Danneskjold

Schrodinger's Cat

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I'm hardly ever snarky these years, and wasn't here. I was just saying that D's counter to Bob's idea depended on his, D's, acceptance and use of the principle of identity. That principle underlies any honest thought process, but it takes a philosophic mind to grasp consciously. A person can be brilliant on the lower levels of thought, and still not have what it takes to handle philosophy, to form those wider abstractions that identify what is common to all thought.

[i'll remove the comment that was here and just say that I'll let B and D have the last word. No time!]

Edited by ashleyparkerangel

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Sorry, I can't keep up with all these posts, but I completely agree with Bob when he writes:

I do not think you can "use" the concept of identity for anything.

It's like saying that you "use" the fact that the world exists. Well, duh.

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BTW, it is Schrödinger, not Schrodinger. If you can't make an ö (alt 148) you can always write Schroedinger. And please don't pronounce it as Peikoff does (he says something like "Shrowdinger").

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I'm hardly ever snarky these years, and wasn't here. I was just saying that D's counter to Bob's idea depended on his, D's, acceptance and use of the principle of identity. That principle underlies any honest thought process, but it takes a philosophic mind to grasp consciously. A person can be brilliant on the lower levels of thought, and still not have what it takes to handle philosophy, to form those wider abstractions that identify what is common to all thought.

I must say Bob often comes across as someone whose feelings are hurt. I don't understand what his reasons are for posting on Objectivist forums, if he truly thinks we are such dolts and it upsets him so much!

Frustration, certainly. Hurt feelings? Hardly.

Michael says you're intelligent. Maybe, but I don't see anything in the last posts that support that.

Dragonfly "countered" nothing. Maybe this is what you got that from - he said:

"QM doesn't in any way invalidate logic, it can only exist thanks to a rigorous application of logic" and so on.

I DID NOT say that QM invalidates logic, and I don't think Dragonfly was asserting this either. I asserted that there could be a logic problem associated with Bell's inequality and it's application to QM. Something could be wrong in the chain of reasoning, including incomplete logic.

The fact that Bell's inequality is experimentally violated is a really weird thing, and is not easily explained. So if I wasn't clear then, what I'm saying is that the logic involved should be re-examined, and in fact Dragonfly AGREED (checking premises comment).

This is the second time I've explained it and yet you still assert he used identity to "counter" me. In reality, he did not use "identity" and he AGREED with me.

"I couldn't agree more."

So, WTF?

"That principle underlies any honest thought process, but it takes a philosophic mind to grasp consciously."

That is as arrogant as it is wrong. That doesn't hurt my feelings, it's just dumb.

I post here because I enjoy discussing and learning. My problem is I can't help poking at the daft remarks.

Bob

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"Neither logic nor reality are on the table. "

Oh yes they most definitely are.

"If logic is on the table, then I can say anything I want and you cannot refute it. You cannot debate anyone. You cannot know anything at all. You cannot even know that you cannot know anything. You are verging on the embrace of a contradiction."

Nope, you're way off base. It doesn't mean this at all. What it means it that our logic is perhaps incomplete. Why is it not possible to have a 3 valued logic? Not just T and F, but maybe another value like "I" - indeterminate - or others too? It most certainly does not mean that you "cannot know anything". It just means that what we think is logic, isn't REAL logic.

I am using the term "logic" in the Objectivist sense (this being an Objectivist forum), namely, "the non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality." You are free to develop whatever logic you like, so long as it does not result in the assertion of a contradiction. Whether your logic is efficacious or you end up with a lot of "don't know" answers is another issue.

Now, are you saying that you wish to employ a method of reasoning in which you leave some states of your knowledge as "indeterminant"? --- In other words, is this an epistemological issue? Or are you saying that reality may itself be indeterminant? If the latter, then this isn't really a question of epistemology and therefore not an issue of logic. It is an issue of metaphysics. I do not believe that an indeterminant physical theory is required. However, I would be happy to debate that question.

"Reality simply is what it is and it could not be otherwise. It is not contingent on any observation."

Like I said, you can argue against the Copenhagen Interpretation, but lots evidence seems to be against this position. As I understand it, the "concious" part of observation might not be required, but observation does seem to change reality as does the POSSIBILITY of observation in some cases it seems(gotta find that reference).

I'm not sure exactly what the Copenhagen Interpretation says, but I don't think I'm arguing against the modern interpretation of QM, at least as far as I can tell by reading Wikipedia articles. I know that at some point in the past, physicists used words like "measurement" or "observation" in their theories. However, a simpler explanation that appears to be consistent with QM is that the system in question must interact with one or more outside particles --- particles that are not considered part of the system under consideration. It is that interaction that causes the collapse of the wavefunction. So, for example, in the double slit experiment, it is the interaction of the electron with the slit detector that causes the collapse of the wavefunction. In the EPR/Bell experiments, it is also the interaction of the particle pair with the detectors on either side that cause the wavefunction collapse.

