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(Note from MSK: Excuse me for barging into your post, Jenna. By suggestion of Robert Campbell, this thread was split off from another thread in "Ethics," "Great quote from Bertrand Russell," since it started discussing ITOE from an epistemological point of view.) Some of the posts below contain quotes from posts in the former thread.

Jenna,

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is worth reading in conjunction with articles and books on psychology, linguistics, cognitive neuroscience, and so on.

Don't let yourself be put off by the attitudes of those who have read only ITOE, and imagine that their mighty feat has given them a lifelong exemption from reading anything else in the vicinity.

Robert Campbell

It's not the attitudes of others that I am looking at. Those attitudes (of the people who read *only* ITOE and think they know all about cognition, consciousness, etc.) are irrelevant to me.

It's just that cognitive neuroscience (which includes pyschology, linguistics, cognition, neuroscience, etc.) covers current research into what ITOE covers in more depth and detail, and some of that research shows some information in ITOE to be incorrect. I'm also hoping to bring in complexity/systems science into my study of cog. neurosci., and none of Rand's works as far as I know tackles complexity science, chaos theory, game theory, nor systems thinking. Those were around during her lifetime and were in existence by the time of her death.

Funny enough, the more I accidentally come across the words of Nobel Laureates in my studies of complexity thinking, the more I know I'm on the right track--- so far, they've all mentioned 1) The joy of discovery, fearlessness of uncertainty, and hunger for new information, 2) The complexities of the human, as well as the world, and 3) They all had an understanding of systems, dynamics, adaptation, perspective, and change.

I contrast the activities, impact, and words of these Nobel Laureates and those of the people who follow Rand blindly without putting her in cultural, historical, nor individual context. Huge discrepancy. I find JARS a far more a potentially impactful direction than anything I've come across in regards to Rand and it will be because of its nonpartisanship.

I definitely know where I'm going. Forward.

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I've only read a couple scattered pieces of ITOE (Oist concept formation - was natural for anyone familiar with object oriented programming :) ), but was intending to pick it to read in entirety at some point. Are you saying it's frustrating because even if valid, it lacks footnotes and bibliography so isn't a scholarly work? Or that you've even encountered specifics in it that are likely invalid since at odds with psych/neurosci?

If anything in ITOE is at odds with evidence, I'm following the evidence. If I ignore evidence, I'm ignoring the only way I can know about the world--- direct observation and experience via the nature of the human senses. My hold is on reality, not ITOE. Does that answer your question? :)

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I've also decided not to read ITOE. It frustrates me intellectually because I find much of it lacking specific scientific support and citation, therefore making it vague. And frankly, I find it even more frustrating that people just swallow what she wrote without fact checking; not to mention quote it to me like I'll just take it face value too.

Jenna,

Not reading a book is never the path to wisdom. I do understand your frustration, though. You started something in Chewing on Ideas (among other threads) I intend to fully develop over time.

I want to make a suggestion (but of course you are free to take it or let it slide and stick to your normal daily intake of 50 pounds of books //;-)) ).

Why you read a book is just as important as the actual reading of it, if not more so. If you read ITOE (as many do) as if it were some kind of esoteric philosophical bible needing proper enlightenment in order to understand it, I believe you do both the book and yourself a disservice. (I am using the word "you" in the general sense.)

If, however, you understand that it is captioned as an "introduction" and Rand called the book a "theory of concepts," another view starts to take shape - another reason to read it. If it is a theory, it must be validated by empirical evidence before it becomes a scientific law. But is empirical testing a requirement for an introduction?

Keep in mind that Rand derived the overwhelming majority of her philosophy from induction. She sat and thought. Then she proclaimed. One of the things I fought for years with ITOE inside myself was the "fact by proclamation" approach. Something is because Rand said it is. For instance, she proclaimed in the first sentence:

Consciousness, as a state of awareness, is not a passive state, but an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration.

That is an amazing statement from so many angles that it takes your breath away. Let's focus simply on one aspect. Rand proclaimed that consciousness is a process. I don't want to discuss whether it is or not right now. I only notice that most all processes I know of can be measured and added to and/or improved. How do you measure consciousness? How do you improve it or add to it?

Yet there it is. Consciousness is a process because Rand said it is.

How about another example a couple of paragraphs lower?

Sensations, as such, are not retained in man's memory, nor is man able to experience a pure isolated sensation.

