Robert Campbell

The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics

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David Harriman's book The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics has just been published. My copy arrived this afternoon.

Leonard Peikoff's sponsorship is apparent: the publisher is New American Library and Peikoff wrote the introduction.

The book is not in the "Ayn Rand" series, but the back cover copy refers to her twice.

Robert Campbell

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David Harriman's book The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics has just been published. My copy arrived this afternoon.

Leonard Peikoff's sponsorship is apparent: the publisher is New American Library and Peikoff wrote the introduction.

The book is not in the "Ayn Rand" series, but the back cover copy refers to her twice.

Robert Campbell

Is it heavy in math?

Ba'al Chatzaf

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Is it heavy in math?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Bob K,

I count four equations in the book, which has 254 pages of text.

Not heavy enough, I suspect.

Robert C

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Is it heavy in math?

Ba'al Chatzaf

Bob K,

I count four equations in the book, which has 254 pages of text.

Not heavy enough, I suspect.

Robert C

Ah, a physics book I could write? If I did, though, no reputable physicist would write me an introduction. I'd need one because Peikoff wouldn't.

--Brant

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It damn well better not be heavy in math since it's supposed to be a from scratch, historical, and inductive approach as opposed to a comprehensive treatment or textbook in the subject.

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Here's the title of a real book on physics I just purchased on Amazon for a hundred bucks: The Physical Principles of Thermonuclear Explosive Devices. Lots of equations. I picked it up on a tip and expect to resell it for several hundred dollars at least. The original cost in 1981 was 9.95.

The author (Friedwardt Winterberg), "a pioneer in inertial-confinement fusion, is considered the father of impact fusion for his early work on thermonuclear ignition by hyper-velocity impact", didn't need a Harriman to do his work or write his book.

--Brant

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It damn well better not be heavy in math since it's supposed to be a from scratch, historical, and inductive approach as opposed to a comprehensive treatment or textbook in the subject.

One of the central ideas of modern physics the the underlying symmetry of physical law. This is intimately connected to the underlying conservation laws by way of Noether's theorem. The symmetries cannot be expressed in any other way than the basic groups of transformations and their invariants. To put the matter bluntly, no math, no physics.

Mathless physics is no physics.

Also the basic symmetry ideas are not the result of simple minded enumerative induction a la Francis Bacon. Maxwell's Equations which are the classical electromagnetic field theory are equivalent to gauge symmetry. Maxwell's deduction of electric fields along with magnetic fields being propagated through space is the result of displacement currents which were not discovered inductively (i.e. by empirical observation), rather displacement current was postulated to cure a mathematical inconsistency in Ampere's equation. See http://en.wikipedia....cement_current. Displacement current was not observed until Hertz verified Maxwell's completed equations in 1887, twenty years after Maxwell postulated displacement current.

Another example was the neutrino postulated by Wolfgang Pauli in order to rescue conservation of energy. Neutrinos were observed thirty years after Pauli postulated them. Anti-particles were postulated by Dirac to complete the quantum field equations and were not actually observed for several years after Dirac concluded anti-particles must exist to preserve the symmetries required by quantum theory. Another example: Einstein rejected aether as the basis for the Lorentz Force equation. His claim was that that basis of the Lorentz Force Law introduced an asymmetry into the physics that was nowhere apparent in the phenomena. And so on and so on. In short, physics is not the result of Baconian induction entirely.

Quantum electrodynamics was not properly grounded until the symmetry laws are based on a renormalization of the underlying groups, a purely mathematical strategy that was introduced to get rid of infinities that did not correspond to observations. This was the work of Feynman and Schwinger. It was a mathematical trick necessary to keep the math consistent. The textbooks which you appear to denigrate, describe the means that the founders of the theory used to get a correct theory. Physics has not been an exercise in Baconian induction for over 250 years. Classical mechanics was put on a workable foundation by Bernoulli, Lagrange, Jacobi and Hamilton by elaborating on the principle of "least action". This principle, believe it or not, was asserted for theological reasons!

This from the Wiki article on Least Action:

"The term action was defined in several (now obsolete) ways during its development.

See the entire article for the details:

The motive for this principle was not inductive, yet it turns out to be spot on. All of the field laws can by derived by guessing the right Lagrangian for the phenomenon and minimizing (or maximizing) the action integral based on the Lagrangian. This approach which is energy based replaced and elaborated Newton's force based approach.

