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mpp

Is a fundamental the same thing as essence?

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A fundamental is the root cause of a series of multi-level, branching effects. E.g. the patriarch and matriarch of a family line. Or rationality in man, it is the cause of many of man's distinguishing features, humor, culture, science. 

Essence is the things that makes the thing the which it is, that without which the thing wouldn't be what it is. The family line's essence is the founders' DNA, man's essence is rationality. 

In what way then are a fundamental and an essence different? Or how do they relate? 

We say an essence is a fundamental attribute; how is this definition not circular?

 

Thank you. 

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The way I understand it, an essence is metaphysical. It is part of reality regardless of the word or concept used to identify it. You detect it by observation.

A fundamental is epistemological. It is the principle, concept or term used to identify an essence (especially an essential aspect of reality). The more universal the essence it identifies, the deeper the fundament. You arrive at it by observation and conceptual thinking.

Others may have other meanings for these terms. This are how I use them.

Michael

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22 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

The way I understand it, an essence is metaphysical.

Are you disagreeing with Rand? "The radical difference between the Aristotelian view of concepts and the Objectivist view lies in the fact that Aristotle regarded "essence" as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological" (ITOE2, 85).

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44 minutes ago, merjet said:

Are you disagreeing with Rand? "The radical difference between the Aristotelian view of concepts and the Objectivist view lies in the fact that Aristotle regarded "essence" as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological" (ITOE2, 85).

Merlin,

I'll think about it. I probably do disagree with Rand up to a point because I think this form of stating it is hugely oversimplified.

One of the functions of concepts is to to refer to things that actually exist. That's why the existents are called referents.

The moment you claim we can just make up shit, call it an essence, the essence does not--and cannot--refer to anything in reality but only to something in our minds, this applies to the whole shebang of human thought, we base an entire epistemological approach on it (including definitions of things that do exist), and that's supposed to work somehow, something is seriously off. 

I don't think Rand is 100% wrong or right here, but I need to dig into it on much more than a semantics level to tease out the... er... essences and fundamentals. :) 

Humans think in stories (or narratives or whatever you want to call a mental representation of things moving through time and space) and concepts (including language). Rand ignored the story part in her theory of concepts even though she was a master in actually making stories (good stories, too) and, oddly enough, used them constantly in her nonfiction, including in ITOE in its most theoretical moments.

If you want to know the truth, Rand spoke very little about human memory in her theory of concepts and that's a big hole, about as big as story.

Michael

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Here's an example of an essence Rand constantly referred to, but called it something else: "the given." The essential part is that it is not a product of thought, but exists independently of humans. That's the metaphysical essence of "the given."

Here's an example of an essence--a deep underlying universal essence of form--she never even mentioned: holon.

Michael

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John Locke distinguished between real essence and nominal essence (e.g. see here). He didn't overtly say so, but the first can be regarded as metaphysical and the second as epistemological. Locke's nominal essence is similar to Rand's idea of essence (link).

P.S. An entity is a substance in Locke's vocabulary.

 

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On this question, here is a rough transcript from Schwartz from his course on Essentials: 

Quote

 

difference essential from fundamental: 

Fundamental names relationship between two things: a broader more general thing and a narrow more particular thing or things under which it is subsumed. e.g. man, the characteristic of rationality is fundamental and characteristic of speaking etc are derivative. why? Because the later are subsumed by the former. Fundamental names a relationship between two separate items of knowledge and it says that the narrow item of knowledge is a derivative of the broader. could be two characteristics of some entity e.g. with rationality and speaking or it could be two fields of study, let’s say ethics and politics where ethics is fundamental to politics. Ethics subsumes politics. principles of ethics explains and make possible the principles of politics. Or two scientific phanomena, gravity and movement of tides. Law of gravity is fundamental to and makes possible and explains and subsumes the movement of the tides. fundamental is the relationship between two items of knowledge on which one is subsumed by the other. 

