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Post 0

Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 1:18pmSanction this postReply
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Now that Cal has left RoR, he won't be responding to my latest reply (Post 73) on the "Reading Epistemology Intro..." thread, which is too bad, because he gave me an opportunity to refine my arguments.

Ellen Stuttle lauds him for his knowledge of physics and of the history and methods of science, and dubs him a worthy opponent of Objectivism. I agree that he is probably the most articulate and knowledgeable anti-Objectivist on the list, but he is an anti-Objectivist nonetheless. Like Mr. Bob Mac and Nick Otani, his whole purpose for being here is apparently to criticize Rand's philosophy. I say that, because, to my knowledge, Cal has never defended or supported Objectivism in any of his posts.

Be that as it may, I've enjoyed debating him on the empirical certainty issue, on which his views reflect the conventional wisdom, viz.: "I'm right," but lest I sound too arrogant, I must be quick to add that "I could be wrong." -- a view which is probably due as much to the false modesty and humility pervading the current culture as it is to any serious philosophic reflection, although the reason Cal defended it was not out of false modesty but in opposition to philosophic dogmatism. Of course, the antidote to dogmatism is not militant uncertainty, but intellectual honesty -- the willingness to acknowledge one's mistakes and to accept reasonable criticism -- of which Cal was no more of an exemplar than any of the other anti-Objectivists on this list.

The gist of my answer to his objections are reflected in the following dialogue (which appears near the end of Post 73 on the Epistemology thread):
(Cal:) He realizes that even while all the evidence seems to point unambiguously to one conclusion and he therefore has to accept this conclusion, there always remains the possibility - how unlikely it may seem at that moment - that he is in error. Beware of people who think they can't err.

(Bill:) We have to distinguish here between the possibility of error involving snap judgments, opinions and tentative conclusions, and the possibility of error involving propositions of which the person is fully convinced. If a person firmly believes that a proposition is true (e.g., that the earth is round), then it makes no sense for him to say that he could nevertheless be mistaken about it, simply because people have been mistaken about such things in the past.

Indeed, in order to be in error about one's beliefs, they must actually be one's beliefs. One cannot be in error about a belief, if one doesn't actually hold it as a belief, and if one believes that a particular proposition is true, then one cannot simultaneously admit that it could be false.

(Cal:) Of course one can. Only a dogmatist thinks that he can't be wrong. Any realist is aware of the fact that he is convinced that a certain proposition is true is no guarantee that it is really true.

(Bill:) Well, if he's convinced that it's true, then he already believes that he has that guarantee; otherwise, he wouldn't be convinced. I'm convinced that the earth is round, because I believe that the truth of that proposition is guaranteed by the evidence. More to the point: how do you reconcile the two statements:

(1) "X is true," and
(2) "X could be false."

I don't see these as compatible. Do you? The statement "X is true" precludes X being false. If X is true, then it cannot be false, whereas the statement "X could be false" does not preclude X being false. The latter statement (2) allows for the possibility that X actually is false, whereas the former (1) does not, since a proposition cannot be both true and false. So, if I'm convinced that X is true, then I cannot in logic believe simultaneously that it could be false.
Interestingly, I've not heard other Objectivists make this argument, which I developed on my own as a philosophy student while at U.C. Berkeley back in the early '70's. I included it as part of a paper I wrote on skepticism. Unfortunately, I got no feedback on it from the professor, who claimed that he lost the paper. (He gave me an A- as consolation: can you belief that?!)

I suspect that the reason I haven't seen other Objectivists make this argument is that it may not reflect the Objectivist position on this issue. I say this, because Rand's position seems to be that since knowledge is contextual, later discoveries do not contradict or overturn earlier ones. Thus, the discovery that the earth is round does not contradict the earlier view that it is flat; it simply augments it. David Kelley presented this argument in answer to a question that I asked at the Summer Seminar for The Atlas Society. His argument was that when people believed the earth was flat, their view referred to a certain portion of the earth which, when taken separately, was indeed flat. The later discovery that the earth is round referred to the entire earth, so it did not contradict the earlier view that earth is flat, which had a different referent. In other words, during the Middle Ages, when people viewed the earth as flat, the term "earth" had a different meaning than it did centuries later, when people recognized the earth as round. (Interestingly, the ancient Greeks knew the earth was round 2500 years ago, but that knowledge was lost during the Dark Ages.)

I have to say that I don't buy Kelley's argument - that "the earth" meant something different to the people in the Middle Ages than it meant to the ancient Greeks or to those of us in the modern era. It meant the same thing - the terrestrial body on which we live. It's just that people in the Middle Ages had a mistaken view of its size and shape. They were wrong; we (and the ancient Greeks) are right. There is no getting around this fact by saying that "the earth" meant something different to the people living in the Middle Ages.

This brings me to the central point of my discussion: In order to defend the possibility of empirical knowledge against the philosophic skeptic, we don't have to rationalize past mistakes as real knowledge by redefining terms. We can accept the fact that we were indeed mistaken in thinking that the earth is flat. That doesn't impugn our present ability to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is round.

