Robert Campbell

The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion

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If, according ot Peikoff, an arbitrary assertion is "sheer assertion with no attempt to validate it or connect it to reality," then doesn't that mean it refers to nothing? In other words, it doesn't "refer" at all. The very concept of "refer" is foreign to Peikoff's notion of the arbitrary.

So how can that be "self-referential," much less consistent or inconsistent?

What am I missing?

Michael

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There are two kinds of reference: connotation and denotation. (sinn und bedeutung).

The term Unicorn does not denote anything (there are no Unicorns) but it is meaningful.

ruveyn

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Bob,

You are using standard logic. We are talking about Leonard Peikoff.

:)

Besides, if you read The Art of Fiction or The Art of Nonfiction, which are books made from Rand lecture-classes, you will see that she uses the term "connotation" in a very specific manner. Something akin to implying.

Michael

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"Texas is ruled by a king..The green cheese on the moon has poisoned many astronauts".the moon is made of green cheese" are arbitrary statements because they evade the well established body of knowledge. We already know that Texas is not ruled by king and moon is not made of green cheese. In spite that Texas, kings, green cheese and moon exist, these statements don't pertain to reality as we know it and therefore arbitrary. An evasion is also denial of context of knowledge. The whole point is not that we don't have an evidence that the moon is made of cheese, but that we do have well established evidence it isn't. This makes such a statement arbitrary. If you claim that I killed my wife while you know too well that I'm a bachelor, you make an arbitrary statement which doesn't pertain to reality and to your context of knowledge.

" "An invisible elephant is in your living room." ("An invisible elephant is a real creature that is in your living room." Arbitrary subject term, arbitrarily attributed predicate, right? Yet also false, right?)

If one claims an existence of the entity which in principle cannot be detected by any rational means, he claims a supernatural, mystic knowledge. Such a knowledge, which cannot be proved or disproved cannot be false or true. One cannot bring up any evidence pro or contra . It is an arbitrary statement.

So, if I ~know~ but ~forget~ that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is simply an error and thus ~false~??

Whereas, if I ~know~ that the moon is, say, 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is based on an ~evasion~ of context of knowledge and is thus arbitrary and ~not false~??

But what if I ~do not~ know that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I nevertheless say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth"? Is this based on insufficient context of knowledge and thus invalid -- or is it arbitrary -- or what? Is it false when I claim something that I do not know, but which is in fact true? Or is it arbitrary?

Does it make sense to say that it's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", if you have a context justifying the statement, but I don't? Usually, Objectivists don't like to say that truth is relative!

What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?

I appreciate your trying to sort all this out, and I'm interested in your answers to the above questions.

REB

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Besides, if you read The Art of Fiction or The Art of Nonfiction, which are books made from Rand lecture-classes, you will see that she uses the term "connotation" in a very specific manner. Something akin to implying.

Michael

Rand says $connotation. I say connotation. Objectivist redefinitions of commonly used words should be preceded by a "$".

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Besides, if you read The Art of Fiction or The Art of Nonfiction, which are books made from Rand lecture-classes, you will see that she uses the term "connotation" in a very specific manner. Something akin to implying.

Michael

Rand says $connotation. I say connotation. Objectivist redefinitions of commonly used words should be preceded by a "$".

Ba'al Chatzaf

Why?

--Brant

people can't think?

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Besides, if you read The Art of Fiction or The Art of Nonfiction, which are books made from Rand lecture-classes, you will see that she uses the term "connotation" in a very specific manner. Something akin to implying.

Michael

Rand says $connotation. I say connotation. Objectivist redefinitions of commonly used words should be preceded by a "$".

Ba'al Chatzaf

Why?

--Brant

people can't think?

Because they are at variance with common usage. Definition is convention, not fact. The participants in a conversation can agree to any definitions they please. As long as the conventions are observed the conversation can proceed.

