Aristotle's wheel paradox


merjet

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1 hour ago, Darrell Hougen said:

Now, assume that the interval, [0, 2] contains N points.

That is of course the fallacy. The interval [0,2] contains infinitely many points, and infinity is not a natural number, therefore the notion of density doesn't work, as the density is also infinite, and 2 =  ∞. Cantor, cardinality, continuum and all that. It isn't surprising that people like Aristotle and Galileo didn't understand such things well. Therefore those helpless attempts to consider circles "jumping" or "waiting" to make up for differences in traveled distance in Aristotle's paradox.

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I promised Merlin that I would analyze his "solutions" to see if they were correct. Of course, Jonathan, Jon Letendre, and Max have already analyzed his "solutions," so my analysis won't really add anything new. Still, I need to make good on my promise.

Here are Merlin's solutions as taken from the relevant Wikipedia page:

Quote

Analysis and solutions[edit]

The paradox is that the smaller inner circle moves 2πR, the circumference of the larger outer circle with radius R, rather than its own circumference. If the inner circle were rolled separately, it would move 2πr, its own circumference with radius r. The inner circle is not separate but rigidly connected to the larger. So 2πr is a red herring.

First solution

If the smaller circle depends on the larger one (Case I), then the larger circle forces the smaller one to traverse the larger circle’s circumference. If the larger circle depends on the smaller one (Case II), then the smaller circle forces the larger one to traverse the smaller circle’s circumference. This is the simplest solution.

Second solution

This solution considers the transition from starting to ending positions. Let Pb be a point on the bigger circle and Ps be a point on the smaller circle, both on the same radius. For convenience, assume they are both directly below the center, analogous to both hands of a clock pointing towards six. Both Pb and Ps travel a cycloid path as they roll together one revolution. The two paths are pictured here: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/Cycloid.html and http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CurtateCycloid.html

While each travels 2πR horizontally from start to end, Ps's cycloid path is shorter and more efficient than Pb's. Pb travels farther above and farther below the center's path -- the only straight one -- than does Ps. The nearby image shows the circles before and after rolling one revolution. It shows the motions of the center, Pb, and Ps, with Pb and Ps starting and ending at the top of their circles. The green dash line is the center's motion. The blue dash curve shows Pb's motion. The red dash curve shows Ps's motion. Ps's path is clearly shorter than Pb's. The closer Ps is to the center, the shorter, more direct, and closer to the green line its path is.

AristotleWheel

If Pb and Ps were anywhere else on their respective circles, the curved paths would be the same length. Summarizing, the smaller circle moves horizontally 2πR because any point on the smaller circle travels a shorter, more direct path than any point on the larger circle.

Third solution

This solution only compares the starting and ending positions. The larger circle and the smaller circle have the same center. If said center is moved, both circles move the same distance, which is a necessary property of translation (geometry) and equals 2πR in the experiment. QED. Also, every other point on both circles has the same position relative to the center before and after rolling one revolution (or any other integer count of revolutions).

Aristotle's paradox is related to the fact that it is possible to find a one-to-one mapping of all the points in an interval of a particular length to all of the points in an interval of a different length. Since none of the "solutions" above has anything to do with the actual paradox, they are not solutions to the paradox. In fact, the paradox is misstated in the quote above. The fact that the smaller circle moves a distance that is different from its circumference is a simple mechanical observation, not a paradox.

Max gives the solution to the paradox above:

On 1/18/2019 at 2:34 PM, Max said:
On 1/18/2019 at 12:17 PM, Darrell Hougen said:

Now, assume that the interval, [0, 2] contains N points.

That is of course the fallacy. The interval [0,2] contains infinitely many points, and infinity is not a natural number, therefore the notion of density doesn't work, as the density is also infinite, and 2 =  ∞. Cantor, cardinality, continuum and all that. It isn't surprising that people like Aristotle and Galileo didn't understand such things well. Therefore those helpless attempts to consider circles "jumping" or "waiting" to make up for differences in traveled distance in Aristotle's paradox.

Because the number and density of points in an interval are infinite, it makes no sense to compare the number or density of points in a interval to the length of the interval. 2 =  ∞.

One of the "solutions" given by Merlin, involves the use of cycloids. Although cycloids don't help with the solution of Aristotle's paradox, they can be used to help solve another problem that some people seem to be having, namely comprehending the fact that a wheel may be rotating and translating at the same time.

First, I will note the fact (pointed out by Max in an earlier post) that if a wheel rolls without slipping, the point of the wheel in contact with the ground must be stationary at the moment of contact.

Since the quote above makes reference to Mathworld, I will use the equations listed there except that I will use "r" or "R" for the radius of the circle.

If R is the radius of the large circle and if it rolls on its line, then the motion of a point on its circumference is given by the parametric equations:

x = R * (t - sin(t))

y = R * (1 - cos(t))

Those are the equations of the point that starts in the 6 o'clock position.

Let (u, v) be the velocity of the point. Then (u, v) = (dx/dt, dy/dt) or

u = R * (1 - cos(t))

v = R * sin(t)

Now, we can observe that (u, v) = (0, 0) whenever t = 2 * π * k, for k = 0, 1, 2, ... In other words, the point is stationary whenever it returns to the 6 o'clock position.

Now, consider a point on an inner circle of radius r < R that starts in the 6 o'clock position. As claimed above, the point does indeed describe a curtate cycloid given by the equations:

x = R * t - r * sin(t)

y = R - r * cos(t)

Again, we can calculate the velocity of the point by taking derivatives:

u = R - r * cos(t)

v = r * sin(t)

Since -1 <= cos(t) <= 1, we have R - r <= u <= R + r. Therefore, the horizontal component of the velocity is never equal to zero. In fact, it is always strictly greater than zero. Therefore, the inner circle does not roll on its line. When the point is in the 6 o'clock position, its speed is equal to R - r which shows that the wheel is skidding or slipping in the +x direction.

We can also consider the case in which the inner circle rolls on its line and the outer circle is along for the ride. In this case, we have a prolate cycloid given by:

x = r * t - R * sin(t)

y = r - R * cos(t)

Again:

u = r - R * cos(t)

v = R * sin(t)

In this case, the horizontal component of the velocity is zero whenever r - R * cos(t) = 0. That happens when cos(t) = r / R.

Now, consider a right triangle with leg a = r and hypotenuse c = R. Then the length of the other side, b = √(R2 - r2) so that sin(t) = √(R2 - r2) / R. But, that implies that sin(t) =/= 0 so that the vertical component of the velocity is not zero at the same time as the horizontal component. Therefore, the outer circle (or wheel) never has a point in stationary contact with its line. It is always skidding or slipping on its surface.

The prolate case can also be examined by first setting the y-component of the velocity equal to zero. That happens whenever the point is in either the 6 o'clock or 12 o'clock position. In this case, we are only interested in the case in which the point is at the bottom which happens whenever t = 2 * π * k, for k = 0, 1, 2, ... In that position, the horizontal component of the velocity, u = r - R which shows that the large wheel is slipping backward --- opposite the direction of motion of the center point.

As I said at the outset, this demonstration doesn't show anything beyond what was already shown by numerous graphical and mathematical methods. It merely serves to illustrate the point that using cycloids results in the same conclusion as other methods.

Darrell

 

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  • 2 months later...

Helloooo?

Just checking in. Has Merlin made any progress learning projective geometry?

Many questions and challenges on this thread remain unanswered, unmet. And some probably remain ungrasped.

Is Wikipedia still fucked up from Merlin's molestations? Heh. What a shitshow.

J

 

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One does not even need any math to resolve the paradox (explain the apparent contradiction). It was resolved at the beginning. It only takes a little thought and a discovery of the fallacious assumptions in the statement of the "contradiction." One can state things in mathematical terms afterwards, but that is not necessary. 

The thread is useful only in showing how screwed-up a mind can be, and still seem brilliant (and perhaps be such, in certain quite limited aspects).

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  • 2 months later...
On 1/16/2019 at 1:29 PM, Darrell Hougen said:

For your amusement:

Desargues_s_Theorem.gif.d4ae7302552b872a5cac4466759c7c57.gif

 

 

Hey Darrell,

I was curious if you've seen Merlin's statement about you over on a different thread:

5 hours ago, merjet said:

Your "proof" is hogwash and con art. Nobody on OL endorsed your "proof." I bet Hougen knows way more about geometry than you do. Responding to your "proof", he wrote, "To be honest, I'm not sure what you're doing above myself." Also, your con art shows no numerical distances. That by itself proves your "proof" is incorrect. Idiot, that's what's in dispute -- numerical distances.

Jonathan pretends to know something about projective geometry. Heh. "Projective geometry is an elementary non-metrical form of geometry, meaning that it is not based on a concept of distance" (link, my bold). 😄  😃

 

 

Fascinating, no?

J

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On 12/19/2018 at 1:45 AM, Jon Letendre said:

Now let's ride world-class auto racing track, High Plains Raceway, a 2.55 mile track developed and owned by a handful of Colorado car clubs.

I am in the white helmet on the same INTERCEPTOR, up ahead. We are following me onboard a modern 1050cc Triumph Speed Triple. Unlike my 750cc VFR, this bike has major power for the straights, modern wide tires, fantastic suspension.

The Triumph's sound is cleaner and a higher pitched whizzing. You can see the Triumph's rpm needle, her sound is the one going up and down with that needle. Mine is the foghorn sound.

The gauge displays mph. The long straight is only 0.65 miles long and I can consistently reach about 130mph on the old VFR once the tires are warmed up and I get in the groove.

Here I am pushing harder than on Squaw Pass, a public road. On the street, about 75-80% is my maximum. This is 90-95%. I want to keep my vintage bike, I don't want to crash, but it is acceptable to crash. There is an ambulance on site on the track days that I attend.

 

 

Clockwise ... 

Full-Course.jpg

Here is the promised footage I was shooting on the same occasion as the recording above.

I recorded this video with a GoPro camera on my 1986 VFR pointed rearward at the Triumph Speed Triple videoing from behind me.

 

 

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On 9/15/2017 at 5:20 AM, merjet said:

It doesn't satisfy me. In the math section he says "pure rotation," and his math is based on that.  "Pure rotation occurs when a body rotates about a fixed non-moving axis" (link).  Aristotle's wheel has a moving axis. In other words, there is translational motion and rotation. The author's math doesn't hold for the smaller wheel/circle, so his alleged proof is flawed. Moreover, Section 20.2 -- Constrained Motion: Translation and Rotation -- here shows mathematics for a rolling wheel. Note that it is way more complicated than the math in the alleged proof. It also uses Cartesian coordinates for the translation motion and polar coordinates for the motion about the center of the circle. The alleged proof uses only polar coordinate math!

 

 

BaalChatzaf

The AGGs called the specific type of arguments being dealt with here in these writings, RATIOS.

Where have I read that one of the AGG teachers asked of his students' homework, "Have you done your Ratios?" 

Additional to that, you bring forth a new way to state a definition for one fundamental type of Motion. The AGGs, especially Aristotle and Euclid, used two types of concepts for Motion, MOTION. and what 18th., Cent. Geometers called RECTILINEAL MOTION. To us modern geometers the older description is somewhat confusing. To the AGG the "MOTION" of "something" meant the EXISTENCE of the thing, and also the "ESSENCE" (Aris.) of the thing. In the context of the geometry of the AGGs the motion of an entity, or of a thing, meant the thing itself.

In the 18th. Cent. the term Rectilineal Motion appeared. to describe the existing thing that had particularizing attributes, hence those writers, wrote the term, Rectilineal Motion. That, to our way of thought, added an unnecessary degree of specificity to the term, Motion, that makes the term too particular for general scientific discussion. For example, not all "Motions" are Rectangular, or Lineal, and some attributes may refer to color, temperature, or to the possibility of being made into something specific.

However, "Existence" is a broad term that covers a lot of science, philosophy, and meaning. That type of "Motion" was named by an Ancient Greek word not here stated. Our modern term, "Motion" does not mean what was meant to the AGG. To understand the concept they knew we meed to use the term, "existant", or, as Ayn Rand said, "Thing". She granted that some things could be ideas, others physical existents, and some things could have still other types of attributes.   

Some things are different from other things, and they have properties and characteristics that are different from the others. 

One example of a characteristic of a selected existent may be its location relative to the locations of other things. Our modern term, that you wisely suggest, is "TRANSLATION", and that means a change of specified location from one exact place to another exact place; and the principle of the change is specified. The change may be along a straight or curved line, or may be in the same place, for example.

Given a thing having "Motion", the existing thing may also be functioning in accordance with a another principle, for example, it may be relocated from one point at the end of a straight line, to another end point at the ends of the straight line. Or, consider the circle. That is, the translation of the location of the entity on the curved line of a circle. Or it may be relocated from one position on the periphery of a circle to another point on the periphery of the circle, and the change of the location may be specified according to selected radial lines forming an angle of specified size located at the center of the circle. That is a specific or particular attribute if the thing or existent that has MOTION that is its basic attribute. 

The term you wisely suggest, TRANSLATIONAL MOTION, would refer to a particularizing attribute for the thing having basic MOTION or existence (1), and also, a particular attribute, for example, change of location (2). While Motion is the broadest possible term there may be other particular terms that may govern the functioning of the existent; and other terms may be used instead where different meanings are needed.

All things must have at least one attribute. and may have more. For example existents are existing.

The AGG's science of RATIOS is a study of the lengths and principles that govern the causes of the lengths They often used the term "Ratios" instead of "Geometry".

The basic matter of geometry is the science of Definitions. Here, the fundamentals are given by Aristotle, Pythagoras, Euclid, Eudoxus, and Archimedes. Recall that Euclid was a strict Aristotelian in his use of Logic. All of our talk may get nowhere if there is no accurate science of definitions or demonstrated examples of the items being defined. Definitions require statements, proofs, and demonstrations in word concepts and in actuality. To the AGG more explanations need not be said.

