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Post 40

Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 1:33amSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “Rather, “existence exists” just means (tautologically) that if something exists, then it exists.”

There are several problems with this.

The word “if” denotes a hypothetical statement, and a hypothetical statement is not necessarily true – it may be false. But for Rand , “existence exists” is a necessarily true statement. And since Rand claims that all valid concepts must have real referents, “existence” functions as more than a hypothetical. It claims that some things actually do exist. 

You equate “existence exists” with “something exists”, but the latter denotes a particular thing, not everything. It’s an identity statement. In other words, it denotes the identity axiom, not the existence axiom. In that case, “existence exist” cannot mean -- tautologically or otherwise -- “something exists”.

The corresponding existence axiom would be equivalent to “some things exist”. But anybody – idealists, materialists, Marxists, “modern philosophers” -- can agree that “some things exist”, because it says nothing about what exists. In that case, nothing in particular follows from the assertion.

“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.”

I’m not sure what you mean by the existence of consciousness. Presumably, you are referring to the referents of the concept, that is, minds. But the existence of minds merely demonstrates that minds exist. If the existence of minds demonstrates existence, this is to succumb to the primacy of consciousness. So it’s unsurprising that Rand has to define an external existence into consciousness. It’s the only way she can get it there. Which is another way of saying that the axioms are theory-laden.

Brendan




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Post 41

Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 4:36amSanction this postReply
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Sorry Brendan,

Won't wash. You're running the old, "if a tree falls an a forest and no one observes it, did it really happen?" thing.

You don't have to have come into personal contact with all the water in the ocean to know that there is an ocean.

You don't have to come in contact will all bullets to know that one which you have never seen before can kill you. (For some reason you don't talk about that one.)

If your challenge is to demonstrate personal contact with all that exists, then I challenge you to walk on the sun or hold your breath for 24 hours without dying. Don't want to take up my challenge? I don't blame you. ("Guess I showed you, huh?")

Does all that seem silly? That's because it is, like your so-called challenge. You challenge a person to do the impossible, then act a if you proved something other than that the fact that what you challenged was impossible.

There is an illuminating statement from your post to Jordan:
If the existence of minds demonstrates existence, this is to succumb to the primacy of consciousness.
This not only shows that you have no idea of what an axiomatic concepts is, but that you have no intention of ever trying to find out.

I hate to say this about anybody, but this is an anti-conceptual mentality by choice.

Michael




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Post 42

Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 8:10amSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

 

Yes, the premise of “if existence exists, then it exists” is framed as a hypo. I was rephrasing “existence exists,” not forming an argument for it. And the premise is necessarily true (i.e., tautological), just as it’s necessarily true that “if pigs could fly, then pigs could fly.”

>You equate “existence exists” with “something exists”, but the latter denotes a particular thing, not everything.

No. Existence is not a thing, nor is it every thing. In my view, it’s a property, a property of any and every thing that exists, i.e., a property of existents. Again, it’s tautological, just like “all pink pigs are pink” is tautological.

>But the existence of minds merely demonstrates that minds exist.

Let’s examine this. You commit yourself to the existence axiom by accepting that minds are. You commit yourself to the identity axiom by accepting that minds are something (either properties or things). And you commit yourself to the consciousness axiom by accepting that minds are something that you are aware of (or are “mindful of,” if you prefer).

 

Now I agree with you that accepting “minds are something that exist” won’t automatically demonstrate that something external to the mind exists, if unlike Rand, we think of “awareness” in a non-relational way (Perhaps as Descartes did). We could well be stuck in solipsism, where existence is confined only to mental stuff.

 

Of course, if you’re really going for the futile view of solipsism here, then you should leave us (i.e., you) alone and stop talking to yourself. :p Really, to accept Rand’s formula for external reality, you need to accept Rand’s view that awareness (or mind or consciousness) is initially responsive – even if it’s actively and contributorily so – and not initially self-substantive. To be sure, it might be a mistake to call this view a “theory” because it’s not so much testable. Instead, I think it’s better viewed as a philosophic foundation upon which theories are built.

