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Thursday, July 15 - 4:15amSanction this postReply
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I am reading Richard Rubenstein's book Aristotle's Children (Amazon link), which was recommended at the TAS/Free Minds seminar. I invite the reader to read pages 110-113 concerning the debate about universals around 1100 AD. It is available on Google Books. You can use this link and then click on "page 110" to navigate.

I then invite the reader to compare the accounts of nominalism and conceptualism presented there to those presented by Ayn Rand on page 2 of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. In his article Conceptualism in Abelard and Rand here Peter Saint-Andre likens Abelard's and Rand's positions. He classifies Rand as a conceptualist, and I agree.




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Thursday, July 15 - 5:32amSanction this postReply
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Richard Rubenstein notes that Abelard’s position is called “conceptualism” by some.

Abelard’s position opposes the nominalism of Roscelin by saying that concepts are not only words but rest on similarities between classes of individuals encountered in the world. That contrast with nominalism would seem to land Abelard in a genre of realism. If one calls Abelard’s position conceptualism, is that a type of realism?

Why not class Abelard’s position on universals as objectivist, though without the measurement aspect of Rand’s Objectivist theory? Conceptualism that does not get its distinction from nominalism by its tie to objectively given similarities (and comparative similarities in Ockham’s case) would seem kissing cousin of nominalism. (Concept nominalism here.)




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Thursday, July 15 - 7:07amSanction this postReply
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Stephen wrote:
Abelard’s position opposes the nominalism of Roscelin by saying that concepts are not only words but rest on similarities between classes of individuals encountered in the world. That contrast with nominalism would seem to land Abelard in a genre of realism. If one calls Abelard’s position conceptualism, is that a type of realism?
I have not read what Roscelin wrote, but I am far from convinced that he was as extreme a nominalist as you seem to say. I am not convinced he said objectively given similarities have no role in forming concepts as Rubenstein seems to say:
Roscelin was right about one thing: universal words represent mental concepts, not ultimate realities. But he was wrong to maintain that these concepts exist only in language. The similarities between individual members of a species or class constitute a fact, not just a word or a totally subjective perception (p. 113).
Putting Abelard in a genre of realism depends much on what is meant by "realism." Ultra-realism, no. Moderate realism, maybe. Realism in the the sense that entities and their attributes on which universals are based are real, of course. However, "realism" in the prior sentence is not what "realism" means regarding universals. There the issue is do universals have an existence external to the mind.

Stephen wrote:
Why not class Abelard’s position on universals as objectivist, though without the measurement aspect of Rand’s Objectivist theory? Conceptualism that does not get its distinction from nominalism by its tie to objectively given similarities (and comparative similarities in Ockham’s case) would seem kissing cousin of nominalism. (Concept nominalism here.)
In answer to the question, that is okay with me. I don't know about any conceptualism that claims no basis in objectively given similarities.

As you probably know I reject Rand's doctrine of measurement omission being an essential part of concept formation. If young children can form concepts while knowing nothing about measurement (ratio or interval) or nothing about numbers, then the doctrine crumbles. If there are attributes that are qualitative but not measurable, then the doctrine crumbles. Of course, I hold both these conditionals to be true.

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 7/15, 7:28am)




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Thursday, July 15 - 12:31pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

I'm curious about your position. Given that a baby must begin as pre-conceptual (or if not the baby, then as a fetus). At some point there was an entity that could not form concepts, yet, at some later point, that entity can develop till it can form concepts as you and I do.

Some questions:
- Don't you allow for a transition phase?
- Why would you call for an explicit self-awareness of measurement as a requirement for concept formation?

Or am I misunderstanding what you are saying?
----------------

As an example, there is an experiment where babies are shown a toy lion being put on one of two place mats that are about a foot apart. Then a screen is put in front of each place mat - screens just large enough to block the baby's view of the center of the place mats. Lion is now out of baby's sight. Then the baby sees a hand go behind the screen where there should be no toy lion and bring out a toy lion. They can tell by the reliability of the 'surprised' response that the baby has had a number of its expectations violated. The baby expects that lion cannot be in two places at once (or it would not have been surprised) and that it could not have gotten from one place mat to the other without passing through the space between them where it would have been visible. This also tells us that the baby grasps that things continue to exist when they are hidden (have an independent existence).