- Bill

Post 1

Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 2:56pmSanction this postReply
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First, in your little dialogue up there, you don't distinguish between knowledge claims and belief claims. I may believe that OJ is guilty but not be able to support it with truth. Then, I may have evidence enough to support a propostion that OJ is guilty by civil trial standards, 51% more guilty than innocent, but this is not the same as beyond reasonable doubt. And, even beyond reasonable doubt need not be 100% certain. It is certain enough to convince a jury, but juries have been wrong.

We can't really live our lives without acting on less than 100% proof for everything. We have to make some assumptions and take some risks. That's what makes life interesting, exciting. And, we do okay. Sometimes, we make our own truth. We work at a project and make it successful, in spite of odds against us. We don't just follow some more logical path.

Something can be very certain within a narrow context, as when a carpenter relies on his measuring tools to build a house. Those tools, however, may not be adequate, precise enough, to build a spacecraft.

I know my vision is not 100% because it gets better when I put on corrective lenses or use a scope. There are devices which increase my hearing and even allow me to hear radio waves which are always around me which I don't perceive without them. If my senses were somehow differently constructed, I may become aware of whole new dimensions out there, or in here. (Some people say that what we perceive really reflects more about us than it does about some independent reality.) How do you refute them?

Yes, Branden said that total skepticism implies that the skeptic knows with 100% percent certainty that we can't know things with 100% certainty. However, the skeptic of the skeptic would also have to meet this criteria. Branden hangs himself on his own petard.

I am impressed with the argument that if one uses DNA testing and finds one black swan, then he or she can say, with 100% certainty, that not all swans are white, but that only confirms the uncertainty of postive universals.

People once were 100% certain that blacks were inferior to whites. They said it was self-evident. Such certainty gets in the way of learning and postive progress.

bis bald,

Nick

(Edited by Mr. Nicholas Neal Otani on 8/10, 2:58pm)


Post 2

Thursday, August 10, 2006 - 6:21pmSanction this postReply
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This sort of debate reminds me of people debating "Human nature" with one another endlessly in circles.

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Post 3

Friday, August 11, 2006 - 11:05amSanction this postReply
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I wrote that "in order to be in error about one's beliefs, they must actually be one's beliefs. One cannot be in error about a belief, if one doesn't actually hold it as a belief, and if one believes that a particular proposition is true, then one cannot simultaneously admit that it could be false."

Nick replied,
First, in your little dialogue up there, you don't distinguish between knowledge claims and belief claims.
My apologies for not being clear. By "belief," I meant a conviction or claim to knowledge; in other words, a proposition whose truth one is absolutely convinced of, like the proposition, "The earth is round."
I realize that I may believe that OJ is guilty but not be able to support it with truth. Then, I may have evidence enough to support a proposition that OJ is guilty by civil trial standards, 51% more guilty than innocent, but this is not the same as beyond reasonable doubt.
Right, and in that case, you can logically admit the possibility of error.
And, even beyond reasonable doubt need not be 100% certain. It is certain enough to convince a jury, but juries have been wrong.
Some people make a distinction between "beyond a reasonable doubt" and "beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was convinced that the prosecution proved O.J. guilty beyond a reasonable doubt but not beyond a shadow of a doubt. Therefore, I can logically admit the (remote) possibility that he is innocent and that my belief that he is guilty is mistaken. By contrast, I am convinced that the earth is round beyond a shadow of a doubt. Therefore, I cannot logically admit the possibility that I am mistaken about that.
We can't really live our lives without acting on less than 100% proof for everything. We have to make some assumptions and take some risks.
I agree.
Something can be very certain within a narrow context, as when a carpenter relies on his measuring tools to build a house. Those tools, however, may not be adequate, precise enough, to build a spacecraft.
Right. What determines the degree of precision is whatever is necessary and sufficient to satisfy your purpose. A degree of precision that is necessary and sufficient for one purpose is not necessarily so for another.
I know my vision is not 100% because it gets better when I put on corrective lenses or use a scope. There are devices which increase my hearing and even allow me to hear radio waves which are always around me which I don't perceive without them. If my senses were somehow differently constructed, I may become aware of whole new dimensions out there, or in here. (Some people say that what we perceive really reflects more about us than it does about some independent reality.) How do you refute them?
I don't think you can say, "reflects more about us than about some independent reality," since you would have no standard on which to judge "more" or "less" in this context. What you can say is that some people's senses provide more discriminated information than others' do. For example, a sighted person can acquire more information about reality directly from his senses than a blind person can, but blind people can nevertheless compensate to a high degree and in many cases gain the information they need to carry on their activities.
Yes, Branden said that total skepticism implies that the skeptic knows with 100% percent certainty that we can't know things with 100% certainty. However, the skeptic of the skeptic would also have to meet this criteria. Branden hangs himself on his own petard.
I don't think so. The skeptic contradicts himself, by (implicitly) claiming to know that he can't know anything. But Branden isn't skeptical of the skeptic's position. He's certain that it's fallacious. So he does not contradict himself in the way that skeptic does.
I am impressed with the argument that if one uses DNA testing and finds one black swan, then he or she can say, with 100% certainty, that not all swans are white, but that only confirms the uncertainty of positive universals.
It reflects the uncertainty of some positive universals, but not of all. I can say, for example, that it's certain that all swans have webbed feat and a long, slender neck, that all elephants have trunks, that all fish navigate by swimming, that all cubes of ice (less dense than water) float, that all fans (in good working order) create a breeze, etc.
People once were 100% certain that blacks were inferior to whites. They said it was self-evident. Such certainty gets in the way of learning and positive progress.
The fault lies not in their certainty, but in what they claimed to be certain about. Does your certainty that they were wrong get in the way of learning and progress?