Now, I realize that QM sometimes describes a particle or pair of particles as existing in a superposition of states so that it isn't really in either state, it is in some indeterminant state. But that is not a philosophical requirement. I would prefer to say that the particle(s) exist in a definite state described by a linear combination of wavefunctions. The idea that a particle or particles could exist in a compound state may be counterintuitive, but that is a more philosophically satisfying position than the assertion that the the state is indeterminant.

The problem with stating that the state of a physical system is indeterminant is that it confuses metaphysics with epistemology. It confuses what is, with what we know about it. Hence, all the confusion about consciousness, measurements, and cats. If our experiments seem to indicate that particles are simultaneously in multiple states, then they are simultaneously in multiple states. They are not in some indeterminant state that only resolves itself when you look at it.

" Moreover, no contradictions can exist in reality"

Well, that's the whole problem with the Bell's inequality violation isn't it? Something is wrong with one or MORE of...

- Locality

- Logic

- Reality independent of observation

Two men say they're Jesus, one of 'ems gotta be wrong - at least.

Then I would throw out locality. According to the, "No Communication Theorem," a non-local interpretation does not violate causality. The other two cannot be escaped.

Darrell

Edited by Darrell Hougen

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I do not think you can "use" the concept of identity for anything.

Seems to me you have to use it for everything, lest you end up stealing concepts.

There is no "logic", for example, without a process of observation (based upon the concept of identity) preceding it. If there was some form of consciousness somewhere that lived in a complete vacuum and was aware of nothing, save for itself, for example, then its "logic" would be quite different than we understand it. That consciousness could not make logical inferences or deductions about "married bachelors" or "black swans", it would have to know about men and swans first (among other things).

Or to approach it another way, we can not make "logical" inferences or deductions about unicorns, since they don't exist. It is neither reasonable nor unreasonable, logical nor unlogical to suggest that unicorns eat rocks, or that all unicorns are white.

Seems to me, that you can not postulate any sort of "logic" without first having an awareness of actual things (even in the most general way) to be logicized about.

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

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"The idea that a particle or particles could exist in a compound state may be counterintuitive, but that is a more philosophically satisfying position than the assertion that the the state is indeterminant. "

I'm not trying to connect a possible three state logic scheme to metaphysical indeterminance. I'm simply stating that the Bell's theorem issue should have us examining our logic too.

If I recall, your idea of compound state has some recent experimental basis. This idea has some backing I think.

"definite state described by a linear combination of wavefunctions. "

Not sure what this means.

"it is also the interaction of the particle pair with the detectors on either side that cause the wavefunction collapse."

I gotta look into this more, but I don't think it's that simple. But again, I'm not totally sure about this. Must dust off some books.

"Then I would throw out locality. According to the, "No Communication Theorem," a non-local interpretation does not violate causality. The other two cannot be escaped."

I just think that's hasty, and your last statement is too confident. I don't think the evidence supports such an assertion - yet.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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I do not think you can "use" the concept of identity for anything.

Seems to me you have to use it for everything, lest you end up stealing concepts.

There is no "logic", for example, without a process of observation (based upon the concept of identity) preceding it. If there was some form of consciousness somewhere that lived in a complete vacuum and was aware of nothing, save for itself, for example, then its "logic" would be quite different than we understand it. That consciousness could not make logical inferences or deductions about "married bachelors" or "black swans", it would have to know about men and swans first (among other things).

Or to approach it another way, we can not make "logical" inferences or deductions about unicorns, since they don't exist. It is neither reasonable nor unreasonable, logical nor unlogical to suggest that unicorns eat rocks, or that all unicorns are white.

Seems to me, that you can not postulate any sort of "logic" without first having an awareness of actual things (even in the most general way) to be logicized about.

RCR

I understand what you're saying and in one sense I agree, but we're talking about different things I think. The concept of identity (as used usually and the object of my objection, but different than MSK's view of it) is an empty tautology. It places no restriction on anything and tells us nothing. It's circular in it's reasoning and cannot be used a basis or reason for anything. In a sense, it's a one-word fallacy. To say something is what it is, but isn't what it isn't, is useless. It is not used in your sense of "awareness" when used as the basis for causality as an example. In this example, it's used as if it means something that it doesn't.

Bob

Edited by Bob_Mac

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I do not think you can "use" the concept of identity for anything.

Seems to me you have to use it for everything, lest you end up stealing concepts.

There is no "logic", for example, without a process of observation (based upon the concept of identity) preceding it. If there was some form of consciousness somewhere that lived in a complete vacuum and was aware of nothing, save for itself, for example, then its "logic" would be quite different than we understand it. That consciousness could not make logical inferences or deductions about "married bachelors" or "black swans", it would have to know about men and swans first (among other things).

