Stephen Speicher

Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

374 posts in this topic

Ultimately I share your optimism in a long-term sense because I know we're right and so we have to win. I notice that when I believe I'm right and can prove that I'm right, I feel invincible and unstoppable. (I recently read your interview with PRODOS and agreed with your sentiments whole-heartedly) However as far as when we will win, or the battles we'll have to fight before we win...well, that can get me down sometimes.

"[A]nyone who fights for the future, lives in it today." -- Ayn Rand.

It doesn't get me down because I am in the thick of the battle and living in the future today.

Implicit philosophy just isn't enough, which is all most people have. It may hold bad ideas off for a short time, but it will ultimately be defeated unless it becomes explicit.

But that is their problem. It is not yours or mine.

If you think you're right but can't explain why, what answer can you give to the bad ideas? That's why I agree with ARI that education is key, and disagree in the way Mr. Tracinski seems to downplay its importance. Yes, many in other countries are looking to us and yearning to emulate us. What happens, though, if Americans do not learn to be proud of their selfishness, to embrace reason and Capitalism with resolve and confidence? What sort of example would we serve then?

It is not an either/or proposition. Those who choose can find careers in education or fund education. Others can appeal to and promote rational values in ways that suit their personal purposes as businessmen or scientists or artists or ambassadors of Americanism abroad.

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Yes I do.

We can't read the minds of others, but we can often understand them by putting ourselves in their place and introspecting about what we would want, feel, and do. Unfortunately, if another person's psycho-epistemology or motivation is significantly different from our own, this process leads to false conclusions. That is how honest and virtuous people can fall prey to their own "benevolent projections" and assume that others are more honest and virtuous than they really are. That is how Ayn Rand misunderstood, praised, and extended the benefit of the doubt to several former associates who eventually proved that they didn't deserve it.

In this case, I think Rob Tracinski's mistaken optimism is due to the benevolent projection of his own understanding and values onto others who do not share them. His errors are certainly not due to dishonesty and the rejection of Objectivism as some have claimed.

Without reviving old drama, I did read all the commentary before posting to this thread, and I was very disappointed at the way Mr. Tracinski's character was attacked. I have debated a lot on forums over the last few years, and I even moderated on one for some time, and I can say I've seen a lot of ad hominem attacks. I just didn't expect to ever see that behavior coming from Objectivists.

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...

Evasion is itself based on a philosophical belief, whether implicit or explicit: that reality can be faked.

...

I enjoyed reading your whole post; you have well summarized the importance of explicit philosophy. And, this statement about evasion I found to be particularly insightful.

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Rob Tracinski writes this of the role of philosophy:
Philosophy is not the starting point of knowledge, but it is a kind of ending point: its job is to form the widest new conclusions that are made possible by knowledge in other fields—which then serves to integrate, protect, and explain that knowledge.

and

The role of the philosopher, historically, is not as the sole motor of all progress, but rather as the observer, defender, promoter, and intellectual amplifier of that progress.

Unless I am still misunderstanding his argument, or have made an error in mine, the contradictions I discussed earlier and above suggest that philosophy is the starting point of knowledge and that education is not merely an additional avenue of activism, but one that is primary and essential.

How about implicit philosophy being the starting point and explicit philosophy being the ending point?

Isn't that true of both individuals and cultures? Didn't Ayn Rand's sense of life precede her explicit philosophy? Didn't Homeric heroes precede Aristotle's logic?

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How about implicit philosophy being the starting point and explicit philosophy being the ending point?

Isn't that true of both individuals and cultures? Didn't Ayn Rand's sense of life precede her explicit philosophy? Didn't Homeric heroes precede Aristotle's logic?

I should be in bed, but my mind is still racing. hehe

Actually I said only "philosophy" and not "explicit philosophy" there because I agree with what you're saying. Implicit philosophy comes before explicit philosophy, and I also agree with Rob Tracinski that implicit philosophy comes from experience. I'm not a rationalist. However, RT argued that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences. I think that for the reasons I argued before, we go into the sciences already with some implicit views on man and the universe. That's where I'm having a problem with his views.

