Reason as the Leading Motive

Philosophical Nonsense

Posted by Jerry on January 15, 2008

If you want to look really crazy, you should go up to a doctor and say, “I understand that if I consume poison, I will die; but I don’t understand why I ought not to have poison just because I choose to live.”

Go tell an architect who is constructing a skyscraper, “just because of the fact that constructing a skyscraper requires steel, concrete, and building materials, it does not mean that you ought to use steel, concrete, and building materials to construct your skyscraper.”

Is it really hard to grasp that values are a species of facts? If the architect has identified the fact that constructing a building requires certain specific methods, tools, and materials, then the architect has to (ought to) obtain, acquire, and use those specific methods, tools, and materials to meet his purpose. The identification of the first factual premise necessitates the identification of the second: if you choose to build, you ought to get your tools and materials ready; both statements have the force and quality of stating a fact about how reality functions–in equal magnitude.

The fact that you are a living entity, determines a series of facts pertinent to your survival: the fact that you are, determines what you ought to do–or how reality factually functions in relation to your existence, i.e., matters of facts. For example, your immune system cannot withstand the fatal effects of poisonous venom; therefore, the fact of the matter is, if you consume it, you will die; or, staying alive requires–by force of fact–that you ought not to consume the venom.

The concept of value applies only to living beings–and in greater pertinence, to rational beings–because goal-directed action toward an ultimate end is only possible to living entities. Thus, values (which are a species of facts applicable to living beings) are inextricably linked to living entities and to the specific facts pertinent to their survival.

It is hard to believe that there’s so much nonsense permitted in philosophy. When you begin to understand ethics as a science–as a subject dealing with very fundamental and clearly bounded facts about human existence and all that makes such existence possible–you begin to realize that you cannot permit any of the  philosophical nonsense that is commonly accepted today, such as consciousness invalidates itself as a tool of awareness, the mind is wholly separate and distinct from the body, values are mystical, non-rational, not factual, and non-objective, etc.

The applied and physical sciences are fully dependent on the philosophical framework it chooses to work within. If philosophy itself is so incoherent, chaotic, irrational, and subjective, then how can it possibly provide a coherent, rational, and logical framework for the applied and physical sciences?

If an engineer cannot permit his crew to be subjective about their notions of numbers, measurements, laws of physics, motion, gravity, the existence of steel, the fragility of glass, the identity and nature of physical elements, then how can he be comfortable with a philosophy that preaches that there is no absolute truth, certainty is impossible to human cognitive tools, the noumenal realm is forever beyond our direct perception, the evidence of the senses is illusory, that a bridge ought not require certain methods of construction, etc.?

As Rand said:

“It is not the special sciences that teach man to think; it is philosophy that lays down the epistemological criteria of all special sciences.”

But if such irrationality passes as philosophical thought today, then Wittgenstein was right in insisting that nothing but nonsense can be said about philosophy and vehemently disparaging philosophers as foolish men entangled in a confused web of their own making.

You know that the state of modern philosophy is not healthy when philosopher Quee Nelson has to present her defense of objective reality under the name “naive realism” in her new book The Slightest Philosophy, because, apparently, it is “naive” in philosophical circles to hold that there is an objective reality and that we have direct perception of it.

Aptly enough, therefore, the voice in defense of naive realism in Nelson’s book is that of a young student engaged in a dialog with a more erudite and sophisticate professor. Here’s an excerpt (taken from John Enright’s article on The Atlasphere), where the sophisticate professor wonders whether we really see apples or only patches of the color red; the student replies:

Student: “I wonder why you don’t switch it the other way around, and say that you can only perceive sense data like colors by means of physical objects? Why does the ‘redness’ get the place of pride, instead of the apple? Why don’t you put things the other way around, and say that ‘redness’ is merely derivative, since it is obtained by a secondary process of intellectual abstraction from the apple, which is epistemologically more primary?”

14 Responses to “Philosophical Nonsense”

  1. evanescent said

    Brilliantly put! Well said. I have come to despise the philosophical skepticism that is taken for granted in philosophy and science today.

