The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy


Dragonfly

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Daniel,

That's a good idea. I thought about doing that, and since now I know that at least one person is interested,

I'll probably starting working on it Friday and try to get at least part posted then.

Greg

Greg wrote:

>Now, Cal, if this does not represent your reasoning for your position perhaps you base it on an argument that truths of math and logic are purely formal. I will try to present this argument tomorrow, unless you do so first.

Hey Greg

I've got an idea. Rather than guess at what Cal's argument is, and then present it, why not cut to the chase and just give us a formalisation of Leonard Peikoff/Ayn Rand's argument against the ASD, so we can all see clearly what it actually is? (If you already have and I missed it, I apologise).

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Greg:

>1. The question of whether Peikoff is right in case against the dichotomies in the ASD is a separate issue from whether he, or Rand, accurately portray the views the other philosophers in that article or elsewhere.

It is germane, because it goes to 1) Peikoff's knowledge or lack thereof of the topic 2) his objectivity in presenting it and 3) his trustworthiness and credibility. These are clearly at issue. However, you can leave it aside if you choose.

Daniel,

Now we get closer to understanding:

It is not germane because Peikoff is not posing as an authority and asking us to take his word for the soundness of what he says: rather, he gives us his arguments for his position and so we can evaluate them for ourselves, independent of any other consideration, such as knowledge and objectivity. We don't have to take his word for anything so trust and credibility are not required.

>2. Peikoff is definitely not making a Straw Person argument in attacking these dichotomies: they definitely have had many supporters, and still do. They are live issues.

I don't recall anyone saying the ASD was a strawman?

There seems to be a worry on the part of many that Peikoff is distorting his opponents' positions.

>2. It is hard to believe the falsificationism or the falsification principle could be defended without presupposing the dichotomies.

I don't really see why.

Is seems to depend upon the following reasoning: scientific truths must be falsifiable, for otherwise they would be certain, and this would entail that they are necessary, and that would entail that they are non-empirical and non-factual, when scientific truths are empirical and factual. So it presupposes that the empirical/a priori, contingent/necessary and factual/non-factual dichotomies line up.

How do you argue for falsificationism.

>3. These dichotomies are perhaps the most in important issue in modern philosophy, entwined with the development of post-Scholastic thought.

Perhaps, but what is not clear is whether Rand and Peikoff have much to say that is sensible about it! Most of it seems to be melodramatic vamping.

Again, you can analyze their arguments directly, without taking their word for anything.

>4. The debate may clarified if I state what I think are main arguments of the Logical Positivists' version of Dichotomism (i.e., the belief that all of those dichotomies are valid and they line up), and ask Cal and others who support to it to defend those premises which are controversial.

As a Popperian you will not get much of a defence of Logical Positivism out of me...;-)

Yes, Popper was not one of the mainstream Logical Positivists, since they were confirmationism, but he seems to have been close kin, sharing their Humean roots (but being truer to them) and their belief in the dichotomies.

Greg

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There is a parallel between justifying propositions and defining terms. In both cases you can talk about circularity and infinite regress, but also in both cases there is a third alternative: foundationalism (though this term is normally used only for a theory of justification for propositions, we can also use it for the corresponding stand on definitions, which Daniel discusses below).

Now Daniel's argument only shows the great practical difficulties in defining all ones terms on one occassion. But it is not necessary to do so, as we agree upon the meanings of most of the terms in any discussion, just as we often agree on most of the premises of our arguments.

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Well, coming back to meet you the other way, obviously conventions are not purely arbitrary either. Think of a convention like a funeral, for example. There are any number of different cultural expressions of funerals, but they relate to a natural nsfact.

Daniel,

This is a very good example. A natural fact is inherent in man to make a public manifestation on the death of someone and this fact is universal to all cultures. The cultural expression of that fact is local. This is precisely like concepts and words. The concept is universal. The word is a local expression of it.

A lot of the time she seems to use "arbitrary" or "random" or "meaningless" or similar to describe things like conventions.

Could you please give an example of this? I agree that she often insinuates this, but many social conventions (or traditions) are arbitrary. A social convention is not defined as such based on whether it is arbitrary or not. It is defined by people agreeing to adopt it. Since a social convention can be arbitrary, it is not a good criterion for defining a fact. I believe this was Rand's meaning. I don't know of anywhere where she affirmed that a social convention cannot be based on reality and can only be arbitrary.

