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Post 20

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 9:07amSanction this postReply
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Roger,
Just a small historical note.

You wrote:

From a historical perspective, it is helpful to note the stark clash between the traditional (i.e., Kantian) view of the “objective” and the Randian view, which has much in common with the pre-Kantian (Cartesian and Scholastic) views.

I don’t’ know how much Rand has in common with the Cartesian view, but here is a little overview of Descartes.

In all of his writings, (and here I’m referring to the CSM translations) the word “subjective” does not appear even once. In the MEDITATIONS, and other places, the trichotomy that Descartes uses is the eminent, formal, objective trichotomy. By “formal” reality Descartes means the extra-mental existence of an object, whereas “objective reality” is the existence in the mind as an object of understanding. Only ideas have “objective reality.” As for “eminent reality,” this pertains to God. He has eminently whatever “formal” reality he puts into created things.

Interesting translational note. All translators render “objectiva” as “objective” with one exception. Rubin translates it as “subjective.”

Fred




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Post 21

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 9:15amSanction this postReply
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Ed, I'm reaching the point of diminishing returns here, because you are ignoring what I have written and misrepresenting my viewpoint. You've already accused me of Berkeleyan Idealism, and now you're going for Naive Realism? You are all over the map, except where I am! From now on, you are forbidden to say "Sheesh!"  :-) Two examples from this post of yours:

1. Ed wrote: "Roger, I think part of the problem here is the inherently linguistic nature of the body of human knowledge (as opposed to the immediate contact with reality that perception affords). With regard to this, Peikoff (OPAR, p 37) says that human knowledge is, inherently, something conceptual ... 'Human knowledge however, though based on sensory perception, is conceptual in nature.' So, when he's talking about objective knowledge (that body of knowledge potentially knowable by every man), then he's talking about something arrived at via volition. And, regarding the postulate of objectivity of perception he writes (same page) the following ... 'If seeing is not believing, then thinking is worthless as well.' Now that seems difficult (if not, impossible) to square with any kind of view of perception other than one of total objectivity -- and that is my current beef with your essay, now."

My reply: Your "current beef" with my essay would best be redirected to Peikoff (Rand no longer being with us). In his own words, he explains how Rand objected to his presenting perception as being objective, and how he acceded to her objection! I already quoted him from his 1987 lecture "Objectivism: the State of the Art," in a post to Phil. Did you not read that quote? Do you have an explanation for Rand's and Peikoff's rejection of the objectivity of perception? Other than blaming me for it? Shouldn't your beef be with them? Here's the quote, one more time, then I'm giving up on this point:
[Questioner asks:  What are things that you did in the past that you're right about now?]...[Leonard Peikoff:] I’ll tell you one really gross error that's on one of the tapes.  I applied the objective-subjective-intrinsic trichotomy to sense perception.  I took the view that sense experience was objective—this was many years ago—as opposed to being intrinsic or subjective, and tried to develop a whole thing around that, which is completely wrong, because the concept of objectivity” only arises on the conceptual level.  There’s no choice, and there's no method with regard to sense percepts.  They’re just given.  And that was thoroughly confusing.  That must have cost me three years of mental development, just that one error.  As I remember, Ayn Rand casually said to me, You know, that wasn't too clear, because you made it sound as though sense perceptions are objective.”  And I said, Well, what do you mean?” [Laughter] [Question-answer session #1]
2. I previously wrote in a post responding to Joe: "
Peikoff outlined the Objectivist position, which is that sense data are 'the out there as perceived in here.' ... Then, at Rand's gentle (?) urging, he stopped using the trichotomy to discuss perception and sense data ..."

Ed commented: "But Rand had once asked -- in response to a question of where the attribute is (out there, in here, or out there as perceived in here) -- when cars crash, in which car is the collision? Using analogy to show the inseparable connection of the 'out there' to the 'in here' -- to prove that attributes are 'the out there as perceived in here.' My take is that the underlying problem here is Rand's (and your's) implicit acknowledgment of "sense-data" (which cannot be done without adopting the sense-datum theory of perception). Rand's words about infants experiencing only buzzing confusion comes to mind (ie. having only sense data, by no real perception yet). THIS is the flaw that broke THIS camel's back."

My reply: First of all, Ed, I think you're confusing sense data, which are how we're perceptually aware of entities, with sensations, which are supposedly the sole content of our awareness when we're babies. We are not aware of sense data, we are aware of entities and their attributes by means of sense data. We don't look at sense data, we look through sense data at the world, so to speak. That is how direct, non-Naive perception works.

Now, sensations, they are another thing entirely. Supposedly -- and Rand accepted this uncritically from William James and his "bloomin', buzzin' confusion" description -- babies have not yet integrated their sense data into percepts, so they are only aware of the world as flashes, noises, swirls, etc., no coherent entities. I reject this view of infant awareness. It has been my experience, with my children, that practically from birth (not 4 months later, as Binswanger once said), babies have real perception, that almost from the git-go, they can focus on objects in their environment, not just lolling their heads in a bewildered, swimming, uncontrolled reaction to passing stimuli, which seems to be the typical Randian impression of infant awareness.

