Scripturalist Apologetics

I recently decided to reread John Robbins’ systematic dismemberment of Objectivism, Without A Prayer: Ayn Rand and the Close of Her System. Admittedly, this is my third time around.  The first time was more years ago than I care to remember when I purchased John’s original work,  Answer to Ayn Rand. Later when that book was reedited, expanded and re-released, I read that version too. I suppose what motivated me now to pick up Without a Prayer again was finally reading Atlas Shrugged last year after a few vain and failed attempts to read it during my college years.  I confess, regardless of my love of capitalism and my concern for my Objectivist friends and acquaintances over the years, I thought the book was a tedious bore and couldn’t make it through the first few hundred pages (my old tattered Signet paperback with excruciatingly small type runs 1084 pages).  It was only after someone sent me Steve Moore’s Wall Street Journal piece, “Atlas Shurgged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years,” that I finally took the plunge and plowed my way through the totality of Shrugged which is still a tedious bore.  That’s not to say that Rand’s philosophy is boring, but I confess that periodically having characters launch into oddly placed chapter length philosophic monologues and tirades gets a bit tedious. I suppose what attracts so many to Rand’s novels is what repulses me.  I know when I’m being propagandized.  Just give me the philosophy without all the window dressing. That’s why I have always found her book, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology to be a much better doorway into her philosophy than her novels.

Shrugged aside, what I am particularly enjoying about Robbins’ reply to Rand this time around is not so much his meticulous examination and destruction of Rand’s Objectivism (frankly, there isn’t much left of her philosophy after the third chapter), but rather it’s his application of Gordon Clark’s Scripturalism.   Clark’s profound insights into epistemology and other areas of philosophy provides the necessary tools that allows Robbins to completely dismantle the foundation of Objectivism and everything else collapses from there.  Consider the following insight into the nature of truth that Robbins uses as a crowbar to separate Rand’s rickety Objectivist structure from its foundation:

Truth is a characteristic of propositions, and of nothing else. How a concept can be true or false [Rand] did not explain.  “Cat,” spoken, heard, or read without context, is not true.  It is not false.  It is meaningless.  If it is an answer to a question, it is an elliptical expression, meaning “That is a cat,” or, “My favorite animal is a cat.” But without context, “cat” is as meaningless as “boojum.” All by themselves, single concepts and single words are meaningless. They are neither true nor false. Rand made the same mistake that Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, and Hegel made: thinking that concepts per se are true.  If we are to know truth, if we are to discover truth, we must think in terms of propositions, not concepts.  Truth — knowledge — comes only in propositions. “Conceptual truth” is a contradiction in terms. Truth is a relationship between a predicate and a subject.  If there is no predicate, there is no truth.  If there is no subject, there is no truth. Neither an experience, nor an encounter, nor an observation, nor an isolated concept, nor a single word can be true.

Truth, of course, is an insuperable problem for empiricism: Truth cannot be derived from something non-propositional, such as “observations.”  Unless one starts with propositions, one cannot end with propositions.  One cannot logically infer more than one begins with.

Without a Prayer is a brilliant lesson in how Scripturalist apologetics is done.

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: John Robbins, Theology

48 Comments on “Scripturalist Apologetics”

  1. Ryan Says:

    If anyone is interested, I wrote some notes on Robbins’ “Answer to Ayn Rand.” It really is a great book, and my friend was able to give it to his Objectivist roommate (who has, not surprisingly, failed to reply).


  2. How boring. How tedious. I always figured that no one wrote a refutation to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism only because no one had the patience or desire to be bothered to read such a lot of nonsense falsehood. It’s easy to discern its falsehood right away without reading hundreds/thousands of pages when you have a clear understanding of the truth.

  3. Robert Taylor Says:

    You speak in very broad paintstrokes. Give me an example of where a concept derived from reason is not true. How do you surmise that only a proposition is true when it is merely a proposition and carried no further.
    I’ve read Atlas 3 times and glean something new everytime I’ve read it. True it’s long and deep…so what? When I was young I read short story pablums…as I matured I read longer stories (fiction and/or non-fiction) because I wanted “meat”..not “pablum”. I’m sure reading Sir Isaac Newton would be boring to you..but his theories on light, gravity and the structure of the cosmos stand on their own.
    I think to many individuals sense a danger in Atlas..a danger possibly to one’s intellectual and moral lethargy.

