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Post 40

Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 5:07pmSanction this postReply
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Indeed, and lots is very interesting.

 

The issue here, however, is the metaphysical status of 'concept'. In other words, granted, we form abstractions (concepts), analyze and memorize as three functions of thought. So are these three metaphysical entities to be added to realism and nominalism?

 

Please remember thatthe most general issue is the satus of universals: things or language?

 

EM



Post 41

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 3:51amSanction this postReply
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I received and am reading American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, & Dewey (Moore 1961).

The author puts a different spin on moderate realism. If "concepts correspond to something that can be found in reality they are real and man's knowledge has a foundation in fact; if they do not correspond to something that can be found in reality they are not real" (p. 27). "As their solution to the problem, the moderate realists held that each external object has an essential nature, or an essence. The essence qua essence is neither universal nor particular, it just is" (ibid.).

Moderate realism usually means universals really exist within the particulars as individualised (link). With Moore's spin (in reality versus in particulars), Ayn Rand could be judged to subscribe to moderate realism.  Peter Saint-Andre in JARS 4.1 regarded her as a conceptualist, and I do, too. Moreover, Ayn Rand did not consider herself to be a moderate realist, Aristotle being the exemplar. "The radical difference between the Aristotelian view of concepts and the Objectivist view lies in the fact that Aristotle regarded "essence" as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological" (ITOE).

As for essences being "in" particulars, the notion sounds plausible for entities and attributes but not for relations. If 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen connected by covalent bonds is the essence of water, it's plausible. But in what particular(s) is "bigger" or "causality"?



Post 42

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 2:25pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

 

I liked most of that quote: If "concepts correspond to something that can be found in reality they are real and man's knowledge has a foundation in fact; if they do not correspond to something that can be found in reality they are not real"  To me, it is clear that there must be a difference between my concept of a unicorn and a horse. One is concept that has no real existents. The only things that can be called a "unicorn" that are out there in the world, will be photoshopped image, a painting or drawing, a statute, or a toy, or a written or spoken description of something that referrs to no actual existent. These concepts or or symbols or replicants are all of something that is only a figment of imagination. And that is different from the concept of a horse. The concept can exist, people can have fantasies in the imagination about particular horses that might not exist, or do exist but don't match in some way the imagined horse, there can be paintings, statutes, drawings, descriptions, toys, etc.... But there are also real, concrete existents.  The initial 'existent' that is 'perceived' when forming the unicorn concept, was in the mind as a figment of imagination.

 

What I don't like is to say: "if they [concepts] do not correspond to something that can be found in reality they are not real." But they are real as an entity in the mind of the individual and that individual might think it is of a real correspondent in reality. Maybe I'm being picky, but it seems to me that we need to have a category, or set of categories that identify concepts of things that don't exist, like unicorns, ghosts, etc. Because there is a lot of fictional material about ghosts, and material intended to be non-fictional which assert that ghosts are real, then these can be the referents for the concept. And that makes sense. It is an accurate concept if it says, "Ghosts are imaginary spirits of dead people and are most often found in fictional accounts or in non-fiction created by people who mistakenly believe that such a thing as a ghost could exist. In fact, there are no actual ghosts."

 

I agree with the conceptualist position of 'essence' being created/identified by the mind - being part of the act of conceptualizing as opposed to the position of perceiving it as property of the existent.



Post 43

Friday, April 4, 2014 - 10:04pmSanction this postReply
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To say that our mind forms abstractions from having generalized particulars is (somewhat) okay. Likewise, that we form 'concepts' from these generalizations is fine, too ( Let's suppose.).

 

So out of many examples of cars whizzing by on an expressway, we derive the concept of car-ness. That's why visitors from other planets report back home that our planet Earth is basically inhabited by huge, steel-enclosed animals that belch out hydrocarbons.

 

In othert words, no description as to how we think cannot serve as a basis for truth-justification, or what is referred to as 'Epistemology'. The issue, precisely, is how humans, whose basic mechanics of thought are universal, can generate truth statements that flatly contradict each other. 

 

This is not to say that I'm in any way a relativist. Rather, that formal properties of reason--such as logic--will not suffice to justify beliefs; Epistemology demands far more.

 

A good start, perhaps would be a return to the Kantian distinction between 'understanding' (verstehen) and reason. We can reason only from what we already understand to be true. And since a bigger knowledge base will offer you more and better facts from which to use reason, 'dare to know'.