Idea of fundamental pertains to hierarchy. 

essential pertains to a relationship between a concept and one of its characteristics. between the whole and one of its parts. it names the fact that with respect to man one of his characteristic makes him epistemologically what he is. One trait best distinguishes him man, the concept the whole, from all else. one trait condenses the whole concept man!!!!! it is not a relationship of one trait to another but the essential says in effect, because rationality is a fundamental, because rationality subsumes and includes all these other distinctive traits therefore it is an essential. therefore it is what makes man a unit of the concept man. 

 

The thought that fundamental is a relationship between cause and derivative while essence is a relationship between concept and one of the concept's characteristics might be a good starting point for an answer. 

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1 hour ago, mpp said:

On this question, here is a rough transcript from Schwartz from his course on Essentials: 

The thought that fundamental is a relationship between cause and derivative while essence is a relationship between concept and one of the concept's characteristics might be a good starting point for an answer. 

The essence or fundamental properties of something are precisely those properties that make the something what it is.  So there are essential properties and accidental properties.  What makes a bicycle a bicycle?  1.  It is something that can move from place to place  and 2.  it is moved by the rotation of two wheels.

A bicycle is a two wheel vehicle. Genus vehicle.  Species  two wheeled. 

If your bicycle happens to be colored green,  that is an incidental non-essential property of your bike.  If your bike changed its color from green to red and that is the only change  then it is still a bicycle. The color is inessential.  

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6 hours ago, mpp said:

The thought that fundamental is a relationship between cause and derivative while essence is a relationship between concept and one of the concept's characteristics might be a good starting point for an answer. 

mpp,

I'll bite a little bit.

Since, as a child, I learned that dictionaries usually have more than one definition per word, I will not argue over semantics. If you want to use "fundamental" to indicate position within a hierarchy and "essence" for a controlling characteristic of a whole, I can go along with that.

However, two comments where some warning signs appear that could lead to sloppy thinking.

1. Lower in a hierarchy does not necessarily indicate causality. It can mean causality within a causal chain (going back to an entity, as I understand Rand's ideas), but if I remember correctly from the last time I read ITOE (granted it was awhile ago), Rand claimed only entities could initiate causes or something to that effect. Yet there are plenty of hierarchies that do not involve ONLY whole entities.

So a hierarchy does not have to mean causality. A lower rock is not the cause of a rock sitting on top of it, but it is perfectly understandable (to me, at least) to say, if you want to remove the rocks and you don't want the pile to crash on your head, you better start at the top because the lower rocks are more fundamental gravity-wise. The lower rocks are literally more foundational in the hierarchy. In fact, imitating this is how buildings are able to stand.

2. I never understood why there had to be only ONE essence in a thing--only ONE controlling characteristic. Why can't there be several? And again, if I remember ITOE correctly, Rand herself made a claim that just isn't clear on this matter. In the Q&A (I'm going on memory), Rand was asked why "man" was defined as a "rational animal" rather than a "rational mammal" or "rational primate" (or something to that effect). I remember her response being about the nature of the genus, that mammal (or primate) was not essential enough, it was too specialized, whereas animal was (don't quote me :) ). I recall thinking if that was the case, why not "rational life form"? Isn't life form more essential? Going the other way, a fish is an animal. If a fish, say a dolphin, developed rationality (which seems to be slowly evolving--but don't worry, we'll never see it :) ), would it be defined as a man? Granted, a dolphin is a mammal, but it is not a primate. So, to my way of thinking, "rational primate" obeys the differentia and genus formula a lot better in terms of essences than "rational animal" does.

If this discussion goes anywhere, I will try to look up quotes. But I'm awfully busy right now...

Michael

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On 7/2/2017 at 0:32 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

mpp,

I'll bite a little bit.

Since, as a child, I learned that dictionaries usually have more than one definition per word, I will not argue over semantics. If you want to use "fundamental" to indicate position within a hierarchy and "essence" for a controlling characteristic of a whole, I can go along with that.

However, two comments where some warning signs appear that could lead to sloppy thinking.