  4. Ed B Says:

    Can a conceptualized proposition be true or a truth to those that believe in it ? Hmmm … ?

  5. Sean Gerety Says:

    Hi Robert. Perhaps before reading Shrugged a fourth time, you should pick up a copy of Without a Prayer. I frankly can’t see how anyone could remain entranced by Rand after Dr. Robbins’ chapter on “Imagining Knowledge.” If you’re able to survive after three chapters, get back to me. Maybe you’re really a mystic. 😉

    FWIW Rand’s philosophy, like every other variant of empiricism, fails before it even starts, so even the belief that concepts are derived from reason is simply begging the question.

    Also, I said I thought Shrugged was boring, not that her philosophy was boring. I’m just not a fan of the kind of wooden propagandizing that Rand is interested in doing.

  6. Robert Taylor Says:

    Be specific, please. How exactly does Rand’s philosophy fail before it starts? Again, be specific. In no way a mystic. I don’t believe in Santa, the Bunny Rabbit or the tooth fairy, voodoo, or any mystical “entity”. I find that most “believers” defend the Bible by quoting the Bible…self-serving. Everything ever “written” was written by MEN.

  7. Sean Gerety Says:

    Again, Robert, read the book. Certainly you believe that Rand’s philosophy can withstand a little critique from some Christian, don’t you? Besides, the book only runs 345 pages appendices included. I would think that’s chump change to someone who has suffered through Shrugged three times. 🙂

  8. Robert Taylor Says:

    I’ll try to read the book. But you evaded the question (especially since you claim to have already read the book you refer to. How does her philosophy “fail” even before it starts?

  9. Sean Gerety Says:

    Read the book and find out.

  10. Robert Taylor Says:

    As usual…no response. I find that repeatedly on various sites that speak negatively about it. Most critics have NEVER REALLY READ “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead”…very UNacademic to say the least. It’s like saying, “Well…well..you just go read this and you’ll know…yeah, you’ll find out then!” Give the world a break!

  11. Sean Gerety Says:

    Most critics have NEVER REALLY READ “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Fountainhead”…very

    Well I have, so stop your whining.

  12. Robert Taylor Says:

    Well, good, have you read “Without a Prayer”? Again, you evade my original question. How does Rand’s philosophy fail even before it starts? Do you understand the question because you seem totally incapable of giving an answer?

  13. Sean Gerety Says:

    Well, good, have you read “Without a Prayer”?

    Indeed I have. Have you? Of course not. You’re just another Randian mystic zealot who is impervious to reason. Robert, you’re presence throughout the net is virtually ubiquitous. You’re a troll.

    So, unless you demonstrate that you’re willing to do some work yourself to protect your beloved idol, I hardly see why I or anyone else should indulge you. Besides, a good portion of the the answer is already present in my post, assuming you’re not too blind to see it.

  14. Robert Taylor Says:

    You claim to have read “Atlas”…I truly doubt it. I admit not having read your idol…honesty. Why are you afraid to answer my query if you’ve read “Without a Prayer”? Why? Can’t you stand up to an honest debate? Doesn’t look like it. I think you sense danger to your “intellectual” and moral lethargy.
    You’ve already stated you’ve done “some work” by reading “Without a Prayer” -> then show some fruit of that effort and TRY to answer my question.
    If not, then I think you’re just another religious fanatic cum zealot who espouses certain ideas, but can’t back them up because down deep you’re probably scared of life and need a crutch like religion to make all your doubts go away.
    So, for the umpteenth time, will you answer my question????????

  15. Sean Gerety Says:

    For the umpteenth time, read the book yourself.

