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Post 220

Saturday, October 1, 2005 - 11:09amSanction this postReply
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Roger, Post #219

Two points:

(1) “these three are [not] axioms of metaphysics. Instead, it is clear that they are axioms of experience, i.e., of awareness of reality -- not axioms of reality or existence.”

It may be clear to you but it was not clear to Rand. She wrote on p. 55 of ITOE that “An axiomatic concept is an identification of a primary fact of reality…” And on p. 59 we read, “axiomatic concepts refer to facts of reality.” Now you may be right and Rand wrong, but Rand does seem to think she is referring to reality. Obviously she will then have a big problem with consciousness, but that’s the way it may be.

(2) “I cannot escape the fact that I am the biological product of two human beings, but that doesn't make them axiomatic. I cannot escape the fact that I need oxygen in order to survive, but that doesn't make oxygen axiomatic. Being the son of two human beings and needing to breathe oxygen are necessary conditions of my being aware of anything, but that doesn't make them axioms. Just because I cannot "escape" something doesn't make it an axiom. Again, you have to identify the context of the "escape."”

Again Rand writes as follows: an axiomatic concept cannot be escaped.” P. 59. She gets this test for axiomatic concepts from Aristotle.

Fred




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Post 221

Saturday, October 1, 2005 - 5:43pmSanction this postReply
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Fred,

Let me step in for a sec.

Way before consciousness or awareness, life as a temporary type of existent is an axiom. There is no conscious awareness without life, but there is life without conscious awareness.

Michael



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Post 222

Sunday, October 2, 2005 - 1:29amSanction this postReply
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I previously wrote:

“…these three are [not] axioms of metaphysics. Instead, it is clear that they are axioms of experience, i.e., of awareness of reality -- not axioms of reality or existence.”

Fred Seddon replied:
 

“It may be clear to you but it was not clear to Rand. She wrote on p. 55 of ITOE that “An axiomatic concept is an identification of a primary fact of reality…” And on p. 59 we read, “axiomatic concepts refer to facts of reality.” Now you may be right and Rand wrong, but Rand does seem to think she is referring to reality. Obviously she will then have a big problem with consciousness, but that’s the way it may be.” 

I will go out on a limb here and say that Rand made an error in her statements on p. 55 and p. 59 of ITOE.  

First, let’s be clear on the distinction between axiomatic concepts and axioms. Axioms are propositions, and as such are, like all propositions, made out of concepts.  

Secondly, let’s also be clear on the distinction between existents and facts. An existent is something that exists, and it is grasped by means of a concept. A fact is something about something that exists, and it is grasped by means of a proposition. (E.g., the fact of my car’s being silver is something about my car, and it is expressed in a proposition as “my car is silver.”) 

Thus, “Existence” is the axiomatic concept by which we grasp, as a whole, every existent that exists (past, present, and future). “Existence exists,” then, is the axiomatic proposition (i.e., axiom) by which we grasp the fact that every existent that exists does exist. So, to be precise, it is not the axiomatic concept “Existence” that refers to a fact of reality, but the axiom “Existence exists.” (Rand and Peikoff sometimes refer to this as the “existence axiom,” which ought to be clear enough, yet some manage to confuse the axiomatic concept of “Existence” with the axiom, “Existence exists.”) 

Even with the clarification of this shortcoming in Rand’s treatment of axiomatic concepts vs. axioms, however, Fred’s challenge still stands. How can I say that Rand’s axioms are just propositions about experience or knowledge of reality, when it seems clear that she is using them to refer to what she calls “primary facts of reality”?

 First, it must be acknowledged that the “consciousness axiom” – “Consciousness is conscious of reality” – is the identification of a fact of reality, namely, the identification of something (its being conscious of reality) about an existent (consciousness).  But a primary fact?  In what sense is consciousness primary in reality? We know that it would be true that “existence exists” and “things are what they are,” even if (as in the distant past) there were no consciousness to be aware of those facts. These facts are universal, omnipresent, and eternal, even in the absence of consciousness. However, if no consciousness exists (as was the case in the distant past), there is no fact of consciousness’s being conscious at that time. “Consciousness is conscious of reality” is true of all consciousness, but it is not true of all reality, like the existence and identity axioms are. It is not true of all reality that consciousness is conscious of it. There is a huge amount of reality that consciousness is not aware of! 