 

In a more common parlance, while it's always nice to assert that A is A, it's far better to what the 'A', in reality, really is.

 

WH



Post 44

Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 2:04amSanction this postReply
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That's why visitors from other planets report back home that our planet Earth is basically inhabited by huge, steel-enclosed animals that belch out hydrocarbons.

They would also see all the people who came out of their dwellings, walking their dogs, bending down and scooping up the poop and carrying it back home.  From that the aliens would report back that small furry creatures appeared to be in charge. That they have these nearly hairless, two legged slave creatures that follow them about (fastened to the end of a leash), save their furry leader's droppings (perhaps as religious artifacts), and use those steel-enclosed things to take the little furry leaders from place to place.
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...it's always nice to assert that A is A, it's far better to what the 'A', in reality, really is.

Being able to say what A, in reality, really is will serve our practical needs most all of the time... But if we don't assert that A is A, we fall prey to those who say it isn't. And there are lots of problems down that road, including the confusion of trying to accomodate that that A we thought we knew about, is maybe not what we thought it really was. Not because of an error in thinking (which is correctable), not because of faulty input (which is correctable), and not because of new data (which will often make us rethink), but because if A might not be A, then the universe allows contradictions. That's why we need A is A. It doesn't give us certainty in any way except to say that certainty might be possible on any given thing.  And it tells us if we have a contradiction, that we need to do more thinking.



Post 45

Saturday, April 5, 2014 - 7:22amSanction this postReply
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Steve,

 

Well, I suppose that you picked up on my point about aliens and ran with it! So let's split the difference: green aliens would see earth as being ruled by huge steel turtles, red aliens by dogs.

 

Neither logic nor a Baconian induction would serve to offer the 'right' answer. This is what Hume wrote, and what shook Kant out of his dogmatic slumber.

Point of reference and knowledge base, or what Kant would later come to call "understanding" counts, too.

 

This is not  to deny the importance of logic. Pascal's formal system, beginning with A=A, is going no where. Neither is the scientific method, which is now somewhat called 'abduction' to reference the importance of the Null Hypotheses. 

 

My point is that to know what the A's are is a preclude to getting things right.. And this, to a great extent, is what 'epistemology' is supposed to do by way of saying, "What's the basis in terms of what you understand as to how you justify your beliefs? What, moreover, supports your understandings on a more basic level? Or rather, are you saying that such and such a belief has no suitable basis other than we're far better off with than without-- exiistence itself demands choice?

 

Classically speaking (1820-ish), the schools are thereby called 'justificationism' and 'coherentism', respectively. As to where Rand fits in to this scheme, I'm yet to discover through her own readings; perhaps you or others might help with ouitside sources such as Peikhoff, etc.

 

In any case, it's not surprising that the rthread skidded off into metaphysics, which is far more relevant to neurosci than epistemology--which really isn't at all.

 

WH



Post 46

Monday, May 12, 2014 - 8:07amSanction this postReply
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Another text with which Rand was familiar was Volume I of Windelband’s A History of Philosophy. On pages 287–99, he covers positions on universals up through the thought of Abelard, whom he classes as a conceptualist.

 

Rand’s notion of what conceptualism amounts to is at odds with the notion in Windelband. Her notion was in step with the view in the book by Moore, and as Saint-André observed in his endnote 9, her notion was in step with the view of conceptualism painted in Realists and Nominalists (1946) by Carré.

 

Merlin, concerning your last paragraph in #41, I would think the concrete occasions of bigger are identical in respect of bigger just as one molecule of water is identical to another. They differ in how hard it was to access the two qualitative identities, and in the case of bigger, it is a single quality (which must be specified, such as volume or weight), whereas in the two water molecules, it is collections of qualities (exhaustive and) identical between the two molecules.

 

By the way, bigger is one of those concepts I exclude as validly falling under Rand’s measurement-omission form of concepts, as it is a concept presupposed by measurement. Rand did not realize she should exclude the measurement-presupposition concepts because she fell into conflation at times, as you have also observed, over the some-any of membership relations with the some-any of measure-value relations. Then she would think of logical connectives such as and (which is a presupposition of measurement comprehension, though she was not thinking of that role) and say, “yes, here is an occasion of conjunction in thought, here is another occasion of conjunction in thought—some-any occasion, there you go.” Of course, in my estimation, this error and my corrective is modest next to what remains for measurement analysis of concepts, which I continue to develop.



