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Post 40

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 6:30amSanction this postReply
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Also, as I (faintly) recall Kant's "apriori synthetic knowledge" was an attempt to provide PROOF of 'innate knowledge'. There are those who do accept 'Kantian' ideas; I personally do not.



Post 41

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 9:45amSanction this postReply
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Terry,

1. I don't see why you can't prove innate knowledge. For example, if snakes are dangerous and human beings no matter where are afraid of snakes, then in some loose sense this would be innate knowledge. Of course it all depends what you mean by "innate knowledge." Some Objectivists even deny there are instincts. Based on evolution you'd expect that in the process of evolving humans did not give up all the instincts their ancestors had.

2. I'm not sure a priori knowledge is exactly the same as innate knowledge, but in any event most philosophers until recent times have accepted that there are some things we know by a priori insight (such as math and logic). Although Rand claimed not to believe in a priori knowledge, her axiomatic concepts are justified a priori. (See ITOE, p. 59.)



Post 42

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 10:54amSanction this postReply
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Animals do not 'know' because 'to know' requires the use of a cognitive faculty, which they do not possess... but - they DO have reactive responses to various stimuli, including perceptual stimuli for those possessing perception, and which were due to genetic variances of ancestors which in having those more sensitivities better survived than others and handed that variance down... this is innate in that is a genetic alteration, BUT IS NOT INNATE KNOWLEDGE... since humans descended from more primitive animals, and the brain is an overlaying of layers on top of a primitive area, this can thus have transmitted into humans these reactions to those kinds of stimuli as holding yet to survival enhancement - EVEN SO, IT, TOO, IS NOT INNATE KNOWLEDGE,because it is an automatic retention and not subject to cognitive other than to further this responding into a concept of 'snake', etc. -WHICH TAKES PLACE AFTER THE BIRTH, WHEN THE COGNITIVE FACULTY IS IN OPERATION.......



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Post 43

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 11:15amSanction this postReply
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Hi Neil,

I wrote, "Well, if theists don't believe that God can violate the laws of logic, then on what grounds do they believe that God can perform miracles? A miracle is a violation of the law of identity. A thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. No matter how powerful God is, he cannot perform miracles, he cannot cause existents to act in contradiction to their natures; he is limited by natural law. If your reply is, but God can change their natures, how? Even he has to work within the limits of what exists, and what exists has identity at the most fundamental level."

You replied,
But this doesn't prevent an outside entity from acting on an object. A pencil cannot, "on its own," fly off the table. But I can make it fly if I use an air blower. If God exist, maybe he can too. Now this might be question begging when it comes to God, but I think it shows that a miracle is not contrary to the law of identity.
If God used an air blower to cause a pencil to fly off the table, I wouldn't call it a miracle. A miracle is a violation of natural law, which means a violation of the law of identity. A miracle is walking on water, raising a man from the dead, feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, etc. In any case, the very concept of the "supernatural" is a violation of the law of identity. There is no supernatural, any more than there is a holy ghost who created the universe out of nothing.
A couple other points:

1. David (like others before him) has asked for the proof that children and adults form concepts the way Rand said they do in ITO. I think this is perfectly reasonable. Even if Rand's theory is correct when it comes to chairs and tables, what about grammar, logic and abstract concepts just as "justice" or "infinity"?
Are you asking if children can grasp the same abstract concepts as adults? No, and Rand didn't say they could. Or are you asking if concepts pertaining to grammar and the like are formed according to the same principles as are concrete objects like chairs and tables? According to Rand, they are. See the chapter "Concepts of Consciousness" in ITOE.
2. It's probably the case that most all concepts arise from experience. But how does that prove that there is no innate knowledge?
Knowledge requires evidence, and evidence depends on observation. Knowledge is a mental grasp of facts reached either by observation or by inference from observation. It cannot exist ahead of any contact with the real world. Suppose I tell you that there are Honda factories on the dark side of the moon. You would ask me on what I based that assertion, wouldn't you? It wouldn't do for me to say that it's an innate idea -- that I just know it to be true, because I was born with that knowledge.