1. Lower in a hierarchy does not necessarily indicate causality. It can mean causality within a causal chain (going back to an entity, as I understand Rand's ideas), but if I remember correctly from the last time I read ITOE (granted it was awhile ago), Rand claimed only entities could initiate causes or something to that effect. Yet there are plenty of hierarchies that do not involve ONLY whole entities.

So a hierarchy does not have to mean causality. A lower rock is not the cause of a rock sitting on top of it, but it is perfectly understandable (to me, at least) to say, if you want to remove the rocks and you don't want the pile to crash on your head, you better start at the top because the lower rocks are more fundamental gravity-wise. The lower rocks are literally more foundational in the hierarchy. In fact, imitating this is how buildings are able to stand.

2. I never understood why there had to be only ONE essence in a thing--only ONE controlling characteristic. Why can't there be several? And again, if I remember ITOE correctly, Rand herself made a claim that just isn't clear on this matter. In the Q&A (I'm going on memory), Rand was asked why "man" was defined as a "rational animal" rather than a "rational mammal" or "rational primate" (or something to that effect). I remember her response being about the nature of the genus, that mammal (or primate) was not essential enough, it was too specialized, whereas animal was (don't quote me :) ). I recall thinking if that was the case, why not "rational life form"? Isn't life form more essential? Going the other way, a fish is an animal. If a fish, say a dolphin, developed rationality (which seems to be slowly evolving--but don't worry, we'll never see it :) ), would it be defined as a man? Granted, a dolphin is a mammal, but it is not a primate. So, to my way of thinking, "rational primate" obeys the differentia and genus formula a lot better in terms of essences than "rational animal" does.

If this discussion goes anywhere, I will try to look up quotes. But I'm awfully busy right now...

Michael

Thanks for your reply!

 

1. This is a good point. As far as I understand it, Objectivism doesn't equate knowledge hierarchy with fundamentality. Fundamentality is one way of hierarchy, but there are others. Hierarchy means just what has to be learn first to understand something later. They do define fundamental as a root cause though -- this definition may be arbitrary, as you can use fundamental in any other way; e.g. in the building metaphor, as you point out, where the ground floor doesn't cause the upper floors. But I can't say I fully grasp the boundaries or purpose of the concept hierarchy. 

2. I guess essence would be linked to identity. So with several essences you would have several identities. According to rand, essence is contextual though, so in this sense you could have several essences; one in the context of limited knowledge, then more advanced, etc, etc. 

In selecting a genus, as I understand it, the genus should imply the largest number of characteristics which the concept has in common with the other things from which it is distinguished by the differentia. This makes sense in terms of cognition, as the genus will feed you more knowledge about the concept which you know from the other things in that genus. Genus should tell us what the concept means basically and how we can distinguish it from these things which have little or nothing in common with our concept. 

Here is Peikoff on Genus selection: 

Quote

 

Fundamentality how it applies to selection of genus. When you distinguish man from other things you want to do so as completely and significantly as possible, I.e. Via fundamental that’s from the aspect of the fundamental, well the same rule applies when you are concerned to unite man with other classes, which you do by means of genus, you still unites as completely and significantly as possible, I.e. You unite by fundamentals. If you define man you’d select as the genus the wider class which includes the greatest number of characteristics which man shares with other things in your knowledge. You’d select as your genus the wider class which includes the greatest number of characteristics which man shares with other things in you knowledge, therby that would be the one which includes the greatest number of his non-distinctive characteristics. Animal as the genus. You wouldn’t put man with skyscraper and airplane into category SOLID, because did kind of genus would defeat the cognitive purpose of the genus, it would not unite man significantly man with all the other knowledge you possess about animals and living organisms. Here just like with the differentia, the function of the definition, its cognitive purpose dictates the princeple of selecting a genus. 

How to choose a genus: make your genus where you can specific enough to convey real information, don’t define in terms of genera that are so broad that they are virtually empty, except in the cases where you must do that because they are no other. Say what type of thing, that will bring much more knowledge into your definition and unite it with much more that you know about things other than man. 