It seems to me that a number of measurement-omission processes are required for the baby to be surprised. It must have formed a category of 'thing' to represent small physical objects and it has assigned them visibility and permanence and it has omitted a great many measurements (color, texture, shape, etc.) It expects the lion to exist and to be visible because it is a member of the category of small physical things. And the baby expects it to be visible and be in one place unless it visibly moves to another.

To be self-aware enough to be able to articulate the expectations would be a further development - a more mature continuation of the same process. And it would go in stages that lead to being capable of syncing one's articulation of these understandings so as to communicate to another person. After all, it isn't unreasonable to assume that baby makes some inner physiological constant to act as the symbol to organize concretes under. Then we could theorize that baby noises appear as the precursor to objective communication. After a while the randomness of the noises is replaced with greater consistency (less of a development of the process, and more of a consistent symbolic representation) and eventually with the commonly accepted words to represent the concepts.



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Thursday, July 15 - 2:11pmSanction this postReply
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Steve Wolfer wrote:
Some questions:
- Don't you allow for a transition phase?
- Why would you call for an explicit self-awareness of measurement as a requirement for concept formation?
I do. I don't call for an awareness of measurement as a requirement for concept formation at all (except when the concept is one of measurement).
As an example, there is an experiment where babies are shown a toy lion being put on one of two place mats that are about a foot apart. Then a screen is put in front of each place mat - screens just large enough to block the baby's view of the center of the place mats. Lion is now out of baby's sight. Then the baby sees a hand go behind the screen where there should be no toy lion and bring out a toy lion. They can tell by the reliability of the 'surprised' response that the baby has had a number of its expectations violated. The baby expects that lion cannot be in two places at once (or it would not have been surprised) and that it could not have gotten from one place mat to the other without passing through the space between them where it would have been visible. This also tells us that the baby grasps that things continue to exist when they are hidden (have an independent existence).
That is about object permanance. It isn't about measurement.
It seems to me that a number of measurement-omission processes are required for the baby to be surprised. It must have formed a category of 'thing' to represent small physical objects and it has assigned them visibility and permanence and it has omitted a great many measurements (color, texture, shape, etc.) It expects the lion to exist and to be visible because it is a member of the category of small physical things. And the baby expects it to be visible and be in one place unless it visibly moves to another.
Why? Why does a concept of a thing entail measurement? If a child sees some clouds and develops a rudimentary concept of cloud, is it necessary for the child to measure the clouds to have the concept? In the case of the lion, the issue is object permanance. The baby is not measuring anything, nor (I presume) even knows what measurement is or how to use a measuring instrument, e.g. a tape measure.

"Omit" has a dual meaning. One can be aware of something and then ignore it. One can omit something by not being aware of it all. Is the latter what "implicit measurement" means? If yes, then it must be cognitively irrelevant.
To be self-aware enough to be able to articulate the expectations would be a further development - a more mature continuation of the same process. And it would go in stages that lead to being capable of syncing one's articulation of these understandings so as to communicate to another person. After all, it isn't unreasonable to assume that baby makes some inner physiological constant to act as the symbol to organize concretes under. Then we could theorize that baby noises appear as the precursor to objective communication. After a while the randomness of the noises is replaced with greater consistency (less of a development of the process, and more of a consistent symbolic representation) and eventually with the commonly accepted words to represent the concepts.
How does this entail measurement in any ordinary sense of the word?




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Thursday, July 15 - 3:17pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

You wrote, "That is about object permanance. It isn't about measurement."

I don't believe you can have object permanance (in your mind) without having omitted measurements. To begin with new borns don't even have a sense of objects - not as unique or discrete entities. I refer you to James' description of the baby's world of buzzing, blooming sensations - just a blur of colors and sounds that baby hasn't learned to percieve as separate entitites.

Without entities it isn't possible to have a clear understanding - even on the simplist level - of events, attributes, actions, causes, nada!

The heart of this disagreement seems to be in what is meant by "omitting measurements."

You wrote, "Why does a concept of a thing entail measurement? If a child sees some clouds and develops a rudimentary concept of cloud, is it necessary for the child to measure the clouds to have the concept? In the case of the lion, the issue is object permanance. The baby is not measuring anything, nor (I presume) even knows what measurement is or how to use a measuring instrument, e.g. a tape measure.

'Omit' has a dual meaning. One can be aware of something and then ignore it. One can omit something by not being aware of it all. Is the latter what "implicit measurement" means? If yes, then it must be cognitively irrelevant."


