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Roger Bissell

What's in Your File Folder? discussion of some REB essays in JARS

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I have been working for about 20 years on applying two of Rand's important ideas from her mid-1960s work: the unit-perspective (epistemology) and the dual-aspect of the objective (metaphysics), as introduced respectively in her series of essays entitled "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" and her essay "What is Capitalism?"

In this thread, I would like to encourage discussion of what I wrote on these ideas in three of my essays in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies: "Ayn Rand and 'The Objective': A Closer Look at the Intrinsic-Objective-Subjective Trichotomy" (JARS 9/1, Fall 2007), "What's in Your File Folder [Part 1]: Rand's Unit-Perspective, the Law of Identity, and the Fundamental Nature of the Proposition," (JARS 14/2, December 2014), and "What's in Your FIle Folder? Part 2: Epistemology, Logic, and 'The Objective'" (JARS 15/2, December 2015).

Stephen Boydstun has suggested that it would be very helpful for anyone taking part in the discussion to subscribe to JARS and read these essays. I agree, but no one's posts will be excluded unless they engage in blatant irrelevancies, including personal attacks. (This thread, like everything else in this Corner, is subject to my moderation.)

REB

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[On 26 December 2015 at 04:18 AM, Stephen Boydstun posted this in the Chris Sciabarra Corner folder on JARS V15 N2 - December 2015:]

The first of the following is from past discussion at OL of a related paper of Roger's. I'll repost it here and hope to address Roger's present paper joining this background down the road.

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Roger Bissell details the relationship of his view of the objective to Rand’s in “Ayn Rand and ‘The Objective’” (JARS 2007). I thought it might be of interest to indicate some of his somewhat different relationship to Descartes (1596–1650).

Bissell notes that “medieval Scholastic philosophers defined the term ‘objective’: being an object before the mind. (‘Object’ is late Middle English from the medieval Latin objectum, meaning ‘thing presented to the mind’.)” Bissell’s variant of this notion is what he calls the existentially objective, “that which pertains to an aspect of existence insofar as it is held as the object of consciousness” (65). Descartes uses a variant of this notion of the objective in his third Meditation and in his first set of Replies. In the latter, he writes that “objective being in the intellect” means

In the third Meditation, Descartes says we have two “ideas” (forms of awareness) of the sun in us. The perceptual one tells us the sun is small; the intellectual one, the one from astronomical reasoning, tells us the sun is very large, even larger than the earth (39). It is the intellectual one that counts for an objective reality.


Bissell applies the notion of the existentially objective not only to the sun as in the intellect, but to the sun as we perceive it (72–79). He holds to the Objectivist view that there are automatic cognitions we call perception, which are always true, unlike our perceptual judgments, which can be in error. Descartes held that view as well. He took it that the reason we err in judgment is that we let our will outrun or understanding. An example would be the judgment from perception that the sun is small in comparison to earthly things. The reason Descartes would not count our perception of the sun as an objective reality is not because our sensory perception of the sun (short of judgment) errs, but because the percept is obscure and confused, not clear and distinct. However the perception itself engages the formal reality of the sun—and it does in a feeble way—we do not attain objective reality of the sun in it (see further, Carriero 2009, 157–59). Rejecting that view of the percept, one can count the sun in the percept as an objective reality alongside the sun in the intellect.

In the Cartesian view, the objective realities in our minds must be cognitively caused by formal realities; the former signify the latter. Descartes’ view is brought around to Bissell’s by applying that principle not only to sun in the intellect, but in the percept (cf. Carriero 2009, 187–88).

With Aristotle in our background, we might expect something called a formal reality to be the form component of external objects, which is able to pass into the perceptual system, thence into intellect. But Descartes had cast out Aristotelian form-matter composites as well as the Aristotelian view of knowledge as assimilation of forms. He had dropped also the medieval view that external objects give off intelligible species for reception in the intellect. Nevertheless, like his notion and name objective realities, Descartes’ notion and name formal realities is descended from Scholasticism. The sun’s formal reality is the sun itself, and in Descartes’ view, particularly as interpreted and amplified by Arnauld (1612–94), formal realities are the target of objective realities. (See further Yolton 1984.)

I'll try to write a further note here in the future, on Descartes-Arnauld and Bissell’s “Mind, Introspection, and ‘The Objective’” (JARS 2008).

References

Carriero, J. 2009. Between Two Worlds – A Reading of Descartes’ Meditations. Princeton.

Descartes, R. 1641. Meditations on First Philosophy and Objections and Replies. In The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, vol. II. J. Cottingham, R. Stoothoff, and D. Murdoch, translators. Cambridge.

Yolton, J. W. 1984. Perceptual Acquaintance – From Descartes to Reid. Minnesota.

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Rand’s direct realism in perception has in common with other contemporary proponents of direct realism that in a perception, one experiences not only the sensory qualities in the perception, but that the object is independent of oneself, the percipient subject. The independence, from perception, of the existence of the object is an element given within a sensory experience counting as perceptual.

The direct realist would want to distinguish between perceiving an object without sensory systems (we do not do that) and perceiving the object as it is independently of our perceptions, yet within our perception of it. With the latter meaning, we can say things about the perceived object as it is independently of the sensory forms in which we observe it. With this meaning, I apply Rand’s statement “‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” (AS 1036) not only to perceptual judgments, but to perception itself.

Sensory forms are not all of one category. Some of the sensory forms are sensory qualities, and some are not. The significance of this, I will come to by the end of this note.

Reid had arrived at the thoroughly modern outlook that for every sensory quality in a perceptual experience of an object, there must be in truth a pair of qualities, one in the object itself, its partner as in our awareness. For some sensory qualities, we think of them firstly as in our sensory apparatus, secondly as in the object itself. For other qualities, such as hardness, it is the other way around. Reid would have experience of the set of qualities as they are in the perceptual object itself be inferred from the set of sensory qualities in our awareness. This is not direct realism. Reid was an indirect realist. (Rand teeters on indirectness when she writes that the task of the senses is to give man “the evidence of existence, whereas the task of identifying it belongs to his reason . . .” [AS 1016].)

In direct realism, it is not judgments upon sensory qualities that render a sensory experience a perception. Perception precedes perceptual judgment. Perceptions preceding perceptual judgments are already intentional; they are of objects. As with mere sensations, so with sensory qualities in a perception: of themselves they are not intentional. They are necessary constituents of a perception (AS 1035), they are essential to our direct acquaintance with the object, but they are not themselves the source of the intentionality that makes a sensory experience a perceptual one. Neither is a judgment upon them the source of that intentionality.

I do not think Reid was correct to insist that necessarily every sensory quality is diploid. Some sensory qualities may be the self-same as they are in the object itself as they are in an intentional, perceptual experience of the object. Be that as it may, some factors in perceptual form are not themselves sensory qualities. Moreover, as A. D. Smith has argued, it is by discerning the phenomenology of the intentionality in perception that we can uncover what features are self-same in the object and as in the experience of that feature in perception of the object.

In perceptions, Smith observes, we are offered further perspectives of the same object. The sensory qualities within our perception do not offer further perspectives. They are as with mere sensations. Sensations “have no further aspects that transcend our awareness of them. We can attend more fully to a sensation, but we cannot turn it over . . . .” Why is that? “A sensation has no hidden sides because we are not aware of it through the exercise of a sense organ spatially distinct from it” (The Problem of Perception, 135). That spatial distinction is part of what is in the perception.

Shadows and sounds have no hidden sides, but they do afford different perspectives on themselves. The element of spatiality—spatial distinctness from the sense organ—is a sufficient criterion to distinguish a perception from a sensation.

Smell, taste, thermal conductance, and radiant heat are experienced as at the sense organ. So although spatiality is a sufficient criterion for counting a sensory experience a perception, it seems it may not be a necessary one. There may be some other factor(s) of perception that support the intentionality of a perception.

