When man confronts something, he has the volitional/conceptual power to tell himself that it exists or that it doesnt exist. Claiming levels of existence is merely an indirect way of denying existence. Existence is identity, not a manifestation of levels, infinity, God, consciousness, etc, etc. Things are what they are, not what some alleged other thing allegedly causes them to be. An oak tree is an oak tree, totally, completely and absolutely. The identity of the oak tree IS the existence of the oak tree. Existence is identity. Whatever science and math discover about existence is the identity of existence, not an alleged transcendental something. Science and math are methods of man’s conceptual/volitional consciousness of existence. They are not intellectual seances or oujia boards or methods of contacting something allegedly transcending existence. Existence exists and only existence exists. The mind’s function in guiding survival is disintegrated when man seeks an impossible realm which transcends existence. Scientific farming, not Indian rain dances, produces food for man’s life. Levels or variations of constraints (identity) of existence is a very abstract rationalization of the superstitious, primitive, nature-fearing, pre-scientific , pre-Western mentality. But its an abstraction from a pseudo-intellectualized emotion, not from the perception of the concrete, material universe. Eg, Kant’s CPR, Plato’s Forms. Science is not a rationalization of religion. Man must abstract (selective focus) from perception for survival. Science and math are methods of abstracting from perception, not rituals for contacting the Holy Indefinite.

          • You are making the same mistake as Rand (unsurprisingly).

            Yes – metaphysical existence is.

            If you want to understand anything at all about the nature of what is, then you have to leave metaphysics and turn to science.

            Science starts with a set of explanatory models about what might be, then designs a set of experiments to test which, if any, of those models produce accurate alignment with the results.
            Science is not, and logically cannot be, a process of proving anything.
            Science is, and can only be, a progressive process of disproving particular sets of assumptions and models in particular contexts. A process of refinement and occasional revolution as whole new classes of interpretation and model become available.
            Sometimes the new classes of interpretation are so far away in the computational space of all possible sets of assumptions and ways of relating that very few individuals can actually understand (the number of assumptions that must be overturned and the types and degrees of relationship are just too numerous for most minds to hold).

            When we apply that process, recursively, not only to our understandings of the reality around us, but also to the many levels of the nature of ourselves, it is a profoundly unsettling process, as most of the sacred cows of philosophy are seen for the simplistic assumptions that they are.

            Our ideas of space and time morph to such an extent that the very concept of simultaneity, becomes illusion, and the idea that there can be a single instant everywhere in which one could potentially freeze reality to define it, is seen as simplistic illusion, an impossibility available only in a simple 4 dimensional model of space-time.

            Once one gets to that understanding, the very notion that something is, independent of its relationship to everything else, is seen as a simplistic (though useful at normal human scale) illusion. So the whole metaphysical notion based upon such a simplistic set of assumptions evaporates.
            Reality loses the sort of simplicity such notions support, and becomes something vastly more complex.

            Rand had the hubris to believe that simplest of all possible logical paradigms alone could be used to model all aspects of reality.
            That notion has, beyond any shadow of reasonable doubt, been shown to be false. But you cannot see that if you lock yourself with the particular box of that one set of logical constraints.
            One must be willing to start exploring what appears to be an infinite realm of possible logics.
            The idea of simultaneity is only valid in the simplistic commonsense model of reality that is basically Newtonian. It fails in Einsteinian space-time – it actually makes no logical sense. A GPS system cannot work based upon Newtonian principles – it works very accurately when relativistic equations are used.

            Read something like Goedel Esher Bach, then follow it with something like John Gribben’s History of Science. If you take the contemplative time to test every set of assumptions you encounter in both books, it will be a fascinating journey.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Yes – metaphysical existence is. If you want to understand anything at all about the nature of what is, then you have to leave metaphysics and turn to science

            Can you think in principles or do you merely careen among intellectual experiences? You merely restate different versions of the impossible metaphysical split. All of existence is existence, equally. There is no metaphysical/nature split or any other kind. This impossible split requires a method connecting the poles of the split, eg, faith, intuition, drugs, government, society, race, class, equality, etc, etc. But those merely create other splits, leading to the evasion of the self-created problem with Pragmatism (your philosophy of science), the acceptance of confusion. Pragmatists arbitrarily grab a part of a whole and run w/it, not too far, of course, since the whole eventually catches up with them. Thus the appeal of traditional religion, with its non-intellectual, concrete rules, memorized but not understood. The universe is causal, not random. Mind can focus on causes. Randomness does not provide a focus for mind, thus the modern concern w/nuances that switch and swim. Newton generalized from causes ,not randomness. But if you can jump off a cliff and float, let me know.

          • I can think in far deeper levels of principles than you are currently demonstrating in your writing.

            Consider this.
            Even if the world were entirely causal, then the existence of systems that are maximally computationally complex (see Wolfram for details), would result in a reality that was both causal and unpredictable.

            Consider also, that if the universe is strictly causal, then everything, including this interaction between us, has been inevitable for the last 14 billion years – it just needed to play out.
            If such is the case, then all of philosophy, all moral argument, is fundamentally pointless – as we are all simply automata, doing what we had to do.

            Both of those are logical extensions of strict causality.

            The evidence sets available from science do not appear to support the notion of strict causality.

            Those evidence sets do support the notion of approximate causality – certain scales of phenomena that do very closely approximate causality, built upon a set of phenomena that are constrained stochastic.

            Once anyone builds an internally consistent system of thought based upon a set of constructs that refute any evidence contrary to those constructs, how is that in any significant feature different from religious belief.

