Identity and Epistemology

  • #1
W A Dunkley
11
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If a tree falls with no one around then there should be the presence of sound waves. Sound, nonetheless, is a product of the brain and a element of consciousness and would not be present if there is no one to hear. Perception is not the thing perceived. When dealing with the mystics claim of some alternate knowledge or truth, it is important to make the distinction and remember that while sound (i.e., the experience of hearing) is in the mind of the one who hears, it is still subject to objective standards (e.g., one should hear when sound waves are present and not when they are not

Our awareness and understanding of existence is ultimately derived from perception. Neither perception nor reason are infallible. The delusional mystic may really hear a little voice in his head but this does not mean he is really talking to god or little green men. The presence of feeling, sensation, sight, sound etc. is self-evident proof of their existence. Sensation is, to the one who senses, self-evident proof of the existence of sensation. The existence of sensation is proof that something exists even of one assumes that sensation is all that exists. Sensation (i.e., sensory stimuli) becomes perception when it is acknowledged as information about existence. Commonsense assumes this (surely even in the mind of a child or an animal.)

This commonsense is ascended to the status of knowledge (i.e., truth held with justified certainty) when the axiom is formulated, acknowledge and recognized as an immutable absolute (and this is what embracing mysticism steals from you). The formulation of the axiom is the product of creativity. The validity of all knowledge, no matter how it is obtained, ultimately rest on the axiom (i.e., the validity of perceptions and our minds interpretations of them is hinged in the law of identity). It is not necessary to know everything about the human mind and have an answer to every epistemological question in order to prove this. All that is required is an understanding of self-evidence and necessary truth.

Reason subsumes all human faculties. Reason refers to all the mental function that process perceptions into concepts an ideas or any mental constructs (e.g., thinking in pictures). The importance of creativity in humanities pursuit of truth is difficult to over state. Identism is in agreement with the gist of the statement “reason is the servant of creativity,” but the statement implies a concept of reason that must be rejected. It is better stated as “deduction is the servant of creativity, but both are faculties of reason.” The result of defining creativity outside of reason, if not the propose, is the exempting of creativity from the first principle and rendering it schizophrenic. It is significant, in this context, to consider how stagnant and uncreative, in any meaningful why, the contemporary intellectual and artistic environment has become. This is especially true in academic philosophy which is little more than a death rattle of “philosophy” along with the stuffy formality and pretentious snobbery of a disenfranchised aristocracy. While, conversely, in other fields of endeavor, especially technological, breathtaking demonstrations of creativity are still being produced by the participants of capitalism, the orphaned children of a betrayed and all but forgotten intellectual heritage.

It is incontrovertibly true that a dragon is a dragon. Denying this cannot be reduces to the absurd because it is already there, but yet, there are no dragons. Why then is the statement true? The term “dragon” is neither true nor false, because it does not assert anything. The statement “dragon is dragon” does not assert and prove the existence of dragon; it asserts and proves the existence of self-sameness (i.e., identity). Asserting “dragon is dragon” is not the same as asserting “dragons exist” and does not beg the question. As far as a complex statement (i.e., they make more than one assertion) such as the statement, “2+2=3 is 2+2=3”, it is true in the respect that it asserts identity and false in the respect that it asserts non-identity (i.e., it asserts 1+1+1+1 is 1+1+1). The statement “2+2=4” states essentially that 1+1+1+1 is 1+1+1+1, and this asserts a truth (even if your counting dragons). The truth it asserts is the truth of the existence of identity. It is the fact of the existence of self-sameness that grounds logical truth to reality. A true understanding of necessary truth and the claim to knowledge requires the acknowledgment that axioms assert the existence of self-sameness. The failure to acknowledge the existence of self-sameness will leave "knowledge" grounded on an assertion that is detached from reality.

Concepts generally refer to given totalities (which could be one reason why the identist concept of identity may seem aloof.) The construction of concepts is related to method, not metaphysics. There is only one entirety, the totality of existence; there is only one primary part, self-sameness. Do platonic terms such as chairness and tableness have reference to reality? Not in a platonic sense. A chair does not possess chairness. This peculiar term, correctly defined nonetheless, does have validity. The term “chairness” refers to chair as a part of a greater whole. A room with a chair possesses chairness. The one thing that this terminology loses its validity when applied to is existence. There is no such thing as beingness. Things do not possess being. Being possesses all other things that exist. The tragic and sordid history of philosophy is filled with the embracing if beingness and the denial of self-sameness.

The purging of contradictions (i.e., the assertions of non-identity) is not philosophical “McCarthyism.” The axiom is the only ultimate standard of knowledge and the only one which is absolute. Once this absolute is established identism endorses epistemological pragmatism. Much that is found in epistemological philosophy may be overly exclusive, embracing dogmatically what maybe, within a certain context, ideal methodology. Such methodology, nonetheless does not represent the only means of acquiring knowledge and may prove unsuited for some intellectual pursuits. When such methodology falters the mystic is waiting to provide an “alternative.” Rigid epistemology may have the effect of stifling and evicting unconventional (i.e., creative) thinking that is necessary for theoretical advancement. Mysticism usurps ideas, and often there creators, caste aside by “logic,” to corrupt and call there own. Thought, perception, any meaningful idea (i.e., with reference to reality) achieves validity, if to the best of our knowledge, it can be reconciled with the axiom, even of it violates some methodological standard.

The mystic claims of some other means of awareness or some other kind of truth incomprehensible to reason is an attempt to escape this absolute standard creating a perpetual circle of uncertainty. Failing to acknowledge necessary truth always leads to dogma (i.e., the ascension of the unproved to the status of “knowledge)" because half open eyes are better than blindness. Even the nihilist who contradicts himself by opening his mouth, will resort to dogma. Relativism’s superficial opposition to dogma does not create openness. Note the not so well hidden two faced hypocrisy of the statement “there are no absolutes.” It could be amended to exclude itself, but then it reveals itself as dogma supported by nothing and refutable by the axiom.