Placing the $ in front of the words warns the reader that a variant definition is in play and will serve to prevent errors of equivocation from occurring.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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If, according ot Peikoff, an arbitrary assertion is "sheer assertion with no attempt to validate it or connect it to reality," then doesn't that mean it refers to nothing? In other words, it doesn't "refer" at all. The very concept of "refer" is foreign to Peikoff's notion of the arbitrary.

So how can that be "self-referential," much less consistent or inconsistent?

What am I missing?

Michael

It only can refer to the statement itself. For example if I say " The current president of USA is bald", I refer to the existent political personality. I could be proved wrong by easily available evidence that he is not bald. My statement therefore is false. But if I say " the current king of France is bald", to whom I refer? There is no current king of France. I cannot be proved or disproved and my statement is not true, neither it's false. One can only refer to my statement and define it as arbitrary.

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"Texas is ruled by a king..The green cheese on the moon has poisoned many astronauts".the moon is made of green cheese" are arbitrary statements because they evade the well established body of knowledge. We already know that Texas is not ruled by king and moon is not made of green cheese. In spite that Texas, kings, green cheese and moon exist, these statements don't pertain to reality as we know it and therefore arbitrary. An evasion is also denial of context of knowledge. The whole point is not that we don't have an evidence that the moon is made of cheese, but that we do have well established evidence it isn't. This makes such a statement arbitrary. If you claim that I killed my wife while you know too well that I'm a bachelor, you make an arbitrary statement which doesn't pertain to reality and to your context of knowledge.

" "An invisible elephant is in your living room." ("An invisible elephant is a real creature that is in your living room." Arbitrary subject term, arbitrarily attributed predicate, right? Yet also false, right?)

If one claims an existence of the entity which in principle cannot be detected by any rational means, he claims a supernatural, mystic knowledge. Such a knowledge, which cannot be proved or disproved cannot be false or true. One cannot bring up any evidence pro or contra . It is an arbitrary statement.

So, if I ~know~ but ~forget~ that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is simply an error and thus ~false~??

Whereas, if I ~know~ that the moon is, say, 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is based on an ~evasion~ of context of knowledge and is thus arbitrary and ~not false~??

But what if I ~do not~ know that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I nevertheless say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth"? Is this based on insufficient context of knowledge and thus invalid -- or is it arbitrary -- or what? Is it false when I claim something that I do not know, but which is in fact true? Or is it arbitrary?

Does it make sense to say that it's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", if you have a context justifying the statement, but I don't? Usually, Objectivists don't like to say that truth is relative!

What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?

I appreciate your trying to sort all this out, and I'm interested in your answers to the above questions.

REB

As I mentioned before, I identified 3 kinds of arbitrary statements which represent: (1). metaphysical assault ( axioms, Law of identity and causality), (2). Epistemic assault on tools of knowledge and (3) Evasion of the well established body of knowledge. I suppose, there could be more. There are also borderline cases. For example if you would tell me that Earth is flat, I'd classify it as arbitrary on the ground (3). To ask you " and how do you know that?" would be nonsensical. But the same statement made by a member of Donga tribe , who never has been exposed to the existent body of knowledge, would require an investigation. If he could bring up certain evidences which pertain to reality, I can prove him wrong and his statement is false. However, If he explains that he just knows, or Gods who descended from Sirius B told him so, I would dismiss his statement as arbitrary on the ground (2).This is not a case "t's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", but a question of context of knowledge. If you deliberately and knowingly make a wrong statement which pertains to existent reality, like distance between Earth and Moon, it's not arbitrary, but more than just a false statement. It's a lie, an attempt to fake reality.

"What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?"

Depends, where is an elephant.

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Besides, if you read The Art of Fiction or The Art of Nonfiction, which are books made from Rand lecture-classes, you will see that she uses the term "connotation" in a very specific manner. Something akin to implying.

Michael

Rand says $connotation. I say connotation. Objectivist redefinitions of commonly used words should be preceded by a "$".

Ba'al Chatzaf

Why?