            Science is based on the notion that we let reality be the final arbiter of our models.
            Sure, we use logic, mathematics, levels of abstraction, to refine our models and deliver new insights and possibilities, and it is the testing of those things in reality that defines science as science.

            Newton was a profound thinker, developed great abstract tools, developed models of reality superior to any that had existed prior – and all have been subsequently disproven, and all were necessary steps on the path to the new levels of abstraction and understanding.

            Don’t ignore Rand.
            Rand had some profound lessons to teach.
            Learn them and move on.

          • TeaParty1776

            >I can think in far deeper levels of principles than you are currently demonstrating in your writing.

            Whew! That’s a relief. I had thought you were intellectually trapped in superficiality. I await your profundity with keen excitement, even, I confess, some anxiety over the possibility that you may, tragically, remain superficial (but scholarly).

            > systems that are maximally computationally complex (see Wolfram for details), would result in a reality that was both causal and unpredictable.

            My hopes are dashed! I scarcely know what to say. Principles, which you claim to have (contra your Pragmatist philosophy of science) are the product of the conceptual integration and induction of complexity, ie, the forest for the trees. In your case, venturing beyond bark and twigs would be an intellectual achievement. Even a baby who observes that pushed balls roll has a wider integration of complexity. See David Harriman’s, Leap of Logic, for the history of science as the progressively wider (or more precise) induction of causes into principles. Man perceives entities acting, conceptualizes the entity-action relationship and induces a causal principle. Eg, Newton’s universal gravity. Concepts integrate complexity. Without concepts, Hume mindlessly stared at a chaos of events, waiting for an entity called causality to swim into view. Tho, evading mind, he would have no way to identify it as causality. He never should have left that billiards game. I presume that you believe that landing on asteroids in a non-causal, unpredictable universe is mere chance, like buying a lottery ticket, not the product of the conceptual/mathematical identification of an integrated complexity of causes.

            You have failed again to think in principles, with this further restatement denying that existence is identity and that causality is identity applied to action. Arbitrary testing, arbitrarily interpreted is the primitive, pre-scientifiic mentality, not science. You approach science the way a cat approaches a computer.

            > if the universe is strictly causal,

            Within the anti-conceptual ,mentality, there are only coincidences, no causes. Causality is a conceptual identification

            >then everything, including this
            interaction between us, has been inevitable for the last 14 billion
            years – it just needed to play out. If such is the case, then all of
            philosophy, all moral argument, is fundamentally pointless – as we are all simply automata, doing what we had to do.

            Causality is the entity-action relation, not the prior event-later event relation, ie, coincidence. See Thales’ discovery of natural causes. And corresponding to matter, life and mind, there are three types of causes, mechanical, teleological and volitional. The actions of matter and life are predictable but not that of mind, which comes from within, independent of matter and life. Man chooses, the primary ,simple, directly experienced fact of mind. You evade your own experience of your own mind for a Humean stream-of-consciousness. Did you vote for Trump?

            > phenomena that do very closely approximate causality,

            Your faith in an unknowable God ,ie, a supernatural cause, is noted, tho how you know when God approaches or recedes is a mystery best left to seances and oujia boards. As Rand asked, how does one compute probabilities of the unknowable?

            > internally consistent system of thought

            Thought must first identify, w/o contradiction, reality. Then, in that context , it will be consistent. Lacking the non-contradictory identification of reality, consistency is impossible and irrelevant. It would not be a consistent knowledge of reality.

            > Science is based on the notion that we let reality be the final arbiter of our models.

            But since your alleged reality is existence split from identity and causality (entities and their actions),its merely a realm of swimming and switching events w/o identity, ie, coincidences, Man could not survive in such an alleged reality. A cow could provide meat one moment and poison the next. The sun would grow crops one day but not the next. And his mind, man’s basic method of survival, would have nothing to identify.

            Further, concepts are the context of scientific models. And entities, w/their definite similarities and differences w/other entities,are the context of concepts. Lacking definite entities and relationships and actions, concepts are impossible. Lacking concepts ,only arbitrary, non-scientific, perceptual models are possible, as to the primitive mind.

            Scientific testing is of concepts of entities and their actions, not of a merely perceived flow of events w/o identity and causality. Positivism held up the acceptance of atomic theory for years because positivism validated only a flow of mysteriously regular events w/o allegedly mystical causes. The regular integers in the measurements of experiments were evaded as evidence of entities, ie, atoms.

            > Newton…. subsequently disproven,

            Jump off a cliff ,since their is no universal gravity, and report back to me. Reason is contextual and hierarchical, progressively building on prior knowledge. Reason is not out-of-context revelation. Newton’s ideas _are_ true in the context of his knowledge. Einstein identified limits to Newton’s ideas that Newton didnt know. Universal gravity is somewhat different than Newton knew. But what he knew is absolute in his context of knowledge, ie,, in reality as he knew it. That remains, to which more knowledge has been added.

            Again, you claim that Rand knew something but you dont identify it or why allegedly superseded.

          • You keep erecting straw men. That was always the likely outcome.

            Newton’s ideas are not true.
            They were useful approximations to something in a particular set of contexts.
            We now know that is what they were.
            I suspect that Einstein’s model may be shown to be no more than a better approximation, and not any end point or absolute truth.

            I am all in favour of understanding logic and systemic principles.
            I have made a living from designing and writing and supporting computer systems for over 30 years. I have a certain practical experience in such things.

            The universe does not need to be based on hard causal principles for us to be able to understand it to some useful approximation in common contexts – and it is the commonality of contexts that is the key bit, both in terms of the selection of heuristic primitives by evolution, and in the development of pattern within neural networks.