In contrast with rational conviction, to hold a “belief” as such, is to embrace contradiction and therefore untruth. A belief is the implied contradiction and untruth of asserting the unknown as known. If one decided to hold the belief that there are little green men in outer space, one has adopted the contradiction of claiming knowledge or opinion without the justification of supporting evidence. This would remain a contradiction and untruth even if it so happened that there really are little green men in outer space. Guilty or innocent, a man would receive an unfair trial if he was convicted by prejudice rather than evidence. This exemplifies the fact that having explicit justification for our convictions is no trivial matter. Mysticism is not exonerated by embracing (or usurping) a few ideas that happen to be true, just as a lynch mob is not excused if it hangs someone who happens to be guilty.

The workings of the mind are often latent and not completely understood. We often have hunches or insight and are not explicitly aware of the underlining reasons. It is important to note that mystics do not hold a ligament monopoly on this intuitive mode. Such insight is not some unknowable mystic awareness outside the realm of reason and perception. If one has a hunch or insight, it is important to acknowledge it as such. One should strive for the intellectual rigor necessary to uncover the hidden reason behind such insight. It is often by this means that one can determine if a hunch has any claim to legitimacy. Without such rigor, all one has is baseless prejudice.

Armed with the first principle, it is with the most supreme confidence that humanity can face a challenging but knowable world. In contraposition, without this “empowerment” we can only face the mystic’s “hell.” Such is the theme of human history.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
max1975
21
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Good argument. 2 things (to start with) in response:

1. How, precisely, do you define "mysticism"?

2. Suppose that, with a great deal of effort, everything in the universe can be fully understood using reason as you define it. However, due to some quirk of language, only 90% can be explained. Furthermore, very few people have the patience to put make the effort necessary to understand on their own. Do you a) deny the existence of the other 10%, b) spend the rest of your days trying to explain the other 10% even though you know it's futile, c) try to instruct people on how they can figure out the last 10% for themselves, d) become an alcoholic, or e)other ?
 
  • #3
W A Dunkley
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Mysticism, within the context of my philosophy, is the embracing of contradiction (i.e., non-identity); a contradiction is the assertion of non-identity. In an epistemological context it refers to the notion that knowledge can be grounded on something other that the principle of self-sameness.

Knowledge is not omniscience and 90% is overly optimistic, but to grasp the axiom is to know something about everything; all A is A!

http://www.identism.blogspot.com
 
  • #4
max1975
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Okay, just so you you know, I'm not trying to argue with you (at this point, anyway), just to make sure I understand what you're saying.

W A Dunkley said:
Mysticism, within the context of my philosophy, is the embracing of contradiction (i.e., non-identity); a contradiction is the assertion of non-identity.

Is a contradiction distinct from a paradox? How does your philosophy deal with the old "This sentence is false"?

Your definition of "mysticism" is fine for here, but I think there are "No absolute truth" people who would deny that they're mystics, and mystics who would deny embracing contradiction.

Just to be clear, if I say "As far as I can tell, reason is, by its nature, incapable of telling me everything I want to know," but at the same time I reject any contradiction that I find and I agree that A is A, am I a mystic?

W A Dunkley said:
In an epistemological context it refers to the notion that knowledge can be grounded on something other that the principle of self-sameness.

Can you give an example of "something other than self-sameness?"

W A Dunkley said:
Knowledge is not omniscience and 90% is overly optimistic, but to grasp the axiom is to know something about everything; all A is A!

Okay, but if I say that A is A, I haven't really told you anything about A. The statement is true, but not meaningful.

Maybe I'm missing the value of your point of view because it's so self-evident that I can't comprehend the opposing view?
 
  • #5
Your philosophy (Originally Posted by W A Dunkley) sounds like phrases taken from Ayn Rand with no attribution ! These are not unique points of view that you present----

So, for example you state: "Our awareness and understanding of existence is ultimately derived from perception", and Ayn Rand writes "It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality".

You write, "Reason refers to all the mental function that process perceptions into concepts an ideas or any mental constructs"; Ayn Rand writes "Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by your senses".

You write, "The mystic claims of some other means of awareness or some other kind of truth incomprehensible to reason is an attempt to escape this absolute standard creating a perpetual circle of uncertainty". Ayn Rand writes "Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence of proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason"

The list of so-called "your" thoughts are in fact nothing more than rewrite of the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I for one find nothing original yet much lacking from the rigor of your definitions and positions taken.
 
  • #6
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
2,250
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Rade said:
Your philosophy (Originally Posted by W A Dunkley) sounds like phrases taken from Ayn Rand with no attribution ! These are not unique points of view that you present----

So, for example you state: "Our awareness and understanding of existence is ultimately derived from perception", and Ayn Rand writes "It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality".

You write, "Reason refers to all the mental function that process perceptions into concepts an ideas or any mental constructs"; Ayn Rand writes "Reason is the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by your senses".

You write, "The mystic claims of some other means of awareness or some other kind of truth incomprehensible to reason is an attempt to escape this absolute standard creating a perpetual circle of uncertainty". Ayn Rand writes "Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence of proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason"

The list of so-called "your" thoughts are in fact nothing more than rewrite of the Objectivist philosophy of Ayn Rand, and I for one find nothing original yet much lacking from the rigor of your definitions and positions taken.

Even if you are right about the source of Dunkley's ideas, how about giving us an opinion on "Mysticism is the acceptance of allegations without evidence of proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one's senses and one's reason."

Personally, I think Rand (and Dunkley) does a disservice to mystical thought with that statement. Magic would have been a better term. Rand assumes sense experience and reason are the only sources of knowledge available to humans, but there is another variety of thinkers who dispute that. Are you familiar with the class of mystical thinkers represented by Meister Eckhart, Brother Lawrence, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, the "desert fathers", etc.?
 