    I don’t owe you my time. However, anyone who cannot even see that Rand’s idea of a “tabula rasa” mind is a contradiction in terms and that empiricism has historically ended in skepticism, not knowledge (and Rand is no exception), is hardly worth the time. Besides, questioning my honesty is not helping your cause.

    However, if it’s any incentive for you (since I doubt very much you will ever read the book), Dr. Robbins was Ron Paul’s former Chief of Staff and Paul said of the book: “A brilliantly insightful analysis of Ayn Rand’s influential philosophy”

    And, for anyone else who might be interested, Richard Bacon reviewed the book here:

    http://www.fpcr.org/blue_banner_articles/without_a_prayer.htm

    But then, Bacon claims to have read Anthem in addition to Fountainhead and Shrugged. He must have been lying too.

  16. Hugh Says:

    Mr Robert Taylor,

    If you wish to, please email me for a free copy of Robbins’ work on Rand.

    Whether or not you like or agree with it, I think you will find it engaging, and that Robbins knew Rand’s work well.

    Please indicate hardback or paperback.

    Sincerely Yours,
    Hugh McCann
    hughmc5@hotmail etc.

  17. Robert Taylor Says:

    No thanx…I will be in San Antonio manana after a morning doctors appointment and I’ll see if it available…if so, I’ll buy it. Hopefully it will be in English, not hierglyphics, so it will be easy to comprehend. It seems others here have a difficult timing being able to transmit its ideas via emails. Geez, when one can defend one’s viewpoint…they’re in trouble.

  18. Hugh Says:

    I think you meant, “…when one cannot defend one’s viewpoint… s/he’s in trouble.”???

    Happy landings,
    Hugh

  19. Robert Taylor Says:

    Yup, you are right. I failed to edit my own email and catch the grammatical faux pas.

  20. Ryan Says:

    Robert,

    “It seems others here have a difficult timing being able to transmit its ideas via emails.”

    Reread my first comment.

  21. dewisant1 Says:

    This is not germaine, sorry. Some objectivists have taken to calling themselves libertarians. Ron Paul is considered by some to be a libertarian. Is Ron Paul an objectivist? He did name his son Rand. Why?
    I only ask because I know Dr. Robbins once worked for Ron Paul and there may be some insight from those of you who knew Dr. Robbins personally…

  22. Sean Gerety Says:

    Ryan, maybe Robert will do better than your roommate. Somehow I doubt it. His faith in the power and infallibility of sensation is as irrational as any of the “mystics” Rand denounced throughout her life. It would be like him attempting to argue that the concept “cat” or “man” is true apart from the use of propositions. IMO religious Objectivists like Robert are reduced to flailing their arms about like Rand in support of her nonsensical “ostensive definitions.” =8-)

    And, Hugh, nice try. Robert never had any intentions of reading Without a Prayer.

  23. Sean Gerety Says:

    Rand despised Libertarians probably even more than Conservatives. Paul is not an Objectivist, although I think it’s fair to say, like Robbins he was an admirer of Rand’s work. Paul did run for president as a Libertarian in ’88. FWIW, Robbins’ told me he tried to talk Paul out of running as a Libertarian. Things certainly would have been different if Paul had listened.

  24. dewisant1 Says:

    Indeed they would have. Thanks for the info…
    Kris

  25. brandon Says:

    Without a Prayer was my introduction to Robbins and Clark. I picked it up for a couple bucks used at a local Christian bookstore because some of my friends had an affinity for Rand. Some other guy at the store noticed it and told me it was ok, but the author was a disciple of some guy named Clark. He told me a much better book was called “A Defense of the Faith” by some guy named Van Til.

    I think that’s the same day I picked up Van Til’s book. Needless to say, Without a Prayer is covered in yellow highlighter and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve still never made it past page 50 in Van Til, and its covered in black ink and question marks.

  26. ray kikkert Says:

    How about that quote at the start of chapter 3 of Without A Prayer by Ayn (April Fool’s Day is MY holiday) Rand ….

