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From "the particular" (this trade, today's sunrise, this water, etc.etc). to "the general" (all trades, all sunrises, all oceans) IS induction. And it requires cognitive effort to avoid drawing f

Top down and bottom up are not either-or. They are mental frames for perceiving and mentally processing reality. You need both to get a clear picture. Choosing one over the other is linear t

You might also want to check out Harlow's monkeys: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Harlow Ellen

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4 minutes ago, Dglgmut said:

So then how do you choose your highest value?

Through English drinking songs. "All together now . . . "

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I looked up the lyrics up for “All Together Now.” I deleted approximately 30 refrain lines of “All Together Now.” How can something so tedious be so much fun to sing . . . with a few beers in you? And what does bompa bom mean? Peter    

“All Together Now” by The Beatles

One, two, three, four
Can I have a little more?
Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten
I love you

A B C D
Can I bring my friend to tea?
E F G H I J
I love you

Bom bom bom bompa bom
Sail the ship, bompa bom
Chop the tree, bompa bom
Skip the rope, bompa bom
Look at me

All together now . . .
Black, white, green, red
Can I take my friend to bed?
Pink, brown, yellow, orange, and blue
I love you

All together now
All together now . . .  
om bom bom bompa bom
Sail the ship, bompa bom
Chop the tree, bompa bom
Skip the rope, bompa bom
Look at me

All together now
All together now . . .

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On 6/25/2020 at 3:36 PM, anthony said:

Damn right! One of whom was the insightful genius, Nathaniel Branden.

I've not seen anyone rushing to take him on on this subject.

Yeah, it doesn't surprise me that you're unaware of his having been taken on on the subject.

J

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On 6/13/2020 at 9:48 AM, anthony said:

Whatever he has done and can do is inseparable from his reasoning. And the results are disastrous when he doesn't.

One plus one equals two. Oh yeah? Prove it. Some old letters on what is “proof?” Sheesh. I was a bit disjointed 20 years ago but now I am fine. Joke. Peter

From: "Peter Taylor" To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: Scientific Determinism Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2000 04:09:32 GMT. George H. Smith wrote an excellent letter but I will only reply to one of his points at this time: (8) In short, we should always bear in mind the crucial difference between science per se and the philosophy of science. The latter is not itself a "scientific" discipline, but is a branch of philosophy. end of quote

By asserting that all science was subsumed under philosophy and Objectivism, (and stretching it a bit, and fishing 😉 I was sure I would tick off Dennis May sufficiently to answer me. Instead, George answered, saying he Disagreed with some points of mine, but that he actually Agreed with me, just a bit.  George, are you being culturally assimilated? I've wondered if you are doing some investigative journalism (perhaps even a hatchet job) about these quaint folks, who call themselves Objectivists. Maybe you won't burn us, after becoming friendly with us? (If so, imagine Sally Fields saying, "You like us! You genuinely like us!") The more I thought about the crucial difference between science per se and the philosophy of science, I decided my Big Point, was hinted at in some recent letters questioning the difference between Randian Objectivism (Rand's own words) and Objectivism (which includes Rand's own words and philosophical words written by others, about Objectivism.)

And that got me thinking about: If *it* is objectively true, then *it* is provable using Objective (Aristotelian, Randian, and Scientific methods (observable, verifiable and repeatable). In contrast a strictly linguistic assertion that human epistemology is deterministic, or that the earth is 6000 years old, or that 13 angels can dance on the head of a pin is provable if the bible is used as the sole reference. Though these false assumptions may be logically true, based on false basic premises, they are not true in fact. But I am just a cave-man philosopher (who is not laughing at his most basic values, BB, just being objective.) Let me quote from the "Masters," while keeping in mind that Objectivism is a cohesive whole.

Selective, non - consecutive quotes from OPAR by Leonard Peikoff and Ayn Rand, pages 112-120. According to Objectivism, epistemology is necessary for practical purposes, as a guide to man in the proper use of his conceptual faculty. We are ready to concretize this claim. We can now begin to identify the rules men must follow in their thinking if knowledge, rather than error or delusion, is their goal.

These rules can be condensed into one general principle: thinking, to be valid, must adhere to reality. Or, in the memorable words of the old "Dragnet" TV series, which can serve as the motto of all reality-oriented thought: "Just give us the facts, ma'am." But how does one reach "just the facts"? The answer lies in the concept of *objectivity*; it requires that one grasp the full philosophic meaning and implications of this concept.