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 8/11, 11:09am)


Post 4

Friday, August 11, 2006 - 2:32pmSanction this postReply
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(Nick)Yes, Branden said that total skepticism implies that the skeptic knows with 100% percent certainty that we can't know things with 100% certainty. However, the skeptic of the skeptic would also have to meet this criteria. Branden hangs himself on his own petard.

 

(Bill)I don't think so. The skeptic contradicts himself, by (implicitly) claiming to know that he can't know anything. But Branden isn't skeptical of the skeptic's position. He's certain that it's fallacious. So he does not contradict himself in the way that skeptic does.

 

(Nick)Branden said, ďThe assertion that a thing is unknowable carries the necessary epistemological implication that the speaker is omniscientóthat he has total knowledge of everything in the universeÖĒ Hey, this would apply also  if someone asserts the contrary doctrine of absolute knowability. All the problems with claiming absolute unknowabilty also apply to claiming absolute knowabilty. Is Branden claiming omniscience?

 

(Nick)I am impressed with the argument that if one uses DNA testing and finds one black swan, then he or she can say, with 100% certainty, that not all swans are white, but that only confirms the uncertainty of positive universals.

 

(Bill)It reflects the uncertainty of some positive universals, but not of all. I can say, for example, that it's certain that all swans have webbed feat and a long, slender neck, that all elephants have trunks, that all fish navigate by swimming, that all cubes of ice (less dense than water) float, that all fans (in good working order) create a breeze, etc.

 

(Nick)If one positive universal is found to be uncertain, it casts doubt on all positive universals discovered by experience. And, it is not beyond possibility for a swan to have a deformity and not have webbed feet. It might even be possible for a turquoise to be red instead of bluish green. It might be harder to find a bachelor who is not an unmarried male, but that is because bachelors are unmarried males by definition, not by inductive reasoning, by experience. (Yes, I know Rand rejects the analytic/synthetic dichotomy, but opens herself to problems by doing so.)

 

(Nick)People once were 100% certain that blacks were inferior to whites. They said it was self-evident. Such certainty gets in the way of learning and positive progress.

 

(Bill)The fault lies not in their certainty, but in what they claimed to be certain about. Does your certainty that they were wrong get in the way of learning and progress?

 

(Nick)Good point! My certainty that they are wrong is ultimately based on a self-evident truth that all humans are equal as humans. There may be change and development, but it has to be within parameters which donít change. But this was worked out by Plato when he combined Heraclites with Parmenides.   

 

Bis bald,

 

Nick


Post 5

Friday, August 11, 2006 - 5:45pmSanction this postReply
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This sort of debate reminds me of people debating "Human nature" with one another endlessly in circles.

Yes, some wierd guy was arguing on the OL with Dustan, or Aggrad02, about the difference between essences and natures:

http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=548

bis bald,

Nick

(Edited by Mr. Nicholas Neal Otani on 8/11, 5:46pm)


Post 6

Friday, August 11, 2006 - 6:33pmSanction this postReply
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Branden said, ďThe assertion that a thing is unknowable carries the necessary epistemological implication that the speaker is omniscientóthat he has total knowledge of everything in the universeÖĒ Hey, this would apply also if someone asserts the contrary doctrine of absolute knowability. All the problems with claiming absolute unknowabilty also apply to claiming absolute knowabilty. Is Branden claiming omniscience?
We need to re-establish the context of Branden's remarks in order properly to evaluate them. Here is what he said leading up to the statement you quoted:
The concept of the "unknowable" does not mean: that which is unknown at present. It means: that which, by its nature, cannot be known. To claim that a thing is uinknowable entails a logical contradiction. To claim that a thing is unknowable, one must first know that it exists--but then one already has knowledge of it, to that extent. Further, to pronounce a thing unknowable, one would have to know enough about it to justify one's pronouncement--but then the pronouncement and the justification would be in contradiction. If one makes such a pronouncement, or any pronouncement, without knowledge to justify it, then this is plain irrationalism. The assertion that a thing is unknowable carries the necessary epistemological implication that the speaker is omniscient....
In other words, to claim that a thing is unknowable, one would have to be omniscient; otherwise one couldn't say it's impossible for someone ever to gain knowledge of it. But the same argument cannot be made against the claim that a thing is knowable. All that's required to say that something is knowable is to have knowledge of it. For instance, we can say that the shape of the earth is knowable, simply because we know what it is.

(Nick) I am impressed with the argument that if one uses DNA testing and finds one black swan, then he or she can say, with 100% certainty, that not all swans are white, but that only confirms the uncertainty of positive universals.