    “An error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith …”

    That’s what happens when your principle axiom is Atlas Shrugged and the like… instead of the Word of God

  27. Robert Taylor Says:

    “Atlas Shrugged”, the novel, is an axiom!!!! Really?
    How is a novel an axiom? Do you mean that Objectivism states that there are axioms?
    The “Word of God”(the Bible I presume)contains translations of old manuscripts written by humans; “Atlas” was written by a human. Everything ever reduced to writing was written by a human being somewhere at some time. So-called ‘inspiration by a holy spirit’ is self-serving and unprovable.

  28. Ryan Says:

    “So-called ‘inspiration by a holy spirit’ is self-serving and unprovable.”

    All axioms are unprovable by definition. Duh.

    The Scripturalist’s axiom is internally consistent ans self-attesting (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14-17) – empiricism, on the other hand, is neither. Oops.

  29. Robert Taylor Says:

    Ryan, at least you’re consistent…consistently wrong.

    Axioms ARE provable because they are so fundamental that if you refuse to recognize an axioms veracity you “…..must accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.” (Atlas Shrugged, 1040). To use your childish tongue…duh, duh

    Your statement that “The Scripturalist’s axiom {thought you couldn’t prove an axiom} is internally consistent ans(sic) self-attesting.” You have proved my point…to prove something in the Bible you have to go somewhere else in the Bible to justify it…totally, totally self-serving and begging the question. Sorry, son, no cigar!!!

  30. Ryan Says:

    “Axioms ARE provable…”

    To allege than an axiom is self-evident is not a proof. To assert that an axion can be proven assumes that an axiom can be the conclusion of a deductive argument. In that case, however, an axiom is no longer an axiom.

    Example: your use of a contra-positive argument to demonstrate that one who denies the law of non-contradiction is begging-the-question is not itself a proof of the law of non-contradiction. Such an argument, if that is your intention, presupposes the law of non-contradiction, which is itself question-begging.

    “You have proved my point…to prove something in the Bible you have to go somewhere else in the Bible to justify it…”

    I am not trying to *prove* that Scripture is our sole, extant source of knowledge. You’re constructing a poor straw man. Asserting that an axiom yields a system which is internally consistent and self-attesting is not a proof of an axiom.

  31. Robert Taylor Says:

    You stretch knowledge and reason to the limits. Straw man? Where, please tell me where, did I state that you were trying to prove scripture as your sole, extant source of knowledge? I didn’t..hence YOU are guilty of constructing a “strawman”…not moi.
    Never said an axiom is necessarily self-evident. Another misquote and strawman. You do have to, at some point in your evolution, have to focus and realize existence exists and your consciousness exists. You soon acknowledge that you don’t need some outside source or person (a witch doctor, a preacher or a university professor)to validate that.
    Do you deny that existence exists, that your consciousness exists? They are fundamental axioms. Any effort to refute their existence must assume and acknowledge that they are primary facts of reality. You can’t analyze either existence nor consciousness because they are primary factors of reality. Axioms are not tautologies. They can’t reduced to other facts or broken into more fundamental parts.
    Who is a person called Ryan? Does he exist are is he a mythical, mystical ghost. Does his consciousness, such as it is, exist? If you deny either axiom of existence or consciousness…then who the hell am I communicating with?
    Me thinks you attempt to obfuscate (you fail) for the sheer pleasure of trying to obfuscate.

  32. Ryan Says:

    “Where, please tell me where, did I state that you were trying to prove scripture as your sole, extant source of knowledge?”

    Here:

    //Your statement that “The Scripturalist’s axiom {thought you couldn’t prove an axiom} is internally consistent ans(sic) self-attesting.” You have proved my point…to prove something in the Bible you have to go somewhere else in the Bible to justify it…//

    Your parenthetical remark makes it clear you believed I thought that internal consistency and self-attestation function as conditions which, if satisfied, “prove an axiom.” You’ll have to backtrack better than that.

    “Never said an axiom is necessarily self-evident.”

    Explain the difference between that and this statement you make:

    //[axioms] are so fundamental that if you refuse to recognize an axioms veracity you “…..must accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.” (Atlas Shrugged, 1040).//

    “…existence exists…”

    A meaningless statement. Rand defines existence as follows:

    “Since axiomatic concepts are identifications of irreducible primaries, the only way to define one is by means of an ostensive definition – e.g. to define “existence” one would have to sweep one’s arms around and say ‘I mean this’” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pgs 40-41).

