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This is where the problem bites - and this is the very point of Popper's essay "Two Kinds of Definition", have you read it yet? (scroll down). For it turns that it there is no logical way of doing so. The attempt to do so fails in several directions, including infinite regression, as Popper clearly outlines. Thus the "truth" or "falsity" of these competing "essential" definitions - the very thing Rand claims all knowledge rests on - cannot be established. It turns out her hopes are built on sand.

I'd say "all knowledge" rests on experience.

--Brant

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Yes, and that would include not making concrete-bound objections to metaphoric language per se, only if a given metaphor were somehow inappropriate to the situation.

J

It is a gross misinterpretation of Rand's championing of clarity and straight-speaking to suggest that when she uses unannounced metaphors, she has somehow slipped into subjectivity or sloppiness; and it is a gross insult to our intelligence to suggest that we need some kind of semantic training-wheels in order to keep from misunderstanding metaphoric language when used in philosophy.

REB

Subjectivity no. Sloppiness yes. I am a mathematician and I tell you the entire subject rides on the "training wheels" you allude to. Mathematics is precise just because the undefined terms are identified as such, definitions are given (stipulating and lexical equivalence) for other terms, and the axioms of the theory specify exactly what is assumed about the undefined terms and objects. I was also a software designer for 45 years and I tell you compilers and assemblers did not permit sloppy syntax. Bad logic, yes, but sloppy syntax, never (or hardly ever).

Humans are error prone from the git-go. Why should we risk any more error than we cannot avoid by failure to qualify and quantify our utterances sufficiently? There will be error and confusion enough. At least let us make our errors grammatically and with good style of expression. There will always be "bugs". Why invite them unnecessarily?

Is it any wonder that Polemic and Philosophy are rife with error, precisely because they "ride" without "training wheels"?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Well, if you want to reveal your own level of comprehension by asking, about the obvious, "uh...is that meant literally?", feel free to do so. Personally, I think that it is fine when Rand, Peikoff, or Branden bend over backward to emphasize that something is meant only as a metaphor, and when they don't.

One thing that may be helpful would be to survey Rand's writings, especially her epistemology monograph, and see where metaphor pops up the most, or the most strikingly. A hunch: I'll bet that Rand uses metaphor a lot more in discussing concepts of consciousness than existential concepts. For instance, she employs the/a traditional definition of knowledge as a "grasp" of reality. This clearly is metaphoric and is derived/borrowed from the most concrete level of action there is: the tactile grasping of physical objects. If you consider that she says such concepts (concepts of consciousness) are derived from our awareness of the world, it's not surprising that she (and the traditional view) sees (another metaphor!) knowledging as being a kind of "grasping." How many more of these metaphors are there in her philosophy? And how far does this idea of concepts of consciousness being derivative of concepts of existence go in explaining the use (even necessity) of metaphors in philosophy?

It is my prediction/guess that metaphysics and epistemology and ethics -- even Ayn Rand's! -- borrows heavily from (or builds extensively upon) basic-level concepts of objects, actions, characteristics, and relations; and that this tendency will only compound when we are expressing actions and relations from the realm of consciousness. One very important thing that verifying this would prove -- or at least illustrate -- is the utter necessity of using metaphors in doing metaphysics and epistemology, even for someone whom some regard as being very literal and precise (in the sense of saying what she means, so that you don't have to guess or wade through obscure hidden meanings to get what she's saying). Lakoff and Johnson in Philosophy in the Flesh claim that if the use of metaphor, both conscious and (especially) unconscious, were denied to philosophy, very little of interest could be said. It seems clear to me that they are right. Nonetheless, there are Objectivists who are very uncomfortable with this idea.

Even at a cursory glance, the metaphors in Rand's writing leap out at me (heh-heh) from chapter 4 of ITOE. Paragraph 2: "On the lower levels of awareness", "integrate sensations into percepts". Paragraph 3: "Extrospection is a process of cognition directed outward...introspection is a process of cognition directed inward...", "the various actions of a consciousness can be experienced, grasped, defined or communicated." That's just the first page of the chapter, and I'll bet I've missed some metaphors at that....

Out of curiosity, I also looked at chapter 1 of ITOE and found quite a few metaphors:

p. 5, para. 1 -- process that consists of two essentials (whole-part) para. 2 -- consciousness develops in three stages...the base of all man's knowledge is the perceptual stage para. 4 -- in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses...the perceptual level para. 5 -- the building-block of man's knowledge is the concept of an "existent"...man cannot grasp it explicitly until...

p. 6, para. 1 (partial) -- man grasps it...grasps the constituents of the concept "existence", the data which are later to be integrated by that concept (two metaphors: grasp and the part-whole metaphor) para. 6 -- the key, the entrance to the conceptual level...other living species are unable to follow p. 7, para. 1 (partial) -- the concept "unit" is a bridge between metaphysics and epistemology

That's enough. I hope that is sufficient to convince anyone who might have been doubtful about how much Rand (supposedly a very literal thinker and writer) relied upon metaphor in order to illustrate and clearly convey her ideas. And should we really be surprised, considering how well Rand was able to use imagery and symbolic levels of meaning in her novel writing? Metaphoric thinking came very naturally to her.

