Davy

Is Psychology a Science?

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One of many interesting articles on Paul Lutus' site. I've always been fairly ambivalent about the field of Psychology, and always suspected the clinical side was more akin to religion than science. This article has only reinforced that opinion.

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I don't have to read the article. Nor do I have to read an article about psychiatry. If the wrong people get a hold of you, you're screwed.

--Brant

talk to someone important in your life honestly about things that are very personally important to you and only go to a recommended professional by those who have used him/her and be ready to immediately bail on bad vibrations and authority power trips particularly--this means stay away from psychiatrists unless pill-popping is your last resort: pill-popping requires trying different pills in different amounts with close monitoring and record keeping BY YOU and "last resort" is no fucking kidding!

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Here is a simple test. Does a psychological theory make quantitative testable predictions. Are its predictions specific enough to permit possible empirical falsification. If the answer is yes, it is science. If the answer is no, it is not science.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Advertising would be varifiable scientific psychology.

Peter,

Amen.

People in our neck of the woods are not too familiar with the sophistication of the testing and measurable successful predictions that have resulted from psychology for marketing and advertising, nor the extent of influence that marketing and advertising have on society.

The part I find creepy is that the bad guys on the leftie side, who have always been better at propaganda and other public manipulation skills than anybody outside of cults, are now using marketing studies for other ends than selling stuff.

The work, Nudge, by Cass Sunstein with Richard Thaler, gives a blueprint of how to "engineer compliance" of the public with government programs. (Sunstein is the USA Regulations Czar for Obama.) Sunstein and Thaler outright say in the book that they owe their theories and approach to the successful techniques and testing they observed in the business marketing and advertising world.

Michael

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Edward Bernays:
"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society," Bernays argued. "Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. . . . In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons . . . who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind."

This man is the darling of the OWS crowd as the following link indicates.

He got women to smoke in the 1920's, he is called the "Father of Public Relations," but he was a propagandist who set the table for advertising and manipulating the masses.

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html

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Adam,

I read the biography of Bernays a few months ago (The Father of Spin by Larry Tye). I learned more about propaganda and public relations from that bio than I did from all my work in producing artists and shows in Brazil.

I got interested in Bernays because Glenn Beck bashed him.

I intend to make a thorough study on a blog later of Propaganda, since it is in the public domain and is not too long. It will be interesting to take a passage, dissect it in light of more advanced works, and then wed it to current events. That's one of the projects I have in the works.

I might even do that from a political angle, but if I did, I would treat both liberals and conservatives the same way since they both do this stuff.

I believe it's important to educate folks on these matters so that their public decisions have a better chance of reflecting their true private intentions instead of manipulated ones.

btw - I don't think Bernays was evil like some people do (including Glenn). I think he was extremely competent and sometimes used his talents for good, and other times for despicable things. The important point is that his stuff works and, in the wrong hands, is a threat to the unaware.

Michael

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Michael:

Precisely.

The awareness of how persuasion occurs at a subconscious, conscious and biological [behavioralist] level is critical for a free society, free individuals and educating children.

This is why the actual definition of rhetoric as employed by Aristotle is still vibrant today. He spoke about rhetoric as being all the available means of persuasion in the given case.

Employing this art and techne as the basis for achieving the good because if both good and evil had the same tool to argue and persuade, the good would win out.

Now we have the biological/neural.lingual support to add to rhetorical skills in order to, as you explained, "... educate folks on these matters so that their public decisions have a better chance of reflecting their true private intentions instead of manipulated ones."

I have been dedicated to this position my whole life and now we have more scientific and technical awareness to employ towards the end of achieving freedom for individuals in our society.

Adam

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Here is a simple test. Does a psychological theory make quantitative testable predictions. Are its predictions specific enough to permit possible empirical falsification. If the answer is yes, it is science. If the answer is no, it is not science. Ba'al Chatzaf

I agree 100%! That said, humans are not billiard balls. Marriage for the Hottentots is not marriage for the Eskimos. And it can change over time -- especially if you tell them what you found while studying them. Call it the Heisenberg Action Principle: you can change a culture just by studying it.

This is an Urban Legend, but the moral is clear.

The psychology professor was a behavioralist. So, the class took it upon themselves to condition him. They slouched, looked around, and dozed, except when he touched the knot of his necktie. Then, they paid attention. Pretty soon, he lectured with his hand at his throat. When they told him what they did, it took a bit to break the habit, but he used free will to overcome his conditioniting.

Also, regarding public relations, I look to Robert King Merton and Paul Lazarsfeld. Before them, it was a hodgepodge of practice. They gave it arithmetic rigor. As noted Lazarsfeld influenced Merton to develop "middle range theories." In sociology, we have the macro, the middle,and the micro: grand, middle, and small theories. Not only do they address groups of different sizes, but more cogently, they offer explanations of different ranges as applied to those.

It is the reductionist fallacy to expect the sciences of human action to assume that humans are inanimate objects.

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I don't have to read the article. Nor do I have to read an article about psychiatry. If the wrong people get a hold of you, you're screwed.

--Brant

talk to someone important in your life honestly about things that are very personally important to you and only go to a recommended professional by those who have used him/her and be ready to immediately bail on bad vibrations and authority power trips particularly--this means stay away from psychiatrists unless pill-popping is your last resort: pill-popping requires trying different pills in different amounts with close monitoring and record keeping BY YOU and "last resort" is no fucking kidding!

About 10 years ago I became very depressed as a result of a combination of circumstances involving work and relationships; everything just seemed to go down the pan at once. It was so bad, I could hardly function. On visiting my doctor I was offered counselling/psychotherapy, but declined and said: "nah, just give me some drugs!" Now, I wouldn't necessarily recommend that course of action as a general rule, but given my particular circumstances and the nature of the cause of the depression, I felt it was the right thing to do. After a few weeks, I was back to normal and running on all cylinders.

Pyschotherapy isn't such a big thing here in the UK as it is in the USA, although the popularity of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is increasing, having been adopted by our National Health Service. But as Lutus points out in his article, there is no substantive evidence that any 'talking therapy' has any efficacy beyond that of a placebo. Indeed, it's hard to see how effectiveness could be scientifically measured, given that there is no form of therapy which doesn't depend heavily on the relationship between client and patient, and the mutual belief that such a relationship will be beneficial.

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Advertising would be varifiable scientific psychology.

Peter

You should read Daniel Kahneman's new book 'Thinking, Fast and Slow'. It's a fascinating (and sometimes disturbing) study of our thinking processes and how intuitive impressions influence our behaviour. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, or as Michael says in his signature - 'know thyself'. ;-)

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Davy,

I have that book on my reading list. It looks very, very interesting.

I want to make an observation on a small point, but it's important. You asked, "Is psychology a science?" I imagine you wanted to ask, "Is psychiatry a science"? Or even "Is psychotherapy a science?"

Since psychology a very young science, you will find snake-oil alongside solid science on all three. But I see it going like this. Science is the strongest in psychology, then weakens in psychiatry, and is still in its infancy in psychotherapy. Conversely, you find some snake-oil in psychology, there's a lot more of it in psychiatry and psychotherapy has enough to be a serious concern.

To get colorful, if you want snake-oil in an atomizer, look into psychology. If you want a bottle of snake-oil, try psychiatry. If you want to get the stuff by the barrel, check out psychotherapy.

