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Post 20

Thursday, December 22, 2011 - 7:07amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,
... Abelard and John of Salisbury, the only two defenders of nominalism at the time of the great controversy whose works remain to us, are both Platonists ...
While I like, and agree with, the idea of explaining-away idealism by saying that it is a consequence of extreme subjectivism (that the ideals of idealists are merely their personal emotions, writ large), I don't agree with Pierce -- the greatest American philosopher of the 19th Century -- that Abelard was either a nominalist, nor a Platonist.

Abelard was ahead of his time. I believe he was the very first conceptualist on earth. His conceptualism -- to be distinguished from both nominalism and platonism -- did not involve the new, nominalistic kind of conceptualism, which maintains that concepts are actual things floating around in your head (to be "perceived" by your 'mind's eye'). Instead he was a conceptualist in the way that Rand is a conceptualist. Some years ago, I coined a term for this kind of conceptualism -- which doesn't take the mind to be merely a perceptive organ -- as: intentional conceptualism.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 12/22, 7:11am)


Post 21

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 8:08amSanction this postReply
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Hi Ed,

In what way do you see the relation of a word to the things it refers to as different from the relation of the concept marked by the word to the things the concept refers to?

Is it with a difference between those two relations that you distinguish between nominalism and the intentional conceptualism you see in Abelard?

If it is correct, as reported here, that Abelard held natural kinds and relations (such as similarity) to not exist in the world, I don’t see how his theory that universals are just words and the latter can nevertheless refer objectively is supportable. I mean it is one thing for Abelard to say he has got the result in his theory of universals that words can refer in objective ways, but it is another for him to show he actually has such a theory. His audience, of course, quite agrees that words can be used to think and talk truly about the world. The problem is that his theory of universals would seem to be in conflict with that common and correct view.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This is a great topic. I have The Cambridge Companion to Abelard. Hoping to learn more about him in coming weeks. On my first trip to Paris, I visited Abelard’s original grave downstairs at St. Denis. On my second, I visited his tomb with Heloise at Pere-Lachaise. (I have photos, but I don’t know how to post photos here—I have a Mac.)

Post 22

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 1:34pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

In what way do you see the relation of a word to the things it refers to as different from the relation of the concept marked by the word to the things the concept refers to?

I see the word as a short-hand, perceptible tag for the concept. And I see the concept as the human mental tool or mental means of understanding the relation of its referents to each other, as well as -- and, perhaps more importantly -- their common relation contrasted against everything else in the world. So we get to know and understand the world by means of concepts, and we sort and remember our concepts by means of words -- rather than getting to know and understand the concepts themselves (as if they had any kind of independent existence not related to our understanding the world).
Is it with a difference between those two relations that you distinguish between nominalism and the intentional conceptualism you see in Abelard?

Not really. Because of the early era in which he lived, when Abelard said "word", he meant "concept." They didn't have as clear of a distinction between word and concept as we do now (with Rand). So, when he said:

But now that reasons have been presented concerning why things, whether taken singly or collectively, cannot be universals, because they are not predicated of many things, it remains to ascribe universality in this sense to words alone.

-Logica 'Ingredientibus', Philosophische Schriften, ed. B. Geyer, p. 16

... then he meant that we should ascribe universality to our utilized concepts.

Nominalism is defined by thinking that there are no universals, not just when you look out into the external world, but also even when you look inside of your own head (or even when you look at your own thinking about the real things that exist in the world!). According to nominalism, whenever there is a hint of universality witnessed, then you are being duped. You are the victim of falling for "family resemblances" or some such nonsense (and only accidentally identifying features of things in the world as being truly-shared).

Intentional conceptualism is defined by thinking that universals, while not separately-existing entities, are an aspect of the epistemological relation of man to reality (they are how we "think"). Rand asked where the crash is, when 2 cars collide. It's not in the one car, it's not in the other. It's in the combination of the cars, acting together. Similarly, universals aren't somewhere out in the world (inside of, or otherwise associated with, things), nor are they residing inside of our heads. Instead, they are in the relation of the mind to reality. They exist when a mind understands reality.