To report “I have a bad taste in my mouth” is to report only a sensation; it has no object other than itself. “I’m tasting the mint in my mouth” is report of a perception, but only because one feels (or has lately felt) the minted object in one’s mouth. So it goes, too, for sensations of thermal conductance. The factor of spatiality is in play here, and that is sufficient.

Smith continues. A smell at the nose or radiant heat on the face is a perception, yet we are not aware of such perceptual objects by organs spatially distinct from them. “The appreciation of a mobile sense-organ is (at least) ‘implicit’ in perceptual consciousness. / Such movement of a sense-organ in relation to an object of awareness is wholly absent from the level of mere sensation, for such movement again introduces perspectives” (142). Smells and radiant heat can be objects of perception because we can move in relation to them and be aware of that relative movement.

Visual, auditory, olfactory, and gustatory sensations have no necessary intentionality. Without intentionality they are mere sensations; with intentionality they belong to perceptions. Without the spatiality structure or the relative-motion structure, sensation is not intentional, not component of a perception.

But wait. Is there not a third factor that sometimes yields the intentionality of perception? Do not sensations of touching a solid object “necessarily embody an awareness of solidity?” (151; cf. AS 1016). With spatiality or relative motion in play with the sensation of touch, the sensation can be intentional, can be a sensory perception. But those two factors are not the only ones that can make a sense of touch a perception. In touch there can be a check or impediment, a registration of the not-self. It is that registration “that introduces three-dimensional spatiality at all into haptic perception. It is only the experience of a collision, or at least a resistance, as the result of active bodily striving that opens up genuine spatiality for touch” (155).

We have then “three equiprimordial sources of perceptual consciousness” (158). These are the fundamental forms that perceptual consciousness can take, and each of them is a non-sensuous and yet non-conceptual dimension to perceptual consciousness. The three-dimensionality of the typical visual field [...?]

Smith stresses that although “it is necessary, in order for a sensory modality to be perceptual, that it feature such a non-sensuous dimension,” it is further necessary that the sensory modality possess the dimension “in such a way that we have a sense of encountering something independent of us” (164).

I grasp that proverbial baseball that Merlin or I (a, b)

would firmly grasp. I force the ball, and the ball forces my hand. I am directly aware of the force the ball exerts against my grasping hand. There is a perceived command to the muscles, a sense of effort, estimating the stiffness of the ball. However variable (by fatigue or illness) my estimation of it, I am directly aware of the force of the ball itself opposing me, directly aware of the check by not-self.

Smith’s two other basic perceptual phenomena also cannot be reduced to sensation, but the way in which they give us a sense of something independent of us (which mere sensations cannot do) is by certain of the perceptual constancies (169–76). These constancies are ways of intentionality in perception, and they inform us that location, shape, size, and motion are in the world—as in perception and as in a world without perception (Galileo). In addition, by the check of exertion, we are informed that solidity/softness is in the world as within our perception.

This then would be a contemporary meaning of primary “qualities” in perception: the features delivered in the intentionality-dimensions of perception. Smell, taste, thermal conductance, and radiant heat are sensations rendered intentional in perception only through support by modes of perception having intentionality-dimensions (174). The intentionality of the former modes of perception is derivative (is secondary to) the intentionality of the latter modes. Comparison with the conception of primary/secondary qualities in David Kelley’s direct realism could be very interesting.

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I'll here retrace some of the course of Rand’s thinking about sensory perception, then her thinking about objectivity. For this short refreshment of our memories, I’ll rely only on texts Rand published. I will then suggest a distinct appropriate realm of application for Roger’s special senses of the objective, but this will be an application harmonious with the realm and role of Rand’s special senses of the objective.

Perception

Rand thought that higher animals are guided by percepts. The actions of such an animal “are not single, discrete responses to single, separate stimuli, but are directed by an integrated awareness of the perceptual reality confronting it” [Obj Ethics (1961) 19].

We should note, however, that “an animal has no critical faculty. . . . To an animal, whatever strikes his awareness is an absolute that corresponds to reality—or rather, it is a distinction he is incapable of making: reality, to him, is whatever he senses or feels” [FNI (1961) 17].

But when it comes to human beings, Rand observes, they for sure have an integrated perceptual awareness that includes the ability to identify perceptual illusions [AS (1957) 1041]. We can come to understand illusions in terms of veridical perceptual components of which they are composed. Moreover, we are capable, when awake and healthy, of identifying the phantasmagoria of dreams and hallucinations as occasions of consciousness not fastened upon reality. We can also tell the difference between our episodes of perception and our episodes of memory or imagination [iTOE (1966–67) 30]. In Rand’s view, all of those types of human consciousness have a content that “is some aspect of the external world (or is derivable from some aspect of the external world)” [iTOE 31].

Rand stressed the primary, foundational kind of consciousness we possess, which is the kind possessed in veridical perception. This essential sort of consciousness is given pride of place in much contemporary philosophy of perception. It is sometimes termed success consciousness. This fundamental sense of consciousness is what Rand articulates when she writes that consciousness is “the faculty of perceiving that which exists” and “if that which you claim to perceive does not exist, then what you possess is not consciousness” [AS 1015].

Rand’s view of perception is a realist view. A human being is able “to perceive a reality undistorted by his senses. . . . ‘Things as they are’ are things as perceived by your mind” [AS 1036]. The mind’s only access to reality is by means of its percepts [KvS (1970)]. “It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of ‘direct perception’ or ‘direct awareness’, we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident” [iTOE 5].

Objectivity

Rand’s most elementary sense of the concept objective is the sense of ordinary parlance. This is the sense she talks of when explaining why she has chosen Objectivism as the name of her philosophy. She credits Aristotle as the first to correctly define “the basic principle of a rational view of existence and of man’s consciousness: that there is only one reality, the one man perceives—that it exists as an objective absolute (which means: independently of the consciousness, the wishes, or the feelings of any perceiver)” [FNI 22].

In 1965, as Roger has recounted, Rand published two refinements of her concept of objectivity. Early in the year, she distinguished a metaphysical from an epistemological aspect of objectivity [FAE 18]. Later that year, Rand refined her concept of objectivity further. She introduced her distinction of the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. This was in application to her theory of the good and its relationship to other theories of the good [WC 21–26].

By the following year, it was clear that Rand envisioned a broadened role for the intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist way of locating her philosophic theories in relation to others. She applied the tripartition to the theory of concepts and universals. Concepts, for Rand, can be objective and should be objective. Such concepts are “produced by man’s consciousness in accordance with the facts of reality, as mental integrations of factual data computed by man—as products of a cognitive method of classification whose processes must be formed by man, but whose content is dictated by reality” [iTOE 54]. Rand’s conception of concepts (and definitions and essence and . . .) and her conception of the good can be rightly characterized as (i) objective with Rand’s metaphysical-epistemological faces of the objective relation and, at the same time, as (ii) objective within Rand’s intrinsicist-subjectivist-objectivist tripartition.

At this time (1966–67), Rand thinks that (as Roger has stressed) “the dichotomy of ‘intrinsic or subjective’ has played havoc with this issue [of universals] as it has with every other issue involving the relationship of consciousness to existence” [iTOE 53]. That would certainly seem to include the relationship of sensory perception to existence. In what ways has the dichotomy of intrinsic-or-subjective played havoc in understanding the nature of perception? Should perception have the status objective in Rand’s tripartition? There is fertile ground here, waiting for growers.

On Objectivity in Perception

Rand’s metaphysical sense of objectivity proclaims the recognition of the mind-independence of existence in the relationship of existence and consciousness. Her epistemological sense of objectivity proclaims recognition of the mind’s dependence on logical identification and integration of the evidence of the senses to acquire knowledge of existence [FAE 18]. Both of these senses of objectivity proclaim epistemological and moral norms of volitional, conceptual consciousness.