But there's good science to be had, too.

Michael

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Absolutely, Michael. I should have made it clear that the title of the thread was the title of the article I linked to, and that Lutus prefaces it with:

Because this article is directed toward educated nonspecialist readers considering psychological treatment, students of psychology are cautioned that terms such as "psychology," "clinical psychology" and "psychiatry" are used interchangeably, on the ground that they rely on the field of human psychology for validation, in the same way that astronomy and particle physics, though very different, rely on physics for validation.

The field of Psychology is a large one with many subfields, and I didn't mean to tar it all with the same brush.

Also, although there are undoubtedly snake-oil salesman in clinical psychology, the field seems to be inherently prone to systemic bias.

In 1959 statistician Theodore Sterling examined the results of psychological studies and discovered that 97% of them supported their initial hypotheses, implying a possible publication bias.[77][78][79] Similarly Fanelli (2010)[80] found out that 91.5% of psychiatry/psychology studies confirmed the effects they were looking for, which was around five times more often than in space- or geosciences. Fanelli argues that this is because of researchers in "softer" sciences have fewer constraints to their conscious and unconscious biases. - Wikipedia

You'll read more about biases in Kahneman's book. It's gripping stuff.

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You might find Pugliucci's book "Nonsense on Stilts" useful in placing psychology on the scale between science and bunk.

It is a very entertaining, as well as informative book. He treats various disciplines which fall in between genuine science ( such as particle physics) and bunk ( for example "intelligent design"). His treatment is very fair minded and he is no adherent to doctrinaire scientism. Psychology is one of those in-between disciplines.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Reading only the link/topic and not the entries above, I would say Yes and No.

No, psychology is not quite a science, but better labelled a field of inquiry. Much formal inquiry into human (and other) psychology aspires to use the hard tools of science (thesis/hypothesis, experiment, theory, refutation, yadda yadda), but cannot attempt what a physics or a chemistry must do and has done: approach and describe and explain universal regularities in the physical world -- regularities that are explained/theorized at different levels of analysis ... giving us Relativity, special and general, as well as the law of gravity, law of this and that ... and so on across the fields with Physics and Chemistry.

The question about psychology is not actually clear about its intent. It seems to me to be a 'truth' question at root, a question of reliability and explanatory power. The intent could very well be to elicit a No answer to the question here:

Is Psychology True?

Now I will think about that underlying question, then read the commentary, then post again. In the meantime I expect that the answers given have made everyone feel good about their assumptions and their certainty. Yes and no forced choice questions have that knock-on effect.

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No...not yet.

However, with the exponential development in Neuroliguistics and other "brain" studies, it will eventually be there.

A...

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I disagree.

A young science cannot be blamed for not being old.

Thinking like that is using reason in a conceptual manner.

But marketing-wise, I understand the constant objections and hair-splitting.

Whoever controls the labels used in society generally controls the core storylines. And whoever controls the storylines contols the morality of a society. And whoever controls the morality gets the power, the fame, the money and even sex when they ham up a good story.

The payoff in the game played by most Tellers of The Sacred Tales, the big brass ring, the prize of all prizes, the Number One spot, the lure of the covetousness, the Prime Motivator, has a universal essence:

Goodies from others.

:smile:

Michael

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I disagree.

Michael:

Not sure what you are disagreeing with.

A...

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On 11/7/2011 at 2:11 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

Here is a simple test. Does a psychological theory make quantitative testable predictions. Are its predictions specific enough to permit possible empirical falsification. If the answer is yes, it is science. If the answer is no, it is not science.

Ba'al Chatzaf

“Stick-to-it-iveness.” Does such a word exist, ES? Does a duck form intentions? Below I see the names Ellen Stuttle, Merlin, Mike Hardy, Ghs, JR, Nick Glover, BB, etc.  What is “human level consciousness,” Volition, Conception, and Animality. How does your pet KNOW you didn’t mean to step on her paw? Peter

Let's define our terms.  Rand defines "thinking" as "a process of identification and integration". [FNI, 189; pb 152.]  What is the evidence that a fetus engages in such a process?  Are the brain waves you mention any kind of proof?  I don't see how.  Also, "thinking is not an automatic function.... Thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness.  The act of focusing one's consciousness is volitional." ["TOE", VOS, 13; pb 20].  Does any of this describe the cognitive activity of a fetus? Unless you are employing another definition of "thinking", I don't see how you can say that a fetus is a thinking human being. Moreover, why should alpha, theta and delta brain waves be the signal characteristics of a rights-bearing entity?  No argument has yet been made for that claim, which strikes me as arbitrary.

From: Nick Glover To: atlantis Subject: Consciousness ( was Re: ATL: Re: vast gulfs ) Date: Fri, 06 Jul 2001 12:59:03 -0400. Debbie Clark presents with Damasio's view of consciousness showing that strong AI is impossible.  Damasio notes that consciousness is feeling and explains how it does not correspond with "any of the externally directed sensory modalities".  He explains that even if we used the criteria outlined in his book for consciousness to create an AI, it wouldn't be *really* conscious.  Now we see the obvious flaw with this argument.  If he can't define the criteria for being *really* conscious, then how can he assert something isn't *really* conscious.  I would think we could implement an AI that met his criteria for being conscious and it might turn out that, just like the human mind, this AI is *really* conscious.

What Damasio is correct about is that there is a fundamental difficulty with addressing the issue of consciousness.  David J. Chalmers in _The Conscious Mind_ addresses the issue much more intelligently.  Chalmers uses the term "consciousness" for the first-person feeling Damasio referred to and the term "awareness" for the third-person psychological (or functional) aspects of what is often called consciousness (such as perception, emotion, thought).  The fundamental problem with consciousness is that it is solely a first-person (subjective) phenomenon and cannot be observed from a third-person (objective) perspective.  The processes in our minds are the only thing that can be observed from two perspectives, so that is why they seem fundamentally different than anything else.  So, the solution to this issue is that consciousness and awareness refer to the same thing from different perspectives.  Chalmers calls this the principle of "structural coherence" indicating that the structure of conscious processes must match the structure of aware processes.  This makes sense, especially from an Objectivist perspective, since the subjectivity inside of our minds cannot exist without an objective basis.

So, if Damasio's criteria for the objective portion of consciousness (or awareness using Chalmers' terminology) are correct, then if an AI which meets those criteria were created, it would have the subjective feeling of consciousness.

Reference: David J. Chalmers, _The Conscious Mind_, Oxford University Press: 1996.

Nick Glover: nglover@clemson.edu Computer Science, Clemson University "It's good to be open-minded, but not so open that your brains fall out." - Jacob Needleman

From: "Jeff Riggenbach" To: "Atlantis" Subject: ATL: "The Human Brain" and Perception

Date: Fri, 17 Aug 2001 00:03:09 -0700. Dennis May writes, with his trademark combination of the "aw shucks" manner and the air of absolute certainty: "Implantable senses are a reality today. Vision and auditory implants have been tested.  From my co-workers years ago in the Air Force I know that the human brain can directly perceive certain frequencies of microwaves as a high pitched whistle."

This is what I love about Dennis May, what makes him one of the greatest comedians of our time (though I admit I'm troubled by clues in his messages that suggest he is unaware of this comedy and perhaps doesn't intend it).

