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Post 60

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 4:42amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

But I WILL NOT (yet?) concede "simplicity" to the concept of "dog" over the concept of "foot"

Yes, you are right. I was not referring to the "simplicity" of the concept in terms of its units. Obviously, the units of the concept "foot" are all identical, and once conceived, quite simple while the units of the concept dog are all different and complex.

I was referring to levels of sophistication and the complexity of one's conceptual hierarchy necessary to comprehend a concept. Anyone who can see a dog can form the concept dog; to comprehend the concept foot requires a more sophisticated level of abstraction.

I concede the simplicity issue, because I made the wrong assumption about which aspect of the concepts you referred to.

Your post just added the exact reason why "foot" is invariant, and the tangent that dogs come first in a child's discoveries of the world.

What do you say about that, huh?

 
I say you are exactly right, and appreciate the fact you gave me credit for at least something.
 
Regi




Post 61

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 11:28amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

To my question, "Do you have a dog?" you answered, "?" which means, apparently, you don't know whether or not you have a dog.

My point was to discover if you knew what a dog is, whether or not you have ever seen one. I assumed if you owned one, and knew you owned one, you would know what a dog is.

You asked, What's your point? That dog doesn't need defining, just observing? If not, what are you saying?

The point is one has to know how much another persons knows before a definition can be provided. A definition has to start with what is already known, because the purpose of a definition is to indicate what existents the concept the word represents refers to. That is all a concept does. To define the word dog, for example, all one needs to do is indicate the kind of existents the concept dog subsumes. It does not say anything about dogs at all, except it is dogs that are identified by that concept.

So, if you know what dogs are, which apparently you do, a perfectly correct definition in this case, is, the word "dog" means any of those things to which you referred to as that which, "doesn't need defining, just observing."

Regi


Post 62

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 11:37amSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

Well, you can have 3/8's of a dog, as it happens, just as I have a kilo of cow in my fridge.
 
Well I think you have half a kilo of of cow cadaver and you could have 3/8s of a dog cadaver, but not 3/8s of a dog. I sometimes have a little, "hair of the dog," which I could have even if there were no dogs at all.

I'll assume you were joking, I know you wouldn't resort to intentional obfuscation.

Regi


Post 63

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 2:22pmSanction this postReply
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Regi writes:
>Counting is the foundation of mathemeatics. Addition is a method combining, "counts," a method more sophisticated than simply counting.

But you were saying it was an "absurdity" when I said this was "basicially the same issue"! Whereas here you now say one is just a more sophisticated version of the other. An "absurdity"? Let's see:

When I count, I count 1+1.
When I add, I add 1+1.

And when I say this is "basically the same issue" you declare this idea to be "absurd!"

This is even better than the IOE quote, and yet another excellent demonstration of my central point. Truly, pedantry rules in the house of Aristotle!

- Daniel



Post 64

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 2:53pmSanction this postReply
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DB wrote:
>Well, you can have 3/8's of a dog, as it happens, just as I have a kilo of cow in my fridge.

Regi replies:
>Well I think you have half a kilo of of cow cadaver and you could have 3/8s of a dog cadaver, but not 3/8s of a dog....I'll assume you were joking, I know you wouldn't resort to intentional obfuscation.

Jeez, who's obfuscating? It would be perfectly legitimate to say a dog with three legs is not 100%! Alternately, if a dog is dead, you can no longer correctly call it a dog? You're saying if I counted dog *cadavers* instead of live dogs, I *can* have 5&3/8s of them, but mysteriously I can't do the same with living dogs? Why? How about apples then? Are you saying your argument only applies to *live* physical objects? The discussion was just about the relationship of mathematical abstractions to physical objects generally: I don't see how whether they're alive or dead makes any difference at all.

It's clear Regi has the classic Scholastic argument style down pat. When it comes to obfuscating, I would never try to compete with a master!

