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Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 9:44amSanction this postReply
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Good topic, Bill!

Merlin Jetton has done substantial work in theory of truth. Here is an ABSTRACT of his major essay, published in Objectivity, in this area:

“Theories of Truth” by Merlin Jetton

                Part 1   Volume 1, Number 4, Pages 1–30

            Only what-is is thought in the true thought, says Parmenides. But nothing can be thought that is not what-is, for only what-is is. This is the existence theory of truth, and it launches Jetton’s comprehensive essay of theories of truth. The principals of Part 1 are Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Aquinas, Ockham, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Leibniz, and Kant.

            Jetton lays out the critical issues to be looked for in any theory of truth. These are the definition of truth, the criteria of truth, the bearers of truth, the makers of truth, and the account a theory of truth gives of falsity. From texts of the Greek philosophers to texts of a thirteenth-century theologian, Jetton assembles the various treatments of these issues within what today is called the correspondence theory of truth.

We are shown tendencies towards a nominalist theory blossoming in the fourteenth century and again in the seventeenth century. We are shown the beginnings of the coherence theory of truth in the texts of Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant. Spinoza has tendencies towards the older, existence theory as well, and he inherits the special thorniness of accounting for falsity that comes with this rose. Nonetheless, their texts show that for these three coherence-leaning philosophers the correspondence theory remains the basic account of truth.

            Part 2   Volume 1, Number 5, Pages 109–49

            In Hegel’s texts, Jetton finds truth being turned to mean the agreement of object with its concept. Hegel argues that conformity of thought to object—the correspondence theory—is not an adequate account of truth. It misses the boat. Jetton takes the reader through Hegel’s arguments and through the elements of Hegel’s theory of truth, which is integral to the grand ship of metaphysical idealism.

            Elements of Hegel’s theory are then carried forward to Bradley, Joachim, and Blanshard, who sail explicitly with the coherence theory of truth, the theory of truth-as-system. Jetton shows its timbers, ropes, blocks, and pulleys. He then selects parts for salvage.

            Coherence theories hold out the possibility of “truth without true foundations.” Jetton charts the twentieth-century debates over foundational truths and the possibility of attaining truth without them. He concludes Part 2 with a discussion of the special nature of the truths we call scientific. This includes a close inspection of the views of Popper.

            Part 3   Volume 1, Number 6, Pages 73–106

            Now come forward the pragmatist theories of truth. Here with Peirce is truth as “that concordance of an abstract statement with the ideal limit towards which endless investigation would tend to bring scientific belief.” Here with James is emphasis on “truth’s cash-value in experimental terms.” Here with Dewey is truth as “that which is accepted upon adequate evidence” and as “warranted assertability.”

            After critiquing the pragmatist theories of truth, Jetton addresses truth theory after the linguistic turn in twentieth-century philosophy. He looks especially at the seminal work of Tarski and its relations to the correspondence and coherence theories of truth. Lastly, Jetton recounts Rand’s brief writings on the nature of truth, elaborates their intersections with earlier theories, and offers his own synthesis.




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Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 2:43pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks for the review, Stephen. Merlin's essay looks fascinating. Could I obtain a copy? I'd be willing to pay for it, if it's still available. It looks like a pretty extensive survey.

- Bill



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Tuesday, August 1, 2006 - 10:04pmSanction this postReply
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Bill excellent article. But something that I don't understand:

Recall Schwartz’s statement that “the first two propositions pose no problem. Each is categorically false. Love is not selfless; it’s selfish. Likewise, selflessness is not good; it is bad. So those two are false.” In other words, according to Schwartz, the first premise (namely, that “Love is based on selflessness”) is false because “Love is not selfless; it’s selfish”—which implies that the first premise uses the term “love” in the sense of a selfish emotional attachment (rather than a selfless one).


I'm not sure I understand how it implies the propositions mean love to be selfish love instead of selfless love? Isn't the proposition "Love is based on selflessness" basically a proposition that offers a partial definition of the word "love"? In which case how is it that the Schwartz's statements mean that the conclusion is:

"Therefore, [Selfish] love is good."

Wouldn't it as you said before be:

"Therefore, [selfless] love is good."
...because the first premise offers a definition of the term love that is carried into the conclusion. If not, then aren't we resorting to an equivocation by changing the meaning of the word love in this syllogism?