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A serious question for you or anyone else: What would constitute a collapse of the world, and how would you know if the world was approaching such a condition, in advance?

Good questions. My attempts at answers:

What would constitute a collapse, i.e., how would one know it had happened? I'll answer this by first noting that what moves human history is ideas. Fundamentally, that's what the creation of our values depends on. Knowledge. So I'd know there was a collapse if large bodies of useful knowledge, vital to the creation of values, had been lost. So for instance, if in 100 years, nobody knows any longer how to build computers and airplanes or perform heart surgery, then there's been a collapse. (I'm assuming here that these technologies would still be a value, but have been forgotten, not that they've been obsoleted, as in maybe heart surgery is no longer necessary because heart disease has been erradicated - that would of course be evidence of great progress.) In other words, there'd be mass regression in many, if not all, fields of knowledge. This is more fundamental than material values being destroyed (even a large number of them) because with knowledge, one can rebuild. But if the knowledge is lost, human history would take a big step backward.

(And by "lost" here, I mean really lost, as in nobody understands how to do something any more - not just that there are large numbers of, say, high-school graduates who can't read or do arithmetic.)

It is my understanding that this is what basically happened when the Roman Empire fell to the barbarian hordes. In the dark ages, people had simply forgotten how to do things that the ancients knew how to do. At least in the Western world, much valuable knowledge was simply gone - medicine, mathematics and some aspecst of music come to mind - to name just a few I'm familiar with, but most fields of learning were set back centuries. It either had to be re-invented, or else brought in from an outside civilization that had not lost it. The dark ages really were dark - so stagnant that I recall reading in one book that people didn't bother to keep track of the years too closely, because whether, for example, you had lived in 700 or 900 would have made little difference.

So it's loss of knowledge that most fundamentally characterized a big collapse in the past; I think it would in a hypothetical future one too.

How would we know, in advance, if we're approaching such a condition? If by "approaching" you mean that an upcoming collapse is a virtual certainty, then I don't think we ever could know in advance. For one thing, people always have free will. For another, there are many forces in play in society; their interaction is complex, and their relative timing is everything. How fast will Objectivism spread? Will fundamentalist religion spread further, and if so, how fast? Will people reject the suicide-pact of environmentalism soon, before it does too much more damange, or later, or much, much later, so that it manages to destroy whole countries? One can be optimistic or pessimistic about the answers to these questions, but I don't see how you'd know the answer in advance. If I make a prediction, but something happens a little slower or faster than I had expected, I may be completely off.

But if by "approaching", you mean that something is coming up, potentially, but that what happens is not a foregone conclusion (sort of in the sense of approaching a red light - but there's time to stop and avoid a collision), then I think we're already to the point that a collapse of civilization is possible. Things look pretty good today if one focuses on the wonderful technology we have, the comfort of our lives, and how today day-to-day life in America is pretty worry free compared to what people have had to endure for most of history. But, the philosophical underpinnings for destruction also exist. We could go on like this for decades. Or, some crisis could force men to act on deeper principles... principles that would be needed to survive, but that today, the world's leaders just don't have.

I liken this to the beginning of the 20th century. Material progress was everywhere, and somebody alive in 1900 probably thought he had good reason to look forward to more of the same - man's life just getting better in every respect. And in the case of technology, his optimism would have been right on. And yet, the bad philosophy was there then too, and all it took was a crisis precipitated by some events in Sarajevo in 1914 to begin a sequence of events that led to the 20th century being also a century of dictatorship, the holocaust and other mass murder and total war. But who knew it was coming? - yet the philosophical causes of these horrors were already in place. But even knowing the philosophy involved, one would still not have been able to predict the timing, and indeed, for example World War I could certainly have been avoided.

....

But whenever I think of the events of 1914 that led to "the lights going out all over Europe" that would not be re-lit for a lifetime - the eerily prophetic prediction of Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, I am reminded that even so, it was not a collapse of the world that came. And in fact that very summer is when a 9-year-old girl decided to pursue a career as a writer, and so ended up developing a new philosophy that for the first time can give Western Civilization the moral and epistemological grounding it needs in order to survive. Now, who would have predicted that?