A lot of the newer research done with babies in this area uses expectations. Because babies don't have the ability to communicate the researchers are attempting to determine what the baby expects and what constitutes a violation of the expectations. And then they make judgements of what that tells them about what the babies cognitive development would have to be to have those expectations. If a baby made an error in what was omitted then reality may present an event that violates the baby's idea of what a given thing can do. Baby will have to re-integrate based upon omitting a better measurement (e.g, Dog = fun furry thing.... until baby is bitten at which point it drops the fun part.)

It has been likened to magic. You are watching some sleight of hand being done and a coin appears to disappear. You expect object permanence, and object visibility, and thus you are surprised when these expectations appear to have been violated. This surprise is a form of psychic dissonance that the mind wants to resolve. Baby's learn the properties of things and integerate new knowledge with old by focusing on this kind of surprise.

When a baby watches clouds they can be learning to identify them as objects. That is an act of volitional focus. The senses bring in undifferentiated sense data. Some part of the mind initiates focus with the implicit question of "is that a thing?" From that instance it is a percept and will automatically be seen as such. Then they can decide that differences in shapes and shades of color are omitted. The only measurement that is happening here is the noticing that thing A has a shape, and that thing B has a shape. And even that focus may not happen except as part of the realization that both A and B are similar things. That is the 'aha' moment even though the measurement omitted was implicit.

Now, here is where I think the heart of the disagreement exists. Nearly all of our mental heavy lifting is done by the subconcious. It is far more powerful and extraordinarly good at symbolic work. I believe that the "implicit measurement omission" is where there is no question that a measurement was omitted, yet it wasn't done explicitly, and the person hasn't become explicitly aware of what allows them to say, "Yes, that is a cloud, and that, and that, and that, and that, but no, not this thing over here" and be accurate. They would need to ask themselves, "How do I know that, and study the concretes to come up with what they have omitted."

Notice that "measurement" is used in its generic form. It does not mean creating a math formula or a taxonomic set of descriptors that allows cataloging of clouds by individual shapes such that one could quantitatively distinguish between two similarly shaped clouds. The meteorologist can come back and add to our knowledge of the specific measurements, e.g., Cumulonimbus is a type of cloud from the family of vertically developed clouds, that is 6,500 to 60,000 feet tall, dense, and involved in thunderstorms and other intense weather.

Our individual capacity to integerate and to reason on principles will depend upon how much of our measurement omission we have made conscious. Most scientific and engineering work comes out of an explicit study of principles that are explicit derivations of what would have started as implicit. And it isn't a simple implicit versus explict. There are degrees of consciousness.

After I discussed the levels of development (concieve, symbolize, consistent symbology, express, express in common language), you asked how this related to measurement. I wasn't intending it to be just about measurement, but about the development process in general and how it was tied to communications. But because abtraction and integration are so basic, and measurement omission is so basic, they are tied into all of our processes. The baby is having to omit measurements to grasp concepts in many areas - including coming up with the idea of communicating.



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Thursday, July 15 - 4:49pmSanction this postReply
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Steve Wolfer wrote:
I don't believe you can have object permanance (in your mind) without having omitted measurements.
No, not at my age, but I believe I did when a young child, especially before I learned to count. Measuring necessarily came later.

The fact that an object is measurable in some way by somebody does not entail that a given young child knowingly omits measurements. On the other hand, if the child unknowingly omits measurements, it is cognitively irrelevant.

Let's take the example of length that Rand tried to use to justify her case for omitting measurements in ITOE. A pencil has a length, in two senses of the word. First, there is, coining a term, its metaphysical length. This is its size apart from anyone ever having measured it. Second, there is, coining another term, its measured length. To know the second is to know its length in relation to a measuring device, like a ruler or tape measure. If a child knows nothing about  using a ruler or tape measure, then the child has no idea whatever about the measured length, although it is cognizant of the metaphysical length. Per Rand in ITOE a child, merely by seeing the metaphysical lengths of a stick, a pencil and a match, apparently jumps to the conclusion that the child knows about measured length. In my view the child can ignore different metaphysical lengths, but not measured lengths, and hence not measurements. If you want to insist the child omits measurements in a cognitively irrelevant way, go ahead. But it doesn't pass muster with me.
The heart of this disagreement seems to be in what is meant by "omitting measurements."
Notice that "measurement" is used in its generic form.
Of course. You may use "measurement" as loosely as you want. You can say putting numbers on baseball uniforms is "measuring." You can say that when different objects form different size images on my retina, my eyes are "measuring." I don't.
The baby is having to omit measurements to grasp concepts in many areas - including coming up with the idea of communicating.
Oh my, that's one I haven't heard before. Learning how to speak or pointing is "measuring."  :-)


In my book measuring requires using a man-made device and a uniform magnitude, e.g. a ruler, a stop watch, a thermometer, etc. (Of course, that doesn't preclude improvising, such as stepping off a distance and treating each step as 3 feet.)