Wow!

How does she know this stuff? I am not aware of any Objectivist theory of memory at all, yet here she decrees that sensations are not retained in memory.

The fact is that if you look to ITOE to provide answers, you have to accept it on faith. There is no other way. No real evidence is presented along the course of the book.

Now let's go back to the induction thing. This is where Rand's genius shines through. What if ITOE were a book of well thought-out questions, possibilities, and not answers? Rand does bring up all kinds of things that need to be tested. And it is not a silly book. A lot of hard thinking went into it.

So my recommendation is to try to read it again, but from the viewpoint of sifting out what is proclaimed and using that as a starting point for drawing up questions. Rand said consciousness is a process. Is it? She said that sensations are not stored in memory. What is a sensation in empirical terms? What is memory? How and what does memory retain? If a sensation is differentiated and integrated into a percept, is this capacity built into our minds according to some innate knowledge (especially for differentiation)? Is a percept information? What is information?

ITOE is extremely useful in raising questions you should seek to answer in your other reading where empirical evidence is presented. As this theory of concepts is highly organized logically, it is an exceptionally effective structure for projecting results. That makes it a very good tool to use for setting up experiments. Also, it is highly organized thinking "outside the box" when you read other books on consciousness, so it is excellent for recycling the information given in them and testing other theories.

Try it. You'll like it.

(As to the ITOE thumpers, hit them with the Johnny Cash line, "ITOE the line.")

Michael

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The fact is that if you look to ITOE to provide answers, you have to accept it on faith. There is no other way. No real evidence is presented along the course of the book.

I did at one time think that I looked to ITOE to provide answers, but instead, because I asked those questions you asked in your post, found that some of the things she came up with were wrong when compared to research. That's fine with me. If she's wrong, she's wrong, and I'm not saying she's "not good" for being wrong. It's just that if it doesn't match up to evidence, it doesn't, no matter what. At this point, I can read ITOE to know what she hypothesized.

A lot of hard thinking went into it.

I know that. And I'm using some hard thinking too to bring what's covered in ITOE forward--- scientifically. Not every idea is going to work; the thing about Rand is that I consider her hypothesis (or theory, in laymen's-- not scientific-- terms) one of many. If she offered as valid a refutation of Russell's body of work as did Godel, that's fine.

So my recommendation is to try to read it again, but from the viewpoint of sifting out what is proclaimed and using that as a starting point for drawing up questions. Rand said consciousness is a process. Is it? She said that sensations are not stored in memory. What is a sensation in empirical terms? What is memory? How and what does memory retain? If a sensation is differentiated and integrated into a percept, is this capacity built into our minds according to some innate knowledge (especially for differentiation)? Is a percept information? What is information?

I *have* done this, and could not get past chapter 4 because the questions backed up to an insane degree. That is why I need to stop because with the trend that my questions are on, and the things I've discovered due to my questioning, I am probably better off right now delving, in depth, into my field first. I'll have to read ITOE at a later date simply because I am on the lookout for current information (within the past 10 years) and time is tight, especially if your field covers many disciplines.

ITOE is extremely useful in raising questions you should seek to answer in your other reading where empirical evidence is presented.

I have. The scope and depth of cog. neurosci. answers my questions.

As this theory of concepts is highly organized logically, it is an exceptionally effective structure for projecting results. That makes it a very good tool to use for setting up experiments.

It's still a theory, and suffers from incompatibilities with the realities of human cognition, the intricacies of consciousness, and neurophysiology. And one theory that is organized logically but untested is not necessarily the truth--- other theories that are both logically organized AND apply to reality offer more sustantiative power to explain and perhaps predict. Her theory, as a whole, does not predict all that well the nature of humans, especially in a complex sense. She does well with simple explanations, though.

Try it. You'll like it.

I always try things first. I haven't decided all this on not reading it and I have asked all the questions you've raised. I've decided on the number of questions I've had, which was a lot, and which frustrated me because there were so many questions. I cover some of the topics in my blog, but they are not specific to Rand. They are specific to their own topic. :)

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Jenna,

Do you find things in ITOE that are flat-out wrong, or do you find things that are incomplete? So far, I have only found incomplete. (Well, I discard the statements and insinuations of being complete, and I discard her evaluations of others. I filter them out, so to speak, so they don't count as "wrong" in the sense I mean. In this case, I mean an epistemological idea being 100% wrong.)