You shouldn’t define happy as the condition in which you achieved your values, condition is too vague and general, better to say the state of consciousness in which.. Or the emotional state or the positive or pleasurable state, the more specific you make your genus, the more fundamentally and significantly you connect the term in question with all the other knowledge of classes outside of it and that is your purpose in giving a genus. 

 

Before you apply rule, it’s not a law that always the more specific the genus the better, that doesn’t follow. Because the purpose of the genus is to integrate the definiendum, with the relevant knowledge that you possess of other classes and sometimes you will find that in a definition intended for a general audience, sometimes you will find a generalised genus does this perfectly well and that an overly specific genus is inappropriate because it’s concerned with a level of specialised knowledge outside of the laymen’s domain, there are technical, specialised definitions for a specific science and then there are general philosophic definitions of the same term within the framework of the laymen’s perspective. 

Example: amnesia: neurosis, mental doses and specify of loss of memory, but in specialist in psychiatry would classify amnesias as a sub category of mental disease on a level of detail that laymen would not, he would say amnesia is a dissociative reaction that such and such. He’ll have a more specific genus. That is not required nor appropriated for general philosophical discussion. Purpose of genius, the cognitive purpose, determines the level of specificity! That’s why man is rational animal and not rational mammal. 

Doesn’t mean that it’s arbitrary, but given the purpose of a philosophic definition of man, it is unneccearry to distinguish various subtypes of animal, we are not gonna do anything in our normal dealing with man with the information that is included in mammal as distinct from animal, on the other hand a biologist will so for him it would be a more appropriate genus, the level of specificity is determined by the level of knowledge assumed in the context in which you are giving the definition!!!!!!!!

How to find a genus if you have no clue as to where to look for one: name several of the concepts that you are differentiating the concept in question from. And then ask what is fundamentally in common among all of them, the one to be defined and the ones you’re trying to distinguish it from and in the normal case you’ll find that the ones you are trying to distinguish it from and the one to be defined have certain fundamental common denominator and that will be the genus. Man, dogs, horses, well what’s common to them all? They are all animals

Define capitalism, what are you trying to distinguish it from? Socialism, communism, welfare state, common denominator is therefore political system. Shoes, socks, slippers, ties, suits, etc: article of apparel, etc

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, mpp said:

Here is Peikoff on Genus selection: 

Quote

Purpose of genus, the cognitive purpose, determines the level of specificity! That’s why man is rational animal and not rational mammal. 

Doesn’t mean that it’s arbitrary, but given the purpose of a philosophic definition of man, it is unnecessary to distinguish various subtypes of animal, we are not gonna do anything in our normal dealing with man with the information that is included in mammal as distinct from animal...

 

mpp,

This is more or less what I remember from Rand. And it is a perfect example of what happens when you derive reality from a principle rather than observe reality, then derive your principle from that.

And the principle I am talking about is denoting a wider group and extracting a smaller one from it. As a general principle (or better, template), this is hugely useful and has a wide number of applications. The problem comes when simple observation is ignored and you try to nail it down to a specific format to the exclusion of others, as in the sentence: "... man is rational animal and not rational mammal."

Look at this sentence giving the reason why "rational mammal" is not a good definition for philosophy: "... we are not gonna do anything in our normal dealing with man with the information that is included in mammal as distinct from animal."

Who is "we"? And what does Peikoff (assuming you are quoting Peikoff from somewhere, I didn't find this in OPAR) mean by "doing"? What are "we" supposed to not "do"?

Epistemology? OK. But what about metaphysics? That's philosophy, too.

As far as I know, it is extremely useful--philosophically (metaphysically)--to call man a "rational primate." It gives a perfect mental image to a layman of a two-legged mammal that has the faculty of rationality. It doesn't matter what form of monkey we are descended from, which may or may not be the reason for the different racial characteristics, we call all of it "human," which is as it should be.

I see no philosophical importance of metaphysically leaving open the possibility of a rational fish (a form of rational animal) and call that a man by definition.

I don't think the layman is so stupid he doesn't know the difference between a land-bound mammal and a fish. Or between four-legged and two-legged animals. Or doesn't know what a primate is.