Roger’s ontological and cognitive senses of the objective relation differ from Rand’s metaphysical and epistemological senses of objectivity in three ways. I’ll mention two of them.

Firstly, the forms of consciousness to which Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective relation apply are wider. These aspects apply to all varieties of consciousness, whether or not they are volitional types of consciousness.

Secondly, Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective are not necessarily norms for conscious rule-following. They are, however, related to norms in the more general engineering-performance sense. Any system having a function has performance norms. Human perception, pleasure and pain, memory, dreams (perhaps), imagination, judgment-level evaluations, and emotions all have functions and performance norms in the human being. Roger’s ontological and cognitive aspects of the objective figure into the performance norms of the volitional forms of consciousness, and they figure into the performance norms of perception, of pleasure-pain evaluations, of memories, and, perhaps, of dreams.

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Roger, here are some quick thoughts this morning . . . .

For an epistemological trichotomy parallel between Kant and Rand, the fit seems poor at the pole of the intrinsic: Kant has it that the noumenon has whatever character it has, and whatever that is, it is unknowable to us (benignly unknowable; false leads of cognition and consequences of them are all phenomenal). In Rand’s view, there is nothing unknowable to the human mind. Things as they are are as they are, and things as they are are knowable to us.

The fit seems poor at the pole of the subject: Kant has his forms of outer sense (space and time) and his form of inner sense (time) as coming from dark depths of the subject, whereas Rand takes them to be in existence available for apprehension in perception and conception. Kant would dispute the claim that in his view “the structure of the mind determines the content of knowledge.” He would say, “No, only the forms; the content comes from sensation.” The differences between Kant’s notion of forms of sensory intuition (bringing into account his distinction between sensory intuition and perception) and Rand’s notion of perceptual form (Kelley) needs to be sorted out. Similarly, the differences between Kant’s notion of forms of the understanding (categories and principles) and Rand’s notion of the conceptual form of awareness (Peikoff) needs to be sorted out. For this latter sorting, I would look into not only Kant’s general doctrine, but into his particular categories and principles of the understanding for comparison with Rand. I anticipate that some of them are from the side of Rand’s conceiving subject, but many are not (e.g. existence and causality).

Radical problems for Kant at those poles renders his and Rand’s conception of the objective substantially different. In what ways concepts generally, as well as philosophic categories (entity, action, attribute, relation) and philosophic axioms, are objective according to Rand can be compared to the way Kant thinks his categories and principles are objective. If you dig into this further, I would recommend letting go of Kemp Smith and getting the Pluhar (or Guyer) translation, with its very helpful index and translation notes.

Caspar Theobald Tourtual (1802–1865) was a visual physiologist and psychologist. He was a perceptual realist, not a transcendental idealist. He regarded his major work (1827) “as a physiological contribution to Kantian theory of the senses” (quoted in Hatfield 1990, 143). Tourtual divided theory of the human senses into two parts: physiological and transcendental. The latter did not coincide with Kant’s concept transcendental, but had as common general concern the side of the subject. Tourtual means by transcendental, as quoted by Gary Hatfield: “metaphysical consideration of the content of our sensory representations, insofar as this content is preformed in [the faculty of] sensibility, through the generation and development of life, preceding all external influence” (145). I’m unsure how Tourtual would assimilate the finding in our own time that without appropriate sensory experience during critical periods of development, the visual system (in kittens, but surely in us too) will not develop, and the animal will be blind. But I wanted to give Tourtual’s picture of what he was doing in the transcendental wing of his work, for the sake of the following excerpt from Hatfield’s The Natural and the Normative. (Substitute intrinsic for objective; substitute objective for middle

The second relevant piece of Tourtual’s “transcendental” ruminations pertains to his general orientation toward the metaphysics and epistemology of sensory perception. Tourtual himself identified three basic positions in the history of philosophical consideration of the senses—the objective, subjective, and “middle” standpoints—which he identified with three metaphysical theories of truth (xxxiii-xl). The objective standpoint he identified with empiricism, which he characterized as the view that objects directly cause sensory representations and are thereby presented immediately to the mind without any significant contribution on the part of the knowing subject. The subjective standpoint he identified with rationalism, which he characterized as the view that the mind constructs the world; he placed Kant’s transcendental idealism under this rubric. The middle way, which Tourtual claimed for his own, gives a role to both subject and object in the production of sensory representations. (145–46)

I don’t want to leave the impression that Tourtual’s middle position coincides, when studied in more of its specifics, with a Randian objective status of perception in a trichotomy of perceptual theories. And I don’t want to leave the impression that Tourtual had an adequate understanding of Kant. I have displayed only that Tourtual came explicitly to an epistemic trichotomy in broad terms parallel what could pass for a Randian one when hers is applied to perception (counter her theory in one cleavable respect, as you stress). If Kant’s theory of sensory perception and intuition is to be placed in the trichotomy, it is I expect to be placed where Tourtual placed it. I would suggest that all the forms of idealism (Berkelean and German [& subsequent British] idealism; with question of subjective classification of Rationalists left open for decision under class formula) should be studied, supposed as in the subjective class, and should guide one’s making formula for classifying theories of perception as subjective (meaning from the side of the subject), therewith reaching most basic and precise criteria for a triple division historically, informing possibilities and fine distinctions for best craft of a triple division analytically.

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On 26 December 2015 at 07:59 AM, Stephen Boydstun posted this in the Chris Sciabarra Corner folder on JARS V15 N2 - December 2015:]

The following will be discouraging to some OL readers, but I hope it will encourage others to subscribe to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies and to read Roger’s two-part treatise What’s in Your File Folder?

Part One is in V14N2, and its outline is:

Concepts and Propositions

—Identity and Cognition

—A Proposed Expansion of Rand’s Model of Concepts

—The Implications of This Expansion for Understanding Categorical Propositions

—Identity and Truth in Propositions


The Nature and Necessity of Standard Propositional Form

—Level 1 – A New Rationale and Necessity of Standard Propositional Form

—Level 2 – The Necessity of Predicating Wholes of Wholes

—Level 3 – The Fundamental Unity of Existence and Subject-Predicate Propositions


Propositions about Nonexistent Subjects

—When Is a “Contradiction” Not a Contradiction?

—Did Aristotle Goof––Or Has He Been Misinterpreted by Modern Logicians?

—When Is “Nonsense” Not Meaningless?


Propositions that Predicate Existence

—How and How Not to Predicate “Existence”

—Application: How and How Not to Predicate “Incompetence”

—If Existence Is a Predicate but Not a Property, Just What Kind of Thing Is It?

—Much Ado about Everything


Axioms, Axiomatic Concepts, and the Cognitive Role of Propositions

—But What about Randian Gobbledygook?

—Clarifying the Cognitive Division of Labor between Axioms and Axiomatic Concepts

—But Why Even Discuss the Axioms?

