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Post 20

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 3:26pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel Barnes wrote (post #17):
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).


Whoa, Daniel! This strikes me as quite contrary to Rand's own words:

An axiomatic concept is the identification of the facts of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge (ITOE, 2nd Ed., 55).
There is a way to ascertain whether a given concept is axiomatic or not: one ascertains it by observing the fact that an axiomatic concept cannot be escaped, that it is implicit in all knowldege, that it has to be accepted and used even in the process of any attempt to deny it (ITOE, 2nd Ed., 59).


MSK wrote (post #14) to Brendan:

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?


That's mighty presumptuous! I believe Brendan could have used a better word -- "postulate" instead of "establish" -- but nowhere did he mention or imply God.


(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 8/08, 3:35pm)




Post 21

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 4:35pmSanction this postReply
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Fred:  
    Accepting Rand's definition of axioms, I have little prob with your basic argument. Rand's ID of what I call the 'fundamental to philosophy, existence, and life' axioms are, strictly speaking, contextual, as I see all axioms as being. Granted, outside of her fundamental ones, there is no other context; but, she never said (or implied) that she ID'd the ONLY 'axioms' around. Some axioms of a given territory are dependent on (if not derivative from) truths (axioms or not) in other areas. Epistemology has it's own, but dependent upon the Metaphysical ones...as I see things, anyway. Then there's Ethical ones, and Political ones, non? Each has it's own subject-'axioms' relative to the subject's contexts. --- Her definitional use of the term 'axiom' gives much leeway in it's application, methinks, and your 'gap'-filling (as NB might call it) I find to be very useful.
    However, ID'ing something derivative, or at least less basic, as an 'axiom' and otoh, talking about implications of an axiom are two different things; the implication may, or may not be a sub-'axiom,' though, corollary it may also be.
    Re the grasped concept of existence thereby implying grasping the concept time, I'll admit is getting a bit too deep for me to untangle, though I'll venture to say that until one attempts to consciously measure time (via [or is it merely synonomous with, as Ed argues?] any periodic motion), one is not consciously aware of  'time' being implied from one's awareness of existence per se. --- Pre-conscious 'awareness' I'll not get into.
    Re the concept 'space' being implied, I think there may be a good argument there, but, not the one you gave. There's something a bit...glib...about it, no offense. But I agree: such is an 'implication' in the action.
    Generally, re Rand's careful wording in defining 'axiom,' I have little problem with it, though, after years, find myself still a bit unclear re the whole idea of  'a consciousness doing X implies the fact of Y.' A 2nd party's awareness of such, I can see; but the act itself, per se? Some analysis re the very term 'implies' seems another 'gap' that could be usefully filled.

Ed:
    Re your view as time not being ontological (existential?), I'm of mixed minds on this, fer sure. Without such, where is any meaning in Al's Relativity theories (re space-time physical dimensions) other than as mere conceptual-models, or heuristically-mathematical tools? Otoh, Lewis Little's theory itself seems to dispense with the necessity of 'fields,' ergo modifies drastically not only QM theory interpretations but Relativity's as well. Gotta admit, at this point, I flip a coin.

Stephen:
    Your remarks on Rand's remarks are well put, (can't believe I forgot them; I've read her non-fiction enough times), but, as above, I'm still not sure about the concept 'time.' Consider: in a sense, such may be argued as applying to the consciousness of...well...any being, terrestrial or otherwise, all the way down to fish and maybe some insects, non? Still, food-for-thought.
    Also, your later quoting of Rand re the act of grasping does help clarify some things.
    Re your even later argument that to argue "X is blue" implies nothing about 'space,' I must take issue with. X's 'blueness' is of course irrelevent to any implication about 'space.' Referring to X as having a characteristic/attribute unpossessed by concepts, however isn't, non? Even if it's established later (how?) that X does not exist.