A brain cannot perceive anything. Only a living entity, human or otherwise, can perceive. In the act of perception, the living entity's brain plays an important part, but it's far from the whole story. Even perception will never be understood if it is regarded by researchers as equivalent to events in brain tissue.

There is also no such thing as "the human brain." There's your brain, and mine, and his, and hers.  Haven't our modern day advocates of scientism read Roger J. Williams? Williams was the University of Texas biochemist whose research in the 1930s and '40s led him to question such convenient abstractions as "the human brain."  In a series of books in the 1950s and '60s -- Biochemical Individuality, You Are Extraordinary!, others – he argued the view that the more complex an organism is the greater its predictable deviation from any supposed "standard" or "average."

In fact, for reasons delineated a hundred years ago by Henri Bergson, biology has never been able to duplicate the "precision" of physics. Living matter -- animate matter -- is not the same thing as inanimate matter.  This has nothing whatever to do with miracles.  It has to do, rather, with the simple fact that one size does *not* fit all.

Max Stirner has useful things to say about the mindset Dennis seems to exemplify.  His references to "fixed ideas," "wheels in the head," and "spooks" are all highly relevant.  But if, like most Objectivists, you're deeply suspicious of Stirner, read Aristotle instead. Everything that exists is particular. "Man" does not exist; only individual men. "The human brain" does not exist; only individual brains. JR

From: "Gayle Dean" To: "Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Moore's conceptuality? Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 00:08:34 -0500

I said: >Ellen Moore continues to evade science and the evidence that some animals do indeed conceptualize to some degree.

Morganis asked: >By "conceptualize," you mean the same thing that Rand meant? Or, we're talking something else, like...?

Rand and Moore cannot not allow for ANY degree of conceptuality among the lower animals for it would have troubling implications for their theory of volition.  Rand's view is that man's consciousness shares only the first two stages of development with the lower animals--sensations and perceptions and that ONLY man possesses the third stage as a conceptual being --and that is what "makes him man."  Rand drew a solid, almost mystical, dividing line between man and the lower animals in this regard. But, we now happen to know that the cognitive architecture of humans and other mammals is very similar and that the ability to conceptualize lies along a continuum.  There is no magical, mystical, dividing line separating man from the lower animals.

And Rand held that the pre-conceptual level of consciousness ---i.e., the level of ALL lower animals -- is NON-volitional. So, for Moore to admit that conceptuality exists along an evolutionary continuum -- and that the lower animals have ANY ability to conceptualize-- to any degree-- would be problematic for her theory of volition.

For the latest "science" on animal cognition try Mark Hauser's "Wild Minds" or "Species of Mind" by Colin Allen and Marc Bekoff for a philosophical approach. Gayle

From: DXIMGR To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Gayle Dean on Volition, Conception, and Animality Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 01:09:02 EST. Granting for the sake of argument that lower animals have lower levels of conceptual abilities than man but that they exist in lower primates to some degree, I fail to see how this is at all problematic for her theory of volition. I think it would be much easier to interpret the data as saying that Rand was simply wrong to determine that lower animals have no volition, not as inferring from the data that even man doesn't have volition. Ross L.

From: "Gayle Dean To: "Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: The good doctor on conceptuality Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 09:10:00 -0500. I didn't infer from "that data" that *man* doesn't have volition! Man's volition (determinism/free-will) is a different issue altogether. The problem I refer to is in the *other* direction.  IF lower animals have any degree of conceptuality, THEN  that is problematic because it implies "animal volition" and other unthinkable things like animal rights??

Rand held that only man needed a code of morality because only man has choices to make, which arise from his nature as a conceptual being.  If animals are conceptual then they too, have choices to make.  Well, you can take it from there:-) Gayle "Volition begins with the first syllogism..."  Ayn Rand-

From: "Jeff Olson" To: "atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Gayle Dean on Volition, Conception, and Animality Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 10:28:38 -0800

Ross L. addressed Gayle's contention that animals having "any degree of conceptuality...would have troubling implications for their [non-determinists'] theory of volition": "Granting for the sake of argument that lower animals have lower levels of conceptual abilities than man but that they exist in lower primates to some degree, I fail to see how this is at all problematic for her theory of volition. I think it would be much easier to interpret the data as saying that Rand was simply wrong to determine that lower animals have no volition, not as inferring from the data that even man doesn't have volition."

Gayle then replied that "IF lower animals have any degree of conceptuality, THEN that is problematic because it implies "animal volition" and other unthinkable things like animal rights."

I think granting that animals possess volition to some degree – and by extension that volition exists on a continuum rather than being an either "on or off" phenomenon -- is also problematic because it strongly implies both variability and limitations with respect to human will.

Among the "troubling implications," aside from animals possibly being attributed rights (by those who attribute rights solely according to mental characteristics), is that it now becomes an open question whether or not human beings possess the required degree of volition to achieve genuine knowledge (by the non-determinist account of genuine knowledge).  Also, if human beings vary in volitional capability, how may they be held equally accountable for their actions?  (For those who accord rights purely by measurements of mental characteristics, isn't it possible that beings further along the "volition/conceptual-continuum" might reasonably consider us to possess insufficient volition/conceptuality for rights-consideration?)

Degrees of volition clearly imply *limits* of volitional capacity for any given being (unless one wishes to argue that a given being resided at the "far end" of the volition-conceptuality continuum, where Ross may very well believe he resides:-).  If such limits do apply, then it is true that there are things that we *cannot* choose or will; and if this is true, then doesn't it logically follow that there are things which we *must* will (for once limits in our volitional powers are granted, how could we would lack the power to choose certain actions while not lacking the power to *not* choose certain actions?).

If individual human will varies, then doesn't it follow that different individuals possess different degrees of will, and therefore different degrees of responsibility for their actions?  If some individuals do possess more "willpower" than others -- if it is easier, for instance, for some individuals to be moral than for others -- then how can their moral culpability or praiseworthiness be considered equal?

Anyhow, I think the above suffices to show that there are some rather troubling aspects to granting animals volition/conceptuality (both for non-determinists, and for "X-characteristic = rights" advocates). Jeff

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis  "Jeff Olson" Subject: ATL: Question to Jeff Olson (was Gayle Dean on Volition, Conception, and Animality) Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 14:13:41 -0500

Jeff-O, I keep trying to get around to addressing the questions you raise, and I keep having trouble "getting a handle" on your questions, because I think that you're using the term "will" in a way which is "on a different page" than the one I'm on.

For instance, you wrote: >If individual human will varies, then doesn't it follow that different individuals possess different degrees of will, and therefore different degrees of responsibility for their actions?  If some individuals do possess more "willpower" than others -- if it is easier, for instance, for some individuals to be moral than for others -- then how can their moral culpability or praiseworthiness be considered equal?

What it sounds to me like you're talking about is "will" defined as some sort of ability just to *make* (viola!) actions happen -- indeed, your usage of "will" sounds to me like the way I've often heard Christians use it (excuse me, Debbie, people whom I'd think of as being "Christians," whether you'd agree or not).  And it sounds like the way Dennis May uses it, as some sort of outside-the-scheme- of-the-natural-world "power."  But this isn't even "volition" as I mean "volition."  (To repeat for the definition I use:  "the capacity for self-aware regulation, within limits, of one's mental activities"; note: it might be better to say, "of what one's awareness is doing.") I'm not finding that I can get a grip on how the term "volition" as I use it connects with the problems which you raise.  So I wonder if you could give me a definition for what you mean by "will." Ellen S.