--Brant

people can't think?

Because they are at variance with common usage. Definition is convention, not fact. The participants in a conversation can agree to any definitions they please. As long as the conventions are observed the conversation can proceed.

Placing the $ in front of the words warns the reader that a variant definition is in play and will serve to prevent errors of equivocation from occurring.

Ba'al Chatzaf

You'll be $warned. No $one $else will $pay $attention.

--Brant

$useless

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I thought I was getting it, now I dunno.

A statement made without any relevance to reality is always *false* - only then, *arbitrary* (possibly).

Too many examples seem to be 'assertor-dependent': one subjectively presumes too much about the status of the person making the assertion.

For instance, a guy approaches you wearing leopard skins and rattling animal bones, and informs you "E=MC2!".

How do you know he's making an arbitrary assertion? You know enough to ascertain that the statement is true - without context at that point, but still true.

So you question him, and it turns out (a) he heard it a minute ago, and is repeating it parrot-like, not having the slightest idea of its origins and proof. Or (b) he is a Physics professor who enjoys dressing up - er, down.

Same person, same assertion but (a) is arbitrary and (b) is true!

The same with an obviously false assertion like "I know there are 16

parallel Universes, and God holds them in the palm of his hand."

It's immaterial who says it, this is false, not arbitrary, and this CAN be "dismissed out of hand.".

Objectively, independently of the speaker and his knowledge.

Pertaining to reality, not to someone's knowledge (or honesty) therefore

there exists only true and false, to my mind.

So I ask, why introduce "the arbitrary" at all?

(The simple life, that's all I want :))

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But if I say " the current king of France is bald", to whom I refer? There is no current king of France. I cannot be proved or disproved and my statement is not true, neither it's false. One can only refer to my statement and define it as arbitrary.

Leonid,

I see this as different. All statements are based on assumptions. And we verify those assumptions by checking--the best form being observation. If the assumptions that ground a statement are false, the rest of the statement is false, too. The proposition (or assumption) that France currently has a king is false. Thus anything said about such a king is also false.

That's the way most people reason.

In other words, a statement does not exist as a separate entity from its assumptions. It might on a semantic level, but not on a conceptual level.

So I see no purpose in redefining "arbitrary" to fit the situation you mention. The arbitrary part to me is someone proposing "the current king of France" just because the person feels like it. I hold that random intent is the fundamental part of "arbitrary," not the product of the intent. Arbitrary refers to a method of choosing, not what is chosen. Most any dictionary backs me up.

And there's more I have learned over time, especially since I have studied persuasion. You might be interested to know that part of covert hypnosis includes planting false assumptions in the subject's mind. (They often use the term "presupposition.") Call the unfolding of the results anything you like, but arbitrary is definitely not accurate. The results are structured and repeatable enough of the time to show cause-and-effect. And they are based on 100% false assumptions.

I'm willing to dig up some examples if you are interested.

Michael

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Is the following statement true, false or arbitrary:

John Galt gave a three hour radio speech.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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I was thinking "random" too - or, "incidental" and "co-incidental" - when "arbitrary" IS valid, as in e.g. natural phenomena, say the clouds, 'spelling' out E=MC2.

This would be truly arbitrary, to be instantly dismissed.

But with a human agent making any assertion, it must be either true or false, and must always be questioned: "HOW do you know WHAT you know?"

Even then if we admit arbitary assertions, you don't know it is one until you ask this.

