(Nick)According to Galt:
1. Reality is what it is-that is, what it is immediately apprehended to be.
2. Everyone comprehends that realty is what it is-that is, all men implicitly know the Truth.
(William)I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean -- that all men implicitly know the Truth (with a capital "T") There are some truths that people are not aware of; some people believe in propositions that are false.
(Nick)Truth (with a capital ďTĒ) refers to underlying reality. If people believe in propositions that are false, it is because they deny or avoid true knowledge for what it is, according to Objectivism . The basic problem with respect to knowing stems, not from a lack of knowledge, but, rather, from a tendency to deny, or to avoid recognizing, true knowledge for what it is. "The extreme you have always struggled to avoid is the recognition that reality is final, that A is A and that the truth is true."
(Nick)Yes, in the Objectivist Epistemology it is denied that man has any inherent knowledge. It is tabula raza. However, implicit in manís nature as man, according to the OE, is knowledge of the axioms of existence, identity, and consciousness. All other knowledge, contextual knowledge, can be derived through logical demonstration.
(William)Implicit in man's awareness of reality are the axioms of existence, identity and consciousness. It's not the case that all other knowledge is derived from these axioms, if that's what you're suggesting. On the contrary, all other knowledge, like that of the axioms, is based on one's observation of reality.
(Nick)No, the basic truths, like that of the axioms, are self-evident, in the sense of being implicit within experience itself. They are neither chosen (which would be subjectivism) nor derived on the basis of contextual knowledge (which would be relativism). They are recognized by all men as implicit in their nature as man. Man is rational by definition, and reason is his means of apprehension, ďthe faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the evidence of reality provided by manís senses.Ē And, since all truth is potentially knowable, one must, as we discussed before, already know it.
(William)I wrote, "The law of identity says something about reality, because it says that a thing is itself -- that it must be one thing rather than another -- and, therefore, that there are no contradictions in reality."
(Nick)If someone asks you who you are and you answer, ďI am who I am,Ē most people would say you did not answer the question. Yes, you are who you are, but who are you? A tree is a tree, but this doesnít get us very far. What is a tree? A is A, but what is A? Whatever something is, that is what it is, but that doesnít tell us what it is. It goes around in circles and evades the question, actually begs the question.
(Nick)Big deal, a tree is a tree, but what is a tree? An abadab is an abadab, but what is an abadab? And, I donít agree that Aristotle meant the law of identity to be anything more than a procedural rule for logical discourse, that variables cannot change their identities during the course of the argument. He didnít mean it to say something about reality, which is always changing.
(William)You have a very short memory, don't you, Nick?! Old age must be catching up with you, because we've been over this before. Here is the proof straight from the Aristotle himself: "[T]he fact that a thing is itself is the single reason and the single cause to be given in answer to all such questions as why the man is man, or the musician musical', unless one were to answer 'because each thing is inseparable from itself, and its being one just meant this'; this, however, is common to all things and is a short and easy way with the question." - Metaphysics [Book VII, Ch. 17, 1041a, 15.] It is evident from this passage that Aristotle regarded the law of identity as ontological.
(Nick)Aristotle also said, in Metaphysics, ďIf it be said that ďmanĒ has an infinite number of meanings, obviously there can be no discourse; for not to have one meaning is to have no meaning, and if words have no meaning there is an end of discourse with others, and even, strictly speaking, with oneself; because it is impossible to think of anything if we do not think of one thing.Ē It is evident from this that Aristotle meant the law of identity to be a procedural rule for logical discourse and thinking, not a truth about reality.
(Nick)If reality were no always changing, there would be no need for the law of identity.
(William)Huh?? The need for the law of identity arises from the need to identify reality for what it is, whether changing or unchanging.
(Nick)If reality is changing, then A is becoming. A is A would be too static to accurately reflect true reality.
(William)I quoted Peikoff, "No proposition can be validated merely by 'conceptual analysis'; the content of the concept -- i.e., the characteristics of the existents it integrates -- must be discovered and validated by observation., before any 'analysis' is possible."
In order even to determine the meanings of words, you have to observe reality. How do you know, without observing reality, that the word "bachelor" refers to unmarried males?
How do you identify plane figures and their properties without observing reality? Ever take a course in Plane Geometry that doesn't use a textbook with diagrams of plane figures that one has to observe in the process of analyzing their various properties? There was certainly a time when people did not know that a triangle had 180 degrees. That had to be discovered. But once it was discovered, it became part of the meaning of a triangle. The meaning of a concept is what it refers to, and what it refers to is all instances of the concept. So the meaning of "man" is every person that has existed, now exists or ever will exist including all of the person's attributes, because a person comprises his or her attributes. This is true of the meaning of "triangle" as well. The concept "triangle" refers to all triangles including all of their attributes, whether known or unknown.
(Nick)There are two ways I can know about triangles, empirically and rationally. I can go out an observe reality and notice all figures which appear to have similar characteristics and call them triangles. Or, I can understand that triangles are defined as closed figures with 3 straight lines and three angles which total 180 degrees on the inside. My mental image of triangles is much more accurate than my empirical image because straight lines and perfect angles do not occur in nature. They are approximations of my mental picture. I can then say that figures which approach my mental picture to a high degree are triangles, but this is projecting a mental image onto phenomena, not learning what triangles are by observing an external reality. It is a priori, not a posteriori. Also, my knowledge about bachelors and unmarried males does not come from going out an observing reality to see if all unmarried males are bachelors or all bachelors are unmarried males. I learn this also a priori.
