Logical Structure of Objectivism


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Out of curiosity, does that make one better or more valid than the other?

If a lawyer promises you a binding legal contract, but then adds that he has his own special definition of the word "binding", and that the contract can only be understood via a special "legal structure" of his own devising, would you consider this a better or more valid contract?

And if you wouldn't accept it from a lawyer, why would you take it from a philosopher?

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A definition does not assert anything does it? This seems to be the crux of the issue.

What, no takers? Does a definition assert anything or not? For example, if I define a swan as "a white bird with a long, slender neck" and I then make the assertion; All swans are white. Then this is true by definition, as we say in mathematics. If someone discovers a black swan then right away we can say that's impossible because swans are white by definition. So obviously they are using a different definition of 'swan'. Definitions are not right/wrong, or true/false they just are.

Edited by general semanticist
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Popper's ideas are highly untypical and interesting, but unlike Rand they do not require a special "conceptual scheme" before they can be properly understood or judged. You can use ordinary language and logic.

Not so. Popper is just about the only philosopher since C.S.Peirce that has some notion about what scientists do. Popper successfully differentiated scientific undertakings from non-scientific undertakings by making the notion of falsifiability the essential differential between the two sorts of activities. Popper put testability, falsifiability in a central position rather than verification. Scientific theories cannot really be verified with a finite set of experiments, but that can be falsified by such.

If a set of posits are not empirically falsifiable, in principle if not actually then they are not scientific hypotheses.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Not so. Popper is just about the only philosopher since C.S.Peirce that has some notion about what scientists do.

Yes, Pierce anticipated Popper in much, and Popper declared he wished he'd discovered him earlier as it would have saved a lot of work.

But Popper's work is based on the useful asymmetry in standard logic provided by the modus tollens. It does not require a special lexicon or an allegedly "new, improved" version of logic to function. Further, it does not attempt to assert its own critical standards as the only way it can be tested. If anything, Critical Rationalism takes the conclusions of typical tools such as deductive logic more seriously than most care to.

Objectivism's reliance on an esoteric language and logic is simply an attempt to blunt the main tools by which its doctrines might be examined; that is, to evade objective criticism. It has worked quite well to date, persuading intelligent people such as Ralph Hertle above that in effect Rand is never wrong.

People who mark their own homework never are!

Edited by Daniel Barnes
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Danny boy:

"...Rand is never wrong. People who mark their own homework never are!"...unless they maintain their integrity, yes.

Adam

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"...Rand is never wrong. People who mark their own homework never are!"...unless they maintain their integrity, yes.

We critics try to discuss the issues, but Objectivists always keep dragging it back to Rand's personality!...;-)

Danny boy:

I was not talking about Ayn.

Adam

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What, no takers? Does a definition assert anything or not?

Yes. A definition asserts term A can be substituted for term B in the context C. The main use of definitions is for abbreviation of discourse or expression.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf
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What, no takers? Does a definition assert anything or not?

Yes. A definition asserts term A can be substituted for term B in the context C. The main use of definitions is for abbreviation of discourse or expression.

Ba'al Chatzaf

OK, definitions may be viewed as assertions about language itself then.

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What, no takers? Does a definition assert anything or not?

Yes. A definition asserts term A can be substituted for term B in the context C. The main use of definitions is for abbreviation of discourse or expression.

Ba'al Chatzaf

OK, definitions may be viewed as assertions about language itself then.

Definitions also indicate which properties of things we consider most important. Assume the word swan means a bird with a long body, long bill and wings toward the rear of the body. These identify the characteristics of the bird we consider most important in some discourse. The properties are properties of things, not words.

From the definition, color is not considered an important property in discourses about swans. Which is why the color white is not included in the definition (and that is well, since there exist black swans).

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Definitions also indicate which properties of things we consider most important.

Exactly! So some people may include certain characteristics in the definition while others may not. There is no "correct" definition.

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Definitions also indicate which properties of things we consider most important.

Exactly! So some people may include certain characteristics in the definition while others may not. There is no "correct" definition.

But you said definitions have to do with language. I showed otherwise. Ultimately definitions indicate usage of terms but getting there requires that we look at things in the world.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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There are plenty, Ralph. Here's a standard example of a simple yet profound error of Rand's:

"The truth or falsehood of all of man’s conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions." - ITOE, p65

What's the problem with this? Well, there are no such things as "true" or "false" definitions. The meanings of words are, contra Rand, <i>conventions.</i>

Demonstration: You point to a young dog, and say that's a "puppy". I point to an arrogant young man and say, no, Ralph, you're wrong, that's the true meaning of "puppy". How do you decide which is the "true" and "false" ones?

I think this misses the target, too. The (denotative) meaning of a word is what the word refers to. It is people's use of words that is conventional.

It is an issue of denotation vs. connotation. While term "puppy" denotes "young dog", it can connotatively be applied to refer to e. g. an emotionally immature person.

But as for an individual arbitrarily defining a linguistic term differently from its denotation, communication will break down.

For example, when Jane asks John "could you please pass me the butter" and he hands her a fork instead, replying to her surprise: "What's the mattter? My definition of "butter" is 'a tool with tines to eat food with', this would result in total communication breakdown, with Jane rightly suspecting John has beome mentally unhinged. :)

Edited by Xray
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Bob,

You are nailing it in terms of how I understand the Objectivist view of definitions.

