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Post 0

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 12:59amSanction this postReply
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Heh, I really hope the esteemed Mr. Cresswell decides to sink his teeth into this one.



Post 1

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 1:49amSanction this postReply
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Though a celebrity death-match (Cresswell vs. Seddon) is appealing on its face, I find value in Dr. Seddon's typed words.

Fred, we've crossed paths before, and I'd all but discounted you as an objectivist thinker (I find that your focus on Plato and Kant -- and Ludwig -- is counterproductive). But this here seems to be a real advancement of Objectivist thought.

On a recent physics thread here, I've argued that time isn't a something -- which makes "time" merely a non-ontological, yet conceptual, tool for understanding things (which, admittedly, sounds Kantian); but you make a pretty good argument for a contrary view to this notion/nostrum.

If time has being (ie. is ontological), then space-time is a viable conceptual tool. If time is nothing other than an heuristic for understanding motion, though, then space-time is a bogus concept from the get-go.

I'd appreciate your insights on this matter,

Ed





Post 2

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 5:06amSanction this postReply
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 Prof. Seddon:

You are correct. These three are axiomatic concepts implied in the act of grasping that something exists and that one is conscious of that fact.

Rand remarks of axiomatic concepts, in her essay "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology," that they "are the constants of man's consciousness, the cognitive integrators that identify and thus protect its continuity." Your axiomatic concepts of time, change, and space do this.

Some philosophers would object to your inclusion of space as an axiomatic concept. Descartes would say that spatial extension is the fundamental attribute of the material world, but not of mentality, whose fundamental attribute is thought. Kant would say that time is the form of both outer and inner sense, but that space is the form only of outer sense, and that it applies to inner sense only as an analogy. They are mistaken. You are correct about space, and you have the good company of me and Newton.

Stephen 

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 8/05, 5:57am)




Post 3

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 6:26amSanction this postReply
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Good topic, Fred.

I have wondered why Rand did not consider the Law of Noncontradiction an axiom. One might suppose it is implied by the axiom of Identity, but I don't believe it strictly is.

In a sense time is implied by change, since change implies a before state and an after state. However, I believe this is not a strict implication.

Notice that it is not “existence exists” that implies the corollaries, but “the act of grasping that statement” that does the implying. And that is unique with Rand, I think. With most thinkers, it is the axioms themselves that imply either corollaries or theorems.
Doesn't the "act of grasping" refer to Consciousness, which is axiomatic?




Post 4

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 7:26amSanction this postReply
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The article reminds me of Ronald Merrill's "Axioms: The Eightfold Way," found here: http://www.monmouth.com/~adamreed/Ron_Merrill_writes/Articles/AxiomsTheEightfoldWay.htm.

Jordan




Post 5

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 12:18pmSanction this postReply
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Fred are you being deliberately mischevious here? The axioms do not follow from grasping *any* statement. It seems a stretch.


John



Post 6

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 1:45pmSanction this postReply
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I sanctioned it and printed it out.  I will put that in a folder of ancillary Objectivist materials.

 




Post 7

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 1:51pmSanction this postReply
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Two possible answers come to mind.  The first is: yes, this grasping has indefinitely many consequences, and these are the two Rand found interesting.  (In that case, I wonder why you'd call them axioms and not simply consequences.)

The second might be that the others, such as change, space and time, require more information ("premises," Rand would say) than just the initial premise, so they aren't strictly consequences.  This quickly goes over my head philosophically.

A related problem occurred to me since I read the article.  This act of grasping entails (or at least gives rise to) a grasping that one has grasped the initial insight.  This looks like the start of an infinite regress.

Peter




Post 8

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 3:34pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Newnham:

When you used the term axiom in your post #5, I imagine you were referring to the character of Rand's philosophical axioms (rather than to the character of axioms for a discipline such as geometry). Rand said something verbally, at a seminar she gave on her epistemology, which bears on your question. Her remark is transcribed on page 249 of the Appendix added to the extended edition of her "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology."

She had been asked: "Does 'existence exists' implicitly include consciousness as part of existence?"

She replied: "Here I was very careful in my formulation in Atlas Shrugged: 'The act of grasping that statement' implies consciousness. Existence exists whether there is any consciousness or not. But since you are making that claim, in the act of grasping it you are introducing the axiom of consciousness."

The stress she added to the phrase "act of grasping" was put there by Rand in this verbal comment (c.1969-70), if the transcriber is here true to what she said, which I expect he is.

Stephen







Post 9

Friday, August 5, 2005 - 3:44pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen, I was referring to the statement by Fred that:

"Maybe this is multiplying axioms beyond necessity. Nevertheless, they do seem to follow from “grasping the statement.” They seem to follow from grasping any statement!"

The act of grasping refers to consciousness. Fred seems to be saying that a multitude of axioms are implied in grasping "any statement".

I may not be grasping what Fred has to say.



Post 10

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 7:28amSanction this postReply
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Professor Seddon's proposed argument for the axiomatic status of the concept space (location) is unsound. He writes that if one were to claim "there is no space," one would be contradicting the act of one's assertion since one would be making the statement from some location.

