The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion


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"I wonder, are you perchance interpreting my description of an arbitrary assertion or hypothesis as one not requiring checking out for truth or falsity as meaning an assertion or hypothesis which can't be tested for truth or falsity? It doesn't mean that, but instead implies something the truth value of which can be tested."

Do you mean that any assertion could be checked for truth or falsity, even if such an assertion doesn't pertain to existence?

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Do you mean that any assertion could be checked for truth or falsity, even if such an assertion doesn't pertain to existence?

No, I don't mean that. I read your query a few days ago and have been periodically trying and failing to imagine where you might get that meaning. I think the language difficulty is maybe insuperable.

However, while puzzling, I began to be disturbed by my own wording, which was -- in post #126:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

It might seem to imply that one is required to check out the truth or falsity of all assertions or hypotheses which are presented with sufficient evidence. But doing such extensive checking would be an impossibly prodigous task. Instead what's required for responsible epistemology is an understanding in principle of how testing can be done and reason to think that it has been done with assertions or hypotheses one accepts as definitely or provisionally true. In the daily course of events, with mundane statements, such checking is made so quickly as often not to be noticed.

On the other hand, my wording might seem to imply that there's never a requirement to check assertions or hypotheses which aren't "adequately grounded in evidence." (An aside: I'm aware that what counts as "adequately grounded" can sometimes be a judgment call and debatable.)

There are cases where scrutiny is important despite a lack of supporting evidence. Depends on what's at stake in accepting the assertion or hypothesis as if it were supported. For example, the extensive abritrary claims made in the anthropogenic global warming issue can lead to and have led to expensive policy decisions, along with harm to the integrity of scientific procedure. So drawing attention to the arbitrariness is important.

An example of general importance for people interested in Objectivism is Rand's habit of making ostensively factual assertions which she didn't support. An interesting project would be to try to do a count of the number of such assertions in her writings, starting with the major claim in Galt's Speech that "man is a being of volitional consciousness."

An instance I've been thinking about recently, since I've been rereading Robert Cambell's essay "The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion," comes from Rand's last Ford Hall Forum talk, "The Age of Mediocrity," and is quoted in Robert's essay (pg. 100):

I must state, incidentally, that I am not a student of biology and am, therefore, neither an advocate nor an opponent of the theory of evolution. But I have read a lot of valid evidence to support it, and it is the only scientific theory in the field. The issue, however, is not the theory of evolution: this theory serves merely as a rabble-rousing excuse for attacking science, for attacking reason, for attacking man's mind.

What is Rand's evidence for the "psychologizing" (by her own definition) claim in the last sentence? How would she know that the reasons given by people who want creationist accounts of species origins to be included in school curricula aren't sincere reasons? She provides no indication.

Likewise, she supplies no indicative hint regarding where she'd "read a lot of valid evidence to support" the theory of evolution. Citing some sources by name wouldn't have added that much length to the statement and would have provided a degree of basis for listeners/readers to have a clue as to what she was taking to be "valid evidence."

Also, we can't really tell even what she means by "the theory of evolution," that theory not being monolithic.

Because of examples like the above -- ones in which there's reason to consider claims which are "arbitrary" by my meaning -- I think a better way of stating that meaning would be:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to merit taking seriously as a truth claim".

One might have reason to take the claim seriously because of the context in which it's made despite its not having enough evidential support provided to merit its being taken seriously.

Ellen

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"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

This is me: [ba'al] How about "not adequately grounded in evidence to -enbable- checking out for truth or falsity"

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Ellen wrote:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

I respond: [ba'al] How about "not adequately grounded in evidence to -enbable- checking out for truth or falsity"

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Ellen wrote:


"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

I respond: [ba'al] How about "not adequately grounded in evidence to -enbable- checking out for truth or falsity"

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Do you mean that any assertion could be checked for truth or falsity, even if such an assertion doesn't pertain to existence?

No, I don't mean that. I read your query a few days ago and have been periodically trying and failing to imagine where you might get that meaning. I think the language difficulty is maybe insuperable.

However, while puzzling, I began to be disturbed by my own wording, which was -- in post #126:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

It might seem to imply that one is required to check out the truth or falsity of all assertions or hypotheses which are presented with sufficient evidence. But doing such extensive checking would be an impossibly prodigous task. Instead what's required for responsible epistemology is an understanding in principle of how testing can be done and reason to think that it has been done with assertions or hypotheses one accepts as definitely or provisionally true. In the daily course of events, with mundane statements, such checking is made so quickly as often not to be noticed.