Now, if there is some other sense in which consciousness being conscious of reality can be regarded as a primary fact of reality, I haven’t heard anyone suggest what that is. To be primary, means that you can’t further reduce something beyond that point. It is true that you cannot reduce a given experience or state of awareness any further than the three main Objectivist axioms.  However, there are many things existing in reality (and that are what they are) that do not even involve consciousness, so how can consciousness’s being consciousness be an irreducible primary fact about those things??  

This is such a howler, that I cannot conceive that Rand actually intended to imply such a thing by the quoted statements from p. 55 and p. 59 of ITOE. Instead, I think, as I have said before, that consciousness, existence, and identity are primaries within awareness (or experience). 


I also previously wrote: “I cannot escape the fact that I am the biological product of two human beings, but that doesn't make them axiomatic. I cannot escape the fact that I need oxygen in order to survive, but that doesn't make oxygen axiomatic. Being the son of two human beings and needing to breathe oxygen are necessary conditions of my being aware of anything, but that doesn't make them axioms. Just because I cannot "escape" something doesn't make it an axiom. Again, you have to identify the context of the "escape."” 
Fred commented: “Again
Rand writes as follows: an axiomatic concept cannot be escaped.” p. 59. She gets this test for axiomatic concepts from Aristotle.” 

The context of Rand’s use of the concept of “escape” is not existential and causal but conceptual. She means that you can’t engage in any discussion whatsoever without assuming certain concepts. Fred is trying to tell us that “space” is such a concept. I am disagreeing, by pointing out that while space is an existential necessity for our being able to engage in any discussion, it is not a necessary conceptual element of every such discussion.

Michael Stuart Kelly wrote: “Way before consciousness or awareness, life as a temporary type of existent is an axiom. There is no conscious awareness without life, but there is life without conscious awareness.” 

All this proves is that, in reality – as opposed to within experience or awareness – even life, which is not omnipresent, is a more widespread phenomenon. But we’re not just talking about life or consciousness, the existents. We’re talking about the facts that consciousness is (the power of certain living beings to be) conscious of reality – and that life is the power of certain entities to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action. They are true of all consciousness and of all life – but they are not true of all reality. While “consciousness is conscious of reality” is an axiom of experience (and psychology), and “life is self-sustaining and self-generated action” is an axiom of biology, neither is an axiom of reality. 

Roger Bissell, Post-Randian musician/writer

(Edited by Roger Bissell on 10/02, 1:31am)




Post 223

Sunday, October 2, 2005 - 4:39amSanction this postReply
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Nicely said, Roger...



Post 224

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 4:04pmSanction this postReply
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Roger,

"I will go out on a limb here and say that Rand made an error in her statements on p. 55 and p. 59 of ITOE."

I think you are right. On the one hand she is trying to do metaphysics, Aristotle's study of being qua being--of what anything has to be in order to exist, but that discipline does not include consciousness except for the pan-psychist. (People like Leibniz, Whitehead and Northrop.) One of the points of my original post is how much is let in if one use the "the act of grasping" as the motor of the implications, instead of propositions like existence exists. So she winds up doing something like your "axioms of experience" but that seems to land us Berkeley's lap, since the esse of experience is percipi. And where is Rand's realism after that???

Fred





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Post 225

Monday, October 3, 2005 - 8:31pmSanction this postReply
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Roger,

Just one point. There is no awareness (consciousness) without life. The fact of being aware at all implies being alive.

Michael




Post 226

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:18amSanction this postReply
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Roger, Post 225.


"There is no awareness (consciousness) without life. The fact of being aware at all implies being alive."

And that would make life an axiom???!!!

Let's call this the axiom proliferation problem in Galt's Speech.

Fred





Post 227

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 9:46amSanction this postReply
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An axiom of awareness - one has to be alive to have awareness...?



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Post 228

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 1:07pmSanction this postReply
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Fred Seddon wrote: 

On the one hand [Rand] is trying to do metaphysics, Aristotle's study of being qua being--of what anything has to be in order to exist, but that discipline does not include consciousness except for the pan-psychist. (People like Leibniz, Whitehead and Northrop.)