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"Texas is ruled by a king..The green cheese on the moon has poisoned many astronauts".the moon is made of green cheese" are arbitrary statements because they evade the well established body of knowledge. We already know that Texas is not ruled by king and moon is not made of green cheese. In spite that Texas, kings, green cheese and moon exist, these statements don't pertain to reality as we know it and therefore arbitrary. An evasion is also denial of context of knowledge. The whole point is not that we don't have an evidence that the moon is made of cheese, but that we do have well established evidence it isn't. This makes such a statement arbitrary. If you claim that I killed my wife while you know too well that I'm a bachelor, you make an arbitrary statement which doesn't pertain to reality and to your context of knowledge. " "An invisible elephant is in your living room." ("An invisible elephant is a real creature that is in your living room." Arbitrary subject term, arbitrarily attributed predicate, right? Yet also false, right?) If one claims an existence of the entity which in principle cannot be detected by any rational means, he claims a supernatural, mystic knowledge. Such a knowledge, which cannot be proved or disproved cannot be false or true. One cannot bring up any evidence pro or contra . It is an arbitrary statement.

So, if I ~know~ but ~forget~ that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is simply an error and thus ~false~??Whereas, if I ~know~ that the moon is, say, 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is based on an ~evasion~ of context of knowledge and is thus arbitrary and ~not false~??But what if I ~do not~ know that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I nevertheless say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth"? Is this based on insufficient context of knowledge and thus invalid -- or is it arbitrary -- or what? Is it false when I claim something that I do not know, but which is in fact true? Or is it arbitrary?Does it make sense to say that it's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", if you have a context justifying the statement, but I don't? Usually, Objectivists don't like to say that truth is relative!What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?I appreciate your trying to sort all this out, and I'm interested in your answers to the above questions.REB
As I mentioned before, I identified 3 kinds of arbitrary statements which represent: (1). metaphysical assault ( axioms, Law of identity and causality), (2). Epistemic assault on tools of knowledge and (3) Evasion of the well established body of knowledge. I suppose, there could be more. There are also borderline cases. For example if you would tell me that Earth is flat, I'd classify it as arbitrary on the ground (3). To ask you " and how do you know that?" would be nonsensical. But the same statement made by a member of Donga tribe , who never has been exposed to the existent body of knowledge, would require an investigation. If he could bring up certain evidences which pertain to reality, I can prove him wrong and his statement is false. However, If he explains that he just knows, or Gods who descended from Sirius B told him so, I would dismiss his statement as arbitrary on the ground (2).This is not a case "t's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", but a question of context of knowledge. If you deliberately and knowingly make a wrong statement which pertains to existent reality, like distance between Earth and Moon, it's not arbitrary, but more than just a false statement. It's a lie, an attempt to fake reality. "What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?" Depends, where is an elephant.

The problem I'm having with your analysis--and with the notion that "the arbitrary" renders statements neither true nor false--is that it undercuts Aristotle's doctrine that contradictory propositions have opposite truth values.

You would certainly agree that "The moon IS NOT made of green cheese" is a ~true~ statement, right?

Well, why, then, wouldn't its contradictory, "The moon IS made of green cheese" be ~false~??"The earth IS NOT flat" is true -- so why isn't "The earth IS flat" false??

"You ARE NOT a person who killed his wife" is true -- so why isn't "You ARE a person who killed his wife" false??

"God IS NOT a real being" is true -- so why isn't "God IS a real being" false??

Just because something is asserted arbitrary, without evidence or even in the face of evidence to the contrary, why does that rule it out of being a false statement? If its contradictory is true, then it MUST be false.

If you disagree with this, you're going to either have to point to Aristotle, Rand, Peikoff, somebody really convincing -- or do a better job than you've done so far in arguing that a statement can't be both arbitrary and false.

So....?

REB

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A statement is true if it's logically true and not contradicted by facts. Factual contradiction requires a new logical statement logically true.

--Brant

backdoor Poopper?

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So I ask, why introduce "the arbitrary" at all?

I see a sound reason for the idea of "arbitrary," by which I mean proposed without supporting evidence.

The sound reason for such an idea is that it provides an epistemological time-saver -- a way to weed out statements or theories which aren't worth the effort of pursuing to ascertain their truth value. For instance, if a statement is made in a legal context, or a theory is proposed in a scientific context with no supporting evidence, one needn't go to the maybe elaborate effort of testing the truth of the statement or theory. One needs adequate supporting evidence for thinking that a statement or theory might be true before going to the bother of trying to find out if it is.