  • #7
Yes, Ayn Rand was well aware of this type of mental integration of "realist-mystic" thought. These types of thinkers that you mention attempt to preserve the primacy of existence by denying the identity of consciousness. They make an attempt to convert concepts into perceptual concretes that can only be understood by the mind via intuition or supernatural means (e.g., mysticism). Here is what Rand wrote in answer to your post:

"The implicit, but unadmitted premise of the neo-mystics of modern philosophy, is the notion that only an ineffable consciousness can acquire a valid knowledge of reality, that "true" knowledge has to be causeless, i.e., acquired without any means of cognition". "To the [mystic]...the irreducible primary is the automatic phenomena of his own consciousness". "Mysticism is the claim to non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge" By what means ? by means of "instinct", intuition", revelation" or some form of "just knowing". "Philosophically, the mystic is usually an exponent of the intrinsic (revealed) school of epistemology...psychologically, the mystic is a subjectivist who uses intrinsicism as a means to claim the primacy of his consciousness over that of others". --all quotes from "Ayn Rand: the Russian Radical", 1995, Chris M. Sciabarra, The Pennsylvania State University Press.

Needless to say, one is free to accept any theory of "knowledge" as being true, including "mysticism"--Ayn Rand rejects the approach of the mystic thinkers. You seem to imply in your post that the views of the mystics you cite somehow take logical priority over the position of Ayn Rand. So now I have a question, by what logical means do you think the mystics you cite are "in fact" correct in their thinking about knowledge, and Rand is "in fact" incorrect ?
 
  • #8
max1975
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Rade said:
psychologically, the mystic is a subjectivist who uses intrinsicism as a means to claim the primacy of his consciousness over that of others".[/I]

Hmm...so?

Who doesn't claim the primacy of his consciousness, at least implicitly, every time he opens his mouth?

The problem with denying the value, maybe even the primacy, of intrinsic knowledge is that there is nothing external which can prove to me that the rest of you aren't all figments of my imagination trying to drive me mad. I have to take that on faith (intrinsic knowledge).

In fact, it seems to me that if I don't grant primacy to my own non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge (which for the sake of brevity I'll just call "me"), I basically have to let myself be led around by whoever can convince me they have the most knowledge, since I can never verify everything (anything?) for myself. That sounds like a raw deal. Why should I be Ayn Rand's lapdog?

I don't mean to imply that objectivists are lapdogs . . . but if they aren't, I'd wager they're relying on intrinsic knowledge a little more than they'd admit.

I might be inclined to dispute the whole "non-rational, non-identifiable, etc." definition of mysticism, but I'd have to explain it all to myself first, and the topic can be dreadfully confusing.
 
  • #9
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
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max1975 said:
Hmm...so?

Who doesn't claim the primacy of his consciousness, at least implicitly, every time he opens his mouth?

The problem with denying the value, maybe even the primacy, of intrinsic knowledge is that there is nothing external which can prove to me that the rest of you aren't all figments of my imagination trying to drive me mad. I have to take that on faith (intrinsic knowledge).

In fact, it seems to me that if I don't grant primacy to my own non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge (which for the sake of brevity I'll just call "me"), I basically have to let myself be led around by whoever can convince me they have the most knowledge, since I can never verify everything (anything?) for myself. That sounds like a raw deal. Why should I be Ayn Rand's lapdog?

I don't mean to imply that objectivists are lapdogs . . . but if they aren't, I'd wager they're relying on intrinsic knowledge a little more than they'd admit.

I might be inclined to dispute the whole "non-rational, non-identifiable, etc." definition of mysticism, but I'd have to explain it all to myself first, and the topic can be dreadfully confusing.

Welcome to PF, I like the way you think.
:smile:
 
  • #10
max1975
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Les Sleeth said:
Rand assumes sense experience and reason are the only sources of knowledge available to humans, but there is another variety of thinkers who dispute that.

I'm still not entirely clear on the issue. Do you think it might depend at all on the definition of reason? If one interprets it as identical to "logic," I think reason is limited (not wrong, certainly, just limited). But if, for example, you equate it with "God" (I'm guessing Rand wouldn't, but other people have) it's another matter. According to Dunkley, "Reason refers to all the mental function that process perceptions into concepts an ideas or any mental constructs." This seems to be somewhere in between, and might it encompass (or lead to) the other sources of knowledge you're thinking of?

Les Sleeth said:
Welcome to PF, I like the way you think.
:smile:

Thank you. I was delighted to find this place. Now I have a place to complain when particles don't behave the way I want them to :yuck:
 
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  • #11
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
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Rade said:
You seem to imply in your post that the views of the mystics you cite somehow take logical priority over the position of Ayn Rand. So now I have a question, by what logical means do you think the mystics you cite are "in fact" correct in their thinking about knowledge, and Rand is "in fact" incorrect ?

I don't think Rand knew the slightest thing about the mystical experience. She stood outside it all and thought she was so smart she could understand something profound without the slightest need to experience if for herself. Why should we listen to her?
 
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  • #12
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
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max1975 said:
I'm still not entirely clear on the issue. Do you think it might depend at all on the definition of reason? If one interprets it as identical to "logic," I think reason is limited (not wrong, certainly, just limited). But if, for example, you equate it with "God" (I'm guessing Rand wouldn't, but other people have) it's another matter. According to Dunkley, "Reason refers to all the mental function that process perceptions into concepts an ideas or any mental constructs." This seems to be somewhere in between, and might it encompass (or lead to) the other sources of knowledge you're thinking of?

Let's say you go to the planet Vulcan where people can only think, but not feel. They want to fully understand love. No matter how hard you try, there are no concepts that fully communicate the experience because love isn't a thought, it is a feeling. So to the Vulcans, love is "mystical" because it mystifies their ability to capture it mentally.

But is love really mystical to someone who is willing to feel? No. It is only mystical to those who insist reality has to be reduced to a concept for intellectual scrutiny.

Beyond the simple experience of love, there have been those (such as the people I listed earlier) who spent time turning inward to experience something inside themselves. That experience too has escaped the sort of precise definitons intellectuals are addicted to. So their choice is either to pretend they grasp it by some "profound" explanation, or to "dismiss" it altogether as illusory (as Rand does). In either case, since they've not undertaken to attempt the inner experience themselves, all their theories are nothing more, IMO, than self-serving guesses.
 