    Of course, Augustine pointed out 1700 years ago in De Magistro that such a method of teaching can easily be misinterpreted and is thus ineffective. Perhaps you are referring to your belly. Maybe the referent of “this” is your derriere. This simple fact is, unless you can define what existence is, the concept is unintelligible. Unfortunately for you, Rand says the axiom upon which you construct your beliefs cannot be defined any clearer than “hey, look over ‘here’ at ‘this.’” Lol.

    All knowledge claims are predicated upon first principles. Even if you could define existence, you have not explained the means by which you have derived your beliefs, let alone addressed how an axiom can be a conclusion to an argument. Your rhetorical questions, much like Rand’s empty rhetoric, do not aid you in avoiding the fallacy of begging-the-question.

  33. Robert Taylor Says:

    “Where, please tell me where, did I state that you were trying to prove scripture as your sole, extant source of knowledge?”

    Here:

    //Your statement that “The Scripturalist’s axiom {thought you couldn’t prove an axiom} is internally consistent ans(sic) self-attesting.” You have proved my point…to prove something in the Bible you have to go somewhere else in the Bible to justify it…//

    Ryan, come back to the realm of reality, where in the quote above do I say that you were trying to prove scripture as the SOLE extant source of knowledge? You again are obfuscating and refuting your own statements. Again….now focus Ryan, I know this is difficult for you…..where in the above quote of mine did I say you were asserting that scripture is the SOLE source of knowledge. You are misquoting, ergo, lying. If you can’t recognize that than you’ve definitely been drinking way too much Kool-Aid!!!
    “All knowledge claims are predicated upon first principles. Even if you could define existence, you have not explained the means by which you have derived your beliefs”(your quote). Tell me Ryan, and be specific PLEASE, what are the “first principles” you seek other than axioms themselves…the axioms are the 1st principles. IF YOU ARE READING THIS, RIGHT NOW, WHAT DO YOU CREDIT THE VALIDITY OF THE FACT THAT “YOU” ARE THE ONE DOING THE READING? Do you need some mystical entity as a god or witch doctor to prove that validity of the fact that you (a conscious being) are the one who is doing the reading? Are you serious or are you delusional? You are also reading “something”(this email), a fact of reality, of experience, of EXISTENCE (an axiom).
    You know, you remind me of what Reagan once said, to-wit: “It’s not that liberals don’t know much, it’s that they know so much that isn’t true.”
    If you can’t acknowledge that YOU exist (axiomatic) and that others exist outside of your consciousness, body, derrier, brother…you do need religion to survive.

  34. Ryan Says:

    “Ryan, come back to the realm of reality, where in the quote above do I say that you were trying to prove scripture as the SOLE extant source of knowledge?”

    That is the axiom of Scripturalism, Robert. Get it?

    “Tell me Ryan, and be specific PLEASE, what are the “first principles” you seek other than axioms themselves…the axioms are the 1st principles.”

    Yes. Point? You have not explain the means by which you have derived your beliefs, let alone addressed how an axiom can be a conclusion to an argument. Write out in syllogistic form the way in which you have proceeded from your axiom (or first principle) to that which you claim to know.

    “IF YOU ARE READING THIS, RIGHT NOW, WHAT DO YOU CREDIT THE VALIDITY OF THE FACT THAT “YOU” ARE THE ONE DOING THE READING?”

    Proverbs 23:7 For as man thinks within himself, so he is…

    My own existence is justified by my axiom. That is, my essence is entailed in my reflexive thoughts or opinions. That you have to resort to an argument from incredulity is unsurprising.

    “You are also reading “something”(this email), a fact of reality, of experience, of EXISTENCE (an axiom).”

    Non sequitur. I opine that I am reading. I do not know it. I have written about the purpose of dialogue here.

    “you do need religion to survive.”

