The supporters of Ayn Rand
I was going to follow up the previous post on Rand with a few comments but Triablogue beat me to it. There are also some excellent comments on the post made by Dominic Tennant in the course of a running argument with someone called John Donohue. Tennant leaves me with very little to say on Rand's 'existence exists' axiom. But fortunately it leads me to another thought that had been in the back of my mind, about supporters of Rand. I judge the worth of a writer by reading them. But also instructive to read what their supporters say. Supporters of Rand, in my experience, tend to be shrill, and philosophically and logically illiterate. Perhaps that tells us something about Rand?
Tennant points out the 'Existence exists' is incoherent - existence is commonly regarded as a second-order property. Not by everyone, I should point out, but certainly Frege's view that existence is a second-order predicate is accepted by nearly all those in mainstream analytic philosophy. Nor is Donohue's restatement, "whatever exists exists" in any way useful, because it is either merely tautological and doesn't tell us anything, or it is equally incoherent (for it dubiously assumes that existence is a first-order predicate).
Donohue objects "All truth discovered by Objectivism is through induction, and all induction is consistent with the constraint that all existents named/claimed in the induction must actually exist in objective reality". Tennant immediately objects that if the entire worldview is inductively inferred, there is no certainty in it, for induction is an informal fallacy. Donohue objects that induction is not a fallacy, and that its goal is to deploy reason with greater and greater precision until a given proposition/claim achieves a position of "true" and "certain" within the context of human knowledge. Tennant objects that he cannot be serious. Induction is an informal fallacy—it is a kind of logically invalid inference which may nonetheless yield true results. "In logic, a type of nonvalid inference or argument in which the premises provide some reason for believing that the conclusion is true. Typical forms of inductive argument include reasoning from a part to a whole, from the particular to the general, and from a sample to an entire population. Induction is traditionally contrasted with deduction. Many of the problems of inductive logic, including what is known as the problem of induction, have been treated in studies of the methodology of the natural sciences. (Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, 'induction'.)"
As Tennant correctly points out, what Donohue is describing here —"greater and greater precision"—is characterized by deduction. Induction works in the opposite direction: from greater precision and certainty towards less and less of the same. How can Donohue not be familiar with the problem of induction? How can he not be aware that absolute certainty is not guaranteed by merely inductive inference? Perhaps this is because Donohue has only read Rand, which does seem consistent with his ignorance of basic logical concepts. "Next time, take a Logic 101 course and read some introductory philosophy before you head out into the real world and try to pontificate on a blog published by people who have a clue and can call your bluff."
All very true, and remember that Donohue is one of the more articulate supporters of Rand. This began with problems at the Wikipedia article on Rand. Rand supporters turn up in large numbers to make sure that any 'objective' assessment of Rand's work is impossible, and they wear out the more logically-minded editors with this endless logically illiterate ranting. There is nothing in Wikipedia's policies that prevents this happening. Everything on Wikipedia is done by 'consensus', even if that is a consensus of idiots. This would not have mattered in the days when Wikipedia was a tiny website run by a dedicated band of enthusiasts. Now it really is used by everyone on the planet. If only it really were the sum of all human knowledge. Governments are now forcibly taking over banks. Why can't they forcibly take over Wikipedia?