—Clarifying the Division of Labor between Propositions and Concepts


Part Two is in V15N2, and its outline is:


The Dual-Aspect Nature of “The Objective” as an Essential Characteristic of Rand’s Epistemology


The Role of the Dual-Aspect “Objective” in Direct Awareness

—Object, Subject, Content, Form: Identifying the Poles of Perception

—Object vs. Content, Subject (and Act) vs. Form: Exploring the Poles of Perception

—Some Brief Comments on the Poles of Introspection


Concepts and the Dual-Aspect “Objective”

—The Dual-Aspect Nature of Conceptual Units, “Simplex” Units, Concepts, Classes

—What’s in Their File Folder? The Nature of Conceptual Contents

—Identifying Dual-Aspect Objective in Concrete (Individual and Collective) Concepts


Propositions and the Dual-Aspect “Objective”

—Duplex Units, File Folders, “The Objective” in Propositions

—Duplex Units, Facts (Existence and Identity), Truth as Dual-Aspect

—Implications: Agent-Centered Truth, Truth vs. Facts, “Accidental” Truth, and “Good Guesses”

Syllogisms and the Dual-Aspect “Objective”

—Identity, Existence, Cause, and Effect in a Three-Level Ontology of Existence, Facts, and Reasons

—Triplex Units, File Folders, Reasons (Causes and Effects), “The Objective” in Syllogisms

—Implications: Soundness vs. Validity, Triplex Units, Junk Truth, and False Syllogisms

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Moderator's Note: the above two essays appeared in the December 2014 and December 2015 issues of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Readers are also encouraged to read an earlier essay of mine entitled Ayn Rand and "The Objective": A Closer Look at the Intrinsic-Objective-Subjective Trichotomy." It appeared in JARS V9N1 (Fall 2007) and is a prequel to the two above essays (as well as to my recent writings on the mind-body and free will issues). Here is a list of the major sections of that essay:

1. Analyzing and Clarifying the Trichotomy

2. The Perilous Pitfall of "The Mind-Independent:" The Existentially Objective, "Objective Reality" and the Primacy of Existence

3. The Tragic Transformation of Rand's Trichotomy: Peikoff's Capitulation

4. Conclusion: A Trichotomy - If You Can Keep It!

Readers may also wish to consult the following, which appeared, respectively, in the Fall 2008 (V9N1) and July 2015 (V15N1) issues of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. The former especially will have some relevance to our discussion of the nature of consciousness and its relation to reality. Here is a breakdown of their respective contents:

Mind, Introspection, and "The Objective"

Introspective Realism and the Ontological Status of Mind

—Peikoff's Analysis of Sense Data and Efron's Analysis of Perception

—Mental Realism: Extending Peikoff's Analysis--Mind as ObjectiveE, the Brain as it Appears to us in Direct, Introspective Awareness

—Introspective Realism: Extending Efron's Analysis--Introspection as ObjectiveC, the Direct, Internal Awareness of Brain Activity

Naive, Scientific Realism and the Infatuation with "The Basic"

—"The Given" vs. "The Basic"

—Atomism, Monism, and "The Basic"

—Neutral Monism (Rand's "Little Stuff") and "The Basic"

Are Mind-Body Interaction and Causal Efficacy of Mind Consistent with Objectivism? (It all depends!)

—Some Basic Aristotelian-Objectivist Tenets, which which any Objectivist Theory of Mind must be Consistent

—Yes! Mind as a Physical Part of Human Beings, and its Implications for Causal Efficacy and Interaction

—No! Mind as an Attribute of Human Beings, and its Implications for Causal Efficacy and Interaction

Mind Qua Attribute: Its Role in History, and its Status as a Cause--How Might the Current Objectivist Theory of Mind be Salvaged?

—The Role of Mind in History: The Bogus Spectre of Epiphenomenalism

—The Causal Role of Mind in Human Action: Mind or Consciousness as Formal Cause--Being (not Having) an Efficacy

Conclusion: Mind as a Real, Objective Phenomenon and Introspection as a Real, Objective Form of Awareness

Where There's a Will, There's a "Why?" A Critique of the Objectivist Theory of Voliition

1. Free Will, Determinism, and Aristotle's Four Causes

2. Orthodox Objectivism's Indeterminist Model of Volition

3. Agent Causation as Conditional Free Will and Value-Determinism

4. Volition as Conditionally, Not Radically, Contingent

5. Agent Causation and Value-Determinism

[Note to readers: a section tying the free will essay into the mind-body essay was deleted prior to publication, for reasons of space. It will be included in a subsequent, book-length presentation of these ideas.]

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It would seem that if consciousness is most fundamentally identification of existence there can be no conscious subject that is not at least in part an identifier of existence. That part is the whole of the conscious subject as such. The conscious subject as such is only the identifier of existence. How can that individual nature stand in the relation that is itself to external existents? Can a relation be a relata in relation that is itself? Isn’t the idea that consciousness is identification inconsistent with the idea that consciousness is a relation between a conscious subject as such and an object?

I gather you would affirm that would be inconsistent. You switch from consciousness as the activity of awareness, of identification, to the whole living entity wielding the consciousness as power for interaction with the world (188–89). That is not talk of consciousness itself, the power, being a relation to existence. You would deny that the power itself stands in a relation to existence (existence not itself), right? Rather, the animal with the power stands in relation to existence through that power, as well as through other related powers?

That human consciousness is an activity and a relation between a person and an object is not a view peculiar to Rand among philosophers. That much, in that generality, is common. That the relation is identification is distinctively Rand. Saying that consciousness is the identification relation between subject and object is fine if we don’t equivocate on subject or get the wrong one.

So far I’m missing what is the point of replacing talk of “instances falling under a concept” with “units falling under a concept” (and then on to the strained talk of “units contained in a concept”). Rand’s unit-conception seems nothing new until she goes on to the associated notion of units as elements of (certain kinds of) measurement on her way to contraction of items subsumed under a concept into a single item of thought (sealed by a word) by suspension of particular measure values along certain measureable characteristics of the instances.

Good catch you have from Coffey 1912: “This quantity [of subsumed attributes] is essentially variable from individual to individual.” I have a compilation of such precursors in the “Universals and Measurement” thread in the OL Metaphysics sector.

To repeat for record here from an earlier note: To broach what is going on among professional philosophers today with ‘file’, a thread of your treatise, take up Francois Reçanati’s Mental Files. I don’t mean you should take that up. Such an assimilation put to essay could show readers of Objectivism new logical setting of Rand’s scheme and yours as well as open for most of them a glimpse of that modern mainstream frontier. But how much that matters and how much further life one wants to invest in making further new philosophy may reasonably recede for other facets of remaining life. I’ll try to remark on other parts of your treatise as I happen across pertinent material in studies for my book. Completion of the book looks four years out from now.

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Stephen, I just now (12:30 am CST Thursday) saw this post. Good stuff! I will chew through it and respond during daylight hours, after I've verified whether catastrophic heating at the North Pole will require me to move to higher ground. :-)

Thanks! And thanks for the reminder about the Recanati book. My budget has limits, but Mental Files is on my short list.

REB

ADDED LATER: Congratulations on your projected book publication! Can't wait to see it! In the meantime, I'll chow down on more of your fascinating posts here on OL and send you comments when I can, and I appreciate your willingness to do the same. :-)

But Stephen, you are so right about it being an open question what philosophy to work on, and how much in relation to other things, in our remaining years. I'm always guided by my interest and passion, and I never assume that the order of priority of my various values will stay the same.

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Stephen, thanks for all your good comments. I'm not ignoring the interesting points in your opening paragraphs. I just need more time to reflect on them. In the meantime, here are some thoughts on your third-to-last paragraph:

1. You wrote: “So far I’m missing what is the point of replacing talk of “instances falling under a concept” with “units falling under a concept” (and then on to the strained talk of “units contained in a concept”).”

I assume you’re referring here to File Folder 1 (JARS 14/2).I couldn’t find any of this in FF2.

Further, I’m not sure how much of this applies to what I wrote. For instance, I couldn’t find any examples of “units falling under aconcept” and only one instance of “instances falling under…,” which was in a quote of Veatch talking about how (under Aristotle’s scheme) something could not fall under two Categories, since the Categories were mutually exclusive of one another.

As for your characterization “units contained in a concept,” I can’t see how this is a strained expression. It seems clarifying and simple to me.

First, units are the content of a concept. Units are things regarded as members of a class of similars, and things regarded as members of a class of similars are the content of a concept. This is all straight out of Rand’s ITOE (1966-67) or a direct inference from it.

As a side-note, I admit to stretching “unit” and “class” to extend to groups that only have one member. This is certainly not Randian, speaking of single-member classes or single-unit concepts, but what care I? Plus, it meshes with standard practice in logic, and thus allows a more unified approach, handling “singular” propositions (Socrates is a man) the same way as universal and particular propositions (All men are mortal, Some men are philosophers).