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I need to correct one of my statements in post 273 to read:

My objection was that his argument does not seem to recognize the full influence of philosophy [removing the word "explicit"], and the need for an explicit understanding of rational philosophy to fight irrationalism.

The first point that I summarized in this post was an answer to Rob Tracinski's role of philosophy, rather than his argument of explicit vs. implicit philosophy. I hope that helps to clarify.

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What would constitute a collapse of the world, and how would you know if the world was approaching such a condition, in advance?

The collapse could take different forms. It could be a long, slow economic and political collapse, or it could be an exchange of nuclear arms between the west and the middle east. (Those are the first two forms to come to mind; there could be others.) While there would be some overlap in the warning signs, I'd suggest looking at each specific form of collapse and what that would entail. I'd also look at economic, political, military, and (of course) philosophical factors, and the direction they point, as well as the magnitude of significance each has.

Following the lines of Atlas, the ever-growing government intervention in the American economy is a bad omen. We bounced back from the 70s, but a number of awful Federal policies may have turned us back.

- Greenspan's method of dealing with LTCM, Y2K, the tech stock bubble / post-9/11 market crash: pump liquidity into the market. In other words, spend tomorrow's money today, and on credit, so that we pay a more painful price tomorrow than we would today. This is massive dollar depreciation, as indicated also by the dollar hitting lowest levels against other currencies in nearly 20 years. There's also reason to suspect the official CPI is way too low, as indicated by jumping prices across the board -- oil, gold, real estate, stocks; even the usual groceries or tank of gas have gone up considerably.

- Add the fast-approaching crossover points for Medicare and Social Security, when each will fail to bring in more money than gets paid out. Add up the numbers for that debt, and ask: who will pick up the tab -- and how? (I bet on a mix of increased taxes, decreased benefits, and lots of inflation.)

- The recent run-up in housing prices (a $23 trillion market) that, in many markets, is far above what the fundamental factors (such as income and equivalent rent) would support.

- Finally, Sarbanes Oxley. I think this little bugger of a law may be the proverbial straw that broke America's economic back. To look at just one cost: Since WW2, America has been the place for a company to go public: it was thought that if a company's IPO was on another exchange, there must be something wrong. After Sarbox, London and Hong Kong exchanges have exploded with new business, while Wall street's IPOs are a fraction of their past numbers and scale. The overwhelming reason given by company leadership is the cost of doing business here is just too high relative to that of other nations. In years past, they were willing to pay a premium (in taxes, reguations, and compliance costs) but it's too much now. Even Wall St admits this, as the NYSE has tried to acquire or merge with other exchanges in order to keep growing new business.

I think we are at the end of the initial phase of inflation, when the economy gets a jolt of increased spending. But the new money is a temporary high, followed by severe withdrawal symptoms. Add to this inflation the increased amount of debt people (consumers and businesses) have taken on in the last few years, and the problem gets compounded. Then add the increased obstacles to doing business here, and not only is the problem bad, but the means of getting healthy again is impeded.

In sum, I think economically America is at a tipping point with not just significant but overwhelming bills adding up that are coming due not just someday, but soon, if not already. The first big cost will be in housing, as the massive subprime industry's ARMs ratchet up to rates homeowners can't afford, leading to a massive wave of foreclosures which are only now stating to kick in.

All is not lost, however. There is still time to turn things around, to repeal Sarbox, go cold turkey on the Fed's binging, and phase out government handouts (at least the big ones). It will be painful but not fatal. Worst case: massive inflation, widespread depression, and the federal government declares bankruptcy.

More fundamentally, a real collapse of America would require loss of freedom on a scale far above today's. No free speech. Massive taxation (like in the 70s). And so on.

A global collapse would be something more. While America has gotten worse, a lot of the rest of the world (especially eastern Europe) learned how bad it was under communism and has explicitly, actively, and successfully worked toward more freedom. They may continue to prosper even if America gets much worse. China presents a mixed case, but there's no denying the fact that it is impossible to avoid buying something Made in China, which means there is real economic freedom of some form there (which is far different from the situation with Russia or the USSR).