While drawing demonstrations of the principles of traditional Geometry in drawings are useful, the graphic and text puzzles are not needed. The graphics provided for this discussion topic are excellent, and they speed the comprehension of the ideas being expressed.

Thank you.

Ralph Hertle

________________________________________________________________________

B:    

"Aristotle's wheel has a moving axis. In other words, there is translational motion and rotation. "

 RH:   

I would add that, "rotation" is a form of "Translational Motion,"  that is its a particular form of existence.   RH

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On 4/18/2021 at 10:08 PM, HERTLE said:

 

BaalChatzaf

The AGGs called the specific type of arguments being dealt with here in these writings, RATIOS.

Where have I read that one of the AGG teachers asked of his students' homework, "Have you done your Ratios?" 

Additional to that, you bring forth a new way to state a definition for one fundamental type of Motion. The AGGs, especially Aristotle and Euclid, used two types of concepts for Motion, MOTION. and what 18th., Cent. Geometers called RECTILINEAL MOTION. To us modern geometers the older description is somewhat confusing. To the AGG the "MOTION" of "something" meant the EXISTENCE of the thing, and also the "ESSENCE" (Aris.) of the thing. In the context of the geometry of the AGGs the motion of an entity, or of a thing, meant the thing itself.

In the 18th. Cent. the term Rectilineal Motion appeared. to describe the existing thing that had particularizing attributes, hence those writers, wrote the term, Rectilineal Motion. That, to our way of thought, added an unnecessary degree of specificity to the term, Motion, that makes the term too particular for general scientific discussion. For example, not all "Motions" are Rectangular, or Lineal, and some attributes may refer to color, temperature, or to the possibility of being made into something specific.

However, "Existence" is a broad term that covers a lot of science, philosophy, and meaning. That type of "Motion" was named by an Ancient Greek word not here stated. Our modern term, "Motion" does not mean what was meant to the AGG. To understand the concept they knew we meed to use the term, "existant", or, as Ayn Rand said, "Thing". She granted that some things could be ideas, others physical existents, and some things could have still other types of attributes.   

Some things are different from other things, and they have properties and characteristics that are different from the others. 

One example of a characteristic of a selected existent may be its location relative to the locations of other things. Our modern term, that you wisely suggest, is "TRANSLATION", and that means a change of specified location from one exact place to another exact place; and the principle of the change is specified. The change may be along a straight or curved line, or may be in the same place, for example.

Given a thing having "Motion", the existing thing may also be functioning in accordance with a another principle, for example, it may be relocated from one point at the end of a straight line, to another end point at the ends of the straight line. Or, consider the circle. That is, the translation of the location of the entity on the curved line of a circle. Or it may be relocated from one position on the periphery of a circle to another point on the periphery of the circle, and the change of the location may be specified according to selected radial lines forming an angle of specified size located at the center of the circle. That is a specific or particular attribute if the thing or existent that has MOTION that is its basic attribute. 

The term you wisely suggest, TRANSLATIONAL MOTION, would refer to a particularizing attribute for the thing having basic MOTION or existence (1), and also, a particular attribute, for example, change of location (2). While Motion is the broadest possible term there may be other particular terms that may govern the functioning of the existent; and other terms may be used instead where different meanings are needed.

All things must have at least one attribute. and may have more. For example existents are existing.

The AGG's science of RATIOS is a study of the lengths and principles that govern the causes of the lengths They often used the term "Ratios" instead of "Geometry".

The basic matter of geometry is the science of Definitions. Here, the fundamentals are given by Aristotle, Pythagoras, Euclid, Eudoxus, and Archimedes. Recall that Euclid was a strict Aristotelian in his use of Logic. All of our talk may get nowhere if there is no accurate science of definitions or demonstrated examples of the items being defined. Definitions require statements, proofs, and demonstrations in word concepts and in actuality. To the AGG more explanations need not be said.

While drawing demonstrations of the principles of traditional Geometry in drawings are useful, the graphic and text puzzles are not needed. The graphics provided for this discussion topic are excellent, and they speed the comprehension of the ideas being expressed.

Thank you.

Ralph Hertle

________________________________________________________________________

B:    

"Aristotle's wheel has a moving axis. In other words, there is translational motion and rotation. "

 RH:   

I would add that, "rotation" is a form of "Translational Motion,"  that is its a particular form of existence.   RH

 

 

Cartesian Coordinate System

Reply to merjet:

The Cartesian Coordinate system may have claimed to have been based upon Aristotelian Logic and Euclidean Geometry, which is based on Aristotle's logic, however, we may find that the ideas of the Cartesian System are not based upon Aristotle's ideas, except for Aristotle's Logic.

The Cartesian System of geometry is borrowed from the geometry and measurement system of Pythagoras, in all of its basic premises, which is a development of a measurement system that has a three-dimensional grid centered upon the three dimensional straight lines that intersect at the origin point formed by the common center points of the lines, -X+X, -Y+Y, -Z+Z.  And...... that each of the three straight lines are copied in three +/- directions in each of three planes from the original three straight lines, at unit intervals, forming a matrix of  a selected number of adjacent cubes, each of which is one unit dimension on a side, placed in rows and planes. 

Pythagoras envisioned a greater matrix cube that was made of 10,000 times 10,000 times 10,000, times 8, unit-sized cubes. That is, that the total number of  unit cubes was equal to one Miriad cubed times 8. One Miriad units equals ten thousand units. Archimedes said when asked how many unit cubes that would be?, and also, what is the largest possible number?, and, I paraphrase, he said, "10,000 cubed times 8, and that is quite the largest number for anyone."

The so-called Cartesian Coordinate measurement system, of XYZ coordinates, is a copy of, or was handed down directly from the work of Pythagoras.

We may add, here, as additional information, that Pythagoras demonstrated as an extension of his system of measurement that a placement of a selected number of spheres, starting with radius = one unit, would start with the first sphere, and would have its origin at the center of the greater cube. Subsequent spheres of radius sizes, R=0, R=1, R=2, R=3, and so on, would be placed having the same center radius point as the greater cube.

Ralph Hertle

_________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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56 minutes ago, HERTLE said:

Reply to merjet:

Ralph,

I doubt Merlin will respond.

He can post on OL, but his posts are moderated for the time being. And so long as they are moderated, he will not post. (Which is fine from my end. I believe if people post here, that is good for OL. If people decide to stop, that is also good for OL. I only want people here who want to be here in good will and exchange value.)

This guy reached a point where all he was doing was picking fights with people. But, to be fair, sometimes intelligent posts would come through.

As time went on, his trolling became a huge distraction and general irritation. It was not even good trolling. And it was nonstop.

The more people asked him to lighten up on the bullshit, the more bullshit he poured on. So I tried to banter a bit to tone down the nastiness, but that didn't work (although, when not trolling, his style got a little better because I included some instructions on basic story concepts like set-up and payoff in my banter and he actually picked up on some of it. :) )

Then the nastiness got to the point where I had to warn him. But he kept trolling. I finally told him he would have to have his posts reviewed to weed out the trolling before they would go live.

He got offended. A friend of his got offended, too, and left. I yawned. Many on OL heaved a sight of relief. :) 

And that's his status on OL as of now. Still, I wish him well. 

If you want to interact with him, look around. He might be posting on other O-Land sites (I believe links will not be hard to find if he is). I know he runs a blog (you can get to it by clicking on most of the links on this OL thread). In fact, I recommend you take a look at his blog (in addition to being here, of course :) ). I have a feeling you will like some of the issues he posts about and his dry short manner of presenting his material.

As to Bob Kolker (BaalChatzaf), I have not heard from him in a long time. He was getting up there in age and I hope he is still with us.

Michael

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On the Fine Art of Thawing out Frozen Abstractions: an Essay in Mental Economics by Roger E. Bissell

In recent years, a certain logical fallacy has appeared in the writings of various prominent Libertarian and/or Objectivist theoreticians. It is the purpose of this essay[1] to explore the nature of this fallacy, "the fallacy of the frozen abstraction," to identify and analyze several instances of this fallacy, and to identify and validate the epistemological principle which this fallacy violates.

 Phase I: Identifying the Nature of the Genus-Species "Freeze." As defined by Ayn Rand, the fallacy of the frozen abstraction (or, in the language of Nixonomics[2], "the genus-species freeze") is a fallacy "which consists of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs."[3]  In other words, this fallacy entails the refusal to include certain members of a class in the wider class to which they belong, and instead limiting the class to one or a select few of its members. The example used by Rand in introducing this fallacy is that of many people who have been taught to view morality strictly from the altruist standpoint. They have learned to equate altruism--which is one specific ethic--with the wider, more general abstraction of "ethics." 

As a consequence, they refuse to regard egoism, hedonism, etc., as being alternative ethical systems or theories. Their concept of "morality," in other words, is frozen on the level of one of the species of morality, rather than being integrated to the higher, genus level, so as to include all of the species of morality. As one might gather, this fallacy is singularly well-suited for propagating subtle (and not-so-subtle) untruths, particularly in the realm of normative (i.e., value) considerations. In committing the frozen abstraction fallacy, a given speaker substitutes his view of what a given thing ideally should be, for the wider class of what that thing has been, is, and can or should or will be. He then defines his concept of that thing so as to exclude all non-ideal, imperfect, or bad (evil and/or harmful) examples of that thing from the concept. 

Perhaps the most fascinating historical example of this fallacy is Plato's theory of the nature of abstract ideas (Forms) themselves. Plato maintained that abstractions, or abstract ideas, actually exist apart from the concrete things in which they appear to be embodied and from the mind which seems to discover them. Abstract ideas, or Forms, exist in another, transcendental realm, separate from the world of our experience. They serve as models or patterns for the actual world and are somehow present in it. The world of our experience is merely the pale, imperfect reflection or "image" of the realities in the realm of the Forms.

Regarding these Forms (abstractions), Plato seemed torn between two quite different views. On the one hand, he felt that there must be Forms for all general terms. There must be Forms to serve as the model for every different kind of thing. There must be a perfect, ideal exemplar for each of the different types of thing existing in this imperfect, actual world. On the other hand, it was very disturbing to Plato to entertain the possibility that there might very well be Forms for such "vile and paltry" things as hair, mud, dirt, etc.[4] These are undesirable--non-ideal, in an ethical or esthetic sense--as well as being merely imperfect, as are all material existents (non-ideal in a metaphysical sense). From this, Plato concludes (in a non sequitur) that "ideal" models of the undesirable could not possibly exist. This latter view seems to be the one that prevails in Plato's writings. It is the one that exemplifies the fallacy of the frozen abstraction.[5] 

Plato's basic error is a confusion of metaphysics with ethics--more precisely, of imposing ethics upon metaphysics. He denies real existence (i.e., he denies that there is a real Form that corresponds) to those things of which he disapproves, according to his ethical or esthetic standards. He denies that there are metaphysically ideal (non-material or essential) Forms that are not also normatively ideal (good or beautiful). To admit that there were, after all, might besmirch or contaminate the "perfect, ideal" world of the Forms. 

Regardless of the motive involved, this is the basic pattern and premise of all instances of the frozen abstraction fallacy as it occurs in a normative context. The normative ideal (the good) is being equated with the epistemological ideal (the essential). In other words, what remains after one has abstracted away the evil or ugly is being equated with what remains after one has abstracted away the non-essential. In order to illustrate this point, I will now examine several instances of the fallacy as it has appeared in certain Libertarian and Objectivist writings. 

Phase II: Thawing-Out Selected Frozen Abstractions. 

Example A: The simplest of the cases analyzed here is the claim by Adam Reed that one should not refer to such pull-seekers as the "Big Four" of California railroad history or James Taggart and Orren Boyle (in Atlas Shrugged) as being "businessmen." In criticizing R. A. Childs' essay on big business-promoted statist government policies[6], Reed says:

Childs talks about organized crime, but insists on calling it "Big Business" throughout the article. Socialist slogans to the contrary, business and crime are not synonymous. A businessman is a man who earns wealth by organizing the production, distribution, and voluntary exchange of values. A man who obtains things by initiating force, either directly or through hired thugs, is properly called a criminal. A criminal is no less a criminal when he lets the taxpayers hire his thugs for him...No one who has read Atlas Shrugged would call either Taggart or Boyle a businessman. Instead, Taggart and Boyle, like the "Big Four" and others, are criminals who were afraid of competition from (real) businessmen.[7]

 Childs' reply to this criticism is right on target: By Mr. Reed's definition, there can be no such thing as a dishonest businessman (one who accepts favors from the government). this use of the term would, I submit, rob it of what modern logicians call "existential import," i.e., it might very well have no referents. I prefer to use the term as it is used by Rand and innumerable other thinkers and then to qualify the concept with adjectives like "honest," "dishonest," and so forth.[8]  

The question that remains is this: Who are "those who are conventionally called 'businessmen'"? What is the definition of the term "businessman," "as it is used by Rand and innumerable other thinkers"? I would propose the following: a businessman is a man who engages in the activity of organizing the production, distribution, and voluntary exchange of values.  With such a value-neutral definition, both dishonest or criminal businessmen and honest or non-criminal businessmen are included in the entire set of referents of the term. We then make our moral and legal distinctions between the two types. We form these distinctions by identifying why, whether, and to what extent businessmen carried out that activity coercively (by obtaining government favors, for instance) or in a laissez-faire manner.  On this basis, we can sub-categorize our concept of "businessman" and qualify it with adjectives, as Childs correctly observes. In so doing, we can avoid freezing our abstraction of "businessman" on the lower level of one of the concretes that is subsumed within it (namely, "honest businessman"). We can keep our abstraction of "businessman" thawed out, without compromising our moral condemnation or disapproval of certain of its units.