(Edited by William Dwyer on 5/21, 11:17am)




Post 44

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 11:50amSanction this postReply
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Bill,

1. How does belief in the supernatural violate the law of identity?

2. In ITOE Rand describes how children form concepts. She talks about how a child forms the concept of a table. I'd like to see the psychological studies on which she relied. Is that asking for too much?

3. Rand says grammatical concepts and the like are formed the same way as other concepts. Again, I would like to see the studies on which you, Rand, or other Objectivists rely.

4. You write:

____

Knowledge requires evidence, and evidence depends on observation. Knowledge is a mental grasp of facts reached either by observation or by inference from observation. It cannot exist ahead of any contact with the real world. Suppose I tell you that there are Honda factories on the dark side of the moon. You would ask me on what I based that assertion, wouldn't you? It wouldn't do for me to say that it's an innate idea -- that I just know it to be true, because I was born with that knowledge.

___

Of course I don't assert that knowledge of what happens on the moon is innate. What I am asking for is an argument that all knowledge is of the kind you describe. Just repeating the Objectivist definition doesn't make it so.

-Neil Parille



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Post 45

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 12:41pmSanction this postReply
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Neil,

You asked questions of Bill, not me, but it looked like it would be fun to answer, so I gave it a shot.
--------------

1. How does belief in the supernatural violate the law of identity?


The fact that a thing is itself (A is A) provides us with view of a universe made of things with a fixed, constant nature. Not just some things, but all things are said to have this property, this nature. [Paraphrasing Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book VII, Part 17]

The law of identity is a description of one of the most primary aspects that can be ascribed to all of nature (to all that exists).

Supernatural, or supranatural is "above, or beyond, or outside of nature." This means that it is outside of natural law. Natural law is the derived descriptions of the law of identity applied to nature.

By many descriptions, that which is supernatural is not restrained by the law of identity. But strictly speaking NOTHING can violate the law of identity, just as no one can violate the law of gravity. We can use our imagination to create a fiction of some sort, a "belief" in something, a something that could never exist outside of our belief because it would violate the law of identity and nothing can do that. Anyone can choose to imagine something that doesn't exit, but that if it did it would not violate the law of identity. But anything imagined that would not follow that law, can never exist except as imaginary.
-----------------

2. In ITOE Rand describes how children form concepts. She talks about how a child forms the concept of a table. I'd like to see the psychological studies on which she relied. Is that asking for too much?


She didn't rely on child psychology studies, or even refer to them, that I know of, because epistemology is a more fundamental level of knowledge than psychology. Psychology is dependent upon epistemology - not the other way around.
-----------------------

3. Rand says grammatical concepts and the like are formed the same way as other concepts. Again, I would like to see the studies on which you, Rand, or other Objectivists rely.


Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology IS a study. Would you want to question Darwin and ask what studies he relied on? What about Newton, would you ask to see the studies he relied on? Logic stands on its own and to claim that in the absence of some kind of authority it does not have to be taken seriously is to commit a fallacy.
-------------------------



Post 46

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 1:22pmSanction this postReply
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Neil Asked - "1. I don't see why you can't prove innate knowledge. For example, if snakes are.........."

My answer - If by 'innate knowledge' you mean "knowledge" that has been derived from some source 'other' than the 'physical world' that we perceive with our human sensory capacities; I say such "knowledge" does not exist, such so-called "innate knowledge" would amount to gnosticism or epistemic rationalism or voodoo.

In other words, 'absolutely everything'; physical substances, thoughts, consciousness, ect - falls under the rubric of 'Physicalism'. I admit to being both unschooled and a novice in the field of philosophy: so I hope your question has been somewhat coherently addressed.

p.s...... My understanding is that Kant's "a priori synthetic knowledge" was an example (or explanation) of 'innate knowledge': but I will leave that as an open question for now.