(Bill) It reflects the uncertainty of some positive universals, but not of all. I can say, for example, that it's certain that all swans have webbed feat and a long, slender neck, that all elephants have trunks, that all fish navigate by swimming, that all cubes of ice (less dense than water) float, that all fans (in good working order) create a breeze, etc.
If one positive universal is found to be uncertain, it casts doubt on all positive universals discovered by experience.
Not true. There are different kinds of positive universal statements -- those which refer to characteristics that are essential and those which refer to characteristics that are nonessential. Although positive universal statements which refer to nonessential characteristics cannot be known with certainty to be true, those which refer to essential characteristics can.
And, it is not beyond possibility for a swan to have a deformity and not have webbed feet.
It's also possible for a swan's feet to have been amputated and replaced with a prosthetic device. Would that serve as a counterexample? If not, then neither does a deformity. The implication in the statement that all swans have webbed feet is that webbed feet are an essential characteristic of a swan -- that it is in the nature of a swan to have webbed feet, which it does (barring deformity, accident or outside intervention).
It might even be possible for a turquoise to be red instead of bluish green.
Really? In it's natural state? I'd be surprised if that were true, since a turquoise stone is a particular kind of mineral -- a complex of aluminum and copper.
It might be harder to find a bachelor who is not an unmarried male, but that is because bachelors are unmarried males by definition, not by inductive reasoning, by experience. (Yes, I know Rand rejects the analytic/synthetic dichotomy, but opens herself to problems by doing so.)
Well, a swan is defined as a large aquatic bird having webbed feet and a long slender neck. So, wouldn't a swan also have webbed feet by definition?

- Bill

Post 7

Friday, August 11, 2006 - 10:26pmSanction this postReply
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In other words, to claim that a thing is unknowable, one would have to be omniscient; otherwise one couldn't say it's impossible for someone ever to gain knowledge of it. But the same argument cannot be made against the claim that a thing is knowable. All that's required to say that something is knowable is to have knowledge of it. For instance, we can say that the shape of the earth is knowable, simply because we know what it is.

 

To claim that a thing is absolutely knowable, one would have to have prior knowledge of it. To claim that everything is absolutely knowable, one would have to be omniscient.

 

There are different kinds of positive universal statements -- those which refer to characteristics that are essential and those which refer to characteristics that are nonessential. Although positive universal statements which refer to nonessential characteristics cannot be known with certainty to be true, those which refer to essential characteristics can.

 

Saying something is essential is basically identifying it by its characteristics which have already been observed and categorized. The essence of a thing is its basic self, its nature. It is the essence of knives that they are instruments with blades that which cut. One can be more specific to distinguish them from razors, lawn mowers, or saws. Still, these are definitions which become a priori. They are logical tautologies, like A is A. However, like logical tautologies, they tell us nothing about the real world. And, if we get too specific about what humans are, if we define them by their abilities at this time, we donít account for records being broken every day which increase the potential abilities of humans. At one time, humans could not run a four minute mile.

 

It's also possible for a swan's feet to have been amputated and replaced with a prosthetic device. Would that serve as a counterexample? If not, then neither does a deformity. The implication in the statement that all swans have webbed feet is that webbed feet are an essential characteristic of a swan -- that it is in the nature of a swan to have webbed feet, which it does (barring deformity, accident or outside intervention).

 

I think this is the problem with defining an as a flightless, featherless biped. Not all humans are bipeds. They are, however, creatures who, generally, have a potential to volitionally manipulate symbols in a structured form. Still, there is research being done of apes, and we may have to include them someday among rational creatures. Anyway, our empirical generalizations are provisional. They may have a high degree of certainty, but they are not 100%. If we remove our empirical definitions to the arena of abstract symbol manipulation, then we are removed from the real world. A is A does not tell us if it is raining outside.

 

Really? In it's natural state? I'd be surprised if that were true, since a turquoise stone is a particular kind of mineral -- a complex of aluminum and copper.

 

People do get surprised from time to time. They are not omniscient.

 

Well, a swan is defined as a large aquatic bird having webbed feet and a long slender neck. So, wouldn't a swan also have webbed feet by definition?

 

Definitions, like tautologies, donít change. Things in reality do. They evolve. They mutate. They become. One shouldnít conflate the analytic with the synthetic. Thatís one of Randís problems.  

 

bis bald,

 

Nick

 


Post 8

Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 1:54pmSanction this postReply
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Nick wrote,
To claim that a thing is absolutely knowable, one would have to have prior knowledge of it.
Okay, now I understand what you're saying. (Obviously, if you already know it, then you can say it's knowable.) So your argument is that you couldn't say there are things in existence that are knowable, unless you already had knowledge of them; otherwise, how would you know that they're knowable? Yes, I see your point. And you add, "To claim that everything is absolutely knowable, one would have to be omniscient."

To address your argument, I think what Branden is saying is not that for something you don't already know, you must necessarily be able to acquire knowledge of it, but rather that for something you don't already know, it isn't the case that you cannot acquire knowledge of it. Does that make sense? In other words, he wouldn't say that you can know everything that you don't already know, but rather that its illogical to say that there is something that you cannot know, because you'd have to know enough about it to make that claim, in which case, it would no longer be unknowable.

