Lindsay Perigo
Lindsay Perigo

The Free Radical Online - Perigo vs. Nola

Three: Perigo Responds

I stand by what I wrote last time. I am not denying that one can proceed from false premises to true conclusions, & gave my own example of just such a procedure; I am saying that one can do this only after the rules of logic have been established in the first place — by reference to facts. Where we differ is on Robert's claim that "reference to facts" is not necessary, that "the certification of the rules of logic is not done by an appeal to reality."

How would one ever know that the syllogism, for example, was a valid mode of reasoning if not by repairing to facts? Take the standard textbook syllogism, "All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is mortal." How could we validate such a procedure — the procedure now, not the conclusion — without the factuality of the premise: "All men are mortal?" How could we contrive such a procedure in the absence of facts? To be sure, one can subsequently imitate the procedure with untrue premises, specially chosen to lead to a conclusion which one already knows, by valid means, to be true (a goddamn fact again!) but I don't call that logic. Robert does.

Accepting for argument's sake the truth of my conclusion, Robert would have to say that my syllogism, "Robert Nola is a dog; all dogs are subjectivist philosophy professors; Robert Nola is a subjectivist philosophy professor" is a valid, logical way of establishing it. I would call it an imitation of a valid, logical way of establishing it. An imitation requires the real thing, & the real thing most emphatically is grounded in facts & would not be possible without them.

Actually, to be consistent Robert would have to bestow the name "logic" upon a procedure involving false premises and a false conclusion if the conclusion were consistent with the premises. Example: "My fax machine is a knife; my hard drive is a fork; I can eat a meal with my fax machine & hard drive." As I remarked last time, such is the territory of schizophrenia or subjectivism; "logic" it ain't. Nonsense modelled on logic, more like it.

Robert then debases the currency of debate with his attacks on "Objectivist Thought Police" & "cult members" who would eschew the practice of scientific hypothesising in case hypotheses turned out to be false, who would behave like Red Guards, etc.. To make these allegations about adherents to a philosophy that stresses reality & reason first & foremost, & whose primary political principle is: none shall initiate force against another, is just plain silly.

But it does point to the "cash value" of the debate we are having, which was the point of my original article, Objective Philosophy. I infer from his comments that Robert disapproves of Red Guard-type behaviour (specifically, in this context, the initiation of force against individuals because of their philosophical beliefs). So, wholeheartedly, do I. But how would Robert justify his disapproval? Assuming he would be prepared to state his disapproval in this form: "Such behaviour is immoral," I am curious to know how he would prove such a proposition. The point of my article was that philosophy has thrown in the towel on this, accepting instead that you can't get values from facts (i.e. an objective code of ethics is impossible) — in which case you have to get values from God (non-existent), your impulses (murderous ones?), other people (which ones — and where do they get theirs from?!), the Government (Hitler's?), etc., or abandon any commitment to values at all ("If God is dead everything is permissible").This is what I meant by subjectivism whose "dead end is nihilism." Robert clearly is not a nihilist, since he has expressed moral disapproval of the Red Guards. To which I say: excellent — but on what grounds does he base his disapproval? As an Objectivist, I don't have a problem answering this; but as someone clearly hostile to Objectivism, what does Robert Nola say?

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