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Post 47

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 6:23pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Neil,

You asked the following questions, which I thought Steve did a good job of addressing. But since you asked me, I'll answer as well:
1. How does belief in the supernatural violate the law of identity?
In the same way that a belief in miracles violates it, by rejecting the law of causality, which is a corollary of the law of identity. A thing must act according to its nature, and cannot, therefore, act in contradiction to it, i.e., super-naturally. The law of identity is not simply a verbal or linguistic law; it's a law of reality -- an ontological law. If I say that "Man can walk on water," I'm asserting a contradiction just as much as if I said, "Man is not man," because I'm saying that man can do something he cannot do.
2. In ITOE Rand describes how children form concepts. She talks about how a child forms the concept of a table. I'd like to see the psychological studies on which she relied. Is that asking for too much?
As Steve pointed out, you're mixing your disciplines. Concept formation is an epistemological issue, not a psychological one. A child is not going to be able to tell you how he or she forms concepts, nor will a study of child psychology yield that information.
3. Rand says grammatical concepts and the like are formed the same way as other concepts. Again, I would like to see the studies on which you, Rand, or other Objectivists rely.
What kind of studies did you have in mind? Again, this is an epistemological issue, not a psychological one. I take it that you believe in individual rights? I would like to see the "studies" on which you and other libertarians rely for that belief. Of course, the question is rhetorical. The principle of Individual rights is not validated by laboratory studies or scientific experiments. It is justified philosophically.

I wrote, "Knowledge requires evidence, and evidence depends on observation. Knowledge is a mental grasp of facts reached either by observation or by inference from observation. It cannot exist ahead of any contact with the real world. Suppose I tell you that there are Honda factories on the dark side of the moon. You would ask me on what I based that assertion, wouldn't you? It wouldn't do for me to say that it's an innate idea -- that I just know it to be true, because I was born with that knowledge."
Of course I don't assert that knowledge of what happens on the moon is innate. What I am asking for is an argument that all knowledge is of the kind you describe. Just repeating the Objectivist definition doesn't make it so.
Well, what knowledge do you think could be innate if you don't think that knowledge of what exists in the external world is? What exactly did you have in mind?




Post 48

Saturday, May 21, 2011 - 8:46pmSanction this postReply
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I was hoping Bill would answer. And, as is often the case, he did a better job then I, and strangely enough, that makes reading them all the more enjoyable.



Post 49

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 8:46amSanction this postReply
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Neil,
Of course it all depends what you mean by "innate knowledge." Some Objectivists even deny there are instincts. Based on evolution you'd expect that in the process of evolving humans did not give up all the instincts their ancestors had.
If you define instincts as motor behavior that is reflexive to certain stimuli, then I think all Objectivists could come to agree on the existence of that. And if any of them don't agree, then you could prove them wrong by poking them with a hot poker and recording their motor behavior immediately following that. They'd be instant converts.


:-)

I'm not sure a priori knowledge is exactly the same as innate knowledge
I am convinced that they are different. "A priori" is knowledge that can be arrived at without further experience or experiment. This is differentiated from a posteriori knowledge, which cannot be arrived at without further experience or experiment. In contrast to these two kinds of knowledge, innate knowledge is knowledge that is never even initially arrived at, but pre-existing. In this sense, it is knowledge that can only be felt or remembered, instead of being ever arrived at. Here are examples of these 3 kinds of "knowledge", put into 3 propositions:

A priori
Canada is north of Mexico.

A posteriori
Canada is more radioactive than Mexico.

Innate
Canada is God's permanent choice for a place to stay on Earth (an authentic Holy Land)

Once you develop an adequate understanding of geography, the proposition that "Canada is north of Mexico" becomes a priori for you -- as it does not require you to go out and to check and see if Canada is north of Mexico. However, in order to find out if Canada is more radioactive than Mexico, you must first travel to the 2 countries with a geiger counter, or something equivalent. In other words, in order to discover the truth of the proposition: "Canada is more radioactive than Mexico", you must first perform experimental investigation -- an investigation not required in order to arrive at the first proposition. Alternatively, instead of ever being able to arrive at the truth of the the third proposition, it can only be "known" by being "known" before, or instead of, any experimental investigation -- it can only be "felt" or "remembered."