From: "Jeff Olson" To: "atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Question to Jeff Olson (was Gayle Dean on Volition, Conception, and Animality) Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 12:22:04 -0800

You're right, Ellen, I haven't been entirely clear in my use of the word "will," especially about how it relates to "volition."

B

y "will," I think people customarily mean the strength and efficacy of one's desire to act; "volition" generally refers to (conscious) regulation of one's mind.  The two are pretty much inextricably entwined, as I'm sure you'd agree.

So when I speak of "will," I'm speaking of the sum of mental regulatory processes leading up to a given action, beginning with the choice to focus on something and ending with the choice to act.  By "variable will," I mean differences in the ability to initiate/control all the processes which lead to an action, beginning with differences in the ability to initiate and maintain focus (clearly that's a necessary first step in any action), and ending with the final choice to effect a desire.   Jeff

From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: animal conceptuality? Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 14:54:48 EST

Ellen Moore asked: << Can any one of you animal volitionists provide us with a certain example of an abstract animal concept? >>

I'm not an animal volitionist, not do I think that animals (except for my cat) commonly think in abstractions, but I can give you one example that always has fascinated me because it seems more than perceptual; it appears to involve some level of abstraction. If, by accident, you step on you pet's paw or otherwise hurt her, she does not run away as she would do if you had deliberately hurt her as punishment for something.   Generally, she will come to you to be comforted instead. I don't, of course, mean that the pet thinks: On, that was an accident, she didn't mean to do it, so I don't need to be afraid. But in some way, the rather complex difference between the accidental and the intentional is "grasped." Barbara

From: Santos To: atlantis Subject: : Re: ATL: Re: animal conceptuality? Date: Sun, 09 Dec 2001 15:42:16 –0800. But in punishing a pet, you use verbal and body language, which the pet understands.  In accidentally stepping on a paw or tail, it is not prefaced by a firm voice and action towards the cat. (I'm willing to bet, Barbara, That YOU take the initiative in the comforting.) Patricia

From: Michael Hardy To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: animal conceptuality? Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 17:09:15 -0500 (EST) I don't think this issue of animal conceptuality is as philosophically important as some people seem to think.  Ayn Rand made some assertions about the differences between us and other animals, but her philosophical point was about the differences between the ways we do or should function mentally, on the one hand, and the ways we would function if we had only lower, non-rational mental abilities.

Barbara wrote: >If, by accident, you step on your pet's paw or otherwise hurt her, she does not run away as she would do if you had deliberately hurt her

Some people may recall Kurt Keefner expressed the view, and I agreed, that animals not only are able to read expressions on people's faces, but by doing so are *directly* aware of people's moods and states of mind.  By "directly" I mean it is not a *conscious* inference of the person's state of mind from what is seen, but rather what is seen causes an awareness of the state of mind by a non-conscious and (I suspect) hard-wired causal process.  I think that same process in humans makes possible the ability of cartoonists to portray people's moods via an amazingly small number of strokes of the pen. Mike Hardy

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: animal conceptuality Date: Sun, 09 Dec 2001 16:52:18 -0600

Barbara, I too have had the same experiences with my pet dogs and cats.  They are very sensitive to my body language, and especially so if it is expressed audibly.  Yes, they do come to me when they are hurt, and they come to me if I express I'm hurt.  They are upset and most attentive if I cry tears, or cry out in pain, or vomit, or cough harshly.  I think they learn all the sounds we express and they response to all the nuances. They learn to respond to the sound of words and the meaning of actions they have learned to grasp.  I doubt if it is abstractions like "intention and accident" that they grasp -- what it is their responses to perception they've learned to recognize from past experiences.

If we are vocally displeased, and show it, pets tend to go away to their "safe" place.  If Mel is annoyed with Teddy, our dog runs to hide under my legs and peers out from under my safety.

When I accidentally step on a pet's foot, I recoil as quick as the animal does, so I think they instantly read that body language, and by the time I am saying 'Oh, sorry, I did not mean to hurt you' accompanied by loving sounds and petting, they have already set aside the hurt. Even if they are really ill, they tend to be silent and unresponsive. Animals are amazingly sensitive, and their perception is truly remarkable.

Teddy appears to understand and respond to our conversation not only with her, but between each other [if we are angry, she sulks or goes away], and she looks and acts so intelligently, it's amazing sometimes. Because of my interest in volition, I have watched carefully, and I have concluded that animal knowledge and response is based on perception only.  There has to be a stimulus that the animal is aware of [even if we are not aware of it] before they respond.  My dog barks at things I cannot hear, and is aware of everything because her perception is so keen.

Anyway, I see no evidence of animal ability to abstract or to form concepts.  They simply learn to respond to stimuli in their environment, and they remember some things, but not others.  e.g., Teddy does not recognize either of us from a distance until she is close enough to see us or to hear our voices.  Also, she rushes to get between us when we hug - I'm not sure if she just wants to be included, or if she is jealous.  One thing I do know, if she doesn't get what she makes clear she wants, we pay, because she deliberately eats or shreds something she knows she should not.  It sure looks like deliberate vindictiveness to me. And then she shows all the signs of guilt because she hides under my desk. It would seem that under my desk, where we cannot get at her, is to her both a place of safety, a place of avoiding punishment.  Ah, the complexity of a cat's and dog's life. Ellen M.

From: Michael Hardy To: gwdean atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Animal conceptuality Date: Sun, 9 Dec 2001 21:43:27 -0500 (EST). Those who think Ayn Rand relied essentially in philosophical arguments on her assertion that animals lack conceptual faculties, are obtusely missing the point.

But the debate continues anyway.  Gayle Dean quoted from a web site: > "Animals may possess much more complex concepts than previously thought, and even a form of consciousness, two recent studies report.

This seems quite absurd: *Obviously* animals are conscious, and obviously *concepts* are something that conscious organisms can either have or lack.  It's as if you said "Andrew Carnegie is fabulously wealthy, and may even be able to afford to wear shoes."  Unless they mean something radically different by "concepts" from the way we in this forum understand the term, as applied in epistemology in which case their statement is irrelevant.

>honeybees can generalize correctly to previously unseen stimuli, even when in other modalities, and so can be shown to learn and use the abstract concept of 'same' (and 'different'). For instance, when first trained to choose the same color, the insect generalizes and chooses the same shape, or the same smell.

Gayle, this can only confuse the issue.  Obviously, if bees have the ability to behave as reported here, it does not follow that they have "the abstract concept of 'same' (and 'different')" unless the authors are defining "the abstract concept of...." to mean simply that bees are capable of that behavior.  And notice that it's very likely that epistemology is NOT the topic in which the authors were interested, so it is very plausible that they would use a definition so different from one that would naturally be of interest to epistemologists.

In ITOE, Rand mentioned a thought experiment involving a "rational spider from Mars".  If you start bringing up evidence that NASA's probes have found that there are not really any rational spiders on Mars and never have been, that would be equally relevant.

Dennis May wrote: >Unlike Michael I would be very interested in conceptual development as defined by scientific criteria rather than that used by philosophers.  The scientific means has objective criteria and substantive data behind their conclusions.

Dennis, the idea that one should rely on objective criteria and substantive data to draw inductive conclusions is a philosophical premise, not a scientific finding.