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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 5:17amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

I also am having trouble reconciling what you wrote in the paragraph John quoted. I have read it several times and can't seem to figure out how you are arriving at what you are saying.

L W




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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 7:04amSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

 

I would be delighted to send you Merlin's essay "Theories of Truth" without charge. Just send a note to the e-mail address below, and let me know your US Postal mailing address. I can put the essay in the mail to you this afternoon, and you should have it in a couple of days. Enjoy!

 

I'm looking forward to the discussion of your article and to your future installments.

 

Stephen

boydstun@rcn.com

 

PS

I tried to first send this message to the Comcast address listed in your RoR bio, but it was returned as undeliverable.






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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 11:11amSanction this postReply
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Bill excellent article.
Thank you, John!
But something that I don't understand:
Recall Schwartz’s statement that “the first two propositions pose no problem. Each is categorically false. Love is not selfless; it’s selfish. Likewise, selflessness is not good; it is bad. So those two are false.” In other words, according to Schwartz, the first premise (namely, that “Love is based on selflessness”) is false because “Love is not selfless; it’s selfish”—which implies that the first premise uses the term “love” in the sense of a selfish emotional attachment (rather than a selfless one).
I'm not sure I understand how it implies the propositions mean love to be selfish love instead of selfless love? Isn't the proposition "Love is based on selflessness" basically a proposition that offers a partial definition of the word "love"? In which case how is it that the Schwartz's statements mean that the conclusion is: "Therefore, [Selfish] love is good."

Wouldn't it as you said before be:

"Therefore, [selfless] love is good."
...because the first premise offers a definition of the term love that is carried into the conclusion. If not, then aren't we resorting to an equivocation by changing the meaning of the word love in this syllogism?
Good question, John. Observe that Schwartz considers the first premise - "Love is based on selflessness" - to be false. Now under what conception of "love" would that premise be false? It would be false under a conception of "love" that is selfish, right? If it were one in which "love" is understood as selfless, then the premise would be true - because it would then be saying that "[Selfless] love is based on selflessness," which is true. So if the first premise is false, as Schwartz is claiming, then the meaning of love in that premise must be selfish. It couldn't possibly be selfless; otherwise the premise would be true. In fact, Schwartz says as much, when he states: the first two propositions pose no problem. Each is categorically false. Love is not selfless; it’s selfish." Well, if "love" is understood as selfish in the premises, then it must be understood that way in the conclusion (otherwise we are equivocating), which would make the conclusion true, not false.

- Bill



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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 2:21pmSanction this postReply
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Hmmm...I'm not so sure about this one, Bill.

Let's look at this another way: Suppose someone says to you, "Love is good." You respond, "Why do you believe that?" They answer, "Because love is selfless and selflessness is good." Wouldn't you conclude that their original claim is wrong? In giving their reasons, they've revealed what they *mean* by the term "love" is false, and this is the meaning that they're using in their claim. Responses?
(Edited by Jon Trager
on 8/02, 3:01pm)




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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 3:02pmSanction this postReply
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The whole question boils down to how you define love. 

There are actually two conclusions here.  Apples are good.  Oranges are good. 

The subject of the conclusion is different.  If you say love is selfless, and I say the opposite, the subjective/nebulous concept of love does not allow a truly objective definition.  It's a personal concept, not like a car or a horse that is more concrete.  It matters little who is right or wrong or even if there is a right or wrong in this case.  You end up with conclusions you cannot compare.  They are neither in agreement NOR contradictory because the conclusions are not pertaining to the same subject in this case. 

Edit: You MUST agree on a common definition of love in this case if you wish to compare statements about it.  How often is the subtle but critically important fact that premises must be agreed upon before any meaningful argument to take place ignored? This includes definitions of objects in premises. So the argument in the article means nothing until this happens.  Define love first, then see where that leads.

Bob

(Edited by Mr Bob Mac on 8/02, 3:16pm)




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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
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What great responses! I was worried that very few people, if any, would want to discuss this, because it's such an abstract topic.

Jon Trager writes:
Hmmm...I'm not so sure about this one, Bill.

