|Joel, if you make major editorial revisions to a previous post a day later, as you have with Post 28, please let us know in a subsequent post, so that we at least have an opportunity to see what changes you've made and to respond to them. You wrote, |
Mr. Dwyer introduced a new (Objectivist?) definition of tabula rasa mind: The term "blank slate" simply refers to the fact that the human mind can have no knowledge of reality prior to any contact with it - that the mind is blank before it perceives reality. Mr. Dwyer begged the question. How have I begged the question? The classical alternative to tabula rasa is the doctrine of innate ideas, which says that you do have knowledge of reality prior to any contact with it.
Let's expose the flaw. As your quote makes clear, by "mind" in this context, Rand is referring not to actual awareness, but to the potential for awareness - i.e., to the physiological basis for it, which is the brain and central nervous system. That potential is actualized once the senses are exposed to reality.
According to Ayn Rand, who defines the Objectivist "tabula rasa" mind as follows:
"At birth, a child's mind is tabula rasa; he has the potential of awareness --the mechanism of human consciousness-- but no content."
"No content" means nothing. No consciousness. The Randian "blank slate" has neither mind, nor volition. That means that Ayn Rand and her followers defend that consciousness somehow pops out ex nihilo from a mindless mind.
That's utter nonsense.
Then Mr. Dwyer adds: [...] that the mind is blank before it perceives reality. This assertion is nonsensical, too. Realize that a "blank mind" is the absence of mind, no mind at all. Again, the term "mind" refers to the mechanism or physiological basis for consciousness, which is present before the child becomes aware of reality, not to the existence of consciousness itself. To be sure, it would be a contradiction to argue for a blank consciousness, which would be tantamount to a non-conscious consciousness, but that's not Rand's view, since she states that the child "has the potential of awareness -- the mechanism of human consciousness [i.e., the brain and central nervous system] -- but no content." [Emphasis added]
Additionally, Ayn Rand wrote that "To perceive [...] is not an innate, but an acquired skill." Joel, you're dropping context here; your ellipsis omits a relevant portion of Rand's statement. Here is the full context: "If, in any two years of adult life, men could learn as much as an infant learns in his first two years, they would have the capacity of genius. To focus his eyes (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not an innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking - and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation and learn to speak- these are some of an infant's tasks and achievements whose magnitude is not equaled by most men in the rest of their lives." (Emphasis added) ("The Comprachicos," The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, p. 191). In other words, at the beginning of his life, an infant's awareness consists of nothing but sensations, which are subsequently integrated into percepts. This is what Rand was referring to when she said that "to perceive . . . is not an innate but an acquired skill."
If the blank "mind is blank before it perceives reality" --Mr. Dwyer dixit--, and at same time perception is not a capacity of the "blank mind" --Rand's assertion--, then...
sound of trumpets... roll of drums...
the Objectivist "blank slate" remains a blank mind, forever and ever.
"This fact does not contradict Objectivism's axiomatic concepts." Mr. Dwyer, the "blank slate" has no mind, so "it" can't neither "identify" any "(axiomatic) concept", nor attain any kind of knowledge. A child's mind is not tabula rasa. The Objectivist human tabula rasa chimera is ludicrous. Yes, it's ludicrous, if you interpret it the way that you have, but that's not what Rand is saying. By "tabula rasa" - or blank slate - she means the potential, or physiological mechanism, for human awareness, not the awareness itself. Obviously, there can be no such thing as a blank (non-aware) awareness, which is a contradiction in terms.
Afterwards, Mr. Dwyer wrote, wrongly implying that I misunderstand or ignore Objectivism: "If you're really interested in the philosophy, then take some time to read the relevant literature." I am interested in philosophy --without the "the". Did I say that I attack Objectivism because I think it is definitely flawed? Joel, I don't understand this reply. What do you mean when you say, "Did I say that I attack Objectivism because I think it is definitely flawed?"?? In any case, my point was that you're misconstruing and misstating what Objectivism says, because you're evidently not sufficiently familiar with the philosophy. You would do yourself as well as the rest of us a big favor, if you would simply take the time to become better acquainted with the ideas before criticizing them.
Yes, I am interested in philosophy. Authentic philosophy.
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 6/22, 11:35am)