 

Jordan




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Post 43

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 1:52pmSanction this postReply
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Well said, Jordan and Michael.

Ed



Post 44

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 4:14pmSanction this postReply
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Now I agree with you that accepting “minds are something that exist” won’t automatically demonstrate that something external to the mind exists, if unlike Rand, we think of “awareness” in a non-relational way (Perhaps as Descartes did). We could well be stuck in solipsism, where existence is confined only to mental stuff.

But does the fact that some contents of mind are relational have to be axiomatic?  Isn't it just commonsense, based upon many lines of argument? 

Even the solipsist doesn't dispute his experiences - his explanation for their source is different.  And some contents of mind are related to other contents within the mind in such a way that the axiom existence exists doesn't account for (it isn't supposed to account for that, but many Objectivists are careless when it comes to knowing how far they can run with "existence exists") and in a way that solipsism and Cartesian Dualism do grapple with empirically (the nature of dreams, memories etc.).

Brendan's overall point is simple - existence exists is not a substantial improvement upon Descartes, I think, therefore I am.

(Edited by Abolaji Ogunshola on 8/12, 4:17pm)




Post 45

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 8:15pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan:
>Of course, if you’re really going for the futile view of solipsism here, then you should leave us (i.e., you) alone and stop talking to yourself. :p

Hi Jordan,

I think Brendan would certainly agree with you. He is not *advocating* that point of view, merely as Laj says:

>Brendan's overall point is simple - existence exists is not a substantial improvement upon Descartes, I think, therefore I am.

Exactly. His point is that Rand's axioms do not actually finally refute solipsism as they are commonly considered to do. He is not saying that solipsism is the correct theory. I believe you too agree that the axioms are not quite all they are cracked up to be, even tho you consider them in a better light than I might?

- Daniel



Post 46

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 10:12pmSanction this postReply
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Michael: “If your challenge is to demonstrate personal contact with all that exists, then I challenge you to walk on the sun or hold your breath for 24 hours without dying.”

But I haven’t claimed to be able to do those sorts of things, have I? But you claimed that existence, identity and consciousness are present in all states of awareness and are experienced and perceived directly.

“You challenge a person to do the impossible…”

Happy that you agree your claim is impossible.

Brendan




Post 47

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 10:14pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “No. Existence is not a thing, nor is it every thing. In my view, it’s a property, a property of any and every thing that exists, i.e., a property of existents.”

Regarding existence as a property would certainly be more consistent with some of Rand’s statements about existence. But since, as you say, a property is not a thing, then “existence exists” is an abstraction all the way down. Whether or not if affirms something about the real world is another matter.

More to the point, you and Michael have quite different understandings of “existence”. For you, it’s a property, something that can be asserted of something. For Michael, it’s things. (He’s just not sure what sort of things, but he thinks that galaxies and guns feature in there somewhere.)

So you can both accept the truth of the statement “existence exists”, even though you have quite different conceptions of what it means.

But “existence” is supposed to be a single, unitary concept – a single thought that subsumes all subsequent thoughts. Yet here we have two: “existence-as-property” and “existence-as-things”. So “existence” cannot be a unitary thought.

Brendan




Post 48

Friday, August 12, 2005 - 10:40pmSanction this postReply
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Hey Jordan,

There's a side issue I also wanted your view on, as you seem to be pretty good with the ol' logic (better than me at least)

There seems to be a tendency to treat Rand's axioms as if they were physically existing objects or processes - as not just supported by facts of reality, but as "facts of reality" themselves. They are certainly "implied" throughout the world of objective physical facts as well as human knowledge of those facts

Merlin Jetton's quote from the ITOE,if i understand it correctly, makes this point:

>Rand:"An axiomatic concept...is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge"

I suppose also people might be tempted to treat them as concrete objects or processes (for example, physical processes in the brain) to avoid the dreaded Platonism. Do you think this is the case? It's not all that clear to me, but I suspect it might be. (Maybe I should go find the quotes I'm thinking of)

If so, do you think this is actually a simple hypostatization ie: treating something abstract as if it was physical? Isn't this generally regarded as a logical error?