To be an axiomatic concept in Rand's sense, the concept would have to be implicit in any claim of existence that one might make, not only in claims about the class of things coming under the concept being taken as axiomatic. In other words, to be an axiomatic concept in Rand's sense of an axiom, the concept space would have to be implicit in any assertion one might make, whatever the topic of the assertion.

The question before us is whether the concept of location is implicit in every act of affirmation or denial, regardless of what is being affirmed or denied. Suppose it is affirmed that blue is a color. That act of affirmation presumes that there are things that exist that have specific characters, and it presumes one is engaged in affirming the circumstance that blue is a color. So existence, identity, consciousness, time, and change are all here affirmed in the same implicit way. But in affirming that blue is a color, the implication that one is making the affirmation from a particular location is a less immediate and less central implication.

Compare this parse with the parse of Peter Reidy in post #7.

So I now think I was incorrect in my claim (in post #2) that time, change, and space (location) qualify as axiomatic concepts in Rand's philosophic sense. Location is indeed implicit in any act of assertive consciousness, but it is not equally immediate and central to acts of assertion as the other two concepts for all topics of assertion. On this further consideration, I don't think it is justifiable as an axiomatic concept for a metaphysics. 




Post 11

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 7:56amSanction this postReply
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Fred seems to be writing this more as an exercise for a class discussion. What is being affirmed *is* important in discovering axioms.



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Post 12

Saturday, August 6, 2005 - 10:18amSanction this postReply
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Fred,

You are completely correct - sanction. The subtext of your article - that there are more than three axiomatic concepts - is more important to me, though, than the other three other axioms you named.

Rand concentrated most of her attention on the three primary axiomatic concepts (actually one and two corollaries). Here is a quote from myself on Solo last month on axiomatic concepts:
Existence, identity and consciousness are all intertwined so intimately that talking about one always involves the others. The axiom of causality comes next, but it is a corollary. When axiomatic concepts are discussed, it is more like talking about different facets of a gemstone than about different rocks.
Note that all three primary ones are present as the background of any discussion of space, time and change, which are secondary as attributes of existence. To be stated as axioms, they would have to be given in a corollary form, not the repetition manner for fundamental ones (existence exists), i.e. space exists,  time exists and change exists.  

(btw - Rand specifically mentioned time as a form of measurement in the Axiomatic Concepts chapter in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology - so obviously she included it in her thinking on axioms).

Rand covered causality quite a bit in her writing also, but to my knowledge did not specifically call it an axiomatic concept (I might be wrong here). I remember her always calling it the Law of Causality.
 
Hierarchy in relationships of existents is also an axiomatic concept. There was a guy on Solo a while back (Nathan Hawkins) who tried to proclaim that Rand overlooked a fundamental axiomatic concept, Order Exists (with himself, of course, correcting her and saving the day). He was right about order being an axiomatic concept (another one), but wrong about it being a primary one like existence, identity and consciousness.
 
As I said, the most important part of your article is the subtext. There are way too many Objectivists who do not think about axiomatic concepts at all, or think that there are only three.
 
And of course, for you, there is the most important axiomatic formulation of all:
 
Fred Seddon exists and knows it.
 
(Identity, existence and consciousness.)

Michael





Post 13

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 3:21amSanction this postReply
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Fred: “Notice that it is not “existence exists” that implies the corollaries, but “the act of grasping that statement” that does the implying….What else does “the act of grasping that statement” imply?”

As several posters have pointed out, the obvious implication would be consciousness. Here is the relevant argument: “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives…”

The premises of Rand’s argument are a statement and a mental act, which are both aspects of consciousness. In that case, the “something” of the conclusion “something exists” must also be consciousness.

No doubt this is not what Rand intends. She wants her argument to establish a world of objects “out there”, that is logically prior to, and independent of, consciousness. The uncritical reader might assume she has done just that, because Rand uses words such as “grasp” and perceive” which suggest the apprehension of material objects.

But there’s no perception and no material object here – just thinking. Rand has done little more than replicate Descartes’ cogito.

Brendan




Post 14

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 5:47amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

Are you sure you read and understood Rand? You wrote:
No doubt this is not what Rand intends. She wants her argument to establish a world of objects “out there”, that is logically prior to, and independent of, consciousness.
Well I'm glad you showed up to explain it all. But you got it wrong, dude. Ayn Rand doesn't want to establish anything at all. On the contrary, she claims that consciousness - awareness - merely identifies what is.

One who would establish a world of objects would be a God (or a God wannabe), not a human being. That is where you are going, isn't it?

Unfortunately for those with that agenda, that fact for all conscious beings is that existence - reality - most definitely includes consciousness. Not the other way around. Reality exists without consciousness. Consciousness cannot exist without reality.

As to your phrase "logically prior to," the acceptance of the facts on which axiomatic concepts are based precedes logic and does not derive from it. Such acceptance is implicit without question or doubt in all pre-conceptual forms of awareness.

