Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A comment I posted to Dr Jason Lisle's Blog

Hello Dr Lisle:

Thank you for communicating with me. Please accept my assurance that I respect you as a person. I suspect that we are on the same sides concerning important issues such as capitalism, liberty, and representative republican government, the rule of law, federalism, human rights and such. Thus we are natural allies. Being well aware I'm math and science challenged, I've a commitment to error checking and am grateful to learn of my mistakes that they may be corrected. Being refuted is of benefit to me as it allows me to gain confidence in knowing.
Regarding the issue in question about what is knowledge and how human beings gain it, in order to avoid lengthy digressions to me it seems best to start with a definition.

Knowledge is what Ayn Rand defined in "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology; she wrote:
"For instance, the concept “knowledge” is formed by retaining its distinguishing characteristics (a mental grasp of a fact(s) of reality, reached either by perceptual observation or by a process of reason based on perceptual observation) and omitting the particular fact(s) involved." ~ ITOE, 35

Knowledge is held in conceptual form. Concepts are dependent upon universals. Ayn Rand solved the ancient problem of universals. She explained how in ITOE. Forming concepts is a volitional activity entailing what Rand called measurement omission. Humans are able to differentiate categories by isolating what Rand dubbed commensurate characteristics that have common attributes across the members of the category.

Here's a link to the Ayn Rand Lexicon page on concept formation.

Here's a link to the Amazon page for ITOE.

All this is possible because reality is real or as Objectivism first metaphysical axiom states, 'Existence exists'. I've read somewhere on your blog where you have stated that thinking reality is real or existence exists is a presupposition. The 'pre' suffix means >> “before” ( preclude; prevent ); applied freely as a prefix, with the meanings “prior to,” “in advance of,” “early,” “beforehand,” “before,” “in front of.”
Supposition means the act of assuming something, so presupposition means assuming beforehand rather like a question begging fallacy. Other amateur internet religious apologists have declared Randian Objectivism's first metaphysical axiom, 'Existence exists' a case of question begging as if that charge were somehow damning to Objectivism. However, O-ism specifically acknowledges that existence, consciousness, identity, casualty, and the primacy of existence cannot be proven. This is not a problem, for these axiomatic facts are perceptually self-evident and are the basis of all logic and proof. That they are axiomatic and not provable doesn't mean they are not defensible. They are defensible. To show how, here's an extended quote from author David Kelly's book "Evidence of the Senses".

The primacy of existence is therefore not a conclusion at all. It must serve as an axiomatic foundation for any inquiry into the nature and functioning of our cognitive capacities ..This does not mean, however, that the thesis is an arbitrary postulate or an act of faith. The point is rather that it is self- evident, and its self-evidence can at least be exhibited. I will try to do so in three different ways. First everything I have said about the primacy of existence could also be said about Descartes' cogito. It would be impOSSible for me to prove that I am conscious, since that fact is implicit in the grasp of any premise that might be used to establish it, as it is implicit in any knowledge. Yet reflection on the cogito reveals that the truth of the proposition "I am conscious" is implicit in all knowledge. In the same way, the primacy of existence cannot be established by argument because it is implicit in any instance of awareness, but that fact can be revealed by reflection on the thesis.

Second, because the truth of the cogito is thus inescapable, it cannot coherently be denied, the denial being itself an act of consciousness. Similarly, it can be shown that any attempt to deny the primacy of existence implicitly affirms it.

Third, a certain assumption concerning knowledge has traditionally stood in the way of the primacy of existence, by making representationalism and idealism seem the only alternatives to an unacceptably naive form of realism. It is important to examine this assumption and to show why it should be rejected.
Consider once again Descartes' cogito. I know that I am conscious. The fact is self-evident to me; I could not possibly be wrong in believing it, since even a false belief presupposes that I am conscious. But it is equally self-evident that to be conscious is to be conscious of something. Awareness is inherently relational. Whenever we see, hear, discover, discriminate, prove, grasp, or know, there is some object of the cognitive state. Even the faintest sensation is a sensation of something-a patch of color, a wisp of sound. If we take away all such content, we have taken away consciousness. Since Kant at least, this point has been a phenomenological truism. But the point has normally been expressed in such a way as to make the content a feature of the awareness of it. In his famous statement of the thesis of intentionality, for example, Franz Brentano says that "every mental phenomenon includes something as object within itself," explicitly distinguishing the intentional existence of an object for consciousness and its real or actual existence. It is precisely this contrast that realism denies-as inconsistent with the first-person, phenomenological experience of awareness and as unsupported by any secondary arguments. The object of awareness is the object as it actually exists.