Secondly, Bertrand Russell spoke of doing an “inventory” of a class to see if such and such was a member of it – sort of a mental inspection, like looking in a classroom to see if a particular student is there. It is a useful, simple way of evaluating the truth-value of a proposition about something that doesn’t exist.

E.g., All sea serpents are real creatures that live in the sea. Inventory the units contained in the concept “real creatures that live in the sea.” Any sea serpents in there? Nope. Thus, the proposition is false. E.g., All sea serpents are imaginary creatures that live in the sea. Inventory – yup – proposition true.

I prefer the term “unit” over “instance,” since I argue for concepts of individuals, such as Mars and Ayn Rand. They are a “class” with one member or unit, so “instance” would be the term that seems strained in this instance (as it were). E.g., Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling’s fictional character, is the one and only instance of the class named “Harry Potter, the fictional character of J. K. Rowling.” I think it’s less awkward to think of it as a single-member class or a single-unit concept, than to think of Harry Potter as the one and only instance falling under the concept "Harry Potter."

As regards assessing truth value: Harry Potter [J.K. Rowling’s fictional character] is a real person. Inventory – is Harry Potter a unit of the concept “real person”? Nope– proposition false. Etc. Harry Potter is a fictional character invented by J. K. Rowling. Inventory – is Harry Potter a unit of the concept “fictional character” or, more narrowly, “fictional character invented by J. K. Rowling”? Yes – proposition true.

All propositions about non-existent things, things that aren’t real, can be clearly and simply analyzed in this manner. There is no need, and no justification, for treating them any differently from propositions about things that do exist. All kinds of logical conundrums, including the morass of existential import that has perverted and warped logic for the past century, can be circumvented by this approach.

Do I think that this insight is going to revolutionize logic and result in the rewriting of logic texts? Well, the Existential Import Express left the station a long time ago, so I’m not holding my breath – but I’m going to give it a shot over the next few years.

2. Stephen, you wrote: “Rand’s unit-conception seems nothing new until she goes on to the associated notion of units as elements of (certain kinds of) measurement on her way to contraction of items subsumed under a concept into a single item of thought (sealed by a word) by suspension of particular measure values along certain measureable characteristics of the instances.”

There are (at least) two distinct valuable aspects of Rand’s basing epistemology on the concept of “unit.” You are point to her treatment of unit-reduction – how, in forming abstractions - and then abstractions from abstractions - we compress or contract the items subsumed by a concept into a single, new mental item. This is basically, though, just an extension of her more fundamental unit-perspective: seeing things as units (members of groups of similars). She moves from seeing things as units to seeing *units* as units.

And yes, seeing units as “elements of” measurement is vital to this epistemological process. It’s the “how” of integrating our awareness into concepts that is complemented by the “how” of evaluating such integrations by inventorying the references to reality by the concepts &c that integrate those units (as I’ve just illustrated above). We have been well aware for several decades of how Rand has laid the groundwork for revolutionizing and unifying epistemology with units/measurements, and what I have done in my two file-folder essays is (1) to show how her unit-perspective is the basis for extending her model of concepts to a simple, clear model of the proposition (and syllogism), and (2) to argue that her unit-perspective also revolutionizes and unifies logic.

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units are the content of a concept. Units are things regarded as members of a class of similars, and things regarded as members of a class of similars are the content of a concept. This is all straight out of Rand’s ITOE (1966-67) or a direct inference from it.

Wrong twice. Essential defining characteristics, not units, paired with CCD. "Direct inference" my butt.

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In re #7:

When you view some existent as being (Rand’s words) “a separate member of a group of two or more similar members,” the *content* of that state of awareness – what is contained in that state of awareness - is that existent viewed as a unit (one of a group of similars). That is the unit-perspective, and that is from the first chapter of ITOE.

Something seen as a member of a group of similars is (defined by Rand as) a UNIT. Furthermore, *all* of the things seen as members of that group are UNITS (in relation to that group and their similarity to one another). They are all held as contents of your awareness – specifically, as units.

To form a concept, we first have to hold the members of that group of similars, those units, in (as content of) our state of awareness. We then (through measurement-omission &c) fuse them into a new mental unit, which is the concept. (That is from the second chapter of ITOE.) But it is only by first having held those individual units as content of our awareness that we are then further able to see those things as a single new mental unit.

Concepts are a way of regarding things that exist – a way of holding them in our awareness – a way of those existing things (viewed a certain way) being the content of our awareness. Concepts integrate units, and units are also a way of regarding things that exist – of their being the content of our awareness. A concept is a state of awareness that contains things looked at in a certain way by means of boiling down two or more units (states of awareness which contain things looked at in a certain way).

The chain of inference is simple and direct, once you get the premises:

  1. Units are things regarded as members of a class of similars (Rand).
  2. Things regarded as members of a class of similars are the content of a concept (Rand: a concept is a way of looking at things as being members of a class of similars).
  3. Therefore, units are the content of a concept. (Or, you could say: the content of a concept is its units – the things regarded as members of a group of similars.) (And that is a Q.E.D., in regard to your butt.)

As for the essential characteristic bit, your comment pertains to Rand's model of *definition* formation, not concept formation. But you don't even have that correct.

In forming definitions, as Rand notes (and Peikoff following her), while we are explicitly *stating* only the essential characteristics, we are not *referring* to just those characteristics, but to *all* the characteristics of the thing being defined. By contrast, a concept, qua mental file folder, contains *all* the information known about the units of the concept, not just their essential characteristics.

If the essentials were all that a concept held, it would be useless to us (as a repository of information) – just as if a definition held *all* of the information, not just the essentials, it too would be useless (as a shorthand summary of that information).

More chewing of Rand's ITOE is highly recommended.

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Roger, a recent note from a philosopher on a draft portion of my book:

By the way, I wouldn’t worry about the singular “this electron” or “Socrates” in your syllogisms, and I don’t think the cure should be to convert those to particular (“some”) propositions. The standard way to treat singular propositions in Aristotelian logic is as universal (“all”) propositions, not particular propositions. See McCall’s old Basic Logic, 2nd ed., Barnes & Noble, 1952, p. 52, and Baronett’s Logic, 2nd ed., Oxford U.P., 2013, p. 203.

This is from my 1990 essay “Capturing Concepts”

Names require abstraction. To have the proper-name concept of a particular individual, one needs not only the ability to attach the individual’s particular suite of characteristics to it as a unity and to be able to recall and recognize the individual; one needs to have acquired all of the semantic portion of what is required for learning a proper name. John Macnamara lists the following for that portion: (i) ability to refer, (ii) possession of a demonstrative, (iii) ability to see as very same an individual across times of absence, (iv) ability to exclude features of an individual inessential to its numerical identity across time, (v) possession of a notion of kinds to guide the omission of those inessentials, and (vi) possession of a notion of membership in a kind (1986, 55–64).

Having a name for an individual thing here seems to entail having stuff working in mind that is more than, say, in the mind of a dog who is able to recognize some individual persons. The mental paraphernalia listed by psychologist Macnamara for possession of the concept-with-naming of an individual would seem to support your idea (by v and vi) that some sort of unit notion must be grasped surrounding this level of concept of the individual thing.