What's more, I publicly stated this rejection of Rand's view in my essay "Music and Perceptual Cognition" in vol. 1, no. 1 (fall 1999) of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. I would prefer to be attacked for rejecting Rand's view, than to be attacked for holding it, OK?

I am really exhausted by this exchange. I'm going to sit it out for a while. Thanks for the good questions, and no thanks for your painting me as an Idealist, Naive Realist, and Naive Randian-Jamesian. To put it philosophically: arrrrgh.

REB





Post 22

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 11:02amSanction this postReply
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Roger,

============
Did you not read that quote?
============

I'm sorry Roger, I didn't. My reason is that I have winter insomnia, and I'm currently struggling to maintain focus in my life in general (I'm starting melatonin this weekend, in hopes of remedying something that is quite clearly now impacting my mental performance). Anyway, the key quote is the following ...

============
the concept of objectivity” only arises on the conceptual level.  There’s no choice, and there's no method with regard to sense percepts.  They’re just given.
============

Oh shee ... [stops himself] ... Why don't we just call perception non-subjective and non-intrinsic then, Roger? Why do we have to use the same word, objectivity, in 2 senses -- one for our conceptual awareness (epistemic?) and one for our perceptual awareness (ontologic?)?

Ed




Post 23

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 11:05amSanction this postReply
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Stephen Boydstun's posts (#3 and #19) suggest a distinction between primary and secondary qualities, one held by Galileo, John Locke and others. Some qualities of physical objects - e.g. shape, size, solidity, chemical composition - are primary and intrinsic ("mind-independent"). Other (secondary) qualities attributed to a physical object, like color and smell, depend as well on properties of the perceiver. Thus they are objective rather than intrinsic.

David Kelley seems to accept the primary-secondary distinction in The Evidence of the Senses (1986, p. 117-19). He rejects Locke's argument that our ideas of primary qualities resemble the qualities themselves. He makes the distinction, in part, on primary qualities being perceivable by more than one sense modality.

The primary-secondary distinction in consistent with a mixed realism -- part direct, part indirect.




Post 24

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 11:05amSanction this postReply
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> There is a big issue in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of perception which is called "the ontological status of sense data" (or "the metaphysical status of sense data"). Peikoff had a wonderful and illuminating discussion of this in his 1970 Modern Philosophy lectures. Basically, as he outlined it, there have traditionally been two, erroneous positions about the nature of sense data: one view is that colors, sounds, etc. are "out there," intrinsic in reality -- the other that colors, sounds, etc. are "in here," subjective. Peikoff outlined the Objectivist position, which is that sense data are "the out there as perceived in here." Sense data, like so many conscious phenomena (like values, the good, truth), are objective phenomena or, as some put it, relational phenomena. [Roger]

Notice how precisely Peikoff expresses matters such as this: This is exactly right and clearly expressed (finally).

If Rand disagreed, she would be mistaken. Not being an expert in the processing of perceptual material, perhaps she believed that our percepts are automatic, rubber stamps of reality in all cases with no further processing or rearranging occurring. Or speaking of one form of perception (taste, touch, hearing, smell, vision) but not the ones in which that additional mental processing and rearrangement and integration occurs.

At any rate, I am not saying you are picking a nit on this, but the exact status of a percept in this regard is of much less importance than the status of conceptual material, values, etc. Other than to beat away skeptics, the small lake of the fine tuning of how sense data work is less important than the huge and still not fully developed or discovered ocean of the vast realm of the epistemology of *conceptual* material. So I'm still not quite clear why you are so particularly focused on this sub-issue related to the IOS trichotomy, which is a historic discovery with much wider use you could be making of it.

Phil



Post 25

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 11:10amSanction this postReply
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> Compared to a ball of modeling clay, the baseball is very rigid. My question for Roger's distinction of the ontologically objective is whether the rigidity of the baseball that I sense is intrinsic as distinct from ontologically objective. When I sense the ball's rigidity, am I sensing a physical quality of the ball itself---exactly that quality it has when left in a vise in the shop, say? Is rigidity or anything at all that we perceive known to be in itself exactly as we perceive it? [Stephen]

There may be a difference -between- the senses, between touch, taste, kinesthetics, smell, hearing, vision, with regard to which has no additional content or processing added by the mind before being stored as a percept. Some are more 'intrinsic', some more 'objective'. The former are the ones closer to the reptile brain or brain stem. The least automatic or unprocessed would be the highest sense:

Vision.



Post 26

Thursday, February 9, 2006 - 11:15amSanction this postReply
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Also 'rigidity' is a conclusion. What the holder of an object senses perceptually is 'pressure', and a uniformity of pressure on every touching surface of hand or fingers as opposed to flexing or varying or yielding.
(Edited by Philip Coates
on 2/09, 11:16am)




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Post 27

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 1:56amSanction this postReply
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Ed Thompson writes:
Why don't we just call perception non-subjective and non-intrinsic then, Roger? Why do we have to use the same word, objectivity, in 2 senses -- one for our conceptual awareness (epistemic?) and one for our perceptual awareness (ontologic?)?
That's not how I'm using it! You're conflating two different issues.