When you grasp this concept, you will have an invaluable tool enabling you to assess and, if necessary, improve the quality of your own thinking. You will also understand why, out of all the possibilities, Ayn Rand chose to call her philosophy, "Objectivism."

.  .  .  Since definitions ‘are' condensations of observed data, however, they are determined by such data; they are not arbitrary; they flow from the facts of the case. In this respect, as we have seen, definitions are "empirical" statements, and reality *is* the standard of what is essential.

Definitions are statements of factual data - as condensed by a human consciousness in accordance with the needs of a human method of cognition. Like concepts, therefore, essences are products of a volitional relationship between existence and consciousness, they too (properly formed) are *objective.*

.  .  .  As Miss Rand points out, it is mandatory to conceptualize certain types of concretes, including: (a) the perceptual concretes with which men deal daily, represented by the first level of abstractions; (b) new discoveries of science; ( c )  new man-made objects which differ in their essential characteristics from the previously known objects (e.g., "television"); (d) complex human relationships involving combinations of physical and psychological behavior (e.g., "marriage," "law," "justice").

These four categories represent existents with which men have to deal constantly, in many different contexts, from many different aspects, either in daily physical action or, more crucially, in mental action and further study. The mental weight of carrying these existents in one's head by means of perceptual images or lengthy verbal descriptions is such that no human mind could handle it. The need of condensation, of unit-reduction, is obvious in such cases.

. . .  "Proof" is the process of establishing truth by reducing a proposition to axioms, i.e. ultimately, to sensory evidence. Such reduction is the only means man has of discovering the relationship between non-axiomatic propositions and the facts of reality. end of quotes

Now to tie it all together. The difference between Randian Objectivism (Rand's own words) and Objectivism (which includes Rand's own words and the philosophical words which will be written by others, about Objectivism, ON INTO THE FUTURE,) and asserting that all science was subsumed under philosophy and Objectivism -

My fellow Atlanteans, am I stretching it a bit? Is this an end run? Scientific facts, at their most basic level are always consistent with Objectivism, but not strict Randian Objectivism which, though true within its context, cannot be infallibly true. If Objectivism is open, and to the greatest extent possible INFALLIBLE, AS IT IS PROVED, WITHIN A CONTEXT ON INTO INFINITY, then we will rarely be wrong. Am I making sense, or am I saying, "I can have my cake and eat it too?" Peter Taylor

Again, I will repeat, Causality pertains to EVERYTHING in the universe except sentient, rational, volitionally conscious HUMANS. quote (first from Leonard, then from Ayn,) OPAR page 64: The principle of causality does not apply to consciousness, however, in the same way that is applies to matter. In regard to matter, there is no issue of choice; to be caused is to be necessitated. In regard to the (higher-level) actions of a volitional consciousness, however, (continuing the sentence with a quote from Ayn Rand,) "'to be caused' does not mean 'to be necessitated.'" And "Man chooses the causes that shape his actions."

From: "William Dwyer" To: <atlantis Subject: ATL: Is proof agent-relative? (was "Does proof require a Sandra ASS U MEd ...) Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2001 19:32:14 -0800. Sandra Mendoza wrote: "As my hero, the Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote: *If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change.  I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody.  It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm."

Andrew Taranto replied, "Very interesting... because Antony Flew took pains to discuss, in _Thinking Straight_ (and the latter version, _How to Think Straight_) that one does not ~prove to~, one only proves. When someone says, 'Prove X to me,' he means to say, 'convince me of X'; but then proof doesn't necessarily play a role. (Unfortunately, my copies are at home, so I can't provide specific cites.)"

Based on Andrew's summary, I don't think that Flew's analysis does justice to the concept of "proof"; on the contrary, his analysis would appear to be self-contradictory.  If, as he says "proof" doesn't necessarily play a role in "proving" X to someone, then one ~hasn't~ "PROVED" X to him; one has simply "convinced" him of X.

One can convince someone of something by a means other than proof, e.g., by sophistry or propaganda.  If a person says, "Prove it to me," he is not simply asking to be convinced; he is asking to be convinced ~by an objectively valid justification~.

So, I think that proof does indeed require a person ~to whom~ one proves something, even if that person is only the prover himself.  In other words, proof presupposes a consciousness whose requirements of knowledge are satisfied by the fulfillment of certain epistemological criteria.

Therefore, if a person asks for proof, he is indeed asking that something be proved ~to~ him, because he is demanding that it satisfy his own understanding of the truth according to rational and objective criteria.