But I continue to be startled by how many people still cling to the myth that Rand's clarity of exposition depends on her eschewing metaphors -- by both those who are horrified to find how much metaphoric expression she did use in her philosophic essays, and by those who are revolted by it and take it as an indication of her philosophical inadequacy.

REB

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This is where the problem bites - and this is the very point of Popper's essay "Two Kinds of Definition", have you read it yet? (scroll down). For it turns that it there is no logical way of doing so. The attempt to do so fails in several directions, including infinite regression, as Popper clearly outlines. Thus the "truth" or "falsity" of these competing "essential" definitions - the very thing Rand claims all knowledge rests on - cannot be established. It turns out her hopes are built on sand.

I'd say "all knowledge" rests on experience.

--Brant

All induction and, thus, all deduction rests on experience. Logic rests on experience.

REB

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DB, if you spent half the time reading Rand (ITOE) and Peikoff (OPAR) as you spend trying to debunk them, you would know by now that Rand did NOT treat attributes as being lost in the process of concept-formation.

Roger, if you spent half as much time reading the ITOE or the rest of Rand's work with even one critical eye open as you do concocting defenses of her obvious bloopers, you would realise she is "winging it" on mere ex cathedra announcements on a pretty much 24/7 basis. I suggest such howlers as her forgetting of the LOI when kicking off her conceptual theory are actually entirely typical of her work, and are no different in kind from her freestyle assertions as to a baby's "undifferentiated chaos" or that people are born without any kind of "talent", or that sensations are automatically integrated into percepts, except they aren't, and all her various oxymorons etc. Why not just say, "well, she obviously contradicts herself here", or "clearly this is a silly, exaggerated statement"? Why dig these holes any deeper? Live by "winging it", die by "winging it"! :D

I'm not defending ANY of the howlers you list, except for the ones that to me are obviously NOT howlers. When you seize upon one passage that you are able, uncharitably, to interpret as Rand violating the LOI, and you ignore a dozen other passages by Rand and Peikoff that clearly state that concepts do NOT omit the non-essential characteristics, then you are the one digging holes, not I.

I have been howling IN PRINT about her "undifferentiated chaos" remark about babies since the 1970s, and I have been howling IN PRINT about her attempt to have her architecture and eat it, too, in "Art and Cognition." So, don't preach to me reading "Rand's work with even one critical eye open." Arrrrgh.

REB

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All induction and, thus, all deduction rests on experience. Logic rests on experience.

In the strict sense, logic is a priori. The only experience required is that necessary to read and understand the formal rules. The only firm connection logic has to the world is that a conclusion logically inferred from true premises must be true. Another way of putting it is that logical inference is truth preserving. Other than that everything is by the rules.

BTW, logic will not tell you if your most basic premises about the world are true or not. Nor can logic, by itself, be used to infer specific quantitative information about the world. For example; the speed of light. That cannot be logically deduced. One must measure.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I have been howling IN PRINT about her "undifferentiated chaos" remark about babies since the 1970s, and I have been howling IN PRINT about her attempt to have her architecture and eat it, too, in "Art and Cognition." So, don't preach to me reading "Rand's work with even one critical eye open." Arrrrgh.

Well I commend you for some good work then, and we can just agree to disagree about this one. :)

Edited by Daniel Barnes

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Why not just say, "well, she obviously contradicts herself here", or "clearly this is a silly, exaggerated statement"? Why dig these holes any deeper? Live by "winging it", die by "winging it"!
I'm not defending ANY of the howlers you list, except for the ones that to me are obviously NOT howlers. When you seize upon one passage that you are able, uncharitably, to interpret as Rand violating the LOI, and you ignore a dozen other passages by Rand and Peikoff that clearly state that concepts do NOT omit the non-essential characteristics, then you are the one digging holes, not I.

Boy, does this ever highlight the problem I see with harsh Rand critics. Obviously, Rand was wrong at times and this is admitted. The problem is in the harsh critic misinterpreting something she wrote (usually by leaving out context or some clarifying statement) so that he can continue bashing after he runs out of instances.

It's the old story of thinking that two wrongs make a right. I used to do this kind of thinking when I was on crack so I could use more of it and feel justified.

Michael

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Are you arguing that anyone therefore can in principle be as "talented" a writer as anyone else, Merlin? Seriously?
Once again, do you really want to claim that anyone can be as "talented" a writer as anyone else?? It seems to me you are merely playing with words now.

Of course not. Whatever gave you that idea? I even said "a talent few people have".