Post 47

Monday, May 12, 2014 - 10:36amSanction this postReply
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Me (#41): As for essences being "in" particulars, the notion sounds plausible for entities and attributes but not for relations. If 2 atoms of hydrogen and 1 atom of oxygen connected by covalent bonds is the essence of water, it's plausible. But in what particular(s) is "bigger" or "causality"?

Stephen: Merlin, concerning your last paragraph in #41, I would think the concrete occasions of bigger are identical in respect of bigger just as one molecule of water is identical to another. They differ in how hard it was to access the two qualitative identities, and in the case of bigger, it is a single quality (which must be specified, such as volume or weight), whereas in the two water molecules, it is collections of qualities (exhaustive and) identical between the two molecules.

 

My focus was on the word "in". One thing bigger than another denotes a relationship, for which I regard the preposition "between" (like you did for "identical") more fitting than "in."



Post 48

Sunday, May 18, 2014 - 3:54amSanction this postReply
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In July 1945, Rand remarked in a letter to Isabel Patterson: “I am reading a long, detailed history of philosophy. I’m reading Aristotle in person and a lot of other things. . . . It’s actually painful for me to read Plato . . . . But I must do it.” The editor of Letters of Ayn Rand identifies that history of philosophy as the one by B. A. G. Fuller. I have obtained this text History of Philosophy – Ancient, Medieval, and Modern in its second edition, which was issued in 1945.

 

Chapter XXV is “The Question of Universals.” Fuller focuses on this issue in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, on Roscellinus, Anselm, William of Champeaux, and Abelard. He summarizes the ultra-realism of Plato and the substantial-forms realism of Aristotle. It is common to characterize Roscellinus as a nominalist, but Fuller and others object to applying this classification to him. As Fuller understands him, Roscellinus held against Plato’s existence of universals apart from and prior to individual things, and he held against Aristotle’s existence of universals in and as part of individual things; he held universals exist only in the mind. That is not to say they are not real. Quite the contrary. They really do exist in the mind, and they exist there as universals. So Fuller classes Roscellinus as a type of realist about universals. He reserves nominalist for the later view that universals do not exist anywhere and that it is with mental images standing for classes of things that we think, not with universals.

 

Against Roscellinus, William of Champeaux advocated a kind of Platonic ultra-realism. Those two men were teachers of Abelard, who argued against both of their theories. Abelard argued that universals “exist at the same time ante res (as Ideas in the divine intellect), in rebus (as the common natures shared by individual substances) and post res (as the general concepts formed by human minds).”

Abelard a Moderate Realist. This doctrine, which took a middle course between the extreme positions of William of Champeaux and Roscellinus is sometimes called conceptualism. But conceptualism, like nominalism, is now regarded by many historians of philosophy as a term more properly applied to later teaching, and Abelard is classified by them as a moderate realist—much more “moderate,” needless to say, than Roscellinus. His view was later adopted, with some modifications, by Thomas Aquinas . . . . (376)

By the restrictive requirements for the classification nominalist mentioned by Fuller, I should say that Rand is not a nominalist. Specifically, her theory is not a version of what is now called resemblance nominalism. Any concept cast in her measurement-omission form of abstractions is a way of having abstract classes in mind (with words) without always requiring a mental image, exemplary or prototypical of the class. Such concepts are based on magnitude relations standing in the world. Basing such concepts on similarities in the world analyzable in terms of said magnitude relations bonds the concepts to something specific in the intended objects even if suspension of specific measure values and class membership (i.e., even if abstractness) is only in the mind. I now as ever think that Rand’s theory should not be classed a realism about universals and deserves the new name Objectivism about universals.

 

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

PS

 

I'd like to add that Fuller's story of the road to nominalism from the kind of realism proposed by Roscellinus continues, on page 417, in the fourteenth century. He relays how in the thinkers Durand of Saint Pourcain (formerly a Thomist) and Peter Aureoli (formerly a Scotist) and William of Ockham the notion of abstract universal ideas is reduced to terms of sensory experience. "At the hands of this new teaching Universals as such simply vanished from human thinking as well as from every other form of existence." Although her theory is not a nominalist one, it would be not unreasonable to say that because she (i) replaced substantial forms with identities and (ii) replaced metaphysical essences with essential characteristic(s) alterable according to human state of knowledge about the dependency relations among things, Rand did away with universals. Fuller would ask whether her theory has us "abstract really general ideas from particular objects and entertain really universal concepts"? If yes, then her theory does not do away with universals by his lights. (See also my distinction for continued use of universals in Rand's theory: note [i] in post #1. )

 

Fuller's book was not one that Rand had simply checked from the public library and possessed only briefly. This book was in her own personal library. Nevertheless, it is questionable how much she returned to it after the 1945 reading, for further guidance in the history of philosophy. I say that because Fuller's presentation of Kant is extensive and excellent, and Rand's movement towards conception of Kant as an irrationalist, by the early '50's, and, by 1960 if not sooner, conceiving Kant's views as the root of irrationalism in subsequent philosophy is nowise a conception of Kant (a lopsided one concerning his content and his lines of influence) that she could get from Fuller.  