Yes, exactly. We’ve known for some time (see her Journals) that Rand excludes cosmology from metaphysics, saying that such questions as the ultimate nature of matter is an appropriate issue for science, not philosophy. She and Peikoff allow that metaphysics does have veto power over physics, insofar as physics tries to propose a model of the nature of matter that entails some sort of contradiction. Since the Law of Identity and its implications (like the Law of Contradiction, the Law of Causality, etc.) are the only proper subject matter of metaphysics, it is precisely here that metaphysics can weigh on pronouncements by the sciences – but only here. 

I’ve often wondered – and so has Robert Campbell in his posts on SOLO and in pieces in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies – why Rand didn’t apply the same standards to questions about the ultimate nature of consciousness.  If matter is appropriately dealt with in physics, rather than philosophy, then why isn’t consciousness, also, appropriately dealt with in science, viz., psychology, rather than philosophy? 

I mean, it’s one thing for a philosopher to argue that certain claims about consciousness involve a contradiction, and that metaphysics can weigh in on those claims. I’m thinking specifically here about “The Contradiction of Determinism,” Nathaniel Branden’s essay in The Objectivist Newsletter which was reprinted in his book, The Psychology of Self-Esteem. It’s completely appropriate for a psychologist to speculate or theorize about his subject matter: the nature of consciousness – and then for a philosopher to assess those ideas in terms of their compatibility with the metaphysical guard-dog, the Law of Contradiction. (Branden was wearing two hats in this essay: psychological theorist and philosopher [of science].) 

But it’s quite another for a philosopher to make positive claims about the nature of consciousness, such as that the senses are valid or that man has free will, and to make these topics part of metaphysics or epistemology. 

So, what are we to make of the treatment by Rand et al in the Objectivist metaphysics of the issue of the relationship between existence and consciousness? If metaphysics properly deals only with the Law of Identity and its implications, what is Primacy of Existence (over Consciousness) doing in there?? 

Well, as it turns out (the way I see it, anyhow), the Objectivist discussion of the issue of Primacy of Existence vs. Primacy of Consciousness should not be part of the Objectivist metaphysics per se, but instead should be regarded as a case of the application of the Objectivist metaphysics to claims made about a psychological issue: the ultimate nature of consciousness. Some philosophers, acting like psychological theorists, make claims about consciousness creating Existence, rather than being aware of Existence. This is Primacy of Consciousness. In swoops Rand et al, exercising their metaphysical veto power, saying no, that involves a contradiction, and that the non-contradictory alternative to this, which has to be true, is the Primacy of Existence. 

This is completely analogous to Objectivist metaphysicians saying that physicists propose a contradiction when they claim that subatomic particles can be in two places at the same time, or go from one location to the other without passing the intervening space, etc. If you want to call this analysis “Objectivist philosophy of science” (i.e., philosophy of physics), that’s perfectly fine – but it’s not part of the Objectivist metaphysics. Similarly, I maintain, however, you should also call the Objectivist critique of the Primacy of Consciousness part of “Objectivist philosophy of science” (i.e., philosophy of psychology), not part of the Objectivist metaphysics. What’s sauce for matter is sauce for consciousness, eh? 

To put it another way:  why do Rand et al allow those subjectivists they label “Idealists” to dictate part of the subject matter of metaphysics, when they don’t allow those subjectivists labeled “Materialists” to do so? If applications of the Objectivist ethics are not (as some argue) properly part of the Objectivist ethics, then why treat any application of the Objectivist metaphysics as part of the Objectivist metaphysics? 

Roger Bissell, Post-Randian musician/writer




Post 229

Tuesday, October 4, 2005 - 4:29pmSanction this postReply
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Roger,

Amen.

Fred



Post 230

Saturday, February 24, 2007 - 7:54amSanction this postReply
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“Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists” (AS 1015). Axiomatic status is being conveyed in the preceding statement from a general proposition “Existence exists” to the particular corollary propositions “Something exists” and “One exists having consciousness of that which exists” via a particular act of grasping the meaning and truth of the general assertion “Existence exists.”

 

“Something exists” is a proposition that on its own would leave open whether more than one thing exists. Affirmation of this proposition does not leave it on its own, of course. And anyway, it is clear from the context of the statement in Rand’s text, which speaks of individual acts of grasping by individual minds, that “Something exists” is to be understood as affirming that multiple individual existents exist.