As a general structure for volitional rational thought ONLY, I find it to be a pretty good framework. Add the biological part, however, and I find a lot is left unexplained.

Michael

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If anything in ITOE is at odds with evidence, I'm following the evidence. If I ignore evidence, I'm ignoring the only way I can know about the world--- direct observation and experience via the nature of the human senses. My hold is on reality, not ITOE. Does that answer your question? :)

Hmm.. I think you're answering something else. Yes, pay attention to various evidence, there's nothing wrong with pointing out where Rand was wrong (and all but the most zealous Oists likely have bullet point lists), follow the facts evidence regardless who said it, etc. What I was asking was what MSK may have worded better - did you already encounter things in reading ITOE which are contradicted by research in neurosci or related fields?

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Jenna,

Do you find things in ITOE that are flat-out wrong, or do you find things that are incomplete? So far, I have only found incomplete. (Well, I discard the statements and insinuations of being complete, and I discard her evaluations of others. I filter them out, so to speak, so they don't count as "wrong" in the sense I mean. In this case, I mean an epistemological idea being 100% wrong.)

As a general structure for volitional rational thought ONLY, I find it to be a pretty good framework. Add the biological part, however, and I find a lot is left unexplained.

Michael

Both. I'm speculative about her ideas about categorization-- according to research, categorization happens before concept formation. I'll look more into that. People want to argue this, but how does one argue with evidence? Inaccurate: she's vague about cognition--- what, exactly, is perception? Does perception happen at the sense organ, or in the brain, or both? Can perception and conceptualization happen concurrently? What entilas perception, and what is current evidence for that? At what point does conception come in, when categorization happens first? How is memory used, what does it have to do with conception, and what parts of the brain uses it, in what way? Also, concepts do not exist only in chains, there is a blending theory out, as well as conceptual networks that explain human cognition better. If she's inaccurate, and says that she is right, then she's wrong re: current research. Of course she wouldn't know that cognitive/psych. neuroscience was happening.

Rand doesn't need to be right for me. She's right about some things, wrong about others, and I don't know why it would suck if she's wrong in ITOE versus some other book. Not even Einstein was right all the time in the face of newer research and experimentations.

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Jenna,

I'm not arguing for Rand being either right or wrong as a fundamental issue - but where she is right and wrong. I don't find ITOE to be worthless. On the contrary, I find it to be a good beginning (but nothing more). However, I admit that it is the most confusing of Rand's works - the hardest to digest, and frankly it is boring.

I fully agree with your "biological" questions and I regard Objectivism very deficient in understanding innate and automatic mental drives. Still, with the exception of denying the existence of innate "ideas" (and defining that term is the crux), I don't find Rand to be wrong in ITOE so much as incomplete.

With respect to conceptual chains, nets and so forth, Rand didn't use that terminology. However I see nothing in the idea of a conceptual network that contradicts ITOE. In Chapter 3, Rand made the logical sleight-of-hand in her famous "measurement omission" by equating distinguishing characteristic with measurements. Thus instead of omitting measurements, you omit distinguishing characteristics. Here's the paragraph:

When concepts are integrated into a wider one, the new concept includes all the characteristics of its constituent units; but their distinguishing characteristics are regarded as omitted measurements, and one of their common characteristics determines the distinguishing characteristic of the new concept: the one representing their "Conceptual Common Denominator" with the existents from which they are being differentiated.

This allows easily for making conceptual networks. "Chain" is merely a metaphor to be used for tracing parts of a concept (distinguishing characteristics). Nothing more. (She is not all that clear about this, though.)

I am not sure about the conceptual blend. I am not familiar with this in formal terms. (I do know how to scramble a brain, literally and figuratively, but I don't think that is what you are talking about...)

:D

Michael

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where she is right and wrong. I don't find ITOE to be worthless.

I don't think it's worthless, but it's not sufficient specifically for me, because I'm in the field. I will be covering categorization and concept formation in this field in depth and experimental detail.

On the contrary, I find it to be a good beginning (but nothing more). However, I admit that it is the most confusing of Rand's works - the hardest to digest, and frankly it is boring.