 

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 5/18, 7:29am)



Post 49

Saturday, February 18 - 7:42amSanction this postReply
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I’d like to add another old jewel to this chest. I’ve lately been studying the PhD. dissertation of Leonard Peikoff, which he completed in 1964. His topic was The Status of the Law of Contradiction in Classical Logical Ontologism. His third chapter includes a treatment of Locke’s thought on the epistemological status of PNC, including how it might come to be known in individual cognitive development. Along with Peikoff’s setting of Locke’s answers in relations to Aristotle’s in this area, Peikoff discusses the connection of Locke’s theory of universals to Locke’s answers on the epistemological character of PNC. It is just there, on page 107, that Peikoff has a footnote citing the old jewel, new to me, that I want to record here.

 

That is The Theory of Universals by R. I. Aaron (Oxford 1952). In this work, the author treats the varieties of realism, conceptualism, and nominalism across the history of theory of universals. He argues the sound points and bases of each and what each of them of itself leaves out of account. In the end, like Rand, but earlier and with fuller grasp and more accurate historical representations, Aaron rejects all realism, conceptualism, and nominalism as inadequate. He then sketches what he takes to be the right theory, so far as it goes. I add that last clause because he had not got onto Rand’s idea of measurement-omission analysis of general concepts (and related analysis of similarity relations). This book, and of course Peikoff’s dissertation, is work to which Peikoff would have exposed Rand in those years leading to her publication in the ‘60’s of her own theory of universals and concepts (immediately followed by her publication of Peikoff’s A-S essay).



Post 50

Sunday, March 5 - 8:59amSanction this postReply
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Thanks, as always, but I had to google a bit to find PNC: Principle of Non-Contradiction. 



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Post 51

Tuesday, May 23 - 6:55amSanction this postReply
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"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 univesals as their proper objects."

 

--Gregory Salmieri, from his 2008 Ph.D. dissertation (p. 54) Aristotle and the Problem of Concepts



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Post 52

Tuesday, May 23 - 7:06pmSanction this postReply
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Thanks, Stephen.  Here is a link to the dissertation itself:

http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/8125/1/Salmieri_Dissertation_2008.pdf

(I downloaded it, but it is a work to be read, and I am reading other works for another paper due before 30 June.)

 

Here is Gregory Salmieri's curriculum vitae

http://philosophy.sites.unc.edu/files/2013/10/curvitae-salmieri.pdf

 

His ideas appear in two books by Allan Gotthelf, available via Google Books.

 

Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle's Biology

By Allan Gotthelf

 

A Companion to Ayn Rand

edited by Allan Gotthelf and Gregory Salmieri

 

Without having read the paper, I am not about to discuss it, but I do note that the pithy quote provided by Stephen gives pause.  If a concept has an objective basis, but need not be universal, then there must be an objective limit to the extent of the concretes (or narrower abstractions) subsumed.  When I say "book" there is no limit on the number of concretes that might be contained. All the matter and energy in the universe could be converted to books and we could still posit one more book: their index...  But would that apply to giraffes? I will have to read the paper...  See you in July ...



Post 53

Thursday, May 25 - 6:21amSanction this postReply
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The qualification 'proper' in Greg's phrase 'proper object' is meant as in Aristotle's speaking of a given sensory modality's proper object. So as an Aristotelian conceives of sound as the proper object (dedicated object, we would say in engineering) of hearing, the Platonist conceives of universals as if they were proper objects of concepts. Greg argues that Aristotle did not think of universals as 'proper objects' of concepts.

 

I purchased the bound copy of Greg's dissertation, and I'm working through it as part of my studies supporting my composition concerning Peikoff's Dissertation.

 

(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 5/25, 6:23am)



Post 54

Saturday, June 10 - 5:21pmSanction this postReply
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Has anyone other than mysaelf read Binswanger's HOW WE KNOW - if so, what are your thoughts, since this an enlargement of Ayn's monologue on concepts...