Let's look at this another way: Suppose someone says to you, "Love is good." You respond, "Why do you believe that?" They answer, "Because love is selfless and selflessness is good." Wouldn't you conclude that their original claim is wrong? In giving their reasons, they've revealed what they *mean* by the term "love" is false, and this is the meaning that they're using in their claim. Responses?
If someone said that love is good, because love is selfless and selflessness is good, then I would certainly conclude that his claim is false. Why? Because, what he would mean by "love" in that case is selfless love. But if we were to take this interpretation, then the initial premise in Schwartz's syllogism would be true, not false as he is claiming. Remember, his syllogism states:

Love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [selfless] love is good. (False!)

If you go back and read his statement, you'll see that Schwartz regards the initial premise as false. But in order for him to say that the initial premise is false, he must be using "love" in the selfish sense of that term; otherwise, the premise would be true, since it's true that selfless love is based on selflessness and false that selfish love is. But if the meaning of "love" in the initial premise is selfish, then that meaning must be carried over into the conclusion, because the conclusion is a derivation from the premises. In that case, however, the conclusion is that selfish love is good, which is true. I.e.,

[Selfish] love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [Selfish] love is good. (True!)

- Bill




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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 7:32pmSanction this postReply
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Bill:

     Fascinatingly thought-provoking article-series; can't wait to read the rest of your analysis of PS's lecture.

     I shan't quibble about PS's example re 'love' and the meaningful relevence of a context for determination of the truth/falsity of a proposition using the term; indeed, I almost understand his point, as you've presented it, re the (apparent?) necessity of a context for any kind of meaning, ergo, for 'truth' to be considered applicable to a given 'conclusion'/proposition.

     I say almost because, o-t-one-h, I find C. Sciabarra's arguments (TRR) re context to be an attempt to broaden the meaning of that term itself out more in his delineating the nature of how to avoid artificial dilemma horns, and thereby 'think-out-of-the-box.' To paraphrase: "Check your contexts!" --- PS's argument, o-t-other-h, seems to attempt to narrow the meaning down and imply that one cannot agree with someone else who shares an identical conclusion with one about 'X',  until one knows their argument-premises and thereby can only then agree with them. This raises mucho questions, if one thinks about it, re listening-to/reading any lecture/essay where there are some 'starting' points the writer/speaker HAS to assume as accepted to get to their final point. Starting points that are assumed as acceptable without a 'context' being explicated.

     (Btw, does he say/imply why is a simple argument is NOT enough of a 'context', regardless that such be a true or false one)?

     Indeed, this aspect I'm concerned with seems to raise a question about ANYone's argument re the necessity of context/concept-relatings to knowledge of or about anything. Does one need to check the matching of one's own context to PS's context-arguments for agreeing with anything (including the relationship 'twixt context and knowledge) by him? --- Seems like an epistemological wheels-within-spirals problem has arisen here, given his viewpoint.

     Anyhoo, Bill, keep on writing.

LLAP
J:D

(Edited by John Dailey on 8/02, 7:33pm)




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Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 8:26pmSanction this postReply
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John, thanks for the kind words. You wrote,
(Btw, does he say/imply why is a simple argument is NOT enough of a 'context', regardless that such be a true or false one)?
Well, he'd say that you need the full philosophical context in which all of your ideas are properly integrated in order to possess true knowledge.
Indeed, this aspect I'm concerned with seems to raise a question about ANYone's argument re the necessity of context/concept-relatings to knowledge of or about anything. Does one need to check the matching of one's own context to PS's context-arguments for agreeing with anything (including the relationship 'twixt context and knowledge) by him? --- Seems like an epistemological wheels-within-spirals problem has arisen here, given his viewpoint.
He'd argue that if we both have the right reasons for our conclusion that, say, murder is wrong, then our respective conclusions can both be regarded as true. But if you believe that murder is wrong because your mother said so, and I believe that murder is wrong, because it's against human life, then your conclusion is false, because it's based on the wrong reason, whereas mine is true, because it's based on the right one. In fact, he'd go so far as to say that we don't even hold the same conclusion, because since our conclusions are based on different reasons, they must be different conclusions.

How far one needs to carry this process of rational justification in order for the reasons to meet the standard of philosophical correctness is another question. I suspect that he'd say all the way down to philosophical fundamentals. But in that case, unless you share the same philosophy and have fully justified it, you couldn't be said necessarily to hold the same conclusions, even if for all intents and purposes they appear to be the same. But you'll see more elaboration when we get to Parts 2 and 3. Stay tuned!