It isn't too late, it is not irreversible -- but the momentum in America is toward collapse.

A final note: another poster brought up the collapse of the Roman empire. I think that is well worth investigating in order to understand the issue, but I'd also look at other empires (such as Britain's) and the reasons for their collapses. And look to the form of the collapse -- what stages it went through, the early indicators, the turning points, etc.

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Another thought to add to my prior post:

The collapse of the Roman empire involved a collapse of knowledge. Greco-Roman knowledge was lost to the general public for 1000 years. Some is gone forever, but what survived through to today was kept alive by a thin line of scholars.

I don't think that type of event could happen again without a major change to the nature of the western world. If tomorrow Bill Graham was elected abosute leader of America, he could shut down schools, ban and burn books, and arrest teachers -- but then what? It would still take several generations for western knowledge to collapse back to the stone age.

The Muslim world exists close to this, but is supported by blackmailing the west to hand over dollars and technology. Yet the Islamic schools teach the Koran and in many cases only the Koran to the younger generation. It would take the equivalent level of educational collapse here for us to reach such a state.

So far as such a situation remains outlandish and unthinkable, I don't fear the kind of collapse Europe went through after Rome. It is possible though for us to undergo a different, lesser form of collapse, with massive death due to nuclear war or disease or economic breakdown.

But given today's sense of life and education levels, I think we can avoid those levels of collapse. Another massive depression, maybe lasting a decade or more, is realistic.

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By some - it's a beacon that's tarnished with every year that passes, especially in the face of draconian restrictions on immigration, causing some very smart people to start looking elsewhere to make a life in their finite lifetime. Ask some non-American Objectivists about that sometime. A country is only as good as the people in it. A nation of xenophobes will not constitute the best of the future.

One thing that I took from Rob Tracinski’s article that I agree with is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of being cynical if all you focus on is the bad, without recognizing the good. There are a lot of wonderful people that make this culture as wealthy and prosperous as it is despite the corruption of bad ideas. It’s a country that’s worth fighting for, not only because of how it was started, but because of the values that exist in it now.

In any case, I don't see that you answered my questions about what constitutes "collapse" and how one can recognize it in advance. I am not saying it's something that's critical to focus upon (see the prior paragraph), but if the words are used, I would like to see some definitions.

I think the idea of a “collapse” is certainly relevant to your points, and critical to understanding why you yourself seem to think that we are on the brink. I did address the point when I referred to Atlas Shrugged, but I don't know what would satisfy your request. Ayn Rand described how a collapse might happen in her novel. The collapse finally occurred when the government no longer respected the rights of the individual, and the cause and sign was altruism. The ideas of our own culture are of course pointing the government in that direction, but there is actually a lot of resistance to it even outside of Objectivism. The problem is that the resistance is implicit, which causes people to grasp onto irrational ideas for support (such as religion). However I think that resistance, based both on the philosophy our government inherited from the Founders and the independent judgments of people seeing the results of that philosophy, is strong and very receptive to Objectivism. Intellectuals predicted that Ayn Rand's philosophy wouldn't last, that her ideas were a fad. History has proven that this was wishful thinking on their part, because the philosophy has spread and is accepted by more now than ever. Don't you think that's a very healthy sign?

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Actually I said only "philosophy" and not "explicit philosophy" there because I agree with what you're saying. Implicit philosophy comes before explicit philosophy, and I also agree with Rob Tracinski that implicit philosophy comes from experience. I'm not a rationalist. However, RT argued that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences. I think that for the reasons I argued before, we go into the sciences already with some implicit views on man and the universe. That's where I'm having a problem with his views.

I don't think that RT is arguing that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences, but that a rational philosophy is implicit in man's successful attempts to understand the world. Thus, the philosopher can use already discovered truths and methods as a base when he makes that implicit philosophy explicit.