On the other hand, my wording might seem to imply that there's never a requirement to check assertions or hypotheses which aren't "adequately grounded in evidence." (An aside: I'm aware that what counts as "adequately grounded" can sometimes be a judgment call and debatable.)

There are cases where scrutiny is important despite a lack of supporting evidence. Depends on what's at stake in accepting the assertion or hypothesis as if it were supported. For example, the extensive abritrary claims made in the anthropogenic global warming issue can lead to and have led to expensive policy decisions, along with harm to the integrity of scientific procedure. So drawing attention to the arbitrariness is important.

An example of general importance for people interested in Objectivism is Rand's habit of making ostensively factual assertions which she didn't support. An interesting project would be to try to do a count of the number of such assertions in her writings, starting with the major claim in Galt's Speech that "man is a being of volitional consciousness."

An instance I've been thinking about recently, since I've been rereading Robert Cambell's essay "The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion," comes from Rand's last Ford Hall Forum talk, "The Age of Mediocrity," and is quoted in Robert's essay (pg. 100):

>>>>>>I must state, incidentally, that I am not a student of biology and am, therefore, neither an advocate nor an opponent of the theory of evolution. But I have read a lot of valid evidence to support it, and it is the only scientific theory in the field. The issue, however, is not the theory of evolution: this theory serves merely as a rabble-rousing excuse for attacking science, for attacking reason, for attacking man's mind.

What is Rand's evidence for the "psychologizing" (by her own definition) claim in the last sentence? How would she know that the reasons given by people who want creationist accounts of species origins to be included in school curricula aren't sincere reasons? She provides no indication.

Likewise, she supplies no indicative hint regarding where she'd "read a lot of valid evidence to support" the theory of evolution. Citing some sources by name wouldn't have added that much length to the statement and would have provided a degree of basis for listeners/readers to have a clue as to what she was taking to be "valid evidence."

Also, we can't really tell even what she means by "the theory of evolution," that theory not being monolithic.

Because of examples like the above -- ones in which there's reason to consider claims which are "arbitrary" by my meaning -- I think a better way of stating that meaning would be:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to merit taking seriously as a truth claim".

One might have reason to take the claim seriously because of the context in which it's made despite its not having enough evidential support provided to merit its being taken seriously.

Ellen

Leonid: "Do you mean that any assertion could be checked for truth or falsity, even if such an assertion doesn't pertain to existence?"

Helen: "No, I don't mean that."

So in fact you have no argument with Peikoff. You just don't want to call such assertions by the name "arbitrary". But that already matter of semantics.

As far as I concern , the problem is not which assertions one should check but which assertions could be dismissed or accepted without any further investigation. There are two kinds of them-1. An arbitrary assertions which evidently defy axioms, logic, proven knowledge and common sense. They should be rejected on the blink of eye. 2. The self evident axiomatic truths-like " man is volitional being", or "man is conscious being" or " existence exists". They cannot be proved, since all proves are based on them. Their rejection is self-refuting and they should be accepted without any further investigation. A substitution of scientific theory, no matter how incomplete it is by religious belief is an attack on the man's mind by definition. Why you call it " "psychologizing"? And man-made global warming hypothesis is not arbitrary by any means. As a matter of fact it has been refuted as false and by definition one cannot refute arbitrary assertion.

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So in fact you have no argument with Peikoff.

Leonid, Peikoff is internally contradictory and I think incoherent in his doctrine of the arbitrary. I think that Robert Campbell did a very good job of dissecting the problems as of 2008. Further problems developed because of the uses to which Peikoff put "the story so far" in his presentation on induction.

If Peikoff had defined "arbitrary" as (something like) "inherently uncheckable for truth value" and had stuck consistently to that meaning, I'd have no objection to his using the term differently from the way I use it.

And man-made global warming hypothesis is not arbitrary by any means. As a matter of fact it has been refuted as false and by definition one cannot refute arbitrary assertion.

1) by your definition, which isn't the definition I'm using.

2) I wonder where you get the "fact" that AGW "has been refuted as false." I expect the worldwide network of alarmism skeptics would be pleased at the news that they can all cease their efforts now.