That is not yet far enough in development for grasp of units in countable collections, which won’t begin until about 36 months at the earliest—not to be confused with the ability to recite count numbers in proper order. The notion of unit for measurement, of course, comes still later. The notion of unit evidently has a long process of becoming definite, explicit, and ramified with us. (Also, Capturing Quantity)

Shy of its use in the measurement-omission part of her analysis of concepts, it would seem that talk of units is only idiosyncratic for what is usually called elements, as in the elements of a set. I don’t see anything original with Rand concerning concepts in her notion and use of unit (element) until she gets to membership relations that are confined to shared dimensions from which particular measure values can be suspended (and gets to her coordinate measurement cast of similarity). Can your extensions of Rand in theory of proposition and syllogism and other topics in logic be carried out with the concept element in place of the concept unit? Or the concept element in a similarity class (where measurement analysis of similarity is left unopened) in place of the concept unit? If either of those replacements is workable, I’d say your extensions could be consistent with Rand’s viewpoint, though not distinctively extensions of Rand. That’s what seems to really be going on also in Robert Knapp’s Mathematics Is about the World – How Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts Unlocks . . . (Cf. James Franklin’s An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics). That’s secondary of course, as the important thing is truth.

Couldn’t a concept file folder contain only some information about the instances it covers, say, typical instance and its typical settings, plus correct genus, with differentia for each suitable genus (if the concept is that developed), plus various wholes for which the instances are parts? I wonder if the taxonomic and partomomic information in the concept is better thought of as information in its file or as pointers in that file to other files. But perhaps this goes to the issue of limitations of likening concepts to file folders.

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Especially interesting in the link, I think:

Capturing Quantity

Part 2

. . .

In working memory, we have object representations used to track their individual identity as we perceive them in different locations. These representations are called object files (Kahneman, Treisman, and Gibbs 1992;* . . . ). Characteristics of our operations with these representations include:

(1) privileging spatio-temporal information over property/kind information in individuation and computations of numerical identity; (2) a set-size limit on the number of objects that may be simultaneously attended to and represented in working memory (on the order of three or four); and (3) the capacity to track individual objects through occlusion, with specific spatio-temporal information distinguishing cessation of existence from occlusion. (OC 71–72)

Carey adduces evidence that those our adult characteristics of object representation are also found in young infants (OC 72–87). The set-size limitation increases during infancy, reaching the adult level by 10 months.

Two core cognitions underlie infant performance in tasks reflecting sensitivity to magnitude. One is parallel individuation of small sets, which supports an infant and adult sensitivity to number. This cognition entertains a small number of object-file representations. Object files of some individuals are held in one bin in working memory while others are held in another. In one experimental task eliciting these operations, an infant watches as graham crackers are placed into each of two opaque containers, which have been shown empty to the baby prior to the deposits. In view of the baby, one cracker is placed in one container. One cracker and another are placed in the other container. Baby (10–12 months) is released to crawl to the containers. Baby heads for the container with two crackers. (Monkey’s also perform such tasks.) Next 2 versus 3. Baby succeeds again. 1 versus 3? Success. 1 versus 4? Failure. 2 or 3 versus 4? Failure (Feigenson, Carey, and Hauser 2002).

The limits on the number of objects that can be simultaneously attended to and represented in working memory are manifest in those results. This characteristic indicates that in such tasks the infants’ sensitivity (implicitly) to number is supported by parallel individuation in small sets, rather than by a second core cognition concerning magnitude: analog magnitude representations of number. In such cognitions, ability to discriminate any two magnitudes is a monotonically increasing function of their ratios. A ratio of 4:1 is easier to discriminate than a ratio of 2:1 or 3:2. The analog magnitude system is “an evolutionary ancient representational system in which number is encoded by an analog magnitude proportional to the number of objects in the set. These representations support computations of numerical equivalence and numerical order” in preverbal infants (OC 123).

The individuals whose set sizes are discriminated by that core cognition can be objects or tones (OC 124). Cognition of magnitudes through parallel individuation of small sets has been elicited in preverbal infants using not only objects, but events and tones (OC 148–49).

It is parallel individuation in small sets I expect for first rung in the ladder to units in the substitution sense in Rand’s theory of concepts. It is analog magnitude representations of number I expect for first rung to units in the measure-value sense in Rand’s theory. We shall see.

(To be continued.)

. . .

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Stephen, thanks very much for your comments, as always. I'm still working on the front part of your #4, but here are some comments on the front part of your #9:

You wrote:

Roger, a recent note from a philosopher on a draft portion of my book:

By the way, I wouldn’t worry about the singular “this electron” or “Socrates” in your syllogisms, and I don’t think the cure should be to convert those to particular (“some”) propositions. The standard way to treat singular propositions in Aristotelian logic is as universal (“all”) propositions, not particular propositions. See McCall’s old Basic Logic, 2nd ed., Barnes & Noble, 1952, p. 52, and Baronett’s Logic, 2nd ed., Oxford U.P., 2013, p. 203.

Your correspondent is exactly correct. This is standard procedure in logic texts including Kelley's. (I think Peikoff also says as much in his 1974 logic course.)

What's interesting to me is *why* this is so. One rationale is that a singular subject is a member of a class of one - and that since something is being asserted of the *sole* member of the class, it is being asserted of *all* members of the class. In JARS V14N2, I cite Kelley's use of this rationale. However, I think the reason is more fundamental than that. As I argued in JARS V14N2 (footote 29):

That there has even been a controversy over how to properly handle singular propositions seems to me to be the consequence of mainstream logic’s failure to clearly identify the nature of categorical propositions as being not fundamentally about the relationships of class-inclusion or aspect-attribution between the members of the categories contained in the subject and predicate (see, for instance, Copi and Cohen 2009, 181; Kelley 2013, 529), but instead about the simple, unqualified, categorical assertion of the relationship of identity-of-reference between the members of the subject and predicate categories. The problem is not that the former relationships are not real, but that focusing on them exposes neither their basis in one’s cognitive contact with and reference to reality, nor the fact that the structure of propositional reference rests fundamentally on the Law of Identity. Focusing instead on identity-of-reference resolves both of these shortcomings.

To this, I would simply add that what we are doing with singular propositions is not treating them *as being* universal propositions, but *as being like* universal propositions - and universal propositions as being like *them,* of course. This is because the similarity is only partial, as the semantics of "all" reveals. They are both one-to-one correspondences (unlike in particular propositions like Some cows are brown), so all you have to do is compare the subject and predicate concepts unit by unit. However, while for a universal proposition like All cows are mammals, "all" means: each and every - for a singular proposition like Bessie (this cow) is a mammal, treating it "as" a universal All Bessie is a mammal, "all" means: this one and only.

You wrote:

"This is from my 1990 essay “Capturing Concepts”

Names require abstraction. To have the proper-name concept of a particular individual, one needs not only the ability to attach the individual’s particular suite of characteristics to it as a unity and to be able to recall and recognize the individual; one needs to have acquired all of the semantic portion of what is required for learning a proper name. John Macnamara lists the following for that portion: (i) ability to refer, (ii) possession of a demonstrative, (iii) ability to see as very same an individual across times of absence, (iv) ability to exclude features of an individual inessential to its numerical identity across time, (v) possession of a notion of kinds to guide the omission of those inessentials, and (vi) possession of a notion of membership in a kind (1986, 55–64).

Having a name for an individual thing here seems to entail having stuff working in mind that is more than, say, in the mind of a dog who is able to recognize some individual persons. The mental paraphernalia listed by psychologist Macnamara for possession of the concept-with-naming of an individual would seem to support your idea (by v and vi) that some sort of unit notion must be grasped surrounding this level of concept of the individual thing.

Stephen, I agree with the necessity of i-iv, but I don't think v and vi are necessary. I think that forming concepts of individuals - at least, our very earliest ones like Mama, Fido (family pet), Suzie (sister) - happens prior to any abstract concepts. They are concrete concepts, which are not dependent upon having learned about kinds and membership. They are also very important precursors to forming abstract concepts.

As I cited him in JARS V14N2, Butchvarov (1966) said "it is the identity of individuals that constitutes the paradigm of identity." It is because of our ability to conceptually grasp (via i-iv) individuals and what belongs to them (as characteristics) that we are then able to conceptually grasp (with the additional abilities of v-vi) kinds and what individuals belong to them (as members). Being and belonging to are first conceptually grasped concretely, then abstractly - which is why concrete conceptss come first and pave the way for abstract concepts.

