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Tag Archives: Objectivism

What is ‘Truth’?

Picking up from here


[Gödel] believed that mathematical objects, like numbers, were not human constructions but real things, as real as peanut butter sandwiches. …

If numbers are real things, independent of our minds, they don’t care whether or not we can define them; we apprehend them through some intuitive faculty whose nature remains a mystery. From this point of view, it’s not at all strange that the mathematics we do today is very much like the mathematics we’d be doing if Gödel had never knocked out the possibility of axiomatic foundations. For Gödel, axiomatic foundations, however useful, were never truly necessary in the first place.

Gödel didn’t prove numbers are “real things,” but by proving that there are true statements about numbers that cannot be proven, did he not  imply that numbers (and thus, possibly other things) exist apart from the human mind?

This is echoed in Ayn Rand‘s philosophy of Objectivism. Once again, however, something has been left out. This time, it’s Gödel’s incompleteness theorem— Objectivism seems to hold that:

  • Logic will eventually gather all the knowledge there is to gain, and
  • If it cannot be attained through logic, then the so-called ‘knowledge’ is not ‘real’, e.g. ‘knowledge’ gained through ‘faith’.

But if “no system of logical axioms can produce all truths about numbers because no system of logical axioms can pin down exactly what numbers are,” [Ellenberg] how, then, are those truths to be produced and pinned down, except by a rudimentary kind of faith? It is easy to forget that Pythagoreans were mystics who used mathematical ideas for religious purposes.

I found help in an essay by Princeton mathematician, Edward Nelson–

The notion of truth in mathematics is irrelevant to what mathematicians do, it is vague unless abstractly formalized, and it varies according to philosophical opinion. In short, it is formal abstraction masquerading as reality.

[‘Truth’] is a correspondence between a linguistic formulation and reality.

Abstract ideas [about truth] have concrete consequences– this is their power.

[Nelson, Mathematics and faith, in “The Human Search for Truth: Philosophy, Science, Theology – The Outlook for the Third Millennium,” International Conference on Science and Faith, The Vatican, 23-25 May 2000, St. Joseph’s University Press, Philadelphia, 2002.]

Perhaps the truth of mathematics is metaphorical. Perhaps the only way we can perceive truth is through metaphor. Perhaps the only way we can make the connection from metaphor to truth is to employ a kind of faith.

Left Out

Quote from novelist Ayn Rand.

Quote from novelist Ayn Rand. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might be wondering, “What does Ralph Waldo Emerson have to do with either Ayn Rand or prepping?”

I Googled +Ayn +Rand +Ralph +Waldo +Emerson and found this quote:

[Some People] might say: “Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” They got it from a very little mind, Emerson.

The word, ‘foolish’ is left out, as is the end of the sentence, “… adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Without that word, foolish, the quote fragment sounds as if it could have come from some spoiled teenage ditz’s reference to her hair-do.

This is similar to another problem I keep having: When I read Atlas Shrugged, I don’t find myself. A character like me is just not there, so I feel left out.

It is far easier to disagree with someone’s ideas if you leave out some of their words.

What might RWE have been thinking when he wrote those words? How about party politics? How about a philosophy that says in essence, “If I can’t take a picture of it then it isn’t real?” Maybe he was speaking against religious fundamentalism?

Maybe RWE was simply saying we should say what we honestly think & feel and if in the future our thoughts & feelings change, we should own that change.

Self Reliance

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. …

English: Daguerreotype of Ralph Waldo Emerson,...

Ralph Waldo Emerson. Courtesy of the Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day.— ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ —Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ayn Rand contributed Objectivism to society. I see it as a nice counterpoise to Emerson’s philosophy (Transcendentalism). Atlas Shrugged is similarly counterpoised to prepping, perhaps. I am thankful for the space created by the tension of things set in opposition, the fabric, pegs and pole of a big circus tent where we all get to participate.

Having a sort of anti-realist point of view as I do, it is hard has become impossible for me to insist on matters of fact; I certainly have my own, and you probably have your own, but I don’t expect you to share all of mine nor vice versa. Gridlock ensues when we insist on our personal facts of the matter.

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