By the way, this is not the only argument I have against "measurement omission."

(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 7/15, 5:15pm)




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Post 7

Thursday, July 15 - 5:53pmSanction this postReply
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> As you probably know I reject Rand's doctrine of measurement omission being an essential part of concept formation. If young children can form concepts while knowing nothing about measurement (ratio or interval) or nothing about numbers, then the doctrine crumbles. [Merlin]

Only if you think the measurement omission has to be conscious and explicit. Rather than implicit.

The whole realm of the implicit is enormously important in cognition.



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Thursday, July 15 - 6:00pmSanction this postReply
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(Removed on grounds of redundancy)
(Edited by Peter Reidy on 7/15, 6:02pm)




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Thursday, July 15 - 6:21pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin wrote,

Let's take the example of length that Rand tried to use to justify her case for omitting measurements in ITOE. A pencil has a length, in two senses of the word. First, there is, coining a term, its metaphysical length. This is its size apart from anyone ever having measured it. Second, there is, coining another term, its measured length. To know the second is to know its length in relation to a measuring device, like a ruler or tape measure. If a child knows nothing about using a ruler or tape measure, then the child has no idea whatever about the measured length, although it is cognizant of the metaphysical length. Per Rand in ITOE a child, merely by seeing the metaphysical lengths of a stick, a pencil and a match, apparently jumps to the conclusion that the child knows about measured length. In my view the child can ignore different metaphysical lengths, but not measured lengths, and hence not measurements. If you want to insist the child omits measurements in a cognitively irrelevant way, go ahead. But it doesn't pass muster with me.

Merlin, that's an excellent presentation of the point. I disagree with your take on Rand's argument. You are saying that a specific kind of measuring is required - otherwise it is not cognitively signifcant (and I'm not sure I understand what that means here).

I have NEVER read into Rand's description any requirement that a measuring device be used, or that the use of some measuring device be understood. Measuring is a comparison or estimation and the exact method and degree of precsion is dependent upon technology and context. The context might require a measuring device or it might not. It might require great precision or not. I believe that is purely contextual. And the concept in question is what sets the context. There are scientific concepts that can't be properly understood without precise measurement using a device or a highly technical standard. But the process itself doesn't require it.

So, I'm saying that he measurement omitted might be what you have termed the metaphysical measurement or it might be the device-measured measurement. And this is what Rand said in ITOE: "Please note the fact that a given shape represents a certain category or set of geometrical measurements. Shape is an attribute; differences of shape—whether cubes, spheres, cones or any complex combinations—are a matter of differing measurements; any shape can be reduced to or expressed by a set of figures in terms of linear measurement. When, in the process of concept-formation, man observes that shape is a commensurable characteristic of certain objects, he does not have to measure all the shapes involved nor even to know how to measure them; he merely has to observe the element of similarity." [emphasis mine]

You'll have to explain to me how that renders the concept cognitively insignificant.





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Thursday, July 15 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
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Probably because he believes if it was significant, then it'd HAVE to have been used - that it wasn't, then was insignificant [within the context]...



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Thursday, July 15 - 7:00pmSanction this postReply
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Robert,

I'm saying that measurement omission is a required component in concept formation. But that it can be explicit or implicit and that it can be done with device or not, and that it can be done to a precise standard or a very rough standard. Merlin implied that some kinds of measurements are cognitively insignificant and others aren't. And in that context what does cognitively insignificant mean? That the result isn't a concept? Or it's a concept but not accurate? Or it doesn't apply to all concepts? I just didn't understand what he meant by that.



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Thursday, July 15 - 8:43pmSanction this postReply
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Oh, I agree with you - measurement omission is a required component of concept formation... and that initially it is implied, of necessity...