Further, the meaning of ďtrianglesĒ is fixed. It cannot be changed. The meaning of man can be changed since man is still becoming, and we donít already know everything about the nature of man. It doesnít work to say man is everything he may even become, because that means he may become something which isnít man, A would become not-A. To say that A includes not A is to become incoherent.
In reality, not all things are not easy to identify. If someone says, ďAll women are smaller than men.Ē This is not necessarily true. We can be extremely certain that all men are mortal, and even consider this a tautology from which we can infer that if Socrates is a man, then Socrates is mortal. However, we have not observed all men, and there could be a remote possibility that some man has developed immunity to all disease, including old age. As long as he doesnít get hit by a truck or fall off a cliff, he will live forever. If that happens, then mortality will no longer be an essential part of being human, and science will have to adjust. Thatís okay because science allows for the possibility that they could be wrong.
(Nick)With inductive logic, a conclusion based on a sampling of swans can ascribe all swans are white. Further investigations may find that this is not true. Tautologies, however, can never be untrue.
(William)No, you cannot conclude inductively that all swans are white. The best you can say is that all the swans you are aware of are white, but you can't generalize whiteness to all swans in existence, because whiteness is not an essential property of a swan.
(Nick)If that is the case, then one cannot conclude inductively that all men are mortal. The best one can say is that all men one is aware of are mortal, but one canít generalize mortality to all men in existence or who may come into existence. Is anything, then, an essential property of man? Hey, has anyone even seen ďmanĒ? We see individual men, but we donít experience the abstract concept of ďman.Ē
(William)Even the truth of the law of identity is discovered and validated by observation. A proposition is true if and only if it corresponds to reality? How does one know that the law of identity corresponds to reality? By observing that a thing is itself and not something else. Of course, the law of identity is implicit in all observation, but one still needs observation in order to grasp it. It cannot be known prior to or independently of experience.
(Nick)Peikoff also says that manís knowledge is not acquired by logic apart from experience or by experience apart from logic, but by the application of logic to experience. ďAll truths are the product of a logical identification of the facts of experience.Ē However, how does one derive basic empirical assumptions (including assumptions about the laws of logic themselves) by applying logic to experience?
(William)A person's nature is fixed, but not necessarily the expression or manifestation. If the person changes, the change is itself part of his or her nature. The concept "man" refers to every single person, regardless of his or her stage of development.
(Nick)William, you canít really know something that hasnít manifested itself yet. You canít know more than you have already experienced. So, you canít know that manís nature is fixed. This has to be a belief, not the application of logic to experience.
(William)I wrote, "You are ignoring the fact that, for Objectivism, the essence of a concept is epistemological, not metaphysical. So, definitions can change with the growth in our knowledge. If an ape, or some other as yet undiscovered non-human animal, is found to be rational, the definition of the concept "man" will change and acquire a more precise differentiation within the expanded context of our knowledge, with 'rationality' becoming the genus instead of the differentia."
(Nick)If things change like that, it isnít so much A is A anymore than it is A is becoming.
(William)This is nonsense, and you know it. We've been over this before, and you even conceded that the law of identity was compatible with change. In fact, I quoted you above as stating that "If reality were not always changing, there would be no need for a law of identity." Now you are saying that change is incompatible with the law of identity. Apparently, you're making no attempt to integrate any of this, but are simply taking potshots at us to suit your fancy.
(Nick)You took my quote out of context. I was talking about the need for stability of terms in logical discourse, but terms are not the things to which they refer in realty. Arenít you ashamed of trying to make it look like I think the law of identity is compatible with change? Apparently, youíre making no attempt to integrate any of this but are simply taking potshots at me to suit your fancy.
(William)I wrote, "Yes, I realize that. What I meant is that I would be surprised if it were true that the complex of mineral elements comprising a turquoise stone could appear red. I'm not a gemologist. Are you? And if not, then how can you say that a turquoise stone could appear red. How do you know that that complex of minerals cannot by its very nature appear red? Things have specific natures, specific identities, and can only act according to their identities. That is the existential content in the law of identity that you seem to be ignoring.'
(Nick)First, it is not 100% certain that all things do have specific natures. We classify them that way for our convenience. But they could be in a process of becoming.
(William)Then their becoming is part of their nature. The boy is in the process of becoming a man, because that is part of his nature.
(Nick)If you want to say that anything a person does is what that person is, I agree. However, I donít think what a person does is pre-determined and fixed into his or her nature. If that were the case, the person would have no free-will. It is meaningless to say that if a person does X, it is his or her nature to do so, but it is also his or her nature to do not-X if he so chooses.
(Nick)Trying to identify them may be like trying to step in the same river twice.
(William)But you can step into the same river twice (in the relevant sense), so there is no "problem" of identification here.
(Nick)You cannot step twice into the same river, and the analogy is understandable. Things change, as the waters of the river flow. The next step is in different waters. The river changed. It is not static, as something would be which means exactly as the same identity from time to time. Time flows as does the water in the river. Who I was a second ago is not the same as who I am now or who I might be in a second from now. I am what I am not and not what I am. This is not the same as A is A, is it?
(Nick)Second, saying they have specific natures and that their natures may change is like saying, ďIt is this way. No, it is that way. No, it is another way.Ē This is meaningless.
(William)It's not meaningless at all. I can say that when a boy becomes a man, he no longer has the nature of a boy. In that respect, his nature has changed. But he still has the nature of a person. He is still the same person he was before he became a man. In that respect, his nature remains the same.
(Nick)In some respects, he is the same person; but in other respects, he is different. And he may be much different than the predictable pattern of development associated with aging. He may have been a coward as a child but had an experience which caused him to have courage when he grew up. Other people may not have had that development. To simply say he is like all other people is to not recognize this.