The idea that general physical laws jump off of piles of facts, much as a frog leaps off a lily pad or burst forth from the facts like Athena from the Brow of Zeus, has never had much validity in the development of physics. The search for mathematical symmetry and completeness has had a much larger role in the discovery of valid physical laws that Baconian induction.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At

best he is a tolerable sub-human who has learned to wear shoes, bathe,

and not make messes in the house.

o Robert Heinlein

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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I've started reading the book and I'm not sure what the Peikoff/Harriman solution to the problem of induction is.

The first chapter of the book is a review of Rand's theory of concept formation. Like Rand's and Peikoff's presentation of concept formation there is no attempt to prove that the theory is true or explain how it applies to things such as conjunctions or abstractions such as "justice." What measurements are omitted when I form the concept "and" or "justice"?

-Neil Parille

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I've started reading the book and I'm not sure what the Peikoff/Harriman solution to the problem of induction is.

The first chapter of the book is a review of Rand's theory of concept formation. Like Rand's and Peikoff's presentation of concept formation there is no attempt to prove that the theory is true or explain how it applies to things such as conjunctions or abstractions such as "justice." What measurements are omitted when I form the concept "and" or "justice"?

-Neil Parille

That kills the book right there. It's not about physics, but Rand twice removed. I'm much more curious about the scientific fate of that exceedingly pretentious book A New Kind of Science than I'll ever be about this one. At least in that case the author seems to be a real genius.

--Brant

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Secondhandedness:

I just love it when people try to comment on a book they haven't read based on someone else's comment or based on one preliminary comment or based on what someone else takes to be the overall thrust of the book prematurely.

I haven't actually read "The Mind's New Science", but why don't I read the Amazon reader comments and then I'll give my own assessment of the value of the book?

Edited by Philip Coates

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Secondhandedness:

I haven't actually read "The Mind's New Science", but why don't I read the Amazon reader comments and then I'll give my own assessment of the value of the book?

Never even heard of it.

--Brant

re the book I mentioned that it's pretentious doesn't mean it's wrong; the pretension is the author's idea that his ideas in it make him the supreme authority across all hard scientific disciplines and I have no idea how that is working out nor can I scientifically evaluate it no matter how much I read it not being a scientist--I was hoping Bob K. might comment but all I got was you

Edited by Brant Gaede

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I've started reading the book and I'm not sure what the Peikoff/Harriman solution to the problem of induction is.

The first chapter of the book is a review of Rand's theory of concept formation. Like Rand's and Peikoff's presentation of concept formation there is no attempt to prove that the theory is true or explain how it applies to things such as conjunctions or abstractions such as "justice." What measurements are omitted when I form the concept "and" or "justice"?

-Neil Parille

I am curious what you would accept as "proof" for a theory of concept formation.

Ghs

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David Harriman's book The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics has just been published. My copy arrived this afternoon.

Leonard Peikoff's sponsorship is apparent: the publisher is New American Library and Peikoff wrote the introduction.

The book is not in the "Ayn Rand" series, but the back cover copy refers to her twice.

Robert Campbell

Robert,

When are certain Objectivists going to admit that sometimes nature is queerer than we can suppose (to use Richard Dawkins' phrase)? The embarrassment I feel at the attempts to correct Einstein, the greats of modern physics and cast chaotic dynamics as inherently predictable if only we knew enough, is an overwhelming sense of weariness. When will Objectivists simply admit that nature does not always conform to our middle world prejudices?

Jim

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George,

Psychological studies of how children and adults form concepts. If Rand's theory is true there should be some evidence.

-Neil Parille

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George,

Psychological studies of how children and adults form concepts. If Rand's theory is true there should be some evidence.

-Neil Parille

Neil,

There is nothing like confirmatory evidence, but there is suggestive evidence. The way humans ignore small differences in invariant representation and process information at different levels of the neocortical hierarchy is suggestive of measurement omission and abstraction. Rand's overreliance on logic in cognition is misplaced however. Much of what human beings do within each layer of the neocortex is pattern recognition rather than logical processing.

Jim

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Much of what human beings do within each layer of the neocortex is pattern recognition rather than logical processing.

Jim,

In terms of memory and new "integrations," I would say it is ALL pattern recognition. In fact, logic itself is nothing but a pattern with stipulated rules.

To be clear, there are some parts that are not, like what I call "seed" parts, which are mental developments that occur over time with growth due to the inherent nature of the "seed." Many of these developments get aligned with patter recognition with experience, but they would happen regardless. Even "learning" to see a la Rand.