- Daniel

Post 65

Saturday, June 19, 2004 - 4:37pmSanction this postReply
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Regi writes:
>So, if you know what dogs are, which apparently you do, a perfectly correct definition in this case, is, the word "dog" means any of those things to which you referred to as that which, "doesn't need defining, just observing."

Poor Regi! He thinks precise definitions will make his intellectual system infallible. Yet he will stall, cavill, wriggle, answer questions with questions; in short do anything to avoid *actually showing his system at work*, even by defining something as simple as "dog"!

So, I'll issue the challenge again: Regi, define "dog"!

Perhaps he has realised that I am right, and that he is wrong; that the attempt to precisely define words will lead to an infinite regress; to pedantry and verbalism, and to the *exact opposite* of precision in argument. He perhaps does not want me to demonstrate this fact, as it goes to the heart of his system. Otherwise, why would he not rise to so simple a challenge? (Of course, anyone else is welcome to define "dog" if Regi is reluctant to, and we can proceed from there)

After all, this infinite regress occurs if we try to prove all *statements*; and Aristotle himself demonstrated this. He merely overlooked that this applies to *definitions* too. Hence, through this blunder, we have inherited this idea that words can be precisely (as opposed to only *roughly*) defined; an idea that if looked at objectively, is little more than an empty inherited prejudice. Yet I suppose empty prejudices of all kinds have a tenacious hold on men's minds, and only sustained challenges will eventually unseat them.

- Daniel





Post 66

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 1:24pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

And when I say this is "basically the same issue" you declare this idea to be "absurd!"
 
Because it is. You ignored the simple observation that not all people who can count can add. If they were, "basically the same thing," anyone who learned one should be able to do the other.

Addition is hugely more sophisticated than counting, which is really quite limited. We can count units, entities, or discrete existents (and only units, entities and discrete existents). But one cannot add units, or entities, or discrete existents, we can only add numbers. Counting deals directly with existents, addition is an abstract function that deals with abstractions, that is, numbers. Numbers are invented to make counting possible. Actually counting produces specific numbers. Those numbers are abstracts that can be added (subtracted, multiplied, divided, etc.).

We speak of adding sugar to our recipe and adding this group to that group, but addition, in those cases, is not a mathematical term. Interestingly enough, it is an analogy borrowed from mathematics, but, in those cases, "add to," only means, "combine with." It is misunderstanding this, and dropping the context of how the word add is used, that is behind stupid statements like, "if you add a liter of alcohol to a liter of water, you do not get two liters of water/alcohol mixture, but something less than two liters, proving that one plus one does not always equal two." Of course when you "add" alcohol to water, you are not performing a mathematical function, you are performing the physical act of combining. This error also confuses counting and measurement, a disaster in science which you apparently advocate.

Because addition is not restricted to actual existents and is abstract, addition is not restricted to the cardinal (counting) numbers as counting is. Factions, decimals, imaginaries, even unknowns can be added, none of which can be counted.

Counting and addition are anything but, "basically the same issue."

But you knew that too, didn't you? Why do you pretend you do not?

Regi


Post 67

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 1:28pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

I don't see how whether they're alive or dead makes any difference at all.
 
I'll take your word for it. We certainly are not going to be able to establish much based on what you cannot see, however.

Regi
 
 


Post 68

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 5:40pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel,

So, I'll issue the challenge again: Regi, define "dog"!
 
When someone asks you, "please pass the potatoes," and you politely pass them and they immediately ask, "please pass the potatoes," you assume they are mad, perverse, or, if you are patient, they are using words in a way you do not understand.

I will be patient and assume I do not understand how you are using words, because when you asked me do define dog, and I complied, you immediately asked me to define dog.

Perhaps you would like to tell me what you mean by the word "define." It obviously has some meaning, when you use it, that I do not understand.

Regi




Post 69

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 6:20pmSanction this postReply
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Regi writes:
>Perhaps you would like to tell me what you mean by the word "define."

Thank you. I rest my case.

- Daniel

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Post 70

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 8:41pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Daniel,

Thank you.