I completely disagree with the idea that an arbitrary statement or theory is neither true nor false. That mixes two categories, the epistemic status of the statement or theory in the proposer's context of knowledge and the relationship to reality of what's proposed.

By the time Peikoff gets done with his going down his "arbitrary" rabbit hole -- in the foundations of The Logical Leap -- he's managed to throw out truth as correspondence to reality and to make truth dependent on the proposer's context.

Ellen

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So I ask, why introduce "the arbitrary" at all?

I see a sound reason for the idea of "arbitrary," by which I mean proposed without supporting evidence.

The sound reason for such an idea is that it provides an epistemological time-saver -- a way to weed out statements or theories which aren't worth the effort of pursuing to ascertain their truth value. For instance, if a statement is made in a legal context, or a theory is proposed in a scientific context with no supporting evidence, one needn't go to the maybe elaborate effort of testing the truth of the statement or theory. One needs adequate supporting evidence for thinking that a statement or theory might be true before going to the bother of trying to find out if it is.

I completely disagree with the idea that an arbitrary statement or theory is neither true nor false. That mixes two categories, the epistemic status of the statement or theory in the proposer's context of knowledge and the relationship to reality of what's proposed.

By the time Peikoff gets done with his going down his "arbitrary" rabbit hole -- in the foundations of The Logical Leap -- he's managed to throw out truth as correspondence to reality and to make truth dependent on the proposer's context.

Ellen

Absolutely! However, to go deeper, there are many subtle issues you cannot apply this epistemological epistemology to, but if you are the authority you can tell everyone about it (them) and it becomes an argument from authority which is what graces all that Peikoff says about what he says. He is the Objectivist personification of that fallacy. That gal, in Colorado, is a pale want-to-be imitation. Start with Rand (Branden), go to Rand, go to Peikoff, go to Hsieh and go to nothing. Ouo vadis, Objectivism?

--Brant

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So I ask, why introduce "the arbitrary" at all?

I see a sound reason for the idea of "arbitrary," by which I mean proposed without supporting evidence.

The sound reason for such an idea is that it provides an epistemological time-saver -- a way to weed out statements or theories which aren't worth the effort of pursuing to ascertain their truth value. For instance, if a statement is made in a legal context, or a theory is proposed in a scientific context with no supporting evidence, one needn't go to the maybe elaborate effort of testing the truth of the statement or theory. One needs adequate supporting evidence for thinking that a statement or theory might be true before going to the bother of trying to find out if it is.

I completely disagree with the idea that an arbitrary statement or theory is neither true nor false. That mixes two categories, the epistemic status of the statement or theory in the proposer's context of knowledge and the relationship to reality of what's proposed.

By the time Peikoff gets done with his going down his "arbitrary" rabbit hole -- in the foundations of The Logical Leap -- he's managed to throw out truth as correspondence to reality and to make truth dependent on the proposer's context.

Ellen

Ellen, I'm way from being resolved on this, but generally have the uneasy sense that Dr.Peikoff is making a mountain out of a mole-hill. Why create another category? The outstanding characteristic of a nonsense statement is that it's self-evidently false - first. Secondly, it's also random, incidental or "arbitrary".

And we need no doctrine on what to do with blatant nonsense.

Rand's 'Razor': "Concepts are not to be multiplied beyond necessity..."

The other thing that bothers me is Peikoff's ad hominem, or argument from

authority - or perhaps intrinsicism - in this passage:

"For instance, a savage utters "two plus two equals four" as a memorized lesson which he doesn't understand or see any reason for, then in that context it is arbitrary and the savage did not utter truth or falsehood".

iow, a 'true' assertion only carries weight, if the assertor knows why it is true.

My query is: how does LP, you, or I, KNOW?

First, that the guy is a "savage"?

(A non-conceptual ignoramus, I suppose he means, and I've known savages in suits with degrees...)

Next, how do we know that this man does NOT possess the requisite understanding of his statement?

Without questioning him? Investigating further? ("how do you know what you know?")

Which completely defeats Peikoff's dictum to dismiss it out of hand.

(I appreciate your "time-saver" explanation, but it seems to me that so much effort can be expended establishing the arbitrary, that could be far better spent in sorting the truth from falsity.)

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Why create another category? The outstanding characteristic of a nonsense statement is

that it's self-evidently false - first. Secondly, it's also random,

incidental or "arbitrary".

And we need no doctrine on what to do with blatant nonsense.

Tony,

There is a gossipy reason this came about.

At the time Rand passed away, Peikoff was not aware that she had been involved in an affair with NB. So it was a major blow when he found out and his wife confirmed she found documents written by Rand that proved it (while going through her inherited papers). It's not hard to imagine what he thought. How could she leave me, her heir, out of the loop up to the very end? Didn't she trust me? This literally rocked his world in the worst way possible.

Then out came the bio of Rand from his cuz (The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden) that spilled the beans all over the news. And it went on to become a bestseller.

He couldn't deny it and he couldn't accept it. What to do? What to do?

Discredit the source!

Now there's a hell of an idea.

But how?

Enter the arbitrary non-concept.

With this epistemological tool (or, more precisely, rationalization parading as a tool), you can look at Barbara's tell-all and simply say that since she has proven to be false before by her own admission, anything she says is arbitrary. That's kind of a forced syllogism, but you get the idea. Thus, you literally can't know what to think about that book. You can have an opinion, but it would be the same thing as claiming unicorns exist. Anything Barbara says has no cognitive import. Don't worry about true of false.

Nobody but the fundies bought it, but there it is.

It's a breathtaking thing to behold: a complicated Kantian-type philosophical idea based on twisting the premises into a Gordian knot with the underlying meaning of "Mommy loved me best."

To fully understand Peikoff's notion of "the arbitrary," I think of the Scientology jargon term, "suppressive person."

They are different in appearance, but they both serve the same purpose: to try to discredit enemies as grounds for demonizing them.

Michael

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Why create another category? The outstanding characteristic of a nonsense statement is

that it's self-evidently false - first. Secondly, it's also random,

incidental or "arbitrary".

And we need no doctrine on what to do with blatant nonsense.

Tony,

There is a gossipy reason this came about.

At the time Rand passed away, Peikoff was not aware that she had been involved in an affair with NB. So it was a major blow when he found out and his wife confirmed she found documents written by Rand that proved it (while going through her inherited papers). It's not hard to imagine what he thought. How could she leave me, her heir, out of the loop up to the very end? Didn't she trust me? This literally rocked his world in the worst way possible.

Then out came the bio of Rand from his cuz (The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden) that spilled the beans all over the news. And it went on to become a bestseller.

He couldn't deny it and he couldn't accept it. What to do? What to do?

Discredit the source!

Now there's a hell of an idea.

But how?

Enter the arbitrary non-concept.

With this epistemological tool (or, more precisely, rationalization parading as a tool), you can look at Barbara's tell-all and simply say that since she has proven to be false before by her own admission, anything she says is arbitrary. That's kind of a forced syllogism, but you get the idea. Thus, you literally can't know what to think about that book. You can have an opinion, but it would be the same thing as claiming unicorns exist. Anything Barbara says has no cognitive import. Don't worry about true of false.

Nobody but the fundies bought it, but there it is.

It's a breathtaking thing to behold: a complicated Kantian-type philosophical idea based on twisting the premises into a Gordian knot with the underlying meaning of "Mommy loved me best."

To fully understand Peikoff's notion of "the arbitrary," I think of the Scientology jargon term, "suppressive person."

They are different in appearance, but they both serve the same purpose: to try to discredit enemies as grounds for demonizing them.

Michael

Be careful Michael. The Shi'ite Objectivists may put out a fatwa on you.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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But if I say " the current king of France is bald", to whom I refer? There is no current king of France. I cannot be proved or disproved and my statement is not true, neither it's false. One can only refer to my statement and define it as arbitrary.

Leonid,

I see this as different. All statements are based on assumptions. And we verify those assumptions by checking--the best form being observation. If the assumptions that ground a statement are false, the rest of the statement is false, too. The proposition (or assumption) that France currently has a king is false. Thus anything said about such a king is also false.

That's the way most people reason.

In other words, a statement does not exist as a separate entity from its assumptions. It might on a semantic level, but not on a conceptual level.

So I see no purpose in redefining "arbitrary" to fit the situation you mention. The arbitrary part to me is someone proposing "the current king of France" just because the person feels like it. I hold that random intent is the fundamental part of "arbitrary," not the product of the intent. Arbitrary refers to a method of choosing, not what is chosen. Most any dictionary backs me up.

And there's more I have learned over time, especially since I have studied persuasion. You might be interested to know that part of covert hypnosis includes planting false assumptions in the subject's mind. (They often use the term "presupposition.") Call the unfolding of the results anything you like, but arbitrary is definitely not accurate. The results are structured and repeatable enough of the time to show cause-and-effect. And they are based on 100% false assumptions.

I'm willing to dig up some examples if you are interested.

Michael

It not false, because it has no referent. It's exactly like to say " God is bald( or omnipotent or infinite or eternal)". You cannot disprove such a statement because it refers to non-entity. False statement refers to reality in a negative way. Arbitrary statement doesn't pertain to reality at all. This is a difference between doctor who made a wrong diagnosis and witch doctor.

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So I ask, why introduce "the arbitrary" at all?

I see a sound reason for the idea of "arbitrary," by which I mean proposed without supporting evidence.

The sound reason for such an idea is that it provides an epistemological time-saver -- a way to weed out statements or theories which aren't worth the effort of pursuing to ascertain their truth value. For instance, if a statement is made in a legal context, or a theory is proposed in a scientific context with no supporting evidence, one needn't go to the maybe elaborate effort of testing the truth of the statement or theory. One needs adequate supporting evidence for thinking that a statement or theory might be true before going to the bother of trying to find out if it is.

I completely disagree with the idea that an arbitrary statement or theory is neither true nor false. That mixes two categories, the epistemic status of the statement or theory in the proposer's context of knowledge and the relationship to reality of what's proposed.

By the time Peikoff gets done with his going down his "arbitrary" rabbit hole -- in the foundations of The Logical Leap -- he's managed to throw out truth as correspondence to reality and to make truth dependent on the proposer's context.

Ellen

The categories of true or false have epistemic values. It means that certain assertions could be proved or disproved by means of referral to reality. Arbitrary assertions have no such referral, cannot be proved or disproved and therefore have no epistemic values. Can you disprove that cause of chest pain is a torture by ancestors? This is exactly a reason for two categories-false and arbitrary.The first one could be disproved by means of rational inquiry. The second in principle couldn't be investigated by rational means and should be simply ignored.

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"Texas is ruled by a king..The green cheese on the moon has poisoned many astronauts".the moon is made of green cheese" are arbitrary statements because they evade the well established body of knowledge. We already know that Texas is not ruled by king and moon is not made of green cheese. In spite that Texas, kings, green cheese and moon exist, these statements don't pertain to reality as we know it and therefore arbitrary. An evasion is also denial of context of knowledge. The whole point is not that we don't have an evidence that the moon is made of cheese, but that we do have well established evidence it isn't. This makes such a statement arbitrary. If you claim that I killed my wife while you know too well that I'm a bachelor, you make an arbitrary statement which doesn't pertain to reality and to your context of knowledge. " "An invisible elephant is in your living room." ("An invisible elephant is a real creature that is in your living room." Arbitrary subject term, arbitrarily attributed predicate, right? Yet also false, right?) If one claims an existence of the entity which in principle cannot be detected by any rational means, he claims a supernatural, mystic knowledge. Such a knowledge, which cannot be proved or disproved cannot be false or true. One cannot bring up any evidence pro or contra . It is an arbitrary statement.