The way I "seem to take it!?" At some point, Merlin, you will have to go by what she wrote and not what you would like to imagine her to have written.

Ditto to you. Of course, what you imagine she wrote is designed for ridicule.

Now the problem is, I suppose, which side to defend! :D

I noted the gaffe you quoted from "The Comprachicos" a long time ago but didn't remember it. It is inconsistent with ITOE. I have a bound volume of The Objectivist, which includes "The Comprachicos", found the passage, and saw I put a question mark by it years ago. Of course, if you look close enough at any philosopher's output, you can find gaffes. For example, there are plenty of howlers in Objective Knowledge and LSD, but I expect you'd have a very difficult time finding them. :) And the many howlers I find in "Two Kinds of Definition" are so loud they could be heard in Fenway Park right now.

But of course, for some reason you cling to the belief that she would never be "winging it" anywhere else!

I've made criticisms of Rand's philosophy on several matters, not just the cognition of children. Have you not paid attention or did you merely leap to another unjustified conclusion?

Yes! Exactly! It's a "gaffe", or a "howler".

No, it's your straw woman. I ask you for evidence to back it up, you provide nil, and, again, your assertion is utterly incoherent with other things she wrote.

This is just you watering down her actual statements again into what you'd like to imagine she said. Just to remind you:

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

Nonsense, without evidence. See post #37.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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And the many howlers I find in "Two Kinds of Definition" are so loud they could be heard in Fenway Park right now.

I hear nothing, but then I am some way from Fenway Park... :)

If you have some better criticisms of TKD than you have put forward so far, I would be interested in hearing them of course.

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All induction and, thus, all deduction rests on experience. Logic rests on experience.

In the strict sense, logic is a priori. The only experience required is that necessary to read and understand the formal rules. The only firm connection logic has to the world is that a conclusion logically inferred from true premises must be true. Another way of putting it is that logical inference is truth preserving. Other than that everything is by the rules.

BTW, logic will not tell you if your most basic premises about the world are true or not. Nor can logic, by itself, be used to infer specific quantitative information about the world. For example; the speed of light. That cannot be logically deduced. One must measure.

Ba'al Chatzaf

From the fact that "logic, by itself" cannot "be used to infer specific quantitative information about the world," it does not follow that the speed of light "cannot be logically deduced."

If we know the amounts E and m for any given material substance, we can calculate (i.e., mathematically/logically deduce) the speed of light, which is the square root of the ratio E/m. Also, the answer will always be the same; so, we can infer that the speed of light is a constant.

Since E, m, and c are necessary correlatives of one another, and since we know the relationship that holds between them, the amount of any one of them can be calculated (i.e., mathematically/logically deduced) from the other two.

It is true that, in order to figure out what is the speed of light, one must measure ~something~. But one can do so ~directly~ by measuring light itself, or ~indirectly~ by measuring E and m and then using a process of mathematical/logical deduction.

BTW, when you measure light directly, how do you ~know~ that it is a constant? Not simply by enumerative "induction," but by genuine, conceptual induction, the kind that DB insists on calling something else -- anything but induction, of course.

REB

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Nonsense, without evidence. See post #37.

Yes, I looked at #37 and this is perhaps part of the difficulty:

In all but the 4th sentence I wasn't trying to speak for Rand. I wasn't even using her idea of contextually valid. Maybe I should have made "if" caps, huge, and bold. Does that clarify?

I've also found it hard to tell when you're defending Rand's particular views, and when you're speaking for yourself. Perhaps some confusion stems from this.

As to your remark that all philosophers make howlers when you look closely enough, couldn't agree more. Popper makes his share of mistakes, and ones pretty close to his heart too. But I don't think his work is anything like the level of the ITOE.

(For once, I'll let you interpret that last line as you prefer... :D)

Edited by Daniel Barnes

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BTW, when you measure light directly, how do you ~know~ that it is a constant? Not simply by enumerative "induction," but by genuine, conceptual induction, the kind that DB insists on calling something else -- anything but induction, of course.

DB insists on it...and only the rest of the known universe too, including the wikipedia, which I also personally control.... :)

The only thing I've claimed is that it is the standard way "induction" is described.

Besides, I don't insist on it! After Ba'al and I failed miserably with "$induction" and "obduction" as alternate descriptors, I let you guys have it alll your way (See the lead of the "Two kinds of "induction" thread)

That's your ever-reasonable DB for you... ;)

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For any given concept we want to define, there is a number of things we can say about it (i.e., propositions we can state about it) that are true, but only one of those things (propositions) is also a valid definition, in any given context of knowledge, and that is the proposition that identifies the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of the referents of the concept.

"The fundamental distinguishing characteristic..."? Why do you suppose that a concept can be defined with just one essential characteristic? Try this: A sprime integer is an odd prime integer. The concept sprime requires two properties, odd and prime for the species and integer for the genus. I admit the concept corresponding to the made up word "sprime" is not particularly useful, but it is a concept nevertheless and it requires two essential properties.