To put it in standard Objectivist lingo, proof is objective, but not intrinsic!  Although proof is certainly not arbitrary or subjective, it still requires a mind to receive and understand it.

The idea that proof is always proof ~to~ someone was also the position of Michael Scriven, whom I had as a professor of philosophy at U.C. Berkeley many years ago!  He was a pretty good philosopher and has written quite a good book on epistemology, which I used to own but have since lost track of.  Bill

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Is proof agent-relative? Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 09:41:45 -0600. William has written on a topic which has fascinated me since my first geometry class.

I will be the first to admit I have never felt comfortable with mathematical or physics proofs regardless of the thousands I have either read, regurgitated, or done.  Proof requires auxiliary assumptions which must also be supported by proof. At some point you fall back upon the most basic axioms.  Your tree of logic is only as sound as your correct inclusion of all relevant assumptions.

My lack of comfort comes from observing the many times errors have been discovered in proofs years later because of in-correct assumptions, neglect of required assumptions, technical errors, missed steps, proof by intimidation [appeal to authority], and any number of other errors in logic.

Proof is the holy grail in advancing rational arguments.  It is often an elusive goal and very much dependent upon a qualified receptive mind.  A thousand qualified rational people can look at the same proof year after year without detecting an error.  The person who comes along and discovers an error is to be congratulated but every time it happens I again feel uncomfortable with proofs.  I guess proof always remains provisional in my mind. I would greatly appreciate Michael Hardy [as resident mathematician] jumping in on this. Dennis May

From: Ellen Moore To: Atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Is proof agent-relative? Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 14:42:46 -0600 Dennis May wrote, "The person who comes along and discovers an error is to be congratulated but every time it happens I again feel uncomfortable with proofs.  I guess proof always remains provisional in my mind."

The answer to Dennis's discomfort is "contextual knowledge", and it would be advisable to understand the context of "truth".  This belongs to the issue of epistemology - "how do we know when the truth we know is actually true?"  Actually it is when there is no evidence that contradicts what we know to be true.  In other words, everything we know is evidence that supports [proves] that it IS true - and we know nothing that contradicts this knowledge.  This is "certain knowledge".

An error is a different thing.  It means that one has not validly proven that one's information is true - or it means that one has not applied all the facts and principles one does know to be true.  In other words, an error, a mistake, occurs when one has muddled one's thinking.   An evasion occurs when one has refused to identify and acknowledge the truth one does in fact know.

However, someone may discover new evidence that in effect sets up a new context of knowledge - the new evidence adds new proofs of information adding a new perspective on old knowledge that was true in that earlier context of knowledge.  This only means that knowledge of truth is ~open-ended~ - meaning that one does already know one can always learn new things about new discoveries.  This does not contradict what one did know, it merely adds new truths proven by new knowledge.  This does not make proof or truth provisional".  It is "contextual" knowledge.

This should never make one doubt one's knowledge - unless there IS new evidence proven to be true.  In fact, it IS just a new contextual certainty of knowledge.

Dennis, it is not that proof is always provisional, it IS that knowledge of truth is contextual -- and whatever one knows to be true IS certain knowledge of reality.

Get it?  I'm not offering a formal presentation here, this is simply an off-the cuff expression of what I learned about objective contextuality. Ellen M.

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Someone mentioned “sensation” and using that as the key I found the following which may be interesting to some of us. Peter

 From: "Scott Ryan" To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Questions on ITOE, ch. 1, continued Date: Mon, 14 Feb 2000 21:31:29 -0700 (MST) Greg Johnson asks: "What is Rand's precise view of sensations?" This is a very good question. The answer is: she hasn't got one.

 As Johnson correctly notes, "In ch. 1 Rand claims that we do not remember sensations, nor do we experience pure isolated sensations." [This is nearly an exact quotation from ITOE, p. 5.]

 What Rand is passing along to us in this remark is her own mangled version of the rationalist-Idealist doctrine that no part of our experience (including perception and even "sensation") is untouched by reason; that experience is coextensive with judgment; that discriminated awareness is itself already at least the first stirring of thought and reason; and that "sense-data," to whatever extent they can be meaningfully isolated at all, are inferred rather than directly experienced.