Example B: In her highly controversial essay, "The Nature of Government," Ayn Rand presented a concept of government and of what government should be that are still the focus of considerable debate. Leaving aside the question of the validity of her discussion of this subject (merely noting that I have cited her concept of 'government' as not being an example of the present fallacy), let us note what Rand says in that same essay about the concept of 'society':

"...these very benefits [knowledge and trade] indicate, delimit and define what kind of men can be of value to one another and in what kind of society: only rational, productive, independent men in a rational, productive, free society. A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment--a society that sets up a conflict between its edicts and the requirements of man's nature--is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule. Such a society destroys all the values of human coexistence, has no possible justification and represents, not a source of benefits, but the deadliest threat to man's survival."[9][emphasis added]

Observe the thinly disguised switch of definition of the concept of 'society' from social-environments-in-general to those social environments where physical force is barred from relationships among men. Rand starts with the commonly accepted meaning of 'society' that includes all social environments, whether good or evil, rational or irrational, slave or free, peaceful or warring, civilized or primitive, moral or immoral. Then she shifts to a position holding, in effect, that 'society' is synonymous with "moral, rational, productive, free society"! A slave society "is not, strictly speaking, a society," Rand maintains.

Thus, Rand, because of her understandable and justifiable hatred toward slavery and mob-rule, is drawn into freezing her abstraction of 'society' to the level of one of its species: 'moral society.' Or rather, she has shrunken it down and then frozen it. For she first allows that a slave society is a society long enough to condemn it, and on that basis then denies that it is a society. Because a slave society does not fulfill the proper, moral function of society--viz., the facilitation of knowledge and trading goods--Rand denies that it is a society at all. Thus, she freezes slave societies out of her abstraction of 'society.' Of course, the much simpler, much more rationally desirable way of mentally pigeon-holing 'slave social environment' is as one subcategory of 'society in general,' itself a value-neutral class including all social environments. We can then distinguish moral and immoral, good and evil societies by identifying whether and to what extent they uphold or fail to uphold individual rights--and we can qualify them accordingly, with the appropriate adjectives. In no way does this entail the conceptual ostracism of undesirable members of a class for what it is: an inappropriate, unnecessary way to mentally deal with them.

Example C: Lest anyone regard this as an isolated instance, attributable to "the early Rand" (c. 1963), I now present a more recent case in point, from Rand's essay, "The Age of Envy." This essay is an elaboration upon her claim that the emotional atmosphere of today's culture is one of envy or, more precisely, "hatred of the good for being the good."[10]

The experience of this emotion is possible only to a person who has sabotaged his/her cognitive development by avoiding mental effort and understanding. Such a person is instead pursuing whims and deception of others (thus freezing his/her mental functioning to the concrete level appropriate to childhood).[11] Anyone who experiences this emotion as a characteristic response to the sight of his/her values, is referred to by Rand in bitterly caustic terms as a "hater," an "inhuman object," a "creature," "it," a "hating creature," an "envious hater," a "monster."[12]

In other words, if one's basic, typical response to the sight of one's real values is hatred, one is not human, one is not a man. Yet, curiously enough, even though this assertion is stated or implied numerous times in Rand's essay, there are also certain passages in which she relents and temporarily admits these "haters" back to the human race:

"The hater of the good is the man who did not make this transition [from the perceptual level to the conceptual level]...[The hater has] as stagnant a mentality as a human being can sustain on the edge of the borderline separating passivity from psychosis...How does a human descend to such a state?"[13][emphasis added]

Similarly to her treatment of slave societies, Rand first relents long enough to condemn those human beings who are haters of the good. She then denies that they are human beings, but later lapses back into referring to them as human beings (or men), after seeming to have firmly ostracized them from the human race with such epithets as "creature," "monster," "inhuman object," and "it." (!)

As with her abstraction of 'society,' Rand has frozen her abstraction of 'man' ('human being'). She excludes from it certain men whom she considers as possessing "a quality of abysmal evil."[14] Then she fails to integrate her frozen abstraction consistently --which would be impossible anyway, with her knowledge of man's nature--instead allowing it to thaw out and expand again. (Coincidentally, this happens as her most intense expressions of moral wrath subside and scientific curiosity takes over.)[15]

Unless we choose to indulge in psychologizing and to speculate as to Rand's possible motives, we are left with a sense of confusion and uncertainty. Why does she present such a grossly inconsistent discussion of the concepts of 'man' and 'society'? Surely it would not be out of place to suggest that there is some carelessness here--a subconscious confusion of conceptualization with evaluation. It certainly appears that Rand has on occasion allowed her value-responses (i.e., her emotions) to control the way she sets up and uses her abstraction.

What, then, is the preferable policy? To conceive of and define 'man' as: the rational animal. This, of course, means not that man characteristically acts in accordance with reason, but that man has the volitional capacity to act rationally. Therefore, unless one contents that haters (and appeasers, who are even worse!) are metaphysically irredeemable, one must limit oneself to classifying them as (abysmally) evil men. Such a policy results in mental clarity, precision and objectivity--with no compromise of one's moral principles.

Example D: Next let us consider an instance of the fallacy that is considerably more complex. In his essay "Man's Standard of Value," Morris Tannehill challenges and rejects Rand's concept of "value" as "that which one acts to gain and/or keep."[16] To him, a value instead is:

...anything which is actually beneficial to human well-being, whether a man "acts to gain and/or keep" it or not. If it's conducive to human well-being, it's a value, and a man's evaluation has nothing to do with its being a value...A value, because it is necessary for human well-being, is objectively beneficial to men (e.g., fresh air is a value to man), and even an objective evaluation has nothing to do with making it a value. It's a value precisely because it objectively contributes to human well being.[17][emphasis added]

Thus, if one believes that a water supply is safe to drink and acts so as to drink it, but the water in fact is poisonous, then the water was not actually a value. One evaluated it wrongly as being a value; instead it was actually a dis-value. There is no such thing as a harmful value; there are only (to be redundant) beneficial values. So Tannehill maintains, anyway.

It is apparent from Tannehill's claim that "a man's evaluation has nothing to do with its being a value," that he regards value as being independent of consciousness. Instead something must only be actually beneficial to (objectively contribute to) human well-being, Tannehill believes. One's conscious recognition that a thing is actually beneficial to one is irrelevant to that thing's being valuable, he holds.

There is, in fact, a basic contradiction in his position, one which remains somewhat obscured by the monumental job of context-dropping he has done. The context he has dropped is precisely: how this projected benefit is to be conferred upon the recipient. That is, he has not deemed it necessary to consider whether I am to be permitted to choose an allegedly beneficial thing, or whether it is to be forced upon me. Tannehill presumes that value can be defined without reference to this question.

 Actually, the opposite is the case: value cannot be defined without reference to the issue of force vs. free choice. If something is forced upon me, it cannot truly be said to be valuable for me at all. That which negates or circumvents my capacity to choose values--my rational-volitional mind--cannot be valuable for me, cannot be proper to my life, qua rational-volitional being.

Tannehill places much emphasis upon the end, or the effect, of some existent upon a projected beneficiary. This projected beneficent effect is the basis on which he deems a thing "valuable" or "a value" to man. But let us identify that which he overlooks, a very crucial aspect of the matter: the effect upon the beneficiary of the means of acquiring the allegedly beneficial thing. The means happens to be an integral part of the end in any given human causal action sequence. In the final analysis, the means affects the beneficiary's well-being just as surely as do the projected valuable thing's attributes do themselves.

Specifically, in this case, if the means is force, the object being conferred upon the beneficiary cannot be a value to him. If he chooses the object of his own volition, however, it may very well not be a value then either. We have not yet considered what effects are entailed by choice-by-whim vs. choice-by-reason. Still, as a minimum at least, we can see that value--qua actually beneficial or objectively contributory to human well-being--cannot be independent of the beneficiary's choice.

And entailed by his choice to gain and/or keep something are his antecedent belief (correct or incorrect) that it will benefit him, and his consequent act (present or future) of gaining and/or keeping it. So, to meet Tannehill's criterion that a thing be actually beneficial to human well-being, it must at the very least be true that a man "acts to gain and/or keep" it.

Here, then, is the contradiction: from the first half of Tannehill's definition of "value" (anything actually beneficial) can be inferred a conclusion that is in direct conflict with the second half of his definition (whether sought after or not). Assuming the first half to be true, it follows that the second half cannot be.

I would further contend that the first half of the definition is incorrect, as well. It is just too narrow. "Good" is already a serviceable concept for referring to a value chosen according to a rational standard of value. It would be a wasteful error to equate it with value-in-general. Also, "objective need" is already a serviceable concept for referring to that which one actually requires for one's survival or well-being. It would, therefore, be equally un-parsimonious to limit "value" to this meaning.

It would be far more useful and far less confusing to conceive of "value" as Rand has done: to recognize that one's value may or may not be rationally chosen (good) and may or may not be in accord with one's survival requirements (objective needs). Tannehill has instead rendered the term "need" superfluous. He has frozen his abstraction of "value" to the level of those values that are actually beneficial to man. (He has done so, moreover, without even a proper understanding of the pre-condition of something's being actually beneficial.)

In so doing, Tannehill has made it necessary to add another term to apply to the specific case where one believes something to be valuable, chooses it as a value-goal, and acts to gain and/or keep it. The term his wife, Linda, proposed for this purpose--"evalue"--is defined as: "That which one believes, rightly or wrongly, to be a value."[18]

Note how the Tannehills have substituted their notions of "value" and "evalue" for Rand's concepts of "objective need" and "value," respectively:

value[Tannehill] = that which can actually be beneficial to one's well-being = objective need[Rand] evalue[Tannehill] = that which one believes, rightly or wrongly, to be a value = that which one acts to gain and/or keep = value[Rand]

By this move, however, the Tannehill's have failed to explain more than--let alone to be as clear and precise as--Rand with her concepts of "objective need" and "value." It would seem that part of the motivation behind their conceiving of "value" in this way is to deny that evil, irrational, life-destroying values (by Rand's definition of the term) are actually values. But it solves no epistemological problems and wins no moral battles to try to purge the unsavory units from one's concepts and to coin new concepts into which to dump them.

A subdivision of the original concept of "value," qualified by appropriate adjectives, would suffice--and it would avoid the unnecessary proliferation of concepts. To be somewhat rhetorical: surely anyone agreeing with Rand's epistemological "razor"--"concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity...nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity"[19]--can see that this is true.

Example E: The fifth case I wish to discuss is actually not an instance of the frozen abstraction fallacy. It is so widely misunderstood among Libertarians and Objectivists, however, that it may readily be inferred as being one. I refer to the interpretation given by Tibor R. Machan to Rand's concept of "government."

In her essay "The Nature of Government," Rand makes two statements about government that give the appearance of being definitions: A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.

A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control--i.e. under objectively defined laws. [20][emphasis in original]

There are three distinct, different interpretations given to this latter, emphasized statement. First, there is the interpretation that Machan and I hold, which is strictly a literal one.[21] We hold that Rand is making a statement about all government and that the phrase, "the means of placing" literally means: "can be used to place" and not: "is always used to place." We hold that Rand is asserting a truth about all governments, in terms of their fundamental capacity as a human tool or instrumentality--i.e. in terms of the original, standard, proper function and purpose for which they were created.

Secondly, there is the radically non-literal interpretation given to it by some limited governmentalists (e.g., Charles Jackson Wheeler).[22] They hold that Rand is actually talking only about actually proper governments, not all governments. They interpret the phrase "the means of placing" non-literally as: is always or for the most part used to place.

Both the first and second interpretations are based upon what their proponents believe to be the context of Rand's italicized statement. The dispute between them has not yet been resolved, but its ultimate outcome is not crucial to the present discussion. I merely make note of these alternative views in order to contrast them with the third view of Rand's statement.

The third interpretation is the moderately non-literal view held by the anarchists Ronn Neff and Louis A. Rollins. In criticizing Machan's view, they raised objections that seem, at least prima facie, to be unanswerable. For instance, Rollins has maintained that:

...an implication of Machan's view, in the context of today's world, is that there are no governments in existence...the institutions generally called "governments" (such as "the U.S. federal government") cannot realistically be viewed as means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective controls since they act so as to prohibit any protection from and retaliation against their own coercive laws.[23][emphasis added]

Neff has similarly stated that:

Nothing called a government has ever been a means of placing the use of retaliatory force under objective control. On the contrary, every government has always been a means by which some have oppressed others. It does not matter what governments may have been established to do, or were hoped to do; every government has been a means of oppression, not protection.[24][emphasis added]

As serious as these objections appear to be, however, they both contain a subtle but crucially important flaw. Although Rollins and Neff take Rand's statement as applying to all governments, they completely fail to grasp the interpretation of the phrase "the means of placing" that such a view necessitates. Instead, they regard it as meaning "is always or for the most part used to place." The consequently view Rand's italicized statement as inapplicable to all cases.

Rollins and Neff fail to recognize that there is an ambiguity in the phrase "the means of placing," just as there is in the phrase "the rational animal." Thus, their position is like that of someone who claims that the statement, "Man is a rational animal" cannot apply to all human beings, because not all human beings have actually been rational ("always or for the most part").

Clearly, this position is untenable. The phrase "the rational animal" can be interpreted to make that statement applicable to all human beings, if by "rational" we designate the capacity to be rational (which may or may not be actualized, and to a greater or lesser extent, by all human beings). The same is true for Rand's statement about government and the particular phrase in question.

But what if we were to assume that Rollins' and Neff's view of this statement was correct? We would then have to believe that Rand (or at least Machan, in his interpretation of her) is committing the frozen abstraction fallacy. That is, Rand would appear to be excluding all historically existing governments from the concept of "government," since not one of them has always (or for the most part) placed retaliatory force under objective control.

Since this view is invalid, of course, Rand and Machan do not actually commit the frozen abstraction fallacy. Yet, due to the fact that Neff's and Rollins' arguments have (until now) not been effectively refuted, there is some likelihood that other astute readers of this essay might have drawn the conclusion that a fallacy was committed. It is because of the current widespread confusion and misunderstanding on this issue that I have included the foregoing along with the bona fide instances of the fallacy that preceded it. Now no one will be able to confuse matters further in this issue by wrongly applying the frozen abstraction argument to Rand's view of government.