I don't look at it quite this way, especially the phrase "odd prime integer," which I think is misleading.

The key question is: do you define "prime" in terms of integers as a whole, or in terms of natural numbers?

The former is very unwieldy: a prime is any integer that is not 1, is not < 0, and is divisible only by itself and 1. It gets somewhat more manageable if you define it in terms of natural numbers (0, 1, 2, 3...): a prime is any integer that is not 1, and is divisible only by itself and 1.

The latter is the standard way of conceptualizing prime numbers -- i.e., in terms of the natural numbers, not integers as a whole -- and it makes sense, because it is definitionally simpler to treat primes as a subcategory of naturals, which in turn are a subcategory of integers.

"Odd numbers" are much easier to define in terms of integers as a whole -- any integer not divisible evenly by two.

So, in forming the cross-categorization "odd primes," we are looking at a sub-category of integers (viz., the odd integers) being cross-bred with a sub-sub-category of integers (viz., the primes).

I would take "being prime" as the differentia for the odd primes and "odd integers" as the genus, with "integers" as a higher-level genus. An "sprime" is a prime odd integer.

I would say it this way, rather than "odd prime integer," because it better reflects the hierarchical relationship between primes and odd integers.

Also, the odd primes are a relatively small subset of the odd integers, while they constitute the entire set of primes, except for the number 2. (Who let "2" in the club, anyway?) Conceptualizing/defining the odd primes as a subcategory of the primes would be somewhat like conceptualizing/defining mammals bearing young alive as a subcategory of mammals (with "2" being the standin for the platypus and its kin). As Bob admitted, "sprime" isn't very useful; like "mammals bearing young alive," it doesn't take us very far from the genus of "odd number" (or "mammal").

On the other hand, conceptualizing/defining the odd primes as a subcategory of odd integers would be more akin to conceptualizing/defining primates as a subcategory of mammals. It recognizes and carves out a significant domain for study, while setting aside another significant domain for study, within the broader genus.

To me, the clear implication of all of this is that "being prime" is the one and only valid differentia (essence) for prime odd integers. (At least, in the present context of knowledge about prime odd numbers, which is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. :D It is the most fundamental distinguishing characteristic setting prime odd integers apart from all other odd integers.

REB

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For any given concept we want to define, there is a number of things we can say about it (i.e., propositions we can state about it) that are true, but only one of those things (propositions) is also a valid definition, in any given context of knowledge, and that is the proposition that identifies the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of the referents of the concept.

Here is another definition puzzle for you. Circle, definition A. A circle is a curve that encloses the maximum area on a plane for its perimeter. That is any other curve with the the same perimeter will enclose a lesser area. Circle, definition B. A circle is a set of points all equidistant (the distance is the radius) from a given point (the center). Which is the "true" definition? It turns out that these definitions are logically equivalent. All type A circles are type B circles and all type B circles are type A circles. This requires a non-elementary proof, but it is the case. Here we have two distinct definitions that have the same denotation but very different connotations. Which is the "true" definition? The usual definition (B above) is the more common definition and for non-mathematicians is probably easier to grasp, nevertheless the the defining properties of definition A is just as "essential" as the defining property of definition B.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Bob, I don't doubt what you say about definitions A and B. You might as well have offered Circle, Definition C. A circle is a curve that uses the minimum perimeter to enclose a given area on a plane, or Circle, Definition D. A circle is a plane figure with constant curvature. Yes, they are logical equivalents, given enough higher math to bridge the apparent semantic gap between them.

My math is too rusty to allow me to say for sure which definition is the best one for mathematicians. For starters, I don't know what to say about Definition D.

Intuitively (yeah, and that and $3.00 will get me a cup of latte at Starbucks!), it seems to me that defining a circle in terms of points and line segments with certain properties is conceptually simpler than defining it in terms of maximized enclosed area or minimized enclosing perimeter. Also, given the complementary nature of Definitions A and C, it seems more logical to regard them as both being consequences of Definition B, rather than Definition B as somehow flowing from one or the other of them, or (worse) both.

Trying to discern which suggested defining characteristic is fundamental -- i.e., causes and explains the others -- is tricky. It seems that the points equidistant from a given point ought to have ~something~ to do with the reason that the set of those points maximizes the enclosed area. But while I've seen definition B arrived at via definition A (and definition C), using fourier series &c., I haven't seen either definition A or definition C arrived at via definition B. So, that makes me suspect that definition A is fundamental, and that definition C is a corollary (giving the nod to maxima over minima).

It's an interesting question. I'd probably opt for definition B and encourage professionals to adopt definition A. This is similar to Rand endorsing biologists defining "man" as a "rational primate." (ITOE, p. 235) The guiding principle should be what allows a person to best differentiate something from other things, within his context of knowledge.