Also good point Merlin:
>Doesn't the "act of grasping" refer to Consciousness, which is axiomatic?

regards
Daniel



Post 49

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 9:08amSanction this postReply
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Daniel, you said:

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"His point is that Rand's axioms do not actually finally refute solipsism ... "
-----------------

Daniel (are you really out there?), in an argument between 2 people** -- solipsism does not require refutation (the mere fact of the argument entails the falsity of solipsism -- the various skepticisms are all self-refuting; they don't require our "help").

**side note: arguments are things that necessarily require 2 or more people


Ed (or; and you're going to have make a choice here: that voice in your head)



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Post 50

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 1:58pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Daniel,

You liked Laj's bit:
>Brendan's overall point is simple - existence exists is not a substantial improvement upon Descartes, I think, therefore I am.

Descartes could've gotten more out of his cogito than he did. By accepting his self-awareness, he implicitly accepted that he was, that he was something, and that he was aware that he was something. Descartes explicated only the last bit; Rand captured all three.

Anyway, you wrote:
He is not saying that solipsism is the correct theory.
Well, here're the options: (1) existence trumps consciousnes (Rand's view); (2) consciousness trumps existence (theological view); (3) conscious and existence are equal (Descartes' view; (3) consciousness exists but existence doesn't, save as some part of consciousness (solipsist view); (4) existence exists but consciousness doesn't (maybe Skinner's view); (5) neither existence nor consciousness exists (I don't know whose view). I don't know which of these Brendan is going for. But there's the list should he care to enlighten us.

As for your side-issue... Not sure I understand, but I'll venture a response nonetheless.

I think Objectivism views an axiom as an omnipresent property, and because Objectivists think that some things are nonphysical, they reject that axioms are necessarily physical. That is, an omnipresent property (e.g., an axiom) must also be a property of any nonphysical thing. Otherwise such a property wouldn't be omnipresent.
There seems to be a tendency to treat Rand's axioms as if they were physically existing objects or processes - as not just supported by facts of reality, but as "facts of reality" themselves.
Well, for many Objectivists, a thing can be a fact of reality and also be nonphysical, so I guess your statement wouldn't apply to them. That aside, existence is a property of something just like any other property is a property of something. A red ball has the property red. Its redness is not just supported by the facts of reality but is itself a fact of reality.

To be sure, redness cannot be removed from the ball. Neither can existence be removed from the red ball. Accepting that such properties can't be removed - only mentally isolated - can be construed as a rejection of dreaded Platonism. Those who think that red can physically stand on its own are, I think, hypostatizing because red on its own is merely an abstraction. I wonder if that helped answer your question.

Brendan,
Yet here we have two: “existence-as-property” and “existence-as-things”. So “existence” cannot be a unitary thought.
"Unitary thought"?  First, people disagree over the meanings of things all the time. That doesn't change whether the thing itself is efficacious. The truth or falsity of "existence exists" rests not one bit on whether Michael and I might agree. Second, "existence exists" isn't supposed by be a "single though that subsumed all subsequent thoughts." It's supposed (at least in part) be a property that's present in all thoughts. It's not like all subsequent thoughts precipitate from "existence exists," if that's what you were suggesting.
But since, as you say, a property is not a thing, then “existence exists” is an abstraction all the way down.

Not sure what you mean by "all the way down." Like I was saying to Daniel, Existence as a property just like red is a property. You perceive existence, just as you perceive red. (Sidenote: I know color is weirder than this, but still, please try to humor the example.)

It would help me if you would select which position of the five that I've listed at the beginning of this post. I think the other four positions provide less useful frameworks than Rand's. Also, it would help me if you would define "awareness" non-circularly of course. To me, it's hard to make sense of "awareness" unless you take Rand's meaning of it. And also, I find her view of awareness more useful than the alternatives.