Think nothing of it. It should be easy for you.

I rest my case.
 
Of course. I'd do the same thing if I were you. Who could blame you. It would be very embarrassing to admit one used words to ask a question and did not know what the words meant.

Regi




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Post 71

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 9:21pmSanction this postReply
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Regi,

Your post #66 was a delight to read. It gave me new insight into the epistemology behind mathematics.

It is interesting, and occasionally humorous, in a frustrating kind of way, to watch the anti-Aristotelians dodge about your argument, splitting hairs like Jesuits, ignoring the plain substance of what you write, and demanding definitions of categories that are obvious, - all the while complaining that the Aristotelian emphasis on context-keeping and the proper understanding of words leads to vacuous arguments.

The common denominator (another metaphor drawn from mathematics) of much academic hostility to objective knowledge appears to consist of treating philosophy as, literally, a word-game. Arguments are treated as pertaining only to the words in them, without examining or at least mentally modeling the characteristics and behaviour of the objects that the words symbolize. Daniel's confusion concerning your post #50, asking him if he had a dog, is a case in point.


Daniel,

Sorry to come across as harsh here. I don't mean it personally.

-Bill

Post 72

Sunday, June 20, 2004 - 11:12pmSanction this postReply
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Bill - Daniel's a big boy. He can take it. He's a good chap, really - just has a typically modern attachment to his scepticism. I've headbutted him in the past once or twice - didn't work! Regi's proving an admirable adversary, but I'm still not optimistic about the outcome.:-) I *know* Daniel has IOE, but I see no evidence that he's absorbed it. Anyway, carry on boys! :-)

Linz

Post 73

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 2:24amSanction this postReply
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William writes:
>Regi, your post #66 was a delight to read.

Well, I suppose some people enjoy nipple clamps too!

>It gave me new insight into the epistemology behind mathematics.

Bill, if you think Regi's ideas - that you can have 5&3/8ths dead dogs, but not 5&3/8ths live ones, or that it is "absurd" to compare counting to addition, or that adding a quantity to a recipe is not mathematical - give you a "new insight" into mathematical epistemology, I would truly hate to think what your *old*one was!

Regi has not grasped the difference between abstract numbers and physical bodies - either that or he refuses to accept there is one. That is all. It is a silly fallacy, and I am suprised to find a grownup backing him up on it. Still, I suppose anyone can get lost if the fog is thick enough!

>It is interesting, and occasionally humorous, in a frustrating kind of way, to watch the anti-Aristotelians dodge about your argument, splitting hairs like Jesuits, ignoring the plain substance of what you write, and demanding definitions of categories that are obvious, - all the while complaining that the Aristotelian emphasis on context-keeping and the proper understanding of words leads to vacuous arguments.

*I've* been "dodging"? Well, Bill, let's try it with you. I claim that attempts at precise definition will lead to an infinite regress, on the logical grounds that a definition needs an additional term to avoid a tautology, and that term will require an additional definition, which will require an additional term etc. If applied consistently, this will lead not to precise argument, but to an infinite regress (which is why Aristotelians are forced eventually to apply it whimsically, then spend enormous energies rationalising that whim! )

Do you dispute this? If so, on what basis?

If you sincerely do, then give simply me your definition of "dog" and I will demonstrate the problem for you for as long as we both can be bothered - and I warn you, I am a patient man!

No "dodging" now!

>The common denominator (another metaphor drawn from mathematics) of much academic hostility to objective knowledge appears to consist of treating philosophy as, literally, a word-game.

What, like this sort of thing?:
"But for any organism, to be meansto bethe kind of organism an organism is--not just the perpetuation of protoplasm."

>Sorry to come across as harsh here. I don't mean it personally.

No offence taken, natch.

- Daniel






Post 74

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 5:01amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

Thank you!

In a recent discussion I asked someone what they thought the motive was behind this kind of thing: "...the anti-Aristotelians dodge about your argument, splitting hairs like Jesuits, ignoring the plain substance of what you write ...." and "...academic hostility to objective knowledge appears to consist of treating philosophy as, literally, a word-game...."