Thus just because we regard words as conventions, does not mean we "sever" them from reality or other hyperbole. I think Rand, with her admiration for the artificial, is mistaken in her condemnation of conventions (I think she is reflexively against things like conventions because she was very much against anything with the faintest whiff of collectivism. But this leads her to an erroneous view of language.

Actually, this is not accurate. Rand was against using the "conventions" part of words as a substitute for concept. This is what she argued against over and over (however, she did not stress that words are assigned to concepts by convention). I did another one of my interminable searches of the Objectivism Reference CDROM for the words "convention" and "conventions" and came up with some good results.

(The one convention Rand was really against, no holds barred, was the Democratic National Convention that elected McGovern. :) )

Here are some quotes so you see what I mean.

The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. III, No. 16 May 6, 1974. "Pragmatism versus America"

In the whirling Heraclitean flux which is the pragmatist's universe, there are no absolutes. There are no facts, no fixed laws of logic, no certainty, no objectivity.

There are no facts—only provisional "hypotheses" which, for the moment, facilitate human action. There are no fixed laws of logic—only subjective, mutable, pragmatic "conventions," without any basis in reality.

Notice that she does not deny that conventions exist. She is arguing against using them in the place of logic and facts.

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, "'Extremism,' Or The Art Of Smearing," p. 177

(I call this to the special attention of two particular classes of men who aid and abet the dissemination of "anti-concepts": the academic ivory-tower philosophers who claim that definitions are a matter of arbitrary social whim or convention, and that there can be no such thing as right or wrong definitions—and the "practical" men who believe that so abstract a science as epistemology can have no effect on the political events of the world.)

Now here you might have a case, except you always have to keep in mind that when Rand is talking about definitions, she is talking about concepts. She only talks about defining words when they express specific concepts. As you pointed out, a funeral is a "natural fact" and there are different local expressions of it. The funeral in itself is the universal and the local expression is the convention. A concept to Rand is what registers that natural fact in the mind (universal). A word (convention) is not a concept. It is merely a name-tag for the concept.

If you graft a different meaning for definition on Rand's statement and suddenly think her view is that a word is a concept, instead of denoting a concept, then it would be proper to say that Rand was against conventions per se. However, I do not see any reason to think she changed her view (which was conceptual since Atlas Shrugged and before) just for this essay alone.

For the New Intellectual, "For the New Intellectual," p. 35 (here she is discussing Logical Positivists)

Knowledge, they said, consists, not of facts, but of words, words unrelated to objects, words of an arbitrary social convention, as an irreducible primary; thus knowledge is merely a matter of manipulating language.

Once again, Rand is not saying conventions do not exist or that they are bad. She is saying that knowledge is more than words, that knowledge corresponds to reality, not social convention.

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, "Definitions," p. 47-48

Remember that concept-formation is a method of cognition, man's method, and that concepts represent classifications of observed existents according to their relationships to other observed existents. Since man is not omniscient, a definition cannot be changelessly absolute, because it cannot establish the relationship of a given group of existents to everything else in the universe, including the undiscovered and unknown. And for the very same reasons, a definition is false and worthless if it is not contextually absolute—if it does not specify the known relationships among existents (in terms of the known essential characteristics) or if it contradicts the known (by omission or evasion).

The nominalists of modern philosophy, particularly the logical positivists and linguistic analysts, claim that the alternative of true or false is not applicable to definitions, only to "factual" propositions. Since words, they claim, represent arbitrary human (social) conventions, and concepts have no objective referents in reality, a definition can be neither true nor false. The assault on reason has never reached a deeper level or a lower depth than this.

Propositions consist of words—and the question of how a series of sounds unrelated to the facts of reality can produce a "factual" proposition or establish a criterion of discrimination between truth and falsehood, is a question not worth debating.

Here I am going to ask you to set aside the "oxymoron" charge for "contextually absolute" and look at something else. If you take the middle paragraph alone, without the preceding one and following one, you could have a case that Rand did not consider the "social convention" part of assigning a word to a concept.

However, there is another side to that coin. Once a word has been assigned to a concept and denotes it, whenever the word is used to express that concept, it will have a clear definition and a non-contradictory meaning. (I can't think of anywhere where Rand stated that a word could have only one definition. On the contrary, she was constantly saying, "Let us define our terms," to make sure that a certain meaning was being used for the word in question. This automatically implies that words have more than one valid meaning.) So in this case, once a word has been assigned to a concept, when you use that word as a name for the concept, you are no longer merely exercising a social convention. You are expressing a concept (a mental thing denoting a fact).