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I don't think that RT is arguing that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences, but that a rational philosophy is implicit in man's successful attempts to understand the world. Thus, the philosopher can use already discovered truths and methods as a base when he makes that implicit philosophy explicit.

The latter he says, but he suggests in several places that implicit philosophy is formed by the special sciences and not just implicit in them. [all bold added below]

From "Pajama Epistemology"

I've had a few people object to the ideas in this article by saying that, while the examples I have cited don't involve the influence of explicitly stated philosophical ideas, they do involve men's implicit philosophy. But that is precisely my point, and spelling out exactly how good ideas are grasped implicitly, in what form and by what process, is part of what I want to address in looking at the global influence of scientific and technological education, global capitalism, and representative government.

and

This, incidentally, is what secular pro-science activists mean when they say science education is crucial to defending a secular world view. It is not the specifics of any particular science that are necessary; no one will become an atheist just because he has memorized Avagadro's number. What is needed is the implicit world view and method of thinking that science teaches, which emerges from all of those details.

Then from "The Summit and the Foundation", he says,

This history suggests a progression that should, in fact, seem natural and unsurprising: that new ideas arose first from achievements in the special sciences—from physics, mathematics, history, medicine, biology, and politics. These achievements were paralleled by advances in literature and art, which expressed, often in implicit, non-verbal form, the new conception of human life that was suggested by advances in other disciplines. Then at the end of this process, a great philosopher was able to explain what made all of those previous achievements possible, to identify their implicit method, and to draw, in explicit terms, the widest implications for our conception of human life and potential.

Also note my original question, regarding the implicit formation of a rational philosophy by observing the products of the special sciences:

However, doesn't this already assume a pro-life philosophy (properly, not to be confused with the anti-abortion movement)? That is, to say that positive accomplishments would spur individuals to emulate them assumes that their goal is personal happiness, doesn't it?

Just as an observer needs some fundamental philosophy in order to integrate these achievements, so anyone entering the special sciences brings with them ideas about man and the universe.

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I don't think that RT is arguing that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences, but that a rational philosophy is implicit in man's successful attempts to understand the world. Thus, the philosopher can use already discovered truths and methods as a base when he makes that implicit philosophy explicit.

The latter he says, but he suggests in several places that implicit philosophy is formed by the special sciences and not just implicit in them.

Re-reading "Pajama Epistemology," I see that Tracinski's thesis in his opening paragraph:

The first relevant fact to recognize is that achievements in the special sciences like economics, psychology, and biology, and in other specialized fields such as history, law, and even journalism—all of these are not mere "applications" of philosophy. That is, one cannot arrive at them simply by deducing them from one's philosophical knowledge. They require original observations and integrations derived directly from experience.

The point of "Pajama Epistemology" is that, contrary to the claims of some Objectivists, scientific progress does not "trickle down" as a "mere application" of philosophy. Instead, Tracinski presents evidence that explicit philosophy was, historically, first formed from identifying the implicit philosophy in the special sciences.

Also note my original question, regarding the implicit formation of a rational philosophy by observing the products of the special sciences:
However, doesn't this already assume a pro-life philosophy [...]. That is, to say that positive accomplishments would spur individuals to emulate them assumes that their goal is personal happiness, doesn't it?

Just as an observer needs some fundamental philosophy in order to integrate these achievements, so anyone entering the special sciences brings with them ideas about man and the universe.

And where does he get his first ideas about man and the universe if not from his experiences with men and the universe?

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The point of "Pajama Epistemology" is that, contrary to the claims of some Objectivists, scientific progress does not "trickle down" as a "mere application" of philosophy. Instead, Tracinski presents evidence that explicit philosophy was, historically, first formed from identifying the implicit philosophy in the special sciences.

Which Objectivists have argued that science is a "mere application" deduced from philosophy?

RT's solution does not simply say that the special sciences are grounded in experience, which they certainly are. He says that they are the source of philosophy, which is what I disagree with.

And where does he get his first ideas about man and the universe if not from his experiences with men and the universe?

From his experiences with men and the universe, which is not the same as to say from the special sciences.