Think of physical torque as a metaphor. Torque doesn't exist inside of a wrench. Torque "springs into" existence when man uses a wrench to loosen a bolt or a nut. In the same way, universals spring into existence when man thinks about reality. That's intentional conceptualism. Abelard had a rudimentary understanding of this, perhaps the first-ever human understanding of this. With that in mind, I take issue with the Stanford essay on Abelard to which you linked:

Abelard's metaphysics is the first great example of nominalism in the Western tradition. While his view that universals are mere words (nomina) justifies the label, nominalism—or, better, irrealism—is the hallmark of Abelard's entire metaphysics.

It is apparent that the author of this Stanford essay does not realize that Abelard meant "concepts" when he said "words" -- failing to take into account that there was no such term for "concept" back in Abelard's day. I believe that the first uses of the term "concept" did not occur until the 18th Century. I believe that even philosophers writing as late as Locke did (1632-1704), did not even employ the term: concept yet. When analyzing old philosophers such as Abelard, it is important to take note of the epistemological and linguistic "library" existing in their time.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 12/24, 1:38pm)


Post 23

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,
... I don’t see how his theory that universals are just words and the latter can nevertheless refer objectively is supportable.

Right, but you have to keep in mind that it is the Stanford authors that say that Abelard believed that universals are just measly, perceptible words -- not Abelard himself.

If Abelard would have been given the chance to respond to this ungenerous interpretation, he would have argued with the Standford authors that he unfortunately didn't have a term for "concept" back then ... so he was stucking referring to them by using the word: word.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 12/24, 3:14pm)


Post 24

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 5:36pmSanction this postReply
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Ed, do you think that all similarity relations are from our minds rather than from the world? Do you agree with the Stanford author that Abelard answers Yes to that question?

Rand, Jetton, Boydstun, . . . answer No to that question. Some similarity relations are in the world, some differing degrees of similarity are also in the world, and these are the objective bases for concepts. Without such relations out there, concepts seems adrift, as with nominalism.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Thanks for the good-thinking response in #25 below, Ed, as well as for sharing in the preceding posts your understanding of Abelard's views and the issues themselves. I look forward more than ever to making a close study of Abelard. --Stephen

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 12/25, 1:37am)


Post 25

Saturday, December 24, 2011 - 8:55pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,
Ed, do you think that all similarity relations are from our minds rather than from the world?
I haven't communicated myself well enough, as I would go so far as to say that nothing is "from our minds." I would say that minds don't create any relations (such as similarity relations), they merely apprehend them -- from the world of particulars in which we live.
Do you agree with the Stanford author that Abelard answers Yes to that question?
 No. I don't see how this author can argue that kind of a thing. Here are two quotes from this Stanford author that contradict the idea that Abelard thought similarity relations come from the mind, rather than from the world:
... since he holds that there are privileged divisions: just as a genus is properly divided into not just any species but its proximate species, so too the division of a whole must be into its principal parts. Intuitively, some wholes have a natural division that takes precedence over others; a sentence, for example, is divided into words, syllables, and letters, in precisely that order. According to Abelard, the principal parts of a whole are those whose conjunction immediately results in the complete whole. His intent seems to be that the nature of the composition (if any) that defines the integral whole also spells out its principal parts.
This quote shows that Abelard believed that there is a natural (privileged) division  -- a division not coming from your mind, but coming from the world -- where you divide up similar things from non-similar things in a way spelled out by the nature of a larger whole.
Instead, Abelard takes a natural kind to be a well-defined collection of things that have the same features, broadly speaking, that make them what they are. Why a given thing has some features rather than others is explained by how it got that way—the natural processes that created it result in its having the features it does, namely being the kind of thing it is; similar processes lead to similar results.
This quote shows that Abelard believes that similarity is natural (i.e., "from the world", not "from our minds") -- in that the various kinds of things share various kinds of features because of various kinds of natural processes. As I said before, I don't see how this author could argue that Abelard is a nominalist.