Or to approach it another way, we can not make "logical" inferences or deductions about unicorns, since they don't exist. It is neither reasonable nor unreasonable, logical nor unlogical to suggest that unicorns eat rocks, or that all unicorns are white.

Seems to me, that you can not postulate any sort of "logic" without first having an awareness of actual things (even in the most general way) to be logicized about.

RCR

I understand what you're saying and in one sense I agree, but we're talking about different things I think. The concept of identity (as used usually and the object of my objection, but different than MSK's view of it) is an empty tautology. It places no restriction on anything and tells us nothing. It's circular in it's reasoning and cannot be used a basis or reason for anything. In a sense, it's a one-word fallacy. To say something is what it is, but isn't what it isn't, is useless. It is not used in your sense of "awareness" when used as the basis for causality as an example. In this example, it's used as if it means something that it doesn't.

Bob

I understand what you and Dragonfly are saying as well (Peter and I have already started down this road elsewhere), but I don't think it is that simple..."But again, I'm not totally sure about this. Must dust off some books."

:)

RCR

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It appears that some physical system behave in a random way, but that action is still consistent with the nature of the entity in question. The entity still has an identity. It still behaves in a manner that is consistent with its nature.

Can we kick this dead horse any harder? Identity is a totally empty and meaningless concept. "consistent with its nature" means nothing. This constrains the properties of something how? This guides our thinking how? It is equivalent to saying that "anything can be anything but it can't be what it's not". There is no context where the concept has any teeth. An empty tautology is worthless. In fact it's worse than worthless when it's used to defend a position (causality for one). In fact, this empty idea POLLUTES thinking.

First of all, my comments were directed mainly at other Objectivists, some of whom seem to labor under the assumption that the physical world must behave deterministically in order for the identity axiom to be true. That is, if a particle has a certain identity, then it must behave in a particular manner. That statement may appear to imply that the behavior of a particle must be deterministic. It appears to imply that if it is possible to determine the initial state precisely, then that information must be sufficient to predict the exact trajectory of the particle forever afterward (unless it interacts with another particle whose initial state was not known).

However, I am arguing that that is not the case. What I am saying is that if a particle is governed by a well defined probability distribution, then its behavior is still constrained in a manner consistent with the identity axiom. Its trajectory is not fully determined, but it is not completely arbitrary either. The particle still has a specific nature.

The identity axiom has several important consequences. It implies, for example, that reality is independent of consciousness. Therefore, the state of a physical system is independent of whether anyone performs a measurement on that system or whether any conscious being sees the result of that measurement. The act of measurement only alters the state of the system in the sense that any interference with the system alters the state of the system. The fact that one kind of interference is called a measurement and another kind of intereference is called something else is completely irrelevant to the state of the system.

The identity axiom implies that every property of a system is finite.

It implies that causality cannot be violated.

I would like to think that this is merely a semantic disagreement and therefore give you the benefit of the doubt on this issue, but it appears that it is your failure to grasp the existence/identity axiom that is at the root of your own confusion. In another post, you stated:

And I think the Bell's problem calls more than just locality into question. Logic itself is on the table now, along with whether or not reality has any meaning separate from observation. The latter is clearly an extreme Objectivism violation of the highest order.

You are right in stating that the notion that reality depends upon observation is an extreme violation of Objectivist principles. It is also not true. Nothing in QM demands that reality depend upon observation or even the possibility of observation and such interpretations should be avoided. Logic is impossible if existence does not have primacy over consciousness.

Darrell

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However, I am arguing that that is not the case. What I am saying is that if a particle is governed by a well defined probability distribution, then its behavior is still constrained in a manner consistent with the identity axiom. Its trajectory is not fully determined, but it is not completely arbitrary either. The particle still has a specific nature.

Nicely said.

As a side-note, this notion that "measurement" (the looking at) itself alters the outcome of the "measurement" (in terms of particle behavior) is also applicable to human beings. The "state" of a human being is almost always altered by the mere "looking at"...we can not know how a human will behave deterministically, and adding "measurement" is almost always going to alter the results. You have to "trick" people into thinking they aren't being watched to increase the purity of "measurement" (Think of trying to work with someone standing over your shoulder, or how people reflexively alter their behavior when on camera...i.e. the fallacy of reality-tv).

Just something to chew on...

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

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Bob,

I am going to give you an epistemological present. Axiomatic concepts are not concepts at all in the sense that other concepts are (until much later stages of conceptual development, when they become tautologies—in the propositional logic sense, not in the simple redundancy sense). I even think they are a misnomer if you depend on units for integrating.

I prefer to call them conditions.

They are conditions that cannot be breached without invalidating our knowledge. The perception (and definition) of these conditions can be modified as new knowledge becomes available, but these conditions must be present for anything to be tested or learned. Something must exist and it must be a specific something if it is to be studied, and we must have a mind to study it. Part of being something specific is being able to cause specific actions. These are starting-point conditions. Eliminate any of them and you step outside of logic and reason.