Example F: Finally, I will briefly note another non-instance of the frozen abstraction fallacy, which involves Rand's concept of "art." Her refusal to include abstract art within the class of art-in-general[25] gives at least a strong appearance of being an instance of the fallacy.

But once we look upon art (and language) as having been originated in order to serve a certain proper purpose and function--viz., as a symbolic tool of cognitive integration of certain aspects of reality--her stand on "abstract art" no longer seems fallacious. That is, if a given artistic (or linguistic) form does not and cannot fulfill that standard, proper function and purpose (viz., cognitive integration), then it is non- functional (viz., cognitively non-integrative).

And if one attempts to regard it as functional in that respect (or if one intends it to be regarded by another as thusly functional), then it has (or is intended to have) a dysfunctional effect--viz., a cognitively disintegrative effect. These facts I presume to be the basis of the labels "anti-art" and "anti-concept" that Rand has used in her esthetic and epistemological writings.[26]

 In this connection, I refer the reader to my essay "To Catch a Thief," which deals with the stolen concept fallacy and the Cretan Liar Paradox.[27] There I claimed that anyone stating one of the meaningless reformulations of that Paradox was not (as Ronn Neff claimed)[28] himself stealing the concepts "true" and "false," unless he also explicitly attributed truth or falsity to that meaningless statement.  Subsequently, I have concluded[29] that such a reformulator was doing something much more subtle and much worse: by employing an anti-sentence or meaningless sentence, such as "This sentence is false," such a person is encouraging others to commit the stolen concept fallacy. Accepting in good faith his pretense at meaningful communication, they either agree that it is false (which it is not)--or they instead object that it is true (which it is not, either).

 The principle that they all unsuspectingly fail to apply here is this: since both truth and falsity presuppose meaningfulness, an anti- sentence (i.e., a meaningless sentence) can be neither true nor false.  Yet, Neff maintained that such a meaningless utterance did admit of truth or falsity. All that he succeeded in establishing, however, is that if it does imply another statement about itself being true or false, then that statement--not the Liar's utterance--is the one which is true or false.  In other words, suppose we grant Neff's assumption that (a) "This sentence is false" implies (b) "Sentence (a) is either true or false." We must then logically conclude that: sentence (b) is obviously itself false, since sentence (a) is meaningless and can be neither true nor false.

 It was Neff's failure to grasp this fact that led me to reply as I did. Suffice it to say in the present context that the utterance "This sentence is false," is actually not a sentence at all, since the apparent subject-term is not actually a subject-term (there being no actual sentence it refers to at the time when it tries to refer to one). Rather, it is an "anti-sentence," just as abstract art is rightly classified as "anti-art." And classifying them in this manner does not commit the frozen abstraction fallacy.

 Phase III. Mental Economics and the Frozen Abstraction Fallacy.

 As I stated earlier, there is a basic pattern present in all instances of the frozen abstraction fallacy in discussions of normative issues. It is the confusion of the desirable with the distinctive, i.e., the confusion of the good with the essential.

 In the preceding examples I have just "thawed out", the writers attempted to substitute what remained after they had mentally separated the evil members of a given class for what remained after they had mentally separated those existents not possessing the essential characteristic of members of that class. That is, each of them abandoned a value-neutral epistemological criterion and substituted for it a normative (viz., a moral) criterion in setting up their various abstractions. Thus, they conceptually ostracized the evil, undesirable members of a broader class and formed a new abstraction with which to mentally retain them.

 But what of the essential similarities between members of the newly abstracted class and the members of the class from which they were ostracized? Leaving aside their moral or normative differences, are they not all similar in one essential respect? If so, what of the wider class to which they all belong, by virtue of that respect?

 In none of the examples above is such a wider class specified (at least, not non- ambiguously). Yet, clarity and integrability of mental contents would seem to demand one. And in fact, this wider class is the original class which was shrunken and frozen so as to contain only its good members.

 Thus, nothing has been gained either epistemologically or morally from such a policy. On the contrary, the relation between the good and bad existents is rendered less clear and simple as when they are regarded as qualified instances of a common wider class.

 Such a loss in mental economy and clarity is inevitably the result whenever people fail to define their concepts in terms of essentials. Using a moral criterion as one's differentia is merely one example of such a failure. The frozen abstraction fallacy, in other words, is a violation of the principle of unit-economy, which is the necessary basis of definition by essentials. In committing this fallacy, one has to evade, ignore, or omit the essential similarities between a group of existents. One then multiplies the number of abstractions or concepts that one must form in order to retain all those existents--when a nice, neat conceptual subdivision would have been so much more economical.

 Thus, another way of stating the problem is this: the fallacy of the frozen abstraction entails a violation of one of Rand's epistemological razors: "...concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity...nor are they to be integrated in disregard of necessity."[30] As we can see, this is actually a double-edged razor, but only the first half of it applies in this context, the principle better known historically as Ockham's Razor or the Law of Parsimony. 

The Law of Parsimony and its base, the principle of unit-economy, are not arbitrary, subjective criteria for conceptualization, true merely "because we never allow them to be otherwise," based purely upon traditional practice. On the contrary, they are objectively valid for all human beings, just as are corresponding normative principles in the domains of ethics, politics/law, and esthetics. And they are so because, as are the other principles, they are based upon the requirements of man's survival qua rational being.

 More specifically, they are based upon the requirements of cognition (man's basic means of survival).[31] They are the guiding principles of man's conceptual faculty, helping him to condense his knowledge:  

"...the range of what man can hold in the focus of his conscious awareness at any given moment is limited. The essence, therefore, of man's incomparable cognitive power is the ability to reduce a vast amount of information to a minimal number of units--which is the task performed by his conceptual faculty...Conceptualization is a method of expanding man's consciousness by reducing the number of its content's units."[32]

These principles are the proper principles of mental economy, of maximizing the cognitive gains of one's mental effort, of maximizing one's cognitive efficiency. They are the means of "freeing man's mind to pursue further, more complex knowledge."[33] The frozen abstraction fallacy, by contrast, is a very wasteful, unparsimonious policy of mental economy. It serves only to freeze the human mind.

To pursue the analogy further, the frozen abstraction fallacy entails a sort of moralistic "intervention" into one's conceptual hierarchy. One is allowing one's ethical considerations to distort the conceptual mechanism's workings. What is needed instead, in this context, is a careful "separation of epistemology and morality."

For it is only when one ceases the moralistic controls over one's genuses and species and allows them to function freely, according to the natural laws of mental economy that one can avoid the harmful effects of what we might call "conceptual inflation." In the combined words of Descartes and Legendre--which I have integrated in view of the requirements of epigrammaticism and in disregard of the protestations of linguistic purists (!)--the proper principle of mental economy is: Cogito, ergo... Laissez-nous faire!

To conclude: morality may properly offer the service of providing the standard for validating epistemological principles, but it may not presume to legislate reality in and out of existence. Reality is objective and exists independently of one's consciousness of it. It can neither be created nor destroyed merely by one's moral approval or condemnation. "Wishing will not make it so"--not even the special brand of wishful thinking known as freezing one's abstractions.[34]

Endnotes

 [1] This essay, first published in 1973 in Equitas (a publication connected with a 1970s Midwest organization called Equitarian Associates) is organized around identifications I made during March and April of 1971. The identifications concern Ayn Rand's concept of 'society', Tibor Machan's view of government, and Morris Tannehill's view of value--all of which I believed at the time to be based upon a common fallacy. The essential nature of this fallacy became clear to me when I discovered the paradigm instance of it: Plato's theory of the Forms. This discovery was a byproduct of discussions I had with Douglas Rasmussen while we were attending a course on Plato at the University of Iowa. I then discovered it was Ayn Rand who gave a name and definition to this fallacy. It is because of this, as well as her identification of the principle of unit-economy (of which this fallacy is in violation), that I dedicate this essay to Miss Rand. Despite the irony of her committing the fallacy at least twice herself, her identification of it is a significant milestone in the understanding of how to properly form normative concepts.

[2] "Nixonomics" is the term that originated during the first presidential administration of Richard M. Nixon. It was used by economists, journalists, etc., to refer to his economic policy of wage-price controls, which included a temporary, so-called "freeze."

[3] Ayn Rand, "Collectivized Ethics," The Virtue of Selfishness, New York: Signet, 1964, p. 81.

[4] 1997 note: It is ironic, in this connection, that Rand, Peikoff, and others selectively deny the label "entity" to things such as clouds, rivers, and piles of dirt. E.g., Rand, in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (2nd ed.) said whereas a mountain was an entity, a pile of dirt would not be an entity, unless it had glue poured into it so that it was welded together and that there were actions possible to it as a whole. (pp. 268, 273). But as Rand herself said shortly thereafter (p. 277), materials (including dirt, let it be noted) do not belong to "a separate metaphysical category, because materials cannot exist except in the form of entities of some kind, nor can entities exist without materials. That is, physical entities. Matter is what all physical entities have in common, and "the things which we call physical entities are all made of some kind of material. But you can't consider one without the other." Thus, glued-welded or not, a pile of dirt must be an entity. It may not have all of the same actions possible to it, but surely some actions are possible to it. As Aristotle said--and as Rand, Peikoff, Kelley, and every sane person, Objectivist or otherwise, concurs--there is no such thing as an attribute apart from an entity that has that attribute. There is no cloud that does not have a shape, no river that does not have a length, no pile of sand that does not have a color. Ergo, these are all entities, and Rand et al, in denying that they are, are guilty of the fallacy of the frozen abstraction. Shades of Socrates!

[5] Plato, Parmenides. 1997 note: in a recent email, a college professor who for the time being will remain anonymous sent the following interesting comments. (Also see note 34 below.) (For several months prior to posting this essay on my website, I made repeated attempts to ask this gentleman whether I could refer to him by name. He finally said he had no recollection of the discussion, after which I emailed him a copy of this essay, with his appended remarks. As of May 19, 1998, that was over a month ago, and so far no further response. If he changes his mind after seeing this posting on the Internet, I will be happy to give replace the anonymous citation with his real name. In the meantime, I am happy to include his excellent comments.)

Professor Anonymous: I would like to say something to vindicate Plato because I think one really needs to be careful about what one asserts he believed there were Forms for. Roger cites Parmenides 130, which indicates to him that Plato did not have Forms for mud, hair and other "undignified and trivial objects." I think it is fairly clear that at least in one stage of his career, Plato did not believe in these. But the reasoning that Roger is using is Parmenides', not Socrates', who says something quite different: that he sees no reason for having Forms for mud and hair because "these things are just the things we see." His point is that mud is not an opposite, nor is hair. Plato believed in Forms for opposites throughout the Middle Dialogue period--large, small, beautiful, good, justice, etc. (His reasons for having mostly positive Forms have to do more with ontological parsimony than anything else, and he does not believe that genera defined negatively are legitimate--see the Phaedo 103 or so.) In the middle dialogues, you never see a Form for Horse. His reason is that you don't need a Form as paradigm example of horsehood, since prime examples are all around us. At Republic 523-5, he makes this very clear in the case of fingers--they are just what we see them to be. But large is not just what we see it to be--whatever we see to be large (in comparison with one thing) is also small (in comparison with something else). Without a paradigm for Largeness which is in no way small (the Form the Large), one would not be able to distinguish large from small, so a Form is required here. Roger also mentions Republic 595 or so where Socrates says they have been in the habit of postulating a Form for each general class, and then argues that the Form the Bed is one. One needs to be careful here since Plato notoriously believed that reality comes sorted and that there are Forms for only natural kinds. G.E.L. Owen and his followers would argue that Book X of the Republic belongs to a somewhat later development in the Theory of Forms--one in which the Timaeus was written. In the Timaeus, there seem to be Forms for horse and every other natural kind. The reason, Owen thought, is a new emphasis in Plato on the idea that everything is in a flux, and individual horses now fall short of perfect Horsehood because they are in time and move from non-horsehood to horsehood and vice-versa. That is, there is a move on Plato's part to assimilate horse with true blue opposite qualities like large or beautiful. In no part of Plato's dialogues does one find any evidence of a move from what ought to be to what is in support of the Theory of Forms. Undoubtedly, Plato was motivated to conceive of the world of the Forms as a perfect one, but this should not be construed as some kind of simple fallacy"

Bissell: Professor Anonymous' comments are very interesting, and I really can't dispute any of his points. I am not so interested these days in playing "pin the tail on Plato" as I was 25 (!) years ago. If I ever decide to submit the essay somewhere for publication (beyond casual computer diskette/Internet sharing), I will find his detailed analysis very helpful in making sure that I do not perpetrate any injustices in the process. My main concern is to establish that this really is a fallacy of thought and argumentation--and to pull the covers of those who try to use it. As long-time friend Milo Schield, a professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis (and founder of Equitarian Associates) recently said in an email: "My interest is in identifying common errors in argumentation so I can do a better job of teaching critical thinking. I think that converting a descriptive term into a normative term is a most convenient way of hiding a very disputable claim inside a fairly non- disputable claim. Alternatively, it is critical to know whether a term is descriptive or normative. Obfuscating on this distinction is the doorway to conceptual anarchy." I couldn't agree more.

 [34] 1997 note: In recent email correspondence, the aforementioned Professor Anonymous made the following additional comments, to which my replies are indicated. (Also see Note 5 above.)

Professor Anonymous: On the matter of frozen abstraction, the Rand examples clarified what you meant better than the others.

Bissell: I'm glad that the Rand examples were helpful. There were several more by various writers that I used in the original, longer version [also included in the present version], but I thought these would be clearest and most provocative of discussion.

Professor Anonymous: I think that the examples could be an instance of a fallacy of a sort, but I think some further clarification is necessary and I have some concerns. First of all, the kinds of argument which concern you typically involve terms like "society", "work of art", "ethics", "moral" which are "thick"--they are both descriptive and normative. It is not an easy task to separate out the descriptive and normative uses of these terms, since they seem to be logically tied together. Some of the things you say seem to indicate that you think these can be untied. Perhaps, but this matter is probably complex and needs spelling out.