Incidentally, in terms of Objectivist epistemology, a conceptual common denominator is nothing if not a pattern. Ditto for genus, differentia and all the rest.

Michael

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. Much of what human beings do within each layer of the neocortex is pattern recognition rather than logical processing.

Arrrgghhh! Smarrrt as paint ye arrre!

Ba'al Chatzaf

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. When will Objectivists simply admit that nature does not always conform to our middle world prejudices?

Physical law depends on the scale at which the laws applies. Your remark is rather astute. The physics we come up with at man-scale is quite distinct from the physics we have at nano and subatomic scales. At the other end of the size spectrum the physics of so-called dark matter and dark energy will be quite different from the energy which is well described by the so-called standard model of particles and fields.

The scale differences are why we found out about quantum physics rather late in the game. It was only after technology produced the means of observing physical reality at sub-atomic scale that we realized the underlying laws are somewhat different than for the physics of man-scale phenomena.

You insights are very much on target.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The physics we come up with at man-scale is quite distinct from the physics we have at nano and subatomic scales. At the other end of the size spectrum the physics of so-called dark matter and dark energy will be quite different from the energy which is well described by the so-called standard model of particles and fields.

Bob,

This is something I wrote about quite a while ago on another forum (if I remember correctly). I stated that we understand the universe according to our size and that one of the main functions of instruments is to bring aspects of the universe to our size so we can examine them. I also mentioned that we often switch sense organs for perception in these instruments, giving as an example a visual spectrum analyzer for sound.

The gist of my thought was a speculation about the possibility of us not having a sense organ, or having one that is still very much underdeveloped, for perceiving parts of reality that fall outside our "size" field. Except in this case, the standard of size per se might not even be relevant since it is so connected with sight. In other words, I think it is entirely possible that some of the stuff that happens that we cannot explain might be due to us getting only "glimpses" of the pertinent part of reality due to our own biological limitations.

It's hard to come up with a plausible example that does not sound like crackpot stuff, but the US government's remote viewing program was an attempt to look into this kind of thing, albeit from a specific results-driven approach (intelligence-gathering for government purposes). Also, the Institute of Noetic Sciences seems to be thinking in this direction (although I am not very familiar with this institute--reading more about it is on my to-do list).

Those more wedded to an inner need for certainty did not like my speculation.

:)

Michael

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I've started reading the book and I'm not sure what the Peikoff/Harriman solution to the problem of induction is.

The first chapter of the book is a review of Rand's theory of concept formation. Like Rand's and Peikoff's presentation of concept formation there is no attempt to prove that the theory is true or explain how it applies to things such as conjunctions or abstractions such as "justice." What measurements are omitted when I form the concept "and" or "justice"?

-Neil Parille

I am curious what you would accept as "proof" for a theory of concept formation.

Ghs

George,

Psychological studies of how children and adults form concepts. If Rand's theory is true there should be some evidence.

-Neil Parille

For many abstract terms, like e. g. those quoted by Neil Parille, measurement omissions indeed don't play a role at all.

When Rand speaks of 'concept formation', this refers to simple categorizing in language. It is accomplished easily and effortlessly by the individual, especially where direct objects of everyday life are concerned, and it is in the contact with those direct objects that language learning begins for a child.

It takes far more mental effort (and fine motor skill savvy) for a six-year-old to e. g. learn to tie a shoelace than it takes for a five-year old to attach the correct chain of sounds to objects like a fork and a ball.

("Correct" meaning the chain of sonds selected by the code of the language in question).

Rand also believed that love can be 'measured'; she seemed to think that terms like 'affection', 'tenderness' etc. had comparable objective quality as degrees have on a measuring scale. And she, in all seriousness, stated that the term "affection" was applicable only in regard to persons. I suppose every dog owner will disagree with that. :)

Imo Rand's epistemology is the weakest part of her work, and that without her novels (which illustrate her strong advocacy of unregulated lassez-faire capitalism), ITOE would never have gotten off the ground. Actually it never really did get off the ground. There are just too many mistakes and confusing messages in it.