>Philosophers would do well to study the science before holding dear to their view of what concepts and consciousness are.

I agree.  That's one thing I like about Searle's work. Mike Hardy

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis@wetheliving.com, "Jeff Olson" <jlolson Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Question to Jeff Olson (was Gayle Dean on Volition, Conception, and Animality) Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2001 16:35:13 -0500

I commented: What it sounds to me like you're talking about is "will" defined as some sort of ability just to *make* (viola!) actions happen...   But this isn't even "volition" as I mean "volition." (To repeat for the definition I use: "the capacity for self-aware regulation, within limits, of one's mental activities"; note: it might be better to say, "of what one's awareness is doing.")

Jeff-O replied: > You're right, Ellen, I haven't been entirely clear in my use of the word "will," especially about how it relates to "volition." By "will," I think people customarily mean the strength and efficacy of one's desire to act; "volition" generally refers to (conscious) regulation of one's mind.  The two are pretty much inextricably entwined, as I'm sure you'd agree.

Well, actually, I'm not sure I would agree.  I've been thinking about what I mean if I say that someone is "strong willed."  To me, this describes someone who has a lot of forcefulness and stick-to- it-iveness as a temperamental trait.  But I don't think that there's any necessary connection between that characteristic and the extent to which a person knows how to watch and to regulate what the person's awareness is doing.  Instead, some of these highly "strong willed" sorts are also highly *unaware* of their own mechanisms.  So, no, I wouldn't say that the two are "pretty much inextricably entwined."

On the other hand, what you say in the next paragraph seems to me a different meaning of "will" than in your above paragraph.

You write: So when I speak of "will," I'm speaking of the sum of mental regulatory processes leading up to a given action, beginning with the choice to focus on something and ending with the choice to act.  By "variable will," I mean differences in the ability to initiate/control all the processes which lead to an action, beginning with differences in the ability to initiate and maintain focus (clearly that's a necessary first step in any action), and ending with the final choice to effect a desire.

I think that, yes, people do have "differences in the ability to initiate/control all the processes which lead to an action...." One of the aspects of growing up is learning such ability, and I'd say that adults vary a lot in how well they've learned. And there might be genetic differences in ability to learn -- my belief is that there are, but I think that assessing the relative contributions of nature and nurture here is probably even more difficult than in the case of "native intelligence."

I suppose my basic answer to your question is:  yes, I think there are differences, but I'm not sure how to explain the differences. Ellen S.

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Degrees of Conceptuality? - Jens Hube Date: Sat, 14 Jul 2001 17:25:33 -0500

In response to Jens post of July 7/01, I am not sure what further philosophical explanation you want from me. I found your post confusing as to whether you did not understand my explanation to Jeff Olson, or what kind of question you want me to answer because I could not locate where you left off quoting Jeff and undertook to express your own challenges. iow, I have more questions than answers.

Are you asking me to fantasize about imaginary beings that are more conceptually advanced than humans?  Why?  Would that prove anything? We have ample evidence here and now that some human beings are more conceptually advanced than others among the human species.

Are you insisting that there is no distinctive difference between the abilities of perception and conception?  Do you really think that standards of "intelligence" work on a continuous curve of variable degrees of similarity from one species to another, i.e., from amoeba to fish to animal to bird, as well as from human to human?

Are you asking me what is the "cause" of volitional consciousness?  You seem to consider two options, evolutionary physical changes -or- a sudden spark of volition in the "first proto-human".  Why these two options?

It appears to me that you are the one indulging in arm chair philosophizing [or in arm chair scientology].  To my knowledge there has been no scientific evidence proven for the metaphysical cause of consciousness, or the cause of volitional consciousness in humans.  I refuse to speculate on this issue where no knowledge is yet substantiated.  But that does not stop us from experiencing and knowing philosophically from our daily observation of people and events that humans exist with consciousness and volition and the ability of conceptualization. These are facts we know to be true.

There are two different facts regarding this issue that we do know scientifically.  Perception is automatic and physical.  Conception is volitional and mental.  We know this because of the obvious differences among human beings as to their competence and efficiency in forming concepts and in thinking conceptually.  By abstracting aspects about concretes, forming higher abstract levels, generalizations, and principles, humans gradually increase their knowledge.  It is obvious that humans differ in their ability to think and reason, and they differ in their ability to understand and act on principle.  It is my contention that these skills are learned volitionally [by making continuous individual choices], and these skills are not genetically inherited or biologically limited.  Normal humans can continue to expand their conceptual knowledge throughout life when they make the effort to initiate and sustain their conscious awareness.

I suppose you know that Objectivism holds that Consciousness is a fundamental axiom.  The fact that volition is axiomatic, i.e., it is always a "first cause" in every action of conscious awareness.  Volition is the attribute of actions by a human consciousness; volition being the ability to initiate and direct the action of raising and/or lowering one's conscious awareness of things in existence.  This means that the individual is continuously in control of initiating, directing and sustaining one's own levels of conscious awareness.  By doing so one is able to initiate individually each concept formation and direct conceptual development based on one's experiences.  We observe the effects of that effort as a baby grows from childhood to adulthood. We can actually learn to introspect and discern the internal mental activity of our thinking processes and of our mental conceptualizations.  We can also observe the effects in those humans who refuse to exert the effort to think and conceptualize rationally – the process is volitional.

You appear to think that animals' "intelligence" is conceptual.  I disagree.  I have yet to hear of any instance of animal skill that is not perceptually derived and sustained by association and memory of prior perceptual experiences.  As to the ape piling up boxes to reach bananas - when a bunch of boxes is left in the enclosure for the apes to play with and climb on, it could only be a brief matter of time before the apes' perceptual association of distance and reach would happen to be experienced coincidentally.  I think it is much more complex to consider the variety of details necessary to grasp in birds' nest building techniques, yet they learn to do it naturally without human assistance.  In every case of animal or bird learning it is limited to repetitive perceptual experience, memory, and associations.  In no case do we find two or more animals or birds sitting in the wild communicating about the conceptual theory of intelligence, nor do they compare counts relative to "crow epistemology".

Sure, Jens, you and I can consider the relative degree of perceptual "intelligence" of other species, i.e., how "smart" they are at survival.  But comparing that to human conceptualization, and intelligence, and rational living?  No comparison!

In conclusion, you question - if our conceptuality and our volition - "... does lie on a curve, why is it logically impossible (or even improbable) that a being could have *less* of these qualities than us?"

Or I must say, if they have neither of these qualities?

As I said to Jeff Olson, when you can prove to me the claim that a bird or an animal has any ability to form concepts or think conceptually, I am willing to revise my position.  But no such claim is even plausible without evidence to support it.  Meanwhile, I must restate that the only evidence or proof available is that humans alone have the attribute of a volitional consciousness, and only humans are known to be conceptual beings.  Only humans think conceptually, and only some of us learn to reason with varying degrees of success due to our having fallible minds. With reasoning, Ellen M.

From: "George H. Smith" ATL: Re: Eternal life -- Objectivist style Date: Sun, 20 Jan 2002 14:00:23 -0600

I wrote: "A duck who 'mistakes' a decoy for a fellow duck is simply acting on the perceptual similarities between the two objects. He has not committed an "error," because he is unable to introspect and think to himself, 'I thought the damn thing was a real duck, but I was *wrong.*'"

Bill Dwyer replied: "As I say, I don't think that an animal needs to ~recognize~ abstractly that it has made an error in order to ~make~ one.  The process of making an error is independent of its abstract recognition."