They mean nothing more than this.

Michael

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The identity axiom has several important consequences. It implies, for example, that reality is independent of consciousness.

No, it doesn't. We may have good reasons to think that reality is independent of consciousness, but this tautology won't tell us. Every thing could in principle be a figment of the imagination and still be itself.

The identity axiom implies that every property of a system is finite.

The question is: what is a "property" of a system? Atomic systems may have an infinite number of bound states for example. You can't say a priori that the universe isn't infinitely large.

It implies that causality cannot be violated.

Why can't causality be violated? That is an empirical question that cannot solved by a tautology.

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First of all, my comments were directed mainly at other Objectivists, some of whom seem to labor under the assumption that the physical world must behave deterministically in order for the identity axiom to be true. That is, if a particle has a certain identity, then it must behave in a particular manner. That statement may appear to imply that the behavior of a particle must be deterministic. It appears to imply that if it is possible to determine the initial state precisely, then that information must be sufficient to predict the exact trajectory of the particle forever afterward (unless it interacts with another particle whose initial state was not known).

This is not just the opinion of some Objectivists, it is the official doctrine, and it is one of the big holes in Objectivist theory. You can't derive an empirical fact like the determinism or indeterminism of a system from a tautology. Further Objecitivists run into problems when they apply this law to living beings, in particular to humans, as the reasoning applied to inanimate matter would also apply to human beings, implying that the notion of free will is an illusion, which is a big taboo in Objectivism. So their answer is that humans have a certain identity that includes the notion of a real free will. But that is of course a non-answer which illustrates the fact that you can fill in anything for the nature of a thing without contradicting the law of identity, as the LOI does not say what its nature is. Determinism or indeterminism, real free will or illusionary free will, finiteness or infiniteness, these are all things to be determined empirically, not a priori. Then afterwards you can say: this is the nature of these things and the LOI says that a thing acts according to its nature, namely this nature. But that shows also that the LOI is empty, as any other empirical result would also be in accordance with it, even a system that would act completely erratically and unpredictably, because then acting erratically and unpredictably is its nature, the only thing you can predict is that it acts unpredictably. That it does behave unpredictably can only be derived from empirical evidence and not from any a priori reasoning, just like any other "nature" of some entity or system. The LOI only says that you found what you found, but it cannot tell you what you will find. What we call "the nature" of a thing is nothing but a summary of our empirical findings with regard to that thing, and the LOI in fact only says that this is what we call its "nature" or: a thing behaves like it behaves (="according to its nature").

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these are all things to be determined empirically, not a priori.

They are things to be discovered empirically, they exist a priori (if they are to be discovered at all)...If something does not exist, it can not be discovered, described, or determined by any method, empirical or not. There isn't anything to be discovered, described, or determined in, from, or about nothing.

The LOI only says that you found what you found, but it cannot tell you what you will find.

No it cannot, but then again, the LOI isn't really about the process of "finding" at all; the LOI simply describes the potential for any given thing to be found. What you found can only be discovered, described, or determined through one's particular epistemological lens. Without an epistemological lens (method of knowing), you can't "find" anything at all, but the LOI isn't concerned with that, it merely posits that existents aren't dependent upon being found, in order to be.

The LOI is concerned with metaphysics; it is a statement about existence (metaphysics) and not one of identification (epistemology).

RCR

Edited by R. Christian Ross

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Something very weird just happened.

You guys are using LOI to mean Law Of Identity. I translated about 35,000 pages from Portuguese to English. LOI always meant Letter Of Intent during that time.

Now the two are commingling in my head and both intent and identity got shot all to hell.

Is there no law anywhere?

Michael

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Bob,

I am going to give you an epistemological present. Axiomatic concepts are not concepts at all in the sense that other concepts are (until much later stages of conceptual development, when they become tautologies—in the propositional logic sense, not in the simple redundancy sense). I even think they are a misnomer if you depend on units for integrating.

I prefer to call them conditions.

They are conditions that cannot be breached without invalidating our knowledge. The perception (and definition) of these conditions can be modified as new knowledge becomes available, but these conditions must be present for anything to be tested or learned. Something must exist and it must be a specific something if it is to be studied, and we must have a mind to study it. Part of being something specific is being able to cause specific actions. These are starting-point conditions. Eliminate any of them and you step outside of logic and reason.

They mean nothing more than this.

Michael

I don't have any major objections to what you're saying here, other than your use of the word 'specific' could be troublesome. But Darell doesn't use it this way. It makes more sense for you to direct your comments to him.

Darell :

"The identity axiom implies that every property of a system is finite.

It implies that causality cannot be violated."

This is the thought-pollution I speak of. This frustrates me because it's so obviously wrong. I get at least some satisfaction when Dragonfly skewers it.