Rand about the so-called 'Anti-Conceptual Mentality':

"To grasp and deal with such concretes, a human being needs a certain degree of conceptual development, a process which the brain of an animal cannot perform. But after the initial feat of learning to speak, a child can counterfeit this process, by memorization and imitation. The anti-conceptual mentality stops on this level of development—on the first levels of abstractions, which identify perceptual material consisting predominantly of physical objects—and does not choose to take the next, crucial, fully volitional step: the higher levels of abstraction from abstractions, which cannot be learned by imitation." (Rand) http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/anti-conceptual_mentality.html

Only a mentally impaired person will 'stop' at the level of abstraction which identifies perceptual material.

Every person with normal brain development will arrive effortlessly (and this does not require any volition) at further stages which imply the use of abstract terms like e. g. "pride", "precision", etc.

This so-called "Anti-Conceptual Mentality" is a mere figment of Rand's imagination.

Another group she frowned on are the 'context-droppers'.

Whereas in fact 'context-dropping' is a characeristic of language itself; if it weren't, words would never have changed their meanings; context-dropping is also a creative principle in the coining of neologisms. Take the suffix '-gate' for example, taken from the word 'Watergate' which was the place of the political scandal of 1974.

The second par of the word ('gate') took on a lingustic life of its own, the original context was dropped and it is now used to label all kinds of scandals, like "Irangate".

Context-dropping is a very creative actions in human life. For example, it is at work when people quilt their own 'patchwork philosophy' from various sources.

I recall being quite influenced by Marcus Aurelius's Meditations in my teenage years. I did not research where he got his thoughts from (which would make me a context- dropper in Rand's eyes) - all that counted was that some of his thoughts appealed to me very strongly, and the impact they had on my life since I tried to apply some of his principles.

I'm an advoate of patchwork philosophy which to me it is the very expression of invidualism.

And isn't one's life itself 'patchwork' as well? too. One continually works at it, discards some ideas, changes values by adopting new ideas, etc.

No philosophical system or ideology can come remotely close to covering life's complexities, and this is the reason why I adhere to none in terms of adopting it as a complete 'package'.

Edited by Xray

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Rand also believed that love can be 'measured'; she seemed to think that terms like 'affection', 'tenderness' etc. had comparable objective quality as degrees have on a measuring scale.

Wrong. Rand specifically states that she is talking about ordinal, not cardinal, measurement. In this case, ordinal measurement is a matter of intensity, of more or less. (See ITOE, pp. 33-34.)

Ghs

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George,

Psychological studies of how children and adults form concepts. If Rand's theory is true there should be some evidence.

-Neil Parille

I have never heard of a study that enables us experience the subjective psychological and cognitive processes of other people. In the final analysis, every theory of knowledge and concept formation will depend a great deal on introspection.

Ghs

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I am curious what you would accept as "proof" for a theory of concept formation.

George,

I don't know what Neil is looking for, but a theory of concept formation is, in part, a theory about human cognitive psychology, and psychological evidence has to be provided for it.

In the first chapter of his new book, David Harriman rattles off a series of claims about human cognition and its development without pausing to acknowledge that psychological data might be relevant or that there could be any scientific questions there at all. He takes statements by Ayn Rand in ITOE and Leonard Peikoff in OPAR as unchallengeable truths, without appearing to care how Peikoff arrived at his conclusions about toddlers' knowledge of causality, or how Rand arrived at hers about early vocabulary acquisition or a host of other developmental issues.

Perhaps Harriman subscribes to the second ARIan myth of origin, namely that Ayn Rand arrived and "validated" her entire theory of concepts all from her unaided introspection. (The first myth is that Rand spoke, Peikoff listened and tried to rememember, and that's where all of Objectivism came from.) But if he does, he doesn't say so in his book.

Robert Campbell

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I have never heard of a study that enables us experience the subjective psychological and cognitive processes of other people. In the final analysis, every theory of knowledge and concept formation will depend a great deal on introspection.

George,

I know of neither a study nor a theory, no matter how good each of them might be, that would enable us to experience other people's conscious mental processes.

How does it follow that a theory of concept formation must rely on introspection?

Would you argue that because no experiment on remembering or theory of memory will enable us to partake directly of the experiences that other people have when they remember, therefore our theories of memory must rely on our introspection?

Robert Campbell

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Harriman’s lecture on the philosophical corruption of physics is available free here:

http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=reg_ls_physics

I just noticed that the new Harriman book is available from Audible.com. But new recordings of Woody Allen’s short story collections are coming out 7/20/10, read by the author, there’s even a free sample available. The Whore of Mensa is one of my all time favorite short stories, but I haven't looked at these books in a long time. So I’m saving my credits, thus far, from what RC has written, the Harriman book doesn’t look good.

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