Friday, March 07, 2014

Vince’s Three Unpublished Comments to Rick Warden’s Blog

On February 26, 2014, I received three messages in my inbox from someone named Vince. The messages were not directed to me. In fact, the author probably has no idea that these messages were delivered to my inbox. The three messages were comments which were submitted to Rick Warden’s blog entry Three Refutations of Objectivism, which is inexcusably filled with mischaracterizations, distortions, context-dropping and other fallacious maneuvers on Warden’s part. These messages represent Vince’s continuation of a comment exchange he was having with Rick Warden. (To see the earlier comments in the exchange between Vince and Rick Warden, click on the above link and scroll down to the comments section.)

But here’s the thing: although these messages were delivered to my inbox, Rick Warden has to date not approved them and allowed them to appear on his blog. And for reasons unknown to me, even Rick Warden has not allowed these messages to appear on his blog, they still nonetheless were passed to my inbox. Since I had previously submitted comments of my own to this blog entry and had clicked the “Notify me” box when submitting my first comment, all subsequent comments submitted to this blog entry would be forwarded to my email inbox. But I always figured that only when comments are approved and posted to the blog proper would they then be allowed to be distributed to any commenters who had clicked the “Notify me” box. Perhaps I’m wrong? Or perhaps there’s a glitch in Blogspot’s comments feed? I have no idea.

What I do know is that Vince’s comments are relevant to Rick Warden’s blog and the exchange he was having with Rick Warden. I do not know who Vince is, and there seems to be no way that I can personally contact him. Clicking on Vince’s name as it appears in the comments of Rick Warden’s blog simply takes me to the Google search engine. At any rate, since I have received these comments and since I think they speak directly to many of Rick Warden’s misunderstandings and misrepresentations, I am posting them here on my blog so that they can see the light of day.