 This is a defensible doctrine, and indeed it has been ably defended by Green, Bradley, Bosanquet, Joachim, Oakeshott, and various others (including Brand Blanshard, from whose _The Nature of Thought_ Rand probably learned something about the philosophical dispute over whether talk of "sense-data" was at all meaningful). But as we shall see, Rand's butchered adaptation of this doctrine (which was in part also a reaction against it and an ill-considered attempt to combine it with the very "empiricism" it was developed to refute) is not sufficiently coherent to be called a doctrine at all. It is not at all difficult to show that Rand does not stick to her stated view with anything remotely resembling consistency. In the _very next paragraph_ of ITOE, she continues as follows:

   > A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. [ITOE, p. 5.]

 So "sensations, as such, are _not_ retained by man's memory," but (some) _groups_ of sensations _are_ thus retained -- and detained, automatically_. But if sensations, "as such," are not "retained" by our memories, how is it that one's "brain" is able to retain them -- even in "groups" -- while it performs the task of "integration"? And if a percept _is_ a "group of sensations," isn't it true that our memories _do_ "retain" sensations? Or are our sensations transformed into something else by this mysterious process of "integration" (on which Rand nowhere sees fit to elaborate)? And does all of this mean we can't remember single sensations? As Rand would say: Blank-out.

 Nor can Rand stick to her view that we can't experience "pure" sensations. In "Art and Cognition," she writes: > Music is the only phenomenon that permits an adult to experience the process of dealing with pure sense data. Single musical tones are not percepts, but pure sensations; they become percepts only when integrated. [_The Romantic Manifesto_, p. 59.]

 So much for her contention that "man is [not] able to experience a pure isolated sensation." Apparently Rand the aesthetician thinks we do so every time we hear a single musical tone, even though Rand the epistemologist says we don't. (I shall not try to imagine what significant difference she fancies there to be between a single musical tone as a "sensation" and the very same tone as a "percept.")

 And why only musical tones? Why not every time we see a single specific color? Blank-out. Why not every time we feel a single specific tactile sensation? Blank-out. Why not every time we smell a specific odor? Blank-out. Why is _hearing_ singled out as the only sense through which we can experience "pure" sensations? Blank-out. Blank-out. Blank-out. Earlier in the very same essay (in _The Romantic Manifesto_, p. 46), she has made the entirely indefensible statement that sight and touch provide us with direct awareness of "entities." This is just wrong; sight, for example, considered purely as a _sense_ (if it may even be meaningfully considered as such), gives us "direct awareness" of, at most, variously-shaped expanses of color; anything else involves perception (and Rand is clearly waffling here between sight as a "sense" and sight as a mode of  exception). But even if Rand's statement were unexceptionable, it would seem to leave open the possibility that we could experience "pure sensations" not only through hearing but also through taste and smell. So why don't we? Blank-out. Blank-out. Blank-out. Blank-out. Blank-out . . .

 I have said before that Rand swept a lot of genuine problems under the rug of "perception." I will go even further: her views on sensation and perception are so poorly thought out that there is no point in trying to extract a coherent doctrine from them. To quote Rand yet again: Don't bother to examine a folly; ask yourself only what it accomplishes. And what this particular folly accomplishes is straightforward enough: it allows her to avoid or evade difficult questions about the relationship between sensation and perception, while still claiming to base her philosophy on the "evidence of the senses."

 ["Prof. E: . . . certain incontestable data on which we base all of our reasoning -- namely, the direct evidence of the senses, about which we can't be wrong, as apart from errors in conceptualizing it or reasoning about it.

 AR: Right."

 ITOE, p. 228. How the "direct evidence of the senses" can be regarded as "incontestable," if we can't remember sensations directly or even experience them at all, is a mystery I confess myself unable to solve. According even to her own epistemology, shouldn't she really be referring to the "evidence of perception"?]

 The goal? In the final analysis, it is simply and solely to reassure Rand herself of her own cognitive efficacy on her own terms -- i.e. to condone her own uncritical belief in the indubitable rock-bottom reality of all and only those "entities" she thought she could see and touch. Recall her anger at Joan Mitchell Blumenthal when the latter informed her that what she had thought was a tree outside her ninth-floor hospital window was only the reflection of an IV pole in the glass [_The Passion of Ayn Rand_, p. 383].

For my money, this little tale tells us more about Rand's "epistemology" than does her entire monograph.