 

John Duns Scotus (1265–1308) would say that it would not be a contradiction to deny that individual existents exist, yet affirm the general proposition “Existence exists.” Likewise, according to Scotus, it would not be a contradiction to affirm that stoneness or combustion or redness exist, yet to deny that there are any particular stones or particular occasions of things burning or things being red.

 

Rand says to the contrary: it is a contradiction to affirm the existence of stoneness, yet deny the existence of individual stones. Fundamentally, “that which exists is concrete” (P-E of Art 23), and stoneness as a nature does not itself amount to a concrete individual. I venture that the conveyance of axiomatic status to Rand’s two implied corollaries is the same as her logical join of stoneness to particular stones. The act of grasping the proposition that there is a character of stoneness implies that one grasps that there are individual stones. The act of grasping that there is space implies that there are regions of space.

 

It would not be a contradiction to affirm “Existence exists,” yet deny that there are stones or that there is space. It would be a contradiction to affirm that “Existence exists,” yet deny that any particular individual things exist. Such individuals known are particular stones and regions of space, but knowledge of these existents is not axiomatic in Rand’s system because they are not entailed by comprehension of the meaning and truth of “Existence exists.”

 

A philosophic axiom is a statement identifying the base of knowledge such that the axiom statement is “necessarily contained in all others” (AS 1040). The containment of “There are particular regions of space” within “There is space” has the same logical necessity as that in the containment of “Something exists” within “Existence exists.” But that same logical necessity of containment does not hold “There is space” within “Existence exists.” Nor does that same logical necessity of containment hold “There are regions of space” within “Something exists.” True, “There are regions of space” is contained under some stripe of logical necessity in “There are stones,” but the latter is not contained under any stripe of logical necessity in “Something exists.”

 

It may well be—as I think it be—that not only is every existent concrete, every existent is physical and therefore spatially situated. These are further general propositions of metaphysics not implied as axioms by Rand’s method.

 
Rand’s axiom-dynamic contains its own fairly tight constraints on the multiplication of implied axioms. I have discussed whether this dynamic allows the addition of axioms addressing the existence of space. (See also my preceding posts #2, #10, #207.) I have not discussed the possibility of adding axioms concerning change and time. See #12, #208, #215, and #219 for some thinking about those possible extensions.



Post 231

Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 7:16amSanction this postReply
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From #207:

 

Rand takes it as axiomatic that, for every existent, to exist is to be something with a specific nature. This is Rand's thesis that existence is identity. A year ago, in an incomplete study, I succeeded in constructing proofs that some refined propositions intended to be covered by this thesis are indeed axiomatic. . . .”

 

Some of this work can be found here: Existence-Is-Identity Axioms

 

See also:

Way of Truth / Before Rand / Metaphysics and Logic / Origins of Logic




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Post 232

Sunday, August 17, 2008 - 5:31pmSanction this postReply
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In response to post 207

Where is your Mind? Does existence imply existence in some place? It depends on the type of existent considered. Here is a brief essay:

Does Being Mean Being in Some Place?



Post 233

Sunday, August 17, 2008 - 11:26pmSanction this postReply
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Ted,

Your article was a joy to read. Let me run this by you....

A specific relationship is one between specified units and relationship is the subject of awareness at a specific moment for a specific person. Someone looks at a man playing with his son at the park and thinks about fatherhood. That thought is about THAT father and THAT son, they are entities, each with their own location and that relationship, therefore, implies the joint locations as a byproduct (often of no importance).

And since all relationships are between specified referents (those of substance and those without, those that are perceptual units and those that are concepts -like friendship or fatherhood), wouldn't a concept I entertain about relationships between those who are friends and those who are fathers (e.g., "Those who are fathers ought to make their friendships come second") still have 'units'? The 'location' of an abstraction is in the awareness in the sense of being it's content, and concepts being related each subsume concretes, and therefore the context of their concrete's locations. I'm not sure that I'm not falling into a trap of infinite regress, but I suspect that 'location' will sometimes be ANY place, other times a limiting context might appear on that measured dimension.

You said, "...if a relation existed in a place, this place would itself be a relation." But what if we say "if relation is about concretes that have a place, their place is implied in, but necessarily relevant to the relation." How else could one point out the flaw in an argued relation that couldn't be so, because of the related unit's respective places?



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