Bissell: There seem to be two main categories of things that the fallacy attaches to. One is categories pertaining to people and kinds of people (e.g., businessman, as one example had it). The other is categories pertaining to human products, including society, government, art, jazz, etc. (I was once treated to a colleague saying that only so-and-so was a real jazz trombonist, no one else. He later admitted that he was only trying to rankle me.) Now, each of these kinds of things is what it is, apart from whether or not anyone does (or should) approve of it. And the core of what it is seems closely tied to its "natural function." (Admittedly, a controversial term itself.) E.g., if a businessman engages in productive enterprise and steals patents from competitors, he is a criminal businessman. If a man steals goods from someone else who produces/owns them and sells them to another person, he is not a businessman but a criminal, pure and simple. (By definition, fencing stolen goods is a crime, not an enterprise.)

Professor Anonymous: Secondly, there does seem to be a dual use of such terms--one more honorific than another. When someone says "That's not art!" concerning an abstract piece in a gallery, he/she could mean that it is not great art, art in the strictest and most perfect form. Such a judgment might mean that it is art in a looser sense, but not good art.

Bissell: I agree that someone could mean that by saying "that's not art." But I'm not as interested in colloquial speech patterns per se, as I am by actual deliberate attempts to intimidate/persuade by the use of such patterns. If I say to my spouse that she is "great kisser," I obviously do not mean that she is a monumental kisser, as in "one of the great kissers of history" or "one of the greatest kissers in the world." (How would I know such a thing!?) What I mean is that I really enjoy her kisses a lot! And that is a perfectly innocent example of technically inaccurate speech, just like the example above. On the other hand, if some morning she gave me a perfunctory peck on the cheek, and I complained, "Hey, that wasn't a real kiss!," again I'm admittedly not speaking literally, but instead grousing that I didn't like the kiss. But unless you want to claim that I'm using it as a form of argument to get her to pony up a "real" kiss, it is not an example of the Frozen Abstraction fallacy. It's just loose talk. But this kind of conversational casualness does not exhaust the ways in which such honorifics (or anti-honorifics) are used!

Professor Anonymous: I don't see that any fallacy need be involved here so long as one keeps track of exactly what one is saying. And I don't see any evidence that you give that Miss Rand confused ascribing "society" in a stricter, more honorific sense with a broader one. (Nor do I see that I am committing a fallacy when I replace my clunker with a new automobile and say, "Now this is a real car!")

Bissell: I agree with your point here. What makes it a fallacy, as opposed to vernacular, is the intent. If the intent is to persuade the listener not that you really love or hate something, but that the thing should be worshipped or ostracized--socially or cognitively--then there is a fallacy going on. I see it as a major fallacy behind snobbery and prejudice. It is an attempt to persuade, in lieu of a substantive argument. As for Rand's usage, I disagree with you. She is so emotional and carried away with her feelings of animosity that she rapidly flips back and forth between the two usages of "man" in "The Age of Envy." If she is not really out of control, then she is apparently trying to sway the reader by the vehemence of her argument, which amounts to a form of intimidation coupled with a form of bait-and-switch. "I'm going to talk to you about certain men (homo sapiens) who are so bad that they don't deserve to be considered men along with the rest of us decent folks. But since they are men, we'll keep calling them men from time to time, interspersing it with slapping them around by saying they aren't men." This is the meaning I get out of Rand's comments about "haters." I admit that it's more intense than most instances of the fallacy, but that is what sensitized me to the fallacy in its more restrained occurrences.

FROZEN ABSTRACTION FALLACY COMES HOME TO ROOST! Leading Objectivists Commit Ancient Platonic Gaffe originally distributed 9/05/96 by Roger E. Bissell, roving reporter for the Independent Objectivist Network (ION)

About 30 years ago, Ayn Rand identified the Frozen Abstraction Fallacy, which consists of denying membership" in a conceptual category to certain things of which one disapproves (whether morally,

esthetically, or whatever). E.g., an altruist saying that egoism or "selfishness" is not a morality. (Or vice versa, of course.) In 1971, I wrote an essay called "On the Fine Art of Thawing Out Frozen Abstractions, an Essay in Mental Economics," which was published in EQUITAS, the journal of a midwest Objectivist/libertarian group, Equitarian Associates. This essay is now available on my web site at, Additional essays on the fallacy will be posted after the New Year.

In the meantime, it has occurred to me that Rand, Peikoff, and others who selectively deny the label "entity" to things such as clouds, rivers, and piles of dirt, have committed this fallacy. Historically, a very similar commission--perhaps the earliest extant example--was made by Plato (I don't recall which dialogue, off the top of my head). Compare: Socrates: There is no Idea of, or Form for, mud. Rand et al: A cloud or a pile of sand or a river is not an entity.

Yet, as Aristotle said--and as Rand, Peikoff, Kelley, and every sane person, Objectivist or otherwise, concurs--there is no such thing as an attribute apart from an entity that has that attribute. Now, have you ever seen a cloud that did not have a shape? Or a river that did not have a length? Or a pile of sand that did not have a color? Me either. Ergo, these are all entities, and Rand et al, in denying that they are, are guilty of the Fallacy of the Frozen Abstraction. Holy Platonism! Best to all, and to all a good night! Roger Bissell

Despite his invocation of the spirit of the "Saturday Night Live" skit in which male prostitute Fred Garvin (Dan Akroyd) has been given instructions to "roundly Roger" his client/victim, Jason Alexander appears to begin so appreciatively of my work:

 > I am obliged to Roger for calling attention to "the fallacy of the frozen  abstraction." If I had once learned it, I had forgotten about it. For any  similarly situated, it consists "...of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs" He cites as  Rand's example: "that of many people who have been taught to view morality strictly from the altruist standpoint. They have learned to equate altruism -- which is one specific ethic--with the wider, more general abstraction of 'ethics.'" Good point; powerful example, the  working out of which probably exposed the fallacy.

Yes, that example makes the point extremely powerfully, all right. But the principle behind the recognition of the fallacy is a two-edged sword. And while Objectivists typically do seem to appreciate its help in legitimizing their moral position vis a vis altruists, they are often not appropriately generous in extending the same logical and moral consideration to their opponents. (E.g., since altruism is an anti-life morality, it must "really" not be a morality at all, since the purpose of morality is to help people to live -- so the typical naive Objectivist reasons in committing the frozen abstraction fallacy in the reverse direction to Rand's original example.) Realizing the existence of this double standard is one the chief factors that motivated me to write about the fallacy in the first place in 1973. And I'm in the dark as to who else, if ~anyone~, has bothered to write about this fallacy since Rand's original mention of it in 1963.

 > Roger's critical failure springs from his "in other words" interpretation:

 > "this fallacy entails the refusal to include certain members of a class  in the wider class to which they belong...."

Even if Rand's statement were correct as it stands, Jason has in no way shown how any kind of "critical failure" on my part stems from my restatement of Rand's words. He has merely asserted that he did not like my examples. Further, is it not in fact ~true~ that if you substitute some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs (Rand's words) that you do ~in fact~ refuse to include certain other members in the wider class to which they belong?? The only glitch in my discussion, which I intend to repair in this post, is over ~how many~ other members of the wider class are excluded by one's freezing an abstraction, and how many are ~retained~. Rand's own rudimentary treatment barely broaches the subject, and is somewhat misleading as stated. More below....

> Before we see what havoc this translation wrecks, it is well to  remember that Rand was a consummate wordsmith. If she could  have said it better, she would have. If Roger's rewriting were better,  she would have written it in the first place.  This isn't blind admiration, it's something that had to be learned  over the years. I've tried many reformulations myself, only to learn  that there was a reason she used the right words, in the right places,  in the first (published) place.

Jason never shows evidence of "havoc" wrecked (i.e., wreaked) by my "translation" of Rand's faulty definition. (I call it a definition, although it might equally well be called simply a statement about ~some~ cases of the fallacy. Rand has a track record of making statements, often italicized, that ~appear~ to be definitions and later excoriating her loyal supporters for speaking as if they were.

The classic case is of Leonard Peikoff being blistered by Rand for referring to her statement "life is a process of &c..." as her definition of "life." But that's another discussion!)

And yes, it is ~good~ (not "well") to remember that Rand was a consummate wordsmith. But verbally "consummate" is ~not~ equivalent to epistemically ~infallible~. And it is not true that because Rand ~did not~ say it differently, let alone "better," that she ~could not have~ and ~would not have wanted to~, had she given the issue more thought. There is no evidence I am aware of that she ever ~did~ consider the issue again, after her initial cursory ~mention~ of it in her 1963 essay on "Collectivized Ethics." And that's a shame, considering how much confusion there is regarding a number of normative concepts, and how much of a tendency there is to slip into frozen abstraction thinking about them.

Contrast that with the fact that Rand ~did~ reconsider certain definitions, such as her definitions of "art" and "reason," at the urging of people such as Nhaniel Branden. Her original definition of "reason" in ~Atlas Shrugged~ included the word "perceives," while her revision several years later dropped it.

Her definition of "art" went through at least two revisions between 1958 and 1965. In each case, she was re-working definitions of ~high profile~ concepts, quite unlike her obscure mention of the frozen abstraction fallacy.

Make no mistake about it: while Rand's discovery of the frozen abstraction fallacy is a real ~gem~ of philosophical thinking, it is not a ~perfect~ gem. It is a "diamond in the rough," and it needs some refinement to do the best job it can for us. And while I would hope that Rand would approve of the modifications I am offering to her idea, ultimately it is ~reality~ that determines the correctness of my suggestions, not the hypothesized wishes of Rand or the fastidious narrow-mindedness of her puristic followers who think she said nothing wrong and cannot be improved upon.

> The phrase "substituting some one particular concrete for the wider  abstract class..." is unequal to the phrase "refusal to include certain  members...." In the first, the fallacy is refusal to admit anything else.

 > In the second, the class is not denied, but declared faulty.

This is a badly tangled mis-statement of fact. In each case, the wider class is ~nominally~ accepted, but less than all of its members are accepted. In the former case (Rand's example), ~only one~ of its members is accepted. In the latter case (my wider range of examples), ~one or more, but not all~ of its members are accepted. This is the crux of the modification or redefinition I am proposing for the frozen abstraction fallacy. To help see it more clearly, let's take a step back and consider the difference between valid abstractions, floating abstractions, and frozen abstractions (Rand's and/or my variants).

           ~~Abstractions -- Valid, Floating, and Frozen~~

A frozen abstraction doesn't include ~all~ of the concretes that its valid counterpart would include, but instead "freezes" itself to some lesser group of those concretes. In Ayn Rand's original example, the frozen abstraction (MORALITY = altruism) "froze" itself to only ~one~ of the concretes. (The altruist who says that egoism is not morality, and that only a doctrine that advocates sacrifice of self to others is a morality, is failing to subsume all the other concrete moralities than altruism under his abstraction for morality. See Rand in "Collectivized Ethics.")

"Frozen," in Rand's original conception, thus means (for example) that the abstraction "morality" omits all other moralities and fixates on one to the exclusion of all others. So (to offer another example),  Objectivism would be the only morality and Christianity, Hinduism, Atheism,Utilitarianism, Hedonism, etc. would not be moralities.

A floating abstraction, by contrast, is one that has not been anchored ~at all~ to lower level abstractions or concretes, but instead is part of a free-floating spider web of ideas. In that respect, it fails to subsume ~any~ of the concretes or lower level abstractions under it that its valid counterpart would subsume.

The essential motivation in freezing abstractions is what I have called "conceptual chauvinism." The desire is to freeze out perhaps one, perhaps more than one, of one's opponents or enemies or competitors. The example Rand gave was of altruism vs. egoism, very simplified in order to get the point across. But the definition suffered as a result. Thus, the implication is that if ~more than two~ competitors are involved, the abstraction is frozen on the (relatively more) concrete level to only one's own favorite, thus freezing out ~all~ of one's competitors -- as in the example above. However, it need not work that way.

Morality as a "frozen abstraction" can instead ~subsume~ numerous specific moralities, such as Objectivism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Atheism, Bundyism, and all the others, while excluding~ only one, such as the morality of Utilitarianism. Here we see an example of a frozen abstraction that is ~frozen at~, or fixated upon, not just one concrete, but (perhaps) ~dozens~ -- and that is ~freezing out~ not dozens, but only ~one~.

This is a frozen abstraction rather than a floating abstraction, because it's still tethered to an ultimate ground in perceptual reality. However, it's not grounded in a way that is non-contradictory, since it deliberately cuts itself off from part of its grounding, the very real morality of Utilitarianism. It would be an error to regard an abstraction that a person fails or refuses to connect to one or more of its concretes as being a floating abstraction. "Floating" doesn't mean partially unconnected, but completely unconnected. The kind of abstraction that is partially tethered to reality ~does~ need to be recognized as a distinct category, both from abstractions that are completely untethered and those that are completely tethered.

Since the second example above, in which one freezes out ~only~ one's least favorite concrete, is essentially similar to the first case, in which one freezes out all concretes ~but~ one's favorite, we can use the same term to refer to each case -- as well as any cases in between. The motivation is similar in all cases, conceptual chauvinism.

Consider the divide-and-conquer approach of a crafty Fundamentalist Christian. He thinks all other people are going to Hell, but he wisely would begin by getting together with other theists and saying that all atheists are going to Hell. Then he'd get together with other Christians and say all non-Christian theists are going to Hell, too. Then he'd get together with all Protestants and say all Catholic and Greek Orthodox

Christians are going to Hell, too. Etc., until he's finally shown his true colors and frozen virtually everybody but his own little cult out of the concept of (?) "heaven-bound." There is a whole continuum of conceptual chauvinism he can employ, on an opportunistic, pragmatic basis, to stomp down his rivals and enemies, in whatever way gives him the most effectiveness at any given time. (This is not intended to single out Fundamentalist Christians, or theists in general. There are Objectivists and other atheists who would employ a graduated, situational approach to condemning various groups of theists, according to how relatively intolerable they were.)