"Ontological objectivity" refers to an aspect of reality held as the object of awareness, whether on the perceptual or conceptual level. Thus, the thing in reality that is grasped in the form sensory qualities or mental qualities or essence or the good or truth -- that thing is ontologically objective, when grasped in one of those forms.

"Epistemic objectivity" refers to an act of awareness holding an aspect of reality as its object, whether that act of awareness is perception or conceptualization -- or introspection. (I'll return to this shortly.)

Rand and Peikoff seem willing to consider essence or the good as being ontologically objective, though they don't use that term, of course. They hold that when we are aware of things in that form (of being an essence or of being good), it is things that exist that we are being aware of in that way. This certainly implies that those things are being held as object of awareness, i.e., ontologically objective. But they (since about 1970-72) deny this insight to things that we are being perceptually aware of.

And when it comes to the acts of awareness that focus on things as having certain perceptual or mental qualities, or as being essences or good or true, Rand and Peikoff similarly restrict application of the term "objective" to conceptual level acts. Perception, even though it holds things that exist, as its object, and thus is epistemically objective, is nonetheless considered by them (since about 1970-72) to not be objective.

And the reason for all this is that Rand has a special sense of "objective" that she is superimposing over (and thus using to wash away) the two basic senses I have distinguished above. (And that I say she uncovered in "What is Capitalism?") Her special sense of "objective" pertains strictly to volitional acts of awareness and things in reality that are grasped by volitional acts.

The best I can figure is that Rand is superimposing an ethical sense of "objective" -- as in, to be an objective person, a person who chooses to adhere to reality -- over the entire discussion. By narrowing the meaning of "adherence to reality" to volitional adherence to reality, it's no wonder that she urged Peikoff to dump his discussion of the objectivity of perception.

In other words, Rand is applying both ontological and epistemic objectivity to conceptual-level objects and acts, only. That is why I said you are conflating two different issues. Rand was not splitting up the two senses of "objective," as you suggest. She was denying either of them to the perceptual level, whereas I apply both of them to both the perceptual level and the conceptual level.

Phil Coates writes:
I am not saying you are picking a nit on this, but the exact status of a percept in this regard is of much less importance than the status of conceptual material, values, etc...I'm still not quite clear why you are so particularly focused on this sub-issue related to the IOS trichotomy, which is a historic discovery with much wider use you could be making of it.
The reason is that my "sub-issue" has a "much wider use" than perception. Or at least, another very important use that has been largely overlooked or misunderstood by Objectivists: the nature of mental qualities, introspective data, and mind. And I guaran-goddam-tee you that if the ontological-epistemic objectivity distinction is not accepted as being applicable to both perceptual-level and conceptual-level issues, I will not get to first base with what I want to discuss about the philosophy of mind.

As I discussed in my paper for the TOC Advanced Seminar in 2003, just as a certain sensory quality (viz., color) is the form in which we are directly aware of what an apple is doing (viz., reflecting some light frequences, absorbing others), mental qualities are the form in which we are directly aware of what our brains are doing. We are also indirectly aware of these things through scientific study, in which we learn about the microstructure of objects like apples that enable them to reflect vs. absorb light in ways that we experience as color, and the physiological/physical structure of the brain that allows it to function in ways that we experience as ideas, feelings, memories, etc.

As Peikoff discussion (I think, in 1972), in perceiving the color of an object, we are perceiving it by means of its causal consequences (the reflected light waves) with which we interact. The fact that we are directly aware of the apple in the form of color and by means of its causal consequences, rather than in the form of some kind of detailed awareness of microstructure, does not thereby rob our perceptual awareness of validity objectivity, i.e., adherence to reality. (However, by 1972, Peikoff was becoming more and more leery of using any form of the word "objective" to apply to perception.)

My own insight (if I am correct), is that a parallel analysis applies to introspection and our awareness of what our brains are doing in the form of mental "events" or qualities. To the objection that this can't be an awareness of what our brains are doing, because the content of our introspection doesn't "look" anything like brain processes, I can do no better than to point back to Peikoff's discussion of perception. The objector would also have to say that our awareness of the sensory quality red can't be an awareness of what the apple is doing (reflecting certain light waves), because the content of our perception doesn't look anything like an apple reflecting light waves. (It's just "looking" red!) 

That, Phil, is why I have been so upset the past 30+ years over Rand's and Peikoff's detour away from the objectivity of perception. I think it is very difficult to establish the objectivity of introspection without the insights that Peikoff gave away at Rand's urging in 1970. If I am wrong, there should be better discussions of the nature of introspection and resolutions of the mind-body problem, of the order of Peikoff's brilliant discussion of perception in his 1972 lectures (even without the trichotomy). But there aren't -- and I don't think there will be, until this problem is acknowledged and resolved.

REB





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Post 28

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 2:20amSanction this postReply
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I appreciate Stephen Boydstun's additional comments, as well as those by Merlin Jetton and Phil Coates, regarding the primary-secondary quality distinction and direct-indirect-mixed realism.