- Bill



Post 11

Wednesday, August 2, 2006 - 9:20pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,

---[start quote of your post #8]---

Love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [selfless] love is good. (False!)

If you go back and read his statement, you'll see that Schwartz regards the initial premise as false. But in order for him to say that the initial premise is false, he must be using "love" in the selfish sense of that term; otherwise, the premise would be true, since it's true that selfless love is based on selflessness and false that selfish love is.

---[end quote]---

What I take it Schwartz is getting at here is that love is, in fact, selfish, regardless of what false beliefs some may have about it. Thus, the interpretation one brings to it is irrelevant, and the 1st premise may be rejected out of hand (at least by Objectivists.)

OTOH, the concept of "selfless love" in the conclusion above, albeit false, is in fact what the person making the argument has in mind. Therefore, the arguer's conclusion is false because he is attributing a quality of certain existent things (namely, goodness) to a non-existent (namely, "selfless love".)

So I think Schwartz is on firm ground on that particular example, though I am unsure about the validity of his overall thesis. And I do worry about the damage that could be wrought by a thesis like that, by its assertion if it is false, and by its abuse if it is true, in the hands of a petulant little martinet like Schwartz.

(I have read this thread, but have not read/heard Schwartz's original piece that you are critiquing.)

-Bill



Post 12

Thursday, August 3, 2006 - 9:01pmSanction this postReply
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Bill:

     If I may add one addendum which I think may be worth considering before you post the rest of your...trilogy...you may wish to consider an implication of PS's views which you hadn't hinted at:

     If any sorite has a false premise, the ending conclusion CANNOT ('properly', that is) be considered as true in any meaningful sense according to PS's views, hence, also has no context worth discussing or even debating. It's epistemological status is equivalent to a parrot's utterances.

     This implies that if one sees a false premise re an other's argument, then even given one's agreement with the (how do I put this?) superficial-correspondence of the illusory true-sounding 'conclusion', ntl, the other's ending 'conclusion' is pointless to even refer to; only the false premise is worth referring to. The implications THIS seems to have re anyone discussing anything with anyone else, formally or especially casually, boggles my own convoluted mind.

     Anyhoo, awaiting Part Deux...

LLAP
J:D




Post 13

Friday, August 4, 2006 - 12:02pmSanction this postReply
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Bill, you wrote,
What I take it Schwartz is getting at here is that love is, in fact, selfish, regardless of what false beliefs some may have about it. Thus, the interpretation one brings to it is irrelevant, and the 1st premise may be rejected out of hand (at least by Objectivists.)

OTOH, the concept of "selfless love" in the conclusion above, albeit false, is in fact what the person making the argument has in mind. Therefore, the arguer's conclusion is false because he is attributing a quality of certain existent things (namely, goodness) to a non-existent (namely, "selfless love".)
Recall Schwartz's statement that the conclusion is false, "because the context reveals that what the conclusion is referring to in reality is not the same thing that (say) Objectivism would be referring to when it says the same words, 'Love is good.' What those words in this syllogism’s conclusion really mean is this: 'An emotional attachment which is of no selfish value to either party is good.' …Now is that statement true? No, that is a false statement."

However, if, according to Schwartz, what the first premise says is that "'an emotional attachment which is of no selfish value to either party' is based on selflessness," then the premise is true, not false as he claims, because a selfless emotional attachment is indeed based on selflessness. Viz.,

[A selfless emotional attachment] is based on selflessness. (True)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [a selfless emotional attachment] is good. (False)

Selfless emotional attachments undoubtedly exist. Schwartz is not denying that. He's denying that they're good.

Also, remember that he states, "the first two propositions pose no problem. Each is categorically false. Love is not selfless; it’s selfish. Likewise, selflessness is not good; it is bad." So, he's saying that the premise "Love is based on selflessness" is false, because love is not selfless; it's selfish, in which case, by "love" in the first premise, he has to mean selfish love. That's why he says the premise is false; it's false, because selfish love is not based on selflessness. But in that case, the term "love" has to mean the same thing in the conclusion in order to avoid the fallacy of equivocation, in which case, the conclusion is true. Viz:

[Selfish] love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [Selfish] love is good. (True!)

- Bill




Post 14

Friday, August 18, 2006 - 1:20amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

================
[Selfish] love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [Selfish] love is good. (True!)
================

Who, concretely, says that (or agrees with that)? Answer: No one does.