If I call you "Daniel," I am putting a name on a vast number of items of information in my mind. All that information corresponds to one basic fact of reality, an entity—you. (At least I hope you exist. :) ) If I merely use the word "Daniel" without you in mind, that word can mean any number of things. Words and concepts work like that.

Rand's last paragraph above shows the absurdity of trying to claim that logic is a social convention only and can be "a series of sounds unrelated to the facts of reality."

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, "The Cognitive Role of Concepts," pp. 68-69

Instead, men are taught by the guardians of scientific epistemology, the philosophers, that conceptual precision is impossible, that integration is undesirable, that concepts have no factual referents, that a concept denotes nothing but its defining characteristic, which represents nothing but an arbitrary social convention—and that a scientist should take public polls to discover the meaning of the concepts he uses.

To understand this properly, you have to be a bit conversant with Rand's theory of definition. A defining characteristic for a definition has to be fundamental, not arbitrary. Actually, Peikoff gives a good example of using a defining characteristic that is not fundamental, but a "convention" instead. In this example, it is a personal convention instead of a social one (in the sense that the man agreed with himself that encirclement is what he was going to use as a standard.)

Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, "Chapter 3—Concept-Formation," p. 100

The opposite of the principle of fundamentality is exemplified in certain kinds of psychotic thinking. One schizophrenic in New York City's Bellevue Hospital routinely equated sex, cigars, and Jesus Christ. He regarded all these existents, both in his thought and in his feelings about them, as interchangeable members of a single class, on the grounds that all had an attribute in common, "encirclement." In sex, he explained, the woman is encircled by the man; cigars are encircled by tax bands; Jesus is encircled by a halo. This individual, in effect, was trying to form a new concept, "encirclist." Such an attempt is a cognitive disaster, which can lead only to confusion, distortion, and falsehood. Imagine studying cigars and then applying one's conclusions to Jesus!

This mode of thought is calamitous because "being encircled" is not a fundamental; it is not causally significant; it does not lead to any consequences. It is a dead end. Groups erected on such a basis necessarily lead to cognitive stultification.

So when Rand complained (in the last quote by her above) about people holding "that a concept denotes nothing but its defining characteristic, which represents nothing but an arbitrary social convention," she was not implying that arbitrary social conventions do not exist or are bad. She was complaining about people saying that conventions take the place of fundamental characteristics in forming concepts. She was complaining about divorcing reality from the mind and replacing it with arbitrary social conventions.

In ethics, Rand mentioned conventions, also.

The Virtue of Selfishness, "The Objectivist Ethics"

(p. 14)

Does an arbitrary human convention, a mere custom, decree that man must guide his actions by a set of principles—or is there a fact of reality that demands it?

(p. 24)

Ethics is not a mystic fantasy—nor a social convention—nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency. Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival—not by the grace of the supernatural nor of your neighbors nor of your whims, but by the grace of reality and the nature of life.

This is a whole other kettle of fish, but it does show that Rand is not saying social conventions are bad. She is merely saying that they cannot be used as the fundamental basis of ethics or values. To her, individual survival is not a matter of social convention. Here is one last quote on conventions.

The Romanic Manifesto, "Basic Principles of Literature," p. 86

(I must mention, parenthetically, that Victor Hugo interrupts his stories to insert historical essays dealing with various aspects of his subject. It is a very bad literary error, but it was a convention shared by many writers of the nineteenth century. It does not detract from Hugo's achievement, because these essays can be omitted without affecting the structure of the novels. And, although they do not properly belong in a novel, these essays, as such, are brilliant literarily.)

Notice that Rand mentions convention as a fact, not as something bad simply because it is a convention. The convention was bad because it interfered with the flow of the plot, not because convention is a bad thing per se.

It is erroneous, BTW, but with an interesting aspect, that of language's use in contemplation as well as communication. Here I would very much agree, and say that as in so many other things, she is half right.)

I am loathe to assign percentages like 50-50. I think scope is on a case-by-case basis. If Rand's views of programming the subconscious is being examined, the percentage will be much lower than for something like, say, non-initiation of force, where the percentage will be much higher. (Hospers once pointed out that consensual initiation of force was not covered by the NIOF principle, like in boxing.)