            Newton’s approximation to gravity was close enough for his time.
            It was accurate within the limits of measurement error available in his day.
            Einstein’s model has proven accurate within the limits of measurement available to us today. It is useful in the design of engineering achievements like the GPS navigation system. It has a quality of “fit for current purposes” which meets my criteria of “a useful approximation to something”.

            When you look at the detail of how understanding develops, it is a set of levels of heuristic approximations. We have many levels of these heuristics embedded within us. We learn many more.

            We use models to make sense of things.
            We base our models on sets of assumptions (mostly implicitly delivered by genetics and culture).
            The hubris of both Newton and Rand was to assume that such assumptions had any sort of universal validity.
            Useful approximations to something in certain contexts – yes – wholeheartedly agree and accept.
            Any sort of final word about anything, that seems highly improbable.

            You made the statement “Again, you claim that Rand knew something but you dont identify it or why allegedly superseded” which is just so wrong.
            I have been identifying it, consistently, from many different perspectives, but you are either unwilling or unable to see that.
            The explanation does not exist within the context you are demanding I use.
            It is a bit like trying to get to General Relativity while accepting all of Newton’s laws. It cannot be done.
            One must be willing to give up Newton’s laws, and explore other possibilities, to be able to get to general relativity. One has to see them as nothing more than a useful approximation to something, to be able to see the possibility of something beyond.

            Similarly (by analogy) you cannot comprehend what I am saying from within Rand’s context.
            You need to be able to relax the boundaries a little, and try out the evidence sets available, and see where that process leads.
            You need to look very closely at what the experimental evidence sets from such disciplines as sub atomic physics, cosmology, developmental psychology, and AI research are actually indicating.

            When you bring those diverse tool-sets and evidence sets together, something becomes evident that is outside of the boundaries you are currently within.

            And there is no substitute for doing the work. Neural networks require experience sets to deliver intuitions.
            One needs to train the networks, in many different discipline’s simultaneously.
            Developing competencies and maintaining those competencies are two very different things.
            When one can see the truth of Rand’s teachings as a useful approximation to something, understanding itself will restructure. Feynman’s sum over life histories approach was useful to me in that regard, and that may simply be an artifact of the particular path I chose.

          • TeaParty1776

            > You keep erecting straw men. That was always the likely outcome.

            Straw men in the context of your rationalization of the evasion of principles. With your implicit religious metaphysics, you split existence from identity, as if existence is not existence, ie, has no identity, and as if identity does not exist, ie, as if consciousness is identity rather than the identification of the identity of existence. You evade identifying the identity of existence, then rationalize the evasion w/alleged metaphysical randomness, probabilities and pseudo-logical symbol manipulations. These are in your context of arbitrary values, or, as you say, “some useful approximation in common contexts,” ie, social agreement on an arbitrary (“some”) value or whim.

            > Newton’s ideas are not true. They were useful approximations to something in a particular set of contexts.

            You evade replying to my experiment of jumping off a cliff and seeing if you float, since theres allegedly no universal gravity and, allegedly, no causality. Basically, however, your religious epistemology is a search for an unreachable ideal, ie, God restated to use out-of-context pseudo-science as a rationalization. Your principle is that of Indians using rain dances to approximate what will appease the Great Spirit to create rain, since, lacking causality, they cant know in advance if their mindless ritual will work.

            > heuristics embedded within us…..assumptions (mostly implicitly delivered by genetics and culture).

            Youre evading your direct, immediiate control of the formation of ideas. Since ideas are a type of awareness of reality, innate ideas would be awareness prior to awareness ,an absurdity. There are no innate ideas nor can there be. Its more religious rationalization of the evasion of focusing one’s mind, thru the senses, onto reality.

            >You need to be able to relax the boundaries a little, and try out the evidence sets available, and see where that process leads….Neural networks require experience sets to deliver intuitions

            This is a drunk enjoying the process of getting drunk because it may lead to a pleasure he doesnt want to consider. You dont want to know your own values because you have none, only whims.

            > the particular path I chose

            Arbitrarily and conventionally, as impossible escape from the moral responsibility to identify the absolute facts of an unforgiving, unempathetic, causal universe. But your Holy Whim will not cause existence to split from identity. Youre trying to get high without having to pay. You may approximate that ideal but its unreachable. As a Spanish proverb said, “God said to take what you want and pay for it.

          • You miss the issues entirely.

            I hold no assumptions about anythings as unchallengable by experimental result.

            I accept the existence of consciousness – because I experience.
            Everything about the nature of that consciousness is open to interpretation of experimental evidence and the models available to fit that evidence to.

            If one starts with a set of assumptions (it matters not what set in a sense, provided one is willing to modify assumptions if the evidence requires it), then if one spends enough time examining evidence sets and sets of available schema, and sets of possible schema, then one ends up with an understanding (a conceptual model) of reality with a certain set of qualities.

            A useful approximation has nothing necessarily to do with social agreement, though humans are typically very social entities, and social agreement within groups (like within the objectivist movement as one specific example) often has far greater power of influence on individuals than logic or reason or evidence.

            A useful approximation can simply be that – something that has utility in a specific context.
            Having utility, workability, in a specific set of contexts, is nothing at all like a universal principle – it is much more like a heuristic.

            In my understanding, both you and Rand are confusing useful heuristics for universal principles. That is a major categorical error.
            Rand was very good at defining categories, not so good at seeing or acknowledging fundamental errors in the placement of concepts within particular categories.