Dayaamm, I smell a rat...

Misunderstanding Rand is bad enough. Equating her with Descartes is just plain lunacy or provocation for the sake of provocation. Nobody is that dumb.

Michael



Post 15

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 8:10amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

 

Rand defined consciousness in such a way as to avoid Decartes’ cogito. For Rand, consciousness is primarily a response to and an identifier of (external) existence. Whether consciousness, as Rand defined it, obtains is a problem that I don’t think Objectivists much appreciate.

 

Fred,

 

Another important test for whether something counts as an (Objectivist) axiom is whether a thing can or can’t be reduced to constituent parts. If it’s irreducible or if no premises can further explain it, then it passes the. I’d be interested to see someone run time and space through that test as well as the can't-refute-without-accepting test.

 

Jordan




Post 16

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 1:25pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: “One who would establish a world of objects would be a God (or a God wannabe), not a human being. That is where you are going, isn't it?’

No, I was writing shorthand. Let’s say: "she wants her argument to establish a theory about a world of objects “out there”, that is logically prior to, and independent of, consciousness."

Michael: "As to your phrase "logically prior to," the acceptance of the facts on which axiomatic concepts are based precedes logic and does not derive from it. Such acceptance is implicit without question or doubt in all pre-conceptual forms of awareness."

See my reply to Jordan below.

Jordan: “Rand defined consciousness in such a way as to avoid Decartes’ cogito. For Rand, consciousness is primarily a response to and an identifier of (external) existence.”

Yes, Rand subscribed to the tabula rasa or Blank Slate theory of consciousness, that the activity of the mind is a response to perceptual stimuli. But tabula rasa is a concept, or rather a set of concepts, while “existence exists” is supposed to be the most fundamental concept, which depends on no other concept.

And that’s why “existence exist” cannot be the fundamental concept. In saying that Rand defined consciousness in a certain way, you’re agreeing that she made her primary axiom logically dependent on a particular theory of mind, in which case EE cannot be a fundamental, primary concept.

Or you can apply your own test: can “existence exists” be reduced to constituent parts? I think it can – and one of those parts is a definition of consciousness.

Brendan




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Post 17

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 2:15pmSanction this postReply
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Brendan:
>>She wants her argument to establish a world of objects “out there”, that is logically prior to, and independent of, consciousness.

MSK:
>As to your phrase "logically prior to," the acceptance of the facts on which axiomatic concepts are based precedes logic and does not derive from it.

MSK, Brendan is clearly talking about the logic of *Rand's argument*(or "theory")

Oh, and by the way, axiomatic concepts aren't "based" on the "acceptance" of any empirical "facts". If they needed the support of empirical facts, they *wouldn't be axiomatic*. (This is because no empirical fact could possibly contradict them).

Please make sure you understand your own arguments more clearly before attacking those of other posters.

- Daniel
(Edited by Daniel Barnes
on 8/08, 2:17pm)




Post 18

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 3:00pmSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

 

>Or you can apply your own test: can “existence exists” be reduced to constituent parts? I think it can – and one of those parts is a definition of consciousness.

I don’t see how. In a string of reductive “why” questions, we eventually get to one so basic that no further answer is possible. For Rand “Why does existence exist?” is onesuch question.  For existence, there is no why. Existence just exists. “Why do things have identity?” is also such a basic question, which is one reason Rand treats identity as axiomatic

 

I think consciousness is Rand’s most contentious axiom. For starters it isn’t omnipresent like identity and existence are. It inheres only within a given class of existents. Also, scientists are treating it more and more as though it is reducible. “Why am I conscious?” is being answered more and more by pointing to this or that neuro-electro-chemical event. Lots of Objectivists respond that consciousness is not physical (although it corresponds with the physical), so reducing it like that is a mistake. It’s not my view, so I’ll leave it be.

 

Also, I’d hesitate to lump Rand with tabula rasa theorists. She might even say she’s one of them, but her view of the mind is more robust than mere response to perceptual stimuli. After the initial sensory-perception, Rand accepts that the mind takes an active role in organizing its contents.

Jordan




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Post 19

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 3:24pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan wrote:
I think consciousness is Rand’s most contentious axiom. For starters it isn’t omnipresent like identity and existence are. It inheres only within a given class of existents. Also, scientists are treating it more and more as though it is reducible. “Why am I conscious?” is being answered more and more by pointing to this or that neuro-electro-chemical event. Lots of Objectivists respond that consciousness is not physical (although it corresponds with the physical), so reducing it like that is a mistake. It’s not my view, so I’ll leave it be.

You are correct about consciousness (unlike existence and identity) not being omnipresent. Also, it is a certain kind of power of some living beings to engage in certain types of action -- or the state of engaging in that action -- so in that respect it is reducible.

 

However, consciousness is an axiom, anyway, because Objectivism is not talking about the universe or reality as the arena of axioms. The axioms are axioms of experience or awareness. Within any state of awareness of reality, existence, identity, and consciousness are the irreducible, basic elements.

 

Hope this helps.

REB




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