REB

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Since E, m, and c are necessary correlatives of one another, and since we know the relationship that holds between them, the amount of any one of them can be calculated (i.e., mathematically/logically deduced) from the other two.

There is nothing -logically- necessary about E = m*c^2. It so happens that this formula follows from -hypothetical- assumptions that so happen to describe the world as we know it thus far. You have not, nor has anyone else demonstrated that a set of circumstances which would falsify Einstein's equation as a general statement cannot occur. In short, the logical necessity of this famous formula has NOT been demonstrated. All that has been shown thus far, is that the formula is true in all applications made of it to this date.

Everything in physics, qua physics is based on hypothetical posits that happen to be true thus far.

Recall that aether was once accepted as a logically necessary to explain how light gets from Here to There. Then came the famous Michelson Morley experiment and its negative results. Then came theories which do not require aether to predict correctly. So aether went from a logically necessary to a probably false hypothesis in less than a hundred years.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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But as I've already pointed out, correspondence is necessary but not sufficient. Again: for "true democracy" you could point to the States (constitutional). I point to Britain (parliamentary). Someone points to Germany(proportional). Saddam points to his Iraq, where everyone voted (for him). All these definitions correspond to factual situations, yet obviously conflict with each other. So clearly then appeal to factual correspondence is not sufficient to establish the "truth" or "falsity" of definitions.

. . .

...in other words, an appeal to "the fundamental distinguishing characteristic" or what Rand calls the "essence" of the concept. But - and aye,here's the rub! - in the event of disagreement - eg: you may argue a constitutional democracy represents the one "valid" definition, whereas I might hold proportional representation is - how do we decide who has identified the right "essence"?

This is where the problem bites - and this is the very point of Popper's essay "Two Kinds of Definition", have you read it yet? (scroll down). For it turns that it there is no logical way of doing so. The attempt to do so fails in several directions, including infinite regression, as Popper clearly outlines. Thus the "truth" or "falsity" of these competing "essential" definitions - the very thing Rand claims all knowledge rests on - cannot be established. It turns out her hopes are built on sand.

The upshot of this logical result is that in order to be useful, we must therefore decide the meanings of words by mutual agreement i.e. convention - the very thing that Rand vehemently denies.

Why do you keep bringing this up as if Rand never dealt with it? And did Popper solve it? No, to the best of my knowledge, but you're the Popper fan. At best he dissolved it like he did induction, by dismissing it. Yet you insist the essentialist (or Randian) method of definition solve it to prove its worth. Rand dealt with it regarding 'objective definition' on p. 46 of ITOE:

"Who decides, in case of disagreements? As in all issues pertaining to objectivity, there is no ultimate authority, except reality and the mind of every individual who judges the evidence by the objective method of judgment: logic."

If somebody insists on calling a whale a literal "fish", despite all the evidence of differences against that, then there is nothing one can do short of preventing him from talking or ignoring him.

Your conclusion that convention is needed is bogus. Fine, it might solve the one you raise, but convention as a general method fails. It doesn't recognize reality -- except what people say or happen to point to -- as the ultimate authority.

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To me, the clear implication of all of this is that "being prime" is the one and only valid differentia (essence) for prime odd integers. (At least, in the present context of knowledge about prime odd numbers, which is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. :D It is the most fundamental distinguishing characteristic setting prime odd integers apart from all other odd integers.

REB

Sprimes are the odd integers (species) of the set of primes (genus). Or Sprimes are the prime integers (species) in the set odd integers (genus). The fact that there are two equivalent but distinct species-genus definitions for the same collection of objects might suggest that species-genus definitions are conventional and to some extent arbitrary (pick which ever order you like). Somehow the One, True and Unique conceptual common denominator has been lost in the struggle to find the One True Definition of Sprime.

Don't get me wrong. I find the species-genus style of definition sometimes useful, but I see no genuine ontological significance to it. In the real world there are only individual irreducible things. Humans make up classes and hierarchies. Nature couldn't care less how we classify and define. That is because Nature doesn't care.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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And the many howlers I find in "Two Kinds of Definition" are so loud they could be heard in Fenway Park right now.

I hear nothing, but then I am some way from Fenway Park... :)

You could have turned on the TV, or don't they air the World Series where you are? Ahem, it is the World Series. :)

If you have some better criticisms of TKD than you have put forward so far, I would be interested in hearing them of course.

TKD = "Two Kinds of Definition". My "first draft" follows. Don't expect a 2nd. I read TKD again, copied a few passages, and wrote comments on them. It is not polished. Its organization simply follows TKD. I didn't proofread other than spelling and grammar. I don't wish to discuss it. This site's main purpose is discussing Ayn Rand's philosophy, not Popper's. I'm being generous. (At least that's my view.)

Knowledge, or science, according to Aristotle, may be of two kinds - either demonstrative or intuitive.