What about exceptions? What if a man is born with only one leg? I say that is why the term "exception" exists, to be an anomaly to a group that is normally characterized by common features. A one-legged man is still a rational primate, albeit, one that is not normal.

By the same token and on the other end, Rand's definition, "rational animal," if taken as a hard rule as her insistence on animal over mammal implies, would exclude mentally disabled people from being called human. Why? They are not rational. 

To me, this insistence on "animal" over "mammal" for the genus of the definition of man is deducing reality from a principle and that's what makes it sound stupid when taken to this extreme. Of course, mentally disabled people are humans. They are merely exceptions to the normal human. Doesn't it make sense--philosophically--to consider them as primates instead of animals to help distinguish them since they have no rationality?

What kind of knowledge system would exclude that as unimportant?

There's a reason scientific progress uses more rigorous epistemological forms and templates than Rand's theory of concepts when testing hypotheses (including Popper damn falsifiability principle) and more metaphoric forms for brainstorming new ideas (snakes biting their tails and so forth). Scientific forms and templates work, they have for centuries, and the results are all around us. 

Rand's theory of concepts is insightful (especially the algebra part, which is huge), but only within a smaller scope than universality. I don't know of much practically that has been done with her theory of concepts when compared against other scientific and even artistic formats.

Well, there are online discussions... her theory of concepts do produce a lot of that in reality... :) 

Michael

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On 7/1/2017 at 7:14 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

an essence is metaphysical. It is part of reality regardless of the word or concept used to identify it. You detect it by observation.

Jaw dropping. Observe metaphysical "essence"? -- a fake term played deuces wild, subjectively.

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On 7/1/2017 at 8:12 AM, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Here's an example of an essence--a deep underlying universal essence of form--she never even mentioned: holon.

Holon silly putty in a nutshell: "wholes and parts in an absolute sense do not exist anywhere" [Wikipedia]

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17 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

mpp,

This is more or less what I remember from Rand. And it is a perfect example of what happens when you derive reality from a principle rather than observe reality, then derive your principle from that.

And the principle I am talking about is denoting a wider group and extracting a smaller one from it. As a general principle (or better, template), this is hugely useful and has a wide number of applications. The problem comes when simple observation is ignored and you try to nail it down to a specific format to the exclusion of others, as in the sentence: "... man is rational animal and not rational mammal."

Look at this sentence giving the reason why "rational mammal" is not a good definition for philosophy: "... we are not gonna do anything in our normal dealing with man with the information that is included in mammal as distinct from animal."

Who is "we"? And what does Peikoff (assuming you are quoting Peikoff from somewhere, I didn't find this in OPAR) mean by "doing"? What are "we" supposed to not "do"?

Epistemology? OK. But what about metaphysics? That's philosophy, too.

As far as I know, it is extremely useful--philosophically (metaphysically)--to call man a "rational primate." It gives a perfect mental image to a layman of a two-legged mammal that has the faculty of rationality. It doesn't matter what form of monkey we are descended from, which may or may not be the reason for the different racial characteristics, we call all of it "human," which is as it should be.

I see no philosophical importance of metaphysically leaving open the possibility of a rational fish (a form of rational animal) and call that a man by definition.

I don't think the layman is so stupid he doesn't know the difference between a land-bound mammal and a fish. Or between four-legged and two-legged animals. Or doesn't know what a primate is.

What about exceptions? What if a man is born with only one leg? I say that is why the term "exception" exists, to be an anomaly to a group that is normally characterized by common features. A one-legged man is still a rational primate, albeit, one that is not normal.

By the same token and on the other end, Rand's definition, "rational animal," if taken as a hard rule as her insistence on animal over mammal implies, would exclude mentally disabled people from being called human. Why? They are not rational. 

To me, this insistence on "animal" over "mammal" for the genus of the definition of man is deducing reality from a principle and that's what makes it sound stupid when taken to this extreme. Of course, mentally disabled people are humans. They are merely exceptions to the normal human. Doesn't it make sense--philosophically--to consider them as primates instead of animals to help distinguish them since they have no rationality?

