tisdag 10 juli 2012

Objectivist illusionism

I have come across a few enthusiasts for Ayn Rand lately and got involved in discussions with them. They would be of no importance but for the fact that her ideas have taken a firm hold on the political right. Supporters of Rand's philosophy might be found amongst the young people at Conservative Central Office who are responsible for developing party policies.

Rand invented a philosophy she called "objectivism". It has a set of fallacies at the heart of it, the principal one being that there is an objective reality which the human mind can apprehend through reason. There is, it is true, an objective reality and objective truth, but the human mind is unable to apprehend it.

It is true also that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception. The senses can, however, play nasty tricks on us at times - optical illusions are a good example. The meanings that are given to the raw data that the senses present to the mind are dependent on the state of mind of the individual observer. It will be so coloured by moods, emotions, theories, opinions, beliefs, levels of attention and the physical condition of the observer as to be anything but objective. We know this from reflection on our own personal experience. Recent understandings in neuroscience support this view.

This fuzziness is unavoidable and we deceive ourselves if we imagine that we are, or can be, objective.

If human knowledge is anything but objective, what of value can come from objectivism?

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