Also, we do not arbitrarily make up the properties of entities (or other existents) we consider important. We observe them, compare them against other things, and measure them (in the broadest sense of the term). This is what I understand is called the process of identification, and it consists at root of noticing both similarities and differences before setting standards and measuring.

Michael

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Out of curiosity, does that make one better or more valid than the other?

If a lawyer promises you a binding legal contract, but then adds that he has his own special definition of the word "binding", and that the contract can only be understood via a special "legal structure" of his own devising, would you consider this a better or more valid contract?

And if you wouldn't accept it from a lawyer, why would you take it from a philosopher?

Good point. Rand's own "special definitions" of terms just show once more to what extent she created her own world removed from reality.

I suppose not even a prosecutor who is an Objectivst would dare to speak in the courtroom of the killer in the dock as being a 'selfless' man.

For per Rand, a killer (or actually anyone who does not happen share her personal values) would be just that: 'self-less', since he does not not fit the mold of her 'self-ish' ideal human being (sharing her values).

In one sentence, IIRC, she speaks e. g. of Peter Keating as being "a selfless man, a ruthless egotist".

Problem is, the term "selfless" is used in common language in exactly the opposite sense: 'not egotistic'.

Imo this is just another example of a "private definition" by Rand creating linguistic chaos.

Edited by Xray
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Ms> Xray:

Would you be so kind as to inform me of what IIRC means? If I Recall/Remember Correctly???

Nice little dictionary for acronyms that I just ran across.

http://www.acronymfinder.com/

Adam

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It is an issue of denotation vs. connotation. While term "puppy" denotes "young dog", it can connotatively be applied to refer to e. g. an emotionally immature person.

At least according to here the denotation of a word or phrase is the literal meaning or "dictionary definition". According to this dictionary the 2nd meaning of "puppy" is "an insolent, conceited, or silly young man." This implies (suggests?) the 2nd meaning is denotative, not connotative. Maybe many years ago the 2nd meaning wasn't in dictionaries and thus connotative, but not now.

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In one sentence, IIRC, she speaks e. g. of Peter Keating as being "a selfless man, a ruthless egotist".

Problem is, the term "selfless" is used in common language in exactly the opposite sense: 'not egotistic'.

Imo this is just another example of a "private definition" by Rand creating linguistic chaos.

In my opinion you confused egotistic and egoistic. The latter, not the former, is the opposite of "selfless." In my opinion this is another example of Xray-speak creating linguistic chaos. :)

Edited by Merlin Jetton
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Also, we do not arbitrarily make up the properties of entities (or other existents) we consider important.

Right, but not everyone agrees on what's important.

For example, a banana;

S: (n) banana (elongated crescent-shaped yellow fruit with soft sweet flesh)

Now suppose someone discovers an orange banana some day?

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"The truth or falsehood of all of man’s conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions." - ITOE, p65

....

She did not understand many of the issues she believed she had solved, and was mostly ineducable as to the problems with her arguments. She did not seriously examine her own ideas, nor for the most part those of others, hence she was not taken seriously. Respect is earned, not given.

While Rand was always eager to recommend to others to "check their premises", she failed to do the same with her own.

In fact she even went against her own premises in several instances, like here where she stresses the importance of definitions, while she herself did not even define the term "objective", the very term giving her philosophy its name.

The same goes for "reason". No definition offered by Rand either.

ITOE, p. 219:

"In other words, if you claim that Descartes and Kant are similar in their metaphysics, but a Kantian tells you: "No they are entirely different, because Kant was really an apostle of reason and Descartes was not", you would ask him to define what he means by reason, and by metaphysics, then you give him your definition." (AR)

What Rand demands of others she never did herself, failing to define basic terms like "objective" and "reason".

Edited by Xray
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In one sentence, IIRC, she speaks e. g. of Peter Keating as being "a selfless man, a ruthless egotist".

Problem is, the term "selfless" is used in common language in exactly the opposite sense: 'not egotistic'.

Imo this is just another example of a "private definition" by Rand creating linguistic chaos.

In my opinion you confused egotistic and egoistic. The latter, not the former, is the opposite of "selfless." In my opinion this is another example of Xray-speak creating linguistic chaos. :)

Whether you use egoistic or egotistic plays no role. It's Rand's use of the term "selfless" which causes the chaos. Here's the rub.

Edited by Xray
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For example, a banana;

S: (n) banana (elongated crescent-shaped yellow fruit with soft sweet flesh)

Now suppose someone discovers an orange banana some day?

GS,

There's an erroneous presumption in your question. It has been mentioned before (not just with you), but for some reason it keeps coming back.

The presumption is that, in Objectivism, once a definition is formulated, it is set in stone and ignores facts that are discovered later.

If you read Objectivist literature, you will discover very clear statements explaining that concepts are open-ended to be able to include new discoveries about the same existents they reference. Obviously, if a fact discovered later contradicts a portion of a definition, you change the definition to accommodate the new information.

I am curious (and my intention is not hostile). Why is understanding this, or accepting it if it is understood, so difficult?

Michael

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