Friday, September 10, 2010

A Wrap up on Objectivism

I'm pretty sure this is going to be my last post on the matter between Dawson and myself specifically, although perhaps not the last one on Objectivism generally. Objectivism is his cup of tea, not mine, therefore he can have the last word on the matter. For reference, see the "objectivism" label for the historical argument, or the post just below this for the individual links. This wrap up is in response to Dawson's latest response to me (which was in reference to "P4 Respnse to Dawson" below) which is located HERE.

Let me first clear the water of some things that were stated. Because again, I wanted to get to your use of words as representations, however you'd go on to give some rhetorical examples.

I said:
“Andrew: “To see words as representation is to bring to light certain skeptical questions such as, ‘How do you know you've represented reality properly?’”

You responded:
“It depends on the situation. If I say to my daughter “Take my hand,” and she does it, then I’ve obviously communicated what I intended, for she understood me.”

No, it doesn't depend on the situation, it depends on the context (or so I'll suggest). In this case your example is a rhetorical context of the everyday where the test for truth is less about philosophical representation (or a philosophical conversation) and more about simple understanding and triangulation. In other words if I tell you (in the midst of us talking face to face), “STOP, Dawson, that stove is hot!” as you're about to put your hand down on it, you don't question my ability to adequately represent reality, you take it that both your and my experiences and beliefs are to a certain degree on par.

You also stated on representation:
"I thought I was pretty clear on this. Words are symbols for (“represent”) concepts. I also gave an example (the defendant’s testimony) of how the use of the word “represent” in my view is unproblematic. So I guess I’m not seeing what the problem is.”

Here's your example:
“People often refer to a statement’s correspondence to reality in terms of representation, as in the case of a statement such as “the defendant’s testimony did not accurately represent the situation of the night of the murder,” which is harmless."

You're right, it is harmless, and once again we have to make a distinction between the everyday rhetorical use of “representation”, and it's use in a philosophical context, because a philosophical context carries with it certain implications and baggage. It's one thing to suggest that by the above discourse you can glean some sort of understanding of the circumstance, it's entirely another to use it as an analogue for how language works – but in fact, that's exactly what your philosophical system does, but not what you're saying here.

What's interesting, and in fact has a touch of humor, is you end your example with a little qualifier as follows:
“But such treatments are not intended as a philosophical analysis of knowledge’s relationship to reality.”

Which to some extent is exactly what I'm saying, so what was the point of the example? At first you state (from a philosophical context) quite explicitly
“Words are symbols for (“represent”) concepts.” Then you go on to give an example which has nothing to do what we're talking about by using the word represent in a rhetorical (as you say, unbroblematic) sense, but what we're talking about is your acceptance of representation in it's philosophical sense.

Allow me to simplify this even more. I think I made a pretty clear case that you do in fact see truth (language, propositions) as representing the “facts of reality” (that reality existing independent of man, and containing facts), in a philosophical sense.

You then go on to make a clarification regarding facts, however it doesn't help your case any. Actually, I think it makes your case even worse and plays right back into my hands.

You state:
"By “facts,” I generally mean existents in relationships. E.g., tree next to the house, bird on the fence post, mountain south of the city, etc. The task of consciousness is to perceive and identify facts, not create them... The concept “reality” includes all existents and the relationships in which we find them."

This is essentially a restatement of what we've already been through. All you've done (or added) is defined what these facts are that we're identifying – or their nature. You have existents, (let me call them particulars) and their relationships (we could call those concepts, universals, whatever). Now, since you've already stated explicitly that the facts of reality exist independently of man, and that the facts of reality are “particulars” in relationships, all you've done is essentially tie along with particulars, the relationship of particulars to the reality outside of mans consciousness as well. And in essence, there goes your defense of concepts and universals. Which, incidentally, is a contradiction and undercutting of what you want to think.

You state:
“Realism in terms of universals is the view that “that universals have a reality of their own, an extra-mental existence. This of course does not describe the Objectivist view; but it does describe Plato’s view.”

But wait, you've already given them a reality “all their own”. Once again you state,
“truth identifies a sort of relationship between the facts of reality”. You've agreed and stated explicitly that facts exist in reality independent of man. We know that truths are proposition spoken in a language game, and we already know that you believe something to be true when one of these proposition corresponds to the reality which exists independently of man (but not just the particulars of reality, their relationships as well). That's correspondence, that's representation, that's the mirror of reality, and that's Realism.

Now you can argue that Rand doesn't say that, believe that, etc., and I must admit again that I haven't read Rand. However in the vary least you have to accept that perhaps you've simply done a poor job representing what Rand's core beliefs are, and in fact have made it explicit that they're just further forms of Realism, words as representation, and thus carries with it the skeptical baggage I've been pinging you with from the start. Which is, of course, that you'll ultimately be unable to provide a non question begging account of your core axioms, or that anyone should (for that matter) just blindly accept your axioms. Just like we shouldn't blindly accept Sye's.

Let me clear up one final piece regarding Realism. Of course I could have cut with the “general” Realist/Platonist usage and made a distinction between, say, Platonic Realism, Immanent Realism, and Nominalism – but the reality is all 3 of those forms will ultimately contain the same or similar baggage previously stated (but I don't even want to get into that at this point). The fact that I was throwing Platonism around so willy nilly is really a poor clarification on my part – I should have taken what was going on more seriously, but I really didn't think you'd want to carry the conversation this far, although I'm happy you did.

No comments:

Post a Comment