            Useful heuristics (approximations to something) are not arbitrary, they have to survive the test of reality in some set of contexts, that is what gives them the character of usefulness. Neither arbitrary nor whim, and not entirely accurate either, merely fit for some set of purposes, and liable to failure if used out of proven contexts.

            Once one has explored the nature of logical and computational spaces more abstractly, then one can see that the very notion of metaphysics can itself be seen as a heuristic. And it takes a bit of work to get there.

            I did not claim that Newton’s notion of universal gravity had no utility. It has a great deal of utility in a particular set of contexts that are very common to humans generally. I have jumped off cliffs, and I have been wearing an abseil harness on each occasion. I have also jumped out of perfectly good aeroplanes, and I have had two parachutes firmly harnessed to me on each occasion. Newton’s idea of universal gravity is a very useful approximation to something in most common situations.

            However, if you try to make a functional GPS network based upon the mathematics of Newtonian gravity, then your position will drift by about 100m per day. At that level of accuracy, Newtonian gravity fails, and something else is required. Einstein gave us that something else, and it allows us to maintain positional accuracies of within 1mm per day with an appropriate constellation of receivers and appropriate computational resources (a very useful technique when exploring the details of tectonic earth movement or earthquakes or volcanism).

            I am not in the slightest bit interested in reinventing any set of Gods.

            I am very interested in understanding the nature of the reality I seem to find myself in, which includes the nature of me.

            When one spends enough time investigating the nature of neural networks, the nature of synaptic connectivity, the physical, chemical, and electrical modulators of synaptic connections; the evolution of the many layers of embodied cognition delivered by both genetic and cultural factors, then one is left with a very different picture as to the nature of the experience of being human from the very simplistic set of assumptions Rand based her musings upon. And in certain contexts what Rand used were useful heuristics, and don’t push them beyond their limits.

            I am not trying to cheat anything.
            I am trying to get you to see where you are cheating by being too lazy and too overconfident, and what it is costing us all.

          • TeaParty1776

            > I hold no assumptions about anything as unchallengable by experimental result.

            In a universe without identity and causality. Your prostitution of science, the rationally systematic study of causes, is noted. Your nihilist intellectual fraud is noted. Your Holy Whim is noted. Further, you have no absolute method of interpreting experiment. All you have is the arbitrary which you rationalize with the prostitution of science and logic. Logic is the non-contradictory identification of the facts of the causal universe. Logic is not subjective symbol manipulations of schizophrenics in mental hospitals or of ignorant mystics in primitive cultures. Your rejection of metaphysical identity and causality requires your prostitution of science.

            Knowledge is contextual. The basic context is the consciousness of reality. Knowledge is not an assumption, arbitrarly tested, about an unknowable, transcendental God (or whatever name you use to hide your mystical evasion of observation-based reason. Newton was absolutely right in the context of his knowledge of reality. Thats why you sleazily evaded the effect of jumping off a cliff in an allegedly non-Newtonian universe. Einstein was right in his, expanded knowledge of reality, a knowledge that is abstracted from Newton. If Newton is wrong in his context of knowledge, the universe is chaotic and Einstein is impossible. Reason is hierarchical. Man learns progressively more. At each step of the way, his knowledge is absolute in that context. Contexts are not the product of fallen man, who has lost his way, failing to reach a transcendental ideal. Knowledge is absolute, in a context, what scientists call parameters. Newton identified some facts of reality. Einstein identified more facts. This validates man’s mind as the producer of contextually absolute knowledge. Mysticism and subjectivism and the arbitrary interpretation of experiments are not rational, not the product of man’s mind focused logically onto causal reality. Reality is causal because existence is identity and causality is identity applied to action.

            “Nor is Being divisible, since it is all alike. Nor is there anything (here or) there which could prevent it from holding together, nor any lesser thing, but all is full of Being.”

          • Science is nothing like what you describe.

            Science is a process of noting observations, asking questions about those observations, designing experiments to determine which from available competing sets of explanatory frameworks seems to fit the data best (both in terms of matching predictions to observations and in terms of the simplicity of the systems and in terms of completeness across all known datasets), and repeating.

            I do not, (as Rand did) have the hubris to claim that reality has to follow any particular set of logical premises (from amongst the infinitude of sets possible).

            In matters relating to reality, I always let reality be the final arbiter.

            That does not require any sort of perfection on the part of anything.
            It requires only that our perceptual systems and instruments have a sufficient level of fidelity, within limits that we are able to usefully measure.

            Rand could largely be forgiven many of her errors, as the datasets and paradigms available to her were not nearly as good as those available to us. Peikoff has no such excuse.

            The idea that existence is independent of our perception of it, yes – close enough approximation to be useful in almost all situations. (This is an inductive statement – probability based, as all statements about the nature of reality must be.)

            In terms of metaphysics, an entity must have a set of attributes, to be considered an entity, and there is no logical requirement for those attributes to be fixed integer values. At the lowest levels they could also be constrained stochastic – random within certain probability distributions, or other sorts of functions, and still give a world with the sorts of approximations to causality we observe in many aspects of reality.

            If one were to posit a world that was strictly causal, then there could be no morality, as every effect would have a definite cause going back to t=0. We would all be cellular automata, acting out entirely pre-ordained patterns. I am no friend of Dan Dennett’s hidden lottery determinism, while I align with many other aspects of Dennett’s thinking.
            It is not an out from that to say that the world also has free will, because free will necessarily violates strict causality, and as soon as it enters reality, causality is blown.

            I am not in any way shape or form proposing any sort of primacy of consciousness argument, I agree with Rand that we are mostly about discovering reality – I just don’t put the sorts of constraints on that process that she did, and I do allow for the notion of creativity.