To sum up, Rand was not against conventions. She was against people saying that conventions take the place of logic and facts.

Michael

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Well, coming back to meet you the other way, obviously conventions are not purely arbitrary either. Think of a convention like a funeral, for example. There are any number of different cultural expressions of funerals, but they relate to a natural nsfact.

This is a very good example. A natural fact is inherent in man to make a public manifestation on the death of someone and this fact is universal to all cultures. The cultural expression of that fact is local.

Whoa, wait a minute. I am not going to be mourned when I die or buried with a funeral procession or memorial. Conventions are in fact arbitrary, most of them are vain, all are pointless. Read a few weeks of NYT obits,, for instance. Not one decent human being in the bunch.

Arrg. Caught me in a bad mood. Funerals indeed. Next it will be in praise of balloon drops at political party nominating conventions, which are slightly different in Britain and North Korea.

<_<

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Wolf,

Isn't an newspaper obit a "public manifestation on the death of someone"?

The kind of funeral you mentioned is a local thing (the arbitrary part). The urge to make a public manifestation on the death of someone is part of our nature (the universal part). This urge is found in all cultures.

Obits work to scratch that itch.

Michael

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You're right, Michael. I just got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. It's a sore point with me, because I know damn fine there won't be any NYT obit on me, and Bill Buckley slammed Ayn Rand in a syndicated column when she died in 1982. I apologize for being ill-tempered.

Conventional speech conceals more than it illuminates. In previous writing I said that the dictionary is full of fantasy terms and the language is missing several important concepts:

The point of questioning language and the meaning of terms is to get at the real work of personal growth. You are a zombie, unless you personally advance your understanding beyond the dictionary definition of a term. Further, I submit that our language has several thousand completely dumb concepts that don't deserve to be studied (sovereignty, faith, unicorn, general welfare, sacrament) -- while the terms we need most are either completely unknown or poorly defined. These missing concepts are those which each of us struggles independently to grasp and which no one has satisfactorily defined.

Where is the word that expresses and explains the content of discovery when a child grasps for the first time that he or she is alive?

What idea distinguishes between love of justice and romantic love?

Define dignity, liberty, mercy.

I know that the business of immediate activities makes it difficult to focus on abstract understanding, however vital it may be to our growth. I'm presently engaged in a difficult project (a new novel), as well as several other business responsibilities. But the distant future matters more than I can express. The central purpose of my adult life has not changed in thirty years, and it remains a vital personal objective that illuminates everything else, including the most mundane of routine tasks. It gives me the fuel to keep working, to keep exploring and sharpening my wits, because I have to climb every inch of an uncertain terrain that stretches from yesterday to my highest value. I'm fighting for my future. It's a steep uphill struggle, from ignorant youth to the attainment of an individual quest. If I get there, I'll know that my life was not in vain, that I achieved something that required decades of preparation and personal struggle, and that I was correct about spiritual courage. A distant pinnacle is implicit in human aspiration. I know what mine is.

What's yours?

from The Aspirant Purpose

W.

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Mike:

>To sum up, Rand was not against conventions. She was against people saying that conventions take the place of logic and facts.

Yes, this is the core of her criticism of "second-handers." But unfortunately, in terms of language, we are all "second-handers" in a major sense - that is, we must be if we want to communicate. For language is not our own individual invention (and would be rather difficult to communicate if it were...;-)), but the collective product of millions of others. She is right in general; we should not let convention or habit trump logic and facts. However, logic tells us that in the case of choosing which of two or more meanings (or defintiions) is the "true" one for a particular word, that there is no logical way of deciding it. Thus we must simply agree i.e: resort to convention.

I might also note that we cannot read minds. Therefore, Rand's theory means we cannot be sure the other person has grasped the "true" concept, other than by words and their definitions. Thus arguments over who's got the "true" concept in any debate must come down to arguments over words and their definitions, and thus scholasticism, exactly as I have outlined.

In passing:

Rand:"Ethics is not a mystic fantasy—nor a social convention—nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency." - The Objectivist Ethics

Then two chapters later she devotes an entire essay to arguing - albeit it a fairly haphazard manner - the exact opposite case: that the Objectivist ethics can be dispensed with in emergencies!

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Wolf,

I should apologize also because I have a particular context and this can give the wrong impression at times.