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Post 55

Sunday, June 11 - 10:26amSanction this postReply
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This is a work articulating and elaborating Rand’s thought in epistemology, and in some metaphysics too. One will not find the term corollary in the Index. Some starts of Rand are dropped in this comprehensive vista of Dr. Binswanger. Axiomatic concepts and axiomatic propositions are here, as in Rand, but here evidently doing without Rand’s talk of corollaries (beyond occurrence in quotation of her).

 

Under the indexed Fallacies, one finds familiar ones from logic, familiar ones peculiar to Rand’s epistemology, and a delightful fresh one called the fallacy of retroactive self-evidence. It is straightforward from Rand’s epistemology and the role of automatization. One of the pages listed for this entry is off by one. Just look to nearby pages, as usual. The material quality of the book is excellent.

 

This book is easy reading. Binswanger’s treatment of self-evidence, Rand’s notion of it, in the first chapter, may be characteristic of most of the topics treated in this book. Objections to the notion are raised and answered, but the objections are of an elementary sort. The objections formulated by Peirce, Schlick, or Burge are not raised.

 

The measurement account of similarity and comparative similarity showcased by Rand, then her theory of concepts as by measurement omissions are covered on pages 110–28. Binswanger counts ordinal rankings as a form of measurement, like Rand, and like I with Suppes et al. Binswanger uses my well-known physical example of scratch-hardness for his illustration of ordinal measurement. There is here no sophisticated treatment of measurement, such as the JARS writings by me on measurement and its incorporation into Rand’s theory of concepts. That’s not the level at which the book is pitched.

 

Use of the physical example of scratch-hardness speaks an understanding of ordinal measurement an inch improved over Rand’s understanding back in the day; she was stuck on mentality and valuation as sole realm of ordinal scaling. Binswanger does not continue, as I did not continue, Rand’s presumption that with enough understanding, all measurement of a magnitude can be brought under ratio-scaling; that use of other scaling is a reflection only of our ignorance. However, Binswanger does not go so far as to adopt my 2004 embrace of there being different types of magnitude structures to which scales must be appropriate (which I took from modern measurement theory and from the concept of appropriate mathematization in mathematical physics – Geroch).

 

HWK has a section on “The Three Laws of Logic.” He refers to Aristotle as being the one who “identified the Law of Non-Contradiction, stating that it is the basic principle of all knowledge” (192). (On that law in Plato, see here.) He does not claim Aristotle saw it as the basic principle of deductive inference, unlike representations by Rand, Branden, and Peikoff. He notes of the Law of Non-Contradiction and the Law of Excluded Middle, as had Branden and Peikoff, that they stem from the law of identity, and he rightly indicates that this is thought beyond the vista reached by Aristotle. Dr. Binswanger exhibits in this section a fine appreciation of the ways in which identity, in Rand’s full sense, enters into the well-known elementary syllogistic inference to the mortality of Socrates.



Post 56

Sunday, June 11 - 12:15pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Stephen.  That is valuable information (and well presented).



Post 57

Wednesday, June 21 - 1:44amSanction this postReply
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I am reading How We Know, with about one-third to go. Binswanger elaborates and extends Rand’s epistemology and metaphysics in various ways. For example, he delves into propositions and the role of logic. Much of that I found worthwhile. On the other hand, there are parts I reject, like his misrepresentation of John Locke’s epistemology and his attempt to maintain Rand’s hypothesis of measurement omission. I find Rand’s idea of it to be be mostly confused, misleading, and irrelevant. Binswanger tries to preserve it. I think he fails. I can only speculate about his thought process, but I suspect he was confused by it, too, so he tries to salvage it with a twist in the opposite direction – measurement inclusion.

 

In upcoming weeks I will post about How We Know on my Correspondence and Coherence blog

 

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 6/21, 10:18am)



Post 58

Wednesday, June 21 - 11:00amSanction this postReply
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.

Look forward to your thoughts on it, Merlin.

 

I've been wanting to mention to you that in my close study of Peikoff's dissertation, he did a very sensitive and balanced view of Locke's epistemological views. I haven't written about that yet. I'm still in the Aristotle section. This last year there was a new translation of Metaphysics, and I must assimilate that into my remarks. So this is a slow production for me, but I'm getting there and with much profit for my own book.

 

On Peikoff's Dissertation

 

Prep



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