    You need to make throwaway comments to obscure the fact you have failed to answer how an axiom can be a valid conclusion of an argument.

  35. Robert Taylor Says:

    Oh, so now you changed your mind and state (or “opine” or whatever) and state that axioms DO exist epistemologically AS LONG AS THEIR “AXIOMS OF SCRIPTURALISM” (whatever the heck that is). Ryan, you’re a lost cause. I guess as long as you “feel” that YOU exist and something weird called SCRIPTURALISM (who invented that non-concept?)exists, you can go ahead feeling that everything else in life is imaginary because somehow you can’t comprehend what an axiom really is and that there are other sentient beings, mountains, roads, stars that equally exist. Axioms are self-proving because you can’t deny their fundamentalist reality with using them. I’m sorry for you that you can’t comprehend.
    There’s nothing more to be said except I hope one day you’ll wake up front that nightmare you must live in where you reject fundamentals of reason and logic.
    Goodbye and adieu.

  36. qeqesha Says:

    Robert taylor,
    “Goodbye and adieu”
    Good riddance!!!

    Denson

  37. Ed B. Says:

    I’m with you Denson … there’s no point in continuing a ‘debate’, if that’s what the preceding is called, that neither side will ‘win’.
    Ed

  38. Ryan Says:

    “Oh, so now you changed your mind and state (or “opine” or whatever) and state that axioms DO exist epistemologically AS LONG AS THEIR “AXIOMS OF SCRIPTURALISM” (whatever the heck that is).”

    You seem to have a problem distinguishing between assertions and justification of said assertions. Unfortunately, that’s a basic epistemological point.

    “Axioms are self-proving because you can’t deny their fundamentalist reality with using them.”

    But if you try to use an axiom to prove an axiom, that’s question-begging. Hello?

    Later, gator.

  39. Ryan Says:

    “…there’s no point in continuing a ‘debate’, if that’s what the preceding is called, that neither side will ‘win’.”

    Depends on what you mean. As that was the first Objectivist I’ve engaged in a “live” discussion, and as he had no rebuttal to the basic problems of Objectivism that I cited or to which I linked, I am afforded more confidence that what Robbins said in his book is right on. If you mean that neither side will “win” in that neither will be persuaded, that’s a rather narrow view of the purpose of debate, imo.


  40. It seems to me that the problem is that the word axiom is used differently. Ryan uses the word as synonymous with first principle. Robert uses it as a type of first principle, one that if not self-evident is at least necessarily true (“Axioms are self proving”). But Descartes first principle, “cogito ergo sum” is simply one first principle. “The Bible is the Word of God” is another. The point is not to have a necessary truth as a first principle but that there must be a first principle, that is, a starting place. Then, we can determine whether any knowledge can be built upon it. That is the nature of epistemology. Robert may not understand this. Now, it may be good to start with an axiom that no one would disagree with, that no one could rationally doubt or deny, as Descartes desired, but the issue remains as to whether anything can be built upon it. I would say no. All you have is you thinking(solipsism), but no objective truth. Also, the fact of your thinking cannot lead to a knowledge of “facts of reality”, since by this method (awareness of our thoughts)we can never get beyond our own thoughts to the reality of things outside of our thoughts.

  41. Ed B. Says:

    It seemed to me that Mr. Taylor had descended to a condescending attitude … one that presupposed his feeling of superiority. To me, at that point, whether his argument were in any way factual or seemingly based in logic or reason, his further value to the debate was irrelevant and not worth your effort to continue.


  42. Interestingly, the word axiom does have as one of its definitions “an established rule or principle or a self evident truth.” But philosophers normally use it to mean “a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference: POSTULATE.” From the Greek, it literally means “something worthy.”

  43. Sean Gerety Says:

    Patrick, have you even read John’s book on Rand? I only ask because in your longer reply you completely miss his discussion of Rand’s axiom, specifically existence. Also, she uses the term in exactly the same way that Ryan and John used it. Now, pointing that out would have actually been helpful. In contrast, I hardly see how pointing out different senses of the word “axiom” is helpful? So what if Ryan and Robert talked past each other? Robert is the self-styled expert on Objectivism, he should at least have some understanding of Rand’s use of axiom. Besides, I don’t believe they were talking past each other.