All knowledge is gained from experience, but there is a hierarchy of knowledge. Just as valuing the achievements of science requires that you first accept that life is the standard of value, so a scientist in experimenting and integrating his observations has to first accept that what he observes is real. You won't learn from the special sciences whether reality is real, or whether happiness is good. Philosophy starts before the special sciences, in fact immediately at the point where an individual begins to perceive the world and act in it.

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One thing that I took from Rob Tracinski’s article that I agree with is that it’s easy to fall into the trap of being cynical if all you focus on is the bad, without recognizing the good. There are a lot of wonderful people that make this culture as wealthy and prosperous as it is despite the corruption of bad ideas. It’s a country that’s worth fighting for, not only because of how it was started, but because of the values that exist in it now.

The definition of realistic is to recognize *all* important factors in reality. "In any contest between food and poison, poison will win." It does not take a lot of poison to nullify a large amount of good food, does it? What America *should be* is worth fighting for. Those parts that are decent and good, are worth fighting for. But all of the good has been and is being systematically undercut and destroyed by bad philosophy - mysticism and altruism. What I ultimately found disagreeable with RT's articles is that he says little about the power of morality - which ultimately extends to philosophy generally.

Do you need to believe that America is fundamentally good in 2007 in order to do your best? A serious question.

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As far as the loss of knowledge goes, I had the idea some years back of transcribing Ayn Rand's (and possibly other important works, especially engineering and science) writings in micrographic form, etched onto the surface of superalloy sheets. Superalloys are used for example in gas turbine engine construction and are extremely difficult to destroy. Normal acids and your average fire wouldn't faze them (i.e. your average book burning mob would be too stupid to destroy them). The idea was to etch, using a suitable modern process, the actual pages in highly reduced form (1:50 or 1:100 or whatever) so that they'd be in an extremely stable, long lived and hard to destroy form, but recoverable with relatively low level technology (a powerful magnifying glass or a microscope.) That was partially why I was led to the idea of my CD-ROM, though realistically that's too high tech to be a good archival medium against a real collapse of civilization. I pretty much dropped the etching idea though. If millions of copies of Ayn Rand's works, read and considered, are not enough to stop the collapse of civilization, I'm not sure why they would help afterwards.

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All knowledge is gained from experience, but there is a hierarchy of knowledge. Just as valuing the achievements of science requires that you first accept that life is the standard of value, so a scientist in experimenting and integrating his observations has to first accept that what he observes is real. You won't learn from the special sciences whether reality is real, or whether happiness is good. Philosophy starts before the special sciences, in fact immediately at the point where an individual begins to perceive the world and act in it.

Valuing life, is pretty well born into us for our own survival. It is only an explicit philosophy that can undo this (or support it). One doesn't have to be philosophical to appreciate that manure fertilizer improves his crops, and is a welcome benefit. I see no sharp cut off between specialized sciences and everyday dealings with reality "where an individual begins to perceive the world and act in it."

You don't need to learn from science "whether reality is real, or whether happiness is good.", because those are conceptual considerations. The farmer is appreciating his increased production on a more, literally down to earth level. The moment someone identifies what the farmer accepts as good implicitly, you have an explicit philosophy; a far more powerful way to spread ideas than limited concrete successes in reality. As I see it, first you have dealings with reality, then you assess them, then you make explicit philosophical conclusions.

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The point of "Pajama Epistemology" is that, contrary to the claims of some Objectivists, scientific progress does not "trickle down" as a "mere application" of philosophy. Instead, Tracinski presents evidence that explicit philosophy was, historically, first formed from identifying the implicit philosophy in the special sciences.

Which Objectivists have argued that science is a "mere application" deduced from philosophy?

RT's solution does not simply say that the special sciences are grounded in experience, which they certainly are. He says that they are the source of philosophy, which is what I disagree with.

I think you are too quickly jumping to a conclusion.

Two important points here:

1. How seriously do you take Ayn Rand's pronouncement that, "Reason is man's only tool of survival." Obviously, primitive men were using reason just to survive before anything else. It may be arguable if that is an application of Philosophy or the 'special sciences', but I would have to say reason was at work in hunting, farming, smelting metals, etc. long before anyone identified or even considered Metaphysics, Epistemology, etc.

