Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge
Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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The first volume in this series, Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Randâs Normative Theory, focused on aspects of Ayn Randâs ethi-cal theory. The present volume explores a more fundamental area of her mental areas of philosophy, and she grounded the rest of her philosophic system, Objectivismâincluding her ethics and politicsâin her views on ...
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...one notable change in the philosophical literature of the last thirty years has been the extent of attention to the nature of concepts. Al-though philosophers have been concerned with âconceptual analy-sisâ and related issues since the early twentieth century (and in fact since Kant), sustained attention to what concepts are, to their âpossession con-ditions,â to their acquisition andâespeciallyâto their epistemic role is quite recent. The problem of the nature of concepts is, of course, much ...
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Given its title, one might expect Ayn Randâs Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) to outline her positions on the issues normally covered in introductory courses and texts on epistemology. In par-ticular, one might expect to find discussions of epistemic justificationâi.e., âour right to the beliefs we haveâ (Dancy 2005, 263). Justification and the nature of knowledge are widely regarded as the essential subject mat-ter of the field, and, as we will see, Rand effectively agrees with this con-...
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Let me begin by describing a brief episode of perception. I enter my apartment from the outside. I can feel the smooth key as I take it from my pocket and the slight resistance of the lock as I use the key to turn the bolt. I open the door and feel its handle slide away from me and watch the door as it swings open. I enter, and as I do I feel how the surface underneath my feet has changed, from a hard concrete to a more yielding carpet. Before me lies a spread of entities. In the entrance ...
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...one central theme running through Ayn Randâs Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) is that the objectivity of concepts is not threatened by, and in fact is a precondition for, the growth of knowledge. Crucial to her defense of that view is her argument that a proper account of definitions must reflect the fact that we learn more over time about the nature of the unitsâthe cognized referentsâa concept subsumes. At the same time, she stresses that a properly formed concept ...
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Ayn Randâs theory of concept-formation plays an important role in her broader program of Objectivist epistemology. Some of the themes in her work correspond to core themes in what Ian Hacking calls the âtradition of natural kindsâ in mainstream Anglo-American philosophy (Hacking 1991c). In particular, Randâs theory converges on the idea that concepts are intellectual tools forged by human beings in order to allow them to recover elements of the structure of the world around them and ...
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...in his commentary on the essays in the present volume by Allan Got-thelf and by James G. Lennox, Paul Griffiths raises a number of inter-esting issues about (1) how to situate Randâs theory of concepts, partic-ularly with regard to recent debates about natural kinds, and (2) whether her theory has the resources to address some recent findings about the nature of concepts. I will address a few of the issues he raises in my brief, In the mainstream tradition of thought about natural kinds, the idea ...
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Randâs normative discussion of definitions and concepts assumes that all definitions are of the same kind, do the same kinds of cognitive work, and should be evaluated against the same standards. This gives rise to troubles reminiscent of the ones Edouard Machery exposes with regard to concepts in cognitive psychology. Machery argues that the phe-nomena uncovered by cognitive psychologists are too various to account for without appeal to significantly different kinds of concepts (Machery ...
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Jim Bogen has provided us with a very thoughtful summary and cri-tique of Randâs theory of definition, attending to its basis in her the-ory of concepts. Though I do not think he always gets Randâs views right, my disagreement is not primarily with his exposition but with his critique, and I will, in the body of this response, address such interpreta-Bogenâs main complaint, stated in his opening sentence, is that Rand incorrectly assumes that âall definitions are of the same kind, do the same ...
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...these comments represent the first round in print of an ongoing dialec-tic between James Lennox and me over the proper understanding of concepts and conceptual change in science, with a particular focus on the example of changing concepts of the gene. Further rounds are in the offing. I hope that our ongoing debate will clarify (and perhaps reduce) our differences, but also that it will help others to improve their accounts of the ways in which concepts change both in science and in daily life....
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...in my essay in part 1 I characterized five categories of change in the con-ceptual structure of a science and stressed the importance of distin-guishing them from the philosophically problematic notion of change in the meaning or identity of a concept. Richard Burian speaks approv-ingly of that distinction in his comment. Nevertheless, his comments suggest that he thinks at least some changes of the first sort entail changes of the second. In this response I challenge that suggestion, which in my ...
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As a fellow direct realist, and as a proponent of the Theory of Appear-ing (TA) in particular, I am naturally sympathetic to the account of perception that Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri attribute to Rand in their essays in part 1 of this volume. My primary aim in this response, however, is to defend the TA against Ghateâs central criticism of William P. Alstonâs version of it.one.fitted In relation to this defense, I shall also critically discuss the infallibilist account of perception that Salmieri attributes to ...
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...in my contribution to part 1 of this volume, I discussed Randâs view of awareness as an activity the identity of which is not exhausted by its objects, and I emphasized her distinction between the form of an act of awareness and its object, which I illustrated with a brief discussion of its application to sense-perception. I indicated there how the distinction can be used to counter some standard objections to direct-realist views of perception like Randâs, and Onkar Ghate treated this topic in much ...
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...i believe that what Salmieri calls âthree-factor viewsâ contain a deep and important insight about the nature of our perceptual relation with the mind-independent physical world around us. He correctly contrasts such views with representationalism, both old and new. I argue that his own understanding of the insight ultimately collapses into the bad old representationalism that we both reject. His view is effectively a version of indirect realism. I explain how the insight should instead be developed in ...
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Several contributors to this volume (Onkar Ghate, Pierre Le Morvan, Gregory Salmieri, and Bill Brewer) share an interest in defending direct realism (sometimes also called presentationalism) about the senses. They agree that perceptual awareness is the awareness of objects or even facts in the world, not of mental intermediaries such as sense-data or some other kind of ârepresentationalâ content. But they differ over the commitments of accepting the existence of this direct form of awareness. ...
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Benjamin Bayer is visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola University New Orleans. He is the author of two articles in Synthese and Acta Analytica that apply insights from the direct realist account of perception to the defense of foundationalist and internalist theories of justification, respectively. ...
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Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies
Series Editor Byline: Allan Gotthelf