To me the moral of the story is that while we need some type of epistemological framework to learn and discover things, QM teaches us at a minimum that the epistemological, metaphysical and/or logical framework itself is up for modification.

I believe epistemology is built on a coherentism-like framework, not on immutable axioms. EVERYTHING is held to scrutiny and we DO NOT need immutable axioms to progress. In fact this will KILL progress. The changeable 'coherent' platform is what we have to employ to progress. Theories of the mind/learning that hold these types of ideas make sense to me. Obectivist axioms do not.

Bob

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The identity axiom has several important consequences. It implies, for example, that reality is independent of consciousness.
No, it doesn't. We may have good reasons to think that reality is independent of consciousness, but this tautology won't tell us. Every thing could in principle be a figment of the imagination and still be itself.

Lets look at the Objectivist definition of consciousness. Consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. In order for there to be a consciousness, there has to be some thing to be conscious of. Therefore, something must exist apart from consciousness. If you disagree, posit a meaningful definition of consciousness that we can debate.

The identity axiom implies that every property of a system is finite.
The question is: what is a "property" of a system? Atomic systems may have an infinite number of bound states for example. You can't say a priori that the universe isn't infinitely large.

I do not consider the universe to be a thing. Empty space is not a thing.

We can certainly debate what a property is. However, that does not eliminate the obvious usefulness of such a concept.

It implies that causality cannot be violated.
Why can't causality be violated? That is an empirical question that cannot solved by a tautology.

I do not see how such a question could be answered empirically. How could you ever know whether an apparent violation of causality was a real violation of causality or just the result of a logical error?

In Objectivist thought, an object has a specific nature and acts in accordance with it. That is the law of identity. In order for the law of identity to be violated, there would have to be some object that did not have a specific nature --- it could be one thing today and another thing tomorrow. No measurement would ever be stable, no characteristic ever the same. And, if such were the case, it would be impossible to reason about it because no conclusion could ever be validated. Empirical evidence would be impossible and would mean nothing.

Causality is a corolary. It is the application of the law of identity to the possible actions of an object. If an object has a nature that can be specified, then its possible actions can also be specified. If it violates causality, that means its scope of action is unlimited and nothing can ever be known about it.

Darrell

Edited by Darrell Hougen

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First of all, my comments were directed mainly at other Objectivists, some of whom seem to labor under the assumption that the physical world must behave deterministically in order for the identity axiom to be true. That is, if a particle has a certain identity, then it must behave in a particular manner. That statement may appear to imply that the behavior of a particle must be deterministic. It appears to imply that if it is possible to determine the initial state precisely, then that information must be sufficient to predict the exact trajectory of the particle forever afterward (unless it interacts with another particle whose initial state was not known).
This is not just the opinion of some Objectivists, it is the official doctrine, and it is one of the big holes in Objectivist theory.

I won't disagree with you here, although it appears that some big name Objectivists hedge. They don't come right out and say that the world is deterministic because they know what that would imply for the concept of free will.

You can't derive an empirical fact like the determinism or indeterminism of a system from a tautology. Further Objecitivists run into problems when they apply this law to living beings, in particular to humans, as the reasoning applied to inanimate matter would also apply to human beings, implying that the notion of free will is an illusion, which is a big taboo in Objectivism. So their answer is that humans have a certain identity that includes the notion of a real free will.

Again, I agree. However, no one has ever produced a satisfactory explanation of free will, so I have to give them credit for at least defending the empirical evidence. It would be easy to give up free will because of its apparent contradiction of the laws of physics, whether they be deterministic or random, except for the fact that free will evidently exists. If volitional consciousness were not possible, the debate that we are having right now would be completely meaningless because neither of us would have any choice about it.

But that is of course a non-answer which illustrates the fact that you can fill in anything for the nature of a thing without contradicting the law of identity, as the LOI does not say what its nature is. Determinism or indeterminism, real free will or illusionary free will, finiteness or infiniteness, these are all things to be determined empirically, not a priori. Then afterwards you can say: this is the nature of these things and the LOI says that a thing acts according to its nature, namely this nature. But that shows also that the LOI is empty, as any other empirical result would also be in accordance with it, even a system that would act completely erratically and unpredictably, because then acting erratically and unpredictably is its nature, the only thing you can predict is that it acts unpredictably. That it does behave unpredictably can only be derived from empirical evidence and not from any a priori reasoning, just like any other "nature" of some entity or system. The LOI only says that you found what you found, but it cannot tell you what you will find. What we call "the nature" of a thing is nothing but a summary of our empirical findings with regard to that thing, and the LOI in fact only says that this is what we call its "nature" or: a thing behaves like it behaves (="according to its nature").

The fact that the law of identity does not say what anything is, does not make the concept meaningless. What the law of identity says is that everything has a specific nature. That may seem so obvious as to not be worth mentioning, but let's consider the history of philosophy.

