Irony, Lol, Philosophy

Light relief: the funny stuff in Objectivist Epistemology

Reading through the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology was frankly a bit of a chore, but it was brightened by Rand’s trademark bizarre language. Here are some of my favourites:

  • “Mathematics is the science of measurement” … erm
  • “Man can perceive the length of one foot directly; he cannot perceive ten miles”. Never, ever, has any man been able to see ten miles.
  • “If a child considers a match, a pencil and a stick, he observes that length is the attribute they have in common”. It would have to be a terminally dull child to look at each of those and only see differences in length!
  • “There is evidence to suppose that written language originated in the form of drawings—as the pictographic writing of the Oriental peoples seems to indicate”. Yeah, this sounds about right for something written in the 1860s. Wait, this was from 1966?
  • “In this respect, concept-formation and applied mathematics have a similar task, just as philosophical epistemology and theoretical mathematics have a similar goal”. Don’t know anything about maths? In for a penny…
  • “In the equation 2a = a + a, any number may be substituted for the symbol “a” … In the same manner, by the same psycho-epistemological method, a concept is used as an algebraic symbol that stands for any of the arithmetical sequence of units … Let those who attempt to invalidate concepts by declaring that they cannot find “manness” in men, try to invalidate algebra by declaring that they cannot find “a-ness” in 5 or in 5,000,000”.  Her “algebra” really doesn’t work here – the important thing ‘a’ can just be factored out of the equation, and there really isn’t any “a-ness” in 5. Well, duh.
  • “Learning to speak does not consist of memorizing sounds—that is the process by which a parrot learns to “speak.”” D’oh – isn’t this is exactly how children first learn to speak!
  • “The definition of “animal” (in general terms) would be: “A living entity possessing the faculties of consciousness and locomotion.”” – Cut off my legs and I am no longer an animal!
  • “Observe the fact that in the writings of every school of mysticism and irrationalism … one finds, sooner or later, a clear, simple, explicit denial of the validity … (For example, see the works of Kant and Hegel.)”. Yep, they are exactly the same, irrational mystics
  • “…the neo-mystics who—punch-drunk with undigested concepts of measurement, proclaiming measurement to be the sole tool of science—proceed to … the learning time of rats, as indices to the human psyche … fail to observe that measurement requires an appropriate standard … one does not measure length in pounds, or weight in inches.” Irony failure…

To be fair, Rand was aware of her own limitations…

“Cognitively, such an attempt would produce nothing but a bad hash of equivocations, shoddy metaphors and unacknowledged “stolen” concepts”.