I wrote, "There are different kinds of positive universal statements -- those which refer to characteristics that are essential and those which refer to characteristics that are nonessential. Although positive universal statements which refer to nonessential characteristics cannot be known with certainty to be true, those which refer to essential characteristics can."
Saying something is essential is basically identifying it by its characteristics which have already been observed and categorized.
Right.
The essence of a thing is its basic self, its nature.
Okay, but we have to be careful to distinguish between the essence of a thing, which you characterize as its basic self and the essence of a concept, which is epistemological and which changes with the growth in one's knowledge.
It is the essence of knives that they are instruments with blades that which cut. One can be more specific to distinguish them from razors, lawn mowers, or saws. Still, these are definitions which become a priori. They are logical tautologies, like A is A. However, like logical tautologies, they tell us nothing about the real world.
Actually, that's not true; we've been over this ground before in regard to the law of identity, which is ontological (as well as epistemological). 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. Nor does the fact that a proposition is true by definition mean that it has no empirical content. As Peikoff observes: "In one sense, no truths are 'analytic.' 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 another sense, all truths are 'analytic.' When some characteristic of an entity has been discovered, the proposition ascribing it to the entity will be seen to be 'logically true' (its opposite would contradict the meaning of the concept designating the entity)." ( ITOE, p. 101)
And, if we get too specific about what humans are, if we define them by their abilities at this time, we donít account for records being broken every day which increase the potential abilities of humans. At one time, humans could not run a four minute mile.
But why can't you say that a human being is what he or she is, including whatever abilities the person possesses? According to Objectivism, the concept "man" (or "person") doesn't simply refer to someone's essential characteristics; it refers to all of the characteristics that he or she possesses, known and not yet known.

I wrote, "It's also possible for a swan's feet to have been amputated and replaced with a prosthetic device. Would that serve as a counterexample? If not, then neither does a deformity. The implication in the statement that all swans have webbed feet is that webbed feet are an essential characteristic of a swan -- that it is in the nature of a swan to have webbed feet, which it does (barring deformity, accident or outside intervention)."
I think this is the problem with defining an as a flightless, featherless biped. Not all humans are bipeds. They are, however, creatures who, generally, have a potential to volitionally manipulate symbols in a structured form. Still, there is research being done of apes, and we may have to include them someday among rational creatures.
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.
Anyway, our empirical generalizations are provisional. They may have a high degree of certainty, but they are not 100%.
As I indicated in an earlier post, this is simply not true; it depends on the kind of generalization.
If we remove our empirical definitions to the arena of abstract symbol manipulation, then we are removed from the real world. A is A does not tell us if it is raining outside.
Of course, it doesn't, but that doesn't mean that it tells us nothing about the real world. It tells us that an existent necessarily has identity. Symbols (or concepts) are simply cognitive tools for referring to and categorizing existents. If I say that all men are mortal, for example, I am referring to a characteristic that all human beings have in common, namely, the property of (eventually) dying.

I wrote, "Really? In it's natural state? I'd be surprised if that were true, since a turquoise stone is a particular kind of mineral -- a complex of aluminum and copper."
People do get surprised from time to time. They are not omniscient.
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.

I wrote, "Well, a swan is defined as a large aquatic bird having webbed feet and a long slender neck. So, wouldn't a swan also have webbed feet by definition?"
Definitions, like tautologies, donít change. Things in reality do. They evolve. They mutate. They become. One shouldnít conflate the analytic with the synthetic. Thatís one of Randís problems.
One of Rand's problems? I don't think so. See Chapter 5 in her Intro. to Objectivist Epistemology See also Peikoff's essay on "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" in the same book. One of your problems is an ignorance of Rand. Before you go accusing her of having "problems," don't you think you should at least acquire a passing familiarity with her epistemology? You obviously haven't done that, because if you had, you would know that, according to Objectivism, definitions can change with a change in our knowledge. A child's definition of a swan can be "a large white bird with a long neck"; my definition, "a large aquatic bird with webbed feet and a long slender neck"; an ornithologist's definition, "a cygnet member of the Anatidae family." These definitions, although different, can all be correct within their respective contexts of knowledge.

Yes, things can evolve and mutate, but if they do so enough, they will become essentially different things and will merit a different classification. The process of evolution or mutation does not validate the analytic-synthetic dichotomy.

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 8/12, 2:01pm)


Post 9

Saturday, August 12, 2006 - 11:03pmSanction this postReply
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To address your argument, I think what Branden is saying is not that for something you don't already know, you must necessarily be able to acquire knowledge of it, but rather that for something you don't already know, it isn't the case that you cannot acquire knowledge of it. Does that make sense? In other words, he wouldn't say that you can know everything that you don't already know, but rather that its illogical to say that there is something that you cannot know, because you'd have to know enough about it to make that claim, in which case, it would no longer be unknowable.

 

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.

3. 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."

 

Yes, in the Objectivist Epistemology it is denied that man has any inherent knowledge. T 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.

 

 

Actually, that's not true; we've been over this ground before in regard to the law of identity, which is ontological (as well as epistemological). 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.

 

Yes, I have been over this before with someone. But I was not moved. Saying that a thing is itself is not saying what that thing is. 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. If reality were not always changing, there would be no need for a law of identity.

 

 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.