Way back when, I bought into an oversimplified view of the definition of man, "rational animal." I don't blame anyone but myself for doing that, but I did it. It goes something like this. Rational is the differentia and animal is the genus. I ended up thinking that there should a competition of sorts between both sides and tried to make the rational side dominate the animal side by sheer willpower. I am one who takes things literally and goes out and actually does them, even when it does not look advisable. I have a lifetime of having more courage than sense. So I learned the hard way you can't do it the sheer willpower way. I ended up with severe addiction problems among other horrible experiences. I am lucky I did not mutilate my soul because I messed with some pretty heavy stuff (and not just drugs).

I have learned that in any inner war or battle of the will, the genus will win out. This is as it should be, since the differentia builds on the genus. The genus supports the differentia. The phrase "shooting oneself in the foot" comes to mind as an appropriate—almost literal—metaphor for insisting on staying at war with oneself in this manner.

I have since opted for balance, integration where possible and another kind of view (nature to be commanded must be obeyed). I now accept everything about myself, even (and especially) the unpleasant parts, before I allow my druthers to start up. This has brought me serenity and happiness. I think I finally got it right.

Still, I have what could be called a "kneejerk" reaction when I see the animal side not being taken into account during discussions. This is probably due to the intensity of my bad experiences and the humongous effort it took to overcome my problems.

As a primate (i.e., a group of facts pertaining to the genus), man has certain characteristics. A biological propensity to live in groups is one of them and this goes all the way back to the beginning of recorded history. This has resulted in certain habits—universal habits common to all known instances—developing over time and is probably a subject more in line with the science of anthropology than philosophy per se.

I have discovered in the last couple of years that the genus of man is really underplayed in Objectivism and I see many parallels between mistakes I made in the past and positions I encounter online (not yours in this discussion). I have perceived myself in some of these discussions being overly-emphatic or making a statement that sounds cryptic because I did not qualify it enough for the context. So when I make a statement like "public manifestation on the death of someone" being part of man's nature, I am specifically talking about two things: (1) the genus (biology), and (2) the importance of not leaving out the genus in making evaluations and conclusions. I am not talking about reason (the differentia) and it is almost more of a reminder to myself than anything else.

Sometimes this comes off as if I am trying to criticize someone or attack the philosophy or something like that. It is not. It is merely an attempt to be as precise as possible—to include both differentia and genus in my thinking. I know the cost to myself if I don't do that.

So sorry if it comes off with a different implication.

Michael

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However, logic tells us that in the case of choosing which of two or more meanings (or defintiions) is the "true" one for a particular word, that there is no logical way of deciding it.

Daniel,

Context will do that. If I want to talk about the piece of furniture I eat meals on, I will use the word "table." I will not use "chart of data" as the meaning of table, either, although that is another valid concept that uses the same word. I will also not be talking about stone-cutting, plateaus or anatomy or any other meaning the word has.

As to there being differences in what table as furniture means, I am a bit hard-put to see much advantage in, or even instances of coming up with nuances. I don't see where the concept has much to do with convention.

I need to ask you a question. Have you read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology?

Michael

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Sometimes this comes off as if I am trying to criticize someone or attack the philosophy or something like that. It is not. It is merely an attempt to be as precise as possible—to include both differentia and genus in my thinking. I know the cost to myself if I don't do that.

You and I are soul brothers because

I have a lifetime of having more courage than sense.

I admire the way you write, interact, and explain abstract issues. Very level-headed, I'd say.

W.

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No, you're not getting it. Logic is not "contextual"!

Daniel,

All knowledge is contextual. Omniscient awareness would not have a context but omniscient awareness does not exist. Logic uses knowledge to operate.

Only facts are not contextual and they don't need logic.

>I need to ask you a question. Have you read Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology?

No, but it sounds really intellectual and impressive. Who's it by?

Come on. I'm serious. The reason I asked is that your writing shows unfamiliarity with the Objectivist theory of concept formation. We keep going over basic ITOE stuff like words being name-tags for concepts, awareness of entities, etc., and then it sinks back in your writing as if it had never been mentioned.

Michael

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Mike:

>Come on. I'm serious. The reason I asked is that your writing shows unfamiliarity with the Objectivist theory of concept formation. We keep going over basic ITOE stuff like words being name-tags for concepts, awareness of entities, etc., and then it sinks back in your writing as if it had never been mentioned.