What kind of knowledge system would exclude that as unimportant?

There's a reason scientific progress uses more rigorous epistemological forms and templates than Rand's theory of concepts when testing hypotheses (including Popper damn falsifiability principle) and more metaphoric forms for brainstorming new ideas (snakes biting their tails and so forth). Scientific forms and templates work, they have for centuries, and the results are all around us. 

Rand's theory of concepts is insightful (especially the algebra part, which is huge), but only within a smaller scope than universality. I don't know of much practically that has been done with her theory of concepts when compared against other scientific and even artistic formats.

Well, there are online discussions... her theory of concepts do produce a lot of that in reality... :) 

Michael

"We" call man "the rational animal" because we don't know any other animals that can be so described. We are using the broadest category therefore.

--Brant

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1 hour ago, Brant Gaede said:

"We" call man "the rational animal" because we don't know any other animals that can be so described. We are using the broadest category therefore.

--Brant

We (humans)  call humans the rational animal.   I think there is a bias  at work here.   I bet the whales and the dolphins  do not call us the rational animal. 

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2 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

"We" call man "the rational animal" because we don't know any other animals that can be so described. We are using the broadest category therefore.

Brant,

That's a nice hedge against clarity and I have been aware of it from a long time ago. (Not with you, but with Rand.) It's the basis of accepting the fact that you are an agent subject to an axiomatic concept even as you identify it. This works well with axiomatic concepts because I can't figure out any other way to understand existence, identity and consciousness and exist, have an identity and be conscious at the same time.

But using it as an absolute standard for a simple definition where there are oodles of possibilities in applying an epistemological model (genus and differentia for definitions), this is applying an induction rule qua rule without observing the thing, the agent or the context, beyond a superficial level and giving them lip service. That's called dogma. It's using induction to stifle further induction.

There are a couple of deeper problems with this approach (more, actually) when used as a hard-and-fast rule rather than a rule of thumb. (btw - It's a pretty good rule of thumb.)

1. When it comes to leaving open a window for the unknown within our familiarity (which always seems to come with reality and even in Objectivism with the rule that concepts are open-ended), this approach presupposes that "we" are either dumb as a rock for imagining stuff or too scared to look at reality outside the patterns in our minds. It presupposes that--on this point--that one must NOT check one's premises. If judging through the filter of Rand only, it boils down to which Rand do you want? The check your premises Rand or the "because I said so" Rand? Whose mind will you use to identify and judge "we"? Yours or do you just take assumptions wholesale from another's mind (say Rand's when applicable), remember some cases where they look good and say to yourself that that makes sense, and not think further about them?

2. It keeps you from applying a good model (deriving a smaller group from a larger group based on an essential shared characteristic) as a shrinking and expanding tool to be employed when checking premises. By relegating it as a dogma to human size according to a presupposed generalized agent (based on some unchecked assumptions at that), you essentially close your eyes to other perspectives and complain there is no light. This gets really problematic when looking at the cosmos or the subparticle world. Or even at something like evolution.

btw - Rand, in her notes, complained in frustration that we have to blast cosmology out of philosophy. If that isn't complaining about reality because it doesn't fit a principle or even fit human size, I don't know what is. I can find that quote if you like.

I don't blame her or mention this as derogatory gotcha. Nor do I believe it debunks anything. In me view, our brains are organic, not static. We think in waves throughout the day, not in straight lines, and there are many neural network frames to navigate. The way I see it, she was on a down point in no-man's land with that thought. :) 

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I worry because I wouldn't want you to hurt your jaw. 

Incidentally, if you, the reader, ever need to reconstruct your jaw bone, you can use parts of your shin bone and it works just fine.

This is pretty standard procedure these days.

Helpfully.

Michael

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Michael: Rational animal or conceptual animal? (That's philosophy.) Upright posture and unique foot? (That's anthropology.)

Man, the philosophical animal? The moral animal?

If you don't start somewhere are you going to start? Where else but philosophy; that's basic.