Ed


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Post 26

Sunday, December 25, 2011 - 5:38amSanction this postReply
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Stephen referenced Peter Saint-Andre's article "Conceptualism in Rand and Abelard" in post 1. It wasn't online then, but it is now here.

I believe that "similarity relations are in the world" is a crude statement. The entities and characteristics we regard as being similar are often in the world. I can point to some relations in the world, e.g. motherhood and 'the cat is on the mat.' However, I would be baffled if asked to point to a similarity relation. I can point to two or more things that are similar, but not the similarity relation per se.


Post 27

Sunday, December 25, 2011 - 9:30amSanction this postReply
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Yes, I agree, Merlin that “similarity relations in the world” should always be cashed as “relata that bear similarity are in the world.”

However, I am suspicious of the further way of talking about such relations: “entities and characteristics we regard as being similar.” At least I would think it incorrect to take that cautious locution as right for all such occasions of similarity in the world. The oblateness of the earth is a degree of departure from being spherical that is there independently of our taking it to be so or our recognizing it to be so. Likewise for the closeness of the earth’s shape to a sphere in relation to its closeness to a disk. That relation of relative closeness is there independently of whether we make the comparisons to realize it is there, I would say.

I would surely resist a philosophic picture in which there is some in-principle possibility that similarity as we know it is not explicable by similarities (and/or differences and sameness and relative magnitudes) as we know them to be in the world. Looking forward to your new essay in JARS.

Stephen


Post 28

Sunday, December 25, 2011 - 10:59amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

Thanks for including that link. I also agree that "similarity relations are in the world" is too crude a way to put it (potentially misleading).

As for the Saint-Andre essay, I agree with his 5-fold taxonomy of the (nominalism-realism) spectrum of thought on universals, but I would call his "moderate nominalist" a contemporary, mind-as-sense-organ conceptualist -- making 2 kinds of conceptualists, but only one kind of nominalist (the extreme kind).

Contemporary, mind-as-sense-organ conceptualists -- like most contemporary philosophers -- have a nominalistic bent, in that they often take concepts to be representations of the entities of the outside world. This is likely because they take perception to be indirect ("sense-data" theorists). In sense-data theory, you "see" internal images, and the images are said to represent what is external to you. For these contemporary philosophers, concepts are what you know -- not how you know. Here is a quote, again, from the Stanford author -- which speaks to this wrong kind of conceptualism:
The second Aristotelian analysis takes understanding to be the mind's possession of a concept that is a natural likeness of, or naturally similar to, that of which it is a concept. For an understanding to be about some thing, such as a cat, is for there to be an occurrent concept in the mind that is a natural likeness of a cat. The motivation for calling the likeness “natural” is to guarantee that the resemblance between the understanding and what is understood is objective, and that all persons have access to the same stock of concepts.
Ed
(Edited by Ed Thompson on 12/25, 6:13pm)


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Post 29

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 8:54amSanction this postReply
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From Vocalism to Nominalism
Progression in Abelard’s Theory of Signification
Shimizu Tetsuro

Perhaps the progression argued in this paper could alternatively be characterized as one from nominalism to conceptualism under some meanings assigned to the latter.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
BTW
    Let us go back to the intellection of a universal, which necessarily comes into being always by abstraction. For instance, when I hear “man” or “whiteness” or “white 
(thing),” I am not reminded, by virtue of the name, of all the natures or properties that are in the subject things, but, in the case of “man,” only of (natures and properties such as) animal and rational mortal; nor have I then any conception of other subordained accidental properties, but a confused, and not discrete, conception. –Abelard (in one of his phases; emphasis added)
Rand replaced the element of confusedness (a traditional strand in concept theory), or indifference, with suspension of particular measure value (within an appropriate range along appropriate qualitative dimensions). Cf.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Remark in his 2008 dissertation, the first link in #12, from Gregory Salmieri:
    It may be that the dominant non-realist theories of concepts in the history of philosophy all render concepts subjective, but it does not follow from this that all non-realist theories must. There is room for theories that hold that concepts have an objective basis, without having universals as their proper objects. I will argue that Aristotle’s held such a view.