Both the mystics and the subjectivists ignore the law of identity. The mystics believe in certain supernatural beings. The implication of "supernatural" is that the being is above nature or that the being has no particular nature. The being is capable of defying the laws of nature and is sometimes said to have the ability do anything, to know everything to see everything, etc.

The subjectivists, on the other hand believe that existence is dependent upon consciousness. That something is so just because someone wants it to be so. The naming of things is an arbitrary social convention. Nature has no identity outside of the human mind. It could all be a figment of the imagination, etc.

These considerations might seem rather far removed from the modern scientific world, and to the degree that they are, it only serves to prove the efficacy of the law of identity. However, much of the "mystery" surrounding modern physics is evidently a result of the temporary abandonment of the law of identity. It is the result of a lapse into subjectivism --- the notion that the state of a physical system depends upon the performance of a measurement or even the observation of a conscious mind.

The law of identity is a subject of metaphysics, not physics. It tells you nothing about any particular physical system. It only informs you of the possibility of understanding that system. It tells you that the system has specific properties and that, if you are sufficiently clever, those properties can be identified. It doesn't tell you how to identify them or what they will be. Just that they will be something --- that they can be specified. Existence is identity. Consciousness is the faculty of identification.

Darrell

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Where is the empty space?

Hmmmm. I must resist the urge ...

Seriously, you should ask yourself whether that is a meaningful question in the context of the current discussion.

Darrell

Edited by Darrell Hougen

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I don't have any major objections to what you're saying here, other than your use of the word 'specific' could be troublesome. But Darell doesn't use it this way. It makes more sense for you to direct your comments to him.

I don't see how my usage differs from Michael's usage.

Darrell

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Lets look at the Objectivist definition of consciousness. Consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists. In order for there to be a consciousness, there has to be some thing to be conscious of. Therefore, something must exist apart from consciousness. If you disagree, posit a meaningful definition of consciousness that we can debate.

The point is not whether I disagree with that definition, I'm not defending the idea that there is no reality. But you have to realize that you've already put the existence of reality into your definition as the idea of an independent reality seems to be a good idea. However, a solipsist may define consciousness as his personal experience, leaving aside the question where that experience comes from, considering it as the ultimate unanswerable question, comparable to the question "why is there anything?" His idea is that his experience is like a dream, in which things happen, we observe things, but these do not belong to an external reality. In most cases the dreamer doesn't realize this and dreams that his dream is a reality, until he awakes and then realizes that the events in his dream were not real, but what he now experiences is reality. What the solipsist in effect says is: but how do you know that you're right this time? Perhaps this is also a kind of dream, and we don't know where it comes from, if we can awake in another kind of existence or that it is something sui generis. In his view that what he experiences with what is called his consciousness may have the appearance of some independent reality, but that is an illusion. The problem is that he has to use the same words which normally presuppose an independent reality, but in his view the words have a different meaning, they refer to some kind of virtual world.

Now to be clear: I'm certainly not defending solipsism, I think it is a useless viewpoint, but you can't prove that he is wrong by using definitions that already contain the answer (namely that there is an independent reality), that is an example of begging the question. What we can do is making a case that the notion of an independent reality is a good idea, but a mere definition doesn't prove anything.

The identity axiom implies that every property of a system is finite.
The question is: what is a "property" of a system? Atomic systems may have an infinite number of bound states for example. You can't say a priori that the universe isn't infinitely large.

I do not consider the universe to be a thing. Empty space is not a thing.

The universe is not empty space, it is the total of all things that physically exist. How do you know that this total is finite? The usual reply that this total isn't a thing either doesn't hold. Consider a finite subset of the universe, this is definitely a "thing", with a finite number of particles. Now the question is: is there a maximal subset that does contain everything, so that there is no larger subset? In that case the subset is the universe itself and it is finite. If that is not the case, i.e. for every subset A we can find another subset B so that A is a proper subset of B (B contains at least one more element than A), then by definition the universe is infinite. Whether this is the case is an empirical question, which cannot be decided by playing with definitions.

We can certainly debate what a property is. However, that does not eliminate the obvious usefulness of such a concept.

If you state categorically that every property of a system is finite, you must have a definition of "property" otherwise your statement is empty. I gave an example of what I'd consider a property which is not finite.

It implies that causality cannot be violated.
Why can't causality be violated? That is an empirical question that cannot solved by a tautology.

I do not see how such a question could be answered empirically. How could you ever know whether whether an apparent violation of causality was a real violation of causality or just the result of a logical error?

Causality is not something that is a priori true, it the regular behavior of things that we observe in the macroscopic world that has lead us to introduce this notion, as we had never seen any exception to it, making it into a seemingly immutable law. That is, until we started to study the atomic and subatomic world. The evidence that classical causality no longer holds in that realm is as strong as the evidence that it does hold in the macroscopic world, so we had to revise the idea that causality never can be violated, just as we after Einstein had to revise the apparently immutable notion of an absolute time.