This overlooks or dismisses perceptual knowledge. The essentialist method of Aristotle, as Popper describes it, is simply words. Yet when Aristotle wrote anything, his highest authority was reality. Essences pertained to the nature of particulars found by observation (perception).

Intuitive knowledge consists in grasping the 'indivisible form' or essence or essential nature of a thing (if it is 'immediate', i.e. if its 'cause' is identical with its essential nature); it is the originative source of all science since it grasps the original basic premisses of all demonstrations.

This skirts perceptual knowledge again.

Aristotle taught that we must assume that there are premisses which are indubitably true, and which do not need any proof; and these he called 'basic premisses'. . . But how to obtain these basic premisses? Like Plato, Aristotle believed that we obtain all knowledge ultimately by an intuitive grasp of the essences of things.

This skirts perceptual knowledge again. There is no infinite regress when reality is the ultimate authority, only when words are taken as the ultimate authority.

But the most difficult question is how we can get hold of definitions or basic premisses, and make sure that they are correct - that we have not erred, not grasped the wrong essence. Although Aristotle is not very clear on this point, there can be little doubt that, in the main, he again follows Plato.

Play dough! Forms to Aristotle and Plato were worlds apart.

While we may say that the essentialist interpretation reads a definition 'normally', that is to say, from the left to the right, we can say that a definition, as it is normally used in modern science, must be read back to front, or from the right to the left. . . . The scientific use of definitions, characterized by the approach 'from the right to the left', may be called its nominalist interpretation, as opposed to its Aristotelian or essentialist interpretation.

Mere verbalism; a distinction without a difference. Yes, there are two kinds of definitions, but Popper misses the boat. The second kind is ostensive.

In modern science, only nominalist definitions occur, that is to say, shorthand symbols or labels are introduced in order to cut a long story short. And we can at once see from this that definitions do not play any very important part in science.

Popperycock. The symbols or labels represent the referents of ostensive definitions. They are extremely important, otherwise we don't know what we are talking about.

In practice, these labels are of the greatest usefulness.

A blatant contradiction to the previous quote. How can they not play an important part and be of the greatest usefulness?

For the nominalist position there is no difficulty which corresponds to the infinite regression. As we have seen, science does not use definitions in order to determine the meaning of its terms, but only in order to introduce handy shorthand labels. And it does not depend on definitions; all definitions can be omitted without loss to the information imparted. It follows from this that in science, all the terms that are really needed must be undefined terms.

The so-called undefined terms are symbols or labels introduced in ostensive style or by example or refer to things already commonly understood by people in the target audience, e.g. distance, minute, weight, etc. The purpose of a definition is to specify what one is talking about. That can be done by either verbally (verbal definitions) or non-verbally (giving the symbol or label and pointing, or depending on the audience knowing what the referents of the symbol or label are).

And we continue to cling to this creed in spite of the unquestionable fact that philosophy, which for twenty centuries has worried about the meaning of its terms, is not only full of verbalism but also appallingly vague and ambiguous, while a science like physics which worries hardly at all about terms and their meaning, but about facts instead, has achieved great precision. This, surely, should be taken as indicating that, under Aristotelian influence, the importance of the meaning of terms has been grossly exaggerated.

The success of physics has relied much on quantification, via numbers and formulas. These are the most precise symbols we have. Philosophy relies on words, rarely quantification (excepting 'all', 'some', and 'none'). So it can't attain the kind of precision that numbers and formulas allow. Also in philosophy key terms used often have very wide application and the different meanings people have for them can vary widely. In physics the opposite is true. (The application may be wide in a spatial sense or cover a wide range of phenomena, but it doesn't pertain to nearly as many aspects of reality and experience as philosophy does.)

Edit: I think another factor is that physics has dealt with simpler things, whose behavior is easier to describe and far more uniform, than what philosophy deals with. To illustrate compare the complexity and uniformity of the motions of classical physical objects to that of human behavior.

The view that the precision of science and of scientific language depends upon the precision of its terms is certainly very plausible, but it is none the less, I believe, a mere prejudice.

See my previous comment.

Edited by Merlin Jetton

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................

Aristotle binds intuition and perception into a package. He teaches that we arrive at the things which are true in themselves (what he calls " things best known by nature ") by perceiving and grasping instances of a general idea. Eventually the general idea becomes clear to us (somehow by our intuition). In this sense, Aristotle grounds necessary truth on experience. We get to necessary truth -through- experience and our understanding of what is true in itself starts with perception.

This squares with the way children learn concepts. First they perceive objects which are bundled percepts with some permanence. Then they classify the objects and in doing so make concepts to which they apply the (generic) names they are taught by their parents. Aristotle was a terrible physicist, but he was a pretty good psychologist.