(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 1/04, 5:19am)


Post 30

Saturday, January 7, 2012 - 8:57amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

Interestingly, your link above shows that Abelard progressed through both forms of conceptualism (C & D from below), arriving at the second (D) form -- the correct one --as I earlier claimed. To recap, there is a spectrum representing the nominalism-realism debate. The standard by which you judge where you are on the spectrum is your position on universals. There are 5 options:
A) Extreme realism:
-universals are other-worldly with a unique, independent, eternal existence (i.e., Plato's Forms or Ideas)

B) Moderate realism:
-universals are this-worldly and therefore only exist as an attribute could exist -- inside of or otherwise associated with particular objects or entities

C) Mind-as-sense-organ conceptualism:
-universals are images inside of our heads; images that are the likenesses of the real things that exist out in the world

D) Conceptual-minds conceptualism:
-universals are a product of abstract thought about reality; they are the means by which a conceptual consciousness understands reality

E) Nominalism:
-universals don't ever exist in any form -- inside of, or outside of, anyone's head (or even in the relation of the mind to reality)
With this in mind, you cannot call Abelard a nominalist. Here are supporting quotes from your link:


1)
(J) . . . let us go back to the intellection of a universal, which necessarily comes into being always by abstraction. For instance, when I hear `man' or `whiteness' or `white (thing)', I am not reminded, by virtue of the name, of all the natures or properties that are in the subject things, but, in the case of `man', only of (natures and properties such as) animal and rational mortal;
2)

. . . [I speak of a man] when my mind beholds him . . . by an image of the body, that is, when my mind imagines his sensible figure; while by the definition, that is, when my mind thinks of his universal being, which is ``rational mortal animal.''(46)
3)

(L) That is, one who utters a dictio, i. e., a certain significative vocable, constitutes an intellection in the hearer, . . . for instance `man' with its special nature as well, i. e., the rational mortal animal. For by the word `man' we only conceive ``rational mortal man'', and do not understand so much as `Socrates'.(51)
4)

Glossae super Porphyrium secundum vocales lacks the theory of signification in terms of mental images. By contrast it involves the theory that `man' produces a conception of rational mortal animal (e. g. GL. sec. voc. 134,24).
5)

In Tractatus de Intellectibus, though Abaelard admits that there cannot be any human intellections (intellectus) without an act of imagination (Tr. de int. 36,5-42,2), he analyses intellectus only in terms of its act of attending things' nature or property (e. g. natura humanitatis as animal rationale mortale), and not in terms of mental images of things (Tr. de int. 44-96).
6)

The preceding observations lead to the conclusion that Abaelard held both the imagination theory and the definition theory side by side in the Glossae `I', gradually shifted his main point to the latter theory after the gloss, and at last entirely abandoned the former theory.
7)

In the Glossulae `NPS', by contrast, when Abaelard refers to forma in terms of intellectus, it is no longer a kind of mental image, but is an intelligible, and not sensible or imaginable, form. This form is the proper object, or content, of an act of understanding.
8)

(O) Certain genera and species . . . are in a position to name (appellare), or to be the name of (nominare), sensible things, and . . . are in a position to signify things, and yet not with any form subject to sense-perception,. . . (58)

This passage is also an example of the distinction between nominare and significare rem, which we have discussed in 2.2. That is, contrary to some scholars' account,(59) this is the revised view of a word's signifying things through the medium of intellection; the revision lies in that the form by means of which a word signifies things is not a mental image any longer.
On my view, you cannot say that the man who said the above is also a nominalist. That would be a contradiction.


Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 1/07, 9:06am)


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Post 31

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 6:50pmSanction this postReply
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Follow-on to #1:

 

I had noted elsewhere "Rand may have adopted the term percept from Peirce for her concept nearby his; the third paragraph of the Foreward of her Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1966) is a quotation from American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, & Dewey (Moore 1961)."*

 

I finally got round to obtaining that book on Pragmatism cited by Rand. I had wanted to see if it discussed Peirce's conception of percept and how our cognition begins at the level of percepts, not sensations. Indeed this book does discuss that very nicely.

 

The reason Rand had cited the book was because she had quoted its formulation of what is the problem of universals. I looked that up. Yes, she resaid true.

 

That's not all she resaid, if not in quotation, then in crisp paraphrases: Rand's distinction of the four schools on universals and her representation of their character is taken from this book, viz., Platonic realism, moderate realism, nominalism, and conceptualism. Rand had left a trail on her partition of the main traditional positions right there in her citation all along.

 

Now I have before me this book which put Peirce on percepts, and Peirce on universals too, into Rand's reading fifty years ago. And a bonus answer to an old historical question for me has at last been solved, and so very easily: Where did Rand get her four-fold division and characterization of the main traditional positions on the nature of universals?

 

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 2/19, 6:56pm)



Post 32

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 4:33amSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Stephen.  I found a cheap copy of Moore's book and ordered it.

 

The question remains whether or not Peirce's and Rand's portrayal of nominalism and conceptualism are accurate. Rand wrote: "The nominalist and the conceptualist schools regard concepts as subjective, i.e., as products of man's consciousness, unrelated to the facts of reality, as mere "names" or notions arbitrarily assigned to arbitrary groupings of concretes on the ground of vague, inexplicable resemblances" (ITOE, 53).

I think not. William of Ockham is most famously associated with nominalism. What nominalism (and definitions) meant to him can be read here. Part of his nominalism is the denial of metaphysical universals, presumably also metaphysical essences, which Rand denied. He didn't explicitly say either were epistemological like Rand did. But "unrelated to the facts of reality" is extreme.

 

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 2/20, 7:31am)



Post 33

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 7:11amSanction this postReply
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Yes, I've studied Ockham and Abelard quite a bit. Peirce found Duns Scotus most on the right trail. Aristotle's form of moderate realism is not the only form of that general position. Armstrong is a moderate realist and has no use for metaphysical essences. Need to review definition and reasons for why Armstrong is yet a moderate realist, in contrast to the varieties of realism and nominalism he opposes to his position. Ockham and Abelard and Duns Scotus, might these also be forms of moderate realism, whatever other differences they have? Hobbes is easily seen as very nominalist as I recall. Been a while.

 

Moore's book seems very competent, from what I have glanced at on Peirce. You may recall that some years ago I had accidentally bought a second copy of a book then recently issued and gave the extra copy to you. That was Joel Michell's Measurement in Psychology (1999). Well, I've pulled that repetition stunt a couple more times since then. Last summer I passed on to John Enright one of those extras, which is Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism by Paul Forster (2011). Good one.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Moore begins his discussion of the problem of universals on page 25. He leads with an excerpt from DeWulf stating the problem in the Catholic Encyclopedia (1909). DeWulf's entry to the encyclopedia is available here

 

 

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 2/20, 12:18pm)



Post 34

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 5:04amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

 

>>>>....why Armstrong is yet a moderate realist, in contrast to the varieties of realism....<<<

 

Armstrong opposes abstracts as real, accepting only concretes. Eg  while 'games of tennis' are real, 'tennis' is not.

 

Otherwise, several points, please, to your long and interesting post, which merits extensive later comment:

 

* Both Ockham and Abelard bent back nominalism to include conceptualism for purposes of including 'meaning'.

 

In their own ways, both discovered that there's a huge epistemic break between mere words (nomos) and concept.

 

Words are arbitrary ('Stat rosa pristina nomima. Nominae nuda tenemus'), Concepts are what they are because they are irreplacable.

 

 

** 'Concept'  replaced 'idea' in the scholastic lexicon because the later  involved Platonic grasping outside of the mind.

 

*** As to why Armstrong kicks conceptualism back into the nominalist camp is an interesting story, involving a firewall discretioion between words and things requisite to what he feels is necessary to do science.