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  • #13
max1975
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Les Sleeth said:
But is love really mystical to someone who is willing to feel? No. It is only mystical to those who insist reality has to be reduced to a concept for intellectual scrutiny . . . In either case, since they've not undertaken to attempt the inner experience themselves, all their theories are nothing more, IMO, than self-serving guesses.

I'm with you there, but I still have some reason issues. Unfortunately, they're difficult to formulate and may turn out to be meaningless :surprised
I'll give 'em some more thought.
 
  • #14
W A Dunkley
11
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Rade said:
Your philosophy (Originally Posted by W A Dunkley) sounds like phrases taken from Ayn Rand with no attribution ! These are not unique points of view that you present----

I hold Ayn Rand in the deepest respect so I am not offended when I am called an Objectivist. If, however, you think the article I posted here is in agreement with Objectivist epistemology, I would suggest posting it on the objetivismonline forum.

The statement that sums up where my philosophy diverges from Ayn Rand and all other philosophy is:

"A true understanding of necessary truth and the claim to knowledge requires the acknowledgment that axioms assert the existence of self-sameness. The failure to acknowledge the existence of self-sameness will leave "knowledge" grounded on an assertion that is detached from reality."

My philosophy is centered around a thesis called the primacy of identity. AND IT MOST CERTAINLY IS a "unique point of view." I posted a presentation on this forum, but apparently it was deleted. I did engage Objectivists in the matter of this thesis. It can be found at:

(Please, click on full version for full text.)

www.objectivismonline.net/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t1844.html[/URL]

It is also debated at:

(Please, click on full version for full text.)

[PLAIN]www.objectivismonline.net/forum/lofiversion/index.php/t1821.html[/URL]

I was particularly disappointed and appalled how they willingly reduced there argument to the absurdity: "a thing is not the same as itself."
 
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  • #15
W A Dunkley
11
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max1975 said:
Can you give an example of "something other than self-sameness?"
NO! there is no other possible ground of knowledge, but when a believer claims to just know, it is an attempt to claim otherwise.
max1975 said:
Okay, but if I say that A is A, I haven't really told you anything about A. The statement is true, but not meaningful.
NO! The claim that the statement "A is A" states nothing of "A" is false and shallow, but this is what one is stuck with when the Objectivist or anyone else fails to acknowledge the existence of self-sameness. The axiom tells you something of "A," but it does not tell you something of "A" that distinguishes "A" from anything else, because all A is A. This is precisely why it is so profound. the notion that the axiom is true but meaningless is, by the way, a contradiction. Meaning is reference to reality; truth is agreement with reality. The first is a prerequisite for the second.
max1975 said:
Is a contradiction distinct from a paradox? How does your philosophy deal with the old "This sentence is false"?
The proof of the axiom is intrinsic. If it is not acknowledged, it can never be extrinsically proven. So before I address the liers paradox, let me say I do not do so in defence of the axiom. To do so would imply that it requires extrinsic support.

You find no meaning in the statement "A is A," but find meaning in the statement "This sentence is false."

Stating the point over briefly, To state that an assertion is true or false is to make an assertion about an assertion and the statement "this sentence is false" is one assertion to few. It is meaningless just as the statement "The dog is true," is meaningless. "The dog" asserts nothing! Again, meaning is a prerequisite for truth.
max1975 said:
Maybe I'm missing the value of your point of view because it's so self-evident that I can't comprehend the opposing view?
I will accept this as a compliment :approve:
 
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  • #16
max1975 said:
Who doesn't claim the primacy of his consciousness, at least implicitly, every time he opens his mouth?
Well, Ayn Rand sure does not--in fact, rejection of this very statement it the basis of her philosophy. According to Rand, the primary axiom of philosophy must start with "existence", not consciousness, because, as she wrote..."A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something".

max1975 said:
In fact, it seems to me that if I don't grant primacy to my own non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable, non-identifiable means of knowledge (which for the sake of brevity I'll just call "me"), I basically have to let myself be led around by whoever can convince me they have the most knowledge, since I can never verify everything (anything?) for myself. That sounds like a raw deal. Why should I be Ayn Rand's lapdog?
You have a false view of Rand's philosophy. Consider the position you just stated--the "me" of you must then = sum of non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable (thus non-concept formation) information, in other words you cannot see, smell, hear, touch, taste, reason, form concepts--thus, by your definition you have no ability to "verify everything (anything)" that you hold of value. Rand does not negate the importance of consciousness as you claim, she places it between primacy of existence and Law of identity as the three necessary and sufficient axioms upon which humans must develop a "philosophy of life" worthy to humans--here on this earth. By no means should you be Rand's lapdog, better to be the lapdog of reality by starting with the self-evident: existence exists.
 
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  • #17
Les Sleeth said:
I don't think Rand knew the slightest thing about the mystical experience. She stood outside it all and thought she was so smart she could understand something profound without the slightest need to experience if for herself. Why should we listen to her?
Yes, I recall that my doctor thought he was so smart that he dared to treat me for a disease that he had never experienced for himself (how Randian of him)--plus, I see that you did not attempt to answer my question. How can anyone take seriously your question, "why should we listen to her". I suppose one logical answer is "because she was correct". If, as you seem to hold that "the mystical experience" is a fundamental route to knowledge for humans--it is illogical for you to then conclude that Ms. Rand "stood outside it all"--not a possible state of affairs according to your logic (but then again, what is your philosophy of knowledge, and how exactly do you know it ? --we all know what Ayn Rand had to say about knowledge, and if it was anything, it was logical and fully integrated to metaphysics).
 
  • #18
max1975
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Rade said:
Well, Ayn Rand sure does not--in fact, rejection of this very statement it the basis of her philosophy. According to Rand, the primary axiom of philosophy must start with "existence", not consciousness, because, as she wrote..."A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms: before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something".