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Thursday, July 15 - 8:57pmSanction this postReply
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I second Phil's point (which was probably Peter's) and Steve's. From ITOE:

Similarity is grasped perceptually; in observing it, man is not and does not have to be aware of the fact that it involves a matter of measurement. It is the task of philosophy and of science to identify that fact.
. . . .
[An] example of implicit measurement can be seen in the process of forming concepts of colors. Man forms such concepts by observing that the various shades of blue are similar, as against the shades of red, and thus differentiating the range of blue from the range of red, of yellow, etc. Centuries passed before science discovered the unit by which colors could actually be measured: the wavelengths of light -- a discovery that supported, in terms of mathematical proof, the differentiations that men were and are making in terms of visual similarities."
(pp. 14-15)




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Friday, July 16 - 4:32amSanction this postReply
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Phil Coates wrote:
Only if you think the measurement omission has to be conscious and explicit.
Measuring is a conscious act. Try measuring a distance or duration without your conscious attention and observation. Or with your subconscious.  :-)
Rather than implicit.
Oh, my. Get ready for the handwaving, folks.
The whole realm of the implicit is enormously important in cognition.
So what? Perception is important in cognition, too. However, Rand's claim about measurement omission is not about perception. It's about forming concepts from percepts. If you believe measurement occurs in perception, then state your case. Skip the handwaving. Present some solid evidence from cognitive psychology or neuroscience. If you believe it does occur, then do non-human animals measure?

Steve Wolfer wrote:
Merlin, that's an excellent presentation of the point. I disagree with your take on Rand's argument. You are saying that a specific kind of measuring is required - otherwise it is not cognitively signifcant (and I'm not sure I understand what that means here).
Thanks. If there are no measurements observed, then there are no measurements to cognitively process. Of course, metaphysical lengths can be observed without observing measured lengths.
So, I'm saying that [t]he measurement omitted might be what you have termed the metaphysical measurement or it might be the device-measured measurement.
I didn't use any such term "metaphysical measurement"; I used "metaphysical length".
I have NEVER read into Rand's description any requirement that a measuring device be used, or that the use of some measuring device be understood.
Regarding the first part, I haven't either. But have you considered that she may have sometimes misused the word measurement? Have you considered that such a device and knowledge of how to use it are essential for measurement?
"When, in the process of concept-formation, man observes that shape is a commensurable characteristic of certain objects, he does not have to measure all the shapes involved nor even to know how to measure them; he merely has to observe the element of similarity." [emphasis Steve's and quoting Rand]
Thank you for buttressing my case. Like she said, observation of similarity suffices; no measurement is necessary. I would extend that to say that a young child does not need to even know that shapes are measureable to have a concept of shape.
You'll have to explain to me how that renders the concept cognitively insignificant.
I don't understand what "that" and "concept" refer to.
I'm saying that measurement omission is a required component in concept formation.
What measurements are omitted in the concept WEIRD or CREATIVE?  :-)
Merlin implied that some kinds of measurements are cognitively insignificant and others aren't.
No, you inferred it.

Bill Dwyer quotes Rand:

Similarity is grasped perceptually; in observing it, man is not and does not have to be aware of the fact that it involves a matter of measurement. It is the task of philosophy and of science to identify that fact.
I will skip the false presumption that all similarities are measurable and simply thank you for buttressing my case that measurements aren't required to form (most) concepts.
"[An] example of implicit measurement can be seen in the process of forming concepts of colors. Man forms such concepts by observing that the various shades of blue are similar, as against the shades of red, and thus differentiating the range of blue from the range of red, of yellow, etc. Centuries passed before science discovered the unit by which colors could actually be measured: the wavelengths of light -- a discovery that supported, in terms of mathematical proof, the differentiations that men were and are making in terms of visual similarities." (pp. 14-15)
The fact that a color -- more specifically its corresponding wavelength -- is measurable does not imply such fact be known in order to have the color concept. Indeed, before the scientific discovery was made, people had color concepts  -- didn't they?  Similarly, a child can have a concept of time before knowing how time is measured by a clock.

Rand's claim about omitting measurements (implicitly (-: ) is about any concept, regardless of how rudimentary it is.




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Friday, July 16 - 5:20amSanction this postReply
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SW: "It  seems to me that a number of measurement-omission processes are required for the baby to be surprised. It must have formed a category of 'thing' to represent small physical objects and it has assigned them visibility and permanence and it has omitted a great many measurements (color, texture, shape, etc.) It expects the lion to exist and to be visible because it is a member of the category of small physical things. And the baby expects it to be visible and be in one place unless it visibly moves to another."



Steve, you and Abelard and Ayn Rand never raised children.

The last sentence is true.  The baby learned that, as you hinted, as a fetus (if not an embryo), and by the time of birth the baby was prepared for the permance of tits. ... and sooner thereafter its own feet... 