Jordan

(Edited by Jordan on 8/13, 1:59pm)




Post 51

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 2:44pmSanction this postReply
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Jordan, 

Descartes could've gotten more out of his cogito than he did. By accepting his self-awareness, he implicitly accepted that he was, that he was something, and that he was aware that he was something. Descartes explicated only the last bit; Rand captured all three.

Descartes wasn't trying to develop a set of axioms with which he planned to transform the world, but from the summaries of Descartes I've read, Descartes also postulated the reliability of our knowledge of the world.  He attributed this reliability to God's virtue.  Since our awareness of the external world is/was a huge question for traditional philosophy, I'm fairly surprised that you, Jordan, think that Existence Exists, with its implicit refusal to address problems related to illusions, dreams, perception (direct/indirect) and cognitive errors,  constitutes a significant improvement on Descartes.
 Well, here're the options: (1) existence trumps consciousnes (Rand's view); (2) consciousness trumps existence (theological view); (3) conscious and existence are equal (Descartes' view; (3) consciousness exists but existence doesn't, save as some part of consciousness (solipsist view); (4) existence exists but consciousness doesn't (maybe Skinner's view); (5) neither existence nor consciousness exists (I don't know whose view). I don't know which of these Brendan is going for. But there's the list should he care to enlighten us.

Does Brendan have to go for anything to argue that Rand didn't beat Descartes?

Notice that implicit in your discussion is a materialist view of existence.  Are you comfortable with that?

I'll end with that.

Cheers,

Laj. 




Post 52

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 7:14pmSanction this postReply
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Once again a thread has been brought to the Next Level of inanity.

Or vice versa.

)(*)(




Post 53

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 9:27pmSanction this postReply
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Brendan,

I don't know whether you are really interested in these ideas or simply playing semantics. Your postulations show clearly that you have a very vague idea - or no idea at all - of what axiomatic concepts are. I will still operate for the time being under the view that you are really interested in the ideas and are suffering from a misconception.

To try to make it clear, let's call it a point of view.

Existence is much larger than any one consciousness. Existence exists outside of awareness. Awareness is merely one part of existence. 

From this premise, an axiom is identified by a consciousness to be able to fit itself into a proper context - to find its correct place metaphysically, so to speak, to fit itself into something much larger than itself. It depends on existence as a fact for its own self to exist. In order to understand and build a conceptual structure, it must accept this limitation.

An axiom cannot be proved by conceptual logic. It is merely a conceptual form of stating an observation that includes the process of concept formation under it, not above it. This is where our points of view do not agree. And this is why Rand (and I) can state unequivocally that:
Existence, identity and consciousness are present in all states of awareness and are experienced and perceived directly.
What perceives them is smaller than them, belongs to them, depends on them in order to function, so it is not necessary to experience everything that exists to know the axiom is a fact. The fact came before the awareness, not after.

When you imply the contrary like Descartes, that consciousness is larger than all that exists ("I think, therefore I am"), you can make the kind of "challenges" you formulate and think that they are more than they are (simple assertions of the impossible) and that they prove something. They don't.

About my understanding and Jordan's of existence, I believe we are talking about the same thing, merely using different words.

Existence is an all-inclusive fact, not merely a property. You cannot remove it and still have a thing, attribute, action, process or whatever at all. It does not belong to a thing, separate from it. It is the very fact of the thing. We conceptualize "existence" merely to focus on a facet of a whole (for better understanding), not isolate a component of that whole.

Can you grasp that?

Existence is not something we put under our internal conceptual organization. It is not a property in that sense. It is bigger than all of us. It includes all of us, includes all things, attributes, actions, processes, etc. and includes all time, past, present and future. We do not include existence. It includes us. That is how we perceive it directly.

When Jordan says that it is a property, he is talking about a feature that can be identified that is common to all things (focus on a facet of a whole). Not about an element that belongs to some and not to others (a component).

When he talks about something being not physical, I believe he is talking about the focus on such a feature, not some "abstract" that is floating around in the universe cut off from physical existence.