I think "good beginning" is relative here depending on what is the goal. To understand concept formation and categorization in general, I'd suggest The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning ed. by Holyoak and Morrison. It's a good beginner's foray into most recent research-- and does not cover the topics in depth, even though it is 800 pages. That's the nature of the depth of cognitive science, that ITOE being just insufficient for someone who is going beyond an 800 page handbook. I would definitely say to anyone, though, to read ITOE, but to read current stuff as well in the same topics. I think of ITOE as a precursor; it's not worthless, nor wholly wrong or right (neither of which is relevant), but more along the lines of "one in many". As for boring--- I don't think it's boring... nor confusing. It's trying to tackle a much more difficult problem than it realizes, and that is where it's frustrating.

I don't find Rand to be wrong in ITOE so much as incomplete.

It's only when this incompleteness is denied--- either by Rand, or by others--- is when you have problems. Taking ITOE at face value, I think, coming from a cog. sci. perspective, is a mistake. Straight up I would say ITOE is addition, subtraction, division, multiplication in the realm of cognitive science, and I'm looking at ITOE having done the algebra, geometry, and precalculus. (I'm using metaphor). When I'm a PhD, ITOE will be looked at from the level of fluid dynamics. If it's insufficient for me now, within the 5-10 years that I do research, it will be probably worse.

However I see nothing in the idea of a conceptual network that contradicts ITOE. In Chapter 3, Rand made the logical sleight-of-hand in her famous "measurement omission" by equating distinguishing characteristic with measurements.

Yes, but essentialism has been contradicted by research.

This allows easily for making conceptual networks. "Chain" is merely a metaphor to be used for tracing parts of a concept (distinguishing characteristics). Nothing more. (She is not all that clear about this, though.)

Chain is part of a network, but only looking at concepts in chain formation is when you get stuck. I think concepts are dynamic and adaptive to some extent; I see them as analogous to fuzzy logic where boudaries of concepts are fuzzy, they can blend, network, change, and shift. Because of this dynamic ability (I think), our language changes over time as language is very indicative of concepts. She does not cover dynamics, the evolution of concepts/language, etc. This is where it's frustrating for me, where she does not cover complexity and dynamical aspects of our mental life.

I am not sure about the conceptual blend. I am not familiar with this in formal terms. (I do know how to scramble a brain, literally and figuratively, but I don't think that is what you are talking about...)

I'll look up articles sometime and link them here. George Lakoff and Eleanor Rosch did research into categorization and concepts; they're at UC Berkeley-- check out their stuff, it's fascinating.

:)

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Four quick points, Jenna -- and all:

1. The TOC Summer Seminar will have sessions focusing on cognitive science and neuroscience, and if you cannot attend, you may still want to order the tapes/CDs of those sessions, once they are available (as they likely will be).

2. Both David Kelley (of TOC) and Harry Binswanger (of ARI) are currently focusing on perception in their summer 2006 talks. When these are available for purchase as tapes or CDs, I recommend purchasing them (online, from The Objectivist Bookstore and the Ayn Rand Bookstore, respectively).

3. David Kelley wrote two rather sophisticated journal articles relating Rand's theory of concept formation to cognitive science. I do not have the exact citations available, but they were published sometime back in the 1980s or 1990s, and they were quite good. I think you'd find them more up to speed with your cog-sci studies than Rand's circa 1965 stuff. One of the essays is actually for sale from TOC. Check out their website; the Objectivism Book Store carries it. It's called "A Theory of Abstraction." Also, there is a monograph by Kenneth Livingston called "Rationality and the Psychology of Abstraction." I haven't read it, but he is a sharp guy and worth reading from your perspective.

4. You mentioned Lakoff. Lakoff and Johnson wrote a really fascinating book called Philosophy in the Flesh, and it was all about metaphors, viz., the borrowed meanings of many of the standard terms we talk about in daily life and philosophy, such as "cause," "time," "love," etc. Several years ago, the MIND list at www.wetheliving.com tried a discussion of this book, but the ortho-Objectivists just about wrecked it, with their resistance to the idea that metaphor plays an important part in philosophy. I posted a piece showing lots of metaphors Rand used in ITOE, which surprised some of them and irritated others who tried to argue them away. But we never got past the first, general part before the discussion folded. Completely untapped was the very rich second part of the book, which had a number of chapters addressing the clusters of meanings and metaphors attaching to different key philosophical terms. Maybe....maybe we could delve into this book and do justice to it, if others are interested? I think that Lakoff and Johnson have a perspective that is as valuable to Objectivists, in its own way, as Chris Sciabarra's dialectical approach.