================
[Selfish] love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [Selfish] love is good. (True!)
================

Bill, conclusions arrived at via false premises are -- at least, operationally -- arbitrary. PS is showing how this is so. Epistemology (ie. knowing what IS, and knowing how you know what IS) depends on how humans can know things. Humans can know things in 2 ways: direct observation, and observation + correct reasoning.

I'm with PS, on this one (no conclusion can be drawn from false premises).

Ed



Post 15

Friday, August 18, 2006 - 12:55pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, you wrote,
================
[Selfish] love is based on selflessness. (False)
Selflessness is good. (False)
Therefore, [Selfish] love is good. (True!)
================

Who, concretely, says that (or agrees with that)? Answer: No one does.
I agree that it's unlikely anyone would actually make this argument. All I'm saying is that the conclusion follows logically from the premises and is true. Schwartz argues, to the contrary, that since the premises are false, the conclusion must be false. But clearly, in this case, the conclusion is true.
Bill, conclusions arrived at via false premises are -- at least, operationally -- arbitrary.
I don't think that's true -- at least not as I understand the meaning of "arbitrary." If the person believes in the false premises, then the conclusion isn't arbitrary; it's still based on reasons, even if they're incorrect.
PS is showing how this is so. Epistemology (ie. knowing what IS, and knowing how you know what IS) depends on how humans can know things. Humans can know things in 2 ways: direct observation, and observation + correct reasoning.
I agree, but we are talking about truth here, not about knowledge.
I'm with PS, on this one (no conclusion can be drawn from false premises).
Schwartz isn't saying that no conclusion can (validly) be drawn from false premises. He's saying that no true conclusion can validly be drawn from false premises. Consider another example:

All socialists are atheists. (False)
All atheists are collectivists. (False)
Therefore, all socialists are collectivists. (True)

Not only can a conclusion validly be drawn from the false premises in this syllogism, but, contrary to Schwartz, the conclusion is true.

Bill



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Sunday, August 20, 2006 - 1:28amSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

I hesitated to join in this conversation because I wasn't really sure what the point of the discussion was.  I'm still not totally sure.  And without a purpose, I have a hard time evaluating the merits of an argument.  Discussions of what is "true" sound very important, but without a concrete way of measuring the merits of a position, it's really easy to talk past one another.  So let me offer some thoughts anyway.

When I look at the love example, it seems clear to me that the conclusion is false.  They're using a definition of love that's faulty, and their using a standard of good that's faulty.  For the arguer, love is selfless, and selflessness is good.  When they say love is good, they mean something completely different from what an Objectivist would mean.  We can't judge the words as if they stand alone.  When the arguer says "Love is good", he's naming an idea, and it's not the same idea an Objectivist would identify with those words.  He's making a statement about reality, and the words are just a method of identifying it.  It's that statement of reality that we have to judge.

Let's try something.  Let's assume that the arguer is describing what we would all recognize as the emotion love, and when he says "good" he's making the moral statement that "it is something we should do".  He is referring to the same concepts we normally do.  But his premises are actually statements about these concepts.  The first statement is that love is selfless, and we could attribute this mistake to a false understanding of the value or roots of love.  Similarly, his second statement about the goodness of selflessness is a faulty identification of what exactly is "something we should do".

Given these meanings, his two premises are false, right?  Love is not selfless at all.  And selflessness is in fact not good.  We can say that both statements are false.

Now if we look at the conclusion that's being represented by the phrase "Love is good", we find it bundling a number of ideas together.  It says that this powerful emotion we call love is good because it is selfless, and selflessness is good.  If we skipped the "because" part of things, we might just see the simple connection that love is good, and think that they got to a correct statement by a faulty method.  And I think that's what you are suggesting?

So the question is whether we can really skip the "because" part of it.  I don't think we can.  The idea being presented isn't just that love is good, without any specific reason for it.  It's a conclusion, and the conclusion connecting those two concepts through a specific means.  The conclusion includes that means.  The "because" part is integrated into the new idea.  It's not arbitrarily arguing that love and goodness are connected.  It's not saying there's an unknown connection.  There's a specific way that they're supposed to be connected, via selflessness.