I decline to address your question about Rand's "psychologizing," since I think that I'd invite further rounds of non-communication were I to answer it.

Ellen

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Ellen wrote:

"not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity".

The problem I'm seeing is that "require" could imply something I don't mean, in both directions.

I respond: [ba'al] How about "not adequately grounded in evidence to -enbable- checking out for truth or falsity"

Bob,

Too narrow for my meaning. The claim that an elephant is in my backyard, for instance, could, as I said in a reply to Tony (#109), easily be checked for truth or falsity.

Ellen

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Addendum to my post #157 to Leonid. I didn't have time to comment on this earlier.

2. The self evident axiomatic truths-like " man is volitional being", or "man is conscious being" or " existence exists".

I can only guess what Leonid means by "man is volitional being," but whatever he means, he isn't quoting Rand's statement, over the meaning of which I puzzled for some years. I finally concluded that what Rand meant by "man is a being of volitional consciousness" is that properly to be "man," i.e., properly to have the "essential" characteristic of "man," requires volitionally activating a particular type of consciousness, which she later called "conceptual consciousness" (as contrasted to "perceptual consciousness").

Rand's full sentence -- pg. 146 of the original hardcover of For the New Intellectual -- is:

The key to what you so recklessly call "human nature," the open secret you live with, yet dread to name, is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness.

[italics in original]

Ellen

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"man is a being of volitional consciousness." and that exactly what I mean

On what evidence do you conclude this is true?

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"man is a being of volitional consciousness." and that exactly what I mean

On what evidence do you conclude this is true?

The evidence is your ability to ask this question or even to deny your own consciousness and volition.

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"man is a being of volitional consciousness." and that exactly what I mean

On what evidence do you conclude this is true?

The evidence is your ability to ask this question or even to deny your own consciousness and volition.

That is utmost balderdash and it begs the question. You might as well tell me that the world is flat because I cannot see the other side.

It is the old Objectivist "it's axiomatic, dummy!" trick.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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It is the old Objectivist "it's axiomatic, dummy!" trick.

Bob,

You mean like the "axiomatic" rules of logic that apparently never fail trick?

:smile:

Here's a question for you.

What evidence do you have that a proposition can correspond to reality?

You know... how would you falsify it?

I'm not talking about a specific proposition. I'm talking about the system, i.e., proposition as an abstraction.

Michael

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It is the old Objectivist "it's axiomatic, dummy!" trick.

Bob,

You mean like the "axiomatic" rules of logic that apparently never fail trick?

:smile:

Here's a question for you.

What evidence do you have that a proposition can correspond to reality?

You know... how would you falsify it?

I'm not talking about a specific proposition. I'm talking about the system, i.e., proposition as an abstraction.

Michael

I just said to myself (expressed a proposition) that I have at least ten dollars in my walled. I look and found twelve dollars. Proposition true and it corresponds to reality.

I simply cannot believe you are serious with your carping. Particular declarative sentences can often found to be true or false through the simple procedure of looking, listening, feeling, and sniffing. It isn't all that hard.

Ba'al Chazaf

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I simply cannot believe you are serious with your carping. Particular declarative sentences can often found to be true or false through the simple procedure of looking, listening, feeling, and sniffing. It isn't all that hard.

Bob,

We agree that an observation can be expressed as a statement. And we agree that you can detect things with senses that do not correspond to such a statement and generally call that statement "false."

But this is not the same "false" that is taught as the scientific method of logic or falsifiability.

What I have not found in your method is the connection itself between the rules governing statements (i.e., logic, falsifiability, etc.) and observations. Especially when you claim--at higher levels of abstraction--that there is no connection.

The best you can come up with is to point and say, "That thing there." But the moment you try to define it, here come the "wise ones" like Popper claiming that definitions don't really exist except as some kind of muddy mental soup, and all correspondence goes out the window. Truth and falseness become propositional manipulations and nothing more. And they kinda reflect observation when it is convenient to the argument, but don't when that is convenient, too. It's arbitrary.

You can't have it both ways, yet this is precisely what academics do. They take correspondence for granted, that is on faith (in its own brand of muddy mental soup, in fact), then go prancing around proclaiming the superiority of their thinking method and the foolishness of those who question aspects of it. Then they get to Krauss's level of passionately defending a boneheaded idea that you can't know anything at all for certain, and ignorance is the cause of "progress."

