Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A few thoughts on why fear should not be evidence for induction.

Good afternoon friends and readers. I hope all are well and living life to their fullest with passion and purpose as well as making lots of money. (BTW, America needs more Capitalists.)

The following comments relate to a thread on Objectivist Living forum.

Please do not think I’m trying to mess with anyone’s mind here. I probably should just shut up and try to be a happy idiot. I’ve been told that I think too much, and my 45 minute morning/evening commute gives me time to think. Today I was thinking about the story told earlier in the thread above where the student threw his Exacto knife at the philosophy class instructor and the allegation of a lesson learned thereby. This story bothered me from the moment I read it. Initially I could not figure out why, so I shared my own story of how fear affected me. Yet I was still not satisfied. After sleeping on this for two nights, now I understand why I have a problem with this approach. Fear induced stress activates the sympathetic nervous system to focus the viscera on fight or flight response to danger. Link to Article re sympathetic nervous system This yields an a situation where abrogation of reason as man’s only means of acquiring knowledge obtains. Rand famously wrote:

“Reason is man’s only means of grasping reality and of acquiring knowledge—and, therefore, the rejection of reason means that men should act regardless of and/or in contradiction to the facts of reality.” Link to Rand's reason quotes

Sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are found in the spinal cord and brain stem and not the prefrontal cortex where rational reasoning happens. Instinctive fight or flight responses are part of human cognition’s primitive lizard brain but are not involved in our higher rational thinking processes. Therefore, using strong emotional response to stimulus as justification for foundational belief including justification of induction or to validate “Existence exists” is little different from claims made by Pentecostal Christians that they “know” God is real because of their strong emotional reactions experienced during worship services or in response to their private devotions. Fervently dogmatic socialists, communists, progressives, liberal social democrat welfare Staters, or reds of any sort employ Epistemological Constructivism to maintain their beliefs that Social Justice involves ensuring equality of outcome through State control and de facto if not outright ownership of means of production including the lives citizens. Use of EC to maintain beliefs in SJ is done on emotional grounds. This is in and of itself constitutes a problem for Western Civilization for a reason Rand noted:

“An emotion as such tells you nothing about reality…” Link to Rand quotes re: emotions

It is my hope that I am warranted in thinking there are some very smart Objectivist philosophers here about that can provide a link or explanation to or for a Philosophical or Mathematical Justification of Induction that does not depend upon faith in foundational axioms. When Rand put these words in, John Galt’s, mouth she showed her faith in foundationalism.

“When he declares that an axiom is a matter of arbitrary choice and he doesn’t choose to accept the axiom that he exists, he blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence, that the only way to reject it is to shut one’s mouth, expound no theories and die.” Link to Rand quotes re Axioms

In response to some who will claim seeking a Philosophical Justification for Induction or a Refutation to Solipsism is nonsense, please note that people are warranted in thinking that even nominal lefties are not in any way impressed by Galt’s observation. I know for sure, religious right wing romanticists (especially Calvinists or Christian Dominionists) are in no way moved by Galt.

Peikoff warns us about such people in one of his podcasts.

Most Americans are either part of the religious right or the political left, and neither group gives a rats arse for Rand’s naked assertions no matter how sensible they seem because they are Foundational Beliefs. Anyone can ask why should a person believe a FB true? Is it based on some more basic FB? Such that there is an infinite regress of FB’s like {FB1 FB2 FB3….FB(alph0)}. If Objectivists want to save WC, then they probably need to find a way to justify O metaphysics and epistemology that is not circular or infinitely regressive and that can be deployed to counter the basal premises of harmful doctrines to help in arguing for laissez faire capitalism and limited constitutional government.

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