The conclusion is "love is good because it's selfless."  It's not simply "love is good".  And so we can rightfully judge their statement as false.  They mean something different than we do.  When we say it, we say "love is good because it's pro-life".

I think Schwartz's comments confused things a little.  For instance, he said the conclusion meant "An emotional attachment which is of no selfish value to either party is good."  If he's allowing that they mean something different by "love", then it's true that you can't rule out the first statement as false.  So I agree with at least part of your critique.

The question then is whether we can take the conclusion at face value, or whether we have to look at what it actually means.  I think it would be questionable to suggest that we agree with someone who makes that kind of love argument.  We'd have to ignore the fact that the concepts involved are referring to entirely different things, and that the reason for making the statement is entirely different.  For instance, they might suggest loving someone who's in need, but is destructive to your life, is good.  That's what their statement is referring to.  Ours obviously doesn't.




Post 17

Sunday, August 20, 2006 - 1:15pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, if I understand your objection correctly, you're saying that the conclusion of Schwartz's syllogism is not "Love is good." Rather, the conclusion is "Love is good, because...." But that is not the conclusion. Nor does Schwartz say it is. In a syllogism, a distinction is made between the conclusion and the premises, which are the reasons for the conclusion. The premises (or reasons) are not part of the conclusion; the conclusion is a proposition that is derived from the premises.

Observe that there is a difference between the proposition, "(Selfish) love is good" and the proposition "(Selfish) love is good, because...." The first proposition is true, while the second could be false. A syllogism, which is a combination of premises and a conclusion is an argument, but a premise or conclusion, by itself, is not an argument; it is a proposition. We don't say that an argument is true or false; we say that it is valid or invalid (unless, of course, it is presented as an entire proposition, which is what you were proposing). Similarly, we don't say that a proposition is valid or invalid; we say that it is true or false. It is very important not to confuse an argument with its conclusion. What you're saying is a conclusion is really an argument containing a conclusion.

You write,
The question then is whether we can take the conclusion at face value, or whether we have to look at what it actually means.
Clearly, we have to look at what it actually means, but that was precisely my point. The meaning of the conclusion depends on the meaning of its constituent terms, whose meaning is itself determined by their meaning in the premises. If they mean what Schwartz says they mean, then the conclusion of his syllogism is true, not false, as he is claiming. You continue,
I think it would be questionable to suggest that we agree with someone who makes that kind of love argument. We'd have to ignore the fact that the concepts involved are referring to entirely different things, and that the reason for making the statement is entirely different. For instance, they might suggest loving someone who's in need, but is destructive to your life, is good. That's what their statement is referring to. Ours obviously doesn't.
We have to take Schwartz's argument as he presents it. Given his presentation, the meaning of love in the first premise is selfish. That's why he says the premise is false. So the term "love" in that premise does accord with the meaning that we would attach to it, which is why the conclusion of his argument is true, not false.

But as I mentioned in my previous reply to Ed, we don't have to rely on Schwartz's example in order to expose the fallacy in his reasoning. Schwartz is saying that no true conclusion can validly be derived from false premises, which is simply not true. To return to my example:

All socialists are atheists. (False)
All atheists are collectivists. (False)
Therefore, all socialists are collectivists. (True)

The key terms in this syllogism are understood in exactly the same way that you and I would understand them. Yet, the conclusion is true, while the premises are false. A person who mistakenly thinks that all socialists are atheists and that all atheists are collectivists could easily draw this conclusion. The fact that he is mistaken about the reasons for his conclusion, which are false, does not mean that the conclusion itself is false. Obviously, the conclusion is true: All socialists are indeed collectivists.

- Bill



Post 18

Sunday, August 20, 2006 - 3:44pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

The place where I thought I made it the most clear, you disregarded because it conflicted with how Schwartz argued it.  I'm not here to defend Schwartz, and I don't want to act as his proxy.  So if you want to understand what I'm saying, you have to look at my own arguments.  I don't want to waste time trying to argue who has the better interpretation of his statements.