At this point it may be fruitful to stress that feelings and memory are merely perceptual powers of human awareness. In that sense, they give rise to completely different kinds of statements than the kind of conceptual knowledge found in the first 2 propositions.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 5/22, 9:59pm)




Post 50

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 6:06pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

Suppose I tell you that there are Honda factories on the dark side of the moon. You would ask me on what I based that assertion, wouldn't you? It wouldn't do for me to say that it's an innate idea -- that I just know it to be true, because I was born with that knowledge."
This is an argument against innate propositions but not against innate ideas. You could only find out whether there were Honda factories by examining the facts, but that doesn't entail anything about how you acquired the concepts of a Honda and a factory. Our concepts, to be useful, must apply to experience. Why must they be derived from experience in order to apply to experience? It would be very odd to think that someone had "Honda" as an innate concept, but since concepts aren't knowledge, your example is beside the point.




Post 51

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 6:38pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

No, where did you get that idea? I said that if there were no waking state, the concept of a dream would be meaningless, not that if there were no dreams, the concept of a waking state would be meaningless
I know that you didn't say that. I intended my comment to be a reply to an argument that I thought that you were making; but I misunderstood your point. An argument popular in the heyday of ordinary language philosophy started from the fact that certain concepts come in pairs, e.g., "up-down", "left-right", "above-below", etc. It was claimed that you couldn't grasp one member of the pair without understanding the other. Further, it was argued that in order to acquire a concept, there must be instances of that concept in the world. I thought you were arguing along these lines: The concept "dreaming" can be understood only by contrast with the concept "being awake". Since I could only acquire the concept of "being awake" if I were sometimes awake, and since I couldn't get the concept "dreaming" unless I also had the concept "being awake", I couldn't always be dreaming.
 I don't think this style of argument works. Even if there cases where you must grasp both members of a pair of concepts to understand either, it doesn't follow that there must be real world instances of the concepts. Even someone who never dreamed could acquire the concept of being awake. My comment was thus intended as a counterexample to the argument I thought you were making, not as a report of your claim.
Evidently, though, you were arguing on other grounds that all concepts must be derived from the external world.

(Edited by David Gordon on 5/22, 8:17pm)




Post 52

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 7:10pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

I'd like to distinguish between two arguments:

Argument A:
1. An act of consciousness requires an object. You have to be thinking of something; you can't just be thinking.
2.  Therefore, consciousness requires an external world, i.e., a world that exists independently of consciousness

Argument B
1. An act of consciousness requires an object. You have to be thinking of something; you can't just be thinking.
2. An object of an act of consciousness must be either something in the external world or some internal contents of consciousness.
3. Any internal content must be derived from perception of the external world.
4. Consciousness requires an external world.

My claims are that Argument A is invalid and sometimes found in Objectivist writers. Argument B is valid, but step (3) requires support.

(Edited by David Gordon on 5/22, 8:18pm)




Post 53

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 8:13pmSanction this postReply
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Hi Bill,

I'm sorry that we haven't been able to reach agreement, despite our numerous exchanges. But I have both good and bad news about the impasse. In part, our disagreements stem from the fact that I'm using some terms in a different way from you. Once these differences are made explicit, then the areas of disagreement become much clearer. The bad news is that some claims that you and other Objectivists find obviously true seem to me incorrect. I haven't been able to grasp what you take to be so evident about these claims. I will give examples below.

Well, if you say that light (which travels at 186,000 miles per second) does not travel at 186,000 miles per second, you're saying that light is not light, and that's a contradiction.

I wrote, "All right. Then please tell me how the fundamental constituents of the universe (which were not created and were here from the beginning, as it were) could have failed to exist. They were not created, so there is no creator that could have chosen otherwise -- that could have created something different instead. So, how could these primary existents have failed to exist? The possibility of an alternative -- i.e., of non-existence -- simply doesn't apply to them." 

Possible by what standard? Nothing in existence could have made them possible. The fact that one can imagine other ultimate constituents having existed does not mean that they're possible. I can imagine running a mile in 4 minutes, but that doesn't mean that it's possible. 



