Books and Code · A Miscellany

Objectivism and complexity theory


Since Curt started reading Atlas Shrugged, we’ve had several interesting conversations on objectivism and existentialism. As I ponder, my mind keeps coming back to the application of objectivist philosophy. In particular, computability theory and Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.

First, humans are bounded by space and time in their thinking process just like a computer. Deriving a sound, rational reason for every action taken is physically impossible. Though it is a rational action to recognize such and employ the use of heuristics in making decisions, this has important implications in a philosophy based on objective reality. If I fail to search the entire solution space for the correct, objective action, I cannot be sure I am making the rational decision. Further, how can I rationally choose a suitable heuristic? Sticking to a pre-learned moral code would be an obvious choice, but this does not jive with Objectivism. Rand offers the fall-back heuristic of rational self-interest, but I’m still not clear exactly how this idea follows from her axioms.

If all that wasn’t difficult enough, Gödel showed that any sufficiently broad mathematical system (which rational logic certainly is) must necessarily have unknowable truths. That is, there are situations when an objective, rational truth may exist, but there is no way to discover it. In Objectivism there must necessarily be instances where we are incapable of knowing the rational truth; it is impossible to be completely objective.