I'm afraid I don't see how a consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms. It might be boring, but not contradictory. Also, consciousness does not need to identify itself in order to be consciousness.

Now, if you're saying, "A consciousness must exist in order to exist," I don't disagree. Consider the possibility that we are saying the same thing in different words. But I would say that consciousness/existence exists independently of sensory input and concepts (not that sensory input and concepts are excluded; they're just not necessary.)

Rade said:
You have a false view of Rand's philosophy.

I may, but I'm getting that view from you.

Rade said:
Consider the position you just stated--the "me" of you must then = sum of non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable (thus non-concept formation) information, in other words you cannot see, feal, hear, touch, taste, reason, form concepts--thus, by your definition you have no ability to "verify everything (anything)" that you hold of value.

No, I can see, feel, touch, and taste all sorts of things, including concepts. I just don't identify them as "me."

As far as "me" as the sum of non-sensory, non-rational, non-definable information--I'm neither information nor a sum, I am not made up of parts, and not reducible. I am a subject, not an object, and if you objectify me, you necessarily misunderstand. (Flip side of the coin: By trying to describe myself as an object, I necessarily mislead--I guess this is part of why the "non-rational" qualifier must be used).

It is this knowledge of myself-as-subject, for which I see no external evidence whatsoever, that I take to be the intrinsic knowledge Rand refers to in the quotes you gave earlier, and this is why I took issue with what she has to say.

Rade said:
Rand does not negate the importance of consciousness as you claim

I thought that was what you had claimed, and I was just taking your word for it (I have not studied Rand myself). Maybe I misunderstood you.
 
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  • #19
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
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Rade said:
If, as you seem to hold that "the mystical experience" is a fundamental route to knowledge for humans--it is illogical for you to then conclude that Ms. Rand "stood outside it all"--not a possible state of affairs according to your logic . . .

Not so. I mean, Rand didn't undertake to experience for herself what she had no problem criticizing. So how did she acquire her understanding about mystical experience?


Rade said:
. . . (but then again, what is your philosophy of knowledge, and how exactly do you know it ? --we all know what Ayn Rand had to say about knowledge, and if it was anything, it was logical and fully integrated to metaphysics).

My epistomological stance is that we only acquire knowledge through direct personal experience. That is the modern empirical standard, so I am not a renegade in this respect. My only twist on it all is I don't accept that sense experience is the limit of conscious experience.

It has been well demonstrated that logic alone doesn't ensure accuracy. It only ensures the logical integrity of the organization of given facts, but it doesn't give us the facts. Experience gives us facts, and only then are we able to benefit from the application of reason.

I object to Rand's condescension by assuming she can draw conclusions about the mystical experience without experiencing it herself. Even if she declines to pursue the experience, she is at least obligated to undertake a serious study of the most revered and accomplished inner practitioners. Nothing I've ever read that she wrote demonstrates she was well informed on the subject of inner experience.

So I repeat, why should we listen to her (on the subject of mysticism)?
 
  • #20
max1975
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W A Dunkley said:
the notion that the axiom is true but meaningless is, by the way, a contradiction.

I guess I see what you're saying here. But it seems to me the meaning is redundant.

W A Dunkley said:
Meaning is reference to reality; truth is agreement with reality. The first is a prerequisite for the second.

There's something bothering me about this statement, but I'll leave it for now.

W A Dunkley said:
The proof of the axiom is intrinsic. If it is not acknowledged, it can never be extrinsically proven. So before I address the liers paradox, let me say I do not do so in defence of the axiom. To do so would imply that it requires extrinsic support.

Hmm. That sounds almost . . . mystical.

W A Dunkley said:
You find no meaning in the statement "A is A," but find meaning in the statement "This sentence is false."

Honestly, yes. "A is A" tells me nothing I don't already know. It bores me. "This sentence is false," while a little stale after all this time, was a delight the first time I heard it, continues to hold charm for its eternal inversion,
and presents a challenge to the mind (even if the wise mind will not waste much time with is). Yeah, I think it's more meaningful than your identity statement. But maybe I'm being too loose with my use of the word "meaning" and it would be better to say it is more interesting.

But going back to a stricter definition of meaning, I'm still not getting a lot out of "A is A."

W A Dunkley said:
Stating the point over briefly, To state that an assertion is true or false is to make an assertion about an assertion and the statement "this sentence is false" is one assertion to few. It is meaningless just as the statement "The dog is true," is meaningless.

"The dog is true" might be meaningless from a strictly logical point of view, but the brain does create meaning of sorts for such things. From now on every time I hear the phrase "The dog is true" I'm gonna think of this discussion.

W A Dunkley said:
I will accept this as a compliment :approve:

Let's not be hasty, there was a "maybe" in there...
:tongue2:
 
  • #21
max1975 said:
...I'm neither information nor a sum, I am not made up of parts, and not reducible. I am a subject, not an object...It is this knowledge of myself-as-subject, for which I see no external evidence whatsoever, that I take to be the intrinsic knowledge Rand refers to in the quotes you gave earlier, and this is why I took issue with what she has to say.
Of course all humans are subjects, that gain "knowledge" by perceiving objects--this is fundamental to Rand's theory of knowledge. But, it is illogical to hold that you are not a biological being made of parts (e.g., an object composed of cells, tissue, organs, etc.)--and that your "subjective brain waves" do not commute with the other parts of your objective body. Your subjective self "knows" that you are a biological object (e.g., you receive external evidence) every time you look in a mirror--or at your arm, or leg, etc. The "intrinsic knowledge" that Rand calls mysticism has nothing to do with "knowledge of self as subject", because such knowledge is impossible without knowledge that a "subject" must be "something", some object that exists that the subject has knowledge of--thus you have no conflict with Rand on this issue. Knowledge of "subject as object" is a linked concept, like the heads and tails of the coin--they cannot be separated. The "intrinsic knowledge" that Rand takes issue with derives from such concepts as supernatural, superstition, intuition, emotions, revelation, etc.
 
  • #22
max1975
21
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Rade said:
thus you have no conflict with Rand on this issue.