  2. Thank you so much for mentioning my book! If you click the Google Books link provided, you can read about half the book for free. It’s so darn irresistible, you’ll have to own one. In the words of John Enright’s review: “Buy one for every college student you know.” Here are some other reviews to pique your interest:

    “Total devastation… Splendid book… An absolutely first class piece of work.” —Antony Flew, author of Hume’s Philosophy of Belief, David Hume: Philosopher of Moral Science, and An Introduction to Western Philosophy

    “A well-written, jargon-free critique of postmodern philosophy…in accessible and witty language… This is a good book.” —Stephen R. C. Hicks, author of Explaining Postmodernism

    “Terrific. …The dialogues are great fun.” —William H. Shaw, author of Moral Issues in Business and Readings in the Philosophy of Law

    “A breath of fresh air…Highly recommended…For a rigorous, lucid, and entertaining point-by-point refutation of these pestilent ideas, from Hume to the present, there is no better vaccine than Quee Nelson’s The Slightest Philosophy.” —Jon Morris

  3. Ergo said


    Actually, first, thank you for writing such a book. And then, thanks for visiting and providing us with that link. From the great reviews your book has received, I can’t wait to begin reading it. 🙂 I particularly love this part:

    “Unfortunately, postmodernists didn’t get that way on account of ignoring the teachings of the Philosophy department, but on account of sincerely imbibing them. The terrible truth is that postmodernism is what happens when somebody who believes what he reads, reads the Philosophy canon. Avoiding technical jargon and presented in the form of a spirited dialogue between a professor and student, The Slightest Philosophy attacks what it sees as the real roots of postmodernism: the skeptical/anti-realist rut philosophy has been in since the eighteenth century. Opposing the canon from a position of nave realism, the book’s refutation of epistemological skepticismapplies a method usually called abduction, or argument to the best explanation. The unexpected power of this pedestrian approach becomes apparent when it finally proves its mettle against philosophy’s scariest monsters, including the Cartesian Demon, the Brain in the Vat, the Problem of the Criterion, and Hume’s Riddle of Induction.”

    I’ll post the Google link here, so more people can read and buy your book: http://books.google.com/books?id=J9aX878kHuAC

  4. Ergo said

    I’m 25 pages into The Slightest Philosophy, and it’s the best introductory pages to a philosophy book I’ve ever read.

  5. evanescent said

    I’ve just ordered mine now! It’ll have to wait until I’ve finished my current Ayn Rand book but I’m looking forward to it already!

  6. Ergo, I’m glad you’re enjoying TSP. I just loved it, myself. I was “supposed” to be reading something else, but I picked up TSP and couldn’t put it down.

  7. Aw, shucks. Thanks for making my day!

  8. A new review of my book is just out, hot off the press in the May 2008 issue of Liberty magazine. Me happy. Here’s the best part 🙂

    “A bold and beautifully written work of philosophy.… You settle down to read, and wonder of wonders: it’s easy and pleasant. You have in your hands—well, let me just say it—a masterpiece.”

  9. Ergo said

    Quee, I am so glad to hear of the great response your book is receiving—as it definitely should! I am curious to know if you’re working on anything else right now: a new book on philosophy, perhaps? And what would be your thoughts on the current ethical schools of thought? Mostly, I am curious to know of your position on (and familiarity with) Ayn Rand’s philosophic system of Objectivism, including Rand’s theory of epistemology and ethics. Perhaps you have written something about these topics that is available online to which I could link to?

  10. Thanks very much, your support means a lot to me.

    Right now I’m a little concerned because apparently there’s a serious possibility that Amazon will drop my book, along with many other little POD publishers like mine, perhaps ending my little career and sending me back into the oblivion from whence I came. Amazon has also been occasionally raising the price of my book, but happily it’s back down now. I deliberately made it as cheap as my publisher would allow, to sell more copies. Here’s a helpful blog for anybody curious about how to publish your own book:


  11. Amazon hasn’t turned off the buy buttons yet, as originally threatened. Everybody’s holding their breath. My new jacket blurb:

    “The Slightest Philosophy is an amazing, liberating book that deserves a wide audience. Quee Nelson is a realist in both senses of the term. With verve and wit that cannot be found within Philosophy departments, and with sound learning as well, she has made stone kicking both intellectually respectable and fun.” —Frederick Crews, author of Postmodern Pooh, The Unauthorized Freud, Memory Wars, Anthology of American Literature, Follies of the Wise, Sins of the Fathers, and The Pooh Perplex

  12. Cathy Buckwalter said

    Just bought your book on Amazon based on the Liberty ‘zine review…too bad I’m 60 and not in college anymore…but am going to read this with my 70-year-old husband (whose IQ is 163), my 22-year-old daughter (still in college), and my 42- year-old son (who’s an academic and a Straussian)and my 39-year-old daughter-in-law (who reads only classics) …we’re all going to have a lot of fun at dinnertime (in the summer, when they visit)discussing your book!!! Thank you for writing it and all the best in the circulation business!!!!

  13. Thanks very much Cathy! I’d love to hear more feedback after you read it, and I do hope you enjoy it.

  14. Online I’ve published the The Slightest Philosophy’s “Appendix,” (a fun collection of problematic quotes from the canon), on the book’s new website. It seems to be a popular feature of the book. For those of you who have the book, you’ll find there a significantly expanded collection. Clicking on my name, here, should get you there.


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