Michael:
    Your distinction re 'background' of the 3 primaries vs the others Fred brings up is right on. However, methinks that Fred wasn't introducing the delineated new ones as being as primary/fundamental as the main 3 (though I may be incorrect there.) I saw his argument as arguing that the new 3 are inherently implied by the 1st 3 and that they applied just as much as the 'primaries' to any non-mental entity, whether one was conscious of such or not. (Thanx for the ITOE ref re 'time;' still workin' on that baby.)
    Re her reference to Causality as a 'Law' and not (that you remember) an actual 'axiom,' sad to say I also don't clearly remember. However, remember her definition of 'axiom,' and my above argument about context. As soon as the idea of 'change' enters the picture of existence, I'd have to say we're using an axiom here. However, apart from that, I agree: to speak about existence per se does not seem to imply anything about change, per se. Down that line, this is where the concept of 'time' might then be implied (or would it be 'applied'?). Hmmm...
    Yeah, I've always had a problem with the phrase "logically prior to" as well. And anyone who sees worthwhile similarities between Rand and Descartes is missing something there.

Jordan:
    Could you explain what you mean by "obtains" re what you see as "a problem" re "consciousness?" I'm lost there. The last time I heard/read "obtains" used in logical argumentation was in my college math-logic (which I call conjunction-logic) class...years ago, and considered it a pre-PC euphemism re the terms 'fact/truth.' ("holds" is another one.) But, maybe you mean something more...ontological?

Brendan:
    Your conclusion that "Rand has done little more than replicate [I love that word since Blade Runner 1st used 'replicant'; it's synonomous with duplicate, but...definitely has more pizzazz] Descartes' cogito" methinks is a bit...off. More accurately, your argument for it is.
    You argue that re Rand's argument-premises being a statement and a mental act, both being aspects of consciousness, (actually, I only see 1 there) that, therefore "In that case the 'something' of the conclusion 'something exists' must also be consciousness." I, uh, missed your 2nd premise in that argument of yours. --- Consider: we can say that a dog is 'aware' of X; I'd say that all Rand's statements re PRIMARY axioms apply thereby merely by considering the meaning of consciousness. Such does not imply that a dog is aware THAT they have awareness; they merely act from it, but do not know how to use it. --- Methinks you jumped to a conclusion re Descartes and Rand (and overlooked non-human consciousness.)
    I sorta see why you regard Rand's "primary axiom" (existence exists) as being "logically dependent on a particular theory of mind"...but...not quite. She never delineated what you call a 'theory.' She merely referred to the concept "consciousness" and it's performance of an action ("Grasping": hmmm...back to change/action/and time again. What a hall of mirrors this subject seems to become.) There's no 'theory' framework for "Existence exists" to depend upon that I see in her argument. Any 'theory' would fall more into Philosophical-Psychology (or, just the latter) and thereby is either derived from, or at least delimited by, her basic axioms; they'd not be the base (hence: 'axioms') for what she's arguing.
    True, her view of a human-consciousness was (conceptually-speaking) tabula rasa, opening the door to her idea of concept-formation (and thereby, volition) but such is neither a theory (so much as a single tenet of several competing theories) nor an inherently 'logically prior' necessity of presumably deriving that, therefore, "existence exists." The latter is stated as, per se, irrelevent to the existence of any consciousness, n'est pas? It's the action performed by a consciousness ('consciously' as such, or not) that all else, if not derived, is built upon.
    Otherwise, your posts have been...thought-provoking.

Daniel:
    Your argument re the status of 'axiomatic concepts' makes me think you are working from a different definition than us Randites work from. If NO empiric base is relevent thereby, then we're all talking in the framework of mere Rationalism, non?
Could you clarify, please? Uh, more diplomatically than your last post, please?
   

LLAP
J-D

(Edited by John Dailey on 8/08, 4:50pm)




Post 22

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 7:05pmSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

You continue to go around in unnecessary circles. The concept "existence" is merely the manner in which a consciousness identifies the fact of existence.

Concept and fact are not the same thing.