Well, Mike, to be honest, I don't think you're understanding my criticisms. (I must also add that IMHO Rand often writes in a vague and contradictory way; as Greg Nyquist says, the main difficulty with analysing Objectivism is the complexity of its confusions).

Tell you what. Why don't we put the boot on the other foot for a change? If you think the problem is just me not understanding Rand, despite you going over it with me time and time again, why don't you come on over to the Critical Rationalism forum, and explain why the ITOE is so right? I know for a fact there are some former Objectivists there who know their Randian epistemological onions, and have the added advantage - which you do not - of having in-depth knowledge of other philosophies, as well as logic and science. You may find their perspective valuable. That way you can perhaps also be a little bit more objective yourself about your beliefs.Then you can also see whether it's just me being supposedly "unfamiliar" with Objectivist theory, or whether the points I am raising are genuine problems that others see too. I've done this myself often - for example, I belonged to the David Stove list (a well-known Popper critic) for many months, as an excellent way to test my own beliefs. I regularly argue with Objectivists on their own turf by myself. So why don't you challenge yourself, and others, and get out and test your beliefs in open debate? I'd be happy to introduce you.

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Hey, cool! -- and then we can hang out with Islamic imams to argue about cosmology and a bunch of RC priests to discuss transubstantiation, Aristotlean 'accidents' vs 'essences' and Pascal's wager that it was a safe bet to believe in God. Wow, maybe there's a Buddhist existentialist chat room. The possibilities are infinite.

:blink:

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Wolf:

>Hey, cool! -- and then we can hang out with Islamic imams to argue about cosmology and a bunch of RC priests to discuss transubstantiation, Aristotlean 'accidents' vs 'essences' and Pascal's wager that it was a safe bet to believe in God. Wow, maybe there's a Buddhist existentialist chat room. The possibilities are infinite.

Hey, Wolf, you're invited too.

In fact I think you need to come along even more than Mike does, seeing that from your little rant above you don't know WTF Critical Rationalism even is.

But no doubt you will have your excuses.

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Daniel,

Oh, stop it! :)

Dayaamm!

Yes, I might take a look and I do think it will be good for me. However, don't think I don't understand your criticism. I get much more than your statement shows you to imagine. I admit I have only read one essay by Popper so far (and skimmed some article about him). But I have discerned some very interesting things. And, have been trying to see your point of view.

That still doesn't explain to me your silence on points I raise. I feel that's your choice and your loss, though. I try to make a point of discussing the ones you raise (when they are not rapid fire).

Also, I have noticed a marked difference in our approaches. You favor competitive discussion (but not always). I favor analysis (but not always).

Michael

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Mike:

>Come on. I'm serious. The reason I asked is that your writing shows unfamiliarity with the Objectivist theory of concept formation. We keep going over basic ITOE stuff like words being name-tags for concepts, awareness of entities, etc., and then it sinks back in your writing as if it had never been mentioned.

Well, Mike, to be honest, I don't think you're understanding my criticisms. (I must also add that IMHO Rand often writes in a vague and contradictory way; as Greg Nyquist says, the main difficulty with analysing Objectivism is the complexity of its confusions).

Tell you what. Why don't we put the boot on the other foot for a change? If you think the problem is just me not understanding Rand, despite you going over it with me time and time again, why don't you come on over to the Critical Rationalism forum, and explain why the ITOE is so right? I know for a fact there are some former Objectivists there who know their Randian epistemological onions, and have the added advantage - which you do not - of having in-depth knowledge of other philosophies, as well as logic and science. You may find their perspective valuable. That way you can perhaps also be a little bit more objective yourself about your beliefs.Then you can also see whether it's just me being supposedly "unfamiliar" with Objectivist theory, or whether the points I am raising are genuine problems that others see too. I've done this myself often - for example, I belonged to the David Stove list (a well-known Popper critic) for many months, as an excellent way to test my own beliefs. I regularly argue with Objectivists on their own turf by myself. So why don't you challenge yourself, and others, and get out and test your beliefs in open debate? I'd be happy to introduce you.

If it's true philosophy it's Objectivism, but not necessarily Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

So, what's the problem?

--Brant

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Mike:

>That still doesn't explain to me your silence on points I raise.