There is no "intermediate stage."  David Kelley's lecture on induction is helpful in understanding that conceptualization and abstraction are immediate, mental "grasping" of a perception. 

When you physically grasp with your hands -- unless you have a problem -- you do not repeatedly come closer and closer, missing and correcting until after a few inductive attempts, you actually get your hand on the thing.  Maybe the first time you learn to catch, but not thereafter.  (And if not learned early, it may never be learned at all.  That is why attempting to convert people to Objectivism with concepts is impossible.)  A friend of mine who served in VietNam told me of discovering that the kids there had not learned to catch.  Toss a candy bar at them and they blocked it in the air with their feet, legs or bodies -- soccer moves -- but could not catch with their hands.

The same thing happens in the mind:  the first concept enables the others.

In IOE, Ayn Rand has at least one passage about how a baby learns "furniture" by integrating particulars.  I do not know which particular baby that was, but I do remember being about 2 1/2 or 3 -- not sure if my brother was born yet -- and my mother trying to explain to me which furniture we can sit on.  (The radio table was not something to sit on.)  We agreed on many particulars.  We pretty much agreed on "furniture" --  though I found it funny to turn a big pot upside down and sit on it.  (Exceptions to the rules at an early age: when does it start?)

The real problem with philosophy is philosophers: univeralism, convolutionalism, or whatever, one guy gets one idea and wants to explain everything in the world with it, a man with a hammer seeking nails.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 7/16, 5:24am)




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Post 16

Friday, July 16 - 5:39amSanction this postReply
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As you probably know I reject Rand's doctrine of measurement omission being an essential part of concept formation. If young children can form concepts while knowing nothing about measurement (ratio or interval) or nothing about numbers, then the doctrine crumbles.

Hmmmm. Maybe nothing about numbers, or even calculus, sure. But ratio or interval? The formation of the concept of control over ratio or interval is learned, I think, by running success/failure experiments. So, how can that formation be dependent on ommission of measurement?

How does one control without measurement? As soon as an infant begins to control the ten multi-axis manipulators at the end of those shoulder, elbow, wrist enabled appendages and interact with 'out there,' is there no ratio or interval involved in controlling them?

Does an infant learn to control without measurement?

Too far, no nook. failure.
Too close, no nook, failure.
Acceptable level of precise control at the right ratio and interval , nook. Success.

Experimental measurements with immediate feedback. Successful control based on measurements.

Yes, an infant will need to conduct many more measurement based control experiments to achieve what it wants before mastering pivot matrices and linear algebra and transformation of basis, but infants do seem, to me, to very early on conduct success/failure measurements leading to control.

True, they aren't recording results in a lab notebook. Don't they just measure 'as infants'...crudely...simply to control their manipulators, the enablers of reaching what they see and simply want?

Why they want is interesting. (According to fictional Hannibal Lecter, we covet/want what we see.) How they get what they want, however, seems to involve measurement and control based on success/failure at an early age. But where does the want come from? Who or what is wanting the nook enough to conduct success/failure based experimental control of their manipulators?

Maybe the process above is flail about until the nook is achieved, and an implicit training of the neural networks that control hand/eye coordination. That may not be 'concept formation' as defined. But it is mastery at some level of success/failure based measurement, resulting in achievement of what one wants. We do eventually stop flailing about.

Unfortunately. Sort of.

The 'we covet/want what we see' is interesting. When you look at the physiology of the eyes, they appear to 'reach out' from the brain, and one of their functions is to participate in 'hand/eye' coordination, the control over our appendages that literally 'reach out.' The entire rig is all about control -- by the brain, and it is not clear how control is possible without measurement.

A disembodied brain, forming concepts independent of eyes and arms and fingers, might have no need(or means)of measurement in order to form concepts, but I'd imagine the first concept it might long for is the means to conduct measurements on the way to control.

To be honest, I'm not sure if the argument above is building a bridge or blowing one up. It's not offered to do either. I was pondering what is meant by "Rand's doctrine of measurement omission being an essential part of concept formation." Is she talking about the state of an infant, prior to its mastery of achieving the nook? It seems (to me) the process of measurement leading to control begins very early in the life of an infant.

Where does the want for the nook/block/toy come from? It could be random flailing, accidentally leading to a desireable outcome, and from such small, random outcomes, our neural nets are trained to value successful measurement and control of our environment. Or, a nurturing parent rigs the early experiments for us...

regards,
Fred





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Post 17

Friday, July 16 - 8:05amSanction this postReply
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Michael:

When you physically grasp with your hands -- unless you have a problem -- you do not repeatedly come closer and closer, missing and correcting until after a few inductive attempts, you actually get your hand on the thing.