I confess that I have not read more than about half of Smith's The Problem of Perception (2002). Stephen and I were reading it together as part of a joint writing project last year, and when he withdrew from the project, I set the book aside. However, while I'm not sure I fully agree with Smith, I will say that his book is quite challenging and interesting, and that it makes a good case for the distinction (which Rand and Peikoff reject) as being not only compatible with, but necessary for, a theory of direct perceptual realism.

However, in arguing against the distinction, Peikoff makes the argument that, at least in theory, all of our perceptual awareness of things in reality could be via their causal consequences, rather than penetrating right to their physical essences. Even things taking the form of entities could be not intrinsic to their nature, but instead the result of how reality interacts with our forms of perceptual awareness. And that even if this were so, it would not imperil the validity of the senses, or negate our being in cognitive contact with reality. I think that Carolyn Ray, Thomas Radcliffe, and David Jilk (and others?) have argued this point in various Objectivist settings, making a radical case that seems to take Peikoff's speculation as the most logical explanation of the nature of reality and our knowledge of it.

The question I see is this: do we characterize that perceptual awareness of reality which comes to us via a thing's causal consequences (sound waves, light waves, surface resistance, etc.) as "indirect," as Stephen seems to suggest -- or as "direct," as Rand, Peikoff, and Kelley argue? Is this kind of cognitive contact with reality (and is there any other kind?) "indirect," because it gets its data from the object of awareness by means of a causal interaction with something the object has done (e.g., emitting light waves) -- or "direct," because this causal interaction provides contact with a real aspect of the existence of the object of awareness?

If Stephen and Smith are correct, then some of the objects of our awareness, being ontologically objective (the objects of awareness), are "just as they are" in their physically intrinsic state. Personally, I think that, since all awareness is processed, our awareness of things in reality is always "in some form." Awareness is not being; it is of being. Things in reality, however exist in some form of being, and a form of being is not the same as a form of awareness.  I am wondering if this isn't the root error in intrinsicism.

REB




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Post 29

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 2:30amSanction this postReply
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Fred Seddon, thanks for your response. In looking back through my notes about Edward Pols' 1998 book Mind Regained, I found the following, including a quoted section from his book. I think it's interesting in light of how Descartes' views relate to Rand's trichotomy:
 
I wrote:
Pols (1998)...hearkens back to the ancient and early modern practice of referring both to the mind-independent and the mind, apart from any interactions between them, as “subjects.”  In its own way, this labeling makes a good deal of sense, especially in the context within which it was developed (though it, too, may be doomed to obscurity as little more than a historical footnote):

[T]he Latin-based term “subject” is properly used to translate Aristotle's hypokeimenon, which he applied to any concrete being (ousia) regarded as possessing properties that were less fundamental than the being itself: the being lies under its properties, as the Greek word says, and it persists even though its properties change...The term “subject” thus became part of systematized grammar and logic: the concrete being/entity/thing was well suited to be the subject of a sentence; its properties well suited to be predicated of the subject.  (Aristotle, Categories 2a11-4b19)....[Thus] the original meaning of “subject” does not imply consciousness (later called subjectivity) or even sentience....[W]hat Descartes calls a thinking substance can just as well be called, on the basis of the medieval terminology Descartes worked with, a thinking subject.  Descartes grudgingly says as much in replying to an objection made by Hobbes...The important point is that for Descartes a mind has no exclusive right to be called a subject:  there are also physical subjects and they too are more fundamental than the modes—heat, for instance—that inhere in them...[What the demonstration in Descartes’ Meditation VI] purports to demonstrate is that bodies really do exist as (concrete and actual) subjects....Because of the terminology Descartes inherited, the expression “representative reality” is interchangeable with “objective reality”; the thought is that what is represented to the mind by one of its ideas is in effect an object for the mind (107, 108).


Thus, in a way, Pols is recognizing the relationality of consciousness and that this is the proper meaning of the “objective.”  But observe this interesting twist:  in an instance of consciousness, we have a knowing subject and a known subject that, in being known, becomes the object of knowing.  Prior to an act of knowing, we just have a bunch of subjects, i.e., things, which can, when known, become objects. So here the trichotomy (if we can call it that) is subject that is known, subject that knows, and subject that is held as object of knowing by subject that knows.  Clearly, the first is what Rand calls the “intrinsic”...

REB




Post 30

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 3:29amSanction this postReply
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Rog,

===============
that thing is ontologically objective, when grasped in one of those forms.
===============

Well, then how come I can't get Onotological Idealism out of my mind -- when taking this (objective-being, but only "when grasped" thingy) literally? Huh? Is it because I'm just too thick-headed and stubborn to see the damn subtlety of the thing? Begads (I can say THAT, can't I?), I'm as frustrated as you must be by now! And, by the way, calling me a name-caller (a guilt-by-association fallacy-utilizer) would just be slinging that same mud back at me. Bringing you down to my (lowly) level!