Again, by "floating" is meant unconnected to reality, untied to a ground in perceptual level facts. Like a hot air balloon all of whose tethers to the ground have been cut loose and is now drifting away into the wild blue yonder. If it still has some of its tethers attached to the ground, it is not floating (free), but still connected to reality. However, it does not have ~all~ of its tethers attached. Its connection to the ground is "frozen" to (improperly fixated upon) those of its tethers that ~are~ still attached, and the tethers that have been cut loose have been "frozen out" of the ground-connection relation.

Freezing is a deliberately less than complete tie to reality. Floating is an all or nothing matter. Either an abstraction is cut loose from reality completely, or it retains some tie, more or less. Thus, non-floating may be either frozen (more or less) or completely connected (within the context of knowledge). This gives us a jointly exhaustive and mutually exclusive set of three concepts for describing the degree of connection to reality of a given person's abstraction.

Rand's concept of "frozen abstraction," as it stands in her essay, and the concept of "floating abstraction, only account for inappropriately formed abstractions with one of the relevant, known concretes included and with none of the relevant, known concretes included. This leaves no way of accounting for an inappropriately formed abstraction that includes, say, all but one of the relevant known concretes. For this reason, I strongly urge that Rand's concept of "frozen abstraction" be modified so that it is understood as referring to the freezing of an abstraction to the level of some (one or more, but not all) of its concrete instances. This gives us a very useful ALL--SOME—NONE partition between abstractions that are valid (connected to all known instances), frozen (connected only to some [not all] known instances), and floating (unconnected to known instances).

On this basis, I would offer the following (re)definition of Rand's fallacy of the frozen abstraction: the substituting of some one or more particular concretes for the wider class to which they belong. And with that, my glitch and Rand's inadequate definition have been repaired, and I will incorporate these new developments into the growing body of material I am compiling for a book on the subject. (And thanks to Gayle Dean for her helpful suggestions. She is absolved of all responsibility for the use I have made of them in this post. :-) 

                       ~~Additional Thoughts~~

The frozen abstraction fallacy is, as Rand clearly explained and illustrated, not the ~foregoing~ of a wider genus because it is contextually irrelevant, but the claim that there is ~no~wider genus -- or, at least, that one or more of the wider genus's members "aren't really" members. The problem in the frozen abstraction fallacy is ~NOT~ fundamentally the failure to generalize, as Jason seems to suggest, but rather THE FAILURE TO SUBSUME THE UNITS ONE ~DISAPPROVES OF~UNDER THE GENERALIZATIONS ONE ~DOES~ MAKE.

Many altruists who look down their noses at egoism as some form of non-morality (or immorality) are guilty as sin of this emotionally-driven epistemological error. Rand's contribution to the discussion of the fallacy she identified was to point out this glaring error, and it was one of the things that, early on, solidified my attraction to Objectivism -- that people will not be allowed to employ an epistemological caste system as a cheap cop-out in lieu of genuine intellectual engagement with the views of their opponents and enemies. Imagine my great surprise and ~dismay~ to find very soon after (about 1971) that Objectivists were ~egregious~ offenders in this regard. And still are, unfortunately. (Present company excepted I would hope? :-) 

Best to all, Roger Bissell

From: AchillesRB@aol.com To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Rand is Rogered Date: Thu, 4 Jan 2001 02:29:26 EST Jason Alexander served up a largely impressionistic stew of insults to me and complaints about my internet essay on Rand's frozen abstraction fallacy and my most recent Atlantis post calling attention to it. Most of it is not worth my time and effort to reply to; I invite interested readers to consult the original

essay and see for themselves whether I am distorting the facts in the examples I list in "Phase 2" of the essay. But several specific points of reply follow:

> Previously I enthusiastically endorsed Greg Wharton's observation /  complaint  that Objectivism languishes when it comes to the less intellectually oriented.  Subsequently I lamented the absence of things Randian or Objectivist on ATL  after enjoying Debbie and George hurling quotes at each other over subjects first theological, then libertarian.

 > Roger Bissell (two l's) took the Rand challenge by serving notice of his  Frozen Abstraction Fallacy (subhead, Leading Objectivists Commit Ancient  Platonic Gaffe) and invited comment by me. Since his cited work was endorsed

Strictly speaking, I did not invite Jason to comment on my post. I just answered his earlier lamentation. ("Maybe somebody will be kind enough to let me know if anything Randian comes up on Atlantis.") Jason may have felt that my post "invited" comment, and he is completely within his rights to comment, but when I said "Here ya go, Jace," I simply meant to ~let him know~ that something Randian ~was~ coming up on Atlantis. Interesting way he has of repaying my "kindness." :-)

Also, I don't believe that the two people he refers to are from Atlanta. I think the correct term for members of this list is "Atlanteans."  :-)

> What I found was one of those abstruse polemics of the sort Greg may have been complaining about with the characterization: "Objectivism has,  rightly, come to be perceived by many as an elitist philosophy torn by warring sub-elites jockeying for the title of 'more rational than thou.'" (Please note this is my application, not Greg's.)

> In invited examination of Roger's twenty page (including Endnotes) submission, what I found was that Roger not only straightened out Ayn Rand on her  original discernment of a fallacy in Phase I and III, but used Phase II to straighten out six other people, some with only the most tenuous connection to his theme, but who, on internal evidence, hadn't had the good grace to

This is laughable. I am about as far from a "sub-elite" as you can get. My mock reference to the Independent Objectivist Network seems to have been taken far too seriously! I'm happy to admit I have sent money to David Kelley's organization for years, but the last time I checked, I had received no endorsement or other encouragement from them for my maverick position on the frozen abstraction fallacy. The fact that several other people in the wide world of Objectivism have come to agree with even ~part~ of my analysis and application of Rand's fallacy is (to me) wonderful, but hardly a sign that there is some new elitist group out to purge others from Objectivism or scourge them for being un-Objectivist.

An error is an error; pointing it out and refusing to let people wiggle out of it is simple objectivity and justice -- and stubbornness, I admit. But "holier than thou"? Come on, give me a break! Ø  I have no intention of adding to this type of "rational" nit-picking because  I consider it neither scholarly, nor useful. Besides, given that he got his main point wrong, it is just as likely that he got their points wrong; or even worse, his "peers" got him wrong, and he is right to complain about  it, but not here, which only muddies the issue: which is whether Rand knew what

Ø   And yet Jason ~does~ add to the "scholarly nitpicking" in his final seven paragraphs, offering us what (in his own words) is essentially "neither scholarly, nor useful." Thanks, Jason!

As for his offer to "work something up" and let us take our "best shots" at it, that might be interesting, but I wonder how long he will stand for people to give him a dose of his own medicine with such gratuitous insults as "the spectacle of a pseudo expert [Roger] teaching his grandmother [Ayn Rand] to suck eggs [illegitimately apply the frozen abstraction fallacy]." By his own sneering approach to the ideas of others, Jason does not nurture a climate in which his own ideas will be generously or favorably considered.

Jason ~does~ offer something useful in his post, and that is to call attention (unknowingly) to an  insufficiency in Rand's original definition and characterization of the frozen abstraction fallacy. I have been writing on this matter for a while now, and I will offer some preliminary (pre-publication) comments later today in reply to the following paragraphs of Jason's post.

> I am obliged to Roger for calling attention to "the fallacy of the frozen abstraction." if I had once learned it, I had forgotten about it. For any similarly situated, it consists "...of substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs" He cites as Rand's example: "that of many people who have been taught to view morality strictly from the altruist standpoint. They have learned to equate altruism—which is one specific ethic--with the wider, more general abstraction of 'ethics.'"

 > Good point; powerful example, the working out of which probably exposed the  fallacy.  > Roger's critical failure springs from his "in other words" interpretation:  "this fallacy entails the refusal to include certain members of a class in  the wider class to which they belong...."  > Before we see what havoc this translation wrecks, it is well to remember  that  Rand was a consummate wordsmith. If she could have said it better, she  would  have. If Roger's rewriting were better, she would have written it in the first place. > This isn't blind admiration, it's something that had to be learned over the years. I've tried many reformulations myself, only to learn that there was  a  reason she used the right words, in the right places, in the first  (published) place. > The phrase "substituting some one particular concrete for the wider abstract class..." is unequal to the phrase "refusal to include certain members...." > In the first, the fallacy is refusal to admit anything else. In the second, That is essentially correct. But the abstraction ~in each case~ is nonetheless ~frozen~ to a smaller class of members than it should be. It's a frozen abstraction no less when a Baptist gangs up with everyone except Jews and claims that the Jews are going to hell, then it is when the Baptist makes the blanket statement that everyone non-Baptist is going to hell. This points to a needed modification of Rand's definition and characterization of the fallacy, which I will argue for in a companion post. Best 2 all, Roger Bissell

From: PaleoObjectivist To: atlantis@wetheliving.com Subject: ATL: Help name the "baby" (was Re: ATL: "Identification" "of" "identity") Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2002 13:26:16 EDT Andrew Taranto wrote: >I suspect "fallacy of frozen abstraction" is a merely renaming of another fallacy (or a naming of some permutation of a fallacy). I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it right now, but I think it would be either the fallacy of composition or division (assuming the whole has the properties of its parts, and vice versa, respectively), or some variant. I don't think there's anything wrong with doing this: Antony Flew did it quite entertainingly in _Thinking Straight_.

Andrew has raised an interesting question and an intriguing possible solution. Here are some preliminary thoughts to help guide us toward an answer... As Rand first introduced it, the FAF (frozen abstraction fallacy) is the error of shrinking or freezing an abstraction to one of its units -- e.g., all ethics is altruistic, therefore egoism is beyond the pale (i.e., not an ethics). Or (as an Objectivist committing the FAF might argue), the only true ethics is Randian egoism, therefore altruism, Utilitarianism, Christian morality, etc. are ~none of them~ an ethics. (They are "not really" ethics.)

However, it seems to me that it is ~also~ a serious conceptual error to shrink or freeze an abstraction to ~all but one~ of its units. E.g., there are Objectivists who want to deny that O'ism is a form of Aristotelianism, or that the ethics of O'ism is a form of egoism, or that the politics of O'ism is a form of libertarianism. They want Aristotelianism, egoism, and libertarianism to include ~all the variants of those categories except~ the Objectivist variants. Another example (and I have heard O'ists do this, too) is to want to freeze "animal" to include all of its units ~except~ man (the rational animal).

Now, I grant that there is a big difference between including ~only one~ unit in one's abstraction and including ~all but one~ unit in one's abstraction. But there is an ~essential similarity~ in each of these apparently different cases: they each freeze their abstractions so that they exclude one or more of the units that should be included. In other words, their abstractions are ~not completely tethered to reality~. Now, they don't completely "float," because they are ~partly tethered~. So it's not correct to call them "floating" abstractions. Instead, using Rand's nifty term, they are "frozen" abstractions. (This will all be in my forthcoming book on frozen abstractions, so feedback is welcome to help me whip the manuscript into better shape. :-)

OK, what ~other~ fallacy might this be a disguised instance of? To me, it sounds like the same error as the four blind men who touch different parts of the elephant (tail, trunk, leg, back, etc.) and report that what they are touching is the nature of the elephant. They are equating the whole with ~one~ of its parts and blanking out (understandably, because they're blind, and through no volitional fault of their own) its other parts. Now, three of the blind men could get together, if they thought the part touched by the fourth blind man (e.g., the tail) was just too despicable to be included, and equate the whole with ~all but one~ of its parts. Similarly, someone committing the FAF is equating the abstraction with one of its units -- or, at least, less than all of its units. I think that this has at least a ~resemblance~ to the fallacy of composition, doesn't it? Specifically, as it applies to concept-formation, considering abstractions to be "wholes" and their units to be "parts."

However, this is not strictly correct. Units and abstractions are not parts and wholes, but individuals and general classes. Thus, the FAF more resembles what Kelley calls the fallacy of "hasty generalization." The example he gives (p. 145, 3rd edition) is that it is "hasty to generalize that all audio equipment is made by Motorola [insert: all ethics are altruist], just because my car radio is [insert: my own ethics is altruist]."

The reason I think the FAF deserves recognition as a new, distinct fallacy is that it is invariably driven not by cognitive carelessness ("haste"), but by cognitive ~fastidiousness~, i.e., an emotion-driven desire to keep oneself in pristine isolation from other, disreputable/undesirable instances of the kind of thing one believes or values. This may take the form of conceptual ~ostracism~ of the offending unit (as altruists boot egoists out of the category of "ethics"), or it may take the form of conceptual ~secession~ of oneself from a category that is full of offending units (as some Objectivists refuse to admit that Rand's ethical theory is a form of egoism, for instance, because Stirnirism is also a form of egoism, and they do not wish to be conceptually associated with it). In each case, the fallacy is emotion-driven. One is allowing one's moral or evaluative repugnance to override the requirements of cognitive necessity in concept-formation. It is hard to find a case of FAF that does ~not~ stem from such indignant refusal to set aside one's values and emotions and form abstractions based on ~factually existing~ common characteristics.

Do we need another name for the FAF, a name which shows its similarity to "hasty generalization", but which also highlights its distinctness? Kelley ~does~ point out that hasty generalization can result from prejudice and stereotype (p. 144), and this ~does~ appear to be emotion-driven, like the FAF. However, the fallacy of hasty generalization, as Kelley notes, results from drawing a conclusion "too quickly, on the basis of insufficient information" (p. 144). This is definitely ~not~ what appears to be the case in the FAF. It is not insufficient ~information~ colored by one's emotional experiences, but insufficient ~commitment to principles of concept-formation~ colored by one's emotional experiences that drives the FAF. One's emotional experiences and values blind one not merely to the need to acquire additional information, but to the need to correct one's conceptual errors.

Parallel to "hasty generalization," then, we have what? Overly-fastidious generalization? Elitist generalization? Suggestions are welcome, as are other comments. Best 2 all, Roger Bissell

 

 

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9 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

 

He can post on OL, but his posts are moderated for the time being.