Here I think our disagreement  stems from the fact that I take the laws of identity and non-contradiction in a formal way. As I understand it, a contradiction has the form "p and not-p". "Light, which travels at 186,000 mps doesn't travel at this speed" is, as you say, a contradiction. "But "light doesn't travel at 186,000 mps" isn't formally a contradiction. To get a contradiction, you have to add the premise"light travels at 186,000 mps." Even if it is implicit in the concept "light" that it travels at this speed, you need to add the premise to arrive at a formal contradiction.
So what? you may say. Well, suppose we are considering,"It's possible that light doesn't travel at 186,000 mps, even though this is always its speed in the actual world." We can show this is a contradiction if it is an essential property of light that it travel at the speed it does travel in the actual world. Following Peikoff in "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy", you hold that things have their properties essentially. There are no contingent facts, and the actual world is the only possible world.
This is your ontological understanding of the law of identity. But why should we accept this ontological understanding of identity? You are certainly right that imagining a state of affairs does not show that it is possible, but it hardly follows that real possibility is confined to the actual world.  What exactly is your argument against someone who denies that all objects have fixed natures that include all their properties? It wouldn't be a good response to say that this supposition contradicts the law of identity, since just what is in question is whether the law of identity understood this way should be accepted.

You can approve or disapprove only of that which is open to man's choice.
Are you using "approve" and "disapprove"  so that that it is definitional that they apply only to what is open to man's choice? If so, why can't we say that we like or dislike states of affairs never subject to human choice? What is supposed to be the impropriety in saying, e.g., "I don't like dinosaurs. T. rex makes me feel icky."

That ideas are based on sensory experience is an observable fact, is it not?
 Ideas apply to experience, but I don't think their origin is an observed fact.

I don't follow you. If one can perceive similarities and differences without a prior concept, why can't one recognize similarities without a prior concept?
I'm  sorry; I didn't write clearly. The argument of the critics of abstractionism is that even if we can grasp similarities and differences without a prior concept in some simple cases, e.g., colors, there are more complicated cases where we can't do so without a prior concept. I'm not sure what to make of this criticism. In a paper that I'm sure you are familiar with, David Kelley discusses some of these criticisms and offers an Objectivist response to them.

I think that Rand is assuming a self-aware robot, one that could value its own self-preservation.
Thanks for your clarification of the robot example.I don't think it adds support to Rand's argument. If I've got this right, she is saying that without the choice of life or death, there could be no other values. To help us grasp this point, she imagines an immortal robot. The robot wants to preserve itself, but since it is indestructible, it doesn't need to do anything to continue to exist. All activity is then pointless for it. But Rand has just said that any activity would be pointless: she hasn't given any reason to accept this. Only someone already convinced that value depends on the possibility of death would accept her conclusion about the robot.
This example will show what I take to be wrong about the way she uses the robot argument. Suppose someone says that life only has meaning if you embrace a collective to which you are willing to sacrifice your life. You disagree. The person asks you to imagine a man stranded alone on a desert island with no hope of rescue. The collectivist says that in that situation, the person on the island will find life meaningless, since there is no collective to which he can sacrifice his life. Unless you are already inclined to accept his view, you won't find what he says persuasive. He has simply made up a story that has the outcome he wants.

(Edited by David Gordon on 5/22, 8:36pm)




Post 54

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 9:52pmSanction this postReply
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David,
Our concepts, to be useful, must apply to experience. Why must they be derived from experience in order to apply to experience?
Concepts must be derived from experience because they are ultimately based on percepts, which are, themselves, derived from experience. Arguing that it could be spurious to have them derive from experience merely in order to apply to experience is a fallacy. They must derive from experience because of their nature, not because of some supposed human intention to have them apply to experience. Here is a quote in support of that:
Man’s senses are his only direct cognitive contact with reality and, therefore, his only source of information. Without sensory evidence, there can be no concepts ...
PWNI, 90

