Daniel Barnes

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Everything posted by Daniel Barnes

  1. I eat because i'm hungry Merlin, not because I've done it x times before!
  2. I will try to give you a snapshot version. As I'm currently on a tropical island without my books and somewhat limited internet access, I will call this the "pool bar" explanation. The problem as you will know ad tedium was made famous by Hume, even though pre-dates him and he never called it such. We may summarise it as the problem of obtaining universal laws from particular instances - in effect, obtaining knowledge of future occurrences (for universal laws are predictive) from observations of past ones. We might call "induction" the belief that this process is reasonable, and even possible. After all, it seems to track with our everyday experience: we see the sun rise every morning and have done all our lives, it seems unthinkable that it will not do so tomorrow. In fact, the more often we've observed something occur in a certain fashion, the more confident we feel that it will occur in this fashion in the future. Once we've seen something happen often enough, why, we just know that it will happen the same way again. Hume, being a particularly rigorous fellow and disinclined to take anything for granted, especially the obvious, looked at this seemingly undeniable process and said "Hey...wait just a second. What exactly is the justification for this seemingly undeniable belief?" There's no logically valid way of getting from 1, or 1,000, or 1,000,000 observations to anything like a universal law, for any such generalisation must always outstrip the evidence for it. Further, if we try justify induction a different way, 'inductively' - by saying that hey, induction has worked in the past, so it must work in the future, right? - this too is a fallacy, because it's simply another appeal to experience to justify the first appeal to experience. Hume pointed out that this question could be renewed each time this justification was offered, so effectively led to an infinite regress. So no such luck there either. Even appeals to probability - that, ok, if not certain, then perhaps a conclusion justified by prior observations would be more probable - are, sadly, fatally destroyed in the same stroke. So it turned out this perfectly natural and seemingly indispensable assumption had no rational justification whatsoever. Even more inconveniently, so secure had this natural assumption seemed that the basic foundations of science had been erected around it. By the slow, painstaking accumulation of millions of observations, it was believed, a rock-solid theory would eventually form, like a stalagmite of truth from a vast accumulation of tiny limestone drips. Yet Hume was pointing out this was an entirely false hope - in reality it was more like making observations of millions of rising house prices and concluding therefore they would always rise in future... The response to this radical finding of Hume's was...nothing at first. Even Hume himself - the most hard-headed of men - couldn't quite bring himself to believe it. Pretty much everyone felt the same way except a certain middle-aged scholar over in Prussia name of Immanuel Kant. His reaction on reading Hume was: Holy fucking shit...This Is BAD!! For he realised that if Hume was right, human knowledge, including that last, best hope for certainty, science itself - or at least as it was being constructed at the time - was fatally undermined. Nothing like a rock-solid law could ever in fact be formed by such a process. So he went back to the drawing board to try and figure a way round the problem. (Whether he succeeded or not is a matter for debate - I think not.) So was set what Bertrand Russell called the ticking "time bomb" under philosophy. For the problem was not just a logical one, but a psychological one too. For as Hume observed, we fundamentally believe in this idea of induction even though it has no rational justification - we cannot, apparently, do without it. Thus humans are fundamentally irrational - all hopes for a rational philosophy are doomed. Despairingly, Russell said that our only hope against this inexorable conclusion was that Hume's problem might one day be solved - however, all attempts so far had failed. And that is the pool-bar explanation why the problem of induction is a problem. Make mine a Pina Colada.
  3. I thought you said a minute ago that they were "some of the silliest things he ever wrote." Now it seems you're saying you didn't quite get them, and wouldn't mind talking them over with someone just in case they might not be so silly. That seems a bit more reasonable. I recommend my good friend Rafe Champion, who posts over at Matt Dioguardi's most excellent CriticalRationalism blog. If there's a relevant thread, perhaps you could drop in with any questions you might have. Alternately I recommend the Critical Rationalism Yahoo group, which Matt also moderates. Though I haven't posted over there for a long time, Ken Hopf is a particularly good commenter and I see he's posting a bit right now, so you could fire a few queries his way. Incidentally, he's a former Objectivist, so he knows that side of the street too. Happy to be of service...;-)
  4. Most theories of induction are basically Underpants Gnomes-type theories. That is: Step 1: Observation(s) Step 2: ??????? Step 3: Induction! From what I've seen so far Harriman doesn't seem to be an exception.