Causality is a corolary. It is the application of the law of identity to the possible actions of an object. If an object has a nature that can be specified, then its possible actions can also be specified. If it violates causality, that means its scope of action is unlimited and nothing can ever be known about it.

A particular uranium atom may decay the next moment or it may decay after a billion years, there is no cause for it to decay at a certain moment, so causality is violated and therefore it is impossible to predict when it will decay. But that doesn't mean that anything is possible. Violation of causality does not imply complete random behavior, unless you define causal behavior as any behavior that is not totally random in all possible aspects, but that is not the usual definition and I think it's very unlikely that it is the Objectivist definition (Peikoff: "nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance"). In that case some aspect of the behavior might be completely random while the system is yet a causal system. The decay of the uranium atom is a pure chance event (the fact that we know the probability distribution for this event doesn't make it any less a random event), but for example the decay products are not arbitrary and can be predicted.

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I believe epistemology is built on a coherentism-like framework, not on immutable axioms. EVERYTHING is held to scrutiny and we DO NOT need immutable axioms to progress. In fact this will KILL progress. The changeable 'coherent' platform is what we have to employ to progress. Theories of the mind/learning that hold these types of ideas make sense to me. Obectivist axioms do not.

I have taken a look at coherentism and so far I am unimpressed. If you would like to enlighten us further, I would be happy to listen. However, I have a few comments to make about axioms, lest we talk past each other because of a misunderstanding of the nature of axioms in Objectivism. This is from a previous post to another forum:

Axioms are commonly understood in common usage and in mathematics as being synonymous with assumptions --- statements that are taken to be true for the sake of argument or before any arguing or discussion begins. The fact that mathematical axioms, for example, happen to correspond to facts of reality is taken to be coincidental and of limited interest once the debate has begun. This, unfortunately, is a completely inverted and irrational view of the true nature of axioms, both in mathematics and philosophy.

An axiom is actually a summary of a large number of facts which is implicit in those facts. The Peano Axioms, for example, are a summary of arithmetic facts. It is a concise statement of infinitely many true statements such as 1 + 1 = 2, 2 + 1 = 3, 2 + 3 = 5, etc. The fact that such statements are true does not depend upon the Peano Axioms, the truth of such statements is an observational fact. If one has 2 oranges and brings in 3 more oranges, then one has 5 oranges. The statement, 2 + 3 = 5, abstracts away the oranges and the Peano Axioms summarize many such statements.

Similarly, the Objectivist statement that existence exists, is simply a summary of facts of the form, an orange exists, a car exists, I exist, etc. The axiom, existence exists, does not cause all of the observational facts to be true, but it is implicit in them.

The point can be further illustrated by reference to the program of David Hilbert in 1900 to axiomatize all of mathematics. He, and many other mathematicians, believed that we would eventually discover a set of axioms that would capture all mathematical knowledge. Thereafter, discovery of new mathematical truths would be a simple matter of applying the axioms to known true statements in order to deduce new ones. However, in 1931 Kurt Gödel proved that no finite set of axioms could ever summarize all mathematically true statements. In fact, he showed that there would always exist infinitely many mathematical truths that were not implicit in the axioms, no matter how large the set.

Gödel's proof makes sense if axioms are viewed as summarizing statements, rather than starting points. If axioms are viewed as starting points, then it is tempting to think that the only true statements are the ones implied by the axioms. But, if they are viewed as summary statements, then it is not surprising that it is impossible to give a concise summary of all possible knowledge.

The conclusion is that the axioms are not starting points. They are statements that are taken to be true because they are implicit in all knowledge. Any attempt to refute them, requires their use, as does any attempt to justify them. Because they are implicit in all knowledge, they are inescapable and irrefutable.

Darrell

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The point is not whether I disagree with that definition, I'm not defending the idea that there is no reality. But you have to realize that you've already put the existence of reality into your definition as the idea of an independent reality seems to be a good idea. However, a solipsist may define consciousness as his personal experience, leaving aside the question where that experience comes from, considering it as the ultimate unanswerable question, comparable to the question "why is there anything?" His idea is that his experience is like a dream, in which things happen, we observe things, but these do not belong to an external reality. In most cases the dreamer doesn't realize this and dreams that his dream is a reality, until he awakes and then realizes that the events in his dream were not real, but what he now experiences is reality. What the solipsist in effect says is: but how do you know that you're right this time? Perhaps this is also a kind of dream, and we don't know where it comes from, if we can awake in another kind of existence or that it is something sui generis. In his view that what he experiences with what is called his consciousness may have the appearance of some independent reality, but that is an illusion. The problem is that he has to use the same words which normally presuppose an independent reality, but in his view the words have a different meaning, they refer to some kind of virtual world.