            I also have a very different understanding of consciousness, as complex set of embodied systems, that wasn’t available in her time.

            What I am saying is that the evidence from the study of systems, biochemistry, neuro-anatomy, neurophysiology and psychology is overwhelmingly in favour of the hypothesis that what we experience is not reality directly, but rather a subconsciously created model of reality, that becomes our experiential reality. That model is based on many levels of heuristics embodied in our being, some genetic, some cultural, some higher levels, and information flows from our sense and memories etc.

            Formal logic is not so clean as many people would like it to be.
            Russell and Goedel are both worth reading in this context.
            Wolfram has done some very interesting work with different axiom sets and the infinite set of possible axiom sets and the sorts of logics and systems and possibilities that result.

            When one looks at the nature of systems, it is clear that many different types of systems are possible, and many different classes are not predictable, and some do not terminate (compute indefinitely).

            Evolution seems to have both imposed and selected heuristics that performed sufficiently reliably, sufficiently quickly, and at sufficiently low power, and on hardware constructed from sufficiently common materials that they managed to survive in some set of niches. Everything alive today seems to be a set of solutions to that set of issues in some set of environments over time.

            We seem to be the most complex set of solutions to that problem yet to arise, consisting of up to some 20 levels of computational systems in cooperative alliances that deliver the degrees of both security and freedom that we experience.

            Our conscious experience seems to be but one level of that complex of embodied cognition.

            These systems seem to impose degrees of both subjectivity and objectivity in all observations, and the more conscious one is of those the more closely one may approach objective understanding.

            The idea of happiness seems to be a set of evolutionarily determined valences and their biochemical and electrochemical modulators.
            Such things are capable of conscious override, as I proved 7 years ago after being told I could be dead in 6 weeks with terminal melanoma in my lymph system and liver. Survival overrode all other factors, so I gave up sugar, alcohol, refined foods, animal products, and I’m still here. Not easy, and doable. It takes quite a while to reprogram neural networks to find new sets of foods palatable (about 6 months). It’s a little over 6 years since the last tumour.

            Feelings seem to be embodied heuristics that have been selected over some set of genetic or cultural conditions, and have in practice allowed for survival of all those leading to the one now experiencing the feelings (how many others died along the way is irrelevant in one sense, and a very useful thing to know in another sense).

            Given the degree to which humans have modified all aspects of existence, it is arguable that all heuristics should now be seriously questioned. And that takes time, and time for such activities is a luxury many do not have.

            So in terms of using the systems I have available to generate the greatest probability of long term survival with the greatest degrees of freedom possible – markets fail. Laissez-faire capitalism fails catastrophically once technology approaches the point of delivering fully automated production systems. And we are very close to that point.

            So the whole situation is vastly more complex than a few simplistic axiomatic assumptions argued from absurd premises.

          • TeaParty1776

            Philosophy provides scientific method to science, whether science knows this or not. You are reversing this, as if your view of scientific method validates or invalidates philosophy. Your philosophy denies identity, causality, absolutes, concepts, objectivity. Your view of scientific method applies this. Then you claim that your view of scientific method and its interpretation of scientific conclusions validates your philosophy and invalidates a philosophy of identity, causes, etc. This begs the question. Of course, your specific philosophy applies as a specific scientific method and specific conclusions. Thats the way mind functions, hierarchically. If you wear rose-colored glasses, you see rose. If your scientific method is for probabilities without causes , then it wont identify causes. Youre not looking for causes. So you dont find any. Thats the mentality of primitive man prior to the Gk discovery of causes and a scientific method for identifying them. Positivism regarded integers in experiments as merely empirical probabilities w/no possibility that they could imply real atoms, real causes of chemical and physical actions. Given your philosophy implicit in your specific scientific method, causes are impossible or unknowable. There is no scientific evidence that can contradict such a philosophy. Its your philosophy that must change. But you are committed to a universe in which things are not what they are. Thats your choice in life, logically prior to your science. So you have chosen to tolerate a short-range awareness and the resulting short-range actions as the price of never knowing causes and their necessary, long-range effects as known in absolute knowledge. Thus your hatred of industrial capitalism and its guidance by causes, independent reason and the long-range effects. Your God is the Holy Whim. Youre a nihilist transitioning to mysticism. An America of rational confidence in one’s own mind, which wont compromise to social approval, is a nightmare to such a mentality. Why respect the minds of productive businessmen when you dont respect your own? As Obama said, “You didnt build that.” The Enlightenment is dead. See Atlas Shrugged for tomorrow’s news. Rand predicted today from the philosophy taught in universities in the 1950s. The choice to focus or evade is yours.

          • I give up.
            Your preference for dogma over evidence is clear.
            I prefer to use evidence and logic, evidence to indicate what sort of logic is most appropriate to the situation.
            And this is going nowhere.

          • TeaParty1776

            You continue to drop context as method of rationalizing the evasion of man’s basic moral responsibility, to reason. You claim a universe of identity and causality is dogma. Ie, you claim that things are not what they are and that the actions of a thing can contradict its identity ,ie, miracles. Evidence and logic are relative to identity, causality and mans’s conceptual/volitional mind. But you claim evidence and logic are merely arbitrary symbol manipulations that, mysteriously, magically, mystically, satisfy whims in the immediate moment without context. This is the prostitution of man’s basic method of survival, his mind, that has dominated universities since modernist/nihilist intellectuals destroyed the Enlightenment, the only post-classical, rational civilization. Its especially hated as the culture that created America as a rational individualist nation. Thus your hatred of our scientific-industrial-capitalist civilization, the rational way for man to organize for survival.