 

No I donít have to go out and observe if all unmarried males are bachelors. I can determine that simply by the meanings of the words. The definition of a triangle is a three sided figure with three inside angles equaling 180 degrees. And, nobody has actually ever seen a perfect triangle outside of his or her mind. How can it be verified by observation?

 

In another sense, all truths are 'analytic.' When some characteristic of an entity has been discovered, the proposition ascribing it to the entity will be seen to be 'logically true' (its opposite would contradict the meaning of the concept designating the entity)."

 

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.

 

 

But why can't you say that a human being is what he or she is, including whatever abilities the person possesses? According to Objectivism, the concept "man" (or "person") doesn't simply refer to someone's essential characteristics; it refers to all of the characteristics that he or she possesses, known and not yet known.

 

Man doesnít have those characteristics yet. He or she is still in the process of becoming. His or her nature is not fixed.

 

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.

 

If things change like that, it isnít so much A is A anymore than it is A is becoming.

 

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.

 

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. Trying to identify them may be like trying to step in the same river twice. 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.

 

Finally, William, you admonish me for saying Rand has problems and then tell me that I have problems, that I am ignorant of Rand. I think you are ignorant of my knowledge of Rand. I think she has problems with the analytic/synthetic dichotomy and with her Objectivist Epistemology. Before assuming that I donít know what Iím talking about, you should ask me what those problems are. Get a passing familiarity with what I know before you attack my knowledge.

 

Bis bald,

 

Nick


Post 10

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 1:54amSanction this postReply
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Nick wrote,
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.
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.
3. 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."

Yes, in the Objectivist Epistemology it is denied that man has any inherent knowledge. T 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.
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.

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."
Yes, I have been over this before with someone.
You've been over it with me!
But I was not moved. Saying that a thing is itself is not saying what that thing is.
On the contrary, it does say "what" it is in a very broad sense of "what," since one can answer the question, "What is it?," by replying, "It is itself." Then you say,
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.
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.
If reality were not always changing, there would be no need for a law of identity.
Huh?? The need for the law of identity arises from the need to identify reality for what it is, whether changing or unchanging.

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."
No I donít have to go out and observe if all unmarried males are bachelors.
Right, but observation is still required in order to recognize that a thing is itself. Without observing reality, you wouldn't be able to grasp the law of identity in the first place.
I can determine that simply by the meanings of the words.
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?
The definition of a triangle is a three sided figure with three inside angles equaling 180 degrees. And, nobody has actually ever seen a perfect triangle outside of his or her mind. How can it be verified by observation?
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.

Continuing with the Peikoff quote, I wrote: "In another sense, all truths are 'analytic.' When some characteristic of an entity has been discovered, the proposition ascribing it to the entity will be seen to be 'logically true' (its opposite would contradict the meaning of the concept designating the entity)."
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.
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. To say that tautologies can never be untrue is certainly true, but as Peikoff observes: "A similar type of analysis applies to every true statement. Every truth about a given existent(s) reduces, in basic pattern, to: "X is: one or more of the things which it is." The predicate in such a case states some characteristic(s) of the subject; but since it is." The predicate in such a case states some characteristic(s) of the subject; but since it is a characteristic of the subject, the concept(s) designating the subject in fact includes the predicate from the outset. If one wishes to use the term "tautology" in this context, then all truths are "tautological." (And, by the same reasoning, all falsehoods are self-contradictions.)

"When making a statement about an existent, one has ultimately, only two alternatives: "X (which means X, the existent, including all its characteristics) is what it is" -- or: "X is not what it is." The choice between truth and falsehood is the choice between "tautology" (in the sense explained) and self-contradiction.

"In the realm of propositions, there is only one basic epistemological distinction: truth vs. falsehood, and only one fundamental issue: By what method is truth discovered and validated? To plant a dichotomy at the base of human knowledge -- to claim that there are opposite methods of validation and opposite types of truth -- is a procedure without grounds or justification."

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.

I wrote, "But why can't you say that a human being is what he or she is, including whatever abilities the person possesses? According to Objectivism, the concept 'man' (or 'person') doesn't simply refer to someone's essential characteristics; it refers to all of the characteristics that he or she possesses, known and not yet known."
Man doesnít have those characteristics yet. He or she is still in the process of becoming. His or her nature is not fixed.
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.

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."
If things change like that, it isnít so much A is A anymore than it is A is becoming.
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.

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.'
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.
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.
Trying to identify them may be like trying to step in the same river twice.
But you can step into the same river twice (in the relevant sense), so there is no "problem" of identification here.
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.
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.
Finally, William, you admonish me for saying Rand has problems and then tell me that I have problems, that I am ignorant of Rand. I think you are ignorant of my knowledge of Rand.
I don't think so. ;-)
I think she has problems with the analytic/synthetic dichotomy and with her Objectivist Epistemology. Before assuming that I donít know what Iím talking about, you should ask me what those problems are. Get a passing familiarity with what I know before you attack my knowledge.
Nick, I don't have to ask you. You've already told me.

- Bill

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Post 11

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 9:48amSanction this postReply
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William, you're a real intellectual masochist, aren't you? =)

Seriously, you've proven that Nick's cognitive method is faulty. He's obviously not interested in integrating anything you've said. He even has the audacity to tell you to get a "passing familiarity" with what he "knows" before you attack his "knowledge"--as though he hasn't already posted his thoughts a thousand times on this forum.