Nicely put, by the way, and it is exactly what they do. The question is, why? If you would care to, and without getting personal, (so we won't be accused of psychologizing) please comment on what you think is the ultimate reason for this very common evasion of objective truth, and objectivity itself? Not everyone who wants to evade the truth goes to such great lengths to prove or convince others that real knowledge is impossible or there is no proof of anything.

Regi


Post 75

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 5:13amSanction this postReply
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Linz,

Regi's proving an admirable adversary, but I'm still not optimistic about the outcome.:-)
 
Oh, Linz, you're such a pessimist. You sound like one of those saddamites who keeps complaining about loosing the war in Iraq.

When I was a boy, I observed when you cut the head off a snake, it continued to wriggle and squirm for some time, which is the snakes way of arguing that it is not dead. But of course, it was dead, and I knew it.

Regi



Post 76

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 5:49amSanction this postReply
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Depends what you mean by "it," Regi.

Hahaha! Don't ya get sick of 'em?

This was a great question you posed to Bill:

" ... please comment on whatyou think is the ultimate reason for thisvery commonevasion of objective truth, and objectivity itself? Not everyone who wants to evade the truth goes to such great lengths to prove or convince others that real knowledge is impossible or there is no proof of anything."

I too puzzle over that. Why does Jesuitical hair-splitting/nihilistic nay-saying (note the two sides of the same coin yet again) hold these characters in thrall & the truth - & the certainty that it *is* the truth - bore them so?

Buggered if I know, to coin a phrase. Clearly, sophisticated ennui holds a certain appeal, & clearly, that's an affectation with which they wish to impress. But why?? Do they imagine anyone is *seriously* impressed??

Regi, you're a rationalistic old fart at times, but on this thread you're surpassing your *best* moments. And that's actually quite a feat.

You old fart.

:-)

Linz







Post 77

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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Daniel, Bill,

I claim that attempts at precise definition will lead to an infinite regress, on the logical grounds that a definition needs an additional term to avoid a tautology, and that term will require an additional definition, which will require an additional term etc.
 
Why would you want to avoid a tautology? If a definition is correct, just like any other true proposition, it will be tautological. Since when did the word tautology mean, "imprecise," or, "untrue." A definition that is not tautological would be mistaken.

Why would a "third" term be required? A definition is not a syllogism, it is a proposition. Two terms are all that are required.

I have no idea if your claim needs to be disputed or not. Please tell us what it is, so we can decide. How is a "precise" definition different from just a correct one?

Regi

(Edited by Reginald Firehammer on 6/21, 6:05am)


Post 78

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 12:01pmSanction this postReply
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"Fun with words" prelude (caution: emphasis added and selections omitted)

 

Daniel (Post 42):

Definitions are highly useful: I do *not* say that we do not need them. What I *am* saying is that the attempt to make them perfectly precise, as Ayn Rand and Aristotle recommend, has the exact *opposite* effect on actual arguments!

 

 

Ed (Post 52):

As for the measurement problem, its solved. Requirements for precision are not infinite, they are dictated by context (see my Rational Discussion article for an example of the achievable precision dictated for effective "house building").

We only need enough precision to differentiate things from other known things (we don't require the ontological exactitude of the Idealist - at least not for living in reality).


 

Daniel, I think you've misconceived Rand's handling of the measurement problem. Here's a quote from p. 196 of IOE:

"AR: Yes, in a very general way. But more than that, isn't there a very simple solution to the problem of accuracy? Which is this: let us say that you cannot go into infinity, but in the finite you can always be absolutely precise simply by saying, for instance: "Its length is no less than one millimeter and no more than two millimeters."

Prof. E: And that's perfectly exact.

AR: It's exact ..."

 

 

 

Daniel (Post 54):

Thanks Ed. I often think of this exact quote as an excellent example of the empty *verbalism* I was talking about - the bad philosophic habit of merely "playing with words" rather than actually solving problems.