I said:
I think it would be questionable to suggest that we agree with someone who makes that kind of love argument. We'd have to ignore the fact that the concepts involved are referring to entirely different things, and that the reason for making the statement is entirely different. For instance, they might suggest loving someone who's in need, but is destructive to your life, is good. That's what their statement is referring to. Ours obviously doesn't.
I thought this was clear, but I'll try again.  The conclusion "Love is good" actually has a very different meaning for the person making the argument.  When dealing with concepts, we know we can always go look at the referents of the concepts.  If we did the same with the proposition, we would notice that the arguer would use radically different referents than we would.  They would look at a sacrificial love and say it's an example of love being good.  We would disagree.  And thus we would argue that their final statement is actually false (as well as their argument being false).  Forget what you think Schwartz means by love.  Can you see what I'm getting at?  If just the statement "Love is good" has radically different referents, doesn't it mean that one view is false?

If we take that to be the thrust of Schwartz's argument, it makes sense (although we'd still have to decide if it's universally applicable).  We could say that by understanding the argument made, we can see how their final statement means something entirely different from it's face value.  We might then make the more aggressive statement that if they actually derived the conclusion from false statements, the end result at least partially contains those false premises, and so is false.  But we can take it step by step.

You say:
Observe that there is a difference between the proposition, "(Selfish) love is good" and the proposition "(Selfish) love is good, because...." The first proposition is true, while the second could be false.
Let's look at this in more detail.  If someone said "love is good", would you dare to tell them that you completely agree?  I certainly wouldn't.  Love certainly can be good, but the context would matter a lot, wouldn't it?  If they made a blanket statement like that, we'd have to rule it as false.  So at least in this case, the statement "love is good" needs to be limited and applicable in certain contexts.  By looking at the person's argument that makes this conclusion, we can see that their choosing a context and scope that make it false.  Once again, the meaning of the conclusion needs to be understood before it can be evaluated.  And by seeing the false arguments, we understand enough of the meaning of the conclusion to dismiss it.

But in this quote, you used the term 'selfish'.  So let's assume that for now (although I'm not convinced) that the conclusion means that.  You argue the first statement is true, but the second may not be.  Is the first one true?  Objectivism doesn't have a theory of propositions, but I think if it is anything like how we treat concepts, we can look at what are the referents of the statement.  It's making a statement about reality, in this case a generalized statement, and we can look at the specific examples.  So as I said before, I think we can argue that the first statement is factually wrong.  And in fact, we can know that it's wrong because they came to the conclusion in a way that makes them choose incorrect referents.

So while the statement "(selfish) love is good" might be able to refer to a statement about reality that we would agree with, this example highlights the need for understanding the context and meaning of the proposition.  It just means that a statement like that can have more than one meaning, and to judge it, we need to know what the meaning is.

And this explains why I'm hesitant to discard the "because" part of the statement.  Saying "love is good" connects these two concepts, but without understanding what kind of connection is meant, we can't judge the validity of it.  We can't figure out what the referents are.  We can see that it's a statement, but we don't really know what it means.

You say:
It is very important not to confuse an argument with its conclusion. What you're saying is a conclusion is really an argument containing a conclusion.
Actually, I thought I was saying that the conclusion contains some amount of the argument.  But I don't think I'm confusing the argument with the conclusion.  I'm not trying to judge the conclusion based on whether it was properly derived from it's conclusions.  That would be a mistake, and I agree that we would call it "invalid" in that case.  But I'm not even suggesting that the argument is invalid.  I'm just saying that the meaning of the conclusion, the referents which it describes, are based on the initial premises.  It's not the argument that's wrong.  The meaning of the conclusion is wrong.

You say:
The meaning of the conclusion depends on the meaning of its constituent terms, whose meaning is itself determined by their meaning in the premises.
This might be the major difference in our lines of thought.  I don't think you can just take the constituent terms, slap them together, and say that's the meaning of the conclusion.  The conclusion connects these constituent terms through a specific means.  The person making the conclusion means something in particular.

Maybe this is a technical disagreement. Maybe you're saying that technically, the conclusion is only stating that there is a relationship between love and good, and doesn't at all say or mean anything about the specific kind of connection.  So even though it was generated by seeing a specific connection, the conclusion actually makes a more generalized statement?

That doesn't really make sense to me.  If they generated the conclusion by a specific means, it seems that the "love is good" is referring to that conclusion.  Otherwise, it would be like them following the logic, coming to a conclusion supported by the logic, but then stating "We can see that there is indeed some connection between love and good, and that love must at times be good, but we make no statement about why that's the case or how exactly love is good".  It's only this super generalized statements where the referents are not just abstracted, but completely dropped, that we could then say "Why yes...they came to a true conclusion through false premises!".