    BTW Ryan, nice job. 🙂


  44. Sean,

    First of all, it is pretty clear that Robert was using the word axiom differently from Ryan. And discussions can go nowhere where there is no defining of terms. Talking past one another is a fruitless waste of time.

    Second, I don’t think Rand understood how axiom is used by philosophers and made the same mistake that Robert makes: thinking that an axiom regarding existence or conscience solves everything, furnishes a means to knowledge.

    Finally, I’ve tried to read through Dr. Robbins book. I’ve only made it halfway. It’s just that Rand’s philosophy/epistemology is so absurd and Robbins refutation is so clearly stated, it’s hard to read pages and pages of refutation, when one page or even one paragraph, or even one sentence will do. Rand really was hardly a philosopher and hardly deserved a written refutation. Anyway, Rand did not appear to use the word axiom in the usual sense that Robbins and Ryan used it. She spoke of the “category” or “axiomatic concept” of existence. This hardly seems like a proposition at all. Now maybe she did think of this as a first principle, a starting place to knowledge in her view of concepts capable of being true or false. But her epistemology was based on reason, vaguely defined and incorporating/”integrating” sensation and/or empiricism as bringing in the data for knowledge. Again, Rand was no philosopher, and it’s not clear she understood epistemology’s use of an axiom, that is, a proposition, as a starting point/first principle.

  45. Ryan Says:

    lawyertheologian:

    “An axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it” (Atlas Shrugged, pg. 1040).

    Rand herself did not believe the axiomatic concept of existence could be defined, so the axiom “existence exists” is, as I pointed out, meaningless. Robert had no answer to that.

    Robert also denied that axioms are necessarily self-evident (although they can be proven). When I asked him to explain the difference between “axioms are self-evident” and Rand’s idea “an axiom is a proposition that defeats its opponents by the fact that they have to accept it and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it,” he declined to answer. Furthermore, the “Objectivist dictionary” (link states that “axioms are perceptually self-evident, primary, fundamental, and irrefutable.” Self-evident? Oops.

    Finally, if an axiom is “fundamental” or, as Rand puts it, “irreducible,” it cannot be proven by definition. To try to prove an axiom is to make it the conclusion of a deductive argument, in which case the premise is the true axiom… or, if the premise presupposes the conclusion, the argument is question-begging. This was what Robert seemed to struggle with the most.

    While I do not believe we were talking past one another, if we were, it is because Robert prefers the empty rhetoric of Rand to straight answers.

    I’ll leave it at that, as it seems we all believe Objectivism is moronic.

  46. Sean Gerety Says:

    Rand really was hardly a philosopher and hardly deserved a written refutation…Rand was no philosopher, and it’s not clear she understood epistemology’s use of an axiom

    Those are some amazingly ignorant statements Patrick. Robbins considered her a woman worthy of the name philosopher. He obviously took her seriously, which is why he expanded Answer. Rand has had a major impact on countless people. Interestingly, I even heard Glenn Beck recommending her work on the radio this morning.

    Rand did not appear to use the word axiom in the usual sense that Robbins and Ryan used it. She spoke of the “category” or “axiomatic concept” of existence. This hardly seems like a proposition at all.

    Of course she didn’t begin with propositions. Anyone could have figured that much out from the quote I provided from the book. Why don’t you pull out your copy of Prayer and show us Rand’s use of the word and show how it differs? Actually, it will be a prerequisite to continue posting on this thread.

    FWIW she uses the word as you said it is commonly used in philosophy which is “a statement accepted as true as the basis for argument or inference….”

  47. Bob Suden Says:

    Never read Rand, but enjoyed Robbins’s book.
    FWIW they’re not the same thing, but Whittaker Chambers’s review of Rand Big Sister is Watching You is interesting, as well as this more recent piece by Anthony Strand, Ayn Rand: Engineer of Souls.


  48. […] Scripturalist Apologetics […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: