Another view of Leonard Peikoff


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Emergence is not some unified force that one can discern as a common element such as electromagnetism in lightning, starlight, and a compass pointing toward the north pole or like gravity which can be seen in the orbit of the moon or the falling of an apple. In fact, it isn't a physical principle at all. Rather, like causation, it is a metaphysical principle.

Consider the concept of mechanistic causation which lies behind so much of our science. For centuries, the explanation of reproduction and the development of the fetus was a mystery. It was believed that either the adult was carried preformed in the head of the sperm, or that the "soul" carried the form of the man to be. Then the cell theory was discovered. All life comes from cells, and cells come from other cells mainly by division, but also by sexual conjugation. How cells knew what to do was a mystery until the action of DNA was discovered. But the development of the theory proceeded along these stages: It was found that all life was made of cells, and that cells could divide, and sometimes combine. Cellular division was the mechanism behind the development of the fetus. Further, it was discovered that the cell's activity was guided by the activity of the chromosomes in the nucleus. DNA transcription was discovered as the mechanism which guided cellular activity.

Now, consider solar eclipses. At first, there were animistic theories meant to explain why the sun disappeared and reappeared. A dragon ate it and then regurgitated it. That mechanism was found to be false. In truth, the moon orbited around the earth, and when it came directly between the earth and the sun, its shadow caused the eclipse. The mechanism was lunar occultation at certain times in its orbit. Now, orbits themselves are explained by gravity along with mass and velocity. We can describe gravity quite well. But the underlying mechanism of gravity is still a bit of a mystery. Why should gravitic mass and inertial mass be the same, for instance? There are some theories. One proposes that space has a repellent property due to the "energy of the vacuum." Imagine that vacuum is really a hot gas that repels equally in all directions. If two massive bodies are near each other, they shade each other from the repellent property of the vacuum, and hence, tend to be drawn toward each other, as the vacuum pressing from outside greatly outpowers the small pressure of the vacuum between the bodies. The closer they get, the less vacuum, and the faster they approach each other. This theory has some problems – mainly that no one can describe why the vacuum energy, if it exists, is not much stronger than it appears. But in any case, vacuum energy is posited as the mechanism underlying gravitic attraction.

Now in all these cases, from cellular division to DNA transcription to lunar occultation to the repellent power of the vacuum we have mechanisms posited. Does that make mechanism a "force" of nature? No. Mechanism isn't a physical force, it's a metaphysical concept, just like causation or existence. We don't see the force of mechanism or the force of existence added in to some physical situation on top of normal physical causes. The same applies with emergence. Emergence is not a physical force. It is a metaphysical concept just like mechanistic causation or existence.

Emergence is the production of new, higher level attributes, which arise from a more simple substrate (complex substance) when that substrate is arranged in a holistic form. Consider a simple emergent trait like the ability to roll. A ball can roll not because the parts that make it up have the quality of rollingness as separate materials. For instance, a baseball is made of wound string wrapped in leather. String does not roll as string. Leather does not roll as leather. But leather wrapped around string wound in the shape of a sphere rolls quite well. Indeed, a spherical form, no matter whether it is made of tungsten or tin or tinker toys will roll quite well. The material must be able to support the form. One can't make a ball out of a free liquid. But any material of any kind that can support the form will roll. A baseball is bound in leather to keep the string in a spherical form. One can even make a ball that will roll out of water if one has a balloon which will hold the water in a spherical shape. A water balloon, a ball bearing, a turtle's egg, all will roll because of their form, regardless of the difference in their materials, or the ability of their material substrates to role in their underlying "ground state" or unarranged form.

Now this dependence on form is found in all cases of emergence. Consciousness depends (among many other things) on the proper arrangement of neurons in the nervous system. It seems entirely likely that we can substitute some, and perhaps all neurons with other materials which can support the same form, say, computer chips which emit and receive and transmit the same signals. We can see replacing a brain neuron by neuron with computer chips in the same form, and possibly ending up with something conscious as well. Indeed, we don't fully understand the mechanism, but it does not seem likely that neurons have some power which chips or something like them could not potentially be made to duplicate. In any case, as with rolling, being conscious emerges from having the proper form.

Now just as with mechanism, there is no "force of emergence" on top of the usual physical forces we find in the world. Emergence is not a physical concept. It is a metaphysical concept. There is no need to go looking for some Sheldrakean morphic field. To do so is a mistake, as wrong headed as the belief in sympathetic magic. The sympathetic magician believes that in some sense, "like causes like." He thinks that sprinkling the ground with a libation will cause the gods, or whatever mystical animus he believes in, to sprinkle the earth with rain. This is to mistake metaphor for mechanism. The mind comprehends reality by comparing like to like. There is no mind behind nature which causes events in the way that we think of them. Sheldrake, and Wilbur and the purveyors of mystic emergent theories are making a similar mistake. We seek for mechanisms in order to explain phenomena. But mechanism is not a force in itself. Mechanism is a type of explanation, the mechanistic explanation itself always uses physical entities and physical forces, not "mechanism itself" as an explanation. The same goes with emergence. Emergent explanations show how a substrate organized in some holistic form has properties which we call emergent. There is no "force of emergence" added on top of substrate and form. There is no mechanism, no causation, no emergence hiding behind the curtain. There is no soul beyond the body, no transubstantial substance behind the Eucharist, no cause beside the entity, no emergence beyond the form. Body and force, substrate and form, in the physical world this is all there is.

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You sound there as if you're positing that a brain is required for any awareness to occur. Apparently this isn't what you meant, but I can't read your mind and figure out that you actually mean something different than you seem to be saying. Apparently -- if I interpret you correctly now -- you're only claiming that the complexity of being a life form (including, possibly, a viral form) is a requisite. I wouldn't disagree with that.

Well, I was in fact thinking of conscious awareness (in a discussion about a conscious atoms and the like), but if you take awareness in the wide sense (as you do), you still need a complex system for the primitive forms of awareness, although the complexity is many orders of magnitude lower than what is needed for conscious awareness. But then "awareness" in the sense of sensing the difference between light and dark or a chemical concentration isn't quite the same thing as our conscious awareness either. The more aware, the more complex.

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Well, I was in fact thinking of conscious awareness (in a discussion about a conscious atoms and the like), but if you take awareness in the wide sense (as you do), you still need a complex system for the primitive forms of awareness, although the complexity is many orders of magnitude lower than what is needed for conscious awareness. But then "awareness" in the sense of sensing the difference between light and dark or a chemical concentration isn't quite the same thing as our conscious awareness either. The more aware, the more complex.

Sounds as if we're "on the same page," then. ;-)

Ellen

___

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For me, the spirit of the principles of Objectivism continue through Nathaniel Branden's work (I am not familiar with David Kelley's), not with Peikoff. Branden takes Objectivist principles into new territory. I also like what I see with Chris Sciabarra's work integrating dialectics with Objectivism (though I have only read a couple of essays I have found online). Peikoff has always struck me as a puppet, controlled by the principles of Objectivism, but lacking the passion and creativity that comes with an authentic and personal vision. I base this on very little information (I guess some of my perspective came from Barbara's and Nathaniel's books) but I find it interesting that Nick's review supports my sense of things.

Paul

Your view of L.P. certainly resonates with mine. I get the distinct impression that L.P. "paints" his philosophical portraits "by the numbers". He comes to his conclusions in a rather mechanical fashion. There is more in heaven and earth than Rand dreamed of in her philosophy. By boxing himself into the (perceived) boundary of Rand's thinking, L.P. distorts and misunderstands several things, among which are science and mathematics. L.P. is basically a rather smart fellow, but he has locked his imagination in a cage of some sort. He has also turned Objectivism, as you have indicated, into some kind of a lock-box.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Using a very 'primitive,' simple form of life as an example, is there a continuum of 'awareness' to your mind? Does it do violence to your argument to use the primitive awareness of a bacteria as an illustration, or need we move up in terms of complexity to 'self-conscious awareness' in primates? Perhaps you could expand on your meaning of 'awareness' or let us know if you mean consciousness. I mention this distinction only because it could well be argued that simple animal life forms have developed an 'awareness' by way of neurons (I am thinking of the studies in Aplysia by Kandel) and it seems to me that this is far from miraculous in the sense of otherworldly.

I found this quote gives an interesting perspective.

If a distinction is to be made between men and monkeys, it is largely measurable by the quantity of

the subconscious which a higher order of being makes conscious. That man really lives who brings

the greatest fraction of his daily experience into the realm of the conscious.* MARTIN H. FISCHER

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Now, consider solar eclipses. At first, there were animistic theories meant to explain why the sun disappeared and reappeared. A dragon ate it and then regurgitated it. That mechanism was found to be false. In truth, the moon orbited around the earth, and when it came directly between the earth and the sun, its shadow caused the eclipse.

I think it's better to regard our theories as models and rather than saying one is true or false, we should concentrate on how well they work in explaining all known phenomena. For example, Newton's models still work for the much of our activities but we need relativity for others. Why must we say one is true and the other false? When a new model comes out then the current one somehow becomes false overnight? It's best to regard science as a process of producing models.

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Now, consider solar eclipses. At first, there were animistic theories meant to explain why the sun disappeared and reappeared. A dragon ate it and then regurgitated it. That mechanism was found to be false. In truth, the moon orbited around the earth, and when it came directly between the earth and the sun, its shadow caused the eclipse.

I think it's better to regard our theories as models and rather than saying one is true or false, we should concentrate on how well they work in explaining all known phenomena. For example, Newton's models still work for the much of our activities but we need relativity for others. Why must we say one is true and the other false? When a new model comes out then the current one somehow becomes false overnight? It's best to regard science as a process of producing models.

I think that, in the case of the Draco-Lunar-Regurgitation theory, it is quite safe to say that this theory was falsified, if not on the same night for every priest of the sun god.

In any case, the idea I was discussing is that of the discovery over time of different mechanisms at different levels of explanation, not the theory of scientific progress. Any essay must leave some issue unaddressed. One simply cannot write an encyclopedia every time one puts digit to key. I suggest you read The Art of Non-Fiction.

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Now, consider solar eclipses. At first, there were animistic theories meant to explain why the sun disappeared and reappeared. A dragon ate it and then regurgitated it. That mechanism was found to be false. In truth, the moon orbited around the earth, and when it came directly between the earth and the sun, its shadow caused the eclipse.

I think it's better to regard our theories as models and rather than saying one is true or false, we should concentrate on how well they work in explaining all known phenomena. For example, Newton's models still work for the much of our activities but we need relativity for others. Why must we say one is true and the other false? When a new model comes out then the current one somehow becomes false overnight? It's best to regard science as a process of producing models.

That is close to correct. We generally do not -perceive- the physical processes underlying the phenomena (the appearences). We infer them from observation and we hypothesize causes by abduction.

As far as I know, no one has ever seen an atom. In fact we -can't- see atoms. They are smaller than the shortest wavelength we can resolve with our retinas.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I think that, in the case of the Draco-Lunar-Regurgitation theory, it is quite safe to say that this theory was falsified, if not on the same night for every priest of the sun god.

Yes, but to me 'falsified' carries a different connotation than simply saying it IS FALSE. TRUE and FALSE are just too black and white.

In any case, the idea I was discussing is that of the discovery over time of different mechanisms at different levels of explanation, not the theory of scientific progress.

Hmm... seems to me that "the discovery over time of different mechanisms at different levels of explanation" pretty well defines 'scientific progress'.

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For me, the spirit of the principles of Objectivism continue through Nathaniel Branden's work (I am not familiar with David Kelley's), not with Peikoff. Branden takes Objectivist principles into new territory. I also like what I see with Chris Sciabarra's work integrating dialectics with Objectivism (though I have only read a couple of essays I have found online). Peikoff has always struck me as a puppet, controlled by the principles of Objectivism, but lacking the passion and creativity that comes with an authentic and personal vision. I base this on very little information (I guess some of my perspective came from Barbara's and Nathaniel's books) but I find it interesting that Nick's review supports my sense of things.

Paul

Your view of L.P. certainly resonates with mine. I get the distinct impression that L.P. "paints" his philosophical portraits "by the numbers". He comes to his conclusions in a rather mechanical fashion. There is more in heaven and earth than Rand dreamed of in her philosophy. By boxing himself into the (perceived) boundary of Rand's thinking, L.P. distorts and misunderstands several things, among which are science and mathematics. L.P. is basically a rather smart fellow, but he has locked his imagination in a cage of some sort. He has also turned Objectivism, as you have indicated, into some kind of a lock-box.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Very well put, Ba'al. Except it's worse than that. ARI is more like a medieval castle, wherein bearded men with brass cannons peer through the battlements and fire at anything unfamiliar. Inside, they treat the Randian corpus as Holy Writ; search each other daily for any trace of heresy, then banish puzzled apostates into the dangerous and mysterious free world outside for expressing any thought not found in the Ayn Rand Lexicon. Nicholas Dykes

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I stumbled across this review of Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Nicholas Dykes. I have not read the book but Nick's assessment of Peikoff's place in the Objectivist movement, and of Peikoff's contribution to Objectivism, fits my own sense of things. I haven't been able to stomach the idea of reading Peikoff since I read Ominous Parallels over 20 years ago (it was required reading in Ridpath's course).

For me, the spirit of the principles of Objectivism continue through Nathaniel Branden's work (I am not familiar with David Kelly's), not with Peikoff. Branden takes Objectivist principles into new territory. I also like what I see with Chris Sciabarra's work integrating dialectics with Objectivism (though I have only read a couple of essays I have found online). Peikoff has always struck me as a puppet, controlled by the principles of Objectivism, but lacking the passion and creativity that comes with an authentic and personal vision. I base this on very little information (I guess some of my perspective came from Barbara's and Nathaniel's books) but I find it interesting that Nick's review supports my sense of things.

Paul

Paul, you really ought to read Kelley [note second 'e', important in library catalogues!]. ~The Evidence of the Senses~ does indeed take Objectivist principles into new territory, besides making a genuine, new, and vital contribution to epistemology. ~Truth and Toleration~ [now ~The Contested Legacy of AR~] is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the cause of Peikoff's idiotic break with Kelley. T&T also ends with one of the finest paragraphs ever written by an O'ist:

“Ayn Rand left us a magnificent system of ideas. But it is not a closed system. It is a powerful engine of integration. Let us not starve it of fuel by shutting our minds to what is good in other approaches. Let us test our ideas in open debate. If we are right, we have nothing to fear; if we are wrong, we have something to learn. Above all, let us encourage independent thought among ourselves. Let us welcome dissent, and the restless ways of the explorers among us. Nine out of ten new ideas will be mistakes, but the tenth will let in the light.”

Kelley's ~Unrugged Individualism~ is also very important because it fills a gap in Rand's ethics, the O'ist virtue of benevolence. But the piece de resistance is David's ~The Art of Reasoning~ which I'm sure is the most eloquent textbook on logic ever written. It's a brilliant exposition, worth reading just for the sheer pleasure of it, even if you're a professor of logic yourself. Woe is me, if only Rand had left everything to David.

Others who have used O'ism as a springboard into other areas, both in philosophy and elsewhere, are the Douglases, Den Uyl & Rasmussen; Harry Binswanger (teleology), George Reisman (economics); and Tibor Machan (political science). Most recently, my own book, ~Old Nick's Guide to Happiness~, uses Objectivism as a foundation for new thinking on politics, and also makes original contributions to the O'ist ethics in the areas of virtues and rights.

Chris Sciabarra is a good friend, though we've never met. His contribution has been more in the way of showing O'ists how to be scholars; his dedication to pure scholarship is amazing. He literally leaves no stone unturned and, because of that, some of his presentations of O'ist principles are the best anywhere.

However, I completely disagree with his thinking on dialectics. Thus he and I are perhaps examplars of what Peikoff so demonstratively is not: practitioners of mutual respect. I have been highly critical of Chris's ~Russian Radical~ & ~Total Freedom~ but I still come to his aid when he needs it, and he to mine: he has published me twice despite our disagreements. Now ~that~, to me, is the true spirit of Objectivism!

BTW: a friend just sent me a birthday present of a T-shirt from The Old Nick (i.e. the old jail) on Danforth in TO. Do you know it by any chance?

Best, Nick (Nicholas Dykes).

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And where I further get caught in the net is where your remarks seem to imply that some unnamed people have stopped using 'emergence' as a heuristic, and reified it into an independent actor.

They have. The say "complexity" is the fundamental driving force in emergence. Complexity is the cause of new forms in this vew, not a description of them. They don't use this language, but that's the gist.

We can probably get closer to the issues that in contention by finding an instance, I figger. I could trying to find one of these bogus kinds of argument -- so we call all have a slash at it. It would be fun for everyone, dontcha think?

Here's what I mean: Let's discard the phrase 'emergent people' and use something more neutral like 'some theorists' -- and then recast the idea.

Some theories of emergence lack details on the process and seem to explain with a wave of the hand; I want to know the ins and outs of how an emergent property or attribrute or whatever actually comes into existence. For example, if consciousness is an emergent property, how do I know that theorists aren't just coming up with an empty word? I don't want emergence as a magic wand -- I want meat on them bones.

I would happily start off a path to find the evidence that gives warrant to the idea. Not simple, not easy, but I think it would be worth it.

Another idea that seems to emerge from your last week of posts answering mine is that Big Bang theory doesn't satisfy your own personal questions about the universe (I am wondering if you are unsatisfied with current explanations of the origin of life).

Another: top/down, simple/complex, content/form, components/systems, little thingies used for alignment/patterns, reductionist parts/holons . . .

Anyhow, we can have a look at the awful emergence theorists if you like, although your raising them so looks like a tu quoque fallacy (meaning, I had addressed what I thought were grave shortcomings with Wilberian/Sheldrakian warpings of 'holon.' That was my 'give me meat' plaint. Now, if someone were to say, "Well, the emergence people do the same dang thing," it doesn't actually address the argument I have made).

I don't have time to read a whole lot of scientific stuff right now to dig up quotes, but they are abundant if you look for this view.

Yes, well, I will do my part since you are too busy at the moment. I will look at some scientific stuff and get some quotes. I'll try to find some work where 'emergence,' systems, form, patterns come into play, and then I will have to guess which instances might illustrate your contentions. Could be a while.

The point I further made, Michael that with Wilber the holon becomes a separable 'morphic field' not merely a heuristic.

I don't care for this term "heuristic." Why not just say speculation?

Well, the two terms don't mean the same thing, for one. What don't you care for about the term. Instead of using speculation, how about '"rules of thumb", educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense' [from Wikipedia]? Heuristic doesn't mean speculation.

Secondly, a separable 'morphic field' -- I don't know if your answer means you listened to the talk I cited between Wilber and Sheldrake. Indeed, the two are in harmony. The morphic field is used muchly by Wilber to explain the workings of holons. I am guessing, but I think this is the part of Wilber that you don't like, along with his ignorance of evolution, and his notion of sentient quarks and other hootingly stupid assumptions of this four quadrants model.

I think Ellen has provided yeoman service for all those here who are interested in how the 'holon' has grown and morphed over the years. I do also think you will agree that 'holon' is an excellent type of heuristic, a helpful nudge to consider reality as mutually-imbricated systems. Her examples of S-R dogmas in psychology as something Koestler meant to counter with a holonic view give expression to its recent historic utility. As well, the example Koestler gave of morphogenetic fields as instance of a holon was excellent (and that's why I dragged in the cat of evo-devo, since the holons in question under its purview are multiple).

So, I hope you don't get me wrong. Holon is a fine word. It's the extension of the term into pixie world that I am concerned with. I assume that you too don't believe in pixies and you don't like the religious undergirding of Wilber's wilder proclamations -- so it is concerning that you don't acknowledge the particular faults in his philosophy that have been brought forward in this thread and in the Dawkins thread. You gotta admit that at times Wilber is a bit of a wackaloon. And I would hope you understand that he has had zero influence on scientists.

I don't care for terms like "morphic field" either.

I'm taking a wild guess here, and so correct me if I am wrong, but it's not the term you don't care for, but its misuse, maybe the use to which it is put by Sheldrake.

I personally consider holon to be axiomatic, like in fundamental axiom.

Fair enough. Did you want to sketch up a statement of that axiom?

It is related to the law of identity and confirmed by induction (which is the only way I have seen axioms ever confirmed). You see enough of 'em and you say they exist. Saying "morphic field" for holon is like saying identity is a field or existence is a field or even particle is a field.

Well, we will wait for your sketch of the axiom to better understand your greater position, then, but I understand you to be saying that you reject Sheldrake's morphic fields.

Just as particle is what happens when things break apart, holon is what happens when they come together.

Well, that's one way of looking at it. For me, the interesting thing, and one which I do not understand, are the how and when and the whither of the particles. I know enough of the gross features of physical theory to know that particles form the world of the elements, and that some particles are not bound in an element (light). I don't understand why the electron is a lepton and a quark is a muon, and I certainly don't understand what the heck a photon is, but I recognize that atomic energy has resulted from somebody's understanding of the forces and features of the atom. And I further understand that chemistry has teased out some mysteries of the whys and the whithers of how elements combine.

It does strike me that the workers who have constructed our understanding and application of elements, elementary forces, and chemistry don't necessarily use the word holon. But the other funny thing is that they still get the work done, holonically. I mean, a chemist understands that he is dealing with parts/wholes and a molecular biologist deals with them too. The geneticists by virtue of their field are forced to think in terms of part/whole, as are varied fields subsumed under the headings of biology. Beyond that, of course, more . . .

And another striking thing to me is that there seems to be a growing consilience of the varied workers' products. Indeed the chemist relies upon the physics implicated in his work, and the biologist must pay head to the chemist. And so on across the fields. The work converges and elaborates in many directions, incorporating the findings of related fields from varied positions in the landscape of inquiry.

One might say, "biology is a holon, chemistry is a holon, physics is a holon, genetics is a holon, evolutionary theory is a holon." Dynamic, mutually-dependent, separable but still implicated in a whole. That is the grand multidimensional enterprise that astounds me and fills me with awe.

Certainly there are mysteries, deep and dark mysteries. As you speak elsewhere with disdain of Big Bang theory, the singularity, I don't see a lot to scoff at. I understand that we can't spell out all the particulars and ramifications fully, but that so much evidence converges from so many points, that the universe has expanded from what seems in retrospect to have been a single point, that there was a massive explosion that continues to ripple outward, that there are posited things like dark energy and dark matter . . . all of this fills me with awe and wonder. Not only that we have in my lifetime come to discover and integrate so much, but at the very mystery of it all. We don't know it all. We may never know it all. What a thrill that we have come so close.

As for all forms having emerged from one tiny thing . . . what one tiny thing?

Most of the scientific literature I have read about it refers to a "singularity." That term is mostly used in cosmology, but the meaning is always clear in the works I have read. The all encompassing singularity is our ancestor according to this "heuristic." :) I thought you were familiar with this.

Well, sure, but remember the phrase I didn't understand: "all the variety of forms in the universe ultimately emerged from one tiny thing" (as view of some emergence theorists). My question was, who? Now you have answered the question, sort of, telling me it's Them, as in 'They have. They say "complexity" is the fundamental driving force in emergence.'

And then you say, now you go look for evidence of Them, William. And I will, though I doubt I will find anyone saying The Singularity is Our Ancestor.

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I don't understand why the electron is a lepton and a quark is a muon

A quark isn't a muon, a muon is one of the leptons, like the electron. Quarks form hadrons, particles with strong interaction, like the proton and the neutron.

Thanks for the correction!

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I personally consider holon to be axiomatic, like in fundamental axiom.

Fair enough. Did you want to sketch up a statement of that axiom?

It is related to the law of identity and confirmed by induction (which is the only way I have seen axioms ever confirmed). You see enough of 'em and you say they exist. Saying "morphic field" for holon is like saying identity is a field or existence is a field or even particle is a field.

Well, we will wait for your sketch of the axiom to better understand your greater position, then, but I understand you to be saying that you reject Sheldrake's morphic fields.

I, for one, don't think we have enough axioms, so I applaud Michael's suggestion that we add "holon" to the list of Objectivist axioms such as existence, consciousness, and identity, and I suggest that we not overlook other possible axioms, as well.

I'm not sure that axioms are confirmed by induction--in fact, I have heard Peikoff argue strenuously that they are ~not~ (that they instead are seen to be self-evidently true and are seen to be necessarily used in any attempt to deny their truth)--but let's just

~suppose~ this is so. "See enough of 'em and you say they exist."

This is an interesting criterion, for axioms--or for anything cognitive for that matter. I'd think that if you see ~one~ of something, that would justify acknowledging that it exists! But let's suppose that in order to say that something exists, we must see not just one, but "enough of 'em"--presumably a ~lot~ of them? What else fits this criterion?

Well, stars. I think stars would make great axioms. Especially in rural areas on a clear night, you can see far more stars than you can possibly count. And automobiles--there's too danged ~many~ of them in Southern California! So, automobiles are axioms, too, OK? And what about illegal aliens and uninsured motorists--I've seen more than enough of those, too!

I could go on at length, but I'll bow out of the discussion and let others chime in with ~their~ favorite axioms that they've "seen enough of."

REB

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PS: And, no, Mike Hardy, and others who might ask, I won't reveal the expected title at this time.

"The Fountainhead of Awareness Shrugged"?

"Floating in the Summer Sky,

Ninety-Nine Red Brains Go By"?

"The Sycamore Lechers"?

"Buddhism for Physicists"?

"An Inconvenient Gore"?

"The Twilight's Own"?

(Geez, why didn't I ever feed Roland that one? What's wrong with me?)

Should I keep guessing until I get it right? The more guesses, the higher my score, right? -- Mike Hardy

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As far as I know, no one has ever seen an atom. In fact we -can't- see atoms. They are smaller than the shortest wavelength we can resolve with our retinas.

First, is that "naked emperor" or Lord Chutzpah?

Yes, we do see atoms. We don't see atoms as little solar systems, or fuzzy little balls, becuase we couldn't. Solar systems, and even fuzzy balls are made of atoms. Seeing a by definition uncomposed atom couldn't be like seeing something composed of atoms. The way we see atoms is by seeing the entities or substances they comprise - everything around us. The is the form in which we perceive them. One could be perverse and say, but we don't see atoms, we see photons. But this doesn't work either. In one sense, we see photons, but in another sense we see by photons. This dual focus is always available. If we say we see photons, someone might object, well, no one shines light on photons so that we can see them. But if this is true, then it is true of atoms as well. If we see photons, then we can see atoms just as well.

At the bottom of it all we see what we see. How we describe or understand what we see is a conceptual matter. Using the conceptual focus we can say that we see a a gold nugget, or that we see yelllow, or that we see gold atoms reflecting certain photons and absorbing others, or we can say that we see the photons. All these claims are true - in a certain way.

I will echo Nick here, and suggest that one read Kelley's Evidence of the Senses. He deals with perceptual form and with conceptual focus - I think he uses another term - I don't have the book before me.

One last proof that we do see atoms, or, okay, pairs of atoms here. Look at a cloud of of chlorine gas in a chemical flask under a hood. What is the green stuff that you see, if not atoms of Chlorine?

We most certainly do see atoms, and every kind of physical thing in between, including black holes, and up to and including the universe.

Extra credit for advanced students: Have you ever seen the actual solar system, as if from a god's eye view? You can. The next time there is a planetary conjunction at sunset, wait for the moon to pass between the planets. You will be able, looking at Mars and Venus, (or whatever two planets are in conjunction) to determine the plane of the solar system defined by yourself on the earth, the sun (just over the horizon) and the two planets as defining a triangle. The moon will not lie in that plane, orbiting about the earth at an angle. The moon will also be new if it is near the horizon at sunset, and its crescent will point directly to the sun. Once you realize that the moon is not in the same plane as the planets, but that both the planets and the moon define separate planes including the sun and the earth, then you will see a three dimensional arrangement. It will hit you that you are seeing the planets not as points on a flat sky, but as non-coplanar points in space defining a three dimensional polyhedron. You will, for the first time in your life, have "seen" the solar system as if from the viewpoint of a god.

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Should I keep guessing until I get it right? The more guesses, the higher my score, right? -- Mike Hardy

"For Whom the Bull Tells"?

"Principals of Mathematical Psychoanalysis"?

"Who Is Leonard Peikoff"?

"Ich hab' heute nichts versäumt

Denn ich hab' nur von dir geträumt"?

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As far as I know, no one has ever seen an atom. In fact we -can't- see atoms. They are smaller than the shortest wavelength we can resolve with our retinas.
One last proof that we do see atoms, or, okay, pairs of atoms here. Look at a cloud of of chlorine gas in a chemical flask under a hood. What is the green stuff that you see, if not atoms of Chlorine?

We are getting pretty danged close to imaging/'feeling' the atom with atomic force microscopy (see a cool story from Science Daily, from which the illustration comes).

040817075728.jpg

For full size images from atomic force microscopy -- including subatomic structures within single atoms, see an excellent blog entry by Mike Wendman, a 'microfab engineer.'

Edited by william.scherk
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... I doubt I will find anyone saying The Singularity is Our Ancestor.

William,

LOL...

No. Nobody uses that kind of language, but I can find no error in the logic.

The Universe emerged from the Singularity.

Human being emerged from the Universe.

The Universe, and consequently the Singularity, are our ancestors.

Do you deny this?

(Ancestor is normally used in biology, but there is nothing I know of to prohibit it from meaning forerunner or predecessor. If life emerged from inanimate matter, inanimate matter is certainly the ancestor of life and a type of state of existence.)

Here's a question for ya': Does the Singularity still exist? :)

With respect to your comments about my objection to certain terms, language-wise, I don't like big words when small words will do. A lot of jargon sounds to me like a lot of old-boy's club stuff is packed into it and not just knowledge. I like my knowledge without snobbism, especially when I am mulling over premises.

You asked for specific people instead of just "them." There is a trap in this that I do not have time to entertain (but I am not claiming you are setting this trap, either). It is kind of like a hole in the road you don't see until you have fallen into it.

"Give me an example of what you mean by Premise A. I need a name."

"Iam Athinker. This guy doesn't use the words I do, but his position is clearly based on Premise A."

"Really?"

(thud)

(36 volumes of books written by Iam Athinker land on the floor)

"What's that?"

"If you look at Volume 17, The Ultimate Significance and Validity of Premise XYZ, page 423, you will see clearly that Athinker has rejected the Dusseldorf Interpretation of Premise A."

(sigh...)

I will give you some good news, though. These discussions have allowed me to clarify some things that were bothering me and, now that I have the direction, I will simply do the research and write my articles and books, citing whoever needs to be cited. (And you know I have no problems with citing people.)

When I said there were numerous examples, I was not kidding. Here is one I just now stumbled across with Kochen and Conway. The post below explains the gist of my approach.

If you reject top-down thinking, which you seem to do, I don't expect to convince you of the metaphysics of "both-thinking" (to coin a term). Just like highly intelligent scientists do not convince each other (as in my example) of one approach or the other—not even with hard math.

Do subatomic particles have free will?

By Julie Rehmeyer

Friday, August 15th, 2008

Science News

A few things jumped out at me in the article:

And to Bohmians and other like-minded physicists, the pair says: Give up determinism, or give up free will. Even the tiniest bit of free will.

. . .

They used a pure mathematical argument to show that there is no way the particle can choose spins around every imaginable axis in a way that is consistent with the 1-0-1 rule.

. . .

Kochen and Conway say the best way out of this paradox is to accept that the particle’s spin doesn’t exist until it’s measured. But there’s one way to escape their noose: Suppose for a moment that Alice and Bob’s choice of axis to measure is not a free choice.

. . .

Ideally, a mathematical proof settles all uncertainty, but Kochen and Conway haven’t yet managed to convince many of the physicists they are addressing.

Philosophy-wise, there are some interesting premises, and I think they need to be checked:

1. This overall blanket issue between free will and determinism is either-or.

2. A pure mathematical argument is the proper form of settling uncertainty.

3. Measuring the smallest particle in the universe will give the answer to the free will versus determinism issue.

I look at this and think they are not measuring all the things that are needed to be measured.

They are doing the equivalent of measuring the surface area of a falling rock and perplexed at why this does not give a reading for gravity.

The free-will versus determinism issue gets simpler when you look at both form and content, accept that they are both essential, and accept that they have different characteristics. Then you see that something exists in form which is called free will on the human level. But trying to look at all of reality from a free will perspective is like trying to explain atoms in terms of fully developed human beings. Free will does have a counterpart for simpler forms.

On the inanimate level there exists in form a self-generated aggregation and expulsion of particles and holons (or systems within systems if you don't like the word holon). Self-generated boundary is a good term, but it is more than that. (This makes an interesting topic of its own.) On the basic life level (which includes all the former inanimate stuff for form) I am quite happy with the Objectivist "self-generated action" (to which I would add self-generated reproduction), and getting more complex, but always building on what came before for form, you get to human volition. Using this perspective, free will exists as a property of human form.

Determinism exists as a property of content. The part is what it is and is not anything else. Its identity determines what the form is with respect to its place in the form.

This might appear to be a contradiction, but only if looked at from one perspective or the other. When looked at from the perspective that form and content exist for all things and they both have equal standing, it makes perfect sense.

For a simple metaphor—a geometric image—that hints at the kind of thinking I am getting at, imagine a circle drawn on a sheet of paper. Which part defines the circle: the part outside it or the part inside it?

That is a false dichotomy. Both parts define the circle.

If I try to measure one and try to pretend the other is not essential, I will never be able to define the circle. It needs both inside and outside to exist.

This is the kind of mistake I see with approaches of the kind given in the article. A satisfactory answer that defines form and content will never happen just by measuring content and pretending form is not essential.

Notice that the math, despite being rock-solid sound, did not convince all scientists. That's because one school is measuring one thing in the false dichotomy and another is measuring the other. (The false dichotomy being that either free will or determinism exist in the universe, when both actually do.) From what I see, if you remove the attempt by one side or the other to present the whole answer and examine their stuff as just one part, both sides are right and both are wrong depending on what you are looking at.

Interestingly enough, even the "pure mathematical argument" is not so purely mathematical when you examine it up close. It needs an initial non-mathematical observation of spin just to get set up.

If you go to that thread, you will see the reply from Dragonfly, who rejects top-down thinking. Nothing I will ever say to him, no proof I could ever present to him, will convince him that form exists as more than the sum of the parts and it has specific characteristics that impact the parts in a manner that ultimately does not derive from them. He has embraced one of the perspectives as the only true one and he has trained his mind to not see the other.

I see this in a lot of scientists and scientific minded people (based on the things I have read). I do not see a uniformity of perspectives, either. (They are also fond of calling the scientists with the perspective they do not share "fool" and so forth. :) )

Michael

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The way we see atoms is by seeing the entities or substances they comprise - everything around us. The is the form in which we perceive them. One could be perverse and say, but we don't see atoms, we see photons. But this doesn't work either. In one sense, we see photons, but in another sense we see by photons. This dual focus is always available. If we say we see photons, someone might object, well, no one shines light on photons so that we can see them. But if this is true, then it is true of atoms as well. If we see photons, then we can see atoms just as well.

The theory of seeing states that structures in our eyes, like cones and rods, react to the lightwaves or photons and these reactions are integrated by the visual cortex into an image. So by definition, we could not see an electron, for example, since bouncing even one photon off it causes it to scatter.

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With respect to your comments about my objection to certain terms, language-wise, I don't like big words when small words will do. A lot of jargon sounds to me like a lot of old-boy's club stuff is packed into it and not just knowledge. I like my knowledge without snobbism, especially when I am mulling over premises.

I want to qualify this.

I am not against the existence of big words, nor against their use. I admire higher learning and strive to expand my own vocabulary.

I am against a person being unable or unwilling to explain what a big word means, or the concept he expressed in big words, in simple language. I am really against trying to use big words as intimidation, or as substitute for a sound argument, or for showing off and nothing more. (I was going to include mockery, but I like big words to lampoon boneheads too much for that. :) )

As an example of big word usage I don't mind, Chris Sciabarra's work Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical is full of big words. It's a hard read because of this. However if you communicate with Chris and ask him any question, he answers in simple language and explains anything you ask him. So I don't mind the big words in his case (although I do believe overuse of them hindered the spread of his book's popularity—and, by the way, it is a magnificent book on Rand and Objectivism).

The acid test is to put ideas that are usually expressed in big words in simple terms and see what people say. If a person goes after the idea and meets you concept-to-concept so to speak, I don't mind continuing in big words. That becomes an intellectual delight and there is a great deal to learn from such a person. If he starts up with rhetorical monkey-shines, I simplify further. (That's my ornery streak kicking in.)

Michael

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