            Honest posters will identify your evasions, fundamental destructiveness and hatred of man’s mind focused onto reality.

          • Where – anywhere in this discussion, have I done either of:
            promoted evasion of responsibility to reason; or
            that evidence and logic are in any sense arbitrary?

            I have made neither of those claims.
            Quite explicitly to the contrary.

            I don’t hate civilisation or technology.
            I love life, liberty and diversity; and all those need to exist in responsible social and ecological contexts.

            And there can be no hard boundaries on what responsibility is, when diverse paradigms are present.

            I am all in favour of focusing the mind onto reality, and that means looking very deeply at the available evidence sets.

            Have you ever considered that a true circle cannot exist in any quantised reality, for the relationship between the circumference and the diameter of a circle (pi) is an irrational number. So a perfect circle cannot exist in any quantised reality, as there is no integer relationship between the circumference and the diameter of a circle. The only thing that can exist in reality is some level of useful approximation.

            That is just one simple example of how the conceptual tools we find very useful for modeling can be very misleading if we take them too far in reality.
            Same applies to all aspects of logic.
            Reality doesn’t necessarily play by our simplistic logics or models, it seems to have an infinite set of such things available to it.

            Yes, certainly, by all means, learn all the tools of logic, mathematics, reason, and in doing so acknowledge them for what they are, modeling tools.
            A map is never the thing it maps.
            They are really useful.
            Reality is far too complex to make any sense of without them.

            Reality is what it is when it is, and sometimes that seems to be “indeterminate”. That seems to be what the experiments into the smallest levels of reality we can currently discover anything about are telling us.

            And the common-sense notion of time that we all must start out with, one has to give that one up quite quickly if one honestly looks at the datasets available.

            Use logic certainly, but do not try and impose any particular logic on reality.
            Look to reality to tell you what sort of logic is a useful sort of approximation in what sort of context.

            The enlightenment was not characterised by the adoption of any sort of dogma, rather it was characterised by the willingness to challenge dogma, at every level, and to ask questions of reality, and deal with whatever showed up with integrity. And sure, lots of politics and dogma and power trips happened alongside that process.

            One thing this journey of the last 7 years with cancer has clearly demonstrated to me, is that most people would rather die than challenge a belief that is foundational to their particular world view.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Where – anywhere in this discussion, have I done either of:
            promoted evasion of responsibility to reason; or
            that evidence and logic are in any sense arbitrary

            As I said about your evasion or ignorance of principles, your use of an application, science, to validate your acausal metaphysics is impossible. Your acausal metaphysics validates your anti-conceptual use of probability. If acausal metaphysics is true, then the anti-conceptual use of probability is valid in the context of that truth. You evade discussing your acceptance of the pre-scientific metaphysics of an existence that is not identity and its context, the impossible metaphysical primacy of consciousness. Consciousness does not create existence. Consciousness is conscious of existence, an existence that is identity. To be conscious is to be conscious of existence and that it is identity. There is no consciousness of an identityless existence. The consciousness of a tree is of that identity, the tree, not of some impossible empty existence. A tree is a tree. Even a hallucination or illusion is a hallucination or illusion. Everything is what it is, acc/to philosophy. Science then applies that metaphysics and identifies the specific identities, eg, universal gravity, electricity, gas behavior, fluid dynamics, etc.

            The above is metaphysical part of the context of reason. The epistemological part is reason as the identification and integration of the perceptions of existence. But you deny that for probabilities. Metaphysical randomness and epistemological probabilities cant validate reason, logic and evidence. Eg, logic is man’s method for identifying the facts of reality w/o contradiction, not arbitrary symbol manipulation. The base of logic is the fact that existence has (is) an identity. A fact is evidence only to man’s volitional/conceptual mind. Evidence is the logical relation between facts and mind. Nothing is evidence to perception. It simply is. A dog perceiving a tree is conscious of an entity which he associates w/various emotions and actions and other entities. The dog is not conscious of evidence, a conceptual/volitional product.

            Newton and the other giants of the rise of modern science studied causes with concepts, not randomness w/probability. That is the view of pre-scientific man , who necessarily, like “moderns,” use mysticism for the absolutes not provided by their primitive, implicit knowledge of reason. It was not the Greek or Enlightenment view, whatever their non-basic errors. Aquinas joined (not integrated) Aristotle and Christianity. Thus the Renaissance, in which Bacon split Scholasticism into Aristotle and Christianity and systemized Aristotle’s occasional use of experiments with a more systematic induction based on _conceptualized_ observations. Thus science. Here, a tree is more than this concrete tree associated randomly w/other trees, boats, houses, etc. In science, a tree is _regarded as_ a unit of tree, allowing a vast, wide and subdivided integration with units of other things. Man abstracts observation into units and integrates units into concepts, allowing the integration of knowledge into sciences and philosophy. See Rand’s Epistemology and David Harriman’s Leap of Logic.

            Aristotle, despite an absurd tradition of interpretation, is not a deductivist. Read merely a few online paragraphs of his biology, the _first_ self-conscious use of scientific method. Aristotle is as concrete as todays good science. To be scholarly, Plato partially rejected the Forms late in life and gave some vaguely scientific lectures when Aristotle became his student. Aristotle, of course. rejected the mysticism and the rest is history, electrical motors, iPhones, robots on Mars, artificial “intelligence,” genetic medicine, etc. Rand’s theory of concepts explicitly guides some(?) versions of object-oriented programming. I recall a big book w/that title decades ago in my university library. The topic is easily found online.

