Rand vs Hume 1.2

Ayn Rand vs. David Hume 1.2 (special guest star- Bertrand Russell)

The story so far: Rand is attempting to debunk Hume’s Problem of Induction. In the first sentence she created a straw man, a purported paraphrase of Hume (analyzed in previous post). In the second sentence of the paragraph, Rand tries to refute her straw man.[1]

Sentence #1, her straw man:     “‘Don’t be so sure- nobody can be certain of anything.’”

Sentence #2, her refutation:       “Bertrand Russell’s gibberish to the contrary notwithstanding, that pronouncement includes itself; therefore one cannot be sure one cannot be sure of anything.”

  • “Bertrand Russell’s gibberish…” Rand is referring to Nobel Prize Winner Bertrand Russell and Russell’s Paradox- considered by many to be one of the foundations of Modern Mathematics, Set Theory and Logic[2]. Rand sums up his work as “gibberish”; but provides no logical or mathematical refutation, missing out on a Nobel Prize.
  • “…to the contrary notwithstanding, that pronouncement includes itself…”. Russell’s Paradox agrees that “nobody can be certain of anything” includes itself. Self-inclusive statements are what Russell’s Paradox is about. Rand’s claim of contradiction is false.
  • “…therefore one cannot be sure one cannot be sure of anything”. Rand arrives at Russell’s Paradox but, rather than recognizing an axiom of logic, she thinks she can use it to disprove the first sentence.
  • Rand defeats her own position by ignoring Russell’s Paradox. For if by her logic the first sentence means that one cannot be sure one cannot be sure, then the sentence also means Rand cannot be sure that one cannot be sure one cannot be sure. Rand demonstrates that we can’t use the self-inclusive statement in a logical structure without contradiction. Therefore, Rand corroborates Russell’s Paradox which she just called “gibberish”. She is wrong twice with the same words.

Rand fails to refute her own straw man and fails to rebut Hume.


[1] Ayn Rand, Philosophy Who Needs It? Chapter 2: Philosphical Detection, paragraph 10 pg 16 Signet Penguin Books

[2] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/russell-paradox/

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