 

My particular view is that Philosophy itself is about concepts, or meaning. Science, oth, is about functions, ostensibly accepting some sort of 'realist' barrier in terms of creating theory.

 

Armstrong's view that abstracts fail the test of realism is puzzling....there is no 'gravity', merely. 'gravitational events'?!

 

Eva.

 

 

(Edited by Matthews on 2/21, 5:06am)



Post 35

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 10:31amSanction this postReply
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Armstrong's view that abstracts fail the test of realism is puzzling....there is no 'gravity', merely. 'gravitational events'?!

My understanding is that the word 'gravity' is a reference to a concept and the concept subsumes all the 'gravitational events' - as an understanding. A gravitational event, then would happen in the world outside of our mind, and would happen with or without being observed and with or without being understood as a gravitational event.

 

If someone says that there is no 'gravity' that would mean they are saying one of two things: That the 'map' is not the territory, i.e., that gravity is an understanding shared by all gravitational events but it is a different kind of entity - it is an understanding whereas an apple falling is a gravitational event. Or, one could interpret that as meaning that there is no such thing as an understanding? That an "understanding" is a mental event, and they don't exist except as reductable neurological events?



Post 36

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 9:14pmSanction this postReply
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Here at Dust Bunny U, it's required that we convincingly argue out pov's with which we disagree. Rest assured, however, that upon graduation all that will stop, immediately. Consistent with Real World custom, on 8 June, the only opinions I well ever express are that of my own: Bordel! Tabernac'! Mange la marde! 'Suiz libre, alorz!

 

Re Armstrong, then, I'll try not to paste in a Deleuzian gloss--insofar as he has much in common with Rand. So while both Rand and Deleuze feel that 'concept' is central to metaphysics (albiet for different reasons!), Armstrong does not. 

Rather, for him, 'concept' is just a word.

 

Please rember that Realists such as Armstrong accept universals, while Nominalsts do not. In this sense, what's remarkable about Armstrong's metaphysics is his rejection of Aristotelian Universals in favor of the universality of defined sets of behavior. This obviouly plays into the ZFC / Godel stuff--quite another story.

 

In this scenario, gravitational events form a universal set of all acts therein. "Gravity' is what we call it, but how about the Peyton List rendition, called 'gravy', which has made its way through every middle school in America? More to the point, gravatational events existed long before The Newt padoodled up some barely-comprehensible equations. Moreover, what we call it doesn't explain how it works--because nothing does!

 

Now from this you can easily tell that he's taken the brew from the wicked witch Nancy Cartwright. Physical laws are lies. Moreover, giving these words the special status of 'concept' simply hides what's really happening: we're tryiing to say more than we really know by endowing a set of observed events with a special title.

 

So again, what's important with Armstrong is his outright rejection of 'concept'. For him, to offer a Realistc metaphysic is to clearly distinguish both particular event and their distinguished universal set from all abstractions. For him, there is no magic path that would indicate which abstraction is 'true' and which is 'false' For example, Mercury.

 

All proposed laws and theories, then, are nominalist accounts. We privelege those which we think are true by labeling them 'concepts', then say, 'Oops, sorry', when they're proven false. Pardon the pun, but only a truly 'Objectuivist' account of science, in which progress is linear, would make for concepts.

 

Likewise, Deleuze gets nailed for using concept as 'meaning'. Although his historical retrieval is impeccable--tracing 'concept- as -meaning' back to Duns, as well, Armstrong emphasizes the fluidity by which we attach meaning to events.

 

Now I can reply on Deleuze's behalf. After all, he's one of the three classes I took at the Sorbonne last summer--the other two being Scholastics and Lacan,btw. 

 

*'Concept study,  for him, is simply what Philosophy does. Philosophy studies meaning.

 

*We derive Science as function by virtue of our empirical contact with the world-- including ourselves, both as a group and individually.

 

*We derive Art as a jostling of sensory data, which provokes thought...thereby concept and function.