If you drive uniqueness and importance out of your definition, do you have a definition?

Sure you can have a definition reflective of your profession and /or primary interest for working and thinking purposes, but it's gonna rest on the basic definition--be supported by it.

I do believe Rand didn't do much to support her definition--she just put it out there. She did the same with her definition of individual rights. With logic.

That made her a great asseverationist, even a moral asseverationist. This last makes Galt's speech very hard to read. Addressed to the world of the novel it makes no sense at all for that world was finished. It was addressed to the reader, but needed its matching up literary context which was off-putting which in turn off-putted its ideas. The corrective was her non-fiction of the 1960s, but she started out by insulting her readers in the first few pages of The Virtue of Selfishness.

As literary art, The Fountainhead was her best achievement. Atlas Shrugged was her greatest achievement out of one great idea, but that idea wasn't do-it-right Americanism, but give-it-up Russianism. The real heroes of the novel were those who hadn't yet gone on strike and Rand treated them as sanctioning victims. She got rid of the sanctioning, but never dealt with the anger and depression of being a victim. The heroes being made aware of their sanctioning should simply have turned around and started kicking, screaming and fighting. That's being an American. Nope, they didn't because they were living in too-late land.

--Brant

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3 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

We (humans)  call humans the rational animal.   I think there is a bias  at work here.   I bet the whales and the dolphins  do not call us the rational animal. 

If whales and dolphins were rational animals would they live like that? Perhaps being sea going you can never build cities or even houses, but shouldn't their vocabulary and interactions be more human?    

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52 minutes ago, Peter said:

If whales and dolphins were rational animals would they live like that?

why not?  Their bodies were evolved to dwell in the sea.   Zero gravity and no obstacles. There is nothing wrong with how they live.  Plenty of food, lots of room.

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1 hour ago, Brant Gaede said:

Michael: Rational animal or conceptual animal? (That's philosophy.) Upright posture and unique foot? (That's anthropology.)

Brant,

How about man living in groups? Does philosophy have anything to say about that? Hmmmmm?...

:) 

The way you framed this presumes that philosophy is only epistemology.

If philosophy is defined in terms of the fundamental nature of the universe, then it cannot only be epistemology.

I don't presume that.

Rand's metaphysics are scant--basically, the referents of the axiomatic concepts. The only other person I've seen who noticed this is George Smith. In fact, he is where I got this notion.

But just because Rand did not develop much thought metaphysically, that does not mean philosophy does not deal with metaphysics like the principles (mostly based on direct observation) of the later science categories. It does.

Michael

EDIT: From "Philosophy: Who Needs It?" by Ayn Rand:

Quote

Philosophy studies the fundamental nature of existence, of man, and of man's relationship to existence. As against the special sciences, which deal only with particular aspects, philosophy deals with those aspects of the universe which pertain to everything that exists.

If you are only going to talk about the widest abstractions, using your logic, breaking life forms into animal, vegetable, insect, etc., is too specific. Things need to be divided into living and unliving. Hell, to be totally safe and "philosophical," you would need to say man is a "rational existent."

:evil: 

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2 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

I do believe Rand didn't do much to support her definition--she just put it out there.

Brant,

She did a little more. From the workshop part of ITOE (pp. 233-234):

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Prof. B: This question pertains to the discussion of definitions on page 44. You say that the ultimate definition of man is "a rational animal." I take it then that it would be wrong to define man as "a rational primate."

AR: Oh yes.

Prof. B: Is that because man's distinctive form of consciousness makes him a basic subdivision of "animal" rather than just a minor subcategory? In a sense, all other animals are limited to sensory forms of consciousness, but man is rational. That means you can make a basic subdivision of "animal" into "man" and "non-man" on the grounds of whether the consciousness is rational or just perceptual.