Although it looks like it was, mine was not a response to your post; I had not read yours when I posted my example.

But, clearly, we have different views of the same learning process. For example, not only do I believe that is exactly how an infant learns to grasp something, but I believe that is exactly how Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon. Not just the process of developing Apollo, but literally, when he piloted and landed his craft. He repeatedly came closer and closer, missing and correcting his intended course, until he actually landed on the Moon...and at the very last minute, altered his secondary goal enough to achieve his primary goal. (He did have a problem; overloaded guidance computer problem. But it wasn't an Apollo 13 kind of "Houston, we have a problem" problem...)

As well, I believe that is how a child, interested in robotics, would develop a robot for his science fair project, one that appeared to deliberately and precisely reach out to grasp a ball. He would not proceed directly to the solution and grasp the finished robot. He would try and measure and fail and improve until he adequately succeeded.

Maybe in a utopic world of perfection, that is not how it would be done. I don't know, never been there.

I am biased by my personal incomplete and imperfect sampling of all of reality; I used to be a development engineer, and that is how development was done. By repeatedly coming closer and closer to that which was previously not known or grasped, by educated guesses and educated corrections for measured misses. Management might have wished that the process was akin to looking up the answer in the back of the book and solving the mathematical equation and writing down the solution directly, but that process is applicable only to trivial and mostly non-competitive problems -- the kind we sometimes get as youngsters in school. It would be less costly if development proceeded in a linear fashion, from statement of the goal to implementation of a solution, without iteration. The desire for this to be the actual mode of development, as well as the belief that this can always be an actual mode of development, is held mostly by those who have mostly only ever thought about development from afar. More so in some domains than others; anything related to state machines, for example, might be more conducive to single iteration development(even as its entire history of development is one of deliberate incremental-ism.) There is a fair amount of this utopic belief, I think, behind the national criticism of BP's failure in the Gulf. Folks who couldn't change the oil in their Prius to save their life without spilling half of it on their garage floor are incredulous that BP can't bring oil up from a mile under the ocean without failure, where failure is defined as the inability to stop a leak of 240 ft x 240 ft x 240 ft of oil into the Gulf of Mexico (100 million gallons) instantly a mile underwater. (Yes, that's a big local mess, but it is not an ocean ending event; crude oil is not Plutonium.) Folks living on the most oil dependent construct mankind has ever created -- the Island of Manhatten -- are shaking their heads, wondering why folks are doing all that dirty drilling business down in the Gulf.

Even though Rand was never an engineer, I can't find any evidence in Rand's romantic works of fiction that she didn't get it. Reardon's grasp of 'Reardon Metal' was described as a process much akin to what I believe would be the case; ten years of educated, disciplined failures, of getting incrementally closer. He did not look up the answer to the question "What is Reardon Metal?" in the back of a book, and then directly and deliberately solve an equation to find the answer.

We walk by incrementally falling forward and correcting. We run by doing that faster. And we actually get somewhere by doing that.

regards,
Fred
(Edited by Fred Bartlett on 7/16, 8:20am)

(Edited by Fred Bartlett on 7/16, 8:22am)




Post 18

Friday, July 16 - 12:30pmSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

As a side note, where you said, "I didn't use any such term 'metaphysical measurement' " - true. I meant to type "metaphysical length"
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Referring to Rand on the issue of measurement, you asked me:
...[H]ave you considered that she may have sometimes misused the word measurement?
Because of this thread I have considered that she and I might have been misusing the word. And at the same time I considered that it might be you who are misusing the word. After a bit of thought, I decided that it's you. The example below explains.
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You asked me to say what measurements were omitted in the concept WIERD or CREATIVE.

WEIRD is an adjective. To make things simpler, I'll make up an example which will give us a context for the adjective and a concrete. Let's say the thought was, "She put a lamp shade on her head - not at a party but in an office meeting. That behavior was weird." The definition of weird is odd, strange or unusual. So someone is saying, "That behavior was odd, strange or unusual." Having an example lets us imagine a concrete as an experience where we would be omitting measurment. The measurement is, "HOW odd, strange or unusual was it?"

In ITOE Rand says, "There is no exact method of measuring the intensity of all psychological processes, but—as in the case of forming concepts of colors—conceptualization does not require the knowledge of exact measurements. Degrees of intensity can be and are measured approximately, on a comparative scale."