I'm not so sure about that.

Rade said:
it is illogical to hold that you are not a biological being made of parts (e.g., an object composed of cells, tissue, organs, etc.)--and that your "subjective brain waves" do not commute with the other parts of your objective body. Your subjective self "knows" that you are a biological object (e.g., you receive external evidence) every time you look in a mirror--or at your arm, or leg, etc.

If I'm going to pretend I'm an object, what I see in the mirror is a remarkably unsuitable candidate for the object I'm pretending to be. Since it is the object I have (relatively) most control over, it is practical to identify with it for purposes of dealing with other people. But it is not the whole story. There are myriad concepts, for example, contained in the head, which would have to be considered part of the whole--but if you look at the issue closely, they're not really contained in the head. Most of them started out elsewhere, outside the me-I-see-in-the-mirror, and many have been around for a very, very long time. All of these, and maybe a few others, will continue to be around after mirror guy is dead.

Moreover, mirror guy is changing all the time. He's not made up of quite the same bits as he was ten years, or even ten seconds ago. We can say he's retained his identity, but not in a absolute sense; he exists on a continuum. Try to define that continuum and you're going to have to draw some arbitrary lines--because if you look closely at the parts of that whole, some of them have been around since the beginning of time. I think the best definition I can come up with for mirror guy will be an arbitrarily delineated set of ridiculously complex patterns of information that seem to be smirking at the whole endeavor.

Also, I note that mirror guy is hardly ever around. He's only there when a mirror is handy.

I sometimes write music. I know which music is "mine" because the CD has my name on it. I have memories of having written it, but the memories are incomplete, vague, murky, like something from a dream. If I discount those memories and listen to the music objectively, I hear a mind at work. If I listen to some other music, by a composer long dead, I hear the same mind at work--different circumstances, sure, but the same mind. If I imagine what it was like to write that piece, my imagination will have as much or more reality than my memory of writing my own piece.

What I'm trying to say here is the subject may identify with an object for a period of time, but the subject is not identical to that object. If this is illogical, it doesn't trouble me. Moreover, I know from experience that subject is free to choose what object to identify with, thereby making it less akin to one side of the coin, and more like a bag full of money.

Here's where it gets "mystical" (if it hasn't already). Mirror guy has an ever-changing set of objects that he thinks of as knowledge. This is all he has access to. Mirror guy knows from long and never contradicted experience that there is always only one "I." Mirror guy sees other people who also refer to themselves as "I." Knowing himself, objectively, to be a collection of objects which sometimes experience "I-ness," Mirror guy realizes that he and all these other people just add up to a bigger collection of objects which sometimes experience "I-ness."

Regardless of what the object is, I am the same.

Is Rand still with me?
 
  • #23
W A Dunkley
11
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max1975 said:
I guess I see what you're saying here.
My "guess" is that you do not!
max1975 said:
"A is A" tells me nothing I don't already know.
This is precisely the assertion that the primacy of identity challenges and dispenses with.
max1975 said:
It bores me.
What is the most fundamental part of existence? What can everything else be, in principle, reduced to? Does the question and indeed a simple provable answer bore you?

Where does everything come from? Is there one uniquely basic first cause? Would a provable answer bore you?

Can a explanation of the physical universe be constructed from this ground? ...and this is the great challenge that the primacy of identity leaves us with!
max1975 said:
a little stale after all this time
This statement is more profound than you seem to realise.
 
  • #24
W A Dunkley
11
0
Les Sleeth said:
Let's say you go to the planet Vulcan where people can only think, but not feel. They want to fully understand love. No matter how hard you try, there are no concepts that fully communicate the experience because love isn't a thought, it is a feeling. So to the Vulcans, love is "mystical" because it mystifies their ability to capture it mentally.
Concepts are references to reality; they are not replacements for the things for which they refer. No reasonable person would expect the concept of red or blue to give a color blind person the experience of color perception. However, if this color-blind person is knowledgeable, he may have a better understanding (and this is achieved though "intellectual scrutiny") of what is being perceived that one who sees color, but is ignorant or science. There is no reason for the color-blind scientist to regard color perception as mystical. The one who sees but does not understand is more likely to hold a mystical interpretation.
Les Sleeth said:
But is love really mystical to someone who is willing to feel? No. It is only mystical to those who insist reality has to be reduced to a concept for intellectual scrutiny.
I would never accuse you of "intellectual scrutiny," but, it is only through "intellectual scrutiny" that being "willing to feel" becomes a virtue.

The klan-member in the documentaries who says "I don't need a reason to hate" is willing to feel but not scrutinize. The woman who watches her murderer boyfriend commit cold-blooded murder and then tries to harbor him because "she loves him "is willing to feel" but unwilling to scrutinize. Clearly history has documented that it is the one who feels but does not scrutinize that regards feelings as mystical!
 
  • #25
W A Dunkley
11
0
Les Sleeth said:
I don't think Rand knew the slightest thing about the mystical experience. She stood outside it all and thought she was so smart she could understand something profound without the slightest need to experience if for herself. Why should we listen to her?

I don't think you understand the slightest thing about Ayn Rand's experience with mysticism. These statements are on the same level as the fundamentalist Christian who brushes aside Niche with the claim that "he died of syphilis."
 