And Gayle Dean remarked: "Right!  Both George (above) and Ellen Moore (in her previous posts) are making essentially the same claim, which is based in a primacy of consciousness view.  Ellen Moore argued both, that one *cannot make an error unless one is aware that one has made it* and that *the universe does not exist if humans are not alive to perceive it.* "

This is a ludicrous charge. This has nothing to do with the "primacy of consciousness." It has to do with the presuppositions of a concept ("error," in this case), that are essential to the meaning of that concept.

As for Bill's remark, to say that a we can make an "error" without an abstract judgment is absurd. An "error" *is* an abstract judgment. There are no error-entities floating around out there with metaphysical properties. Actions do not present themselves with the name tag "error" already affixed. An "error" is not an *action*; it is an abstract *judgment* about an action.

Gayle wrote: "Clearly (as Bill points out) errors can be made without anyone being aware of making them.  In fact, people are never aware that they are making ERRORS, before the fact-- or else they wouldn't make them."

This is totally beside the point. We are not discussing whether something needs to be aware of a concept while taking a particular action, but whether it possesses the requisite characteristics that are essential to the *meaning* of that concept. Only if we *first* agree that the concept "error" has meaning in relationship to human beings can we then go on to observe the particular circumstances in which a person may be said to have committed an error. The same applies to ducks.

Gayle wrote: "That is the definition of an error...a mistake made *unknowingly.*"

This is *precisely* my point. An error is a mistake make *unknowingly,* and the concept "unknowingly* (in this context) makes sense only in *contrast* to the concept "knowingly." So does a duck sometimes do things "knowingly" -- i.e., with *knowledge* --  only to commit errors from time to time by doing something "unknowingly"? We don't say that a rock behaves "unknowingly" in the same sense as human beings, because we don't presume that a rock is capable of behaving "knowingly" at all. The contrast between "knowing" and "unknowing" behavior, which is essential to the concept of error, does not apply to a rock at all. It is therefore absurd to say that a rock can commit an "error." All of it behavior is "unknowing," so there is nothing to *contrast* this with.

In what sense does a duck possess "knowledge," and in what sense can a duck form conscious purposes? To commit an "error," in the realm of action, is unknowingly to act contrary to one's *intention.* Does a duck form intentions? A intention is a consciously formulated purpose, so does a duck think to himself, "I want to do X,," only to think later, "I wanted to do X, but I unknowingly did Y instead, contrary to my intentions"?

I doubt if ducks do *any* of these things, because these mental actions require a sophisticated level of conceptual and introspective ability. To say that something was an "error" is to render a *judgment,* a judgment that contrasts what one wanted to do with what one actually did. Do ducks utter false propositions? No, because they cannot form propositions at all. Do ducks make errors in judgment? No because a "judgment" requires the *same* kind of conceptual ability. An error does not refer to an action per se; rather, it pertains to *judgments* that we make about our actions. An "error" presupposes the ability to formulate judgments that can be rendered in the form of propositions.

In other words, to say that an action was an "error" is to *identify* the nature of an action, and to *judge* that it was not what one *intended* to do. A species that is incapable of identification, judgment, and intentions cannot commit errors.

Can ducks formulate intentions (conscious purposes) and render judgments about them? I seriously doubt it. It is we human being who make these judgments and *apply* them to ducks. To confuse concepts that apply only to conceptual beings and apply them to non-conceptual beings is to engage in shameless anthropomorphizing.

Gayle wrote: "And it is not necessary to know that they have made errors after-the-fact either.  People make errors all the time and never become aware of them and thus, have no idea why their lives are so screwed up.  And as I pointed out earlier-- a person who drives into the path of an oncoming car on the freeway--and is killed instantly --will never know that he has made an error, but he surely did make one."

Again, this is equivocation of the worst sort. To say that people commit errors "unintentionally" or "unknowingly" makes sense because we know that humans are capable of forming intentions and acting with knowledge. These are term of *contrast.* When we say that a person behaves "unknowingly," we don't mean the same thing as when we say that a rock behaves "unknowingly." A rock doesn't possess knowledge at all, so in this sense *all* of its behavior is "unknowing" -- but this is *not* what we mean when we apply the same term to the actions of human beings. Likewise, when we say that a rock behaves "unintentionally," we don't mean the same thing as when we say that a person behaves unintentionally. (It would be more accurate to say that a rock behaves "nonknowingly" and "nonintentionally.")

Suppose lightening were to strike one yard away from me, and I said: "Boy, was I lucky. That lightening intended to strike me, but it made an error." Now suppose that Gayle were to object that this way of speaking is absurd, because lightening isn't "aware" of anything. And suppose I replied, "Well, Gayle, we humans aren't aware of when we commit errors either, so your objection obviously doesn't apply. Indeed, we sometimes *never* become aware of our errors, just as lightening is never aware of its errors. Q.E.D."

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to spot the sophistical equivocation in this kind of reasoning. In one instance, we are speaking of "awareness" of a particular thing; in another instance we are speaking of the faculty of awareness in general. Likewise, "unknowingly" can refer either to lack of knowledge in a particular case, or to the inability to form conceptual knowledge in general. It is this latter meaning that I apply to ducks.

"Error" is simply an abbreviated form of "error in judgment." With no judgments, there can be no "errors in judgment."  This debate therefore hinges on whether ducks can formulate judgments, which in turn presupposes the ability to form and manipulate abstract concepts. If Bill and Gayle wish to argue that ducks possess this kind of conceptual ability and therefore can sometimes commit errors in judgment, then that is one thing. But if they wish to argue that "errors" can occur where no judgments are possible, then that is quite another thing. In this latter case, they will need to explain what "error" can possibly mean, if not an error in judgment. Ghs

From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" <atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: What is it like to be a Cat? (Thoughts on animal   conceptuality, Ayn Rand, and George Orwell) Date: Tue, 22 Jan 2002 04:20:40 -0600

Jeff Olson wrote: "The standard dictionary definition of a concept is: "A general idea derived or inferred from specific instances or occurrences."  It seems to me that one would have to explain away a vast amount of animal behavior in order to disqualify them from fulfilling that definition. Now if George wants to change the definition of concept to "use of symbolic language," then yes, few or no animals will qualify.  If he requires that no creature can be capable of intention, judgment, or learning without specifically naming and verbally analyzing those things, then again, no animals except perhaps BB's genius cat will make the grade."

Now, let's be fair: I never said we should "define" a concept as "the use of symbolic language." I said that (1) language is our best external indicator of concept formation, because (2) concept formation depends on the use of words as concrete symbols that represent enormously complex abstractions that could not otherwise be held in, and used by, the human mind.

I think Rand gives a brilliant treatment of the relationship between concepts and words in ITOE (look in the index under "language" and "words"). Especially interesting is her Seminar discussion on "The Role of Words" (ITOE, p. 163ff). I assume everyone has this text, so I won't summarize all her arguments here, except  to note the point that words are needed not only for the retention and use of concepts, but for their completion* as well. As Rand puts it (p. 165):

"It is for the purpose not only of retaining the concept but also of making and repeating the process of concept formation that he has to designate the tables by some kind of sensory symbol. The main function of doing so is to enable him to retain the concept and be able to use it subsequently. But even apart from the future, in the process of forming that concept, in order for it not to remain a momentary impression or observation which then vanishes -- in order to make it a *concept-forming* process -- he has to identify what he has just observed in some one, concrete, specific, sensory form.

