Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Excerpted from Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd edition
appendix:

"Prof. C: I have a question about the primary-secondary quality
distinction. A quality like bitterness is not an attribute of an
object, but it is caused by an attribute. At least I would be tempted
to say that.
AR: I would not accept the distinction of primary and secondary
qualities, because it leads you into enormous pitfalls. It is not a
valid distinction.
We perceive light vibrations as color. Therefore you would say the
color is not in the object. The object absorbs certain parts of the
spectrum and reflects the others, and we perceive that fact of reality
by means of the structure of the eye. But then ask yourself: don't we
perceive all attributes by our means of perception - including
length?"

Well, yes Miss Rand, we certainly do perceive all attributes by our
means of perception. (Tautology.) But that's not what Prof. C asked
about. His premise was that bitterness is not an attribute of the
object.

Rand's rhetorical question is just another example of an Objectivist
trying to make something out of an empty tautology.

7 comments:

john said...

Cavewight:

1) does not supply the context of this excerpt; it is from the appendix, and is a transcript of various Objectivists chewing on certain fine points of the philosophy.
2) does not give the slightest indication he/she actually understands the argument at hand

Without those two, this post quite easily deserves to be characterized thusly: you saw the word "tautology" in use at one point, had a knee-jerk reaction to it because other shallow-minded people ridiculously attack the entirety of Objectivism as void because of tautology, and then blindly and stupidly cut and paste a criticism based on Parroting.

Useless and worst than useless.

John Donohue

Cavewight said...

AR's rhetorical question - "don't we perceive all attributes by our means of perception?" - is a tautology.

Cavewight said...

"1) does not supply the context of this excerpt; it is from the appendix, and is a transcript of various Objectivists chewing on certain fine points of the philosophy."

I suppose I'll bother replying to this, although I suspect your ultimate motive is merely to level the accusation of context-dropping" over and over again ad nauseum.

I'm certain that the "Prof's" question was context enough.

I did mention, at the top, that it was an excerpt from the appendix to ITOE2, and if someone on this forum doesn't know what that appendix is about (a "chewing over") then they can simply ask me. Besides, I don't see where knowing or not knowing this affects anything one way of the other, and the fact that Rand's answer (rhetorical question) was a tautology is not affected by this "context."

Now, you could have accused me of failing to cite a page number. That was my only slip. However, this can be easily remedied by using the Amazon.com "search inside" feature which has been activated for this book, or by using the Objectivism Research CD-Rom which I highly recommend and is available at the online Ayn Rand Bookstore for only about $60.

john said...

Sorry you got nauseous last time I accurately accused you or someone else of context dropping; unfortunately you may get sick again if you ever do it and I point it out. That queasy feeling is what you get when you realize your argument is void.

This I stipulate: You are addressing ITOE on this blog. People should be aware you are addressing the ‘chewing’ section in the appendix, which is more or less a fly-on-the-wall view of intellectuals turning Ayn Rand’s philosophical points over in their mind, the better to grasp them and integrate them with other aspects. It is a transcript of an off-the-cuff round table discussion. The formal statement of her epistemology is in the book proper.

As such “AR's rhetorical question - "don't we perceive all attributes by our means of perception?" - is a tautology.” Is no heroic grand skewering by you. If you honored you enemy, you would assume she was not a stupid ignoramus and that either she slightly misspoke, or in context there is a way to discover what her intent was with that one particular sentence. This is not to say you can’t reject or attempt to refute the thrust of her point, of course.

John Donohue

Cavewight said...

John,

Your response is so loaded with assumptions it is difficult to know where to begin my response. I don't see where I attempted any heroics, but I do know a tautology when I see one. If Rand simply misspoke - which I doubt - this could have been remedied by the heavy editing done by Binswanger when he prepared the appendix transcript for final publication.

Tautologies don't impress me, and where they are intended to impress, as in this case, so much the worse.

john said...

What to you think Ayn Rand's point was? Put it in other words.

Cavewight said...

John,

I'm pretty sure I made this clear in my original response. Rand's point was to reduce both length and color to man's mode of perception. This was intended to blur the distinction made, by Locke and others, between primary and secondary qualities.

Notice that the "Prof" who asked the question called it a "distinction," not a "dichotomy."