Actually there is a connection, but it doesn't fit academic doublespeak and preaching, especially not that kind.

That's why I keep asking an "emperor has no clothes" question when you do your prancing. I'm interested if there is anything more than bluster, changing the subject, emitting a litany of irrelevant examples, or outright preaching on the academic end. You have a wonderful mind and if anyone can come up with something, you can.

I haven't seen it so far. But I do have an impression. I believe your categories are so hardened from years of repeating dogma, you don't see the inconsistency and don't even know what the problem is.

My contention is that the scientific method works not because of the scientific epistemological philosophy presented in worshipful tones (and often called the scientific method), but in spite of it--and that is due to the addition of the part taken on faith and which doesn't need to be.

I believe this unacknowledged faith is why there is such a huge amount of horseshit in science thinking once scientists get out of the laboratory and start waxing on about the nature of reality, the nature of the universe, the nature of knowledge, etc.

Michael

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You: But this is not the same "false" that is taught as the scientific method of logic or falsifiability.

Me: The way a theory is falsified is this. The theory based in premisses P (a conjuction of propositions) implies effect E. E is shown not to be the case by experiment, therefore at least on of the premises in P is false. Good old modus tollens. Taught in logic 101 and even Aristotle knew it.

It is as simple as that. A theory if false if one of its predictions does not come out or it is logically inconsistent. Modern theories are not inconsistent so the way to falsify them is with an adverse experiment negating a prediction. That is how Newton's theory of gravitation was falsified. The perihelion of Mercury did not behave as predicted by Newton's law of gravitation.

Why can you not understand something as direct and simple as that?

Ba'al Chatatzf

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"man is a being of volitional consciousness." and that exactly what I mean

On what evidence do you conclude this is true?

The evidence is your ability to ask this question or even to deny your own consciousness and volition.

I have a computer that can ask a question. It has no volition. Try again with a better example.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob.

As I thought.

You do not see the problem and all you can do is repeat the dogma of propositional logic (with latin names and a smug brush-off at that) .

Sorry, Charlie. On the best tuna goes in this can.

You still did not connect propositions to reality.

Here is an example, but I'm probably wasting my time. You are looking at your computer. You think, "I am looking at my computer."

Is that statement (proposition) true or false?

Why?

What is the connection--the standard--that makes it true (or false)?

Michael

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Helen ...

Leonid,

Are you addressing Helen Smuffle?

:smile:

Michael

Leonid,

Just in case you did not understand the ribbing (since some time has passed), Ellen's name is Ellen, not Helen.

Ellen Stuttle...

(Although Smuffle, my invention, does have a special something, an ephemeral je ne sais quoi ring to it. :) )

Michael

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Bob.

As I thought.

You do not see the problem and all you can do is repeat the dogma of propositional logic (with latin names and a smug brush-off at that) .

Sorry, Charlie. On the best tuna goes in this can.

You still did not connect propositions to reality.

Here is an example, but I'm probably wasting my time. You are looking at your computer. You think, "I am looking at my computer."

Is that statement (proposition) true or false?

Why?

What is the connection--the standard--that makes it true (or false)?

Michael

Maybe I didn't but you did, the last time you drive your car in traffic.

What makes a declarative sentence true is that it asserts an actual state of the world.

This is the basis of the correspondence theory of truth. Even Aristotle knew about that.

But enough. I am not going top debate the shape of the earth with members of The Flat Earth Society.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Bob,

Enjoy your fudge.

It's a big one.

You say "a declarative sentence" is true because "it asserts an actual state of the world."

OK. People say, "God exists." A "declarative sentence." They even say they perceive Him. And that is their evidence. Lots and lots and lots of people do that.

Does that make it true?

And does that method prove your actual state of the world that even Aristotle knew?

Later I'll convince you that the earth is flat. :smile:

Right now, I'm more concerned about this fudge on how propositions connect to reality while not connecting to it.

And the only reason I'm on it out like a dog with a bone is that all these "superior thinkers" you keep touting as the wise ones who are above philosophy keep prancing around naked expecting oohs and aahs in answer to a simple child's question and they keep building the means for evil people to destroy mankind while pretending this is not due to their fudge.

Michael

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