In the latest edition of ITOE, page 55-56 (or for other editions, the fourth paragraph of Chapter 6, "Axiomatic Concepts"), Rand made it clear that the three most fundamental facts that give rise to axiomatic concepts, existence, identity and consciousness are present in all states of awareness and are experienced and perceived directly. Making concepts out of these facts comes from an epistemological need of a conceptual mind.

The conceptual mind does not make facts by making concepts.

Merlin,

My comment about God stems from the fact that all primacy of consciousness arguments eventually end up at the mother of all consciousnesses, i.e. God. Brendan is postulating here the primacy of consciousness fallacy (even equating the "I think therefore I am" dude with Ayn Rand). Give this thing time to bake, then give a push here and a shove there and out pops God. It never fails.

John D,

We have much more in common than I originally thought. What a pleasant surprise. Don't worry about Daniel Barnes, though. Pretty soon he should come out with that "non-physical existence" thing for consciousness again, then I will start talking about spooks and Uga Uga again, and off we will go again.

Old story.

Michael




Post 23

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 8:30pmSanction this postReply
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John writes:
>Your argument re the status of 'axiomatic concepts' makes me think you are working from a different definition than us Randites work from.

Sigh, yes sometimes I forget.

>If NO empiric base is relevent thereby, then we're all talking in the framework of mere Rationalism, non?

The issue as I see it is *why* you'd need factual evidence before you could accept a self-evident proposition? Would you need to survey unmarried men before determining that they were all bachelors?...;-)

>Could you clarify, please? Uh, more diplomatically than your last post, please?

Sorry to be undiplomatic, just didn't like to see someone play the man and not the ball.

Descartes and Rand actually do have something in common. Both were seeking sources of certain knowledge.

regards
Daniel



Post 24

Monday, August 8, 2005 - 8:48pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan wrote:
>I think consciousness is Rand’s most contentious axiom

Hey Jordan,

I don't think any of her axioms would put off a determined radical subjectivist or idealist.

He could just define "existence" as his consciousness - his consciousness, his dream, would be all that exists. He'd still be consistent.

He could just then say he is "conscious of his consciousness" ie: he is self-conscious. Doesn't seem totally impossible as an argument.

And so on. He could even just say that the book containing Rand's argument, and Rand's argument itself is just his dream etc etc.

Why someone would want to be a radical subjectivist in the first place is quite another question! I must say I've never met one.

- Daniel







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Post 25

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 1:46amSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “I don’t see how. In a string of reductive “why” questions…”

I’m not asking “why” questions. I’m asking “what” questions. Your original comment about the test for axioms was “whether a thing can or can’t be reduced to constituent parts”. I’m not sure why you’re now introducing “why” questions.

Brendan 

John: “There's no 'theory' framework for "Existence exists" to depend upon that I see in her argument.”

Here’s a thought experiment: think “existence exists”, or a near-equivalent expression, say, “all that which exists, exists”, or more succinctly, “all existing things exist”. In and of itself, thinking this thought demonstrates nothing beyond the fact that “thinking exists”.

Enter tabula rasa, or blank slate. This theory claims that our rational faculty is empty of content until we experience sensory input. An analogy to the tabula rasa mind would be an automotive engine, with petrol the sensory input. The sensory input provides the fuel which the mind uses to create thoughts, imaginings etc.

The question then is: whence this sensory input? Obviously, it cannot come from the mind, which has no content. In that case, the sensory input must come from outside the mind, that is, from a – probably material -- reality that exists independently of the mind.

Therefore, for the blank slate theorist, the existence of thoughts – whether they’re “existence exists”, “John Galt was here” or any other comprehensible thought – is indirect confirmation that a world of material objects exists.

If we relate this theory to my thought experiment above, it can be seen that while thinking “existence exists” in and of itself establishes nothing beyond the fact that thinking exists, team this with tabula rasa, and – there’s your world of material objects, existing independently of consciousness.