            Probability theory is valid when man doesnt have sufficient knowledge of specific causes. Eg, electron location, insurance prices. But it doesnt validate acausal metaphysics. It cant. It doesnt have the conceptual power.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Science is a process of noting observations

            Science conceptualizes observations. It regards, by abstracting, entities as units, ie, as members of groups of basically similar units. The mind then integrates the units into concepts that provide knowledge of all the units of that type throughout the universe. This allows integrating past, present and future into one consciousness for long-range planning. Thus the concept, tree, allows man to know that anything encountered anywhere with those similarities and differences acts in a definite way. The universe is known as causal, open to man’s survival, not the modernist/nihilist nightmare concretized in Edvard Munch’s, “The Scream” or the current popularity of zombie dramas. Those are the art of man without mind facing a universe without empathy.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Science is a process of noting observations, asking questions about those observations, designing experiments

            You continue evading the difference between perception and reason. Man ,and only man, abstracts from observations to form units and integrates units into concepts. Man can regard a tree as a unit of tree and integrate that w/all units of trees to form the concept, forest. Without units, animals and the anti-conceptual mentality of primitive and modern man cant see the forest for the trees. They are lost in a chaos of concretes, mildly relieved only by animal instincts and human religion.

            “A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members. (Two stones are two units; so are two square feet of ground, if regarded as distinct parts of a continuous stretch of ground.) Note that the concept “unit” involves an act of consciousness (a selective focus, a certain way of regarding things), but that it is not an arbitrary creation of consciousness: it is a method of identification or classification according to the attributes which a consciousness observes in reality. This method permits any number of classifications and cross-classifications: one may classify things according to their shape or color or weight or size or atomic structure; but the criterion of classification is not invented, it is perceived in reality. Thus the concept “unit” is a bridge between metaphysics and epistemology: units do not exist qua units, what exists are things, but units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships. With the grasp of the (implicit) concept “unit,” man reaches the conceptual level of cognition which consists of two interrelated fields: the conceptual and the mathematical. The process of concept-formation is, in large part, a mathematical process.”
            -Ayn Rand ,Intro. To Objectivist Epistemology

            See Aristotle’s biology for the first scientific application of his discovery of the method of conceptualizing observations (contra Atomists conceptually adrift in an arbitrarily described, acausal universe) Evolutionary biologist, Leroi Andre’s, The Lagoon (book, BBC/YouTube), is a discussion of Aristotle creation of the science of biology. Darwin thought him the best biologist.

          • TeaParty1776

            > > So the whole situation is vastly more complex than a few simplistic axiomatic assumptions argued from absurd premises.

            Your intellectual fraud continues. Existence exists. Existence is identity. Consciousness is identification.

            > approach objective understanding.

            Mystics have claimed this for millenia.

            > So in terms of using the systems I have available to generate the
            greatest probability of long term survival with the greatest degrees of
            freedom possible – markets fail.

            Agreed, markets fail for animals and the anti-conceptual mentality. Markets are minds communicating w/minds via material value ratios expressed as prices. Further, your freedom is merely socially/politically approved whim, not freedom to use mind to guide survival. Your irrationalist lust for totalitarianism is noted. But force is not a substitute for mind.

          • Is a computer and the software running on it separate?

            We think about it as such.
            Software designers rarely consider the hardware.

            Similarly, we can say that metaphysical existence is.
            It kind of says something, and also says not much at all.

            So we put up some hypotheses, and we test them in reality.
            We refine our tests and our methods of interpretation.
            Over time we come to understand that our experiential reality is a subconsciously created model of reality.
            We start to understand the many levels of embodied computational heuristics that make the sort of experience we have of consciousness possible.
            We start to understand the recursive nature of the logical traps of all distinctions, all abstractions, and simultaneously appreciate them for the experience that they make possible.

          • TeaParty1776

            > metaphysical existence…. kind of says something, and also says not much at all….our experiential reality is a subconsciously created model of reality.

            Do you think God will save you in time or are you doomed to Perdition? Do you feel empathy for those early Christians who sold all their worldly possessions and gathered in forests to wait for Jesus and the reality transcending the manifestation of God called the universe?

          • How many times do I need to tell you that I am a functional atheist.

            I don’t believe in anything in the realm of reality in any absolute sense (I have sufficient evidence of the fallibility of both the senses and of our logical system in respect of their actual relationship to reality).
            I deal in probabilities.
            Some probabilities are sufficiently close to unity that I don’t normally question them on an operational basis (and if pushed, their is in fact doubt present).

            It seems very probable that the universe just is what it is.
            If seems to be a mix of the lawful and the random.
            It seems that we as human beings are the most complex exploration of the systemic possibilities of being yet in existence (at least as far as I have reliable evidence for at present).

            The models I have of that existence make extensive use of evidence from all domains of scientific and systemic inquiry. They are quite recursively complex, however simple some of the principles involved may be.

          • TeaParty1776

            > It seems very probable that the universe just is what it is.

            How do you calculate probabilities of the unknowable? How do you identify probability as probability except relative to identity and causality? Reason is hierarchical and you deny the base in identity and causality. Mind cant focus onto randomness. It disintegrates. Mind focuses onto identities and causes (the entity-action relation). Schizophrenia is not practical for survival. A farmer who thought that seeds might grow into wheat or rocks would be unable to know how to produce food for his survival. Rational philosophy is an objective need of man’s survival. It created ancient Greece’s discovery of the mind, the scientific-industrial revolution and America’s individual rights revolution.

          • How do you calculate probabilities?
            Evolution, at both genetic and cultural levels seems to have instilled in us a set of priors that have worked over various evolutionary timescales.