AR: Yes, but what would be the purpose of this? Here you have an evaluative consideration entering. Is the distinction by type of consciousness more important than, let's say, the distinction between animal and bird, by feathers and ability to fly? You see, it wouldn't necessarily be important formally, as you formed the concept, whether the characteristic by which you subdivide is of a tremendous, momentous kind or merely the only one you can observe that is at all significant. After you have formed the concept, it is a separate intellectual pursuit to find out whether that distinction is really enormously important, which [in the case of man versus animals] it is. But that fact is not of significance to the subdivision, to the classification of man as a rational animal.

Prof. E: I was wondering whether you would agree with the following, which is my understanding of why the genus of man for a general definition would remain "animal."

Definitions and conceptualization always have to take into account the cognitive context. The normal adult does not deal with subdivisions like "primate." And, therefore, for a general literate adult, "rational animal" would be appropriate, even if for a more specialized degree of knowledge you need the further subdivision.

I can give this parallel: suppose a normal adult were defining "amnesia." I think a valid definition would have as its genus something like "mental illness" or "mental disorder" (with the differentia indicating loss of memory). Whereas the psychiatrist, who subclassifies mental ailments, could say its genus was something narrower, I think they call it a "dissociative reaction" or something of the sort. But that would not affect the validity of the genus "mental disorder" for a generally educated adult.

AR: Yes, that is correct. I would add one thing of a more general nature. Philosophical problems have to be solved on a level of knowledge available to a normal adult at any period of human development; so that philosophical concepts are really not dependent on the development of individual sciences. And "primate" or "mammal" would be a very specialized subdivision of a concept according to a particular science.

Prof. A: Then would it be wrong for a biologist to define man as "a rational primate," or would that be correct in his context?

AR: It would be correct in his context, if he remembers that he is speaking here from a professional context. And, as you know, they subdivide even further. Any subdivision within a given science is proper provided it is not substituted for the basic philosophical definition which is valid for all men in all stages of knowledge.

There are two problems with this excerpt (which is not Rand at her finest).

1. A bird is an animal. Hasn't anybody seen this error before? A bird is an animal, a kind of animal, everywhere you read and learn. Animal is the wider concept and bird is a chunk of that. Hell, I learned that in grade school. What the hell happened to the hierarchical conceptual chain? When Rand said: "... let's say, the distinction between animal and bird...," this makes about as much sense as saying the distinction between "vehicle and automobile" or the distinction between "book and fiction novel."

2. In her statement: "Philosophical problems have to be solved on a level of knowledge available to a normal adult at any period of human development..." does that include the vast period of human existence before written language and, say, before the discovery of the wheel? If not, then when does her "periods of human development" start and why then? 

It's one thing to claim philosophical problems have to be applicable to all humans at any period of human development, but it's quite another to claim that the only way to express them and still call it philosophy is in terms and concepts used by primitive human adults. And even then, defining land animals into two-legged and four-legged is precisely the method adults used in primitive cultures that have been studied all over the world. 

Another point. It's pretty reasonable to assume that almost all human adults who can read an Ayn Rand book (or a philosophy book) know what a mammal and primate are. They don't need professional "very specialized subdivision" knowledge for that. It's everyday knowledge for normal adults.

Michael

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13 hours ago, Wolf DeVoon said:

Holon silly putty in a nutshell...

Bullshit.

A holon is simply a form of organization, a pattern system of smaller wholes within larger ones (think kidney or liver within body). Entities within and dependent on larger entities, so to speak.

From the workshop part of ITOE (p. 264):

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An entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself.

Entities tend to be holons. 

In fact, the form of entity is an existent, as is the form of life, species, etc.

To claim these don't exist is to claim that they are mere random patterns.

And even then, to claim that, one has to say patterns exist as does chaos as an existent.

This probably boils down to a semantic misunderstanding while treating all philosophical discussion as a gun fight. (Or a prompt to bear one's chest and emit a Tarzan yell. Not much happens rationally, but it feels good.)

Some people think "existent" is a direct synonym or replacement for "entity" and others think it means something wider (i.e., something that exists). I fall into the second category. Ditto for metaphysical essence, which is a ghost to some people (not me) and something different to others (me) like organizing forces or whatever controls the large patterns. 

Michael

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