2. I made a presentation titled The Epistemological Basis of Ethics some time ago to a university group. In it, I pointed out that throughout most religions, there are four moral absolutes: The Golden Rule, and prohibitions against murder, lying, and stealing. I then pointed out that the rest of the moral absolutes in the religions were absent in most/all of the others. (Thou shalt have no other gods before me; loyalty to the state; honor the spirits of nature; prohibition against urinating or defecating while standing up; etc.) Asking, "What then could be the origin of those commonalities?", I concluded, Reason! I finished by explaining that if you presume the proper basis for Ethics is Reason, you can create better ethical rules than what most people live with today.

In other words, the implicit use of reason came long before anyone identified it explicitly, and it was/is used to live regardless of most people's explicit philosophy. This is what I think Rob Tracinski is saying.

As for 'special sciences' being a "mere application deduced from Philosophy", the people Betsy is referring to insist Philosophy, (especially Metaphysics and Epistemology), is the driver of the efficacy of the sciences. I find that many people who are very good at medicine, engineering, carpentry, etc. have ghastly ideas philosophically, but use reason implicitly and explicitly in their professions. They live with the contradiction by compartmentalizing.

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In other words, the implicit use of reason came long before anyone identified it explicitly, and it was/is used to live regardless of most people's explicit philosophy. This is what I think Rob Tracinski is saying.

From an earlier post:

Actually I said only "philosophy" and not "explicit philosophy" there because I agree with what you're saying. Implicit philosophy comes before explicit philosophy, and I also agree with Rob Tracinski that implicit philosophy comes from experience. I'm not a rationalist. However, RT argued that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences. I think that for the reasons I argued before, we go into the sciences already with some implicit views on man and the universe. That's where I'm having a problem with his views.

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From an earlier post:
Actually I said only "philosophy" and not "explicit philosophy" there because I agree with what you're saying. Implicit philosophy comes before explicit philosophy, and I also agree with Rob Tracinski that implicit philosophy comes from experience. I'm not a rationalist. However, RT argued that implicit philosophy was developed from the special sciences. I think that for the reasons I argued before, we go into the sciences already with some implicit views on man and the universe. That's where I'm having a problem with his views.

If you accept that we already have implicit views before we go into the sciences, why is it not reasonable for those ideas to flourish there, and eventually become explicit? As I said before, there is no sharp cutoff between everyday dealing with nature, and specializing in a narrow study of it. I think such distinctions developed gradually with depth of knowledge.

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As I said before, there is no sharp cutoff between everyday dealing with nature, and specializing in a narrow study of it. I think such distinctions developed gradually with depth of knowledge.

I think that's exactly right. The "specializ[ed] study" you describe, those observations that led to generalizations about reality that led to philosophic insights were almost one-to-one with what today would be considered a commonsense observation of nature. The difference was only in that they were perhaps more systematic and rigorous, for that time. A reasonable definition of "science" is the systematic observation of nature; it's still observation, just done better.

The consistent principles discovered tell you something about existence and, indirectly, about that consistency itself, which were all important facts about reality that a philosopher could accept as the raw materials for their inductive conclusions about the nature of reality. Sad that so few availed themselves of that information, but, fortunately for us, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Ayn Rand were also facts of Reality as well as those aforementioned obervations.

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If you accept that we already have implicit views before we go into the sciences, why is it not reasonable for those ideas to flourish there, and eventually become explicit? As I said before, there is no sharp cutoff between everyday dealing with nature, and specializing in a narrow study of it. I think such distinctions developed gradually with depth of knowledge.

I think that is reasonable, and I didn't argue otherwise. That is not Rob Tracinski's argument as I understand it, however.

Maybe he misspoke, however he argued that (implicit) philosophy begins with the special sciences, where I am saying it begins as soon as concept formation begins. RT also seems to have misunderstand (or at least misworded) Objectivism's theory of knowledge when he says,

Thus, there is a very important sense in which specialized knowledge is independent of philosophy. It is independent because it is based on and integrated directly from observation of reality. It is induced up from the facts, not deduced down from philosophical principles.