For, she is saying in effect:
"I can *absolutely precisely* say its length is is no less than one millimeter and no more than two millimeters"

However, anyone else would simply say:
"I can *roughly* say its length is no less than one millimeter, and no more than two millimeters".

So there you have it. How anyone could seriously think there is some profound philosophical difference between these two statements, or that the former represents any kind of advance over the latter, is quite beyond me. It is not a solution, but merely sophistry.

 

 

Ed (Post 56):

Putting this quote in context allows for a clear and adequate understanding. The issue was the continuity of reality vs. the discrete-ness of mathematical measurement. The main issue boils down to Kant's concept "reality in itself" ("thing in itself" - ding an sich?) and Bergson utilizing Kant's concept to invalidate any and every human means of measuring reality (because, with each measurement, we can't be sure we've got it nailed).

One enlightening point you appear to be missing is that:

-If we know we've missed perfection (as Bergson claims), then our concept is right and corresponds to reality. We can get closer and closer to perfection in measurement (correctly identifying previous vagueness) only because we know the standard we are shooting for - only because we know what reality is.

Another point is that "ding an sich" is such "dung and other such" that it's an invalid human concept (although Kant's "existence apart from consciousness" concept here would be valid for an entity that lacked consciousness, it's just hard to teach them - rocks and such - all about it).

In short, it's invalid to speak of an absolute (consciousness-, and method-free) standard of exactitude. If we come to find that a given measurement was a millimeter off - we "found" this out using OUR consciousness and OUR methods, 2 things which can be dealt with objectively.

The context and instance of measuring are necessary in order for us to understand what we mean by the words exact or precise (e.g. Precise for a "ruler"? For an electron microscope?).

 

Daniel (Post 57):

I am familiar with the piece, and as far as I can see, the additional context changes nothing - and you offered it in the context of the current discussion anyway, so I am assuming you thought it directly relevant.

Are you really saying this substitution of "absolutely precisely" with "roughly" makes an important difference to this statement?

 

 

End of prelude, beginning of something wonderful:

Daniel, the "additional context" changes things and the so does the substitution of "absolutely precisely" with "roughly."  Let's take the latter first

 

Substituting "roughly"  for "absolutely precisely" (the end of categorical propositions)

Substitution of "absolutely precisely" with "roughly" example - using inch, foot, and yard.  I can say, indeed I should say (if queried) that a foot is - absolutely, precisely, exactly, no-reasonable-doubt-in-my-mindly - longer than an inch, and a that a yard is longer than a foot.  It is not merely "roughly" longer (in-the-vicinity-of-being longer), it is longer and this is beyond any shadow of a doubt.  Saying otherwise is absurd.

 

 

The "additional context"

 

Review

Ed:

"ding an sich" is such "dung and other such" that it's an invalid human concept

 

In short, it's invalid to speak of an absolute (consciousness-, and method-free) standard of exactitude.

 

The context and instance of measuring are necessary in order for us to understand what we mean by the words exact or precise

 

Daniel:

as far as I can see, the additional context changes nothing

 

Reply

Ed:
Daniel, in your response above, you seem to be saying that - although "absolute precision" has been invalidated by Rand (available from words used in the context) - "absolute precision" is advocated by Rand.  This appears contradictory.

 

Maybe you could show me how a contextual validation of both the precision and the definition of key terms (exact, precise) "changes nothing" from your original claim (that chasing precision is counter-productive, and not merely unproductive, or slightly productive).

 
Ed


Post 79

Monday, June 21, 2004 - 12:09pmSanction this postReply
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Daniel B.,

Will you please provide compelling evidence that Rand, Aristotle - OR ANYONE for that matter - does indeed recommend absolute (perfect) "precision" - instead of merely perfect "distinction?" 

I realize that you've SAID Rand and Aristotle are guilty of this, but that you've not SHOWN that they are (you need this type of material evidence to get your argument off the ground in the first place).

Ed


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