You were putting a cart before a horse. You continued:
... but since concepts aren't knowledge, your example is beside the point.
But concepts are knowledge, they are "condensed" knowledge. Here are quotes in support of that:
[Man’s] senses do not provide him with automatic knowledge in separate snatches independent of context, but only with the material of knowledge, which his mind must learn to integrate.
FTNI, 156
The range of man’s perceptual awareness—the number of percepts he can deal with at any one time—is limited. He may be able to visualize four or five units—as, for instance, five trees. He cannot visualize a hundred trees or a distance of ten light-years. It is only his conceptual faculty that makes it possible for him to deal with knowledge of that kind.
RM, 17
Concepts represent condensations of knowledge, which make further study and the division of cognitive labor possible.
ITOE, 65

Concepts, properly formed, become a priori knowledge for the concept-former, as opposed to being some kind of innate knowledge or some kind of a posteriori ("investigative") knowledge.

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 5/22, 9:56pm)




Post 55

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 11:27pmSanction this postReply
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Hi David,

I wrote, "Suppose I tell you that there are Honda factories on the dark side of the moon. You would ask me on what I based that assertion, wouldn't you? It wouldn't do for me to say that it's an innate idea -- that I just know it to be true, because I was born with that knowledge."

You replied,
This is an argument against innate propositions but not against innate ideas. You could only find out whether there were Honda factories by examining the facts, but that doesn't entail anything about how you acquired the concepts of a Honda and a factory. Our concepts, to be useful, must apply to experience. Why must they be derived from experience in order to apply to experience? It would be very odd to think that someone had "Honda" as an innate concept, but since concepts aren't knowledge, your example is beside the point.
Thank you. I stand corrected. I had forgotten that the term "idea" in this context refers to concepts not to propositions. However, I think I can make the same argument against innate concepts, namely, that "Honda," "moon," etc., also depend on observation.

(Edited by William Dwyer on 5/22, 11:44pm)




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Post 56

Sunday, May 22, 2011 - 11:43pmSanction this postReply
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Hi David,

When I said that if there were no waking state, the concept of a dream would be meaningless, what I meant is that since a dream takes place during sleep and is understood only in contrast to an awareness of reality -- to a state of awareness that is not a dream -- if my present experience were a dream, what then would constitute my perception of the real world by reference to which I understand that illusory experience that we call a "dream"? A dream in contrast to what? What is a non-dreaming, real-life experience suppose to be if it isn't what I'm currently experiencing? As Rand would say, "Blank out!"

P.S. Regarding your Post 52, I should think that Objectivist writers would be aware that you can be conscious of your own thoughts (of your own process of consciousness) as well as of the external world. So if they appear to make Argument A, they're probably taking Argument B as implied, although you're quite right that to be explicit, Argument B is required.

(Edited by William Dwyer on 5/22, 11:55pm)




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Post 57

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 1:58amSanction this postReply
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Hi David. You asked,
What exactly is your argument against someone who denies that all objects have fixed natures that include all their properties? It wouldn't be a good response to say that this supposition contradicts the law of identity, since just what is in question is whether the law of identity understood this way should be accepted.
The law of identity refers to the identity of existents. It says that every existent possesses identity -- that every existent has a fixed nature, because that's what it means to have a nature. If it's nature isn't fixed, it doesn't have one. And if it doesn't have one, then we can't identify it or distinguish it from anything else. How then do we know what it's nature is? How do we know what it can and can't do? We know by observation. We know that an orange tree bears oranges and not apples, because we see that it does. To claim that it can also bear apples, one must have evidence to support that claim. Similarly, to claim that it's possible for an inanimate object like a golf ball to turn into a bird and fly away, one must have evidence to support that claim. Absent that evidence, the correct conclusion to draw is that such an action is impossible.