I really don't know which Objectivist intellectuals are claiming that the sciences are "deduced" from philosophical principles. Furthermore because philosophy actually begins far before the special sciences (and as I've argued several times is implicit in the study of those sciences), they can not be said to be independent of it.

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I think that is reasonable, and I didn't argue otherwise. That is not Rob Tracinski's argument as I understand it, however.

Maybe he misspoke, however he argued that (implicit) philosophy begins with the special sciences, where I am saying it begins as soon as concept formation begins. RT also seems to have misunderstand (or at least misworded) Objectivism's theory of knowledge when he says,

Thus, there is a very important sense in which specialized knowledge is independent of philosophy. It is independent because it is based on and integrated directly from observation of reality. It is induced up from the facts, not deduced down from philosophical principles.

I really don't know which Objectivist intellectuals are claiming that the sciences are "deduced" from philosophical principles. Furthermore because philosophy actually begins far before the special sciences (and as I've argued several times is implicit in the study of those sciences), they can not be said to be independent of it.

I don't remember those words, (of being deduced from philosophical principles), being used either. There is however, among some Objectivists, the idea that explicit philosophy comes before science, and I think that is what he is getting at. I don't think he is saying that science is independent of all (ie implied) philosophy, and I certainly don't think that myself.

You say an implied philosophy begins with concept formation. Fair enough, but concepts stem from interactions with nature, which are the beginnings of science. So I don't see a point of contention there.

The freer periods in history have seen greater progress than the oppressive ones. Again, I don't think this has been disputed. These periods give opportunities to try new things. The point I get from RT, is that progress initially stems from successful interactions with nature. These experiences become 'common sense' and lead to implicit ideas about the relationship of man and reality. It is from this experience that explicit conclusions are drawn, that can later be used to advance scientific experience.

Regardless of the above, I believe we are all in agreement that a good explicit philosophy will be of the greatest benefit to science and all other matters involved with living.

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If we invaded their country with troops, do we morally owe them enough degree of order to organize a rights-respecting government? (Assuming such is possible.)

From the morality of self interest, I would say yes. It was much more in American interest to have Japan become what it is today - e.g. making the highest quality mass production cars in the world ...

Okay. What if then -- as I have been advocating for some time, and as some have agreed -- instead of ground troops we use our technology remotely to pulverize them from a distance? If, say, they are 6000 miles away, after the deluge are we morally obliged to now land our ground troops to instill order and assist in forming a proper government? If we had destroyed a large portion of their means of production, are we morally obliged to provide food and water for some extended period of time? Are we morally obliged to care for the sick and injured if we destroyed their doctors, hospitals and supplies?

I feel strange replying, some year and a month later, to a man who is no longer with us. Still, I have to answer this.

Morality identifies those actions that are in our interest.

In World War I, we tried the destroy-them-and-leave them approach. It resulted in World War II.

Perhaps this does not rise to the level of "obligation", but surely it is in our self-interest to not have failed states scattered around the globe. There are many Hitlers in the world who will take advantage of a failed state to wreak havoc upon free nations.

So after WWII we rebuilt the nations we destroyed, in our image. We are still doing that. Many people don't realize that we have provided significant support and assistance to former Soviet republics, in terms of how to build a successful republican government.

We need to take a long-term view here. It's possible that within my lifetime, for the first time in the history of man, that the vast majority of human beings will live in freedom. If this happens, it will largely have been through the direct efforts of the United States. Achieving this goal, would provide significant security to us (and everyone else!) far into the future.

Stephen, I'm sorry you won't be here to see it. :)

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So after WWII we rebuilt the nations we destroyed, in our image. We are still doing that. Many people don't realize that we have provided significant support and assistance to former Soviet republics, in terms of how to build a successful republican government.

There is a huge difference between what we did to Japan and what we are doing in Iraq.

I haven't paid much attention to this thread of late. Anybody know what the status of the last and final article in this series is?

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