            In some situations, they give a very close approximation to unity – well within the margin of error of our best instruments.
            In other situations, they don’t work so well.

            Our brains contain deep hierarchical structures that tend to identify and embody hierarchies in practical situations – that I can agree to.

            I can also acknowlege relationships.
            There seem to exist infinite possibilities into the nature of such relationships.
            If one defines identity abstractly as an array of attributes, where those attributes may contain arrays of other identities, and may also contain relationsips between identities, which relationships may be complex functions, and may contain random and irrational elements, then one ends up in a very complex system, some parts of which are chaotic.

            Evolution seems to have equipped us with brains that are very good at finding pattern, but far less competent at accurately identifying real chaos.
            Chaos exists, at many different levels.

            Ancient Greece seems to be part of the story of the emergence of complexity from simplicity when minds started to step beyond simply being patterns doing what patterns must do.

            Asking questions, building models, is a very powerful part of that process.
            Don’t stop doing it just because Rand found one that looked pretty to her.

            It’s way more complex than that.

            To honestly ask a question, one has to be willing to stand in a place of not knowing.
            If one isn’t in that place, there can be no question – only restatement of dogma, remodeling of the known.

            Its not an easy or a comfortable place.
            It takes a lot of discipline.

          • TeaParty1776

            > Experimental evidence is clear that we have volitional influence, and control is too strong a word in most contexts

            Evidence is reality relative to man’s volitional/conceptual mind. Volition provides the intellectual power of proof and refutation. You have it backwards. Man, except for deep psychotics, has volition in all contexts. Youre rationalizing the hatred of moral choice and the desire for a passive consciousness. That’s exactly the Kantian culture of pre-Nazi Germany, the first modern culture.

            Focus your mind. Look out at reality.
            Reality is out there. Its sneaking up on you. Its gonna get you wherever you go.

          • TeaParty1776

            > My operating paradigm is a synthesis of the rational and the mystic

            You fall into a coma, wake up and wonder whats happening and then go into a coma again. Repeat.

          • TeaParty1776

            >My operating paradigm is a synthesis of the rational and the mystic in a very real sense

            Are you focusing now?

            > It takes a deeply nested understanding of complexity, uncertainty,
            biological system, systems more generally, and evolutionary strategy to
            get a feel for what I understand by the term mysticism.

            “I believe it because its absurd.”
            -Tertullian, early Church leader

  • Pingback: Objectivism | Ted Howard NZ's Blog()

  • txtist

    I am not understanding the motivation to this diatribe..
    is it to assert the authority of the State/Collective/Herd?
    Or simply show off one’s verbal skills?
    One who has the appellation “Chair in Global Justice and the Environment ” might wish to clarify his vocabulary, since words having any objective meaning is irrelevant.

  • William R Thomas

    I wrote the short overview that David is referring to.

    At the Atlas Society, we view Objectivism as a philosophical school based in the insights of Ayn Rand, but certainly not limited to dogma of any sort.

    If nothing else, that school should continue to develop its ideas based first and foremost in objectivity. Ayn Rand summarized her whole attitude toward philosophy by describing Objectivism as being based in just two basic thoughts or acts: the axiom that existence exists (i.e., the commitment to objectivity) and the choice to live.

    Explore our website,, for much more on reason, objectivity, Objectivism, and new thought about it.

  • Eric Kassan

    As usual, the detractors of Ayn Rand are woefully (but intentionally) uninformed, and come up short in rationality as well. Here the author decided a short summary on the Atlas Society website was as much as he needed to know about Ayn Rand or Objectivism in order to criticize one and reinvent the other. It should be noted that the selected website has been disavowed by The Ayn Rand Institute and Ayn Rand’s intellectual heir for not being true to the philosophy.

    For anyone HONESTLY interested in learning about Objectivism, Leonard Peikoff wrote the definitive book- “Objectivism- the Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. FYI, there are only 3 axioms (the rest is open to debate based on evidence and logic) and none deal with happiness or morality.

  • Kennon Gilson

    What Wilson seems to really hate is Ayn Rand’s criticism of fact-free articles in the name of science such as this one.

  • Russ

    Wow. This reveals such a shallow understanding of Objectivist ideas as to render it useless. Correcting all the errors would require far more time/space than the “article” itself takes up.

    Sad, really, that such ignorance masquerades as “insight.” Oh, well.

  • Bryan Hann

    Was the word ‘objectivism’ in circulation before Rand’s coining ‘Objectivism’ for the name of her program? If so, then I know how to interpret the phrase ‘taking it back’. If not, then not.

  • Chris McGraw

    “It is not a worthy moral goal to maximize happiness without considering the consequences that result from the psychological state.”

    Consequences? Happiness is an emotional state. What sort of consequences are you alluding to? If the purpose of your life is not happiness, what is it?

    “Many worldviews that depart from factual reality make people happy and lead to healthful and sustainable actions.”

    Such as?

    “It is empirical question whether laissez-faire capitalism, however defined, benefits the common good. There is certainly no logical proof for it.”

    I have studied both logical and empirical arguments for capitalism for many years and found them convincing, but Ayn Rand never attempted to justify capitalism on the grounds of the “common good,” so I’m not sure what this complaint has to do with Objectivism. Rand promoted capitalism on the grounds of morality, and Objectivist ethics does not recognize the “common good” as a moral value. In fact, such a term is completely nebulous. Can you define it? Everyone’s “good” is different. Human beings are not ants. According to Rand, capitalism provides the best environment within which human beings can pursue their rational self-interest, if they so choose, and the goal of such a pursuit is personal happiness.