  • #26
max1975 said:
What I'm trying to say here is the subject may identify with an object for a period of time, but the subject is not identical to that object. If this is illogical, it doesn't trouble me... Regardless of what the object is, I am the same. Is Rand still with me?
You are in complete agreement with Rand on the first point--as you state, the subject (Rand calls it consciousness with identity) is not identical to you as object (you call it mirror guy). But, your second point is just not correct biologically...you correctly conclude that mirror guy (the object that is you--cells, etc.) is constantly changing--as Richard Feynman once said, you are last weeks potatoes that you ate for dinner. Your error, however, is that you hold that the "I" of you (your consciousness as identity) remains the same while mirror guy changes--this is biologically/physically/chemically impossible. Because the "I" of you is nothing more than an electro-chemical wavefunction bounded within biological cells called neurons, the "I" of you is also constantly changing with mirror guy as neurons die, new connections are formed, new objects received from your senses are via perception are differentiated and integrated into ever changing concepts, etc. And when you cease to exist, both mirror guy and the "I" of you will cease to exist. But as to your music, because it may become an object for others, which they will then integrate into the "I" of them, your music may provide for the possibility that the "I" of you will in fact remain the same within the "I"-ness of humans, but only if it sounds like the Rolling Stones :wink:
 
  • #27
max1975
21
0
Rade said:
Your error, however, is that you hold that the "I" of you (your consciousness as identity) remains the same while mirror guy changes--this is biologically/physically/chemically impossible. Because the "I" of you is nothing more than an electro-chemical wavefunction bounded within biological cells called neurons, the "I" of you is also constantly changing with mirror guy as neurons die, new connections are formed, new objects received from your senses are via perception are differentiated and integrated into ever changing concepts, etc.

Okay, this is where we disagree. I don't believe I've made any error (except perhaps in my explanation, this stuff is always tricky.) The "I" of me is not an electro-chemical wavefunction bounded within biological cells called neurons. That wavefunction is just a temporarily associated object. Now maybe you'll say this is irrational, and the fact itself (though you won't call it a fact) is irrational (or non-rational), but my statement of it is not, because it agrees with my experience.

Here, unfortunately, we reach the limits of reason, and if I try to justify my statement rationally, I'll end up talking in circles and presenting a very confusing and necessarily inaccurate view. The thing is incommunicable, and trust me, I find this as frustrating as you do. :grumpy:

Rade said:
And when you cease to exist, both mirror guy and the "I" of you will cease to exist. But as to your music, because it may become an object for others, which they will then integrate into the "I" of them, your music may provide for the possibility that the "I" of you will in fact remain the same within the "I"-ness of humans, but only if it sounds like the Rolling Stones :wink:

The Rolling Stones are an inappropriate example, until they prove they die like the rest of us.
 
  • #28
max1975
21
0
W A Dunkley said:
This statement is more profound than you seem to realise.

The realization of profundity appears to be eluding me left and right.

It's late; I'll grapple with your philosophy again tomorrow.
 
  • #29
Canute
1,559
0
It is advisable to find out what mysticism is before forming an opinions on it. It isn't rocket science after all. I'm sure, WA Dunkley, that you wouldn't think of commenting on physics without some knowledge of it. Why then do this for mysticism? Presumably the same lack of rigour that allows Ayn Rand to write such rubbish about it. You don't even even define it as a mystic would, or even as the dictionary does.

We cannot just ignore the important point made by Max 1975 about the limits of reason as a means of acquiring knowledge, nor the point made by someone else that the unfalsifiabilty of solipsism entails that knowledge gained by perception can never be certain knowledge. These issue are more subtle than you allow, and if you investigate them you'll find that mysticism cannot be dismissed as a means of acquiring knowldge on grounds of reason. By contrast, analytical reasoning of the kind used by Ayn Rand can be dismissed quite easily as no more than guesswork, the derivation of uncertain and relative truths and falsities from uncertain axioms.

Yes, there is a sense in which mystics embrace contradictions. But this is not what mysticism is, it is simply where mystical practice leads one, taken to its conclusion. This is not something to do with the epistemology of mysticism but rather is has to do with the ontology of reality, which is said by mystics to be 'nondual'. This is not a philosophical position but just the way things are (they say). We see the same "embracing of contradiction" in QM, where the 'tertium non datur' rule of Boolean logic is suspended. Even quantum cosmologists find themselves having to suspend it, to solve the background dependence problem, applying what they call the 'hypothesis of duality', which a mystic would call the fact of nonduality.

The comment that "reason subsumes all human faculties" is incorrect, as Les Sleeth observes. Ask yourself how you know the things that you really know, and which you know you know, absolutely and for certain, and you'll find that reasoning is not the way you do it. This relates to what you say about identity, in that certain knowledge cannot be acquired by reason but must be acquired by identity. Thus Aristotle's comment that true knowledge is identical with its object. Knowledge that is identical with its object must be 'mystical' knowledge, since it is knowledge of what one is. (Hence Descarte's 'cogito'). All other knowledge can very easily be shown to be uncertain.

Of course, not everybody is interested in researching mysticism or the 'explanation of everything' given by mystics. However, as Ayn Rand demonstrates so admirably, without some appropriate research one is unlikely to form a sensible view of it.
 
  • #30
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
2,250
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W A Dunkley said:
There is no reason for the color-blind scientist to regard color perception as mystical. The one who sees but does not understand is more likely to hold a mystical interpretation.

What the heck are you talking about?


W A Dunkley said:
I would never accuse you of "intellectual scrutiny" . . .

Was that a shot?


W A Dunkley said:
. . . but, it is only through "intellectual scrutiny" that being "willing to feel" becomes a virtue.

Nonesense. I don't need to scrutize my enjoyment of the sunset nor a great many things I feel for them to be a virtue.


W A Dunkley said:
The klan-member in the documentaries who says "I don't need a reason to hate" is willing to feel but not scrutinize. The woman who watches her murderer boyfriend commit cold-blooded murder and then tries to harbor him because "she loves him "is willing to feel" but unwilling to scrutinize. Clearly history has documented that it is the one who feels but does not scrutinize that regards feelings as mystical!

What does any of that have to do with mysticism? You are talking out of your backside sir.


W A Dunkley said:
I don't think you understand the slightest thing about Ayn Rand's experience with mysticism.

Maybe you should study up on the field of mystical experience (as in inner experience) before you say any more.


W A Dunkley said:
These statements are on the same level as the fundamentalist Christian who brushes aside Niche with the claim that "he died of syphilis."

(By the way, I am not religious.) They are not the same level. Rand, like you, assumed from her observation of the general population's involvement with magic, superstition, religious supernaturalism, etc. that it constituted the whole of mysticism. It doesn't.

