Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Peikoff's Arbitrary and Frankfurt's Bullshit

Leonard Peikoff's theory of arbitrary claims is to a large extent similar to Harry Frankfurt's theory of bullshit. 

In Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, (Chapter 5, "Reason"), Peikoff says: "An arbitrary claim is one for which there is no evidence, either perceptual or conceptual. It is a brazen assertion, based neither on direct observation nor on any attempted logical inference therefrom."

In his 1986 article, "On Bullshit," Frankfurt defines bullshit as a statement that "is grounded neither in a belief that it is true nor, as a lie must be, in a belief that it is not true. It is just this lack of connection to a concern with truth — this indifference to how things really are — that I regard as of the essence of bullshit."

To me it is clear that what Peikoff regards as arbitrary claim—Frankfurt calls bullshit. They use different kinds of arguments but they reach essentially the same conclusion that an arbitrary claim or bullshit is something that is total nonsense.

In 2005, Frankfurt expanded his thesis on bullshit into a 67-page book Bullshit, which has been quite popular with readers.

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