You wrote:

That is not yet far enough in development for grasp of units in countable collections, which won’t begin until about 36 months at the earliest—not to be confused with the ability to recite count numbers in proper order. The notion of unit for measurement, of course, comes still later. The notion of unit evidently has a long process of becoming definite, explicit, and ramified with us. (Also, Capturing Quantity)

Stephen, thank you. This is very helpful, and I will tuck it away for future reference. I have had some very good guidance from a cognitive psychologist in understanding early conceptual development, but I am still learning! It's clear, though, that it is a very fertile field for greatly enrichening cognitive psychology (and child rearing) - uncovering and clarifying how the cognitive tool of units first develops concretely, then abstractly, then more abstractly. (As I used to ask in social studies class, "what unit are we on now?" :wink: )

REB

P.S. - I appreciate more than ever how deeply you had already worked into some of this territory even 25 years ago. Amazing! I'm sure I read through your early writings at least once, but it didn't connect with what I was working on at the time, so I didn't mentally file it away for later use. My loss. Instead, I took a longer way around, for sure. We also clearly have some differences of opinion, but at least we're pointing out relevant sources likely to be useful to each other....more comments on the unit stuff soon, if you don't entice me into commenting on something else in the meantime!

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OK, Stephen, now to your three opening paragraphs of post #4.

1. You wrote:

It would seem that if consciousness is most fundamentally identification of existence there can be no conscious subject that is not at least in part an identifier of existence. That part is the whole of the conscious subject as such. The conscious subject as such is only the identifier of existence.

Yes. I see it that way, too. Peikoff’s analogy is helpful to me in sorting out the grammar and reference of the terms. Consciousness/identifiCATION is like a colliSION. The identifiER (conscious subject, person doing the identifying) is like the colliDER. The identifiED (object of consciousness, thing the person is identifying) is like the thing colliDED WITH.

Of course, *each* party to a collision is colliding and being collided with. At least for practical purposes, it’s a symmetrical interaction. By (apparent) contrast, in cognitive consciousness, the relation is asymmetrical – so it looks like there are two, distinct, correlative actions and relations: perceiving/perception and appearing/appearance. There is the action/relationship of appearance which “flows” from object to subject, and an action/relationship of perception which “flows” from subject to object. The object appears to the subject, and the subject is appeared to by the object. The subject perceives the object, and the object is perceived by the subject.

[i say “(apparent) contrast,” because we can easily reframe an apparently symmetrical relationship into an asymmetrical one. E.g., a collision between two automobiles can be parsed into, say, a collision by this red Pontiac with this green Ford and a collision by this green Ford with this red Pontiac. A friendship between two persons can be parsed into a friendship of Bob with Bill and a friendship of Bill with Bob. The analytically distinct collisions and friendships happen to be numerically one and the same, which is why they can be so distinguished: they are the same relationship from two different perspectives. So, despite appearances of symmetry, all relationships, concretely considered, are asymmetrical, ultimately because all relata in dyadic relationships are numerically distinct.][Except maybe: a thing is itself?]

But some of the unclarity is due to the ambiguity in the ending “sion/tion,” which sometimes denotes an action (like collision qua colliding, perception qua perceiving) and sometimes instead the result of the action (collision qua *a* collision, perception qua *a* perception). The term “consciousness” is even harder to sort out conceptually, since it’s (properly) used to refer to a capacity, an action, a relationship (and/or a result of an action).

The first thing that has to be done is to pry consciousness from the category of substance or entity. Matter and consciousness are powers of entities that are activated in certain ways by those entities when they act. (By "activated," I don't mean that entities do something to their powers; they are doing some *with* or *by virtue of* those powers.) That’s why there is no such thing as a relation between consciousness and existence, any more than there is between matter and existence (as I argued on p. 188 of JARS V15N2). Not even all prominent Objectivists have managed to do this yet (e.g., Binswanger, though he has at least managed to maintain mind as a *natural* entity), but as you note in point 3 below, that is the avenue I argue we must go down.

But getting back to consciousness as identification – we again have to distinguish the action (identification qua identifying) from the result (the resulting relationship) of the action (identification qua *an* identification). By an act of identifying, the organism is/becomes/takes on the emergent character of a relational entity, viz., the subject-pole relatum of that resulting relationship, the identification. (In parallel and/or correlatively, by its act of appearing to the organism, the thing in reality is/becomes/takes on the emergent character of a relational entity, viz., the object-pole relatum of that same relationship, which can also be seen as a relationship of appearance/appearing-to.) This should help to sort out and address your concerns in point 2.

2. You wrote:

How can that individual nature stand in the relation that is itself to external existents? Can a relation be a relata in relationthat is itself? Isn’t the idea that consciousness is identification inconsistent with the idea that consciousness is a relation between a conscious subject as such and an object?

OK, by “that individual nature,” you are referring to “the conscious subject.” But the conscious subject is not a nature or an attribute, any more than the object of consciousness is a nature or an attribute. They are both entities, viz., relational entities. They are both the same entities that exist apart from the relationship of consciousness, but now considered specifically from the perspective of their being in a certain relationship with each other. (I’m sure you know I develop this argument during the section on perception in JARSV15N2.)

The conscious organism and the thing in the world – or their proximate proxies – are doing something very specific to each other, which generates a *result,* a *product,* a state of appearance/perception of which they are the two causes. This interaction is an action-between, a dynamic*relationship* between the two entities. The relationship of consciousness (of and by) arises at the same time the entity and the organism respectively become the object and subject of consciousness.

The conscious subject just *is* the organism standing in the dynamic relation that it has causally entered into with the entity – just as an entity qua cause just *is* an entity standing in the dynamic relation to its effects that it has causally entered into by acting!

Similarly, a digester just *is* an organism standing in the dynamic relation that it has causally entered into with the food it has injested. That doesn’t mean the digester *is* that relation. It is just a concomitant result of the organism having entered into that relation with the ingested food.

So, to dot the I: the relation of awareness *is not* the subject of awareness. The relation of awareness and the entity as object of consciousness and the organism as conscious subject are the concomitant results of the organism and the entity interacting with each other in a certain way.

Second question: Sorry, I can’t make sense of it. The relationship of appearance/perception, for instance, is no more identical to the object pole (the entity as appearing to the organism) than it is to the subject pole (the organism as perceiving the entity).

Third question: The identifYING (whether perceptually or conceptually) of an entity by the organism means it is engaging in some combination of differentiatING and integratING the bundled energy coming from that entity. The result is that the entity now appears to the organism as a unity distinct from other things in its setting – and the organism has grasped the entity as such a unity. This result is the relation of appearance/identification, and the entity as object of awareness and the organism as conscious subject are the concomitant results of their interaction.

So, no, I don’t see a contradiction between consciousness/identification, the product/relation that results from a certain kind of interaction between entity and organism, and consciousness as the relation between an organism qua conscious subject and an entity qua object of awareness. They’re the same thing.

3. You wrote:

I gather you would affirm that would be inconsistent. [No.] You switch from consciousness as the activity of awareness, of identification, to the whole living entity wielding the consciousness as power for interaction with the world (188–89). That is not talk of consciousness itself, the power, being a relation to existence. You would deny that the power itself stands in a relation to existence (existence not itself), right? Rather, the animal with the power stands in relation to existence through that power, as well as through other related powers?

No. I view consciousness qua (certain kind of) *interaction*of organism with world as the activation of the organism’s power to so interact. Consciousness qua *product* of such interaction is the relation between the organism and the world. Again, there is the ING vs. TION distinction to keep in mind. I’m sorry if I keep saying “interaction” when I really could say it more clearly as interactING. But I’m sure you get the distinction, anyway.