Thing is, Mike, you sometimes answer with a welter of points that I struggle to see the relevance of (I am not the only one to have difficulty with this - I recall, for example, Ellen making similar remarks). Perhaps it is this search engine thing that you're using. You then add additional qualifications, like "ignore the sentences here...and here...but then look at this one..." type of thing, and then you add in another subsequent quote that doesn't really seem to follow from the previous one, and then another, until I simply can't follow it. Hence if I can find a sentence or two that summarises the gist of what you're saying, I tend to reply to that.

So: If there is something specific you would like to criticise in the logic of what I am saying - something that shows, say, that definitions are not tautological, or trying to define all terms precisely does not in principle lead to infinite regress - please let me know what it is. I would be happy to reply.

>Also, I have noticed a marked difference in our approaches. You favor competitive discussion (but not always). I favor analysis (but not always).

Once again: how is this relevant to whether I understand the ITOE or not?

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Greg,

I will be very interested to see your formulation of an argument to a version of the synthetic-analytic division based on the idea that "truths of math and logic are purely formal."

Stephen

Stephen,

Actually, what I meant to do say that distinction between factual and non-factual truths (specifically, the belief that some truths are non-factual) maybe based on the claim that truths of math and logic are purely formal, for which we might construct an argument.

I will try to formulate such an argument. I don't have as much confidence that it is exactly the argument that would be made by those believers in the distinction, such as Cal, who rest it on the alleged formality of the logic and math, but I will attempt one, and review his posts for some material. Of course Cal can tell us what his own argument is. In the meantime, this is the closest I can come..

First Argument

1. Truths of math and logic are purely formal truths.

2. Purely formal truths are non-factual truths.

3. Therefore truths of math and logic are non-factual.

4. Some truths are factual.

5. Therefore, some truths are factual and some are non-factual.

I dispute only 1.

A revised version of this argument incorporates an argument for 1.

Second Argument

1. Truths of math and logic are purely abstract truths.

2. Purely abstract truths are purely formal truths.

3. Therefore, truths of math and logic are purely formal truths.

4. Purely formal truths are non-factual truths.

5. Therefore truths of math and logic are non-factual.

6. Some truths are factual.

7. Therefore, some truths are factual and some are non-factual.

2 is pretty vague, but I am more inclined to dispute 1.

The remaining argument do not explicitly mention formality, but it is or may be involved:

Third Argument

1. Math and logic can be extended beyond the actual world.

2. If math and logic can be extended beyond the actual world then truths of math and logic are independent of reality.

3. Therefore truths of math and logic are independent of reality.

4. Truths independent of reality are non-factual truths.

5. Therefore truths of math and logic are non-factual.

6. Some truths are factual.

7. Therefore, some truths are factual and some are non-factual.

I will dispute only 4.

Fourth Argument

1. Truths of math and logic are obtained by abstraction from reality.

2. By that abstraction they become truths independent of reality.

3. Therefore, truths of math and logic are independent of reality.

4. Truths independent of reality are non-factual truths.

5. Therefore some truths are non-factual.

6. Some truths are factual.

7. Therefore, there is a dichotomy between factual and non-factual truths

The basic premises are 1, 2, 4 and 6. I will only dispute only 2 and 4, especially 2 (the same as 4 in the Third Argument).

Fifth Argument

1. Math and logic can be extended beyond the actual world.

2. If math and logic can be extended beyond the actual world then truths of math and logic are independent of reality.

3. Therefore truths of math and logic are independent of reality.

4. If truths of math and logic are independent of reality then math and logic do not always give a true description of the world.

5. If truths are of math and logic do not always give a true description of the world then truths of math and logic are non-factual truths.

6. Therefore some truths are non-factual.

7. Some truths are factual.

8. Therefore, there is a dichotomy between factual and non-factual truths.

4 is true if 'the world' refers to the actual world, the way the world actually is, but then I deny 5, because such truths says something about how the world could have been (or could not have been) and could be ( or could not be) and so are still about reality and so are factual.

Greg

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I have several things to say about convention.

Regarding the point I want to make right now, I thought I saw Mike or Daniel or somebody making part of it, but I don't see it now.

Anyway, my point is that even if all of the meanings of all of the terms in sentence are products of linguistic convention (and, in a way, this is always true), it does not follow that the sentence itself is merely a product of linguistic convention, "a truth by convention" (rather than "a truth of fact"), as the Logical Positivists say it is. For example, it is by linguistic convention that 'bachelor' means 'never married male human of marriageable age', but I deny that truths such as "All bachelors are unmarried" are true solely by convention and not at all to fact.