 From: Michael Subject: OWL: objective introspection Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 23:27:03 -0700 (MST) Jim Hopkins <JJHBMW@aol.com> somewhat dogmatically insists that introspection cannot be objective; that propositions derived from introspection must be subjective.  (OK, maybe the word "dogmatic" is hasty, but he's been similarly throwing it around to refer to those he disagrees with; you see this in the same posting at <http://www.wetheliving.com/objectivism/msg01368.html>.  But it has long seemed to me that people who rely on this notion that introspection is necessarily subjective are either dogmatic or unaware that any other position exists.  They often act _surprised_ when you dispute this position, as if it had never occurred to them that anyone might dispute this point that they think is axiomatic.)

 So let's define some terms: What are objectivity and subjectivity, and what are extrospection and introspection?

 Objectivity (in the relevant sense; this is not the _only_ meaning of the word) is the recognition that the existence and nature of objects of one's awareness are independent of one's awareness of them.  The table that I see in front of me exists not because I see it, but quite independently of the fact that I see it.

            (The definition of "subjectivity" will follow that of "introspection".)

 Extrospection is observation of things outside of one's mind; it includes ordinary sense perception, such as seeing this table that's in front of me; it also includes thinking about whether elephants in Africa will be rendered extinct by hunters before the year 2040.

Introspection, as opposed to extrospection, is the direct observation of what's going on inside your mind.  You notice that you just remembered the phone number you couldn't remember earlier. Suddenly remembering it is an instance of something happening inside your mind.  You don't learn that you suddenly remembered it by looking at a CAT scan of your brain showing the neurons going through the suddenly-remembering-a-previously-forgotten-phone-number motions.  Rather, you observe directly that you suddenly remembered it.  Does green look different to you from the way blue looks? What they look like to you is something happening in your mind. If you observe that they look different to you, that's direct observation of something happening in your mind; i.e., it is an instance of introspection And what is subjectivity?  Subjectivity is that which you observe by means of introspection.  Do blue and green look different from each other to you?  WHAT GREEN LOOKS LIKE TO YOU is a subjective state of you mind.  WHAT IS IT LIKE to suddenly remember a phone number you had forgotten?  What it is like is a subjective mental state.  Introspection is direct observation of one's own subjective mental states.

 The existence of subjective states of mind is something of which we are aware _ONLY_ by introspection.  Watching the CAT scan of someone's neurons going through the seeing-a-green-object motions will not tell us what that color LOOKS LIKE to that person.  In so saying, I don't mean to rule out future technologies that will make this possible.  I'm not saying it's metaphysically impossible that the color-blind, via some not-yet-existing technology, will find out what the difference between red and green looks like to others.  Only that nothing like that has ever been done yet.

 Note that by the above characterizations, objectivity and subjectivity are not opposites, as they are often taken to be. To say that introspection can be objective, means that we can recognize that the existence and nature of subjective mental states does not depend on our awareness (or lack of awareness) of them.  Without objective introspection, we cannot have any science or philosophy of mind, nor even say that there is any such thing as what the color green looks like to anyone.

 Someone once told me that we don't even know that what green looks like to me is the same as what it looks like to you, and claimed this is a reason why introspection cannot be objective. Notice the contradiction in this claim:  It presupposes that there _is_ such a thing as "what green looks like to me"!  How do we know that??  Only via objective introspection could it be known.

 Only by introspection can we know that consciousness, rationality, and free will exist.

 A few decades ago it was intellectually unfashionable to speak of consciousness as the object of philosophical or scientific inquiry.  Fortunately that has changed, thereby making progress

 From: Gregory Wharton To: objectivism Subject: OWL: RE: Axiomatic Volition Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000 23:25:44 -0700 (MST) Peter Voss constructs his very own straw man with the following: > Volition is not axiomatic, unless so by definition: e,g.,  high-level, abstract knowledge requires volition (the freedom to form valid concepts); we have such knowledge, therefore we must have volition. I reject this view. Volition and abstract thinking _are_ tied, but it is not volition that gives rise to the ability to think rationally (conceptually), but rather it is our ability to think conceptually (to form & deal with abstract concepts) that gives rise to volition.

 Now, the Objectivist position on volition is as follows:

 1. We have a conceptual faculty (the rational faculty).

 2. One primary characteristic of the conceptual faculty is the capacity for abstraction through "measurement omission."

 3. Inherent in this capacity for abstraction is the potential for error (fallibility)--a potential not present without the "leaving out" of information involved in abstraction.

 4. This potential for error, as an emergent property, frees the human mind from strict necessitated causation--i.e. allows false concepts to be the causal motivation behind some human action, therefore allowing non-existents to potentially become causally relevant!.