REB

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I would love to pick up that book by Lakoff & Johnson. The thing with Lakoff is that he has done research, as did Eleanor Rosch, on metaphors, categorization, meanings, etc. The people who trash the work (and I dare say that some did not even read half the body of Lakoff's work while they trash it) cannot understand the nature of their own mentality, research, change, learning, knowledge, and perspective. Total resistance to new ideas is mental death, and I don't learn anything from a person who has shut off their mind to that extent.

I have not read the book, but I've come across it often by it being connected to cognitive science. I hope to read it soon, it is at my school library. I'll let you know when I have it... probably during the coming week, as I did look it up last week: "Cognitive science--the empirical study of the mind--calls upon us to create a new, empirically responsible philosophy, a philosophy consistent with empirical discoveries about the nature of mind," they write. "A serious appreciation of cognitive science requires us to rethink philosophy from the beginning, in a way that would put it more in touch with the reality of how we think." In other words, no Platonic forms, no Cartesian mind-body duality, no Kantian pure logic. Even Noam Chomsky's generative linguistics is revealed under scrutiny to have substantial problems." -- from Amazon

I'd be glad to discuss the book, or any other topics that might come up. Currently, I'm thinking about boundaries, categorization, fuzzy logic. Fun!

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did you already encounter things in reading ITOE which are contradicted by research in neurosci or related fields?

I posted points up on the concept formation thread somewhere. I forgot where it is, it's on this forum :) She is wrong about essentialism. I'm not sure what "strict precision of meaning" means, as concepts are more prototypical:

Whether or not, or in what way, color categories are universal isn't actually relevant to basic issues about the nature of concepts and categories. For most categories nobody would argue that there's a clear physiological basis, and you wouldn't expect the content of the categories to be universal. What is universal, I argued, was the structure of categories and the processes by which category systems are formed. Categories have what I called a graded structure of better and worse examples, and many categories have unclear boundaries. Categories have prototypical best examples which get formed in various ways, but for any category, absolutely any category, and for people in all cultures where this has been done, if you ask them if X or Y is a better example of their concept of Z, they will cheerfully tell you which is better, just as you did for the color red. And those ratings of how good an example of the category an item is predict and correlate with every dependent variable that anybody has ever used in a psychological experiment. ---Eleanor Rosch
from this page

Not into the Buddhism stuff (I glossed over it, but understand what she's saying) but I like that she ends with the support of wisdom--- although I would just say that meditation (which I don't do) is a process of gaining insight and awareness. I would recommend that she balances out both analytic and systems approaches; and her stuff on "self" is rather fuzzy to me.

I've also been looking into Pinker, Lakoff, etc. (cognitive linguists), cognitive science itself (computational, math, empirical) and the dynamical nature of category boundaries. Here's a post on conceptual blending. The guy doens't like cognitive linguists (such as Lakoff and others); it's good for me to have this, as I look at everyone's work to see which pieces of theories are battled over, which are not, which are agreed upon. Here's a page full of posts on cognitive science stuff.

I don't know what Rand says about metaphor, language, and how boundaries are used in categorization.

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4. You mentioned Lakoff. Lakoff and Johnson wrote a really fascinating book called Philosophy in the Flesh, and it was all about metaphors, viz., the borrowed meanings of many of the standard terms we talk about in daily life and philosophy, such as "cause," "time," "love," etc. Several years ago, the MIND list at www.wetheliving.com tried a discussion of this book, but the ortho-Objectivists just about wrecked it, with their resistance to the idea that metaphor plays an important part in philosophy.

I will also try and pick up the book for discussion. But I won't probably be able to get it until next weekend. This discussion has turned very interesting.

Dustan

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p. 71 in ITOE; her description of concepts' essentials are vague: what constitutes essential at what point? So the concept of "gene" has the essential definition of... what? I agree with her approach on p. 73 though on contextual application... even though she seems to acknowledge fuzzy boundaried concepts there but not on p. 71.

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p. 71 in ITOE; her description of concepts' essentials are vague: what constitutes essential at what point? So the concept of "gene" has the essential definition of... what? I agree with her approach on p. 73 though on contextual application... even though she seems to acknowledge fuzzy boundaried concepts there but not on p. 71.