"...[A] very important part of my entire theory is what I call unit-economy: the substitution of one mental unit for an indefinite number of concretes of a certain kind. This is the essence of why we need concepts -- that is, the essence of what concepts do for us. Therefore, the substitution of one unit which refers to x number of possible units is the essence of concept formation. The process is not complete without that substitution."

Jeff wrote: "I share George's affection for language, but I think he may be overestimating the role of verbal symbols in cognitive content."

If Rand is right -- and I think she is -- it is virtually impossible to overestimate the role of verbal symbols in a cognitive context. Concepts would be impossible to form without words that serve as perceptual substitutions for a vast array of similar units. There would be no way to form a lasting concept and hold it in one's consciousness until and unless it is symbolized by a word.

Jeff wrote: "John Searle and others have pointed out that a great deal goes in our minds -- considerable amounts of calculation and consideration – that is largely non-verbal.  Verbal ability, rather than being the *foundation* for our knowledge, is perhaps more aptly imagined as the icing on a multi-layered cake (a model that I believe is generally sanctioned by those who've studied the evolution of the human mind)."

A lot of people (such as Wm. James and Brand Blanshard) have discussed nonverbal thinking, but I don't think this is relevant to the point at issue. Such thinking, if it pertains to the conceptual level, presupposes that concepts have already been formed. One cannot think about concepts that one doesn't have, whether verbally or otherwise. (Rand, I believe, also discusses how thinking can become automatic.)

Jeff wrote: "Long before we could manipulate symbols or could write stuff like George's latest treatise ("Please, God, Stop Me from Writing another Book on Atheism!"), our ancestors were no doubt capable of fairly complex problem-solving -- and perhaps of emotions such as love, hatred, affection, contempt, that we experience today."

This is all conjecture, but I would wager that conceptual thinking developed along with the development of language. One is not the cause of the other per se; rather they continuously interact. As language becomes more sophisticated, so does concept formation, and vice versa.

Some historians have speculated that Plato's hostility to "poetry" was because he believed that the Homeric sagas, having been  memorized and transmitted orally from generation to generation, had retarded the development of a written language and thereby retarded the development of conceptual thought as well. Interesting theory, if nothing else.

Jeff wrote: "This has been a bone of contention between George and me in the present discussion.  George appears to believe that knowledge isn't real until someone puts a name on it (or perhaps writes a book about it:-), while I think that a name is simply another, more specialized, kind of knowledge -- but one that is no more real or valid than non-verbal understanding."

I don't recall ever expressing myself like this. Philosophers frequently draw a distinction between "knowing how" (sometimes called "acquaintance") and "knowing that" (propositional knowledge), and I think this might be applicable to the current discussion. I also mentioned the notion of "perceptual concepts" as an interesting avenue to explore, though I'm not sure it makes much sense. (I believe, though I could be mistaken, that Brand Blanshard discusses this notion in *The Nature of Thought* -- one of the great works of 20th Century philosophy, btw.)

Jeff wrote: "There are clearly many reasons and motives for being skeptical of animal conceptuality, but in light of modern evidence -- which has grown considerably in the forty years since Blandshard penned his major opus -- I feel that one ought to, at the very least, treat animal conceptuality as an open question."

See the Pinker quote I posted earlier. One important point that Pinker makes is that much of this research has been done by behaviorists. I don't know if you've read much on behaviorism (I've read a fair amount, though not in some time), but -- to overstate the case somewhat – their S-R model of language more or less eliminates abstract concepts altogether. Rather than promoting animals to the conceptual level, behaviorists tend to achieve equality by lowering man to the perceptual level. (This isn't much of an exaggeration; for a scathing and entertaining critique of behaviorist pretensions, see Stanislav Andreski, *Social Sciences as Sorcery.* N. Chomsky has also written some devastating critiques of behaviorism.)

Jeff wrote: "But if George doesn't believe there exists any tension between animal conceptuality and his account of free will, then I would invite him to consider animal conceptuality to be an established fact.  Then, instead of skirting the hard questions I posed in my "Cat" post, he might tender his own thoughts on the implications of such a fact with respect to volitionism."

This is far from an "established fact." If it were established then, yes, we might have to reconsider the possibility that some animals are volitional to some degree. I don't have a problem with that possible conclusion; I just remain very skeptical of the premises. Ghs

From: "Rhyzome1" To: <PinkCrash7 Subject: Re: ATL: Gap-filling Date: Fri, 25 Jan 2002 00:43:48 -0500

Hello Pink Crash! There's an excellent book out on Consciousness from the perspective of Neurobiology; "Bright Air, Brilliant Fire", By Gerald Edelman, that might interest you. Among other things, he discusses the following issues:

(1) A good description of those "synapses" to which you referred. One thousand more of them than the neurons which they connect make for a real, Chaotic jungle up there.

(2) A clarification on "Darwinian Evolution", and how it's still confused today with Lamarckian "evolving by doing".

(3) How Searle fits into Material theories of Mind. To be brief, Searle is a "property dualist ":  while Mind is "ultimately" reductable to Material Brain, it's "properties '' are describable only in terms of psychological states. This is because these properties are not themselves reductable to any known materialist/ extensionist concepts. ''Ultimate'' reductions explain nothing.

(4) Moreover, speaking as a scientist (two Nobels no less!), Edelman thinks it insufficient to speak of an "embodied mind" without knowledge of how it works, and in terms of what properties. This is Searle's "Gap" by another name; and the real theme of Edelman's book.

(5) The Chinese Box is extremely important because it refutes all Cog-Sci computer models of the brain. (Computational Syntax cannot define Semantics.)

(6) Consciousness is Intentionality, and Searle reminds us that this is an Interior Stat.

I'd like to conclude by saying that I believe some web members have been a bit unfair to Searle. Although I must admit to knowing more Searle and Edelman than of Ms. Rand, my reading of her indicate an inquisitive intellect who insisted that Objectivism was all about knowledge --and therefore keeping up with science. I believe Ms Rand never had the opportunity to read Searle .... By the way, Debbie, I enjoy your personal website. Your writing is clear, precise, and doesn't lack in wit. Ciao, Bill

----- Original Message -----

From: <PinkCrash7To: <atlantis Sent: Thursday, January 24, 2002 9:35 PM Subject: Re: ATL: Gap-filling

>So after dynamiting it, should I vanish it, or will it have varnished into thin air by then?      -- Mike Hardy

Not meaning to be irrelevant, but did you know that there are actually what they call "gap junctions" in your brain cells (or maybe it's just some of them) and they are for electrical synapses?  (I read this in a medical hysiology textbook at the office today, though I don't recall the exact details.) Debbie

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Measurement omission is one function … Date: Thu, 06 Feb 2003 16:04:43 -0600

On Friday, Jan. 31st, Merlin Jetton attempted to point out his perceived opposition to my lengthy post on concept formation.  It might be worth discussing at length, point by point, to oppose his criticisms, but I don't think Merlin will benefit.