 

That's it: Philosophy, Art , Science.

 

The world we live in is 'actual', and our thoughts of this world are 'doxa' or received wisdom. The world of the imagination is the 'virtual', which exists just beyond the cognative horizon of doxa, and the 'actual'. 

 

So a Deleuzian response would be that, of course concepts are just words, becaue that's all philosophy is! In the true Spinozan tradition (him again) special word-status is ascribed to what words do, specially speaking.

 

Judging form the previous posts, a Randian response for 'concept'seems trapped in a muddle halway between Bacon and Aristotle. Given, that 'concept' means more or less an 'abstraction', based upon available information, do we induce  an 'abstraction of 'fish' as all sea creatures that we observe? Or rather, per Aristotle, do we bring into the picture an adequate knowledge of what particulars are: the universal 'fish' is confirmed by the fact that fins are necessary for movement in the ocean.

 

In other words how do we either induce or assume sea mammals/

 

In other words, abstractiing may or may not describe learning. Moreover, there's no indication that an abstraction may be just a heuristic, not a general truth.

 

These are the philosophical minnows that Armstrong sharks feed upon: it's a polemical world out there! How Objectivists would justify the metaphysical status of 'concept' is beyond my means, although I'd be interested....

 

Eva

 

 

 

 

 

 .

 

 

 

 

(Edited by Matthews on 2/21, 9:20pm)



Post 37

Friday, February 21, 2014 - 9:53pmSanction this postReply
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If I say that there are concepts and that there are magical tadpoles, wouldn't you react to those differently? There is a sense that concepts exist, even if it is only in the mind, but with some kind of relationship to reality. But the magical tadpoles are a concept of something that does not exist in reality.  You can't really deny the concept of concept without using concepts.

 

If someone takes the position that there are no concepts, just words, then what is the relationship to reality? How can you untangle the difference between the concept of horse and unicorn? Just two words? Then you have no way to differentiate between fantasy and reality.

 

If someone makes up a theory about association of words with experiences, they have to explain the operation whereby that occurred. Were all words waiting for us to discover them in our individual DNA, passed on to us, already hooked up to images, smells, etc.? That won't work.

 

Were all words learned, but without our engaging in the creation of a concept that we symbolize with a word? How do we talk about 'learning' with out also including mental operations that result in a concept (whatever you call it).  A concept is more than a word. Saying we only have words leaves far too much not just unexplained, but unexplainable.

 

We have emotions, and they are quite real. Would someone say, "no, there are no emotions, just facial gestures and other behaviors such as activated tear glands, or contracted muscles creating a pattern we call a smile." Nonsense.

 

Because something has its existence in the mind (concept, emotion) doesn't mean it has no existence. Look at something like a foot race.  Once run, it is done.  It has no metaphysical component that stays in place waiting to be touched.  You can't touch a race once run. It isn't a thing in terms of material components the way the runners and the track are.  A race is a relationship.  Someone who has no concept of a competitive foot race, but seeing one for the first time would not know why they were running.  They would not hav the concept and giving them the words won't help.

 

And if concept exists in the mind, the next issue is to note that it relates to the external world (although we can have concepts about concepts or emotions about memories, or concepts about relationships). What I'm saying is that concepts have a meaning that is related to something percieved (or another concept), and that the representation of that external might be accurate or not, and it might be useful or not. Concepts are a product of mental operations.

 

A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by a specific definition. By organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts, man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate concretes of any given, immediate moment.

 

In any given moment, concepts enable man to hold in the focus of his conscious awareness much more than his purely perceptual capacity would permit. The range of man’s perceptual awareness—the number of percepts he can deal with at any one time—is limited. He may be able to visualize four or five units—as, for instance, five trees. He cannot visualize a hundred trees or a distance of ten light-years. It is only his conceptual faculty that makes it possible for him to deal with knowledge of that kind.