This is pretty much the sort of world that Rand posited -- one that is ontologically prior to, and independent of, human consciousness. Merely intoning “existence exists” on its own cannot demonstrate the existence of this sort of world. The statement has to be supported by a underlying theory such as tabula rasa.

So if “existence exists” is not to be an empty banality, it must depend on a particular theory of mind. Hence, it is theory-laden. Unfortunately, being theory-laden, it cannot be “an irreducible primary” which “doesn't rest upon anything in order to be valid…” Therefore, it cannot be an axiom.

Brendan

Michael: “Rand made it clear that the three most fundamental facts that give rise to axiomatic concepts, existence, identity and consciousness are present in all states of awareness and are experienced and perceived directly.”

Try a simple experiment. Take the concept of “existence”. I think it would be fair to understand this to mean “all that which exists”. Demonstrate how you experience and perceive directly all that which exists.

Brendan




Post 26

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 3:06amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

The issue as I see it is *why* you'd need factual evidence before you could accept a self-evident proposition? Would you need to survey unmarried men before determining that they were all bachelors?...;-)
Yes, you would. When last I checked, the Pope was not a bachelor and neither was any of the Cardinals.

Everyone,
 
I'm not sure why anyone needs to take issue with what Brendan has written.  It is fairly obvious to me.

The real problem is the whole fuss over axioms.  I think the best essay showing the problems of the axiomatic method is this piece by Bob Bass. I think it is fairly easy to recognize Rand's axiomatic method as a form of foundationalism. Bass writes:

"Foundationalism is a view about the structure of our knowledge. The foundationalist envisages solid foundations driven into bedrock and a sound structure erected thereon ranging over the most fundamental facts and principles, the most detailed understanding and the most embracing generalizations. It says, in essence, that certain beliefs or truths or bits of knowledge are specially privileged starting points for any further development of our knowledge. These are where we have to start in order to "get off the ground" in finding out about the world. If we start anywhere else or deny any of these, the whole structure can come crashing down -- many of our beliefs will be completely unreliable because they will depend on mistakes we've made about the foundations. For any of our higher-level beliefs -- those that are one or more layers of evidence or argument removed from the foundations -- justifying them or showing them to be correct or (perhaps) probabilifying them or showing them to be acceptable means to show that they have the right kind of connection to the foundations."

Hopefully, some dogged foundationalists will read his paper and see the light.

Cheers,

Laj.




Post 27

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 3:59amSanction this postReply
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Laj wrote:
>Yes, you would. When last I checked, the Pope was not a bachelor and neither was any of the Cardinals.

They got married and no-one told me?

They weren't men, and no-one told the church?

;-p

Of course I am not a justificationist/foundationalist myself. And I'll just add that as well as the usual criticisms of "Existence exists" etc etc (Merrill cites the typical ones in his article above) I think the less cited but more telling one is that these axioms use verbal terms that are so vague as to be actually innocuous.

- Daniel



Post 28

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 4:03amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

A bachelor is an unmarried man who is a viable candidate to be a husband. Of course, I guess the meaning might have been bastardized in modern times, but no one would call the pope a bachelor in all seriousness.

Cheers,

Laj.




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Post 29

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 5:05amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

You keep talking in circles and the problem is that you do not separate facts from concepts.

Facts exist independently of concepts.

The mind is the faculty of awareness, of perceiving and organizing information about what does exist.

Even with all this talk about tabula rasa, you don't prove the invalidity of "existence exists." All you state by the verbiage is that the mind is a faculty with a specific nature. You also talk about one aspect of that nature (sensory input, which you call tabula rasa) as if it were the whole picture.

Then you claim that because of this particular nature, the mind's own context of existing is meaningless (using your own verbal circles, of course).

In order to be aware, one must be aware of something.

