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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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