Thanks, I will look more closely at those pages when I get home and can get to my copy of ITOE.

Dustan

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Michael and Kat,

Would it be possible to move the latter part of this thread to a new home under Epistemology?

The topic has changed from Bertrand Russell, to Rand's treatment of him in ITOE (which is still an ethical issue), to the merits and demerits of ITOE (which are epistemological, primarily).

Maybe copy Jenna W's "Re: Great Quote from Bertrand Russell" to the new thread, along with Rich Engel and Aaron's immediate responses, my two posts on the Value of ITOE and ITOE and OOP... Then let the Bertrand Russell thread end with Dragonfly's post, which is still focused on the argument from intimidation that Rand used against Russell, and move everything after that to the new thread.

Robert Campbell

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Thanks for the comments on ITOE Jenna. The Cambridge Handbook is going higher on my future reading list than finishing ITOE.

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Jenna,

Let me start with some of the things that the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology does not address.

You noted:

I'm also hoping to bring in complexity/systems science into my study of cog. neurosci., and none of Rand's works as far as I know tackles complexity science, chaos theory, game theory, nor systems thinking. Those were around during her lifetime and were in existence by the time of her death.

Game theory was around when Rand was still intellectually active. Chaos theory was just getting started.

Dynamic systems theories (for instance, the work in the volume edited by van Gelder and Port that you mentioned) and complexity theory have largely developed since Rand's death.

All the same, it's too bad that Rand never took on dynamic systems theory or complexity theory. For if you really want to understand mental processes, you'll probably need them.

Systems thinking is different, as Rand did plenty of it. (The classic analysis is Chris Sciabarra's, in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.) But Rand's systems thinking was focused on the political, the economic, the social, the ideological, and the cultural, and how the mentalities of individuals are related to all of them--it was not targeted on the mental functioning or development of individual human beings.

For some items you might find interesting, see

http://www.lehigh.edu/~mhb0/pubspage.html

particularly the essays on

"Process and emergence: Normative function and representation"

"The process dynamics of normative function"

"Error dynamics: The dynamic emergence of error avoidance and error vicariants"

"The emergence of contentful experience"

Another one that might be worth looking at is

http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/topologies1996.pdf

which, among other things, gets into theories of analogical reasoning. (Of course, I have a vested interest in promoting it...)

In future posts, I'll try to take on some of your specific objections to ITOE.

In the meantime, could you say more the way you view the subject matter of ITOE? Besides not saying enough about perception, do you think that the book covers the right topics--or are important issues missing from it?

Robert Campbell

PS. Since Rand never wrote much about perception, and Leonard Peikoff, who developed her ideas to a fair extent, has left many of his in recorded lecture form, there's really just one Objectivist book on perception: The Evidence of the Senses, by David Kelley.

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Jenna,

Rand tied concept formation very closely to language learning. (So closely, in fact, that in the workshop material that was added to the 2nd edition of ITOE, she asserts that a bona fide concept, as opposed to a "qualified instance" of a concept, must have a single word to go with it--see p. 177). That was the prevailing view among cognitive psychologists at the time she was writing ITOE--but it is much harder to sustain today.

I'm speculative about her ideas about categorization-- according to research, categorization happens before concept formation. I'll look more into that. People want to argue this, but how does one argue with evidence? ... How is memory used, what does it have to do with conception, and what parts of the brain uses it, in what way?

Infancy research from the 1980s onward has pretty clearly established that babies categorize things by the second half of the first year-- before they have learned any words. So if a concept needs a word, that's categorization before concept formation.

It's not that Rand was completely insensitive to categorizing without language--she just didn't quite know what to do with it (see pp. 159-183 from the workshops, on Implicit Concepts and the Role of Words).

There have been two articles in the Journal of Ayn Rand Studies on Rand's struggles with the implicit:

Bryan Register, The universality and employment of concepts, JARS 1(2), Spring 2000, 211-244.

and my article on Goals, values, and the implicit (see http://hubcap.clemson.edu/~campber/goalsvalues.pdf).

As for memory, there is no Objectivist theory about it, once you get past the limited capacity of working memory (the so-called "crow epistemology"), which plays a pivotal role in ITOE. And the "crow epistemology" was indirectly inspired by George Miller's work in the mid-1950s. It's not too surprising that there's no Objectivist theory, when you consider how little you can learn about the functioning of your own memory by doing introspection. If all you have to work with is introspection, your theory of memory will be about as good as Aristotle's was.