Merlin tells me he is blocked. Can you triple-check the settings?

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7 hours ago, william.scherk said:

Merlin tells me he is blocked. Can you triple-check the settings?

William,

I know for a fact that Merlin signs into OL at times. His last login was Sunday (April 18). So he is not blocked. That means Merlin told you something false. You come to your own conclusion about why.

I had turned off his private messages. I just turned them back on. Now you guys can use the forum software to bash the shit out of me and other OL members behind the scenes if you like.

I'm leaning towards releasing the moderation since time has passed and the dust has settled, but I'm not there yet. All we need right now is for him to come around and start trolling again to spoil the good vibes that are starting to settle in.

Michael

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20 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Ralph,

I doubt Merlin will respond.

He can post on OL, but his posts are moderated for the time being. And so long as they are moderated, he will not post. (Which is fine from my end. I believe if people post here, that is good for OL. If people decide to stop, that is also good for OL. I only want people here who want to be here in good will and exchange value.)

This guy reached a point where all he was doing was picking fights with people. But, to be fair, sometimes intelligent posts would come through.

As time went on, his trolling became a huge distraction and general irritation. It was not even good trolling. And it was nonstop.

The more people asked him to lighten up on the bullshit, the more bullshit he poured on. So I tried to banter a bit to tone down the nastiness, but that didn't work (although, when not trolling, his style got a little better because I included some instructions on basic story concepts like set-up and payoff in my banter and he actually picked up on some of it. :) )

Then the nastiness got to the point where I had to warn him. But he kept trolling. I finally told him he would have to have his posts reviewed to weed out the trolling before they would go live.

He got offended. A friend of his got offended, too, and left. I yawned. Many on OL heaved a sight of relief. :) 

And that's his status on OL as of now. Still, I wish him well. 

If you want to interact with him, look around. He might be posting on other O-Land sites (I believe links will not be hard to find if he is). I know he runs a blog (you can get to it by clicking on most of the links on this OL thread). In fact, I recommend you take a look at his blog (in addition to being here, of course :) ). I have a feeling you will like some of the issues he posts about and his dry short manner of presenting his material.

As to Bob Kolker (BaalChatzaf), I have not heard from him in a long time. He was getting up there in age and I hope he is still with us.

Michael

 

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21 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Ralph,

I doubt Merlin will respond.

He can post on OL, but his posts are moderated for the time being. And so long as they are moderated, he will not post. (Which is fine from my end. I believe if people post here, that is good for OL. If people decide to stop, that is also good for OL. I only want people here who want to be here in good will and exchange value.)

This guy reached a point where all he was doing was picking fights with people. But, to be fair, sometimes intelligent posts would come through.

As time went on, his trolling became a huge distraction and general irritation. It was not even good trolling. And it was nonstop.

The more people asked him to lighten up on the bullshit, the more bullshit he poured on. So I tried to banter a bit to tone down the nastiness, but that didn't work (although, when not trolling, his style got a little better because I included some instructions on basic story concepts like set-up and payoff in my banter and he actually picked up on some of it. :) )

Then the nastiness got to the point where I had to warn him. But he kept trolling. I finally told him he would have to have his posts reviewed to weed out the trolling before they would go live.

He got offended. A friend of his got offended, too, and left. I yawned. Many on OL heaved a sight of relief. :) 

And that's his status on OL as of now. Still, I wish him well. 

If you want to interact with him, look around. He might be posting on other O-Land sites (I believe links will not be hard to find if he is). I know he runs a blog (you can get to it by clicking on most of the links on this OL thread). In fact, I recommend you take a look at his blog (in addition to being here, of course :) ). I have a feeling you will like some of the issues he posts about and his dry short manner of presenting his material.

As to Bob Kolker (BaalChatzaf), I have not heard from him in a long time. He was getting up there in age and I hope he is still with us.

Michael

I've seen Bob post on Facebook a couple of times.

--Brant

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21 hours ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:
On 4/22/2021 at 7:50 AM, william.scherk said:

Merlin tells me he is blocked. Can you triple-check the settings?

I know for a fact that Merlin signs into OL at times. His last login was Sunday (April 18). So he is not blocked.

What might be happening if neither one of you is stating untruths? I believe you that Merlin signs in to OL at times. What Merlin has told me is that he cannot post to any topic, and I believe him.

If I remember correctly, he tried to add to the thread that features terse links to his blog, and could not get his link published.  I believe that. I believe you both.

Perhaps Merlin will try to post some fresh links in that thread of blog links. Maybe he will discover that he can actually post next time he logs in, maybe not. In any case, if you've opened up his access to OL Inbox/Message he can contact you there and you all can figure out where the error lies if he still cannot post to that thread or elsewhere. I see no dishonesty or leftover malice, though my vision may be occulted. It's his support ticket, not mine.

Maybe clicking off Messages access sets a block that is higher in the hierarchy of Not Allowed. Pehaps giving back Merlin member-to-member communication will dislodge the bar to getting something to the Moderator.

He and Tony and a small crew of rowers have been having an intellectual regatta over at OO.com. I will drop him a headsup there.

 

 

Edited by william.scherk
Perharps, mayhap
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10 minutes ago, william.scherk said:

What Merlin has told me is that he cannot post to any topic, and I believe him.

William,

I checked everywhere in the backend and he is moderated, not blocked from posting.

Frankly, I do not believe he cannot post.

Hell, Jon managed to get messages through in all kinds of places after I moderated him. He's still sending me idiotic emails through the contact form. And that's after I banned him at his own request. 

Besides, remember that affair about Merlin editing Wikipedia on the sly in order to win an argument? I think he was busted in this very thread.

So I do not accept your washing hands as if that were my position. That's you trying to sneak a presumption through probably trying to smooth things over. But that is not my position.

Let me state it clearly. Merlin has a dishonest side to him when he gets competitive and nasty.

Based on what I have seen so far, I can't take Merlin's word at face value when there is no way to verify it.

Michael

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 4/22/2021 at 10:14 PM, Brant Gaede said:

I've seen Bob post on Facebook a couple of times.

Thanks Brant. I am glad to hear he is still internet active.

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  • 2 weeks later...

OMG!

OMG!!

 

As someone with degrees in Physics, I have no idea what to say but ... what a complete and utter farce.

 

There never was a paradox, Merlin admitted as much when he said in the OP he had a solution he would "give" later. [Did he ever really give one that was any better than what anyone else offered?]

As mentioned multiple times, there literally is nothing to "resolve", only bad thinking or intuition. 

The real problem is simply this: How does one address a fictional problem in a bad thinker's mind?  and how do you evaluate WHO WINS the prize for that sort of thing by any kind of rational standard?

 

The so called problem was dismissed successfully multiple times in many ways.  Those who argued tooth and nail to deny the obvious revealed themselves with stark clarity.

 

As someone who embraces Objectivism, all I can say is, credit to those here who were right, but you should all be MORE selfish given our finitude... one life

72 PAGES????

Unless you personally LOVE going through the explanations of rotation, rolling, translation etc, love making diagrams and VIDEOS... OMG MAKING VIDEOS!!

in an attempt to show something to a select few who cannot or will not understand something???

 

Life is too short, BE MORE SELFISH and DON'T WASTE TIME ARGUING POINTLESS ARGUMENTS. 

 

Gotta give this one to jts, THE FIRST REPLY, even though only a sketch, it is true, and enough to dispell the idea (in a rational mind) that anything paradoxical is happening.

 

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2 hours ago, Strictlylogical said:

OMG!

OMG!!

SL,

It finally hit, did it?

:)

Part of the challenge of the approach on OL (that is, not preaching, but instead, working through ideas) is how to cut through hardening of the categories when a person gets stuck in an eternal certainty loop based on a false premise.

Sometimes we get lots of pages.

:) 

That shows that, not only can people arrive at understanding basic things in different ways, they can also have vastly different motivations.

When those two things--way of understanding and basic motivation--go haywire, it's hard as hell to find common ground.

After a lot of experiences like this thread, I no longer believe (at least not much) that one is able to get through to a stuck person from the outside, although I still try at times.

But if you yourself (I mean "you" in the general sense, the reader) wish to avoid getting caught in an endless false premise loop like the one in this thread, I think the best thing you can do is check your certainties. The seduction of certainty, of being able to believe (or know) with certainty, of stating things with certainty, of following people (like Rand) who always speak with certainty, is so compelling, it's very easy to fall off into irrationality, then defend a false premise to the death.

Recognizing this and trying to spit yourself out of it is one moment where the cognitive before normative approach is critical. 

Neurochemically, I believe the main neurochemicals squirting during certainty are serotonin mixed with adrenalin (and maybe with a touch of dopamine and cortisol). This is a heady mix and it feels great. It's really easy to get addicted to this feeling, so it's easy to pursue it when unearned.

That's why wisdom is needed to temper it. In the vernacular, this high comes from status. It's not about facts, but instead about feeling above others.

When Rand said, "Check your premises," she could have just as easily said, "Check your certainties." (And she could have used this advice herself at times.)

I'm not against certainty. It is entirely appropriate at times. In fact I crave certainty just as much as any human.

But it's also like playing with a loaded gun. You have to be careful where you aim it, especially when you pull the trigger.

No one is immune from the certainty trap (meaning being certain you are right when you are wrong). It is an equal-opportunity trap. It snaps shut on the stupidest people right on up to the world's greatest geniuses.

Am I certain of this?

:) 

Well, yes I am...

Michael

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41 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

SL,

It finally hit, did it?

:)

Part of the challenge of the approach on OL (that is, not preaching, but instead, working through ideas) is how to cut through hardening of the categories when a person gets stuck in an eternal certainty loop based on a false premise.

Sometimes we get lots of pages.

:) 

That shows that, not only can people arrive at understanding basic things in different ways, they can also have vastly different motivations.

When those two things--way of understanding and basic motivation--go haywire, it's hard as hell to find common ground.

After a lot of experiences like this thread, I no longer believe (at least not much) that one is able to get through to a stuck person from the outside, although I still try at times.

But if you yourself (I mean "you" in the general sense, the reader) wish to avoid getting caught in an endless false premise loop like the one in this thread, I think the best thing you can do is check your certainties. The seduction of certainty, of being able to believe (or know) with certainty, of stating things with certainty, of following people (like Rand) who always speak with certainty, is so compelling, it's very easy to fall off into irrationality, then defend a false premise to the death.

Recognizing this and trying to spit yourself out of it is one moment where the cognitive before normative approach is critical. 

Neurochemically, I believe the main neurochemicals squirting during certainty are serotonin mixed with adrenalin (and maybe with a touch of dopamine and cortisol). This is a heady mix and it feels great. It's really easy to get addicted to this feeling, so it's easy to pursue it when unearned.

That's why wisdom is needed to temper it. In the vernacular, this high comes from status. It's not about facts, but instead about feeling above others.

When Rand said, "Check your premises," she could have just as easily said, "Check your certainties." (And she could have used this advice herself at times.)

I'm not against certainty. It is entirely appropriate at times. In fact I crave certainty just as much as any human.

But it's also like playing with a loaded gun. You have to be careful where you aim it, especially when you pull the trigger.

No one is immune from the certainty trap (meaning being certain you are right when you are wrong). It is an equal-opportunity trap. It snaps shut on the stupidest people right on up to the world's greatest geniuses.

Am I certain of this?

:) 

Well, yes I am...

Michael

Interesting ... I am reminded of ruminations on certainty I have had before... I think this is not experienced as as only a single particular thing... notice it is fully acceptable to speak of "certainty of thought" (as part of a cognitive process) but also speak of "feeling certain" (as a kind of intuitive circuit).

I find when truth is truly the goal, being certain is a means, as one inspects a towering scaffold for stability, with each section build going upwards... as the one goal, getting into the heights, requires the means of the stability for the scaffolding... so too the goal of the truth requires the means of certainty building up from the foundations in the the hierarchy of thought.

Sometimes intuition is a "short circuit" and sometimes the unspoken goal is not truth.  In either case, either what is being built is shaky or nothing is actually being built.  In this sense, a false sense or the serotonin of the feeling of certainty is the goal.

In such a case the feeling of certainty is the goal, and half truths become the means... to enable the evasion which permits the feeling... and the valid process of cognition and truth are both swept aside entirely.

 

So, certainly there is a sense you are correct and can be certain of it.

 

:)

 

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1 hour ago, Strictlylogical said:

(as a kind of intuitive circuit).

I have a hunch real objectivists are Vulcans, and what do we say about “intuition” Mr. Peikoff and Mr. Branden?

From: Michael Hardy To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Intuition Date: Sun, 20 May 2001 17:23:07 -0400 (EDT) Mike Rael stated in his post of 5/17/01 that: >Rand herself was about as intuitive as they come.

John Kimball <kimball@ncia.net> objected (5/18): >The Random House College Dictionary defines intuition as the:  '1. direct perception of truth, fact, etc., independent of any reasoning process; immediate apprehension ..'  This appears to fly in the face of Rand's basic epistemology as I could not find  no reference to the concept of intuition in any of the major works by Rand. This seems to be an unwarranted assumption on the part of Mr. Rael. I would appreciate having the references that would justify this conclusion.

The word "intuition" appears to admit several definitions, one of which was endorsed by Leonard Peikoff in an article in the 1985 volume of “The New Scholasticism”, titled "Aristotle's Intuitive Induction."  Peikoff explained that the way in which we become aware of the truth of logical axioms cannot be by logical deduction   --- that would clearly be circular reasoning --- but is a rational cognitive process that involves coming to understand the concepts involved and what the proposition says, and that that process is called "intuitive induction."