So, if I ~know~ but ~forget~ that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is simply an error and thus ~false~??Whereas, if I ~know~ that the moon is, say, 250,000 miles from earth and I say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth," my statement is based on an ~evasion~ of context of knowledge and is thus arbitrary and ~not false~??But what if I ~do not~ know that the moon is 250,000 miles from earth and I nevertheless say "The moon is 300,000 miles from the earth"? Is this based on insufficient context of knowledge and thus invalid -- or is it arbitrary -- or what? Is it false when I claim something that I do not know, but which is in fact true? Or is it arbitrary?Does it make sense to say that it's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", if you have a context justifying the statement, but I don't? Usually, Objectivists don't like to say that truth is relative!What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?I appreciate your trying to sort all this out, and I'm interested in your answers to the above questions.REB
As I mentioned before, I identified 3 kinds of arbitrary statements which represent: (1). metaphysical assault ( axioms, Law of identity and causality), (2). Epistemic assault on tools of knowledge and (3) Evasion of the well established body of knowledge. I suppose, there could be more. There are also borderline cases. For example if you would tell me that Earth is flat, I'd classify it as arbitrary on the ground (3). To ask you " and how do you know that?" would be nonsensical. But the same statement made by a member of Donga tribe , who never has been exposed to the existent body of knowledge, would require an investigation. If he could bring up certain evidences which pertain to reality, I can prove him wrong and his statement is false. However, If he explains that he just knows, or Gods who descended from Sirius B told him so, I would dismiss his statement as arbitrary on the ground (2).This is not a case "t's true "for you" and ~not~ true "for me", but a question of context of knowledge. If you deliberately and knowingly make a wrong statement which pertains to existent reality, like distance between Earth and Moon, it's not arbitrary, but more than just a false statement. It's a lie, an attempt to fake reality. "What if I say "An elephant is in your living room," and I don't mean "invisible elephant," just plain old visible elephant. Am I being arbitrary? Am I speaking a false statement? Both? Neither? What?" Depends, where is an elephant.

The problem I'm having with your analysis--and with the notion that "the arbitrary" renders statements neither true nor false--is that it undercuts Aristotle's doctrine that contradictory propositions have opposite truth values.

You would certainly agree that "The moon IS NOT made of green cheese" is a ~true~ statement, right?

Well, why, then, wouldn't its contradictory, "The moon IS made of green cheese" be ~false~??"The earth IS NOT flat" is true -- so why isn't "The earth IS flat" false??

"You ARE NOT a person who killed his wife" is true -- so why isn't "You ARE a person who killed his wife" false??

"God IS NOT a real being" is true -- so why isn't "God IS a real being" false??

Just because something is asserted arbitrary, without evidence or even in the face of evidence to the contrary, why does that rule it out of being a false statement? If its contradictory is true, then it MUST be false.

If you disagree with this, you're going to either have to point to Aristotle, Rand, Peikoff, somebody really convincing -- or do a better job than you've done so far in arguing that a statement can't be both arbitrary and false.

So....?

REB

Aristotle never introduced the concept of arbitrary assertion. For him all assertions were or true or false. Today we can say that proposition could be true, false or arbitrary. Besides, negative assertion ( "The moon IS NOT made of green cheese) doesn't tell us what it is, it only tell what it isn't and on this basis you cannot make any conclusions in regard to the positive proposition which tells us what it is. That would be non sequitur. Moreover, In your particular example we deal with evasion, that is-denial of the proved body of knowledge, all existent evidence notwithstanding. A person who makes such a statement arbitrary ignores all rational tools of knowledge on whim. Therefore his statement is not just false but arbitrary. There is no need to investigate how such a person concluded that the Moon made out of green cheese. By making such a statement he put himself out of realm of any rational inquiry.

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