My first page included a specific quote of Rand's to show that Merlin was wrong.  Up to now he has claimed that I was wrong, that Rand had not stated that "similarity reduces to measurements omitted" - he challenged me to give him proof and page number.  I did.

Still, today, he has not acknowledged that I was right, nor has he apologized for his own stand against the truth I stated, and then proved.  His lack of knowledge is proven evident in this case, and he continues in this post to ignore [evade] the meaning of her analysis contained in her statement.  His response appears to be " So what if Ellen Moore proved she is right about Rand saying - why should I pay any attention to what Rand said -  after all I'm telling you how concepts are formed - so listen to me."

My point is that we are discussing Rand's theory of concept formation, so everything she wrote and said must be integrated into the full context of grasping similarity by means of measurements omitted for the purpose of objective concept formation - if we want to be right, and knowledgeable about Rand's work.

Merlin has offered no single valid point of criticism of the contents of my post.  I'll give a couple examples of his failure to grasp Rand's theory and application.

Merlin's first step begins with abstraction - that's his first mistake. "Measurements omitted" is not process of _abstraction_.  It is the ability of perception to hold one or more perceptual characteristics in mind while omitting their particular differences in measurements.  The particular measurements are omitted and yet the characteristic is perceptually retained, and that allows one the grasp of similarity.  I pointed out in my first step that this action requires volitional action [focus] - but it definitely is not an abstraction.

Abstraction is a different and later function in the process of forming each concept. One must omit measurements to grasp similars, and group similars to grasp units- as members of a group of similars. Rand does not begin to explain abstraction until chapter two of ITOE.

Abstraction is a mental integration.   Abstraction applies to *perceptual units*.  She wrote, "The units involved may be any aspect of reality: entities, attributes, actions, qualities, relationships, etc.; they may be perceptual concretes or other, earlier formed concepts.  The act of isolation involved is a process of _abstraction_ : i.e., a selective mental focus that _takes out_ or separates a certain aspect of reality from all others ... the uniting involved is not a mere sum, but an _integration -, i.e., a blending of the units into a  _single, new mental_ entity which is used thereafter as a single unit of thought ( but which can be broken down into its component units whenever required)."

Rand's point is that one has to grasp similarity and grasp "unit" before one can abstract the unit.  After all, Rand wrote that _unit_ is the key, the entrance to the conceptual level where all abstractions are mental integration of units in the process of becoming conceptualized.

~~~~~~~~

To hell with this - I posted my presentation about the complex scope of concept formation.  Merlin offers a brief puerile hash which evades all the important steps in the process Rand explained and outlined.  Perhaps Merlin is unable to read and comprehend, but there is no purpose in my trying to enlighten him.  It's much too frustrating an effort in talking to the willfully ignorant. Ellen

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1 hour ago, Brant Gaede said:

The lost continent of Atlantis.

Thanks, Peter.

--Brant

It was never lost. 
There is some interesting stuff in that old thread. Perhaps a book about it will be written.

 

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If you ever decide to adopt a cat, get a black cat, because superstition  says they are the devil's plaything. They are not evil. They are the same as any other cat, just black. But they are more likely to be euthanized because nobody wants them. Turn chance and fate on his ear. Get a black cat. I did and she is a wonderful intelligent pet. Peter

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Did Rand have any conspiracy theories? I would read any responses.

Let’s revisit “Belief and Wisdom,” boys and girls. Was Rand an eccentric? That’s old news. I knew someone who knew someone . . . who went to several Rand talks and they said she was a cult like leader. If she didn’t verbally wallop someone then Nathanial Branden who acted like her disciplinarian, would dispose of the human vermin. I am not speaking of her philosophy and contrasting it to Scientology but just the same “interpersonal” knee jerk responses to us lesser beings. Peter

From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Summing up!  was - RE: Follow-up/correction Re: Belief and Wisdom Date: Fri, 27 Sep 2002 00:53:20 -0500. I wrote: "What a great idea! Instead of arguing with my adversaries and defending my ideas in the arena of philosophy, I can clean things up considerably by simply ASSUMING that I am right to begin with; then redefining and relabeling every traditional branch of philosophy so they will accommodate my beliefs alone; and then defining those who disagree with me as irrational wisdom-seekers, overstanders, or whatever, so as to purge all dissenters from the realm of serious consideration. Gosh, this would make things *so* much easier. Why didn't someone think of this before? Oh wait -- someone did. They go by the name of "Christians.""

Ellen Stuttle replied: "Actually, Rand herself adopted the gambit indicated in the third step, viz., "defining those who disagree with me as irrational wisdom-seekers, overstanders, or whatever, so as to purge all dissenters from the realm of serious consideration."  She defines "mysticism" so broadly as to include every basic premise at variance with hers, and she'd previously, in Galt's Speech done a psychologizing number on "the soul of the mystic." So she ends up with a quick way of dismissing both the motives and the thoughts of any dissenter from her views.  Just label the person a "mystic" and the thoughts "mysticism."  Viola. (No disagreement with the rest of the post; merely pointing out that the indicated technique was employed by Rand, too.)"

Yes, Ayn Rand sometimes did this sort of thing, especially with the terms "mystic" and "mysticism." Mysticism, considered as a type of religious experience, pertains to a direct experience or interaction with God. This has a secular counterpart in some philosophers, such Plato and Plotinus, who believed in the possibility of a direct and immediate experience with the world of Forms -- that imperishable realm of absolute truth which was often viewed as "divine" in the Greek sense of this word. (Even Aristotle referred to our knowledge of first principles as "divine.")

As one historian of mysticism (Sidney Spencer) has written, "What is characteristic of the mystics is the claim which they make to an immediate contact with the Transcendent." There is thus some justification for the claim that Plato advocated mysticism, but this technical philosophical meaning doesn't seem to be what Rand had in mind. Instead, as Ellen notes, she often used it as a general term of opprobrium, though I think it is an exaggeration to say that she applied the label to everyone who disagreed with her. (I seem to recall that Rand somewhere defines "mystic" as someone who lays claim to non-sensory knowledge, but I could be wrong about this.)

As for Rand's psychologizing about the mindset of those who disagreed with her, I tend to view this as a personal characteristic rather than an integral part of her abstract philosophy. I know of nothing in Objectivism that would necessitate this procedure; on the contrary, Rand's stress on epistemological contextualism would seem to militate against it.

This contrasts sharply with my criticisms of Jason Alexander, who wishes to reconstitute the philosophical disciplines, while using definitions to relegate dissenters to an intellectual no-man's land where they can be ignored. Of course, there is a practical problem with this agenda. Given that only Jason and a handful of his disciples would likely qualify as Philoscientists, it is this Alexandrian Cult that would end up being ignored by the rest of the intellectual world. This raises the question of what our hardy band of Fifth Revolutionaries would do if they gave party and no one came.)

Rand's eccentricities, though they provide interesting fodder for discussion, are not all that surprising or unusual. For what is genius, in the final analysis, except a type of eccentricity? Given Rand's tremendous talent and all she had to overcome to achieve her status as one the world's most influential intellectuals, I would be very surprised if her work did not sometimes display an edgy, over-the-top quality. But what is truly pathetic is when some of Rand's followers emulate her eccentricities without displaying any of her virtues, such as originality, systematic thinking, and felicity of expression.

[This last paragraph didn't come out very well; it doesn't quite say what I wanted to say. But it's been a long day, so this will have to do for now.] Ghs

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