Now to be clear: I'm certainly not defending solipsism, I think it is a useless viewpoint, but you can't prove that he is wrong by using definitions that already contain the answer (namely that there is an independent reality), that is an example of begging the question. What we can do is making a case that the notion of an independent reality is a good idea, but a mere definition doesn't prove anything.

That is a very nice statement of the solopsist view. It ought to be taken as a model. However, it also reveals the weaknesses of that view. First, it is clearly necessary to redefine words such as "experience" in order to get away with your argument. The word "experience" implies experience of some thing. If there is no thing, there can be no experience.

Now, you say that the solopsist will insist that "experience" actually has some other meaning than the one normally ascribed to it. But what is that meaning? If experience is generated externally, then what is the difference between experience of reality and experience generated by some external reality?

If experience is something that is completely internal, then one has to posit the notion that people are completely incapable of knowing the states of their own minds.

When I was a child I sometimes had dreams of being chased by monsters. Then I learned that I could tell myself before I went to bed that I was going to carry a blaster and blast the monsters my in dreams. It worked. I was actually able to affect my dreams and take control of them so that they were no longer as scary.

But that doesn't work in reality. If I'm being assaulted by a criminal, I can't simply imagine that I have a blaster and blast the criminal. Or, if I'm about to have a car accident, I can't imagine that my car can fly and get away with it. Nor, can I keep myself from falling from a high place once I have actually started to fall.

The problem with the solopsist point of view is that if the illusion is self created, then what is to keep the person having the delusion from controlling it? And, if it cannot be controlled, then what is the difference between the illusion and reality?

I used to take your view that the solopsistic viewpoint is useless. That is one approach. But, I believe that it is worse than useless. It is fundamentally untrue. You say that you don't believe the solopsistic point of view. But the question is, why? Simply because it is useless or because it somehow fails to correspond to your experience? Although the first response is logically safe, I suspect that the true answer is really the second.

I do not consider the universe to be a thing. Empty space is not a thing.
The universe is not empty space, it is the total of all things that physically exist. How do you know that this total is finite? The usual reply that this total isn't a thing either doesn't hold. Consider a finite subset of the universe, this is definitely a "thing", with a finite number of particles. Now the question is: is there a maximal subset that does contain everything, so that there is no larger subset? In that case the subset is the universe itself and it is finite. If that is not the case, i.e. for every subset A we can find another subset B so that A is a proper subset of B (B contains at least one more element than A), then by definition the universe is infinite. Whether this is the case is an empirical question, which cannot be decided by playing with definitions.

A set is not a thing. A set is a mental container with no physical reality. That is why I said that empty space is not a thing. I was viewing the universe as that which contains everything that exists. But, if you wish to call the universe the set of all things, my argument still holds because a set is a mental collection of objects.

I agree that the number of objects in the universe is an empirical question but that is irrelevant to the identity axiom. The identity axiom states that everything that exists, exists in some quantity. It does not state that the collection of all things is finite. Some Objectivists may take that view, but it is certainly not my view nor do I think it is warranted.

If you state categorically that every property of a system is finite, you must have a definition of "property" otherwise your statement is empty. I gave an example of what I'd consider a property which is not finite.

I agree. I just don't want to get into that debate right now.

Causality is not something that is a priori true, it the regular behavior of things that we observe in the macroscopic world that has lead us to introduce this notion, as we had never seen any exception to it, making it into a seemingly immutable law. That is, until we started to study the atomic and subatomic world. The evidence that classical causality no longer holds in that realm is as strong as the evidence that it does hold in the macroscopic world, so we had to revise the idea that causality never can be violated, just as we after Einstein had to revise the apparently immutable notion of an absolute time.

I guess I'm not aware of any evidence that causality is ever violated. Even the EPR/Bell experiments are consistent with causality. If you know of any conflicting evidence, please let me know.

A particular uranium atom may decay the next moment or it may decay after a billion years, there is no cause for it to decay at a certain moment, so causality is violated and therefore it is impossible to predict when it will decay. But that doesn't mean that anything is possible. Violation of causality does not imply complete random behavior, unless you define causal behavior as any behavior that is not totally random in all possible aspects, but that is not the usual definition and I think it's very unlikely that it is the Objectivist definition (Peikoff: "nothing in reality can occur causelessly or by chance"). In that case some aspect of the behavior might be completely random while the system is yet a causal system. The decay of the uranium atom is a pure chance event (the fact that we know the probability distribution for this event doesn't make it any less a random event), but for example the decay products are not arbitrary and can be predicted.

This is where I depart ways with Peikoff. In my view, the decay of a Uranium atom is causal in the Objectivist sense. The moment of its decay is not determinate, but the nature of the decay is still constrained. The Uranium atom still has an identity. Its behavior is not arbitrary.

Darrell

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