Andrew’s latest response can be found here.
In his latest offering, Andrew Louis once again demonstrates his persisting habit of confusing and distorting what has been very carefully stated in reply to his previous batch of confusions. Throughout our exchanges, Andrew seems bent on finding some element in my responses to him which supposedly undercuts the entirety of my position. At several points throughout our prolonged discussion, he’s declared that certain things I’ve said in fact undermine, undercut or contradict “my case.” Though in each instance, it’s unclear exactly what he seems to think the problem is, though it is clear that in the run-up to these little “Eureka moments” he’s gotten some basics wrong. Quite often, Andrew’s problem seems to arise when he reads one word, but apparently thinks he’s read a significantly different word, which throws off his understanding of the whole. A few examples of this appear in his latest response.
Earlier on in our discussion, I had recommended that Andrew read some of the primary Objectivist literature in order to become more familiar with the philosophy which he’s trying to critique. But after observing his persisting habits of error and carelessness, I am now persuaded that this wouldn’t do any good.
Andrew had stated:
To see words as representation is to bring to light certain skeptical questions such as, “How do you know you've represented reality properly?”
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).Yes, it’s definitely true that it depends on context as well. But the context varies depending on the situation, as my example clearly indicates. The situation governs context. There’s no dichotomy here as Andrew seems to think.
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.
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.
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.
Additionally, I explained that, philosophically, there’s much more to knowledge than merely representing something observed in reality. This too seems to have been lost on Andrew, perhaps because he’s already adopted a version of nominalism. This would explain much.
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.
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.
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.
I had written (in the comments of this blog):
Realism in terms of universals is the view that “that universals have a reality of their own, an extra-mental existence. Positions are often marked out, running from moderate to absolute Realism. The more definite, fixed, and eternal the status of the universals, the more absolute is the Realism.” (Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion, p. 637). 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’.
By “facts,” I generally mean existents in relationships.
You have existents, (let me call them particulars) and their relationships (we could call those concepts, universals, whatever).
Is Andrew understanding what he’s read? His following statements indicate that he does not.
Once again you state, ‘truth identifies a sort of relationship between the facts of reality’.
I suspect what Andrew has in mind is the quote I recited from Peikoff:
“The concept of ‘truth’ identifies a type of relationship between a proposition and the facts of reality.” (OPAR, p. 165)
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.
Andrew then wrote:
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.
So it’s quite ironic that Andrew would characterize the axioms as something that one should “just blindly accept.” What is the alternative to blindly accepting something? It would be to accept something with one’s seeing eyes wide open. When your seeing eyes are wide open, you’re seeing, you’re seeing something. To do this, you would have to exist, the something that you see would have to exist, and you would have to see – i.e., be conscious. Just by seeing anything, the axioms are implicitly established. And since seeing something is not an inference seeking to establish a conclusion, just by seeing we have a non-question-begging account of our core axioms. Andrew has not shown that this account does beg the question, nor has he shown that the axioms must be accepted blindly. Additionally, he has not shown that this is anything akin to presuppositionalism, which requires a thinker to treat as actual something that is in fact imaginary.
For that matter, what does Andrew offer in place of the axioms? What are the foundations of human thought that he would propose as alternatives to the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness? How would anything he might propose in their stead avoid assuming the truth of these axioms? Andrew only seems willing to criticize Objectivism, for errors which Objectivism does not commit, and has no solutions to propose in their place.
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.
by Dawson Bethrick