===============
Rand and Peikoff seem willing to consider essence or the good as being ontologically objective, though they don't use that term, of course.
===============

Call me an advocate of the Devil, but they both talk about an objective good (though, I reckon, it's the "ontologically-" thing that you're pressing here). I require more explication than this.


===============
things are being held as object of awareness, i.e., ontologically objective.
===============

I'm reaching the point of diminishing returns here. Ontological means "to be" or "the very being" of a thing. What you're saying is that the very being of a thing is dependent on a consciousness holding it as an object. Are you SURE that you want to use the word, ontologically (ie. inherent "being"), when you speak of this type or kind of objectivity? I find it more confusing than clarifying. Ugh! We seem to be at some kind of impasse!

That said, I think that it's not impossible that I have been ignoring what you have written and misrepresented your viewpoint. Indeed, I've already accused you of Berkeleyan Idealism, and now I'm going for Naive Realism -- and I am really exhausted by this exchange. I'm going to sit it out for a while.

Ed
[Please forgive my innocent matching of your previous sentiments; I really do hope that we can work this all out -- after all, I'm sure that our combined IQ approaches 300! -- ie. smarter than any single being living]




Post 31

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 10:43amSanction this postReply
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> "Ontological objectivity" refers to an aspect of reality held as the object of awareness..."Epistemic objectivity" refers to an act of awareness holding an aspect of reality as its object

Roger, there are only three phenomena: There is the thing out there. There is the process of consciousness known as awareness. And there is the thing *as grasped by* consciousness [Rand's formulation]. You want to create a fourth and a fifth: ontological objectivity and epistemic objectivity - apparently dividing Rand's formulation in two. FIVE phenomena here?! You've got to be kidding me! No offense, but this is just highly confused and overcomplicated. Next thing you know someone will try to create a sixth and a seventh new formulation when all you need is the original three to deal with percepts, concepts, and introspection. Why not an eighth and a ninth? Epistemology is difficult enough already without pulling rabbits out of hats and adding additional levels of unwarranted complexity or nuance.

Your point about introspection being objective is valid (emotions, memories, etc. as grasped by your consciousness in a different way from how they were first stored in consciousness, to put it in my words rather than yours). But I think I knew that already from Objectivism. In fact, I think Rand made some reference to this (probably in ITOE), but I'd have to check.

The fact that you have garbled the three phenomena and made them into five makes me wonder whether either you in your notes or Peikoff misunderstood or lost some context or nuance re your claim that Rand is saying flat out and in every case "percepts are not objective phenomena". Rand is not always right, certainly, but neither are Peikoff's recollections or interpretations of what she told him. He has confessed to having garbled things before.

The fact that there are different -kinds- of sense perception emerging from the different senses, and what are referred to by the primary-secondary quality distinction also make it conceivable that one type or form of perception was at issue here.

Phil

PS, There is no ontological objectivity or epistemic objectivity, there is only objectivity.


(Edited by Philip Coates
on 2/10, 10:51am)




Post 32

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 12:57pmSanction this postReply
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I just want to say to Roger that we can be a really tough crowd around here. And that sometimes it's awful frustrating to be a damn philosophical trail-blazer around here (though methinks it worse elsewhere). Sometimes it's worth all the work, though. And imagine if we were the polar opposite -- ie. "idea sponges" -- simply ooo-ing and ahhh-ing at every goddamn idea that was run up the flag pole? What would THAT be like?

No offense meant,

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/10, 12:58pm)




Post 33

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 2:49pmSanction this postReply
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Sometimes that 'trail blazing' can go 'off the edge' where there is no real to trail or blaze.



Post 34

Friday, February 10, 2006 - 9:31pmSanction this postReply
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Roger,

===============
Perception, even though it holds things that exist, as its object, and thus is epistemically objective
===============

Okay, but isn't it easy to fall into the pitfall of perceptual judgment. What makes perception really work (increasing our probability of survival), where the "rubber really hits the road," is when conceptual awareness co-operates with perceptual awareness.

The big question, the one whose very answer would destroy the question -- is this: Is animal perception epistemologically objective? And the reason I ask this, of course, is that animals are limited to perceptual powers of awareness (mostly sense perception & memory). If an animal's perception were found to be epistemologically objective, then Roger's right and we can all go home (after patting him on the back and raising our glasses to the man).

Now, an easy answer is this one: If animals' perceptions weren't epistemologically objective -- they'd all be dead. Now that's a pretty powerful argument right there. See straight ... or die.

But another way to go about answering the thing is call out for perceptual judgment to be the standard. There's perception: something exists, I sense it. And there's that wily notion of perceptual judgment: Something exists, I sense it, and I know what the bleep it is, too! If this higher standard were imposed on the animal cases, then we couldn't say that their perceptual judgment was epistemologically objective.

Here's a telling example:
A dog walks in front of a mirror and ... sees another dog there! "Holy Crap!" The dog thinks to himself. "How in the Sam HELL did THAT thing get in HERE without me first smelling the bugger?!" The dog starts barking, but doesn't attack, because, he says to himself: "Dayamm, that thing is as big as I am! And the more I show my fangs and increase my barks, the bugger responds back with the SAME vehement intensity, and damn near in lock-step, mind you!"