  5. Heh. No doubt religious types say the same thing about you. No, actually many of them don't. ATCAG got a favorable review in The Christian Century, for example. And I have always gotten along well in Christian chatrooms (though I haven't participated in one for around 7 years now). So what? I have a number of Objectivist friends too. We like to argue, it's fun. So sue me. How about a serious question?
  6. More hapless flailing. Actually, my ideas are the sole source of my livelihood, and pretty much always have been.
  7. Indeed, just as the one person who keeps proclaiming how boldly original he is as a thinker turns out to be the most hilariously brittle defender of the orthodox vacuities. I think Upton Sinclair explained this type of behaviour well when he observed how difficult it is to get a man to understand something that his income depends on him not understanding. Let the waffling begin!...;-)
  8. No, but you are well on the way to winning such an award for a serial inability to read!...;-)
  9. Heh. No doubt religious types say the same thing about you.
  10. Hmmm...sifting through 1300-odd posts for GHs's cranky nuggets. Thanks, but no thanks. Um, so I'm apparently "making a name for myself" by "riding on the back of Ayn Rand". As if. For a highly intelligent fellow you really are none too perceptive. In fact you seem to have all the problems of genius, but without quite enough of the advantages.
  11. LOL! I apologise for missing these apparently vital challenges; as I mentioned a while back, I've been otherwise engaged for a week or two and have not had much time for posting. If you can wipe the spittle off your monitor for long enough to give me the specifics of this "backlog", I'll happily address them.
  12. Thank you. This is not the only example, BTW - there is "sacrifice" as another obvious example, where she tells you what the word does, and does not mean. And I would include the entire Ayn Rand Lexicon as massive example of the general thrust of this basically mistaken direction. But I am trying to get to why she "said 'wrong'" in the first place. I don't see a single, unforced error. I see a pattern in both her work, and that of her followers. Rather, I think she was operating under a mistaken methodology with which this and the other errors are consistent. It helps also that this seems to be a widespread pattern in philosophy, just particularly strong due to Aristotle's particularly direct influence on Rand. Incidentally, I also would agree that there are places where she says otherwise, but they tend not to be front-and-centre like "selfishness." Perhaps at some level she realised there was a problem, which might explain the sudden outbreak of Popperian nominalism such referring to words as "labels". Yet just prior to her trivialising them as "labels", she's making them the triumphant final step in the process of concept formation. This is another possible source of confusion. Humans can be very inconsistent creatures...;-) I agree that this is what she probably aimed at doing. I also agree this is to some extent admirable - I've mentioned to you previously how useful Rand has been for people trying to free themselves from, say, oppressive religious beliefs. What I'm trying to say is that the antique sights on her rifle, if you like, are on examination fundamentally miscalibrated, and this explains the misfires - which are by no means limited to "selfishness" - better than simple human error. I see what you mean by calling it a tactical error, but I am not fully convinced. As well as erroneous methodology, some of it could be sheeted down to a desire to shock, to say outrageous things to get attention. This is common enough. The debatable point is how much was intended as mere shock value, to be watered down in the body of the text, and how much was to be taken straight.