I do enjoy reading your rebuttals, as they're consistently precise and address the essentials. But it's tough to watch you put so much work into your replies while the person you're talking with continues to dismiss them with mystical nonsense. Do you know what I mean?

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Post 12

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 11:00amSanction this postReply
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Bill wrote:

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.
This is a very good example of the diseased thinking to which I object. 

This seems to be so entrenched in Bill's and other's thinking that it's hardly worth pointing out again, since it has been pointed out numerous times before and only met with denial or evasion.

"Even the truth of the law of identity is discovered and validated by observation"
"Of course, the law of identity is implicit in all observation"

Is again another perfect textbook case of begging the question fallacy - again!  Therefore Bill's drivel is reduced to the meaningless - again, but the law of identity is also meaningless as well.  Bill insists that the concept of identity is ontological, epistemelogical and "says something about reality".  This is false.  All it says is that something is what it is, then later it's argued that "it" has no restrictions other than what "it" cannot be what "it" isn't.  If "it" can actually be anything, then there is no meaningful restriction contained in the concept of what it cannot be, and the concept has no meaning. 

It's been a while since I looked at Aristotle's work, but if I remember correctly, identity was introduced so that a person could not escape responsibility by arguing that they were not the same person at a later time - although I could be wrong about that.  The "law" of identity itself states nothing meaningful.

But Objectivism is rife with similar boneheadedness, and it serves no more purpose for me.  Sometimes, good stuff remains of the fringe.  Sometimes, there are many good reasons why something is fringe.  Objectivism is not taken seriously as a philosophy for the latter reason and the sooner you realize this the better off you will be.

Even without the exile, I was considering not returning.  This just makes it easier.  I get a little smile though when I see how well Cal stomps all over your foolishness with an insight and understanding you cannot respond to effectively any other way other than exile.  Thats quite funny, and a perfect time for me to say a final farewell as well.

Bob


Post 13

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 1:01pmSanction this postReply
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I wrote, "Even the truth of the law of identity is discovered and validated by observation" And: "Of course, the law of identity is implicit in all observation"

Bob Mac replied:
Is again another perfect textbook case of begging the question fallacy - again! Therefore Bill's drivel is reduced to the meaningless - again, but the law of identity is also meaningless as well.
How does this beg the question? There is no other way to validate the law of identity except by observation. You have to be aware of reality in order to know what it is -- in order to know that existence is identity. Besides, "begging the question" is a fallacy that is based on the law of identity. Without a prior recognition of that law, there would be no such fallacy as begging the question.
Bill insists that the concept of identity is ontological, epistemelogical and "says something about reality". This is false. All it says is that something is what it is...
Well, that says something about reality, doesn't it? In fact, not only does the law of identity say something about reality; it says something about everything in reality.
...then later it's argued that "it" has no restrictions other than what "it" cannot be what "it" isn't. If "it" can actually be anything, then there is no meaningful restriction contained in the concept of what it cannot be, and the concept has no meaning.
What does the pronoun "it" refer to in your statement, Bob? To any particular thing? If so, then a particular thing cannot be anything; it can only be what it is. I.e., it cannot be something other than what it is. As such, the concept of identity has a clear meaning, because it refers to a fact -- and not just to any fact, but to a very important and universal fact that governs all reasoning.
It's been a while since I looked at Aristotle's work, but if I remember correctly, identity was introduced so that a person could not escape responsibility by arguing that they were not the same person at a later time - although I could be wrong about that. The "law" of identity itself states nothing meaningful.
Not according to Aristotle. Go back and read the passage I quoted from the Metaphysics. You are correct that he also recognized that without the law of identity, we couldn't hold a person responsible for his actions, because he or she wouldn't be the same person after the action as before. But he makes that point in the Nicomachean Ethics, whereas he enunciates the law of identity in the Metaphysics, which indicates that he did not present the law of identity simply in order to justify holding a person responsible for his actions, although that is certainly one application of it.
But Objectivism is rife with similar boneheadedness, and it serves no more purpose for me. Sometimes, good stuff remains of the fringe. Sometimes, there are many good reasons why something is fringe. Objectivism is not taken seriously as a philosophy for the latter reason and the sooner you realize this the better off you will be.
The sooner I realize this, the better off I will be? Gosh, Bob, I didn't think you were that concerned with my welfare. I'm touched. But you say that Rand's philosophy is not taken seriously. Not taken seriously by whom? Certainly not by you, Mr. Otani and that insect, but it is taken seriously by professional philosophers, including distinguished chairs of philosophy at major universities.
Even without the exile, I was considering not returning. This just makes it easier. I get a little smile though when I see how well Cal stomps all over your foolishness with an insight and understanding you cannot respond to effectively any other way other than exile.
I thought I responded quite effectively to his arguments. If you recall, he choose to leave the forum in the middle of a debate with me, when he could have stayed and addressed my arguments. Did he leave because he couldn't respond effectively to me in any other way? Probably not, but then neither was he exiled to the dissent forum, because people couldn't respond effectively to him in any other way.
That's quite funny, and a perfect time for me to say a final farewell as well.
Good luck. In a way, I'm glad that Rand's philosophy doesn't appeal to you. If you treated non-Objectivists the way you treat us, you'd alienate more people than you'd attract.