I am currently taking a course in Aristotle's philosophy. While I have a less then glowing opinion of Aristotle as a scientist (he did not do a good job of empirical verification), I have begun to appreciate just how good a practical thinker he was. And unlike Plato, Aristotle is a "bottom up" thinker. He starts with particulars to get to the general. Then he proceeds from the general (so gotten) to get to particulars not previously known. Aristotle's concept of Form (Eidos, Morphe) differs from Plato, in that Plato sees Form existing separate from Matter, whereas Aristotle sees Form -manifested- in Matter. For Aristotle, Form is literally Being-At-Work. I am beginning to understand why the thoughts of The Philosopher had such a grip on the thinkers of later generations. He was so damned smart! But he screwed up in some essential matters. Plato is closer to the abstract style of modern physics, than is Aristotle.

See Book I, Chap 6 of the -Nichomachean Ethics- (Ta Ethica) where Aristotle explicitly parts company with Plato (1096a 10-20).

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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It is true that, in order to figure out what is the speed of light, one must measure ~something~. But one can do so ~directly~ by measuring light itself, or ~indirectly~ by measuring E and m and then using a process of mathematical/logical deduction.

BTW, when you measure light directly, how do you ~know~ that it is a constant? Not simply by enumerative "induction," but by genuine, conceptual induction, the kind that DB insists on calling something else -- anything but induction, of course.

REB

When they first started measuring the speed of light the relationship E=mc^2 did not exist, so there was no way to calculate the speed of light at that time. It was the fact that the measured speed of light kept coming up the same that led to special relativity and eventually to E=mc^2. We don't know the speed of light is constant any more than we know the sun will come up tomorrow or that a tree will make a sound when it falls in the forest. We just assume these things based on the invariance we experience.

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Don't get me wrong. I find the species-genus style of definition sometimes useful, but I see no genuine ontological significance to it. In the real world there are only individual irreducible things. Humans make up classes and hierarchies. Nature couldn't care less how we classify and define. That is because Nature doesn't care.

Ba'al Chatzaf

That sounds very familiar. You have good company.

John Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding (Bk. 3, Chap. 3):

12. Abstract ideas are the essences of genera and species. The next thing therefore to be considered is, What kind of signification it is that general words have. For, as it is evident that they do not signify barely one particular thing; for then they would not be general terms, but proper names, so, on the other side, it is as evident they do not signify a plurality; for man and men would then signify the same; and the distinction of numbers (as the grammarians call them) would be superfluous and useless. That then which general words signify is a sort of things; and each of them does that, by being a sign of an abstract idea in the mind; to which idea, as things existing are found to agree, so they come to be ranked under that name, or, which is all one, be of that sort. Whereby it is evident that the essences of the sorts, or, if the Latin word pleases better, species of things, are nothing else but these abstract ideas. For the having the essence of any species, being that which makes anything to be of that species; and the conformity to the idea to which the name is annexed being that which gives a right to that name; the having the essence, and the having that conformity, must needs be the same thing: since to be of any species, and to have a right to the name of that species, is all one. As, for example, to be a man, or of the species man, and to have right to the name man, is the same thing. Again, to be a man, or of the species man, and have the essence of a man, is the same thing. Now, since nothing can be a man, or have a right to the name man, but what has a conformity to the abstract idea the name man stands for, nor anything be a man, or have a right to the species man, but what has the essence of that species; it follows, that the abstract idea for which the name stands, and the essence of the species, is one and the same. From whence it is easy to observe, that the essences of the sorts of things, and, consequently, the sorting of things, is the workmanship of the understanding that abstracts and makes those general ideas.

13. They are the workmanship of the understanding, but have their foundation in the similitude of things. I would not here be thought to forget, much less to deny, that Nature, in the production of things, makes several of them alike: there is nothing more obvious, especially in the race of animals, and all things propagated by seed. But yet I think we may say, the sorting of them under names is the workmanship of the understanding, taking occasion, from the similitude it observes amongst them, to make abstract general ideas, and set them up in the mind, with names annexed to them, as patterns or forms, (for, in that sense, the word form has a very proper signification,) to which as particular things existing are found to agree, so they come to be of that species, have that denomination, or are put into that classis. For when we say this is a man, that a horse; this justice, that cruelty; this a watch, that a jack; what do we else but rank things under different specific names, as agreeing to those abstract ideas, of which we have made those names the signs? And what are the essences of those species set out and marked by names, but those abstract ideas in the mind; which are, as it were, the bonds between particular things that exist, and the names they are to be ranked under? And when general names have any connexion with particular beings, these abstract ideas are the medium that unites them: so that the essences of species, as distinguished and denominated by us, neither are nor can be anything but those precise abstract ideas we have in our minds. And therefore the supposed real essences of substances, if different from our abstract ideas, cannot be the essences of the species we rank things into. For two species may be one, as rationally as two different essences be the essence of one species: and I demand what are the alterations [which] may, or may not be made in a horse or lead, without making either of them to be of another species? In determining the species of things by our abstract ideas, this is easy to resolve: but if any one will regulate himself herein by supposed real essences, he will, I suppose, be at a loss: and he will never be able to know when anything precisely ceases to be of the species of a horse or lead.