So, unless Jordan says something contrary to this, I believe you are mistaken about both of us.

btw - Existence does include both galaxies and bullets. I am very clear about these things, and, contrary to what you say, you seem to be the one who is not clear on any of it.

You would do well to accept the existence of bullets if you ever come up against them. If not, you might discover that nonexistence means just that. Not existing any longer.

Boom.

Michael



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Post 54

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 9:40pmSanction this postReply
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Hi I. N. Rand,

Thank you for that opinion. Just like you, there are many posters who are thinking the same thing.

I argue this crap precisely for this to become evident.

For the longest time now on Solo, every time axioms are discussed, there are long twisted threads that go nowhere. It is always the same dudes. They all try to sneak in nonsensical ideas based on primacy of consciousness (which they claim vehemently that they are not doing).

So you argue with them a bit and get them to state clearly what they are saying (which is nigh impossible, but once in a while some little thing that is vaguely clear pops out), or you get them talking in the circles of their own twisted logic.

Then readers with good minds and a good sense of life think, "What a pile of horseshit."

Precisely.

Michael



Post 55

Saturday, August 13, 2005 - 11:32pmSanction this postReply
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What great responses again, Jordan and Michael!

Ed



Post 56

Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 12:16amSanction this postReply
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Laj, you've written:

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Descartes wasn't trying to develop a set of axioms with which he planned to transform the world,
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On the contrary, he was and did. Here's his own words on the matter:

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Aristotle's most enthusiastic contemporary followers ... have an interest in my refraining from publishing the principles of the philosophy I use. For my principles are so very simple and evident that in publishing them I should, as it were, be opening windows and admitting daylight into that cellar where they have gone down to fight.
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I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last.
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When we become aware that we are thinking things, this is a primary notion which is not derived by means of any syllogism. When someone says 'I am thinking, therefore I am ... he ... recognizes it as something self-evident by a simple intuition of the mind.
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Also, you said:

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but from the summaries of Descartes I've read, Descartes also postulated the reliability of our knowledge of the world.
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But how does he come to 'reason' out this (disputable) reliability? Answer: by still postulating further -- on into the supernatural -- to a benevolent God that 'just wouldn't ever' deceive us ...

On God:
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... God, who is supremely good and the source of truth ...
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... it is no surprise that God, in creating me, should have placed this idea in me ...
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... we can know nothing for certain until we are aware that God exists ...
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On reliability:

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Notwithstanding the immense goodness of God, the nature of man as a combination of mind and body is such that it is bound to mislead him from time to time.
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On Brendan, you wrote:

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Does Brendan have to go for anything in order to argue ... ?
----------------

Only if he wishes to be respected as a rational creature -- one who may create value in this world. Those who don't go for anything are called cynics -- those whom Oscar Wilde characterized well with this quote:

"A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

Because of the kind of creatures we are, rational discussion is necessarily about gaining values. One who knows nothing of value (one who won't "go for" something, but only against all things), would be worthless to engage -- except in order to exercise your mental faculties.

Ed




Post 57

Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 2:08amSanction this postReply
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Jordan: “First, people disagree over the meanings of things all the time. That doesn't change whether the thing itself is efficacious. The truth or falsity of "existence exists" rests not one bit on whether Michael and I might agree.”

Why, then, does Rand’s argument depend on an act of grasping a statement?  At this point, it’s probably a good idea to repair to the original quote that sparked this thread, and look at it with fresh eyes. Here is the relevant portion of the passage:

1) “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies [that something exists] two corollary axioms: (2) Something exists which one perceives; and (3) that one exists possessing consciousness…”

I have slightly amended this quote in order to reveal an unspoken conclusion (that something exists), as well as to highlight the three arguments that apparently establish Rand’s axioms, Existence, Identity, Consciousness. The latter are in bold.