I wrote, "You can approve or disapprove only of that which is open to man's choice."
Are you using "approve" and "disapprove" so that that it is definitional that they apply only to what is open to man's choice? If so, why can't we say that we like or dislike states of affairs never subject to human choice?
You certainly can, but liking something is not the same as approving of it, nor is disliking something the same as disapproving of it. Approval and disapproval are normative; they refer to what is appropriate or inappropriate and imply the possibility of choosing one over the other. Likes and dislikes simply refer to what is pleasing or displeasing. One may like a warm, sunny day or a beautiful sunset, but it makes no sense to say that one approves of it. Similarly, one may dislike a tornado or a flood, but that doesn't mean that one disapproves of it.
What is supposed to be the impropriety in saying, e.g., "I don't like dinosaurs. T. rex makes me feel icky."
Nothing, absolutely nothing. Where, oh where, did you get the idea that likes and dislikes imply approval or disapproval?

I wrote, "That ideas are based on sensory experience is an observable fact, is it not.
Ideas apply to experience, but I don't think their origin is an observed fact.
You don't?? Why?
Thanks for your clarification of the robot example. I don't think it adds support to Rand's argument. If I've got this right, she is saying that without the choice of life or death, there could be no other values.
Yes, but that's because the values of pleasure and happiness are tied to self-sustaining action, and the disvalues of pain and suffering, to self-destroying action. It is in that respect that life is a basis for value. Value is biocentric or life centered. If a person were immortal and his life indestructible, he could have nothing to gain or lose by his actions.
To help us grasp this point, she imagines an immortal robot. The robot wants to preserve itself, but since it is indestructible, it doesn't need to do anything to continue to exist. All activity is then pointless for it. But Rand has just said that any activity would be pointless: she hasn't given any reason to accept this. Only someone already convinced that value depends on the possibility of death would accept her conclusion about the robot.
This example will show what I take to be wrong about the way she uses the robot argument. Suppose someone says that life only has meaning if you embrace a collective to which you are willing to sacrifice your life. You disagree. The person asks you to imagine a man stranded alone on a desert island with no hope of rescue. The collectivist says that in that situation, the person on the island will find life meaningless, since there is no collective to which he can sacrifice his life. Unless you are already inclined to accept his view, you won't find what he says persuasive. He has simply made up a story that has the outcome he wants.
Again, the point of the analogy is simply to show that values depend on the possibility of gaining or losing something that you desire. If you had no desires, because there was no basis for them, inasmuch as nothing you did made any difference to you one way or the other, then you would have no reason to act or pursue values.

(Edited by William Dwyer on 5/23, 10:27am)




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Post 58

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 9:09amSanction this postReply
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ED said ....... Concepts, properly formed, become a priori knowledge for the concept-former, as opposed to being some kind of innate knowledge or some kind of a posteriori ("investigative") knowledge.


Great point ED- and quite concisely stated as well.

The inability of the majority mankind to either 'grasp/understand' or 'accept' this statement is the root cause of the widespread 'mutual misunderstandings' that are so prevalent among people today.

Particularly in the scope of what is generally referred to as "Western Civilization".
Gnosticism, irrationalism, religion, kantianism, ARs "primacy consciousness" are all fallacious, yet becomming widespread 'world-views/ideologies'.

Two books that I recall addressed this issue (at least in part) in a more general (non -philosophical) way were "The Two Cultures" and "Ideas have Consequences".

The authors were C.P. Snow, and Richard Weaver.




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Post 59

Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:41pmSanction this postReply
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Hi David,

I'd like to add to my reply in Post 57. You wrote,
What exactly is your argument against someone who denies that all objects have fixed natures that include all their properties? It wouldn't be a good response to say that this supposition contradicts the law of identity, since just what is in question is whether the law of identity understood this way should be accepted.
This reminds me of the issue of identity versus change that occupied the Greek philosophers Parmenides and Heraclitus. As you know, Heraclitus argued that change was inconsistent with an enduring or fixed identity. He said that since everything was changing, nothing possessed identity. Parmenides, who disagreed with him, held that since everything possessed identity, change was an illusion. Aristotle said that they were both mistaken on the grounds that you couldn't have change without also having identity, because in order for something to change, there had to be something that endured throughout the process of change; otherwise, what you would have is not change but replacement. At least that's my understanding of his argument.



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