Lindsay Perigo
Lindsay Perigo

The Free Radical Online - Perigo vs. Nola

Six: Perigo Responds

I did not "wheel out" David Kelley as a "big gun" to continue some sort of "campaign." When discussing other matters with me in the US recently, David volunteered that he disagreed with some of my responses to Dr Nola, while also, of course, disagreeing with him substantially. I suggested to David that he "put it in writing for TFR" and he did. Simple & uncalculating as that!

David Kelley is much more lenient towards modern "logic" than I. From the above it would appear that he would allow the validity of a "correct" procedure using false premises, e.g. my syllogism Robert Nola is a dog; all dogs are subjectivist philosophy professors; therefore Robert Nola is a subjectivist philosophy professor on the grounds that all of this would be true if indeed Robert Nola were a dog & dogs were subjectivist philosophy professors. "Standard logic" this may be; Objectivism, I submit, it ain't. It's a mere imitation of logical procedure, which procedure can only be conceptualised into an abstract formula by reference to facts of reality — Robert Nola is a human being (fact); all human beings are mortal (fact); Robert Nola is mortal (true conclusion). It is meaningless to talk about syllogisms containing nonsense being true statements about "metaphysical potentiality," since nonsense has no metaphysical status & therefore no metaphysical potential. David's gravity/pen analogy doesn't hold up. Gravity does indeed have the potential to cause the pen to fall whether the pen is dropped or not; that's inherent in the actual nature of gravity & the pen. And the pen does have the actual potential to be dropped; that's inherent in the actual nature of the pen & the person holding it. Nothing in the universe, however, can transform Nola from a human being into a dog. There is no such "metaphysical potentiality" ("metaphysics" pertaining to the nature of the universe); A is A. The potential of the pen to fall (real) cannot be equated with the "potential" of Nola to become a dog (unreal), nor can a syllogism fabricating the latter be granted equal validity with one accurately identifying the former. David is making a lethal concession here to Nola's ( & whoever else's) impossible "possible worlds" — and, I submit, negating the content of his last two paragraphs in the process!

What, as a matter of interest (albeit not to Dr Nola!) would Ayn Rand have said? I quote from Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, written on the basis of the lectures Peikoff delivered in 1976 when Rand was looking over his shoulder: "Logic is a volitional consciousness' method of conforming to reality. It is the method of reason. ...If I declare, 'Apples are razors & oranges are blades; therefore, one can shave with a fruit salad,' this is not a process of cognition at all; it is merely an imitation of the form of logic while dropping its essence. If logic is to be the means of objectivity, a logical conclusion must be derived from reality; it must be warranted by antecedent knowledge, which itself may rest on earlier knowledge, & so on back until one reaches the self-evident, the data of sense [the mysterious 'grounding,' Dr Nola!]." I quote from Rand herself, when she observes (Marginalia on John Hospers' Introduction To Philosophical Analysis): "[Modern] philosophy is concerned with a game of words & rules, unrelated to reality. The joke is on the modern philosophers; by the above premises, modern philosophers are pure Platonic rationalists, they make conclusions without any reference to empirical reality ..." Ponder, too, her endorsement (Marginalia again) of the following from John Herman Randall's Aristotle: "A logic that had literally no relevance to ontology, to what there is, would be about as meaningless an enterprise as the wit of man could devise."

Nola continues to argue that logical formulae can be manufactured out of the non-existent, that their truth is self-contained within some rationalistic castle in the air that need never have been raised up from or brought down to earth (reality). If objectivity is indeed conformity to reality, I am puzzled, then, as to why Robert objected to my calling him a subjectivist in the first place, & by what standard he claims to be "objective." (If he has an alternative meaning for "objective," perhaps he would care to share it? Or perhaps, true to the modern analyst/positivist flea-focus, he might say everything hinges on the meaning of the word "to"?) But then, I shouldn't be puzzled — I should not expect Nola, as a self-confessed devotee of "logics with contradictions in them" & "worlds with no things in them" & fuzzy intuitions, to display anything consistently except inconsistency.

Let it be said that from my point of view this was never intended as just "a debate on logic" — only Nola's complete subjectivist dissembling when he entered the field of ethics (TFR 32), & his subsequent (understandable!) refusal to re-enter it, reduced it to such. In that brief, disastrous foray Nola provided an eloquent illustration of the connection between "True, false, what the hell, take your pick!" in epistemology & "Right, wrong, what the hell, take your pick!" in ethics. This, let it be remembered, was my beef with modern philosophy to begin with (TFR 30). This also, dear reader, is why such a seemingly absurdly abstruse debate matters.

Now re-read Robert White's article that precedes this one.

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