As the dog moves to one side, he notices that the "other" dog does the same, so the dog says to himself: "This sucker is trying to escape! But this is MY house, and I'm going to have something to say about that! I'm going to cut this bugger off at the pass!" So the dog lurches to the side to find that the "other" dog disappeared! "Whoa!" the dog says to himself, "either that sucker is faster than all get-out ... no wait ... I NEVER took my eyes off of that bugger ... he just ... disappeared!"

At this point, the dog is a little baffled, but he says to himself: "Yeah sure, that other dog is gone now. And I can tell that he's not hiding behind this shiny thing that my master refers to as a 'mirror' because I fricken looked, and he wasn't there -- and seeing is believing, dammit." So then he casually walks past the front of the mirror again and: "Aaaaaaaagh! He's back!"

There is an AFV (America's Funniest) video that shows a dog cycling through this type of circular reaction at least a dozen times! Was his perceptual judgment epistemologically objective?

There's another AFV showing a cat that won't go outside because the screen door is closed, but here's the kicker -- there is NO SCREEN in the door (it's just the frame)! So, the owner steps THROUGH the open space of the door frame (where the screen normally is) and -- from the outside, now! -- opens the door so that the cat can go outside. Now, this example is ambiguous, because the cat may have rote memorized a rule -- by the owner -- that she is not to go outside unless the owner opens the door for her, screen or not.

The reason humans don't think that "other" folks in mirrors are strangers, is due to our conceptual awareness. Unlike dogs, we're automatically self-aware in the normal course of living our lives. We also come to understand reflection, and mirrors, etc. So one might say, when humans look in a mirror and see themselves (ie. pass the perceptual judgment that it is themselves that they are looking at), then we might be able to talk about this perceptual judgment as being epistemologically objective.

I'm just fishing for comments here, folks. Got any?

Ed




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Post 35

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 4:13amSanction this postReply
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I previously wrote:
"Ontological objectivity" refers to an aspect of reality held as the object of awareness..."Epistemic objectivity" refers to an act of awareness holding an aspect of reality as its object.

Phil Coates commented:
Roger, there are only three phenomena: There is the thing out there. There is the process of consciousness known as awareness. And there is the thing *as grasped by* consciousness [Rand's formulation]. You want to create a fourth and a fifth: ontological objectivity and epistemic objectivity - apparently dividing Rand's formulation in two. FIVE phenomena here?! You've got to be kidding me! No offense, but this is just highly confused and overcomplicated. Next thing you know someone will try to create a sixth and a seventh new formulation when all you need is the original three to deal with percepts, concepts, and introspection. Why not an eighth and a ninth? Epistemology is difficult enough already without pulling rabbits out of hats and adding additional levels of unwarranted complexity or nuance.
Sure, it's all just a big joke. No, wait, it's all just "highly confused and overcomplicated," multiplying phenomena to indulge my imagination and warped sense of humor. Sure, Phil.

Look (I use this word with some reservation, because the last time I used it, my respondent accused me of being condescending): ontological objectivity is the attribute of an aspect of reality pertaining to its being an object of awareness, so it's not a fourth phenomena, just the nature of the "thing *as grasped by* consciousness."

And epistemic objectivity is the attribute of an act of awareness pertaining to its holding as its object an aspect of reality, so it's not a fifth phenomenon, just the nature of the "process of awareness known as consciousness."
The fact that you have garbled the three phenomena and made them into five makes me wonder whether either you in your notes or Peikoff misunderstood or lost some context or nuance re your claim that Rand is saying flat out and in every case "percepts are not objective phenomena". Rand is not always right, certainly, but neither are Peikoff's recollections or interpretations of what she told him. He has confessed to having garbled things before.

What I cited were not my "notes," but a verbatim transcript of Peikoff's recorded remarks from his 1987 lectures on "Objectivism: the State of the Art." Rand didn't say "percepts are not objective phenomena." But she didn't have to. She said that perception is not objective, which sort of makes percepts non-objective by association, wouldn't you say? Peikoff dropped the adjective "objective" like a frickin' hot potato, in reference to perception, after her little chat with him in 1970. You don't need to wonder whether he "garbled" anything. All you need to do is note two things: (1) he stopped cold, never more calling percepts "objective," after Rand talked to him about his 1970 lecture, and (2) Rand never asked him to re-instate the term "objective" in referring to percepts. She watched him like a hawk, trying to make sure he "got it right." Surely what he said and did in his 1972 and 1976 lectures, which are fairly well carried forward into OPAR in re objectivity, was representative of Rand's thoughts -- and not mere "garbling" by Peikoff.

So, I agree with one part of your comment: "Rand was not always right, certainly."
The fact that there are different -kinds- of sense perception emerging from the different senses, and what are referred to by the primary-secondary quality distinction also make it conceivable that one type or form of perception was at issue here.