4. You wrote:

That human consciousness is an activity and a relation between a person and an object is not a view peculiar to Rand among philosophers. That much, in that generality, is common. That the relation is identification is distinctively Rand. Saying that consciousness is the identification relation between subject and object is fine if we don’t equivocate on subject or get the wrong one.

I agree, but I don’t see the problem, as long as we (1) do not reify consciousness or mind into a kind of thing that is engaging in action, and (2) remember that object of awareness and conscious subject are emergent things, relational entities that exist only as poles of a relation of consciousness between organism and world, and not as some additional kinds of things that engage in actions other than what is being done by the entity or organism in interacting with one another.

I hope this is clear, and I apologize if I've misunderstood or misconstrued anything you've said. Thanks very much for these very challenging questions.

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OK, Stephen, now for some thoughts on the last two paragraphs of your post #9:

You wrote:

Shy of its use in the measurement-omission part of her [Rand’s] analysis of concepts, it would seem that talk of units is only idiosyncratic for what is usually called elements, as in the elements of a set. I don’t see anything original with Rand concerning concepts in her notion and use of unit (element) until she gets to membership relations that are confined to shared dimensions from which particular measure values can be suspended (and gets to her coordinate measurement cast of similarity). Can your extensions of Rand in theory of proposition and syllogism and other topics in logic be carried out with the concept element in place of the concept unit? Or the concept element in a similarity class (where measurement analysis of similarity is left unopened) in place of the concept unit? If either of those replacements is workable, I’d say your extensions could be consistent with Rand’s viewpoint, though not distinctively extensions of Rand. That’s what seems to really be going on also in Robert Knapp’s Mathematics Is about the World – How Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts Unlocks . . . (Cf. James Franklin’s An Aristotelian Realist Philosophy of Mathematics). That’s secondary of course, as the important thing is truth.

I agree that there are some good reasons for rephrasing my extensions of Rand’s idiosyncratic use of unit qua element of a similarity class in terms of elements than units. The main advantage in doing this, I take it, is that it would remove a needless ambiguity from Objectivist (or Objectivist-inspired) epistemology, by eliminating one of the multiple uses of the term “unit.” (There are a lot of such ambiguities in the philosophy, including the term “value.”) I am glad that you agree that the term “class” (specifically, “similarity class”) is the way to go, because “set” has too general a meaning and leaves an opening wide enough for a Mack truck to drive through the doorway of “the arbitrary.”

The problem I see with this, though, is that while it would be *consistent* with Rand’s viewpoint, it would be abandoning her initial, very clarifying use of the term “unit” as an existent regarded as being a member of a group of two or more similar things. In each cognitive integration, from the ground up, we are mentally transforming things seen as unities or wholes into things seen as parts or “units.” This, I think, is the main advantage of retaining the term “unit” qua similarity class member. It underscores the recursive whole-part-whole-part progression of our mental grasp of things in the world. Abandoning this does smooth (spellcheck wouldn’t let me say “smoothe”) out an Randian idiosyncratic ambiguity, but at the cost of losing its underscoring the recursive path of our conceptual knowledge building.

So, there is a trade-off here, and I’m not sure which approach would be better. I don’t mind sounding less Randian (losing the “unit” talk), but I do mind for my views to lose some of their punch in displaying and hammering home the unity of our knowledge. Ultimately, what counts most, as you say, is truth – but clarity and effectiveness of communication is also important. We should ponder and discuss this some more…

You wrote:

Couldn’t a concept file folder contain only some information about the instances it covers, say, typical instance and its typical settings, plus correct genus, with differentia for each suitable genus (if the concept is that developed), plus various wholes for which the instances are parts? I wonder if the taxonomic and partomomic information in the concept is better thought of as information in its file or as pointers in that file to other files. But perhaps this goes to the issue of limitations of likening concepts to file folders.

Sure. Like all analogies, Rand’s file folder analogy has its limitations. But I was aghast at how quickly Binswanger abandoned it in his book, when he started talking about propositions. Mein Gott – that’s where you really need it most, and where it comes in most handy! Without seeing that analogy or metaphor as flowing through the various levels of logic, how does their interconnection seem anything more than arbitrary or strained and vague?

I don’t see anything wrong with visualizing file folder content in abbreviated fashion, as long as we don’t forget what all is in there. (I sometimes think of conceptual hierarchies like Chinese boxes – concepts within concepts, etc. Or Venn diagrams, with circles within circles, each circle representing a concept that contains lower-level units. The pointing or reference is very easy to see in such diagrams, even if it’s implicit.) But what you’re proposing sounds more like the visual rendering of a concept’s definition – the*summary* of what’s in the file folder. In our mental storage bins, however, the information is *all* there (at least, it was!), so paradigms or typical instances are more like avatars for the whole gang.

*****

I am now officially worn out and headed for bed. Thanks, Stephen.

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Stephen, in regard to your recommendation in post #4 of Recanati's Mental Files, it will interest you to know that Gregory Salmieri had this to say in Note 64 to Chapter 12 (The Objectivist Epistemology) in the Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand, just out in Kindle format:

Rand’s talk of “mental files” should not be confused with the subsequent use philosophers (e.g., Grice 1969, 140– 44, Strawson 1974, 54– 56) have made of this same metaphor in connection with singular terms. Rand’s file-folders are concepts, and as such they refer to multiple units. She discusses singular terms (specifically proper names) only in passing (ITOE 9– 10, 175), and never discusses the Fregean concerns about identity statements that motivate much of the literature on them. However, given her other commitments, she would certainly have held a direct reference theory, and there are parallels between her concept of a “form of awareness” and the Fregean idea of a “sense” or “mode of presentation,” as that idea has been interpreted by direct reference theorists (e.g., Evans 1982, John Campbell 2002). This interpretation of “modes of presentation” lies behind much of the recent literature on “mental files” (e.g., Perry 1980, Recanati 1993 and 2013). On the parallels between forms of awareness and modes of presentation, see Salmieri 2013b, 230– 232, cf. 2013a, 46 n. 7 and Bayer 2013, 261 n. 8.

(2015-12-18). A Companion to Ayn Rand (Blackwell Companions to Philosophy) (Kindle Locations 12641-12650). Wiley. Kindle Edition.

Here is the bibliographic information for the above citations:

Grice, Paul. 1969. “Vacuous Names.” In Words and Objections, edited by Donald Davidson and Jakko Hintikka. Dordrecht: Reidel.
Strawson, Peter F. 1974. Subject and Predicate in Logic and Grammar. London: Methuen.

Campbell, John. 2002. Reference and Consciousness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Evans, Gareth. 1982. The Varieties of Reference. Edited by John McDowell. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Perry, John. 1980. “A Problem about Continued Belief.” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 61.

Recanati, François. 1993. Direct Reference: From Language to Thought. Oxford: Blackwell.

Recanati, François. 2013. Mental Files. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Salmieri, Gregory. 2013a. “Conceptualization and Justification.” In Gotthelf and Lennox 2013.

Salmieri, Gregory. 2013b. “Forms of Awareness and ‘Three Factor’ Theories.” In Gotthelf and Lennox 2013.

Bayer, Benjamin. 2013. “Keeping Up Appearances: Reflections on the Debate Over Perceptual Infallibilism.” In Gotthelf and Lennox 2013.

Gotthelf, Allan, ed., and James G. Lennox, assoc. ed. 2013. Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology. Ayn Rand Philosophical Studies, vol. 2. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press.

You might also want to check out this, listed in the same set of chapter sources. Rheins authored a different chapter in the Companion:

Rheins, Jason. 2011. “Similarity and Species Concepts.” In Carving Nature at Its Joints, edited by Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O’Rourke, and Matthew H. Slater. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

(I also talk about the parallel between the appearance of the object to the subject, and the perception of the object by the subject in Part 2 of "What's in Your File Folder?" Kelley and Butchvarov are others who recognize this parallel.)

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