I have a gun. It is aimed at your head. The bullet is very real and has an existence completely outside of what is inside your head. Once the trigger is pulled, the existence of your own consciousness is history. You can deny that bullet all you want. You can go on and on about the concept "bullet" needing a mind for the fact "bullet" to exist. It is still going to waste your capacity to deny or postulate anything at all. Also, the bullet will still be around long after you are not.

That's a pretty good demonstration of existence being independent of consciousness.

Michael



Post 30

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 8:18amSanction this postReply
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REB,

 

Fair enough.

 

John, 

>Could you explain what you mean by "obtains" re what you see as "a problem" re "consciousness?" I'm lost there. The last time I heard/read "obtains" used in logical argumentation was in my college math-logic (which I call conjunction-logic) class...years ago, and considered it a pre-PC euphemism re the terms 'fact/truth.' ("holds" is another one.) But, maybe you mean something more...ontological?

 

I used “Obtains” to mean “is the case.” Whether being aware entails (1) being aware of something external to the awareness or (2) being aware only of the awareness itself is hard (impossible?) to test for. They are both at least logical possibilities, and if (2) obtains (i.e., is the case), then (1), Rand’s view of consciousness, does not obtain (i.e., is not the case). Put otherwise, it’s hard to disprove solipsism without cheating with definitions. (Read the rest of this post for a little elab.)

 

MSK,.

>Brendan is postulating here the primacy of consciousness fallacy (even equating the "I think therefore I am" dude with Ayn Rand).

 Interestingly, Descartes didn’t accept the primacy of consciousness over existence in his metaphysics. He thought consciousness and existence were co-primes, both fundamental and independent of each other. By positing his cogito, Descartes had to accept that awareness (consciousness axiom) was something (identity axiom) that existed (existence axiom). The trouble here is that we lack a logically compelling reason to accept an existence beyond our own consciousnesses. I think it was Hume who said that we can’t logically accept an independent external existence without cheating, and redefining consciousness to imply external existence counts as cheating. Still, I’ll take logical cheating over practical futility anyday.

 

Daniel, 

>He could just then say he is "conscious of his consciousness" ie: he is self-conscious. Doesn't seem totally impossible as an argument.

 Agreed. Still, Rand’s existence and identity axioms are on solid ground, even though they’re far less robust than lots of Objectivists make them out to be.

 

Brendan

>I’m not asking “why” questions. I’m asking “what” questions. Your original comment about the test for axioms was “whether a thing can or can’t be reduced to constituent parts”. I’m not sure why you’re now introducing “why” questions.

I was thinking of “why” probably in the same way you’re thinking of “what.” Reworded, consider a string of reductive “what gives rise to” questions. Questions like “what gives rise to existence?” or “what gives rise to identity?” can’t be answered non-circularly. According to Objectivism, existence and identity just are.

 

Jordan




Post 31

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 11:01amSanction this postReply
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Michael: “You also talk about one aspect of that nature (sensory input, which you call tabula rasa) as if it were the whole picture.”

Where do I call sensory input, tabula rasa? Do you know what the expression means? As for your claim that I talk about only one aspect of the mind’s nature: “The sensory input provides the fuel which the mind uses to create thoughts, imaginings etc.” Now who is this person talking about minds, thoughts and imaginings?

 “I have a gun. It is aimed at your head…”

Is this your usual method of persuasion? Rather than resorting to force, Michael, while don’t you really blow me out of the water and demonstrate how you experience and perceive directly “all that which exists”.

Brendan




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Post 32

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 12:44pmSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

I have no idea of what you mean by the following expression:

"all that which exists"

including the redundancy and how you mean "demonstrate" experiencing that.

On reality itself, I directly perceive reality through my five sense organs. It's out there. My consciousness is in here. Parts of reality (like light waves, sound waves, etc.) are suited to being transformed into mental units that my brain can use to understand it.

If these parts of reality did not exist, I would have nothing to perceive. Happily they do. They even can be measured and I can use them for building productive values.

Once I (as a consciousness) am no longer around to perceive them, they will still exist. I will not. I may not like that state of affairs but I wasn't asked about it before there was a me.