An argument is a series of connected steps that lead to, and support, a conclusion. The casual reader might assume from the above passage that Rand has established the validity of her axiomatic concepts. Such a view would be mistaken. Taking argument (1), we have seen earlier that it goes like this: “Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies [that something exists…”]

In other words, there is a thought, an act of understanding and a conclusion that something exists. Also, as we have seen, the preceding premises -- a thought plus a mental act -- imply that the conclusion, the "something" that exists, is consciousness. But Rand has not at this point in the argument established her axiom of consciousness – for that, we have to wait for argument (3).

But she needs the concept of consciousness in order to move her argument in (1) from “existence” to “something”. In other words, she has smuggled the conclusion of her third argument into the premises of her first argument; that is, she has begged the question.

“That something exists” must be the conclusion of argument (1), not only because it follows the premises, but also because it forms the connection between arguments (1) and (2), and the first premise of the second argument, which goes: 2. “…something exists which one perceives…”

In her first argument, Rand has apparently established the Existence axiom, and she now uses this to establish the Identity axiom. But, here, in order to move the argument from “something” to “perceives”, she has to appeal to yet another concept: a perceiving subject, the “one”. But she has also yet to establish this concept – for that, we have to wait until her third argument. So the addition of “one” represents another instance of premise-smuggling.

But in this second argument she does manage to suggest that the “something” is a material object, by teaming it with “perceives”. Which takes us to the third argument: “…one exists possessing consciousness…” This argument apparently establishes Consciousness, but only because Rand has already sneaked in a mental act and a perceiving subject into the previous arguments.

I think this brief analysis demonstrates that Rand’s arguments depend on verbal sleight of hand, and hidden assumptions that are not present in the term “existence”. Some further thoughts spring to mind – especially about that “defining of existence into consciousness” that you mentioned – but I’ll leave it there for the moment. I’m out of action for a day or so. I might post some more thoughts later in the week.

As for your question regarding existence and consciousness, I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “existence trumps consciousness”. If you mean that: if we discover that an idea we hold is inconsistent with the way the external world can be shown to work, that we should therefore modify our idea -- sure, I’ll agree with that.

Brendan




Post 58

Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 3:59amSanction this postReply
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Ed writes:
>Daniel (are you really out there?),

Hi Ed,

Yes I am. And no, you can't finally refute solipsism via this means, cos the solipsist can just say he is arguing with himself. He does not have to accept your definition of argument; people argue with themselves all the time.

But of course, just because it not finally refutable, no-one thinks solipsism is true. Yawn. The point is simply that Rand's axioms are not 'inescapable' as advertised. Got that? But you don't even need this kind of argument. And as I pointed out earlier, of course the terms of her axioms are themselves so vague that her formulations can be made to prove just about anything anyway. They are basically ineffectual.

By the way, I don't recall you got back to me after I pointed out that your "Veridicality of Conceptual Discernment" theory was a fallacy (remember how you ended up with infinte P's?). Got your head round that one yet?

Likewise, are you up to speed on the old 'modus tollens' yet? How, as I pointed out, it in no way resembles what you write here:

Ed:>If a thing were either A or B, and B's been falsified, then the damn thing is A.

You didn't get back to me on that one either.

You may reply to both these points on the relevant thread "Initial stages of concept formation")

- Daniel





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Post 59

Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 4:27amSanction this postReply
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MSK:
>They all try to sneak in nonsensical ideas based on primacy of consciousness (which they claim vehemently that they are not doing).

Ah, the Great Fibber returns! Telling the same old fib, time and again.

Well, seeing he's referring to me - again - I guess that means it's time to ask him - again.

MSK, have you got any evidence yet that I "promote" "primacy of consciousness" ideas yet? (Hey, here's an idea: perhaps you could try to make out that my post 58 "promotes" that doctrine. But then, that I suppose that would look kinda desperate, even for you.)

>Then readers with good minds and a good sense of life think, "What a pile of horseshit."

The only horseshit is the stuff you keep spreading. And I'm calling you on it *yet again*. And once again, you'll be unable to come up with a single piece of evidence, and away you'll scamper.

BTW, found out what "determinism" means yet?

- Daniel





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