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Thursday, May 18, 2017

On Leonard Peikoff’s Dissertation

Leonard Peikoff received his doctorate in 1964 at New York University under the direction of the American pragmatist philosopher Sidney Hook. In his dissertation titled “The Status of the Law of Contradiction in Classical Logical Ontologism,” Peikoff shows an alignment towards Aristotelian empiricism.

Stephen Boydstun is conducting a study of Peikoff’s dissertation in the Objectivism Online Forum. This is an ongoing project—so far Boydstun has made two posts in which he mainly looks at Peikoff’s treatment of Aristotle in his dissertation.

In the posts that follow, Boydstun will look at what Peikoff has to say about Immanuel Kant and Peikoff's contemporaries, including John Dewey and Thomas Nagel. Here’s an excerpt from Boydstun’s first post on Peikoff's Dissertation:

“Under the term classical in his title, Peikoff includes not only the ancient, but the medieval and early modern. By logical ontologism, he means the view that laws of logic and other necessary truths are expressive of facts, expressive of relationships existing in Being as such. Peikoff delineates the alternative ways in which that general view of PNC [principle of noncontradiction] has been elaborated in various classical accounts of how one can come to know PNC as a necessary truth and what the various positions on that issue imply in an affirmation that PNC is a law issuing from reality. The alternative positions within the ontology-based logical tradition stand on alternative views on how we can come to know self-evident truths and on the relation of PNC to the empirical world, which latter implicates alternative views on the status of essences and universals.”

Boydstun’s study of Peikoff’s dissertation is of interest because it sheds light on how Peikoff’s thinking was influenced by the training in philosophy that he received for his doctorate.

On a side note, in his podcast on October 27, 2014, Peikoff has said that he does not think highly of the University system under which he achieved his doctorate. He has nothing good to say about his dissertation. He seems to suggest that it was meaningless exercise that he went through under the direction of disinterested and unmotivated instructors.

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