All this is obvious and not very clever, is it? Unfortunately, truth tends to be that way.

About me using force against you, you misread. I used words and an example, not force. I didn't use them against you either. I illustrated a point. You were just an element in the illustration. (Let's say I borrowed you for a minute.)

But if some day you should ever encounter a real bullet going toward your brain, why not talk to it and explain to it that it needs your mind in order to exist at all (or be experienced directly)? You might convince it. Who knows? It might not even blow your brains out - you know - 'cause it doesn't exist and all. You never know until you try. Right?

Er... I mean you can't really know anything anyway... no... I mean... experience anything directly... uh... you know... no... you can know it... ahem... I guess... it just doesn't exist... sort of like that bullet...

Michael




Post 33

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 1:39pmSanction this postReply
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MSK writes:
>I have no idea of what you (Brendan) mean by the following expression: "all that which exists"

MSK, can I ask what is so difficult to comprehend about this statement? Incidentally, are any other readers struggling to understand what Brendan means by it?

- Daniel



Post 34

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 4:22pmSanction this postReply
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Well Daniel,

In that context, does that mean I experience directly all the galaxies, stars, etc. (macro) and all the atoms and subparticles, etc. (micro) and the entire planet I live on in the medium forms of existence and somehow demonstrate that, or does that mean all that I encounter what is available for processing by my five senses and somehow demonstrate that, or does that mean merely the mental processes that allegedly create all the rest and somehow demonstrate that?

That's just for starters. Maybe you can enlighten me? You seem to be chomping at the bit.

Michael




Post 35

Tuesday, August 9, 2005 - 4:45pmSanction this postReply
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MSK writes:
>That's just for starters. Maybe you can enlighten me?

No need, you seem to have some idea now.

- Daniel



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Post 36

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - 2:20amSanction this postReply
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Michael: “In that context, does that mean I experience directly all the galaxies, stars, etc. (macro) and all the atoms and subparticles, etc. (micro) and the entire planet I live on in the medium forms of existence and somehow demonstrate that…”

That’s it. The next step is to rise to the challenge and demonstrate how you experience all that, that is, all that exists. Unless you can think of another near-synonymous phrase for “existence”.

Brendan

Oh, by the way, thinking about tabula rasa and existence and all that, here’s an interesting quote: “The very fact that one is aware of something is the proof that something in some form exists -- that existence exists -- existence being all that which exists.”

So, Consciousness proves Existence. Who'd a thought it?

This is from a site that runs an interesting set of short essays on Objectivism and philosophy and stuff. You should browse them some time.




Post 37

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - 6:23amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

You either accept the five senses or you don't. You obviously don't.

Man makes amplification/reduction instruments to observe what is outside the scope of direct experience through the five senses. That's how it works. He uses them to produce physical values too.

But this is silly. There's no purpose to continuing a discussion on this basis. I personally will not argue with a bullet.

Michael




Post 38

Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - 7:04amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

 

Existence exists doesn’t mean “I experience directly all the galaxies, stars, etc. (macro) and all the atoms and subparticles, etc. (micro) and the entire planet I live on in the medium forms of existence and somehow demonstrate that…” Rand did not mean that we directly experience all that which exists, or that existence of something depends on our awareness of it. Rather, “existence exists” just means (tautologically) that if something exists, then it exists. She used the existence of consciousness to demonstrate that existence exists. If existence didn’t exist, then the existence of consciousness would also not exist. And like I said, Rand answered whether there’s an existence outside of consciousnesses by defining an external existence into consciousness.

 

Jordan




Post 39

Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 1:16amSanction this postReply
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Michael: “But this is silly. There's no purpose to continuing a discussion on this basis.”

So you’re not going to take up my challenge? I can understand that. After all, if “existence” means “all that exists”, and if all knowledge is ultimately grounded in perception – no perception, no knowledge – and you cannot perceive “all that exists”, then you cannot know “existence”.

Brendan




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