I don't think the complexity of the issue of perception is what was involved here. Rand, if you will recall, rejected the primary-secondary quality distinction, and so did Peikoff.
PS, There is no ontological objectivity or epistemic objectivity, there is only objectivity.
Not true. Even if you want to restrict the meaning of "objectivity" to "adherence to reality" or "respect for the facts of reality," Rand herself distinguished two kinds of objectivity in her early 1965 essay on "the final authority in ethics." She clearly defined both "metaphysical objectivity" and "epistemological objectivity." (These are not the same as my terms.)

Also, later in 1965, in "What is Capitalism?", as I'm sure you know, Rand wrote (boldface emphasis added):

"The objective theory holds that the good is...an evaluation of the facts of reality by man's consciousness according to a rational standard of value...The objective theory holds that the good is an aspect of reality in relation to man--and that it must be discovered [by man's consciousness], not invented, by man." (Capitalism: the Unknown Ideal, p. 22 ppbk)

It is not "highly confused and overcomplicated" to observe that Rand is distinguishing two aspects of the "objective" here. In the first sentence, Rand is focusing on what I call the epistemic aspect of the objective -- an act of awareness rationally evaluating an aspect of reality is epistemically objective. In the second sentence, Rand is focusing on what I call the ontological aspect of the objective -- an aspect of reality in relation to man (i.e., to an act of man's awareness that discovers it) is ontologically objective.

This is the same dual-aspect discussion Peikoff made of perception in 1970, before Rand waved him off.

You don't have to accept my prescriptions for fixing the mess that Rand and Peikoff created back in the early 70s, but it would be good for you to accept the fact that they did indeed make a mess. If you do, then perhaps you can come up with a better solution, one less "highly confused and overcomplicated," than mine -- and the one that Rand and Peikoff both formulated (in 1965 and 1970), then abandoned.

REB

(Edited by Roger Bissell on 2/11, 11:47am)




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Post 36

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 4:24amSanction this postReply
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Ed, I'm sorry, I can't follow most of your two posts. The one thing I do want to comment on is this remark of yours:
Ontological means "to be" or "the very being" of a thing. What you're saying is that the very being of a thing is dependent on a consciousness holding it as an object. Are you SURE that you want to use the word, ontologically (ie. inherent "being"), when you speak of this type or kind of objectivity? I find it more confusing than clarifying.
Every relationship between consciousness and existence has two poles: the thing in reality (the ontological pole of the relation) and the act of awareness of the thing in reality (the epistemic pole of the relation).

The thing in reality is being held as the object of awareness, so the thing in reality is objective in that respect; and since it is the ontological pole of the relationship, it is ontologically objective.

The act of awareness holds the thing in reality as its object, so the act of awareness is objective in that respect; and since it is the epistemic pole of the relationship, it is epistemically objective.

Epistemic objectivity is what Phil wants to elevate to the one and only kind of objectivity -- and Rand and Peikoff want to limit it to characterizing volitional acts of awareness and not perception.

Apparently you are grappling with this issue (I did read your post), but I don't have the patience to correspond with you about it. Sorry.

Rand had a very good start on a distinction between the two kinds of objectivity I have defined in her "What is Capitalism?" Unfortunately, she and Peikoff have botched it, and I am tired of pulling teeth, trying to get people to see it.

Carry on, all.

REB





Post 37

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 6:57amSanction this postReply
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Roger,

==================
Apparently you are grappling with this issue (I did read your post), but I don't have the patience to correspond with you about it. Sorry.
==================

Fair enough, Roger. I'll direct further comments too others, or to no one. Thanks for posting the interesting idea.

Ed




Post 38

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 7:22amSanction this postReply
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This essay's author wrote:

========================
... ontological objectivity is the attribute of an aspect of reality pertaining to its being an object of awareness ... the nature of the "thing *as grasped by* consciousness."
========================

... and ...

========================
... epistemic objectivity is the attribute of an act of awareness pertaining to its holding as its object an aspect of reality ... the nature of the "process of awareness known as consciousness."
========================

The first is the nature of grasped things, the second is the very nature of consciousness itself. Let me invent an analogy to test the waters here.

[thinking]

Okay, I think I've got one. Let's say that there's these 3 men. 3 BLIND men, actually. And let's say that they are touching an elephant. Let's also add that they are each touching different parts of the elephant. They're having altogether different perceptions of the self-same thing. Now, if you add conceptual awareness, these dudes will effectively identify the object of their perception. But, without adding that volitional type of awareness, these dudes might end up in some kind of Chinese proverb or something ("don't judge at the first impression" or something like that).

How do you guys think that that squares with Roger's "nature of the "thing *as grasped by* consciousness" (ontological) objectivity?

Ed




Post 39

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - 1:36pmSanction this postReply
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I will here retrace some of the course of Rand’s thinking about sensory perception, then her thinking about objectivity. For this short refreshment of our memories, I’ll rely only on texts Rand published. I will then suggest a distinct appropriate realm of application for Roger’s special senses of the objective, but this will be an application harmonious with the realm and role of Rand’s special senses of the objective.

 

Perception

Rand thought that higher animals are guided by percepts. The actions of such an animal “are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” [Obj Ethics (1961) 19].