You then add an example of your own:
All socialists are atheists. (False)
All atheists are collectivists. (False)
Therefore, all socialists are collectivists. (True)
This one is more difficult because it's harder to understand how someone would make this argument, and thus it's harder to see what the conclusion is referring to for them.  It has to be more than just statistical.  They have to have reasons for supporting these premises.  Maybe they think socialists are atheists because a belief in god is somehow incompatible with socialism.  And maybe they think that all atheists are collectivists because a belief in god is necessary to be an individualist.  So then they make their conclusion that socialists can't be religious, and so they can't be individualists.  So the connection made is via their godlessness, and not through their shared anti-individualism.  The conclusion centers around the belief that atheism is the connection.  Do we agree with that?  No.  So again, only taking a very sterile view of their conclusion, as if they're just words and not meaning anything deeper, can we say that it's correct.  But if understand that they mean something entirely different than we do, we'd have to say that we disagree.  We don't disagree with every possible meaning of the statement.  We just disagree with their meaning.

So if we take the statement at face value, assuming it's not referring to any specific kind of connection, but just simply stating the existence of a connection, only then could we say that it's true.  But, and this gets into your second article discussion of the arbitrary, the statement becomes arbitrary.  Only be assuming there's no reason for stating it or there's no knowledge which it's based on can we say that's it's true.  But it would be an arbitrary assertion.  Given that it's actually the conclusion of a syllogism, I don't think it's fair to assume that it's arguing for a arbitrary or unknown connection.  In fact, for the syllogism to be valid at all, it has to argue for a specific connection and therefore specific meaning.

Looking forward to your comments.




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Monday, August 21, 2006 - 2:09pmSanction this postReply
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Joe, at one point you write:
the meaning of the conclusion needs to be understood before it can be evaluated.
That is not identical with "the conclusion is false."  Yes, someone making the claim "love is good" is on its everyday face and without the trouble of analysis a claim that looks all good and true, but yes, it's actually not clear enough to be assigned a definite meaning.  Once it's unpacked, you can (hopefully) pin it down to a specific meaning and proposition.  The point Bill is making, though, is that an appropriately specified proposition does have a truth-value.

The example of all socialists being collectivists is (presumably) much less controversial and much more definite about its meaning.  Bill is saying for the sake of argument that it's true and uncontroversially so.  Now, why all of a sudden a long digression into the context of the person who utters it, to know or determine its truth-value?

(BTW, I've long since learned that if you want to understand an Objectivist principle, one is well advised not to consult Mr. Schwartz.  Every time I've observed where there's some supposed ambiguity about a position in Objectivism, he's adopted an interpretation further removed from common sense than readily available alternatives.  If, for instance, it's an ambiguity concerning whether Objectivism appropriately distinguishes truth from knowledge, he goes the route of arguing that truth, like knowledge, is relative to a context.  And so his treatment of a statement like "all socialists are collectivists" becomes more removed from common sense and reality than what any plain, reasonable, Aristotelian-influenced treatment would be.  Ayn Rand would be aghast at someone doing verbal gymnastics to call into question that "all socialists are collectivists" needs all kinds of unpacking and delving into personal context of whoever utters it for it to be considered true.  Now, there is an important matter of justification; if called upon to prove it, one should be able to show that Canadian democratic socialists like Vickers and Caplan of "Debate 1984" are collectivists just as the Soviets were.  But common sense also recognizes that this does not affect the matter of its truth, which applies whether or not Vickers or Caplan manage to find a way to recognize and assent to the argument demonstrating it.)

(In connection with this, I recommend a careful reading on the contrast between Rand's and Schwartz's statements on the subject of "libertarianism."  As it happens, Rand's view square more with common sense and clarity.  I trust that her views on truth and contextual knowledge were likewise.  Despite ambiguities in available texts, Rand is in line with common sense by calling her view of truth the correspondence theory; from what I can tell, Schwartz has abandoned the correspondence theory in favor of something else.  It's only on such a something-else theory that you could come up with some reading of "all socialists are collectivists" that makes it not-true.  I guess by the same token, one could come up with an interpretation of "Libertarianism is nihilism in essence" that comes out true given some private, un-expressed meaning of the term "Libertarianism" so loosely and amply thrown about in his work.)




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