 5. In order for some concept to become a causal motivation in the action of a conceptual consciousness, some choice must be made as to which of a multitude of equally valid potentials (even the false ones!) must be the one on which to act.  The mind is a meta-programming system.  It sets its own content.  This content affects the further progress and content of the system.  By this process, choices are made.  This is volition.

 In other words: because we possess the faculty of reason, we are volitional. Volition is inherent to reason.  Further, exhibition of the capacity for volition is prima facie evidence of the possession the faculty of reason (the conceptual faculty).

 So, when Peter Voss criticizes Objectivism for making the argument that reason comes from volition, he is attacking a straw man.  Objectivism holds no such position.  Quite the contrary, in fact.

 A further word to all "critics" of volition: In continuing to argue your case against volition, you achieve nothing more than continuing support of your opposition (pro-volition).  The more the materialist determinists argue their case, the more they make my own case for me.  According to the laws of contradiction and excluded middle (themselves both axioms as well), only one of our positions can be true. Either volition exists or it doesn't.

 If volition does not exist, then both of our arguments must be causally necessitated, and not just chosen.  If this is the case, then they are both necessarily valid.  Thus, if volition is false, volition must evidently be both true AND false, since there are firm believers and exponents of both positions.  How can a non-existent (a falsity) become causally relevant without volitional choice?  This is a question for which the determinists can have no answer which does not at least implicitly rely on the validity of volition.

 To a certain extent, Objectivists owe a debt of gratitude to the materialist determinists, religious fanatics, and irrational people of all stripes.  The fact that they believe the things they do, and regularly act on them, is prima facie evidence that we are right about volition.

 If the determinists really believed what they preach, they would have no choice but to either shut up entirely (make no statements pro or con), or accept that we are both right, despite the fact that this necessitates a self-contradiction.  This is why volition is axiomatic--not because we say so arbitrarily, but because we face the stark fact that any alternative is necessarily self-contradictory.

 Volition is axiomatic because it is an inescapable and undeniable attribute of existence--an existence in which beings with a conceptual faculty can exist (and plainly do).  When we say that proof presupposes volition, we are saying that it is fallibility (which originates in the rational faculty and to which volition is inherent) which gives rise to the necessity for proof. Without fallibility (and thus volition), the notion of "proof" is meaningless at best.

 To argue against volition is to argue in favor of universal infallibility for human cognition.  To argue against volition is to argue against the necessity for ANY sort of normative judgment.  To argue against volition is to argue against proof per se.  To argue against volition is to argue against reason per se.

 The opponents of volition can continue to argue these things if they wish to.  After all, it is their volitional desire to do so for some reason. However, they cannot reasonably expect to substantiate their positions thereby, since they are manifestly self-contradictory. ~g J. Gregory Wharton, AIA Mike Hardy  Scott Ryan

 From: Will Wilkinson To: Johnny Wales Subject: Re: ATL: On axioms Date: Sun, 18 Jun 2000 02:37:09 -0400 Saturday, June 17, 2000, 8:18:08 PM, you wrote:  > As a for-instance, my 21st birthday 'party' was basically me and one other person going to Finnigan's Pub, sitting in a dark 'evil-scheme' booth (the kind you would expect to see evil masterminds sitting in..), and discussing philosophy for about 5 hours. Basically, he refused to take as an axiom the idea that A equals A. Here's how he put his argument: If we create a set for a given system and put something (A) into it, and that's the full definition of the system, then there would be no equals operator.

 > As a result, we have a set:  > {A} where {A=A} has no meaning. Why? Because we haven't defined an equals operator, so that little symbol (=) doesn't fit here, unless we define it.

 The error here is confusing meanings with definitions. If one is constructing a formal language then, sure, symbols have no meanings independent of the metalinguistic definitions. However, natural language concepts do not get their meanings by stipulation, and their definitions do not determine their meanings. '=' expresses the concept IDENTITY which is derived from experience (and is derivable_ from any experience.) 'A = A' is just expressing that anything is itself, or, as Butler said, everything is what it is and not another thing. There is no need to express the thought using the identity sign, or with variables.

 Your friend doesn't use a formal system to describe the formal system he is setting up. He uses English, no doubt. If you can get to him to admit that 'is' has a meaning in English, then you win. If he will not admit this, then point it out every time he uses 'is' or some variant. If he will not then concede that 'is' has a meaning, then he must concede that every sentence in which he uses it has no meaning. In which case, he will be reduced to either self-admitted gibberish or silence. Will

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