 

We should note, however, that “an animal has no critical faculty. . . . To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality—or rather, it is a distinction he is incapable of making: reality, to him, is whatever he senses or feels” [FNI (1961) 17].

 

(Ed Thompson,

Long ago my deceased partner and I took in a young stray cat who evidently had not yet experienced mirrors. She investigated the evident fellow cat in the mirror, as you described. However, later in life, she no longer took any manifest notice of her image in mirrors. I don’t know whether this adaptation is contrary to what Rand asserted in the preceding paragraph.)

 

But when it comes to human beings, Rand observes, they for sure have an integrated perceptual awareness that includes the ability to identify perceptual illusions [AS (1957) 1041]. We can come to understand illusions in terms of veridical perceptual components of which they are composed. Moreover, we are capable, when awake and healthy, of identifying the phantasmagoria of dreams and hallucinations as occasions of consciousness not fastened upon reality. We can also tell the difference between our episodes of perception and our episodes of memory or imagination [IOE (1966–67) 30]. In Rand’s view, all of those types of human consciousness have a content that “is some aspect of the external world (or is derivable from some aspect of the external world)” [IOE 31].

 

Rand stressed the primary, foundational kind of consciousness we possess, which is the kind possessed in veridical perception. This essential sort of consciousness is given pride of place in much contemporary philosophy of perception. It is sometimes termed success consciousness. This fundamental sense of consciousness is what Rand articulates when she writes that consciousness is “the faculty of perceiving that which exists” and “if that which you claim to perceive does not exist, then what you possess is not consciousness” [AS 1015].

 

Rand’s view of perception is a realist view. A human being is able “to perceive a reality undistorted by his senses. . . . ‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” [AS 1036]. The mind’s only access to reality is by means of its percepts [KvS (1970)]. “It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of ‘direct perception’ or ‘direct awareness’, we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident[IOE 5].

 

Objectivity

Rand’s most elementary sense of the concept objective is the sense of ordinary parlance. This is the sense she talks of when explaining why she has chosen Objectivism as the name of her philosophy. She credits Aristotle as the first to correctly define “the basic principle of a rational view of existence and of man’s consciousness: that there is only one reality, the one man perceives—that it exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes, or the feelings of any perceiver)” [FNI 22].

 

In 1965, as Roger has recounted, Rand published two refinements of her concept of objectivity. Early in the year, she distinguished a metaphysical from an epistemological aspect of objectivity [FAE 18]. Later that year, Rand refined her concept of objectivity further. She introduced her distinction of the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. This was in application to her theory of the good and its relationship to other theories of the good [WC 21–26].

 

By the following year, it was clear that Rand envisioned a broadened role for the intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist way of locating her philosophic theories in relation to others. She applied the tripartition to the theory of concepts and universals. Concepts, for Rand, can be objective and should be objective. Such concepts are “produced by man’s consciousness in accordance with the facts of reality, as mental integrations of factual data computed by man—as products of a cognitive method of classification whose processes must be formed by man, but whose content is dictated by reality” [IOE 54]. Rand’s conception of concepts (and definitions and essence and . . .) and her conception of the good can be rightly characterized as (i) objective with Rand’s metaphysical-epistemological faces of the objective relation and, at the same time, as (ii) objective within Rand’s intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist tripartition.

 

At this time (1966–67), Rand thinks that (as Roger has stressed) “the dichotomy of ‘intrinsic or subjective’ has played havoc with this issue [of universals] as it has with every other issue involving the relationship of consciousness to existence” [IOE 53]. That would certainly seem to include the relationship of sensory perception to existence. In what ways has the dichotomy of intrinsic-or-subjective played havoc in understanding the nature of perception? Should perception have the status objective in Rand’s tripartition? There is fertile ground here, waiting for growers.

 

An Objectivity in Perception

Rand’s metaphysical sense of objectivity proclaims the recognition of the mind-independence of existence in the relationship of existence and consciousness. Her epistemological sense of objectivity proclaims recognition of the mind’s dependence on logical identification and integration of the evidence of the senses to acquire knowledge of existence [FAE 18]. Both of these senses of objectivity proclaim epistemological and moral norms of volitional, conceptual consciousness.

 

Roger’s ontological and cognitive senses of the objective relation differ from Rand’s metaphysical and epistemological senses of objectivity in three ways. I’ll mention two of them.

 

Firstly, the forms of consciousness to which Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective relation apply are wider. These aspects apply to all varieties of consciousness, whether or not they are volitional types of consciousness.

 

Secondly, Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective are not necessarily norms for conscious rule-following. They are, however, related to norms in the more general engineering-performance sense. Any system having a function has performance norms. Human perception, pleasure and pain, memory, dreams (perhaps), imagination, judgment-level evaluations, and emotions all have functions and performance norms in the human being. Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective figure into the performance norms of the volitional forms of consciousness, and they figure into the performance norms of perception, of pleasure-pain evaluations, of memories, and, perhaps, of dreams.

 

I better rest.

 

Stephen





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