The same would be true if we substituted stipulation by individual for a convention of society. Either way the meaning of the term is made by someone, but it does not follow that the truth was made true by someone.

For example, suppose I make up two new mathematical concepts, defined as follows:

a minyak = a geometric region bounded by a figure with 28 equal straight sides of 1 inch in length

a munyak = a geometric region bounded by figure with 29 equal straight sides of 1 inch in length

Both of these are made up by me.

However, the ratio of the area of minyak to the area of a munyak is a definite quantity.

But it was not made up by me. I don't even know what it is.

Rather, it is fact, existing independently of me.

This is analogous to selecting the rules for a game fairly. For example, consider pool: there are many different games of pool we could play. We have a choice of games, a choice of rules. None of these rules is unfair; we have no obligation to choose or reject any of them. However, once we agree to choice one of these games, one of these sets of rules, we have a moral obligation to play by them, and any breaking of such a rule is unfair.

>logic tells us that in the case of choosing which of two or more meanings (or defintiions) is the "true" one for a particular word, that there is no logical way of deciding it. Thus we must simply agree i.e: resort to convention.

Even insofar as meanings are conventional, definitions are not: the definition attempts to express the convention, and it may succeed or fail in varying degrees: in other words, a "reportive" definition may accurately or inaccurately report a convention.

I also have some things to say about meanings, and the extent to which they are conventional, but I had best save it for another post.

I might also note that we cannot read minds. Therefore, Rand's theory means we cannot be sure the other person has grasped the "true" concept, other than by words and their definitions. Thus arguments over who's got the "true" concept in any debate must come down to arguments over words and their definitions, and thus scholasticism, exactly as I have outlined.

Concepts are not true or false, but definitions can be correct or incorrect.

And the Scholastics did not argue merely over the meanings of words, as Ordinary Language philosophers and, to a lesser extent, Logical Positivists have done, but rather we concerned with very substantive issues, as Aristotle was. It is the moderns who have gradually move away from this.

In passing:

Rand:"Ethics is not a mystic fantasy—nor a social convention—nor a dispensable, subjective luxury, to be switched or discarded in any emergency." - The Objectivist Ethics

Then two chapters later she devotes an entire essay to arguing - albeit it a fairly haphazard manner - the exact opposite case: that the Objectivist ethics can be dispensed with in emergencies!

To say that some of the rules of one's moral code can be dispensed with in emergencies is a feature of any sensible moral code.

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Anyway, my point is that even if all of the meanings of all of the terms in sentence are products of linguistic convention (and, in a way, this is always true), it does not follow that the sentence itself is merely a product of linguistic convention, "a truth by convention" (rather than "a truth of fact"), as the Logical Positivists say it is. For example, it is by linguistic convention that 'bachelor' means 'never married male human of marriageable age', but I deny that truths such as "All bachelors are unmarried" are true solely by convention and not at all to fact.

If you mean by fact a statement about the physical world, then this is indeed not a fact but only true by convention. A fact is something you can verify empirically, but no one is going to look whether there might be somewhere a married bachelor, he doesn't exist by definition.

For example, suppose I make up two new mathematical concepts, defined as follows:

a minyak = a geometric region bounded by a figure with 28 equal straight sides of 1 inch in length

a munyak = a geometric region bounded by figure with 29 equal straight sides of 1 inch in length

Both of these are made up by me.

However, the ratio of the area of minyak to the area of a munyak is a definite quantity.

But it was not made up by me. I don't even know what it is.

Rather, it is fact, existing independently of me.

You make here a number of silent assumptions. First I suppose that your minyak and manyak are regular polygons (which is not implicit in your definition), otherwise the answer would be indefinite: there are infinitely many possibilities. Second, you probably think of the Euclidean metric for your definition of "area". In that case you'll get some definite answer (if I haven't made an error somewhere it should be 28/29 * tan (pi/29) / tan (pi/28) = .932235...). But you could as well have chosen a different metric which would give a different result. So your answer is not some physical fact, but a logical truth which depends on the assumptions you've made. It is true that someone else who made the same assumptions would come up with the same result, so it does indeed exist independently of you. But this is an existence in an abstract, Platonic realm, not in the physical world. Now in circumstances where Euclidean geometry works well in models of the physical world, the result will be close to what you would measure with your physical instruments, but only as far as Euclidean geometry gives a good description of physical systems.

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