A typewriter sits on the desk before me. I see it against the background of desk top and papers, I feel the keys and hear the whirring sound it makes. Do these things exist in my consciousness? Certainly not, not in any way that is available to me from my standpoint as the subject of my perceptual awareness. When I reflect on my awareness of those objects, I am aware of it as something completely uncreative, merely a revelation of what is there. The desk, the typewriter, the keys exist in a world that I am in, not one that is in me. My attention to each object comes and goes, but the onset of attention is not experienced as the coming-to-be of that object. When I turn my head to view the room behind, what comes to be is not the room but my awareness of it; the room is experienced as a permanent existent which I can explore sequentially. Each thing I perceive has an identity, it is something. And it is what it is, not what I make it. These things before me are not at all like the objects of imagination, which I can shape to suit myself. And even my awareness is something independent of my reflective awareness of it. As I turn my attention to the fact that I am aware of these objects I experience that awareness as something which had been going on all along. From this standpoint, the thesis that consciousness is primary is literally unintelligible-unless one drops the context in which we grasp what it is to be aware of an object. Consider Descartes' question "whether any of the objects of which I have ideas within me exist outside of me." Having an idea of something means being conscious of it, and the consciousness of an object may be said, metaphorically, to be "within" me. But Descartes is suggesting that the object I am conscious of might also be within me, i.e., within my consciousness. How could that be? I can isolate my consciousness only by distinguishing it from the objects I am aware of. Those objects (the typewriter, the room, etc.) are the "out there" against which I can isolate my consciousness as the "in here." To suggest that these objects themselves might exist in consciousness is to deny the very condition that makes it possible to understand what consciousness is. So far, then, the idealist claim that the objects of awareness depend on consciousness, or the skeptic's worry that they might so depend, is simply unintelligible. ~ David Kelly, "Evidence of the Senses", 31-32

Recapping, the metaphysical primacy of existence is valid in three ways.

1) It's just as self-evident as the fact that one is conscious.

2) No one can deny it without making use of it. Assertion that metaphysical primacy of existence is invalid predicates a fact asserted to be true independently of consciousness thus committing a stolen concept fallacy.

3) All self-aware beings know by virtue of their subject-object and perception vs awareness-of-perception relationships that their consciousness is inherently relational. If all the content of a human's consciousness were removed, of what would they be conscious? Answer: They wouldn't be conscious. For them to be self-aware there must be an external world of existents distinct from their selves.

Immanual Kant knew this when he noted in 'Refutation of Material Idealism' that "The consciousness of my own existence is simultaneously a direct consciousness of the existence of other things outside of me." Explaining the relation between self-awareness and object awareness, Kant noted: “The 'I think' must be capable of accompanying all my presentations. For otherwise something would be presented to me that could not be thought of at all-which is equivalent to saying that the presentation either would be impossible, or would be nothing to me."

For these reasons, there must be an external world which actually exists as what it is independent of any form of consciousness. Richard Carrier, now a piled high and deep historian guy, wrote in "Sense and Goodness Without God" on notions like the Cartesian Demon, Brains in a Vat, or The Matrix.

"It only makes sense to talk about the world as an illusion (or 'computer simulation', ect) by reference to other possible experiences that would justify the label. Even if the experiences (of the 'true reality') are not in practice possible, they must at least be possible in theory, or else the term 'illusion' would not be applicable. If there is no way, even in theory, to tell that this world is not what it seems, then it is meaningless to claim that this world is not what it seems." ~ SGWG, 32

Dr. Lisle you and those who choose to attack the axioms and evidence of the senses bear a burden of proof (ironically that presupposes the validity of the axioms and primacy of existence) to show how any posited other reality is possible in theory. Unless you or those others can hoist such a burden your positions along such lines are nonsense. Dr. Lisle do you offer any evidence reality isn't real or that what is perceived as existence is some sort of simulation by reference to an objective other-than-existence which is accessible to all rational observers? Sir, if not, then you and those others are just playing make-believe by a faith that's nothing more than pretending to know things you don't really know as per Peter Boghossian, author of "Manual For Creating Atheists" might observe.

I hope you'll forgive this lengthy reply, and I look forward to reading your reply to Dawson Bethrick on the validity of the senses.

Best Wishes and Regards to You and Your Family

Robert Bumbalough