There is a class of inner practitioners, meditators mostly, who achieve an inner experience which so far has evaded rational explanation. It is something only known by direct experience, and every attempt to convert it to something that can be "objectified" ruins the experience. It has been those who insist on trying to think it rather than experiencing it that have applied the term "mystical" because it mystifies the intellect; but if you just want to feel it, no problem.

In Zen, for example, the experience is called "satori." One of my favorite Zen masters, Joshsu, was asked, ""Master, where is your mind focused?" Joshu answered, "Where there is no design." No design? Is that something worth achieving?

Now, that is not the state of mind one relies on to solve problems, but so what? One doesn't sacrifice the ability to think critically when one decides to do so. It is just that one now has the ability to look at reality without the constant blabbering of the mind, which most people can't shut up no matter how hard they try.

I actually like Rand's objectivism, it's just that I don't see it as applicable to all areas of life as she (and you) seemed to. It is useful for many circumstances, but certainly not for achieving inner quiet and then experiencing the kind of silent contemplation that makes possible.

I don't think it's useful to act like you know the truth about the best way to be conscious. In a forum you are going to run into a lot of different perspectives which, if you are going to answer their points fairly, first you have listen to what they say, and sometimes do a little research to understand if there might be something you don't know which might affect the way you answer.
 
  • #31
Canute said:
It is advisable to find out what mysticism is before forming an opinions on it. It isn't rocket science after all.
I cannot agree more, and of course this same logic holds for the false statements you have just made concerning the philosophy of Ayn Rand. For example, you fault Rand for holding "uncertain axioms" but, if I take you at your word, how does her approach from "uncertain axoims" then differ from the "uncertain axioms" upon which you base the argument in favor of the philosophy of mysticism ? And, what of the "uncertain axioms" used by Aristotle's to conclude that "knowledge is identical with its object" ?, and thus the "uncertain axoims" applied by Descarte to form his 'cogito' ?. In fact, Rand rejects both of these so-called approaches from "uncertain axioms"--although it is true she is much closer to Aristotle than Descarte.

Let us assume that Rand-woman meets Mystical-man, what type of philosophy would they hold, and why would they hold it ? What would they have in common ? If I can get at this, perhaps I will better be able to form an opinon about the logical possibility of mysticism as a route to knowledge.
 
  • #32
selfAdjoint
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Dearly Missed
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Rade said:
how does her approach from "uncertain axoims" then differ from the "uncertain axioms" upon which you base the argument in favor of the philosophy of mysticism ?

How does the uncertainty or otherwise of the axioms for mysticism in any way make the axioms for objectivism less uncertain?
 
  • #33
W A Dunkley
11
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selfAdjoint said:
How does the uncertainty or otherwise of the axioms for mysticism in any way make the axioms for objectivism less uncertain?
there are an incalculable number of ways to formulate axioms and logical truths, but there is only one basic axiom, the law of identity. The law of non-contradiction simply states the law of identity in reverse. It state that there can be no non-identity. The law of identity is the most basic law of existence (and one needs not spin on ones head while contemplating ones navel in order to grasp this.) The attempt to formulate a more basic axiom of existence, such as Ayn Rands "existence exist," remains an axiom only because it is an assertion of identity. And therefore as such is not more fundamental than the principle of self-sameness. This view of axioms may be regarded as the monistic view of axioms. Logical truths are complex assertions of identity, but all axioms and logical truths assert the same thing, the existence of self-sameness. In an of themselves this is all they assert, all that they prove and all that they account for. Axioms are the imitable ground of all knowledge and they must not equated with postulates or common sense assumptions with may prove to be false.

There are no axioms for mysticism. Mysticism is the rejection of the axiom (and as they say in west Texas, "your one natural born fool if you don't believe it.") But, for the sake of not ruffling feathers, lets just say that this is true of mysticism as it is defined within the context of my philosophy. One may squabble over the word, but there can be know doubt that such doctrines exists.
 
  • #34
max1975
21
0
Rade said:
Let us assume that Rand-woman meets Mystical-man, what type of philosophy would they hold, and why would they hold it ? What would they have in common ? If I can get at this, perhaps I will better be able to form an opinon about the logical possibility of mysticism as a route to knowledge.

Here's my suggestion, for whatever it's worth:

First comes the admission that some aspects of reality are non-rational, akin to the idea of a singularity where the laws of physics no longer function.

Second is the desire to know about these aspects of reality anyway.

Third is the understanding that if you acquire this knowledge, you will not be able to give a rational explanation of it.

Fourth is to begin studying. There are lots of different ways to do this--I would recommend trying different approaches without conceding any of them to be authorative.

Fifth is to continue to reason vigorously--anything that yields to reason is not the thing you're ultimately looking for.

Someone might argue with #5 and say that it is necessary to suspend reason. I think you will reach a point where reason suspends itself--when it starts going around in circles is a good clue.

As for what philosophy you will hold if you complete this process successfully, I can't tell you that, and don't let anyone else tell you either.
 
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  • #35
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
2,250
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Rade said:
Let us assume that Rand-woman meets Mystical-man, what type of philosophy would they hold, and why would they hold it ? What would they have in common ? If I can get at this, perhaps I will better be able to form an opinon about the logical possibility of mysticism as a route to knowledge.

I'll take a shot at this. I am guessing you mean: are the two perspectives reconcilable. I am someone who practices, relies on, and has great faith in the inner experience to give me knowledge. But the knowledge the experience gives isn’t about “objects” much. What I get from it, knowledge-wise, is a sense of unity, wholeness, and continuity that is behind a universe filled with objects. If I want knowledge of those objects, then the way I would approach it I believe would be acceptible to Ms. Rand.

So if Ms. Rand and I met, I would be able to agree with what she had to say about investigating objects, but I’d have to tell her that I possess another way of knowing which has nothing at all to do with objects. What she would say I don’t know. Some of the people here who only believe in studying objects tell me they doubt what I say is possible, but then they haven’t attempted to learn the inner methods that bring the experience I am talking about either.
 
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