- Bill

Post 14

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 1:14pmSanction this postReply
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I hear you, Jon, but replying to Nick is a good test of my understanding of Objectivism. It keeps me on my toes. Do I think it will convince him? Not really. Do I think he's sincerely interested in understanding the philosophy? It doesn't appear that way.

I think he just likes to argue. Sometimes he makes some interesting points which deserve an answer. Other times, his replies are just downright silly and aren't worth responding to. I'm surprised he doesn't recognize that, because he appears to be a fairly intelligent guy.

Anyway, thanks for the compliments! :)

- Bill
(Edited by William Dwyer
on 8/14, 1:16pm)


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Post 15

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 2:00pmSanction this postReply
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William, if you think that you're profiting by continuing to respond to Nick, then you should continue. Like I already said, I do enjoy reading your rebuttals. And bravo to your last response to Bob Mac.



Post 16

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 2:06pmSanction this postReply
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(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.

 

Bis bald,

 

Nick

 

 

 


Post 17

Monday, August 14, 2006 - 2:40pmSanction this postReply
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...He even has the audacity to tell you to get a "passing familiarity" with what he "knows" before you attack his "knowledge"--as though he hasn't already posted his thoughts a thousand times on this forum.

Let's not forget that William had the audacity, first, to tell me to get a "passing familiarity" with Objectivism, as if I haven't proved already a thousand times on this forum that I am familar with Objectivism. 



I do enjoy reading your rebuttals, as they're consistently precise and address the essentials. But it's tough to watch you put so much work into your replies while the person you're talking with continues to dismiss them with mystical nonsense. Do you know what I mean?

Mystical nonsense? Please point to some mystical nonsense that I advocate. I'm not the one who claims an implicit (preconscious) recognition of truth as truth is one aspect of man's nature as man, that to deny this reality is evil. For all her prasing of Aristotle and denouncing of Plato, Rand is more compatble with Plato than with Aristotle when it comes to her account of perception of essental truth as a process of identification with reality. This is Rand's mysticism.

It's good that you don't debate me, Jon. It might be too challenging or you.

bis bald,

Nick

(Edited by Mr. Nicholas Neal Otani on 8/14, 2:43pm)


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Post 18

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 12:40pmSanction this postReply
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That last post is exactly what I'm talking about, Nick. You constantly use language vaguely or wrongly, and then you complain that people don't understand you--or don't want to try.

For example, you say something about AR's account of "perception of essental truth as a process of identification with reality." What the heck are you talking about? You can't "perceive" truth or essences, as though by revelation. You directly perceive *concrete objects and the actions of those objects*. "Truth" and "essence" are merely epistemic concepts, not actual existents. And "identification with reality"? You don't identify "with" reality, you just identify reality, or make identifications *of* reality (perceptual identifications being identifications of objects or actions of objects; conceptual identifications being identifications of principles logically inferred from what's already been perceived). This has all been pointed out by AR, and none of it's "mysticism" if you define the term properly.

I think I'm done here.




Post 19

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - 10:51pmSanction this postReply
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For example, you say something about AR's account of "perception of essental truth as a process of identification with reality." What the heck are you talking about? You can't "perceive" truth or essences, as though by revelation. You directly perceive *concrete objects and the actions of those objects*. "Truth" and "essence" are merely epistemic concepts, not actual existents. And "identification with reality"? You don't identify "with" reality, you just identify reality, or make identifications *of* reality (perceptual identifications being identifications of objects or actions of objects; conceptual identifications being identifications of principles logically inferred from what's already been perceived). This has all been pointed out by AR, and none of it's "mysticism" if you define the term properly.

 

I am comparing AR to Plato, a well-known mystic. Plato held that there are two realities, one an otherworldly plane upon which the real essences exist. Their shadows are cast on the opposite wall of the allegorical cave in which we live, and we compare those shadowy objects with our mental knowledge of the forms, the essences we remember from our time in this otherworldly plane. We know the truth but need to remember it from time to time. Learning, for Plato, is merely remembering what we already know.

 

AR implies, through Galt, that man does already know ultimate truths, like existence exists, even if existence is not a material existent. He says, "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." This implies that man does already know the truth, like someone in Platoís model, and that reality is the final arbiter, that man can compare what he knows ďwithĒ reality to test for its truth, like Plato checks outside realty with an inside, otherworldly, reality. It also sets up a dualism, like Platoís and Aristotleís, between consciousness and what consciousness perceives. In both Plato and Rand, reality is true independent of manís knowledge. In Rand's model, reason is manís tool that enables him to perceive the facts of reality but he derives those facts logically from self-evident axioms already in him as a result of his nature as a rational creature, even though he has no inherent knowledge.

 

Rand does not infer existence, identification, and consciousness from that which is perceived. These things are already inherent in experience. Since reason is what perceives, identifies, and integrates the evidence of realty provided by manís senses, he must magically, mystically, have this already before perceiving things, nicht wahr? Perhaps he picked it up in a previous life.

 

I think you are done here, Jon.

 

Bis bald,

 

Nick

 

 

 

 


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