In his comments, Vince quotes Rick Warden and then gives his responses. I am posting them here without any alteration save for headings making it clear who is saying what and indentations to set the comments off from my own contributions.
Rick Warden wrote:
Vince offered no actual quotes of mine to support his “straw-man” claim".
Vince responded:
I was referring to the essence of your entire argument. A straw man is when you misrepresent someone's position in order to more easily attack it. You've misrepresented Objectivism's position by trying to show that because it doesn't hold benevolent acts as necessarily virtuous, and that because a RationalWiki article claims that Objectivism holds it as immoral to be or to raise a child, you conclude that life would be "hell on earth" if everyone was an Objectivist. I then gave you a direct quote from known Objectivist literature showing that your representation was mistaken, thereby exposing the straw man argument. I wasn't equating your critique with anything, I was pointing out that your critique was based on a mistaken position.  
Then you try to show the "corrupt core of human nature" via an appeal to authority by bringing Alan Greenspan into the discussion - not only an appeal to authority, but association fallacy as well as judgmental language ("Greenspan professionally represented the US Federal Reserve, perhaps the most corrupt private organization in US history", "It is not very surprising that objectivist Greenspan worked for a corrupt organization founded by elitist bankers who usurped U.S. sovereignty and contracted a right to steal from the American people to serve their own selfish interests."). It would be more convincing if the debate avoided blatant fallacies.  
Then you again quote from the Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Nobody denies that Objectivism sets itself apart by the fact that it doesn't hold benevolent acts as virtuous. However, you're using the word "conspicuous" to imply a value-judgement by providing examples which are regarded as bad not because they are conspicuous, but because they are harmful. It would also make me conspicuous if I walked around claiming that trees are made of marshmallows, but it wouldn't necessarily make me "bad" by your ethics. You're placing your own, negative value-judgement on the 'conspicuous lack of benevolent virtues' by operating under the assumption that 'benevolence is a virtue' is an objective fact, which you attempt to demonstrate via appeal to authority (the Encylopedia) and ad populum (“ of Rand’s “virtues” are equally untenable for reasons obvious to most people”).
Rick Warden wrote:
A central problem with moral relativism is the lack of an objective basis for defining “the common good.” What would that basis be for Objectivism, Vince?
Vince responded:
This is a loaded statement because Objectivism denies that "the common good" is a valid end in itself, but to answer your question as directly as possible: the Objectivist basis for morality is the fact that each person must act in their own rational self-interest in order to survive.
Rick Warden wrote:
Vince equates pointing Rand’s drug with an ad hominem attack. But where does moral relativist Rand ever state that such behavior was a mistake or a poor choice? Quote, please. Evidently, it was her drugs that helped her to write The Fountainhead. Rand also employed and promoted smoking. Is it an ad hom attack to point that out? I don’t think so, Vince.
Vince responded:
Yes, it is, by definition. It's also poisoning the well, and an abusive fallacy. Especially when misleading information is used to make your point. The “drugs” that you refer to were prescription amphetamines (weight loss pills) that she used until her doctor stopped them. Objectivism does not regard the use of drugs as such to be immoral, because drugs can provide value to people's lives when used rationally. If Ayn Rand abused drugs, then yes, her actions were immoral according to Objectivism. Pointing out the character faults in Ayn Rand does not relate in any way to the truth or falsehood of Objectivism qua philosophy.
Rick Warden wrote:
Vince is missing the point. If he would address one premise at a time, this might be more clear for him.
Vince responded:
I *was* taking your argument one premise at a time by responding to your first premise which is a false representation of Objectivism. After addressing the flaws in the first premise it's not necessary to continue with the second.  
You state that Objectivism views knowledge influenced by human volition as invalid, and I stated quite clearly that Objectivism holds logic, a process of volition, as a validating process. Therefor, human volition isn't just a means of knowledge, it is the ONLY means of conceptual knowledge. You're simply operating on the assumption that sense perception is somehow unreliable.
Rick Warden wrote:
On the one hand, we have objectivists offering points riddled with logical fallacies and contorting metaphysical primacy with metaphysical censorship. On the other hand, an argument using clear premises and no abuse of definitions. Yes, do choose wisely.
Vince responded:
Considering that you've completely misrepresented Objectivism in the first premise of your argument, it obviously can't be considered clear and without the abuse of definitions.  
Objectivism views sense perception as the base of knowledge, which is the only place that you can reasonably start. You claim that Objectivism 'contorts metaphysical primacy with metaphysical censorship', which I take to mean that we 'cut God out' of metaphysics, which isn't true: God *isn't there* metaphysically, or else we would have some evidence for him via sense perception!  
Your arguments assume that God exists, which you know by divine revelation, which can't be verified by logic... so how can you possibly claim that your arguments are logical when your arguments are subverting the hierarchy of knowledge? Again, the key question here is: how do you distinguish between divinely-revealed truth and your imagination?
Rick Warden wrote:
Sandin refers multiple times to problems with scientific phenomena, not philosophical ideas:
Vince responded:
To make sure this argument is considered in the proper context: The quotes you're referring to are from an internet forum thread from 2009. The discussion itself revolves around a book which details a theory of quantum mechanics utilizing a model based on traditional cause and effect.  
The discussion starts out about the book and some criticisms of it that were posted around the internet. Then Dean enters the discussion with a comment praising the book. Some more comments are made about the Objectivist status of the book, and then Dean joins in again to state that he doesn't consider the book's theory to be linked to Objectivism. Then the discussion begins to turn to the nature of the theory as it relates to Objectivism: is the theory a philosophical issue or one addressed by physics? Some comments are made about what constitutes a proper scientific theory, and then more comments are made about whether or not the book's theory is endorsed by Objectivism.  
Then Dean joins the discussion again with a comment making a distinction between physics issues and philosophical issues; he comments on two issues qua physics and comments on the other (which concerns non-locality, the very issue that your quotes are about) qua philosophy (“Action at a distance (superfluously also called instantaneous action at a distance, and often termed non-locality) would by definition be non-physical (tantamount to magic). It can’t ever rationally be an element of physics. That is a philosophical issue.”). Although he does comment on some points in the capacity of physics, the premise on which he rejects QM is a philosophical one. Your quote (“The deeper rot in QM is the admission of non-identity into physical reasoning”) is actually referencing philosophic concepts (identity, reason, non-contradiction). He even says “It goes without saying that care should be taken in evaluating the philosophical problems in physics”.  
Another poster makes it clear that the discussion is about the philosophic nature of Quantum Mechanics: “Speaking in terms of what QM means conceptually, many physicists can't seem to understand it at all, and any attempts to understand it have resulted in interpretations of QM that reject the law of identity or any sense of a rational metaphysical world-view.” Then Dean makes it clear that he was talking about the philosophic implications: “In context, I was referring to the theorists who are willing to confront and happily admit to the logical consequences of the premises of QM” and “[They don't] worry about what the logical end point of QM's theoretical stance might be”. More comments in the thread also make clear that the discussion centers on the philosophic implications: “Is there any dispute that saying non-locality violates causality is a philosophical argument?” followed by “No one here has disputed this”. Another comment: “Nonlocality is rightfully ruled out on philosophical grounds because it is impossible according to a realist, metaphysical view.”  
The discussion then ends with about 5 pages of comments dissecting the technical details of the book's theory vs. the accepted theory. Here Dean makes lots of remarks qua physics about technical details of the theory, and eventually the thread ends.  
To summarize: In an Objectivist internet forum, there is a discussion from 2009 about a book detailing a new theory about Quantum Mechanics. This discussion starts out with people commenting on criticisms on the book (this is where Dean joins the discussion) and the comments soon turn to the philosophical nature of the theory. Although Dean makes some comments qua physics about the accepted Quantum Mechanics theory, it is mostly to highlight the difference between the philosophical and the physical issues. Eventually the discussion turns to more detailed physics, but the quotes that you've mined from Dean are when the discussion is philosophic in nature.
Note: The forum discussion which Vince describes is located here. Dean Sandin’s comments appear on page three of that discussion thread, which can be accessed here. I myself had quoted a portion of one of Sandin’s forum posts (dated 01 March 2009) in a comment dated 23 October 2010 that I posted to my own blog entry Rick Warden’s Critique of Objectivism. For some additional insights on QM from physicist David Harriman, check out Part 2 his May 2011 interview with Gnostic Media Research & Publishing, which is as fascinating as it is enlightening. (Also check out Part 1 of that interview.)

Now, I’m confident that, as owner and moderator of his own blog, Rick Warden is aware of these comments but has chosen for some reason not to publish them. One can only speculate as to why. It is of course possible that he has not seen them, but since Warden has been active on his blog since Vince posted these comments (he posted a blog entry about the crisis in Ukraine on 03 March), I don’t think that’s very likely. I’m wagering that Rick Warden has seen Vince’s comments and has chosen not to publish them. So I’m helping him out here.

by Dawson Bethrick

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