The chosen form of measurement of oddness, if one wanted to measure some concretes, is optional. It could be treated as statistical concept where you were measuring variance from a mean, or it could treated as a psychological concept where one was measuring the subjective experience of the subject's dissonance - difference from a cultural or population norm. One could do something like a likert scale, or rate the subjective exerience from one to ten, or use randomly chosen subjects who view the same set of videos while having their galvanic skin reactions recorded. Or just introspect for a subjective experience that is comparative only in ones own mind.

Who cares? Because we are NOT measuring. We are omitting the measuring.

The key point is that the degree of oddness, strangeness, or variance from normal is omitted. You appear to be claiming that a measurement process has to be done before the measurement can be omitted. No. It is not the result of all measurement processes that first must be carried out, and then omitted, it is the process of measuring that is omitted. That is what is meant by measurement omission. I don't have to get out a tape measure and use it on a bunch of tables before I can omit the different numbers.... I omit getting out the tape measure (or any other process of quantifying length).

Rand specifically calls for integration according to similarity.

I think you are seeing "measurement omitted" as the result of the process of measuring being omitted, when Rand (and I) are referring to the process of measuring being omitted.

Remember, the point here is to integrate different units, individual experiences in this case, to form a new category.
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Did you know that babies have a kind of grasp of statiscical concepts before age one? They pick up on the concept of 'outlier' - They understand, implicitly, the relationship between a population and a sample. If you let them see into a large bin in which you have mixed 100 white ping pong balls and 20 red ping pong balls (5:1 ratio) and then you cover up the bin and pull out 4 red and 1 white they will be surprised (exhibit a sense of having their expectations being violated). Researchers actually measure the degree to which their expectations were violated (and other aspects of this cognitive development related to statistics) with precise measurement of the length of time the baby stares at the sample, the blink rate, etc.

Researchers are looking for an understanding of what is behind this capacity to represent statistical concepts. Me, I say that they have successfully begun to form the concept of WEIRD. Baby thinks, "Wow, that's weird - look at how many red balls she pulled out!" :-)




Post 19

Friday, July 16 - 1:58pmSanction this postReply
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Steve Wolfer wrote:
You asked me to say what measurements were omitted in the concept WIERD or CREATIVE.

WEIRD is an adjective. To make things simpler, I'll make up an example which will give us a context for the adjective and a concrete. Let's say the thought was, "She put a lamp shade on her head - not at a party but in an office meeting. That behavior was weird." The definition of weird is odd, strange or unusual. So someone is saying, "That behavior was odd, strange or unusual." Having an example lets us imagine a concrete as an experience where we would be omitting measurment. The measurement is, "HOW odd, strange or unusual was it?"

In ITOE Rand says, "There is no exact method of measuring the intensity of all psychological processes, but—as in the case of forming concepts of colors—conceptualization does not require the knowledge of exact measurements. Degrees of intensity can be and are measured approximately, on a comparative scale."
I believe this is the crux of our disagreement. In your view ranking is measuring; for me it is not. For more, see my RoR article here. Also, there is the measuring device issue.

Regardless, why is it necessary after observing some instances of  "weird" to rank the instances to have the concept? Similarly, after a child sees a few trees, why is it necessary for the child to rank them in some way (which way and how many ways?) to form the concept? The ranking is irrelevant to having the concept.
I think you are seeing "measurement omitted" as the result of the process of measuring being omitted, when Rand (and I) are referring to the process of measuring being omitted.
That seems plausible, but her writing is ambiguous.  Even if she meant what you say, suppose the person forming the concept does not even know what the process is. Then either interpretation is cognitively irrelevant.

By the way, in my view it should be "differences omitted". This allows for qualitative differences, too; not merely quantitative ones.

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

In post 6 I coined the terms metaphysical length and measured length. I think intrinsic length fits better than metaphysical length. Intrinsic length is an attribute of an object apart from anybody measuring it. Measured length is a relational attribute of an object, relative to another object having the same kind of intrinsic attribute and used as a standard. For example, the measured length of a pencil is 5.5 inches, which is found by comparing it to a ruler -- a thin strip of wood, metal, etc. with a straight edge and markings in whole and fractional units of length, as inches or centimeters, used in drawing straight lines, measuring length, etc. (copied from here).

Ayn Rand used "length" in both ways in ITOE without making the distinction, which made an ambiguity.
(Edited by Merlin Jetton on 7/16, 7:04pm)




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