Robert Campbell

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Game theory was around when Rand was still intellectually active. Chaos theory was just getting started.

Dynamic systems theories (for instance, the work in the volume edited by van Gelder and Port that you mentioned) and complexity theory have largely developed since Rand's death.

All the same, it's too bad that Rand never took on dynamic systems theory or complexity theory. For if you really want to understand mental processes, you'll probably need them.

Systems thinking is different, as Rand did plenty of it. (The classic analysis is Chris Sciabarra's, in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical.) But Rand's systems thinking was focused on the political, the economic, the social, the ideological, and the cultural, and how the mentalities of individuals are related to all of them--it was not targeted on the mental functioning or development of individual human beings.

I borrowed The Russian Radical out of the school library today and started on it. So far, it's marvelous! Based on 10 pages, I'd recommend those 10 pages to everyone.

I think Rand did do some systems thinking but such types of thinking, as I'm finding out, is very hard to translate onto 2-D words (or it is 1-D?). I think when she wrote "clearly" she made a lot of mental leaps or thought deeply between sentences or paragraphs that were not explicit in her writing. And I think what happens is then that different individuals are affected differently by the writing, and take to heart some things and not others so therefore miss the whole systems thing; and some think of systems as "rigid" while others think of systems as "dynamic". That is why sometimes her writing to me is very dead-on, and in other circumstances, very vague. ITOE to me is vague in that sense where I can't tell where she gets her cognition/consciousness information from, however, Virtue of Selfishness is very clear to me.

I do think she addresses change in ITOE, however, it was on one page; she does make room for new scientific knowledge. However, I do also keep that she was not a neuroscientist and she certainly wouldn't expect complexity science or fuzzy logic. That's fine to me. I think in order to learn and evolve, systems should be dynamic, changeable, and adaptive, in context.

Thanks for those links! I will read.. after I finish my history final!

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Infancy research from the 1980s onward has pretty clearly established that babies categorize things by the second half of the first year-- before they have learned any words. So if a concept needs a word, that's categorization before concept formation.

It's not that Rand was completely insensitive to categorizing without language--she just didn't quite know what to do with it (see pp. 159-183 from the workshops, on Implicit Concepts and the Role of Words).

I think in this respect she did work within the knowledge of her time. However, science certianly did not stop. I think cognitive science is going to be a huge pain in the butt to some people in the future. :)

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Jenna,

What you get out of Rand's writings of course depends on what you bring to them.

The more rigid Randians all make regular references to context; Leonard Peikoff even used to talk about the "spiral progression of knowledge."

But they can't abide hermeneutics (i.e., the context-dependency of interpretation), even though following through on Rand's systems thinking would require them to acknowledge the hermeneutics. This, I think, is one reason why many react so negatively to The Russian Radical.

I think when she wrote "clearly" she made a lot of mental leaps or thought deeply between sentences or paragraphs that were not explicit in her writing. And I think what happens is then that different individuals are affected differently by the writing, and take to heart some things and not others so therefore miss the whole systems thing; and some think of systems as "rigid" while others think of systems as "dynamic". That is why sometimes her writing to me is very dead-on, and in other circumstances, very vague. ITOE to me is vague in that sense where I can't tell where she gets her cognition/consciousness information from, however, Virtue of Selfishness is very clear to me.

When I first tried to relate some of Rand's claims in ITOE to data about early word use by toddlers (I did an independent study with a developmental psychologist named Jeremy Anglin on this subject, back in 1974), most of ITOE seemed clear to me. As I learned more about developmental psychology, including alternatives not considered by Rand, or not well described by her, or not ruled out by the arguments she put forward to try to rule them out, parts of it became less clear than they had once been...

For an even longer time, I would have agreed with you that "The Objectivist Ethics" (in The Virtue of Selfishness) was extremely clear. But as I tried to explain moral development, and I learned more about Aristotle and then about other Ancient moral thinkers, the more gaps I saw in some parts of it. What exactly is a principle, for instance? Is being rational or honest or productive just a matter of understanding a proposition that identifies some basic fact about the way human beings function successfully in the world, and sticking with that understanding--or is there a component of skill involved?

To be continued...

Robert Campbell

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