"Intuition" also means something like "emotional without feeling", which needs to be explained more long windedly less mysteriously to be understood.  Recall Peikoff in his 12-lecture basic course saying an emotion results from a super-rapid subconscious evaluation of something as good or bad.  At one point in that course he tersely mentioned that a similar super-rapid subconscious process could result in a conscious hunch, whose justification is not conscious.  That is also called "intuition."  Perhaps Mike Rael had that in mind. Mike Hardy

From: Jackie Goreham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: My stay at the hospital...what happened Date: Mon, 21 May 2001 14:23:52 -0700 (PDT) I would have to say that I agree that Objectivism and intuition do not mix, that there is some evidence that what Rand lived and what she wrote had a slight disconnect in this area.  After all, this was a woman who described love at first sight with her husband and also described it in her main characters (Roark and Francon and Taggart and Galt).  In fact it is kind of a running joke that objectivists just 'know' who each other are in a crowd by their 'way' of looking. I think it is important, if somewhat difficult, to separate Objectivism the philosophical system from Rand, the woman.  The philosophy allows for no contradictions, but we know the person lived some. As for the topic at hand, I know only one objectivist and that's my boyfriend. I have never met another in person.  If I were to make all people I know pass a philosophical test I would be a very lonely person indeed.  There is value to be found in relationships with people who think differently than I do. Jackie Goreham

From: Jeff Lindon To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 09:04:08 -0400 (EDT) I agree with Kurt's distinction (5/19) between senses of "intuition", and have often thought that the term takes unfair abuse. Along the lines Kurt suggests, I think of an intuition (in its secularized sense) as a conscious awareness of pre-verbal subconscious processes. Depending on a person's psycho-epistemology, those processes will be predominantly rational or irrational. Granted that intuition is *not* a means of knowing, I do wonder whether it's a necessary stage one goes through (even if only briefly) when grappling with large, difficult problems.

Suppose that after thinking about a complex problem for a while, you can think of several different ways of proceeding, but you're not sure which is best. How do you decide -- not which is best, but which to *investigate* first? Well, your subconscious is munching on lots of things, and the only conscious awareness you have of those calculations is a "sense" or "feel". Let's say you sense that one approach to solving the problem will prove to be the best. If pressed on the issue, you may have a hard time giving concrete reasons for your sense, precisely because you don't understand the problem. But you have to decide how to proceed *somehow*, and the fact is that if you've cultivated a rational psycho-epistemology, your subconscious will generally do a good job in these kinds of "preliminary evaluations". Sometimes it takes the conscious mind a lot of (necessary) effort to see just *how* good our intuitions actually are.

Consider artistic creation as an example. Rand argued in her fiction writing lectures that it would be not only counterproductive but literally impossible for an artist *consciously* to justify each choice he makes while creating a work. The only workable method is to rely on your subconscious while writing and then *edit later* using your conscious judgment. Hopefully (and with practice, over time), your subconscious judgments come to embody your conscious principles fairly consistently. But the conscious mind is always the final arbiter. (My experience as a composer confirms the value of this method.) (I would add here that I am not convinced that one could always verbalize *all* the reasons one had a particular intuition. Also, in my own experience, if my conscious mind contradicts my intuition, there is very often something that my conscious mind is missing. Again, that feeling does not constitute *proof* that the conscious mind is wrong, but if one knows that one has a predominantly rational psycho-epistemology, then such intuitions should set off warning bells.) I reconcile Rand's attacks on intuition with the position she takes elsewhere by supposing that she would suggest a word other than "intuition" for what I have been describing. That makes the term a little bit like "faith", which I've discovered that many people use simply to mean "confidence". But whereas the alternative between "confidence" and "faith" is obvious, I can't think of a better alternative to "intuition" off-hand. -Jeffrey Lindon

From: Matthew Ferrara To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 10:31:19 +0000 Just to weigh-in on the intuition-question: I do not think that intuition is counter-Objectivism in any way; in fact, from what I can tell from Rand's writings, she's not entirely counter-intuitive (in both meanings of that phrase): Note that some of her characters like Rearden and even Cherryl (Taggart's wife) take long journeys toward knowledge by identifying, clarifying, and reflecting upon a "peripheral sense" or what we could call "gut feeling" that something in their experience was not "quite right." They then proceed to investigate their surroundings and then come to clear, rational knowledge that the people around them are acting in an irrational manner, guided by their feelings. Many times in Atlas, Rand refers to a character's sensation of something on the "edge" of their cognition that is fleeting, but re- occurs often enough to induce them to further pursue clarification. In fact, in a sense, Rearden's character is this very journey from sense-perception of "something is wrong" to "explicit knowledge" that his premises were wrong.

I think it is too easy to simply "reject" intuition because it is often equated with feelings, which are also often "rejected" by Objectivist thinkers in an off- hand manner. Rather, I think that intuition has to be put in its proper position in the epistemological hierarchy. Many great scientific discoveries have come from what we would call an "intuitive" notion of an hypothesis or experiment, which led to the discovery of a result that then was clarified "backwards" so to speak to a more full, explicit knowledge. Thinkers like Suzanne Langer or Polanyi (The Tacit Dimension) have excellent discussions on this "meta-communicative" or not-yet-expressed dimension of human thought. It is important, from the standpoint of Objectivism, to make sure that intuition is not considered a "primary" tool to knowledge and not used as the sole basis to guide one's overall actions or life; but like emotions, intuition is a second-order activity of the rational mind.

It may help to start from a definition: I think intuition can be considered just like Rand's concept of emotions: Both are indicators or feedback-mechanisms (positive and negative) of one's thought processes. Intuitions are often "not-yet-clarified" or emerging recognitions of facts of reality. In some ways, they may be recognitions of fact that have happened faster than linguistic or fully-logical expression has occurred - although such description later emerges. Intuition in this sense would not be the same as "revelation"  or mere "gut-impulse" that religious or psychologies of noumenal-worlds/minds would have us believe (always refreshing to bash Kant this early in the morning! grin!). And while it may not be a "rigorous" tool of knowledge like "pure logic" it still may play a valid function in cognition, so long as it remains a "stage" of knowledge and not the final or determining aspect of it. Good morning! Matthew Ferrara

From: Brian Gordon To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Tue, 22 May 2001 09:07:16 -0700 All, Intuition is indeed a fascinating topic, as we all use it, yet it seems at first glance to run counter to objectivism. In fact, Nathaniel Branden has pointed out that sometimes one's intuition is correct while one's reason is not. I think that intuition is an unconscious conclusion one has reached – the criteria and decision-making process are unconscious. This does not mean that some reasoning has not taken place, simply that one is unaware of it. I once took an excellent course entitled "The Skilled Facilitator's Workshop", in which the participants' goal was to learn to facilitate group meetings effectively and to improve the group's ability to function. This involved pointing out inappropriate behaviors, areas of conflict, and so on, and oftentimes I (and others) would pick up on things intuitively rather than explicitly. When I asked the instructor about this, his point was this: Whatever you have noticed intuitively, there is evidence for, and you must bring that evidence into your consciousness. You cannot present your intuitive beliefs to anyone, because then they lack any facts to deal with. It was a great workshop! Very objectivist, now that I look back on it. Brian Gordon

From: Ming shan To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 22:28:18 Merlin Jetton wrote (5/22):  > I wish to second Kurt Keefner's remarks (5/19) about "secular" intuition.

I wish to third them; I have not seen as much common sense brought to the discussion about intuition in a long time.  He definitely based his remarks on careful observation.

>Indeed, this form of intuition is a requirement for being a skilled, or more skilled, mathematician. Here, of course, it is hardly a mere, mystical feeling. Consider the mathematician in search of a solution to a problem, which might be a path to a proof. By analogy, this intuition is the ability to see the glimpses of light down a possible path before the path is more fully lit through fuller exploration and work.

OK, that's great, but what about the mathematician who had it the most, in abundance, Srinivasa Ramanujan?  This guy filled notebook after notebook after notebook with incredibly complex and deep theorems and formulae of Number Theory, but he rigorously proved not one of them.  He had a power of insight that is rare, even among mathematicians.  He could see clearly what the solution would be to something, and he did not need to prove it, because he already knew it was right.  Some mathematicians these days are busy going through his notebooks and rigorously proving the entries he put down;  so far, it's all panning out.  That's how good the guy was at this type of insight.

My point is this: surely R's power of insight does not really come from "reason."  The proof is that the man barely had a high schooler's understanding of trigonometry. What we are calling intuition here strikes me as very much the same thing that Spinoza called "the third kind of knowledge."  But he said that it only arises from "the second kind," which is reason.  But if it only arises from it, then (1) it is surely different from it, and not the same thing, and (2) it is superior to reason. Mingshan

From: Mike Rael To: objectivism Subject: Re: OWL: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 08:48:52 -0700 (PDT) Good morning yourself, Matthew:) I really appreciate the way you fleshed out my original post on this subject, though I doubt you had the intention of doing that :)  I don't have the energy or patience to check through Atlas, for example, to bolster up my position about intuition. I just know what I know. I really have no criticism at all. You point out that Rand's characters use intuition (true). You mention that intuition is a stage of knowledge only (true). You say that intuition is part of the creative process (true). You infer that reason is the final arbiter of knowledge (true).

About my only disagreement is that intuition is not simply the unconscious filling-in of holes in logic that have been derived at super speed. Ain't nuthin' wrong with gut impulses, Matt. Sometimes, for whatever reason, gut impulses are right while our "rationally derived" reason is wrong! That's why some women going down the bridal path need to heed it when they get a strong inner feeling that they shouldn't be there--despite all the "logic" that insists they are in the right place! best always, Mike

From: James H Cunningham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition Date: Fri, 25 May 2001 23:42:28 -0400 Ming Shan wrote (5/24): "[the 'third kind of knowledge' - intuition, as in the case of Srinivasa Ramanujan] is superior to reason."

And how? Surely I could not begin to understand - let alone create - such intricate mathematical theorems without relying on a conscious reasoning process; indeed, to decide what I shall eat for dinner takes enough thought on its own, and I have not enough leisure for those high pursuits.  Are you saying that Ramanujan's intuition is superior to my reason, when I cannot even decide my diet without some mental plodding-out?

When I was a child I was forced to put two and two together - when I eat food that tastes bad, I dislike putting it my mouth; and when I dislike putting something in my mouth I should not eat it - but now it is intuitive that I not eat food that I dislike; still I went through conscious reasoning at some point, so I should hardly think that my intuition is contrary to and higher than reason.  It is simply something that followed. And why is what you describe above intuition, in the non-reasoning sense? Ramanujan was equipped with a mind more able to grasp complex truths than mine or yours, and quickly; that he needed think less does not mean that he needed not _think_ at all; why not consider that his 'reasoning ability' was sufficiently inborn that no real effort was required to prove to himself that he _was_ correct?  It is not necessary for me to 'think' to add simple sums, and I am rarely asked to prove my answers afterward; why is it so much to think that a man of a much greater mind can handle greater thoughts, without striking the call of superiority to reason? Anyone who theorizes must do so before proving any theories he puts forth. If Ramanujan had proven his own work, would you consider it less intuition and more reason? James H Cunningham

From: Roger Bissell To: objectivism Subject: OWL: What is Intuition? Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 01:52:12 EDT The recent discussion of the nature of intuition has been quite interesting, and I would like to suggest another way of looking at intuition in re thinking. As against the idea some suggest that intuition is relatively more unconscious and thinking relative more conscious, I think it's more helpful to see them both as different kinds of conscious cognitive processes. In support of this, here are some ideas I have gleaned recently from a non-Objectivist thinker, along with some personality-type-related thoughts stimulated by his ideas...

Howard Margolis in PATTERNS, THINKING, AND COGNITION (U. of Chicago Press, 1987) claimed that cognitive activity tends to be either a combination of broad focus with loose "scan control," which he labeled "intuitive" -- or a combination of narrow focus with tight "scan control," which he labeled "analytical," which is reasonably synonymous with "thinking." Since induction would seem as though it should work better in the former case (intuitive preference), while deduction would seem as though it should work better in the latter (thinking preference). I find this approach very persuasive.

However, I want to suggest another way of looking at it. I think that what Margolis is describing as "intuition" by loose focus, broad scan control is actually ~extraverted~ intuition (intuition directed toward the "outer world," which is the kind of intuition that is used by introverted thinkers, who are not nearly so analytical as their extraverted thinking brethren (and sistern...?). And the form of intuition used by extraverted thinkers may not even be recognized as such by them -- focused as they are on assessing the external world and how it can be changed, improved, corrected, etc. – but their intuition almost surely has a tighter focus and narrower scan control (since internal or "introverted" and thus not ranging around in the environment, but instead in their own internal store of ideas) than the kind used by introverted thinkers. In compensation, though, the thinking of TJs (extraverted thinkers) is easier to apply in flexible, broad fashion to assessing and planning things in the world than the thinking of TPs (introverted thinkers).

In other words, I think Margolis' model is somewhat oversimplified, but helpful in aiming us in the right direction. His suggestion that a stronger preference for intuition would make one's thinking relatively fuzzier is an interesting hypothesis, but the type results I have seen do not bear this out. My wife has a stronger intuitive preference than thinking, but she is a very precise thinker--and I have a stronger preference for thinking than for intuition, but I am a much fuzzier thinker than her. So go figure! Perhaps we are the exception to the rule, but I think the answer lies elsewhere. I am very precise and focused in my inductive, model-building process, but this is not usually regarded as thinking, but rather intuition. My wife is very precise and focused in her deductive, analytical process, but her strong inner vision, being more in the "tacit" dimension, is overlooked by those who see only her logical thinking process. I encourage others to read Margolis' work, but discussion of the above is welcome, in any case. Best regards, Roger Bissell (INTP)

From: Jackie Goreham To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Intuition as second-order epistemological integration Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 13:16:58 -0700 (PDT) Mike, I don't know to whom you are referring, but eliminating emotion is Vulcan, not Objectivist.  I repeat that if there is a disconnect between your emotions and your thoughts then you have made an error somewhere. There should be no disconnect. Emotions tell us nothing other than that we are having an emotion.  We must use reason to identify its cause. It might be a tip off that something is wrong, sure, why not.  Like a symptom... But our emotions are not "right" or "wrong" really.  It's just that they either do or do not fit the context.  They are only right or wrong based on our thoughts:  reason. Jackie Goreham

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