 

Man retains his concepts by means of language. With the exception of proper names, every word we use is a concept that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind. A concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units, going off in both directions, open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind. For instance, the concept “man” includes all men who live at present, who have ever lived or will ever live—a number of men so great that one would not be able to perceive them all visually, let alone to study them or discover anything about them.

 

         Ayn Rand



Post 38

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 9:40amSanction this postReply
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The term 'concept' was developed by the Scholastics to differentiate from the Platonic 'idea', which is mind-independent.

 

Thanks to the three Berber (Amzer) conquests of Gothic Spain and the Jewish translators, Aristotle moved in fast to upset the Kathiliko-Platonio-mumbo-jumbo of the barbarian states. 

 

In other words, per Aristotle, 'concepts' are what the mind develops in order to integrate and differentiate empirical experience.

In the Aristotelian sense of 'realism', the integrated units represent 'universals' said to be 'real'.

 

OTH, Platonic realism is based upon the 'reality' of ideas that are somehow grasped by the graspers--ostensibly those of power and authority...such as the Pope, for example.

 

For some scholastics, such as Abelard and Ockham, 'concept' became a third term in the metaphysical lexicon that described 'meaning'. So while saying that universals aren't real, rather only words,  (strict nominalism) the notion of 'concept' was required to explain the existence of god.

 

In other words, divine presence enters into us the form of a soul to endow us with the capacity to find meaning independent of our ability to use words or to empirically experience nature. Hence, dualism, hence the metaphysical necessity of 'concept'.

 

Now hs to how all of this might  relate to 21st century life is somewhat bizarre. Last summer in Paris, I took a couse in Scholastics simply out of curiosity, but mostly, I suppose,  to obtain the experience of classwork in The Cluny. By stark, raving coincidence, I took Deleuze as well--only to discover his revitalization of 'concept' as his working definition in "What is Philosophy?"

 

We cannot account for meaning. It's something that proves to be more of an irritant than anything else. 'Just a case of humans being rigged up to ask far too many 'why's' for their own good; a mental spandrel. Therefore, doing philosophy is something special.

 

Now to Rand:

 

Her 'concept' simply means the ability to abstract. That's fair enough, but what she's describing is an exterior thought-behavior that's based on an assumed  brainwork. Somewhere inside of our brains is a gizmo that takes singular facts and defines their relationships with each other.

 

As well, perhaps there's another brain-gizmo that takes a given thought-unit-abstraction apart to 'analyze' it's parts?

Whatever. The fact is that we all integrate and differentiate, put mental things together and take given togethers apart.

 

Plus, humans are 'human' to the extent that we possess far more mirror cells than other great apes. These enable us to run copycats of empirical information in exact detail.

 

But all of this stuff is the neuronal basis of psychology, which is what I'm presently taking, btw. It's not 'metaphysics', which was the question at hand.

 

In this regard, I would moreover suggest that Rand's description of 'concept as abstraction', as valid as it is, fails to offer a complete picture as to how we think. Again, we also copy, and break abstractions apart, or 'analyze'.

 

EM

 

 

 



Post 39

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 11:55amSanction this postReply
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Now to Rand:

 

Her 'concept' simply means the ability to abstract. That's fair enough, but what she's describing is an exterior thought-behavior that's based on an assumed  brainwork. Somewhere inside of our brains is a gizmo that takes singular facts and defines their relationships with each other.

 

As well, perhaps there's another brain-gizmo that takes a given thought-unit-abstraction apart to 'analyze' it's parts?

Whatever. The fact is that we all integrate and differentiate, put mental things together and take given togethers apart.

 

Plus, humans are 'human' to the extent that we possess far more mirror cells than other great apes. These enable us to run copycats of empirical information in exact detail.

 

But all of this stuff is the neuronal basis of psychology, which is what I'm presently taking, btw. It's not 'metaphysics', which was the question at hand.

 

In this regard, I would moreover suggest that Rand's description of 'concept as abstraction', as valid as it is, fails to offer a complete picture as to how we think. Again, we also copy, and break abstractions apart, or 'analyze'.

 

ITOE has plenty about differentiation.



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