  13. What on earth are you talking about? The elephant/piano thing was proposed by Merlin in an apparent attempt to impress me with the amazing explanatory and predictive powers of the law of identity. Unfortunately, as I pointed out, by doing so he ruled out evolution, just like old HWB Joseph himself as I recall. I don't think Merlin wants to go there, but you were sounding pretty keen. I then supplied you with a perfectly good scientific theory that not only predicts that elephants will most likely give birth to elephants and not pianos, but which, when combined with natural selection, also explains why they might later give birth to non-elephants. All of this is quite beyond the power of the LOI. Ted Keer sensibly did not attempt this overreach in the first place, and is happy for it to merely be the go-to axiom anytime you want to find out what you knew already. So now I've brought you up to speed, let's hear about those testable identity-based theories.
  14. Judging from the above, you don't actually seem to have any idea what I was claiming or not claiming. So you were typing this because...? Ok let's hear 'em.
  15. Not at all. If Peikoff's examples had been yours it would have made me think his theory's a bit more credible. There seems to be a lot of retro-fitting going on.
  16. There's a perfectly good scientific theory called genetics that not only explains why an elephant will probably not give birth to a piano, but also might explain how an amoeba might become an Einstein. No antique Scholastic spells need be invoked. That's the great thing about a testable theory - it doesn't let you pass off pretentious verbal posturing as important intellectual endeavour. Which side of the line are you on? No, genetics does not prove that a piano cannot miraculously slip out of an elephant's Kant. Well then neither does the LOI!
  17. Where do Peikoff and/or Rand give "monocot" and "teleost" as examples of their theories? I just had a look in the index of OPAR at least and couldn't see any reference to them. Cite please. I said that I gave two examples, not that P & R did. They are both woefully ignorant of biology, unfortunately. I did link the terms to their wikipedia articles if you are unfamiliar with them. They are concepts that cannot be acquired prior to the acquisition of lower level concepts. To acquire the concept monocot one has to be familiar with such flowering plants as grass, lily, pineapple, palm, orchid, and banana and so forth as opposed to oaks, roses, daisies, and so forth. One also has to have the concept plant and flowering plant, which are broader classes than monocots and dicots in classification. And one has to know a bit about leaf, flower, and seedling morphology. No child or uneducated layman is going to walk down the street pointing out monocots. I didn't think so. As I say, everyone else understands their theories so much better than they!
  18. There's a perfectly good scientific theory called genetics that not only explains why an elephant will probably not give birth to a piano, but also might explain how an amoeba might become an Einstein. No antique Scholastic spells need be invoked. That's the great thing about a testable theory - it doesn't let you pass off pretentious verbal posturing as important intellectual endeavour. Which side of the line are you on?
  19. LOL! I guess an amoeba can never become an Einstein then - only another amoeba! Are you really going to go there Merlin? Further that doesn't violate the Law of Identity at all. Because if an elephant was ever to give birth to a boulder or a piano, the LOI would simply reassure us that it was in its nature to do so! - just as it was in the amoeba's nature to become an Einstein. Ain't the LOI grand.
  20. But again, how do you think Rand would have proposed to resolve it? This is precisely what I'm wondering. There seem to be two choices, which I have outlined. I have difficulty imaging her taking the Critical Rationalist approach, but perhaps that is a failure of imagination on my part. I don't think this is a straw man. In fact it seems very close to what Rand is claiming here for example: "The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,” which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind."
  21. Where do Peikoff and/or Rand give "monocot" and "teleost" as examples of their theories? I just had a look in the index of OPAR at least and couldn't see any reference to them. Cite please.
  22. It seems that everyone here knows how Objectivism is supposed to work better than its originators. For instance: When criticised for its underlying confusion, Rand's example of "sacrifice" gets excused as poor example. When criticised likewise, Peikoff's example of an abstract concept is also sheeted down to simply being a "bad one". But if that's the case where are all the good ones? If Objectivist theories are so unclear that the leading practitioners - not to mention their editors and proofreaders - can't really tell bad examples from good ones, then this doesn't say much for said theories.
  23. Not sure about that. I suspect you could work it sufficiently vaguely so it doesn't. But all this does is confirm your wider point below: it's so vacuous that it doesn't rule out much at all. What Ellen said.