Michael Ayers, Locke: Epistemology and Ontology, Vol. 2, p. 68:

But the Lockean nominal essence is intrinsically an epistemological essence and nothing more, a criterion by reference to which we mark off the members of the species. The boundary marked is a precise one which owes its existence to our drawing it: reality itself simply could not, in Locke’s view, supply such a boundary. Reality can supply resemblances, but resemblances do not constitute natural boundaries. Resemblances do not draw lines.

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Philosophy relies on words, rarely quantification (excepting 'all', 'some', and 'none'). So it can't attain the kind of precision that numbers and formulas allow. Also in philosophy key terms used often have very wide application and the different meanings people have for them can vary widely.

Which explains why it is so useless, I think.

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Philosophy relies on words, rarely quantification (excepting 'all', 'some', and 'none'). So it can't attain the kind of precision that numbers and formulas allow. Also in philosophy key terms used often have very wide application and the different meanings people have for them can vary widely.

Which explains why it is so useless, I think.

The theory of numbers (integer, real or complex) relies on quantification. In mathematics, Set Theory is King. See any book on real analysis, for examples. Say, fellah, why the hell don't you learn some mathematics. Maybe you would not stick your metaphorical foot in your metaphorical mouth so often.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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Why do you keep bringing this up as if Rand never dealt with it?

Because Rand did not deal with it. Why do you continue claiming she did? This quote you supply is a perfect example of her not dealing with it. I can't see how you think it does. Let's review it:

Rand:"Who decides, in case of disagreements? As in all issues pertaining to objectivity, there is no ultimate authority, except reality and the mind of every individual who judges the evidence by the objective method of judgment: logic."

But Popper demonstrates that for a variety of reasons such disagreements are not in fact logically decidable. All Rand does is, not untypically, make a handwaving assertion, with nothing to back it up. On examination, this superficially plausible assertion turns out to be a fallacy.

And did Popper solve it? No, to the best of my knowledge, but you're the Popper fan. At best he dissolved it like he did induction, by dismissing it.

Popper's recommendation is clearly outlined in his "TKD" essay: that one should not argue over the meanings of words, but focus on things that are in principle decideable as to truth or falsity eg theories. (The counter argument that theories are composed of words can be replied to by pointing out that words are composed of letters - does that mean we should first argue over spelling?)

Yet you insist the essentialist (or Randian) method of definition solve it to prove its worth.

No, I insist that the essentialist (or Randian) method of definition has no answer to Popper's critique. I think your reply above only reinforces that point.

If somebody insists on calling a whale a literal "fish", despite all the evidence of differences against that, then there is nothing one can do short of preventing him from talking or ignoring him.

Once again, this is one of the outcomes Popper predicts in his essay - discussion stops before it can even starts. The solution is simply to agree on a mutual convention - "what shall we call a marine mammal?". So long as we both agree what we mean by that there is no problem. Fish, whale...you can call it what you like! It is a mere label. For that very reason, we should try to stick to common usages, and avoid private and arcane meaniings.

Your conclusion that convention is needed is bogus. Fine, it might solve the one you raise, but convention as a general method fails. It doesn't recognize reality -- except what people say or happen to point to -- as the ultimate authority.

Now you decide to replace Rand's appeal to "logic" as the ultimate authority with "reality". Fine. Rand also seems to vacillate between the two. All that means is ostensive definition, a point you keep raising and which I have already replied to several times in various places. Nevertheless, I will do it again:

For "true democracy" you could point to the States (constitutional). I point to Britain (parliamentary). Someone points to Germany(proportional). Saddam points to his Iraq, where everyone voted (for him). All these definitions correspond to reality, yet obviously conflict with each other. So clearly then appeal to "reality" is not sufficient to establish the "truth" or "falsity" of definitions. (we could equally apply this to your "fish" example")

Now, re: the laughter audible from somewhere called Fenway Park due to Popper's essay. It appears you are referring to a game your tribe plays with a stick and ball. My tribe on the other hand, tend to play a game that involves running and a great deal of mud, and a ball so poorly designed it does not even bounce straight. Sadly, we are becoming increasingly crap at playing it, but its growing popularity in your nation is perhaps a harbinger of your nation's cultural decline... :)

But seriously, I thank you for your critique of Popper's essay. I think you should not be quite so quick to dismiss its relevance to this forum, as if Popper turns out to be correct, this issue may press harder on Objectivism than you currently seem to believe. I regard most of your claims to be incorrect, and I will reply in full. (While you're welcome to counter reply, please do not feel obligated - these things can be time consuming and you suggest you might not anyway) However, I have a project that will occupy me from now till the middle of next week so will not get to it till then.

Edited by Daniel Barnes

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